30 July 2007

Le Tour de Richmond Park

While the Tour de France ambled through Paris I was tackling the hills, tight bends, little children and dogs on a circuit of Richmond Park.

There are various paths in the park but the best one for cycling is also the longest one which mostly follows the outer wall. This is a circuit of around 12 km.

I enter the park at Ham Gate (centre left on the map), which is about 1 km from where I live, and I go counter-clockwise. This is partially because I am a mathematician, and we measure angles counter-clockwise, but it also gets the biggest climb, up Kingston Hill (centre bottom), out of the way early on.

The kids and dogs apart, Richmond Park is a joy to cycle around because the cycle routes keep well away from the traffic and, instead, go through some of the wilder parts of the park. For example, this time I saw two herds of deer, the stags were close to Sheen Gate and the does were a little further round towards Bog Gate.

28 July 2007

Lord of Ham makes the top 150 :-)

Age 7 of Kings of Chaos has been going since November 2006 and currently has 35,071 players.

My initial ambition this age was to finish in the top 500 but I am now comfortably exceeding that and Lord of Ham has just made the top 150.

He's currently ranked #148 but I am about to go to bed (2:30am) and am bound to be attacked sometime overnight and will lose 60-70 million gold :-(

25 July 2007

How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

70%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
Update: The application that did the analysis seems to have disappeared and all that is left is the ethereal answer "70%".

24 July 2007

Elling is a joy

Like a lot of people I guess, I was interested in seeing Elling at the Trafalgar Studios because it stars John Simm, famous for his lead role in Life on Mars and, more recently, for playing The Master in Dr Who, and it proved to be an excellent choice.

John Simm plays a "mummy's boy" who spends some time in a mental institution following the death of his mother before being released back into the community. And he played the part brilliantly.

His portrayal of the character gave a clear focus throughout the play and made it worth watching by itself.

But to make things even better, the story is rather good too.

It's the simple story of two misfits' gradual and problematic return to society and it's the detail, rather than any major events, that carries the plot. It is warm, sympathetic and very human. It is also funny.

It's a rewarding and entertaining experience that was enthusiastically applauded by the packed audience.

22 July 2007

X-Men endangered species is a must-read

The X-Men have been the main part of my comics reading for the last thirty years and I now have around 400 copies of Uncanny X-Men as well as many of the other x-titles that have come and gone over the years.

This summer sees the Endangered Species story arc that begins in X-Men #200 and continues across several times over the next few months.

My Superpower Should Be Invisibility

You are stealthy, complex, and creative. You never face problems head on. Instead, you rely on your craftiness to get your way. A mystery to others, you thrive on being a little misunderstood. You happily work behind the scenes... because there's nothing better than a sneak attack!

Why you would be a good superhero: You're so sly, no one would notice... not even your best friends.

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Missing out on all of the glory that visible superheroes get.

What Should Your Superpower Be?

19 July 2007

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man is a feast of dancing

The banners outside of the theatre say "Sadler's Wells is dance" and it is London's best venue for dance offering a vary interesting and varied programme throughout the year. Sadler's Wells is in Islington, which means that it is slightly the wrong side of London for me but the tortuous journey there is well worth it for the special performances, such as the one that I went to last night.

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man has been revived from the original 2000 show and is playing to packed audiences again. Matthew Bourne may be mostly known for his all male Swan Lake but he is now responsible for a number of shows that are popular with audiences and critics alike.

The Car Man takes some of the music and a little of the drama of Carmen but all that really means is that many of the tunes are familiar. The story is set in 50's America in a garage and adjacent diner and revolves around a new arrival to the town, the car man. The plot is gripping enough but it is the dancing that captivates you.

There is a large cast and most of them are dancing most of the time, often in little cameos away from the centre of the stage. At times it is difficult to decide which dancers to follow but that only adds to the experience. It is a truly stunning and enjoyable show.

