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Showing posts from 2009

I saw a ghost last night.

I don’t watch horror films late at night.  It’s not because I believe that the poltergeists or demons or Gremlins are going to creep into my room at night (was Gremlins a horror film?) but it’s because I don’t trust my mind and what it can do to make things real in my dreams. I’m a rational person with no belief in the supernatural, but nobody appears to have passed that message to the part of my brain which writes the scripts for my dreams.  Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and glanced over at the curtain. The lights of London were coming in through the blinds and making shapes on the light-coloured curtains in front.  I looked at the curtains and said to myself “that shadow looks a bit like a person” and was awake enough to rationalise in my head that if I were a less rational person, I could easily mistake those shadows in the half-light for a ghostly figure standing in the corner of the room. Can you guess what happened after I fell asleep again?  Yes, my mind
The mind plays tricks on us, we all know that. For years, I had a song going around in my head – except it was only the line “Falling apart, because I know I’ve lost my guardian angel” going around and around in my head. A week or two ago, I tracked it down on Amazon and bought it. This is where my memory had deceived me. In my mind, this was a famous song from the 80s which surely everyone knew. I always found it very strange that I seemed to be the only person who remembered that line, and was sure that everyone else was just pretending to be oblivious to this song. Here is the song, courtesy of YouTube. You even get to look at some cheesy pictures of angels whilst it’s playing… … isn’t it awful? A little time spent on Google reveals that this is not the only version of the song. It exists in a couple of cover versions. First up, here’s Nino De Angelo… … isn’t that worse than the first one? Finally, in that horrible modern trend of taking songs from the eight

So this is Christmas….

It’s been far too long since I’ve written in here.  Almost every entry I write begins with those words and so I presume there’s a message in there somewhere; I should write more often.  And I shall. In 2010, I promise I shall. Christmas is never a time of great joy for me.  It’s not a time of particular sadness, but given that the rest of the world seems determined to be elevated into a happier state of being for the latter half of December, my continued normal state of humdrum feels rather left behind in the rush for tinselly nirvana. Personally, 2009 has been an exhausting year.  Starting it in a new job, only to be made redundant from said job in the first week back in January.  Then starting work at Symbian ( www.symbian.org ) in March and working through until now without much of a break.  I need the rest.  I need a week of no work, no stress and no alarm clock. At least there has been some Christmas cheer this week.  Sunday was a particularly good day, with a trip to Hammer

Be Careful!

I’ve never come across a situation in my life when it’s useful to say “be careful”. Mostly, people say it when you’re doing something potentially dangerous, in which case “being careful” is probably something you intend to do anyway.  And indeed, shouting “be careful” at someone walking a tightrope may cause them to turn around to look at you whilst working out what you shouted causing them to lose their balance and fall off said tightrope. I see this in the same category as saying “have a safe flight” to someone about to board a plane.  Unless you’re saying it to the pilot, the person you’re talking to is unlikely to have much control over the safety of the flight, so why say it at all. I guess it’s short hand for “I wish you a safe flight” and “be careful” is short hand for “I don’t want you to hurt yourself”. But this doesn’t inject any “point” into saying it.  Just because I know someone doesn’t want my plane to crash, I am not going to change my view of the flight or my be

Yay! Angry Blog Posting ftw

I hate certain words.  It’s irrational as I don’t have any particular dislike of the change of language over time.  However, there are certain words which irritate the hell out of me, and maybe now is the time for me to exorcise that hatred. What exactly does “Yay!” mean.  It’s something people type in online conversations but it’s not something they’d ever actually say to a real person (I hope).  Apparently, it’s something you “say” when you’re happy or you want to celebrate something that’s just been said to you, but it really irritates me.  I have images of American teen movies where the hero has just saved the world in some ridiculous way and his friends all shout “yay!” in celebration.  What’s wrong with saying “that’s great news!” or “fantastic!” or using a real word? From one word, let’s turn to a pair of words which seem to have become online antonyms even though they don’t mean opposite things. The words are “win” and “fail”.  Apparently, if something goes wrong, or someon

