The Good old days

GNU public license: Brit in their Fourties upwards knows what “The Good Old Days” was, a BBC nostalgic recreation of 19th Century Music Hall that ran for thirty years, from 1953 to 1983. It featured well known acts, strange variety turns, audience participation and, undupitably, irrepressably, enlightenedly (and other big, sometimes made up words) the verbal linguistics and the accentuating gavel of Leonard Sachs, the presiding Chairman.

Inevitably, the programme was a pastiche, but the venue was not. A very rare survivor in England, the Leeds City Varieties started life as Thornton’s Music Hall and fashionable Lounge, a rebuild of the White Swan Pub singing room. The present interior date from later in the Century and it became known as the City Varieties in 1894. It is essentially a rectangular flat floored room upstairs with a stage at one end and two small balconies elongated down both sides. There are five small two-seat Boxes each side of the Circle and by the thirty year Music Hall tradition they are jokingly known as the Ashtrays.

Something I was told a few years ago was a bit of an eye opener- only the right hand side of the auditorium ever appeared on the TV (the Cameras were all to the left) so only that side of the theatre ever got decorated towards the end when money was tight. After nearly being lost, it was saved by Leeds City Council but the saga of lack of investment continued.

City Varieties- Show of Hands audienceWhen you visit today, it has the something of the interior of an Indian restaurant, flock wallpaper everywhere, except where it has been removed for electrical rewiring. Chunks of plasterwork are missing on the balcony fronts and the ceiling is in a terrible state. It is cramped, uncomfortable and makes a lousy theatre with a tiny, obstructed stage, a horrible get-in and squalid dressing rooms. What it does have, however, is buckets of atmosphere.

£8m has now been earmarked for a serious refurbishment, restoration and accessability improvements. When I was taking snapshots, I braced the camera against a structural pillar- and it moved. Yikes! Things can only get better…

(You can also watch a short video of how crummy it is backstage here and also see some tantalising glimpses of its former glory).

Shady quote of the month

An occasional feature which hasn’t appeared before and might not necessarily appear again.


While natural diversity is a good thing, manufactured diversity is the ruination of all things.

Lord Nazh (off blog, but too good to hide under a bushel)

Motorway Madness

M606 Chain Bar Roundabout, (South of Bradford) West Yorkshire
Slight delays are expected at the M606 Chain Bar roundabout due to work on a high occupancy vehicle lane. One lane of the M62 eastbound entry slip road will be closed over 24 hours with traffic using the hard shoulder and one lane of the roundabout will be closed from 9pm to 5.30am. Work is scheduled to continue until February.

That sounds benign enough, doesn’t it? If only…

The M606 is a very short Motorway (3 miles long from the M62 to the Bradford ring Road) which features on a site called Pathetic Motorways. I use it to get to Bradford from Morley, a trip of two junctions on the M62 then the length of the M606. Getting in isn’t too horrible and getting out was similar until a couple of months ago. If you want to head towards Manchester on the way out there is a Flyover, but those of us who want to head towards Hull have to indulge in the Chain Bar Roundabout, very prone to getting clogged up if the traffic light phasing is a bit off or there is a broken down car. (You sometimes get the feeling that a flickering streetlight is enough to introduce gridlock). The M62 heading Eastwards gets rather crowded at peak times and plans are afoot for widening.

The reason for the deterioration in journey time is the roadworks mentioned at the top. There is a prototype Motorway high occupancy vehicle lane being introduced from the M606 to the M62, continuing for a mile onwards. The idea of this is that if there is more than one person in the car (which is apparently only about 16% of the cars at rush hour) then they can whizz along this short-cut and supposedly save about eight minutes on their journey over the Single Occupancy Drivers who still have to go via the roundabout. It won’t be any use for me of course as I am one of the aforementioned SODs having to stick to the old road. Of course, if some of the traffic is going by a different lane then there will be a slight improvement in time.

Satellite view of Chain Bar slip road- Google MapsSince the roadworks began, the traffic volume has become somewhat unpredictable. The tailback is sometimes only to the end of the sliproad down to Chain Bar, other times it is three miles worth all the way back to the ring road. The trouble is it is a funnel effect, two lanes merge with another two, then further on another two lanes join it, then when it gets to chain bar the two lane slip road only widens to three for a few hundred yards with only the two left ones being able to head to the motorway. You can see this on the satellite image of the sliproad shown (pre-roadworks).

Now, I have noticed a causal relationship between how much of the third lane is bollarded off and how bad the traffic is. If the bollards simply follow the line of the hard shoulder, all is well. However, if any of the left hand lane is not available, the traffic throughput during a lights cycle is much reduced and the cars start to tail back. Yesterday, ONLY TWO CAR LENGTHS were bollarded off, that is only about 30 feet or so, but it was really horrible.

