End User food and drink fun stuff

Happy birthday me

As most of you know I’m normally a quiet, softly spoken kind of guy. I don’t shout out about things like it being my birthday. I’m 53 today.

Not entirely sure what to think or say. It’s either borderline mid fifties or early fifties, or both. I quite like it being my birthday. Fifties feels respectable although you and I both know that is hardly the case, innit.

I’m spending the night of my birthday having a quiet steak and chips in with Mrs Davies and our two youngest. The other two are away. There are enough parties going on to merit not bothering with one for my actual birthday which in any case a school night.

We began the party season last Thursday in Town with the ITSPA Xmas lunch. That was followed by our by now traditional (since at least 25 years ago) Xmas Market Party on the Saturday night of the Lincoln Christmas Market. We sing carols, drink lots and have a jammin’ session afterwards. I’m lucky enough to have musical kids and together with friends we mustered trumpet, piano, sax, geetar and drums.

Sunday night was a similar party at some friends. This week it’s the big one – the #trefbash2014 which in effect lasts two days. Saturday is a 50th birthday party black tie job.

The last week of term I already have local after work party invites on Monday (OpenPlan) and Tuesday (Wright Vigar) . Thursday is my annual carol singing night at The Morning Star in Lincoln followed by Jazz. We also have the LONAP board coming over that night. On the Friday night I have the launch party of The Lincoln A2Z Project. This is something I have been involved with for the last two years, writing 52 creative pieces for radio. Google it.

On the Saturday night we have a party at the Brittains around the corner on Curle Avenue and on Sunday we leave to visit parents and do the Christmas thing. Unfortunately that involves non stop partying until 30th December at which point we return home and immediately go out to a Pylons Gig at the West End Tap.

We don’t do New Year’s Eve so that is pretty much our quiet night in of the whole holiday season. I think Anne would like to do New Year’s Eve but tbh I’m a miserable bugger. Good thing probably.

So that’s it. It’s my birthday and a quiet night in with the kids beckons. I will need to build up my energy in time for #trefbash2014. The featured image gives you a taste of what’s in store!

Early doors anyone?

food and drink fun stuff

#trefbash2014 SOLD OUT eventAll tix are now SOLD OUT for #trefbash2014. If you are a mate you may be able to still get in – just message me. If you are a Corporate Sponsor you can still buy a ticket. If you have already got a corporate ticket but not yet signed up your guests then I still have the space for them – just let me know. Otherwise thanks for everyone for their continued excellent support.

Don’t forget this year’s bash is a beach party. You are expected to make some sort of effort to fit in with the theme. I’ll leave the detail to you. Looking forward to seeing y’all on the night.

People tend not to schedule much for the Friday after the bash. If this is you join us for breakfast at Silva’s on Shaftesbury Avenue at around 9.30 on the Friday and thence a few pubs around Covent Garden for a hair of the dog.

Catch ya later.

Business fun stuff

Charity Auction for BBC Children In Need Appeal at #trefbash2014

Charity Auction for BBC Children In Need Appeal at #trefbash2014

Yo all. With #trefbash2014 coming up fast on the rails/looming on the horizon/being just around the corner I thought we’d do something a little different this year with a Charity Auction for BBC Children In Need Appeal.

First of all check out this vid, kindly produced by @TomAndThat of Eyupentertainment and starring Alex Lester of BBC Radio 2 fame.

The palm tree appeared in a video Alex Lester, The Movie – you can check it out here.

The palm tree has been sat in the Radio 2 studios for a few weeks gathering celebrity signatures. It features the likes of John Cleese, Hugh Grant, Mick Jagger and Bono not to mention all the Radio 2 presenters – Chris Evans, Steve Wright, Ken Bruce, Jeremy Vine, Simon Mayo et al (whoever Al is).

Now seeing as #trefbash2014 is a beach party we thought it would be particularly appropriate to use the palm tree (we should give it a name but we haven’t) as an auction lot for charity and because Children in Need is supported by the BBC it is particularly appropriate to let that good cause have the cash.

To make it interesting I’m also going to throw in a month’s sidebar advertising on worth £1,400.

So when you come along to #trefbash2014 bring your pencil sharpener/cheque book, raise your arm and get stuck in to the auction action. You will also get some prolonged PR on as we will be producing a video of the night which of course will run and run…

Engineer events food and drink fun stuff

#trefbash2014 – the “accessories” have been ordered

With only 24 days to go until #trefbash2014 the excitement is building.

Well it is in the offices anyway. #trefbash2014 is the culmination of the business year, after which it is very hard to get much done. Usually the next few days are a write off.

This year we have pro teams on the photography and on video production. We also have a fantastic interactive “facility” which you can only find out about on the night. Sgonna be good though.

We are also for the first time having a fantastic one off charity auction and I hope to be in a position to post a photo of the prize this coming Friday. It’s something you will be proud to have on display in your company reception:) We will also have a special guest star there to present the prize to the winning bidder. Tune in Friday to find out more.

122 people have signed up so far which is roughly par for the course with three and a half weeks to go. Last year we had around 180 turn up. All the Surf Bum tickets have gone. This ticket seemed to strike a chord with people. Cold Beer Billy tickets are about to sell out and then it’s neck and neck between Lifeguard and Coconut Delight. Beach Bartender seems to be least popular. Don’t worry. You won’t be expected to serve drinks.

The accessories have now been ordered. Well it is a beach party. What will the best dressed beach party goer be wearing this year?

