Brighton SEO

Last Friday, I was in Brighton for the Brighton SEO conference. It was quite a change for me. I’ve been going to technical conferences for about twenty years or so, but the ones I go to tend to be rather grass-roots affairs like YAPC or Opentech. Even big conferences like FOSDEM have a very grass-roots feel to them.

Brighton SEO is different. Brighton SEO is a huge conference and there is obviously a lot of money sloshing around in the SEO industry. I’ve been to big technical conferences like OSCON, but tickets for conferences like that are expensive. Brighton SEO is free for most attendees. They must have lots of very generous sponsors.

The conference took place at the Brighton Centre. The people I was staying with in Brighton asked how much of the centre the conference took up. Turns out the answer was “all of it”. Not bad for a conference that started out as a few friends meeting in a pub just a few years ago.

The conference day is broken up into four sessions. It was easy enough to choose sessions that sounded useful to me. I’ve only really been looking into SEO since the start of the year and I’m more interested in the technical side of SEO. I don’t have much time for things like content marketing and keyword tracking (although I’m sure they have their place).

So I started in a session about Javascript and Frameworks. This began with 

This was followed by Emily Grossman talking about Progressive Web Apps – which are basically web sites bundled up to look like smartphone apps. I plan to try this out with a couple of my sites soon.

The final talk in this session was David Lockie on Using Open Source Software to Speed Up Your Roadmap. I’ve used pretty much nothing but open source software for the last thirty years so I needed no convincing that he was advocating a good approach.

A quick coffee break and then the second session started. I chose a session on Onsite SEO. I was amused to see that even after only eight months of working on SEO, I could pick a session that was too basic for me.

The session started with Chloé Bodard on SEO quick wins from a technical check. This was interesting because it’s close to a service that I’m thinking of offering to clients. But I learned very little.

Chloé was followed by Sébastien Monnier with a talk entitled How Google Tag Manager Can Save Your SEO. Earlier this year I was involved in discussions where a client was talking about using Google Tag Manager. Another developer and I managed to persuade them that it was a bad idea as GTM inserts data into the page using Javascript and the right approach was to ensure that the correct data was inserted into the page as it was first built. It was gratifying to hear Sébastien (who is a former Google employee) say that (and I’m paraphrasing) “GTM is really a tool for SEOs to work around bad developers”.

The final talk in the session was Aysun Akarsu and On the Road to HTTPS Worldwide. This was a good talk, but it would have been far more useful to me before we moved ZPG’s three major web sites to https earlier this year.

It was then lunch and with some ZPG colleagues I wandered off to sample some of Brighton’s excellent food.

For the first session in the afternoon, I chose three talks on Technical SEO. We started with Peter Nikolow with Quick and Dirty Server-Side Hacks to Improve Your SEO. To be honest, I think Peter misjudged his audience. I was following the conference hashtag on Twitter and there were a lot of people saying that his talk was going over their head. It didn’t go over my head, but I thought that some of his server-side knowledge looked a little dated.

Then there was Dominic Woodman with a talk entitled Advanced Site Architecture – Testing architecture & keyword/page groupings. There was a lot of good stuff in this talk and I need to go back over the slides in a lot more detail.

The session ended with Dawn Anderson talking about Generational Cruft in SEO – There is Never a ‘New Site’ When There’s History. A lot of this talk rang very true for me. In fact just the week before, I had been configuring a web site to return 410 responses when Google and Bing came looking for XML sitemaps that had been switched off two years ago.

For the fourth and final session, I chose the talks on Crawl and Indexation. This session began with Chris Green giving a talk called Robots: X, Meta & TXT – The Snog, Marry & Avoid of the Web Crawling World. The title was slightly cringe-making, but there was some good content about using the right tools to ensure that pages you don’t want crawled don’t end up in Google’s index.

I think I wass getting tired by this point. I confess that I don’t remember much about François Goube’s How to Optimise Your Crawl Budget. I’m sure it was full of good stuff.

There was no chance of dozing off during Cindy Krum’s closing talk Understanding the Impact of Mobile-First Indexing (the link goes to the slides for a slightly older version of the talk). This was a real wake-up call about how Google’s indexing will change over the next few years.

