Tag Archives: Top Gear

Plenty of Drang, but not much Sturm

Typhoon Muifa.

The picture which accompanied one story on the BBC about Typhoon Muifa (梅花; Mandarin: Méihuā “plum blossom”) showed that Wuxi was within the zone of strong winds, and we certainly got them. As for the rest, we had a short-lived burst of very heavy rain a couple of days ago and a brief shower yesterday. The rest of the time, it’s mostly been sunny with some cloud, which is what it is again this morning.

According to the forecast, it’s going to be 33° for the next three days and thundery tomorrow.

I saw the final episode of the latest series of Top Gear on Tudou yesterday. The boys were wrong not to reveal that the batteries of the cars were not fully charged, but was the point to have just enough charge left so that they could reach Lincoln and then be left with the dilemmas of a.) finding somewhere to recharge them and b.) waiting for them to be recharged? The point? Partly that the infrastructure for recharging electric cars isn’t that widespread; partly that though the range of electric cars has improved, journeys would have to be planned carefully to avoid cars grinding to a halt in awkward places.

Both Clarkson and May were quite positive about the cars, which really only suffered because of the price (considerably more expensive than comparable petrol-powered cars; well outside my price range), and the Renault had fewer toys than the Nissan. They didn’t get back to the studio and say, “Electric cars are rubbish. Don’t ever buy one. Petrol will rule forever!” They did express doubts about the electric cars as the future of motoring and mentioned, once again, hydrogen. (On this last point, they sound like they read about hydrogen somewhere, but don’t really understand the details.)

Here, we have a lot of electric bikes and scooters. Wuxi is supposed to be their capital. A few years ago when I was in Chengdu, there was a campaign about disposing of old batteries because of the hazard they pose to the environment. What happens to the batteries which power electric bikes when they reach the end of their life? Can they be recycled easily and safely? What’s going to happen to the batteries of electric cars when (if) they become the dominant form of automotive transport?

A few of the comments on George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian came from people who had actually watched the episode of Top Gear; a lot of comments seemed to come from people who merely wanted to take a (self-righteous) poke at the programme, and Jeremy Clarkson as some right-wing oil-industry stooge.

I must admit that I haven’t liked Clarkson much in the past, and after watching every episode of Top Gear broadcast since it was relaunched (all on Tudou over the past couple of months or so), I’m not really any fonder of him now, but just occasionally, he might actually be right about something.

Great achievements of our age

The wall painting.

I haven’t ventured down 青石路 in a very long time. I have glanced down there as I’ve headed into Trust Mart, and I’ve noticed that things have changed (the colour scheme), but I haven’t gone to see how they’ve changed.

It’s not really the weather for going on an adventure. At lunchtime there was an almighty great downpour which was comprised of industrial-sized raindrops, but that was short-lived, and the heat and humidity returned with little delay. However, I decided it was time I got off my big, fat middle-aged arse and went out on my bike to do more than just go to Carrefour, Trust Mart, or, er…

I headed down 青石路 to find that the only real change down there was the painting of some murals on the block walls which are sitting outside the shops at the east end of the street. As far as I can tell, there have been almost no other changes along there. There shops behind the walls, which I had thought were going to be demolished, are all busy trading away, but in the past year (or however long it is since I’ve been down there), nothing seems to have happened.

I carried on past Walmart, where nothing was happening, not even a car display, and did a circuit before heading back into town past the railway station, and just as I decided to follow the road round past Carrefour, the rear cog of my bike started making a terrible grinding noise. I’d already been thinking about getting the front brakes replaced again. Anyway, so long as I pedalled fairly fast, there were no problems, but the moment I started coasting, my bike started sounding like a concrete mixer.

Fortunately, the Giant bike shop wasn’t far away and I got them to have a look. I thought it’d just be a matter of tightening up the chain, which was loose, but the rear cog really was in a bad way and had to be replaced. I think the problem was, in part, due to the wet weather washing all the grit and dust about, which then gets into the workings of my biking. I also got them to fit some better brake blocks, which are longer than the usual ones although I wait to see whether they’re longer lasting.

I think, though, my intention to replace my current machine with something a little more upmarket has had another boost because I have spent quite a bit of money getting my bike repaired, especially in the last six months or so. Let me think. Whole new drive train; two or three new drum brakes; several sets of front brakes; new rear tyre; new pedals; a new set of brake handles; numerous minor repairs. I don’t think I’ve ever had to replace the rims, but the front rim probably needs replacing not just because there are grooves etched into it, but the lower part of the rim and the upper are at slightly different angles probably because of the pressure of the brake blocks.

