@ghostpoet: Anyone used the Balham Boxing Gym? Tempted...

@Balham_Life: Build confidence with performing arts at @JigsawMitcham & @JigsawWimbledon, classes for 3-18 year olds! https://t.co/MXseoRXnNY

@Groovehound: @NRE_Southern I checked this tweet, got to station - WTF has this got to do with a service from Balham to Epsom? Which was delayed 31mins!

@balham_simon: RT @jonholmes1: How much Calpol is acceptable to spread on pancakes? Asking for a child.

@balham_simon: @NutribulletUk @VitaCocoUK #NutriMatch @KChaff :)

"Refugees Welcome" talk to be held at Balham Baptist Church - Wandsworth Guardian


Wandsworth Guardian

"Refugees Welcome" talk to be held at Balham Baptist Church
Wandsworth Guardian
The Stand Up to Racism group is hosting a 'Refugees Welcome' talk in Balham Baptist Church. Speakers include Suliman Guni, Imam of South London Mosque, Claude Moraes, Labour MEP for London and Abdul Haroun, who walked through the Eurotunnel ...

and more »

Jackie Chan is spotted filming his latest film in Balham - Daily Mail


Jackie Chan is spotted filming his latest film in Balham
Daily Mail
Martial arts legend Jackie Chan was spotted filming his latest action movie in a quiet residential street. The actor was seen with a film crew in a quiet street in Balham, south London, on Friday, shooting for The... Samsung releases promo teaser for.

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Cbaverstock442409 posted a photo:

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Brand New! Gatwick Express 387 205/208 | Bletchley-Bletchley test run via Brighton

Photo taken at: Balham

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Cbaverstock442409 posted a photo:

387 205

Brand New! Gatwick Express 387 205/208 | Bletchley-Bletchley test run via Brighton

Photo taken at: Balham

387 205

Cbaverstock442409 posted a photo:

387 205

Brand New! Gatwick Express 387 205/208 | Bletchley-Bletchley test run via Brighton

Photo taken at: Balham

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Cbaverstock442409 posted a photo:

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Southern 377 438 | London Victoria-Epsom

Photo taken at: Balham

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Cbaverstock442409 posted a photo:

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Southern 377 315 | London Victoria-East Grinstead

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LEISURE: Book festival in Dulwich and Balham pub is going to be 'fantastic' - South London Press Today


South London Press Today

LEISURE: Book festival in Dulwich and Balham pub is going to be 'fantastic'
South London Press Today
Up and down the country, many were closing and as more and more people seemed to be turning to their e-readers or tablets for their reading pleasure, the future looked bleak. But those behind independent bookshops are a hardy bunch and many have ...

and more »

You Tweet My Face Space – Theatre N16, Balham - The Reviews Hub


The Reviews Hub

You Tweet My Face Space – Theatre N16, Balham
The Reviews Hub
It's hard to pin down the chaotic madness that lies at the heart of You Tweet My Face Space. It's billed as a social media comedy, but it's so much more than just a few sad jokes about hashtags and defriending people. Sure, there are some obvious jokes ...

Chestnut Grove in Balham bags £39k for Design and Technology equipment - Your Local Guardian


Your Local Guardian

Chestnut Grove in Balham bags £39k for Design and Technology equipment
Your Local Guardian
A Balham academy has been awarded £39,000 to upgrade their Design and Technology equipment and provide new curricular and extracurricular activities for students. Chestnut Grove Academy was chosen for the grant by the trustees of The Wolfson ...

and more »

2015 in Gigs

As has become traditional round these parts, it’s time for my annual review of the gigs I saw last year.

I saw 48 gigs in 2015. That’s up on 2014’s 45, but still short of my all time high of 60 in 2013. I saw Chvrches, Stealing Sheep and Paper Aeroplanes twice. I was supposed to see a couple of other artists twice, but Natalie Prass cancelled the second show and I couldn’t get to the second Soak show as I was ill.

As always, there were some disappointments. Renaissance really weren’t very good (I waited to hear “Northern Lights” and then buggered off) and Elbow weren’t as good as I’d seen them before. But the biggest disappointment this year has to be Bob Dylan. He was terrible. I left at the interval.

About half-way through the year, I stopped writing reviews on my gig site. I’ve put up posts with just the data about the shows and I hope to back-fill some of the reviews at some point, but I can’t see it happening soon. Hopefully I’ll keep the site more up to date this year.

So here (in chronological order) are my favourite gigs of the year:

  • Stealing Sheep – It’s been far too long since I saw Stealing Sheep, but the release of a new album brought them to London a couple of times. I’m going to do with the Chat’s Palace show as my favourite as I like smaller venues.
  • Laura Marling – This was simply astonishing in every way. I was completely spellbound thoughout this show. Almost certainly gig of the year.
  • Soak – If there’s any justice in the world, Soak is going to be huge. See her in intimate venues while you can.
  • Amanda Palmer – There always has to be an Amanda Palmer gig on the list. It’s the law.
  • Chvrches – Another act I saw twice. The small album launch show at the Tufnell Park Dome just pipped the huge extravaganza at Alexandra Palace.
  • Heaven 17 – Another band I’ve started seeing whenever I can.
  • Garbage – Sometimes, seeing bands decades after their peak can be a little disappointing. That certainly wasn’t the case for Garbage.
  • John Grant – First time I’d seen John Grant. I hope it won’t be the last.
  • Fuzzbox – Another act from my youth who made an impressive return.
  • The Unthanks – I’ve been meaning to get round to see the Unthanks for years. I’m glad I did. I’ll be seeing them again as soon as possible.

