Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ashes - they're ours....again!

Ho ho ho! What a Merry Christmas it's been for the England boys down under. Despite a minor blip in Perth where Mitchell Johnson had a good couple of hours, the South Africans England players have dominated the Ashes series, and with one test to go have successfully retained the little urn.

I've forced myself to stay up late to watch at least the early hours of most days play so far, and England have been superb throughout. Only Paul Collingwood has really failed to shine, but his fielding remains a constant threat and he's snaffled a good few catches.

The top order batters, and Bell when he's been called on have been monstrous, and the bowlers superb throughout. The management of the team, and selection, especially post Stuart Broad's exit through injury have been spot on.

The series is not yet won however. A 3-1 scoreline - or even the current 2-1 would be far preferable to the Aussies clawing back to 2-2.

Talking of the Aussies, they have, bar Hussey, Haddin and twice Siddle, been atrocious. I'm not worried - indeed long may it continue. It's nice to see them struggling so much after thrashing the hell out of us over the last 20 or so years. Ponting, the skipper, has had a personal mare of a series, but few have come out much better, the selectors included. Ponting has been barely able to buy a run, he broke his finger in the last test, played though this one and is now out for the final rubber. Will that be it for "Punter" both as a test player and as skipper. It may well be. Much though I want him to lose, he has been a superb player for the Aussies. It's a shame a lot of people will remember him as one of a few (only two?) Australian skips who have lost the Ashes three times. Well, maybe not.

So, onward and upward lads. Make it 3-1 in Sydney, then win the T20 and one day series, and then the World Cup. Please?

New faces for City?

Dave Jones has been saying he thinks he'll be able to strengthen in January, and it now looks as if the first new face is a done deal. Although the BBC website is reporting only that City are "keen" on the 22 year old Everton striker, the South Wales Echo that dropped through my door at lunchtime was claiming it a £1m done deal.

Vaughan has struggled to get a starting spot at the Toffees, and has got a history of injuries (sound familiar with Cardiff signings?), but has been out on loan at Crystal Palace for the last three months. He looks like a decent signing, and someone that will bolster City's attacking options further.

But, and it's the question nearly all City fans are asking, where are the defensive additions? Ask (almost) any City fan, and they'll tell you we are weakest in defence, and especially at centre and left back, where Lee Naylor has failed miserably to establish himself as a decent defender.

There are rumours of another "Premiership" player being in talks, and Jonathan Woodgate's name has been heard on the grapevine. He's another injury prone centre back, so he & Chris Riggott can share treatment table stories.

However, the fact that City appear to be moving for new players does make me feel rather happier - we certainly need to strengthen if we're to resurrect our promotion push.

The only cloud on the horizon, and one made slightly darker by the probable arrival of Vaughan, is will Bothroyd and/or Chopra go? Jones has said he won't let them go, but if someone comes in with a big bid - and Bothroyd in particular has been scoring for fun and has now got a senior England cap, will the temptation be too much?

I'd like to think both players will see the efforts City are making for the Premiership push, and want to stay and be part of it, but sadly these days it's all about money and "now". Let's hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas goodies: Flip Ultra HD

I must have been a good lad this year, as once again, Santa left some techno goodness under the tree for me.

I'm now the lucky owner of a Flip Ultra HD 8GB pocket video recorder. It's a marvellous, and very simple piece of video recorder gadgetry. Smaller (but about twice as thick) as my iPhone 4 - bearing in mind the iPhone is the "world's thinnest smartphone", there's really not much to this recorder. You turn it on, press the big red button and it records. To stop, press the big red button again!

To upload video, just "flip" out in-built USB adapter, whereupon on first connection you get the chance to install the Flip software (to Mac or PC), and off you go.

The only other two buttons on the device (other than the on/off and big red button) are a review and delete button. The settings are basic - language, whether you want sound on button press, the red recording light to show etc).

It runs on the inbuilt battery, which is removable, and replaceable by 3x AAA's. The 8GB holds about 2 hours worth of the HD video it records. Note that it doesn't take stills.

You wouldn't want to record an epic on it - or even anything overly lengthy. It's ideal for short clips which you might want to email, upload to YouTube of embed on a site.

The Flip software is pretty basic, but does allow you to do some pretty limited editing and movie creation. You van of course import it into any video editing suite that you may have that supports it's native MP4 file format.

It complements my Samsung FD30 perfectly. If I want longer scenes, with bigger zoom (the Flip has a pretty limited and digital only zoom) and fancy effects (which I never use), then the Sammy gets the nod. If it's quick clips and I don't want to lug my Samsung around (which is slightly smaller than a can of coke anyway) then the Flip will do the business.

Why have this and the iPhone that records HD video as well? The iPhone's definitely a good backup and is with me all the time, but for longer clips the Flip is easier to hold, is easy to upload, holds 2 hours without me worrying about either space or battery life on the iPhone.

It's beauty is it's pocket-ability and the high quality of the video you get. It's a far, far cry from the cumbersome handled recorders of some time ago.

I love it!

City shocker: Watford 4-1 City

City are back to their Jekyll & Hyde ways. On Sunday at CCS v Coventry they were superb, but at Vicarage Road two days later against Watford, they took a right thumping going down 4-1, against a pacy, organised and up for it Hornets side.

Listening on the radio I heard words from the Radio Wales commentators like sloppy, poor, no game plan, a "tanking" and it showed in a match that City led (not for long), and eventually lost comprehensively.

Still missing Bothroyd - although Sunday showed that's not quite the end of the world, the Bluebirds were also without Bellamy today - two games in a week is too much for his fragile knee. Being without one of the two is just about OK - being without both frankly means we're unlikely to win.

The defensive frailties started to show early, with Naylor conceding a penalty inside 12 minutes, which Marshall brilliantly saved, and then against the run of play a super move saw Whittingham blast home to give City the lead. Watford hauled it back soon after, when another Naylor mistake gave possession away and led to their equaliser.

Shortly after Naylor who many fans (me included) think is a real weak defensively was booked, and he was eventually subbed before half time.

City, as so often in the past had no plan B to counter Watford's organised display, and to put it very mildly, had a shocking day at the office.

You could argue that two games in two days is too much - Watford haven't played for 18 days, but that's no excuse. They're professional footballers, they know it's a busy Christmas period, and they should be up for it both mentally and physically. People still say they have a good enough squad to go up, and I agree - but it's no good having a good enough squad if you can't play well enough as a team, and Sunday aside, City have been bloody awful since the end of October, and that's not good enough for promotion.

Dave Jones has got some sorting out to do. There is talk of money to spend in January, but the way City are falling off the pace (though unbelievably they are still second as results around them have favoured them, but the pack are catching, and indeed some have caught City - Swansea and Leeds are both on the same points), you have to wonder whether the owners will have the will to splash much cash.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Merry Christmas: City 2-0 Coventry

After a dismal run of form, Cardiff City finally came good in front of 24,500 at the CCS on Boxing Day. Braving a bitterly cold day, the faithful saw a Bluebirds side without talisman striker Jay Bothroyd either in the tem or even on the bench, edge past a defensively resolute Coventry.

In truth City dominated the match from start to finish, something they haven't done for a long time, and without a string of outstanding saves by Sky Blues 'keeper Westwood, the final score could have been far different.

It was a surprise not to see Bothroyd in the starting line-up, after he was due back from a hamstring tweak in the match before Christmas that was eventually postponed due to the weather. The extra week without a match made most people sure he's start today, and when the team sheets were announced and he wasn't in sight, a few inward groans must have gone round the stadium.

