Recent posts in my Other Category

July 4, 2012

Particle physics, Comic Sans and an arrogant design culture that misses the point

I’ve been laughing today at the Twitter hysteria surrounding the design of the slides that announced that CERN might just have made the most astonishing physics discovery for decades. Hey, forget what they’ve just achieved, let’s mock the scientists failure to pick a hipster theme in Keynote and choosing to use Comic Sans instead.

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September 23, 2009


If you'll indulge me with a very personal post today, I'd like to introduce Emma Rose Belam, who was born yesterday at 3:34am. Mum and baby are doing absolutely fine....
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September 10, 2009

'Too dangerous' for Southern Electric or EDF to fix their own equipment in my house

This is the astonishing story of how, thanks to the disconnected way our utilities have been privatised, a woman expecting a baby in 7 days time has been left in a house with no electricity for two nights. At first neither EDF or Southern Electricity could agree on whose responsibility it was to look at the problem, and then, when one of them did finally take the job on, they decided it was 'too dangerous' to send an engineer to...
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June 18, 2009

The Royal Mail's multiple #fails

Now, I haven't complained on currybetdotnet about the Royal Mail since August 2004, but in the last couple of weeks they have produced a couple of absolute corkers. The other Thursday we got a bill. Somebody else's bill. Sent to an entirely different address. OK, to be fair, it was to the same house number, but on a different street. But the real added bonus? The free gift of some used chewing gum stuck to it. And yet they say...
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March 14, 2009

Wind up the Barclays clockwork robot

We are quite used to 'amusing' failure messages on the web. The Twitter 'Fail Whale' has become a meme in itself, and we are also familiar with characters like the Bloglines plumber. The other day I spotted this online trend escaping from the virtual into the real world. Apparently, if you can't get money out of a Barclays ATM in the UK, it isn't because our banking system has broken, but because their clockwork fifties sci-fi b-movie robot has ground...
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December 29, 2008

"I'm sorry, we're not allowed to have laptops here"

"I'm sorry, we're not allowed to have laptops here" And with those words I had further evidence for my theory that whilst I was out of the country for a couple of years, everybody in Britain slowly but surely went bonkers. A bit of context. I was in a small coffee shop and patisserie on Bedale Street near London Bridge, having a quick shot of caffeine and getting some work done before meeting up with some friends. I'd already found...
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December 14, 2008

"To all young couples I see together..."

Now, it is just a hunch. But I couldn't help but think that the fact you were scrawling graffiti like this in the toilets of the British Museum might, just might, be a clue as to why you find yourself in the relationship predicament that you do... "To all young couples I see together, f&%k off. I should be with a wife or girlfriend, not by myself."...
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November 25, 2008

"Desirable Future?" at the Dana Centre

I mentioned last week that I was at an event at the Dana Centre to mark the launch of Jack Challoner's book "Desirable Future?: Consumer Electronics in Tomorrow's World". Despite having a couple of friends who have worked at the Science Museum, I've never been to one of the Dana Centre events before, and I was impressed. The format was a five minute presentation from each of the panel, and then the audience broke into groups. I was rather hoping...
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July 6, 2008

The Halifax - always giving you a little extra aggravation

Now, without wanting to start sounding like a grumpy old man, or indeed like Roshan Doug in the Birmingham Post, I have to indulge myself with a rant about some recent poor customer service from the Halifax. We wanted to open a new savings account for my wife, and, having taken advice from the boys at t'Fool, we opted for the Halifax. I applied to open the account online, with the expectation of dropping a cheque into a branch next...
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May 10, 2008

Fake plastic waste from British Airways

One of the problems with setting yourself high ethical standards in public as a brand is that you are easily judged on them. British Airways are proud of their 'green' credentials, and like to say so. "We were the first airline to produce an environmental report and we've issued an update on our progress every year since 1992." "As a global airline, we're proud to connect people, places and cultures and keep business on the move. But the freedom of...
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April 21, 2008

