December 04, 2009

Christmas at work

Just got this email at the office.

Christmas Decorations
All electrical Christmas decorations must be approved and PAT tested (portable appliance tested), incl fibre optic trees etc - Please request this through the Facilities Helpdesk.
Do not pin items to the walls
No decorations to be put up at a height - no step ladders/steps/chairs to be used
No glass baubles
No candle decorations
No unauthorised real Christmas trees in offices
Artificial trees must be flame retardant

...err... Merry Christmas to you too.

Reminds me of this photo I took a few years back.

Christmas Decoration (s)

Posted by se71 at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2008

PPP - Perfect Printer Position

I've just been doing book reviews here recently, and mostly these are for my benefit. I haven't stopped having ideas for other bits and bobs, but kinda lost the mojo to write them up due to a complete lack of apparent readership.

But, I'm bored, so here's my idea for today.

In an office, you need to print things occasionally. For me, it's usually just one or two pages (etickets for flights, timesheets, invoices etc). The nearest printer may be right across the room, or only a few steps away. When you click "Print" on the computer there is a bit of processing, then the page gets sent across the network, and the printer wakes up and eventually spits out the page you want.

What you don't want is to walk over to the printer, and then have to wait there ages for the page to come out. You also don't want private information coming out too quickdy so that it can be intercepted by another party before you can reach it. You want to get there just as it's ejected.

So for every desk/office/network/computer/printer configuration, there is a PPP (perfect printer position) which means that the length of time it takes you to walk over to the printer, is exactly the same time as the time it takes for the page to get printed.

Why bring this up today? My desk at my new office is at the exact perfect PPP :-)

Posted by se71 at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008


So, the divorce of the decade is on, and the papers are already having a punning time of it. I decided to give them a little hand with some other Beatles tracks they might like to use...

We Can't Work it out
All you Need is Cash
The Ballad of Paul and Heather
Being for the Benefit of Ms Mills
The Fool and the Mills
Got to get you out of my Life
Hey Judas
I Want to Own Your Land

err, that's enough to be going on with in the A-J part of the alphabet.

Posted by se71 at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2007


Someone pointed me to this little site, Indexed, which I've stuck in my RSS feed and find quite amusing and interesting. It appeals to the geek in me. Taking some common situation, and distilling it to a Venn Diagram, or graph, is a good way to see how you feel about something.

It looks fun to do, and I had an idea, so knocked it up in paintbrush. Apologies to Jessica Hagy for the plagiarism


Posted by se71 at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Amazon Wish List

It has been brought to my attention that just about everything on my Amazon Wish List isn't available in normal terrestrial retail outlets (shops).

If you have a look, you'll see that I'm rapidly trying to rectify this. As it was my birthday this week, it's still not too late to get me something!!

Posted by se71 at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2006

Free Stuff

Originally uploaded by se71.
Finally, more free stuff at Waterloo Station.

This chap was giving out paper lunch bags containing an apple and a blueberry muffin to advertise the launch of two new digital TV stations this coming weekend.

Here is is...

Posted by se71 at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2006


On Monday morning I was congratulating myself as being the hardest man in Ascot. Not a difficult task you might think, but what was my criteria? Well, I was the only one waiting on the platform who hadn't decided to wear a coat.

I've been cycling to work for many months now, and have managed with just a shirt (and a foldup fluorescent raincoat in my bag for the inevitable downpours). I hoped this week would be as good as previous ones. We have passed the time of instant perspiration after pedalling just a few yards, and reached a very equitable state where I can cycle my hardest for 10 minutes and it's just temperate enough to keep me sweat free.

But this morning, as I stepped out of my door, I realised that those balmy Indian Summer days were over. I put my jacket on at 6:40am and braved the new chilly morning. My hands were even quite cold, and I had a mental picture of doing this in complete darkness, in the rain. I thought that maybe getting a second car on the road might not be a bad idea.

I'm not the hardest man in Ascot anymore, well, I am of course, but it's a bit more difficult to prove it. That'll have to wait till I'm the first to put my jacket back in the wardrobe next spring.

Posted by se71 at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

Yet more free stuff

24th July 2006 - Nivea Deodorant

Feeling hot and sweaty after your tube/train journey - Nivea to the rescue this morning with some deodorant. Not just for you, for all your fellow travellers too. Waterloo station delivers yet again, and since I started counting the freebies, this is the first one I can't eat or drink.



25th July 2006 - Holmes Place Pedometer

Holmes Place are opening a new gym near my office, in Old Broad Street. This girl was trying hard to give away pedometers, and not having that much luck really. Unlike the free coke which people were stampeding over each other to get at, the pedometers had to actually be thrust into people's hands as they wennt past. In fact, she walked over to the traffic lights nearby with a handful and offloaded them there on people who couldn't get away.



Posted by se71 at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2006

More Free Stuff

14th July 2006 - Coca Cola Zero

So last Friday I picked up a can of Coke Zero at Waterloo with my free Metro newspaper, then took my 'Oi Bagel' voucher to the bagel shop and got a free bagel. This bagel shop is great. Like a lot of places if you buy 9 bagels, you get the 10th free. I go almost every day, and so it only takes 2-3 weeks. This one is my favourite - cheese bagel filled with scrambled egg and tomato.




