Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Monkey Movie

It's always good to get a few movies in over the Christmas season so Ali and I trundled into town to see King Kong on the big screen at The Odeon in Leicester Square yesterday. The only turkey I want to see is on Christmas day so I had high hopes that Peter Jackson would not disappoint me with his monkey movie and he certainly did not. This is one of the best films I have seen in ages. It runs for three hours and 17 minutes but you would be forgiven for thinking it was half that length. There are occasional moments when the special effects look a bit unfinished, for example the folks running between the legs of the stampeding diplodocus looked a bit "blue screen", but on the whole the effects were a marvel. The monkey itself never looked anything other than 25 foot sliver back gorilla with a range of expression and tenderness that was almost human. But more important than all that emotion crap, he kicks serious butt, for example at one point he takes on and beats three T-Rex's at once. Now that's Monkey Magic.

I won't go into any more details incase there is, unlikely as it seems, anyone out there doesn't know what happens or hasn't seen the 1933 original. But if you want to go and see a thrilling, scary, occasionally funny and very touching film then King Kong is great. Just need to check out Narnia and Potter now. I doubt that will be as good as the monkey.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas is coming ...

So we enter the last week before Christmas. I would normally now be worrying about having to do all my Christmas shopping. I hate shopping. I don't mean I not very fond of shopping, I mean I really hate it. Many is the year when I have gone out to buy presents for my friends and family, only to return home after many hours of tortured slog with just a couple of DVD's for myself, as was the case in my previous Web Log entry. A quick trip to Ye Booke Shoppe on Christmas Eve has often given the impression that I am uncommonly literate and thoughtful, rather than late and desperate.

All change this years though! Up until now I have always gone to my parent in Hull for Christmas. And very splendid it has been every time. However, my twin sister Pink is married to Stew, the landlord of a Pub in Barnes and he always has to work Christmas day so he is never able to join the rest of the family oop North. As a result Pink alternates with Christmas in Hull one year and then with her Hubby in Barnes the next. So just for a change Ali and I have decided to stay in London and join Pink and Stew. What a chore having to spend all Christmas day in a lovely pub by the River Thames :-)

Whilst this is very cool it did kick up a bit of a logistical problem. We had to take all the presents for the family up to Hull this weekend! So I had less time than ever to do the hated Christmas shopping. Doh! So a couple of weeks ago I decided to see if I could buy all my presents on the Interweb. In order to minimise the number of packages that I would receive and have to sign for (and potentially miss!) I decided to try and get every thing from a single supplier. I chose since they seem to be pretty well thought of. So I spent an enjoyable evening watching a few episodes of Lost whilst surfing cool web sites like Firebox and When I found the stuff that I wanted I searched and ordered it on Amazon. Perhaps a bit unfair to the smaller sites, but in the space of 3 hours I had got every present and everything arrived in two boxes within 4 days. I don't think I'll ever bother with "real" shops again.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter Wonderland

I was returning from tedious Christmas shopping this afternoon when I caught this lovely view over the cricket pitch at the end of our road. Pink sky over rolling mist. Just glad I happened to have my camera with me. There are many downsides to Winter, not least the cold wet weather, short days and Strictly Come Dancing on the tele. But seeing things like this on a crisp Winters day almost makes it worth it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wire eating critters

The new kittens, Barney and Boo, are excellent in so many ways. But they do have a down side. Obviously there are the normal things like smelly cat litter, scratched furniture, "accidents" and them trying to wake you up in the middle of the night. However, these problems have been reasonably easy to get round. You can get cat litter that is very effective in masking the smell and using litter liners (like bin bags) makes it easy to change the litter. We have given them a number of scratching posts and what not so, touch wood, they haven't destroyed any furniture. Only once have they had an "accident" (not sure which the culprit was) but that ain't bad in two months and we stopped them waking us up in the night by closing the bedroom door.

However, there is one dastardly crime that has remained unsolved! Because Boo is much smaller than Barney and is all black like a witches cat, we have always characterised him as being the criminal master mind and Barney being his hulking henchcat. So when it became clear that there was a wire chewer in our midst, Boo was immediately in the frame. The first time Ali came down to find that one of the headphones from her Walkman had been chewed off we were quite amused. Ali is certainly not amused any more since she is now on her 3rd set since the boys arrived! I still found it quite funny until I today spotted Barney tucking into my Sennheiser HD 447's (very nice headphones). He had chewed through the left hand wire and was half way through the other one. Our criminal is revealed and Boo's in the clear (unless Boo convinced Barney to do it).

It is one thing knowing who the guilty party is but quite another thing preventing him doing it any more. My mate Marcus suggested putting chilli oil on the cables but that seems a bit harsh. Aside from covering the wiring, which is totally impractical, or sending Barney down to the Glue Factory, which Ali has ruled out, how can we stop the little fella chewing? If he starts chewing a power cable it could be very dangerous for him not to mention being a fire risk. Any suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I am Kermit!

Wow - I just did a test to see which Sesame Street character I was. Of course I hoped that I would be like Kermit the Frog since he is my all time hero. He's one cool piece of green. But of course I didn't take it very seriously. Until, that is, it not only decided that I was like Kermit, but it was also more acurate than many of the Myers-Briggs and Jung tests I have done over the years.

You can try it here and see what you think

These are my results (ignore the bad grammar which results from it being automated);

You are mostly organized, both concrete and abstract, and more extroverted.

Here is why are you Kermit the Frog.

You are somewhat organized. You have a good idea where you put things and you probably keep your place reasonably clean. You aren't totally obsessed with neatness though. Kermit is also reasonably tidy. He'll even dress up for interviews.

You are sometimes concrete and sometimes an abstract thinker. Kermit spends a lot of his time as a reporter collecting facts, but he is also the author of the dreamy song "The Rainbow Connection." You have a good balance in your life. You know when to be logical at times, but you also aren't afraid to explore your dreams and desires... within limits of course.

You are both extroverts. Kermit gets along with everyone. Sure a few folks annoy him, but that's just because they are annoying. Kermit likes to meet new people when he does his job as a street reporter. You definitely enjoy the company of others, and you don't have problems meeting new people... in fact you probably look forward to it. You are willing to take charge when necessary or work as part of a team.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Kermit starred on Sesame Street years before The Muppet Show.

The other possible characters are
Oscar the Grouch
Big Bird
Cookie Monster
The Count
Guy Smiley

You are Kermit the Frog
You scored 58% Organization, 46% abstract, and 76% extroverted!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Angel of the North

When I drove back from Newcastle today I decided to take a few minutes out to visit The Angel of The North. Whilst it may not seem so from these pictures that I took, this structure is 20 meters high and 56 meters wide and weighs 200 tons. For comparison, a Boeing 747 is about 54 meters wide! It sits on a hill on the side of the A1 which is the main road leading to Northern England. When you drive from the South of England into what was traditionally the industrial engine of the country filled with hard working but chronically impoverished folks it is profoundly moving to see this imposing, industrial yet beautiful statue towering over the road and seemingly offering protection to the people of Gateshead and Tyneside.

A little while ago I ranted about what I consider to be the bollocks in the Tate Modern. Several of my friends commented that the fact that these items managed to make me angry means that the "art" had worked because it have provoked an emotion out of my normally stony heart. But they are all wrong. I was angry because of the stupidity and arrogance of the artists not their pathetic throw away "work".

The Angel of the North makes me feel really emotional about the thing itself. Every time I drive past it I feel a great pride in the folk of Northern England. Some how the Angel seem to both characterise their resilience and fortitude whilst also showing their optimism and beauty. The very idea of crafting an Angel out of 200 tons of Iron says so much which reflects the area.

Today was the first time I had actually stopped and visited the Angel rather than just enjoying looking at it as I drive past. So when I did follow the brown signs which led to a simple lay by, I was overjoyed to find there was no visitors centre or post card vendor. Even though this is the largest statue in Britain there were no burger bars or chip vans. Just a simple plaque showing how it was built and that the artist was Antony Gormley. This awesome piece of work really does speak for itself. Public Art at its very best.

If you want to know more then you could do worse then glance here

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wireless Access in a Hotel room

I have often wondered about using the Wireless services offered in Hotels and Airports but I have never bothered because I thought, why should I pay money to access eMail I can read perfectly well tomorrow. If there is anything that important they can always ring me. However, my frollegue Ed Brill has been writing about connecting from around the world on his web log for years so I thought I should join the party at last and get connected. So this post is being written from room 181 in the Holiday Inn in Newcastle. Connecting to the service was totally painless and they are only charging a quite reasonable £3 for 30 minutes. I think I may be a convert. I won't try it from the bar later though - I don't want to look like a geek :(

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Goose fat

So being a good Yorkshire Boy, I understand that there is nothing more important that a great Sunday Dinner. One of the most important aspects of a Sunday Dinner is the Roast Potatoes. Over the years I have heard loads of ideas about how to make the prefect roast spuds. Jamie Oliver says par boil the spuds then shake them in the pan before roasting. My mate Matt's mum would par boil them then "fork" them. On the other hand my mate Slippery Si always says don't bother with par boiling, just cover them with olive oil and Rosemary and they will be grand.

