When the leaflets about Swine Flu were published last month I happened to make a 'joke' to people about parents organising 'Swine Flu Parties'. Of course I was only joking and didn't think anybody would be so stupid as to actually do it.

Well, BBC News this morning reported that people are organising such parties- the idea being that it is better for children to get the virus during the summer (rather than winter). Mmh, let's think of a better alternative- avoiding getting the virus altogether !

So who would do this ? I'm guessing the sort of people who don't get kids vaccinated, ignoring the social responsibility aspects of it.

I do find it interesting how society deals with these sorts of things and how people capitalise on it. During my last US trip I happened to spot the following slogan on a bottle of hand wipes:

Interesting how companies can change packaging quickly to target consumers...

So, it's Tuesday and I'm still without iPhone 3GS. I've decided that the most sensible option is to move over to a Business Tariff as this gives me the option to upgrade every 12 months. Of course I've been trying to figure out what to do for a week now and everyone at O2 I speak to gives me a different story about whether it is possible or not.

3 calls in the past 28hrs and still waiting for 3 people to call me back. What an absolute joke...

At the airport at Dubai I was purchasing some reading material for the flight and picked up a copy of GQ (the British version- as the US version only has ads in it). At the time I didn't look too closely at the cover, so when I boarded the flight I pulled the magazine out of the bag and spotted this:

I particularly like the comment 'Megan Fox will not be censored' - funny since that's exactly what has happened !

I then started flicking through the magazine and at one point felt the pages were stuck together- it turns out that someone had actually gone and blacked out 'offending' pictures ! so for example:

Of course like anything manually done there were a number of pictures that hadn't been censored in the magazine !- poor quality control....

Slow week this week, weather in Cambridge has been fairly good so not the usual depression- managed to get to the waterside for some drinks a few nights during the week.

Saturday in Brighton with friends. I liked Brighton- somewhat different from what I expected it to be. I guess the biggest difference was just how large it was. As usual lots of British style food, Pier, amusements etc. As I walked through the Brighton Pier I spotted this:

I hate the phrase 'Oriental Buffet' - such a horrible name. Also, the pathetic effort for the text (I wonder what that font is called ?). Anyways, I thought about what an equivalent in Scotland would look like:

For those of you not from Glasgow, the image to the left is not something resurrected from the Titanic, it's a deep fried Mars Bar. Also, just to clarify, the poor quality writing and graphic is deliberate- I do know how to use Photoshop.

Finally managed to trim the bushes at the side of the house. Now the horrid little man in the street won't be able to complain every morning he allegedly brushes the side of them on his way to/from work - obviously some 9-5 job that allows him to return to watch Coronation Street or something. Still, better than last year when someone posted a note through my door suggesting that I needed to 'trim my bush as blind people passed by it'.

Sunday Late Lunch
Went to the Cow for a very late lunch (early dinner). They have no aircon or windows that open so it was very very warm. Sat outside, family with young child beside me. The pack of Organic Rice Crackers should have sent alarm bells in my head that they fell into the class (lower) of Cambridge parents who are happy to have their children shout at the top of their voices (expressing themselves). I just imagine it, "oh little John, he's ever so clever, he's only 3 and can shout at the top of his voice worthy of a striking car worker"...

Had dinner/drinks with one of my friends from school (secondary) last night. We live about 5 mins from each other, but only get a chance to meet up at the most twice a year (at the very most) due to work/family life.

I took the following picture which summaries the atmosphere. Actually it's a pretty good picture for a 2G iPhone (as O2 are being difficult in making the upgrade to the 3GS):

Work Patterns
I've been suffering from significant post-holiday blues - that's the mark of a good holiday. However, it does take some time to get back into things and also reflecting whilst on holiday doesn't usually help the matter. However, things didn't seem so bad when I got chatting with my friend about even though you spend lots of time educating yourself and also working, you can end up dealing with the most mundane and nonsense topics that could easily be done by someone with little experience.

In his case, 1st class honours from good University, PhD from top class University, Post-Doc from another top-class University. What discussions does he get into at work - yes the types of toilet paper to buy !

Cambridge Students
Had some drinks at the Mill beside the lock as it was a really nice night. For dinner we had Indian and the place we went (forget name) had a large student party. We speculated whether or not it was a Cambridge University (proper) party, but the people didn't quite look (and sound) like Cambridge people.

