September 2005 Archives
September 30, 2005
Scrap It! is out of studio. It's finished. Out of time. Done. Dusted. Over. We have -- to use the jargon -- wrapped. Hoo-ruddy-rah.
It was rather good fun in the end. All a bit mad, but much better this week than last. There are parts which will make me wince when I see them back in the edit, but rather more that will make me laugh. I'll be fascinated to see how it all goes together, and while some of it will doubtless be cringe-worthy, most's really not at all bad. And nobody got too snappy, we all had something resembling fun, and we're all still on speaking terms.
We didn't quite get everything done that we hoped to, but that's partly because we kept adding stuff. I'm confident there's a series'-worth in the can, and if I'm wrong we still have a contingency plan. But I'm seriously looking forward to the edit next week. In the meantime, however, I feel a very significant sleep may be in the offing.
September 28, 2005
This week, I'm filming Scrap It!, and as usual one of the weird aspects of being in studio is that one doesn't see daylight. Since about 3pm on Sunday, I've seen half-light early in the morning... and that's it. I've been aware that it's been raining -- hard -- since I've had to repeat takes to avoid particularly bad thrashing rain sounds seeping onto the audio tracks. But that's been my closest connection to the real world.
When it's all over, my list of desires runs something like:
- Sleep for a full night.
- Eat well. Specifically, eat lots of vegetables.
- Stand in the weather, whatever it is.
- Listen to the second half of the Today programme, rather than the first half or -- if things have gone really badly -- Farming Today.
Such forces have, one suspects, driven mankind since we first learned to walk upright.
The overnight figures for Mechannibals were, apparently, something like 1.5 million viewers, which is bang in that grey area between 'sinking without trace' (around 1 million) and 'recommission this now!' (around 2 million). However, it was up against Frost which evidently cleaned up, and the audience was skewed young, which is apparently causing some excitement since BBC2 engineering shows usually attract an older audience. Mind you, BBC2 engineering shows are usually fronted by Adam Hart-Davis, so... The audience had dipped from 2 million watching Top Gear, but matched that of Bremner, Bird and Fortune over on Channel 4.
I'm not at all surprised the assorted forum and messageboard posts are so negative, incidentally (see comments to this post for links), in part since the average position of Points of View in particular has always been on the lambasting side of negative. And to be fair, I'm not sure the reviews are entirely wrong. I'll be interested to see how the rest of the series turns out, since the Bognor shoot that went out first was unusual in being so emotionally divisive during shooting.
As I think I wrote months back, the assumption of the format as sold was that Wife Swap-style angst was vicariously enjoyable, but as the production developed it felt like it was turning more towards telling the stories of the machines. However, I don't know how it panned out in the edit, which is where the series is really made -- it could have gone in several different directions.
To be clear - I do believe the emotions on display last Sunday were an honest depiction of what happened. Building something like a shed-destroying machine, in two days, is an emotional journey, and a process that I think only Science Shack has tried to capture previously (maybe Now Get Out of That too, back in the 1980s). So there should always be moments of horror and struggle and disagreement. Equally, the families all wanted to win: some more than others, true, but they certainly weren't duped into the show. Indeed, some were rather alarmingly up for ripping their houses apart, and certainly most did so with rather more readiness than we wanted -- one needs a certain amount of reticence for the story to make sense!
I'm fascinated to see how the rest of the series pans out. I was there, but I've seen none of the other finished shows.
September 25, 2005
The BBC's attempt at 'Scrap-Heap Challenge' I presume.Tee-hee.
What an absolute load of c**p!
September 23, 2005
It's in the Radio Times and everything: 8:30pm, Sunday, BBC2. Yes, I know it's a weird slot, but at least it isn't against Corrie. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think -- due warning in the BBC2 listing. Also, there might be a bunch of reviews this weekend, which could go either way... if you spot one, please chuck a comment here. Ta.
September 22, 2005
We're playing 'Cake Face'; perform a facial impression of a biscuit, and invite your workmates to guess. Derek's rich tea was surprisingly good; Joni's ginger nut spectacularly angry. Sadly my sterling bath oliver rather failed, since none of my colleagues had heard of them. Outrageous!
Derek's trumped us all again, however, with his definitive fig roll.
Car back in the garage again. Keep your fingers crossed or offer a prayer to $DEITY. As well as the not-exactly-fitted 12V socket, it's picked up a rattle in the engine compartment that sounds exactly like a loose bag of spanners. It very well could be a loose bag of spanners, though one suspects even Mercedes-Benz Glasgow couldn't lose one of those in a Smart engine bay. Surely?
Meanwhile -- I met several NESTA folks yesterday. At the risk of sounding entirely sycophantic; if they're all that interesting/inspiring/entertaining, I'm astonished they get any work done. Lovely, lovely people; fascinating discussions. I've no idea if any of them go anywhere, but I've several things to think about.
September 21, 2005
Is rhyming slang reversible? I ask because somebody in the office appears to have nicked a colleague's supply of tea. Does that make them a tea-leaf of the thief, or...
Anyone who struggled through my recent rant about the Mercedes garage in central Glasgow probably knows what's coming when I say: I went in to collect the car today.
It goes back in on Thursday.
This time the right tyres were on the correct wheels, without the optional extras of nails and screws. However, they'd also replaced the burnt-out 12V socket as a warranty job. It still doesn't work, of course, and indeed wasn't actually fixed to the centre console. Not fixed to the extent that when I tried to plug in the air compressor to test it, the socket disappeared down the back of the dash. In fact, the entire centre console is now wobbly, with several bits falling off and out. A Merc technician -- the last guy in the service area, and hence the poor sap who had to try to effect a fix on the spot -- declared it 'a right pig's ear,' which is an equally accurate but somewhat more polite description than my own.
I've requested a full written record of all work done to the car this year, with dates and parts details (third request for same, incidentally). There will be letters. Meanwhile: top Google hit for 'Smart Roadster Glasgow.'
Zebra. An uncommon word, and yet one which -- sporting as it does such a glorious swashy initial capital -- should feature more often on this blog. Coincidentally, tonight I encountered the noble beast for the first time outwith a zoo. Somewhat surprisingly, it was on my dinner plate. Wrapped in tortilla, and smothered in rather too much cheese. Perhaps a good thing, however, since zebra turns out to be blandly sweet, a tad greasy, and not unlike -- I'm assured -- dog.
The wild boar was significantly better, however. Kangaroo as good as ever, if you like that kind of thing. Venison mightily fine, as is its wont. But the revelation was springbok, which turns out to be wonderful stuff.
I should explain. I went for dinner tonight with Rosie to Khublai Khan, an ostensibly Mongolian restaurant that is, one suspects, about as authentic as a pony that's had embarrassing whitewashed stripes painted on it and a sign hung around its neck reading 'Zebra.' Nevertheless it's an absolute hoot of an eaterie. A flat fee (£20 -- fair) gets you a starter, as many trips to the grill as you like, and a pudding.
The starters were variously bonkers. Alongside my aforementioned zebra enchilada, Rosie had some whacko marinated kangaroo thing with a cranberry relish, which surprised mostly on the grounds of the kangaroo being cold. Perhaps we should have gone for the yak ribs?
The main course is where 'bonkers' turns to 'entirely surreal.' Wander over to the grill, grab a balti dish along the way, and fill it from a procession of stalls. First up: noodles or rice. Easy enough. Next: veg, from carrots to beansprouts to water chestnuts to broccoli. Now: meat and fish. As well as the exotics, lamb and beef, mussels, prawns. Shark. That sort of thing. Then a vast and confusing table covered in pots and dishes, carrying enough components to make about eighteen billion different sauces, from fragrant thai-style coconut and lemon grass fancies to smoky cajun goop to bog-standard curry. Stare blankly, take a lucky dip... or follow the suggestions on the handy chart above the table. Finally, nurse the heaped ingredients over to the chef, who slaps the whole lot on a hotplate and paddles it around in front of you until it's done.
Now, this could be criticised for being essentially a jumped-up pan-asian takeaway, but the whole thing is carried off with enough insouciance that we found it a huge giggle. It's not quite clear if the owners really do have their tongues in their cheeks, but whatever suspicions one may already have are heightened by the sweets menu. This drops all pretense at the 'Mongolian' nonsense and settles for sticky toffee pudding, crème brulée, and (our choices) an orange chocolate mousse and raspberry and meringue crush. Both of which were fabulous.
