Robert Hampton

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January 2008

1st January 2008

Just so I can have a January 2008 entry on the menu

Happy New Year, everyone!

Christmas went really well; I bought a bang up-to-date Trivial Pursuit Deluxe Edition, thus avoiding the pitfalls outlined in my previous post. Nobody bought me My Booky Wook by Russell Brand, but Amazon now have it at less than half price, so… yay! I look forward to reading of the amazing adventures of him and his winkle in due course.

It is now, of course, Capital of Culture year in Liverpool. I’m eagerly anticipating the full programme of events which are planned for the next 366 days. After a recent well-publicised fiasco, I’m praying that the city doesn’t fuck up in a year when, more than ever, the eyes of the world will be on us.

I’m not even bothering with resolutions this year; I’ve usually broken them all by mid-January anyway, so I’m not going to give myself an excuse to beat myself up.

Actually that’s not true: I have one resolution, and one only: to be happy. I think at long last I’m now in a place where I can make that happen.

2nd January 2008

The Point of No Open Return
Posted by at 1.21pm | In the News, Trains | No responses

Regular readers (bless you, both) will know that I’m quite a fan of the railways. I think that a properly-managed rail network has an important part to play in this country’s transport network and I’m supportive of any initiative to improve it. I even use the trains for… gasp! Non-commuting purposes. Sometimes even getting on trains just for the hell of it.

But after reading three separate examples of the UK rail industry shooting itself in the foot, I wonder if soon I might be the only one left.

3rd January 2008

You heard it here… last

A cheerful notion from John Naughton in last week’s Observer:

We may finally discover what the Storm ‘botnet’ – the colossal network of compromised Windows machines someone has been covertly building over the past year – is for. My hunch is that the net is headed for its own version of 9/11.

7th January 2008

Jeremy Clarkson definitely SHOULDN’T be Prime Minister
Posted by at 1.23pm | In the News | No responses

Here’s three words you don’t expect to hear from Jeremy Clarkson:-

I was wrong.

He claimed that the loss of bank account details from HMRC was nothing to worry about, and was so confident of this that he published his own bank details in his newspaper Sun column. Now, he’s lost £500 from a fraudulent direct debit.

8th January 2008

Everything you expect from Robert, except a clever pun in the title
Posted by at 11.50pm | It's My Life | No responses

I was going to post a moan about the illogical web site blocking policy in use at work, which seemed to have been determined on a “stick pins at random into a list of web sites” basis. Why is Amazon blocked because it’s “shopping”, while is allowed? Why are we not allowed to access BlogSpot (“chat”), but LiveJournal is OK?

Anyway, I tried it today and it’s now slightly less stupid. When I say “less stupid”, what I actually mean is that Amazon is unblocked and I can shop for erotic books when I should be working (I can also log in to my account and ponder the reasons why my order, with an estimated dispatch date of 7th January, has not been posted). Any moan is therefore out of date and pointless. Oh well.

But wait! There are still interesting blog posts ahead. For example, relating to this topic: The other day I got a Facebook message from a girl who went to school with my sister. She wants me to add her as a friend. The problem is, I can’t remember her at all.

In fact, thinking about it some more, why the bloody hell should I remember? I wasn’t her friend. She was my sister’s friend. She didn’t come to our house for sleepovers with me; I never stayed up all night with her eating crisps, watching scary movies and talking about boys.

Now, I am not one of these people who will add any random person to my friends list (they have to, y’know, be an actual friend first). So I deleted the message. Now she’s sent me another message telling me how rude I am.

So I sent this message back to her. Firm but polite, I thought:

I have to be honest, I don’t remember you at all. Sorry!

I’m hoping she’ll take the hint and leave me alone. Because the last thing I want to be on a social networking site is social.

11th January 2008

08? Oh yes!
Posted by at 10.24pm | Liverpool | No responses

The announcement that Liverpool was to be Capital of Culture in 2008 was greeted in many quarters with the same old jaded cynicism. Proud Scousers, as ever, stood up to defend their home town.

