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Tuesday, September 25, 2012



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time for an upgrade?

So with all the foresight an planning of Madame Lenormand my O2 phone contract has just run out in time for the arrival of Apple's latest offering, the iPhone 5. However, one thing Madame Lenormand failed to point out is ate what a disappointment it would be and as such, has left me in a quandary.


Those that have paid some attention will know I'm quite a fan (although I can't go as far as being a fanboy) of the apple phone and its been "revolutionary", fast and thin (in that order).  While the hardware upgrades in the latest model seem pretty good - I'm not seeing anything that's making me go "That's what I need!"


The speed of the iPhone 4S didn't draw me from the 4 - figuring I'll wait for a giant leap to the 5 and sure enough there is a speed increase that is allegedly double - so I suppose that's worth bearing in mind.  What's truly bothering me though, isn't the hardware at all, but the software.


It is unfair to try and judge beta pre-release software, but I really hope apple pulls something special out of the bag this coming Friday, when iOS6 lands. I've seen the beta and its good, but... And this is a truly massive but...  Maps.


Google maps has evolved over time into an awesome mapping environment. It's (mostly) very accurate and combined with google search, you can find most places very quickly. Add to this "street view" and its a doddle to find exactly the spot you're looking for. iOS6 doesn't have this, and if apple maps doesn't improve significantly from beta, I'm not going to be the only previous apple fan to be eyeing the Samsung Galaxy S3 and considering the leap.


Of course there are numerous downsides for me in making that sort of change. iTunes obviously isn't available in the Android world, but there are fixes to get round that. In fact there are fixes to get round everything - and that of course brings its own set of problems.  The "hackability" of Android means that things are more likely to go wrong in that world while in apple's little closed off garden of light, things are a little more simple. Is it worth the risk I wonder?


As a result of the original iPhone, I have become an apple convert - so it's a deep seated discomfort that I'm feeling, having migrated to an apple world at home over the last 5 years or so. These devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad, Apple TV, iMac) all work seamlessly together and problems are rare or easily solved. All to well I remember the agony of re-installs and reboots and patches in Microsoft land - I will not be going back there.


There other problem is cost. I'm happy to pay for something exceptional, I'm just not sure that the iPhone 5 is. And if the software doesn't excel, it's going to feel like a step backwards to forwards.  The cheapest iPhone 5 for me (upgrading an existing contract at the same price point of around £36 to £41 per month) is about 200 quid up front. These days, it needs to be good to justify that number.  The S3 on the same contract is free up front.


And then there's this.....



It seems like a no brainer right now, but I think I'm gong to wait until post launch, just to give the guys a Cupertino a chance. They've done we'll up to now. I don't want them to screw it up.... But it could happen. You can either hang on, or cross Madame Lenormand's palm with silver to find out in advance.


The iPhone 5 lands on Friday 21st September:

The Samsung Galaxy IIIs is available now:

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Sell, Sell, Sell...

Any idea why short weeks feel so long and long weekends feel so short?... No, me neither, but that doesn't stop the whole situation from being so annoying.


At any rate, here I am at Monday - well, it's Tuesday actually, but for me it's a Monday (this all feels very familiar -Ed). The crack of dawn and up for the train to the city for another few days of entertaining slogging. With a long weekend being so short it's amazing how much we managed to pack into it, but we had a good try and did pretty well all things considered.


Friday saw Mrs G and I enjoying a very rare day off together trying not to do an awful lot, but still getting quite a bit done.  Now we're living in a hotel (what with the kids having flown the nest) we've been in need of either a settee for the (other) spare room, or a bed... Or of course both.  I favoured a day bed, but Mrs G (who for the sake of marital bliss should naturally be obeyed on such subjects) had decided on a futon. Being experienced in matters futon from my youth, I didn't object too strenuously, and being relatively experienced in matters matrimonial, I agreed whole heartedly and so a futon was selected and ordered to arrive later this week.


Having recently completed the decoration of daughters new nest, decorating has become the normal default setting when not at work it seems. And so a trip to the dreaded Eye-Key-Ah had been planned and so we shot off to Bristol. I also had to pick up Mrs G's birthday present (long overdue due to the nest building shenanigans) so we spent and enjoyable hour or two in Cabot's Circus, followed by lunch in "Giraffe" and then off to the big blue self assembly Swedish hell, which on a weekday when everyone's at work is a far more pleasant experience than usual.


One thing I didn't expect to buying in ikea was a suitcase/travel bag/laptop case. Bizarrely this is just the thing I've been looking for in all sorts of places and failing miserably to find. It's pretty much exactly the gizmo for the sort of 4 or 5 days travelling to work that I've been doing so much of lately. In future, ill be considering B&Q, Wickes and any of the major tool hire companies to fulfil my luggage requirements before visiting Samsonite et al.


