Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What the hell kind of hair brained scheme is this......

.... the BBC News Europe website reports of a scheme to give sunlight to a previously sunshine starved village in the Italian alps a few rays during the winter months.

Amazing solution to a weird problem where the slopes of the surrounding Alps cut the winter sun from falling onto the village for nearly 3 months from the middle of November.

"The mayor of Viganella, Italy, holds a computer that controls a giant mirror on the hillside behind. The steel mirror tracks the sun’s movements, reflecting light into the town. Viganella used to suffer from a complete lack of direct sunlight in winter."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Can something related to James Bond be nerdy?

... can't make my mind up whether this new watch from Omega is one for the nerds & hence to be avoided, or whether in fact, it's a tasteful homage to Bond for the watch collector?

As a Rolex fan, I'm not 100% convinced by the Omega, but I will have a look at it in the flesh & see if it's all that it's made out to be.

It's the 2nd in a series of watches by Omega, the first being shown here has a face that it made to look like the barrelling of a gun, al la the opening titles of most of the Bond films.

Limited production runs don't appear to bump the price up from the standard base models of the SeaMaster 300 & SeaMaster Planet Oceanwatch, but they all don't come in cheap as they are all at least £1,600+

As I write this, I am thinking that they look more and more nerdy and thus a bad idea, although the 2nd watch does look a bit more useable than the 1st.

UPDATE : Christmas Shopping in Basingstoke on Saturday, I found that 2 jewellers had a good selection of the Omega range in stock, including the SeaMaster & Planet Oceanwatch models. Sadly the SeaMaster dissapointed, but the Planet Oceanwatch looks pretty cool, but build quality isn't as good as Rolex. I think I'll give them a miss.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Casino Royale.....

...... I have been to see the new Bond movie, and in my opinion it is brilliant, so much so, that I will be going back to see it again next week.

Daniel Craigs first outing as Bond is convincing & a quality performance. Same sort of formula for the film, an excellent villain (Mads Mikkelsen) glamourous girls (Eva Green and the beautiful Caterina Murino [see right]), very cool guns, gadgets [this time a defibrillator!?], fast cars [keep to Aston Martin please!], watches [Omega Seamaster Professional 300M , though this should go back to Rolex Submariner imho] and amazing settings (the house on the lake in the last scene is just stunning), but somehow it's different. Bond gets a real fight, the opening scene in B&W is filmed a bit like Lock Stock..., another scene where Bond strangles a villain to death is quite graphic, and probably makes it more than a 12A cert in my opinion. It's all very different to the previous Bond movies where the likes of Roger Moore didn't get a hair out of place when tackling a villain like Jaws.

Production has already started on the next installment, currently with the imaginative working title of "Bond 22", scheduled release date is now Nov 7th 2008, so only another year to wait!

I would highly recommend a click to the excellent fan website called MI6, packed full of all sorts of news, history, wonderful facts & information.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I've been robbed!!

some nasty little bastard in the far east - Bangkok to be precise has managed to get the details of my credit card (probably from another equally nasty little bastard over here in the UK) & clone them onto another card and then withdraw a large sum of cash from an ATM!

So much for Chip & PIN making life more secure then?

Luckily, my bank managed to spot the unusual withdrawal quickly & contact me within 90 minutes to see if I was in actual fact in Bangkok, which I wasn't. Given that I was in the UK & my card was with me, they understood that I've nothing to do with the fraud & will refund me completely.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

First Swede in space......

BBC News Science & Nature Section reports that the first Swede is about to be sent into orbit on the Space Shutte Discovery, my question is one of vegetable discrimination - when are they going send a Turnip into space?

I think I may have been listening to Jonathan Ross too much!?

Friday, November 10, 2006

7 days and counting down....

....until the latest installment of the Bond movie series is released to the general public - Casino Royale, starring the new James Bond - Daniel Craig.

From the clips I have seen, it looks fantastic, sounds great (score by David Arnold again) and the new Aston Martin DBS featured looks beautiful. Let's just hope the reviews saying that the plot is better & all round the characters & actors that play them are more convincing are true.

Last night on ITV1 David Walliams hosted an hour long special fetauring interviews with various Bond related celeb's & fans, most of whom he asked the question "do you think I would make a good Bond?", nearly all said no.

Having grown up with the movies from childhood to the present, almost every man in his 30's or more probably thinks like David that they would make a good Bond, sadly they are also deluding themselves.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Time is everything....

Latest research by Akamai (didn't know who these people were until I read this article, they look interesting from a technology viewpoint) & reported by the BBC News Website confirms my thoughts & way of browsing & shopping on this interweb thingy....

Websites face four-second cut-off
Shoppers are likely to abandon a website if it takes longer than four seconds to load, a survey suggests.

The research by Akamai revealed users' dwindling patience with websites that take time to show up.

It found 75% of the 1,058 people asked would not return to websites that took longer than four seconds to load.

The time it took a site to appear on screen came second to high prices and shipping costs in the list of shoppers' pet-hates, the research revealed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Speed is everything....

The BBC News Website reports on the latest Supercomputer in use by academics in the UK has been upgraded. Makes my current research for a home PC upgrade look a little insignificant.

Still a long way behind the US based academic stuff & probably a little behind what is sat in an MoD bunker somewhere secret, but all probably a giant leap behind the computing power available to the CIA\US Secret Service.

UK supercomputer sets faster pace

The UK's fastest-proven supercomputer used by the academic community has doubled in size and performance.

The HPCx machine, based in Warrington, is now capable of operating at speeds up to 15.4 teraflops, or 15.4 trillion calculations every second.

The speed boost follows the addition of more than 1,200 processors to the four year-old, IBM-built number-cruncher.

The high-performance machine is used by scientists to simulate everything from ocean currents to biological cells.

The upgrade will allow scientists to run more complex models on the machine. "What we've done throughout the computer's life is to keep the machine abreast of the way that computers are getting faster as a whole," said Professor Arthur Trew, director of the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre which heads the consortium that runs the system. "The problem is that the demand for computational ability always outstrips the machine's ability to deliver it."

