December 2005 Archives

Blast From The Past

A phone call not so long ago, from an old friend from Uni days, saying he was planning to get over here for a few weeks from the West Indies, to see his UK family. Well, despite the "terrible" weather, Martin managed to get over from his relatives in West Yorkshire, and pop over to see the Bell family.

No famous Mrs B's Chocolate cake, but a good chat about all that's been happening. The last time he saw me and the family was back in 1990-92 or there abouts, so you can well imagine there's alot changed :-D

Hopefully, as Martin's over for a while, I'll be able to catch up for a bit longer in the New Year. A chance to show him the delights of Stevenage and all it has to offer ;-)

S-NO-w Chaos?

Bus stranded on A1079Well, if you've been watching the national news you'd be right in thinking the East Riding has ground to a halt in all this snow. "Hundreds trapped by drifting snow..." should really read, "Hundreds ill-prepared for a suddent 20 minute blizzard...". The fact it was cleared up so quickly is an indication of how "bad" it really was!

Interestingly, as you may remember comment earlier in the year about the Hull/Beverley to York rail link, there's been quite a bit in the local press about how this sort of thing wouldn't happen if there was a rail link in place. The Minsters' Rail Campaign keeping up the pressure it seems.

Makes you wonder if there was more than just cars doing the "spin" around ;-)

Some pics of the real snow conditions in the extended bit...

Bet Dave's Happy!

News today of the successful launch of the test satellite for Europe's satellite navigation system, Galileo. And, like with this years Christmas Lectures, I've a good friend, Dave Gibbon, the guy who lead the local Ventures before swanning off to become Chief Propulsion Engineer at Surrey Satellite Technology.

I remember when Jules and I popped down for his 40th birthday party talking about the possibility of them getting the contract to build the Galileo series of satellites. And, from reading the news, things are going according to plan quite nicely :-D Of course, and I'm sure Sue and Dave will no doubt say, I need to get my arse into gear and pop down and see them. Goodness only knows how big the kids are now, and what latest DIY build has been added to the house and garden ;-)

Christmas Lectures Start!

So this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures kicked off today on Channel 5. And I must say, without bias, that I thought it was rather good. Much more funkier than before, with camera men running around, and a lecturer that seems to be keen on doing practical stuff, rather than just talking about it.

Of course, you'll have gotten snippets on Jonathan's blog about the build-up to it. And there's a website too - Royal Institution - Christmas Lectures - The Truth About Food.

Looking forward to catching the next one tomorrow :-D

And A Merry Christmas To You

After a "few" beers last night, it took a little longer than planned to get up and down the town to pick up the car. Then packing and getting it ready for the long journey North.

Started off with Gareth, Sy, and Errol in Our Mutual Friend, sampling some of the winter ales, soon to be joined by Chris and Emma, also from work. They soon left, so we popped down The Chequers, managing to catch Sy's mate Andy and his better half, Annie, before they ran off for the last minute shopping. Sy then joined me in a search, down the Old Town, for somewhere serving Glenfiddich ;-) Caught up with both Jules bruvs, as well as Janet and Debbie, before retiring home, rather drunk ;-)

Everything's now done. The cat's prepared for the next few days, the cupboards are packed with cat food. And the house

In case you don't see a greetings card from me this year (and that's likely, since neither my electronic address book or my personal address book are around to help), a merry christmas, and all the best for the New Year to you all :-D

That's Christmas Finished

So, if you don't get a Christmas card it's coz my Outlook has lost yours, and by the looks most others, address details. And present-wise, it's because Amazon still haven't delivered.

A few little bits and bobs to grab first thing on Saturday before I dash off up North. But otherwise, it's all finished bar the drinking and turkey ;-)

A Bit of RnR

After the hectic time getting ready for the Primavera presentation at their User Conference the other week, it was a pleasant surprise today to be told in recognition of the work I was to be taken for Christmas lunch :-D

So, having spent the afternoon eating what has to have been one of the best Christmas lunches at The Fox & Duck in Stotfold, I'm now rather full of Christmas cheer, and off for an early night. All these party's are starting to take a toll ;-)

Which Train From Cambridge?

