Friday, October 31, 2003

Welcome Flashbloggers

Welcome to the Clear Blue Skies Hallowe'en party.

Please, park your broomsticks outside and hand your cloaks to my servant Igor.



Take these cloaks to the dungeon and then make sure the cauldron of punch is bubbling nicely.

"Yesss Mussster."

Don't mind Igor, he's pretty harmless, really. Please, follow me.

We have a variety of games for you to play. There's bobbing for apples in the Great Hall and a game of Web of Fate taking place in the ballroom shortly. Get there quickly if you want to find your soul mate (last year we matched up an aging vampire with a young virgin - they're still happily together twelve months on!).

If you care for refreshments at any stage, the dining room is just through here. We have toffee apples, gingerbread men, roast chestnuts and all manner of pumpkin dishes created by Chef. We also have a range of punches and brews for the thirsty among you.

Before you join in the fun and games, I need to ask you a few questions. Just post your answers in the comments and enjoy the party:

Who are you?
What's your blog called? Tell me a little bit about it.
Who invited you to the party?
Describe your costume so everyone knows what you're wearing.

Right that's it. Go on in and enjoy yourselves. If you require anything, please ask my butler, Lurch. In the meantime, make yourselves at home.

Ale of the Month

November's Ale of the Month is a little bit unusual. It's Fuller's Vintage Ale, a bottle conditioned ale that can be left to mature like a good red wine.

Also, there are only 50,000 bottles available. I'm going to try and get hold of a few tonight and I'm going to drink one and then leave the rest to age. I'll drink one every six months or so to see if it really does improve.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Flashblog Finale

Details have been sent out for tomorrow's grand finale to Flashblogging Month. If you haven't got them, let me know.

Recommended Reading

Since I began writing this blog just a couple of months ago, it seems to have become something of a mission of mine to introduce my (few) readers to new, interesting blogs.

Which is why, when yesterday I stumbled across a blog I'd not seen before, I knew I'd have to tell you about it. It is, quite simply, one of the best blogs I've seen, and I've seen quite a few.

It's called ...she's a flight risk and it has everything going for it. It's beautifully written, serves a clear (and unique) purpose and is really well designed.

The following passage is from the beginning of the very first post, on March 20th 2003:

On March 2, 2003 at 4:12 pm, I disappeared.
My name is isabella v.
I'm twentysomething and I am an international fugitive.

I'm still not completely convinced it's genuine but that doesn't really matter. I strongly recommend you go and take a look. Click on the 'where to begin' link and just read on from there. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Cruel Names

The girl who served me on the checkout in Sainsbury's in the City this morning was called Candle and that got me thinking about how cruel parents can seem to be when picking names for their children.

For instance, my youngest brother went to school with a kid called Leon Perrin. Naturally enough he was called Worcestershire Sauce and the like. My other brother (jokingly, I hope) claims to have names picked out for all his future children. Names that, in combination with our surname, will sound absolutely ridiculous.

L and I haven't had to choose a name yet (though there is one we'd like to use). That's a joy still to come but I hope that we would be able to choose one that we both like and will not be the cause of trouble for the child we give it to.

Do you know anyone who has given their child an awful name? What was it?

November on Clear Blue Skies

As I have said a few times recently, I will be leaving Flashblogging behind and doing something completely different during November. Something that will still involve some input from my readers (that's you lot) but will actually put more emphasis on me and my writing.

I was fascinated by mike's 100x100 series a few months back, where he set himself the ridiculous task of having exactly 100 words in each of the next 100 posts. Although the scale of this particular project was probably too large, I liked the idea of setting some sort of restriction on my writing so I started wondering what I could do myself.

Later, I was listening to the Pink Floyd album Obscured By Clouds when I heard a couple of lines from a song that I thought would make a good subject for a post. Something in my head went click and November's special event was born.

Yes, November is Pink Floyd month on Clear Blue Skies. All the posts written in November will be inspired by lyrics from one of Pink Floyd's songs. And I mean all. So, if I see something that I really want to blog about, I'm going to have to find a lyric somewhere that I can connect it to.

I'll be writing about all manner of things (the Floyd have written some very odd songs in the last 35 years or so), from heavy subjects like war and insanity to silly, trivial matters and many of the posts will ask you to comment with your thoughts (the interactivity bit).

