I’d Love To See Microsoft Deliver A Fitting Smart Phone

A smart phone yesterday

Currently Microsoft mobile is mince.

However, I’ve got a soft spot for the platform, because my first smart(ish) phone was Microsoft – at the time it was a gamechanger for me because it enabled easy access email on the hoof.

The phone had a nice colour screen, a slide out keyboard and it was easy to work. Even though I’m now using the iPhone, I miss a real keyboard – something I never thought I’d say.

To be honest the only drawback was having to use a stylus – but that was a minor point.

Latterly though, the lack of decent internet connection was its downfall. All I really wanted to do on my phone was to be able to browse website and use social media.

While I like Apple’s products, I’m not overly fond of the company or the blind faith of fanboys (in much the same way that I’m not a fan of organised religion). Continue reading

Proud son, proud father, proud – er – “PR Expert”

The Scotsman

The Scotsman

I was quietly chuffed this week, after being quoted in The Scotsman  as part of the debate over Fred the Shred’s long overdue decision to hand back part of his pension.

Reporter Martyn McLaughlin was gathering the viewpoint from PR experts – and it seems I qualify as co-founder of Holyrood Partnership PR in Edinburgh. Which is nice. Almost as nice as being on the same bill as Max Clifford since – love him or loathe him – he is a PR colossus.

However, any overweening pride was easily held in check, as I was comfortably eclipsed by the womenfolk of the Douglas family.

Exactly a week ago today I was tweeting and twittering away from my daughter’s school sports day, reporting how she came last more than once. Poor wee mite put everything she’s got into each event but isn’t blessed as an athlete.

However, she more than made up for it with this week’s Primary Two report card – the detailed assessment of how she has fared and developed over the past year.

Without going into all the academic whys and wherefores, suffice to say she is  well-adjusted kid who puts enthusiastic effort into everything she does – and you can’t ask much more from a six-year-old, so I was bursting with pride.

Meanwhile my mother was also excelling herself. A few years ago she set about learning to drive. Somewhere in the intervening period she qualified for a free bus pass, but despite sitting her test repeatedly, seemed destined never to qualify for her driving licence.

But she’s pretty indomitable when she puts her mind to it. Sure enough, earlier this week, she finally passed her test at the fifth time of asking. Another proud moment.

What can I say? It’s all in the genes.

Why high street viagra sales are a blessing for poor old biscuit cock

A digestive biscuit

A digestive biscuit

Took the bus into work this moring after leaving the car at the office so I could enjoy a few drinks at a top business networking event last night, organised by Winning Entrepreneurs.

This occasional foray onto public transport meant that I got the chance to flick through today’s copy of the Metro.

The story that caught my eye was on page 12 - announcing that  Viagra will be available over the counter from today in branches of  Boots the chemist.

Which brought back the funniest story I’ve heard in ages – adeptly told by Jim Rae, managing director of document solutions company, Elevate, who was also at last night’s Winning Entrepreneurs barbecue.

The yarn revolved around a couple of blokes striking up a rapport while watching the recent Champions League final in the same bar on the holiday island of Tenerife. As you do on holiday, they arrange to meet up for dinner the following day with wives/girlfriends.

Bloke number one was first in the restaurant with his wife and was left agog a short time later when his new pal turned up with most unbelievably beautiful girl on his arm.

However, it was soon apparent that not only was this angel-like vision a tad common, she was also mouthy and sticking away glass after glass of red wine in short order.

Cue much discomfort when, less than an hour into the meal, the beautiful young woman was slurring, swearing and being generally vitriloic.

At this point her boyfriend leans in and urges her to ease up on the red wine, gently reminding her that they’re out for the entire night. Her searing response was this: “Don’t tell me how much I can drink, biscuit c*ck!”

After a shocked silence the woman turned to the other couple and said: “D’you want to know why I call him ‘biscuit c*ck’? It’s because it only takes one dip and he goes soft.”

Now that’s an insult no man is coming back from.

For the sake of the poor bloke involved, I can only hope this story is apocryphal- one of those urban myth jokes (though I’m sad to report there’s no record of it on the urban myth bible, Snopes.com).