A month of Twittering

I never really had much interest in Twitter when it first launched. Despite it being almost exactly tailored to a compulsive blogger and early technology adopter like me, I really, really couldn't see the point of it. As the service has developed, people have begun to find more and more ways of using it to do research, market their blogs, get questions answered, get engaged, and to arrange when to meet down the pub. Increasingly I've been reading about what...
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December 11, 2007

8 random facts about me

I've been tagged by Dan Taylor on Fabric of Folly in an '8 random facts about me' blog chain letter type thing. I thought of just linking through to "5 things you probably don't know about me" and adding 3 more, in a Blue Peter here's-one-I-made-earlier style, but that didn't seem to fit the spirit of the thing. 8 random facts about me: I owned a terrapin for much of the 80s and all of the 90s, until it went...
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October 17, 2007

"East Meets West" at Tower Bridge

I was rather lucky on Monday to get to go to a promotional evening on the walkways of Tower Bridge, called "East meets West". I've been up there a few times, as my wife used to work there, and I've even DJed up in one of the towers. The bridge itself is unique in being both a heritage monument, a working bridge, and an astonishing feat of Victorian design and engineering. The event was being held to celebrate the success...
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September 17, 2007

Sacred at the British Library

In between zipping around various BBC buildings last week for a series of meetings, I took a half-hour out to visit Sacred at the British Library - their exhibition of religious texts from the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The material on display is undoubtedly spectacular from a historical point of view - with surviving fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known Christian Gospels, and rare parchments from Islamic Spain. There are also bibles in Syriac, Slavonic, and...
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April 9, 2007

Print versions now available for some currybetdotnet articles

Some time ago a student emailed me to say that a couple of my articles about search had been very useful to them in their studies, but to complain that there wasn't an easy way to print out entire articles from this site. About a year later I've finally got around to producing downloadable and printable versions of the articles on the site, so if you ever fancied your own cut-out-and-keep guide to a day in the life of BBCi...
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March 9, 2007

My plastic bag photo is re-cycled by New Consumer

It is always nice to see some of my creative commons licensed photographs on Flickr getting recycled, and last week New Consumer were using one of my pictures of a plastic bag. It is a little ironic actually, as they are using it to illustrate Adam Vaughan's article about "High street pledges to slash plastic bags by 2008" The photo of the Tesco's bag is part of my Flickr series "Things Our Neighbours Have Thrown Into Our Garden". Thanks...
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February 23, 2007

Investigating the history of witches in Salzburg

Unlike the behemoth of the BBC, I seldom take the opportunity to cross-post to or cross-promote the blogs I contribute to, but I wanted to make an exception this week. Those of you who ever followed the posts on here about the ghost walks that I use to do in London, and in one case in Haunted Malta, with my wife, might be interested in a series of posts she has published this week on 'A lemon tree of our...
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January 23, 2007

5 things you probably don't know about me...

...(unless you are my mum) I've been tagged directly by Dave, and indirectly on This Is Not My Country, so just imagine all the usual humbug about how I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing but... 1) I played the lead role in my school's annual production of Macbeth when I was an insecure troubled teenager. A couple of months spent brooding over the Scottish play at the age of 17 didn't really help to be honest. 2) I...
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January 5, 2007

"Church and blur" on Druid Street

I noticed that on Wednesday one of my Flickr photos - Church and blur - was reproduced on the rather enigmatic Druid Street site. It is a picture, I believe, of a French church taken when I was on a school trip there back in the 1980s. It was one of a whole wallet of photographs that my parents recently found, which were taken by me between the ages of 9 and 13. Funnily enough, having posted them on Flickr,...
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December 31, 2006

currybetdotnet 2006 review

I have never previously done this kind of end-of-year review type thing, well, except for making mixtapes of the year for friends back when cassette-by-post was the preferred method of delivery rather than mp3-file-delivered-to-your-phone-via-Bluetooth or whatever it is the kids are doing these days. However, on Friday I wrote about some of my favourite blogs from 2006, and today I wanted to do a quick run through of the highlights (and lowlights) of writing and running currybetdotnet this year. I...
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December 8, 2006

