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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2011 will be Graduation Year for the Boy Who Lived

Yesterday, the Warner Brothers machine released the trailer for the Harry Potter finale 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. This might not mean much to you, but the entire set of movies have been great fun and once again I can honestly say if you haven't seen them, you've missed a treat.

What's particularly great about them is not just the way they've followed young Harry from his early teens through to his early twenties (remarkably with the same actors in the key roles adding an extra layer of realism to their growing up) but the fact that it's a British set of works with worldwide acclaim. Such a shame then, that WB decided to build "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" (that link isn't the official site, it's a fan site full of photos if you want to have a peek) in Orlando, Florida rather than in the UK. Although.. hold on a sec... I take that back. Thank god they built it in Florida and not in the UK. While it might seem like a good thing for the economy, it wouldn't be that great for everything else. Kids dressed as wizards in the pouring rain queuing for hours on end - mum's and dad's from all over the world would be driven mental. No, stick it in Florida with the nice weather - that is, after all, not at all in keeping with the original source material, just the way Hollywood likes it.

The original books are written by J.K.Rowling, who at the time was a single mum living in a flat in Scotland (I think). She's now one of the wealthiest people on the planet so probably can legitimately claim to be a MILIF - That's a "Mum I'd Like To Inherit From" - steady lads...

I'm sure many of you have ready the books, but how many have read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?  I ask, because this book does not exist in the UK. It's the title of the US version of Philosopher's Stone - one can only imagine that just like "The Madness of King George the third" it had to be retile because our trans-atlantic cousins hadn't seen the first two movies - although even I am surprised that Philosopher's Stones are not well know in the US of A. Apparently, the US publishers feared that American readers would not associate the word "philosopher" with a magical theme (although the Philosopher's Stone is alchemy-related) - so perhaps it's the publisher's who aren't well read. Such sweet irony.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book 1)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the
 Sorcerer's Stone

I picked up an early copy of the US version when I was on a trip out there, and very pleased I am to have this little niche of history too. After the Stone book - whatever sort of stone it was, followed the other six novels in the series....

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)


...and all very good they are too. I can't say I'm a fan-boi about this stuff, but they are a very entertaining read. Not particularly aimed at adults or kids, just a good old yarn for one and all.

If you want to see the trailers for each of the films, well here's the links, but I'll embed the latest one just for the fans who haven't caught it yet.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets (2002)
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Now "Deathly Hallows" is going to be in two parts hence the title of this post. The first will be released in November this year (2010) and then the blockbusting finish to the whole shebang will be next Summer. July 2011. So here's what you probably haven't been waiting for - the trailer to next years movie event of the summer.



So that's the bulk of today's post. I'll just pad out the end here with some of the domesticity news... Car went for it's MOT and Service yesterday and failed on a rear brake calliper. Toyota want £400 for a new one!!! Holy Cow!! - However, thanks to Orange D's Dad who runs the garage, looks like it might end up being more like £150 instead. He knows a man etc etc... Of course with the MOT & Service & Fitting the whole lot will probably cost me £250 - but them's the rules and it has to be done. To be fair, the motor is 10 years old now, so it's bound to need a little TLC occasionally. I keep considering a change, eventually I'll make one.

Tomorrow's Thursday and in light of the thrashing we got at the football, the WTC are all in dire need of a cheering up, so hopefully (if the weather holds out) a summer pub beer garden will help us all through the pain.

That's your lot. Enjoy being the boy (or girl) who lived....
I'm pretty sure Mrs G doesn't read my Blog... I know I am geek and coffee nerd, while she is goddess and tea angel - that is our life.  Our fifth wedding anniversary is but a handful of days away, so this entry is for her.... She won't read it, but just on the off chance.



Things I like About Coffee

  • Coffee is Hot
  • Coffee makes me excited
  • Coffee is good enough to have every day
  • Coffee smells good
  • Coffee makes you nervous sometimes
  • Coffee gives you warm & fuzzes
  • Even when coffee is too strong or too weak, it's still good.



Things I like about Mrs G

  • Pretty much the same as coffee
  • And who knows, maybe she tastes good & keeps me up all night too.  ;-)



P.S. -Anyone who reads this and happens to know Mrs G, please don't point it out to her. It's part of my warm, fuzzy, secret heart. Ta.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Google Me a Parking Place.

