Sunday, October 21, 2007

Welcome to the Ecosystem

This takes me back to the biology lab, drawing pictures of various bits of reproductive paraphernalia while surrounded by locusts, rats and tadpoles.

Find your place in the Ecosystem.

I know I said I was running away, but I thought I ought to explore a strange phenomenon that seems to be going on around Yahoo! Although I haven’t been around that much, I have been popping in now and again to see what is going on. On each of these visits, I seem to find a 360 friend who is baling out or an email pointing me to some petition blog.

It seems that we are all involved in some evolution. I could have decided to sit down and check if I was to retain my reversible thumbs, see if I was growing some extra appendages or find out if I could imitate the cat by licking my important little places. Instead, I decided I should explore what was going on. (Note 1)

It seems that the 360 community is being stirred up by whispers from the Yahoo ivory towers as Jerry Yang and his merry band of faceless pixies announced Yahoo!’s financial results for Quarter 3 2007.

Jerry Yang, co-founder and CEO of Yahoo According to Forbes, the 432nd richest man in the world worth $2.2 Billion.

Given the rumours and the various mails and messages going around, I thought that I should see if this all made any sense. (Note 2)

With any set of corporate results, the raw measure of how good or bad they are is the effect on the share price. On Wednesday morning the share price jumped - but as it says in that CNN article “The results won qualified praise from Wall Street analysts, though most acknowledged that Yahoo still has a lot of work to do to revive its business.”

It seems that as far as the Wall Street analysts are concerned, all is not well inside of Yahoo! (Note 3)

The problem is that Yahoo! has seen the amount of money it is making falling over the last year or so. While other rivals appear to be powering ahead. In particular, Google appears to be going from strength to strength. Two days after the Yahoo! Results, Google announced a massive 46% leap in profits.

When you look at the history of the two companies, you will see that both started off in the Internet search engine business. It is in this area that highlights how Yahoo! has got left behind as in August, Google powered more than half all internet searches.

OK, so nothing to do with the topic in question, but worth including all the same.

Yahoo!’s income stems from advertising and from us ‘users’ (Note 4) and from our willingness to pay for their ‘premium’ offerings like the Flickr Pro account. Either way, they require that we keep coming and keep eyeballing the ads and patronising their services.

Now, my flavoursome yeomen, this gives us two very interesting observations.

The first stems from searching my friends list for Wall Street billionaires. Although I didn’t find any of those, I did notice that there is an interesting demographic. Unlike some sites, you would care to mention, Yahoo! 360 appears to attract a large number of older people – with disposable income. There is also a large number of women. In advertising this would be considered a profitable market segment – but also a segment with conservative traits that would not react well to change – especially if they didn’t feel part of the process.

The second is how Yahoo! appears to have forgotten that it is us and our willingness to provide content that generates the hits on their pages. The level of communication between Yahoo! and their clients has been incredibly poor. They have also been slow to react to feedback they receive. While they busily work in the background to develop the ‘new and improved’ Yahoo! product, what is already in place has become neglected and plagued by performance and technical issues.

Whatever the new offering we are promised in 2008 consists of, someone in Yahoo! needs to start engaging with their clients. Already people are beginning to experiment with alternatives and some are moving away already.

Yahoo! takes it’s client base for granted at its peril. There are alternatives out there. We use 360 because it suits our style and that are likeminded people here. When those people will move on, the trickle of leavers will turn into a flood.

On the Yahoo! Q3 2007 Earnings Call, Jerry Yang described the Yahoo! offering as an ecosystem, saying “We determined that to win in this marketplace, we must take advantage of our unique assets to drive value across a broad ecosystem of users, advertisers, publishers and developers.”.

Well, Jerry, listen to your clients. You and your people may consider that we are mere plankton in terms of our contribution to your fortune, but without us plankton, your ecosystem will collapse. Listen to your clients, make us feel that our views are important then perhaps your broad ecosystem will start to thrive

NOTE 1: as you probably guessed, I haven’t discovered any extra appendages or the ability to lick my own important little places. To be honest, if I had, I would probably to busy to contemplate working on this blog. Click to return

NOTE 2: And I will have to keep some of my natural political instincts in check as I do. It would be very easy to go of on tangents about the dealings between Yahoo And China – but I should let you go discover those for yourself. Click to return

NOTE 3: I’ve checked my friends list on 360. As far as I can tell, nobody there is a Wall Street analyst. Somehow, I don’t get the feeling that Gordon Gecko would relax by rattling off a blog entry or uploading a series of photos of his latest financial killing to Flickr. Click to return

NOTE 4: I still detest the term ‘user’ when applied to a person who displays loyalty and devotion by visiting an internet site or brand. The term ‘user’ has a derogatory air, it likens us the customer to a drug addict who visits the site to get a fix and that despite everything will come back again and again unable to break the habit…..

