Friday, March 30, 2007

ITV sport - hope it's not an own goal

It’s a bit of a coup for ITV/Setanta to secure the FA soccer deal, it sends a clear signal that ITV will spend on content but I hope that Michael Grade has done the sums and they add up it hasn’t come cheap.
Encouraging news on the writing to your MP front I’ve had a good and speed response from Stephen Pound on my worries over Zimbabwe please consider the situation there and if you can do something towards highlighting the issue please do.
There are three worldwide situations that I am particularly concerned with (the other two being Iran and Somalia), the difference is that in Zimbabwe a large section of the country’s people want change and I believe that it is our responsibility to at least lobby for a removal of Mugabe.

On a more trivial note it's good to also have a fast response from Tesco who have written to confirm that they’ll look into the missing cashew nuts.

Comedy review

Today’s Times review of the Goth detectives paints a similar picture to mine (I hope) but I think is more charitable on the support acts than it needs to be.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

and the health check..

Sad to say lots of the audience lit up after the comedy gig which seemed odd
I'm now 11st 1 lb (down a pound)
Blood pressure 123/87 (a slight increase)

Comedy gig

No post last night 'cos I was out having fun (apart from the bus journey which I'll recount when I'm in a more whingey frame of mind).

So it’s a long while since we’ve been to the Royal Albert Hall and I’d forgotten what a brilliant building it is, the occasion was the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy benefit led by Noel Fielding and Russell Brand as the Goth Detectives, they were more than funny and there was a really good vibe when they were on stage together, the Space Hopper game and turning a normal guy into a Goth were two of the highlights for me, I was though less impressed with the supports, Chris Addison struggled manfully but looked a little lost and out of his Radio 4 comfort zone, Stewart Lee I found mildly unpleasant with a prolonged attack on Joe Pasquale (Stewart get over it/write some new material) which seemed to sit rather oddly with the spirit of the evening. Matthew Holness's comic creation of a folkie guitarist was promising but perhaps not in tune with the nature of such a large scale occasion. The gig though overall as a great event with the chance to see Russell Brand at the top of his game before he either becomes a Movie star or doesn’t. Here's an example of the 'boys' working together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And the selling goes on

Two (maybe three) more items to post tomorrow, I seem to be spending a lot of time in the post office either shipping items for e-bay sales or bookmoocher deals and although the deals I do are not adding much to my bank balance I’m at least getting rid of things that work that I don’t use, hopefully the person buying them has a need for them.

I’m still puzzled why nobody wanted to buy my FM radio that looked (almost) like a satellite dish, probably put a different radio (or two) up for grabs at the weekend as I would like to get my radio count down.

For other sellers on ebay be warned there are a lot of scams – I got a message telling me that I was now up to Power seller – fortunately my firefox browser warned that this was a dodgy claim.

I can also warn you of a favourite debit card scam that's running at service stations and Hastings is not the only place that this can happen

Monday, March 26, 2007

nanny knows best

Interesting to learn that the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (minister of fun they used to say) is considering legislation if OFCOM and ICSTIS can’t get their act together on the calls fiasco that’s been hitting many of the nation's favourite UK TV channels of late, and I thought that this was the government who were proposing to introduce US style Super Casinos? Perhaps it's to draw attention away from the rather questionable smell that the super casino is generating . Incidentally I'm pleased (and surprised) to learn that the Conservatives have decided to oppose this further extension to the UK's burgeoning gambling industry.


Here’s quite a good greenish site – very moderate but with some good practical advice.

& Something to look forward to later in the week ..Bursting bubbles

I’m trying to put together my thoughts on the ever increasing UK house prices and their effect on the economy both pre and post the bubble; which like all bubbles of course must burst.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What I had for dinner..

