Monthly Archives: March 2008

March 2008 Round-up

I’m still being consistent, so here’s another fascinating end of month report that you can read instead of all the daily nonsense. Or not.


March 1: 211.6 pounds (15 stone 1.6 pounds, 96.0 kg)
March 31: 217.2 pounds (15 stone 7.2 pounds, 98.5 kg)

Difference: 5.6 pounds (2.5 kg), which would be pretty good if it was a fall, but as it’s a rise, it’s not good at all. Even though more than half that rise appeared in the last few days, and is probably a temporary wossname, it’s still pretty bad. Must do better in April. Probably.


OK, I’m having a real problem behaving at lunchtime. I keep meaning to have just a sandwich, but I keep failing to do that. Naughty Les. Other than that, I’m not doing too badly. Not over-eating the rest of the time, and I didn’t even pig out on chocolate at Easter.


Oh dear. Out of 15 working days this month, I walked to work five times, and walked home four times. While that’s better than last month, it’s still not very good. The weather hasn’t been that bad, so I think it’s mostly laziness. However, now the clocks have gone forward, and it’s really light at hometime, maybe I can persuade myself to walk home more often. Maybe.


One thing I did do this month was post a lot, especially during my week off, where I caught up with lots of stuff I’d been meaning to babble about for ages. Including this one, the total for March is 87, which is well above average, and is close to three per day, which might be excessive. Lots more to come – I’ve got some photos to sort out, and some CDs and books to mutter about too, so April should be a fairly busy month.

Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (25th Anniversary Edition)

DVD-buying Doctor Who fans may well be thinking they’ve entered a time warp of some kind. Yes, this has been on DVD before, but in a very different form. Back in 1999, the BBC was just beginning to test the market, and see if they could successfully sell DVDs. One of the first releases was the 20th anniversary Doctor Who story, The Five Doctors, which was presented in the “special edition” version – a 1990s remix (so to speak) of the 1983 broadcast which included some improved (or at least different) visual effects, some extra scenes that had been cut from the original, and a general rearrangement of odd bits and pieces. In stark contrast to the regular releases we’ve become used to, the extra features were, err, well, there weren’t any. But the booklet had more in it than you get these days, so it wasn’t all bad. Anyway, time has passed, and it’s been reissued in a more suitable format, as the 25th anniversary edition. Yes, it’s the 25th anniversary of the 20th anniversary, or it will be in November, at least.

So, if you already have the 1999 release, why would you want to bother with this one? Well, I’ll tell you[1]. For a start, inside the box you will find not one, but two DVDs. One contains the 1990s “special edition” and one the original, as-broadcast version, allowing you to compare and contrast. Personally, I don’t think the remix (I think I’ll keep calling it that) added that much to the original, but it’s perfectly watchable.

Both versions come with the ubiquitous production subtitles – the ones on the remix talk more about how the new effects and rearrangements were done, while the ones on the original version are the more usual “how it was made” kind of thing. Good stuff in both cases.

The story involves the Doctor’s various selves being pulled out of their time streams and deposited in the Death Zone on Gallifrey. Not a nice place at all, it’s a relic of their past which the Time Lords are not at all proud of. There’s an evil plotter, a nice selection of companions reprising their roles, some lovely monsters, including a rather battered looking Dalek, and five Doctors. Well, more like 4.5 Doctors, really, as Tom Baker declined to take part, and is seen only in some brief clips from the unfinished story Shada. With William Hartnell having died, the First Doctor was played (quite well, actually) by Richard Hurndall. It’s a lot of fun, especially when Doctors Two and Three redo their bickering routine that was so much fun in The Three Doctors, which was the tenth anniversary story. Lots of fun in both versions.

Special features include:

On the original version

  • Celebration: A documentary looking at the 20th anniversary, presented by Colin Baker
  • A super hidden special feature[2]

On the remix

  • The Ties That Bind Us: Nice documentary about links to the show’s past and future in The Five Doctors. Narrated by another future Doctor, Paul McGann
  • Out-takes, bits of studio footage and some special effects fun
  • Assorted TV clips – Doctor Who actors appeared on lots of other shows to promote the anniversary, and there are some good bits here. Some overlap with the documentary on the other disc, but never mind

So, if you don’t have the 1999 release, you’ll be needing this one. And if you do have the 1999 release, you’ll still be needing this one. Right?

[1] I’m nice like that :grin:
[2] Apparently it’s another commentary. Left as an exercise[3] for the reader
[3] Hint: Google is your friend :laugh:

Weight Report – 31 March 2008

First the good news: I’m lighter than I was yesterday. :yes:

Now the bad news, I’m heavier than I was a week ago. Or indeed two weeks ago. Or four weeks ago. :wah:

I’m currently lacking in the motivation to do anything about this, so things may not significantly improve for a while. But I’ll keep up the daily reports, so I’ll have something entertaining to look back on…

Doctor Who – Voyage of the Damned DVD

I don’t normally recommend the single disk DVDs of Doctor Who, given that they’re a bit lacking in extras and 5.1 sound mixes, but I made an exception and bought this one.

