Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How to send large files through the internet?

Internet is great. You can exchange with folks elsewhere in Europe... or in Guatemala.

The only snag is that receiving mp3 or joke mails quickly fills in your inbox.

I came across this very useful web site today: SendThisFile.com allows to send files without size limit!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Transported logic

The government is talking about expanding Heathrow -if the airport meets its pollution targets. To achieve this, they've started leaking the idea of creating a congestion charge around the airport... to remove some ground transportation CO2 (powered by taxed petrol/diesel).

The alternative of taxing aviation fuel (kerosene) and invest in new high-speed rail has not been investigated by the Edington report: the ex-BA boss who was asked to work on the "future of transportation", which he did by totally ignoring indirect costs such as environment, health, etc...
For instance, it is claimed that delaying the airport expansion could cost £5bn. The flight path to Heathrow alone is impacting over 1 million Londoners. Who has factored in those costs in the equation?

Friday, December 08, 2006

mBlogging

I am "mblogging" (blogging on the move) in the Eurostar back from Paris today. And I can't help that thinking that it's a very civilised way of travelling, yet light on "indirect costs".
  • The journey is 2h55 or something like this, my outbound train was on time and the return is predicted to arrive 15 mn late. If I was to fly they would not even apologise for 15 mn -actually, given the terrible weather today and yesterday (check those tornado images), I would expect flights to be rather 1h late.
  • Door to door, Richmond to Colombes, I guesstimated that taking the train makes my journey about 30 mn longer. That's if planes are on time. But I can work, sleep, eat or read for about 3 hours -uninterrupted. So it's much more productive than having to check-in, queue for security, having your deodorant taken away (they don't seem to make 100ml sprays), walk, lounge, lurk, walk, wait, second secutiry check, wait, walk, fly, walk, wait, show your passport, get your luggage back and then travel from CDG to Paris...
  • Costwise, it's probably similar if you book you air ticket in advance but for an extra TEN POUNDS you can travel Eurostar Business Premier. Which means you're comfortably installed in wide reclinable seats and today the menus was as follows: selection of French wines (inc. some Champagne), selection of a cold morteau sausage with potato salad or some hake and prawn pie, with a tartlet to finish. It's almost a shame my French colleagues kindly bought me lunch :-) Plus you have power for your laptop... BTW, the difference in price was easily recouped by not having to buy breakfast on the outbound and saving on taxi fares to/from the airport as you "land" in the middle of the town. Oh, and free magasines and airline-style departure lounges.
So, it's not a coincidence that the Eurostar took over 70% share on journeys between London and Paris. And I guess that's quite a few planes that won't be buzzing over Richmond and sending CO2, CO, NO2, etc, into the Ozone Layer. Shame those yellow trains are moving away from Waterloo.
Which brings me to my favourite topic: all that was possible thanks to public investment in transport infrastructure. From the French governement and as long as 25 years ago when they initiated the TGV. Oh, and that tunnel. Rod Eddington's report is thus very disappointing: why do we still have to fly to Edinburgh or even Manchester then?
This week's Economist lead was on gridlock campaing and the article was supporting road charging. Excuse me but pricing poor people out of the roads is not the solution. We should think about using transport real-estate more effectively (I am one in favour of bus lanes, non-share cycling paths) and easing journeys with "intermodal hubs" (like the Hammersmith bus-tube station, but much better designed please).

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Excessive excuse!

Today, we learn that the WATERLOO & CITY LINE is "Suspended due to excessive dust on platforms". Must be the daftest excuse we've heard for a long time...

The Drain has just been shut for 6 months for a complete refurbishment but broke down the next day after service had resummed...

Excessive incompetence?

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Free WiFi in Leicester square

Apparently there's now free Wifi in Leicester Square. I maybe paranoid but it looks like a good way to get your laptop nicked while moblogging? I'll stick with Starbucks...



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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Borough Tony

Check Artist Tony's blog for daily pictures of Richmond -he's got a great eye (and maybe a better camera than mine?). Let's just hope he continues posting....

In this post he brings nice pics of Borough market -which apparently is under threat (see link for the campaign)

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Perfect timing: 40% off wines?

According to this blog (thanks for the pointer James), Thresher is running a promotion on wines between the 30/11 and the 10/12: they're discounting their whole range by 40%.

Read it here: word-of-mouth story in the making... [Gapingvoid]

We have yet to see if it works but if it does the timing is perfect... and I'll come back on this with my recommendations (Threshers has a fairly middle-of-the road assortment, Waitrose if often cheaper and has almost always a beeter selection).


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Friday, November 24, 2006

Why is air travel competitive against rail on short distances?

The quick answer is: because UK politicians have not invested in high-speed railways and keep subsidising air travel. For once, there's a lesson to be learnt from the French.

Read my comment here: Zut alors! Airport group demands end to Paris flights [Richmond and Twickenham Times]


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Richmond blog

One blog to add to my links bar: The Richmond Blog, by Andrew Pilkinton -a sociology writer.

He has strange views on junk food having no links to obesity though...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ads misunderstandings...

I finally found the artwork for the famous "Nothing suck like Electrolux" ad here.

Another one is there, probably also on a Swedish blog.

This perfect example of mistranslation is detailed on Snark Hunting (reading highly recommended) and more translation funnies can be found there and everywhere.

Sometimes it's just not funny: I don't envy the guys who got the brief for Hitachi and came up with this. Sometimes translating is just culturally impossible...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stagecoack to replace SWT, introduce Oyster

This article details changes to come for the Richmond (mass) transit system:
World’s your Oyster, rail users are promised - Richmond and Twickenham Times

More on news.bbc.co.uk.

