Thursday 1 January 2004
Happy New Year
2004-themed greetings and best wishes to all grayblog readers!
The promised Review of 2003 is in development and will be posted here soon. At the moment, I’m just too pooped after last night’s celebrations in the company of family, friends, food and drink.
The Acme Futurematic Push-Button Home of Tomorrow
Friday 2 January 2004
Some science stories for you:
Stardust probe rendevous with comet – related: NASA Stardust homepage.
Millenium Seed Bank nears complete collection of UK plant species – related: MSB homepage.
Plans drawn up for solar-powered aerial circumnavigation – related: Solar Impulse homepage.
Sunday 4 January 2004
Monday 5 January 2004
I promised a review of 2003, although reading Gordon‘s, I was tempted to give it up as a bad idea. It’s hard to sum it up in a few words, but I think it is fair to say that 2003 was the best year yet, both professionally and personally.
There have been three major positives in 2003. The first was finally deciding to draw down the shutters on Croftway Nursery in its current incarnation. With my parents finding running the nursery so all-consuming that no room was left in life for the more pleasurable things, and with my brother and I both up to our eyes in our own projects, it was really a simple and natural conclusion to come to. Since that decision was made, all sorts of exciting new plans for the nursery have been made, all of which involve my parents – they certainly won’t be spending the future sitting in front of the fire with the cat, which is exactly how things should be as they are not the sort of people who enjoy sitting around and being idle. I’m looking forward to the future for Croftway, even if my part in that will be much less than my part in its recent past.
The second major positive was the creation and rapid blooming of Plants For Europe Limited. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I’d be undertaking to set up my own business that would give me the opportunity to travel a bit, meet interesting people and see brand new plant varieties before the rest of the world, I’d have laughed. The fact that PFE has also been so well received by the industry is also extremely encouraging, such that PFE is already exceeding my forecasts (which is also the result of my prudence when it comes to spending money, my additional cash inputs and the support of my backers). The next three years will not be easy for PFE – money will flow outward faster than it flows in, but I’m confident that the tide will begin to turn, and that if all goes well, it should provide a good income for me and my family in the future.
Not only that, but PFE has also been good fun. It has always been important to me to have a job that I enjoy – I rate that above pecuniary reward. PFE is certainly that, and has included some interesting travel too, with two trips to the States (plus some add-on when I went to David and Andi’s wedding), a trip to Germany and three trips to the Netherlands, as well as several trips within England and Wales. 2004 will see still more travel, with visits to Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland, Scotland and possibly more. There’ll be a lot to fit in this year.
Of course, the last but greatest of the three positives of 2003 was meeting and getting engaged to Hels. We’ve got a lot to get through in 2004 – we need to sell our flats, find a new home, arrange a wedding, actually get married and then settle in to our new life together. It’s an exciting and challenging time, but I’m loving every minute, and looking forward to all that it will bring.
grayblog is still here too, nearly halfway through its fourth year of continuous inanity. I’m surprised you stick around to read this drivel, but you do. I still enjoy creating and maintaining what you see here and, as I’ve said before, whilst that remains the case then I shall continue to keep on driveling. I still have plans to improve this site, although finally switching to MT and changing hosts was a great step forward.
So that’s it really. 2003 done with, 2004 to look forward to. I hope yours is as good as mine promises to be.
A little bit of politics
Scaryduck writes well on the state of the world. No real solution is offered, but still worth reading.
Tuesday 6 January 2004
Start The Week
I listened to Start The Week on Radio 4 yesterday, and very interesting it was too. If you are quick, you can listen to it at the STW page, although I think it is only there until the weekend.
UKIP – no votes for you
Letter bombs to MEPs are the price of EU policy, says the UK Independence Party. Rrrgh! ….bile… ..rising…. must resist urge to rant!
In the name of all that is good on this planet, what the xxxx are these idiots thinking? How on Earth can the UKIP suggest that there is any justification for letter bombs in the world of politics? I think that they have just successfully shot themselves in the foot – their constituency is dominated by the more conservative elements of British society who will, rightly, be totally abhorred by the sentiment that their spokesman has expressed.
Incidentally, responsibility for the bombs has been claimed by a group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Front. The BBC reports that they are the responsibility of the Informal Anarchist Federation, apparently a misnomer which shouldn’t be confused with the Italian Anarchists Federation, who, unlike the UKIP, have denounced these bombings. More here.
To be honest, I hadn’t realised that anarchy was so well organised. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
UPDATE: the leader of the UKIP has now condemned the bombings, although he went on to reiterate his warnings of civil war in Europe. Scaremongering at its best.
Food for thought
In Ghana, there are only six doctors for every 100,000 people.
The NHS in the UK imports doctors from other countries in order to redress the perceived shortage of doctors in this country. Can you guess which is one of the nations targeted by NHS personnel managers?
Fact poached from a trailer for tonight’s Radio 4 programme The Poor Wars.
Mars probe returns colour images. The BBC server has been struggling a bit lately with the Mars probe pages – you might find that the NASA pages are more reliable.
D-Day approaches for Beagle 2 – at least, the BBC would like you to think that. In truth, tomorrow is the first of several D-Days, although if there is no success tomorrow, it will be very disheartening.
Wednesday 7 January 2004
…Greg, wherein I bored the hair off him by talking incessantly about the wedding. Sorreeeee!
In other observations, why do the police in Chichester (or anywhere else for that matter) consider themselves exempt from the speed limit?
Thursday 8 January 2004
Oh no! I feel another rant coming on over this news. Kilroy is clearly a fool for writing such an ill-conceived and prejudiced article, and the editors of the Express are even more stupid for being foolish enough to print it.
Interestingly, in the Express’s own reporting of this news, they only refer to the peice as a "newspaper article" and don’t mention that it appeared in their own publication. How curious!
Her Britannic Majesty requests…
BBC News – UK passport holders will need visas to enter US. Whatever happened to being granted passage without let or hindrance?
Aside: isn’t English a strange language? The verb to let can mean either "to allow" or "to hinder".
If anyone can explain the purpose of this, I’d be glad. Either way, it’s very pretty if a little drug-fuelled.
Friday 9 January 2004
Apparently, Nicholas van Hoogstraten is not sorry about the death of Mohamed Raja, for which he was tried for manslaughter.
Draw your own conclusions.
From the BBC (as usual):
President Bush to announce plans to send astronauts to Mars and the Moon. No surprise there – this has been flagged up for some time. Not sure that Congress will stomach the cost of these projects though.
Steve Fossett unveils aircraft for round-the-world solo attempt.
Too many pies
New Weebl and Blob.
Saturday 10 January 2004
Spam, spam, spam and spam
OK, I’m officially fed up with comments spam. Today there have been seven new spam messages posted, all advertising drugs to aid sexual dysfunction.
Anyone know of a good spam-blocking measure for MT? Blocking IPs is akin to shutting the door after the horse has bolted.
Monday 12 January 2004
Price war victims
Supermarket price war predicted. This is being billed as good news for consumers, resulting in more choice and lower prices. But somehow I’m not so sure. The price war will result in yet greater pressures on suppliers (i.e. farmers and food processors) in order to reduce costs. The producers are already under great pressure to produce highly consistent food at very low costs, driven by the demands of consumers. I feel that increasing that pressure will only lead to more food scares like the one involving salmon we have just seen (although I’ve yet to be convinced of the merit of the claims in that case), and will also improve the odds for mass-produced subsidized food from western multinationals at the expense of food from smaller producers, be they in developing nations or in the next village.
I’ve tidied up the template a little – the archives have moved further down the sidebar, so that the projects and current listings are nearer the top.
Tuesday 13 January 2004
I seem to have a problem with one of my work domains, bouncing back emails for no good reason. Anyone care to guess the name of the hosts?
You can tell it is the thirteenth today – it’s not even a Friday, yet everything seems to be going wrong or to be full of stress. Missing staples, miscreant property management companies, short-tempered people, time-poor people and a distinct lack of chocolate are making for a mildly stressed and tetchy Graybo.