The purpose of blogs

I overheard someone talking about blogs (somewhat disparagingly) saying that they were not interested to read about what someone had for dinner, well last night as it was bit cold we decided we fancied one of those bags of stuff marked meal for two which leading supermarkets do in a variety of types (e.g. Chinese, Thai, Indian etc.), now this week we were at Sainsbury’s which is not quite as bad as some of the large supermarkets and where we can make our gesture to the environment by leaving a load of old plastic in a large skip for recycling. The downside of our visit was that they didn’t have a Chinese ‘take-away’ meal for two, so we went to Tesco on the way back who did so we purchased a Chinese Menu C meal for 2 now it was fine (but be careful on the salt in these types of food) and dandy but minus the Cashew nuts so I’ve written and will see how they respond.


The other highlight of the weekend was a visit to Richmond where I hit Uiqlo which is a clothes shop I really like, I’ll be putting some old clothes in the charity bag to try an d keep to my concept of minimising accumulation as I got Jeans, shirt and T-shirt. Also in Richmond where we saw Sir Trevor who was obviously out and about getting the Sunday papers, some years ago (at least 4) I went for an exceedingly good meal at the Royal Festival Hall with amongst others Sir Trevor, he seemed and still seems a nice chap and does not appear exceedingly burdened by his fame or wealth. After such excitement a meal at Wagamama may seem a an anticlimax but again it’s somewhere with a good buzz so it worked well on a lazy spring Sunday

Saturday, March 24, 2007

World Matters


What is happening in Zimbabwe should not be overlooked – an unenlightened old school despot is bullying and doing down a country in the name of shallow vanity, democracy is being stifled by a man who is out of time, write to your MP or other political representative I’m doing so and hoping the EU, commonwealth and UN can bring pressure to bear to correct the folly of Mr Robert Mugabe.

There’s also a petition you can sign which hopefully will make the UK Government take some action this can be accessed here

Another book given

So the one to pass on next is What Color Is Your Parachute? 2005: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers By Richard Nelson Bolles, I found it useful a couple of years ago when I was negotiating for a new position but am more than happy to liberate a little shelf space and let this book have a bit more of a life. Also in terms of creating a bit more space I’m looking to sell a zoom lens that no longer has a body it can attach itself to.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The wonder of the mighty Amazon

Now I might have managed to get rid of a book today but I’ve gained four, Affluenza, The “Sunday Times” Small gardens for Modern Living (see yesterday’s entry), the well reviewed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (with its title hinting at the work of Richard Brautigan) and Jake Arnott ‘s Johnny Come Home.

Jake is one of the few fiction writers I’ve knowingly seen in the flesh (Robert Holles is another, but he sadly is no longer with us), I saw Jake introduce a viewing of one of the few great British Gangster films based on the Graham Greene book (rather than the Queen song) Brighton Rock at the ICA. If you get the chance to see the film or read the book of Brighton Rock please take it, the book resonates at many levels and the film allows the Boulting Brothers to reveal the life of a precociously world weary English gangster superbly played by Richard Attenborough (who incidentally went to the same Leicester school as my dad).

Jake’s own gangster trilogy being a fine canon of work evoking a particular criminal sub-culture of the 60s and 70s.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can share my views on at least one of these new books and I’ll renew my efforts to clear some further books from the shelves over the weekend.

In short, Amazon as well as discounting books delivers (away from Christmas) in an exceedingly efficient manner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mind, body and soul

Horticultural musings
Visited the Capel college advice evening at Gunnersbury Park, folks there seemed very pleasant and it’s something I may look into further.
A bookmoocher e-mailed me today after a Julian Barnes book A History of The World in 10 ½ Chapters, he’s a great writer so I’m more than happy to pass the book on Bookmooch is one of those activities that seems to come in waves and getting rid of a book that’s been read is quite satisfying in that as well as passing a book on to a good use it enables you to get another from a massive selection.
Thanks for the postcard Shaun, goodness knows what you’re up to.

