30 November, 2007

Christmas decorations in the office...

Office Christmas Decorations #1
Aw, doesn't it look festive...! ;)

Still a bit early to be putting them up at home though...


Heh, spotted this on the weekend (sorry about the picture, it was shot from the window of the car) scrawled on the front and side of a tour bus (on the back was an enormous "NZ" in white paint)...so some very lost Kiwis were obviously doing *something* at Redhill Aerodrome... ;)

29 November, 2007

MRI Scan at Docklands Healthcare

Jubilee Line - Canary Wharf
So had to face the music today and go and visit "Docklands Healthcare" (it's very handily only five minutes from where I work, you gotta love Canary Wharf!) to have my very naughty knee scanned in their lovely new "Siemens 1.5 Tesla", managed to forget that there is an east entrance from the Jubilee line, so took a very pleasant (and rather suprising) walk through Jubliee Park -
Jubilee Park Eyes #3
- where I was slightly delayed, as it seems all sorts of detached frog eye installations have been arranged in various amusing places (did a double take when I spotted the first pair peering out from inside a bush) -
Jubilee Park Eyes #2
- most of them also appear to be illuminated, so I imagine the very best effect is to be seen during the hours of darkness (when it would seem that giant slimy creatures were lurking in the shadows all around the place)...very amusing stuff! Will have to go back one evening with a tripod... ;)
Docklands Healthcare sign
Anyway, a very short walk later I found myself at the entrance to Docklands Healthcare, had to fill out a couple of forms (nothing too stressful) you just have to confirm in no uncertain terms that no-where on (or in) your body is anything remotely foreign and metallic (as the huge magnet would have absolutely no difficulty in ripping any such object straight out of your body, so remove any piercings before going, eh?)...

The MRI Scanner itself resembles an old IBM mainframe with a *HUGE* tube of Polo mints stuck on the side, you place yourself on a remotely operated table (after stripping down to a surgical gown in a little changing room), and the appropriate area of your body is then wedged in place (to stop it moving) by plenty of chunks of tempurfoam...some headphones are placed on your head (big, old fashioned cans, but fed sound through thick hollow plastic tubes (no metal remember), so everything sounds rather muted and distant)...you are then asked if you are comfortable, offered your choice from a list of music (they had all sorts from Classical, through NOW Albums all the way to a selection of classic Arabic hits)...I chose a bit of classic Coldplay...sat back as the slightly underwater sounding warbling began and was then told by the (nice antipodean or possibly South African) radiologist to "Stay as still you can, relax or we will have to repeat each scan"...and then the racket began, I tensed up *immediately*, just couldn't help it - it sounds like someone is attacking the tube with a hammer (very quickly) - in the end I was stuck in that increasingly uncomfortable position for over an hour - "Ok, there was a bit of movement there, did you feel it?", (nodding, Yes, I'm sorry), "Okay, we'll have to go again, just another 4 mintues, try to relax and *don't* move"...*Groan*...

Suffice it to say, doing this is very, *very* difficult and doesn't get any easier as time marches on...

Anyway, it's all over now, I walked away with 2 CDs full of interesting shots like this one -
Knee Scan
- that show slices of me as if I had been shredded on a giant mandoline...quite amazing!

Next step my consultant, as all that the pictures (although I glanced only briefly) seem to do for me is make me think of Sunday Roast...(which I am fully aware is, at the very *least*, a *little* strange, and potentially a very, *very* wrong reaction indeed)... ;) Just glad they weren't in colour...

Don't worry though, I'm not hungry...right now... ;)

28 November, 2007

Del Boy at Canary Wharf

Del Boy at Canary Wharf #1
Bit of a suprise this morning upon reaching the top of the escalator at Canary Wharf, a "Del Boy" look-a-like (Maurice Canham I think, but there are quite a number of them around) was posing for photographs!
Del Boy at Canary Wharf #2
He came complete with a market stall set up by the opposite wall (and several people with video cameras), all in aid of advertising (not quite sure about the link here) wireless headsets for office telephones...hmmm... ;)

27 November, 2007

Google Analytics - Sitemeter Down?

One Canada Square
As we were pulling into London Bridge this morning I peered over to the right to see if I could catch a glipse of "The Wharf" in the distance but the fog was so bad it was nowhere to be seen, and in fact, upon getting here, the top few floors were looking a little hazy...still, at least it's not too cold and it's not raining, it could be worse... ;)

Anyway, my site traffic tool (Sitemeter) seems to have given up the ghost, it died at Thanksgiving (too much Turkey and Cornbread I suspect), I haven't given up on it completely (still left the tag there just in case it springs back to life as I have a lot of historical data on there), but just on the off-chance, and also because I like my daily browse of who is visiting and how they ended up here I have also now installed Google Analytics (two heads are better than one)...and I have to say I am extremely impressed! In fact there's only two bad things I can say about it - it's private (so I have to log on to browse reports, and no-one else will be able to see them) and secondly, it's going to take some mucking around to get my head around the new interface, but it's hardly rocket science, won't take long to get used to...