Unless you happen to be a fan yourself, I very much doubt you'll recognise many of the lyrics and I'm shying away from some of the really obvious ones. For example, I'm not going to write anything about not needing an education. I already have a list of 30 odd lyrics to use but I want to have a couple of posts most days so, if you are a fan and would like me to write something based on two or three lines from a particular song then email me.

As with this month's flashblogging events, I have no idea how well this is going to go and much of it will depend on you, my dear readers, taking part. Whether you're the biggest Floyd fan in the world or think that there could be nothing worse than being made to sit through a playing of The Dark Side Of The Moon, there will be something here for you so come along, read, comment and enjoy.

It all starts right here on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Kicked the Bucket

Today's flashblog took place at Light From An Empty Fridge, where we all looked into the future and posted our own obituary, epitaph or last words. There's some good stuff over there so if you didn't take part, why not go and have a look?

Friday will see the grand finale of flashblogging month and that event will quite different to the four we've done so far. Hopefully it will go all right. Details will be sent out during the day on Thursday to those taking part. After that I will be putting the flashblogging concept into the attic of my mind and leaving it there. It may get dusted off in a few months or it may get incorporated into a new idea (mike has today emailed me with a suggestion that I may look into for a future special event), or it may just gather mothballs in the corner totally forgotten. Who knows?

Thank you everyone who has taken part over the last few weeks, I really couldn't have done it without you.

Bloody clocks

Being relatively new to this blogging lark, I was unsure of the effect that changing the time setting in Blogger would have. So, I changed it anyway from GMT +1 to GMT after the clocks went back at the weekend. Of course, now all of the posts I've written to date now appear to have been posted an hour earlier than they actually were. So now, last Friday's Kojak vs Columbo post now looks like I posted it 20 minutes before the flashblog actually took place.


Am I stuck with this or can something be done?

Monday, October 27, 2003

Special Numbers

I saw this link on Green Fairy's linklog and thought I'd draw your attention to it, too.

It's a list of numbers that have distinctive facts, such as 1980 being the number of ways you can fold a 2x4 rectangle of stamps. Some of the facts are highly mathematical and some aren't but it is an interesting read if you have a weird fascination with numbers like I do.

It's also reminded me of an illustration of proof by contradiction: Proof that all numbers are special. We can see (from the website above) that some numbers have unique 'special' properties, i.e. properties that no other number has. Lets assume that there are some numbers that are completely unremarkable and have no special properties. Within this list of 'normal' numbers there will be one number that is lower than all of the rest and hence is the lowest 'normal' number, which is a property that no other number can have. But this means the number is special hence our assumption is incorrect and all numbers are special.

Of course, this isn't a real mathematical proof because of the very vague definitions of special and normal. It does, however, show how elegant mathematical argument can sometimes be. That you can start of from a single assumption and, merely by following all the logical implications of that assumption, prove it to be untrue is quite beautiful.

But then I'm a maths geek.

Flashblog #4

You've only got until 4.00 this afternoon to sign up for tomorrow's flashblog so comment or email if you want to take part.

Pro's and Cons of going bald

I would have posted this on Saturday if the bloody dial-up had given me any more time online. Anyway, better late than never.

These are the best of the pro's and cons of going bald that Thursday's Flashbloggers came up with.

1. No one calls you 'Ginga' any more.
2. You look like Patrick Stewart.
3. No more worry about going bald.
4. You're the emergency replacement for when the bulb goes at the local lighthouse.
5. Your kids can't pull your hair.
6. You've obviously got loads of testosterone.

1. You can't go bowling anymore.
2. You look like Ian Duncan Smith.
3. All that money wasted on polish and wax.
4. People slapping your forehead.
5. The hairdresser's fabulous bosom is no longer shoved in your face.
6. The comb over.

That just about covers it, I reckon.

Anyone come up with any more since Thursday?

Saturday, October 25, 2003


Today's Guardian has an article about David Blunkett apologising for calling the BBC's 'Secret Policeman' programme a stunt. The article contains the following sentence:

"Mr Blunkett originally criticised the undercover filming methods of the programme and said it was "trying to create news", without having seen the programme,'

Surely that's a poor choice of words to apply to David Blunkett?

Let her rest in peace

I was never a big fan of Princess Diana. I don't think she was ever as much the victim as she lead the media to believe and I always had the feeling that she wanted it both ways; that she wanted privacy in her private life except when it suited her, and then she wanted all the media coverage she could get.