Oh yes and health have stopped the Vitamin tablets but still on the cod liver oil
Weight 11st 2lbs (that's steady)
Blood pressure 121/86 (a slight drop)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Brown socks it to them

Interesting budget
So it was good to see Gordon taking the wind out of the oppositions sails during today’s set piece in the House of Commons, it’s easy to snipe at what ten years of labour rule has achieved but there are some real gains for the average family and running the country is a management issue.
The agenda is now moving on and my feeling is that people are beginning to understand that the money the government spends is ‘our’ money and that there is a balance to be struck between incentives and protecting the weakest in our society.
Investment in education is a necessity if we’re to continue to enjoy the comforts we currently experience – I’m not sure how good Gordon would/will be as a Prime minister but it would be churlish to deny his success as a long serving chancellor of the exchequer and his part in ensuring that Labour are not only electable but also re-electable.
As we settle into the new millennium it’ll be interesting to see how Thatcher’s children adjust to middle age and quality of life issues
Good links??
Here are couple of links you might like to try
1) Check you connection speed with this.
2) See an interesting marketing tool here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

And it gets worse for Sky

Ofcom to look at Pay TV

Hot on the heels of the issues sky has already been facing is the news that OFCOM are going to be looking at the UK pay TV business in a move triggered by their competitors BT Vision, Virgin Media (the former NTL cable business), Top up TV and sports pay TV operator Setanta, this is just what Sky does not need, they’d be wise to come to an accommodation with Richard Branson’s outfit at the very least. Any move to seriously dilute the dominance of Sky is likely to severely undermine their business across all platforms including broadband and their stated aim to enter the terrestrial market with a pay proposition.

It’s an unholy alliance who each have their own agenda but can unite against Sky, Sky needs to pick off the biggest in the gang and spread a little dissent in the camp.

Europeans cousins moving into digital radio

In a sure sign that there are downsides to being early adopters on a national scale the news from our French Cousins is that they are backing a few horses in the steeplechase that is replacement of analogue radio – read a little about a UK company that is keeping across the cheese eating surrender monkey’s strategy here

Brain going?

If I hadn't lost it I would have told you last week that it was Brain Awareness Week; sorry I'm late but the advice is probably still pertinent.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Twitter and Twits


Have you heard about twitter? It’s rumoured to be the next big thing with a rapidly expanding user base apparently it’s somewhere between a blog and IM/sms text now I can see that it may appeal to youngsters but for me it sounds like another way to waste time crossed with a slightly spooky stalking element – if you think differently let me know and I’ll perhaps give it a go.

OFCOM’s other worry….Is Sky and Freeview.

Sky announced what might have been spoiling tactics for Virgin Media (formerly NTL) on Valentine’s day, the threat could lead to Sky leaving Freeview and a new generation of STBs to puzzle Joe Public – how will the increasingly beleaguered OFCOM deal?

Now I’ve previously been a fan of the way Sky have conducted their business, audacity has been their byword, but they might need to learn the taste of humble pie, there’s a real danger that their 17.9% share of ITV is going to be ruled out of court, that their loss of audience due to the lack of a deal with cable could affect their advertising rates on Sky News and Sky 1, 2 and 3 and now they might suffer from Freeview snubbing them.

With the BBC’s free satellite package not too far off and bigger bills for Football things are not looking quite as good as they did a couple of months back, a few compromises and a little less testosterone might be called for.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

and the future of supermarket check out staff

Tesco want you to be your own cashier? Or 'Every little ** helps itself '.

Now I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Tesco, much as I feel about McDonalds I really admire the way the business is run and feel that many of the whingers who attack (both of) the organisation don’t fully get it. McDs is far from being intrinsically evil and caters for a desire in an efficient and reasonable manner as is Tesco’s; let’s face it they dealt with their recent petrol contamination issue in an exemplary fashion. But (and it’s a medium sized but) what is this idea that I was confronted with in my local Tesco Metro where you act as your own cashier and then pay with notes and coins through slots – I reckon it’s taking self service a bit too far and as identified here and also here might lead to further shrinkage.


Having started out rationing the number of people exposed to the then labelled 'Venice Project Joost have started another mini push sending reminders to the current beta trialists that they can send 2 invites to people who’ve got along fine and dandy without knowing much about this hyped up waste of bandwidth (I’ve passed on my two invites and’ll be interested in the reaction from those lucky folks).

