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Monday, October 26, 2009

Being digital

I always loved Ian Hunter's first solo album, the one that he made immediately after leaving Mott the Hoople back in 1974 (I was shocked to find out, earlier this year, that Ian is now 70). So when I was working earlier today, I suddenly thought to myself that I hadn't heard it for a while. I know that I have the CD in a box somewhere, but am far to lazy (and busy) to go and try and find it. In the circumstances, I did what any normal person would to, which was to use screen sharing to log on to the Mac in my study and remotely run iTunes then go to the iTunes Store to buy it. When I searched on iTunes I discovered that there was a remastered 30th anniversary edition. I bought it, it's fabulous.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saved my bacon

I had to go to Copenhagen for something, and when I was at Heathrow, I read about a splendid new green initiative from All Nippon Airways.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) claims that empty bladders mean lighter passengers, a lighter aircraft and thus lower fuel use.

[From Airline goes green by asking passengers to use the toilet before boarding | Mail Online]

Apparently, the gate staff there are reminding travellers to go to the toilet before they get on the plane. The idea of this is to reduce weight on the flights, thereby saving on jet fuel, thereby helping the environment. What a brilliant idea! It struck me as just the sort of vacuous, irrelevant gesture that is perfect for Looking Glass Britain. I'm surprised that Bono didn't mention this in his address to the Tory Party conference. Usually, you just get celebrities flying around in private jets while telling the rest of us to use low-energy light bulbs, but this is so much better. A "take-a-dump for Gaia" campaign will get the public on board and certainly raise awareness of climate change issues. It will make people feel like they are doing something about climate, without really inconveniencing anyone (conveniencing, them in fact). I enthusiastically joined the campaign, and then boarded the flight.

When I got to the airport in Copenhagen, I thought I would continue with my heartfelt commitment to saving the planet and decided to take a bus to the hotel, as it looked as if it was directly on the 5A bus route from the airport. So I wandered out and hurrah! There was a 5A bus waiting. I jumped on, and then ran into a problem, since it hadn't occurred to me that I would have to pay, and I hadn't bothered to get any Danish Kroner and the bus didn't take cards. So I asked the driver if I could pay in euros, and he said it would be five euro. But oh no, I only had a 10 euro note and the driver didn't have any chance. I was just about to get off, when a youngish (I'd say mid-20s) man came forward and paid the fare for me. I asked him if he had a card or could write his address, and he told me in near-perfect English that the driver was trying to rip me off because the fare should have been half that, and please don't worry about the money. What a gentleman! The historic relationship between England and Denmark continues (I still consider the the crowns to be united, as I do not recognise the claim of King William I to the English throne).

In true pay-it-forward fashion, I swear the next time I see someone get on the bus and then get stuck because they have no change, I will cheerfully pay for them.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You don't need to make this stuff up

The government is on the verge of denying me one of my few remaining simple pleasures, because it's becoming increasingly more difficult to pluck up the courage to open a newspaper in the bizarre looking-glass world that is Brown's Britain. I fought the phobia this morning and managed to get all the way to page 3 (of the Telegraph, I hasten to ad) before I find a story about a criminal case being dropped because the Crown Prosecution Service, the bastard offspring of the Keystone Cops and the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, had (after six months) not managed to photocopy some document that was required for the case. Why hadn't they photocopied it? Well, it was because the "person responsible for photocopying had been off work for an operation".

It reminded of an old joke -- which I think may have been on Spitting Image, but I can't really remember -- about Prince Charles and Lady Diana at the breakfast table. Prince Charles is staring blankly at an envelope and then says to her "where's the letter opener", Lady Diana replies "it's his day off".

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hope this doesn't seem sexist

I sat down in an aisle seat on the train. An extremely attractive young woman got on the train, walked down and sat in the aisle seat opposite me. She had long blonde hair and was wearing a white blouse, a bright scarlet jacket and a short black skirt, with black tights and black stiletto heels. As she walked down the carriage, the heads of a large number of overweight, balding, grey-haired elderly gentlemen (eg, me) turned to follow, which I imagine was the desired effect.

After a few minutes, I noticed she was writing in a notepad and I glanced over to see what she might be doodling. She was doing integral calculus. Really, really, hard integral calculus.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, October 12, 2009

New playlist

I tried out my new playlist going into London today.

As the SWT Animal Transport approached, I kicked off with Blondie's pacy "Call Me", by far and away my favourite Blondie song. I wasn't much of a Blondie fan back in the day, but this one grew on me as the years passed, and now I appreciate the construction as well as the delivery.

Settling down on the train -- I managed to get one of the few remaining seats even though it meant getting jammed in the middle between two other commuters, who were both clearly devasted that I'd decided to go for it instead of politely leaving the middle seat empty -- I eased into the Joe Perry Project's version of the old Aerosmith number "Let the music do the talking". I've always preferred Joe's solo version. I couldn't find it to download, so I had to buy a whole CD to get it, which was really annoying, but I thought it would fit nicely in the playlist, and I was right.