When HPCx first came into service in 2002 it was one of the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the world. Despite an upgrade in 2004, it has since slipped to 59th place in the Top 500 supercomputers list.

Although the upgrade will undoubtedly push HPCx up the rankings in the new list, published on 14 November 2007, the UK government and research community have already decided to replace it with a higher spec machine known as Hector.

Hector, or the High-End Computing Terascale Resource, will be owned by the Research Councils of the UK and will start operating in 2007. HPCx is planned to cease working in December 2008. Hector could run at speeds of up to 100 teraflops, 100,000 times faster than an ordinary computer.

However, its normal operating speeds will be far less as supercomputers are only able to achieve their maximum speeds for short bursts of time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

UFO's in Norfolk.....

For years I've seen TV programmes on UFO sightings in the UK saying that Hampshire\Wiltshire is a haven for UFO crop circles and that the Norfolk\Suffolk area has been the "Hotspot" for UFO sightings & activity, most people put the fast moving lights down to the US Airforce flying either conventional stuff or secret stuff out of their bases there, but no-one could explain other strange things that happened like power surges or cars cutting out, all these things that made the UFO believers case even stronger (in their own minds). Until now....

The Ministry of Defence has admitted that a fault at a radar dome was responsible for causing electrical problems with dozens of cars.

Engines and lights cut out and speedometer dials swung up to 150mph as motorists drove past the dome.

At the time the MoD said there was no guarantee that the Trimingham radar on the north Norfolk coast was the cause.

It now says it will consider claims for compensation after an inquiry found the radar was "out of alignment".

Friday, October 27, 2006

Just when you think you are having a bad day.....

.... there is always someone else who is having a worse one!

The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) is being sued for $350m (£185m) by a trading company at the centre of a giant share sale error.

A trader with Mizuho Securities mistyped an order and sold 610,000 shares for one yen instead of one share for 610,000 yen last December. 1 Japanese yen = 0.00839066958 U.S. dollars!

A fault in the TSE's computer system meant the trade could not be cancelled and Mizuho lost $225m. Doh!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chinooks anyone?

The answer should be, "no thanks, I've already got some sat in a hangar in Wiltshire!" read on....

The Independent on Sunday reports....

"Britain is so short of helicopters in Afghanistan that military chiefs are being forced to scour the world for civilian aircraft"

"An ageing fleet of just eight Chinooks is working around the clock to supply and reinforce soldiers in remote outposts facing waves of Taliban attacks. The only Chinook in the Falklands was taken away for use in the campaign."

"the MoD has been forced to seek out commercial operators for non-combat operations, to free more military craft for use at the front line. So urgent is the need that Britain is understood to be asking other nations that have ordered Merlin helicopters from Westland to allow the MoD to requisition them. " I understand that these Merlins are on order for Denmark.

Given that we appear to be is such a tight spot, I ask one simple question - why the hell are there at least 6 brand new Chinooks sat in a hangar at Boscombe Down doing nothing? My understanding is that they require some kind of software upgrade that will cost millions of pounds to rectify - well Mr Blair, put your money where your mouth is, get your chequebook out, the soldiers risking their lives at your instigation need these machines, and they need them now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Weekend road warrior....

... a few weeks ago I saw a re-run Top Gear, it had an article where Hamster (yes, the one who crashed the jet-powered car) was driving an Ariel Atom (pictured right).

At the time I did some research, it all looked very nice - price OK(ish) at £35k, performance excellent at 0-60mph in 2.91 sec.! but, would I fit my 6'3" carcase into one? Don't know, so decided to put it in the pile of "Things to do". Ariel are only based in Crewkerne, about an hour West of where I live down the A303, so one day in the Spring when I'm next down their way, I will pop in & see it in the flesh.

Whilst browsing around today, I find an article on a car that takes a modified Ariel chassis, throws away the supercharged 2.0 litre Honda iVTEC 300bhp engine and replaces it with.... can you guess? A 3-phase, 236hp AC induction motor! I've always know that electric motors can deliver a great turn of speed, but the batteries required to power them are frankly shite. But it appears that Wrightspeed have developed a concept car - the X1, that delivers these great performance figures - 0-60 ~ 3.0 seconds (0.09 behind the petrol car), a top speed of 112mph (electronically limited) and a range >100 miles in urban use (sinking to ~25 miles if driven on a track day!), they promise better endurance in the production model.

Take a look at this video to get an idea of how good an idea this is, let's hope the creator - Ian Wright get's the X1 into production soon.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It doesn't make any sense....

.... why is it that petrol prices are on the way down? Clearly they are not down to the levels we saw a few years ago (see right!), but nothing has changed to any great degree in the Middle East, excise duty hasn't changed, VAT hasn't changed & production levels haven't been changed greatly by OPEC? I know that there has been a major oil find in the US, but would that change the price by this much?

If you look at the table left from the excellent site petrolprices.com, you will see a split as to where the pennies might go if a litre cost 90 pence.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a happy chappy if the price continues to fall, I have 4.2 litres of Audi engine to feed on a regular basis, but why the hell has the price gone from 99.9p a few weeks ago to 84.9p now?

It's also further compounded for me as I appear to live in one of the most expensive places as far as petrol is concerned. Why would a small town in north Hampshire always be singled out for being a few pence more expensive that anywhere else (apart from the rip-off motorway services). Don't try to tell me it's distribution costs, there are plenty of large scale distribution businesses that choose Andover as it's operating base because it is so convenient to the road network.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New binoculars....

... I have always had a liking for optics, be they camera's, spotting scopes, telescopes or telescopic sights for rifles.

To this end I have had a succession of camera's both film & digital, I have in the last couple of years stuck with Canon as a brand, the lenses for the SLR camera's are interchangeable, thus protecting my investment. I've also had a good number of telescopic sights for my rifles, and managed to get some very good zoom sights for reasonable money.

I have for years looked at getting a good pair of binoculars, with good magnification, large objective lens to allow enough light through for a bright image & lusted after the Canon versions with Optical Image Stabiliser Technology, but thought them far too expensive. Something has happened over the last year, they appear to have dropped in price by about 40%! So this week I succumbed to a pair of Canon 15x50 IS binoculars.

