So that was 2005. To use a well worn cliche it's been a rollercoaster year. Some highlights:

* Finally getting my shoulder fixed (dislocation and partially detached tendon - rugby injury)
* My sister's successful open heart surgery
* Teaching the Finch to snowboard
* 3 years with the monkey
* Getting promoted and seconded
* Getting headhunted
* The Showdini trip to the Lion's tour in New Zealand
* Machine's wedding and stag do
* Skydiving from 15,000 feet
* Getting back on the rugby pitch
* Realising I'm very good at what I do
* Surf trips with Mr and Mrs Machine
* Chemical Brothers, Green Day, Roots Manuva and Lost Prophets live
* Wales

There were a few low points and I've finished the year minus a few friends and loved ones but tomorrow is a new day and a new year. Let's make it a good one

Happy new year to you all, wherever you may be


Drivin' home for Christmas

(Almost) all packed. Heading out of the big city to the countryside for the festive season. Nan's funeral and mum's birthday tomorrow. Not going to be a very nice day.

Normal blogging activity will resume at some point in the next few days. In the meantime, merry Christmas/whatever all.


New York opportunist

Gosh those New Yorkers are quick. As New York commuters found alternative routes into work (I particularly liked the idea of rollerskating to work) due to the transit workers strike, one enterprising company took advantage of Google's ad words to get some prime online marketing space.

You've got to admire the directness of thought that went into that piece of action.

Picture perfect

In the days leading up to the festival of over indulgence that Christmas has become, the BBC are running a feature on fatties, perhaps as a warning to us all (note to all smug Brits, it's not just America that has a problem with obesity, we're fast catching up)?

At the other end of the scale, the beautiful people and the media are often blamed for selling unrealistic images of perfection that encourage poor self-esteem which may lead to eating disorders. Check this out for an interesting insight into the photoshop trickery that goes into 'creating' a covergirl.


It's English, but not as we noe [sic] it

Yesterday I saw a girl, who couldn't have been more than about 7, texting avidly on her mobile outside her school. Seems like most kids these days have a mobile of some description and if the legions of texters I see on the bus each day is anything to go by, future generations will have massively developed thumbs to accompany the usual teen grunts and acne.

After translating the blog post I came across this morning while playing the follow the link game, I've come to the conclusion that they will also have their own language:

I noe [name withheld] since form 2...but dat time i don really noe wat kind of person she is....until Form 3 i same class wit her only noe dat she is a great person.....i feel dat i'm very lucky coz i noe her and i noe dat friendship will always in our heart!!! We will remember each other....rite??? hehe....i noe we will.... freind 4ever!!! i miss u so much!!! i cant believe dat itz almost 2 month!!! hope 2 c u soon!!! becoz of my stupid tuition make us canot c each other....but now i don hav any tuition so i will try my best to meet u some where!!!!! k???

Maybe this is just an extension of Nigel Molesworth's pre-blog era musings?

Silly name, serious food

If you're ever in Birmingham, more specifically Selly Oak, and you're feeling a bit peckish you could do a lot worse than head over to the Selly Sausage; one of Birmingham's best kept secrets.

Amongst the detritus of the Selly Oak 'student ghetto' sits a place of student legend. In my undergrad days you could more likely than not find me and my chums nursing a hangover with a cup of tea, a big breakfast and the Sunday papers under the watchful eyes of Jimi Hendrix and co. These days Jimi's mural has been painted over but the with the help of Selly's local street artists and a crack team of grill chefs trained at the swankier
Chez Jules, the Sausage mark II still gets the blogger Smith seal of approval.

All Tony needs to do now is put in a wireless connection and I'll be running my wheelings and dealings out of there on a daily basis (and putting on about 3 stone in the process!)

Tie me up, tie me down

The humble neck tie: to wear or not to wear? I don't. Many (although increasingly fewer and fewer) do. To me, a badly thought out/worn out/cheap shirt and tie combination looks much less stylish than some less traditional/conventional attire and shows a lot less creativity and personal flair. Thankfully I don't have to survive in an environment where personality is displayed through a choice of tie or some 'comedy' cufflinks. That's not to say I don't own or ever wear ties. I have a few very nice ties and a lot of nice shirts, but I choose not to wear them every day to work like some form of uniform.

