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January 31, 2003

Curious Orange

According to Hamlyn's book "Cocktails":

Mandarine Napoleon is a French tangerine-flavoured liqueur

Surely then it would have been Tangerine Napoleon? Especially as the french would have known where tangiers was long before they came across the chinese.

We should be told.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I'm the most popular blatant on google.

Which is worrying, as I think I should have hit the top with my optimism before I hit it with my blatancy (blatantness? blatantification?). Perhaps I need to consider the difference between my perceptions and how others see me more often. :-)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I'm caught between two new bits of music. One one hand, Euan@TheObvious has got me onto the fab 'Groove Salad' internet radio station off soma fm.

On the other, I'm hugely enjoying the subtleties of the sound dub on the video of moloko's new video. It's currently in the 'microsites' section at the bottom of Video-C. It's the way they've tied the shoe-scraping to the beat, and how the music changes as they walk down into the club. And the bit in the toilet - fab. Soundwise, it's neither a pure 'video' or a pure 'film'. Like loads of the Spike Jonze stuff it sits on the edge between the two. Lovely.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2003

Boring, but...

Leaning Forward is now live. In crap skeleton form.

This is a relief as it was getting embarrassing sending out big serious cvs to big serious media moguls with 'sparklefluff' in the email address.

Look mum - gravitas!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Creating Distance.

These words from Syd Field's fab "Going To The Movies" keep echoing round and round my head. Our hero (Syd himself) has just had a night of writing madness and wanted to make sure he didn't lose that spark:

I had "pushed my mind" out of the way, and hadn't paid any attention to what my critical mind had been saying.

That experience was so pwerful that it became the origin of an exercise which I called "the critic's page". As I sat down to rework the introduction I took out an extra sheet of paper and titled it "the critic's page". I started writing, and it wasn't long before I became aware of the critical voice at the back of my mind. I hadn't been conscious of it when I was writing in the middle of the night, but now my mind was extremely active, judging and evaluating what I was writing. Now I just wrote the criticisms down on the ciritics page. Whatever they were - "These pages are no good," "Boring," "I've read this before," "No one's going to read this." "Who are you kidding," "This will never sell," etc etc etc. I simply said to myself "So What?" and continued writing.

That took the energy off of writing "perfect" words. And when I read over the critic's page a few days later, I saw I had written the same negative comeents over and over again. My comments were always the same. I couldn't believe it.

The more I continued to do this exercise, the freer I became. And then an amazing shift occurredL as I became aware of the critical mind making its judgements and evaluations, I didn't have the urge to respond any more.

Can I have a critic's life please?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

TFT triumph again

I have to admit I'm rather taken by's weekly page of What people were overheard saying on the London Underground.

(Thanks to The Friday Thing)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2003

Human Nature - Faith Restored

A miraculous thing has happened. A sign of the times we now live in.

I bought a domain. That was already owned by someone else. Quickly. For sensible money. (Less than fifty quid). - my dream business name - is now mine.

(Just got to wait for and registerfly's DNSes to notice now!)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Horror, only beautiful

This is a tale of Exchange services. As in Microsoft Exchange. Sorry about that.

Apart from yer bog-standard SMTP I've only used Exchange as a corporate email solution, with Outlook as my client. Which enables you to do some fairly cool stuff. My favourite being voting buttons at the top of emails. "Here's some stuff, do you agree or not. Speak now (easily) or forever hold your peace."

And then there's the return-receipt. Email's had that for ages, but doesn't quite have the 'liveness' of watching Exchange, which is speedy enough that you can almost use it like instant messenger. You can use that to find out whether people have read the bad news email you just sent them.

Another cool feature is the 'message preview' facility. It won't send a return-receipt, but it will show you the first few lines of that email, so you can find out what they said in reply. Before you open it and are then forced to officially react.

All beautiful. And useful. But fundamentally administrative. So you may question why I'm talking to you about it on what is normally a fairly drippy and self-centred blog - ostensibly about technology, but only as an excuse for me to whinge about stuff AGAIN.

And so, today I had to send out the invitation to my work leaving do. Invited about 70 people. Thought about 30-40 might turn up. Bit fretful about whether the venue was going to be the right size, so put 'Yes/No/Maybe' buttons at the top. Took a deep breath. Pressed send.

And then it started. In real time watching this sea of 'read' 'read' 'read' coming back. It's hard not to judge yourself at moments like this. Are you an arse people tolerate or not?