I had a great time at my first Brighton SEO. I wonder how much of that is down to the fact that for probably the first time this millennium I was at a conference and not giving a talk. But I’m already thinking about a talk for the next Brighton SEO conference.

Many thanks to all of the organisers and speakers. I will be back.

The post Brighton SEO appeared first on Davblog.

Cook up a storm in luxury at 27 Balham Ave, Kingswood - NEWS.com.au


NEWS.com.au

Cook up a storm in luxury at 27 Balham Ave, Kingswood
NEWS.com.au
Cook up a storm in luxury at 27 Balham Ave, Kingswood. THE character facade of a 1910-built Kingswood return-veranda villa hides a breathtaking modern transformation carried out by acclaimed visionaries William Burton Architects. The Advertiser Real ...

and more »

Man injured in stabbing in Balham Hill, at the junction with Nightingale Lane - Wandsworth Guardian


Wandsworth Guardian

Man injured in stabbing in Balham Hill, at the junction with Nightingale Lane
Wandsworth Guardian
Police were called to a stabbing in Balham Hill, at the junction with Nightingale Lane, at around 11.20am today (September 22). Officers arrived at the scene with the London Ambulance Service, discovering that the victim had suffered a single stab ...

and more »

Mail Rail Map

If you read yesterday’s post about my Mail Rail trip, you’ll remember that my slight quibble with the experience was that there weren’t any maps showing the route that the tour takes.

Well, I’ve found one. And I think it explains why they don’t shout about the route.

I was Googling for any maps of the whole Mail Rail system when I came across this blog post from 2013 where John Bull examined the documents that made up the planning request that the British Postal Museum and Archive had submitted to Islington Council. For real document buffs, the blog post included a link to the original planning request.

But, for me, the interesting part is the diagram I’ve included at the top of this post. It’s a map of the intended route. And it ties in well with the tour I took on Saturday, so I’m going to assume there were no changes in the four years between the planning request and the exhibit opening.

The Mail Rail exhibit is the coloured sections. The Postal Museum is on the other side of the road in the Calthorpe House. The bit in green is the entrance hall and gift shop and the blue bit is where you queue and board the train.

And the pink shows the route that the train takes. You can see it doesn’t go very far. In fact, it doesn’t make it out of the Mount Pleasant complex. It goes from the depot, takes a sharp turn to the right and pulls into the south-east Mount Pleasant platform. That’s where you see the first multi-media presentation. Once it pulls out of that station, the train comes off of the main tracks and takes a maintenance loop which brings it back into the same station but on the north-west platform where it stops for the second multi-media presentation. After that, it returns to the depot where the passengers alight.

So, all-in-all, you don’t get to see much of the system at all. I knew that you wouldn’t go far, but I’m a little surprised that you don’t get any further than Mount Pleasant station. And that, I expect, is why they don’t publicise the route.

To be clear, I still think it’s well worth a visit. And it’s great to see such an interesting part of London’s communication infrastructure open to the public.

But I really hope that in the future, more of the system can be opened up – even if it’s just for occasional trips for enthusiasts. I know I’d be first in line for a ticket.

The post Mail Rail Map appeared first on Davblog.

Riding the Mail Rail

I rode the Mail Rail yesterday. It was very exciting. More about that in a minute. Before that, I went to the Postal Museum.

I’ve often thought that the UK needed a museum about the Post Office. And the new (well, newish – it’s been open a couple of months) Postal Museum is a really good start.

Most of the museum is a pretty standard chronological look at the postal service in the UK. There are exhibits telling the story of the service from its earliest incarnation five hundred years ago. It’s interesting and the displays are well-designed but I couldn’t help thinking it was all a bit simplified. There were many places where I would have welcomed a deeper investigation. Mind you, I find myself thinking that in many modern museums, so perhaps the problem is with me.

Towards the end of the museum is a small cinema area where they show various short films associated with the Post Office (yes, this includes Night Mail). I could have sat there watching all of them – but I didn’ t have the time. And I think they missed a trick by not selling a DVD of the films in the gift shop.

The Postal Museum is well worth a visit. It’s not as big as I thought it would be. We went round it all in about 45 minutes.

But the reason I left it a couple a months to visit the Postal Museum was because it was only this weekend that the other nearby attraction, the Mail Rail, finally opened to the public.

