Saturday, June 30, 2007

Welcome To Springfield

Me in the Simpsons!Went to see Shrek 3 today. I actually quite enjoyed it. It was a decent way to chill out for 90 mins this afternoon out of the annoyingly almost constant rain and the reality of all the failed bombing attacks going on at the moment.

Granted, staying at home is probably a better bet than going to a place of public gathering but then I'm not really the stay at home type.

Also saw the cool "The Simpsons Movie" advert. Very funny!

Anyway, the point of this blog entry is, try out this cool feature on the Simpsons Movie website. Create your own Simpsons avatar. Go on, it'll waste a few minutes...

This is my one. Scary, eh?

Friday, June 29, 2007


Yes it's finally out (in the US anyway.)

Here's a pretty good video review (for so long as it stays up) courtesy of The Wall Street Journal. The iPhone looks pretty cool though I don't think that it supports very good internet browsing speeds at the moment which is a big shame.

I'm not one for going with the crowd on things like this. The only reason that I never got an iPod is because everyone else had one. So I got a nice Creative Zen instead. It may be twice the size and weight but it does what I want and it's not an iPod.

I get annoyed by all those people who use their iPods on buses and trains with the prepackaged crappy earphones that leak sound so badly that you're guaranteed a tinny rendition of whatever the person sitting anywhere near you is listening to. It's like the late 80's/early nineties all over again when crappy sound leaking earphones were the norm. Then decent ones started to come out at mass-market affordable prices and now with the iPod, we're back to square one.

Anyway, I'll wait and see on the iPhone. I hope that through competition it'll encourage a bit more innovation with what's a bit of a boring mobile phone market at the moment.

Apologies for the "Sponsor's Message" before it. Very annoying for something that can be freely linked to and isn't hosted directly by WSJ by it's only 14 secs long and the rest makes up for it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Highs and Lows of London Town

Bubbles on the South BankLast Saturday was a nice day and the other half was off doing her own thing, so I went into London to see 'Ocean's Thirteen' (which I and the audience all actually enjoyed) and then walked across the river (though not literally, I did use Charing Cross Bridge) to The South Bank Centre, camera in hand, to partake of the weekend of 'musical delights' celebrating the reopening of the Centre and the refurb. of The Royal Festival Hall.

And, I've not seen so many middle class white people in one place at the same time since the Queen's jubilee celebration a few years ago.

Nevertheless, the sun was shining and the atmosphere was jovial. I strolled around at leisure dipping in and out of various 'live events' of which, to be frank, there simply weren't enough off. There was a lot of waiting around for something to happen in a lot of places, though since most people weren't really going anywhere, I guess that this was fine for most.

I got to see some strange dancing acrobats, a collection of sheds as an art exhibit, a wonderful old routemaster bus, a very cool 'walk in' fountain, various (unfortunately) forgettable music acts and Billy Bragg leading a lot of guitarists in a mass play-a-long type thing, which in his own words sounded like a load of "angry buzzing bees."

The Cool FountainI only hung around for a few hours in the late afternoon, early evening and headed back to the 'safe' side of the river to buy a copy of Forza Motorsport 2' to keep me occupied for the rest of the evening.

Yesterday, I left work a bit earlier than usual to get my hair cut back in the old barber's in Northfields that I've been going to since I was small. Trying to figure out the fastest way to get to Northfields wasn't easy and in the end I opted to walk down to Paddington and get a train through to West Ealing from where I could walk (or if lucky catch a bus) down to the barbers.

Someone at work had told me that it was only a fifteen minute walk to Paddington, so I was quite surprised when, even at my brisk walk, it took me over 20 minutes walking diagonally from Marble Arch to Praed Street.

I love walking down new roads linking up unknown bits of London in my brain that I'd never been down before. Unfortunately the roads in this area curved and befuddled my brain. I knew that I needed to go North West but ended up a fit further East than I should have and ended up missing the train that I wanted to take.

However on the way I had an interesting encounter with a woman.

