November 2004 Archives
November 30, 2004
The sudden flurry of entries is due to me discovering a WiFi hotspot in the corner of my hotel room. I'm guessing that someone in the neighbouring condo has an unprotected base station. Thanks to this generosity, you should see more frequent updates.
November 29, 2004
I'm sat in a large, leather armchair, next to an expensive coffee table, on a plush carpet. The odd thing is that I'm sat in the middle of a shopping mall. Lorna described good US malls as being "a bit like Bluewater" which is like describing a Renault M�gane as being "a bit like a Porsche". Frankly, this little rest area puts my front room to shame. It makes it look positively tawdry.
Oh, and there's valet parking for about the price of an hour in a London car park.
No wonder America is a society of rampant consumerism. They're just so damn good at making it fun.
November 28, 2004
I have a hire car. It's an SUV. It's roughly the same sizeas two identical cars to the one I drive back home parked on top of one another. It does far too many things automatically. It doesn't have a clutch. It's roughly like driving a mix of a dodgems car and a high-performance tank.
Just as well everybody drives at walking pace in Florida, really.
November 27, 2004
For the third time today, an American has just looked at me as if I'm mad. It's not our fault. We can't do anything else until tomorrow. Why should we be ashamed? We do it all the time in the UK. Just because the Americans find it strange doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy ourselves the British way.
And so, we walked to the shops. The real hint that American roads are not designed to accommodate pedestrians is the epic wait for the lights to change at the occasional, surly crossing. After several minutes, the lights force themselves to endure a few seconds of red, before suddenly switching back, leaving their hapless victims to scurry the remaining few meters to the safety of the sidewalk. I'd always thought that scene in LA Story where Steve Martin drives all of two houses to see his best friend was a joke, until I saw at least two driver do journeys just that short.
And where did that walk take us? Lakeside. Yes, we'd travelled around 4,000 miles and we were still shopping at Lakeside. Of course, this Lakeside is significantly smaller than the one we're used to, and a damn sight more friendly, too. We had a very pleasant lunch in a bar on the corner of the little strip of shops, paying for four people about what we would have paid for one back in the UK. I could get used to this.
Lorna and I were awake by 5am, our body clocks resolutely refusing to adapt quickly to US time. We threw open the glass doors of our room and ran down to the beach, ready to catch the first light of dawn. As the sun climbed over the troubled waters of the Atlantic, the whole resort was bathed in the most spectacular orange light.
There is a reason to be up at 5am after all.
The one major flaw in any intercontinental travel for me is this: you need to fly. Now, in principle I like the ides of flying. I love take-off and landing and I love being able to travel so far, so quickly. However, somewhere deep in my lizard brain, the primitive part of me hates turbulence. It pumps adrenaline into my system with such force that, all of a sudden, I want to fight, to attack, to break things. Clearly, this is not a good idea on an eight hour flight across the Atlantic. And so, wrapped in a warm cocoon of prescription tranquillisers, I flew to Washington DC.
The staff at Washington airport were great: friendly, helpful and unfailingly polite. I think we Brits are in danger of relinquishing our reputation for politeness to those damn colonials. If there was any fault we could find with the staff, in fact, it was their paucity. 90 minutes is just too long to wait in a hot immigration queue, especially with a transfer flight to catch. As soon as the US authorities had my fingerprints on record, and had take a quick snap of my tranquillised face, we were free to run for the boarding gate and catch the connection to Fort Lauderdale.
November 25, 2004
Technically, I suppose, this holiday began two days ago when we finished work and set off to Suffolk to collect my mother. These two days ahevn't felt like part of the holiday, though. They've felt like a typical weekend at Mum's, complete with haircut, shopping and a slightly drunken evening meal.
In less than an hour, though, we'll be off, setting course for London and my brother's place, before continuing on to Heathrow the following morning.
This is my first holiday with my family since my late teens, and my first with Lorna's family.
Am I scared? Oh, yes.
A different take on the Windows-only Band Aid download situation:
November 24, 2004
Dial-up must be banished from this land and replaced universally with broadband. Dial-up is useless for the modern internet user.
Ah, well, it's only for 24 hours.
November 22, 2004
One more Apple Store link: Beth's report on Metroblogging. I like the detail about the local coffee shops being persuaded to open early.
You know what? I've been using Apple Computers since the early 90s, when I laid out the student rag on an old Mac Classic, and I still can't figure out what it is about the company that inspires this devotion. On the other hand, I wouldn't buy a PC willingly. Personally, I think Steve Jobs is a wizard. It's the only rational explanation.
Incidentally, today's blogging so far come to you from the British Library. I'm covering a conference here, and the whole site has wireless access. An outfit called Building Zones is providing free wireless access all day. Hurrah.
