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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Of Rabbits & Rowing

Trundle, trundle, trundle.... This is the only real downside to working from home (or in my case underneath a roundabout covered in Rabbits). Occasionally I have to drive somewhere and today is one of those occasions. I'm not complaining as it goes. It will be nice to catch up with some of my fellow Starfleet miners and gives us all the chance to hear the latest gossip and moan about whatever takes our fancy.

Today's gathering will be in Hampshire - so a good couple of hours drive from Gloucestershire which will give me the opportunity to catchup on my podcasts. As it turns out, 2 hours (or 4 if you count the journey back as well) may not be quite enough time.

Since the good Doctor's (Kermode & Mayo) Friday afternoon 'Wittertainment' show stretched out to 2 hours it's become quite a mission to keep up with it. (If you're slightly interested in films and you don't know what this us, you absolutely must go and listen to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/kermode ) Occasionally on a Friday I can have the radio on and hear them live, but this really is a special treat as more often than not someone wants to spend the afternoon on the phone. I know!! What are they thinking!!?!

Of course having the iPhone running through the car stereo means you can change the playback speed to 2x thus magically compressing time. This isn't always perfect, mostly because Dr K is well known for talking at speed, so talking at double speed can be hard to understand, but it certainly helps plough through it.  

The other factor is that of Boyd Hilton.  Don't get me wrong, I do like him. He's even twittered me in response to some of my abuse in the past, but with all the will in the world, he's just not the two Dr's. He is the Editor of Heat magazine, a TV & book reviewer on BBC Radio Five Live but not, as far as I know, any relation to Paris Hilton, which is a stroke of luck for him. You can follow him on Twitter: @boydhilton 

...... Time Passes  .....

And here I am back in the warren having had, what ended up being a very productive day. I was a little late due to the chaos that is the M4 corridor of a working morning, but we soon got down to business ably led by our non-blogging chairman for the day.  He's very good at keeping us in control - but then he is the coxwain - as long as he's listening ;-) Very much like this....

And today is Thursday - so WTC outing arranged and it's off to Chelter's for a jar this evening.

Fun times.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where Am I Now ?

In the fight for Social Geolocation supremacy, how many more applications can we take ?  It's getting out of hand and pretty soon we'll have more GPS tracking apps than we'll know what to do with.  This year they've rocketed. But where's it all heading and where will it end ?

Let's see if I can summarise where we're at.  These are the big players (alphabetically) in the market so far.


iPhone App Android App Blackberry App Virtual Rewards Real World Rewards
Foursquare Yes Yes Yes Yes Some
Facebook Yes Yes Not Yet No No
Geomium Yes Not Yet Not Yet No Some
Google Latitude Web Web Web No No
Gowalla Yes Yes Not Yet Yes No
Twitter Yes Yes Yes No No

As you can see they all have differing levels of functionality even if they are trying to do basically the same sort of thing.  Foursquare and Twitter tend to stand out because they're readily available across all of the main mobile platforms.  Google Latitude isn't far behind with a clean web interface, but there's no checkin-in with Latitude. It's on or off.

So are any of these actually any use to the users aside from being a bit of fun?

Well, there are some "Real World Rewards" available from Foursquare and Geomium highlights local deals to your current position, but ultimately they are a bit "gamey". There's not really any killer functionality that makes them a must have app.  I'm not suggesting they're a complete waste of time, they just haven't found their place yet. I still think they will.

One of the largest inhibitors is not knowing who you're sharing your location information with and this feeds a basic level of paranoia among many people. In some cases rightly so.  You only have to have followed the news concerning http://pleaserobme.com/ to understand how this stuff can get out of hand. If you missed it, you can go back in time here.

Obvioulsy the answer is like anything else. Be aware of what you're doing.  You don't go to some strange city in the middle of the night and hand out pieces of paper with your bank details on do you ?  So why would you go online and tell complete strangers where you are at this precise moment ?  Share with your friends by all means. But if you're an idiot, you'll still get yourself into trouble at some point. You only have to have read a handfull of lamebook.com pages to know that.

