Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I K Brunel a Frenchie?

Isambard Kingdom BrunelWell, sort of... I was reading about the 200th anniversary of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's birth and was quite surprised to see something I didn't know. Not because I know everything, but that I'm interested in Brunel's achievements and I'd have thought I'd have known this particular thing.

Before my two readers inundate me with post about being xenophopic, I'd like to put in context what I'm about to say by referring to a recent TV series where I K Brunel was voted by the public to be the 2nd Greatest Briton ever- only losing out on the top spot to the worthy Sir Winston Churchill. Also, bear in mind the healthy rivalry (with a few noteable exceptions) between the French and British through the ages.

Well, what I read, if you hadn't guessed it, is that I K Brunel was the son of a Frenchman. If it weren't for the French Revolution, when his parents fled the country, he would have been born in France. Indeed, he returned to study Engineering in Paris. With hindsight, his name isn't exactly what you'd call Anglo-Saxon.

OK, now that business is all out in the open, let's all calm down and remind ourselves that he was actually born in Portsmouth- but don't tell the people of Southampton... Oh no, you can't win!

Portsmouth's Confidence Receives a 170 metre Boost

Spinnaker TowerThey say that nothing boosts or displays confidence like a fallic symbol. Well, I'll leave it to you to decide what Portsmouth is trying to do with its Spinnaker Tower. Portsmouth certainly receives lots of, ahem, stick- particularly from their south coast neighbours Southampton. Whatever the background, the city clearly had a deep seated need from which has risen the tallest viewing platform in the UK. More stats (and better photos) available on the official site.

What I will say is that the Burgers at Bar HA HA are lovely. We didn't bother with the tower. Too much shopping to do. Maybe if the weather had been a bit more conducive to it, it'd have been a worthwhile lift ride.

Thanks to the fella in the car park who pointed out that despite the "Sorry, this machine is not currently taking credit/debit cards" sign, the machines had just worked for him. Because he's going to be reading this blog, obviously. Perhaps I need a fallic icon to seal the future success of this site?

Hotel Recommendation- The Angel, Midhurst

The AngelIn the hope that a positive review will see hotels inundating us with offers to sample their wares, here is a bright and breezy, rose tinted review of The Angel in Midhurst, West Sussex.

A quaint hotel in a quaint town! I like hotels with a story and The Angel has one, finding its roots back in the 16th Century at a pivotal time in the history of the town. The room was very cosy. Not in the polite way of saying small, but in the wood beam and comfy furnishings sense. The staff dealt with our non-feather needs without fuss. A nice touch was a sort of landing-come-sitting-room with a selection of books and magazines for you to take to your room. At least, I think that was the idea. If not, apologies if any of the other rooms were looking for Cosmo, The Economist 2006 Preview or BoatBuyer.

Even on a Sunday night there was a fair selection of places to eat. It's not my style to scoff dinner in the same hotel as I'm staying (I like to explore), so MissClick and I took to the streets. Unfortunately, we couldn't review all the restaurants in one evening, but the range was fine- from Prezzo (you can see through the big windows), through the Spread Eagle (posh nosh where you can just see through the windows if you put your nose against them) to The Gaudi (so posh, you can barely see through the windows- and dammit, we tried).

Breakfast in bed was inclusive which was a bonus. Hotels usually take the liberty of sticking upwards of five pounds on for that.

We only stayed for the one night of R&R, but Midhurst kept us out of mischief for a night and morning, and had much to offer in terms of seeing the castle, market square and the various locations HG Wells lived at and worked around the town. The rest of West Sussex and Hampshire, if not London, are within striking distance for longer stays.

Heartily recommended.

Richmond Park- London's Best Kept Secret...

Richmond Park...and with the readership of this blog, it's likely to stay that way, which is great. Speaking of my readership, I'd like to say hi to you both- thanks for putting us up this weekend. You're stars.

The morning after the night before, and after a hearty breakfast, we went to blow to the cobwebs off in Richmond Park. Although I lived nearby for quite a while, I still find it reassuring to find that in this day and age there is still somewhere within the M25 where you can get reasonably lost. No buildings to get your bearings by. No colourful signs to lead the way. Just wild grass, lakes, trees, hills and the occassional group of London Dynamo cyclists weaving their way round the perimeter road. Superb.

