Saturday, 13 December 2008

Byebye computer :(

At some point on Thursday evening during a not-particularly-heavy Warcraft session (I was in Dalaran picking mushrooms) the MacBook started to make an absolutely horrific something-ain't-right whining noise. It sounded like the fan was throwing its toys out of the pram, and as I was starting to feel that the computer might actually take off I shut down WoW and turned off the computer and that seemed to work. Things carried on as normal for a little while, but then it started up again, so I shut it down and went to bed.

Friday afternoon whilst working from home it started again. This time I did some googling, found a problem that it sounded like it might be and did some kind of reset jobby that involved taking the battery out. The computer seemed to get the message and it worked fine all yesterday evening.

Today, however, it started doing it completely randomly, once or twice when I was in Warcraft, once or twice when I was out of it and doing other things, once when all I was trying to do was stream Radio 4 off iPlayer, once when I was backing up the hard drive and a couple of times when I wasn't actually doing anything at all, and once when I wasn't in the room.

I've been checking the exhaust RPM and various temperatures with a handy little widget, but it doesn't seem to be going crazy with any kind of pattern, everything is "within normal parameters". Right now I have Safari and iTunes open and things are running fine, but five minutes down the line it could well have gone shouty crackers again.

The upshot is I'm pretty sure I have a borked fan. The noise is coming from that general area, and when you put your hand on the underside of the main body the casing is vibrating with a frequency that I would find sexually arousing if this thing hadn't cost me about twice as much as a whore.

It's not that this is going - or has - put me off Apple, quite the opposite, but I'd just like to point out that I took delivery of a Dell Inspiron in September 2000 and it was June 2003 before the screen fell off. I've had the Mac barely 15 months.

This fan issue, together with the strange peeling at the bottom corner of the screen, has convinced me it's time to take it into the shop and get it seen to. That'll be seven to ten days without the computer and possibly more as it's a busy time. It's touch and go whether or not I get it back before my two week holiday time starts, or before Christmas. So likely no WoW Christmas achievement for me, and no interwebs and without the TV working 'til Thursday when the nice man is coming to screw in our Freesat dish, no means of intellectual stimulation through the medium of screens.

So unless I blow the Christmas shopping budget on an Asus EEE or something, it's cheerio for now...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Big new media whore has big new media questions!

So, hi, guys. I thought that as I'm using this blog more instead of my old Livejournal, and because it's linked in to other sites and platforms that I've been using, it's about time to find out who, if anybody, is reading this, what they're getting out of coming here, what they want, and why they're following me around.

I hope, if you're reading this, you might indulge me for a few minutes and have a think about some of the questions I've posed below. For those who are really genuinely new to my blog, I'll throw in a bit of background. In reality I'm a technology industry journalist specialising in networks and communications and how to sell and develop them, and as part of my work I've been following the development of new media platforms and their possible applications for some time. But this interest is also personal, I'm not going to go away and write a hugeass feature right now, I'm just being a nosey parker.

Analytics; the stalker's friend

So, Google Analytics is telling me that more people are coming here and most people are coming off Blogger referrals. A fair few are coming from Twitter since I started tweeting last week, and some of you are coming from other blogs, at least a couple from the very worthwhile Voyagers and some from Well Done Fillet, which is also worthwhile - that's one I started reading when the guy who writes Waiterrant got a publishing deal and stopped being interesting on the internets, although on the plus side I hear he makes a shit-load of money now, so we don't really begrudge this at all.

As the Who sang, who are you?

What I'm really curious to find out is who you are! I'm not planning on stalking anybody, but I really would like to know. I'd imagine some people are here off Livejournal, so I probably know you already, but give me a heads up anyway. Doesn't it suck that I'm duplicating some content still? How would you divide up multiple blogging platforms?

What about the Twitterers then? Some of you must be followers, but I know most of my followers personally, so for you guys, what brings you here now? Hey, newbies, what made you click?

How about the Blogger referrals? Did you just click through randomly? How does that work for you? Do you find anything interesting when you do it, and what made you stop here? The same goes for any other referrals, or if you're coming off a search engine - I know at least four of you have come from Google searches in the past week? How did you get here, where are you headed, and are you at least enjoying your trip?

I wurnt to suck your blood coolness!

And lastly, what am I not using or doing? I want people to stick around and I want to try, if not always with great success, to be entertaining or interesting and not just another lonely voice on the interwebs hollering with no real cause or intent. So what makes you keep reading when you find a blog?