Well Ali and I have had reasonably variable results in our roast pots over the years. Sometimes burnt and sometimes underdone. In order to improve the situation I checked the web and found out that the secret for the perfect roast spuds is Goose fat. So I tried it for the first time tonight. It's true - I have never made such perfect and tasty spuds. The only down side is that the goose fat cost more than the King Edwards!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

All Four Sprouts Together

My nephew Jonny was 13 last week so Ali and I made the trip up to Leeds to celebrate his change from a sweet young man into a gangly, surly teenager. Sue and Kev, his Mum and Dad, have been watching the Kevin and Perry movie to see what they are in for. Obviously it was nice to see the little tyke, but it was also great to catch up with the rest of the family.

Later that night after a few of the lightweights had slopped of to bed, I noticed that it was just me and my three sisters who were still up. Its been a good few years since just the four of us have been alone in a room together so gadget freak Chris celebrated by taking this photo (using the timer of course).

So that is my twin sister Ginny, your esteemed columnist, my sister Sue from Leeds and my sister Chris from Birmingham. I guess it is odd that my Mum and Dad are still back in Hull and my elder sisters are in Brum and Leeds yet my twin Ginny and I live less than half a mile apart in Barnes. It really is just a coincidence. Although we do find it funny the number of times people ask us if we are identical twins!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The honesty of the Scots

Watching late night TV, I couldn't help noticing when a Scottish woman was asked why she had brought a painting onto the Antiques Roadshow TV show she said it was "to find out what it was worth and then to sell it". Good work fella! We have always known that this is why the majority of people bring stuff, but it is possibly the first time I can recall someone being so refreshingly honest. If you are equally fickle, the item was worth about 3 grand and she was clearly gonna flog it the first chance she got.

Personally I have always liked the idea of telling some kid bringing in their stolen grandparents Toby Jugs that they are worth a couple of million just to see their face when they make £2.50 at auction. Does that make me bad? Of course it does. But they are being greedy and it would be funny :)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reds beat the blues

So Man United beat Chelsea one to nil in a pretty good game at Old Trafford today. This is significant in various ways. Firstly it brings Chelsea's 40 odd game undefeated streak to an end. Following their slip up in Europe during the week we are now seeing that, despite Abromoviches billions, they are still fallible.

More significant it reduces a 13 point deficit for United to a 10 point deficit with a game in hand. Suddenly an impossible gap can be closed by a couple of wins. I also suspect that Mourinho will feel under more pressure from a revitalised United than a Wigan side that is admittedly playing out of their skins.

I was especially chuffed that such an important fixture was also such a good game of football. Also nice that Mourinho and Ferguson planned to share a bottle of wine following the game. So great rivals on the pitch can still respect each other off the pitch. If Mourinho and Wenger are in a silly spat and Wenger and Ferguson don't exactly see eye to eye yet Ferguson and Mourinho share a glass or two of wine after a game, we can clearly see where the problem lies. Take note Mr Wenger.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Star Wars IV in 168k

Data expands to fill available space right? So when you had a 1k Sinclair ZX81 it didn't take that long, but with the 16k RAM pack it took a little longer to fill. Then it was easy to fill 48k on the Spectrum. Next thing and, despite the apocryphal story linking this to Bill Gates, we did indeed breach the 640k a PC came with. A 1.44MB floppy disk didn't last much longer. A 4Gb iPod can only store 1000 songs. Now 10Gb doesn't seem so much because that is barely the contents of 3 DVD's. My last PC came with a 200Gb hard drive and I have already filled over half of it (and I haven't ripped a fraction of my CD's yet).

So it is refreshing to see something go the opposite direction. Forget your DVD, Dobly Digital 5.1, Progressive Scan, SCAD, 12 disc special edition. This is the first* Star Wars film in less than 200k. Clicky Clicky to take a look. Wait for it to say "Foldsfive Presents" - that is the beginning. I figure that if you have read all that geeky crap you are the sort of person who will appreciate it. I'm guessing most people will give up at "16k RAM pack" :-) I should say that the GIF/film/idea is courtesy of the excellent but hugely politically irreverent B3ta Web Site.

* Don't try arguing The Phantom Menace is the first Star Wars film. Just don't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Brain the size of a planet

So I have just got back from the shops where amongs other things I purchaced kitten food for Barney and Boo. At our local Sainsbury's 12 pouches of Whiskers Kitten Food romps in at £3.48. The boys are currently munching their way through 3 pouches each per day, so that is 87p.

A quick check on Jamies's School Dinners finds this quote "2005 In some schools, meals are produced at a cost to the contractor of just 36p per day." So we are paying twice as much to feed the kittens as our schools are laying out to feed the next generation of kids! Given that there is a proven link between diet and educational performance I will have to reassess my expectations and get them booked in for their exams. Althought their specialist subjects of eating, sleeping, squeaking and playing with string may not line them up with a particularly lucrative job :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ali Rocks the 10K and punts over £250 to a good cause

Here is Ali at the begining of her 10K (or 6 mile to us Brits) run. High five baby! She made the run in 55 minutes and 26 seconds. Woo yay! That is very respectable for a first effort. Me and the kittens are very proud of her. Actually probably more me than the kittens since they don't really understand long distance running.

So well done Ali and all the other "Run London" runners. It has to be quite an impressive event to get me into central London for 9:30am on a Sunday! Just to hold Ali's bag! You can still send some money to Ali's Charity MIND if you get in quick. The link is in the previous post.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Where does the time go?

You may remember me mentioning my DIY mishap a couple of months ago when I thought decorating my downstairs loo would take about half a day but it actually took weeks. Well my memory must have failed me today. We have four or five paintings that we have been intending to hang since we bought the house but I have simply never got round to it. Ali normally goes for a run on a Saturday morning but because she is doing her sponsored run tomorrow she decided to just go for a swim. You can sponsor her by clicking here if you are feeling generous.

Anyway, I knew she would be away for a couple of hours so I thought I would surprise her by hanging the pictures. I had a drill, some screws and raw plugs, a tape measure and most importantly a spirit level so I was ready to rock. All I needed to do was make a few measurements to ensure that our pictures were level and centred and the jobs done. Of course I hadn't reckoned on our walls being made of titanium.

So two broken drill bits and one that literally melted red hot in the wall. Two trips to Homebase to buy replacement drill bits. Eventually the bloomin things are up. I expected it to take me until two when Ali got back from swimming. I actually finished just before 7. Exactly as predicted my mate Tony, DIY always takes three times longer than expected.

At least they are up now (This picture was painted by Ali's sister Niki who is a most excellent artist. Here is some of her stuff)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A bit deflated

I have been working with a large customer this week creating a proof of concept demonstration showing how they can cut loads of cost from their business by using Lotus technologies. Creating a proof of concept can be a time consuming task and every minute can be important so imagine my disbelief when I got downstairs this morning to find my front left tyre was flat. Despite my car being a swanky BMW the spare tyre is actually just a "space saver". That is a tyre which is about the width of a bicycle wheel and about as much uses. They were originally used for sports cars which had limited spare room but why use one on my four door saloon? To save money of course.

Frankly I find the whole concept of driving on three fat tyres and one skinny one inherently dangerous and not to be done unless it is an emergency (for example if you have a puncture on a country lane and need to get to a garage). These folks agree with me. So my only option was to call a mobile tyre replacement service (fortunately covered by my company car policy). I rang them at 8:30am and had visions of them not turning up until 3 in the afternoon - but how wrong was I!

A guy from KwikFit Richmond was at my house by 10am. The van he arrived in was the most amazing bit of kit. It was brimming with every tool you could imagine to speed up the changing of a tyre, most of which was powered by an air compressor. The air jack to effortlessly lift up the car, the power drive to remove the wheel nuts, the machine to peel the tyre from the wheel and then apply the new one, the machine to check the balance and then the power drive to bolt the wheel back on. Elapsed time, 15 minutes including signing the paper work and checking the old tyre to see what the problem was (a predictably stereotypical nail was the culprit).

So, it wasn't exactly a Formula One style 6 second change over, but then they just change the wheel, they don't whip off the old Bridgestone tyre and put a new one on the same wheel. So I'm very happy with my KwikFit fitter. Good job well done and it just shows that a job can be quick if you have the correct tools.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Troyis - a very addictive game

I'm not sure where I came across this game but if you have ever played chess it is maddeningly addictive. It involves moving a knight around an ever expanding board to cover all the squares against the clock. So far I have managed to get to level 10 and scored about 250000 which puts me in the top 7500 in the world. I just cannot fathom how someone can have go to level 12 never mind level 27 which is where the leader is at. See what you can do.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

England qualifies for the World Cup

It was not very pleasant watching England beating Austria. A 1-0 win is always pretty tenuous especially when the only goal is a penalty. England never really seemed to hit their stride in a game when they were meant to be showing that the Northern Ireland result was a fluke. I guess they were just lacking in confidence. And that lanky streak of piss Crouch didn't seem to be doing very much up front. And what was the ref thinking of sending Beckham of for a couple of half and half tackles?

Still, with the Dutch seeing off the Czech team, England are through to the finals. Let's just hope that with Rooney back we can make short work of Poland and get some confidence ready for Germany.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Trip to the Dentist

When I stopped smoking there was a rather unexpected result. I found that every time I brushed my teeth they started bleeding heavily. After a couple of months of hoping it would stop I figured I should go to the dentist. Mt dentist explained that one of the noxious effects of smoking is that it reduced the blood flow to the gums, meaning that you cannot tell if you have gum problems and hence don't go to the dentist to have them fixed. Basically it just means plaque builds up and irritates the gum that allows bacteria to build up and makes them bleed. A quick trip to the hygienist should clear everything up she said.

She made it sound so fluffy that I actually believed that this is what a hygienist is like.

However, I was subjected to hideous torture. Where my Dentist would apologise profusely when she caused me to wince with pain, my Hygienist seemed to thrive on it. She actually said (in a eastern European accent), "Sorry if you felt pain, but you needed hurting so I gave you pain".

I really wouldn't have been surprised if she had said, "For you Tommy, zee war is over".

Obviously I'm not seriously comparing her to Hitler. It's just a lazy joke. But it is interesting reading Godwin's Law about how any debate will eventually result in rhetorical overreach. Of which I'm clearly guilty here. But it did bloody hurt and she really did say that :(

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Purr fect...

First and foremost, don't think that this Web Log is going to turn from Ports' witty and incisive views on the world into Ports' Kitten World. But since our new kittens Boo and Barney arrived on Monday they have done everything that you would hope a kitten would do with one exception. They haven't purred.

Now this is perfectly understandable since the poor little suckers have only just been taken from their mother and been introduced to an entirely new environment and a totally new Mum and Dad. But it was lovely this evening when Ali, Me and our mate Glastonbury John were chatting away and I started rubbing Barney's neck. Out of the blue he just started purring. John, Ali and I just grinned at each other as he purred away. Now we know he feels safe and at home :-)

It has to be said that Barney wasn't purring in this photo but it brought a lump to my throught when the little fella started going for it. I'm sure that little Boo will feel the same way soon.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Feline attack units installed

In order to secure our house against burglars and unprovoked rodent attack we have installed a couple of kittens. The tabby and white one is called Barney because Ali thought it was a funny name. The other lad is called Boo because he is quite timid. It 's 18 years since I last had kittens romping about the place and I had forgotten just how funny, small, cute, soft and downright adorable they are.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Enough is Enough - the Spammers have to go

I wrote a while ago about the problem of Spam on Web Logs. In essence, I really hate Spam but didn't want to ban anonymous comments. I prefer to know who is commenting but I don't want to mandate it. Fortunately a new feature of has come to my rescue. The new Word Verification feature simply asks a commenter to type in a word that is displayed as a picture cunningly foiling automated Spam agents.

So if you have a Web Log hosted on Blogger then go into settings, then comments and select Show Word Verification to banish this scourge. I'm now off to try and post a comment to see if it actually works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On The Road

I had to drive up to Reddich near Birmingham yesterday where myself and my frolleague John Hudson were meeting with a Lotus Domino customer to discus their imminent upgrade to the latest release, that being the awesome version 7. Reddich is about 120 miles away up the M40 and the trip should take between 2.5 and 3 hours. However, there is always a frisson of excitement when setting out for these longish trips because you can never be quite sure what the road conditions are going to be like and things like heavy traffic, accidents, bad weather and navigational errors can radically effect the time it will take.

So, I was quite relieved when I pulled in to Cherwell Valley Service Area to grab a coffee an hour before our meeting was due to start and with the customers only 20 minutes away. I was also shocked to find that the car that I had parked next to was John's. He was just leaving having had a coffee. Quite a coincidence. So we both end up at the customers bang on time to find out that that the person we have a meeting with has been called away due to an emergency. So nearly 6 hours driving for nothing. The coffee was nice though.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ali Runs London

Ali is taking part in a 10k run in Hyde Park next month. It is some Nike promotion, you can find out more about it here. Being the generous type she has decided to use this heroic feat of stamina as a way to raise money for Mind (The National Association for Mental Health). It is a really worthy charity and does fantastic work is one of the most important but least fashionable fields.

So if you fancy supporting Ali and this excellent charity then pop along to the donations page here and chuck a couple of quid in their direction. It will be hugely appreciated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Another sporting triumph!

So quite a few folks have been focused on England's recent test cricket series with the former prison colony known as the Antipodes and how Sir Freddie Flintoff and his chums kicked the bejesus out of their sorry Australian asses. Not only does this restore British pride to the levels of Empire, but it also gives us bragging rights over bar staff in that majority of South West London pubs.

However, despite the triumph that this clearly represents, it pales beside the sporting achievement that occurred tonight. Every Tuesday, Me, Ali and our mates Brendan and Paul take part in a pub quiz at the Ship Inn in Mortlake (it's claim to fame is that it is opposite the end of the University Boat Race). You will notice that our team contains 4 member which is the internationally recognised number of members a pub quiz team should have. Whilst I won't say they are breaking the spirit of the quiz, it has been noted that some teams have up to 12 (TWELVE!) members. And they are students from Roehampton College. Cheating Bast*rds. They still only have 3 pints of lime and soda between them all for the entire evening. The pub probably loses money on straws.

Aside from the despicable student scum, there were another 17 teams tonight. And when the scores were tallied at the end of the quiz our team, named "Twist Ma Head", came out on top. Yes we were the winners. Obviously we wafted our prize of 8 free beer tokens in front of the students until the were crying into their student loans.

Just to be clear, we really did answer more questions correctly than anyone else. For example, what Greek letter represents a little bit (Iota) and what is the new BMW mini (Mini Traveller). We also triumphed in the music round when we were the only team to recognise Pure Shores by the All Saints.

But do we get an open topped bus trip round Trafalgar Square? Where is the justice in that!

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Ali and I have decided that we are going to get a couple of kittens. Whist we miss our old cat Ben, we certainly aren't trying to replace him. The old giffer was one of a kind and I will always remember the 18 years he spent moaning and purring in approximately equal measure. But it is weird opening the front door and not having a furry face welcoming you back home (and then demanding food).

When I adopted Ben and his brother Oliver 18 odd years ago it was from a friend of the family who were having a litter (or more specifically their cat was). Since we don't have any friends with impending litters we are looking to adopt from an animal shelter or similar. We have had a couple of tips but this weekend plan to start ringing round. Have any of you any advice or experience of adopting cats you could pass on? Needs to be London or South West based ideally.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Ali and I have just returned from a holiday in the Algarve with our mates Mellon. I had never been to Portugal and didn't even bother to look at the tourist guides until we arrived at our villa. I was more than a little concerned to discover that the overwhelming view of the Algarve was that it is tacky, over developed and spoilt. Well that may well be true for some of the larger resorts but we were fortunate to have a villa in a small village called Santa Barbara de Nexe and it was charming. The local Portuguese folks were lovely and very friendly. It felt like we were a million miles away from civilisation. We just spent loads of time chilling by the pool, reading, listening to music, playing guitars, drinking too much and eating fab food.

However, as the more perceptive reader might well have concluded, we weren't a million away from civilisation. Specifically the town of Faro was 8km away whilst the beach at Villamora was only 16km. So when we were feeling a bit more adventurous it was only a few minutes down the road. So we went Go Kart racing (Marcus lapped Me, Ali and Ellen), went to a Casino (Marcus and I lost) and even went on a 2 hour speed boat cruise spotting dolphins (we didn't see any, the little bastards). All this and 31 degrees in September.

Sadly this morning we had to get up at 5am in order to catch our painfully early 7:30 am flight back to Blighty. Naturally the plane didn't take of until 9am. Grrr. Having grabbed a train from Gatwick Airport, we eventually get back to Barnes train station. As we got of the train the heavens opened and for the 10 minute walk from the station to our house we were subjected to monsoon like rain so by the time we had got in to shelter we were soaked to the skin. Welcome home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Domain Names

I have never bothered registering a domain name in the past. This is principally because the main one I wanted,, is owned by some fly-by-night chancers who run a few ships and harbours. Quite how that can justify them getting in the face of my obvious ownership is beyond me but I have decided I will not sue them for cyber squatting. *Deep Breath* I'm man enough to walk away.

Anyway - I figured it was about time I had my own Domain so I have squandered £10 pounds to get Of course it just points to this web log since I haven't anything else remotely interesting to do with it at the moment. This is the reason I have dusted of my amateurish PhotoShop skills to create the new brash logo you see above, horribly undermining the subtle design work of the original template developer.

So if you are one of the kind people who link to Ports Thoughts, please feel free to update to link to so my new branding exercise will impress all and sundry, even though it is about 5 years after everyone else did it :-(

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Modern Shmodern

In an accidental fit of culture, Ali and I ventured to the National Theatre this afternoon to watch "Theatre of Blood" - a hilarious staging of the old Hammer House of Horror film which starred Vincent Price. The stage version starred Jim Broadbent and is an account of a hammy old actor who tricks seven newspaper critics who had savaged his performances in the past to an old theatre and then slaughters them all in the style of murders from Shakespeare plays (sorry if you were planning to go an see it, I may have given away some plot points). Plenty of blood and guts and all together excellent value for a tenner each.

However, since we were on the South Bank and in a cultured frame of mind we decided to venture down the Thames to the Tate Modern. I love art and Ali's sister is a fine artist so I have good reason to make the effort to appreciate art. We even have pictures up in the house that don't involve a female tennis player scratching her arse. I also like the idea that artists try to challenge the nature of what art is and what it means to the viewer, but please, don't put the results in an art gallery! Keep those thoughts in the A'level philosophy essay where they belong.

Seem a bit harsh? Well today we got to see 3 basket balls suspended in a fish tank. At least when Damian Hirst suspended a shark in formaldehyde it was original. But it's been done now. Move on. Ridiculous and plagiarism. Then there was the pile of bricks which apparently was the "artist" questioning what represents artistic materials. No, it was a twat wasting my time. Possibly the most pathetic display was a small glass of water suspended 7 feet up on the wall. The accompanying sign explained that the glass of water was in fact an oak tree and that the "artist" was challenging our perception of objects. If I were ever to meet the "artist" I might offer to challenge his perception of pain via a well deserved knee in what he perceives to be his bollocks. Idiot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My mate Joel

The regular reader might know that my good mates Marcus and Ellen (or Mellon as Ali and I call them to save time) bought me a single share in Manchester United football club a couple of years ago for my birthday. It was an excellent present since I have been getting company reports and announcements not to mention invitations to company meetings ever since. So while most fans think Wayne Rooney cost £30million, I know from the company accounts that he cost £27.5 million with the other £2.5million being dependant on the number of goals he scores.

Obviously anyone who has been keeping their eyes on the news will know that the Glazer family have now bought 95% of Man Utd shares. This means that they now have the right to force everyone else to sell their shares. But I have been holding out with my one share :-) I have so far received about five letters and a huge prospectus from some legal company called NM Rothschild & Sons asking me to sell them my share. Just to clarify - my share is worth about 3 quid. I dread to think how much they have spent trying to get it off me.

Today I received a mail by recorded delivery (which costs £2.20) personally signed by Mr Joel Glazer referring to me as a "non-assenting shareholder" asking me to flog them my shareholding ASAP. Are you having a laugh! Of course not. It is far to much fun watching all this legal nonsense going on over my one single share. A little while go Marcus suggested I should offer my share in exchange for a season ticket. Seeing the money they are wasting trying to get it off me, maybe I should try it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Morning

When I was a little fella, the amount of pocket money I got was largely determined by what child slavery my parents had observed me doing in that particular week. Obviously I'm not accusing them of putting me down a coal mine or shoving me up a chimney. In fact, anyone knowing my robust proportions would know that I would only have been available for the larger chimneys. Anyway - the point is that one of the forms of torture my parents found acceptable for me was washing the car on a Sunday morning.

Cars used to have so many nooks and crannies that it was a nightmare. Chrome sills and vinyl roofs. My dads Fiat 132ES (so rare that I can't even find it on Google) was so filled with hard to get spots that it used to take me 2 hours to clean.

And yet current cars are so easy that I can't understand why folks pay 6 or 7 quid to get them cleaned badly by a machine at their petrol station. I clean my car about once a month. It takes about 10 minutes to soap it down, then another 10 minutes to clean the alloy wheels and 5 minutes to rinse it off with the hose. Yet in over 2 years we have been living on this road I haven't seen anyone else wash their car on a Sunday (or indeed any other day) ever!

The sad thing is that when I have reason to visit a petrol station on a Sunday I so often see a huge queue of cars waiting for the car wash machine. And so often it is Dad with junior in the passenger seat. I hope junior isn't getting their pocket money for just sitting there :-(

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

There's always one who spoils it for everyone else

In the last few days I have noticed that the traffic and specifically the number of comments on posts at Ports Thoughts has risen by about 25%. Obviously I attributed that to the Interweb community coming to recognize my erudite thinking and entertaining writing. Depressingly I have had to concede though that is nothing to do with the high quality of my modest thoughts, but rather the scourge that is web log spamming. This is very similar to the low life spammers who send unwanted email offering V*I*A*G*R*A or Meds or the scammers who offer to give you 25% of $70 million in exchange for using your bank account.

The difference is that ordinary mail spammers rely on sending millions of messages so if just tiny percent of people respond it is still a sufficiently large amount to make it worth their while (even though it has cause untold hassle for millions of people). Likewise the scammers only need a handful of ignorant greedy redneck George Bush voters to respond to their preposterous scams to make it worth their while. However, in web log comment spamming, the spammer doesn't care if anyone responds to their comment because their objective is not to lure in the people responding, but rather to get more links to their web site which will push their site higher up the search results list in Google with the ultimate aim being to be the number one search result. Why? Well in some cases just ego, but in more sinister cases it is because people tend to trust the higher rated Google results because they assume credibility for a site so high up the list, not realizing this isn't due to loads of reputable sites linking to it, but because of loads of links on web log comments. You can buy software that will automate creating these comments just like the mail spammers tools.

So - the questions is what to do about it. Well the most important thing is to delete the posts so that it won't count as another link for Googles popularity algorithms. The spammers deliberately leave positive comments ("Love your site", "I've bookmarked your site", " You're an excellent writer") to make suckers leave them since they appear flattering. Don't be fooled! The comments are always automated and they don't really read you site.

The real dilemma I face is whether to disable anonymous post facility on Ports Thoughts. If I keep on deleting spam people may think that I am censoring comments which I would never do for legitimate comments. On the other hand I hate the idea of forcing people to register with in order to comment. Is there any other way of stopping this annoyance?

Sunday, August 14, 2005


For many years folks have been telling me how funny the UK sitcom "Spaced" was. It's not like I was ignored them, just that it was something I had never got round to seeing. But having seen and loved the brilliant film "Shaun of the Dead" created by the star and director of Spaced, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, I had made a mental to watch it some time.

Anyway, I was out today buying the wife an anniversary present and as so often happens when I am out buying a present for someone else, I spot something I want instead. In this case The Complete Series One and Two on DVD. I have only managed to watch the first series so far, but as all those folks were saying, it is brilliant. Absolutely awesome. I cannot wait to watch the second series and really hope they make the much promised third.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Test Cricket - majestic sport or pathetic waste of time?

Right. Let's start with the basics. In order to enjoy a sport is it quite helpful to understand what is going on and why. For example if you believe that the most successful tennis players are the ones who grunt loudest then you may well be focusing on the most obvious aspect but you have clearly missed the point. Likewise, if you consider that Formula One is just about cars "racing around in a circle" without taking any account of the tires, drivers, finances, strategy, refueling, teams, reliability, overtaking, politics, safety, management, bluffing, performance, advertising, regulation, tracks and, of course, Bernie Ecclestone, then you have likewise missed the point.

But for some reason, Cricket seems to be the sport that most folks reserve their contempt for. Folks seem to dismiss the skill level required as being similar to those of girls playing rounders. Well I certainly never encountered a rounders game when the ball came at me at 100mph. In rounders people stood at their "bases" rather then being positioned by a Captain to compliment a bowler and the batsman that he is facing. If you think Cricket sucks then please watch coverage of the second 2005 Ashes test. The Australians are the World number one and the England team are the world number two. An amazing game with stunning tension and amazing skill. Sport at its best.

It is really just a shame that one team had to lose, but fortunate that it is Australia who are licking their wounds and England who triumphed. Anyone who thinks test cricket is boring after watching this match must be bonkers.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Not quite what I was expecting

So as a new home owner I expected to spend my first weekend wandering around the grounds gazing proudly at our new purchase. However, Ali suggested that we might want to consider decorating the downstairs loo. Given that the wallpaper is so bad it would make Barbara Cartland think it was a little bit too pink, I foolishly agreed. Now as I have been living in rented accommodation for the last 15 years you have to understand that I haven't done any decorating since I was 14 and painted my bedroom black gloss. Incidentally, my old bedroom is now my dad's office and it is still black gloss.

"So anyway" I thought, "whip off a bit of wall paper and tosh up a splosh of paint. How hard can that be?". In short, very. The wall paper appeared to have been attached to the wall using molten lead. It took me seven hours to get the wall stripped. I was sweating like a scouser in a spelling test. "Still", I reasoned, "just need to slap on the paint and the jobs done". But I hadn't taken account of the other things I find I have to do. I need to wash the walls and then rinse them. Then I need to fill in any imperfections with Polyfiller. I didn't think there would be any imperfections but now I understand where the phrase "papering over the cracks" comes from. At this point I have to sand the bloody walls. Then I have to paint them in primer before I can eventually get round to putting the paint on. I'm just glad it is only the smallest room.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

We own a house!

Or perhaps more accurately, we own a very large mortgage on a house. But either way, we have now completed and the house is ours. It took just a shade under 3 months to go through which might sound OK but it seems rather a long time to buy the house you already live in to us. The speed has not been helped by both sets of solicitors accusing the other side of being incompetent! I think I agree with them both.

