Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Card

The packs of the cards produced from the NNB's school artwork my My-School-Christmas-Cards arrived yesterday.

He disappeared up to his room and came back with the first one inscribed and addressed to me.


Thursday, November 29, 2007


Off to the Palace again today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The sweet essence of giraffe

And each time I hear your name
Oh, oh, oh, my, my, how, how it hurts
In the wardrobe of my soul
In the section labeled "Shirts"

I caught "The Line Between" in the Colour House Theatre last night. "Two men, one dog and a partially molested Wardrobe are trapped, but before they can escape their rooms, they must first escape their minds."

Perhaps not entirely up my street, but the place was full which is encouraging.

Is there room in the budget for a "sold out" sign?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Damage Limitation

The wonder of the internet and the blogosphere and our freedom to express ourselves thereon, gave me the immense privilege of a brief email and comment correspondence with the wise and shrewd Deborah Lispstadt early last year. She is famously humiliated David Irving in court when he sued her for libel, and strangely - in view of last night's debate - I think it may have been me who first brought Nick Griffin to her attention when I sent her this link.

Here for what it is worth is my tuppence worth on the disgraceful scenes.

  • The Oxford Union does have the right to invite people with odious views to address it.
  • The rest of us have the right to object, organise and protest, but we don't have the right to sabotage the event, and physically intimidate or even attack those who choose to attend.
In general I am in favour of free speech and unfettered speculation, but who would have thought that quantum physics would be the discipline that proved it was dangerous?

Have we hastened the demise of the universe by looking at it? That's the startling question posed by a pair of physicists, who suggest that we may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, which is thought to be speeding up cosmic expansion.
Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleague James Dent suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the universe to revert to a state similar to early in its history, when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," says Krauss.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Red Hat

It was interesting to hear over the weekend that the Pope had elevated the the Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans to the rank of cardinal. Rather like the Maronites of Lebanon, the Chaldeans, of whom I don't think I have previously heard, are an Eastern Rite in full communion with the Catholic Church.

It is just another fact to file away to remind ourselves of the complexity and richness of the real world compared to the banality and simplification of what passes itself off as news reporting and "opinion".

I've also read that:
Jews have lived in Baghdad for thousands of years. Less than a century ago, fully one quarter of the city's entire population was Jewish and there can be no question but that Jews have played an important roles in the city's economic and cultural development. That, however, may be coming to an end. There are only about two dozen Jews in the community now and they will probably leave soon.

Note to self: I understand nothing whatsoever about how and why that extraordinary change occurred. It seems almost inconceivable. What percentage was Jewish 75 years ago, or 50, or 25?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes

After posting from the N95 yesterday, I tried and failed to post from the NNB's PSP lite this morning. I just can't get on with the text entry.

Five minutes ago, I noticed that he is surfing the net on it via the house's wireless network without even understanding that he is doing anything different from just noodling around.

Suddenly I feel old.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

hello world

this post is via wi-fi from my N95. Painful.

Friday, November 23, 2007


The Profit Burglar sent me this link to details of the eStarling 2.0 WIFI Digital Photo Frame, yesterday. That brought me up a little short as "the eStarling frame supports all major RSS photo feeds, including Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, AOL, Smugmug, iPhoto, Gallery,and more", and I'd made up what I thought was a hypothetical gadget that would do just that, pitching an idea to a potential client the week before last.

Since I lost my mobile phone, I've picked up a Nokia N95 as a replacement. It has got an integrated GPS receiver, it's a a fully fledged music player, features built-in WiFi internet access, and sports Carl Zeiss optics on the camera. Some folks have even worked out how to use its accelerometer to make it sound like a light saber when waved through the air.

Much of this remains a mystery to me however as I can't work out how to configure it so that the screen's backlight stays on long enough for me to try the features out.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I have been asked to tell you that:
I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.
Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.
Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.
What do you think of it? At first I thought it was a great idea, but now I have installed it I find it somewhat overwhelming. I will try and trim it down a little. I like it on the post titles (I'm not sure that it was all that clear before that they are links) and on the blogroll, but it is redundant on internal and functional links.

Expect tinkering.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

None ever wished it longer

The first instalment of Philip Pullman's hugely successful trilogy of fantasy books, His Dark Materials, has had a troubled transition to the screen. The adaptation has managed to upset both Christians and atheists, the former because of the book's anti-religious themes and the latter because those very themes have been watered down and virtually excised from the film. ............

Why can't people just lighten up a bit? After all this is a movie in which the ever reliable Sam Elliot "shines as the gun-toting Texan aeronaut who joins forces with Lyra and a whisky-drinking polar bear (with a voice supplied by Ian McKellen) on their quest to save Roger and the other kidnapped children".

Agreeable as it might be to have a five minute adolescent fantasy chat about how odd it is that - say - the militantly atheistic Pullman's magnum opus is steeped in theology, while religion is absent from the devoutly Catholic JRR Tolkein's Middle Earth, it is scarcely serious.

Anyway, break out the popcorn because here is the bit where true bear king Iorek Byrnison and pretender to his throne Ragnar Sturlusson have a big fight because one said the other's momma was so fat or something (while simultaneously superseding the ephemeral reach of ideology by slipping the facade of allegory).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Attention Please

I'm hoping to take my seven year old plus assorted waifs and strays to "Who Stole Santa Claus", a Christmas show for all ages that is playing at the "The Chamber" in the old GLC building opposite Westminster.

I'm aware of it because Mark, a guy I know from the Colour House Theatre is in it, and it turns out that it has been written by Amy Winehouse's brother Alex.

It seems to have sold out this weekend since he got a crafty plug in for it when he was speaking up for her recently, so we are going to have to catch it another time.

The power of media attention is extraordinary. Traffic to our auction site doubled last week when Chris Evans talked about Police Auctions on his Radio 2 show without even mentioning it specifically.

I'll take that, and good for Alex as well, 'cause you gotta get out there and hustle, but God knows how someone like Amy Winehouse copes with the dark side of it.

(I've made jokes about her myself, but I think they're pretty inoffensive).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Freedom of the Rules

Kate Williams' biography of Emma Hamilton was on my mind yesterday, as I had finished reading it on my tube journey into Waterloo.

As we got plumbed in to Fullers London Porter in the Mad Hatter I smiled to remember part of the book where friends wondered if she was pregnant when she took to drinking porter as it was supposed to be good for expectant mothers. Times change eh?

I also imagine that the Kings Bench Prison to which her debts led to her confinement - along with her and Nelson's daughter Horatia - must have been very near to where we were drinking.

It was an odd sort of imprisonment though, as because she could afford to purchase the 'Liberty of the Rules', she was allowed to roam within three square miles of the prison, and rented a place to live at which she was even visited for dinner by one of George III's sons.

Perhaps "The Rules" might be the answer to our own prison overcrowding. I shall suggest it to Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, next time I bump into him at the newsagent.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Come Fly With Me

Wandering the South Bank from Waterloo to London Bridge stopping for the odd cheeky pint and sniffing round landmarks like the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe is a fine way of whiling lazy weekend afternoon away.

As I'm doing that later today with some chums, I got the idea of trying the route out on Google Earth.

When you first start Google Earth, the default view of the earth is a "top-down" view, but you can tilt the terrain from 0 - 90 degrees, and rotate the view for a new perspective with the navigation controls.

It really is surprisingly good, and if you turn on the 3D Buildings layer, flat shaded models of some key buildings appear. You can see Red Ken's Gherkin and London Bridge rendered in that format in the screen shot above which was taken towards the end of my virtual meandering.

It is still essentially a toy, but this software is going to be indispensable in an iteration or two.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Fire in the Minds of Men

In a week when we learned that "Adult FriendFinder May Have Been Acquired For $1 Billion+", and "fans' community website MyFootballClub has agreed a deal to take over Blue Square Premier outfit Ebbsfleet United", things are moving as quickly as ever as the internet is terraformed by social networks.

Would it be valuable for me to use - say Facebook Beacon - to allow users to tell their friends that they had won an auction by publishing the fact in their newsfeeds?

Read "Explaning OpenSocial to your Executives". Should there be a Bumblebee Auctions widget that can live in MySpace?

Interesting times. Pssst, wanna buy a BMW?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Google Translate

Good Morning campers: Select from the drop down list below to choose a target language for a translation of my ramblings. If it works well I may add it as a permanent fixture on the left.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Gay Hussar

Greek Street, the home of 'Private Eye' and the 'Coach and Horses' seemed a legendary place to me when I was growing up, and so the same street's 'Gay Hussar' was a natural choice for our Hungarian dining destination last night.

