Thursday, 24 December 2009

Pics of previous years’ mobhanded icing attempts

As requested by a Regular Reader (and Kronprinzeßin).









No, I don’t know what happened in the other years! :)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

GJ’s Christmas Cake recipe


  • 8 oz sultanas
  • 8 oz raisins
  • 4 oz currants
  • 2 oz mixed peel
  • 2 oz glace cherries, halved
  • 6 oz dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 oz dried apples, chopped
  • 4 oz dried dates, chopped
  • 4 oz dried peaches, chopped
  • 4 oz dried pears, chopped

(Note after all the dried fruit: “If you cannot get all these it will probably be OK if you get different weights, as long as they more or less even up to the same total amount. If you can’t get the variety in the shops try the Julian Graves website.”)

  • 8 oz butter
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of a lemon
  • Grated rind and juice of an orange
  • 4 fl oz orange juice
  • 4 fl oz brandy
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 11 oz plain flour, white
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Put the fruit, butter, sugar, lemon and orange zest and juice, into a large pan with 4 fl oz water. Bring slowly to the boil, stir and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the brandy and spices and transfer to a large bowl. When cold, cover and put in a cool place (not the fridge) for three days, stirring daily.

Line a 10-inch round cake tin with double sheets of greaseproof paper.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Stir the treacle into the boiled fruit and beat in the eggs.

Sift flour and baking powder and stir into the mixture. It will be slightly sloppy.

Turn it into the tin and bake for about 4½ hours.

Note – excessive hotness

In consultation with the great GJ herself and with the Junior GJ-Cakemaking Year 10 Work-Experience Trainee Apprentice Team of Drs AC and DY, the following has emerged: this cake has a slight tendency to burn on top. The following advice has been offered:

  1. Keep an eye on temperature and time, and maybe consider reducing temperature
  2. Keep an eye on the cake itself towards the end. (Yes Tamsin: Duh indeed.)
  3. Consider giving it a lid of greaseproof paper fairly early in the cooking process. Not touching the cake mix itself but over the top of the tin. There’s no science on what effect this has … er, convection currents anyone?? Maybe it’s just magic. I know, I know … go figure.
  4. It’s a huge cake, and is meant to be iced. Having, therefore, to saw the top off due to its frazzlation is not such a disaster and has certainly happened “more than once”, I am told.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

nidbaabeth™ - a sanity-saving new concept

Oh thank goodness, a claimed neologism that doesn't turn out to mean 400 things in Danish or have been bagsied by 976 other bloggers six years before I thought I'd thought of it!

nidbaabeth™: No, I don't blog about absolutely bl**dy everything that happens!

You read it here first, ladies and gentlemen.

I shall return to this. (Please see also the FIQ. Thank you.)

I had also considered:

ntidbaabeth™: No, Tamsin, I don't blog about absolutely bl**dy everything that happens!

... but, let's be honest, it is a poor thing beside the glory that is nidbaabeth™.

Thank you for visiting. Vogel out.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Rabbi 'offered cocaine for sex'

Has there ever been a finer headline? I mean, what's missing? I suppose that something about Web 2.0 would have been nice, or maybe a mention of reality TV or sustainable energy - but even so that's pretty good going.

Oopsie-Beebs-a-blog™: Also submerged underwater too? (fixed)

wetbeeb (inarticulate howls of protest fading out into sobbing …)

Look, is it just me or is there something horribly wrong with this sentence?

A car was also submerged underwater too, he added

It comes from the Beeb’s news story Canal leak floods family's home. I mean, if that’s good writing, then is this one better?

Additionally, a car was also submerged underwater by immersion too, he added

- (three-all, yes!) and presumably this is even nicer – nicer, indeed, than bunny-wunnies:

Additionally, a car furthermore was also submerged underwater by immersion in the flood too, he added

- and so on. 4-4! Why stop there? I could go for 5-5 you know …

Go on, then, answer the question – is it just me? I mean, I think it’s terrible writing and it troubles me that no-one looked at it before announcing it to a squillion people, because I think the Beeb should be a champion of good writing and careful editing. But hey: YMMV.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Oopsie-Beebs-a-blog™ – Cymbals are grand; or not. (fixed)


boris I’m sorry but sometimes a really good session of News Rage™ is helped along with a little scream.

Right, so Boris opened a new version of How to Cross Oxford Circus today, which is good.

The BBC reported it, which is good, with a bit of video, which is also good. And they gave us a nice set of photos, which is good too. All good so far.

In the BBC report they said this:

London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled the crossing by striking a cymbal.

… which is not good. It’s even right up at the top, where many people are still reading.

They perhaps got it from the Mayor’s press release, which said this:

… the road was officially opened by the Mayor who struck a two metre high cymbal …

No, no, no, no, no Auntie, that is NOT a cymbal. Really really not. Please do some research.

No, no, no, no, no Boris’s press people, that is NOT a cymbal. Really really not. Please do some research.

I have, as usual, because I am such a sad git, wroted to them. It was, I hope, a humorous and pleasant email message, which may with luck have made someone smile. (Or possibly want to hit me … hmmm occupational hazard I guess.) It even suggested (to the Beeb anyway) a number of starting points for finding out what it really is. (For example, do you think, Tamsin, that the word “Paiste” could perhaps be a manufacturer’s name? Yes, good girl, you may indeed use the telephonic device to contact them and politely enquire just what that large instrument might be. Well done, you shall have a shilling.)

I mean, really.

And yes, I know, I know. Usual disclaimers apply. Thames not set on fire, no lives endangered, income tax rate remains unchanged. The Beeb were just copying the press release (because that’s how you do reporting, right?) and Boris’s press people were told something, or guessed it, and were too busy to get it right. And it’s trivial, and London’s children will probably not fail GCSE Music just because that’s what they think a cymbal looks like. Fine … It’s just sloppy, is all, and makes me sad. And fat, but that’s another story. (Do you think I can sue?)

Update (some time later): I had a nice reply from Paiste, who said:

“This is [a] Paiste Symphonic Gong. We assume it's a 60".”

So there you go. Would it really have been so hard for someone (that is, someone other than me) to check, instead of just assuming that they “knew”? Sigh. But, like I say, no actual harm done … unless of course you think ignorance is bad (oops).

Friday, 30 October 2009

Gigless Remembrance Day?

Oh dear. It's 1st November the day after tomorrow and I currently have no gig to do the Last Post on Remembrance Sunday. Do you think I blotted my copybook so badly last year that I've had it? Oh dear, and oh dear again. At the time, I thought everyone was full of forgiveness ... hmm, watch this space. I wonder if I will, in the end, get offered it - or any other similar gig - this year.

If you've dropped in here looking for how to pronounce Reveille in British English then you should probably click this paragraph.

If you want more on the Last Post and Reveille then here are my other bits on the topic:
  • 2007
  • 2008 (rhymes with Very Nearly Late)
- and here's a well-meaning but horrible-looking site with more information about this area:
Here's a final thought. If I don't get offered the gig, and they are still using a bugler/trumpet player, shall I go along to the service? Would that be a bit, erm, yes? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Update: no gig, chiz, but I don't really mind as I know who did do it (the very nice Tom D; Haringey people will know) and I thoroughly approve. He probably ought to symbolically kill me and eat my brains or nail my bugle (ouch!) to the barn door or something, but I guess we can skip the formalities. Go, my boy, this world is yours now ...

Friday, 23 October 2009

Penelope White das Graças - nice concert tomorrow

Here is a piece I wrote about a St Anne's concert by this fine singer. Now there's news of another London gig - it's tomorrow so get your skates on!

FUNDRAISING CONCERT 24th October 7.30pm, London

Fundraising Concert “Life Cycle and other stories”

The Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London W1

25th October 2009 - 7.30pm

Come and watch the talented White-Pires Duo in the compelling fundraising concert “Life Cycle and other stories” where they will be joined by guest star, Bruno Santino, member of the internationally acclaimed opera band AMICI. The choice of repertoire for the concert is to coincide with the reason for the concert – children.