We then had confirmation at one point when I spotted evidence... "She's carrying a bottle of Black Tower Wine, clearly not a Cambridge student !!"

d'Arry's: Excellent Food and Service
Lunch today at d'Arry's (King Street). As usual, the service was excellent and the food superb. Easily the best value for money place in Cambridge in my opinion. Staff are always fantastic- even in busy times.

Only gripe being mint in the potatoes - why not actually tell people that ? I never order Lamb in the UK as I know that it's pretty much impossible to have it without being coated in Mint, but I though Potatoes+Mint was something that went out in the 1970's ? However, I had an alternative.

iPhone Blues
Went into the O2 shop in Cambridge today to buy the latest iPhone. As I walked in I realised the shop was mainly staffed by the Clearasil brigade so didn't think I was onto a good thing. Of course I wasn't wrong....

To the young guy who served me today... Thanks for making the experience so unbelievably bad and p****** me off. When I asked if you had iPhone's in stock why did you give a negative response like "we only have the 32GB models left" ?, why not try and sell me the benefits of the more expensive model ? When I asked you about the business tariff, rather than take the trouble to go through things, you couldn't even be a**** and simply handed me a poorly photocopied sheet with random tariffs on it. When I made my mind up on the tariff, why then tell me that you couldn't sign me up today and that I'd have to call customer services ?, then not even bother to even take the trouble to give me the number to call.

Thanks for making the whole experience so unbelievably bad. I really really wish the iPhone was available on other carriers - then you *might* have to make an effort (though you probably still wouldn't).

Apple Genius Service
I've never used the Genius Bar in the Apple store in Cambridge, today was the first (and last time).

Simple issue- hinge on my MacBook Air loose and starting to make a strange noise (sounds like it's going to break). Quick search on Internet suggests this is a common problem. Of course my first mistake was to think that anyone in a service industry would be in any way pro-active in their desire to fix something that was going wrong. It reminds me of years ago when I worked at a company and my desk 'phone wasn't working properly (intermittent fault), the guy who came to fix it said "can't find a fault sorry", I was so annoyed I took the headset, smashed it on the desk and said "right it's broken now can it be fixed", he fixed it.

To the guy on the Genius Bar... Rather than look at all interested, I showed you the fault and then you sat and surfed some internal site to check the problem. You then suggested to me that it was my incorrect use of the screen that was the problem. Do I look like some total retard who doesn't know how to use a computer and hasn't been using laptop computers for nearly 20 years ? You were completely useless, easily replaceable by a robot (like 2 Ronnies doctors sketch). If I had known the service I was going to get I wouldn't have even bothered making an appointment (and therefore wouldn't have had to wait for the late appointment). When I asked how I could escalate, you said 'Call AppleCare', not even bothering to give me the number.

I'll go to the London Store over the next few weeks to get it sorted.

Virgin Media
Broadband still not working properly, let's summarise how the process to get it 'sorted' works:

* Call 151, option 2, option 3;
* Speak to someone in India Call Centre, who does line test and agrees there is a fault, need to send Engineer out;
* Service Engineer Arrives, tests the SNR level and tell me that everything is okay and that's all he can do;
* I'll get irritated, Service Engineer will say he'll escalate (but never will);
UNTIL I MOVE OVER TO BT (who can't give me a high speed connection though)

So far we've gone round the cycle 4 times...

So, back in the Sunny UK...

As usual arriving back at Heathrow was the usual shambles, 30 mins or so ahead of schedule but of course needed to circle London for a while. It does make me laugh all the eco-intiatives that take place on the land at Heathrow (like towing 'planes out of the stands) when the amount of fuel that must get wasted in holding slots must far outweigh this. I really don't understand why they can't just manage the landing slots better ? I like Terminal 5 arrivals- far less walking than you have to do at Terminal 3 (though you seem to have to go up and down on lifts all the time).

Got to Kings Cross and usual comedy of errors regarding lifts at the Underground. Well, 2 lifts working would be statistically improbable for London and as usual statistics were 100% spot on ! Main lift not working. I'm sure the guy who fixes it was sitting with a nice pint of Carling in his back garden (think small plot like Coronation Street)- why there isn't 24hr support services for these things fails to amaze me.

