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31 December 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Anyone looking for the lyrics and the original tune to which Burns set the lyrics for tonight can find them at this minimalist page on auld lang syne I put together many years ago.

Happy new year. Bliadhna mhath ùr!

16 December 2006

Good Honest Coffee

I was out for a coffee in Edinburgh last week and as usual was presented with the now mandatory bewildering range on offer. It's gone from being a "would you like milk or sugar" to "please take a look at the menu that resembles something from a Chinese restaurant".

I like cold milk in my coffee otherwise it's far too hot to drink and takes too long.
Like my wine and whisky, I don't feel much of a need to add froth or other flavourings such as chocolate, vanilla etc.

So all I want is a bog standard black filter coffee with cold milk in it. I'm sure that in amongst the range of fancy names of coffee on offer, that there must be a name for this particular brew. Traditional coffee? Regular coffee? But how do you make sure that it doesn't get warm frothy milk in it (warm milk is what I feed a baby and is nice to send them to sleep rather than wake you up!)

How about an Honest Coffee (tm) anyone?

The person I was meeting to discuss jobs had the same preference in coffee. Maybe I'm not the only one that needs more Honest Coffee?


14 December 2006

London Underground overheating

This will be my first blog post from the PDA and as I type this I am on a very warm London underground in the middle of December. I can well believe the horror stories of overheating in the summer, especially during rush hour and three trainloads of people queuing ahead of you before you can get on a train,

The problem is caused by hotter air in the Tube failing to rise (as hot air does) quickly enough, coupled with insufficient cooler air from outside replacing it, and insufficient air circulation generally, especially within the trains when the doors are closed. I offer the following as a possible solution and welcome comments on it.

1. Have a system which derives at least part of its power from solar energy.

2. Pump cooler air from outside (possibly augmented by air conditioning) into the gaps between stations such that it flows along the lines, pushed by the trains, into stations. Said air could be sucked in from the street level drainage system.

3. Complete the air cycle by using fans to suck the air out of stations by installing such vans in escalator shafts.

4. Dramatically improve the circulation in trains by having air scoops at the front of the train (where there is high pressure) and feeding this into each carraige separately via units in the carriage ceiling - there is currently a fair bit of spare headroom there that could be put to better use.

5. Install ceiling fans with mesh guards in carriages.

My 2p worth anyway, Ken Livingston are you listening?

12 December 2006

Search for accommodation in London?

When attempting to use the Internet to search for accommodation in London, it seems that despite 10+ years of e-commerce no-one appears to have a usable website to do this basic activity adequately. Perhaps I'm missing something here but I tried the popular sites, I tried various terms on Google, I tried various types of searches but nothing was adequate.

What I was looking for:

1. An en-suite double room in Greater London, ideally within about 5 miles of the City of London.

2. Less than £60 a night, including breakfast. This appears to be too complicated for some sites since some quote you without breakfast and then add it on as a surcharge.

3. Available on the night I want to stay. This is again a problem for some sites that do a cursory search then only check availability when you actually go to book the room only to find there isn't a room available to book. Other sites tell you they will get back to you by email in one business day, which is no use at short notice.

4. Wi-fi access would be a bonus but no-one seems to have invented a way of searching for it yet.

5. A place which has been favourably reviewed would obviously be good as many of the cheaper hotels are reviewed as dirty and substandard. Being able to filter for positively reviewed places rather than getting Fawlty Towers would be great. It would be even better if I could filter out the comments that were in languages I don't speak.

6. Searching by star grading would be a bonus, but isn't essential

7. A check in time of 1pm or earlier is a bonus, but isn't essential

8. Clearly the capability of quoting you an entire price, including any applicable credit card booking fee, is beyond the capability of any website in the year 2006 so I gave up on that one.

9. Being able to look at the matching results and see where they all were on a map is a very big usability bonus.

10. Being able to search for somewhere that has a shower. Saying there are en-suite facilities is not enough as some places are bath only.

Having spent ages wasting my time searching the various sites, the only one that even came remotely close to doing 1-3 and actually had available accommodation within my price range (and it has feature 9 too) was priceline. So there you go. Maybe there is a better search out there that can look for cheap availability but I couldn't find it. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I eventually found somewhere that was £40 for a double room including breakfast but some of the reviews are rather mixed so we'll see how it goes. I would have paid a bit more if I could have actually found somewhere suitable.

One positive thing from all of this is it's given me a really great idea for a Web2.0 start-up and no, it isn't an accommodation search.


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