Monday, July 31, 2006


Putin's Internet Interview

I know it's old - a few weeks now - but I hadn't really taken much interest in the interview at the time. I just love the idea that the 4th most popular question (with a few thousand votes) was to ask the president's opinion on the awakening of great Cthulhu. Putin said he viewed such mysterious forces with suspicion and advised those who took them seriously to read the Bible, Koran or other religious books. I wonder which activities of HP Lovecraft's creation have aroused Putin's suspicions? What does Vladimir Putin know that he isn't telling us? Does his calendar have a Post-It saying "Когда звезды правы"?

(illustration courtesy of online news service)

Friday, July 28, 2006


It's still not ready.

Sorry about the picture quality - my camera isn't really up to taking night-time photos from an Airbus a320. The photo below was on the first west-east pass over London before we turned to go south of the river. The lights of Wembley's arch could be seen for miles across London and was still very bright as our plane lined up on Heathrow. 


X marks the spot

I was surprised to find that headstones in the graveyard by St Cuthbert's gave directions to the real location of the remains of the buried. Why would anyone put a marker so far away from the body? Of course, it became obvious when I realised that the base was much newer than the headstone itself - they had moved the headstone and made sure that everyone who wanted to could find the actual grave. Not having a compass, I didn't try and pace out treasure-map style the location... 



Will the real St. Cuthbert please step forward...

It's always surprising when you come across life imitating art. Take Dungeons and Dragons, for example - you just don't expect people to take the game creations seriously but sometimes they do. Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel is the combative deity of Wisdom, Dedication, and Zeal in the Greyhawk pantheon. We need to tell these guys that St Cuthbert is just a game creation of  Gart Gygax.



National Gallery of ... Cows?

Hmmm, there appear to be a number of cows hanging from greco-roman columns - I must be in Edinburgh.

Sadly the Edinburgh Cow Parade 2006 ended on the 23rd and only a few elevated cows managed to escape the herdsman.

This particular beast was created by Roseburn Primary School who bought a cow in the Parade as part of their links with VetAid, who support farming in Africa. Her name is 'Kwameburn' after the links between Kwamebikrom and Roseburn. The cow was designed with tartan on one side and kente cloth on the other. The tartan (the hidden side in my photo) was pink and brown just like the school colours; purple and green for the Scottish thistle and finally blue and white for the flag of St Andrew. The brightly coloured kente (traditional Ghanaian cloth) side is the one you can see. The black blob, which I initially thought was damage, is an outline of Ghana.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


George who?

When I first saw this statue in - of all places - George Street, I thought "bloody tourist". All the king did was pop up to Scotland for a visit in 1822 and he gets a statue erected and a street named after him. It's not as if he actually did anything while he was up there. And the first visit of a monarch across the border since Charles II in 1650 - that's just plain lazy as it's not far. My flight up took an hour and that was economy - imagine how fast you could travel if you were royalty.



Monuments are go...

Is it just me or do you think, like I do, that the Scott monument in Edinburgh's Princes Street sure looks like Thunderbird 3 in disguise?

Thunderbird 3Scott Monument


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


MM does not stand for "Merlin the Magician"

On the BBC website, Mick McCarthy is quoted as saying:
"At the moment we've only got 16 first-team players and my initials stand for Mick McCarthy, not Merlin the Magician. It's important for the fans to believe. We do not want fans turning up expecting to see their team beaten and we certainly don't want the players expecting to be beaten. But if expectations are not as high as they have been in the recent past, that may help the players."
So we have just enough players to field 11 on the pitch and 5 on the bench but we shouldn't expect to be beaten. Actually, slaughtered was the word I was thinking of. Plymouth must be licking their lips in anticipation of the 3 points they'll be pocketing next week when the season starts.

Hayward Out.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Roses grow on us

I had always thought that roses were trouble to transplant so when my brother-in-law gave us all the roses from the garden of his new house I wasn't expecting much success. But easy come, easy go if they died then no loss and as Gary didn't like roses then they'd have gone to the tip if we didn't take them.

He'd already shaken the soil off the roots (which made me wince inwardly) but, after replanting into our garden (and various pots when we ran out of space), they've survived. Even the most sickly seems to have come round with just some compost to kick it off and regular watering. Here's a peachy-pink rose (snapped July 13th):


Sunday, July 23, 2006


Buying trainers the M&S way

It was crazy. I went to the shoe section of the Reading branch of Marks & Spencer; I looked at the trainers there and found a pair I liked; I picked up the pair of size 10s on the shelf and tried them on; they fitted so I went to the till and paid for them. All over in a matter of minutes.

Imagine - trainers on display in PAIRS and mutiple SIZES so you don't have to wait for staff to be free to serve you. Mind you the range was miniscule compared to that at JJB Sports as M&S needed the space for all the extra shoes in different sizes. The range at JJB didn't help them - the only pair I wanted weren't comfortable. Shopping for trainers is such a lottery. SportsWorld was gloomy, warm and busy which wasn't welcoming; Heelas had a tiny selection and the one I wanted was only in an 7 or 8. Checking out 4 shops, though, is pretty impressive for me - I've normally compromised what I am after long before then and bought something I didn't really want but knew I would eventually get used to (looking down at feet to see blue suede-effect Adidas trainers from JJB).

I wonder if I would get a discount there if I gave myself an appropriate middle name...


GPS Cameras

Browsing some photos by Thomas Hawk on the BBC website, I read:
As chief evangelist for Zoomr, Mr Hawk is helping develop the latest innovations in photo-sharing. "I think you’ll see GPS built in to almost every camera in the future," he said. GPS will allow people to automatically tag photos with their exact location on the planet.

I love the idea of that! Being able to take photos of whatever you wanted, like some natural landmark you've seen as you drive through the countryside, and then being able to look in Google Earth to see what it was you photographed sounds fantastic. I have spent literally hours scanning aerial photographs to try and work out where I have been. Take this photo in Spain - where the hell was I at the time? I've used the distances on roadsigns and the timestamp on the file to try and work out using Autoroute where I must have been. I even tried looking up the Jardi restaurant on Google to see if there was an address but all to no avail (although I'm reasonably sure its Tàrrega, I wouldn't put money on it).

Now if the JPEG from the camera had date, time and latitude/longitude then this would be so much easier. Not sure how well it would cope with photographs from airplane windows - although the satellites are that little bit nearer, picking up enough signals to guarantee an accurate position using a small receiver on a battery-powered camera inside the cabin is going to be tricky.

Friday, July 21, 2006


New Wolves Manager

Mick McCarthy first started his managerial career at Millwall in March 1992. Bruce Rioch had just been sacked after a 6:1 mauling by Portsmouth and mid-table ranking didn't match the highs of the previous season's play-off position. Mick was playing in defence at the time and initially became player-manager, steering Millwall to 7th, 3rd, and mid-table. After he left to become manager of Ireland, MiIlwall struggled to collect 12 points from the remaining 17 matches and crashed from play-off chasing to relegation (3 points and 2 places behind Wolves). So Millwall have been managed by Mark McGhee, Colin Lee, Steve Claridge and Mick McCarthy.

After six years managing the Irish team, his position was destabilised by Roy Keane and Mick resigned in late 2002.

Come the following Spring, Mick moved to Sunderland and followed the Black Cats out of the Premiership to the second tier. During 2003/04 he turned the team around and into the play-offs while Wolves were suffering their first and only season at the top. Next season and Sunderland went up as champions before crashing back out again although Mick was sacked 10 games before the end.

According to Soccerbase:

Sunderland 12-03-2003 06-03-2006 147635826
Ireland01-03-1996 05-11-2002 48221313
Millwall18-03-1992 04-02-1996203745970

I fully expect that, should the board continue to act as they have in the past, that Wolves will follow the exact same pattern as Sunderland. Mick may well get us promoted but the board will ensure he doesn't keep the club there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


My work here is done

Today, under a blazing sun and in front of countless roaring fans, I scored my annual goal. A lovely pass in from the wing, deftly handled and volleyed towards the congested goalmouth. The defence could barely react before the ball dipped below the bar. Only a few minutes on the clock and we're already 1-0 up.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


GuilFest 06

It's now the third year running we've been to GuilFest but this time we dragged Samantha along too. Guilford is only an hour down the road for us and the festival tickets are a lot easier to get than for Reading Festival (and cheaper).

GuilFest is Reading Festival for the "Radio 2 Generation". The festival-goers still appreciate the music but they also realise that there is more to life, like bringing your kids along or being able to sit in comfy chairs drinking beers YOU took in with you. Imagine that - a festival where they don't strip-search you for contraband like bottles of water. And they still manage to sell loads of beer.

We've been lucky - GuilFest has been gorgeous weather every time. I'm sure it will rain sometime we decide to go but for the moment we'll enjoy the clear skies and warm sun (although not TOO much, eh, Sue?)

First stop after the St John's Ambulance tent was a Comedy Tent - not THE comedy tent, we quickly realised, but some mish-mash of entertainment (stand-up comedy, karaoke, etc) in a marquee packed with Nintendo DSes. Weird layout having Kevin Dewsbury (below) talking to an audience standing the other side of 20 kids playing on tony screens, although I'm sure he's worked in worse places. Although he was funny, you felt too far away for it to work - not the same atmosphere, made worse as he had to filter out certain subjects due to the young audience (who weren't listening anyway). It's not that I need to hear blue jokes - I don't - but it does knock the comedian off his stride. One advantage of the kiddy barrier, though, was he was too far away to effectively target anyone.

Kevin Dewsbury

After Kevin finished, we moved on in search of the REAL comedy tent which was in full flow by the time we got there. Danny James was compere and introduced the 3rd act as I settled down to watch.

Danny James (Compere)

James Branch was very good - professional with a tight performance and I recommend you look out for him in the future.

Next up was Steve Day, a rarity being a deaf comedian. We didn't need to make any allowances for this and he wasn't after any sympathy although it made good material for him. He did say that it was a nice change for him to see the audience (it being a daytime gig in an open-air marquee) - usually when his wife asks him how a gig went, he has to say "as far as I know, I stormed it" (clue: he's 70% deaf). It was interesting when he touched on the politisation of deafness, a world where it has become important for some to show if you are "Deaf" or "deaf" and where friends of the deaf are more likely to take offence than the supposed targets of humour. Sue learned this when she took a Sign Language course a couple of years ago - I find it kind of weird but as a member of an oppressed minority myself (D&D player) I can sympathise and understand.


Steve Day

Tom Stade was on a roll - he looked confident and out to enjoy himself (no idea if this was drug-assisted or not). I'm sure I've seen him at Jongleurs in Reading before and recognised some of his act - basically the anti-women stuff. Good observational work and well described so that you could easily picture a "significant other" crossing her arms and delivering the laugh that meant the "Gates of Hell had just shut behind you". Obviously, I had to use my imagine a lot to create this image - Sue doesn't bother with the preamble... Also the only comedian I've come across that started off his act taking the piss out of Wolverhampton - a place he initially thought was in the middle of a fitness campaign or sports festival from the number of track suits he saw being worn. Anyway, I picked up his CD afterwards for a £5 - bargain. It had to be a fiver as us British are too tight to pay a tenner for anything  :-)

Tom Stade

Beware of Tom Bell - he is by no stretch of the imagination funny. I spent a lot of the time while he was on just staring at the floor waiting for him to finish and depart. Only act to get heckled for being boring. The compere afterwards got really defensive about it - he suggested perfectly reasonably that if we didn't like an act we could just walk out and come back later. Yes, but I was comfortable where I was and I knew Tom Bell would go away eventually so I sat it out.

To be fair, there were some good ideas but they needed better treatment - maybe this was all new stuff and he was testing it? For example, one day he looked into the bathroom mirror and saw his father's face looking back, implying that with age you will come to resemble your parent. The twist was that in reality his father had built a false bathroom wall and bricked himself in so that when the glassless mirror was looked into, it really was his father staring back. The delivery really lacked polish.

Tom Bell


Six o'clock is kick-out time in the Hush Puppy-sponsored comedy tent so I'm forced to go and find something else to do, like watch some bands. Kosheen were soon to start (I'd already missed six other bands and singers - only 3 left now) so I slowly walked my way to near the front, navigating past walls of folding seats and fields of blankets. Sian Evans has a lovely voice and I was starting to really get into the dance/electronic music. The nice part of festivals is forcing yourself to listen to a whole set of music that you wouldn't normally touch.

Sian Evans, Kosheen

Gary Numan plays heavy rock (or dark wave industrial metal depending on what album reviews you read) and I found his set entertaining although his voice never sounds like what you'd expect for the genre. In years long gone, I did buy "Tubeway Army" and "Replicas" (admittedly both second hand) but never really got into his music past the hits. I think the same applies now - the songs they played were OK but apart from "Cars" and "Are Friends Electric" there was nothing I went away thinking that I must listen to again.

a-ha headlined Saturday so I strolled off to look around at other bands (Sue wanted to see them more than I did so I left the camera with her).

On the Ents24 stage were Blue Öyster Cult and I stayed for a few songs before drifting away - definitely a show for fans only. Maybe I'd drift by later for their "hit" :-)

I watched a couple of small bands at the LiveClub stage - Toledo Steel and Occasional Rascuedos.

Toledo Steel were a group of teenagers from Brighton who made me smile - the lyrics were bit naff but you could see they loved what they were doing and that really helps make you want to stay around (unless you've just turned up at the end of their set...). Loved the drummer, bashing away in a oversized Mad Hatter top hat over a big grin.

Occasional Rascuedos started kitted out in ponchos and Mexican hats, belying their Lancashire background. Apparantly, according to their Myspace their music is "in the style of guacamole with Platanos fritos as the "funk", crunchy nachos as the "rock" and a crazy mole of chocolate and chili as all the other types of influence stuff." which obviously matches well with their songs about girls in Blackpool that look like supermodels and talk like dockers.

Time was moving on so I navigated my way back to Sue and Samantha to catch the remainder of a-ha's set. They were pretty good so I could have watched them instead of checking out some other bands but I felt I would have short-changed myself if I had just stuck to the Comedy tent and main stage. None of the bands on this year were on my "must see" list but the day was good one none the less.

A-ha on stage

Morten Harket


Thursday, July 13, 2006


Coming over all techie

I don't know what's happening - today I built a Wiki and learnt all about Sharepoint. There's a worrying trend here - I'll soon lose the mantle of "least technology-loving person in technical support."

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Beggars Fair 2006

Being the avid Pressgang fans that we are, it was off to Romsey today for the Beggars Fair. Best part of the day was that it was free to listen to or take part in any of the activities - even the programme was only a quid.

 First event for us in the afternoon shift was "The Travelling Talesman" in King John's Garden. Cliff Eastabrook was having a busy day as not only was he telling us a couple of tales, he was also sound engineer and bassist at other times too. Which was why he was 10 minutes late - not that we minded as at least the weather was good and saxophonists had stopped playing. Cliff specialises in stories from mythology and history, such as disposing of Don Hugh and the cursed wolf-man that we heard today, and works the audience well.
By the time Cliff had finished, it was getting on for 5 and most of the venues were closing to reopen at 8pm. We had left it a little late to get to Romsey in the first place so missed a few hours of music beforehand too. Samantha decided that she liked the sound of "Pokey" so we retired to The Tavern to wait for them to start (they were supposed to be playing 4:30-8:00). Bit of a down-market place, packed for the fair and charging THREE POUNDS for a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale! And I thought Reading was bad.
Eventually Pokey started and we soon discovered that they were an adequate covers band (there being no write-up for them in the programme). After a few not-too-loud choruses of "Hi-Ho-Wolverhampton" as the band played Jeff Beck's classic, we slipped off to find somewhere to eat. Eventually we decided upon the Purbani Indian restaurant on Bell Street - if you do decide to eat here (and the food was nice), try to get a table at the front of the building (few tables) rather than the larger back (much busier).
The high-point for us was to be the Pressgang sets so we finally set out (fair in town means restaurant staff a bit overwhelmed) for The Abbey Hotel. Skimmington Ride were already playing standard fiddley stuff and the place was packed with a lot of overflow into the car-park. Luckily, after Ride's fans left we were able to get in and take up positions at the front.

Track listing for the 1st half:

The intervening session was a humorous set from Johnny Jet where we were regaled with tales of Batman Pyjamas, (every line rhymes with) Priscilla and being beaten up by Keith. I thoroughly recommend checking his website as a lot of tracks can be downloaded for free.

Track listing for the 2nd half:

Pressgang are:

Damian (nothing to do with The Omen)George (nothing to do with Rainbow)Tony (for those who can't see the bleedin' obvious)Cliff (wondering if the lady should really be dancing without a sports bra)

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Hoddle gone

Glenn Hoddle has today announced his resignation from WWFC. I'm glad he's gone - not because I thought he was poor (although others did) but so he won't be used as a scapegoat by the club come November.

According to his public statement, Hoddle said: "I wish to announce my decision, with immediate effect, to resign as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club. It has been a very difficult decision but I feel that my expectations and the club's expectations have drifted too far apart in recent weeks. This decision has been made early in pre-season for the benefit of the club. I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the board, players, staff and fans for their support and efforts and wish everyone connected with Wolverhampton Wanderers every success in the future."

I wish him the best of luck - now the Wolves fans can concentrate on bringing pressure to bear on the board. They've sold Lescott, our best player, and let Miller (free to Celtic) and Cameron (free to Coventry) go (along with Postma, Silas, Ganea, Ross, George and Anderton). There are 21 players on the books - 3 are injured and another 2-3 are bound to leave. The club is down-sizing so fast that currently there is a possibility that they cannot field a full team come the new season. I am not looking forward to the new season - I am only looking forward to the Hayward years to end.


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