The cynics, however, may have thought they were proved right when inaction, infighting and ineptitude threatened the success of the whole year.

But Liverpool has fought back again and tonight, all failings were forgotten. I was at tonight’s extravaganza, and if that is any indicator, Liverpool is going to deliver, big time.

It’s our time. It’s our place. Time to show the world what we can do!

12th January 2008

Satire on the Streets
Posted by at 3.08pm | Fun | No responses

Just seen scrawled in the dirt on the back of a white van:


13th January 2008

Hampo’s Book Club, Part 1
Posted by at 3.50pm | Books | No responses

The first of a (hopefully) regular series, proving to everyone that I remember how to read.

The last book I read was Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer. It’s a book I purchased purely on an impulse — I needed to spend an extra couple of quid to push my Amazon order over the threshold for Super Saver Delivery and this popped up as a recommendation.

What immediately got me clicking furiously on the “Add to Basket” button was the fantastic central premise of the story. At CERN, various men with beards are carrying out an experiment using a particle accelerator. Unfortunately something goes wrong and the side effects are catastrophic: everybody on the planet — EVERYBODY, mind you — loses consciousness for just over two minutes. During that time, each person experiences a short fragment of their lives from 20 years in the future — a phenomenon the media soon dub “The Flashforward”.

Some spoilers ahead.

Read the rest of this post »

17th January 2008

CBBC? No, I don’t see
Posted by at 11.22pm | Television | No responses

And the slow death of British children’s television continues:

The BBC has confirmed that it will shunt its BBC1 children’s programmes including Blue Peter to an earlier slot so BBC2 quizshow The Weakest Link can replace Australian soap Neighbours on the flagship channel.

19th January 2008

Posted by at 10.29am | In the News, Trains | No responses

Somewhere in Network Rail headquarters, a light goes on! This in The Times from head honcho, Iain Coucher:

“We now need to run railways every single day of the week. We need to run them on Christmas Days and Boxing Days,” he said.

“We traditionally have taken weekends and Bank Holidays to do engineering work. But we know that there is demand to use the railways 365 days a year.”

Mr Coucher condemned the attitude of some train companies, which have claimed there would be too few passengers to make it worth running a service over Christmas. “If we gave the ability for people to run trains on Christmas Day, I’m sure there would be travellers. There are still key workers working and there are many people who are not from a Christian background and want to travel,” he said. “We know that Boxing Day is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

Running trains when people want to use them? It’ll never catch on.

21st January 2008

A Starr is Scorned

I don’t know why the Echo and others are disappointed with Ringo Starr’s comments on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

I watched a sizeable chunk of the Capital of Culture television coverage; in his various monosyllabic interviews, Starr’s attitude seemed to me akin to that of someone anticipating a trip to his accountant to prepare a tax return. This trip was not a task to be enjoyed, but something he felt obliged to do for financial reasons (after all, his new album Liverpool 8 does trade on his roots ever-so-slightly).

He was the most disappointing part of the opening night for me (easily surpassed in talent and enthusiasm by The Wombats), so I’m not terribly surprised or upset by this latest development. What does mystify me is why the powers-that-be in Liverpool hyped him up over the many other Scouse artists who could have performed. Anyone from Gerry Marsden right up to Anthony Hannah (listen to his cover of Relax here) would have been preferable.

22nd January 2008

Heath Ledger
Posted by at 11.32pm | Films, In the News | No responses

So I dial up the BBC News web site to see what’s happening, and there’s a headline on the front page that I have to read three or four times to make sure I have it right. Even then, there was still a part of me thinking, “surely not that Heath Ledger?”

A damn shame, in any case. Brokeback Mountain is one of a select few films to move me to tears, thanks in no small part to his performance.

26th January 2008

Sim City

Mother has discovered that T.J. Hughes is flogging Orange pay-as-you-go mobile phones for a fiver each. Word has gotten round my family and various far-flung relatives have been availing themselves of this offer, and also availing themselves of the mobile-phone-setting-up services of muggins here. They didn’t even ask, they just ASSUMED I’d be happy to do it. How about that?

Yesterday was my third “job”. The two previous phones have been Sagem models (and actually fairly decent to boot), but the one I got today was a Motorola F3. It took some time to figure out, not helped by the fact that the only instructions in the box were written in what appeared to be Arabic (I assume that is a one-off problem and not endemic to the whole batch).

Mobile Phone

Now, see where it says “oRANGE”? Yep, this phone uses an old-style LED display as might be found on a digital clock. WhAt thIS MEAnS oF CoURSE IS ThAt ALL tEXt GEtS dISPLAyEd In tHAt Odd MIX oF UPPER And LOWER CASE ChARACtERS WhICh IS QUItE hARD tO REAd.

It’s also where SMS text messages are displayed — six characters at a time.

at a

I’m certainly no technological snob; in fact, I’m generally suspicious of all-singing all dancing phones (ringtones! MP3s! Pictures! Happy slapping!), but really, even for a budget model, 6 characters at a time is a BIT impractical. As CNET’s review states: “It’s like trying to read a text message on a calculator”. The only advantage being you don’t have to turn it upside down to spell out BOOBIES — although the word won’t actually fit on the phone’s display all at once.

27th January 2008

Thank God for that
Posted by at 5.06pm | Television | No responses

I’ve been reacquainting myself with Whose Line is it Anyway? Not the hacked-to-ribbons versions that are being shown on Dave, mind, but the unexpurgated versions available free (albeit DRM-crippled) from 4oD.

I’m currently making my way through series 3. This is something of a re-evaluation for me. When Paramount Comedy repeated the complete run of the show a few years back, my impression was that these early episodes were “not very good”. Despite the presence of great improvisers such as Mike McShane, Sandi Toksvig, Paul Merton and Tony Slattery on the panel, yours truly had started watching the show in the mid-90s, during the dominance of the Colin Mochrie/Ryan Stiles/Greg Proops triumverate, and couldn’t imagine a show without them.

Now, ten years later (has it really been that long?) I’m able to appreciate these early episodes more. While perhaps not as consistently funny, they have a genuine unpredictability and edginess which is somewhat lacking in the later episodes, and missing almost entirely in the American version.

Read the rest of this post »

30th January 2008

Watch out, Beadle’s no longer about

TV and radio star Jeremy Beadle dies. Watch out for a million lazy articles in tomorrow’s papers describing him as “the most hated man in Britain” etc. I never really understood that; he came up to Merseyside to do panto a couple of years ago and he sat in with Pete Price on the Radio City phone-in one night, where he came across a genuinely nice and engaging person (Beadle, not Price, obviously). He even listened patiently to a dull woman who insisted on telling him her idea for a TV show.

I also have to admit to loving Beadle’s About when I was a kid. At its height, it was as funny and entertaining as Balls of Steel thinks it is.

In fact, how do we know it’s not an elaborate prank now? He could show up at his own funeral in a bad wig and sunglasses. “Thanks for being a great sport!”

31st January 2008

Posted by at 10.06pm | Meta | No responses

For the longest time I was somewhat desperate for people to visit me and shower me with hits. This is an obsession that dates all the way back to 1997 and the other site. Apart from one brief blaze of glory, it all came to nought (which, in retrospect, was probably just as well).

When I launched this blog back in 2003 (5th anniversary in a couple of months’ time? Eek!) I fully intended it to be a full functioning web site. I wanted to have comments and trackbacks and pings and RSS feeds and all the other stuff that Movable Type installs by default.

Now though, the wonderful shininess of blogging and all things Web 2.0 has worn off, and right now, I don’t really want to be a part of it. I’m not stopping blogging entirely, but I’ve added a robots.txt file to block out search engines. This may be a bit extreme, but for now I think it’s better that only the right people know about this site.