Thursday, August 31, 2006

The evils of the modern world (part 2)

I like a nice cup of Joe. I particularly like a nice cup of coffee when I'm on a long drive to visit a customer and I want to ensure that I'm as alert as possible since falling asleep at the week can cause all sorts of complications ranging from carnage to a long term in prison for dangerous driving. Clearly best avoided.

However, there is a catch. My car is magnificent in many respects but it does have a serious lack of cup holders. Specifically it doesn't have any. So when I get a cup of coffee from a Motorway service station I have to get a lid sealing in the contents so that it won't spill when I leverage the warp like acceleration. So good so far. Unfortunately I like my brew black so it doesn't benefit from the cooling power of milk. When such a super heated liquid is then placed in a partially sealed container, it maintains it's heat.

All of this leads to the actual problem. Take away cups are designed to feel cool so that we don't burn our fingers. This also means that it is imposible to judge the temparature of the coffee in the cup. So typically you will drive a couple of miles to allow the drink to cool down a bit. Then touch the cup to check it is a bit cooler. Then try and take a sip throught the little hole in the lid. And have a jet of scorching liquid sear through your skull like the burning fires of Hades.

Now drinks that need to be cool, for example Newcastle Brown have a sticker that turns blue when the drink is appropriatly cooled. Why oh why cannot coffee cups have a similar sticker to indicate when the contents have a half life of less than a thousand years?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The evils of the modern world (part 1)

As regular readers of this web log will realise, I'm quite an easy going chap. There aren't that many things that vex me. In fact foolish people have sometimes confused my near refusal to become annoyed with apathy. But read on in this occasianal new series of rants where I unleash the full power of my fury.

First up - hotel Toilet Paper. I stay in hotels all the time as I wander the globe telling people about IBM's brilliant software from Lotus. Sometimes they are simple Holiday Inn Express's like the one I stayed in last night in the Middlands, and sometimes they are dead posh like The Hotel Versailles that I stayed in a few years ago. But they all have one thing in common. Terrible toilet paper. It is normally so thin it is virtully transparent and as course as sand paper. You need half the roll per wipe to ensure *ahem* cleaning takes place. Then they have the nerve to fold the end of the roll into a point to show what a classy establishment you are staying in. Now when I am paying over a hundred pounds a night I would have thought that they could have invested in some nice quilted loo roll rather than the hessian sacking they always cheaply supply.

When I remember I pop a roll of Andrex Aloe Vera in my suitcase if I know I'm staying at a hotel since at my stage of life I think I deserve something a bit more comfortable on the ol' Botswana.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Record Store Cats

If funny pictures of cats in headphones amuse you then you will love this site.

Record Store Cats

I'm particularly tickled by Techno Tim and Hardcore Steve

Friday, August 18, 2006

Stone 'enge

Ali and I had been planning to visit Stonehenge this holiday but due to one thing and another, just didn't get round to it. So today was our last chance. As luck would have it Southern England was being drenched with monsoon like rain so it seemed like our visit was going to be a wash out. However, with stereotypical British optimism we decided to drive down to Wiltshire anyway and hope for the best. It rained hard all the way and by the time we were within a couple of miles of the Henge we were stuck in nose to tail traffic on the A303. Everything was beginning to look a bit bleak. However, just as we parked up the sun suddenly popped out!

As can be seen from the menacing dark cloud in this photo - we really were in a small window of dry snugly niceness amidst horrible weather. Stonehenge is spectacular and English Heritage have done a brilliant job of compromising access with preservation. I have read loads of whining monkeys complaining that you can't touch the stones any more but they should be glad that the site is in such good condition. The free audio tour is very informative and even entertaining. Excellent value for £5.60. And not only that - when you get out you can get a fine bacon baguette. Mmmm.

After spending a lovely couple of hours at the Henge we hit the road back to London and within 2 minutes of leaving the heavens opened again. The Gods/Druids/Spirits/Gaia/Earth Mother/Merlin/Tooth Fairy (delete as applicable) must have been looking down on us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

BA Halts all flights from the UK

My frolleague Kieran sent this round. I don't normally repost jokes but I thought this was particularly well done.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

3rd or 10th Anniversary

Today is Ali and my 10th Anniversary of being together and 3rd Wedding Anniversary. I ain't no mug, I ensured we got married on the anniversary of us stepping out together so that I wouldn't have another date to remember. Ali got me a big book about Doctor Who. Not very romantic but waaay cool. It's called Doctor Who: The Legend Continues and covers all the Doctors and his assistants from William Hartnell to Christopher Eccelscake. Well played The Missus. For my part I'm taking her to a top Barnes restaurant for some top scoff and fine wines.

My Mum and Dad very generously sent us a card and attached a few pennies with the strict instructions that they were to be spent on a "Nice Plant". So still being on holiday today, we took a turn round the local garden centre. This is the fine article (together with pot) that we came up with. I've no idea what it is but it looks nice as instructed. Thanks Mum and Dad xx.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

English (United States)

Because I work for a software company and am a bit of a geek I install software programs a lot. In fact pretty much every day I will be installing a new build of Lotus Notes or trying out some obscure utility or program. However the arrival of my new Thinkpad has caused me to install or reinstall loads of stuff. Because we live in a world of many languages most software will give you the opportunity to specify which one you want to use. Brilliant. Sometimes they even go to the trouble of specifying different national variation in a language so for example you might be able to choose between French (Fr) for the French or French (Cn) for the French Canadians. Vive la Difference.