After my brief mention of it yesterday, it's looking like "Google Me" (whatever that is) is about to become more than just a rumor and that the men of coloured letters are going to have a second shot at the "book of faces". After their disappointing pop with "Buzz" they are allegedly going all guns blazing to try and claw back some of the social networking space of the great interweb..... Let us hope that the evil that is Facebook can once and for all be vanquished from the ether.

Yesterday was a day off from the toils of Starfleet, although I can't say as there was a great deal of rest and relaxation involved. Daughter had an accompanied trip to the hospital (nothing major), there was list of "zee leetle jobs", still failed to pick up a copy of last weeks paper (because they didn't have any in the office and have to get one posted over & MiPermit failed on me in the car park. "You're what did what, now??" I hear you ask.

Gloucester City Council are a pretty forward thinking bunch sometimes. They've clearly been caught fumbling for change in the rain and only having a tenner (or a fiver if you're near to one of this new five pound dispensing cash machines) when the parking ticket machine only takes coins. Worse still, they've been stuck in a queue of pensioners at the only post office left in town as the ticket on the car runs out and posting a letter to Auntie Doris in Maidenhead has actually cost 65 quid as a result!!

Instead of all that pain, they've joined some other forward thinking folks (among them, Chorley, Essex, Hart District Council, Hull City, and Wiltshire Council) in signing up to an excellent cashless parking scheme. MiPermit works like this:
By Phone or Text
Create an account by either sending an SMS to the number advertised at the parking location, or by using the MiPermit web site. Creating your account by SMS is easy, just send the word PARK and your vehicle registration number to 60300. For example: PARK T123EST. The automated service will call and ask for payment details (using your telephone keypad). If you have used the service before, you would not usually need to tell them about your credit or debit card again. Confirmation of your transaction is sent by SMS. There is no need for a receipt on your dashboard - the parking operator will see the stay automatically.
And... you guessed it.... There's an APP for that!!

By far the best feature is the ability to "top up" your ticket when it's getting close to expiry. You can even have the system SMS you to remind you when that is, although this does cost 10p per reminder. Tariffs run from about 70p for 30 minutes up to £2.70 for 2 hours, so there's about a 20p overhead based on previous charges, but if you've got no change, it's worth the hassle.

It is a genius product because it is simple, convenient and it works, except - and this is where it all when wrong for me yesterday - except, for when you upgrade your iPhone and forget what the hell your password was... then you're caught scrabbling around for change again. Ho Hum.

Regardless, if your local council don't, then why not write to them and ask them why the hell not? Cut's down on admin for a start, and that'll mean more money back in your Council Tax fund - maybe....

Monday, June 28, 2010

An unexpected iPhone

Mrs G and I had a fairly leisurely day planned for Saturday doing not an awful lot. A wander into town to pick up Wednesday's copy of the local paper (because there's an article featuring Daughter in it) proved fruitless as we discovered the newspaper office is closed on the weekend. Not much happens round here that's newsworthy obviously.

Picked up a couple of birthday cards for forthcoming celebrations and on the way back to the car I was surprised and humoured to see a longish line of people in a queue outside the O2 shop. I'm fully aware of the O2 shop queue due to son having stood in it on Thursday for the iPhone launch (which incidentally meant that the back of his head also appeared in the local paper), but this time, there was another familiar face. Auntie S. There she was dutifully queuing up to get herself one. We stopped and chatted for a while only to find out that the O2 store had around 50 handsets in stock. 50!? Really ?? I'd already decided not to bother until at least a couple of weeks, when I figured the stock levels would be replenished, but to hear that they have them again already - was quite a surprise. Needless to say - I joined the queue.

Having now procured, this also meant I could finally save Mrs G from her Samsung thing, and get her on a decent phone instead. After a few grumbles and gripes we soon had her all set up and now she's a convert too. Thank god that my tech support mantle can be laid to rest for a while.

BTW - Last note on the subject - they really are all they're cracked up to be. The fastest phone I've had the pleasure of using. Video calls with Son have been a blast already even though for the time being we both have to be within a WiFi hotspot. For me personally, not a signal drop out in sight either, although I have heard the talk. I've also heard there's an imminent fix for it in the form of software - this I do find surprising, but it's not a problem for me at the moment either way.

On the flip side - terrible news from the badman that he is without the necessary drugs to sustain him. I wish I could tell him there was an "app for that" but alas even that wouldn't help him as he's also smartphone-less. The best he can hope for is to buy pre-ground and save himself from certain dementia.

