Ode to my Forester

Posted by batman on Nov 30th, 2013
2013
Nov 30

IMG_4613_3.jpgMy Subaru Forester 2.5 XS (2010) is really a remarkable vehicle, and has afforded my family and I many opportunities to go off the beaten track and see things we would otherwise not have been able to. I feel obliged to honour some of the achievements of my Forester.

Sutherland, Karoo, South Africa
A well-timed long weekend in Sutherland, South Africa co-incided with a beautiful cold front that left this small Karoo town (home of the SALT telescope) covered in snow – from space a white circle measuring approximately 50 km would have been seen, up to half a metre deep in places. In wet, muddy, snowy and icy conditions my Forester was supreme – I had so much traction it was hard to believe. I could hit the brakes hard, accelerate strongly from standstill and the loss-of-traction warning light never even came on. While other 2WD vehicles were sliding around and being recovered, the snow-covered roads were my playground.

Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Just a weekend spent camping with family, with a few dirt roads (and passes) thrown in for fun. I lost a tyre here in an “accident” as an inconsiderately driven Toyota Hilux approaching from the front squeezed me to the side of the (very narrow at that point) road where I hit a rock on the full – any tyre would have burst. I picked up a slow leak on another one which was easily fixed with a plug.

Cederberg, Western Cape, South Africa
I travelled up the Cederberg, Western Cape, South Africa, and down the other side again – a roundtrip of 300 km of gravel travel. This included the notorius Eselbank Pass en route to the quaint Moravian village of Wupperthal, as well as some really smooth, fast gravel roads with delicious sweeping bends. Again, supremely competent, no obstacles it couldn’t overcome and rather surprisingly no problems from the Bridgestone Geolanders.

Sani Pass, Lesotho
But the crowning achievement has been on a recent trip to Sani Pass in Lesotho. We (my brother, my two teenagers and I) covered 1,900 km over three days (with no driving on the middle day). We left and returned from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, travelling very comfortably at or around the national speed limit and returning an overall fuel consumption of a mere 8.6 litres / 100 km. We conquered the mighty Sani Pass in Lesotho – gaining 1,000 metres in altitude over just 8 km of a very bad gravel road with no difficulties whatsoever, despite sporadic appearances of ice and snow on the road. We were surrounded by hardcore 4×4 vehicles with primarily AT and even MT tyres – I was seriously concerned that my Geolanders would not be up to this test as they have already covered 50,000 km and are described as being best for highway use with a bit of offroad thrown in – but again experienced no problems whatsoever. Ground clearance also amazed me with the ONLY touchdown being the towbar on a man-made cement drain crossing the road. Our last three hours of the return trip was in darkness with heavy rain, and driving through potholed mountain passes around Grahamstown – again the fantastic AWD system of the Forester providing absolute confidence during these tricky conditions. I’m really struggling to find many other vehicles that could match this kind of overall performance!

I really love my Forester – it offers me so many cars all in one – a 4×4 to tackle Sani Pass, a car with rally pedigree to tackle a good gravel road or a wet mountain pass with enthusiasm, a comfortable and relaxed (fairly economical) long-distance cruiser, a daily commute vehicle to work and back, space for a fourball’s golfclubs (and the fourball), space to pack in furniture, or dogs or picnics – it’s got it all.

Subaru Forester Forever!

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Formula One – Pinnacle or Circus

Posted by batman on May 26th, 2011
2011
May 26

It has been a long, long time since the Formula One season has been this intriguing, with something happening all of the time andredbull1.jpg no opportunity to get up and quickly grab a beer – you WILL miss something. I remember years gone by where one could get up and get a haircut at the local mall – and not miss anything. This year there has been an abundance of overtaking and pitstops – and it is almost unheard of for a faster car to be stuck behind a slower car for more than one lap, or two at the most.

But I find myself questioning it all – should Formula One be a circus primarily designed to entertain the crowds, or should it be the pinnacle of motorsport designed to determine who can build the best car, and then drive it to glory?

Lets examine a few sports a bit closer…

TENNIS

When a guy like Rafael Nadal (or Roger Federer, or Pete Sampras) is good enough dominate, then they are allowed to reign for five or ten years – regardless of how boring or uncompetitive the sport becomes. The concept of having to play a match with only seven sets of tennis balls that are designed to degrade faster, forcing the players to adapt to a soft ball towards the end of its life just to spice up the tennis – is quite frankly ludicrous. Would you force tennis players to have to wear two different brands of tennis shoe during a match, or carry water on their backs as a penalty for their world ranking? Of course not – it would be absurd.

