Archive for March, 2011


Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Not this blog entry – at least not intentionally – but the conference I went to yesterday.

It was aimed at representatives of various government departments and was aimed at helping us meet our obligations under the Carbon Reduction Commitment – you’ll remember I’ve picked up Environmental Management as a little bolt-on to my portfolio of tasks, so it looked like a good idea. I was wrong about that.

Although the attendees were all representatives of the public sector one way or the other, no-one seemed to have told the speakers, all of whose talks were based on selling us expensive bits of kit next time we commission a new building. Since none of us actually have enough money to fulfil our organisations’ core operational requirements I don’t think new buildings are really on the cards (although I notice the Environment Agency have just moved into a new building) but I suppose these sales folk have to dream.

A lot of time was spent telling us how important carbon reduction and energy efficiency is, and why we should all be playing our parts. We were all thinking “We’re public sector – we have to do it because David Cameron says we have to do it. Move on.”. One talk – and I promise this is true – was aimed at “Making your operation Carbon Neutral”, which seemed interesting. The talk consisted of:

  1. Why it’s increasingly important in the current climate to become more energy efficient without spending wads of cash (we know, get on with it)
  2. The instruction “Be more energy efficient and reduce waste”
  3. Fifteen minutes of “If you employ our building management company we can make all this happen for you”

Even the freebies were pretty carp, I managed to score two pens and a notepad; Even the lunch wasn’t really worth going for.

On the good side, the conference was in a bit of London I don’t normally visit, so I managed to score three new geocaches in the lunchbreak!

Book Review

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Well, as mentioned in my last post, I loaded my Kindle with Killing Elizabeth, by the blog ring’s favourite home-grown author.

I’d read bits of it before, when he published chapters as they were written on his website, but I struggled with reading large amounts of text from the screen like that – I had no such problems on the Kindle, which I think proves the Kindle’s worth apart from anything else! Anyway, the book is a cracking good read, with comedy that makes you laugh out loud, strong action sequences and a plot that grows steadily more absurd yet keeps each step a believable consequence of what went before.

In short, well worth reading even if the author’s not a friend of yours! I’m hoping we’ll see more from the keyboard of Simon Goodway – but that’s not likely to happen unless lots of Kindle readers download this one. So what are you waiting for?


Thursday, March 10th, 2011

T’other day, in my review of the Kindle e-book reader, I commented

It also seems to be a fairly cheap and easy process for self-publishers to publish their own work for the Kindle, and while that’s likely to lead to vast amounts of dross floating around, there’s also going to be some good stuff that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

No sooner had I written it than I discovered that one such self-published book is Killing Elizabeth, by a brilliant – if yet little known – author whose name most of my readers will recognise. So of course I splashed out eighty-six pees and bought it.

Bread – it’s About the Dough

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr was on the telly box tonight, and his subject for the day was bread.

Now as some of you know, that used to be my professional field, so I know enough to take issue with the sainted Michel’s points. He was concerned – as often happens when celebrity chefs get exercised about what the rest of us eat – with the fact that the bread that most of us eat isn’t as nice as the bread you can buy in a French boulangerie, or for that matter a British corner shop baker. Commercially-produced bread he said, is wet, plasticky and doesn’t taste the same. He had a thinly-disguised pop at the breadmaking industry and put the Federation of Bakers on the spot.

Of course, everything he says is true, but it’s not fair to blame the supermarkets or the bakers: Supermarkets stock what they think their customers will buy, and to stay in business they have to get that prediction right far more often than they get it wrong. So what the shops buy from the bakers is what the customers want to buy, and what the bakers make is what the shops tell them they want. The quality of the ingredients in a supermarket loaf is dictated by how much the supermarket is prepared to pay for it, which is why the cheapest flour is combined with far too much water (because water is the cheapest ingredient of all).

It isn’t that the customers don’t have a choice – even if you only shop in a supermarket, there’s likely to be a selection of craft bread from the in-store bakery alongside the industrial bread – yet people buy what they’ve always bought, or what’s cheapest. Maybe if people were educated about the difference in taste they’d buy craft bread more, but most people will still buy what’s cheapest and that’s what drives the market.

The programme finished with some people attending a breadmaking course and learning to bake their own bread at home: One student said the experience had changed her life. The bit they edited out was where she added, “I used to have all this free time…”


Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

After a great deal of um-ing and ah-ing, I’ve taken the plunge and bought a Kindle.

I’d been thinking of getting an e-book reader for some time, and the choice came down to the Kindle or the Sony equivalent: they’re probably as good as each other, but the Kindle had more positive reviews so I went for that.

After the first couple of weeks use, I’m pretty impressed. It not only displays books (in Amazon’s proprietary e-book format), but also PDFs, Word documents, various image file formats and several others. I’ve loaded it with all the work- related documents that I need to have will me when I do my ”grand tours” of our regional offices, so if nothing else it’ll save me considerable backache. I’ve also loaded a lot of stuff that I don’t normally carry around with me because it’s too heavy, but which I know will come in useful.

So what’s the reading experience? Pretty good. The display has been optimised to be as much like ink-on-paper as possible, and they’ve achieved it pretty well. It’s much lighter than a normal paperback and of course you can carry a load of books around you in one go – the reckon the storage is enough for 3500 paperback-sized books so you’ll struggle to ever fill it. Books can be categorised into “collections” (think folders on your computer) and you can have as many collections as you like. What you can’t have is subfolders, but that’s about the only criticism I’ve got.

The books are…well, books, although there’s a huge selection of free books available- basically everything that’s been piublished and is now old enough to be out of copyright is available as a free download, so it’s going to be a few years before I’ve got nothing to read, even if I never buy anything. It also seems to be a fairly cheap and easy process for self-publishers to publish their own work for the Kindle, and while that’s likely to lead to vast amounts of dross floating around, there’s also going to be some good stuff that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

So – worthwhile purchase? Yes. I suspect I’ll still buy books sometimes – I wouldn’t want to read a Kindle by the poolside on holiday, and anything with a lot of picture content is going to be better on paper, at least until Kindles have colour screens (the black and white picture resolution is at least as good as a medium quality paperback). But for everyday reading – tea breaks, in bed and on the train or bus – it’s excellent.


Monday, March 7th, 2011

Two blokes were standing near me on the bus this evening – what follows is the unabridged entirety of their conversation…

Bloke 1: “Steve”
Bloke 2: “Steve?”
Bloke 1: “Steve”


Bloke 2: “Chris?”
Bloke 1: “Chris”

I’d love to know what that was all about, but I don’t suppose I ever will.