I highly recommend Ace Optics in Bath, they sorted my requirements in a few minutes & then promptly delivered the very next day.

UPDATE : on Thursday last, I saw the Canon 18x50 IS binoculars in a Jessops photostore in of all places Basingstoke!? for not a lot more than I paid for the 15x50's, hmmmm me thinks, shall I? One pair for home, one pair for the car...... They also had a hugely impressive range of Canon SLR lenses in stock, including the 70-200mm f2.8 and the 28-300mm f3.5-5.6, I might be going back soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mr Faldo, I think you may have a problem.....

..... I think we have already found the right man for the job!

Ian Woosnam proved himself more than worthy with his Captaincy of the European team in the 2006 Ryder Cup. I have to say that I've not been his biggest fan over the years. Firstly, he's Welsh (no, not a racist comment, just a fact that I generally don't see eye to eye with the Welsh - he was actually born in Oswestry, but now lives in Jersey), and second he's a short arse (no, not a heightist comment, just a fact that I generally don't see eye to eye with the vertically challenged - I use to live in Epsom, land of the 5 foot jockey that "wants a fight with the big bastard in the corner who think's he's hard!")

But Mr Woosnam, I take my hat off, I would have given anything to be in your team this weekend. The fact that I roared (at the TV set!?) nearly as loud as the Irish when Clarke, Harrington & McGinner arrived on the first tee on the last day - speaks volumes that you as Captain created a team spirit that the Americans could only dream of having, and sadly (for them) never will have.

So, humble pie in large quantities for me - Ian Woosnam, should in my opinion have the job for life!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A brave man......

.... just got a little of what he deserves.

I don't think I have ever seen such an emotional event as the Ryder Cup final day, words cannot express the admiration I have for the courage that Darren Clarke has shown.

Darren, from what people who know you & your family (McGinley, Westwood & Woods et al) have said in interviews, Heather would be most proud of you, and rightly so. I'm not a believer, but I do in this instance hope above anything else that she is up there, looking down on you with the biggest smile on her face imaginable, saluting you with a glass of something nice.

Good luck to you for the future, there will be dark times ahead. Anyone who had the priviledge to watch you over the last couple of days would willingly support & stand by your side.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bounce, gone!

I have a mountain bike, I bought it many years ago with a bonus from work on a whim, it was at the time a radical design - a Mantra Comp made by Klein (pictured right). I bought it mostly based on it's weird looks rather than it's performance. I upgraded a couple of things like front forks to RockShox Judy XL's, I then used the standard RockShox Judy T2 forks to a hardtail Scott, which I ride more often as I never liked to ride the Klein a great deal as the rear suspension bounced like crazy.

I have now taken the step of upgrading the rear shock from the standard Fox Vanilla spring, to an air based rear shock called Fox Float R, I have engaged the services of rear shock guru Tim Flooks at TF Tuned Shox - his team have created a setup specifically for me codenamed "FB", or Fat Bloke. It works! Little bounce when pedalling, works well over the bumps. It's also saved a lot of weight too, from over 550g to less than 200g, may not sound a lot, but dragging my carcase around on a bike is bad enough without adding to the weight in heavy metal!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm normally a cynical bastard.....

.... and it's unusual for anyone to impress me, I have 39 years behind me & 21 of those have been in the big wide world working for a living. I've met literally thousands of people in my work over a long period of time, trying to sell to them, or get some kind of agreement from them for a business partnership or something.

I think I'm a fairly good judge of the characters that I meet (not that it's my place to judge anyone), but I'm usually fairly good at sussing out whether someone will do what they say or commit to or whether they are taking the piss, I would even say that I can see through a fuckwit in a matter of seconds.

Today I went to a Technology Briefing at IBM Hursley Laboratories for my customer & met the Director of the Labs - Graham Spittle (biog) . I have been in meetings with him before, but never sat with him & chatted over customer stuff face-to-face.

Today I was impressed, very impressed. It made me understand that IBM really is a league apart from any other business and re-kindled my enthusiasm for working for them.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I've just got connected when mobile...

... with a Vodafone 3G Datacard. And I have to say, it's the muts nuts! It does exactly what is says on the marketing blurb, which in these days is a rare occurance.

The ability to replicate emails or databases on Lotus Notes & personal email on Microsoft Outlook, send relatively large file attachments, browse & send SMS all from my laptop whilst on the move in a central London Starbucks, customer office or on the train (see previous post!) is a godsend and actually makes me more productive & responsive.

If you have been wondering or figuring out whether its worth the monthly investment, my answer is a resounding - YES!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Train strikes....

... with my responsibility for a London based customer, regular train journeys to & from London Waterloo have added a couple of hours of boredom, frustration and general unhappiness of being at the behest of a train operator - South West Trains. (Although of late the boredom & frustration at being dis-connected has been fixed with a Vodafone 3G card for my PC which works brilliantly - apart from losing signal in the huge railway cutting at Weybridge & for some reason Clapham Station!?)

I have in the past, on this very blog praised South West Trains, but last week came the news that because of a disagreement over taxi fares paid to drivers based out of Waterloo, today then the 8th & 11th September there would be strike action - not one train leaving my home station.

As far as I can tell, South West Trains agreed in some way to pay for taxi fares for drivers working out of Waterloo either very early or very late, the drivers then found themselves being taxed on this benefit.

Well Mr Train Driver, f**king wake up! We would all get taxed if the journey to work was paid for in that way!

And as for the Aslef General Secretary Keith Norman said: "I believe the company is using its passengers to try to score points over the union", which begs the question.... was it the company that went on strike - NO it wasn't you f***ing tosser!!!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

I knew it was good for me....

.... an article on the BBC News Website explains the story about a research group in Scotland trying to establish a link between the health benefits of eating an apple a day & drinking cider!

It appears that my youthful enjoyment of the stuff, re-found of late with the advent of Magners Original and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference West Country Cider may not be alcoholic folly after all!? It has to be better for you than those lurid coloured cheap vodka fuelled alcopop things anyway!