So then to Sunday Lunch - obviously the football (more on that in a moment) was the most important thing, so a BBQ at BBB's house was the plan. He wanted some help getting set up, so I scooted over early so that we could hang the 40" TV on the garden wall and install shade where appropriate, fill the pool and chill the beer. As a build up to the game (and to be honest this should almost be the law whenever England play Germany) we watched "Escape To Victory" with Michael Caine, Pele & Sylvester Stallone - Fantastic stuff. For the BBQ, Mrs G and I bought this, just like chicken...


And then of course there was the football, which is just too depressing to think about too much. I know it would be easy to say they were crap. But actually they weren't crap (to start with). I know it would be easy to blame Cappello, but everyone was doing that after the first two games, then after the third and we got through, everyone was saying how great a manager he'd been by showing some real passion. He may have made some "odd" choices in team lineup's, but I'm sorry, it's just not his fault.

It seems clear to me, that the touchline/referee method for calling a goal is outdated and obviously doesn't work. The FA & FIFA's argument for the lack of technology is that they want a level playing field (no pun intended), whereby every team (right down to pub teams) have the same chance of scoring (or being disallowed). While this has some merit, in the modern world it makes a mockery of what is supposed to be a modern sport. Tennis & Rugby have both embraced the technology with no detriment to the game whatsoever - It's time to put that right.

IF, and of course it's a big IF, but IF the england goal had stood, which (as we can all see from the video playbacks) it should have, then psychologically the England squad would have been playing a different game entirely. I disagree when people say it wouldn't have effected the overall scoreline, because quite simply a goal boosts the confidence of the team, just like a disallowed (obvious) goal dents their confidence.

Too late now though. What's done is done and at least we don't have to bother watching any more of it. My predictor has Argentina and Portugal in the final, but I don't really care.

A few interesting snippets that I've picked up over the weekend for you now:

Anyone who's read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which I mentioned on Friday) will be aware that the meaning of life is exactly 42 (sorry if I've spoiled it for you, but you should have read it already). It turns out that the maths behind this has been expanded, and here's the result. Magic....

I was also very interested to read that:
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) developed a software program that can detect depression in blogs and online texts. The software is capable of identifying language that can indicate the writer's psychological state, which could serve as a screening tool. Read More

Good to know that when I'm depressed, my blog could tell me.

TED always teaches interesting concepts. Never thought I'd see this one though.




Then there's the Rubik Cube art, which makes me want to buy a whole bunch of Rubik's cubes and make my own: RubikCubism

For the electrical engineer's I spotted this:



So finally, back to the real world and two stories of interest.  First of all. Cash dispensers are about to start chucking out £5 notes again. Everyone runs out of fivers, so the bank of England have been making it their business to get them back into circulation. I for one am very pleased to hear this news because when I only want a fiver out of the cash machine, I only want a fiver and not a tenner.

Second of all, someone is having a crack at Facebook. Kevin Rose, the founder of "Digg" tweeted on Saturday the following: "Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon "Google Me", very credible source". Can't wait to finally kill off my Facebook account. Oh I do hope there's a super-fast hi-definition, multitasking app for that! Bring It On!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cheer up Keanu, it's Friday!!

Figured I'd round out the week with a few bits and pieces of stuff I've been sent and/or discovered over the last week that give me the odd smile.

So first up. The iPhone 4. Just be careful how you're holding it, otherwise it won't work. ... Uh Oh.. I did get my hands on one yesterday, and it is far better than I imagined, but you will need to get a ZAGG invisible shield for it (which really are amazing), just in case. I smiled at the number of people that broke their iPhone 4 on the day they bought it. Now I know I shouldn't laugh at other peoples misfortune, but really... as I didn't get one - it is quite funny.... but at least there's already this for them (I'm loving the disclaimer and the commentary - thrilling, edge of the seat stuff!):



And talking of other peoples pain...Piers Morgan has married his girlfriend - you've got to feel for the poor woman.

Ever heard of Randy Regier ? Nope ? Thought not... He's an artist and he specialises in toys. But not just any toys, oh no. Randy's toys are historical toys of the future. While they might look like the real thing, he made them all up himself, and a wonder to behold they are. I wouldn't mind a "John Manshaft" watch, or even "Whitey Cracker" sitting on my desk.

So next up - Dalek's. We all understand how deadly they are, but have you looked them up in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... static electricity and hate... who knew?