But to be fair, City didn't miss him today. Manager Dave Jones, so often it seems reluctant to start Michael Chopra, did so, and I think City are a far better team with him pulling defenders around, even when he's not in top scoring form.

Up front Andy Keogh worked hard, and despite some indecisive moments from him, it was his quick thinking and free kick that set up Bellamy to cross for Olifanjana's opener on 21 minutes. I think Keogh had a good game, and though he'll almost certainly make way when Bothroyd does return, he's proving a willing replacement for the moment.

McPhail and Olifanjana, the latter looking in a bit more like his early season form, controlled the midfield well.

Coventry rarely threatened, and when they did City were generally sound at the back, with centre back Chris Riggott finally making his bow in a City shirt. He had a decent game until subbed (probably through lack of match fitness), and looked assured with some good touches. Marshall barely had a save to make in the entire match. The Sky Blues did get the ball in the net once, but it was (correctly) ruled out for offside, but that's as close as they came.

The second goal for City was almost inevitable, and eventually came in a somewhat bizarre fashion, after Bellamy was floored just inside the Coventry half, and when the defence hesitated expecting a free kick which wasnt given, Bellamy got up, ran on and hit a shot that was wickedly deflected past Westwood. There was an uncomfortable few seconds for City fans and players as it was unclear whether the ref had given the goal because he was booking the player that had fouled Bellamy, but the goal stood, and that wrapped it up for City.

With Leeds being pegged back from 2-0 to 2-2 at Leicester, City leapfrog them back into 2nd with a game in hand, and even better festive cheer was knowing in the early kick off, the Jacks had been thumped 4-0 at leaders QPR, with the added bonus of Alan Tate having seen red.

So a great Boxing Day for City. Their first win on Boxing Day for many years. And if not an outstanding display, certainly looking as if they're getting back towards their best. Watford next up away on Tuesday, but the really big one looming is Leeds visit to the CCS on 4th Jan.

Up the City!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Running on empty: Boro 1-0 City

How in God's name are City 2nd in the Championship?

Other than a win away at Scunthorpe way back on 13th November (and they battered us for the second 45 mins of that game remember), we haven't won since we beat Norwich at home on 30th October. In that period we've escaped with a draw (only just) to the bottom side Preston, and now lost to Boro who were one off the bottom - both poor, poor sides, but obviously with more fire in their belly than us.

I listened to today's match on the radio, and it sounded as though City were second best all match. What the hell is Dave Jones saying to his players, because it sure as hell 'aint working?

I feel sorry for all those supporters who made the trip today.

Everyone (players, managers, pundits, me) keeps saying that City have the strength and depth to gain automatic promotion this term. Well at the moment we're returning automatic relegation form - every match. We are lacklustre, unimaginative, and arguably Bellamy apart rarely show any real passion. The spark and drive and flair that should be there with the quality of players like Bothroyd, Whittingham, Chopra, Burke and Co. just isn't there. It was there against Leeds, it was there (for 40 minutes) against Scunthorpe and Portsmouth and Doncaster way, way back in August when everything was rosy. But in the depth of winter it's gone awol big time.

It's clear that:
  • We have no plan B without Jay Bothroyd, and often no Plan B when he's in the side and things aren't going our way. Thank God he's back for next week's match
  • Jones doesn't rate Chopra enough to start him. We were better when he came on in the 2nd period today. I've said before we're a better team with him in it. If the rumours are true, he may be off to QPR in January anyway, and that would be a crying shame.
  • Our central defence is still very, very suspect.
  • Whatever Jones is saying to the player just isn't working. The plain fact of the matter just is that at the moment we're just not good enough.
It's no good churning out the same old cliché's about the opposition setting up to frustrate us, getting men behind the ball, or blaming poor refereeing decisions blah, blah, blah. If we seriously have aspirations to play in the Premiership, we have to learn how to beat sides that do that - and take the rough decisions along with those that go our way once in a while. And we have to learn to be consistent.

Hell, I'd forgo pace and flair for a side I knew could keep a clean sheet and win 1-0, but in all the years I've been watching City, they've never been one you could say that of. It's been a running joke between me and my mate in the Grange end for years when we score (not that frequently lately), that we'll just need another two to be safe. Even our kids both now middling teenagers spout that mantra.

I don't know. I just don't. If City had played to half their potential, we'd be out of sight now. We're not. We're second. Let's not forget that (as Jones is all too frequently reminding us). But we sure as hell won't be second come the New Year if we don't buck our idea up. And if we don't buck our ideas up, and if' we fall right off the pace, then that nice Mr Vincent Tan may well decide he's not going to dip his hand into his transfer wallet, and then where will we be?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I think this is a seminal season for Cardiff City. If we don't go up this year, I'm not sure we ever will. Don't blow it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Adobe: What a load of old cobblers

I've just had an inordinately bad experience, and I'm trying to hold my temper, but it's hard.

I've been an Adobe Photoshop Elements (v2) user for years. That version has always just about done for me and I've avoided upgrading, but tonight decided the time had come to take the plunge to the latest version (v9), and so I navigated to the Adobe online store.

Yes I know I could have gone to Amazon, or somewhere else but the price difference wasn't that great and I get it right from the horses mouth so to speak.

No I must digress briefly here, and say that I've ranted about Adobe before - that was about the price differential between what US customers pay and European and specifically UK customers pay. Adobe put this down to the shifting exchange rate. I say "cobblers" (or words to that effect). Not a valid argument for online software purchase. It's entirely Adobe taking UK purchasers to the cleaners. Enough said.

Now I've made a few big online software purchases recently - MS Office for Mac, MS Office for Windows to name two, and several others to boot. In ALL cases, I've paid, downloaded installed, registered and just got on with it. How about with Adobe? Oh no........

First up, I paid. Fine - they took my cash sweet as a nut.

Click on the download link and get a cryptic message saying if I'm downloading with IE then blah, blah, blah, but if I'm using another browser I have to download something else first. I was in FireFox, and I didn't want to download something else first to enable me to make the download I wanted, so I switched to IE (yuk) and downloaded the 1.75 GB file to my desktop.

When it was downloaded I tried to launch it. Oops. Mistake. It's some odd compressed file that nothing on my Windows PC could read, so I then had to download some more software to extract the files (stuffit expander - or a choice of another couple of programs) to extract all the files, which I did and it duly did.

So, left with two folders. A Readme and an Program folder. Read the Readme ((briefly) as you do, nothing untoward in there, opened the program folder, double clicked the "setup.exe"..........and got an error message saying "Please install/uninstall the product setup.exe to the root folder". Click OK and the installer exits. D'oh!

A quick Google didn't find anything obvious so went to Adobe site and clicked Live Chat.

Within seconds, had Umer on the desktop offering to help. I explained the problem. The rest as they say is history. The full transcript of our chat is below.

Chat InformationThank you for choosing Adobe. A representative will be with you shortly. Your estimated wait time is 0 minute(s) and 30 second(s) or longer as there are 1 customer(s) in line ahead of you.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with Umer.

Umer: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.

Simon: Hi

Umer: Hi Simon

Umer: I am glad to help you.

Umer: As I understand, you are unable to install the software, correct?

Simon: That's right

Umer: Thank you.

Umer: Let me check the order number AD000726232UK

Umer: I see that you have placed the order on Dec. 05, 2010

Umer: Please be informed that it normally takes 24 to 48 hours to complete the order.

