Saturday, April 30, 2011

Budgeting by post-it notes

I have decided that i need to be a lot tighter with my spending and budgeting. Not that i am hard-up or anything but in October i am going to need to be able to afford my MA course fees so i thought it time to restore a bit of fiscal discipline to my affairs. Most moneys that go out of my account are fairly predictable being existing direct debits which i have listed on a spreadsheet however food and stuff bought for myself is different and sometimes it is hard to track how much i have spent on food and CDs et cetera every month.

Therefore i have begun an experiment where all spending in the food and (what i term) media areas will be noted on the wall over my computer using post-it notes. I decided to use post-its instead of yet another spreadsheet so i don't have to turn the computer on to know where i am.

So yellow post-its for media and orange for food. Each post-it is marked with the amount spent, the date and a few details on what was bought. This means i can at a glance see how much i have spent in either area and see how much of both is still remaining from my allocated budget. This hopefully will stop me going over budget and restore a bit of discipline to these areas. Maybe the government should try budgeting by post-it notes too, if it works of course.

Gloster Gladiator

My current model project is a Gloster Gladiator which i started last week. I have not mentioned it yet because the project has been a bit troublesome. Building was not ideal, the Airfix Gladiator is a very old kit and not to a good standard. Its very simple to build (like the Comet racer) but not put together very well. Painting has also been a bit troublesome with the white paint i am using rather poor and requiring at least 3 coats! Still it is starting to come together now and will be in mid-30s RAF trim. Next project will be a Fairey Battle.

Back to Coleshill

Another 4 day weekend, i really could get used to this.

Friday of course was Royal Wedding Day. As someone who is quite comfortable with the idea of Royalty even though being a socialist i found the wedding itself quite interesting though the coverage did go on a bit! I find all the pomp irresistible though the Royal Family does of course underpin the British class system which keeps the working class down which i am opposed to.

However this curious inconsistency is a family tradition, one of my ancestors was a card carrying Communist yet hired out his front room to the local Conservative party for their constituency meetings!

Today i went to Coleshill again, this time with my wife. She did not like it though as there were not any shops, bah! I took some more pictures of the church and around the town itself in any case.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring along the canal

Spring as is the season of course not metal spirals or leaping. With the blossom out and Mother Nature sprouting after the hard Winter it is looking really beautiful and lush along the canal near where i work so i thought i would take the office digital SLR out at lunchtime and take some photos. As its a much better camera than my own the photos look pretty good too.
One photo i am very proud of though is this one of a duck taking off. I'd never be able to take that with my cheapo digital camera. Maybe i should buy a DSLR then. Anyway the full Flickr set is here. Meanwhile you can amazingly see Cliff Richard drive a speed boat down the Tame Valley Canal in this movie clip!

The end of typewriters or not

Yesterday the Daily Mail (as well as many other news outlets) announced that the last typewriter factory, Godrej and Boyce in India, was "closing its doors" bringing to an end the age of typewriter production. A quick Google search reveals that story quickly spread to over 70 other websites across the world. And why not, its an important story indeed, the end of an era with a number of consequences. How are hipsters going to write their poetry now for example? There is just one problem with the story however, its totally wrong.

For a start Godrej and Boyce had already stopped production a couple of years ago but more importantly there are still quite a few typewriter manufacturers still in existence around the world, two in the US alone and others in Japan and China and probably elsewhere. It took me about 2 minutes on Google to find this out by the way.

I find this kind of lazy journalism appalling, i suspect Godrej and Boyce put out a press release about their stocks of typewriters getting low and claiming they were the last factory still around and it was picked up by someone desperate to feed the insatiable modern media machine who took it as gospel and thought "Aha the end of typewriters, that will make a good story!"

Its such a shame the writer did not bother to do any original research and now thousands if not millions of people around the world have read an incorrect story with corrections and retractions somewhat hard to find (rather apt as it involves typewriters perhaps?) I will be charitable to the original writer and assume they were lazy and did not go ahead with the story even knowing it was false.