The Mail Rail is an underground railway system which, between 1927 and 2003 was used to transport post around London. I remember hearing about it soon after I first moved to London and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

And last week it opened as a visitor attraction. New carriages have been installed which are (only just) more comfortable for people to sit in and you can take a 20 minute guided tour of the line. Well, it’s 20 minutes if you include the time the train is sitting in the platform as you all board.

I enjoyed the ride. To be honest, I would have been happy just riding around the tunnels for 20 minutes, but there are a couple of points where you stop and are shown a multi-media presentation about the system and the postal service. A lot of time and money has been spent on them and they were really enjoyable (if not particularly informative).

As you leave the platform at the end of your ride, you pass though an interesting exhibition on the history of the system.

If I had one suggestion for improvement, I would like to have seen a map of the system with the bits that the tour covers marked. I suspect that you don’t actually get out of the bits of the system under Mount Pleasant sorting office. [Update: I found a map. See here for details.]

I recommend a visit. I’ll be returning at some point in the future to see it again.

Here’s a video I took of my tour.

The post Riding the Mail Rail appeared first on Davblog.

BALHAM'S RUSH: THE REVIEW - Hitchin Daily PRSS (press release) (blog)


Hitchin Daily PRSS (press release) (blog)

BALHAM'S RUSH: THE REVIEW
Hitchin Daily PRSS (press release) (blog)
It's fair to say that Balham has an ample supply of hairdressers, but do they all serve a different purpose? We visited one of Balham's newest hairdressers, RUSH, for a cut and a blowdry and a free Lindt Lindor; we know you've spied them on the counter!

Workspace sells Balham industrial estate for £30m - Property Week (subscription)


Workspace sells Balham industrial estate for £30m
Property Week (subscription)
Workspace Group has sold the Zennor Road Industrial Estate in Balham, South London, for £30m. Jamie Hopkins of Workspace. The three-acre estate totals 67,000 sq ft of net lettable space with an average rent per sq ft of £13.90. Workspace sold the ...
Workspace Group Sells Zennor Road Industrial Estate For GBP30 MillionLondon South East (registration) (blog)

all 3 news articles »

BALHAM PRESENTS...GIN: THE MOVIE - Tooting Daily PRSS (blog)


Tooting Daily PRSS (blog)

BALHAM PRESENTS...GIN: THE MOVIE
Tooting Daily PRSS (blog)
Join gin lovers in Balham at The Exhibit for a night of cinematic gin, Wednesday 13th September. Nearly a year in the making, Gin: The Movie has been a labour of love for 'A World of Gin', alongside film production company BVU.

Previously on Game of Thrones

In just a few weeks, HBO will start to broadcast the seventh series of Game of Thrones. The show has a large cast, so I thought it would be useful to take a look at who’s still alive, where they are and what they are doing.

To start, I’ve looked at all of the forty-two actors who have appeared in the main credits for the show. Twelve of these characters had died before the start of series six, so let’s get started with those.

(In case it’s not obvious, this article assumes you have seen all six previous series of Game of Thrones – so there will be spoilers for the first six series. I should also point out that I’m only considering the TV show here – I won’t be talking about the books at all.)

Viserys Targaryen

Viserys has the honour of being the first major character to be killed off in  the show. In episode six of the first series, he was killed by Khal Drogo by having molten gold poured over his head.

Robert Baratheon

In the very next episode, Robert died after being gored by a boar while on a hunt. It was his death that lead directly to the War of the Five Kings.

Eddard Stark

Ned Stark was beheaded at the order of King Joffery in the ninth episode of the first series. Things started to go very badly for the Starks from that point.

Jeor Mormont

The next major character death wasn’t until episode four of the third series. Jeor Mormont got involved in a fight with wildlings at Craster’s Keep and it didn’t end well for him.

Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark & Talisa Maegyr

The Red Wedding took place in episode nine of series three. The Freys and the Boltons plotted together and killed Robb Stark (along with his mother and his wife). That’s what you get for breaking a promise, I suppose.

Joffery Baratheon

Of all the major character deaths in the show, this probably got the biggest cheers (certainly in my house). Joffery has poisoned at the feast following his wedding to Margaery Tyrell. This was in series four episode two.

Ygritte

The wildlings were attacking Castle Black. Jon Snow knew nothing, but Olly took the shot and killed Ygritte in the ninth episode of series four.

