American Sports

Travel 1 Comment »

During my time in the states in the summer of 2005, being an avid sports fan I attempted to experience as many of the American national sports as possible. Although not entirely unfamiliar to them, what was an eerie experience seeing first hand the committed fan base each individual sport had, the set up of each sport from grass roots to professional, and how sport seemed to be engrained in every Americans life, male, female young and old.

The experience that helped me understand this was a college Le Cross game. Le Cross isn’t even one of the top sports in the US, however the home stadium in which we watched the game was better than most league two football stadiums in England. This is three leagues of the most prestigious sport in the UK and a second rate sport at college level in the US boasts better facilities and bigger crowds.

Obviously this is to do with the way colleges fund sport in America, but the fact that I could only sit there in awe, envious of the fact that such facilities were never on offer at to young people at home got to me.

Another outing was to an evening baseball game held Baltimore. At first I was surprised at how relaxed the atmosphere in the stands was, and although I had never seen a baseball game before, nothing was made of strolling in half and hour late, and others leaving early. It was an evening long affair and the lack of focus on the game amongst the group I attended with surprised me. Composed of a mix of boys and girls, it seemed as if this was more of a social gathering than the sports events I was used to attending at home.

It seemed as if the idea of attending a live sporting event was a as much a social event as a sporting one, and came without the fans must win attitude we are accustomed to in the UK, that results in so many staying away. It was a nice change seeing grandmas, granddads, mums and kids attending a live sporting fixture. In all it was an enjoyable evening and the Baltimore Orioles have become a regularly followed team ever since.

When you look from the outside it is amazed me how professional sports in America could make so much money. You here of these multi million dollar deals within sports we barely know anything about, but seeing how big a part sport plays in an Americans life, from school to retirement, you begin to understand how it is possible.

Car Maintenance

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On the topic of yesterdays post, I thought it worth sharing an experience I had last weekend.

Ever since my first car was purchased at the age of 17, a 1980 automatic mini for those who are interested, I have always tried to keep my car well maintained. This probably has something to do with the fact that at a young age I experienced a blow out whilst on a duel carriage way due to a bald tyre. The blow out led to the car swerving across the road several times and eventually coming to a halt in the outside lane! If it had not been for the time of day and the fact the road wasn’t too busy who knows what could then have then collided into us.

Since then I have always been more aware of the fact that when driving, all that retains your grip on the road are those four pieces of rubber. With this in mind I have been border line obsessive with the belief that it is best to keep your tyres well maintained, and properly prepped before long journeys if nothing else.

Last week tested my resolve in terms of this when on Friday morning I awoke to a flat tyre. Whether or not this was a suspected slow puncture or local clowns I did not know. Whatever the case the jack was out and the flat tyre swiftly replaced with the spare.

We were due to travel to Poole that evening and the thought crossed my mind to get the flat tyre replaced. A busy day prohibited this, well that’s my excuse, and come 5.00pm my partner and I set off on the fairly short two hour journey.

Everything was going fine, and bar a dubious mix compilation CD we missed most of the traffic and found ourselves 10 miles short of Poole in no time, when smoke was spotted bellowing from rear tyre. Another flat but luckily not a full blow out.

Upon closer inspection I saw the state of the spare tyre that had split at the rims due to what appeared to be severely worn rubber. As it was late there were no tyre repair places open and the RAC were swiftly called. The flat tyre that was replaced earlier in the day was inflated, and with a slow puncture we limped into Poole, changing the flat the following morning.

I used this as an opportunity to add to my philosophy of good tyre maintenance, and make sure the spare is also up to scratch too. :)

Young Drivers

Finance 1 Comment »

As many people do I have a member of the family that is currently learning to drive, my brother in law. Like many he has been taking lessons in fits and spats for over two years now and has and finally nailed down a string of lessons that will run up until his test. As well as financial constraints, his problem was that he never felt completely comfortable with. Now I am pleased to say, he has finally found one to complete his driving tuition with at Roadmaters, one of the available driving schools in exeter.

After many discussions about his tuition, I was surprised to learn of some of the changes to the test programme since I passed seven years ago. In a relatively short period of time there seems to have been a few major differences to the test. The first being a hazard awareness test that I never had to take. I also believe there is a change to the standard theory test as of September 2007 where the test is out of more questions and a higher percentage is required for a pass rate.

I gather that these changes are meant to be another way of ensuring that young drivers are responsible and have the skills needed when they are first are granted their licence. I realise that something like 1 in four accidents involves drivers under 25, but does this mean they are necessarily unsafe on the road and in need of further legislation?

“In 2006, 23% of drivers killed were aged between 18 and 25 years. And yet, this age group only represents 14% of Victorian licence holders.” > from

I know I have been in the car with older drivers that freely admit they would not pass today’s test, yet have never been in an accident in their life. I have also experienced plenty of incompetent drivers that are freely allowed to go about their daily driving lives.

Although I agree test standard improvements can only be good, my point is whether this is an easy course of blame for what are becoming increasingly dangerous roads, and such measures just another way to penalise young drivers. We are already paying through the roof for insurance and road tax.

“Drivers aged 65 years or over have a higher risk (per distance travelled) of being killed in a crash than any other age group.” >from

There are plenty of statistics that can be used to support a certain point of view. My aim is not to side with one or the other. But if creating safer roads by having safer drivers is the aim here, should we not implement a recap course to be taken at given periods by licence holders, (or something of the like), so that every driver on the road continues to learn how to be a safe and responsible driver?

HD DVD vs Blu-ray

Technology 4 Comments »

A news story caught my eye today, and links in nicely to two previous posts written on TheShelf. Michael Bay, the director of the recently released Transformers movie was caught up in the latest debate between rival DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

In his blog he stated after a late night dinner party that as Transformers was not being released in Blu-ray (the format the director backed but Paramount recently dropped), there was to be no Transformers 2. This was followed by a swift turn in position, and hours later Mr Bay was supporting HD-DVD. After discussions with Paramount he apparently changed his mind on the Toshiba format and the sequel is back on. ^)

So which is the better format? This argument has been going on for a while now, and as such should all be aware of the pros and cons of each. For those of you who are not here is a quick re-cap. Blue-ray is backed by Sony, provides increased storage, and better picture quality thanks to a higher video bit rate, but has thinner more fragile discs that need an expensive coating, the cost of which will no doubt be passed on to the end user. HD-DVD from Toshiba is cheap and easy to produce, with affordable Hardware and early results have surpassed those of Blue-ray.

Each format has a handful of supporters, including NEC, Sanyo, and Microsoft for Toshiba and big electronics companies like Samsung, Sony (duh), Philips, Pioneer, Panasonic and others for Blu-ray. It is no coincidence that Microsoft is supporting HD-DVD and is launching a external HD-DVD drive for its Xbox360, while the PS3 comes with a built in Blu-ray player.

Bottom line HD-DVD is cheaper, but Blu-ray will already be established in homes if the PS3 is as successful as its predecessors. Although not solely committed to the format, most big companies have plans to release Blue-ray devices.

Ultimately it will be the movie studios that decide the outcome if they manage to lock themselves into a single format, as subsequent film releases will be released in that format alone. I thought the winners would be studios who didn’t commit and ultimately released films on both formats providing users with the choice they want. But with the news that Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation have moved away from this position to grant exclusivity to HD-DVD, it leaves only Twentieth Century Fox to decide on a single format.

That fact that this format war is still ongoing shows what’s at stake. I think the savy consumer would buy a hybrid player, but unfortunately most people don’t think about what media will be released through their chosen format, and will ultimately end up with one or the other. Most probably the cheapest.

There is also the argument about how long the winning format will last in the commercial marketplace, with the fact that HD on-demand is rapidly approaching and the days of disk media appear to be numbered. It is my opinion that as domestic broadband capability increases; movies will very much follow down the same path as music. In which case Blue-ray may come out on top because of the increased disc capacity, and amount of downloaded movies users can themselves fit on a disk.

More PS3

Technology 2 Comments »

In a follow up to the PS3 post earlier in the week, it has now been announced that Sony has developed a TV tuner pluggin for their PS3 console that turns your basic PC/ Blu-ray player/ next generation games console (as if that wasn’t enough) into a personal digital TV recorder too.

This basically means that your PS3 acts much like a Sky+ recorder and truly underlines the multimedia capabilities that one will get with a PS3. Out in the UK in early 2008, it has been named PlayTV, and with it, console owners will be able to stream recorded media over a wireless connection to PSP devices, or any other handheld media console via a USB connection.

With access to free digital channels some gamers would be forgiven sacrificing costly Sky+ packages in order to justify buying the console. I know which I would choose. Also being released is a GPS add on for the PSP unit.

For me this adds just one more way of justifying the price tag. When you look at what you actually get with the full package, buying the hardware separately with individual units would prove much more expensive. For me the only drawback is the uncertainty surrounding which next generation DVD format will dominate the movie industry, Blu-ray from Sony, or rival HD-DVD from Toshiba.

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