But the only solution to these problems is to seek a logical way to move forward. So my problematic email server is being solved by a DNS transfer to 34sp.com, who have been making a very good job of looking after grayblog for the last three months or so. The missing staples problem is solved by looking where they should not be. Property management companies are less easy to fix, but some research involving a trade catalogue for cast iron drain parts has proved to be enlightening, and some sensible financial management ideas pour oil on troubled waters. And whilst I still have no chocolate, a Polo acts as a good temporary substitute.
I could use a holiday, but there seems to be no chance of that (other than the honeymoon) much before 2020 (you think I’m overstating the situation?!). So I shall seek other forms of rest and relaxation after work today, probably involving some music and a good book, with the possible addition of a soak in the bath. That will be better than last night, when I finally finished the paperwork I had taken home at around 11pm.
Venus as a photo
Is it me, or do the newly enhanced images of the surface of Venus actually show a half-finished Ground Force project? Seriously, they’re very good.
Related: Don Mitchell’s Venus site.
Aside: for years, my dentist was a man named Don Mitchell.
News you might have missed: Enric Bernat Fontlladosa has died, aged 80. Fontlladosa invented the Chupa Chup lollipop in 1958. Startlingly, it is now manufactured in 170 countires, and four billion of the things are sold each year.
Wednesday 14 January 2004
Because you don’t have enough to fill your day already…. Vertigolf.
Man’s body found in freezer.
You shouldn’t laugh, I guess, but the fact that there will not be a post-mortem until Friday tickled me. Can’t they stick him in the microwave?
Thursday 15 January 2004
Speaking too soon..
Having said that 34sp.com were doing a good job on my hosting, this morning I am unable to download mail due to a server timeout. I’ve just sent them an email to request support – let’s see how quick they are at fixing it!
Friday 16 January 2004
Monday 19 January 2004
Two sad and shocking deaths to record:
Australian batsman David Hookes has died after being assaulted outside a bar in Melbourne. Hookes played 23 Tests for his country, and was coach of the Victoria state team. He was 46.
James Lawrence, guitarist with Chichester band Hope of the States has taken his own life whilst recording at Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld studio near Bath. He was 26. (Thanks to Celine for making me aware of this).
The last few days in bullet points:
- a few hours wandering around Arundel, featuring the ducks of Swanbourne Lake; Belinda’s Tea Rooms (not recommended unless you enjoy microwaved food); a wander around the cathedral, surely one of the finest Roman Catholic cathedrals in the country; and a considerable amount of time browsing the excellent Sparks Yard General Store in Tarrant Street.
- Much food and drink with Sarah and Paul, including a pistachio explosion.
- Lunch with the family at the Spur.
- An excellent walk in Baycombe Woods and through Slindon village, with a fantastic sunset, and a pause to purchase an Uchiki Kuri from Mr Upton’s famous squash and pumpkin garden, which Hels plans to use in a soup this weekend.
Forgot to mention (which goes to show how thrilling it was) – on our way back to Tunbridge Wells last night, we took a small detour to try and find the local branch of Waitrose which is a bit tucked away. When we found it, we discovered a small fire burning in some waste paper and card, and some youths sauntering away. I did my civic duty, put my underpants on over my trousers, and called the fire brigade.
Undoubtedly, for my troubles, I’ll be getting a call from the police when they investigate it, although I’m not sure that they should bother.
Comments spam. Plumbing new depths.
In other shock news, a BBC reporter has found this site and left a comment. Will fame follow? I’ve got a better view of Tunbridge Wells than their webcam at the moment.
Tuesday 20 January 2004
If the Daily Telegraph has always been nicknamed the Torygraph, what will it be known as if the allegiance changes?
Beer with Kearn, Greg, Paul C and Kev.
Whammers are the new noughts, apparently.
Facts or opinion?
George W Bush and the real state of the Union. Worth reading, particularly if you are American and have a vote.
Wednesday 21 January 2004
Why work? Play instead! You know you want to!
State of the Union
Sign observed at the coffee bar on Barnham railway station:
I like that coffee bar.
Last of the Sun. Thora Hird’s last performance – a gently amusing monologue, introduced by its author, Alan Bennett. Catch it while you can, as the Beeb tend to only keep these things online for a few days. And be warned – there’ll not be a dry eye.
Thursday 22 January 2004
A week or so ago, I sent an email to the organisers of IPM, Europe’s biggest horticultural trade show which I will be attending next week. In my email, I asked how I could get an advance copy of the catalogue. Yesterday, I got a reply. In the form of a letter. In the letter, it gave me a telephone number to call.
Whatever happened to Teutonic efficiency? Surely all this could have been done with a simple form on their website?
I’ve got a Movable Type problem. When I post a new entry, when it sends the pings I get a "can not find server" error and it all grinds to a halt. Ideas? I’ve switched pings off – let’s see if that makes a difference.
OK, so maybe the world and its wife have linked to this, but Penguin Baseball is fantastic, inducing Stuart Hall style laughing in Graybo Towers.
Alternatively, try some dolphin insanity. Both links via B3ta.
He’s a very nice young man…
Spirit breaks down. Do NASA know a man who can?
Sunday 25 January 2004
From yesterday’s Grauniad magazine:
Dude, lightbulbs are totally old media – we can now download photons directly from the internet.
Does the world need blogging jokes?
Monday 26 January 2004
A little bit of politics
Simon Hoggart on Ken Clarke’s return to the front bench. via Darren. All hail the return of the most powerful weapon in the Opposition’s ammunition.
I’m still experiencing MT problems. It won’t post properly (always comes up with a DNS error), rebuild properly (ditto) or allow comment posting properly (same again). I’ve tried a rebuild which has been unsuccessful, so now I may have to resort to the MT troubleshooting pages. Guh.
OK, I’m beginning to quantify the symptoms of the MT problem more accurately.
I have started a thread at the MT support forums here. Please, anyone who is an MT buff, go take a look and add anything that you feel might help me. Thanks.
Tuesday 27 January 2004
I’m not even sure that anyone can read this. Anyway, thanks to Vicky for her suggestion – this is a test to see if it works!
UPDATE: Vicky’s suggestion does seem to have fixed the comments problem, so you should now be able to leave comments as normal. If you experience problems, please let me know by email.
Oh, and I realise that this must be very boring for most grayblog readers, but these technical difficulties are making it quite difficult for me to keep the site updated, and I’d really love to resolve them.
Following on from Gordon’s exhortations to be nice to each other, I’d like to point out how good I was to pull out the credit card that someone had left in the machine outside the Abbey in Tunbridge Wells yesterday and take it in to hand to the receptionist there. Hels was full of praise for me doing that, but, honestly, it was just the natural thing to do. The thing is, a whole bunch of people must have walked past the loudly beeping machine with the obviously protuding card and done absolutely nothing. I guess it is the typical British reaction to "not get involved".
And whilst I’m being nice, I’d like to warn all readers to watch out for MyDoom, a new virus that has appeared in my inbox three times already today.
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the breaking of the 900-day seige of Leningrad in the Second World War, the Russians have set up several displays and monuments including this poster:
Just so that you can get a sense of scale, that little dot at the bottom of the poster is a woman looking up at it.
Who needs Millennium Domes?
Friday 30 January 2004
Apologies for the quietness here – I’m busy attending a huge trade show in Essen, Germany, and having problems connecting to a local internet service provider (this call is being routed back to the UK – goodness knows what it will cost). As compensation, there is beautiful thick snow here and a number of pretty good restaurants too.
The show itself is in a huge exhibition centre, and is on a vast scale. Yesterday I managed to get through three of the twelve halls. Today I have a considerable number of meetings scheduled, so I doubt that even that much will be achieved.
I will try and write one of my usual travelblogging monologues and post it here, but so far there hasn’t been time for that, and tonight I’m expecting to go for dinner with a couple of German growers.
In the meantime, please entertain yourself in whatever manner you feel is appropriate.