…. Errrm…. Maybe this is a dangerous analogy. Maybe there is a certain amount of habit in the way we use Yahoo! – I just don’t like being reminded of it. Mind you, Yahoo! isn’t the only dealer in town… Click to return

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Making the Habit

It could be that aversion therapy is the only answer.

Knowing where to stick it.

Yes, I admit it. I have run away. In the end it all got too much. As the friends list grew, I found myself with more sites to visit and read and comment – and I slowly got further and further behind.

There comes a point where you are so far behind that you just don’t know where to start – so you just don’t. I reached that point and in the end, I just had to let it go.

In one of those strange twists that life serves up, I saw a man wandering through the town this morning and I suddenly felt the need to capture the image. I needed to write.

He was at the vegetable counter, picking up carrots in manicured hands and inspecting them with glinting, grey eyes. It was the mustard yellow suit that made you notice him, before his confident gait air of authorative confidence made you take notice. Once drawn in , you couldn’t help but feel in the presence of a man with eccentricity that almost verged of rebellion.

In contrast to the white hair, neatly trimmed around a tanned and gleaming bald pate and round face with the minimum of wrinkles, he wore a daffodil yellow waistcoat stretched over a slight paunch. Under the waistcoat with a livid red and white checked shirt and a royal blue silk bow tie.

I moved to select some mushrooms and he strode of into cold meats. Our lives had touched and I knew that there was something I needed to record, ‘just in case’.

So now I have to get back into the habit. (Note 1) The positive habit of writing something every day.

Some time ago, a teacher told me that the secret of establishing a positive habit or breaking a negative habit was to make a conscious effort to do it for a month. The theory being that after a month it you will have established a habit and you will do it without thinking.

I can’t remember the teacher, but I have tried it before with other things. (Note 2) It kind of works so it is worth a try.

However, just in case, I think I shall practice my habit somewhere quiet, somewhere away from the temptations and distractions – and this time I shall not get carried away on a tide of ‘interestingness’, nor will I struggle finding pictures and formatting. I do this to write after all…

NOTE 1: That really should be easy. I have some humdinger habits that I have managed to keep for years! I still bite my nails when I am bored, I still crave tobacco (although nowadays I just follow smokers in the street until the craving dies or I get slapped). I talk to myself when I am trying to thing through a complex problem – which if I am also resolving my tobacco cravings can cause a few problems. Click to return

NOTE 2: Whatever the judge and the ‘gentlemen’ of the press says it was a valid experiment and I wasn’t lurking in those bushes and the camera was purely to photograph wildlife. Click to return

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grabbed by the Canonicals

This photograph just really clicked. It is the world’s tallest man meeting the world’s smallest. No camera trickery - amazing.

The Long and the Short of it.

Forgive me my Canonical Yeomen, for I have sinned it has been forty-five days since I last posted an entry. Oh my! It doesn’t seem possible that I have somehow gone that long without actually posting anything.

It is not that I have a very good excuse. All I have done is change jobs (Note 1)and for some strange reason all of the opportunities to divert my rambunctious yeomen into alternative realities seem to have dried up. It doesn’t look particularly hopeful that I will be finding much time to wallow in my alternative reality for a while – but I will try to pop in, maybe post a short piece and visit a few of your pages. All I can say is that I am Sorry I haven’t been giving you all the attentions you deserve and even if I do resolve to do better, I’m not sure that I will find the time to do so.

While I have been away from you all, there have been numerous opportunities to get my synapses sparking and the old blog juices seeping from every pore.

It seems decidedly professional for Alan Johnston to go off on a round of news conferences after his release. If it were me, I would have scuttled off home to my family.

There were the serious stories like that of Alan Johnston, who after 114 days of captivity was released by his kidnappers. (Note 2) Some of you may have noticed the little banner I have kept at the bottom of my blog as part of the massive international publicity campaign organised to try and secure his release.

There is probably an interesting debate about the benefits of publicity in kidnapping cases. At the moment five British men are being held in Iraq by kidnappers. They have had very little publicity and remain in captivity. Indeed when an Anglican Priest tried to intervene he was forced to flee Iraq.

So please, even though Alan Johnston is released, please remember that there are other hostages being held across the world.

While I was away, I missed the opportunity for a long and vociferous rant against caravans when the Caravan Club reached its centenary. Still, now that has reached 100 years old, perhaps they’ll all put there mobile tin cans away and give us our roads back. Either that, or be introduced to John Robert Patterson.

Gordon Brown proving that he is not a man for spin?

Also while I was away, we appear to have a new British Prime Minister. Young Tony Blair, did a flit in the middle of the night leaving the rent unpaid and no forwarding address. Luckily, Gordon was only next door and has offered to step in to the breach for while. (Note 3).

Oh well, I missed the chance I suppose. I shall just have to suck it up and wait for another chance to write about the topics.

In the meantime, you will have to forgive me as I have some bread to make. It wouldn’t do to turn up at the firework concert without my rustic rolls.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Not that I will blog anything to do with my new job. It can be rather career limiting if you wander of on a synaptic tangent making humorous asides about your boss or to tell people what really goes into those yummy Belgium Chocolates. Not that I am working for a company that produces Belgium Chocolates or anything exciting like that. To be honest, you could sit there from dawn to sunset guessing what my new company produces and will probably draw a complete blank. Click to return

NOTE 2: And top among his priorities after being released was getting a haircut – he says to get rid of that ‘just kidnapped’ look. I can understand that. I have just been to have my hair cut and even though it was only 5 weeks since my last visit, I feel so much better. My scalp is positively tingling after the ministrations of my barber. Click to return

NOTE 3: I’m not at all sure that I know what to make of Gordon Brown. He seems to be doing things rather differently. It could be that we have a real reforming Prime Minister on our hands. It will never last. Politicians that try to actually do something never last long. Click to return

The little glittery box remains.

This was my post from one year ago today.

A very, very obscure clue as to what I will be up to tonight.

Time to reintroduce a little mascot back onto my page – as if by magic.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Raining Hen

Following Darth Vader into Swindon, we have Tony Blair – is this cutting edge satire or what? Errr… well Swindon is in the West Country and it made sense to me.

There is something about Swindon that gets to you.

Right then! Hands up all my homogenised yeomen who followed the link to Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain in a previous blog, were able to watch the video and watched it to the end?

Hmmmm, I thought as much. I wasn’t at all sure that people outside of the UK would be able to see the program and I doubt many of you have the time to watch the whole thing.

Still, I posted the link. As the old Swindon saying goes, “You can lead a horse to the bathtub, but is won’t find the soap.”

Funny how Swindon is on my mind. (Note 1)

Not that I am entirely sure why I decided to open up with a picture of Tony Blair in demonic pose during a visit to Swindon or just why I am rambling on about Swindon. I guess it is just the way my synaptic tangents are sparking today. It could be that I was wondering when the next Jasper Fforde book was going to hit the shelves. (Note 2)

I did consider having a quick stab at some satirical synaptic tangents about David Prowse, Start Wars and our outgoing Prime Minister, but in the end found that it was all a little too convoluted. Though fear not my depilated yeomen, I will not be setting homework tonight. For tonight is a special occasion. Rather than setting homework, I’m handing out solutions!

Apparently this is a picture of the Moon in Swindon. They don’t have a crescent moon there, just different cut out shapes.

Some of you may have noticed that last week, a rather natty and flashy box appeared underneath my entries. In fact, it is there again today. In that box appeared a series of clues which I rather smugly announced as being cryptic. (Note 3). In fact they were nothing of the sort. They were nothing more than a rather elaborate pictorial countdown. What is more the intellectual yeomen also quickly worked out what I was counting down to – Today.

For today is my blogiverssary. I have now been blooging for a whole year. On the 30th May 2006, I decided to dip my toe in the tepid 360 waters and posted my first blog entry. Yes, it was rather boring an inauspicious. It didn’t really give many clues as to what the blog was going to evolve into and didn’t hint at the risks involved with reading it.

And for those of you who don’t follow the links, it was that last one which spawned the title of the blog – don’t you love puns?

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: For those adventurous yeomen who followed the link and are now fit for bursting at the thought of two weeks at the railway museum, please note that the web site doesn’t work properly and to request a brochure you have to email them. It somehow seems appropriate that. Click to return

NOTE 2: For those of you who have remained oblivious, I quite enjoy the writings of Jasper Fforde and in particular the adventures of Thursday Next of the Nursery Crimes Division based in Swindon. I’ve always considered that this is probably because Jasper Fforde’s mind is so stuffed full of synaptic tangents that I cannot help but be jealous. Click to return

NOTE 3: It was rather smug and supercilious of me. In fact one or two of my most loyal yeomen snatched the answer out of the air rather quickly. I was then forced to try and throw in a few curved ball clues to try and distract and disorientate you. Including a picture of ‘The Prisoner’ from the TV Series (Who was known as Number Six as he tried to discover the identity of the elusive Number Two) and a five striped squirrel did nothing to throw you from the scent. Click to return

So now you know what it was all about. I was giving my bloggiversarry a little hype.

This was my first proper entry posted one year ago today.

I just couldn’t resist a picture of icons of the educational system.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. There are hopeful signs, but until he is released this logo remains. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Rain Starts Play

The British Summer weather on a bank holiday weekend. Time for tea and crumpet in the pavilion. Last one there is a rotten egg.

Another very British view.

Bank Holiday Monday dawns over Britain and in keeping with tradition, the British put on an extra cardigan, wrap their Macintosh tight around them and set out to enjoy traditional pursuits – regardless of the weather!

Well, my tangible yeomen, it is truly a very good day to remain watertight. Being a cricket fan, I have to admit to being rather disappointed. England are playing the West Indies at Headingly.