Cider 'may have health benefits'

Scientists in Glasgow are examining whether drinking cider may offer the same health benefits as eating apples.

The researchers have found that English cider apples have high levels of "phenolic antioxidants" - linked to protection against strokes and cancer.

The next stage of the study, partly funded by the National Association of Cider Makers, is to analyse how humans absorb these chemicals from cider.

Twelve volunteers have been recruited to take part in the tests.

They will each drink a pint of cider, while avoiding all other dietary sources of antioxidants, and urine and blood samples will then be analysed.

Serena Marks, who is leading the study, said: "Previous research suggests there may be an association between phenolics and protection against some serious diseases, so we are trying to find out how we get phenolics from our diet."

Cider production

The scientists have already found that some varieties of apples and some types of cider have higher levels of phenolics than others.

Ms Marks said the production methods of cider could be adapted so that the phenolic levels remained high, even after fermentation.

The research is part of a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the National Association of Cider Makers.

Professor Nigel Brown, of the BBSRC, said: "This exciting research shows how scientists and industry can work together to improve manufacturing techniques, not just for economic gain, but to bring about potential health benefits for the public too."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

We are The League....

.... and they are coming to a town near you (and me!)

A band that bring back many memories from my teenage years, like drinking pints of cask Cider at the Sparkford Inn aged 15, wondering why it tasted so shit for the first 1/2 pint, then thinking it wasn't so bad after the first pint, then feeling like shit the morning after only having had 2 maybe 3 pints!?

The League are back on the road & coming to The George Inn on Andover High Street on the 19th October - I will be there. I hope to hear such classics as "We are The League", "I Hate People [they hate me]", "Woman", "So What!", "Animal" and "Streets of London" [yes the one by Ralph McTell!!!]

The other tour dates can be found here. Even if you read this in Australia - Tony & Hazel P & Matthew B you can go along to the Empire Hotel on 11th November.

If you remember with any glee the beginning\middle (delete as appropriate - note I haven't put end as loads of bands are still going) of the punk era and by some strange quirk you never heard these lot, then you missed out, don't miss out again! It was only a few weeks ago that Mr Ports reminded me via his Blog of a gig he went to - The Reoffenders they play covers of punk bands, and from what I can make of it they are a bit good as well.

Monday, July 31, 2006

A grand weekend out.....

.... at the CLA Game Fair at Broadlands, near Romsey.

The CLA is the Country Land & Business Association - an influential body whose primary objective is to "help to protect our members’ interests" Originally founded in 1907 as the Country Landowners Association, today their membership encompasses landowners, businesses and a diversity of professions. Of note is the fact that the CLA members own and manage more than half the rural land in England and Wales. This annual event is held at various stately homes such as Broadlands (Hampshire), Blenheim (Oxfordshire), Harewood (Yorkshire) & Belvoir Castle (Lincolnshire)

Sadly, they couldn't organise traffic management on Friday morning any better than a 4 year old playing with a Lego set! For an 18 mile journey to take nearly 1 hour 50 minutes was incredible, luckily I cut across country, otherwise it would have been a whole lot worse. Feeling relieved to have got there I parked up, only to be faced by a 20 minute walk to the entrance gate! I heard of someone travelling from Oxford to the event who blindly followed the signs that took 5 1/2 hours to get there!!!

The event itself was vast with over 140,000 visitors, hundreds of stalls, loads of exhibits & interesting things to do & see. Friday was particularly hot with masses of people & temperatures into the 90's. I watched the John Bidwell exhibition for 20 minutes or so, he is clearly a very gifted shot, but it got a bit boring after he showed us his trick shots shooting from the hip.

With my interest in Shooting & Fishing [and food!] there was a lot to look at & talk about. I got a new pair of ear plugs custom made by Green Leopard, something I've been planning to do for a while now.

I gave the show a miss on Saturday, but managed to do the same journey Sunday morning in 29 minutes - much better. Once through the gates, I had the best bacon sandwich ever (honest!) from the Northfield Farm stand, I will be ordering some more from their mail order service soon! A good look around Gunmakers Row followed, but didn't provide anything interesting in the Gun Dept. other than looking at an amazing side-by-side 4 bore gun! In the afternoon I had a chat to the Greenfields of Salisbury staff who were looking a bit weary by this stage, but they had a good show from the sound of it.

I then went to the clothing aisle! Hackett, Charles Tyrwhitt, T.M. Lewin, Dubarry, Orvis et al were all more than capable [and willing!] of taking my credit cards & swiping them through their little machines. Dubarry won hands down in the assistant stakes - very pretty [mostly blond] young women in knee length leather boots with very nice short tweed skirts with flesh between, very nice, if a little public school for my liking.

Overall a very interesting event that had loads of interesting things for me to see, but if you are not into shooting, fishing, falconary, stalking or food don't bother.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Are IT peripherals time lifed......

.... because BOTH of my printer\scanner\copier\fax packed up this week - 2 days apart from each other!!!

So I have been out & bought a new one, this time HP have made their Photosmart Multi-function products Network ready with a built in Ethernet port.

Very clever - just plugs into the Router & the software enables it to be shared on your network by all attached PC's & Mac's. So I can now throw away the Print Server - thats one less item sucking power from the National Grid!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bird of prey in next door garden....

... spotted this morning was this bird of prey, not sure what it is yet, but looking to identify.

Taken with a new gizmo hence the blur! A 30-60x spotting scope with an attachment that allows you to line up a digital camera to the viewfinder - it's like having a compact camera with a 4000mm lens!!!

This was taken from approx 200 metres away with a Canon Ixus!

It's called Digiscoping apparently & is big in the bird spotting world. I just like the idea of getting long range images from my spotting scope.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Skype SMS, it's great.....

....what a discovery (better late than never I hear you groan!). Skype SMS let's you text for €0.08 from your PC. None of that Arthritis in your thumb joint inducing texting from your phone, just use the keyboard (and get RSI!? Don't worry, I have a safe workplace so it isn't a problem).

You can even drop in your own mobile number so that it appears to the sender that you have sent the text from your mobile phone & they then can reply to it.