Surely now, though, she should be left to rest in peace? What good will Paul Burrell's new book, and it's serialisation in the Mirror, actually do? Burrell's statement last night that all he was trying to do was "defend the princess and stand in her corner" is laughable, especially given that his very next sentence was a dig at the royal family for not apologising after his trial sensationally collapsed last year. His motives appear to be far more selfish than he will admit; money for his own pocket and revenge over the Windsor's. He is the only person (apart from the owner of the Mirror, of course) who will benefit from all these revelations. The royal family don't want them and for Princes William and Harry I can only imagine that the whole affair will reopen old wounds that are just beginning to heal.

And would Diana herself have wanted all of this to come out like this? Burrell says yes, the princes say no. Can Burrell really have known her better than her own sons? I don't think so, and that just makes his actions in publishing this book seem even more suspicious.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Scaryduck's story from yesterday reminded me of an incident from my own days at school and I thought it would be perfect to share with you all.

One cold sunny morning we were sat in a maths lesson. Amazingly, I think we were all actually working hard but that seems so unlikely that I may be wrong. It doesn't really matter. One of the kids at the front of class, let's call him Crusher (big, rugby player, someone to stay on the right side of), made a mistake and asked a mate of his a few rows behind him , Drifter (no real reason for this one), for some Tippex.

The little bottle of correcting fluid was duly passed forward and Crusher let it do its magic. Now, at this point the sensible thing to do would have been to pass the bottle back from person to person until it got to Drifter again. That's certainly what I would have done.

If that had happened, of course, I wouldn't be telling you this story.

No, Crusher decided to go the direct route and throw it back to Drifter. And it wasn't some nice, looping, underarm throw that would have guaranteed the bottle would land safely in Drifter's hands, either. Crusher half stood, pivoted and, as he called out to give Drifter the heads up, brought his arm round in a smooth, baseball pitcher's action and released.

It's at this point that, in my memory at least, time slowed down. I remember with an unusual clarity the bottle flying trough the air towards where Drifter was sitting. He flung his hands above his head and looked like he was trying out for the England cricket team as the bottle sailed through his fingers bare moments before they closed. Drifter's head went back in horror as he realised he'd missed it and we watched the bottle continue along its path towards the back of the classroom.

It's at this point that time reverts to its normal pace.


Every head in the room, including the teacher's (who until now had been obliviously writing on the board) shot round at the noise. We were greeted with the site of a patch of white eighteen inches across on the back wall. Worse, not all the contents of the exploded bottle had ended up on the wall. There were drops all over the floor and a large patch on the side of a cupboard that saved a couple of kids from being covered. Unfortunately, the kids on the other side of the detonation point were not so lucky and had Tippex all over their clothes and in their hair.

Crusher, who hadn't had time to sit down again, just stood there staring with the rest of us for a long moment before somebody started to laugh. That triggered the rest of us (apart from the two unfortunates) and the teacher couldn't get us back under control. No more work was done in that lesson.

Oh, all right then.

My arm is twisted all the way up between my shoulderblades so I'll just have to say yes. Only one more, though, understand?

In that case, the penultimate flashblog will take place on Tuesday 28th October, followed by the last one a week today on the 31st. Same drill as all the others, if you haven't yet taken part in one and want to then sign up in the comments or by email.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Kojak vs Columbo

Flashblog #3 took place at Viper Squad Ten where we had a great old time discussing the pro's and cons of baldness. I'll be writing a post tomorrow or Saturday to pick out the best one's. Until then, feel free to debate the issue further in the comments.

Well done to Mr.D. and billy for posting on the dot at 1.00 and a light smack on the wrist for Elsie for talking about a different  kind of baldness to the rest of us. I suppose it's my fault, though - the instructions didn't say we were talking about baldness of the head.

Thank you all for taking part. Now, I need to take a quick straw poll. Should there be another flashblog early next week before the grand finale next Friday? Remember that the finale will be substantially different to those that have gone before so I suppose what I'm asking is do you want to do one more 'normal' flashblog?

Schoolday Memories

Today's story on Scaryduck would have had me weeping tears of laughter if I'd been anywhere but at work. If you want a similar struggle to keep a straight face, go and read the Lab Of Doom.

Highly amusing stuff, as always.

Want Some Answers?

Annie Mole over at Going Underground has posted an email that she sent to Lynne Featherstone, chair of the London Assembly Transport Policy Committee asking her to visit the site to leave her comments about the crisis that is facing the tube at the moment.

Head on over and join in the debate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Tomorrow's Event

Details have been emailed. If you don't get them soon, let me know.

