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Leeds Festival: Going Home

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If arriving at the festival was chaotic, going home was even worse. Thousands of cars were being squeezed through a couple of narrow lanes to the main road. Instead of trying to queue up, we packed all of our stuff into the car and went back into the campsites for some 'tidying up'. A lot of people don't want to bother taking unopened tins back with them. Fair enough if you went there by coach or train, it is extra weight to carry. This means that there can be some rich pickings left behind after people have gone.

We walked through the camp sites looking for tins of beer or occasionally food. Last year we managed to get around 80 cans of beer of various types. This year wasn't as good, we only managed around 50.

Leeds Festival: Day 3

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This afternoon was mainly spent wandering around the various tents and stages, catching bits and pieces of various acts. The first of the main acts we saw was The Charlatons. I'd been looking forward to seeing them but unfortunately the experience was let down by poor sound quality.

Tonights headline act, after the Kings of Leon, was the Foo Fighters. Thankfully the sound quality problems had been sorted out and everything sounded loud and clear. They put on a very good show, which included an impressive laser show part way through.

Tonight was marred by some stupid acts of violence and vandalism. Some of the poles which supported the lights got torn down and burned. The can bar was broken into and looted, and the Cider Tent was burned to the ground.

Leeds Festival: Day 2

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One of the things the festival organisers do in an attempt to keep the litter to a minimum is to allow people to exchange bags of rubbish for beer vouchers. This morning, we collected one of the giant red bin bags they use, filled it with rubbish, and exchanged it for a voucher.

We went to the arena to watch the Drop Kick Murphys. We saw them last year as well and I'm sure the field in front of the main stage was a lot emptier then. The whole festival site seemed much busier this time around. Next on was Graham Coxon. Unfortunately the sound quality was terrible. After him, we went to the Comedy Tent to catch some of Marcus Brigstock (a regular on TV programmes such as Have I got news for you). On the way, we caught some of We Are Scientists (who were quite good). Anyway, after Marcus we stayed in the comedy tent for the Lemon Jelly Satanic Bingo. Like normal bingo but with the numbers being called by an animated demon!

Tonights main acts were The Killers, and The Pixies. Both were very good. The Pixies were quite a brave choice for a headline act. Despite being very influential, their music was almost certainly less well known than some of the other bands. Despite that, they seemed to go down well with the crowd.

Leeds Festival: Day 1

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In the arena, the Nokia Tent was giving away free prints from phones. All you needed to do was have a bluetooth enabled phone and send a photo to one of the printers in their tent. We went along and got a few photos of our hamsters printed.

The first band we saw was NOFX. I don't know many of their songs but Emma has been a fan of theirs for many years. They seemed quite good live but the highlight had to be the middle aged bloke in front of us, who kept dancing. He had a mowhawk haircut but a bald patch in the middle ruined the effect but added to the comedy. It was while watching NOFX that we met up with Alan and Gill (friends of mine from Aberystwyth).

We stayed to watch Iggy Pop, then went back to our tent for some food before returning to the arena for Marylin Manson, who was surprisingly good. Next, there were two headline acts on at the same time: Iron Maiden on the main stage and Echo and the Bunnymen on the Carling Stage. With hindsight, it was a fairly obvious decision. I had to watch Iron Maiden. I'd been a fan for many years and seemed more likely to put on an extravagant show.

They did not disappoint. All the songs were from their first 4 albums. I'd forgotten quite how many good songs they had recorded so early in their career. Too numerous to list them all but there were the 'obvious' ones such as Number of the Beast (complete with beast with flashing red eyes rising up from the stage) and The Phantom of the Opera (I'd forgotten how good the guitar intro was to that song). Part way through the act, someone came through the crowd and released a load of inflatable 'Aftershock' goodies - huge beach balls and inflatable sheep! Emma managed to grab one of the sheep and kept it safe til we got back to our tent.

We ended the evening with a pint of the hot spiced cider from the Cider Tent. This is like a mulled cider drink and is really tasty.