Hampton Court Palace

Despite having lived in London for 10 years, I hadn’t – until today – visited Hampton Court Palace.  We spent the afternoon wandering around the state apartments, kitchens, gardens and other numerous buildings and rooms. Who knew that Hampton Court Palace was home to the world’s oldest known grape vine? We also went into the maze.  Contrary to popular belief, Hampton Court Maze can be escaped using the method of “putting your right hand onto the wall and walking in such a way that it never leaves contact with the wall” but we decided not to try that method opting for the method of stopping at every fork and seeing which of the two options appears “less obviously heading towards the centre, and so more likely to be the correct route”.  Having said that, we got to the middle with no dead ends met on the way… The journey out to Hampton Court was uneventful in terms of delays and cancellations (there were none of the latter, and only a minor version of the former).  The journey from

It’s the little things

Yesterday didn’t start brilliantly as days go, and so it was the kind of day when you really need something to cheer you up. You know how it is – a bar of chocolate or warm cup of tea isn’t going to cut it – you need something to warm the cockles of your heart. Two things happened last night which really cheered me up. We went to the recording of “Clive Anderson’s Chat Room” for Radio 2. All was light and jovial until the subject was mentioned of Elton John’s idea of adopting a Ukrainian orphan. Some of the panel raised concerns over whether a rock star travelling the world on tour, particular one in his sixties, is the best person to adopt a young child. One of the panellists was strangely quiet on the subject – despite having written a column about exactly that subject only days before. That person was Amanda Platell, the homophobic, bigoted and borderline-racist excuse for a journalist who has sold her soul to write for the daily assault on human dignity which calls itself

Well call me Susan.

I commented yesterday on Twitter, that if the Derren Brown lottery prediction was achieved by use of collective wishful thinking, then my name is Susan. My name is not Susan, and no matter how convincing the pyscho-babble which surrounded the 24 people picking numbers, there is no way that they “spotted a pattern in the numbers” and selected the six numbers.  No way at all. State of mind is important.  Positive thinking can affect many things – including sporting performance, professional performance and even your own physical strength.  But no amount of positive thinking can guess six lottery numbers before they are drawn. So, here we remain – still in the dark about how the effect was achieved. Oh well. Talking of things which remain hidden, we went to the Cabinet War Rooms today.  Despite living in London for so many years, it was the first time I’d been.  It is a fantastic museum, and contains so many places where real history took place, that I would recommend any visitor

6 out of 6 – well done Mr Brown

Last night, as I’m sure everyone knows, Derren Brown appeared live on Channel 4 and appeared to predict the lottery numbers before they were drawn. I thought it was a great trick.  I’ve read a lot of rubbish online today in which people express their feeling of “having been cheated” because it was only a trick.  Of course it was. He didn’t actually know all six lottery numbers before they were drawn, he just appeared to.  And appeared to quick convincingly, I think. I went to bed thinking about it last night, and on the walk to work this morning I was thinking about it again.  I have worked out a few ways in which the effect could’ve been achieved – but of course I’ll tune in on Friday to find out how he actually did it.  That is presuming that he does actually tell us how he did it, rather than just telling us how he wants us to think he did it. The front-runner on the internet today suggests that camera trickery was involved.  It’s certainly possible to use the technique sugg

I calibrate my day with strangers

I walk to work.  It’s a nice walk, along the Thames, over Tower Bridge, and along the Thames again. I aim to get into the office at the same time every day, but lethargy and Radio 4 often cause delays in getting out of the house. As I’m walking, a torrent of people walk past me the other way, and after doing the same walk for a while you start to notice people who do the same walk every day. I don’t tend to wear a watch these days – mostly because all my watches need the batteries replacing – and so the only thing with a clock on it as I’m walking into work is my phone.  My phone is busy doing other things – like playing ABBA and AC/DC songs at me to quicken my step to work – and so I have to rely on other signs to tell whether I’m running late or early. And this is where my three strangers come into things.  These three people seem to walk the same route every day, at pretty much the same time.  By looking at how close to the flat I pass them, I can work out whether I’m runnin

