Category Archives: Ridiculous

Next year’s ride

It’s almost six months since our intrepid little gang of very amateur cyclists set off from Hampton Court on our jaunt down through France to St. Emilion, but I’ve bored you about that before.

Ever since we finished the ride there’s be an appetite to do it all again next year, and after mulling over the potential route for a while, I think I’ve finally settled on it…and it’s something of a cycling classic. While starting in England was nice to do this year, to a man the lads weren’t that bothered about including a UK stage in next year’s ride. The lighter and more respectful traffic along with the better surface of French roads and, frankly, the adventure of being in foreign climes on our bikes has resulted in an agreement to both start and finish in France.

But we still needed a proper ‘journey’, so the one we’re going to try is cycling from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. If you click on the little map above you’ll get a clearer view of the proposed route…and those of you who know your geography (or, indeed, your cycling!) will also know that it’s rather hillier than this year’s ride. In fact, it takes in two of the Tour de France’s most historic climbs, the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque.

There’s a lot of excitement amongst the group, plus not a small amount of anxiety. These aren’t small hills! I get particularly nervous when I look at the route profile and the numbers on the left-hand side of it. In this year’s ride, we didn’t get more than 200m above sea level…and 200m doesn’t even appear on the scale of next year’s profile! And given I live in one of France’s flattest regions, training might be an issue…

Still, life’s nothing without challenges. We’re starting the ride on May 3rd 2009, which is four months before my 40th birthday, so this might be a last hurrah before a steady slip into sedentry middle age…

The Flackenhack Awards 2008…are you in?

The Flackenhack Awards are back again for the second year…let’s see if we can get it right this time, eh?

What am I saying? Last year’s event was a cracker. So it’s more of the same, just bigger and better. If you weren’t at last year’s awards, you can get a flavour for the evening here.

All the relevant details can be found on The Flackenhacks blog, but here’s a summary:

- The awards are taking place on October 29th at the Village Underground in Shoreditch (a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station) starting at about 7.00pm

- Tickets are on sale here. Full price is £65 but if you get in before the 23rd September you can snap one up for £50. Credit crunch friendly, see? You’ll get some grub, enough booze to make you wobbly, some music and a decent laugh. Not bad for a wet Wednesday in London, eh?

- To make sure we have a decent turnout from the press community, there a ‘buy a hack’s ticket on eBay scheme’ going on. Again, more details here.

- The all-important award categories will be announced soon. These are prestigious…look here.

It’s all shaping up to be another cracking night. John ‘Wheels of Steel’ Ozimek is back on the decks; Paul ‘Balls of Steel’ Wooding is our witty compere once again. Why change a winning formula?

Hope to see you there.

Should I buy ‘alchemy’ or ‘shyster’?

del.jpgAfter all, they’re both $7.  It’s difficult to decide.

Jason at the office pointed me to something called The Big Word Project this morning (via this blog).

It’s the brainchild of a couple of students from Northern Ireland who, the site tells us, “are exploring what different words mean to different people”.  This is how they’re doing it:

“The project allows you to purchase a word from our list to represent your site. Your site will then represent this word in our list and when people click on it, they will be taken to your site. The project is aimed at changing definitions and creating a new tapestry of words, meaning altogether different things.”

Words cost $1 per letter.  So, were I to buy the words ‘con’ and ‘trick’ I’d pay Paddy and Lee $8, for which I’d receive two links from their homepage to websites of my choice.  They claim that I’d then be redefining the meaning of the words ‘con’ and ‘trick’.  They’d no longer relate to unscrupulous people using the gullibility of others for financial gain.  Oh no, they be defined by my websites.  Of course they would.

There are currently 697 active words, so I reckon the boys are about $3,000 up at the moment. 

And that’s assuming the PayPal payment’s entirely legitimate…screen looks odd to me.

Sore arses and other ailments

tweedcc_web.jpgLast year my old mate Mark and I decided that we needed to undertake a grand physical challenge while we were both still in our 30s.  We decided that - as we did when we were at school together – it’d be a good idea to cycle from Mark’s house to mine.  We grew up in Hertfordshire, and the distance from Codicote to St. Ippolyts was about 10km.  In fact I imagine it still is.

The distance from Wimbledon – where Mark now lives – to my house in France is about 750km, depending on the Channel crossing you take.  It’s unlikely that I’ll be back by teatime.

