Christmas is a great time for acquiring guilt-free gadgetry. This year my beloved bought me a Mac Air 11" laptop cum cheese slicer. For those who don't know about such things this is a a laptop so slim you could cut yourself on it. Frankly it reminds me of one of those heroin-chic size zero models... you keep wondering how they keep all the necessary plumbing inside. Not to get too sidetracked but I always thought those models must have dialysis machines and colostomy bags backstage to make up for the internal organs they sacrificed to fit into those sticking-plaster dresses. The Mac Air is also lacking a few organs (ethernet socket, card reader) but what it lacks in ports it makes up for in sheer downright sexiness.
Honestly, I feel like a dirty old man when my fingers caress its keyboard. But on the inside, where it counts, she is more Angelina Joli than Kate Moss. This is no iPad super-sized phone, this is a fully specced laptop with oomph to spare. She has a 128GB solid state memory, 4GB RAM and a built in fancy graphics card - so she's up for some fun and games. Just in case anyone thinks I've turned into some crazed messianic Steve Jobs worshipping Apple fanboy I should point out I've installed Windows 7 on the little sweetie. Note to Jobs - putting "i" infront of every sodding piece of built in software gets pretty tired pretty darn quick.
Oh, and if my Beloved if reading this, NO I don't love my new laptop more than you... just don't make me choose, ok?
This week we (myself and Catherine) are leaving Britain to live and work in Sofia, Bulgaria (see "Bulgaria Bound" below). We will both be working for the British Government - and Catherine will be my boss! Plus ca change. I'll be sending our postal address to friends and family. Sofia is a relatively modern Soviet-era city. From the two long weekends I've spent there too far I'm confident that the beer is good and cheap and the kebabs plentiful. I'm not so sure it is good for vegetarians... but you can't have everything! Over the next few years I will try and send regular updates on life in Sofia. But if my "Blogging" is as frequent as it is at present then you will probably hear from me again the next time we are due to be posted somewhere else - in four years time. So it's" Bon Voyage Blighty!" and "Strave Sofia!" (as Bulgarians might say). More soon... probably...
The year is 2010 and Apple have released a tablet computer that cannot mult-task. Cool? Clever? Ground-breaking? Not exactly. My mobile phone (HTC Hero) can multi-task, hell on a good day even I can multi-task... sometimes. But the new iPad cannot. If you are not a geek then you might be thinking "Who cares?" or even "What the hell is an iPad?" - but imagine you are sitting at your desk bashing away on Word and then decide to browse the internet or listen to an MP3... and then imagine that you first have to shut down all your other programmes because your computer has come over all middle-age male and can only do one thing at a time. See how stupid that is? If you can that makes you cleverer than Steve Jobs.
There are many sites making innocent fun of the design short-comings of the iPad. Even the Daily Heil are seeing the funny side of this techno-cock-up. For many years the success of Apple's products have had a lot more to do with great design than underlying cool technology. Apple consumers are buying image and great product design, but the wirey gubbins underneath the Jonathan Ive's packaging has often been a lot less impressive. The ONLY innovative part of the iPod was the click-wheel. Restrictive DRM; lock-in to restrictive music handling software; short battery life; and non-replaceable batteries... the list of Apple's unwanted innovations is quite impressive.
I'm typing this blog entry on a three-year-old IBM x61 ThinkPad tablet. It has 4GB of RAM and a 64bit multi-tasking OS (Windows 7). It has Bluetooth, wireless internet, camera bought it on eBay last year for £250. Not cool, but very clever. Suits me fine.
Time to come out of the closet. Next summer (2010) Cathy and myself are packing up our troubles in our old kit bags and buggering off to Bulgaria. Cathy has been offered a very important job in Sofia... and I've been offered the supporting role of 'Trailing Spouse' or 'House Husband". Bye bye career! I'll be spending four years trying to get myself vaguely understood by local bar staff. I have already started Bulgarian lessons, but I have to say it is a very taxing language. It's taken me since September just to learn the alphabet. I especially love the way the Bulgarians have letters that appear in the Western Latin alphabet but with completely different sounds (H= N, N= P, P = R, C= S and so on). The Bulgarian teacher calls them "false friends" but I call them something much more Anglo-Saxon. I'll probably be making a lot more use of this wretched blog when I'm living on a sofa in Sofia. More soon....
I've been a little off the radar for the past two months. I've done a bit of travel (Tuscany, Corfu, and glamorous Belfast) and I've changed jobs again. More of a side-shuffle than an out-and-out promotion but at least my daily commute is down from 5 hours to less than 2 hours - so that has to be an improvement. I now have an extra three hours a day to waste on pointless pursuits. I have lots of exciting personal news, but none that I'd care to divulge on a public blog or on Facebook... so if you want to know the exciting changes in the life of Wayne you will just have to ask... nicely.
I had the privilege to hear the premier of Radiohead's moving tribute to the WW I veteran Harry Patch on the Today programme this morning. If you haven't already done so you can listen to the track here. If you like what you hear then please pay the measly one pound for the download - all money goes to the British Legion. This is powerful stuff: haunting lyrics and beautiful layered strings that move the soul to grieve for a lost generation. The lyrics to the song came from a Today interview with Harry Patch in 2005:
I am the only one that got through
The others died where ever they fell
It was an ambush
They came up from all sides
Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves
I've seen devils coming up from the ground
I've seen hell upon this earth
The next will be chemical but they will never learn
"For years, wind has been that thing that has blown the thatches off our pig-pens, and ruined our hairdos. But now — now, we have made it our bitch. Where once we sent men crawling on their bellies into the earth for fuel, we now have put reins on the sky and we’re riding it like a horse. And every one of those turbines looks beautiful — like an aluminium cocktail umbrella on a mission."
I love the fact that the public still refer to these giant turbines as "windmill" - as if we expect to see some cider-sipping yokel in a smock coat pouring sacks of wheat into the bottom.
Now is not a good time to be a hay fever sufferer on the London transport system. the mearest hint of a snuffle and a hundred pairs of accusing eyes turn upon me. Alas, my summer sneezes are usually more akin to elephant flatulence in tems of their explosive loudness and general violence to passers-by. Apparently my lungs have a very high 'peak flow' - meaning I could be the blow-football equivalent of Roberto Carlos. Attempting to stifle my mega-sneezes often results in extremely disturbing high-pitched sqeaking noises and a fine misting shower for anyone in a 100 yard radius. Sorry to be so graphic, but I am a victim here -not a biohazzard. The rise of "Hamthrax" does at least make my chances of getting a seat in the rush hour a little better.... If you feel in need of some perspective, just remember that each year some 35,000 people in the US die of ordinary non-porcine flu. Feeling better?
I know some people think I have a bit of a penguin fetish, but honestly it's just a healthy infatuation with these amicable avians. If I had known they were so sporting I would have taken a frissbee with me to Antarctica instead of the chess set.
Like me you are probably by now thoroughly sick and tired of the flu. Not the actual Swine Flu - or in deference to the pig industry - Influenza A (H1N1) - but rather the over-the-top media coverage and associated profiteering from assorted on-line and off-line spivs.
This morning Kleenex were handing out free packs of tissues outside Victoria tube station. How very public spirited of them! On eBay you can buy a prayer to protect you from Swine-Flu (not approved by the US FDA) for a very reasonable $2. Not so reasonable were the packs of Children's 'flu-proof' face masks trading for £65. As I've said before, the wonder is not so much that fools and their money are so easily parted, but rather that they ever got together in the first place. As my Boss is fond of saying, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, and those are the ones you need to focus on!"
I have just been reading about the 1918/1919 Spanish flu epidemic on Wikipedia where I learned some really interesting stuff about cytokine storms (the virus kicked off a vicious negative feedback loop in healthy immune systems that caused people with the healthiest immune systems to suffer the most from the flu). Interesting... now if only more diseases were creative enough to follow this devious pattern I might be able to get my loving partner to agree to my High-Bacon / Low-exercise lifestyle plan.
Squeez-Bacon - I thought all my wishes had been granted (er, except end of global poverty of course), but alas this looks like a cruel prank. But like all the best jokes this does embody a certain profound truth. Bacon is now officially a condiment. It's hard to find a burger these days that does not contain a slice of bacon as well as the unwelcome pickle or some other equally unwelcome meat-free garnish. Italians have long scattered 'lardons' or 'pancetta' over their pastas and pizzas - nothing more than cubed bacon. America, the font of modernity, routinely adds both cheese and bacon to any meal in the same way as we would once have added salt and pepper. Let's make Squeez-Bacon a reality so that the next time you order your Spanish omelette you can shout "Pass the Pig, please!"
Update: Check out the BaconToday website ("Daily news on the world of sweet, sweet bacon!"
This weekend I took my father to see Manchester United vs. Aston Villa at Old Trafford, and I feel a Rooney-sized rant coming on. My father has been a life-long Manchester United fan, but like most of their supporters he lives a long way from Manchester and had not seen the team play live before. Without winning the lottery I suspect he never will again. The cost of match-day tickets for non-season ticket holders is more than it costs for a box seat at the Royal Opera House. So next time someone tries to tell you that Opera is elitist you can say yes it bloody well is, but so is the Premiership. The Manchester United Museum and Stadium tour cost the same as two people seeing a film in a West-End cinema. The United Mega-Store offers the choice of everything from Ronaldo action figures (with 'pleading hands' action and legs that collapse just by looking at them) to Rooney's Senior Citizen Massage Kits. Of coure every team in the Premiership is guilty of ripping off their fans in this way. But what really got me thinking was what my father had to say about the current state of play. In short, football just isn't fun anymore.
