Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Latitude Puzzle

Google Latitude is the next big thing in Mobile technology.. knowing where your friends are relative to your position.. all sorts of interesting (and frightening) applications here.

But it doesn't work on my HTC Oxygen with zfree WM 6.1 firmware and I've had no responses on my Google Help thread here. I have to fix this before Herrington finds out!

What have I tried?
1. Not being stupid and am typing in the password correctly :)
2. Google Maps is fully functional otherwise
3. Can get to and log in successfully to the Google Accounts SSL page
4. Running the latest version of Maps without any GPS functionality enabled (or even present on my rusty old HTC Oxygen!)
5. No permissions exist regarding the network connection.
6. Tried a regular gmail account, with and without the "" domain
7. Tried my custom domain Google Apps account, with the domain obviously
8. Tried disconnecting cellular data connection before firing up Latitude (to let it establish its own connection).
9. Tried the random bizarre suggestions like logging in and out of Maps repeatedly etc, listed in other discussions.

Ideas anyone?

Rum Doodle

When travelling, it's always good to have a book to hand. Some you plough through and move on, others you return to, time and time again. For me the one above all others which I would choose to have by my side is Rum Doodle, a delightful humorous account of a British mountaineering expedition, easy to read, with gentle understated humour and a story and characters that lose none of their hilarity after the twentieth read!

The book is actually a spoof of an account written by Bill Tilman, called The Ascent of Nanda Devi, which unlike most mountaineering accounts is amusing and well-written in itself.

Bill Tilman

The plot
A bumbling group of British mountaineers mounts an assault on Rum Doodle, a slightly higher neighbor of Everest, in Bowman's parody novel, which was published in 1956 and became a classic within the climbing community.

Bowman cobbles together a wide-ranging crew of lovably clueless climbers, including the puffed-up narrator, Binder, and a misguided guide named Humphrey Jungle, who constantly gets lost and turns up in unlikely places. Other prominent members include measurement-obsessed scientist Christopher Wish as well as linguistic expert Lancelot Constant, whose chief talent seems to be ticking off the porters from the indigenous tribe called the Yogistani, who speak through their stomachs via a series of indecipherable grunts.

Early on, a memorable mishap occurs, in which Jungle ends up falling into a crevasse and the rescue effort consists of the rest of the crew joining him while they get soused on "medicinal" champagne.

The late great Bill Bowman himself

Bowman also offers a couple of predictable chapters as the group goes in circles and then proceeds to climb the wrong mountain, and he spends an inordinate amount of prose on their suffering at the hands of the sadistic cook, a Yogistani named Pong.

Bowman manages to sustain a very thin conceit for a large number of chapters, although the silliness can at times be sophomoric. He redeems himself somewhat with an amusing "surprise" ending that features the 3,000 Yogistani porters involved in the expedition, and overall he proves himself to be an entertaining humorist who has much to offer for readers who like their outdoor humor dripping with understated British irony.

A new introduction by Bill Bryson (advertised in type bigger than the author's name on the book's cover) will draw readers who would otherwise almost certainly have missed this comic treat of a reissue.

“Bowman… has much to offer for readers who like their outdoor humor dripping with understated British irony.” -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“I just love this book. Everything about it is nearly perfect… hugely enjoyable and brilliantly sustained.” -- From the Introduction by Bill Bryson

“Wonderful…Rum Doodle does for mountaineering what Three Men and a Boat did for the Thames and Catch-22 did for the Second World War.” -- THE SUNDAY TIMES

In short.. buy this book!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Loughborough Loop Cycle Ride

Inspired by this route, Lewis and I set out on a sunny Saturday afternoon for a modest cycle tour of the countryside south of Loughborough. Despite the town being somewhat industrial, the surrounding area is quite pretty.

