Friday, July 21, 2017

More on Captain Scarlet

Guyanese actor Cy Grant, who voiced the character of Lieutenant Green and believed that Captain Scarlet had positive multicultural value, discussed the allegorical nature of the series. According to him, Christian symbolism was heavily implied, with Colonel White assuming the role of God, opposed by the Devil in the form of Captain Black and descended by Captain Scarlet, who serves as a Christ allegory; moreover, Cloudbase represented Heaven and was guarded by its own fleet of Angels. Grant has also lionised Green as an African trickster hero. On dualism, he argued, "the 'darkness' of the Mysterons is most easily seen as the psychological rift – the struggle of 'good' and 'evil' – of the Western world as personified by Colonel White and his team. Dark and light are but aspects of each other. Incidentally, green is the colour of nature that can heal that rift."
I didn't see that one coming.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This is the voice of Mr Ron

As you now doubt remember, in Captain Scarlet, Cloudbase was defended by the Angels, a multi-cultural squadron of five female pilots code-named Destiny (squadron leader), Harmony, Melody, Rhapsody, and Symphony, who flew the Angel Interceptor fighter aircraft.

Not only that the Angel puppets were paid the same as the Captain Scarlet puppet. Shame on you BBC, all these years later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crowd Sauce

Buy with Bitcoin

If you want to help with my research you can click on the button above and transfer a fiver's worth of Bitcoin from your wallet to my account.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

First shown: 7 Jul 2017. Available for 19 days

BBC iPlayer
Film shining a spotlight on the untold story of The Sidemen, the musicians behind some of the greatest artists of all time. The Sidemen are the forgotten 'guns for hire' that changed musical history. Featuring interviews with Mick Jagger, Billy Joel and Keith Richards, this film takes viewers from the 1960s to today, via global stars such as Prince, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Beyoncé.
You need to watch this before it expires at 2:30 in the morning on the 7th of August.

Monday, July 17, 2017



That's just the verification on the Bitcoin blockchain of a transaction I was involved in.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roger Federer as Religious Experience

I blogged it four years ago, and it is eleven years old, but David Foster Wallace's piece the guy who - ten minutes from now - will be aiming to be the first man to win eight Wimbledon singles titles and the oldest men's champion in history is well worth rereading.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


While I am in Wales you can see my location (at least half past ten tomorrow morning) at

This makes me far more Generation Z than the Bomber who is in Ghost Mode on Snapchat's Snap Map.

Don't be a square, daddio!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Our revels now are ended.

I just got invited to go and see Simon Russell Beale as Prospero in an RSC production of the Tempest in the Barbican tonight, but I can't, as I have committed to driving down the M4 to Cardiff and the fambly. "In a unique partnership with Intel, the Royal Shakespeare Company will be using today’s most advanced technology in a bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s magical play, creating an unforgettable theatrical experience." Not that I am bitter you understand; more philosophical.

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tim Parry's Funeral

My post about his passing got more views than the normal drivel I write here, so - just in case it is of help to anyone - I got a call last night to say that Tim Parry's funeral will be at 3pm on Thursday 20 July, at Oxford Crematorium.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I popped into Brasileiro for the first time last night. It is a Brazilian butcher and grocery shop at the bottom of the road which has been open for quite a while but, for some reason I can't put my finger on, not patronised by me.

I was looking for eggs - which they didn't have - but came away with Torresmo, fried pork rinds.

It is actually something of an Aladdin's cave of unfamiliar and exotic food and ingredients.

I will be back.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tim Parry

I just heard that Tim Parry - who was in school with me - died of throat cancer. Very sad news.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Post Hollow; a Hatful

After the fantastic excitement of the 3rd Test comes some more very exciting news as the Mighty Ruts are chosen as the only English Club recipients of some fantastic Lions branded training kit actually used by those very Lions courtesy of Rhino Rugby!
Well I never. The rise and rise of the Ruts.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies Online Course

Princeton University produced a great online course on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies ....... in case you were looking for one.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


The Lions drew 15 all with the All Blacks this morning to square the series.

I watched it in the Holden with Ben and other friends.

The aftermath seems strangely hollow and ambiguous.
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass

Friday, July 07, 2017

The world's funniest and most topical joke now that Wimbledon is on.

Never get romantically involved with tennis players; love means nothing to them.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

You'll never walk a loan

Chelsea hand three-year contract to teenage forward Callum Hudson Odoi amid interest from Juventus

  • Callum Hudson Odoi has signed a new, three-year contract with Chelsea
  • The 16-year-old impressed for England Under 17s at European Championship
  • He has been the subject of interest from both Juventus and Benfica

I think he should go on loan to Cardiff City, not Bristol or QPR. Joking aside it is a wonderful achievement for him.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Bitcoin Wallet

I know have a Bitcoin wallet, courtesy of I can access it via the web or from an Android app on my phone.

It has got 0.01217081 BTC in it, which is £24.25 at the moment I think.

All I have to do now, is to figure out something I can do with it.

Update: Try

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


In COMMITTEE... (A NEW MUSICAL), the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall's Relationship with Kids Company at the Donmar - make of that what you may - Paul Flynn MP is played by Anthony O'Donnell.

Flynn and O'Donnell both went to school at St Illtyd's; just like me and my brothers.

Still doesn't make the alma mater Eton, or Tony O'Donnell Eddie Redmayne ..... read on.

Monday, July 03, 2017


Rosslyn Park put on a 7s tournament on their 4G pitch yesterday, which the Old Ruts won. It was a great idea to have an event like this even though the season is over as U16s missed so much rugby while sitting their GCSEs. The photo of Ben in action above is from a set someone took and shared here.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Whitchurch High School Old Boys

Tour de France 2017: Geraint Thomas wins stage one to earn yellow jersey
In a soaking chill reminiscent of a summer evening in his valleys of his native land, Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to wear the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, finishing five seconds ahead of the young Swiss Stefan Küng at the end of the 14 kilometres.
To think that this happened on the same day that his old school mate Sam Warburton captained the Lions to a win over the All Blacks, and that the two of them were at Whitchurch with one Gareth Bale. It is absolutely astounding.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The master of Rawlinson End was apt to be very... sporting and unpredictable

I was very pleased to see the Lions edge the All Blacks this morning from my vantage point in the Charles Holden.

Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is being run at 17.20 this afternoon. That is going to clash with coverage of Mayo v Derry in the hurling at MacHale Park at 5pm on RTE. Between them those events should drag a few people into the Standard this afternoon where the Bomber and I will be holding the fort on our lonesome.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bitcoin ATMs in London


Fancy that! I had no idea such things existed. That said there aren't any really local to me. Maybe I will check one out next time I am in Leicester Square or if the Burglar's proposed visit to the UK's only Burger Singh outlet in Victoria comes off.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


John McEnroe is in conversation with John Inverdale at Wimbledon Bookfest one-off event tonight. It will be his only UK appearance to promote his new book. It originally sold out in about eight minutes. It really is quite astounding that we have access to technology that can support such a feat.

The festival proper is in October. This year's festival line was released today and is now on sale to BookFest Friends. General sales will open on Thursday 13 July.