I could foresee a time when these guys all end up merge into one big social network (probably called SocNet, or worse still - "Blue Banana" - or something equally inane) where we have bits of Facebook, geo-locationary statuses and micro-blogging all in one clean application that works on every platform. You'll even be able to neatly segregate colleagues, celebs, family, friends, romans, countrymen... lend me your e- ... sorry. Got carried away there. But you get the point. Each of these groups will be able to be kept separate in the Blue Banana world, to save you from yourself.

Will it ever happen?  Not this month.  Ask again in November. That's how quickly it changes.

 



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fat inboxes & Free stuff (Tweasier & Pink Floyd)

Back to the grindstone today and catching up with the wad of eMails in my inbox. Not as many as usual, but then I have been actively trying to manage my email numbers downwards. eMail really is the spawn of the devil and is completely misused in today's business environment. For example, I was out for 7 business days and in that time received 114 emails (an average of 16.28 messages per day). Of these, 70 were instantly deletable, things like:

  • meeting invites for last week
  • machine generated notifications
  • cc's on things that don't really concern me
  • announcements which are summarised into a single weekly message (meaning I actually get these twice!!)
  • one long joke thread.  

This means that 61% of my email is rubbish. 

There's a long way to go before I can consider switching eMail off altogether, but I still think I can get it to a slimmer point yet, and that has become a goal. I still have 30 that are worthy of some attention, although of these, so far I've seen 5 that I'm likely to respond to. Just for the sake of completeness - 5 eMails!! = 4%!!. Tells a story doesn't it. 

I have a feeling the answer to this problem lies in Social media.  The likes of Twitter & Facebook make for a far more direct method of contact, and you're far more likely to get in touch, if you NEED to get in touch. I wish I'd thought of it, but I can't take the credit for it. The most eloquent and driven proponent of this thinking that I've found so far, has to be Luis Suarez. Have a read of this http://www.elsua.net/ and see if you don't agree.

I'll write more on this later in the year as my inbox shrinks.

Freebie time now....

First of all, I have 5 invites for Tweasier...  first come first served if you drop me an email or DM with your email address in.  Eh?   Hang on. What's Tweasier ??  It's a Twitter analysis tool (sort of).  I'm still trying it out so I'm not 100% certain what I think of it yet, but if you want to learn a bit more about it, here's the video:

Tweasier - The Walk through video from Tweasier on Vimeo.

And then secondly of all...  a free listen of a brand new Album from 3DiCD. I'm sure you remember me blathering on about Howard Jone's release of Ordinary Hero's. Well, today see's the launch of Syd Barrett's forthcoming release "An Introduction to..."  For those of you who don't know, Syd Barrett was of course the original front man from Pink Floyd. There's everything you ever wanted to know just a click away, here: http://www.sydbarrett.com/

http://www.3DiCD.com/Syd-Barrett/An-Introduction-to-Syd-Barrett album coverLink to 3DiCD

Do me a favour and turn it down just a tad....  I'm trying to read a ridiculous amount of eMail here! ;-)



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Charles Dickens of Dustbin Days & Armed America

Great Expectations. You expect too much of them and they go and let you down. In future I'd be better off having quite reasonable expectations instead. Take today for instance.... 

Regular readers will be aware that today was my last proper day off before having to drag my sorry ar-  self back to work tomorrow. The beauty of this extra day of dawdling is that it's designed to fool my phsyche into believing I've had a much longer holiday than I have because everyone else has gone back to work already. In theory it's a great idea. In practice, it's let me down.

The plan was a nice lazy start, perhaps some coffee in the bright morning sunshine in the garden while perusing the papers. Then possibly some catching up with the TV on the Sky plus box, or perhaps a movie or two.  A leisurely afternoon and then something nice for dinner.

But no. Last night a slow puncture appeared in one of the tyres on the car. I zipped to the local garage and pumped it up.  20p for fresh air!!!! Mugged.  Anyway, by around midnight another look at it and it had gone down somewhat, so clearly it would need repairing or replacing.  Mrs G was scheduled to take the car to work, but of course now I would have to take it to the local tyre guys instead.  

