Blogathon 7/14 – fish, water, out of

I do enjoy watching people who have been promoted above their ability, failing to grasp the meaning of the words they are uttering on camera.

The Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us) has claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”.

And yet the Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who still can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us once again) has said she will learn to code “over the next year”.

Not today.

Not tomorrow.

Not one day next week.

Teachers, she feels, can learn to code to a standard sufficient to teach children in one day.

But she, she feels, will learn to code “over the next year”.


I don’t want to pick on the clearly floundering, but these quotes in particular are marvellous pointers to this woman’s grip on reality:

“At school I was taught how to wire up a light-bulb”

“You can do very little in a very short space of time”

“I think (teachers) can pick up (coding) in a day”

“Every pupil from the age of five will learn how to code”

Some of the Twitter comments on this article are priceless, but I particularly like that from Laura Hammond.

Blogathon 6/14 – some consistency needed

My guitar-playing is suffering.

No, I don’t mean ‘my neighbours are suffering my guitar-playing”!

How rude!

I mean that my playing is suffering.

I have all the practice books.

I have rehearsal CDs and DVDs.

I have reams of music to songs that I genuinely *love*.

And sometimes I throw myself at these things – at all of these things – and practice and play along and sing along and have a Bloody Good Time.

And then there are the times I don’t.

These are the times when I get in and I’m knackered, and all I want to do is have a bowl of cereal and go to bed and sleep.

The trouble is, of course, the latter outnumber the former by something of the order of 25/1.

Yes, for every twenty-five times I come home so worn out I can barely remember I need to eat something, there is the one time I come home, I’ll look at the guitars, I’ll pick one up, I’ll tune it, and I’ll throw myself in to some Pink Floyd or some Missy Higgins and I’ll have fun fun fun fun fun.

Of course, the next morning the fingertips on my left hand will hurt like bloody hell.

But it will have been fun.

And then I come home that evening, so tired I can barely remember which way to turn the key in the front door.

And I might glance at the guitars, as I schlep my way upstairs to bed – bowl of cereal in hand.

I know I’m too knackered even to pick one up and tune it, let alone pick one up and play it.

And the fingertips on my left hand still hurt.

And I’m tired.

And I’ll wish I had the energy.

But yeah, I’m absolutely worn right out.

Blogathon 5/14 – a long way up (and down)

Bloody hell, I’m completely tired.

I’m more tired than a very tired person from a very tired town, in the middle of the tired countryside, who has been busy doing things and getting very very tired.

Yes, I’ll stop now.

I noticed a few peculiar things on my roadtrip to Darlington and back.

A significant number of drivers have dangerously defective vehicles

  1. Indicators appear to be an unbought optional extra
  2. Steering wheels don’t work, leaving motorists stuck in the middle lane for hours on end
  3. Mirrors (see 1. above)

But it was a good day.


I got there, I did proper professional stuff with proper professional people; it was positive and beneficial, and then I came home.


There were a couple of l-o-n-g stretches of the M1, on the way down, that had temporary speed limits.

One very long stretch – over 20 miles – had a limit of 50mph imposed.

But there was nobody working on the road.

I don’t mean there were people about, but nobody was working.





So here’s my thought.

We live in the 21st Century, right?

This is the age of portable electronic communication, and apps, and smartphones, and WiFi and Bluetooth, and intelligent systems, and all that stuff, right?


Why does the Highways Agency (or its contractors) not have electronic speed restriction signs, which they can activate when people are working on the roads?

Why does the temporary speed limit have to be set all the time – 24 hours a day – (and therefore not that temporary), when people aren’t actually working on the roads 24 hours a day?



No, go on.


Blogathon 4/14 – a bloody good servicing

Today, just as soon as I’ve finished work, I’m taking a small detour.

The VFR has a hot date.

She’s going to get serviced to within an inch of her life.

I got the VFR in July 2013.

I had her serviced by Simon, the amazing mobile motorbike mechanic (makes a mental note to tell you the story of the VFR’s servicing by Simon) in August.

Here’s the thing.

The VFR’s former owner did all of the bike’s servicing himself.

He kept meticulous records of what work was done on which dates, what parts were replaced, what was adjusted, which components would need looking at next time.

And he made his notes in the inside rear cover of a Haynes manual for, yep, the Honda VFR800.

When I bought the bike he gave me the manual, which was brilliant of him.

It’s a rolling record of the VFR’s service history.




Yesterday evening, when I got back from my hectic weekend of awesome, I did some housework.

Yeah, you can put the sarcasm away now.

But I did.

I vacuumed upstairs and down.

And then I did the house.



No, seriously.

Then I stripped the bed, turned the mattress, put the linen and some shirts in to a prewash soak.

