Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

Today I went to the new Doctor Who Experience at Olympia. It’s a two part exhibition, starting with an interactive walkthrough and then a more normal array of props and costumes to gawp at.

After being swallowed by a crack in time we’re taken to a museum on Starship UK (crammed full of all sorts of props – I spotted the ‘Schlechter Wolf’ bomb, a life belt from the SS Bernice, Yeti control spheres and a Dalek trooper helmet as well as the headline items pointed out in the dialogue). Whilst in the museum the Doctor contacts us, in specially recorded Matt Smith video clips, and reveals that he’s been trapped in the Pandorica again and needs our help to escape.

The TARDIS materialises and we (or rather any children in the group – once again, little blighters get all the best things) pilot it to the Doctor’s rescue. Until we crash on a Dalek ship. Ooops. Surrounded by new paradigm Daleks ready to exterminate us all. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of some old style Daleks – “The Children of Davros” – which may point at a new Dalek civil war in the forthcoming series.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire as the escape from the Dalek ship takes us through a corridor (lots of corridors in this, which is very appropriate) containing Weeping Angels. Rushing onwards we reach the Pandorica itself and the Doctor does something sonic to teleport himself into the TARDIS. There’s a cool 3D sequence of Daleks, Cybermen and Angels flying at us from the time vortex before the Doctor saves the day.

The second half is more conventional and packed with more goodies than any previous Doctor Who exhibit (certainly more than Earls Court a few years ago or Longleat a lot of years ago) – costumes from all eleven Doctors and all the twenty first century companions. 1980s and 2010 TARDIS exteriors, 1980s and 2005 TARDIS control rooms, six different models of Daleks from 1963 to 2010, three different Sontarans, the Giant Robot, the Face of Boe, and more and more.

It’s not cheap, ยฃ20 for adult tickets ย and an eye watering ยฃ12 for a photo of yourself in the Pandorica chair (I passed on that), but if you’re as much of a Doctor Who fan as me you’ll love every moment of it.

Last year I said “I think 2010 may be slightly less weighted towards graphic novels”. Whoops.

How many of my 2010 books have you read?

Available as a poll over on Live Journal (you donโ€™t need an LJ account to vote, just an OpenID account which means an account from, Google, Yahoo, Blogger, etc.)

Read the rest of this very true thing…

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A week is a long time in politics. On this blog it’s clearly ten days.

The Election

I have never yet voted (in a general election) for a candidate who got elected. This didn’t change. Overall, happy that the Greens got their first MP, happy that Cameron didn’t get a majority, disappointed by mostly everything else.

The Coalition

A Lib-Dem/Labour coalition was clearly not going to work, the numbers, personalities and media. So with the option between a Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition and a Conservative minority government, which would be the lesser of two evils? Considering that neither Labour nor the Lib-Dems can afford to fight another election and that Labour need time to pick a new leader and a new direction, I think that a minority government would have been asking for trouble. So, the Lib-Dem/Conservative might have been the least worst choice, not just for Nick Clegg, but for everyone.

The Government

There are a lot of people in the new cabinet that I don’t like. There are some I grudgingly respect and a few I actually do like. Taking a 5% pay cut is a good sign (but when the company I worked for ten years ago was getting into trouble we took a 10% pay cut…). Other than that it’s all noise and promises so far.

Rewriting the Unwritten Constitution

There seems to be a lot of confusion between the ability to bring down the government and the ability to dissolve parliament. As I see it the proposal (which currently lacks a lot of detail) will change things like this:

Currently Proposed
The Prime Minister has the right to dissolve parliament and call an election at any point, and must call one after five years The Prime Minister has no right to dissolve parliament and call an election. An election will take place automatically after five years.
MPs may force the resignation of the Prime Minister if more than 50% vote for a motion of no confidence. MPs may force the resignation of the Prime Minister if more than 50% vote for a motion of no confidence.
MPs have no way to dissolve parliament. MPs may dissolve parliament if more 55% vote in favour.

So the PM is giving up power, and MPs will gain a new power. So far so good.

