Tuesday 20 December 2011

Wow I really ought to update this, and think of a better title while I’m at it…

I’ve just spent the last 3 weeks or so learning all about the social media sphere, shortlisting various solutions for an implementation of a social community for the organisation I’m working for.

It’s been quite interesting learning how these communities are started and they are quite similar to real life social situations in many ways. For example you need someone to post things that generate conversation, and it works best if you only introduce a few features and get people talking about those, as they will be overwhelmed by too many features much the same way they would be overwhelmed by too much information in a conference.

And then there’s all the focus on user experience and branding, and getting people to stay on the site. If you build it, they won’t come, but if you build some of it and advertise it like crazy and have a presence on facebook, and post links back to your community, they just might come, and as long as you’re talking about things that interest them, they might stay too!

We narrowed our list down to 3 contenders who all had excellent merits. There was the large corporation with an very good off the shelf product and lots of research behind it, the mid size organisation specialising in our sector, and the small company who offered the best service and an entirely bespoke solution.

Rather sadly, we ended up choosing the massive corporation much the same way you’d go to Tesco to buy your groceries instead of to the high street. It might cost a bit more to get there but once you’re there you know it has everything you need and if you have a problem you can go back next week and complain, and someone will do something about it.

I’ll write something more interesting next time!

Wednesday 30 November 2011


All this striking bugs me somewhat. There are too many public sector workers as it is. The previous government artificially created lots of jobs to keep unemployment figures low, and introduced a mass of expensive regulation that cost both the private sector and the taxpayer a huge amount of money. They borrowed billions every year to fund these jobs, and now the people who have them are going on strike to protest at pension reforms.
At least they have pensions.
What I find amusing is that (admittedly only a few hours into my working day) everything is running smoothly. My drive to work was traffic-free, probably because nobody is meddling with the traffic light system. Reports on the radio suggest things are going more smoothly at airports with passengers being greeted with friendly smiles instead of the usual suspicion, and to top it all off, the weather forecasters must be on strike because it’s sunny! Smile with tongue out
It will be interesting to see how badly services are affected with all these people not working. If everything runs smoothly, all they prove is that they aren’t needed and can be made redundant. And who will pay their unemployment benefit if they are made redundant? Well, the same people who pay their salaries now; the taxpayer.
Of course nobody reads this blog so my opinion is out there waiting to be quoted or linked or tweeted, but it’s unlikely it will ever see the light of day! D’oh Smile

Monday 28 November 2011

Social Butterfly

It would appear that fate has dealt me some interesting cards and I now find myself turning into a social networking and online communities expert. I am quite surprised by how much I already know about this, and very pleased to hear feedback from the various vendors in my selection process, that my comments on the client requirements document are spot on.
What does this mean for me?

Well for a start, as a social media expert I’d better get blogging and tweeting more! Whether I will actually manage this remains to be seen, and I am finding it difficult to post everywhere so it’s either a blog post if I’ve got something long to write (that I think nobody other than the odd recruitment consultant will read anyway), a tweet if it’s a photo, because my iPhone can do that easily since iOS5, or a facebook status update if I want answers to my questions from people who know about such things.
I had a great meeting with Telligent on Friday, who showed me a couple of videos that got me all excited: This one about APAN really moved me, and this one from Socialnomics author Erik Qualman filled me with a feeling of excitement and ‘I told you so’ as it relates to almost everything I’ve been working on in my field anyway.
Something that unites all the vendors I’ve been speaking to is a sense that the community has to sustain itself and it’s unwise to attempt to prescribe to people what they can and can’t do. One of the appeals of social community driven sites is the freedom to be able to use the site in almost any way the user wants, and this is what I will be aiming for in the solution I deploy over the next few months.
With any luck, I won’t be too busy to update this blog with my progress Smile

Wednesday 16 November 2011

everything everywhere

Well, they aren’t really everything and they aren’t really everywhere, but that’s their plan. And as of today I’ve just saved the company I’m working for £80000 by migrating our mobile phones to them and away from Vodafone. They assisted us with some interesting financial structuring that plugged a hole in our finances for this year.
Along with the saving we’re also planning on moving our remote and home staff to mi-fi mobile data devices, so they can access the Internet from wherever they are instead of (in some cases) having to sit under the stairs to use the computer where their current staff ADSL goes in.
During the bidding process I dealt with people from Vodafone, O2 and Orange, and Orange were by far the most professional. They were also fastest at responding to requests, and had answers for every question we fired at them.
I look forward to working with them in future, and am even considering moving over my personal lines to them as they currently have a great £7 SIM only offer Smile

Sunday 13 November 2011

Apple Service

Next time you complain that apple products are very expensive, remember they are backed up by a network of retail stores where you can take your device for free support. Compare this with other manufacturers who usually expect you to contact your local warranty centre and arrange to post it back to them.
On a similar note, apple are replacing the original iPod Nano I bought in 2005. Apparently they have batteries that explode or something. I always wondered why the battery in mine deteriorated so quickly! :)

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Money Saving Expert

I am about to save the company I work for about £150000. More details in a future post!


Monday 24 October 2011

What is there to compute?

I was installing the Sophos Enterprise console version 4.7… After about 10 reboots of installing various requirements, it finally got round to the upgrade installation. One of the screens said “Computing space requirements”

What was it computing? Don’t they already know how much space an installation requires?

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Who decides to open Tower Bridge at 5pm?

It causes traffic chaos and gridlock all around.

That is all...

Thursday 6 October 2011

Rest in peace, Mr Jobs

The world has been changed by three apples; The first was offered to Eve, the second fell on Isaac Newton's head and the third was offered to the world with a bite taken out of it, by Steve Jobs.

Love or loathe the products he produced and sold, there can be no doubt that apple computers, run by Steve Jobs, changed the world. Although I was never much of a fan in more recent years, this was actually partly due to the success and following enjoyed by the products. They were very good but they came at a price I was not willing to pay, until I got my iPhone. Rewind a few years and I remember my friend Ben telling me about his new Macintosh computer, and playing on it when he got it back in about 1988. I really wanted one but couldn't afford one, and was vehemently anti-Microsoft until about 1997 when I first used Windows 95 and found it quite good. I had apple stickers on my wall, including one that said "Windows 95 = Macintosh '89" which I got at a Mac Expo in Earl's Court.

Anyway, Steve Jobs changed the way we think about computers. He changed them from being geek toys into consumer devices that everyone could use to accomplish tasks and make their lives easier.

What I find more impressive is that he only stepped down from his position at Apple in August this year, so he really did fight to the end.

Steve, rest in peace; you will be missed.

Monday 26 September 2011

Using bathroom sealant as glue is a bad idea.

You'd think I would have known better as I'm usually quite good at this DIY malarkey, but the other day I stupidly decided to glue some coving in place using bathroom sealant.
Ordinarily this would have been a stroke of genius, except that emulsion paint doesn't stick to it...


Thursday 22 September 2011

Transport for London

I was under the impression that Transport for London was an organisation dedicated to an integrated transport system for London. That's what the name would suggest, but I think they should be called Traffic for London.
Why is this not the case?
Well, it was Sunday Monday Happy Days, Tuesday Wednesday not-so-happy Days.

On Sunday, I didn't really drive at all, so all was well. Monday was a regular commute to work, but lately the junction at Grove Park has been blocked. This has happened since the school holidays finished. The junction at Grove Park consists of 2 lanes, one of which is a right turn only and the other ahead only. Normally there is a bus trying to turn right and because the lanes aren't very wide, cars can squeeze by but lorries and buses can't.
Traffic for London has rescheduled the bus timetables so there are now 2 buses trying to get through the junction at the same time, one of which will have to stop and hold up the other traffic until the first one can make a right turn. The knock on effect is a 1 mile tailback as all the cars have to sit waiting patiently for the bus to go past. I queried this with Lewisham council but their response was quite dismissive. Clearly nobody who works at Lewisham council has to go through this junction to get to work.