In a nutshell, South West Trains are to be replaced by Stagecoach who won the franchise. They also promised to improve the service and introduce Oyster ticketing. Better late than never, but that also means that North Sheen users won't be able to use the valid excuse of the unmanned ticket desk and changeless ticket machine to get a free ride :-)

Finally, our condolances to Susan Kramer who has lost her husband.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Trains fare robbery is not promoting sustability

Train fares are raising, much faster than inflation:
Commuters hit hard by Ken's latest fare hikes (Richmond and Twickenham Times)

Hardly a way to encourage commuting in crowded public transports, Ken?

I took the Waterloo and City line yesterday, after it's been shut for repairs for FIVE months. While I was contemplating a poster presenting the benefits of the refurbishment... while waiting for late trains (alledgedly due to hardware issues)...

Finally, I am reading this morning about Virgin Trains' attempt to break the Glasgow-London speed record by going at more than 100 mph (160 km/h). This record have been in place for 25 years. Cooincidentally, it's also the 25th birthday of the French TGV, which is now trialled for commercial speed at 360 km/h (the speed record is over 500 km/h!).

Speed alone is not what matters: high-speed trains has remapped France, relieving some of the pressure on the dense Paris area and stealing market share to air travel. This matters enormously: by gaining a 68% share on the London-Paris route, rail is proving a viable and sustainable alternative to polluting airliners.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A bad Indian

I usually don't write negative restaurant reviews, but this will be the exception. A few weeks back, Sharkels', our favourite Indian, was closed for refurbishment (although it opened in Sheen quite recently). So I set off in a mission to find a takeaway, where I could also park the car and found this Bengal Village, opposite the The Red Cow.

Don't even try it, it's probably the worst curry I had for a very long time...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Put the fun back into flying

Travelling by air is becoming even more a hassle than it was before after the recent events.

Fortunately, it seems like RyanAir has found the solution:
Boing Boing: RyanAir: Airport security is like a strip-search

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Swan in a pub...

One for Tony...A swan near the White Cross in Richmond, one of the few pubs on the rivers to sell real ales.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Richmond is the fittest!

This Richmond and Twickenham Times article, relates a poll (for what they're worth :-) citing Richmond residents as the most active in mainland UK!

Run Richmond, run!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is Thames Water taking the piss?

Thames Water is thanking its customer for saving water...

In the meantime, it still loose 894 millions liters a day
or about FIVE TIMES the ammount saved by the drought order (equivalent to 255 litres/property/day) just reported a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to £346.5m and narrowly escaped a fine for missing leaking targets.

As for most national infrastructure issues (trains, roads, etc...) the source of the problem lies in a lack of public investment in the recent decades. There's indeed no shortage of water in the North nor there is a mean to bring it to the most populated area of the country.

What a legacy baby boomers leave us: accute environmental issues, pension funding shortfall, derelict infrastructures. Every day, it looks like this generation took it all for themselves...

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

[thepassionatecook:] Food Destinations: Richmond

Quite a great post from Joanna for foodies who live around Richmond:
thepassionatecook: Food Destinations: London

All the addresses are there, she's netted all of the neighbourhood food places worth of a mention!

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Is cheap air travel is a good thing?

With the advent of budget airlines such as EasyJet and RyanAir, you can get to Prague for less money that it would cost you to go to Penzance but there are buts.

While a dinner somewhere sunny for £18 rtn sounds like an attractive proposition it has a negative impact on the environement. I think cheap air travel is not a sustainable option, as it's only cheap because there is no fuel duty on kerosene.
On the economic aspect, and the droves (2.3m last Easter) of holidaymakers going abroad end up not benefiting their own economy through tourism revenues.

And there are catches too: their customer service not great, to say the least. I remember a time where we were queuing to check-in for a RyanAir flight to Bergerac and they closed the counter without telling anyone! We went to ask what was going on and were told the flight was closed for good -although we arrived plenty of time in advance! It actually took quite some negotiation before they accepted to rebook a flight to Bordeaux...

Plus, you should not travel with any luggage whatsoever:
Boing Boing: Judge to RyanAir: no valuables in checked bags?

So, is cheap air travel such it a good thing? I am not so sure...

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Kingston worst for bike thefts

If you planned a shopping trip to Kingston during this bank holiday week end, think again.

Going by car requires to navigate the one way system and endure long queues to park your car -unless you fancy be there at 9.
Taking the family by bike can be an option, as Kingston is easily accessible by the Thames towpath (which is unfortunately a shared pedestrian/cycling path), however make sure to lock your bikes properly:
Poll reveals cycle theft hotspots (BBC, 12/04/06)

Of course, there are no secure parkings...



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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Restaurant review: The Victoria (East Sheen)

The Victoria in East Sheen is a gastro-pub converted in a modern restaurant. It used to look like a pub, with a conservatory, a garden and a climbing frame to keep kids at arms' length during Summer dinners. They even had a table football and home made lemonade for teenagers. The old bar is now gone to make way for more tables and the the teenager corner is more like a café corner.

We decided to pay a visit to that old favourite a few weeks back, on a Friday night. The place was moderately busy yet we were made to wait at the bar for our table. Service has never been a strong point at the Victoria but they're friendly.
We had some lamb sweetbreads with a morel cream and gnocchis. A bit sweet but delicious. And a sirloin with béarnaise, chips and watercress. Good as usual. Lamb rump with a Lebanese mezze. Good also but not as filling as expected. And some chocolate steamed pud wich was quite nice.
The menu also boasted a monkfish saltimbocca with spiced aubergine and curried lentils which attracted my attention, seems creative and nice. We had a bottle of beaujolais to wash this and the bill came at £120 for three.

