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North Korean rocket scientist goes home and hugs kids.

12 Dec

All civilians are instructed to continue with their work program.

That is all.

Is somebody gonna come and wake me up when I’m supposed to salute…?

Ford (USA) reveal “Back to the Future” version of European Transit

6 Dec

In a bold marketing move by Ford USA, described as “bold” by a panel of analysts who search for boldness in our world, Ford USA have released the first publicity shots of the T-Series/Transit van that will replace the historic E-Series/Econoline on the American continent.

Now, before I begin to ridicule the man on the far left of the photograph, let me point out that Ford are really putting their best brains forward on this project. How do you replace a van as iconic as the E-Series wth something totally new yet retain your customer loyalty?

Answer: You put a 1970’s retro grille on the front and you cross your fingers.

And you make the rest of the van look as much like a Mercedes Sprinter as you can without the Mercedes lawyers calling you up and saying:

“Now, you have made a mistake. A ferry, ferry bed mistake. Ve feel you hef not the full understandink of the word respekt.”

Okay, no cultural stereotyping here on Roadwax but you gotta love the German accent. It rocks.

Right. Now back to the man on the hard left of the picture.

Basically, the story is this.

Ingemar, the director of the photo shoot, doesn’t know squat about how people in warehouses work. But he’s pretty sure that somewhere along the scheme of things, an authority figure with a red clipboard and a hard hat has to shout and order people around.

So he employs an extra called Dave to stand there next to the shutter and shout and wave his hands as though he is in charge. In real life, Dave would keep well clear of the walls because he knows that ‘Blind Danny’ is about to return to the warehouse and collect some pallets, so standing next to a wall right now is not a good move.

In the foreground, to reinforce the fact that this is a parcel van that is being portrayed, Ingemar gets hold of an extra who looks like a parcel delivery driver.

Meet Remy. To compensate for the fact that Remy actually works as a damn good ballet dancer and doesn’t even hold a driving license (he cycles), Ingemar tells him to look exhausted and ignore the bloke who is shouting and waving his arms over by the shutter.

Remy was a little upset that the wardrobe department have mistakenly given him ill-fitting workwear but Ingmar just smiled and nodded his head with a knowing wink. Ingemar ordered the workwear himself and he (like us) knows about these things.

Although Ingemar has got an embarrassingly limited understanding of how the parcel industry actually works, he is highly skilled as a director of films depicting the violent collapse of the human condition. Ingemar just knows instinctively that a third character must be introduced to the picture to destabilize it and imply a note of menace.

Ingemar used this technique to great effect in “Twenty Steps to Trondheim” and “Death Is Thursday” which both won him awards at the 2012 Cannes Festival of Stuff Going Straight to DVD.

Cue Colin, far right.

Colin is an English nanny who works for Ingemar’s partner now that his US work visa has expired. Colin is cheap and reliable and does what Ingemar tells him to do.

So, Ingemar says:

‘Colin, I am feeling that you should be standing with a sack barrow in front of you. I think this works.”

Does Colin point out to Ingemar that this looks utterly stupid and removes the last shred of authenticity in the shot? That the entire warehouse is filled with palletised goods, none of which could be moved with a sack barrow?

You decide…

Human Rights Industry for sale. Click here to add ‘Human Rights’ to shopping cart.

6 Nov

If you are reading these words, then you are a conscientious citizen who cares about protecting human rights.

Or else,  you are an employee belonging to one of  hundreds of worldwide government organisations who monitor the internet for early signs of organised dissent.

If you fall into both categories then your body may soon be found by a passer-by.

If you are ‘time-poor’ or otherwise have a boss who wears sunglasses inside the office, here are the two links:

This one is to the RFK Training Institute.

This one is to the BBC who have written an online article about them.

Off you go. See you back here later.

Over the last two years, Roadwax has noticed a couple of disturbing trends within the media.

1) The increasing use of the term “Human Rights Activist”.

2) Investigative journalists who mock Twitter for being a fickle gossip shop yet all have Twitter accounts.

Let’s take a closer look:

1) “Human Rights Activist”. Er…someone who actively promotes human rights? Not just a “Human Rights Supporter” – someone who supports basic human rights but…well…someone who goes a little bit further. Maybe, too far.

Even the most right-wing dictator or left-wing Supreme Leader supports human rights. It always looks good on their CV or resume and calms fears that they might actually be a right-wing dictator or a left wing Supreme Leader. But hey, running around and actively supporting Human Rights – now, that is just asking for trouble. Best stay at home and click ‘like’ on a Facebook campaign when asked. Don’t push it. Don’t get active. You need to be a trained pro to do all that stuff. Best leave it to someone else.

On what date in history did we normal humans apparently stop actively supporting our rights? Or, is popular media beginning to use the term ‘active’ as a kind of negative adjective, a nudge in the ribs to their readers and viewers?

“Watch out for Dave. He’s an Education Activist. He openly questions the teachers at parent meetings.”

“Watch out for Ella. She’s an Animal Welfare Activist. She persuaded her local store to stop selling battery-farmed eggs.”

Supporters are supposed to fill seats in the stadium and watch the activists do the work.

Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense.

We should all be Human Rights Activists. We should regain ownership of the term.

Which brings me neatly to point number 2).

Again, in the space of a couple of years, Twitter has gone from lightweight world chat-room to premier source of breaking news.

How do we know? Well, we could conduct a simple scientific experiment:

1) Have a huge storm hit a major city. New York will do fine.

2) Go on to Twitter and watch what ordinary people say and upload as pictures.

3) When someone uploads a picture of a shark swimming in their yard…

4) Watch how long it takes in seconds before major news websites carry the story…

5) …before dumping  it and instead running a “How to Spot a Faked Photo” article.

So, without causing any cruelty or suffering to animals, we can test out how the major news-gathering organisations work these days.

