Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I can quit any time I like

74%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
Apparently, I am 74% addicted to blogging. We shall see. My little boy and I are off on a road trip from today until next Monday. We will be taking in Legoland then Wales, and I am releasing myself from both daily writing and daily training until we get back.

Maintaining radio silence will seem odd after all this time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

At the Castle

Johnny Boon has posted a video on YouTube that he has put together to promote a Muay Thai promotion that he is putting on in London in December. It is made up of extracts from the Wai Kru and some of the fights at the last one he did a couple of years ago. I am promised that people Johnny knows are flying in from Thailand to fight, and people I know are coming up from Wales to drink and watch. That sounds about right. See you there.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Every Day I Have the Greens

Occasionally as I am cycling the half mile or so from home to the renovated building that is my place of work, I stop to admire a heron fishing in the Wandle. When I get to the office, I auction recovered property online using 100% recycled electrons.

My carbon footprint is smaller than yours and I hate waste, but I hate bullying and bullies more.

Self appointed guardians of our communal environmental conscience were bullying a tiny, inoffensive cleaner who was just doing her job after the AbbeyFest blues on Friday night. I was there and saw it and called them on it and I don't think that they should get away with it. They should feel ashamed of themselves and they should apologise, but the chances of anyone so self righteous admitting that they could ever be in the wrong are vanishingly small.

These activists think that more of the litter that people leave behind at the free AbbeyFest should be recycled. Fair enough, it is a reasonable point, but do they address it by turning up, providing recycling facilites and contributing to the event? Do they my arse.

What they do is photograph, prod, nag and intimidate a lady who is around 60 inches tall and (gallantry notwithstanding) probably a similar number of years old, in an attempt to establish that the rubbish she is collecting won't be recycled, and to keep on keeping on until she is so upset that she feels that she has to complain to me, the only person in sight that she knows.

This is because they don't want to help, but imagine that they are creating some kind of news story about profligacy in SW19 as if in their pathetic fantasy lives they are somehow sticking it to the man in 1967 Haight-Ashbury.

They are self important, self indulgent, kill joy twerps. During the course of my intervention I called the hatchet-faced ringleader a coward, a bully and a sanctimonious bint.

In the cold light of day I take nothing back. Much of the rubbish to be collected was - as you can imagine - leaflets pressed into unwilling hands by these putative saviours of our environment.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

No, No, No

Insofar as I pay attention to such things, celebrity phenomena such as Paris Hilton's incarceration or Britney Spears public meltdown have tended to be a source of idle amusement.

And yet.

There's a guy in an office on our floor editing a documentary about Amy Winehouse that is being put together by the record company as an extra for a live concert DVD. That is an insignificant thing in itself, but it has made me read the press on the apparent maelstrom of her private life with a little more attention than I might otherwise muster, and with the appreciation that there is a flesh and blood human being at the centre of it.

Reading like that it is so clear that the press cares for nothing but the spectacle itself, and would be vicariously delighted if she did manage to kill herself, that I can't help but feel grubby just following the coverage.

Friday, August 24, 2007

One Year On

Writing a weblog provides a handy timeline, so I was aware that yesterday's Muay Thai kids class was the anniversary of my little fella's first.

When I compare his (barely sub swagger) confidence and competence last night with the shyness of the wallflower that he was in his first lesson, I'm sure that it has done him the world of good.

I find it very difficult to understand intellectually why training for something brutal can be character building, but after watching his progress and that of his cohort week on week I absolutely believe it. There seem to be life lessons in the benefits of devoting yourself to a discipline that sometimes hurts.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tip Top Tup

Last night, after I asked at the bar, the Colliers Tup was generous enough to screen the Wales v Bulgaria match in its entirety just for li'l ol' me (other Welsh people or indeed Bulgarians being conspicuous by their absence). I was rather touched by this as the final whistle didn't blow until a couple of minutes before England v Germany kicked off and I had reconciled myself to losing part of our second half to the build up to that game.

