Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Who am I?

I was born Merthyr Tydfil where my father was an engineer at Cyfarthfa ironworks. It was there I learnt my trade there before moving to Ebbw Vale and then the Uskside Foundry in Newport in the 1840s.

There I married, had eight children, and worked hard and well enough to earn a seat on the board, a directorship of the Millwall Engineering and Shipbuilding Company in London, and credit for the business's worldwide acclaim for iron cladding wooden warships for the British Admiralty.

When the company received an order from Imperial Russia for the plating of a naval fortress being built at Kronstadt on the Baltic Sea, I sailed to the Ukraine with eight shiploads of equipment and around a hundred specialist ironworkers and miners, mostly from south Wales, to build a metallurgical plant and rail producing factory.

My factory gave its name to the settlement which grew in its shadow, and the town with the delightfully unlikely name of Hughesovka (Yuzovka) grew rapidly.

I am John Hughes and I am the latest Welsh Born Icon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

City News

Brewing giants Carlsberg and Heineken have said that they are in talks about forming a consortium to buy Amy Winehouse.

They said there was no guarantee an offer would be made for the singer, whose albums include Frank, and Back to Black.

Winehouse said any forthcoming bid would be "unwelcome" and that she was committed to being an independent woman.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The New Ninja Bomber is back from Asia and I am very glad to see him regardless of the fact that his jet lag (plus the clocks going back) robbed us of a trip to Manchester, and led him to wake me up at 3:30 am and nag me downstairs.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Analgesic

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails... You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds... Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."
T.H. White via Harvey J. Kaye via Norm. Thanks fellas.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

From the local rag:

The Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden racked up the biggest bill for paper, envelopes and postage in the course of a year, figures from Parliament reveal.

All I can say, is more power to her elbow.

When I wrote to her in 2005 to flag my worries about the "Racial and Religious Hatred" bill she arranged a meeting for me and other concerned constituents with the Minister responsible.

Last year, when I wrote explaining our Virtual Bumblebee product, she helped me get a representative from the Home Office along to a user meeting.

She could have saved money on both occasions by not writing back.

I think that she may spend more on mail than her colleagues because she works harder.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Exit signs? They're on the way out.

The New Ninja Bomber being in Asia until the weekend. I was free to go along to the Roar with Laughter comedy show at GJ's last night for the first time since February.

The line up was different from that advertised but I imagine it will be recorded on the previous gigs list soon.

I had a good time, but I can't help but think that we live in a period of stultifying orthodoxy and received opinion in which performers - while convinced that they are free spirits - are actually terrified of being tarred with a phobia or an 'ism if they say something out of line.

They need to grit their teeth and remember this, which applies as well to jokes as more serious matters:

Accusing your opponent of causing you offence has become an everyday tactic in public discussion.

This is a cowardly tactic, which means that you don’t have to bother putting your own case, or pointing out the other’s flaws.

This also presents another’s opinions as mere ‘hate’ or ‘phobias’, suggesting that your opponent is blind or irrational, and not worth arguing with.

Against this, we should celebrate the virtues of public argument. It is through arguments that we develop our own ideas, and learn from each other.

We should avoid playing the ‘offence card’, and continue with the match of public debate.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I survivied St Joseph's Convent Infants School

The way those sisters used to whack me, I don't know what. They thought they was going to beat an education into me, but I foxed them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

You couldn't make it up

A leading novelist today welcomed the revelation from headmaster Albus Dumbledore that gay rights spokesman Peter Tatchell is fictional.

But JK Rowling said the champion of homosexual equality's "lack of corporeality" should have been made clearer in the stories about him.

Dumbledore exposed Tatchell’s apocryphal essence while teaching a class at Hogwarts.

“Peter is made up,” the Professor revealed to a response of gasps and applause.

Dumbledore then joked: “I would have told you it was a stunt as soon as I realized if I had known it would make you so happy.”