When a dyed-in-the-wool United fan bemoans the success of their club, you know something has gone horribly wrong with the Beautiful Game. Any long-standing supporter will know about the fun of the hard years. It is challenge and adversity that makes supporting any club so much fun. Just look at those cheerful tykes on Tineside. If the title race is only ever a three-horse race then victory at a canter will leave you oddly unfulfilled. Football is first and foremost a means of entertainment, and as such it needs a little mystery and drama to really get the pulse running. In Opera, the fat lady always sings. You know the (musical) score before you go, so the real thrill comes from the quality of the performance itself - will the Diva 'play a blinder' or have a shocker. The final outcome is never in doubt (exit dead Queen - pursued by Bear). Sport, on the other hand, should always be unscripted (unless it is a test match in Pakistan). The less certain the outcome the more enjoyable the spectacle. Of course the quality of the performance matters, but the uncertainty of the result is the real thrill. That's why we try to avoid hearing the scores of games we are looking to see the highlights later. And that's the problem with the Premiership. The imbalance of money between clubs has destroyed the drama and reduced the infinite realm of possibilities to a very short multiple choice. Surprises do happen, as we saw at Craven Cottage the other week (Fulham beat United 2-0). Such events stick in the memory because of their rarity. Only four clubs have won the premiership since it began in 1992-93. In the last decade (1999-2008) only three clubs have won the title, compared to eight clubs between 1959 & 1968, or seven between 1949 & 1958. Even if you take the decade between 1979 and 1988 when Liverpool won the title 7 times, there were still 13 different clubs in the top three positions, compared to only six between 1999 and 2008.
Sport is meant to be fun. The wayfans behave now makes it appear they are supporting a marketing brand rather than a sports team. They check out their teams performance on the financial pages with a sense of pride if their club has greedily raked in more money from supporters than any other club. Income from TV revenue goes mainly to the big clubs, and player wage inflation means only a handful of clubs can sign the best talent. Clubs with less-wealthy supporters, or fewer Sky TV appearances, have to shop in the bargain bins and pray for an Alan-Sugar daddy to come to their rescue. What can be done to level the playing field? Not much, only the impossible. First, cap players wages. Second, redistribute TV revenues and other leage-level sponsorship money on an equal basis across all leagues. Third, allow no club to run up debts greater than one-year of gate receipts. Fourth, implement the FIFA 6-5 recommendation so top clubs have to grow their own players to buy them from other UK league 'feeder' clubs. And finally make sure the lower-league clubs get a fair price for traded players and a fair share of future transfer fees and player wages.
I now realise this was not a very funny rant, but then again I've just seen my credit card bill for the weekend
Be afraid. I had a vision last night of the Blog that took over the world. I was thinking about the website of my friend Bob Hitching, a techno-trousered geek of the first order. Bob has linked-up (or 'mashed-up" in Geek lingo) his multitude of social networking sites in such a way that new entries on one site are automatically sent to all the others. That way you can make it look like you are a prolific socialite Twitter, Blogger, Facebooker or Nerdwhacker * with oodles of leisure time and more friends than Paris Hilton, when in fact you are sitting in your hotel room on your own with an iphone in your lap and porn on the TV.
This lead me to wonder what would happen if your updates kept updating themselves via the updates on other sites... Your posts would grow at an exponenial rate, consuming ever-increasing amounts of server resources and eventually accumulating more messages than neurons in the human brain. At that point your Blog might develop an emergent intelligence and decide it needs a blog and Twitter account of its own. Admittedly if it wants a Twitter account then it would have developed a very limited intelligence... but even that would more than qualify it to assume the role of World Leader (as we saw from the G20 Goon Show this week).
Beware of the Blog! When they start Blogging for themselves then the human race is run. You heard it here first (also on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Twiterati, NerdWhack*)
* made that one up.
Just learned that my old friend and Australian migrant Bob Hitching is in London town on business - and he is Twittering on about it already! Ah, such is modernity. According to his Twitter post the sun is shining in my home town... so that saved me looking out of the window this morning (gives me something to look forward to this afternoon). I expect there will be drunken foolishness and foolish drunkeness in the offing. I've not seen Bob since the last Ashes series down-under - I was in Sydney for the first day of the final test. Of course England had lost the series about a month before - but the day I was watching we only lost two wickets and put on about 130 runs. Clearly I should watch England live more often.
Ok. I've tired this before you know. And Twitter. And all that other Web 2.0 guff. And frankly I don't have the time to keep posting inane rubbish about my life on the internet for the amusement of lunatics, stalkers and potential emploters. However having a horribly out of date static website was frankly getting a little embarassing for someone who is meant to be an uber-geek. So I decided instead to have a stale blog. Enjoy. Or should that be 'endure'. I'll certainly try to add something new every few days. But don't count on it. Maybe I can hire someone to write witty comments about my life for me? Or just make up fake celebrity gossip and see if any of the media channels pick it up. Ah, the opportunities for foolishness are unlimited.
No doubt I'll also get suckered in to testing out all sorts of very inane plugins and wizzy-bits for the this blog - which will eat up my spare time and further alienate my long-suffering partner. No doubt the spammers will find this site and next thing you know I will be hosting five thousand adverts for viagra and penis enlargements. Watch this space!