A Charm of Lullabies Benjamin Britten

Valsa da Dor (piano solo) Heitor Villa-lobos

Kindertotenlieder Gustav Mahler

A selection of popular opera arias and duets by Mozart, Rossini, Bizet, and Saint-Saëns

British born Penelope White das Graças (mezzo-soprano) achieved her PG Dip in Performance at Trinity College of Music and in 2006 won a place on the first Mentorship Scheme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She has given concerts and recitals in England, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil and the US, performing diverse repertoire in venues including St Martin in the Fields and St James’ Piccadilly, London. She is now living in Brazil, researching the rich Brazilian classical song repertoire and attending the prestigious Tela Lírica opera studio at the Teatro Guaíra, Curitiba. For more information please see

Brazilian Ivan Pires (pianist) graduated in Piano Performance from the School of Music and Fine Arts of Paraná, Brazil. He has recorded several interviews and recitals for Brazilian television and radio programs. Currently, he splits his professional life teaching pupils in London and Paris, also working as a recitalist and collaborative artist in BrazilEurope. For more information please see and

Brazilian Bruno Santino (baritone) changed the course of his life from being a chemical engineer by winning several scholarships to study singing abroad, where completed his PG Dip in Vocal Training and MMus in Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. As a testament to his outstanding abilities, not only did he achieve distinction in his PGDip but his prizes include the Revelation Singer Award of 2001, UFMG’s Young Soloist 2002, Eleazar de Carvalho’s National Competition for Young Soloists 2002 and was Highly Commended in the Guildhall’s 2005 English Song competition. For more information please see

The Charity

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Foopball - a review

Thursday, 26 May 2005

There was a foopball match shown on the televisual receiver last night.

I watched it with my friend Adrian and my wife Deborah and my collie called Daisy and a great big glass of wine called Fitou. It was most exciting! At the end a lot of plump gentlemen who had been spectating from the upper parts of the auditorium took their shirts off and waved them around. My word. They did seem jolly. They were infected with enthusiasm by a gentleman called Mr Dudek who very kindly did some funny little dances to cheer up the foopball players from the opposing "team" or "side". Goodness, how we clapped and smiled at this little foreign chap's merry antics!

Yours sincerely

Mr Strawberry Yoghurt

Note: this was first posted on my then-LiveJournal in 2005.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Moonshot disappointment

In which we proudly present the first and best NASA LCROSS impact photography, complete with massive explosive dust plume and who knows what else. Guaranteed fully authentic and very, very scientific. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the image for which the world has been waiting.

I got very excited about the LCROSS mission and the fact that at 1130 today it was due to smash a great big rocket into the moon. This would create an excitingly massive debris cloud which, the Metro told me, would be visible for a couple of minutes from here, which is a pretty cool proposition, so as I was travelling at that time (long story) I got off the Tube at Kings Cross and went up to the street in the hope of seeing something. What I could see at exactly 1130 was a lot of cloud with maybe an inch or two of blue sky, so I wandered off again to finish the journey. When I got to work, though, it was even more exciting because it was still going on - I think maybe I'd seen 1130 GMT and forgotten we're on summer time, or they'd run out of petrol and had to go back, or something. Anyway, the point was that it was still happening and was live on the Beeb. As the time got closer I watched it and even sent email round the office pointing it out to others. (Sounds a bit didactic of me but, well, I am, plus doing stuff like this has had good results in the past.)

As the moment approached they cut to a camera which I think must have been in the nose of the Centaur upper stage rocket - the first and biggest hitting-the-moon thing - and it showed some quite nice, but not over-exciting, footage of craters getting bigger, then bigger ... then the screen went white, and there was no more. (I conjecture that this was when the camera operator baled out before it hit so he or she could get home safely in their Rocket-Pak™.)

I then thought, great, they will now show us the footage from the other bit of spaceship, or from a big telescope, or something, in which the rocket smacks into the moon and a huge explosion of debris blasts up into the atmosphere (yes I know I know, don't bother me, I'm on a roll here) and it's all dead exciting, because that's what the whole thing was about.

moonshot-disappointment Ermmmm, nothing. No footage, no explosion, no dust plume blowing in the wind (shuttup shuttup), no nothing much really. As I write they still say they're analysing the data but, so far, no wonderful pictures have emerged showing the moment of impact. Well, apart from this one, which was pretty difficult to research. But what actually happened, I wonder? Ho hum ... Onward and, er, downward!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Strawberry Yoghurt FIQ

Welcome to this Strawberry Yoghurt FIQ. Please take a seat, a small pile of napkins, and some of these delicious root vegetable crisps from Pret à Manger. There you are. Lovely. Mr Thompson will shortly be along with a pleasant beverage for you. In the meantime kindly proceed with the FIQs.

Why is this blog secret?

It isn't.

Well, why haven't you told me about it?

Ah. Because I didn't know if you'd like it: indeed I worried that you'd actively disapprove, and think less of me for having it. It is, after all, a pretty self-indulgent thing to have. I mean, I quite like it, myself, but I am not exactly proud of it per se; and I could never really say, "hey, you must read this, it's great."

Not long after I embarked on this yogological journey I was talking to someone whose opinions I usually really rather respect. I mentioned blogging, though not apropos of this one: probably Tom Reynolds or Dr Crippen or something. I was quite taken aback by their very negative reaction which was - to paraphrase a little - that it's all a self-indulgent waste of time, they couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want to write or read one, it could never be any good, and so on. So, not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, you may note. After this I wasn't in a huge hurry to blurt out something starting along the lines of "hey, guess what?" and I suppose this has stuck a bit.

There's a bit more to it than that but this'll have to do for version 1. Essentially, I didn't tell you about this blog because I'm still not sure that I'm not slightly ashamed of it.

Why do you have a blog?

Dunno. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I've always liked to write and never seemed to have time. Since I got my first PDA (HP Jornada 450 of blessed memory) ages ago in 2001 or something, though, it's opened up some little chinks of time, for example when commuting, that I can use to write in. This has led to my building up a small stock of pieces that could one day become blog entries - if I ever get round to them!

My Dear Kiddiwinks, well a majority of them anyway, have also been most encouraging and supportive. So, I done it.

So you think you're A Writer do you?

Ah no. I think that I am someone who likes writing, and afterwards likes reading what I have written, or at least some of it. I am well aware that a Real Writer possesses about ninety-three characteristics that I lack.

What do you like to write about?

Obviously there's all sorts of nonsense in here but the key thing, the thing that got me going, is accounts of travel and other odds and ends (perhaps music and orienteering, the odd interesting weekend) that I like to read about again. So in a sense it is just a glorified diary.

What was your first such piece of writing?

Memory plays interesting games with this but I think the first thing I wrote in recent times, with the idea of it being some kind of travel diary, was about being in North Yorkshire when Lottie was on ProCorda North. This was, oh, yonks ago. I still haven't posted it anywhere but I still intend to do so!

As far as I recall I started writing it because I was (mostly) on my own, doing touristy things while Lottie was busy, and I wanted to capture more of the experience than I could with just photographs. With the passing years my memory is not actually improving so this becomes more important.

And your first actual blog entry?

That was on this blog's LiveJournal predecessor and was about the simple pleasures of watching football on the telly. A copy, for better or for worse, may now be seen here.

You writing about football? Ha!!

I know, I know, but give me a break: a cat can look at a king, no? And anyway it wasn't exactly a formal match report.

What's with the Strawberry Yoghurt thing?

Well, I had to call it something. And I do like strawberry yoghurt. Really. And "Fat Sad Middle-Aged Bloke with Various Annoying Obsessions" seems a little lacking in poetry; and indeed, judging by some of the other blogs I've seen, I imagine it's already taken.

So this is not an entirely serious, pure and high-minded fruit'n'dairy-product review site?

Lamentably, no.

And the anonymity?

I think I cover this in the "About Me" bit. As I explain there, it's partly work-related; it's partly to not make life too easy for lazy Googlers; and so on. It's not exactly a nuclear-hardened level of security but I like it. I also, I suppose, like having a spare identity to play with.