I realise that the mere mention of the word cricket will have the majority of you yawning with eyes glazing over and chins drooping. I’d like to say sorry for this, but my heart just wouldn’t be in it. You see, cricket isn’t as complicated as it seems. (Note 1)

Cricket has a very strange fascination. It is one of the very few sports that is played as much with the brain as with the body. If you are not a fan, it is easy to miss the nuances and the technicalities – and easy to get as bored rigid by a fan as by the game itself. I do realise that views on cricket are entrenched and that I stand no chance of changing your view on the game.

Despite the padding and protection, a ball made of cork covered in leather and lacquer, weighing 156g and travelling at 100mph will fell a batsman. Here Brett Lee checks out his latest victim.

I happen to enjoy Test Cricket and believe that this is a greater challenge to the teams involved requiring both ability and mental strength. (Note 2).

The major problem though is that you cannot watch every ball of every Test Match during the summer. With up to seven tests being played, you cannot get every day off work for one thing.

I think that is why cricket journalism has developed a reputation for producing journalists capable of producing excellent word sketches of what is a complex game. A skill made all the more necessary because when it rains – there is no cricket, but the newspapers pages and airtime remain to be filled. So these heroes of the journalistic art develop the skill of being able to produce word sketches about total inactivity!

While TV tends to show highlights of past matches when the rain comes down, the hardier and more frivolous commentators on Test Match Special fill the air time with observations about cakes, pigeons and busses. Often continuing when there is actually cricket being played. Such is the homely appeal of their banter, I am sure that even people who have no interest in the game tune in, close their eyes and pretend they are at a gentile tea party.

The internet has continued with the fine tradition of cricket journalism with a number of excellent sites covering the game, offering up detailed statistical analysis of the game (Note 3) and offering a ball by ball update to the score.

Combining the tradition of cricket journalism with the new, brash and immediate nature of the internet comes a new cult hero to take his place amongst the wordsmiths. Ladies, gentlemen and others, I give you Ben Dirs! Check out the link to his Wikiquote and be… erm… amazed.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: As you can see, the simplified explanation doesn’t go down too well amongst some cricket fans. Although I love my cricket, I can’t see any harm in it and don’t hold impromptu bonfires when asked to help with the wiping up. Click to return

NOTE 2: The cricketing authorities have tried to improve the image of the game by introducing one day versions of the game which I enjoy, but for different reasons. However, if you want cricket at its rawest and most spectacular, the latest innovation of Twenty/Twenty cricket is well worth a look and will certainly bring converts to the game. Click to return

NOTE 3: Statistics play a huge part in cricket with very detailed records kept of team and individual performances and careers. These statistics are poured over and analysed by aficionados of the game and used to compare players of different eras and styles. Even the most minor statistic can be the subject of a heated debate while players, commentators and spectators wait for the British weather to clear. Click to return

I am now convinced that all of my fine yeomen (of whom I am so very proud), have worked out what is going on. Yet, I want to keep giving out clues.

Here is a wonderful badge. Sadly all my Merkin readers will be disadvantaged by this clue.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. There are hopeful signs, but until he is released this logo remains. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

May The Farce Be With You

I’m going to make you a star!

A very British view.

I have to say sorry to all my pasteurised yeomen for having to split my Cannes film blog over two different days. The truth is that there was just so many different synapses sparking, I just couldn’t fit everything in!

Still, if you all maintaining that comfortable and serene air associated with being watertight, I shall attempt to continue with the synaptic chunder. (Note 1)

Ever since I can remember, people have talked about ‘The British Film Industry’ with a kind of hushed reverence usually reserved for a much loved national icon admitted to a hospice.

The British Film industry seems to be in a perpetual state of decline that will result in its demise. Then, just as people start to dust off the memorabilia for eBay, along comes a Four Weddings, a Train Spotting, Full Monty or Love Actually that somehow allows the industry to stagger from its deathbed and wheeze its way through a few more years. (Note 2)

We tend to overlook the fact that us Brits are quite good at making movies. In fact, we have a track record of producing some of the biggest movies of all time.

Hmmm, there are a few sceptical glances coming my way – especially from my Merkin readers.

The West Country’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Prowse. This ex-bodybuilder who became famous as the Green Cross Code Man.

You may have noticed that this week saw the amazing anniversary of the first Star Wars film. You may not have realised it, but that film was made in Britain – but is not considered a British film. David Prowse, an Englishman, played one of the most famous characters in that film, Darth Vader. (Note 3)

If that doesn’t convince you, then remember that the James Bond films are made at Pinewood Studios.

The thing is that making films is an expensive business. The only people who can afford to make huge blockbusters are the big entertainment corporations. They have the money and will make their films wherever offers them the best deal. The cost of the films can influence their content. Film making is a business and the aim of the business is to make money. So the plots of films has more to do with encouraging people to watch than to try and break new ground or educate.

Which is why the big film companies back their films with big publicity budgets and why the big blockbusters get all the column inches in the entertainment papers.

Obi Wan Kenobi in an early role in the Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.

