Archive for December, 2004

A Christmas present for readers, old and new alike

Friday, December 24th, 2004

Tree  Happy Christmas  Tree

In lieu of another pair of ill-fitting socks, an overpriced bottle of that perfume you really don’t like or a wholly inappropriate Karma Sutra desk calendar, I offer instead a small wander through the last twelve months of bignoseduglyguy by way of a seasonal gift to each and everyone.


Dear Reader:apologies for the lack of content. I arrived home after a marathon 36 hours of on call activities to the smell of fired PSU and a dead PC. A new power unit is ordered and will hopefully wing its way here a.s.a.p. but until then minimal posts, I’m afraid.


A new year, a new PC, itself replaced shortly after when the sub woofer died.


A social wh-url: SWMBO threw a surprise party for me last night. So what? Well, she also threw a surprise party for me a year ago, her thinking being that, as I was turning 39 then and not 40, I’d never suspect that she would throw a surprise party like I would if it was my 40th. Which she just did and I didn’t so it was a very successful double bluff – or something. Last year, I was tricked because I was told we were off out for a curry at Zeera after a quick drink with friends. This turned out to be a gathering of a few score of friends, colleagues and acquaintances that had been in on the joke. I eventually had that curry one month later.


As well as turning 40, I blogged spousal disagreements, nearly ‘buying the farm’ and weird waiters.


Big Shop Of Horrors:  I have just returned from a DVD rental foray at our local supermarket and I am now more convinced than ever that supermarket entrances are specifically designed to be the human equivalent of fish traps. I am sure these are designed by sadistic sociopathic architects who just scraped a 2nd at uni, shouldn’t be allowed to do anything but window details for ‘executive-style’ Barratt Homes and yet still believe they will be the next Le Corbusier or Richard Rogers.  First of all, the trolley park is about 20 feet from the main doors, which means that folks returning trolleys collide with folks taking trolleys creating a tense, edgy Disney On Ice like vortex from which it is hard to break free.


Retail nightmares aside, my employers gave me a ‘dark side’ phone (above) and I found £20 and bought the kids a Vietnamese meal.


Nostalgic pang of the geek kindIt was on a trip to the aforementioned toilets that I caught a glimpse of a solitary middle-aged chap seemingly slumped in the driving seat of his bland but tax-efficient four door company saloon. Adjusting my course, I moved closer in case he needed help then had second thoughts as I could tell that his hands were busy manipulating something out of sight. By now I was almost upon the car and could hardly bring myself to sneak a sideways glance but when I did, all became clear and I went on my way smiling…


Added to which, not one but two recipes and a piece on irritating phrases.


Hitting the roadAs hinted at in a post or two over the last few weeks, I have recently taken up running again – seriously, this time. I say running to accentuate the difference between what I am trying to do now and activities like jogging, wheezing, staggering and sweating, all of which I have periodically indulged in individually and collectively over the years. The cynics around me (and out there, no doubt) maintain that this is all part of a mid-life crisis that, having reached forty this year, I am now desperately trying to reclaim my youth and virility like a pale imitation of Lester Burnham.


Plus the first version of my ‘Getting Things Done with email’ article (above).


My Euro 2004 pundit: …my Euro 2004 pundit’s latest comment: “I will take this opportunity to say that Sven needs his bumps felt. He’s talking about starting with the same line-up for the match against Croatia. How many times do I have to say that Michael Owen couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.”


bignoseduglyguy moves back to Blogger, ‘milkies’ are commented upon and nationalism and flag waving are blogged.


Not the Tour de France: There were red faces at the offices of Cycling Plus magazine following a typo error in the May edition in an article outlining a cycle route: “There is the option to dismount, wank along the pavement and cross the main road at a safe point.” Cycling Plus claim the fault occurred at the printers and not with them.


Elsewhere, I bought a new phone which, when used as a modem, enabled me to post ‘Cornish Pastiche’, a four part holiday article from my Palm Tungsten T3 (plus two others in August), as an homage to Maconi’s pioneering work (at The Lizard, above).


Back to earth – with a bump: Upon arriving home, we were greeted by a pile of post [..] which [..] included not only the usual junk mail and detritus but also:

1. A credit card bill.
2. A London Congestion Charge Penalty fine.
3. A second London Congestion Charge Penalty fine.
4. Yet a third London Congestion Charge Penalty fine.
5. A Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty speed camera fine.
6. A letter from my employers concerning increased health care benefit costs.


I craved full fat US-style bar snacks, went to market (above), and waxed lyrical about running (whilst Kelly Holmes did the old onetwo).


