January 2005

In an almost certainly vain attempt to prove to Daniel that I’m not an irredeemable left-winger: How to draw the Union Jack. And, yes, it can be called the ‘Union Jack,’ even though a jack is traditionally a slightly different size of flag flown from the prow of a ship. It turns out that’s not a very old tradition, the use of the term has been sanctioned by both the Royal Navy and parliament anyway, and… read the site. It’s quite interesting.

Ever wondered what might have happened in your life if you’d gone the other way at some critical juncture? Craig Robinson has, and he’s illustrated it. Lovely.

Now, for what else did I use ‘Candude’ as the title? I could have sworn it was a blog entry, but there are no results from a search. Curious…

Pay attention at the back! My colleague Simon worked on Driven with Debs, who used to work on How2 in the first couple of years I did it. Debs, as it happens, is also working at IWC in Glasgow; a year ago, however, she was in Morocco filming a series with Sim, who made the second series of Science Shack with Jem, who I know through the first series of that show. Jem, of course, knows James, one of the prospective on/off-screen engineering consultants for Mechannibals. Simon’s girlfriend, meanwhile, is Melissa, coincidentally the solicitor who acted for me on my flat purchase; another of Melissa’s clients is Adrian, my boss on How2, through whom Simon ended up working at SMG roughly the week after I left, a year ago. Debs, Simon, and my current boss, Hamish, incidentally, once directed Gavin (then wearing his ‘actor’ hat) in an ident; Gavin and I are, by-the-by and through his current employers, trying to sell a series featuring Jack as presenter. Now, before Jack worked for me on The Big Bang, he made a Tomorrow’s World spin-off that used Kursty as a presenter; Kursty may be our presenter on Mechannibals.

I hope that’s perfectly clear. Oh no, hang on, I missed somebody…

Uh… yeah. Looks like I forgot to mention that here. Must have slipped my mind, or something.

On Monday, I started work at IWC Media, up here in snowy Glasgow, on a new series for BBC2. Titled ‘Mechannibals,’ it’s to consist of family teams competing to make the most ridiculous successful machines… by tearing apart their own houses. Yes, it’s evil. Yes, you should look away if you don’t wish to see unpleasant surgery on bread makers. Yes, it’s going to be a hoot. And yes, it’s a proper grown-up family programme, not a teatime children’s show. So yes, it’ll be harder for you lot to explain away why you missed it.

It’s all a bit of a shock to be honest; the job advert was posted a couple of weeks ago, I toddled in for interview last week, and yesterday I was chuckling at the pilot tape, wading through seemingly three years-worth of development notes, and lobbing ideas around with the engineering consultants. Today one of the APs flew in from north Africa (he’s just driven from Plymouth to Dakar in a knackered old Porsche, which is even more barking than it sounds); fairly soon we were mis-quoting Sun Tzu to each other. I think we’ll get along fine.

It is, however, going to be quite a ride. We start filming in around seven weeks, then it’s… moderately mad. The results should be on BBC2 in the summer – but if you really want an inside view, read the (not-quite-right-but-close-enough) blurb here, and think about volunteering. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Meanwhile, I’m delighted that my [cough] ‘dry spell’ appears to have at least temporarily abated. IWC are, by reputation, Good People, and indeed my boss appears to be a jolly sort. It is, of course, hugely good news to be extending my CV towards adult stuff again, too.

Glorious, utterly glorious screed against bunk in the Guardian. By way of example:

“What star sign are you?”

“I’m whatever sign whose prediction this week read, ‘On Sunday, a friend who has masqueraded as a rational human being for the 15 years of your acquaintance will stand revealed before you as just another cack-brained, gibbering fool swirling in a festering cesspit of stupidity’.”

[Update: Daniel has pointed out that I’ve known him for almost fifteen years.]

In a shocking revelation, Germaine Greer has discovered that Big Brother is more than a little unpleasant. Press coverage of her miraculous (re)conversion; summary of the critics‘ line on her participation.

As for bullying… twelve years ago, following a somewhat turgidly ranting public lecture, I enquired of a Cambridge academic if they’d seen the cover story in that week’s Nature, which somewhat comprehensively demolished the central thrust of their evening’s tirade (sadly, I forget the subject). I suppose I expected either a rebuttal, or an indication that no, they hadn’t seen the paper. What I got was a vitriolic stream of invective, questioning my right to raise any questions at all on the grounds of my youth, degree subject choice, and gender. It was as shocking an example of academic bullying as I’ve seen, the authority figure tearing into the naïve student, who had no right (nor stomach) for reply. The academic? Why, Germaine Greer, of course.

She’s occasionally funny and very occasionally incisive. She probably wrote some significant stuff some time ago. But enough, already.

The new Mac Mini is indeed $500 (£340). For the money, it’s downright superb, and it’s only a tuner box and some software away from being being a seriously cool video hub at some point later in the year. The only gotchas I can spot are that WiFi and Bluetooth are extra; it’s +£30 for the 80Gb drive rather than the stingy 40Gb standard; more RAM is pretty much essential; and a keyboard and mouse cost extra. Then again, the latter may be a good thing; sell previously-PC-users two-button mice from the start, and their main moan disappears. Oh – one more whine – my PowerMac desktop’s second-hand value just collapsed. But I can live with that. 🙂 The Mac Mini looks like a seriously good bit of kit, at a ludicrously low price. I’m hoping they sell them in the hundreds of thousands. Dad – this would plug into your giant monitor very nicely, then Mum could have the knackered PowerBook and all we need is a new flat-panel monitor, which could be only around £150 now.

The iPod Shuffle is also quite neat. A sensible solution to the whole problem of building an interface for cheap music players – don’t bother. And in so doing, make the price cheap enough that nobody much cares. Clever.

But I’m most impressed with Pages. Which is [modest cough] exactly what I speculated it would be, apart from the table/spreadsheet thing, and – apparently – it does do bibliographies. Page layout and beautiful templates for $79: rock on. Aside from basking in the apparent fact that what you read here was, evidently, closer to the truth than any of the rumour sites; I’ll be buying a copy.

Of particular note: it does widow and orphan control. Applescript permitting, this, with Tiger’s Automater, may be the workflow solution XML has been looking for. Which might, possibly, be Very Big Indeed.