If you still want to get your brand up there on the night it is still not too late. We have commissioned a special video that will be running all night, interrupted only by our special interactive feature. Lots of exposure and recognition opportunities.

We now have a menu:

Main Course Hot Fork Buffet
Hot and Spicy Jerk Chicken
Steak and Black Pepper Burger
Vegetable Jambalaya
Creole Fish Curry

Side Dishes
Tomato Relish
Tortilla Chips, Soured Cream & Garlic
Caribbean Salad, Honey & Lime Dressing

Ian the chef at the Phoenix Artist Club is a top operator. Knows that engineers have sophisticated tastes but also like a few carbs to soak up the champagne. I’m ordering the champagne next week. Last year we went though over 80 bottles!

If you are planning on coming but haven’t yet signed up get yer names down here. More deets here on the blog.

#trefbash2014 – a production:)

Engineer fun stuff travel

Rosetta project uses components manufactured in Lincoln UK

Rosetta spacecraft parts manufactured in Lincoln

Just had a quick phone call from my mate Terry that almost gave me a mild orgasm. Years ago we worked at a company called Marconi Electronic Devices (MEDL) in Lincoln. I ran the radiation hard components product line and Terry was the chief designer. Terry reminded me of the Rosetta spacecraft parts manufactured in Lincoln.

We used a technology called Silicon on Sapphire (SOS). This was manufactured just like a normal silicon chip/semiconductor except that the substrate was Sapphire, an insulation material. SOS was extremely resistant to the effects of the radiation that satellites encounter in space and was therefore in great demand for many projects.

They were halcyon days. I’d get trips to glamorous locations all over the world working on exciting projects. These projects still come back to roost from time to time as they are all long term missions – Space is a very big place.

The last one to surface was the Cassini mission which landed a probe on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. We made the spacecraft processor for the Titan lander. It was a 3 MIP 32 bit processor called the MA31750 – used the old Mil Std 1750A software instruction set.

Although the company is now long gone and wasn’t really a great employer the people were terrific. I still have some SOS wafers containing 31750 die at home. If I remember I’ll take some photos. They’re in the attic somewhere.

We also made memory chips (64KB) and other peripherals – the idea being that you could design the whole processor board using our parts.

It opened doors all over the world. I met astronaut Buzz Aldrin and even went along to Moscow by invitation of the VP of the Russian Space Agency to give a talk – in front of Russia’s top space scientist. Also did a talk at CERN for scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project which has been in the news of late.

Now we have Rosetta. It’s hugely funky to be able to say I was part of that project. I have loads of stories from that time but I feel as if you’ve indulged me enough.

If I can dig out more on the Rosetta electronics I’ll share it.

Purely coincidentally Terry and I went to see the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum on Tuesday morning after the Albert Hall Pylons Gig. Cool stuff 🙂

End User fun stuff

Hitler, he only had one ball…

The Pylons at the Royal Albert Hall

Having spent all last week in Hammersmith at RIPE69 the start of this week saw another two days in London. This time the visit was to see The Pylons at the Royal Albert Hall at the Music For Youth Festival – the Schools Proms.

MFY Schools Proms at Royal Albert HallI’m very proud to tell you all that my son Joe is a member of The Pylons. Keyboards, trumpet and vocals. The Schools proms are billed as three days of music from the best youth talent in the uk. Ordinarily I wouldn’t blow trumpets like this but last night was a seriously top class evening of musical entertainment and with a totally vested interest I’m doing it anyway.

There were groups there who you could consider to be world class. If we consider The Pylons, each band member is a multi-instrumentalist to a high level. They have all already played the Albert Hall on a number of occasions as members of different youth orchestras and big bands. This showed in the composure and professionalism with which they appeared on stage.

I have no photos of the actual set. I was too busy watching and enjoying the show. The Pylons were accompanied by a cameraman for the whole trip so we will have a professionally done video to show as a souvenir of the day.

Safe to say the show was fantastic. I’m still emotionally exhausted from the evening. I’m sure The Pylons will go on to great things. The lads are still only aged between 16 and 18 and they should see the Albert Hall as just a stepping stone.

Although most of the family headed back to Lincoln and the mundanity of school the next day although Joe was playing the Last Post in the local village remembrance ceremony. I fortunately was able to stay in town to celebrate. We ended up with a 1am finish at The Phoenix Artist Club, venue of the forthcoming Xmas Bash. No doubt this has contributed to my exhaustion.


fun stuff

RIPE69 coffee breaks are sponsored by @lonap

RIPE69 is in town this week – look me up

Am at RIPE69 all this week. Working hard on behalf of LONAP who are sponsoring the coffee breaks.

If you don’t already know, LONAP is a not for profit Internet eXchange Point (IXP) where members connect with each other to share their internet traffic, a process known as peering.

Peering is what makes your internet experience a good one. Good in terms of low cost. Peering is the cheapest way for an Internet Service Provider to connect to the internet because they have only to provide a single connection into a communal hub.

Good also in terms of user experience because peering effectively provides a direct connection between ISPs with far fewer router “hops” in between. In this way latency, or speed of connection is optimised.

Uhuh you say. Well a fast speed of connection is important for a number of reasons. It isn’t just about bandwidth which is a representation of how much data you can shovel down a given connection in a given amount of time. It’s also about how quickly that data packet gets to your laptop/tab/phone.