Cherish what is important to you: In some way, the barely comprehensible enormity of the tragedy that has descended upon the community of Beslan in North Ossetia has served as a cathartic coda to what has been a difficult week. At the start of the week, I learned that my good friend and colleague Bert (below) is desperately and, it would seem, terminally ill.


A month of extremes – the death of a friend tempering the fun of meeting Shamshul’s friend, Mr Naga, getting to grips with an iPod & iTunes and joining Andy spitting in the eye of InterBrew


Home Truths & John Peel: “Before we start, I need to talk to you about David Essex and breasts…”  So began one of the many editions of Home Truths I have enjoyed over the last six or so years. Of all the mornings to sleep in and miss the show, today with it’s tribute to John Peel, was not the day to pick.


The much lamented passing of John Peel (above) was accompanied by the joy of a new toy, the frustration of a dead iPod and Hello Ian fun.


Dublin: “The public museums are closed on a Monday. All of Dublin’s museums are public. Except for the private ones. Which are often open on Mondays”…”On the left, you will see the main entrance of Dublin’s Trinity College, which was established under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth the Second. No, that’s not right, it wasn’t; it was Queen Elizabeth the First. Ah well, no matter, they were both from the same family.”…”Would those who have just boarded please stop talking? I am the only one who should be talking – otherwise, others cannot hear me!”


A short but expensive trip to Dublin preceded endless posts leading up to this piecethis piece and this piece of self-congratulation (above) – though I did raise a few quid for a good cause at the same time.


Whilst December has been lean in terms of posts, I would ask all who have read this far to go back to the 5th and take up my challenge to tax yourself so that others less fortunate might benefit from our good fortune during this festive season.  If you do not have a preferred charity or cause, click through to Charity Choice where you can search or browse for a recipient to suit your preference.

That said, I hope that the holidays are peaceful, restful and a happy time for all who click through here.

Freeware free-for-all

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Palm user?  Enjoy using freeware and supporting those who write it? Ever wondered if there are must-have applications that you somehow missed?  Fear not, for Jon Aquino has the answer.  Frustrated that don’t offer a ‘ranked’ view of the freeware they link to, he has extracted the data and posted the results on his Mental Garden site.  There are 1991 results (applications with atleast one user review) so Jon offers two flavours – either with (big) or without (less big) screenshots – both list the applications in order of popularity, with the ‘must haves‘ (Today v2.2) at the top and the ‘don’t bothers‘ (the fatally buggy? Nave’s Topical World English Bible v1.0) towards the bottom.

Festive Fleet Street Round Up

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004

In the grand tradition of digests everywhere, and with hours of free time in my hands, I have read the festive news stories so you don’t have to.  The following highlights should contain conversation starters/stoppers, thought-provoking insight and the odd smile.

Christmas Credentials: Is Xmas the same as Christmas?  Was it the invention of lazy shopkeepers and headline writers or the thrifty scribes of illuminated manuscripts?  Emma Griffith’s piece Why get cross about Xmas? over at BBC News explores the views and arguments surrounding the ‘X’ word.

Fall into winter: Martin Wainwright writes about yuletide accidents in The Guardian.  Over 6,000 people were taken to hospital in Britain on December 25 last year after stabbing themselves on pine needles and falling whilst hanging decorations.  Incredibly, in 2003, tinsel cuts and Christmas tree light trips accounted for some 350 emergency admissions.

All white on the night?:  Times Online journo Jenny Booth obviously drew the short straw in today’s editorial meeting, catching the inevitable ‘will it snow?’ assignment.  The answer for a large part of the UK seems to be a resounding yes, so much so that the bookies have shortened the odds to minimise potential payouts.

All wet on the night?: Strangely and almost predictably, amongst the inevitable titilation over at the Times downmarket stablemate The Sun, the travel section’s Lisa Minot predicts a mild, wet & snowless Christmas – before going on to promote snowy holidays in Scotland, Switzerland and Milton Keynes.  Yes, Milton Keynes – apparently, one of three ‘Christmas all year round’ venues with snowballs, tobogganing and skaiting facilities.