So if you are in the same boat as me, or just fancy a change (it's completely free), give it a try!

26 November, 2007

County Mall, Crawley, Christmas Shopping

Country Mall #5
So over the weekend we paid a visit to County Mall in Crawley to do our Christmas shopping, and it was fairly successful too, it *could* have been a disaster, as it was the grand "Switching on of the lights" ceremony, causing us to exchange slightly concerned looks upon spotting the sign announcing the event, as the whole idea was to *avoid* crowds of rabid shoppers...
Country Mall #4
...anyway, as it turned out it was a fairly low key affair, all kicking off with a half audible rendition of some Spice Girls numbers by some young singers, unhindered by any pretence of talent and overflowing with enthusiasm, it's just a shame the PA wasn't working very well...they were followed by some rather better Christmas carol singers (who had sensibly waited until all the problems with the sound system had been ironed out) -
Country Mall #6
- and then Santa's Grotto opened and the crowd swarmed away from the music...
Country Mall #1
Anyway, we took advantage of everyone standing around looking and listening to zoom around the largely empty stores (and I know I deserve to be dodging bullets for saying this, as many people won't be in a similar position so early in the run-up) but it's such a pleasure to shop at this time of year, when all the shelves are full (so plenty of choice) and all the goods haven't been picked up and squashed and shaken and poked (over and over again) until the boxes are tatty...
Country Mall #2
...it wasn't all plain sailing though, the "3 for 2" in Boots proved a little difficult to actually turn into a bargain (and in the end involved a bit of over-spending and 2 visits to the checkout to maximise value), a faff, but no *real* problem when the stores are devoid of shoppers...we wandered the rest of Crawley, and actually managed to get pretty much every gift we need (only 2 or 3 remaining now)...one could almost relax! ;)

23 November, 2007

Christmas Decorations at Canary Wharf

Christmas decorations at Canary Wharf
So just which "Mr Scrooge" in Canary Wharf management dictated that all the Christmas decorations around the place had to contain prominent big brother "CCTV in operation here" warning signs then?

Not really in the spirit of things, is it?

Star Trek TOS - HD Remastered

Wow, only just got clued into this, someone had the brilliant idea that while they were going through the whole process of re-encoding all the early episodes of Star Trek (the original series) so it looks all pretty on massive HD panels, they might as well do a "George Lucas" and revamp all the special effects! The results are pretty staggering, check out these comparison shots to see the good work that has been done, can't wait to see them for myself!

22 November, 2007

Shoe Shine, Canary Wharf

Well, well, lookie here...I find myself at the tail end of the year 2007 and in this high tech world of floating glass, shimmering storefronts (packed with the finest goods from all around the globe) and sat right under the most powerful symbol of progress and excellence in industry that one can find in the whole of the United Kingdom -
One Canada Square - Looking Festive
- hidden underneath the escalators, in the subterrainian spaces below, it is possible to see people, today, earning a living by sitting at people's feet, in public, and polishing their shoes...
Shoe Shine
...how Dickensian... ;)

21 November, 2007

Benebene review

BeneBene sub
Mmmm - have I found a nice place to get lunch - "Benebene" (although the logo on the actual shop makes it look a bit more like "Bonobono" with it's Dreamcast-style swirl), it's really just a sort of "Pret" clone but my *goodness* the treats on offer...at the moment I'm cycling between chilli topside of beef (satisfyingly sweet and suprisingly spicy) and "Roast Chicken Breast with BBQ sauce, Jalapeno peppers and salad"...absolutely excellent, and each sub is only £2.50! Bargain! ;)

20 November, 2007

Best UK shopping comparison site - Find-dvd.co.uk

Well, I've used quite a number of shopping sites in the past (liking to think I'm particularly clever for shopping around to find the best deal) and the other day I was proudly telling a colleague all about dvd.co.uk (who get around UK tax by shipping everything from Switzerland, a bit like Amazon's little Channel Islands outfit, and are free shipping, and thus where I tend to buy many of my Xbox 360 games)...I was however utterly trumped by a colleage who clued me in to an absolute *diamond* of a site which covers not just games, DVDs, CDs and books, but also phones and electrical goods...and it doesn't actually sell anything, it just indexes *every* UK retailer and sorts it by final price (including shipping cost!)...