Story supporter JK Rowling said: “It’s good that children are being taught the importance of mythical characters, since they exist in every culture.

“But I am disappointed that the media have not always made Tatchell’s nature clear.

“We always new he was fabulous, honey,” she clarified. "But a fable? Sheeesh!"

Dumbledore said that his suspicions began years ago when he read an article praising Mr. Tatchell in the Daily Mail.

“I guessed I was being had, when I came across approval for the leader of the radical queer rights non-violent direct action group OutRage! in conservative Middle England's house paper. And all apparently because he had attempted a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe!

“You couldn’t make it up,” he said echoing Richard Littlejohn, the fictional journalist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The State of the Nation

It's probably more detail than you need, but when I am grinding out the virtual miles up the virtual hills in Virgin of a lunchtime, I plug earphones into the exercise bike and watch the built in TV.

This explains how when I started cursing footage on the news of a smirking scumbag swaggering free from court even though he had punched a 96-year-old war veteran in the face leaving him blind in one eye, my voice was rather louder than intended and I got some strange looks from people who imagined I was psyching myself up.

From The Telegraph today:

Stephen Gordon, 44, was captured on CCTV launching a savage, unprovoked attack on defenceless Shah Chaudhury after they bumped into each other on a crowded tram in south London.
Other afternoon passengers, including children, looked on in horror as Gordon called Mr Chaudhury a "b******" and lashed out at the great-grandfather with his clenched right fist.

It's obvious to me that he should be punished for that attack. I am far less interested in jaded sophistry about whether or not banging him up is in the best interests of the public.

Judge Kenneth Macrae told the court.
“That said it would do nothing to protect the public in the future and my real concern is the public. It seems to me that the best way of ensuring that he is not a risk, is in relying on various support from psychiatrists and probation officers.”

Thanks 'n all Judge, we can all sleep sounder in our beds.

Here's a small detail, insignificant from some viewpoints I suppose, that seems to me to illustrate how degraded we have become as a civic society:

In a statement to Croydon Crown Court Mr Chaudhury, a British citizen, said he had been standing in the aisle of the tram because nobody would give up their seat for him.
He was gripping a rail with both hands to steady himself when Gordon tried to squeeze by under his arms.

I'm ashamed to live in a country where one offers a seat on a busy tram to a frail nonagenarian. In Edmund Burke's words:
Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.

There is a sliver of hope for us though, two school children who were on the tram chased Gordon and later gave evidence against him.
So shines a good deed in a weary world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Geek Binary Joke

Here's a 10 finger salute for anyone who doesn't understand Classless Inter-Domain Routing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Manly Arts

The New Ninja Bomber is in Hong Kong with his mother for half term. I'm taking him skiing with me (in a party of thirty one old Whitton chums including four other kids around his age) next year, and I took advantage of this weekend's trip to the Twickenham Beer festival to pay the balance due at the travel agent.

I'd like him to grow up knowing how to ski. I get a lot of satisfaction from his progress in swimming and Muay Thai lessons, and I remember thinking when Mark was kind enough to put him in the saddle last year, that it would be no bad thing to get the drop on that as well. I'm also developing a vague idea of taking him on a beach club holiday in the summer to see if he can't be blooded as a little surf dude.

Accomplishment in the manly arts is an important part of education, and I've found a new one that The Profit Burglar and I can add to our repertoires as part of Eat Your Way Around the World in London.

Opening a bottle of champagne with a saber, or sabrage, was apparently invented by the swaggering Hussars of Napoleon's cavalry, and it seems that at certified sabrage "caveau" Le Vacherin (Chiswick W4 5LF) the payment of a £10 supplement allows you to sabre your own bubbly under the watchful eye of master sabreur Malcolm John. Surely that has to make it our French destination of choice.
"Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I am a Camra

Back to Whitton last night for the 9th TWICKENHAM BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL 2007.