Shae & Tywin Lannister

In the last episode of series four, Tyrion goes on a bit of a killing spree. Having found his lover, Shae, in his father’s bed, he strangles her and then shoots his father with a crossbow.

Stannis Baratheon

By any reasonable criteria, Stannis was Robert Baratheon’s true heir. But instead of being crowned king, he got involved in a bloody and pointless war and eventually got himself killed by Brienne of Tarth after his army failed to take Winterfell

 

So that was all the major character deaths up to the end of series five. Series six took it all up a notch.

Roose Bolton

Roose legitimised his bastard son, Ramsay back in series four. But that did stop Ramsay being very suspicious when his stepmother gave birth to another potential Bolton heir. Ramsay’s solution, in episode two, was to kill his father, his step-mother and his half-brother.

Ramsey Bolton

But Ramsay didn’t last long as Lord Bolton. When Jon Snow’s army, with help from the Lords of the Vale, took Winterfell in episode nine, Ramsay must have realised that his life expectancy was rather short. But it still rather took him by surprise when his wife, Sansa, fed him to his own hounds in revenge for the way he had treated her.

Margaery Tyrell & The High Sparrow

The number of casualties from the Red Wedding took some beating, but Cersei Lannister managed it in episode ten when she blew up the Sept of Baelor when it was full of people waiting for her trial. Pretty much anyone who was anyone in King’s Landing was there. And they all died.

Tommen Baratheon

One of the few named characters in King’s Landing who wasn’t blown up in the Sept of Baelor was King Tommen. But he was watching from his room and when he saw what had happened, he was so appalled that he killed himself by jumping out of the window.

Other Series Six Deaths

But it wasn’t just major characters who died in series six. Many other characters died too. This is a list of the other named characters who died during the series.

In episode one we have a clean-up of Dornish characters. Elleria and Tyene Sand kill Doran Martell along with his guard Areo Hotah and Obara and Nymeria Sand kill Doran’s son, Trystane .

In episode four, the wildling Osha attempts to kill Ramsay Bolton while seducing him. He sees through this and kills her instead.

In episode five, one of the saddest deaths so far was Hodor’s. He died holding a door so that Bran and Meera could escape. We also saw that the reason he could only say “Hodor” was that while this was going on in the present, Bran was watching him in the past and the shouted instructions to “hold the door” somehow leaked through time and affected his brain.

In episode eight, Lady the Crane (the actress who Arya has befriended) is killed by the Waif. Arya responds by kill the Waif.

In episode nine, Rickon Stark is killed by Ramsay Bolton just before the Battle of the Bastards. And the giant, Wun Wun, is killed breaking down the doors to Winterfell.

In episode ten,  Plenty more people die in the explosion at the Sept of Baelor. These include Mace Tyrell and his son, Loras, and Kevan Lannister with his son, Lancel. Qyburn has Pycelle killed and in the Twins, Arya kills Walder frey.

So, all in all, that’s quite a clearing of the board. Who’s still around? And what are they doing?

Daenerys Targaryen

After six series of shilly-shallying around on Essos, Daenerys has finally got a fleet together and is sailing towards Westeros to claim her crown. On the ship with her, we see Tyrion, Missandei and Varys. Theon Greyjoy (with his sister, Yara) are on another ship.

Jon Snow

Jon had an interesting series six. He came back from the dead, was reunited with his half-sister Sansa (the first time two members of the Stark family have been together since the Red Wedding),  gave up his command of the Night’s Watch and took back Winterfell from the Boltons. The series ends with him in Winterfell, being proclaimed King in the North. The other main characters we see at the proclamation are Sansa Stark, Davos Seaworth, Peter Baelish and Tormund Giantsbane.

Oh, and we’ve just found out that Jon isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard son at all. He’s the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna, and Rhaegar Targaryen. He doesn’t know this yet.

Cersei Lannister

Having destroyed the Sept of Baelor and killed all of her rivals, Cersei has been crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Her brother Jaime (who returned, with Bronn, from the Siege of Riverrun in time to see the aftermath of the explosion in  the Sept) watches from the side of the room.

Samwell Tarly and Gilly

Sam and Gilly have arrived at the Citadel where Sam hopes to be trained as a Maester. He has been invited explore the library. Gilly (as a woman) had to wait outside.

