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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 31, 2005

Not as easy as you'd think

O no, Mr Frodo
Don't do that to me
Don't slip on the ring
Don't hide in a tree
I'll search Middle Earth till I find you
I'll crawl across rocks and through woods
I'll fight every foe I'll never give up
I'll beat Gollum senseless till he tells me
People say we're homo-erotic
That's because they misunderstood
That the love of a man for his servant
Or vice versa as the case may be
Is a love that is noble and good

More sample lyrics

Well the Elves they can run (run!)
And the Dwarves they can hide (hide!)
But whatever you do
Don't look into the eye (eye!)
The eye of Sauron

It's not just the bling (bling!)
If you put on that ring (ring!)
If you do he will see you
Don't look into the eye (eye!)
The eye of Sauron

Sauron has an eye that is bigger than most
If you disrespect him he will send down a host
Of troubles on your ass
And you'll wish you passed
On the invisibility thing
When you tried on that ring.


One can't help thinking that the Lord of the Rings Musical is a doomed undertaking. It's an idea straight out of The Producers, isn't it?

Black Rider
I'm a Black Rider
I drink lots of cider
And ride a dark horse

Ring Bearer
He's a Ring Bearer
He's walking with Strider
And friendly with dwarves

(chorus) And he's lost
In the woods
Don't know where he went
If you're lost in the woods
Try asking an Ent...


It's fancy dress day in the office. Staff were encouraged to dress up, and many have done so. Myself, I've come dressed as a Born Again Christian who objects strongly to witchery and devil worship, even in jest. Interestingly, this costume is indistinguishable from my normal officewear, apart from the Amish underpants.

I think the one positive side-effect of Hallowe'en is that it prevents a certain type of person from putting their Christmas decorations up until November.

For Christmas, naturellement, I will be dressing as a pagan beast worshipper who objects to the very idea of Christmas. It's hourses for corses, innit?

First you got the smoke, then you got the mirrors

baby L

On the Pro section of their site, Apple currently have a Hot Topic on the subject of Colour.

I took a look at it on Thursday, and I was reminded of it over the weekend when I was printing a photo of my wife's niece for her to put in a frame (see above).

It so happens that I've done quite a lot of research into colour management, and what it comes down to is this. Professional designers do what works, and they learn what works in conjunction with their printer of choice. Now, it's an open market, and you can change printers every time you do a job, but chasing after different printers can be a waste of time and money when you consider how much your time is worth.

For our purposes, where I work, we tend overwhelmingly to use the same printer. So we know what works, more or less, and we're aware of their foibles, and - crucially - we don't care all that much when it goes wrong.

But when it comes to printing your own photographs at home, for deployment about the house or in albums, you care quite a lot. But here's the thing. Do not adjust your set.

What I mean by that is, if you are happy with the way the photo looks on your digital camera, and then on your computer screen*, and you have a decent enough printer - just print it out. For most of my photos I use a hi-ti dye-sub printer, which produces brilliant results, time after time.

I've also got a cheep and cheerful Canon bubblejet, which can also produce pretty good results.

With the Hi-ti, you buy the ink and paper together in packs, you buy 30 or 60 prints at a time, and you have exactly the right amount of ink and paper to do just that. With a regular inkjet, it's important to buy the right ink and paper. If you want a high-quality photo as an end result, then you buy the manufacturer's high quality photo paper, the factory ink, and hit print.

I'm not saying that you simply cannot get good results with 3rd party ink and paper, but I'm betting that you will waste more ink and paper through the process of trial and error if you go that way.

The crucial thing here is that, as a home user, you are better of trusting Epson, Canon, HP, Hi-Touch, whoever, to do a good job of making a printer that will talk to your computer and pull an RGB image down a USB cable and spread it on some nice paper than you are trying to fiddle around with colour management settings.

I've said before that manufacturers develop inks and papers together; there's a chemical reaction that takes place between the ink and the paper, and it's magical when it works right.

There is a science to colour management, and a whole industry has built up around the calibration and profiling of different devices. But once you go down that route, you are entering the land of smoke and mirrors, and I honestly think that 90% of the time it's a waste of time and money (put another way, for 90% of people it's waste of time and money 100% of the time).

*I asterixed above because it is relatively easy to calibrate your display, and there's no real trick to it. I don't know about Windows, but Apple provide a fairly straightforward display calibration tool under System Preferences (go there, click Displays, click Color and then click Calibrate). I wouldn't even both with the Advanced method, because it just takes longer, that's all.

Once you've calibrated your display, you should be able to take a photo from your camera, print it out, and see results that satisfy. I'm not saying you shouldn't adjust the levels in Photoshop/iPhoto/Aperture, if you know what you're doing, but if it looks good on screen, it should look good printed out.

Choose to go down the big-bollocks colour management route, however, and you will probably mess things up. Not because you're stupid, but because colour management is stupid. Measuring devices for example. Some people will buy a display measuring device, or a calibration device meant to profile printed output etc. Why should you trust the electronic gizmo more than you trust your own eyes? Who calibrates the calibrators?

These things are pointless, really, as is the act of converting a photo to CMYK before you print it.

With the photo above, I'd created a Flickr version of it. Which is to say, I'm aware that Flickr, when processing images, has a tendency to over-compress, and thus remove all the punch and impact from an image. So I've taken to overcompensating, by doubling layers etc. so that - when compressed - it looks fairly decent on Flickr. If you try to print a "Flickred" image, however, you'll end up with a high-contrast, oversaturated mess, so it's worth remembering to keep a pristine original if you plan to print it.

Apart from home printing options, you might want to consider getting your digital prints done professionally, and not bother with a home printing option at all. Always check a sample before you do this, but I've seen results that are very good. As for iPhoto books, the ones I've seen have been fairly disappointing - not even up to magazine quality. The problem, again, is compression - just watch and see how your 120MB iPhoto books shrinks to a tenth of that size as it's being transmitted. They can be nice gifts for people not as fussy as you, but they are not lab quality.

October 28, 2005

More Greatest Hits

Here are some more collected entries, including a couple of earlier ones from Simon, before he'd officially joined, as it were.

Best and first and worst gigs

On phases of musical taste

On what we should do about floods

Travelogue: Provence, 2004

An early contribution from Simon: "The internet truly is a piece of shit floating along in a very dark place."

Simon's definitive answer to the Shrewsbury question

Along similar lines, how to pronounce Epiphone

On Johnny Halliday, the French Cliff Richard ... and that Tim Moore quote in full

On the voting procedure of the Eurovision Song Contest

I appear to be obsessed with baked potatoes

On those awful Sunday chores

Another early contribution from Simon: "We arrive at our destination mostly down to luck and safety in numbers."

On why we are rubbish at football - and always have been, even in 1966

Green freebies and the Fast Show

Am I alone in wishing that the government would subsidise solar panels? I'd love about 8 of them, but they're about three grand a pop.

I was laughing at Rob's post the other day where he says that Prince Charles sounds like Rowley Birkin off the fast show ("wbbl wbbl largely to do with a POISONOUS MONKEY! wbbl wbbl wbbl SNAKE! werr wbbl, wbbl wbbl but then I freely admit that I was very, very drunk")

I saw Prince Charles on the news last night. Indeed he does sound like that. But I have to say that I'm warming to our Charlie, the old hippy.

Fiona says he has good pigs on his farm too.

No Dick Emery was involved.

Cannibalism and suntans

You've probably read my post about global famine.

I was sitting at home last night staring at the carpet when it occurred to me that come the day-of-running-out-of-oil things are going to get pretty hairy for all of us.

It occurred to me that the first ones to fall into chaotic behaviour will be the particularly sophisticated types. I mean I'm no tripe eater, but some people find misshapen tomatoes repulsive.

All those types with their orange skin and Audis will be the first ones out on the streets with pitch forks, probably as soon as it starts to get cold and they've run out of tinned foods and their M&S microwave meals have all grown a covering of blue fur.

You mark my words. In our lifetimes we'll see them catching and eating our cats and dogs. And before your know it they'll be eating our children as well. Hot warm flesh between their teeth.

Skies as though out of a Baudelaire poem

The temperature here in the UK yesterday was 21 degrees.

People are loving it because it's like July again.

Except it isn't July. It's October. It should be slushy and wet and grey here. The temperature should be more like 14 degrees.

It's probably not related but we also had that other feature of summer: a huge dome of yellowish grey haze hovering over the city.

Racism or God's lottery?

I watched Question Time last night.

Questions of racial difference came up, which seems, since 7/7 still much of a hot potato.

They were talking about education and equal opportunities. One lady said, "until you can tell black people that they can become prime minister, that they can get to the top, there is still a problem with racism."

I wonder about this. Is it really true that black people can't get to the top in the UK? Is it true that all white people have the opportunity to become prime minister here? I think it is probably rather more complicated than it coming down to the colour of your skin.

There's a very fine line too between what is an issue of equal opportunites where discrimination is based on race and and where it is based on (that great British institution) class or social rank.

Any old wax?

"I'm sorry, dear, I left them in the conservatory and they melted."

Some bright spark has paid £81,500 for some wax heads that don't look anything like the Beatles, but which were used on the cover of Sgt Pepper.
"You wouldn't think that anyone would be willing to pay this much for some wax," Cooper Owen creative director Louise Cooper said.

"But this isn't any old wax - these heads truly represent a slice of music history."

