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2005 Notebook

From the late 90s I blogged frequently with various random observations and things I wanted to record. Pre-2003 material seems to have been lost on various early web platforms, and this sort of stuff went over to Twitter eventually, but I’ve gathered together the shorter WordPress blog posts in these annual roundups…


I love clever mathematical tricks…

Saturday 15 January 2005

…and this is a lovely implementation of one. Top marks, that man.

Good work, Sky One

Monday 24 January 2005

Having just watched the concluding episode of the first series of the Battlestar Galactica remake, I went on to the net to find out if and when the second series was coming. I assumed (as you would) that the Americans had seen the first series months ago, and if there was a second series, it might have already started there. That’s what we’re used to, after all. Wronggggg. Amazingly, it’s only just started there, as this report discusses. Yes, folks, somehow Sky One got the series weeks ahead of the USA. Astonishing. So for once, I couldn’t find out if a series is worth sticking with by reading the opinions of those who’ve seen it through in its entirety. I had to stick it out myself. And the good news is, that proved to be no hardship at all: Battlestar Galactica has been absolutely superb. Technically interesting, good characters and a gripping, if slow, storyline. Whether or not we get the second series first, I just hope there is one, if only because of the number of parallel cliffhangers we’ve been left with. There won’t be a better sci-fi series on in 2005.

With Rupe on My Side

Saturday 26 February 2005

Looks like the Lynne Truss Backlash is well under way, brought to you courtesy of Sky Sports (and the landlord of The Rock, Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, who must have thought when the banner arrived that at least it would be a talking point).

I’ve just been told who to vote for, on the web…

Friday 15 April 2005

Your expected outcome: Labour

Wrong! Your actual outcome:
You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Well I’m not exactly skinny but…

Tuesday 31 May 2005

…I thought I’d better put out an update following the entry 3 months ago admitting that I was joining the “Fit Camp” at the health club. It’s gone brilliantly! Started Fit Camp at 14st 11lbs, ended it six weeks later at 14st 4lbs. Also lost 2.1in from my waist! Six weeks further on still, and naturally, although I haven’t kept up the exercise or diet regimes quite to Fit Camp standard, things have improved significantly on both fronts and another 4lbs has gone. Check back to see if I can hit my target of 14 more lbs over the next seven months.

AutoCAD 2006 software review published

Sunday 5 June 2005

Colin Mathews has been hard at it, and here’s another good piece from him: an Autocad 2006 review which should prove popular.

Pneumatic grippers

Tuesday 7 June 2005

Not the most gripping of subjects, admittedly, but I’m just making this reference to pneumatic grippers from Bosch Rexroth as a bit of an experiment. These things are important, you know.

Woo. Cambridge Folk Festival is back.

Thursday 28 July 2005

I do love the Cambridge Folk Festival, and we’re set for another great weekend here. Looking forward to The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Mavis Staples, Kate Rusby, Idlewild, KT Tunstall, Hayseed Dixie and the Peatbog Faeries.

The Girl Who Couldn’t Do Any Wrong

Monday 1 August 2005

Yep, it was another cracking Cambridge Folk Festival. There can’t be a better music festival in the UK, can there? Everyone seems to have such a good time, there’s no trouble, and the atmosphere simply couldn’t be any more relaxed. So, what were the highlights? Kate Rusby was as adorable as ever, and launched her new albumThe Girl Who Couldn’t Fly a month ahead of it being in the shops. Needless to say, plenty of us (several hundred, in fact) were besotted enough to queue up for over an hour to get their CDs signed:

Also memorable from the weekend, for me anyway, were KT Tunstall, who justifies the hype, and Idlewild, who played a low-key, small-stage “acoustic” set, very different from their performance supporting REM which I caught a couple of weeks back. The Peatbog Faeries were fantastic too. I didn’t like everyone (Jimmy Webb was hard work, and Martha Wainwright didn’t live up to the reviews), but that’s what festivals are all about. My only criticism this year was the number of bands only performing once over the weekend who were scheduled against each other (Proclaimers vs Peatbog Faeries, Christy Moore vs Idlewild, etc). Better planning next time please.

Less than 24 hours after the event, and the fences are already down, the concession stands have gone, and as I look out of my bedroom window, our park is well on the way to being back to normal. Roll on next year!

