Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Artful Dodger

By a strange coincidence, just ten days after I mentioned the Gordon Brown's decade old raid on the country's pension schemes, and hot on the heels of the former Cabinet Secretary's enumeration of his "Stalinist ruthlessness", documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that he was explicitly warned of the likely consequences.

Here's the coverage from The Telegraph, The Times, and The Guardian.

The BBC is downplaying it (there's a surprise) leading its coverage with, "the Treasury has dismissed as "abject nonsense" claims that Gordon Brown ignored warnings about his first Budget creating a £75bn gap in pension funds".

What an amazing coincidence that the Chancellor happened to be enhancing his image as a prime-minister-in-waiting by making an unannounced one-day visit to British troops in Afghanistan just as the documents he had desperately tried to suppress were released.

You can find the documents at issue here, if you want to make your own mind up.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Memory Palace

The belt to the left was a new addition to the trophy cabinet when I took the boys to Muay Thai last night. It turns out that Woytek won the British Championship when he was fighting in Manchester the other weekend. This was exciting news for my six year old who had a lesson with the champ before Christmas.

I take "the boys" along to Thai boxing on Thursdays lately because two of my son's school friends have started as well. When I picked one of them up yesterday, I noticed a copy of "The Blind Man of Seville" on the kitchen table in his house, and said to his Mum that I had heard that it was a good book because Chris and Kim had recommended it to me in September 2005. When I brought his boy back after the class, the Dad gave me the paperback, saying that he had got it for free and was unlikely to read it himself.

Now I admit that these two stories (each an update of an earlier post) are not exactly earth shattering, but they do illustrate - in a small way - changes that I've noticed as a bye product of blogging every day, or perhaps more accurately thinking about my experiences in the context of writing every day.

I'm definitely remembering events and conversations a lot more clearly than I used to. Even if I haven't blogged them, my entry for the day they occurred can stir up the memories as an - often ironic - counterpoint.

Just looking at my archives for last April, I can see, for example, that:
  • Dominic West had probably already wrapped 300 before I saw him The Voysey Inheritance; contrasting roles and styles indeed,
  • the cherry blossom has bloomed a fortnight earlier in 2007 than 2006,
  • and that this week's report that Police stations in Merton are the among the worst in London at answering the phone for non-emergency calls, shows that nothing has changed since scumbags poured paint over half the cars in our street.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Following my bike route on Google Earth yesterday, I was amazed to find that the data was accurate enough to show that I cycled out on one side of the road and back on the other.

That, and the importance of GPS evidence in the unfolding UK/Iran dispute, sent me to Wikipedia to ferret out more details of the Global Positioning System.

It is technically and historically fascinating stuff . Look at the section on Selective Availability for example. The paragraph that struck me the most however was:
The satellite constellation is managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$750 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites, and research and development. Despite this fact, GPS is free for civilian use as a public good.

The ability to for ships, cars, emergencies and even joggers and cyclists precisely to identify their locations must be an enormous economic and social boon to the world.

Providing the underlying infrastructure free of charge is a noble deed, so I'd just like to say thank you very much to the USA.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Come Fly With Me

I've noticed that automatically generates Google Earth tours based on data that I upload from my Garmin Forerunner 305.

So - if you've got the right software installed - this link will take you along last Sunday morning's cycle route; complete with detours.

This is truly astounding technology. There is definitely more to mashups than hype, and it's handy to have the blog as a scratchpad for them.

Small World Update

Here's the photo that the MOD released at this morning's briefing to prove that the 15 Royal Navy personnel seized by Iran were in Iraqi waters. I hope we get them back soon. It is strange to think that the Garmin device in the argument clinching picture probably uses the same chipset as my watch.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Humble Pie

The Commons Education Select Committee has issued a report on bullying in schools, about which - as it my wont - I found myself sneering over my porridge as I watched the coverage on the BBC's Breakfast show. I remember being particularly dismissive of the coinage "cyber-bullying".

Reading Scoble a little later though, I was horrified to read what Kathy Sierra has been subjected to:
As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I'm not. I'm at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I've been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that's not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs...

No one should have to put up with that sort of thing. I feel unworthy for dismissing the phenomenon.