Bran Stark

Bran Stark is just about to go back south through the wall with Meera Reed. He has become the “One-Eyed Raven” and is having lots of visions that explain the back-story of the show.

Arya Stark

Arya finished her training as a Faceless Man in the House of Black and White, but she turned her back on their mission and took back her identity. It appears she has gone back to working her way through her list as she was last seen killing Walder Frey at the Twins.

Others

Melisandre was exiled from Winterfell by Jon Snow. She left on a horse, but we don’t know where she is going.

Brienne of Tarth was last seen escaping from  the Siege of Riverrun on a boat with Podrick Payne.

Jorah Mormant was sent off by Daenerys to find a cure for his greyscale.

Elleria Sand was last seen plotting with Olenna Tyrell and Varys and agreeing to support Daenerys’ invasion of Westeros.

Daario Naharis was left behind in Meereen by Daenerys. He has be told to keep the peace in Slaver’s Bay.

Sandor Clegane is wandering around the Riverlands with the Brotherhood Without Banners.

Jaqen H’ghar was last seen in the House of Black and White.

And then there’s Gendry. Gendry was last seen back in series three when Davos helped him escape from Dragonstone by putting him on a boat to King’s Landing. Who knows if he got there of if we’ll ever see him again.

 

So that’s where we’ve got to. Now read on…

The post Previously on Game of Thrones appeared first on Davblog.

A Gig Without Phones

On Wednesday, I went to a gig without phones for the first time since… well, since before everyone had a camera on their phone.

I wasn’t planning to go to a gig on Wednesday but on Tuesday afternoon I received an email from Songkick inviting me to a secret gig by Haim. I accepted the invitation and on Wednesday I got further details of the show. This second email also contained this information:

HAIM would like to invite you to enjoy a distraction free concert experience at their upcoming show at Islington Assembly Hall.

No cellphones, cameras or recording devices will be allowed at this show. Upon arrival, all phones and smart watches will be secured in Yondr pouches that will be unlocked at the end of the show. Guests maintain possession of their phones throughout the night, and if needed, may access their phones at designated Yondr unlocking stations in the lobby.

We appreciate your cooperation in creating a phone-free viewing experience for this intimate show.

That sounded interesting. I had heard of Yondr before, but I had never been to a gig where their system had been used. I didn’t even know that they were active in the UK.

But let’s start by addressing that first paragraph.

HAIM would like to invite you to enjoy a distraction free concert experience at their upcoming show at Islington Assembly Hall.

To put it bluntly, that statement is bollocks. Oh, sure, perhaps it’s true that bands would rather people were watching them rather than taking photos or telling their friends on Facebook how much they were enjoying the show. But let’s be honest here, no-one would have invested time and money developing a system to prevent people from using phones at gigs if it was just about encouraging a “distraction-free” environment.

No, this is about copyright protection. That’s where the money comes in.

It’s surely no coincidence that the first gig where I see the system in use is one where the band are trying out songs from their (as yet, unreleased) new album. It also happens to be a show that is being filmed for later release as part of a documentary about the band.  That’s why they don’t want us to record it.

The system itself works well enough. While we’re queuing outside, someone comes along and demonstrates it to us (annoyingly reiterating the bogus “distraction-free” excuse as she does it). It’s a neoprene (or something like it) pouch with a sealable top. She describes the sealing mechanism as “the strongest magnet available”. It looks to me something like the devices they use to tag clothes in shops – certainly, the release device looks identical to the mechanisms used to remove those tags.

As we enter the venue, our phones are taken from us and sealed in pouches (there are several different sizes to accommodate different phones) but the sealed pouch is returned to us to hold on to through the show. This is, I guess, the clever bit. You’d get a lot of kickback from people if you took their phones away from them. But letting them keep their phones, albeit rendered unusable, removes a lot of objections to the system.

If you find you really need access to your phone to during the show, you can go back to the foyer, where someone will open the pouch for you. But you’ll need to have the pouch re-sealed before returning to the venue.

At the end of the show, you file out past two desks that are set up with the release devices. There were maybe a dozen or so in total, and I didn’t queue for more than about a minute.