Still, a challenge is a challenge and we’re doing it.  Not only that, but we’re going past my house and all the way down to St. Emilion, which seemed like a suitable place to collapse.  We’re starting on May 2nd and should arrive on May 6th.  We’ve even managed to convince some similarly middle-aged friends to come along too.  In all, there’ll be 10 of us hauling our generous backsides onto the unforgiving saddles of road-racing machinery of varying quality and vintage.  Should be quite some sight.

It’s all for charity of course.  Our headline beneficiary is NCH, and a very worthy one it is too.  Ken Deeks gave a moving speech about NCH’s work at The Flackenhack Awards last year and I can’t think of a better cause for which to be riding.

You can sponsor me here personally (all contributions very gratefully received) and if you represent a company and feel that having your logo stretched across ten slow-moving arses would be good for business, then I’d love to hear from you.  There’ll be room for the biggest of logos, I assure you.

Oh, I’m also after the loan of a van for a week.  Long-wheelbase Transit size.  Ta.

In search of the fairer Twitterer

I’ve been Twittering for a week now.  It’s been OK.  Quite entertaining.  That’ll wear off I expect.  Or perhaps not, as I’ve realised the compelling thing about Twitter is that it’s just so damn easy.  Like blogging but without the thought or effort.  I can see why people like it.

I am following 19 other people’s Twits (I think the official term might be Tweet, but I like Twit so much better) and have 10 people following mine.  Clearly there’s some overlap in these two groups.  In fact, in the Venn diagram of my Twitter universe, the circle containing my followers sits entirely within the circumference of the one containing my followees.  I realise that true Twitting power comes when the reverse is the case.  I am never likely to attain that.

The thing that struck me is that all those people that I’m following are male.  Not a girl among them.  Obviously 19 isn’t the biggest sample but looking at some of the other Twitterers with which I’m linked, there don’t seem to be many women around.

It might be, of course, that they have better things to do with their time.  Or perhaps that they’re generally later adopters of the latest geek porn…but then Twitters been around for a while now, hasn’t it?

Some might say that asking a member of the fairer sex to say anything in fewer than 140 characters is nigh on impossible (I wouldn’t, of course).

Ego boost

Have you done that QDOS thing yet?  A few people have mentioned it.  It calculates your online presence.  Initially, all you can do is enter your name and postcode and it gives you a score.  This’ll likely be a few hundred…which looks a bit rubbish when you can see 50 Cent there at the top of the board with a score of more than 10,000.

But when you apply to register – and are accepted - you build your profile by adding details around your online presence, so any URLs, blogs, Flickr pages etc etc, and your score increases.  Your presence is split into four elements: Popularity, Impact, Activity and Individuality. 

I added my details and my score went up to 4,420, which found me sandwiched between Seb Coe and Demi Moore.  I haven’t decided whether I’m happy with that or not (though I’ve heard he goes like the clappers for four minutes and then it’s all over).    A few more points would’ve seen me stuck between Catherine Zeta Jones and Terry Wogan which, frankly, is even more confusing.

But I still wasn’t happy. 

And then it struck me. When you enter your URLs and blogs and that there’s no check on whether they’re really yours or not.  So I added a few more…like google.com, microsoft.com, scobelizer.com, bbc.co.uk.  Before you know it, I’m at 9,839 points, in 12th place overall and just behind P Diddy! 

And I feel great.

Kids’ telly of a morning

This post started from one place and ended up in another.  I love that.

shreddies_knitted200.jpgAs a father of a couple of young children – mine are five and three – I’m something of an aficionado of morning kids’ telly, particularly the Milkshake! segment on Channel Five.  Some great programmes (all highly educational, I might add…sort of) and nice cheery presenters.  My favourite is Jen, the young upstart threatening the established trio of Naomi, Kemi and Beth (I see they’ve kept Jen’s song off the album).  But I digress.

Being a commercial channel, Five carries advertisements and of course we’re well into Christmas stuff now.  Having said that, one of my current favourites is the ad for Shreddies…the “knitted by nanas” one which, as you might have guessed, explains that each and every Shreddie is knitted by a lovely kind nana.  I like it so much that I was prompted this morning to visit the website, www.knittedbynanas.com

It’s been very well done.  There’s a bit of loading to deal with, but it kept me distracted for about 20 minutes which can’t be bad.  My favourite is the games area.  Nana vs. Robots didn’t grab me too much, the Skip Challenge appeared a little dull initially but the changing pace of the rope added to the challenge, Teabag Fling was compelling but ultimately frustrating (you get your power sorted and then screw up the angle!) and Slipper Slide is a joy.  It’s definitely worth a look.

