Well, How About That – Steve Jobs Was Right After All

Screen capture of the BBC iPlayer Radio web app

BBC iPlayer Radio

As you may have noticed if you’re a regular listener to BBC Radio, the Beeb have hived-off the radio element of their iPlayer into a standalone entity. Currently it is  available as a web site and an iOS app for iPhone. Notably, there isn’t an Android version yet – for which the on air talent are forced to apologise for in an vague and roundabout sort of way when promoting it. Understandably,  a vocally significant number of Android users are miffed about this but I’m not quite sure why the majority of commenters on this BBC blog post see this a BBC conspiracy to promote Apple over their platform.

The truth is much more mundane and is explained on the BBC News web site  thusly:

The BBC’s Daniel Danker, general manager for programmes and on-demand, blamed complications with Flash for the delay in the Android app, but added that discussions are ongoing to resolve the problems

Oh, wait a cotton pickin’  minute there buckeroo. “Complications with Flash” you say? Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs.  Just one more of Old Jobsy’s prophesies  coming home to roost.

The bigger question here, however, is what the flying-flip the BBC need to use Flash for at all. I know diddly-squat about programming for Android, but are the BBC saying there is no way to use an HTML5 solution – the same one they’ve implemented on the iPhone perhaps.

Meanwhile, even though it fills a need which really didn’t previously exist (another lesson from Apple’!?) I have downloaded and installed the iPhone app. Seems well designed and ‘snappy’. The wake-up-to-a-BBC-radio-station-alarm may come in useful. Might  finally be time to dispense with my bedside Bug in favour of a dock for my iPhone?

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Apple iOS6 map of Ripley

Apple iOS6 map of Ripley – or is it Pentrich?

I’ve kept my own counsel on this matter for a while now, but one of the many negative aspects of working in an open plan office is having no choice in receiving the opinions of anyone and everyone within earshot – and there are many. I doubt my workplace is any different to anywhere else and it constantly surprises me how many of my co-workers have got an iPhone and/or (usually ‘and’!) an iPad. The knowledge level among my co-workers is also quite surprising, with many evidently reading the same ‘rumor’ blogs as I do (though maybe not as many or as frequently!). Nevertheless, it is not unusual and frequently infuriating to hear some of the bollocks which is pontificated. If I had a penny etc. for all the times I’ve heard someone advise an iPhone is “slowed down by having too many apps running and you need to press the no entry signs regularly to kill them all“. Nooooo! The increasing chatter relating to the rumoured iPad Mini (I fancy iPad Air as the name, actually) has not been missed. I was particularly taken by this exchange….

Fred: Why are they doing a smaller iPad, what’s the point? Bill: Well it’s because Amazon has the Kindle and Samsung has the Galaxy, Apple think they’re missing out and want to corner the market. Fred [with feeling]: The Bastards!

Er, Ok. The biggest story to exercise the minds the office tech commentators of late is of course how bad the new maps are on the iPhone 5. Widely touted examples of ‘Duncaster’ and, locally, ‘Sponden’ are bandied about. To be fair, we are probably in the best (or worst) possible place to judge how bad the maps are (though not quite as bad as the poor folk of Colchester). Satellite coverage in particular is beyond dire for most of Derbyshire. At least our neighbours in Nottingham have decent resolution in their satellite coverage – even if it is monochrome for some bizarre reason. Most of Apple’s woes with its mapping can rightly be pinned to the underlying data rather than the app itself. Indeed the app can be argued as being far better than what went before. I’m still not sure that the formatting of the mapping as beautiful as many think – I rather suspect that the American commentators have never seen true cartographic beauty produced by the Ordnance Survey. There is, however, a major issue with Apple mapping that can be be laid at the door of the app itself rather than just the underlying data. When a map is zoomed out it makes sense that a town’s label is placed close but not quite on top of the detail representing the urban area itself. For example, the label for Uttoxeter lies over three miles north west of the town centre, a sensible design choice at a scale of, say, 1:100,000. With a raster system of mapping, where new tiles are downloaded and drawn when zoomed into a larger scale, the label will be repositioned appropriately. The new maps, however, are vector data. In many respects this is a good thing as they scale smoothly and, so it seems, the data transfer required is reduced by about 80%. The downside is that with the vector data, the name stays resolutely where it is anchored and worse, that’s where the route planner takes the unwary traveller.