While it would be perfectly possible to naff up your main courses entirely -- I was a tad ham-fisted with the chilli on one pass, oregano on another -- there's no denying the novelty value; it's not so much a 'fine meal out' as an activity evening that happens to revolve around food. Utterly mad, actually rather good food, excellent staff... and zebra. A hoot.
September 17, 2005
Some time ago I wrote about how I'd managed to free myself of unwanted junk marketing calls from Toucan Telecom. Interestingly, that post shows up (as I write) as the fifth hit in a Google search for the company. The sixth hit is another blog post on the same subject, and as I mention in comments there, anyone researching Toucan online before signing up with them is thus likely to read negative views.
Customers have always had voices, but now those voices can not only be heard, they can be found. For example, I'll be running frequent Google searches for 'Smart Glasgow' to see whether my last post crops up there. I'm already the fifth hit for 'Smart Roadster Glasgow'.
I'm no marketing guru, but I can't help thinking this is a big deal. Now we're all 'mystery shoppers', with the twist that our reports are public. This is, of course, exactly what Hugh Macleod is trying to twist to advantage with Stormhoek wine. The idea there is to -- quite literally -- give the product away to bloggers in the hope that we'll talk about it, and thus promote the brand as a secondary effect. Which is either cripplingly silly or unbelievably clever, depending on your point of view. And, indeed, the outcome.
Hugh's blog is worth reading on all this, and the core ideas are expounded in The Cluetrain. Which, by the way, I've always found rather hard reading, but I tend to think I should persevere.
[update 21/9/2005: my Toucan post is now the third Google hit for 'Toucan Telecom.' One place above Toucan's own site. Remarkable.]
Alternative titles for this post included 'Not very Smart' and 'Fscking Mercedes-Benz!' Just so you're warned.
If you've been following this blog, you'll know that my current car is a Smart Roadster Coupé (link may not work -- blame the D-C marketing department if it fails). It has its faults but I basically consider it to be cracking fun, surprisingly practical, and environmentally less awful than most alternatives that have more than two wheels. I would not, however, recommend the thing for one basic reason -- the local dealer.
To be fair, Leeds (where I bought the car) and Perth (where its first service was done) were OK. Not great, but OK. However, neither is exactly convenient, since I live in Glasgow. And Smart of Glasgow, the local Mercedes-Benz dealer... suck. In my experience they've been awful, and it's high time I blogged about them.
Earlier in the year, while I was in the middle of Mechannibals, I had to take the thing in for warranty work to solve a water leak. I never blogged the outcome of that, which was that after a fortnight or so I collected the car... and they'd done precisely nothing to it. The roof seals were the same, the rain-damaged rear carpet unchanged (and even more mouldy): they hadn't even washed it. The only discernible difference was a random bit of loose plastic tucked under the handbrake, the origin and purpose of which was mysterious.
A second visit ensued, initially estimated at a week but eventually taking five weeks to get right, under the personal supervision of the workshop manager and the head of the service department. A loan car was available (and occasionally taken, though as luck would have it I was mostly away from home with a company car). Not once was I called back when promised. Though as it happened the inconvenience wasn't great, I was singularly unimpressed with their 'generous' (sic) free tank of fuel. The full story's a bit longer, of course, but basically: they sucked. The leak was fixed, but it wasn't dealt with well, and we never did find out what the random bit of plastic was.
So I fully intended to have the second service, due now, done in Perth. Unfortunately I picked up a nasty puncture in the near-side rear last week. Ouch. Expensive, and driving up to Perth this weekend didn't seem such a good idea with a nail through the sidewall. The dealer's price for a new tyre was within a hair of Kwik-Fit's, so on Friday it went in to Glasgow for the service plus tyre. They called at five or so and rather brusquely said it was ready. Well, I was in studio, so I picked it up today.
Or rather, I tried to. Once I'd found some tissue to wipe the dirty great handprint off the roof and clean some grease off the door handle, I walked around the car. They'd splashed some water at it rather ineffectually and, mysteriously, changed all the tyre dust caps for bling metal ones that will get nicked before I've even parked at home. And there's a new tyre... on the near-side front. The rear tyre was almost flat, and still had a nail sticking out of it. Umm... what the heck?
