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Red boxes and digital government

Budget 2012I’m looking at the digitisation of government quite a lot at the moment for work and red an amusing piece a colleague flagged to us and was amused (but not surprised) to read:

“Nick Herbert, Tory minister for policing and justice until last summer, claimed that he had been better supported in Opposition; indeed, he said, the “sheer clunkiness” of the Whitehall system was revealing. Officials sent him proposals by email, but then printed them off to put in his ministerial red boxes. These should have followed him by car, so he could work on them overnight, but “there weren’t any cars”. He decided to use his iPad – but was told this was banned “because the Chinese might be listening in”. He found it hard to believe that China was terribly interested in our policing policy.”

I’d looked into buying a friend a red box for his birthday and in the course of Googling it I found this post from 2007:

The astonishing figure of £50,000 has been spent by the government on ministerial red boxes in the last few years, as has been revealed by answers to questions asked by Lib Dem MP John Hemming.
Some red boxes cost up to £750, although others costs less than half this.

The Government Digital Service has its work cut out for it – surely even an iPad with extra encryption / management software wouldn’t cost that much money! I don’t know how much has moved on in the last 7 years but if they had rolled out iPads I’m sure we’d have heard about it, and there’d be more ministerial red boxes on eBay!

Posted in Current affairs, Work.

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The spirit of demolish and refurbish

blogdesignOur architect tells us we have entered into the spirit of ‘demolish and refurbish’, which is exciting and terrifying. Having taken on the challenge to create our grand design this year, we’ve been working with our architect, Ian, to try to find a way of structuring our house so that the thousand inconveniences you don’t notice fade away – like ducking out of the kitchen every few minutes to check on Emily, or going down a step, up a step and through three doors to get to the utility room.

The new designs are very exciting, not least because they also afford us the opportunity of clearing out the wallpaper, dated fittings etc, that we have tolerated/not bothered to replace since we moved in. That said, we’re at the ‘conceptual’ stage right now – which is to say, the plans are utterly devoid of any indication of cost, so we have very little idea how much we can afford to achieve. There’s also the practical issue of having to move out for the duration of the renovation…

But; definitely exciting times!

Posted in Home improvement.

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Back posting on @coolsmartphone

After a lengthy bout of busy-ness, I’ve finally made some more contributions to the Coolsmartphone blog. Get over there to read my posts bemoaning the ongoing rubbishness of the iPhone 4S battery life (and my further efforts to resolve it), the beauty and emptiness of social network Path’s app for iOS (shortly before the privacy issues emerged!) and a mini review of Death Rally for iOS (Noel – remember Death Track?).

Coming soon: some posts about my investigations into Google Android as I consider leaving the iOS fold!

Enjoy!

Posted in Technology.

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Crazy, Stupid Love and new shoes

Crazy stupid loveWatched this film the other night and, whilst it scored an ‘ok’ on my film-o-meter 9000 scale of movie goodness, it did make one specific lasting impression on me.

At one point, Steve Carrell’s character is sitting at a bar, nursing a drink, moping about his wife having left him. He gets pitied by a smooth-talking ‘player’ in the bar, who decides to help him improve his look and educates him in the ways of picking up women. The line that stuck in my memory was an exchange over what Steve was wearing:

“Are you Steve Jobs,” asks the Player.
“What?”
“Are you billionaire founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs?”
“No,…”
“Then why are you wearing New Balance trainers?”

Which at first struck me as elitist – I love New Balance trainers, they are my running shoe of choice. But then I looked at him, in his oversize suit and New Balance trainers, and realised… That’s what I must look like half the time.

So this weekend, we went suit and shoe shopping (as well as, more importantly and more successfully, shopping for Amanda). The Jones sale furnished me with a pair of ankle boots which I think are probably a reasonable upgrade over my previous best efforts for day-to-day footwear, but the hunt for the suit continues – thanks to the diet I am firmly between sizes at the moment.

Still, new shoes. Good start.

Posted in Film, General update, Running.

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The diet: one month in

jandiet

My new year’s resolution hasn’t yet faded – no procrastination, finally reaching a healthy weight.

A month in, and I’ve made more progress than I could have hoped – exactly 4 kg down (expect this rate of weight loss to half this month now that I’ve got off the ‘easy’ fat), and my push-up and sit-up challenges are going OK. By the end of Feb I should be back to my pre wedding weight (and within the ‘normal’ range on official BMI), and by the end of May I should be at my ultimate target weight – if I can keep it up that long!

The big challenge – getting back on track after the weekends!

How are your New Year’s Resolutions keeping?

Posted in Diet.

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The wrong turn, the right result

One of the things we’ve missed out in recent busy months is the random wandering across the countryside that you do in the interest of Sunday adventuring. Pick a place that sounds pretty, drive out, and have a walk! Such was the plan this Sunday, and, minor bits of Internet research complete, we headed out…

Of course, as Amanda knows the area pretty well, SatNav was kept in his box and we struck out confidently in roughly the right direction… and ended up turning off slightly too early on our route to scenic Kingsclere (our original destination), ending up in a tiny but beautiful village called Hannington. Discovering a map of local walks in the Lych-gate of the village church, we struck out on a cold and misty morning and had a lovely (short, and cold) walk, miles off the beaten path, meeting no-one other than two local villagers and their dogs out for the morning tramp around.