'Hello' she said in posh voice as I turned a corner onto a busy road. Still trying to find my bearings I was a bit caught out by someone actually randomly talking to me in London, which is sadly a rare thing in general nowadays, so "Hello" was all my brain, as I rushed past her, could muster in reply. She didn't say anything else and I suddenly realised that she was in fact propositioning me. It dawned on me as my bearings returned that here I was walking along the infamous Sussex Gardens part of Paddington where 'working girls' doth reside! She was quite pretty in a clean, posh voiced, mixed race, tidy bleached dread-locked hair type way and I'm sure that business goes well with her.

Then on the way back from the barbers, barnet chopped by a maniacal barber who pummeled my head such that I felt like I'd been in a fight with a heavyweight boxer, stuck in traffic on a bus going nowhere, I hop off only to find myself approaching a bunch of armed police standing around chatting outside Acton Town station. Whatever next?!

Fortunately the rest of the walk home was completely uneventful. *Phew!*

Tonight, despite the bad reviews, I'm off to see 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer' for a bit of escapism and tomorrow I'm off to Asda to buy a small TV for an elderly (81 years old, I think) friend of mine whose old 14 inch TV has given up the ghost. I'm hoping that, box and all, I'll be able to carry the TV back to her place in Westbourne Park without doing my back in too much!

Then perhaps, weather allowing, at some point over the coming days, I'll try out this.

What a great, well written true-life story

"How victim snared ID thief - She chased down woman who had given her 6 months of hell"

Made for a great lunchtime read.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Olympic Logo is bloody awful!

Please, please, please petition against it! It may not do any good but it may make you feel better.

The petition has now closed with this note explaining why:

"Thanks to everyone who signed the petition.
Almost 50,000 signatures speaks volumes.I have decided to close the petition as it becomes clear that the logo is here to stay - there is little point in damaging the reputation of our Olympic Games, that was never the intention. The protest has been effectively made.If anybody else wants to take up the gauntlet, of course, that is their right....creating an account on gopetition is very easy. "

Monday, June 04, 2007

The New Wembley

Welcome Home England
The notes of #We're on our way to Wembley!# bobbled around in my head on Friday afternoon as I left work early to head home, grab a bite to eat and then head off to the newly rebuilt stadium.

Despite living in West London, and for many years only being one bus ride away from Wembley, I'd only been to football games at the stadium two or three times in the past, back in the days when it was easy to get hold of tickets to football games most anywhere. Since the days of mass sponsorship of the Premiership, football leagues and internationals, matches are definitely not so accessible any more.I had to buy an annual membership to the England Fans Club to get this ticket.

I can remember buying tickets on the day going to my first ever match at Loftus Road to see a goal-less draw between QPR and Liverpool. Nonetheless, I was excited by the chance to see all those players I had only ever seen on TV before.

I was no less excited as I sat on the train approaching Wembley and got a nice glimpse of the arch over the stadium glinting in the sunlight. Okay, since they've erected it, I've seen the arch loads of times. I got a great close-up on New Year's Eve at the Arena next door but this was something different. Now I was GOING to Wembley.

As much as I'd have preferred that they kept the twin towers this still felt special. I was excited!
The train journey had taken me a bit longer than expected, despite no delays or anything else of note so I was at Wembley Park station with about 40 mins. to spare before kick off.

But the crowds! There were thousands of people, heads bobbing up-and-down in front of me walking down Wembley Way (apparently now called Olympic Way but will always be Wembley Way to me.)

I walked off briskly, bought two programmes for a fiver each from the one vendor
that, for some reason, nobody was going near (everyone, like sheep, went for the first guy) and made good progress until I got to the ramp leading up to the stadium proper. Here, things went at a much slower pace. I made it to my entry gate only to see a sign saying that people in my block should use a gate further along. I wondered why but that was soon to become much clearer!

With just twenty or so minutes to go now until kick off, most of the people were now in their seats so by the time I made it through the narrow turnstile and the area behind the stands that encircled the stadium was relatively empty.