View Larger Map

Highlights include the marvellous Navigation Inn in Barrow-upon-Soar, the pretty Swithland Reservoir, passing the Great Central Railway, the "undulating" (!) Woodhouse Eaves to Nanpatan stretch, and of course the canal itself. Lowlights was mostly the terribly muddy condition of the stretch of towpath approaching Barrow (from the north).

Distance: 17 miles.

Passing by the weir as we cross the canal

Abbot at the Navigation

In other exciting news, seems to have the ability to work out altitude, and will draw route profiles etc for you. Clever stuff. Oh and I've come across Audax UK, the organisation for serious long-distance cycling in the UK. These guys are the real deal - London to Edinburgh return cycle rides done in 60 hours etc. I have been sorely humbled!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Red Lion in Aldborough, Norfolk

Dating from 1836, on Aldborough Village Green, one finds:

The Old Red Lion Public House and Tea Rooms

Lovely Country Setting, Good Food, Gravity Ales, Traditional Beers, Live Music, Bed and Breakfast, Log Fires, Sunday Roast.

Address: The Green, Aldborough, Norfolk. NR11 7AA
Telephone : 01263 761451
Opening times: Mon-Fri: 3pm-11pm (1am Fri), Sat/Sun: 12pm-1am/10pm
Restaurant times: Mon-Fri 7-9pm, Sat/Sun lunchtimes only (except by prior arrangement). Sunday carvery.

Went in here yesterday evening, and I have to say I am ashamed that I hadn't been in sooner! The Red Lion is *the* finest ale pub in the whole area. Allan Davidson, the landlord, shows a real love of ale, as demonstrated by the beer mats, jugs and other ale memorabilia adorning the walls; the whole place oozes charm and character.

I'm always a little nervous when going into quiet rural pubs - would the beer be stale or worse? Confusingly, when I asked for a pint of Wherry, Allan walked off to the back rather than pouring from the pumps. What was going on? A sip of the perfectly conditioned pint he returned with confirmed that there were no issues with the beer, though Allan apologised and said the barrel was only delivered the same morning, and wasn't quite ready yet. The beer came straight from the barrel, and at the perfect temperature, as per CAMRA guidelines (and he conducts regular tests to make sure it's right!).

The interior has been lovingly restored after the previous owner ran the place into the ground, is now full of character, cosy seats and a roaring fire, and testimony to this is that the sports teams who compete on the green have all made this their local rather than the "other" pub on the green (which is closing in June). The locals are a friendly inviting bunch who always make the effort to include and welcome a stranger, it being the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, Allan knows what everyone drinks and has it on the bar waiting before you've taken your seat, and often customers will have a brace of pheasants or some rabbits under arm, to be plucked or skinned after a pint or two.

The food he serves is home-made and excellent value, at about 6-7 quid for a meal, with local fresh meat and produce. Credit cards are not accepted, so bring enough cash for the evening which you'll inevitably end up spending the entirety of here! If you're around before 8pm then the Spar shop across the Green does cash-back. On Sunday Allan does a carvery, which is very popular, with meat and vegetables all bought from local farms.

In terms of beers, when I was in there Monday evening) he only had Wherry on, as a sports team had drunk him dry the evening before. Generally he has Adnams Best, Woodford's Wherry and a ever-changing guest ale or three. He's also a big fan of Winter's ales from Norwich and gets them in when he can. Other ales on at the moment include Grain Beer from Harleston, Buffy Brewery beers - Allan seeks out local micro-brewery beers, though of course has the staple Guinness, Kronenberg, Cider etc.

Allan and Trudy also offer B&B, though it's probably worth checking whether this means Bed and Breakfast or Bed and Beer, hehe! Very reasonable prices too.

Come in the summer to enjoy the cricket on the green with a nice pint!

A marvellous painting of Aldborough Cricket by Brian Lewis

Bankers' Bonuses

There is a lot of debate in the news at the moment about whether the employees of RBS and other large (and now) Government-owned banks should receive bonuses. In all the furore it seems to me that no one has taken the time to explain the remuneration of most employees in large organisations, and this is leading to anger on all sides:

1. Non-bankers are livid that "bonuses" are to be paid to employees of organisations that are losing money

2. Bankers or other city types point out that most employees of these banks are expecting a bonus as part of their remuniation package, as they were not responsible for the spectacular failings of the investment arms of their banks.

