Robert Hampton

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April 2009

2nd April 2009

Great Google-y Moogly!
Posted by at 11.07pm | Web | No responses

Recently I’ve noticed that some TV and radio adverts, instead of giving a full web site address, are simply saying, “search online for…”.

I really don’t like this phenomenon, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s an extra step in the process: rather than just typing in the address directly, you have to Google for it. That extra 3 seconds could have been used for something else, dammit!

Secondly, it’s incredibly patronising to assume that your audience isn’t clued-up enough to remember a simple address like Non-internet-savvy people may be uncomfortable with dots and slashes, but they should be educated about them, not pandered to.

Thirdly, unless your site is popular enough to be the first result in a search, or you have an unusual name which is unlikely to turn up stray results, you need to spend extra money on Google ads to ensure that a search turns up your site (see, for example, the site for the Monsters v Aliens movie).

I hope this is a fad that dies out, not least because it’s quite dangerous to rely on Google searches alone to direct interested parties to the right place. Former US senator Rick Santorum learned this lesson the hard way.

9th April 2009

Please Police Me
Posted by at 10.43pm | In the News, Politics | No responses

It’s not been a good week or so for the nation’s police forces. Today of course we had the resignation of Bob Quick after he brandished top secret terror documents in plain view of photographers. By the way, what’s the difference between Bob Quick and Josef Fritzl? Fritzl remembered his binder. (thanks Popbitch!)

Elsewhere, the police unveiled a series of fear-mongering posters which could have come straight from Stalin’s Russia, encouraging people to inform on their friends and neighbours. Boing Boing rounded up parodies of something that was almost beyond parody.

There has, understandably, been a lot of anger about the death of an innocent bystander who had the misfortune to be caught up in the G20 protests and was subsequently assaulted by a policeman. While you wait for the IPCC report to exonerate all involved, you could read this good article in the Independent. It’s quite long, but all you need to know is in the title: The police: Unaccountable, secretive and out of control.

Meanwhile, in Newcastle:-

Tyneside-born Keith Henderson says he was put in a police van after he was pounced on by a police officer as he took innocent photos of Newcastle. […]

He was approached by a man wearing a black T-shirt and combat pants in Northumberland Street.

Mr Henderson, originally from Gosforth, said he was forced into an alleyway where he was accused of taking photos of young girls.

He did not recognise the man as a police officer and when he asked who he was, he says the officer refused to tell him.

Reform of the police is needed urgently. All of these incidents are going to result in a growing distrust of the police, which risks completely undermining the fight against crime. But don’t expect any action from this Government; their only response is to give the police even more powers to do whatever the hell they like.

12th April 2009

That Mitchell on t’Web — Look!
Posted by at 11.42am | Television | No responses

“Sachsgate” is the scandal that refuses to die, with various opportunistic politicians now coming out of the woodwork to demand that Brand and Ross should personally pay the fine levied on the BBC by Ofcom. In today’s Observer, David Mitchell points out why this is a daft idea. His excellent article should be the last word on the subject. Sadly it won’t be.

14th April 2009

In which our protagonist buys a Saveaway ticket and gets some repressed memories for no extra charge
Posted by at 1.10pm | It's My Life, Trains | 1 response

The erstwhile Merseyrail depot at Hall Road has finally been demolished after many years of disuse.

The remains of Hall Road TMD

Seeing the building reduced to rubble yesterday afternoon roused some strong feelings in me. Partly annoyance, because this came at the exact time when a big shed suitable for storing a train would have come in handy. But mainly, it was the memories of my time at school which came flooding back to me.

Merchant Taylors School has playing fields just off Hall Road, and once a week during the mid-1990s, my reluctant 12-year-old self would board Fareway bus service 137 for the short run to Hall Road to take part in the weekly games lesson.

People who don’t know me may be surprised (or not) to discover that athleticism was not my strong point at school (see also: social skills, personal hygiene). Therefore a trip to Hall Road, with its assocations with physical exertion and contact sports, was not something I looked forward to. This was legalised torture, and not even the prospect of hijinks in the communal showers could compensate for it.