Clever stuff, and cheaper than standard UK text costs (unless you get free texts with your contract).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mr Ports, I've blagged something from your Blog....

.... I paid a visit to Mr Ports [fixed link!] Blog today & liked a couple of things, ClustrMaps was one. A very neat little thumbnail that identifies where your website gets its hits from.

Reminds me a little bit of a tool that was once provided by Symantec to allow you to trace IP addresses in Norton AntiVirus (maybe it's still in there?)

Also, the Reoffenders sound great, I might even get down to my friends in Taunton & pay a visit to a gig. I have put a few suggestions on their website about possible songs to learn - "Moped Lads" & "Run Like Hell" by Peter & The Test Tube Babies then "Woman" & "I Hate People (They Hate Me)" by the Anti Nowhere League are just a few classics that springs to mind!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Vote now for Cock of the year!

It has to be the aggressive, stupid, arrogant, tempestuous, rude little shit - Wayne Rooney.

What a complete twat he is, having been seen as a target by many players in opposing Premiership sides, he has been targeted and wound up in order to get him booked or sent off. The interview with him prior to the game, he said it would be game for a "cool head" - he wouldn't know what a cool head was if it was written in 20ft letters in front of him, I doubt if he can "erm" read anyway.

Sadly today, his push of the Portugese player right in front of the referee was the nail in his coffin, without that it would have been a yellow & on your way.

And where was he after full time & during the penalties, supporting the team he left high & dry? Was he motivating them like Beckham, no, he was nowhere to be seen - he was probably off sulking somewhere like the schoolboy he is.

I hope McLaren see's the error of Sven & never plays the boy again in the national squad - he is a disgrace & a liability to any team.

Friday, June 23, 2006

An excellent day.....

.... was had yesterday, when I went to Ascot Heliport for the day.

Decided to take a day off & go to a particularly busy Heliport at the Ascot Ladies Day race meeting. It was the first year being held back at Ascot after a 2 year break for the building works on the new fantastic Grandstand to be completed (came in on budget & on time - well done Mr O'Rourke!)

It was nice to spend a day in the sunshine & meet up with a few friends that I hadn't seen for years.

Loads of photo's posted here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It's smaller than I'd imagined......

I had a good look around the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage the other day when one attended a Helicopter Club of Great Britain event.

I have to say it looks very nice & would use the word "pretty" to describe it, but it's not a patch on the old brutal looking V8 Vantage - which was a personal favourite of mine.

I know the old Vantage was a bit agricultural & used Ford switchgear, the new Vantage is an altogether more modern & technically advanced car & therefore should be seen as progress, but it just doesn't have the presence of a Grand Tourer. It's small enough to be a nimble sports car, maybe they see the V12 Vanquish of more as a Grand Tourer?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Caught on camera.....

..... some friends in the garden having a dip.

In the last couple of days of hot weather the wildlife in my garden has been seeking water to drink, wash & cool off in. So a few trays for putting pots on placed around the garden full of water have come as refuge for these two when not being distrurbed by washing blackbirds & the like.

Taken with the latest addition to my camera collection - a Canon EOS 5D with a Canon EF100mm f2.8 Macro lens and a Canon MR EX-14 Macro Ringflash - very pleased with them so far.

Friday, May 19, 2006

This might be getting boring for you.....

... but it's not for me!

Another day, and another Supercar, this time by my favourite manufacturer & possibly one of my top 5 cars - an Aston Martin DB9 Volante.

Absolutely stunning, parked outside my local village pub in the sunshine (albeit between showers!).

Not sure if it's local or just on a visit to the area, I'm sure I will notice it around if it's here to stay. I want one!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Another day another Supercar....

This time seen at a standstill rather than going for it on a motorway or the A303.

A Pagani Zonda, owned by a family member of a local businessman who I have a distant link with!?

Actual photo to follow shortly, I'm pretty sure they have a good car collection including Aston Martin Vanquish, Lamborghini Gallardo & Range Rover Sport. Nice to see such an exotic bunch of cars in my local area.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bentley make another estate car....

... yes, they did have a couple of attempts before, but in my humble opinion, they weren't very good - this is the Arnage attempt.

This time around someone has taken a Bentley GT or Flying Spur & chopped it around a bit.

I saw today on the A303 travelling West to East one of these in black, followed about 4 or 5 cars behind by a standard GT also in black. Later I saw the same standard GT go back to the West Country. Given the time between sightings, it was probably going to & from London.

It follows a long line of coachbuilt cars based on premium Grand Tourers or sports cars, converted into Estate cars or SportWagon to put the marketing name to them. They range from Jaguars (an XJS Shooting Brake made by Lynx) to Aston Martin (DB5, DB6, DBS [I nearly don't mention the DBS as it's truely awful], Virage, Lagonda & Vantage with a concept based on Vanquish as well!) and even a couple of Ferrari 456 that were made into estate cars for the Brunei Royal family - they have a history of buying thousands of specialist cars & storing them in massive underground garages, it has been said that Rolls-Royce & Bentley have both had divisions solely dedicated to supply of bespoke cars to royal families of Brunei & Middle Eastern countries. Maserati have also shown a Quattroporte Concept.

Personally I like them, I've seen a Jaguar XJS Shooting Brake and a Ferrari 456 Estate in the flesh & I have to say they looked very good, given the cost of conversion I should hope that they do look good, but they also followed the lines of the original cars & looked like they were meant to be.

Monday, May 15, 2006

This is going to run & run....

..... and sadly for the family of the pilot Max Radford, I don't think we will ever know the real truth behind this tragic story.

In the Sunday Times last week there is a further installment of a long and complicated story...

I post this here as I had brief interaction with Max, he was a genuinely nice chap who took time out of his madly busy day to talk to me. I have heard various conspiracy theories in the helicopter industry in the UK, some incredible & some more unbelievable than others, but I believe the fact remains that Max was an innocent in all of this.

British lawyer hatched Putin smears

A BRITISH lawyer killed in a helicopter crash on the south coast of England was at the heart of a secret smear campaign against President Vladimir Putin and his leading associates, according to a confidential dossier.