Wales won and England lost by the way if you missed the results.

Google Maps have added a new feature that makes it much easier to embed maps in web pages that I have been meaning to try out so I am using it to share the love below:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Magic of 3

I lapped up The Magic of 3 last night in the Colour House Theatre. AbbeyFest is drawing to a close now. All that is left is the Blues Festival over the weekend and the new KidsFest on Bank Holiday Monday.

I had a whale of a time, as I knew I would, at the magic show. I had prudently dissolved all my inhibitions in the pub before arriving so I volunteered to help with a trick and won - as if I needed another - a bottle of lager.

It also made me remember fondly all the hours I spent as a boy perfecting an overhand false shuffle that retains the entire deck in its original order. I thought it would come in handy when I grew up to be a fast-talkin', smooth-dealin' dude with a lightnin' draw, a secret sorrow and a heart of gold.

GERTRUDE: I suppose you've come to collect your bet... you unspeakable riverboat gambler.

WELSHBORN: I have no intention of holding a lady to any such bargain. Here's the deed to the plantation stolen from your father. Try to think kindly of me when... when I'm away.


WELSHBORN: Castell Coch has been fired upon. My regiment leaves at dawn.

GERTRUDE: Oh, Welshborn! How I've misjudged you!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Store Up Treasure

Just as Hurricane Katrina made me think of my time in New Orleans, Hurricane Dean made me worry for Jakes in Treasure Beach on the battered south coast of Jamaica.

It is a salutory reminder of the information brokering power of the internet that I can learn from the Dean Aftermath Information page on the Treasure Beach site that Auntie Jeanne reports, "Tamesha just called back ..........she said that Jake's does not look bad at all".

Noodling round looking for information I couldn't help but wonder if Jake's Off-Road Triathlon is not calling me for next year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

By their works shall ye know them

Via Simon Brunning:

A Coldplay fan was beaten up after performing a Karaoke rendition of the band's song, 'Yellow.'
The assault happened last week (August 9th) at Changes Karaoke bar in Seattle.
After taking to the stage to perform the famous Coldplay number, the unnamed man was verbally assaulted by a woman in the crowd.
The woman shouted: "Oh no, not that song. I can't stand that song!"
A Seattle police report then states that the twenty-one year old woman jumped onto the stage and punched the singer in the face in a bid to stop him singing the song.
We can only salute this valiant woman, and note that Cyrano de Bergerac dealt with the odious Montfleury in Scene 4, Act 1 of Edmond Rostand's immortal play in exactly the same way. It might be fun to produce a modern feminist Cyrano by rewriting all the subsequent scenes around this feisty heroine.

I object to "Yellow" for both what it is, and what it has wrought. The sound of the "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" whining over a mind numbing bass part consisting of bar after bar of eight quavers of the root of the chord is bad enough in itself, but it seems to me that the template is also responsible for the abominations that are Snow Patrol singles. "And that I do not forgive".

It is good to see someone in Seattle with the gumption to draw the line.
I drew a line
I drew a line for you
Oh what a thing to do
And it was all yellow

Sunday, August 19, 2007

“We read to know we are not alone.”

Hot on the heels of coverage in the FT comes a fun article from the New York Times on the trials and tribulations of an obsessive compulsive aspirant meathead no longer in the first flush of youth. Does that ring any bells?
I ran my first marathon on a flat course and was feeling quite proud of myself when at around mile 19 I fell into conversation with a stick figure of a guy who seemed fresh enough to have just started. He explained that he was training for an upcoming 100-kilometer race and that this was his off day, so he had decided to run the marathon. Then I noticed he was wearing hiking boots. “I need to make this a challenge,” he said. I had to stop and pretend to be tying my shoe so that I wouldn’t tackle him. ....... read on ......