Simon: Why 24 hours? Yes - I have downloaded a 1.75GB file to my desktop. Expanded it into two folders - a read me and a APSE 9 with a setup file (amongst others). Launch the setup file and get the error message

Umer: You will be able to download and install the software 48 hours after placing the order.

Simon: I already have downloaded the software

Umer: I see that the the order is processed completely.

Umer: Please try to install the software after 48 hours.

Simon: Why can't I install it now? What's going to change in 24 hours?

Umer: The product will be ready to install in 48 hours.

Simon: I don't understand why, when I have a 1.75GB file sitting on my desktop I can't install it for 48 hours! That's ludicrous.

Umer: Simon, I see that this is a technical issue and I may not be of great help to you.

Simon: If I go to a store and buy the software on a CD/DVD would I have to wait 48 hours before I installed it? I think not.

Umer: I request you to call our Technical Support team on phone if you are unable to install the software after 48 hours of placing the order.

Simon: This is ridiculous. I'd like a refund please

Umer: Sure. We can help with this.

Umer: May I please have the product serial number?

Simon: Yes it's 1057-1717-6531-9470-5398-9279

Umer: Thank you.

Umer: In order to process your return, you must agree to delete the existing software from your computer and destroy any existing copies. You may not sell, transfer, give away, donate or otherwise distribute your existing Adobe product to anyone else. Do you agree?

Simon: Yes I do

Umer: Thank you.

Umer: You will receive the refund in 7 to 10 business days by the method of payment.

Simon: Thank you

Umer: You are welcome.

Simon: I'd be grateful if you could provide some feedback to your manager.

Umer: Sure.

Simon: I have bought online and downloaded several commercial software suites recently, and in all cases with this exception, the process has been flawless. Buy, download and install and I'm up and running straight away.

Umer: Let me help you with a link with more information on this.

Simon: The process for downloading this software (and I assume all other Adobe software) is convoluted, unclear and the idea of having to wait 48 hours after downloading before I can use it is completely ridiculous. Adobe have just lost a customer, and I will be looking elsewhere for my photo editing software.

Umer: Thank you for waiting. One moment please.

Simon: I appreciate your help in processing the return, but I'm unhappy with the process and feel aggrieved that it had to come to that.

Umer: Please click here

Umer: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Simon: OK. Thanks. Goodbye

Umer: Thank you for contacting Adobe. Goodbye!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure Umer is a nice person. But what's all this crap about having to wait 48 hours before installing software that I've just paid for and downloaded, and is sitting in a whacking great 1.75 gig file on my desktop? Excuse my French but that's just bloody ridiculous. What the hell is this, and how suddenly after 48 hours will a file decide it's OK to be installed?

I'm beginning to understand why Steve Jobs (head honcho at Apple) has a thing about Adobe.

It's worth googling Adobe and install - seems I'm not the only one.....

Any thoughts?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

How's your connectivity at CCS?

As a fan of Cardiff City and a season ticket holder, I'm at the Cardiff City Stadium a fair bit. On match days I like to tweet about the atmosphere, the game, key decisions.

However, it's almost bloody impossible to do so. 99 times out of 100 I cannot get anything other than the most basic of signals on my iPhone in the stadium (and sometimes outside it). If I want to make a phone call, or send a text message it's just about OK, but browse the web, use Twitter, check my iPhone football apps for other scores - not a snowball's chance in hell. Nada. No signal - "the internet connection timed out".

It's really, really frustrating. No it really is. We're in the 2st century for God's sake, and I can't use my phone proper;y because in the middle (well almost) of the capital city of Wales I can't get a 3G, or even and "Edge" connection.

And do you know what's even more bizarre and frustrating? There are occasions (few and far between) and other people who (regularly) can.

I sit in the Grange end of the stadium. A couple of months ago I was attending the Wales v Bulgaria match, and I had wall to wall 3G. I could tweet and browse to my hearts content. Just as well really because the game was pretty poor that night.

Today for example, in the three and a half hours I was there, I saw an Edge connection flicker into view once, for about 30 seconds - apart from that nothing.

Another City fan, (@DarthCudd) for those of you Twitterati, sits in the Ninian stand and tells me on his Android device he always has a 3G signal.

Building the conspiracy theory further, another of my Twitter chums tells me the police ask to have the internet connection "switched off" in the stadium during matches. Now I'm not sure about this on two counts.

1) @DarthCudd can clearly get a signal
2) How can someone "switch off the Internet?

However the fact that (for me at least) it was wall to wall in one match and non-existent at most others, does rather suggest something is going on.

And before anyone asks, I don't have an iPhone with a "grip of death" issue, and in fact it's used in a case.

That apart, it's bloody irritating. I wish someone would sort it out. Hallo??

Awful. Really awful: City 1-1 Preston

I was really looking forward to this game. A chance for City to get back to winning ways against the bottom side in the Championship.

Oh how I should have known better.

A couple of bizarre decisions for me in the line ups. Firstly, Darcy Blake at centre back instead of Gyepes. With "big" (in every sense of the word) John Parkin up front for Preston, and two hulking central defenders they send up for set pieces why not pick our smallest centre back? Good call(not).

Secondly, Chops on the bench again. For me, we're a much better balanced team with Chops in, and the runs he makes pull other sides apart. But hey, I'm only an armchair manager.

Anyway, things went from bad to worse when Bothroyd pulled up with a hamstring injury in the 8th minute. We've got no like for like replacement, so Keogh got the nod. To be fair, I though he went on to be possibly our best player on the pitch today, and grabbed the late, late equaliser.

Preston went ahead courtesy of a big deflection on a free kick on 26 minutes that left Marshall stranded.

I'll gloss over the next 68 minutes with a broad summary. Suffice it to say that we were in the most part shockingly awful. Passing was abysmal, decision making was atrocious, confidence was non-existent. City left the field at half time to boos.

In the second period things improved - especially when Chops came on for McPhail and Whitts moved inside, but even when we got chances, we wasted them. Bellamy in particular was wasteful today with shots and passes - perhaps he was trying too hard.

For Preston's part, they looked like what they are. A shockingly bad team, probably deservedly at the bottom of the league, but we looked little better.

In the end, we were thankful for the 5 minutes of added time that ref Mr Deadman allotted following Preston's blatant time wasting at every opportunity (I know every team does it, but at least most try to hide the fact). But Preston eventually caved in in the 94th minutes when after A Whittingham cross and Olifanjana knock down Keogh popped up to head in from close range.

On balance, I think we deserved a point - no more, though it pains me to say it, but frankly with our squad we should be putting sides like Preston to the sward and burying matches like these by half time.

Maybe it was something to do with the cold and rain. The crowd was subdued the whole afternoon (perhaps because Preston only brought about 16 travelling fans (I jest, it was nearer 20), but the atmosphere never really took off.

Anyway, another test for City net week with a trip to Middlesbrough - also languishing at the bottom, and another side we should beat comfortably.

I've just seen on Twitter that Bothroyd reckons he'll be out for only one match - let's hope so. We need him in the side and fit for the Christmas programme.

As for the manager Dave Jones? I've always been a supporter. I still think he's done great things for this club, but I'm beginning to think that he's run his race at City. Sometimes I think he sets the team to play a certain way to kick sand in the face of those who criticise him, especially his tactical awareness. One to discuss over a pint perhaps?

He has his favourite players - players who the 20,000 or so City fans who watch every week clearly don't rate - Lee Naylor for one who I haven't seen have a good game since he arrived, and he won't be moved on this. He thinks we don't need a replacement for Bothroyd. At least that's what he said before the Swansea game. We clearly do. We might still be second, but only just, and I'm beginning to believe it's in spite of Jones rather than because of Jones.

