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Who Links Here

Male/36-40. Lives in United Kingdom/Oxford, speaks English.
This is my blogchalk:
United Kingdom, Oxford, English, Male, 36-40.

Most of the photographs are taken on a Nikon D70, an Olympus Camedia C-3030 Zoom, an Oregon Scientific CardCam, or a Sony CyberShotU.

Image Manipulation using Microsoft Digital Image Pro.

I would also like to thank my Director, the Producer, my family, my God, all the little people who I didn't even dain to speak to while working with them and finally to the voices in my head who tell me what to type.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas



Friday, December 24, 2004

Tracking Santa

Radar ScreenEver wondered how Santa Claus manages to fly all over the world and visit all the children's homes in one night? Back in the old days he used to have the skies to himself and he could zip about quite freely. But these days he has all sorts of Air Traffic do deal with and, most importantly, avoid. He also needs to make sure he is not confused with a terrorist or military threat.

For the 50th year running the mighty resources of NORAD will be devoted to tracking the movements of that most illusive of aircraft, Santa's sleigh. Santa is so busy tonight that he just does not have time to re-route because a holiday jet is in his way. So the goal of the NORAD team is to route the other traffic around him, and to make sure that all the presents get delivered on time.

If you are at home, you can use the NORAD site to track how far santa has got.

If you are on an aeroplane tonight, keep a good look out of the window. You never know, you might just see those raindeer and a jolly man going about the most important delivery round of the year.

Twas the Night Before Christmas........

Father ChristmasSo goes the opening line to perhaps the best known and most often recited poem at this time of year.

Until recently it was believed that this ballad was written in 1822 for Clement Clarke Moore's two daughters, Margaret and Charity, and later anonymously published in the Troy [New York] Sentinel on December 23, 1823. But, according to University of Toronto English Library, in 2000, Don Foster, in his book Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous was able to demonstrate that Moore could not have been the author. Foster concluded that it was probably written by Major Henry Livingston Jr.

Visit A Mouse in Henry Livingston's House for a biography and an account of the quest to correct the authorship of this poem.

It is not at all surprising that such a famous poem has been the subject of parody, but I was not expecting to find a list of over 650 different versions written variously for cowboys, sci-fi fans, feminists, dog owners and many more.

If you feel so inspired, how about writing a new one and sending it to me (email address in the left hand column). The best one submitted by 31st December will be published here on 1st January and a prize will be sent to the winner. Only one rule, we don't want a repeat of the Moore/Livingstone debacle so you must be able to prove that it is all your own work.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Freedom Of Whatever is Left

Big Brother is ComingI do declare, this Government of ours gets more Orwellian every day.

I find the thought that Civil Servants might be busy working to destroy valuable historic documents more than a little disturbing.

For those still playing catch-up the UK Freedom of Information Act, passed by Parliament in 2000, will allow British Citizens unprecedented access to information held by public bodies from 1 January 2005.

We must hope that the authors of the Act did not have this wholesale destruction in mind as a step for preparation.

Perhaps when all the shredding is done we will see have an announcement of the formulation of Minitrue and the implementation of Doublethink…
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink."
Meanwhile we are already fulfilling the role of “Airstrip One” almost as George (Orwell, not Dubya) predicted.

On the List

Over the past few weeks I have been adding a few things to my "To do in 2005" list.

It is not really a statement of resolutions, more a list of things I intend to make time for in the coming 12 months - individual achievements rather than long-term changes to behaviour.

I will publish the full list on New Year's eve, but I have just added a line to make a very spectacular drive.

The Cost of Christmas

Santa's Balance Sheet Do you feel like this time of year is all spend, spend, spend? Does it seem to you that your credit cards will never recover from the yuletide bashing which it has taken buying presents for everyone?

Spare a small thought for Santa who has to provide presents for 1/3 of the world's children. An excellent little animation, from the house of JibJab, puts the plight of the world's gift giver into context.

So don't feel to glum if all your cash is gone, the look on the faces of your friends and relatives on Christmas morning will be something that money just cannot buy.

And I am sure they will all be looking forward to seeing the look on your face too.

As I always say, it is the taking part that is important, not the giving part - the taking part!


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Text-mas Cheer

Party Mobile As the party season is now well and truly under way, there are a wide variety of services and promotions for UK mobile phone owners to help everyone into the Christmas spirit and get the party off to a swinging start.

Fashionistas can be sure of avoiding a 'bad hair day' by using a service offered by hairdressers Toni & Guy. Those with WAP enabled mobile technology can access a gallery of hairstyles and share it with friends with a picture message to seek their approval before setting foot in the salon.

If you get tired of eating turkey leftovers and cold congealed plum pud you might want to look for an alternative meal over the holiday period. Many forward thinking restaurants are sending text messages to their past customers to notify them of special offers and promotions for Christmas and the New Year. (You thought they threw away all those entries once the "free bottle of wine" business card raffle was over didn't you?) The Pitcher and Piano chain of bars are providing free bottles of wine for customers and 3 of their friends in their mobile marketing campaign this year.

Or if you are just looking for somewhere nice for a quiet drink? Pub goers can now find their nearest pub featured in 'The Good Pub Guide 2005' by texting the word GOODPUB to 85130. Users receive an SMS message giving them the location and address of their nearest recommended Good Pub in the UK. Anyone wishing to go on a Good Pub-crawl can simply reply to the original message with the word NEXT and details of the next nearest good pub will be sent to their phone.

Perhaps when you are at the party you are seeking to be life and soul by telling some jokes which are better than those which fall out of the Christmas crackers. A great source of these is Jongleurs Joke of the Day service by texting JOKE to 61177. Not only will it send a joke tailored to specific types of comedy taste, it also enters users into a fortnightly draw for free tickets to one of the 17 Jongleurs clubs throughout the UK.

Staggering out of a party late at night, nothing is worse than realising you have missed the last train home. If you find yourself stranded in London and all you want is to get home as quickly as possible, without queuing for a cab until the wee hours, let your fingers do the walking. London Taxi Point are using location service to enable customers to locate the nearest available black cab and book it using SMS by texting 1156 to 83220.

If your friends are just too far away to see this Christmas, or are suffering from a seasonal snuffle why not text a carol just to let them know you are thinking of them? BT's new mobile to fixed line SMS service will let you send music to a friends home phone by adding a simple * code in an SMS to trigger a jingle, your text message might read something like:

"Merry Xmas. I can't be there 2 sing it with u but thought u might like this *merryxmas# ."

On delivery to a landline, the text message is converted to automated speech and when the *merryxmas# code is reached, the recipient will hear the familiar strains of We Wish You A Merry Christmas sung to them. There are several seasonal jingles currently available:
Key *merryxmas# for 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas'
Key *jinglebells# to play them 'Jingle Bells'
Key *newyear# and they? will hear 'Auld Lang Syne'
Jingles can be sent by text from O2, Vodafone, Orange, H3G (not T-Mobile or Virgin) to all UK phone numbers beginning 01 or 02 irrespective of network.

Merry Text-mas!



Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas Rush

According to the news media, this past weekend contained the busiest shopping days of the year and now the schools have broken up high streets and shopping centres everywhere are packed with people and will stay that way until the doors lock on Christmas Eve.

It looked pretty busy to me in Oxford on Saturday, and stores in both London's Regent Street and Manchester's Trafford Centre repored that it will be the best Christmas ever for them scotching fears earlier in the month that retail takings would be down as more consumers purchase online.

What becomes clear from this shopping intensity is that many people have not finished their shopping and as of last Friday a few had not even started.

I am quite relaxed now. I have finished my Christmas shopping and all the gifts are wrapped and nestling under the tree. Only one more food shop to go and I shall do that late on Wednesday evening.

While wondering round the shops on Saturday, I fancied a hot drink on a cold day. As I sat in Starbucks, mulling over my egg nog latte, after queueing for longer than I would normally wait at a supermarket checkout, it occurred to me that here was a globally successful retail chain which has achieved its success through word of mouth marketing. Further than that, here is a company for which I have never seen a TV advert. I wondered if there have been any, and after a brief Googling this morning I found one. Bonus is that it is an entirely seasonal ad and was filmed in my favourite American city.

Last time I was in San Francisco I had a taxi ride very much like this one!


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Get Firefox

Get FirefoxIf you are a regular user of a computer you cannot have possibly missed the fact that many people are converting to an internet browser called Firefox.

Microsoft Internet Explorer became the most widely used browser in the late 1990s and it was some of the business tactics they used to achieve this dominant position which led to all the lawsuits against them in recent years. Despite the litigation Internet Explorer's market share has been increasing through all these years. This summer, however, Firefox turned the tide. Many sites that track browser usage recorded Internet Explorer use peaking in May 2004, and declining since then. A quick look at the visitor statistics to this site show that already 13% of the visitors are using Firefox.