Spent today relaxing, got bored and decided to go shopping. Given I've been eating restaurant food for the past 3 weeks I decided to try and find a supermarket to grab some basic food and not have to eat it at a table where someone was serving me (eat at my own pace). Low and behold a Waitrose ! Of course like any supermarket abroad (save for Germany) there was an amazing selection of food on display that you'd want to eat.

Whilst browsing, I spotted this:

It got me thinking - maybe there should be a separate exclusive section in Cambridge:

Imagine - shelves full of sparkling water, lemons, potatoes, beef stock - all those things that are a rarity in Cambridge !

..Spend like the Emarati's.. (Google tells me that's what you call people from Dubai).

So far the trip has been good on the gadgets front (or bad on the wallet front). I always like to browse stores when I travel for techno gadgets. I also have a fascination (nice way of putting it) for stationery and random desk 'gadgets'- something I've had since I was a child as long as I can remember.

British Airways in-flight
Of course traveling on British Airways doesn't help- I'm not a huge fan of in-flight shopping but as I rarely travel on BA (as opposed to Virgin) it's always worth a browse through their shopping magazine and there's usual something on the technology side worth buying. This time it was the Richard Solo Charger for the iPhone. It's a backup battery for the iPhone that clips to the bottom (and doesn't actually fall off). Works pretty well so far, charging via a USB port and then hooking into the bottom of the iPhone to charge it up. Also has a light and (more usefully) a Laser Pointer. Thankfully Apple haven't changed the form factor of the new iPhone 3GS so when I get that on my return it'll work a treat. Of course getting the iPhone is another story (in Cambridge it'll be like asking for a Pineapple in a Moscow corner shop).

Technology Shops in Dubai
Bit of a mixed bag here. There are a number of shops that you go into that are void of anything that has been released in the last year or so. There are a number of branded stores (Panasonic, Samsung, etc.) and a number of chains. I picked up this Samsung 120GB mini hard disc(guess it uses the same form mini hard disc present in the latest iPods). Very small- enough to hold a number of films when I travel and throw into my case. Can't seem to buy them in the UK.

I've never been a fan of Virgin Megastores, but the ones here in Dubai are pretty good. Very good selection of Dance and Chillout music. Left the store with a pile of CDs (that no doubt I could have bought on Amazon cheaper) - still I believe in paying for something when I get to preview it first. Biggest purchase was a set of Beats Headphones. I've been looking at these for some time now and the guy in the shop let me try them (strange due to hygiene reasons, but as the box was newly opened I didn't care). Sound feels way better than the current set of headphones I have - they also feel like they won't break (the cord is very clever flat style rather than the rounded ones that always break).

Japanese Stationery
Large bookshop here in the Dubai Mall (Kinokuniya) has a great selection of Japanese stationery. I normally get my 'fix' in a store in San Francisco, but this was a good find. Left with a load of folders and B5 paper-punched books. I really don't understand why there isn't a shop in the UK that imports these sort of things - actually Selfridges used to but a folder was about £20 so I expect few people actually bought them.

Okay, so this location based web thing really is beginning to p*** me off. I want to login to Blogger to make some changes. I don't understand Arabic, so figured if I log into Google then maybe it might just figure out I am from the UK and so switch back to English.

Yeh, great idea- apart from the fact that the dialogue boxes are Arabic friendly (well of course they should be) where everything runs from right to left - I can't figure out how to input text properly (aside from doing a complete transform of the text).

I feel dumb !

Update: apparently if you go to:


Then you can set the language and it appears to work !

Delicious Library available for the iPhone ! For anyone who hasn't ever seen this application (Mac only) it's a fantastic application written for Mac OS to allow you to catalogue all your media (Books, DVDs, etc.). The coolest thing is the input mechanism- it uses the iSight camera on the Mac to read the barcode and then goes off to Amazon to get the details. That way you get a nice image of your book/DVD/CD on a bookshelf (as well as not having to enter all the details).

I've been waiting for the iPhone version for a while now and heard the other day it really was coming online, just grabbed it from the App Store. Now this version doesn't scan barcodes on the iPhone - but I expect that to come in a future version !