A quick one for movies buffs: The Aspect Ratio Police

...and for the Family Photograph buffs: http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/

Remember - Cool Guys don't look at explosions


And finally - Sad Keanu. This is a bit crazy, but basically this phrase is a very recent addition to the Internet english Language. It's one of those things that's just sort of happened and then went all viral. A news and picture agency took a picture of Keanu Reeves eating a sandwich on a bench. Nothing innocuous about that, but then some bright spark took this picture of Keanu looking sad (although he was probably just wondering what was in his sandwich) and photo-shopped it. And then... a star was born.... Suddenly (and this is in the last month) hundreds of photoshopped pictures of Mr Reeves started showing up, to the point where some other bright spark set up a website (sadkeanu.com) as a place to keep them all.

Well, the news agency got the hump about it and issued a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Cease & Desist, so the poor fella had to stop it, but of course that doesn't stop the internet. So I present in all it's glory: Sad Keanu...



...and if you're crying out for more, well you could always have a look here: http://sad-keanu.com/

PS: I hear that doctors now think Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may actually be caused by a virus. Frankly, I'm too tired to care. Have a great weekend and I leave with the World Cup top 10 with one group left to play before the next rounds.
  1. Portugal
  2. Argentina
  3. Germany
  4. Netherlands
  5. Uruguay
  6. Brazil
  7. Paraguay
  8. Japan
  9. England
  10. USA
COME ON ENGERLAND!

Festival time

This is why I love living in Cheltenham (well almost). October can't come round soon enough, for that is when we will be having the Cheltenham Film Festival. You really should check out the ad here: http://www.cheltenhamfilmfestival.co.uk/cab_driver.html

Cheltenham is well known for it's festivals, and if you didn't know about them, you should. As well as THE Cheltenham Festival (or the Gold Cup to the man on the omnibus) there's also the Literary festival, the Science festival, the Music festival and the Jazz festival (presumably because Jazz isn't music). These are all extremely well supported by some of the biggest names in each of the respective fields.


The Ultimate Dream: The Cheltenham Gold Cup (Mainstream sport)It kicks off with the Cheltenham festival around the middle of March, is attended by royalty fairly often, and about a bazzilion Irish folks who saunter across the Irish sea to spend their hard earned Euro's. Cheltenham town goes crazy for a week and almost becomes a little part of Ireland, which includes enormous quantities of the black stuff being consumed.

The Jazz festival is next (this year it was April 28th - May 3rd) and featured such Jazz luminaries as Jamie Cullum, Elaine Paige and Paloma Faith & The Guy Barker Orchestra (No, I'd never heard of the either, but then Jazz isn't real music - is it??)

The Pursuit [CD / DVD] [Deluxe Edition] Cinema Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful

The Science festival follows on from the Jazz and you just missed it this year (June 9th-13th). Guest Director was Heston Blumenthal (Experimental Chef) and it featured the likes of Dara Ó Briain (Physicist & Comedian), Alice Roberts (anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, anthropologist, television presenter, and author) & the Rt Hon Lord Drayson (Minister of Science)






In Search of Total Perfection


Tickling the English


The Incredible Human Journey


Then in July we get more music with the Music festival (strange that) and this year that is from July 2nd to the 17th. The problem with the Music festival is the Music.  It's all bit Radio 3 and not really to my personal taste.  That's not to say they don't put on a hell of good show and if you're into classical type tunes, I'm sure you'd love it.  This year they have a group of Tibetan monks and bizarrely Werner Herzog. Those of you of a Kermodian disposition might have half an idea of who he is and how he got shot.

Finally, October rolls around and we have the Literary festival (October 8th-17th). This is my favourite alongside THE festival. This year they have confirmed festival speakers, Stephen Fry (King of Twitter), Harry Hill (TV Burp), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller's Wife) and Philip Pullman (The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths)) for starters.






Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All

Harry Hill's Whopping Great Joke Book

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths)

It's always full of current authors and commentators and the individual events make for a damn good morning/afternoon/evening/night out.

October will be an interesting one this year though, because they've slotted the new film festival in right at the beginning of the month, just before the Literary one. There was talk of opener screenings, although that appears to have dropped of the listings at the moment.  I'm hoping it'll be back and that Me & Mrs G will be able to sit in one of Cheltenham's parks wrapped in a blanket with a bottle of Vino and enjoy watching the stars, under the stars.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It was the sun wot won it....

Well actually it wasn't... It was Jermain Defoe that kicked it in the goal (well off the goalies hands) - but none of that matters. It being Thursday, today is the official launch in the UK of the iPhone 4 - but none of that matters either.  What matters is we won and we're through to the next round. This means we're playing on Sunday afternoon at 3pm against GERMANY. First point here is it's at a much more sociable time so we as a nation have no excuse for not getting behind our boys and helping them get the job done.

