Archive for March, 2005

knife warning

If blogjam were to operate a ‘daily tips’ service, this would be today’s pearl of useful wisdom: if you’ve been out drinking all night, don’t open that box containing the carving knife you’ve just bought off eBay. Those Global blades are really quite sharp.

yahoo 360

Yahoo launched Yahoo 360 in beta today. It’s their new blogging/photo sharing/social networking thing. It does some clever stuff and some dull stuff. If anyone wants can invite, leave a comment.

lamb in hay

One of the curious things about getting older is that pleasure is derived from things your younger self simply wouldn’t appreciate. Fifteen years ago, the formative me would be enthralled by the prospect of a Butthole Surfers tour or an unattended crate of brown ale, while the older me likes nothing more than to purchase something shiny and gleaming for the kitchen, and is seldom happier than when scanning the Sunday supplements for new and exciting recipes. Recipes like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Lamb In Hay, where seventeenth century French tradition meets pretentious middle-class culinary experimentation in a friendly, made-for-TV package.

Apart from being something of a fire-risk, which is exciting, there are no obvious reasons to bake a leg of lamb in hay, apart from the fact that it’s a talking point in itself. There are many other ways to prepare the meat, all of which are satisfactory and require neither a trip to the pet shop nor a cooking process that makes your kitchen smell like a overly damp barn. Nonetheless, it’s what I conjured up for my dinner guests yesterday, and I feel duty-bound to report my findings.

And there it is. The top layer of hay has been removed to reveal the succulent flesh beneath and, by golly, it is tender, a genuine melt-in-the-mouth sensation. The only problem is the flavour. The meat is delicious but it tastes, perhaps unsurprisingly, of hay. Lots of hay. This would be fine were I a horse or a guinea pig, but for human beings the sensation is somewhat unsettling. So why would anyone cook using this method? I can only assume that the meat French peasants were using four hundred years ago was so overwhelmingly rancid that this process was necessary to disguise the fetid nature of the food, much like chili sauce on the modern-day kebab.

And Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? Don’t believe a fucking word he says.

lying tory scum

Boring geek aside: why does the accessability page on the Tory website, which features a lovely big W3C XHTML 1.0 approved button, throw up 15 XHTML errors? The homepage is worse, with 37 errors. It’s to be applauded that an organisation as out-of-touch as the Tories should try and build a standards-compliant, validating website, but should they not ensure that their code actually validates before actively boasting about it? At least the Labour Party homepage validates, although this doesn’t excuse the fact that they’ve behaved like a reprobate band of cock-sucking warmongers since taking power.

And that’s all the politics you’ll be getting from me this election. Tomorrow, I’ll be reviewing some of my own cooking.

Update 31.03.05: All the code now validates. All hail the power of weblogs, and kudos to the Conservative webmaster for acting.

competition chaos

I’ve always had bad luck in competitions. At school I entered a nationwide contest for sixth-form students and, after a series of increasingly difficult cryptic questions and a tiebreaker, finished 19th out of thousands of initial entrants. While the first 18 winners jetted off on a two-week tour of Canada and Alaska, I received £10 in a Lloyds bank account and – most gallingly of all, because I had to stand up in Assembly while everyone clapped – £100 worth of books for the school library.

Around the same time I entered a competition in the sadly defunct music weekly Sounds to win a hand-built Slingerland drum kit. Entrants had to make as many words as they could from the phrase ‘derringerappice’, a piece of gibberish compiled from two surnames, those of Rick Derringer and Carmine Appice, whose wildly unsuccessful Party Tested album was the reason for the competition. These days, of course, you’d just run the phrase through the Internet Anagram Server and have a complete set of answers inside a few seconds, but this was 1983, I didn’t have access to a computer, and Tim Berners Lee was still half a dozen years away from inventing the World Wide Web.

So I spent two weeks in the reference department of Northampton Public Library going through the entire 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary in search of the winning words, and sent the 1700 or so I found off to the Sounds office in London. A few weeks later I bought the paper to see my name feature proudly in the list of prizewinners, in second place. No drum kit, but surely something worthy of all that time and effort? No such luck. I received a copy of the album. It took six months to arrive, and I only listened to it once. It was rubbish. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Today I thought I’d try my luck again, and spent a couple of hours entering every online competition I could find. If everything goes to plan, I’ll soon be the owner of a 60GB iPod photo, an iPod mini, an iPod shuffle, an ‘As Time Goes By’ DVD box-set, an Oregon scientific 3.3 megapixel digital camera, another digital camera, £777 in cash, a La-Z-Boy Chair, a camcorder, a Dell Outlet Dimension 4600 computer, a Bug DAB radio, a Sony NWHD1 Walkman MP3 Player, a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Guitar, a Ford StreetKa, a Mercedes C230 Kompressor Coupe SE 3dr, an Apple PowerBook G4, a flat screen TV worth £1750, a Dyson DC08 Telescope Wrap Animal Vacuum Cleaner, the top 100 albums of all time, an HP iPaq 4700 Pocket PC, a Creative 5GB Zen MP3 player, a Sony stereo MHC WZ5 mini system, a year’s supply of lager, a Kenwood SB256 smoothie maker, £10,000 or a 5 door Volkswagen Polo, a Lotus Elise 1.8 2dr, a Nokia 6680 imaging smartphone, £1000 worth of John Lewis vouchers, a Polti Eco Pro 3000 Lux Vaporetto Steam Cleaner, a Sony PSP, a fascinating week in Hong Kong, China, a holiday for two in Cape Town, a holiday for two to New Zealand, a dream holiday for two to the Bahamas, a fabulous holiday in El Alamein, laser eye treatment worth over £2,500, and a year’s free shopping from Sainsbury’s.

I’ll let you know how I get on, assuming I’m not buried alive by the mountain of junk mail that this competition frenzy will inevitably prompt.

bandwidth appeal

I need more bandwidth. After my recent shenanigans with Blueyonder, I shifted some of the more heavily trafficked files back to the good people at Pair Networks, but now I’m feeling the strain there too. Three .swf files are using up 70% of my projected monthly bandwidth total, which is already running over my account limit and likely to cost me about $90 in excess charges this month. Anyone got any spare room? You’ll need to be able to deliver 50,000 hits to the three files per month, or about 30GB worth of traffic. Alternatively, can anyone recommend a host where I can get this kind of bandwidth dirt-cheap, somewhere that won’t mind if some all of the content is offensive? It’s not pornography, of course, just the usual collection of feisty language and sub-toilet humour.

Anyone able to host the files will, of course, be given full credit/linkage/everlasting love.

google satan

There’s a growing body of opinion on the web claiming that Google is evil. I’ve always suspected this to be nonsense, but a quick look at my Gmail account this morning suggests differently.

Geek credit: evil stats exposed by the HTML Tidy extension for Firefox.

dj therapy

I’ve been DJing for more than 20 years. Although it’s never been more than an occasional thing, I have had my moments. There was the summer I spent in Richmond playing at a weekly disco for vacationing Italian students (‘Paninaro’ by The Pet Shop Boys was always a favourite). There was the time I played at a Beastie Boys party alongside Alec Empire and other people who actually knew what they were doing (fuck knows how I ended up with that one). For a while I even had a regular paid gig at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, playing Indie-Pop and Motown for a heaving audience of drunken chavs (of course, we didn’t call them chavs in those days, and this was way before UK Garage gave them their very own soundtrack).

The weird thing is that I’ve always hated doing it. From youth clubs in Northampton to Big Beat bars in London to house parties to record company Christmas celebrations to the Reading Festival, I’ve never enjoyed it. I don’t really care for playing records to people I don’t know, but not quite as much as I hate dancing, so I seek refuge in the DJ booth, where I don’t have to talk to people I don’t know or dance. Winner. And I’m selfish. I’m an obstinate, contrary twat, and the more praise I get (usually only from the people I do know, I’ll admit), the more I’d prefer that people were annoyed by what I play rather than enjoy themselves. You liked that? Really? Then I’m gonna play this. Fucker. I’m confrontational, and this is not healthy.

Eventually, I stopped trying to please people altogether. It got to the stage where a friend and I would play occasional sets of avant-garde material, white noise interlaced with tracks played at the wrong speed, that sort of thing, the whole garbled mess forced through a series of effects pedals, as if taking part in some crazy sonic battle to out-weird each other. It was horrible. The bookings dried up. With great relief I retired from DJing.

Occasionally I’ve been coaxed back into the fray, and each time I’ve thought, “Ahhh yes, now I remember why I don’t like doing this – I’m supposed to entertain, and I really don’t feel like it. I am not your dancing monkey”. Tonight was such a night. I was asked to play for an hour at The Camden Crawl, and couldn’t resist the temptation to fill my slot with tunes that, to be honest, probably meant nothing to most of the funny-looking teenagers shuffling by to collect their wristbands. Apart from a couple of nods to current alternative culture and a few old-fashioned classics, the bulk of the material was, to my mind at least, of little relevance to anyone there outside of, well, me. But maybe I’m wrong.

Here’s the set:

Girls Against Boys – In Like Flynn
Poster Children – Dynamite Chair
The Who – The Seeker
Screaming Lord Sutch – ‘Til The Following Night
The Misunderstood – Children Of The Sun
MC5 – I Can Only Give You Everything
Pere Ubu – Final Solution
Patti Smith – Piss Factory
Swell Maps – Read About Seymour
Wire – Lowdown
Tom Vek – C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)
Blam Blam Blam – Don’t Fight It Marsha, It’s Bigger Than The Both Of Us
Love Battery – Out Of Focus
Blumfeld – Verstärker
Ambulance Ltd – Anecdote
Jacques Dutronc – On Nous Cache Tout, On Nous Dit Rien
Bran Flakes – Good Times A Goo Goo

Now, I don’t really think this is too far from the mark. It’s actually a fairly mainstream selection for me, and all of the tracks are from the ‘alternative canon’, as academics probably say when they sit round to discuss music. Some of it’s a bit odd – I end with a track based around a vocal sample from Kermit the Frog, for example – but I could have been much more difficult. I could have played a set of redneck country & western (I’ve done that before at similarly inappropriate events) or thrown in the odd bit of throat-singing, but I didn’t. I behaved, and no-one complained. I even enjoyed myself a little. Success.

Anyhow, none of this waffle serves any purpose apart from to a) keep a track record of my last-ever set list (I am not coming out of retirement again), and b) to remind myself of why. Thanks for listening. Or not, as the case almost certainly is.


Spotted outside a pub on Tottenham Court Road early on Saturday afternoon.

Kitten Magnificence

Today is a glorious day. I have uploaded 202 (that’s two hundred and two) new kittens to the random kitten generator. That’s ten score shots of junior feline splendour, 16 dozen prime examples of fantastic furry fabulosity. This little fella is my new favourite:

With a little bit of luck, he could become the new Nohands, I reckon.