28 February, 2006

New Shoes...

Samuel Windsor Shoes - Classic Oxfords
...thanks to Flyingpops (and the Sunday Times newspaper) I now have a nice new pair of leather shoes that really fit (and amazingly aren't either - a) made by Dr Marten or b) from the USA)...Samuel Windsor make a handmade range (which they advertised in said newspaper) right up to size 14! The pair pictured here are their "Classic Oxford", which are very comfortable indeed! ;) We did get two pairs but the other ones were a bit too big(!) so they went back via the Royal Mail today for them to send a slightly smaller model...it's normally my experience to walk into a shoe shop and be lucky if there is even 1 pair to try on (no option on the style at all)...in fact, I even failed miserably at the "Dr Marten Store" in Covent Garden, "Sorry, the biggest size we stock is 12"...pathetic...not everyone is a midget, you know! ;)

27 February, 2006

Amusing combination... ;)

Amusing combination ;)
Hehe... ;) An end to "Not tonight dear...I've got a headache" excuses...Snapped in the gents at the "Iron Horse" pub in Merstham...

Had quite a busy (but also strangely relaxing) weekend, Friday night Flyingpops and I got a cab into Redhill for a "New York" style meal in "Frankie and Bennys" (which actually was kind of like being in New York (apart from all the chav children drinking cocktails underage/yelling at/snogging each other))...I had their signature "Black and Blue Burger" which is a kind of burnt cinder of minced beef topped with runny blue cheese...and it wasn't too bad at all, thanks for asking! It actually did *kind* of take me back... :)

Saturday morning was eaten up by the Xbox game "Black" which is absolutely excellent (thanks Mr Jonkinson for recommending it ;) it's kind of like a super serious version of Goldeneye on the N64 (lots of replay value going back to complete each mission at greater difficulty levels, with extra objectives and less health packs) but based around so called "Black ops" US government operatives, the environments are super deformable which adds considerably to the realism (I keep having to stop myself wasting grenades near large areas of glass)...anyway, if you like "Run and Gun" games, go and get it, it's awesome...

Sunday we went over to see G/S/A mostly to take Mr.S his birthday present (a Dr Who DVD to complete his set) - Alexander is *almost* crawling now, but not quite, he seems perfectly content to just get excited about things out of his reach, the realisation that he can motivate his body to get nearer to them doesn't quite seem to have occured to him yet, but it won't be long... ;) Then Sunday night I did roast beef for Flyingpop's folks, ate it and then promptly fell asleep on the sofa, quite exhausted...could have done with another hour in bed this morning too, so I obviously needed it... ;)

24 February, 2006

Certainly Nate...

...*drumroll*...the rucksack... ;)

Old Dinks... ;)

Old Dinks ;)
This sign has appeared on my local tea machine in the office...hehe... ;) Reminds me of this shot I took while waiting for breakfast before the Ad-Tech conference in September...

It was absolutely freezing this morning on the platform (much colder than yesterday), but was kept warm by the certain knowledge that I am going to be wearing shorts under my joggers on the plane ready for the 20+ degree temperatures (one can't risk overheating ;) in exactly three weeks time at 3pm when we land really very much nearer the tropic of cancer...woo hoo! ;)

(Sorry, I'll try not to go on about it too much... ;)

Oh, just noticed that according to Tommo the film crew are are back! Check it out! Damn, missed it by a week...!

23 February, 2006

"Oh, the snow, the beautiful snow...

...filling the sky and the earth below"...Well, that was the forecast anyway...and what do we get? Slush...
Cold and made from H2O, yes, but certainly not white and fluffy...still, the day isn't over, we may yet be suprised...

To compound matters, I got hold of "Tales of Eternia" yesterday, slapped it on the PSP, tested it worked okay (yes, firmware wasn't an issue!), popped the PSP on charge (last night) and got to the station this morning (in a state of high excitement) only to discover that I had left the bloody thing on the arm of the sofa! In a dejected fashion I trawled the depths of my rucksack, firstly hoping that I had simply missed it, then sadly searching for something (anything!) to entertain me on my journey (my mobile phone decided that this was the perfect moment to die also - lots of silly error messages and screen distortion - so I couldn't even play Jawbreaker or Solitaire) the only thing that emerged from the depths was a tatty three week old copy of New Scientist that had been scrunched up lining the bottom of my bag, so I pulled it out, smoothed out the worst of the creases and read that (again) in a huff...oh and we've run out of Fuji apples and bananas now, so I have had to bring a Breaburn and an orange...bah...not a good day!