That said, plenty of us did get behind them, and huge numbers watched the game. According to the BBC:
UK internet traffic rose by almost a third during England's crucial World Cup match against Slovenia. Figures released by internet service provider KC suggest that the game triggered a 31% jump in web traffic, as users watched the game via the BBC's live online stream.

Early figures suggest the total number of 'concurrent streams' peaked at 800,000 although the total number of viewers will be many times higher. The BBC said this was a viewing record.

Second point and more worrying though is Zee Germans. Right now they're 3rd in my table which is high above England in 9th. So far, this method of prediction has been spot on. Every team above their opposition in the table has won, so I'm not expecting good things. Here's the top 10 as of this morning:

  1. Argentina
  2. Portugal
  3. Germany
  4. Uruguay
  5. Netherlands
  6. Brazil
  7. Chile
  8. Paraguay
  9. England
  10. Spain
But.... and it's a big but...

This is against zee Germans, and we all know how that can be. Going back to 1930 of the 27 games played against Germany, England have won 12 (7 of them up to 1966), while Germany have won 10, and also won both penalty shootouts that followed two of the five draws. So we've got form. Whether form is enough to get us through though, well that's the million dollar question. Still, it will be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon - worrying about our national team. I predict massive sales of BBQ food from all the supermarkets this weekend, which will fit in nicely with the British weather. Very typical:


We've had 'em before, so let's have 'em again!

COME ON ENGLAND!!

Oh yes... It's iPhone 4 day isn't it...  I hadn't forgotten. But I had made a conscious decision not to get up at the crack of dawn and stand in a queue for one. Not least because there are no white models in stock, and Mrs G would prefer a white one. On top of that, Tesco announced their pricing plans yesterday, which look like they might be better than O2. They have doubled the amount of 3G download data and you can have a nice simple 12 month contract as well. Interesting times.

This didn't deter Son though, who was up at the crack of dawn and stood in a queue of about 60 people in the center of Gloucester.  He was there early enough to be in the first 15 or so and most likely won't stop harping on about it for weeks, once he gets his mits on it.

There we have it then - back to the drudgery.
We need a Tribble invasion - far more interesting than this stuff.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.....

3pm Is on it's way.....
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Football? What football?

Some people have no conscious of what goes on in the rest of the world. I'm not bemoaning these "individuals" but I do worry for the rest of us when such uniqueness invades the day-to-day drudgery of those that have important topical issues to wrestle with. Let me enlighten you by way of an example.

I am engaged on a fairly simple project (one of a plethora) on board the enterprise. The project manager is clearly an "individual" having planned a lengthy conference call requiring much concentration at... wait for it..... 3pm on Wednesday!!. I may have over reacted somewhat when the PM asked if that would be acceptable. "You are joking aren't you!?" was the response I gave. "Do you not know what is happening at 3pm on Wednesday!!?" A tad harsh on my part to be fair. I back peddled and made light of it as much as I dared without sounding like a complete buffoon. (A challenge as you can imagine). Regardless, it would appear that the call will go on and as a direct result of this individualistic behaviour, England will once again be knocked out of the World Cup and we will have to endure another 4 years of harping on about 1966. Sorry lads - I can't be there to cheer you on - I have to be on the phone. I mean, really.... is that acceptable?

In other news, daughter is onto her third shift as a proper copper. Now, every time I hear a siren in the distance, I wonder if that's her whizzing off to something exciting. It would be a worry, but I know she can handle herself since she's had the correct training and has plenty of support. To be honest, I really wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her when she's all kitted up now and she's over the moon with the whole thing. If she's happy, we're all happy. This morning she was up at the crack of dawn to go on an operation. She could tell me, but then she'd have to kill me, so no doubt we'll find out in the fullness of time. I think it's the rush hour traffic and ANPR cameras, so I'm walking if I have to go out.

Yesterdays iOS4 upgrade went without a hitch for me. Just past 6pm UK Time iTunes downloaded the package and off it went. The whole process took about 25 minutes, although after I disconnected and then later reconnected to iTunes, it had to rebuild my photo library on the phone to support the new faces & places features. These features already existed for me via iPhoto on my desktop, but it's great that they've gone mobile too.


Without doubt the best features are task switching and folders. My apps were getting out of control, but all much neater now. There are loads of other little tweaks as well which all add up to a very useful and beautifully executed piece of kit. Hopefully I'll find out how fast it is on the new A4 processor on Thursday - but that will all depend on stock.