If not, let’s hope he’s ditched the mouthy arm candy and  is celebrating today’s news that the wee blue pills are now freely available on the high street.

In the consolation stakes,  something tells me that a wee cup of tea and a nice McVities digestive (the ultimate dunking biscuit, IMHO) just won’t help in this case.

Why Top Gear’s Clarkson should be thoroughly ashamed of THAT comment

The Daily Record’s Amy Devine contacted me by email today – to remind me that when we worked together waaay back in 2003, I used to endlessly wind her up because her dad was a long distance lorry driver.

I would regularly suggest that, by dint of his occupation, he must be a serial killer with a penchant for dumping bodies in laybys.

Amy wroter: “See big Jezzers Clarkson’s in the sh*t for repeating your lorry driver jokes on TV?! He he. Great minds think alike, eh?”

Needless to say I think it’s hilarious that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is giving that cliched old myth of lorry driver’s as prostitute killers a fresh airing and impetus for a whole new audience.

The concept is only marginally more ridiculous than suggesting all truckers eat Yorkie bars, hedgehog sandwiches or dabble with CB radio. Doesn’t make it any less funny though.

Clarkson’s raison d’etre is to be a controversial, middle-aged, right-wing reactionary, playing to exactly this type of ludicrous opinion. A bit like Al Murray’s Pub Landlord with just a bit more blurring between reality and performance.

He does it brilliantly, has become a willing parody of himself and in the process helped elevate Top Gear from a cult show for petrolheads into a laddish, light entertainment masterclass and a much-loved national institution.

But currently everyone and anyone employed by the BBC to be controversial is being reined in thanks to a bout of misguided national moralising. Earlier in the year anyone tuning into the previous series of Top Gear would have expected comically outrageous rhetoric from the big fella.

He is, after all, an unreconstructed, chain-smoking, Sun column writing Alpha male who revels – nay glories – in the damage cars cause to the environment and thinks nothing of baiting redneck Americans for sharing his disapproval of “man love“. Hardly PC then.

Yet this week we’re expected to jump up and down and believe his most recent comment is somehow prejudicial and offensive. To truckers. Or to prostitutes. I’m not sure which.

It’s the same kind of collective madness which saw Russell Brand  - a man whose entire reputaton seems built on his audience’s appetite to hear about his sexual antics - berated for boasting of, er, his sexual antics. That’s consenting shenanigans, mind you. With a young woman renowned for posing for raunchy pictures and videos when not singing with the Satanic Sluts.

Or maybe I got it wrong and actually him and Jonathan Ross were carpeted for irreverently poking fun at a man whose own comedic career was built almost entirely on ridiculing continental Europeans, particularly those of a Latin persuasion.

Clarkson must be laughing like a blocked drain that he – a man celebrated for his single-minded dedication to pricking anything remotely politically correct – is suddenly at the centre of such a pointless PC storm.

But there is one aspect of Clarkson’s behaviour which is totally inexcusable. Plagiarism. There is little doubt in my mind that he stole his entire “truckers kill hookers” schtick from the genius publication, Viz. I know I did:

Killer Truckers

Killer Truckers

This strip came from issue 123 (March 2003) and took me ages to find.

Oi! Clarkson! Next time you want to stoke up a media storm over inappropriate comments, make sure you credit your sources!

What was to blame for making her Fanny Burney?

Yes, it’s juvenile. But I can’t help myself.

I’ve always enjoyed a chuckle over funny names (see Phani Tikkala). Indeed, only just this morning some anonymous soul found their way to my blog by using a search engine to look for “funny names Chu Kok”.

In this case I spotted this plaque on the impressive walls surrounding Windsor Castle. Fanny may have been a successful novelists at a time when women weren’t encouraged to read, let alone write. She was also Keeper of the Robes for Queen Charlotte. So in every way, a woman worth far more than my schoolboy sniggers.

I read a bit of Fanny’s history, but couldn’t find out if she was Fanny Burney by birth, or by marriage. I hope it was through an unfortunate union with some minor earl or royal courtier. Though Big Adrian in the office suggested she was only Fanny Burney as a result ot eating too many pickles – and suggested cranberry juice would sort it out.

