Jan 15

Playing the tourist

I decided to take a day playing tourist around London yesterday, something I do often other places, but rarely around the town i live in. The day started with Westminster Abbey. At £16 entry, it’s not cheap and unlike StPauls there’s no right to re-entry across the year, it’s a one stop deal. It’s expensive and only going to be worth it if you like wondering churches a lot! However, if you take the plunge, I recommend paying the extra £3 for the guided tour. You get over 90 minutes with an expert and get to go in places the other tourists don’t, such as under the rood screen and, prbobaly most interesting, into the shrine area of St Edward the Confessor. My biggest disappointment was that we could not take pictures at all inside the Abbey. You can buy postcards, but that does not work if all my other cathedral collections are digital!

London in Jan

Next was lunch at Asia De Cuba, in the St Martin’s Hotel. It’s not somewhere I’d normally go, but they were cooking at A Taste of Christmas and pushing their fixed price lunch – very good food, lovely surroundings.

Coconut Explosion

The National Gallery was next, to spend some time in my favourite room. If I was only ever allowed to see one gallery room again, it would be this one, Room 34. It has Whistlejacket by Stubbs dominating and is full of masterpieces from Turner, Gainsborough and Constable. A wonderful place. I also went to stare at the Ambassadors for a while.

The Ambassadors

Then across to the Savoy hotel for a cocktail. It’s one of those things on my list of ‘you must do this’. Great cocktail, gorgeous surroundings, brilliant staff and obscene prices. I’ve done it, but won’t be rushing to do it again – unless i win lots on the lottery. Then I’d buy a glass of their cheapest champagne (£17) and their most expensive (£162) and and see if I can taste the difference!

Final event of the day was my first trip to the National Theatre, to see A Comedy of Errors with Lenny Henry. I loved this, an engaging production in a modern setting. Shakespeare can be difficult to follow (I’d read up on the plot before hand, just in case) but all the players really brought the story to life. I really need to go to the theatre more, given I live in a city which has loads of productions. This is the first show I’ve seen for years.

In summary, a brilliant – if expensive – tourist day. I need to plan more!

A Comedy of Errors

Jan 06

Signing up for Pinterest

A twitter friend sent me an invite to Pinterest, as I’m interested in what it does. However, do far, all it has done is annoy me!

Clicking the link from the email, the first thing it offered was the ability to sign in with Facebook or Twitter. There was no alternative way of creating an account. This is a personal issue of mine, I don’t want to have things connected by default, I want the choice. I know for many, having this option makes it easy; for the company it also reduces spam and provides a in-built platform for spreading the message about the product, but I beleive the alternative should be offered.

I decided to use Facebook, as that was the site that was promoted the strongest, with messages that it won’t do anything with your account. Click once, click twice and it tells you what it’s going to do with the account – add posts and access when you’re not logged in. Facebook now allows you to deny permission, so too no’s and it lets me skip this stage. To a account creation page asking for username, email and password. So the option is there, just not shown on sign up screen.

The next screen it asked me what I was interested in; a few clicks, a few choices made; my thougth at this point was that it would provide me some options to follow, or a general stream of content around those images. No, instead it automatically follows a number of people I have never heard of. Multiple unfollows later, I’m left with a blank page, ready to do things with.

But remember I got an invite from someone. One thing it has not done is provided me a way to follow that person. Back to the original email, find their account names, click through, click follow.

So 4 things:

  • Not providing me an alternative to a SNS sign up
  • When I refused to play sharing game, then making do an alternative sign up
  • Auto-Following people I have never heard of
  • making it hard to follow the person who shared the product with me

My final issue is actually with the whole premise of the product. It’s all about making scrapbooks of images you like on the internet and sharing them, a visual list of book marks. But it appears to have no regard for copyright at all, eg it allows you to repost all images regardless of rights. It also does not always attribute the image correctly, a link to the top level domain not even the page the image is on. And when that TLD is Google, that’s even worse. Now, there’s a lot of things wrong with copyright, but the fundamentals are correct – the person who owns an image decides what can be done with it. Although the copy and share behaviour is common, why should this service encourage it without even trying to atrribute images to the owners or original posts.

So Pinterest may be current darling of the tech world and having massive growth, but I’m not happy with it…

Jan 02

Past and Future 2012

Time to look back and look forward again. So how did I get on with my ambitions for the last year?

So here are the 2011 ambitions.

1. Lose 1 stone. Again, not a huge target, but it’s achievable with minimal changes. I’ve got the iphone apps all set up, with Shapeup for food tracking and Runmeter for walking/running tracking and I’m writing up my exercise plans.

  • It worked…for a while. The training was happening, the food was being tracked and then it all stopped. I got a cold and a chest infection and was not able to do anything much for nearly 2 months…then I never picked it up again. I need a support structure to keep the motivation going.

2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. Last year, I did 3 group walks, which I found a good way to get some exercise and meet new people and just get out and about!. So I’m going to double that number, through a few walking groups in the areas.

  • I just about managed this. Petworth, Kinver, Canterbury to Whitstable, Boston, Cheddar Gorge, Brean Down and Southampton. Not all of them were long, but they were out and about.

3. Visit 5 new UK places. Another repeat, but just carrying on with the theme of cathedrals. I’m thinking at least Canterbury, Bath and Chichester..we’ll see about the others.

  • I did more foreign cathedrals than UK ones, but I managed the new UK places. Canterbury, Whitstable, Southampton, Petworth and Chichester.

4. Do 5 new experiences. The first is getting set up, a driving experience at Silverstone. I’m looking at Burlesque dancing classes, cooking classes and a few others, but open to suggestions!

  • I did the driving experience, in fact I ended up with 3 different varieties of them this year. Single seater around Silverstone, driving Mercedes on skid pans and being a passenger in a dragster and race car in Abu Dhabi. I went to Goodwood Revival and spent an afternoon with VIP treatment in the Paddock Club at the German GP. I went to a pop festival and a classical conference; cycled along the Santa Monica beach in LA and had a cooking lesson. I went to 4 GPs, explored Prague and Istanbul. I camped – 3 times! A great year for doing things :-)

So how about 2012. What are my ambitions for this coming year. Well, first of all, I’m repeating last years. Why not, they make a good base for the year.

1. Consistently do exercise. This needs to be built into my daily activity. I’ve reactivated my gym membership – a work benefit – and am getting support through Twitter. This used to be easy…now too many things get in the way.

2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. There’s a great book about walks around London, with the Capital Ring also looking good. A few more of thise to be added this year.

3. Visit 5 new UK places. I’m running out of close Cathedrals, but still got Bath on the list to do.

4. Do 5 new experiences. No idea what this will involve. Hopefully it will include volunteering at the Olympics. I’ve had my first interview, just waiting to hear if I get accepeted.

5. Blog more. I’m in my 6th year of blogging and I don’t do nearly enough!

That’s all. I know it’s more of the same, but they work for me.