30 November 2007

Whizzkid Kingpin

I've just seen news of the arrest, by New Zealand police, of a teenage hacker who is being questioned in connection with major online fraud.

In the article the police are reported to have alleged that the teenager is a "whizkid kingpin".

A whizzkid kingpin. Superb.

Firstly, can you ever imagine the British police describing someone in these terms?

But more interestingly, I would love to hear these words spoken in authoritative tones by a policemen with kiwi accent. How on earth would this phrase sound with those mutated kiwi vowels?

Whuzzkud kungpun.

I love it.

Attack of the Exclamaniacs!


I just thought I'd quickly write something! I hope you like it!

I'm not sure if you have noticed, as I have, that some folks, particularly work colleagues, love to use the exclamation mark!

All the time!

Sometimes they're doing it to add some humour and levity to an email!

And other times, they're doing to show some annoyance and add gravity to a serious point!

The trouble is, it's not always obvious which is which! So you end up with a perception of a manic, shouty voice, devoid of any real emotion! I find myself reading with my eyebrows permanently raised in anticipation of a punchline or outburst that never comes! Reading this stuff is hard work!

Of course, sometimes, the writer has genuine desire to resort to an exclamation mark for a particular statement, but with every sentence ending with one, they are faced with a problem! This problem is easily solved, just by using multiple exclamation marks!!!!! The more amused/angry the writer feels, the greater the quantity of exclamation marks added to the single default specimen, so they start multiplying!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a kind of quantitative exclamation mark!!!!

This issue has serious ramifications! On several occasions, emails from colleagues have had to be answered with a phone call, as exclamation marks were so prevalent, it was hard to tell whether one was dealing with anger or excitement! Or worse, a combination of the two!

In fact, a friend of mine is currently dealing with a solicitor! And this solicitor has become so aware of the perils of the liberally distributed exclamation mark that he has banned his staff from using them at all! So now, when they want to stress a particular point, or to assign importance to a particular sentence, they must do so through using an appropriate choice of words! Words, I tell you!

It's almost as if the exclamation mark has become the anti-biotic of the English language! It is used indiscriminately as a cure-all for whichever ailment of expression we face! Yet the more it is used, the less effective it becomes, until we find ourselves massively overdosing, ruining our health and feeling none of the intended benefit!

This isn't the worst of it, though. What technique do you notice when the growing hordes of exclamaniacs want to ask a question?!?!?!?!?!?!?

14 November 2007

Hello St. Pancras - Where can I park my bike?

St. Pancras
Today, the new £800m St. Pancras International rail terminal welcomed its first Eurostar service. I had a quick look at the nearly finished station on Saturday. It looks great. A simple hi-tech glass structure extends the original trainshed structure accompanied by Gilbert Scott's glorious gothic front end to the station.

Looking around the new St. Pancras, it seemed that something was missing; that something wasn't right. I couldn't place it, but it seems the clever people at Camden Cyclists had identified what was missing: cycle racks. This enormous new rail terminal had been designed with how many cycle racks? Thirty. Just thirty cycle racks for what is supposed to be the main rail terminus of a world class city and Olympic host.

In addition, it has been pointed out that the surrounding road system does little to provide a safe environment for cyclists traveling to, from or around St. Pancras. Added to this the fact that Eurostar's cycle policy is far from practical and Camden Cyclists had identified several significant reasons why this supposed revolution for British transport is severely lacking when it comes to its provision for cycling as a means of transport.

So, I'm glad to hear that the Camden Cyclists protest today was a great success. Calling attention to these three issues, they managed to provoke a sudden increase in the number of cycle racks, and the promise of a change in Eurostar's cycle policy. Of course, the matter of improving the safety of the surrounding road infrastructure is a harder thing to change - more's the pity that it wasn't properly taken into account during the seven year construction of this immense and otherwise impressive engineering project.

12 November 2007

howies and me

I've made no secret of my admiration for clothing company howies in recent times.

I've never been one to comment on fashion, but I've always liked howies' open-minded ideas, their gorgeous catalogues, their friendly blog and their entertaining website. They really seem to have fun talking to their customers and sharing ideas with them.

Well, now I like howies a bit more.

And here are two reasons why:

Firstly, a few months ago they put out the shout for new T-shirt ideas. I emailed them an idea that was buzzing around in my head and I was fairly chuffed to be told that my suggestion had made it to become the winning T-shirt design. It's now designed, printed and available on their site - Seize the Day Off

Secondly, and even more excitingly, howies are letting me come to play with them for a couple of weeks. Two weeks in the draughty south-west of Wales to see what's it's like on the other side of the impressive public image. Hopefully I can offer them some writing, some ideas and some enthusiasm. And hopefully they can offer me some insight into how they manage to do what they do. Bring it on.

Protest Through Remembrance?

Another November 11th has passed, and another Remembrance Sunday observed.

But things seemed a little different this year. For as long as I can remember, the number of people wearing poppies in early November has seemed to decline each year. Why? Well, memories of world wars become more distant and attitudes to conflict and nationhood have certainly changed as generations move on.

But this year, more poppies seemed on display, and on the lapels of a younger generation. I've been puzzled by this. What's changed all of a sudden?

Newspapers show their Remembrance Day front pages as always, but beneath the photos, they write less of the past and more of the present. They tell stories of the struggles that today's service personnel endure. They criticise our government for the wars they have taken us to, and the way they have equipped and treated their soldiers.

So were the poppies worn last week worn by a younger generation as much out of protest as out of remembrance? I think maybe they were.