The contents are the 2007 Christmas Special, which I reviewed favourably at the time, and which I enjoyed seeing again, that gorgeous mini-episode done for Children in Need, and a cut cut-down version of the 2007 Christmas Doctor Who Confidential.

Just the thing to get you in the mood for the new series which starts next Saturday, but for maximum value and features, you might want to wait for the Series 4 box set, which will be out later in the year.

Oh, and did I mention that the new series starts next Saturday?

Doctor Who – The Complete Third Series DVD

Yes, I’m really late with this one, but at least I’m getting it in before the next series starts. I’ve already muttered at some length about the individual episodes, so this is more about the extras and the presentation than the main content.

There are six discs packed in two folders which fit into a tidy slipcase – no big boxes this time, but I believe there were several versions of the slipcase. Mine has a lenticular picture of John Simm as the Master, which is quite nice. Apart from some cool pictures on the folders and the discs, there’s a fairly basic booklet listing the contents.

In addition to the thirteen episodes of the main series, there’s the Christmas Special The Runaway Bride,which stands up well to repeated viewing, and is of course much better in DVD quality and surround sound. It was good to see Catherine Tate again before she joins the Doctor next week. Seeing how her character developed as the show went on suggests that she’s going to be interesting.

Sharing the first disc with that is the special edition of Doctor Who Confidential about the Children in Need concert held at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre. Good stuff, with lots of Murray Gold’s music, David Tennant presenting the show in his native Scottish accent (and being quite wonderful at it), and guest appearances from assorted monsters, including a lovely Dalek voiced by a madly ad-libbing Nick Briggs.

Extras on the first disk include a tour of the studio presented by Freema Agyeman, out-takes and deleted scenes, plus some trailers. Scattered over four of the discs are David Tenant’s video diaries. These are great. You get a real feeling of just how much David is enjoying the role, and what people go through to make the show (The early starts!! The rain!!! The cold!!!).

And of course, every episode has a commentary. These are a mixed bag – some seem to be quite unfocussed chats that hardly notice what’s happening on screen, which seems a bit pointless. But the ones with Russell T Davies and David Tennant are quite lovely. And that quiet, shy and retiring chap John Barrowman was persuaded to make a rare public appearance[1] and joins David and Freema for the final episode commentary, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, a hoot.

Watching all the episodes again in quite rapid succession has reminded me of just how bloody good David Tennant is as the Doctor. They way he can switch from the apparently inane babbling to moral outrage in the blink of an eye is a joy to behold, and he really gets across the feeling of his immense power. Or to put it another way

He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the Universe and – he’s wonderful.

And what a joy it was to see Sir[2] Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana – a quite wonderful performance from one of our finest actors, who was delighted to be there. He’s actually said that it’s been an ambition to be in Doctor who since the 60s.

Freema was quite wonderful as Martha – we’ve seen her since in Torchwood[3], and she’ll be back for several episodes this year. I hope we’ll see a lot more of her in future.

John Barrowman brought a different angle to Captain Jack, and John Simm did some of the best scenery-eating Master madness ever seen. It’s all quite excellent stuff, and well worth having on DVD.

Wrapping up the set is a disc of cut-down versions of the full series of Doctor Who Confidential – only about ten minutes each, but they do contain some good interviews and background information. Not essential, but nice to have.

[1] Standard John Barrowman gag #1
[2] But don’t call him “Sir”, he doesn’t like it, apparently
[3] You may have noticed that I haven’t been babbling about Torchwood this year. Stay tuned for that.

High-speed Googleage

OK, I suppose I knew that Google’s index is updated constantly and with remarkable speed, but I was quite alarmed by its speed today. I posted my bit about the PTI Europe credit card oddness at around 17:50 today. A couple of hours later, I did the same Google search again. And I was quite surprised to find my post at the bottom of the first page of results. It’s currently showing as the tenth hit, but as there are some multiple hits from forums, it’s actually the seventh unique hit, which is quite good for something I knocked out a few hours ago.

Am I showing signs of age if I reminisce about the time when it took months to get stuff in search engine lisitngs? Or certainly weeks. None of this instant updating stuff! Kids today, etc… [1]

[1] Hi Alex! :wave:

Big Banking Boo-boo

Like most people, I keep a reasonably close eye on my bank and card transactions. My current account offers the quite useful facility to download transactions directly into Microsoft Money[1], so I generally know what’s going on.

So when I saw a transaction labelled PTI Europe Region show up, I had a brief moment of concern. It was the right amount and date to match a payment I was expecting, so I figured it was either a name change or some kind of intermediate payment service or some such.