One more ticked off on life’s checklist

Saturday 6 August 2005

What is it about supporting a football team which suspends all rationality and common sense? The company I work for, with my encouragement and the support of fellow directors, is “sponsoring the kit” of Ipswich Town’s reserve goalie this season. Why? Because it’s a great bit of publicity? Hardly. It just gives us an absurd thrill to see something of ours in the team’s match programme each week. I’ve always looked at that page and thought: “who are these people who spend all that money?” But I’ve also always secretly harboured a desire for it to be me one day. Now it is.

Ipswich Town 1 Cardiff City 0

Sunday 7 August 2005

A very satisfying start to the season, given the way that most teams (especially Ipswich) often look so disjointed at this stage. Cardiff will punch above their weight this season, with a decent manager and a lot of experienced players, and we can probably count ourselves fortunate to have got them right at the beginning while they’re still getting sorted. They were a solid opposition, and it was a good win. Full Ipswich v Cardiff report…

Robin Cook

Monday 8 August 2005

Why is it always the good guys?

Mo Mowlam

Friday 19 August 2005

This is getting depressing. Look, if someone has to go, why can’t it be one of the bad guys?

Google Talk IM is here

Wednesday 24 August 2005

Woo! Google’s instant messaging system seems to be here. And it works with other clients including, and most excitingly, iChat on the Mac. Now off to test!

A night of shining torches

Friday 16 September 2005


The event was a true one-off. None of us had ever done anything like this before, and I doubt we’ll ever get the opportunity again. As darkness descended, the walkers gathered and were issued with “head torches”, one of a number of initiatives contributing to the project’s aim of creating an environmental event with the minimum impact on the area. Incredibly, the whole installation, with its sound systems and lighting for the whole hillside, ran off “the equivalent of four 13A power supplies”. The path to the top varied from about 2m wide to less than a metre, so it was single-file for most of the way, and that led to one of the most impressive sights, the trail of lights weaving their way up the hillside. The Pro-Talk team were lucky enough to be right at the back (although that meant the front coming down!) and got a great view of the procession. The ascent, we were told, would be leisurely, but would take about an hour, which made it about the equivalent of walking up a shallow flight of stairs for that whole time. It was not, therefore, for the faint-hearted! The first half wound its way through fairly dense trees, and in these, the artists/designers had installed subtle lighting and eerie sound-effects. Occasionally you’d hear the words of Skye poet Sorley MacLean being read from an indeterminate distance, and you could glimpse shadows of indeterminate creatures in the trees. Fascinating, but you wouldn’t have wanted to have been there on your own! Halfway up, the path went on to open, exposed hillside, and it was a little further on that the organisers offered a get-out option to those who really didn’t think they could make it up the final part of the ascent. Jackie and Laura took this opportunity! Tony and I, however, struggled to the top (well, it wouldn’t have done for the boys to have lost face, would it?) and there, at the base of the Old Man itself, there was an ethereal lightshow, accompanied by a strange recitation – in German – through a hidden but substantial sound system. In the distance, there seemed to be a dancer, or was it a mime? Difficult to tell, but that was the whole point. Pretentious? Probably. Memorable? Certainly. After ten minutes (or was it forty? Hard to tell) the guides led the participants back down the hillside. Anyone who’s ever walked in mountains knows it’s harder coming down, but the path down was also a lot steeper (and slipperier!) than the one up. At one point the guide said: “Don’t worry, this is the steepest part here”, to which Tony said: “Oh good, I thought for a moment it was going to be the fourth steepest!” In places the path was quite narrow, and there was a fair drop to one side, so it was probably lucky that we could see only as far as the head torches would allow, and not how far down the drop was. Then we stopped on a small natural platform, and in the distance, spookily lit from behind, was an unaccompanied singer performing Gaelic folk songs. On a silent night, with just the breeze, it was enchanting. By the time we all reassembled in the car park, it was heading towards 3am, and Jackie had the unenviable task of driving us all home for two hours on winding highland roads. That she stayed awake and drove so safely was probably the most amazing feat of the evening, we all agreed when we met up the next day. Much later the next day, that is.