Today brings us the joys of an emergency budget.  What could be finer on a nice warm summers day that to have your finances ripped to shreds by what appears to be an 25 year old snob in a suit ?  OK I may be exaggerating slightly, and perhaps he's only 20 - who cares?

I hear this morning though that there's actually going to be an increase in income tax threshold of £1000. What's been leaked so far are the following:
  • An increase in airport departure levies from November, increasing the tax for a family of four on a long-haul flight to £300.
  • Cuts and freezes to welfare benefits to save £4bn-£5bn a year.
  • A rise in capital gains tax from the present 18%, but with exemptions for savers and entrepreneurs.
  • Cuts in corporation tax to boost the private sector.
  • A small VAT increase from the present 17.5%, which could be delayed until next year.
  • An increase in the income tax threshold, a key Lib Dem policy, saving lower and middle earners around £200 a year and encouraging benefit claimants into work.
  • Big cuts to Labour's child tax credits, costing some families as much as £545 a year.
All in all this may not be as painful for me as I'd first thought, but I won't know for sure until after the Noon to 2.30pm announcement. No doubt the BBC will have a budget tool on their website that can help you analyse the pain. They've already got one to help decide what you would cut if you were in the chancellor's shoes. What would You Cut

Finally - didn't North Korea do well? I think we should all be concerned for the welfare of that team knowing the regime that they come from. To be fair they are a team with a great sense of decency which can clearly be seen by looking at theirs stats so far.  They may only have scored one goal and let in nine, but they've only committed 11 fouls, the lowest of the entire tournament. The next closest being Spain and Serbia both with 15.

Spain seem to have redeemed themselves somewhat with a 2-0 victory over Honduras, but they've still got some football to play - as have the rest of us. Two thirds of the way through the group stages now and it is beginning to get interesting.  Come on Engerlund!!!  Even if I can't support you tomorrow, at least I can rant and rave about it on here :-(

Monday, June 21, 2010

I wasn't expecting that!

This week's Headlines:
No Blog update yesterday
Today is iOS4 day!! WooHoo!
Tomorrow is Public Sector Pension cuts and Budget day UhhOhh!
Wednesday is England's last chance at the World Cup
Thursday is iPhone 4 day
Friday is the end of the week!!

First up then, iOS4. Due to hit iPod touch and iPhone 3/3GS users today, the renamed apple Operating System (iOS4) is eagerly awaited. You need to have upgraded to iTunes 9.2 already. Likely availability time is about 5pm (ish) UK time - once the lads in California are out of bed and they press the button. Previous rollouts have been painful due to the demand, but hopefully this will have been resolved this time round and you'll get some cool new benefits without having to buy a new iPhone on Thursday.



Tuesday is Emergency Budget day. Always a bit disturbing when the government use the word emergency. Tends to make me feel like they don't actually know what's going on. The boychild George Osborne, has already said Britain is "on the road to ruin" unless the deficit is cut." so we can expect it to hurt. Having said that, they've already leaked (or announced depending on your preference) that there's to be a freeze on Council Tax for a whole year from next April, which I'm obviously not going to complain about.

The headline grabbing news seems to be about the public sector pensions getting a hammering. About time to. After all, the private sector has been trying to patch up it's pension deficits for the past 5 years at least, so I can't see why the public sector shouldn't be brought into line as well. Of course it's not going to be pretty, especially if you're one of those public sector employees who is going to loose out, but it's for the good of the nation (we're told) and at least you're not on rations. Inevitably this is going to lead to strike action as for some reason the public sector unions seem to have survived for the time being. Expect a rough couple of years and plenty of emigration.

Perhaps on Wednesday, the eleven lads that have allegedly been playing football for us in South Africa, can show us why they get paid such fantastical amounts of money and lift the countries post budget depression. After the last game I'm not going to hold my breath, but then we love an underdog and we love a challenge, so it could be great after all. It's anticipated that most of the country will come to a grinding halt at 3pm on Wednesday, so don't expect to get much done. Fabio Cappello is said to be all set to resign if England don't get through so for his sake lets hope they're going to get their act together and stop unemployment rising by one more.

In discussion with Father-in-law yesterday we came up with a wheeze that might make the team a little more focused. Performance related pay. Something like a £1000 per player per goal scored, £1000 deducted per player for every goal conceeded. £100 per percentage point of possession, £200 for every attempt on target and £100 deducted for every foul. Out of interest, We ran these numbers up, and if these were the rules, the current financial standings of each team would look like this (click for a larger version):


Clearly Australia owe a huge debt to their nation and Argentina and the Netherlands are something to watch out for.... Could all change yet though. Come On Englerland!

