The new Charles Kennedy book

Charles Kennedy bookIf you buy / pre-order the new Charles Kennedy book that’s hitting the headlines at the moment using this link, you can help the Lib Dems raise funds without it costing you anything.

I’m tempted to put the link so that it earns me money, too, but all the other Amazon links on here do that. I’ve earned about thirty quid that way since 1998, mostly off my own purchases.






  • Of the more than 1,000 number 1 singles in the UK charts, only 80 have been solo female artists.
  • Madonna had 12 of those.
  • Kylie, Britney and Whitney have had 15 between them
  • Dusty Springfield only had one! (“You don’t have to say you love me”)
  • In Britain, we through away enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every hour, or Lake Windermere every 9 months
    • Therefore one Windermere = 9 * 30.5 * 24 = 6,588 Albert Halls
    • “Mere” means “lake”, so saying Lake Windermere is like saying Lake Winderlake
  • If everyone on the planet consumed as much as we do in the UK, we’d need three planets.
  • Nottingham has the largest district heating system in Europe and is the fourth largest purchaser of green electricity in the EU.
  • I like factoids like these.  My brain stores them up endlessly, then mixes them up with others and then regurgitates them randomly at parties.

    What are your favourite factoids?

    The latest exciting meme

    Will H of Google Fame is the latest to succomb to a cracking meme-wheeze that will really swell your comments, wrinkle out your readers, and waste whole days of work time.

    You fire up iTunes, turn on Party Shuffle, and post the first lines of the top twenty-five songs.

    I almost did it right here, right now, but it would have taken an awful lot of time, and my copy of iTunes here in the office only has a tiny fraction of my CDs in it, so it would have been a little distorted.

    Most annoyingly, iTunes on my laptop inherited the library information from my previous laptop when I transferred the files across.  The major reason for upgrading was always that I was running out of hard drive space on a daily basis, so I had deleted all my MP3s (including my Lib Dem sanctioned “New Beginning”). iTunes never understood, and is still trying is trying to play songs that weren’t there on the last laptop and still aren’t there on this one.

    I don’t know why things get quite so complicated when I’m involved.

    I’ve just been trying to get a new printer to work.  I often get called in when other people have tried and not quite got there, so I try and pick up the pieces.  The set up is: one of those fancy new laptops with no parallel port; a USB adsl-modem and the new printer.  So, what seems to be the problem I ask? and they wave the printer cable at me.  It’s a network cable.  Ah.  The PC does have a network port, but you can’t plug a network printer directly in via a network port, it needs to go via a hub or router (I assume, anyway, am I wrong about this?).  Which they don’t have because it’s a USB modem not a sensible one.  The printer also has a parallel port, but the laptop doesn’t. So, I get on the phone to the support people who supplied all the kit over a period of several years and ask them the best way of making it work together.  Lots of humming and hawing.  They put me on hold.  I double check the back of the printer… and see there’s also a USB port on it.  Bah.  Problem over, I explain when helpdesk come back on the line.  All I need to do is buy a USB hub and a USB cable.

    So *then* I head over to PC World to pick up the bits, but I’m so disgusted with the prices (cheapest USB cable in PCW – 14.99.  Cheapest USB hub, 12.99, with some priced over 30 quid!) that I walk out.

    Still, the printer does not work.


    Am now using ebuyer to find a cheaper USB hub – rather like the copy on this one:

    While you install a bluetooth doongle on your PC, sometimes the immobile port may cause a limitation to receive. BluetoothMate USB Hub is not only a 4-port USB hub, but also a functional tool dedicates to bluetooth dongle use with its special design in a rotatable port. The 180o rotatable port allows your bluetooth or RF dongles to receive better signal at a better angel, so that you can create a smooth wireless working situation. Meanwhile, it is also suitable for some big-size dongles that are difficult to be installed side by side.

    “Big size dongles that are difficult to be installed side by side” ?  Oh, honey, I know just what you’re trying to say.