The model is similar to to that used in financial exchanges in the city. Dealers are desperate to get financial data as quickly as possible becasue improvements measured in terms of milliseconds can result in millions of pounds of profit (don’t ask me how exactly).

In the internet world there are statistics that support why a faster connection makes more money for websites. Amazon claim that a 100 milliseconds improvement in page access time results in a 1% revenue improvment. Yahoo increased traffic by 9% with a 400 milliseconds improvement and Google say that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6%.

That’s why ISPs peer. LONAP, with around 150 members, is one of the worlds biggest IXPs, ranking in the top 20 out of 450 or more around the globe. LONAP are based in London which ranks as the most connected city in the world hosting the most AS numbers. An AS number is a number assigned to a network operator that allows it to host IP addresses. The explanations go on. I stop here.

LONAP, as I said, are sponsoring the coffee breaks. When you get  coffee the mugs have tearaway sections that tell you whether you have won a prize or not. We are giving away some terrific prizes including the one in the featured image of this post. If you want a LONAP branded phone charger get drinking coffee. You’ll need to search out someone wearing a LONAP shirt to get your prize.

If you are at RIPE69 look me up. Also check out more connectivity related posts here.

Business fun stuff

Announcing #trefbash2014

welcome to the Phoenix Artist clubHere it is kids – trefbash is back with #trefbash2014 11th Dec.

The UK internet industry’s biggest bash of the year is back. Now in its 5th year, the Xmas bash is again at Soho’s exclusive Phoenix Artist Club.  #trefbash2014 is a beach party – the full coconut with straw hats, garlands and a mandatory Hawaiian shirt dress code (or coconuts – you choose). A good time is absolutely guaranteed for this, the culmination of the internet tech industry’s party year.

Music is provided by the high class sounds of the Jeff Brown quartet supported by international jazz pianist and Ronnie Scotts regular Colin Dudman. This year also, as an added bonus we have a special feature that includes a celebrity inflatable palm tree. You’ll have to be there to find out more!

One of the features of a trefbash is the terrific food and chef Ian is providing us with a fantastic bbq spread to suit all palates. And then there’s the champagne… Check out this video from a previous trefbash. Link to eventbrite page here or sign up below the list of sponsors. This is by invite only to readers of – password is “friendoftref”.

trefbash2014 has been made possible by the generosity of the following sponsors – top notch folk one and all 🙂

Magrathea-Logo-CMYK provu-onwhite yealink-logo-hi-res-green-on-white-background GradwellLogo_WithStrap_CMYK_AW ipcortex Flexoptix Cumulus Networks Timico Snom Adforesight Voxygen Imtech ICT Allegro Networks Siphon Networks Sangomaaql_50 GENBAND_Logo_2012_50


fun stuff pissup in a brewery video

The pissup in a brewery video is released simultaneously in all global markets.

It’s been months in the making. Each week I get thousands of emails asking me when it is due to be released.  Now the wait is over. I am pleased to be able to announce, for your delight and delectation, the pissup in a brewery video.

Those of you lucky enough to be there should look out for glimpses of you in the crowd.  For those who couldn’t make it the video will at least go some way towards letting you know what you missed. It’s not as if you weren’t invited.

Enough of this preamble. Bring on the dancing girls pissup in a brewery video.

Video camera and production courtesy of the very fine and talented Tom Davies.

The pissup in a brewery video was recorded at the Fourpure brewery in South Bermondsey.

PS cracking logo giff at the end of the video. Expect to see more of that:)

broadband End User food and drink fun stuff internet media travel

What I Did On My Summer Holiday (Digital Issue)

Recounting a (digital) summer holiday, well spent.

I didn’t intend to take a break from writing during this year’s La Famille Kessel summer holiday in Normandy. No, I had plans to regale stalwart readers with missives on the nature of my vacation from the digital perspective, intending to carry the content flag for anyone out there hungering for fresh pixelated meat during these dog days of August. Of course, I also planned to put sugar in the Latte Cannelle that just arrived to the left of KoryChrome here at Paris’s RROLL. Not salt.

Offering up the Yiddish proverb my departed mother used to wield easily and quite often, “Man plans and God laughs.”

Failures aside (gee, that was easy), in an attempt to backwards-engineer satisfaction of the aforementioned hunger I will recount five (5) areas of computer-based fun I indulged in around the edges of my mostly unearned R&R over the past four weeks.

<OK. Everybody take a breath. Here we go.>

  1. As an R.E.M. fan(atic) dating back to the 1983’s “Murmur” I was thrilled to learn in May that the band was finally making good on their long-held promise/threat to issue a rarities collection. And in typical R.E.M. style the boys over-delivered, kicking out not one collection but two — Complete Rarities: I.R.S. 1982-1987 (50 tracks) and Complete Rarities: Warner Bros. 1988-2011 (131 tracks). 181 tracks, the equivalent of 18 albums of “new” material. Of course, the fact that I already had 98% of the tracks didn’t make this treasure trove any less interesting, oh no! These two digital “boxsets” represented an UPGRADE opportunity supreme, as well as hours and hours of artwork foraging and data tagging and reconciliation amusement. Just my kind of BIG data.
  2. It seems that every summer for going on who-knows-how-many years I have on some late night or other sat down at my computer determined to finally get a definitive handle on media information delivery. Or, in other words, figuring out how to configure RSS feeds in a way that not only brought links across from my favorite resources in a great many areas, but that did so in a way that allowed me to spend more time benefitting from the deluge than managing it. I hesitate to whether I succeeded this time, but with RSS Notifier in place and tweaked pretty darn well I can say that my hopes are high. If next summer I find myself NOT re-attacking this project, at that time I will know that “Paid” has finally been put to this bill.
  3. The new site that you hold in your hands, dear reader, has been praised far and wide, end to end, and in between the cracks (yes, I am the reason the store is out of clichés until next Tuesday). And on the surface it rocks far and wide, end to end…well, etc. Behind the scenes, though, quite a bit of work remains to be done to really get the thing humming. One major effort taking place is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) enhancement/reconciliation for legacy posts going back six-plus years, an ongoing task that represented pretty much all of the work I did on the site during August, between opening my throat for copious food and drink intake, forming a marvelous first-impression of Guernsey (the result of a brilliant 4-day holiday-within-a-holiday excursion), and doing whatever-the-heck-else constituted a holiday well taken. Regular visitors to the site will likely not notice any changes to their experience, save perhaps for greater crowds milling about the more popular attractions therein.
  4. 38+ rolls of film. In the four weeks stretching from 27-July to 24-August I shot over 38 rolls of film. “Holy Shutterbug, Batman!”, you are no doubt thinking, because presented like that the feat sure sounds impressive. And expensive. Leyna the Leica is quite the digital camera, though, so please temper your awe accordingly. Still, I do shoot in RAW and that necessitates that I “develop” the photos into .jpg files, adjusting various photo attributes as necessary (exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, white and black clipping, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction, and perspective correction, to name far too many), so if you want to let your awe (awe for RAW?) run rampant then by all means please do.
  5. The “La Famille Kessel” cookbook project continued during summer holiday 2014, with 10 recipes added, the appendage of notes and photos to existing content, and even some scant thought paid to eventual production. The collection, an ongoing concern, is an amorphous beast of a thing that will bring together pass-down family and friend recipes and a wealth of those found in key cookbook/magazine/whatever over the years. Promises to be quite the tasty thing when version 1.0 is finally completed…sometime in 2022 or thereabouts, coinciding with the kicking of The Boy out of his broadband-enabled nest.

So in summing up my digital meanderings for summer 2014, it is apparent that it was all about data and databases (about as surprising as water flowing out of the spigot when the tap is turned on). And naturally, we at are curious to know what you did to wile away the long days and short nights of summer — nobody will laugh — and thus invite your prolific Comments input. C’mon…have at it!


fun stuff Weekend

Offline at 30,000 feet – Tesco sold out of ice #icebucketchallenge

Tesco sold out of ice due to Ice Bucket Challenge (presumably).

Offline at 30,000 feet I have nothing to do but listen to music and read my recently acquired Wisden Anthology 1963 – 1982 which whilst hugely interesting to us cricket buffs can only be dipped into in short bursts.

The outcome is boredom. This post, typed diligently by prehensile right thumb and using the WordPress Android app, is the outcome. I can’t even look out of the window for whilst seat 11 is notionally a window seat it lacks said orifice and I am left with staring at the wall. There is an alternative to the wall which is the drinks trolley.  I am watching the drinks trolley slowly making its way towards row 11. When it arrives at row 11 I hope to purchase a pod of Pringles which will be expensive but at least will provide me with something to do for the short interval between popping them open and scoffing the lot.

For reference the pack cost €2.50 and contained 25 crisps/Pringles. At ten pence each this might sound expensive but the value for money will be influenced by a combination of how long I can make them last, somewhat akin to how long you can keep a Rollo (or fruit pastille etc – you choose) in your mouth before finishing it off, and the value that might be ascribed to their contribution towards alleviating the boredom. As it happens I quite like Pringles,  especially sour cream and  chive, and I suspect I will dispense with any pretence of finding value in favour of a quick fix.

They are at least not as much of a rip off as the water in Palma airport which was €3.60 for a 750 cl bottle. You have to discard any liquids before going through security so you have to buy water for the journey when you get air side. In fairness to the travelling public, ie me, they should regulate the price of water at air side retailers.

We are, as you might have guessed, on our way home from our Mallorcan holiday. A tech (ish) post is in development but in the meantime this one is making good use of my time.

Apart from the Pringles I have refrained from ordering any other edibles from the cabin crew. This is because when we get home, which all being well should be around 20.30 tonight, I  am having beans on toast with sausages and/or bacon. The ingredients have been pre ordered with kid3,  who returned home early from our holiday to get some A level course work done, hopefully having nipped to Tesco for supplies.

During my globe trotting days I would look forward to returning home to some proper British food in the guise of either beans on toast or a takeaway curry. On this occasion we have only just had a curry so beans on toast it is. The food in Mallorca was great largely because we mostly avoided the crappy tourist joints that all seemed to get their ingredients from the same frozen food outfit. The biggest problem was gross over consumption with a large buffet breakfast each morning at around 10am followed by a club sandwich or simlar for lunch from the pool bar. The late evening meal added to the problem because it ensured that we were never hungry at breakfast time.

So next week it’s back to the gym and the morning swims in an effort to reverse the decline. “I’d been doing so well”.

Although I’m in the office, tomorrow, Friday, it’s for a board meeting and I don’t consider my holiday to be properly over until Monday.  In the meantime we have James Powell’s 50th birthday bash on Friday night, ditto Ian Stobie’s on Saturday followed by shoving some steaks on the bbq at home on Sunday. Is there any hope?