15 July 2007

Watching cricket on the village green

What could be more typical of English village life than watching cricket on the green? I watched a match on Saturday afternoon between the local cricket club and a team made up mostly of youngsters, including two girls, and captained by the best bowler of all time, Shane Warne. This video shows Shane getting off the mark with a single. The next delivery went for six and the ball was lost in the garden of one of the houses on Ham Common. He hit a few more sixes and fours before being skying a catch off the bowling of the youngest player on the field.

13 July 2007

A jolly night in Soho

I first met Richard the best part of twenty years ago when we were both working on the Ceska Sporitelna project in Prague. Over the years we have changed jobs a few times but we still meet fairly regularly for a few beers and a chat.

We both live (and usually work) outside of central London and there are a number of areas in London where it is convenient for both of us to get to but we seem to have become creatures of habit and now we almost always meet just off Oxford Circus.

Our starting point is The Clachan which seems to be almost a part of Liberty, which is no bad thing. They have a good range of beers (I was drinking Wychwood Owzat) and a lively crowd of workers and tourists.

Soho is full of places to eat and we have tried a few of them but we have become regulars at aperitivo in Beak Street. We keep going back because the food is so good and somewhat different from the usual, the atmosphere is informal (we once shared a couple of sofas with a couple of ladies from Microsoft which led to an interesting conversation about the domination of the world by awful software!), and the staff are very friendly.

The manager is Rotem (pictured here with Richard) who, as you can tell from her smile, is another of the plus points of the place.

All these elements made it another great night out and one I'm sure we'll repeat before too long.

12 July 2007

Video killed the radio star

This blog's title was prompted by the support act to the Yardbirds at the Boom Boom Club, minuscule hey, who played a rather weird set that included this Buggles classic (I bought the single at the time). However, the blog is actually about the latest Gurteen Knowledge Cafe that I went to last night on the subject of the impact of video.

The two speakers made a compelling case for the role of video, particularly in getting groups who would not normally meet (or want to meet) to start to understand each other better. The case study was given of ethnic minorities in France (who felt let down by the establishment) and major employers (who associated ethnic minorities with rioting and crime). Using videos that we created in each side's comfort zone enabled prejudices to be broken and paved the way for real meetings that led to some of the ethnic minorities getting good jobs with the major employers.

The table discussions that followed took the video theme in many directions (as usually happens at Knowledge Cafes, which is why they are so good) and inspired me to look more seriously at video as a means of communicating all sorts of messages.

Most consultants point to the YouTube video on what web2.0 is all about at this point (and it is good) but here's a recent one of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band instead.

10 July 2007

Yardbirds rock in Sutton

Sunday evening I went to the Boom Boom Club in Sutton to see the legendary Yardbirds. Two of the original band are still there (on drums and rhythm guitar) and are now joined by bass/vocals, lead guitar and harmonica to make a rocking five piece.

The set covered thirty years or more, including some fairly recent songs as well as some ancient classics like Shapes of Things and Dazed and Confused.

The evening was enhanced by a free beer (even if it was a Fosters) and not winning a season ticket to Sutton United in the raffle.

6 July 2007

The Now Show, fun to watch but hard to queue for

I flew back from Helsinki on Thursday evening and went straight into central London to see the latest recording of The Now Show. This series has moved from the Drill Hall to the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, just off Oxford Circus. The new venue sounds like a promotion and the theatre is much better but the logisitics are much much worse.

Firstly we had to queue outside which was not a lot of fun in the rain. As with other BBC venues (e.g. Television Centre) we had to go through an airport-style security systems. Having just been through a real airport security system I was not impressed to have my bag of dirty shirts pulled over for having a suspect pair of scissors in it, which it did not. When I protested they rescanned the bag and the scissors disappeared.

As we were in the first 50 in the queue we were able to squeeze in to the small cafe area though we had to steal a chair from a store room to get a seat.

At the Drill Hall we had queued indoors, got a table in the good size bar and had had some drinks and snacks in comfort while waiting for the show. All in all the two hours plus between arriving at the BBC and getting into the theatre were rather unpleasant.