GOLF

Nobody complained when Tiger Woods was winning everything in sight – in fact he has been the biggest drawcard golf has ever had. Could you just imagine if these same self-serving puppet-masters could randomly remove a club from a players’ bag? Or have degradable balls that only last eight holes – a player would need to derive a strategy for getting around the course with a soft ball, or else incur a penalty for taking a new one. That’s just not golf, and the purists would simply stop watching the sport.

CRICKET

OK, nobody can dispute that the IPL Twenty20 is a circus – just close your eyes and swing, with dancing girls, colour and music. But lets rather look at “proper” cricket – the limited-overs game, and good old-fashioned Test cricket. Patience and , classic strokes the order of the day. Third umpires and review systems, while not yet perfect, are certainly the way to go. There is no glitz or glamour, and they don’t change the game – all that happens is that a player is almost guaranteed of just getting a fair decision – and nobody can ask for more.

I do dislike the “free hit”, “super-subs”, on-field microphones and other such gimmicks. Imagine how one could desecrate this game into a circus – 11 batsmen get to bat – they then get substituted with a combination of 11 Jonty Rhodes (in the field) and Dale Steyns for bowling. The argument for this is that the public would get to see 11 of the best batsmen, facing the best bowlers – after all – who is entertained by watching a bowler try to bat? But then it would no longer be called cricket – as has been played by gentlemen for decades, if not hundreds of years. If a sport has survived unchanged for this long – then leave it be. If not – then it’s probably not that much of a sport to begin with.

BACK TO FORMULA ONE THEN

I think reports of randomly causing artificial rain on a track is crazy – teams and drivers are doing their very best to win races, and the puppet-masters are continually looking for ways to make the race more unpredictable and more difficult in the interests of amusing the spectators.

The current KERS and DRS also seems artificial – to see the slowest car on the track potentially blast past the fastest (assuming he was within one second at some arbitary corner before the straight) somehow just doesn’t gel. Having cars (tyres) by design degrade by large margins after 5-10 laps, and then have to pop in and get a second, third, fourth or fifth set is cheesy, and very “Playstation-like”. In addition – isn’t it just over-complicating something that should be quite simple? Who is monitoring if drivers use their DRS (or KERS) in places where they are not allowed to – and what are their penalties if they do? Would they really give race-leader Fernando Alonso at the Spanish Grand Prix a 10 second “stop-go” because he inadvertantly opend his rear wing at the wrong place? Or do they need to develop new systems to only allow DRS to be activated between two specified points on the track? If they are serious about cutting costs, then stop requiring teams to develop silly little tricks and gimmicks like this!

What’s next – having remote-controls (in the hands of the puppet-masters) that can cause an engine to blow, wheels to lock up, engines to lose KERS ability and then have it re-instated, gearboxes to “lose” a gear – the mind just boggles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Formula One lost more followers than it ever did during those “monotonous years”.

THE GREAT ECONOMY RUN

I agree that costs are high and need to be curbed – but I strongly disagree with anything that makes Formula One look like a cost-saving, budget-orientated economy run. Last week at the Spanish Grand Prix the teams reduced qualifying to a farce by only doing one run (some not at all) in the interests of saving their tyres. Surely that’s not what Formula One is about?

I accept the eight-engines-per-season rule – that is fine, and reasonable – a team that can’t make do with that deserves to be penalised. But when restrictions and penalties “remove the race from the race” it is taking something away from the spectator – everyone wants to see the fastest ten cars and drivers thrashing it out in “Quali 3″ – with no restrictions of fuel or tyres.

Everyone wants to see the fastest car at the front – the current approach seems to throw as many curve balls at the teams, and whoever has the best strategy will win – and that just plain sucks!

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The Fastest of them all

Posted by batman on Dec 7th, 2010
2010
Dec 7

My son and I often have these sorts of arguments about who would win (in a fight) between a great white shark and a nile crocodile, or a polar bear and an african lion, or even between Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Naturally these are all purely hypothetical scenario’s, and all I can offer is a best guess – but which nevertheless fires off a healthy debate.

However I can offer “precise” answers when he asks about who would win (in a race) between a cheetah and an ostrich, or a mako shark and a sailfish, or even a Bugatti Veyron and a Koenigsegg – so here they are.

NOTE: these lists are not comprehensive – they only include those of interest to my son and I.