Thursday is going to be a sad day for many people when they don't get their new iPhone 4. I suspect there's every chance that I will be among them but O2's announcement on Saturday has given me a little hope. As I mentioned previously, no new customers on the iPhone meaning that they'll have more handsets available for their existing customers. Time will tell.

Friday being the end of the week is always a high, but with such a rollercoaster this week who knows what could happen. Let's say the budget cuts my disposable income in half (although half of nothing is nothing), England loose and get sent home and O2 don't have any iPhones. In that scenario, Friday will be an evening of pub and sorrow drowning. But I've got my fingers crossed and the plan is, the budget doesn't directly effect me, England win and iPhones are a plenty. Well come on.... I can dream can't I?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Indestructible, Hear 3 Lions Roar!

Firstly - and most importantly.... 'ave some of that Algeria!!! I mean... Oh!... Bugger!

COME ON ENGLERLAND!!! What are you playing at? As I pointed out last night, as a team, they've made a very good case for reducing the premiership's wage bill. And as for Rooney complaining about the fans booing..... Play some bloody football then! It's one of this subjects that could really get me fired up, especially as not knowing anything about football, makes me perfectly qualified to rant and rave about it all I like. Seriously, how is it that these blokes, some of whom can afford to buy my house in cash every month with their wages, aren't playing their hearts out for their country? In fact one of two of them could probably buy a couple of my houses every month, which is even worse!. These chosen few should realise just how lucky they are to playing in the most prestigious tournament of their sport in front of the entire planet and on behalf of their country. Instead they looked like they'd just got out of bed and would really rather be playing golf.

I was surmising that it was something to do with Fabio Cappello's decision not to play Green in goal after last weeks cockup. Could it be that the rest of the team felt this was unfair and undermined their confidence after publicly supporting Green? If that is the case, this is not the forum to be debating the issue. The pitch is for the game, the dressing room is for the arguing. Look at the mess they're in now. Stop your moaning. You're big house will still be there when you get home, but right now you've got your work cut out - no pressure! Much! Not that I know anything about it all.

On the plus side, these local lads have done us proud with a suitable shouty anthem to join in with. (I notice the lead guitarist is particularly awake throughout the entire performance)



Now everything's gone a bit Pete Tong. One more game in the group stages and we could be off to the big leagues, as long as we don't fail miserably against Slovenia. We need a very strong and decisive win Get your Vuvuzela's ready!.

I already mentioned the Vuvuzela app (which it turns out is now only one of 16 that do similar things), but I didn't mention the World Cup apps. There are at least one hundred of them. App development is something that has gone completely ballistic since the launch of the iPhone and the App Store, not least because it's something that's not particularly difficult to do and can generate you huge sums of money. I can't deny I'm tempted, but donating enough time to it has always been the show stopper thus far.

Of note this week, is IBM's release of the Wimbledon App, a must have for anyone interested in following the tournament.

I now NEED the iOS 4 upgrade if for no other reason than to be able to manage this plethora of code that fills up my phone. Can't see the wallpaper for the apps (to coin a phrase)

Dilbert.com

Oh yes and O2 have played a blinder. No new customers on the iPhone 4 until the end of July!! On the face of it, this is crazy talk, but it's great news if you're an O2 customer looking to upgrade. You might (and I stress might) actually get your hands on one. It's also a pretty ballsy move on O2's part. Great to see a company putting their existing customer base first and not focusing solely on new business. Having said that, their customer base is the largest section of the UK iPhone market thanks to their original exclusivity deal. Now that's gone they're maturing the customers that put them back on top.

On the subject of growing up and responsibilty, I saw this and yet again nearly died laughing.

As a result you really must go and read this: Hyperbole and a Half

Finally, it's father's day this weekend, so Mrs G and I are off down to Wiltshire for the day to see Mr Ball senior and a spot of pub lunch. Daughter's back to work and son's @rse will no doubt be stuck to the sofa. He's mountain biking tomorrow though - so I suppose we can let him off.

Come on Sunshine! Breakthrough and give us a summer of roaring lions!! Enjoy.

PS: As a taster for the fun that awaits us next week I just want to share a quote with you from Blogger Jeremy Rowe:
VAT is the worst tax of all. It gives the impression of fairness (no one is exempt, the more you spend the more you pay in tax) yet disproportionately punishes the poorest because they naturally spend a higher proportion of their income (VAT accounts for 13.6% of the gross household income for the poorest 10%, compared to 4.1% for the wealthiest 10%). In addition the wealthy can afford to have their accountants play with the books and claim large chunks of VAT back from the taxman – those on the minimum wage cannot.
Fun times!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Theophilus Carter came round for tea!