The problem is with what happens after a vote of no confidence brings down the PM. Currently it would likely lead to the defeated PM resigning and calling an election. In the proposed system it would only do the first. So what if more than 50% but less than 55% of MPs hate the current government (e.g. in the current parliament, what happens if the Lib-Dems decide they want to get out of the coalition)? The PM would have to resign and then we’d be back in the same situation we were in after the election – horse trading and squabbling between the parties to form a new coalition or minority government.

If the proposed changes do become law, and if that 55% is, as the critics fear, high enough to prevent parliament being dissolved early, then Gordon Brown’s lasting legacy will be to have set the first Thursday in May as the date for all future elections.


My local candidates, assessed on the quality of their web sites.

Tessa Jowell, Labour

IA and Design: Nice use of YouTube and Google Maps (don’t re-invent the wheel, use the market leaders where suitable). Two equal width content columns means the user doesn’t know which piece of content is more important. Labour Party banner ad at the top looks like a banner ad. Accessibility and Privacy links go to so how can we tell whether they apply to this site?

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 10 validation errors. Layout breaks in Opera 10.53. Email sign up things doo.doo is a valid domain name and dfsfsfd a valid postcode. JavaScript for TinyMCE and something call admin-interface.tao are loaded on every page – maybe these should only be loaded on admin screens?

Kemi Adegoke, Conservatives

IA and Design: Best looking site, not much else to say about it – simple but efficient.

Technical: Based on WordPress. Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Strict, has 85 validation errors. Kemi claims to “enjoy web development and writing the occasional bit of code”. Layout breaks very slightly in Opera.

Jonathan Mitchell, Liberal Democrats

IA and Design: It’s a Blogger blog – with commenting disabled. Only been blogging since February apparently. Black text on a mid-green background. All the text is in bold.

Technical: It’s a Blogger blog – claims to be XHTML 1.0 Strict, has 363 (!) validation errors.

Shane Collins, Green Party

Couldn’t find an individual site, so

IA and Design: Video should probably be instead of mugshot instead of tucked away at the bottom. Otherwise clean and efficient, if a bit basic.

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 41 validation errors.

Elizabeth Jones, UKIP

Couldn’t find an individual site, so

IA and Design: Photo looks like it came from MySpace. Nice use of UGC in the Q&A section (but … how can blood sports be “a matter for the individual to decide”?)

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 131 validation errors. URL is terrible from an SEO perspective.

So, we’ve learnt that the big parties spend more on web sites than the little ones; that no candidate can make a site that actually validates; that XHTML is hands down winner over ye olde HTML 4 or bright shiny new HTML5. Not much help in actually deciding to vote for. ๐Ÿ™


I went, I queued, I shopped, I chatted to a few people, I took some rather poor photographs:

Once the house move is out of the way, I need to spend a good amount of time practising photography, especially flash photography.

For future reference, here’s what’s happened so far:

  • Tuesday March 2nd – viewed house for first time.
  • Saturday March 6th – viewed house for second time.
  • Tuesday March 9th – made initial offer.
  • Friday March 12th – had final offer accepted ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Saturday March 13th – mortgage application.
  • Thursday March 18th – survey (allegedly, not seen results yet)
  • Monday March 22nd – met with solicitor.
  • Wednesday March 24th – massive amount of paperwork arrived from solicitor. Budget removes stamp duty for first time buyers on properties up to ยฃ250,000 which includes us ๐Ÿ™‚

This is just the most recent part of a marathon: we’ve been looking since September, have spoken to eight different estate agencies, seen houses with five of them, seen sixteen houses in total, and seen four of those houses more than once.

As a follow-up to Desert Island Discs, the team at work have been doing our top ten films, and this week was my turn. The only condition was that one of the ten had to be set in London. Once again, Iโ€™ll be buggered if Iโ€™m writing all this lot up and not turning it into a blog post.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

I remember watching this, aged about 8, sitting on the floor at school during one of our headmaster’s film nights. As most people know, it’s Shakespeare’s Tempest mixed with a bit of Freud and set in outer space. The special effects contain some real “how did they do that back then?” moments. And notice that the starship is a flying saucer and the crew are all men – that was the status quo in almost all science fiction back then and would be for another ten years, until Star Trek rewrote the rules. The “sequel” is also well worth seeing ๐Ÿ˜‰

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

My London film. Well the first half is set in 22nd century London (that looks awfully like 1960s London).
This is the second of the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who films, big(-ish) budget, technicolour, remakes of the first two Dalek TV stories. To be honest I prefer the TV version – the scenes of Daleks patrolling an abandoned London are much more atmospheric in B&W. But this film is more important because this was repeated on telly almost every summer holiday from the mid-70s onwards so several generations of Doctor Who fans grew up with this version in their childhood memories. So much so, that at least one later TV episode references events as they took place in the film, not the original.

