Links of the day

eBay UK Shop – Jerry-Store: Mobile – Cool retro mobile phones – makes me nostalgic for my Ericsson T39

Subcrewreact®  – HKG streetwear label very cool

Google opens up on algorithms – The INQUIRER

Weak Economy Boosts Sales of Old-School Tube TVs – Switched

A bit of a break

Yellow Irish pub, originally uploaded by Francois Schnell.

I have to do one more post from the Nom Nom Nom event and then that’s it for a bit. I will be away visiting my extended family in Ireland. I won’t be able to get online so will have a bit of a respite from my posts for a week or so. Enjoy the bank holiday and I’ll see you all again in a week.

Fear and mortal terror over the cooking stove

I don’t cook. I used to work quite successfully in a laboratory mixing and heating hazardous ingredients as part of precise processes to produce new forms of bulletproof glass that went into South African armoured vehicles, helped develop a plastic that was used to make the headlight surround on Bentley motor cars and a glue that bonded body panels on TVR sportscars together. But I didn’t have to eat them, cooking fills me with an irrational, but very real dread.

People know that I don’t cook (check out my friend David Pincott’s comments on this blog post). The reason why God invented the speed dial button and the microwave was so that people that can’t cook don’t have to. If cooking was such a joy, why don’t the chattering classes work in McDonald’s then? Where they would have the opportunity to cook hundreds of dishes a day AND get paid for it!

I got involved with with the Food 2.0: Nom Nom Nom event when I was approached by Mecca from Moo.com. The combination of a daunting challenge and being able to do some good, pursuaded me to participate. I found a willing team member in Liu Yumei.

This was the last shot of the melon before it was brutally dismembered and later discovered in a fridge

We started thinking about our approach to cooking, Yumei was afraid that the judges wouldn’t be able to handle spicy Sichuan-style cuisine and that I would be absolutely useless at making dumplings (and she is almost certainly right regarding my dumpling-making ability). So we had a challenge what food would be acceptable to the judges and we would be able to cook a three-course meal with only an hour’s cooking (oven, hot plate etc) (and an hour and a half preparation time?)

Enter stage-left, creative director for graphic and web design specialists bloodybigspider Mr Stephen Holmes. Stephen has had a varied career as croupier and chef whilst a student so was the ideal person to call on for ideas. When I posed this culinary problem to him he answered ‘Risotto’ like some kind of Zen koan.

He then explained the risotto was an easy-to-cook main course that would be hard even for a cooking armageddon to get wrong and can be prepared in just over an hour. The simplest starter to prepare is a slice of honeydew melon.

It can't be that hard this book make it sound easy

As for the dessert, my Mum’s gift of ‘The Dairy Book of Home Cookery‘ came in handy to give me the ingredients for a fruit crumble. I had recollections from childhood about how to make fruit crumble, but didn’t have an idea of the proportions.

The Saturday before the event Yumei and I went out and picked up double the provisions that we would need to make the meal. When you go out looking for it you don’t realise how difficult it is to find food ingredients in supermarkets. For instance, my local Budgens didn’t have cooking apples or risotto rice. So we spent most of the afternoon trapsing around on the tube to complete our bag of ingredients. Hmmm, it didn’t exactly match the ‘cooking is so easy and fun’ mantra of encouragement that I had received from my work colleagues during the previous weeks.

Stephen came around to supervise, which was pretty good otherwise we would have killed the tasters with an overdose of garlic. Apparently a clove of garlic is not the same as bulb of garlic. Some two hours later and Stephen was still standing despite my culinary efforts. I still have the remanents of my first risotto in the freezer and when I pluck up the courage I will defrost it, heat it up and eat it.

We learned some important lessons from this dress rehearsal (aside from what a clove of garlic actually is). Most importantly the order in which we were going to prepare our dishes the following afternoon. Melon first, then crumble and finally the risotto.

We had a menu, we had a recipe for each item and we had a plan.

The ingredients about to go on tour

Sunday morning came too soon and the ingredients were loaded out of the cupboards and the fridge into a holdall from my time at Yahoo!. These were lugged to Mile End station and then a short trip down the central line to Oxford Circus. Behind an innocent-looking blue door and down a set of steps to a shiny gleaming version of my own personal room 101.