Come on City, let's up the game or it'll be playoffs (at best) again.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

And the World Cup is awarded to....

Well you can make your own mind up as to why England wasn't awarded the 2018 World Cup. Didn't come close even. Despite all the optimism, the big guns of the Prime Minister, Prince William and old Golden Balls himself, David Beckham, we didn't make it past the first cut.

In fact, the whole thing was sewn up (or should that be stitched up?) in the second round of voting with Russia getting the nod.

The England bid team was quietly confident, and arguably so should they have been. A strong technical bid we could have run the competition next week if necessary (well maybe not, but the infrastructure is there, unlike say....Russia).

Commercially it made sense too. Big business in a western society, a multi-cultural society with a fan base that would have lent support to most teams.

FIFA members who had allegedly promised us votes clearly decided for whatever reason to cast their ballot paper elsewhere. Why?

Well, it could be for any number of reasons, but here are a few random thoughts that just popped into my head.
  1. Money changed hands. Just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.
  2. FIFA is corrupt - just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.
  3. Sepp Blatter, Head of FIFA told people how to vote. Just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.
  4. People generally, and Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner particularly, don't like England. Just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.
  5. THE Panorama programme that outed alleged corruption in FIFA. Just a thought. Not my evidence.
  6. An untimely reminder that hooliganism hasn't been completely eradicated from the British game - take a step forward Birmingham "fans". Easily evidenced.
  7. It was a fair and honest vote. Just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.
And then, to rub salt into the wounds, Qatar, a middle eastern country whose technical bid was generally reported to the worst of the bunch, is awarded the 2022 World Cup. Oh, and allegedly Qatar is smaller than Wales; public drinking and homosexuality are illegal, and it boasts an average summer temp in the 40s°C. A nice fan friendly place. This is what the Foreign Office website has to say about Qatar:

  • There is an underlying threat from terrorism in Qatar. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See the Safety and Security - Terrorism section.
  • You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places. You should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations (err, like football matches?).
  • Around 40,000 British tourists visit Qatar every year (Source: Qatar Immigration Department). 38 British nationals required consular assistance in Qatar in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident; deaths (7 cases); hospitalisations (5 cases); and arrests, for a variety of offences (20 cases). During this period, assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (26 cases).
Now, all told, I'm not against World Cups being held on foreign shores. Oh how I remember fascination of the days of watching fuzzy, radio sounding, interference laden B&W TV pictures from Mexico and the like in my boyhood days (although frankly I'd prefer to watch it on a 40" LED in HD/3D).

Who knows, in the 8 years Russia have got, and the 12 Quatar have got to prepare, everything might be coming up roses.

Just a thought. I have no evidence to back that up.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas gadgets

Christmas comes but once a year, and when it does it brings.....shiny gadgets!

A few weeks to go yet, but I have a feeling that something small and shiny might be under the tree....

Wait and see!

Can't wait for Saturday

It seems absolutely ages since I've been to watch City. Oh - hang on, it has. Because we missed the Forest match as we were away, we haven't seen City since their capitulation against Swansea, way back in early November.

So, bring on Preston at the weekend. About time we got back to winning ways. In recent seasons we haven't done too well against bottom of the league teams, but then we haven't done too well against top of the league teams in the last month either!

Time to change that with matches against the bottom two in the next two matches. Need a minimum of four, and preferably six points out of those two.

C'mon Bloooobirds!!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

QPR march on: QPR 2-1 City

This was always going to be a tough game. Rangers are unbeaten this term, and City have stumbled a bit recently.

Listening to it on the radio it sounded an open and fast past game as one might expect give the positions and line ups of both sides.

Oddly, Jones went with Drinkwater, a central midfielder out wide on the left, with Whittingham inside him.

It was City who took the lead with Bellamy slotting home on 13 minutes. At the time we were in the car, stopping to pop into a shop. Ministates said "I bet when we come out it'll either be 1-1 or 2-0".

Sadly it was 1-1.

And so it remained until half time. The games remained open, but QPR gradually took more control, and eventually and possibly, inevitably Adel Taraabt's 9th strike of the season put the game beyond City.

Losing 2-1 to a side like QPR at their gaff isn't the end of the world, especially as the 3rd placed Jacks also lost last night. But it means QPR edge further in front. City need to get back to winning and consistent ways. November has again been a bad month for them, as it so often is with two losses a draw and just a single win. You won't win promotion with that form, and City need to turn that round and soon.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Bah - Humbug!

Now don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. And I enjoy it for all the right reasons, though I'm not a particularly religious man.

But there's no doubt that it's become a mass consumer fest. Even in these "austere" times, it seems the only mantra from about the middle of October is spend. The shops are already crazy, and Starbucks has been warbling Christmas songs for several weeks.

But here we are, still well over a week from December and already the first residential Christmas lights are appearing. I saw my first lot yesterday (21st). Assuming they'll keep them up until at least twelfth night, that's 47 days or 12.8% of the year displaying Christmas lights. Ludicrous (and arguably a little sad of me to work that out!).

One of my Facebook friends says her neighbours have had a tree up since 5th November! Frankly they should be locked away. The people, not the trees.

I'll admit I like Christmas lights, and put my own exterior collection out the first week of December, but that's only because I'm likely to be last in my street by then! Indoors and tree don't go up until about 10 days before. My brother in-law normally leave it until Christmas Eve, but that's extreme even by my standards!

Anyway, Christmas must be coming, because I think I have this rant every year!

West Wales Weekend Break

We've just spent the weekend away with family in Park Hall, Cymtydu (pronounced coome tiddy for you non Welshies).

There were 20 of us (I think, it was difficult to keep count) in this huge house just a few hundred yards from the secluded cove at Cywmtydu. The house is deep in a wooded valley in the Ceredigion countryside about 5 miles south of Newquay.

It's a wonderful, if somewhat remote place - no shops, or pubs within walking distance, so you need to take everything you need. But what a superb place.

We heard tawny owls at night, watched red kites and merlins by day, and saw wondrous views of the stunning coastal scenery from along the coast path that we walked on Saturday.

The only downside (for me) was absolutely zilch connectivity. Not even a GPRS signal on the phone (or anyone else's phone for that matter, let alone 3G or wifi), so no real chance of blogging, twittering or even just making a phone call from the house. Still it got you at one with nature, and signals were available if you climbed high enough on the coast path!

You can see all the photos I took here, so hopefully you can see what a great time we had.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

City felled by Forest: City 0-2 Forest

We've been away for the weekend, so myself & Ministats were sadly unable to take our usual seats at the CCS for this match.

As it turned out, that may not have been too much of a bad thing. We were actually staying in an area of west Wales with n phone signal, so my usual mode of communication -iPhone and a combination of Twitter, SMS, the Internet and various football score type "apps" was u/s. I had to resort to a charming old method of being kept up to date, something called a wireless or, some would say radio. And even then I only managed to catch snatches. And the news coming down the wires (or rather over the airwaves) was not good.

The first time I tuned in City had just gone a goal down. Later, as I tuned in the periods in the second half, it sounded like it was all Forest, and when I heard the second goal in for the visitors, well, I just switched off.