So much for a lazy start to the day.  Up at the crack to take Mrs G to work. Then the tyre guys didn't have any tyres but would be able to get some this afternoon.  To be fair to them they are extremely efficient and very good value for money, but they still couldn't get tyres before 2.30pm and because they were so busy, it still took about an hour to get to this point.

Home and domestic chores in a rush so that I could be back to the garage for more over inflated (it's not funny) air that would last long enough to get me back to the tyre guys for 2.30.  And here was my one moment of relaxation all day.  A cup of tea and an hour and half of cinema, or film, or movies or DVD's or whatever it is that you want to call it.  

I bring this up for two reasons. Firstly, daughter and I had a long discussion about the correct term to use and the etemology of the various terms.  There might actually be an entire blog entry in that conversation alone, but I'll leave it for another day. And secondly so that I can include a mini review of the film in question. But more of that in a minute....  first, let's get these tyres sorted.

So on arrival, there's around 6 other people waiting to have their cars tweeked and twiddled.  This is what happens when a small business has such a good reputation. They get popular, they get busy and the customers have to put up with the wait.  I didn't mind.  There's free WiFi after all. It just meant that the slow and relaxed day has instead been spent hanging around a bunch of oily blokes with an unhealthy interest in rubber and exhaust pipes.

In the end, Monday's are Dustbin Days for us. The "Garbage Men" come and collect and me?  Well, I've had a rubbish day off.

On the plus side - I did finally see "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and here are my thoughts:

 

Sometimes, it seems to me that everyone in America has a gun. They have the "Right to bear arms" written into their constitution and their 24 hour rolling news keeps our cousins in a permanent state of fear meaning that they need one. Of course I know that this isn't entirely true and there are plenty of people in modern day America that don't have a gun but once upon a time in the old wild west this wasn't quite the picture.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance captures the growing pains of a country and puts them into human terms. As such it's a film a great significance to American culture and so I believe it's a very worthwhile watch.
It touches on the Declaration of Independence as written by Thomas Jefferson and even includes the line "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal." but it tells the story of A Man from the East, heading West and fighting with words rather than guns. It has standout performances from both James Stewart and John Wayne and Lee Marvin's super-bad "Liberty Valance" is highly enjoyable. Shot in Black and White at a time when budget's were stretched, it's was shot almost entirely at Paramount's studios under the guiding hand of Wild West expert John Ford.

All in all, you can't underestimate the importance of this piece and it's obviously deserving of it's place in the United States National Film Registry which is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. ( http://www.loc.gov/film/titles.html )  8/10

Oh - and it turns it I have got a nice dinner lined up thanks to the connivance of Mrs G and Daughter.  So perhaps it's not as rubbish as I think it is.  Tomorrow on the other hand - is "back to work"...  Beam me up Scotty....



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Funniest thing I've seen all day

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thorne in my side

Can't talk now as movement is painful. 11 and half miles doesn't sound like far and at the time didn't feel like far. My legs beg to differ.

Not that I'm a glutton for punishment or anything but both Mrs G and I are getting on it again today. It's time for a replacement Wok so that will be one of today's missions. Then there's the Sunday papers to consider. Some sort of decision has to be arrived at vis a vis lunch. The lawn is ready for another mowing and I believe there are still some movies to catch up with that I might be able to fit in around the Grand Prix somehow. Daughter has to work and son will be watching the Grand Prix on the BBC. For the life of me I don't understand why the FIA feed isn't in HD. But that's a TV rant for another post.

Haven't really been doing much TV this week and yet the week as pissadeared in the blink of an eye it would seem. I know though that this is because I've had the week off, which means I've been having fun, which means time flies. Sad but true. I did have the foresight to take Monday off as well though, so the pain is approaching at platform 2 but I've got some leaves on the line which will make it ever so slightly late.

