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13 February 2007

Please Make It Work

create your own visited countries map

I thought I'd try pasting some third-party images and HTML into my blog to see if it works. Does it? Good.
Apparently, I've visited 33 countries, which is 14% of the globe.
Should I demand my job at the UN now or later?

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Some Bernard Matthews PR Ideas

I've some new slogans that the beleaguered avian product manufacturer might consider:

"Bernard Matthews Norfolk Farm Turkey. It's Bootiflu"
"Bernard Matthews - Birdiflu"
"Try my all-new Turkey Twizzlers - kids never get sick of them"

I'm not helping, am I?

A quick visit to the corporate website reveals some interesting turkey-related PR spinerry - and bases the miracle of turkey itself on the Superfood list of one Doctor Pratt: "His other 13 "superfoods" are: tomatoes, broccoli, beans, blueberries, tea, oats, pumpkin, yoghurt, walnuts, spinach, salmon, soy, and oranges."

"Dr Pratt says: "These foods prevent disease and extend our health span, and perhaps our life span as well." His research shows the foods could prevent or even reverse heart disease, diabetes, dementia and cancer."

Blimey - all of the world's major causes of death, plus diabetes for good measure - solved by eating (amongst other amazing products) Bernard's plump, juicy turkey bastards.

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12 February 2007

Pop Has Eaten Itself

Many erudite thinkers have been predicting the scary-sounding "end of history" for many years now, some for thousands. And looking at the new methodology for calculating the Top 40 Chart, incorporating downloads of any song available digitally, I am encouraged to think that we might be reaching that point. What's the thinking? So, the world of music is available to download. That's approximately 300 million pieces of music, since recording began and digital rights management was invented. Let's allow any music to chart, based on popularity that week. I foresee great trouble for new acts with this approach.

You see, people are already worrying that the Beatles will dominate the chart every week. Perhaps the Rolling Stones. Maybe, if we're lucky, a spot of White Rabbit from The Grateful Dead. And what does this say about "modern music"? Are we to imagine that, actually, all the good ideas have been had, all the best lyrics already written, and you should just make do with that? This way, we can show all the cheap and nasty, lab-produced pop acts that they just don't cut the mustard?

On the other hand, the new way does also allow for new acts with some credibility an excellent avenue to get themselves heard. Koopa, an Essex indie band, charted in the Top 40 in the early weeks of the year, thanks to popularity on MySpace and promoting themselves online. So, perhaps this new method works against, mainly, crap music. So maybe it's not so bad, after all. Perhaps the inclusion of any downloads in the chart will act, like mussel beds off France and Spain, as a shit filter.


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06 February 2007

Gaff, Sweet Gaff

The good lady and I got the keys to our new canalside residence in Bournville on the 25th January, since which time the locks have been changed, Transco have been called out on a whim, the garden has been raked to within an inch of its life, canalside wildness barely tamed, patio and driveway swept, garage "tidied", garden tools and watering equipment arranged and installed, bird tables and feeders stocked with peanuts and mixed seed (it's a clear vote for nuts), irrigation systems tested, birdbath sprayed clean, pond fountain fired up, Greco-Roman female bust placed canalside, solar garden lighting kit installed (currently out-of-service). General, all-round sprucing-up.

Inside, the whirlwind continues. The lady's handyman dad has put a door on our airing cupboard/boiler cabinet (in the bedroom - yay for toasty warm winter mornings) and he's put up an extra shelf inside and another in our alcove. All the rooms are curtained, shower poles erected (go on, ask me about drilling through marble...), bathroom completed first (typical), MFI wardrobes assembled (unfortunately, our table and its accompanying chairs would be separated by two months gap, so the table was returned alone). A remarkably cheap replacement kitchen table and chairs have since been procured (for half the cost of the MFI suite), as well as the BT line and broadband connected. The bed frame arrives on Sunday, when the mattress can be elevated to a sensible height.

As it stands right now, you could have a nice shower or a cup of tea - there is no sofa, though this looks like at least one part might be completed this Friday - that's the knock-off, dirt-cheap, blinkin-lush, battered leather sofabed that we practically stole from the shop. Really. They might have well have paid us to take it away, that's how good a deal it feels. They were the same folks that brought us the wonderful kitchen table and chairs. Anyway, we can take the sofabed now; the other half - an identical, leather, two-seater but without the sofabed facility, will be with us in up to twelve weeks. Does that sound any better than within three months?