I had exactly the same experience grimly grinding my way up a hill in the bike section of the Springfield triathlon when a "jolly hockey sticks" slip of girl pulled abreast of me and started chatting pleasantly - with nary a hint of exertion - about what a nice day it was. If I had been capable of summoning sufficient spare breath to reply I would certainly have repayed her courtesy with some blunt resentful Anglo Saxon.

(I learned of both the FT and the NYT pieces from Jenny Davidson's Light Reading blog; a mash up of writing on literature and training that could have been designed specifically to entertain me.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kirk Out

I finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack today, and thought it very fine. The usual el grupo embargo applies. There is a website devoted to the book at http://www.scotgeog.com/ if you're interested. See also "The Generous Gambler".

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ace War Bison

The New Ninja Bomber's cousin let it by known - via his Dad - that he would appreciate his own image and his own anagram on "A Welsh Born Icon", so Isaac - the Ace War Bison - appears above.

As if you didn't know, the tattoo isn't real. It is a temporary spray-on provided as part of the entertainment at the party at which the photo was taken. Given the bloodthirsty tastes of little boys, by the time they had finished selecting designs they looked more like the Aryan Brotherhood from San Quentin than the Little Lord Fauntleroys that we know them to be.

(P.S. With regard to the continuing saga of Penylan Well being under the kitchen, Vince has pointed out that Wellfield Road so called because it leads (or led) to the well field. Obvious in retrospect, though I would never have thought of it.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All Your Faces Are Belong To Us

I'm not sure why it is so successful, but it would be petulant to deny that Facebook continues to carry all before it. My epiphany came chatting in the changing room after Thai boxing; someone mentioned the system, and it became clear that every person there was already on it. Such ubiquity is an extraordinary achievement.

I set up a group for the Jackapong camp the day before yesterday, and invited Johnny the instructor to join it so that I could promote him to an administrator, only to find that before he did this nearly a dozen people had already found it and joined without - so far as I can tell - being invited. Again, this is totally amazing to me.

Even though I have a temperamental aversion to walled gardens like Facebook (and indeed mySpace before it), you can't fight achievement on this scale, so I want to start collating some thoughts, even though they may turn out to be wrong headed.

For now we see through a glass, darkly.
First off the bat, for all of Marc Andreesson's boosterism, nobody seems to have achieved anything much with the Facebook Platform. All the third party apps I have seen within Facebook are relentlessly trivial.

I think that that we could do (and that it would be better to do) interesting things using Facebook as a data storage engine to power external applications via the supported API and FQL (Facebook Query Language), but - though the profit burglar has got some concept proving code running for our use - again, I haven't see any interesting examples out in the world.

That said, the Facebook crew themselves are now supporting RSS feeds for notifications and friends' posts that enable me to remain in touch with the system from outside via my trusty aggregator, so in all fairness they are moving in the direction of providing data to external apps.

You can set Facebook's Notes feature automatically to import an external blog, and I have done that with these scribblings.

Further you can make badges with live Facebook data to publish elsewhere on the Net (see http://www.facebook.com/badges.php).

Nick Browne's Facebook profile
(Welcome also to Chris and Kim Howell who have bowled up on the system over the last couple of days.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Talent to Abuse

The showdon'tell theatre company have brought "Relative Values", one of Noel Coward's less performed works from 1952, to the Colour House Theatre for AbbeyFest, so the profit burglar and I were duty bound to check it out.

It's a good production, but the class obsessed play itself is fairly loathsome. I'm no fan of "Look Back in Anger", but I can begin to understand that there was a need for the Angries to rebel against this sort of drawing room tosh in the Fifties.

It is interesting that "Relative Values" seems dated and obtuse in a way that "The Importance of Being Earnest" - which was on last week - doesn't even though it is twice as old.

Wilde's emphasis, in his fiction as well as his plays, that redemption is earned by kindness and damnation from vindictiveness makes his characters sympathetic as we understand that they are only pretending to be cynical. Coward's - at least in "Relative Values" - are all so vainglorious and self serving that, for all the much lauded wit, they grate rather than ingratiate.