19th July 2006 - Trebor Extra Cool Mints

Wednesday provided some more sweets at Waterloo, this time a real, full packet of Trebor mints, coming free with the free Metro newspaper. No URL online from the company to showcase these, which is odd.

For some reason they have felt the need to individually wrap each mint in the packet - maybe to stop them sticking together.

They taste quite nice, spearmint flavour, pretty much what you would expect.



On the way home, in the hottest day of the year so far with 36 degrees, Coke Zero were yet again out in force giving away little cans of ice-cold drinks in Waterloo station. Very welcome!


20th July 2006 - Coco Cola Zero

Today I got yet another Coke Zero with the Metro. This promotion might back-fire as I'm getting a bit bored of them!



Update: Yet another Coke Zero on the way home tonight at Waterloo station. It was sweltering, and I drank it on the train.



Posted by se71 at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2006

Free Stuff

I love getting free stuff.

I've noticed that commuting to London is increasingly providing me with free things. Some are 'free' free, as in, you just take them. Others are free if you buy the Evening Standard newspaper, or sometimes another newspaper.

So I'm going to try and document how much stuff I get, and if the newspaper give-aways are significant, in that I've deemed it worth buying the paper to get them, then I'll list those too.


Yes, I'm including a newspaper. It's not a great paper, in fact, it's pretty rubbish, but it is free every day, and the letters page makes me laugh.


During Ascot week, I happened to buy a copy of the Daily Telegraph, at Ascot train station. I got a free pair of binoculars, presumably to use to watch the horses.


Probably the most significant Evening Standard freebie is a newspaper branded umbrella I got a few months ago. This was my second umbrella from the paper, the first was a large full size type, with another companies brandning on it. However, it broke and I had to bin it. This one is a really small telescopic type, and I keep it in my desk drawer at work, just in case I want to use it on the way home or at lunchtime.

Water Bottle
I take a bottle of water with me to the gym which is around the corner from my office. Couldn't resist buying a copy of the Evening Standard to get a sturdy one branded by the company.

OK, finally getting to the really free stuff now. Previous to this, I can remember getting, amongst other things, an Innocent smoothie (in the street at Finsbury Circus), a 20cl can of Pepsi max (last week at Waterloo), a cool bag (as in fridge) full of drinking yoghurt (Waterloo), several pink squeezable pigs.
12th July 2006 - Tropicana Juice drink


This was a very nice bottle of orange juice, and a decent size too. Given out by a quite a crowd of people at Waterloo station on my way to work at 8.00am


13th July 2006 - Aquadrops


Waterloo station again at 8am. A solitary girl giving out very asmall packets of sweets. She kept apologising to people who wanted to have more than one packet.


Posted by se71 at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2006

Brompton Folding Bicycle

Brompton on the train
Originally uploaded by se71.
My tube/train pass finally ran out, and so I decided to bite the bullet and get a Brompton bike so that I could avoid that particular underground hell for a few months.

I got an S-Type. This decision was difficult, as these things always are. There are many standard bikes, and you can also get a custom build, some in pretty colours. The prices vary madly, from about £450 up to £1200, but the higher end models didn't actually have enough improvements to make them cost-effective. A lighter bike is advantageous, but might have less gears. A bike with a dynamo would be good, but is heavier and harder to pedal.

I've been walking past Evans Cycles by London Bridge every day, and decided this would be a good place to buy from. They had five Bromptons in store, and gave me a couple of test rides. I bought the bike I liked best. I have the S6L-Plus. I comes with lights, and a small light-weight handle-bar. I get a bag to attach to the front too (have a look at all the bikes here in this PDF document if you'd like to see what you might have gone for). I'm not sure if I'd have gotten that bike if Evans had had the complete range; and if I'd custom built I might have gone for different accessories, but I like to buy things and use them immediately. Instant gratification++

Posted by se71 at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Power Shopping

Wandered into Timberland, the clothing store, yesterday. It was only fifteen minutes before closing time.

Spotted a sale section and managed to pick a shirt, jumper and pair of trousers, try them on, and get to the till before closing.

The challenge is on. I'd like to see anyone else beat that for a whole outfit :-)

(and no, I haven't done any sneaky shopping around, or browsing in Timberland before. I haven't been in the shop for over a year)

Posted by se71 at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2006

Dilbert vs Real Life

Today's Dilbert cartoon popped into my RSS reader at exactly the same time as a meeting invitation popped up in my Outlook calendar.

The meeting was "Daily Go-Live Status Meeting with Transition Team"

The fictitious 'joke' Dilbert meeting is worded a little differently, but believe me it is exactly the same meeting.

The synchronicity is frightening :-)

Posted by se71 at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2006


Originally uploaded by se71.
This is, quite literally, a free cycle.

I joined a local group in the community. I really needed a cheap bike for popping to the shops on after my mountain bike got stolen last year, and when one turned up on the list I grabbed it.

I drove over to Staines last Thursday night and picked up this free bicycle. Freecycle is like ebay but no money changes hands - it's a place to get rid of unwanted things - someone else always wants your old stuff. It's not just for bikes of course, anything goes pretty much.