Just think- friend shows you a book and you can instantly scan the barcode and order from Amazon ! - very clever..

That's 2 good Apps that I've been waiting to come to the iPhone finally arrived - the other being WorldMate - an app that is great for those who travel (you can lookup and store flight itineraries etc.). It's surprised me just how long these folks have taken to make it available on the iPhone.

What's also interesting is to see the price iPhone apps are compared to the Windows Mobile/Symbian version - way way cheaper (about 5x in some cases). Still, I guess they have a much wider potential sales base. I like that, clever independent developers being paid for their efforts...

Easily becoming the best place I have ever been... Bank balance being severely hit by amazing shopping (gadget central and a Virgin Megastore you'd actually buy something from) and food. What's the most bizarre is hearing local people people speak with a Glasgow accent !- well I guess that's what direct flights, education, and an oil industry do for you.

.. I can actually post blog entries without understanding Arabic !

I hate location based content. For example, on blogger all the text at the top menu is in Arabic. I didn't learn that at school (took woodwork instead) hence navigating the site is slightly difficult. I can't get onto the o2 website to order the new iPhone as it tells me they can only sell to UK customers :(. Sigh, as usual a pain to buy an Apple mobile product.

There is some amusement- the BBC News website (which has ads outside the UK) has trailers for the BMW 7 series !

Why do I do this to myself ? Tuesday night I decided that rather than have the usual pre-holiday rush I'd just take my work ThinkPad with me (I always carry the MacBook Air for e-mail, blogging etc.). Of course it's 2AM and I've just been catching up on work (due to being woken up by people partying - that's tomorrow's blog !)...

So arrived at Dubai. Realised I was in the wrong immigration queue- due to the fact I was the only British person ! I guess it's one really good thing about being British is that you don't need visa's for most places.

Hotel is superb. So far superb service from people (own butler). Clientele seems to be a mixture of British people and Russian models ! I reckon ranking of holiday destinations so far:

* Dubai - though very limited experience so reserve the right to drop it in the ranking
* Barbados - very relaxing but slow service and lousy food (unless you eat at the South Sea which my budget doesn't stretch to every night)
* Thailand - best food I've had on a holiday by far
* Mauritius - best environment and designed hotel
* Egypt - best things to look at

Pics to follow (I'm shooting RAW and Aperture doesn't run on my MacBook Air)...

My prediction was totally correct - 3hr delay on the flight. Strange arriving at the hotel to be greeted with 'morning' (as opposed to evening)...

Blogging in-flight (but not in-air)
Thanks to British Airways, 'The Worlds Favourite Airline' but sadly 'Not the Worlds Most Punctual Airline' this post comes from in-seat whilst my BA flight to Dubai is stuck at gate A18 of Terminal 5. Yes no surprise, like every BA flight I have been on in my life, it's delayed ! 2 hours this time due to some problem with one of the tips on the wing. Of course the time it takes to do the Engineering work is 1.5hrs- but we still have to get the Engineers to the aircraft. No doubt they are stuck in Aberdeen or somewhere and have to fly in. Come to think of it, it is lunchtime right now- so I'm guessing they won't turn up for another hour or so. Why is everything so complicated ?? A classic comedy of errors.

Prediction: 3hrs minimum delay, likely will have to swap aircraft at some point.

Getting to the airport - early morning disaster
I always like to take public transport to the airport wherever possible. I've got an optimised regime. Taxi to Cambridge Station, train to Kings Cross, Tube to Paddington (optimised in terms of lifts), Heathrow Express to the airport. Of course today was a nightmare as the majority of tube drivers in London decided to go on strike.

To the tube drivers... I know public sector workers don't live in the real world, but surely you've realised there is a recession ? I think the last thing we need is to cripple the capital by not allowing ordinary hard-working people to go and do their jobs. Why don't you just mount a publicity campaign to get your point across ? Actually, I know the answer to that one- because then we'd know how much you get paid and then there would be zero sympathy for you. Far better to make everyone's life a misery. The next time I'm in India with a bus driver that works really hard to survive, a tear will come to my eye at the thought of you in your unionised environment working away merrily feeling so hard done by.