This reminded me of one of my favourite jokes, from around about the time when Nick Faldo was still playing on the professional golfing circuit, ably assisted by one of the few female caddies involved in the game – Fanny Sunesson.

It went like this: Did you hear that Nick Faldo’s caddy is getting married to (fellow professional golfer) Vijay Singh? Apparently he’s asked to make her Fanny Singh!

Ta da.

The Bizarre world where the reporter becomes the story

As you might have gathered, I’m enjoying seeing former colleague Gordon Smart’s star in the ascendency.

It’s even more pleasing when he gives a nod in the direction of Deadline Press & Picture Agency for setting his feet on the path to stardom – as he does in this two page profile in The Independent.

This coverage comes hot on the heels of the four page spread in Q magazine, which  chose to describe young Goags as one of the most influential figures in the music industry.

And that was before his world exclusive on the collapse of Maddona and Guy Ritchie’s marriage, the main reason the rather weighty and po-faced Independent decided to focus so much newsprint on the world of Red Top gossip mongering.

Normally there’s something disconcerting when a journalist becomes the story, rather than just reporting it. But in the heady world of tabloid gossip columns – particularly The Sun’s Bizarre column - the usual rules are reversed.

As former Bizarre editor Piers Morgan has so ably proved, it’s entirely possible for the purveyor of celebrity tittle tattle to attain fame in their own right. However, notoriety of an entirely different kind can also beckon, as another former Bizarre stalwart has proved.

Also crossing my desk yesterday was the latest PR Week glossy supplement announcing the winner of the 2008 PR Awards. Prominent among them was another former Bizarre editor, Andy Coulson. He is now the Communications Director for the Conservative Party.

He has been widely credited with masterminding David Cameron’s rise in popularity and the opinion polls – and that has seen him named PR Professional of the Year.

That accolade comes along  with the assessment that: “He has been smarter than the Government at every stage and is going to be a crucial factor in Cameron becoming Prime Minister.”

So there you have it. Young Goags – easily the best looking Bizarre editor to date – seems custom made for a future TV career. But even if he decided to turn to the Dark Side and seek a career in PR, Bizarre could well be his ticket into the corridors of power.

Nice work if you can get it.

Now THAT’S what I call a surprise wedding …

Awww! Doesn’t the bride look beautiful on her big day?

Thing is, I haven’t a clue who she is. Or the groom. This really was a surprise wedding, since the full set of pictures turned up totally unexpectedly on a £1300 camera we’d just bought – supposedly brand new.

The Canon EOS 5D was purchased from Warehouse Express in Norwich. It was delivered speedily and arrived in a sealed box, carefully wrapped with all the parts and peripherals in pristine condition.

But when photographer (and new recruit to Deadline Press & Picture Agency) Emma Bryant opened her shiny new toy, there was a surprise in store – an 8 gigbyte flash card with a full set of wedding pics on it.

Here’s a selection of the other pictures (if anybody can identify the couple, I’d be delighted to pass on my best wishes – and direct them to Warehouse Express, where they can collect the full set of memories from their big day.

Clearly the “new” camera had been used somewhere between being boxed up in a factory in the Far East and being delivered to our Edinburgh offices this week.

At first the people at Warehouse Express seemed as perplexed as I was – and insisted the pictures must have been taken before the camera left the factory. Eh, naw. This piece of kit was almost certainly manufacturedin the Far East. And this wedding looks far more likely to have taken place in Norwich than in Nanking.

My guess is that someone at Warehouse Express has used a bit of initiative and “borrowed” a camera to help out at a mate’s wedding. Nobody would have been any the wiser if they’d only remembered to removed the Flash card. Bah!

I suspecte the customer relations people at Warehouse Express came to the same Conclusion. Not only did they arrange for a new camera (this time it really was new) to be delivered within 24 hours, they also offered us a £100 credit note. Tidy.

So no harm done. Now I just hope the happy couple, pictured here, get reunited with the mementoes from their big day sharpish.

Would you like some mercury with your tea?