Shopping done and car packed to bursting point, a jaunt home followed by home cooked dinner with Aunty S. Not just any home cooked dinner though, oh no.  This recipe came from The Stoke Chef, and bloody marvellous it was to. If you're a fan of the Olive Oil, especially "extra virgin" (eh, eh, know what I mean?, say no more, eh?) then you really should have a go at some of his recommendations on - Well worth the effort.


Saturday rolled round feeling like it should be a Sunday and we had a list of little jobs to do that was as long as your arm. Obviously there was the installation of some of the Ikea acquisitions to consider as well, although these have to wait until the painting is complete. Other jobs involved opticians, carpet fitters and the like. Daughter joined us for a jaunt into the city and a good time was had be all. Paint wasn't selected but tester pots were and whilst in B&Q (which incidentally stands for Block & Quayle - Richard and David the founders back in 1969 - at least you've learnt one thing here) shelves for one of daughters kitchen cupboards were selected from the off cuts pile, cut to size and sold to us for a whopping 10p each - a veritable bargain and a perfect fit.


Sunday - started far too early with daughter arriving at 7am. A stupid time on a Sunday, and I'm hard pressed to even understand why it exists other than to sleep through. Still, an adventurous time was ahead of us, so we loaded up the car with all the rubbish we'd accumulated during the nest re-arranging and headed off to Cheltenham race course to join in the the great british tradition of a "car boot sale". For our American guests, this has nothing to do with selling footwear designed for driving in, or For our American cousins who can speak a little english, it also has nothing to do with selling the back end of your automobile. Nope - your equivalent is - as I understand it - a garage sale (which apparently has nothing to do with the sale of garages). Think of a field full of cars, with "trunks" full of junk for sale and you've got the picture.


You get all sorts turning up to these things, and people haggling over 10p. Now admittedly I was chuffed with our bargain shelves from Block & Quayle, but when your looking at a red candle holder who cares if its 50p or 40p (you know who you are strange lady with a dog in a pushchair)...  a very odd bunch if ever there were. All the same, they were mostly happy to part with their cash for the junk we would have almost certainly had to take to the tip.


One particular bargain was an analogue pocket portable TV (£99 back in 1990) that I can personally guarantee has no hope in hell of ever working. "Does it work?" said the exceptionally burly looking bloke with tattoos and a permanent position of bouncer (assuming he's stood by a door). "I have no idea" says I, "but I'd be surprised. It doesn't have any batteries so there's no way of knowing for sure - but you can try it for 2 quid" ...  Puzzlement crossed his face and he put it down, only to be instantly picked up by a skinny shifty looking bloke in a track suit with a roll up hanging out of his mouth... "£1.50?" ... Sold - to the lunatic. Ayyy Thannk You! - If you do the maths, at a cost to me of £4.50 per year of ownership, he just bought 4 months worth of depreciation. What a hero.


By midday we'd packed up and were trundling home with a lot less crap that we'd started out with and sixty quid in our pockets. Hot pot for dinner, which wafted up the stairs as I started prepping and painting the master bedroom.


Sunday night, Mrs G and I finally got back into "The Bridge" which is another Nordic cop thriller with subtitles. I think it's great, but Mrs G (who's not really a fan of anything that's about an hour long - unless it's a book) isn't convinced yet. We've got all 10 episodes to get through - so I could end up explaining the last 5 at this rate... :-). Time will tell.


Monday - Was to have been a trip to Wiltshire to see the the eldest ball (92 and going strong) but really needed to get that painting finished before Tuesday rolls round. We've made a plan to see her in a fortnight (thats two weeks for the non-brits) and she's pleased with that. This also meant that we didn't have to be up at the crack of dawn, so we actually did manage to get a decent nights sleep. Hoorah! 


However, there's no rest for the wicked (which can only mean I must have been particularly evil in a previous life) so up and at 'em to get the painting finished. Second coat and cutting in. All done. Looks great. Very happy with it. Lawn mowed, train tickets bought, bag packed, birthday cards delivered, Hing Tai special chips for dinner - special treat as we're on holiday - bed, one chapter, sleep, weekend gone.


No time to enjoy it all though - its my Monday now (now being Tuesday).

Until next time....


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, September 13, 2012

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

I'm at the end of what feels like a very long week.


It wasn't that long really, but I'm out of practice at staying away from home - up that Laandan - and not being with Mrs G, daughter, son and the rest of my life. Packing suitable belongings to last the best part of a week in hotel room the other side of the country isn't really good for the soul, or life in general, but it is good for a change.