I know that most of you have absolutely no idea who Theophilus Carter is, or I should say was, so for that reason alone, let me educate you with the answer to the most unlikely pub quiz style question you're ever likely hear.

Mr Carter lived in Oxford somewhere around the end of the 19th century. He was the epitome of an English eccentric, a furniture dealer and an inventor. But what did he invent I hear you ask? You'll never guess so I'll tell. He invented an alarm clock bed, which tipped up at the required time and threw the sleeper into a tub of cold water. So bizarre was his invention that it was exhibited at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1841. Just let me squirrel for a moment.....

The Great Exhibition was a thing to behold. Crystal Palace was built especially for it and it looked like an enormous greenhouse. At the time it was considered a bit of a folly (in much the same way as the millennium dome *has* I suspect) but it won the hearts of the nation in the end (in much the same way as the dome *will* I suspect). The exhibition ran from May to October 1851 with a whole range of different entry fee's from a shilling (about a fiver in today's equivalent, for the day) towards the end of the parliamentary session right up to 3 guineas (about 275 quid now - again for a single day) at their peak. It was all anyone talked about in the country for the 6 months it was open - a heady time.

There were around 13,000 exhibits in total which included....
  • The first Fax machine or copying telegraph machine as it was known.
  • Mathew Brady's Daguerreotypes, (Photography to me and you) which won him a medal in the awards.
  • The Tempest Prognosticator, a barometer using leeches.
  • The America's Cup yachting event began.
  • George Jennings' first public conveniences in the Retiring Rooms of the Crystal Palace, for which he charged one penny.
  • The Koh-i-noor: the world's biggest known diamond at the time of the Great Exhibition.
  • C.C. Hornung from Denmark showed the 1st european single-cast iron frame for a piano.
  • and lest we forget.... Alfred Charles Hobbs's demonstration of the inadequacy of several respected locks - Thrilling stuff.
As an aside - Squirrel - I reckon there's a great book in this that could easily become a movie. Clearly a Jewellry Heist with the theft of the Koh-i-noor, stolen by Alfred Charles Hobbs who had no trouble with the lock and hidden within C.C.Hornung's piano for transport back to Denmark and out onto the european black market for diamonds - possibly with a yacht chase, daguerreotypes of the stolen Gem telegraph-copied backwards and forwards across the channel and a quick stop to spend a penny on the way! Magic stuff. Starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Leslie Anne Down.... or am I thinking of the First Great Train Robbery - bugger!

So back to the exhibition - A third of the population of the country visited the Great Exhibition and the £186,000 (£16 million today) profit which was surplus was used to found the Victoria & Albert museum, the Science museum and the Natural History museum, all of which thrive today and are well worth a visit if you happen to be in London. After it had all finished, the Crystal Palace itself was taken apart and moved from Hyde Park out to, what was then, Sydenham Hill. There it languished playing several different roles. During World War I it was a naval base for example. Sadly, on the evening of November the 30th, 1936 a fire broke out. Within hours the Palace was destroyed and as Winston Churchill put it at the time "This is the end of an age". More of that can be seen at the Crystal Palace Museum which is worth a click just to look at the photo's.....

....none of which gets us any closer to the question. So here is the gem we've been mining for: Theophilus Carter (erstwhile inventor and furniture dealer) was drawn by Sir John Tenniel (who was the illustrator of Lewis Carrol's Alice stories) to represent the character of the "Mad Hatter" in Alice in Wonderland. Ta-Dah!!! - You'll never need to know it, but now you do.

I got here because I've recently seen the NEW Alice in Wonderland film starring Johnny Depp in the role of the Mad Hatter. It's a great version, I loved it, I'm not going to review it any further than that - besides - Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late! - Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!

Toodle-pip old bean.

I should add - great result for the French last night... bye bye. But not such a great result for me this morning as BBB has flown off to Spain to "pick up his van" and I got the dubious pleasure of taking him to the airport at 4am (that's what mates are for). Strange coincidence that the lads are just up the road from his apartment playing golf this weekend.  I'm sure he won't be getting involved ;-)

Oh and finally finally, I note from today's Lifehacker that Wordpress may be the blogging tool of best practice.  Am considering a migration....
 

Where is Golfyball?

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