Stephen Curtis, who died in 2004, was chairman of the security firm ISC Global (UK) which worked for a group of Russian tycoons plotting against Putin.

The dossier says the company was to “discredit [Putin] and those around him”. The targets were 11 senior Russians — from the defence minister to Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club.

ISC was also tasked with creating a luxury yacht with a crew capable of repelling an armed assault. The ship was to be a floating refuge for oligarchs wanted by Moscow on charges of fraud.

Curtis, 45, died in March 2004 alongside Max Radford, 34, the pilot, when their helicopter crashed near Bournemouth airport on the way to Dublin.

The wreckage yielded few clues and an inquest jury last November returned a verdict of accidental death. But a number of facts remained unexplained. It emerged that Curtis had received threats, felt he was under surveillance and had warned a relative shortly before: “If anything happens in the next two weeks then it won’t be an accident.”

Even the coroner conceded that the death had “all the ingredients of an espionage thriller”. The ISC connection was never investigated or put to the jury and the pilot’s parents do not accept the verdict. Their lawyer called for a public inquiry.

The dossier, seen by The Sunday Times, shows that ISC was funded by some of Russia’s wealthiest but most wanted men. They included Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Nevzlin, the owners of Group Menatep, the company behind Yukos, Russia’s second largest oil company.

Curtis, who already acted for the Gibraltar-based Menatep, was made chairman of ISC, which received £6m from the Russians in the first three years, financial documents show. His expertise was in setting up complex offshore structures to disperse Yukos’s vast profits. Two former Scotland Yard officers ran the security side.

ISC “targeted” leading figures in Russia after Putin sanctioned the arrest of Khodorkovsky on fraud and tax evasion charges in October 2003 as his jet refuelled in Siberia. Putin wanted to dismantle Yukos and take it back into the Kremlin’s hands.

Nevzlin, who is wanted for fraud offences and organising a contract killing, moved to Israel as a wave of Yukos executives fled to London. City lawyers were hired to fend off extradition requests from Moscow which the oligarchs say are politically inspired.

ISC carried out “monitoring” services to collate information on developments in the extradition battle. Ex-SAS soldiers acted as bodyguards to clients considered at risk of being kidnapped by Moscow.

The company also drew up plans to customise a £30m luxury yacht, the Constellation, to provide a safe haven for wanted executives, said ISC sources. It was to be defended against armed assault by a “Swat” team which would undergo “combat and kidnapping avoidance training”, according to the boat’s specification. Living quarters would be protected by bullet-proof glass and meeting rooms pumped with “white noise” to prevent bugging.

The specification reveals how some guests were to be entertained. It says: “Procedure for vetting, screening and searching Lady’s [sic] of the night onboard. Also a need to establish a trusted agency connection for such personnel.”

The campaign was authorised by Nevzlin who told ISC to do “the biggest investigation ever”, according to a company insider. ISC drafted a 12-page document marked “Secret”, which one of its partners presented to Nevzlin in Israel. The oligarch authorised £37m for the first phase of the operation, the source said.

The plan was to mount a “sensitive and delicate” worldwide operation, feeding false or compromising information to journalists and governments about Putin — referred to as “X” — and his associates.

The plotters wanted “[Putin] to be removed from power” but the more realistic objective was to force him to release Khodorkovsky from detention by March 2004 and cut Yukos’s £5 billion tax bill.

The document shows that besides Putin, Sergei Ivanov, the defence minister, was to be smeared with allegedly compromising photographs. Other targets included key figures in state-owned energy companies.

Abramovich had angered the Yukos oligarchs because Putin allowed him to keep his billions and travel freely within Russia. The document recommended an attempt to discredit him with allegations of “money laundering and bribery”. Abramovich’s spokesman said last week he was unaware of the plot.

Curtis’s crash happened within months of the smear campaign being hatched. Former ISC operatives say he had become “paranoid” in the last year of his life. He had become Menatep’s managing director responsible for assets worth £16 billion.

An ISC source said Curtis’s “paranoia” may have had some justification: “After Curtis’s death we swept the family home and located a small magnet used to secure a listening device,” he recalled. It would emerge at the inquest that Curtis had reported his clients’ transactions to the police “on many occasions”.

Putin was re-elected 11 days after the crash. ISC stopped trading last year and was renamed RISC under new ownership. Its former partners have declined to comment on operational matters. Menatep has been renamed GML and its current board has no involvement with ISC. A spokesman for GML, still controlled by Nevzlin and Khodorkovsky, declined to comment.

Gloria Radford, the pilot’s mother, still believes her son was killed as part of an assassination plot against Curtis. “I know there was more to the situation than was ever disclosed. There is something terribly wrong,” she said.

Friday, May 05, 2006

At last.. some justice in Government

Why so glum Mr Clarke - it's not as if you have lost your job!? You're still an MP being paid well above the national average - even though you have done such a bad job.

Tony Blair has at last taken 50% of the move is both justified & absolutely necessary - getting rid of Charles Clarke is a start, now he must not just take the token move of relieving Prescott of his powers - he must put him out to pasture on the back benches as well.

I suggested earlier in this Blog that the only reason Prescott might survive is that Clarke had fucked up in a bigger way than he had at the same time. Looks like I've been proved right - this time.

Let's just hope that Prescott finds it a little too uncomfortable in the House of Commons without the political power that he was afforded by Blair in the past. I don't see a token position without that power sitting easily with Prescott - I predict he will either be given back those powers by Blair slowly & quietly after the dust has settled, or we will have the scenario I also wrote about a few months ago here of having a Lord Prescott of Hull in the House of Lords - may God (or anyone for that matter) forbid!

I wonder when Blunkett is coming back into the Cabinet?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Amateur snappers to get their reward....

A report from the BBC website has given the opportunity to justify (but only to myself) why I carry around a pocket digital camera.

I have carried a Canon Ixus with me wherever I go for the last couple of years, in the car mainly just incase I see anything interesting or newsworthy, interesting things (like buildings, cars, aircraft or vistas - views to you & me) have happened with
regularity, newsworthy stuff only happened
occasionally & only got used by the media twice.