Greta Blue due to be a highlight of the Design Interiors show

It is always nice to see one of the companies I do some web work for getting praise. Greta Blue, who import Indian made organic cotton bedding, are launching their range at the Design Interiors show in Birmingham in January. As one of 5 suppliers of "Eco and Ethically Sound Sourced Products" they have been picked out as a highlight of the show. Eco and Ethically Sound Sourced Products Many Design Interiors exhibitors are at the forefront of sustainable design....
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November 20, 2006

More of my photographs included in Schmap's European travel guides

I mentioned the downloadable travel guides Schmap earlier this year, when they included some of my Flickr photographs of Zaragoza in their information on the city. Well, they've just issued a whole series of second editions of some of their European guides, and it looks like it is going to be pretty hard to use them without bumping into some of the Creative Commons licensed photographs of my recent travels through Europe. I don't think that a couple of the...
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November 9, 2006

currybetdotnet has a new home

This week I moved currybetdotnet to a new server, which marked the end of a very strange chapter in the site's existence. In April this year, whilst I was still travelling around Europe, I got a rather unexpected email confirming the cancellation of my regular payment to my hosting company. Well, I knew I hadn't been keeping the blog updated whilst I was away, but that seemed a little bit drastic. However, my subsequent attempts to contact my hosts were...
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November 8, 2006

The currybetdotnet Test Card

I've been very pleased that despite living in an almost-always-offline world during my stay in first Greece, and then Austria, that I have managed to keep up with making a new post to currybetdotnet virtually every weekday since I reactivated the site in April. However, updates have been sparse over the last few days, and I expect they will be for a few days to come. In part, this is because I have reached a crucial stage in one of...
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October 31, 2006

Illustrator Jhinuk Sarkar launches

Another project I have been working on which has recently launched is the website for London based illustrator Jhinuk Sarkar. (Some of you might recall that I DJed at the launch of her exhibition "Parts of the Adult-Kid-Me-In-You" at the Pool Bar in Shoreditch back in 2005). She was recently commissioned to produce some illustrative work from Time Out magazine in London. Her new site, which I have assisted a little bit with building and am hosting,, features a...
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October 23, 2006

Greta Blue launches web site

One of the things I have been working on over the summer is building and hosting a website for a new company from East London importing Indian made fair trade bedding. They are called Greta Blue. As well as a range of organic cotton bedding, they are also importing a set of fair trade toys and accessories, which are really cute. I didn't realise until working with them that the chemicals used in the production of non-organic cotton were one...
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September 26, 2006

You can't exhibit code - a tour around the Scottish Museum

as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule That quote from the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath welcomes visitors into Scotland's National Museum in Edinburgh, where as part of the AUKML conference this weekend I had an evening reception and guided tour. The museum covers Scottish history from the earliest times to the present day, and has a collection including some fascinating artefacts. Despite having some Scottish roots...
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April 10, 2006

Introducing 'A lemon tree of our own'

As you may know I have been travelling through Europe since December, and I have now reached my destination, Hania in Crete. Whilst we were on the move I was keeping up a travelogue using Yahoo! 360°. Now that we have arrived, and have found a place to stay for a year, I'd like to introduce our new site. It is a joint blog I will be writing with my wife about our attempts to set up home in Crete...
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January 9, 2006

Currybetdotnet archive restored

One of the pieces of work I have been doing in Doha is finally restoring all of the currybetdotnet pages that were lost when I had server issues last year. Yesterday I published the final 150 pages, which take the site from April 2004 right back to the very first post in December 2002, complaining about Google not coping very well with seasonal searches for "turkey". Whilst the actual restoration task itself has been dull, involving lots of cut/paste of...
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November 13, 2005

Moving Servers...