Gigs that fell just outside of the top ten included Julian Cope, Suzanne Vega, Paper Aeroplanes and Smoke Fairies. Oh, and the Indie Daze Festival was great too.

I already have tickets for a dozen shows in 2016. I’m particularly looking forward to ELO in April and seeing the Cure for the first time for far too many years in December.

The post 2015 in Gigs appeared first on Davblog.

Christmas minus four days

Listening to Billie Holiday on Apple Music

Reading Bernard Cornwell, Samuel Richardson, Balzac, Dickens, Ferrante

Watching Force Awakens

Thinking about how when I retire I'm going to live in small spare flat with a small spare garden with a terrier and a couple of turtles and learn how to write poetry, paint pictures and play the trumpet

Christmas hols

Hooray I'm on holiday for two weeks!

Yesterday I made and put the marzipan on the Xmas cake.

Today I'm going to Sisters using my Cineworld Unlimited card.

Tomorrow we're going to see the Force Awakens

Other stuff I'm doing:
- trying to find O2 Floor tickets for Strictly 2016 tour (we love you, Jay McGuinness, the human equivalent of the Andrex puppy)
- trying to get day tickets for Dominic West in Dangerous Liaisons at the Donmar Warehouse
- trying to get returns for Nutcracker, Cavalleria Rusticana at Covent Garden and Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol
- going to look at the West End Xmas windows with Laura
- going to Go Ape in Battersea Park with Alice
- going to Hampton Court as I've just realised I've got Historic Royal Palaces membership
- read, read, read!
- listen to unlimited music on Apple Music
- make mince pies (Delia)
- make Chana masala (Guardian)
- update this blog daily

Happy days

Safeguarding: Southwark diocese

Tea and coffee turns out to be a kettle, some tea bags and a pint of milk.

Then there's a big kerfuffle about where you sign in: at the back, at reception, "I've signed in three times now"

Then someone wants to open a window, but the windows don't open

Oh God someone I know is here. I'll make like I haven't seen her

Three hours later: actually it was really informative, if hair-raising. Obviously some parishes are a lot more problematic than others

Doctor Who Festival

In 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC put on a big celebration at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands. They must have thought that it went well as this year they decided to do it all over again at the Doctor Who Festival which took place last weekend. Being the biggest Doctor Who fan I know, I was at both events and I thought it might be interesting to compare them.

Each event ran over three days (Friday to Sunday). I visited both events on the Sunday on the basis that there would be one more episode of the show to talk about. This was particularly important in 2013 when the 50th anniversary special was broadcast on the Saturday night.

Price

Let’s start with the basics. This years event was more expensive than the 2013 one. And the price increases were both large and seemingly random. Here’s a table comparing the prices.

Standard Tardis
Adult Child Family Adult Child Family
2013 £45.00 £20.00 £104.00 £95.50 £44.25 £218.00
2015 £68.00 £32.35 £171.00 £116.00 £52.75 £293.00
Increase 51.11% 61.75% 64.42% 21.47% 19.21% 34.40%

You’ll see that some prices “only” went up by about 20% while others increased by an eye-watering 65%. There’s obviously money to be made in these events. And, equally obviously, Doctor Who fans are happy to pay any price for entrance to these events. I don’t know about you, but those increases over two years where inflation has hovered around 0% scream “rip-off” to me.

You’ll notice that I’ve quoted prices for two different types of ticket. There are standard tickets and “Tardis” tickets. Tardis tickets give you certain extras. We’ll look at those next.

Tardis Tickets

I’ll admit here that I went for the Tardis ticket both times. The big advantage that this ticket gives you is that in the big panels (and we’ll see later how those panels are the main part of the days) the front eight or so tickets are reserved for Tardis ticket holders. So if you have a Tardis ticket you are guaranteed to be close enough to see the people on  the stage. Without a Tardis ticket you can be at the far end of the huge hall where you might be able to make out that some people are on the stage, but you’ll be relying on the big video screens to see what is going on.

To me, that’s the big advantage of the Tardis ticket. Does it justify paying almost double the standard ticket price? I’m not sure. But you get a couple of other advantages. You get a free goodie bag. In 2013, that contained a load of tat (postcards, stickers, a keyfob, stuff like that) that I ended up giving away. This year we got the show book (which was pretty interesting and very nearly worth the £10 they were charging for it) and a t-shirt (which was being sold on the day for £25). So the 2015 goodie bag was a massive improvement on the 2013 one.

Tardis ticket-holders also got access to a special lounge were you could relax and partake of free tea, coffee and biscuits. In 2013 this was in a private area away from the rest of the show. This year it was a cordoned off corner of the main exhibition hall which didn’t seem like quite so much of a haven of calm.

Main Panels

The main structure of the day is made up of three big discussion panels that are held in a huge room. Each panel is run twice during the day, but when you buy your ticket you know which time you’ll be seeing each panel.

Each panel has people who are deeply involved in the show. In 2013 we had the following panels:

  • Danny Hargreaves of Real SFX talking about the special effects on the show.
  • Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy talking about playing the Doctor. I think Tom Baker also came to this panel on one of the three days.
  • Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Stephen Moffat talking about the show.

