Category Archives: Technology

Grandmaster Time

While the end product is not exactly my ‘cup of tea’, the design, process, and manufacture of this timepiece is a marvel to behold. My chum Cookie (yes, him with the motorbike and catholic skill set*) sent me this link knowing that I would appreciate the skill and elegance of this watch, and I, in turn, want to share it with you. The Grandmaster Chime was created for Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary in 2014, and combines a staggering 1366 different parts.

*By which I mean he can weld, paint, cook, draw, design, and mix a mean G&T, not that he is a dab hand with a thurible or zucchetto.


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Poor Phone Reception?

Phone Reception

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June 10, 2016 · 10:16 am

Who owns your street? Searchable map of properties owned by offshore companies

What with all the recent revelations to come out of the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca data leak, and the plight of the troubled British steel industry, there is currently a lot of attention being focused on exactly how much of GB PLC is owned and registered abroad.

Those cunning and clever people at Private Eye (pick up a copy at all good newsagents) have created a searchable map of properties in England and Wales owned by offshore companies. Using Land Registry data released under Freedom of Information laws, and then linking around 100,000 land title register entries to specific addresses, the Eye has mapped all leasehold and freehold interests acquired by offshore companies between 1999 and 2014.

There is an 8MB database available, but the real joy comes from the searchable map… while London is awash with foreign registrations, Oxford escapes only lightly. I was interested to discover that of the seven flats in the converted pub I live in, two are owned by the Jersey based Eurocomm Holdings. They also seem to hold a number of other houses and flats in Oxford and beyond! Have a look a see who owns what near you using this link.

Map of Oxford

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Filed under Oxford: The Perspiring Dream, Technology, Timology

What if an all-electric vehicle was bespoke, hand crafted, and exhilarating to drive?

Both of you that follow this blog will know that I am a fan of those ‘hand made little green racers from Malvern.’ I refer of course to the Morgan Car Company and the frankly dazzling machines they (very slowly and carefully) craft.

Last week the Morgan EV3 made its world debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. Morgan have essentially asked “what if an all-electric vehicle was bespoke, hand crafted, and exhilarating to drive?” What if indeed!? I have had the pleasure of driving a couple of electric vehicles over the years. While the recent Tesla Model S was certainly luxurious and had incredible acceleration, it was a little like driving an electric canal barge round the back streets of Oxford. I enjoyed my migrations in the hybrid Prius, but could never have described them as ‘exhilarating.’

The EV3 is Morgan’s first electric vehicle, and production is due to start in Q4 of this year. Their website claims that pricing and performance figures will be comparable to their petrol 3 wheeler. (And what a glorious statement that is… I wonder who else currently manufactures a 3 wheeler.) It is hoped it will have an operational range of 150 miles, which is just enough to pop to London and back.

ev3h12  This year also marks 80 years of the longest running production car in the world. Of course, it is also a Morgan, and to celebrate Morgan have announced a limited edition 80th anniversary 4/4. The Morgan 4/4 was first launched in 1936 at exhibitions in London and Paris, and if those clever chaps came up with this design 80 years ago, just imagine what they might conjure in 80 years hence.  

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 12.43.27


Filed under Technology, Timology

Meet Murgatroyd

I don’t think you have all met Murgatroyd before? She has been with Becky and I for a couple of years now, and we love her very much. Please don’t ask me “Why Murgatroyd?”; it’s just her name, and she likes it.

She is a late 1998 midnight blue Mazda MX5, Mk II.


When my old car decided to ‘retire’ and enjoy life as a sea container in the South China Seas, I knew I had an opportunity to buy a sports car, and that opportunity would only potentially come round twice in my lifetime, inshallah, and not again ’till the kids have let uni, and I have more grey hairs and bigger paunch. However I don’t exactly have a ‘sports car compatible wallet’… it’s not that it does not fit in the glove box, but that they tend to be quite expensive. Becky was initially skeptical of a car you have to lie on the floor to drive, does not have enough space for her Imelda Marcos memorial shoe collection, and in the wet corners like a giraffe on ice-skates, however I persuaded her to have a test drive. We both instantly fell in love with her, and have enormously enjoyed racing round Britain and beyond with the wind in our hair, and one eye on the rainclouds. While she has a hard top that lives in the garage, that’s not the point, and Murgatroyd gets grumpy every winter when she has to put it on.

For those of you who snigger and say things like “no hairdressing products are kept in this car overnight” you don’t know what you are missing! When new she did 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds, topped out at 127 mph, and packed 140 bhp, and has not lost much of her sprightliness thanks to decent care of her original 1.8 litre beating heart. She was made for Cotswold lanes, Indian summer evenings, and zooming about The Shire, but not for the weekly shop, IKEA flatpack, nor motorways in the rain. Which is fine by me.

But she now has a bigger sister on the market. Mazda have released the all new MX5 Mk4, and what a beast it is. A new one might set you back £18k, but it does 47 mpg, rather than the merger 33 I can (just) get out of Murgatoryd. It is marginally slower, doing 0-62 in 8.3 seconds, but only slightly heavier, and comes spec’ed up to the nines with all sorts of electronic jiggery pokery. I think it’s a shame to lose the distinctive long nose, but love the slightly angry looking front, however, I don’t think I will trade our Murgatroyd just yet.

mazda MK5 Mk 4MX5

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Bloodhound and the Traffic Wardens

Despite this being parked on Keble Road this afternoon, I did not see one Traffic Warden proffering their usual friendly Penalty Notices. Still with a top speed in excess of 1000mph (no, that’s not a typo) catching Bloodhound might be an issue. Until it reaches to a corner…





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Filed under Oxford: The Perspiring Dream, Photography, Technology, Timology

World’s largest hydropower project planned for Tibetan Plateau

In an interesting article on ChinaDialogue, Yang Yong outlines concerns about proposals to build a cascade of dams along Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo river and its tributaries. The largest of theses dams would be almost three times the size of the Three Gorges Dam!

His article is part of a special series of articles produced by on the future of the Yarlung Tsangpo river – one of the world’s great transboundary rivers – which starts on the Tibetan Plateau before passing through India and Bangladesh.

Eleven hydropower stations are planned on the river, however the Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge is a young and still active geological formation, and any interference could have disastrous knock-on environmental effects. You can read the full article here.


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Morgan: Made in Malvern

I have always wanted a Morgan.

Ever since I first saw a +8 pooteling round the country lanes of Worcestershire, near to where we used to live and close to where they are still made. Ever since my Dad would explain to his wide eyed (and in my sister’s case, somewhat bored) offspring, that they could do 0-60mph in something like 7 seconds, and that the door handles came as an optional extra (‘gasps’ of amazement). Ever since I was allowed to sit in one at the Prescott Park Hill Climb in 1980 something, and was alarmed at how the steering wheel seemed to jut out at you at an alarming angle. Ever since I learned of their 22 section ash framed bonnets, each and every one hand beaten to match the car. And ever since I have been able to drive, I have always wanted one… despite being restricted to a go-cart (made by dad and I from pram wheels, a skipping rope, and odd timber) or the current (and very lovable) Murgatroyd the MX5.

These are things of rare and exquisite beauty. Stunning and timeless design, classic craftsmanship, attention to detail, and a gut wrenching power, in an elegant British classic. They are still hand made in the factory near Malvern, and this fascinating video shows you just how it is done:

If anyone happened to want to satisfy my cravings; either, an Aero8 Supersports, in midnight blue, cream leather interior, and blue piping, or a +8 in British Racing Green, burgundy red interior, with cream piping. I will leave the optional door handles to you.


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A big fan of this…

This has been entertaining me this week:

Chopper fan

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Space Oddity and Space Odyssey

Having been following Chris Hadfield tweets and posts from the International Space Station for some time I can confirm that he is a complete legend. His Q&A sessions about life in space are fantastic, and have been widely distributed, and he has a regular spot on Canadian radio. This latest offering has just sent him even higher (if that is possible) in my estimation.

Commander Hadfield recorded David Bowie’s Space Oddity (with some minor tweaks) inside the ISS … the footage is amazing.

(Prediction alert:) This is going to be huge.

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