Friday, April 27, 2012

Priceless archive saved for nation

I had a cheerful morning with my long-time colleague Rebecca Hickie, remembering happy days in the BBC department of Political Documentaries - sadly, abolished long ago.

We'd got together because of the impending closure of Television Centre. (I still can't really believe that's going to happen.)

Ever since Pol Docs - as we all called it - was closed, Rebecca, its Film Researcher and the keeper of everything we shot, has cleverly guarded the film rushes of the department in a secret room in the bowels of Television Centre. I think only she had the key.

But it's time to move the priceless boxes before the building closes, so Rebecca helped me extract part of my own contribution to the storeroom - in particular, 14 boxes of tapes from two series about technology, The Future Just Happened, and Inside Dot Coms, and get them sent to the BBC building where I now work.

Of course, today, finding a machine to play these tapes is probably very expensive, and to get them all digitised would cost a fortune.

But I still think they're worth hanging onto. One day, someone will be pleased to have a record of the time (around 1999) when the internet was still so new that everyone was gobsmacked at what it could do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

When latte gets artte

Artistic froth on our lattes from a market stall this morning, done by a complicated process of milk mixing and selective pouring. Without using anything except jugs and the cup she was pouring it into the woman was able to produce these two designs - but I still don't understand how, although it was all done in front of my eyes...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where can you swim in the morning and ski after lunch - just 30 mins from Heathrow?

It's a long way to Vancouver, or even Antalya, Turkey - places which boast that you can go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon.

But there is another option, only half an hour from Heathrow - and that's by road, not air.

Maidenhead is often overlooked by those in search of a glamourous holiday. But it has much to offer - in its own, Buckinghamshire way.

The Holiday Inn Maidenhead/Windsor (the name itself implies a certain inferiority complex on the part of Maidenhead) has a nice pool, and isn't too busy.

There's Henley for lunch and a sniff of the river.

And the Bracknell ski centre offers a relaxed afternoon on the slopes (below), and a view of such tech giants as HP, Dell and Fujitsu. It's less Aspen in fact, more Silicon Valley. We had the place to ourselves once a few classes had finished.

If you're returning to London, I'd recommend the route through Sunningdale and Virginia Water, and past the amazing Gothic revival Founder's Building at Royal Holloway (completed in 1881 and opened by Queen Victoria).

There's nothing like that in Vancouver or Antalya (though admittedly there's nothing like Egham either).  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Google's dating fantasy from breakfast leftovers.

I never expected to make a fortune when I set up Google Adwords on this blog - since it only gets the kind of traffic that older residents of Beijing remember fondly.

But I'm disappointed that not a single click has been registered on one of the ads you see to the right or below this blog. According to the optimistically-named "Monetise" tab on my Blogger Dashboard, 691 people have so far chosen not to click.

And it gets worse, because the ads Google has decided to display have taken a rather sleazy turn. Like this:

Or this:

Sometimes it's obvious how Google's scanning of my blog posts produces results. So when I wrote about walking on a frozen river in Hamburg, there were ads for fixing burst pipes. When I mentioned finding a coin in the road, there were ads for currency trading. And when I talked about Virgin cable, there were ads for Virgin cable:

On closer examination, I think I may be to blame for the current outbreak of  'mature dating' ads.

You see, the post on which I spotted the ads was a rather pointless little group of pictures of the Today programme breakfast trolley. No mention of dating.

But - and I'm only speculating - it may have been the conjunction of certain words in the paragraph I wrote that triggered this result:

No danger that guests on the Radio Four's Today programme are being treated too lavishly if the  breakfast trolley (seen when I was doing an interview in the show's Green Room) is anything to go by. Licence payers can relax...

I fear that to an intelligent algorithm, it may have looked like the description of a romantic night out.

(And of course, I'm probably encouraging even more dating ads by all the words in this one.)