The bigger the business, the more money they have to spend and the bigger risks they can afford to take. Sadly, this means that in Britain we cannot match the risks and the budgets of the big multinationals like Sony. Without risk, there is no reward and we can only watch in disgust as our good ideas such as the Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers is remade by the big studios.

Ironically, the Ealing studios which made the famous Ealing comedies was sold to the BBC in 19955, the year that saw the original and acclaimed ‘Ladykillers’ film hit cinemas. Perhaps it is due to unique way that the BBC is funded by use of a licence fee rather than the need to obtain funding from commercials that allows the BBC to produce and air challenging programs.

If you have the time and you actually have the access rights, I suggest that you have a look at The idea that they will re-make the St Trinian’s franchise fills me with both Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. If you cannot actually see the program, then you can have a look at the BBC Website associated with the series.

The first episode used the satire of the Ealing comedies to illustrate some of the different events in Britain after World War Two. It is an amazing story that starts only a dozen or so years before I was born – and yet I learned so much. If you can, I thoroughly recommend you watch it.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I’m beginning to think I may have stumbled over a new classic. I think that is so much better than the rather old and boring cliché of “If you are sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…” Perhaps I should start a campaign to make it compulsory at all public library reading hours. Click to return

NOTE 2: Although such is the state of mind of us Brits that as soon as a film becomes a commercial success, we feel the need to ridicule it and generally belittle any achievement. I have no explanation why this is my effervescent yeomen. It is just the way of the Brits. We will cheer the underdog until we are puce in the face and our throats are red raw – but as soon as the underdog becomes a winner we cannot wait to bring them crashing down. Click to return

NOTE 3: David Prowse hails from the English West Country. His natual accent is a lovely West Country lilt, which is often stereotyped as being that of a country farmer. Poor David Prowse became nicknamed as Darth Farmer as a result. If you follow this link, you will see what I mean as it allows you to link to an interview with him. Just close your eyes and imagine Darth Vader – it soesn’t really work. Click to return

Oh dear, I appear to have missed out a cryptic clue. I am truly sorry. Never mind, I am sure that my firm-thighed yeomen will still be able to continue our little synaptic romp.

I think most people have the answer now, so I shall slip a nice easy clue in.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cannes Belles Ring Like the Good Old Days?

The strange surreal world of the Cannes Film Festival proves that the name Nora is no longer a handicap to fame and fortune.

Celluloid dreams.

Well, my weatherproof yeomen, isn’t it strange how one photograph can spark a meandering and wide-ranging synaptic chunder? (Note 1)

Those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few weeks may not have noticed that the Cannes International Film Festival is in full swing. (Note 2)

I went to Cannes once. I made the mistake of sitting on a pavement café and ordering a beer so I could watch the beautiful people go past. When the bill came, I found that it cost about ten times the price of a pint of Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel back in the ‘Rat and Ferret’. It wasn’t even that I was there for the Film Festival, just a conference on high speed computer networks. Sorry, I digress. I should jump back to the plot.

The Canne Film Festival generates a lot of media interest. Hoards of hacks and critics up sticks to attend – no doubt secure in the knowledge that a £40 beer tastes like ambrosia if someone else is paying. There are lots of distractions in Cannes, so getting the hacks out of the bars and casinos must be difficult.

It is probably not so difficult if you have a couple of ‘A’ list celebs in your film that you can wheel out in highly stage managed PR event with a huge finger buffet and free bar. Not so easy if you are a small independent film maker.

That is why I was really pleased to see that a short film produced by two students as a graduation piece is getting a lot of attention. Of course, this could be that this is the only British film in the running for any awards. (Note 3)

Apart from that, the only news of the British Film industry was a fanfare piece saying that they have done a remake of the St Trinians films which will open around Christmas time.

One of the cartoon images by Ronald Searle of the St Trinian’s schoolgirls. His collections of cartoons were later to be adapted onto celluloid.

The idea that they will re-make the St Trinian’s franchise fills me with both dread and joy. (Note 4).

Although the first St. Trinian’s film came out before I was even born and I didn’t even become aware of Ronald Searle’s cartoons until years later, I have always had a real soft spot for the original films. Now, I can look at them and understand the satire, enjoy the scene stealing acting from George Cole as Flash Harry and Alastair Sim as the headmistress (Yes, in the good old British tradition he played the role in drag). Yet whenever I see them, I find myself transported back to the sofa on a wet Saturday afternoon and I go all misty eyed.

As a child, I laughed like a drain at all the St. Trinian’s films. I must have watched each of them a hundred times and the never lost their charm, their humour or their appeal.

I shall probably go watch the new version with low expectations. I hope that it does manage to match the originals, but let’s face it – they are a very hard act to follow.

Now, my undulating yeomen, I shall draw this particular meandering to a close. Not because I have run out of things to say, but because it has generated so many more thoughts and ideas. I shall pick those up tomorrow as they deserve an entry all of their own.

Before I go, I would like to remind you of the need to find new sorry videos. Those of you who read my CRASI entry yesterday will understand what it is all about and are probably already hard at work trying to find good amateur video footage on the net or being creative with making your own. Boy, how I love setting homework!