You can see it on It all went a lot more smoothly than 2016. That is for sure.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I am run ragged today hence the briefest of posts.

ERDINGER Weißbräu – a private German brewery since 1886 – is bringing the Oktoberfest event to London this October 5th – 22nd, 2017!

Welcome to the Cardiff Oktoberfest! Cardiff Oktoberfest will be on Roald Dahl Plass just in the middle of the city. 14th - 19th of September.

Only in Wales could Oktoberfest be in September. It is like getting your retaliation in first on the rugby pitch.

If I can't decide between Cardiff and London, I may need to go to both.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Buying the support of 10 MPs for a billion pounds works out at £100,000,000 per MP and vote.

In a related development, and after listening to his performance on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, if Michael Fallon - Secretary of State for Defence - me and a cow pat ever find ourselves in close proximity, things are going to get messy.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How low can you go?

Building a bass guitar is a great way to spend a day. Who knew?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Penalty Charge Notice

I have got a penalty charge notice from the Council.

50R - Performing a prohibited turn (No right turn for vehicular traffic)
Location: MTC- Kingston Road (No right turn into Morden Road) Time: 08:00

I will have to pay up. My own Google Maps Timeline has got me bang to rights. That is the same Google Maps I was tracking my brother with as he made his way up the M4 to London for the weekend yesterday. The location sharing feature was the culprit there.

Is this the death of privacy?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tall stories

Here are Ben and Jonnie graduating from Rutlish yesterday now that their GCSEs are finished. Considering Ben is a pretty solid six feet three inches I wonder how tall that makes Jonnie. Equivalent photos from primary school and first day in secondary school below.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What have you got to hide?

Centrica, the company which operates British Gas in the UK, has launched a new member of the Hive Connected Home family: the Hive Camera. The Hive Camera will let me watch what’s going on in your home over a 24/7 high-definition livestream.

I can view the footage using a dedicated mobile app, which can also be used to record all movement while logging the time and date.

The camera contains a sensor that tracks motion and audio detection, and is capable of night-vision recording. I can zoom in remotely, and even trigger sounds like a police siren, a dog bark, or a ringing alarm. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Better still, there’s two-way audio functionality, which means that I can listen to everything you say, as well as speaking through the camera to correct you when you get things wrong.

We can pick up the new Hive Camera for £129 in the UK, but it doesn’t go on sale until June 29, 2017. Perhaps I can get a bulk discount if I buy one for every room.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Welcome to my world. Won't you come on in?

A guy who lives about five minutes away from my mum and dad in Cardiff has driven a van into a crowd of pedestrians by the Finsbury Park mosque that I have walked past whenever I've been to see the Arsenal at the Emirates stadium.

It shouldn't make it seem more real, but it does.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Boxing Clever

I was very happy to see that Andre Ward stopped Sergey Kovalev with a masterful performance in their light-heavyweight rematch this weekend to take him to 32 wins from 32 in his career; surely now he is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

I tagged Ward as the coming man (see Icons passim) all those years ago around Fathers' Day 2008, and I resent Kovalev, as he took local boy Nathan Cleverly's WBO light heavyweight championship belt from him in Cardiff back in 2013 (Icons passim).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father’s Song

An unreleased Prince track is available to listen to ahead of its appearance on the forthcoming Purple Rain reissue, and rather appropriate for today.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gaelic football

Andy "tea merchant" has pointed out that I have neglected Gaelic football in my estimation of the Irish-sports-spectator-load at the Standard of a weekend.

Sky Sports fill in the blanks for today and tomorrow:
Another feast of GAA action is just around the corner with places in the provincial finals up for grabs - we look ahead to some of the talking points going into this weekend's action.
In Leinster, Offaly and Westmeath will do it all again after their draw last weekend with the Dubs lying in wait for the winners.
The opening round of All-Ireland qualifiers gets underway with Wicklow at home to Laois, Louth taking on Longford, Sligo hosting Antrim and Derry making the trip to Dungarvan to face Waterford.
Roscommon go head to head with Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final , Tyrone will do battle with Donegal while our live Sky Sports game will be from Tullamore on Saturday night when Meath and Kildare target the Leinster final.
Frankly I am none the wiser.

Friday, June 16, 2017

In one era, out the other

“On with the dance! let joy be unconfin'd;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the Glowing Hours with Flying feet.”
Which is a roundabout way of saying Ben has finished his GCSEs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


I was arguing with the Burglar about blockchain yesterday. A blockchain – originally block chain – is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. It is the foundation upon which cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are established.

When Paul and I start bickering about something obscure it usually means that the zeitgeist is signalling that it is about to become important and prominent.

The other thing the argument demonstrated is that neither of us understands it very well.

That needs to change.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Someone has put together a 'Dan Fish Tribute - 2017' video on YouTube. What a pity he's been injured for the last few months. Surely with Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams away with the Lions and Welsh full backs (Phil Dollman, Rhun Williams) dropping like flies he would have had a great chance of a cap this Friday against Tonga if he had been fit.

Monday, June 12, 2017


THe score in the Leinster semi-final was Wexford 1-20 Kilkenny 3-11. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that there are four numbers in the score rather than two. Here is what Wikipedia says:
Scoring is achieved by sending the sliotar (ball) between the opposition's goal posts. The posts, which are at each end of the field, are "H" posts as in rugby football but with a net under the crossbar as in football. The posts are 6.4 m apart and the crossbar is 2.44 m above the ground.
If the ball goes over the crossbar, a point is scored and a white flag is raised by an umpire. If the ball goes below the crossbar, a goal, worth three points, is scored, and a green flag is raised by an umpire. A goal must be scored by either a striking motion or by directly soloing the ball into the net. The goal is guarded by a goalkeeper. Scores are recorded in the format {goal total} – {point total}. For example, the 1997 All-Ireland final finished: Clare 0–20 Tipperary 2–13. Thus Clare won by "twenty points to nineteen" (20 to 19). 2–0 would be referred to as "two goals", never "two zero". 0–0 is said "no score".
This Wexford won 23-19. All clear?

In other news - if you can call it news - the Republic Ireland drew one all with Austria and Serbia drew one all with Wales, leaving the top four places in the World Cup Qualifying Group D completely unchanged.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Irish Sport on the Telly today

Racing from the Curragh 1.45pm - 5:45 - At The Races

Ulster SFC quarter-final
Cavan v Monaghan, Breffni Park, 2pm – RTE

Connacht SFC semi-final
Galway v Mayo, Pearse Stadium, 4pm – RTE

FIFA World Cup European Qualifying - Group D
Republic of Ireland v Austria 5pm - Sky Sports 1 HD

Then for me:
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying - Group D
Serbia v Wales 7:45pm - Sky Sports 1 HD (19:15)

Bacon rolls all round.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


If you drive you can take the 8am Bikram class at Wimbledon Hot Yoga and still get back to the Charles Holden for the last quarter of the Lions game.

It won't do for the tests obviously, which have to be taken in in their entirety, but it worked for me this morning and should fit the bill next Saturday as well.

Friday, June 09, 2017

At the races

A channel called At The Races always seems to be on in the Standard, so I guess I need to start paying attention to the schedule while we are catering.