This year we had:

  • Kate Walsh of Millennium FX (who make a lot of the prosthetics for the show) talking to Mark Gatiss.
  • Stephen Moffat, Toby Whithouse and Jamie Mathieson talking about writing for the show. This panel had different writers on each of the three days.
  • Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez, Ingrid Oliver and Stephen Moffat talking about the show. Jenna Coleman was only on this panel on Sunday.

Both sets of panels were equally interesting. Having the former Doctors taking apart in the 50th anniversary year made a lot of sense.

Exhibition Hall

The other main part of the event was an exhibition hall where various things were taking place. I think this was disappointing this year. Here are some comparisons:

Sets from the show

As far as I can remember, in 2013 there was only the entrance to Totter’s Yard and the outside of a Tardis. This year there was Davros’ hospital room, Clara’s living room and the outside of a Tardis (although this clearly wasn’t a “real” Tardis – the font on the door sign was terrible). So there were more sets this year, but I rather questioned their description of Clara’s living room as an “iconic” set.

Merchandise

There were a lot of opportunities to buy stuff, but it seemed to me that there were rather fewer stalls there this year. Merchandise seemed to fall into two categories. There was stuff that you would have been better off buying from Amazon (DVDs, board games, books, stuff like that). And there was really expensive stuff. I really can’t justify spending £60 or £80 for incredibly intricate replicas of props from the show or £200(!) for a copy of one of the Doctor’s coats.

There was one big exception to the “cheaper on Amazon” rule. The BBC shop had a load of classic DVDs on sale for £6 each.

In 2013 I bought a couple of postcards. This year I managed to resist buying anything. But I appeared to be rather unusual in that – there were a lot of people carrying many large bags of stuff.

Other Stages

Both years, around the edge of the main hall there were areas where other talks and workshops were taking place. This years seemed slightly disappointing. For example, on one stage in 2013 I saw Dick Maggs giving an interesting talk about working with Delia Derbyshire to create the original theme tune. The equivalent area this year had a group of assistant directors giving a list of the people who work on set when an episode of the show is being made.

In 2013, the centre of this room was given over to an area where many cast members from the show’s history were available for autographs and photos. This year, that’s where Clara’s living room was set up. In fact the four cast members who were in the panel I mentioned above were the only cast members who were involved in this event at all. I realise that it makes more sense for there to be lots of cast members involved in the 50th anniversary celebrations, but surely there were some other current cast members who could have turned up and met their fans.

Also in this hall was an area where the Horror Channel (who are the current home of Classic Doctor Who in the UK) were showing old episodes. There was something similar in 2013, but (like the Tardis lounge) it was away from the main hall. Moving this and the Tardis lounge to the main hall made me think that they were struggling a bit to fill the space.

In Summary

This year’s event was clearly a lot more expensive than the one in 2013 and I think attendees got rather less for their money. All in all I think it was slightly disappointing.

The big panels are clearly the centrepiece of the event and they are well worth seeing. But I think you need a Tardis ticket in order to guarantee getting a decent view. Oh, yes you can get in the ninth row without a Tardis ticket, but you’d be competing with a lot of people for those seats. You’d spend the whole day queuing to stand a chance of getting near the front.

I don’t know what the BBC’s plans for this event are, but it’s clearly a good money-spinner for them and I’d be surprised if they didn’t do it again either next year or in 2017. And the fans don’t really seem to mind how much they pay to attend, so it’ll be interesting to see how the next one is priced.

I think that the big panels still make the event worth attending, but there’s really not much else that I’m interested in. So I’m undecided as to whether I’d bother going again in the future.

Were you are the event? What did you think of it? How much money did you spend in total?

The post Doctor Who Festival appeared first on Davblog.

Eighteen Classic Albums

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a process I had developed for producing ebooks. While dabbling in a few projects (none of which are anywhere near being finished) I established that the process worked and I was able to produce ebooks in various different formats.

But what I really needed was a complete book to try the process on, so that I could push it right through the pipeline so it was for sale on Amazon. I didn’t have the time to write a new book, so I looked around for some existing text that I could reuse.

Long-time readers might remember the record club that I was a member of back in 2012. It was a Facebook group where each week we would listen to a classic album and then discuss it with the rest of the group. I took it a little further and wrote up a blog post for each album. That sounded like a good set of posts to use for this project.

So I grabbed the posts, massaged them a bit, added a few other files and, hey presto, we have a book. All in all it took about two or three hours of work. And a lot of that was my amateur attempts at creating a cover image. If you’re interested in the technical stuff, then you can find all the input files on Github.

There has been some confusion over the title of the book. Originally, I thought there were seventeen reviews in the series. But that was because I had mis-tagged one. And, of course, you only find problems like that after you create the book and upload it to Amazon. So there are rare “first printing” versions available with only seventeen reviews and a different title. Currently the book page on Amazon is still showing the old cover. I hope that will be sorted out soon. I’ll be interesting to see how quickly the fixed version is pushed out to people who have already bought the older edition.

My process for creating ebooks is working well. And the next step of the process (uploading the book to Amazon) was pretty painless too. You just need to set up a Kindle Direct Publishing account and then upload a few files and fill in some details of the book. I’ve priced it at $2.99 (which is £1.99) as that’s the cheapest rate at which I can get 70% of the money. The only slight annoyance in the process is that once you’ve uploaded a book and given all the details, you can’t upload a new version or change any of the information (like fixing the obvious problems in the current description) until the current version has been published across all Amazon sites. And that takes hours. And, of course, as soon as you submit one version you notice something else that needs to be fixed. So you wait. And wait.

