2004 Archives - wibbler.com

Natural Born Disaster

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“It’s like nature has held a terrible secret, and has decided to reveal what it can do.”
Tommy Maung, volunteer
It’s time for the obligatory post about the Asian Tsunami. The devastation shown on television is extraordinary – so extraordinary, in fact, that my mother spent most of last night describing it as “biblical”. Certainly, as Boris Johnson says this morning, there’s no one to blame, nothing we can do to prevent it, so we may as well watch, wonder and help in any way we can. And there I was last night, watching, thinking how good it was that so many people were donating, never once thinking that I should be donating myself. I’ve got debts, I argued internally, and they’re far more important.
Except, of course, they’re not. It took my mother’s suggestion last night to spur me on, and this morning I donated ?50 to the Salvation Army.
So, lots of questions come out of this “biblical” event. And here are a few of the answers, in true internet-linky style.
What is a Tsunami?
Come now. Don’t you remember those geography lessons at school? If you were too busy flicking rubber bands at friends and enemies, here’s a good explanation from the BBC of the phenomenon.
So what happened this time?
Well, the BBC again comes up with the goods, with this description of how events unfolded.
Where can I see video footage of the devastation?
If anything will spur you on to donate hard-earned cash, the videos will do it. Waxy.org has all the videos and links he can muster – and he’s always adding more. Watch and wonder.
Blimey. Where can I donate?
I thought you’d never ask. Here’s a list of websites currently accepting donations.
I want more!
Easy, tiger. Try these links: Lost Remote, 2Bangkok, and BoingBoing.
UPDATE: For further incentive to donate, this may help. Warning: graphic and gory, but a scene that will be repeated many, many times over – and also one which may never be shown by the media.

Version 8 has landed

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It’s amazing what a few days off can do. My bedroom is tidy (you can now see the floor, which believe me is a fine result), and – yes, wibbler.com has been updated. This, fellow readers, is Version 8, and you’re welcome to it. Some bits have gone, some bits have been added, and other parts have been given the once-over and tidied. Have a look around, and contact me if you find any problems…

Merry Christmas Everybody…

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The presents are wrapped, the weather is suitably nippy, I’m surrounded by chocolate and the roads are completely empty. It must be Christmas! Have a great few days, and if you’re looking for Santa, this form (pdf) may come in handy…

Chance meetings

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It’s always nice at this time of year to swallow various prides, put aside any differences and cessate any negative feelings. It’s Christmas, after all. And that was precisely my frame of mind as I entered the gym last night, bracing myself for a vigorous workout that usually leaves my legs wobbling festively.
As I ordered a couple of Lucozades over the counter, the man next to me stared. After a few seconds, he piped up, “Just like to say congratulations on your website.”
“What?” I blurted, as I stared at the barely familiar face of a man keen to shake me warmly by the hand.
“We’ve all had a look at your Harper post, and we thought it was spot on.”
I’ve been congratulated by email several times since the controversial post reared its head more than a year ago, but never in person, never from someone that knows the deep workings and views of the people involved and whose only tool of recognition for me was the various photos on this site. I explained that my views were never made on that post – and have never been made public before or since. I was quoting others, and others were commenting on those quotes. The private investigators that subsequently phoned and emailed were only carrying out their job for someone that had plainly decided that free speech was a privilege, not a right.
Still, it was nice that this mystery gym visitor took the effort to speak up in support of the cause. Michel Harper is plainly a man with a good business brain, someone that has generated a lot of income for himself and the town. I’ve heard both positive and negative things about him. It’s true that he puts on a good show – I myself was in his Voodoo Lounge last Friday, although you may think me hypocritical. For all I know, he could be a genuinely good egg, as my good friend is at pains to point out. But this chance meeting led me to think – if so many people are disenchanted with their working experience at those premises, is it likely that they are all in error – or more likely that the one man who is the focus of their palpable anger is at fault?
Mind you, it’s too festive for those thoughts to be swilling around. I hope all those presents are wrapped and under the tree and that you’re all in a suitably merry mood. Hell, send a Boriscard if you want…

020 7360 1007 – the dirty swines…

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It’s not often I get called by a mystery number. So when I managed to miss calls from a London number this afternoon – 020 7360 1007 – while I was busy teleconferencing at work, it set me thinking. Who could it be? Those Channel 5 interviewers, telling me I’d made the cutting room floor? Boris Johnson, phoning for a quick chat of David Blunkett’s demise? Fond hope, I thought, and tried to call it back. It cut off before ringing. Odd, I thought. 3 further attempts also failed.
So, Google came to my rescue. It seems that the number is used by fraudsters to illicit money out of you, and faking their number so that you can’t call them back. Many others have been caught out, according to this blog. I’m unsure how it spins its money – maybe I’ve been charged for making those unsuccessful callbacks. Maybe if I’d picked up, I’d have been landed an astonishingly heavy phone bill next month. Another dodgy number is the less respectable 0870 011 04 15.
So, how to get rid of the little blighters? Well, the only way I’ve found is to ask dodgy sales callers to stop (they’re legally obliged to do so), and sign up free for the Telephone Preference Service. Or, as one poster said, tell the mystery caller, “Yes, that sounds interesting but first I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.”