This area reminded me of Earl's Court. All concrete and functionality but no character. Concession stands as far as the eye could see selling the same drinks and food. But it was certainly spacious and that was nice. And I don't think that I've ever seen so many toilets in one place in all my life. (In fact I haven't as no single building in the world has as many.) There were male and female toilets every couple of metres!
I bought myself a small coke (£2.20) and headed for my seat. I knew that I was in the lower tier, behind the goal, but what I hadn't realised was:

(a) My seat was right at the top of the tier with a concrete wall behind and an overhand from the next tier above me!

(b) I couldn't see the arch from where I was sat which scuppered my changes of getting some nice pictures of the landmark.

(c) The Brazilian supporters section was located just to my right about three metres away with no segregation. This was why I had to enter by another gate.

Although it felt a bit weird, as it turned out having just a wall behind you meant that you could stand as much as you wanted without getting in any one's way, so that wasn't too bad. The only problem was that the marshals kept on insisting that everyone in the back row sit down for health and safety reasons. It was a losing argument for them though as all we had to do was point at the Brazilian supporters, most of whom were standing, singing and dancing their way through the match and say "We'll sit down after they do" to shut them up.
The leg room and width of the seats was also really good, the best of any football stadium that I've ever been to, though width wasn't such an issue as it eventually became apparent that the seat beside me was vacant along with the seat in front.
The Brazilians were a noisy bunch, bongo drumming throughout most of the match but that just added to the atmosphere and made it more of an experience for those of us who were close to them. This friendly atmosphere didn't decrease their competitiveness at all though. Some
of them snarled at us and some England fans snarled back. When we were 1-0 up they did quieten down a bit for a while but came back with a vengeance at the end when they got their last gasp equaliser.

England supporters are a funny bunch too. Some of them were a bit wasted and could have done with a bit of calming down. There was a boy who looked all of ten or eleven years old a few rows in front of me with a mouth that should be washed out with soap and water. Despite being a friendly, I felt some sections of the English crowd were a bit too angry for my liking. I can see why we get such a bad reputation. There's a thin line between passion and hostility which a few of them crossed from time-to-time.

It was an enjoyable game though and I savoured the experience despite the result. I walked out seconds after the equaliser but it still took me 25 minutes to get onto a train as the crowds were enormous and due to congestion at the station the crowd was held back for about 10 minutes.

Roll on the next game against Israel on 8th September. Hmmm, I hope that the security is tight for that one!

Keeping it short...Literally

Being really (REALLY) bored the other night, I imported all my blog entries into MS-Word to get a word and character count.

So far, approximately, to date, I've written 73,193 words in 316,214 characters. Which worryingly gives me an average word length of only just over four letters...

Now where's that Thesaurus? I need to start using much more preponderant words!

(By the way, this post comes in at an average of just under five letters per. word, so not much of an improvement there then!)

Friday, June 01, 2007

One Step At A Time

So the girlfriend and I have been going out for a while now and we were told by one of our friends that it's obvious that we're still in our "honeymoon period."

But travelling from one side of London to the other is definitely a hassle, and since we can't claw back that time lost, the best thing that we can do is to look into ways to improve this aspect of our lives.

Okay, so it's not as if we live in different parts of the country or even in different countries like some people in relationships do, but nevertheless, it can still take up to 2 hours to get door-to-door and that is a chore. (And it also rhymes.)

Originally the other half thought about buying a place of her own a bit closer to me but, to be frank, I was lucky that I managed to get a place here seven and a half years ago. Right now there's no way that she can afford to buy a place anywhere near me.

On the other hand, if we combined incomes we could, but despite the intense feeling we have for each other there's still that little voice in our heads saying "Come on! You've only been going out for ten months. That's a BIG step!"

And that little voice is right. We both know that it is.

So, we've decided to take the slightly smaller, more manageable step of renting a place together for a year or so and if after that period we are still on speaking terms and haven't killed each other, taking the bigger step of buying a place together.

Furniture and appliance-wise I can shift my stuff into the rented flat (saving money) and then rent out my flat.When we are ready to buy a place together, I can sell the old flat, sell off my company shares and we can combine incomes to get a deposit and mortgage on what will hopefully be a larger, nicer place.

Hmmmm, now if only we could agree on where to rent something. But, one step at a time...