I generally confined my attentions to milds, porters and stouts with one diversion to cider and another to:

Jaipur IPA (5.9) Strong and hoppy – a real
IPA; named after the pink city where the
brewery’s owners were married.

How romantic!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Summit of Sumner

There is no need to be tongue-tied around Sting. Acting on his own advice, if you ever find yourself in his august presence, you could say he:

  • lost his faith in science and progress
  • lost his belief in the holy church
  • lost his sense of direction
  • was a lost man in a lost world
  • lost his faith in the people on TV
  • lost his belief in our politicians.
You see, there was no need to be nervous after all. Admittedly, he does seem rather prone to losing things, but somehow I think it makes him seem more human.

Tread softly though, because if he ever lost his faith in you there'd be nothing left for him to do, and that would be sad.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cocoon Butterfly

Cocoon Butterfly is a shop in Abbey Mills where I got the silk above for my niece. I think it looks jolly splendid.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Come on England

Amy Winehouse looks likely to be named today on the left wing in the England team to play South Africa in the World Cup final at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Winehouse was training yesterday in the position that had been filled by Josh Lewsey before the London Wasps player pulled a hamstring shortly before half-time during the semi-final against France last weekend. If Brian Ashton, the head coach, does include Winehouse, he will be picking a woman who will not have played live for three weeks, and whose form has been inconsistent.

The decision to go with Winehouse is a straight wino-for-wing selection. The alternative would have been to have fielded the combination that finished against France last weekend, with Mathew Tait moving from outside centre to the wing and Dan Hipkiss slotting into Tait’s original position.

Ah, the joys of find and replace.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Harder, Better, Faster, Stranger

I actually farted the Daft Punk sample that serves as the hook for Kanye West's single "Stronger" last night.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tooting Bac

From the Guardian:
It was lunchtime on London's Northern line. Deep underground, passengers were getting on and off the tube trains as normal. Two men boarded a train at Colliers Wood in south London. As the train gathered speed towards its next stop, Tooting Broadway, one of them got up from his seat and dropped a small carton of face powder out of the window. He could have been idly throwing away litter.

As the train sped on, the carton hit the tracks and burst. Out spewed millions of tiny spores, which began to spread throughout the dark tunnels. Dust swabs taken after three days and two weeks showed that the spores had spread as far up the line as Camden Town station in north London, 10 miles away.

This really happened. But the two men weren't terrorists but government scientists. And the spores weren't anthrax spores, but a harmless micro-organism designed to mimic clandestine sabotage with anthrax. This was an official experiment in 1963, and it showed how easily saboteurs could inflict a potentially devastating attack on Britain's capital.

I promise never to be bored on the Northern Line again.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The Plain People of Ireland: Considering the man himself; the all round entertainer Puff Daddy aka P Diddy, you understand; what would he in your estimation would he be worth in cash money terms, if you please and by your leave?

Myself, a Welsh Born Icon: You may say that I would value Sean John Combs at one million dollars.

The Plain People of Ireland: But surely even an eye as jaundiced, or yet a head as drink raddled, as your own must see plainly that the gold, diamonds and furs that adorn him even as we speak must have cost that sum alone. His bling man! The issue of bling must be addressed.

Myself, a Welsh Born Icon: I included that gross ornamentation in my gross calculation. You may deduce the implied net worth.

"A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sea Bass

I'm not happy saying it, but I think England may be in with a shout against France. Sébastien Chabal et al's heart bursting efforts against the All Blacks may have taken too much out of them.

We shall see. I've been wrong about everything else in the Rugby World cup.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I got the New Ninja Bomber a PSP for his birthday.

It's now set up to access the Internet wirelessly in my office and at home, and with a selection of his photos, video and music as well as downloaded games.

This was however a pain in the neck for both me and The Profit Burglar. We had to upgrade the OS and reformat the memory stick before the web browser would work properly, and the text entry system (modelled on SMS) is an abomination that surpasseth all human understanding.