My new bike was covered in dust and cobwebs, had a wonky saddle and flat tyres, but a wet rag, a wrench and a pump fixed all those problems in 5 minutes flat!

It's great, it has mudguards, a rack for bags or packages, a stand, and the breaks even work.


Update: Took my new bike to the local library for a trip, and also got a paper from the newsagents. Got there so quickly, I made a detour on the way back do I'd get a bit more pedalling time :-)

Posted by se71 at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2005

Hemel Hempstead Oil Explosion

Originally uploaded by se71.
Update to the Hemel Hempstead explosion.

I went for my usual Sunday morning cycle, and interestingly the smoke was easily visible from Windsor Great Park.

Posted by se71 at 08:06 PM | Comments (2)


I heard a large bang and the house shook this morning just after 6am.

I got up and checked for thunder - the weather looked calm. So I had a look on the internet and Radio 4, nothing.

Just got downstairs and now find that there was an explosion near Hemel Hempsted.

That really must have been loud!

Posted by se71 at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Tube Vigilance

Everyone is supposed to be taking extra care now to make sure they aren't sitting next to a suicide bomber on public transport. I keep meaning to, but always forget, as I have my head stuck in the Metro newspaper and the notion totally disappears. That's not a subtle advert for the fascinating qualities of the Metro though, just my inability to think of two things at once.

But I considered the alternatives, and I think I've decided that what I'm doing is probably helping my sanity, and keeping my stress down. Let's say I spot a young asian-looking man with a rucksack (this is our best guess demographic of a uicide bomber). What will I do?

Do I stand up and point at him and accuse him of trying to kill me? - No. if I do that and I'm right, he'll press the button and kill us all. If I'm wrong then it'll be pretty unpleasant for both of us, and a panicked carriage full of people could be very dangerous.

Another option is to get up and hurriedly walk away and say nothing. There are quite a lot of young asian-looking men with rucksacks on the tube though, and I could spend quite a lot of time walking from carriage to carriage raising my blood pressure. If buy some fluke I happen to get it right, and escape a blast, I'll probably feel guilty the rest of my life that I didn't alert the authorities.

Thirdly I can just sit there and worry, nervously glancing at the man, hoping I'll be OK, working out my options, keeping the panic in.

No, I think I've got it right by default. Read the paper like I've always done, and ignore every other passenger. This is after all the traditional London Underground way.

Posted by se71 at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005


Having a job in the City of London, and having been in the finance/consulting industry all my working life, I guess I'm bound to occasionally bump into someone I know. Recently however this really has been a bit bizarre.

Last Friday I was on the Waterloo & City line train going home, and met Tom, who I last worked with about 10 years ago. We worked very closely together for quite a while, and had each other over for dinner and knew partners and children, but inevitably lost touch when we both left the firm.

Then yesterday, I go to lunch with someone I met cycling in Windsor. (who happens to be an IT contractor in the same company I'm at now - another weird coincidence). He's invited an old friend of his, who has invited another friend, who has brought someone called John along.

Turns out John works for the same small company (35 people) where my friend Tom works.

No conclusions - just a bit weird.

Posted by se71 at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005


I feel it is an accomplishment worth noting still, sadly, but I finished the Daily Telegraph Crossword yesterday again. Number 24,730.

This time it took the whole day. I did the last third on the train home by what felt like sheer willpower :-)

Posted by se71 at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

London 7/7/5

Most everyone with a blog will be writing something about this, and I'm reluctant to be seen as just adding my own 2p to the throng of information. However my blog is 90% for me, and I want to write down my experiences so that I can remember them in years to come. This is not particularly interesting except to me.

The news of the 'power surge' on the London Underground travelled round my office like wildfire. Everyone was concerned obviously whether anyone had been hurt, but mostly they were worried about the effect it would have on their journey home that evening.

The second incident had a much more serious impact. Now it was obvious that this was a bomb attack. Every monitor was now showing a news site as people looked for updates. I work very near Moorgate tube station, and could see police out of the window closing down the entrance, and fire engines going past.

BBC News Online was slow off the mark with information - was better. The best news though was my MP3 player/radio which I tuned to BBC London 94.9 FM for the John Gaunt show. This is a live phone in show, and it really worked. John Gaunt is a fantastic presenter and he's been thrown in at the deep end in crises situations like this before.

My mother was on a coach coming down to London, and luckily she has a mobile phone. I managed to contact her and tell her I was OK, and that her journey would probably not go to plan today, before Vodafone shut down the network. I was angry that this happened, do the emergency services really need our airwaves? A large reason for owning a mobile is to be able to contact friends and family in emergencies, and I feel let down that this was impossible for several hours. I talked to my friends and sister on MSN Messenger, which thankfully was unaffected all day.

I talked to a lady in my office who had just arived She had been on the underground and had heard the first blast. People had been annoyed - another London Underground delay, just one of many. She had then taken another tube and a bus to get to Moorgate. When she got here and realised that her second two journeys could have cost her her life, and had been preventable, she was really angry. why the cover story about power problems? This must be in the government's disaster rule book to stop pandemonium. I think this is a mistake, a total immediate shutdown of all transport and some honesty from the authorities is in order. This won't work next time.

