Monthly Archives: July 2006

St Agnes and environs

Before I go back to work tomorrow, time for a quick entry on the holiday.

Our friends have a bungalow in the village of St Agnes on the north west coast of Cornwall. There’s a fantastic beach nearby called Chapel Porth, the cliffs and landscape are amazing, and generally we are extremely lucky to be able to go there and relax.

Cliffs near St Agnes

The old industry of Cornwall, tin mining, is still very much in evidence. The abandoned engine houses are a familiar sight as you walk along the cliffs.

Through the arches Wheal Coates from the beach

We spent five days by ourselves, and then Ola’s parents and sister came down to join us. They had never been to Cornwall before. We were really lucky with the weather, since the heatwave that the UK is currently experiencing was cooled by the sea breezes enough to make it mostly bearable, and we only had a couple of days of bad weather towards the end of the week.

Sweeping away Watching the sunset

I’m not much of a beach person… I enjoy the occasional swim, but just lying around is really difficult. So I took the opportunity to take some “arty” shots (see above), and catch up on some reading. In my post before going away, I mentioned a number of books that I was intending to get through. As it happened, once we got to Cornwall we shopped for more… so I ended up not touching the Pratchett, and reading some other books instead.

Who Moved My Blackberry? by Martin Lukes is seriously funny, and a very quick read – it was ideal for the beach really. It’s a novel in the form of a series of e-mails from a “thrusting” senior manager in his early forties… you rarely get to read any of the replies. I found it hilarious, a great exercise in ripping fun out of corporatespeak, rebranding and “morale-boosting” initiatives.

Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs was a much more dense read and took me most of the holiday (mind you, it was 700 pages). At first I didn’t enjoy it at all, but I did eventually get caught up in the intrigue and drama. It’s effectively a docudrama in book form… a historical drama based around the outbreak of the Second World War, covering political intrigues in Britain from early 1938 to early 1940. As an historian by education, I’ve always been fascinated by Churchill as a character, and once he’d actually been allowed to have more of the limelight, this book was really very gripping, but just long. I’ve added the sequels, Never Surrender and Churchill’s Hour, to my Amazon wishlist.

I finally started to read my way through Have I Got Views for You by Boris Johnson, which is pretty funny and an interesting perspective on the past 12 years of UK politics. It’s a collection of his columns from the Spectator and Telegraph, so it is pretty easy to dip into at leisure.

More photos here – everything after the shot of the multicoloured nets is from this past week. Let me know what you think. More to add when I have time…

Airshow 2006

We live very close to Farnborough Airfield. In fact, from the flat where I used to live a few years ago, you could see the airfield from the living room window. We are now round the corner and can’t see it, but we certainly hear it sometimes.

This week has been the bi-annual Farnborough International Airshow. Weekdays are the commercial days when the companies are doing their best to sell new aircraft (and missiles) to each other. At the weekend, it is open to the public.

We’d been to the last show in 2004, but since we live nearby and it is a major event, we took Ola’s parents, her sisters, and my mother with us to the show on Saturday. On balance, the fact that we’d been away for the rest of the week was a great decision, since the Airbus A380 was in the air every day, and the noise can be unbearable during the practice periods.

Airbus A380 tail Top gun

As far as Ola and I are concerned, the highlight of the show is always the Red Arrows display. Absolutely stunning to watch. Not so interesting this year, as the weather was beginning to get very bad as they started on Saturday… in fact I think there were rumbles of thunder and lightning while they were in the air… in previous years they have drawn flowers and hearts in the sky. They are still an amazing team, if you have never seen them then do try to get to a show where they are flying.

Arrows

IBM had a presence. Interestingly, I didn’t see any of our competitors.

IBM Systems trailer

More here. The weather was grey for much of the day, so the shots are lacking colour in places, and I was shooting JPEG in Sports mode to get a nice fast shutter speed for the aerial displays, generally at the long end of my 70-200mm lens… some of the shots are more grainy than I’d like, but I got one or two great shots I’m pleased with. I haven’t uploaded all of them to Flickr just yet.