By conincidence I think, Libby Purves talks about the issues in The Times today:

The internet is not evil. We who use it daily — for everything from news and banking to cinema listings and tracing quotations from forgotten poets — quickly learn how to navigate around the piles of rubbish, the lurking fraudsters, the lies and malice and vapidity and perversion. It is a vast teeming city, and you can choose whether to frequent cathedrals, theatres and Parliament or just the brothels and public hangings.

But we should accept the same rules of morality and decorum that govern solid, daily life. If shouting “Go on, kill yourself” to a stranger is not acceptable in the street, it is not acceptable in a chat room. Similarly, we do not allow the pushing of unsolicited obscenities through letterboxes, and so should not tolerate the clogging-up of private, often heartfelt e-mail traffic with repeated shrieks of “Ejaculate like a porn star!”. If it is illegal to print malicious lies, equal sanctions should face those who put them online; if it is stupid to leave your credit cards in a café with the PIN on them, it is equally stupid to ignore computer security.

There aren't any easy answers.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Not with a bang ...

A proposed merger of Wimpey and Tayor Woodrow is all over the papers today.

How are the mighty fallen. When I was first at Wimpey, it was a near £2bn a year construction colossus built from nothing by Sir Godfrey Mitchell but they sold off everything but the housebuilding more than ten years ago.

I can't see that there's much more to the housebuilding business than managing the land bank. A far cry from "Sir God's" buccaneering heyday.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Best Laid Plans

I had great plans last summer for long distance cycle rides. These were rather undermined by my utter lack of any sense of direction, as revealed when I got hopelessly lost just cycling up and down the Wandle Trail to Croydon.

I decided to put the GPS watch on the case this morning. Here is the result of my meanderings. I got lost a couple of times but at least I can start to work out where.

Map of Trail Trial

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Giddy Social Whirl

I went to see 300 last night and enjoyed it tremendously. I can see how some people might object to the film's portrayal of Xerxes as inhabiting a court essentially indistinguishable from a Prince video circa "Gett Off", but - hey - it's entertainment, read Tom Holland's 'Persian Fire' or even go back to Herodotus if you want instruction.

Massive parochial Welsh props go out to Swansea's Vincent Regan for his portrayal of Leonidas' right hand man:

We reinforced those who started with their own self-discipline but we could not give discipline to anyone who didn’t already have it. In the end Vincent Regan shed 40 pounds in eight weeks, and took his deadlift from less than bodyweight (205) to more than double-bodyweight (355). He could pull 85% of 1RM blindfolded and recite Shakespeare in the midst of the toughest training session
...... reported the guy who trained the actors. I have no idea at all of what pulling 85% of 1RM blindfolded while reciting Shakespeare is, but it does sound cool.

As for today, I've been for a run, I'm off to Dulwich to see the Canaletto in England exhibition this afternoon, thence to the Duchess Theatre for "Underneath the Lintel", before closing off the evening at Andy and Ollie's party.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Henry Morton Stanley

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, also known as Bula Matari (Breaker of Rocks) in the Congo, born John Rowlands (January 28, 1841 – May 10, 1904), was a 19th-century Welsh-born journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone upon finding whom he famously stated, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume".
Another Welsh Born Icon as I begin to label our collection.

Obviously a man of some internal resources, his accomplishments came in spite of an inauspicious start:
He was born in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales. His parents were not married, his father died when he was two years old and his mother, a butcher's daughter, refused to look after him, so he was brought up in a workhouse (now HM Stanley Hospital, St Asaph) until the age of 15.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rock The Kasbah

Things have been quiet on the "Eat your way around the world in London" front lately, but last night we checked out the Moroccan food in Clapham's Kasbah, which is conveniently situated opposite the Picturehouse.

The Profit Burglar and I shared a huge "Kasbah Combination" mixed starter of sardines, prawns, humous, aubergine dip, salad etc., then I had a lamb tagine made with prunes and grilled almonds and served with couscous, while the Burglar had the lamb brochettes.

We washed it all down with a couple of bottles of Moroccan wine, Ksat Bahai 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. A last hurrah as I am going to give up drinking for the next month in the run up to my triathlons.