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter – isn.

To see Apple Maps at their best, I recommend taking a virtual trip to Manchester. The aerial coverage and three-dimesnional buildings (the so-called “Flyover” feature) is implemented beautifully. And I think that is the point. In admiring what they’ve created in the good bits (i.e. most of their coverage of the US), Apple somehow managed to forget the rest of it which still needs work. They say that they are labouring unceasingly to update things, and I gather some evidence of this has started to appear. However, there is no indication as to when the data being generated by the “report a problem” system or updates to Yelp! to improve the business listings, will start to filter through. Perhaps this is sensible, as there is little doubt that the Trolls will have found this an excellent way to entertain their little minds. There is one thing that Mapgate serves to illustrate very well and that is Apple are increasingly the company that people love to hate.


As of late October 2012, not only has Doncaster had its name restored (still says Sponden though and there are no other repairs of local mapping faux pax), but I note today that the satellite imagery for Derby & South Derbyshire has improved vastly. Note this Before & After as the page refreshes…

iPad screen shot as the old imagery gives way to the new...

Improved, undoubtedly, but it is nevertheless about five years old. Oh well, gift horses and all that.

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What a difference a year makes

This time last year was a dismal time for Red Sox fans. We honestly thought we couldn’t sink any further. Ho, Ho, Ho! Then we met Bobby Valentine. We’re now told that one of the strengths he brought to the job was his experience and maturity, characteristics which would help him fit in and deal with the big egos and big entitlements which were clearly part of the Red Sox clubhouse – and which cost them in 2011. In the end, history will record exactly the opposite happened. Instead of rising above the posturing he locked horns with the personalities and, ultimately, drove them out or simply had them shipped-out.

It is undeniable that injuries played a part in the story, but it is equally clear the rot set in early with Jason Varitek being edged into retirement. Soon after the season started, Valentine publicly questioned the commitment of Kevin Youkilis and, as he evidently favoured Will Middlebrooks over the veteran, Youk’s departure was inevitable. Throw into that mix Valentine’s decision to take a gig on New York sports radio and even by then the only thing which would redeem him in the eyes of the Boston fans would be a World Series ring.

The season occasionally spluttered in a vaguely positive direction, but it was occasional and spluttering. By the All Star Break and the return of Dice-K, the pattern was inexorably set. The mid-season fire sale which saw some of the big names  (not to mention the ego & payroll) was official acknowledgement that the season was done. So we had the situation where most of the active roster at the end of the season began it playing in the minor leagues. And don’t even breathe the name Alfredo Aceves in Nick’s presence!

So what about 2013? The pundits seem to favour a deal with the Blue Jays to bring Boston favourite John Farrell back, and I think that would go down well with the fans. Plan B revolves around another home-grown candidate in Tim Bogar, with ‘Tek seen as the wild card candidate.

My view: Given how wrong we were in our depth perception this time last year, boy-oh-boy did they get it wrong in making Terry Francona the scapegoat. The Tito years were self-evidently the best the Red Sox have ever seen and if ever there was an object lesson in taking the rough with the smooth, the 2012 Boston Red Sox served it up perfectly.


Dazed and Confused – a movie as well as a state of mind

There is a movie that I have a love/hate relationship with. Dazed & Confused is set in small town Texas in 1976 and recounts a single day – the end of school when the Seniors get to “haze” the incoming Juniors. It is set in a world where kids know everything and adults are morons, dead set on disrupting the kids’ fun. So far so bad, yet the abiding theme of this piece is that anyone who is anyone is “cool” – i.e. they smoke pot and get wasted. None of which should be a shock, given that the clue is in the title. OK, from here I get to paint myself as the ultimate stuck-up square, a mantle I can easily live with. I’ll also live with the hypocrisy of happily getting pissed whilst clinging dearly to the idea that mari-ju-wana is the serum which will ultimately destroy civilisation. I exaggerate of course, but the bottom line of what I’m saying is potheads are – in my humble opinion – twats. So, back to the story: Here we’re talking about a group of 16 year olds in 1976 (i.e. pretty much the same age as my elder brother). The narrative tells of seniors openly hunting freshmen around the town in order to beat them as part of this hazing ritual. This is accepted and condoned by all, to the point that the seniors manufacture the paddles to administer the beatings in “shop class” (along with bongs!) with the teachers’ tacit approval. But here’s the thing – as much as I hate what these kids all do and stand for, absolute credit to the writers in that the characters are all sympathetic, even likeable for the most part. That’s what makes the film enjoyable – moral prejudices aside. Nevertheless, the kids are so far removed from the sort of people I remember from school, albeit maybe five years or so after this movie is set, and even further from those of the 1970’s whom most Brits experienced (and 1980’ & 1990’s for that matter). What astonishes me about this is that within the reviews on IMDB there are countless Americans lining up to tell us how accurate a portrayal of 1970’s High School life this movie is, particularly – but not exclusively – to Texas. If this is so (and I say this with a great deal of love and respect for the United States of America), given the USA’s role as the global superpower, it goes a long way to explaining what a fucked up world it is we all now inhabit. As I type this, clicking on the User Reviews tab of IMDB for Dazed and Confused singles out a piece by a guy called Mike Wells as the lead item. It’s a well written article by a clearly well educated guy, yet the point he makes is that he lived the life portrayed in D&C, and was a complete stoner in his teens. If everyone in the fictional world of the movie turned out as well as Mike seems to have done (I still don’t subscribe to his politics though), then – hey – maybe wacky-baccy ain’t all that bad? I’m just not sure that’s the entire truth of the matter though. What really made me want to write this diatribe, however, is one the supporting characters – Julie Simms. The role is pretty much incidental in that she “falls” for one of the male protagonists. I don’t intend to be sexist (the film pretty much is, and I know I almost certainly am being too) but she is one of several “eye candy” characters. The part is plated by Catherine Averill Morris. This is what IMDB says about this actor:-

Catherine Avril Morris fell into her short-lived movie career completely by accident. She worked on the documentary film ‘An Ordinary Rape’ (dir. Isabelle Coulet) in 1991, casting the high school discussion panel as well as speaking on it. In 1992 she worked for six months as the Assistant Casting Director for ‘Dazed and Confused’ and then landed a supporting role in the film. She went on to act in various friends’ short films while she herself studied Creative Writing. She is now a writer of screenplays, political articles, fiction and romance novels

“Her short-lived movie career” –  Damned by faint praise, indeed.

Catherine Avrill Morris - from Dazed and Confused

Catherine Avrill Morris – from Dazed and Confused

I should confess, perhaps perpetuating the hypocrisy, that alcohol is involved here. Having re-watched the film on a Saturday evening otherwise bereft of entertainment, and been intrigued by the “short-lived movie career” remark above, I Googled Ms. Morris. What I learnt was both heart-breaking and inspiring. I shall paraphrase here as I can’t come close to the account of events which are available on line, written by Ms. Morris herself, but in a nutshell, she suffered the terrible loss of her first child being stillborn. Google is both a blessing and a curse, and I’m not sure which is the case here as – admittedly almost in ‘stalker mode’ – I came across a blog site Catherine wrote about that terrible experience. Powerful stuff. Today, again so Google eagerly informs me, Mrs. Morris is a teacher of creative writing in Austin, Texas. Not only that but she has a blog – almost an occupational necessity for a creative writer? That, of course, is really none of my business. After all, I’m just someone who watched a DVD of a movie made in 1993 and was struck by the performance of a young lady, ‘preserved in celluloid’. However, the “wonders” of the digital world now allow me to track her down to her personal blog site, which is both amazing and slightly disturbing. As creepy as it sounds, everything considered, on being presented with the opportunity I felt compelled to say “Hi”, and duly left a message, explaining myself — not withstanding the fact that my original impetus may have had slightly murky origins . So it is I am both delighted and slightly ashamed to receive a near-instant and very kind acknowledgement of my message. I have little experience (*) of interactions with celebs (sorry, Catherine, you were in a movie, even if nearly 20 years ago, so for the purposes of this tale you remain a celeb!) so I’m touched just to get a reply. That’s it now though, stalking over. 🙂 (* – ask me about my Steve Davis, the snooker player, story one day)

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Oh My Word: I’m a Student!

OU Logo

As I type I have 166 days to go (less than 100 attending days) before I reach 30 years’ service and can draw my occupational pension. This inevitably leads to two very common questions: Will I go? (You bet your Sweet Bippy I will – take the money & run is the mantra of anything to do with pensions in the 21st century) and What will I do?

Depending on who asks, and what mood I’m in, there are two answers to the second question – not necessarily mutually exclusive, and even somewhat complimentary. Answer ‘A’ is “Sod off around the world and piss my commutation up a wall“. Answer ‘B’ is “Learn something new“.

Plans (well, ideas) are afoot for Version ‘A’ and I eagerly anticipate one or more of the walls to be watered being in Capital Territories or South Australia, depending on where Carl is in residence at the time.

Plan B has its genesis in a short period a year or so back when Kay was off sick and briefly on income support as her shit bag employers wouldn’t pay her. The upside to this worrying period was that she qualified for a very generous subsidy on Open University fees – an opportunity she grasped and enrolled as a student, albeit her welcome return to work meant she only completed one module. I thought then, as I leafed through the OU Prospectus, I Could Do That. Then I looked at the cost!

Now, with time soon to be on my hands, and a bit of cash to be invested in my future, I Can Do That.

Subject to change; I have no aspiration to work toward a particular qualification. I simply relish the idea of learning again, and learning for its own sake, really. Ultimately, if things work out, maybe I’ll accrue enough credits for it to amount to something, but for now I’m content to pick & chose some courses based entirely on the premise that they interest me.

So, this is the outline plan: Start with an ‘Openings’ course  T189 Digital photography: creating and sharing better images, a ten week course starting in October. This happens to tie-in well with something that is happening at work, as well as following one of my longish-standing hobbies. Then starting in March (i.e. just after I “retire”), there is a 20 week course, Y182Starting with maths. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is both masochistic and (given what I currently do) maybe unnecessary. Read the introduction though, and I think you’ll agree it doesn’t have to be either. More to the point, it is one of two “strongly advised” preliminary courses for the biggie. TU100My digital life is almost written for me. It ticks so many boxes of the things which interest me and intrigue me. It’s a full year, 60 credit Level One course (which, truth be told, probably epitomises what the Old School would regard as part of a modern bullshit degree), but that’s what I plan to spend 2013/2014 doing.

As the title of this post suggests, I have started out on this road and enrolled for T189. I have my OU Student Number and all I need to know now is where I apply for my student discount. On a semi-serious note, the rather bloated fee for this course includes a freebie copy of Adobe Lightroom, which retails at over £100!

I’m far from sure where this will take me, nor what will be next. It’s a plan for the future, albeit very much a work-in-progress, and only the relatively near future at that. It’s a start though.

On the Rise of “Bonkers”

If there was a word which defined “London 2012 TM”, in its over-use as much as its literal application, this is it. Everything, so it would seem, has been bonkers for seventeen days. Clearly not a new word, but I really don’t recall its use being as prevalent as of late. Perhaps the attraction of the word is that whilst mildly critical, ultimately it has a positive connotation. In that context, it is certainly a very apt descriptor of last night’s Closing Ceremony.

Before moving on to compose my ramble in response to what I watched last night, I have to declare outside influence. At Kay’s inspired suggestion, I watched the running commentary of the unfolding event on Twitter – #closingceremony (though it turned out that a small minority of cool cats such as Stephen Fry were using the more official #2012closingceremony – having scanned that this morning, I don’t feel that I missed out). The sheer volume of comments was overwhelming, to the point of having to skip many in order to keep up, but I take my hat off to the quick wittedness of many of the observers. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@crepello012) will have seen I retweeted several of what I thought to be the most keenly observed. It is inevitable that having been subjected to so many opinions, that my own may be shaped somewhat, though I hope not.

It was billed as a Symphony of British Music, and I guess with that fairly low set bar (Olympic cliché!) it would be hard to disappoint. Yet it did, but at least not across the board. There were obviously formal set-peices which the show had to be woven around which led to one of the snarkier Tweets to the effect that the Ugandan National Anthem was a musical high point – the only surprise being that the ubiquitous Emeli Sandé wasn’t called upon to perform it.

The creatives behind the musical elements of the show obviously had a vision, a story to tell. Had we, the audience been let in on that secret, or had the BBC commentators seen fit to share, the whole thing would probably have been coherent. As it was; gridlocked traffic wrapped in newsprint…? I thought the use of lorries to bring (some) of the acts to the whole of the stadium audience rather than just a small corner was as inspired as the use of a pirate ship for Annie Lennox was cringeworthy. One Direction certainly aren’t to my taste but it was inevitable they played well to the NBC audience later (a subject to which I shall return!).

The low points were relentless; George Michael. Merv Hughes’ lost twin, as a Tweeter remarked in typically acerbic form, pleasured by an air line, as another remarked. For me, what an arrogant knob to use that platform to “perform” his latest single. Another fish-in-a-barrel target, of course, was Jesse J. singing “it’s not about the money or the bling-da-bling” from the back of a brand new top-of-the-range convertible Rolls Royce. Deliberately ironic? And what the bloody hell was the spontaneously combusting high-wire act all about? No wonder many Tweeters alluded to drug testing – and that was before the Supermodels turned up.

Of course those misses were balanced by hits – some of them unintended and beyond the planners’ wildest dreams…. the two second cut-away to Boris doing his Dad Dancing to the Spice Girls will surely add to his legend, perhaps as much as the zip wire incident. David Cameron will surely thank his lucky stars no-one noticed him alongside. Then, for me at least, the true highlight: Eric Idle and Spamalot. When he was allowed to sing the line “life’s a piece of shit…” Twitter exploded! Incidentally, and inevitably, NBC censored it for the US broadcast. In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, Eric Idle entered as a mis-firing human cannonball. After his set, a real human cannonball flew what appeared to be the full length of the arena – surely worthy of one of the super-high-def-slow-mo-action-replays we saw so many of during the games themselves.

Oh, I forgot, I have another low-point to go back to, which the mention of replays has reminded me of: Here the blame probably lies with the BBC rather than the closing ceremony directors, but what is the obsession with athletes crying? Early on in the proceedings there was a drawn-out montage of tears. Yeah, they’re trying to underline the raw emotion of competition, and I get that. Many of the tears were of joy. Most, however, showed an athlete who had failed – in their perception – to live up to the extraordinarily high goal they had set themselves. In short they were shown at possibly their lowest point, and even in the case of those in tears of joy, that is  really not how they would want to be remembered by the millions watching. All in the name of entertainment.

Jesse J standing in for Fredie Mercury. <shudder>.

Above all, I was left with a feeling of missed opportunities. The list of British musical artists who were overlooked would, no matter what, be legion – there will have been enough bleary eyes this morning with a 00:15 finish. Even accepting that, and accepting that some of the likely candidates may have turned them down, they could surely have done better. My bring-the-house-down suggestion would have been David Bowie performing Heroes live in place of the brief medley leading into the fashion segment few people understood.

As an aside, thank you to the Daily Telegraph for this helpful gem (my emphasis):

Olympics closing ceremony: playlist

Here is the playlist for tonight’s London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony:


One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

Beatles – A Day in the Life (not live)

Ray Davies – Waterloo Sunset

So what of NBC’s coverage of the ceremony in the US? The Twitterverse almost universally hashtagged  their comments with #NBCFail. After heavily editing the opening ceremony (substituting the 7/7 tribute segment with NBC’s poster boy Ryan Seacrest conducting a taped interview with Michael Phelps’ parents!), they did no better last night. Ray Davis and Muse hit the cutting room floor and American viewers had to wait an hour for The Who & the fireworks climax while NBC aired a sitcom pilot about a performing monkey. The mind boggles. More evidence that Jesse J is completely wrong – it is about the money.

London 2012, by any measure, will go down as a resounding success, although the debate about the cost-versus-value will rumble on for a good while yet. H.M.Gov and the Met will doubtless be relieved nothing went BANG and I am sure there will be some detail revealed in due course about exactly how close a deal that was. The people of London will be relieved to get their Games Lanes back and I will be relieved not to hear the Chariots of Fire theme again any time soon. Channel 4 will bang on about the Paralympics while the BBC will almost entirely ignore it – as, I suspect, will most of the nation, truth-be-told.

Bonkers indeed.

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Sunday as it should be


17:40 Sunday afternoon in Tenko – no rushing to get some before closing. This one is open 24 hours! Not sure I’d want to be here at 04:00 though!


Some observations from Derby Beer Festival


It’s that time of the year again – my 28th consecutive Derby summer beer festival. Thursday afternoon is suitably chilled for my tastes; no crowds (but still quite busy with folk), no crush, no hassle.

Even so, I’ve already witnessed the depressing modern face of Camra beer festivals in “action”: The Orange Shirts. This is a phenomenon which first manifested itself last year and, I gather, is now national Camra policy. A group of licenced “bouncers” patrol the beer festival to keep order, dressed in various shades of the titular garment. As an aside, in 28 years I have never seen anything approaching a fight here, but I guess times change. These guys and girls are clearly not local, being shipped in from somewhere by Camra. I mean it in the most positive way when I say that in every way they are typical Camra people.

I ensconced myself in a quiet corner of the Assembly Rooms to enjoy my second half (Big Lamp Bitter 3.9%, if you’re interested, the first being Hexhamshire Shire Bitter at 3.8%) and to read Private Eye. A short but discrete distance away, the guy who runs the sound desk for the bands (and who has being doing so here and at the Flower Pot for as long as I can remember) was also taking advantage of the quiet spell. In front of him is a mug of tea or coffee and he has his feet up, taking a bit of a nap. This, apparently, is against the Orange Shirt rules. One of them wandered by and proceeded to wake him up, telling him it’s against the law to sleep in public (eh?). Duly woken, sound guy replied that he works here which seemed to satisfy the Orange Shirt who then wandered off in my direction. I took it upon myself to explain who the the guy is and that he would be busily working until midnight – no wonder he was having 40 winks. The Orange Shirt replied that he looked drunk (though admitted he wasn’t) and that it would encourage more people to get drunk. Not sure how he expects to enforce his Don’t Get Drunk at a Beer Festival rule? Unlike the Orange Shirts, I contend that being drunk isn’t a binary state. Offensive/violent/incapable drunk is obviously out of order, but merry (sleepy?) drunk is surely part of the beer festival experience?

Meanwhile, a young girl with a clipboard has wandered by, inviting all and sundry to “sign the e-petiton”. Evidently this is one of Camra’s campaigns and they see the captive audience of a beer festival as a way of boosting support for whichever cause it may be. I politely declined and the girl moved on to an old boy seated a little way away. He cheerfully said yes and proceeded to sign – without asking or otherwise having explained what the particular cause was. To my mind that kind of undermines the worth of the petition – they may as well simply reproduce the membership list and call that a petition?

The aforementioned old boy soon got up and left, but not without asking me where I got the Wallace & Gromit T shirt I was wearing – apparently his grandchildren would love it. As it’s probably 15 – 20 years old, I haven’t a clue! He then showed me his Wallace & Gromit sound clip app in his iPhone (he didn’t look like an average iPhone user!) which his grandchildren “made” him put on it. Only at a beer festival.

More beer.


After a relatively exciting first half an hour or so, things have settled into a more routine pattern. The crowd is slowly swelling as the Main Hall has reopened (closed during the afternoon “to preserve the quality of the beer”?). Highlight of the People Watching thus far is a group of Japanese (?) lads, about six of them, who are sampling the best of what British culture has to offer. More power to them as they’re evidently having a go at all sorts of real ales and look to be enjoying the experience. I’m tempted to go and ask them what they make of it all, but I doubt “coherent” would be the best description of the ensuing conversation.

The choice of beers is up to Derby Camra’s usual high standards, with some notable new appearances. Townes of Chesterfield are represented by their Stavely Cross (4.3%) and despite their relative proximity to Derby, I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen them here before. Even more notable is the appearance of three beers from the Isle of Purbeck brewery, all the way from the Bankes Arms at Studland. As Kay said when I texted that snippet to her, “it’s a sign”. (We’ve stopped there a number of times on our semi-regular short break to Dorset).

I’ve now been asked three times to sign the e-petition. Apparently Camra want to prompt a Parliamentary debate about escalating tax on beer. Fair enough, but maybe drinkers should pay a proportionately higher contribution to the NHS to subsidise potential long term health issues than the general tax paying populace? Not sure I’ll express that view outwardly, however. My point is that even though this is a Camra event and they are, as the first three letters in their title subtly indicates, a campaigning organisation, it is becoming something of an imposition. Again, I fear the general point of a beer festival may be being missed somewhat?


And finally for today…

Bumped into Martin R (ex dog man for those who know him) and had a chat. He’s one of the cellar team for the festival, so the beer is in good hands. Apparently they had a bit of a blip last night,about which there’ll be recriminations, but no one went home thirsty and no one had a bad pint – what more could you ask of a cellar man?

A very pleasant, if deliberately light, session. I’ll be back tomorrow to try more of the heavier beers. Today was about chilling and “me time” which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was exactly what a well run beer festival should be. Checked in with Rog & Marie by text to see if they were coming tomorrow. Turns out they’re in a castle in Devon celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. OK, it’s an excuse for missing the Derby Beer Festival 🙂 Congrats.

Stuck with my plan for the evening to get the 20:10 V3 home; first time I’ve used this service for a long time, for reasons I can’t adequately explain. If I’m getting off the bus outside the Green Man, it woud be rude not to go in? So I’d texted Chappers and a convivial evening ensued.

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The Big Bed Company

The above company operates just one of the seemingly endless procession of delivery vans passing my house…

… But none of them are UKMail (actually, if I saw a UKMail van passing my house I think that would be the final straw.

I am close to hallucinating. The distant sound of any diesel engine, or any vehicle at all entering the close has me twitching at the curtain. Who needs Neighbourhood Watch. I nearly had a laundry moment while gazing out the upstairs window when a Tesco van hove into view. The white, blue & red livery quickly formed into the wrong combination and my heart sank.

The excitement and anticipation of my new toy arriving is now completely lost in the feeling I have completely lost a day and a half (so far). Had I known this would have been the situation I would have driven to High Cross or Meadowhell. This is unbelievably frustrating.

If there’s still no sign by 13:00 I have to go out as I have a life. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up from their depot in Derby tomorrow – though being a Saturday that’s not guaranteed. Otherwise it’ll be returned to sender and the last 48 hours will really count for nothing.

The Next Day

Well, it all worked out in the end. 13:45 rolled around, the news was over, and I really, really had to go. All the way out of the village I was scanning oncoming vehicles in case one was a UKMail van. Not sure how it would have worked out if I’d spotted one, but the situation never arose.

Turned out it was 14:50 when the inevitable card was pushed through my letter box as I discovered later when I returned home later. I hotfooted it to UKMail’s depot at Kingsway. To be fair to them, something was happening on the A38 Northbound through Derby resulting in tailbacks to Toyota (I’d picked a circuitous route via back lanes to avoid it). So it was no surprise when the helpful and understanding receptionist at the depot saids the van was still out – suggesting I come back later.

This indeed what I did, noting they were open until 20:30, so I had a fair bit of time to play with. On my return, having formed an orderly queue with three kindred souls, eventually (EVENTUALLY!) me and my new toy were united. The rest, as they say, is history….