Broadcast regulation

I tend to agree with today's Mail on Sunday article that OFCOM need waking up to the fact that as well as all their ' blue sky' thinking and generally patting themselves on the back they should actually indulge in a bit of regulation – however they squirm around they’ve been negligent on the matter of premium call TV and left it too much to ICSTIS who are not staffed at the level (numbers and calibre) to deal with this.

Great Site from Stumbled on

If you're interested in writing or how William Burroughs and David Bowie have used chance, take a look at this one.

The future of call centres


I was reading an interesting article in The Economist that was about the potential use of voice recognition and associated software for routine elements of call-centre work, there’s more to do but the idea seems to have potential, first steps are around the text chats that some commercial sites use -seems there's potential there too around adult call services.

Beer tasting

I got the chance to offer my opinions on a new beer from the West London brewers Fullers, they’re finalising the detail around a Blonde (but not for me a bland) Beer called Discovery the taste somewhere between a Lager and a Bitter, not bad at all with a rather attractive golden label – hopefully it’ll do well in the supermarkets as it's an alternative to some of the very dull continental beers that currently dominate the supermarket take home niche.

Friday, March 16, 2007

stumble away

So after nearly a week I can report back on stumbled upon, and despite being skeptical I’m happy to say that it’s rather good. There are elements of Digg there and what it does is give you a chance to happen on things that stimulate you, strangely a situation that I was talking to colleagues about today- my feeling was that we are in too easily a position where we get just what we like, but this takes all our time and we don’t find other stuff, the serendipity of our existence starts to seep away like the sun in late October…

Back on the subject..

Not sure how the business model for this offering works or the algorithm that identifies things that’ll interest you but on the occasions I’ve hit some of the icons in the stumbled on toolbar I’ve been generally impressed and it’s brought to light some good sites.

To quote them

Channel surf the internet with the StumbleUpon toolbar to find great websites, videos, photos and more based on your interests. StumbleUpon learns what you like and makes better recommendations”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

and it's not even started yet

News that the Digital switchover is not so far off is likely to start a wave of apathy going across the UK , the actual first switch off of a region is not until leaves are dropping off the trees in October, at around £20 a go I can't really believe too many people can’t afford a digital receiver, the problem could be that all this talk of digital gets people expecting HD where there’s no strategy in place to deliver particularly on terrestrial. (And of course the BBC is lobbying like crazy). Now if all the coverage was as bright as this it wouldn't be boring at all.

Door to door youngsters

Now I don’t know about where you live but out here every few months we get a young person at our door complete with ID card and a bag of over priced tat – now I’ve ‘donated a couple of times but the dish cloths/tea towels etc are pretty awful (and over priced) if they had something worthwhile it’d be a satisfactory transaction rather than one where both parties are uncomfortable because it looks like charity – how about it whoever organises this stuff?

Thursday is health day

Weight: 11st 2lbs that’s a further 2lb loss

Blood pressure: 127/85 up on last week - need to try and get this lower & there are some tips here worth looking into.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Digital Radio- shifting sands

Following a review I did some time back on a WiFi radio I’ve been having an interesting dialogue with Jake, Jake has rightly pointed out that not all digital audio compression system are created equal, as you’d expect the newer ones are better but require more oomph, in terms of clever processing when compressing and decompressing the signal.

Now Jake reckons that the modern algorithms are 5 times better (which I do question on many levels) but he has also pointed me at a website that warns that old DAB radios will not be able to cope with the newer signal due in a few years time, if this gets out I can imagine some bad feeling, it’s taken some time for Digital radio to get as far as it has; the number of radio sets deployed in the UK is enormous (we’ve got at least 10 between us in this household), no switchover to Digital Radio has been announced – if new standards are going to appear every couple of years I’ll stick with my old FM.

Cockney rhyming slang?