Leeds Festival 2005

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It wasn't a great start: on arrrival at the festival site, we were waved into the first entrance we got to. It turned out to be the 'drop-off only' gate rather than the car park. I, along with many other people, had to navigate through a maze of unsignposted tracks to the correct car park.

We arrived much earlier this year, so managed to get a better spot for the tent, closer to the arena. After exchanging our tickets for the wristbands which are needed to get into the arena itself, we had a wander around the 'shopping village' area. We bought ourselves a couple of cheap folding chairs (2 for £10) to replace the ones we bought last year. We were going to bring the old ones with us but we left them outside in the rain at home. They weren't ruined but were too wet to bring with us.

As we got back to the tent, there was a loud and impressive thunderclap and it started to rain. We retreated into the tent and the rain got louder. It wasn't until we left the tent that we found out it was actually hailstones.

The festival proper doesn't start until tomorrow night. After our tea (of bbq'd chicken) we checked out the shops in the arena. They were mostly clothes and there was nothing which really caught our eyes. We went back to our tent for a few glasses of wine.

Aliens, Jeremy Clarkson, and the Japanese

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All in the space of half an hour this morning:

  • I was on train, listening to the Planet Japan podcast. This is an interesting and quirky show about Japanese life and customs, by two Americans who have lived in Japan for a few years. I don't have an iPod or any other mp3 player so I was listening on minidisc.
  • The bloke sitting next to me on the train was reading a book by Jeremy Clarkson and was obviously finding it very funny. He would visibly shake with laughter every now and again.
  • I arrived in work, to be told that UFOs had been seen flying over Birmingham last night

Warwick Castle

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A couple of weeks ago, we received through the door a 'buy one get one free' entry voucher for Warwick Castle. We'd already been there last year, but that was off-season and they had fewer attractions (and more rain). This time around, they had a Trebuchet, Birds of Prey, Jousting, and many other stalls and side-shows. The only one of these they had last time was the Archery demonstration.

We went for the Trebuchet and stayed for the Jousting. The only real problem was the popularity of the place (quite amazing since the normal adult entry fee is £17). There were queues to get into some of the indoor exhibits and onto the battlements.

After leaving the castle, we had a wander around the town itself including the Warwickshire Museum which had everything a local museum should have: history, geography, wildlife, and free entry.  

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01 811 8055

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That phone number is probably etched into the memories of anyone my age or thereabouts. Not any 081s or 0181s or any new fangled numbers like that! The multicoloured swap shop. Noel edmonds with his beard and jumpers. Posh paws the dinosaur type thing. Keith Chegwin before he was an alcoholic.

A walk along the canal

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It was very warm and sunny today so rather than stay in the office all day, I decided to have a walk along the canal, from the Mailbox to Brindley Place (and back again). Here are some of the photos I took.

Oompa Loompa killed the radio star

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Seperated at Birth?

Trevor Horn Oompa Loompa
Trevor Horn, of Buggles fame Oompa Loompa, as played by Deep Roy in the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film

You are now approaching the station you just left

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On the train home tonight, the passenger info system (recorded announcement and scrolling LED display) seemed to be in reverse. On leaving Birmingham New Street, we were told that the train terminates there and all-change please. This continued for the rest of the journey. The voice would correctly identify the station we'd stopped at but would claim the next stop was the one we'd just left. At Birmingham International, the driver realised what was happening and apologised over the tannoy, but left the automatic voice to continue to mislead us all the way to Coventry.

Windows XP SP2 killed my network

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Or 'Compters often make people quite angry part 2'

Last week, after installing the USB wireless network on my computer, I thought everything was working ok. Unfortunately not so. During the week, my network connection kept dying. Using the 'repair connection' option would cause the computer to hang, requiring a reach for the power switch to reset it.

I tried the usual things: uninstall/reinstall, download new drivers from the manufacturers website. Nothing seemed to work. A quick check of various websites suggested that it's likely to be a problem with XP service pack 2 and USB wireless network devices. I tried some of the solutions mentioned: let windows manage the connection, let the software which came with the adaptor manage the connection, check the USB power saving settings. Nothing helped.