Got to Kings Cross this morning and queue about 1 mile long for taxis (reckoned at least 1hr wait). Went to catch bus, only to be hit by rain. A stroke of luck spotted taxi and ended up grabbing that to Paddington. Of course I've saved the receipt (£15) to claim this back from the Tube Drivers Union. Yeh, I know I won't get the money back, but I'll sleep better knowing that some downtrodden workers Union payments will have funded the need for someone to spend close to 1hr writing me a letter telling me to go away and no doubt justifying their actions.

Terminal 5
The one good thing about todays travel experience is Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Absolutely superb in terms of experience and amenities (including shops you'd actually want to buy something from). Actually, it's better than Cambridge for shopping (probably not a good analogy though).

Things were so good I had to keep reminding myself that I was at an airport in the UK. Not quite the usual experience of dirty walls, no aircon, the usual buckets every 100m to soak up the dripping roof. As usual let down by no trolleys though.

Flying out to Dubai on holiday Wednesday. Of course I've been in the office since 7AM this morning and at my desk at home still (10PM). I loathe summer holidays as there is always a deadline that needs to be hit before I go. I recall when I worked in Engineering I'd have to stay up most of the night before I went on hols just trying to get everything sorted. Even out of Engineering, it's no different !- just PowerPoint in place of Unix !

Rest assured I was already watching the keynote briefs. O2 tell me that the new iPhone will be available 19 June. I get back to the UK 20 June - guess where I'll be visiting first ?

I'm glad Apple have finally realised that 32GB is a sensible capacity (been messing around with playlists for as long as I can remember just trying to get everything to fit in). Love the idea of Internet tethering - although I'm sure UK users will pay a premium for it. Still, if it gets me away from messing around with an external USB modem stick...

I really want a new MacBook Air (Solid State Drive) but can't really justify it as my current one suffices (fantastic for storing DVDs etc.)

Stuck in the Virgin Lounge at San Francisco Airport. Flight is 4hrs delayed. Actually, I can't moan too much as I think this is the first delay I've had on this leg (which I have on average done every 6 weeks for the past few years). I'm sitting near the bar looking at the selection on offer and contemplating the thought of trying some classic 1980's middle class dinner party drinks - like Cinzano or Malibu.

Of course I got the airport (already in a bad mood) only to be told of the delay. The Virgin checkin staff at SFO are a very very mixed bag. It used to be a very constant set of staff, to the point where you got to know the people. However, over the past year or so they are a very mixed bag. I had an issue at checkin, with the lady in meltdown at the simplest of requests. Thankfully a supervisor on hand to help out.

Decided to head into the city for some lunch (Straits, not as good as the one on Santana Row). Stupidly I forgot to take my charger for the Mac out of my checked bag, so ended up having to go to the Apple store and buying one. I like the staff in the Apple Store downtown SFO - always really friendly and helpful (actually Apple bodes very well on the staffing front).

Just 3 more hours to kill...

Well, not quite, but it's my last night here in San Jose.

Overall, it's been a good trip. Managed to get lots of stuff cleared up. As well as have some drinks/dinners in the evenings with people (always a good thing). The downside has been jetlag. Normally it isn't a problem, but this week has been average 3hrs sleep per night - not ideal. Rest assured the day was filled with plenty of cups of coffee.

Day 2 of the San Jose trip.

Hotel Hassles
When I checked in yesterday, I got to the room and did the usual check everything worked etc. At the time I thought there was a fairly loud noise of aircon from outside (one of the big vents). However, decided to keep the current room.

After dinner I went straight to sleep. At 1AM I woke up (presumably as my exhaustion from lack of sleep had passed) and of course the aircon outside was going at full blast. I let it got for about 30mins and decided I couldn't stand it any longer. Went down to reception and asked for a room move. Now being cautious, I asked the receptionist for the key to check the revised room first. Well after about 7 rooms I decided the one I had was the best (no point in having a room that faces onto the freeway). Decided to take some sleeping pills and force sleep.

Woke up this morning feeling a little tired. Decided I'd ask for a new room (a receptionist who recognised me as I visit fairly often) and got a perfect one !

I love Buffalo Wings- one of the really good things about the US. Had them for dinner last night (boneless even better as saves the hassle). Dinner tonight at Malaysian/Indian place (very nice). Thankfully I've managed to stay off the snacking so far !