Monday, April 26, 2004

I have spam with a social life. In hotmail the title of one junk email was "do you have what it takes?" and the next one down had a title of "yes I do". It's nice to know the spam [1] are making themselves at home, and quietly talking amongst themselves.

[1] Hmm, is the pural of spam spam? A bit like sheep and fish. I suppose as it derives from spam the luncheon meat, which you can't really have a spam (like one could have a ham or a leg of lamb), as it's an endless homogenous product, you just have spam. So if you have a lot of spam, you don't have spams, you simply have more spam.

Checking out, and none of the listings give the plural for spam. The only one to use "spams" uses it as a verb (he spams, she spams).

Oooh, it's like having scabs. Except they're green. I'm still trying to pick the bits of paint of me after yesterday's garden furniture incident. Which isn't as interesting as it sounds. It consists of buying a kit to make up a pub-style picnic bench (but a cheap one, so it's much less sturdy than a pub one), and then buying some woodstain to protect the wood (which after much wrangling we got - I wouldn't have chosen that colour, but it was better than some of the other options).

So we go back to the house. Tarpaulin down, newspaper as well, and we decide to start. And then remembering the barbecue incident (it involved taking a half made barbecue back to Homebase as the other half was missing, and cobbling one together out of two sets [strangely they didn't mark the one pilfered for spares as incomplete]). So I sat and checked all the bits were there. Which they were, sort of (in a "the 4cm screws are half the length of the 6cm screws" way). By the way, wood-screws can be sharp. You'd think I would have learnt that by the time I'd counted out 40 of them.

So everything is there. So I stick all the little bits of metal back in the box, and decide to start painting the wood before it's put together. And then realise that the combination of lawn, folded tarpaulin and layers of newspaper would envelope anything you put down to dry, and so every bit of wood would have someone's obituary stuck to it. So that means I have to find something to prop things up on. The bits of wood themselves are too shallow to hold others up. In the end I raid the greenhouse, and set up a couple of benches using flowerpots as legs, and the crossbars of the table across the top. And then between these I can put the drying bits of wood.

So I open the tin. It's not the same colour as the patch on the outside. The outside is yellowy green (apparently Willow, but as the same brand's Sage looked like Spruce, I think they make it up as they go along), and the content is much paler and greyer.

I start painting, and it is like paint rather than stain. I also remember the last time I painted I used my hands in places. Admittedly I was visiting a friend in Oxford, and somehow got roped into repainting one of the housemate's rooms [2]. Which was quite a lilac-fest as she'd bought a big tub of paint cheap, and so was repainting the furniture. When she realised she didn't want all the walls purple as well, she got everyone to put hand prints on them instead. So of course plain handprints evolved into footprints, and those mini footprints you can make with your fist and a finger. It actually didn't look that bad in the end - although I never heard what the landlord made of it.

The last time I painted before that, I got told off for painting the light-switch. I dropped paint on it, and was trying to get it off with the paintbrush when someone walked in.

[2] Eek! Where does the apostrophe go in that? Hmm, it probably should be "one of the housemates' room", but not having the 's' on the end of 'room' sounds strange with 'one of...'. Anyway, the room of one of the housemates of my friend. (MS Word cannot figure it out either).

So, I start painting. Pine is very absorbent wood. You paint, and seconds later the yellow streaks reappear, as the paint disappears through the xylem. It dries quite quickly though, but I'm guessing the summery sun helped. And fortunately, wearing shorts because it's summery, and having bear feet for the same reason, meant I didn't have to spend yesterday trying for get paint out of clothes and shoes. But it does mean I have patches of what looks like verdegris on me (should be interesting when I go swimming). Either that or I've been standing still long enough that I'm being enveloped by lichen (but not quite on the same scale as that Radiohead video).

Anyway, so paint stuff, and find that I haven't done the crossbars, which are underneath the drying bits of wood. So taking the driest bits, I insert them underneath, lift one next one of the cross bars, take out the cross bar, rotate the painted bit underneath the others (as sliding would mean the other trestle would fall over), and lower gently on top of the flowerpots. Except the further one skitters out of the way. Oh, um, can someone help me? Contingency planning hadn't quite entered into my thoughts. But fortunately a little help was available. And then repeat (except the escaped pot) at the other end.

As I start on the remaining bits of wood, there's something that feels like rain. I would not be happy if it decided to, especially as that would mean a large delay in getting the bench painted and together, and there's a lot of washing out, and I've got paint on my hands. Happily the weather knows me, and wisely decides incurring my wrath is not really a Sunday afternoon activity.

So I paint, and paint and paint, and repaint, and touch up, and realise my legs are going numb and my back hurts. Alternating between siting cross-legged and kneeling is not a good idea if you haven't really done that since primary school.

So I pack up what I can, leaving the wood outside, and go and eat (bolgonaise made according to the ancient jar of Sainsbury's own brand sauce, that tastes exactly like Jackpot Casserole, which was the name given by the caterers in Duryard [3] to a mix of leftovers reheated beneath a thick layer of all-disguising cheese. Strangely it often was the best option.

[3] Halls of Residence in Exeter. I was in Hetherington, which was the oldest and tattiest, and is rumoured to have been demolished, but that rumour went round every year, as the council commended them, but didn't what more students in the city, but neither did it want to approve planning permission for building anywhere else on campus [Catch 22?].