Now we knew it was terrorism, my first thought was that it was a coordinated simultaneous attack on the tube, and that it was now over. When the news of the bus came in I had to revise this. Things really got serious and scary then. The first hand account of the roof blowing off a bus took the attack into the streets, now no one was safe. The fire warden for our floor came along and closed all the window blinds - this is standard practice in case a bomb goes off and sprays the office with broken glass and should protect us. Sitting by a window I did have thoughts that this might not be the best place to be.

A local conference room was opened up and BBC News 24 was playing on a big screen in there. Work continued, but people drifted in and out to watch, epecially the broadcasts from the House of Commons, and the statements from Tony Blair at the G8 conference.

I was pleased and touched that many friends from overseas checked in with me by MSN and email during the day to make sure I was OK. I heard in the afternoon that my mother's coach had decided to turn around and go back up north. Luckily my brother was nearby and he picked her up. Now I only had to worry about getting myself home.

News reports, which at one point claimed six tube blasts and three busses, gradually settled on lower numbers. The number of reported dead was two for a long time, then jumped to 33. The photos of the bus had come through at this stage - I think this image will be the lasting one. After a few hours mainline services were reported as getting back to normal, and a lot of people started to head home. My workplace announced that everyone should go home, and not come in on Friday unless they had essential work.

I hung on until 5pm, and not really wanting to change my plans for the day, decided to meet my sister in Leicester Square to maybe see a film - we thought War of the Worlds would be appropriate, and not too tasteless. I left and walked up through the city past St Pauls, Fleet St, and Covent Garden. People were very calm, I saw a few jogging home, some brave souls were on the busses which had by now reappeared. I wasn't feeling that foolhardy. Leicester Square was nearly deserted however and all the cinemas were closed. It was kind of nice to enjoy a summer afternoon without the crowds. Meeting my sister, and finding one of the few open pubs, we had a drink at a pavement side table and reflected on the day. Another peaceful walk too us to Waterloo, and the train out of London was quiet and very civilised.

This morning, the news said that London transport, apart from the lines directly affected yesterday, was back to normal. Normally it's heaving and hot and smelly, but the overground and the Waterloo-City line were actually very pleasant indeed - I've never seen them so quiet. I did check the platform for suspicious items, and also gave my fellow passengers a quick once over. I'm sure they did the same to me.

Company security decided to search my bag and look closely at my ID, understandable of course, but the words bolted, horse and stable-door immediately sprang to mind. Everyone else seems to have taken the advice and stayed at home, so I'm sitting here in a dark, empty office (motion controlled lights go off if I don't get up and walk around every 5 minutes). I think I'll go to the gym later, and get off home fairly early.

Posted by se71 at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)


I think people have started calling it 7/7 already.

At least the US won't be able to mangle the day and month this time.

More later.

Posted by se71 at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

Best Buy

The imminent 'death' of my electric/rehargeable razor has been making me think about what my best buy over the years has been. I bought this Phillips razor nearly teenty years ago, and have used it almost every day since. I have to admit that it's not as sharp as it used to be (like it's owner - I know), and the charge doesn't last as long, and sadly someone knocked it off the shelf recently and broke off the little sideburn trimmer. But in the best buy standings, it's right up there.

We also have in the bedroom in our house a portable colour TV, also of a similar vintage. This gets watched for an hour or two occasionally. No remote control - can anyone under 20 remember when TVs didn't have an infrared zapper! I'll bet the new digital TVs we'll all have to have soon won't have such a good shelf life (cue rant on why can't they leave the analogue spectrum alone)

My car is 10 years old, and didn't cost me a lot. It's needed fairly hefty repairs recently so I'm not putting it in the bet buy list just yet.

I have a set of wine glasses from ASDA, 12 years old, cost £4 for the four and only one is missing (presumed smashed by SO who won't admit it). The dishwasher doesn't seem to affect them adversely, whereas much more expensive glasses have gotten too scratched. Used daily :-)

But the best buy I've thought of so far is a plastic kitchen clock. Bought from a Delboy type in a temporary shop by Tottenham Court Road Tube Station about 15 years ago for 20p. It's still going strong, and keeping good time, and only needs a new Duracell every two or three years.

Update: All my ASDA wine glasses are now broken - the last one went on Saturday (6/3/6) with an over zealous arm wave from my daughter.

Posted by se71 at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2005

Things we don't know we know

There are many things our brains do without us even thinking consciously about it. Obviously this includes bodily things like controlling breathing and blinking and balance and stuff that otherwise would cause us great injury or death. But there are other more interesting things we do without thinking that are worth listing.

The first one, and the one that prompted this list, is the ability to know when our coffee is cool enough to drink. I drink black coffee, and when I buy it or pour it from the kettle it is boiling hot. I don't take a stopwatch or thermometer and calculate when I can start drinking, I just set it down beside me, and get on with other activities. A few minutes later, I suddenly remember my coffee and start drinking. Magic!

The second useful thing we manage to do without trying is to remember where our things are around the house. This entry on 43things tells you what I mean. No matter what possession it is, if you think back to where you last saw it, and go there, that's where it nearly always is (unless you have a partner with a untidiness phobia, in which case it's either in the loft, shed, or cupboard under the stairs). You may have casually dropped your half eaten pizza down the back of the sofa last Saturday night without a care, but when you get the munchies the following week, your brain will go 'ping', and delicious sustenance is within reach.

err, I'm sure there are more things our clever heads are keeping track of for us. This blog has a comments section you know...