But I’m happy with the way it has all gone and I’ll certainly be producing more books in the future using this process.

Currently three people have bought copies. Why not join them. It only costs a couple of quid. And please leave a review.

The post Eighteen Classic Albums appeared first on Davblog.

Things We Argue About

Driving down to Bristol for sister's wedding. We pass an estate agents window which has little model houses in the window like at Bekenscot.
Me: Laura, look at the cute little houses. Which one would you live in?
Laura: I can't really see them.
Me: I like the white one best, but the green one has bigger windows.
Laura: oh those houses. I thought you meant the houses they were advertising in the window. I was wondering how you could possibly see them.
Chris: I thought you meant the ones in the photos.
Alice: so did I.
Me: how could I possibly have seen the ones in the photographs? What, have I suddenly developed super eyesight?
Chris: that's what I thought. So I thought you must be talking just for the sake of saying something.
Me: when do I ever do that?
Chris: exactly. So I thought you must have gone mad.
Me: so you'd rather ignore everything you know about me and assume that I'd gone mad, rather than entertain the possibility that I might have been talking about the cute little model houses, which only that estate agent has, rather than the photos of houses, which every estate agent has?
Chris: I didn't think they were cute.
Me: surely it's more plausible that I meant the model houses but that what I think is cute is different from what you think is cute, rather than that I'd suddenly developed super eyesight and also lost my mind?
Chris: your position is indefensible
Me: my position is defensible. I am defending it, unfortunately I appear to be dealing with a bunch of dopes
Laura: we can't all be dopes
Me: well, apparently you can
Laura: the families in cars in adverts are never like this

Fall Out Boy

I'm in the grip of several slow-burning obsessions at the moment. Fall Out Boy, for one, I'm sort of crushing on them collectively. What a difference a live gig makes! It's hard to say why as most of the time you had to watch them on the big screens (and why is that different from watching them on YouTube?), but that is the mystery of human presence. Being there, in the same air as people, makes a difference. Why? Maybe they seem more real. Maybe you see everything, not just what the cameraman directs you to see, which helps to fill in the reality of someone.

Then I've started my new Elena Ferrante book. I wonder if a Lila really existed, or if the author is simply applying herself into two and writing about both halves. I wish I could get the girls to read it: it's such an eye-opening validating piece of work, especially for women. Some woman in the paper was worrying that it wasn’t really literature. Why? Why not? What is
unliterary about it? The fact that it’s enjoyable? The fact that it acts as
though what two young girls in Naples in mid-twentieth century thought or
felt is important? I don’t see how you could find a book more serious intelligent and authentic than these novels are turning out to be.

On a more trivial note, I've been reading about Kate Moss’ new squeeze in the Telegraph: Nikolai von Bismarck, who from a quick piece of deductive work via Wikipedia, must be the second nephew of Gottfried von Bismarck (the first cousin of Nikolai’s father Leopold, who was the younger brother of Gottfried’s father, the
Prince von Bismarck). I knew Gottfried from Oxford when we were both in a
Ionesco play, The Lesson, being directed by an acquaintance from New College. I didn’t really know Gottfried, what with him being such a posho, but he seemed perfectly nice. He moved with the Olivia Channon set and died himself a few years ago, essentially from his lifestyle (drugs, gay orgies etc). All rather sad: gilded youth! This was all post the ITV Brideshead craze. Little did I think, as I was living through it, that people would be looking back at the eighties in a haze of nostalgia.

At lunch I went out and bought some Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum because it
was on a Guardian list of best skincare products and I’m running out of
face cream. I don’t even know how to use it! It was £5 off. I wonder if it
will have any detectible effect on my skin, that wouldn’t be just as well
achieved with a £5 pot of generic moisturiser. Anyway, when I went to pay,
instead of the self-service checkout asking whether I wanted to buy a bag,
there simply were no bags. There was only a little Boots man wandering
around with a handful of bags. I told him I wanted to buy one, but I had no
change. He shoved a little paper bag into my hand and whispered, “Go, go,
run away!” which I promptly did. Hilarious.

How To Travel From London To Paris

Imagine that you want to travel from London to Paris. Ok, so that’s probably not too hard to imagine. But also imagine that you have absolutely no idea how to do that and neither does anyone that you know. In that situation you would probably go to Amazon and look for a book on the subject.

Very quickly you find one called “Teach Yourself How To Travel From London To Paris In Twenty-One Days”. You look at the reviews and are impressed.

I had no idea how to get from London to Paris, but my family and I followed the instructions in this book. I’m writing this from the top of the Eiffel Tower – five stars.

And

I really thought it would be impossible to get from London to Paris, but this book really breaks it down and explains how it’s done – five stars.

There are plenty more along the same lines.

That all looks promising, so you buy the book. Seconds later, it appears on your Kindle and you start to read.

Section one is about getting from London to Dover. Chapter one starts by ensuring that all readers are starting from the same place in London and suggests a particular tavern in Southwark where you might meet other travellers with the same destination. Chapter two suggests a walking route that you might follow from Southwark to Canterbury. It’s written in slightly old-fashioned English and details of the second half of the route are rather sketchy.

Chapter two contains a route to walk from Canterbury to Dover. The language has reverted to modern English and the information is very detailed. There are reviews of many places to stay on the way – many of which mention something called “Trip Advisor”.

