Archive for September, 2010

A suitable home for blogging

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 | Friends

I don’t know where I was going with that title really, I just wanted to get the word suit in there in reference to suit day which is where the above picture is taken from. Anyway…

I was pleased to discover earlier today that my fellow co-director of Row One and joint chief of the Buzz social committee Jason Simpson (also of University of Leeds School of Computing fame as well) had also started blogging.

Having recently bought a house with his other partner Sarah, it makes for interesting tales of house renovation, pub trips and the kind of exciting tales you expect from a fellow DYG (Dynamic Young Go-Getter).

Have a gander at Jason Simpson’s blog. Particularly the post where he, a self-described fan of spicy food, adds some legitimacy to my claim that I genuinely had a really, really hot curry back in August and aren’t just a wuss (which is completely unrelated).

Complaint to

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 | Life

I’ve turned into some kind of angry letter-obsessed old man! But to be fair I write these up pretty quickly and don’t bother checking them (there are several purposeful spelling and grammar errors in this – see if you can spot them).

But anyway, there was an advert on ITV1 tonight for which claimed the internet was the most important invention of the 21st century. I know, I know, it hurts on the inside. So I wrote to them about it.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have just been watching ITV1 (it is currently just before 8PM on Thursday 30 September) when I saw an advert for your website.

On the advert, the voice over woman described the internet as “the most important invention of the 21st century.”

As I am sure you will be aware, the internet was in fact not invented in the 21st century. Indeed, it was invented well before the 21st century with its foundations lying as long ago as the 1960’s.

Indeed not only does the internet date back this far but it’s wide spread adoption really occurred in the 1990’s and by the time we reached the end of 2000 the Dot-com bubble had already come and gone.

I therefore believe the claim made on the advert was erroneous.

While you could make the claim that although the internet was invented before the 21st century it is still the most important invention of the 21st century, I do not believe this makes any more sense because if you are opening it up to any invention ever then surely there are more important inventions that proceed the internet – for example the invention of computers to run the internet on, electricity to run the computers on or even the agricultural revolution which first gave us a surplus of time to expand beyond mere hunter gathers. Or going the other way, why not the world wide web which is arguably the real revolution that the internet has enabled?

I believe this kind of erroneous information is a problem for two reasons.
Firstly, it does not fill me with confidence in as I believe it looks unprofessional. Particularly a site yours, which holds large amounts of my personal data.

Secondly, I believe it could lead to a wide spead misunderstanding of history by the general population on a topic which, as your advert points out, is incredibly important.

Thank you for your time.

Best wishes,

I decided against making a pun on the idea that they may have been confused. Oh well.

Miliband doesn’t “do” god

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 | Religion & Politics

I was reading the Daily Mail’s coverage of Ed Miliband’s interview in which he said that he didn’t do god. He did of course say he has great respect for people who do and I may write about that later (I haven’t heard Cameron say he has great respect for non-believers, persumably because that’s most of us) but one thing I did find interesting was the Daily Mail poll which asked the following.

Does it matter that Ed Miliband does not believe in God?

Let’s pretend it isn’t offensive for them to suggest that the idea that his is an atheist makes him a bad person (one wonders whether they would have run a poll on “does it matter that x is a Muslim?”) and consider how to answer it.

My first reaction was to tick “no.” Because we all know what the poll is really about – as outlined above, do we think the fact that Ed Miliband is an atheist is detrimental to his character. If you answer yes, you do think that, if you answer no you don’t think that.

But of course it isn’t as simple as that. In actual fact, when considering the question does it matter to me that Ed Miliband is a non-beliver the answer is, yes it does. It matters a great deal to me! Just not in the way that the Daily Mail would imagine it might.

In fact, it probably matters to a lot of people. This is a man who could well be the prime minister of the United Kingdom in a few years time – it matters a great deal that he isn’t some mad crackpot religious nut. Especially when the last one turned out to be hiding his religious quackery until after he had sent hundreds of British servicemen to their deaths after some good healthy praying about it.

So yes, it does matter that Ed Miliband is an atheist. It’s great news.

For the record, at the time of casting my vote, 61% said it didn’t matter, with the other 39% saying it did.

Complaint to Coop take II

Monday, September 27th, 2010 | Life

Despite the Coop not getting back to me on my previous complaint about the excessive queuing at my local Coop, I decided to complain once again over the weekend because of another issue I had a bone to pick with them, and because I’m getting old and part of that process is writing angry complaint letters to organisations.

It was a subject close to my own heart as it happens – I was trying to buy a curry but most of the curries available where made of Halal meat and therefore off limits to anyone who a) understands how religiously slaughtered meat is produced and b) who has a conscious. As such I, along with Norm have written to the chief executive of Coop suggesting that as a brand which set them up as an ethical choice should remove all religiously slaughtered meat from their shelving due it’s grossly unethical origin.