Inside the room looked like an impromptu Apple store with the ubiquitous MacBook Pro, a bevy of Nikon DSLRs and a HD capable video camera with tripods and additional lens. In stark contrast I had brought my trusty Nokia E90 communicator to handle the multimedia as I wasn’t too happy to leave my camera anywhere near flour, moisture or sharp knives.

The ingredients

Its around about this time that I start to feel very out of my depth. We laid out our ingredients and after a quick pep talk about avoiding stabbing people with sharp knives by the organisers and then it was a relaxed take off from the starting line.

Mecca and Walid on the introduction

First up was fruit preparation, melons were sliced, apples were diced and and blackberries had their cores removed befoe they were sprinkled on the apple slices. The melon slices went into the fridge to wait for the rest of the dishes.

Fruit just before the crumble goes on top and the whole lot goes in the oven

Meanwhile flour and sugar were mixed with butter to put the crumb in crumble and shaken over the apple. Cinnamon added the finishing touches and the crumble waited on the side table to go into the oven. It was around about this time that the tension rose in the room as people realised that time was running on.

Onions right before they got sliced and diced

We were in good shape, at least as good a shape as anybody slicing while onions can be. Tears rolled down our cheeks. We measured out our rice, prepared our mushrooms and prepared the vegetable stock cubes in boiling water. Next we prepared the goats cheese, slicing it into easy-to-melt cubes, and cut the Parma ham up with a set of kitchen scissors.

Risotto  cooking away

Hubble, bubble, toil and curiously under-cooked rice – both Yumei and I took turns at the hob whilst the crumble baked in the oven. With 45 minutes to spare the risotto was allowed to sit with its final ingredients of cheese, ham and mushroom put in.

Our main course

We put out plates of washed rocket with a cherry tomato ready to receive the risotto, meanwhile two fish slices were used to carefully chop up the crumble and put it into dishes. The crumble was covered with plain yoghurt and then the risotto was eventually served on a plate.

Dessert - summer fruit crumble with natural yoghurt

Finally we had a well-deserved break. To counterbalance my fear of cooking I wanted share a video of Jo Hennings’ speech about cooking and love.

 UPDATE: You can vote for our cooking efforts here, have a chance of winning a number of cool prizes. In the words of a famous politician vote now, vote often!

Links of the day

@ Chinwag: Making big statements with social media | PDA: The Digital Content Blog | guardian.co.uk

RFID Olympic Games Tickets on PSFK

Social networking site bans the over 36s in sex offender claims | OUT-LAW.COM – Faceparty bars over-36s as paedophiles?

Alternatives, Possibilities, Choices – fast decision-making process

Make older add-ons work with Firefox 3.0 | Computerworld

Christian Dior Turning To Designer Handsets To Boost Revenues – interesting that they’ve gone directly to the emerging markets of PRC and Russia. However if Chanel and Louis Vuitton get into this market expect Dior to be the mobile phone equivalent of roadkill (think Motorola’s mobile device division).

Taiwan digital music makers divided over added value of camera functionality

LEDs must drop to 10% of price in 2005 to go mainstream in general lighting by 2012

A nation mourns in black and white – some amazing looking graphic design announcing China’s period of mourning for the dead in Sichuan province

Wall Street and Web 2.0

compfight / a flickr™ search tool

Outsourcing In-Housing And All That Jazz

The 10 most popular UK mobile sites are… – interesting data on mobile web surfing habits

MediaPost Publications – Will Men Be The Luxury Market’s Secret Weapon? – 05/21/2008

Nokia 6310i – Mobile Phones & Accessories – kicking it old-school. The 6310i was the pinnacle of handset design which is the reason why they are still amazingly popular

Unboxing: The Flip

My old colleague Jonny Rosemont, now a digital guru Weber Shandwick have sent me The Flip a simple video recorder for the YouTube generation for me to review on behalf of from Flip Video UK as part of their blogger outreach programme –  in his own words ‘We’ve got a handful of units available for bloggers, YouTubers and other social media cognoscenti – and you fit the bill!

The device has already been a bit of a hit in the US with technologists like Bradley Horowitz who is using it to post long photos to his Flickr account.

Below are my pictures of the device unboxing and a link to my first Flip video.