An opportunity to exercise some schoolboy naturalism (not to be confused with Naturism- at least, not today). Shelduck, Mallard, Green Woodpecker, Swan, Coot, Roe Deer, Parrots and 'fun dad' were all spotted in our hour or two's meanderings. Fun dad was encouraging his boys to charge through the muddy puddles, and leading the way valiantly. Would love to have been a fly on the wall when they got home and were subjected to the laundry police's interrogation.
Roe Deer

Laundromat, The Blag Club

Many thanks to The Outpatients (note that they have a blog now) for a great night out at The Blag Club. You were the warmth in our frozen sandwich- it was a cold cold night outside as we made our way to and from the club. Despite finding our way straight to the venue (much to the surprise of all of us) it still took at least the first two drinks to raise my inner core above zero. Andy certainly raised the temperature when the guys went BIG sometime around midnight... we WILL get to the bottom of which Eric Clapton track was sampled!

Again, I hope it was a success from you guys' point of view and we can do it again.

Monday, February 27, 2006

An Englishman hangs his head in rugby shame...

...meanwhile, the same Englishman raises his head in pathetically turncoat glee when he's reminded that he is somewhere between 20 and 50% Scottish. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Come to think of it, somewhere in my ancestry we were possibly swimming in the gene pool with Bonnie Prince Charlie and his French chums, and for that, I'll claim victory in the 1998 World Cup Finals and this year's Winter Olympics Mens' Downhill Skiing.

Oh ok, I've gone too far. Back to the losers camp.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Nanny state

Dead EndIn case you don't see the 12 foot high, 40 foot wide wall, that's a dead end you know.

I've just broken off some crazy one week old celebrations for the blog to make this ceremonial posting.

There's something wrong with the world when we have to put two, yes two, small signs up to tells us something blindingly obvious. I spotted this in London, but will be posting similarly strange signs over the coming blogs.

But for now, I really am going to soak into the weekend.

C'mon England- The Calcutta Cup, 2006 6 Nations

6 NationsThe countdown to kick off has begun. Fingers crossed for the mighty whites... and that we have a great game. With Scotland's unpredictable form over their first 2 matches, this one's anyone's guess.

In other games, France play Italy in Paris on Saturday and Ireland clash with Wales at Lansdown Road on Sunday. For more details...

I'll now be out of circulation for a weekend on the razz and refuelling on content for next week's blogs.

Exec Jets- The new Ryanair? Hardly…

Exec Jet LoungeLook at this VIP lounge at one of the UKs leading Executive Jet operations that I visited recently. Most passengers have to walk barely 20 metres from their limo to the aircraft, which is usually waiting for them. Those unfortunates that need to kill some time can choose one of the lounges and suffer the indignation of free booze. Anything you like- soft drinks, beer, wine and spirits. Not cheap brands either. The whisky is Glenmorangie for example.

Did I say lounges, plural? Yes. Conversations between rock bands and petrochemical execs tend to be limited, at best, so each party can have it’s own lounge.

I was informed by the team at the airport that using a private jet is more affordable than you might think. Please click on my GoogleAds so we can find out…

I can hold back no longer… Justgiving.com

Justgiving.comOk, I’ve had this blog for a whole week today. There’ll be a ‘weekaversary’ party at ClickTowers tonight as a warm up for the big one tomorrow. In the whole of those 7 days, I’ve not yet mentioned the best website out there- Justgiving. I must admit to a vested interest, but take a look for yourself and make your own mind up.

Raise money for charity, sponsor a friend, donate to thousands of charities and let the technology reclaim the GiftAid. I could go on, but I’m wasting your time.

What are you still doing reading this? Go! You should be here.

Whose yacht is this in Royal Victoria Dock, London?

Royal Victoria DockThis is the question I’ve been asking myself on my recent visits to London City Airport. This huge yacht can be seen on the water to the north of Pontoon Dock Station on the DLR. Possible contenders in my mind were Mohammed Al Fayed or Roman Abramovich. The yacht doesn’t seem to move anywhere despite looking extremely fit for purpose, so that rules out commercial cruise operators. I also thought it unlikely to be a floating hotel or bar, an honour bestowed on retiring vessels with some grace and finesse. Like horses escaping the glue factory. Not this sleek, modern cruiser.

However, a little rooting around Ask AltaGoogle and it actually is a floating hotel! The Sunborn Yacht Hotel to be precise. With the tag line “London’s Best Kept Secret”, it’s hardly surprising my guesses were so off the mark.
The website is fascinating. The world’s first custom built Yacht Hotel, with 104 suites, a fifth deck restaurant, conference and banqueting facilities etc etc.

All this is great, but at the end of the day you have to wonder why they’ve gone to such lengths to make this floating vessel evidently capable of chomping up the nautical miles. Is the gimmick worth that much? I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hard time for 'Dereliction of Taste'

Neil DiamondIf yesterday's blog on music categories didn't give you a whiff of the middle aged tantrum to come, this blog will reek of it.