And then I tidied a bit.

While I was tidying over there *points* I uncovered the VFR owner manual and the VFR’s official service record.

I will confess I’ve spent time reading the previous owners notes, but never glanced at the service record.

Until last night.

The most recent stamp in the VFR’s service book was at 5,000 miles.

The bike has 60,000 on the clock now.


Notwithstanding Simon’s service last year, in Oxfordshire, that’s a hell of a lot of owner-maintained servicing!

So today I picked up the phone and spoke to a local motorbike dealer and, as a result, I shall be handing the VFR over to them after work tomorrow.

This doesn’t mean that commuting duties will fall upon the Daytona.

On Wednesday I have to drive to Darlington (and back) for a work thing.


Drive to Darlington and back.

Because even in the Jag I can drive to Darlington and back for significantly less money than The World’s Most Expensive Railway Network want to charge me for the same journey in cattle class.

Oh yes, and I can drive there and back two hours quicker than The World’s Most Expensive Railway can do the journey.


Maybe the VFR isn’t the only thing that needs taking apart by experts.

Blogathon 3/14 – telecommuting

One of the features of my current contract is having to keep in regular contact with a team of specialists, who are based at numerous locations around the country.

Sure, we have the usual means of communications: IM, Email, SharePoint, and the somewhat traditional Telephone (for point to point and conference phone calls).

But we also have that other late 20th Century method of keeping in touch.


As any good infrastructure specialist will tell you, VideoConferencing will only work if your infrastructure is up to the job.

In the past (not this contract), I’ve taken part in VideoConferences between Swindon, Cambridge, a research vessel in the South Atlantic, and a research station in the Antarctic.

Those ultra long-distance VideoConferences worked 100% effectively, just as the ones in my current job.

But there are some organisations that try to run VideoConferences on substandard infrastructure.

This is their story – a story of those cheap, shabby organisations try to run 21st Century technology on 19th Century infrastructure…

But enacted in real life.


Blogathon 2/14 – a political maxim

The late Sir John Harvey Jones (no relation), was one of the most far-sighted industrialists this country has ever produced.

His business accumen is legendary; how – on more than one occasion – he worked with dysfunctional corporate entities, how he made critical (sometimes painful) decisions, how he would cut away dead wood and nurture, through long-term plans, the potential of new strands of research, development and – ultimately – consumer-based products.

I was fortunate, when I was studying for my Masters, to be able to spend a considerable amount of time with Sir John. His ability to think outside the box was inspiring.

Although some political parties favoured (and even fawned over) Sir John more than others, his distrust of politicians of all hues kept his political thinking fiercely independent.

We were talking about strong v weak majorities, one day, when he gave me this maximum which redirected my own political thinking:

If you openly criticise the party you voted for less than the party you didn’t vote for, if you choose to overlook the sins and mistakes that the party you did vote for regularly commit, you are not part of the solution, you are the problem. Party politics, along with single-issue politcians, will kill democracy. Party politics will kill accountability. Party politics will turn the people away from voting. If you are unable to recognise the losses that the party you voted for regularly inflicts upon this country, you are not suitable to have a say in how this country is run.

Blogathon 1/14 – remote apology

To try and avoid being late to this party, and keeping the remarkable Mr Masher company on his annual blogathon pilgrimage, I’m cheating a little.

I won’t be available on either Saturday 1st Feb or Sunday 2nd Feb, owing to long distance commitments.

So, to try and bridge the gap, I’m using the ‘write it in advance, release it on a set day’ feature in WordPress.

It’s kind of cheating, but the intention is good.

And when I hit the ground running, on Monday 3rd Feb, I should be back up and on track.

So in the meantime,



Blogathon 28/13 The Liebster Award!



It just seemed right to save this post for the last day of the blogathon




‘The Liebster Award is for bloggers with fewer than 300 followers. A blogger nominates 11 fellow bloggers and asks them a set of 11 questions. The rules state that a nominee must link back to the blogger from whom they received a nomination.

The nominee will:

  • write 11 random facts about themselves
  • answer the 11 questions which have been set for them
  • nominate another 11 bloggers and
  • pose 11 questions to them.

This is a really fun way to discover and connect with new bloggers and help us all gain some new followers along the way.’

One month and a day ago (29th January 2013) the lovely Chloe listed me for this eleven-based meme.