Acch. I’ve officially joined the ranks of the stupid (or the reckless, feckless and neckless as I like to think of them).

I’m sure most office workers have experienced the bizarre gender split over what is a comfortable temperature in the workplace. Just yesterday exactly such a debate was raging in the studios of Radio 5 Live. Drive presenter Peter Allen accused his stand-in co-presenter, Rachel Burden, of wanting a studio like a sauna. She retorted that she was fed up working in an ice box.

Such is my lot in the office of Holyrood PR. As they say round here, the nights are fair drawing in. And yes, their really is a shiver running down my spine. Not because of any sort of temperature drop. It’s simple dread at the approach of winter and the endless office moans about it being too hot or too cold.

I realise this sounds like a particularly scintillating white paper from the Health and Safety anoraks, but in our office the divide  is so pronounced as to be freaky. My ears will be burning, palms sweating and I’ll come over like a middle-aged women going through the change - all because at times it gets oppressively warm.

Yet at exaclty the same time, the women in the office will be donning scarves, cardigans – and even filling hot water bottles while mutteing bitterly about how cold it is.

This schism led to the purchase of several common or garden (actually kitchen) thermometers, to monitor the situaton. Raymond and I were dead set on maintaining an ambient temperature come …. well, sunshine or snow.

Last week (balmy in my opinion) the muttering started about the unacceptable chill in the office. Since I was sweltering in my shirtsleeves, I was slightly miffed by the sloshing sound of hot water bottles being filled.

It was time to check our wee friend from Kitchen Craft. The mercury doesn’t lie – and even though it was situated close to the front door (draughts and all) it was registering 24C. Quod Erat Demonstrandum and all that.

Rubbish! shouted those from the cold camp. I was aghast. Not only was I being painted as some preternturally hot and sweaty freak. Now my finely tuned scientific instrument was being called into question.

Anyone who studed chemistry at school may remember the particularly memorable day when they were taught how to calibrate a thermometer. Water freezes as 0C, while it boils at 100C. Once you’ve got those two points, it is easy to work out the rest.

To prove our thermometer was working accurately it was deposited in the freezer. Sadly, I then forgot about it and an hour or so later it came out reading somewhere below minus 10. Not a good start but quickly remedied – by dropping it into a kettle of boiling water.

You’ve probably spotted the flaw in my theory already.  Transferring a wee glass tube directly from a freezer to a kettle of boiling water is not a good idea.

If Pilkington (or more likely NASA) have yet come up with thin glass which will withstand such a pronounced and immediate temperature change, then I’m pretty sure they don’t fit it in £2.99 kithcen thermometers.

Not only did the plastic casing warp agonisingly, the glass tube shattered and the chemical contenst leaked into the kettle. Here is the photographic evidence.

So, I spectacularly failed to settle the too warm/too cold debate - and I also poisoned the office tea supply.

Cuppa anyone?

Public health expert encounters a whiffy problem.

A newspaper exec, who has asked to remain nameless, knows my penchant for funny and quirky names (see Phani Tikkalah).

 

So he brought to my attention the Sunday Mail story (see below) – featuring the most catastrophically ill-named public health expert in Christendom.

 

Poor old Maida Smellie. I’m sure she’s heard them all before and is totally hacked off at juvenile sniggering about her name.

 

I have to own up. There have been a few occasions when I’ve Maida Smellie of my own – and been considered something of a threat to public health.

 

I’m looking forward to finding out the ohter unfortuantely named staff at Arran and Ayrshir Health Board.

 

No doubt the head of dentistry is called Dr D. Kay. And maybe my old pal Phani Tikkalah could be appointed to oversee the gynaecology department.

 

 

SHOCKED dental patients have been told to take an Aids test after being treated with dirty needles.

 

Health bosses are investigating the blunder at the Quadrant Dental Practice in Ayr.

 

Last night, the practice, which employs three dentists, apologised.

 

The four at-risk patients – treated on August 19 – were told by letter. It offered advice from the practice and Ayrshire and Arran NHS Trust.

 

A relative of one patient, who asked not to be named, said: “It is incredibly shocking to get a letter advising you to take a test for HIV and Aids because of something which happened in a dentist’s surgery.