But first, a confession... James Blunt has his fair share of critics but I mostly dismiss their comments as those of the music establishment being frustrated at an ex-soldier coming good in their midst. However, generally speaking "You're Beautiful (live)" is a thoroughly decent song to have in my possession. Similarly, anyone rifling through my collection will nod respectfully at the presence of tracks from Coldplay's X&Y. [note to self- revisit this blog every few years and insert an unobjectionable album of the year so as not to embarass any future junior Clicks]. The third artist I mentioned was Eric Clapton, someone who I can get away with due to his timeless appeal to the guitar cognoscenti. HOWEVER, I failed to mention Neil Diamond. Not by accident or oversight. Just out of shear vanity. Not only did I skip over Mssr Diamond, but I didn't say that the track is "America"- a track more trapped in the 80s (please tell me it's not the 70s!) would be hard to find. Go on, try it.

Your Honour, my defence. The song brings back childhood memories. My argument comes clattering down when you challenge why, at this stage of my life, am I so keen to enshrine such memories in music? I meekly reply that it's nothing new- I distinctly remember squeezing Neil Diamond, John Denver AND Cliff Richard onto a BASF C90 Metal cassette to listen to through university. Metal tapes being a high honour in my part of the woods back then!

All street cred is suspended for 30 days. You may make no application for bale. Case dismissed.

Music Buffs Vs. Mere Mortals

I believe there is one key reason at the centre of what makes someone a music buff/expert (call it what you like), and consigns the rest of us to being merely music appreciators. And that is... music categories.

Entering any specialist music shop and I'm at a loss as to whether my desired album will be in rock, funk, soul, motown or groove. This has always been a problem for me. When I did a touch of glowstick conducting in my days masquerading as a DJ, I couldn't find the vinyl in my own bag. House mingled with hardcore, happy hardcore, trance, handbag, digital and two step- even supposed 'chilled' tunes would have a 90's crowd in raptures. Then, like your favourite supermarket, just when you think you might have the hang of it, the rules change. Rap becomes hip hop for instance.

Yesterday, this problem came to a frustrating, and surprising, head. When it came to naming a playlist of tracks containing James Blunt, Coldplay and Eric Clapton, where do you start without sounding like a man on the edge? I fear that 'Middle of the Road' says more about yours truly than the music.

So there you have it. When I'm wiped out with most of the rest of civilisation and those left need something to hum along to, you'll find salvation in my 'Miscellaneous' playlist.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Nokia Lifeblog Teething Troubles

Having a great time with my Nokia N70, but does anyone...

a) know how to get my PC and N70 Lifeblogs to talk? The PC claims that either the USB is disconnected or the MMC memory is full- neither is true.
b) had any joy posting to their Blogspot directly from their N70 Lifeblog?

Driving Maestro...

This woman is a driving genius in her, amazingly near rustless, 1980's Maestro. Able to hold the centre lane, in a left hand drive, UK reg car WHILST READING TODAY'S PAPER. Perhaps she was rivetted to the furore between Prince Charles and the Mail on Sunday?

Now, I'm no more a fan of the M25 gear knob shuffle than the next person, but this is pushing it. Incidentally, ClickChauffeur was driving so I'm not a pot calling the kettle black.

Prince Charles a chip off the old (HRH) block

Today, Prince Charles took the Mail on Sunday to the High Court for publishing extracts from his diary. The media is focussing on his comments surrounding the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China, referring to "The Great Chinese Takeaway".

Personally, I think this shows a sharp humour, expressed in the context of a private piece of writing, from someone who rarely shows such character in public. Nothing worse than the banter you'll hear in pubs up and down the land. It's up to the Prince of Wales as to whether he has a grievance against the newspaper, but I think that this has shown a side to his personality that I quite like. I hesitate to write it, but it's good to see a hint of the Prince Philip about him! A chip off the old block after all. Good for you.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Flyspy- the tool you didn't know you needed

Courtesy of TechCrunchIf you're a regular airport warrior like me, then you'll love this new web service. Called Flyspy, it's one of those tools which will leave you wondering how you ever did without it (especially if you work for an SME/SOHO and you watch those expenses carefully).
Reviewed by Nik Cubrilovic who's standing in for Techcrunch's Michael Arrington whilst he's on holiday (I wonder whether he used this service?), you tell Flyspy your departure and destination airports and it returns the cheapest ticket prices AND the days in a handy graph.
Flyspy logo
I'm sitting here waiting for the service to go live (keep watching their website!), imagining how much wear and tear it'll save on my Back button, and my wallet, when booking airline tickets.