Eleven random facts about me…

1. As a schoolboy, I broke my ankle and didn’t know it
2. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic (we were not a Catholic family)
3. When I was six I convinced myself I had developed x-ray vision because I could see through the side of a plastic bucket in bright daylight
4. I taught myself to row and sail
5. I’ve had cosmetic surgery (teeth implants)
6. I can’t dance for toffee, but I dance daily (usually in the privacy of my own home)
7. There are currently 3,379 unread emails in my inbox
8. Chrissie Hynde threw a glass of wine at me
9. Three of my last four horses have been ex-racehorses
10. I am addicted to chocolate
11. I am allergic to penicillin

So here are Chloe’s questions and my answers:

1. What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning?
Breakfast! Or the toilet! You choose!

2. When you were young, where did you think you’d be when you hit 30?
In Wales. A policeman.

3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever conquered?
Getting back on to two legs after a horrendous horsefall, (11 months of daily physiotherapy, five operations and six months on crutches).

4. If you were stranded on a desert island (in a climate of your choice), would you be able to pick a person you’d like to be with or would you rather be alone?
I can easily pick a person I would like to be with.

5. On this theoretical desert island, what is the most useful thing you own that you would want with you?
A hunting knife.

6. If you could change one thing in the world today, what would it be?
I would banish all religions.

7. Do you secretly wish magic existed?
What? Wait! Magic doesn’t exist?

8. Do you believe your star sign and Chinese Horoscope sign tell the truth about you?
No, I am more complex than these things.

9. Which novel changed the way you think about life?
Glory Road (Heinlein). Or Swallows And Amazons (Ransome). One of them.

10. Have you ever taught someone to do something until they were better than you at it?

11. If you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?
Helicopter pilot in the Grand Canyon.

And so to my nominations. I have decided to pick from my Google Reader list, rather than confine my choices to my blogroll. I’m doing this to add new to old, add sparkle to rich sheen, add wit to wisdom (that’s enough adding, Ed). And the (un)lucky eleven nominees are:

1. Blogging Up The Works
2. ApplesCrapples
3. Masher
4. Armstead Archaeology
5. The Day After Yesterday
6. Mild Rantings
7. Narcisstics Anonymous
8. Yasmin Selena
9. Move It Lard Arse
10. Yurt16
11. Dusting Myself Off

And the eleven questions for this diverse range of blog writerists are:

1. If you didn’t know your age, how old would you say you are?
2. Who is the single-most influential person in your life?
3. What was the first album you bought?
4. What one thing would you tell your eleven-year-old self, if you could?
5. The best thing you’ve ever done is?
6. And the most idiotic thing you’ve ever done was?
7. The most amazing thing humanity has achieved is?
8. Which historical event moves you/captures your imagination most?
9. If at first you don’t succeed, do what (and why do you think this)?
10. What one thing annoys you beyond measure?
11. What one thing relaxes you more than others?

Good luck, happy reading, on your marks, get set, blog!

Blogathon 27/13 Twitter!











Twitter, in the last 24 hours, has given me two brilliant pieces of information.

The first is an answer to one of those infuriating ‘What is this piece of music?’ questions, that haunt our consciousness, from time to time.

I recorded a clip of the earworm (because I knew where I could lay my hands on a few seconds of it, where it is used as a brief soundtrack on a 56-year old cartoon, that I was able to find on YouTube.

Then I downloaded the music-finding app ‘Shazam!’, and played the clip in, and waited for Shazam’s! music databases to do their thing.

Except it was more a case of ‘Shazcan’t!’, because the music-finding app was more rusty than trusty.

It failed to find it.

So I took the few seconds-long clip I had, and recorded an Audioboo.

Then I put a link to the Audioboo recording out on Twitter.

The tweet was picked up by @thoughtcat, who retweeted it to his followers.

And within minutes three of @thoughtcat’s followers – @TGG303, @newviv, and @AnyaMaj – had come back to me, with the information that the brief few seconds of recording belonged in Wagner’s Tannhäuser, where it can be found in both the overture and the choral sections (where it is better known, in the latter, as the Pilgrim’s Chorus).

How’s that for a top-class service?

To (almost) round yesterday evening’s excellent Twitter experience off, within moments of getting the information I had nipped over to Amazon and downloaded the Tannhäuser overture.


The other thing that Twitter did for me, last night, was to answer the frequently asked question, regarding the final scene of the film Inception.

The ‘was it real or was it all a dream’ question.

Yes, I have the answer.


Tell you?


Maybe tomorrow?


Oh, the 56-year old cartoon?


Blogathon 25/13 Filmage!










For those who take a passing interest in the hyped-up goings-on in La-la-land, the Oscar hopefuls trouped down the red carpet last night to receive their industry-administered pats on the back.

And the results were pretty much as I predicted.

Best Film:

Best Foreign Film:
Amour (should have been No)

Best Supporting Actress:
Anne Hathaway (obv)

Best Director:
Ang Lee

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis

Best Cinematography:
Life of Pi

Best Visual Effects:
Life of Pi