So I storm back in again -- for those who don't know me, it takes a lot to make me 'storm' anywhere, but I was seething at this -- and demand an explanation. Not for the first time I see one of the service staff blanch as they realise somebody -- possibly them -- has screwed up. First they try to blame me for specifying the wrong wheel. Bad move. "The authorisation I signed," I say gently, as if to a small child, "specifies near-side rear. And I did sign it, unlike the last time you screwed up when I specifically didn't authorise any of the work you carried out." I'm not sure it's possible for somebody who's already blanched to discolour further, but this chap tried hard. The history of my car is well-known to the dealership's service staff, since most of them have been involved at some point.
All becomes a little more clear when they manage to fish out the tyre that should have been disposed of, but hasn't been because it's a weekend -- there's a dirty great screw through the shoulder. OK, fair enough, they've spotted something I hadn't: amazingly, the tyre hadn't deflated at all. The dealer staff seem somewhat relieved that this exonerates them. But hang on, I point out, the 'B' service is supposed to include a full examination of the tyres for pressures and tread depth, right? How come they missed the dirty great nail that's still in the side of the rear tyre, and the fact that it's visibly more than a little flat? Again with the grey faces. They passed a car as 'inspected' when it's clearly not safe to drive.
Meanwhile, the shoulder-screwed front might be repairable but in my book it's a hairy thing to do in that sort of location. I dislike taking risks with primary components, and a high-speed blowout is more risk than I'm willing to take. So sure, I'm peeved that I'll have to shell out for a second tyre -- but what ticks me off here is that the dealer has to order the thing in, and therefore I won't get the car back until probably Tuesday. Had they rung me on Friday, rather than apparently assuming I can't tell one end of the car from the other, this could have been avoided.
So, that's three visits to Mercedes-Benz Glasgow, and at least as many screw-ups. Once this current sorry chapter is over I shall not, of course, ever take the car there again. More specifically, I find it hard to believe that I'll ever buy another Mercedes or Smart. The cars are great -- the support is disastrous.
The contrast with BMW and Mini couldn't be greater. In almost three years of Mini ownership I can't recall any transaction with any BMW dealer that wasn't at least pleasant; the majority left me surprised and more than happy. It's not that they bent over backwards to do the right thing -- they simply did the right thing as a matter of routine, which is far more impressive. The customer service had the air of quality one expects from BMW's reputation; Mercedes' does not.
I love the Smart Roadster, but I wish I'd bought another Mini.
Hey, Damien -- you theme of transience and motion, you -- seen this?
For those who don't know Damien: as of rather recently -- or a few years, depends how you count -- he's a professional cameraphone photographer/artist. His blog LowResolution is hosted over on Deletetheweb. More recently, he's had an exhibition in Liverpool, and was the official cameraphone photographer at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention this week. Yes, you read that right. The event's been blogged and videoblogged by Gia, but I've only just found the blog address so I've lots of catching up to do.
Damien's just starting his own blog -- this time with words and everything. Add him to your subscribe lists and all that.
New from the MySociety genii:, the curiously-capitalised PlaceOpedia. Think Google Maps ∩ Wikipedia. Brilliant. Except that, as I write, all the links read '#needsJS' and hence it doesn't actually work. Doubtless it will, soon.
Also: YourHistoryHere, a very similar deal only for historical data. I can't immediately see why the two sites are separate, rather than having temporal metadata attached to the Placeopedia entries and then allowing filtering, but hey, what do I know? I'm frazzled after studio and not thinking straight.
Aha! Found a quote from Tom Steinberg thus:
This site is on limited circulation at the moment, and is only supposed to be a mySociety demo, not a big posh project like PledgeBank. It may not be obvious, but the most important feature of YourHistoryHere is the construction of an underlying system for collecting and sharing geographic annotations in an open syndicated format, so you can use the yummy local data people leave for your own purposes. We're building two sites that show how this can be useful, this one and Placeopedia.com, and we'd love to share the code for other ideas. Anyone want to build WhereIHadMyFirstKiss.com?
That makes more sense, then.
September 15, 2005
Reading that headline, I realise I may have raised expectations rather. Er... no, I've not asked anyone to marry me. What I'm referring to was this afternoon's State Visit to Studio by our Commissioning Editor, which is one of those events one dreads because It Could All Go Badly Wrong.
It didn't. She loves the set, thinks our presenter Will is terrific (and she's going to love Lynda, who's playing Nan), had very few script notes -- only one of which I took serious issue with -- and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the stuff she saw shot. Even though we were cooped up at the back of set shooting fiddly little items that were the dullest things we've done so far.
