Thursday, March 31, 2005

(Almost) Famous for fifteen minutes...

...I was once interviewed for BBC TV who were doing a series called "I love the 70s". The particular episode was 1978 and they had tracked me down from a Web posting I had made on a Fan site.

Thus is revealed my dark secret, I am a Dean Friedman fan.

Actually, Fan is not strictly true, as I find his voice _almost_ unpleasant, lots of his lyrics rather twee (with some really atrocious rhyming) & dislike his use of Harmonica. Having said that, I'm a sucker for electric pianos, love songs & thoughtful intelligent introspection to a nice tune. I particularly liked "Lucky Stars" which while widely loathed (being neither Disco nor Punk, the two battling chart styles of the time)replayed a typical pillow conversation of martital discord followed by a serious session of Mr. Wobbly hides his Helmet.

Back in 1978, I was twenty, did a bit of DJing, had a great social life (despite living in Coventry) & was also discovering the joys of Mr. Wobbly so the year and music are particularly poigniant.

Back to the late 90s, I'd been to see Deano play a gig in Yorkshire on somewhat of a whim & I can honestly say it was the most surreal gig I have ever been to (& I have previously worked in a #1 touring rock venue for two or three years so I have been to a lot of gigs). It is worth a blog entry in itself (if I can be arsed or anyone else was even remotely interested).

Anyway, I wrote quite a lengthly piece on it online (now lost to Google or a determined sort through my backup tape library) & a BBC researcher picked up on it.

I'd had a bit of a two way e-discussion & phone chat and had agreed to attend BBC-TV in Manchester some time in August 2000. (Which struck me as cutting it a bit fine as they were already up to 1973 on-air). She sounded somewhat like the Chaletmaid out of Hi De Hi but I take as I find...

On arrival I was treated well, they let me park within their private pound (rather than brave Oxford Road Scratters) and I met the researcher who was the Director's assistant. I was rather surprised that she actually looked like Sue Pollard as well as sounding like her, but there again, she was surprised that I had turned up in a suit (having a business meeting in the afternoon). She was also slightly disappointed that I hadn't brought my Wife (who is a Deanophobe) however whilst it had been suggested in passing at an early stage that Karen might want to get involved she had never subsequently mentioned it in the further arrangements so we had been talking at cross-purposes. Actually, it turned out she may have been as scatter-brained as the Chalet Maid...

She took me up to their canteen & furnished me with coffee & toast then bustled off to sort things out. I then noticed two other blokes in the canteen who kept looking at me and conferring conspiratorially, which I found a smidge off putting as I had no idea who they were.

Anyway, I was collected after having indulged the budget "hostility" & taken downstairs- to a dressing room set up as an ad-hoc studio. There I met the Director (who was an earnest arty type aged about Thirty) & the crew: the two blokes who had been giving me furtive looks. They were the freelance lighting cameraman and the sound engineer, who had mistaken me for a Regional News presenter...

This post has been truncated (& the rest lost) due to Blogger throwing a wobbly so I'll finish it another time (& maybe type the body text first rather than trust the online tools).

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How to beat crime...

Take a look at this site which gives crime statistics in Morley. Work your way down the Which crime type would you like to see? drop-down bar, observing the little blue dots on the map. Choose the last one and watch it get festooned with a set of blue ASBO fairy lights.

My oh my, at first glance, we are an anti-social Town. Although, if you compare us with others in West yorkshire, particularly the City Centres (by zooming out on the big +/- bar) the pattern is more evident.

Monday, March 28, 2005

"curiouser & curiouser!" said Alice...

Last night, a new Yahoo Group appeared, called LS27 Group. (LS27 is the postcode for Morley). It was announced via the Town Council Group & I want and had a look.

There were three postings in it, or there would have been if two hadn't been deleted. The remaining posting said it was set up by a small number of Councillors, although that posting has now been deleted.

There are photo folders for heros (& villains), which originally contained five Councillor mugshots, including myself (lifted from the Town Council Website). This has now risen to eight, although I appear to have been dropped, as has Cllr Teale, the leader of the Labour group. There are no villains yet.

Several links have been set up, all legitimate ones. The home page greeted you at first with a photo of Cllr Welham, now it is the photogenic poise of Cllr Beevers (who takes photos the same way as rabbits do when caught in the headlights...)

My first impression was that it may have been set up for the purposes of urine extraction as someone passing off as a local trader had posted some offensive wind-ups on the Town Council List last year. There had been no mention of who is behind the list until this morning.

The latest posting is about the state of Morley Bottoms and is signed Paul Cockcroft (admin), the well known Butlins memorabilia collecting, jogging troll from Tingley. It may well be his list but he has previously told me he is a well known Internet technophobe so it seems a little unlikely...

The list can be found here.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Henceforth, I shall be known as...

...Chlodosind the Belligerent,

and the blog Childebert the Short.

Her 'indoors is Aregund the Impure and the fruit of our loins is Chlodosind the Belligerent or Chlodosind the Woman with his full name.

(With my full name, I got Chlodosind the bald).

Hmm, perhaps I'll stick to the ones on the birth certificate.

The Merovingian name generator awaits...

Thanks to Dodgeblogium for the link.


Where most of the Helium comes from...

I noticed a snippet in the paper the other day about Amarillo, made famous by Tony Christie & recently revitalised by Peter Kay miming for Comic Relief (Red Nose day). Apparantly 90% of world helium reserves are within 250 miles of Amarillo.

This got me thinking. From what I remembered of A level chemistry, it is a gaseous element and a finite resource. It is lighter than air so probably mostly ends up in the atmosphere. It is inert ( a noble gas) so doesn't really react with anything which means it would be difficult to extract from compounds unlike, say, hydrogen & oxygen (you just pass electricity through water to do that). So what is it all doing in Amarillo? Does sweet Marie talk in a squeaky voice?

A trip to Wikipedia reveals all. It is the second most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen, of course) but most of the earth stuff left is in gas fields and derived from from radioactive decay. Amarillo is in Texas and there is a lot of oil there, and where there is oil there is also gas. It is also home to Cadillac Ranch.

I'll remember that next time I buy a balloon on a string.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day...

I have a strange obsession with time. I have never been able to hear the pips and not feel the urge to check my watch or look at a nearby clock. Every time I hear the Town Hall Clock chime, I compare to see how far wrong it is. (It is particularly amusing when the chimes get out of synch with the clock, often due to them muting it for Brass Band recordings in the Town Hall).

I expect people to be not late and meetings to start on time, a habit that not too many others share!

My first significant watch was a Sinclair Black Watch which I got for my eighteenth birthday. It lasted a year before the cheap plastic case fell to bits but the electronics kept going for another five.

Over the last few years, I have generally bought radio controlled ones which take care of GMT/BST- or at least the Rugby ones do. (I had a European one synchronised to Germany and I was at the mercy of being out of step on occasions). I was rather shocked to notice it was a second out last week, until I realised I was listening to the pips on DAB Radio which has a noticable propagation delay.

I think I know why I am so paranoid about time- it is reconciling call traces across disparate systems running with different system times, particularly when trying to track down specific calls across voice recorders, MI systems & itemised bills.

The internet is supposed to cure all that as accurate Internet time is readily available using NTP (network time protocol) derived from stratum - 1 (i.e. very accurate) clocks. However I have worked at places where derived system time was loads out & stayed that way.

Tick... tick... tick...

Friday, March 18, 2005

House of Windsor

When writing the blog about wiring colour changes, I recalled the very complicated gas meter arrangements in the Factory of CCT Theatre Lighting in Windsor House, Mitcham. It had previously been the factory for Windsor bathroom fittings who made taps & suchlike, presumably needing a lot of energy for casting, chroming & foundrywork.

Don Hindle, the MD, used to refer to the labyrinth of cupboard plumbing as "three phase gas".

Thursday, March 17, 2005

When in a hole- stop digging

I mentioned in a previous posting about how the Morley Borough Independents had tried to track down some letter writers to find that they apparently didn't exist.

In today's Morley Advertiser, a (real) Labour Town Councillor berates them and sympathises with the views of (possibly imaginary) Mrs. Dorothy Sanders of Churwell.

Now news reaches me that the snippet is featured in Labour Watch, a website devoted to exposing the failings of the labour party.

In the interests of fairness, the website does link to hatchet jobs for all the other major parties as well! Let's face it, it isn't difficult to find all political parties wanting.

I did find an interesting link to a site called Polidex an online trading game. I have therefore posted my own MP up (above the Simpsons Defcon status in the sidebar), just because I can, really.

The blind leading the colourblind...

My reader may not be aware that there are some changes in the offing for wiring colour codes in medium voltage electrical installations (i.e. 230v/415v stuff).

Once upon a time, red was nasty, green harmless and black mostly harmless. Yellow and blue could also be nasty as well, and particularly nasty in conjunction with each other and red. Flex cable was red, black green as well until EU harmonisation came along. Then, Red became brown, black became blue and green was also yellow in a stripy sort of way. The green became yellow-green in permanent wiring as well, but red and black stayed.

Now, the brown/blue/yellow-green is making it into permanent installations, but just to make it more complex, yellow becomes black and blue becomes grey. All clear? You can download a handy guide care of PLASA, the professional lighting & sound association.

Just in case you think it is change for changes sake, yellow often used to be white and a very long time ago it was green. So there...

Of course for someone with a background in telephony, the worst we had to worry about was 86v AC superimposed on -50v DC which could give a nasty rash if it resulted in the victim scraping their hand up the back of the jumper tags.

-50v DC might sound quite benign but it could melt spanners when available at several thousand amps...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Scatcherd Lane Repertory Company

We went to see a Panto last night, called "Cinderfella", at the Rugby Club. A Panto in March? It's a Yorkshire thing. A Panto in a Rugby Club? Yes, you guessed it, consenting adults only!

The club have been doing pantos since 1975 so you'd expect them to be pretty good at it by now & they certainly are. The scenery might be two-dimensional but the performances are anything but wooden.

They also enjoy big song & dance numbers, it is remarkable to see routines involving more than twenty people in a space smaller than the average living room.

There are two stars of the show. the first one is the leading Dame, a barn of a bloke whose off the cuff comments frequently outshine the regular dialogue. The other star is a chap named Ooby Doo, a builder who I know from Round Table. He is big & gormless looking, a pleasant bloke but remarkably incoherent with half a glass of shandy inside him. The good news is that he dances as well as he makes speeches, rampant dyslexia. His remarkable style frequently stole the show.

The patrons are packed in (about two hundred seated at long tables bier-kellar style) & it runs for six nights so 1,200 people have a great time and many others are disappointed. (Tickets are reputed to be as rare as rocking horse sh*t).

Good on you Morley RFC, & good luck at Twickenham next month!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Bye bye Usenet?

Usenet is a million conversations on the Internet about thousands of topics. It predates the Web by a considerable period but it remains a bit of a Cinderella to many Internet users. One young person I know who is otherwise net-savvy knew it as Google Groups but had no idea that NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) is the "real" way of accessing it, preferably with a "real" News Reader like Forte'Agent rather than the cack-handed implementation that Internet Explorer offers.

It seems that I have access to 62,742 different NewsGroups. I used to be subscribed to dozens, now it is down to 19 and with so many filters that I screen out vast quantities of babble, or should I say Babel?

I now find that the interesting conversations thrive in the blogosphere, as well as the HTML based forums (fora?) that are the online equivalent of mailing lists.

I suspect that next time I clean-install my PC, I'll probably leave off Agent. I'll miss it, but I'll get over it...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Robots; the movie

We went to see Robots at the Leeds/Bradford Odeon this afternoon. It wasn't very busy but we did get a free gift, a promotional slinky.

It is a good film, superbly rendered & detailed with a victorian engineering feel to it. Amnyone who has played the "Myst£ series of computer adventure games will feel a familiarity with the transportation technology.

The plot is fairly predictable but it works on two levels, it is jam-packed with jokey film references & the characters are well developed. There were a lot of familiar voices used for the talent, we watched some of the credits to confirm who they were.

David (7) did get a little restless half way through but that could have been related to running out of pick 'n mix as well.

One coffee stain though, rather a lot of lamps out in the screen, including five of the twelve decorative wall & screen washers. The wiggly that waves "Odeon" around the walls wasn't on either & I don't recall the projected clock working in the foyer either.

Good show, spoiled slightly by attention to detail.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


I've just sat through RND2005. Fortunately, I did what I normally do, set it recording last night & watched it today using fast forward to get past the tedious preachy bits. Now we have Sky Plus it means we can skip at 30x speed!

What was good? The Peter Kay song (first time), the Little Britain sketches, the Ricky Gervais trip to New York, Peter Kay taking about glue sniffers sailing (or whatever it was), Vicar of Dibley, odd bits here & there. The rest was so-so, some of it absolute pants...

I thought Alan Partridge tried but died, Fame Academy was dire, Ab Fab so contrived & Graham Norton just tedious. I was so bored with it that I even skipped Eric Clapton along with quite a lot of other bits.

Maybe it should be every three years....

Friday, March 11, 2005

Terry F*ckwitt

I was at a high level presentation the other day by a successful eBusiness middleware entrepreneur. In the middle of his futurology he said of the Internet...

"We all hate spamming, we all hate blogging, we all hate pfishing."

Perhaps he meant to say viruses instead of blogging, or maybe he was just related to the Viz Character distantly related to John Prescott...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Letters to the editor

Like newspapers up and down the country, the Morley Observer (& Advertiser) has a letters page. Week after week, people write in to the editor letting off steam or occasionally providing praise. A few years ago, I used to turn the page quickly because they appeared to be full of bickering & squabbling about & between local politicians that I neither knew nor cared about.

Now that I am a politician myself (small p!)& know some of the individuals concerned I find it a bit more interesting but I have always asked myself what the motivation of the writer was when they penned the piece. What is the hidden agenda? What is their political or religious undercurrent? Are they a member of a political party? If I know the person then does the letter reflect their style or have they been handed it by someone else & asked to sign it?

A couple of years back, someone told me that political parties orchestrate a lot of the letters in local papers in order to raise awareness on issues, but mainly to score points. They even suggested that it came out of the Local MP's office on occasions. This time last year, I met an ex MP at a Conference who had an interest in Yorkshire as his Son lived in Leeds and he was a prospective MEP for the area. He knew our former MP (John Gunnell) fairly well and surprised me somewhat by telling me that he was a very shy person. I sounded him out on the possibility that the MP's office wrote some of the local paper letters and he rubbished it immediately, on the basis that the Party Central Office wouldn't trust a mere MP to get it right and would of course do it on his behalf then fax or email them to him! Of course he was a Tory and we can't necessarily assume all parties practice the same "news management" but judging from the exploits of Ali Campbell it seems a reasonable supposition.

We can tell that the election campaign has started in Morley. First was the announcement of the prospective PPC from the BNP. Then came a flurry of letters slagging off the Morley Borough Independents (the gang of six who have progressively unseated the six safe Labour Leeds Councillors). Now the glowing praise for our hard working MP has started with a letter last week so effusive and toadying that had I written it myself I wouldn't be able to look anyone in the eye again.

Now the MBIs have done some digging into some of the recent letters published. It turns out that many of the names & addresses are made up, the people not being on the electoral roll & the people living there never having heard of them. They have cried foul in their latest trade-mark lime green brag sheet, going so far as to accuse Labour of the scam. Surprisingly, however, the local paper hasn't picked up on it yet.

Maybe there should be some sort of sign-off categorisation at the end of letters to the editor in a similar manner to ethnic origin forms so that we can read the correspondence in context and judge it accordingly. After all, anything other than hard science is basically opinion...

Ian Grey, Political Affiliation: None; Political inclination: Classical Liberalism; Religious view: Agnostic.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Please remain seated....

Another trip to the Plesh today. Everything working well, David's first trip on a Hypercoaster, he loved everything apart from the ghost train...

Considering how many theme parks we visit, we have only got stuck on rides a handful of times. At Pirates of the Caribbean last December in Florida, the ride packed in within sight of the off-load. In the Blackpool Tower Dinosoar ride a few weeks ago, we stopped right next to the woolly mammoth, a sort of hairy, big headed elephantine beast with tusks.

The drill tends to be the same. Firstly reassurance messages that the ride will start again shortly. Then flurries of activity in the distance. Then the working lights come on. Then the soundtrack stops (although the animatronics tend to keep up their muted performance). Various remain seated messages get relayed. Finally, someone turns up and overrides the mechanics so that we can be helped out. Blackpool was easy, down some stairs, past a couple of air conditions in the wall, through a primeval swamp then out through a pair of crash doors into the stairwell & the mystery of what is behind a particular door is solved.

Florida was a lot more convoluted, as a rescue bridge was required. The exit route was a very long and fascinating trek behind the scenes culminating in glimpses of backstage areas that are normally off-limits. They gave us priority passes but the excursion was worth it for me in the first place.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Clean up or get bought out...

I recently noticed a new tool available to bloggers that actively manages blogger links & makes it much easier to add one on a whim than have to consciously edit the HTML template. On checking some of my links, my eye was caught by a news article on the Morley Today website about the state of Morley Bottoms. (I won't link to it as they are transient).

The Bottoms is a rather run down, neglected bit of Morley around a rather complicated junction at the bottom of a hill that was secondary retail at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, the main shopping street can now be considered as secondary retail as many people prefer to shop at supermarkets & out of town developments. Several businesses have flowered, bloomed and then wilted in the Bottoms. One particular property is boarded up due to bureaucracy alone, it was a failed business venture with some public funding & apparently the rules say it cannot be sold on or developed for a period of time afterwards. A few of the buildings look pristine but many are shabby & one or two look like they might be uninhabitable. Shortage of parking in the area discourages casual trade and gradually what were live-in shops are being converted to apartments.

Enter fellow Councillors stage right, Town and City. I've known them for a couple of years and respect many of their views but one thing they are not are advocates of small Government. Having talked with many of the property owners about cleaning up their act and found not all of them willing to invest, they have mooted the idea of compulsory purchase as the threat of last resort.

Come on people, get a grip. Compulsory purchase is frequently unwarranted intrusion of the state on individual property rights often used with the excuse of being "for the greater good". It might be fine for Marxists who believe that property is theft, but not for individualists who believe that taxation is. Go too far down that road and we become a banana republic where the President evicts people on a whim with token compensation in order to build a showcase palace, or indeed re-house his supporters. Think Zimbabwe, Holyrood, Brussels...

If I own my house it belongs to me and provided I don't break any laws or restrictive covenants, I can choose to not paint my front door, break all of the windows, board it up or even knock it down. I might impact on my neighbours if I live in a terrace but it is up to people to persuade me not the State with threat of force.

The other thing about compulsory purchase is that it is very easy to be generous when spending somebody else's money, as Tony Bliar is currently offering with extended maternity leave...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Pool improvements...

Something struck me as strangely different about Morley leisure Centre this evening, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Eventually I twigged, it was brighter and none of the lights were going on & off.

The main pool area has a number of discharge uplighters which wash the ceiling with light, there are probably about twenty of them. Some are yellow (Sodium) and others are a blue-white (Mercury), apparently randomly distributed. There are more yellow ones than white ones but Sodium lamps are cheaper.

The key difference is that they are all working- last saturday about a third were out and one of them was cycling on and off over a few minutes. They have been like that for at least eight months, but it is end of financial year...

I did wonder with some mild curiousity what sort of wattage the lamps were as uplighting relies on a lot of bounce light and the ceiling is in a fairly sorry state, discoloured & bits missing. I then noticed a familiar package at poolside, a grey cardboard lamp outer that presumably the electricians had discarded. On picking it up, I was stunned to find that it had a lamp inside it and at floor level right next to the male changing exit & a heap of floats.

After assessing the likely understanding of the staff on duty (who would have either looked at me blankly or evacuated the pool) I rescued it, put in in my locker for safe keeping & then presented it to the duty manager after getting changed again.

By the way, it was a 250W SOX High pressure sodium, you can get more than 100 lumens per watt out of those babies & they have fair spectral distribution.