I am not anti-Microsoft at all. I believe they have developed some really good products (Powerpoint, Access, Streets and Trips) and some cool technology (Expedia, MSN Messenger). However, not everything they sell is as good as it could be and since the speed of Internet Explorer development has been glacial for the last three years it is now lacking many of the more advanced features which ought to be standard.

After a few months of using Firefox I have concluded that it is quite simply a better browser than Internet Explorer. That unqualified opinion is not very valuable to anyone who would like to make an informed decision. Security is one of the main reasons that people are trying Firefox, but it also has many features that are lacking in Internet Explorer.

I offer below my top ten reasons to Get Firefox

1. Firefox Is Free
Well, that is an understatement, Firefox is not just free, it is open source. That means that you or anyone has the right to make changes to the code. Now, while you may not be a developer, or even want to dabble in the inner working of a browser, the flexibility that Open Source offers is that if there is a security problem with Firefox, anybody can contribute a fix. Why should that give you confidence? Well, the developers who are delivering the fixes to Firefox are likely to be exactly the same sort of people who are looking for ways to poke wholes in Internet Explorer. The difference being that while there is a matter of pride in ensuring that the "people's browser" does not fall foul of the same media scare stories as have befallen Microsoft's products over the past few months.

2. Firefox is Cross Platform.
Imagine, the same browser working on all computers regardless of whether they are running Windows, Mac OS or Linux. This is great news for web developers as it means they only have to construct and test their web pages once and they meet the needs of all the world's most popular computers.

3. Firefox is Small.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer is quite a weighty program. Firefox downloads quite easily and quickly being only a 4.7MB download. If you are on Broadband, it will download while you make a cup of tea, whereas if you are still running on a 56k modem, you probably have time to watch a sitcom.

4. Switching to Firefox is Easy.
The developers who participated in the creation of Firefox thought long and hard about how to make it as easy as possible for people to stop using Internet Explorer and start using Firefox. So, the good news is that you can import all your existing settings from Internet Explorer. The Firefox installation routine takes care of all your bookmarks, options, cookies and all the other settings data is converted too.

5. Firefox Supports Extensions
Extensions are small add-on programs that add new features. In the early days of the internet (1993-1996) there was a popular browser called Netscape, this was based on a standard called Mozilla which invented the concept of extensions. Firefox is based on the same Mozilla open standard and there is already a thriving community of developers creating extensions, with more than 70 available, none of which cost a bean! I have downloaded some really cool extensions for blocking adverts, getting weather reports and a great little Newsfeed reader called Sage so I can keep track of all the latest entries in the other Blogs I like to read.

6. Firefox has Bookmark keywords
This is a superb innovation which lets you create shortcuts for any URL. In the properties for each bookmark, there is a Keyword option. If you bookmark "http://uk.weather.com/weather/local/OX1?x=25&where2=&y=8" and give it the keyword "Weather", typing "Weather" in the URL field takes you directly to the site. Firefox's "Smart Keywords" even let you search right from the URL field. Type "Weather Oxford" in the URL field, and Firefox will take you to the Weather page on the BBC Website. Interestingly typing "Oxford Weather" will take you somewhere else altogether.

7. Firefox is Very Customizable.
In addition to options available through the user interface, many more options can be customized using text files. There are also some great "skins" so you can change the design of the look and feel to be as formal or as wacky as you like.

8. Firefox Blocks Popups.
Popup blocking in Internet Explorer only arrived with XP Service Pack 2 and is so cumbersome it is a little like a sledgehammer in its all or nothing approach. Firefox's approach to Popup blocking is more refined and gives the user quite a bit of detailed control over what can and what cannot get through. Popups can also be opened in the Firefox tabbed browsing so it lets you contain all those popups in a single window without cluttering your screen. The good news is also that the Firefox browser and the many Extensions continue to be developed to keep up with the ingenuity of the pop-up authors.

9. Firefox has Progressive Find
If you have completed a search for a web-page you might then want to use the "find" tool to get to the point on a page which contains the text on which you searched. Finding within a web page in Firefox works as you type, and displays a warning flag if no match is found.

10. Firefox is Secure.
As alluded to in item 1 above, one of the most worrying issues with Microsoft Internet Explorer is that it has had repeated security scares surrounding it. Even the US Department of National Paranoia Homeland Security has recommended that, for national and personal reasons, Internet Explorer users should "use a different web browser". Firefox is also resistant to Spyware, that pernicious technology which steals your processor cycles and snoops on your browsing activity.

If you haven't tried Firefox yet, perhaps now is the time.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Online Radio Guide - Seasonal Special

SOMA FMI have been looking for a really special seasonal online radio station to share with you. By special, I mean something different and distinct from the normal round of drummer boys, roasting chesnuts, and also offering some respite from the endless replays of the Band Aid single. (I bought one - have you?)

The station I have found to share with you comes from the quirky but always high quality SomaFM.

SomaFM is listener-supported, commercial-free, underground/alternative radio broadcasting from San Francisco and X-mas in Frisco is their annual eclectic, irreverent holiday broadcast. Best heard on broadband, a low bandwidth stream is also available.

As well as some innovative remixes of the traditional, the playlist includes comedy and novelty record you may have thought (hoped) had been consigned to remain gathering dust in the archives. For example in the past 30 minutes I have listened to Little Bargain Boy by 2 Live Jews and Tweety's Twistmas Twoubles by Mel Blanc.

Be warned, listening to X-mas in Frisco is not for the feint hearted and may not be suitable for all ages. Odd little numbers like Christmas On Acid by Radio Free Vestibule are quite likely to invade your ears without any notice.

Despite the warnings my iTuner will be dialed in from now till the big day itself.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Puppet Love

Team America World PoliceWarning: This post links to Adult Content.

Way back at the beginning of August I wrote about the making of the new movie from 'South Park' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Despite the fact that they are using puppets as the stars, it was never expected to be anything less than controversial. Let's face it, anyone who can put that much foul language into the mouths of animated little children, and produce a move about the US declaring war on Canada is hardly going to be happy with the Gerry Anderson style of story telling.

In Team America World Police Matt and Trey have turned their savage satirical spotlight on the "War on Terror".

Word has reached us here at Sapientum Towers that Team America World Police contains a scene which is little short of pornographic. Purely in the interests of research I have just watched it and can confirm that it is explicit, crude and hilarious! Apparently this scene had to be re-edited nine times before American censors would give the film an R rating.

I am sure that the majority of readers are upstanding citizens and would be appalled if the offending scene was made publicly available on the internet. Wouldn't you?

Online Radio Guide - Part 4 - Six Degrees

Six Degrees RecordsThe last time I wrote about Six Degrees Records was when I finally managed to track down a copy of the excellent Traveler 03.

I have been waiting in vain for Traveler 04 to be released (no date announced yet and less than 28 days to go!) but I was delighted to discover that the label has started its own online radio station based on the Traveler series.

As I said before:
This small label based in San Francisco California, specializes in finding the best groove and dance music from all over the world. The are particularly good at showcasing hybrid or fusion music, where two cultures have met, messed around, and produced progeny which display the best characteristics of both parents.
So the resulting radio station lets you hear a great selection of their output.

The weekly show is put together and presented by label co-founder Bob Duskis.

To start the playback in iTunes or RealPlayer click here. For those still suffering under the yoke of Windows Media or other, lesser players, you best go to the Live365 station site and start from there.

If you are on broadband, be sure to visit the Six Degrees website homepage and check out the streaming videos. Have a listen too to the Christmas Remixed sampler - guaranteed to get you into a funky holiday spirit.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Fall on your Sword

Here are a couple of words for David Blunkett.

Cecil Parkinson.

7 Million Votes

Last night was the final The X Factor and 7 million of the British Public (that is more than 10% if you are into such statistics) voted to decide which warbling non-entity will have a brief but ultimately futile attempt to forge a career as the next "singing sensation".

Whilst you may not rate his signing ability, you cannot fault his talent for stating the obvious. On winning Steve the pub crooner said to his mentor Simon Cowell "If you hadn’t put me through in that first audition I wouldn’t be here now." Erm, yes.

Sadly British television is now being overrun with such contests for the hard of thinking. The X Factor, Pop Idol, Stars in their Eyes - no matter how you dress them up its just karaoke.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Presents for Pets

Doggie Not to be forgotten among the gift buying for Christmas are family pets.

Our family have always had a dog in the house, and each Christmas our beloved pet is given its own present to open. This normally involves a brightly coloured package being plonked in front of a confused canine which, having been told for weeks before that it is "naughty" to sniff and tear open the presents under the tree, cannot understand that it is suddenly ok to do so.

Whilst browsing online for a possible gift for the current woofage of the house, I came across an online quiz called Dog Toy or Marital Aid?. It really is quite alarming how hard it is to tell these things apart!

Have a go and see how you get on.