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.