Flight progress update: we have crossed the channel and should be on the ground in 25 minutes or so. Gives you a bit of an idea of where we are. I’m told by the rest of the family, who have the luxury of being in row 12 behind me and therefore actually having a window, that it is cloudy down there.  This reminds me that for the whole of the time we have been away, basking in the glorious Mallorcan sunshine, the weather back home has been terrible. This is a real result. There’s nothing worse than paying a lot of money to go somewhere sunny only to find that the UK has had the hottest summer since 1963. This particular holiday is doubly blessed because not only has the weather at home been bad,  now that we are on our way back the forecast is set to change and next week the summer is returning to Lincolnshire. Yay.

As we come in to land I leave you with an image of a Ryan Air seat back, approximately 2 1/2 phone lengths from my nose.  Ciao Mallorca.  Hasta la vista baby.


Footnote.  Ice Bucket challenges are trendy at the moment. Got home to find that kid3’s band had to use frozen peas for their ice bucket challenge. Tesco sold out of ice!

Business fun stuff

Banknote – I promise to pay the bearer

Banknote promise by Andrew Bailey, Chief Cashier, Bank of England.

This afternoon I used a twenty pound note to pay for two teas and a fruit scone at the @Harbour_lights cafe in Peel. For the first time, ever, I noticed the wording on the banknote “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds”. The note was signed by an Andrew Bailey, Chief cashier.

A certain number of questions arise from this. In the first instance I’m pretty sure that Andrew Bailey will not have signed every banknote himself. That would be ridiculous. He’d spend all his time just sat there signing banknotes. Millions of ’em. That would be most unproductive and not a particularly good use of his time. I imagine he is quite well paid. No the signature will be a facsimile.

That, however, is not the issue that prompted me to write this post. The question is were I to approach Andrew Bailey with the twenty pound note (I’d have to use a different one because I’ve already spent the one in the photo) what would he give me in exchange? Were he to give me, the bearer, another twenty pound note it would render the whole exercise completely pointless. Just swapping twenty pound notes would be plain daft.

So what would Andy (I already feel as if I know him well enough to call him Andy) give me for my banknote? Not beaver pelts. That would not be scalable. Not gold. We in the UK abandoned the gold standard many years ago afaik. I don’t know the answer which is why I’m asking you. My dad doesn’t know either – I just asked him and he would be interested in finding out.

I’ll finish with a public apology. I realise that we aren’t supposed to reproduce banknotes. No idea what the penalty is but I feel sure there is one and it could involve doing time. I have taken a risk in posting a photo of the twenty pound note in question. I’m sorry about this but I felt it was necessary accompanying illustration. Evidence if you like.  You can check by getting one of your own twenty pound notes out and taking a look yourself but I have made it easy for you.

fun stuff Weekend

Yorkshire Tea Jazz All Stars

Yorkshire Tea Jazz All Stars entertain the crowds at Old Trafford Test Match

Yorkshire Tea Jazz All Stars. Heard of ’em? I hadn’t either but I have now. In fact I don’t think they are called the Yorkshire Tea Jazz All Stars but I wasn’t concentrating when they made the announcement at the cricket but it was something along those lines, probably, ish.

It was apparently a beautifully sunny day at Old Trafford. I say apparently. I could see the sun coming out during the sunny spells but we were sat in the shade in the family stand with the full force of the advanced party for Hurricane Bertha constantly in our faces. Not complaining, apart from the fact that I’d told the kids not to bother bringing a jumper because it was going to be warm. We weren’t. Manchester remember.

Fortunately the action on the pitch more than compensated. A terrific day’s cricket, as long as you were supporting the England and Wales cricket XI. I was. We won, by a country mile. Look it up. England v India, 4th Test, Old Trafford.

We had decided to book tickets on the morning of the first day. A genius of an idea of Kid 4’s when considering what to do on the spare Saturday of our visit to the Wirral, en route to the Isle of Man. On the day we had a full English in the nearby Tesco before we went in to the ground. It was packed with cricket-goers all with the same idea.  One does have to laugh at the thought of the restaurant manager getting a load of sausages and bacon in ready for the five day test match only to find that the bloomin’ game finished after three days leaving him with a load of stock! I expect they have a big fridge and the food will keep.

So there we have it. I’d like to say that the Yorkshire Tea Jazz All Stars were the highlight of the day but they weren’t. That was the cricket, and the excellent takeaway curry we had when we got home (Wirral Tandoori, Bromborough). They were good though and did a job. That teatime interval went like a shot.

I have a great cricketing story from my yout hwhich I’ll relate some day. In the meantime read up about the technology of the school cricket match here.

fun stuff travel Weekend

British summer holiday weather – the gathering storm

Location 1 of our 4 centre summer vacation allows me to study at first hand the British summer holiday weather in action.

Bromborough, Wirral, Saturday 9th August, 2014.  I’m lying in bed listening to the first passenger jets of the day coming in to land at Speke John Lennon International airport. It is still early and I am biding my time until it is time for me’n kids 3 & 4 to head off for the cricket at Old Trafford. We bought the tickets on the spur of the moment just prior to setting off across the Pennines from Lincoln.

Yesterday was a classic day for British summer holiday weather. It had been quite hot overnight but a slight breeze had picked up by morning. By lunchtime it was ice cream conditions again and we set off for the attractions of New Brighton.

My first visit to New Brighton was 34 years ago on an eventful day trip to Liverpool on the Isle of Man ferry with my mates. The boat ride over had been quite rough and I suffered a bad bought of seasickness. Then we were delayed mid river Mersey for two hours whilst the outgoing ferry returned to its mooring following a bomb scare. Eventually arriving at the dockside I had to give all my cash to my sister Ann who was setting off for sixth form at Atlantic College in South Wales and had left her money behind.

An afternoon in the amusement arcades and pubs of New Brighton in which I drank soft drinks whilst the boys hit the pop was rounded off with a steak and chips in a restaurant at Pier Head before boarding the ferry for the return trip. I just about recovered once I got the food in me at Pier Head and spent the ferry crossing home in the bar. My pals however started to suffer from the effects of the beer and ice cream and they spent the crossing home lying down feeling sorry for themselves.

Back to the modern era and the four of us hit New Brighton again. Slots, crazy golf and ice creams although no beer. It was a hot and unusually competitive round of crazy golf which went to the last hole before the winner (Kid 4)  was decided. Always a sign of a good game of golf when it goes down to the last hole. Walking back along the prom licking our ice creams we turned around and could see the rain approaching. The remnants of Hurricane Bertha just missed us.

We made it back the the car and set the compass for Bromborough. Switching on BBC Radio 4 Test Match Special it was clear that Bertha had emptied her load on Old Trafford and rain stopped play for the day. Today the sun is back and we are looking forward to a great day’s cricket in Manchester.

The featured photo is of the British summer holiday weather in action – storm clouds gathering before the beach at New Brighton.

End User fun stuff google phones

OK Google – we interrupt this holiday…

OK Google ad on TV made me try it out and it worked brilliantly

An ad for OK Google came on the TV. It was all about where to find the nearest cake shop. I immediately tried it. It worked perfectly. Just liked it did on the telly.

It was astonishingly accurate. I’ve since tried it for other things. The weather forecast for example. I said “OK Google , what’s the weather forecast tomorrow?” it not only came up with the forecast for my postcode but a voice spoke it.ok google weather

Voice recognition technology has seriously come of age. I remember years ago buying a Dragon voice rec software package. I used to be the Press Officer for Lincoln Rugby Club. I had a theory that I could dictate details of matches onto my Sony voice recorder and then use the voice rec software to turn it into text.

It never worked. In those days the software had to be trained, PCs weren’t powerful enough and in any case there was too much wind noise for it to have a chance.

Given a suitable mobile data connection I think it would work now with me dictating straight into the phone.

Getting back to the weather forecast one has to be glad that it is looking good for the first day of my holiday:) Plenty of time for it to go wrong yet but I’m sure that OK Google will keep me posted.

OK Google isn’t perfect. I just asked it “what should I wear tomorrow?” It came up with clothing advice sites. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted it to to tell me which combination of shorts and tshirt I should get out of the drawer. It’ll get there.

After that it will need to pre-empt my needs by ordering my clothes for me from the shop. Life will be full of surprises.

Ok Google. Time for bed. No answer required. Just letting you know.

fun stuff travel Weekend is on holiday is on holiday.

Sometimes you just have to kick back and relax. This August is on holiday.

That isn’t to say nothing is happening. Lots going on in the background. Under the hood (bonnet). We have an active programme planned for the Autumn – check out the events calendar.

In the meantime I may stick up some holiday snaps. First off is this picture of the new sign for the Morning Star beer garden. Seems a sensible place to hang out when you are on holiday and the sun is shining. A nice cold pint of San Miguel served by Daniel the Spanish barman. Shut your eyes and you can imagine you are on the terrace of a bar in Mallorca, looking out on the Mediterranean blue.

The sound of the seagulls, smells of barbecue sizzling outside the bar. Squeeze some lemon juice over the lamb, a sprinkling of salt over the fries, a tomato and basil salad with a drizzling of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar that drips like syrup from the neck of the bottle. Finally some fresh bread to mop up the juices.

You get the drift. It’s important to have some downtime. If anyone wants to do some guest posts telling us about their own holidays feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be online wherever I go. Pics are the order of the day. No mountains please1. Make it interesting. Wine labels, menus, colourful market scenes, palm trees silhouetted against pearly white sands and azure seas, interesting local characters, unusual birds never seen at home, yachts under full sail racing down the wind, the sea spray rising up over the bow. etc is on holiday. Relax…

1 I have lots of photos of mountains taken whilst on school trips. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time:)

fun stuff Weekend

Lincoln car fire outside University STOP PRESS

Lincoln car fire has fire engine in attendance

A Lincoln car fire is not that common I’d say, though I’m not an expert on these things. I was sorting out the aircon in the office. The vent had dropped off so it was blowing cold air out one side of the office and hot air out of the other. Doh. Fixed it but Rob the developer mentioned that he thought he could smell fire.

I went out to wash my hands after eating an orange and blow me down from the office balcony I could see the fire engine putting out the fire. It was a fair distance away so what you get from my phone camera is indeed what you get – no telephoto lens.

I can still hear sirens wailing as I tap in this post. Gotta get it out before the BBC find out about it:) STOP PRESS, hold the front page.

Hopefully nobody was hurt. I like fire engines but unfortunately they mostly have to deal with bad incidents rather than rescuing cats from up trees and cutting railings to release little boys who have got their heads stuck. When I was a kid I went on a scouts visit to the fire station in Caernarfon. They all do it. Scouts that is. I wanted to have a go sliding down the pole but they wouldn’t let me. Insurance or something. Huh!