They watch Twitter. They use a mixed bag of paid and unpaid freelance reporters to report from the front line. They use activists.

Staff reporters visiting dangerous places? Not likely. Have you any idea how expensive and embarrassing it gets when a staff reporter gets their head stuck in a toilet in a Kiev brothel or runs down a local warlord’s mother-in-law while driving a Sixt Rental Toyota in Afghanistan? Nope. Staff reporters do the restaurant reviews and click on Twitter.

The RFK Training Institute have spotted this trend. The BBC have spotted the RFK Institute spotting this trend. Roadwax spotted the BBC spotting the RFK…oh – you know how word travels.

The RFK Institute in Florence, Italy are opening their doors today.

They are offering to train Human Rights Activists how not to get caught, killed or disconnected. The big beasts. The ones who report human rights abuses in other people’s countries. Countries where nobody can tell who the guys with the guns and the Toyota pickup truck work for. The guys outside your house.

If you want any more information, email  Valentina Pagliai on:  pagliai@rfkcenter.com but do not waste her time. They are apparently looking to focus efforts on the most high priority cases – the men and women who already have to hide from tyranny to stay alive long enough to report it.

The BBC says that the RFK Institute are going to sell courses to teach human rights activists how to protect themselves online from being tracked, monitored, shut down or effectively marginalised.

The first students will enroll in January 2013.

Strange.

Instead of offering all this information free to everyone via the internet, the RFK Institute is carefully hand-picking a few whose names will be kept secret and who will be trained behind closed doors.

Instead of freely revealing all the tips and tricks that every human ought to be aware of to be kept safe while using the internet in 2012, RFK is teaching maybe fifty or a hundred paying guests.

They will become the elite who can protect themselves from prying agencies. RFK Institute will issue the qualifications, I assume. Control the market, as it were.

The RFK Institute has just created the Human Rights Industry.

It has just put a price on knowledge instead of uploading it for free to everyone.

If I become a donor to this charity, will I get a monthly newsletter that includes a helpful ‘handy tip’ on how to keep my freedom online? I doubt it. I sincerely hope not.

The RFK Institute appears to be ‘professionalising’ human rights activism.

My heart hurts.

RoSPA shocked by how ordinary people actually live their lives.

24 Oct

I’ve got nine lives. You ain’t. Deal with it.

RoSPA has expressed shock and dismay that people drive while holding mobile phones.

The ninety year old veteran survivor of countless accidents and a couple of world wars was startled to discover that  people who drive cars through necessity often ignore common-sense advice on the use of mobile phones.

“It beggars belief!” said RoSPA, looking up from his newspaper while eating his breakfast and stroking the cat. “You’d think these people were quite unaware of the risks they were taking. I shall write an article about all this – you see if I don’t!”

Responding to Roadwax’s undercover reporter, RoSPA’s housekeeper and assistant, Verity Crash-Bangwallop, explained that RoSPA doesn’t get out much these days and is quite unaware that the practise has been going on for over twenty-five years.

“He normally gets upset when it comes up in the newspapers every now and then but he’s usually better by the time I bring him his lunch. Last Thursday, he became incandescent when I explained to him that bears are reluctant to use toilet facilities in woodland areas. I just locked myself in the Safety Room until he calmed down. He’s really very nice.”

The matter first came to light when RoSPA was informed by the local Community Support Officer that a youth had been spotted driving in the village while holding a mobile phone. RoSPA immediately wrote a letter to his local MP to highlight the shocking issue and asked the PCSO to keep him informed of any developments.

Local Independent MP Brian Loadsworth explained that RoSPA was quite unaware of the pressures upon normal members of society to receive and transmit data while driving.

“RoSPA is a nice old chap but his idea of driving is to gently ease into his old Mercedes 300TD and potter the half mile to the village shop to buy some matches for his Aga. He is quite unaware that some people spend many hours of the day driving while being pressurised by bosses and clients to provide them with time-sensitive information.”

“When I recently explained that some mothers need to contact child-minders to say that they were stuck in stationary traffic and would be late to pick up their child as a consequence, he was most resolute. He felt certain that this could be easily done while pulling over into a lay-by, switching the engine off and making the call whilst wearing a high visibility jacket at the side of the road. Fortunately, Verity brought us some lunch and the matter was dropped.”

With UK drivers currently being four times more likely to be involved in an accident when using a mobile phone while driving, pressure is on for the Police and also safety experts to find a solution.

A week long initiative by East Scrains Traffic Police to intercept drivers who were holding phones provided valuable results.

“We got our message across. You can’t drive with a mobile phone clamped to your ear. Not when one of our lads has just broken both your legs,” said Det. Insp Darren Shaft. “We usually get caught up in this nonsense debate about once a year. If we come down too hard then we lose the trust of the public. But we have to be seen to do something. We refer to it as “culling”. It ticks all the boxes and lets us get on with our real jobs.”

Dame Elizabeth Jobs-Agoodun from the road safety charity MENACE was more scathing.

“The threat of being sidelined by your boss for demanding that your car be supplied with the latest telecommunications equipment is no excuse. Working people should live within their means and ensure that they are perfectly educated in all aspects of the instruction manual provided with their leased vehicle. It really isn’t good enough.”

A simple and inexpensive campaign suggested by Roadwax to provide cheap Bluetooth hands-free kits to all motorists for the same price as a Cornish Pasty was launched today.

Det Insp Darren Shaft was not convinced.

“So, where did you get hold of all these then? Let’s ‘ave a look in the back of your van. Hands where I can see them…”

Cyber-casing: Did you just Geo-tag your car keys to a criminal?

10 Jul

She ‘likes’ Audi on Facebook. She uploaded the name of the cafe she is currently in to Twitter. The keys are in her bag, by her feet. Her phone is visible on Bluetooth.