Anyway - that is all behind us now and we just have to worry about repairs, decorating, improvements and living with no money. And I have developed a previously unheard of fascination with the Bank of England interest rate. Renting seems ever so simple now.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Next version of Windows named

As my mate Tony spotted, Microsoft have announced the official name of the next version of Windows. Following Windows XP we get Windows Vista. This reflects the fact that Vista will, apparently, bring clarity to your digital world. Seems to me that perhaps someone in Marketing needs a lie down.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Filthy habit update ...

Several people have been asking me lately how I have been getting on with giving up smoking. Gah! You're missing the point. I haven't given up anything. I have simply stopped smoking those disgusting things that I shouldn't have been using in the first place. Unfortunatly a mixture of childish bravado, naivete and the cynical manipulation of the criminal Tobacco companies got me hooked 25 years ago and it took the Allen Carr book to break the brain washing and remind me that I didn't even want to smoke. If you are interested I have gone through the 3 week mark which some find a symbolic victory but I don't care. I don't smoke.

Obviously I have moments of weakness, for example last night when I got home to find that we had not if fact exchanged contracts to at last buy our house as promised by our solicitors (don't ask). Clearly I had an urge to kill the solicitor but then I have been getting those a lot. Of course I also had an urge to smoke. But it was brief as I told myself "but that would only make you feel worse, you oaf".

Anyway, why focus on the negative! As my kind reader may recall, I was influenced to stop smoking by my good friend Brendan. Well I'm pleased to say that it has begun a trend. Ali and I were up in Boston, Lincolshire with our God Daughter Milly a couple of weeks ago. Her Mum and Dad, Simon and Sally quickly noticed that I was no longer a pathetic smoker and congratulated me and explained how they were going to give up - as they continues to puff away! Well I got a brilliant message from Si yesterday to say that they have followed my (and Brendan's) lead and knocked the ol' woodbines on the head. Good for you guys :-) Fantastic. You really won't regret kicking that monkey off your backs.

Right - who's next?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Don't let Marcus order your food

It was Marcus and Ellen's wedding anniversary on Saturday so a group of us went to the Eel Pie pub in Twickernham to celebrate. Prior to this I had rather foolishly neglected to eat any tea leaving me slightly more susceptible to the frothy wallop than normal. Add to this the lovely evening sun and the convivial company there was a inevitability that the fine Hofbrau Premium would have it's wicked way with my sobriety.

So after a very funny boozy evening Marcus, Ellen, Ali and I find ourselves in the Twickenham Tandoori. Now I'm no expert at Indian food mainly because I don't really like spicy food. I tend to go for a nice mild korma or if I'm really pushing the boat out, perhaps I'll brave a medium chicken curry. However, in my less that focused state I simply couldn't decide on a meal so Marcus very kindly recommended the Garlic Murgh Chilli Masala. Whilst it may be milder than a vindaloo, to me it tasted like the burning fires of hell. But because by this time I was half crazed by hunger I ate every burning mouthful. Of course I totally forgot that if it hurts when it goes in then it sure as heck is going to hurt when it comes out. If only I'd remembered to pop some loo roll in the fridge last night :-(

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Highs and Lows for London

So yesterday there was euphoria as London came from behind to secure the 2012 Olympics which promises regeneration for the East of London, pride for the entire country and 7 years of focus on sport that may encourage kids to do more exercise so they don't turn into tubbies like me.

And then the horror of this mornings terrorist bombings. Mirroring the atrocities in Madrid last year these were cowardly attacks with no warning at rush hour aimed at the innocent. As Live8 showed, there are proper democratic ways to object to the leadership and of course some communities have every right to resent the G8 leaders. But this wicked carnage and murder is no answer and those responsible will only have galvanised the people of London into defending freedom and democracy. I have been very impressed by dignity and lack of panic that most Londoner displayed today.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8

I remember the Live Aid gig quite well. I caught The Quo opening with Rocking All Over The World but then missed loads because I had to go to the St. Johns Church Fair. Whilst I wouldn't be so ungrateful as to blame St Johns Church who had arraged their Fair months in advance of the Live Aid stuff being announced, I thought they could have at least put a television there or even just a radio. But no. Fortunately I managed to make my excuses and get home having only missed a few hours. And in fairness I had missed Howard Jones and Adam Ant. Every Cloud ....

So today I expected to be able to watch the entire show. But I was only really interested in seeing The Who and Pink Floyd. Having watched the excellent Coldplay, U2 and a couple of others, I thought everything was going well. But then my sister in law Niki and her bloke Mark turned up because it was "her birthday". How selfish ;-) So we had a BBQ but as luck would have it, Niki and Mark nipped off to bed just before the Floyd played an exceptional set. Nice to see Waters and Gilmour together again even if it is a one off.

P.S. For fag spotters, I'm still off the fags even though it is getting harder and I do seem to have more wibbles. At the moment every time I have a wibble I just say to myself "Thank goodness you don't smoke". Seems to be working so far. Just.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Stopping Smoking - so how am I getting on?

So I understand that I haven't given anything up by stopping smoking. I have simply stopped doing something that was stupid, expensive and injurious to my health. Following my decision to give up on Sunday night I have started to read Allen Carr's famous book "Easy Way To Stop Smoking". It is actually designed to be read by someone who is still smoking, but it is still very helpful if you are using it to reinforce your commitment to stop. In a sense, the opening sentence of this paragraph summarises Carr's point. But it is far cleverer and useful than that pithy sound bite. I am stunned by how much of his analyses directly corresponds to my experience. The guy is clearly quite full of himself but he really does has a lot of understanding.

Likewise, I have also watched the excellent Russell Crow/Al Pacino film The Insider which shows the utter contempt the Tobacco industry has for it's customers and human life. They see cigarettes as a nicotine delivery system and clearly suppressed the evidence that Tobacco causes so many serious health problems like lung cancer, heart problems, circulation and such stuff. And they still try the "we aren't trying to encourage new people to smoke - we are just trying to persuade people to swap brand" bullshit. Excuse my French, but they are cynical lying murdering bastards. Now that they are seeing the western world is starting to reject their evil poison they are focusing on the third world. How low can you go? So Bob Geldoff gets their debt dropped and they spend it all on fags! Hmmm.

And yet, even understanding all of this and having only been off the smokes for 3 days I am starting to get cravings. I went to the pub quiz yesterday evening and it was no problems sitting in the no smoking area and quaffing ale without feeling bad. But today despite all the above I still feel like lighting up. I have gone the hardcore route and haven't bothered with patches or Nicotine gum since it seems a bit illogical to try and give up nicotine by taking nicotine. Still, I suppose it was nieve of me to think that breaking a 25 year habit would be pain less.

Also, I should say thanks to those who have offered congratulations and encouragement, both on this web log and in the real world. It is both much appreciated but also very helpful since it would make me feel so bad if I were to go back to my stupid smoking ways. It has been often been observed that ex Smokers are by far the most vocal when criticising smokers and I am planning on joining them if for nothing else but to make it untenable and embarrassing to slide back into the filthy habit.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Smoking - it's a bit rubbish

I'm not proud - but I started smoking when I was 11 years old :-( My mate Harry Lines had a job as a paper boy and miraculously every now and then he would turn up with two hundred JPS (John Player Specials) . I'm not suggesting that he nicked them, but let's just say I never saw any receipts.

Anyway, we used to stand on the corner of Chanterlands Avenue and Loveridge Avenue in my home town, Hull, looking kinda like James Dean. Or so we thought. Until two big lads beat Harry and I up and nicked our stash of cigarettes and pointed out that we should be sucking rather than blowing. Because up until then we had been blowing. Scoff as you might but there aren't any instructions on a pack!

These days the advice on cigarette packs are pretty is explicit. The pack of Silk Cut Silver I'm currently looking at says "Smoking Kills" and "Smokers Die Younger". My good mate Brendan decided to give up the smokes yesterday because when he asked his daughter what she most wanted for her 21st birthday she didn't ask for an XBox or Playstation, she asked him to stop smoking. Ouch! But fair play to the fella - he has gone for it. He has ditched that fags.

So has it made me pause for thought? Damn right it has. Smoking is unattractive, unsociable, unheathy, illogical and basically stupid. But bizarrely I'm still smoking as I write this. What a F**k Wit I am.

So I look at my current pack of fags and see I have 15 snouts left. I'm really enjoying my last smoke. I really am. But of course, I know it is stupid. SO NOW IT STOPS.

Can I Keep it up? I don't know. But I'm going to try...You betta believe it.

(and if you hear a funny cracking sound - that is me crushing the last of my fags)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Do you get what you pay for?

As the regular reader may recall, our DVD player packed up a few weeks ago. I was exploring all sorts of options to replace it but then we decided to buy a house. So we're skint. However, I was really missing playing my challenging European art house films. Ok, so I haven't got any challenging art house films, but I have got loads of dumb American action films and I really miss not being able to play them. So as a stop gap, I decided to get a £35 Mico DVD808 from Sainsburys. I expected it to be rubbish but I am astounded how they have packed so much performance into such a cheap package. It even has a Optical Digital output to pump the sound into my surround sound HiFi. I watched The Aviator on it last night and there was no fragmentation, artifacting or dodgy colours. For £35! That's less than the cost of 3 DVD films. My last player cost £970. Me thinks I may have been ripped off last time.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Changing of the Guard

So Tim Henman crashes out of Wimbledon whilst new hope Andrew Murray defeats the 13th seed . Like most British folks, I suspect, I'm only really interested in tennis when Wimbledon comes round. But all these years of watching Henman have done nasty things to my nerves. Even when he is on top he still manages to throw sets away to make us think he is going to lose. So it is a breath of fresh air to see Murray winning in straight sets and never seeming to lose his confidence. That is not to knock Henman's achievements. Staying in the top 10 in the world for 10 years is an outstanding achievement. So even if Murray loses to Nalbandian in the next round I think it is fair to say that Murray has taken over from now on. It might take him a while to get into the top ten but I don't think his ranking of 313 will stay for very long.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Worst Road in the World

I have to travel from my home in South West London to the North quite a lot for customer meetings. Getting to the M1 which starts at the top of North London is a doddle. Just follow the North Circular road. Some bits of Hangar Lane are just a single lane, but for the most part it is two or three lanes. It's about 15 miles and normally takes me about half an hour.

But today I had to go south to Chelmsford so had to take the South Circular road to the Dartford tunnel and the M25. Again - this is about 15 miles but this morning it took me 1 and a half hours! In fairness there were road works in Wandsworth and Lewisham, but the real problem is that the South Circular isn't really a road - it is just a set of confusing road signs. I kept finding myself doubling back on myself when I hit signs that pointed left saying "South Circular (E)" and right saying "South Circular (W)". I don't know if I need to go East or West! Just tell me where they go to. Getting from the Dartford tunnel to Chelmsford which is 30 miles only took an additional 20 minutes. So today's lesson is if you have to travel from South West London to Essex - take the train.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


My good mate Glastonbury John (who ironically lives in Topsham) and his main squeeze Heather are in a bonkers punk band called the Reoffenders. They're mighty fine whether you like your Punk classic (as in the Pistols or The Clash) or modern (as in PJ Harvey or Hole). Anyway, John has just bought a PA system for the band from some geezer in Morden via the power of eBay. Now Morden (which if you don't know it is in South West London) and Topsham (which if you don't know it is just near Exeter) are about 200 miles apart so a trip for John to pick up the PA would be around 400 miles. Not ideal. So he asked me to pick it up and keep it for him until next time he is down in the Big Smoke. Morden is only 8 miles from Chez Ports.

Obviously my saint like generosity meant that I was only too happy to help out my chums. But also I was quite curious. I have never been to Morden but it was one of the areas Ali and I had considered moving to before we realised we could stay in Barnes (fingers crossed). How glad I am that we didn't move there. I have seldom been to a more soulless, featureless and frankly boring place. It is more suburban than Surbiton and that is saying something. It's no coincidence that Morden sounds so similar to Mordor. Don't go there. It's shit.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bad Wolf

As the regular reader of this web log will know, I am a huge fan of the new series of Doctor Who. To bring the series back after 16 years and manage the amazing trick of appealing to the adults who remember the classic series and also to appeal to a new generation of children who are viewing it as something brand new is amazing.

Obviously the greater budget and improvements in technology have had a significant result on the look of the show especially the special effects. The writing has been excellent and under the stewardship of Russell T Davis, the series feels consistent and in safe hands. The acting and actors are brilliant and there are plenty of laughs, scares and surprises.

This is of course great news for a Whovian like myself. I so hoped that they would get it right and they have. But what has surprised and delighted me even more is how the show has adopted the Internet as an additional route to the viewers. It started of with the leaking of the first show "Rose" a couple of weeks before the premier. The BBC claims that this was unauthorized and that the person responsible had been sacked. I suspect that it was deliberate though, because it is a classic example of viral advertising, starting a movement on the Internet and generating massive media coverage.

It hasn't stopped there though. The amount of additional material, behind the scenes coverage and extras available on the official web site is quite staggering. It is also the first show I have ever seen that introduces a brand new theme for the site for every episode. That would be enough for any other TV show but they have also created other sites to support the series. For example the site Mickey is maintaining can be found at Who is Doctor Who and there is a real site for UNIT (the secure password is badwolf).

Observant viewers will have noticed a theme through the series of reference being made to "Bad Wolf". For weeks there as been intense speculation and debate on Internet forums and web logs about what Bad Wolf means. In the last episode The Doctor even comments on this, dismissing it as coincidence. Now there is a web site Bad Wolf that outlines the clues and proposes some theories. This site is also created by the BBC. I won't speculate here on what I think Bad Wolf means, but I applaud that brilliant use of new media. If you don't agree with me just try searching for "Doctor Who Bad Wolf" in Google and you will soon see how it has spread.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ali and I are getting Divorced!

Or so I have been told. We were wondering why it is that we applied for a mortgage to buy the house we are renting, but the lender hasn't been in touch to arrange for a "lender valuation". This has to happen to ensure that they are happy to lend you the given amount. Any delay to the purchase of our house could incur additional cost and pain so we really didn't need this. So I took things into my own hands and rang the surveying company and it turns out they had never heard of us and had no instructions from our mortgage company.

Obviously I was a tad perturbed. I contacted our financial adviser who had sorted out our mortgage and told him to find out what was going on. Due respect to him, he managed to get to the bottom of the problem in less than an hour. Here is his explanation; "The problem was that they thought it was an "add and remove" - in other words a divorce case where one of you was moving out. They assumed this because the address was remaining the same. I have sorted this now and it will be instructed asap.". So that is a three or four week delay because they didn't bother to ask us. Anyone who has worked in customer support knows that making assumptions makes an ASS of U and ME.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Liverpool FC win the European Cup

What a game. Liverpool down 3 goals to Milan at half time and they still manage to win on penalties. Phew - what a scorcher. Obviously I have to offer my condolences to Milan, they dominated the first half and perhaps had the best of extra time, and to go out on penalties is very unfair. I always favored removing a player from each side every three minutes until a goal is scored or they get down to the goal keepers, but my influence over the world of football is not a great as you might think.

Anyhoo, back to Liverpool. The transformation after the first half humiliation was phenomenal. Big congratulations to Benitez, the LFC Manager for his tactical awareness and the changes it brought. Getting back into the game is one thing though, but pulling back three goals was amazing. Well done you cheeky scousers. It's nice that the champions of Europe are British again since Man Utd were champions six years ago.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I've been mugged :-(

Or more specifically my team, Man United have been. Manchester dominated the whole of the FA Cup final but were beaten by a lackluster Arsenal after a penalty shoot out. Despite Arsenal's dismal display during normal play, I don't blame them for beating us in what amounts to a lottery. They don't make the rules. But their fans must consider themselves very fortunate.

As for the United team, there was one very obvious fault. Despite making all the play and taking the game to Arsenal, they failed to score. And that is why it came down to penalties in the end. Having said that, they can hold their heads high. Ferguson's tactics were clearly better than Wengers. The pincer movement of Rooney and Ronaldo on the wings resulted in a steady stream of chances. Arsenal were obviously missing Henry but they barely got a shot on target which was astounding for such a quality side. Leyman was forced to make several crutial saves and we had a shot hit the post and a goal disallowed (validly, it was off side).

Basically United played them off the park. John, one of my Gooner mates texted "Is there only one team in the final or did Arsenal turn up as well" with about 10 minutes of normal time remaining. I really would have preferred it if Arsenal had scored to win rather than it come down to penalties, partly because if they had scored the striker would be the hero, but as it is Paul Scoles will have to live with the responsibility of losing the game for United. And that just isn't fair.

All I can say positively about the Arsenal performance is that after much criticism this season Jens Leyman had a huge game, kept them in it and then saved the penalty to allow them to nick it at the end. So a begrudging congratulation to Arsenal. I'm gutted.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day....

So much is in the air at the moment. We are still waiting to find out if we will succeeded in buying our house. And my employer is "restructuring" which normally results in some "involuntary separations". Not an ideal combination. But then I have been through about 7 redundancy processes over the last 16 years and have only been given the boot once - and that turned out the best thing that ever happened to me (in that it made me move from Hull to London).

But despite these dodgy thoughts in the back of my mind, we had a lovely day today. Firstly I had a nice lie in and didn't get up till midday. When I got up Ali was sunbathing in the garden (very nice view :0). We then went for a really nice walk in Richmond Park. Specifically the Isabella Plantation which is totally beautiful at this time of year. After a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine we popped for a quick shandy at the Sun Inn opposite the pond in Barnes (quite literally, I really did drink shandy - Ali was drinking Pimms). Then I cooked a full Sunday Roast with Chicken, Prince Charles's Chipolatas, Savoy Cabbage, Broccoli, Roast Spuds and Parsnips and even bread sauce and gravy. Controversially we also had Yorkshire Puddings which you shouldn't have with chicken, but sod it - no roast would be right without them. And I am a Yorkshire man in all senses of the word :0)

The night was rounded out with watching the 100 greatest War Films on Channel Four. It was great to see awesome films like "Ice Cold in Alex", "Das Boot" and "Apocalypse Now" getting good placings. And no surprise that the excellent "Saving Private Ryan" got the nod as best War film ever. But I was frankly baffled that my favorite War film, "Crimson Tide" didn't even rate a mention when some really ropy stuff got mentions. What would you have picked?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Expensive Stamps ...