This was a poor defeat for City. Beaten at home two games on the bounce is not championship winning or even promotion winning form. I'm not talking about the game specifically, as it would be wrong given I wasn't there. But we have to win our home games, and we have to show more than we have so far this season.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a Dave Jones "out" man. I think he's done great things for the club. But we're right up there having played mediocre stuff for half the games this season, and have got away with it. We haven't with few exceptions, Leeds for example, been outstanding, and although the wheels haven't totally come off, there are signs that we are stuttering, and we've seen that all too often before.

I still maintain we have the squad, individuals and management team to win automatic promotion. But we won't if we keep losing home games to teams who want it more than us.

And the mantra that "it's the way teams set up when they come to Cardiff" wears thin. If they come prepared to soak up pressure (and there's no suggestion Forest did that) we have to adapt. And of all the things Dave Jones has been criticised for over the years, his alleged inability to adapt has to be the one closest to the mark.

we need to get back on track with a few wins.

C'mon City

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bothroyd IS an England player!

It was great to see Jay Bothroyd get on the pitch at Wembley tonight in his England debut.

OK, by the time he got on England where largely a beaten team, having played crap all night, so he was on a hiding to nothing.
I thought he showed a couple of nice touches, and he at least got a header at goal even though it never threatened.

I hope he gets another chance, or at least does enough to keep in the frame. It was brilliant to see a Bluebird in an England shirt.

Congrats on your cap Jay. Well done!


Apple: It just works. No it doesn't

You know, for a company that prides itself on ease of use and the "it just works" principle, Apple have sometimes got things horribly wrong.

Take calendars, and three Apple specific elements.

  1. An Apple Macbook Pro
  2. A pricey (by most people's views) subscription to Apple's Mobileme cloud/syncing service
  3. An Apple iPhone 4
Now then, let me see - oooh, I have all of those. And what I want to do is have my calendars on the two bits of hardware to be seamless. Update one, the other one updates. And it works, mostly.

I have two calendars on my MBP that are "subscribed calendars". These are calendars that someone else has built. You download them, and then subscribe to them, usually for free (in my case, a calendar of all Cardiff City's fixtures, which saves me having to type the darn things in at the start off a season, and a UK holidays one so I don't have to add in things like "Christmas Day" or "Easter Sunday").

The beauty of a subscribed calendar is, if the data is updated - say a CCFC fixture v Middlesborough on Saturday is moved to a wet Tuesday, the calendar automatically updates with the new data - I don't have to do anything! Marvellous!

And it works except.....that the subscribed calendars don't sync. A "normal" local calendar syncs to Mobileme and to the "other" device, but the bloody subscribed ones don't.

It's such a pain in the arse. A beautiful elegant solution that's been hamstrung for Lord knows what reason.

You'd have thought Apple would have been able to make it work, but it doesn't. And that means they are driving people to alternative solutions like third party sync tools and Google. Surely that can't be good for business?

Come on Apple, make subscribed calendars work with Mobileme.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

England new boy on top form: Scunthorpe 2-4 City

This was absolutely a game of two halves. I was listening to this on the radio and the opening 15 minutes was electrifying.

City were 1-0 up after 58 seconds courtesy of Jay Bothroyd, whose goal tally this season has earned him a a deserved call up into Fabio Capello's squad to face France. They were two up after nine minutes when Chopra added to his tally, and by the sound of the commentary, Scunnie had no idea what was hitting them. However, Chris Burke who was tearing them apart had to go off as early as the 13th minute, and things settled - only temporarily though as City pressed again and again, and Bothroyd scored again on 34 minutes.

The Iron grabbed one just before the break which gave them a glimpse of getting something from the game.

In the second period it was all Scunthorpe right from the whistle, and they bombarded our goal. Heaton was called into making several good saves, as our defence was tested to the limit. It caved in in the 73rd minute when Scunthorpe made it 2-3 and all of a sudden minds were turning to last years match at Peterborough were we let a 4 goal lead slip. However, thanks to a deflected Koumas shot off Seji Olifanjana's arse, City put the game beyond doubt in the 79th. The win takes us top again as QPR only drew. Superb, but ultimately, and needlessly, nailbiting stuff.

And to top the day off, there was confirmation that Jay Bothroyd, given a place in Fabio Capello's preliminary squad to face France, was indeed in the final squad.

This is brilliant recognition for a striker that's growing in stature with every game, and currently scoring goals for fun. It's also a tribute to the work Cardiff City are doing, and it puts us well and truly on the map. More importantly, it sends out a message. If you're good enough, you'll get your chance. It doesn't matter if you're not (currently) playing in the top tier.

A lot of people (Robbie Savage for one) think it's ridiculous that Bothroyd is in the squad ahead of people like Bolton's Kevin Davies, but watching Bothroyd week in, week out, I know who I'd rather have in the England team.

Congratulations Jay!


Friday, November 12, 2010

BE the Daddy!

This might not look like much, but BE-lieve me, that little figure of 3.3Mbps brings tears of joy to my eyes.

Basically, that's saying that my broadband speed has about doubled by switching to BE as my internet broadband provider. With my previous provider, Pipex,, I was typically getting around 1.6-1.8.

Ok, it's not superfast, but relatively, it's much better than I was getting, so I'm happy!

I've been having chat with a few people in the excellent BE forum, and they've been really, really helpful. The view is I could squeeze out as much as another 3Mbps - 5Mbps speed if I carry out some tweaks. I'm going to check the key thing tomorrow which is the wiring in the BT master socket coming into the house. Not as drastic as it sounds, but might make a helluva difference. Also might be worth siting the router direct to this socket - currently it sits upstairs, but only because it's got a direct ethernet link to my main dekstop PC and the network hard drive. If I get a wireless card for the PC, no reason why the router & HDD can't sit down in the living room (at least I can't see a reason why not - Mrs Stats may have a different view...).

I'll take it one step at a time. Tomorrow I'll check out the bell wire in the master socket, which apparently, if there can be a cause of noie on the line. It's not needed with modern phone systems, so it can go. We'll see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bugger - that's done it


Dave Jones has won the Championship's Manager of the month award for October. Great though that is, it usually heralds an amazing slump in form for the team who's manager wins the award, and November has never been a good month for the Bluebirds in recent times.

Lo and behold, a loss and a scrappy draw is what we've got so far in November.

I'd rather he won the April Manager of the Month award in a fine run that see's us secure automatic promotion!

Jay Bothroyd also won the Championship's Player of the Month award for his goal scoring in October, and richly deserved that was too. Let's hope he keeps banging them in.

On the plus side, it puts some silverware in the cupboard.....

It's a mad world

A couple of things have struck me today.

Firstly the story about the who-ha over the idiot that tweeted that he was going to blow up Robin Hood airport after it was closed due to weather conditions.

There's been a big outcry about the time, cost and effort taken to prosecute him for what was in effect a tweet allegedly borne out of frustration. Well, mate - news for you. We live in a society where there's pretty global coverage of just about anything anyone says anywhere, and if some prat tweets he's going to blow up an airport, he shouldn't be surprised if the police and a whole load of other people come down on him like a ton of bricks. If he'd have gone ahead and done it, and the powers that be had know about the tweet and done nothing about it, where would we and they be?

Secondly, and on a similar note, I'm gobsmacked by the reaction to the student "protest" at Millbank yesterday. Here we have the usual bunch of "rent-a-riot" that seem able to turn up ant any protest anywhere at the drop of a hat (haven't they got jobs - oh no, they're professional miscreants), causing havoc at what was supposed to be a peaceful protest, including chucking fire extinguishers off a pretty tall building (hang on, what were they doing inside and on top a private building wrecking it, if it was a peaceful protest?). The fire extinguisher incident could have, and very nearly did kill someone, and it's the police that are getting blamed for not doing enough?

