Election Time Bhangra

You might want to click on the button below to start the accompanying music loading whilst you are reading this journal-entry. It’s approximately 1.3Mbytes – which shouldn’t take more than a moment or two to load up – and only needs to be done once. Don’t forget to turn up the volume – best heard loud!

In just over a week’s time the UK citizens (or should that be “British Subjects”) will go to the polls to vote for new Members of Parliament. I’ve lived through these momentous events a few times now – and I have always taken a great interest in the news and political shenanigans occuring in the run-up to the big day. Also – I have always voted, and in one case (in 1997) I believe myself to have been the first person in the nation to have voted. (I was first to turn up to the polling station – it was 6.45am and I had to get to work early and I couldn’t afford to be 5 hours late due to being stuck in a mega-traffic jam caused by a hoax IRA bomb on the M25 near Hemel Hempstead as had been experienced a few days prior – so they kindly let me cast my vote before the official 7am opening.)

This time, however, things are a bit different. The whole event is just plain disinteresting. At least last time there was a funny guy in charge of the opposition party (William Hague) who actually seemed to offer some rational oratory in his public speaking. This time we have a guy who stands in front of the podium labelled with the words “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” – a question so irritating and patronising that you end up thinking about the irritability of the question rather than what the guy is speaking about.

No – this time I’m less interested in the elections – and more interested in downloading songs from iTunes – even though I don’t have an Apple or an iPod. Actually, I’m extremely proud of the fact that I don’t have an iPod – as I’d be too ashamed of having so much music storage capacity and not enough music to fill it up – and, instead, would probably end up storing all the Powerpoint Presentations and Microsoft Word docs that I get at work which are too big for the email system at work to cope with. And besides – almost everybody and their pet dog has got an iPod these days – I think it’s positively fashionable to *not* have one.

So – instead of trying to work out who I’m going to vote for next week – I’ve been trying to work out how to transfer the music that I’ve downloaded from iTunes onto my MP3 player. Unfortunately – there’s no straightforward way doing it. The problem is that the iTunes are in protected AAC+ format (which is OK if you own an unfashionable iPod – which I obviously do not) – and there isn’t a readily-available way of convert these to unprotected MP3 – not without spending some more money anyway. So – instead – the workaround is to convert the iTunes to audio-CD format – i.e. to burn them onto a CDROM – and then use (say) Windows Media Player to rip them back onto your hard drive again – as MP3s. A bit tedious (and a waste of a CD if, like me, you don’t really play CDs any more) – but it works – and at least I can play the iTunes on anything that plays MP3s – which apart from dedicated, fashionable MP3 players like my own – also includes most DVD players, Home Theatre boxes and recent CD players too.

So now I am listening to Juggy D on max volume and in full glorious 128kbps stereo on my fashionable MP3 player’s headphones (which are not dazzlingly-brilliant-white like those that come with the unsophisticated iPod owners like to wear) – doing a bhangra-style jig from my front door all the way to the Route 79 bus stop – without having had to buy the whole album – and not caring for one minute about the General Election.

iTunes is more interesting than the election.
(Although you can see that someone in the neighbourhood does care!)

In case you are interested – Juggy D is a second-generation British Indian (Punjabi) – born and brought up in Southall (West London) and started performing at the age of 14 – and now a member of the Rishi Rich Project ( and Two Point Nine) – churning out a unique form of decidedly British Punjabi music very popular with the British youth of all backgrounds and getting a lot of exposure in the Asian nightclub scene and also on radio stations like Club Asia, Kiss 100FM and BBC Radio 1. Hit the play button at the top of this article to hear a popular dance track called “Billo” by Juggy D from his 2004 album.

Sezen Aksu

She has been a musical sensation in Turkey for the last three decades. She is revered by the Turkish people in the same way that the American-originated soul movement reveres Aretha Franklin. She is a singer and composer – and her music is emotionally powerful – some with lyrics in a highly poetic “sufi” style. Many of her fans are moved to tears by some of her songs.

Her live performances are very rare – and she performed for the first time in the UK last night at the fabulous London Coliseum theatre (home of the English National Opera) accompanied by a mini-orchestra of modern and traditional Turkish instruments – and I had the privilege of attending along with some Turkish friends. The performance was spectacular – highly moving – with rapturous applause at the beginning, during and the end of almost every number.

