Field of Light, Chadkirk Estate Stockport

Went to see the fluorescent light installation by artist Richard Box yesterday evening. He has planted many hundreds of tubular lamps in rows upright and equidistant in two fields either side of the river Goyt at the point where a footbridge is proposed. As the lamps are directly under high tension power lines, they glow in an eery, magical way. It’s a clever way of drawing attention to the bridge proposal and encouraging public debate.

Richard Box was actually there, and enthusiastic to talk about his work. There were a handful of other visitors, and we were all encouraged to interact with the ‘sculpture’ by wandering inbetween the lamps and even touching them to vary the glow.

Unfortunately it has not been without its technical challenges for Richard. Continue reading

The scourge of auto superscript

Over the years, the way we write dates has been evolving. Or should I say was evolving, because I think Microsoft has been working to reverse the trend.

What am I on about? The little suffixes after the day numeral – like 1st, 2nd. Following the United States, the UK had begun leaving these little letters off, so that “3rd June” can also be written “3 June”.

It looks cleaner and less Victorian in my view, like unpunctuated addresses. But nowadays, Continue reading

Reporters! Not the ‘c’ word again

A boy of 12 tragically died on 24 September during football training in Dundee. According to the BBC, “Youssef’s classmates were told of the tragedy at a special assembly, and have been offered counselling.”

Aargh! There’s the ‘c’ word! I can’t tell you how irritating I find that particular cliché when solemly uttered by hacks trying to emphasise the gravity of an event. If you’re not with me on this, then it would be difficult to explain why it gets up my nose so much. It’s something to do with Continue reading

If I don’t do it, somebody else will

Keeling CurveWith acknowledgements to Dr John, who was singing about an entirely different moral dilemma. There is a finite amount of oil on (in?) planet earth, right? I mean, they may not have discovered it all, and some oil may be very difficult to extract but whatever, there is only so much of it.

Okay, we all know now that burning oil is bad, but we are going to burn it. Until it is all gone. So what we’re talking about is how fast, and who is going to do it. My point is this: somebody, somewhere is going to burn every litre of oil there is. Why shouldn’t we be the ones to drive around in cars and fly all over the place? Reducing our rate of consumption simply ekes it out for future generations. It doesn’t reduce the amount of CO2 that will eventually go into the atmosphere.

Or am I wrong?

Making a website user-editable

The standard way of delivering a website is to design and upload what the client wants. When amendments are required, the customer tells the web designer, who makes the changes and uploads them once more.

Alternatively, there are a number of full-blown Content Management Systems (CMS) which enable the designer to provide the client with a set of pages which are fully and directly editable in a web browser.

I have used both approaches, but recently I have begun to experiment with a hybrid solution which is basically Continue reading

Burning DVDs – it’s like shelling peas now!

I can do it! I can do it! You know when you start learning something new, and you feel as if you will never master it, but then the ‘penny drops’ and you never look back? Great, isn’t it?

That’s where I’m up to with this whole TV programme archiving thing. So, to save you having to go through the same journey of discovery, here’s my way (one of several, I know) of making a nice shiny disc containing a film or something else you have recorded from the television using a PVR such as the Humax. Continue reading

New Jersey – twin town Salford?

Just watched episode 79 of TV series “The Sopranos” and was stunned by the inspired choice of music for the closing titles. John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” is a hypnotic litany describing grim, gritty life in post-industrial Greater Manchester UK.

I saw Cooper Clarke perform live in 1978, and I live in Greater Manchester but I confess I had never heard this track, which was released in 1980.

At first the music seemed incongruous, but there’s a dark, menacing feel to it. Maybe the message is that the Mafia world of New Jersey USA and rainy, hopeless Manchester have more in common than we think.

PS He’s on at the Comedy Store, Manchester Tuesday 30 October 2007

Doublespeak in the taxi cab

It’s a sad fact of life that whilst violent crime rates are falling in the UK, we generally remain just as fearful. So as the cost of closed circuit TV (CCTV) recording equipment falls, it’s almost inevitable that more and more taxis carry cameras to monitor what goes on inside them.

At first, you might see this as an erosion of civil liberties, and you might not like the idea of the cabbie recording what you do and say. But I have good news! Continue reading

Good customer service? In your Dreams!

Got a phone call yesterday from Dreams plc – the bed retailer. “Just phoning to arrange a replacement headboard for you.” I thought I had entered a time warp, because it was back in February that I had a dispute with them about a new headboard which didn’t fit the bed. Six months of silence from Dreams plc.

It’s also a coincidence that they had chosen to resurrect the issue only a few days after I wrote about Britain’s failure to achieve complete metrication. The problem I had with the headboard is a perfect illustration of the consequences of holding on to the old imperial system of measurements whilst introducing metric ones. The trouble was, it took a while to deduce the cause. Continue reading

‘Today’ programme sound effects

Who needs Rice Krispies when BBC’s Today programme at breakfast time on Radio 4 provides more than enough Snap, Crackle and Pop? No other TV or radio programme has the constant intrusive and distracting background noise of paper being shuffled and sorted. What’s worse, I think it’s getting louder. This morning for instance, it sounded like someone in the studio was enjoying a packet of salt ’n’ vinegar.

This rise in extraneous noise volume corresponds with a general decline in the quality of the programme I have noticed over the years. I’m old enough to remember when Jack de Manio was the presenter. His was an easy, warm, reassuringly aristocratic style. I bet he wore a bow tie and had his butler standing by to turn the pages. Continue reading