Tuesday was weird. I was hoping it would be sunny so I could ride my motorbike in, but it rained in the morning so I drove. The journey to work was mostly fine, apart from Grove Park. The way back went exceptionally well, and I managed to get from Bromley to Shad Thames in 45 minutes or so. The problem was when I tried to get across Tower Bridge; it took me a further 50 minutes stuck in traffic. This is because some idiot decided it would be a good idea to open Tower Bridge to let a boat through at the same time as the Blackwall Tunnel and Rotherhithe tunnel had been closed.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with London, what this means is that the only ways to cross the river east of London Bridge (in the centre) are the Woolwich Ferry, which has queues all the time anyway, or the Dartford crossing, which is practically on the edge of London.
So there was traffic chaos. The whole area was gridlocked for hours. I shudder to think how much fuel was wasted.
Tomorrow as long as the weather is good, I'll be riding my motorbike! :)

Saturday 17 September 2011

Do it yourself...

I've been doing a bit of remodelling of late. The sort that would put someone off for say, 10 years or so.

Fortunately for me it's finally starting to come together! Rain today, thwarting my attempt to go for motorbike ride, has helped immensely!

In a short time from now my flat will be a far nicer place to spend time :)

But it's not there yet. Time to visit Ikea :)

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Truman Show

There was a conspiracy against me on my commute to work this morning. Remember The Truman Show, when he decided he wanted to drive off the island and they had to try and stop him, so everyone drove their car into the street to create traffic, to hinder his progress? That's how it was for me.

The weather was lovely so I decided to ride the motorbike instead of drive the car, but it was doomed from the start. I got out of the car park and there was no room for me to filter through the cars as the person right in front of the exit had left so little room between his car and the one in front that even a bicycle couldn't get through.
Plain sailing across Tower Bridge at least, but then trapped between a lorry and a bus, with a Nissan Almera driver turning left onto Jamaica Road, the same way I wanted to go. So I had to wait for another traffic light change. On any other road I'd have been able to overtake Nissan Almera driver, but the bus lane here is only a bus and cycle lane. Motorbikes aren't allowed, and the Almera was so far to the right, it would have been suicide to pass her. And she pootled along, so the traffic light that would have been green if she was doing 30mph went red, and I had to wait.
Passed her at the lights, and hit traffic approaching the Rotherhithe tunnel. It's normally pretty clear here, but the bus lane allows motorbikes here so it wasn't too bad. I went around the roundabout and clearly signalled my intention to exit towards Surrey Quays, but the driver of the black BMW X5, despite looking straight at me, decided to wander into my path on the roundabout. Some horn beeping and eye contact occurred, and he didn't even look apologetic.
Then I got stuck behind another bus, that wanted to go 15mph. Passed it, got stuck at a traffic light. Then stuck behind another car going slowly. Bikes can't go in the bus lane again. Passed the cars, had a bit of a free run, but thwarted by a red traffic light. Cleared the light, and got stuck behind a cement mixer. The cement mixer must have been fully loaded because I swear it took about 3 minutes for it to get to 30mph. Bikes not allowed in bus lane again. Managed to pass cement mixer at the lights, then got stuck behind a chain of cars that was stuck behind a Volvo. Extra traffic at the roundabout in Lewisham - had to filter through where normally it's clear. Then stuck behind a Lexus Rx300 again. Took ages to pass due to oncoming traffic. Managed to squeeze in front of a bus and make my right turn, only for another 15mph bus to pull out from a bus stop and proceed at that speed for the rest of the lenghth of the road. Passed it at the South Circular, made the left turn towards Grove Park, only to hit traffic. Filtered past, but couldn't pass a lorry as there wasn't enough room in between the lorry and the traffic island. Had to wait for it to move (which took ages due to a combination of bus and lorry ahead), so again thwarted at traffic lights.
Lights go green, no room to pass, stuck behind another chain of cars. Finally passed them at a traffic light and had a free run from there... for the next 700 metres or so, until I reached my destination, where there were 2 cars parked in front of my straight path into the bike parking area, so had to approach at an angle and take extra care.

And despite all this my facebook status says my ride to work was awesome, because it was! It's such a nice bike to ride! :D

Monday 12 September 2011

Planes, trains and automobiles III

Part 3 - Automobiles

I've been a fan of automobiles for as long as I can remember. It all started when I was very young. I loved cars and could name every car I saw on the road before I could read or write. I've had lots of cars in my time, and I got myself a motorbike license because I didn't want to have to take the tube to get to college every day.

Fast forward about 17 years and I now have a BMW 3-series, like everyone else. It's a green 325 convertible, and along with the car I'm a prominent member of a forum for the car, where people of various ilk come together to discuss them. This ranges from genuine technical problems to what modifications to get. I swear some of them have spent too much time on eBay convincing themselves they need things that they don't. They yearn to be different from the crowd, but they all end up being the same. If they really didn't want to be the same as everyone else, they probably should have got a Volvo or Saab, or waited for the new Dacia Duster. You think I'm joking but I really like it and will probably buy one when they come out in the UK some time next year.
Anyway I digress. These people have convinced themselves that a small curved tube light in each headlamp will make them as awesome as Chuck Norris, and that they will have the fighting prowess of Bruce Lee if they fit illegal Xenon headlamp conversions.
They will become James Bond if they fit wheels so big, the only way to fit them is to use elastic bands for tyres, and because they are now so awesomely famous they need to become stealthy Knight Riders by tinting their windows and replacing all the chrome with fake carbon fibre wrapping.

I once went to a meet up for the forum, which consisted mostly of a bunch of fat blokes wearing hoodies, eating donuts and talking about what polish they used to clean their cars. Those not eating donuts stood around with their hands in their pockets.

I am not well regarded on this forum for a number of reasons. First, my car is green. Everyone thinks green is rubbish - they all want black, blue or silver. It probably goes better with their carbon. Almost everyone who sees my car loves the colour though. The guys at my BMW specialist garage reckon I should take it to shows! The second reason I am disliked is my car is a convertible. Apparently only hairdressers drive convertibles. Most hairdressers I know can't afford a car though. There was an old guy at the barber I went to as a child who had an old Volvo; He was probably too individual to get a BMW. Thirdly, my car has wood trim. Apparently this expensive factory option is considered something for old people. It has to be plastic or carbon. It must be really weird in these people's homes, walking around on a fake carbon wrapped plastic floor.
Finally I am quite opinionated. You see, I am not afraid to share my views, so I have developed a reputation amongst many members as someone rather unsavoury.

But none of that matters! One of the moderators of this forum, upon reading a post I wrote, took the time to congratulate me on my blog! Apparently he wasted 2 hours reading my rantings! I am now one step closer to world domination!!

So back to automobiles. I have something of a love-hate relationship with the car. It's nice and I really like it, but it's so demanding. I had to spend a fortune on he sound system to get iPod and Bluetooth working. No sooner do I spend money getting one thing fixed than it develops some new rattle or squeak. It's a proper money pit, and that's without insurance or petrol. It was recently in the garage though, and for a couple of weeks I had to go without it. Let's just say when I got back in the car on Saturday I was elated. I drove home smiling from ear to ear, again yesterday even in heavy traffic, and again today commuting to and from work.