We found out today that our offer to buy our rented house has been accepted :0) So this evening I instructed our solicitors to do the undefined stuff that they do (apparently it is quite hard judging by how much they are charging us). I also instructed our IFA to proceed with our mortgage application (apparently this is quite hard too judging by how much they are charging us). We also had to sort out a survey and valuation for the mortgage vendor and a Home Buyers survey for ourselves. Having lived here for two year it is clearly worth our money to find out where the local schools are and what the amenities are (apparently this is quite hard judging by how much they are charging us). And we haven't even started on home insurance or life insurance, but I'm guessing that they won't be applying for charitable status any time soon either :0(

And I thought that the house was going to be the expensive thing!

Still, we are very chuffed that thing seem to be going in the right direction. Even though it seems that we have secured the house, and the Estate Agent has told us the property is now off the market, we haven't put the Champagne on ice yet. We will only be quaffing the bubbly stuff when we Complete. And that could be a while away. But everything seems to be pointing in the right direction.

I should say, none of this would be possible if my Mum and Dad hadn't agreed to help us out with the Stamp Duty. Giving the government just over £10,000 seems a bit steep. Is it just me or aren't those pretty bloomin' expensive stamps? It's not like they have pretty pictures and a handy collectors pack. ..

Hitchhikers Movie

Ali and I went to see the new Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy filum last night with Marcus and Ellen. I have followed H2G2 (as those of us in the know call it) from it's original birth as a radio show, through the five novels and the (now rather dated) TV Series. Each was a bit different and each had its own nice little touches. I was a bit concerned because many of the reviews of the film have been luke warm to say the least. Others have been downright scathing. However when you're a fan you just have to go. Like the Star Wars prequals.

But we were in for a very pleasant surprise. It was brilliant. Martin Freeman was engaging as the baffled Arthur Dent whilst Trillian and Ford added able support. Sam Rockwell has received criticism for his portayal of Zaphod not being very likeable. Which just shows that the reviewers don't know the H2G2 material. Zaphod is a complete idiot and a total ego maniac tempered only slightly by his charisma, which is exactly how Rockwell played him. A big shout out must go to Alan Rickman who added the voice or Marvin. His little asides and moans were perfectly timed.

The special effects were great and there were plenty of laughs. But for propeller heads like me there were loads of subtle touches, for example cameos for the original Arthur, Simon Jones and the original Marvin. If you are a fan then I highly recommend it. If you have never read or seen H2G2 then you will probably be a bit confused - so don't write a review of it!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

So now we have a mortgage, we just need a house

Ali and I went to see an Independent Financially Advisor today and they took us through AIP. This means Approved in Principal and it means that a mortgage provider confirms that they would be prepared to lend you the sum required to purchase your desired house. It basically involves answering a bunch of questions like age, address and what our modest stipend is and then waiting on tenterhooks while the lender checks our credit record and does some maths. In this modern Internet age they do it while you wait. It was quite a nerve wracking listening to the IFA relaying all our details and then hoping we were going to get the thumbs up. And we did.

So we now know for sure we can get a mortgage. The trouble is that the mortgage we can get is a shade under what our landlady wants to accept. So we have to wait until Monday to see if she is prepared to accept our offer. If not, at least we know we can afford to buy somewhere else. But we really don't want to move, so fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Interesting Times

Apparently in China, wishing someone "interesting times" is a curse, because in their culture stability rather than change is prized above all else. I have no idea if that is an urban myth or true but Ali and I are certainly facing interesting times. As you might have read previously on this log, we are having to leave our rented house because the landlady needs to sell the place. But following a visit to a Financial adviser, we now discover that we are possibly in a position to buy it.

We have made an offer but have not yet heard back if it has been accepted. So it is a strange feeling when people come round to view the place knowing that they are effectively in competition with us to buy our house. So how do we subtley try to put people off? Well first of all we make sure that all the windows are open so they can hear the noise of trains and planes going by (our house is next to a train line and on the Heathrow flight path). We considered putting up Bio hazard or Radiation notices to put people off but thought this might be a bit obvious! Today Ali put down a bowl of flour with a label next to it saying "Rat Poison". A bit more subtle but I'm not sure it will work.

What do you think we should do to put off prospective purchasers? We considered disgusting things like not flushing the toilet but discarded them since we still have to live in the place for the next month. Any inventive but none disgusting ideas for putting people off welcome. Interesting Times indeed.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Time for a new DVD Player

So after a frustratingly short time (about 3 years) it is time to replace my DVD player. It's a Pioneer DV939a and it is a great machine, but it has started becoming very unpredictable. Sometimes it plays a film fine, and other times it just refuses to load a disk. And despite the quality when it is working fine - it has stopped playing my favorite film, Apollo 13, and that is quite unacceptable (and before you impune my trouble shooting abilities, of course I have tried the disk on other DVD players and it works).

Now you can pick up a DVD player from reputable makes like Sony for under £50 but they are no good for me since I need an optical output to link it to my surround sound amplifier. So if the budget market is out, what to choose. Also, should I go for a straight DVD player or a DVD with a hard disk to replace my video as well. Or even a hard disk recorder with a subscription like SKY. My frolleague Cali Clarke is a massive fan of the TiVo, which offers a great user interface and a devoted fan base, but it ain't gonna play my DVDs. Another frolleague Darren Adams is an advocate of the SKY+ box (despite some teething troubles). Once more this cannot play my DVDs, but more importantly, Ali has said she will divorce me if we get satellite TV. Something about the likelihood of me spending 22 hours a day watching the Men and Motors channel apparently :-(

So my current thinking is to go for a combined DVD/Hard Disk recorder. It would get me back in the 21 Century which appeals to my Geeky side, but the ability to stop having to program the video is another big draw. I have been looking lustfully at the Pioneer DVR 420HS romping in at about £300. Has anyone advice, experience or recommendations for these combo devices? Any help appreciated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Harbron Wow Chrysalis Records!

So as you will know from previous Log entries, my friends Marcus and Mike have a band called Harbron. Mike works for The Chrysalis Group. Chrysalis is a real force in music. It was Chrysalis that signed Blondie, Jethro Tull and Skinhead O'Conner. They also have artists like Outkast, Moloko and Feeder on their books. So they are one of the world most successful and significant "Indie" Labels around. Clearly when they were arranging their annual Charity bash they wanted a representative from seminal bands like "Sideburner" to be in attendance - so I had an invitation.

The event was hosted by Iain Lee who you might know from the Channel 4's The 11 o'clock show and various game shows. Here is a photo of him being irreverent. He was very funny but had a potty mouth. Tsk.

There were loads of acts. It was kinda like Buttlins for the cool, many Chysalis employees having a turn. Chris Wright is the Chairman of the group and he was the guy who signed Blondie. So clearly he is a GOD. But what a good sport, he took part in a spoof of what receptionists get up to. He is the guy in the bad brunette wig.

This is what Chris really looks like. You might think - hang on - he looked better in the wig. Maybe so - but did you sign Blondie? 'Nuff Said.

This is Mike and Marcus wooing the crowd. I was in that crowd so I know they went down really well. Cheering for more is always a good clue :0)

The Judges decided that Harbron deserved an award. So they went up to meet Iain Lee to get their prize. Good work fellas.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

T-Mobile in great service shock!

I lost my phone last weekend and imagined a world of pain would result. I rang the T-Mobile service line and was astounded by how helpful they were. They immediately canceled the SIM and Phone so anyone finding it couldn't abuse it as you would expect. But they also said that I was entitled to an upgrade, so I could pick a new phone up to a value of £80 and they would pay. However, I had already decided to go for the excellent Samsung E330. It turns out that this only cost £50 if you have a contact. So they gave me the phone, didn't charge me the standard £10 for a replacement SIM, didn't charge me £5 for delivery and knocked £15 of my next months bill! To my delight the next phone and SIM card showed up at 10am the following morning.

It is said that on average people tell 3 people when they have had a good experience with a company and 20 when they have had a bad experience. And when I read other folks web logs this seems to be true, because everyone seems to be complaining about something, be it erratic Sky Plus boxes or lettuce in Sandwiches. Well I want the whole world to know that T-Mobile is really great and sorted me out good and proper. Well done.

Monday, April 11, 2005


You may remember a month or so ago that I was enthusing about the new Doctor Who. Well the first two episodes have been great fun. But not particularly scary. And every now and again Doctor Who should be a bit scary for kids. I remember being a kid and watching Tom Baker battle the Daleks and being mighty scared.

Due to being at Lightning Tom's 30th birthday celebration on Saturday I missed the 3rd episode, "The Unquiet Dead" so Ali and I have just watched in on Video. Bearing in mind that Doctor Who is a children's program it was really quite frightening at points, with Dead folk rising up and murdering people! The new Doctor Who should get the kids back behind the sofa again.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Marcus plays his first proper gig ...