Elsewhere: The Independent profiles ‘bootiful’ Bernard Matthews, the UK’s very own turkey king and The Mail carries union warnings of mistletoe-inspired sexual harassment at office parties.  However, my own home town rag, the Hoddesdon & Broxbourne Mercury seem to have a little trouble finding anything other than police reports to fill their pages, as the rather scant and self-promotional ‘Top Toys For Christmas’ piece snapped below shows.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Strict Machine/Goldfrapp

Lyrically seeking

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

My waxing lyrical about lyrics the other evening prompted further and wider investigations, which lead me into unexpectedly interesting territory this morning.  Whilst searching for answers to a nagging question I have about one of Seal’s tracks – more of which later – I blundered into Paolo Di Nicolantonio’s web site.

SynthMania is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of delights for the those whose anoraks hide tee-shirts bearing the logos of Roland and Moog, namely lovers of all ‘synthesizers, keyboards, pianos, organs, drum-machines and electronic sound-making devices’.  Whilst some of the esoterica on the site is a little too esoteric for me, I did spend way too much time nodding and smiling my way through the mp3 sample in the ‘Famous Sounds’ section.  Paolo has collected together a bunch of sounds that many will recognise but few will know from whence they came.  From the synth loop behind The Prodigy’s Charlie to the Roland D-50 Pizzagogo preset used by Enya for the interminable Orinoco Flow, they’re all here.  How many funkmaster wannabes have used the Funky Drummer loop to fill out their sound or the analog synth brass hook that has all air-keyboard players jamming along with Eddie Van Halen’s Jump.  The cheery on the cake for me is that even a synth devotee like Paolo knows that you can have too much of a good thing, as evidenced by his Overused but Not Cool Award, which he gifts to Stuttering Sampled Vocals such as those used in Paul Hardcastle’s dire N-n-n-nineteen.

All of this diverted me from trying to find an answer to one of those irrelevant but infuriating questions that pop into my head from time to time. Whilst listening to music the other night, iTunes shuffle feature threw up Seal‘s Voilet, a broad and atmospheric piece that tantilises the listener with what seem to be snippets of film dialogue set against a background of rain falling on cobbles.  I have always wondered which film/s the dialogue comes from or whether indeed it is simply fabricated for the track but recalled listening to an interview with Seal (which, in my memory, was whilst in a fast food place in Canterbury) where he stated that he didn’t publish his lyrics, preferring to allow the listener to interpret them as they choose to. Searching for simple snippets of this dialogue like “Why should they come? They were supposed to die back there” or “Don’t be too fond of Christians” simply links back to the many lyric archives out on the web.  That said, one hit linked to a discography that mentions certain releases of the eponymous album don’t have these background voices but sadly gives no indication of what was used or why?  If anyone reading this knows more, I’d be interested to hear from them.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Climbing Up The Walls (Zero 7 Mix)/Radiohead

Carols By Candlelight

Monday, December 20th, 2004

I went to a Christmas carol service last night for the first time in years.  Like many others I suspect, I enjoy belting out the odd carol despite being a card-carrying atheist.  After meeting a few like-minded folks from Tower Hamlets Wheelers at Mile End’s Green Bridge, we headed south towards the Isle Of Dogs.  We zigzagged around the island on a quick tour of the gloriously over-the-top Christmas light displays put up by some of the local residents before looping back north to St Anne’s Church in Limehouse.

Having ascertained that we could park our bikes at the rear of the church, we entered and were greeted by the amazing sight of the church and it’s enormous domed ceiling lit purely by candlelight.  In spite of the ongoing renovation work, the beauty of the building was clear to see and the flickering light of what must have been 300 candles only served to enhance the atmosphere.  The words to the carols had been ‘modernised’ so we found ourselves stumbling over ye/thee/you and my memory for melody let me down on a couple of occasions and I ended up singing something more akin to John Martyn’s superb ‘May You Never‘ than Hark The Heald Angels Sing.  Whilst an advanced party headed to the The Grapes in nearby Narrow Street, Gary and myself crept into the crypt and availed ourselves of the mince pies and mulled wine whilst chatting to a couple of the congregation who were cyclists.  Suitably restored, we pedalled round to The Grapes and spent a happy couple of hours supping ale and talking about everything from Peter Ackroyd books to industrial archeology.  A top night out in terrific company.

St Anne’s is one of the six churches built by Nicholas Hawksmoor in line with a 1711 Act Of Parliament providing money for the building of 50 new churches in London – the others are St Alfege’s Church, Greenwich; St George’s Bloomsbury; Christ Church, Spitalfields; St George in the East, Wapping and St Mary Woolnoth in the City Of London.  St Mary’s also has the rare distinction of having an Underground station directly beneath where the vaults used to be.