Criminals are increasingly focusing their efforts upon those people who upload valuable data to social networking sites.

“Cybercasing”  is the term used to describe the process by which a criminal can anonymously monitor a potential victim by watching as they sequentially upload valuable data about their possessions and their current geographical location.

A Simple Example:

Facebook Status Update: “A picture of me and my new Audi at the dealer franchise in Dallas!”

then, two days later…

Twitter Update: ” In Rocky’s Bar, Dallas with Kim. Come and join us!” – sent via iPhone App

The criminal already knows what you look like (you posted your beautiful face on Facebook, didn’t you?) and you told them what you drive. They now know your precise location (you just uploaded a helpful map to Twitter using your iPhone, didn’t you?) and that you are relaxing in a cafe bar.

Just as the Darwin Awards were invented in the 1990’s to honor those who killed themselves through their own stupidity, so time may be running out for those who openly advertise their valuable possessions and their geographical whereabouts to 900 million complete strangers.

Insurance companies already refuse to pay out on theft claims from people who have left their keys in their car’s ignition…only to find that some absolute cad has slipped behind the wheel and selected “Drive” while they were chatting to the postman or getting something from the house.

It makes sense to assume that it will not be long before the insurance industry takes a dim view of those who sequentially reveal information to strangers about their identity, location, their valuables and where to find the keys.

Most police forces, just like professional criminals, make full use of un- encrypted cell phone messages and social networking sites to hunt down their prey. In the case of the Police, they are usually trying to intercept a particular person but criminals are interested in knowing where someone is  for the opposite reason: if the person is at the beach, then they aren’t at home. If they drove into town then their keys are certainly with them. If they are out celebrating with friends then they may not be on their guard.

Professional athletes have known for some years that their houses are most likely to suffer a break-in while they are away competing or playing their sport. Everybody who follows sport knows where they are going to be at a certain time on a certain day.

But it seems to be a lesson not yet learned by the average person that Social Media reveals their own movements and plans just as clearly if they openly publicize their social interests, hobbies, friend network and current location.

Love motorbikes? Of course you do. Particularly Harleys. You have a profile of yourself on the Harley-Lovers Site. You post on the forum. You uploaded a picture of your pride and joy. It is one of the rare ones, very desirable. There’s you, in the picture, next to it. You even got three “likes” for the picture. Fantastic bike. Way to go!

Then, you  bought some rare enamel Harley badges on e-Bay. Real bargain! The guy posted them to you sameday. Top seller. Great guy.

That’s right.

You just gave your full address to a complete stranger who now knows exactly where you live.

What’s that you say on Facebook? You and your partner have got tickets to see Radiohead play and you’re in ecstacy ‘cos its her turn to drive?

Excellent.

You will be away from home for at least six hours.

The wireless alarm box will act dumb once I climb my ladder, unscrew the cover and remove the back-up battery. A suction-pad glass cutter on the back door will stop the neighbors hearing anything. Your fuse box is exactly where I expect it to be.

The Harley is in the garage and the keys will be in the drawer in the kitchen.  You have a dog? Nope. You used to.

You can keep the ladder. It wasn’t mine, anyway.

It is becoming ever more crucial that people understand that it is not cool to upload information to websites that can identify and link you like the cross-hairs in a sniper’s gun.

If you value your folk and your possessions, keep it private. Think carefully about whether it is a good idea to keep the same  username across different websites.

Be sociable but always be smart.

E.U. “Cookie Law” changed at 11th Hour: Wolves to be protected from sheep.

9 Jun

BBC Radio 4 News ran an excellent interview on Friday 8th June with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).The BBC has been quick to monitor business response to the EU “Cookie Law”.

The interview with the ICO’s spokesman was an attempt to discover whether the newly-implemented “Cookie Law” was being obeyed. The Cookie Law demanded that websites seek explicit consent from visitors to their site before that site is allowed to store tracking data about that user. When you consider how many ways cookie data can be stored and used against the interests of the consumer, this is not an unreasonable idea.

But very recently, just prior to the implementation of the law on 26th May 2012, the ICO suddenly added a clause to allow websites to exempt themselves from the law (and the need to ask permission) if something called “implied consent” was given by the visitor. The definition of “implied consent” appears to be that the person continues to use the website.

This is a bit like introducing a seat belt law that says: “Passengers in a car must wear their seat belt or face legal action…with the exception of those passengers who persistently do not wear their seat belt.”

Roadwax dispatched a top reporter to cover the BBC Radio interview. By sitting really close to the radio and turning the volume up, the following information was overheard:

BBC Interviewer: “Has the ICO been monitoring websites to ensure compliance with the new Cookie Law?

Man from ICO: “websites…? You mean internet websites…?”

BBC Interviewer: “Yes. Have you checked to make sure that businesses with websites are complying with the new law?”

Man from ICO: “Do you mean websites run by businesses…?”

BBC Interviewer: “Yes.”

Man from ICO: “Well…I should imagine that they have…I mean, these business people are jolly good sorts, mostly.”

BBC Interviewer: “Have you monitored the situation – yes or no?”

Man from ICO: “Well…it is still very early days. I mean, you can’t rush these things. It is all terribly complicated.”

BBC Interviewer: “So, you haven’t actually done anything to monitor the situation.”

Man from ICO: “Oh, well, I wouldn’t say that exactly. I mean, we sent someone down the shop to buy a pen…”

BBC Interviewer: “A pen…? How does that constitute monitoring for compliance…?”

Man from ICO: “Well…it pays to write things down, you know. We thought buying a pen might be a good start.”

BBC Interviewer: “Well, we at the BBC have been monitoring the situation.”

Man from ICO: “Gosh…! How frightfully clever! How did you do that?”

BBC Interviewer: “We contacted businesses and asked them whether they were complying.”

Man from ICO: “Yikes..! That all sounds thoroughly like a Sherlock Holmes story. How exciting!”

BBC Interviewer: “We discovered that a lot of businesses have not complied.”

Man from ICO: “No…! Really..? Gosh…! Well, bless my Aunt Betty. Really…?”

…and so it went on…and on…and on…

Honey, would you park up my P-51D Mustang and help me with the shopping…?

25 May

Ikea, here we come…!

Summer has arrived and Roadwax wants to feed you with a funny little anecdote that is both utterly stupid and completely true. You won’t easily believe this story, but there is an awful lot of written evidence that supports it.

First, I must transport you back to 1945 and England, Europe. To help you get into the atmosphere of those times, I suggest that before you continue reading, you complete the following simple tasks so that you get into the mood for what follows.

Firstly, take everything out of your refrigerator and let it warm up on the kitchen table. Cover yourself in subway dust and comb low-fat spread through your hair. Rub a mixture of cheese and brown paint over your teeth and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea…

Now, we can begin.

The war against Hitler had just ended. Germany and England lay in smoking ruins and France looked like it had accidentally posted it’s home address on Facebook and invited everyone round for a free Jack Daniels tasting session.

Without wasting a moment of time, English town planners sat around a big mahogany table and came up with ideas for how England would rebuild itself. This was not very difficult to start off, since almost everyone had been issued with a pair of Army boots and there were also an awful lot of half-bricks lying around.

A plan to build this “New England” emerged pretty quickly. All the obvious and sensible stuff was done first. A free National Health Service was set up to stop the working population from lynching the ruling elite. The State School system was encouraged to educate children with the skills needed for industry rather than simply beating them to within an inch of their lives for forgetting the second verse of that hit song: “God Save The King”.

But then it started to get wacky and kooky. Possibly because there was too much sugar in the biscuits during afternoon tea, the ideas began to reflect some pretty startling visions of a future world of mass high-speed travel.

It was decided that each major town in England should set aside space for a Municipal Aerodrome and prepare to welcome society arriving from the air.

Why?

Because the war had resulted in fantastic advances in flight, aeronautical technology and manufacturing techniques!

So what?

Well, if you remove the eight Browning machine guns from a Hawker Hurricane, you get a rather dashing little conveyance for the weekend! The Spitfire is ideal for visiting the seaside once you nail another seat inside. The American P-51D is a “must-have” toy for the Gentleman Sportsman or weekend enthusiast.

But…we already have cars to drive in…! Isn’t this a bit excessive?

Not at all. In the “New England”, men in pin-stripe suits and bowler hats will be so busy making important decisions that they shall need to rush from meeting to meeting, unhindered by the common man in his 1933 12 BHP Austin. Each town shall build an aerodrome, right next to the shops and the golf course!

Are you sure about this?

Absolutely! And stand up straight when you salute me…and straighten your tie!

(And so it was that throughout England, the Town Plans that were drawn up in the period 1944-1946 show provision for “municipal aerodromes” – built to cater for the many light aircraft that the many English middle class shakers and movers would soon own and fly. Provision was made for what would become, without doubt, the fast-moving new world where society’s decision-makers would transport themselves in one of these new, easily-affordable light aeroplanes as a matter of daily routine).

Once the town planners across England had set aside the necessary fields and used their best wooden rulers to draw a runway and a   small car park where chauffeurs could polish the Bentley and stand in deference, a strange thing happened.

Maybe it was because the Automobile Association of Great Britain pointed out that they already spent far too much of their time  pouring gasoline into the tanks of stranded cars whose owners were too dumb to read a map or understand a simple fuel gauge…

Maybe it was because the Police pointed to the number of dented or missing railings and lamp posts on the road that led away from the local golf course club-house…

Maybe it was because it was remembered how, during the war, many bombers had taken off and then crashed within the first minute because their pilots had been so drunk that they were incapable of standing, let alone focusing on an instrument panel…

…but it was decided to quietly drop these plans.

Our “Brave New World” would be a much safer one if we pin-heads were instead firmly anchored to the ground with four rubber tyres and given a shiny chrome grille where the propeller would otherwise be. As a compromise, American cars were given tail-fins.  British cars were given tail-feathers.

And nothing more was said about this brilliant idea to allow everyone to just hop in a plane and fly to the shops in the next town. Those among us who actually had the intellect and reaction speed to fly an aircraft were sold a Cessna or a Beachcraft Bonanza. The rest of us would learn to say the words “Business Class” and “check-in queue”. The town planners erased all their pencil lines and the ‘aerodromes’ were no more.

But many of the original plans are still there on the dusty shelves of local councils and occasionally can be found hiding in old book shops.

Testimony to a brief moment in society’s evolution where, in an act of delightfully misjudged lunacy, we were all to be offered our own pair of wings.

Ford USA announce “American Psycho” Edition of European Transit Van Model.

14 May

In one of the most complex and garbled series of press releases by any major manufacturer in recent years, Ford (USA) and Ford (UK) and Ford (Europe) have just announced their van model line-up for 2013.

After almost 50 years, America is finally going to receive Europe’s massively popular ‘Ford Transit’.

That is the European Ford Transit.

No – not the small, car-like van that is sold by Ford to Americans as the ‘Transit’. That is in fact the Transit Connect. It was called the Transit Connect partly because in Europe it ‘connects’ with the smallest version of its big brother – the Transit – when in it’s largest form, being, if you like, the smaller brother of the European ‘Transit’ range.

But, because Americans have never had the ‘Transit’ range in the first place, the significance of the appendage ‘Connect’ is kind of lost on them. They have the ‘Econoline’ series instead. So, Americans tend to refer to the Transit Connect as simply the Transit. Which makes perfect sense. Up until now.