News that FirstGroup has won what was the Great Northern part of the old WAGN franchise has brought an interesting quandry for those travelling back from Cambridge to London.

Now, when catching a train to London from Cambridge, you'll be getting on a First train, or One train. So, depending on the ticket, you might not be able to travel on the First train to London, instead being able to go on any One.

As this is a fairly regular trip for me and Sy, I'm sure it'll raise a chuckle the next time we visit Cambridge for a drink or 4 ;-)

New Timetables Are Out

WAGN Timetable courtesy of Adam WarrCatching up on emails and news at home, and found this little gem. Of course, now that we're into the Winter months, the new Winter timetables have been produced. Didn't notice this when we were making our trip down to London the other week, for the Primavera User Conference. And at least one or two readers will find the scanned cover amusing ;-)

Whoops :-O

Needless to say, they've since been recalled and corrected ;-) Explains the delay and lack of timetables at Stevenage station recently, don't it.

Original picture on

Surprise Delivery

New Airfix 2005 CalendarAwoke this morning to a dull thud on the doormat. A large envelope, containing the new exclusive Airfix 2006 calendar.

It's got various pictures of the box art, something which Airfix was renown for in the early days. And it solves the problem of finding a replacement for my Hull calendar at work ;-)

It's another perk of Classic Club membership that was announced at the IPMS (UK) Scale Modelworld Show in Telford. Another thing, which I know Ian will be over-the-moon about ;-), is a paint carousel for all my paints. But that doesn't arrive until the New Year, so we're told, along with more offers and bits.

It really looks like Airfix are making their way back into the market. Lets hope for the modellers amongst us, these bold new releases for next year take the company onward and forwards :-D

Feeling Better

Well, after leaving work early yesterday, coming home, having a hot Radox bath, and a couple of the world-famous lemsip (now, where is THAT stuff made ;-)), I awoke this morning feeling 100 times better.

Whatever it was, it's all but gone now. Slight headache, but that's probably more to do with not eating since Sunday night, rather than anything else.

So, my final day's holiday used up, and the final push for Christmas present buying. And lots and lots of Christmas cards to get posted. I'm determined to get 'em out before Christmas this year. So I'd better get to it :-D

Rough As Old Boots

Well, having dragged myself into work this morning for our monthly team brief, I'm back at home, just about to crawl into bed.

Don't know what's got me this time, but I've been feeling sick since around 3 or 4 o'clock this morning. Could be the bug that's running around the office at the mo', or the dodgy pizza from Saturday.

Either way, I'm off to try and sleep this off. Don't want to be spending the rest of the week throwing up and feeling sorry for myself. That's what New Year's Day's for ;-)

The Decs Are Up

So, after several hours going through 120 christmas lights, only to discover the one I'd fixed had reblown, the decs and lights are all up.

Looks good. Not has over-the-top as the new neighbours. And certainly no-where near as mad as the recent pic Becky sent me of a house in Wellingborough. The electricity bill for both will probably be near to that for a small village.

I'm happy with what I've got. And Spitfire seems content with watching the shadows, and trying his damnedest to rip the christmas card chains off the wall. Thank God I've not got a tree ;-)

Washing The Car

After yesterday's quiet day, today was a chance to crack on with the last weekend before Christmas jobs. Top of the list, thanks to the salt on the roads, is washing the car.

Given I wash it just about evey weekend, it's amazing how dirty it gets this time of year. There's a semi-permanent film of salt and grim all over the car. More frightening is the amount of rust that starts to appear :-( Ah well, another job for the spring. And another tin of Hammerite to add to the Christmas list ;-)

18 Inches Of Disappointment

Been trying a few of the newer local pizza takeaways, in preparation for the bruvs when they're next down. And I think I've found a place that does the perfect 18" round pizza to die for. Well, I say I've found it, we actually ordered from there on Stu's stag do. Needless to say, a spare menu is strategically placed in my menu holder in the kitchen.

But, earlier in the week, another menu hit the mat. A claim of an 18" SQUARE pizza :-O

Now, for those who can remember Fat Jacks or the-one-with-Tomato-in-its-name, the legend of the monster square pizza is known far and wide. Well, okay, as far as Coventry and Hull.