It's been slowly building up from one day, to two days, to three and then this week four. It only wasn't five because Mrs G and I had already planned a long weekend and I wouldn't miss that for the world. Being a long weekend means that next week will only be a three day week abroad, albeit a four day week of work. I suspect the week after might be a full-on five, but lets not get too carried away just yet.


I'm not going to gripe about it at any rate. It's actually been quite enjoyable. Progress of a fashion has most definitely been made, and the evening entertainment as been pretty good too.


I eluded to the Olympic champions "on the buses" (I'll get you butler, etc etc.) on Monday, catching up with an old mate on Tuesday and possibly catching the free film on Wednesday. None of those things happened, but then that's the best laid schemes of mice and men and all that.


However, on the plus side some pretty reasonable nosh was had. A bloody marvellous Street Mexican - which I'd very highly recommend. A not half bad burger (with beer and football) and a somewhat posher Brasserie Blanc swiftly followed by some reasonable (if a little pricy for one of our party) wine in a very very French wine bar. My turn to buy next time.


The Mexican was exceptional. Extremely sensibly priced for a start - always makes for a winner. Two of us both had a mixed platter of various Tacos, Nachos, Mini Burrito's and the like and two beers. It felt like, and indeed was a filling meal that left you want - but not needing - more. The whole thing was barely 30 quid, and you really can't say much fairer than that for great food in central London. But what do I know (a lot more than I let on probably). Try it for yourself at Wahaca


Then there was the burger. Not from one of those chuck-it-up places like McDonalds, but in a pub called "The Thirsty Bear". Pubs being the most competitive places on earth at the moment - what with there being a recession on and everyone wanting to drink-to-forget-that-they-can't-afford-a-drink and that.... - what a boozer needs is to stand out from the crowd, and that means a gimmick. The Thirsty Bears gimmick is outsourced staff to iPads and the customers - an interesting, if not fully workable idea.


Each table has an iPad securely locked to it and running a limited amount of apps, the main one being the pubs self service ordering system. You open a tab by swiping your tables card, and pick and choose the beer you want or food you're after using the app. A couple of minutes later it magically appears at your table being delivered by someone who hardly has to know how to work the till and should really be struggling to get your order wrong because it was not really anything to do with them in the first place. More over (if you get the right table - and we didn't) you can pour your own beer! No more queuing at the bar, just pull the pump on the end of your table and beer is delivered directly to your glass. As gimmicks go, it's a pretty good one, but I'm not sure it'll catch on.... A bit like the telephone.... I mean who would go to the pub and pour their own beer?? :-)


Oh yes - the food. Tasty, but massive. Painfully huge portion - and it was only the 8oz'er. There is a deal to be had if you're quite literally gutsy enough (and I know a carturean who probably is). Eat three one and half pound burgers and drink two pints of beer, in an hour, on your own and get it for free.... Unlikely at best. If you fail, it's 60quid.... Nuff said.


Finally the Brasserie Blanc. This is a new one on the South Bank, just opposite the Canteen of the Royal Festival Hall. It was OK. Overall, I'd say a disappointment. There's BB in Cheltenham and it really shows this one the door to be fair, although the Cheltenham venue does seem to be a damn sight more expensive, which came as a bit of a shock. Still, it was perfectly edible and I would go back depending on the menu, which varies from time to time.


All was not lost however, as The Stoke Chef, The tall bloke and me managed to find an old haunt of mine from several years ago, which looks like it hasn't changed a single jot. And so it was that we rounded off the evening with a bottle of vino in Gordon's Wine Bar just up from Embankment tube station - and jolly good it was too. Next time, bread and cheese all round.


And so to the long weekend...

Squeek next time. (See what I did there?)




This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Monday, September 10, 2012

Green Elephants

One thing that's blatantly obvious to me is that if you're going to talk about your work with your colleagues, you don't do it on the train. I mean you could be talking about strategies for dealing with your potential suppliers during a bid process, while one of the members of your suppliers bid team sits in the next row and hears the entire conversation.... Just saying.


It also affords the opportunity of a great round of bullshit bingo. Here's a few phrases...


"Green Elephant", "Templated Architecture", "it is the Wild West", "read what is says on the tin and the tin sounds pretty good", "we've got to get our model sorted out", "The authority have screwed them down to tightly" and other such whiff-waffle to merrily misquote Boris Johnson. As it turns out, they're not working on exactly the same project that I am, (it seems a day out in London is a fairly rare occurrence for them) but they are on a related one. Follow this up with loud and berating opinions of current affairs and everyone can figure out what sort of people you really are. Fascinating.


All this just goes to show, you never know who's listening... Or who's talking...