And the ranting?

Rants lower BP, lessen risk of brain exploding, maybe occasionally help work through things. Or not.

And the ranting about Virgin businesses?

More to come.

Why Vogel von Neustadt?

More to come. But why not?

So are you really an ex-cavalry officer of aristocratic birth, raised in some unspecified but probably German-speaking country somewhere in The Middle, where coast is somewhat scarce but mountains ten a pfennig?

Er ... Yes?

And yet at other times you seem to attempt to claim to be a northern working-class son of toil, whose Dad's generation was the first in the male line of descent not to go down t'pit, eee 'appen?

Er ... Yes. Odd, isn't it?

Who is Sprengel?

More to come.

What is the name of the Imp of the Right Shoulder?

More to come.

Who are Tamsin and Colin?

More to come.

Your blog seems rather lightweight?


And doesn't really deal with the Bigger Issues in Life?


But where is The Profundity?

Erm. Friern Barnet? Is it that new wine bar?

The Angst?

Lost me there, guv

Do you really expect your readers to believe that your life is as jolly and straightforward as you portray it?


Didn't you mean this to be an FAQ?


Oh go on, then, I'll bite: <sigh> why, pray, is this called an FIQ?

Frequently Imagined Questions

How should one pronounce FIQ?

Hmmmm – I suppose it comes out sounding a bit fick?

Talking of pronunciation, what's this thing about Reveille?

More to come.

Why do your children have titles, each one in a different language?

The European aristocracy is jolly complicated.

Do you actually read it?

More to come.


More to come.

Mr Thompson?

More to come.

Mrs Thompson?

More to come.

An ting?

Ah yes. You have Althea and Donna to thank for that.

Zorb Grelzer and The Grokuloids

I wonder whatever happened to poor old Zorb and the gang? Zorb Grelzer and The Grokuloids, eh? There’s a name to conjure with: frankly they just don’t make bands like that any more.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Bugles (and a Trumpet?) at Henry Allingham’s funeral

aux-morts-v3 I see the sad obsessive type who runs the Last Post Bugle Call page has written something about Henry Allingham’s funeral. It would seem that expensive and perhaps even painful research has led him to write a line or two describing what happened. One rousing (aha) cheer.

I must say that, as always (uh?), I’m astonished by the way in which, if you know anything about a news story, you quickly realize how much inaccuracy creeps in (like ejector seats in a Whitley!) and so I fear it has been with this story's coverage in the mainstream media. Journos and others happily assert what they think may have happened, or what their prejudices tell them happened, or even (horrors!) what a press release told them happened. In the meantime you, if you happen to know anything about bugles or yoghurt or aircraft or football or crochet or archaeology or theology or sociology or phrenology (OK OK) or just to have Been There When It Happened, you sit there chewing your knuckles in rage and muttering how could they possibly write that until the nurse arrives with your medication. What? Oh yes, sorry.

I remember once many years ago when the local paper did a piece about a dig on which Mum was working as a volunteer. This was my first encounter with Press Disillusionment, harmless really though it was. There was a nice photo of Mum holding up an artefact and the caption said “look, a piece of 12th Century pottery!” Great. lovely, nice story. Why’s this a problem? Well, no-one died but I do remember Mum pointing out that (a) she’d never said anything of the kind and (b) it wasn’t C12 anyway but a bit (a century or two or three) younger than that. In other words, the journalist simply made it up or, if we are to call a spade a spade, they – er - lied. Now as I say no lasting harm was done but experiences like that do make you suspicious; and every subsequent story of which I’ve had personal knowledge has been wrong in some detail or other … and of course the message is that if on my or your small sample of personal-knowledge stories there’s always something wrong, then how right is all the rest of what’s published?

And indeed does it matter? If some little detail is wrong in every story then it still means most stories are say >95% right – maybe that is good enough, and obsessing over pottery or bugles profits us naught. Sigh. I dunno. What do you think?

Anyway, back to the funeral. It was a splendid, impressive affair, and hardly sad at all – which is pretty reasonable, when you think it through. The musicians were great and their performance enhanced the whole thing immeasurably (yes, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It was especially good/interesting/whatever to hear the French guy play Aux Morts, and to hear the Royal Marines at the end play the Naval Reveille, which took me more than a moment, though it should not have, to recognize. All good stuff.

Picture credit: The image showing the French player in mid-call and the two Royal Marines ready to go next was “borrowed” from the BBC News story mentioned above, thank you.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Oopsie-Beebs-a-Blog™ – witless over Whitleys. (fixed)

whitley Auntie has an interesting story about a WWII bomb being blown up on the site of a 1940 Whitley crash. The story is quite good until the author’s imagination gets the better of them and they write:

“The crew of the plane all safely ejected from the aircraft.”

Ejected? Really? I don’t think so.

I don’t mean to be rude but I do wonder what the journalist was trying to accomplish here. In earlier references (this particular story is a kind of rehash based upon there maybe being more dangerous remains to dispose of) like this and this they get it right, sticking to words like parachuted and baled out, but it’s only in this last one where the need to rewrite - and perhaps to try to sex it up a little? - has led the journalist into sad (but funny) error.

Ho hum. I have wroted to them. I wonder if they will fix it, and/or send me an amusing reply? The Beeb is sometimes quite remarkable in these matters. I will keep you posted, dear reader.

Oh yes, there’s a nice photo gallery here too, in case you’re interested.

Vogel out. Jump jump jump.

Appendix The First (and only): for those Benighted Persons Who Are Currently Going Uh Well Like What’s Wrong With That Then Er Yuh Duh?

Articles from Wikipedia (the online encyclopaedia anyone can ruin):

  • The elderly Whitley bomber, designed in the mid-30s and obsolescent at the outbreak of war;
  • The ejector seat, first used for real in 1942, barely making it into a very few production aircraft by 1945, and far from commonplace for a few more years after that: to most intents and purposes a post-WWII technology.

Are you starting to see the problem, Tamsin? Attagirl!

Update (a little later in the day); it now reads:

“The crew of the plane escaped from the aircraft.”

- which reads rather weakly to me, but is at least true. Sadly I have had no funny email from some nice BeebEditPerson to make me laugh. Ho hum. But well done Auntie for correcting it.

Monday, 27 July 2009

No, no, no, no, no, NO! 2/10, poor effort, see me.

Look. Heaven knows I have tried to help but this is frankly NOT GOOD ENOUGH:

Dear Valued Customer,

Lloyds TSB has sent you a mail to update your account but still you are unable to complete your account details,As a result of this, We are making an extra security checking on all of our Customers account in order to protect their information from theft and fraud.

Update Your Account [link saferized by Vogel’s Safe-o-Links™]

What can we do when standards have slipped this far? I blame the parents.

Friday, 24 July 2009


From an all-staff email today:

Dear all, this is to let you know the talk below has been cancelled as the speaker is unwell.

Division of Infection Journal Club presents: [and so on]

I know, I know, I am a bad and pathetic person. It just made me smile a bit, is all.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Well that’s just ignorant that is

dutchrailmoan3I have been having a lovely time on the Dutch high-speed rail website trying to book some train tickets.

Even before this, it’s been a long and frustrating story of nearly getting what I wanted and then being thwarted at the last minute. When, however, I got onto this site it all seemed to be going terribly well and I really thought I’d cracked it. Yeah man.

dutchrailmoan1But how absolutely idiotic of me not to realise that:

“The specified order cannot be found, or the order is already paid.”

- actually means:

“You need to enable third-party cookies in your browser.”

… as any fule kno.

dutchrailmoan2 If only I were clever enough to have realised the true meaning of this perfectly sensible, ordinary, customer-friendly bit of IT Talk™ I could have saved myself much anxiety during the entirely fun and wacky process of trying to buy rail tickets from Brussels-Midi to Bergen op Zoom (as you do). I could have avoided the time spent trying to phone their helpline (you can’t); trying to get their guess-the-question system to give me some help or a valid-from-the-UK phone number (haha forget it buddy boy); the multiple retries, the gibbering, the swearing … the whole thing really. Thanks Hispeed and Worldpay for a very annoying experience.