Blogger sample

The box top

Flip box

The side of the box

Flip inner box

The inner box

Behold the Flip

Behold The Flip gazing out at you like a machine cyclops

The Flip

The Flip

The inner box

The inner box sans The Flip

The accessories

The accessory kit, not sure about the silver wrist band

The instruction manual

The instruction leaflet (unused)

Flip sans battery cover

Battery hatch exposed

The pop-out USB socket

USB connector out

The control panel simple, reminds me of an old school MP3 player

Control panel that looks like an old school MP3 player

Recording

‘On Air’ as they say in television studios

Keeping it post-modern

A video of me taking a picture of The Flip, playing on the device LCD screen – how meta?

The camera I have is a US unit – with the US company name on them – Pure Digital Technologies.  The final UK units will not reference Pure Digital at all. The Flip in the UK will be sold by Flip Video UK and the packaging and units will be adapted accordingly

When they finally arrive in the UK the units will retail at 99GBP

Links of the day

brandchannel.com | A how-to guide to assessing brand value – Catherine Tremblay takes on one of the thorniest issues in marketing

Summize Conversational Search – handy tool for twitter

China allows bloggers, others to spread quake news – smh.com.au – interesting article on how the Chinese government is doing a lot of smart things to handle the communications crisis around the recent earthquakes, including real-time news reports on government sites via satellite phone and live web Q&As

PC World – Business Center: Coders Tell Why They’re Avoiding Vista

Why we don’t need a security breach notification law in the UK | OUT-LAW.COM – interesting post by Chris Pounder on the powers of the Data Protection Act

Web Worker Daily » Archive MailShadow: Exchange-ing Microsoft for Google «

All of Inflation’s Little Parts – The New York Times – lovely infographic that the folks at PSFK pointed out showing how inflation is made up and giving a great insight into consumer spending

GE and the Death of Manufacturing – interesting article

Consumers’ mood grim in May: survey

The Hyperconnected vs. 84% of Everyone Else on Earth

Why many M&A deals leave money on the table | OUT-LAW.COM

UK government proposes big brother database of every email sent by Brits

Facebook stays on top in UK with 14.35m users – Brand Republic Login – Brand Republic

BBC – Languages – Chinese – handy for my learning Chinese (which is damn hard)

Rapha – Home

.: ROJO®tv :. – art and online video collide

Jargon Watch: purofu

Purofu is a Japanese word for an online profile similar to a Facebook page with personal information (location, favourite films and music) and and photographs similar to a Facebook profile but optimised to be viewed and edited on the ubiquitous mobile phone – so they aren’t some of the greatest looking websites.

People can search for keywords then leave comments or links and have random discussions that are the online equivalent of shooting the breeze. Mixi the Japanese equivalent of Facebook has over 34 million users and 13 million of its users access the service by a mobile phone as well, so the rise of purofu is understandable.

Mobile optimised bar codes facilitate real-world profile sharing, CGIBOY is a great example of a purofu service. Thanks to Peter Payne for the heads up on this.

Links of the day

I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Reality Check | PBS – Cringely questions the conventional wisdom of having analyst firms advise enterprises on what technology to purchase

Marc’s Voice » Blog Archive » Some conversaton is better than none “Hey Marc!”

Reebok rethinks marketing plans for Beijing Olympics

Out and about: Vexille

Vexille at the ICA

Vexille is a Japanese produced computer-generated anime film, though it has hints of rotoscoping about some of the artwork. I was looking forward to it as it was the latest effort by the people who did Appleseed.

It has elements of Bladerunner, Mad Max and Dune in the film plot about an American special forces team sent in to find out what has happened to Japan after a decade of self-imposed isolation.

The film, unusually for manga is a warning against the over-evolution of technology in a way that is much more politically extreme than the politics of similar works like the Ghost In The Shell series. In that respect Vexille is very unusual amongst anime.

Unlike the plotlines of Ghost In The Shell, Vexille doesn’t allow you to suspend disbelief and there are plot inconsistencies in the show.

The artwork also irritated me, a weird mix of 2-D and 3-D animation that didn’t work for me. The film promotion makes a big deal out of its western soundtrack and the involvement of Paul Oakenfold in scoring the film, but the Japanese usually do this very well under their own steam anyway.

In summary the film was a bit of a disappointment and only worth seeing for the completist otaku.