And then... 'yes' 'yes' 'yes'. Phew - I might be okay. Those people cared enough that they would click on a button.

Damn. A 'no'. Oh, but look at the message preview "Sorry, on hols." etc etc. That's alright. Out of their control, and could be bothered to say why.

After which it started. A sea of 'Yes' replies, all with comments. "I can't believe this day has come" "What is the world coming to eh?" "Hope you'll be back in no time at all" "A tragic loss". All that emotion, all that care, slowly scrolling up my screen. I didn't want to even open a single one at that stage - I just sat, surfing the emotions of other people at the fact I was leaving.

It was like watching a traincrash in slow motion.

Horrible, fascinating, and kind of beautiful.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2003

Gutenberg does Interface Design

A Get Together To Tear It Apart is a coffee-table art book, but online. Once you work out the interface you'll love it.

(With thanks to Joey Julien)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2003

Fate - just live with it

Found an interesting quote from the new Syd Field book 'Going To The Movies' that has a lot of bearing on my current position.

The idealistic conflict between North and South, between one way of life and another, often pitted brother against brother, friend against friend. It had potential for strong action, dynamic and colorful characters who would lay down their lives for their personal freedom.
The more I read and thought about it, the more it seemed that the aftermath of the Civil War really exemplified what the German philosopher Hegel intended in his famous theory of tragedy. Hegel maintainted that the essence of tragedy was not derived from one character's being "right" and the other "wrong", or the conflict of good versus evil. True tragedy, he believed, occurs when both characters pursue actions that are right. As Hegel wrote, tragedy lies in the story of "good versus good".

Now, I did science at school. As a result I'm aware that Hegel is probably old hat to many, but it was an eye-opener to me. And from my outsider point of view, it also sums up a great many of the terrible situations that people find themselves in at work. Particularly within the public sector, where there's a finite amount of money and the only way to pursue your goals is to make sure someone else doesn't pursue (or is constrained in pursuing) theirs. Often when you're both trying to reach the same goal.

Without being melodramatic, the position I was in - and the eventual conclusion - was tragic in this sense.

But it's also possible to extend this back to the more literary version of the word.

When two empires in an organisation clash, how often can those caught in the fallout look back and say 'it was inevitable - from the moment I got this job, from the moment we started down this route, I was doomed'?

So I find almost blessed relief in accepting that mine was a job that could never be done, and that I'm freed from its constraints.

And at least I get a chance to start anew...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2003


I can't help feeling a bit down about Zoe Ball and Norman Cook breaking up. They seemed to be a showbiz couple that were actually going to make it work. And, well, you know, nice people?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 05:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 17, 2003

Satire can make you think

I certainly wasn't expecting The Friday Thing to provide me with something quite so epic to ponder of a morning. But here is a link to some mirrored essays by Pete Towshend about trying to prevent child porn online. Dating from mid-2002. Couldn't find the real articles on Pete's site.

It's long, but extremely thought-provoking, and a huge amount of effort to go to if it is just a front.

I think we'll all have a familiar shudder at the way he describes Images You Wish You Hadn't Seen. Some idiot running a rock fansite once thought a picture of a prolapsed rectum was funny. It's still with me today. Ugh.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2003

Who's a pretty boy then?

Vaughan's just a truly beautiful redesign on Wherever You Are.

Love the random banner images. Really gorgeous and teasingly thought provoking.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Silly Man

I've been thoroughly enjoying Nigel Graber's audi olympics. Small, perfectly formed observations on modern life.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 04:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Forget cases for your Palm...

Proporta are diversifying their catalogue away from laptop bags and mobile accessories.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2003

Apologies for the silence.

I'm trying to work out, as someone about to be bereft of job, what I could have done that would have averted my current position.

And the anwer is: nothing.

My job was fundamentally undoable.
People I believed more capable are now doing my job and finding it as hard, if not harder, than I was.
My (newer, more capable, replacement) boss is not able to find a chink in the armour of what I was up against - and she's got far more power than I have.
My staff are still fighting the same battles that I was fighting 6 months ago. Plus ca change.

I know this isn't unique, but at the moment it feels very crystallised.

And I know there are others out there who have been similarly treated.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 07, 2003

Help Wanted

Thanks to The Obvious? for the lead on GeoURL.