On Saturday, Raceday Live runs from 1:15pm to 9:15 and consists of afternoon action from Greyville and a twilight meeting from the Curragh, followed by action from Stratford and Chepstow.

On Sunday, racing from the Curragh is the afternoon's feature.

I have heard of Stratford and Chepstow as they are in England and Wales respectively, and it turns out that Greyville Racecourse is a Thoroughbred race track in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, while the Curragh Racecourse, usually referred to as simply The Curragh, is Ireland's most important Thoroughbred racecourse (situated on the Curragh plain in County Kildare, between the towns of Newbridge and Kildare).

All grist to the mill along with my research into the weekend's team sports; forewarned is forearmed.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

No Matter Who You Vote For The Government Always Gets In

Put my usual tick in the box for Siobhain McDonagh (Labour) on the way into work today.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This weekend

Saturday June 10


World Cup Euro Qual - Group F
Scotland v England, 5pm - Sky Sports


Munster SFC semi-final
Cork v Tipperary, Pairc Ui Rinn, 5pm - RTE

Leinster SHC semi-final
Wexford v Kilkenny, Wexford Park, 7pm – Sky Sports


Summer Tour
Argentina v England, 8:15pm - BBC 2

I ought to be able to knock a burger or two out over the late afternoon and early evening in a sports mad Irish pub full of TV screens in London this Saturday I would have thought.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


In the USA the public is advised to RUN, HIDE, and FIGHT. Fight - as a last resort - if your life is at risk.

In the UK, we are advised to RUN, HIDE and TELL in an incident like the London Bridge attack.

I've embedded the official videos above. I think the American idea is better.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Hilarity ensues

If I'm not as talented as Viv Stanshall does that mean I'm sub-Stanshall?

It is a joke you see. Sub-Stanshall is a homonym of substantial. I made it up myself.

Prodnose: Are you the front end of an ass?

Myself: No.

Prodnose: Are you the back end of an ass?

Myself: I'm not.

Prodnose: Then you are no end of an ass.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Possibly, an armchair like me.

I am back from Cardiff. As ever, Lord Vivian of Stanshall has provided a soundtrack that fits.

Growing up to be like dad,
 death defying times ahead,
 retelling stories old
  of times when dad was older/younger.

Now he sits and has every comfort,
and sits with a washable cover.
Yet it niggles him that his life has gone by.

So he says to his son:
 I don't want to think,
 I'm not paid to think,
 I've retired you see ........

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Local boy made god

Kyle Sinckler (Icons passim) starts for the Lions this morning. Hats off to him, especially as he is a rare modern honorary international rugby representative of the League of Short-Arses (Founder and President - me).

Friday, June 02, 2017

Going in and out of style

Amid all the fuss about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the 1978 movie featuring The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton seems to have been forgotten. Press play above if you want to know why David Ansen of Newsweek dismissed it as "a film with a dangerous resemblance to wallpaper."

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Over Sharing

There is a newish location sharing feature in Google Maps. I am going to Cardiff this weekend, so I have configured it to run until about noon on Sunday. I tried to enable all my siblings for it, but only John and Vince seem to have Google accounts that let me do so without extra jiggery pokery. It might be handy for them to get an idea of what time I'll arrive, or where I am when I pop out on errands for ma and pa.

I set it up for Paul as well so I could look over his shoulder what this sharing actually means in practice. To my astonishment he was able to work out from it (while sitting in his office) that I had stopped at an ATM when I popped home at lunchtime.

This could take emotionally abusive relationships to a whole new level. Imagine what Jake LaMotta could have done with such a tool in Raging Bull.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't mock

I am one of the few earthlings not allowed to take the Mickey out of President Trump's epic fail in attempting to type coverage.

I have been known to sign off emails as Mock Browne rather than Nick Browne by hitting one key to the right of my target for the first two letters of my name.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

All Ireland

I was pleased to read that hurling is on until September. It is relevant to "dealing them off the arm"* of a weekend in a pub full of Irish folk.

Herewith the fixture list

* Dream Street Rose: Damon Runyon.

Monday, May 29, 2017


The British and Irish Lions squad depart for New Zealand this afternoon for their 10-match tour.

I hope they aren't flying on British Airways; flight chaos lessens after weekend of disruption.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

And there's more

Google systems based on neural networks can adjust their behaviour to improve, learn and evolve. For example, a voice recognition system could give different results depending on the person using it, for example by using their search history to help understand what the user has said. Ultimately it all comes down to reducing conversion errors, and probability plays a big role in this.
How Google Retooled Android With Help From Your Brain
WHEN GOOGLE BUILT the latest version of its Android mobile operating system, the web giant made some big changes to the way the OS interprets your voice commands. It installed a voice recognition system based on what’s called a neural network — a computerized learning system that behaves much like the human brain.
For many users, says Vincent Vanhoucke, a Google research scientist who helped steer the effort, the results were dramatic. “It kind of came as a surprise that we could do so much better by just changing the model,” he says.
Vincent Vanhoucke
Vincent Vanhoucke is a Principal Scientist at Google. He is a technical lead in the Google Brain Team and manages Google's Robotics Research effort. Prior to that, he lead Brain's vision and perception research, and the speech recognition quality team for Google Search by Voice. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a Diplôme d'Ingénieur from the Ecole Centrale Paris.
Google owns Blogger, so I guess the Google Search by Voice network will now be aware that I am researching it. How's that for recursion.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Koo What a Scorcher

Myself: Alexa, what’s the temperature in the house?
Alexa: Inside it's twenty three point eight.
Well, that's new.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Machine Learning

Last weekend - regarding preparation for doling out burgers and hot dogs by the score in the Standard - I attempted to dictate the SMS message "I cooked a lot of onions last night" on my Android phone.

It was rendered as "I cooked a lot of onions Husserl" which struck me as rather odd. Then again, I had been reading a lot online - in Google's Chrome browser - about Edmund Husserl, the German philosopher who established the school of phenomenology.

I googled Callum quite a lot in the run up to the FA Youth Cup and the EUFA U17 tournament, and I also remember Google's speech recognition engine rendering his name for some completely unrelated utterance.

It is gradually dawning on me that Google must be drawing on all the knowledge it has of me to fine tune its speech recognition. I remember being impressed that it got Bronwydd Avenue right, but now I think it may have steered itself from my address book.

I am not sure I approve.

"Do no evil" Google is also suggesting articles to me because I "have shown interest in Katie Hopkins," a car-crash of an attention-craving loon even by the exalted standards of the Daily Mail. Please note, appalled fascination is not the same thing as interest. 

Whether I am concerned enough to devote any time to the study of Long Short-Term Memory Based Recurrent Neural Network Architectures for Large Vocabulary Speech Recognition remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Things moving quickly

Amazon has added more than 40 TV channels to its UK streaming service, including ITV and live sport for the first time. If the U17 EUFA Cup Final had been on this Friday rather than last Friday I could have just watched it on Eurosport on my Fire TV stick rather than going through all the aggravation of connecting my laptop to the television.

Speaking of Ben, Jonnie and Callum, here is an old Muay Thai photo I found. Callum is front row left, Jonnie is second row left and Ben is second row right. It seems like last week to me, but when I consider that Jonnie is now six feet five and Ben is six feet three tall I guess it can't be.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

woe to the person through whom they come

Matthew 18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Fairly clearly according the New Testament, you are supposed to cherish and care for children and not to massacre them with bombs. What a day, what a world.

Monday, May 22, 2017


We have got our first Amazon Alexa app in development/testing. It pulls management information out of our SQL Server DBMS.

Amazon has announced that a ‘Notifications for Alexa' feature is coming soon. That could fit very well with us extending the app so it tells us when we have any systems problems.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Épater la bourgeoisie, butty boy!

The Turned-On Biennale: An Orgy of Liberal Sex and Liberal Guilt Greets Visitors in Venice
The world in 2017 is a frightening and chaotic place: why not relieve your anxiety with some casual masturbation or perhaps some good old-fashioned sex? As a corollary to the heavy menu of post-colonial guilt, migration-related tub-thumping and an abstract, queasy panic induced by global capitalism, this year’s Venice Biennale is letting off steam with an abundance of carnal knowledge. From pagan fertility rituals to extreme genital modification: it’s all here for the taking.
Showing as part of James Richards’s exhibition for the Welsh pavilion, the film What Weakens the Flesh Is the Flesh Itself (a collaboration with Steve Reinke) explores the body as a work of art in itself. Besides a lingering tour through snapshots of cheerful young men hanging out at a festival, and footage from an erotic photo-shoot heavy on the squashed fruit, the film draws extensively on the private photographic archive of Albrecht Becker.
An actor and photographer arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality by the Nazis, Becker became obsessed with representation and modification of the body. Gradually the images shown of this mild-looking elderly man in his V-necked sweaters become more unconventional, revealing a body entirely covered in homemade tattoos and piercings. Fairly close to the top of Venice’s wince list this year comes Becker’s modified and elephantine groin, so swollen that the penis prods out like a little mushroom cap. From a bolt through his glans, he lifts great metal chains.
The Welsh Pavilion; nice. At last I see the value of devolution to the Principality. Couldn't be prouder.
Cardiff-born Richards’ interest lies in the possibility of the private amidst the public chaos of quotidian media. His work makes use of an ever-growing bank of material that includes fragments of cinema, works by other artists, stray camcorder footage, murky late night TV, film soundtracks and archival research.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spain U17 2-2 England U17 (4-1 on pens)

Heartbreak as Young Lions miss out on European U17 Championship title on pens after injury-time equaliser

  • Callum Hudson-Odoi continued his fine form to open scoring for Young Lions
  • Chelsea starlet had previously scored in semi-final to help England beat Turkey
  • Exciting Barcelona full-back Mateu Morey then levelled after wonderful move
  • Phil Foden put England back in front in second half with strike from outside box
  • In sixth minute of injury time, sub Nacho Diaz headed a last-gasp equaliser
  • Match went to penalties, where Spain secured a 4-1 spot-kick victory in Croatia
Heartbreak indeed. Jonnie, Ben and Alex came to my house to watch the game. I it was just like when they were in primary school and those three plus Callum (or a subset thereof) seemed to be round all the time.

Anyway, here's Callum's goal. Also, I was surprised to read on the FA website that he still has to take his GCSEs even though he is away at the tournament.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Not a problem

For the last couple of months, every once in a while my boiler (and the heating) has stayed on after the Hive Heating schedule says it should have gone off.

What I have got used to doing is physically switching the boiler off for a couple of hours as this generally cleared the problem, and half filing it away in my head as a software problem.

It happened yesterday morning as I was waiting at home for the British Gas to turn up and give the boiler its annual maintenance check up. He investigated and found it was caused by a valve sticking. The valve was replaced and all is well.

I never tire in work of berating people for assuming that any and all problems relate to IT and warning them to entertain the possibility that the issue at hand may be more prosaic.

Hoist by my own petard.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And there's more

That is Callum's goal from the semi above, as England move into the final of the EUFA U17 Championship against Spain at 7pm on Friday. That is going to be worth a one day £5.99 Eurosport pass investment methinks (

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not the Sitcom

Due to incredible demand, David Baddiel’s rollicking comedy My Family: Not the Sitcom transfers to the Playhouse Theatre, following two successful stints at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Vaudeville Theatre last year. Packed with family anecdotes and brutally honest humour, the production runs for a limited season, opening March 2017.
My Family: Not the Sitcom is Baddiel’s hilarious comedy, detailing stories of his late mother Sarah and his dementia-ridden father Colin. Both riotous and thought-provoking, the show covers topics such as memory, ageing .......
I'm going to see it on Thursday. Fancy that. Maybe I will watch as well.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Amazon Echo Silver

It is an SNL sketch, but to me it looks more like a documentary.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Answers on a postcard

I forgot to eat anything yesterday. Because or despite the fact I was barbecue grilling from 3pm to 8?

All very mysterious and psychologically intriguing.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Hot Welsh

Having done my Bikram duty from 8 until 9:30 this morning I found myself wondering if I might be able to get my hot yoga fix on weekends I am down in Cardiff visiting Mum and Dad.

It turns out that - according to Google - there are two options Elite Fitness and Serenyoga.

I think I will try the 10am Saturday class at Elite a try next time I am back on June 3. The £7.50 price is the same as I generally pay for a day pass at Lifestyle Fitness, where my father was a member and maybe still is, anyway.

Friday, May 12, 2017

In which I am supporting England!

England maintained their 100 per cent record in the UEFA U17 European Championship to set up a quarter-final tie against the Republic of Ireland.
Jadon Sancho’s double and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s late strike in Zapresic ensured the Young Lions finished top of Group D ahead of opponents.
After two wins from their opening two games, coach Steve Cooper named the same starting line-up for the third successive match, but apart from Rhian Brewster almost benefiting from a Jasper Schendelaar slip in the Dutch goal early on, it was a tepid start from England.
However, they soon got into their stride and crafted an opening goal in the 23rd minute. Phil Foden set Hudson-Odoi free down the right and he played a neat pass across the face of goal for Sancho to tap in from two yards out
And Hudson-Odoi got in on the act with a deserved goal in the final minute of normal time when he was on the receiving end of substitute Emile Smith-Rowe’s clever pass from the right to smash in a low drive from six yards.
Steve Cooper’s side’s record of three wins from three in the group stages was only matched by Germany.
All looking good for Callum. Centre stage for two of the three goals while the other was a penalty. Other local interest is that the keeper Josef Bursik, who has conceded just one goal in three group matches, is from AFC Wimbledon.

The quarter final is at eleven o'clock tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


As of this morning I am using MightyText to manage SMS from my PC.

Fascinating eh?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Dan Fish has been out injured since he tore a hamstring last September. That must be hard when, with Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny both with the Lions, he should have been in with a good chance of making the Wales squad for the summer tour.

As it is, one time rival (Icons passim) Matthew Morgan has been overlooked, but fellow Blues player nineteen year old Rhun Williams has been named in the Welsh squad for their two-test tour this summer. He is the only specialist 15 that I recognise in the selection. Suddenly twenty six seems old.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Monday, May 08, 2017

Concerning the Élysée Palace

Please file away (in the draw marked "things I have heard enough of to last me the rest of my life") the fact that the new French President's wife is 24 years his senior, along with the fascinating information that Theresa May (like not a few women) is rather fond of shoes and has several pairs.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Hope, Tragedy, Myths

I went to the Russian Revolution exhibition at the British Library yesterday. Reflecting on the printed captions under many of the items on display describing the country as backwards at the end of the nineteenth century, I found myself wondering if there is something about the British English that makes it impossible to write about Russians without patronising them. Between about 1860 and the 1900 you couldn't have thrown a rock there without a good chance of hitting a literary genius. Also the emancipation of the serfs was pretty much contemporaneous with the freeing of the slaves in the good ole USA.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Boxing, Family and Politics

Sadiq Khan's brother is the head coach at Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club, not too far away. I am genuinely impressed.

Friday, May 05, 2017

"Alexa, open Arsenal."

We've become the first Premier League club to launch an Amazon Alexa skill that allows fans to stream live matches.

Get the most out of every match day with Arsenal FC’s official skill. With full support for pre-match build-up, live commentary and post-match analysis you can keep up to date with all the action.

To get started, simply say "Alexa, open Arsenal."

Options include:

Pre Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match preview.” - receive an overview of the upcoming match.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal who’s injured?” - find out who is injured.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the team lineup.” - available approximately one hour before kick-off.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the pre-match build up.” - listen to the official pre-match commentary, available around 30 minutes before kick-off.

During Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the live commentary.” - listen to the official match commentary, available during a game.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match summary.” - find out the score, bookings, injuries and substitutions.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the score.” - learn how we’re getting on in-play.

Post Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the post match analysis.” - listen to the official post-match commentary, available for around 30 minutes after the final whistle.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match report.” - hear the official Arsenal opinion of the game.

Surely Wenger's job must be safe now for next season.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Pay attention, you at the back

Ok, let's start trying to get this straight in our heads.

Jean-Claude Juncker is from Luxembourg. He is the President of the European Commission.

The President of the European Commission is the head of the European Commission (the civil service of the executive branch of the European Union, the function of which is to apply and enforce the Treaties). The President of the Commission is responsible for allocating portfolios to members of the Commission and can reshuffle or dismiss them if needed. They determine the Commission's policy agenda and all the legislative proposals it produces (the Commission is the only body that can propose EU laws).

Donald Tusk is from Poland. He is the President of the European Council.

The President of the European Council is a principal representative of the European Union (EU) on the world stage, and the person presiding over and driving forward the work of the European Council. This institution comprises the college of heads of state or government of EU member states as well as the President of the European Commission, and provides political direction to the European Union (EU).

Is that clear? In the run up to Brexit discussions, the distinctions and partitions of responsibility remind me irresistibly of:
Miles Massey: Baron von Espy, what is your profession?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: [in outrageous French accent] Silly man. I am a baron.
Miles Massey: Yes, but do you not also hold a day job? Paying job. A, uh, a square job.
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: Well, one has to live. I am the concierge of Les Pantalons Rouges at Bad-Gadesbourg in the canton of Uri.
Miles Massey: And what does that job entail?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: I satisfy such requests as the clientele may present.
Miles Massey: Towels, ice, et cetera?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: We have bellmen for that. No, no, no. Such requests that, were you at home, you would address not to your valet but to your majordomo.
Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment by Yanis Varoufakis is likely to be essential reading over the next weeks and months.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


I am due to start reading Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness by Joe Moran today.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a review. I am likely to be too unassuming to tell you what I think of it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Met Gala 2017: The Best-Dressed

All equally well dressed in my opinion. I don't really have a favourite. Perhaps I really do need an Echo Look after all.

Monday, May 01, 2017

It's that time of year again

John, I think this should be set as an unofficial deadline for us to finish building your bass.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stannah Curve Starla

Point of order: we are thinking about it for my mum, not for me.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Echo Look

Introducing Echo Look—everything you love about Alexa, and now she can help you look your bestUsing just your voice, easily take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera that includes built-in LED lighting, depth-sensing camera, and computer vision-based background blurSee yourself from every angle with the companion app. Build a personal lookbook and share your photos.Get a second opinion on which outfit looks best with Style Check, a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialistsEcho Look helps you discover new brands and styles inspired by your lookbook
At last, an Echo product I don't feel the slightest inclination to buy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Nobody knows

We think we know more than our ancestors, but as individuals we know less. We rely on the expertise of others, comforting ourselves with an illusion of knowledge... more »

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Singlegate alumnus

Above is the absolute screamer of a goal that Callum contributed to Chelsea's FA Youth Cup win last night. Observe that after he scores he pulls his socks up and makes the sign of the cross. What a testament to the ethos instilled at Singlegate primary school.

Exactly 10 years ago (Icons passim) I was picking him up to take him to Muay Thai with Ben and Jonnie. I remember the night well as my son and heir split his chin open in the Hendries' garden as I was assembling the troops so I had to cancel martial arts and take him to A&E at St. George's instead.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Hogarth Express

The average journey time between London Waterloo and Richmond is 32 minutes. The fastest journey time is 16 minutes. On an average weekday, there are 300 trains per day travelling from London Waterloo to Richmond. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays.
There was a piece in the Grauniard this week about Virginia and Leonard Woolf founding the Hogarth Press at a house in Richmond in 1917. We used to have an office a couple of doors down from Hogarth House. It is a short walk from the train station. That's probably why the scene above from The Hours always makes me cry with laughter. Virginia goes crazy missing London and missing life when she is, in truth, only about half an hour from Waterloo.

(Oh, hello. I have written about this before. Still, it never gets old.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

statute of limitations

We only came second in the Antelope quiz last night, after winning it the week before, and were thus confined to a £25 as opposed to £50 bar tab prize.

Luckily I had found a winning voucher from January 2015 so we supped for free.

I reckon I've been going to the Antelope on Mondays for five years now. I am pretty sure that the first time I turned up was the 2012 May Bank Holiday just after getting back from the Brean Sands rugby tour with Ben.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Alexa, when does Coffee in the Wood open?

If you add your address to an Echo speaker it can bring up local information. This is the app "card" I got after asking about a nearby coffee shop.

Alex herself told me it was open and would close at five.

Pretty impressive.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Memory Play

I didn't make the gym, brunch or the beef festival yesterday, but we did get to the Glass Menagerie.

The production's official trailer is above to prompt my memory at some time in the future.
Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Time is the longest distance between two places

My brother John is up this weekend so I am queuing this post up on Friday as the schedule is busy (see Icons passim).

We are due to have been at the Old Ruts Cheese and wine evening last night.

This morning, as this post lands, I plan to have nipped out early to the gym to get half an hour's cardio in, but - of course - that might not happen.

I am recommending Tooting for brunch. Tota ( opens at 9 am. There are also various Indian and Sri Lankan options that open a bit later.

We are going to see The Glass Menagerie at a 2:30 afternoon matinee in the Duke of York's theatre; forty odd minutes up the Northern Line to Charing Cross and then a three minute walk.