LastFM – Geekery Done Good ™

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There are some geek moments that transcend geekery. I had just such a revelation tonight, as I discovered LastFM. LastFM is an online radio station that plays music that it knows you’ll like. It looks at your computer, looks and the music files and CDs you’ve played, and cobbles together a playlist not only of songs you’ve got, but also songs that other LastFM listeners with similar tastes have played before and liked. Thereby allowing you to find other music acts you’ll like with consummate ease. It’s utter genious, and is the next logical step from the people behind Audioscrobbler, a website that logs your played music and creates huge mounds of statistics and recommendations. In fact, for “people” read “person” – as far as I remember a student called Richard started it a few years ago for a university project while most of us were settling down to lifestyle of debauchery at the Student Union. From little acorns, Richard…

Morning Wreckage

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“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, shivering in the cold, misty morning, patiently waiting for an ambulance.
“No, I’m from Wales”, he replied. “We ski in the summer.”
Before us was a considerable vehicular mangle, the result of a car collision mere moments before at the crossroads on the A325 in Surrey. A car in the opposing lane had wanted to turn right, slowed, got rammed from behind by the following car, and was pushed into the Peugeot 206 travelling in front of me. I managed with deft control to swerve into a friendly bush, nudging the 206 as I went past. That touch meant that I was now officially involved – and here we were, waiting for what resulted in 3 ambulances and 4 police cars. The driver most seriously injured was wafting in and out of consciousness, crying “why today, why today?” to anyone within earshot. His car’s front end was virtually nonexistant, concertinaed by one of the cars. He had the appearance of a professional wrestler – bald headed, well built, and a worrying taste in clothes. It turned out he was on his way to a motorcycling test (which finally explained his astonishing leather-clad get-up) and that this was the worst possible moment to have a crash.
Is there any good time to have a crash, I pondered as my eyes tracked over to the second driver. He had merely being trying to turn right, the poor blighter, a fact he was repeating ad nauseam. He was an older, slighter figure, lazily dressed and seemingly unaffected by the crash despite being sandwiched between two cars like a burger in a bap. The third figure, skulking by his shell of a car, was the perpetrator – the student driver who had failed to notice the slowing car in front and had inadvertently delayed a budding motorcyclists’ dreams. Steam was rising, and oil trickling, from his Rover and it was obvious that it would join the other two cars in the Farnham car dump, never to be rammed into a car again.
And then, of course, there was my car – my wonderful new car. Now slightly damaged at the front end. The light cluster was pushed in, the scrapes from the earlier nudge and prickly bush were evident down the right flank, and the bonnet had acquired a curve not unlike that of a squatting dog. It was still drivable, thankfully, and I was eager to be off, held back only by the interviewing policeman who was ambling over to me. He took my details in an inordinately cheery manner, remarking at the satellite navigation and mentioning at length that he wanted a Peugeot 407 too. Finally he asked me to take a breath test. “Have you taken one of these before?”, he enquired, and I smiled as I relayed the seven times I had previously been asked the same question. “Red!” he said, “you’re over the limit!” Shock and bewilderment contorted my face in equal measure, as my mind relayed the events of the last twenty-four hours. Toothpaste, fish and chips, blackcurrant cordial – that’s all I’d had since lunchtime yesterday afternoon. “Whhrrr…?” I responded desperately. “Only joking!” he remarked. I savaged him under my breath.
The crash scene got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as I drove away down the road. Now there’s the hire car and the repair garage to sort out. There are distinct advantages to a company car.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

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The grey office buildings sped by as the train picked up the pace. I was busily reading the newspaper, trying to forget that in an hour I would have a camera shoved in my face and a TV crew hanging on my every word. I had been invited up to London to be filmed for a segment of an End of Year Show for Channel 5 and ITV, a fact which was in turn exciting and nerve-jangling. Boris Johnson had been sacked, I was deemed the foremost expert on him. Very good of them to think so, I said, and after goading from my manager and friends, I accepted their invitation. I donned my best white top, conducted an extra-through shave, and travelled up sharpish.
The graffiti on the line was getting increasingly tiresome, and I was pleased when Waterloo came into view. There was little time to amble, and I raced through the crowds and down the tube escalator, desperately looking for the Northern Line platform.
Within 20 minutes, and an astonishing 30 minutes early, I’d arrived. The venue was a posh hotel near Marble Arch called The Leonard, and I approached the reception desk with a air of superiority. “I’m here to be filmed. Where should I go?”, I asked, and brimmed with pride as I noticed the reverence I was suddenly being shown. I waited in the foyer, nervously drumming my fingers and rehearsing the lines I’d prepared on the journey up. Before long I was summoned to a large suite of rooms, and in the main room stood a large television camera, a large umbrella, a bright light and the producer. Both the producer and the interviewer were friendly to a fault, put me at my ease and told me that they may only use a little bit of my monologue, if any, as I was a late addition. They also were astounded at my height – and this caused considerable problems with the microphone and camera alignment. As they struggled to raise the height of their equipment, I went through the facts I had prepared. And then – AND THEN – the camera started rolling. I forgot everything. I tried reeling off Boris facts, witticisms and anecdotes, extolling the virtues of an all-encompassing Boris-led country, and managed to pull a couple of suitable passages out of the bag. However, everything I’d prepared went straight out the window, to my eternal regret.
After 40 minutes, my first foray into the media was over. I’ve no idea if it was good enough – in fact, even if it was good enough I’ve no notion of whether it’ll be squeezed into the programme. My fifteen minutes of fame may be over before I’ve even noticed…