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...


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

Tags: , ,

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 (


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!


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
the Campaign Against The Parking Rip-Off


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)


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...


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


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.


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.


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
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:


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:

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

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