Why am i getting het up about typewriters? Well i am not but unfortunately this kind of journalism goes on everyday with all sorts of stories, many of them far more important than typewriters and has for years. At least thanks to the internet those so inclined now can check facts for themselves but unfortunately the majority do not have the time or can be bothered to do so. However i wonder if this kind of false information is becoming more widespread as the media monster grows ever bigger and hungrier and the demand for stories grows and grows...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What works and what doesn't?

This blog is still very new and it is finding its metaphorical feet. As i haven't done a blog like this before (a true personal web log instead of a subject specific blog) i am still striving to find the perfect mixture of subjects and topics. The Sunday Fail repostings for example have stopped, it was a neat idea to be lazy and reuse old blog posts but the posts themselves seemed to jar against the rest of the blog so i thought i would stop them.

Of course a personal blog is all very well if you have the kind of crazy hipster life where loads of amazing things happen to you on a daily basis and you can drone on endlessly about how cool you are. Unfortunately though i am in the 99.9% of the population who don't have a crazy hipster life.

I could of course still write about my day in minute detail. Maybe detailing what i had for lunch but i don't think anyone would find that especially interesting but i had a lovely curry today made by my wife for dinner, a mackerel pate sandwich for lunch and muesli for breakfast in case you are interested? No thought not.

I could write about music but i have a music blog already, maybe i could write about the books i read? Well that sounds like it could have some traction though that would generate at most one blog post a week. So if i do that, make the odd post about things i do actually end up doing outside of the daily routine, post about pointless geek crap and go on the odd formless thought experiment that should keep this blog reasonably active huh?

EMACS on the Volker-Craig

Years ago (many years ago in fact, at least 20) when i was at Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University, my workplace of course) i got my hands on one of the leaflets created by Computer Services to assist us in using IT at the Poly. The leaflet contained instructions on how to use the EMACS editor on the Pr1me minicomputer we had access to if connected via a Volker-Craig VC404. For some reason i kept this leaflet even after the Pr1me and all the Volker-Craig terminals had long gone. Now it remains a treasured souvenir of my HND which i did at Birmingham Polytechnic from 1990 to 1992, in fact i think it might well be tbe only souvenir!

Just in case it doesn't survive another 20 years i thought i would scan the leaflet. Whether there are any Volker-Craig terminals still in use in the world anywhere is unknown but i like to think there may be some somewhere and so this information could be very useful.

Birmingham Polytechnic Computer Services Document #82 : EMACS on the Volker-Craig

Monday, April 25, 2011

My new Tumblr

I've had a play with Tumblr before and started a new one today. If you are not familiar with it Tumblr is (yet another) blogging platform though stands out from the crowd a bit by falling between traditional blogs and microblogging like Twitter. Its usually used for quick sharing of links, videos, ideas and the like and has inter connectivity built into its DNA.

The inter connectivity of Tumblr is key to why i want to use it. If i post to it then that post is automatically sent to my Facebook and Twitter feeds too so i only have to post cool stuff once. Lazy social media!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pillory and whipping post

This morning i felt in the mood for a walk and some photography so set off with some vague notion to head past Water Orton more or less due East of where i live and see what i can find. Eventually after a few red herrings i ended up at Coleshill. Why not stop here i thought as its been a while since i have visited this fine North Warwickshire town. I saw a signpost for the church and took a few nice pictures of it then i saw another signpost for a "country walk" and headed that way...

I'm so glad i did because very soon i was in fields, walking along hedge lined trails and even over a pretty awesome little bridge! I highly recommend this country walk to everyone and i shall return soon to try out some of the other paths. In the meantime here are today's photographs.

In Coleshill itself they have a few interesting historical sights including the place where criminals used to be punished. A pillory and whipping post now adorns the wall of one of the buildings. Who knows if society breaks down in future these medieval law and order tools may become useful again?

Apparently according to Wikipedia the pillory was used to punish bakers who short changed their customers. Get the bankers in there quick! Only one letter different.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Short back and sides or English meadow?

