If I ran Formula 1…

•May 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Much has been made in the past few years of the various attempts to improve the “show” that is Formula 1. I am a fan, however, even I will admit that the racing has often been a dreary procession, but as a geek I can get my freak from the technology and engineering involved.

What is not in doubt, is that the problem with F1 is due to the difficulty in overtaking. The cars aerodynamics are so highly optimised that there is no advantage to following another car and sitting in the “hole” of dirty air produced by the leading car and hence gaining a “tow” that could be used to overtake. So various rule tinkerings have been made to try and make overtaking easier, such as the Drag Reduction System on the rear wing (which only following cars can use), energy boosts from Kinetic Energy recovery Systems, tyres that degrade at varying rates, and this year, a change to Turbo-charged engines with even more KERS.

But. But. But. I believe the problem is this: the cars are optomised to perform best in qualifying, because a fast car starting at the front can run away and hide, they are not optomised to pass other cars.

My Solution: Abolish qualifying, have the grid selected by a random draw. If Adrian Newey really thought his car would be starting in the middle of the pack, don’t you think his huge brain would come up with a way of producing a car that could overtake? Before the TV companies complain, you replace the Qualifying section with an hour’s timed practice, at which point the drivers get out of their cars, have a quick interview and draw their grid position from the Velvet Bag of Doom. To keep the teams interested you could have 3-2-1 world championship points for fastest practice times

Taking Stock

•April 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So. I have been back working in an office now for four months. The good is that I find I like working alongside other people more than I expected. The bad is the traveling, the early starts and late finishes when your office is further away than the spare room. The ugly was the very surprise decision by the business to close the call center & rationalise a number of other central functions like accounts & HR and throw about a hundred other people out of work.

Lunchtimes I wander the hinterland of North-western Heathrow, Longford & Harmondsworth, hunting out lots of hidden locations, like this memorial to Barnes Wallis

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#hiddenheathrow #barneswallis #memorial

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or this spot at the Colne Biodiversity park, 500m off the end of the Northern runway

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Hidden Heathrow. Colne biodiversity park.

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and the wildlife

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On Harmondsworth Moor baht 'at. #hiddenheathrow

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and the blossom

and the flowers

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Bluebells #hiddenheathrow

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and the unusual

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Water Feature. #hiddenheathrow

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Sign o’ the times

•December 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have often attributed my perhaps occasionally undue appreciation for the products of fermented barley malt & hops to the fact that in 1930 my Father was born in a room above a pub to the Landlady of the Morning Star in Datchet. Recently a cousin sent me the results of some genealogical research she had been doing which revealed that the pub was in the hands of the Skeltons, my forebears, for fifty years.

I only ever had two opportunities to drink in there twice, and never with Dad. The last time would have been four or five years ago, and it looked like it hadn’t changed since the 1930’s. Skittle alley, rough hewn brick bar, old floorboards.

So I was with no little dismay that as I drove through Datchet yesterday to discover that it had now become part of a large chain of frothy milk and insipid coffee retailers.

Back to the Coalface

•December 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Well I don’t think I expected to find myself back in an office job ever again, but economic necessity dictates otherwise, and after a whirlwind romance, I’m the “Service Desk Analyst” for a large hotel chain, although the office is located in the less salubrious surroundings of Heathrow. There is an IT Helpdesk, but they mainly just forward issues to me, and I either escalate them to the appropriate in-house team, third-party vendor, or In extremis, sort it myself. Actually I am a third-party myself, as I don’t work for the hotel but for a company who supply some of their IT Services. The Hotel have a sizable IT Department of their own – I’m just “embedded” within it. This week some of the cover engineers have been spending time with me “training” me.

So it’s been a busy first few days trying to learn the systems & procedures of two companies, and keep that bloody service desk call queue down to a manageable size. However, we have an excellent coffee machine that grinds it’s own beans. Coffee. The Oil that lubricates IT. Lunchtimes I get to watch 777’s lumber into the sky, so it’s not all bad. Except for the commute which is hemmed in by the M4/M25 junction of hell. What should be a 20 minute drive can take (as tonight) one hour ten. No direct public transport, it would take 90 minutes & a change of bus, plus whatever delays congestion throws up. That’s why I feel the “infrastructure” money thrown towards HS2 would be better spent on improving local commutability. Commutability? I that even a word? It is now. In fact, it’s now A Thing.

Sleep. Then do it all again.

A Better Way of Sitting Down

•November 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s not often that I have great ideas, and less often that I have them whilst sitting at Twickenham watching England beat the Shackle-Draggers Australians. But on Saturday, from my vantage point up on Level 4C of the South East Stand I had a revelation.

I was sitting alongside my friend Tim on the Wheelchair Viewing Terrace at the back of the stand, a decent view (but we can’t see the big screens). During one of the tedious interludes as the referee tried to remember how to manage the scrum I noticed that in the rows of seating in front of us there was a lot of standing up, shuffling and sitting down as various patrons decided they needed a pint, a wee, or both. It was at this point I had The Revelation.

Don’t sell tickets to a specific seat, sell them to a row. As you turn up to your appointed row you fill it from the middle outwards. If you leave your seat, everyone shuffles across and leaves an empty seat at the end of the row, which you have to occupy on return. This will immediately halve all the standing up, sitting down and spilt drinks.

We are British, we can make this work.

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The End

•September 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The End.

Delayed, avoided, prevaricated upon. Then delayed some more due to circumstances out of our control.

August, wedding anniversary. Accidentally perfect timing.

Two in a Churchyard with a Priest, a hole a a funeral director and a stone mason.

A few moments and it’s done. Over. The End.

The Stone


The Best Photograph I Never Took

•June 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Not sure why this memory should pop into my head at this particular moment in time. My ave something to do with reading tweet about the Glastonbury Music festival, whilst supping from my latest batch of home brew listening to Genesis on my Sonos.

Anyway. The best photograph I never took. It was back in August 1999, on the occasion of the last total eclipse of the sun seen from the United Kingdom. I had gone down and was camped in a field, along with a motley crew of hippies, yippies, new-agers, astronomers and the vaguely curious. One day during the week I was down there, I happened to be driving past Goonhilly Earth station when coming the other way was a youngish deadlocked white hippy trustarafarian, pulling a handcart loaded with various things, and topped by a goat. Real. Live. Goat. And the dishes of the Earth Station behind this apparition.

I saw the shot. I knew it was a great shot. There was no traffic behind me. I could have pulled over and taken it. But my inherent English reserve prevented me. Damn. Blast.