There is a Beer and Cider festival at the Sultan (a pub local to my house) this weekend so we may well come back and show our noses there afterwards.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bordering on the absurd

Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to North Korea border

Until I read the headline above I had not the slightest idea that Russia had a border with North Korea. Remember that next time I start boring you to death with my geopolitical insights.

Herewith the North Korea–Russia border skinny courtesy of Wikipedia. "There is one crossing on the North Korea–Russia border: the Friendship Bridge over the Tumen River". My italics.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Sinckler for detail

I watched the England Italy six nations game in the Royal Standard back in February. Due to general mystification and heated debate sparked by Italy's no-ruck tactic, everyone in the bar was talking to each other and when Kyle Sinckler came off the bench latish in the game, a Scouse bloke told us that he had been his first coach just up the road at Battersea Ironsides.

Apparently his mum brought him along (in a full Manchester United kit) thinking rugby might be more to his taste after getting complaints that - while keen on soccer - his playing style was a touch robust for the code.

He also went to school at Graveney, which is about a mile from my house, and is mentored at the Harlequins by Adam Jones.

I was delighted to see him make the New Zealand tour as a shock Lions selection yesterday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You're joking - not another one!

I agree with Brenda from Bristol.

British prime ministers used to be free to hold a general election whenever they felt like it - but new laws passed by David Cameron's coalition changed that.

Under the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act, a general election is supposed to take place every five years on the first Thursday in May. As the most recent general election was in 2015, the next one was scheduled for May 2020.

But an election can be called ahead of schedule for two reasons - if there is a vote of no confidence in the current government, or if MPs vote for an early election by a two thirds majority.

Theresa May has chosen the second option, which would require MPs from her political party - the Conservatives - and also some MPs from opposition party Labour to vote in favour of having the election earlier than that, in this case 8 June, 2017.

Wouldn't it be great if she couldn't get two thirds of MPs votes and the government was forced to table a motion of no confidence in itself?

When will the election after next be? June 2022 or May 2020 or May 2022? Who knows? Who cares?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not with a bang but a whimper.

North Korea Successfully Detonates Nuclear Scientist
PYONGYANG—Hailing it as a significant step forward for their ballistic weapons program just hours after suffering a failed missile launch, North Korean leaders announced Monday they had successfully detonated a nuclear scientist. “It was with great satisfaction this morning that I witnessed the detonation of a 156-pound nuclear scientist,” Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un said in a recorded statement, which appears to corroborate U.S. intelligence reports that a 0.7-magnitude tremor and large explosion had been detected at a bunker outside the city of Kusong at 9:42 a.m. local time, marking the nation’s first detonation of a major scientist since the days following a catastrophic rocket malfunction in 2012. “With this glorious achievement, our laboratories have begun to move much faster toward completing our goal of building an indomitable nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating all cowardly Western aggressors. We are prepared to detonate multiple scientists every month as a demonstration of our might and determination.” Intelligence analysts have reportedly warned top American officials to take Kim at his word, noting that the North Korean regime has already built up a stockpile of nuclear scientists’ family members it is prepared to detonate at a moment’s notice.
The Onion nails it again.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Brother Bru-Bru

Bruce Langhorne, who has died aged 78, was a guitarist, percussionist, acclaimed composer of film scores, and creator of what many consider to be the world’s finest chili sauce; he also spent five years as a macadamia nut farmer in Hawaii.

Bob Dylan was inspired to write the 1965 song Mr Tambourine Man after he saw Langhorne at a party playing a Turkish tambourine close to a metre in diameter.

Langhorne collaborated with figures such as Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte, but his most significant musical association was with Dylan: their collaboration began on the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and continued for a decade.

He played guitar on many of the singer’s greatest recordings, notably on every track on the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, including Mr Tambourine Man. He played the guitar on Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and percussion on Like a Rolling Stone.

“If you had Bruce playing with you,” Dylan wrote in his 2004 memoir, Chronicles, “that’s all you would need to do just about anything.”

Langhorne’s virtuosity as a guitarist was especially remarkable given that the thumb, index and middle fingers of his right hand were reduced to short stumps – the legacy of a ballistics experiment he had conducted at the age of 12 to test how much powdered magnesium might safely be included in a home-made mix of rocket propellant. On the morning of the explosion his mother Dorothy was downstairs in the kitchen, working on her own, less hazardous, recipes.

What a fascinating fella. I had never heard of him until I read this obituary today. Read the whole think yourself. I should pick up some of his hot sauce as a belated tribute.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The penultimate Trump

"The Last Trump" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the June 1955 issue of Fantastic Universe and reprinted in the 1957 collection Earth Is Room Enough. Although humorous, it deals inter alia with a serious subject, calendar reform.

Plot summary
By order of the Council of Ascendants and approved of by the Chief, it is decided that the Day of Resurrection is due on Earth, despite the protestations of Etheriel, a junior Seraph with responsibility for the world. Whilst he seeks an audience with the Chief to plead for a stay of execution for "his" planet, the Last Trump is sounded, and as of January 1, 1957, time comes to a stop on Earth.

A mysterious figure known only as R. E. Mann (a pun on Ahriman, the Persian name for Satan) makes his way across the world, seeing what has happened in the Hereafter and pleased with it. All the dead are coming back to life, naked and uncaring. He meets a former professor of history who observes that the people have indeed been judged and are not in heaven but hell.

Etheriel has his meeting with the Chief and argues that the date January 1, 1957, unqualified, is meaningless and that therefore the Day of Resurrection is meaningless. The Chief agrees and declares that it will come only when all the peoples of the Earth agree on a common date (which, given the wide variety of cultures on Earth, is extremely unlikely to ever occur). The world is instantly restored to normality.

R. E. Mann, frustrated in his endeavours, plans to promote the adoption of a new calendar system, based on the Atomic Era, to begin on December 2, 1944.
So now you know.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:52

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Prodnose: Is Donald Trump 'the Last Trump' Before Jesus Christ's Return?

Myself: In Christian eschatology the rapture refers to the predicted end time event when all Christian believers—living and resurrected dead—will rise into the sky and join Christ for eternity. What we have at the moment is just Easter and a little local difficulty on the Korean peninsula.

Prodnose: Ah'm jes' sayin' is all.

Friday, April 14, 2017

gave good face

When I downloaded Adobe Acrobat Reader DC yesterday (I needed the latest version to fill in PDF forms), Intel True Key arrived as well.

I can now log on to my Microsoft Surface just by looking into the camera as True Key supports facial recognition authentication.

It may wither away as a gimmick but as of now it fills me with glee.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Take me back to dear old Blighty

Ben with his niece in Florida. He is due back home today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The King is Dead

RIP Tim Pigott-Smith. In 2014, I was lucky enough to see him starring in King Charles III at the Wyndham's Theatre in the West End as a post-accession Charles, Prince of Wales. He got a well deserved nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Actor, then a Tony Award nomination for its production on Broadway in 2015.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ocala! We'll do our best

Here, by the miracle of WhatsApp is a photo of Ben in Florida.

He seems cheerful enough.

