Thursday 1 April 2004
One year ago today, I played an April Fool on you lot and quite a few of you took the bait. Then it came true, which was as big a surprise to me as it was to just about everyone else.
I did toy with putting an April Fool up today about Hels expecting our first child, but then thought better of it!
Friday 2 April 2004
Anarchy in the UK?
So, immigration minister Beverley Hughes was forced to resign and now the Home Secretary is under pressure from the media and opposition, all as a direct result of a civil servant "whistleblowing" to the opposition.
Now the Government has recognised the worrying nature of this sort of development and launched "whistleblowers’ roadshows" (heaven help us) in order to provide a route for concerned civil servants to air their concerns. Or, in other words, to give Number 10 a method of controlling these sorts of events and managing them, rather than giving the initiative to the media or opposition.
It does represent a worrying development though. If a civil servant can act to bring about the resignation of a minister, albeit a reasonably junior one, then that suggests that the civil service as a whole could do considerable damage to an incumbent government, whether that be in the general public interest or as an act of malice or political opportunism. The result of this would be an ungovernable nation, as the infrastructure that administers would, in itself, become unadministerable. The political and governmental instability that would result would lead to dire social and economic consequences.
So, the question is, how does one strike a balance between the need to keep the civil service truly impartial and apolitical, as it is always supposed to have been (though I doubt that the reality matches that ideal) and the need to allow legitimate concerns to be raised and dealt with in an effective manner, without causing sensationalist reaction before such concerns and allegations are proven?
Answers on a postcard?
Saturday 3 April 2004
I’ve just applied the final dollop of paint to the last door in the flat. The redecorating is, finally, complete. Here’s a tally of what we have done:
- repainted the front door
- replaced all five internal doors, fitted new door furniture and painted them
- repainted the bathroom, hallway, bedroom, kitchen and living room
- ripped up the carpet in the living room and repaired the floorboards
- new carpet in the living room and hallway
- new carpet tiles in the kitchen and bathroom
- refitted the curtain pole and added new curtains in the living room
- replaced the bath panel
- painted the kitchen cupboard doors
- added two new prints and a large mirror in the living room, plus a new potted plant
- removed shelves and considerable amounts of "stuff" to storage
- removed old sofabed and taken loan of groovy green sofa from Lord Percy
As Hels says – basically, the place has been gutted, and it looks a gazillion times brighter and fresher, which has certainly added many times more to the value than the £800 – £900 that it has cost me.
Estate agents on Tuesday – let’s see what they have to say.
Monday 5 April 2004
My laptop has been dysfunctional for the last 48 hours. I’ve now isolated the cause, thanks to protracted calls with the very helpful Dell technical help staff. The switch that causes the machine to go dormant when you close it is broken, and a replacement hinge cover (with which it is integral) is being despatched forthwith. The problem is that, in order to discover this, and with the tech staff’s advice, I reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled the operating system. Before I did that, I backed up the documents and settings directory, but I suspect that it means that I’ve lost my email archives. I’ll also have to reinstall a shedload of software. I’ve also lost my music files, as I never bothered to back them up (they are easily replaced after all).
It’s more of an annoyance than anything, and also rather time-consuming. If I have lost my email archive, then it could have some serious implications, although hopefully nothing that I can’t get around. We shall see when I attempt to reinstall my backed-up data tomorrow.
Wednesday 7 April 2004
In the land of the living
OK, the computer is back up-and-running, and it appears that all of my data is intact, thanks to good back-ups. Phew! That, amazingly, includes my email archives, much to my relief. I’m now working on reinstalling software and getting everything just-so.
I’m supposed to be guesting at Uborka this week. I’ve been a bit crap, really, though not through any fault of my own.
Look away now
Readers of a nervous disposition may not wish to read on….
Thursday 8 April 2004
It’s soooo long since we had a round-up of news stories coming out of Turkmenistan. As you may recall, the President-For-Life, Saparmurat Niyazov, is completely barking mad. Who could forget when he renamed the days of the week and months of the year after himself (first reported here), or when he decreed that youth lasted until the age of 37 (here). So, to bring you up to date on the latest mad happens in Turkmenistan, I present a Niyaozov News Update:
- "Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not gnaw on bones. This is my advice."
- Midwives and nurses to be replaced by army conscripts.
- Turkmen leader inspires love towards watermelon.
- Turkmen leader hands out free Mercedes cars
- Man makes giant shoe in honour of Turkmen leader
You can catch up on all the "latest" news from Turkmenistan through the official Turkmen news agency – shame there hasn’t been any news since October.
Saturday 10 April 2004
An Englishman’s home
Yesterday, we took a little jaunt down to Bodiam Castle. It looks like this…
As you might expect on Good Friday, it was full of holidaymakers and tourists, including any number of small children with plastic swords and shields, running around the ramparts and giving their parents heart attacks as the charge up and down the tightly winding spiral stone stairways.
I last visited Bodiam when I was very young. It’s an interesting place to visit, although I think it is more likely to be interesting to a five year old than an adult – I think it could do with a few more interpretation signs, rather than relying on visitors to buy the fancy glossy guidebook.
And it’s a shame that our post-castle picnic by the Rother was spoilt by mindless people who let their dogs run and crap everywhere. Still, the tranquility, views of the valley and steam railway and the sounds of the skylarks overhead went some way to making up for that annoyance.
Today we took a trip to London to visit Greenwich and Borough markets. We have plans for a foodfest trip to Borough in the not-too-distant future.
Sunday 11 April 2004
When trolls kill a weblog. Some people have more time than sense.
Tuesday 13 April 2004
A little bit of toast
I have discovered a weakness in the work-from-home plan. That weakness is in the next room. It is called "toaster". It may have to die.
Wednesday 14 April 2004
Calling all techies
Here’s one for all you techies out there.
I have an Intel Anypoint™ 3240 DSL modem which I use for my work broadband connection to BT Openworld. Since the PC shananigans of last week, I’ve had to reinstall it and its drivers.
When I connect, the connection stays good for only a few seconds and then the modem locks up. The light stays green (i.e. it is trained), but no traffic is passing in either direction. The only way to remedy it is to unplug it from the hub and reconnect it.
I’ve checked the connection and checked the phone line. All appears normal.
Having searched the web for a solution, I’ve found that by going into Device Manager and increasing the value for TXPower (currently set at 06, 00 is the default), I can increase the amount of time before the connection dies. But the connection still ultimately dies, nonetheless. I’m told the maximum value I should assign to TXPower is 12.
Well, the good news is that my home broadband connection works fine. I’m increasingly suspicious about line noise on my work connection – that would explain why increasing the TXPower eases the symptoms.
The bad news is that, by connecting to the interwebnet rather a lot at Hels’s home, I’ve racked up a mighty phone bill for her. Hopefully my accountant, who I am seeing tomorrow, will suggest some creative method of making that tax deductable. I think I just need her to issue me with an invoice.
Thursday 15 April 2004
I’ve just called BT support, and the problem does indeed seem to be a fault with my phone line. So an engineer will be coming out to see me at some indeterminate point in the future.
And, in other encouraging news, my account reckons I’m running a tight ship with PFE – to have such a small loss at the end of the first year of trading is, he reckons, extremely good indeed. Of course, we won’t go using phrases like "technically insolvent" around Hels, as she doesn’t like that sort of thing! But since the principal creditor is me, I don’t think I’ll be calling in my debt any time soon.
My friend Claire is now working with MortgageForce, so if you’re in the Chichester area and in the market for a mortgage, give her a shout.
This announcement was brought to you by FriendPlug, the plugging service for friends! Are you a friend? Do you need a plug? Then call FriendPlug today!
Addictive puzzle game. That’s made your day utterly unproductive.
