Archive for July, 2004

Answering the call

Monday, July 19th, 2004

With a highly capable team at work and the family vacation looming, I have decided that, for the first time in years, the company cellphone will be ceremoniously switched off and slung in a drawer for the duration of the holiday. Along with the family, I am looking forward to lazy days paddling on the beach, long pub lunches, gentle walks in shady valleys and all things stress-free and bucolic whilst staying near friends in Cornwall. However, as a fully paid up geek, blogger and all round connected bloke, the thought of surviving two weeks without a phone, let alone internet access with my T3 via Bluetooth and GPRS, was really too much to contemplate. There is always the option of borrowing one of the three Virgin Sendos that keep SWMBO and the sprogs connected for the odd call but, as they entry level models, I’d be lost for any sort of data connectivity, let alone Bluetooth so it is a bit of a non-starter. When I factored in the realisation that I hadn’t bought a geek toy for over six months, there was only really one course of action left open to me…

Well, after what has been a fairly difficult month for various reasons, I thought a small spot of retail therapy was in order. All things being equal and given a fair wind, the courier should have my new Sony Ericsson T610 to me by close of play tomorrow. The six-ten comes highly recommended by my good friend and fellow blogger, Roger, which is doubly comforting as he also use his 610 with a T3 so I need not worry about compatibility issues between the two units. Having arranged delivery to my office, I then remembered that I shall be ‘on location’ tomorrow at London’s Heathrow Airport, overseeing the filming of a corporate training video. So, hopefully, it will be in the safe hands of Hamish, the security officer, by the time I’ve finished. – unless he’s faked my signature and eBay’d it by then.


Saturday, July 17th, 2004

“Hindus who would normally burn the bodies of their dead relatives have buried them tonight. Some parents are saying that cannot bear to put these burnt bodies into fire again.”

As a parent, I cannot begin to conceive of the pain, distress, anger and utter dispair that will inhabit every breath and heartbeat of those who have lost their children in the Indian school fire. Having read the accounts in today’s news, I find it hard to shake the eyewitness testimony.

“Parents are looking at their dead children. It is heart-rending. Thousands have gathered here … it is a grave tragedy.”

“Parents were crying, beating their chests and calling out for their children,”

“Parents are wailing as they try to identify their children’s bodies”

“The parents are rushing through the last rites as they cannot bear to look at the charred bodies any more.”

Periodically, I make my kids run through fire and escape drills in our house and I encourage you to do the same – can they (or you for that matter) find the keys for the back door or slip the anti-burglar latch on the doubleglazed windows with their eyes shut? You’d be surprised how unfriendly your home is when you’re robbed of sight and a fire alarm is screeching in your ear. This may strike you as bordering on the obsessive so I should explain why I do this. Some years ago, I spent two days with Hampshire Fire and Rescue training as a fire and rescue marshal. On the second day, after much fire hosing, extinguishing and coaching on escape techniques, we were given firefighter’s tunics and taken to a room in the middle of the top floor ‘flat’ of the training tower below.

Once there, we were left on our own. Over the next few minutes, the temperature was raised to close to unbearable (imagine extremely hot sauna and then some), artificial smoke swept through the rooms as sorched air was pumped through the tower…and then the lights went out. The subsequent minutes, when I and a couple of colleagues tried, and barely succeeded, to find our way out of the ‘flat’ and down to safety, made a significant impression on me. Despite knowing that I was on a training exercise overseen by some of the best firefighters in the world, I was extremely frightened, convinced the exercise had gone wrong and the fire was real, such was the impact of the noise and heat upon my senses . Controlling the urge to panic and instead focus on systematically shuffling and searching until finding the exit was amongst the hardest things I have ever done. It is for this reason that tonight, whilst making sure the keys are in the same agreed spot and the smoke alarms are working, I will have a good thought for the lost children and bereaved parents and relatives of Kumbakonam.

New full fat Blogger

Saturday, July 17th, 2004

Blogger has introduced a WYSI-M-WYG or “What You See Is Mostly What You Get option. This means that you can now embolden, italicise, do a whole range of colours, create

  • unordered
  • bullet

or, if you prefer,

  1. numbered
  2. bullet
  3. lists

not to mention add


format text in fonts like Lucida, Trebucet, Times, Verdana and Georgia in sizes ranging from tiny to huge, all without a scrap of HTML or CSS knowledge.

For those like me who are set in their ways and are used to or prefer to hardcode their posts, the Edit HTML function remains. A lifesaver for such folks is that regardless of whether you hardcode or use the WYSI-M-WYG compose feature, Blogger remembers which interface you last used – or so it seems from my tests so far in Firefox. This is just as well, as the comments here would seem to indicate that there are a few compatibility issues to be ironed out. Another heads-up for Firefox users is that there is a known bug that causes the ‘Publish’ progress page to display 0% even when your post has successfully uploaded though I have found that judicious cache clearing helps. Another issue apears to be a clash between the two options where one knocks out the text wrapping set by the other, which requires manual intervention to correct.

All Hail!

Saturday, July 17th, 2004

London, or this part of London at least, has just had a sudden and fairly impressive hailstorm. Big ploppy rain turned to marble-sized hail and for a full 5 minutes, it hailed with varying intensity. Ever concerned for the livestock and crops – OK, the rabbits, guinea pigs, tomatoes and chili plants – I bravely sheltered in the bedroom and took pictures.

Sprog Two, without a thought for her own safety, dashed outside and retrieved one of the icy meteorites for further analysis.

Must stop there as I’m off to panic-buy gluten-free penne and balsamic vinegar at Asda in case Monday proves to be The Day After Tomorrow, if you know what I mean.

Caption fatique

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

According to the caption above from this BBC story, the gentleman above is not a millionnaire actor and right wing politician but is, in fact, Alyn Hockey who is the technical director of Clearswift, the company behind MIMESweeper. A case of separated at birth perhaps?

Tipping the scales

Tuesday, July 13th, 2004

Can someone out there, who has read the whole of this news report please explain to me how the sentence represents justice in any way, shape or form and how, in the light of that sentence, one is to maintain any faith in the judiciary whatsoever?

Respect to Mr. Naga

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

We have good friends heading over for a meal tonight, so I decided to prepapre the majority of a select handful of our favourite Indian dishes early. With this cunning plan, I can concentrate on the talking and drinking this evening rather than slaving away in the kitchen. Assembling the ingredients for roti, prawn puri, chicken hariyali, masala khumbi and Afghan chilau, I discovered that I had run out of my usual red chili paste. A quick dash across the road to my local Bengali soon solved this problem and I returned with a large bunch of fresh coriander, a bag of fiercesome green Asian chilis and a small jar of red chili paste. I must admit that 99.8% of my buying decision was down to the simple Anglo-Bengali label which simply proclaims: Very Hot with no fuss or exclamation marks.

Having dipped a finger to have a good taste during cooking, I can verify that, in a similar fashion to a certain brand of woodcare products, Mr Naga’s paste is exactly what it says on the tin…and how. Very rich and very hot. If you are partial to cooking food from the Indian subcontinent[1] or simply a chilihead, it is well worth seeking out. If you are unable to track it down, fear not because it can be bought online here.

[1] If you are and you haven’t stumbled across the UFDI newsgroup yet, I can thoroughly recommend the group as a great resource and forum for all things related to food from the Indian subcontinent and Indian restaurant cooking.


Saturday, July 10th, 2004

Those with long memories will recall that I trialled and raved about Oddpost’s innovative webbased email client back in September last year. Although I later dropped it due to the fact that it was incompatible with Firefox (it requires IE to function), I liked the functionality and wrote to the developers encoraging them to take the idea to a wider audience. Well, it seems that Oddpost are doing just that, though not quite in the manner I had anticipated because they have just been acquired by Yahoo! and seem delirious with the union. Given that Yahoo! have just revamped their mail service in recent weeks, one wonders how long it will take for the Oddpost innovations to see daylight again.

(Unsound) mind maps

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

As someone who is interested in personal productivity methods and techniques, my eye was caught by the picture of a ‘mind map’ type image whilst surfing local news stories this morning. It would seem that ‘Britain’s worst stalker’, who has just been jailed for his crimes, used a rudimentary mind map to plan his campaign against the ‘Fascist Horde’, those legal and halthcare professionals he imagined were plotting against him. I can’t help wondering what Tony Buzan would make of it. Whilst one accepts that the Buzan Centre‘s assertion that mindmapping will help ‘unleash the remaining 99% of your brain’ is, to some extent, marketing hyperbole, the possibilities of those with sociapathic or stalking tendencies using such techniques to further their own ends will not offer much comfort to the subjects of their obsessions. Move over Minette Waters and Ian Rankin, I feel a novel coming on…

Smart quotes from a messy desk

Friday, July 9th, 2004

Fellow productivity practitioner and blogger Ian has collected together a select clutch of quotations concerning procrastination. You could go over there now…or you could maybe do it tomorrow.