Marvellous. And yes, I did (with the help of my friend Dr Google) suss it in the end, and yes I have got the tickets. Woo yeah. It’s just that I feel a touch resentful over spending a chunk, however small, of my life trying to sort out something they could and should have told me in one pithy and pungent sentence. (No, Tamsin, not that one.)

I could do with a nice cup of tea now.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Eee appen brass brass eeee

Oh dear it's a long story which I shall have to try to make shorter but:


  1. I am up to my eyes in it, really quite badly, at the moment. Yes Tamsin I know that "sounds familiar" but please try not to sneer, dear. It is unbecoming and if the wind changes you may well stay like that.
  2. Much of what I am up to my eyes in is harmless, necessary, even fun (though some of it is not) but the real killer isn't the individual items but the combination of them. The same stuff as I am doing these two months spread out over say four of them instead would not be a problem. Well I mean I would still whinge and b*tch like the old drama queen I am but I might actually hack it a bit better. (Please Colin do not make that noise in front of the ladies and gentlemen.)

Anyway anyway.

Matters arising:

  1. One of the many nice things is that on Sunday there is a Stonking Monster Party at the Grand And Grandparental Mansion of Muehlenfeldplatz. This celebrates: a quite significant birthday of my dear Mother-in-Law (a birthday with a zero at its end though an officer and gentleman such as like wot I am would never tell you which digit precedes this); and the fact that my wife's family and their Viking neighbours have lived in the said Mansion for fifty years, yep fifty, count 'em kiddo; and finally I think some mention may be made of the fact that on the 14th - yes Tamsin, Bastille Day, good girl - my Dear Wife Bless Her and I will have been married for twenty-five years without actually killing each other! This is all good stuff.
  2. We have enough brass players in the extended family to put together a small brass ensemble.
  3. I duly received orders instructing me to put together a small brass ensemble.
  4. What do'you think I am, some kind of rebel? (“Spartacus? Yeah, that's him over there mate. Cheers.”)
  5. We rehearsed last night in the "playroom" at the said housoid (see pic).

Now read on:

playroom2 This was a hoot and a half. We had an interesting mix of players, from really quite good (older grandchildren) via a couple of adults to really quite beginnery (younger grandchildren). The Infanta Marfs has even been coaxed out of retirement to play her tenor horn (to some readers this is an alto or Eb horn but don't worry, it's not in the exam).

Let us make no mistake here: I have been in a complete flat spin over this.

Exactly why, I am not sure, but it's been ... oh, a mixture of things. Nevertheless, we were eventually all there last night with some instruments and some music and it happened. I spent a few minutes beforehand going through the "easy" trumpet part with the littler trumpet players and then we launched into What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor and you know, I'm not kidding, it sounded fantastic. Well OK it's not Philip Jones or Canadian Brass or Whoever but, just for a little thing for a party, I thought it just sounded wonderful. And yes I am a touch biased.

The very fitting main arrangement we are doing is by the Iarlles Loötës and is of the classic Our House by Madness. Geddit? Good. Some of the older party-goers won't geddit, actually, but that doesn't matter as they will be enchanted by the cute antics of the tiny offspring anyway. This is a suitably storming arrangement of this fine song and will I have no doubt be well received.

I wanted to do an arrangement of The Way You Look Tonight, starting in the style of Gabrieli then merging into the song. Don't laugh, it sounds great in my head. Unfortunately it got no further than this so will have to wait for some other gig. Sue me.

What I did do, though, is dig out some old (bought) brass arrangements I already had from gurt yonks ago, dust them off, replace missing parts (or fail to, or do it badly), add the easy trumpet parts and so on. So the other thing we are doing is the Junior Just Brass (Philip Jones's easier line) arrangements of three sea shanties, this being where WSWDWTDS comes into it. This gives us that tune and also Shenandoah and Fire in the Galley. That's a respectable amount of music for the event; we can repeat it later if people want; and I'll also have some quartet/quintet music and maybe some jazz and busker books, in case the spirit moves the more experienced players to go on a while longer while the littlies recover from their trauma with ice-cream and cake.

Sound good? You bet it did.


  • Trumpets 5 (three experienced players, two not but they are great)
  • Tenor Horn 1 (live and direct: the Infanta Marfs)
  • Trombones 2 (both experienced players)

- so this is, frankly, doable. With the exception of me, these are really very musical people and it makes up in musicality and enthusiasm anything which it may lack in stuff like, ooh, you know, precision an ting. 

Like I said, I have been very very very worried about this brass thing. If I told you how pleased I was with it last night you would probably feel quite unwell. But it was really great. We are already thinking - assuming we all survive Sunday - that we must try to do it again sometime. It was too much fun not to. Playing together is just the biz.

Note: whenever I talk to horn players about transposition I get a headache trying to follow their outrageous mental processes. I was disturbed to find that Martha has now joined this bizarre brother- and sisterhood. As a person with a very good sense of pitch but very little experience on horn she found it almost impossible to read the transposed horn part. She had fingerings written in, which helps, but the pitch was baffling. What on earth she is now doing is beyond me to understand - I think it sort-of involves reading the treble-clef part in bass clef (though that would still leave you in the wrong octave, but hey) and adjusting the key to suit. It seems to work, is the point.

Note on the note: the worst-ever conversation I ever had about this was with a pro horn player in Bristol. After a while he confessed that what he'd really like best would be for every note to be written as a C, with the appropriate transposition indicated. There are some very odd people out there.

I could go on about this more, but had probably better not. I might, if I ever get caught up a bit, write a bit about what happens on Sunday.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

GoodBooks: GornBooks

MAL_0214 I was very very sad to hear that GoodBooks are shutting up shop and going their four separate ways. Their blog tells us that their set in Glastonbury this Sunday morning will be their last.

I liked this band. Obviously, my head was turned by the heady days of 2007 when Lottie and I had a glorious couple of gigs deputising as some/all of their horn section. We had, as long-term readers will know, a poptastic time. But that apart, I thought they were an original, interesting and clever band with some wonderful songs.

Of course, they are also four very talented individuals, and nice with it, so I have no doubt that they will prosper in their next enterprises. I'll look forward to hearing more about these.

I hope we'll get the Glasto coverage on some sort of televisual broadcast thing. That would be nice. I can't make my mind up whether I want them to do Passchendaele (great song, nice to hear it) or don't want them to (green with envy and a bit sad because we're not there). Hmmmm and ho hum, eh?

If I have one regret it's that I never got to join in the chanting in Walk With Me. I'd have liked that. Here we go: "Oh, come on, walk with me, I want you to walk with me!" See? I'm good at it! The next time my pop-o-tronic pop music career erupts poptrumpetastically on a helpless and astonished universe (this is scheduled to be in about 2032 I think) I reckon I'll have to be a bit more proactive about asking (nicely) to do (nice) things.

Bye bye boys, it was great.

Update-o-blog-o-irony: I wrote that last night. This morning, in one of those piquant little twists that a slightly bored Fate enjoys teasing us with, the very first two things that came up on Random Pleyel on my Wretched Young Persons' Portable Phonographic Device were the unmistakeable sound of GoodBooks (The Butcher [We All Fear for You] since you ask) followed by the equally unmistakeable sound of the lovely Ian McMillan Orchestra, who of course were one of the other acts in the Radio 4 Loose Ends programme that was such a jolly jape. (Just for the sake of completeness and my mild OCD let me tell you that they were performing The Shanty Attacker.) So the first few minutes of my journey into work were a sort of little recapitulation of the flavour of that enormously enjoyable gig.

Now OK, randomness is random, which is why they call it "random", and a statistician could tell you why this little coincidence probably isn't really so amazing, because that is pretty much what we pay them to do. Even so, it was quite a cool moment, and I liked it.