Lyrically speaking

Sunday, December 19th, 2004

One unexpected benefit of listening to my iPod via excellent Sony Fontopia earbuds is that allow me to hear lyrics better, regardless of the ambient noise.  As well as providing added insight on the teenage angst of Snow Patrol’s Spitting Games (as playing now), they have also led me to the laugh-out-loud fun of Busted’s lyrical wizardry.

Their ode to pubescent lust, Air Hostess is so priceless in it’s directness and cheese quotient, I am not entirely convinced that these loveable moppets aren’t actually serious about their ‘trolley dolly’ fantasies.  Whatever the intention, no-one can argue against what must rank as some of the best/worst rhyming couplets of the year:

I messed my pants,
When we flew over France,
Will I see you soon,
In my hotel room,
For a holiday romance?

I rest my case.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Spitting Games/Snow Patrol

And relax…

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

The laptop zipped up in it’s case.  The (damnable) Windows Mobile company cell phone is switched off and the battery detached.  The security swipe card, photo pass and office key are on the shelf.  The pre-dawn departures and post-sunset returns are finished for the year.  Yup, I am on annual leave until January 4th.

So far, I have celebrated with 12 hours of (almost, we do have kids after all) uninterrupted sleep followed by a lazy read of the newspaper.  Suitably prepared, I then took a trip with sprog No.3 to the pet shop for rabbit food and onto Argos for a new water-filtering kettle.  This last purchase was precipitated by the old kettle dying just hours after I had seen an advertisement for a filtering kettle.  Once cleaned and assembled, this little wonder has proven it self capable of turning our hard lime scale-ridden London water into stuff that makes a superb flavoursome cup of tea.  After enduring endless recitations of ‘Tomorrow’ by sprog No.2 and friend (auditioning for a show), endless tickling attacks by sprog No.1 and a nice snoozy cuddle with No.4, I staggered to my feet to assist SWMBO with the portage of shopping from car to kitchen.  Duty done, I have sought refuge from the fearsome five females in the spare room, busying myself with ripping MP3s from CDs to iTunes and chatting simultaneously with three friends on Trillian.  In no particular order, these were:

  1. PinkFairyCat, who also blogs to London.Metblogs.Com wanted to ensure that, as I’m not at work, I didn’t miss London Pillow Fight Club II as I had missed the last mobile clubbing event at Paddington.
  2. Jason, a longtime cyber friend and PDA addict, who pointed me towards the most excellent “Underwear Goes Inside The Pants” video by LazyBoyTV.  In return, I swung him by the morphed wonders of Korn’s video for their cover version of Cameo’s Word Up, which Jason mentioned when I told him I was ripping Gun‘s cover of the same song.
  3. Andy, a Michael Stipe look-alike dislocated North Of England football fan, who nows lives somewhere cold and snowy in the US.  After some idle banter about the ongoing boycott of InterBrew, how crappy American-imported Tetley’s teabags are and other important subjects, Andy buggered off to watch a UK football match that was being aired for free – a rare occurence in somewhere cold and snowy in the US.

Having just looked at the clock, it would seem that I have exactly 14 minutes to get ready for an evening out.  In a very rare clash of dates, we have been invited to two parties on the same night so, once the babysitter arrives, it’ll be canapes and vino with our friends to the west and beers and snacks with the friends to the east.  Make that 13 minutes.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Moonlight Sonata/Ludwig van Beethoven

Tax yourself this Christmas

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

That’s right, I’m challenging you to look at the little luxuries you have in your home in the run up to the holiday period, levy a self-imposed tax on your lifestyle and the gifts you receive and send the money to a worthy cause. I know this sounds mawkish and more than a little like a remake of A Christmas Carol but it’s hard to write about the desire to help others at Christmas without sounding like one’s preaching or narrating a Victorian melodrama.

Though I once nearly signed up to drive a truck to Split one Christmas during the so-called Balkan Crisis, I’ve never even managed to work in a soup kitchen on Christmas Day. However, we have always tried to make sure that our good fortune as a family is shared with others less fortunate and in a way that’s not self-serving. I would point out that, whilst SWMBO and the older sprogs are Christians, this has got nothing to do with religion, simply doing what is right and paying things forward. A few years back, we befriended and worked to assist a single parent from Uganda in her challenge to make the enormous adjustment to settling in the UK after her escape. We helped her set up home and, when Christmas Eve arrived, we visited her with a few things like decorations and presents to give to her children. Satisfied that we had done what we could without patronising or embarrassing our new friend, we spent a happy Christmas Day morning opening the presents we had received from each other. Answering a knock at the door, we found our Ugandan friend standing outside with a large package wrapped in second-hand wrapping paper. Refusing to come in, she offered the package with a few words then turned and left. We opened the package to find a ‘Welcome’ door mat, the cheap woven kind that one would find in every pound-shop up and down the country. Knowing her weekly income was less than we would spend on a family meal out and that the pound she had spent on the mat was no small percentage, I was lost for words and stood there quietly with a lump in my throat. I am under no illusions whatsoever as to who received the greater gift.