It's raining, it's pouring

At long last it's raining again. I never thought I'd say it but I was getting tired of the constant dry weather. It's just not something we know how to handle in this country. We may seem to like complaining that British weather is typically awful (cold, wet, windy) but I think most of us prefer having some rain to a landscape that's brown and parched dry. Not to mention the water shortages that are now being forecast in the news.

The problem is, we're generally not very good at water management, at anywhere from the micro level of individual houses and gardens to the macro level of reservoirs and mains supply. If this summer is any indication of years to come then I think we're going to have to learn pretty quickly.

So what can be done to ease our problems? Well, at the macro level I don't really know, beyond fixing all the leaking pipes. I'm no expert, after all. But on an individual level there's a huge amount that we can do.

Some things are very simple, like not running a bowl of water to wash up just the bowl and plate you used for breakfast or not washing your hands under running water. Others require more thought and some expense, too, such as getting a dual-flush toilet or rigging up water butts to collect from your drain pipes to give you a supply of water for the garden. If we all did things like this we could save a phenomenal amount of water and save ourselves from shortages and hose-pipe bands.

Do you have any other water-saving suggestions?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Media Coverage

Flashblogging has had it's first media coverage!

I have to say I'm somewhat amazed; I didn't honestly think it would generate the level of interest that it has or be as successful. I thought I'd be lucky to hit double figures when it came to participants but the number is now heading towards 40 and who knows how many more will want to join in as a result of this article. I can hardly wait for Thursday, now.

If number increases dramatically before the deadline (4p.m. tomorrow) then I may decide to split the event and hit two separate blogs at the same time. I may also organise another one for early next week before the grand finale next Friday, if people continue to show interest. The thing is, I don't want to take flashblogging into November (I've got something completely different planned) so the last thing I want is to have a sudden surge in interest after it has all finished.

So, if you haven't yet taken part and feel like it could be fun (I have been assured that it is by those who've already done it) then leave a comment. If you write your own blog then do a bit of blogvertising and we'll see if we can top fifty or more.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Flashblog #3

The third flashblog event is due to take place in just three days time on Thursday 23rd October.

If you don't yet know what flashblogging is then let me explain. The idea, inspired in part by the various flashmobs that have taken place in London over the last few months, is that everyone visits a specified blog at a certain time and performs a task in the comments of that blog. The aims behind it are twofold: firstly to create a little bit of confusion and surprise when the writer of the targeted blog next checks their site and secondly to give the participants a look at a blog they may not have seen before.

If you want to take part then sign up in the comments or email me by 4.00 p.m. BST on Wednesday 22nd. Details of Thursday's event will then be emailed to everyone.

Tube Problems

So, the tube's up the spout again. This time it's the Northen Line, which normally zooms me between home and work. Thankfully I have an alternative route that takes about the same length of time (normally) but means I may have to spend fifteen to twenty minutes standing on a rail platform. Not terribly pleasant in this sort of weather.

But I suppose I shall have to get used to it if the threatened industrial action materialises. At least until we move out of London all together.

The tube is in desperate need of a major overhaul and has been since long before the Private-Public Partnership came into being. Blaming the latest problems wholly on the PPP is therefore counterproductive - if there is to be any chance of making the tube safe and reliable then everyone (including us passengers) needs to pull together and work towards the same goal. That means that tube bosses need to admit that there are problems that require radical solutions, unions need to be supportive and passengers have to be prepared to suffer major disruption. Otherwise the network will continue to be patched rather than upgraded and problems like those over the weekend will carry on happening.

One last point - us passengers can't have it both ways. We want the tube to run safely and reliably but we also want it to run non-stop over the weekends, or later into the night, at least. Running trains until two or three a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights would get rid of more than 15% of the available maintenance time thus reducing the work that can be done on improvements. We have to stop making unrealistic demands.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

You can't judge a book...

I was on the tube yesterday evening reading my book when this guy interupts me to ask where I'd bought it. I'm currently reading Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan, the sixth book in the Wheel of Time series. It's not exactly uncommon so I thought the question was a little strange. But he went on to explain that he only wanted to know where you could buy them with the old style of cover design because the publishing company, in its wisdom, has decided to change the design in time for the tenth book to come out in paperback.