Photo by courtesy of James at Mallinsons.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


So, farewell then:
  • Living with Bert - very amusing, sometimes tinged with a touch of, erm, affectionate bitterness or something. Not updated since 15th April 2008. Your guess is as good as mine. I miss it.
  • Punclox: inexplicable group writing by Wretched Young Persons™. Do not let your auntie read it. Well that's what it used to say. However, your auntie cannot now read it anyway so that risk is past; indeed only members of the Punclox Inner Circle™ can read it as it is no longer public. Where on Earth will confused people go looking for Donnie Darko hints now? The world is a duller place without Punclox and I salute it (attempts to make complicated saluting gesture but falls over).
I have removed these two from Links-I-Like and I have officially recategorized them as Links-I-Liked. They are now to be found in storage at Wookey Hole caves.

Friday, 12 June 2009

ITG 2009 – miscellaneous weebling on about stuff

I thought I might use this page for some miscellaneous weebling on about stuff, if that’s OK with you?

ITG 2009 - travel

Yes it’s a laugh a minute with Vogel’s adventure-o-licious travel stories.

Er, or not.

ITG 2009 - venues

Oh alright then. I’ll regret this, I can see it now.

ITG 2009 – food

Did you really expect me to ignore this important, nay consuming (ahahaha) topic? No, me neither.

ITG 2009 - Harrisburg

About the very pleasant city. Am I including venues in here? Hmm not sure, watch this space.

ITG 2009 – Gettysburg

We went to Gettysburg. I’m working on my write-up. Honest I am.

ITG 2009 - gigs

Well you’ll find lots of coverage online – see my main ITG 2009 page for links – so I am just going to pick out a few things which appealed for one reason or another.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

ITG 2009

Well at the risk of stating the obvious I did make it to ITG 2009, the International Trumpet Guild’s 34th annual conference, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Here are some external links:
It became pretty obvious that I couldn’t even attempt to do proper blog entries while at ITG so instead I'm going to try to do some short sketches in the hope of getting something of the flavo[u]r down. I’m not quite 100% clear in my head (well actually I am usually not even 8% clear in my head, but that’s another story) how exactly I will structure this … but I’ll think of something.
I had a wonderful time!

Oopsie bumbum - never wrote a word. Shall I just zap the lot, or keep them here in the hope that one day I will write something, perhaps when the guilt overpowers the laziness? What do you think? Tamsin? Colin? Anyone??

ITGdex 2009

Yes, they’re in alphabetical order after the home page. Or did you think I’d just put food first anyway? Thank you Colin, see me afterwards please.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Horrible crap disaster reporting

Distraught relatives prepare for the worst as they wait for news of Air France flight 447, which disappeared off the radar between Brazil and France early on Monday.

Well thank goodness they were allowed to do so in the calm and privacy of, er, having 63 cameras shoved up their noses. I should think that that will have made them feel much better, plus we the public really needed to see those photos. Come to think of it, maybe they could be asked to pose again, looking a touch more photogenic, and with more tears visible please? And get that woman to move her hand so we can see her grief-stricken face better? That would be nice.

I know I sound like a retired colonel, more and more so, but really, is there no room for restraint at all in a story like this? Hmph.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Orange mobile customer services

Totally brilliant, 10/10. Martha's lost mobile phone sorted out in seconds, replacement on its way, absolute minimum pain and hassle. And a nice Geordie accent too. What could be better?

As you know I like to be rude about companies being useless. This lot, on the other hand, deserve a big bunch of flowers and a strawberry yoghurt for their superb service. Thank you very much, roger dodger, Vogel out.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

So, am I actually going to the US on Sunday?

So, am I actually going to the US on Sunday? I am supposed to be at the ITG conference yay woo. My Dearest Muvver is a guest at the very fine (though architecturally bizarre) Southlands Hospital. Come Monday, am I going to be in Harrisburg, PA, or in Shoreham, West Sussex? Tamsin, I don’t know, dear child: you tell me. 


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Hip hip boo

Brief summary: things seemed difficult already, then my mum broke her hip.

We apologize for the gap in blogulistic service. As you know I do not blog about serious matters, and the broken hip is fundamentally unfunny.

Thank you.

                      Da Management


Language note to Americans and others: “mum” is a BrE word similar in meaning to the AmE expression “mom”. Strangely they have quite different origins, “mom” being descended from the epidemiological term “multiple of the median” which has escaped into everyday language during statistical discussions on perinatal health figures, while “mum” is a contraction of “maximum”, a reference to the size of a pregnant lady close to term. It is the purest coincidence that they have ended up sounding similar. Compare “boot” and “trunk” – no-one would have guessed they are both parts of a helicopter. Isn’t English funny? Aha.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

My sensible part

Goodness me!

Someone purporting to be the Abbey has kindly written to me to ask me to log into their site and sort my account out. Oddly their site is not at as you might expect

Unfortunately, we are unable to verify your online banking account successfully. To ensure your protection, we've now blocked access to your sensible part of your accounts.

I must say that I am a little upset about them having blocked access to my sensible part. I guess I'll just have to live with it. Ah me.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Sunshine, woohoo!

It’s another beautiful morning in Londontown, Englandland. The city looks lovely; our site looks lovely. Even the man in the Italian cafe looks lovely as indeed does his wife.

Talking of spouses (do you see what I did there?) Mrs von Neustadt was in Vicenza and Udine Sunday-Tuesday, doing some teaching and flying the flag, and was extremely miffed to find that we seemed to have swapped weathers – we were cavorting (well, up to a point) around in the sunshine while she was trudging through rainswept though beautiful streets in Italy with a brolly borrowed from the hotel. Life is just so unfair sometimes, he roared with laughter  empathized.

I am going orienteering tomorrow – a little local event run by my own club at Mardley Heath (pdf). I am not sure what the weather is supposed to be doing but I really really hope it holds. I’ve been seeing bluebells in greater and greater numbers over the last week or two and the last time I was at Mardley it was spectacular – indeed it was breathtaking, and I don’t just mean because of my wheezing attempts to run. It’s the insane intensity of bluebells that gets to me so if it’s a good display tomorrow I will really be in floral heaven.

And now I must address issues of databases, scanned graphics, and linking charts in a web site. Hi ho, hi ho, etc.

Have a nice day now y’all!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Jewish Mother

There are already a good many definitions of a Jewish Mother, with close to 100% featuring Chicken Soup. And why not?

I would like to suggest, however, that a new subspecies of definition might be considered. This is not yet properly formulated but broadly speaking would propose that Jewish Mothers do not see autostereograms, either because they can’t, or because they won’t. (They do after all have Chicken Soup to prepare.)

Obviously this is just in the early planning and consultation stages but I may consider taking it to t’Committee with a view to refining it into a pithy witty aphorism (whatever one of those might be) for release in Q2 2011.

Thank you for reading. Pass the gefilte fish. Thank you. Mmm.


A pessimist is someone who accepts the offer of a loyalty card at the hospital coffee shop.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


16-04-2009 12-42-29 Yes! Yes! I like this error message! There should be more like this, more I tell you. More, more! Muuuahhhahahaha haahahah ahaha hahahah ahahahah ahah ahah aha haha haha!

In other news: as you can see, I am installing SQL Server, well the client side of it anyway (if that is not too, ah, oxymoronic for you) on my office PC. Oddly, I find that I am enjoying myself…

The Sage Gateshead is not in Newcastle

124_2482 Look. The Sage Gateshead is not in Newcastle. It just isn’t. If it were, it would need to be a bit further North and then they could have called it The Sage Newcastle, and its website could be at But it isn’t, and they didn’t, and it isn’t … because it is not in Newcastle.

I know people like to weeble on about the mighty river-spanning conurbation of, ahem, NewcastleGateshead as if it were Buda and Pest or Ankh and Morpork but I feel this is mostly a marketing term – I have yet to see an example of its use by a normal human being. And even so I might be smacking my head on my desk a little less if I were complaining about someone saying, or at least implying, that the Sage is in (akk!) NewcastleGateshead: but I am not.