Road (as at December 2010)

  1. Bugatti Veyron Super Sport (429 kph)
  2. SSC Ultimate Aero TT (411 kph)
  3. Koenigsegg CCX (400 kph)
  4. Saleen S7 Twin Turbo (397 kph)
  5. McLaren F1 (384 kph)
  6. Gumpert Apollo (352 kph)
  7. Ascari A10 (352 kph)
  8. Jaguar XJ220 (347 kph)
  9. Ferrari Enzo (347 kph)
  10. Pagani Zonda F (344 kph)

Land Animals

  1. Cheetah (112 kph)
  2. Pronghorn Antelope (98 kph)
  3. Wildebeest (80 kph)
  4. African Lion (80 kph)
  5. Thomson’s Gazelle (80 kph)
  6. Cape Hunting Dog (72 kph)
  7. Coyote (69 kph)
  8. Hyena (64 kph)
  9. Zebra (64 kph)
  10. Greyhound (63 kph)
  11. Whippet (57 kph)
  12. Domestic Rabbit (56 kph)
  13. Giraffe (51 kph)
  14. Warthog (48 kph)
  15. Grizzly Bear (48 kph)
  16. Domestic Cat (48 kph)
  17. Human (45 kph)
  18. Elephant (40 kph)
  19. Black Mamba Snake (32 kph)
  20. Domestic Pig (18 kph)

Air

  1. Spine-tailed swift (171 kph)
  2. Frigate bird (153 kph)
  3. Spur-winged goose (142 kph)
  4. Red-breasted merganser (129 kph)
  5. White-rumped swift (124 kph)
  6. Canvasback duck (116 kph)
  7. Eider duck (113)
  8. Teal (109 kph)
  9. Mallard (105 kph)
  10. Pintail (105 kph)

* The peregrine falcon is by far the fastest of them all – but in its “power dive” when it has been recorded doing 347 kph. In level flight however it does not feature in this list.

Sea

  1. Sailfish (109 kph)
  2. Swordfish (96 kph)
  3. Marlin (80 kph)
  4. Yellowfin Tuna (74 kph)
  5. Bluefin Tuna (69 kph)
  6. Killer Whale (55 kph)
  7. Shortfin Mako Shark (50 kph)
  8. Blue Whale (48 kph)
  9. Barracuda (43 kph)
  10. Leatherback Turtle (35 kph)
  11. Market Squid (32 kph)
  12. Bottlenose Dolphin (27 kph)
  13. Gentoo Penguin (27 kph)
  14. Human (8 kph)
  15. Eel (4 kph)
  16. Goby (1 kph)

* It’s interesting that :-

  • a blue whale swims faster than a barracuda
  • a gentoo penguin matches a bottlenose dolphin
  • a human (albeit an olympic swimmer) swims faster than an eel

Credits

http://www.elasmo-research.org/education

http://www.thetravelalmanac.com/lists/birds-speed.htm

http://www.fastcarshow.com/fastest-cars/

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Buddy, the amazing talking dog

Posted by batman on Mar 7th, 2010
2010
Mar 7

buddy-crop.jpgBuddy, the charismatic brindle Boxer brought to the small screen by Toyota South Africa and its marketing partner of nearly half a centurys’ standing, Draftfcb Johannesburg, has featured in a few television commercials. These commercials are amongst the few that I really don’t mind watching – over and over and over again.

Sophistication in a Toyota Corolla

Buddy is introduced to the South African public as a sophisticated, aristocratic beast of pedigree who disassocates himself with any lower form of life.

What a chop

In this commercial the canine star is off to a dry Karoo farm for the Toyota Hilux. Buddy abandons any attempts to behave with sophistication and grace. Instead, he has fun on the farm mocking the sheep he encounters and making bad jokes, while recognising the Hilux’s toughness. This is my favourite “Buddy” commercial – “what a chop”!

Game Park with the Wild Dogs

In this commercial he is on a game drive, once again pulling up his nose at the “lesser” elements of the animal kingdom.

Automark Used Cars – I don’t do tricks

Here Buddy is strolling through a used car lot, quite adamant that he “doesn’t do tricks!!!”.

If you have any other links to share of really classic commercials that have been made, please post a link – I would love to hear about them. (Please note – this is NOT an invitation for you to market your own product – regardless of how good you think it is, or of how important you think your miracle pharmaceutical product might be – I will not approve/moderate your post)

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