Various pocket sized digital cameras are available from a wide number of manufacturers. I have a couple of Canon Ixus stashed away in various places. Image quality varies through the model range, but the latest incarnations, the Ixus 750 & Ixus 800 have 7.1 Megapixel with a 3x Optical zoom or 6.0 Megapixel with 4x optical zoom respectively. These are easily capable of giving better results than my earliest Digital EOS D30 SLR at close quarters. Don't fall for the sales patter of "2x optical zoom with 6x digital zoom" giving anything like decent image quality at full stretch, stick to higher megapixel options with good optical zoom of 3x or 4x. Or, if you can find something secondhand like I did recently - an Ixus 400, with 4.0 megapixels with 3x optical zoom my advice is to snap it up - it was a bargain for £65 from my local camera shop.

Members of the public who have shot newsworthy images could get their reportage recognised by a new award.

Backed by Nokia and the UK's Press Gazette the Citizen Journalism Award will spotlight people who found themselves witnesses to events that made the news.

The competition is open to anyone that has shot stills or video that has been printed, broadcast or appeared online in the last 12 months. Working journalists are excluded from entering.

To be eligible the footage or stills must have been shot between 1 May 2005 and 30 April 2006.

Although citizens have always been caught up in newsworthy events, the advent of camera phones that can instantly send images to websites or on to news organisations has prompted talk of "citizen journalism".

Many news organisations, including the BBC, now solicit images and video from those at the scene of big events. In the UK, the London bombings in July 2005 and the Buncefield oil terminal fire are just two events coverage of which was expanded by contributions from citizens.

Amateur snappers have until 30 June to submit entries.

Link to story on BBC website


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Prezza press coverage....

The press has unsurprisingly had a complete field day with Mr Prescott - headlines like "Two Shags" & quotes like "he performed like a tiger and was incredibly enthusiastic in bed despite his age and bulk" have all added to the wonderful coverage in the Sunday tabloids.

Leading the pack in my opinion was the News of the World - not very often I read this, I might have a quick glance at it on the news-stand, but today I just had to buy it. My first impression is that Max Clifford must be counting his cash today as most of the stories covered probably involve the publicity machine that he heads.

As long as it's to the detrement of Mr Prescott & his like - good luck to him.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Time for him to go again, and again, and again.......

John Prescott (and the entire Cabinet for that matter) must have the political lives of a f**king cat!

The only reason that Prescott might survive this one is that the Home Secretary Charles Clarke has fucked up in a much bigger way than he has at the same time, although Clarke has implied blame on previous incumbents & inter-Departmental inability to communicate - real leadership Mr Clarke!!

I only hope that Mrs Prescott gives him a complete lambasting & takes him for everything he has - maybe even go to the papers with the story & earn some money from her now sadly dented 40+ year marriage. She is clearly a very thick skinned woman who has put up with a great deal over the years - judging from his public persona Mr Prescott is an aggressive, rude, self-opinionated trade union militant-turned-MP, I doubt that his public face is any different from his private one.

Mr Prescott has admitted the affair and now calls for privacy - sorry John, you're in a very high profile Public position with life changing descisions in your hands for millions of people - a life that YOU alone have chosen - privacy is something you do not get whilst in Public Office, so resign & have your privacy or stay there & get treated with the contempt & rudeness you dish out yourself & deserve in return.

In 2002 the BBC reported on it's News website that speaking about his role as Deputy PM Prescott had said "It is a position I hold with honour." I say - bollocks Mr Prescott, you're a liar.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What's in a name.....

Over the years I have met thousands of people, mostly with normal boring Anglo Saxon names, with a few foreign ones thrown in for good measure.

Whilst reading the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 suplement over the last couple of days I read with amazement & great hilarity that at number 26 with an estimated value of £1,704m is a guy by the name of Anurag Dikshit....

.... it just goes to show that for all of the money, fame & trappings of wealth there are still those who are less fortunate than most...... I don't include myself in that clearly as I have had my name taken in vein regularly for having the name Rice - you can imagine the brain cells that were burned by my classmates & colleagues in coming up with names like Rice Pudding, Rice Crispie, Riceicle, Pilau, Twicers (Twice as nice as Rice!?) et al, clearly I have gotten over it as I now regularly answer to Ricey, and anyway, I'd rather be called Arnold Shitefucker Pisshead McTwat & have £1bn in the bank!!!!

It reminded me of the all time classic name (although Anurag Dikshit does come close!) of a guy I met in Boston whilst working for Lotus Development named.... Randy Parrot (honest - it's true!)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday Times Rich List 2006 is out.....

....and yet again, I'm not on it!!

There are the usual suspects like Mittal, Abramovich, and Westminster etc...

Next in the list is Hans Rausing & family - I've wondered why the last couple of years the list hasn't combined the Hans Rausing [£4,950m] & Kirsten\Jorg Rausing parts together. Kirsten & Jorg are the niece & nephew of Hans & inherited a significant sum upon the death of their father - Gad, to which they have added & now are worth an estimated £2,490m.

This totals £7,440m - which would make them 3rd in the list, leapfrogging The Duke of Westminster [£6,600m] currently ahead of Hans Rausing in 4th with the above mentioned £4,950m. All of the wealth stems from an original idea from Gad & Hans father who invented the milk carton we all use today

From my own personal interest viewpoint, which is helicopters - the list gives me an insight to the world of the super rich who own fabulous corporate helicopters based in the UK.

Moving through the top 5 of the list, #1 Mittal has an EC.155 & is rumoured to be getting a couple of AS.365's soon, #2 Abramovich gets shuttled around in his own fleet of EC.155 LX-HEC, EC.145 P4-LGB & EC.135 P4-XTC, at #3 the Duke of Westminster used to have his own AS.355, G-TALI & G-TALY, but I think nowadays charters something in if necessary. At #4 the Hans part of the Rausing family I don't think have ever had any aviation involvement. Philip Green at #5 is photographed with wife Tina stepping out of another EC.155 3A-MAG at Monaco heliport which he probably charters when hopping from Nice in his Gulfstream jet.