So, the system works and is pretty painless. I didn’t really enjoy the hour or so that I was waiting in the venue before the show started, without access to Twitter or Facebook, but I’m sure I’d get used to it. I don’t think that the distraction-free environment really added very much to the atmosphere, but I suspect the band (or, more likely, their management and record company) are very happy that no footage of the show will have leaked out.

I do wonder if it’s all necessary. I’m reminded of a couple of gigs I saw within a couple of weeks a few years ago. Bjork was recording her “Biophilia” show at Alexandra Palace. All around the venue were signs telling us not that filming and taking photos was banned. And there was a lot of security trying to enforce the rules. But hard rules like that just encourage people to try to break them – so the security guards were having to work really hard as a large proportion of the crowd tried to grab a quick photo.

On the other hand, a little later I saw David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Roundhouse. Before the show, there was an announcement over the PA (it might even have been by David Byrne saying that they understood people would want to take videos and photos and asking the audience to just please try not to get in the way of anyone around you. That, more friendly, approach seems more likely to succeed. I’ve also seen shows where the act announces that the next song is unreleased and asking the audience not to film it. If you have a nice audience, that works (and if you don’t have a nice audience, then you have a whole load of other problems to deal with).

All-in-all, I’m not sure. I didn’t find Yondr to be a huge inconvenience to me. But I’d rather not be part of an audience where I feel slightly untrusted. I don’t think it will stop me from going to a show, but I really hope it doesn’t become very common.

What do you think? Have you been to a Yondr-ed show? How was it?

The post A Gig Without Phones 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

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.

Shopping on a real tight budget (again).

Went for a walk earlier because like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare .Didnt have a lot of cash so first stop was the fruit/veg market as they were packing up looked through a few boxes and ended up with about 40 apples.a pineapple,6 nice carrots,garlic and all for the bargain price of £0.00.Next stop a Health food place that every night puts out a few bags of goodies just reaching the sell by date ,its all perfectly good food.the haul was 200g of Cornish Camembert,125g of goats cheese,18 Glenilen Farm probiotic yoghurts 160g jars I kept 6 and redistributed the others to homeless people on my journey home.I called at Sainsburys and was able to splash out on Normandy butter ,a sunflower+honey bloomer loaf,Youngs fish ,a £4 ham and pineapple pizza so its good eating today.After washing/scrubbing the free fruit/veg it was juiced and produced 4 pints of juice better and fresher than the stuff bought in the shops.It still amazes and pisses me off the amount of good food throw away and destined for landfills while so many people are havuing a hard time and starving.Just grateful Im not one of them.

SELLING BIG ISSUES ,a honest profession.

   Its my opinion that selling Big Issues is a honest honarable way to make a living.Ive been doing it on and off from the very begining, sure Im critical of the way its run but the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.So the wages are not the best in the world but your rewards come in the form of the great orduinary people that you meet.Im not the sort that pushes it in peoples faces,I like to think that people who buy from me do so because they want to not because Ive put pressure on them or made them feel guilty in any way.In the past year Ive had a professional fundraising org headhunting me,telling me I could make 4 times as much for less effort.Truth is if I was to shake a bucket claiming the money was for starving third world children well thats where it would have to go,not in my pocket.Im no angel and while selling Big Issues if anyone asks I tell them the money is for me and if asked I tell them my housing status.Like I say Im honest like all the other venders, we dont make a living from other peoples misery - only our own.My advice before parting with money to a charity think about how much reaches those that need it.

If hostel systems work,why do so many end up back on the streets.

My apologies for ranting about time spent in the  hostel system but in my opinion it was 6yrs of my life wasted.6 years where I had to have a keywork session with a moron every week and awnser the same questions over and over again.FFS how long does it take to asses someone and see if they are suitable for housing.Im of the opinion its a deliberate conspiracy to prove to society how essential they are in the rehabilitation of poor unfortunates like myself.Only thing is Ive never thought of  myself as unfortunate no matter what apart from the times I had to sit and listen to all their fucking crap.I put up with it because I wanted a permanent place of my own without them having acsess to my room or supported housing unit so the nosey fuckers could snoop while I was out.I often used toleave little notes for them to find but only offensive ones.They couldnt say anything about this as they shouldn have been snooping .Its a fact if I had a key to their houses and did to them what they do to their residents I would probably be branded a pervert and locked up for a long time.In a nutshell hostels dont work as most residents end up back on the streets or are kicked out for raising hell about their draconian rules.