To me, this seems outside the gastro-pub sphere and plays serious restaurant business. And this is the point I struggle with. Yes, the food is good but not as refined as say The Glasshouse or Redmond's which are around the corner. The service is the real let down. Value for money is no longer there with mains ranging from £11 to £20.

Verdict: good but now overpriced.

PS: they have bedrooms and they're quite nice. But where they were £85-ish four years ago, they're now priced at £98 (and that's an internet special deal!) but broadband is now include.

The Victoria
10 West Temple Sheen, London SW14 7RT
tel: 020 8876 4238


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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Less is more: good design is less design

I was reading an interview from Terence Conran (which I can't find today :-( where he spoke of car designers being too conservative and over-complicated.

Surely, there are few tings more complicated than designing a car -there are so many engineering and safety constraints- but I feel that the main restriction in car design has become corporate marketing. It's peculiar for instance that they should copy each other: the Audi single-frame (which could look much nicer would it not have the licence plate in the middle) came from the same designer who invented it for Alfa Romeo before moving to Seat (part of the VAG as Audi and Lamborghini). Now even the new Golf GTI has a single frame...

Anyhow, in terms of design as with many other things, less is more. It's easier said than remembered, this video should be a useful nudge to all marketeers:

Microsoft Designs the iPod (Office-humour.co.uk)


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Friday, April 14, 2006

Kew Spring Festival 2006

Kew Gardens have nicely put online a page with the current state of all spring flower beds:
Kew Gardens Spring Festival 2006

Thanks to Tony for the link!


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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Parking tickets on ITV tomorrow

Received this email today:

Parking Tickets will be the subject of Tonight with Trevor McDonald on ITV Friday 14th April @ 8.00 pm.
As parking fines hit new records, Jonathan Maitland goes out and about to meet the growing band of `road rebels' who are using legal loopholes to escape paying
Regards,
the Campaign Against The Parking Rip-Off



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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sustainable transportation in Richmond?

With Richmond park and the Thames towpaths, one could think Richmond is an ideal spot for cycling. It is probably better than many places, but there are still many improvements to be made:

  • Theft, is quoted as one of the key deterrent to cycling (17% of cyclists got their bike stolen in the past 3 years, of which 24% no longer cycle at all and 66% cycle less often). Secure parking is an obvious answer, but there are few places to attach your bike in Richmond and few primary schools have bike sheds.
  • Cycling routes are designed to an appalling standards, with high-friction sufaces (more effort is needed to pedal on the green paths!), potholes and manholes covers protrude often (the Upper Richmond Road is a bad example) and in the park or towpath, the shared pedestrian/cyling path is a recipe for disaster (which cyclist has never experienced hesitating pedestrians jumping left and right to make way or bullying runners packs?). The standards are seldom respected -have you seen many lanes 1.5m wide?
  • Passive road infrastructure safety is a topic where we have much to learn from the Dutch experience. There's little concept of segregating the traffic (establishing a physical separation between cars and bicycles): "advisory cycle lanes" are an example of this thinking. Take again the A205 (Upper Richmond road): there's no provision for segregating traffic at major junctions (there could be separate traffic light for cyclists) and minor intersection (there should be a "hard" traffic island before the junction so that cars turning right have a visual obstacle reminding them of observing the cycle lane priority. Large roundabouts like those on the A316 are also dangerous for cyclists.
Cyclists' rants? Maybe, but increasing the cycling sahre in commuting (now less than 3% of journeys to work) is the easiest way towards sustainable transportation. Sustainability in transportation is not a buzzword for tree-hugging ecoxtremists but has direct and major benefits for all:
  • reduced pollution
  • reduced noise
  • reduced congestion
  • positive impact on public health
  • decrease in working hours lost in public transport delays and traffic jams
  • increased turnover for city centre retail
  • ... and it's cheaper than any other alternative but walking!

What needs to be done by Richmond borough?
  • Upgrade the cycle lanes, to ensure they are un-interrupted and segregated from cars
  • Allow two way use for bikes of one way street
  • Transfor "advisory" cycle lanes into "hardened" cycle lanes
  • Increase numbers of bike attachment posts (aka Sheffield stands) close to shops
  • Build 24-hour secure parking for cycles at the borough stations to promote combined rail-bike use (see Munster example on page 41: 25% rail customer now cycles to or from the station)
Links:



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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What shall we do?


One of the bedtime stories I prefer reading to kids is called "What Shall We Do Blue Kangaroo?"

The only problem lies with my weird "thought process": every single time I hear the phrase "What Shall We Do?", the image of a malicious lilac kangaroo springs to my mind. Which can be funny or disturbing, depending of the situation, as it's hard to refrain smirking.

PS: the other books by Emma Chichester-Clark are equally good...


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Monday, April 10, 2006

A wonderful adventure

Brian, one of the South-African mates I have the chance to share some moments running and cycling on week-ends is going to race the Cape Epic, a 921 km ride during which he'll climb more than 16000 vertical metres while enjoying some of the best scenery the Western Cape and South Africa have to offer.

I don't know if he's nuts but I wish him luck!

Link: The CAPE EPIC - The Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race


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Friday, April 07, 2006

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lamb (curry) with apricots

I've bought this book the other day, and I must say it's one of the best Indian cookbooks I've seen.