A few days later, I checked a credit card statement, and saw more transactions for PTI Europe. Only these had “Amazon” in the “location” field, and they all matched purchases I’d made. So I figured it was all some new payment company that various companies were using for their payment processing.

Then a few days later, all those payments were credited back to me. Now that did strike me as odd. What with one thing and another, I didn’t get round to querying the oddness, but this afternoon I was checking a different account, and saw three interesting transactions:

  1. A payment of an amount I was expecting (eMusic, as it happens), but listed as PTI Europe Region
  2. A credit of the same amount
  3. The correct transaction

Now that did seem strange. Three separate companies, accounts with two banks all having the same issue. So, I gooooogled “PTI Europe Region” and found that the most prominent hits were loads of forums full of people weeping, wailing and indeed gnashing their teeth over precisely the same issue.

It would appear to have been a processing boo-boo somewhere. We may or may not find out exactly where in due course, once the dust has settled and appropriate heads have rolled. It seems some people were, quite understandably, alarmed by apparent unauthorised transactions and had their cards cancelled.

At least some of the banks affected were a little lacking in information, and gave their customers advice that was not entirely accurate. People were told that PTI was a new name for AOL, for instance. That seems to have been caused by more complaints coming from AOL customers than anyone else, so it’s an understandable error.

The companies who collected payments had no idea what was going on either – apparently at least one Amazon customer was told that PTI was an internal name used for processing. That one sounds like a wild guess to me…

Apparently the actual PTI Europe is a company making security systems. Their website (last updated in 2004) has probably never been busier. The only thing that seems even remotely certain about this quite substantial boo-boo is that PTI didn’t have anything to do with it. So I’m sure they’d be very happy if people stopped phoning them. Assuming they’re still there….

[1] One of the remarkably few things I still use under Windows XP…

Weight Report – 30 March 2008

Humph. No change since yesterday, which either means I’ve turned into a bloat monster, or my weighing scale is stuck.[1] Or it’s been confused by the clocks going forward. Yes, that’s it!! My weight is an hour behind, or something.

I think it’s a cunning plot to make tomorrow’s expected end of month round-up look bad. Yes, that’ll be it!

[1] I’m sure fancy digital thingies can do that. :yes:

Doctor Who – Series Four

Just a quick public service announcement:

Doctor Who is back next Saturday!

That’s Saturday, 4 April 2008. BBC1, and quite possibly HD for people who have such things. Please check listings for exact times.

This will be described as series four, but I might just join Doctor Who Magazine in calling it by its proper number:

Series 30 starts in one week!!

:clap: :bow: :bouncy:

WordPress 2.5 is out

Yes, after much coding, testing, fixing, changing and all the other fun stuff, the WordPress developers have released a shiny new version of my favourite blogging platform.

The new version features a new look, which comes with a choice of two colour schemes – one much like the “traditional” one, and one with lots of soft pastel colours. I can’t say I’m keen on the pale look – to my eyes it just looks a bit washed out. There are big changes in the layout of the admin interface – some I like, some I’m not keen on, and some that I really don’t like. Some of the things I don’t like can be mitigated by the use of plugins that are available right now, others not so much.

Aside from the layout issues (which are being hotly debated, so some changes may be changed for the next version), the overall look of the interface is a lot crisper and fresher. That’s quite nice.

If you’ve never installed WordPress before, this version will be a great starting point for you – the new method of adding images and collections of images to posts will make it nice and easy for you. If you’re a “basic” user – you use an off-the-shelf theme and not too many plugins, then go for it. Update. Have fun.[1]

If, like me, you’re used to a moderately to heavily customised environment – maybe you’ve developed your own theme, or you use a lot of plugins, then beware- here be tygers, and all that. As usual with a major update, some plugins will crash and burn, drink your beer, kick the cat and quite possibly eat your data. Or at the very least won’t work. If you can set up a test environment, do it. That’s also a good way to have a play with the new features without breaking your live site.

Personally, I won’t be upgrading for the moment. That’s partly because I’m hoping some clever developing person will produce a plugin or two that will let me use the writing page the way I want to rather than the way it’s been decided we all should, but mostly because the WPG2 plugin that links WordPress to Gallery is still being given the major overhaul it needs to work with WordPress 2.5. Without that, large parts of this site would break, so I really do have to wait.

I wouldn’t like anyone to get the idea that WordPress 2.5 is a bad version. It’s not. Lots of thought and work has gone into it, and I suspect it will be very good for lots of people. It’s just not quite right for me at the moment.

Anyway, here are the links you need:

Official announcement with more details of the new features

Download WordPress 2.5

Screencast demo of the new gallery features

WordPress 2.5 Compatible Plugins

And if you’re really bored, my previous comments on 2.5.

[1] Though make sure you have a backup before updating – just in case something breaks