Let’s get this right:

  • The Sage Gateshead is not in Newcastle
  • The Sage Gateshead is in Gateshead
  • Gateshead is not Newcastle
  • Newcastle is not Gateshead
  • Bessie Surtees House, for a further example, is not in Gateshead
  • … and while I’m at it, the Baltic isn’t in Newcastle either. No Tamsin it is jolly well not.
  • Newcastle and Gateshead are close together but two different places. Say it with me:
  • “Newcastle and Gateshead are close together but two different places.” Good, good.
  • Gah!!!

Thank you for your attention.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Head of parades body to step down (Pun-o-Beeb-a-Blog™)

14-04-2009 19-07-19 Is it just me, or is that a particularly funny and excellent headline? No, dammit, it’s not just me: it’s a classic. It’s on a BBC News story which goes on to explain that the Chair of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission is leaving his job. Sure, but if the wonderful humour and poetry of this headline is an accident then I’m the Mayor of Maastricht. Some Beeb subeditor or whatever they call them nowadays is well pleased with it, I’m sure.

Nice one. I’d send them a yoghurt if I knew their address.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Happy Birthday Lot

The Iarlles Loötës is 22 today. Hurrah! Half-holiday for the village schoolchildren and a commemorative plate for the peasants, if you please, Mr Thompson!

The Iarlles was originally scheduled to be 22 on or around the 4th July which you, observant and numerate reader, will note is about 12-and-a-bit weeks hence. It does not seem like 22 years since the most frightening 10 weeks of my life; in fact if I close my eyes I am right back there now. That I am a Sad Old Git™ – though we knew that already - is confirmed by the fact that I still cannot get through a complete hearing of the Athlete song Wires without crying. (Though in a very manly and dignified way, of course.)

Lottie is up to her eyes in it today due to Stringwise. Indeed, Lot, her Dear Muvver and – for the first time – her Beloved Sister of Youngernosity the Infanta Marfs – are all working on it, along with just about everyone I know except Becca and me, chiz and chiz and multiple rechiz on both accounts. I have messed up on the supply of birthday presents – a long and painful story, with which I shall not bore you just yet – but nevertheless the odd giftoid or two will change hands later today.

Tonight we are going to a delightful Italian restaurant in Norf London, into which I stumbled in my usual confused state a couple of weeks back. Ever since, I have been ranting at my family about how good/nice it was on this brief visit and how we must go there mobhanded sometime. They have now called my bluff and by this time tomorrow I will either be vindicated or (brace for side-splitting humorous food reference, brace brace brace) have egg on my face, aha. Watch this space. If we love it, I’ll tell you – OK? What I can say right now is that the signals – if you can trust the interwebnetsconnectatron at all – are very very positive.

More soon.

Oopsie-Beebs-a-blog™ – puffbox and hyperpuff. (possibly unfixable?)

09-04-2009 beebnews This is a bit naff, though obviously just a slip-up rather than anything much worse. On the Beeb News site there’s a sad story about the crashed helicopter from the North Sea being brought back to port, along with some of the casualties from the disaster. In the right-hand nav column is a collection, inter alia, of video links and one is called “Daughter’s anger after crash”. Currently, this link leads to this page:

- please note the URL – and if you visit that page you see that its HTML <title> tag, which dictates what appears in the browser’s title bar, contains the same elements, as it reads:

  • BBC NEWS | puffbox | hyperpuff | Scotland | Daughter's anger after crash

The page source shows the passing nerd that the puffbox and hyperpuff bits appear elsewhere in the code too.

How about if we edit the URL down to what, by comparison with other News pages, it seems that it ought to be? That would give us:

- which works fine, but oddly still has the bad header. Hm.

Clearly this is some internal BBC system which was never meant for public display. It’s just a little slip on someone’s part and can, I hope, be quickly corrected. I wrote to them about it and I assume that 47,000 other people probably have too, and I confidently expect it all to be sorted out quickly.


The Beeb’s News site is a wonderful place operating at an incredible level of size, complexity, currency and a whole load of other stuff: it is really something to be proud of. I respect entirely their right to make mistakes too, though I sometimes feel that a bit more checking or oversight or whatever might help reduce their effect. The only thing that does strike me here is, why use such naff names? That’s what seems to me to add a quite unnecessary level of childishness, or silliness, or embarrassment, or something, to the page. In this particular case I’m sure that someone somewhere would be clueless enough to say, because of the story content, that it is disrespectful (gah! nauseating cliche of the decade!) though you wouldn’t catch me being quite that stupid unless I was very, very drunk. But imagine if instead of puffbox and hyperpuff they’d just chosen level1 and level2 or medialinkA and medialinkB or even xkz99 and bbtq43 or whatever. For exposing some internal part of their system to the public eye they’d still look silly, but not bloody silly as they do right now and, I suspect, I wouldn’t be writing this. Ho hum. What’s the moral? Watch your variable names, I suppose …


About 3.9 seconds after I emailed the Beeb about this I got a very nice reply from Ian J, an editorial type. It was, of course, a mistake, and he’s fixed it, molto quicko. At this point I really do just have to take my hat off, as I have before, at the speed and quality of the response from the BBC. I have written back thanking him and expounding my theory (which is mine) about the naff names. I bet he was, ahem, really thrilled to get this, but I don’t really expect him to restructure the entire BBC system over my gibbering (woody and tinny) concerns. I suppose I’m just one of those sad people who has to Have Their Say (gah! makes warding-off-evil gestures, etc).

Updated update (yes, I am a very sad person Tamsin, do please try to get over it)

A further courteous and tolerant reply from folkhero and martyr Ian J (who must by now be roundly sick of me) reveals that these are old terms, that when first used could simply not have escaped into the public gaze the way these did. Yup, I can see that. A quick Google on “+puffbox +hyperpuff” finds about 6000 pages. So it does seem to escape into the wild from the Beeb’s system, from time to time. Does this matter? Not sure, leave to wiser brains to ponder, go and make tea now. Vogel out.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

It's a lovely sunny day

It's a really lovely sunny morning here in EC1. I feel oddly apprehensive, though - I think I am worried about the G20 meeting, possible riots etc. It's complicated and difficult to explain and it's not just about my own safety, because I honestly do not think there's a problem there. It's more about the generalized feeling that something bad might happen, and I don't want it to. The press have seemed determined to talk up the potential for violence and I don't like that either. This is not, however, a political blog so I really might as well leave it now and get back to yoghurt, or whatever.

Pathetic, eh? Ho hum.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Fresh Rash of Phishing

Don't you think that's quite a nice and mellifluous title for an email?

Oh well, I do. I am wasted here, I tell you, wasted. :)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Please help send the Infanta Marfs to Uganda

The Infanta Marfs is spending a year in Uganda, teaching in a primary school, under the auspices of the amazing Project Trust. The only slight snag is the money - the four-and-a-bit-kilopounds she has to raise, rather quickly. Do you want to buy some cakes? If you would like to know more, or even, bless you, cough up a few quid to help, please visit her page at Thanks!

Friday, 27 March 2009

How much fun did I have doing the Grand Union Orchestra?

And how much fun did I have doing the Grand Union Orchestra?

... er, about a million zillion zekkabytes of fun is how much. Bliss. These people are incredible. I am not worthy in any way to be within about seven kilometres of them but, hell, I was anyway.


Thank you so much. More when I get a moment, or a life, or something.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Am I, in fact, Nuts?

phish I have just telephoned a Belgian company, DWB Motors, to explain that part of their web site is, as of right now, being used for naughty phishing.

  • DWB Motors does not speak any English.
  • Vogel von Neustadt's French is really quite amazingly bad, especially under pressure.
  • An example of "Pressure" in this case might be something like, ah, maybe ringing up a foreign company out of the blue and trying to explain to them that a corner of their site's been hijacked. Especially if your French contains NO technical vocabulary beyond site web.

This was an interesting conversation. They were very polite and pleasant but I have no idea at all as to whether we were actually communicating or not. For all I know, after we said a pleasant goodbye to each other, they may now have the lasting impression that I was trying urgently to enquire about the price of a new fanbelt for my Massey Ferguson MF 5460 tractor (4.4 litres, intercooled, you know the one?)