There are numerous more down the list including those who self-fly such as John Caudwell with his own Robinson R44 G-BZOP, given his wealth (estimated at £1,600m) and his liking for fast cars (he was featured on TV last year looking at different supercars including a Pagani Zonda), this R44 must surely be up for replacement soon with a more corporate ship like an Agusta A109 Grand or Eurocopter As355N or something?

There are names that I would suspect should be on the list that are not, maybe they have requested not to be featured (unlikely that the editor of the Rich List - Philip Beresford would consent to omit them by choice?) or they have been very clever in keeping their wealth under wraps, which is the more likely scenario.

Some examples - the ex owner of this MD520 Notar G-SIVN is rumoured to be one of the many Goldman Sachs staff that made millions from the 1999 float of the business, he has had a sucession of expensive aircraft with the G-SIV being a recurrent theme, all of these would indicate serious wealth. There is a separate panel on page 53 on the "Goldman Sachs millionaires" listing 15 of them all worth more than £80m, so he may slip in under £60m threshold for this years list?

Where is Wafic Said? He is not on the list, but has a huge classic estate Tusmore Park in Oxfordshire is worth £30m alone!? He also has a very nice Bell 430 VP-BKQ and has been linked by all sorts of publications to the multi billion dollar Al Yamamah arms deal. In 1996 he donated £20 million to establish the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

Dr Jonathan Palmer has a very tidy AS.355N G-JPAL and has an Agusta A109 Grand on order apparently, his business - PalmerSport at Bedford Autodrome must be worth a pretty tidy sum by now? As he started the business, he probably owns the majority of it, he should surely be on the list?

Paul Beck has recently bought 3 Agusta A109's, G-OBEK, G-PBEK & G-HBEK, he retains 2 of them. The company he is Chief Executive of - LBM, provides data & data marketing - junk mail to you and me. Once again, if he has a significant holding in the company he co-founded, he should be close to the list in some way?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I'm back, and with a top scoop....

Jack Straw & Condoleezza Rice make a trip to his home town (Blackburn) & he shows her the sights of the city (including a mosque [sensitive or what!?] & football stadium that by chance has an American goalie), takes her to the smoke of Liverpool (bet he didn't take his own car there!) to show her a good time at a classical concert, then they fly on a suprise trip to - Baghdad!!!!!

His biog from the 10 Downing Street website reckons he is married already, but I think it's a smokescreen to the truth - I think he took her on honeymoon to Baghdad after a secret wedding in Blackburn, only a hunch!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Brits 2006.....

Prince was great, James Blunt very good on stage, bit weird when being interviewed..... who should be bothered whether Madonna & Guy Ritchie are having marital problems - no-one but them!

Coldplay - don't really care whether they split or not, I'm not a big fan, although I have bought an album, but can you see a similarity with a Kraftwerk riff?

Listen to this.... iTunes link to Kraftwerk song "Computer Love" 3 seconds into the sample

Then this.... iTunes link to Coldplay song "Talk" 20 seconds into the sample

20/01/2010 UPDATE : I've just listened to BBC Radio 2 programme "The Man Machine : The Story of Kraftwerk" where Chris Martin of Coldplay was interviewed about how they used the Computer Love riff! He explained how they did at least write to Kraftwerk (in German!) to ask permission & he said it was more like a fan letter. It seems the Kraftwerk team are well sampled in all kinds of music genres, unbelieveable to find out that the vast majority of artists don't seek permission.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Maybe a bit late in the season for words of advice.....

.... but of late I have found the need for one of these.... a lightbox to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, also known as the Winter Blues.

Not cheap, but it really does help me. Stand it next to your PC monitor for a couple of hours in the day & let the bright daylight affect your mood.

A few different models at varying prices available here

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Flat screen LCD needs Freeview....

I have a flat screen LCD in my Dining room, not plumbed into ntl:, so have been looking for a while for a cheap, small Freeview solution other than a new LCD with Digital built in, hey presto Bush come up trumps......

Plugs into the SCART socket & comes with neat remote, seems to be OK so far.

Argos have it for sale for £49.99 here..... link

Monday, January 16, 2006

Good deeds..... they still happen

Tonight whilst walking to my local Sainsbury's I saw a boy of about 12 or so running towards me across a bridge used as a short cut shouting & screaming "help me they are trying to run me over!!!" He was closely followed by a couple of older teenagers clearly in pursuit by bicycle & they were having a laugh at the expense of the boy who was probably being picked upon solely as he was attending a public school in Salisbury & had the misfortune to walk home from the railway station unaccompanied.

The person I was walking with took the boy home & I "dealt" with the two quite vocal youths who claimed all sorts, mostly that I was in their way - we disagreed. I don't like bullying, it happens, it happend to me at school for a while. It doesn't happen to me anymore, only pissed idiots try to have a go nowadays, mostly 4' 2" jockeys when I lived in Epsom, or little men trying to prove to their girlfriend that they not afraid of the big bloke who thinks he hard - I don't think I'm hard, I'm just 6' 4" & 18 stone with short cropped hair as I don't have much left, having a quiet drink with some friends! But if you think you want to have a go, go for your life - or simply fuck off, shut up & have a drink quietly like me.

So that's my good deed for the day, I went back to the house later & made sure the kid was alright, he was clearly still in shock, but OK. I did try going to the Police Station afterwards, but it was locked up & the enquiries desk was closed!?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Time for another one to go....

Although I doubt this aggressive, sneering, violent and rude man will ever exit, unless its to the House of Lords with a title of Lord Prescott of Hull and an expense account that will allow him even more priviledge.

For a politician of this high office (he is after all DEPUTY Prime Minister!) to overlook a sum of £3,830.52 in Council Tax paid for him by the State whilst his Office fines, then prosecutes pensioners to the point where a few are imprisoned for not paying Council Tax rises above inflation is beyond belief.

I think he should follow Blunkett's long awaited example & resign, the man is a liability in any Government, even this one with all of it's previous incompetent Ministers and advisors including Byers, Mandelson, Blunkett & Campbell.