July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.
1st January 2010
5th January 2010
The return of The Crystal Maze could be great news (if true — the original report comes from the Sun) but why is Amanda Holden’s name in the frame? I can’t think of anyone less suited to the role.
ITV seem desperate to cash in on the success of Britain’s Got Talent by putting the show’s stars on screen at every opportunity. There are more than five TV presenters in existence, guys: try using someone different for a change!
6th January 2010
We’ve received complaints from viewers who believed a line in the second part of Doctor Who: The End of Time was insulting to people with ginger hair.
The BBC’s response
We would like to reassure viewers that Doctor Who doesn’t have an anti ginger agenda whatsoever. This was a reprise of the line in the Christmas Invasion episode in 2005, when David Tennant discovers that he’s not ginger, and here he is, missing out again – disappointed he’s still not ginger.
In addition, the Doctor’s previous companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and his new one Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) are both redheads.
To everyone who complained: go out and get a bloody life and stop trying to see offensiveness in everything.
10th January 2010
Everyone has their own story to tell about the cold weather the country has been experiencing recently, which saw parts of Scotland reach temperatures similar to those at the South Pole. People in work have been swapping stories about having to walk home on Tuesday afternoon after Liverpool’s bus companies withdrew services, allegedly due to the Council’s failure to grit the roads.
On a related topic, thanks to the amazing staff at Merseyrail, who pulled out all the stops to keep their trains running, even running empty trains through the night to keep the lines clear of ice. The end result was that, except for a few minor delays and cancellations, the trains have been running normally, even on Tuesday afternoon when there was a near-whiteout for a time. The Liverpool Echo, not known for its love of the railways, had to grudgingly recognise the achievement. Let me just add to the praise: you guys are AWESOME (Merseyrail, not the Liverpool Echo)!
As the trains were running I had no excuse not to be in work, but on Wednesday morning the pavements in the city centre were like glass. I was wearing the least practical shoes imaginable and had barely set foot outside Central station before I slipped and landed on my bum. It wasn’t even a dignified fall: there was much flailing of arms and feet before I eventually toppled over. Still, it seemed to amuse the man on the corner who was giving out Metros.
(satellite image taken on 7th January 2010, NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response)
13th January 2010
So I finally bought a Wii. I realise that everyone else got theirs two years ago so I’m a bit late to the party, so forgive me if I wax lyrical about stuff that everyone else already knows.
First impressions: I love it! The motion control is marvellous and used to great effect in the bundled games (Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort) are great fun. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is an amazing game, taking the classic Mario formula and adding a really enjoyable multiplayer mode. I’m looking forward to building up my catalogue of games.
The Wii is the console that might get me back to gaming full time. The last full console I owned (as opposed to a handheld) was a SNES. For some reason when the consoles went 3D, I lost interest. That, and I had no money. Me and video games went our separate ways, until now.
Still haven’t tried the Virtual Console feature, but I will do soon — I really fancy playing Pilotwings again.
14th January 2010
The BBC’s Matthew Price describes a nightmare scenario in Haiti following the recent earthquake:-
There is a body lying outside L’Hopital de la Paix in Port-au-Prince – but it is the sight that awaits you inside the hospital grounds that is most alarming.
It is as if a massacre has been perpetrated here.
Dirty white sheets cover some of the dead, others lie out in the open, some, their limbs entwined with another’s.
Many are the bodies of adults, but here to the right, a baby on her back, her belly bloated and pronounced.
She is wearing a silvery blue top, just lying by the curb, abandoned.
MSF Petion Ville offices transformed into a makeshift hospital, 13 January 2010 (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
The site of the MSF aid agency has become a makeshift hospital
A man stirs to the left. He unfurls a blanket that covers the ground and lies back down.
The living are sleeping among the dead.
The above is one of many excellent reports from the BBC which has in-depth coverage of the quake aftermath. It’s a desperate situation for people in the country, and their friends and families abroad who cannot get any news due to a total failure of communications.
It certainly puts the UK’s snow difficulties into perspective, doesn’t it? The Disasters Emergency Committee are collecting donations.
15th January 2010
One year ago today, I made my debut on Twitter. My first tweet was somewhat underwhelming:-
Why not? Everyone else is doing it
I wasn’t sure I’d stick at it — many people who sign up to the site post a few Tweets and then never use it again. Nevertheless, I persevered and am glad I did, for Twitter has now become a genuine phenomenon. It’s proved to be a valuable source of immediate news during major events; has changed the way we interact with celebrities; been a focal point for public outrage, and even (nearly) started a revolution.
So, ignore the idiots (most of whom have never used the site) who say the site is pointless and nothing more than ego-stroking for self-obsessed nerds, and may those 140-character messages continue to entertain, until the inevitable day when Twitter is sold to Google.
22nd January 2010
Video games and social networking sites have been blamed for a shocking rise in cases of rickets in children.
Er, no. Bad parenting which allows kids to sit for hours playing video games and using social networking sites is to blame for a shocking rise in cases of rickets in children.
I only mention this because I know someone somewhere will call for something to be banned to solve the problem.
24th January 2010
The late night talk show is a format which hasn’t really caught on in the UK the way it has in America. Sure, we get Graham Norton, Jonathan Ross and (shudder) Alan Carr once a week, but how many of these hosts could successfully do a show five nights a week, for 40 or so weeks a year? Not many, I’d suspect.
In America, the late night talk show has become something of a staple of many network schedules (Wikipedia helpfully summarises). It seems odd to us in the UK, where most TV channels give up after about 11.30pm and fling on old films or Pages from Ceefax to take insomniac viewers through the night. Across the pond however, some of these shows have become icons of popular culture, and that is especially true of NBC’s long-running Tonight Show. So when questions started being asked about Tonight’s future, it was headline news in the US.
I’m not going to go into detail about the controversy (the links in this post should satisfy any curiosity you have) but I want to highlight Conan O’Brien, the current host of the Tonight Show who is being forced out after just seven months on the job.
I first discovered Conan a few years ago when I stumbled across his previous show, Late Night, which was shown in the UK for many years as a weekend filler on the business news channel CNBC Europe. I quickly became enamoured with his absurdist style of humour, honed while writing some of the very best Simpsons episodes during that show’s glory years. The surrealism was elevated further by CNBC’s practice of showing stock market prices during the commercial breaks.
Unfortunately, Conan lost some of his edginess with a move to the more mainstream Tonight Show in 2009. Fortunately, there are some choice clips from his old show available on YouTube and I’ve posted a selection of them below.
28th January 2010
I look forward to the time when tablet computing truly comes of age. Nothing would please me more than to be able to sit in Starbucks, drinking coffee and tapping away at my Wi-fi enabled tablet, pretending I’m really sitting in Ten Forward on the Enterprise-D drinking Raktajino while preparing a duty roster for Commander Riker on a PADD.
So does the iPad bring us one step closer to Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision? Maybe. But I wish we were getting the full blown MacOS rather than the iPhone OS, with its dependence on the locked-down App store which means that Apple, and Apple alone, decide which apps you can and can’t run on it. It also looks a bit underspecced and underpowered for what it is. A netbook or a cheap laptop still might be a better bet for lots of people.
I remain to be convinced that this the quantum leap forward for computing that the pre-launch hype promised us. But it’s Apple, and the brand name and lovely design will surely mean that 100 billion are sold within the first 20 minutes.
Now, speaking of Star Trek technology: when do we get a working Holodeck?