Nov 24

Survivors – What would you do

Survivors, a re-imaging of the 70’s series devised by Terry Nation, started last night on the BBC and there was a minor Twitter flurry of discussion about it. There’s been mixed reaction to the episode, including these from Jason, and from Savage Popcorn.

One common question that popped up is what would you do in that situation, how would you rebuild. Well, the odds are that you, or me, or most of everyone would be dead anyway. The show said something like 90% infection, which would still leave 6million in the UK alive, but the impression was there were a lot more dead than that. Even if you weren’t killed in the first infection, you’re going to have to be lucky and good to escape ongoing death from disease, cold or starvation in the first year or so.

The first episode ended with our group of heroes finally meeting and wondering what to do next – only one of them had done any thinking and collecting of goods to get to the next stage. The rest seemed woefully inadequate in their outlook. But, if, by some chance, you did survive, would you have any idea of what you would have to do? I thought I’d throw up some thoughts – and these have been done with no research, just mulling around what would need to be put in place. I’m pretty sure if I looked, I could find a whole bunch of websites giving me the information I needed. One assumption is that there is enough stuff around to survive the first month or so. Canned food, bottled water and transport with available fuel, to get to somewhere. This is about longer term thinking.

  • Key things are shelter, water, food and sanitation. You’ll need a place to live, which has its own water supply – a well or a spring – and has arable land to grow food. Ideally, it should be defensible; law and order won’t be around and humans tend to fight a lot, especially over resources. A septic system would be a advantage.
  • Ideally, you’d want to be away from any nuclear plants and from prevailing winds that could bring radiation. I’m not sure how safe these plants are with no electricity, no water and no manning, but some may go boom.
  • You’ve found your farm, castle or where ever it is. (I fancy Windsor Castle actually, but probably a little too close to major population centres for the start, so it would be smelly and potentially disease prone in the beginning.) Now you need to start stocking it. First of all, work out where to get fuel, stock up some tanks so you have transport as long as possible. Go and raid supermarkets and get enough food (tinned, dried) for at least a year.
  • Find a library/book store and grab lots of practical books for the things below. Also writing things and lots of paper, so you can start recording the new history.
  • Hope the farmer had a shotgun and rifle, if not, go find some. You won’t be the only one, you’ll probably have to defend your place and you can go hunting.
  • Tools – axes, knives, carpentry, farming, scissors. As much as you can
  • Find some generators. You’ll need to have the option as you build up for the longer term
  • Clothes and linen- stock up with tough stuff, it’s going to have to last. Store a lot for future use – including material. You’re going to have to learn to weave at some point but t may have a lower priority than starting the food supply.
  • Growing things. Find agricultural suppliers and get everything you can – seed, fertiliser, pesticides.
  • Animals – sheep for wool, cows for milk, meat and leather, pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat. Rabbits, guinea pigs and all the small stuff could be good.
  • Farming. you may have a tractor and enough fuel for one year, but longer term I’d be looking for a plough and some horses. You should probably grab some horses for transport as well, along with some bikes
  • Medicine. It’s not going to last, but grab what you can. Antibiotics, diarrhoea medicine, painkillers, antiseptics. (Stock up on soap as well). Iodine tablets may be useful as well

Now, you have to learn how to use all these things, how to farm, how to metalsmith, how to manage sanitation. A bit of medicine.

What have I missed, what else would you add to the list to gather and control in the first year?