On the subject of television there is an interesting Drama coming to Sky 1 (also available in HD - and very good it looks too) called "Thorne" and starring British acting mainstay Mr David Morrisey. Sky run an ad for it every 20 minutes or so I think, but all it ever says is coming soon. Drives me nuts. All I want to do is set the Sky+ to record it and then I can get on with my life until I want to watch it. And so it was to this end that I fired a tweet at Mr Morrissey asking if he knew when he be on the telly. As is the way with Twitter I fully expected to be ignored because let's face it, Celebs and the like are busy too.


It's not just lying around in yachts in the sun all day you know. They don't just waltz in and out of flash restaurants and casinos avoiding the paparazzi every waking minute. Some of them have to put the bins out..... because good staff are hard to come by.

I jest, and of course I'm not suggesting for a second that Mr Morrissey lives like that. Well, at least not ALL the time :-) and so it was with some delight that I received a prompt reply from him stating 'he thinks it's on the 10th October, but they never tell him anything'

How nice to be recognised as someone deserving of an answer and not just another of the hoard. Call me a sell-out if you like, but I'm happy to have helped Mr M with his contractual promotional activities. Probably....

In all honesty, I believe he was just being what he is. A genuinely nice bloke who's a damn good actor and is happy to help out a fellow human being in need of an answer that he could provide. Never would have happened in the old days, and that, in a nutshell is what makes Twitter awesome.

If you're looking for more, there's some stuff here: http://twitter.com/davemorrissey64 and here: http://sky1.sky.com/thorne and now I'm looking there's some nice background to be read here: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/what-s-on/books/david_morrissey_teams_up_with_author...

While I'm Wok shopping I think I'll keep an eye out for one of Mr Billingham's books, after all that's what a good consumer should do. ;-) Fun times.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Back to the Future

When I say the future, I'm referring to the 1980's and not the future at all, but it's still all about time travel and going back and checking it out. Perhaps not straight back to the 80's, after all those of us that were there are 20 years older (actually that's almost 30 years older now -Ed)

1984 was the year and Howard Jones was the man with his Debut Album "Human's Lib" reaching the number 1 UK spot, carried 4 hit singles and has gone on to have sales in excess of 600,000. 12 months later and he followed it up with "Dream Into Action" in the number 2 spot and a further 5 hit singles. It's a pair of albums that defines a part of the 1980's (There are many many more mind you) and it's this music that introduced me to Howard Jones, keyboard maestro. If they're not in your collection go and buy them now, a bargain less than 8 quid each on iTunes.

2010 and Mr Jones is playing an Acoustic Tour to promote "Ordinary Hero's" on our doorstep at Gloucester Guildhall.  It's a small intimate venue with a maximum of 300 people. I'm pleased to report he's still got it.

November the 6th see's him playing both of his 80's defining albums at the O2 Indigo for a special one off gig. Initially this annoyed me intensely, because it turns out that after all his faffing around this is the day that Triple B has finally got planned for the next AGS quarterly (A game of Golf if you were wondering). It's a tough choice, and actually the AGS is a regular thing, whereas HoJo playing his first two albums live, will probably never happen again. You see my dilema?  

Sadly, I've made my choice and the lads at the golf are going to be extremely disappointed when I tell them that I will still be at the game.  I'd love to be able to do it all, but like the man says - "Don't try to live your life in one day". 

Download now or watch on posterous
Life_In_one_Day.MOV (25990 KB)
I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that there will new remastered releases of the two albums, and I've got my fingers crossed for a DVD/Blue Ray of the show.

Back on the bikes today to wring the absolute most out of the last of the summer sunshine.

 



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sweating Beer? - Which was nice....

Yesterday was an energetic day of sorts. We were awoken by the sounds of daughter taking her car to the garage for it's MOT and so I was up and at coffee/tea making duties while Mrs G arose. She was off to see S for general chinwagging and catching upness while I was destined to live a day of domesticity. Ho hum.