And then I discover that there's not really very much on television, so it must be summer.

And I've still got to put the thing together. I don't even know how the wood's turned out, as I haven't had a chance to check it yet.

To be continued...[oooh, it's not often I get to say that],


Saturday, April 24, 2004

Hurrah! I can finally get SBN to work when it's just playing filler music, rather than scheduled programs. Ok, so they probably set it up to do this ages ago, but I gave up trying quite a while ago. Or maybe they're only doing because it's the weekend. Anyway, it makes a nice change from Xfm and Virgin's output.

Which reminds me: Ryam Adams's Wonderwall [Amazon clip, nowhere else appears to be carrying it]. Sacrilege or really rather good? I have to admit I quite like it. Yes, it's not the Oasis version, but then it survives such a completely different interpretation of the song. The only worrying thing is the implication that the music of my youth is now ripe for being covered (I'm not that old - am I?).

Checking out the random search hits, I came across this very handy page that finally gets round to explaining tides, including isotidal lines, and amphidromes (but it doesn't call them that). So if you've never got the mechanics of rotating bulges[1] figured out, go and read, and ignore the fact it's aimed at schoolchildren.

[1] Well static bulges, except they do rotate, but the Earth rotates under them, even though they're part of the Earth.

I'm getting to be a very far-flung blog aren't I? In the same week I've had people from Chile, Iceland, Peru, The Gambia and Colombia. And not all of them came here having misheard a lyric.

Yes, I know that comparatively this is nothing - hands up, if you can't place every country listed on Salam Pax's hit-list.

SBN has just proved I can't be that old - Bjork's still around, and sounding as wondrously batty as ever.

Admittedly they're now playing something that sounds like James, and I can't believe they're still going. Bugger, they are. And their fans can't spell Guildford. Oh, it's ok, the page is out of date, as the October it refers to is 1999. Phew.

Anyhoo, it's sunny, so I'd better not spend all day indoors on the computer.

PS. SBN on the internet is functioning, yet SBN via digital radio still claims the station is off air. I have yet to figure why they don't broadcast beyond their very restrictive hours - as they continue to broadcast to universities across the country, and apparently across the internet. So they must have already paid for the digital broadcasting license, and they must be paying fees for airing music anyway, so why not make full use of the license?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Having managed to lose the end that last post, I'll stick the stuff in here.

Continuing the random spellings theme, I remembered this poem designed as an instrument of torture for people learning English.

Via Wikipedia, via Brownian Movement, via Blogger's FP, I just found out that the "e" in "eBay" isn't modelled on the e for electronic pattern of "email" and "ecommerce". It stands for Echo.

Apparently there's been a train crash involving a train carrying fuel in North Korea.
The Straits Times, Singapore [AP].
Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [North Korea] strangely doesn't mention it. Though it does offer some insightful comments about events like the Iranian Ambassador's Reception, such as "Speeches were made there".

The Chinese People's Daily does not yet carry the news, nor does Xinhua. Strangely none of the news sites round that part of Asia seem to be carrying it - I don't know whether this is for some censorship reason, or simply because the sites do not update regularly [and that's of the sites I can get to work, as some never load, some have been suspended, and some slowly come up, and under the title "Aussie woman..." the story says "British researcher..." in the first paragraph. And that story dates from 2002].

It seems very strange that best sources of information are those located the furthest away from the origin of the news story. But such is life.


PS. Can anyone find a site that makes use of the North Korean internet domain of .kp? All I've found is either hosted by the Japanese, or simply a .com (including the Governmental site[1]. Maybe .com in this case stands for .communist)

[1] Along the many languages the site is translated into is Esperanto. I don't think even the BBC run to that.

And am I the only one to find communist propaganda rather sweet in an archaic way? But I think only I would look at school girls doing dances in unison, and think of the von Trapp family in the Sound of Music.

Welcome to my Gmail equipped blog. Except actually it's not, as when I took up Blogger's offer, I stuck in my real name, and because Gmail is still in Beta testing, I can't add another account yet.

So what is Gmail? It's the new email service from Google. It gives you 1 gigabyte of storage [and I bet I still manage to fill that up in 6 months], and in return it scans your emails to provide relevant ads [much like Google ads do for Blogger and related sites].

My initial conclusions are: it's quite click intensive, but that might just be me not knowing how to use the thread system. The spell check does do English English, but has slight problems with many uncommon words (like spatchcock, any biological/chemical term, and some place names - but it does do Popocatepetl [always thought it was popA…, but given my problems with the RA Aztec thing, this just be a me thing]).

It would be nicer if they could integrate it more with Google, so one could look up either what Google makes of the original, or the suggestion. It also gets stuck if you click on a red misspelled word, then on Edit, as that creates the word in a text-box, which you then can't leave without quitting the spell checker.

So if, for example, you type "arkayc", run the spell checker, and click on the red "arkayc", correct the spelling to "archaic", and then click on another misspelled word (if there is one), the corrected word stays in the text-box, as editable text. So one has no idea if the word you just corrected is actually correct, as it treats "archaic" and "archaick" as the same. So to check the amended spelling, you have to leave the spell checker, go back to the compose window, and restart the spell checker.

And I'm not sure how well the searching instead of filing thing will work out.

Hmm, and I wonder why they don't want people to delete messages - could it be it limits the number of advertisers they can use on you?