So, in order to guage the quality, I subjected myself to ordering one.

What can I say? It was crap....:-(

Missed The Post

After all the drinking and partying last night, I've gone and missed the second class post today. Bugger :-(

Will have to crack on and get it sorted for Tuesday. Otherwise, it'll be another year that Al's cards don't get out before Christmas day :-(

The Big Xmas Drink

Points to remember:

Last year
South Africa

Will update this once my memory recovers ;-)

Time To Surface

Well, we had a monster Christmas meal and night out. And I'm just this minute getting up and ready for the remainder of the day. Lots of drink, some fantastic food at the local Ask pizza restuarant. Then a few drinks around the Old Town. Not quite sure what time we finished. And I've no idea what pub's we ended up in.

Had the morning to recover, and just waiting for my lift to turn up and take me into town to recover the car. Will have to see who else managed it into work today ;-)

Hello, This Is Rwanda Calling

Confessions of a World SaverGot news from Tessa in Rwanda. Talking to a glass of water, apparently signs that she's suffering from Malaria. Sounds more like a little too much of the drunken juice meself.

She's also got a blog now, so we can all catch up on what she's been up to. And, as I've found, she's not having to worry about regularly firing off emails and postcards. Technology, it's making the world a much smaller place, ain't it :-D

I Thought The Central Heating Had Exploded

BBC NEWS | UK | Oil depot fire crews resume workOr, at least, that was the reaction of one of my work colleagues to this weekend little explosion in Hertfordshire. As I wasn't around, I missed all the comotion. And, thanks to the news reports, I had one of the easiest and quietest drives back home on Sunday, taking just over 2 3/4 hours to get back. Everyone listened to the advice, it seems, and stayed indoors. Lets hope when it snows next year, which is forecast to be worse than normal, everyone takes the same sensible approach to it all.

What's been amazing is looking at the pictures online, on the news, and in everyone's papers today, at work. You can see why it's being described as the biggest explosion in the UK since the war.

As to what's noticable down here, well, the wind's blowing south, it's normal for this time of year. So, unless you get up really high, there's nothing outside that would suggest anything's happened. Hats off to the emergency services for all they've done, it's a stirling job, and I noticed tonight that operations have taken a stop, whilst safety is checked again.

Last Chance To See

BBC NEWS | Science-Nature | Extinction alert for 800 speciesSo, the latest list of endangered species has been compiled. And it's up to 800 now, lots of what you might think were safe species, now being considered "endangered", because of the way we're slowly consuming various areas of the world in the name of progress.

It's a coincidence that one of the charities I support is also one of those annoying pop-ups that the counter system for the site throws up at you. But, if you have a bit of time, take a look and just see what's soon to go.

As the title says, it's the last chance for some fairly well known species.

But I Don't Like Spam...

Nope, not a posting about the Monty Python Christmas special. No, comment about the recent, and what appears to be on-going, mass blogspot spam attack both the blogs have been under the last few days.

Searching around the 'net, I'm not alone apparently. And, it would seem, Google have taken on board the comments, trying to combat it with the nofollow attribute in the A tag. Which, of course, doesn't appear in the current DTD's. But further reading shows it's being actively used to remove spam blog's from Google searches.

There's a couple of plug-ins for Movable Type that'll help. And coupled with iMark's little jscript comment fixer, it'll throw up more blocks for them to jump through. Either way, it's all going to reduce the effort of cleaning this place up every five minutes at the mo' :-D

New Airfix Website Launched!

You've probably gathered from recent postings the rekindling of a childhood pastimein building plastic models. Well, after lots of news about new kits, new direction, and new outlooks, the all new Airfix website should be appearing sometime today :-D

It promises to build on what was achieved with the first site, with more stuff and more regular news. Lets hope it continues the resurgence of Airfix as the wellknown brand leader it was, and will soon be :-D

Knowing Me, Knowing You...

Popples, don't ask!On a fairly irregular basis I get an email through asking various personal and off-tangent questions. The purpose, supposedly, to give the sender an insight into the inner thoughts of those it's sent to.