Now anyone who knows me would know that I can't say that that's my favourite way to spend a day off, so as soon as I'd got the worst of the little jobs out of the way (namely hovering and dishwashering) I decided a ride on the bike out to Tesco's to recycle beer & coke cans would be far healthier.

It was son's birthday a week or so ago and he'd had a crowd of lads round to help him celebrate before they went off into town. In the best tradition of lads having a birthday bash much beer was flowing, along with the odd shot of absinthe, so a good time was had by them all (at least until the morning). This inevitably left a large pile of beer cans.

What I love the most about recycling beer cans is the smell of stale beer. Better yet is the feeling you get when the contents of half a can if old stale beer trickles from a backpack and down your back while you're riding along so that you too, end up reeking of the stuff. I have explained to son in the past that a) eating is cheating and b) dumping means doubles next round, both of which are excellent rules for any serious drinker to adhere to. However, it would seem that he's not managed to get the message across to some of his mates - unless of course they were actually planning on drinking doubles in the next round.

I did get a rather funny look from the woman in the newsagents where I stopped to pickup a bottle if water. I think she thought I'd been drinking... But then it was 10am so anything's possible.

WTC (look it up in the blog if you don't know what it is) was almost cancelled due to the inability of anyone to get themselves to the pub. Luckily S and myself managed to hold up the tradition ably assisted by special guests in the form of Mrs G and Daughter. We took a trip to the @NorwoodArms and partook of some dinner (Two meals for a tenner. Get 'em while they're 'ot!!) and had a bash at the quiz. Something we used to do every week, but of course this year we've had the 52 pub challenge (which is fairing reasonably well considering how difficult it is to get a bunch of blokes to agree on anything let alone which pub they should be visiting this week) to keep us travelling. Judging by the quiz results we're well out of practice.

Today is dedicated to clearing out the garage, and re-roofing the car which means Autumn must be here now. It's also dedicated to the consistently awesome Ordinary Hero Mr @HowardJones.

I've long been a fan of HoJo from my 80's teen years and seen him play live three or four times. He's always note perfect and its almost entirely his fault that I play the piano (albeit badly). I probably should have had lessons :-). This is an acoustic tour for the "Ordinary Hero's" album which involves him chatting and playing the album tracks as well as some of the old 80's tracks. It's a great album but don't expect heavy pop. Lots of inspirational piano & vocal with the odd drum. A work of art. Thoroughly recommended. You can get it on iTunes here or why not try out his 3D iCD at http://3DiCD.com/4 where you can hear the entire album for free. Try before you buy. He's always been very cutting edge like that.

If you're looking for more HoJo news, follow him on twitter (@HowardJones) and keep an eye on his website at http://www.howardjones.com/

That's it for today. Happy Friday. Oh and did I mention I won't be back at work on Monday? One more day, just one more day, to make it feel like a proper holiday. Back on Tuesday though. Unless I win the lottery. Or have a sensible conversation with Stretch.  


I swear Scott Adams is watching me... Dilbert.com



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Poor Neglected Seaside Teddy Bear

Mrs G and I visited our nearest 'seaside' resort yesterday, that being the birthplace of John Cleese, Weston-Super-Mare. I've always thought of it as Weston-Super-Mud, a long standing Dad-joke in our family and no doubt many others due to the nature of an estuary tidal system which means that when the tide is out, it's out of sight.. Well, almost. More like a mile away in point of fact.


View Larger Map

Apart from the mud, which is actually sand for the first couple of hundred meters from the shore and makes for some gorgeous beach, donkey and sandcastle action, Weston is also world famous for it's pier.

The original 'Grand Pier' was built in 1904 with a theatre at the end and thrived until 1930 when it was hit with a fire. The pavilion was rebuilt at a cost of £60,000 (no small sum in 1930) and once again thrived until 2008 when for a second time, fire wiped it out. So now were in 2010 and sadly the rebuilt pier is not quite ready to open (very nearly, but there's been a couple of hiccups along the way as is the way of things in our contractual world). And the bill this time round? £51million. Yes, you read that right. An insane sum of money.