The Italian Job (1969)

(Also got some London bits) I haven’t seen the remake. Why would I want to?

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Just a private enterprise operation.

The Sting (1973)

Probably the best confidence trick movie ever. And parts of it are ripped off by almost every episode of Hustle.

Star Wars (1977)

I am a member of the Star Wars generation. This film came out at the exact moment in my childhood for me to be hooked. And that’s why we have the original here, not the “more grown-up” The Empire Strikes Back. This was when George Lucas knew how to have fun, before CGI, before the “expanded universe”, before we all became cynical.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

There have been 11 Star Trek movies to date. Some of them are rubbish; some of them are good fun; two of them are really quite splendid. This is the film that saved Star Trek. After the worthy but dull and expensive Star Trek The (Slow) Motion Picture, this is the film that remembered that Trek should be fun and brash and really over acted. This is the film that gave us some of the finest Shatnerisms. (Including, of course, Khaaaaaan! )

Aliens (1986)

I think that the Special Edition of this was the first film I owned on video tape. An incredibly influential film – twenty years later and films, comics, computer games are still playing with variations of the future-war look created here. “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

The Usual Suspects (1995)

This was from a period when I was going to the cinema a lot and seeing a lot films that have really stuck in my mind (Unforgiven, Apollo 13, Once Were Warriors, Quiz Show, Strange Days, Ed Wood) but this one stands out. Repeated viewings are about spotting clues and inconsistencies but if you saw it first without any spoilers, watching the story unfold without knowing how what came next was something special.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

(Also got some London bits) Best British film of the decade? If you grew up in the home counties, where winning village of the year was a big deal, then parts of this film are worryingly accurate…

A couple of dinosaurs, but where ... ?

More to come…

Yesterday, I tweeted "According to my LibraryThing records I’ve read 141 books this year: 26 novels, 7 non-fiction, 102 graphic novels and 6 ‘other’."

Then I went out and bought another two graphic novels… But it must be said that most of the comics I’ve read this year came from West Norwood library, and now that I’ve exhausted most of their good ones, and some of their bad ones, I think 2010 may be slightly less weighted towards graphic novels.

How many of my 2009 books have you read?

Available as a poll over on Live Journal (you don’t need an LJ account to vote, just an OpenID account which means an account from, Google, Yahoo, Blogger, etc.)

Read the rest of this very true thing…


At the start of the year I was working Wicked Web in Clerkenwell, living in West Norwood and had been going out with for six months. We went on holiday to Boston and Tennessee. WW moved office to Old Street in the spring. I went to Las Vegas for Andy’s stag weekend.


I took Lettice to Budapest for her birthday. WW started laying staff off towards the end of the year.


WW went into liquidation and hence I was made redundant. I became self-employed and started freelancing for many ex-WW clients. Went to the south of France with Lettice’s family – first time I’d ever seen the Mediterranean.


I spent the first part of the year working on a site for the BBC. Towards the end of the year I started doing contract work via an agency which meant that I got a large refund from the tax man, eventually. I went on a falconry day and flew a Harris Hawk. I asked Lettice to marry me.


I started this blog and spent several months working for the Home Office.


I gave up freelancing and started work at Visit London. I started cross posting this blog to LiveJournal and joined LibraryThing and Last.FM. I moved house to larger flat, ten minutes down the road from the old one, and Lettice moved in. We got married and went on honeymoon in Canada. ๐Ÿ™‚


I learnt XSLT. ๐Ÿ™ Lettice also started to work at VL. I joined Flickr


Relaunched with a new CMS, clocking up a stupid number of days off in lieu in the process. I did jury duty. I joined Facebook. We went to Dublin and Amsterdam.


We went to Venice. I learnt JSP and jQuery. I joined Twitter


We went to Barcelona and tried to buy a house. I grew a moustache for charity.