I've been doing my part, filling it in, and sending back out. And the last lot got a far bigger response than before. Maybe it's the slowdown this time of year. Or, maybe everyone's got nothing to do at the mo?

Either way, some fascinating facts have returned:

All my friends, bar one, wear black underwear.
Most cry at least once a month
Everybody loves me :-D
Women take a lot from what kind of shoes a man wears
Sense of humour counts for most

Of course, some took a slightly more light hearted approach. Ian, on answering whether he'd a crush on anyone at the moment, replied, "Yes, my brother, coz I'm sat on him..."

Owh, and I've found a woman who likes Sloe Gin, which will cheer up some readers I'm sure ;-)

New Cool MoT Trick

Just going through the paperwork for the MoT, and picking up on a recent posting on the Club GTI forum (don't ask why this site's banned at work, even I can't understand the reasons :-X). Anyway's, you can now interogate the MoT system online :-D

As long as you have the details off your V5C to hand, you can go online and check the status of your MoT for that given vehicle. So, in theory, no more waiting for the call from the test centre to tell you. Simply go online and have a look yourself :-D

Nige, you're going to have to try this one out when you get the ol' "Put-put" put in ;-)

Pension Deficits

Our company, like I guess, and read, many others, is in the process of working out how best to plug it's MASSIVE pension deficit (~ 2.4billion, give or take the odd 50million). And, after lots and lots of discussion, it appears they've reached an agreement.

Looking at the figures, I'm likely to live until I'm 90, and have to work an extra 2 years or so to make sure what I'd have had at the start of this year will still be there in 37 years time. Hmmmm, kinda long way off ain't it?

Of course, I'm in 2 minds as to whether investing in the pension scheme is still worth it. Lets face it, by the time I've retired the whole world will have changed, never mind pensions provision. But, I can guess there's a few reading this who'd soon be pointing out that I owe it to my elders. "The wise and old long live they do", as a character from a recent DVD I watched on Sunday may say (ta Carl ...;-))


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Wandering round deletetheweb land you find lots of little gems of news. Mark and his chamelon blog, with the changing styles, always useful at work when wanting to suggest a change, "Hey, have a look at this...:-O". Damien and a fascinating study of mobile phone photo's. Mija and life over the pond. Kevin and his silence. Vinay and his twist on twisted Amercia. Or Jonathan and the latest on the Christmas lectures. There's a full list in the nav bar, all worth a visit.

So, without repeating the links to another 2 brilliant blogs full of news, thought, and in particular, science, go visit The Daily Grind and read Fresh links, hot links, get your links here. Links!, you know it makes sense ;-)

NTL Not Going Into Virgin Territory?

Reading earlier in the week about NTL's approach to Virgin mobile, to create a challenge for the dominant market leader, UK satellite TV firm BSkyB. Well, this lunchtime I read that things aren't going to plan, the Virgin board rejecting the offer.

Rumour that the decision was reached after Richard Branson had phoned NTL's Customer Support and given up trying to get through, being held, on the phone, waiting for over 3 hours, have been denied by all involved ;-)

Big Heads = Big Risk?

Reading on the BBC news this lunchtime, research into increase risk of childhood brain cancer. Findings point to an increase in head size having an impact on the chance of a baby developing brain tumours. But like with many things, it requires further research to investigate the findings. Out of 1,010,366 children in the study just 453 were diagnosed with brain cancer. So the stats alone suggest it's a small concern.

It comes on the back of research into why we get brain tumours, (over 300 children are diagnosed each year). This included studies looking at the effects of x-rays during pregnancy, as well as exposure to pesticides, solvents, alcohol, and animal viruses.

Pipeline Card

Thanks to Chris Harvey who passed on a link for the Pipeline Card. This is just a concept at the moment that has been agreed in principle with a major petrol retailer which could see consumers saving 5-10 pence per litre on fuel. However there is a but! - enough (<100k) have to register before the scheme can become a viable proposition - so take a look at the website and see if you think it's a neat idea.

Fell Asleep On The Bus Again?

BBC NEWS | England | London | Red bus revamp for green livingNews that a London-based company, Double Decker Living, is converting a number of ex-London buses into mobile cheap housing.