These two perspectives are not incompatible! Let me explain. Aside from executive level, all bank staff will be paid a basic salary. For anyone working directly for the bank, this salary will be quite acceptable, thank-you very much. Even PAs and basic IT support admins will be on 40k or more.

Then, as part of their contract, there will be a bonus eligibility, which will be expressed as a percentage. This may be 10-20% or so, the exact number relating to their position, what was negotiated as part of their contract etc.

Each year, a corporate performance reward scheme will be put in place. This will set out how much of the of this agreed % will relate to personal target achievement, how much will relate to corporate success, and there may be other factors in the mix too.

So if we take 10% as bonus potential, it may be that 6% is personal, 3% corporate and 1% if the bank achieves some specific goal. Thus if the employee completes all of his objectives for the year, agreed at the beginning and reviewed at the end, he will get that 6%. If the company makes large profits, he will get the 3%, and the 1% will come if the bank breaks into the new target market, or opens a certain number of new branches.

The huge fuss in the media focusses purely on employees getting "bonuses". What all will agree, I suspect, is that the corporate part (the 4% in my example) of their bonus should not be paid. Individually though, they still deserve the portion of their "bonus" associated with delivering on their personal objectives (or not as the case may be!). Indeed contractually I suspect one could not not pay this part of their package.

Yet another example of the media blowing a story out of proportion to sell more print. Does it help us as a society though? Probably not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Banned from!


Haha, yes it's true, my account has been suspended until 2024 on the Pub review site Why? I don't know, although it could be to do with the latest thread I started on their forums, which was openly critical of the site admin, Chris. Why be critical? BeerInTheEvening is a pub review site I have been loyal to for many years - I have contributed several reviews to the site, and rated many more pubs.

Last year I spent the time to add several pubs in the Norfolk area to the database. This is done manually, by submitting the pubs to a "Pub Additions" thread on the forums, which are then transferred to the site by the admin. Five months later these pubs have still not been added to the database. Why? Well no one knows, but what is clear is that there is a single admin, a chap called Chris, and he has given very little time to the site since last year. There are many "old hand" types on the site who have offered to help Chris, but he has always refused help (according to the forums).

So now, with BITE approaching half a year's backlog, I started an "Open Revolt" thread where I said that despite my wishes, it was time to move on to another site, and I invited suggestions as to which site to move over to. Another poster said that I shouldn't mention other websites, to which I said it really wouldn't matter as Chris was clearly so inactive that this post wouldn't get me into trouble. On this point I was wrong.

Trying to sign in today, I find out that my account is suspended till 2024! At least there's hope.. Only 15 years to wait :)

Seriously though, on this basis I would suggest:

1. Anyone with any web development competence - set up a UK pub review website - there is no authoritative one. Get Google to buy it off you once you've written the clever code!

2. If you're a pub - don't pay for coverage - there are better ways to advertise your venue, and above all, just being a good pub will get you good reviews on all the sites.

3. If you fancy reviewing a pub, don't bother contributing to BeerintheEvening - it's a waste of time, your efforts will go to nothing. Pass your efforts to one of the other sites who will make the effort to publish your work.

4. Review this situation in six months or a year, perhaps things will change - traditionally BITE has been the best site, and I hope it turns around and the admin Chris pulls the monkey out of his a*se (and stops being so Stalinesque regarding criticism on the boards, what a loser)!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Britain is Broken

So after an inch or two of snow, the whole country grinds to a halt. No buses in London, and the Waterloo and City line is suspended due to severe weather. **THE WATERLOO AND CITY LINE**??! Its entirely underground! If a tsunami had hit London I might understand, but how precisely has the Waterloo and City line been affected?