In other news... The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came as a really nice surprise over the weekend. OK, so it's a bit of a Brit-rom-com in the vein of "Love Actually" or "The Boat That Rocked" and one might say that's its cynically place to tug the old heart strings in the relevant places. If you decide to look past this and let it wash over you, then it's quite a treat. You might say its the story of a bunch of old farts rolling around India as if they were on some old age grand tour, but it's a bit more than that. I was happily surprised to find myself enjoying it and its good clean all round entertainment. The sort of thing your mum will like.


Now, what else does this week have in store - aside from getting up at the crack of dawn to traipse across London, spend the best part of 12 hours chained to a desk (internally playing bullshit bingo), late suppers, late tubes or taxis, 6 hours restless sleep and repeat until Thursday night....


Today being Monday and the Olympic festivities having just finished, there will be a grand parade of athletes through town. Starting at 1.30 at Mansion house and running up through the Center of the city to Trafalgar Square, a procession of 21 buses loaded with Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will do their very best to bring all chance of afternoon travel to a standstill. Quite effectively I should imagine. Less cynically, I'm all for it, but it's unlikely that ill be unchained from my desk long enough to do anything about it.


I'm also making a concerted effort to catch with old friends this week, and on Tuesday I'm hoping to slope off a little early to see a friend of mine who works in food and film. More on this if it happens.


Then there's a free film festival taking place on the south side of the river, up near Tower Bridge on Wednesday. It's a case of turn up and sit down, which is always entertaining and if the weather holds out I might well have a stab at it. The first film though, is, you guessed it - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Ah well... Maybe, maybe not then.


Thursday will be a case of trying to catch a sensible timed train back to humanity from the chaos, possibly followed by a run out of the Wednesday/Thursday Club, depending on how delayed they are.


And then blessed Friday, which this week is a day off. Now that were living in a large and spacious hotel (kids having properly flown the nest) Mrs G and I are about to start preparing for new flooring, painting and general decorating of said surroundings. First off, we need to go look at some examples of what we're after. We've got a pretty good idea, but it's more of a sketch, and needs colouring in. To that end we've plumped for a long weekend so don't have to return to the hell of it all until Tuesday.


Lets see how it all pans out.

Speak soon.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Straw Dogs

As I'm overdue a blog entry and long overdue a film review, here's some waffle on the subject....


1971 saw Sam Peckinpah's extraordinary and shocking work Straw Dogs - starring Dustin Hoffman, arrive in cinemas. It was given a hard time by most critics, not least because of its deeply disturbing rape scenes which the casual observer would have found uncomfortable at best and unwatchable at worst. For many, its reputation alone will have excluded it from viewing lists, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if you'd missed it. It's based on the English novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" by Gordon Williams, which interestingly doesn't contain the rape scene at all.


I'm a bit of a fan of 70's movies, and I like Dustin Hoffman, who was particularly good during that decade - so I have seen it. It's set in Cornwall, England and is basically the story of a fairly well-to-do couple who move into a remote-ish farmhouse (the wife's former hometown) with a crowd of "locals" who are firmly of the opinion that "There's nothing for you here" and so on... The well to do couple, try to understand the locals, but the locals are having none of it. The weedy "Hoffman" husband fails miserably to protect his wife from the bullying (which is far to soft a word for them) locals - and they attack and assault her. This is the straw (no pun intended) that brakes him and he explodes into a fury to attempt to make good on his weakness. Incidentally the title comes from a reference to Chinese ceremonial "Straw Dogs" which are said to represent "forms without substance"


Hoffman does a great job in the role and its a movie which while tough to stomach in places is well worth a watch. After its initial problems - the film was heavily linked to suggestion that cinema caused violence not helped by being released the same year as "A Clockwork Orange" - it has gone on to gain something of a cult status and is often referred to as Peckinpah's best film. I'd suggest you judge for yourself....


So with such a distasteful pedigree, why you may ask, would anyone ever think of considering a remake?


Well, aside from money, there is a story of guts and determination, of the underdog and of the good guy turned bad. So is the remake which of course is also called Straw Dogs, a) worth it and b) any good?


Short answer, in my opinion is yes and yes. You'll probably enjoy it more if you haven't seen the original, but as remakes go, it's not half bad. It follows the original film - not so much the book - with the only major change being location (namely the US Deep South, as opposed to the UK Deep South I suppose) and a couple of character roles - from Mathematician to Screenwriter. Well come on, if you were a screenwriter you'd always want the hero of your piece to be a screenwriter too... Probably. :-)


It's a "cleaner" version of the original, but still a powerful story. Still uncomfortable in places, though somewhat sanitised - which may be more to do with censors and ratings and audiences than directorial choices - it can still deliver a psychological punch that helps you understand the weaknesses of the lead character.


In a way I prefer it to the original, because of its polished finish, but the original feels more believable. Once again you really should judge for yourself. Both films are available on DVD.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Where is Golfyball?


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