I've really enjoyed blogging on other platforms for the past seven years, but I've found Livejournal - where I used to be and still am from time to time - is increasingly a controlled environment, a bit of a walled garden in some ways, so I'm expanding onto Blogger and Twitter, and obviously I have Facebook and Linkedin (for professional use only). Where else can I go and what can I do when I get there? What platforms are giving you virtual Web 2.0 hard-ons?

Hundreds more channels and nothing to watch

The internal TV aerial we'd been using gave up on the last remaining spot where we could still get a signal, so a nice man is coming to install Freesat for us next week. We get two hundred and forty channels and I don't really want any of them but still, it is free, the nice people assured me ... and what kind of incomparable titmonkey markets a flat without a TV aerial? Seriously.

I took a look at a list of the 240 new channels we'll be getting the other day, and among the delights that await are, and I promise I am not making these up;

The Audi Channel - for cocks who drive Audis.
Horse and Country - for cocks who like huntin', shootin' and bangin' the door of one's Audi at 3am.
Ocean Finance - for people who can't afford Audis.

And yes, that would be Ocean Finance as in 'do you need help consolidating your loans into one easy monthly repayment' Ocean Finance.

There's more. There's WatchmeTV.tv, which appears to be YouTube for idiots, there's Psychic TV, which is pretty self-explanatory, and there's 'pan-Arabian edutainment' network, the Al Jazeera Children's Channel, which claims to make 40% of its own programming and in a Nancy Reaganesque twist is, according to Wikipedia, the pet project of the 'second' wife of the Emir of Qatar.

Mind you, that's the same Wikipedia that has at various times claimed that Robbie Williams made his millions eating domestic pets, Tony Blair had posters of Hitler on his wall, and David Cameron was "a bit of a bitch".

Back to the goggletube, and something for those people for whom Islam seems a bit too much like hard work, there's also a plethora of Christian networks, among them Daystar, which I'm looking forward very much to watching. A drop down menu on their website, right next to an ad for a Christian golf invitational, invites viewers to variously 'Submit a Prayer' and 'Know Jesus.'

All I wanted was BBCs One through Four, and maybe E4 for the Friends reruns...

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Twitter - how does anyone find anyone else?

So, I've been twittering away for a couple of days now and it seems like good fun - a bit of a time-sink in the way that this sort of thing tends to be - but on balance definitely something worth sticking with.*

However, I'm really having some pretty severe issues with some aspects of the site's design and wondered if anybody else had been irritated by this as well? There seems to be no feature to actively search for someone by username - the only way to add and start following someone appears to be to trawl through other people's lists until you stumble across someone you're looking for, or to go through your email contact books and spam all your friends and relatives. Neither is really satisfactory.

Say, for example, I want to find my LJ pal Jimmyjoebob, who I also know goes by two other handles on Yahoo (Joebobjimmy) and an old Fanfiction.net account (Bobjoejimmy). Twitter has no actual little box that I can type his handles into to see if he's there - I either have to forget about the whole thing, or check my friend EmoDracoluvr15, who I know is on Twitter, to see if she's following him.

Another case to prove the point - I know the Questionable Content characters have fictional Twitter streams that I think it might be a laugh to follow ... but even if EmoDracoluvr15 tells me Dora's fake handle, I can't type it in anywhere to bring up her stream, I still have to search through the Twitter streams she's following until I find Dora or whoever.

It seems like a massive game of chance whether or not you find anybody at all, and this strikes me as a severe design flaw that someone would have developed out of existence by now, so, guys, experienced Twitterers, is there a way round this, or do I have to suck it up?

* The feed's on the right, or imported daily if you read this at my LJ.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Christmas list

X-Factor, the first person shooter video game for PC, Mac and Wii

Louis Walsh has gone rogue and kidnapped tousle-haired Jamie Oliver/foetus lookalike Eoghan Quigg to be his sex slave. Its time for Dermot O'Leary and Same Difference to form an unholy alliance to stop this madness once and for all. Includes zombies, hardcore porn inserted by a bored designer and hidden bonus Abba Tribute Night level. This game got 8 out of 10 from no-one whose opinion counts.

The Brian Paddick Uranium Enrichment Kit

Now you too can create international mayhem and bring the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation with the latest gaudily-coloured shit from the mind of the infamous failed London mayoral candidate. Includes uranium, centrifuge and underpaid Russian physicist with no scruples. Not suitable for under 3s.

The Colbert Carport

Following the runaway success of comic Stephen Colbert on some obscure satellite channel, this piece of corrugated plastic is imported direct from the USA and plays 'America the Beautiful' and 'My Country 'Tis Of Thee' every half hour. Cannot be stopped. Also keeps rain off your car.

Tickle-me-Obama

Does exactly what it says on the box. Includes foreword by Bill Ayers.

Also coming soon from the people that bought you Cowell: The Lowrise Years and Sing-a-longa-News-24 with Huw Edwards, the MMORPG release World of Rosscraft. Playing either a pop star, a paparazzi or a Daily Mail reader, you must save the mystical world of M'han-Wwel from the Demon King Uth'Brand and his army of Dragon Chasers.

Don't let your family go without these amazing gifts!

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Devil Served Tortellini

Well, for those who are following this one, I'm about seventy pages into The Devil Served Tortellini, which I picked up in Murder One on Saturday at Cassie's signing. It is a stunning artistic tour de force and I predict it will some day be a GCSE set text. I'm thinking of throwing it open to the public. £5 a viewing. No children. No dogs. K and John are both welcome to borrow when I am done, but please ignore the chocolatey smudges; I felt that if I was going to read modern romance I ought to do it in the bath with a lot of Lindt.

I picked up City of Ashes too so as not to feel left out.

The Divali lights have gone up along the lampposts on the main road. They are very carefully 'vendor agnostic' decorations, mainly candles and the like, that will be easily converted to Christmas lights after a few weeks. It's also Eid tomorrow, so we're all set for the fireworks, and it will be easy to get a seat in the local curry joints after sundown.

Monday, 22 September 2008

What's that coming over the hill?

I've been doing rather well vis-a-vis the perks in this job. In the past week I've scored both Arbutus and Quo Vadis for the first time ever. Arbutus set me up with an amazing pig cheek and apple salad, Elwy Valley lamb with sweetbreads and olives, which was probably the most succulent lamb I've ever eaten, and an apple and blackberry charlotte that was average for one Michelin star, but still worth it for the custard alone. The wine was something in a carafe that I don't remember what it was.

Today saw me on the next street over for Quo Vadis, which AA Gill wrote up a few weeks back, where I had amazing tempura courgette flowers and a sirloin steak with bearnaise and very thick cut goose fat chips. No dessert but a 2005 Bordeaux seemed to go rather well with it. I know next to nothing about wine and tend to buy brand-names if left to my own devices, so I am assuming it was a good match. Didn't have me fleeing from the restaurant gagging and clutching my throat, at any rate.

I also moved house again and am now happily installed with L in a cosy little one-bedroom hideaway just off the Upper Tooting Road. We lack for a TV aerial socket, but there's no shortage of brilliant Indian restaurants within two minutes walk, a handy sushi/bento joint, a big Sainsburys, two tube stations, speedy interwebs and a pub that appears to be staffed by cretins. If you care to update your Christmas card address lists leave me a comment with email for you.

I am also cycling to work now, which I'm very pleased about. I'm doing about twelve miles a day, six there and back, in forty minutes, although I could probably do twenty-five if I didn't mind arriving at work smelling funny or got some slick tyres to replace my knobbly MTB kit.

This is one thing I don't understand about British commuter cyclists; in places like Copenhagen or other cities with an actual cycling culture you see hordes of bikers heading into work every day in their suits and work clothes, going at a leisurely pace so as not to work up a sweat, but here everybody wears full kevlar body armour and grumbles if there aren't enough showers at work. I suspect it may have something to do with the total lack of usable segregated facilities. We have segregated facilities in the UK, but most of them are inconvenient, unsafe, or in a lot of cases utterly pointless.

At any rate I've not needed the body armour yet, although I've invested in a very tasteful reflective jacket.

Before I end up going onto any other disparate subjects I'm going to stop typing this now and end on my usual hope that I'll ever update this blog on a more regular basis.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Not the winningest

I'm not convinced that Michael Phelps is the winningest athlete and most successful olympian of all time. Not to take anything away from a pretty outstanding achievement, but let's try and put this in perspective. The swimming competition is massive, with loads of events and several different strokes over a variety of distances and with a varying number of actual swimmers. The potential for Phelps to go out and win eight medals is vastly higher due to this. And with three or four good Olympics in him over a 12 to 16 year period, it's quite possible he could get 30 to 40 golds if he stays at the top of his game for London and maybe beyond.

Contrast this to, say, a javelin thrower or a heptathlete, with one event and a comparable 15 to 20 year sporting career, you're only ever going to take away five golds maximum. So a whole bunch of athletes miss out on having a shot at the most successful title, which if judged in the highly objective terms of olympic golds, as the media seems to have decided to do in Michael Phelps' case, is always going to be held by someone with a lot of possible events in their discipline. In other words, a rower, a cyclist or a swimmer.

Anyway, all those swimmers are built like brick shithouses - that's a deluxe, fully air conditioned eight story brick shithouse with concierge service and a swimming pool on the roof - and don't do it for me with their shoulders as wide as a six-lane expressway and their horrible full-body swimsuits. Give me a nice diver any day...

They're already saying Thomas Finchum is this year's Johnny Weir. So he'd definitely be up for it.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Not dead

I'm not dead.

But I just got out of the shower and in the steamed up shaving mirror I saw a fingerprint drawing of a star of David.

All the evidence points to one thing only; the Chosen have tracked me down...

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Spineless journalists FTL!

It isn't that I want Prince Harry dead or anything like that, but I have a very, very bitter taste in my mouth right now over how this story, broken - albeit not where anybody noticed - early in January and subsequently seized on by the Drudge Report, has been handled.

Essentially, in conspiring to hold back the story, the entire British media has bent over and allowed themselves to be held in thrall and have their editorial agenda dictated to them by the Royal Family, an institution most of them fall over themselves to persecute to the ends of the earth.

Sure, there's a pretty good case for saying that had we all known that Prince Harry had been on the frontline for ten weeks you the Taliban would have known as well and it would have been great ammunition for them to go after the Prince's unit. They sure as hell know it now, but I noticed that none of the news reports I've yet seen today have been talking about bringing him home before he gets an entire platoon killed.

But the cloak and dagger conspiracy to mislead 61 million people is utterly hypocritical, and that's where I have a problem.

The obvious solution seems to have been to never let him go in the first place. Actually the solution is to have never gone to war in the first place, and the other solution, hiding behind the first two, is to do away with the monarchy altogether, but that's a whole other story for another day.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A business case for web 2.0?

So, here I am in Paris. Yesterday evening we had a frightfully trendy media reception at the Museum of Architecture, all champagne fountains and soft dance music in the background. The walls were white and the floors, hot pink. It was all very minimalist and interesting.

Today I have got my story, and it's quite an interesting one; Alcatel-Lucent has fallen on hard times since its merger, but it seems that things are now turning around, which is positive to hear and good news for all concerned.

However, what's caught my attention is how all the company men are busy talking about how very important Web 2.0 is going to be to the enterprise, which I can see on some levels, but overall is something that I've yet to make my mind up on.

So, okay, I can see the value of Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter and all, and I think they probably have some value to enterprises as a means of employing millennials, people coming up through education and university now who are shortly going to be demanding these capabilities in their workplace. However, there's a difference between letting your shiny new millennial employee check his Facebook pokes during his lunch hour, and less an actual case for using it as a business tool.

In all honesty, I have yet to see convincing case for Facebook as business tool, or see it do anything that could be even remotely useful to me as a business. If it's all about swapping media and documents easily, then there are far better, and infinitely more secure products on the market today that will do it, which I think is pretty obvious. Same goes for Flickr, Youtube, and so on. These are all consumer focused applications.

But then there are some IT and comms firms, Cisco prominent among them, that have beefed up their research and development to launch in-house Web 2.0 apps. One company I know of runs a kind of internal Second Life for its business partners to go check each other out on, and I think this is where the future lies.

So I'm worried that these communications companies are rushing full tilt at what may well turn out to be a windmill. Already we're starting to see reports that Facebook, like Friends Reunited before it, has jumped the shark, with declining pageviews and fewer new recruits. Facebook's value to the consumer is already being challenged by several factors, of which I think the most important are one, it's no longer a student clique so there's no intrinsic cool value to it, and two, the applications are really, really annoying and I hate them, especially the zombie/vampire/ninja pyramid memes.

Unless Mark Zuckerberg can come up with something new and impressive quickly, I fear that Facebook will just become something that you log into once a week to check for new photos of yourself. This is already how I use it. Also, I interact with maybe 10 or 20 out of over 100 friends, and know others in that situation. It has put me in touch with people I was at school with fifteen or twenty years ago, and guess what, none of us have anything in common anymore, and so we're just photos on each other's friends list. We certainly aren't friends.

I fear Alcatel-Lucent et al are running to catch a bus that is pulling out, but others are telling me differently. One of the PRs here says his colleagues are already using Facebook to keep in touch with clients, while others have considered it as a means of distributing press releases. I've not received a press release over Facebook, and I am not sure I would want to, but I suppose it is a case of whatever floats your particular boat. It bring me right back to not seeing any real business benefit, or if you'd rather, no business benefit that isn't also a benefit of just picking up the telephone every now and then.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Journalistic integrity ftw!

Off to Paris first thing tomorrow at the behest of a major French telco that is, to put it politely, on the rocks after a disastrous merger with an American firm. This is a conference for their business partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and my mission is to get a positive story out of it, as my contacts with these guys are very friendly people and I don't like laying into them. Some might say I don't have the heart and soul of a true journalist, but at least I got my job through hard graft and unpaid labour, and not because my daddy does freelancing for the Guardian.

Actually, I have been following the sorry saga of Max Gogarty, the skinny jeaned blogger (and sometime Skins webisode writer) of Muswell Hill and the vitriol he provoked among the Guardianistas on the message boards. The travel editor's response, complete with (possibly fake) whining from the boy's travel hack father, is here. Both are hugely entertaining reads but both have raised my hackles a bit.

Everyone in the blogosphere has weighed in on this one now, but what the hell, I want to join in! Firstly, I agree with the overall sentiment that the Guardian has abandoned its northern-focused, socialist remit and instead writes primarily for middle class liberals like myself. Not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but Max's blog is certainly a symptom of this.

Secondly, the blog was terrible, badly written juvenilia that - before it was canned - chronicled the most boring white middle class ritual of all; the boring gap year in Goa and Thailand. I have a Facebook account and I see quite enough self-satisfied accounts of boring trips to tropical beaches to be going on with without having to resort to the national press. Now, if Max had been disabled, or Asian and travelling to Asia for the first time, or travelling with his grandma, it could have been interesting. As it was it was just clearly going to be about full moon parties and drugs. None of this, however, is Max's fault, and you can't really begrudge him the experience, however banal it seems. Fault lies with the Guardian's travel editor for commissioning and publishing such donkey excreta.

As for the trumped up nepotism charges, well, where to start? Saddam Hussein was a nepotist. Max and Paul Gogarty are nothing of the kind. The world is built on contacts and social networks. If I could lean on a contact, family or otherwise, to get me into the Guardian, then I would fucking do it and hang what the cretinous nitwits on the messageboards think. I did in fact use someone else's contact to get my first unpaid work experience in journalism and I do not regret it for an instant. Contacts and networking are why some of us are senior reporters or airline pilots at 25, and some of us spout shit on the interwebs. I do both, by the way*

Anyway, I would gladly buy Max a pint and tell him not to dump his plans to be a journo just because his first commissioning editor fucked up.

Also, I have no problem with Max's tight jeans, skinny or slim cut or otherwise. Although I find that below the knee, the seams tend to twist without any real reason in a way that they never did when I wore bootcut or (ick) flares.

* I don't fly a plane, but I do regularly spout shit online.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Feb 6th Infodump

Money disaster averted, not many hurt

After the disastrously lean month that was January, I now have money in my bank account again, and also the news that HR has fucked up and has been paying me too low a salary for the past eight months. This will be rectified in early March, just in time for the April pay settlement. I am told the NUJ is agitating for a decent increase this year.

Alex plots to abuse press card, endorse GOP

Note to self. Join NUJ. Not only do I recover some of my long-lost socialist credentials (I voted for John McCain in my mental primary - Obama won the Democratic one - and need to feel left-wing again), but even better than that; I get a big laminated card with PRESS written on it, which I can flash at police lines, film premieres and club doormen.

Like taking rabbis to Jerusalem...

Outside Cricklewood station there is a big poster on behalf of Kirklees Council. Kirklees is somewhere north of Watford, I understand. It's advertising a holocaust commemorative exhibit that's visiting Brent Cross, our local megamall-cum-chavsoaked-hellhole. I don't know if Kirklees is a hotbed of world Jewry or not, but can't help thinking that if there was one part of the country that could mount its own holocaust memorial, it would probably be northwest London.

I can haz loldog?

I can't find the image anywhere, but the Royal Mail is putting out a series of stamps commemorating working dogs. One of the pictures shows a golden retriever striding purposefully along in its little day-glo yellow jacket, a look of intense concentration on its face, with a letter in its mouth. At the bottom of the picture it says 'Assistance Dog.'

I can't see this stamp without mentally adding 'Iz assisting ur letterz' to it.

Quiche for dinner shock

Quiche for dinner.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Infodump

Work has been ... interesting this week. There have been a lot of changes, and not for the better, methinks.

Joe Queenan in today's Guardian reports on why the premature deaths of movie stars affect us more than the premature deaths of singers.

Essentially, when someone like Heath Ledger, James Dean or River Phoenix dies young there is more cultural fallout because over the course of their careers, we would have watched them mature into older roles, in much the same way as Marlon Brando matured from Stanley Kowalski in 1951 to Vito Corleone in 1972, whereas the hot young musicians of the 50s and 60s have just become aging, silver-haired rockers with leather pants stretched across an expanding gut.

I agree to a certain extent, but then people like Nick Drake and Kurt Cobain kind of throw the equation somewhat, so, I don't know, although I think Queenan certainly makes an interesting point.

The New Bond Film is to be called Quantum of Solace, an original Fleming short story title that probably came about through overzealous use of a thesaurus. Crumb of comfort clearly not Bond enough.

Can't think how the song will go...

He will whip out his phalllllluuuuuus
In Kensington Palllllllaaaaaace
It's the Quantum of Solllllaaaaaace!!!


Having said that, Chris Cornell managed to go a whole theme without mentioning casinos, so maybe there's hope. Perhaps it's time for a rap Bond theme.

Finally, the evolutionary benefits of lolcats are explained to all. We can has Darwinism?

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Twelfth Night

Disappointing lunch at Prezzo on Brighton Marina. My linguine con polpette lacked for the kind of herby, sausagemeat-laden meatballs that good Italian-American restaurants have spoiled me for, tasting more of actual sausage. All in all, average food for the price, and you were left with the feeling that you could have got better in a trattoria that hadn't been decorated since 1975, all raffia wine holders and what-not.

A very "normal" meal was compounded by utterly indifferent service from morose Poles who messed up the drinks order and A's side and then left us to stew for a good fifteen minutes while waiting for the bill. Which made us feel a whole lot better about not leaving a tip, the first time I've done this in a while.

I suppose the best things I can say about it are a) that you get what you pay for in a chain restaurant and b) it was better than a slap in the face with a wet halibut.

Back to R and A's for chat, chocolate, telly and wine, and we are now back at L's clifftop aerie waiting out the remains of the day with a beer and our remaindered Peking duck.

It's Twelfth Night, which means Christmas is just now getting underway in Russia. Here, it always feels like a damp squib of the end of the holiday season; there now is really nothing to look forward to for a good two months. Wouldn't it be nice to go out at the end of Christmas with a bang, rather than just tailing off six days after New Years? I think so. I might think about having a party next year; we could do it properly and have a Lord of Misrule.

Apparently Twelfth Night is also the time to go wassailing, which largely involves finding an apple tree and drinking at it, such is my understanding.
Brighton -

Pleasant night's sleep in L's very comfortable and big bed. Drove down yesterday in - it seemed - like double time, and will go back to London tomorrow via work.

Chinese take-away yesterday evening was less than successful - some middleman clearly thought he'd start an impromptu game of Chinese whispers with our order, and by the time it arrived at our door one giant seafood appetizer set for two had become two giant seafood appetizer sets. I wouldn't have minded so much but the damage to my bank account, which is looking beleaguered at the start of January, was more than I would have liked.

We struggled through the spring rolls, prawn toasts, dumplings and fish cakes, but the addition of beer, crackers, and seaweed into the equation means that we now have a quarter duck and pancakes in the fridge for tonight.

This morning is a bright and crisp winter morning, with the sky suffused with Brighton's incomparable light, and the white buildings glowing with the colour of honey. I have spent most of the day so far in bed with Michael Palin's diaries, which I bought to read on the aeroplane and never started. They really are very good, although heavy on the name-dropping. John Cleese and Eric Idle come out of it badly; they have quite monstrous egos and seem thoroughly unpleasant men. MP, always my favourite Python, comes out of it very well, but then that's to be expected.

My random factoid of the day; when Monty Python was sold to Japanese TV, the title translated as Gay Boys' Dragon Show.

Off for lunch at the glamorous marina soon.