If you agree that the cover itself is an iconic piece of pop art, it's a bit like paying all that money for a few square cm of the canvas of an Andy Warhol.

Anyway, I hope they'll make someone very happy, and that there aren't any power cuts on hot days.

October 27, 2005

Quorn virus sparks fears of new epidemic

The food industry was reeling last night as news was breaking that a new strain of the Quorn flu virus had been detected in the UK.

The virus strain H04X was detected in packages of Quorn sausages in an unnamed British supermarket. Rumours that it was also found in Quorn mince were quashed by officials.

Quorn, which gets its name from the Latin word for rodent, quornus, is made from mechanically recovered red squirrel meat and is the staple protein food of many vegetarians, who mistakenly think that is derived from a species of fungus grown in buckets. Actually, the fungus is first eaten by the squirrels, which are hunted primarily for their fur. The carcasses are then passed to the Quorn food processing company.

It is thought that the virus entered the UK in a squirrel that was parachuted from a small light aircraft in a cocaine smuggling operation. The squirrel entered the wild population in a Kent woodland, and died - scientists think - when the condom containing that cocaine that it had swallowed burst.

Unfortunately, the virus had already been propagated, and scientists now fear that the wild population of red squirrels in the British Isles will never recover. This means that the Quorn industry will have to rely on imported squirrel meat, or meat from the inferior grey squirrel (or "rat").

Not in the best of health

George Best still not dead. If I were him, I'd wait till just before the drive-time news. Heard one of his doctors say he was "a fighter" this morning. Yeah, because he beat his alcoholism didn't he?

Si Smears Solar Survival Tip

Speaking of solar flares, don't come back to me saying I never told you this come the day of social collapse and total climate chaos.

NASA is making sure that its astronauts are protected from solar flares particularly around the hips, shoulders and spine. That's where there is the most bone marrow and thus where you're most prone to getting cancer and leukemia from radiation poisoning.

Get those 80s shoulder pads out ladies.

The truth here.


Speaking of sunspots, I recently read an article titled "what's going on with the sun". The problem is (as Rob pointed out in 2003) that the sun is meant to be quiet every eleven years (the maunder minimum yclept), except this time it isn't.

If you talk in terms of flares, x-ray emissions, and solar eruptions, then it's not quiet at all: it's like standing in front of the PA at a Motorhead gig with a hearing aid in and turned up to full.

The thing is, nobody knows why. Or if it is that unusual. You see we've only had the capability to know what is going on in this much detail for two other cycles of activity. Two sets of data to compare with. On an 11 year cycle that's been happening for nearly 5 billion years. That's hardly enough data to form meaningful marketing statistics even.

So nobody knows.


Speaking of global climate change it's well documented that there was a pan-European famine in 1005. It was also speculatively linked with a similar famine in China, and droughts in North Africa, as well as a failure of the Nile's annual inundation.

I read that scientists inspecting ice cores have detected a high concentration of sulphuric acid in the samples starting in 996AD and ending in 1006. That's caused by extreme volcanic activity.

Things got so bad that there were well documented cases of people resorting to cannibalism.

Put that in your Yellowstone Park and smoke it.


I heard on the news that the UK credit card debt is now equivalent to the national debts of the continents of Africa and South America combined. In the magnitude of a trillion pounds.

Good. Borrow it now before society collapses and you'll never have to pay it back.


Similarly Mortgage lenders took an amazing 84,335 people to court last year for defaulting on their payments. That's double the year before.

Good. Let's put an end to this foppish "look at me! I'm a sleb" lifestyle that people impose on themselves with their foolish ideas above their station in life.


And finally I just bought "Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland" by Rae Spencer-Jones and Sarah Cuttle. I bought it on the basis of reviews. The impression that I had was that this was the guide to have of wild flowers.

I have to say that it is overproduced: big with a hardback cover; expensive shiny paper; barely a paragraph of text on each of the plants featured; big photographs of the flowers; and the flowers are grouped by colour rather than similarity or habitat.

What can I say? I have more comprehensive and easier to use guides already. And it wasn't cheap.

I reckon this is a fat coffee table picture book for aspiring nouveau pseudo-slebs who want to make out that they are pukka green toffs with an interest in the environment and mates with Jamie Oliver.

Going back in time with the sounds of the nation, it's the Caroline Flashback Show!

I don't know if this is a random collection of links or a real "Best of the Hoses: Volume I" collection, but here are a few ancient blog entries, pulled from the chaff of HotHitHU's early days. These were all written before the blog became a collaborative effort, and there's been no collaboration in the choice below, either.

I may move them to a separate blog of their own at some point, when I've collected more.

On how to learn what music you like

On lost family traditions
and more

A wilderness of pain in a friendsreunited entry

The girl in the record shop

Quotidian annoyances: DVD menus

On whether Drew is short for Drusillla

Solar activity and unseasonable warmth

Review of the Year 2003

Schoolboy pranks and toilet humour

The joys of parenthood: picking up poo.

On the over-use of the word astonishing

Why I am better than Most People

On internet nerds and their inability to recognise irony

Simon re-introduces a word to the lexicon

The scale, or how to decide whether to leave your partner

A rant about why I hate MS Windows

On the joy of the baked potato

How to make a pizza pie

Spin spin spin

Charlie has wisely chosen what is supposedly to be an unseasonably warm day to pitch in on global warming. On the BBC this morning, he sounded like that "I'm afraid I was terribly drunk" character from the Fast Show. Didn't understand a word he said, apart from the odd one at the end of sentences. When did he decide to talk like that?

Anyway, unseasonal warmth? Or The Way We Live Now? You decide, but here's an entry I wrote in November 2003 when we were having similar "unseasonal" weather.

Why Wikipedia isn't like Linux | The Register

More on Wikipedia in The Register today.

A couple of things about this piece. One reader writes to ask why Wikipedia is considered "bad" while the Linux project is "good." Both projects are created by people who donate their time and "expertise" for free. Another reader points out that tighter control is exercised over Linux:
[T]he Linux kernel ... is not produced by a radically-democratic value-neutral mob, but rather by a pyramidal hierarchy of maintainers - experts, so judged by their peers - who exercise strong control over what code is allowed in the kernel tree.

But here's the thing. For all the years and years of people devoting their time to Linux, and for all the control exercised by the hierarchy of maintainers, the project has still not come up with a viable alternative to a commercial operating system that a non-technical person could use. As an operating system for raw-chicken-eating propeller heads, maybe Linux is perfect, but without an über-geek to manage it, no commercial enterprise should consider it, and no regular Joe end-user would know what to do with it.

Another quote in the Register article concerns the Encyclopaedia Britannica and other commercial encyclopaedias, which are "doomed," according to one of the senior Wikipedes. They're doomed because it's hard to compete with free. Well, yeah. But if I was the last person to leave the Britannica building, and I'd been put out of business by Wikipedia, the very last thing I'd do before turning out the lights is upload the entire Britannica content - for free - and create an open source project modelled after the Linux project to maintain it in the future. Boing - bye-bye Wiki.

October 26, 2005

27,005 Verbose Ker-ching.

That's the number of words we've managed to post to HotHitHU on the month of October, a by no means unusual count.

Makes me wonder if I shouldn't post a "best of" selection somewhere, so that newer readers could enjoy all our nuggets and dog-eggs in an easy-to-digest, er, digest. I might use the OS X text summarise tool to bring it all down to size.

At a conservative estimate, there are around 650,000 words to trawl through. Intellectuals are going to get members of the opposite sex attempting to seduce them with the words, "I'm thinking of reading the whole of Hoses of the Holy... this weekend."

More electrickery

As a result of a recent door-to-door marketing campaign of theirs in which a smartly dressed young blonde-haired lady pretends to be your friend, I signed up for switching our electric to nPower (apologies to their marketing people if I've got the capitalisation all wrong).

You see, it'd all got very confusing and neither my wife nor I were exactly sure who was actually providing our electricity and this seemed like a fantastic opportunity to sort it out.

After a week or two I got a letter asking me to take a meter reading on such-and-such a date so they could notify our old provider of the final reading. I complied and duly phoned through with the reading.

Later on that day, I actually read the letter asking for the electricity meter reading and to my dismay discovered that it was requesting a GAS meter reading, rather than electric. Gas? What was that to do with them?

Of course I phoned them immediately and after speaking to three people managed to get someone who understood what I was talking about.

And they promised to sort out the correct reading for the electricity, only to find they hadn't completely processed my request to switch over to them on the electricity yet.

They asked why I wasn't changing my gas over to them along with the electricity. So then I did, just because it was all getting too complicated for anyone in a call centre to remain competant in dealing with it. And I thought that was it. I'd given them meter readings on the correct date for gas and electric.

A month later I got a letter from them stating that they were amending my initial reading for the gas to the figure that I originally gave them in error (the electric meter reading).

I should point out that I expect my gas meter to show the same reading as the electric meter in, ooh, I'd say about 9 years time.

So I would be getting a bill for 9 years of gas from Scottish Power (the original gas provider).

I phoned back. They now have no record of me ever requesting to go over to them for electricity. But they've amended the gas meter reading again to what it should be.

Chaos theory strikes again. And from what Rob says below, the longer it goes on without getting sorted, the more it becomes an academic exercise. And our heating is broken down.

We'll see.

npower - they ask you to sign up with them for supplying your electricity and then take over your gas suppy only.

Generating Your Own Electricity

As we learn that the UK only has around 13 days of gas reserves for the coming winter, which is predicted to be a cold one, I think it's worth taking a moment to praise this man, who should be an inspiration to us all.

With a belt 'n' braces approach, he's installed both solar and wind power in his London home. If he can do it, in Southwark, then we can all do it. And if it kills a few cats and pigeons, he'll have something to eat, too.

13 days of gas supply. In the event of a catastrophic interruption of supply (that couldn't possibly happen, could it, because disasters and terrorists are so fucking rare), we're two weeks from the Dark Ages.

Why is this a problem? Oh, yes, because most of the coal-powered power stations converted to gas in the 80s and 90s. And the British government closed coal mines while there was still coal in the ground. Never let it be said that politicians are incapable of long-term thinking.

Taking the Pissarro

Have you seen some of the UK tabloids this morning? I've seen the headline "taking the Picasso" at the top of some articles moaning about how much NHS money has been blown on artwork in the UK.

What's wrong with artwork in hospitals? It can be calming, and make people feel less uncomfortable in strange surroundings. It can be something to look at and think about during the many many hours that you'll inevitably be sat-seated in one of the chain of waiting rooms while they sort out all the injured piss-heads down in casualty.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one who favours the myriad echelons of hospital management designed to make things look good on the surface and ensure that the paper chase remains hard to pin down. I'd rather have nurses and doctors.

So how much has the NHS spent on artwork? About a tenth of the annual entertainment budget (for powder and piss) of the UK tabloid industry.


I just had deep fried scampi from the local cafe. I don't know if it was just me but I'm sure I could taste a hint of ammonium. At least it's cleared my nasal passages.


Thanks to Rob for his post of the Vintage TV guide covers. Although not quite as niche as that, I'm also rather fond of this web site that features Brooke-Bond Oxo tea cards. This will either drench you in nostalgia or seem pointless.

Disrespect Intended

Some time ago I wrote to the UK Highways Agency commending to them an idea I had seen on French motorways in Alsace, whereby vehicles over 7.5t are prohibited from overtaking on certain stretches of road. This avoids the frustrating problem we've all encountered, I'm sure, when a queue of traffic gets stuck behind one lorry overtaking another, when one is doing 58 mph and the other is doing... 58mph.

This situation then goes on for miles. I've read anecdotes reporting 15 miles of this kind of thing. The problem is caused because all HGVs are - or should be - speed limited, so that if one gets too close to another and gets a tow in the slipstream, the moron behind the wheel feels he's got enough momentum to overtake, but then when he pulls out he hits a wall of what is called air and slows down to 58 mph again.

Meanwhile, other motorists are beating their heads against their steering wheels in frustration. But you don't need me to tell you that.

Anyway, my letter to the Highways Agency suggested that - in certain crucial areas at least - they should be prevented from doing this. Lots of accidents are caused, for example, on hilly sections around Junctions 28/29 of the M1, and between 23 and 21, as lorries do their classic manoeuvre-signal-mirror tricks and suddenly pull out into the path of faster vehicles, oblivious to the consequences and Newtonian Physics.

Anyway, some time later I got a reply from the Road Safety Strategy Division of the Department for Transport.

We note your concern regarding congestion caused by Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) overtaking one another on motorways and major trunk roads. Restricting HGVs to one lane would effectively restrict their speed to the slowest moving vehicle. As delivery times are often a significant factor for hauliers, any increase in times would cause many to switch their vehicles to less suitable roads through towns where accident rates are higher. This would have clear safety implications, bringing these vehicles into conflict with other vehicles as well as vulnerable road users. This is an important consideration bearing in mind that accidents involving heavy vehicles tend to be serious due to their size and weight. The quality of life of people living along these roads is also an important factor.

I can understand your frustration about the times when you are held up behind overtaking wagons, but it remains the case that the motorway and trunk road network is the best place for lorry traffic and we need to keep as much of it there as possible. The outside lane is always available for faster moving vehicles to overtake slower moving heavy vehicles and, on parts of the network with substantial gradients, crawler lanes are sometimes used to ensure that HGVs do not unduly obstruct other traffic.

The Department feels the current lane usage arrangement is the best for all vehicles and does not consider that it would be appropriate to implement the restrictions you propose. We appreciate that those who exercise poor lane discipline and slow overtaking cause annoyance, however we do not have any evidence that it is the cause of a specific road safety problem.

Which was the bum's rush, in other words. I didn't let it rest there, and replied in the following manner:
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply.

I don't think, however, that you have really addressed my suggestion, which was to copy the French system of restricting HGV overtaking only on certain sections of road. I have good reason to suggest this, and not merely my own inconvenience.

I appreciate that truckers need to truck, and that time is money. But I too do a lot of driving (40,000 miles this last year) and, every day, I see truckers taking ridiculous risks with their own lives and those of other motorists.

Three examples:

1. Do they have to follow each other at a distance of a few feet (less than a car's length, in some cases)?

2. Shouldn't they give adequate notice of their intention to pull out into an overtaking lane, when they do so? Rather than remembering to signal when they are already halfway through the manoeuvre?

3. Shouldn't vehicles larger than, say, a Transit or Sprinter van, drive within the speed limit?

I see examples of all three behaviours many times a day, every single time I drive; and I think it would be disingenuous of you to claim ignorance of this kind of thing. 16-ton lorries swaying along in the middle lane, with no intention of pulling into the vacant inside lane. 40-ton lorries getting a "tow" in the slipstream of other 40-ton lorries, then suddenly swerving out to overtake. No matter what the weather.

The important point is that these vehicles would not be in a position to overtake each other if they maintained a safe driving distance (and they should slow down to maintain that distance, no matter how tight their bottom line). Only because they have been driving in the slipstream of the vehicle in front do they have the illusion that they are "faster." As soon as they do pull out (frequently giving other road users no notice at all), they hit a wall of air and slow down, so that it takes them around a mile to inch in front.

I have had no further correspondence since then.

Now a friend of the blog, Darrel, has informed me that there is a stretch of the M42 where vehicles over 7.5t are prohibited from overtaking betweem 7 am and 7 pm. Yes! Here's the press release (which was devilishly hard to track down):
Our active traffic management pilot on the M42 near Birmingham will test out a package of measures to ease congestion, including using variable speed limits to smooth out traffic flows and use of the hard shoulders during peak period, with emergency refuge areas for broken down vehicles.
A new daytime ban on lorries overtaking on a three-mile stretch of the northbound M42 in Warwickshire was introduced last Monday (October 10).

But here's my point. Obviously they're not doing this in response to my email, and they've been considering it for as long as it takes bureaucrats to consider things. So why, when they replied to me, did they dismiss the idea out of hand, instead of saying, "Thanks for your suggestion. Actually, we're going to be piloting this very idea on the M42 from October."

Because they're bollock-faced weasel shitbirds, is the answer I think you're looking for. Still, from small acorns and all that.

Nostlagia Bulletin

Thanks to Guitargas reader Daen for this priceless link to Vintage Times, which is a wonderful collection of scanned Radio- and TV Times covers.

There's an embarrassment of riches there, like the myriad Doctor Who covers, or the one from Easter 1958, which put me in mind of the quote in the current Dilbert newsletter, of the student who asks if the footage on screen from The Passion of the Christ was "live footage".

But, I wondered, which is the first one I really remember? There are some that look familiar, like the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who cover from January 1970, but I think that'd because I saw it subsequently. When I was growing up, we'd only ever get the Christmas editions (you knew Christmas was coming when the Radio and TV Times appeared!), so I think the first one I remember seeing, proper, was 19 December 1970.

Chewing the cudd

Was I correct this morning? I thought I heard a news item on telly actually reporting "we must stress that bird flu and a possible human epidemic are not the same thing." Is that really the sound of reason plaintively bleating through the rhythmic stick-banging of News?

Also this morning, I spent 20 minutes looking for my house/car keys. My wife had thoughtfully placed them on a coat hook in the hallway (and then placed two coats over the top for reasons of obfuscation and domestic security). Than's for that then, love.

Finished watching the DVD I have about the Gemini missions last night. Probably from the perspective of a non-geek punter it's the best of the three (Saturn 1s and saturn Vs are the other two I have). Now I thought you pronounced it like jem-in-eye whereas the NASA folk seem to have pronounced it as jem-in-ee. I have a suspicion that the American pronunciation is closer to the original although the "g" should be hard as in God or Stan Getz.

This week at work we've had at least three disasters of a mission critical kind. This has all been very inopportune as far as timing is concerned, as many of my colleagues are out this week and we're knee deep in the proverbial preparing for a computer show. It's reinforced my view however that the Internet is mostly evil and confirmed that computers are, on the whole, ceterus paribus, and taking a considered and balanced view of it, quite rubbish.

Is it just me, or am I alone in still (at the age of 40-something) having absolutely no comprehension of why Ben Stiller is funny? Is it something to do with the generation who consume mobile phones and plastic that is painted with silver paint? And emoticons? And teenage binge drinking with a wallet fat with credit cards? And deloox maccy-dees? Or what?

I hear they're talking of banning old people from driving. I'm all for that. A large proportion of accidents are caused by old people. And they form a large percentage of all the 45-50mph drivers that I come across.

On the telly an owd fella objected that even if he drove at 70 mph through a residential area there would still be a youngster tailgating him and trying to push him into driving even more dangerously (who said the problem with old drivers is that they go too slow?) Of course he's absolutely correct about that observation though: they should also ban anyone under the age of 35 from driving.

Recently I've been enjoying the computer-controlled thing on my car that reports fuel consumption. I've given up on the stupid "how many miles of fuel left" thing because it's not funny anymore. I've become bored of it and it seems plain silly and childish now (like Ben Stiller?)

Anyway, the "miles per gallon" thing is much more interesting. I've realised that acceleration is the main culprit when it comes to using fuel. Therefore I've taken to starting up in 3rd and accelerating almost imperceptible up to 45 mph and then cruising with my foot off the gas and with my clutch down all the way until the next set of red lights or traffic jam.

I've just bought a couple of books about music theory, one about Gretsch guitars, and another about wild flowers. I'll let you know how I get on. I was most disturbed to realise the other day that I've now been reading a translation of Josephus' Jewish Wars for over a year. A year! On the same book! I swear I become more like my parents everyday. I'll be reading paperbacks off the charts next.

Top dogs

As of this morning, we're the number 1 hit in Google for searches on S a r a h B e a n y ' s b r e a s t s.

Which is funny. I noticed last night she's got a series on the telly at the moment, which is why men (I'm assuming) are searching on the subject.

We're also #3 for searches on Annelise Hesme, the girl from the Renault Clio ads. Well, I'm sorry boys, but she's my secret girlfriend.

In other news, we're no longer even on the front page for searches for Kenny you-know-who without his hat. But the good news for those with a prurient interest in seeing him bald, look no further than here! Now you know why Ms X sought to have their marriage annulled. First time she saw him without the hat, she was straight to her lawyer. Possibly.

October 25, 2005

Which Book Are You?

This story about people buying books just to look intelligent interests me, not least because it's something I've never done myself.

It does remind me, however, of an odd period in my youth, when women who were interested in me would inform me of the books they were planning to read. This is largely because they were attracted to my intelligence, rather than my physical beauty, so they were trying to find a path to my heart through my brain. Needless t say, I've always longed to be loved for my looks, (as if that was ever going to happen), so I wasn't terribly impressed. Sadly, I found these confessions of literary ambition more embarrassing than anything, the intellectual equivalent of someone throwing their knickers at me.

Fascinatingly, it was always the same book; a book I've never read, nor wanted to read: War and Peace. Hugely flattering, I think, that these girls wanted to impress me with the biggest, fattest, book they could think of; and something of a relief that it wasn't Lord of the Rings, which I have in fact read.

About four times, this happened, between '82-ish and '85-ish. Of course, these days, women tell me that they're thinking of reading the novelization of the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

New Sony Ad Buzz

The Guardian have a QuickTime version of the new Sony bouncing ball ad, which is nice.

I don't think the balls look real at all, but according to the article, they had 10 cannons with 5,000 balls, and skips full of them, too.

It's a lovely image, anyway.


as chief football correspondent for this blog, i feel it is my duty to comment on this.

it's important to have noise in the game. not people shouting (god forbid), but controversy, injustice, misery. otherwise it's just another sport. so long as the referee or linesmen (i refuse to call them assistant referees) are just inept, and not actually cheating, then if they get a decision wrong, well good. and i'm a middlesbrough fan, at the wrong end of sunday's decision.

manager's want it, this new technology. they say a dodgy decision can get them the sack. well if their jobs are that precarious, they can't be very good managers, can they?

Tift Merritt European Tour Dates

Tift Merritt is coming to Europe for a few dates. Certainly worth a look, if she's playing near you.

22/11/05 Brighton, Komedia
23/11/05 Paris, France La Java
24/11/05 Birmingham, Glee Club (I hear they're very happy)
27/11/05 Maidstone, Soul Cafe
28/11/05 Belfast, Errigle Inn
29/11/05 Dublin, Whelan's
30/11/05 Glasgow, The Arches
1/12/05 Nottingham, The Rescue Rooms
3/12/05 Manchester, Academy 3
4/12/05 Sheffield, Memorial Hall
5/12//05 London, The Borderline
7/12/05 Newcastle, The Cluny
8/12//05 Norwich, Arts Centre
9/12/05 Leicester, Music Cafe
and last, but best of all...
10/12/05 Buckingham, The Radcliffe Centre

Update: I meant to add something about the tour itinerary. If you ever wondered why performers get silly and demanding as they get more successful (4 whole roast chickens delivered to the dressing room in the interval, that kind of thing), and/or why they get hooked on drugs/alcohol and/or get killed in plane and coach/car crashes... take a look at the itinerary, and how soul-destroyingly stoopid it is.

Play Brighton, on the South coast of Englandland, fly across to gay Paris. The next night flog back to Birmingham in the English west midlands, then schlep down to the South of Englandland, Maidstone, which isn't too far from Brighton. From Kent, fly across to Belfast in Northern Ireland, and then 100 miles South to Dublin. Fly back to Scotland, then on the next night, it's back in the English midlands to Snottingham. North West to Manchester, sensibly staying (yay) sort of in the general ballpark of the North, to Sheffield (which is closer to Snottingham than Manchester, but still). Down to London, than back to the North East, Newcastle, then to Norwich (which isn't close to anywhere, to be fair), and back to the East Midlands and Leicester, finishing off, if you survive, with a night in lovely Buckingham. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.

To an American, the distances mean nothing, but if you're flying around, well a take-off and a landing are a take-off and a landing, no matter how far you travel. If you're driving, well: we may be small but at least we're crowded. Good luck on our roads.


What do you think of Wikipedia? The Register has been pounding on it for some time now - with some justification, I think. Over at The Guardian, they've asked some known experts to assess the entries for their specialist subjects. The best mark it gets is 8/10, for the Bob Dylan entry.

But then you read what the guy has to say about the entry - that it's pretty accurate as far as the facts go, but so badly written that it would piss people off - and you wonder about the marking scheme! For me, factually accurate gets you 5/10. Making you actually want to read it gets you more. Now, it's a fact that most academics are terrible writers, better at obfuscation than communication, so they probably wouldn't be the best people to ask.

Most academics wouldn't know good writing if it came up and stamped on their heads.

My opinion of the Wiki is that it's good in parts, if you find a little corner where not too many people have had a hand. Popular subjects, on the other hand, tend to be overwhelmed and end up reading like random fragments with little relevance to the overall picture, stuffed full of trivia but completely lacking in substance.

And the linking! Oh, the humanity. Pointless links prevail, pointing to articles about things mentioned in passing that don't really have much to do with the subject under discussion, and which - crucially - don't contain a link back to the original subject.

Start with the search term "Atomic Bomb", for example, which redirects you to an article on Nuclear Weapons. No mention in that article on where the first bomb was developed and exploded, though the Manhattan Project is mentioned. So you follow a link to there, where you read that the first test was in Alamogordo, New Mexico, with a link to an article on Alamogordo, which has a one-line mention of the first man-made nuclear explosion taking place there, but doesn't mention the Manhattan Project by name. There's a helpful link from the word "nuclear" however, which takes you to a general link on the word "nuclear", with lots of other links to articles containing the word "nuclear" - and, if you guess right, you can find your way back to your original nuclear weapon story.

Many Wikipedia articles are stuffed full of links, some more useful than others, most of them not relevant at the moment your eye is stopped by them, and even when there is a kind of relevance, you might find yourself going round in circles. in the example above, say I was looking for the location of the first nuclear test - it's not mentioned in the main article, so I have to follow (if I guess right) several other links to find the answer. And when you read the article on Alamogordo, if there's going to be a link from the brief mention of "nuclear test", in my mind it should go back to the Manhattan Project article, and not to an entirely unhelpful definition of the word Nuclear with a load of other links.

The word nuclear means of or belonging to the nucleus of something. Eh? Run that by me again? What's a fucking nucleus then?

In the end, the Wikipedia is a huge collection of articles containing a huge collection of links between articles, as if a deeply paranoid individual set out to describe the world in terms of the links between things, which doesn't sound too bad, except there's no underlying coherence, and in the end no actual point to all the linking. At least James Burke, whom we have mentioned before, had a point, and at least he was just one person trying to make that point, rather than a random collection of individuals with internet access and time.

The Register is often attacked by the Wikipedes, who demand that, instead of criticising, people who think entries are wrong should "try to improve them", but to do that you've got to be willing to engage in battle with people who are like the Comic Book Store Guy in The Simpsons, who will sit up all night, ready to delete your every comma. Apart from that, you gotta know where to start, and you know you're never going to get the radical idea of taking out a lot of the links past the Comic Book Store Guy.

I still use it, sometimes, when the article is purely factual and doesn't bombard you with blue words, but when you encounter one of those link-farm type articles, it always makes you think twice.

October 24, 2005

Up-to-the-minute film news: It Could Happen to You (1994)

I just found an almost whole box of Wrigley's Extra in the back of my desk drawer. Funny how you buy stuff and forget you've got it. I think it's a sign that you might be spending too much.

I mean, how often have you looked through your CD collection and found records you'd played once and then set aside, not because you didn't like them, but because you forgot about them? Ever bought anything twice because you forgot you had it? I have, and I bet I'm not the only one.

I was thinking about excessive consumption and the anxiety it gives me when I was watching one of my favourite films, It Could Happen To You (aka Cop Gives Waitress $2 million tip), the other night. They always tell you this is based on a true story, don't they? Of course, I wondered about this as I was watching, could it possibly be, however loosely, true? Apparently so.