While we are speaking of campaigns, I should ask my meticulous yeomen if they have noticed that the options for the various ‘Quick Comments’ on the front page of people’s blogs varies according to the server they use? It seems that some countries have better options than others – with the Canadians getting all sorts of really interesting emoticons. Well, Kerry did! She has started the SMILEY 360 campaign. Why don’t you pop over to her page and see what you can do to get A bemused Chicken. included in your Quick Comment box?

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I started with an idea of what I wanted to blog about and worked backwards to the opening as I usually do. However, I when I got to the opening, I found that my thoughts shot off in a totally direction. Still, I suppose I have the skeleton for another entry in my locker now. Now all I need to understand is why some women consider being described watertight is such a compliment, but having had such a positive reaction, I should continue with the compliments. Click to return

NOTE 2: While researching this little piece I found myself smirking over the way that the Merkin media condescends to their public. While everywhere else in the world describes it as Cannes, The Merkin media feel that their readers have no grasp of rudimentary geography and insist on saying ‘Cannes, France’. Just pity the fools. Click to return

NOTE 3: Reading between the lines of the article, I do get a sneaky feeling that the subject matter might well have something to do with it as well. I wouldn’t mind having a little teensy bet that if it does win we will get to see a few offended people pontificating in the press – all additional PR grist to the mill. Click to return

NOTE 4: I’m prepared to be proved wrong here, but I have yet to find a re-make that is anything but a pale imitation of the original. I sat here staring at my screen for an age trying to think of one re-make that I enjoyed more than the original and drew a complete blank. Click to return

It seems that some of you have broken the cryptic clues. For those of you who haven’t and are unaware of the link, I am truly sorry. Sadly, I have to come up with an even more cryptic clue to see if those who know the answer can also explain why.

For those of you who do not wan’t a further clue just yet – then look away now. This fine looking fellow is none other than Patrick McGoohan. Are you any the wiser?

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You're Driving Me Crasi!

I’m no petrolhead. I just did a random search for an image and I got some strange results again. So, I did a little extra searching and found this….

Definitely multi-pupose - not only an extension.

I should start off with a confession. I am really on the move today and I wasn’t going to post anything. Sadly, Evar has other ideas. He feels that I need to continue to harass my blissful yeomen with another cryptic clue.

Evar also decided that I need to take my position as patron of CRASI (Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet) more seriously. I was enjoying a nice quiet pint in the ‘Rat and Ferret’ when he started to harangue me. What was worse, Sid and Mattress Madge supported him.

I tried to explain that being a patron is an honorary thing. I don’t really have to do much apart from turn up for a few free lunches, press the flesh and pose for a few photographs. (Note 1). I fought tooth and nail against the idea, but in the end was swayed when Madge, leant forward, jiggled her ample charms and suggested that I might get onto the guest list for a few Embassy Dinners - definitely a step up from blagging a free ploughmans from ‘The Bladdered Nun’ (Another fine watering hole in our fine town).

Having seen me relent, Evar wandered off to continue his experimentation in the effects of Viagra on small mammals, leaving me to explain CRASI to a growing band of perplexed yeomen.

It seems that if you glue legs on a gag and teach it to run – the aforementioned gag also grows razor sharp teeth and develops infinite patience. When your attention wanders off and your guard is down, the gag turns and bites you in the most delicate of areas.

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that I liberally sprinkle links in my post. For the most part these kind of tie in with what I’m posting about, but occasionally I just throw in an odd link that whisks you away at random. One of those random links was to a rather clever video someone posted of them saying sorry. Working on the principle that you cannot have too much of a good thing, I repeated the link to the point of driving previously sane people to develop the desire to stick hot needles into their eyes.

I never really found the sitcom ‘Sorry’ that comfortable to watch. It was funny, but there was this terrible feeling of there but for the grace of God….

Eventually, Sean cracked and produced his own version of the and the sorry video. But since then, the gag runs on and on and on and on and on and on alternating the two – probably due to an advanced case of irony. (Note 2)

The good news is that we now have CRASI! This is your chance to be avenged and grab your chance to expand on the repertoire of the sorry videos. Just drop Sean a message with the URL (Oh, OK Evar – you can give me the URL as well, but I won’t be able to watch the video!) and you can rest secure in the knowledge that you will have people drooling and gibbering across the globe!

Go on! You know you want to. It’s much safer than a daytrip to the zoo.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Not that I like posing for photographs, but I am a sucker for a free lunch. The only thing better than lunch is a when you don’t have to pay for it. Click to return

NOTE 2: The irony being that I cannot play videos on my machine that require the Macromedia Flash Player. Whenever I enable the Flash Player, my browser window will crash within a few minutes. So, I’ve given up trying to watch any YouTube content, it is just too much hassle. So those of you who post a lot of videos now know why I don’t ever comment on them. Just pity the fool. Click to return

You obviously need more cryptic clues. So far, the synapse sparking has been noticeable by its absence. Today I give you the British Ukulele Orchestra in full regalia. If all of this is still confusing you, then I am truly sorry.

The British Ukulele Orchestra. I have tickets to see this crowd when they come to Oundle next month.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trying not to Snigger

The response from my MP from my letter complaining about Vulture Funds.

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope.

Hello again my watertight yeomen. It seems I’m managing to shoe-horn in the time to write a few blog entries. So I suppose I should put them to good use. I can almost hear the sound of numerous loins being girded as I tell you I’m going to give you an update on Vulture Funds. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about here, you can catch up on a little of the history by reading the blog entries here and here.

So, the more perceptive yeomen amongst you should now know, I have been writing to my various elected representatives in attempt to see if I can nibble at the toes of government and encourage a little justice.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this entry, I have had a response from Phil Hope. (Note 1) I’ve also had a response from Mr Rehn on behalf of the European Commission, but that was rather evasive suggesting that there was little they could do.

The letter from HM Treasury regarding Vulture Funds.
The second page of the letter from HM Treasury signed by… Oh my word!

The letter does give me cause for optimism. The Department for international development has part-funded a scheme that allows countries to buy back their debt with an average saving of 90% on the debt – allowing over $8bn worth of debt to be eliminated. All good news – but really just a start and more needs to be done.

Perhaps most importantly, we as individuals need to make sure that our Governments don’t forget about the pledges they made after Live8 at the G8 summit. In a report issued in April the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said aid to poor countries from 22 of its members - wealthy industrialised nations - fell 5.1% last year and was likely to decline further in 2007. Of the G8 Nations, only the UK and Japan have fully kept their pledges.

So, if you haven’t already, write to your elected representative. If you live in the UK, like me, you can write to your elected representatives using the Write to Them website. If you live in the US, concerned Merkins can contact your Senators and Representatives.

There are also petitions open you can sign electronically – these can be found on the original posts, so I’ll not bore you with them again.

However, I will include the links to the Jubilee Debt Campaign website, so you can find out more information and get involved with their campaign.

John Cleese making good use of his height in Monty Python to breathe life into ‘The Ministry of Funny Walks’.

Despite this being a very serious and complex topic, my brain still went off on a synaptic tangent. All through this post I have been thinking of John Cleese and the Monty Python classic Ministry of Silly Walks. (Note 2)

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Phil Hope was recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. This is a cancer of the lymph system and requires four months of chemotherapy followed by four weeks of radiotherapy. As a result I wasn’t sure that I would hear anything from him. So credit where credit’s due.

Because I am patron of Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI), I will say sorry to hear you’ve been ill. I hope that you make a full recovery and are back to normal soon. Click to return

NOTE 2: It is just the way that my brain likes to work. The synaptic tangents went into overdrive when I saw that the letter from HM treasury was signed by Ed Balls. My inner fourteen year-old schoolboy sniggered and snorted. Pity the Fool. Click to return

Today I throw another cryptic clue in your direction to see if your synapses spark and produce the answer. If I have confused you, well, I’m sorry.

Despite being the pre-race underdogs, Oxford maintain their advantage in tricky conditions to emerge victorious at the finish of the 2006 University Boat Race.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Marking the Day

Making the most of someone else’s poor research by deciding that we know that Plato was born today.

As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest blabbers.

That rather fossilised philosopher up there is Plato. My more experienced yeomen will be bracing themselves for a rather deep and meaningful argument over what constitutes democracy or some wondrous synaptic tangents that link him to Ernest Marples. But no. My intention today is far more important. Today, I shall be meandering my way to highlight a far more important fact.

There is a link between Plato and Ernest Marples, but it is so tenuous that it will have you all crying foul. Indeed, it may well have you reaching for pitchforks and flaming torches and laying siege to my humble abode. For you see, as I drifted along the backwaters of the internet, I came across a rather unnerving claim. I came across a site that listed the birthdays of famous people. On that site, I found that they had Plato’s birthday listed as today. This rather surprised me as I’d always thought that such a fact had eluded scholars. Indeed, I crossed checked it with wikipedia and they were not even sure of the year he was born.

Rather than delve deeper into dry and dusty research, I just decided to accept the fact. (Note 1) There is plenty else to celebrate on this day after all.

For a start, it is the birthday of Delectable Pet - who remains a sprightly ninety-nine. Happy Birthday Pet, I hope you have a wonderful day that is full of the most wonderful gifts! Rumour has it that later today some lucky people will be treated to a recital of Abba’s greatest hits on the autoharp. Truly, this is the hottest ticket in town.

Although I cannot be sure about you sharing your birthday with Plato, I am on safer ground when I suggest that you share your birthday with Fats Waller, Alexander Pope and Elizabeth Fry.

Book him Danno! No, hang on that isn’t right. Well, Raymond Burr would be 90 today if he hadn’t died.