If you attach it to a PC via USB the device is simply mounted as a drive. Henceforth I'm going to manage it from there, and download from etc. onto the desktop rather than directly to the PSP.

For all these travails however, I can see that the next generation of a PSP type system may become indispensable, that removeable storage is on its last legs, and that ubiquitous wireless access will change the landscape fundamentally.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Santa Carlotta's Nunnery

I plunged in to Emma Hamilton last night, as I had an evening at home.

Reading lurid tales of Georgian bawds reminded me that Mandy Rice-Davies of Profumo fame was given to comparing herself to Nelson's famous mistress.

Chris pointed out a week or so ago - when we were trying to remember who famously uttered, "He would, wouldn't he?" - that as she was born in Pontyates near Llanelli, she is eligible for elevation to Welsh Born Iconhood. Let's do it. It is good to add some colour to the list.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Paradise Merton

Off to the Chapter House last night to see Kate Williams on Emma Hamilton, her Nelson and her "Attitudes" as part of Wimbledon's inaugral BookFest.

Rather sportingly, she appeared in period costume and delivered a choreographed lecture accompanied by a dancer. I was entranced by the audacious combination of didactics and décolletage, and left clutching a signed copy of her magnum opus in my sweaty palm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quit While You're a Hedda

I went to the opening night of the excellent new production of Hedda Gabler in the Colour House Theatre last night.

It's a very interesting reading of the play. Jonathon Roberts makes Jørgen such an agreeable chap that he never seems pitiful or worthy of contempt, and the lady herself is portrayed more as a victim of circumstance than either a proto-feminist or a bunny-boiling neurotic.

Also, while Hedda Gabler will never be Ibsen's comedy of manners, the cast do extract a fair amount of laughter from the proceedings. Give yourself a treat and go along.

(I bumped into the director in the kebab shop on the way home. What a glamorous life it is.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

A joyful sound

I went to Andy's reunion yesterday. It is good to be reminded what a joyful sound a big band makes swinging in the flesh, even if it was something of a bitter sweet occasion.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The World in One City

Has any other reader noticed the remarkable resemblance between Eat Your Way Around the World in London and The World in One City - in which Owen Powell and Alex Horne aim is to prove that London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, by endeavouring to meet and chat to a citizen from every country in the world who currently lives and works here?

I wonder if I should have recourse to Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Run as The Profit Burglar and I have been at our scheme longer.

Actually I'm only joking. I think "The World In One City" is a great idea whose contribution to the gaiety of nations has earned my respect and admiration.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Last Hurrah of The Golden Horde

Eat Your Way Around the World in London is back on the road for the first time - what with one thing and another - since June, so The Profit Burglar and I bowled up at Covent Garden's Mongolian Barbecue on Wednesday night.

The M.O. at the Mongolian Barbecue is that you select sliced meat and veg along with spices and sauces and hand it over to the staff to be stir fried on a large flat steel and then served up. For all that the website contends that "transcripts of Marco Polo's writings mention Mongolian warriors cooking on upturned shields", this doesn't seem to be very authentic at all. I couldn't find anything else even vaguely Mongolian in London however, so any port in a storm. (I also remember when there were branches of the franchise all over London's suburbs, though now the central London establishment seems to be the only one left.)

Wikipedia has an entry on Mongolian Cuisine which - rather wonderfully relates that:
BD's Mongolian Barbeque, has opened even in Ulaanbaatar (ironically the first American chain to open in Mongolia), neither the ingredients nor the cooking method has anything in common with Mongolian cuisine.
(Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations since 2005.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

My Name is Luca Brasi

My name is Luca
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you've seen me before

If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble. some kind of fight
Just don't ask me what it was

Strange is it not how a lyric's meaning can be transposed by conjuring a new illustrative image to your mind's eye? The original intention is described here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Walk and Talk

Tonight may be the night that - for all my Westwingphilia - I give up the ghost with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. One of the reasons I struggle with it is that the "show within a show" seems so lame. I'm convinced that the "controversial" Crazy Christians sketch that powered the plot from episode one would be about as funny as a hole in a parachute.