Mr Marks

I recently went to the Co-op supermarket on New York Street, Leeds to buy something for dinner and decided on a microwavable curry ready meal. However, when I reached the section these are stocked I found that most of the Coop curries had been replaced by those labelled under the Mumtaz brand. As you may be aware, Mumtaz use exclusively Halal meat.

I consider myself an ethical consumer. Indeed one of the reasons I shop at Co-op is because the company has a long history of offering a selection of ethical products and indeed seems to take pride in doing so.

Halal meat (and Kosher meat also), if you are not already aware, is highly unethical as it causes unnecessary suffering to the animal resulting in the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the government’s independent review board on the subject, to conclude it should be banned immediately (such slaughter methods are actually already illegal, but religious organisations currently hold an exemption). Should you wish to read further, more information can be found here:

I was therefore shocked, and disappointed, that Co-op had selected to stock Mumtaz’s Halal dishes. I believe that the Coop should continue it’s tradition of providing ethically sourced products by removing any products which contain religiously slaughtered meat. I urge you, as the group chief executive to make enquiries into this distribution policy and act to reverse the decision as soon as possible. Whilst these unethically sourced products remain on your shelves with no clear choice for me as a consumer, then I shall unfortunately not be able to continue my custom with your organisation.

Thank you for your time.

Lets see what they come back to us with.

Holiday snaps

Monday, September 27th, 2010 | Life, Photos, Travel

Having safely returned from our trip across Europe I’ve finally got round to adding all my photos into the photo gallery website I designed while in La Rochelle.

You should be warned now that essentially “this site is best viewed on Chris’s computer.” Ideally you need a Javascript enabled Firefox which you can run full screen on a 22″+ full HD resolution monitor hucked with a reasonably fast broadband connection. You may think to yourself this reasonably poor usability – and you’d be right. But as I have that, my friends at work have that and my parent have that, I don’t really care about anyone else. Well, not that I don’t care about you, I just don’t think it worth my time to make a usable gallery for photos you probably don’t give a crap about.

In any case, you can check out the photo gallery in all it’s beautifully transitioned jquery glory which doesn’t even look good over the internet because it takes so long to load everything and is therefore only good when viewed on a local machine anyway, but again, see above, here.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Travel

For the final stop of the road trip part of our holiday we headed to Monaco to win back the cost of our holiday in the Casino de Monte Carlo.

The hotel was reasonable – though facing onto a building site, perhaps explaining why it was half the price of all the other hotels in the area. The rooms we had next to each other shared a balcony also which was rather genius as it meant we could pop round to each other’s rooms.

It was very warm on an evening but luckily with myself and Norm living in Leeds city centre, simply leaving the balcony doors open all night wasn’t a problem as Monaco traffic, while noisy, pales in comparison to the drunken revelry that happens outside my window on a Saturday night.

One settled in we headed down towards the marina to get a few drinks at a local cafe followed by dinner at the Royal Thai restaurant which was excellent food.

Once it was dark we headed back to the hotel and donned suites to head up to the Casino de Monte Carlo. Meanwhile George decided to head to the local jazz bar to check out the karaoke and ended up spending the night chatting up the Scottish barmaid working there.

The casino was on the big square in Monte Carlo and was lined with needless expensive cars outside – Porches, Aston Martins, Mercades – even the Fiat was the limited edition rally version.

The casino was fantastically grand – something which I think just really rubs it in how much money they are winning from you. Even the bar was expensive in there and no wonder when you have three croupiers sitting on every table.

I was looking forward to doing some gambling but a €25 minimum bet on black jack we soon gave up on that and opted to play the slot machines instead. At least we did get to spend some time talking to some rather attractive young ladies on what is apparently called a Contiki tour. We’d never heard of it, probably a sign of how out of touch we were with the youth of today.

We were due to hit the road early the next morning but having agreed to be ready to go for 6:30, I headed out at 6:40, using our daily buffer of Kieran-Time to go take some shots of the marina before it got light.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Travel

Needing some down time I headed to Milan after Verona for a bit of R&R. A checked into a rather nice hotel near the centre of Milan (I though it was quite a distance out given it’s distance from the train station, but it turns out the train station is just miles away).

I decided to jump on the big red Sight Seeing buses which they also have in Leeds but I figured because Milan is far more interesting than Leeds the Milan one wouldn’t be shit (I haven’t been in the Leeds one, but it’s a pretty safe guess it is).

It as quite a good deal as they have two routes but you just buy one 24 hour ticket and that gives you access to them both. You also get a pair of headphones which are presumably rubbish (I didn’t try mine) though luckily I had my mini headphones, though unfortunately not my awesome noise canceling ones.