Sezen Aksu – performing live at London Colisuem last night.

Some more pics at my Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/route79/sets/259128/

Back the Bid train

I had to work in Central London the other day – so took the tube into town. The train I happened to ride was one of those that has been repainted in “Back the Bid” colours of green and black. Even the interior is liveried in “Back the Bid” style – the seats are all upholstered bright (wake-you-up-in-the-morning) yellow with the words “Make Britain Proud” and “Back the Bid” all over.

Back the Bid train
(You can see the construction work of Wembley Park station in the background)

Quite a few trains on many of the different London Underground lines have been painted like this. As have some of London’s buses – and I’m assuming some taxis as well. And I have seen countless posters, billboards, leaflets and flyers promoting London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games over the last few months.

I’m not really sure why the Mayor of London has gone to such great lengths to ask Londoners to Back the Bid – as I believe that the decision will be made by a committee of people from outside London. And although they will probably ask themselves “Do Londoners really want to host the Olympic Games – I’m not sure how they will find out. Also – in my experience Londoners are quite apathetic to campaigns which assert such bold and direct messages. “Back the Bid” often meets with “oh yeah – and why exactly?“. We’re a hardened lot you see. You have to be a lot more subtle with Londoners if you want to win them over.

Nobody on my “Back the Bid” train looked as if they cared less. And my own eyes were slightly irritated by the brightness of the yellow seating-upholstery. I’m proud of my country – and I think London can pull off the best Olympic Games ever in 2012 – so I really do hope that we win the bid. But I feel just a tiny bit of shame that our Mayor has to go to such great lengths to try to drum up support for it in such a bold and direct way.

Three Legs

Just came back from an international daytrip to a curious, but delightful, little island-country situated in the sea between the mainland of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is a country with a population of no more than 80,000 inhabitants (which is less than a third of the population of my home London Borough of Brent) – and is affiliated to the UK in terms of language, currency and Royalty Family – but nevertheless an independently governed state .

It has a curiously interesting national emblem which comprises three “legs” arranged in a circularly-rotated fashion – and proudly displays this in a monument for arriving visitors just outside the terminal building of its international airport:

Three legs.

The taxi-driver who shuttled me and my colleagues between the airport and our place of business there today was a well-spoken, highly-intellectual, ex-programmer associated with French air-traffic-control systems, who happened to spend some temporary time there a few years ago – but liked it so much he decided to make it his home – and presumably gave up his sophisticated career in IT to be a taxi-driver there.

And I can truly understand why – it is truly beautiful and peaceful place – and the people are so friendly and trusting. It is a world apart from Route 79 territory – where it is not uncommon for (as happened last night when I was travelling home from work) some tired and dishevelled-looking guy decides to go to the toilet – i.e. (“go for a piss”) – in full public view – gushing his bodily-fluids (and splashing it about everywhere) against the front door of a closed-for-the-day pharmacy on Wembley High Road whilst waiting for the bus to arrive. A world apart indeed.

This curious little island-state is the “Isle of Man” – and given an opportunity, will really look forward to escaping from the harsh realities of London life and visiting there again at some point in the future.

I really like the Isle of Man.

Mixed-up London

When, in the early morning, the Route 79 bus stops at the junction of Preston Road and East Lane in North-West London I take the opportunity of capturing an image of a parade of shops through the window from the upper deck. At this moment – it occurs to me that London is all peculiarly mixed-up:

London suburban shops: all mixed-up.

Next to an Irish pub which is the size of a sandwich-shop (with shutters down) is a half-sized hair-cut salon, next to which is a half-sized aquarium shop (where presumably you can buy exotic fish for your domestic fish-tank) , next to which is a “greasy-spoon” cafe where professional tradespeople eat breakfast lunch and dinner heartily. I have travelled past these shops for several years – but I have never noticed the pub to be open, nor the hairstylist or aquarium shop to be frequented by clients – and only the cafe to be occupied by a lone “white van” driver dining for “all-day” breakfast and causing a traffic-jam which irritates the bus drivers due to his inconsiderately parked-van.

London is full of pecularities like this: seemingly implausible shops adjacent to one another – at seemingly implausible locations – seemingly implausibly attracting clientele that are few – or even non-existent. Perhaps it’s only like this whenever I happen to observe them. Perhaps they are thriving otherwise.

