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June, 2010

  1. Glastonbury. Done.

    June 30, 2010 by admin

    Well that was fun. I really needn’t have worried, none of what I wasn’t looking forward to occurred. Despite all my efforts to ensure the hangover was as bad as I feared it would be, it wasn’t. I left feeling tired and a bit washed out but mainly really pleased that I’d been.

    When you charge £185 you pretty much ensure that what little scum makes it through is easily absorbed by the majority of PLUs (people like us) to the point that it is not noticed. At V, scum is the default it seems. Then when you pay another £115 per head to stay in a ‘special’ campsite you guarantee clean toilets, clean showers, a pre-erected tent and and 100% PLUs.

    The weather was incredible. The English are typical though. For all of June I’d been praying for sunshine and happy to settle for anything but rain. We got sunshine but it was of the relentless Spainish type. To the point where people were getting firstly a bit burnt and secondly a bit sun stroked. 3,000 casualties in fact. Naturally, being the responsible adults we are, we ensured we were properly hydrated at all time and the beers runs are much less of a pain when there’s 8 people to share a round with. The best thing about Glastonbury is its size. It’s vast – it takes an hour to walk from one side to the other when sober in normal shoes and during good weather – it’s easy to leave your group to get drinks and refind them. At other festivals it can be near on impossible due to space restrictions. We were never right at the front but still it was brilliant not being rammed it everywhere we went.

    My great pal Simon explained that they’ve had 40 years to get it right and they really have it down. There’s bins and toilets everywhere and wide enough thoroughfares to ensure nowhere gets too clogged with bodies. You really feel like their overriding agenda is to make the experience as fun and hassle-free as possible as opposed to other festivals where it’s more about making money.

    Here’s who we saw:

    Snoop Dog, Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, Groove Armada, Jackson Brown, Seasick Steve, Martin Harley, Biffy Clyro, Scissor Sisters (feat. Kylie), Muse, Slash, Ray Davies, Jack Johnson, Faithless and a load of other random dance and unknown people along the way.

    The standout for me was Slash. Anyone that knows me knows that I grew up on G N’ R and they are my absolute favourite band of all time bar none. I think Appetite for Destruction is the most complete album of all time. I saw them at the end of their record breaking world tour (2 and a half years) at Milton Keynes bowl in ’94 and have waited to see Slash play Sweet Child O’ Mine and Paradise City again ever since. I knew he’d be good as I’ve recently downloaded his new collaboration album (Ghost, Starlight and Back from Cali the best tracks IMO) but I didn’t realise he’d bang out the old classics now he’s so obviously minus Axl. He’s found a guy, Myles Kennedy who, again IMO, is every bit as good as Axl. Obviously you can never replace Axl’s personality or voice entirely but this guy had the perfect Guns voice and absolutely smashed it. If one moment of the whole weekend was enough to justify the £600 or so it cost me, this was it and I’m so pleased I saw it, drinking beer in blazing sunshine whilst simultaneously missing England getting comprehensively and deservedly thrashed by Germany.

    By 9pm on Sunday I was done and decided to split before Stevie Wonder. I think I did a good job of staying the distance with my childless friends and therefore felt justified going back to the tent with a burger and for one last beer. As Stevie started his set (which I could easily hear from my tent pod), the rest of my mates arrived back. Nice to be vindicated!

    We all passed out listening to Superstition and Sir Duke, a weird but awesome way to top an amazing weekend.

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  2. Hello Firebox!

    June 17, 2010 by admin

    If you’re here due to an email I just sent you, then Hi! I would urge you to read this post which talks about my reaction to my shiny new iPad, then this post which shows some properly innovative, out of the box thinking and finally please read my thoughts on Facebook here.

    Hope to talk to you soon.

    James

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  3. My first Glastonbury

    June 16, 2010 by admin

    When you think of Glastonbury your mind conjures images of rain, mud & crusties. Three of my least favourite things in fact. So why spend £185 on a ticket after resisting for so long? Having seen the lineup this year, I’m still not sure. And having vowed after the last time I went to the V festival, never to spend three drunken nights under canvas again, I’m puzzled even further. However as time goes by, you begin to make lists of things to do before you die and you find yourself capitulating on things you’d have previously remained steadfast.