I couldn't help him since I've had the book for years (I'm only rereading the series so that it's fresh in my mind when I read the new one) but it did give me pause for thought. It's not the first time I've seen this. It's happened with Patricia Cornwell's books and Michael Connelly's and various other author's too, no doubt. The publishers, for some unknown reason, think that it would be a good idea to change the cover design for a very popular series of books, thus ruining the look they create on bookshelves.

Now I realise that this is only a fairly minor grumble, after all it's not as if the style of writing or approach to the story has changed but I think it certainly takes the gloss off having built up the series over a number of years and penalises you for having been a loyal reader.

What makes it so irritating is that there is no reason to make the change. Everyone liked it the way it was before so why do it? Of course, we'll never know why, we just have to accept it because they've got us over a barrel. Us readers will only get annoyed about it because we want to carry on reading the story - we're hardly going to stop buying the books in protest are we?

I'll certainly be buying the next Wheel of Time book when it comes out in paperback in a couple of weeks. I just wish it would match the other nine I've already got.

Friday, October 17, 2003

We came, we saw,..

..we flashblogged. Thank you to all who gathered over at What You Can Get Away With for the second flashblog event. Did we get away with it? Don't know; there hasn't been a reaction from Nick, yet, but we'll see.

The task was to write a comment beginning with the sentence "The most beautiful/ugliest/funniest/weirdest/saddest/most awe-inspiring thing I ever saw was..." and there was a good variety of stories so well done all. I particularly liked billy's and Annie's and Harriet's touched my heart.

Hopefully you enjoyed taking part and took some time to read a little of what Nick has written. What did you think? Was it a good choice of blog to send you all to? Feel free to discuss at length in the comments, that's what they're there for, after all.

There will be two more Flashblogs before the end of the month. #3 will take place on Thursday next week and will be along similar lines to the first two. The last one will be somewhat different so if you want to sign up, leave a comment or send me an email.

Jumpers for Goalposts

One of the best things about the way Stevenage and the other post-war new towns were designed was that parks and green spaces were included from the start. Stevenage has them dotted all over the place, from small areas of grass tucked between houses to Fairlands Valley, the long, narrow park that straddles the middle of the town. To make this better, the network of cycle tracks and underpasses meant that it was easy to get from one to another without crossing busy roads. Consequently, as kids we had loads of safe, accessible places to play in.

My parents live right next to Fairlands and my brothers and I could be found there quite often; playing ball games in the summer or sledging down the big hill in the park in the winter. When it came to football, there were even a couple of well-placed trees that were about goal-width apart. I still see kids using them now, fifteen years later, when I take a walk through the park.

Elsewhere, there were any number of play areas to visit, networks of bushes to explore and trees to climb so we were never short of somewhere to hide and spy on people passing by. A friend of mine called them 'bases' and we used to spend hours racing between them, pretending to be on some secret mission or other, shooting at people with our fingers.

Isn't it great, how kids can amuse themselves with nothing more than a climbable tree and an active imagination? Some people I know would be embarrassed about what they got up to when they were young but I look back on it fondly and think it contributed a lot to my character. I wasn't cooped up indoors all day with a computer or the TV. Instead I was outside, exploring the extent of the world around me and expanding my mind.

I had a great time back then and I just hope that my kids, when I have them, will have the chances to enjoy themselves in exactly the same way.

Wrong Number?

Someone's being trying to call me from Cardiff. I've got no idea who it could be. I could answer it and find out, I suppose, but that would spoil the mystery. And why would I want to do that?

Thursday, October 16, 2003


Details have now been sent to all participants.


Although I'm too young to be able to remember much of it the first time round (I was only 8 when it finished), I'm really looking forward to watching Superstars tonight (BBC1 8p.m.). It will make a nice change from reality competition shows that pit people who want to be stars against each other in the hope of winning their dream. These sports people have already made it and so are taking part only because they want to, not for any real personal gain.

For those that don't know what I'm talking about (and you may not do if you're younger than I am), this is the premise behind the show:

1. Each heat consists of 8 events.
2. There are nine competitors per heat and they take part in six of events - they opt out of one and are pulled out of another (usually their specialist event in the name of fairness)
3. 10 points are awarded to the winner of the event with 7, 4, 2 and 1 going to the next four places.
4. At the end of each of the four heats the two competitors with the highest scores advance to the final.

Some real greats of British sport took part between 1973 and 1985 and in the current series the likes of Colin Jackson, Gavin Hastings and Stuart Pearce will be competing. Over the next four weeks the Men's heats will take place, then there is a Women's competition (single show) on the 13th November with the Men's final the following week.