It doesn’t matter. For this is London. A London that is all mixed-up and peculiar. Especially in the suburbs where the tourists don’t go.

I took this mixed-up opportunity to produce a music-video of “mixed-up” London – which you can download by doing a RIGHT-CLICK and “SAVE TARGET AS” on the “Windows Media” icon below:

Download the video file on the left to your computer by doing a “right click” and “Save Target As” to a folder of your choice.

It’s a Route 79 music-video of just over 4 minutes in duration (just over 6 megabytes in total) – which captures a peculiar London Mix of video images, including Route 79 bus, Route 79 people, Oxford Street, London Eye, views of Central London landmarks and London icons (buses and taxis) , an Apple iPod, Green Park tube tunnel-walkway, the A40 London Highway, Thames cruise boat and “bungee jump” rides outside the London Aquarium – as well as brief images of my local High Street and Ms.79 cooking “roti” (chappatis) for us at the end of a hard-day’s work. It should only take a few minutes to download if you are on a high-speed Internet connection – but please note: it is NOT for streaming: you should download the WMV (Windows Media Video) using “right-click and Save Target as” – as a file – to a folder of your choice – and then double-click on it when it has finished downloading.

The music is by Raghav – who is a Canadian-Indian singer based in UK – the featured song being “Let’s Work it Out” – which is a catchy contemporary Indian-ethnic tune in keeping with British-Asian Punjabi bhangra-fusion. Turn it up loud for maximum enjoyment. Hope you enjoy it!

21st Century Meeting

This is the state-of-the-art in office meetings in this 21st Century:

Click on the picture! (And keep clicking.)

The issue these days is not about whether the right people turn up to the meeting. Instead, it’s about whether there are enough power sockets to accommodate all the laptops of the attendees.

(I have been in far too many meetings like this recently.)

Back in Action!

Long time!

The London Eye

At last – I finally got my blog sorted. To cut a long story short – I have abandoned Movable Type – and have defected to WordPress – which has been extremely hard – but, for now, I think it’s worth it. I became increasingly disillusioned with MT – even though I tried upgrading to version 3.x – and finally gave up when my host decided to upgrade me to a server which killed the ability of MT to perform on my site (of several hundred postings and several thousand comments) – and it was made worse by a persistent barrage of spam-comments that would simply not stop coming.

It’s taken me a while to get my WordPress template (theme) organised – and what you see here is the result of several attempts of several hours of configuration and fine-tuning to get it looking as “right” as I wanted it. As you can see – there are some changes:

* The 3-column layout has changed so that the “links” are now on the far right – this makes it much easier when viewing the journal on a small form-factor device like a wireless PDA with only VGA (640 x 480) resolution – no need to use the horizontal scroll-bar to view the main content of the journal.

* The comments page no longer “pops-up” in a separate window – also making it easier to handle on wireless PDAs and other browsers that don’t like pop-up windows.

* I now have a “search” facility for the journal – check it out on the top-right.

* All my links are now managed through the WordPress admin interface – which means no hacking around with the template files as I used to with MT every time I want to add new links.

* All pages are dynamically rendered – meaning that I don’t have to go through the hassle of “rebuilding” the journal pages everytime any of the pages and comments change. (This has a dramatic positive effect on host performance – as I was finding that my host could not handle my MT rebuild scripts any more; I kept getting Error 500 Internal Server Errors!)

* I have finally gotten rid of anti-spam “blacklisting” and all the maintenance problems that go with it – and instead I am using “captcha”-style techniques for preventing comment-spam. Most of you will recognise this as “type the code-word you can see below” to have your comment accepted.

* And finally – WordPress is a dream to work with compared to Movable Type – the admin interface gives me so much more control over so many more features – and there is no shortage of plugins and extensions out there. I initially feared that I would miss Movable Type on this point alone – but my fears have not been realised at all! In fact – WordPress is completely “open” – so not only is there the greater likelihood of ongoing free goodies – it makes me “feel” better for it too.

So – although I have been exceptionally busy with work lately (and will continue to be indefinitely) – a slightly more normal service will be attempted here over the coming days and weeks. A big “thank” you to all those of you who emailed me to say that you missed the Route 79 journal whilst it was suspended – and thanks to all who waited patiently for the return. I apologise that it has been longer than I originally intended.

Here is the home page as viewed from my Wireless PocketPC PDA:

Route 79 viewed from PocketPC in VGA mode