I cut the lawn in the garden earlier today, its not something i do very often. I prefer to let my wife do it if she wants, not that i am lazy but i have mown enough lawns in my time including my Nan's lawn in Shard End with a hand mower. Thats enough to put you off mowing the lawn for a life time and in fact it has.

In any case i am not a fan of short grass. It all looks too unnatural, managed and corporate to me. It might look ok in the grounds of a ruthless capitalist corporation or the garden of The Man but i am a socialist and I prefer my garden to look more natural, unruly and mysterious. Rather like my hair. The fact this means less work is required is purely incidental. I prefer the lawn when its longer and you have lots of wild flowers growing. Daisies, buttercups and the odd dandelion. Like an idyllic English meadow.

The rather patchy nature of the lawn however does ruin the effect a bit. Some parts have no grass at all and have been this way for years despite seeding with grass and other efforts. Elsewhere there is a ring of thicker grass growth. My neighbour thinks it is due to pixies, i think however it might be due to a dead body being buried under there. Well maybe i just read and watch too many crime dramas...

Good Fridays and sabres

Not been writing a great deal on here this week have i? Not a lot has been happening i guess but anyway Good Friday today. I went to the city centre early, too early in fact as i forgot shops don't open until 10am on a bank holiday. Its an ill-wind as coffee shops are open before 10 so i could wait for the shops over a nice cup of filter and a cinnamon swirl.

I always have a very methodological approach to shopping. I know what i want to get, i go in hard, achieve objective and get out before the flack starts flying. SAS shopping in other words. I needed a few model making supplies including some new varnish to complete the Sabre project and the result of that project is so:
Sabre completed!
And very nice it has turned out too! I also bought a couple of t-shirts as the temperature is steadily rising and my collection of stripey jumpers will soon have to be put away for a bit.

I bumped into a colleague in town as well which was nice but always slightly weird when you do that as it so seldom happens, but then again it is a big place. The world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Upheaval upstairs and downstairs

The BBC have an interesting infographic showing the comparative family trees of the royal couple ahead of their marriage in a few days. Kate Middleton's family tree is interesting as on one side of her family are coal miners and general labourers up until the end of the First World War and manual workers up until the mid part of the 20th century.

It should be noted though that this isn't that unusual. The 1920s saw a great social upheaval with many families moving up (and down) the "social scale". Indeed some of this upheaval occurred in my own family. In the early part of the 20th century the Grants in Aston, Birmingham were fairly big wheels. They owned a bakery and had a rather grand house complete with stables, servants quarters (complete with bells), two sets of stairs et cetera. Where all that went is unknown, my Mum was too young to know what was going on in the 1930s. The Luftwaffe may have had a hand in it perhaps.

Mind you they still had some brass. It is a bit of a hackneyed factoid these days about the Queen's coronation and people watching it on TV in other people's homes but my Nan did indeed have the first TV in her street in Shard End (they moved from Aston after the war) and the neighbours did come in and watch the pageantry.

Dentists and chimney pots

I had a day off work today, the main reason was because i had a dental check-up and as it was at mid-day i thought it would be easier to just have the day off. Anyway my teeth seem all fine, well as fine as a mouth full of fillings and cracks can be. My Mum told me that she pulls her own teeth out as she doesn't go to the dentist. She showed me three teeth she pulled out a few years ago, cleaned by now obviously. I am thinking this probably isn't normal behaviour.

Phase 2 of the day was to do some gardening. As i have mentioned before when i had the chimney pots on the roof replaced i asked the roofer to keep the old pots for me as i planned to use them in the garden.

Well i am doing just that! I bought some plants today, usually for hanging baskets but they might suffice as well for my chimneys. I placed some plants in the pot at the corner of my veg plot and also some in a second pot i installed nearer the house. Actually since this photo was taken i have put some plants in the smaller chimney insert (whatever you call these things).