My top mate Marcus is playing guitar with singer Mike in a band called Harbron. Here they are at the 12 Bar Club in Denmark street in London.

Good to know that the Sideburner bass player is keeping his hand in. They started and finished brilliantly with a slight dip in the middle. Both Marcus and Mike were really good - clearly the best band on the night. Whilst Harbron were the best act, the guy doing a Metallica cover on his own was seriously entertaining and must be either mad or an undiscovered genius. (Clue: It was the first one).

Incidentally, if you have been waiting for you opportunity to see Al and Neil in the Beautiful Losers they are playing the Half Moon in Putney on Saturday.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Big Issue!

It looks like Ali and I are going to be homeless :-( Just heard this weekend that due to unfortunate illness in her family, our landlady is being forced to sell our house. So we are out on our ear. We have 2 months to sort something. Having spent 6 years in my first flat and 9 years in the next one I'm not really one for moving all the time. So leaving our current place after just 2 years will be weird.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Strange sign

A notice has been placed outside all the toilets in IBM's Staines offices. It reads, "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM CLEANING TRAINING SHOES IN THESE TOILETS". I guess the exclusive use of upper case letters implies that the person who put this up really thinks this is an important issue. Quite aside from anything else, I don't think I have ever cleaned a pair of trainers. Life is way too short. It's like ironing socks - pointless. I might replace them with one that says, "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM TRAINING CLEANERS IN THESE TOILETS" and see how long before anyone notices.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Can a geek last a week without touching a computer?

I used to work with a guy called Ben Rose in Lotus Customer Support a few years ago. He is a Geek. He also like Jaffa Cakes - but that isn't important. In trying to raise money for Cancer Research, he has agreed to give up all IT for a week - so no computer, email, sms and such. Non Geeks might scoff at this, thinking it is too easy. But let me assure you that for us propeller heads that is a significant sacrifice. He is trying to raise over £1500 and is doing pretty well. If you realize the pain he will suffer in going analogue for a week, or more seriously, if you want to help out with such a worthy charity, then make a donation here (or more accurately, visit his donation site).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Manchester Rules!

I had a 9am meeting in the IBM Manchester office this morning which meant I drove up last night in order to be on top form. I've done the getting up at 5am thing, driven for 4 hours and then presented for an hour and it isn't worth it. You just end up wired.

So I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Salford Quays. Quite a nice hotel and the view over Manchester at night from my 6th floor room was amazing. Not least because the Theatre of Dreams, Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium was directly outside my window. Quality. In the morning when it got light I was really impressed at the amount of regeneration that has gone on in the area. It really was quite classy.

As it happens, my hour long presentation over ran quite a lot. I ended up speaking for two and a half hours because the customers were asking so many questions. I love it when customers drive the briefing so they end up getting what they want to know rather than me delivering a bland marketing message. At the end, one of the customers said, "So now I get it, you don't have to chose between Domino and IBM Workplace, Domino IS Workplace and if you stick with Domino you are already part of Workplace anyway." Absolutely - I took that comment as a job well done. (And in the spirit of collaboration, it wasn't just me - I did the Domino bit and my frolleagues Andy Walter and Ed "Biggles" Cawthorne did the Workplace bit)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

His Dark Materials Part 2

So last week Ali and I went to see the first part of the National Theatre's adaptation of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy of books. Ali unfortunately could not make Part 2 because she was not very well. So I invited my best mate Matt to use the unfortunately spare ticket. Here he is enjoying a glass of wine outside on the balcony at the half time interval.

Don't tell Ali that we enjoyed it though, I lied and said that it was rubbish to make her feel better about missing it. But in truth I have never seen such a spectacular production. Apparently it cost nearly a million pounds to stage the play and it really showed. The stage itself was unbelievable - there were over 60 different sets and without exception they were perfect. From Oxford University through to the Land of The Dead, the South Pole through to the palace of Armoured Bears. Simply stunning. And don't think that this was all done with simple effects and "suspension of disbelief". The stage moved up and down to reveal other sets and then split in half to reveal a screen showing virtual settings. In fact I'm told that the staging is so complicated that this production will never be able to be performed in any theatre than the Olivier because of it's unique capabilities. Simply stunning. Everyone with a love of theatre must see this play.

Update: You may quite rightly be thinking, who cares about the stage - aren't plays about the actors? Well it is a tribute to the production that the amazing sets did not overshadow a magnificent company of actors. From the principals Lyra and Will, the major supporting parts Lord Azriel and Mrs Coulter through to the whole cast, they were exceptional. The principals had a difficult task in that anyone who has read the books will have their own ideas of what these characters should have looked and sounded like - but it was uncanny - they all seemed so right. Perhaps this had something to do with Phillip Pullman, the author of the novels being so closely involved in the production? But when you consider the challenge of portraying things like all the character's daemons you realise what a good job has been done in bringing this to the stage.

If you haven't read the books this probably won't mean that much to you, so I would implore you to read them. They are truly magnificent (think Harry Potter with a brain and some substance). But once you have read them, rush down to the Olivier Theatre and book tickets. You won't be disappointed (unless you can't get a ticket I suppose). Special praise must go to the two camp/gay angels - read the books and then see the play and you'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lost Travel Card

Ali lost her travel card today :-( To get a replacement, she needed some passport photos. Normally you have to go to a machine and feed it with loads of pound coins to get them, but by the time she had found out she had lost it, it was to late (i.e after the Pub Quiz). So I delved into Photoshop and created these photos. The image was take from a photo that is published elsewhere on this Web Log. I just resized it and painted the background white (as required). I wonder if they will pass the stringent checks? If so the Photo Booths could be a thing of the past and ink jet printing may be the future. Do you think they will pass as pukka passport photos?

Monday, March 14, 2005

His Dark Materials Part 1

"His Dark Materials" by Phillip Pullman is an amazing set of novels (cheers to my best mate Matt for turning me on to it). My wife Ali got us tickets to see the play version for my Christmas present, but because it's so popular, we had to wait till now to go. There is no way you could condense the 3 novels into one play - so they have split it into two. It is at the National Theater (well the Olivier at the NT) and it is one of the most amazing theatrical experiences I have ever had. The novels are exceptional, but the stage play was awesome. We'll be going to see part two next Monday and then I'll give it a proper review - but based on the first half - go and see it! You won't be disappointed.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Red Nose Day

Can it really be 2 years since Comic Relief was on our telly? These days I find the program a bit of a car crash. But their hearts are in the right places and the cause is always worthy. So I'm off down the pub with my mate Matt, but not before ringing 08457 910 910 to make a donation.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Microsoft buys Groove Networks

Wow! Big news today is that the Redmond Behemoth has purchased Groove Networks and made Ray Ozzie, the inventor of the splendid Lotus Notes, their new Chief Technology Officer.

It will be interesting to see if MS can integrate Groove's products into it's collaboration offerings. At least now they have a guy at the top who understands what collaboration really is (hint: It's all about people working together effectively).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Doctor Who 2005

"Just get out of here Rose, leg it now"

"If you're an alien, how come you have a Northern accent". "Loads of planets have a North""

I have just watched the first episode of the new Dr. Who (I'm not at liberty to tell you how). And it was brilliant. As a long term Dr. Who fan, I'm so glad they have managed to modernize without losing the spirit of the original. And off course I always knew Dr. Who was a
Northerner - says Mr Ports from East Yorkshire :-)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Grand Day Out

So Marcus, Ellen, Ali and I decided that we would make a day of going to the Beautiful Losers gig. First stop was TGI Fridays in Leicester Square for a few cocktails. This is a nice shot of Mr Ports supping a Long Island Iced Tea.

And this is Marcus trying to pretend he isn't really holding a big girly drink (although it did have Jack Daniels in so I guess is has some vestige of maleness).

After plenty of cocktails it was off to China Town for Set Meal C for four at the fine Lee Ho Fook restaurant. Whilst the food was excellent, especially the crispy duck, we selected the restaurant for the comedy name.

For such a prestigious venue, The Boarderline has a surprisingly small stage. It's also nice to know that the owners haven't squandered their money on decoration :-(

Here is Lightning Tom appreciating the sonic magnificence of The Losers.

Perhaps the cocktails have now kicked in because after The Losers come of stage Marcus and I become very happy. At about midnight The Boarderline turns into a rather excellent night club mainly playing late eighties/early nineties Indie music.

We finally returned home at about 2am after a great time.

Ali sensibly went to bed whilst I stayed up to watch the Australian Grand Prix. In retrospect, Ali had it right because the race wasn't very interesting for a Jenson Button fan like me. Although it was good to see rhombus headed David Coulthard coming in 4th in the first race for Red Bull and better still for a certain Michael Shumacher not scoring a point.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Beautiful Losers play the Borderline 5th March

My top mates Al and Neil see their band the Beautiful Losers headline the prestigious Borderline club in London on the 5th. That's Saturday. The door is just 7 quid and if you are oop London way then it would be great to see you there.

For more details click