Sep 22

Omnivore’s 100

I like lists and here’s a list of 100 foods that Andrew from very good taste thinks every one should try once. As usual with these lists, bold are those food I’d try, strike through are those I don’t really want to try. I’ve annotated the list to give a little background. (via CC)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison. Love it, makes great stews. I had venison sausages last night.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros. Tried in Austin at SXSW. Not really a favourite.
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile. Tried at a speciality restaurant. OK.
6. Black pudding. One of Dad’s favourites. I like it in small doses fried with a full breakfast.
7. Cheese fondue. Love making these/
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari. Most memorable onthe harbourside in Pireus, Athens.
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses. Well, I think I have. It looks familiar.
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. We used to make it – blackberry and elderberry wines.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream. Bleurgh. Give me chocolate, or Rum Raison
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries. Well, blackberries and elderberries at least. Plus strawberries.
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese. No thank you.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper. I’ve had the sauce. Never wanted to try the raw ingredient.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters. I prefer them cooked rather than raw
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi – I’ve had one sip. Don’t really like yoghurt drinks and I don’t like salted/savory stuff very much.
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float – I’ve had floats, but never root beer as don’t like that pop.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar. Cognac yes, but I don’t smoke. I’ve had cognac with friends when they were smoking fat cigars – does that count?
37. Clotted cream tea. Mmm, scones. Jam, clotted cream. Lovely
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects. Chocolate covered are best
43. Phaal. Just tastes. Too hot for me.
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more. I used to work for a distillers, so probably had whisky worth far more, usually straight out the cask!
46. Fugu. Never wanted to
47. Chicken tikka masala. It’s the UK’s national dish 😉
48. Eel. Love it smoked more than jellied.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads There are some things I really just don’t want to try
63. Kaolin. Well, as a medicine. I always run this together as ‘kaolin and morphine’ as that’s how it used to be sold.
64. Currywurst. Tried. Didn’t like
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs. Tried one, that was enough.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis.
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. I’ve only managed a 1 star. Need to up my game!
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Not too bad then, I’ve tried 78 of them. How about you?

Sep 14

Les MisBarack

Les Mis is one of my favourite musicals (I’ve seen it about 3 times), so I love the song here. But it works on more levels than that. It would be great if UK politics was as creative

Sep 10

LHC makes headlines

And isn’t that gorgeous. This is a science project, a hard physics project and it’s got the world twittering and blogging and just generally talking about it. How often does that happen? It’s mainstream as well, it’s not just the geeks, with the Google logo changing and BBC pushing it as the number 1 headline inthe news bulletins and even dedicating programmes to it. Loving it.

Google Logo celebrates the LHC

Google Logo celebrates the LHC

They’ve not started the collisions yet, that’s later in the year. But just in case you’re worried the world is going to end, you can check with this handy website “Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?

Sep 07

Bre Pettis and History Hacked

My friend Bre from New York has just made a pilot TV show for the (US) History Channel. In it, he hacks historical inventions today, using items out of his closet. I sublet his room in NY for a few months and have seen his closet, so can believe it 😉 So congratulations are due and luck is wished for it to be picke dup

Not sure if it’s ever going to be out in the UK, but here’s a teaser.

Aug 12


Last week, I was up in Scarborough with an old school friend. As I’d not seen her for about 10 years, there was a little concern, but it all went great and lots of fun was had. She usually lives in Moscow, but has a holiday home up in Yorkshire, to get back to the UK seaside from time to time.

It was typical British seaside weather, grey with some rain, but we made the most of it. Building sandcastles, eating fish and chips, walks along the front, trips on little trains and on the fun fair. At the end of the week I was exhausted from all the sea air 😉

Scarborough Trip

Scarborough has a park that is has recently been done-up. It includes this weird water splash ride, where you get in cart and go down a hill, before being pulled backward by a rope to do it all again. Here’s the video with my totally embarrassing screaming. The other voice is my friend’s son – I’d been ‘volunteered’ for the ride whilst she looked after the other kid.

Aug 03

Blogging, Touristing and Fetes

Got up to some interesting things this week. On Tuesday, I went to the London Bloggers’ Meetup; it was sponsored by Stella, who did a grand job. They bought the drinks and offered some free trips on their new airship for the most entertaining description of your local pub. (I didn’t win). This is all part of Stella’s Love Your Local campaign. We also got some great glasses, as Annie Mole shows in her post.

From Thursday, I had house guests, my sister and niece. Thursday they were accompanied by my mom and brother-in-law and we all went off to a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Brilliant tour, through all the main public bits, including both chambers. I was struck again by the paranoia of US businesses where I could not get into my own office building without photo ID but here it was fine to walk in our centre of government for a tour without them having any idea who I was. In another event last week, the NESTA Catalyst award, the Prime Minister turned up without any fuss at all. I much prefer this model!

After the tour I took them on a walk up Whitehall, to see Downing St and Horseguards, then Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. Lots of touristy things for them to enjoy.


Friday it was time for Buckingham Palace, around all the State rooms. Well worth the money, the tour gives you lots of information about how the place was put together. Being English, we appeared to be in the minority as most of the people wondering around appeared to be foreign tourists.

Buckingham Palace

Saturday, a separation. Sarah went off to the Science Museum and Harrods and I went off to the Innocent Village Fete, which was a great afternoon.

Innocent Summer Fete

Jul 27

A trip out sculling

I went sculling yesterday, probably the first time in a single for about 2 years. I’ve spent a lot of time coxing crew boats and in the bigger boats rowing, but never really cracked the single sculling thing (falling in and getting wet not really being my favourite thing – I like scuba diving but hate swimming!).

However, instead of walking the few 100 yards and using a scull from one of the Tideway clubs I live close to, I decided to try some safer water and go and use a boat out at Dorney (one of the Army sculls). The river there is a lot smaller and you can even see the bottom! A far easier place to get back in a boat. I managed to get in and out, always the tricky bits, and managed an hour’s outing before calling time with achy bits. A good load of exercise when combined with the walk to and from the station.

On the walk, this really annoyed me.

River walk

The river path has been ‘upgraded’, flattened out and covered with grey stone/dust. I’m sure it’s all about providing access but what they have done is stripped all the charm away, cutting back and killing all the path side plants that can make a walk interesting. Now it’s just like a pavement, just next to a river. It; only covers part of the way so you soon get back to the more overgrown parts, which are a lot more fun.

Jul 15

Going Solo is hiring

By all accounts, the Going Solo conference in Lausanne earlier this year was a success and Steph is running a second edition here in the UK. She’s also looking for help in the form of a sponsorship person so if you’re interested, what are you waiting for?

Availability: as soon as possible
Remuneration: 20% commission on cash sponsorships
Profile: skilled in negotiating and closing sponsorship deals, knowledge of the tech/freelancing world a plus.

Jul 10

Firefox 3 Launch Party

Firefox was the star of the party last night, when it was awarded with a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in a single day, over 8 million.

Firefox World Record

A good time seemed to be had by all, with the free drinks flowing, sponsored by Glaxstar, eBay and Glubble. It was interesting how there were a lot of suits there, far more than I expected.

Jul 03

Henley regatta

Off to Henley for the Henley Royal Regatta. Should see some good racing and lots of hats. But hopefully not too much rain although it did not start too well today

Henley Regatta

Jun 30

Battersea Power Station

I was supposed to be doing some biz dev today, but the meeting got cancelled after the other party spent all night playing werewolf (I still don’t see the attraction in that game). I thought I’d try and do something a little bit different and Annie Mole came through via Twitter, after she’d just written a post about a consultation exercise taking place at Battersea Power Station.

Battersea Power Station

They’re looking at doing the place up, after it has in effect been abandoned for 25 years. It’s been tried twice before, so there’s no guarantee, but the idea looks good. It definitely needs something doing, as it’s a gorgeous building, just waiting to be used. The idea is a mixed use place, with parks, new buildings, shops and galleries. They’re looking at building a tower bigger than the chimneys, to act as a cooling tower for the green development.

Battersea Power Station

First up, you go round a presentation and model about the new development. It all looks very good and all the posters are positive. Part of my feedback is I think they should also list objections or problems and what they are doing about it, to make the coverage more balanced. I also suggested to the team they should start showing feedback and their responses, so people can see that it’s actually been read and listened to. They seemed to think that was a good idea and gave the indication they’d be doing that – so if there’s a feedback board up later this week, it’s all down to me!

After the questionnaire, you get to wander into the site, following a fenced off track, but you ge thte chance to at least look in the building. I’m surprised it’s still standing, as it’s nothing but an empty shell, only walls and broken windows. It’s a fascinating view of a building that seems to have so much potential just trying to burst out.

Battersea Power Station

I think it’s well worth a trip if you are in the area. Full details can be found at Battersea Power station page

Jun 23

Mashed 2008

Mashed 08

After my day at Interesting, I jumped on the Tube up to the BBC run Mashed, up at Alexandra Palace. This was a 36 hour or so hacking festival, with people all over the place coding and building new tools, most of which had something to do with a whole load of BBC feeds/API/data that were available (although in most cases only for the weekend, as a trial).

I’m not a coder, so I was not doing anything on that side. I went along to mee tup with a few people and to take part in the Social Flight Sim, a mad idea put together by Ewan Spence. He’d pulled together some people to build a flight simulator, using Google Earth as the ‘world’ and then bashed together a wooden plane to hold all the controls.

The pilot controlled the speed, height and direction, whilst the navigator managed the course. IT was originally thought that we would have to fly continuously through the night, but with a plane that could travel at 30 thousand kilometers/hour (even if the tech could not keep up with it) we could zoom by the boring bits such as the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Ewan has a video of the presentation, where he co-opted some of the pyrotechnics that the BBC had put up, to make a grand entrance (with the smoke subsequently opening up the roof again). No big prizes, but it got mentioned in dispatches a few times for being memorable!

Around 50 projects were presented, with the Northenders subtitle translator winning a couple of things. Other prizes went to Twitter on TV, using the interactiveTV API to feed in Twitter feeds to the TV, a accessibility project that pulled the data from the BBC feeds and re-presented it in a format that made it far more accessible for visual or leaning impaired people and a FireEagle>Lonely Planet hack that gave you information about where you are.

Overall, I had a great time; the organisation looked great, they kept us well fed and watered and the beanbags were their usual brilliant selves. Looking forward to the next one!

Jun 21

Interesting 08

I spent most of today at Interesting 08, the conference put together by Russell Davies, pulling a whole lot of, well, interesting people together. I had a great, thought-provoking day

Here’s some notes on the talks. They ranged from 3 mins to about 20 and covered all sorts of topics. The notes are really just impressions.

Roo Reynolds – Lego is fun and everyone should be using more.

Gemma Teed – horses spook because they are herd/predator animals, even if now they spook at umbrellas instead of lions, tigers and bears. ( I used to ride one that hated pigs, a common fear of horses, and used to end up dancing all over the road if we came across one unexpectedly)

Collyn Chipperfield – tired of reality, why aren’t we doing more with fantasy. Let’s explore the possible.

Steve Hardy – Generalists do a lot of things. They present information: synthesise and summarise. They Generate ideas: link and leap. They connect people: mix and match. They understand world view: experience and empathise.

Daniel Raven Ellison – Geography is about place and space, security and freedom. Geography is the now and the future. We need to do more earth writing, changing and challenging what goes on

Michael Johnson – a walk through guitars and graphic design whilst playing the guitar to illustrate the journey. (one of the faves)

Phil Gyford – masks. How masks mean y you have to communicate more with gestures and body language instead of it all being in the face.

James Wallis – a geophysical survey of World of Warcraft, where timing walking distance shows the world to be about a 12km diameter sphere, but the gravity is similar to Earth, so it has a density about 500x greater than Earth. Such a dense mass distorts time (which is why so much is wasted in there)

Matt Dent – how he designed the reverse of the new coins and the process that went into actually getting it done.

Matt Webb – the ancient Patagonians communicated using mirrors and light and you were supposed to be able to see across the country, something that is not possible due to diffraction etc . All this changed when the Conquistidors arrived. Did they infect the continent with European physics as well as smallpox?

Andrew Webb – travelling the country looking at food and how it’s made Surprised and happy at the passion, talent and openness on show.

Andrew Walkingshaw – the naming of things. Names give power. On the web, everything has a name, but my sites are not me, they’re just aspects of me.

Andrew Dick – had insomnia for 10 years. the best cure he’s found is audio books of crime novels. Needs to have a strong plot (although writing is rarely good), abridged versions are best, no moral ambiguity, has to be a little bit thrilling – boring stuff means you think about other things and it should make going to sleep fun.

Jenny Owen – a tribute to Churchill

Matt Irvine – an ad hoc recorder orchestra (Completely mad, I got up on stage for this)

Lloyd Davies – some ukelele playing and then some mediatation

Simon/Ken/Curtis – welcome to Mars. A reading about the development of the suburbs to weird spacey sound effects.

Anna Pickard – words are funny, especially with k or p or b. She likes biscuit. (I like soggy)

Younghee Jung – a view of toilets around the world

James Bridle – IN vino, civitas. Booze has always been part of civilisation.

Kim Plowright – a history of vacuum cleaners. First ones were on the backs of carts brought to you. First personal ones cost 5 months wage.

James Houston – a remized Radiohead Nude video, which he’d used as final part of his degree

Jim Le Fevre – using a camera and a record player to make animation. (zoetropes) (Brilliant demonstration)

Gavin Starks – Acoustic Cosmology. the readings from the universe can be turned into sound.

Joel Gethin Lewis – Hiraeth, a welsh term for a sense of longing, of being in the moment and time sin his life when he’s been there (I though it was supposed to be spelled hiraedd)

George Oates – A brief run through the ‘prizes’ that get offered on Flickr and how they are used to give and receive recognition.

Lea Becker – scribbles are good. what are good illustrations. sometimes just let the ideas flow.

Leisa Riechelt – the brain is designed to learn. we continuously lose brain cells from the moment we are born, the ones we keep depend on how we use them

Max Gadney – a look at the tools of WWII. Are we only now able to start to look at WWII with real scholorship?

Lots and lots of different things, all sorts of topics, all sorts of wonders. What would you want to talk about. Me, I have an idea around geneology.

Jun 16

Day of the Figurines

I’m off to Hide and Seek Fest in a fortnight, a London games festival that is taking place over a weekend, with lots of different types of games. However, one of them has already started – the Day of the Figurines

Day of the Figurines

You go to the Southbank Centre, sign up, choose your tiny little figure from the ones displayed and then start playing by text. You have a map and a set of commands and you control your person that way. Each day is the equivalent of an hour in the game. You can move around, get things, talk to people and get set challenges. So far I’m cold and hungry, so not having good day! Go and sign up, it’s fun.

Jun 15

London Naked Bike Ride

Yesterday, I was planning on going to the Flickr Walk about and then wondering off later to catch pictures of the London Naked Bike Ride where “riders decorate their bodies and bikes with messages of protest against oil dependency and car culture.” I got up late and never really got my stuff together to get to London early enough for the photowalk, so just decided to watch the latter.

London Naked Bike Ride 2008

Just before 4pm, police bikes screamed down the Mall to stop traffic at the corner on Parliament Square. I got myself into position and started clicking away – click through the image and you can see the rest of the set. It’s indicative of the internet I think that the images with the largest view counts are the ones with women in!

The place was full of tourists – it has to be one of the busiest tourist places in London. The overwhelming reaction was FUN. There were smiles and laughter, a shared moment at what was the obviously eccentricity of the British (even though these rides take place world wide).

Jun 04

public service announcement

public service announcement, originally uploaded by RachelC.

These two fine chaps are after a date. But they have a few requirements:
1. Be able to reverse a trailer
2. Be able to rig a single in the dark.
3. Be able to rig an 8 in 20 mins.
4. Know nielson kellerman wiring
5. Remember rigger serial numbers and the boats they belong to
6. Recall rigging tables
7. Know what all the above means

I think they’re being too picky!

Jun 02

Books Read in May

I’ve decided to try and track the books I have read. I’m rereading a few of my collection, so a mix of old and new. So here’s May

  • Undiscovered Country, Bill Bryant. An old read, I really enjoy Bryant’s writing and seem to have most of his books.
  • Skin Privilege, Karin Slaughter. Another author I tend to pick up as an easy read. As the next few selections show, thrillers tend to be my default choice of entertainment read.
  • Strike Back Chris Ryan I’ve had mixed thoughts about Ryan’s books. This one I enjoyed; the character was generally likeable despite seeming to switch situations with an ease I would have though impossible. It leaves it open to more, so looking forward to that.
  • The Chemistry of Death Simon Beckett
  • Written in Bone, Simon Beckett . I got the 2 Beckett books in a special offer. Superb thrillers.
  • Lord of the Isle, David Drake (free pdf from Tor). An OK book, easy read and made me interested in the characters. To be added to the ‘if in an offer’ list to buy the next one.
  • Why Sex is Fun, Jared Diamond. An old book, this time round it frustrated me, the tine being too simplistic for me. Diamond is one of my favourite science writers and I recall loving the rest of them, so not sure if this was written to be too general. I’m going to have to read another one to check if I’ve not gone off him.
  • Little Brothers Cory Doctorow (free pdf from Cory). This is not yet available in UK. Absolutely wonderful. Recommend it – read it now.
  • Pirates Dilemma Matt Mason Another great book, a challenge to industry to take a good look at themselves and their competitive position. I saw him talk at the RSA, giving a short version of the book. His argument is compelling. (It also turns out that he recognised me, as we probably bumped into each other in NY. If only I could remember where!)
  • Through Wolf’s Eyes, Jane Lindskold, (free pdf from Tor). Realy interesting fantasy novel – I need to read more of her stuff.