It should be good fun.


Right, you lot. You know have just 8 hours to register for Flashblog #2 tomorrow. That's right, I shall be sending out details at 5.00 BST so if you want to take part and haven't yet told me, you'd better do so before then.

You have been warned.


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Commuters face 'daily trauma'

So there's another report out on the state of public transport in this country and, what a surprise, it says that levels of overcrowding on trains and the tube are unacceptable and that something needs to be done about it urgently.

Really? I hadn't noticed. I'm sure I'm only crammed up against four other people when I'm commuting - surely that's not overcrowded? I did make an interesting discovery the other day when the tube was a little less full than normal: the carriages actually have seats in them! This was not something I knew before since I normally can't see anything beyond the person that's crushing me against the door.

The report is right about one thing, though (apart from the fact that our trains are little more than sardine cans on wheels during the rush hour), and that's the lack of faith that commuters have in anything actually improving. Packed trains are a way of life and none of us can see any reason to believe that will change any time soon.

The Silent City

There is something unsettling about a normally bustling street that's empty at noon. You feel a certain wrongness in the air and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as unseen eyes watch you. When wandering through a whole neighbourhood of such streets, it feels almost apocalyptic, as though some horrible fate has befallen the rest of the world and you're the sole survivor.

You wouldn't think you'd find many places in this country like this; maybe an abandoned mining village in the welsh valleys or a slum in some northern city, but the last place you would probably look is probably right in the heart of London. Yet that is what you will find if you come into the Square Mile at the weekend.

During the week the City of London buzzes from dawn through dusk and on into the night. In the day the streets are filled with traders and brokers rushing from one office to another, people clogging up pubs and sandwich bars and newspaper stalls manned with men calling "Staana" every few seconds. Construction sites are hives of activity as the latest carbuncles are built on the city horizon. Buses and taxis add to the general chaos as they battle to get along the roads as quickly as possible. After the offices close the focus switches to the pubs and restaurants and later on to the clubs before a precious few hours of peace and quiet are snatched before the cycle begins again as the sun rises.

Once Saturday morning comes round, though, it's as if the City has put on a subtly different mask. The buildings are all the same but their windows are a shade too dark. Sounds are muted while footsteps echo. Sunlight seems yellowed and warmer and yet somehow also more remote. The main roads are still busy, of course, with the buses running through and cars driving around just because they can do so without paying for the privilege but this sense of normality just serves to highlight the abnormality of the areas in between. If you lose yourself in the warren of narrow streets and alleys between Bishopsgate and Bank, around the NatWest Tower and the Stock Exchange, it is easy to believe that you could walk for hours without coming across any sign of life. You almost expect to see tumbleweeds bowling past you and hear distant coyote howls on the breeze.

The atmosphere is different, too. The sense of haste you feel from Monday to Friday is missing and this gives you the freedom to meander about taking the time to look more closely at what surrounds you. This, in turn, brings to the fore things you've never noticed before; an interesting historical detail, maybe, or an odd little courtyard tucked out of site between towering office buildings.

If you look more carefully, though, you will see that it's not completely lifeless after all. Every now and then a bus will stop and disgorge somebody who's willing to sacrifice their weekend in the name of overtime, looking uncomfortable wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead of the normal suit and tie. Security guards glance away from their televisions as you walk past the door in the vain hope you might actually want to bring a little interest into their day by going in. Tourists stray into the area thinking they know a shortcut from the Tower to Liverpool St without going underground. All of this, though, ends up merely accenting the general silence of the city in its slumber.

So the next time you find yourself on a tube train running beneath the streets of the square mile on a Sunday morning, why not get out and have a look around? Let me know if you see what I mean.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Lego Surfaces

How many of you played with lego when you were young? Did you ever want to build something really amazing but found that something was lacking? If you did then you should have a look at this site that I found on Green Fairy's linklog.

This guy has built various mathematical surfaces from lego blocks and some of them look amazingly intricate. I'd like to see him try a Riemann Surface, though. ;-)

Anyway, what was the best lego model you ever made?

Monday, October 13, 2003

Come in #2

Flashblog #2 is definitely on for Friday this week. #1 is going to be a hard act to follow but I will try to do my bit and find us a good blog to flash and dream up a suitable task. However, the event would be nothing without your participation so please sign up by 5.00 p.m. on Thursday evening (I'm assuming that if you took part in the first flashblog then you'll want to take part in this one - if not, email me).

