EDitorial ± 27-Nov-2000

Trivial Pursuits

Saturday night was quiz night in the village of Mellis, somewhere near Eye in the county of Suffolk. Three or four times a year the great and the good (plus a few others) turn out to do battle, agonising over 80 or so questions and endeavouring to play their joker wisely. The whole thing is put together very profesionally, and makes for an entertaining if nail-biting evening. Oh, and for the price of admission, a fish and chip supper is thrown in too. Can't be bad.

This particular occasion was the first to take place in the newly extended and greatly refurbished Mellis village hall, miraculously transformed into a rather smart venue thanks to the ceaseless efforts of certain local residents, not least Mr C G McDonald. Jolly well done!

Of Little Importance
Hopes were high before the event for the Ask The Family team, twice previous winners, comprising Jan & Geoff, Linda & Philip, and Gail & Ed (me!). And halfway through the contest, things were going well, since we had a very slight lead. But after the chips, we bottled it. We had a couple of poor-ish rounds towards the end, and didn't do well on the table round: 40 capital cities, name the country. Should have paid more attention in geography. Cue Agnetha & Frida:

The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It's simple and it's plain
Why should I complain?
— Abba
After all the counting and shouting, we finished fifth. But like James Bond, we shall return.

Some questions we did well, in my humble opinion, to get right:

  1. Who played the character Blanco in Porridge?
  2. How many gallons are there in a firkin?
  3. Who was Ronald Reagan's first wife?
  4. In which country was Churchill born?
Some questions we didn't get:
  1. Who wrote Gone With The Wind?
  2. What's the first Canterbury Tale?
  3. Monrovia is the capital city of which country?
  4. How many eyes has a bee?
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 20-Nov-2000

Moby: Play

Quick and predictable rant: mobile phone ring tunes. Don't they drive you MAD! You may have noticed I wrote "tunes", not "tones". I'm all for those that sound, well, like telephones used to. But when it's some tacky digitised Bach fugue, or Nokia's trademark Grande Valse (kill!), or a rather cleverly downloaded "humourous" TV theme tune, isn't it time to act? And why do they generally seem to be played at maximum volume? Inadequate car, methinks.

Having eliminated the negative, let's accentuate the positive. Oddly enough, Gordon Sumner predicted things as early as September 1979:

I'll send an SMS to the world
— Message In A Bottle, The Police
Yep, I'm enthusing about "a bidirectional service for short alphanumeric (up to 160 bytes) messages", one of the features of the Global System for Mobile Communications, doncha know. You may know it better as text messaging, or simply SMS, the short message service. I think it's fab. Couple of examples:
  1. Round at the in-laws they've got a bizarre clock that makes bird noises on the hour. Nobody could identify the 6 o'clock bird, either from the picture or its Latin name. Sent this name to Bill, my twitcher-mate, and within the hour we've got an answer. Hardly a life-saver, I realise, but I was impressed.
  2. I'm not great at keeping track of my finances. Now, once a week, I get a mini-statement from my bank, first direct, in a text message! If that isn't progress, my middle name isn't Freston. Which it is.
Happy News
Oh, and thanks to GiveUsTheScore, I get the final result from any Ipswich Town game sent to me. Marvellous. Particularly when it's an away win.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Ring ring:

  1. use all those 160 characters - it costs the same
  2. there ain't nothing like that beep-beep when a new message arrives, so send one today
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 13-Nov-2000

Bean Of The Gods

A lyric to kick-start things this week:
You don't drink, don't smoke
What do you do?
— Adam Ant
The answer, Mr Ant, is that I drink coffee. Not exclusively, you understand, but usually a strong-ish brew for elevenses, some tall milky concoction after lunch, and a palate zapping mug post-dinner. I look forward to each one, and I'm almost sorry when all that's left are the grounds.

Here comes a snobbish confession: I don't drink instant. Used to, of course, though no longer if I can avoid it. 'Twas not always thus. At college it was Nescafe, Gold Blend or even Cafe Hag, all from the jar and with a sweetener. Ugh! But then my future mother-in-law gave me my first coffee machine one Christmas, and I was away. Come to think of it, the equipment has always been strangely attractive to me. Maybe it's a fetish?

A coffee sign   Another coffee sign   Yet another coffee sign

An approximate personal timeline of java-producing apparatus:

  • [1986] filter jug, drip mechanism
  • [1988] Italian stove-top espresso maker (one big, one small)
  • [1991] Krups machine with espresso pump & cappucino steamer
  • [1995] six cup Bodum cafetiere
  • [1998] new one-cup stove-top, plus separate milk frother
Does it stop there? Well, there's some lovely Gaggia machines at Whittard's in town...

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Two shots of espresso:

  1. that "delicious blend of caramel, vanilla, milk and coffee" being advertised by Starbucks currently ain't no macchiato, says my coffee man
  2. build up those levels of caffeine tolerance slowly, kids
  3. don't drink on an empty stomach
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 6-Nov-2000

Intel Inside The Home

Computers, eh? A brain the size of a planet inside the box, but not smart enough to prevent a teensy "illegal operation". Stupid things.

There was a time when only the BT geek down the road had a PC at home. Now they're blooming ubiquitous. Everyone's seemingly got to have one, whether to do e-mail, play Blood Match 2, or download altered images of Britney Spears. People used to say, "I'll be able to do my accounts at home". It's been a while since I last heard that old chestnut as an excuse to make that essential purchase.

But if you're buying a machine at home for the first time, or you'd like some pointers for upgrading, where on earth do you start? Well, you could do a lot worse than to consult the latest Which? PC survey. I chanced across it in the local library this lunchtime, and thought you should see it too. Not the complete thing, you understand, but the main points.

It won't tell you whether you really need a 1000MHz graphics cruncher with 256Mb RAM and read-write DVD to do your word processing, but it will give you some names to aim for (and equally importantly, some to avoid).

Man At Keyboard

Better have some apposite words from someone else:

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine
— Wordsworth
Can you imagine "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" being drafted in Microsoft Word?

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Sound words:

  1. you get what you pay for,
  2. don't lose that telephone support number,
  3. and don't forget to save!
Be seeing you!