Of course, in these hi-tech days, we all have mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players and laptop computers. With all these devices we get a black box with a plug on the end so that we can charge it up. Each device will last hours/days or even months, and we keep in our heads a small timer keeping us on track for when the next charge may be due so that we don't get caught out on the train home with no music to listen to. How many of your devices do you think you could give a reasonable estimate of when they'll run out of juice, and all without even trying.

phone: about 2 days
mp3 player: about 1 hour
razor: 2-3 more days
laptop: about 2 hours (fully charged)
toothbush: already dead
camera: only one or two photos
camcorder: 74 minutes (it said that last time I turned it off)

Posted by se71 at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2005

DeJunk revisited.

Following on from this, I'm making some progress. The completist in me likes to have everything. So if I like Pink Floyd, I have to have every album. If I like Stephen King, I must read every book. If I'm keeping stuff, I need to keep everything. So up until recently, I really did have just about nearly everything I'd ever bought. Exceptions were clothes that actually wore out, err, that's it I think.

But I've thrown out a big pile of corporate T-shirts, and a load of other clothes I'll never wear again. And I've boxed and will defintely discard a pile of old computer stuff. And I've given away a pile of books and videos I'll never read or watch. One good thing about being completist is that when you KNOW something cannot be complete, you can give up on it. So the more you get rid of, the easier it gets.

Posted by se71 at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

Contentless Article

In my continuing quest to find alternative employment as a writer, I found this piece on the BBC interesting. It's just over 400 words, and is almost contentless as far as I can see. so I asked a friend to give me a topic, and I decided to see if I could come up with something similar. It appears to have come out as more of a rant than anything, but that's just me I guess.

What is happening to Saturday Night TV

In olden days, well, maybe not that long ago - let's pick the 1970s and 1980s as an example, watching TV was almost compulsory on a Saturday night. There is a lot of talk of the Golden Age of light entertainment. We had The Generation Game, The Two Ronnies, The Black and White Minstrel Show. Cilla Black had a slot too with studio guests and live outside broadcasts, a bit like the stuff Noel Edmonds did in the 1990s. The audience figures for those shows was huge, but what a lot of people forget is that they were largely rubbish, and there just wasn't any alternative for people. If you've managed to erase 'Seaside/Summertime Special' from your memory, sorry, I'm reminding you now.

The days of sitting round the piano singing songs with the family happily passed long before I was born. Watching TV is what you did on a Saturday night as a kid. Until that is you realised that your parent's stress levels weren't really high enough and you discover discos, clubs and pubs. The TV companies didn't have any real competition for children and their parents, and so shoved out any old dross they wanted, and the cheaper the better.

Perusing my TV schedule for this weekend however, I see that there has been a sea change of vast proportions. Instead of three channels we have five. Instead of Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, we have a proper actor in Christopher Ecclestone in the excellently revamped Dr Who. Instead of The Professionals or Starsky and Hutch, there is CSI and Law and Order. Sale of the Century is gone, and Millionaire has real tension and bigger prizes. Of course it's not all wine and roses, I'm scared to even turn on Strictly Dance Fever in case I'm forced to gouge out my own eyes (or is that ears). But the general quality is higher, and there are alternatives for different tastes, from drama in Casualty, to sport in a World championship fight.

What has prompted this improvement? It's got to be the competition. Cable and satellite TV give us hundreds of other channels. Playstation and XBox mean the TV is multi purpose now too. Wobbling a loose memory pack on a Sinclair ZX81 so that you can type in Basic computer programs from a magazine is a distant memory. Games now are fully immersive experiences with Dolby5.1 surround sound. Your DVD player also provides real quality with movies available a mere 13 weeks after their cinema releases in some cases.

In the 70s and 80s, when I had no choice at all, I watched The Russ Abbot Show, and thought it was good. So now, when there is so much choice, Saturday night TV finally gets good, and it makes me sick.

Posted by se71 at 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005


I am a self confessed hoarder. If I see people crying on "The Life Laundry" TV program when that horrible woman makes them throw away all their junk, I feel genuinely sorry for them. That could so easily be me.

Reading The Daily Telegraph the other day I came across a piece about Dawna Walter's new venture - DeJunk Your Mind: .
She has moved on from throwing out just 'things', and is getting to the mental root of the problem. Dejunking is like giving up smoking - I think most people fail because they really aren't committed to it. To really remove the junk from your life you must be committed to it mentally - otherwise it will all come back.

Following on from this, I had a minor Road To Damascus moment last night which has allowed me to see what I must do.

I've got to decide what I want to keep, and get rid of the rest.

Sounds simple. Sounds like a no brainer. But this is what has been stopping me. I keep everything - just in case it might come in useful. I have 4 PCI computer network cards. I've had them in a drawer in my bedroom for about 5 years. I am never going to use them. If by some weird combination of circumstances I find myself wanting one in the future, I can get a nice new faster one from for less than £20. My house is pretty much all wireless network anyway so I think I'm onto a winner with this.