Now, not only can I find out who my blogging neighbours are, I can get them to come round and help me slosh out the cellar if it fills up again!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 06, 2003

I remember 20MB hard disks

My dad's second IBMPC XT had a 20MB hard disk. And I never thought we'd fill it. This was the days of Displaywrite 3, Lotus Symphony and that's about it. Everything turned up on one 5.25" floppy, and perhaps a few extra disks of clip art.

Anyway, alovely new LaCie d2 120GB 7200rpm drive turned up today. 120GB - a scary amount. And even scarier is the fact that I seem to have already planned a way to fill it - it's less than 6 hours old!

(Okay, so getting all the MP3s off my work laptop and onto something I *owned* was probably wise, but still...)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 05, 2003

Bitter Creative Disappointment

So all the relatives were finally dispatched, the sundry visiting friends sent on their way and Christmas At Ours (tm) ended. We'd done all the urgent house decoration jobs in the run-up to the visits, so there was no pressing tasks hanging over us. And the cellar was drying out nicely.

Time then, finally, after over a year, to Do Some Music.

And it was rubbish. I found it really hard, the gear didn't work as I remembered, everything took loads longer than I expected, and my 'pet samples' I'd had hanging around failed to sound even remotely funky when I got them into the sampler. Even starting again from scratch with just some random bits and bobs of sample cds didn't produce the requisite flow of ideas. Absolutely nothing happened whatsoever.

Given that I was planning to use some of my possible forthcoming freedom from regular employment to work on music - both on my own and with friends - this has been a bit of a blow. After all, I only took the job at the beginning of this current run of employment as a way of paying for music projects - the fact it took over my life and kept me away from them for years was purely academic.

If I can't go back to the one thing I could always go back to for solace - where do I go?

And, by corrollary, what am I?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2003


The water table is slowly descending and the floodwaters are finally going from the cellar. Hurrah. Here's a pic when it was nearly at its worst - it's about two inches deep behind the staircase. Notice how happy I look...

A flooded cellar

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2003

Washing Machine Update (and how-to)

It was a hairgrip. And I'm horribly glad I didn't pay a workman nearly a hundred quid to find that out.

According to a man who came to repair a *real* problem on my washing machine once, a really large number of callouts are simply down to change, paperclips etc being caught in the pump. So it's worth knowing how to check that first before you call anyone out...

(NB No liability assumed. You do this at your own risk!!!!!!!)

Our Hoover washing machine displays the following symptom - it'll get stuck in the middle of the wash cycle or the spin cycle indefinitely. So turn the dial to the end, pull the plug out and then lower the grey drain hose down to ground level into a washing up bowl. There'll be about two bowls-worth, so make sure you've got someone to hold the hose in the air while you empty the first.

Once you've got all the water you can out, put some crap towels down, turn off the water supply hoses and disconnect from the back of the machine, catching what you can (not much usually) in the bowl.

Gently tip the washing machine forward onto its front and put a towel inside - try not to scratch the glass on the front when it hits the floor!

The pump is connected to the bottom of the drum with a big flexible hose, and the grey drain hose runs off it. It's bolted to the bottom of the chassis, and you'll need to undo those bolts to get at the screws holding the hoses on. Make sure you really did turn the mains off!

Now undo the screw on the clip connecting the pump to the black hose connecting to the drum. It'll need to be very loose before you can get the hose off as there is a lip on the pump.

Give the pump a shake and you should find a 5p or a hairgrip falls out.

Occasionally it'll be the ghastly combination of hair and the remains of a tissue left in someone's trousers. Label the mains cables on the pump, take it out completely and poke around with tweezers till you've got most of it out. It normally fixes itself after that.

Do it all up again (molegrips recommended for the water hoses - finger pressure won't get you a good enough seal) and you're off. Test it with a rinse cycle and then celebrate the fact you've not had to spend 80 quid on a callout fee.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:04 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

300 litres later...

It says something about my state of mind now, in my current home, and how miserable I must, in hindsight, have been in the previous place, that I can discover my new house is situated on top of an underground river and still be happy.

The last two days have been spent with regular trips down to the cellar to remove 3-10 bucketloads of water at a time, depending on how the water table was at that instant. I even had to get up at 5am last night for an interim visit between the 2am bedtime run and the 8am getting-up run.

And I'm still pleased to be here.

(And now I've got a project - I feel like Ted and Ralph, trying to sort out the drainage in the lower field)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2003


Happy New Year everyone!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack