Wednesday, 29 September 2010

a bit of a blur

its all a bit of a blur
I could tell that Wednesday was going to be a hectic day. I'd cleared the morning for a special task but then various encroachments into my calendar had started to appear. A mixed transport mode day to make it all work including phone calls from car parks.

The schedule involved various overseas conference calls and in one case the main documents were emailed after I'd jumped into my car, such that I'd only got access from a Blackberry. Any hope to read the material was somewhat dashed.

However, it was all going fine up to the point where I'd arranged to meet two people in a pub before a late-ish afternoon meeting. "It's under the railway bridge, I'll be there before you and can guide you in", said my telephone colleague, adding helpfully, "I don't have the address or postcode, but you can't miss it".

I didn't.

But they did - along with a complicated explanation about where they'd needed to park their car in order to catch a train. At least I'd enjoyed a coke, whilst watching a station clock in the pub move towards the hour.

We had our meeting and then went back to the same pub - the only refreshment zone in the area. A quick chat and I had to leave, in order to get somewhere quiet for my six o'clock.

Splosh.

An uncharted part of South London. No tube or cabs and a deluge of rain. My newly acquired girly umbrella flicked into use. A few quid from the ladies' shoes department in Marks and Spencer's a couple of days ago. A petite brolly with a tiny semi circular handle which I'll describe as "compact".

I headed towards distant Westminster and almost immediately spotted one of those bike racks. No taxis, but a short spin back towards North of the River. It was worth getting wet to save the time. Park the bike near Waterloo and a cab to my next rendezvous (no I couldn't have made it by bike in the time).

Arriving just in time for my next thirty minute session before deciding to power down for a few minutes television but with an eye on the traffic.

Thursday is a WAH day.

Working from Home.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

spider mug shot

mug shot
Sometimes I lead such an exciting life.

After my comments in this blog a few days ago about September and Spiders, tonight was my First Encounter of Autumn 2010.

I've been working this evening and was somewhat unaware of the time. It was around 11pm. From the corner of my eye I saw a small movement on the ground. It was a spider. Not an itsy bitsy one. Oh no. It was the type that casts a very long shadow and gets main title parts in Indiana Jones movies.

It was ambling across some papers I'd tossed on the floor as part of my working process. Then I stood up and it must have spotted me.

It made a sudden comedy rush across the floor and straight towards a paper carrier bag, which it hit on the outside with a discernible thunk. I moved the paper bag away from the wall to create a little gap and sure enough, the spider ran inside the gap to "hide".

I decided to round it up.

Nearest practical implement was my empty coffee mug. A deft move and the spider was inside the mug. Sometimes spiders try to jump out of mugs but this one was a bit stunned either from the running around or just deciding that a low profile was best.

I opened a window to the darkness and tipped the spider out. The office is over the back door to the kitchen though, and I expect the spider is already queuing to get back inside at the first opportunity.

So I won't be surprised if I find another similar sized creature looking as if it owns the place in the next day or two.
spider mug shot

Sunday, 26 September 2010

cycle rides with cyclemeter and sportstracklive

sportstracklive
Since I discovered the superb Cyclemeter application which runs on the iPhone, I've been using it when I take the bike out. It's quite handy, because I just switch it on then use the 'off' switch on the iPhone and throw it into the backpack. It keeps a GPS track of movement, speed, altitude, location and plots it into kilometre or mile timings for a route. It even has a go at calculating calories. The recent update also deducts 'stopped time' which is useful as I sometimes switch it on when I'm making a cup of tea before a bike ride or similar.

Cyclemeter has its own application for recording the rides back to the internet, and it's just necessary to sync it every so often. This provides a useful map and various timing information about the ride, and its good fun to retrace it on Google maps and to use the mapping to decide possible extensions.

I then discovered sportstracklive a few days ago, which will happily upload the iPhone file generated by Cyclemeter.

The additional information provided in sportstracklive is mainly some statistics about 'personal best' and similar, as well as a splits by kilometre/mile and an equivalent mapping function.

Sportstracklive also adds a replay function, where you can watch a course thats been cycles/run/walked etc as it replays at an animated speed. Again useful for adding sections or options to a route. The same mapping can be used with the 'personal bests' so its possible to zoom into the map where they occur and to think about whether to do those sections faster.

Those that have read my previous posts around bicycling will see that I stop to look around and take the occasional photo as well, so I don't think I'll be turning in wildly amazing times, but its still fun to have this form of telemetry by just throwing the phone into the backpack. Oh and it works for walking, running etc as well, each of which can be separately classified.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

jumbled weekend

london eye
I've a jumble of things to get done this weekend.

As I was leaving my colleagues around Euston yesterday evening, we'd all discussed the various work related items stacked up for the weekend.

In my case its a sizeable report that needs my attention and will take several hours.