As I was getting ready to return it to the shop to exchange it for a 'proper' internal card (I only chose the USB option because it was the same price and should've been quicker to install), Emma suggested we swapped adaptors from her machine to mine. Her computer is running SP1, mine came with SP2 pre-installed. We swapped the cards, reinstalled the drivers, and (touch wood) everthing seems to be working ok.

As an aside, on friday our wireless router kept losing connection, requiring regular resets. It would connect to the Internet but neither of us could connect to the router. On saturday, we upgraded the firmware and re-initialised it. So far it seems to be working ok again. I don't know whether it's just a coincidence or whether SP2 had somehow managed to affect other devices on the network.

Update: 23/09/2005

I thought the idea of one computer having such an effect on the network was a little fanciful, but I have since observed something similar. I was using FTP to transfer data between two machines (sitting at computer A, using a drag-and-drop interface to copy files from computer B to computer C). Part way through a transfer, all the computers connected to the router would simultaneously disconnect. The first time it happened, I thought it was just a random event. The second time, it was a bit annoying. The third time, it was obvious what was causing it (but not how it was doing it).

Korma style curry sauce

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We made this curry sauce earlier in the week and liked it so much we decided to make it again. It's very simple but increadibly tasty.

  • Chop one onion and fry gently in a tablespoon of oil
  • Add one teaspoon of chopped chillies and two teaspoons of chopped or grated ginger
  • Fry for a few more minutes before adding a teaspoon each of turmeric and mild curry powder
  • Stir to mix everything together before adding 2 tablespoons of tomato puree and 4 tablespoons of water
  • Mix well then take off the heat
  • Add 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder and 8 tablespoons of yoghurt
  • Mix well, then add 50g of creamed coconut.
  • Return to the heat and stir until mixed thoroughly.

As soon as the sauce has started bubbling, it is ready to serve. Pour over chicken or anything you like really.

Broken Microwave

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Last night in Sainsburys, I bought a microwave meal because it was going out of date and was reduced from over £2 to around 35p. I thought it would make a nice lunch - I could use the microwave in work to heat it up.
I don't bring microwave meals in very often. It was just my luck that when I went into the kitchen at lunchtime, the microwave was broken. There was no sign up to warn the unsuspecting diner. I'd already pierced the plastic film, ready to start cooking. After forgetting my sandwiches yesterday, this is not looking like a good week, food-wise. Last nights curry being the notable exception.

World Memory Champion

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Today on Radio 2, Steve Wright interviewed a friend of ours, Ben Pridmore, currently the World Memory Champion. As well as asking him how he managed to remember things (by associating words or numbers with pictures or images), Steve read out a sequence of numbers, then later in the show asked Ben to recall them. He got most of them right, only forgetting the last 2.

Download the interview (memory.mp3 2mb)

Hats off to Ben - he's done something I'll never be able to do. I've got no chance of developing a memory like his - I keep getting 'senior moments' where I walk into a room and then forget why I went there. I've also:

  • Opened the fridge door, and not remembered what I wanted
  • Opened a web browser window and promptly forgotten what site I wanted to look at
  • Gone to the supermarket and forgotten what I needed to buy
  • yesterday forgot to bring my lunch with me to work. I went into the kitchen to empty the bin but forget to go into the fridge!

Sadly, Ben is no longer the World Memory Champion - he came 4th. As he mentioned in the interview, he didn't intend to enter this year. He was going to memorize pi but unfortunately was beaten to it by Akira Haraguchi who memorized it to over 80,000 decimal places.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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We'd been wanting to watch this film ever since Emma found out about the Nut Sorting Room and all the squirrels. She's also a huge fan of the director, Tim Burton, so it was inevitable that we'd see it eventually.

The visual style is in keeping with many of his earlier films, with the usual attention to detail with the sets. There's just about the right level of humour to keep things going. The only real problem with the film was Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. His Michael Jackson style performance rapidly became quite annoying, which was a shame because otherwise it would have been an excellent film.