The auhor is Camellia Panjabi, the founder of several restaurants: Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy and two Masala Zone. She wrote a very personal and extremely interesting long introduction, which you can browse here. I food is a good way to start understanding a culture...

So, as with other dishes Camellia gives the dish origin (Parsi here) and a few words of explanation (eat with saffron rice, use Hunza apricots).

For 4:
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 50 ml oil
  • 2 oignons, finely chopped
  • 1 cm (!) ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 7.5 cm cinnamon (that's a lot)
  • 6 cardamons
  • 1,5 ts red chilli powder
  • 1/2 ts cumin powder
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 700g stewing lamb (don't look at Tesco's, they only have 3 cuts!)
  • 3/4 ts garam masala
  • 1/4 ts ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 1 ts vinegar
  • 1 ts sugar (forgot this, but the dish was sweet enough)
Time: about 20 mn prep and 1 about hour cooking.
  1. Soak the apricots with 1/2 ts vinegar (I used cider vinegar) and 200ml water for 3 hours (I microwaved 20s at 900W to shorten this)
  2. Fry the oignons in the oil, add ginger and garlic, then cinnamon and cardamons.
  3. Add chili, cumin, tomatoes, the apricots and the meat, bring to slow boil, add the garam masala and pepper, salt and 200ml water (I used cold).
  4. Cook slowly until evaporation, add 100ml of water (I used hot).
  5. Add a little vinegar, sugar, let rest for 10mn (on the warm hob) and serve.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Level crossing tragedy in Barnes

In a bizarre twist, only a few weeks after I posted this, Tony sent me the following link about a famous photographer killed on March 25th by a train at the White Hart Lane level crossing:
Carlos Clarke inquest 'opened and adjourned' (Amateur Photographer, 29/03/06)

Often compared to Helmut Newton, Bob Carlos Clarke attracted acclaim and controversy. See his obituaries here and there.

It is not only that the art world just lost an icon which saddens me, but also that this should not happen. Level crossings have no place in a dense urban environment and should be removed.

Here's the text of an email I have received only two days after this tragic death from Susan Kramer's office (our local MP) in response to my campaign for a footbridge at North Sheen:

The current situation is that Network Rail is now in the process of designing options for a footbridge. Whilst this is far from a guarantee that the work will go ahead, it is nevertheless a crucial start. However, in an effort to keep up the pressure on Network Rail to carry it out, we are currently gathering signatures as part of the petition which I mentioned in my earlier email, and once we have a sufficient large number then we will formally present it to Network Rail.

Of course, a footbridge is only a stop gap measure and it goes without saying that level crossings have no place whatsoever in a city.


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Monday, April 03, 2006

What have I done this WE?

Actually, none of the things I planned (see What to do this WE?).

We went to a very nice Brasilian restaurant in Bayswater for some meat. If you have been to Brasil, you will know those churrascaria where you pay a set price, help yourself as much as you like with salades and other side dishes like fejoada. The waiters come along with long skewers on which different meats are cooked (several cuts of beef, pork, sausages, chicked, chicken hearts, etc...) in rodizio style. So ask for picanha, a brahma and enjoy.

The meat all-you-can-eat option is at £18, but only if you pay cash (don't you hate when charge more if you want to pay with plastic?)

Rodizio Rico
111 Westbourne Grove
Bayswater
London
W2 4UW
(020) 7792 4035

Read also the Toptable review.

After this nice meal, we planned to see the boat race at the Ship (the link is to a Google Earth placemark) but upon leaving the restaurant it appeared that my car had been towed away. I had made the costly mistake to not read carefully enough the signs and check the lines and parked on a resident's bay (we were late to meet with our friends at the restaurant). Those bastards took it away less than 15mn after we arrived!

This turned out to be an expensive day: £50 fine, £150 removal fee, £8 for the cab... an expensive Sunday lunch :-( This is simply called highway robbery! How can £200 be a proportionate fine for parking 15mn in the wrong bay?

After retrieving the car, we tried to make it to Mortlake but since SWT had decided to repair the track the same day as the race the roads were jammed packed all along the Thames... I went running to calm down!

So here are a few links -don't let them get away with it:
http://www.parking-ripoff.co.uk/
http://www.parkingandtrafficappeals.gov.uk
http://www.appealnow.com/


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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Universal Time is not US time!

It's sometimes challenging to work internationally, especially given we all use different paper sizes: letter, A4, etc...

We haven't yet found a solution for paper size, but since European countries and most of the commonwealth use the DIN (A4, A3, etc...) we're suggesting that the de facto standard is the one use by over 490m people vs. 290m in the USA...

On the times, here's a useful reference for people working with international colleagues: the International standard date and time notation. This page suggests to use the ISO 8601 (International Standards Organisaion) formats:
  • for the dates YYYY-MM-DD
  • and for time hh:mm

The ISO 24h time format is commonly accepted. See this interesting note from the above referenced page (below).

A remark for readers from the U.S.: The 24h time notation specified here has already been the de-facto standard all over the world in written language for decades. The only exception are a few English speaking countries, where still notations with hours between 1 and 12 and additions like “a.m.” and “p.m.” are in wide use. The common 24h international standard notation is widely used now even in England (e.g. at airports, cinemas, bus/train timetables, etc.). Most other languages do not even have abbreviations like “a.m.” and “p.m.” and the 12h notation is certainly hardly ever used on Continental Europe to write or display a time. Even in the U.S., the military and computer programmers have been using the 24h notation for a long time.