Links of the day

The rise of contextual user interfaces – nice article on the development of user interfaces over the years

Case study: the anatomy of a blog storm – no names but an interesting study

Be very afraid

My friend Mecca at Moo.com has helped organise a cooking event for bloggers including myself tomorrow. In reality the event is being run by a feline overlord called Bolli from a Bond villain’s bunker disguised as an everyday home in Surrey.  More details here, there will also be details on how the general public can get involved to help Action Against Hunger. The website describes it really well so I will steal some of their copy:

Food 2.0 Nom Nom Nom is a fun project that brings food bloggers, TrustedPlaces.com members, food photographers, food journalists, food authors, everyday regular cooks, influential bloggers & senior members of leading UK based internet companies together for a meet up. See it as a Cook-a-thon for bloggers or like an interactive version of MasterChef.

Up to 24 participants will be grouped in teams of 2 to compete in creating the best 3 course meal as judged by a panel of expert judges AND the general public online. At Cookery School – a state of the art professional kitchen & cookery school, participants will cook a three course meal for four – made up from their “signature” or favourite dishes, which they have decided in advance.

Completed meals will be tasted by the panel of expert judges – all participants will sit down & have an early dinner with the food. We’ll have after dinner speeches, a raffle and even an after dinner drinks party for those who want to continue socialising and for extra guests.

My Mum is exceeding happy as I am involved in an event that has brands she’s actually heard of (Kitchen Aid, Magimix etc), however she also knows about my cooking skills and is considering contacting Special Branch. This is going to be quite an adventure, I will be blogging about the whole experience and expect pictures as well.

Out and about: Roastars Coffee Co.

Roastars

Where I live in Mile End there is no Starbucks despite the large student population and the influx of professionals like me into the area. Instead we have an independent coffee shop instead. Its clientele is a mix of kids from the neighbourhood and students looking for a workspace.

It has a modern interior that is getting a little bit rough around the edges in places but well cared for and give the place a funky feel without trying too hard. They provide a creative mix of coffees that are cheaper than Starbucks and an interesting mix of accompaniments.

The coffee shop is about two minutes away from the tube station and seven minutes from my house so has become a regular haunt. If it has one fault its the lack of plug sockets, Wi-Fi is less of an issue now that you can get a 10 GBP per month dongle from the likes of 3 or T-Mobile to handle your connectivity needs rather than trying to peer with yet another wireless network.

Roastars Coffee Co

389, Mile End Rd, London, E3 4QS
Tel: 020 8983 3137

Icahn’t

Carl Icahn is an interesting figure and was extensively involved in the Michael Milken junk-bond fueled business dealings of the 1980s. Milken eventually went to jail after close on a decade of investigative work and regulatory scrutiny, taking down Drexel Burnham investment bank in a scandal that mirrored the sleaze of Enron some ten years later. If you want a bit of background on this I can recommend a book called The Predators Ball.

Icahn is most famous for asset-stripping TWA and which led the airline having to file for bankruptcy in 1992 and the Karabu deal which led to the airlines 1995 bankruptcy. Proving that Icahn doesn’t always deliver the shareholder value that he crows on about.

It is interesting how this old school financier is now venturing into the world of bits and bytes. Having first taken a practice run (and failed) at Time Warner AOL, he now has his eyes set on Yahoo!.

However this time, if he succeeds in his quest to take control of Yahoo! he is relying on other technology companies allowing him to make a quick sale, these companies are cash-rich. Whereas Icahn’s position is likely to use at least some leveraged finance, leaving him vulnerable to be bargained down aggressively on price by taking their time in negotiating with him, alowing his interest payments to pile up and sit back as key Yahoo! staff leave to secure their future at Google or set up their own start-ups.

Yahoo!’s capital assets such as data centres are only part of the story, the most valuable asset is the talent within the business. This will present Icahn a unique challenge.

On a macro-scale Icahn’s involvement is interesting as it proves that technology companies have moved from being growth businesses to value businesses that are financially speaking indistinguishable from traditional industrial companies like Goodyear, Caterpillar General Motors or GE. Technology company boards may even have to start thinking about regular dividend payments to shareholders rather than building their historic cash-mountains to invest in the next new-new-thing.

Links of the day

Monetising and measuring social media – some basic principles | Internet Marketing News and Blog | E-consultancy.com

ProjectVRM Blog – consumer-vendor relationship management

A Book of Five Rings – the great work by Miyamoto Musashi

prspammers wiki – Gina Trapani’s list of PR sinners. I have a slight concern that PR shops could be tarred with the sins of individuals. If I was a prospect and saw an agencies name on here, I would be asking some hard questions

Under the Influence – conference series website