Friday 16 April 2004
Well, it’s the first day of the new county cricket season today, and Sussex kick off at The Oval against Surrey. I’m not entirely confident that Sussex are good enough to retain the title, and would probably put my money on Lancashire. And Sussex’s one-day form is absolutely abysmal – to win the county championship and yet come last in the one-day competition in the same season must be some sort of record.
Either way, I agree with Chris Adams’s assertion on the news this morning that the domestic game is certainly alive and kicking and giving some good and entertaining cricket – a fact reflected in attendances at Hove which have been steadily increasing for some time.
You should now see a different random header graphic each time you load this page. There are ten different graphics, five that you’ve seen before and five that are completely new. How exciting is that?
Their logo is better than ours
New Team Laser Explosion.
Saturday 17 April 2004
Yay! I’ve converted Hels to the wonder that is a goose egg. We’ve just had some (well, one each – you don’t need any more) for brekkie with lovely bread soldiers. Heavenly.
Today, we went for a long walk through West Dean Woods to Cocking Down (no jokes please), seeking vistas of bluebells. We found some, but not the great swathes that we had hoped for, although we were rewarded by plenty of patches of bluebells, drifts of wood anemones, a glade with masses of milkmaids and lots of primroses, cowslips and violas and bugle. We did enjoy fabulous views across the Weald, and also over Selsey Bill, the Solent and the Isle of Wight. We also passed a number of Andy Goldsworthy‘s chalk balls, which are slowly and surely mellowing and dissolving into the landscape. All of this was followed by tea and cake in the visitor centre at West Dean.
This evening, a trip to the cinema to see Under The Tuscan Sun (mostly romantic slush clearly aimed at an American audience that has never travelled to Europe, but harmless enough and quite entertaining) has been followed by fajitas and flopping on the sofa.
If married life is like this, then bring it on.
Monday 19 April 2004
Sergei Gorbunov messes with journalistic minds. Full report here.
Talking of pants…
BT have finally figured out that they can not solve my work broadband problem by sending pings down the wire to the modem. The modem will send back reports saying that it’s fine. Then, when my connection drops, the modem doesn’t receive the pings. SHOCK!
So, after nearly a week of trying to resolve the problem remotely, they are finally sending an engineer out to test the equipment and attempt to resolve the problem in situ. Far more sensible. He won’t be here until tomorrow afternoon though.
Text message spam update
Remember the text message spam that I received? My post about it has attracted a fair few comments. Read them here.
Further update: how handy!
Tuesday 20 April 2004
I’ve worked out what is wrong with my broadband connection – it’s the modem. This morning, I brought in my modem from home and plugged it in, and now the connection works fine. So I’ll have to get on to BT and cancel this afternoon’s engineer visit, establish who owns the modem (I have a horrible feeling that it is me, not BT) and sort out a replacement.
Not very exciting
Well, BT are going to replace my modem. Which is nice.
I’ve also talked to the NatWest this morning, who had seemed to be incapable of returning telephone calls.
And generally, I’ve been busy sorting out odds and ends, not getting much of anything done, but feeling quite productive in the process of doing it.
Which isn’t very exciting for you.
There’s nothing like a heated argument about the EU constitution to set you up for the afternoon.
On the Today programme yesterday morning, I heard Michael Howard say that the EU didn’t need a constitution because nations had constitutions and the EU was not a nation. He didn’t say this just once. He repeated it. His campaign seems to be based on the premise that no constitution is required for the running of an organisation like the EU.
Clearly stuff and nonsense. Corporations have constitutions. Charities have constitutions. All sorts of organisations have constitutions. A robust and transparent framework for the running and operation of an organisation is a fundamental requirement. The greatest shame about all this is that it shows how deficient the founders of the EU were in not creating a constitution at the outset.
If the Tories can not come up with a stronger and more believable argument for voting down the constitution (and I can’t believe that even if the British vote "no" and everyone else that has a referendum votes "yes" that the constitution will be torn up anyway), then I think they will lose the vote and lose heavily.
Unless they play the xenophobia card, of course. And they wouldn’t do that, would they?
Either way, I don’t believe that the proposed treaty needed a referendum anyway. I think that HMG, or, more precisely, the PM, has given into external pressure unnecessarily. The Maastricht Treaty didn’t need a referendum and nor did the Single European Treaty, both of which gave many more powers to the EU than the reforms in the current draft treaty. Even when we joined the EU/EEC, we didn’t have a referendum – it was only afterwards that Labour called a referendum, and that was convincing in its result.
But we know that Mr Murdoch doesn’t have that sort of influence really. After all, he hasn’t spoken to the PM on the subject "recently".
Lord Percy, Clive, Matt, Ted, Vick and Paul F, with sightings of Sally, Viv, Ted, Dave, Gary, Terry and other picture postcards. I also saw Bill, who is a client. Thankfully, he was more pissed than I was. So that worked out ok.
Wednesday 21 April 2004
Busy busy buzzzzzz
As is often the case, I’m far too busy to create interesting content here today. If you’re lucky (?), there may be something later, possibly this evening. I was going to do a round-up of coverage of the UK EU constitution referendum from other English-language newspapers around the world, but I’ve not had time yet.
In the meantime, I’ve got a German coming to visit later today, at some indeterminate time. Just don’t mention the war.
Hels has received an offer on her flat which she has accepted. My flat is in today’s newspaper, so hopefully there will be lots of viewings this weekend and I’ll get an offer soon.
I’ve tidied up the individual entry archives. They don’t look quite right, but I’m too tired to figure out what I’ve done wrong. Either way, they’re a hell of a lot smarter than they were.
Thursday 22 April 2004
You mean I’ve got to work AND provide you people with content?! Sheesh!
Actually, what we really need around here is a silly flash game, but I haven’t seen a good one for a while. The one with the chopsticks and flies was good, although so infuriating that I was nearly forced to put an axe through my monitor.
Any of you people seen anything worth wasting time on?
Friday 23 April 2004
St. George’s Day
Today is St. George’s Day, and I intend to celebrate this later with a pint of good English ale.
On this day, some years ago, a little girl was born. She grew up to be a beautiful, intelligent, funny, quirky, caring, smart, loving, savvy and wonderful woman, much loved by everyone around her. She’s my fiancée.
Happy birthday, Hels. I love you very much.
Great balls of cheese … er, chalk
From our walk last weekend – a chalk ball on Cocking Down (stop it!), with a view over the Weald towards Graffham and Petworth.
New Making Fiends.
Saturday 24 April 2004
I lost that pair of sunglasses today. I think I left them in one of the houses we went to view. Which is annoying. I’ve had them for five years, and they’ve been to America (three times), Spain (twice), France (three times), Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Germany and Holland, not to mention all corners of the UK. Still, it’s a good excuse to finally buy a new pair.
We viewed two houses this morning, one of which was nice but not quite right (6.5 out of 10) and another not really right at all (4 out of 10). We wanted to view some others, but the property market in the area that we are exploring seems to have suddenly sprung to life. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a few more in the near future.
After that, we went to Brighton, looked at and sampled some chocolate and then sat on the beach having drink and food in the glorious sun whilst admiring the millpond-like sea.
Sunday 25 April 2004
Today, we went for a short stroll around Wilderness Wood, near Uckfield (stop it!). It comes highly recommended and looks like this:
The pea and chive soup that is served in the little café is rather good too.
Monday 26 April 2004
….wherefore, thereupon and not in prejudice of…
Today, I have received all the forms that my solicitor would like me to complete in advance of the sale of the flat. They relate to the leasehold. As I also own 50% of the freehold, there will be a similar pile of forms relating to that. It appears that I need to check my inside leg measurement, shoe size and IQ, and write those into the appropriate sections of the form, along with a full and complete tally of the number of doorhandles (10), fluorescent tubes (none), extractor fans (1), curtains including net curtains (6) and picture hooks (4). Interestingly, two things that the forms do not require are my name or date of birth.
Tuesday 27 April 2004
From the property details of a house that Hels and I will be viewing on Thursday –
Ah. That’ll be a semi-detached house then.
A saucer of milk with…
Paul C, Greg, Kearn, Aris and DJ, with a sighting of Dom.
Wednesday 28 April 2004
Sorry people, I’m really busy at the moment, so it’s hard to find time to write much here. Particular apologies to Mark for not replying to your comments and Hanni for not doing anything about Breedster. When time permits….
Meanwhile, a couple of links for you:
Scientists find 400 million year old fossilised millipede poo – slightly charred, apparently.
Team Laser Explosion Secret Fan Club.
Lesson from France?
Twenty five years ago today, Charles de Gaulle resigned as a result of losing a referendum over constitutional reform. Essentially, CDG had linked the referendum to his own position as president of the Fifth Republic, turning what should have been a straight-forward referendum into a vote of confidence.
Somehow, the whole situation reminds me of what is happening now with Tony Blair and the referendum on the constitutional treaty for the EU. I fear that the campaigns will not be about the treaty itself, but more about Europe as a whole and also a vote of confidence in TB – something that I reckon he would be unlikely to win if it happened tomorrow. Let’s face it, the constitutional treaty is not exactly fun-packed or really that interesting to the populace in general – they neither know or care about it, but they like to have a go at something simple like moaning about the French, the Germans or the PM. A product of our shorter attention spans, I fear.
You switched off already?!
Thursday 29 April 2004
Sorry – no content here today again – too busy with work, sorting out incompetence within European institutions (well, one in particular) and looking after a mildly unwell fiancée. Off to look at a house later, and then to eat fishcakes.
Life. Edge. Some distance apart today.
Friday 30 April 2004
Bricks and mortar
For those following our house-buying story, the one we looked at yesterday was nice, but not quite right. It needs quite a bit of work done to it, and would stretch our budget and time availability beyond breaking-point, I believe. Shame, as it has a nice pub across the street.
The other half of the pair is also up for sale, and may actually offer a better option for us. I’ll be contacting the agent today for more information.
UPDATE: Whoa!!! The other half is on the market for £65,000 more than the one we looked at! Whilst the one we looked at needs redecorating and a new kitchen, it does benefit from an extension. Suddenly, I’m wondering if we can stretch that far – it would make a fabulous investment.
If only we had more money…..
Horrors! I’ve just realised that, since I redesigned this site, there hasn’t been a link to my Amazon wishlist – and my birthday is but 13 days away!
Wot no ceasefire?
Chad army deploys on Sudan border.
We should be taking this seriously, of course, but what a fantastic headline!
(If the country was called Kilroy, this post would make much more sense to American readers).
If you use the Brittany Ferries online booking form, it is possible to book a foot passenger with trailer and rear mounted bicycle rack.
Travel comparison for you. I need to get from Gien in France to my office in dear old Blighty.
- train to Caen, ferry to Portsmouth (overnight), train to Chichester – about £100
- train to Paris, Eurostar to Waterloo, train to Chichester – about £200
- train to Paris, Air France to Gatwick, train to Chichester – about £530 (plus metro and train from Gare de Lyon to CDG airport)
- train to Paris, bmi British Midland to Heathrow, tube+train to Chichester – about £65 (plus metro and train as above)
I like easy choices.
For those few people that have been subjected to my copy of Stairway to the Stars, you’ll (mostly) be dismayed to learn that I’ve added The Caretaker’s third album (I must track down his second) to my Amazon wishlist.
I think I once described The Caretaker’s music as being an experience similar to standing about a hundred yards down the road from a 1930s dance hall. In the rain. Not that I’ve ever done that, mind you.