I'm a firm subscriber of the 'any publicity is good publicity' theory so please talk about it on your own blogs and encourage your readers to take part as well.


I am...


Why? Well, we have just had an offer accepted on and are now in the process of buying our first home. Hence the happy, excited feelings. However, there's now the mortgage to sort out, solicitor to find, survey to organise... not to mention the debt we're getting into. Hence all the rest.

Life is never simple, is it?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Mysterious Destinations

I've always liked traveling by train in this country. Even when there are delays and disruption. What I like best is not knowing where you are. When you're in a car, you can look at a map and know exactly where you are and where you are heading.

On a train it's not quite the same. You know where you start from and where you're going to but often you don't have a clue about where you are in between. You seem somehow divorced from the geography of the country as you know it, all because the only map you have of your route is a series of generalised straight lines with stations spaced evenly along them. It's very difficult to apply that to reality unless you know the area very well. Hence the journey becomes a little mysterious.

Then there are the railway lines you see along the way that branch off yours. Where do they go? What mysterious destinations do they lead to? I sometimes let my imagination go when I see a single track going off in another direction and picture it leading to a sleepy english village with a name like Little Throgmorton, where it is still 1953, or to a desolate industrial wasteland with heaps of slag alongside the track, machinery covered in rust and oil all over the ground.

Finding out where it does lead spoils that image completely. I used to commute into London from Stevenage every day and often wondered where the line that branched off to the west between Alexandra Palace and Finsbury park went. Then I moved into Finsbury Park and lived at the bottom of Crouch Hill, a hundred yards from the station of that name on the North London line. I never knew there were any routes that went across North London until then but, once I did, it took away the mystery of where that branch lead to.

I know feel a mild form of sadness. Sadness for the way Britain's rail heyday is so long gone. How long is it since trains proudly carried passengers along lines like the North London Line? How long since sleepy little villages in the middle of nowhere were connected to the rail network, even if trains were few and far between? I don't know the answers to those questions but I do know that those days are gone forever.

More's the pity.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


Well, the first Flashblog event happened this afternoon over at lemonpillows. A big thank you to those who went and left a piece of poetry in the comments. There was a good range of poems, from classic to silly, so well done all of you. Best of all, from the subsequent post it seems it was all taken the right way (i.e. surprised, confused over where they came from but pleased at the same time), which is fantastic. I think you all brought a ray of sunshine just where it was needed. If you didn't take part, why not pop over there and take a look?

I'm sorry that the training place I'm at don't allow internet access in the classrooms, which precluded me from actually taking part. It's as if they expect you to be doing training or something. ;-) I will definitely be part of the next one if I have to move heaven and earth to do it.

The important question, though is did you enjoy doing it? Did you stay and read for a while? Are you willing to let me send you off to another unknown blog next week?

That's right, no sooner has #1 ended that #2 appears on the horizon, provisionally set for Friday of next week. I want to get more people involved so keep telling people about it and I'll send you all off on another jaunt into blogland on the 17th.

Thank you all again, you're all stars.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Flashblog #1 Details

Details have now been emailed to the participants in the first Flashblog. If you don't receive them and think you should have done, leave a comment with your email address and I'll sort it out later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Happy Flashblogging for tomorrow!


Every good campaign has a slogan behind it. We're constantly told that "Every Little Helps" and that we are "Worth It". Slogans are a very effective way of making sure people remember your product or service or event.

I reckon, therefore, that flashblogging needs a slogan that will help promote the idea. Trouble is, I can't think of one (I never have been very good at that sort of thing) so I need your help. Stick your ideas for a flashblogging slogan in the comments and I'll pick the best one (caveat - as long as there are some 'good' quality ideas) and use it in future posts.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Bad Boys

L and I went to see Bad Boys II yesterday. If you've seen the first one you'll know most of the storyline already; cops going after bad guys, gun battles, car chases, destruction of the city, beautiful girl gets kidnapped etc. etc. It's all been done before, notably with the Lethal Weapon films but Bad Boys still works very well.

A lot of this is down to the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and the humour in the script but the set pieces are also done very well with a big gunfight in the midst of a twenty car pile up in the middle of Miami, a chase involving a car transporter and a battle in Cuba.

Add in plenty of four-letter words, a cameo from Dan Marino (it is set in Miami, after all) and Lawrence's character's fear of rats and you've got a recipe for a very good cop movie.