Overall, the show was pretty good. It was a shame about the weather… Saturday started off burning hot, but by around lunchtime when the flying displays began, it was getting stormy, and we missed probably a couple of hours of the display by sheltering in the exhibition hall trying to get some cups of tea (which did, in fact, take about 45 minutes of queueing). On the other hand, the weather forced us to look around indoors a lot more – not sure the exhibitors really had enough freebies to cope with the sudden rush of people when it got wet, though! The only real disappointment was that apart from the A380, it was very similar to the last show in 2004, the static aircraft displays were in the same places, the planes in flight were nearly the same… obviously not a lot has changed in the aerospace industry in 2 years.

Back from holiday, watch this space

I’m back, and I have a bucketload of updates to post. I’ll try not to drown you all.

Caribbean blue

Does that look like Cornwall to you, or more like Barbados?

A taster of some of the photos from the holiday is available at the end of my Places: Cornwall and Devon photoset on Flickr, more to come over the next few days. Let me know what you think, I like getting comments! 🙂

If you look through the most recent photos I’ve uploaded you’ll also see a glimpse of some to come from a cricket match we went to recently, a zoo trip, and the Farnborough Airshow 2006. All of these were different birthday celebrations for friends and family, doubling up as great photo opportunities. I’ll post on these individually at some point.

Plenty to catch up on. Interesting to find that Roo and Karl have got weblogs, I’ve now added them to my blogroll.

For those not paying attention

Remember that photo I posted yesterday?

We’ll be away for a few days. The blog won’t be getting updated, as there’s an embargo on my Internet usage whilst on holiday. Hopefully I will get back into some photography, and have plenty to share when we return… I already have some shots from last weekend (cricket match, plus a zoo) which I need to upload to Flickr.

In case you are interested, my holiday reading list includes:
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs

Oh, and before I forget, our top book recommendations at the moment are A Year in the Merde, and the sequel Merde Actually, both by Stephen Clarke – hilarious first-person accounts of a Londoner who moves to Paris to open a tea shop. Very good, and really readable, I got through them in a couple of evenings.

(mind you, yesterday I was told off for reading so much fiction, on the basis that it isn’t doing anything to improve my mind – so I’ll probably have to stick some technical books in the case as well)

What is Zooomr all about?

Zooomr is another photo sharing site, in the Flickr mould. I had a play with it for the first time yesterday. Basically Zooomr appears to be another photo sharing site, but with an integrated Google Maps mashup which plots photos onto a map based on geotags.

Except, so far I can’t seem to find a way to create the geotags. I was expecting some nice way of pulling up a map and then telling Zooomr where a photo was taken, but I can’t figure how (or if) that is supposed to happen. Presumably I have to figure out the locations manually, and then add them as text tags myself.

On top of the geotag feature, Zooomr appears to have some sound features to let you “hear” the photos. Not sure I get this entirely…

The other oddity is that you don’t have to sign up for an account with Zooomr. They will allow you to use an ID from another system (OpenID and some others) to login. I used my Google account. The way this works is that you tell it your GMail address, and you get emailed a “TPass” which is valid for 600 seconds / 10 minutes. I assumed that this was just for the first login, but it turns out that you have to go through this process every time you want to login – email yourself a different password every time. Too weird. Oh, and once you’ve logged in with one form of ID, you can’t change to another one later. Thanks, but no thanks.

So far I’ve not really uploaded much, just a few shots as an experiment. Unless my understanding of the site changes, I don’t think I’ll really be using it. By all means give it a try, and see what you make of it. They have a nice tour of the features available. However, the FAQ appears to be all the other help you get, and in my opinion it simply is not sufficient to enable me to understand how to do certain things (like the login conundrum, and how to geotag). There also doesn’t appear to be any support / contact page.

Zooomr 2.0 is supposed to launch in the next couple of days, so maybe that will improve things (and note that the site will be down soon for the upgrade, so if you read this and then can’t check out Zooomr, that might explain it). I’m not giving up on it completely yet.

When I get back from holiday, I’m intending to have a play with Picasa Web Albums, although based on what I’ve read, I’m not expecting that to tempt me away from Flickr, either. As with Blogger and others, Google doesn’t seem to have made the best of the Picasa acquisition, so my hopes are not high.