This is the obligatory test post to see if I have correctly installed Movable Type 3.2 on the new currybetdotnet server. It seems to have gone relatively smoothly, the only problems I had were in second-guessing how mySQL was set-up, and then mistyping some paths in my config file. Next step was to migrate the content in - which didn't look like it was going to be as easy as I hoped, but it turned out it was. My biggest...
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November 7, 2005

I've Moved Desks

I'm back in the office today for the first day in my new desk, my 11th desk in 5 different buildings during 5 years at the BBC. I have to say that of all of them, this one has without doubt the best view. As I sit at my desk I can see from the new Wembley Stadium in the west of town, to the BT Tower in Central London....
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October 28, 2005

Most Haunted Live at Tower Bridge

So I'm currently watching Living TV's "Most Haunted Live", hoping for a glimpse of my wife in the background. Tonight's show is from her place of work, and one of her duties is being the film officer. This means she has to accompany crews around the building, checking they stay safe and keep to the terms of their contract. Which for Most Haunted means spending the evening lurking around in the dark hoping to hear strange noises. Staff there don't...
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October 22, 2005

Belam Senior On BBC Radio

My dad, Cllr Bob Belam, appeared on the Robert Elms show on BBC London yesterday, talking about London's forthcoming 20th New Year's Day Parade in his capacity as ex-Mayor of Waltham Forest. If you are interested you can listen again on demand (until next Friday's show appears I guess). You need to fast forward to ten minutes into the show....
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October 20, 2005

More eBay Goodness

My rapid selling off of seemingly every collectable I own continues apace over at eBay. At the moment you can bid for a Björk CD and Video box set for Jòga, or perhaps my BOSS Dr. Rhythm DR-550 Drum Machine, or my old Casio SK-1 sampling keyboard.       The star of the sale so far is without doubt my Depeche Mode "Songs Of Faith and Devotion" 4CD promo box. It includes one compilation disc - Singles 86->93, that is...
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October 13, 2005

"I Used To *Really* Love H&M" - Reaction To H&M's &denim Romeo & Juliet Campaign

'There's enough comedy in advertising today,' says Jörgen Andersson. 'And jeans are not about laughs, jeans are love and soul and tears. That's what we're trying to emphasize with this tragic and beautiful Romeo & Juliet story.' I went to see Serenity on Monday, and before I got to enjoy that I was assaulted by the seemingly endless Dave LaChapelle directed "advert" for H&M's &denim range. The reaction in the cinema was one of horror. There is a hideous moment...
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October 4, 2005

Airfix Dumbs Down. So Does Subbuteo.

A fantastic article in the Daily Mail today bemoaning the "dumbing down" of Airfix, as they update their range to introduce snap together models of futuristic craft from the 45th century targeted at 8 to 12 years. I used to enjoy putting kit aeroplanes myself at a tender age, although the effect of my craftmanship was usually spoiled by the fact that I then insisted on painting them in whichever gaudy colour of paint had taken my eye on my...
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September 25, 2005

More Of My Stuff On eBay

A whole new slew of my possessions are making their way out of our house on the eBay highway of life. Today I've posted several signed items for sale, including a signed copy of David Sylvian's first album "Brilliant Trees", and a signed copy of Depeche Mode's "Black Celebration" album. To buy the latter I actually bunked off school in order to queue outside the Oxford Street branch of HMV to get one of 500 signed copies that were available...
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September 19, 2005

It's Not The Disability That Is The Problem, It's The Sex

The temporary statue of Alison Lapper in Trafalgar Square has generated plenty of comment, but this item in the Londoner's Diary in tonight's Evening Standard particularly caught my eye - "Monumental Row". It quotes David Whiting who felt his war-hero stepfather should be on display in the square as saying: I have nothing against Alison Lapper and certainly nothing against disabled people However he goes on to say: That a naked woman should be filling the empty plinth in Trafalgar...
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Buy More Of My Stuff

I've put a second and third batch of items up for sale on eBay. I've moved into shifting some of my music related items. There's an item from my toy keyboad collection, the Monty Python 6 CD set, and a Depeche Mode tour programme from 1987. One of the bigger items to go though is my vintage Roland TR-606 Drum Machine. It is a wrench to part with that, as it has appeared on many an m-orchestra track - but...
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September 16, 2005