I had Beef Goulash Soup followed by Kacsa Sült (Crispy Roast Duck with Red Cabbage, Hungarian Potatoes and Apple Sauce). The Profit Burglar started with Fried Cheese Salad before getting outside Borjú Pörkölt (Veal Goulash Stew with Galuska). We shared a bottle of house red.

Here's Nick Cohen on the place's colourful past and present, including:

"stories of the energetically homosexual Labour MP Tom Driberg organising a lunch in the late 1960s during which WH Auden leaned across to Marianne Faithfull to ask if she hid her drugs 'up her arse'

A class act indeed. Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lions Led by Donkeys

The Chief of the Defence Staff is quoted in the Telegraph today bemoaning the "lack of understanding shown to troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan".
"They are concerned the British public does not appreciate or understand what they do. We need to express that a bit more visibly. I welcome recent efforts to do that. We need to have a little more tangible and visible expression of our appreciation."

It is all too easy for this brass hat to scold the public. Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, has told us off similarly.

Has he ever considered that the Ministry of Defence's gagging orders - which I blogged back in September - might contribute to this lack of understanding?

I'm going to reprint the same quote I used then:

Members of the Armed Forces and MOD Civil Servants must seek prior permission from MoD media authorities] if they wish to communicate about defence via books, articles or academic papers; self-publish via a blog, podcast or other shared text, audio or video; take part in external questionnaires, polls, surveys or research projects, speak at conferences, private engagements or other events where the public or media may be present; or contribute to any online community or share information such as a bulletin board, wiki, online social network, or multi-player game...

[This] covers all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time.

Given that the troops aren't allowed to tell anyone anything, how the bleedin' hell is the public to get the understanding that he thinks they lack?

The MOD is a shower. Do you remember when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf back in March? The country was engulfed with sympathy and goodwill for Faye Turney et al until Des Browne and the ministry sold them down the river with the botched and undignified handling of the issue of whether or not it was appropriate for them to sell their stories to the papers.

Somebody at the top needs to get their ducks in a row, and apply a little consistency and common sense.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Facebook has launched "Facebook Pages, which are distinct, customized profiles designed for businesses, bands, celebrities and more to represent themselves on Facebook". It is part of a larger advertsing driven initiative.

I've created a page for Bumblebee Auctions as a mechanism to get my head around it as much as anything else. The page is at and Chris has sniffed it out and joined already. Why not join as well so we can feel our way into the future together?

Online identity is a tricky beast. Coraider, our company, has reasonable Google visibility through products like our auction system, yet doesn't seem to register at all, and I'm bemused as to why.

I'm also becoming uneasy about how high this blog appears in the results of searches on the company name. It's not that I want to hide the relationship, but by the same token I'm not sure that I want to advertise it. Perhaps I ought to move it to a new domain rather than a URL.

(This post will of course compound the issue by mentioning Coraider so frequently.)

P.S. I think I may have lost my mobile phone, so I will appear to have vanished in a puff of smoke in another quadrant of the digiverse.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sprinkling Stardust

A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?" Pointless, really...”Do the stars gaze back?" Now that's a question.

I took my seven year old and a school friend along to the Odeon to see Stardust yesterday. I think in so far as I have been paying attention that it has been lukewarmly reviewed. We went based on a word of mouth recommendation from my brother and I for one thought it was great.

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won." Hooray, and good for him, especially when there are witches, sky-pirates, spells, sword fights, princes, and a star fallen to earth in the form of a damsel in distress along the way while all is set to soaring, shimmering strings.

For myself I could have done with a monster guarding summat as well, but I supppose you can't have everything: Beowulf will have to take the strain.

Give yourself a treat and catch it on the big screen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer, towering writer with ego to match, is dead at the age of 84... NYT ... AP ... LAT ... Nation ... Guardian ... Reuters ... Telegraph ... Salon ... Chic Trib ... BBC ... Newsday ... Boston Globe ... NPR ... Time ... CNN ... NYT ... USAToday ... Wash Post ... London Times ... LAT ... Salon ... SF Chron ... Independent ... dissent from Roger Kimball

I read a great deal of Mailer in my youth, then opted out and never went back as I just couldn't be bothered with the doorstop that was "Ancient Evenings".

