Manchester, ten years on

I was recently reminded by Jon that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the IRA’s bombing of Manchester, which was my closest brush with terrorism.

It certainly doesn’t seem that long ago. I’d been to visit Jon for the weekend, and we’d popped into the town centre on what I remember to have been a blisteringly hot Saturday, before planning to head back to his place to watch England’s second group match, against Scotland, at 3pm that afternoon.

We saw the van containing the bomb earlier in the day, as the police were widening the cordon. As is often the case with terrorism in the UK, the cordons were seen more as a hindrance than anything, and we skirted round the ever-widening perimeter enjoying a relaxed morning of chat, wandering and browsing. At around 11.15am, we were in an independent record shop; I was browsing through CDs on the ground floor, in racks facing the window. There was a huge bang, and the window in front of me imploded.

There was talk of a gas explosion, but having seen the van earlier in the day, we were confident in our assumption that it was a bomb. Jon knowing Manchester better than I did, we knew that it was serious, as he estimated that the record shop was almost a mile away from the van we’d seen earlier that morning.

I remember seeing panels of glass that had fallen from first and second floor windows, shattered on the pavement below, and being thankful that there was no one underneath them. I remember walking in a dazed state around the city, wondering what to do, where to go. I remember the queues for every phone box we passed, people anxious to confirm their safety to loved ones, and me trying to do the same. And I remember Jon helping out a guy who didn’t have enough money for our bus home: the driver didn’t see these as extenuating circumstances.

Having eventually arrived back at Jon’s flat, the England vs. Scotland match didn’t carry any importance to me. I think I watched bits, but couldn’t focus. Football didn’t mean anything.

BBC doesn’t shut the fuck up

I was watching the BBC’s 10pm news this evening, delayed slightly due to coverage of Brazil’s less than impressive 1-0 win over Croatia.

The lead story was that of the police’s apology for the hurt they may have caused in their wrongful arrest of two brothers in east London. (The fact that the police weakened the apology by using the phrase "I apologise for the hurt we may have caused" is an aside.)

I was surprised by the BBC’s decision to air one of the brothers’ claim that the police told him to "shut the fuck up" on entering the property. While after the 9pm watershed, it was certainly a bold, admirable move to make on the primetime news. This is something that I think would be unheard of in the US.

I was equally surprised that the online coverage of the same story did not reference this line, although a full video of the briefing is available. In the past, the BBC’s online offering has been notoriously more bold/controversial than its TV counterpart.

The site often includes swearing in circumstances where it is intrinsic to the article itself. It usually chooses to place such references after the fold (where the bottom of the screen generally cuts the article when you’re at the top of the page), so that they are only read by people genuinely interested in the article, and so that they aren’t automatically pushed to other media (e.g. Ceefax) that are more widely accessible.

In this instance, the reference was important to the story, and warranted airtime. Heartening.

6/5 electrical

I tried to buy something from 24/7 electrical yesterday. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts on my part, the system would not accept my valid postcode. So as advised, I called them up. Their lines are open from 10am–4pm, Monday through Friday. I think they need a re-branding.

Password woes

Yesterday was the first time I logged on to my work computer. I’d been issued with a username (a nice user-friendly numeric string), along with a garbled alpha-numeric password.

Fortunately, I was invited to change my password on first logging on. The strange thing was that instead of being asked to enter a password of my choice (with the standard security considerations like length, avoidance of consecutive characters, capital and lowercase letters), I was invited to choose one of four pre-defined passwords that had been presented to me.

Each was of the form CVCCVCCVC, C being a consonant, V being a vowel, presumably to make them easier to remember (e.g. cat-dog-bat), although each set of three characters is by no means guaranteed to be a word. Y was considered a vowel, giving a nice 13.8 billion possible passwords.

I thought I’d struggle to remember the password, but on day two, I managed to enter the username and password without referring to my notes.

Shipping success

On leaving New York, we had all of our NY belongings packed up and shipped back to the UK. Although the estimated shipping time was 5–6 weeks, the container arrived today, 3.5 weeks after its contents left our New York apartment.

Everything about the shipment has been exemplary, thanks to Rainier at the US end, and Britannia over here. Everything’s arrived in one piece, ahead of schedule, and with courtesy and professionalism throughout.

If you’re looking for shipping companies, you could do a lot worse than either of the above.

If you can’t hear this message, please call

A message came over the tannoy this morning at work saying the following:

Good morning ladies and gentleman. If you are having any difficulty hearing this message, please call on XXX.

A beautiful piece of irony, especially given that there was no more to the message.

Where does all the water go?

Thames Water has been criticised for quite some time now because an estimated one litre in three does not get to our homes due to leakages in its infrastructure. This is often cited as a counter-argument to the imposition of hosepipe bans and the like.

But where does all the leaking water go? Surely it goes back into the system. While there’s an argument for inefficiency in there (the water needs to be re-treated, cleaned etc., thus adding expense to Thames Water and therefore the end user), I’m thinking that fixing the issue would not necessarily help on the water-shortage front.


I just found out by accident that if you highlight some text in Word, and hit CTRL+SHIFT+Q, it converts said text into Greek.

May be useful, particularly for those budding mathematicians out there…

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