So I'm a happy little producer/director. The Boss has seen where her money's going, and appears genuinely delighted we've stretched it as far as we have.
On the other hand, it's still all going rather more slowly than it needs to, at least to achieve what we set out to do. However, the boss seems happy that we're doing the best we can, and while she'd obviously like to be kept informed she's OK with the concept of us making compromises as necessary to get it done. It's an experimental series, and I think she's now grasped what it is we're trying to do with it. Also, we think we know what we're going to sort it all out; I've been rejigging, and tomorrow we should have a better idea if we're right.
We've a week to pick up the pieces before we're back in studio again, so overall I'm very happy. We're having a blast shooting the thing, the unexpected pros and cons of making TV this way are fascinating, and hence we're learning heaps. Rock on, basically.
September 13, 2005
Too knackered to say much, but so far filming is going pretty well. We've had all the usual worries, plus a few more ('Do the pictures really look like that? They can't, can they? Eek!' followed -- a day later -- by 'Ah, no, the video line out is just shitty, that's all. It really looks like [cranks chroma] that.' 'Ooooooh purty!'), but we've cracked through some very fun stuff today. The plan, such as it was, is pretty much intact -- but then, the plan calls for a 'major format crisis' at roughly 6pm tomorrow. I'd say we're on schedule, but such things are never as bad if one makes prior arrangements.
So it's looking good. It looks cheap, right enough, but nowhere near as cheap as it really is, prompting some very interesting discussions about why this isn't as scarily long-term self-defeating as one might expect. Of which more anon.
The main thing is that it really is turning out to be a heap of fun. We all got tired late this afternoon (credit to Gavin for having the stamina of an ox and keeping his brain in gear when the rest of us had lapsed to autopilot), but somewhere in the middle there I was having an absolute blast. This lasted until I realised that some of what I'm doing isn't going to cut together very smoothly, but hey -- all the smart kids are cutting from static to moving shots these days, right?
Also, this blog received its first official recognition, in the form of a freebie bottle of wine from Stormhoek. On which definitely more, soon.
September 11, 2005
Balls. Risk assessment: I haven't done the risk assessment for studio.
On Thursday, one of my workmates defrosted her freezer... with a pointy knife. Bang... hiss... dead freezer.
Friday, another of my workmates did exactly the same thing, though to be fair her partner was wielding the knife. Both these colleagues live in the same area of Glasgow -- my neighbourhood, in fact. I recommend not stepping out for a few days, particularly if it's sunny. That much CFC floating around can't be a good thing.
I spent more time than I should have yesterday trying -- and failing, wrong bit of Glasgow -- to buy a Guardian. It was the last broadsheet, you see, and the last with that Garamond italic definite article which seems to have defined my typographic fancy for the last fifteen years.
Tomorrow's edition will be in the continental 'Berliner' format -- neither as large as a broadsheet nor as small as a tabloid, and a size the Graun's been gunning for for years. Consequently, there's a complete redesign. In the comfortable world of newspapers, this is A Big Thing. Risky, too.
Of course, this being the twenty-first century, they're blogging the first edition today. It all reads a bit like a PR person's dream of 'you're all doing marvelously,' but credit to them for letting us in on the story.
Some comments on the new layout from type geeks; I'm in studio tomorrow, so will likely miss the general reaction. Boo!
September 10, 2005
Since I'm getting into this whole 'camera phone' thing tonight: here's a snap of the studio last Monday. On the right of frame you can see the first flattage for the set, that went in even before John had finished drawing up the rest of the floorplan. The tables are strewn with props, stock and prototypes, and at the back you can see some of the students from Glasgow Met who are helping us out as part of a hastily-arranged industrial placement module for their second-year HND course (the idea went from first phone call to them sitting cutting card for us in something like a week -- credit to the course tutor for leaping at the idea rather than not bothering). On the left, in the orange jumper, is crack props-wrangler Joni, who's been doing her best schoolteacher impression and badgering the students all week.
So, there you go -- the Scrap It! studio. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the glamorous world of television.
Apologies, by the way, for the unexpectedly monster size of the images. Ecto assures me they'll be 144Kb, but then uploads a pointlessly 750Kb version anyway. Curious.