Eh? For God's sake, let's knock the bloody idiots and lunatics that were causing the violence, not the police who are damned if they do (G20 policing) or damned if they don't (yesterday).

Frankly, if I'd have been in charge I'd have water cannoned the lot of them off the roof and locked them in the Tower of London.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Be there.....

My new broadband service with Be goes live on Friday.

Everything's ready. My new Be box (router) arrived today. Nothing flash, a capable Thompson router. I'll see how it goes but have my current Netgear DGN1000 available if it proves not brilliant (not that the Netgear is superb).

Everything about the transfer from my current provider Pipex has gone swimmingly well so far.

Pipex delivered the MAC code to me as promised - though I only got it via the post - not also via email, text and voicemail which they also promised me.

Anyhows, the Be order process was smooth, and the communication I've had from Be has been superb. Automated txts and emails granted, but plenty of them from telling me the order has been processed, to the box being despatched, to expected delivery date of the box plus what to do when it arrives. The comms have all been clear and concise, but in a light hearted and easy to understand manner that suggests that they value you as a customer, and want the process to be as pain free as possible (unlike Pipex/Talk Talk/Carphone Warehouse or who-ever they are these days who are pushy, often rude and frequently incomprehensible.

Apparently, I just plug this box in on Friday when my existing connection goes down, and off I go. Virtually no configuration needed. Certainly no complex usernames and other configuration that I have to do for my Pipex connection.

That bit's yet to come of course, and may not be as simple as it''s made out to be - we'll see.

either way. I'm pretty excited in my own geeky sort of way. I'm not expecting a massive speed boost. Currently I'm lucky to get 1.7MB downstream on a connection that promises "up to 8MB". Be say I might get 2.5MB. The main problem is that I'm a fair way from the exchange, but I'm hoping the key is that BE's service has less contention and no throttling (that's what they say). If I can consistently get 2MB I'll be happy. I'll be happy just not being with Pipex any more!

I'll take that: Reading 1-1 City

A point away at Reading after defeat by the Jacks on Sunday? I'll take that, especially as QPR only drew last night and the Jacks were beaten at home tonight by Bristol City.

That leaves us still second by a point, a four clear of the Swans in 3rd.

I had wanted to make the trip to Reading today, but a combination of it being the boy's 16th birthday (we'd both love to have gone, but I'm not sure 'er indoors would have been happy to see us disappearing down the M4 on his 16th), plus he's got a very important GCSE type science exam first thing tomorrow and we wouldn't have been back until after midnight, meant we didn't bother.

By all accounts looking at live text and various Twitter sources from the Madjeski, it was a scrappy affair. The Royals went ahead as early as the 4th minute, and it took City until the 77th to level it through goal machine Jay Bothroyd.

Manager Dave Jones has come in for some enormous criticism about Sunday's team selection and his alleged tactical naivety since Sunday's derby loss, and has reacted angrily in the media. Today he apparently labelled some of the media "bufoons".

He also made a number of changes for tonight's match. Out went Bellamy, Drinkwater, McNaughton, Keogh and Gyepes, and in came Bothroyd, Burke, Blake, Matthews and McPhail.

With 5 changes it's not surprising City were a bit disjointed, and a draw is therefore probably a pretty decent return, especially give how other teams in and around us have fared over the last two nights.

It's a long trip to Glanford Park on Saturday for a date with Scunthorpe, and with QPR and us have stuttered (but not stalled) in the last couple of matches, we'll be looking for a maximum return.

C'mon City, let's put some clear blue water between us and third spot.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Gutted, but still 2nd : City 0-1 Jacks

I had a niggling feeling about this one. We've been playing well, but with Bothroyd missing courtesy of the totting up system, I knew it would be difficult. Manager Dave Jones said we wouldn't miss him, but frankly that's rubbish. We've built a team on him, and there's no viable replacement.

Today's supposed replacement for the big man was Andy Keogh. He works hard enough but he's not half the target man, can't hold the ball up so well, isn't as skillful and hasn't got Bothroyd's pace or height. Apart from that he's an identical match.

City weren't on the ball today. To be gracious you'd say Swansea deserved it. I'm not. With few exceptions, the Bluebirds were no where near their best. Heaton made a few good saves, Naylor still looks dodgy, Gyepes gives me the jitters. Drinkwater back in after a long layoff looked rusty and couldn't control the ball. Olifanjana won the ball in the middle as usual but kept giving it away. Whittingham, Hudson and McNaughton (until subbed) had decent enough games, and Chopra & Bellamy ran around as usual but didn't get service.

The most odd thing was the way City set up. Basically until Burke came on for Keogh in the 58th minute we played with no right sided midfielder. Absolutely bizarre. The crowd were calling for Burke long before Jones made the change, and frankly it was 58 minutes too late. It almost reminded me of a game at Ninian Park a few years ago in a match when the crowd demanded of Lennie Lawrence (and got) Andy Legg to come of the subs bench .

Drinkwater lasted until the 82nd minute before Koumas replaced him, but by then we were 1-0 down. I'd have played McPhail instead of Drinkwater as he'd been out so long for such a big match, or even Koumas, but Jones knows best (allegedly).

I don't dislike Jones (I know many don't - you reading this Stabs?), but sometimes he's so unmoving and rigid it's painful.

The Jack's goal, through Emmes was inevitable. They dominated possession in the second period and worked Heston on a number of occasions. We worked their keeper once as I can recall, not long before they scored when Bellamy fired straight at De Vries in a one on one.

A word on the ref Mr Jones. I've ranted about refs for the last two matches. Mr Jones was't brilliant, but he was better than we've seen recently, and for such a tough derby match I think he did OK. Not good.....OK

It was so disappointing for the 26,000 plus crowd (of which 1,820 were Jacks - kudos), that City didn't tun up. However, theyr'e still in 2nd spot, and they have a quick chance to put it right with a visit to Reading on Wednesday. Let's hope they sort it out before then and get their heads back on.


Friday, November 05, 2010

Data, data everywhere.....

So the good news is I've got my shiny new network hard drive set up and whirring quietly away. The next job is to consider how best to use the darn thing.

Here's the current situation.

I've got two desktop PC's running Windows 7, a Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard, a 7" Asus Eee running Ubuntu (to be fair hardly ever wheeled out) and an iPhone. Two iPhones if you count my son's 3G. Oh, and an iPod Touch belonging to my daughter.

I have a wireless network which includes a Canon multi-function printer not connected to anything except the power outlet (how clever is that - never ceases to maze me when it churns out paper without being connected to a PC).

There's also a 500GB external HDD attached to the main W7 PC, but available on the network to all other PC's and the MBP.

One of the problems I have is that I tended to keep the MBP/my iphone separate, so I have music on the MBP, and a bunch of music on the Windows network HDD> Same for photos. A bunch on the MBP and a (mostly duplicated) bunch on the Windows network HDD.

Oh, and this is discounting a bunch of "personal files" stored on Dropbox, but the beuaty of Dropbox is that it syncs to any computer it's installed on - in my case, both Windows boxes, the Eee, the MBP and my iPhone.

So what's my strategy going forward?

Well, I'm going to use my new wireless network HDD/NAS as the "master". My plan is to consolidate my music and photos and videos/movies onto this drive, back them up routinely to the standard external drive.

I can then free up space, especially on my MBP (not that it's tight for hard disk space, but I'm a bit paranoid when I get below half the drive full). My iTunes on whichever box I'm using will be accessing the network storage source, not individual local sources, and it will be the same for photos via Picasa.