    But festivals are great, right? Well, yes they are, they can be brilliant and in fact the last two Vs I went to were a lot of fun and the sun shone and we all got drunk and I do look back with fond memories. The problem is not the festival, it’s me. I suffer acutely from a few things that others find only mildly irritating. First up is lack of sleep. Ever since Clare told me she was pregnant I started to dread the sleepless nights which for most people last a few weeks or months, but for us are ongoing even as Jake approaches the ripe old age of two. Give me one sleep deprived night (and I’m talking anything less than 6 hours – it used to be 8 though so I’m getting better) and I’ll bounce back. Give me two and I go a bit quiet. Give me three though and I’m nobody’s friend. Especially not my own. Women seem to cope so much better with the whole lack of sleep thing. Maybe they just cope better but feel awful anyway. Whatever, sleeping half (or more likely, fully) cut on a single mattress next to a friend in a sweaty, fart infested tent is not conducive to a good night’s kip. So I’m expecting day three to be a low point regardless of what the weather does.

    Next up is the hangover. Since Jake was born, I’ve probably upped my alcohol consumption in terms of regularity but reduced it in terms of volume. I used to get horribly pissed; the kind of drunk where even your very drunk friends realise that now is the time to take advantage. I’ve been shaved, locked in toilets, drawn on, dragged outside, you name it. My maternal grandad was an alcoholic and they say it’s in you so perhaps those days were a warning sign! Anyway, the point is that because I don’t go out ‘on the lash’ nearly half as much as I used to, my tolerance for the lash is duely diminished. But that doesn’t stop me of course;

    me: ”That’s my limit lads, I’m off for a cup of Bovril and my book. Na night’

    the lads: “Good for you. Cheerio”

    If only it worked like that. Of course I do have some self control and will exercise it right up until the point of no return. The problem with three day festivals is that you start off with all the enthusiasm of a man just released from prison and you finish like a man who wants back in. Anyway, if I can manage to keep things sensible, perhaps I’ll come back having enjoyed myself but without the stabbing pain in my liver.

    Next, the weather. I’ve very lucky whenever I’ve camped whether it’s been at a festival or just, erm, camping. The last night (the dreaded last night) at V 2007 did start raining though. It was as if to taunt me. Things had gone brilliantly and all I had to do was get one half decent night’s kip and I could go home and sleep it all off, thus coming up smelling of roses around Wednesday time. But tip it down it did and just the site of students mudsliding at midnight made me feel borderline suicidal. Determined to sleep I got into my tent whilst the others stayed up talking utter bollocks for the next 6 hours. I drifted in and out of sleep and each time was subjected to another pearl of wisdom from the 4 man tent next door in which 8 people were smoking. I also had that desperately-need-a-wee-but-can’t-be-arsed-to-get-my-shoes on-and-find-the-loo-but-if-I-don’t-I’ll-never-be-able-to-sleep thing going on and at one point even had to laugh at the fact I was on my knees, head arched into the top of the tent pissing into a half full bottle of Evian. Half full, oh the irony.

    Glastonbury must be the unluckiest place on earth in terms of summer venue where only the weather can spoil the atmosphere. It’s like when you plan your wedding; the one thing you can’t predict is the weather and you hope upon hope that of all things it doesn’t rain. And then it fucking tips it down. As if a message from God with him sticking his enormous middle finger up at you and saying ‘you can sort the small stuff, but I control this weather son’, just so you know who’s really in charge. Anyway Glastonbury’s enormous and I’m told quite a few people go along so mud pies quickly turn into quagmires. I’ve decided that the only way to ensure good, or at least indifferent weather is to bring suntan lotion, sunglasses, waterproof trousers, a poncho, woolly hat and gloves.

    Finally, the line up. I’ve always thought Glastonbury was a bit arrogant making people pay up months in advance not knowing who’d be performing and this year especially so. I’m going to this year’s festival in particular because it’s the 40th anniversary and I thought they’d pull out all the stops. I was thinking the Rolling Stones – now there’s a band – Led Zeppelin – ditto, U2 etc. So when U2 were confirmed along with Muse and Stevie Wonder I was reasonably pleased. Or satisfied rather. I’m not a big U2 fan but as anyone who goes to gigs will tell you, when you’re there bands sound so much better. Pink’s tame radio fodder for example was incredible live at V. And at least they have a decent back catalog and could easily smash out a 2 hour set of classics to finish the night off. Then Bono got too close to the edge or something and knackered his back. Cue excitement from Jimbo, maybe now we’re going to get a huge act that I really like. Green Day, AC/DC, Oasis or the holy grail, Metallica.

    Cue Gorillaz. I’m not kidding either. Someone seriously thought they’d replace one of the top 3 or 4 bands in the world, with a 25 year, multi-award winning, numerous world wide sell out stadium tours, 100 million albums sold track record with an animated cartoon band fronted by the international cock sucker that is Damon Albran. Talk about OMG. I’m still incredulous. Seasoned Glasto friends tell me that the main stage is never the point of the festival and there’s loads more to see when the masses are crammed in to see the headline, but still. I’m definitely one for value here. How much were they paying U2 and as if those monkeys will command the same fee. “Yes, but they stepped in at the last minute, they were av-ail-able”. No shit, I’m available, would do it cheaper and I can’t sing or perform either. What a horses arse.

    So, you’d be forgiven if this post makes me sound like I’m not looking forward to going but I am quite exited about it all. As I mentioned earlier, I’l be looking forward to day one immensely (other than the headliner), day two less so and with the exception of seeing Slash, day three even less.

    Monday morning week, I’ll be hugging my knees and wondering where it all went wrong.

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  4. My iPad – two weeks in

    June 9, 2010 by admin

    As any gadget freak will tell you, the anticipation of owning the object of your desires is almost always greater than the joy you get when it finally arrives. Not so the iPad. O.K, it’s been just under two weeks since I took delivery of my shiny piece of the Californian dream but I’m still in awe. And the anticipation was HUGE. As I wrote on an earlier post, I can’t remember ever looking forward to owning something as much. Googling ‘iPad’ was as much a daily ritual as checking my emails first thing. Apple did a great job, as it always does, of hyping this thing to death and I suppose knowing that it would come one day but not knowing when that day would be only increased the excitement.

    Anyway, arrive it did and I’ve been glued to it ever since. Not owning an iPhone or iPod Touch has probably helped me love it more as it’s the first time I’ve had that interface all to my own. Even with a military grade Zagg screen protector – especially now the air bubbles have gone – the touch response is sublime. There’s a guy on the iPad presentation (the one who looks like he can’t believe he’s alive, he’s so happy) who says that ‘it just feels right‘ and he’s not wrong, using it is so natural and all credit to Apple for making a screen which just works so perfectly.

    I’ve read loads of ‘I lived with it for a week and here are my thoughts’ type blog posts and the majority of them focus on what it can’t do. I suppose a negative post gets more clicks than a positive one, but as I don’t have ads to sell on my site, I don’t have to temper my opinions (I write this shit for fun!). I bought the iPad for what it can do not what it can’t and maybe that’s why I’m so pleased with it. I didn’t buy it to take pictures with or make phone calls or write my thesis. No, I bought it to do all the stuff I bought my laptop to do, but then never did because it’s so fricken heavy and the charger needs its own bag.

    Here’s what I did. Uploaded photos, uploaded a few tunes, bought a couple of movies from iTunes (as well as downloading and recoding a couple of others) and then got a whole load of apps. I also set up my two main email accounts and got all my bookmarks into Safari. Ever since I’ve been tinkering and tweaking settings and getting to grips with it. I thought it would be a hassle taking into work everyday but it’s really not. Although it is quite heavy to use for prolonged periods, it doesn’t seem to add much weight to a bag and I have a charger at work as well as home so that’s not an issue either.

    Here’s how I’ve been using it. Obviously I’ve shown it to everyone I’ve met and they all coo. I’ve shown people the photos application which is really good but I’ve not added any more photos since. I’ve shown them the iPod functionality but I’ve not used it as an iPod (although the built in speaker is surprisingly good) and I’ve shown them some of the apps. In terms of day to day use, I’ve used email heavily; much more than I thought I would, mainly because of the push feature which I’ve never had before. I know I must be the last person to still get their emails manually on a mobile but now I get it, and it’s brilliant! Naturally it’s been a great couch browser and I’ve watched a couple of the films on the train and a recent camping trip.