But what makes me incandescent with rage is when the default language specified is English (US) but there are no other English options. This occurs in way too many programs. The above example is from the evil iTunes. Now don't get me wrong, I have no objection to there being a US version of English. I have read Bill Bryson's excellent book Made in America which analyses the etymology of American English and also that it isn't just a poor mans version of English English but is a perfectly valid derivative. But the point remains, American English is not the only version of English. In fact there is a version from a quaint little country called England which has some claim to ownership prior to the States. Some Canadians just aboot speak English. Our criminal cousins in Australia also have a go as do those in New Zealand along with the Irish (to be sure). So why only offer English (US)? If you are just going to offer one version why no just call it English? It really winds me up having to state that I'm a Yank to install some software. The latest software to do this to me is the otherwise excellent Open Office which offers Welsh and Esperanto yet no English (UK)!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


So I got an eMail yesterday saying that my new Thinkpad was ready for collection. One of the nice things about working for IBM is that they keep us Techies on the latest versions of hardware. Of course I'm just starting a fortnights holiday so should have ignored the mail.

Yeah right! Knowing my excellent Thinkpad T40 was going to be augmented by a new T60p was too much for my geekyness to resist. My wife Ali would quite rightly have no truck with me spending a day of our holiday going to the IBM Warwick office to pick up my new hardware. But there is no way I could wait. So a cunning plan was required. How about a cultural visit to Warwick Castle. To be specific this is 1.3 miles away from the IBM offices. The perfect Geek crime :-)

Since I'm using the castle as subterfuge it make sense to take a nice photo of Ali next to a cool tower.

Here I am in the "Portscullis". Oh suit your self :-(

ROCK THE THINKPAD! Of course this is what it is all about. Watch that data move from my old Thinkpad to my new T60p. I guess it doesn't take a genius to realise that Ali wasn't fooled for a second but whilst a bit over commercialised and over priced (£18 per adult!) it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. If you do visit though - don't eat the fish and chips - they cost six quid each and are truly rank :-(

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Hasselback

Nope - I'm not talking about the guy from Baywatch who used to have a car called Kitt. The Hasselback is a way of preparing a potato. Witness the majesty. Until last weekend I hadn't even heard of this magnificent roast spud. My mate Si told me how to do it. Just to take you through the details, here we see the bottom, then the top and finally the a side view.

The secret of this top tuber is that the top is sliced through to about 2/3 of the depth of the potato. And that is pretty much it. Drizzle melted butter on them to ensure that they are crispy perfection after about 70 minutes at gas mark 7.

Why are they better than "ordinary" roasters? Firstly because they are much crunchier and yet still as creamy in the middle. And secondly because they are a little bit different. Some over the top chefs recommend that you should use Parmesan cheese for the last few minutes - but I think that is bonkers if you are having roast beef or chicken! Just slice and roast. Oh, and before you start asking which professional chef prepared the example in the photo's above - that was the last spare spud from our tea tonight. And I'll probably eat it cold later.

Easy Jensen

Whenever Ali is driving her red VW Polo too fast I cry "Easy Jensen!" to remind her that she isn't a Formula One driver and she isn't driving in a Grand Prix. Not very original or particularly funny but it makes me chuckle. However, unlike previous British F1 drivers like Lantern jawed David Coulthard and miserable excuse monkey Damon Hill, Jensen had never actually won a race.

I haven't been following F1 too closely this season because very often Ali and I are out on a Sunday, so I often just catch the highlights (with the obvious exception of my trip to the 2006 British Grand Prix). However, Yesterday Ali had popped over to see her Dad and I was at a bit of a lose end so I popped the TV on to find it was the beginning of the Hungarian GP. I had not heard any of the lead up so was very depressed to find out that Jensen was starting 14th after losing 10 places for changing his engine.

I almost turned off then thinking there wasn't much interest for me if Mr Button was starting so far back and with overtaking being so hard, but something made me keep on watching. You always know it is going to be interesting when the race starts out wet and then the track starts drying. But even without the Britons first win it was a great race. It's always a pleasure seeing Schmacher being overtaken and lapped. The fact that Jensen kept his nerve and made the win stick was magnificent and I was so happy to have seen it live.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Happy Birthday to Boo

Well actually - Happy Birthday to Barney and Boo. It really doesn't seem like 10 months since the little fellas joined our family. Today is their 1st birthday. The main change is that they are no longer little and cute like they were in October...

They are large and cute (and lazy)...

Over the last year Boo, despite being about half Barneys size, has shown himself to be top cat. He wears the furry trousers in that relationship. Boo is also by far the most adventurous. He is always the first one to climb a tree, catch an insect or jump on Ali or I for a cuddle. Barney just trundles on behind looking handsome. We have decided that Tabby is the precise cat equivalence to Blonde. Anyway - happy birthday boys. No more kitten food for you.