It will never win any awards or be thought of as even slightly intellectual but if all you want is to disengage your mind and watch a good, fun action flick then you couldn't do much better.

Flashblog Update

Preparations are going well for Flashblog #1 on Wednesday. I've got a choice of targets in mind and know the task I'm going to set you and over twenty of you are willing to take part. If anyone else wants in then leave a comment before 5p.m. BST (that's GMT +1 for those outside the UK) tomorrow.

Oh, and thaddaeus, I need your email address to send you the details tomorrow evening.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Blog On

On Thursday mike asked in a comment over at the Geezer's place if anyone knew who had been featured in Web User magazine's Blog On column. Well, I've had a look back through the old copies of the magazine I've got and come up with the list below. The first one appeared a year ago and there have been 26 to date.

1. This Modern World
2. World Of Badger
3. A Donkey On The Edge
4. Bar Room Philosphy
5. The Homeless Guy
6. Bloggerheads
7. Imperial Doughnut
8. The Diary Of Samuel Pepys
9. If You Lived Here You Would Be Home By Now
10. Green Fairy
11. Wil Wheaton
12. Minor 9th
13. Little Red Boat
14. The Audi Olympics
15. Troubled Diva
16. Burnt Toast
17. Wherever You Are
18. Rise
19. Londonmark
20. Warming Up
21. Call Centre Confidential
22. Scary Duck
23. Lost In Transit
24. Going Underground
25. Vodkabird
26. Diamond Geezer

A pretty eclectic mix of blogs if you ask me. The column first came to my attention at the end of February with Green Fairy. That proved to be my introduction to blogging and I've picked up several more from the list above since then as part of my daily(ish) read, though at least two of them I started reading before they were featured. Why not take some time to browse one or two that you haven't read before and see if you're missing anything?

Friday, October 03, 2003

Ale of the Month

October's Ale of the Month on Clear Blue Skies is one of my favourites of all time. Theakston's Old Peculier is a gorgeous dark beer with a range of rich, roasted and fruity tastes. It's also pretty strong at 5.7%, so half a dozen pints on a Friday night makes for a very effective way of forgetting the week that's just drawn to a close.

One other advantage is that, at a glance at least, it looks like a pint of coke. So if you aren't supposed to be drinking, you can look like you're sticking to soft drinks with Old Peculier, as long as you hide the bottles somewhere. The downside to this, of course is that it's fairly difficult to drink several bottles without someone getting a little suspicious.

So why not stop off at your local ale dealer on your way home tongiht and pick up a bottle or two? Enjoy.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Having said that, just the act of creating that last post has inspired another one. I ran the spell checker just to make sure I hadn't made any glaring errors and it threw up 'blog' as an unrecognised word! You'd think Blogger's own spellchecker would know that one...


I am completely uninspired today. I just can't think of anything to write about and I can't be bothered to go surfing in order to find something, either. Maybe it's because my right ear is blocked up and I feel all unbalanced. Maybe it's to do with the meeting I've got in fifteen minutes where we are going to be told about the imminent restructuring of the department (people are a little gloomy and there have been a few redundancies, though I'm safe as far as I know). Maybe I'm just too tired. Maybe it's something else or all of the above.

I simply don't feel like writing anything. So I'll just remind you all that Flashblog #1 will take place next Wednesday and you have until 5.00 Tuesday afternoon to register interest. Currently, there are 10 people taking part but I think there need to be a couple of dozen at least to make it a success, So please, if you have your own blog, do a little blogvertising and encourage your readers to sign up as well.

I'm off to find out what the future holds.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Reality TV

Reality TV shows, it seems, are still all the rage. Those based around finding new pop stars are still alive and kicking despite the mortal blow that was Popstars: The Rivals last year. 2003 has seen the format move into the world of sport with The Games on Channel 4 last month and the new BBC1 show Born To Win.

All of which beg the question "What's next?". Stand-up comedy? Kid's TV presenting? Where will it all end, if indeed it will at all?

So, my question to you is this: If you could commission a Fame Academy-type show, what career area would it cover? What would you call it? What would the prize at the end be? How would the contestants be kicked out? The wackier the better as far as I'm concerned.


The following happened when we were in the New Forest.

L (doing crossword): "You're going to laugh at me for this."

Me: "Hmmm?"

L: "How do you spell illiterate?"

Me: *laughs*

L (pouting): "I told you you were going to laugh at me."

Me: *laughs harder and files away for later blog-use*