Buy My Stuff

I'm (hopefully) clearing out a load of stuff from my house on ebay over the next few weeks - the first things went on sale last night. This batch includes some Doctor Who books (natch), my signed Nick Cave "And The Ass Saw the Angel" novel, a wooden promo box set for Talk Talk's amazing "Laughing Stock" album, and my Beginner's Computer Handbook. How can you resist a book promising that secretly on the inside of computers there are robots...
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September 11, 2005

The College Arms Re-Opens

So tonight I was at the re-opening party for my local pub - The College Arms. It has been shut for over a month for refurbishment. The doors re-opened on Tuesday (when I naturally checked it out), but tonight was the big event, with a band and free food. (The band finished their main set with a version of American Pie - co-incidentally on Thursday I had read a very detailed exposition of the frankly over-complicated lyrics of the song)...
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Behind The Scenes At Tower Bridge

Working at the BBC I take it for granted that I can occasionally show people around the studios at Television Centre, or into the Blue Peter garden, or to look around the home of the World Service. It is only when someone returns the favour that I remember how exciting that all can be. I got a chance to remind myself of that this weekend when my wife was able to take me and the in-laws behind the scenes at...
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August 29, 2005

Big Bus Tour - How Tourists Get To See London

My wife and I are working through a lengthy list of tourist things we've always wanted to do in the UK but never quite got round to - I suppose we should have posted it to 43 Things. Anyway one of them was to spend a day touring London in an open-topped bus. We've done this ultra-naff thing as genuine tourists in Dublin and York before, with varying degrees of success (the Dublin bus kept us dry, the York bus...
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August 22, 2005

Things Our Neighbours Have Thrown Into Our Garden

Our house used to be pretty quiet when we first moved in. On one side was a young family with a polite chatty 3 year-old, and on the other side an old lady who only bothered us if she thought our drain was overflowing into her garden, or if she we thought we were cooking "that indian food" because she used oxygen and "that indian food" affected her breathing. When she died a year-and-a-half ago she was replaced by our...
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Dinosaur Fun at the Natural History Museum

Now I may be a grown-up, but a bit of me is still at heart a kid in awe of dinosaurs. A couple of weeks back I spent a while at the Natural History Museum, where the dinosaur fossils are still the main attraction. A group of us went, including a two year old and a four year old, so in truth we spent more time running around on the grass outside playing frisbee than improving our collective scientific knowledge,...
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August 9, 2005

May Discovery Continue

And so the shuttle came safely home today. The coverage on the BBC over the last couple of days hasn't met with universal approval: "Discovery Returns ... " ... is the title of this morning's coverage in a "BBC1 'Breakfast' Special" of the return to earth of the space shuttle ... A mistitle if ever there was one ... Over the years, the take off and return of the shuttle has generally received news coverage no more informative than "The...
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August 1, 2005

Haunted Belgravia and Chelsea

I've mentioned before that at Christmas I bought my wife a book called "Walking Haunted London" by Richard Jones (who kindly posted a comment on one of my ghost walk commentaries), hoping we could learn more about London, and maybe capture a spooky experience at the same time. It also turns out that most of the haunted locations in London seem to be pubs, so it is quite a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. This weekend we did...
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July 18, 2005

Boot Fair Virgin No More

Until yesterday I was a car boot fair virgin, but on Saturday we got up at the crack of dawn to join a couple of friends in having a stall at the regular fair in Woodford. Amazingly, we had picked the morning that this particular fair was being filmed for "Car Booty", and even more amazingly, ended up being the stall behind and to the right of the people participating in the show, so there should be some nice shots...
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July 11, 2005

Graffiti on Novy Most -> Wormfood

The ability of Flickr to keep people in touch with events around the world really came into its own last week during the terrorist attacks on London - several news outlets linked to, or borrowed pictures from, the London Bomb Blasts Pool. It isn't just big events though, it is also the small details. I noticed last night, via Meneldur leaving a comment on one of my photos, that Nový Most in Bratisalava has been repainted a dull uniform steel...
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June 16, 2005

Blue Thooth Headset

Spotted in a shop window at Holborn today - presumably these headsets are designed for people with lithsps?...
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Speedway in Cardiff, and White City