Automobiles aren't just cars though. Let's not forget motorbikes. A while back I mentioned I'd part exchange my Ducati for a German bike at some point. This has now happened and I am the proud owner of a racing colours BMW S1000RR. Insurance is a rip off and the bike cost a fortune, but I love it! It's a gazillion times better than the Ducati it replaced :D


Planes, trains and automobiles II

Part 2 - Trains

As a result of the yet-to-be-written part 3 of this trilogy of posts, I was taking the train to work for some of last week. When weather permitted, I was riding my new motorbike. More on that later.

So, you may ask. What's so noteworthy about trains? Well nothing really, except how infuriating they are, especially if you travel in the other direction to most commuters. What this means for me is that I have to get the 08:19 train from Cannon Street to Orpington. If I don't catch that train, there isn't another one for an hour. This is what happened to me on Thursday, so I had to walk to London Bridge, where I had to spend about 10 minutes looking at the departures board to figure out which train I needed to get, and from which platform. Although travelling to London Bridge doesn't take very long, the net result is I end up half an hour late for work. Fortunately my boss was even later than me due to traffic congestion on his bus route. And, if I were a bit sharper, it would give me time to write blog posts from my phone. You'll note from the absence of any posts that this wasn't the first thing on my mind. I was far more interested in catching up with facebook updates :)

On Friday it was even worse. I had a meeting in Liverpool Street, and took the train to Bromley in the afternoon, with my colleague. Except that was an even bigger fail. We got the tube to Farringdon, saw we'd have to wait for the 14:45 train and at 14:45, we got on the train that rolled up. We were talking about work and motorbikes and such, when the train announcement said the train was going somewhere we didn't want to be. I looked out of the window and we were at Tulse Hill. This was the wrong place. I told my colleague, and after some to-ing and fro-ing about whether or not I was sure, we jumped off the train just in time for the doors to close. OK, well I jumped, he stepped off it like a normal person. We then studied the comprehensive map, which just showed the line we were on, before I resorted to the London Transport iPhone app. That app advised me to walk to Tulse Hill station, which would take 2 minutes. Strangely, we were actually in Tulse Hill station. Anyway, there was a 15:00 train to Beckenham Junction that would take us in the right direction, where we could change to an Orpington train that would take us to Bromley. The time was 14:59 and the train was the one on the next platform, so we bolted it and made that train just in time. We reached Beckenham Junction only to find the 15:15 Orpington train was cancelled and we'd have to get the next one at 15:30. I was ready to give up and go back home, but my colleague insisted. Out came the iPhone again, this time Google Maps was the app of the moment. I noted that we were only 2 miles from where we needed to be, so we got a minicab. The minicab was a car, which leads me nicely onto part 3 :)

Planes, trains and automobiles I

Part 1 - Planes

So yesterday was 11 September 2011. The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It's one of those significant moments in history where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first found out. Here's my story:

I was working at Colt Telecom at the time, in the engineering team. We had a test lab in a basement, which looked something like the CDT workshops at school, only with a couple of rows of racks in one corner. I was chatting on IRC, and coordinating my galactic alliance in a game called Hyperiums, when a top member of my alliance, a chap called Samson who lived and worked in New York City, wrote on IRC "OH MY GOD, I JUST SAW A PLANE CRASH INTO THE OTHER TOWER!" or something along those lines.
I thought he was joking at first, but other reports started coming in on IRC, about there being a terrorist attack. A quick check on the CNN and Sky News websites confirmed the reports, and one of them (I think it was CNN) had a photo of some smoke coming out of the tower.
I said to my colleagues, one of whom was from the West Indies, one from Canada and one from Scotland, that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I remember particularly well that Iain, the Scot, thought it was funny. He and I never saw eye to eye, not because he was about 2 feet taller than me, but because he was a linux geek and I wasn't. Anyway, I needed to find a TV.
I told my colleagues I was going to find a TV, and my boss (also Canadian) forbade me to go, so I went to the toilet instead. And carried on walking past the toilet, and up the road to Babe Ruth's Diner. This diner no longer exists. It's now a block of luxury apartments, but 10 years ago they had a huge projector TV for sports events. Only now it was showing CNN live, smoke bellowing out of the North Tower. At this point I got incredibly worried. I had an email from my sister the morning before, as she was in New York City. She said she was going to visit the World Trade Center "tomorrow morning" which meant, the morning of 11 September. I was transfixed, listening to the reports, watching the events unfold. Before my eyes I saw another plane crash into the South Tower. I immediately called my Dad to see if he was watching, and to ask if he had heard from my sister. He hadn't, but he had managed to get through to my uncle in Los Angeles.
I spent the next couple of hours watching the TV, before returning to the office. By this time my boss had realised the gravity of the situation, and when he heard my sister was supposed to be in the building, he was a little more understanding. I heard from my sister, via my Dad, later that day. She was alive and well, but naturally her return to the UK had been delayed due to the flight cancellations. I never heard from Samson again :(

Tuesday 6 September 2011


It's expensive isn't it? I've been undertaking a bit of a remodelling exercise at home, which included buying new brown goods and furniture. It's annoying too, especially the delivery. People send stuff out without consulting you on the best time for you to receive it. Some companies do Saturdays which is good but others just send stuff out overnight and you have no idea until it's too late!

So this morning I got a courtesy text from one of them saying they want to deliver this Thursday. At lunchtime. I will be at work on Thursday at this time... How annoying :(

My flat is looking pretty good though :D

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Holy Cow!

So, apart from testing a random iPhone app, I haven't posted on here for a while.
What's going on?

Well, I suppose I ought to write about the personal training sessions I've been having. I've lost 2kg so far, and it's looking good. So big shout out to the IgnitePT massive, who found me on Qype many moons ago and who I ended up going to for pain and torture in the name of good health.
I've also been working on some stuff at home. Had an electrician in the other day to mount my TVs on the wall... I was going to get a new sofa too, so I would have a nice new comfy place to sit and open up some space in my living room. Unfortunately now the TVs look too small, so I had to order a bigger one for the living room. I may have gone overboard though, as I got a bargain on a 56" Cinema screen 21:9 ratio TV. D'oh! Anyway the tv came out of the sofa fund, so I ordered some cheaper sofas from Poland, on ebay. They actually look quite good and at half the price of the other one I was looking at in Marks and Spencer, they might be the bargain of the decade!
Oh and I think I'm cleaned of my burrito addiction. I haven't had one for a while and the last one I had was a Poncho No. 8 (which my friend called ponchoi lol), of which I could only finish half. No wait, I forgot I had one (well half) last week too, from Chilango in Bluewater. Fail... guess I'm still addicted!
I've got a bunch more stuff to write but I'll save that for later posts :)

Friday 22 July 2011

Testing, 123

So, if this works it means I can blog from my iPhone

Location:Crosswall,City of London,United Kingdom

Saturday 4 June 2011

Bad things always come in threes...