As I was watching, I got consumption anxiety as they were spending the money. Because, we're told, to be a proper millionaire, you need a minimum of £2.6m, and probably 10x more than that if you really want to live the millionaire lifestyle. Every £100k you spend is money down the drain.

That's inflation for ya. And greed, if you think about it, which is what the little parable of a romantic comedy is all about. because Charlie (Nicolas cage) actually wants to just go on living his usual life - but even more generously than before he was rich. Whereas his shrew of a wife (whatever happened to Rosie Perez?) wants gold taps and a fur wrap.

Except, as Charlie keeps saying, it's not about the money. The reason why I sit through the movie with a tear in my eye is because the wish fulfilment fantasy that the film is really about is that every neighbourhood would have a Charlie in it. A cop who doesn't talk filth and wave his gun about, who treats people with respect, and who does things for the kids of his neighbourhood because he loves kids. So when he's rich, Charlie hires out the Yankee Stadium and takes the kids down there to play baseball. And he and Yvonne (Bridget Fonda, I love you) stand at the Subway giving out free tokens, just because they can.

If every neighbourhood had a Charlie, and every Charlie had an Yvonne (and vice versa), how much better would the world be to live in? A little less selfishness and greed, a little more generosity of spirit.

Want some gum?

The dark world of the Daily Mail

What kind of people buy the Daily Mail newspaper? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. If you know your British tabloids, the Mail is the one that provides the same sensationalism and Bingo games as the other tabloids, whilst flattering its readers that they are somehow better than those who plump for The Sun, The Mirror, and the Star etc.

The Daily Mail has always tried to target women readers, but in general it's packed with received wisdom, hearsay, and prejudice, knee-jerk hatred of anything reeking of socialism or fairness, and the love (of jackboots and uniforms) that dare not speak its name.

The Mail's headline today trumpets that it is deadly bird flu that killed the parrot, and it is "in the UK" in spite of the fact that it's not, because the bird died in quarantine, which is the place that astronauts and pets have to go before they are allowed official entry.

The Mail is, naturally, keen not to over-emphasise the fact that it's still bird flu, and that the 60 people in Asia who are supposed to have died from it had very intimate relations with the birds they caught it from, and that cross-infection from human-to-human is not yet possible.

If it happens that this virus mutates and becomes a deadly flu epidemic, no amount of tabloid headlines in advance of it happening will prevent it. If it doesn't turn into a deadly human epidemic, then all these avian flu stories are only of interest to the poultry industry.

On another subject, the Daily Mail tries to be feminine and sensitive, wherever possible. Frank Bruno's got a book out. The Guardian reports on it with the headline (on the front page of the web site), The battle to be happy. The Daily Mail handles the story with a great deal more compassion and empathy: BRUNO: MY DESCENT INTO MADNESS.

You can see where they're coming from. If you read the Daily Mail, this is what buying that newspaper says about you. In no particular order, you are:

  • Selfish

  • Ignorant

  • Uncaring

  • Greedy

  • Deluded

  • Gullible

  • Nasty

  • Oafish

I was going to add "Ugly" to the list, but that would just be a guess.

There but for the grace of gourd...

Thanks to rashbre for the link to all these Pumpkin Festival pictures. I've posted the least tasteful one here (of course), but if you scroll down on the page (and click the back and forwards links at the top), there are lots more. I like the idea of spelling out words with pumpkins. You could have 7 of them, spelling out F-U-C-K-O-F-F to all the trick-or-treaters.

I think my favourite is the big pumpkin that has eaten a small one.

How ATM fraud nearly brought down British banking | The Register

Here's a fascinating story from The Register about how dangerously close to collapse the UK banking system was around 10 years ago, because of a distinct lack of security surrounding cash machines and PINs.

For example, cash cards did not use to encrypt the PIN number with the bank account number, so that it was possible to re-encode the account number on a card without altering the PIN.
The computing staff at one bank - the Rogue bank - had discovered through the dummy accounts how to fix the PIN generator so that it would only generate three different PINs in all the PINs issued. By creating a number of dummy accounts and getting new PINs issued for them, they could capture the sequence. Then all that was needed was to recode the cards so they would point to different account numbers, try the three PINs (ATMs gave you three chances) and they were away.

How scary is that? The register don't name the bank concerned, but Jaysus, when you think about it. The kind of people who know a lot about computers (we all know the type) are also the kind of people who like to do things just because they can, regardless of the moral consequences, and these are precisely the people that banks and other businesses rely on to run their computing systems. Sure, there are grown-ups around too, but can you tell the difference?

Mighty Goods: Pirate Costume for iPod

Mighty Goods: Pirate Costume for iPod

October 21, 2005

Comes southend which -- this wants to move

England's sea shore essex the county southend suddenly dike wharf is in the world the longest entertainment wharf. It extends into the sea nearly 2 kilometers, by is well-known along the dike general train. This year summer the summer heat, lets entire England the men and women swarm to this proliferate the bar, the nightclub " the entertainment heaven ". At nightfall the time-sharing, extends into the sea wharf everywhere all is the young people which the passion thrives.

Although already was evening 10 o'clock, essex southend still everywhere obviously spicy younger sister's trace. The extremely hot weather, lets in the town the girls are hottempered hotly not rather, the restless desire move.
突堤码头 above one family reputation calls " Forrester Arms " in the bar, the visitors are staring at one put on the flesh color miniskirt and the knee 长靴 gold send the girl, her upper body is stark naked, the sex appeal swings the body in front of the guest.

paulo is is on a vacation spends the summer, he looks the dancing girl spreads out on the in front of round table the body, after then the fill suggestion posture haunches up carries. paulo shyly tells him the friend, the southend girl really is the opening.

" All newcaster or manchester these big cities are different with so-called the sextual affection ", southend even more relaxes for people's feeling, also a easier camp to compose the passion the atmosphere.

In the southend wharf " the solar room " the bar, two sex appeal 尤物 are pulling begin to go out from the bar, one endures without stopping to advance opposite party the bar entrance on the wall, their body depends on the wall overlaps, impatiently mutually strokes, after vanishes in the dim light of night.

jack by chance witnessed a moment ago fervor one, he said to me: " Is the summer and the sea breeze pushes the people to the passion high tide."

jack said, aside the southend Binhai road everywhere is the men and women which open-air indulges in sensual pleasure, he also has the experience in southend which very many times the seashore does loves, is and one gold which the impression is deepest sends beautiful woman's on beach experience: " We removed completely, smiled runs in in the water, tightly grasped opposite party, although the sea water started somewhat piercing, but was very quick as if must seethe with excitement general."

The jack view obtained the lovers approval which many came to be on a vacation. Aggravates girl maria and her boyfriend in the seashore is taking a walk, she escaped the coat, reveals one pair of great breast which the black bra wrapped up.
maria said: " We make the love in the seashore one young house. Although the sand beach is very big, but sought the person in here which stimulated too are really many."

Aside the Binhai road, saw came from " marine Li " (Leigh-on-Sea) beautiful woman laura, she at that time was flirting with boyfriend roy in the bar. She said does in the seashore likes very stimulating, but own likes in the migration and the man occurs the relations, she did in the train restroom, even ' the risk island ' on the main body park roller coaster also did not stop in southend 乱搞. " Under the broad daylight I call very loudly, people all thinks is the seat roller coaster frightens excessively... The ESSEX county girl is such wild!"

Bad start to the weekend

After having so much fun (sardonic humour there) with computers today I've gone and made the double-mistake of listening to some songs in minor keys over lunch. As a result I feel thoroughly miserable now.

Sometimes it can be nice to wallow in misery: it's a very satisfying and efficient way of putting yourself plum in the focus of the Universe. I've been prone to it many times in the past, and it's probably a part of why I am entitled to use the prefix "failed" before many former potential careers: it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What was it William Somerset-Maugham said? Ah! "He was in love with his own ruin".



Later it'll just be me, my guitars, and the sherry. We'll be alright then.

Richard Thompson, God Loves a Drunk:
Will there be any bartenders up there in Heaven?
Will the pubs never close? Will the glass never drain?
No more D.T.s and no shakes and no horrors;
The very next morning you'll feel right as rain.
O God loves a drunk, the lowest of men,
With the dogs in the street and the pigs in the pen.
But a drunk's only trying to get free of his body
And soar like an eagle high up there in heaven.
His shouts and his curses are just hymns and praises
To kick-start his mind now and then.
O God loves a drunk, come raise up your glasses, amen.

Does God really care for your life in the suburbs?
A dull little life of dull little things.
And bring up the babies to be just like Daddy.
And maybe you'll be there when He gives out wings.
But God loves a drunk, although he's a fool.
He wets in his pants and he falls off his stool.
He can't hear the insults and whispers go by him
As he leans in the doorway and sings Sally Racket.
Can't feel the cold rain beat down on his body
And soak through his clothes to the skin.
O God loves a drunk, come raise up your glasses, amen.

Will there be any pen-pushers up there in Heaven?
Does clerking and wage-slaving win you God's love?
I pity you worms with your semis and pensions
If you think that'll get you to the kingdom above.
But God loves a drunk, although he's a clown.
You can't help but laugh as he gags and falls down.
He don't give a cuss for what people think of him.
He screams at his demons alone in the darkness.
He's staying alive for just one more pint bottle.
Won't you throw him a few pennies, friend?
God loves a drunk, for ever and ever, amen.