A book I didn’t like

I read a lot of books.  Not as many as I’d like to – but that’s mostly because of my high ambition level when it comes to reading lots of books rather than a lack of reading. Sometimes I read books which teach me things, and sometimes I read books which make me think.  But sometimes I just like to read a good story.  No messages, no agenda, just a good story. One of my favourite books is “Haunted” by James Herbert.  It doesn’t pretend to preach any message, nor to stimulate any intellectual debate.  It’s just a great ghost story. However, I’ve found other James Herbert’s books disappointing.  The sequel to “Haunted” – which is so forgettable that I’ve forgotten its name – was terrible.  As was “The Secret of Crickley Hall” which I just finished reading. I’ve literally taken this book around the world with me.  I’ve carted it in my suitcase to provide reading on a long-haul flight home many times, and never started reading it.  Until the middle of last week, that is.  One evenin

I’m a published Android developer…

It’s true. I am.  A few months ago, I did a little experiment with a “Hello World” application.  Working here at Symbian, it was interesting to get a taste of the development experiences across a couple of other platforms.  Of course, what you can learn by writing a “Hello World” application is limited – but then again so is my ability to write code these days, so I’m not the right person to judge the ease of coding for that platform anyway… Part of this experiment was to see how easy it is to get your application to market, and I decided to publish my Hello World application up on the Android Market – just to see how easy it is to do. I published it and foolishly forgot to un-publish it.  And that’s when the madness started. I should explain – my application displays a graphic (the Symbian Heart Logo, in fact) in the centre of the screen and nothing more. Literally nothing more.  My application has no functionality. To emphasise this fact, when I published it on the Android

“Boo!”

A few times over the past few weeks, I’ve come into direct contact with Audioboo .  It’s a fascinating idea – basically you record a couple of minutes of your speaking – or someone else speaking – or the noise going on around you.  I first came across the idea when Stephen Fry posted a link on Twitter to his thoughts on Clement Freud’s funeral service.  A few other people were using it to capture their thoughts, but I didn’t think much more of it. And then they cropped up in my professional life a month or so ago.  Currently, they produce an application for the iPhone to allow you to capture your thoughts directly, but that means that non-iPhone can’t join in the fun. As well as working at Symbian, I’m also a keen user of Symbian phones, and so AudioBoo has been beyond me for the moment.  A few weeks ago, I went over to visit them with a colleague to talk to them about how to get Symbian users involved in the Audioboo experience.  And then last week I had the pleasure of attendin

Toilet etiquette

If you’re a man, and you’re standing in a bar with a bottle of beer in your hand, and you need to go to the toilet.  What do you do with the beer?  Do you take it with you into the toilet (a bit weird) or leave it out in the bar (only for it to vanish before you return). How about if you’re at a buffet carrying a tray full of food – you certainly can’t take the plate of food into the toilet with you, but where are you going to leave it? OK – you could leave it with a friend. But how about if you’re at the local shopping centre and you’ve been food shopping.  You’re on your own, but need the loo before you head home.  It somehow feels wrong to take your food shopping into the toilets with you – but if you leave it outside, the bomb squad will probably close the place down and blow up your loaf of bread in this paranoid age. Can anyone advice on the correct etiquette?

The end of free news? I think not…

I read with interest today that Mr Mudoch (spot the Roger Taylor reference if you dare) has declared that free news is at an end - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8186701.stm Maybe access to The Times and The Sun will no longer be free, but one man cannot declare the end of free news, no matter how much of the media he controls. News happens and nowadays it’s on Twitter before the newspapers even know it’s happened. Yesterday, some gunshots were fired quite close to where I work.  I had been reading about it for 45 minutes on Twitter before BBC News picked up on it.  And Sky News weren’t much ahead on that – but more interestingly when Sky News reported on it, then did so by taking pictures and videos I’d previously seen on Twitter. Rupert Murdoch claims that other news organisations will follow suit when they see the success he makes of charging for access to his sites.  Maybe he’s missed the fact that one of the key conversations happening in the online community over the

Well I never…

How it takes me back.  University days and the drinking game “I have never”.  For the uninitiated, the game involves saying “I have never” followed by something you’ve never done, and the others in the circle who HAVE done such thing are forced to take a drink. Now I can see where you mind may be taking this, but it was never that kind of game.  We knew each other so well, that we carried around a list of things in our head with which we could force any particular person to take a drink – “I have never worn pink socks”  “I have never owned a blue hamster” “I have never done Shakespeare on stage” and so the list goes on. I’m far too old and sensible for such silly drinking games now, but I did get to thinking the other day of the things which I’ve never done.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not melancholic nor harbouring any desire to rush off and do these things – merely observing that despite having done many interesting things in my life, there are some things which you may assume ever

A couple more gigs…

It’s been quite a week for gigs… After the relative seriousness of Bruce Springsteen on Sunday, we saw Spinal Tap on Tuesday – a gig which didn’t contain a single trace of seriousness.  Great fun, all the same, though.  And maybe the most attentive audience I’ve ever seen at a gig; almost everyone knew almost every word! On Wednesday night, we went to a recording of Chain Reaction, the BBC Radio 4 chat show which doesn’t have a host – each week the interviewee from the previous week becomes the interviewer.  We saw two episodes being recorded – Frank Skinner interviewing Eddie Izzard, and then Eddie Izzard interviewing Alastair Campbell.  Despite having no aircon (the noise is too much when recording, apparently) it was a great evening – Alastair Campbell has gone up in my estimation after seeing him being interviewed! And then, last night, our final gig of the week – Blur in Hyde Park.  They were sublime.  Their songs matched perfectly the sun setting over the park on a warm sum

Let There Be Rock!

On Friday, we saw AC/DC at Wembley Stadium.  And they rocked.  With a capital R. It wasn’t subtle, it wasn’t classy.  It was tacky, it was loud and it was fantastic! Last night, we saw an altogether different act.  Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park.  He was classy – but still loud and fantastic. It made me think how many gigs we’ve been to over the years – it’s in the hundreds somewhere.  And over time you notice patterns, some of which I’d like to share with you now. The first thing you notice about a gig is the venue.  People have different tastes when it comes to venues.  Some people like the raw grubbiness of the Kentish Town Forum, whereas some like the clean toilets and shiny escalators of The O2 or the new Wembley Stadium.  Personally, I prefer the latter.  In the same way that I don’t believe that music sounds better through the crackle of vinyl, I don’t believe that a gig is better when your shoes are stuck to the floor and the whole place smells of beer. The second thi

It’s a funny old year…

Time flies as you get older – and this year has certainly flown. It doesn’t seem like a year ago that the news was broken to the world that Symbian was changing.  A lot has happened in the year – a change as large as the one Symbian underwent can’t happen overnight! – but still it doesn’t seem like twelve months ago! I wonder whether it’s a sign of age that the years are going more quickly.  Or maybe it’s having a garden… Since we’ve had a garden at home, the seasons fly by so quickly.  One minute you’re watching the leaves brown as the view from the view turns from verdant to winter and as soon as the Christmas lights are taken down you see the first signs of the crocus pushing their way bravely through the frozen earth in search of some winter sun. The flurry of bulbs – daffodils, tulips, hyacinths – pushes on through the spring, and is soon joined by the white sprinkling of magnolia.  As the spring marches on, the vibrance of the summer colours start to spring forth – pink r

The first of many…

Friday night, we went to see the Pet Shop Boys at the O2.  And what great fun is was too! I’ve seen them a fair number of times before, and the shows have ranged from the high-concept to the rather minimal.  This tour falls into the former category. White boxes feature prominently in the show, as do hats of various levels of weirdness.  Maybe I should say headpieces rather than hats, as some of them are not hats in the traditional sense.  I’m an unashamed PSB fan, so I think it was obvious that I was going to enjoy the gig. But I enjoyed it even more than I expected to.  Most of the hits were there (except Rent) even if only in one of the many medley-esque arrangements of the new songs which started drifted to a chorus of a previous single and then back again during the course of a few minutes. But it was nice to hear “Do I have to?”, “Kings Cross”, “Why don’t we live together” and “Two divided by zero” dredged from the vaults and given a new lease of life on the stage. The w

Has it really been a month..?

I can't believe I've not written in here for a month. I've started an entry a few times, but self-censorship has always cut them off halfway through for reasons of "not being interesting enough". But, today I shall throw caution to the wind and simply dump my thoughts down into this little window and press "submit" whether it not I judge the quality to be worthy. It's been quite a month - our MPs have been claiming far too much money for ridiculous things and the parliamentary Labour Party came within a whisker of committing regicide. Iran had a free election, in which anyone could vote whichever way they wanted - but then disregarded the votes cast in a bastardised version of democracy. Gordon Ramsay upset an Australian TV presenter and Margaret Mountford announced she's not going to be on The Apprentice next year. All exciting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. But let's talk about democracy today. Democracy is very important.

Space

Today was the launch day of the Herschel and Planck satellites (I have as much trouble spelling the word satellite as I do spelling the word disposable!). I followed it on twitter. It's the first time I've followed anything happening that quickly on twitter and the excitement of the teams was very clearly shining through in their tweets during the hour or so from just before launch to first signal from the satellites once in space. Of course, the satellites have a long way to travel. L2 is a long way from earth, and even travelling at that many kilometres per second, it's going to take a while to get there. To paraphrase the wonderful Carl Sagan from the opening line of his book "Cosmos"... "Space is big" It's enormous. And it's got a lot of stuff in it. No matter which direction you look in, there will be an enormous amount of stuff laid out in front of you. Some of it you can see, and some of it you can't. But that doesn't me

What does it mean to be disposable..?

Last night, I was considering what it means to be disposable. We're all familiar with the concept of disposable razors, disposable pens and disposable nappies - but what would it mean to have a disposable mobile phone, or a disposable computer? Disposable means, in the purest sense, something which can be thrown away - but of course, anything can be thrown away so that's not a good definition. How about if we look at those things which are designed to be thrown away rather than repaired. Well that applies to almost everything we have in our homes - we don't tend to repair a rug if it gets worn, yet we wouldn't describe a rug as disposable. You can buy razors which you sharpen or replace the blades in. You can buy pens to which you add more ink when they are empty. And you can buy nappies you put in the washing machine rather than throw away. So maybe the distinction lies in the fact that rather than spend extra money on the item in question (by replacing a part o

I do stupid things

I like to think of myself as relatively bright. I can prove that pi is irrational or do a cryptic crossword. So why do I do stupid things? I'm not talking about making mistakes - that's only human - but there are some things which run contrary to everything I know to be true - yet I can't help myself from believing them. Don't worry - this isn't going to turn into anything deep, although it was heading in that direction. Earlier this evening, I cooked myself some lamb. The oven needed to be hot, but not at the maximum temperature. I know how thermostats work, and I know how ovens use thermostats to keep at the correct temperature. Yet, if I want the oven at 180, I still turn it up to 220 in the hope that it'll heat up more quickly. I know it doesn't work. I know that. But it doesn't stop me doing it.

Censorship

It's long been a problem for those who run shops to strike a balance between catering to the widest possible market and running the risk of causing offence to others. Most recently, it's been Apple who've been in the news for trying to strike this balance. In one case banning The Sun newspaper and in another refusing an entry to the App Store from a pop group . And of course, before that, there was the case of the application which involved shaking your phone until the baby stopped crying. Whilst one could question the mind of someone who's write such an application, we shouldn't let emotion come in the way of deciding whether it's the place of the App Store to dictate the content of the applications being sold. This isn't an Apple-specific problem, of course, it's just that they have had the most recent examples - maybe by virtue of having the highest profile App Store for mobile. Those who take a conservative line on the censorship of applicat

...and it stopped, short, never to go again when the old man died.