Hopefully this will all work.

Of course, I've got to set up the back-up strategy too, but I use the highly effective and configurable Acronis True Image for this.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Shiny happy people

Wooho! It's my birthday, and as is so often the case that means shiny gadgets!

This year I unwrapped a lovely 1 terabyte network hard drive - the Western Digital MyBook World Edition (bit of a mouthful for a bit of electronics).

It looks marvelous in its white casing, though rather clashed with my 500MB black MyBook external drive.

And it's so simple to set up. I unpacked it, plugged in the ethernet cable to my router, turned on the power and let it configure itself.

A couple of minutes later, and there on my Windows 7 PC home network, sits the drive with it's public, download and backup shares.

I turned on my Macbook Pro, and bingo, it's sitting there in Finder just waiting to have lots of lovely data copied to it.

It comes with a set up disk, but I didn't need it. Brilliant. Now, where can I find a terabyte of data?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

We are top of the league! City 3-1 Norwich

I had predicted a win by two goals (to myself and Ministats anyway) ahead of this game, and for once my predications came true.

In startling and ridiculously open first period, both teams went at it hammer and tongs. Norwich certainly hadn't come to sit back and soak up City's attacks and try and hit us on the counter.

However, it was the Bluebirds who took the lead after just 9 minutes when a superb Whittingham corner was headed back across goal by Gabor Gyepes, and Bothroyd nodded home from a yard. If that wasn't enough, just three minutes later a classic keeper punt, and nod on by Bothroyd put Chopra through. It looked like he'd messed his first touch, but he's a class act finding his sharpness, and he slotted the ball under the advancing keeper for 2-0. Last week against bottom of the table Bristol City we were two down after 8 minutes, and here a week later after 12 minutes we were two up against fourth placed Norwich! Football is indeed a bizarre game.

Credit to Norwich though, who were still playing good, pacy football, with Naylor once again being given a hard time at left back. The Canaries piled on the pressure on the edge of the 18 yard box with the City faithful howling for someone to just try and get a tackle in. They seemed incapable of challenging for the ball at this point. This intense period did see Norwich put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a push - one of the abysmal Mr Scott's better refereeing decisions of the day.

Eventually though you just knew the pressure was going to produce result,s and Hoolahan nipped in front of Gypes for a brave header that brought the score back to 2-1.

Two minutes later though and it was 3-1 when Ward was adjudged to have handled when the ball hit him. It may have been harsh if you're of the ball to hand school, but from where I was sat in the Grange End, it was a clear handball. The linesman gave it, and after their No. 9 Grant Holt tried putting Petter Whittingham off by moaning about the placement on the spot (to be honest Holt spent most of the match whingeing about something or other), Whitts slotted the ball in for 3-1.

Seconds later, it could and should have been 4-1. In build up play Naylor was clattered. Mr Scott saw no reason to give a foul (his decision making was at best ropey all day long), the ball fell to Chopra and he was hauled down just inside the box. If the handball penalty was dubious (it wasn't), this was a no-brainer penalty and red card, but Mr Scott just waved play on. I don't know which match he was watching, but it wasn't the same one I was.

I said after the Bristol City match that the standard of refereeing in this League is shocking, and Mr Scott's performance today has done nothing to alter that view.

In the second period, things predictably quietened down a bit. The Bluebirds got hold of the ball, and importantly generally held on to it well. The Canaries still piled on pressure when they got the ball, but City's defence was stouter and more marshalled. Bothroyd had a screamer bounce back off the bar, and both he, and Burke could and probably should have scored late on when City were in the last 10 minutes and in total control.

The one blot on the match was the (almost inevitable) yellow for Bothroyd for a challenge on Smith. Bothroyd's claimed on Twitter and in reports that he never touched the Canary man, and it looked a harsh decision, but the ref had such a shocker whether or not Bothroyd caught him it was probably going to happen.
That means our talismanic front man misses the next match - the huge South Wales derby v Swansea at CCS on Sunday. It couldn't be a worse match to miss, but it's done and we have to get on with it - Jones will have to remind City players to play the ball to feet, as with Chopra, and Bellamy our attacking options are, well, short, to say the least.

So our three points, plus QPR dropping points at home to Burnley means for the moment anyway, City sit proudly atop the Npower Championship.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Center Parcs photos

Photos from this weeks trip to Center Parcs can be found here

All back safe and sound from our trip to Center Parcs. Despite a few whinges (see last but one post) it's been great fun, and only when you rejoin the roads and the rate race on the way home do you appreciate the CP experience for what it is.

Everything they say (who?) is a learning experience. One thing I've learnt this week, is there comes a time when showing off to your kids isn't worth doing.

Yesterday arriving back at our villa in the evening after a lovely meal at the Italian Restaurant I came down the quite short, but quite steep hill by our villa at a fair lick (it's a paved path), and attempted to skid the back wheel on my bike left then right to negotiate a slight zig-zag in the path. I'd done this successfully a couple of times over the week, but last night I got it wrong.

The left skid went according to plan, the back wheel slipping away from me, but I over-compensated on the right skid, the wheel hit a patch of wet mud, and the rest, as they say is history. Crashed and burned big time. Mud everywhere, but mostly over me. Only two good things to come out of it. 1) no broken bones, but that's more luck than judgement, and 2) that only my kids saw it!

I'm almost 51 for God's sake! Let it go.......Where's my pipe and slippers.....

Bye bye Pipex

I'm on my way to leaving Pipex. I've threatened this for a long time and recently decided I was going to do the deed.

Today I rang them and asked for my MAC code which will allow me to leave and go to another provider. Tales of trouble trying to leave Pipex abound in various Forums, but this first stage seemed to be a pretty painless process. The person I spoke to tried the usual to get me to stay but once I made it clear all I wanted was my MAC code, he got the message. He couldn't give me the code then and there (why not?) but told me I'd get it via email, text, post and via voicemail on my landline with 5 working days. I got a reference number too, so let's see how it goes from here.

As previously mentioned, I think I'm going to BE broadband. Unlimited usage for £13.75 a month. Sadly, whichever provider I go to I think the max download speed I'll get is about 2 meg, but I'm not close to that with Pipex, and the contention issues in the evening make it even worse.

Fingers crossed

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Center Parcs - the good and the bad

We're currently on a short midweek break to Center Parcs (Longleat Forest). We've been many times before, so we know what we're doing here. Generally it's a great min-break. Devoid of cars (mostly) the "village" is about bikes, walks, forest, nature and activities - or just relaxing.

With our kids now 16 (almost) and 13, it's great because we can just about leave them to their own things, although generally they've stuck with us. So far we've done a 3 hour spa session (me & Mrs Stats - the kids went off for night time swimming in the sub-tropical swimming paradise), a nature walk around Longleat estate with a conservation ranger, archery (kids), American Pool, crazy golf, lots of swimming/rapids/slides, eaten too much, bike rides around the forest and later we're going for an "Outing with Owls". All brilliant fun.

The downside? It's very expensive. Basically you pay for your accomodation - a "villa" in the forest. Most of them look a bit like posh portacabins, and many of them appear a bit run down from the outside. To be fair Center Parcs appear to be in the process of refurbishing them, but it's a big job on a 400 acre site with over 700 villas.

Inside they're fairly comfortable, with the basic level offering all you need. Pay eve more and the facilities increase. They also come in 2 berth to 8 berth sizes so can suit couples or family groups. As with many holiday companies, the prices are hiked ridiculously in school holidays. The same holiday for us a couple of weeks away from half term would probably be half the price.