    Best apps I’ve got were as follows:

    1. Twitterific – top class interface which works as well as the iPad does

    2. The Solitaire – I know this is lame, but even after all these years I enjoy playing it

    3. xFeed – for rss feeds

    4. Rightmove – even though we’re not moving, it’s a brilliant app to keep your eye on the market. It remembers your settings so every time you open it, it displays all houses on the market in your chosen area and budget

    5. Guardian eyewitness – every day one photo is uploaded from a Guardian photojournalist somewhere in the world with a pro-tip. Really impressive images

    6. Touch hockey – addicitve game, perfect for iPad

    7. Sketchpad pro – this is brilliant, I just wish I was better at drawing!

    8. FlightCtrl HD – another addictive time waster game

    9. A load of kids colouring-in and flash card apps. Jake’s not quite as interested as I wanted him to be but he’ll get there soon.

    I’ve installed a few others and also got rid of some of the crappy ones (which shouldn’t have even passed Apple’s scrutineering IMHO) and some I’m reserving judgement on for now.

    I think we get bored of our gadgetry once we’ve bought it for a couple of reasons. One, perhaps the device doesn’t live up to its hype, two, the novelty wears off and perhaps three, we just get used to it. Whilst I am used to my iPad, I can’t get bored of it as there’s always something new popping up. That’s the beauty of it. For everything the iPad can’t do right now, you just know there’s a guy in his bedroom writing an app to sort out.

    In summary, as you may have guessed, I love it. It does exactly what I wanted it to do, it’s so much more portable than my laptop and for all those that said ‘it’s just a big iPod touch’ and wanted it to be a disappointment I can categorically tell you that it’s not. So get over yourselves already and go buy one!

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  5. Testing WordPress for iPad

    June 9, 2010 by admin

    Hope this works…all the reviews say it’s pants.

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  6. Facebook – the 3 year itch

    June 3, 2010 by admin

    It seems as though there are two types of people as far as Facebook is concerned. Those on it and those not on it. It’s no longer a case of those who are on it, those yet to sign up or those yet to hear of it. The point being that those people without Facebook accounts are deliberately so; people who staunchly refuse to cave to the endless invites and join the conversation. We’ve all got a few friends who aren’t on it; some are proud of their abstinence, some are recovering addicts, some scoff but they are all aware of it. Not being on Facebook, it seems, is as much of an effort as taking part.

    Having spent a brief time flirting with Bebo in 2005, I was one of the early nay sayers to Facebook. I thought ‘social networking’ was just for teenage girls gossiping in txt spk about the latest boyband, tv episode, hairstyle. Lol. I gave in during Spring of 2007, initially (as the excuse goes) to keep an eye on what everyone at work was spending too much time on. Then I got hooked, as you do. Having capitulated all guilty pleasures can be embraced. Friend requests, photos, status updates and general snooping around was no longer off limits and soon you realise its value. It is, after all, a lot of fun or interesting at least.

    Slowly more and more ‘friends’ signed up and found you or you found them. Like everyone else I found myself looking at my friend count and comparing it with others, then racking my brains for long forgotten work colleagues, school friends and second cousins to invite. We’ve all had brief one liners with people we’ve not seen for 20 years, agreed ‘we must meet up’ and then moved onto the next random connection whose acquaintance was just as easily not kept up with. The point being that for most of us, our networks are full, or nearly full. Sure we’ll add a few here and there after a stag do or whatever but most of who we know are now in our networks.

    With its 400 million or so members, Facebook assures us that it is the biggest social networking ‘utility’ on the planet and whilst the size of the database would show this to be correct, not all Facebookers are alike. I’m sure I have ‘friends’ who think I use Facebook too much, update my status too much, post too many photos etc but they’ll have plenty of connections who do nothing. So who’s worse? The loud mouth or the passive voyeur? Websites which are populated by user generated content, such as Facebook is, tend to rely on a couple of things. 1. Users and 2. Content. Without either they fail so those who provide the noise are those who push it further, without them the rest of us would have nothing to waste endless hours looking at, commenting on, criticising.