Heathrow Terminal 5's IT phase moves into full swing

Photo: BAAA major milestone in the world of Airport IT has been announced by BAA, the owner of Heathrow. At 73% completion, the T5 programme (the largest construction project in Europe) has reached a state where common IT infrastructure is being married to core systems. One of the main things which makes an immense building an airport is IT... yeah yeah, and planes- I'll give you that!

In the case of T5, there's an awful lot of IT. NTL have laid the cabling as a common infrastructure and now things get REALLY interesting. For example, a private mobile phone network is being implemented rather than handing this over to a public operator to ensure 100% coverage. Public operators will rent their usage from BAA (no doubt a handy revenue stream over the building's lifetime).

In an interview with Silicon.com, Nick Gaines, Head of Systems for T5, the strategy of the IT phase is to minimise risk. He says T5's IT systems "represent the largest risk to the project". Therefore, no unproven technology is being used. I'd like to see how this theory translates into practice. I'd have thought that some of the technologies will be in unproven space by virtue of the scale of the operation. There is a purpose built test centre, managed by Ultra, to qualify systems interfaces before installation, but I don't know how much of role it played in volume and performance testing. I've no doubt that the procurement has been rigorously justified, but I'm excited to see how the Sonic ESB software will perform. This software will support the Service Oriented Architecture by managing message exchange in real time. I'm a big fan of this sort of XML based messaging, but as an innovative product, I think the T5 team will be working hard to derisk the likelihood and consequences of any performance issues. At least they have a long run in to soak test the systems through to Operational Readiness- the airport opens on the 30th March 2008, 6 months after commissioning of systems.

Good luck!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

When is the Hermitage Hotel's new venue opening?

This Bournemouth hotel has been developing a round annex at the front that overlooks the esplanade around the pier and the gardens.
Construction finished a loooong time ago. I've not been counting, but it seems like the shell was done 6-10 months ago. The fit out is taking an age. To be precise, it's still empty (excepting a few random tables). The only beneficiaries at the moment seem to be ECUK Electrical Contractors, whose small billboard must be doing wonders for their profile.
I'm imagining that behind the scenes there are boardroom dramas being played out with tourism moghuls pitched against project managers... but who knows? Are there problems? It's teasing us with the promise of being a great venue for a bar/restaurant, but when will it open? Anyone know? Anyone? Please... I need a drink...
Meanwhile- the tills are ringing off the bars at So, Makia, Klutes, Landmarc, 1812 et al. Someone must need some trade at the Hermitage soon...

Landmarc set to be Bournemouth's place to be seen in 2006

Thanks to GenevaInformationIt's only February but, for me, The Landmarc is standing head and shoulders above the rest in Bournemouth right now for food, drink, music and entertainment.

The team have done a mind boggling job of converting this old church into the hottest venue in town. I'm sure that some people will think of it as too good. In a sense, the building is intimidating, leaving the new visitor awestruck. The conversation with MissClick for the first hour must have gone something like "wow"..." look at that"..."they've even got"..."I wonder how they got that in" etc etc. You might think that such a place is not given to just a relaxing slurp, but the big screen was showing RBS 6 Nations rugby and after great burgers we weren't being hurried by the waiters and waitresses (who curiously wear white boiler suits). The attention to detail is incredible and the food hearty. My one slight gripe is that the selection of beers is very commercial with a limited range of the usual suspects.

Actually, gripe #2 is the fact that their website, by comparison with the physical experience, is quite underwhelming. Genevainformation has taken superb photographs which provide a sense of the building- that's why I've chosen one of their pictures for my blog. If this can be mixed with the excitement of the punters, the website could work well. For now, it just doesn't have the wow factor. It does what it does, but when you've visited the place, your expectations are so much higher.

However, when you step through the door, who's checking the website? What a season of events that has been laid on! With great imagination, a programme of comedy and live acts has been put together with not hint of cheesiness. And that is the funny thing. Some of these acts should reek of cheese (Michael Jackson and Freddy Mercury impersonators, a Beetles cover band...) but somehow, as punctuation marks in a programme founded on solid performers like Omar and sophisticated themed nights, they ooze class.

The one consolation for the owners of ClickRich's previous "Favourite Hang Out", Jimmy's, is that they own both establishments. Every sinew of what they've learnt from Jimmy's Bar and Club has gone into this place.

For the best night in town, just add friends.