Heh heh heh.

PS. Went to see Kathryn Williams again, performing in Loughborough last night. She is with child. They had some sound problems. Dave Scott proved true that his magic sitar (last time I saw them) was indeed just a duff string. And Laura Reid was brilliant as usual (cello, keyboards and backing vocals): I have to say that such competance is very attractive.

Is it that time already?

My oldest, 8 in a couple of weeks, got very tearful and upset this morning when I suggested she wear wellies for our walk round to the school. It was caning it this morning, and the shoes she'd chosen for her MUFTI day were suede or nubuck, one of those leathers that doesn't like getting wet.

We live right next door to the school, but it's still a hundred meters or so and it was chucking it, and we now have to walk round the corner and up and alleyway and across to the school from another entrance because, apparently, the FUCKING COACH DRIVERS can't be trusted not to - oops - run kids over. But I digress.

Anyway, she wouldn't put them on, and would rather get wet feet than wear her red wellies with the heart pattern on, which are quite cool as wellies go, and which she loved last year. But now she's afraid of being "the only one" in wellies, being laughed at by her so-called friends.

How many years of that kind of shit do I now have to look forward to?

I don't like this...

It says something about computers, and much as I don't like the outcome, I feel the need to let off this bit of steam.

We've had to install the base OS with fibre channel cards and external RAID, plus a copy of Oracle 10g Enterprise edition on Windows 2003, Red Hat Linux, and Apple OSX.

Windows 2003 and the Oracle install took 3 hours, start to finish.

OSX and Oracle took a day: we had problems with Java and the Oracle universal installer, but they were easily resolved once we understood the issues.

3 days later, we still haven't managed to get Linux to recognise the bog-standard ethernet card in the server. We need this working in order to upgrade the kernel. We need the upgraded kernel to install the drivers for the fibre channel card. We need the fibre channel card for the RAID. And only then, can we look at installing Oracle (which my waters tell me is going to be an ANGRY AND BLOODTHIRSTY BITCH GODDESS.)

These are the very reasons why you have to be weary of believing what it says on the tin when it comes to computers.

The Young Visiters

Overnight, HotHitHU received its 10,000th hit, which is nice.

Probably someone searching for information about Sarah Beany's breasts, but ho hum.

October 20, 2005


i need to get a hat. i need a hat to keep my hair out of my eyes, especially when i wash my hair. i'm possibly too old to have long hair but because i can grow long hair i will. i'm growing my hair for all the other people who can't grow their hair, be it for political, medical, or taste reasons.

because i am probably anyway of an age now where it is considered a good thing to have a hat. but it is difficult to find something that hasn't got a fucking badge on it. clothes with badges on. not only do i have to buy this overpriced piece of shit produced for a pittance in a faraway country i can't locate on a map, but you want me to advertise for you too?

and then i woke up and it had all been a bad dream.

Apple Aperture - Photoshop Killer?

Apple's new application for pro photographers, Aperture, is iPhoto on steroids rather than a straight-ahead Photoshop killer.

But whereas Photoshop is now very much aimed at designers, I think Aperture pisses all over it as far as professional photography is concerned.* If you're stuck in the 80s or 90s and still want to do cheesy Photoshop collages or apply loads of filters (what the quick tour video calls "extreme stylistic effects"), the 'Shop will still be your bag.

But for uploading, organising, adjusting, correcting, optimising, archiving, printing and even publishing a set of images, Aperture has all the tools. As with iPhoto, you can easily produce a book or web page of images; but you can also customise the layout far more than you can in iPhoto.

The non-destructive editing is a killer feature - saving versions of your file not as huge bloated copies, but simply as sets of instructions, all of which are applied to the untouched original dynamically.

But where do they get these bozos who narrate these quick tour videos? Not just Apple, but every single company manages to find a complete drone, who could bore - not just for America - but for the Earth against the Rest of the Galaxy.

This particular bozo in obviously an Americanised Aussie, but he has an inability to pronounce "project" correctly, and cannot say "DVD" without sounding like he's had a stroke. And, scriptwriters, please: the word "leverage" is complete bollocks. Please stop using it.

*You will need the most powerful Mac on earth. Apple's "recommended" system is a Dual 2GHz Power Mac G5 or faster with at least 2GB of RAM. More of your questions are answered here, in a later post. The official "minimum requirements" are listed here.


No surprise will it be to ye that I subscribe to three astronomy magazines. Mostly I like to look at the pictures. I also read articles about freaky stuff when they capture my interest. But I do always read the news items, just to know what is hot in research.

Something seemingly insignificant is in the news this month. It's been discovered that Mars is currently undergoing catastrophic climate change. Global warming. And contrary to this simulation by Nasa the poles (the white areas on the top and bottom) are getting smaller. They're melting, year on year.

That's interesting isn't it. It raises the possibility at least that global warming isn't just a local phenomenon here on Earth. The fact that Mars and Earth are undergoing the same process seems to suggest more than coincidence: that there is some astronomical process at work: nothing to do with cows farting or car fumes.

I don't know about you, but I find that rather more worrying than climate change being attributed to bad gas.

What if all this is a precursor to the sun going supernova? It might be, for all you or I know.


I decry this whole Getting Things Done cult. As the Guardian article says, GTD is the Atkins Diet of information, the Trinny and Susannah of work, the Life Laundry of business.

The article mentions that people with messy desks often have very tidy computer systems. I would like it to be known that I have a messy desk and a messy computer system. I "file" things in folders called "crap" and clean everything up only when I get a new computer with a new hard drive.

My desk is periodically tidied, but within 30 minutes, the crap begins to build up again.

And yet? I've got a very tidy brain, I'm organised, and anyone who knows me will confirm that I get things done, and always have. Never miss a deadline. Always do the things quickly that can be done quickly, have always been happy to delegate as appropriate, and don't have an inbox full of worrying stuff. Don't have an inbox at all, in fact.

I have always managed this with my superior brain power. This GTD crap allows mere mortals to behave as if they were me, and I don't like it, no I don't.

[signed] Dick Solomon.


[Music fades...]
Well, Sue, thanks very much for the introduction, and I thought you'd never ask. Frankly, I was getting to the point where I thought I might as well post the list on my blog, but here we are and here we go, as the great Quo once said.

  1. Let it Be - The Beatles. Probably this is the song I choose to represent my formative years, my youth, when I loved all the girls I thought I'd love forever, the girls I never saw again, when my musical tastes were formed. From age 14 to 18, I was all about the Beatles, collecting all their records and playing them to death. I've gone through lots of phases with the Beatles. Like a lot of people, for a long time I was obsessed with Lennon, and thought he was The One. But now I'm in my 40s, I have come to admire McCartney's work more and more. While Lennon was being all arty and avant garde, McCartney was writing standards that will live for ever. One of the things I like about "Let it Be" is that there was never really a definitive version of it. I like the single they put out, with George's guitar going through a rotary speaker; but I also love the (Spector) album version, with the crunchy guitar sound.

  2. Live Like You Were Dying - Tim McGraw. This is in no particular order, Sue, but in a way this is an appropriate fast-forward from my formative years to my current state of being, as it were. This example of well-crafted country sentiment speaks to me as a man in his 40s, but it's also something my kids love, and when it comes on in the car, they always want it to play over and over. I would never go skydiving or mountain climbing, or any of those extreme sports type things, but this is just a musical way of saying what Steve Jobs said in his famous Commencement speech. When you wake up every day, look at yourself in the mirror and ask, if this was my last day on earth, am I doing what I would want to be doing?

  3. Let's Dance - Sara Evans. This song, Sue, quite simply puts me in the time when my second daughter was born. No more or less than that, it's just one of those things that bookmarks an important place.

  4. Along For The Ride - Matraca Berg. Ditto the above, Sue, but for my first daughter, but also because Matraca Berg is my favourite songwriter, and I'd have to have one of hers with me.

  5. Blue Sky - The Allman Brothers Band. This simple melody, a thin song when considered for its verses and chorus alone, is of course lifted into the stratosphere by its guitar duet (can't be a solo, Sue, when there are two guitars, can it?). It's a thing to listen to on long lazy afternoons, to put you in a mellow mood wherever you are. It's also one of those songs, I heard it - or half heard it - a long time ago, and carried around with me a love for the song without ever owning it or hearing it properly, not for many years. And it sort of reminds me of what it means to be an adult, where you can make the decision to just [bleep] well go and buy it, so that you can play it whenever you want to - who cares if you don't like much else that the Allmans do? Just get the [bleep] song, man, because things like this are all too rare.

  6. All The Way - Frank Sinatra. I grew up with Frank Sinatra records around the house because my mum loved him. But the truth is that her collection consisted, mainly, of his Reprise output from the 60s and the 70s, when his really glorious Capitol years were behind him. It was only when I was older, and made the decision to get some Sinatra for myself, that I properly heard his Capitol classics. I felt like I was putting something straight: not all that "I did it my way" rubbish, but these timeless classics. Could have picked any one of a number of them, but "All The Way" has a particular resonance with me.