(Now that Blogger supports labels, I am going to start gathering together the details of all our restaurnat visits here. It will probably take a while to fill up as I will have to go back through the posts and apply the label. I'll probably do the same thing with the Welsh Born Icons as well.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man

Budget day in the UK has rolled round again. I shall treat it with an inflexible rigour of disdain. Back in a previous life, when I was a Corporate Development Executive, I used to have to spend half the night producing an analysis of each budget's implications for the board to read over their cornflakes the next morning; an exercise I came to see as a complete waste of time.

As for Gordon Brown - our putative leader - I've considered him a boorish cad ever since he turned up for dinner at the Lord Mayor's Dinner in 1997 dressed in a lounge suit rather than the traditional full soup and fish. Not that it will go down in the annals of infamy above his pilfering the pensions of countless honest hardworking men and women, but it is and was indicative of the petulant nature that has become more and more obvious over the last decade.

Ever since I learned he was blind in one eye, I mentally subtitle his every utterance "bold talk for a one-eyed fat man" in a petulant Ned Pepper gesture of my own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I'm very much looking forward to 300 opening in the UK this weekend.

Iranian TV is unimpressed however by the "shallow script" (you must follow this link and watch the review) of the "production by Zionists and a group of American extremists".

As an olive branch, and a nod to the 700 Thespians who also fought and died at Thermopylae, here's an idea of what Teddington's Noel Coward might have done with the story (even though I gather he might well have been perfectly happy with the spectacle of muscular men in leather underpants exerting themselves):

A balmy ancient evening on a balcony in Greece. An agitated KING LEONIDAS strides centre stage followed by his beautiful, but long suffering wife QUEEN GORGO.

LEONIDAS: I'm in such a rage.

GORGO: There's no need to be nasty.

LEONIDAS: Yes there is, every need. I've never in my life felt a greater urge to be nasty.

GORGO: And you've had some urges in your time, haven't you?

LEONIDAS: If you start bickering with me, Gorgo, I swear I'll throw you over the edge.

GORGO: Try it, that's all, just try it.

LEONIDAS: Ever since the first moment I was unlucky enough to set eyes on the Persian Ambassador, my life has been insupportable.

GORGO: Oh, do shut up, there's no sense in going on like that.

LEONIDAS: Nothing's any use. There's no escape, ever.

GORGO: Don't be melodramatic.

LEONIDAS [laconically]: I can see us all strolling down in the morning for an early start.

GORGO [weakly]: Lovely, oh lovely.

LEONIDAS: Glorious!

[They both laugh helplessly.]

GORGO: Will you eat first?

LEONIDAS: Terribly important, a good breakfast.

GORGO: Where will you dine?


GORGO: Very hot, Hades.

LEONIDAS: So they say. They say it’s hot.

GORGO: Hotter than the Hot Gates?

LEONIDAS [tenderly]: Hotter than the Hot Gates, my dearest darling.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Balls to the Wall

Gordon has warned me of the perils of overtraining, so I walked - rather than ran - south along the Wandle Trail yesterday to road test my new GPS training watch.

I can blog the data above because I uploaded the it into

If you follow the links and look at the data in detail you can see that I didn't start recording data until I was past Wandle Park because the system took that long to pick up the necessary satellite connections.

You can also see that I finished my walk outside GJ's. I subsequently entered GJ's and drank too much lager watching the Everton Arsenal game and then continued with baddiwad behaviour.

Hmmmm. I think Gordon understands that my foot to the floor, balls to the wall* attitude is what makes me eat like a pig and drink like a fish as well as train every day. Yesterday, while he was encouraging me to fuel myself more sensibly he did acknowledge that my biggest problem with moderation would be boredom.

Never mind. It is better to wear out than to rust.

Public Activities Link:
Public Activities Feed:

* Also delighted to learn that balls to the wall, rather in the manner of kicking against the pricks is not a rudery at all:

Originally a military term for pushing maximum G-Forces in a jetfighter aircraft, as in pushing the ball of a throttle as high up as it will go (virtually touching the wall of the dashboard).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Jump" for Joy

I took the New Ninja Bomber to the Peacock Theatre for the matinee performance of Jump yesterday afternoon, because I thought we would need a laugh before a rugby game in which a win by England would condemn Wales to a whitewashed, played 5 - won 0, wooden spoon.