The pub, the Vine, is possibly one of the nicest country pubs I’ve been to in the area and the food was amazing – Emily even thought so, eating her way through a portion of pasta big enough for a 7-year-old. Wonderful.

Here’s to more countryside adventuring in the weeks to come…

Posted in Dadblogging, Observational.

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Commute-racing

I don’t know if its just me, or every red-blooded man, but on the morning commute, driving to the station… if I have an inkling that one of my neighbours is driving the same route, I like to win.  Or at least, not to lose track of them on the drive in – whilst staying within the speed limits, obv.

I’m not a massively competitive person in general; it comes from a lifetime of not winning that many things (except with Amanda and Emily of course, best wins ever), but there’s something about that early morning drive that just makes me want to punch it on. There’s also the challenge of breaking the seven minute commute time – it used to be six, but then I changed car-parks. This somehow felt more significant when it was a cycle time, in my days of cycling into work when I lived in London.

Of course, the sensible thing would be to try to negotiate some kind of car-pool, but the practicalities of that (particularly the return trip) escape me. And of course, against one neighbour’s 350z I struggle to keep up…

Perhaps when the weather warms I’ll think about cycling in, like BIL… Much healthier competition.

Posted in Cars.

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The London Aquarium

Another fun Dad-centric experience this weekend was a tri-generational trip to the London Aquarium. Having been to the KL one with my Dad when Em was around 5 months old, it was exciting to repeat the trip to the London aquarium with a significantly more toddly toddler.

Emily *loved* it – huge excitement at seeing all sorts of creatures, from the immobile crocodile to the fast-swimming sharks. Glass was just a challenge for her, and she’d stand in the windows of all the exhibits tapping away to get their attention.

The London Aquarium hasn’t had as much recent investment as the KL aquarium but was still very well set up. You go through temperate zones through to more extreme ones, climate controlled to make the fish and animals happy. Em loved all of them, and particularly enjoyed sticking her fingers in the wall of ice in the arctic zones and patting the glass by the main big shark tank.

Few tips for getting the most out of the London aquarium:

  1. Pay the £3 premium for the priority ticket, and book online. We zipped past a queue of maybe 200 people to get to pole position in minutes, else would have been there for at least an hour before we got to the front desk.
  2. Dress light if you can – it’s mostly too warm in there, so we ended up trundling around armloads of coats AND Emily, which was a bit fiddly, even with the push-chair for support
  3. Expect crowds – whilst it wasn’t claustrophobically packed in there, it was cosy
  4. Expect photography to be hard – it’s quite dark the whole way through and flash photos aren’t permitted, so use whatever tricks you have to get those pics if you want them!
  5. Bring a brother-in-law if you’re travelling without your partner! Uncle James was a great help in looking after Em, alongside my parents, as well as getting the pram, loads of coats, and all of us through the exhibit.

We walked through quite quickly – and got through most of the exhibits (including the slightly disappointing Thames Path exhibit – ironically indoors five minutes from the real Thames Path) in around an hour. But you could easily spend twice that in there, if your toddler has the patience for it!

It was expensive though – £20 per adult – although the little ones are free until they’re three, so that’s a good thing!

Posted in Dadblogging.

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The soft play experience

playworld_thumb[1]We went to Jake’s Playworld this weekend. It’s a whole industry I didn’t really know existed before Emily was about six or seven months old when Amanda and Em introduced me to Gymtots in Basingstoke. These large, warehouse like constructs are filled with ball-pools, padded scaffolding, slides and hundreds of kids having all the fun in the world – and they are a fantastic innovation. Of course, parents have to supervise children, and so invariably end up having as much if not more fun making use of the slides etc.!

I don’t have much of a head for investments but I suspect that these sorts of set-ups, if run by people that know what they’re doing, are a good place to put money regardless of the macro-economic environment. On a Sunday afternoon, parents were handing over a fiver per child to let them have a go on the toys, AND paying a premium for sub-average but amusingly child-oriented portions of food.

Em had a wonderful time. As did we – that’s one heck of a slide!

Next time – we go to the bigger one with attached petting zoo!!

Posted in Dadblogging.

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Settling into the diet

So, I’ve made to week three of January and the diet is still in full swing. My slightly obsessive tendencies have kicked in and I’m logging every calorie consumed on Dailyburn, I’m back in my old jeans and I’m down the best part of 3kg. The pace of weight loss will slow dramatically now – and I’ll be lucky to lose 0.5kg a week. But that’s sustainable and all I’m hoping for, so with any luck by March I’ll be down to below the ‘overweight’ threshold on the BMI, and by June I’ll be close to my long-term target weight. But we will see!

Yesterday was apparently ‘blue Monday‘ – the most depressed day of the year – but I managed to get through it in reasonably good humour. Being busy at work, slightly ill, and very obsessive is definitely helping the process along. Hopefully when I get a bit further into the process, and the weather starts to improve, my willpower for running will return and I can get that programme going too – but for now, all the exercise I’m doing is the hundredpushups/twohundredsitups programmes, as dictated by my iPhone daily!

Posted in Diet.

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