Oneforall remote control and Sky+

Sunday 16 October 2005

This is more of a public service announcement than anything of wider interest! But sometimes when you solve a problem, you want to put the answer on the web so others in the same situation can benefit. So, if you’ve got a Oneforall (One For All) remote control, like I just bought, and you want it to work with a Sky+ (Sky Plus) box (the original 40Gb one, anyway), the code is 1175. I repeat (for the benefit of a good Google search result): oneforall sky+ box code = 1175. We’ll be right back after the break.

Explorer Destroyer – Switch to Firefox, Make money from Adsense

Thursday 10 November 2005

You already want people to switch to Firefox. Now’s the time to get serious about it. Google is paying $1 for each new Firefox user you refer.
This is pretty amazing. Now you can advance your ideals, save people from popups and spyware hell, and make some serious money. Millions of people have heard about Firefox and are ready to switch – all they need is a friendly push.

George Bush Speech cut up

Monday 14 November 2005

I was talking to someone the other day about the famous “Bushwacked” cut up George Bush speeches, and they asked for a link, so as a public service, here it is. I think they were produced by Chris Morris.

Onsite Advertiser Sign-up: P45s for the Ad Sales team?

Sunday 20 November 2005

I’ve read loads of reports about the new Google Onsite Advertiser Sign-up facility and seen one semi-decent discussion of it, but nobody quite seems to have got it yet. Advertisers can now choose a site and say to Google: “manage my ads on this site please – I’m not going to book direct any longer.”
For the past couple of years, I’ve been saying that whilst AdWords has made Google one of the largest advertising mediums in the world, the most significant thing about AdSense is that it’s making Google the largest media buyer in the world. Several more pieces are needed along the way for this to fully happen, but with the introduction of image ads (giving the advertiser more choice) and now Onsite Advertiser Sign-up, we’re getting there. Think about it: you can now put the ad you design on the site you want it to be on, via Google. Job done. Google takes a commission (from the publisher, just like with conventional media buying), and Google provides all the feedback and stats (just like a conventional media buyer would if they were any good).

But how will this affect publishers? Let’s look at it from the advertiser’s point of view. Supposing you’ve traditionally booked your ads direct on your chosen site with that site’s local ad sales rep. Chances are, the site won’t be offering nearly as sophisticated a reporting service as Google, never mind a trustworthy pay-per-click service (if that’s what you want, and I suspect most B2B advertisers do). So quite frankly, why not book with Google now, rather than the site’s local ad rep? If this starts to happen in a major way, it can only erode further the cost-effectiveness of having ad sales people out in the wild.

Sure, publishers don’t have to allow “Onsite Advertiser Sign-up”, i.e the facility for advertisers to book through Google instead of directly. But they may have to if the advertisers demand it.

Best CDs of 2005 – a definitive list

Monday 21 November 2005

Yeah, OK, maybe not that definitive, I reserve the right to amend this when people remind me of something obvious which I’ve forgotten. But at the moment it’s definitely, definitely this:

1. Achtung Bono by Half Man Half Biscuit

2. Takk by Sigur Ros

3. Aerial by Kate Bush

4. The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly by Kate Rusby

5. Tales from Turnpike House by St.Etienne

6. You Could Have It So Much Better by Franz Ferdinand

7. Confessions On A Dance Floor by Madonna

8. Eye to the Telescope by KT Tunstall

9. Warnings/Promises by Idlewild

10. Light and Shade by Mike Oldfield

Honourable mention, although it’s just a bit too silly for inclusion, to Rock Swings by Paul Anka.

And I don’t include compilations or live albums, but in the latter category, best efforts by far were Live at Earls Court by Morrissey and Minimum-Maximum by Kraftwerk.

So there.

It started off as a match report…

Wednesday 23 November 2005

…but ended up as a rant. Sorry Joe, but it was one of those teamsheets which would have caused 20,000 people to have been gleefully emptying their wallets if Ladbrokes had been offering odds on “this is going to be a disaster”.

In-car iPod – let’s do one properly!

Sunday 27 November 2005

Why is it everyone seems to think that to play our iPods in the car we want some stupid bit of plastic on a stalk, with wires going in to the back of the existing hi-fi, all at great installation expense? What we want is an in-car hi-fi which you can slam the iPod into, just like a cassette (or an oldschooltastic 8-track). Why does nobody make one? Yes, something like this:

in-car-iPod-8-track-cassette-style

Or perhaps someone does make one. If so, let me know!

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