Clocks stop when people die. It happened to Richard Feynman's wife. However, he wasn't the sort to believe that the two events were connected in any supernatural way. A quick Google on the subject will lead you to numerous accounts of his earthly explanation for what actually happened. My problem is less about clocks stopping, and more to do with earphones becoming muffled. I listen to a lot of music. Every day, I spend about 45 minutes each way on the walk to/from work listening to music from my phone. I have a problem finding earphones which don't fall out of my ears as I'm walking - I probably have especially slippery ears, or weirdly shaped ears - who knows. In any case, I've found several sets now which don't fall out. However, within a couple of months, every set I have suffers the same problem. It's happened to earphones from Bose, Sennheiser and even the cheap £4.99 ones from Dixons. After a couple of months, the left earpiece becomes muff

Comeback failures

The story is a familiar one. A TV series finishes, a band breaks up or a writer stops writing. Then, ten years later, then either the royalties have stopped pouring in, or old hatchets have been buried, the cast/band/writer gather themselves together and decide to have a comeback. I'm not talking about an artist taking a couple of years between albums (which the press now seem to deem a comeback) but I'm talking about The Eagles recording "Hell Freezes Over" or Pink Floyd playing at Live8. I'm also talking about "Red Dwarf: Back To Earth" which was shown on Dave here in the UK over this weekend. More often that not, the result of a comeback is not an incredible return to form. And certainly the new work very rarely reaches the expectations of the fans who are clamouring for the return in the first place. This weekend was a case in point. Red Dwarf: Return to Earth certainly wasn't diabolical. It had a good central idea, and a few good jokes.

Well well well – it’s been a while

It’s Easter already – it’s amazing just how quickly this year is flying by.  It may be Easter Sunday, but I have so far managed to keep my chocolate cravings at bay and only flirted slightly with them by giving in to the temptation of a hot chocolate in Victoria Park earlier today. Since I last wrote in here, I’ve decided to give Twitter a go again.  I tried a long while ago, but ran out of steam after writing a few tweets.  I’ve tried to embed a twitter thing in this page, so hopefully you can see some of my Tweets are you’re reading this, but if you can’t, you’ll find me at http://www.twitter.com/dan_mcneil   You can follow me on twitter too, if you like – I’m not ashamed to beg for people to follow me so I can look popular… ;-) I’m finding Twitter quite interesting.  I think it’s harder to be funny/interesting/whatever in just a hundred-and-something characters compared with the endless space given over to writing in here.  Let’s see whether I manage it.  I promise to avoid wr
I'm rarely riled these days. I tend to let life wash over me and avoid getting too het about anything if I can avoid it. But this morning, whilst lying half-awake watching breakfast TV in bed, a story caught my eye which was interesting. And then an "expert" in the studio riled me to the point of turning the television off in disgust. One of my pet hates is "bad science". Ben Goldacre writings both in print and in the Guardian are worth seeking out if you've never read them. But they're probably not the best read if you are a follower of alternative medicine. Anyway, back to the story. NCP (who run the car parks) are going to start piping smells into the stairwells of their carparks in order to stop them developing the smell with which we're all too familiar in car park stairwells. Good idea. However, a botanist and smell expert (!) is quoted as saying the following on the BBC website, which is pretty much identical to what he said on BBC B

If uPnP is the answer...

... then I'm not sure I want to know what the question was! The question - of course - is how I get music onto my N78. But, a diversion today from the world of mobile devices, and a delve into the world of popular music. After a few months of relatively sparse gig attendance, we've got a few interesting tickets lined up for this summer. Pet Shop Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Blur, AC/DC and even Michael Jackson feature in my diary for the summer months this year. The Michael Jackson was an obvious one to me. Someone like Michael Jackson has, somewhere in him, the capacity to put on a fantastic gig. Regardless of the other weirdness and controversy around him over the past few years, there was a time when he produced some amazing music and put on some amazing concerts. Time may have changed him in some respects, but he is still the same person who wrote Thriller and produced the album Dangerous, and to my mind, 75 pounds is a small price to pay for the chance to see him reca