Sad to hear of Gareth Hunt’s death, he’ll be remembered for the old Coffee hand shake and New Avengers but I did briefly meet him at an RTS (technical) function I organised 4 or 5 years ago not really sure what his interest was but he seemed a pleasant cove and 65 is too young to go.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Play no more

ITV Play has gone – its due to replaced by ITV2+1 (a channel that is a 1 hour delay of ITV2), the story is that this is a result of a 'Spectrum review' it seems that the channel is a holding operation and given time a commercially supported channel will fill the Freeview, cable and DSAT slot, now I’ve said before that the channel should go to an ITV news perhaps with other factual content, but it seems Movies is a possible, which could irritate its partner Sky.

ITV is saying that the audit carried out on Play was positive but presumably they don’t think that a participation channel fits into its bouquet or is not worth the hassle and damage to the ITV brand as a whole.

Pester calls

I missed a call today ah I thought at least they haven’t withheld the number, I googled the number and found that it was likely to be someone trying to do me a deal on my mobile, thank goodness I missed it and perhaps someone can stop these intrusive timewasters?

Monday, March 12, 2007

end of the Natural World?

Joost competition

There’s more than one company trying to achieve the TV on the PC solution, Joost’s competition’s called Babelgum read about it here. Silvio Scaglia is the Italian mover and shaker behind it and he’s one of the richest guys in the world (746th in monetary terms).

The end of the Natural World?

We were in Kingston on Saturday, it’s a good place for shopping (if that’s not an oxymoron) and we got some right old bargains at the ‘Natural World’ shop. I got a grow a your own ‘Salsa’ kit.

It looked a bit like a closing down sale the Ealing branch went a couple of months back, I seriously hope the business hasn’t gone for a Burton as they’re not perfect but they do have some vaguely stimulating things for youngsters which aren’t about computers or violence. Let me know if you have info on this. (it's not looking good from their website.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

ebaY changes

I’m hardly the biggest user of the number one auction site but I feel that the latest modifications to the site are slightly worrying – as a near monopoly provider in the global sale of second hand goods they may have the impression that they can make changes with impunity, they have many users who will take issue with what could be viewed as a high handed attitude we’ll wait and see what happens.

[oh and here’s my latest item for sale]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cracking restaurant

The Walpole

Now we’ve been to a lot of the local eateries in Ealing but it’s a bit of a blow to find one as good as this which has been open for about six years that we hadn’t been to.

If you're around the Ealing area it's called The Walpole and the details are

Address 35 St Mary's Road, Ealing, London, W5 5RG
Telephone: 0871 4263054 - you'll need to book for Dinner (Friday or Saturday only)

Not surprisingly there are a number of reviews highlighting how special it is, there’s a continental feel as you go through the door it’s clear that for the couple running it it’s much more than just a business.

Lovely food fantastic martinis, superb and friendly service, Dinners are only available Friday and Saturday, you have the table all evening (no ‘you’ve eaten now sod off we’ve got a second sitting’) during the day it’s a café but I’m sure that it’s still a top quality one in a word ‘Brilliant’.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sky Quickie

Now it seems that Sky have got a couple of things right one being taking the decision to be above the premium call fiasco by opting out of such services, I recall hearing Richard Woolfe (Sky One controller) talking about the pitfalls on BBC radio 4's moneybox. The other thing is putting pressure on Virgin Media's Call centre -which seems suspiciously like NTL/Telewest's call centre- not sure if the failure to agree on Sky's channels was designed to do this but it's one of the outcomes.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

poor old five

Channel 5 poor results and quiz trouble

So after ITVs results the figures coming out of RTL controlled Channel Five really do look bleak audience down costs up and advertising down too, without some serious work this looks like a bad case to me, perhaps if Sky is forced out of ITV it could bring fresh life to the brand otherwise it’s looking like a raft of average US material with a couple of strong shows (CSI is the one that springs to mind), these could easily be lost in a bidding war.

To top it all they’re suspending their questionable quiz shows while checks are run after wrongdoing was revealed.