The old English 12h notation has many disadvantages like:

  • It is longer than the normal 24h notation.
  • It takes somewhat more time for humans to compare two times in 12h notation.
  • It is not clear, how 00:00, 12:00 and 24:00 are represented. Even encyclopedias and style manuals contain contradicting descriptions and a common quick fix seems to be to avoid “12:00 a.m./p.m.” altogether and write “noon”, “midnight”, or “12:01 a.m./p.m.” instead, although the word “midnight” still does not distinguish between 00:00 and 24:00 (midnight at the start or end of a given day).
  • It makes people often believe that the next day starts at the overflow from “12:59 a.m.” to “1:00 a.m.”, which is a common problem not only when people try to program the timer of VCRs shortly after midnight.
  • It is not easily comparable with a string compare operation.
  • It is not immediately clear for the unaware, whether the time between “12:00 a.m./p.m.” and “1:00 a.m./p.m.” starts at 00:00 or at 12:00, i.e. the English 12h notation is more difficult to understand.

Please consider the 12h time to be a relic from the dark ages when Roman numerals were used, the number zero had not yet been invented and analog clocks were the only known form of displaying a time. Please avoid using it today, especially in technical applications! Even in the U.S., the widely respected Chicago Manual of Style now recommends using the international standard time notation in publications.

Most of the world still use now an adapted version of the old German date format, as follows:
DD/MM/YY or DD/MM/YYYY


(In any case, the US format is both ambiguous and illogical...)


PS: see this post on Boing-Boing on resulting confusion.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What to do this WE?

RUN the Asics Kingston Breakfast Run (if you have registered, you can always go to see the start and finish)

WATCH the boat race (thanks to Tony for the tip)

PLUG IN musical benches (thanks again Tony)


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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Londonist Flickr RSS feed

The guys behind the Londonist blog have also got a Flickr group.

Here's the RSS feed.

Very nice pictures....

Monday, March 27, 2006

White wines selection at Waitrose

I've compiled this list for James, who seems to enjoy parting seven to pay for marketing expense rather than producers.

Try a Saumur instead:
http://www.ocado.com/webshop/getProductDetails.do?sku=12411011&parentContainer=7703

Or you said you liked Muscadet:
http://www.ocado.com/webshop/getProductDetails.do?sku=18629011&parentContainer=7703

Otherwise, Robin is absolutely right -Prissé is a very nice cave, nice people too:
http://www.ocado.com/webshop/getProductDetails.do?sku=18621011&parentContainer=FAVOURITES

Finally, Macon Lugny is better and still under your £7 screw-top thing:
http://www.ocado.com/webshop/getProductDetails.do?sku=18620011&parentContainer=FAVOURITES

Frankly, don't you think there is a case for not polluting our earth by shipping wines all the way from Kiwiland?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NOT something to be remembered!

This article on the beeb reports a ceremony to honour the guy who invented winter time:
BBC NEWS: Daylight savings pioneer honoured (23/03/06)

But is this to be remembered? I mean, this is a tragically stupid idea, that to be 2 hours ahead of the sun in winter. And -as anyone having kids or animals- to change twice a year is a royal pain.

Link: Wiki on daylight saving time, which is BTW not proven to save anything -I've NEVER read any study proving those energy savings.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Londonist blog

This is a great blog about London, here are two posts I found interesting:
Londonist: TfL Are No Fun Any More, or where Transport for London is threatening to sue Geoff, a blogger who produced alternative versions of the underground map. See pictures displayed here by solidarity.

Geoff's silly tube map with accurate distances:

Map showing where it's quicker to walk:A mirror copy can be found here.


Another thread is about a mysterious red line that someone drew, apparently to outline WC1. I positively love this about Brits: their weird excentric original hidden side.


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Monday, March 20, 2006

Another train tragedy in waiting at North Sheen?

I've read with despair accounts of the Edmonton rail tragedy in which two boys, both 16, died at an un-protected rail crossing.

No later than last week, I've seen four Christ Church schoolboys jumping the automatic (unmanned) barriers at North Sheen train station -when they are down, there is no footbridge to cross the railway and the wait is often over 10mn. In a separate instance, another young man did the same thing.

I've raised the subject many times with our local MP, Susan Kramer, as adding a footbridge was one of her electoral promises. Apparently she had meetings on the subject:

Thank you for your recent email to Susan Kramer MP, regarding the above issue. During the last few months, Susan has been trying to arrange a meeting with senior representatives from Network Rail in order to discuss this issue.

I am happy to report that Susan has now had two separate such meetings with representatives from Network Rail, who have advised her that they have now launched a consultation as part of their South West London Route Utilisation Strategy - during which this issue will be given due consideration.However, in an effort to make sure that this issue is given the level of consideration that it deserves, Susan has now written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Mr. John Armitt, to raise this matter directly with him.

Additionally, we soon hope to launch a petition to Network Rail, calling upon the company to provide proper footbridge access to North Sheen Station as part of the changes implemented in their South West London Utilisation Strategy mentioned above.


Very kind answer indeed, still no footbridge.


del.icio.us tag for my other posts on the same subject: footbridge+richmondtransits.blog

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Restaurant review: St John's bread and wine

I had the pleasure to go for lunch in nice company at St John's Bread and Wine, in Spitafields. For those who don't know this institution, they also have a sister restaurant in Smithfields.

This is a restaurant located minutes away from the square mile, yet informal: there is no table cloth and tables are sqeezed close to each other. The hearty food is how I like it: simple and quality ingredients. The wine list should keep everyone talking, it's well researched (by this I mean they DID work on it, avoiding merchands and looking for great picks). There are excellent value wines from small producers (like a st chinian at £15) but I guess because the ABN Amro HQ are just besides there's also a romanée conti at half-a-grand.