Yep, like the title says.
What am I talking about?
Well you may have noticed that I haven't posted on here for quite some time. There are some reasons for this. That said, perhaps you hadn't noticed because I still highly doubt whether anyone reads this blog. Which means I am just typing something completely irrelevant. Wahay!
So... bad times.
Went snowboarding shortly after my last post. Things were looking sweet. The thing is, I broke my shoulder on the 2nd day, and so began my transformation. The broken shoulder sucked. I came home early and was in a lot of pain, and had to stay home for a couple of weeks, off work. While I was off work, the project I was working on started to go pear-shaped, but this isn't one of the bad things; I'm just mentioning it as an aside. So I worked from home for a couple of weeks nad HR called asking where I was. Little did I know at the time, but they wanted to know where I was because they wanted to fire me. So anyway, I also found out that HR had never sent my Bupa form off, so I am relying on the NHS for my rehabilitation, and because I am registered with my GP near my family home, I have to go to Barnet hospital all the time. This is quite inconvenient.
So anyway, shortly before I was due to go back to work (in fact the very day before), I got a phonecall at about 1.30am from my sister, via my brother's phone. Turns out my Dad had a heart attack. I raced home in record time (Tower Hill to Finchley in 18 minutes) but the ambulances were still there when I arrived, and sadly there was nothing that could be done.
It was a bad time for us all. You really don't realise what you have until it's gone and I am still incredibly sad about everything that happened. It was a stressful time and there were (and still are) many problems to deal with.
I returned to work and continued working on my project, making some good progress, but then at the end of May I was summoned into a meeting with HR at very short notice. I kind of knew what was going to happen as there hadn't been any client work for me, but they confirmed that they were making me redundant. This was bad news. Last time I was unemployed, it wiped out all my savings and racked up lots of debts; times were bad then, and I expected the worst this time round. Unfortunately due to the problems with my Dad I was also out of pocket and had no savings to fall back on, as I had previously... Apparently HR wanted to fire me a few weeks earlier but they waited until I was back in the office. How kind of them - this is from a Times top 100 employer.
So my lesson taught me a few things:
1. There's not much point in having a permanent job because they might fire you anyway.
2. Contracting pays way more than permanent work anyway, and who knows when HR might not give you the benefits you thought you were getting as part of your package.
So, I started looking for work. And it was like the olden days - I was getting loads of calls. I was worried that I wouldn't get a job but I've now got one, as an Interim Operations & Service Delivery manager for a charity. I started yesterday, and aside from a nightmare commute and the offices being in the middle of nowhere, it seems good so far (as well as I can tell after a day).
I have a project as a result of my Dad's departure. He left me his old Mercedes 190E (which I'd given to him) and the last conversation we had together was about spending a bit of money on it and getting it back on the road. So I intend to restore it to its former glory, and I am hoping to fit a 5-litre V8 engine from a 500SL, or a 3.2 litre supercharged V6 from a C36 AMG car. I just have to find someone with an engineering workshop and the skills to do the work for me, as I don't even have a place to park the thing at the moment! It's also in the bodyshop at the moment, being resprayed, and I am after a leather interior for it, as well as some replacement parts here and there. I also plan on replacing the stereo with something more modern, preferably a double-DIN unit which should fit nicely. I'll get a similar setup to my BMW, which sounds fabulous :)
That's it for now. I am not sure what to update next. I can't update about cool coffee shops or cycling to work or skiing and snowboarding, so err, this may well be my last post.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

How Rude!

Yesterday I was innocently minding my own business cycling to work, overtaking cars in the correct position (to their right) when a stupid cyclist whose path was blocked while undertaking the cars swung out into my path without looking. I said “whoa” and he proceeded to swear at me, so I had a go at him and then sped off. He seemed unable to keep up with me, which is strange considering how light his bike looked.
On Friday, I was stuck behind a bus, the driver of which was beeping the horn. I passed the bus to see he was driving about 10cm away from a cyclist in front who was doing her best to keep moving. This was completely out of order.
The irony of the bus incident is that there was an advert on the back of it for the Road Hug campaign being run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The campaign aims to get every road user treating other road users as if they were friends. An admirable cause.
They are giving away free stuff – a hi-vis and some lights… get yours now at www.roadhug.org
In other news… well I suppose there isn’t much other news. I am going snowboarding again next week though. Bring it on Open-mouthed smile

*edit 12/9/2011 - I never received my road hug pack :(

Wednesday 16 March 2011


dotmit is now in a relationship on facebook. This generated many comments within minutes of being posted.

facebook makes the world a very small place...

Oh and I have a twitter account now. Not that I do much with it. About as much as I do with this blog. No, not even that much.

Friday 4 March 2011

My fabulous tour of London's finest Burritos... on skates.

So... last year, I used to regularly run street skates on Wednesday evenings during the winter (there's already a far more official organised Wednesday skate during the summer).
Part of the fun was that I'd make the route up as I went along, and pretty much everyone who joins in really likes this.
I haven't run one for a while now though, partly because I got lazy and partly because of my fabulous girlfriend who I'd rather spend time with... but she's out of town at the moment, so I ran a skate. Yay! I was so pleased with the turnout - about 12 people, which isn't bad for a freezing Wednesday night.

This time though, I had no idea which way to go. It had been so long... and what was the first thing that sprang to mind? Burritos of course! So my route consisted of skating to one burrito place, and then from there to the next. At one point I was thinking 3 places ahead to plan the best route...

We covered Poncho No. 8, Daddy Donkey x2, The Flying Burrito, Burro Burrito, Mas Burritos x3, Tortilla x2, Buen Provecho, Picante, Benito's Hat x2, Chipotle, Freebird, Adobo, Burrito Bros and Luardo's.

Unfortunately my route didn't take us past Chilango, partly because of a failure to route well on my part, and partly because they seem to have their own exclusive coverage area that no other burrito places dare encroach on, which is kind of cool, but also not cool because it means it's really awkward for me to get there at lunchtime!

In other news, Steve Ells (founder of Chipotle) was in Chipotle on Tuesday, which was cool :D
Oh and I went to Daddy Donkey again, who are back up there on quality so I'll have to revise my ranking. And they are across the road from Prufrock which is a fabulous coffee place. So fabulous in fact, that they let us sit there and eat our burritos. Yummy!

Monday 14 February 2011

Happy Potato Day!

I just came back from a lovely weekend in Eastbourne in celebration of that Valentino chap, who I think rides a motorbike or something.
Today everyone is going on about him on facebook, but let’s not forget the humble potato. The potato is often overlooked because Potato Day falls on the same day as this motorbike dude.
So for all you potato lovers out there, I wish you all a Happy Potato Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day too Smile

Windows Live Writer

I just installed it. Let’s see if this works…

Thursday 10 February 2011

The Epic Mobile Phone Post

And now the mobile phone post.

This was inspired by Jason's post on his blog.
I have owned these phones, in this order.

1. one2one M200.
This phone was quite big. Bigger than my Dad's old NEC P3, with a worse aerial, but not as big or bulky as the Nokia-Mobira Cityman Superline 1320 it replaced. Highlights included an aerial which you not only pull out, but also fold outwards to improve the signal, a removable battery that lasted 12 hours and a spare battery so you could have 24 hours charge. I bought it in 1995 from Shasonic on Tottenham Court Road, on the one2one PersonalCall tariff. At the time it was £170 or so, and the tariff was £10 a month. You got free calls to landlines between 7pm and 7am, half-minute billing and voicemail. I bought the phone because one night I had a computing assignment to do, and I had to use a college computer, so I finished it that night and arrived home at 10pm instead of the usual 6.30pm. In that time, my Dad had called the police and attempted to report me as missing. One of the nice things about this phone was the special offer that came with it, allowing free international calls all day on Christmas Day (that year only). My parents made so many calls, the handset paid for itself. Later, one2one wrote to me and put me on a trial where the free calls were offered from 11pm to 7pm (i.e. 20 hours a day) for 6 months. This worked out pretty well too. At the time I bought this phone, everyone thought I was an idiot for even having a phone, but during my ownership, mobile phones became something of a status symbol.

2. Nokia 2146
Back in the 90's, getting a phone on a fixed contract with an upgrade allowance was not possible. Pay-as-you-go phone tariffs hadn't been invented yet (although I had written an essay about the mobile phone industry for a business strategy course at university predicting them, as well as mobile internet). As much as I loved my m200 (I didn't), it was rather cumbersome, and I felt the need to splash out about £250 or so on a new Nokia 2146. This was the one2one version of the 2110, which was slightly less elegant but functionally identical. It was lighter than the m200 and had more contact memory or something, as well as feeling much higher quality. It still had an extending aerial but it was far more compact, which was a bonus. You still couldn't send or receive text messages though. It turns out that the m200 could receive them but not send them. Weirdness! The battery on this one was a bit better, lasting about 24 hours, and it came with a desktop stand rather than a plug in charger.

