Joel gets a free Google Appliance

For those not aware of their work, the Google Appliance is basically a Google-in-a-box that you can configure to index your own site and link to your own search button. You can define very granular rules for both spidering/indexing and intervention (e.g. spell-check, recommended links) and essentially, it does the rest for you. You can also create a nice stylesheet to render your results.

They start at $30,000, allowing you to index up to 500,000 pages. And they’re yellow; bright yellow.

I remember watching a talk by John Battelle to Google employees on my iPod Video a few months back. At the end of the talk, one Google employee asked how she might spread the word on the Google App. John’s response was to give one or two to some high-profile web users, suggesting ‘that guy from Fog Creek’. Hey presto, one turns up on Spolksy’s doorstep. I wish he’d mentioned my name instead; or else Rob’s.

Tour de Farce

I didn’t follow the Tour de France this year, largely due to the drugs scandal that preceded it. Among others, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, both billed as strong contenders to win this year’s Tour following Lance Armstrong’s retirement, were dropped by their respective teams on 30 June following a doping probe.

I tuned in to the latter stages of stage 19 (the time-trial) and watched the parade up and down the Champs-Elysees the following day, but otherwise wasn’t bothered; it didn’t matter.

And now the Tour’s provisional winner (for that must be what he is now) Floyd Landis has himself failed a drugs test. He was hailed by Armstrong after his win, who himself has been under the spotlight on the drugs front for many a year.

Cycling is in crisis. It needs to get harder on its testing and harder on its sanctions. Only then can it rise to the majesty that it enjoyed during the reign of Miguel Indurain.

It also needs some new characters. Laurent Jalabert, Marco Pantani, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Mario Cipollini, Claudio Chiappucci, Laurent Fignon, Eric Zabel, Djamolodine Abdoujaparov (spelt right first time, btw): all great and memorable characters of the sport. We need more like that, to take the sport out of the mess it’s currently in, and into an exciting new future.

Run London sponsorship: terms and conditions apply

I’ve recently enrolled in Nike’s 10k North vs. South race on 8 October. Having sent out a bunch of personalised sponsorship emails, I’m hoping that I can achieve my target of raising £2,000 for the NSPCC. And I’m hoping you can help me. If you’d like to sponsor me, please click here.

One very generous and early sponsor by the name of Chris (aka Mario) has kindly pledged a handsome £50, on the condition that here in blog-land, I don’t compare anywhere in the UK with anywhere in the USA for six months. It’s going to be a challenge (maybe more so than the 10k run), but I think I’m up to it. Roll on 28 January, 2007!

Sue: she rocks!

I used to eat sushi every now and again, but for whatever reason, I fell out of the habit. Thanks to Mr. R. McIver of Brixton and Ms. E. Urbanek of Wisconsin for encouraging me back into the world of sushi.

Tesco’s large sushi pack is now standard fare for lunch, £2.99 buying the following:

It provides me with 18% of my recommended calorie intake, 23% of sugar, 8% of fat, 5% of saturates and 44% of salt. And it’s lovely.

The government’s not ready for the internet

Here’s the proof.

On 11 July, I sent an email to Lambeth Council confirming the date on which we moved into our London property, as the Council Tax bill we’d received had started too soon. The email contained an email conversation with our letting agents confirming the previous tenancy end date. In my covering email, I requested a receipt confirmation before the end of that day. I didn’t get one.

I called Lambeth Council Tax centre on 18 July to confirm that they had received the email, and that they were re-issuing my bill. Despite not getting a bounceback email (and double-checking the email address over the phone), they claimed non-receipt of the email sent seven days prior. I re-sent that same day. Again, my request for a receipt confirmation fell upon deaf ears.

I called again today and they confirmed that they have received it. Now here’s the beautiful part. They told me that it takes ten working days for the email to be scanned and put on to the system. You may need to re-read that sentence to appreciate it fully.

Given that virus scanning is a quasi-instantaneous process, I can only imagine that scanning here means the process of converting the email to an electronic medium.

I’ll call back early August, when hopefully they’ll have a hard copy in front of them to refer to.

Weather maps: confused?

I genuinely don’t understand TV weather maps anymore. It was simple when there were icons over each area of the two-dimensional country: full suns, suns with white cloud, white or black cloud, one or two drops of rain (depending on the strength) or snowflakes. Where the icons weren’t sufficient, words would appear (‘fog’, ‘mist’ etc.) across swathes of the country. Little black arrows with numbers would indicate wind speed, while circles would contain Celsius temperatures.

Nowadays, the UK map is three-dimensional, with shadows, animated weather conditions and general confusion. Shadow could mean cloud or areas of lower temperature: I’m not quite sure.

It may look impressive, but I have little idea of what weather to expect in the morning. Bring back Michael Fish and magnetic icons.

UK TV: can you beat it?

A programme was advertised on Bravo today with the following introduction:

Next, meet a man who downs pints, shots and alcopops like a crazy fool.

Not sure what the programme was, but it’s somewhat indicative of the state of British TV.

Meanwhile, while Tiger was busy winning the Open this afternoon, a close-up of his wife Elin, Peter Allis gave the following commentary:

There’s Mrs. Woods. In for a treat tonight, I bet.

Is she pregnant?

There’s always that dichotomy as to whether to stand up on the Tube when someone that might be pregnant boards. The days of standing up for women in general seem to be over.

A lady boarded my carriage of the northbound Victoria line train at Vauxhall the other day. Including this lady, there were three people standing in the carriage (all women) and all seats were taken; and I would have put the chances of this particular lady being pregnant at 70%, perhaps 75%.

Above 50%, so I felt obliged to relinquish my seat; not nearly close enough to 100% for me to proffer it to her. So I took the only option I felt viable: I stood up without offering it to anyone in particular. Unfortunately, the seat remained unclaimed by any of the three women, and I stood for the remaining three stops to Green Park.

America does football and Liverpool

I quite enjoyed this article highlighted by my friend Gilbert. It’s by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, and talks through the seemingly logical, yet also illogical process that an American goes through to select an EPL team to support. Not sure if the EPL acronym (English Premier League) has made it over to the UK, but the Americans obviously needed a TLA to go alongside those of their other sports: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL.

The whittling down to the chosen team is somewhat bizarre, as are some of the ‘facts’ throughout the article, but still it makes for enjoyable reading. Dubious facts include Theo Walcott being dubbed the ‘LeBron of the EPL’; but my favourite was Liverpool being ‘an English city that everyone compares to Boston’ (maybe among people who haven’t been to Boston; or Liverpool) and with a ‘rivalry with London that mirrors Boston/New York’. Hm. And comparing Mourinho to Bill Belichick is somewhat off-mark.

Bill’s (Simmons, no Belichick) glorified view of Liverpool is at odds with that of his compatriot Washington Times reporter. In his short article about Liverpool written while covering the Open, there’s a likely more accurate view of the city (and the Adelphi hotel), culminating in this gem: ‘a stunningly dirty port town that should be renamed Cesspool’. Among other things, I remember Boston for its incredible cleanliness.

And who said the internet was full of tat?

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