One of us was a champaign addict, so we had a Ruinart (£38). Now, I'm not usually a bubbly fan as I view reds as a better quality/price ratio (there's so much average bubblies). The Ruinart web site says it's made mainly with chardonnay, which is quite a prowess as the result has lots of body and tanins.

The idea of eating at St Johns is about collaborative sourcing: pick and share. So, what's the food like?
Well, we had some salad (with beetroot I think, £3.50), pickled herrings (£5.60) which were melting so nicely that we had some more a second serving. I had some veal kidneys with bacon and dandelion (£7) and because I am an offal fan I had all. And the ruinart kept the pace with it, which really surprised me. Langoustine mayonnaise (£10) paraded next, followed by some brill and parsley (also a tenner) -which I did not taste but looked firm, fresh and delicious. There was some beetroot, sorrel and egg (£5.80) making rounds as well and I could not resist the english cheese-board. Which wasn't bad, even good I must say: there was some goat, stilton, leicester. And since they bake bread on the premises, I did not have to do with the damn crackers (I love stilton and port, but crackers for cheese? Come on...)

St Johns is dangerous: it is evident that they make a lot of efforts in sourcing best ingredients and wines. They know how to combine this for a true and great bistro food experience. Once lured inside, you will re-invent the world. For a quite a while probably. You have been warned.


St JOHN Bread & Wine Spitalfields
94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ
+44 20 7247 872



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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's wrong with supermarket yeast?

As usual, I went last Saturday to buy some fresh yeast for baking bread (see on Foodings if you can read French), this time at the New Malden Tesco's.

The bakery staff answered me that it was company policy not to give it anymore, because "if it's a bad batch, some customers have sued Tesco's".
But what happens if they bake bread with a bad batch then?

Last week-end, the bakery staff at the Clapham Asda looked like they could not be asked, told me that it was their policy not to give any and started to argue between themselves. I went to the customer information desk and complained, they told me it was an "old policy" but that they did not have any at the time.

As far as Sainsbury's are concerned, they sell it and it's usually fresh.

Otherwise, Richmond bakers can find fresh yeast at Olivers' (great health/organic shop in Kew station approach, ins't it Joanna?

Unfortunately, the frest yeast I find in the UK still does not smells as good as the one I find find in Franch bakeries and does not rise as much. Sainsbury's is the best, the one I find at Oliver's is not bad but it a bit brown and squidgy, not silky and soft.



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Monday, March 13, 2006

Wall Mart gets it, Sainsbury's doesn't

Read today that WalMart (site down today!) is enlisting bloggers to help try restore their ailing public image:
Wal-Mart enlists bloggers in P.R. campaign (The New York Times, 6/03/06)

Compare and contrast this with the surreal conversation I had on Friday with Sainsbury's PR lady when I called to try enquire about their labeling policy:


Are you a journalist?
No, I am a blogger

A what?
A blogger, someone who posts on blogs.

Sorry, we only deal with *proper* journalists
Ah, so you don't recognise blogs as an influential outlet then?

No.
So I suspect I can't send you my question? Because your form doesn't work.

No. Our form works.
No, your form doesn't work. And I'm sure the blogging community will appreciate this... Bye....



(note that ASDA's form does not take URL's either :-(


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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tesco ducks question on labeling...

Further to my post on "Supermarkets 2: labeling (12/12/05)", I've contacted Tesco's PR department (Sainsbury's got an idiotic and non-working form -a good way for their PR not to get any more work!).

Their response is below, as well as my response to their response. In a nutshell, they did not get the point and just cut&pasted a standard answer....

Stay tuned!


From: Ludovic Windsor
To: Tesco Customer Service
Date: 10 March 2006 11:56
Subject: Re: TES1895025X Re: food labeling

Dear Helen,

Thanks for your email, but you did not answer my point.

I specifically have an issue with precisely this point:
"Food labels are controlled by Government legislation and should allow customers to compare the quality and quantity of different products, as well as the nutritional value."

I believe that Tesco -and other major retailers- do not comply with this when selling in particular -but not only- fruits and vegetables EITHER by unit OR by £/kg. This indeed does not allow to compare the price. I went shopping the other week at your Twickenham store and you were selling cooking apples by piece, other kind of apples by kg and yet other kinds by pre-packed bags (of 10 I think).

How can consumers know which is the cheapest by kilogram?

I believe this practice is misleading and would like your comments.

Regards,

LW>

From: Tesco Customer Service To: Ludovic Windsor Date: 2006/3/10

Thank you for your email.

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns regarding our food labelling.

Food labels are controlled by Government legislation and should allow customers to compare the quality and quantity of different products, as well as the nutritional value.

We try to give as much information as possible on our product labels, but design legislation, which prevents products being packed in oversized packs, restricts the amount of space and wording that can be used. Being very aware of the environmental impact of packaging waste, we therefore try not to use excessive packaging on our products.

At the moment, the law states that we are not required to list certain ingredients. For example, if water makes up less than 5% of the product, it does not have to be included on the label. Also, it is not necessary to fully list compound ingredients. For example, pastry in a quiche may not have its ingredients listed, if it accounts for less than 25% of the product.

However, we do know that some of our customers require extra information when choosing products due to allergies, etc. Therefore, we have a selection of free-from lists available that we send out to our customers. If you would like one of our lists, please call our Helpline on 0800 505555.

Thank you for letting us know your views.

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us at xxx.

Kind Regards


Helen xxx
Tesco Customer Service

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ludovic Windsor" Date: 03 March 2006
Subject: food labeling

Dear Sirs,

Could you pls pass this request to your PR department?

I am a blogger/consumer and wrote the following post:
richmondtransits.blogspot.com/2005/12/supermarkets-2-labeling.html

I would be most interested in your reaction, in particular to know if you abide by the EU legislation cited in this blog post.

Best,

Ludovic Windsor

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why is the governement pushing to increase number of night flights?

However, those assumptions are biased, to say the least:
  • A direct relation between economic growth and the need for air travel is far from being proven, as remote working and telecommunication change our daily lives
  • Why should air travel continue to be subsidised at a rate of £557 per tax payer and per annum while alternatives such as fast trains are not being promoted and funded? Why also should flying to the South of Spain be cheaper than taking the train to Penzance?
  • There are major international 5 airports around London, against only 2 in Paris and one in other major economic capitals. The fact that BA and BAA would be more competitive with 3 runways at Heathrow may be true, but that’s another statement. Why anyway would Londoners need to pay the price of BAA and BA’s profits? Unless they are suggesting giving free share options to people living under the flight paths, I see no reasons.

  • The agenda of those lobbies go directly against the welfare of 1m people living under the flight path and does not consider the indirect costs at any point:
  • why should they tolerate more aircraft pollution?
  • why should they tolerate more aircraft noise, especially at night?
  • Why should they tolerate more congestion, taxes, etc?

  • Heathrow itself was built on farmland using war-time regulation to avoid a public enquiry and is badly located: it's to my knowledge one of the only European airports to be built on the West side and at short distance of a capital or major city. Given the winds in Europe are dominantly Westerly or Easterly this is quite a poor planning decision. It explains the huge environmental impact of Heathrow and why over 1m Londoners live directly under the flight path. In this respect, Gatwick, Stansted or Luton are much more sensibly located and are closer to main communications link.

    Read this for more on how the South East Regional Air Study neglected indirect costs. In tax only, the negative balance is £8.5 billions in favour of the air travel lobbies… Little has been done to quantify the direct and indirect impact of aircraft noise and pollution.

    In conclusion, the massive subsidy enjoyed by air travel and on the other side the equally large but little researched induced costs is based on flimsy economic assumption. If only a small part of those direct and indirect costs and if tax subsidies were removed, Heathrow could DOWNSIZE!



    Links: HACAN ClearSkies

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    Fahrenheit and Celcius

    Margaret made me wondering today what does zero degrees Farenheit meant. I knew that 100 was body temperature, but why was 0°F−17.8 °C? It just did not make any sense...

    The Wikipedia has a good explanation: Farenheit took 100 as body temperature (or the closest he could measure back in 1708) and zero for the coldest he could find. After much subsequent tweaking, they finally came up with the Farenheit scale still used today (but only in the USofA and Jamaica).

    So, boiling is 212°F, body temperature (before reading this post) 98.2°F, paper fire point (when books self ignite) 451°F and -40°F is -40°C.

    Here's an alternative explanation:
    The Straight Dope: On the Fahrenheit scale, why is 32 freezing and 212 boiling? What do 0 and 100 mean?

    "In short, 100 means nothing at all on the Fahrenheit scale, 96 used to mean something but doesn't anymore, and 0 is colder than it ever gets in Denmark. Brilliant."

    Quite why the Americans still use Farenheit is like asking why they still use older versions of the imperial measurement system
    even long after this meeting in Philly...

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Wine of the month at Waitrose

    Waitrose is my favourite wine shop. The offer better value wines than most high street shops, you don't have to buy a whole case as it is the case with Majestic.

    More importantly, they tend to select wines directly from growers and not merchants -so more individual better value wines.

    This month's special was the Da Luca Primitivo Merlot. (on the right)

    Which was okay, but I still much rather prefer my usual Saumur (£4.99, on the left) which makes a great casual light red.


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    Borough upgrades playgrounds

    The borough's children's playgrounds are in the process of being updated, read more in the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

    The one in Mortlake has been updated recently and is really nice....

    If you live around North Sheen, this one is really nice in summer as there's a paddling pool.

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    BLDGBLOG: London Topological

    Fantastic collection of stories and images on subterranean / secret London:

    If you're into that kind of stuff that is....

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Heathrow is dangerous and should not be expanded, here's why

    I've seen this piece of coverage today in the Richmond and Twickenham Times: Plane’s engines failed over borough.

    Apparently, a Boeing 747 cargo "lost" one engine and had to make an emergency landing in LHR.

    In a separate accident, of which I can't find any press clippings, a stowaway passenger from Africa fell on the Sainsbury's petrol station in North Sheen.

    About 1 million live under the flight path in London, and Heathrow airport is to my knowledge the only airport in Europe whose approach is directly above amajor city.

    Geography alone says that a 5th terminal in Heathrow is dangerous, let alone a 3rd runway.

    Why indeed expanding Heathrow when there 3 other major airports in less populated areas? The answer is of course because concentrating operations in LHR is beneficial to BA and BAA. At the expense of London residents.

    The governement is arguing that they are merely planning for the unstoppable expansion in air passenger numbers. This is simply because more sustainable alternatives are not being developped.

    Rod Eddington, BA's former CEO, said it himself: “Everyone should be taking the train", "People wouldn’t need to fly between London and Manchester if the service was faster.” (Eddington’s Rocket: the jet train to shrink Britain, The Times, 15/1/06) (but the idea of a kerosene-powered train is ludicrous: why reinventing high-speed train when the technology is there and has been in use for 20 years in France, and at times where petrol supplies are uncertain?)