 

“You take certain standards for granted and it is shocking these were not adhered to.”

 

Quadrant is run by dentist Donald McKie, 50, and his wife Janice, also 50.MrMcKie returned from holiday on Friday.

 

Yesterday he said: “I’m devastated. Patient safety is our top priority.

 

“We deeply regret the circumstances that led to a breach of our infection control procedures.

 

“While the risk to the patients involved is very low, we apologise for any unnecessary anxiety this may have caused.”

 

Consultant in public health medicine for Ayrshire and Arran NHS Trust Dr Maida Smellie said: “A practice in Ayr identified four sets of instruments which had been cleaned using an ultrasonic bath but not sterilised.

 

“These instruments were used the next day on four patients.

 

“A group of experts has made an initial assessment of the situation.

 

“They think the risk of infection is very low – less than one in ten million but it is standard procedure to request tests.

 

“There was no negligence or malpractice on the part of any member of staff and disciplinary action is not indicated.”

 

Professor Jimmy Steele of the School of Dental Sciences in Newcastle said:

“It is never acceptable for non-sterile instruments to be used.

 

“Even if the chances of infection are low, being told they have to be tested will have come as a bombshell to these patients.”

 

Bacteriology professor Hugh Pennington said: “If the first patient was a carrier of Hepatitis B or C or HIV positive that is something to worry about.”

 

 

Learning the high cost of failure to use spell check

A nice simple media dilemma for a change:

 

Ace hack-in-the-making Douglas Walker at Deadline Press & Picture Agency, felt a bit aggrieved after one of the agency’s stories ended up as the subject of an irreverent mickey-take on the Spike section of All Media Scotland.

http://www.allmediascotland.com/articles/2728/23062008/going_public_with_spelling_error

He asks:

I know this was our fault ultimately, but to be ridiculed by All Media is a bit much, is it not?

 

Well, naw. It was a howler – and a funny one at that. And Spike is there to make sure none of us in the media take ourselves too seriously, even if there is a serious message to pass on. In this case it’s a reminder that everyone at Deadline should be running a more thorough eye (and spell check) over their copy before sending it out.

 

None of the papers have the staff to carry out the same level of checks and balances these days and the subs and news desk people who do catch these type of howlers don’t haves the time to phone up agencies and let them know when standards are slipping. So it’s up to the likes of AMS to give us an occasional kick up the @rse.

 

I’m going to come over all old-fashioned here – because as a young hack, these kind of blunders would have resulted in a monstering from Hamish Coghill (at the Evening News) or Malclolm Speed (at the Daily Record). I still break out in a cold sweat at the thought of some of the pastings handed out by a couple of old school pros who were absolute sticklers for doing everything, well, properly. Check, check. And check again.

 

To be “Coghilled” at the Evening News was a singular experience. One bleary-eyed Saturday morning I turned up horribly hungover, minus my socks, without a tie and with a heid like a burst sofa – only to bump into Hamish in the corridor. I feared the worst.

 

However, he failed to noticed my dress sense and instead gave me a tongue-lashing for a story where I’d described a sex attacker as a monster(“A monster is what you find in Loch Ness - not on Princes Street!”). He also gave me the hairdryer treatment for describing a reward being offered as over £1000 (“You go over a bridge – but it should be more than £1000!”).

 

An even more pernickity rollicking was handed out to Magnus Llewellin, now of The Herald, who wrote a story which described some street crime perpetrator as making his escape north up Whitehouse Loan. Hamish was apoplectic: “Any fool knows that you go north DOWN Whitehose Loan. It slopes up to the south!”.

 

Of course, back in the day, there was another unwritten rule. No matter how bad a howler was dropped by a newspaper, none of the others would make any capital out of it. Oh aye, the staff on the Record might have a laugh at some clanger in The Sun - or vice versa. But no-one would ever committ their jibes to print.

 

Why? Because the simple truth is that mistakes happen – no matter how thorough the checks. So everyone took the view, that “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

 

Let’s just hope AMS manages to keep its nose very clean for the next weeks.