When the plants start to trail down and bloom it could look all very nice indeed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sabre then Gladiator

My latest model kit project is coming along well, its a Canadair Sabre as used by the RAF in the 1950s. The photo shown below is a couple of days old. Now the canopy is on (though didn't fit that well to be honest) and more paint work has been done including on the wheels. I expect to finish the model in a couple of days. It is a nice kit that comes together pretty well (except the canopy).
My next project will be a Gloster Gladiator, yes i am returning to biplanes. My first two projects after i returned to the Airfix scene were biplanes and i did find them pretty tricky though i hope now my skills have been improved sufficiently so i should find it easier...

Sunday Fail : VFW 614

The VFW 614 is unusual for a couple of reasons. It was a German designed and built jetliner (though not the first) and also had it's engines on top of the wings instead of underneath like everyone else. The VFW 614 was designed to be a small regional jet and the engines were mounted above the wings to allow usage from rough airstrips. The first VFW 614 took off in 1971 (same as me incidentally).

Sales were slow however, glacially slow for a number of reasons. The VFW 614 was born into the early 1970s oil shock and also was affected by Rolls-Royce's troubles at the start of that decade.

By the time of the first delivery to a customer in 1975 only 10 had been ordered. In the end only 13 were bought by 3 airlines and 3 were also bought by the Luftwaffe, 21 being built in total though only 19 flew. The VFW 614 programme was cancelled in 1977. Those in airline service apparently did not last very long though the Luftwaffe examples remained in service until 1999. One remained in service into the 2000s with the German Aerospace Centre as an "in-flight-simulator" and had been fitted with Fly-by-Wire control systems though was replaced by an Airbus A320.

Picture from Friends of the VFW 614 website

It is a shame the cute little VFW 614 was not a success, in many ways it was ahead of it's time. The market it was intended for did not really take off (pardon the pun) until the 1990s. The programme was a costly failure for VFW Fokker but it did in the end prepare VFW for working on the Airbus project and we all know how well that has gone. A number of these good looking airliners are on display and one has been restored and cleaned up by the Friends of the VFW 614!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wandering around

This Saturday seems to be rather like last weekend. Like last Saturday i went and did my food shopping in Mere Green, bought a book from the charity book shop there and had a coffee. Later on i was driving along some country lanes in North Warwickshire. One difference is that i had my wife with me this time and i decided to travel to Kingsbury.

Why there? Well I've lived just off Kingsbury Road nearly all my life but never actually gone to Kingsbury (to my knowledge). Now having travelled through the town i just wonder why there is a road to it? I'll have to return one day and try and find out why. Maybe in centuries past it was a destination but i can't see a whole lot there now. I could have just missed it though, i do tend to do that when i am driving. And get lost.

Ah according to Wikipedia there is a 12th century church there which would be nice to visit one day. There is also an oil refinery and a water park though those are slightly more recent additions.

After travelling though Kingsbury i headed up to Tamworth (somewhere else i don't ever recall going to before) and we came across this rather lovely wooden horse on the outskirts. I didn't go into Tamworth though as i wanted to find out where Fazeley Mill Marina was. Its somewhere i want to visit as i am a keen canal walker and have lived next to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal for ten years. The marina is at the end of the canal before it joins the Coventry Canal.

For once i actually did find something i was looking for. Whether i can find it again one day is another matter but i'm sure to give it a go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Return to the Wild West

I read a lot, much of it fiction. Thats why i love my Kindle so much of course. On that (and dead tree volumes) i tend to read Star Trek novels and Scandinavian detective stories of course though occasionally i read something else. In fact last week i read a Nancy Mitford novel (Highland Fling), and it was very good though totally different to what i usually read of course.

One kind of story i used to read a lot were Westerns, i used to be an avid reader of books by the likes of JT Edson and Jim Slaughter. Many of these books i borrowed from Erdington and Shard End public libraries (readers who come across this blog post in some future archive may not know what a library is as the Tories are currently trying to abolish them but it was a way to borrow books for free).

I haven't read a western for years though but that changed when Jim Slaughter popped into my mind (as random things so often do) and of course within 5 minutes i was on the Amazon website buying one of his books (a second hand hardback older than me, though was only a couple of quids). Later on i also bought a Kindle-ified western story (Armageddon at Gold butte) for a similar price and that story i am reading now.