After doing both the tours round the city, I decided to go for a wander down the castle and have a look round. That really reminded me of the internet – full of Africans trying to scam you. Luckily shouting “sorry, ich spreche kein Englisch” seemed to get rid of them.

The cathedral, or Duomo di Milano if you will, was amazing – it was absolutely covered in statues, they were all over the walls and on every spire. Apparently it was quite luckily to see if without any building works on.

Had an interesting conversation on the way out also – trying to speak Italian to a taxi driver when I had never spoken a word of it before was a crazy experience. “Parco Trenno per favore.” “Parco Trenno? You mean Parco Trenno?” I’m 99% certain I pronounced it exactly the same as he did but he insisted it was Parco Trenno, not Parco Trenno. He then didn’t believe me that I wanted to go to Parco Trenno so I then had to try and explain that is where I was meeting my friends.

Still, a taxi was a much faster way of getting out of Milan than driving in – using the back streets, using the bus lane as a regular lane and not really caring if you almost wipe out a few people on mopeds make for much speedier driving.

One thing that I really did pick up on in Europe is how much better their public transport is than ours – most have a bus network, a tram system and an underground system as well as proper cycle lanes that aren’t simply a little painted line running in the main road.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Travel

Another short drive away was Verona though perhaps not an easy drive – while most of Europe seems pretty sensible on the road, the Italians are very different. Things like coaches overtaking on bends, randomly pulling out and best of all, not being able to get into the other lane so simply pulling out and driving head on down your lane until someone lets them in were common place.

Luckily we eventually made it to Verona alive and found our hotel which was just off the main square and best of all – had a McDonald’s on the ground floor!

Once settled in to what was a nice hotel albeit it not offering wifi in our rooms and even in the lobby at a reasonably heavy price we decided to go for a wander and explore the city.

It was very nice – the pavements looked new and well maintained and all the shops were beautiful – it was basically an entire city which looked like the Victoria Quarter in Leeds. Of course, we couldn’t afford to shop in any of them.

We ended up on a square where we decided to have dinner paying what I think was a record of €7 for a beer and being served by a crazy waiter who when I asked for a white wine soon reappeared with a glass of red insisting I would prefer this one. Mental.

Still the food was very nice and on the way home we stopped by Juliet’s balcony, which was unfortunately closed. It’s also a bit of a joke, it’s not even made of the same colour stone as the rest of the building, it’s not even like they have pretended it was originally there – not that you really can for a fictional character.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Travel

We hit the road early on Monday morning to take the road through the Alps to Venice. It was a long drive and continued the dramatic scenery as the road twisted and turned it’s way through the Alpine hills.

We eventually arrived at Venice late afternoon and parked up in the multistory at the edge of the city which was so big it was almost a small town in itself. We then jumped on the water bus to head down the Grand Canal to the other side of the city where our hotel was.

Venice is a crazy place – I mean who thought it would be a good idea to build a city in the middle of the sea? It’s so strange that you are walking around on all these huge squares and buildings, all of which are just floating on the water (they’re not actually floating, but still).

They did however have an annoying habit of mixing up languages – there were loads of t-shirts saying “I love Venezia” which is just annoying – Venezia is the Italian spelling of Venice, so it should either be “I love Venice” or “Lo amo Venezia”, mixing it up is just silly!

The night life was great in Venice also – the tiny winding streets were packed with people (and I’m sure could have felt packed with hardly anyone in them). It seemed to be the kind of place where you could live for a year and still not really know how the streets connect together.

We had pizza for dinner at a small restaurant then headed onto Piazza St Marco to watch the bands that were playing at the restaurants we couldn’t afford to eat at.

Our hotel was traditional Venesian place, which means authentic but otherwise rubbish, and filled with mosquitoes which decided to try and eat me alive.

The next day we decided to walk back across the city towards the car which was quite a distance with all the stuff but did allow us to see much more of Venice.

It was an odd mix of churches, tourist shops containing weird masquerade ball masks and actual shops to serve the people that actually live there.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Travel

Having had some long and tiring days on the road it was nice to have what by then seemed a mere two hours on the road to make it to Salzburg, Austria.

We checked into the guest house and headed to the Old Town which at first seemed somewhat of a ghost town – it was only until we had spent 15 minutes wandering around that we found the corner that actually had something open.

The buildings were incredibly beautiful however and it continued Germany’s tradition of being very clean, something which is really noticeably missing from the UK and indeed The Netherlands and Italy.

The views surrounding Salzburg were equally as spectacular – nestled in the foothills of the Alps there were dramatic mountains surrounding the city and indeed the connection to the old town from the new town was a passageway carved through the mountain in something resembling Lord of the Rings.