If anything of his stands the test of time it will be the longer non-fiction rather than the novels or essays.

So much of what he wrote was truth be told and for all the macho posturing, on the silly side of quaint. Do you remember all the "fugging" in "The Naked and the Dead" or the airhead indulgent daftness of "The White Negro"?

I remember that the blurb in the back of my paper back copy of "Advertisements for Myself" said something along the lines of "Norman Mailer is the author of 'The Naked and the Dead', The Deer Park', '"Why are we in Vietnam' and other books that have knocked the 20th Century on its heels." My italics.

"Up to a point, Lord Copper."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Once in a lifetime

I got the chance yesterday to take a call on my mobile and say, "I'll have to call you back, I'm in a bathroom in Buckingham Palace".

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rivers of Blood

Looking at the furore over Nigel Hastilow this week, it really is astounding what a hot potato Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech remains nearly 40 years later.

You can read it here. Is the fuss overblown? Sometimes I think it is, and sometimes I think it isn't.

I met Enoch Powell once. Back in the early 1990s as I recall, I was in some sort of Private Sector/Civil Service discussion group to whom he spoke at a weekend conference. I can clearly remember talking to him with a glass of wine in my hand at an al fresco buffet and thinking "this is a turn up for the books". I've no recollection at all of what was said.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I am a Human Bean

I went to see Will Adamsdale's "The Human Computer" last night. I enjoyed it, but it defies description. Go to for the specification.

It was on in the Battersea Arts Centre, and it struck me that I probably haven't been there since I went with Chalice back in the day to see "MC Jabber", her brother. If you get a chance to see him, he is excellent by the way.

There's a breadcrumb trail from that to me being secretly amused and almost proud after falling asleep at the ballet when Kim dragged me along to see some Matthew Bourne thing, but outraged when Jane fell asleep during the Trevor Nunn production of Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004.

Different strokes for different folks, and I suppose what's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, but as Will Adamsdale said last night, "you can't win at sex ....... but you can lose".

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Get Your Space Face On

I count myself lucky to have met Marc Canter last year. I didn't really grok his Digital Lifestyle Aggregator (DLA) concept at the time (though I'm clearer now), but what it has definitely given me is a framework in which I can start to place contemporaneous developments as diverse as Google's OpenSocial initiative and KylieKonnect (an entire social networking site devoted to Kylie Minogue) in context.

Tedious and pretentious as much of the MySpaceFaceBookYadaYadaYada noise is, there is a kernel of truth there and we are potentially on the brink of another round of profound changes online.

I'm trying to persuade clients to take advantage of some of the opportunities that social sites offer today, but in a much more down to earth way.

My approach is based on exploiting the economies of scale that result from the Internet's relentless commoditisation of storage and distribution of media types.

Imagine my surprise to see an excellent example of it in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's web presence. Look at this page about the Saudi Arabia State Visit; video is hosted and embedded from YouTube and photos are hosted and embedded from Flickr.

This rids the FCO of much of the overhead in managing and serving media files and also gives it extra online presence, visibility and distribution on and

It is very clever. I'm torn between feeling vindicated and a little put out that I'm not as original as I sometimes imagine.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

fin de siècle

Perhaps because I went to both the first night and last night performance of the recent short run at the Colour House, Hedda Gabler seems to be much in my mind lately.

Thus a propos of nothing much at all, I was struck the other day by the way that Hedda Gabler’s romantic imagining of Løvborg's suicide as beautiful is exactly like Dorian Gray’s ultimate rationalisation of Sybil Vane killing herself in Wilde’s novel.

Both were published in 1890 so it is unlikely that one influenced the other. Maybe it was just a morbid fin de siècle notion that was in the decadent air; Edvard Munch was breathing it in Oslo at the time as well.

And yet, I made a belated start on Sunday on the Amundsen and Scott book that Rob sent me.

The first chapter about Amunden’s youth once he moved to Oslo (he would have been a desultory university student around 1890) added a lot of depth to my understanding of the era and location of play; there are echoes like the maid moving out of the family home to look after him etc.