Section two is about crossing the channel. Chapter three talks about the best places in Dover to find the materials you are going to need to make your boat and chapter four contains detailed instructions on how to construct a simple but seaworthy vessel. The end of the chapter has lots of advice on how to judge the best weather conditions for the crossing. Chapter five is a beginner’s guide to navigating the English Channel and chapter six has a list of things that might go wrong and how to deal with them.

Section three is about the journey from Calais to Paris. Once again there is a suggested walking route and plenty of recommendations of places to stay.

If you follow the instructions in the book you will, eventually, get to Paris. But you’re very likely to come away thinking that it was all rather more effort than you expected it to be and that next time you’ll choose a destination that it easier to get to.

You realise that you have misunderstood the title of the book. You thought it would take twenty-one days to learn how to make the journey, when actually it will take twenty-one days (at least!) to complete the journey. Surely there is a better way?

And, of course, there is. Reading further in the book’s many reviews you come across the only one-star review:

If you follow the instructions in this book you will waste far too much time. Take your passport to St. Pancras and buy a ticket for the Eurostar. You can be in Paris in less than four hours.

The reviewer claims to be the travel correspondent for BBC Radio Kent. The other reviewers were all people with no knowledge of travel who just happened to come across the book in the same way that you did. Who are you going to trust?

I exaggerate, of course, for comic effect. But reviews of technical books on Amazon are a lot like this. You can’t trust them because in most cases the reviewers are the very people who are least likely to be able to give an accurate assessment of the technical material in the book.

When you are choosing a technical book you are looking for two things:

  • You want the information in the book to be as easy to understand as possible
  • You want the information in the book to be as accurate and up to date as possible

Most people pick up a technical book because they want to learn about the subject that it covers. That means that, by definition, they are unable to judge that second point. They know how easily they understood the material in the book. They also know whether or not they managed to use that information to achieve their goals. But, as my overstretched metaphor above hopefully shows, it’s quite possible to follow terrible advice and still achieve your goals.

I first came aware of this phenomena in the late 1990s. At the time a large amount of dynamic web pages were built using Perl and CGI. This meant that a lot of publishers saw this as a very lucrative market and dozens of books on the subject were published many of which covered the Perl equivalent of walking from London to Paris. And because people read these books and managed to get to Paris (albeit in a ridiculously roundabout manner) they thought the books were great and gave them five-star reviews. Much to the chagrin of Perl experts who were standing on the kerbside on the A2 shouting “but there’s a far easier way to do that!”

This is still a problem today. Earlier this year I reviewed a book about penetration testing using Perl. I have to assume that the author knew what he was doing when talking about pen testing, but his Perl code was positively Chaucerian.

It’s not just book reviews that are affected. Any kind of technical knowledge transfer mechanism is open to the same problems. A couple of months ago I wrote a Perl tutorial for Udemy. It only covered the very basics, so they included a link to one of their other Perl courses. But having sat through the first few lessons of this course, I know that it’s really not very good. How did the people at Udemy choose which one to link to? Well it’s the one with the highest student satisfaction ratings, of course. It teaches the Perl equivalent of boat-building. A friend has a much better Perl course on Udemy, but they wouldn’t use that as it didn’t have enough positive feedback.

Can we blame anyone for this? Well, we certainly can’t blame the reviewers. They don’t know that they are giving good reviews to bad material. I’m not even sure that we can blame the authors in many cases. It’s very likely that they don’t know how much they don’t know (obligatory link to the Dunning–Kruger effect). I think that in some cases the authors must know that they are chancing their arm by putting themselves forward as an expert, but most of them probably believe that they are giving good advice (because they learned from an expert who taught them how to walk from London to Paris and so the chain goes back to the dawn of time).

I think a lot of the blame must be placed with the publishers. They need to take more responsibility for the material they publish. If you’re publishing in a technical arena then you need to build up contacts in that technical community so that you have people you can trust who can give opinions on your books. If you’re publishing a book on travelling from London to Paris then see if you can find a travel correspondent to verify the information in it before you publish it and embarrass yourselves. In fact, get these experts involved in the process of commissioning process. If you what to publish a travel book then ask your travel correspondent friends if they know anyone who could write it. If someone approaches you with a proposal for a travel book then run the idea past a travel correspondent or two before signing the contract.

I know that identifying genuine experts in a field can be hard. And I know that genuine experts would probably like to be compensated for any time they spend helping you, but I think it’s time and money well-spent. You will end up with better books.

Or, perhaps some publishers don’t care about the quality of their books. If bad books can be published quickly and cheaply and people still buy them, then what business sense does it make to make the books better.

If you take any advice away from this piece, then don’t trust reviews and ratings of technical material.

And never try to walk from London to Paris (unless it’s for charity).

The post How To Travel From London To Paris appeared first on Davblog.

Business Support on the High Street

Enterprise Nation @ Wandsworth Libraries

12pm-5pm daily

Join small business community Enterprise Nation and Wandsworth Council to meet local advisers that can help you with all your business questions. Whether you have an idea, an existing start-up, or are looking to grow a business, we’ll have the support on hand for you!

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people in the UK turn their good ideas into great businesses. The aim of the ‘Business Support on the High Street’ initiative is to connect small businesses with the right advice, at the right time, in an accessible location.

Register your place to meet a friendly adviser who can help you with any questions that you have around an idea, new start-up or existing business. Free WiFi will be available so you can get some work done, whilst accessing the support you need.

As well as providing an opportunity to meet with an advisor we will be running workshops on a range of business related topics throughout the week. You can select to attend a ‘Lunchtime Power Hour’ session by selecting the 1-2pm time slots on the relevant day. To book onto an evening workshop please follow the links to the separate booking pages.

