My Christmas list

I’m not expecting anyone to buy any of this stuff for me. But I thought I’d share my Christmas list to date, mainly as a reflection on my character.

Dick Bruna

Thanks to Andy for pointing m to Dick Bruna’s site. It’s lovely.

For some reason I don’t remember the name miffy, but I certainly remember his drawings from my childhood. They’re so simple yet effective, and they’ve translated so well to the web. Worth a quick squizz.

Seasons deserve capitalisation

I’ve always thought that seasons deserve capitalisation, yet you’re unlikely to find a style guide that concurs. The Guardian’s opts for lc. I vaguely remember discussing this very subject with Steve a few years back, and him agreeing.

The days of the week and the months of the year are all classed as proper nours, being awarded the honour of a capital letter at the beginning—the grammatical equivalent of being knighted, I expect.

Yet spring, summer, autumn and winter are left behind, blending unnoticed with the words around them, and it seems unlikely that they’ll be granted a meeting with the Queen (who herself has been grammatically knighted).

Isn’t it about time we honoured their work?

Interpretation of the written word

Gavin mentioned some time ago his frustration at people’s vocal interpretation of the written word. When people read out emails and texts, they often read them in an angry way, conveying an emotion that wasn’t necessarily intended by the author.

Since his mentioning this, I’ve noticed it countless times. My wife read out a text from a friend this morning with venom that probably wasn’t intended. I’m sometimes guilty of the same. It’s quite funny, yet dangerous.

Runcorn

I went to Runcorn on business yesterday. Apart from its lime-coloured version of the Tyne Bridge (not a patch), I didn’t spot any redeeming features. And it was raining.

There were two points of note, however. While waiting for a car to pick us up from the station, the self-proclaimed creator of The X-Factor approached us. WIth a thick local accent, he claimed credit for The X-Factor, along with a slew of similar reality TV shows (around 15 as far as I can recollect), the only one of which I remember was Hotel Babylon.

He claimed some connection to Eton Road (I was barely listening by this stage), one of the remaining bands in The X-Factor, and professed for some reason that they would come either first, third or fourth in the competition. (Any one of these results would, apparently, prove his genius and the injustice he has suffered.) I’ve just checked, and there are only five acts left in the competition, so all other things being equal, there’s a 60% chance of his prophecy coming true. Watch this space.

The fact that he was riding a bike around Runcorn station in the rain, using his time to tell a bunch of random people his story, maybe puts into question the authenticity of his story.

Below is the board advertising the Runcorn Weekly News.

Town wins loo of year award

That’s the biggest news in Runcorn from the last week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! My only Thanksgiving reference last year was in relation to the Broncos going 9-2 amidst the plethora of football (American) that accompanies the celebrations (this year we’re trailing to San Diego in the AFC West (7-3) after losing 35-27 to them last weekend), and here’s my post from two years ago, focused on lashings of rain and Martha’s prison-bound turkey-day.

Tonight, we’re celebrating!

Free-range chicken, with an onion, lemon, butter and olive oil mix stuffed under the skin. Stuffed with sage, onion and lemon stuffing, wrapped in bacon rashers.

Side orders of mashed potatoes (with milk, cream and butter), broccoli and sweetcorn, topped with a rich shallot gravy.

Crème brûlée for dessert, all washed down with Sainsbury’s alcohol-free white wine.

Delish!

Excel 12: worry not

Thanks to Francis for pointing me to the free online demo. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re interested in the imminent Office release.

The login process is a bit frustrating. First of all (and in retrospect I should have predicted it), the demo wasn’t compatible with Firefox, so I had to switch to IE. Thereafter, it was an unintuitive log on process, but I finally got there.

The demo itself is a Citrix-based browser application, which works really well—no downloads necessary apart from Citrix itself. A remote connection launches a server-side application: Excel, Word, Outlook, whatever you’re interested in.

Excel itself has some new functionality, but the majority of the stuff under the bonnet does the same as its predecessors. However there are two significant changes:

The intuition is a funny one. The grouping of features and tasks seems more logical, but given that it’s different from what we’re used to, it doesn’t immediately come across as being intuitive. In Excel of today, the fact that the Find feature is on the Edit menu is bizarre, until you realise that it shares a pop-up with the Replace function. I can’t immediately find its equivalent in Excel 12.

If you click Alt, the pop-up shortcuts are a bit freaky, I have to say, but potentially useful. Oh, and I’m happy about one bug that they’ve fixed. In the Alignment tab of the Formatting pop-up, the Vertical dropdown used to have an element (Top) missing from the top of the list, and you needed to scroll up to get to it. Scroll no longer.

In summary, it’s nice, but I don’t see this as a step-change from a functionality perspective. Which is probably a good thing. They’ve taken this opportunity to invest significantly in the user experience, and to polish some of the features that previously had limitations.

I won’t be rushing to upgrade, but I’m confident that when I do, it won’t be a whole new world.

As for the other applications, Word and PowerPoint look like they’ve had similar make-overs to Excel, while Outlook merely seems to have an extra entry on the main menu (Business Contact Manager). Oddly, when you launch an email, it gets a ribbon treatment, maybe because of its tie-in to Word.

The demo’s certainly worth checking out.

Excel 12: be afraid, be very afraid

I am.

Microsoft has been doing some user testing as part of its development of Office 2007 (or Office 12); hundreds of thounsands of hours of it by all accounts.

While the new ribbon-based interface is apparently more natural and intuitive, "the people who take longer [to adapt to the new interface] are the die hard users; the expert Excel user." This according to Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s Corporate VP on the business side of things.

I’ll get my coat. Does anyone know how I can get a test version to try out?

Expedia.co.uk and the errant em dash

When you search for flights on expedia.co.uk and click search, you are presented with a holding screen, informing you that:

Expedia.co.uk is searching for
flights on selected travel dates:
Thu 23/11/2006 — Sat 25/11/2006

(Obviously the dates in question are those pertinent to your requested jaunt rather than mine.)

The em dash (—) between the dates should be an en dash (–), and there shouldn’t be any spaces.

It’s only a tiny point, but on a screen that all flight-bookers will see, they should really get it right.

Satties and tatties

It’s satsuma season!

Whenever I peel either a satsuma or a potato, I am compelled to attempt to remove the entire peel in a single piece. With satsumas (satsumae?), it’s relatively easy. With potatoes, it’s more of a challenge. Here’s how it’s done.

You start on one of the flatter sides of what is usually an approximation of an ellipsoid. Go in a straight line for a very short length, and then flip 180° around on yourself (to the left, let’s say). Continue following the edge of the peeled section, turning in an anti-clockwise direction. Eventually, your peeling direction will straighten up, as you near the longest circumference of the fruit/veg., until it naturally flips to turning clockwise. Keep following the edge of the peelee (you, btw, are the peeler, as is the knife), until you’ve reached the end.

Any other method, and you risk leaving a marooned section that the peeler can’t get to.

That is all.

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