I hope I was some help but it's difficult to know whether this was a good use of bits of my lunchtime, telephone money, limited brain power or anything much else. And the site is still up, yes, and presumably still hoping to collect some juicy bank details from the naive reader of email. Hmmm.

I think I should probably not make a habit of this.

Weekend From Hell (but in a good way): Survived

Oh alright, yes I must stop being such an old drama queen. No, it wasn't really a "weekend from hell", it was lovely - just a bit busy. And since I wanted it to be busy and chose to do these things I should not be moaning about it. Tsk.

The latter part of the working week was a bit difficult - I had an amazing, showstopping headache which manifested itself first on Wednesday and pretty much wrote off Thursday and much of Friday. I think it's just the very unfortunate fallout (aha) from a cold but late on the Wednesday night I was thinking, insofar as I was able to do so at all, rather more sinister thoughts than that. However I am back at work now and (almost) as bright as a new shiny 2p bit, or whatever. And people blogging about their health is possibly the most boring form of blogging there is, so enough already.

Friday night I went up to Cambridge to go to an important meeting, about which I should/may write separately. The Iarlles Loötës kindly accompanied me (a-one, a-two; a-one two three four) and was helpfully observant and inputful. We then went for a lovely dinner at the Free Press, a tiny pub tucked away in a small street a little away to the east from all the posh stuff - closer to Anglia Ruskin University with which (in its former guise of Anglia Polytechnic University) I had some nice dealings a few years back.

And now I have run out of time, and will have to finish this later ...


Monday, 9 March 2009

Oopsie-Beebs-a-blog™ - deliberately tasteless, or just stupid? (fixed)

dominoOh dear, I hate coming over all disapproving but I really thought this was a bit much: on the BBC News UK page, the little header thingy for the little taster thingy for a story about the possible consequences of the Antrim shootings read, for a while this afternoon, "Domino effect". In case you didn't realize, the soldiers killed were taking delivery of a delivery from a Domino's pizza, and the delivery drivers were also shot and injured.

On the other hand, the story to which the header referred, Fears for Army killings fall-out, does genuinely describe a concern about a possible domino effect or, perhaps better in this instance, chain reaction in which the shootings could lead eventually to the collapse of the Stormont government.

So the question really is whether it was a very stupid, tasteless attempt to be clever by pulling the Domino's name into it, or just a very stupid, clueless failure to think, by someone who had composed the line without knowing or remembering enough about the story to be safe in doing so. Either way, it seems a bit of a naff, tabloid-smelling performance from an organization which usually has much higher standards. 4/10 see me.

I should add that either lots of people (including me) moaned, or someone with more clue at the Beeb has had a look, as it has been changed. It now reads "Uncertain days" which is about ten million percent more acceptable, thank you Auntie.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Nowt much

It's a beautiful morning.

I have two orienteering events to go to this weekend, which is very nice. If the weather is anything like this tomorrow or Sunday it will be great. It's not warm, but this is the least of my problems when running, or rather lumbering. More sunshine like this would just be fabulous, though.

I only get to go orienteering if the car is OK ... it's going in this morning with a list as long as your arm of (we hope) minor defects. Going Oing without the car would be somewhere on the difficult < - - > impossible spectrum, probably well towards the right. The car is getting on a bit, to put it mildly, so every visit to the garage is a bit worrying in case it's going to be the one where they turn round and tell us it's time to give it up!

After the weekend I get stuck into a couple of very busy weeks. The next Haydn Chamber Orchestra concert is on the 21st and there is a Grand Union Orchestra show at the Hackney Empire on the 20th and 21st. Because of the HCO gig I can only do the 20th with GUO but even so I am thrilled to bits to be back with them after quite a few years. So the next two weeks have plenty of rehearsals, alongside a few other things which I want to do or which must be fitted in or both.

I am quite pleased with myself because I've assembled the HCO programme on my Wretched Young Persons' Portable Phonographic Device and am making efforts to be a bit less clueless than usual by actually having done some listening, practice etc. Actually I know two of the items already (one of them very well) and only one is really new to me (Haydn Symphony no 60) so it's that one that's getting most of the attention. On the Radio 3 website I found a rather good Discovering Music programme about the Haydn so I've got that to listen to now as well.

Mrs von Neustadt and I are hoping to go to the flicks tomorrow night to see The Class (Entre les murs) although looking at the schedule I am assailed by sudden doubts (about when/whether we can go, not the film itself) so watch this space.

I can't go to the luncthime concert today as I have an important meeting. Missing the concert is a pity but not the end of the world - there are certainly plenty more to come!

And I think that's it. Sorry it's a bit waffly and inconsequential but I don't have time to write anything profound or edit and post an existing longer piece and it's still better - for me, anyway, if not the reader! - to write something than nothing at all. Have a nice day, as they say.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

How to get your day improved a bit (no Tamsin I am not being sarcastic here)

  1. Come out of the gym in a rage at your own stupidity.
  2. (gnah! wagghh! ungghh!!)
  3. Go and buy something nice at the little Tesco Metro round the corner - the toffee fudge yoghurt or whatever it's called, say.
  4. Get served by really nice, charming, friendly people. (No, I am not being sarcastic. They really are that.)
  5. Go out feeling cheered up. Day has got better. What just happened there??

What is this magical power that some people have? Most odd. I am not naming names but there are staff there who honestly do have the ability to brighten up your day by being, I don't know, calm, charming, friendly, nice. Something or other. It just works. It is an amazing gift.

How to get your day off to a really great start (yes Tamsin I am being sarcastic here)

  1. Go swimming, per normal routine.
  2. While changing, open briefcase and look for swimming bag.
  3. Discover swimming bag not there.
  4. Have perfectly clear vision of where swimming bag is. Where is it Colin? It is on my desk, between the printer and the radio.
  5. Try to remain calm while internally voicing major displeasure at own stupidity.
  6. (gnah! wagghh! ungghh!!)
  7. Nude swimming is not on my personal agenda at this point. There is no evidence to suggest that the gym would greatly welcome it either. Check I am actually awake. Oh good, I am, that's a few pitfalls avoided.
  8. Decide to have shower anyway, otherwise whole day is messed up.
  9. Realize padlock is in swimming bag so locker cannot be locked. (Realize previous sentence contains "lock" too many times.) (Realize I don't care right now. Lock lock clock blocky flock. Ha! See?)
  10. Go and have shower lasting 4.3 seconds in case at this very moment dishonest gym users, feral children (gnah! wagghh! ungghh!!), disillusioned and mentally unstable war veterans (don't push me!) etc, have discovered unlocked locky locker and are currently stealing Wretched Young Persons' Portable Phonogram, disrupting my collection of broken pencils, an ting.
  11. At 3.7 seconds realize they are probably also messing around with my little computer and hence depriving the world of a million blog-o-rants. Dash back after the least satisfying shower in the history of showering. (This also breaks 468 EU hygiene regulations and renders me liable to arrest, special rendition, questions In Da House, etc.)
  12. Strangely, no-one is actually going through my stuff right now. Indeed it's all pretty deserted, much as I left it. Lucky I got back in time then, eh?
  13. Get dried and dressed, look in briefcase for office keys.
  14. Discover swimming bag in there, now perfectly obvious.
  15. See 5. But more so.
  16. See 6.
  17. See 6.
  18. See 6.
  19. See 6.
  20. See 6.
  21. Go off in strop.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Rules of Computers and Technical Support and Stuff

(No. 73 in an Occasional Series of, er, 8,943)

  • The more stupid a thing your user has done, the more likely they are to need to get a little dig in about how the system shouldn't have let them do it. So it's your fault really.
  • If, on the other hand, at any other moment in their entire working life the system gives them insufficient freedom to do, er,  absolutely anything at all they would like to do with it, then it's a very very bad system.
  • Hmph. I suppose even the BOFH perhaps started off all well-intentioned and smiley and lovely ... er, or maybe not ...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Breakfast insight

pret I have had a revelation. If you get some lovely Yummy Granola-based Breakfast Thingy With Hot Milk, or whatever it is called, from the ever-wonderful Pret a Manger, please eat it while it is hot, delicious and wholly satisfying.