22 February, 2006

Bashed about...

...believe it or not this banana was perfectly yellow when I popped it into my rucksack and left the house this morning, makes me worry about my PSP rattling around in there!

On the PSP front I'm currently playing "Tokobot" (which is a funny sort of puzzle platformer, quite amusing) and *still* playing "Everybody's Golf" which has been absolutely unputdownable since I learned that the last course is called "Dino Park", opened up 3 so far, 3 to go... ;) However, as soon as I get hold of "Tales of Eternia" everything else gets dumped...been waiting for a decent RPG to come out...and I've checked, it works on my firmware level...(suprisingly!)... ;)

21 February, 2006

.aa to .mp3 conversion

Okay, I've gone through this so you don't have to...Ricky Gervais, in his wisdom, has decided to release his podcasts in .aa format which my Sony PSP won't play, so in order to turn them back into regular .mp3 files you need to go through the following procedure -

Convert .aa to .mp3

1) Install the nonsense that is mandatory to play .aa files (you'll go through that bit when you register at Audible.com)
2) Go here and grab the free version of "Total Audio Converter", install it, choosing all the default options
3) Grab this file
4) Grab this file (put it in the same place as the .dll you grabbed in step 3) and then run it, hit "install" and then "close" (when it's done), then you can delete both the .dll and the .exe
5) Re-boot
6) Launch "Total Audio Converter", navigate to the .aa file in the central dialogue, hit "MP3" in the "Convert to" bar at the top, then hit the "finish" button, then hit the "continue" button - you *may* see another dialogue box appear asking you for a logon and password, if so insert the logon and password you specified when you registered for Audible.com
7) Wait a few seconds then enjoy your shiny new .mp3 on your non-.aa playing audio device of choice... ;)

Update - looks like they may have done something to cripple the larger file size transfer process, if you get a hang at about 50% just download one of the other quality offerings and try again...happened a couple of times now...

Update Update - Looks like you can also use Goldwave 5.12 to do the conversion easily enough, as my Total Audio Converter trial period just ended and we have at least one Ricky Gervais podcast on the way...it's very easy, just do "File", "Open" then choose a filetype of "All" from the dropdown menu, once it has imported, just do "File", "Save As", then choose MP3 and off you go...peasy... ;)

Update update update - Audible really are being selfish, cutting all links to files, so I suggest just going with the Goldwave solution for the time being (a$$h0l3z)...

Hurrah! Holiday booked!

Sitting and monitoring the prices seems to have paid off (well done Flyingpops!)...£195 per head, all in, a week in sunny Tenerife at the Playa de la Arena resort, which you may be interested to learn, literally translated means "Beach of the Sand"...how imaginiatve... ;)

However, name aside, the reviews are fantastic, loads of quality bars and resturants to try and a generally quiet relaxing atmosphere, plus an amazing black volcanic sand beachfront to recline on (winner of the EU Blue Flag award for cleanliness apparently)...the hotel is the "Barcelo Varadero" which looks very nice indeed...so roll on March 17th! :)

Ricky Gervais podcast...

Well, it had to happen, Ricky Gervais (having mentioned several times already that he was missing a trick) is going to charge £3.75 a month (via iTunes or Audible) for his podcast...and you know what? I think I'm actually going to pay up...it's been a real highlight of the week since it started...just a shame they didn't try asking for donations first...I'm sure out of half a million subscribers we could have mustered enough small change to keep Karl Pilkington in head polish and kangeroo genitals for quite a while... ;)

20 February, 2006

Weekend update...

...okay, so the doctor (oh btw - 3 visits to this surgery so far and I've got a different doctor each time! This one was an American lady...previous ones have been an Indian lady and and Indian gentleman) said the wrist problem is confirmed as a "Ganglion" (sounds nice, doesn't it?), it's operable with a minor surgical procedure, but I didn't want to do anything until I'd looked it up myself (starting to worry about the lot up at Earlswood surgery, seems they are a bit knife-happy ;)...Anyway, it seems the procedure that she suggested (aspiration) results in a high chance of recurrence of the fault, so I think I'm going to take the "wait and see" option for the time being, it's uncomfortable but I can put up with it...