Poor Man's Caviar

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Also known as Baba Ghanoush. There are lots of different recipes for this, but the one here is based on one I saw on television years ago. I had another go at making it again at the weekend and the results were quite good.


  • Aubergine
  • Garlic (entire bulb)
  • Seasoning (eg. salt/pepper/chilli powder)
  • Tahini or sesame paste/oil (optional)

Prick the aubergine with a fork and roast in a medium oven (gas mark 6) for around 45 minutes. About half way through, put the garlic in to roast as well.
Let the aubergine cool. Cut in half and scoop out the flesh - it should have gone very soft. Squeeze the garlic out of each clove and add to the aubergine 'mush'. Mix the two together, adding any seasoning and sesame.

To serve: spread on toast or naan bread. Grill until nice and hot.

Computers Often Make People Quite Angry

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At long last, I finally got around to buying myself a new computer. My old laptop was getting to be so slow (I'm sure somethings gone wrong with the hard drive, everything takes so long to load). The only problem with a new computer is having to reinstall all the software I take for granted on my old one.

Obviously the first thing to go on was Internet access. I installed the wireless networking and then Mozilla and Thunderbird. It took me a while to work out how to copy all my settings and emails over. Normally I just copied the directories from the Documents and Settings/Application Data but this didn't work. It took a bit of trial and error before I realised that the problem was the Windows user account. I normally set one up called 'Mike', but the computer came with one set up called 'Compaq User'. Thunderbird and Mozilla were trying to access a nonexistent user directory . The easiest solution seemed to be to create my usual user name and install everything as normal. Thankfully I hadn't set anything else up to use that user name, so nothing else needed messing with.

The only other thing which caused problems was the bluetooth dongle I bought to make it easier to transfer photos from my phone. I followed the instructions, but couldn't get it to work. I then noticed a slip of paper in the box with additional instructions for XP SP2. After following those, I got it to work (sort of). For some reason, the phone doesn't always manage to connect to the computer but it usually works ok the other way around. But that's something to sort out later if it keeps causing problems...

Lunch at 300mph

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I was on-site with one of the Data Collectors in work and was trying to use his laptop pc (with build in GPS) to track our location. There seemed to be something wrong with the tracking because it would sometimes show us in the middle of a field or think we were on a side road when we were still on a main road. If it was trying to navigate for us, and thought we were on a side road, it would read out nonsense directions and try to get us to turn into nonexistent roads. The best (or maybe worst) was at lunchtime when the van was parked in a lay-by. The GPS thought we were flying over the town at around 300 mph!

Winter Whites

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At the weekend, while we were up north visiting parents, we took a short detour to Tranmere to collect some hamsters. These were Winter Whites from someone from the Hamster Heaven forum.

We arrived at Simon's house on saturday afternoon to find two tubs of hamsters in the hallway - one with boy hamsters and the other girl hamsters. Emma wanted the sapphire, so we chose him and two of the other boys. One of the hamsters was standing on his hind legs (like Rory Calhoun) so Emma put her hand into the tub to pick him up when four of the other hamsters leapt onto her hand. They certainly aren't afraid of being handled and will readily climb into your hand (unlike our Roborovski who will try to hide if you put your hand into the cage).

We already had names ready for them (Archie, Theo and Reggie). All we had to do was decide which was which: Archie is the Sapphire, Reggie is the slower sleepier one and Theo is the slightly hyper one (although still less hyper than either of our robos).

Squirrel Stuff

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The BBC seems to love reporting on squirrel stories, the latest one being about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Here are a few more from the site:

Diet Part 2

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I think last week might not have been the best time to start a diet. There were several people leaving work and one birthday, all of which involved people bringing cakes in to share.
At least my policy of walking to the station instead of taking the bus is having a useful side-effect. I'm usually there in time for the early train which means I get to work early and can have a long lunch break and still manage to leave early!

On a similar food related note, for about 3 weeks now there has been a 'Greggs' bag in the fridge in work. It looks about the right shape and size to be a pasty or savoury slice some kind. Nobody seems to know who it belongs to. Perhaps its original owner decided to go on a diet and left it there...