rashbre central: January 2010

Sunday 31 January 2010

beta testing the future

I've been reading some of the commentary about the Apple iPad over the last few days. First speculation about it, then quasi leaked pictures, then product announcements and then people giving it a kicking. I'll admit the branding was perhaps a little suspect, but that's an amusing blip.

I usually refrain from blogging more than minor discussion on information technology, but I don't really count iPad in the IT domain. Its a game changer, like the OS/X based Mac, iPod and iTunes were.

Before I used a mac at all, I was fully reared on Windows. I could proudly install device drivers, edit the registry and knew the secret commands to bypass the complex updates when the old Windows image had mysteriously failed during an 'upgrade'.

Then, somewhere in the pre-Vista era I bought my first Mac.

It just worked. I didn't even need any extra software for ages, apart from the brilliant Yellow Mug utilities. I realised I could spend time editing video, writing, attempting bad music, categorising photographs and similar without also having to spend almost equivalent time mending things.

Consequently, as other PCs around rashbre central collapsed, they transitioned to Mac. When I've subsequently updated them with new versions of OS/X, the machines get faster, or use less resources. Even my oldest pre-Intel Mac laptop machine was fully capable of editing video 'out of the box'. It still works.

Apple seems to understand how to build infrastructure. Maybe its partly locked down, but it stops people tinkering around the edges, unbolting important structural elements, which is a malaise of some parts of the Windows world.

I don't need 100 variations of a word processor. I just need one that works and doesn't get in the way.

As an example, I guess I'm like many people using Windows Excel in a commercial environment.

How we all loved the changes to the interface with the last cosmetic update. Let's hide the print functionality, let's move all of the formatting around. Let's make it more difficult to insert blocks of copied columns or rows. Let's make saving become a multiple choice test, where every option seems to remove or reformat something.

I don't think I'm being reactionary here, I'm all for progress. I embrace progress, but progress should move things forward.

My current queries include: Why does my brand new work Windows laptop freak out at least twice a day when I use it with a mouse? Why does Excel forget that its just loaded a new spreadsheet unless I minimise and maximise it? Why does it still refuse to link to the latest high speed wi-fi when I use it at home?

If this was an old hacked image I might understand it, but this is a two month old machine running a standard image. I know it's not just me though, because colleagues complain of similar phenomena.

The problem is that we all got used to it. Either learning to fix it or knowing someone who could do all the clever stuff. A sort of technician.

Possibly these same technicians make the first pronouncements about the new technology. The new iPad doesn't multi task. It only has 64GB of storage, the OS won't support Flash. It doesn't have camera.


They miss the point about what I call 'quiet technology'. Like the Apple slogan, 'it just works'. I don't want to have to fiddle about with printer drivers, IEEE 802.11n 54Mb wi-fi configurations and remembering the context switching key combination for when a background program fails.


Quiet technology should be a gateway to what you really want to do. To read articles, to write to someone, to watch a television show, to listen to music. I suspect the portability of a compact personal black slate that just works will provide another game changing moment.

We'd better get used to it.
ipad desk

Saturday 30 January 2010

Thursday Thirteen (V47) on Saturday

Royal Exchange
I've been on the road this week, and blogging has been somewhat rushed.

Giving away trade secrets, I sometimes have a post or two pre-written for emergencies and if I know I'll be busy I might preschedule one or two to appear.

That also means that anything more elaborate like this Thursday Thirteen gets bounced to when I have more time to complete the links. But here goes..

1) It feels strange that its already Saturday again. This week has sped past. Usually if I'm away on a Sunday evening it makes the week seem longer.
Royal Exchange2) My breakfast meeting at the Royal Exchange during the week caused me to speculate on the alleged changes to the economy.

With the Exchange literally across the road from the Bank of England and the old site of the London Stock Exchange, you'd expect to see early signs of returning busy power breakfasts. If I'm honest, it was still relatively quiet.

3) I've also been flying around during the week, so another working breakfast in the surroundings of Terminal Five. A few of us have an uncrowded meeting spot in the BA lounge, which we refer to as 'the usual spot'. I secretly wonder if this is a good thing?

4) When I had to change flights at one point in the week, the lady at the ticketing desk inadvertently put me back onto the same flight. Luckily, I checked the ticket whilst chatting over a drink. When I rushed to find a desk to get it changed the second time, they said they'd been 'waiting for me and would have put out a call'. A good line, in any case.

5) There's also been staccato responses from me to other bloggers' posts this week, as I browse from iPhone. I'm particularly intrigued by maximum bob's plan to write music. If writing a daily blogpost is difficult enough, writing 14+ songs in February is off the scale. Dial 11.

6) I can think of at least one other poetry-inspired person who should try that FAWM challenge.

7) Although it's interesting that the idea of 'album' now seems to imply circa 14 tracks. Someone sent me an old CD album called 'Anthem of the Sun' during the week. A full vinyl running length but just 5 tracks.

Then in late breaking news, two more surprise CDs arrived this morning. @AVG(10 + 17) = 13.5 tracks. OK I give in. (They are revision ahead of an upcoming Tindersticks concert)

8) No alarm this morning, and I was surprised that it was full sunny daylight when I awoke. Makes a change from owl spotting although it has left a dent in the day.

triangle hardback9) To my surprise, a hardback version of 'The Triangle' is up on Amazon, although I've never seen a copy.

10) Of course, eBooks are probably going to become a major trend over the next couple of years, particulalry if the *ahem* small, lightweight and slim iPad has its way. Steve Job's reaction to that scene has also been uploaded.

11) Above joking aside, I suspect rashbre central will acquire one of these iPad devices; it's at least an intriguing blogging, emailing, viewing and reading platform.

Having used the eReader, the wireless connectivity of an iPad should be a major plus point.

12) Meantime, I'll continue to read thin paperbacks when travelling. I sometimes wonder how much impact the "packability" has on my literary knowledge.

13) And now for coffee. Hand ground. It sort of completes the loop from last Sunday morning.

Gotta run.

Friday 29 January 2010

nul points and then a curry

Another hectic day of meetings, both face to face and virtual, including one where a few of us quipped that it was a little like the Eurovision Song Contest as we linked the various sites together by video.

Instead of traditional videoconferencing suite we were using a coin sized camera clipped to the end of a pencil, which worked surprisingly well.

Admittedly the audio was on a separate phone circuit, but somehow everything seemed to work and we were all relatively composed up to the point where the people in the Dutch office started reading out scores.

Luckily our line was on mute at the time.

Tonight its pub and curry.

Thursday 28 January 2010

interstitial landing zone

Not much blogsense from me at the moment as I'm rather busy with work.

Yesterday it was 06:00 alarm and then into the office by 07:30. I didn't really finish working until around 22:50.

Then today its 05:00 wakeup, followed by Heathrow for breakfast in Terminal 5 before jumping onto a plane.

It's one of those visits where I meet a couple of others in the lounge before the flight.

By the time this gets posted, I should be in the air.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

iTold u So

Well, it looks as if they announced it today.

Without the teacups.
itray ipad islate
One has to admire the amount of free media coverage.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

in which we plan a visit to the asylum

Plague rats
Randomly spotted that violin totin' Emilie Autumn is passing through the UK but its Bristol, Wolverhampton and Nottingham - tour dates literally this week.

Fortunately after the tour heads off to about 20 other European venues it then swings back through the Islington Academy in March. We've just jumped on some tickets.

Her industrial strength show is about the strange things that the Victorians and others got up to in the name of art and subjugation.

Ms Autumn and Co. create an evening containing performance art and crunchy gothic music. Theres's barbed social commentary laced with irony as they depict the pre-Raphelite penchant for paintings of women drowning and Ophelia Tours of Asylums.

For the Absinthe flows like wine where I'm going
They say there's a demon
There probably is
But I'll be the end of them
Go on and send for them
So burn me and break me
You know I'll pretend for them
When I close my eyes

Monday 25 January 2010

the outer edge of sadness

Regular readers of rashbre central will know that this site normally spins positive and has 'there is fun going forward' as something of a catch phrase. As others observe, it's tough to stick with it at this time of year because of that Arnall formula, first introduced here a couple of years ago:

( [W + (D-d)] x TQ ) / (M x NA)

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed 'quit' attempt (smoking/drinking/popcorn/whatever), (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

Yup, its the depression formula, used to calculate the most depressing day of the year, which is somewhere between 23 January and yesterday. Some might say its in the period immediately preceding the next pay day.

Most people have broken their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year and many of us have eaten our way through the remaining Christmas chocolates and the content of the fridge.

Not to mention the suction sound from the emptying of the bank account, the prompt arrival of the credit card bill and the long delay since that early pay cheque in December.

But there's no place for Seasonal Affective Disorder around at rashbre central. We want formulas for positivity.

We are all singing, dancing and prancing as we realise the rest of the year will be getting better and better.

Out with the bad and in with the good.

....and breathe.

Sunday 24 January 2010


A more indulgent start to Sunday. Time to grind fresh coffee beans before easing into the day.

Separated from industrious weekdays jostled with metal tubes of transport breathless minute needy.

Sunday can flex more.

An easier beginning, the reliable Zassenhaus, retrieved from my time living in a German apartment. There's a moment for contemplation whilst hand milling the roast for the morning's kick.

Examine the day and speculate the ensuing week. Home much? Yeah. Er, except Sunday (away on business). Thursday (flying around), Friday (team pow-wow).

I'll read the papers today; catch up on some news.

And pack for tonight.

Saturday 23 January 2010

different names for the same thing

I watched that old Nick Hornby film recently. High Fidelity. The one about the record store. And lists.

Then today, I spent about half an hour uploading a few CDs from Christmas into iTunes. At the same time I noticed a build-up of duplicate tracks in the main iTunes listing.

Time to delete a few.
I started by doing it manually. Then I remembered I was using a computer. Download Tidysongs and set it loose.

It found about 1400 duplicates in 10 minutes. All gone now. It wasn't put off by the Bjork "Army of Me" remix collection.

The genre classification wasn't quite so good, putting a number of UK artists into a category called 'Europe' and a few more artists into one called 'Canada'. It also struggled with the album covers, even when it was on a run it would skip random tracks.

Anyway. Back to mainly non-duplicated tunes. With a few random cover-arts.

Friday 22 January 2010

velcro suit moment

More planes
Other folk have been doing the travelling this week whereas I found myself static with an unexpected WAH day today.

The only thing was, that in addition to my meeting in Scotland (this morning) and my meeting in London (lunch time) I had a Big Meeting with New York (late this afternoon). Of course, these meetings were electronic rather that F2F.

I say the Big Meeting was New York, but it was also Sweden, Holland and a few other places. This is where the WAH factor crept in. I should remind that WAH = Working At Home.

That's been me, all day. Online, on the phone, doing stuff. Non client facing. Relaxed dress code.

It was all going well up to the point where I clicked the link for the Big Meeting.

Up booted a nice screen on my PC. And a little video square, which then toggled through Los Angeles, New York, Stockholm, Brussels, Amsterdam and so forth. Everyone was wearing suits. Proper business attire. Looking very business-like.

tuxedoI was WAH-casual.

I could hear a sort of stabbing dance chord playing in my head. Psycho meets electro trance.

I checked that the little green light hadn't come on above my PC screen. No, the camera was off. I flipped to the edge of the screen.

Clicked the menu.

There were about 20 people on the call and the number was still rising. Only 30 percent had the little video symbol.

I thought to myself, maybe these other voice only people are also WAH today.

I may need one of those standby velcro suits.

And some gaffer tape.

Thursday 21 January 2010

chocolate buttons (or dancing with the moonlit knight)

I was going to write this post about chocolate.

Continuing my occasional obsession with Cadburys.

I wanted to write about the strange economics of leveraged buy-outs. I even started to draw a diagram on a sheet of paper. One with banks gambling with savings.

I wanted to illustrate that if they gained money, then they got a commission. But also that if they lost money they still got a commission.

roulette-wheel_hrIf they lost lots of money, then the government asked the tax payers to top up the bank again.

I'd even found a roulette wheel graphic.

And then I wanted to show that the same bank could start gambling again. In a no limits way it could lend whatever and wherever it liked.

And get some more commission.

So it could lend to another country. Maybe to an organisation that wanted to buy part of the bank's own country.

Maybe to cheese company to buy, say, a chocolate firm. So the cheese company buying the chocolate company doesn't need to use so much of its own money.

The bank doesn't mind; it gets its commission on its overseas loan and if the deal is risky then the government is a safety net.

My diagram might have got a bit complicated by now. Because if the chocolate company gets bought and rationalised, then there's a few less taxpayers to top things up.

Luckily this won't happen. The politicians have said so.

Mr Brown said yesterday that "We will do everything we can to make sure that jobs and investment are maintained in Britain."

So I've decided to eat some chocolate instead of drawing my diagram.

Nothing to worry about.

Wednesday 20 January 2010


glassI'd walked past a number of times and never even noticed the door.

This time we entered and took the steps that led down.

Our little gang took a corner table and the maƮtre d' settled us returning later to explain the menu. He recognised the others and was suitably pleasant as if he also knew me. They'd been working in this area for a while and already determined this as a favourite venue, whereas this would be my first experience.

We selected from the small menu and a choice of wine, suitably decanted then bursting with a richness and fruit.

We'd been working in a hotel room across town prior to this excursion and had prepared the usual charts and diagrams of commerce. Now was a chance to chatter before tomorrow's Big Meeting.

The food was perfectly cooked. The wine sublime. Our small group enjoyed a special magic in this tiny location, which for an off-peak day was still busy at each of its small number of tables.

Much later we climbed the stairs back to what was now a rainy street, with a few taxis waiting across the road to ferry us back to our waiting files and presentations.

ipad is itray

itray ipad islate
The secret is out.

The new slate computers can also be used as tea trays and will keep the cups warm.

How better to drink chai, than on a slate downloading the latest edition of National Geographic?

Don't tell anyone.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Cadbury's Flake

So Cadburys is to be taken over by the Krafty cheese people - 'chocs away' as I expect it will say in tomorrow's headlines.

I've always admired the Cadbury history, with the Bournville village set up next to the factories in the late 1800s to provide good accommodation and facilities for the workforce. Quaker George Cadbury also pioneered pension schemes as well as joint works committees and medical facilities for the workers.

It's too early to tell what will happen now that the company is to move to American ownership, but I hope that the better principles are upheld.

I can remember a school project involving Cadburys as well as a rather interesting tour of their factory. There have also been a succession of inventive television commercial across the years, with my favourites including Creme Egg.

For various reasons the original Cadbury Flake adverts seem to have disappeared from the schedules.

Monday 18 January 2010

atavistic avatar assessment

avatar movie posterWe were standing by the bar chatting.

For the third time in a few days, the subject of Avatar came up in general conversation. Slightly surprising, but each time different people have raised it. First time it was a ‘not sure’ and a criticism about whether the plot was derivative, followed by bemused remarks about the Pope’s criticism and whether it was neopagan.

A few days ago it was someone who has booked to see it at IMAX but has to wait until February because of the demand. I still had only the haziest idea what it was about. Blue creatures in a sci-fi setting defending mineral rights from humans.

The two people I was with at the bar had seen it; another was on their way that very evening.

“Its good”, said the two. “And it's not very violent”.

“Did you see it in 3D?” I innocently asked.

“Yes - there are some amazing scenes like where the gun cartridges eject. It looks as if they will hit you in the eye.”

“Don’t spoil it.” said the other one, “Mind you, those fighter plane Head Up Displays are pretty amazing.”

I remembered that the two non-violent reviewers in front of me both had military backgrounds. In previous lives, one had worked in Afghanistan, and the other had driven Nimrods around.

It's on my list.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Tchaikowsky Piano Concerto and cellphone

Really a belated new year moment, this clip from Amanda Palmer and the Boston Pops, with Amanda playing Tchaikowsky's First Piano Concerto.

Until its interrupted after around 3 minutes by an audience member's cell-phone.

Pure punk cabaret.

There's further insight (and around 200 comments) over at Amanda's blog. Amanda's experimenting with some video blogging too.

And congratulations to Amanda and Neil Gaiman on their recent engagement.

Saturday 16 January 2010

stuck in the middle with you

pulp fiction
It looks as if the politicians are about moving into the fight for the middle ground ahead of the next election. I haven't seen any of the photographs of weasels holding children yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

The Labour party has been quick to move towards the centre and to claim to be friends of the middle classes. This break between the Old Labour of Trade Unions and Workers and the New Labour of Ends, not Means was a Blair argument during his reign.

One key element was the removal of the public ownership parts of Labour’s philosophy, but Gordon Brown’s short succession reversed that by dragging all the robber banks into massive taxpayer funding.

What’s upsetting is the cynicism with which much of this is being played. Pump any old pulp fiction to the electorate to stage manage them to vote the right way.

It looks as if we’re going to get months of manipulation whilst a club of spinners scrabble for front seats in the house.

Friday 15 January 2010

software slew slakes slated iSlate speculation

newtonA slew of new Apple updates hit my computer this week. The Bonjour update is the intriguing one, if it includes something to support a new Apple iSlate/iPad communing with Macs and iPhone screens.

We'll have to wait a week or two to see whether a maximised iPhone emerges and whether 3D gesture support gets included, although some of the Apple patents are rather recent.

If the guys that designed the Newton had a finger in the works of a new design, then anyone looking for hints or gestures could start with the chordic manipulation of a multi touch surface.

Conspiratorially, someone has just shut down the gesture guide site for the pre-Apple technology. If you didn't know, it would be difficult to spot that it had ever existed, were it not for the power of cache. It could make magazines look quite different.

Maybe there's a new 'go large' iPhone with iReader software. Maybe it has 3D gesture support. And something to stop it from getting scratched when its in a bag.

So, keep taking the tablets and maybe reading the new style magazines...

Link the tablet technology and the gesture interfaces together to start to see the bubble of uncertainty for the traditional media world.

Colour, mixed media, interactive, gesture based, customisable wireless distribution, channel linked. An iTunes style distribution of content. IS-Interactive Slate. iPad to differentiate from Windows?

Then I found the little song to the tune of American Pie, which summarises the media 2010 turmoil in a ten minute slide show.

I'll need to get a bigger battery charger. Oh, and more bandwidth.

Thursday 14 January 2010

a sweet for the landing

lounging around
A couple of flights this week. Unsurprisingly, yesterday's wasn't quite to plan. In fact, it was cancelled. I spotted the cancellation early in the day though, and managed to get onto another airline. A few delays, but I arrived at my destination.

So this evening, whilst sitting at 37,000 feet and whizzing along at 500mph, I was thinking about my route through the terminal when I got back. I'd stop at M&S on the way to the car to pick up some essential groceries.

Then the kind lady with the interesting hat came along to offer me a sweet for the landing.

I realised I was on a different airline, coming into a different terminal. Instead, I'd have to stop at the filling station on the motorway and settle for picking up some milk.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

new snow now

Heathrow today, for a flight, through last night's new snow.

Not much traffic about.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

no snow now

The snow's all gone. Official. Depending upon where you live. London yesterday had little hints compared with surrounding areas. 

My attire yesterday featured snow boots, ski-jacket, toned down non alpine jumper (* no reindeer or elephants), gloves and back-pack, as I walked in the darkness to where I'd parked my car, complete with a shovel in it's boot. After one sideways car on the way to the main roads, the rest of the journey was like a slow Monday.  

By the time I returned, I'd forgotten about the need for snow-proofing, until I started walking around in my office shoes, which sank immediately under several inches of whiteness. By today, the tractor has been along the road and we can, once again, see tarmac.

Monday 11 January 2010

with a pinch of salt

The sequencing of the weather news over the last few days has been predictable with Blizzard Conditions, The Big Freeze, No School, Grocery Shortages, Scared Gritless, Unusual Sledge and Shovel Injuries and still to come, The Big Thaw and Floods.

What's also interesting is the weather vocabulary being sneaked into other stories. Frozen, Icy, Slippery Slopes and similar expressions.

But the ones I particularly like are the references to various senior politicians being asked to show clear leadership. The last couple of days it's affected Barack Obama (one year in office), Gordon Brown (to game change the next election), Cameron (to differentiate leadership).

Yes, they are all being recommended to show 'true grit'.

Sunday 10 January 2010

movies to watch in snow

We've changed the original plans for today and will spend considerably more time at home. Maybe watch a movie later.

Need good ones with snow themes (in no order):

- Edward Scissorhands * where snow comes from
- Fargo * classy, complex snow, sky and blood spatters
- Let the right one in * vampires done right
- Nightmare before Christmas * not pure xmas movie
- Blow * a different type of snow
- Doctor Zhivago * 3 hour epic
- Help * Yay, Beatles
- Snow White and Seven Dwarves * gotta have a Disney (Bambi?)
- The Golden Compass * Dark materials done well
- Jack Frost * just scrapes in
- Bridget Jones Diary * snowy start and end
- The Shining * poor Jack
- Into the Wild * brilliant road movie
- Bits of James Bond movies * too complicated to itemise
- Superman II * prefer Superman I
- Jeremiah Johnson * adventure in the mountains
- Groundhog Day * always watchable * always watchable
- Manhattan * Beth's great suggestion
- The Chronicles of Narnia * Tilda forever
- A Simple Plan * can go wrong
- Ice Station Zebra * proper cold war
- Gorky Park * ice and icepicks
- Kill Bill I * spectacular at a cinema
- The Thing * classic Carpenter
- Ice Storm
- Ice Age
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Dreamcatcher

I like most of the above (to the ==, anyway). Please help me out if you can think of others?

The early morning snow (5/10) has stopped and if I believe the various weather and gulf-stream predictions, it could be the start of the change around of wind directions and an increase in temperatures.

I may make another short trip into the world of the white witches later, prior to tomorrow's expedition back to the car and then onward to the world of commerce.

Let the right one in - Toned-down US Trailer + surface reviewers - I decided the original Scandinavian trailer is too scary

and the book to read...Snow Crash, of course.

Saturday 9 January 2010

my private narnia

If you leave rashbre central and turn left, then right, then right, then right, walk to the 'no turning back' sign and then turn right again, you come to the area in these pictures.

I sometimes cycle around here, but today wandered along to see the difference that the snow has made. It is always pretty when the area has been dusted white and the first thing I spotted was a wren flittering along beside me.
P1010992Then a few deer tracks and the flash of a deer's tail in the distance. The deer are crafty around here and I suspect many people don't even know of their existence.
There were several on what amounts to an island amongst a few small ponds and streams. Luckily I knew about the very flat differently coloured snow and didn't try walking on the water.
Onward to find the wild ponies, who were in a clearing, grazing in the sunshine surrounded by snow that reached over the top of my boots.

It may not be Narnia, but it's also not bad for a ten minute walk from home.

i must be slipping

Friday 8 January 2010

a kind of liberation

It took me half an hour to liberate my car today. The frozen snow was about 20 cm all over it. I ran the engine, whacked the heater onto maximum and started scraping.

Then I dug out the wheels. A diagnostic message said something about take the car to the workshop to have the brakes checked. I suppose the ice has got inside the sensors.

Then I reversed it onto the road I'd dug yesterday. Slightly down hill, enough for the little yellow triangle stability signal to flash intermittently. Gingerly down the slope to the next level of road, which had become noticeably more slippery than yesterday. I needed to drive about another 300 metres to get to a bigger gritted and salted road.

I hadn't bargained on the sheer number of walkers who were splayed around the whole expanse ahead of me. More than when I'd been out yesterday or Wednesday. I suspect cabin fever had finally forced people to the streets. So instead of making my progress at a sedate 2-3 mph, I had to stop.

I knew this would be a bad thing.

The car got stuck. Luckily I'd brought a shovel so I could dig out the snow that had immediately formed around the front of the rear wheels. I moved the build up of ice and then three neighbours gave me a lengthy shove to get moving again.

End of the road. Glass surface but no traffic at the T junction so I could turn without stopping into the main road where I found proper grip. I've decided to leave the car on a main road now. The backpack, woolly hat, gloves and ski jacket came in useful for my walk back home.

As I passed the spot where I'd got stuck, I noticed another car parked there. It's wheels had sunk to around the level of the axles.

Here's Tori Amos fabulously singing about Winter. And fathers. And daughters.
Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens, Wipe my nose, get my new boots on.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Radox moment

the road
It was all very neighbourly today.

I had a bunch of phone call meetings from early morning until early afternoon and then as the sun arrived I decided to clear some of the snow.

Our part of the road is on a gentle slope almost unnoticeable in normal conditions, although the incident with the wall and a neighbour's car and the stranding of my own vehicle last year illustrates that there is lurking treachery.

Twenty five centimetres / nine inches of snow doesn't sound all that much until you start to shovel it away. Between myself and another neighbour we set about regaining vehicular access. Malcolm and I worked on our own sections until I had to go for another conference call (that ol' excuse!). He continued and made a neat line at the point when he also had to do something else.

I started again and had a clear run. It looked an immense distance from the house to the adjacent very minor road. I shovelled for hours and the snow was at least a metre high along the edge of the pavement where I'd been working. My garden shovel was nowhere near as fancy as other neighbours with some kind of proper Canadian snow shovel.

With the sunshine and common purpose, it was all quite chatty. Others were backpacking to the shops and we compared notes about the local snowmen and igloos. I'm sure other countries more used to snow would smirk at this type of activity, compared with having a motorised mini snowplough drive along pavements and roads to clear everything. Remember even Gatwick Airport was snowplough challenged. When I talked to my Norwegian friend during one of the conference calls, he commented that it was quite tough at the moment around minus 30 Centigrade.

Between the neighbours we've even found some grippy stuff. The neighbour's cat litter worked surprisingly well. Later another neighbour passed, marvelling at my roadbuilding handiwork and offering salt pellets. At this rate we will have a serviceable road again by tomorrow, although I have slight misgivings that it might be 'one way'.

Time for a long soak in a bath.


milpitasStrange twitter trend this evening.

Not Ross disappearing from our schedules, not Brown's latest revolt, not even #uksnow. No.


They've had an earthquake.


I stayed there once, with friend Steve, by accident. All I can remember is a quite dangerous gas station. We moved on to San Francisco and stayed in suites in the Marriott before the infamous 49ers episode. Another day.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

milk run

igloo inhabited
Its always good to keep one's hand in at building igloos. Better to make individual ice bricks and then shape them.

When I headed out to buy some milk, I found the lack of people coupled with the mix of white and some of the already ash coloured snow was somehow reminiscent of the book I'd just read.

Near home the snow was around 30 cms deep and on adjacent paths it had packed down although the few footprints were easily delineated.
P1010250 There were almost no cars. A few slow moving four wheel drives with mysterious lumps on them, reshaped by snow. And a tractor with a snow-plough.

When I arrived at Tesco's there was a mere smattering of cars in the large car park.

Yet Tesco's shelves were already relatively empty. All of the 'normal' milk types had gone yet I didn't fancy brandy flavoured cream. I don't know what the turnover must be, but one day without a truck delivery seemed to have left a pretty large hole. I found some one pint containers of semi-skimmed, which was all they had left.
footbridgeI Then, with a backpack full of my shopping goodies, I took a different route home through the train station and then past housing where I could count snowmen.
There were plenty.

Tall ones, short ones, crooked ones, artistic ones, bodged together quickly ones.

As well as a few more igloos. And a couple of ice-sofas and dino-cars.

It looks as if they will all be around for a few more days.

quick fix sky reception after snow storm

There seem to be two methods, which are dish height dependent.

(1) lower dish. Hit it with a broomstick to dislodge ice and snow.
(2) higher dish. Throw a football at it to dislodge ice and snow.

I have used both methods successfully, although I expect they are frowned upon by Sky.

* I know the picture is of a barbecue. The Sky dish picture was a bit too blurry

Tuesday 5 January 2010


A recent walk back from a pub included a random conversation along the lines of did we ever see any herons around here? I said "Yes, every week or two". Actually, if I'm out cycling then there could be more frequent sightings.

Then today I saw four different ones.

Unless they were stalking me for circa 20 miles, then I'm pretty sure they were different birds. All flying and quite close by. It had me wondering what they knew, that meant an unexpected number of them breaking cover. This isn't Florida and they normally keep themselves to the more countryside areas.

Its like a couple of weeks ago when the local deer that usually hide in the woods became disorientated in the snow and started wandering around various neighbourhood gardens.

Of course, by this evening, there's a possible explanation that the herons could sense the impending weather and were doing something secretively heron-like in advance.

Anyway, its snowing around here at the moment. Quite a lot.
#uksnow in hampshire

Monday 4 January 2010

the road

Back to work today, with lots of people in the office, restocking with pencils and other useful stationery. I arrived early, to bag a good hot-desk and then join in a few meetings as we get 2010 on the road.

Actually, I'm reading a book called 'The Road' at the moment, by Cormac McCarthy. Its a dystopian story of a father and son looking for somewhere to go in a post apocalyptic world, where everything is covered in grey ash flakes that have killed the ecosphere. Maybe they should have handed out some copies in Copenhagen last month.

Truth is, its quite a tough read. Not the writing, which streams along, but the subject matter, which includes ideas that once you've read them, can't be uninvented. I won't say more, but there's a relentless end of the world theme. Despite the faith and hope imbued in the principle characters, I can't imagine how this is going to turn out well.

It's a quick read, with some fast simple conversations to power it along. I also noticed its just been made into a movie although I think it will be difficult to capture the same sentiments on film.

I only started it Sunday, but I'll finish it tonight. Gripping.

Sunday 3 January 2010

division of labour

Almost back to normal stuff today. We've still got some snow on the ground here at the moment, but I've enough household chores to keep me away from the ice.

There's packing away various seasonal entertainments, repairing a few minor domestic damages and broken light bulbs. Determining whether any of the extra festive cheeses have gone critical. Arranging sundry empty wine bottles to not look too copious when the collectors arrive to take them away. Wondering how so many clothes have entered the laundry basket. Finding a new place to hang the Swiss triclimate fusion jackets. Trying to invent a meal from the spectacularly unusual remnants of the food in the fridge. Emptying excess chains, folding spades and telescopic sticks from the boot of the car. Re-assembling a collection of work equipment for tomorrow. Stacking a few new books on the reading pile.

The sun is shining. Maybe I will go out instead.

Saturday 2 January 2010


At the best cinema in London this evening - The Electric in Portobello Road - to see Rob Marshall's 'Nine'. We'd booked armchairs with footstools and grabbed some suitably Italian drinks before the show started. It's the movie musical that parallels Fellini's 8 1/2 about the trials and tribulations of a director with writer's block attempting the ninth movie.

Stylishly 60's Italian, with little Alfa sports cars, perpetual sun-glasses and glamour the Sartorialist would envy, this was a cinema spectacle. I didn't know what I was getting in advance, and about a third of the way through realised it was a series of cameos by the women connected with Daniel Day-Lewis as the enigmatic and conflicted maestro Guido. At around the same moment I decided it wasn't so much a musical as a modern-day opera. Art house opera marketed as big screen musical, maybe?

All new songs (I think) and flashily sassily directed choreography which sometimes tips more than a wink to Bob Fosse. My sense was that the songs need to be heard a couple of times to really sink in, maybe because they are new rather than Moulin Rouge or Mamma Mia style implants of existing pop.

I'll be one of the people who enjoyed this show, although my sense is it will be divided. I liked the homage to 60's cinema, the graininess of some of the film, the wide open lenses with liquid backgrounds. The way that Daniel Day-Lewis played the director without a script or any ideas, but who could function charmingly on auto-pilot through the press calls.

There's a roll call of well-known actresses as the women in his life, from Marion Cotillard as his wife, Penelope Cruz his mistress, Nicole Kidman as his muse, Sophia Loren as his mother, through Fergie, Kate Hudson and even Judy Dench as the wardrobe person.

This may have been a simple storyline, modest dialogue and some flashy set pieces. I'd put it closer to art house homage than the way it seems to have been marketed. On that level I think it works well.

Trailer here


iSlate magic slate
We received some secret samples of the still in development handheld graphically enabled PDA with built in memory, text and reader support. They appeared from within innovative packaging akin to tinsel covered crackers. Along with a supply of apples and peppermints, we took them for a test run today.

There were a few teething troubles, mainly because of the ability to fold the device, and then to find new lines appearing in the text.

This would be okay for a mystery novel, but less so for a more factual account. It may rekindle writing ideas for some, but we wondered if a more permanent form of memory might be better, perhaps supplied in larger quantities. We hear the code name for these under development memory units is 'Pages'.

Friday 1 January 2010

ring out, wild bells

eye2010fWe didn't start the first day of 2010 too early. I think the previous evening had slowed us down somewhat.

We did make it to the pub in the afternoon, though, and changed our dining plans to ones involving pub food. The previous evening we'd rang out the wild bells, to the wild sky.

There'd been flying cloud and frosty light. We'd seen the year going and decided to let him go. Then the new, happy bells, beckoned the nobler modes of life, with sweeter manners and purer laws.

We've decided to make the fresh, new sparkling 2010 excellent.

Happy New Year.