Read the rest of this post »

16th April 2009

A Welcome Change of Pace
Posted by at 1.22pm | Fun | No responses

Is there anything creepier than the elderly having sex?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Dirty Bird Special
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

18th April 2009

All this, AND he advertised dog food
Posted by at 1.41pm | In the News, Radio | No responses

Very sad news about Clement Freud. I remember the first time I tuned into Just a Minute on Radio 4. It would have been 1999-ish and I was listening purely because a few people on a Whose Line is it Anyway? forum were raving about it.

The first voice I heard was the lugubrious tones of Freud, and at first I thought all my suspicions, about Radio 4 being a home for dull upper-class people, were true. But then I listened more, and soon he was delighting me with the incredibly funny things coming out of his mouth, all delivered in that brilliantly deadpan manner.

This Just a Minute blog has some of his best lines.

19th April 2009

I dreamed a dream in time gone by (last Saturday, in fact)
Posted by at 5.33pm | Music, Television | No responses

So what lessons can we take from the Susan Boyle internet phenomenon?

Well, one thing I’ve learned is that ITV still apparently has no clue how to use the Internet. The YouTube video linked to above is rocketing towards 30 million views and has been shown on television all over the place — but it’s a ropey, off-air recording (in the wrong aspect ratio!) of Britain’s Got Talent. Why haven’t ITV capitalised on the worldwide interest by having the pirated clips removed and uploading an “official” version to YouTube, thus entitling them to take a share of the advertising revenue?

More importantly though, it’s a salutary lesson in not judging a book by its cover: the unpleasant mocking laughter from the audience and eye-rolling from the judges soon evaporated once she opened her mouth. But isn’t it a sad reflection on society that much of the worldwide reaction can be summarised as, “ugly woman sings surprisingly well”?

Let’s not pretend that this is going to open the floodgates for those who (ahem) don’t meet usual standards of beauty. If (when?) she wins, it will change things very little: the British music industry will consist of a lot of beautiful women… and Susan Boyle. It stinks that this is the case, but it’s going to take an army of Susan Boyles to overcome it.

Nevertheless, it’s a joy to see this unassuming lady become the subject of so much attention. I’m willing to bet significant money that I will be buying her album for my mum’s birthday this year.

20th April 2009

Frinton and on and on and on…
Posted by at 8.29pm | Trains | No responses

Oh no! Network Rail have carried out an atrocious act of… perfectly reasonable upgrading and renewal of signalling equipment.

A manually-operated wooden railway crossing which marked the gateway to the genteel Essex seaside resort of Frinton-on-Sea has been ripped out under cover of darkness by railway authorities.

In a move branded “cowardly” by campaigners who wanted to keep them, the 19th-century railway gates were demolished at about 2am on Saturday following a three-year battle with residents keen to preserve their town’s spirit of independence and history.

I watched the BBC documentary about Frinton last year (bits remain on YouTube if you’re interested), which portrayed the elderly residents of Frinton, and the gate campaigners in particular, as a bunch of confused old people who are befuddled by the modern world. I’m sure that is a completely unfair portrayal. It was funny, though.

Honestly I can’t understand what the fuss is about. Despite what the protesters claim, there is no safety issue with remotely-monitored level crossings (there are hundreds of them working safely all over the country) and the signalling equipment on the line was in need of upgrading (the line through Frinton was, until this week, the only electrified railway line in Britain still controlled by semaphore signals, trivia fans).

It’s all worth it, though, for this wonderfully over-the-top Telegraph editorial. I can imagine retired Colonels up and down the country choking on their toast and marmalade as they read it.

21st April 2009

Ass. Newspapers Ltd
Posted by at 9.51pm | In the News | No responses

metro I have a fairly high tolerance for tasteless humour, but even I have my limits. I would love to know who at Metro thought it was a good idea to put this cartoon on the front page of this morning’s edition. Bear in mind that at the time this went to print, all that was known was that Professor Hawking was seriously ill, although subsequently it was announced that he was expected to make a full recovery.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from Associated Newspapers (they are the publishers of the Daily Mail, after all) but I think this cartoon is an incredibly sad reflection of attitudes to the disabled which, I suspect, many in society still hold. Stephen Hawking is Cambridge University’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (a position once held by Isaac Newton). He has been honoured with an Albert Einstein Award and the Wolf Prize in Physics. He has made significant breakthroughs in numerous areas of science. He has written five bestselling books.

However to “Brook”, he is just a man in a wheelchair with a funny computer voice. Sigh.