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June 30, 2003

The great ineffability of it all

One of the things I've found oddest about having moved the blog to, resetting movable type to a (pretty) vanilla template structure in the process, is that I've not got around to reinstating the code for the hit counter.

With, I get lots of lovely server logs (easyspace did provide this, but it was a bit of a faff to set up and only came along later IIRC) and had planned to look at those instead.

But I just never get around to it.

And as a result I've got virtually no idea how many people read this, where they've come from, and what they were searching for in the process.

This is a curiously liberating feeling. I've sidestepped Clay Shirky's power laws by simply having no way of giving a shit. Nothing to get stressed about. My only measurement mechanism is whether people leave comments, and on my last "user survey" post the resounding opinion was that I answer all of my thoughts anyway. So that's not much use either.

So there you are - a blog that is genuinely for anyone and everyone, but mainly for me. I hope you (still) like it.

My plea to you all: Be brave. Stop measuring for a bit. See how you like it.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tunnel Vision

One of the things that really annoys me about the way the London Tube System is run is the arrogance to presume that thousands of people don't mind waiting.

Today I was 90 minutes late for work. That could have been 30 minutes if, instead of saying that the Central Line had 'delays' and then 'severe delays', they'd just admitted that it wasn't working up front.

It may be incompetence, but it still shows a complete lack of regard for customers/passengers/clients/cattle/whatever we're called today. "It's broken, but we'll cost the city a few tens of thousands of man hours because we're not brave enough to fess up up front".

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

America can be odd at times

I find it very strange that the US supreme court can't rule that homosexual sex is legal, but has instead to rule that it is illegal to ban homosexual sex.

(Although this may just be a cunning political copout to save George Bush, meaning he doesn't have to comment on the issue and alienate either side...)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Childbirth tips from Cath

Our friend Cath has just had a baby, and has passed on this useful advice. I felt it was worth a wider airing:

  1. The sensation during a Caesarian is something akin to someone putting their hands in your abdomen right up to their wrists, then rummaging.
  2. The only edible hospital food is yellow.
  3. Babies are great when they are asleep.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Denis Thatcher - the lightning bolt missed

Sir Denis Thatcher dies and the BBC obituary doesn't even mention John Wells' spoof "Dear Bill" letters in Private Eye - one of the main reasons I knew of him. This also made me smile...

At the time his daughter put his quick recovery down to "copious gin drinking".

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Not sure about the interface, but...

It's nice to see something really innovative and art-like from the commercial world - MTV's Exquisite Corpse was a video-based version of the surrealists parlour game where a poem, drawing or story was written collaboratively, but where the participants could only see the line before.

The name "Exquisite Corpse" came from one of the phrases the technique produced at first.

I remember using this to draw silly people and creatures when I was a child - someone would draw the head and fold the bit of paper over showing just two stumps of lines. Someone else would draw the body, not knowing if it was a spaceman or a monster or a baby's face above.

Graham Oakley, who wrote and illustrated the fab and witty "The Church Mouse" books, made a great book called "Magical Changes" that worked on the same principle - fab paintings but cut down the middle. You could mix the bottom of any RH page with the top of any other RH page. This 'childrens book' spent a long long time doing the rounds at my dad's office.

MTV commissioned a bunch of tv graphics people to produce 3 seconds of video - and they could only see the three seconds previous to it.

The results are fascinating. Sometimes a little self-consciously wierd, but definitely worth a look.

I think 'red' is my current favourite. Click on the "bandwidth/real/wma" links to see the whole piece. The pic of an aeroplane shows which country did which bit.

(And yes, I admit to having an interest in said company)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vicious Circle

I defer having a position because I am insecure.
I feel insecure because I don't have a position.

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

June 25, 2003


I can't help feeling that nobody has done any user testing on the homepage of National Rail. Particularly as I got to it from clicking on the 'timetables' link on railtrack's site.

Go on, anyone, can you see at first glance the one thing you're most likely to come to this site for? (Timetables).

Although I get very annoyed by the smug fun-stealing bloodymindedness of some usability folk, I get more annoyed when such an obviously 'tool' site gets a print rather than a product design methodology applied to it.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Speaking to my soul

I don't entirely agree with Gareth McLean that men aren't interested in shopping - I absolutely thrive on getting good new clothes, but he's right that men's highstreet clothing ranges simply aren't as good as women's

He's also spot on about H&M - though I'm aware it has its female fans:

My lack of faith in the shop - I have always viewed it as a glorified jumble sale in which the occasional nice item is hidden, lucky dip-style - was vindicated.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DLT beats Gary Bushell.