The tie will always be a staple of certain environments (City/Legal) and anathema to others (Creative) but what about those of use who inhabit the murky waters in between? Even the Civil Service is now relaxing its once iron grip on its workers attire
as reported by the BBC:

"The unmistakeable badge of buttoned-down respectability came unknotted as society's values shifted around it. It is survived by its estranged neighbour, Open Necked Shirt."

'Blue jeans' or 'trainers', however are still very much frowned upon.

Maybe this will herald a new era for the tie. Now that its wearing is not enforced by the establishment, perhaps it can shake off its uniform tag and make a comeback as an anti-establishment icon.

[EDIT - David Cameron's choice of neckwear (or not) noted by political commentator
Nick Robinson. Maybe the era of the tie as a communicator is not over]


History steamrollered by rich twins

Faced with a world where it seems like every high street is rapidly turning into a wasteland of clone chain stores, those little pockets of idiosyncracy that survive the march of globalisation never fail to cheer me up. Ancient bye-laws that have never been repealed or peculiar customs like cheese rolling in Gloucestershire or tar barrel running in Devon are part of not only our history but our national character.

The survival of Europe's last feudal state, Sark - a small island overseen by the Queen, but not part of the UK, populated by tax exiles with battery-powered buggies and helicopters instead of cars - is, according to the BBC, in peril.

A sad demonstration of the fact that money and a blatant disregard for history and culture in favour of selfish motives will win out.

Haro, Haro, Haro!


Apparently swearing is bad. And expensive. If you're heading off to Hartford, Connecticut and you're partial to the odd curse, make sure you have your wallet with you. Each expletive will cost you the princely sum of $103

I think a well placed, well timed 'Bollocks to Bush' would be worth every penny.


The original Mad Woman

I arrived in the alps on Friday to fresh snowfalls and devastating news. My grandmother, who had been bravely fighting cancer for a while, was taken into hospital on Friday and the family was told that she wouldn't be coming out. I sat outside the restaurant on Friday night after my sister told me the news and cried. I cried for the fact that my Nan was being taken away from me but also for the fact that I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to such an amazing woman who had such an effect on my life and my character.

The family told me not to come home early and I agonised over the decision until it was made for me (I couldn't have even if I'd wanted to). I spent the weekend riding the mountain mostly alone trying not to spoil the trip for the others. When we flew back on Monday the motorway was closed because of the oil explosion but Nick kindly offered to drive me back home so that I could get over to the hospital and join my family. The doctors hadn't expected Nan to last the night but, strong to the last, she lasted until Monday night. I got to spend her last few hours with her, talking to her and holding her hand and for that I am so grateful.

Posts may be sporadic. I don't feel much like expressing.


Blog eat blog

I'll admit to being surprised by Elizabeth Albrycht's compelling examples of the power of the blogger in the States at the recent Making the News conference in Sunderland. But, lagging slightly behind the Americans (as we often do when web developments are concerned), in the uptake of blogging in the UK and having recently spoken/evangelised to uninitiated friends and colleagues about the power of the blogger, I was pleasantly surprised to see that UK bloggers are catching up with their American cousins.

The BBC's piece on the tug of war between religious campaigners and pro-freedom of speech bloggers highlights some interesting points.

"blogs have negligible costs, no matter how many people you're trying to reach, and have a knack of making messages leap from one interested group of people into another. And if you're canny, you become a representative of the people without even having to have a members' organisation."

"Another approach would be to persuade the supermarket chains that bloggers can be just as zealous and single-minded as any religious followers."

Will it be a case of 'he who blogs loudest?

How did I get here?

How many times have you started off with a specific task in mind and somewhere along the way got distracted and ended up finding something new that you never would have thought of looking for in the first place? Isn't that one of life's great pleasures, the unexpected treasure?

The web is a great place to wander aimlessly. Google searches, with their thousands of entries per search, often throw up tangents that have happy endings. Author Seth Godin mentions on his blog how "Bookstores are great at situational selling, at exploiting the proximity effect to help you discover something you didn't think you were looking for. Amazon isn't nearly as good at that (though they're trying)."

I wonder how his predictions of the 'inevitable' thumbnail photos in Google adwords will affect how those of us who are easily distracted will search in the future?

I give you 'the Llama song'. Who says I'm easily distracted?

Wednesday Posted by Picasa

Howies that?!