Buzz Buzz. A simple bit of uptempo guitar-based rock from the Joe Perry Project eases the train through the sunny Surrey countryside.

I've Got to Rock (To Say Alive) by Saxon with Lemmy got me pumped up as we entered the London suburbs.

I Got a Line on You, the first rate Jeff Healey rework of the old Spirit classic which carried me along nicely through towards Clapham Junction.

On the final approach to Waterloo, the absolutely fantastic live version of Messin' with the Kid by legendary Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher.

I Wanna Be Your Dog from Iggy & The Stooges carries me out of the train, shuffling down into the underworld and across the Styx (the Waterloo & City line).

I was never really crazy about ELP (Emerson, Lake and Powell in this case), but I loved Greg Lake's sound with King Crimson (I can still remember buying the first album with money I made from working in a factory on Saturdays). "Touch And Go" is one of those tracks I don't get bored with.

I finished the journey with Jo Jo Gunne's timeless "Run Run Run" so that I was in a upbeat mood at just the right tempo coming out of the tube and starting the walk to the first meeting. Something of a success I feel.

Another Jeff Healey track, his own I Think I Love You Too Much, helps me along the road to the Royal Exchange. The combination of first rate guitar playing and sunshine helps me to recover from the travails of the tube.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The world's favourite...

There's no doubt about it. I've been singing the praises of Terminal 5 which, after the initial stutter, is now quite pleasant as airports go. The key metric -- how long does it take from getting off the plane to getting into your card -- holds up well, except on the odd occasion when the border police forget that planes are arriving. I sympathise with John Redwood. He had a conversation with them about this.

The issue was how they handled the peaks. Surely it was one of flexible hours, the balance between full time and part time, and the use of intelligent rosters... He countered by saying the peaks were unpredictable. I argued that on the whole they were entirely predictable, as there are timetables telling them when all the large jets are expected in.

[From John Redwood MP]

Indeed. I've often wondered the same. Anyway, despite its great leaps forward, I have to say that Terminal 5 still doesn't reach the benchmark: Singapore Changi. This is the most efficient place on Earth. I came in tonight on a BA flight that had a technical fault and was nearly an hour late. No big deal, these things happen. I thought I would miss my connection, but wasn't too bothered since I figured there must be plenty of flights to KL and I'd get on one of them. Nevertheless, when the jetway opened I rushed up as fast as I could in order to see if there was a chance of making the Singapore Airlines flight or to head to a help desk if not. What was I thinking? This isn't Heathrow.

At the top of the jetway a super-efficient Singapore Airlines lady was holding a sign with my name on it. They thought it would be stressful for me to run and try and catch the flight, and I probably wouldn't make it anyway, so that had rebooked me on a JAL flight an hour later. She took me to the transfer area where I took a ticket and waited in an orderly manner. My number was called in five minutes and five minutes later I had my new boarding pass and pottered off to Starbucks to relax (and use the free wifi - Heathrow should take a leaf out of their book). If you have to change planes anywhere, make it Changi.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Primary colour

Along with a couple of friends, I went along to the Woking open primary for the Conservative Party. It's an interesting new fad to have open primaries, so that anyone can come along and vote to see who will become the Tory candidate, in this case to succeed Humphrey Malins in Woking. They held in the H.G. Wells suite, which was completely full. I was genuinely surprised at the size (and, frankly, the average age) of the audience.

There were four candidates: a barrister, a couple of lady doctors and a marketing wallah. They were brought in one at a time -- in a random order, determined by lottery -- and asked the same questions, some of which had been selected from the floor ("has multiculturalism failed?") and some that had been set by, I suppose, the selection committee. They all did reasonably well: I'd sort of assumed that one of them would have really stood out to make the voting easy, but it wasn't like that at all. They handily gave out score sheets for you to fill in as you went along, and all of the candidates scored within a couple of points by my tallying.

I was sure the marketing guy would lose -- I didn't like his speaking style, which seems stilted and slightly unreal -- and although I was inclined towards both of the doctors -- my reasoning being that unlike barristers or marketing wallahs, doctors are forced to meet "real people" on a daily basis, and therefore experience the devastation that the New Labour plague has visited on our land at first hand -- but somehow just wasn't convinced by them as MPs. So I voted for the barrister, who had actually lived in Goldsworth Park in Woking. My friends each chose one of the doctors. On being told that the count would take half an hour, we went off for a beer and then came back.

We were totally shocked when the marketing wallah won, although to give him his due he did give a victory speech that wasn't bad (it was better than his "choose me" speech), so good luck to him.

Incidentally, I didn't understand why all of the candidates felt obliged to say that they support a return to grammars schools, unless it was because the audience was so old. The solution isn't to go back to the 1950 but to go forward: the candidates should have been calling for school vouchers.

None of them put forward any radical policies at all. I wanted one of them to call for the abolition of income tax, the legalisation of drugs and a few other things, but they were all quite moderate.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]