You get access to the sub-tropical swimming paradise with all the rapids, flumes etc thrown in for free, but petty much everything else you have to pay for. But you pays your money and takes your choice. You don't have to if you don't want to. But it can get expensive if you want to get involved in lots of activities.

This time round, much as I've enjoyed it, I get a sense that some of the polish of our earlier visits has vanished. When we first came 15 years ago, it felt almost exclusive. Now it feels a bit like a poshed up Butlins. Actually, that's harsh, but but you might get a sense of what I mean. A lot of the utensils/cutlery in our villa was not clean, the customer service is patchy - great most of the time, iffy now and again.
And for a techno like me, being (mostly) away from a 3G/wifi and even GPRS signal for almost a week is hard going. There is free wifi at the main centres, and in the posher villas, but keeping a connection is hit and miss - at least was for me.

But at the end of the day, it's still a great holiday. Feeding squirrels from your hand out of your patio door, seeing hares, deer (we haven't this time but we have before) a multiple birdlife in the midst of a big forest, where it gets so dark you can really see the stars properly, and swimming in the open air on starry nights is fantastic.

Will we come again? Yes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cheaper to start again?

I think I've probably ranted on here before about the extortionate price of ink for inkjet printers. I read somewhere once that ink for these, ounce for ounce is probably more expensive than gold. Whether that's true or not I' don't know, but it's an interesting tale.

Anyway, what's clear is that when your shiny new printer runs dry of ink and you come to replace the cartridges, you'd better have your credit card with you, because the cost of doing so can almost be as much as buying a completely new printer!

I've recently experienced the same thing when buying replacement shaver heads for my electric razor. Three new cutting heads for my Phillips razor cost over £30. I can certainly buy a brand new bottom of the range electric razor for that money - quite why anyone would need to pay the £150 plus for a top of the range razor is beyond me (do they make tea as well?). And you'd get a bucket load of plastic Bics for that!

Anyone know of any other commodities where to replace a part to keep the original unit going makes you wonder if it's not worth junking the lot and buying a new unit?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

City going strong: Coventry 1-2 City

City triumphed at the Ricoh Arena tonight and in doing so tightened their grip on second spot, and narrowed the deficit to QPR to only 2 points after the leaders could only draw with the Jacks at the Liberty Stadium.

The Bluebirds, started with Coventry old boys Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd, and they got off to a flier when Peter Whittingham scored from the spot after only three minutes. Whitt's who's missed twice from the spot so far this term, made no mistake, his confidence heightened by his two goals on Saturday.

Coventry clawed once back just before the break, and despite chances at both ends, it looked like the points were going to be shared until Jay Bothroyd, touted for an England call up by manager Dave Jones scored in the 87th minute to send the City faithful at the stadium, on the radio, and like me catching up via tweets whilst in a cricket committee meeting, into raptures!

City now have a five point cushion over third places Watford, and are sniffing at QPR's coat tails. Some big matches follow, with Leeds away next Monday, then Norwich and the really big one, the Jacks at home on 14th November.

I'll settle for seven points from nine over that lot, providing three come against the Jacks!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

App karma

Following my post of a few weeks ago about the multiplicity of to do and note type apps on my iPhone, I think I have finally settled on a set up that seems to be working for me, far better than any previous approach.

For Notes I'm using Evernote. I splashed out on the premium version, mostly because I want to have my notes available at all times, not just when I have an internet connection. I'm using both the iPhone app and the cloud version on my Macbook Pro and PC, which works just fine. I've migrated all my others notes from others apps, and everything seems to be going OK. I like the way I can clip to Evernote from a web page using Firefox's EN plugin too.

For my to do app, I'm using Appigo's ToDo. I have to say I really, really, like this app. I've tried three of four (at least) other to do type apps, and all have their merits, but nearly all have substantial flaws (for me at least). the Appigo offering is great. It's neat and simple if that's all you want, offers lots of options if you want to, and I'm growing into it more each day. If you have an iPhone, and like to keep your to do list in order, I highly recommend this app.

I'm also finding that my app use is steadying down. Thought I've downloaded a couple of hundred apps over the life of my iPhone, I'm really only using a few in anger with any degree of regularity. They are (and this is only the order in which they appear in my homescreen, and exclude things like Settings, Mail, Messages and Contacts as I'd assume anyone would use those regularly:
There are loads more obviously - I have about 100 plus apps ont eh phone at the moment, but these are the ones I use as a matter of course on a day in, day out basis plus mail, messages, calendar, safari and contacts.


What is going on at Liverpool?

They've under performed for years, notwithstanding an an increasingly occasional Champions League Cup. Their more recent history under Rafa Benitez, Messr's Hicks and Gillett, and Roy Hodgson is the stuff of nightmares for such a big club.

Surely, this new deal with NESV will turn things round? Maybe, but not in the immediate short term. They were absolutely abysmal today against Everton, and I'd seriously fancy City's chances of giving them a good thrashing. Is Hodgson the man to do it with new owner John W Henry? I'm not so sure.

I hope they sort it out. I used to support them as a schoolboy, when everyone else in my class supported Leeds (I'm talking the days of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Tommy Smith and Steve Heighway here by the way). Even now as a Cardiff City fan for many years, Liverpool are still the Premiership side I always want to do well.

Video technology and offside

Now I'm not a great fan of Blackpool FC, seeing as how they beat us in the Championship Play-Off final this year, but you've got to hand it to them. They're making a great fist of playing in the Premiership, and for most of the game with Man City today, they were by far the better, and more entertaining side.

But, because definitely two, and possibly three big decisions went against them, they lost.

Tangerines boss Ian Holloway, always an entertaining person to be interviewed, aired his thoughts on the BBC website after the match where he, like millions of others is scratching his head wondering why football won't embrace video technology for key decisions.

Blackpool were way on top when their "opening goal" was ruled out for offside, although Taylor-Fletcher the man who "scored" clearly wasn't offside (I'll come back to the offside rule in a mo).

Then Man City scored to go ahead with a goal from Carlos Teves that clearly WAS offside, but that stood. Holloway's issue with the third decision, where he claims a foul on his centre half which led to Man City's second is more debatable, as 1) I thought Man City could have had a foul seconds before, and 2) the level of contact is almost impossible to see.

These decisions change games, but hey also change careers. A manager can be sacked if performances are poor, but what if performances are poor because of decisions like this?

And so to the offside rule. Confusing at best, this weekend has brought a rash of comments about goals scored when a player "technically" in an offside position, has been stood in front of a 'keeper in such a way as it "could" be argued that he's impeding the view of the 'keeper, but because he's not "active" he's not offside? Eh?

This weekend's example, and I'm sure there are more, include Gallas for spurs in their match with Fulham, an Everton player blocking Reina's view in the Merseyside derby, and even, dare I say it, Jay Bothroyd standing in front of David James in yesterday's Severnside derby (of course though it's all right if it's your own team (!). In today's Man City v Blackpool match, Taylor -Fletchers perfectly valid goal was ruled out because the ball had passed close by (but interestingly had not touched) another Blackpool player who was in an offside position when the ball was played, but who played no part in the goal (other than, presumably, the linesman, oops, sorry, assistant referee, though he was "active" (because he was on the pitch?) See above. Confusing? Sure confuses me.

This has got to be sorted. How can a player, deliberately and conciously standing in an offside position, bang in front of a 'keeper not be active in the game? As many a pundit would say, if he's not active, what's he doing on the pitch?