Advisers

Monday 21st – Wandsworth Town Library, 11 Garratt Lane, SW18 4AQ

 Michelle Safo, Timewise Consulting (Marketing & Customer Service)
 David Ray, Coeus Technology Ltd (IT & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Joanna Tall, Off To See My Lawyer (Legals)
 Rob Ball, Holdsworth Advantage (Finance & Cashflow)

Tuesday 22nd – Balham Library, 16 Ramsden Road, Balham, SW12 8QY

 John Bickell, Trepisphere (Leadership & Management)
 Roger Streeten, Streeten Design (IT & Web)
 Shazan Qureshi, Shazan IQ (Marketing & Customer Service)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Marcus Gruenwald, Kapturo Ltd. (IT & Web)
 Janet Pokhrel, Mantax Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)

Wednesday 23rd – Tooting Library, 75 Mitcham Road, Tooting, SW17 9PD

 Elizabeth Malone-Johnstone, Digitise This (Marketing & Customer Service)
 Ayo Dada, GLE Connect (IT & Web)
 Richard Wickes, Richatd Wickes (Marketing & Customer Service)
 Noor Choudhary, CapShire (Finance & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)

Thursday 24th – Battersea Library, 265 Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction, SW11 1JB

 Phil McConell, CMC Partners (Leadership & Management)
 David Ray, Coeus Technology (IT & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Remi Okeshola, RBSS Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)
 Olga Crosse, CrosseHR (Expanding your Workforce)

Friday 25th – York Gardens Library, 34 Lavender Road, Clapham Junction, SW11 2UG

 Veronica Broomes, Your Small Business Coach (Expanding Your Workforce)
 Keith Jafrato, AMES Business Improvement (Leadership & Management)
 Gabrielle Monaen, Monaen (Marketing & Customer Services)
 Karen Mahoney, PCR (Finance & Cashflow)
 Michael Austin, Blue Dot Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)

Lunchtime Power Hour Sessions and Evening Taster Workshops

To attend a Lunchtime Power Hour Session simply book to attend between 1-2pm. If you would like to attend an evening workshop please follow the links below. 

Monday 21st – Wandsworth Town Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm - Access to Finance
Evening Workshop, 6-8pm – Networking for Success (The Alma)

Tuesday 22nd – Balham Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Digital Skills Workshop

Wednesday 23rd – Tooting Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Sales and Marketing
Evening Workshop, 5.30pm-7pm, Social Media for Beginners http://ow.ly/RHbMv

Thursday 24th – Battersea Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Techniques on Leadership & Management Skills
Evening workshop, 5-6:30pm - Access to Finance
Friday 25th – York Gardens Library 
Power Hour Session, 1-2pm -Learn How to Recruit a Top Team

 

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/events/event/2429/business_support_on_the_high_street

The post Business Support on the High Street appeared first on Balham.com.

Business Support on the High Street

Enterprise Nation @ Wandsworth Libraries

12pm-5pm daily

Join small business community Enterprise Nation and Wandsworth Council to meet local advisers that can help you with all your business questions. Whether you have an idea, an existing start-up, or are looking to grow a business, we’ll have the support on hand for you!

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people in the UK turn their good ideas into great businesses. The aim of the ‘Business Support on the High Street’ initiative is to connect small businesses with the right advice, at the right time, in an accessible location.

Register your place to meet a friendly adviser who can help you with any questions that you have around an idea, new start-up or existing business. Free WiFi will be available so you can get some work done, whilst accessing the support you need.

As well as providing an opportunity to meet with an advisor we will be running workshops on a range of business related topics throughout the week. You can select to attend a ‘Lunchtime Power Hour’ session by selecting the 1-2pm time slots on the relevant day. To book onto an evening workshop please follow the links to the separate booking pages.

Advisers

Monday 21st – Wandsworth Town Library, 11 Garratt Lane, SW18 4AQ

 Michelle Safo, Timewise Consulting (Marketing & Customer Service)
 David Ray, Coeus Technology Ltd (IT & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Joanna Tall, Off To See My Lawyer (Legals)
 Rob Ball, Holdsworth Advantage (Finance & Cashflow)

Tuesday 22nd – Balham Library, 16 Ramsden Road, Balham, SW12 8QY

 John Bickell, Trepisphere (Leadership & Management)
 Roger Streeten, Streeten Design (IT & Web)
 Shazan Qureshi, Shazan IQ (Marketing & Customer Service)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Marcus Gruenwald, Kapturo Ltd. (IT & Web)
 Janet Pokhrel, Mantax Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)

Wednesday 23rd – Tooting Library, 75 Mitcham Road, Tooting, SW17 9PD

 Elizabeth Malone-Johnstone, Digitise This (Marketing & Customer Service)
 Ayo Dada, GLE Connect (IT & Web)
 Richard Wickes, Richatd Wickes (Marketing & Customer Service)
 Noor Choudhary, CapShire (Finance & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)

Thursday 24th – Battersea Library, 265 Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction, SW11 1JB

 Phil McConell, CMC Partners (Leadership & Management)
 David Ray, Coeus Technology (IT & Web)
 KPMG accountant, KPMG (Finance & Cashflow)
 Remi Okeshola, RBSS Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)
 Olga Crosse, CrosseHR (Expanding your Workforce)

Friday 25th – York Gardens Library, 34 Lavender Road, Clapham Junction, SW11 2UG

 Veronica Broomes, Your Small Business Coach (Expanding Your Workforce)
 Keith Jafrato, AMES Business Improvement (Leadership & Management)
 Gabrielle Monaen, Monaen (Marketing & Customer Services)
 Karen Mahoney, PCR (Finance & Cashflow)
 Michael Austin, Blue Dot Consulting (Finance & Cashflow)

Lunchtime Power Hour Sessions and Evening Taster Workshops

To attend a Lunchtime Power Hour Session simply book to attend between 1-2pm. If you would like to attend an evening workshop please follow the links below. 

Monday 21st – Wandsworth Town Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm - Access to Finance
Evening Workshop, 6-8pm – Networking for Success (The Alma)

Tuesday 22nd – Balham Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Digital Skills Workshop

Wednesday 23rd – Tooting Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Sales and Marketing
Evening Workshop, 5.30pm-7pm, Social Media for Beginners http://ow.ly/RHbMv

Thursday 24th – Battersea Library

Power Hour Session, 1-2pm – Techniques on Leadership & Management Skills
Evening workshop, 5-6:30pm - Access to Finance
Friday 25th – York Gardens Library 
Power Hour Session, 1-2pm -Learn How to Recruit a Top Team

 

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/events/event/2429/business_support_on_the_high_street

The post Business Support on the High Street appeared first on Balham.com.

Wandsworth Grant Fund Round Two Launch

Round Two of the Wandsworth Grant Fund is now open, and a string of events has been organised to help people interested in applying for funding. The Wandsworth Grant Fund was launched earlier this year to streamline the process for funding projects under these council priorities:  

1. Arts and Culture*
2. Children and Young People
3. Citizenship and Civic Engagement
4. Achieving Aspirations and Potential
5. Environment and Attractive Neighbourhoods
6. Health and Well being

Evaluation and assessment is done by specialist council offers and there is scrutiny by councillors to ensure money is going where it is most needed and where it will most benefit borough residents.  Ward councillor endorsement of each application is required. During the application period a series of events and workshops will be held to help potential applicants find out about the fund and the application process. 

Meet the Funder events will include presentations on the process, the funding priorities, eligibility and general guidance. They will be held at the following locations:

 September 29, 2pm to 4.30pm, Roehampton BASE
 October 8, 10am to 12.30pm, Caius House, Battersea
 October 13, 5pm to 7.30pm, Balham Library

Bidding Workshops offer the opportunity to book a one-to-one appointment with a relevant council officer to discuss your application. They will be held at the following locations:  

 October 15, 2pm to 4.30pm, Wandsworth Town Hall Extension
 October 21, 10.15am to 12.45pm, Penfold Centre, Wandsworth Town.

Booking is essential for all these events. Book online at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/wgf.

To find out more about the Wandsworth Grant Fund:
Visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/wgf
Email wgf@wandsworth.gov.uk.
Follow @grantswandbc

*General arts grants are made in the usual way, but arts groups interested in funding specifically to take part in the Wandsworth Fringe will need to go through a separate process. A Wandsworth Fringe Festival Grants Clinic will be held on November 25. Find out more at http://wandsworthfringe.com/ from ?, or call the arts team on (020) 8871 8711. The deadline for Fringe grant applications is December 7.

The post Wandsworth Grant Fund Round Two Launch appeared first on Balham.com.

Wandsworth Grant Fund Round Two Launch

Round Two of the Wandsworth Grant Fund is now open, and a string of events has been organised to help people interested in applying for funding. The Wandsworth Grant Fund was launched earlier this year to streamline the process for funding projects under these council priorities:  

1. Arts and Culture*
2. Children and Young People
3. Citizenship and Civic Engagement
4. Achieving Aspirations and Potential
5. Environment and Attractive Neighbourhoods
6. Health and Well being

Evaluation and assessment is done by specialist council offers and there is scrutiny by councillors to ensure money is going where it is most needed and where it will most benefit borough residents.  Ward councillor endorsement of each application is required. During the application period a series of events and workshops will be held to help potential applicants find out about the fund and the application process. 

Meet the Funder events will include presentations on the process, the funding priorities, eligibility and general guidance. They will be held at the following locations:

 September 29, 2pm to 4.30pm, Roehampton BASE
 October 8, 10am to 12.30pm, Caius House, Battersea
 October 13, 5pm to 7.30pm, Balham Library

Bidding Workshops offer the opportunity to book a one-to-one appointment with a relevant council officer to discuss your application. They will be held at the following locations:  

 October 15, 2pm to 4.30pm, Wandsworth Town Hall Extension
 October 21, 10.15am to 12.45pm, Penfold Centre, Wandsworth Town.

Booking is essential for all these events. Book online at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/wgf.

To find out more about the Wandsworth Grant Fund:
Visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/wgf
Email wgf@wandsworth.gov.uk.
Follow @grantswandbc

*General arts grants are made in the usual way, but arts groups interested in funding specifically to take part in the Wandsworth Fringe will need to go through a separate process. A Wandsworth Fringe Festival Grants Clinic will be held on November 25. Find out more at http://wandsworthfringe.com/ from ?, or call the arts team on (020) 8871 8711. The deadline for Fringe grant applications is December 7.

The post Wandsworth Grant Fund Round Two Launch appeared first on Balham.com.

Writing Books (The Easy Bit)

Last night I spoke at a London Perl Mongers meeting. As part of the talk I spoke about a toolchain that I have been using for creating ebooks. In this article I’ll go into a little more detail about the process.

Basically, we’re talking about a process that takes one or more files in some input format and (as easily as possible) turns them into one or more output formats which can be described as “ebooks”. So before we can decided which tools we need, we should decide what those various file formats should be.

For my input format I chose Markdown. This is a text-based format that has become popular amongst geeks over the last few years. Geeks tend to like text-based formats more than the proprietary binary formats like those produced by word processors. This is for a number of reasons. You can read them without any specialised tools. You’re not tied down to using specific tools to create them. And it’s generally easier to store them in a revision management system like Github.

For my output formats, I wanted EPUB and Mobipocket. EPUB is the generally accepted standard for ebooks and Mobipocket is the ebook format that Amazon use. And I also wanted to produce PDFs, just because they are easy to read on just about any platform.

(As an aside, you’ll notice that I said nothing in that previous paragraph about DRM. That’s simply because nice people don’t do that.)

Ok, so we know what file formats we’ll be working with. Now we need to know a) how we create the input format and b) how we convert between the various formats. Creating the Markdown files is easy enough. It’s just a text file, so any text editor would do the job (it would be interesting to find out if any word processor can be made to save text as Markdown).

To convert our Markdown into EPUB, we’ll need a new tool. Pandoc describes itself as “a universal document converter”. It’s not quite universal (otherwise that would be the only tool that we would need), but it is certainly great for this job. Once you have installed Pandoc, the conversion is simple:

pandoc -o your_book.epub title.txt your_book.md --epub-metadata=metadata.xml --toc --toc-depth=2

There are two extra files you need here (I’m not sure why it can’t all be in the same file, but that’s just the way it seems to be). The first (which I’ve called “title.txt”), contains two lines. The first line has the title of your book and the second has the author’s name. Each line needs to start with a “%” character. So it might look like this:

% Your title
% Your name

The second file (which I’ve called “metadata.xml”) contains various pieces of information about the book. It’s (ew!) XML and looks like this:

<metadata xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/">
<dc:title id="main">Your Title</dc:title>
<meta refines="#main" property="title-type">main</meta>
<dc:language>en-GB</dc:language>
<dc:creator opf:file-as="Surname, Forename" opf:role="aut">Forename Surname</dc:creator>
<dc:publisher>Your name</dc:publisher>
<dc:date opf:event="publication">2015-08-14</dc:date>
<dc:rights>Copyright ©2015 by Your Name</dc:rights> </metadata>

So after creating those files and running that command, you’ll have an EPUB file. Next we want to convert that to a Mobipocket file so that we can distribute our book through Amazon. Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to do that is to use a piece of software that you get from Amazon. It’s called Kindlegen and you can download it from their site. Once it is installed, the conversion is as simple as:

kindlegen perlwebbook.epub

This will leave you with a file called “your_book.mobi” which you can upload to Amazon.

There’s one last conversion that you might need. And that’s converting the EPUB to PDF. Pandoc will make that conversion for you. But it does it using a piece of software called LaTeX which I’ve never had much luck with. So I looked for an alternative solution and found it in Calibre. Calibre is mainly an ebook management tool, but it also converts between many ebook formats. It’s pretty famous for having a really complex user interface but, luckily for us, there’s a command line program called “ebook-convert” – which we can use.

ebook-convert perlwebbook.epub perlwebbook.pdf

And that’s it. We start with a Markdown file and end up with an ebook in three formats. Easy.

Of course, that really is the easy part. There’s a bit that comes before (actually writing the book) and a bit that comes after (marketing the book) and they are both far harder. Last year I read a book called Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur which covered these three steps to a very useful level of detail. Their step two is rather different to mind (they use Microsoft Word if I recall correctly) but what they had to say about the other steps was very interesting. You might find it interesting if you’re thinking of writing (and self-publishing) a book.

I love the way that ebooks have democratised the publishing industry. Anyone can write and publish a book and make it available to everyone through the world’s largest book distribution web site.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing. If you find my toolchain interesting (or if you have any comments on it) then please let me know.

And let me know what you’ve written.

The post Writing Books (The Easy Bit) appeared first on Davblog.

Meet the credit union at weekly drop-ins

People interested in finding out more about the Wandsworth Plus Credit Union can chat to the team every Friday in the council’s customer services centre. Members of the team will be on-hand every week to explain how the credit union works and the benefits of joining, and help people sign up.

The Wandsworth Plus Credit Union was launched last year in partnership with the council. Credit Unions are not-for-profit organisations and members can apply for affordable, ethical loans and open savings accounts.

At the launch for the new new town hall drop-in service around 30 people attended and asked for information. Peter Carlisle, Volunteer Co-ordinator from Wandsworth Plus said: “It was great to chat to so many local people. Most asked about how the service operates and whether we lend to people with poor credit history. We were able to explain that we look at individual circumstances and a poor credit history isn’t necessarily a barrier.”

The council’s finance spokesman Cllr Guy Senior said: “We have been in partnership with Wandsworth Plus for over a year, and we’ve found it provides a great service to our staff and residents – including those who can’t access high street banks and building societies. “Joining the credit unions helps build credit rating scores and keeps people away from loan sharks and payday lenders. It’s great that officers from Wandsworth Plus Credit Union will now have a regular, visible presence within the our Customer Centre.”

To chat to Wandsworth Plus staff go along to the Wandsworth Council Customer Services Centre, Wandsworth High Street currently on Fridays between 1 and 5pm

Find out more about the credit union at www.wandsworthpluscu.co.uk.

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