(P.S. You should still go and see it though.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Intimate Controllers

The Wii remote upped the ante for game controllers granted, but now - via Wired:

Jennifer Chowdhury demonstrates her Ph.D. thesis project at New York University, an interactive game called Intimate Controllers. A set of sensors embedded in underwear direct the action on a video game. Players touch each other to control the game.

"Enough with the Poking, Lets Just Have Sex," as they say in Facebook. Nevertheless, I shall be following Ms Chowdhury's future career with interest.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Sin of the Arrow

According to Wikipedia:
The English word sin was originally an archery term. The distance from the center of the bullseye to the point where an arrow struck is known as the 'sin of the arrow'.

I'm far from convinced that this is correct (see this etymology) and wouldn't be surprised if the derivation went the other way round, but isn't it an evocative phrase?

If I ever write anything creative, I think that "The Sin of the Arrow" may be pressed into service as its title.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lady in Black

There is more on Penylan Well. My brother John says that it is under the kitchen extension in my Mum and Dad's house. Apparently it was uncovered and caused all sorts of problems during the building work. Ma and Pa have more details, but they are on holiday near Lake Garda in Italy at the moment, so I won't be able to ask them about it for another couple of weeks. I'm certainly going to throw a pin in the kitchen sink next Easter though.

More links: I first read about the well in Peter Finch's Real Cardiff. It is also mentioned in Roath - Extract from "A Topographical Dictionary of Wales"by Samuel Lewis 1833. Even more marvelously though, from The Haunting of Glamorgan and Gwent:
In the early 19th century Penylan Well (at Twgwyn Farm) was said to be haunted by a Lady in Black who could frequently be seen there wailing and moaning. Eventually a man stopped and spoke to her. She told him that if he held her by the waist and remained silent whatever happened, she would be released from bondage (it being thought that the firm hand-clasp of a 'pure-minded' man could do this for the spirits of the departed - as could the kiss of a new-born baby). The man did as he was asked and put his arm around the woman's waist. Almost at once, however, he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his arm and was forced to let go of her. The Lady in Black fled in horror, screaming that it would take her another two hundred years before she could again be freed.

Two hundred years from the early 19th century would be (drum roll) just about now. Perhaps we should start a preemptive 'pure-minded' waist grabbing campaign, purely as a precautionary measure.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Last Man Standing

In the last couple of days, I've had two friends independently ask me if I was watching a BBC 3 TV show called "Last Man Standing". I'm intrigued because those sort of water cooler moments, don't really happen much with me these days.

Here's the skinny:
Six intrepid athletes, eight ancient sporting festivals, one victor; this is Last Man Standing.
From an inter-village flag tournament in Senegal to the sacred Festival of Death in Brazil, Last Man Standing dares a unique group of western adventurers to rise to the challenge of some of the world’s most remote tribes.
They will encounter the likes of wrestling, endurance running, archery and even bullock racing in the ultimate test of strength, skill, stamina and steel.

Bondy's (hilarious as always) description of the Trobiand Cricket episode really piqued my interest, so I'm downloading it now on the BBC iPlayer to watch over a beer after my own triathlon this morning.

Update 4:20: Thanks Dave Bond and thanks iPlayer. That was a great show; funny, interesting, but still a little scary. "Rajko is our leader, Rajko is our leader, la la la la, la la la la."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Floods and Tears

And so it came to pass the the curse of a Welsh born icon, fell on Blue.
I'm troubled in mind, I'm blue
But I won't be blue always
You know the sun gonna shine
On my back door some day

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Any Old Iron

Excess in exercise is a way to marry the protestant work ethic of a Midwesterner with the self-indulgence of a sybarite.
It is the ultimate in carnality, the mortification and the indulgence of the flesh in one, all released in one mighty rush of endorphins. Asceticism and hedonism are united.
An article in the FT of all places, nails the peculiar and painful allure of exercising every day especially when you're no spring chicken. "A man makes a beast of himself to get rid of the pain of being a man", as Johnson warned, and it seems it can apply to sweating just as well as boozing.