But the water has been muddied even further by Ford (Europe) coincidentally announcing a so-called “2013 Transit” which is not actually the 2013 Transit that America is going to get. It is something quite separate as a model. Even though it may be sold in America from 2013 onward as well.

If you are currently holding your head in your hands because you cannot make sense of Ford’s Worldwide van line-up, fear not.

Roadwax is here to help you and to share your pain and try to explain.

It is all quite simple really. The marketing departments of Ford (USA) and Ford (Europe) seem to have temporarily screwed up their sequence of model identifiers. It happens, from time to time, as model ranges evolve  in different sales territories.

Whereas motor manufacturers normally allocate model names to allow customers to differentiate between different models across a product range, Ford have temporarily reversed this procedure. They have just re-named all their different models with the same damned name.

Ford (Europe) has just announced the “2013 Ford Transit” in Europe. However, Ford show a photograph of a brand new medium-sized van that bears no relation to either their existing Ford Transit, the Transit Connect or the American E-Series. It is yet another new stand-alone product. It looks suspiciously like a Volkswagen Transporter.

So, this vehicle that Ford (Europe) have announced as the “2013 Ford Transit” is not actually the 2013 Ford Transit. It is a completely separate model from any other Ford product, with its own unique body shell and dimensions. It is specifically intended to attract builders, plumbers and hotel courtesy bus drivers, all of whom have recently migrated to VW because the current Transit now looks boring, style-less and under-powered by comparison.

But in North America, the ageing ‘Econoline’ series is about to be replaced by the European Ford Transit. So, unless somebody at Ford jumps in quick (and I’m sure they will) the “2013 Ford ‘Transit” will be sold in America alongside the ‘Ford ‘Transit’ and the Ford ‘Transit’. And in Europe, the 2013 ‘Transit’ will sit in the model range right between the existing ‘Transit Connect’ and the existing ‘Transit’.

Confused?

Here is a quick history lesson with easy to understand pictures and explanations. It will help us all unravel the truth.

We begin our story in 1964. The American economy was booming. Britain was just a few years behind, still recovering from the devastation of war-time bombing, breaking out of post-war austerity and only just learning how to have a good time.

This is the van that started it all. This is the Ford (USA) Ford Econoline.

This is the van that every small business used in the 1960’s in America. Although astonishingly badly engineered by today’s standards, it was a giant leap forward for the world of light commercial vehicles at the time and light-years ahead of anything else available, anywhere in the world. It was an outstanding commercial success, right from the day of its launch.

Ford (USA) were so delighted with its sales success that they called up Ford (UK) on the telephone. The conversation went something like this…

Ford (USA): “Get ready to rock, you skinny bunch of lime-soaked half-wits!! The ‘Econoline’ is coming to the UK! You guys can build it and sell it all across Europe!’

Ford (UK): ‘You must be mad. Go away. Besides, we are too busy trying to pull our Ford Thames out of the hedge at the end of the driveway and we haven’t got time to play silly games. ‘

 A 1963 British Ford Thames. It survived because nobody tried to drive it.

Ford (USA): ‘No – listen! This Econoline is the solution to all your problems with your Ford Thames! The Econoline actually turns corners when you pull on the steering wheel! Its a major step forward in driver safety!’

Ford (UK): ‘Driver what...? Look, can you send us some more rope? We’ve just snapped our last bit. ‘

Ford (USA): ‘That’s what we are trying to explain, you schmucks! Your booming consumer economy needs a real van! One that can actually carry more than a bag of spanners without grounding. A van with room on the inside so you can carry  lots and lots of boxes!’

Ford(UK): ‘We put the boxes on the roof if they don’t fit inside. No thanks.’

Ford (USA): ‘Oh, yeah…? And where exactly are the boxes you put on the roof-rack of your Thames?’

Ford (UK): ‘They are scattered across a potato field. Look, stop rubbing it in and send us some more bloody rope…!’

Ford (USA): ‘Nope. We’re gonna send you an Econoline and you are going to evaluate it and then build it.’

(Ford USA  sent an Econoline in a crate to Ford  UK. A few weeks went by and nothing was heard. Eventually, Ford USA telephoned England to find out how things were going).

Ford (USA): ‘Well, whaddya think of the Econoline? Great, ain’t she…?’

Ford (UK): ‘It is stuck in the potato field at the end of the driveway. Can you send us some really, really strong rope?’

Ford (USA): Damn. How did you manage to get it stuck there?’

Ford (UK): I don’t know. All I remember was touching the gas pedal and then there was this huge roar. My false teeth got sucked down my throat and everything that had previously been in front and a long way away came rushing towards me really fast and ended up behind me.’

Ford (USA): Why didn’t you brake?’

Ford (UK): ‘I thought the hedge would do that for me. This Econoline seems to be a tad heavier than the Thames. The plan sort of fell apart…’

Ford (USA): ‘So, you like it, yeah…?’

Ford (UK): ‘It is totally unsuitable for the British market. We have decided to build our very own van. We are going to call it the ‘Transit’. It will have the ride and handling of a typical British car. It will turn corners and have an engine that barely develops enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding. That way, our world will be safe again.’

Ford (USA): ‘Transit, eh…? Hmm…the name will never catch on. You need something more sexy. How about “F-Series”?’

Ford (UK): ‘That is both rude and disrespectful to the Queen, sir. Women would lose their moral values and society would end. No – “Transit” is a nice, sensible name. Also, we are going to put the engine behind the front axle but in front of the driver so that the weight distribution allows for a thing called “handling”.

 1965. The Ford Transit. A legend is born.

Ford (USA): ‘ “Handling”? What is that? We don’t have handling in America. Is it some kind of cheese?’

Ford (UK): ‘We just invented it. “Handling” is the means by which vans can be kept separate from hedges and potato fields.’