The first stage is to be launched next week, using Leyland Olympian double deckers. But there's talk of using up the old Routemaster buses, the iconic hop-on, hop-off red London bus, which are being phased out at the end of this week.

Fascinating reading, the whole idea of converting a bus into accomodation being something I've always thought would be a cheap alternative to paying 200,000 for a house round here. Problem would be driving it on site, the carpark clearance being a little under the 14 feet or so that a Routemaster stands at ;-)

MoT Passed

Taxed and tested, the car's back on the road tonight. A couple of things to worry about, wheel bearings and CV joints making a bit of noise. But otherwise, a clean bill of health once more. And despite the farting noise of the exhaust, it passed with a cautionary note :-D Will have to get the Craig-miester to sort it on my next long trip home ;-)

Took the opportunity to get the cam belt replaced, having no idea when it was last done. And, yes, I know those of you reading this with an inclining of what that means, will be screaming at me as to why it's taken that long, and do I understand what would've happened if it had broken. It's done, and I've added it to the service history. Least then I can make sure it's done at the correct intervals from now on ;-)

Lighting The Tree

Well, a long 3 day weekend, catching up on things I've left to one side whilst preparing for the presentation last Thursday. Already booked next Wednesday off, and have a HUGE pile of junk ready for a couple of trips down the tip. Several PC keyboards, mountains of paperwork, and 2 sackfuls of old plastic. There's even an old portable telly somewhere, but I've yet to dig that out.

So, having done all that it was a relief and break to pop over to Letchworth to Garden House Hospice for their annual carol service of remembrance, and the "Lights of Life" illumination of the Christmas lights in the garden. Bit of an emotional trip, it's the first time I've been back since Jules died and had a long walk round the grounds. Janet and I stood opposite the window of her room, and as it got dark I kept looking into the night sky to see if a star started to twinkle. It was a beautiful service, the only thing missing being a hot cuppa and slice of cake. But Carl and Maria sorted that one out, popping in on the way home to see them and their little bundle of joy (that's right, isn't it ;-)).

I got a card from a friend at the weekend. She's just lost her 5 month old baby to Edwards Syndrome. Only 10% survive their first year of life, the likelyhood of survival beyond a few weeks after birth being a miracle. I had the pleasure of meeting her during the summer, and apart from a small pipe for feeding, you'd never have known. In the letter she says that I'm probably one of only a few who can appreciate what she and her family are going through on the lead up to Christmas. You don't realise the significance of asking me what I'd like for Christmas... it's a question with an impossible answer, isn't it?

Over and Out!

Back from a long and fast paced day at the Primavera User Conference in London.

Presentation went well, lots of questions and approaches from other businesses trying to do what we've done, and wanting hints on what not to make mistakes on ;-)

Also some fascinating insights into the direction technology is taking. An example of how iPod's or mobile memory devices can now contain the equivalent of some small businesses complete business data. Or how voice activation technology could be used to speed up management feedback or requests. Although the idea of my PC ringing me at home to ask me if I'm coming into work today, and why not, is a little too much, I reckon ;-)

All in all a constructive and useful day out of the office. A chance to see the direction things are going in, and discuss how others are tackling problems faced in the management of business.

Time for a pizza and rest. It's been a long build-up to today, and now it's all over I'm ready to catch up on the sleep I've missed the last few weeks ;-)

So We All Get Spam

Further to my posting about family spam, there's a fascinating post on Jonathan's site, take a look.

Now, I can claim to have had some strange comments posted both here, and on Jules site. Indeed, over 100 on the day of her funeral, something that didn't cheer me up, at all :-( So glad for Mark's amazing little fix, and the introduction of blacklisting in the later versions of Movabletype. Having to process all that spam, particularly when there was more important things to comment on last year, wasn't an enjoyable experience.

But I've never had a comment as random and bizarre as that one mentioned at the start, posted at the Daily Grind. Then again, if it's bizarre it's probably going to appear somewhere on there first ;-)

About Alan Bell

Lapsed: electronic engineer, scout leader, project controller.
Now: Oracle Primavera training consultant, business support manager, occasional website designer.

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