They get back late tomorrow night.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The William Morris

I went to Hot Yoga Wimbledon at half past six this morning. The teacher was an American guy called Eugene Sabala who was new to me. Kevin, who has bought an unlimited annual pass, gave me a lift and dropped me off at the office after.

Thus, I found myself at a loose end lunchtime, with no need to go to the gym and no car to drive home after work. A rare opportunity (the first in years I think) for a cheeky lunchtime pint.

Even better when I got to The William Morris I found that they had Stella on tap. They certainly haven't had that on the odd and rare time I have poked my nose in there before.

Happy days.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Perfect Candidate

My horse, Perfect Candidate, pulled up before 27th in the Grand National.

I am an innocent abroad in the ways of the turf accountant. I was astounded that a £5 each way bet cost me a tenner, and when the woman in Ladbroke's asked me if I wanted the odds, I thought she was just checking if I wanted to know them. It turns out she was trying to find out if I wanted to strike then rather than the starting price.

All pretty academic as the pony didn't finish, but, like Damon Runyon, I long ago came to the conclusion that all life is 6 to 5 against.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Austin Powers

Yeah, and I can't believe Barry Manilow is gay. I mean, women love him! The guy performed in bathhouses as Bette Midler’s pianist. I didn't see that one coming.

Friday, April 07, 2017

After five years of war

DAMASCUS—During a meeting to review the body counts from his latest initiatives to retake rebel-held regions of the country, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad shared an extended laugh with his top military leaders on Thursday over the time in his life when he wanted to be a doctor and help people. “Oh man, can you even believe there was a period when I actually wanted to heal people, to help end their suffering?” said Assad, pausing the discussion of chemical weapons deployments to recall his youthful dream of providing lifesaving medical assistance to the sick and injured between gasps of laughter. “And it’s not like it was just a brief phase or something. I spent over a decade training. I even went to London for postgraduate study. God, there was even a point where I seriously considered working to help children. That’s so crazy.” After more than a minute spent clutching his abdomen in boisterous laughter, a beaming Assad reportedly emitted a few final chuckles, wiped away a tear of glee from the corner of his eye, and authorized sarin gas attacks on several villages outside the city of Hama.
Live US strikes on Syria: UK backs Donald Trump's missile assault as Russia condemns American 'aggression'

Thursday, April 06, 2017

swimming upstream

Myself: Alexa, how can I cook salmon?
Alexa: The recipe or ingredient I found for salmon is salmon.
In the end - Icons passim - I decided to order the new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote today rather than Google Home. The TV stick will go in the living room and the Echo will live in the kitchen, where it is surprisingly handy despite the ludicrous exchange above.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


Gareth the rugby gnome has been banished to his alcove in the garden until the autumn internationals and my Nerium oleander* pot plant has also been moved outside. I believe that this marks the official beginning of spring in Colliers Wood, even if it is a little late by some estimates.

* Nerium oleander is a highly toxic ornamental shrub widely cultivated in the Mediterranean. (It has been grown since ancient times and features in many of the Roman wall paintings in Pompeii.) Its effect on the central nervous system may show itself in symptoms such as drowsiness, tremors or shaking of the muscles, seizures, collapse, and - with a following wind - coma that can lead to death. Even my gardening style is a walk on the wild side. Come to think of it, my mother bought it for me as a birthday present. Is there a nuance or two I am missing here somewhere?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Brexit implications

Queen Elizabeth Frantically Trying To Preserve European Alliances By Arranging Great-Grandchildren’s Marriages

LONDON—After Prime Minister Theresa May initiated official proceedings for Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, sources confirmed Thursday that Queen Elizabeth II has been frantically trying to preserve the nation’s European alliances by arranging the marriages of her great-grandchildren. “With Britain departing the EU, our greatest chance at maintaining strong diplomatic and economic relations with other countries in the region is for Prince George and Princess Charlotte to marry the children of one of Europe’s other ruling families,” said the queen, who had reportedly just gotten off the phone with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands to discuss a possible match between 3-year-old Prince George and one of his three daughters. “I was hoping to cement Britain’s trade partnership with Luxembourg by betrothing Charlotte to Prince Sébastien, but the grand duke wouldn’t agree to the arrangement, and unfortunately, the King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden refused my offer of a spring wedding at Westminster Abbey between Princess Leonore and Prince George. If I offer control of Gibraltar and an earldom to the groom, I’m sure I can arrange for young Charlotte to marry one of Angela Merkel’s stepsons when she reaches marriageable age.” At press time, the queen was relieved to have at least secured a strong alliance with one European ally after she herself agreed to wed 14-year-old Prince Felix of Denmark.

Further afield, President Trump already has a grandchild with the dynastic moniker Donald III.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Catch Up

Thursday after Ben's cup final I went to see Sunny Afternoon, the Kinks musical, at the Wimbledon Theatre.

Friday I just went to the Standard after work as usual.

Saturday I went to the Sky Garden for the view.

Sunday I went to the Emirates to see Arsenal v Man City.

Not a bad life really I s'pose.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

End of an era

Saturday, April 01, 2017


Ben is going to the USA with Jane tomorrow to see Rayburn and family.

The roaming charges on his phone deal are here, I just checked.

When he was skiing in Italy data cost 3.9p per MB. In the USA it is £3.

On my phone, Google Maps has cached 198MB of data offline containing maps of the area around my home. That just shy of £600 worth at Three's USA rate.

The original plan was to use the Sat Nav on his phone to get to their apartment from Orlando. I will have to put the kibosh on that or I will be bankrupted.

It would be  cheaper to buy a brand new USA Garmin and bin it after a fortnight.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Faraway, So Close

After leading for most of the game, Rutlish U16 lost in the Surrey County Rugby Cup final yesterday after shipping a couple of tries towards the end of the game.

Tries for Jonny and Ben in their last game for the school, but I am sure they would have swapped individual notches on their belts for a team win.

The atmosphere was subdued when I popped my head in the changing room after the match.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I am Theodore Twombly

Windows 10 includes Cortana, a voice-activated personal assistant, not dissimilar to Amazon's Alexa. It doesn't work out of the box however, you have to enable it to respond to the "Hey Cortana" wake command like what I did below.

So now you know. Scarlett Johansson's Samantha (an intelligent computer operating system expressed as a female voice) was science fiction in the Spike Jonze movie 'Her' in as recently as 2013. Now in 2017 I talk to speakers (Alexa), my phone (OK Google) and my PC (Hey Cortana) and they Little-Britain-We-Are-Ladies back.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Perennial vegetable

We only came second in the quiz last night; a narrow defeat for which I was largely to blame, rashly contradicting Andy when he said that asparagus was a perennial vegetable like rhubarb.

It turns out that such perennials are parts of plants that are prepared and eaten as veg while the plants live on for next year rather than being completely harvested.

I was thinking of the word perennial as an adjective that means lasting a long time, and couldn't relate that to the fleeting six week asparagus season. More fool me, you may think.

Possibly not the greatest anecdote in history, but it is how things went down in the Sultan's fortnightly bun fight.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

April 6 Shopping List

Google Home speaker £129 April 6.

All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player £39.99 April 6.