3. Nokia 8146
This was the daddy of mobile phones at the time. The one2one version of the Nokia 8110. The long-awaited banana phone. If you had one of these, you were the king of mobile phone users. It was expensive. Can't remember how much but probably about £300 or so. By this time phone upgrades had become available, so that brought the price down a bit. It had the ability to send and receive sms, EFR (enhanced frequency range), and a slidy cover for the keypad. It was lighter than the 2146 with even better battery life, now a couple of days. It was shaped with a curve, and the selling point was that it was the shape of your bum so fitted nicely in your back pocket. No really it was. And it did fit nicely. This phone was great. I had memorised all the important key sequences so I could send text messages blindfolded with it. Still one of the best phones I ever had in terms of how much I used it and how good it was at doing its job. The biggest bugbear was that the aerial kept breaking. I had to replace it several times, and replacement aerials were not cheap. There wasn't a lot wrong with this phone, but the Matrix came out and things changed, because in the Matrix, the banana phone had a quick release for the slidy thing, and I had to have the quick release.

4. Nokia 6110
This phone was cheap and aimed at the mass market, but it had the advantage of being bought for me by the company I was working for at the time, so I could be on-call for the millennium, in case we were attacked by some kind of bug. The bug attack never materialised, but I got to keep the phone and the phone line, which was neat. I was now on Vodafone, which was horrendously expensive. Not that I cared, since the company was picking up the bill anyway. Happy days, except that the thing didn't really fit in my pocket. Is that a Nokia 6110 in your pocket, or are you pleased to see me?

5. Nokia 7110

This phone sucked. It cost something ridiculous like £400 and that was the price in Dubai. It was even more in the UK! It was the first ever WAP phone. WAP was touted as the next big thing, but it was rubbish. There were no WAP sites and the pricing for using it was horrendous. It was basically out of the reach of ordinary folk, so while a lot of us had WAP phones, none of us used it. Sure it had the quick release slidy thing, but it was ugly. I don't think I've seen an uglier phone. Not even the Nokia N-Gage was as ugly as this phone. And it still had a sticky-out aerial. Something other manufacturers had begun to eliminate. Whats more, it had a habit of randomly turning itself off. This could be during calls, while charging, whenever. It would also randomly go into silent mode. It did have snake though, which was good for passing time at the airport. Pretty useless overall, and it had to go. Luckily for me a change of job coincided with a new work phone.

6. Nokia 6310i This was the new work phone that coincided with my change of job. It also meant a change of network, from Vodafone to Orange. It wasn't a bad phone really. They'd learnt from mistakes made with the 7110 and this was much better at doing what it was supposed to do - making and receiving calls reliably. It too had a WAP browser, but it was equally knobbled by data plans. Many many accessories were released for this phone, and it became something of an industry standard for things like car kits. You had to have this phone just to get any accessories to fit. Sadly in my case it came to an unfortunate demise when I dropped it on a hard floor and the screen cracked. By now I'd also left the company who supplied me with the phone, so I had to go it alone and buy my own handset. I was buying a flat and funds were tight. Cheap phones on contract and pay-as-you-go had now been invented, and with them, phones that were tied to a particular network. This meant the cheapest and easiest option for me was to get a pay-as-you-go phone on the Orange network.

7. Nokia 3310
I was insistent on buying another Nokia phone as at the time most other phones were nowhere near as good. This time the call to arms was answered by the Nokia 3310 - the first phone with Xpress-On covers, meaning you could easily change the way it looked by replacing the soft shell. It was a fantastic little phone, far more responsive than the 6310i I had before, and I never used any of the fancy WAP stuff anyway. It did exactly what it said on the tin for the tidy sum of about £70, and the shell case made it surprisingly resistant to breakage if dropped. Its one achilles heel was that by now mobile phone battery life had become somewhat taken for granted, and phones were expected to last for days on end. Unfortunately this one didn't, and after a long weekend in Paris with several Eurostar delays and a little brother who's description of what he could see when he got lost trying to get to Waterloo station was "a house" caused me to throw my phone to the ground in a fit of rage. The shell casing was no match for my awesome power, and it was Mital 1-0 Nokia. Until the next day when I had to buy another phone to replace it.

8. Sony CMD-Z7
Another pay-as-you-go special. This phone was my first foray into the world of the smart phone. Boasting such innovative features as pocket Internet Explorer, it was full of potential. It had a nice easy to use interface with a click-wheel for navigation, good battery life and a large screen. The first non-Nokia phone I'd owned for a long time was great in almost every way. Almost. It couldn't vibrate and ring at the same time. You could either vibrate, or ring. Not both. I needed it to do both as I'd started doing a lot of outdoor sports by this time, so I had to take the phone back to the shop.

9. Orange SPV
While I was returning my Sony phone to the Orange shop, this little gadget caught my eye. I said gadget because it was a curiosity. A mobile phone... that runs Windows, with a colour screen? Excuse me? Windows Pocket PC Phone edition? Interesting! What you have to remember here is that in addition to being a proponent of Nokia, I was a proponent of all things Microsoft. In my blinkered eyes, they could do no wrong. Google were an insignificant upstart and Yahoo! were quite right not to buy them. They'd never amount to anything. I had to have this phone. It promised so much. Packed full of features, its only bugbear was a poor battery life. But that was ok. I'd lived with a phone that had a battery lasting only 12 hours before, so I could live with this one, right? Well, yes to an extent. HTC, the manufacturers of the phone, bundled it with a lot of accessories. Previous phones had come with fewer and fewer accessories, but this one came with a quality leather case, a desktop charger and a spare battery. I don't remember how much it cost but it was priced to compete with regular handsets. Smartphones such as the Nokia Communicator were still the expensive preserve of the rich and famous, and weren't up to much. Overall I was quite happy with this phone, but the battery life was really difficult to live with. It also had problems due to a lack of memory and slow processor. I hoped that the updated SPV would resolve these problems, but alas I was out of luck. By now I'd got used to the neat features such as synchronising my contacts with Outlook, and having a web browser, and being able to play music. Going back to a regular phone was no longer an option, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Many moons passed, until finally...

10. Orange SPV c500
This phone was great. I got it through the company I was working for at a discounted price, with a discounted tariff. It was small, had a decent battery life, had all the same features of the original SPV and far fewer bugs due to the increased processor speed. It also had a camera, albeit not a very good one, and was my first camera phone. I was very pleased with this phone, and so were many other people. People who I wouldn't normally have pegged as smartphone users were using this phone, and what's more, they weren't complaining about how bad it was. It was a bit of a sales success, feature rich and priced well. I'd started using this one for the calendar, as it was handy being reminded of where I needed to be and when. Except when in another time zone. You see, the original Windows smartphone wasn't smart enough to adjust your calendar appointments when you went to another time zone, and when I missed a train from Paris to Lyon because my phone failed to remind me in time, I knew it was the beginning of the end. I'd seen other Windows PDA users whose PDAs did adjust the time of appointments according to the time zone, so now I was just waiting for a PDA phone that would fit in my pocket.

11. Orange SPV m500
It felt like I waited a long time for this phone, but it was probably only 6 months or so. It was supposed to address all the problems I had with the c500. Longer battery life, faster processor, more memory, better camera, the full PDA version of Windows Mobile. It did address a lot of the issues, and I was quite pleased with it overall, however it crashed a lot more than the smartphone edition, and I had the false belief that this was a result of the applications I was running and still needing more CPU and RAM. It was Windows, after all. I'd also decided I wanted to buy a GPS device, so now I was waiting for a device that could do everything!