Now to the other place.  While I was thinking about the ads, I recalled one which, frankly, disturbs me.  It’s that animatronic pony called Butterscotch.  That thing freaks me out.  “Don’t worry,” Thea tells me, “it’s not real.  It’s got batteries in its tummy.”

Looking around for a Butterscotch clip I was chuffed to find that I’m not the only one who finds Butterscotch a bit weird.  David Letterman does too…and you can see a very amusing video here.

“Take that, you lousy nag.”

POOP

cio3.jpgThat’s People Opposed to Open Plan.  It’s a movement I’ve started.

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of open plan offices.  As far as I can tell, they’re simply a way of packing more people into limited and very expensive office space.  It also drives the culture of “presenteeism” that I’ve mentioned before.

OK, so you might say that open plan offices encourage more collaborative working amongst employees, that they foster more communication and improve a company’s culture.  But what you really mean is that they allow people to muck around, flirt and gossip.  Anything, in fact, other than do their job.  Which, being honest, I’ve been more in favour of than against during my career (I’m talking myself out of my argument here, aren’t I?).  Yes, it’s true.  I’ve always quite liked office distractions.  Hell, I even married one of ‘em!

But with my serious head on, Aunt Sally, I’ve always felt that open plan hinders rather than helps productivity.  But I’m like King Canute against the tide of open plan office solutions.  Until now, that is.

Reading this week’s Economist last night, I find a comrade in the battle against workplaces without walls.  It’s only Jim Goodnight, co-founder and boss of SAS, the world’s biggest privately-owned software company.  And what a brilliant name too!  The only other Goodnight I know is Britt Ekland’s character in The Man with the Golden Gun.

(Pause while Mark finds video clip of Britt Ekland in Get Carter.  But can’t.)

In his profile, Jim says: “You are so much more productive in your own office than when you are being distracted by the people either side.”  Right on, Jim.

And how about this for a knock-on effect of Jim’s decision to give almost everyone of his employees their own office?  All that additional wallspace needs filling, so Jim started buying pieces of art and the company now boasts a collection of more than 5,000 pieces!  What a smart cookie.

SAS is clearly a company that treats its people very well indeed.  For me, it’s partly a function of being a company that has remained privately-owned, some of the advantages of which Jim sums up rather neatly:  “We don’t have to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley or minority shareholders suing us every time we turn around, or 25-year-old Wall Street analysts telling us how to run our business.”  Rock on, Jim.

Anyway.  Who else wants to join me in POOP?

Facebook application

I had an idea for a Facebook application in the pub last night, but I’m not sure if it already exists.  I suspect not, for possibly obvious reasons.  Perhaps someone might let me know?

It’s really simple.  I’d like there to be an application which tells me which of my friends have spent the most time looking at my Facebook profile.  And perhaps which bits of it they spent most time looking at.  Like pictures.  That’d be interesting. 

Of course, I’d also like to be the only person in the world allowed to load it.  Or I’d like to at least be able to bar selected friends from loading it.  Particularly the lookers.

I’m getting old…

_41489696_bluepet.jpgI was tutting at the telly earlier.

Mind you, I still maintain it was a highly irresponsible piece of programming.  I caught Blue Peter with the kids this afternoon.  I hadn’t seen it in ages (my kids are a bit young for it) and it’s all gone quite funky.  Though it obviously hasn’t covered itself in glory this year.

Anyway, get this.  Only days when the majority of the kids in the UK are going to find themselves within eyebrow melting distance of a huge pile of flaming wood – probably for the one and only time this year - what does Blue Peter decide to do?  Only have one of its presenters walk barefoot across burning embers!

Any other time of the year, maybe.  But sorry, not this week.  All programme we joined the presenters in the Blue Peter garden where the ember walking experts were preparing the inferno, telling us how they’d prepared Zoe mentally for the challenge ahead.  Then they’d stick a thermometer into the fire to tell us that it was burning at “more than 400 degrees ” and that “human flesh burns at only a hundred and something degrees…”

Only thing was, when we cut back to the final piece, as Zoe was about to take the “walk of warm”, we could see some bloke liberally sprinkling mineral water onto the embers, and though Zoe’s over-excited co-presenter told us that the temperature was”off the scale” we actually saw that it had dropped to about 170 degrees.  Shit, I’ve been on hotter sand (honest – Rhodes, summer of 1981). 

Zoe skipped across untroubled, into the hugely impressed embrace of all and sundry.  Including my little girl.

“Wow, daddy!” she exclaimed, “did you see that?  That girl walked on fire with no shoes. 

“We’re having a bonfire this weekend, aren’t we daddy..?”

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