Anyway, unless things change in the next three months, I’ll probably buy myself a Hunter 3.0. However, if it was a little less racing bike and little more city bike, I’d opt for a Giant FCR3100, which is the first men’s bike I’ve seen here with sensible width tyres (700x32c). It’s a bit like a low-end sports car, which isn’t really convenient for the business of daily life, whereas I need the sports saloon: something I can get a decent turn of speed out of, but which still has a basket and a carrier for things like shopping.

I still can’t understand why anyone would want to ride a mountain bike with big, fat, cloddish, bumpkin tyres in town. I suppose it’s like the cycling equivalent of the SUV, which never gets driven off road because, basically, it’s a fat estate car.

I’ve just seen the episode of Top Gear in which the boys raced across London to see who could traverse the capital the fastest. As it turned out, it was Richard Hammond on the bike, but it couldn’t be a normal city bike. This had carbon fibre everything and cost £1700, which is about twice the price of the one I’ve seen in the Giant shop here. Hammond didn’t appear to be much of a cyclist, either.

The last week of term

Nice weather we’re having.

I’ve now reached the 5th series of Top Gear, and as I was watching an episode this morning in which the boys got to try a Ferrari Enzo, there was a contest between the world champion off-road skateboarder and a certain professional racing driver called Ben Collins (aka the [old] Stig). Now since I’ve never seen Top Gear, I didn’t know that Collins had ever appeared in the programme except under his nom de TV.

There was a slightly greater number of students in class this morning than usual. As was the case last year at this time, numbers start vanishing for one reason or another, and arriving on time is merely optional. Oh well, I’m just babysitting as I’ve done since the exams ended. I’ve also been slowly writing a rather short reference letter for a student who only does one subject of central relevance to his proposed major and he does that subject rather badly.

The missing subject is biology which, as I think I’ve said before, we don’t offer because the little darlings would crash and burn. So they might be good at science, but only if it has mathematical equations. Part of biology’s impenetrability is the language. Cutting a rat in two, no problem; explaining what mitochondrial DNA is, not a chance. Actually, there was talk about adding biology, but the latest I’ve heard is that it’s not going to happen.

However, there are apparently going to be nine new teachers (which may or may not include the IB teachers), though quite what they’re all going to be doing, I don’t know. Still only going to be two English teachers.

The next DVD on my pile to watch is Game of Thrones, which is based on the long(-running) series of books by George R.R. Martin. Now, I need to go to a bookshop or two the next time I’m in Hong Kong because I’ve run out of entertaining books (which, sad to say, includes a series of short stories by Sheridan le Fanu which were compiled and edited by M.R. James). Should I buy Martin’s books or not? This is an edgy fantasy series and he’s an American. (If we largely imagine life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as mud, squalor, and the Black Death, the Americans largely imagine it as a copy of 19th century America with serfs and villens.) He’s touted as the American Tolkien, but I see the R.R. in his name as hubris. The plots are complicated, the books are bloated, and characters apparently get mown down faster than an infantry assault on the Western Front during World War I.

If I could get the first volume from the library or borrow it from someone who already had a copy, I wouldn’t have to wonder whether my money was being well spent. Yes, I have looked at reviews, the bulk of which tend to be gush-tastic. I had a look at some sample pages from one of the books on Amazon UK, but it all seemed a little pedestrian. Mind you, that book seems to be the runt of the litter.

I’ll have to see whether the DVD inspires me or not.

Dear East Anglia

I hear you’re having a bit of a drought.

However, if you’d like to bring a large bucket, there’s plenty of water here which, due to the shoddy drainage, is lying around all over the ground just going to waste.

“Drainage?” asked the emperor. “What in the name of Sun Wukong’s soft, dangly appendages is that?”
“It is a method,” replied the Prime Minister, “for channelling rainwater away from roads and pavements, thus minimising the inconvenience of puddles to the people.”
“Sounds sensible and innovative to me. Have the man executed at once. Sense and innovation? What next? Elected government? I’m surprised you brought this to my attention.”
“I was recall the Son of Heaven’s recent lamentation that the last thing an imperial citizen invented was paper, and that was 2,300 years ago.”
“I did say that, didn’t I? Well, execute the fellow anyway. I am a contrary, unaccountable, oriental despot after all.”

The rain has at least lightened for the moment, but there is a lot of surface flooding in places.

I see that Bruce Forsyth has finally been knighted, an honour which I would’ve expected him to have received years and years ago. I suppose he’s one of the last remaining survivors of the World War II generation of entertainers. I also see that the other two Goodies, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, have been awarded OBEs. (Bill Oddie has already been awarded one.) Jenni Murray, the presenter of Women’s Hour on R4 has been made a dame.

I’ve been watching episodes of Top Gear via Tudou. As residents in the Empire know, you can only get the expensive Minis here. It was interesting to find out that the difference between the Mini One and the Cooper was so slight as not to be worth the money. Whether that’s changed since 2002, I don’t know, but I doubt whether I’ll ever see a Mini One this side of Hong Kong.