I should really be tapering off this week, and taking it easy at AbbeyFest on Friday night if I'm going to swim, cycle and run on Saturday, but there ain't much chance of that.

I'm on target to swim in less than nine minutes and to run at 12km/hr which will both be huge improvements on last time out. Rewarding as that should be, at least I'm not so far gone yet sincerely to think of it as carnal.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Off to the Colour House Theatre again last night for the thoroughly enjoyable Importance of Being Earnest. Great night, you should go as well. (Also, from the small world department, I see that Peter Gill is doing it with Penelope Keith later this year.)

Apropos of this, I have been working on automatic procedures for generating Wildean nonsense this morning. Think of a word, pull a synonym and antonym out of a thesaurus and then plug into a standard phrase you happen to have about your person. Or make an assertion, drop in a conjunction, then reverse the words ..... etc

A charade being the last refuge of the candid, these days it is considered charming to be indiscreet but indiscreet to be charming ....... etc.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Penylan Well

Reminiscences of old inhabitants of Cardiff:

WILLIAM MORGAN HIER EVANS, (fn. 20) Esq., M.B., whose maternal grandfather, Mr. Morgan, occupied Ty Gwyn (otherwise Pen-y-lan farm), the barn of which now forms the convent chapel, said that the well in the present grounds of Well-Field was formerly on the lands of Ty Gwyn. He could not remember that it bore any distinctive name. He wrote: "My mother tells me that the well at Penylan was a bowl of about six inches in diameter, with a lip that was supposed to be an impression of Jesus Christ's knee. The water emerged from the rock and was walled over. On Easter Monday a large number of people wended their way thither to drop bent pins into the well, but my mother does not remember that any curative value was attached to the well. My father put a stop to the annual pilgrimage when he became tenant of Ty Gwyn Farm.

Dropping bent pins into a well that bore an imprint of Jesus' knee at a place of pilgrimage that can't be all that far from Browne Acres! We should retart this fine Easter tradition.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I managed to get on the BBCiPlayer Beta that launched at the end of July.

It works, I will say that much for it. You can download TV shows and watch them. The video quality is good with no pixellation, but apart from that it is a pretty paltry product considering that it is seeing the light of day after four years of development.

Shows are downloaded as .wmv files to the Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Deliveries\iplayer_live directory from where they can be played in the Windows Media Player as well as the BBC player. This makes me think that they can probably be played in the Media Center app as well, but I've not got a machine in the office I can test that on. I've tried playing files across a network, but the DRM kicks in and prevents it.
It is a Windows XP only program, but there is a trial and error how-to here, from someone who has got it working on VISTA.
Could try harder.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Edmund Herierd has left the building"

Isaac Hayes and Prince were both playing in London on Friday night, but I would still rather have been at AbbeyFest watching Wayne Fernandez, which is handy, because that is actually where I was.

I took the casual snap on the right with my camera phone as I was putting my hands up 4 Detroit during the evening.

Could the bright ectoplasmic aura in the middle of the stage be our friend?

Mark Marlowe is going to meet Dave Saxby soon, I wonder if he will make of it?

Perhaps a Ghost Light for the Colour House Theatre would be a prudent precaution?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Ghost of Merton Abbey

Could Edmund Herierd, prior on the cusp of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, be the ghost we have been looking for?

Merton, like other houses following the Augustinian rule, was subject to episcopal jurisdiction and open to diocesan visitation.

Towards the end of 1304 a visitation of the priory during the voidance of the see of Winchester was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when various irregularities were alleged against the prior, Edmund Herierd.