Friday PM I headed out to meet up with Tommo (armed with Mavica) acting on a tip off that more filming was happening in the area (playing amateur paparatzi ;) but as it turned out the crew had arrived early in the day, set up all the lights, started to unload all the other gear and then just packed up again and vanished (looks like they might have got behind with the filming)...so instead we drank beer/ate Chinese food/played Xbox/etc which was cool fun regardless... ;)

The rest of the weekend was spent messing/lounging around with Flyingpops - watched "The New World" which was excellent (but about half an hour too long imho)...watched the latest episode of "Lost" which was superb (still think the producers are spending too long reading the forums though, it's like the fans are saying "Have you forgotten?" to the writers and they are rushing to keep up)! Oh, the hieroglyphics apparently roughly translate (in ancient Egyptian) to a word that means both "arrival" and "impending death"...interesting stuff, expected a little more drama though when Locke mucked up!

Click for a larger image...
update - Wiki have that translation as literally "die" see here

Oh, and I've settled on "Generally Speaking" as my new Lost podcast of choice btw...very good stuff... ;)

Good weekend all things considered... ;)

16 February, 2006

Balfe Street, Kings Cross...

Cherry trees
Won't be long now, I'll post a proper pic when the blossom comes out (March time?)...took a dodgy picture last year with the phone but I'll shoot it properly this time... ;) I think it's the one time of the year the other residents of Islington feel guilty about dumping their old washing machines and soiled matresses there... ;)

Got to go to the docs *again* today, didn't get so lucky with an appointment though...got *something* nasty going on in my wrist, looks like a big shard of bone poking out under the skin or something (gross) so no picture! I know it can't be because I can move it but going to get it checked out anyway...never seem to be away from the place at the moment! :(

15 February, 2006

Moroccan Lamb Tagine - Update #2

Lamb Tagine #4 - Onion and Spices
Update - Steps 1 and 2 previously posted (as I had some trouble!)...

Okay, cooked this last night but not had a chance to blog it yet, so - when I last left off I'd already ground up all the spices and coated the chunked lamb with half of them (and kept it in the fridge for, well, 2 nights by then)...So, next was two large grated onions (a torture device, my eyes's didn't stop watering! I can chop them without discomfort, but grating...? Ouch...!) plus the remaining spices and three cloves of garlic (crushed) placed on the hob at a really low heat (in the casserole dish)...
Lamb Tagine #5 - Brown the lamb chunks
...meanwhile, the meat from the fridge should be browned off in a hot pan to flash seal on all sides...
Lamb Tagine #6 - Deglaze and combine
...add that to the sweated onions etc. and then deglaze the frying pan with tomato juice...
Lamb Tagine #7 - Throw in the honey, almonds etc
...then combine the lot together with a generous drizzle of runny honey, small handfuls of chopped dates, sultanas and chopped almonds...I also threw in some of the lamb stock from the bone from Sunday's roast...I don't follow recipes exactly... ;)
Lamb Tagine #8 - Oh yeah!
Pop it in the oven at 150 degrees and cook for about two and a half hours (the meat should be extremely tender, if not falling to bits), take it out, chop a large handfull of coriander and parsley and serve with steaming cuscus...it should look something like the above... ;)

...and the verdict....? *Wonderful*! An awesome combination of curry flavours, spices and all that amazing sweetness from the fruit...give it a go! :) Apparently a similar effect can be achieved in a slow cooker by just throwing everything in, but I cannot confirm...I think a bit of frying helps the flavours...

14 February, 2006

The Scala...

Bus stop closed
...(I think I can honestly say that I've never seen that before! ;) Luckily I actually spotted the sign one day before I had to get the number 17! So got off at the Scala and walked that day...

Right now the Scala is a nightclub/snooker hall, but years ago, long before I ever dreamt of working in Islington I came up to Kings Cross with a couple of mates and spent the whole night in there watching a load of movies...you paid once (I think it was about £3 entrance), which also involved you being issued with a membership card (as it was classed as a private club, something to do with the fact that for a short time it survived by showing pornographic films)...anyway, despite what you may think, the movies we went to see were Robocop, Robocop 2, Predator, Predator 2 (which I had never seen) and I think it was Terminator 1, long time ago now though...(plus I slept through at least one film ;)

There were only about 20 people in the whole cinema, it was quite a surreal experience, people were smoking and drinking in there and everyone had their feet streched out onto the seat back in front of them to zero complaints...when the last movie finished we actually had to wait at the Thameslink for the tube to open as it was so early on a Sunday morning! Shame it's closed down...something to do with a court case over a contested screening of A Clockwork Orange, which is ironic as you can now buy it on DVD...Oh well...all good things...