    Kathryn asks

    Have you done something to Google? Put your name in – the first 5 entries all relate to you!

    To be fair, that’s googling in the UK — if you google in the US, it’s just the top three that are me, and then there’s a jazz musician in New York, and some sort of sportsman, and a few other people with the same name as me.

    But it’s true, Google seems to hold me in very high esteem. It’s not something I’ve deliberately done. Getting a little involved with a blogging community through libdemblogs and occasional links from people with very high traffic, like Guido and Iain Dale certainly help on the page rank front.

    WordPress is also excellent at putting my things under Google’s nose, not least because everything I write shows up under multiple different URLs – this post will be under for a day or two, then will be found at all three of and categories/tech and categories/ramblings for a while, before being relegated to and so on.

    But Google is erratic — look at Will Howell’s experience a few weeks ago. As far as I’m concerned, one of the links for me – the links – now point to web space I am not actively using and am still thinking up for a long term use for; I’m not sure where Google get the description line for this domain, but how do I change it if my personal circumstances change?

    The thing that really gets me, though, is looking through my referrer logs to find out how people get to my website. (I use to sort out the technical stuff for me.) And Google send almost a hundred people every day with various different criteria.

    Some of them are things I have written about, like Black Rod’s Garden Entrance, the “boom boom bah” music in Dead Like Me, and roasted tomato soup. Thank goodness someone explained what the regular daily hits for “niles crazy” were about. Some of them are projects I am definitely involved in like librivox and libdemblogs. (I get tens of hits from both every day, and there’s a fair bit of reciprocal linking from other people involved in both going on too.)

    Some of the people who end up here must be really disappointed. The following are just a few search terms from just the last twenty-four hours, and the page here the searcher ended up at

    I’m going to stop there, not because I’ve run out of Google search terms but because WordPress is going to put itself into loops sending me pingbacks for that little lot. The point is – people have ended up on my blog and not found what they were looking for. I hope they enjoyed what they got instead.

    Final thought goes to the person who got here by googling “help me, i’m starving” last year – I already wrote about that here.

    Radio Nottingham

    Edit: recording of interview here.

    I’ve just been in to Radio Nottingham to record a quick interview about the new Charles Kennedy revelations in today’s Times.

    I just missed hearing Matthew Taylor’s interview on WATO as I headed out to the BBC, so I didn’t hear until afterwards that he refutes some of the allegations made.

    As it was, I went in prepared with a few factoids – and I got some of them across, I hope.

    In particular, “the party is bigger than one man” – mentions of the Dunfermline by-election, the recent local Ashfield by-election, which saw Austin Rathe become a councillor, and the even more recent Derby defections.

    Unfortunately, they didn’t let me get as far as my “hope the Conference isn’t overshadowed by these stories” piece, as I had a little bit prepared on all the other wonderful things that will be happening in Brighton in just over a fortnight: Tax Commision and Meeting the Challenge. Actually maybe that’s all for the best because I don’t necessarily have enough facts at my fingertips for either of those topics.

    I will listen in to the interview shortly and see if I can judge how I did. Radio Nottingham is on the internet, if you feel sufficiently curious to tune in yourself. They’re already billing me as “senior Lib Dem” in the headlines. Drivetime has started, and my section will be broadcast between 5 and 6.

    Just one further thought: my own Shetland gin confession last night couldn’t have been worse timed, given today’s CK story:

    Charles Kennedy struggled with a severe alcohol problem throughout his period as leader. He did not drink excessively every day, colleagues said, but every so often would go on a spree of very heavy drinking. Contrary to a mythology drawn from a caricature of a Highlander, whisky was not his tipple of choice. Nor did he care for champagne, despite at times being dubbed “Champagne Charlie”. He drank gin and tonic, or wine.