Eventually, in consequence of these charges, the prior, whilst vehemently protesting his innocence, was compelled to resign on 25 September 1305. Permission was granted him to occupy rooms within the priory suitable for himself and any one member of the house whom he might choose to live with him; he was also assigned a squire of the body and a servant to attend on him, with a suitable allowance for each. (fn. 82)

The Bishop of Winchester notified the vacancy to the king, as patron, and licence was granted to elect a successor. The chapter met on 1 December, but could not agree, some voting for the re-election of the late prior and the rest making choice of William de Brokesburn. Apparently the numbers for each were equal, and a double return was made to the bishop, who endeavoured to bring about a compromise, but without success, and on 3 December certified their proceedings to the king. (fn. 83)

Edward I. issued a mandate to the bishop to provide a head for the priory of Merton 'out of the bosom of that church,' in order to settle the discords that had arisen since the cession of Prior Herierd. By the king's ordinance the elected persons came before the bishop, and of their own free will renounced all right they might claim from their election; but the proctors of the parties elected not having come with power of renunciation or of submitting to the bishop's ordinance, the bishop dismissed the elected persons. Thereupon the sub-prior and convent unanimously consented to the provision of a prior by the bishop if the royal assent were given. (fn. 84) The bishop's choice fell upon Geoffrey de Alkemondbury, one of the canons, and to him the temporalities were restored on 6 March 1305-6. (fn. 85)

During these proceedings the ex-prior endeavoured to strengthen his party among the canons by lavish entertainment and bringing counter-charges against his opponents, with the result that he was reduced to the position of an ordinary canon, and ordered to spend the remainder of his days with his brethren in the cloister. (fn. 86)

From: 'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of St Mary of Merton', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 2 (1967), pp. 94-102. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=37817. Date accessed: 03 August 2007.

"Reduced to the position of an ordinary canon, and ordered to spend the remainder of his days with his brethren in the cloister" he wanders the site to this day, unable to find peace until his bones are laid in the Chapter House; the right and proper resting place due a prior.

Prior, the title of which he was stripped by calumny, collusion and deceit.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Terry Lifts the Lid

The inaugural Wimbledon Book Festival has set a Writing Challenge:
Can you write a story in prose (fiction or non-fiction), poetry or graphic form, including this sentence?
“Terence had been confident of his hat selection.”

I've submitted a sort of nonsense poem "Terry Lifts the Lid", about a guy trying to decide what to put on his head, but I can't publish it here as it is embargoed until the competition.

It is written in something approaching rhyming heptameter couplets, though due to the buggeration factor of "Terence had been confident of his hat selection" only containing thirteen syllables I've thrown in the odd line without the unstressed part of an iamb. (Come to think of it there is also a couplet with fifteen syllables in each line which I added because I'm difficult.)

Rereading it this morning, I have also realised that my Terence may well be related to that of the Ginger Geezer's "Terry Keeps His Clips On", from the great "Teddy Boys Don't Knit".

Why don't you enter as well?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

They Came From Woking

AbbeyFest completists that we are we bowled along to the deliriously silly and entertaining double bill of "They Came From Woking" and "The Scriptless Wonder" on Tuesday night.

Here, from his blog, is how cast member Matthew Petty thought the night went. I didn't notice the sound cue glitches and tripped-over lines that he mentions, but I can imagine actors being nervous in what can be a spooky old building. I sometimes feel as if the temperature drops a couple of degrees when light lights go down, and before the performers warm us up again.

As you might expect from the progenitors of a sci-fi comedy you can also find an official group website, Facebook event, and blog posts on last years show.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Be Cool Army II

Nearly one year on the Be Cool Army has a London chapter.

(Actually the thugged out look was improvised at the Odeon with the free Simpsons Movie baseball cap that you get if you purchase the popcorn/drink/sweets combo bag, and the similarly free 3D glasses you get to watch the Red Bull Air Race ad.)