13 February, 2006

Moroccan Lamb Tagine - Update

Lamb Tagine #3
Okay, got the ginger yesterday from my folks, de-boned and diced the lamb, and coated the chunks (2 inch-ish chunks) in half the spice mix...it went in the fridge before I started on the roast dinner, where it will stay until tonight...smells magnificent! ;)

Update - See the rest of the steps here...!

12 February, 2006

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Okay, I've made a start...unfortunately I'm scuppered *again*! Looks like this is destined to go wrong...I need *ground* ginger and I only have fresh...have to get some when we nip over to my folks later on...Anyway this is pounded cayenne, pepper corns, paprika, turmeric and cinnamon sticks...

Update - see the next step here...!

Apples and Bulb - macro

Doh, just had a lightbulb blow in the kitchen...but it did set up a nice photo - found some potentially good new UK in season apples (Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall can be thanked for me keeping my eyes out for things like that!) - called "Greenstar", grown by "Adrian Scripps", in Tesco earlier, described as "Unique green apple" and "Crunchy, firm, white fleshed"...when I eat one I'll let you know but they look/feel/smell like French Golden Delicious...oh and had frozen lamb steak with mint for dinner instead of the tagine I had planned...bah...

11 February, 2006

Film set - Christmas returns to Shere

Shere in fake snow
So, a little unreal, we went to Shere today (after a tip-off from Tommo on Friday) we ended up completely unexpectedly on our way past the village where Hollywood are working their magic turning spring into midwinter! They are currently filming "The Holiday" with Kate Winslett, Justin Timberlake, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz and a few others...suffice it to say, I took a few shots... ;)
Prop strewn grocers
The prop department have been working overtime making the town's grocer's shop overflow with Christmas wreath/tree/sprout etc..
Close up on the town's off licence showing chalked Christmas promotion ;)
Fake sign
A completely fake sign...? The stuff on the right is quite correct, but the stuff on the left ain't there (as far as I can find anyway!) looks like that might be a plot point in the film?
Fake snow down the drain
The "snow" turning to muddy mush...it does look like it melts if exposed to water, and there was a small fire engine sat in the village (see the previous shot) that might have come in to play later on (after we left)...
Looks like they needed a few extra street lights... ;)
Shere church
And the magic of the movies turns the graveyard white, they used white sheets of fabric so perhaps the churchyard was only seen from a distance...?
Shere high street
And a view down the high street...click the pics for bigger versions... ;)

It's funny, I said this to Flyingpops on the way back home, but if someone told you they "worked in the movies" you would be really impressed and interested, but the bored, grumpy guys in HVJs sweeping up the mess and directing traffic (after the glamorous people departed the day before) probably wouldn't agree...

Other news of the day, bought a posh German suit for the funeral/general office use (the Germans make "off the rail" suits in the correct length for my frame, English tailors don't) at the big/tall shop in Woking, it's so cool (and this wasn't even noticed until we got home and *certainly* would have sold it to me when I was in the store, even if it hadn't fitted perfectly) it's got the following features-

  • Anti-Wrinkle alloy-fabric material construction (little or no pressing required)
  • Anti-bacterial agents woven into the fabric (kills bugs!)
  • Anti-odour agents woven into the fabric (destroys smell!)
  • Travel-safe security zipped and buttoned interior pockets (4!)
  • SPECIAL FUNCTION - With no effect on reception, a short-wave emission blanking lined pocket (it absorbs 80% of the potentially body damaging mobile phone emissions)...w o w!

(never bought a suit with a "Special Function" before! :0)


...was just about to start cooking Moroccan lamb tagine for my supper tonight, bought all the bits I needed in Tesco this afternoon and just noticed that the *SECOND* instruction (after "1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.") is to coat the meat in the spices and leave it overnight! BAH! Guess I'll be having that on Monday instead then (Sunday roast tomorrow)!

Worrall Thompson must have a blooming rubbish oven... >:(

09 February, 2006

Puccinos coffee carriage...

Thameslink - failed coffee shop carriage
Was unlucky enough to get the Puccino's coffee bar carriage yesterday morning (sorry about the dodgy shot, took it using the phone) on the Thameslink train into work...I suppose it probably did operate once (someone's expensive dream franchise), but never in my experience, now it's just a collosal waste of space...the heart shaped twin seats are just awful, they practically force you to touch knees with the person next to you, fine if you *know* them, but during the commute? Bah...fingers crossed for today!

