Monthly Archives: April, 2009

Wait a minute, Mr Postman

On the Mac, I’ve always liked Apple’s standard Mail app. On the rare occasions when I need an email program on another platform, I use Thunderbird, from the nice people who brought you Firefox.

Thunderbird, I gather from those who have looked carefully into these things, is a very well-behaved email program. Its underlying code is sound, especially when it comes to IMAP. It lacks the polish of Mail, and has limited searching capabilities, but it’s otherwise a good choice.

So I was interested today when my friend Ray told me about Postbox, a Windows and Mac mail client that’s built on top of Thunderbird but adds a variety of new features, including more sophisticated filtering and searching, and looks a bit prettier. I’ve been trying it and it looks quite nice.

The great thing about keeping your mail on an IMAP server, of course, is that you can move between programs without worrying that your valuable messages will get swallowed up in a variety of different mail folder formats. So I’ll try this for a while and see how it goes…


My friend Phil Endecott has released his latest app for the iPhone, which makes your beverage the envy of all other nearby beverages. How? By making it glow.

You need a rather dark environment, but it’s great fun. LagerLamp is available from iTunes for 59p. Which, when you think about it, wouldn’t buy you very much beer these days.

Use at your own risk!

If pigs could fly…

…then avian ‘flu might become swine ‘flu.

Update: And when I made that observation, I hadn’t seen a Twitter post by my friend Aaron about ‘swine flew’… which is even better.


From our trip last weekend.

These are on the canal between Bruges and Damme.

Kingsley Amis, please. Skinny with an extra shot.

Blackwell’s in London have installed their first Espresso Book Machine. From the Guardian article:

It’s not elegant and it’s not sexy – it looks like a large photocopier – but the Espresso Book Machine is being billed as the biggest change for the literary world since Gutenberg invented the printing press more than 500 years ago and made the mass production of books possible. Launching today at Blackwell’s Charing Cross Road branch in London, the machine prints and binds books on demand in five minutes, while customers wait.

Which does make me wonder whether, before long, we won’t have coffee shops in bookstores. We’ll have bookstores in coffee shops…

A cheery start to your weekend

Hap sent me a link to a couple of beautifully-staged performance ‘scenes’. This is my favourite, in an Antwerp train station:

Closer to home, this is in Picadilly Circus:

These were both corporate-sponsored, but it doesn’t stop them from being great.

They’re reminiscent of those staged by Improv Everywhere. I think the ‘Frozen Grand Central’ was my favourite of theirs so far:


I love it here. Good to be back, even if only for a day.

If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs…

A tiny part of the amazing frontage of Amiens cathedral.

A fire may have been Kindled

As an experiment, I’ve just read a whole Kindle book on my iPod Touch. And, rather unexpectedly, I went straight back and ordered another.

It’s not that the reading experience is the best in the world… though it’s not at all bad. The benefit I hadn’t predicted came from my always having my iPod in my pocket, and therefore always having good reading matter in my pocket. Even in the loo.

It’s a library that’s smaller than any single book I own.

And it’s a book that always opens up at the place where you left off. Useful if you just want to read a few sentences while waiting for the train.

And it’s a book that you don’t need to have the light on to read. Useful if you wake up earlier than your partner.

All these factors meant that I probably got through the book rather faster on my iTouch than I would have on a proper Kindle.

Or on paper.

Not what I expected.

Quote of the day

From Christopher Hitchens:

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

which is, I suppose, a corollary of Carl Sagan’s classic: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.


John’s musings about his old cars, and Sean and Nicci’s post about double-declutching, reminded me of something my father taught me many years ago which few people probably know: that you can change gears without using the clutch, as long as you get the engine speeds right. You shift into neutral, rev the engine (or let it slow down) to the right point for your speed, and then shift into the next gear. It takes some practice, but if you know the car well enough, it is perfectly possible.

Since I’ve been married I’ve been driving automatics (which, I remember being horrified to first discover, you can’t even bump-start!) But growing up with a sequence of elderly second-hand cars, techniques like these were often of real practical use. I remember driving one of my first cars several miles back home after the clutch cable had broken.

There is a real problem, though, with this technique. Because it’s dependent on matching engine speed to road speed, the one thing you can’t do is to stop, or you’ll never get out of neutral again. Fortunately, I realised what had happened to the cable while I was still moving, and so could plan a route home that involved very few traffic lights and where the majority of other places I might have to stop were on downhill slopes…

Half-timbered cars

A Mini TravellerThere’s a post on Sean and Nicci’s site about the family Morris Traveller.

Well, the earliest car I can remember was also, I think, half-timbered. When when we first came back from Africa in 1970 my mother had a Mini Traveller. I was three years old at the time, but amazingly, I can remember its registration number: TBB 571G.

The brain works in mysterious ways…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser