Friday, August 31, 2007

Maps Satellite and Digital

Like many people when Google Earth first came out I immediately looked for my house. In London I could clearly see the magnolia tree in the front garden, next door's car parked round the corner and even the road markings on the street outside our house. Amazing!

Next I went to look at the Hovel-in-the-Hills and what a disappointment. The photo seems to have been taken with a box brownie strapped directly to the satellite. Way up high and fuzzy with no detail, certainly not enough to even make out any individual buildings.

But recently they have uploaded some much more detailed pictures and suddenly we can see our house even if we cannot make out any details. The white patches to the West and South are the two fields created the year before last by the rock muncher.

View Larger Map

But beware the digital map version. It show gaps where there are roads and shows roads where there are bramble filled paths between two stone walls. Jim's Sat Nav sent him into the middle of a nearby cement works!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maps Ancient and Modern

Ever since we took ownership of the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ we have been looking for decent scale maps of the local area.

The "Istituto Geografico Militare" promised 1:25,000 (4 cm to 1 km or 2½ inches to 1 mile) but when we investigated they turned out to be discontinued. So instead we went for the 1:50,000. We are near an edge and so ordered two; one arrived and the other was out of print. And the level of detail is nothing like as clear as the Ordnance Survey maps. Pretty useless but we framed it and put it on the wall anyway.

Conversely the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 series are readily available in all good bookshops, specialist leisure shops and online from their website. In fact the OS go all the way to 1:1250 for business purposes and also do historical maps. For Wandsworth they even do an 1866 map at a quite extraordinary 1:1,056, that is 5 feet to the statute mile! Which I bought.

You can see every outbuilding, drinking fountain, fence and field boundary, even the garden paths are marked in the bigger houses. Our house is there - both the original building and the later rear extension. So we now know that extension is at least 1866 and the main house, obviously, older than that.

Now all I need to do is get back down to the library and that 1851 survey to get a positive fix on our property. Easier to do now I can match the census house numbers to the buildings on the map.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bathroom Update (3)

Friday the bath arrived and the plaster starts to dry out. Monday the shelving unit was installed over the cistern. Tuesday the tiler started work on the walls.

bathroom with bath bathroom with shelving and tiles
Bathroom with bath, shelving and tiles

Even though they are moving along it is good that we have a shower and a second loo downstairs otherwise it would be off to work via the gym for a shower.

Previously: Bathroom Update (2), (1), (0)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Putting on The Ritz

In the UK when you go self-employed it is more tax-efficient to be a limited company. When I left CSC back in 1999 the company name "M&M Enterprises Ltd" was already taken so I had to be "M&M Enterprises (Consulting) Limited".

Earlier this year "M&M Enterprises Ltd" was dissolved freeing up the name and the possibility to rename our company back to what we had originally wanted. To do this we had to pass a special resolution at a general meeting of the directors (i.e. Me and Mary).

It is, of course, important that refreshments are available at a board meeting so we held it at The Ritz, in the restaurant. And very fine six-course refreshments, with a different wine to match each course, they were too <G>

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's Only Rock'n'Roll But I Like It

Went to see The Rolling Stones at the O2 last night and it was absolutely *expletive*deleted* brilliant!! Nearly 2 hours of non-stop greatest hits starting with Honky Tonk Women and ending with Brown Sugar by way of, amongst others, Paint It Black, Midnight Rambler, It's Only rock and Roll, and a stonking version of Sympathy for the Devil (whoo, whoo!).

We were at the far end of the arena directly facing the stage. Thank goodness for the large screen behind the stage, it showed Mick's every last gyration. I just hope I have his energy when I am 64, heck I wish I had that much now :-(

Even with the big screen I preferred to watch the small figure on the stage. To me it makes more (emotional) sense to focus on the real flesh and blood presence otherwise I might as well watch a DVD.

Then half way through the set a surprise. The whole centre section of the stage rolled out across the arena floor with the band on it till they were right up our end of the arena where they played a few numbers before wheeling back again. An excellent view of the band <cheesy grin>.

As an O2 subscriber I got access to the O2 lounge before (and after if we wished) and to the Blueroom during which was handy as the queues for the public bars were huge. The staff, the "O2 Angels", are well trained or well recruited - all very friendly and helpful (and young and pretty). Even ignoring the ego-stroking "exclusive" marketing appeal it did add positively to the whole experience.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Product Survey

Thank you for purchasing a Lockheed Martin military aircraft. In order to protect your new investment, please take a few moments to fill out the warranty registration card below. Answering the survey questions is not required, but the information will help us to develop new products that best meet your needs and desires.

[_] Mr. [_] Mrs. [_] Ms. [_] Miss [_] Lt. [_] Gen. [_] Comrade [_]Classified [_] Other
First Name: ......................................................
Initial: ........
Last Name: ......................................................
Password: .............................. (max 8 char)
Code Name: ......................................................
Latitude-Longitude-Altitude: ........... ........... ..........

2. Which model aircraft did you purchase?
[_] F-14 Tomcat
[_] F-15 Eagle
[_] F-16 Falcon
[_] F-117A Stealth
[_] Classified

3. Date of purchase (Year/Month/Day): ....... / ....... /.......

4. Serial Number: .................................................

5. Please check where this product was purchased:
[_] Received as gift / aid package
[_] Catalog showroom
[_] Independent arms broker
[_] Mail order
[_] Discount store
[_] Government surplus
[_] Classified

6. Please check how you became aware of the Lockheed Martin product you have just purchased:
[_] Heard loud noise, looked up
[_] Store display
[_] Espionage
[_] Recommended by friend / relative / ally
[_] Political lobbying by manufacturer
[_] Was attacked by one

7. Please check the three (3) factors that most influenced your decision to purchase this Lockheed Martin product:
[_] Style / appearance
[_] Speed / maneuverability
[_] Price / value
[_] Comfort / convenience
[_] Kickback / bribe
[_] Recommended by salesperson
[_] Lockheed Martin reputation
[_] Advanced Weapons Systems
[_] Backroom politics
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8. Please check the location(s) where this product will be used:
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[_] Central / South America
[_] Aircraft carrier
[_] Europe
[_] Middle East
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9. Please check the products that you currently own or intend to purchase in the near future:
[_] Color TV
[_] VCR
[_] ICBM
[_] Killer Satellite
[_] CD Player
[_] Air-to-Air Missiles
[_] Space Shuttle
[_] Home Computer
[_] Nuclear Weapon

10. How would you describe yourself or your organization? (Check all that apply:)
[_] Communist / Socialist
[_] Terrorist
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[_] Neutral
[_] Democratic
[_] Dictatorship
[_] Corrupt
[_] Primitive / Tribal

11. How did you pay for your Lockheed Martin product?
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12. Your occupation:
[_] Homemaker
[_] Sales / marketing
[_] Revolutionary
[_] Clerical
[_] Mercenary
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[_] Middle management
[_] Eccentric billionaire
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[_] Retired
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13. To help us understand our customers' lifestyles, please indicate the interests and activities in which you and your spouse enjoy participating on a regular basis:
[_] Golf
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[_] Fashion clothing
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Thank you for taking the time to fill out this questionnaire. Your answers will be used in market studies that will help Lockheed Martin serve you better in the future - as well as allowing you to receive mailings and special offers from other companies, governments, extremist groups, and mysterious consortia.

Comments or suggestions about our fighter planes? Please write to:

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Bathroom Update (2)

The shower plumbing is complete and the cistern for the loo* is there. The walls are all re-plastered as are most of the holes in the ceiling where the old lights were. Yesterday a pallet load of tiles arrived for the floor and walls. But still no bath!

* Checking with my American colleague on the next desk perhaps I should translate this as: "the water reservoir for the toilet"

Previously: Bathroom Update (1), (0)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Social Double Header

Middlesex Sevens and a Barbecue.

Sometimes on a Monday morning I joke that I come into work for rest. It feels a bit like that after this weekend.

Saturday was The Middlesex Sevens - an all day rugby knockout tournament at Twickenham complete with a picnic in the car park or "Tailgate party" as Americans would call it. It was the usual suspects of Bob&Lynn and Tim&Sarah. We had two spare tickets and persuaded Andrea and Christine to join us with the promise of a display of muscular thighs (on the pitch of course). Unfortunately T&S were unable to make it because of a blocked drain and flooded basement of the smelly variety.

The rugby was of variable quality as was the weather. It was all a bit gray and damp but not as damp as two years ago ["Middlesex Sevens in the Rain"]. We had even packed a gazebo but this year they changed the regulations and we discovered that only umbrellas were allowed in the car park. Still the rain mostly held off. Andrea and Bob&Lynn came back to stay with us.

Sunday we had a barbecue and invited people come and help us drink up our surplus stock of ready-for-drinking Burgundy. Given the forecast was not brilliant we bought a second gazebo from Argos. Our three guests, Bob, Lynn and Andrea, were stars and helped set up the gazebos, wash up the picnic glasses and generally get ready for the crowds. And crowds there were.

We reckon we had 44 guests - twice the number of last year's event -and they made a big dent in the '98 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru from Bernard Morey and the 2000 Volnay from Nicolas Potel. To go with the ice creams we had a Sauternes '01 Cuvee D'Exception - rumoured to be declassified wine from "one of the greatest Châteaux in Bordeaux".

It seems to have been a most successful and enjoyable event but, as is often the case for the hosts, Mary and I were so busy rushing around seeing to everybody that we had no time to chat to our guests. However they made up for it by talking to each other.

Bathroom Update (1)

The lads are cracking on. Andy brought in a couple of electricians on Wednesday so we now have new ceiling lights: a couple of blue ones over the bath and five white ones across the rest of the ceiling. They are operated by a twin dimmer switch and all laid out in a neat diagonal pattern. Plus various other switches and boxes of unkown function, probably for the extractor fan and fuses and such like.

The plumbing also moves forward. The pipework for the basin is now plastered over and some new pipework has appeared where the shower will go. Now all we need is a bath. It was supposed to be delivered last Wednesday. Apparently it is in the country but not yet with the shop (Colourwash).

Previously: Bathroom Update (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bathroom Work Starts

Having agreed the design for the new bathroom in Wandsworth we commissioned the work and Andy started on Monday:

bathroom before work starts bathroom after one day
Bathroom before and after Monday

Of course it has to be "Demolition Derby" first!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Uptown Top Rankin'...

... Inna me khaki suit and ting *

The mental jukebox has been playing this song since I wore my brown suit on Tuesday for an evening out with Pete&Amanada. We went to Rhodes W1 (the restaurant not the brasserie) for an extravagant meal:

  • Amuse bouche (smoked eel croquettes, potatoe and truffle puree in puff pastry, crab in mayonnaise on avocado, foie grois on a wafer with onion compote)
  • Suckling pig ravioli
  • Salt Roast Pigeon
  • Chocolate millefeuille

Champagne to start, bottle of white, bottle of red and dessert wine by the glass. I had to have 2 because a) they are only 100cl and b) I wasn't sure which of two would go best with my dessert so I had them both.

Superb quality with a price tag to match. But it was a bit like when we went to Gordon Ramsey's - you don't go to a restaurant run by a world class chef and expect a cheap meal. You go there to enjoy supreme gastronomic delights and to heck with the price tag.

* Uptown Top Rankin' by Althea & Donna

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A New Boiler for Trullo Azzurro

Sunday morning, despite the late night, our alarm went off at the normal weekday time. We were off to Italy for another 24-hour visit to check out the new boiler. For the last 18 months we have had an intermittent Error Code 2 and cold showers. Ignazio, the heating engineer, had installed filters, changed parts, flushed out the system - all to no avail. In the end he and Daniele agreed to rip the bl**dy thing out and install a simpler boiler.

With our first real paying punters arriving this weekend we needed to reassure ourselves that this one would really work. Cold showers are not good for word-of-mouth recommendations! As it turned out this new boiler does appear to function. It is a lot simpler, no remote, wireless controller but a good old-fashioned knob that you turn.

We met up with our new neighbours, Chris&John, and went out to try a new (to us) restaurant that they had been recommended: Il Cucco in Corso Umberto I, Cisternino. It is also an enoteca (wine shop). We had an excellent meal; the antipasti were many and varied, there must have been well over 20 different starters! Then the main courses were slightly unusual: roast beef with lampascioni, and pork fillet with a zucchini flower sauce. And of course a good selection of wine; we are gradually introducing Chris&John to the local specialities.

Lamia side view showing stairs to roof

Finally an view of the Lamia I have not posted before. Standing on the roof of the pizza oven this is a view showing the stairs to the roof and, hiding behind the leaves, you can just see the boiler room door.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Prince - The Artist Formerly Known as Squiggle

But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right *

We went to see the purple one at The O2 on Saturday and I was most impressed both by the concert and the venue. No point in writing a review - there are plenty out there [Google "prince at the o2 review"]. Suffice to say it was very good and my ears were still ringing the next morning.

The venue is pretty amazing especially compared to the last concert we went to (Genesis at Twickenham). No concrete behemoth here, it is all very slick with a massive foyer, no queues and plenty of catering. As my first visit to the place, I think they have done an excellent job converting the dome.

One of the highlights was a conversation with a couple of lasses from "oop north". We guessed they were fans by the matching symbols on their right shoulder blades. We had a chat and one said "It's my husband's fiftieth today. He said, 'I don't want a big fuss'. So we said 'right ho, we're off to see Prince in London'. He's sat at home on his own with our son." Oh how we laughed!

* Little Red Corvette from 1999 by Prince

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Street Life (Battersea Bridge Signs)

My cycle route takes me past Battersea Bridge which is adorned with two notices, one official, the other not.

all troops must break step when marching over this bridge
Apparently the orginal brass version got stolen so many times this wooden replacement had to be installed.

do not paint over this graffiti
A bit of ironic, self-referential, post-modern graffiti.