Oh, and the official Lost podcast is awesome! Keep an eye out for "a cross" (a significant one apparently) during the Sawyer flashback in the next episode "The Long Con"...they also confessed that they intended the sign on the Battersea Power station to be just a little larger than it turned out to be in the final cut...it should have read "Widmore construction"...but why is that significant? We'll have to wait and see... ;)

08 February, 2006

Lost Podcasts...

...well, looks like Ryan and Jen have given up doing "The Transmission", which I am gutted about...so I'm on the hunt for a replacement, I've listened to a few episodes of Jay and Jack, they are a funny pair and definitely worth a listen, but they do go off topic a lot, and frankly seem to love everyone's theory (no matter how stupid they sound) Ryan and Jen really picked apart the duffers with their encyclopaedic knowledge of the show, these two just seem to "agree 100%" with everything...*frown*

Still, my search is far from over and there are lots of others on offer, if I find a goodie I'll let you know...John and Brian at lunchtime I think...

I'm also going to dip into the official podcast for the first time later on today...although it really looks like they were winding everyone up about the sign on the Battersea power station...there is definitely *something* out of the ordinary on there, but the details are invisible to the naked eye if you ask me! Still, that's the second episode in a row I've gone back to re-watch a few times to pick up the details, the producers are doing something really right... ;)

07 February, 2006

Dog full of money

Dog full of money
An interesting installation of street art I spotted today at the junction of Caledonian road and Pentonville road in Kings Cross in London...a well used commercial scale microwave (the kind found in restaurant kitchens) with a small, black and white sticker bearing a simple line drawing of a dog with no forelegs and the text "Dog full of money"...Google helped (a bit)...I quote - "DFM are those dogs you see outside shops that people put coins in. They are the best thing ever. We need to promote them for the good of humanity." so, an obscure viral marketing campaign for the charity "Guide Dogs for the blind" perhaps? ;)

A little extra digging found a more likely source, some well travelled students...

06 February, 2006


...has begun for Hazel, who, after a long battle with leukemia, passed away this morning...may she rest in peace...

05 February, 2006

What a weekend...

...awesome time at Tommo's, had the pleasure of seeing Mr Jonks this time too (who seems to have actually lost weight as he has grown older, must be the stress of having kids ;)...out the back garden in the seminary Tommo keeps a Disney-esque menagerie of fluffy animals that both please and pain, bringing joy with their antics and pain with their annoying ability to consume brand new plants, dig up beds, pee on perfectly good BBQ covers and drown themselves in ornamental ponds...

We played muchos xbox, drank muchos cervesa, ate copious amounts of Chinese food and watched a movie or two, and then I had the pleasure of his excellently appointed spare room for the nights (well earned) collapse...

Today we headed over to Dorking boot sale to assist Flyingpop's papa with the sale of the crap from the old family homestead's loft, then spent the rest of the time in tense limbo, her nan is in hospital, critically ill...and it's hard to know what is for the best...still, the family is rallying round (as they do so well)...

A weekend of strong contrasts...

Mundane in comparison, I also managed to chop off 3mm of my little finger on my left hand with the speed peeler resulting in an impressive amount of blood while preparing our Sunday roast...lack of concentration I guess... :(

03 February, 2006

From Viz...

...letters page -

"The record companies would have us believe that the money made by CD pirates goes to fund the drug industry. But the money rock stars make from legal record sales ends up in exactly the same place. When they stop breaking the law, so will I...

P Boddington, Ringway"

Hehe... ;)

Well, the doctor...

...is certainly worth his salt, it looks like it *was* a viral infection (good call!), my tonsils were almost back to normal by Thursday afternoon, today they are fine...so no need to help superbugs evolve by dropping antibiotics without proper cause... ;)

Throat is still on the iffy side and I'm obviously suffering a *bit* from lack of proper sleep (and a diet of mush and ice lollies) but in essence, I'm on the mend... ;) So I'm back in the office today, came in super early (on Flyingpop's London Bridge train) and going to see how I get on...on reflection I probably should have taken it easy and worked from home, but there we go...I'm here now... ;)

Tomorrow is a lads day at the Catholic Seminary (hehe, I love saying that)...knowing my luck I'll open one tinnie and fall fast asleep, but I'm not cancelling... ;) Tommo - chill the beer, prepare the snore-proof room and put the chop sticks on their stands...under 24 hours to go! :)