The Drugworker

Not all of the people working for homeless orgs are money grabbing careerists,or worse stupid.sOME ARE ANGELS i DONT HAVE TO NAME THEM THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE its a tradgedy that they are more often than not in a surbordinate position and stick with their job to genuinly help.
 I know a girl ,I say girl even though shes in her mid 40s now,she was a teenager when I met her begging on the Hungerford Bridge in the 80s.For over 20yrs she was a hard core heroin user,she knows everey trick in the book that drug users follow,maybe she even wrote it.She got of the drugs sorted her life out got a job with an org that deals with rough sleeping drug users,shes very familiar with the problems and bigotry and difficulty these people face when sorting their lives out or trying.Happy ending - no way,all she gets todo is the donkey work she feels and justibly that she is more qualified than her co-workers,she thinks she has been hired as the token ex-junkie.What a criminal waste of what could be that orgs most valuable asset.Is this her 2nd chance at life,and who could blame her if she went home everynight and stuck a needle in her arm.

  So it been established that rough sleepers have a pretty rough time,one night a outreach worker eventually finds them hidden in some out of the way place,they say I can get you a hostel place,meet me tomorrow.Let me tell you it feels like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.So you meet you go through all the procedures you think peace,safety ,escape from alcholuism ,petty crime,drug addiction  and all its related baggage,you feel exstatic but that soon wears off when you are in your cell like room ,it begins to dawn on you that what you are holding in your arms like a new born baby is not as you envisaged a pot of gold but in reality its a bucket of shit.You are so run down tired you dont care anymore so you sleep.You awake to the sound of footsteps in the coridor,keys getting pushed intolocks door slamming obcenities being shouted,youre half asleep thinking shit slop out already,you rush to get dressed looking for the bucket there is none.The door opens you have one leg in your trousers a voice booms room check ,it then dawns on you again you are not in the Holiday Inn ,but a hostel ,you dont yet know youve been sentenced to 6yrs.

Winky Face!

I'm just going to come right out and say it.  I am not a huge fan of emoticons.  I do not use a happy face to indicate happiness, or a sad face to indicate sadness.  I don't even use LOL when texting or IMing, as I prefer a simple "ha!" to get the idea of laughter accross.

However, I will acknowledge that I am in the minority.  If there was a battle, I lost.  Emoticons have won, and I accept their place in the world.  I will even admit that they can make the tone of an email or text or whatever clear if the words themselves don't convey the proper meaning.  I don't use them myself, but if someone sends me a frowny face or a confused face, I understand their meaning and move on with my life.

Except!

The winky face.  If there is one emoticon I cannot stand, it is the winky face.  You know the one I mean:

;)

The intended meaning, as far as I'm aware, is to convey cheekiness or sassiness.  And it drives me up the freaking wall.  Because here is the thing.  In real life, people smile at each other, or frown, or have big smiles, or stick out their tongues (which, ugh), or look surprised.  All of which have a corresponding emoticon to convey these expressions.

Do you know what people don't do?  Wink at each other.  Constantly wink at each other.  And if they do, they should stop, because I'm sure they'll just develop a twitch of some kind.

There only two contexts I can think of where winking is appropriate in real life.

One:  If you are playing a joke on someone and want to let someone they are with in on the joke subtly.  A wink at that person while continuing the joking will get that message across, and then hopefully they'll get in on the joke and you'll all have some fun times.

Two:  A pickup wink, done in jest.  Possibly accompanied by finger guns.  This works in almost any circumstance in life, and is generally delightful.

That's it!  Those are the only two situations in which you should be winking!  Or maybe if you're trying to get a contact back in place.  But blinking would also accomplish this, so let's forget that one.

Two!

So, when I see people (and god help me, so many people do this) use the winky face after a comment they mean to be funny, all I can think is STOP STOP STOP!  If you need to use an emoticon (and I really must stress that no one needs to use an emoticon) in that case, will the smiley face not do?  What is wrong with the good old smiley face?  Are you too good for the smiley face??

Your cheekiness comes across as far less cheeky if you have to tell me you're being cheeky!  (Also, the work cheeky looks funny when you write it too many times. Cheeky.) Would you really wink in real life after you said whatever you just said?  I thought not. It's just dumb.  Stop it.

