Monthly Archives: April 2008

April 2008 Round-up

Yes, it’s the end of April, so here’s another fascinating end of month report that you can read instead of all the daily nonsense. Or not.


April 1: 216.4 pounds (15 stone 6.4 pounds, 98.2 kg)
April 30: 215.2 pounds (15 stone 5.2 pounds, 97.6 kg)

Difference: 1.2 pounds (0.5 kg), which is better than last month’s hideous rise, but it’s not really what you’d call progress. Truth to tell, my weight’s oscillating around the 215-217 pounds mark, and not showing any sign of moving downward.


I did manage a week or so of being good at lunchtime, but that didn’t last. I keep meaning to have just a sandwich, but I keep failing to do that.


Oh dear. Out of 24 working days this month, I walked to work ten times, and walked home nine 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.


Oh. Good. Grief. I have been chatty this month, haven’t I? Including this post, I’ll have made 101 this month, which is the most ever – beating January’s record of 98 in a month with one less day. I may calm down next month, but maybe not…

Still to come – more reviews, more weight reports, lots more photos, and anything else that comes to mind.

Billy Bragg – The Sage Gateshead, 29 April 2008

I mentioned a couple of months back that I’d bought a ticket to see Billy Bragg at the Sage Gateshead. Well, last night was the long awaited show, and this is my long awaited report on it!

I went for a bit of a walk after work, as there wasn’t really time to make it worth coming home just to go out again. After a stroll round Newcastle, I crossed the Millennium Bridge and walked around the back bits that I’ve never been round before – this took me past some rather interesting new buildings which I’ll have to go back and wave my camera at. I carried on round and arrived at the Sage in plenty of time. Once the doors to Hall One opened, I took my seat – at the far right of the front row, right up by the stage. This was a bit different for me, as all the other times I’ve been to the Sage, I’ve been in the top level, which is a very long way up indeed. It was really nice to have more than enough leg room – the only problem I have with the venue is that my poor old knees get cramped from sitting for long periods when I’m in the upper levels. Anyway, at 7:30, the support act came on – Wallis Bird, who was so good, she’ll be getting her own post a bit later. Wallis played for around forty minutes, then there was a twenty minute interval, during which I had a rather nice ginger ice cream[1].

Then came the main part of the show – Billy came on at just after 8:30 and played till not long before 10:30, with only a short pause between the main set and the encore. And he was great. I’ve seen videos, and heard recordings of him playing live, so I had a good idea of what to expect. This is a solo tour, taking him back to the way he started over 25 yeas ago – just a man and a guitar, singing songs, and being generally entertaining. He’s more than likely to interrupt a song to tell a story, make a joke, or indeed say whatever’s on his mind. The musicianship is simple and to the point – no fancy solos, no playing 345 notes where one will do. And the singing, is, well, in his own words:

In a perfect world, we’d all sing in tune
but this is reality, so give me some room

I don’t think anyone (including Billy) would describe his voice as a great one, but somehow, it works. He delivers his songs with so much conviction and passion that it quite honestly doesn’t matter in the slightest that he isn’t the world’s best singer. Think of some crazy hybrid of punk and folk, and you’ve got an idea of where he’s coming from, and maybe understand why he appeals to as many people as he does. Or maybe you won’t.

He opened the set with World Turned Upside-down, which is a personal favourite of mine, and ran through a good selection from his latest album and his extensive back catalogue, all the while engaging with the audience, talking to us as if he was having a chat with some mates in a pub. He mentioned the delightful Gateshead car park, which led to a running Get Carter gag (you’re a big man…). He mentioned how happy he was to be playing the Sage, as it was safe to walk to the hotel, offering a possibly not entirely true story about a visit to Newcastle which nearly ended up with him being kidnapped by a hen party.

Then there was the story of a tour of the US, where he lost most of his vocal range, and ended up sounding like a cross between Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer, so much so that he started developing a persona (“not good at my age…”) who became known as Johnny Clash, which led to stuff about how easy it must have been to play in Johnny Cash’s band, because you only had to do two bits. He played both kinds of Johnny Cash guitar part, and then played Pinball Wizard in the style of Johnny Cash. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it, but it was very funny at the time…

And there were the songs. Levi Stubbs Tears, There is Power in a Union, the constantly updating Waiting for the Great Leap Forward to close the main set, and an encore than included the essential A New England, including the extra verse from Kirsty McColl’s sublime cover version. Oh, and loads more. A great show, with a performer who knows how to play an audience. While I’d just as happily gone along to see him do a show with his band, seeing him solo was just how I always wanted to see him. when it’s just the guitar and the voice, the songs have to do a lot of the work. And fortunately, Billy can write songs. Lots of them:

[1] Hey, it worked. Very good, in fact

Coldplay – Violet Hill

I’ve got something of a soft spot for Coldplay. Their last album X&Y was a pleasant thing to listen to, and three years later[1] I still give it the odd play. Anyway, the next album is out in June, and Violet Hill is the first single from it. It’ll be out on round shiny thing next week[3], and also from assorted download services. However, for one week only, starting yesterday, it’s available for free download from You’ll need to give your email address, your post code (well, a post code, anyway) and your country. Fill that in and they’ll email you a link which will let you download it in DRM-free MP3 format.