With this in mind and whilst catching up on my blog reading, I noticed that fellow blogger Ian has posted a couple of related links. The first is to a page by Elaine M. Gibson giving a few timely reminders on Keeping Christmas Simple and avoiding the pitfalls of festive overload. Another link took me to the Buy Nothing Christmas 04 web site. The ‘About’ pages states that “Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic “no” to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans.” Whilst I am neither a middle-class North American nor a Christian, I applaud the initiative to move the focus of the holiday away from spending and excess. I have taken the liberty of adapting the following from the site:

On each day of December leading up to Christmas, count the appropriate privilege as specified below and keep a running total. Once you have opened your last Christmas gift, calculate the total and send the money to a group that fights poverty or, if you prefer, your chosen charity.

1st 10p for every hot water tap in your home
2nd 75p for every vehicle your family owns
3rd 5p for every pair of jeans you own
4th 25p if your family subscribes to the newspaper
5th 5p for every bed in your home
6th 3p for every beauty or makeup item you own
7th 3p for every pair of footwear
8th 3p for every light switch in your house
9th 20p for every bath or shower
10th 10p for every flush toilet
11th 2p for every bar or dispenser of soap
12th 15p if you have dishes to eat from
13th 15p if you have cooking pots in your cupboards
14th 5p for every window in your house
15th 10p for every outside door
16th 20p for every television in your house
17th 5p for every magazine subscription
18th 25p if your family has more than 25 CD’s (music or video)
19th 5p for every meal you had meat with this past week
20th 10p for every non-water beverage you drank yesterday
21st 25p if you have a petrol/electric lawn mower or strimmer
22nd 3p for every item of hair care products
23rd 15p for every bedroom in your house
24th 5p for every blanket in your house
25th 15p for every gift you received this Christmas

My personal total amounts to £6.40 not (including Christmas presents yet) and will be added to and despatched on the 27th.

Chatsworth fE5tival

Saturday, December 4th, 2004

We don’t ‘do’ Oxford Street or Regent Street at Christmas.  The thought of fighting with hoardes of other folk who are equally stressed and pissed off whilst hunting down so-called Christmas bargains is too much too contemplate.  Like many people with kids, the convenience of internet and mail order shopping means that we can avoid such trials.

However, we do love a good market and I have always liked the Christmas street markets they have on the continent.  It is for this reason that earlier today we headed off to Chatsworth Road, home of Hackney’s oldest street market, to visit the 2004 Chartsworth Road Market Festival. Although this was our first visit, it came well recommended by those ‘in the know’ on the Hackney Cyclists stall – see picture below – so we were confident of having a good time.

There were over 50 stalls selling jewellery, hats, bags and homemade gingerbread men to candles, pottery and baby clothes. Although our kids didn’t get to see Sedek the Stiltwalker they did recce the kids zone workshops and No.4 had a ball on the Hackney Playbus and bouncy castle.

On the festival stage in Rushmore school, where the kids also saw a certain gentleman in red, we could hear the folk quartet The Drones working through their set ahead of the jazz outfit Mingus and Afro-Latin funksters, Bushtaxi.  Poets Queen Khadijah and Akwafi Rondoh also did sets and The Ramps are on stage as I type.

It was great to be out in the fresh air enjoying the very tangible atmosphere and Christmassy mood whilst we grabbed a few gifts and knick-knacks.  The excellent samosas, pakora and chana (a bargain at £1.50 a plate) were washed down with steaming mugs of tea.  Once this was walked off, mince pies were munched and washed down with a mulled wine or two from the LCC Hackney folks.

If you’re reading this on the day, there’ll be a closing street procession with carnival costumes, samba music and a bonfire, food and drink at Homerton Adventure Playground this evening.  Once darkness has fallen, the fun will continue at the Thang Long restaurant with Vietnamese food and an evening of live music and poetry including Balabustah (toe tapping violin and accordion duo), Queen Kadijah (African poetry) and Otis Orbison and friends (soul poetry). DJ Laurence will be spinning discs for the rest of the evening.

Get along and enjoy it – you’ll be glad you did.