What is Magilton putting in their half-time cuppa?

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It’s extraordinary enough that we’ve scored two goals or more in each of the last six games, but even more so that Currie’s free kick on Saturday was our first goal in the first half since the opening day of the season. I was quite aware of how rarely we score in the first half at home, because all the blummin’ goals there seem to hit the net in front of the North Stand, but I’ve only just realised our first half goal drought extended to away games too.

This season, time of Ipswich goals (league):

01-15 mins: 0
16-30 mins: 1
31-45 mins: 1
FIRST HALF TOTAL: 2
46-60 mins: 2
61-75 mins: 5
76-90 mins: 5
SECOND HALF TOTAL: 12

(…that’s 10 goals out of 14 in the last half hour, and I haven’t included the Peterborough game, where we didn’t start scoring until the 90th minute, f’rgoodnessake)

A statistical freak? Or a direct result of the way the team’s playing? Or just something to do with Billy Clarke?

We have to hear that question from them, now

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Rarely has a movie had as strong an impact on me as An Inconvenient Truth. Rarely have I seen a movie get as many good reviews as this one. All the more remarkable then that it’s just a relatively low-budget film of a guy giving a lecture.

I don’t want to focus on the climate change message of the movie though. I want to comment on Al Gore’s optimism in the face of the evidence he presents. This truly is a man who comes over as a glass-half-full kinda guy. I brought away two revelations from the film: firstly, that whilst the economic system that created climate change might be flawed, and perhaps the corporations which support that system, the people who work for those corporations aren’t evil. He quotes Upton Sinclair (although I thought he said Mark Twain): “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.

Secondly, he says there is no point in going “straight from denial to despair without pausing on the intermediate step of actually doing something about the problem”. And he’s right. He says: “Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves. “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now.

The film is, of course, totally one-sided. But it has a right to be. I’ve searched around the internet looking for a seriously constructive poor review of the film, but nearly every criticism I can find is little more than kneejerk ranting from those opposed to Gore’s party in his political career. I still feel uncomfortable with the fact that an environmental activist held the No.2 position in the US Government for eight years and yet the country is still way ahead of anyone else in killing off the planet, but my American friends patiently explain that it takes more than one man to move political sentiment in the USA. You certainly get the impression from the film that Gore has exhausted that avenue and is now trying another way to get his message across.

Like many people, if I had the money, I’d buy the DVD of this and post it through every letterbox in the world. In the meantime, there’s a full transcript here.

Don’t take Google for granted.

Whilst Google is not my favourite search engine at the moment, having applied an arbitrary penalty to my business web sites this summer, I’ll forgive the folks there for today at least. I do enjoy it when summary justice is delivered to people who just want to punch a gift horse in the face. I get very irritated by people who consider it a right to be given masses of traffic or masses of AdSense revenue by Google, completely free of charge. If that free gift then gets withdrawn, they start talking about legal action, or “fighting back” against Google (ha ha). Get over it. Almost by definition, free gifts are privileges, not rights.

Whilst I’m at it, anyone who gets straight on the phone to lawyers in business, rather than trying to resolve their differences the human way, should also get all the misfortune which the gods of a more civilised society can muster. Few things in my working life have given me more pleasure than exploiting my own position to cause what little hurt I can – for years after the event – to the handful of companies who’ve ever waved their lawyers’ names in my direction.

Anyway, what this is all leading towards is the extremely amusing news this morning concerning Belgium taking on the modern world, and losing. A newspaper association in Belgium objected to Google featuring its publications in Google News results and storing the pages; never mind the free traffic which the search engine consequently sent the newspapers’ web sites. Do I detect the hand of management which doesn’t quite “get it” here? They actually got a court order requiring Google to stop featuring the newspapers or be fined large amounts of money. So Google has – brilliantly – done just that. Not only has it removed the newspapers from Google News (which is what this was all about), but it’s taken them out of the index completely. This will presumably decimate their web site traffic, and I can only imagine the reaction from the people who really matter in newspapers: the commercial department and the advertisers.

Good write-up here.

MisGuided Bus: a sad day for democracy

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The commencement of buying up of land between Cambridge and St.Ives for the ridiculous “Guided Bus” scheme has brought home the fact that, incredibly, this absurd creation really is going ahead. Powered by the unstoppable combination of governmental ignorance and county councillors’ vanity, the “misGuided Bus” is set to plonk the most enormous concrete white elephant on our county, and cause irreparable damage to our local transport infrastructure at the same time.

The most progressive way of taking traffic off the A14 would have been to have rebuilt the railway line to Huntingdon and connect it up fully to the East Coast Main Line there. But proponents of that option didn’t dare campaign for such a scheme, because the estimated £100million cost would never have stood a chance of being approved. Instead, rail enthusiasts devised a commendable community-operated scheme which would cost less than half of that, but which would terminate at St.Ives for now. This sensible plan was felt to be far more likely to get governmental approval.