Check out this example, Jamie Oliver's new book - "Cook your way to the good life" (click the link to see the breakdown and prepare to be shocked)...no, not Amazon, not Tesco (and definitely not DVD.co.uk) but *Waterstones* are the cheapest online retailer at a staggering 50% discount and zero shipping...!

Would you honestly have gone and checked their website? Thought not...

So, prepare yourself to save a *lot* of time (if you do shop around) *and* a lot of cash (if you don't) in the run-up to Christmas... ;)

19 November, 2007

Commuting in the rain...

Wharf in the Rain
...you know, apart from the small walk from the car at Earlswood, in theory I could do the entire journey to work under cover - across the concourse at London Bridge, down into the tube, then at Canary Wharf straight into the underground shopping centre, turn left at HSBC and up the stairs next to Birley Sandwiches and I'm right by the lifts actually inside 1 Canada Square...today though I braved the rain (using my Metro as a makeshift umbrella) -
Wharf in the Rain
- on the way in today I also made a good start at reading Derren Brown's book "Tricks of the Mind" (don't buy it from there though, Tesco have it on 2 for £7) which is absolutely excellent (thus far), even without a paper and pen (as advised), I managed to annoy the hell out of Flyingpops on the London Bridge train by managing to memorise and recite a list of *twenty* obscure words (both backwards and forwards) in order after only having spent about a minute studying the method! Very, very impressive...it's absolutely *everything* to do with technique and nothing to do with extraordinary powers of recall however...and in order to do it to demand you would definitely need a very quick and bright imagination...

I can see why Flyingpops was a little embarrased at me delightedly saying "Urm...Wigwam, Baby...urm...Kiwi...BED...paintbrush aaaaand WALNUT! Yes!", there were a couple of funny looks being levelled in my direction... ;)

16 November, 2007

Thames Clipper Riverline - voucher

Thames Clipper Voucher
Got this voucher handed to me as I was stepping out of the tube this morning (there were delays on the Jubilee line, so I think they were going for the "I hate the tube" factor as an extra incentive to defect)...basically it's 50% off one single journey on a Thames Clipper...and I have to admit I was quite tempted...The hype makes it sound quite wonderful -

  • "Canary Wharf to London Bridge in 13 minutes, every 15 minutes"

  • "Riverline services suffer none of the problems of congestion or interruption that can blight Londoner's journey to work. Boats run to schedule with a better than 98% on time record"

  • "Standing inside boats is not allowed, so all passengers travel sitting in airline style seats"

  • "Tickets can be purchased on board, and season tickets are available. Travelcard discounts apply"

...and this is still saying nothing about the lovely view as one would be swept along the Thames - my daily commute would take me past the Tower of London, HMS Belfast and under Tower Bridge every day, to name but a few of the wonderful sights and the wind in your hair rather than stuffy air and close proximity to other commuters B.O. or choice of aftershave...all rather tempting, eh?

So I thought it might, at least, be worth checking out the prices...But when I did I nearly choked on the mini-cheddar I was eating! A *single* is £4.00 (which works out costing about two grand a year)! Even if you pay for a zone 1-2 travel card (about £90 a month) it's still £2.60 extra per trip! Admittedly the season tickets do make a big difference, but it's still going to set you back £1215 a year (about £4.67 for a return each day)...so it really can't compete with the tube for price (being, at best, £135 more expensive (if you throw away your travelcard completely, which isn't a great idea)...or £801 more expensive if you hang onto it...

Oh well, what a shame...I'll put that dream of a seat for every journey on hold for now then...but I have my 50% off voucher, so I guess I can at least try it out (especially if the underground is being silly)... ;)

Flickr DNA

Well, that picture of the fire a few days ago took a bit of a hammering, it got as far as Sky News in less than 20 minutes, the Guardian Newspaper featured it on one of their blogs, and over 2200 other people took a bit of a gander...so a bit of "right place, right time" (and thank goodness I always carry a camera!), previous best (since moving to "The Wharf") being the picture of the Thames Barrier in the "up" position (but that pales in comparison)...and it was this picture that has clued me in on the possibility of having one's pictures included in "Explore" on Flickr...

I mean, I knew it existed alright, even poked around on there from time to time, but I never dreamed of all the "shooters" out there, that one of mine might make it...a couple of comments on the picture told me I had, and I was rather proud of that, and then I discovered Flickr DNA...which shows quite clearly that this is not my first time to have been so honoured, in fact, I have had *ELEVEN* pictures featured there since I started Flickring, and *no-one* thought to tell me until now! Quite extraordinary!