    The proof is there: Eurostar's rail/air market is now 59%, saving that much in airplaine emissions, noise, etc... (Eurostar press release, 14/09/04).

    Finally, airline kerosene fuel is exempt of tax duty... Yet another way to favour air travel...

    Links: Hacan Clearskies

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Londoners to pay £33.80 EXTRA tax to fund the Olympics

    Richmond tax payers already pay one of the highest council tax rates in London, and how have to pay to re-develop East London.

    Why?

    BBC NEWS | England | London | Londoners face Olympics tax hike

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Some hope for London cyclists?

    Thanks to the Olympics, there maybe finally some improvement in view for the appalling London cycle network:

    BBC NEWS | England | London | Public to hear cycle system plans

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Film review: The Island

    Good futuristic movie with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as eye candy. The plot is not so original (clones who want to escape their destiny) and has some déja-vu flavours (Borne Identity, etc) but Ewan and Scarlett save the movie with a great performance. The action sequences borrow from the Matrix or Minority Report but are well shot and entertaining enough. Just a shame that they used 2005 cars when the action is meant to be in 2019....

    In summary, a good and honest film -even my wife enjoyed it despite not particularly found of sci-fi flicks.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Anti-valentine

    Why do we have to put-up with Halloween, Valentines, and the rest?

    I don't mean one should not be tender towards his/her lover, but why does it have to be a commercial happening? Maybe cultural differences are an explanation?

    The sheep-like behaviour sending masses rushing tomorrow into over-crowded restaurants for over-priced VD menus and assaulting flower stalls makes me wonder what is left for the rest of the year?

    This is quite sad. Why do we need an excuse to bring flowers home or to set a romantic date?

    In the meantime, let's be anti-VD:

    (thanks to Petite Anglaise for the hint)

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Blow!

    Watched again this movie about a guy who starts a huge drug ring, meet Pablo Escobar, gets rich and finishes in prison -alone with his regrets.

    Stellar performance from Johnny Depp (one of my favourite actors with Nicolas Cage), the film moves from the early 70ies till the late 80ies and the clothes, locations and play render superbely the time passing -one thing many movies get wrong so often.

    My rating: 3/5

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Orchids

    The yearly orchids exhibition has started in Kew Gardens, check it out!

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Foodings: All you need to know on Camembert!

    How to choose a Camembert?
    The only good Camembert...
    • proudly displays a round certificate AOC Camembert de Normandie,
    • is made with unpasteurised milk,
    • is between 10,5 and 11 cm in diameter,
    • weights 250g,
    • is manually crafted,
    • and is boxed in wood round casing
    There are 10 makers: my favourite is Lepetit (which I used to find in Tesco but not anymore :-(, ou du Lanquetôt (both are owned by Lactalis/Besnier), Jort (my mum's favourite), Gillot, Isigny Sainte Mère (makes Sainsbury's Taste the difference and Tesco's Finest) , Laiteries de Bernières, Fromagerie du Val de Sienne, Réo, Moulin de Carel (Besnier).

    But make sure you take the "Camembert de Normandie", Tesco's French Traditional Normandy Camembert, Coeur de Lion, Le Rustique and the entry-level supermarket own brand are all rubbish! A tip: go for the yellow warning UNPASTEURISED label.

    Beware of imitations!
    French say it better: pasteurised camembert is de la m****... !
    If you live in the USofA, don't read any further: it may be a wonderful and free country, but only for dead-cheeses. Camembert is unpasteurised and helps you building a healthy stomach!

    It is one of the best known and most widely appreciated cheeses around the world and this success has given ideas to many. They may make nice cheddar in Sommerset, but they should leave Camembert alone, for the same reason that Danes should leave Feta in Greece and French should not copy Italian Mozarella.

    For not having been protected in time, the actual word camembert came into the public domain in 1926.

    But then, who would have thought of bloody Sommerset Camembert? There are many copies, alll (to my knowledge) pasteurised and can thus be mass produced, stored and shipped anywhere.
    Surely all the germs are killed, as the flavour.

    So that diet-conscious ones can continue to buy, we have even seen some light versions, individual packagings and more!


    Some are specifically designed to fool consumers, like the quite like the Tesco pseudo-traditional version or the Rustique (from Sodiaal) which is sold in a "traditional" packaging when it's pasteurised... (Thierry would say "thermisé").

    But in 1983, justice has finally been fair with the 200-year old invention from Marie Harel (1791) with the creation of the aforementionned Protected Geographical Denomination
    AOC Camembert de Normandie.

    How to eat a Camembert?

    Whatever you do, never stick your camembert in the fridge! If you reside in Murcia or Creta, I may forgive you but unless exceptional circumstances, the camembert will die in your fridge. it will prefer a fresh and dark room.
    You may however try Auntie Martine's trick: wrap your precious Camembert de (remember?) Normandie AOC in a paper (ParisNormandie gives usually good results) and let ripe in the veggies drawer for about 2 weeks. Useful after coming back from your Calais booze trip....

    Otherwise, you should let it ripe for a good week and a half (five days will do in summer) on top of the fridge to avoid temptation: do not tuck in before it's soft (all creamy inside, with no trace of "plaster" -that's for Parisians) and has slight orange-ish moulds on its rind.

    Enjoy with a good sour dough bread (in Richmond, try Maison Blanc) or make it yourself and with a Bordeaux (

    graves does it for me) or a côtes du Rhône.

    Finally, the French call this white, fluffy, textured rind "croûte fleurie"...


    Links:



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