The show itself was fantastic, although we won't know until later today which bits of the hour or so that was recorded made it into the final cut. For example, Mitch Benn did three songs during the recording but only two will get into the broadcast show. If the "rabbit's foot" audience joke makes it on to the programme then that's one of mine.

The cast was the "A List" for The Now Show with all the regulars present, including Marcus Brigstocke pictured here doing one of the few retakes. Hugh Dennis adds hugely to the live recording through his mimes and facial expressions which alone make the show worth seeing live. Mitch Benn also enlivens the evening up by laughing at everybody else's jokes.

The Now Show is still a great night out but I hope that they've sorted some of the logistics out before we go again in August.

5 July 2007

Back in Helsinki

I'm back in Helsinki this week for a series of meetings with the client that are going rather well. I'm in a different hotel this time and this one is just across the road from the Finnish National Opera (pictured). Despite the Art Deco feel to the opera house it is actually a fairly new building having been completed in 1993.

The opera house is set in a park that is bounded on one side by a lake (Finland has over 186,000 of them!) with a fountain in it. The path through the park takes you to the city centre, i.e. the railway station, in ten minutes. I went for a stroll there this evening taking advantage of the fact that it stays light until quite late at night to see some more of the city and to get some exercise before returning back to the hotel to make use of their free broadband connection.

1 July 2007

Frustrating day with technology

I am writing this on my wife's machine after she has gone to bed as mine does not want to talk to the outside world anymore since I "upgraded" our home wireless network from BT Voyager 2Mb to BTHomeHub 5Mb.

I first got the new router working using this PC (running XP) which worked OK apart from the unnecessary changed the install made to the machine, i.e. making IE the default browser, putting 8 icons on the desktop, and installing Yahoo! Messenger with the preference set to load on every restart. I thought the days of software trampling over your hard disk like that had gone. It may even be illegal under the Computer Misuse Act.

To connect other computers to the new network the User Guide tells you to "simply install the CD" which does not help when a) two of my PCs do not have CD drives, b) I have seven PCs in the house, and c) we often have friends around who want to connect for game playing etc. At first I got around this simply by aborting the install process after it said that the new connection was working but before it spread unwanted Yahoo! software all over the place. A moan to their support desk, conducted as a web chat, established that I only had to modify the wireless settings for the new SSID and WEP key, which worked on the Ubuntu tablet just fine.

That left just my PC to do and that's where things went seriously and weirdly wrong:
  • the connection seemed to work first time but, for some reason, no applications could use it, i.e. they all timed out trying to find their host
  • when I tried the install CD (getting the external CD drive to be recognized was another challenge) it said that I did not have a valid wireless connection, even though it had worked little more that an hour previously
  • a longer chat to an Indian lady ended in deep frustration as she only had instructions for XP and I am running W98 still (the CD says it supports W98SE)
  • I installed the old router alongside the new one, seemed to connect to the old network but applications could not access the outside world then either
  • I uninstalled the wireless card but the uninstall process failed which meant that the reinstall process also failed. After deleting various components in network settings I was finally able to reinstall the wireless card but it still did not give me access to anything.
Desperation was getting high by now as an unconnected PC is a useless PC so I thought that I'd use the dial-up connection to Orange (a.k.a. Wanadoo, a.k.a. Freeserve), which I had last used about a month ago when staying in a hotel. The dialler did its stuff but instead of connecting to a gateway I hear a recorded message saying that this number should not be used anymore.

OK, so Orange could have written and told me this (they do have my email address after all) but I knew that the restore account process would install the latest version of the dialler with the latest number. Obviously I could not use my PC for this as it was unconnected so I used my wife's and made a note of the telephone number. Sure enough it had changed but the new one did not work either!!

So my PC sits in the front room unable to talk to anybody and I am running out of patience with trying to make it behave so I expect to be treating myself to a new MacBook in the next few days :-)