Talking about sirens my mum used to work at a hospital in Cardiff. The ambulance men used to run her home through the rush hour traffic with the blue light going, just to get there a little more quickly. Those were the days:) Nowadays when I see an ambulance rushing by it makes me pause for thought. Having a family changes your attitude on life.

Ciao amigos.

Check out this pic of the back of a fire engine. Could be the same one for all I know.

Apps broadband End User fun stuff H/W internet Mobile Net phones

The Hump Day Five (23-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five this week goes to the pictures, gets the picture, migrates the pictures, wants a phone that takes the pictures, and offers a picture of Paris on Summer holiday.


A few days ago a filmmaker friend of mine asked if I would be interested in screening a rough cut of a documentary he has been working on for some time. I was somewhat flattered that he would ask, of course, and I have quite a strong propensity for documentaries, so I instantaneously responded with “Yes, please.”

Not long after I received the details of screening the documentary, and it was at that point that it all started to tweak my interest beyond the subject matter of the film itself, for two reasons. One, the film was presented to me as a video stream via Vimeo (password access, naturally). And two, my friend specifically requested that I promise to watch the film straight through with no breaks and without distraction.

So this is where we are today. Able to grant immediate access to video works in progress via the Internet, and as a result of that delivery method needing to beseech the viewer to take special care to not multi-task when viewing said film via the Internet. Not that I don’t get the reasoning, because I absolutely do, though it does have me thinking that in the not-too-distant future there will be technology deployed to tighten such tasks up. Insistent Streaming? You can watch vwxyz, but you have to do so in Full Screen mode and without screen deviation lest you have to start over from the beginning.

The screening request came across five days ago and I have yet to watch my friend’s film. Really, it is pretty sad that I am finding the idea of being-connected-yet-essentially-disconnected from AppleKory for 90 minutes straight to be daunting!


I’ve been hush-hush for a while now regarding my search for my next smartphone, waiting patiently for the one I had mostly settled on — the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom — to become available in France. I did manage to put my hands on a GKZ while I was in London for’s Pissup in a Brewery last month, and this helped to both move me closer to pulling the trigger and towards establishing a sharper perspective on my decision.

In short, I realized that as much as I would love to have a Galaxy K Zoom as my next smartphone friend, I will only do so if my carrier (Bouygues) can offer it to me at a subsidized price. They do this with a good many other Samsung smartphones, including the flagship S5 (which costs €599 unlocked, without subsidy, but only €221 paid out over 24 months with a correlating commitment), so I came to expect I could put myself into a Galaxy K Zoom for under €200 (versus €499 unlocked, without subsidy).

No dice. Or, at least, no dice yet. Despite my best efforts to make such a deal happen, and the encouragement of a Bouygues drone who told me he could do so but in truth could not (seems that he was willing to say just about anything to me over the phone to get me to walk in the shop), I remain wanting. And with the Summer holidays descending quickly in France, it seems I will remain saddled with my iPhone 4 at least until the start of September. And with the iPhone 6 announcement likely to take place that month…?


A few months back I made one of those big decisions. You know, the kind that changes everything, after which nothing will ever be the same and from which there is no going back. A paradigm shift of immense magnitude.

Thick, running irony, like motor oil straight from the can.

I decided to change photo management software, from Apple’s not-bad-for-a-toy iPhoto to Adobe’s truly terrific Lightroom 5.

For a good long time iPhoto worked for me. There were some significant bumps along the way, to be sure, such as dealing with the product’s generosity when it came to gobbling up AppleKory hard drive space with it’s need to maintain two copies of any photo that was modified in any way (including simple rotation). For the most part, though, iPhoto and I got along fine, even as my photography skills outgrew the software’s cutesy function set.

I suppose I knew that at some point I would need to move from iPhoto into something more robust, however in dabbling with other photography management packages over the years — window-shopping, as it were — I became fully aware of how difficult and tedious an endeavor it would be, fully switching over. Man, that is one deep and dark path to walk down, and if it wasn’t absolutely necessary…well, I could make iPhoto continue to work for me. That is, until I couldn’t.

For reasons unknown, at right about the same time I was beginning to explore shooting in RAW (though this had nothing to do with the issue), iPhoto stopped accepting modifications made to picture files. The changes I made — upping the contrast or vibrancy of a photo, for example, or cropping an image — would stick, but only until I exited iPhoto. Thus, when I would start the application again, any modifications I had made during the previous session were gone.

Naturally, I google-binged my problem, and I discovered that I was not alone. A great number of my fellow iPhoto users had been dealing with the same problem, and as far as I was able to tell in my digging none of them had come up with a solution short of abandoning iPhoto for one of its competitors..

The writing, as they so (too?) often say, was on the wall. iPhoto, it has been nice. Enter Lightroom 5.

It has taken patience and time to do it to do it to do it to do it to do it right, child…er, move everything over, and I have hit my share of lulls, but a marvelous documentary I saw last Friday about the recently-discovered photographer Vivian Maier kicked me back into it, and finally I am finished. And nothing will ever be the same.