  7. Up To Me - Bob Dylan. If the Beatles formed the foundation of my musical tastes, Sue, then the Dylan supplied the mortar. About the time I was 16, and very lonely and generally unhappy, nights spent buried in Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited just about saved my life. Headphones on, lost to the world, I'd listen for hours on end, keeping despair at bay. I moved on from playing those records to death and got into his later stuff, but I have to confess that, strange for a Dylan fan as it is, I never really liked Blood on the Tracks, which is lauded as one of his greatest achievements. I like a couple of the songs, but find the most of it eminently skippable. But then, when the boxed set Biograph appeared, we got to hear this one, which comes from the same sessions, but is all the things that album was cracked up to be. You've got "Tangled Up in Blue," which is fantastic, and "Idiot Wind," which is extraordinary, and then you've got "Up To Me," which is quintessential Dylan - incredibly simple construction, but verse after incredible verse just takes it into another dimension.

  8. When You're Alone - Bruce Springsteen. I got into the Beatles first, then Dylan, and - while all my contemporaries were getting all punked up, I got into Springsteen. It would have been about the time of Darkness on the Edge of Town that I first heard him on Radio Caroline, and I went out and bought Born to Run when I was 17, around then. I could pull one of the tracks off one of those records, but in the end I've probably grown to prefer the quieter, less epic approach that he's taken since 1987, when this song appeared. It's a Country song, really, with a very simple repeated message: when you're alone, you're alone. There's nothing epic or artistic about being alone; it's just a very shitty time. So I'd have this along to remind me that I should get off the island as soon as possible.

Luxury: An acoustic guitar, Sue, is a no-brainer for me. If you could possibly include a solar powered tuner, I'd be grateful.
Book: Declare by Tim Powers. What's a Desert Island book? I'm always keener to read new things than I am to re-read something, but I think Tim Powers' books can stand re-reading more than most. Declare is definitely my favourite, and a neat reminder that you can get better as you get older.

October 19, 2005

Joan Biased

In the wake of the Dylan docus, Simon and I both wanted to run out and buy some... Joan Baez (now that's clever marketing). So Simon bought Diamonds and Rust and I bought The Best of the Vanguard Years, because I wanted in particular to get "Love Is Just A Four Letter Word."

You have to understand that my only exposure to Joan Baez until now was when I saw her in the much earlier Dylan docu Don't Look Back. I was aware that she had an extraordinarily powerful voice based on her appearance in that film, but nothing I'd read about her ever made me want to hear her stuff.

I've read criticism of her before, along the lines of her destroying source material (maybe not that extreme), or not "getting" the sarcasm in a Dylan song, for example. I can see why people might say that kind of thing, and I'll talk more about that in a moment. But first, that voice.

No doubting its power; you might say, compared to Dylan - her contemporary and close peer at times - she's the sweet to his sour, the yin to his yang, the citron to his zest. But while her voice is sweet and powerful, it's also not always note perfect, and it is often too shrill for these ears to really warm to it. At times it struck me a little bit like when opera singers attempt to sing pop - not quite right, in other words. Still, those moments pass.

That said, she has a way with a song, a sense of phrasing and timing that is unique, and I think she is a great interpreter of other people's materials. Which brings us back to whether she "gets" the material or not.

First track on the album is "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," which she sings with her characteristic sweet lilt. You might argue that she misses the anger, the sarcasm, in the song, but you would be wrong. What she's doing is turning the song around, reflecting back the anger to whence it came, and using the classic folk technique of disguising even the most horrific subject matter with a sweet-sung melody.

Think for example of that "Ballad of the Gliding Swan" that Dylan performed in the long-lost Mad House on Castle Street BBC play.
Tenderly William kissed his wife.
Then he opened her head with a butcher's knife.
And the swan on the river went gliding by.

Another Dylan number with a beautiful melody and horrifying content is "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol." The fact that Dylan's vocal technique was slightly different doesn't take away the beautiful melody, which another singer, like Baez, might emphasise more.

Does she "get" it? Of course she does. Does she know that the narrator of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," Virgil Cain, is a man? Of course she does. But whereas Lulu might change the lyrics so she's singing about a man, Baez is always true to the spirit of the song, so she stays in the first person, and she performs the song - a jaunty, country version of the song, true, but the sugar coating on the bitter pill is a long and respectable tradition in folk music.

So let's have no more of Baez "missing the point" - that kind of criticism only reveals the ignorance of the critic.

The great thing about Baez's treatment of a song is that she often divorces it from the version you might know and love, and yet she manages to stay true to the material. If anything, you're left with a greater affection for it. Her version of "Farewell, Angelina" is beautiful; and she makes me want to have a go at Willie Nelson's "Help Me Make it Through the Night" (and I hate Nelson's own version). Probably my favourite track here is "Let It Be," which is so strong - and deliberately different from the piano-driven original. Again, it reminds you that the song itself is sheer class. Baez's version brought tears to my eyes.

All this and "Love Is Just a Four Letter Word," which has to be one of Dylan's best (unrecorded!) songs, makes The Vanguard Years an enjoyable collection, certainly worth a go.

Well I wonder...

Just listening to The Smiths album Meat is Murder. I don't think I've listened to it since, ooh, about 1987.

Some classic tracks on there: "How soon is Now", "I want the one I can't have", "Nowhere fast" and "Well I wonder".

Just gave me that sense of vertigo that you get when you peer over the edge of the chasm that exists between the person you are now and the person you used to be.

Funny how music can do that. And smells too: they can do it.

This album reminds me of Grainee (pronounced gronyer) Gordon - she was the prettiest girl amongst those who used to go regularly to the same pubs as my circle of mates. She was meant to be one of the gang so in those Politically Correct times it wasn't done to think of her in those sort of terms, but I certainly had some sort of tacit infatuation with her for a time.

She invited me up to stay with her in Newcastle, but I ended up getting off with her friend Cathy. And I don't think I ever saw her again after that. Maybe once more?

Not meant to be.

I've edited some of this out because, following on from Rob's comment about drunkenness I suddenly felt guilty for kissing and telling. Not that there was much to tell.

Tidings of Joy

By a cruel twist of Everything That Is Wrong With The Music Industry Today, one of my favourite singers, Joy Lynn White has been without a recording contract since 1997. This is a woman with an amazing voice, who was at the peak of her powers when she released The Lucky Few in '97.

Now, at last, she has a record coming out (on Thortch): One More Time. I urge you to buy it, and why not add The Lucky Few, which you can get for practically nuffink from Marketplace resellers.

30 years of...

Following suit.

1978:Llandudno. I fell in a pond full of ducks. My dads huge jumper warmed me up
1979:The opening titles to 'Nationwide' on the telly. Also the BBC2 logo. Dave Allen drinking whiskey
1980:Watching 'World of Sport' with my Nan. Having a trike and a Muppet Show t-shirt were also highlights
1981:Royal Wedding being shown at school. Kelly Monteith. AT-ATs
1982:2 grandparents died. I looked everywhere for them but I assumed I'd find them at church with Jesus
1983:Return of The Jedi poster. First time on a plane. Olives look like grapes but aren't grapes
1984:Tomorrow's World. BBC Model B and a Cub monitor and a turtle that draws on the floor
1985:Big School soon. And Scouts too
1986:Big School. Scouts
1987:Canoing in yorkshire for ten days with Shaun
1988:Guns N Roses. Sun-In. Spiky Hair. A nike t-shirt
1989:Simon Marlow did me tapes of REM, New Order, The Happy Mondays and Depeche Mode
1990:Zoe, Katherine, Sarah, Melanie, Sheryl
1991:Bright sunshine in september on the college lawn. Drunkeness
1992:Rebecca is 28 and borrows her Dad's Elan. Anderby Creek
1993:Ka-yi loves me.
1995:Subsidised canteen breakfasts at Food Giant in Bulwell.
1996:Grace is a girl in a fur coat
1998:I make my first film. It's a big success. Grace wants a baby.
1999:Second film is crap but looks great.
2000:Grace's friend Tracy.
2001:Prudential. Ministry of Sound. European debauchery. Melissa
2002:Swimming in Cristiaansands harbour as the sun came up with the clock striking 1am. Hansie. Eva. Corona is £9. Suzanne Aabel is raven haired and beautiful
2003:Everything falls apart and I can't stop it happening. Then I buy a house. Redemption. Dog
2004:Pro Audio/video is my life. So is playing guitar.

Nottingham words

I'm old enough to remember words that my parents learned from their parents, rather than from telly, radio (eh?), SMS, or The Inderned.

I'm not just talking about cobs and things; words that a still current, but ones that are dying with their speakers. Here're a few funnies.

"Doo-lally" - when somebody is acting silly. Named after an Indian military hospital from the early days of the Raj.

"Owt" - I used to think it was just a lazy Nottingham pronunciation of "anything" until I started to think about it. After some research I realised it was descended from the archaic word "aught" which is the opposite of the still current "naught".

"fizog" - I remember my old mum saying "wash your fizog" (wash your face) and stressing the importance of "keeping a clean fizog" (not getting into trouble - a bit like the modern idiom keeping your nose clean). Comes from the 18th century cant word "physionomy" - the belief that you can spot a criminal from the mean-ness of his face, and that a good man will look physically noble.

"kay-lie" - The old Nottingham name for that white fizzy powder that I think is known as sherbert. Sherbert comes from the Persian for fruit drink. Kay-lie was also used for "drunk and pissed up on booze", e.g. When I found him he was lying in a pool of sick and was completely kay-lied.