12. O2 XDA Orbit
The XDA Orbit coincided with my migration to O2. I had left the company I was working for who had supplied me with the discounted Orange tariff and O2 seemed to be offering the best deal, including an included data bundle. This phone had (guess what), more CPU, more RAM and a better camera than the previous one. It also had something else of note. A GPS chip. Yes, a GPS receiver, in a phone. It came with Co-Pilot live, and meant that for the first time I could use my phone to navigate my way around foreign lands. This was amazing. Co-Pilot was soon replaced by TomTom Navigator, and it further added to my phone requirements. I was also synchronising email over the air, and any new phone I got after this one would have to have GPS as well as hotmail integration. It was a great little phone and I'd managed to overclock it so it ran reasonably well, but it was still being pushed and overclocking it had a terrible effect on battery life, as did using the GPS. I kept this phone for a couple of years as it served my needs well, but as before, I wanted more... Apple had released the iPhone by now, but it didn't have GPS yet, or a 3G connection. It was also very expensive so it was out of the question as a replacement.

13. HTC Touch Diamond
This phone looked ideal. Twice as powerful as my XDA, and much smaller, yet with a higher screen resolution. It looked perfect, and almost was. The phone was very neat and also came with lots of quality accessories, being marketed at the high end of the phone market. This did not come cheap, and cost in the region of £450. Unfortunately the battery didn't last very well, and increased capacity batteries had the effect of making the phone look incredibly ugly (which simply would not do) as well as hampering the effectiveness of the camera. It boasted a 3g data connection meaning it could access the internet at much higher speed. Buying the phone offline meant I could lower my monthly costs and at the same time add an unlimited data bundle. The newer version of Windows Mobile could now support push email on hotmail, so I was rather well connected from this point onwards. Nokia may have been connecting people, but HTC were connecting networks. I started to outgrow the Touch Diamond when the custom ROMs I was loading onto it used too much RAM. Unfortunately storage space on this device was not expandable so there was no way to install applications to a different location, which was a shame as the phone served me quite well. Unfortunately my extensive usage of the phone's features and the way I used them had now entrenched me deeply in my operating system choice. At the time, there was no escape from Windows Mobile. The newer iPhone, while supporting Exchange Mail, still couldn't get push Hotmail.

14. HTC Touch HD
A hand-me-up from my little brother after he upgraded his phone to a T-Mobile G2 Touch, this phone boasted considerably better processing power and RAM than the Touch Diamond. The bigger size meant it was easier to use without a stylus as well, and advances in Windows Mobile development optimised it for fingers, including an excellent keyboard that could predict what I wanted to type seemingly before I had even thought of what I wanted to say. If only it actually appeared on screen 100% of the time. The best thing about this phone was that it was free! I was quite happy with everything about the phone other than the size, and it was the size which led to its demise. Following a skating fall, I managed to crack the screen, and rather than repairing the phone, I thought I may as well buy a second hand phone on ebay to replace it, eliminating the size issue.

15. Nokia 5800 Xpress Music
I believed the hype and thought the first ever touchscreen Nokia phone might make a suitable solution to my Windows Mobile addiction. Unfortunately a horrendous interface coupled with poor support for features I often use meant this was the shortest-owned mobile phone I ever had. I sent it back for a refund after 2 days after finding it was unable to sync contacts with Outlook, either while connected or over the air. This was pretty useless as the box said it supported it, but what it meant was it supported importing an exported file via the poor Nokia sync software that came with it. Rubbish.

16. HTC Touch Diamond2
This was what I chose to replace the Touch HD. Initially I had dismissed it as it was bigger than the original Touch Diamond, however this phone boasted the same spec as the Touch HD with a smaller footprint. It had everything, and did it reasonably well. GPS, push email (for Exchange and Hotmail), decent web browsing, and I was running the latest version of SPB mobile shell which gave me detailed weather, unread message count, calendar events and access to shortcuts all on one screen. I had automatic profiles configured to set the phone to silent for meetings or loud for skating. Facebook was happily synchronising profile pictures with my contacts, and everything just worked. Except the Operating System. In my many years of using Windows Mobile, I had gotten used to the crashes and random reboots and worked around a lot of them. It was like a marriage where you learn what things to avoid and only focus on what's good. Annoying issues had started to appear, such as not connecting to all Wifi networks, and bluetooth being buggy. I knew that the marriage would eventually come to an end. Microsoft had announced that they were no longer developing the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform, and instead it would be replaced with Windows Mobile 7, written from the ground up. I'd read rumours of basic functionality such as copy and paste not being available, and worried that they would screw it up the way they had screwed up so many other recent products, I began my search for an alternative phone that would satisfy my needs. By now Hotmail had upgraded their servers to support Exchange ActiveSync, so there were now a variety of phones that would work with it. Android had been released and was starting to mature, and looked to be the best alternative at the time, due to iPhone's lack of home screen widgets.

17. T-Mobile G2 Touch
Knowing that the iPhone was still not suitable, this was my first attempt at replacing Windows. It failed. I found the keyboard infuriating to use, and could not get the apps I wanted for it. I could see how this phone satisfied most people, but lots of aspects of it weren't well suited to my particular requirements. I was at first impressed by the keyboard, for example, but on using it I found it woefully inadequate. I was also impressed with the way the phone functions were grouped together. Someone other than a linux nerd had been thinking about this, and the phone was actually quite usable. I soon dumped it though, and went back to the Touch Diamond2, as it just didn't have everything I needed and I wasn't yet prepared to pay for applications on it as I was with the Windows platform.

18. HTC HD Mini
A phone provided by my work, I knew exactly what I was getting with this. The same hardware spec as my personal Touch Diamond2 but with a lower resolution screen. It stayed in a drawer, on permanent divert to my personal phone, seeing as the phone I had was already better, and had a removable stylus just in case (the HD Mini did without one altogether). This was lucky because feedback from users was that it was impossible to use, and it turns out the version of HTC Sense running on it was very buggy, so the phone often didn't respond to any screen input at all.

19. Nokia E72
Work were looking to replace the multitude of Windows Mobile handsets across the company, and this was one of the phones we got in for testing. I'd looked down on Nokia phones as sub-par for several years now, as they seemed to have lost the plot when the smartphone revolution happened. This phone felt great. It was very well made and had a fantastic keyboard, and on paper supported all of my basic requirements. It had Exchange mail for work and a Hotmail client for home. Unfortunately the Hotmail client was a badly fudged together abomination that required me to disclose my password to Nokia who would then poll the server for new mail every 15 minutes and push it to my phone. This simply would not do. The Nokia Navigation application was also inadequate, and the whole phone felt like little or no attention had been paid to the user experience. What promised to be a great little phone turned out to be a complete waste of time and effort. Lovely keyboard though.

20. HTC Desire
Work eventually settled for the HTC desire as the standard company phone. I'd already decided from the T-Mobile G2 Touch that Android wasn't the platform for me, and the Desire sat on my desk, unloved (undesired), on divert. Android has a lot of potential and I do believe it will be my future platform of choice, but at the moment it feels pretty useless. It's reliant on widgets written by manufacturers of the phone hardware to make it usable, and without them you may as well have a bash prompt as the out-of-box Google applications don't work as well. It's also low on applications at the moment, and those that are there are either not very good (and full of banner adverts), or written in Chinese. In a year or two, I shall revisit Android to see how it's progressed.* So what did I eventually replace my Windows phone with?