It has now been three weeks since I took AppleKory into the Apple Store at Opera to have one of their supposed Genius folk render opinion and possible solutions for a fan and heating problems. For reasons unknown, the poor girl’s CPU was running regularly at about 90 degrees Celsius and her fan was blowing at the maximum 6204 rpm. A friend who is also my OSX Guru has long told me that I run too many apps and processes simultaneously (foreground and background), and he was convinced that was the problem, but even when I turned just about everything off the CPU heat spiked and the fan in response ran loud enough to her in the next room (quite strange for a MacBook Pro).

The Genius who attended me ran some diagnostics and found no problem. He then, though, suggested that it could be a problem with the thermal paste in conjunction with the heat sink, and that such a repair would only cost €29…and a three separation. Wanting to have a happy and healthy AppleKory, I swallowed hard and handed her over. I then went home and told my Guru that he was wrong (Wrong! Wrong!), and that the problem was not running AppleKory too hard, but that it had to do with a hardware issue.


Two days later the Apple technician called. He told me in broken-but-not-bad English that the thermal paste was fine, and that as far as he could tell there was no problem with my system. “Perhaps you are asking it to do too much at the same time?”, he said. “Anyway, it is ready for you to pick up anytime.”


I retrieved AppleKory soon after, and — go figure — since then she has been purring like a kitten (so to speak…that is, without the noise). I have changed nothing with regard to the software I run or the intensity of such (over 20 Google Chrome tabs open as I type), and yet it is a rare occurrence when her temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius or her fan exceeds 5000 rpm (and most of the time both of those numbers are significantly lower…at this moment, 72 and 2588 rpm).

Like the child whose symptoms disappear upon realizing a visit to the doctor is in the offing? Or the sick cat who seems to get better when a visit to the vet is imminent? That Apple technician must be one scary dude, indeed!


Approaching the end of July, it is evident that the France Summer holiday has begun to take hold. Signs are appearing in the windows of shops and restaurants announcing date ranges of closure, the foot traffic on the street is significantly lighter, there are fewer people in the Metro (and fewer trains running, as well), there is a lot less ambient and incidental noise leaking into Chez Kessel. You would think, though, that with fewer people in town taxing Internet pipe capacity that my broadband service would be much improved, wouldn’t you?

fun stuff travel Weekend

Alex Murphy’s Life in India: The Children of Malipalpur

The unquestioned gospel is that children are the future, and the future of life in India is bright indeed!

My route from home to rugby at 5.45am on a weekend morning takes me up the truck laden Sohna Road onto the massive NH8 inter-State highway. I follow this towards Delhi for about 12km, then at New Delhi Airport — my unofficial Delhi residence — I turn East through Mahipalpur towards the ground at Vasant Kunj.

Yesterday it was raining, lightly, and the roads were still pretty wet due to the weeks Monsoon downpours. The road at Malipalpur is a type of duel carriageway, but the inside lane is littered with debris and people so it can’t really be used. The area is pretty dower in appearance, although it does have a rather splendid Royal Enfield showroom with over 100 of these fine machines on display. Once you’ve left the NH8, for about a mile the road passes tightly pack rows of shops selling everything you can imagine. The area is not a slum area, well at first it’s not, but as you travel further East, huge slums are present on both sides of the road.

Yesterday morning, Saturday, the children of Malipalpur and some from the slum areas were waiting by the roadside for school buses, or the girls, in excess of 200 I would say were heading West on foot towards their schools. I guess I saw upwards of 500 children in that mile, and you know, they all looked immaculate. Standing roadside at just after 6AM on a Saturday, perfectly pressed shorts, shirts and the white on the girls collars sitting over their sky blue dresses was dazzlingly white. They looked perfect. I thought back to how I used to trek the mile to school every morning with half a school uniform looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. Indeed most of my school mates looked pretty much the same, many with uniform modifications which declared them as individuals in some way. These were children predominantly middle or upper working class from brick built homes with water, electricity, gardens and regularly emptied dustbins. We looked like a bunch of scarecrows.

So here we had children with nothing, many without running water, electricity, mains sewage and certainly no rubbish collection or gardens, making a supreme effort to go to school looking like they wanted and desperately needed the education on offer. They knew they were the lucky ones, many never get the chance to receive any formal education.

One of the things that really makes you realise how wonderful life in India is, is the incredible thirst for knowledge everyone has. They all want to know more so they stand a better chance of success. Last year whilst visiting the Taj I met a young lad, about six or seven who was trying to sell me a globe with snow in it. He spoke perfect English and attempted to negotiate a price. During the sale his attention was drawn to a German party, he broke off his sale to me and without drawing breath, began to negotiate in German. When he came back to me I asked him about his language skills and had he picked them up at school. No, was the answer. The nine languages he was able to negotiate in he had picked up from tourists as he had been selling keepsakes at the Taj since he was two.

I know it’s a different world, and you cut the cloth to suit the economy, whichever economic environment you are brought up in. But what India has really heightened my awareness of is just how much of a waster I was at school. Having everything served up on a plate made me value it much less. Lots of attendance because I had to, not because I wanted to. How many people I wonder back home would change their perspective on Education and how important it is if they came out and witnessed the absolute passion here for education.

I wish I had my camera yesterday morning to snap a few of the tartans, the reds, the blues, the greens, the socks, shorts, tunics, everything, because I’m sure if I shared them you would all at least have some belief that the 250 million children of schooling age will be able to afford change to help India out of its poverty. The government claim that literacy levels in India are around 70% but I think this is optimistic. However, with the right will — and trust me the will is here — over the next 10 years this Country should make massive inroads to easing its domestic problems.

I love India.