    It’s funny to think of what people put on Facebook and how much they censor it before doing so. There’s things I’d say to my actual friends that I’d never dream of publishing to my Facebook network. But why, when they’re supposed to be my friends also? I think it’s a predicament most have although perhaps less so the younger the audience gets. If you’re in your thirties like me, you’ll probably have mates, colleagues, family, old school teachers even and as such, the content you publish could never be appropriate or relevant to all of them. I understand that friends can be put into lists and different statuses published to different lists but why have them as friends at all if you can’t say to one what you’d say to another?

    Most of my best friends in real life don’t participate much, in fact most of my Facebook friends are pretty quiet. I’d love to see Zuckerberg publish some stats on the percentage of users who do nothing versus the total headcount. I think it would show who’s doing all the work and who’s just there for the ride keeping their powder dry and passing offline comment.

    In my little corner of Facebook the people making the most noise are, in the main, people who I see very seldom or those who I haven’t seen for years and years and I guess that’s a good thing. Relationships which were dead and happily forgotten about until a couple of years ago now flourish, albeit in an artificial, digital environment. Perhaps we interact more online with those who we’ll probably never see again than those we’ll be seeing at the weekend.

    And now I’ve come to a point where I sometimes stop myself updating my status or posting a link lest it cause offence, or worse make someone delete our connection. We’ve all done that thing where we see our friend count drop by 1 and wonder who it was that has committed the ultimate betrayal of ‘unfriending’ us? Weirdly, you check some of the most tenuous connections for who has opted out of your inner circle. But why should you care? Your real friends will put up with whatever rubbish you share when drunk at 3am, but offend a third cousin or a distant friend from kindergarten and you’re out. It makes no sense. It’s made us more social in a sense, but has also increased paranoia and insecurity. I don’t care who many times you hear someone say ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks of me’, I’ll never believe it, especially of anyone on Facebook.

    So, what now? Friend count >300, all my photos uploaded (the coolest tagged /the worst detagged), links tidied up, comments made. All there is left to do is selectively update my status in the hope that people will ‘like’ it or comment or even better, start a flurry of comments therefore showing my update to be witty, insightful or provocative. Beyond that the only thing left to do is to delete the account. Recently there was a Facebook group set up for people to join claiming that they were going to delete their accounts! Why not just do it, instead of telling everyone that you will on the network you’re going to leave!? I suspect many didn’t.

    Facebook then, is brilliant and ridiculous in varying measures. A technical marvel, a place for debate, sharing, connecting but it’s also a waste of time, artificial, self congratulatory. One thing is for sure and that’s that it’s here to stay and has changed the way we interact on one level at least, forever.

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  7. Lego Printer

    June 2, 2010 by admin

    Jeez, you’ve got to admire some people’s drive to innovate but sometimes you wonder if their time wouldn’t be better working on something else. Like curing AIDS or furthering space travel.

    Some guys just made a dot matrix printer out of lego and a felt tip pen. When you think of people who could create stuff like that but also took some advice from business people you think of guys like Bill Gates et al. I hope whoever spent the winter and spring in their garage gets some good advice soon.

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  8. Speech

    June 1, 2010 by admin

    Hearing words coming from your offspring after months and months of trying to get them to talk is so awesome. For weeks Jake’s speech has been developing on a daily basis but now it seems to be hourly. He doesn’t quite understand questions, so getting him to answer isn’t great but show him a flash card and he’ll say it. Well he’ll say ‘bike’, ‘apple’, ‘nana’ and a few others but it’s brilliant. This is the last, non-surgery related hurdle in the cleft saga so it’s cool to hear him getting to grips with words. He might still need some help but for now he seems to be getting on really well. Happy days.

    By the way, the iPad is anything but an anti-climax. I cannot put it down (other than to drop it as I did on Saturday), the apps are incredible, the user experience is sublime and as Stephen Fry said way back when it was first launched, when you stop thinking about what it can’t do and just get on and use it, you realise how unbelievably good it is. There is nothing I’ve asked it to do that it can’t and I couldn’t love it more. I reckon there’s definitely a lesson to be learned here; only when you stop obsessing about something’s shortfalls and embrace its attributes can you truly appreciate it. I’m such a philosopher.

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