Vain attempt to look cool

laundromatmusic.co.ukIn a vain attempt to make myself look cool, but with the clear possibility of tarnishing their hypercool image, I'm going to plug a club night of a friend of ours, Andy- one half of The Outpatients. The launch night of Laundromat is Sat 25th Feb at The Blag Club in Holland Park.

Be there- ClickRich and MissClick will be. Go Andy!! Superclean music for Dirty people.

Friday, February 17, 2006

1.1 million cubic metres of sand anyone?

Sand castles anyone?The beaches at Bournemouth, Poole and Studland are being replenished by a huge operation pumping sand from the bottom of the sea up onto the shore. The effect is stunning, with the distance from the promenade to the water doubling in some places.
In this photo looking back inshore, you can even see that the end of the old groyne, marked by the upturned red bucket shape on the post which used to be out in the sea, is now just sticking out of the middle of the beach. Bizarre.
Stay tuned to progress in the daily diary.

Going Underground

goingundergroundMy friend Annie Mole runs the hugely acclaimed
Going Underground blog. It has a knack of capturing the humour and heartbeat of Londoners and that is why it's the first of my essential links (no imitation intended Mr Tong). It is nothing to do with my honourable mention... Cheers Annie Mole

How heavy is a flame?

FeuerzangebowleJust one of those intriguing questions I was asked once. Have a long hard think and later I'll post what I discovered down the pub... so it must be right.

Meanwhile, what reminded me of the question was this pic I took at a German friend's recent Feuerzangebowle party. In a nutshell, it's mulled wine which has a sugar cone held above the Feuerzangebowle (bowl) on a Feuerzange (fire tong), soaked in rum and set alight.

Viva Europe!

Radio Ga-Ga

One day I'll be able to say "regular readers of my blog will be accustomed to my penchent for all things quirky". However, this is my third posting so you'll learn...

I like history. I like technology. Well, check this out- the coolest uncool thing. A Roberts Radio. It's so retro, it hurts... yet it's as digital as DAB gets.

Do teens find this cool?

I think they're amazing, reminding me of my Grandfather who had one, albeit not digital. If I had one, it'd be more likely to be playing Kanye than Pavarotti.

But first, a point of order...

It is my duty and honour, as Bournemouth Convenor of the Institute of Electrical Engineering, to inform you of an exciting presentation coming soon. If you liked watching Eugene in Big Brother, you'll love this. If you liked watching him speak in Morse code, you'll be whooppin' and hollerin' in the aisles. If you liked watching him catch some rays and talk about the cult of celebrity- you will be sorely disappointed. This is nothing about Eugene Sully, and everything about Radio Hamming...

"45 Million Miles from Earth"

In this, the first of the 2006 programme of IEE Lectures in Bournemouth, Radio Ham Paul Marsh describes how he built and used a home made receiver to sucessfully recieve signals from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter transmitting in X-band at a staggering range of 45 million miles from Earth. As NASA's New Horizons' mission to Pluto gets underway, for how long can amateurs keep pace with the space race?

Speaker: Paul Marsh, IBM and keen Radio Ham
Venue: Allsebrook Lecture Theatre, Bournemouth University
Date and Time: Tea/Coffee from 6:30pm. Presentation from 7pm, Thursday 2nd March 2006
For further details, go to the IEE website

PS. If it really is just Eugene you would like to see, I believe he's "explaining things in a down to earth and fun way" at The Studio, Hawth Theatre, Crawley on the previous day.

2006- year of the...umm...gadget?

Hello, can you hear me Seamus? 1..2, 1..2...testing...2...3. Ok, I think we're on line.

Welcome to my blog. This is the latest in a series of moves I've made since Christmas to catch up with technology in my life. You might be surprised to hear that although I've been CTO of high tech web companies for nearly a decade, and prior to that a Technology Strategist for a Management Consultancy, I've lagged woefully behind the curve (def: technoluddite) when it comes to being sorted with gadgets. My one concession has been the same mobile phone number since 1994. I did get a Playstation One... in 2004... only to sell it at a car boot (not on eBay).

I'm not sure that anything monumental happened at Christmas other than a sinking feeling that I was losing touch with the kids man. My cousins, who I have a two decade headstart in life over, seemed to be talking a different language. I feared that they'd be usurping my own position before long. Even my 4 year old niece is sending me emails! So, in 6 weeks I have gone 3G, advanced to digital TV, bounced to broadband and got an electric zuzzer to zuzz everything from coffee to coriander seeds (that's the biggy). And now, for my education and your delectation, I have a blog. Umm... lucky you!