A couple of weeks ago there was an episode that even the power and the glory of John Goodman guest starring couldn't save.

My West Wing and Studio 60 knowledge has however earned me a namecheck on the weblog of the 77th most important figure on the British left as I explained to him that the trademark shot in both shows in which the camera leads two characters down a hallway as they speak to each other is called a "walk-and-talk".

See (Rob M who sparked my interest should be proud. )

The real governor of the "walk-and-talk" however is somewhat closer to home. Step forward Peter Kay.

Tempted by a stovepipe

The results of the Wimbledon Bookfest Sandi Toksvig 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.”) are out and I haven't won.

You can see the winners here, my entry is below and I still rather like it.
Terry Lifts the Lid

Girls’ hats come from milliners, boys’ are from a hatter
Though in the new millennium should such distinctions matter?

Terence had been confident of his hat selection
Trusting common sense to lead him in the right direction.

First he ruled out all the styles the Village People sported,
“Though I’ve got all sorts of friends both straight and gay (assorted),”

“Stetsons, safety helmets, feather head dresses, and caps,
I would rather leave to those flamboyant, Yankee chaps.”

Tempted by a stovepipe lid, subdued, he sadly said,
“Undertakers wear top hats to let you know you’re dead.”

“Gene Hackman in ‘The French Connection’ wore a pork pie hat.
It worked for him as Popeye Doyle but I would look a prat.”

“It’s obvious a crocheted tam would be a style disaster
Because you see, that truth is that I’m not a dreadlocked Rasta”.

“What I need is headgear that will keep me cool and sane,
So Sandi Toksvig’s Challenge will not overheat my brain.”

Tradition sound and British as a tin of bully beef
Guided hand to pocket and thence to his handkerchief

And in no time each corner was anointed with a knot,
Then Terry, satisfied announced, “I think I’ve hit the spot”.

Most solemnly upon his pate he laid his linen crown
He opened up his deckchair and he had a nice sit down.

Other hats were knocked into the cocked hat of rejection
Terence had been confident of his hat selection.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

squeezing lemons for juice

This is so good, I am merely going to reprint the first few to lead you in, encourage you to read the rest, and then absent myself from the picture. (Hat tip Norm.)

Blues is more than just the music and there's many a philosophical insight buried in all those wailin', ramblin' and jivin' old songs.

Here are the 30 things I've learnt about life from listening to the blues.

1 The boss man is rarely understanding of one's workplace issues.

2 After waking up in the morning, the best follow-up action is to get out of bed.

3 A woman is ill advised if she leaves town in order to cheat on her man, since - during her absence - he may well replace her with another sweet mama.

4 One sign of really serious depression is the decision to shoot a fellow citizen just to see him die.

5 Precipitation in the state of Georgia is sometimes so heavy one can be left with the misapprehension that it is raining all over the world.

6 The best response to an unfaithful spouse is to leave home for a time, and to
achieve success elsewhere.

7 There is almost no human activity, however unlikely, that cannot serve as a metaphor for sex, including playing a phonograph, digging for potatoes, checking the oil in a car, making biscuits, hooking catfish or even squeezing lemons for juice.

8 .......... read on ......

Monday, October 01, 2007


We use Google Analytics on almost all the sites we are involved with, and I've noticed that there is YouTube playlist of "presentations, clips, and instructional videos on using Google Analytics, Website Optimizer, and AdWords to improve your marketing and website".

An embedded playlist looks like this:

I won't have seen it until I publish this post. I wonder if it will be of any use elsewhere now that we are starting to get more TV and press converage. (I was talking to a researcher from Working Lunch on Friday, and apparently there is some interest at The Sun as well.)