The conference is great, but you'll have to be an Estates Gazette reader to read about it, because I'm here on their shilling.
However, it's been mentioned that the wireless hotspot here is one of the busiest in London. People use the Library both for research and as something approximating to a serviced office. The Library's proximity to both Euston and King's Cross makes it an ideal business location, and the WiFi fees are providing the place with an extra income stream. So, modern WiFi and laptops are helping pay for old, old books. The bibliophile in me loves that.
Last post on the weekend's shop opening, promise. Macworld has some great pics of the overnight sleepers:
Empty says it better than I.
I did see a BBC Breakfast News segment on this on Friday, during which they missed out the bolded paragraph in the Empty article. Kinda changes the meeting doesn't it?
Charles is due to speak on this topic later on - I'll be interested to hear what he has to say.
Following on from yesterday's post, here's a blog by the guy who slept on Regent Street to be the first into the new Apple Store:
November 21, 2004
I popped into the opening of the new Apple Store on Regent Street yesterday, the first in the UK. Much to my surprise, I had to queue for 20 minutes to get in, and this was mid-afternoon. Goodness only knows what it was like that morning.
Still, the store has a pleasing aesthetic, there was a nice atmosphere in the queue, despite the rain, and I got the goods I wanted, despite the crowds.
You can see all my pics here.
November 18, 2004
So, the Band Aid 20 single is available for download. Uh, unless you're on a Mac that is.
"Give to charity - unless you're a Mac user. We don't want your money."
Given how appalling the reviews of the track have been, unless it turns up on iTunes next week, I might just skip buying it entirely and donate a couple of quid to charity instead.
November 17, 2004
No posting yesterday, because I was at one of those pleasant work "dos" that turn out to be both a useful source of contacts and pretty good fun. Still, it ate my evening, so posting was out of the question.
However, I am delighted, in a sad, fanboyish sort of way, with the free photo at got at the event, which was held at post, expensive eatery Sketch. The do was film themed, so they had celeb look-alikes wondering around, and the opportunity for you to be digitally inserted into one of hundreds of film still they had available. I chose this Obi Wan image from Star Wars: Episode One and am delighted with the way it turned out, despite vigorous mockery from One Woman. You can click the image to see a larger version, if you feel so inclined.
November 15, 2004
Yasser Arafat has barely been in the ground five minutes and I receive this e-mail:
I am Mr Mohammed Rashid the finicial confidant to the late leader of
palestine liberation organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat. After the burial
of the late president i
myself and the wife of the late president Mrs Suha were under querry by
the palestinian liberation organization over the assets and account of
the late president.
Yes, it's the classic 419 scam, given a topical spin. I think I'll pass...
November 14, 2004
I've no clear recollection of this one being take at all. It sat, uncomfortably, amongst a selection of pictures of a French beach holiday, without any meaningful reference or context.
Once I'd scanned it, the image that sprang into my mind was a still from a Blair Witch Project-style horror movie, so I worked to enhance the effect with the application of increased grain, some color balancing and a fiddle with the picture's levels. The net result wa sthe rather spooky image here. The trees are strikingly prominent, compared to the original, and look nicely twisted around. The mysterious light on the bottom left rather pleases me, too.
I'm impressed with the result, even if the 10 year old who took the original would have hated it. It looks like a picture that could happily illustrate a horror short story, probably something about werewolves, in fact.
November 13, 2004
This weekend, amongst various other chores, I've been transferring my old photographs from the ancient sticky back/clear front albums they've been in since the early 1980s. The quality of most of the pictures is, to say the least, variable. That's partially because I was only nine or 10 when most of the photos were taken, and partially because of the frankly rubbish Instamatic camera I was using back then. However, until I reached the end of the second album, I kept everything because, despite the lack of aesthetic memory, they're valuable records of my past.
After that, I discovered handful of picture which just had no redeeming virtues at all. Or, at least, they made no sense in an album context. So, I pulled them out, dumped them on my desk and carried on.
Looking at them again, they do have a redeeming value after all. Looked at in isolation, detached from the rest of the album they have a strange abstract charm, that I could have some fun with. So, One Man & His Blog proudly presents the Reject Series: photographs that didn't make the replacement album cut.
The rules are simple:
- The photo is scanned and then destroyed.
- The photo can be modified in Photoshop as much as I like.
- The results will be posted here, and then to Flickr.
The first picture, which you can see above, was part of a set taken at my first day at a new school, Dollar Academy. There are pictures of kids on my street in their new uniforms and this, disastrous, picture of me taken by one of my contemporaries, I guess. That's the regulation school hymn book in my pocket. As part of an album, it's a dismal failure. As a photo in its own right I find it rather intriguing.
November 12, 2004
Remember that business about a student suing the architect of the new Freedom Tower on the World Trade Centre site? Brian Micklethwaite comments here, and very interesting it is, too.
While on the intellectual property front, interested readers might wish to note that Marvel Comics (creators of Spider-man, the Hulk, the X-Men and Daredevil) are suing the companies behind the online game City of Heroes, on the basis that the game can be used to recreate their characters, despite the fact that doing so is against the game's terms and conditions. Students might want to discuss the possibility of Marvel extending its efforts to manufacturers of pen and paper, for example.
November 11, 2004
Up until now, this blog has only attracted fairly light amounts of comment spam. In the past 24 hours, I've been hit by literally hundreds of comments all promoting an online poker site. 90 got through before I added the URL to the blacklist. I've had hundreds of posting attempts since.
These people are scum.
November 9, 2004
Gothamist links to some very interesting news on the Freedom Tower, the putative replacement for the World Trade Centre which is under construction in New York:
Yes, it appears that a student is claiming that he showed some of his designs to David Childs, the architect of the Ground Zero site (which was masterplanned by Daniel Libeskind, who has his own legal issues around the development). Those designs bear a remarkable resemblance to finished product, or so he maintains.
So, that's an architect suing the developer and a student suing an architect. What a noble symbol this building will be.
I should have blogged this a few days ago:
Brian comments on the latest GRID.
External feedback on the magazine remains good. Does it have a long term future? Time will tell.
It looks like the London Metroblogging site has a new competitor, Londonist. Like its competitor, it's one of a group of city sites, which have a US-bias. And, like its competitor, it has got off to a less than promising start. It feels like it's trying to be something like the opening pages of Time Out, with a mix of news and updates about local cultural events. Of the posts on the front page, only this one was of any interest. The rest, well, they felt like they were written for people who don't live here - and maybe they are. It's impossible to tell, because the link to the about page is broken,
As for the London Metblog, the quality of posts seems to be going up. I'm enjoying Bignoseduglyguy's stuff in particular. However, at least one of the contributors is an American, which seems to fly in the face of what they are attempting. Still, it's a better read now than it was a few months ago, and that's a good thing.
Real-estate agents have been on the endangered-profession list for a while (thanks, Internet and 2% brokers), but Home Depot may make them extinct. In seven southern states, the DIY store will be testing home-selling kits aimed at the growing for-sale-by-owner market. For $12.95, you get a sign to put in your yard, but more important, you get a listing and photos on Owners.com, which claims to be the largest for-sale-by-owner site, with 5 million customers
Funnily enough, I'm running a piece in Saturday's EG that shows some early moves in this direction in the UK, too.
[via Ben Hammersley]
November 8, 2004
I've been a little quiet over the last week or so. The reason? I grew tired with the howls of protest and triumph from both sides of the US election debate. Rationality rapidly left the building as Kerry conceded. Emotions and the baser human instincts took over in all too many debates. The signal to noise ratio shifted too far towards noise.
It was time to tune out for a while because, in the end, it was merely the sound of a lot of people who had suddenly become politically active through the War in Iraq discovering that, as Winston Churchill said 60 years ago:
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others
Thankfully, a little more rationality is starting to return to the debate. People are starting to realise the fundamental truths of democracy, including the fact that the biggest change you can make is in you local area. Politicians love to make us believe that the only time we have any influence is during an election. Nonsense. We can go on shaping the opinions and beliefs of those around us through debate constantly, making an election little more than a quick check of the prevailing orthodoxy.
Do you know who your local government representative is? Do you know who your national government representative is? If not, you're playing into the politicians' hands. They've allowed you to believe that their party games at a national level is all that matters. They're wrong. Your neighbourhood matters. Change that, and you're on the first step towards changing national politics.
November 7, 2004
November 2, 2004
November 1, 2004
There's a fundemantal problem in the Government's attempts to detach us from our cars. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a great fan of cars and enjoy the opportuinity for a bus ride
I left One Mother's place in deepest Suffolk at around 4.30pm on Sunday and finally arrived back at One Flat in Lewisham at nearly 9pm. In the car, it takes me just over two hours. That's over two hours extra for using public transport. Not exactly an inctive is it? Worse than that, it took me six seperate vehicles to get home. Let's count them shall we?
- Mum's car
- Train from rural station to Ipswich
- Train from Ipswich to Witham
- Coach from Witham to Liverpool Street
- Tube from Liverpool Street to Bank
- DLR to Lewisham
Now, I could have increased the number by one by going Bank - London Bridge - Lewisham, and it would have shaved maybe 10 minutes off the journey. I could even have walked from Liverpool Street to London Bridge, but none of these option undermine the fundamental point that often a car is a heck of a lot easier than the train. Until we start seeing real, palpable evidence that public transport can get us where we want to go easily, the car will still remain the mode of transport of choice.