(The years passed and the Ford Transit became legendary as the prime mover of goods across all Europe.)

 A 1970 Transit with a new and sexy grille.

 A 1980 Ford Transit with an even sexier grille.

 A 1990’s Transit with an un-sexy “Smiley-Face” grille.

 A 2005 Transit with ‘can’t be bothered to try’ grille

  A 2010 Transit with the ‘stolen from a VW Crafter’ grille.

Meanwhile, Ford America dropped the word ‘Econoline’ because it sounded cheap and created the  ‘E-Series’. Everyone still referred to it as the ‘Econoline’ and so Ford said “Ah…what the Hell…” and called it both.

Every van driver in Britain wanted one but Ford remembered the incident with the Econoline and the potato field and decided it was not a good idea. Also, it was calculated that just six Ford E-Series vans would consume more gasoline within three hours than Britain could import in a week.

 A Ford Econoline. Big, powerful and utterly pornographic.

(The decades passed, a few wars happened and then one day, Ford (USA) emailed Ford (UK) to see how things were going).

Hi, Ford UK!

We just got a Facebook page and it is really cool! Why don’t you pop over and “like” us? 🙂 FordUSA.com

Hi Ford USA!

That’s really clever! How do you do that round yellow face thing? Rgds, Ford (UK) Ltd.

Hi Ford UK!

Hope you are well. We can’t be assed to re-design the E-Series. Can we steal your Transit design? 🙂 FordUSA.com

Hi Ford USA!

Sure, no probs. Have emailed you a picture of it!

Hope you like it!  :-*+)) Ford (UK) Ltd.

Hi Ford UK!

WTF is THAT!!!??? OMG. It looks like  a Volkswagen Transporter got hit by a badger. Totally gross front end, man.

Hi Ford USA!

It is our 2013 Ford Transit! You said you wanted one! Oh – by the way – how do you do the face with the smile thing?

Hi Ford UK!

F*** the smiley face. Where is your Ford Transit? The REAL Transit ? 😦 You’ve had it since 1965, ferrchrissakes???

Hi Ford USA!

Oh. That one. That is as tired out as a hooker on Sunday. We can’t even sell them to builders. Take it if you want it. PS How do you do that sad face thing? Rgds, Ford (UK) Ltd *–P

Hi Ford UK!

Thanks! Hey – guess what we have done to your Ford Transit!!! 😀

Hi Ford USA!

What – the one that looks like a Volkswagen? 🙂

Hi Ford UK!

No – stop going on about THAT one. It is just getting everybody confused. Its just a goddamn VW with a Ford badge. 😛

Hi Ford USA!

Oh. We spent all night staying up and trying to make it look good. Sorry you don’t like it. 😦

Hi Ford UK!

LMFAO! It looks pants. Anyway – check this out, dude. Look what we’ve done to your old European Transit! Twin Turbo!!! V6!!! 😀   😀   😀

Next Gen Ford Transit Ecoboost Outline

Hi Ford USA!

You can’t be serious…that is….OBSCENE!!!!  By the way, what does “LMFAO” mean?

Hi Ford UK!

Hahahahahahahaaha….! F**k you.

That’s right, folks!

Ford of America have gone and stuffed a 350 BHP twin-turbo gasoline V6 into Ford Europe’s ageing ‘Transit’! This psychotic, tyre-burning monstrosity of a van will now replace their home-grown Econoline range.

And, no….we Brits will not be allowed to own one in case we hurt ourselves. Instead, we will be persuaded to buy Ford’s new VW  Transporter look-alike or else plod on with our 90 BHP or 130 BHP versions that are already well past their sell-by date.

Facebook: The wheels start falling off and the screaming begins…

10 Apr

My name is...

When Phillip Markoff, the ‘Craigslist Killer’ committed suicide while awaiting trial for murder, he unwittingly set in motion a chain of events that has blown the lid off Facebook’s Privacy Policy.

Facebook has always gone to great lengths to encourage users to upload as much personal data as possible. However, when the Boston Police Department issued a subpoena, demanding access to Markoff’s Facebook account, two things happened:

1) Facebook handed over the full, unredacted account history, including the account details of all Markoff’s friends and their ID information and their interaction.

2) The Boston Police Department then released this document into the public domain, without redacting the names and account details of his friends.

If Facebook users ever worried what information Facebook might pass on to the police and other government agencies about them, they need  fret no more. Facebook hands over the whole lot. You can read the excellent Boston Phoenix article here, including a copy of the document that Facebook handed over to the BPD.

The British government is currently seeking to pass a law allowing it to ‘monitor’ all UK citizens’ website conversations in “real time” – as they actually happen, without any limitation, nor requesting permission from a judge to prove any need or justification. You can read a simple BBC synopsis of this law here.

Now, add the following facts to your understanding of the above story:

Tens of millions of UK citizens’ private records held by Government Agencies have been lost or released. (1)

One in three British men has a criminal record by the time that they are 30. (Home Office Statistic, JRF)

Thousands of losses of our personal data occur at Local Council level through hacking and weak security. (2)

It is estimated that 27% of friend requests on Facebook are fake – around two in every ten. (3)

Let us take all these facts and try to create a ‘conservative’ mathematical algorithm:

For each hundred ‘friends’ you have on Facebook, ten are actually fake.

For each further hundred ‘friends’ you add, twelve are fake. The risk figure rises exponentially as you add more ‘friends’ whose real identity you do not know – for example, they are someone you met in a club, bar or online.

If you have 300 ‘friends’ on Facebook, in excess of 30 are ‘fake’-  the person is not who they say they are.

If 33% of UK males under thirty have a criminal record, and 50% of convicted criminals re-offend, (4) then any Facebook profile containing 300 ‘friends’ includes profiles of least 10 convicted criminals, hiding under fake IDs.