It is also a timely warning against my tendency to generalise. Decadent is just about the last word you could apply to the first person to reach both the North and South Pole, a man who is recongised as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage, and who was lost in June 1928 on a gallant rescue mission.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Red letter day

I, along with my father and both my brothers, was at the Millennium Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning to see Joe Calzaghe join "the boxing immortals", as The Times put it.

Did you know that while Enzo Calzaghe's "gym in Newbridge, a small valleys town in south Wales, can already boast three world champions with many more set to follow", there is only one world champion in England?

Enjoyably parochial a dig as that is (and all of the Calzaghe fighters on the undercard won yesterday) the English champion is the redoubtable Ricky Hatton, whom we will all be supporting when he fights Floyd Mayweather next month.

Joe Calzaghe wants to move up to light heavyweight and fight Bernard Hopkins next. I think we are pretty much honour bound to follow him to that bout even if it is in the States.

Fly to Vegas, watch the fight, meet Gina Carano and live happily ever after. I could do that.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Stick to the ribs

I laughed to myself when I saw "The new rules for defeating cancer" on the front page of The Times last week because (with the excusable exception of breastfeeding children) I go at everything in their Do list and everything in the Don't list with equal vim and enthusiasm, and I'm not in the slightest embarrassed about drinking red wine with my steak.

So here, not that the world is crying out for them, are my guidelines for eating.

  • Regardless of what you read about wonder foods, food is not medicine.
  • Regardless of what you hear about junk food, food is not poison.
  • You are an omnivore, eat a varied diet.
  • Purchase and prepare fresh produce when you get the chance.
  • Lastly, don't fret. Mark Twight has wisely observed that "weighing portions and counting calories and allowing food to rule one's life is just as much an eating disorder as sticking a finger down your throat".

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Snazz Sichaun

"Eat our way around the world in London", added another of the "Eight Great Traditions" of Chinese cuisine to our bag this week when Sichaun joined Hunan and Canton.

The menu at Snazz Sichaun is certainly a wonder to behold (strange-flavour rabbit" or "fire-exploded kidney flowers" anyone?), and intimidating enough to send us to the set meals.

Sichaun food is very hot and it watching the profit burglar squirm and dab his eyes and nose as he got outside his steamed chicken in Chongqing special sauce (cold) starter was worth the price of admission on its own. This is a style of cooking and eating that demands further investigation; I noticed on some other tables that guests seemed to be cooking their own food by simmering it in a broth rather like the sukiyaki that we had on the Japanese leg of our journey.

The proprietor came over for a chat towards the end of our meal and I was genuinely flattered when he seemed sincerely interested in our little project.

Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations since 2005. Alternatively, if you've got Google Earth (, click here and fly to the restaurant.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've got an axiom to grind

“Mathematical correctness gone mad."

It's a phrase almost all of us have used at one time or another. In fact, it's a cliché.

But like all clichés, there is more than an element of truth behind it.

In Britain today, mathematical correctness has gone mad. And it is driving people crazy.

There are so many examples of this obsession with mathematical correctness; it's hard to know where to start.

But here are just a few, to get us going.

Axioms in traditional thought are "self-evident truths", but that can be a problem because at a formal level, an axiom is just a string of symbols, which has an intrinsic meaning only in the context of all derivable formulas of an axiomatic system.

Hilbert's program tried to put all of mathematics on a firm axiomatic basis, but according to Gödel's incompleteness theorem every (sufficiently powerful) axiomatic system has undecidable formulas; and so a final axiomatization of mathematics is impossible.

It would be easy to go on and on, because the examples are countless.

In some cases, the exercise of mathematical correctness is relatively harmless. It provides good knocking copy for fulminating commentators, or for late-night radio chat shows.

But in many other cases it is not. We cannot simply dismiss every example as an isolated case of stupidity or zeal or plain barminess.

The systematic spread of mathematical correctness has a corrosive effect on our society.

It makes people imagine that mathematics, as far as its formal content is concerned, can be reduced to set theory in the sense that every mathematical statement or proof could be cast into formulas within set theory.

It provides officials with an excuse to meddle and interfere in people's lives, where they have no business to.

It leads to expensive, time-consuming and pointless litigation.

It plays into the hands of extremists.

And it undermines people's respect for the institutions of our country.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I can't believe the news today

At last a worthy sequel to a George Bush stick man falling through balls. That is on the blog somewhere though I can't find it.

Update: Ah, here it is at