I'm sure you'll agree that from the shore it looks very nice, but there's just no knowing if it's £51m well spent... yet.

However, North Somerset council have also been hard at cheque writing with some assistance from Central Government and from the look of the work they've been buying, this money has certainly been well spent. The seafront enhancements project consists of £29million (in comparison to the pier a piffling sum) from Defra's Flood Defence Grant in Aid, The South West Regional Development Agency's Civic Pride initiative, the Wessex Regional Flood Defence Committee and the Joint Local Transport Plan.

They've also managed to drum up a further £960,000 from Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's Sea Change initiative to create a series of artworks to go along with the project. Clearly someone on the North Somerset Council knows their way around the government departments, and knew who had the most spare cash to hand.

In my youth we spent many happy childhood day out, adventuring around Weston and while, to a 7 year old, it was a magical sandy place, in more recent years it has taken on the mantel of a long lost and well loved teddy bear of that era. My Weston has been discarded at the back of an old wardrobe or in a chest in the attic where it's very slowly started to lose it's stuffing and from there some of it's appeal. I stopped by a couple of years ago (pre pier pyre) and while I was pleased to see the old place, that's exactly how it felt. An old, tired, worn out and run down old place. I placed My Weston back in the wardrobe and forgot all about him again.

And this is still partially my view of the place. It's caught somewhere between being a Victorian/Georgian perfect example of a British seaside town, a maniacal mess of urbanisation and 70's and 80's town planning and a sleek & modern shoreline resort. Parts of it are all but crumbled away (some into the sea), others decaying while some are so new they're not even finished yet. There are builders everywhere!

One of the saddest sights I've ever seen was the Prince Royal Hotel and Birnbeck pier. These are at the far end (Northerly) of the front and just around the headland. Both are closed to the public. The hotel has been badly vandalised, the pier far less so and I suspect that's because it's actually disintegrating and not a safe place to be. The pier, built in 1867 does have quite a claim to fame though as it's the only pier in the country to connect to an island outcrop. To my mind, that makes it a bridge, but apparently not.

It's actually the spot that helped make Weston the popular seaside resort it still clings to being because its main use was to allow ferries from Bristol And Cardiff to dock at Weston. This was immensely popular until the severn bridge and the M5 were built in the 1960's. It still houses the local RNLI station which is well maintained but the remainder of the pier and island look ghostly in their abandon. Here's a few pictures of them:

They are the most depressing views of Weston, but perhaps more worrying are the remains of the 70's and 80's urbanisation that are dotted around the place. Here's a few shots of what I considered the scariest bits, which includes something which looks suspiciously like the infamous "Three Wolf Moon" T-Shirt, but with just the one wolf:

And yet there are still plenty of delights hidden in plain sight. The work carried out by the lottery fund on Knightstone Causeway is also a pleasure to behold. I'd recommend 'Stones' for a coffee in the sea air while the new kids adventure playground and the crazy golf had me wishing I really was 7 again and Grove Park for instance, is a joy:

And then, walking along the seafront, it occurred to me, that what had happened here, was as if my Gran or my Mum had found My Weston again. They'd taken him from the forgotten cupboard, dusted him down and dropped him off at the teddy bear factory, where they'd replaced his stuffing, sewn his ear back on and buffed up his nose. Even his voice box is almost finished (but at £51m that bit is particularly expensive and did I mention, contractual?).

Take a look at some of the work here, but you should go and see it for yourself...

Truly they have done an excellent job and if you're looking for British seaside resort to visit, I couldn't begin to recommend it more. There is something here for all ages from 2 to 200 but bring your bucket and spade, plenty of change for obligatory slot machines, kiss-me-quick hats, sticks of rock and for the gentlemen - a proper knotted hankie for your deck chair. Long Live the great British seaside.

Today.... Well let's see now... Daughters sorting her MOT, Mrs G is popping into S's house for a cup and a chinwag which leaves me to write my blog (That's that job done then) and finish off the last of my little list if jobs. Can't believe it's Thursday already!!

Keep working hard you lot!
Cheerio for now.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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