Unfortunately the first two I can't claim credit for, and were from the early days of my blog (before I really knew what I was going to do with it, or Flickr so much for that matter, my XML button is still being served from there!)...

Anyway, interesting to finally discover I have been so honoured...thank you Mr (or Mrs) Flickr for all the kind exposure... ;)

15 November, 2007

Winter must be coming...

Canary Wharf Ice Rink
...the ice rink at Canary Wharf is finished, not quite as big as I thought it was going to be, in fact, it's pretty small compared to Central Park...
Jack Frost #
...and it was *freezing* this morning, amazing fractal patterns in the ice on the roof of the car though (nature's compensation for forcing us into coats and gloves)...although, nicely, it wasn't blisteringly hot on the tube, even though it was seriously busy, so there is a silver lining to colder starts... ;)

And look - the monkeys are replicating(!), thought they would have preferred warmer climes-
Jack Frost #

12 November, 2007

Commuting on Crutches

Anyway, this is what I had written to post at lunch (before the fire!) -
Back on crutches...
Suffice it to say, commuting on crutches isn't much of a laugh...my knee is playing up again, started to get quite bad during yesterday afternoon, but by the time we had done the shopping, I had cooked supper and we were sat down to watch a movie I was in a considerable amount of discomfort...ended up struggling to up bed at about 9pm and proceeded to have rather a difficult night's sleep, at about 3am I gave in and took one of the strong pain killers I had been given when I had my suspected dislocated patella earlier in the year (only a couple of them left, but at least I did hang on to them), it's funny, but they don't actually stop the pain - I am still fully aware that I'm in agony, but they just sort of let you detech from the experience...good in a way, because you still know not to take the piss and walk around on it, but bad because it's quite diffucult to sleep, my only comfortable position for the knee is laying on my back, but my normal comfy sleeping position is on my right-hand side...all a bit annoying really...

So, with no little amount of trepadation I set off this morning (with crutches attached to arms) to attempt the journey in, unfortunately it just wasn't going to go smoothly, the car needed defrosting, then there was no parking space at the station, then Flyingpops needed a new train ticket (during which time we missed our normal train in to London), then Flyingpops spotted that the young lady had issued her the wrong ticket (thank goodness she checked it!) a weekly instead of a monthly one, so back to the end of the monday morning queue...bleugh...

Anyway, got to London Bridge okay in the end, and struggled down into the tube (escalators are interesting on crutches) and no-one felt inclinded to give me any extra space or consideration (just to make things easier) only to reach the entrance to the Jubilee Line to discover a *massive* crowd, at least 40 people deep (to which Flyingpops exclaimed immediately "Right, you're getting a cab") but I thought I would persist after spotting a wide entrance that looked suitable for my predicament just off to my left...I worked my way through the crowd uttering pleas and apologies until I reached it, but no guard was there to let me through, Flyingpops managed to find a member of staff and after only about 5 minutes pleading with him ("But he is on crutches, he can't make it all the way through that lot!") he begrudgingly opened the gate and I joined the slowly shuffling queue for the escalator (for some reason they had closed the other two and only one was operating), a few wobbly moments later I emerged onto the east bound platform, stood in the queue, and got on the first train (good), but no-one offered me their seat (bad)...

It was only at Canary Wharf that things started to look up, wide concourse, plenty of escalators, helpful staff ("You alright there mate?"), lifts between levels (even outside!), people in the office actually holding doors open for me, and then the exhausted collapse into my chair...

Only to have to do the whole jolly lot again tonight on the way home...I'm going to have no skin left on my hands! :(

Huge plume of smoke over Stratford

Plume of Smoke
Okay, looks like it's from right near the site of the main Olympic stadium, Waterdon Road in Stratford...
Plume of Smoke

Massive Fire, East London!

Massive Fire, North London
Nothing on any of the news feeds yet! Scary!

This is the view from the 20th floor Canary Wharf...it's north of here...Around the Bow area people are speculating...

You can clearly see the flames at the base...

Bit of an update here...