Recruitment companies
Now I had particularly annoying experience with a recruitment agency who before an interview in France told me that my expenses would be paid, I turned down the job offer and never got my money, for that reason please be careful if you are approached by Progressive Recruitment. Imagine then my surprise to learnt that agencies who often do as little as forward CVs and arrange an interview can get between 15% and 25% of your first years salary, probably even more shocking is the finders fee that companies routinely offer to staff when they suggest a suitable candidate.

Stumbled upon

I heard about ‘stumbled upon’ today (Leo Laporte and co raving about it on net@night) – it’s a web 2.0 venture I’ve installed it and will let you know what I think in a couple of days.

And Thursday is heath day

Nearly a week of Green Tea, less booze, no crisps, no chocolate bars and it’s all coming good.
Weight11st 4lbs (down another pound)
Blood pressure 115/77 (looking fine)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A blessing or a curse?

ITV what’s the long game?

ITV results have come out today largely in line with expectations profits are down around 19% but turnover is slightly better than predicted nearly holding to the previous year, Michael Grade has a strategy centred around content and an improved New media performance.

Now is this correct? If it is then ITV should probably consider a split along transmission and origination lines, there are still some costs that can be cut in both these centres (some distribution costs have already been addressed ) this would release funds for improvements, on content in producing more and better content and in distribution in improving the margins.

My feeling is that there are deals to be done with the content library that ITV has, content is the future and the chosen distribution method is not that significant to the consumer/viewer.

The other angle which needs to be exercising ITV’s collective mind is how can they make themselves attractive to a larger media conglomerate? The Sky holding is likely to act against any deal and even if Sky wasn’t stopping a deal with the former NTL (Virgin Media) then this would clearly not be a deal made in heaven, getting out of this fix is not an easy one unless the Darling intervention (the UK minister rather than a theatrical one) comes through.

BBC to take on iTunes
Rather confusingly it’s the BBC that continues to act in an entrepreneurial fashion and is looking at setting up a competitor to iTunes, not sure that the timing or the nature of the UK state broadcaster means this makes any sense whatsoever but along with other initiatives is makes me wonder if the licence fee settlement wasn’t a touch too generous to the Beeb.

Man with a cross
Oddly enough on my journey back from the centre of London yesterday on the Central line I was literally blessed.

A relatively smart OAP type figure (without being ageist) who was working his way through the compartment I was in was holding an ornamental cross and blessing all the travellers (I think) in a relatively measured way- I don’t think it caused offence but it made me recall another odd religious experience I suffered in Roma which I’ll relate on another occasion. (and I did get home safely last night)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

jumping jack flash it's a


Now I was somewhat unimpressed with a letter I got from British Gas assuring me that I was onto a good deal even though I wouldn’t benefit from this round of price cuts as I’d signed up for a deal that locked me in at the level I’d set. So I wrote them a letter saying how loyal I’d been in the past and how hurt I was, well they took the trouble to call me and it turns out that I am still on a good deal and had just got grumpy for no good cause – well done British Gas both for the offer and for the trouble you took in explaining to me but please try and phrase your letters better in the future for suspicious coves like me.

here's an example of some BBC content on the Youtube network

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tea and Sympathy

ITV Play

I’ve been following the fortunes (or not) of ITVPlay for some time and am intrigued by news that an audit is to be performed by ITV on this and other premium rate call ins that the broadcaster is promoting, the timing is odd but the intention is good.


More amusing is the news that Virgin are going to try and get some resolution in the hyped up drama over being ‘forced’ into dropping Sky channels (1,2 3 News and Sports News), I have some sympathy with Rupert’s little boy James that Richard is not playing fairly but if Sky acted a bit less like the classroom bully it wouldn’t have come to this.


A charity you might be interested in is which is doing important work against the inhuman regime in Iran is called Iran Liberty .This stuff matters please don’t ignore the people of Iran who are being denied freedom.


I’ve found where to get Lipton’s green tea (in fact it is actually TCHAE Oriental Spice Green Tea) it tastes really lovely not at all bitter and is meant to be very good for you.