If 100 of your Facebook ‘friends’ also have 300 ‘friends’ themselves, you are connected by an evidence trail to 300 convicted criminals. Let’s be even more conservative still. Let’s say 200.

Ask yourself:

“If Facebook provide the authorities with full details of all ‘friend’ data and links that an active criminal has, and government agencies are allowed to monitor my Facebook page in “real time”…how long will it take before my identity will become PERMANENTLY and wrongly associated with a criminal whom I do not know and have never met?”

And if you know of a single instance of somebody who has successfully removed themselves from an Interpol database of criminals (onto which their name was wrongfully and unreasonably added) will you please provide me with the link?

Car Auctions: Meeting that certain “someone”.

9 Apr

“Are you loaned some, tonight?” – Elvis Presley.  “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” – Tupak Shakur.  “Chillin’ by the fire while we are eating fondue” – Justin Bieber.

Which of these lyrics were actually sung by the artist? If you are over 25, you will instinctively know the dreadful truth.

Justin Bieber is lacking the knowledge that fondue sets come with built-in heaters. Fondue is molten cheese, ferrchrissakes. He will need to find a woman who is madder than a box of frogs to join him in eating that stuff in front of a fire. As a good way to ‘chill’, it compares only to ordering delivery of  a Vindaloo curry while you sit in a broken down truck in the Syrian desert, wearing a Shetland wool pullover.  Special knowledge is valuable.

Okay, tonight is the night I conclude this mini-series examining whether car auctions are the “Night Clubs for the over-25s” .

“Hang on…” I hear you say, “So far, this series of posts has been just a pile of disjointed rhetoric, short on worthwhile facts and reeking of bitterness.”

This is why I love you so much. You are smart, intelligent, good-looking and yet you still  hang around here. Trust me – I shall tie all the threads together and you shall be witness to some genuinely valuable truths. I shall repay your trust. I’ll even include pictures of a cat, some slurp-inducing food I cooked and also, a Surrey Policeman caught in the act of not being “institutionally racist”. (actually, that one might be difficult to get hold of)

Just imagine for a moment that you are a Party-Planner to the celebrity ‘A’ – list top names. Your reputation is so high that even Madonna says “please” in a begging whine when she phones you and wants to book you. You are the Goddess or God of Uber-cool. You cannot even remember the last time that a car door wasn’t opened ahead of you before you had to reach for the door handle yourself.

Airlines always find a ‘special channel’ that you can walk through at Customs and Immigration so that you never have to put your shoes in a plastic tray while total strangers scan your heels for the tell-tale signs of dry skin.The in-flight hospitality caters for your preference for a stone-crushed basil dressing on your hand-knitted fresh egg pasta, brought directly to you this morning from North Dakota via Jet Blue in chilled stainless steel panniers.

Okay. Now consider that you actually need to work damn hard to pay your bills. You hate to waste your money. You seek the best value from it. Life is uncertain. You need the best advice. Information is only valuable if it is not common knowledge. Just like that top Party Planner uses their contacts and special knowledge to help other people spend their  money on a good party, you have to do the same to save your money on a good car.

Below are some facts and figures that may be interesting to you.  Over the previous posts, I have been trying to get you to feel comfortable about buying a car at an auction. Car auctions are coming of age.  Like Google and YouTube before them, they are moving in from the sidelines of our lives and walking into the centre of the playing field. They are not just taking over the industry, they are about to engulf it and forever re-shape it. Look at the comparisons below for a ‘time-line comparison:

February 2004 Facebook was launched.

January 2009 Facebook was ranked as having the most users of any social networking site in the world.

January 2012 Facebook peaked in market value as the world’s most-used social website, less than 8 years after its inception.

In other words, within short 8 years, a brand new means of mass communication previously unknown to the world had risen to become a household name and a ‘normal’ means of communication.

Well, in the next five years, car auctions may well become the way that we all buy our cars. Dealers will simply handle servicing and delivery and sales of new cars. Auctions have been lurking in the background for decades. Serving the motor trade forecourts, they have quietly shifted cars back and forth, providing the dealers with the cars that they will sell on to you. Now, they’re removing the pretense. They are selling any car to anyone who turns up on the day. You do not have to be a dealer.

Now, data systems, particularly internet-based, have allowed the big car auction houses to monitor the service history and ownership and insurance details of cars that are leased or have hire-purchase or loans attached to them. That is a whole lot of cars. In the end, there is a high chance that these cars will turn up to the auction house. Some turn up several times throughout their life, as they pass from dealer to customer to dealer again.

America’s Mannheim Auctions are offering over 130,000 cars for sale across U.S. sites this week alone. They handled an average of one million vehicles each month throughout 2010 across all their world sites. Around six million cars are sold each year through them in the  U.S. and despite their ‘traders only’ image, they are actually quite willing to serve private buyers. They just don’t shout about it.

BCA, Europe’s largest “re-marketing” and auction company is offering over 12,000 cars this week. Proportionately smaller but fast growing outlets across the whole of Continental Europe, BCA make no secret of their willingness to serve anyone who has a credit or debit card. You are most welcome.

Now, look at this link to the Wall Street Journal. The latest figures for new car sales in America. To save your head spinning with all the detailed figures, I will provide you with a simple synopsis:

Large American-made luxury cars are dead in the water, with luxury SUV’s following them into the surf, along with imported Japanese light trucks. Small and medium sized cars are keeping strong sales but mid-range imported cars are wobbling as America’s home-grown manufacturers slash prices and offer tasty incentives. Manufacturing output is largely stable, even though fuel prices are going up through the ceiling again.

The picture is broadly repeated for Western Europe. New car output total volume is still robust and sales incentives are keen but deceptive – dealers are wherever possible adding extras instead of cutting prices. So, despite the fact that we ordinary people  have less money to spend, manufacturers are pumping out new cars. This is leading to over-supply.