In an ideal world I'd have started it today, but I do need a few minutes to decompress before the next piece starts. Otherwise the weeks and weekends blur into a continuum with very little down time.

We're planning to see a movie at some point tomorrow, as well as some home decoration, so I'll be working out how to sneak the "Work" work in amongst the other items.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Mornington Crescent

Mornington Crescent
Another day dotting around London, this time on the tube, with a n extended stay in one area for a very long meeting.

A few of the stops included the predictable Waterloo, Leicester Square and Euston, with a side shimmy (allowed in the rules) across to St Pancras.

Since the bike scheme has been added to London, I'm not sure if it opens a few more legal moves in the well-known panel game which tracks certain parts of the Underground System.

Anyway, my second approach via Charing Cross landed me at...

You've guessed it...

Mornington Crescent.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

livestock incursion

livestock incursion
This is about the time of year that various larger bugs start to sidle inside the house, including an assortment of spiders.

The crane fly aka Daddy Long-Legs is the first 'coin sized' bug I've spotted this year.

I usually associate September and Spiders but this year I'm either particularly unobservant, or the usual mid evening just slightly scary spider that patrols the carpets is late to arrive.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

shopping expedition

car
I'm trekking up and down the UK again this week, to various meetings. Today has featured London, a business park and then a haul along the M40 and M6 to the outskirts of Manchester.

I managed to choose the worst services in Britain for a stop on the way.

As I pulled off the road, my satnav was still saying everything was fine, but there was an immense line of traffic to get into the services, which were across the other side of the motorway via two roundabouts.

I'd only picked them because they claimed to have a reasonable shop where I could get some supplies for the evening instead of Yet Another Late Night Hotel Meal.

I eventually discovered that the line of traffic was all going somewhere else but effectively blocked the access to the services. After a long wait, I drove into the services and had the dawning realisationthat I'd been there once before after it had caught fire or something.

There is now what I assume is a temporary huge tin shed whilst they rebuild the damaged one behind construction fencing.

Anyway, I did get some modest supplies, which was reassuring because when I arrived at my last-minute choice of hotel, the person in front of me was complaining about the long wait in the restaurant.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

target acquisition noise

you are a target market
Its interesting to watch how the adverts sent to me on Google and through Blogger are adjusting based upon the material I've been posting.

They seem to be quite sensitive to current posts and activity, so that I've had recent suggestions about bolt cutters, bicycle tyres and theatre breaks in London. None on 'heists' though.

Add to that the automatically generated posts on Twitter that are sensitive to words like 'estate agent', 'pheasant' or 'railway' and there's a whole microcosm of automatically generated 'stuff' happening behind the scenes.

Some would say this is responding to a target market. Others might suppose its all just noise.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

mamil moment

focus cayo
Another bright, sunny morning, although the temperature was low enough to chill my fingers as I started out for a spin today. Luckily I'd added a jumper on top of my tee-shirt, so I was soon warm enough.

I was ahead of most of the traffic again except for squirrels, ducks and pheasants and at one point a startled shrew which froze in the middle of the lane. I missed it and even missed the furry centipede that was inching across the road at another point.

There were a few other cyclists, including fully paid-up mamils who brightly sped past me. There were plenty of runners and a few dog walkers about too, and some opportunities to exchange early morning greetings.

There's a sort of protocol though, based around not startling people or interrupting peaceful reverie.

On a quiet road, my white bike is quite stealthy, so its a good idea to make gentle brake scraping sounds as one approaches, to avoid peoples' look of surprise. My silver bike is better for that because it's rather more tractor styled tyres make a gentle rumbling sound at anything over about 5 miles per hour.

I was still back before most of the area had stirred for Saturday, and next on the list will be the continuation of some domestic painting and decorating..."aahh, the smell of fresh Dulux paint in the morning"...

Friday, 17 September 2010

leveraged buying

bolt cuttersI've a pretty good, if somewhat random, selection of tools which are kept mainly in the garage.

If truth were told there are some tools (investments) that are best left untouched. Some electrically operated devices can do enormous damage very quickly. And don't get me onto the ones that use petrol.

The manufacturers have got wise to this over time though, and cunningly include batteries and battery chargers that take ages to boost the tools back into life. Just long enough to have second thoughts.

But there's a job I need to do now that really requires bolt cutters. I could make do with tortured hours using hacksaws, but I'd have to go out and buy new blades anyway.

The thing is, I'd no idea how much a bolt cutter costs. It looks like a big and impressive item - the sort of things that television robbers carry to heists - or that heroes find in the nick of time to cut the heroine free from the chains that are being hauled over the acid tank.

There are big and impressive devices which probably require both hands to lift, but I've discovered that perfectly serviceable ones can still give change from a tenner.

I suppose it will reduce two or three hours of struggling to cut some items down to about a minute.

Pretty good leverage, as some might say.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

authentic

authentic oval
There's been a gap in my blogging since I returned from Amsterdam. It's been a kind of technical exile because of the identity thief.

I first noticed a few days ago when I received a strange invoice related to an internet advanced server offering that I hadn't taken. It was way too sophisticated for me and had the hallmark of a 'pop-up store' on the internet. I contacted the supplier and explained that it was nothing to do with me. They didn't seem too surprised. But for me it was an extra $200 per month that I shouldn't be charged.

We agreed that one of my accounts had been compromised, which led to certain systems being "frozen" whilst it was investigated.

As it happens, the combination of my trackers and their hosting service journal meant it was pretty easy to trace the person who had been borrowing my bandwidth and money. It was easy to find the service, IP address and even the real email address.

The follow up is not my concern now, and I've got my money back.

However, it took me out of blogging for a few days.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Through Low Light and Trees with the Smoke Fairies


We were sitting in the kitchen yesterday listening to old Roy Harper tracks and chatting. "You haven't posted about any new music recently?" came the comment.

"Er nope, I've not had much time..." came my reply.

Then today a little padded bag dropped onto the mat. In it was the brand new Smoke Fairies CD and a little pack with a set of postcards.

This delicious smoky folky New Orleans influenced duo's new album conjures more of their atmospheric and sometimes dark lyrics.

They've moved beyond their two guitars in places but even their stripped down sound is quite haunting. You might want to take a listen to them playing their old single "dances with ghosts" before finding a way to obtain their new album. Click the shop to jump to their site, join their mailing list and get a free track.
smoke fairies emporium

Friday, 10 September 2010

rotterdam or anywhere

rotterdam or anywhereA few days away this week, on business.

Planes, taxis and a ship included, as well as some high speed water taxis.

We arrived in Rotterdam in a grey rain, paid the taxi and walked along a metal corridor onto what turned out to be a surprisingly large ship.

I hadn't really comprehended the scale until I got lost the first two or three times and then later when we took a speedy small boat to a nearby restaurant and had a chance to look back at the temporary home.

I wasn't the only one to think of that Beautiful South song.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Skyride London 2010

Skyride London 2010
I cycled to Parliament Square around 09:30 to join the London Skyride and was surprised to see quite so many people already circulating.

Various areas of central London get road closures during the summer for all manner of reasons, but the Skyride, which only started last year, is a particularly good one for some casual sightseeing whilst pedalling.

This year's route was slightly different, with a one-way system along the Mall (last year was two-way) and Trafalgar Square removed but Parliament added. I'd originally thought this year's route may be longer, but I suspect its about the same as last time.

When I started out, there were still moderate amounts of free road and not too many stops at pedestrian crossings, which had special "stop go" traffic management. It was also relatively easy to get into St James' Park to collect one of the High Viz vests and check out the various exhibits and vendors sprinkled around the edge before heading for St Paul's Cathedral.
Skyride London 2010

By the time I was at the far end (for me) of the route, by the Tower of London, there were some acute traffic management challenges, with what seemed to be an ever increasing volume of bikes pouring into the area.

The route back towards the Queen's house required good low speed steering and some effort to keep rolling forwards in places and back at Parliament Square we ground to a halt. It was all very good spirited though, with most people simply enjoying the experience and chatting amiably. There were plenty of younger riders, some notably loud ones with training wheels on their bicycles.

At the other extreme were the stunt bikes and quite a few silent carbon fibre speed machines, although most were circulating at the same leisurely pace.

Thoughts on the event? I'm guessing the organisers might be thinking about scale for next year. I suspect they have been caught out by sheer volume this time and may need a bigger circuit / set of circuits to cope with the volume. The same with St James Park, which is the refreshment and event area but was showing signs of becoming overwhelmed - at least on the ways into it.

Still good fun, and a positive contribution towards extending bike culture within London. Also checkout the pictures at London Cyclist
Skyride London 2010

Friday, 3 September 2010

the wilderness downtown

the wilderness downtown
An interesting experiment with media by Chris Milk and Arcade Fire using the Google Chrome API set.

It will build a personalised movie (based upon a standard song track and premise) for any viewer. It asks for a postcode of somewhere you grew up and the builds the little movie.

Worth a play, although its best to clear the desktop before you start.

Here it is

Thursday, 2 September 2010

pining ping pong penguins ping pingu

Rice Boy Sleeps
So I'm sitting this afternoon, listening to the gentle delights of Sleeping Giant by Jónsi & Alex from Riceboy Sleeps, when I decide to hit the rating key on my iTunes to remind myself I like it.

Maybe a 3. No a 4.
pingu
It'll drift off into my last.fm playlist and charts and I thought it might also show up in that new ping thing from iTunes.

Nope.

Its only stuff you buy or rate through the iTunes store.

Not exactly social connectivity.