The show is absolutely brilliant, if you only see one Korean martial art/gymnastic/slapstick/sitcom hybrid this year make sure this is the one.

General: What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Even better, when we got home for the rugby we found that the men in red, failing to realise that they were merely cannon fodder, were busily putting England to the sword.

I've dropped my six year old back for Mothering Sunday today, but as for yesterday:

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It's such fun

Just a perfect day
You make me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone good

You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom

March 17th is celebrated as "Boxer's Day" or "National Muay Thai Day" in Thailand. Here's the story it celebrates.

My six year old has been doing Thai boxing for a little over half a year now. This obviously gives me a certain amount of reassurance in the "beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear't that the opposed may beware of thee" department, but I'm really starting to buy into the Blimpsh idea of it being "character building" as well. He's out in the garden skipping rope at the moment, something he'd be unlikely to do if he didn't think of it as a martial past time.

Voytek, of "good heart" fame is off in Manchester today fighting for a championship, so best of luck to him.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In Motion

My Garmin Forerunner 305 has arrived, so I can track my speed, elevation, position and heartrate as I move my training out of doors. A USB interface, bundled software, and online workout analysis suggest that too much information will be available in the run up to April 22.

Up to now I've been working out indoors, and over the last six weeks or so, as I've been building up my stamina, I've whiled away much of the time I spent exercising watching music TV on LCD screens built into treadmills and stationary bikes.

This is what I've learned from all that gazing at the idiot box: Gwen Stefani, while possessed of a billowing wheat field of golden hair and an enviably toned post-partum abdomen, has the style of a six year old let loose in a fancy dress shop and no discernible musical talent whatsoever.

Not much of a cultural return on the investment of my time, I can only hope that it has been worth while physically.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Human Growth Hormome

Has any other reader noticed the remarkable resemblance between Sylvester Stallone, 2007's superannuated Easter Island head, and Rocky Balboa, 1976's fresh faced contender? I wonder if they are, by any chance related?

Actually, learning that Sly was up before the beak in Oz accused of importing Human Growth Hormone sent me scurrying to Wikipedia. Here's the skinny:
Prolonged GH excess thickens the bones of the jaw, fingers and toes. Resulting heaviness of the jaw and increased thickness of digits is referred to as acromegaly.

Accompanying problems can include pressure on nerves (e.g.,
carpal tunnel syndrome), muscle weakness, insulin resistance or even a rare form of type 2 diabetes, and reduced sexual function.
A comparison of the evolution of his features with the symptoms described above furnishes pretty scary circumstancial evidence. (Hint: Muscle weakness and reduced sexual function is not a small price to pay for a stonger jawline and thicker toes.)
Jintoprin, the product in question, sounds like something out of a Chiba City black clinic a la Neuromancer
A mad world my masters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Joey Pyle

Had they met on the streets of London in their 1960s heyday, the result would undoubtedly have been violence at its most extreme.
But yesterday a small yet distinctive group of superannuated gangsters and their henchmen put bitter old rivalries behind them and came together to mark the passing of one of their own.

They were among more than 1,000 faces who attended the funeral beneath leaden skies of 69-year-old Joey Pyle, a man who uniquely ran with both the Krays and the Richardsons.

Perhaps because 1960s gangland London has become so mythologised, it seems almost surreal to me that this postscript occurred last week practically around the corner by Morden Park.

Coverage here, here and here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You See, Ennui

According to Scientific American, Chronically Bored People Exhibit Higher Risk-Taking Behavior. Really? You don't say.

The Ginger Geezer - no slouch at risk laden bad behaviour - knew it too. From 1967's Gorilla album:

At the local dance, whilst posing by the door
A lady begged: "would I come on the floor?"
Above the band, my voice was heard,
Quite suddenly it had occured to me:
I'm Bored!

I'm bored with everything I touch and see
I'm bored with exposes of LSD
I'm bored with Frank Sinatra's new LP
And so I roared
m bored.

Drinking different coloured wines or beers
Just quite frankly leaves me bored to (CHOIR: *tears for souvenirs*)
And quite apart from what one hears,
I've been like this for years and years
You see? Ennui.