And quietly, in the background, Mannheim and BCA are selling off all those manufacturer’s two, three and four year old cars at whatever they can get. The auction houses do not care what the actual price is – they earn their money by simply selling and getting the commission. The actual selling price is less of an issue to them. They don’t have many skilled staff, they don’t run production lines, don’t have factories or dealerships and they hardly spend at all on advertising. They simply find buyers for second-hand cars. They have acres and acres of those second-hand cars parked up, with more arriving by the hour. They cannot move for second-hand cars. Do I make myself clear? There is a strong case to argue that new car prices are being unrealistically propped up and that new cars are over-priced.

Auction houses particularly welcome private buyers because they make extra money from them. A private buyer will normally buy at a slightly higher price than a dealer and doesn’t qualify for the dealer’s discount for buying multiple vehicles.

So, with your new found confidence in strolling in to auction houses, it shouldn’t be too hard. You have learned how to ‘squint’ at paintwork, how to steal all the tips off dealers by watching them check over a car for you. You have learned that all the action at an auction really takes place out in the yard, where you can check over ‘your’ car to your heart’s content just so long as you have a keen eye.

You have learned to check your prices and exact specification in the press and online in advance and then compare that to the written description posted on the car’s windscreen. You have learned that you must be there when the car is started up to check for smoke and to pop your head under the bonnet.

What are you looking for? You are looking for the tell-tale signs of things having been disturbed: if someone has just put a new exhaust manifold on because the cylinder head has been removed or replaced, then their spanners will have left shiny marks on the bolts and nuts that secure everything in place. These are very hard to hide. Cross-head screws will glint silver in their centers, where the screw-driver chewed them. If the car has just had a new radiator, the radiator will look new but also the spanner marks will show on the bolts that hold it to the car. If everything is covered in dust, leaks will show up more easily through staining and soaked in wetness. If everything is squeaky clean, those nuts, bolts and screws will still reveal marks on them from sockets and spanners if they have been touched at all recently.

95% of cars at a big auction are of the same standard as any other second-hand car. The money you save in comparison to buying the car at a dealer can be used to solve problems you may encounter, like a poor battery, new brake pads. All things that a dealer won’t fix for free anyway.

Ah, I hear you say that it is risky buying from an auction and you don’t get a warranty. Really? Have you read the small print? Have you compared a dealer’s warranty on a second-hand car to the latest auction warranty and sales conditions? Most so-called ‘mechanical warranties’ available are almost worthless, excluding those items that are most likely to fail or else including them…except if their failure could be caused by a connected but uninsured item.

So, your hugely expensive ECU is included…except it isn’t actually, because it was connected to the battery when it failed and the battery is not included. At an auction, cars are either sold with a specific warranty or else without but you may be surprised: many auctions flat refuse to warrant cars over five years or under a certain price so you can pick up a perfectly good car for peanuts simply because a lack of warranty deterred others from taking a risk on bidding.

Ah, I hear you say that you cannot test drive a car at an auction. Well, in many cases you can and in general, it makes little difference whether you are watching the car being driven in front of you to the podium or driving it yourself. Cars suffer more from electrical problems than mechanical ones these days and 99% of those can be checked before you bid on them. Service history documents are often available to peruse at the counter on auction day and time exists to press buttons and check that warning lights go out or come on as they should.

Ah, I hear you say that the cars on a dealer’s forecourt are of a better quality. Are they? One or two might be, but the cars at an auction that are coming directly from a leasing company are mainly coming directly off the road. Nobody has the time or inclination to mess with their mileages or fake their service history. Many dealers do habitually mess with mileages and absolutely lie through their teeth about servicing histories. They simply put a sticker on the dashboard saying “mileage not warranted” and then dishonestly explain to you that “the law makes them do that to protect themselves”. It doesn’t. They are lying. At auction, cars have warranted mileage. Some don’t and they are specifically stated as such. Take your pick. Both ways, you pay less money and don’t have to suffer all the outrageous bull…

Ah, but some cars could be stolen or rebuilt after a crash. Nope. Established auction houses refuse “Stolen/Recovered” cars or those rebuilt after a serious insurance claim outright. They simply don’t want the ensuing problems and hassle. Occasionally one will come through but the auctioneer will make it absolutely clear that this is the case.  Dealers put some of their forecourt cars in to the auctions because they cannot sell them and they buy others to replace them. It is called ‘rotating stock’. But even then, both that dealer and the auction are legally responsible for any dishonesty and neither want to run that risk. It simply isn’t worth it when you have thousands of cars to sell. Occasionally, we all get caught out and buy a ‘turkey’ from a private seller, a dealer or an auction. There is always that risk.

Ah, but my local dealer only sells selected, low-mileage, top quality second-hand cars. Right. Where does he get them all from? An endless queue of retired and suddenly disabled headmistresses and nurses, all of whom coincidentally decide to ring him and ask him if he’ll buy their car because he’s so damned honest?

Ah…

Car auctions really are the new Night Clubs. The environment is exciting and noisy. The atmosphere is charged but far more pleasant. There are quiet areas and noisy areas. Nobody ever gets off with a club DJ but the DJ can make their night. It is the same with auctioneers. Both car auctions and clubs are only ever fun for the first two hours. But a night club takes your money and gives you only memories, if that. An auction can give you a massive discount on a totally fine set of wheels.

Those twenty-odd seconds where you actually get to bid are always an amazing adrenaline rush. When the auctioneer cracks his hammer down as he nods his head to you, all that homework you did will have paid off and you will have saved yourself enough for quite a few vodkas or tequilas…or even a damn fine vacation.

my beloved cat, Biggs, checking out her world...

meatballs in an olive, anchovy and tomato sauce with parmesan. Drool...

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