Either, or, both?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Not Sanguine

The report went a little under the radar due to blanket coverage of last week's Westminster attack, but the Taliban have recaptured the crucial south Afghan district of Sangin.

456 British troops were killed in Afghanistan. Of those, around 114 died in the city of Sangin.

Back in 2010 when British forces in southern Afghanistan handed responsibility for security in Sangin to US forces, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister said:
Our troops have performed magnificently in Sangin and I pay tribute to the thousands who have served, to the over one hundred who have given their lives, to the many who have been wounded.
They did not die in vain. They made Afghanistan a safer place and they have made Britain a safer place and they will never be forgotten.
They did die in vain. They didn't make Afghanistan a safer place and they haven't made Britain a safer place, and they are being forgotten if the deafening silence around this latest development is anything to go by.

Sangin is considered the bloodiest battleground of Afghanistan by both the British and the Yanks. Both nations lost over 100 killed in action there along with several hundred moderate to severe casualties. Here is a dated list (US format) of the Americans who died there when they took over from us and after Cameron's boast of "huge achievements."

9/28/2010 Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri - USMC 1stMarDiv, HQBN, H&S, Combat Camera. Was an attachment to 3/7.

10/08/2010 LCpl John T. Sparks USMC 3/5

10/13/2010 PFC Victor A Dew USMC 3/5

10/13/2010 LCpl Joseph E Rodewald USMC 3/5

10/13/2010 LCpl Phillip D. Vinnedge USMC 3/5

10/13/2010 CPl Justin J. Cain USMC 3/5

10/14/2010 LCpl Irvin M. Ceniceros USMC 3/5

10/14/2010 LCpl Joseph C. Lopez USMC 3/5

10/14/2010 LCpl Alec E. Catherwood USMC 3/5

10/15/2010 LCpl James D. Boelk USMC 3/5

10/16/2010 Sgt Ian M. Tawney USMC 3/5

11/04/2010 LCpl Mathew J. Broehm USMC 3/5

11/04/2010 LCpl Brandon W. Pearson USMC 3/5

11/06/2010 LCpl Randy R. Braggs USMC 3/5

11/09/2010 1stLt Robert M. Kelly USMC 3/5

11/10/2010 LCpl James B. Stack USMC 3/5

11/24/2010 LCpl Ardenjoseph A. Buenagua USMC 3/5

11/25/2010 1stLt William J. Donnelly IV USMC 3/5

12/02/2010 Sgt Mathew T. Abbate USMC 3/5

12/06/2010 Cpl Derek A. Wyatt USMC 3/5

12/06/2010 PFC Colton W. Rusk USMC 3/5

12/07/2010 Sgt Jason D. Peto USMC 3/5

12/17/2010 LCpl Jose L. Maldonado USMC 3/5

12/24/2010 LCpl Kenneth A. Corzine USMC 3/5

12/28/2010 Cpl Tevan L. Nguyen USMC 3/5

01/20/2011 Sgt Jason G. Amores USMC 3/5

02/22/2011 Cpl. John Taylor USMC 2/8

04/24/2011 - LCpl Joe M. Jackson, USMC 1/5 (Alpha)

04/28/2011 - LCpl Ronald D. Freeman, USMC 1/5 (2nd Combat Engineers)

06/09/2011 - LCpl Nicholas S. O'Brien, USMC 1/5 (Bravo)

06/12/2011 - LCpl Sean M. N. O'Connor, USMC 1/5 (Alpha)

06/12/2011 - LCpl Joshua B. McDaniels, USMC 1/5 (2nd Combat Engineers)

06/21/2011 - Cpl Jared C. Verbeek, USMC 1/5 (Police Advisor Team One)

06/22/2011 - Cpl Gurpreet Singh, USMC 1/5 (Bravo)

06/26/2011 - LCpl John F. Farias, USMC 1/5 (Bravo)

06/26/2011 - GySgt Ralph E. Pate Jr. USMC 1/5 (EOD)

06/30/2011 - Sgt Chad D. Frokjer, USMC 1/5 (Alpha)

06/30/2011 - Cpl Kyle R. Schneider, USMC 2/8 (Echo)

07/10/2011 - LCpl Norberto Mendez-Hernandez, USMC 1/5 (Bravo)

07/12/2011 - LCpl Robert S. Greniger, USMC 1/5 (2nd Combat Engineers)

08/06/2011 - Sgt Daniel J. Patron, USMC 1/5 (EOD)

08/07/2011 - Sgt Adan Gonzalez Jr. USMC 1/5 (SSP)

08/07/2011 - Sgt Joshua J. Robinson, USMC 1/5 (SSP)

09/15/2011 - Cpl Michael J. Dutcher, USMC 1/5 (Bravo)

09/24/2011 - LCpl Frankie Watson, USMC

10/13/2011 - LCpl Scott D. Harper, USMC 1/6 (Animal)

10/23/2011 - LCpl Jordan Bastean, USMC 3/7

10/24/2011 - LCpl Jason Barfield, USMC 3/7

11/5/2011 - LCpl Nickolas Daniels, USMC 3/7

11/18/2011 - LCpl Joshua Corral, USMC 3/7

11/21/2011 - Cpl Zachary Reiff, USMC 3/7

1/21/2012 - Cpl Christopher Singer, USMC 3/7

3/27/2012 - SSgt Joseph D'Augustine, USMC 3/7 EOD

Sunday, March 26, 2017

concerning recent maths exams

And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up
This old fool

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bro Science

I try to get to the gym every day but I seldom share my insights on these spindrift pages.

For once, however, I will make an exception. Here is some advice, fellow meat heads:
Do not burst into tears reading Lit by Mary Karr when you are doing half an hour on the recline exercise bike. It plays merry hell with your hormonal profile.
Prodnose: A memoir, superficially addressed by a parent to a child, from an author with a complicated relationship with alcohol and Catholicism?

Myself: I bet you didn't see that one coming.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lest we forget

LONDON — A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage at the heart of Britain's seat of power Wednesday, plowing a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing an armed police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and about 20 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as a "sick and depraved terrorist attack."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

slow and low fo' sho'

12 barbecued things you should eat in Wales if you're obsessed with brisket and pulled pork.
Two years ago (Icons passim) it was just the Hang Fire girls. How quickly things change. I am due back in Cardiff this weekend by the way.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ben and Rutlish are at the National Schools 7s today; live coverage above.

They are in group X and play as follows:
10:40 Tiffin School
12:00 Millfield School
14:20 St Olave's Grammar School, Kent
15:20 Langley School

I will try and get over to see the lunchtime game; pitch A1 Richardsons Evans Memorial Playing Fields.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chelsea 7 Spurs 1

Chelsea beat Spurs 7-1 in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final. Callum cames off the bench to score three minutes and twenty seconds into the highlight reel above.

Back on planet Earth the Old Ruts U16s were thumped by KCS yesterday.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The full story of what happened in the shambolic 20-minute France v Wales finale

Actually I have no idea what was going on between the 80th and 100th minute yesterday. If anyone can fill me in I will be in their debt. I await Brian Moore in the Telegraph on Monday with interest.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Where I am watching the Six Nations today