10 November, 2007

Redhill Bonfire 2007

Redhill Bonfire #1
So last night we decided to go and see the "Massive Bonfire & Fireworks +Huge Funfair" opposite Redhill Aerodrome (in the same fields as the Redhill Steam fair), entrance fee depended on height (over 1.2 meters was £4, under was £2), so there was no pretending your kids were younger than they really were (sneaky, perhaps they should adopt the same pricing model for public transport!)...when we arrived, right in front us of were a large group of people in a panic, searching the bottom of bags for pennies obviously having not realised that they would have to pay to get in...whoops...
Redhill Bonfire #2
- once inside, the funfair did indeed turn out to be proper "+Huge" about 20-30 competition type stalls (win a huge plush scooby doo/goldfish/etc. for only £2 per go)-
Redhill Bonfire #7
- or a small bear in a balloon if you lost -
Redhill Bonfire #12
- about 15 very large rides -
Redhill Bonfire #6
Redhill Bonfire #9
Redhill Bonfire #16
Redhill Bonfire #18
- and about 20 or so kids rides (although I think we need to call the AA out to take a look at this one) ;) -
Redhill Bonfire #19
- loads of the usual sort of refreshment stalls (burger/hot dog/chips) -
Redhill Bonfire #15
- with the usual sort of accompaniments -
Redhill Bonfire #14
- and some very interesting flavoured candy floss (never seen that before!)...
Redhill Bonfire #17
The bonfire was *actually* also as billed, quite massive (although not as big as Brockham bonfire, in my humble opinion) so I don't think the flyer was correct to claim it was the "Biggest bonfire in Surrey", and on the subject of problems with the flyer, I also noticed that while in large letters it proudly proclaimed that the event was "in aid of St Catherine's Hospice", in small print next to it were the words "minimum donation £200"...rather cheeky, I thought...
Redhill Bonfire #10
- it took the organisers rather a long time to actually light the thing too, which was a bad thing, as rather than looking amazingly cool (before being lit) like Brockham, it rather resembled the site of the demolition of about 10 portacabins (white painted doors and window frames were clearly evident) -
Redhill Bonfire #11
- anyway, with plenty of propellant it did finally catch -
Redhill Bonfire #13
- and then proceeded to choke out the entire funfair and shower it with burning ash (as that was the direction of the rather strong wind), so we retreated to watch the Stunt show in the field where the large hill is...it could have been so good, as it was it was just, well, embarrassing really...the woman doing the announcing sounded like she had her foot stuck in a man trap and was being force fed helium and amphetamines (talking absolute nonsense at high speed in a squeaky, panicked voice), the "Stunt Spectacular" show consisted of a fairly distant twelve year old boy taking about ten minutes to start his small motorbike (some way off in the gloom), then doing two very minor jumps off a small ramp (only the second of which we could really see because someone brought a car down and shone it's headlights on it), followed by a man taking ten minutes to put on full leather biker gear (plus helmet) then wrap a small piece of bed sheet around his shoulders moistened by a little petrol (which was then lit), he ran about ten feet and then was fallen upon by the fire extinguisher team (the 12 year old boy), then the man got into a small box, everyone was asked to count down from ten, at which a small burst of flame came out from under the box and the guy inside pushed the sides down and rolled out into the mud (and was once again immediately sprayed by the 12 year old with a fire extinguisher)...very, very peculiar...

Anyway, then the "UK Champion" Firework display team put on what must have been one of their worst ever performances (whole 2-3 second waits between mostly small single fireworks with the occasional ground-based fizzle), and even at one stage a quite large firework that was obviously intended to go off quite high up in the air detonated at ground level! So the champs must have been having a bit of an off day (the fireworks in the distance from South Park football club looked rather more promising, put it that way)...or maybe it's just being spoilt by Brockham (year after year)...
Redhill Bonfire #25
Redhill Bonfire #27
Redhill Bonfire #22
Redhill Bonfire #24
- anyway, it came time to leave (everyone seemed to want to go right away, not bothering to wait for the "Fire diver" show) and we actually got stuck in the mud in the car park (even though we were about the tenth vehicle to leave), so many thanks to the boys of the Surrey Fire Brigade who helped push Colin the camper to safety!

09 November, 2007

London Flood Risk map - check your postcode

So, this is where I used to work (the map comes from the environment agency "Flood risk" map) showing what would happen (in dark blue) if local rivers breached their banks, and what would happen (in light blue) if there was an "Extreme flood"...
Kings Cross Flood map
...pretty safe in Islington then, even though they do have the odd canal...Anyway, according to rumours going round "the Wharf" at the moment, the tidal surge is due to hit the barrier at about 1600hrs...now, compare the above map to where I am currently sat -
Canary Wharf Flood map
- oo-er! Rather a stark difference, however, note the purple lines, these are flood defences designed to stop us all drowning like rats in the London underground on the way home (just to serve us all right for working on the London Floodplane)...included among them is the mighty Thames Barrier (as I mentioned already), which gives London an odds of flooding of 1:2000 years (about 0.05% per year), add to that the fact that the surge is about 8 inches lower at the moment than expected previously (according to the latest measurements), and we will probably be just fine...goodness knows what the Romans used to do though, all get into boats probably... ;)
Anyway, if you want to check your postcode for the possible need to swim back home from work tonight, here is the postcode checker...