From: found this graph on the Highways Agency site and it was quite familiar, because it suffers from exponentiality; phone and data Networks also need to be engineered for traffic volumes and in certain circumstances minor increases in volume on an unstable system can result in catastrophic reductions in throughput. (I sometimes experience this with my Sky Max Broadband service where late night packet loss approaches 100%).

Erlang C FormulaThe Guru of all things network traffic related was a Danish Mathematician known as A K Erlang. A household name in Telecommunications circles, he gave us this catchy little formulaic ditty:

Truth be known, we use computer programs to get the answers and when I was younger, we used tables. What do the Highways Agency use? Social Engineering…

The end of the line

I’m off to see Show of Hands tonight. Sadly, Steve Knightley can’t be there, his son has just been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which is a life threatening Cancer but often curable. The Gig will still go ahead with Bhil Beer and Amanda Sykes but that is only two thirds of the Band (or 50%, depending on how much of a purist you are). I saw the pair of them earlier this year but hopefully they will do some SoH numbers.

The Band wrote to us all (via the Box Office) earlier in the week and giving us the option to get our money back. What little I know of the LongDogs though, there probably won’t be many empty  seats tonight.

In the unlikely event that SK reads this, my thoughts are with him at this difficult time and I hope the treatment  is successful.


This article needs a little more research to fill the gaps but I want to get the meat up on the bones. My best friend at school was a lad called Wally. Whilst something of a geek, he had the sort of amusing manner and sharp brain that put him up in the league  of Stephen Fry. If wit was shit, he had dysentry…

(BloggerWife occasionally uses this phrase about me, although her implied circumstances are where Senna Pods are required. There again, we have been married twelve years so she can read me like a book!)

 Wally went to College down Woolwich way and moved to Brighton, working for I.C.L. I went to stay with him for weekends several times and on one occasion he invited me to a party. It was being organised by the girls in the office below theirs in the City somewhere and it turned out they all worked for Women’s Realm, Women’s World and such like. (IPC Magazines?) It was being held in a house somewhere in North London, which I recall was at the end of a Tube line and practically spitting distance from the buffers.

It was a fairly normal party, but everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Eventually what they were expecting happened- one of Wally’s Friends had drank too much and was in a deep drunken sleep. At this point we moved to stage two; the lippy & felt tips appeared and he was “enhanced” in various ways.

An hour or two later, stage three happened, he woke up and blearily  took himself off to the toilet, not noticing that we were following him not too discreetly. A minute or two later, there was a huge shout from within:


and the party resumed…



All will be revealed

One of the more interesting challenges in IT involves fitting equipment into Data Centres. The more kit you put in, the more power you use and the more heat you have to remove. If you don’t get it right, at one end of the spectrum it is wasted power in over-cooling. The much more serious opposite end is where there is inadequate cooling, leading to hotspots, thermal runaway and expensive failure of equipment. If data is lost, this can sometimes result in the failure of the Company.

With the advent of high density hardware such as Blade Servers, the heat can now be crammed into much smaller spaces and a rack that previously consumed some 2kW could now potentially be twenty times that much. Airflow follows simple to understand rules that boil down to hot air rises and air takes the easiest route the same as a liquid but in a complex environment it can appear particularly non-intuitive

Fortunately, however, powerful tools are available to model Data Centres using a technique known as Computational Fluid Dynamics. Originally used as a method of pre-assessing air flow over an object in a wind tunnel, it has now developed to the level where for a chunk of Wonga, Businesses can get others to model their rooms as a virtual facility, or, for an even bigger chunk, buy the software and do it themselves. This isn’t the sort of Software you find on Warez sites though!

The market leader at present is a product known as 6Sigma, which is confusing as it is better known as a manufacturing term for an approach to quality control pioneered by Motorola. Through the magic of animated gifs, each of the pictures below will show with the airflow wobbling about, giving movement. Their latest release, version three, allows a virtual walk-through of the facility, as seen in the banner of their home page.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that once you create the model it takes a long time to do the calculations and resolve the images. Sounds a bit like second life…


Poor airflow when a hot/cold arrangement is not implementedA side to side airflow device wrongly installed in a regular cabinetThis shows negative pressure under a raised floor due to obstructive airflowSide airflow can overheat subsequent devices in a rowAirflow in a cold aisle/hot aisle arrangement

These images are cut and pasted from PowerPoint Presentations on the Future Facilities website news articles page.