I'm going to make a list of everything I have, with a column indicating whether I need it. If I decide I don't need it, then it's going to have to go. This is going to be especially difficult with paperwork. I have kept everything. I have every credit card statement since 1983; every airline ticket and boarding pass, I can tell you what seat I sat in on every flight I've ever made. Just how useful is that information! Cinema ticket stubs; letters from the council, the water board; every piece of paper my children have brought home from school. I made a big step last year and destroyed a huge pile of credit card receipts for restaurants and petrol; I kept the rest of course, but do I need receipts for household appliances that are now in a landfill somewhere?

In my head it's too difficult to make snap decisions on the paperwork, I always err on the side of caution - I need a real plan. I have a friend who burns nearly every financial record that is over seven years old. The tax man can't go back that far, the banks do a similar thing I think. Could I do that? No, probably not. But if I could make a list of the ones to keep and the ones to definitely get rid of, then the uncertainty would go away - it's the uncertainty I can't handle :-)

Watch this space.

Posted by se71 at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005


Just a quickie. I've just been to the Post Office to get a new E111 form. I stood in a queue of about 10 people, for about 4 windows, and got to the front in about 7 minutes. Not bad.

The gratifying thing was that as I left, the queue was slightly longer than when I arrived. I realised that this is an absolute measure of queuing happiness. When I finally get to a window, and notice that no-one has actually joined the queue behind me, I get a bit annoyed as the time spent in the queue could just as easily have been spent on the pavement outside enjoying the sunshine, with a quick dash in at the last minute to get to the teller. When I join a short queue, and have to squeeze out of the door past hordes of heaving pensioners who have just arrived, that's a perfect visit.

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May 06, 2005

Michal Howard

BBC News reports that Michael Howard will stand down as leader of the Conservatives very shortly.

I'm not going to comment on this politically. What does interest me is that someone can be prepared to lead a whole country for five years, which is a high stress job with huge responsibilities, and then, less than 12 hours later, he is resigned to being a lowly MP.

This kind of emotional rollercoaster must be very difficult to cope with. One minute you're anticipating travelling the globe, sending troops to war, meeting other world leaders. The next, you're down the local town hall listening to complaints about parking restrictions.

Going for a new job is always going to be a bit like this, but if you fail, generally there is the option to try again with another company. Here, it's all or nothing. Suddenly, the life you hoped for is gone forever. That must be hard to take.

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It seems appropriate to at least mention the British General Election, and the third term of power won by Tony Blair and the Labour Party last night.

The whole experience has been pretty boring, with the result pretty much a foregone conclusion. I would like to think that the reduced majority might help scupper the ID Card bill, but this is probably only a pipe dream. Nothing about the scheme will make an improvement to our security. The man in the street will pay for it, suffer it's inevitable restrictive consequences, and the terrorists will just get fake ones anyway. but that's a rant for another time.

I cycled down to the polling station in my village last night, and it really is the only time of the year where I really do feel that we are all part of the same country. It was 9pm, and people were coming in from all directions, some alone, some in groups, all playing their small part in the democratic process. Democracy may suck in many ways, but until something else comes along, it's better than the other options.

I think that rightly or wrongly the public vote for a leader who they like at a national level, much more than they vote for a local candidate. Michael Howard pulled off a remarkable turnaround, I would never have expected him to appear so electable. He gained a large number of seats for the Conservatives. Now it's time for the party to really sit down, spend two years consolidating public opinion of the party. Then they should elect a really charismatic, young leader, with nice hair, who would then stand a real chance in five years time. And yes, I did say nice hair! Like the American Presidential election, the winner here usually has better hair. Howard played a bad hand also when he mentioned being a grandfather, a candidate in their 40s would be ideal.

Hmm, nice hair, 40s, charismatic - well two out of three ain't bad :-)

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April 28, 2005

Writing Quickly

I'm going to see if I can write 400 words in 30 minutes about something in the paper.

All couples probably quarrel to a lesser or greater degree. Some of them have nannies. A select few have their fights splashed across the tabloids by the nannies for a few pieces of silver, or £300K, whichever is the greater.

This week it was Victoria and David Beckham's turn. I haven't actually read what the Abbie Gibson told The News of The World, and have no desire to. The Daily Telegraph seems reluctant to repeat the story, and instead reports on the reaction of the couple. This makes it interesting from an academic viewpoint. The planet Pluto was discovered by inferring it's existence from the way the other planets near it had incorrect orbits otherwise. I have to try and work out what the nanny said by listening to what David's defence is.

Speaking at a football press conference, David repeatedly states that he loves and respects his wife, and that they are happy. So I guess the exact opposite must be the allegation. He does admit to arguments.

So the facts before me are that a bad singer and a good footballer, who have been married for few years and have kids, might be having a few marriage problems. Wow, that really was worth the cash wasn't it.

Right, that took 20 minutes, and it's not really very good, and it's only 200 words. I'm petering out at the end there and vainly trying to find a point, or think of something amusing to say. Maybe it's a bigger problem as I honestly don't care what the Beckhams get up to in their private (or public for that matter) lives.

Will try again tomorrow if I get the time. Interesting experiment though.