I'm bored with Mother Nature or her son
I'm bored with everything that should be done
And so, I just poke out my big red tongue and [raspberry]
I'm bored.

I'm tired of art!
(Drawing board)
Sex is a drag!
(In a bawdy house, I daresay.)
Awk! Australians bore me!
(You mean the a-bore-iginals, don't you?)
I'm bored to death!
(Like mortar bored)

I am bored.

This is boredom you can afford,
from Cyril Bored.

I hate each Julie Andrews film they've made,
I'm just a nasty narrow-minded jade.
Don't think that I will smile at it,
I'm not a weak-willed hypocrite,
I'll say: I'm bored!

I'm bored with with-it men in spotty ties
Who hum (hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm) tiresome tunes like Eidelweiss
I'm bored, and when I hear it in a trice,
I shout, I'm bored!

The only thing that ever interests me...
Is ME! (Me! Meee! Me! Me!...)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reality Check

I took the photo above as I set off on the last run of the last day. It seems very far from SW19.

I got in the habit in Austria of relaxing in the sauna back at the hotel after skiing before showering, changing and hitting the town.

One afternoon I saw two beady eyes peeping at me through the window and heard a familiar voice saying, "I'm not going in there with some strange bloke".

"It's not a man," said Karen to Cath, "it's only Nick".

I can see what she was getting at, but it is not really encouraging vis a vis the potent yet effortless Bond-era Connery musk I imagine myself to be pumping out.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Southwesterly veering northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6. Rough or very rough, decreasing moderate for a time. Occasional rain. moderate or good.

I finished "This Thing of Darkness" on the way back from Austria.

Tragedy being " a form of drama characterized by seriousness and dignity, and involving a great person whose downfall is brought about by either a character flaw or a conflict with some higher power such as the law, the gods, fate, or society", the book is the tragedy of Robert Fitzroy.

The organisation and exposition is efficient rather than self-consciously literary, which is no bad thing given the quantity and complexity of the material presented.

The only jarring note was the genocidal General Rosas' justification of his wars of extermination. I thought when I read it that it sounded like a neocon pastiche, and in the "Author's Postscript", Thompson owns up to"having taken the liberty of drawing almost exclusively on the words of Tony Blair and the various self-justifications he produced to defend his foreign policy adventures with George Bush in the Middle East and Central Asia".

Ho ho very satirical.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wooden Spoon

I've arrived back in the UK only to find that Italy beat Wales by twenty three points to twenty while we were in the air between Salzburg and London.

This means that in this year's Six Nations championship we have lost all four of the games we've played to date, and are staring a whitewash in the face if we don't beat England in Cardiff next Saturday.

A precipitous decline indeed from the played five, won five heroics of the season before last.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Who watches the watchmen?

I need a GPS watch, for running and cycling. Brendan brought one skiing and it is deeply great. Maximum speed so far 47mph.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Day one, and Steve has already established his HQ for the week here, an empowering forum where objectification does not exist.


Off to Gatwick airport this morning.

Theses guys have finally gone down, and we are selling the stuff that they stole that can't be returned on behalf of the police on

What a tawdry crime stealing from peoples' bags is.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Zell am See

I'm off skiing first thing tomorrow morning, for the first time since a trip to New England between the conception and birth of the New Ninja Bomber. Fingers crossed I'll keep the blog ticking over, but no promises.

Zell am See in Austria - a country I haven't visited before - is the destination, and I'm travelling mob-handed with the same crew that I used to rampage regularly with all those years ago.

I've found my boots, but the rest of my gear seems to have disappeared in the last couple of years' domestic upheaval, so it looks like TK Maxx will have to take the strain lunchtime.

Jack those Jills, shake your Playtex
Rock 3 stripes not the asics
Old school cos it's the best -yes
TK Maxx cost less - yes
Jackson looks a mess bless

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant

Happy Saint David's Day. Let's do it in the Big Apple next year.

Wales Week is a festival held each year in New York around the national holiday of Wales - St David's Day (March 1). The festival is a week-long celebration of the best of Wales: the Arts; culture; food and drink; poetry and literature; business; film; and music.

Well I never! It seems agreeably prosaic:
Sox Wales’s range of cashmere and luxury socks can be bought at Daffy’s in Manhattan.