At the weekend I journeyed to Cardiff with my dad and brother-in-law to see the British Grand Prix of the Speedway Individual World Championship, which was being held at the Millennium Stadium. I can honestly say I don't think I have ever been to anything so loud in my life, and that includes seeing Swans back in the 80's when sheer volume seemed their only motivation. With the roof closed the sound of the bikes echoed around the stadium, accompanied...
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June 10, 2005

"We Have A Technical"... Gary Numan used to 'sing'. currybetdotnet has been down most of this week. I've rather unexpectedly had to move servers, and not just move servers but move from *nix/Apache/Perl to Windows/PHP/Perl/mySQL. Still, the steepest learning curves are the most satisfying I'm assured. Like many people who work in IT I am aware of the 'concept' of a vigorous back-up regime, but somewhat alien to the execution of it. Hence I now have some broken fragments of the old site...
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June 9, 2005

currybetdotnet Intermission

Whilst you are waiting for currybetdotnet to come back online, why not help yourself to some free 'call waiting' music by downloading some Beethoven from the BBC?...
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June 2, 2005

You Can Collect More Gamecards Tomorrow

This made me laugh in the pub last night. There is a new promotion on where you get a card and can win DVD players and Personal Stereos etc. On the back of the card comes a responsible drinking message: Enjoy Yourself And Drink Responsibly You Can Collect More Gamecards Tomorrow! Yep, that's right, the promoters don't want you to get too hammered tonight in your pursuit of their incentives to drink, but they responsibly want to make sure you...
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May 10, 2005

An Elusive Camel and A WEEE Man

I went into town today to meet my wife for lunch at The Elusive Camel on Tooley Street. It's a very nice pub that we have visited before, but today I found that it has veered very much into gastro-pub territory - we even had waiter service at the table. I thought that the menu was a bit over-fussy, but we opted to share a Meze of continental meats and cheeses and some potato wedges. I'm glad we opted to...
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April 27, 2005

A gallery, a monument, a museum and a spot of shopping - Day-tripping in London

With a month off on my hands I'm working through a lengthy list of things that I've always wanted to do around London, but have never found the time for. Today I ticked three things off the list. I started at the Estorick Collection at Canonbury Square in Islington, which until June 5th has a exhibition on Avant-Garde Graphics from 1918 to 1934. The gallery itself is quite small, consisting of six rooms, five of which are taken up with...
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April 5, 2005

Il Fumo Uccide - but they look good

My parents bought some cigarettes back from Rome for my wife the other week, and they are the first thing for many years to make me want to smoke again - simply because I thought the packaging was so nice.       As a bitter vitriolic ex-smoker if it was up to me there wouldn't be any opportunity to put attractive design onto cigarette packs - it would be wall-to-wall health warnings, and the cigarettes themselves would have an assortment...
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January 25, 2005

Martin Belam presentation at IP Lezing in Amsterdam

The second leg of my recent trek across Europe took me to Amsterdam, where I had been kindly invited to speak at the annual IP Lezing arranged by Informatie Professional magazine. The theme of the day was "Taxonomie: Theorie en Toepassing", and I was speaking about "Taxonomies and classification schemas within the BBC". The conference was very well attended, with around 350 delegates - and I enjoyed meeting some really nice people, both before and after the event. There will...
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August 29, 2004

The Adventures of Tintin at Sea

A week ago I took a day off and travelled to the National Maritime Museum to see their "Les Aventures De Tintin en Mer" exhibition, which closes on September 5th I enjoyed it a lot, although couldn't help thinking that the prominent sponsorship by Ottakar's had turned it into a merchandising opportunity - demonstrated by two of my friends simultaneously clearing out the shop's stock and their bank accounts. To be honest I find the National Maritime Museum itself a...
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August 12, 2004

Caution - Royal Mail genius at work

So I have to send a CD-Rom to a company of a spare hard back-up of their server web space in case the internet disappears in a puff of smoke. Should I waste the environment by buying something to package it in? Of course not, I can re-use the packaging from one of my Amazon Marketplace purchases. On one side it has a franked stamp, and a printed label of my address. I used a felt-pen to additionally obscure...
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