Posted by se71 at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

Computers Controlling Us

If you're a computer person like me, you'll be doing all sorts of things using it. Things like your personal accounts, your email, storing and organizing your music and photos. You are probably not using software for any of these tasks that is designed specifically for you. It's most probably you are using a package that millions of other people also use. And the chances of this package exactly fitting your needs are slim.

I see this all the time, and without even realising it, I often find myself altering the way I normally do things in real life, just to fit in with the way some piece of software works.

Here's an example. Microsoft Money. Before the ubiquitiveness, err ubiquitivity, hmm... before we all had the internet available all the time, I started putting all my accounts into MSMoney. It's a really good package (and all you Quicken users will have little choice but to use it soon as that package is being cancelled in the UK). But before automatic statement downloads, typing the details from credit card bills and bank statements every month into the computer was a really tedious task. So I wanted to reduce this work.

MSMoney works best with payees that are already in the system. So, the answer is to always shop at the same place. I've avoided buying things in unfamiliar shops and bought them locally at shops already in my system just to reduce my typing.

Data entry is also is faster if there are less transactions. So I made a rule to use cash for as many small purchases as possible. All well and good. Except that MSMoney also likes you to put categories like "food and drink", "Household Bill" etc for each item. Extrapolating the cash rule, I'd probably end up with everything bought by cash and then have no accountability, so what benefit would the package be giving me. So I've had to make sure that every category that I really wanted to track, like CDs for example, are bought on a card.

Tescos causes a huge problem though, as they sell everything. If you've spent £100, but some of it was clothes, some CDs, and the rest food, how do you remember one month back what the split was when all you have is one line on a credit card bill. You can't, you've got to keep your receipts and enter this manually. Or, you do a much easier thing, you go through the till twice :-)

I used to listen to music in a different way before computers. All my records and CDs used to be at home, and if I wanted to listen to one on the move then I'd just tape it and take a walkman. Now, I've got an MP3 player for travelling which stores about three CDs worth of music. You would think that that was better. The problem is that a huge amount of my music isn't digital, and my tape player is now consigned to the loft. Even worse, I've only gotten round to installing the software for transferring music to my player on my laptop. This means that I can only listen to digital music that is currently on my laptop. And as this is quite a small amount of music, I generally end up listening to the same music for weeks and weeks on end. I know I could fix this, but I never seem to get round to it.

My final example is a more positive one. Flickr. I'm storing all my digital photos on Flickr, which is a great site. As well as just allowing you to see your own photos, you can look at the public photos of other Flickr members. People like to show off their snaps, and once you get bitten by the bug, you want to try and produce interesting images too. Flickr even tells you how popular your picture is. So now I'm out and about with my camera in my pocket constantly looking for an image that will get a good reaction on Flickr. I'm pretty bemused however to find that a picture of my bicycle, which wasn't even taken for artistic reasons, is still way out in the lead as my most popular photos so far.

I've taken some interesting shots recently, and have encouraged my friends to do the same, and even though we don't see each other in real life much, we know what we're up to. We're also semi-competing to get the best artistic photos, and it's forcing us to look at the world in a different way. We're and enjoy challenge of sooting in the snow and rain, and looking carefully at each sunrise and sunset to gauge whether it'd make a good background on our PCs. Without Flickr I know I wouldn't be using my camera half much.

So computers are controlling me in many small ways, some good, some bad. They are even making me write more gibberish, like this article for example :-)

Posted by se71 at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It wasn't a complete fluke - I actually finished the Telegraph Crossword again today (No 24,656 in case I want to ever look it up and try again).

Go me!!!

Posted by se71 at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Alton Towers

Noticed an advert for Alton Towers in the newspaper. Here's a link which shows their slogan:

"Make some great memories,
you might need them someday"

Sounds like a threat to me. Or at the very least a depressing look into an old age of dribbling in a nursing home wishing you'd done more with your life.

Certainly not a feel good slogan in my humble opinion.

Posted by se71 at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 31, 2005


I've always been very interested in recycling.

As the years go by though, it's taking up more and more of my time, thought processes, and space.

Here's what I mean:


In the old days, you bought a battery, used it, and threw it in the bin when you'd finished. Now you have two options - normal batteries or rechargable.

If you use normal batteries, then when they are finished you should recycle them. I know this is true, because my office in Sweden when I worked there had a battery recycling point. I don't know where you recycle batteries in this country, so I've collected quite a large boxful of old batteries, which are taking up space in my house, and I guess are probably not even that safe.

If you choose rechargeable batteries, then you have the added problem of always having to remember to keep them charged. Many times my portable music player has run out on the way to work, and with no spare that means waiting a whole day before I can listen again. It's a bad idea to recharge batteries before they are completely dead, and spare batteries lose their charge anyway just sitting in your pocket.

And if the battery is inside your mobile phone, or razor or laptop, then it is already rechargeable so you have no option but to keep a charger nearby. The problem with this is that every single device has it's own special charger. I've resorted to buying spare chargers for use at home and office, so that I don't need to carry them all around in a suitcase. A suitcase is exactly what I need for the chargers I have to take on holiday nowadays for my digital camera/camcorder/razor/PDA/laptop/music player.

Even more vexing, is the idea that the rechargeable batteries really aren't that green anyway. They take electric power to charge, which is made from fossil fuels in the main in the UK.