I think i prefer having my head in the stars but its nice to return to Terra Firma now and then, even if the setting of a Wild West gold rush town is probably just as strange as Deep Space 10. Though you probably get less Andorians.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


After months of "umming" and "ahhing" i have finally made a decision about my future academic career and signed up for a Masters degree... actually no that is a lie i knew it was going to do MA History with the Open University at least a month ago but just didn't get around to actually signing up for it! Still thats done now and i shall be a student again on the 1st of October (assuming they accept me and i can't see why not).

I think it will take about 3 years to do the Masters, half the time it took me to get my 2:1 BA Honours with them but i guess it will all be at a higher level without the need for the introductory stuff but i am ready. This was my long term goal really when i started my OU career over 6 years ago, BA, MA and then PhD? And then have my own history programme on Channel 5. Well maybe not the latter.

I am looking forward to it though maybe not the TMAs again and the dissertation i will have to do eventually i shall try and keep from my mind for now.

I'm also going to have some Flash training for work next month at the NTI. Of course Flash is kind of yesterday's news but i have requested this training for years so its better late than never!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Fail : Nuclear Bazookas

Sometimes people joke about a "nuclear hand grenade" well here is the nearest thing to it, the nuclear bazooka, a weapon that did enter service but maybe we should be thankful that it never had to be used...

The idea is simple: a very short range tactical nuclear weapon that can be used against fast approaching enemy troops. Weapons like the Davy Crockett (US Army) and Wee Gwen (British Army) were designed in the 1950s as a way of halting Soviet ground forces and buy time for NATO to regroup.

Davy Crockett was amazingly thus a nuclear recoiless rifle projectile with a range between 2-4km. Obviously the nuclear warhead of such a device had to be very small otherwise it would be destroy the defenders too. Davy Crockett had at it's core the W54 warhead which was the smallest ever produced by the US. The warhead had a yield of between 10-20 tons of TNT (0.01-0.02 kilotons) but a major part of the weapon's effect was the radiation produced that would leave the area of impact uninhabitable for 48 hours. As such it was one of the first neutron bombs though the term was not used at the time.

This radiation hazard proved even more important when the weapon was tested and found to be highly inaccurate. Anything 400m from the blast was likely to receive a fatal dose of radiation even at the lowest yield setting though 550m was considered the minimum safe distance for friendly troops. The margins were a bit tight though as 500m would cause sterility and a lack of co-ordination. Contrary to myth the blast radius was not greater than the range of the weapon so it was not a suicide weapon, in fact the blast radius could be as small as 200m

Davy Crockett was used by the US Army between 1961 and 1971. The British Wee Gwen never entered service and proved very controversial with the Army who considered weapons like it and the Davy Crockett unsound because of the difficulties it would create with command and control.

The inaccuracy was maybe the main problem with the Davy Crockett, because the blast radius of the weapon was small it was likely the defenders would have to fire a lot of the weapons to try and halt a determined mass Soviet attack. The further the projectile was fired (and thus safer to defending soldiers) the more inaccurate it got too. Well you see the problem there.

Because of the inaccuracy troops would have to fire more against concentrations of the enemy to try and ensure a hit and lets just say there were cheaper warheads they could have fired. Never mind less hazardous!

Return of the blimp

Hey while i was writing that last blog post i happened to look out of my window and the airship had returned! How sinister. It also circled over the industrial estate opposite my house as if looking for prey before heading off into the distance.

OK its a Goodyear blimp not one of the Kaiser's zeppelins but i have a good imagination.

More farm track wanderings

Not that i want to get onto the nostalgia hyperlocal thang again but one reason i love living here is despite living in the Second City i am only about ten minutes drive away from farmland. Quiet country lanes that were delightful on a sunny day like today but no doubt a nightmare in the dark. Today i went a-wandering around a few country lanes in-between Minworth and Curdworth. I got plenty of worth out of that and took some nice photographs.

Other than that it has been an uneventful day. I did see an airship in the distance which appeared to be over North central Birmingham for some reason. I was surprised how fast the airship can move. This puts me in mind of a story idea i once had for an Edwardian adventure involving zeppelins hunting people down.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Growing chimneys?

As well as walking the bridleways of medieval England i also did some gardening. I sowed some chives seeds though their "use by" date was 2008 so i would be surprised if much sprouts. The biggest project today was to install the first of three chimney pots i am going to place in the garden as some kind of feature.

The chimneys come from my own house, when i had a roofer some and do some work on the roof (which will no doubt fail miserably to last the 5 year guarantee as usual, but i'd have lost his details long before then as usual) i had the chimneys replaced by aluminum pots. The roofer gave me some bull shit about them being too heavy for the roof but i agreed to that aspect of the job as i wanted those old clay pots for the garden! Mind you they are quite heavy.

So here is the first installed, i shall have something flowery hanging out of it at some stage. Its next to a plot of sowed lavender seeds so if that comes up then it will be a jolly nice part of the garden. Hope springs eternal. My radish plot are sprouting though so you never know, i suspect there is more chance of growing some baby chimney pots though.

Bridleways of England

It being a bright and sunny day i had a most enjoyable walk along a public bridleway between the Tamworth Road and Withy Hill on the edge of Sutton Coldfield. Of course i took my camera with me and you can see the photos here.

This is all Merry old England of course, i imagined myself a Gentleman of the road... oh wait that means a tramp. How about an honest Yeoman? Thats better. A Yeoman traveling along the hedgerows and ancient trees of the local Lord. My life in a knapsack, the ground for a bed and the stars for a blanket. Hmm we're verging on vagrant territory again. Well anyway something like that. Traditional, nostalgic and romantic... without being a tramp. Aha i got it...

Some way along the bridleway i came across a lonely house hidden amid a mini forest. I wonder if this house was occupied, i would so love to live in a house like this. Hidden amid the trees with fields of corn and barley all around. At night you must get a reasonable view of the stars though the nearby M6 Toll means you could never escape endless road noise.

That matters not as you get plenty of the joyous sounds of nature. A flock of birds and maybe the occasional moo of a cow (not that any animals were around). I could imagine myself having an idyllic existence living in the fields. Probably get a rubbish broadband speed though.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hyperlocal nostalgia

It seems I am Mr Nostalgia as that tag on this young blog is now in the lead (and this post will increase that lead, natch). Actually earlier today i had a sudden feeling of nostalgia as i traveled to work maybe because its territory i have traveled so many thousands of times before.

Although i have traveled to the other side of the world quite a few times i have lived within the same Birmingham postcode area since 1975. Since 2000 in my own house but thats got a postcode only 2 letters away from my parents'. To makes matters worse (if indeed it is a problem) i have spent 15 years at Birmingham City University, my workplace, though the first 5 years as a student. Just for a bit of variety I did spend just over 5 years working in the city centre inbetween graduating and going to work at BCU.

So if you were to trace my movements over the last few decades on a map the lines between Erdington and Perry Barr would now be so thick it would no doubt tear the map or at least destroy the universe.

So why didn't i go anywhere? Although other people did, indeed my best friend now owns most of America, maybe i never felt the need. This is my "territory" that i inhabit. I travel through parts of Witton every day, not far from where my Mum was born. My grandfather worked at a mine in Hamstead so probably traveled through where BCU is located now everyday.

You see the family history is everywhere, i really should write a book on it one day. The church near the Villa ground is where my Nan got married and Mum was Christened. The Edward VII pub i often pass on the Lichfield Road used to one of the family's main hangouts before the war. In the ceremony that overlooks Perry Barr my grandfather and uncle were buried. Sometimes i walk on the playing fields next to the primary school i went to. To get to work every day i pass the site i failed my A levels. You see it just goes on and on.

I could in fact go on and on so shall. Some of my Nan's siblings were (according to the 1901 census) "rubber workers". Its reasonable to assume they worked at Dunlop. If i look out of the window to my right i can see the roof of... Fort Dunlop, now of course a swanky hotel and entertainment hub. When my Mum was young she stayed at an Aunt's for awhile. That Aunt lived in Pype Hayes, thats literally just up the road from where i live. In fact another Aunt is apparently buried in the churchyard just off Erdington High Street.

So this is where my ancestors lived and worked and now i am here too. It does maybe sound a rather insular existence though i am not like the proverbial peasant who never leaves his village. I like going to other places but i like to get back home afterwards much more. Its where i feel comfortable, maybe the only place. Perhaps this area is a magnet drawing me back after i have been dallying elsewhere. I can go away but quickly need to return and recharge.

Its memories, its heritage and it defines me. Nostalgia for a lifetime in one place. Hence i am Mr Nostalgia.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Big Brother returns

Is this legit? It seems so. Big Brother bowed out with a slow drawn out fart last Summer on Channel 4 but has apparently been resurrected and will return on Channel 5 this Summer! To be honest i was a BB addict for the first few seasons. The first season started not long after i moved into my house and back then i didn't have Sky or cable so Big Brother filled the usual Summer TV void.

It was addictive viewing back then of course, the iconic Nasty Nick and later on Jade who became probably the only bona fide star out of Big Brother UK. For the first 3 or 4 series i watched religiously and could probably list every single housemate for you. I bought Dean's novel about being in the BB house (which is a jolly interesting read by the way). I even bought the first 2 series on DVD...

By about series 5 or 6 (its hard to remember now) my interest faded rather quickly and for the last few series i was content to just see the opening night and play housemate stereotype bingo. I did harbour a dream about being a housemate myself once, maybe thats still possible.

So this new series, i hope they take the opportunity to totally reboot the format, trying to bring Davina in for example would be a mistake (in my view Ch4 should have got rid of her after series 5). I wonder what we can expect from the new series, well apart from sleeze and inanity. I guess thats enough!

I did once plan a novel (or collection of short stories) based in the Big Brother house. In one story a gangster on the run from the police underwent plastic surgery and entered the house to establish his new personality. The police sent their own man in to try and work out who the gangster now was. I later reused that idea in my comic series as Dino Big Brother.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


As this blog is starting to take off i have decided to reposition it and my music blog. (I work in marketing so i use words like "reposition" with a straight face). My music blog was a blog for creativity and included everything from CD reviews to my model kits. All but the music and graphic novel reviews will now be moved to this blog instead. So i'll write about my badly made model aeroplanes and endless photographs of canals here from now on. Legacy posts i'll leave on there (apart from a couple i have already moved).

So thats all very exciting and will help to strengthen the brands of both blogs (more marketing nonsense, natch).

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Star Trek character should you be in bed?

I found these wonderful videos by Emma Jolin a while ago, in them she discusses an aspect of relationships with some of her friends. This one is about which Star Trek character to be should you decide to do some roleplay in bed. Captain Janeway seems the popular choice though as a DS9 geek i'd go for Dr Bashir who seemed to get plenty and being British i can maybe do his accent.

Episode 9: Star Trek Roleplaying in Bed

Emma | Myspace Video

Adverts of yesteryear

A new occasional series, some adverts from old publications that amuse (me anyway).

My air force

I thought i would blog about my small but growing armada of aeroplanes. Models of course not real ones. As i recounted in my blog article about the Tiger Moth i started making Airfix kits again after a gap of over 20 years (apart from one interlude in the early 2000s when i made a MiG-17) because i had planned to buy a Tiger Moth kit for my Dad but never got around to it before it was too late... Later on after he had passed away i decided to build it myself as a tribute to him.

So it all started from there and now i have built 14 kits. With one exception they are all British aeroplanes and mostly from 1930-1950. For a while i had a theme of building the RAF decade by decade but now my choice of kit is a bit more relaxed. Building aeroplanes of this type and from these eras is all part of the general nostalgic mood i have these days perhaps.

After a couple of biplanes (which i have found hard to be honest as i am not the most dexterous of people) i have stuck to good old monoplanes. Mostly piston engined aircraft though there have been a few jets. In a departure last year i also did a Bloodhound SAM.

Spitfire IXc

Now i am into my third "season" of making kits (where i make them is unheated so its a bit cold and damp to do much during the Winter). So far this year i have made a Bf109 and a Comet Racer and have a F-86 Sabre (RAF of course, natch) and a Gloster Gladiator lined up for the next couple of projects. The latter will be my first biplane since my first couple of projects, hopefully in the intervening dozen or so projects my skills will have been honed so i find it a bit easier!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Fail : Convair 880

As well as the miltary-based Sunday Fail series i am also going to recycle my "Not Classic Airliners" series which was on yet another now defunct blog and presented commercial airliners which never made it. And here is the first episode...

It is pretty much forgotten these days but back in the classic days of Boeing 707s, Douglas DC-8s and Vickers VC-10s you also had Convair's attempts at a jet airliner. The Convair 880 was not a success though and only sold 65 examples. The 880 was faster than the 707 but also more expensive to run and even back in the cheap oil days of the 1960s that was more important. General Dynamics made a huge loss on the 880 and it's sister airliner the 990 athough one was sold to Elvis as his personal plane. By 1975 none were still in service with major airlines though a few continued in service as cargo airliners or with smaller airlines and in one case a test plane for the US Navy until the late 1990s.

I've always thought it was one of the best looking jet airliners. None are flying nowadays but a few still exist around the world, one in Portugal now serves as a strip club apparently. Despite only 65 being sold it was involved in 17 accidents and 5 hi-jackings so it was not a lucky jet.

Photo from

Saturday, April 2, 2011

TOTP 1976

I so love BBC4, if i was in charge of a TV channel it would look largely like BBC4. Euro-dramas like Wallander and The Killing and now pure nostalgia with a year's (at least) worth of Top Of The Pops starting from 1976 (which is when they started keeping the tapes i guess).

So from April 1976 we have a chart topped by Brotherhood Of Man, ABBA, Barry White and 10cc. The Beatles also appeared three times in the top 30 for early April which was interesting, i didn't realise they had so many single reissues. I was only vaguely aware of music (and indeed anything) back in Spring 1976 as i was 4. My earliest memories come from around then though, sat on the bus with my Mum singing "Yes sir thats my baby" no doubt to the delight of other passengers.

Pan's People? Whats that all about? Well a dancing troupe obviously but their performance of "Jungle rock" was equally bizarre and awesome. As well as the girls we had a collection of people in animal costumes of varying degrees of awfulness, including a camel and a kangaroo. In the jungle. Pan's People were quite good though i preferred Hot Gossip who came later on, obviously i'd never admit that in public.

In truth the TOTP repeats have begun in what is not quite a golden age of pop and the first show opened with "Girls girls girls" by Sailor, the kind of pop shit that needed to be destroyed. Punk rock kindly obliged soon enough.

Now Tina Charles is a singer i'd like to see in these TOTP repeats, judging by this clip she should appear around Christmas...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tiger Moth

Yesterday i bought a Haynes manual on owning and maintaining a Tiger Moth biplane. Of course i am unlikely to ever own such a wonderful thing but it is a very nice book packed full of the interwar nostalgia i am currently obsessed with.

I find the Interwar Period one of the most fascinating in history, the world emerged from one of its darkest ever periods and within years the world (or parts of the West anyway) was swept by a wave of optimism, modernism and joy. However by the middle part of this period the world was facing economic collapse which led to the rise of a darkness and a war that even eclipsed that which had happened before. Its also the period where the British Empire reached its greatest extent yet within a few years was falling apart.

I've always liked some of the style of this period, women with those short hair cuts and cloche hats, art deco and of course the machines like the Tiger Moth.

Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth is an icon of the Interwar Period. My Dad told me he flew in one when he was an air cadet. I did think of buying him an Airfix kit of one when the company relaunched but he died before i had a chance to. In late 2009 i bought the kit for myself and built it and since them have built quite a few more. When i was a kid i built dozens of models though i seldom painted them and usually they were a bit rubbish, these days i can afford paint and proper tools and sometimes they turn out half decent.