28 February 2008

A quick view of Moscow

After being here for the best part of three days I finally manged to get some time to walk around outside while it was not that wet or that dark.

My photographs on Facebook give an overall view of what I saw but this is the stand-out building so far, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Other major buildings have the same basic look, a cross between Lego (shape) and Gothic (finish). And it works; the buildings look majestic from a distance and from close-up.

I hope to be able to do a bit more exploring tomorrow (and thanks to fellow SAHB fan Andrey for some advice on this) but the weather forecast is snow so this coule be bit of a challenge!

26 February 2008

I work for Logica again!

The company that I left almost twenty years ago was called Logica and when I rejoined it in January 2007 it had changed its name to LogicaCMG. Now it is called simply Logica again and has an updated logo to celebrate the event.

25 February 2008

Welcome to Moscow!

The trip to Moscow today went pretty well overall but was not without its moments.

The flight was fine (just over 3 hours) and I was able to catch up with some podcasts including some videos that I watched on my iPod touch.

Domodedovo Airport was interesting! Immigration was faster than I expected and there were no problems with my bag (for a change).

On exit I was confronted by a horde of taxi drivers wearing the same I-am-a-gangster black jackets that they wear in Kiev and, presumably, in many other places in Eastern Europe. Managed to negotiate these and found a working ATM soon after then got an official taxi at a bearable price.. Definitely on a roll at this point.

The exit from the airport was rather tortuous and involved walking all the way through the brand new departures hall and then taking various passageways through building works that looked just like the sort of place that Jack the Ripper would have felt at home in. Once I got outside the airport I was confronted by the view above and a long trek to where the taxi was parked.

The drive to the hotel took just over an hour and we must have changed lanes on average twice a minute. But we got here OK and now I am getting used to losing three hours from the day and ready for work tomorrow.

22 February 2008

First TFPL Connect meeting

TFPL Connect is a training / collaborating / networking event that builds on the success of their Bath Club and brings together people working in the public and commercial sectors.

The first event, held at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) just off The Strand in Central London, covered the people aspects of working life in the future.

The discussion was led by Matilda Venter of PwC who presented the findings from their recent research project Managing tomorrow's people. This included some scenario planing around company organization (fragmentation v integration) and employee teaming (collectivism v individualism), which produces three possible models; Small is beautiful, Companies care and Corporate is king.

Four panellists from The Information Commissioner's Office, NHS Direct, Lovells LLP and Ashridge Management College then gave their perspectives on the three scenarios before opening the floor to discussion - which is the soul of these events.

These discussions were wide-ranging and insightful but given the complexity of the dialogue it is pointless to try and summarize what was said but I suspect that all of us filed several ideas into our grey matter where they can mix with others before surfacing later on to be applied to a business problem.

The discussions got even wider when after the main session we went down into the vaults (pictures) to carry on networking over a few glasses of wine and some nibbles (the beetroot pure was fab!). I managed to spend some time with several of the speakers as well as some friends from the Bath Club.

Overall it was an excellent event and I hope to be able to go to the other two planned for this year that will be looking at future working live from the perspectives of technology and communication.

20 February 2008

New creators on Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four has been one of Marvel's flagship comics since the 1960's (alongside Spiderman and The Avengers) and the first 102 episodes were written and drawn by Stan Lee and Jack "King" Kirby who almost single-handedly created the Marvel Universe (a worthy mention also goes to Steve Ditko).

Since then there have been many creative teams on the book and it has had its highs and its lows but all that time it has carried the masthead "The world's greatest comic magazine!".

Now it is trying to justify that claim by bringing on the new creative team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch famous for a whole bunch of best-selling comics, notably The Ultimates, which I wrote about earlier.

This has been the weakest of the main Marvel books for some time and after only one issue it's too early to comment on the new direction but I am optimistic.

18 February 2008

I love the V&A

The V&A is comfortably my favourite museum/gallery/place in London, simply because it to so quirky. I had a bit of time to kill in London recently so I walked down there to have a mooch around. I started with the (small) Architecture section on the third floor up by the entrance, a place I often go, and then just took a few random turns along corridors and stairs to look at whatever lay that way.

For me the great strengths of the V&A are that is has such a diverse, and eclectic, collection and that this collection is spread seemingly randomly throughout was was several buildings that have never quite been convinced that they should behave as a coherent whole. This means that there is a surprise around every corner and lots of corners. You also see a lot of people standing there looking at the map with confused expressions :-)

16 February 2008

Tea Shop in Piccadilly

I happened to be in Piccadilly dropping a package off so I took the opportunity to visit this little tea shop that I know and now I can look forward to a few weeks of drinking Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Assam Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Royal Blend and Darjeeling Broken Orange Pekoe.

15 February 2008

Long walk home*

I'm burning off some of my leave carried over from last year and while most of this is just relaxing at home I also managed to get in a decent walk. I took the train from Richmond to Waterloo and then walked back along the Thames Path.

I have no real idea of how long the route is, as the river bends so much and the path moves away from the river at times, but it took me almost seven hours, with short breaks for a coffee (Cake Boy, Battersea) and a pizza (Pizza Express, Barnes), so it must have been a fair way.

The journey started with the obvious London sights including the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. At this point there are hordes of tourists including some Japanese student who were dressed like Ryder Cup golfers in tan trousers and dark blue blazers and some Czech students who all had shoulder bags provided by Ceska Sporitelna (Czech Savings Bank), who I worked for seventeen years ago.

The tourists areas soon pass and we hit Battersea (below). Here industry still dominates the south bank and the path has to take some detours away from the river, including a long one around the famous Battersea Power Station.

A little further on and we are in Wandsworth which has a ribbon development of new luxurious flats along the river but little infrastructure (no tube and it took me ages to find a coffee shop). Somebody obviously thinks that there are tens of thousands of people who want to live on the part of the river but I am not so sure. Some evidence for this is that some of the blocks that were already there the last time I did this walk two years ago still have massive advertising hoardings.

The rest of the walk is a jumble of more industry, more new flats, parkland, boathouses, bridges and some really nice houses. The unplanned nature of this part of London is all too obvious and it's like walking through different layers of history. The posh name for this may be "psychogeography" but I'll let you know once I have read Will Self's book. Incidentally, Will Self covered some of the same route on his walk to Heathrow that I read about in a BA in-flight magazine some years ago.

*Long Walk Home is one of the tracks on the very excellent album Life by Neil Young.

14 February 2008

Unexpected invitation

Despite the tempting offer of bare breasts, I think that I'll be turning this invitation down ;-)


Dear Mr Rees,

We are writing to tell you about a thrilling TV event that you can be part of. Details are below, and if you would like to be involved, please contact Kate Walker at Maverick Productions.

Would you dare to bare your breasts on Channel 4 as part of the UK's biggest breast self-examination - and in turn help teach women everywhere how to be 'breast aware'?

Channel 4's hit medical series "Embarrassing Illnesses" is on the road and will be stopping in London to film a special event dedicated to breast health on Sunday 2nd March.

Our celebrity doctors Christian Jessen, Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna are on a mission to get Brits talking about their health problems. They will be setting up a special clinic at Shoreditch Town Hall and will be offering on-the-spot advice about ANY worries women have about their breasts.

If you are a female aged between 18 and 65 and would like to take part in the event OR have a health concern you'd like to get off your chest - contact us now.

We want hundreds of women to prove that breast health is nothing to be shy about.

13 February 2008

The last ever BACEE meeting

On Tuesday evening I attended an Extraordinary General Meeting of the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe (BACEE) which was called to agree the closure of the company following the withdrawal of grants by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Friends in high-places have failed to reverse the decision, as have debates in parliament and articles in the national press, so now it is over.

If there are any glimmers of hope they come from the agreement with UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) to hold an annual lecture under the BACEE banner and to maintain the BACEE archive so that researchers have access to it.

And any quick review of the news in Europe (e.g. Russia threatening to point missiles at Poland, Czech Republic and Ukraine) shows that there is the need for somebody to do the work that BACEE did so well.

11 February 2008

Welcome to the multiverse!

This imagining of the multiverse as snowflake in 196,833 dimensional spaces comes from the excellent Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, which was first published as a regular comic in 1999 but my version is the large hardback collection Absolute Planetary.

This gets a worthy mention in my blog now as it was referred to surprisingly (to me!) in one of my regular podcasts this week.

Most of my podcasts are about business, current affairs or science and the most sciency of the science podcasts is Material World from the BBC. Because it is the one that is the most technical it is also the one that I enjoy the most.

One of the topics this week was symmetry, based on the book Finding Moonshine by Marcus du Sautoy (hardly my favourite mathematician but it is good to see mathematics getting some coverage in the media), and this looked at symmetry in various dimension.

In 2 dimensions (flat surfaces) this is rather easy and it's not much harder in three (our world as we see it) but in larger dimensions things get a lot more complex.

The topic was opened by the presenter, Quentin Cooper, quoting from Planetary, i.e. the page above, and then explaining that this is a genuine multiverse theory, thereby combining my loves for science and comics in one act. Superb!

9 February 2008

Page 123 of The Best of Philip Jose Farmer

SWENGLISHEXPAT has tagged me for this little meme, ‘Open Book’. These were the instructions:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence/ phrase.
4. Blog the next four sentences/ phrases together with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig your shelves for that very special or intellectual book.
6. Pass it forward to six friends

Finding the book was not trivial as there are several piles of books in my study but most of them are graphic novels and/or have fewer than 123 pages. The "real book" that is nearest the top of the pile is The Best of Philip Jose Farmer, which pleases me as he is my favourite author (just ahead of Leslie Charteris).

I was a bit worried about selecting the text as some of Farmer's writing can be a bit "colourful" both in content and language but lady luck was on my side and this is the selected text, taken form the story The God Business.

"Major Lewis cleared her throat. 'Mr Temper, streamline the details will you please? These gentlemen are very busy and they would like the bald facts. The bald facts mind you.'"

Finding friends who read books and write blogs to pass the meme on to is not that easy either but I hope that the following people fit the bill; Tony Emmerson, David Southwell, and Stephen Dale.

8 February 2008

Bars and beers

My social life tends to go in waves as I sometimes work away from home, e.g. recent trips to Kiev and Sao Paulo, and my friends also spend time in exotic locations like Liverpool, Luanda and Wigan. The last week has been very sociable and I have been out every evening since returning from Brazil last Thursday! I have been seeing different friends for different reasons which has meant going to different pubs and drinking different beers. This is what I can remember of the last week.
  • Last Friday (1st Feb) I went to The Cardinal (pictured) for lunch and was back there in the evening with Peter just for a few pints of Hobgoblin.
  • Saturday I went down the Willoughby with John and had a few pints of Scrum Down.
  • Sunday was The Bear in Twickenham for a couple of pints of Deuchars (pronounced dewk-ers) before going for a curry with Colin.
  • Monday was a minor pub crawl with Colin in Richmond that included the Victoria (Youngs Ordinary), Revolution Bar (Staropramen) and the White Cross (Winter Warmer).
  • Tuesday was Irish music night at the Canbury Arms with pints of Landlord, Sussex Ale and Doombar, and John and Pete (another one) for company.
  • Wednesday was the England v Switzerland game so it was back to the Willoughby with Pete for a couple of pints of Sweet Chariot before heading to the Cardinal for a night-cap of Hobgoblin and London Pride.
  • Thursday was another minor crawl in Richmond with Colin and John (a different one) that took in Molly Malones (Guiness), Triple Crown (St Davids) and the Sun (Swing Low).
  • Friday lunchtime was a pint at the Dysart Arms (Broadside) and then on to The Cardinal for lunch and a pint of Youngs Ordinary, which is where this story started a week ago.
It strikes me that that is a wide range of beers for pubs in the same area which shows just how well guest beers are doing these days. Several of the beers have a rugby theme so I guess that they are timed for the Six Nations championship and will not be around that long.

This evening I'm off to The Albert ...

7 February 2008

The view from my kitchen

The view from my kitchen idea is one that I shamelessly stole from swenglishexpat, but it's a good one! I've also experimented with photo stitching to try and get more of the garden into the picture and am reasonably pleased with the results.

We were the first occupants of the house and the garden was all just mud when we inherited it so the layout is all our fault! Too many gardens have square lawns with flower beds around the edge so we made sure that we had some variation in shape and height. Hence the two circular lawns and the variable height border around the larger lawn.

It might also surprise you to learn that it is probably the largest garden on the whole development! This is because it is an odd shaped plot on the edge of the development and is much wider than all the others. If you look carefully through the conservatory you can see that there are some shrubs immediately behind the fence. These are also part of our garden as there is something like a 1m gap between the fence and the wall that borders the development. We call this our secret garden and the square in the fence is a small door leading into it.

3 February 2008

England 19 - 26 Wales

I was brought up on Welsh rugby in the 70's when the large Welsh flag was brought out of the garage and draped over the TV and we warmed up for the games by listening to Max Boyce. In those days Wales usually won and always played attractive running rugby. Since then times have been a little lean but I always wear my replica shirt on match days. So I wore it yesterday and sat down to watch the game with little hope and no expectation. The rest is history.

In a glorious 40 minutes in the second half, Wales came from 16 - 6 down to win convincing 19 -26, the first win at Twickenham for ten years and a sweet revenge for the 62 - 5 mauling also at Twickenham just five months ago.

There are other hard games to come and this may not be the start of a great season for Wales but that does not matter, we beat England.