Catch-up with events

SLK 350 after a comprehensive test run to Thetford

A bit of a catch-up post this one. Am sat at home and have just put Jamiroquai's Funk Odyssey on iTunes. Which is sort of fitting as I forgot to catch up with you after I popped out for the afternoon with a good mate on Tuesday and we ended up taking a brand new Mercedes SLK 350 for a test-drive out to Thetford. Now this thing shifts. My mate's got an S2000 which - to be fair - is a maniac revving engine in a full-on Jap sports car. The Merc however was just rudely powerful. So often the complaint about the SLK was that it was an underpowered hairdressers' car. The prerequisite to owning one being an over-styled haircut and mahogany skin with a texture not unlike that of a rhino. This SLK's different. Not quite the AMG that Clarkson tried to outrun the British Army in but an awesome car nonetheless.

It's certainly more capacious than the S2000, I'm 6' 2" and aside from some unruly buffeting at 120 mph I was comfortable. That might have something to do with the 'air scarf' technology though, oh and the fact that I was boiling the marrow in my skeleton with the heated seats on. The 3.5litre gave plenty of people on the A11 something to think about. Coming off roundabouts we reached 60 in about as long as it took me to remove my Oakleys from the glove box, with the Formula-one nose appearing in your rear view mirror at those sort of speeds you'd better be driving something even better than a Boxster 3.2S to even think about competing. Especially as the one we had was equipped with the 7G Tronic gearbox and paddle shifters on the wheel.

What's more, we hadn't even engaged 'sports' on the box. There was more under that gorgeously sloping bonnet. I have to say I wouldn't contemplate the junior models (200 and 280) and there were faults (the stereo display is unreadable in direct light, the wind deflector is rubbish and it's got a ludicrously daft steering rake adjustor ... but park up at watch that folding roof disappear in 22 seconds and you'll forgive this obscenely efficient Teuton the vast majority of its sins. If I had £38k to spend on a car I'd consdider it. But I'd probably end up getting a brand new Elise 111R and use the change on a used Golf for trips to the supermarket. What the Merc lacked - and the Elise has in spades - is a sense of being a driver. The Merc cosets you along at frightening speeds and you can hear the stereo, but you're a pilot, flying by wire and there's just something about that that leaves you a little bit hollow.

If you think this is a rubbish appraisal, What Car? did a good one.

London Explosions: 21st July

IMAGE: (c) BBC News online

News is emerging of explosions on the tube in London again. The BBC site is running ok on low graphics mode but Reuters, which were talking of a nailbomb is struggling.


Rumour: dummy explosions using detonators (BBC)

Three stations closed and three lines: Warren St., Oval, Shepherd's Bush.

Also incident on Route 26 bus in Bethnal Green (Hackney Road)

More on its way...

14:18 BST At Shepherd's Bush station, police told reporters that a man had threatened to blow himself up and then ran off. (BBC News)

14:19 BST The Ashes (a major British sporting event in cricket, England vs. Australia) are being held at Lords cricket ground not the Oval ground - site nearby one of the tube evacuations. Current score: Australia: 175-6

14:22 BST Other stations closed: Westminster, Waterloo & Kings Cross Thameslink. Devices have been found that appear to be dummies (Andrew Winstanley)

14:25 BST Reuters struggling to keep up to date. More news from Sky reporters concerning passenger's backpack on fire

14:32 BST COBRA have be convened

14:39 BST Reporters log up on BBC site ... gathering news quickly. There are various reports still coming in of a man with a rucksack either fleeing with it on or throwing it on the tracks. Other sources suggest someone threatened to blow themselves up before fleeing.

14:45 BST BBC, armed officers deployed at UCL hospital.

14:51 BST I'm trying to get confirmation that St. Pauls & Oxford Circus may/may not be closed ... official TFL site is only showing two stations closed

14:57 BST Victoria line closed (Warren Street), Hammersmith & City (Shepherd's Bush) and Northern (Oval). One injury reported - possibly individual with the rucksack (vide supra) .

15:04 BST Met Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair: - there have been 4 explosions / 'attempts at explosions'. He is to join COBRA.

15:09 BST Clearly timed to coincide with the 14 day 'anniversary' of those on 7th July.

15:21 BST news reels slowing down now ... some mention of explosion being consistent with a tear gas grenade . Even if this is a series of elaborate hoaxes, there's going to be an waful lot of people not travelling on the tube tonight. Frankly this situation's going to have to radically improve before I get back on one. (see earlier comments on so-called stoicism). I was in favour of the invasion of Iraq but it's clear to me today that - whilst Iraq cannot be blamed for the emergence of Islamic radicalism it has certainly added fuel to an increasingly uncontrollable fire.

15:28 BST Authorities are dealing with a suspect package on a number 37 bus in St. John's Avenue, Putney Hill. Apparently the Police are trying to ensure valuable witnesses are not ushered from the scene as they were two weeks ago. My radio on my desk has stayed turned off and the online sources are all I'm going with.

15:36 BST Just checking what the situation is with trains up to Norwich from London ... apparently everything on one is running ok. For a change. Would seem Liverpool St. mainline is still open as normal.

15:59 BST apparently the technology is holding up better than a fortnight ago (there was a lot of criticism about their ability to cope) with only Vodafone reporting problems with network traffic. The BBC site is already showing pictures of the events from mobile phones.

16:32 BST Waterloo is open and South West Trains are running a normal service. This echoes an annoucement on the One service line from Liverpool Street that they are running ok too. The emphasis is on getting London running again for the rush hour(s). SPORT: we bowled out the Aussies for 190 and are 10 without loss at tea in return. Oh, and Paolo Savoldelli won stage 18 of Le Tour.

16:37 BST The Times are amongst others producing more complete reports of the afternoon's events. This blog entry ends at 16:45 and any further comment will be hours later.

ENDS: For the latest, use BBC News Online (low graphics version)


A Wiki Way To Waste Time

I love this site. So much information on it … it’s profile was raised (well, raised to the extent that I become aware of it!) after 7/7 when it had already begun to reflect the events of the day in an historical past tense just hours after the blasts. What’s great about it is that it harks back to the contextual hypertext of the original web model. In many ways blogs do too and this is a lost art on so many pages which are just copy and menus … even celebrated news sites such as the BBC News site could benefit from good contextual linking but then there is a risk that text can get swamped with links. The other major selling point for me is that the site is free and users can effectively contribute to its genesis. I, for example, recently contributed an entry for the village of Wormshill in Kent.

Of course, there’s a downside to this in that information isn’t readily verifiable but, and without looking through the FAQs, I’m sure there are ways that Wikipedia overcome this. There is always the possibility that someone can check and amend the entry anyway so hopefully philanthropic users will ensure the validity and reliability of the entries evolves naturally.

In recent weeks the site’s provided me with answers to some of life’s taxing questions such as “What’s the difference between a horse and a pony or a ship and a boat?” and “What’s the Latin for ‘see above’ ?“

My only criticism is the search engine; it’s not quite up to Google standard. A lot of results come through with the same title and the relevance scoring isn’t up to scratch. It didn’t stop me from haemorrhaging about ten hours of my life this weekend though in browsing.

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