If you leave it cooling, cooling and cooling further while you discuss oppression and injustice with a colleague, what you will end up with is, essentially, cold porridge.

That's not so nice.

New rule: eat breakfast first, put world to rights later. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Oh joy oh bliss: the recovering of the lost data, the rekindling of faith

File154 Gillian, a colleague whose real name that isn't, came to see me. She is an entirely delightful person, whom I very much like, and is, I think it not unfair to say, about as au fait with the world of information technology as I am with, say, ballet dancing. (Clue: that would be not very much, you see.)

The sequence of events as I understand it is something like this:

  1. Gillian has a lovely holiday in the USA and takes lots of nice pics, including some of the Grand Canyon an ting, on her little digital camera. She has not yet downloaded the 200+ new photos so they are all still on the camera, and only there.
  2. Sometime later her son is experimenting with the camera and sets it to take B&W photos, not colour. Unfortunately he leaves it set like this.
  3. When Gillian next uses the camera she quite reasonably doesn't want it still on B&W so she decides to set it back to colour. She doesn't know how to do this but, never mind, she'll give it a whirl. (Now, what could possibly go wrong with this idea, do I hear you ask?)
  4. Hmmm ... now, let's think: what would that be called in the camera's menu system? Well, the way photos look is something to do with their "format", is it not? Ah yes, look, here's a command in the menu, "Format": that's probably it - click, press, click to confirm, click this, click that, and off we go. Woohoo. Easy.
  5. Er. A sense of foreboding starts to assail Gillian. It's all taking a little while, there's a progress bar thingy, and what exactly did some of those warning screens actually say during all that clicking just now? I mean, yeah, it probably said something like "are you sure you want to change from B&W to Colour?" ... er ... didn't it?
  6. Hmmm.
  7. Oh dear.
  8. Gillian twigs that something has gone a bit off the beaten track here, and starts to worry.
  9. She presses lots of buttons. It won't stop.
  10. She takes the battery out. Yup, that's stopped it.
  11. Finally, she puts it all back together and turns it on. The memory card is corrupt. What now?
  12. (Note to non-computer people - yep, she's really knackered all her photos. Her memory card, the digital equivalent of film, is not well at all right now. It's all going a bit pear-shaped ...)

A while back I would not have known what to do at this point, except smile sympathetically and offer to make her a nice cup of tea. We are British, dammit. More recently however I bought some brilliant software to help me try to retrieve lost data from a floppy (remember them?), and I noticed in passing that it would also do memory cards of various sorts, in fact pretty much everything except actual hard drives.

Now, I am not usually optimistic about ... well about anything IT-related, really. A lifetime of bitterness and disappointment can do that to you. Nevertheless, having thoroughly warned her that I probably can't help I invite Gillian to bring the camera up for me to look at. Here's what happens:

  1. Gillian produces the camera's SD card and I shove it in a card reader on my PC. It goes tweet a bit but nothing much happens - it's not like I've plugged in a new drive, which would have been nicer than this sulking. Hmph. The mess of drives and card readers and network drives on my machine is horrendous so I am not even 100% sure which drive letter this card might be on (if any) but in the end I go for R: and try to open it.
  2. Nothing. The drive in R: is not formatted - do I want to format it now? Can't use the drive otherwise ...
  3. Er, no thanks. And I am still not sure that R: is this SD card.
  4. Start up magic software. On a vague suspicion, point it at this R: drive which is unusable by Windows.
  5. Aha - it is going to do a "Mode 2 Lost Files Recovery", whatever one of those is. It doesn't seem to think it matters that the R: drive needs formatted. I tell it to scan and after a while it starts listing files that it can recover. Woo! Lots of files - the holiday plus some previously downloaded. It doesn't know filenames any more so it just allocates them in sequence - file001.jpg and so on.
  6. Gillian goes and makes me a nice cup of tea. This is more like it. This is Positive Britishism. I like it.
  7. After some time the scan's complete, it's found 354 files and wants to know what to do with them.
  8. I save them to a folder on the desktop.
  9. I open this folder and show Gillian her pictures of her Grand Canyon helicopter trip, the pictures that she had thought were lost forever. She is very, very, very pleased indeed. So am I. It is quite a touching moment and could do with a good soundtrack.

File174 This is what I signed up for. Everyone knows I sometimes moan about my job: we all do; but, my word, when something like this happens I just think isn't it great that I work in IT and I can do stuff like this. So fantastically satisfying.

Matters arising or, if you like, the bill (not The Bill, you understand. Do try to keep up):

  • Advanced skills, education, etc used here by me: none. All I had to know was not to panic and that this software might help. Rocket science it ain't. The software itself could be operated by a bright toddler.
  • Time taken: about a cup of tea's worth.
  • Cost: we already owned the software. It cost us about $40 so it didn't exactly break the bank even the first time round.
  • Taking me away from my vital work in order to help a colleague with their domestic problem: net benefit due to intradepartmental goodwill and feelgood factor. And anyway there is a training benefit, like Prince William and his helicopter, so ner.
  • Effect on my self-esteem, notwithstanding the "bright toddler" bit: good, good, good.

So - not a bad outcome really. She's pleased and I feel great. Something has actually worked like it's meant to.

One technical thing that's interesting. It recovered, as I said, 354 files, mostly .jpgs with seven .avi files. I know the .avis are all OK; of the .jpgs 286 are fine and 61 are not - these last 61 have no metadata, cannot build a thumbnail, and in Photoshop they fail to open with the error "Could not complete your request because a SOFn, DQT, or DHT JPEG marker is missing before a JPEG SOS marker." These might be photos that Gillian took recently and that have been trashed beyond repair in the disaster, but I think it's just as possible that they are older stuff which was still on the card and was at least partly unerased, yet still not recoverable. Gillian was so pleased with what we did uncover that I don't yet know if she thinks some photos are still missing. It would be interesting to find out. I've asked what she thinks.

Note for non-computer people: computers hardly ever really erase anything much, even if you tell them to, or format your drive, or whatever. Not immediately, anyway. To get real erasure, guaranteed, you have to try extra-hard. (This is good if you are MI5 or FBI or someone and want to see the bomb plans that Blofeld thought he'd erased.) Usually all that happens is that it throws away the indexing - the tables that list files, that say where and what they are, all that stuff. But the files themselves are often just left alone - they are now used space that hasn't been cleared out but has been marked for re-use: it'll get new data written over it when it's needed, Windows can't see it, but it is, kind of, still there. Sometimes. It's difficult to find a really good analogy but imagine you'd chucked a load of paper files and you're going to recycle the paper. You've pulled it out of the filing cabinet and dumped it on the floor and thrown away all the indexes and folders and subject dividers - but you haven't yet sent it off for shredding so it's just in a big pile on the floor till you clear it. You could, at a pinch, reconstruct the information as it's all still there albeit in an unstructured mess. OK, it's a weak analogy but hey, my blog, baby. Now this software is made so it doesn't worry about the missing indexing information - it bypasses that and looks at the memory from a lower level (digs through the big pile of paper), seeking out recognizable files that it can rename (they've usually lost their names) and save again. And Bob's yer uncle! Mind you, sometimes stuff is really trashed ...

Finally(ish), what is this miracle software that has so delightfully made my day?

Step forward and take a bow, Bad Copy Pro from Jufsoft. It says here:

Comprehensive data recovery software for floppy disk, CD, DVD, Zip disk, digital media, and flash drive. Features include floppy disk repair, CD, DVD data recovery, digital camera cards images rescue, and retrieval of damaged or lost data from flash drive and removable disks.

.. and I say, er, yeah. Nice one. Let me tell you, if this software was a strawberry yoghurt it would be an extra-thick and creamy one with a delicious tangy but not oversweet taste, and huge lumps of succulent fruit.

Marks out of 10: about 179.

Recommendation: if you ever find yourself in this kind of a bind, just go and buy it.

Thank you Jufsoft for a brilliant, brilliant product and for reminding me why I like my job.

Vogel out.