Physics. That's what I read at university: physics. My final year project was on the quantum measurement problem, and I was a damned good experimentalist too, though admittedly I was a crappy theoretician. Nevertheless, I sincerely doubt that my late tutor would have expected me to be, eleven years later, making things like this distinctly cutesy crab. On a Saturday. Professionally. As in: I get paid to do this shit.
It's a fun job. Not, perhaps, quite as much fun as you might reasonably expect -- hey, I was in the office for 11 hours on a Saturday -- but still... it beats working for a living.
I'm particularly proud of the crab, incidentally. I don't make that many props any more so I'm rather out of practice, and anyway I've never been good at cute characters. Yet somehow this little fella came together, and he only took about 15 minutes. He needs a couple of tweaks and a lick of paint, but he's basically there.
In the background is the first picture of our fabulous set to be published anywhere, ever ever ever. You wouldn't believe for how little money it's been lashed together, John Gorman (the designer) having done a startlingly good job, with the construction boys throwing themselves into the spirit of the show by scrounging bits lying around the workshop. I was wandering around it with one of the cameras last night, looking at angles, and it's going to be a dream to shoot. Assuming we can light it, that is -- but that's Monday's problem.
One of the clever things: there's a weird forced-perspective/wonky angles thing going on, which means the upstage shelves are much smaller than you'd expect. The back corners are, however, rather lovely to shoot in... except that there's no room for the cameras. But lo! There is, since the cameras we're using are dinky little ones. The whole set is about 15% smaller than it would have been with 'proper' cameras, which is part of how it came in on budget.
Monday is technically our first day in studio, though I'm choosing to call it a 'Tech Day' since I think it's going to be a bit of a shambles. Tuesday, then, is when we kick off proper. Wish us luck!
Since the test is pretty much rained off, at least today; Stick Cricket. Flash game: scarily addictive.
[updates: Whenever I play, Trescothick goes for a duck. Funny, that. Plus: why is Flash performance so utterly rubbish on Mac OS X?]
John 'Daring Fireball' Gruber loses it over the iTunes 5 interface, in the most hilarious manner. 'Most hilarious,' that is, so long as you're a hardcore Mac user who's been keeping up with the genuinely absurd number of different window styles that seem to make up the OS X interface these days.
For the record: I hate the pointy corners, but still love the frameless look.
September 8, 2005
Just in case anyone's worried that Apple have left themselves nowhere to go with the bizarrely-named 'iPod nano' -- they've still pico, femto and atto, at least. Though personally, I'd like to see an 'iPod yotta,' just for the hell of it. It'd be the Disaster Area of personal audio.
Incidentally, Apple claims to be selling 1.8 million tunes/day over the iTunes Music Store. I make that something like 6 terabytes/day. Woah.
Oh, and the quality of the H264 stream of The Steve's presentation today is stunning, at least over 2M/bit ADSL. Well worth tuning into for a spectacularly awkward iChat with Madonna, and the new iTunes 5, which looks uncannily like NetNewsWire.
September 7, 2005
Fascinating post by Joi Ito on village life in Japan, specifically on traditional roles following a death in the village.
September 6, 2005
Mitch Benn -- known to fans of The Now Show and, indeed, people who like people who are just plain funny -- has a single out: "Everything Sounds Like Coldplay Now."
[update 7pm: Richard tells me they've topped off their bandwidth. I wish I could claim a 'Daily Grind Effect' akin to Slashdotting, but the link was also on Metafilter today. I suspect that may have had a more substantial impact.
In unrelated news, Slashdot managed to slashdot their own site today, with this article. Which is gloriously self-referential an' meta an' stuff.]
September 2, 2005
Google is doing some weird things of late, and I'm not referring to their whacko stripped-down-Windows-only-and-why-would-we-want-another-one-anyway IM client. I'm talking results. For example, pages at The Daily Grind are the second hit for 'ugly wedding dress,' and the first for 'Ridgeback Genesis,' a type of bicycle.
A search for 'CITV,' the children's bit of national broadcaster ITV in the UK, quite reasonably produces the CITV homepage (warning: noisy embedded Flash) as the first link -- but the next result that refers to this particular CITV, 14th in order (update: up to 11th while I type this entry?!), is this story I wrote about the new CITV channel. Indeed, I'm the top Google hit for 'CITV channel,' which is ludicrous.
The lessons? There are three. Firstly: comments like the weird ALL CAPS one from 'hammad' can be useful in alerting one to oddities. Secondly: hiding web content behind Flash sites or login systems is self-defeating. Let me repeat that, since it's something I thought website engineers had learned years ago: hiding your content means that Google can't find it, and hence nobody else can either.
See, Ridgeback's site, while functional, is impossible to link to (frames? What is this, 1998?). If I wanted to point you to my bike -- and I do, I think it's terrific -- I couldn't. Bad bad bad. The story I wrote on it is rambling and mostly not about bicycles at all, but what I do say about the Genesis is positive -- so, happily, anybody doing their research will walk away with at least vaguely reasonable impressions. But really, they should walk away with a link to Ridgeback's site, not mine.
The CITV Channel thing is even more stark. There's a decent story at The Guardian Online, which is where I learned the news. But it's part of the Media Guardian area of the site, which is freely accessible once you've signed up. Result: no Google hits, and anybody looking for more information on the channel ends up at my site.
Folks, get a clue. Hire Hugh, or something.
The third lesson? There's something odd about Google's results, I just can't put my finger on it. But I've a feeling that if anyone does, they'd be able to take a big chunk of Google's market share. Lots of people were top dog in search before Google, and it's not obvious to me that Google will have the last word on the subject.
I have something of a love/hate relationship with my current car, a Smart Roadster Coupé. On balance I think it's fantastic, but at times it's borderline rubbish. Mostly, the quirks keep it interesting, and it screws the environment somewhat less than most other cars out there (not exactly grounds for feeling virtuous, but there's a relative aspect to such things). Whoever designed the gearbox must have really, really hated their employer, but the car's still a hoot to drive. Mostly as a result of the engine, which was clearly fettled by people with an altogether different sense of engineering aesthetics. It's a tiny, highly-strung, three-cylinder, turbocharged, wailing lunacy of a motor, stashed right behind the driver's bum, barely bigger than a bundled-up sleeping bag but with a somewhat different character. 80bhp from 700cc is quite impressive, and they're good for at least 105 with various insano-tune options, including a factory-fit version.
It has character, and even if that character is a bit moody it's still fun enough for me to enjoy the thing. Overall, however, I have to admit that my previous Mini Cooper was as much of a blast to drive, considerably better bolted together, and somewhat more practical. The Roadster isn't as impractical as you'd think, but I can't get my bicycle in it let alone three or four people. In short, the Mini was the better car, though there's a good argument that if the Roadster sported a 'Lotus' badge it'd be a modern-day classic with genuinely amazing residuals: it's not as a easy a win for the Mini as one might expected.
Here's the dilemma: I'm still rather attached to the whole concept. A car with relatively good fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions, that's neither rubbish on motorways nor, crucially, as dull to drive as watching cabbages grow? Well, pinch me, but I have sampled the future and it isn't entirely sterile. So... being a good little consumer, to what car do I aspire in oooooh... say eighteen months' time? Ignoring the most likely occurrence that I just keep the thing and run it into the ground, that is.
Another Roadster isn't an option -- production stops at the end of the year, and they've not sold well enough to expect a replacement based on the new Smart due whenever it's due, should they still go ahead with the whole US rollout thing. Going back to the 2006/7 Mini could work, but unless BMW pull some rabbit out of a hat with the new engine I can't see it going much above 40mpg except in the diesel version. It's heavy, see, and that's a Bad Thing with cars. At least until an SUV hits you, but at that point frankly all bets are off anyway.
But there's really nothing else like the Smart. Things like the Daihatsu Copen and whatever the open-top Ka is called just aren't in the same league, and certainly aren't equivalently practical. And I've seen nothing on the horizon that was an even vaguely similar idea -- surprising, given the whole 'trying not to mess up the planet as much as we used to' vibe towards which many of us stumble.
And then Mazda go and do this, the Sassou. A concept car that looks suspiciously like the sort of thing they might actually build. Small, sporty, hatchback... and clattering along on a one-litre three-cylinder turbo. OK, so the interior is the usual concept-car spaceship nonsense, but apparently the (USB!) key allows you to uplink flight plans and playlists, which is cool as heck and hence almost certainly wouldn't make the cut if the car headed into production.
Lots of other articles out there. At least one of which mentions a 'y-type twin-clutch 6-speed powershift transmission that is shifted using paddles on the steering wheel.' Which is -- the same sort of gearbox that serves as the Smart's achilles heel. Arrrghhhh!