I had to laugh at C**t trumps. Only those with low tolerance to sweary words should look away. Or those in open plan offices surrounded by the sensitive...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I had to withdraw gracefully from The London News Review. The print edition was becoming by far the more important element, and the world of raising funding for internet projects is a long long long way away from selling ads in a print mag. A really really long way away. Particularly if your other part-time job isn't quite as part-time as it first promised.

It's a shame, because they're a very interesting bunch of people, and I think that the publication is going to be great - but only if I get out of the way and let someone else take over.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Ending

I read this very dispiriting post from Tim Jokl on Sunday. The emotions he was going through were extremely familiar, but I didn't really know if - even now - I had any helpful advice to offer. Sometimes life in the BBC can just be a bit cruel and rubbish.

But it gave me great joy to hear that he now has a permanent job.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I know I've already got a 1GHz powerbook, but I have now started lusting after the new Apple Power Mac G5.

(Pretty cheap too!)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Busy Tonight?

Why not go along to dotmusic's attempt at the World Record for Most DJ's to Play in One Night. Hey, if you don't like a track, another will be along in just a few seconds.

Bridge & Tunnel, 4 Calvert Avenue, London E2 7JP Wednesday 18 June 2003 (7pm-onward).

Nearest tubes Old Street/ Liverpool Street. Map.
If you want to be one of the DJ's, you need to arrive at the venue at 7:00pm to collect your number (more details to follow).

Entry is free - although everyone will be asked to make a donation for the Rwanda fund.

Shame the McWhirter brothers can't be there throwing shapes...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Instant mobs

This is just such a fabulous idea. Creating spontaneous instant gatherings of people in NY. I particularly like the pointlessness of it all.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

Surround Market Dynamics

I was very lucky this birthday - we had a little inrush of cash just before it and so the other half very kindly bought me a surround sound system. Nothing too exotic, but it does the job.

So obviously I was looking for some really good DVDs to showcase this, and I realised that most of the big explosion and SFX DVDs are ones I wouldn't actually want to own. I'd rent them, sure, but I'm not about to part with 3-4 times the rental costs to watch it again and again. And the films I would want to watch again and again are either old enough to be in mono or are extremely subtle in their use of surround.

I own the matrix (the 'brothers in arms' of the DVD world) which I've watched once, starwars phantom menace - similarly. About the only thing that works is the DVD of BBC's "The Planets" and a couple of rock concerts.

Our first full-length film to be watched was a hired 'Die Another Day'. It was fab - but I've seen it now.

Does anyone have recommendations for things I really *must* own to play on this system? And why?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 13, 2003


In a world full of blogger, movable type and suchlike, it's nice to see blog like pHile's Blog

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2003

Samson Amp - Crackly Speaker

Over the last three or four months, I've become increasingly frustrated with the previously fab Samson Servo 260 amp in my studio. Speakers would cut out at random, and would only come back on when I turned the amp off and on again, or turned it up to full volume.

I took some advice from the usually spot-on Simon and spent a pleasant two hours reflowing the solder on the circuit board in the hope of finding the dry joint...but to no avail. So I was left, in my unemployed state, with no option but to put up with it. Until now...

As my financial position has now taken a slight turn for the better, I thought I'd finally get it sorted out. So I rang the lovely man at Sound Technology, their UK distributors who said:

Ahhhhh, that'll be the relay that disconnects the speakers while it's powering up. The terminals get corroded after a few years, but turning it up full means something arcs and it clears the corrosion - but only briefly. So turn it off, take the cover off, move the wires out of the way, and give the black box just by the transformer a firm bash with something insulating like the handle of a screwdriver, and it'll have another few months in it. Or I can send you a new relay for 8 quid.

And he was right. This is what is known as service and support.

And I'm going to buy the relay anyway now, just in case.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003


I'm sure virtually everyone with even a faint interest in CGI or Lord of the Rings has seen this, but just in case...

Gollum tells Andy Serkis what's what as he accepts his MTV Movie award

Posted by Tom Dolan at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2003

Friends at the bottom of the garden



Say hello to our new foxcubs!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Without and without

It's been very odd the last week or so, being without a blog. It's felt like not having a memory. There was loads of stuff going on and inspiring things to talk about, but it just never got documented. Like there was a bit of my life where there was no oxide on the tape, if that makes sense.

The even odder thing is how 'out of the habit' I've got in such a short space of time. Both of writing, and reading, blogs. Being without a blogroll was like having no newsagents open.

I suppose the period away was long enough for me to question why exactly I do this - a cycle has been broken and I need to look at the purpose of this again. (Though the pain of installing MT on a Pair account makes it unlikely I'll just walk away)

Must stop now, I'm starting to sound like (the newly re-housed) Vaughandid a while back.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack