Hedge End uncut

Have a look at these albums for an alternative view of some Hedge End sights past and present:

Or, if you’re not interested in Hedge End (and who could blame you), there are more albums worth a peek in Andy’s urban exploring collection.



Something strange is happening in Hedge End: not only is there a local election with a choice of four candidates, but three of them have agreed to campaign online! In previous local elections there hasn’t been any choice at all but this time most of the major parties are represented, and there’s an independent candidate!

Impressively the only current independent councillor managed to convince two of the candidates to answer a few questions on his blog. One other candidate didn’t accept the premise of the question and instead submitted a statement, while the remaining candidate declined to take part at all. So thanks to Keith Day, here’s who you could vote for in the Shamblehurst by-election:

It’s fantastic to see such a simple and effective use of a blog for some constructive local politics, and it’s also nice to see a bit of discussion going on between the candidates in the comments!

If only the Liberal Democrat candidate could have taken part as well. Given the recent Liberal Democrat community speedwatch campaign, it would have been nice to have been able to leave him a comment to see what his views are on an alternative approach to road safety near schools. Admittedly, he may not have been that interested in my comments given I can’t vote in this election but I might have omitted to mention that! Hopefully there’ll be even more participants in time for the next local election I can vote in.

Photo © Roo Reynolds (CC BY-NC 2.0)

↑ Hedge End 1/2 mile

Photo of village centre signpostFor a minute I thought an old half baked scheme I’ve been pondering to update town twinning might have been given a new lease of life: according to the Hedge End Blogger there are plans to install a ‘heritage sign’ in Hedge End. By pure chance, and with a completely random grant from Hampshire County Council, it seemed like Hedge End would be getting the perfect place to tie the physical and virtual world together.

Except, on closer inspection, it looks like the sign won’t be in Hedge End at all; it will be outside! Assuming I read the directions right anyway. Apparently there was a strong case for putting it in the middle of nowhere. The actual reason is a mystery to the internet as far as I can tell but was presumably something to do with being on the route into Hedge End from the motorway.

I would have much preferred Keith’s suggested location, near the library, for a couple of reasons:

  • I would get to see it more often (I rarely go past the proposed location)
  • for those of us without a smart phone, the library would also ideal for a taking out a loan device to see the virtual element of the mad twinning plan

Oh well, maybe an entirely virtual sign post could point the way to the heritage sign.

Update: found the right minutes with the vote to put the sign, ‘opposite Lamp 13 in Upper Northam Road…’ Nothing about the reason as far as I can see but Keith has shared that on his blog. I also remembered where I’ve seen one of these things before: Otterbourne. (26 September 2011)

Photo © Reuben Whitehouse (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Putting The Berry Theatre on the map

I don’t go to the theatre that often but this week was slightly unusual: two different theatres, two nights in a row, one of which is brand new. It was The Berry Theatre‘s gala opening evening tonight, which was excellent, but that’s not exactly what this post is about.

Being brand new, I was hoping that it would provide an opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to try for a while and, sure enough, the theatre wasn’t in OpenStreetMap yet! So, armed with a dangerous amount of knowledge gained during Nick‘s enthusiastic OSM presentations yesterday, I fired up JOSM and contributed my first node.

Update: and as if by magic, The Berry Theatre appeared on the rendered map! (10 April 2011)

Updated: added link to Nick’s presentations. (9 July 2011)

Battle of the Pizzas

In a slight change to previous food review posts, this is a head to head clash of pizzerias. So without further ado, let’s introduce the contenders:

In the blue corner: Domino’s Pizza!

At the end of last year, Jo was very excited about rumours that Hedge End was about to get its very own Domino’s Pizza. Almost perfect timing since we were going off our previous fast-food-lazy-meal of choice.

In the red corner: Mr Pizza!

If you’re not from round here, the defending champion may be new to you. They were new to me too; I was vaguely aware they existed, but had never even thought of going in before. As I walked in on the night of the contest, I overheard a few local kids exclaim how good Mr Pizza was. Really, I’m not making that up; the local choice was clearly going to be hard to beat.

To make the contest easier Domino’s and Mr Pizza are in the same building in the centre of Hedge End. A fact that seems to have upset a few people, who don’t think Domino’s should have been allowed to open. Surely if local people really don’t want a Domino’s, they just won’t buy pizzas from them. And if they do, why should a minority of grumpy locals stop them? I would agree that, “bureaucrats have an unfortunate habit of regulating the wrong things…” but I would certainly include trying to randomly protect one business from another in that. Fortunately Domino’s was eventually allowed to open, probably to the relief of whoever had an empty unit to let for so long.

Round 1: Domino’s

I’ve already mentioned that I was only vaguely aware of Mr Pizza, but it would be hard to say the same about Domino’s: we’ve had stacks of leaflets through the door since they opened, so no problem finding their menu, phoning an order, or knowing where they are. I was sure I had seen an advert for Mr Pizza buried somewhere (something about price matching), but no amount of searching could find it. And if you want to find them in the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local, don’t look under Pizzas!

That’s all very well, but it’s all a bit old fashioned. Why worry about finding bits of paper when we have the internet, which is where Domino’s stole round one. They have a website. It’s trivial to find all the information you need, along with a menu and an ordering system. Job done, well, with one small gripe that a lot of their special offers aren’t valid online.

Trying to find accurate information about Mr Pizza on the other hand was a bit of a lost cause. If they have their own site, I didn’t find it. That’s a bit disappointing these days, and even a basic page with phone number, opening times and a menu would be better than nothing. While I wouldn’t expect them to be running a site like Domino’s, there do seem to be some promising looking alternatives which might be worth investigating. (I might be imagining it but take aways in student areas seem to have embraced the idea already!)

Round 2: Tied

After round one, it seemed that the best way to order was going to be to park up and do it in person. Domino’s and Mr Pizza are in the same place, so getting there takes exactly the same time, and parking is easy.

First up was Mr Pizza, since I had no idea what was on the menu or how long it would take. As well as the glowing recommendation on the way in, first impressions were excellent. Order, pay in advance, take ticket, wait about 10 minutes. Or in my case, go to their new neighbour and order another pizza!

And Domino’s was similar, except they only want you to pay when you pick up. They seem to have to repeat that with every order as everyone I saw kept trying to pay in advance! Like Mr Pizza, estimated time to nosh was 10 minutes.

Everything seems to be going well, so back to pick up the first order via Jo in the getaway car to report on progress.

Round 3: Mr Pizza

To be honest, it was round three and the contest to Mr Pizza at this point, but there is a round four for completeness.

Back at Mr Pizza there’s a nice seated waiting area, magazines, and a TV. As well as menus which I picked up for next time! I didn’t get time to enjoy the facilities though because my order was ready: call number eight (that’s me), pick up food, go home. Simples. Except I was going to collect another pizza where it’s not quite so simples…

Arrive at Domino’s, stand about in tiny area by the door and fight for attention with people putting in new orders; no sign of pizza. Well, they are busier I guess. Wait for a bit longer watching legions of employees preparing pizzas and wandering about. Check again; still no pizza. Wait some more, get call from Jo threatening to eat the Mr Pizza pizza she’s looking after in the car! This time when I check, they pick up an order that’s been on the shelves for ages! A process that seems to involve dumping completed orders on a set of shelves unannounced, which then get checked by other staff at some point in the future seems a tad crazy, and completely ineffective on this occasion. Even Argos do a better job! To be fair, I was offered a free drink by way of apology, but there’s just no contest given the pleasant experience at Mr Pizza.

Round 4: Mr Pizza

I was never going back to Domino’s anyway, but what were the pizzas like? Both were good, and I did marginally prefer the side order from Domino’s, but in the end it was slices of Domino’s pizza left over after we’d finished. So Mr Pizza wins the taste test as well.

Even though I won’t be going back to Domino’s Pizza, I have no problem with them opening in the same building as another pizza business, or even next door for that matter. It’s also largely thanks to them that Mr Pizza has another customer, and Hedge End has more choice, more jobs, and more trade as a result.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but if you don’t want to buy pizzas from two places on the same night, I’d recommend you try Mr Pizza first.

In the interests of transparency, I have nothing to do with either Domino’s or Mr Pizza, neither of them knew that their customer was moonlighting with a competitor while planning to write a review, and I did not receive any free products. I even turned down the free drink, much to the confusion of the Domino’s staff!

Update: Mr Pizza do now have a website! No online ordering so Domino’s would just about hang on to round 1, but there is a menu. (1st September 2013)

Happy New Year!

Following Dan Power and Crysta Anderson’s lead, I’m going to kick off the new year with a look back at the most popular posts from 2010. So with barely a pause and not even a drum roll, the winners are…

1. My second CurrentCost development board circuit

Way out ahead at number one is the only circuit board I’ve completed and put to regular use. Still working fine, apart from a brief pause when the batteries ran out. Kind of regretting replacing the batteries just in time for the recent spell of cold weather!

2. Master Information Hub: Getting Started

Not a close second, but still respectably ahead of the pack, this post is one I regularly point people to the first time they use the MDM Workbench. Hopefully it’s helped a few people out this year.

3. New clock radio

Leading the pack is this surprise entry to the top ten. Unlike some Joggler owners, I still use it fairly regularly and, apart from the occasional experiment, I’m still using the O2 software it came with. I did give Jolicloud another go yesterday, to see whether a little bluetooth keyboard helps; nice, but just not quite fast enough to switch permanently. Might give MeeGo a try next.

4. Get off my hashtag

Had a really interesting chat at the last homecamp about tagging, so this is a subject I’m likely to return to this year.

5. Weather Underground + Mashup Hub + Pachube = orb food

Maybe it’s just me but I get quite excited about the potential that this kind of data mashup has. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen what you can do with enterprise data and software like Message Broker; now imagine the possibilities with open data and simple ways for anyone to manipulate it. (That’s not manipulation in the political sense of course!)

6. Master Information Hub: Social Bookmark Services

This follows on from the number 2 post, while the third in the series has some catching up to do and didn’t make the top 10. I also have some has some catching up to do; I hope to get to the next instalment early this year.

7. Liberal Democrats can’t win here

Politicians, gotta love ’em. I wonder how these graphs will look if we get proportional representation for the next election.

8. Home Easy ambient orb

All soldered together but not yet receiving that lovely data from the number 5 post. I’m currently pondering whether to just hard code things ‘for now’ or hack some more so that the three orbs could be programmed using the BlinkM sequencer.

9. Digital House Arrest

Politicians again. Really. Very. Annoying. I never did get a reply to my last letter to my MP, Chris Huhne.

10. Manifesto

Given that all politicians seem to be as bad as each other I was half tempted to stand as a RON (reopen nominations) candidate Anyone else up for a For The Win party next time?!

Highly commended: It takes two

Not actually in the top ten but this post about Hedge End twinning deserves an honourable mention for the great comments about Frome’s twins.

Happy new year!

It takes two

For anyone who couldn’t hear at the back (or perhaps even missed the live version completely!) here’s a recap of my slightly random BarCamp Southampton lightning talk. The loosely-connected-to-the-theme-of-the-day title on the schedule was:

AR Twinning or The perils of Town Twinning – modernising with augmented reality

As you drive in to many towns, you’ll probably recognise a sign like this:

Not the snow, although maybe that will start looking familiar, or “Hedge End”, or even the useful driving tip, but the bit in between; “Twinned with…” In this case a town in Belgium that I know almost nothing about. (I really should try and find out how to pronounce the name.)

It wasn’t the signpost that inspired the lightning talk though; it was an announcement in the local newsletter that the twinning association was dissolving. I wonder how many people could name the places their town is twinned with, know anything about it, have visited, or even know why towns have twins, so I’m not all that surprised about Hedge End’s lack of interest in twinning activities.

So is there a way to revitalise town twinning? Something that might help is lowering the barriers to participation; not everyone can commit to formal activities or take on permanent roles in a twinning association. Providing a means for ad hoc encounters between people in the twinned towns could naturally lead to more interest in finding out more and getting more involved. But how do you do that when Hedge End and Comines-Warneton are around 300km apart?

You could create some Twinning 2.0 social web site but for me that somehow loses the physical connection between the towns. Why would you choose people in one town over anywhere else in the world? Would a shared physical space be possible and, if so, would it stimulate more interest in an otherwise remote place?

So my hair brained scheme involves a signpost in each town. Not the kind you drive past, but one right in the centre pointing the way to the twinned town. A traditional sign from Hampshire might look something like this:

I had less luck finding one for Belgium, but you get the general idea:

If a town only has one twin, it might be a nice touch to switch the signs round, so Hedge End would have a sign post you’d normally see in Comines-Warneton.

Next, add some ambient indication of what’s going on at the other sign. In particular, it needs to catch people’s attention if there is anyone near the remote sign. Winchester’s Luminous Motion might provide some inspiration here:

This sculpture only reacts when it receives a text message, but the twinned signposts would need to communicate with each other automatically, and pachube could be an ideal way to do just that:

So if you’re walking past the sign post in Hedge End, and it indicates that there is someone near the sign post in Comines-Warneton, what next? With modern smart phones and augmented reality the possibilities are endless, from a simple chat, to video feeds, to exchanging town photos, to virtual tours, to AR games, to anything people in the towns come up with.

I realise of course that not everyone has these kind of devices (me included) but there’s a library in Hedge End which could conceivably loan them to people. Some of the activities would also be possible via any internet connection, but now there’s a highly visible physical focal point in each town providing an anchor to tie it all together. At least, that’s the theory!

I did finish the talk by claiming it would never happen, but it would be really nice to be proved wrong, and maybe the two sign posts could exist in a virtual form to begin with. Thanks to everyone who was there for the lightning talk in person, and thanks to everyone who made BarCamp Southampton happen… but that’s for another post.

Update: thanks to Katy’s comments below, I’m very excited to discover that Murrhardt actually has a fingerpost pointing to its twins! (28 November 2010)

Images © their respective owners :

  • Hedge End sign – Jim Hart
  • Map – OpenStreetMap contributors, cc by-sa
  • Corhampton sign – Jim Champion, cc by-sa
  • N333 sign – Faz Besharatian, cc by-nc-sa
  • Luminous motion – Sumit, cc by-nc-sa
  • Pachube – Connected Environments Ltd.
  • Noticings Layer – James Bridle, cc by-nc-nd

Weather Underground + Mashup Hub + Pachube = orb food

The hardware side of my ambient orb project is almost finished, so I’ve been making a start at the other end: getting some data to display. Top of my wish list is to display a basic weather forecast on the orbs, which looks like it could be nice and simple thanks to the very handy Weather Underground service. There’s a decent weather station nearby for current readings, and the forecast for Southampton has been pretty accurate so far, both of which are available through the Weather Underground API.

I could process the resulting XML on my home server but, having been doing some work with mashups recently, I thought I’d create a feed mashup instead. I’ve played with Yahoo Pipes in the past but this time I created a feed using Mashup Hub on Lotus Greenhouse:

So that screen shot is probably not all that helpful in understanding what’s going on; this style of graphical programming is fairly common these days but I would personally like to see more advanced ways to document and share diagrams like this. Still, this one is pretty simple, so here’s a quick overview:

  • The path at the top extracts the current temperature from the local weather station data
  • The middle path makes use of some very handy date functions in Mashup Hub to pick out entries 12 hours ahead from the forecast data
  • The bottom path does a lookup on the forecast conditions to replace a text forecast with a numeric code

Which all ends up being published as a much simpler piece of XML. I could just grab this XML directly and process it on the Arduino, or I could save some effort and convert the mashed up XML to an even simpler comma separated list using an XML to CSV converter written for the Pachube community. Well, now it would be trivial to create a Pachube feed for the weather forecast as well… so here it is

Perhaps not the most direct route for getting a weather forecast but I think it’s a nice example of how anyone can pull together data they are interested in without any programming, or a server of their own. I’m also quite please with the results of the forecasts so far; 13 C and clear tomorrow in theory!

Liberal Democrats can’t win here

Every so often a local Liberal Democrat newsletter drops through the door, and almost without fail they make me less likely to vote for them! The problem is that they include a graph like this (except that they seem to round down the Conservative votes, and they only include the top three parties)…

39% Lib Dem, 38% Conservative, 21% Labour, 3% UKIP

In the latest, Christmas & New Year, edition the graph is titled “It’s so close here!” Ok, personally I’d like to see the space used to explain why voting Lib Dem is worth doing, but I guess that isn’t so bad. Unfortunately they go on to claim, “Gordon Brown and Labour have already lost here!” and “Chris Huhne Wins!” Interesting, so the next election has already been decided based on the 2005 results? That seems like a fairly silly thing for the Lib Dems to be suggesting given the national results…

22% Lib Dem, 32% Conservative, 35% Labour, 2% UKIP

So clearly Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have already lost! Fail. Fortunately past performance is no indication of future results.

Both the claim that the choice is only between Lib Dem and Labour locally, and Lib Dem’s failure to convince people that there is an alternative to Labour and Conservative nationally, reminds me of one of my favourite Simpsons episodes (thanks to Big Dunc for this quote):

Kodos: It’s true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about
it? It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man1: He’s right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
[Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]
[Ross Perot smashes his “Perot 96” hat]

I haven’t decided who to vote for yet but one thing’s for certain: the next election can’t come soon enough!

Update: it seems that I’m not the only one this annoys and someone mentioned that Sandra Gidley has done the same thing in the past. Sure enough there’s a graph under the heading “With Labour out of the race, more and more people are switching back to Sandra and the Lib Dems!” on her web site. At least Chris Huhne’s web site discusses issues I’m actually interested in, instead of wasting space; I just wish the local newsletter would do the same. I had higher hopes for Martin Tod since the graph of election results on his site was a pretty reasonable reporting of recent council elections, rather than some assertion of future results. Sadly there’s a familiar looking, “Only Martin Tod or the Conservatives can win here” graph on a recent letter. Very disappointing. (19 January 2010)

Update: unsurprisingly, it looks like the Lib Dems don’t like it when someone uses similar logic on a national scale! I wish the lot of them would stop going on about who can’t win and start spending a little more time being constructive. (27 January 2010)

Update: Just spotted the latest version of the ‘Labour can’t win’ graph on Chris Huhne’s new web site, with the full results this time. Sadly I’m getting reminded that the Lib Dems can’t win the next general election every time I get their leaflets. Twice in the same leaflet on one occasion; guess they must have run out of news for that one. (3 April 2010)

Update: Instead of covering all their leaflets with these negative and counter productive graphs, the Lib Dems should be pushing the, somewhat radical, idea of voting for who you want to win. It seems a somewhat disingenuous to be tweeting things like this…

Amazing YouGov poll unpublished by Sun shows 49 per cent Lib Dem support ‘if u thought the Lib Dems had a signif chance’ @ChrisHuhne

…while telling me not to vote Labour so that the Conservatives don’t get in. (20 April 2010)

Update: It appears they like this kind of graph in Cambridge as well. Perhaps the Alternative Vote would help. (3 May 2011)

House for sale!

Terraced House, 2 Bedrooms, 1 Bathroom, 2 Receptions, South Facing Garden

Our house

Is anyone looking for a 2 bed house in Southampton?!

See Tepilo for more information, photos, floor plans and to book a viewing.

Update: well, we didn’t get the house we wanted. Don’t try to buy a house before you sell your own is good advice, which we kind of knew already but it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. We aren’t that desperate to move though – no great desire to have a bigger mortgage before we need one! – so we’ve taken the house of the market for now. It’ll be back though, so I can send some details if you’re really interested. (5 December 2009)