I’ve given it a few listens, and first impressions are that, hey, it’s a Coldplay track. If you like Coldplay, you’ll most likely like this. If you don’t like Coldplay, you probably stopped reading after the first sentence of this post, and won’t be bothering to get your free track. :wink:

[1] Yeah, three years! I just checked for my review and was slightly surprised – I’d have guessed more like two years.[2]
[2] Which is probably another sign of getting older, or something
[3] Or thereabouts

Weight Report – 30 April 2008

Today’s weight is down a bit more from yesterday’s, yay, etc

While I didn’t walk to work, I did walk home, getting a wee bit wet in the process, but never mind. Lunch was, yet again, bigger than it should have been. I really do need to find some will power from somewhere…

More Mockery!

It’s a good job I’m not inclined to paranoia, otherwise I might get the idea that I was the victim of a conspiracy of mockers. Here’s the latest evidence. It’s a Flash thingy, and it might take a short while to load.

Thanks to Aaron for creating the masterpiece, and to Alex for being such a charming dance partner. :rofl:

Apparently there’s lots more of this kind of thing from JibJab Sendables.

It’s a Mockery!

As I might have mentioned, I have the dubious honour of being a boss[1]. Yes, I know, this probably means I shouldn’t really speak to myself, but I’m the nice, easy-going kind of boss, so I make an exception in my case. In fact, it seems that I’m far too easy-going, as demonstrated by what my minions got up to while I was out of the office on Friday[4]. Many years ago, Aaron got hold of some old pictures of me for the traditional purpose of embarrassing me on my 40th birthday[5]. Just occasionally, they reappear when he wants a laugh. This time, the reappearance was a bit different. For a start, the images had been added to my digital photo frame’s slideshow. But the main issue was, well, see for yourselves:

Austin Les

Austin Les



Not the real Cat

Not the real Cat

They’ve also been working on some lolcat-style images, and keep threatening to set up a website for them, but given their general lack of tuitness on the website front, I think I’m fairly safe there.[6]

[1] I have one permanent member of staff[2] and a placement student[3] who leaves in a couple of months or so
[2] Hi Aaron :wave:
[3] Hi Alex :wave:
[4] I was in Teesside
[5] Err, hold on. It wasn’t that many years ago :laugh:
[6] Of course, now I’ve said that, they’ll probably take it as a challenge, and (or whatever) will appear by lunchtime…


Oooooh, nice. Another piece of surreal loveliness from xkcd

xkcd - click to see the rest

xkcd - click to see the rest

Click the picture to see the whole comic in its natural environment.

Weight Report – 29 April 2008

Ooooh! Today’s weight is back down from yesterday’s unexpected bloat to something a little closer to acceptability. Still heavier than I want to be, but at least it’s a fluctuation in the right direction.

I didn’t walk to work, but I did have a walk around after work before going to the Sage Gateshead to see Billy Bragg. I’ll do a report on the show later – probably tomorrow.

WordPress 2.5 – An Oddness

I’ll do a more general post later about my WordPress 2.5 likes and dislikes, but this one had me wondering for a while. This picture shows part of the sidebar on the write page[1]. It shows information about when the post currently being edited was last saved, either automagically, or manually. Except it doesn’t. Every other part of the interface takes notice of the “time offset” setting – this is where you set your own time zone so that things are displayed in your own time rather than the time on the server[2] or just standard UTC[3]. All very good.

What time is it?

What time is it?

But for some reason this one slipped past testing[4] – rather than displaying the correct user-set time (which would be correct) or UTC (which would make at least some kind of sense), it’s showing the local time on the server. I didn’t recall reading about this, so I did a bit of searching. I found one post on the WordPress Support Forum reporting it, but there were no replies. Soooo, it looks like a bug. And where do you check for WordPress bugs? Trac, that’s where.

So I did a search of Trac, and found that this had been logged under this ticket, so it should be fixed in the next release. It’s only a minor irritation, and once you know what it’s doing, it’s not all that confusing. It does have a slight side-effect, but I’ll talk about that in the context of the feature it affects in that more general post that will follow later in the week.

[1] Which is still not my favourite part of the new interface…
[2] My server is in California. I’m not, so this would be a little confusing
[3] That woulnd’t be so bad – for about half the year, it’s correct, and it’s only one hour out now
[4] It certainly passed mine, as I was testing on my own computer, which is in the same time zone I am, oddly enough

Wavatars Revisited

It was only about a week ago that I added those funky Wavatar thingies to Losing it[1]. At the time, I mentioned that as I was still using WordPress 2.3.3, I had to use a separate plugin to make the little beasties appear. Well, now that I’ve upgraded, I have waved a fond goodbye to the plugin, and added the magic bit of code to my comments loop code.

I took the opportunity to fiddle with the CSS a bit, and now Gravatars and Wavatars will appear without an extra border around them, which makes them fit the comments box a bit better. One interesting thing – for reasons best known to the Automattic guys, the Gravatar implementation of Wavatars uses a different calculation than that used by the plugin, so everyone gets a different identity now. If you have commented before and don’t have a Gravatar, take a look at the post you commented on[1] to see your lovely new face.

[1] Or just add a comment here if you like. And remember that each email address gets a different Wavatar