I've used batteries as an example of how complicated I find the decision making, but paper and plastic, old TVs and fridges, even garden waste, are all in the same category. And what about tins of tuna. If your council collect the empty ones, where do you store them before the weekly (or even fortnightly) collection? Not in the house, they'll really smell, even if you wash them. And the boxes supplied probably don't have lids, so leaving them stinking at the side of the house to attract cats/flys etc isn't that nice. So now you're forced to wash your old cans before putting them out.

Recycling is a really sensible idea, but sometimes you just have to say "what the heck" and just chuck the rubbish in the bin if you want to have any chance of getting out of the house.

I even feel bad for taking a 'new' polystyrene cup for my coffee just now. The cup I used this morning had old dried coffee in it, I could have used it again i suppose.

Posted by se71 at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Daily Telegraph Crossword - Complete

Originally uploaded by se71.
Here's the proof, one completed Daily Telegraph crossword. Yipee.

Posted by se71 at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


After a brief foray into the world of Guardian and Independent crosswords, this week I'm back with the king of cryptic crosswords, The Daily Telegraph.

I think it must be easier, the only other alternative is that my mind is tuned more to their way of thinking.

Last night I was left with only 3 outstanding clues, and today I've only 5 left and the only time spent on it was the train journey before even my first morning coffee.

Posted by se71 at 08:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005


Originally uploaded by se71.
From my desk, I can see sunlight for the first time this afternoon.

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Perusing the BBC Weather Five day forecast today for London, I notice that it gives sunrise and sunset times. I'm a bit obsessive about this in a general way, and it's nice to see the specifics.

Today, the times are quite interesting for me.

Sunrise 6.20am (this is when my alarm close goes off)
Sunset 6.01pm (this is when I finish work)

Even more interesting is that on Friday the times have changed to

Sunrise 6.11am
Sunset 6.07pm

That's a full 15 minutes extra daylight in one working week.

Fantastic :-)

Posted by se71 at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

Altering Photos

Originally uploaded by se71.
I took this photo the other morning and was pretty pleased with the way it looked. Then I remembered that I was trying to capture the interesting trails from jets that I'd seen.

So I had a go 'tuning' the image to try and make it more like what I saw. The result is pretty nice too, but the sky really wasn't that orange.

Originally uploaded by se71.

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February 22, 2005


Since starting my new job, I'm commuting up to London by train every day. My current novel is a bit slow, and I seem to always fancy doing the crossword. So I buy the Telegraph newspaper on the way to the station and have a go most days.

I can't make up my mind whether getting good at crosswords is useful, or a phenominal waste of time. It is a skill that can be learnt. I check my answers with yesterday's paper and try and understand them, and this improves my hit rate. But I'm getting good at something which is really pretty inconsequential.

The other side of the coin is that I'm keeping my brain really active, and I'm looking at words in very different ways. Today I have the word sack and I'm tring to work out whether it's something you drown cats in, the destroying of a town, being made redundant, or some anagram.

I think this weird mental gymnsatics will improve my lateral thinking skills, and this could help me in everyday life in unexpected ways.

It's also nice having a nearly completed grid on the train home and flashing it round the carriage :-)

Posted by se71 at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005

Borscht 'N Tears

I found myself in Knightsbridge at around supper time last night, which hasn't happened for quite a few years. So I decided to take a walk down Beauchamps Place and see whether a restaurant I used to go to was still there. It was!

Borscht 'N Tears is the name. It's a Russian restaurant serving the usual fare of stroganoff, kiev and other dishes from the area. It looks a bit dark and dingy, but the prices and the food are really pretty competitive.

The real reason to go there though is that every evening they have live music. So you can sit and listen to some good Russian folk songs on guitar and keyboard and even though you have no idea what is being sung, you clap along enthuastically anyway. (I sometimes wonder if they're really singing "Die English speaking pigs", but maybe that's just me :-)

We even ordered dessert just to stay and listen a little longer.

Much recommended, though I think they get more than their fair share of hen/stag parties, so go early, or midweek.

Posted by se71 at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

DJ, Robert

DJ, Robert
Originally uploaded by se71.
Just upgraded my Flickr Account to Pro.

This is a test post - more later!

Posted by se71 at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2005


When a fashion becomes so prevalent that even I notice it, then it must be at epidemic proportions.

Walking to and from work I am being barraged by a sea of pink.

Pink scarfs.
Pink coats
Pink hats
Pink coats, and scarfs and hats all on the same person!

Surely it's time to stop.

I have a daffodil flowering in my front garden (Note to self - put it on Flickr), so maybe spring will herald a new colour.

Posted by se71 at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005


I've been thinking about quality recently. No, I'm not rereading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again, in fact, I've still not actually finished it first time, but the idea of quality just comes up now and again.

For example, just how flat and sharp do you need your television picture to be? What bitrate do you need to have your MP3 files encoded at? Does your mobile phone need to take photos at 2M pixels?

With quality there is also convenience and price. Other factors come into it too, like availability, it's a complex issue.

So what about that TV then?

Well, I said I was thinking about it, I haven't actually come up with any answers yet :-)

More later.

Posted by se71 at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)