In fact the 21st of May provides a number of interesting potential synaptic tangents. (Note 2)

Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean and Amelia Earhart, lands in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Andrei Sakharov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Soviet scientist and dissident, was born.

In years to come, today will be marked by the sad news of the fire on the Cutty Sark.

Most important though remains the fact that it is the birthday of Delectable Pet - so pop over to her page and wish her many happy returns for the day.

For those of you who are wondering, the link to Ernest Marples is that on this day in 1958 he announced the introduction of telephone direct dialling making it possible to make a phone call in Britain without the aid of an operator – yes it really was less than 50 years ago, see how quickly things have moved on.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Mainly due to it blowing the link with Ernest Marples out of the water and also because I was just too lazy to go digging any further. In keeping with my position as patron of Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI), I will just grovel a bit, tell you all sorry and move on. Click to return

NOTE 2: Like it being the birthday of Leo Sayer and Mr T. I’m just not sure that it is fair to unleash these on a poor unsuspecting world. Should anybody be thinking of searching out some audio clips of Leo Sayer – I advise against it. Bleeding from the ears is no fun! Pity the Fool who tries. Click to return

Just a little cryptic something to get your synapses stretching a tad. If I have confused you, well, I’m sorry.

RAF pilots form a 'Diamond Nine' for the first time ever with Typhoon aircraft.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Minefield That Is Statistics

Trying to get his head around the idea.

Can you believe the signs? Do you really want to prove it wrong?

My perfumed yeomen, you could hardly believe it possible, but someone left the cat flap unlocked and Sunday has sneaked in, slipped a patented Nightswerve’s Hangover Inducer into my early morning tea and slapped me around the face with a turbot. I’m afraid that I am not at my glittering best. My body is racked by an almost critical case of man flu while somehow last night I managed to overdose on dried frog pills, alcohol and curry. Such is my delicate nature at the moment, I could be forgiven for hallucinating or slipping off to an alternate reality and teach temperance to elephants.

Thankfully, I spotted my statistical highlight yesterday, before I decided to over indulge. The Yahoo Statistics Goblin has decided that my 360 page has had 100 000 views! (Note 1) Thank you for your congratulations, it all helps against the jack-hammer operating on my temples. Given that Yahoo has chosen to keep the ‘interesting’ label sewn into my underpants, I shouldn’t be too surprised. I imagine that I get a number of the curious drop by, shake their heads in disbelief and hurriedly move on.

Yet, I have also managed to acquire a wonderful and diverse set of friends along the way who have stayed amazingly loyal to my synaptic meanderings – even when I fail to read their blogs or forget to respond to their comments due to some poorly timed synaptic tangent. I thank you all from the depths of my heart – you are all truly amazing and I am humbled that you chose me as a friend.

A Turbot trying to remain inconspicuous after discovering the price placed on his very flat head by posh restaurants.

At this point, I should now go through a huge long list of thank-you’s to all my friends. I should single each of you out in turn, link to your pages and offer up a paragraph or two in praise of your talents – but I won’t. (Note 2)

To get added to my friends list is a very difficult affair. If you don’t have a picture in a profile, you don’t get added. If you don’t spend a little effort on introducing yourself on the invite, you don’t get added. If your page hasn’t been updated in a while, you don’t get added. Yet, if I find your page interesting, then I will add you even if it is in a language I cannot read. This is why my friends list contains people from around the globe (I seem to have a number from Vietnam and Iran for some reason).

On this rather special occasion, I would like to draw your attention to one blog in particular, that of MINH NGOC. I find the photographs there absolutely amazing and well worth a look.

One of Minh Ngoc’s amazing photographs. Please visit his blog.

The fact that I am able to easily include a photograph by Minh Ngoc into my blog highlights a problem with the internet – the easy availability of material.

Earlier this week, I came across a story on the BBC website about Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir who had some photographs she posted on her Flickr page lifted and sold without her knowledge. On her blog she writes about her experience and also includes some hints and tips on how to avoid falling victim if you wish to make money from photos on Flickr.

I suppose that plagiarism will always be a problem and that the internet just makes life that little bit easier. I just hope that if we ever spot our friends being ripped off in that way we will let them know – not that I have the slightest idea what you would do about it!

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Now if you are reading this on my mirror blog This probably doesn’t make any sense to you whatsoever. For this I issue the sincerest sorry I can muster. I will then remind you of the Campaign to Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI) started by Sean. Apparently I am patron of this effort, so I urge you all to say sorry often in your blogs and ensure that you link to a sorry video. And if anybody out there has any other videos that you think we should be linking to – please let me or Sean know! Click to return

NOTE 2: Sadly, I do not have the energy for that right now and I am not at all sure just how long my churning innards will allow me to sit in front of my computer. Given how long it took to produce the list of the various coloured whelks, it is probably better that I work in short sharp bursts and wander outside occasionally to relieve the pressure by expelling unwanted gasses. Yes, I realise that this is just too much information for a Sunday morning. Click to return

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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