21. iPhone 4
Yes. I gave in to the dark side. What can I say? I'm pleasantly surprised by the overall user experience, though it takes a bit of getting used to. I really miss my at-a-glance display and not being able to see upcoming appointments probably means I'll be late for all my meetings as I won't be sufficiently prepared for them. And the keyboard is incredibly frustrating for me. Often I find myself tapping on return instead of space bar or shift, and then having to go back and make corrections. Having had the great HTC Touch keyboard on Windows Mobile and the slightly improved Android keyboard on the HTC Desire, the iPhone one seems primitive. For example I have to press a 'numbers' button to get the number keys. Annoying if your password has numbers in it, which most web sites now stipulate as a minimum requirement. I also don't have my automatic profiles; instead I have a hardware switch to put the phone on silent mode, so my phone is never put onto silent mode. And everyone is telling me I have to install iTunes, which I particularly dislike. But overall I am very pleased with the phone. The bluetooth works properly. The battery has a decent life, even with wifi and bluetooth enabled. For the most part the phone works with me rather than against me, and it's clear that the thought apple put into the interface was worth it. There are also lots of useful applications. Yesterday I loaded the ebay and amazon apps and ordered a Nintendo DSi for my cousin. The facebook application works well and they integrate nicely with eachother. The iPhone4 has made my life easier. And I used to find every excuse under the sun not to convert (most of which were valid, in my defence). Is it worth £600? Definitely not when you consider the phone it replaced cost me £130 on ebay, but I wouldn't switch back now as I'm sure I'd find the Windows phone too unresponsive and buggy.

So there you have it. I shall live my life in ignorant bliss henceforth, for I now have an iPhone, and like everyone else who has one, am an iDiot. I think it's quite amusing that 2 days after I moved on from my mostly Nokia and Microsoft mobile phone history, Nokia and Microsoft announce a tie-up for their future phone platforms!

* Edit - 23 August 2011 - Turns out Google has just bought the mobile division of Motorola, who in my opinion made excellent Android phones. This is probably a good thing - we'll see what comes of it now they have hardware manufacturing capability :)

* Edit - 28 February 2012 - I bought a blackberry on T-Mobile purely for international data, because of a bargain bundle they have. The phone is rubbish. I am flabberghasted at how bad it is. No wonder Research in Motion are going down the pan...

Ana and Christof's Wedding

No sooner am I back from Vaujany than I have to fly off to Austria for a wedding. Ana and Christof are good friends of mine and a great couple.
They organised their wedding at very short notice (no she's not pregnant, that's just how they are), and it was very good.

My journey started in Stansted, where I got on an easyjet plane to Ljubljana. It was a pretty decent flight. I'd packed lightly to avoid the expensive luggage charges, so basically had ski gear and a change of underwear, some jeans and my suit. It all fitted in my carry-on case, which made the journey quite smooth.
On landing in Ljubljana, I wanted a coffee but had no idea what currency they used, so thought it best not to risk it. Turns out they use Euros. Exchanged some texts with Stephen (Ana's friend who I never met before) and we met up and made our way to the car hire desk.
Problem number 1 - an unexpected 72€ for random stuff for driving in Austria. Snow chains and the like.
Problem number 2 - apparently a toll for the tunnel (not a problem in the end, see below), and a 7.90€ fee for a Vignette, needed to drive on Austrian motorways.
Problem number 3 - the biggest problem we faced - my TomTom Navigator only has maps for Western Europe, and Slovenia counts as Eastern Europe. This meant TomTom was unable to find a reference point to begin navigation.

We just headed in what we thought was the right direction. Turned around and went the other way. Turned around again and headed for the motorway. I saw a sign for Klagenfurt and thought that was in Austria, so headed there, on the basis that once there the navigation would work. This meant we avoided the toll tunnel, taking the scenic route instead. We got there later and all was well.
On the Friday night Ana and Christof had organised a night in a local bar, with awesome goulash soup. Yummy. There were quite a few of Ana's friends who I'd met once or twice there, so I didn't feel completely alone, and apparently a friend who I'd helped skating who recognised me but whose name I couldn't remember. I won't reveal her name just yet because it took me a day to work out what it was.
The next day, the wedding took place in a lovely little church on the mountainside. I can now confirm that a regular suit is not suitable attire for a mountain church. It was freezing, and I thought my toes were going to drop off. At one point I thought they had. The reception couldn't come soon enough!
After warming up indoors, and having made eye contact with mysterious skater girl several times during the wedding, we finally spoke to each other  Turns out her name was Olga. She was pretty hot, and liked flirting with me, which was awesome. Alas, flirting was all it would be with Olga. It was a shame in a way because we spent the evening together, going through photos for Ana and Christof's on-the-fly wedding album, and generally had a good time.
We spent the whole of the next day skiing together. She's fun, and wants to come skiing again in March. Nothing was ever going to happen anyway, because she lives in Russia, which is rather inconvenient for finding a time to meet up and go for dinner or see a movie.

The return journey went fairly smoothly, but I was pleased to return home.

Vaujany Ski Trip

Another fabulous trip, this time to Vaujany, which is a small village that has a big lift linked to the Alpe d'Huez ski area.

What was noteworthy... hmm.

Well first, I managed to fit my snowboard in my car, which is awesome. I had the genius idea of putting the snowboard on the back seat and folding the snowboard bag in half, and putting it in the boot. This was brilliant because it meant I could drive to the airport to catch the 7am flight instead of waking up several hours earlier and getting public transport.

Some things about the trip annoyed me, and others were quite pleasing.
I'll start with the annoying stuff.

1. I found I was largely unable to ski well when I put skis on. This inability continued for a number of days. I tried changing skis but secretly knew the problem was the connection between my brain and my legs, causing me to lean back and not have good control. I switched to my snowboard for a couple of days just to feel more comfortable. Had it serviced after a day, then went down a black run that was closed, and now it needs a service again. Had a stint on snowblades which reminded me that brute force is not the way to ski well, so went to change them for some skis again. This time the skis felt a bit better, but that afternoon I had a massive crash after crossing my skis and broke my binding. After skiing down on one ski for a hundred metres or so and my friends helping me to fix the binding, I went back to the shop and the next day finally got some decent skis. A variation of my favourite skis in fact; Dynastar Legend 4800 (my favourites are the 8000 model). I also booked a lesson. More on this shortly.

2. The people I was skiing/boarding with never waited at junctions. They'd just go off, and you had to guess which way they went. This was frustrating and I often felt like I might be better off on my own.

3. My mobile phone wouldn't connect to the village wifi. This wasn't a problem in that I wanted to stay connected to the outside world, but it irritated me on principle. Playing around with the phone did help me understand the problem, however there was no permanent solution and it paved the way for a future post about mobile phones.

4. It didn't snow and was very warm, so got quite icy. Then it didn't snow and got very cold, so it was almost unbearable.

What was good?

1. The weather. It was pretty sunny the whole time. Lovely.
2. Eddie's cooking. As always.
3. The people were a good bunch; mostly skaters.
4. My ski lesson. It was fabulous. I didn't learn a massive amount as most of it was just a reminder, but Phillippe the ski instructor was great, explaining technical concepts and theory very well, and then following it up with practice. He also took us to the snow park so I was jumping ramps, which was brilliant.
5. The private bus transfer.
6. Having sandwiches every day instead of an expensive lunch. This saved me quite a lot of money, and I'll be repeating this option next time I ski.

I want to buy some Dynastar Legend 8000 skis now. Unfortunately they are discontinued so I'll have to look pretty hard for them. D'oh!

More Boris Bike Shenanigans

Unfortunately I can't actually remember what they were.

Oh wait, now I remember. I overtook a bus. I had a good bike one evening that felt like lighting (not in the 'electric shock to the bum' way but more in the 'moves incredibly rapidly' way).

I was going so fast I caught up with a bendy bus and it was in my way, so I overtook it. It wasn't stuck in traffic or anything; it just wasn't driving fast enough on a clear road. I think the driver was quite surprised to see me overtake him on a Boris Bike.

If I were driving the bus I'd be surprised, but then maybe I wouldn't because I'd probably be driving it a bit faster.

Was this blog post even worth posting?


I didn't really know what to do to celebrate the New Year. I didn't actually feel much like celebrating, and I put this down to the week of boredom that preceeded New Year's Eve.

I had 3 or 4 party invitations and put myself down for a quiet dinner in South London. It would have been fun, but at Piccolino everyone kept asking me what I was doing and my response was that I didn't really know. So Francesco decided to host a party.

I thought he was joking, so spent most of New Year's Eve tidying my flat. Or rather, opening envelopes. You see my flat had become quite messy over the last 3 years or so, for a number of reasons, and I'd got fed up of if after being stuck there for a week with nothing to do. It was an embarassment.

Then Francesco called me and asked what time I was coming round, so I cancelled with the guys in South London and headed to North London, because the friends going there are a bit closer to me and more in my regular circle. It turned out to be quite a nice party, but I went home still not feeling much like celebrating.

The reason I didn't really feel like celebrating, I can reveal now, is that I wanted to celebrate it with someone special who wasn't there and who I was unable to get hold of. Fortunately events turned out well and that someone special is now my girlfriend. Wahay :)

Back to the tidy up. I spent 3 1/2 days ruthlessly tidying. First doing all my outstanding paperwork (some of which included paying bills and depositing cheques), then ruthlessly throwing away old stuff. I seemed to have accumulated 20 bags of junk. Well, junk to me anyway. And 4 months of back-issues of Autocar magazine that I hadn't even opened.

I bundled the 'junk' in bags, and bundled a lot of old clothes in more bags. Probably about 20 bags in total. These bags went home to my family where it was looked upon as a treasure trove. My nieces and nephews loved the random trinkets, and my stepbrother was quite pleased with a lot of the clothes I was getting rid of. The rest was destined for India, because, it would seem, people in India love junk made in China that's destined for the UK. You'd think they could get it direct and save carbon dioxide by not shipping it here and back. Oh well.

So now my flat is nice and tidy. Pristine even. It's like it was when I first moved in, and I feel so much better for it. I'm sleeping better and no longer embarrassed to have visitors.

Watch this space for a dinner invitation.
Well, not literally this actual space because a) I don't intend to modify this post and b) it's highly unlikely that I'll invite random people to my house via my blog. So maybe you shouldn't watch this space at all. Or maybe you don't and I am still the only one who reads this.

Another week off between Christmas and New Year

Cripes. I was meant to write another 4 posts, and completely forgot, and only came back to write another post about mobile phones after reading Jason's post on his blog.

So I guess I'll try and write them all now...

So, another week off between Christmas and New Year.
I'm not sure whether I mentioned this before, but the reason I go away to the mountains every Christmas is because I really dislike the boring week off work, where everything is closed. Before I had a car it was even worse, because on Christmas day I had a choice between watching TV or chatting on MSN. I couldn't even get a bus to see my family, because no buses run on Christmas day. In the mountains however, it's just another normal day, only someone else cooks Christmas dinner for you. Sweet.

This year was different though. Due to Christmas day falling on a Saturday, I arrived back from the mountains on Boxing day, leaving me with 5 full days until the next weekend. What would I do?

Well, it was pretty quiet. I spent a lot of time sleeping, but I also decided to round up the people who were in London over the holidays and get together for dinner at Piccolino in Heddon Street. I quite like Piccolino and a booking for 8 people soon became 18, and then 22, so they gave us a private dining room. How posh! Everyone was happy and in a strange twist of events, there wasn't a single problem with the bill being short, so thanks to everyone who came for a) coming and b) paying your fair share.

Not much else happened during this week. It was boring. I hope I don't have another week this boring for a while (well, I suppose for another 6 or 7 years).

Wednesday 26 January 2011

The epic journey to the Pyrenées...

It's been a while. A long while.

Over a month.

What's happened in that time?

1. Pas de la Casa Snowboard trip.
2. Another week off between Christmas and New Year.
3. 2011.
4. More Boris Bike shenanigans.
5. Vaujany Ski trip.

Let's start with 1.

It was a Christmas trip. As usual, we were due to travel just after the SantaSkate party, meaning not much sleep beforehand. The weather was looking iffy so I subscribed to the BAA text update service so I'd get a text to confirm the flight was scheduled.
It had snowed quite a lot but my text message arrived, saying the flight was scheduled.
So we stayed in Battersea the night before the flight (which was at 7am or so from Heathrow Terminal 5). The Addison Lee cab turned up, and for some reason charged us £100 to get to the airport. From Battersea. WTF?? I will never use them again. A black cab would have been cheaper.
So we get to the airport, all 5 of us, only to discover that all flights have been cancelled due to snow. Great. We were screwed, or so we thought. I stood there for a while wondering what to do. One friend ran around in a bit of a panic, getting annoyed. Another friend was preparing to accept that he'd lost his money, and another friend went to the British Airways desk (or rather the queue for it) to try and find out what was going on. The BA friend also suggested calling the tour operator. This proved to be a genius idea. A quick check of the website got us their number, so I called to see if there was anything they could do.
A nice lady answered the phone at 6am (on a Sunday) and said they'd called the travel agent the night before and left a message asking if we wanted to fly from Gatwick instead, as they had anticipated problems at Heathrow. Unfortunately this message was never relayed to me.
Aaaanyway. She said to me that they had chartered a flight from Birmingham airport, and that if we could get to Birmingham in time for the 1pm flight we'd be on it. I told her I'd call back, ran across the terminal to where everyone was waiting and told them about our new adventure.
We left the terminal the same way we came in, heading for the drop-off point. The queue for taxis was immense so it was out of the question. A nice Polish minicab driver agreed to take us to Euston for £60. A bargain compared to the £100 from Battersea to the airport. We all got on board and in next to no time we were at Euston Station buying train tickets. £40 each later, we were on the train. Things seemed to be going well. Until we got to Rugby. Apparently the train had been delayed not due to snow, but because of overrunning engineering work. We sat there for over an hour, expecting to miss the flight.
We got to the airport with 5 minutes to go before check-in closed, ran to the check-in desk to find that they didn't know about us. They contacted the ticket desk and all seemed to be going well until they noticed a couple of our ski bags. £25 each later and we were checked in, but it wasn't over yet. We didn't have much time before our flight was due to take off, so we ran past most of the queue for security and got to the departure lounge.
But the flight was delayed, for another 2 hours. Eventually we took off, and landed in Toulouse, 10 hours later than we had expected. This was a pretty good job, considering most people were not able to fly at all.
Unfortunately when we got to Pas de la Casa it was apparent that there was more snow in London than there was in the ski resort. There was enough to have a good time though, and we made the most of it. Then the storms came. First a powerful wind blowing most of the snow off the mountain. Then the rain, turning what was left into sheet ice. Then came the blizzards, making the conditions freezing in the air and on the ground. The result of all of this though, was that the last 2 days were 2 of the best powder days I've seen in years. We were snowboarding off-piste, making our own individual tracks in the snow just like you see in the cool snowboard videos in the pub.
All in all it was a great holiday. Yay!
And I've just realised this is a really really long blog post, so I'll write about 2, 3, 4 and 5 in subsequent posts rather than here.