Loosing the shackles around my data

I've recently started a new job, and one of the things which comes along with a job in the mobile industry is a mobile phone. I've always felt uneasy about the need to install "special software" onto my laptop in order to share data between it and my mobile device. It's a symptom of the modern world, I believe, that my heart drops whenever I open a package containing any new piece of technology and find a CD with software which is vital in order for me to use the product fully. And I'm no different when I open the box of my shiny new mobile phone. But, of course, the world has changed and these days it’s not so much a question as having your data shared between computer and mobile device, but of having your data accessible wherever you are and from whatever device you happen to be using. The actual location of the data is largely unimportant these days. My contacts list and email archives live somewhere on the internet. I know the URLs to find t

If you want to realise the true insignificance of yourself in the Universe, then look up

I looked at the sky this evening. It's amazing. At the moment, I'm not in London - which is where I usually find myself - and so the sky is not quite so obscured with yellow light. I'm not in the middle of the countryside here - it's in a fairly urban area. And yet, as a plane leaving Liverpool Airport was flying overhead, the trail of the plane was just at the right place in the sky to reflect the moonlight, giving a single white line across the dark blue sky. To the other side of the moon, the clouds had formed a lovely pattern which, again, was reflecting the moonlight back at me giving a wispy form across the other side of the sky. Turning around, I could see stars which in London are hidden behind a fog of ambient light leaking from the sprawling conurbation polluting the beauty of the Universe and hiding it behind a fog of our creation. I guess my reading material recently has what inspired me to look upwards and see what's up there in the sky - I'v

Terror on the number 45 to Ilford

I had a dream the other night, so vivid and with such a narrative that I’ve decided to subtitle it - “Terror on the number 45 to Ilford”. Basically, it involved a mad bus driver driving a bus very badly along roads, across pavements and down alleyways and eventually driving under scaffolding too low for the bus and taking the roof off in the process. Most entertaining. Britney Spears started her tour last week – how thrilling for us all.  And, of course, the entire thing (or almost the entire thing, depending who you believe) was mimed along to a backing track.  Meaning that you didn’t actually hear a single word she “sang” if you went to the concert.  Call me insane, but that’s not a concert is it?  That’s someone dancing around for a couple of hours mouthing their mouth in time to the words. Miming in concert is one of my pet hates.  I don’t see any excuse for it at all.  If you can’t dance and sing at the same time, then get some dancers to dance around you.  If you can’t hi

Never a cross word

Does anyone else remember Crosswits with Tom O’Connor?  Or am I showing my age? Anyway, this Saturday’s Prize Crossword in The Guardian was compiled by Enigmatist who I have to say is one of my least favourite compilers. The Guardian, unlike some other UK papers, including The Times, gives credit to the compiler of a particular puzzle by name, and the editorial policy on crosswords allows each compiler to have an individual style.  Papers such as The Times run the crosswords through the central editorial machine and try to ensure consistency across every day. In a way, that makes The Guardian more interesting a challenge but also makes it more varied an experience. Enigmatist produces relatively few puzzles compared with other compilers – Araucaria producing almost as many as the other compilers put together it seems! – but when he goes, my heart sinks.   It’s not that the clues are hard – they are, by the way – it’s that there is no variation in the difficulty of the clues.

Things that don’t go bump in the night…

Ghosts are weird.  The number of otherwise rational people who believe in ghosts is astounding.  But several things trouble me about ghosts, and lead me to conclude that they don’t exist. Firstly, nobody has ever captured a ghost on film, or on tape, or provided any evidence of ghostly activity which isn’t explained in some other way.  Of course, photos have appeared on the internet (and long before the internet) purporting to show ghosts captured on film (or on CCD these days, I guess). Time was that double exposure of the film was the main cause – that is to say that the shutter is opened twice to put two images into one space on the film – so when the film is developed, you get a ghostly second image appearing.  But that doesn’t happen with digital cameras, of course.  What has happened with digital cameras is that so-called “orbs” are now much more common. Orbs are believed to be the first stage of manifestations of spirits – by some people. The rest of us know that it’s just