I think the first time I saw a Howies t-shirt was on the drummer in the Propellerheads' 'History Repeating' video. Then I remember drooling about a particular virulent yellow number in an overpriced pseudo snowboard shop until my then girlfriend generously bought it for me (probably to stop the drool).

I've since become a dedicated fan not just of their clothes (stylish and functional - a dream combination), but also of their values and ethics and honesty. I've tried to order a couple of things recently and they've either been out of stock or waiting for deliveries that have been delayed. Each time they've taken the time to phone me and let me know what's going on and each time they've sounded genuinely bothered.

Take a look at the
site, check out their blog and their products and take a minute to appreciate a company that sets a shining example of a good way to be.

I'm off to the Alps on Friday. Good base layer already and rumour has it more to come. Freshies for heshies.

Blog on tour

While the ibook is in the ihospital, i (stop it) sorry I will be posting wherever and whenever I can. Today's post is brought to you, courtesy of the letter i, from my desk in sunny, frosty Edgbaston.

I've suddenly realised the benefits of an online RSS feed aggregator. I'd been using a desktop based application on my laptop and as my laptop went everywhere with me, there didn't seem much need to subscribe to an online version. Foolish boy. Fortunately I have most of the blogs I'm used to perusing at the click of an icon saved in my favourites on this machine so I'm going to spend the morning adding them to my sparkling new online feed service.

For those of you interested in British politics,
Nick Robinson's new blog on BBC online looks like it could provide some well-written insight into the machinations of the British political game with a dash of that snippy British humour the world 'loves' us for. Nice opening gambit about blogging giving him the opportunity to 'change the relationship between author and reader' noting that 'the politicians themselves are in on the game too - as my colleague Alan Connor argues in this article, a good weblog can also change the relationship between politician and voter.'

He also makes a interesting comparison between the traditional broadcasting format and the relative newcomer; blogging. As the broadcast media struggles to find ever more ways to fit itself into the new interactive mould, the blog is achieving this with relative simplicity. With the advent of podcating and video podcasting, the boundaries between traditional broadcast and new media look set to interestingly blur over the next few years.


Temporary technical glitch - I think my ibook is trying to tell me something. Great sense of timing. Blogging will resume as soon as me and the machine are back on speaking terms.


Paparatzi by Banksy

That wall is worth a fortune

Graffiti. Love it or loathe it, man has always had a primal urge to draw on walls. While we make cultural judgements and distinctions in other creative media graffiti has a tendency to be lumped in together by the mainstream. There seems little distinction between types of graffiti, whether it be a scribbled insult, 'tagging' or large pieces of work that have been executed with considerable skill and artistry. Consequently most graffiti (or 'street art' as it has been dubbed by the Wooster collective - a group of American based street art fans who document the best examples of this worldwide cultural phenomenon on the web) gets labelled as vandalism and devalued as such.

Much of the work posted on the Wooster collective site has political leanings and even the examples of art for the sake or art demonstrate the staggering levels of skill and creativity. This is not thoughtless scribble. The fact that the artists have chosen to use public spaces (not this blog) to display their work affords them the benefit of exposing their work to a wide audience and also the double edged sword of relative anonymity (often through necessity).

One of the most well known of these artists is UK counter culture icon, Banksy. Banksy has managed to hide his real identity (although his Banksy moniker is famous around the world) while continuing to produce his often funny, usually political statements in high profile public spaces up and down the country. While Banksy is unusual in that he has created a persona that, through well handled media coverage and carefully chosen commissions, is making him money and creating a demand for his work. Most street artists, although probably making money from their skills in their day jobs, are not as well known in the mainstream as banksy has become. MTV and Nike are not knocking on their door with offers of ridiculous amounts of money to create artworks for their latest media campaigns. So why do they do it?

At the risk of alienating my fellow bloggers I am going to attempt to make a comparison between graffiti and blogging. I am not saying that blogging is e-graffiti but I do think that there are definite similarities between the 2 forms of expression. While few blogs give direct commercial reward to the blogger, well written blogs will attract readers who will in turn create an audience for that blog, and by association the blogger. There are those out there who blog for a professional audience and who have embraced the potential of the blog as a public space in which to promote their opinions and to encourage discussion. There are even more blogs that serve simply as a record of the daily goings on of the blogger's life.

Seth Godin poses some interesting questions about the reason behind most blogs if there is no financial gain. I think that it harks back to our primal urge to express ourselves in public spaces.

Interesting post on Banksy in the Guardian newsblog