Tricked

London, May 21, 2014

A man walked along the Thames from the Bridge towards the Eye, on his way to supper at the Sherlock Holmes Pub. As he was walking and thinking, he saw a street magician performing illusions to nobody in particular.

The man stopped a few meters away and watched as the magician made a card disappear from his hand. The lady and her son, who was standing there, gave the magician some money, but whilst she put the money in the hat which the magician had placed on the ground, the magician pocketed the lady’s watch. The man saw that and was impressed. He walked over to the street magician and said:

“Impressive. Alright, if you can show me a magic trick without scamming me or stealing from me, I will give you one hundred pounds. However, if you fail to impress me – all you will get is a pence and a shout to the Bobby over there.” He pointed to the constable on patrol.

“Alright old man, I’ll take you up on your offer”, said the magician.

He got out a deck of cards and shuffled them.

“Pick a card, look at it, memorise it and put it back into the deck, but don’t tell me what it is.”

The man picked a card. The King of Diamonds. He gently put it back in the deck. The magician shuffled some more and did the trick. He pulled out a card and asked:

“Is this your card?”

“No”, the man replied.

The magician looked confused at the card – a two of Spades.

The man smiled and turned to gesture towards the Bobby to inspect the magician, but as he was doing so, the magician grabbed his arm.

“Again.”

“Alright. Double or a night in prison”, said the man.

The magician shuffled the deck again and told the man to pick a card. The Ace of Hearts. He put the card back in the deck.

“Is this your card?” asked the magician with less enthusiasm than the previous time.

“No”, replied the man.

It was the seven of Clubs.

The magician was very confused now. He had done the trick over and over hundreds of times and each time he got it right.

“Once more, then I have to go. But if you get it right, I will give you 500 Pounds for the effort”, said the man.

The magician remained quiet as he shuffled the deck for the last time. The man again picked a card. The Ten of Clubs. The magician showed the man a card. Six of Hearts.

“Well, it seems that you have lost your magical touch with all the stealing and scamming. Maybe you should focus more on the practice than the reward.”

The magician’s face had gone white. He didn’t know what to say. Maybe he had lost his ability to actually entertain.

“I thought the first lesson in performing magic was misdirection?” said the man.

With that, the man turned around and started walking away. The magician was very, very confused. He didn’t understand what the man had meant. Then he looked down at his deck and saw that four cards were the wrong way around. The King of Diamonds, the Ace of Hearts, the ten of Clubs and a fourth card wrapped in five hundred Pound notes.

The magician unwrapped it and started smiling. He put the money in his wallet and the Joker back in the deck.

The End

The Ultimate Fake Car to End All Fake Cars

So this morning, as I was going through my newsfeed on Facebook (which consists mostly of cars and movie sites), I saw an interesting thing on Top Gear – a new ‘movie-maker’ car that can be transformed into any car on screen. It’s called the Blackbird and it can adapt to become almost any car. The wheelbase can extend for when you are going from a Prius to a S600 Maybach or Zonda Cinque. The suspension is completely adjustable, as is the electric motors powering it. This means that the motors can be programmed to accelerate like the car it is imitating. All that needs to be done to make the car ‘authentic’ is to fit the proper wheels of the imitated make or model. The reason this car was made is because it can be difficult to get the real cars for chase scenes in movies as they are very expensive. This way the cars can simply be edited in.

Even though this is a fantastic piece of technology, it makes me as a petrolhead quite sad. Movies are pretty much the only place to see your favourite cars do awesome things, such as the Need for Speed movie where three (fake) Koenigsegg Ageras racing along a highway, a race where a P1, Veyron SS, Spano, S7 and Sesto Elemento (all fake) crashes and one awesome looking Mustang (also fake) gets mouldered by a truck. Or take any of the Fast & Furious movies, or Spectre with the DB10 or CX-75! Yes, many of the cars are fake and made of plywood, but that is what makes them so awesome, because someone actually bothered to build them!

Now, with this ‘car’, we can watch a Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SuperVeloce on screen looking freaking beautiful, but deep in our brittle little, petrol-powered hearts we will know that it is just an imitation.

Little Aston + Big Heart = Lots of Fun

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the last Vantage before it is replaced by the new DB11 lookalike in 2017. The car has 420KW and 620NM of torque. However, for the 2017 model year, this car can be specified to have either a 7-speed automated manual (paddles) or a 7-speed manual. However, this is no ordinary manual. This is a ‘dogleg’ manual. What this means is that the gears you mostly use are in an H pattern with gear 1 sitting on its own. The reasoning behind this was in the past, racing drivers would use gear 2 and up more than gear 1, which was really only used to get the car going. But with the introduction of 6-speed manuals, the ‘dogleg’ fell out of fashion as it was illogical to have two ‘doglegs’ in one box. But now, Aston has a 7-speed which makes the ‘dogleg’ relevant again. This also means that the V12 Vantage S is the only V12-engined, manual car for sale… in the world. (Clarkson reference)

Now, I have always liked the ‘baby’ Aston. It was cheaper than the bigger brothers such as the DB9, DBS and Vanquish, but I could never decide if I’d like them. Well, one evening quite a long time ago, I went to a mall in Pretoria. In the mall a grey DBS and a blue V8 Vantage Volante were on display. Naturally I did a happy dance and a giggle and got into the nearest one – which was the DBS. I love that car. Since it appeared in Casino Royale it made my top five ‘To Own One Day’ list of cars (even though it only had about five seconds of screen time). I fell in love with the interior, the long dashboard that extends all the way to the windshield, the plain yet elegant steering wheel, the paddles. Oh, I loved those few moments that I sat in it. One of my favourite things about Astons is their doors. They open at an angle. It’s really cool. Anyway, I moved on to the V8 Volante. In my mind, it would be a cheaper, scaled down version of the bigger DB9. I was wrong with regard to the ‘cheap’ sense. It is essentially a smaller DB9. It has the same dashboard, same steering wheel and same feel as the bigger Astons. Plus this V8 had a gearstick!

I started to like the ‘baby’ Aston quite a lot. Especially the V12. One of Jeremy Clarkson’s best car reviews was when he drove the V12 Vantage. Minimal dialogue, maximum passion. He said that he had a feeling that he was driving the last of the greats. The biggest engine in the smallest Aston. Luckily however, he was wrong – for the most part anyway, because Ferrari still puts massive V12s in their cars. Heck! The new GTC4 Lusso still has the big 6.3L naturally aspirated V12.

But back to the Aston. I watched the Motor Trend’s review of the new V12 Vantage where Jason Cammisa drove the car on a dry lake-bed. All I could think the whole video long was “listen to that noise!” That video also reiterates the fact that dirty sports cars and super cars are some of the prettiest things ever made. If you take a black Lamborghini Gallardo and drive it in a bit of sand or along a dry lake, it becomes a piece of art above the piece of art it already is. It’s magnificent!

The thing is – I think Jeremy Clarkson’s prediction is relevant for today, not ten years ago. This is most likely the last car of Aston’s smaller range which will have the big engine. The next Vantage will probably have AMG’s 4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo. This makes me sad. Big engines in super- and hyper-cars are almost a thing of the past, with the exception of the LaFerrari, Chiron and everything America can come up with. Then we are left with stuff like VW’s X1 prototype with the teeny little diesel engine and Teslas. Not that I’m complaining about Teslas, as they just unveiled the Model S P100D, which will be the quickest production saloon ever. But as they are electric, they don’t have a nice noise like, say AMG’s M156 or Aston’s AM28 (which is 5.9L, not 6.0L).

But, oh well, as technology continues to progress, so will the automobile. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be driving crappy electric hatchbacks with V8 noises coming out of the speakers one of these days…

One Second Romance

This is the story of a guy. He likes to travel. His interests are movies, mechanical engineering and archery.
One evening whilst he was walking towards his boarding gate on an airport, he walked past a girl and her family. She was sitting on a bench reading a magazine. As he was approaching them, she suddenly looked up and their eyes met. Both smiled instinctively at each other. It was as if time had slowed. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over. He kept walking and she went back to reading her magazine. He looked back a few steps further, but she was still reading her magazine.
It was a first for this guy. He had never felt this way before, this one second of romance. He had never seen her before. He didn’t know what nationality she was, where she came from or where she was going. Then the nice feelings he had had started fading away. Was she smiling at him or something she read? Was she smiling at something she remembered? He didn’t know and it was annoying him.
But he will never forget her smile or her beautiful red-orange hair.

Imaginary Farm

Agatha and Marjory were minding their own business tending to the animals when they saw Henrietta walking towards them.
“Good day to you, Henrietta!” said Marjory politely.
“Good day, fellow farmwomen! What a lovely day to be tending to the animals!” replied Henrietta.
“Indeed. I do hope that the field over yonder did not tire you out too much?” asked Agatha.
“Not at all! I started at the time when the rooster’s head was at the well and finished when it was over the fence. Poor thing has been all over the place!” explained Henrietta.
“Well, if you two would kindly excuse me, the sustenance will not sustain itself!”
Marjory and Agatha bowed their heads in agreement and continued on their merry way up and over the fence.
“Alright, Agatha. Time to paint the homestead’s roof!”
“My, my! We have strange jobs to complete today!” exclaimed Agatha.
“Indeed! Luckily we are only depictions of somebody’s imagination. Someone who apparently likes to use old words.” said Marjory.
With that they both went back to work painting the roof of a building, which sits on a farm, which doesn’t even exist.
FIN

Four Litres for Everyone

Today I would like to talk about the three big German automobile manufacturers. This excludes Volkswagen, but also doesn’t as Audi is owned by them. The problem I have with them is the fact that their new performance V8s, respectively from Rennsport, AMG and the M-Division, are almost the same.

Audi was the first to introduce their engine a few years ago in the RS6, RS7 and S8. AMG introduced theirs in the AMG GT as a replacement to the brilliance of the M156 and M159 engines. The M156 is my favourite engine and I would put it in an older Merc if I could.

Anyway, these manufacturers used to have diversity in their performance engines by having big 5.0L V10s, 6.2L V8s and 4.2L V8s – all naturally aspirated. These are brilliant engines. I actually have been in an RS5 doing lots of revs on a very short piece of road.

Now we will have three executive saloons with the same displacement engines. Not to mention that this is from the three biggest competing manufacturers. Now I understand the reason behind it all. The respective regions have their own emissions regulations and so forth, thus manufacturers are trying to get as much power as they can out of smaller engines. Heck! Volvo is saying they want 400+KW out of four-pot engines!

I am for saving the planet and all that, but these are cars – things that make people like me very happy. My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles when I put my foot down in our 3.0L V6 Pajero. It is not the best sounding car in the world (it sounds like a hair-dryer at low speeds), but hearing the engine work at high revs makes me happy. Having these smaller engine cars will be better.

My question is just, won’t it be boring?

Drake’s Review

So a few months ago, I bought the Nathan Drake Collection on the Playstation 4. It is essentially the first three Uncharted games remastered and sold for the price of one. Now, I have played the first two so far and a bit of the third one. The graphics are okay in Drake’s Fortune, except that when aiming, Nathan holds the firearm at an angle, yet the bullet still manages to hit its target. This annoyed me a lot. Luckily, it was fixed in Among Thieves.

The stories of Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves were pretty good. The goblin zombies and Shambhala-enhanced warriors were really unnecessary and honestly quite cliché. If it was just normal people, then the game would have been better. It needed to be supernatural enemies. I hate that in videogames. The Uncharted series is such a good exploration series and I feel they ruined it in a few ways.

Firstly, the positives. I like Nathan Drake and Sullivan for that matter. The supporting characters such as Chloe and Alena are brilliant as well. The romance between Nathan and Alena is well written and the voice acting is up to par. The facial expressions are nicely done and movement in cut-scenes are quite good.

Now the negative and, oh boy, there are a bunch. Firstly, why the heck did Naughty Dog think it was smart to put in this many combat zones in a game about solving ancient mysteries? Seriously! There were like two actual puzzles to solve in Among Thieves and the rest was sneaking and shooting. I looked forward to the bits where I actually had to open Nathan’s journal and solve the puzzles. The good thing about Uncharted is that the textures don’t really give away the answers. You actually have to look around for the answers. That went a bit off the point, but anyway.

Secondly, the movement of Nathan Drake has the same problems as Edward Kenway had in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. You want him to do that and go that way, but instead he goes and jumps off a cliff or let go of a pipe. It is really annoying. I felt it was worse in Among Thieves than it was in Drake’s Fortune. In the twenty-odd percent that I have played Drake’s Deception, it seems to have improved significantly, as did the shooting mechanics. And the graphics.

Thirdly, I believe that, since the Middle-East is involved, there will be ‘undead’ mummies that I have to shoot at some point. I include this prediction in my list of problems because I assume it will probably happen.

With all this negativity, you would probably be wondering why I even bother to play it any further. The reason is, I actually like it. Yes there is too much emphasis on combat and too little on puzzles, but I enjoy the story. Plus Nathan Drake can be quite a badass sometimes.

So would I recommend the Uncharted series to anyone? Yes, I would.

Why?

Because it is actually worth the money. Looking at you, No Man’s Sky…