But up against this came the bizarre idea of a “Guided Bus” running on a concrete road over the old railway track – a technology dismissed by its creator as inappropriate for the area, and which would achieve nothing other than taking a few buses off the A14 – big deal. Somehow, the idea gathered momentum – a councillor became enthusiastic about it (you have to ask questions why) and then became defensive when it was criticised – always a dangerous thing. After that, possibly for no better reason than “avoiding loss of face”, the plan began to be promoted aggressively at county council level, and astonishingly, it became a genuine possibility.

Hang on, said the rail enthusiasts, this technically and strategically daft scheme will cost over £100million, but would achieve less than the community rail link. And if that sort of money really was available, we could have the proper, joined-up rail alternative after all, which would actually get freight off the roads too. But the councillors, their taxpayer-funded consultants and other vested interests insisted the misGuided bus would cost half of this amount, and pushed it through a mysterious public enquiry where the results were “accidentally deleted” at the last moment and had to be rewritten.

Guess what? The current estimated cost of the Cambridge Guided Bus is now £116million and work hasn’t even begun. All this to give buses their own road from St Ives to Cambridge, after which they get stuck in Cambridge traffic as normal, and then apparently out to Trumpington. Of course, businesspeople working on the Science Park are going to flock to leave their cars at home and jump on a bus just because it’s got a road of its own, aren’t they? A quick back-of-a-fag-packet calculation suggests that if the Guided Bus carried 50 people in and out of Cambridge every 10 minutes (yeah, right), for 15 hours a day, 365 days a year, (I know, I know), it would carry 16 million people in ten years. Yes folks, that a cost to the taxpayer of seven pounds a journey.

There is so much talent and knowledge amongst the public in this country, and yet we leave the decisions to enthusiastic amateurs more concerned with their own self-image in the community. Yes, I know it’s called local democracy. But while the party-based system and public inertia makes local democracy not worth participating in, local democracy does not serve us well, my friends.

43 inches – I think I got away with it

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As promised, a review of my new AV setup. Well, partially new. I decided to retain the old Denon DVD Receiver just as a DVD player for now, and there certainly isn’t any point in updating the indestructible Panasonic VCR. But I wanted a new screen, an internet source, and (after much nagging from Mrs R, once she’d seen what was available) a speaker set which didn’t involve five boxes and a lot of cable.

For the screen, the forums told me that I could probably get away with something as large as a 43-inch, but that anything larger in a room four or five metres across would run the risk of being too large (in that you’d start to see the imperfections in the picture). When I started to do the research, the same product came up again and again and again: the Pioneer PDP-436, and in particular, the Pioneer PDP-436XDE version. It had everything: top performance, the ability to have it without useless speakers spoiling its lines, and a separate control box, reducing the cabling which would have to go to the screen.

In review, I’d say the screen totally lives up to its billing. It took a bit of setting up, and I was totally indebted to the fantastic Pioneer PDP Plasma Frequently Asked Questions at AVforums thread, contributors to which I will gladly buy a beer anytime. From there I learned of the importance of running it in (not mentioned by the manufacturer or the dealer), and the compatibility problems with the Sky HD box (only since acknowledged by Pioneer, and apparently unknown to the dealer at the time). All problems were solved, and after mounting the panel at the correct height (eye level when you’re sitting down, people!), it has a resounding wow factor. We got the electrician to put a power socket on the wall behind the screen, leaving just a single HDMI cable to bury in the plasterboard. Look Mum, no wires!

As mentioned earlier, the new AV setup meant that it was out with my treasured Mission 5-speaker system, and in with a more suitable “one box” alternative: the Yamaha YSP-1000. I needed some convincing, even after reading the reviews, but it didn’t take long to realise that this is the way ahead. The technology involved in simulating rear speakers is fascinating (it was developed here in Cambridge!) and more to the point, it works. People turn to face the rear wall and look puzzled: just where are those hidden speakers? You don’t get a better sound from the one box than you would from a 5-speaker system, but you do get a level of neatness which I’d never have expected to see – very important in a domestic environment!

Two more items to mention: I added a Mac Mini to give us internet access. It’s rather cool to have DVD on input 1, Sky TV on input 2, VCR on input 3, and the internet on input 4. It’s probably been more of a talking point than any other part of the system really, and I’ll do a separate blog entry about this. Finally, I managed to keep the enthusiasm going for one last piece of research: a universal remote control. I’ve not always been sold on these, because you end up pressing so many buttons changing them from acting as one remote control to another, it’s easier to use the pile of dedicated devices. But the Logitech Harmony 880 takes a different approach, where you set soft buttons to represent “activities”, such as “turn the TV on” …which would turn on the screen, the speaker/amp and the Sky box all in one. It isn’t perfect, but you can gradually tweak the settings, and after a few iterations I’m nearly there. It’s definitely an improvement on several remote controls, although not perfect.

And Mrs R did make a contribution to the system, to ensure it wasn’t an all-boys’ affair: the rather nice black acrylic unit, which came from John Lewis. Perfect in every way, I’d say. Typical.