It won't be long before it's all looking smashing. And the history of the place is fascinating: we knew it was old Cadbury land - but research has revealed all sorts of exciting things. The environmental report mentioned a few railway features on the surrounding land, but its extent would remain hidden until some digging was done. Turns out, the whole wedge-shaped slice of land, bordered by the canal to the west, Umberslade Road to the east, the Bourn Brook and Ribblesdale Road to the south and Raddlebarn Road to the north used to be the Cadbury Railway Sidings and Canal Wharf.

Cadbury and Birmingham are intertwined like ivy around a tree: the mark is everywhere. The first shop in Bull Street in the city centre wasn't terribly near the canal network, so they moved to Bridge Street, site of Birmingham's Old Wharf, a tuning-fork shaped pair of canal basins from where the engines of industry unloaded their raw materials. When Cadbury's first opened the factory in Bournville in 1879, the nearest canal dock was at Lifford Junction, where the railway network also intersected. All materials coming in or out of Cadbury's, whether via rail or canal, would have to be taken by horse and cart (and later, wagon) to Lifford Transhipment Wharf for it's onward journey.

The Cadbury clan thought how nice it would be to have their own railway and canal dock: and so that's what they did. They took a siding off the Birmingham and West (Birmingham-Bristol) railway line and - lacking the space within which to construct their vision on the factory side of the canal - built a bridge over the main line and the parallel waterway, onto the land to the east, directly across from the main site. This land became the Cadbury Railway Sidings and Waterside Wharf, and that is the land our house is built on.

Furthermore, for those of you into snails, this little snippet from the interweb: "If you walk down Sparrey Drive after about ten at night on a damp evening, you will find so many snails that it is difficult to not tread on them as you walk." Escargots, messieurs-dames?

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02 February 2007

Pedestrians & Motorists

It is a tangled web we weave. I do a lot of walking, and a fair bit of driving, and so I feel amply qualified to comment on both of the above, workaday activities. All are derived from direct observation, and so are equally valid assertions.


Please remember that, while the speed limit might be 30mph in built-up areas, this does not mean that you're being much safer if you drive around at 15mph. The frustrations that your driving causes to build up in the tailback of limit-loving drivers behind you makes the world, and driving in it, a much more dangerous place. If you are afraid of moving at speed, please stop driving and catch a bus, train, taxi (if you're that flush), or walk (see PEDESTRIANS below).

On the motorway, of all places, please use your mirrors and be aware of the space around you. Especially what's in that space. If there was ever a place where a sense of speed, space and distance were required as an absolute, it is on the motorway. If you can't see, or can't drive well, please stay away. You are a real problem, and from the look on your face as we pass you, it would appear that you agree with that statement. If you think it about yourself: perhaps worth doing something about it.

Still on the motorways: those of you who sit at 80mph in the fast lane are not guardians of public good behaviour, so - if you happen to see someone approaching at, say, 90mph in your rearview mirror (you are using your rearview mirror, aren't you?) - why not pull aside and let him or her pass you? You can tut if you like, just get the fuck out of the way.

Still on the motorway: if there is nothing on your inside lane to hinder you, pull in. Many consider the motorway divided into slow-medium-fast lanes: not so. You are allowed to attain the national speed limit in any lane. If there is nothing inside you, there is nowt to stop you doing 70mph in the "slow" lane. If everyone pulled into their offside lane when they weren't actually passing anyone, and indeed made the aim of the game to spend as much time in the outside lane as possible, half the snarl-ups wouldn't happen, or would certainly be greatly reduced.


I think these are the worst things on the road. I shan't even bother detailing the utter inconsideration they have for other road users. I shall hint at the fact that much urban clottage is caused by the fact that a bus has stopped up ahead and there's a queue the other way, so nobody's going anywhere. And have you seen the clarty filth that pumps out of that louvred panel at the back? Christ. Where's the environmental lobby against buses? That's why we've all got cancer. Poorly maintained, poorly driven, poorly public transport system.


Please, please, please don't try to overtake each other up a hill on the motorway. Please.

In fact, let's take a leaf out of certain Eurozone member states' books: ban lorries on any road between 8am and 8pm. Then, let them loose. Yes, you've all got to drive overnight. But - you see - that's when there's no traffic at all, and you can drive as lorry-like as you wish.

Beer will have to be delivered to pubs by an enormous fleet of minivans.


Please look when you are crossing the road. Look left, look right, look left again. As you cross, keep checking left and right until you are safely in harbour on the other side of the road. Where's the Green Cross Code Man when you need him?

Pedestrian crossings, though they may possess right of way for the walker rather than the driver, are not "perambulous freeways" that you can simply step out onto without looking. As with simple road crossing (see above), please look before you stomp the nuns. A sudden car in the pelvis can offend.

The point is, overall: we're all fuckwits. Watch out for each other, we're a blinkin' liability.

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