I’ve Been A Very Naughty Boy – Updated x2

The Apple MacBook Air

The Apple annual Wordwide Developers Conference was held yesterday in San Francisco at which there were many exciting new products announced. So it was inevitable that within a few days my credit card would get a worrying. The variables were simple; How Long it would take me to make a decision, and How Much.

Completely unexpectedly it turned out to be a two horse race. I have had in mind for some time to swap my 2009 MacBook for a 13″ MacBook Air and had been holding off in the certain knowledge a refresh was coming. The closer we got to WWDC the more certain this would be THE day. Indeed, Phil Schiller came on stage and reeled off a series of improvements to the MacBook Air – including a $100 price drop. I was sold. But then…

With typical Apple flair and showmanship, a new product was revealed from under a black cloth…. The “Next Generation” MacBook Pro.  With its “retina display” (read: the best screen you’ve ever seen on any computer, ever!) kick-ass specs and, it has to be said, quite reasonable entry-level cost. All of a sudden, the decision got very difficult.

In the end, the deciding factor was that the new MacBook Air is immediately available, whereas shipping times for the new MBP have slipped – initially to a couple of days, and now as I type this, to two-to-three weeks. Once I decide I’m spending that sort of money, that’s far too long to wait.

So it came to pass that Apple now have yet more of my money (well, my credit card company’s money at the moment!) and I’ll be staring out the window longingly tomorrow scanning the horizon for a UPS van.

The rest of the WWDC Keynote, by the way, was equally gripping. Jim & I were comparing notes as we went along via iMessage (Jim, I fear, is head-over-heels in love with the new MBP and based on his declared financial plan for owning one, I doubt a small wait will trouble him). Apart from the Look How Much We Love Our Developers schmaltz, the remainder of the presentation dealt with enhancements to the Mac and iOS operating systems… all good stuff to look forward to. Interestingly, there was a very obvious tilt at Google running through most of the presentation.

Clutching at straws to justify the expenditure: As I’ve bought a new Mac, at least I’ll be entitled to a free upgrade to OSX Mountain Lion when it launches next month – a  £13.99 value! Another serious point is that a MacBook Air is going to be much more suited to next week’s Four Corners Tour – I had been considering leaving my MacBook at home and relying entirely on the iPad… not any longer.

UPDATE: Just had a text from Apple. My order has dispatched with delivery expected “On or before 14-06-2012“. Um, ‘before’, I like the sound of that, though I won’t be watching out tonight!

Further Update – Thursday evening:

I don’t want to come across as having no sense of proportion or having lost sight of the realities of the world, but I’m a very unhappy camper this evening. By way of explanation, I’ll share the email I have just sent to Apple. It may not be a zinger, nor do I expect it to mean much to anyone, but it was marginally cathartic to send…

I just wanted to give you some feedback over the above order. Apple’s part in this has been First Class, an exceptionally quick and painless process. Thank you.

Then you passed my purchase onto Syncreon. You had handled your part and passed the package onto them in a matter of a couple of hours and helpfully texted me to that effect. They managed to get it to their central hub in about four hours. That’s the end of the good news.

Syncreon’s tracking service — which is far from intuitive to find, let alone use — records that it went out for delivery this morning at 08:31. It also indicated an expected delivery time of 18:00 – so I was resigned to waiting in all day. Luckily I had no plans or commitments, which is why I ordered it when I did.

I was therefore extremely annoyed to see that at 15:21 the package was scanned back in at Syncreon’s Hinkley Hub. Whilst the Apple order page was later updated to that effect, I had no other notification either to my email or text/phone. That, I’m afraid, is very poor on a number of levels. It means I will be significantly inconvenienced tomorrow in order to receive the delivery. Had I known it would take two days, I would have gone and collected the machine from an Apple Retail store.

I fully understand and accept there were likely good reasons for the non-delivery. Not being notified, however, is poor service. It is also in stark contrast, not only with the communication afforded by other carriers, but also with what I expect of Apple – albeit by association.

Thank you for listening.


Let’s see what tomorrow brings – apart from Kay’s understandable reaction to me not being able to take her for an appointment in the morning.