However, if someone develops an emoticon for the double finger guns, I will have to bow to their genius and gladly allow all winky face/double finger gun emoticon combos, as they will be hilarious.

Mug of the Day - 3 August


Cuba!

Mug of the Day - 2 August


Bruges! It's my most multi-lingual mug, as it also says "Bruges" and "Brujas".

Mug of the Day - 29 July


The kings and queens of Scotland.  Educational!

Mug of the Day - 28 July


Barcelona is one of my favourite mugs. I think it's so pretty.

Politicians and journalists, put the statistic down and step away.

A person with a little bit of information is usually a danger to themselves and possibly society.  This is particularly the case at a time when something must be done.

A good example of this is the present scandal on MPs' expenses (does it have an official name yet - "Duck-gate").  A number of people have jumped on some analysis by Mark Reckons, a LibDem blogger, that seems to indicate there is a positive correlation between the size of an MP's electoral majority and the chances that they will abuse the expenses system.  In essence, the more safe an MP feels, the more likely they are to be a crook.

This apparent correlation has led Mark and a number of other people (such as Polly Toynbee and Ben Bradshaw) to suggest that we move away from the First-Pass-The-Post election system.  Their reasoning is that a PR election system would lead to lower majorities for MPs', and according to this correlation, more honest MPs.

Now, the first problem with this is that (I think) the analysis doesn't stand up to scrunity (details of my concerns are here).  Mark has been careful to caveat his statistical conclusions, though I don't think his caveats go far enough.  The caveats, of course, have been ignored by everyone else.

Secondly, even if there is a correlation, it does not mean there is any real or useful link between majorities and honest MPs.  A classic example is the correlation that areas with high level of policing having a high level of crime, leading to the policy conclusion that policing should be reduced as it causes crime.

And finally, what no-one seems to have tried to show is how PR will help, even if the correlation holds.  Though there may be many reasons for PR, tackling MPs expense dodgies seems the flimsest.  Consider:
  • While PR will change the majorities of some MPs, it needn't necessarily lead to the fall in the majorities overall.  You could have some MPs, which after first and second votes, have a larger majority.
  • Some forms of PR can lead to more corruption.  For instance, voters have little ability of getting rid of a hated MP in some forms of close list systems, where that MP heads the list.
  • It would seem from the evidence of the unseating of Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election, and the current mass sacking of tarnished MPs, that the current system can act to get rid of sleazy MPs when the voters have the facts.
So please, before advocating constitutional reform, can we stop and think for one moment.

Sorry is the hardest word, but I can do regret

What I can't get is why Gordon says sorry so badly. The secret of political apologies to so say sorry quickly and completely, to close the story down (you may also want to say sorry because you mean it, that works too). Brown's apologies are slow and grudging.

Gordon has waited five days before apologizing about Smeargate.  By waiting and then saying sorry, he's guaranteed further damaging coverage of the story as the morning paper report his apology and analysis it. If he had said sorry straight away when McBride had resigned, the story would have been over already (assuming there's no further emails).

Also, his apology is so mealy mouthed.
I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately.
If you take full responsibility, you take full responsibility. You can't say I take full responsibility, but in the same breath say I'm not the responsible person. And I'm sure that Gordon is "sorry for what happened", but is sorry that people in his office considered smearing people.

Tail wagging the migration dog

Is the Home Office insane, listening to a BNP dog whistle?

Jacqui Smith is proposing that skilled work must first be advertised in the Job Centre before it may be given to a migrant, so that British workers have a chance. Non-EU migrants need a master's degree before coming to the UK for skilled work; EU migrants can come as they please unless they're a Dutch Parliamentarian. How many master-level jobs are advertised in Job Centres at the moment? How many master-level British workers look for jobs in Job Centres? Pure posturing.

balham bou on bbc2 "Mary queen of shops"@9pm


thank you for all the surpport you have showed in the passed and hope you enjoy the futrue at balham bou
working with mary portas was priceless
30 june one to watch"mary queen of shop"bbc2@ 9pm

Welcome to Balham Bou's Style Blog


We would like to welcome you to Balham Bou's first post on our style blog. We hope to inspire you with our ideas and fashion advice.
We would like to generate a on going discussion between Balham Bou and you! :-)