Not to scale

A little while ago, over at another place, we talked about how some companies are really bad at communicating information about their product range to potential customers. Too often, there's an assumption that the customer knows exactly what he/she is looking for, down to its alpha-numeric name,

I bought one of these Netgear antennae, in order to improve wireless reception in the Biscuit Studio (aka my garage), where I work on Fridays now.

Most weeks, I hasten to add, reception has been fine, but last Friday I had a bit of a shitty day, and I wondered whether I shouldn't boost the signal, which has to pass through two or three walls in order to reach in there. So the original antenna on my Netgear router is about yay big, 10 cm or so, and (looking at the photo on the Netgear web site, which is reproduced on my own company's web site), I assumed this booster antenna would be, oh, twice as big, d'you think? 20cm, say, and about as thick as your index finger.

But it's odd, isn't it, how Netgear choose to display the antenna without any of the other bits that come with it, like the wall-mounting bracket, the lightning suppressor, the outdoor cable, all of which might give you some idea that the thing is actually HUGE - 60 cm long, and as thick as, well, as thick as, approximately as thick as an erect member. And it weighs a TON, too, so it's not like you can prop it in a corner.

Confronted with the size of it, I immediately started to worry about the microwaves cooking my kids' brains, not to mention my wife's reaction when she saw it.

So, given that I'd been getting about 1 bar of Airport reception in the garage with a 10 cm teeny weeny antenna, what do you reckon with this light sabre thing? I imagined it would set off some kind of terror alert at an RAF base in Oxfordshire, but no. Still one bar. Ho hum.

My suggestion to Netgear: change the artwork so it shows the antenna next to something, in order to give it scale. A child's head, say, with an egg frying on top of it.

October 18, 2005

Ignored for being common

On the subject of being ignored, we took the kids up to Hampstead Heath on Saturday.

It was gloriously sunny, and we called at a very busy cafe for ice-creams. We managed to find a table, but we were short of chairs. I spotted an old woman sitting on her own reading a book, at a table with two free chairs.

I went over. "Excuse me. Is this chair taken?"

No response.

"Excuse me. Is this chair taken?"

She closed up her book, lowered her glasses down her nose, looked me up and down, pulled her glasses back up, and carried on reading her book.

I laughed and took the chair. I'd thought that sort of prickly snobbery had died in 1914.

Little boxes made of ticky-tacky

I've now written to NTL twice.

I've been told that there is no point telephoning because you will never get through, and they'll bill you for the pleasure of waiting.

Also I've been told there's no point in visiting them in person because they'll get a robotic security guard to escort you off the premises. Even if you become hysterical.

I've written to them twice then, explicitly explaining that I no longer wish to subscribe to their services, giving arrangements for cut-off dates and contact information so that they may collect their equipment. I've also requested confirmation from them of both receipt and acceptance of the contents of my letters.

Twice now they have ignored my letters, so I'm going to cancel my direct debits with them and see what happens. Guess they'll threaten to take me to court, like they did my Father and my Uncle when they tried to cancel their subscriptions.

But they still owe me for several months of broadband that we never had either. I wrote to them about that but they ignored me then as well.


I've come up with an idea that no-one has thought of before. It's a list of years, with associated memories.

1962 - "he not busy being born is busy dying." You won't believe this, but I do remember being born. Not much else. I was born at home, as opposed to hospital, so I remember my sisters coming in to look at me. Midwife said I had my eyes open and was looking round the room as I emerged. I was 3 weeks late.
1963 - blank
1964 - blank
1965 - Winston Churchill's funeral on the black and white telly
1966 - My dad leaping into the air and breaking the light-shade when Geoff Hurst scored his 3rd goal.
1967 - Crying all day on my first day at school; Breaking my sister's cuckoo clock by twirling the hands round, going outside to kick a ball against a wall afterwards; being spanked for around 45 minutes until I confessed.
1968 - Olympic games - Black Power salutes in Mexico City
1969 - moon landing on telly, having whooping cough and puking my guts up
1970 - walking home from school singing "I Feel Fine"; my mum going into hospital on my birthday! to have my brother; Apollo 13; David Coleman's voice, as if from very far away, commentating on the Mexico '70 World Cup
1971 - blank
1972 - Olympic games - the siege in the village; Mark Spitz - 7 gold medals in the pool; Valery Borzov on the track; Lasse Viren in the 5000m; David Hemery bronze medal in the 400m Hurdles; Mary Peters, national heroine in the Pentathlon - remember seeing it all on TV
1973 - blank
1974 - Alistair Cooke on the radio, talking about Nixon
1975 - Hot summer, holiday in Scarborough
1976 - Hotter summer, spent most of it barefoot in the park with Jane Ball and Jackie Moyse
1977 - School camping trip to the Wye Valley; all my schoolfriends into punk; listening to an endless conversation between two stuck-up boys about the explosions in the 1812 Overture
1978 - blank
1979 - Cycling into school on a hot day to take an 'O' Level exam
1980 - Meeting my best friend in the doctor's surgery on the day we were both diagnosed with glandular fever; waking from a fever to learn that John Lennon had been shot; meeting Joanne Nye and going round her house on the day my glandular fever was officially over; leaving home two days after Christmas
1981 - Unemployed and idyllic days in the Kent countryside; walking back from Canterbury with Linda Riley; my first cigarette; typing late one night and hearing voices from next door - before I realised there was no next door and that I was alone in the house; a cow sticking its head through my bedroom window and mooing in my sleeping best friend's ear
1982 - Snowy winter; hiding from my big brother in the Luton dole office; first day of work; last time I see Linda Riley: the Stones at Wembley
1983 - blank
1984 - driving to Yarmouth in my first car listening to Springsteen bootlegs
1985 - blank
1986 - Going to the Point multi-screen cinema in Milton Keynes for the first time with Angela
1987 - In the pub at lunchtime with Nicola
1988 - blank
1989 - Arriving breathless, 45 minutes late, at the top of the Green Park tube station steps, seeing Nicola getting on a bus across the street
1990 - blank
1991 - first week of university; being scared by the strange long-haired gentleman with the white streak in his hair
1992 - wandering down town Champagne, Illinois, taking pictures of derelict stuff; seeing my future wife walk past my university flat with her boyfriend
1993 - Pedro the Wolf Boy is in all my nightmares
1994 - getting sunstroke, sitting outside a pub, on the last day of the exams; nearly fainting in the Broadway Cinema toilets with my cock out because I was taking a pee at the time
1995 - sleeping on the couch after my morning delivery round as a postie
1996 - blank
1997 - CJ being born
1998 - blank
1999 - starting work on the day of the Paddington rail crash
2000 - Didi born, got married (I think), not in that order
2001 - No monolith found
2002 - blank
2003 - blank
2004 - Seeing the house we now live in for the first time on a bright sunny September day
2005 - blank?
2006 - blank

What strikes me is that the blankest years are the digital years. We don't make memories any more, we just take zillions of digital photos and then forget them. One of those blank years is the year my oldest daughter first rode her bike without stabilisers - but which one? I had my face buried in a video camera at the time. It's fucking depressing. I want to get an all-valve camera again and wait for photos to come back from the lab.


Here's my entire life flashing by before your eyes. I've listed the first memory associated with that year that came to mind. Years that have no particularly strong memory associated with them are listed as "DARK". Dark doesn't mean I don't remember that year necessarily: just that there is no distinct memory associated with it.

1964 - DARK
1965 - DARK
1966 - DARK
1967 - Looking down my mum's ear to see if I could see my new baby brother. To my dismay and astonishment, I couldn't.
1968 - My brother lost his dummy. I'd hidden it. It caused a storm. It was inside the sofa.
1969 - My dad filming trains at Long Eaton on his new super 8 with my aunt & uncle.
1970 - standing outside a philatelist shop on Arkwright Street, waiting for a bus with my mum, looking at some stamps in the window about the moon landings.
1971 - DARK
1972 - Mr Willets hitting me in front of the whole class at school.
1973 - "Plant a tree in 73" running through my head at a school disco.
1974 - I joined the school Choir and wore a black and yellow tank top.
1975 - Saying goodbye to all my friends when we moved house, knowing I would never see them again.
1976 - Drought - walked across the Grantham canal like a sweet bubby Jesus.
1977 - DARK
1978 - DARK
1979 - DARK
1980 - Claudia's garden in summer.
1981 - Measles and claustrophobia.
1982 - Talking to Richard Court about A levels ("one day it'll be gone and we'll look back on now wondering why we worried about it all").
1983 - Seeing my grandmother for the last time at her garden gate.
1984 - Elizabeth Ford and Wollaton Park.
1985 - Snogging with Gaynor on top of a heating vent outside the Broad Marsh in winter.
1986 - Drinking blue label vodka at 8 am on the way to South Notts College with Russell.
1987 - Buying my other grandmother a tartan scarf on Brixton Market.
1988 - Dominoes players at the Paulette Arms.
1989 - Drunken fight with Melanie at Nick Cave gig.
1990 - Walking with Fi (my wife to be) to the off license, and her blue eyes.
1991 - George born.
1992 - DARK
1993 - DARK
1994 - Sasha born.
1995 - DARK
1996 - Getting a call from Sarah to say my friend Ian had died, against hopes and expectations, of leukemia.
1997 - DARK
1998 - DARK
1999 - DARK
2000 - Oliver born.
2001 - I am evil Simon, I am evil Simon.
2002 - Speaking to my dad for the last time. He was tired and grumpy. Two days later he died.
2003 - DARK
2004 - DARK