    Blackwoods Gin

    As I write this, I’m taste-testing a new bottle of gin. On Friday night, I popped to Sainsbury’s and topped up the drinks cabinet with my recently received pay. A bottle of vodka for steeping blackberries in and a new bottle of gin to replace the exhausted Bombay Sapphire bottle in the freezer.

    Whilst my hand was reaching towards the lovely blue bottle in Sainsbury’s, my eye was drawn by a new bottle that I’d not seen before. “Blackwood‘s – the world’s finest vintage gin.” A tall claim. The copy written on the bottle is extravagant:

    Blackwood’s Vintage Dry Gin is distinctive and unique. Every summer we hand gather botanicals on the weather-ravished Shetland Islands, far to the north of Scotland, then slowly distil them to make our award winning Blackwood’s Vintage Dry Gin.

    A little further digging suggests there are some things amongst the botanicals that are unlikely to grow wild in the weather-ravished Shetland Islands, like orange peel and turmeric. Do juniper berries grow up there? Apparently, they choose to import their berries from Umbria.

    The weekend has so far passed without an opportunity for me to get at the gin bottle but this evening, someone on a forum mentioned gin, and I thought, when better to try it?

    The bottle has a cork stopper rather than a screw cap, which was a little difficult to remove from a freezer chilled bottle.

    Made a quick G’n’T – a lemon wedge, wiped around the rim of the glass and squeezed into the bottom of the glass. Three ice-cubes. Two fingers of gin and a tin of Schweppes Tonic (*) water.

    And it’s a good gin. I can’t really tell if it’s nicer than Bombay. Maybe I’ll have to blind test two different types of gin at once.

    (*) Contains a source of phenylalanine

    Number One when you were born?

    NOTE: Please do not leave comments here asking me to look up specific dates. Please follow this link to out the answer for yourself.

    This website can tell you what song was at Number 1 in the charts the day you were born — assuming you were born after 1945.

    I actually recognise mine, “You’re the One that I Want”, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. But I’ve put in other family birthdays and not recognised many other people’s songs.

    Now, I’m torn between sharing interesting coincidences of birth, and the security risk of revealing the birthdates of my nearest and dearest.

    So perhaps I’ll confine myself to saying I don’t recognise any of the names of these “eminent musicians” with whom I share a birthday:

    1941 – Beverly Lee ( The Shirelles )
    1946 – John York ( bassist, guitarist, vocalist, The Byrds )
    1963 – James Hetfield ( vocalist, guitarist, Metallica )
    1967 – Deborah Anne Dyer ( aka Skin, vocalist, Skunk Anansie )
    1971 – Deirdre Roper ( aka Spinderella; vocalist, Salt-n-Pepa )

    LD blog of the year

    That nice Mark Pack just left me a welcome comment.

    Most important fact in his post was a link to the place on the Lib Dem website where you can nominate people for the Lib Dem Blog of the Year award.

    I popped right over and typed in the following:

    I would like to nominate Liberal England

    It’s a great blend – news of the day, liberal perspectives on current events, with some nerdy historical preoccupations occasionally. And Lord Bonkers every now and again is the icing on the cake. Best of all, although it’s detailed, and informed, and clearly its author has a huge knowledge base to draw on when he wants to, it doesn’t get to a weight of policy that makes it unreadable.

    Now I see that nice Dr Pack also left a similar comment on — where? Liberal England. A post with a naked – naked! – appeal to be nominated! Well, he deserves it.

    This post should very definitely not be considered an appeal to be nominated on my own behalf. I don’t think that would be appropriate for this blog. I’m only very seldom what you might call a Lib Dem blogger.

    I’ve just been googling “mark pack” to see what comes up and see if there’s an appropriate link I can use for him, or something that would explain who he is to my readers who don’t know him. (He works for the Lib Dems, is a very talented and hard working guy who I have a lot of respect for.) Best is the eBay auto-ad

    Mark Pack
    Huge selection, great deals on
    Mark Pack items.