And in case you're wondering how you too can get an account, you have to log-in to Blogger, and then there should be a link in the right-hand sidebar (above the "edit your blog" link).

Once again I get distracted by the options on Google's page. Wow, I can search catalogues online! Except the ones I looked at are all 2003. And the University search only has American Unis listed (despite being on the site).

And it would appear that Google is becoming Yahoo, with accounts for one feature being able to be used for another.

I can also do personalised searches. So I create a profile, and then search. And the results can be displayed with any degree of bias towards your profiled interests that you wish for. So searching for Exeter normally brings up the uni site, but with personalised bias, it brings up the cathedral site first (I'm guessing that's because I ticked "architecture").

I'm not utterly convinced of the usefulness of this yet, but I can see it could be useful, but it could also be very annoying. I think the categories need reviewing as well [Skateboarding is Sports, sailing is under Boating in Recreation. Not very consistent].

Oops. Google's Glossary section opens with a link that asks for the definition of clew. Except the fourth result is a link to the example page of the Google's Glossary, because it contains both the words "define" and "clew"[1]. And here was I thinking a clew was the often loose, bottom rear corner of a sail [or the hole in that corner]. It's the one the sheet is attached to on a foresail, and the one the outhaul is attached to on the main. The front-most corner is the tack, and the uppermost is the head.

[1] Yes, I am aware that the same might happen to this page, but somehow I doubt I'll get to be 4th result, so I don't suppose it matters much. Anyway, Google could always pick another word.

Despite all this, I still think would be easier.

Anyhoo, I'm off to email myself more.

PS. Oh bugger, I just realised that query I sent off to Google about the problems with the spell checker, made frequent use of the word "mispelt". Which of course should be "misspelled". Oops. (Or should that be: of course I chose to use that spelling to heighten the irony. Doesn't sound convincing, does it?).

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Somehow it could only be Devon. Story runs thus: BBC Devon decide Devon needs a flag, internet based competition, flag chosen, manufacture begins, Cornwall complains, man in Devon hoists flag in garden, neighbour complains over planning technicality. Why do all stories about the West country contain an equal mix of pointlessness and pettiness?

But the man's from Ottery St Mary, so that explains it all [ooh na, ya din wan be gonna thar, my luver]. Well, there'll all mad there, and have this thing about strapping burning things to people and sending them out into crowded streets (I'm guessing they're playing burn the grockles, which is a traditional autumnal activity amongst locals, who have realised the people cluttering up the streets have run out of money, and therefore are not to be tolerated).

And if you want an insight into what peninsula living does to people, read the comments attached to some of the BBC articles. Mud slung from either side of the Tamar (which, as I recall, has rather smelly mud).

But then I went to Exeter, which as a city considers itself above such territorialism (well, it pretends it isn't in Devon, but both the university and the city could only exist in Devon).

Though if you think I'm being snobby about the Borrow-me[1] county then compare me to the international media monolith that is the BBC. It ran a story titled A flap in the cream tea county. Nowt patronising about that is there?

[1] Because the inhabitants use that phrase instead of the word "lend" (the past tense of which is "borrowt-me"). They have interesting notions on how to pronounce the word "chimney" (er...where exactly did the L and the B come from?).

Anyhoo [carefully not saying where I am, as it has long been an easy target in the regional feud stakes],

Freedom is a word that is very hard to spell.

The NYT on the disparity between the China People's Daily and the US State Department's versions of a speech by Dick Cheney: An editor at the People's Daily Web site involved with preparing the transcript denied that any censorship had occurred. The editor, who declined to be identified, said missing sentences or sections were attributable solely to the speed with which the transcript had been prepared. People's Daily[1], US State Department.

Admittedly it's also the paper that brings us this story, titled: US should follow Spain in withdrawing. Has China heard of a little thing called a "power vacuum"? (and I don't mean a Dyson).

But news stories on Killer Milk Powder also register as a little odd. Not necessarily the story, more that Killer Milk Powder (TM) exists in the first place.

And ignoring the censorship debate, this is what CCTV's website says about CCTV-4 [the channel that broadcast Cheney live]: CCTV-4 mainly serves overseas audiences and residents in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

[1] Sorry this isn't the actual transcript, but every search I've tried on Chinese websites have all come back with [what I assume to be] error messages. Xinhua does a nice picture of a cat though. But it's not very anatomically correct, as the tail appears to come out of the cat's navel. At least, I hope that the stripy thing is a tail.

Anyhoo, once again the degree to which some people are able to decide what others should know worries me. It makes me glad that I don't live in such a society, and makes me wonder if perhaps I do.

Monday, April 19, 2004

So...this EU constitution referendum marlarkey...

Going to look it up on the BBC, and getting side tracked by this. Kevin Spacey being mugged or not as the case may be. Which is a story I completely missed. The main highlights seem to be him asking "Do I look brutally mugged?" on a radio programme, the Mirror implying that people only go into parks in London at night for one thing [which only the Mirror or possibly the Mail, would think of], and his response to that claiming that "Walking your dog in the park is a perfectly normal thing to do," [at 4am? I'm guessing the either dog was still on US time, or he was rather tired and emotional]. So basically the story runs along the lines of "Man foolish, feels it". Which sounds distinctly less interesting.

Anyway, back to EU goodness.

So, we're going to get a referendum on whether or not we want to accept the EU constitution. Woohoo! And what is the EU constitution? Er, they haven't written it yet, because talks last year broke up over various issues, the most dominant of which was whether to include the word God in the preamble (and if so, whether it would be a Catholic God). Nice to know they stick to the important things.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, as another problem was to do with weighted voting for countries [in the Council of Ministers]. Spain and Poland would gain most from the current arrangement, but under the new rules, both would lose out. France and Germany (and probably the UK as well, but it's not the done thing to "Boo" ourselves) want a more proportional voting system, which would mean France and Germany get control. It's all very "little countries, know your place". Except they can't make it too proportional, as then when Turkey eventually joins, it'll outgun everyone else, including some of the larger countries combined.

Diagram of Nice Treaty voting weights versus population.

And then of course there's the question of what to do with all the votes. The Nice Treaty defines a motion as being passed if it has gained more than 232 (out of 321) votes, if it is backed by the majority of member states, and these countries represent 62% of the population.

So according to the BBC's stats, the population of the member states is 451.5 million. 62% of which is 280 million. So if Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain agree on something, then they have a combined population of over 280 million. but this is only a 143 votes, so the motion would fail on that count, and as 5 out of 25 countries they only represent 20% of the member states.

Say they convince the next largest states to agree. Adding Poland, the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Hungary gets them to 243. That means the representatives of the vast majority of the population are in favour. The majority of votes are in favour. But that's still only 12 out of 25 countries, so the motion is not backed by the majority of member states, and so would fail.

The 13 smallest countries hold 79 out of 321 votes [25%], and have a combined population of 43.5 million out of 451.5 million. Less than 10% of the population can block the actions of the rest of the Union.

I think I can see why people are worried about the enlarged EU entering a paralysed phase.

The suggested amendments remove weighted voting (so Spain and Poland would lose power), and requiring that in order for a motion to be passed the following must be met: it is supported by 50% of the member states, and that those countries represent 60% of the population of the EU. As the combined populations of Germany, France and the UK are 45% of the EU total, then a rejection by these 3 countries would block the motion.

Apparently, even though this artefact existed under the Nice Treaty, it unsettled Spain and Poland since their power was to be reduced. And so the talks stalled and nothing was agreed.

The BBC gives 3 ways of resolving the issue.
- the thresholds required for a vote to be passed - that is, the number of states and the proportion of the population
- the start date for the new system
- the method of switching to it

Germany has reportedly suggested a minimum of 55% for both the population and the number states required to be a majority. Which removes the German, French and British ability to block decisions, and gives more power to the smaller states.

[I wonder what would happen if to the votes if large countries were broken down into smaller units, such as regions, provinces, counties or departements? Well, it would probably end in a melee of small temporary unions as Saxony's grouping desperately battles that of Sussex. Hmm, might get a bit too fiendishly complicated for anything to ever happen. So, much like the present EU then?].

The BBC also diplomatically refers to the use of "carrots", such as European Parliament seats, and regional aid cash. There's nothing quite like bribery and corruption. It's either that or wait for Spain's new government to take a new approach, and then for Poland to realise that standing in the way of the rest of the big guns isn't the best entrance to make into the EU.

The BBC also does a FAQ on the EU constitution.

Hmm, despite all this media mulling of the effect of voting rights, have any of them explained what the Council of Ministers is, who the Ministers are, how they are selected, and what it is exactly that it does. Er...not quite. But hey, it means it matches the national perception of the rest of the EU's governing structure.

Other changes (the ones that will show up in the press).
New EU Foreign Minister - Member of the European Commission, answerable to the Council of Ministers.
Permanent Presidency of the Council of Ministers to replace current 6-month rotation.
More EU Parliamentary power, including the selection of the president of the Commission.
Member suspension, and exit protocols.

Quite what the FM's job will be I'm not sure, as I don't really known what the two roles being combined to form this post are. But I am worried that individual nations will probably end up disagreeing with the FM, which would either damage the country, or damage the FM. I have a hunch it will usually be the latter, which means the EU's FM would be an echo of one of the national FMs. Which there doesn't seem much point in having.

Permanent presidency of the Council of Ministers. I can't say I've noticed the rotating ones. If it's to be permanent then who selects it? Is it on [vaguely] democratic grounds, or at least by a judicious selection group?

Quite frankly, once the CoM voting row gets cleared up, and the roles of the FM and PoCoM clarified, there doesn't seem to be much to it that isn't just administrative tidying (such as the charter of fundamental rights, which presumably will match the various pre-existing national and international charters).

So what is the impact upon us, the residents of the EU countries? Not much, by the sound of it. So why do we get to vote on it? Because then the Tories can tubthump in unison with the Daily Mail, the Lib-Dems can talk about freedom of choice, Blair can claim he hasn't got stuck repeating the same message endlessly.

So what if it's a Yes vote? Nothing much will change, there'll be a couple of new figures who might occasionally scrape into the news. The Tories will have found something else to harangue the Tired Man about, Labour will be too busy with their own internal turmoil to notice, and the Lib-Dems will talk about how it's nice to have a democratic voice.

And a No vote? Well the EU has to wait till it's decided by the UK before they can do anything with it. The Conservatives would be rejoicing frantically, but not know what to do next. Labour would have yet more infighting, and find other matters to distract themselves. And the Lib-Dems will talk about how it's nice to have a democratic voice.

One of the more telling comments on the BBC page
One of the chief factors spurring EU states towards an early resolution of the voting row is that negotiations on the EU's budget for 2007-13 are about to begin.

If disputes over money and voting power are allowed to rage simultaneously it increases the risk of deep divisions emerging.

There's nothing quite like the suggestion that "if you don't agree, the only way is down" to make people decide.

And there's nothing quite like reading news reports on the EU to make one realise how little one understands, and how much of it fits into the category of "do I have to care?".

Anyhoo, I've run out of energy, and so any investigation of what on Earth the Council of Ministers is, will have to wait till some other time.

Nature - having followed a link from Wetware [why is no-one updating anymore?], I was browsing the Nature News section, and found this article on the effect of trade winds on time. Looking at the date, I'd guess this was an April fool. Especially since it cites people with names like Inocente and Chronotis (who studies the history of time), and a certain Emmet Brown (originally I thought it was some in-joke about brown ants, emmet being a cornish word for ant. And then I remembered Back to the Future, and what's the name of the Doc? So Hill Valley University...Oh, I get it now).

I guess it helps if you speak Spanish though - Prima Mentira meaning first lie according to Babelfish, and Chiste Inocente is innocent joke. Centre for Spin Studies - well that's obvious enough, expect it really should be the Campbell-Mandelson CSS. Reg Chronotis - [via google] a character in both Doctor Who and Douglas Adams's work [should have guessed that]. Mileva Maric - Albert Einstein's first wife. William Hartnell - actor who played the first Doctor Who. Gallifrey - Yet another Doctor Who reference [My God, and not one single Star Wars reference!].

So I'm guessing it might be made up then (for a start no scientist is ever as practically minded as the ones quoted). [Added later] Oh it does actually say at the bottom "April Fool!". But I just scanned past it the first time round.

Except having read one article that sounds too silly to be true, one starts expecting some of the others to be made up. Which in Nature, can be rather a lot of them. Maybe they run an April fool story every week.

This is worrying me, I can't get the concept of some of the stories being fake out of my head.

So I'd better do something else now.


PS. You've just got to love MS Word. Doctor Whom indeed.

Oh, hello again Mr Dialer.6.G, so nice to see you.

Can anyone explain why, if I click on blogs the recently published list on Blogger's FP, my virus scanner often picks up a Dialer.6.G file [gvx143uts6m_wall[1].exe] in the Temporary Internet Files folder pretty soon afterwards? And I've not got any other internet activity going on (that I know of). I think Blogger may need to figure out why or how it's happening, as it's not really encouraging me to go blog-exploring. And I'm guessing if it's happening to me, then it's probably happening to someone else out there. So if it keeps happening people will stop clicking, and Blogger needs clicks to all its blogs to maintain the business.

And also it's damn annoying as the virus scanner manages to hang every time it happens. Which given it takes this computer ages to load, gets slightly irritating.

The search engines must be getting bored again (and so must I be to include it)...

Ask brings us: Where can I find a poll that was already taken on cars? Um, this is me how? Oh, because it's Ask (no relation of the restaurant that turns out to be a chain) and I'm bound to have mentioned the words "poll" and "cars". And probably "already".

Real (real do search?) brings us: SMarteenies, in which I outrank B3ta, and the first result is IMDB for which the blurb includes "Plot Summary" (which presumably is something along the lines of "glitter meets glue, glue stalks glitter, battered glitter escapes, lives happily ever after down crack between floorboards").

Yahoo brings us: "bad presentation" "over excited". It never occurred to me that enthusiasm could be a problem.

Google brings us: "BBC Parliament" general election repeats. Which I didn't even know they did. It must be very odd watching all of the swingometer stuff when one's not struggling to stay awake.

Google and UMIST brings us: "tomorrow's world" mouse trap. Is it me, or is there something innately "ah bless" about someone from a university known for it's scientific prowess looking up Tomorrow's World?

Google also brings us: daniel cbeebies big cook little cook...cardboard fish? That'll just be me then?

Earthlink and Level3 in Atlanta brings us: NOT CUNTO CHARGE PORN. See I told you Americans knew how to do dignified.

And I think I just invented a new word - dignifired. I'm not sure what it means yet - either to leave a job before you are pushed, or to lose a job because one maintained certain principles. Sounds good anyway.

Anyhoo, as I just realised this post consists of nothing much, I'd better stop.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Oh so cunning. In previous centuries people living in the Middle East used to risk being stoned to death. Now they get rocked to death. Except apparently, gunmen in Fallujah who have AC/DC played at them aren't thrown into a suicidal frenzy. And the US army is a bit miffed by this. If it works on Texans, why hasn't it worked on Iraqis? Who knows - maybe they are waiting for the US Marines on the front line to go mad first [insert suitable commenting suggesting the marines are already mad here].

Or maybe they chose the wrong music. Maybe they should try Mmmbopping them to death (whatever became of Hanson?). Or have they tried Cher? I've got it! Steps! And then play the sinking into obscurity spin-offs.

They are also using taunts to try and rattle the fighters. "May all the ambulances in Fallujah have enough fuel to pick up the bodies of the mujahadeen.” The Americans sure know how to do dignified.

And just so the Americans don't feel lonely. Canadian PM commemorates the d-day invasion of Norway. Well, when you're from such a big country, Bayeux, Bergen, it's all much the same.

Continuing round the Commonwealth - SA has been busy having elections, and Southern Cross covers them extensively.

Anyhoo, that'll do for now, until I find something else interesting.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Oh, sorry, that was a bit of maudlin post to leave as the first one.

Actually, I'm not doing too great on the happy, positive and vivacious posts - as the 3 preceding ones are cancer, Chernobyl, and cold swimming pools. Oh well.

So happy stuff...
It's sunny. And I had breakfast outside (whilst being cherry-blossomed upon). And breakfast was over-ripe paw-paw[1], mango and melon, as all three were reduced, and there was a certain "wish I was in Antigua" factor in the supermarket. Though they didn't have any reduced passionfruit (green or otherwise).

[1] Or papaya if you prefer - it took me years to realise they were the same thing.

The world of Google hits keeps getting stranger, and broadening my horizons as it does so. For a start I never knew that Maltesers were a Catholic organisation. Here I was thinking they were slightly sickly lumps of crisp stuff in chocolate.

Thanks to this search I now know there's a crèche at Wimbledon Traincare Depot.

So are there many tickle-fight galleries in Israel? Obviously not, if the searcher is desperate enough to get result number 118. Though at least the first result on that page is honest - "not work safe". Oooh, funky - the scroll bar's on the wrong side. It must be very odd to have words going left and numbers going right. Or are numbers in Hebrew read as "two, and ninety, and one hundred"?

Advert de jour: the latest British Gas[2] one. Because it is purest evil, and makes me look pedantic and silly. Basic plot: Ricky Tomlinson is showing the trainees a series of slides most of which are of cowboys, with one of one of the class, and the final one being Deputy Dog. So which is the odd one out? The trainee. Why? Because the others are all cowboys [and of course no gas man ever is]. Except by this point I'm protesting that technically Deputy Dog is, er, a Deputy and thus not a cowboy. And then someone in the ad says the same thing, and I get rather embarrassed.

Nearly as embarrassed as when, whilst watching Sleepless in Seattle, one of the characters is advised to drink out of the wrong side of a glass of water. Cue: me, and the character, saying in unison "isn't that hiccups?".

See, speaking to the television never ends well.

[2] Sorry, no links, as I can't find any. Only people on a multitude of message boards slating him. That, and the guys on the "low-carb" message board discussing chocolate.

Oooh, wow, pop-ups have devolved. Usually there's tons based on the Windows error messages, hoping some fool will think their computer clock really is slow [does it matter: discuss]. but now they've gone cunning, and start using ones that mimic MS-DOS. Except they have Y/N, but also have an OK button that pops up out of nowhere. Oh yeah, because click-throughs tend not to happen when there's no GUI, and so nothing to click on.

And it's still better than the gator ones, or the games site one. Do I want to install virusladenjunk.exe? [No]. You must click Yes. [Cancel]. Do you want to play games? [Fuck right off].

Oh, and I'd like to repeat the same sentiment to mAnastacia[3]. And I've just discovered that if you spell that with an "s", then you get some Eastern European group who play a fusion based upon Eastern Orthodox music. Which probably sounds better than "left outside alone". Or maybe the thing that really annoys me is the "rock" radio stations keep playing her. She's become the "rock" Shania Twain. Please, just go back to cabaret in Vegas, and leave us alone.

[3] She who always wears sunglasses and big necklaces. Could she possibly be hiding her botox-proof wrinkles? Strangely the "bio" on her website[4] doesn't mention who she is, where she comes from, when she was born or how many years she spent trying to get into the charts.
[4] Don't worry, it was a very brief "research purposes only" visit.

And my some curious bit of synchronicity, I have just found out what spatchcocking is (no, it's not a painful piercing, or a type of firing mechanism on a gun). Well, someone mentioned they'd just bought a spatchcocked chicken, and so a Google later I now know what one is.

To spatchcock a chicken, lay it breast down (so legs are kneeling, and the wings are sticking up). Then cut up one side of the spine, cutting through the ribs, so that the side is completely detached from the backbone. Now repeat on the other side of the spine. The spine should now be completely detached (strangely none of the sites say what to do with the spine). Place to one side, and turn the bird over. Jump on it, whack it with a rolling pin, or as most sites say "simply flatten". It should now represent Damien Hurst's version of a butterfly. Now kebab the thing by forcing skewers diagonally through the legs, across the body towards the opposite wing. Cook.

Some the websites say remove the ribs as well, but they don't say how.

And is anyone else wondering if a human's ever been spatchcocked? There must have been at least one person unhinged enough to do it.

And on that note I'll end it. I'm not doing terribly well on the happy, happy, joy, joy[5] quotient am I?

[5] And that's apparently a Ren and Stimpy quote, but I'm sure it was around before then.

PS. Tip for the future: Never, ever stop to let two old women cross the road. They take ages to decide to cross, and then stop in the middle of the road to adjust the shopping inside their shopping trolleys. And this is on the busy main road through the town. One wonders how they've survived that long.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Blue Peter presenters aren't allowed to die. At least not the ones who were presenting when I was young enough to watch it.

Caron Keating dies of breast cancer.

A pity. And rather worrying given someone I know and like is struggling with lingering breast cancer.

But I suppose it happens, and I'm going to stop now, as there's not much more to say that isn't said elsewhere or isn't crass.

Just a quick post.

[Via a less than random Aussie guy] I came across a site about Chernobyl after the emergency. It's a strangely haunting, slightly surreal world. One where trees pop up now there is no-one to cut them back, and bison run away. Looking at the pictures it feels like Montserrat. The same abandonment, the same lurking menace. Civilisation fading. Just a few people trying to pretend it is normal.

And in the midst of all this, on the penultimate page (chapter 26), there is a picture. A picture with a detail that suddenly distracts me. It's not the deserted litter of children's shoes, toys and gas masks. It's not the mouldering, crumbling plaster and flaking paint. It's the forgotten photograph of a gymnastics class. Children in a 70s school, on boxes and benches, with wallbars in the background. And they are doing it all on top of a huge old rug. A rug that would have cost a lot of money at any period in time, and which doesn't fit with the rest of the modernist school. Who's was it, where did it come from, and where is it now?

I know it's an odd detail to fixate on, but it just jarred with the rest of the scene.

Back to the rest of the site. And I wonder who thought it was good idea to tinker with the ecology of the area and introduce different species. Hasn't the environment been through enough, or did they not think it could get any more maligned? Or was some opportunistic experiment, one that didn't rely on autonomous diktat to make it happen.

And as for the girl whose journey it she mad? But it's radioactive (or do I mean radiological [which has always sounded like pedantic attempts to change perceptions]). But then if she was around when it happened, and got shunted out to her grandmother's 6 hours later, she's probably already hit the significant zone. So what's a little more going to do. All life is risks. She is just taking a different set to most. And it's not as if cause and effect can be measured and linked on an individual scale. There are only suggestions and recommendations of risk and likelihood.

It's odd to be reminded of it, but it's also odd that it has faded so utterly from prominence. I still remember it happening, and wondering what became of the cameraman.

Well anyway, go and look at the site: It'll be better than my rambling.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I feel like I'm re-enacting scenes from Leon. Except in my case the plant I'm wandering round with is a banana plant, and wandering downstairs, across the garden and into the greenhouse isn't quite the streets of New York. There's no real way I can get away with pretending the woodpecker was gunfire, is there? And I didn't see very many people to shoot, only some newly emerged bluebells.

It's gone all weirdly summery. Or maybe that was just the effect of swimming making my circulation work for once. And swimming, when you haven't done more than paddling for a month, is different. Especially when said paddling was in the Caribbean, and the swimming is in a "athletically adjusted" pool (athletically adjusted meaning a temperature selected to prevent swimmer overheating during maintained high activity periods. In other wordsthe heating system's having problems, we can't get it fixed, and it's cheaper this way).

Now factor in the last time I swam I had a snorkel or regulator in my mouth. So I'm swimming along, and try breathing. Oh there's water coming in, so I'd better clear the regulator. So I blow out, and try again. Still only water, which is very odd. Hang on, there's no bit of rubbery plastic irritating my gums. Guess I'm not snorkelling then. Head up, huar, back down. This whole having to plan your breathing to match your strokes thing is very strange, and as for having to clear the surface to breathe - who on earth designed that?

So, swimming: you can tell I haven't done it for a month. Do PADI do course that teaches swimming where the objective is forward movement, not lots of splashing? Or do I have to resort to the book someone found in the library - which teaches revolutionary techniques for front crawl. Which given I can't do crawl without looking like a paddlesteamer (and I move about as fast), is either a very good or very bad idea. It claims to teach "total" swimming, but it only does one stroke. And apparently you have to twist a lot as you do it, because then you're a yacht. Um, ok. I can understand the all the streamlining stuff cribbed from sailing, it's just when he applies it to people, it doesn't seem as convincing. Maybe I ought to read the words next to the pretty pictures before I try it out. Though I doubt this paddlewheel will ever evolve into a propeller.

Random search of the day: Someone from Essex County Council wanted "Portacabins to buy in Spain". So they get me, and a boat called Tintin. Though what do they want it for? And is it official council business? Answers on the back of postcard...

Random news of the day: Google having problems with Gmail. I'd never heard of it till today, but apparently the user gets free email with a huge inbox, in return for the email being scanned to provide information used to produce targeted advertisements. The privacy part of me goes "eek!", and cynical part of me tries to work out what adverts I'd get. Presumably there's so many words that aren't in it's database (panhagglety anyone?) it would permanently have an OED advert following me [OED: Oxford English Dictionary, like Macquarie's for the Aussies or Funk & Wagnalls for any Statesiders].

Random blog of the day: Genetic Chaos. Which isn't great, as it appears to just reel off endless abstracts, on genetic illustrations of human migrations, without comment or interpretation. But the only other blogs I'm finding at the moment are all writing about power cuts in Singapore. And I've just noticed that address is Pratchett derived.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

So Easter Sunday, and what do I do? End up watching the CBBC channel, because we were trying to find programme one of my brother's friends works on.

So first up is SMARTeenies, which has a woman in the bottom right corner signing the programme. So there's a blank smile as the presenter is finger painting, and then it gets interesting. Do you know what sign language is for pipe cleaner?

Then the presenter starts doing stuff with glitter. So there's masses of glue going everywhere, and huge amounts of glitter being liberally shaken from a great height. The presenter helpfully says that having a tray underneath means you can catch the glitter and put it back in the pot. Only, as most children soon discover, glitter from a red pot, a blue pot and yellow pot, does not stay red, blue or yellow. It goes an unusual colour, as do the children's parents when they see the multicoloured glitter going back into a single colour pot. But it doesn't matter as the presenter sprays the glitter everywhere when he lifts the artwork up to the camera.

Meanwhile Corner Woman is mouthing energetically (with a "why, oh, why?" look in her eyes) as she signs glittery, twinkle and sparklely.

And then it's the Tiny and Mr Duk show. Which apparently the friend worked on once upon a time. When I met him at a party, he described the show as a rip-off of Shooting Stars. At the time I smiled politely, and tried to figure out how that was possible. Then I saw it, and heard my brother's version of his friend's views. Oh dear.

It is Shooting Stars in a much-maligned way. There's two Jim Henson Puppets replacing Vic and Bob. There's two team captains - The dim arty CBBC presenter, and Joe Pasquale (annoying squeaky voice, and that's all there is to him). But there's only one celebrity per side. And that's celebrity in the children’s television sense of the word. So a guy from Grange Hill (from the looks of him, I'm guessing the gritty east-end borough has become the latest yuppie ghetto. Either that or GH has dropped the realistic approach) and a girl from something else. And there's a tea-lady to keep the scores, who is closely modelled on George Dawes, in a tea-ladyish way.

And there's random questions (that dippy art girl can't even give the "right" answer to), and stuff flying round, and skits involving puppets.

Puppets that include a gherkin and a dustbin-bin bag cunningly mocked up in various plasticky foams. They have a certain "don't know what I'm doing, so I'll look it up in Google" charm about them.

Other information extracted from the source:
- One of the puppeteers that came with the puppets from Jim Henson's company has the ability to fall asleep with his arm above his head and inside a puppet. This ability was not greatly appreciated by the crew, as the puppet kept missing his cues.
- He was very glad to get off the show. As he said, there was a hole that needed filling. The BBC had two new children’s channels and very little to go on them. So they commissioned stuff, any stuff.

The show is at best a patische of a show which the intended audience won't know about. It's not as good as that show, and it exudes the impression that everyone connected to it wishes they weren't.

I think it was only the fact I was Cadburyed up to the eyeballs that made it just about bearable. Or maybe it was because my blood sugar was near saturation level that I didn't think of turning it off.

Something completely different - in a follow-up to me bemoaning adverts that rip-off films, I have been informed that the new Volvo ads are playing upon the theme of Momento. Which I haven't seen, and so didn't realise. I assumed it was derived from David Lynch stuff like the Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive - both of which are stunningly good films, if not for the films themselves, then for the conversations they generate.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Grr, hotmail ist kaput. Well actually it seems to be tripping some fault in IE, and so the window hits "close or ignore" every time the login screen loads. So I try using the backdoor of MSN. Das ist also kaput. So I go and start downloading Netscape: A. How can you have a computer without Netscape? (because stupid people set this one up). B. Have you tried recently? has turned into Yahoo, a cluttered screen of [currently] useless information. Here browser, browser, browser...Oh there's a browser distribution scheme link: I'll try that. Oh, they want a company name, oh, it's for computer companies.

Hmm, and a series of random clicks later I end up at the UK site, which is offering me version 7.0 (but the other site said 7.1), Oh well. Yep, ok. And it's loading away now.

Bugger, the same problem is plaguing Netscape.
And now I can't even get BBC news to work. This is not good.

So on to other stuff.
That Crown paints ad. Otherwise known as "the ad for curtains". Hands up anyone who would actually want that pink in anywhere in their house, let alone their bedroom. It's pink, which is dodgy enough, but it's not even a nice pink. [no links, as all I can find is people slating their products, and blurb about an older set of adverts].

And how did I miss this? Someone's planning to build a new tower to north of the Canary Wharf cluster. It's called Columbus Tower, and London City airport and the CAA are getting huffy, as they've changed their minds over how much room their planes need. And the Canary Wharf Group are against it, because its will strain local infrastructure [and they don't own it].

Oh, and the council are worried about TV signal disruption and it being a terrorist target that's too close to residential areas - better move all the big buildings in London to Norfolk then, so if they get attacked no-one will get hurt. But then where would everybody work? Damn, I'll have to start again. How about if we move all the local residents to Norfolk? But that might mean they'd get a poorer television signal. Oooh, isn't it complicated?

Except I can't find terribly much on it, as the main articles are by which consists of much yaying, and a tinpot local newspaper which is mostly boos.
The developer (good website huh?).
The Newspaper. Who cite as the developer a group unmentioned by anyone else concerned.
The fan website. Which is enthusiastic, but has some slight editorial problems - and they still manage to give a better impression than "The Wharf". That comparison of the tallest buildings is bemusing though. I hadn't realised there was so much planned. Though it needs a little updating, but as it appears to be a one-man-band, it's quite good considering. Wish it ran to maps, or at least pointed to the right part of or, so I could figure out where all these things are meant to be (actually links from the comparison pictures to the info pages on the site would be nice, but I'm trying not to complain). Bit of an "ah bless", but reasonably good.
The Architects [can't spell "through"]. Wow, I've just learnt something new. I'd always assumed Canary Wharf was built on a old wharf, except according to the pictures of the site, they filled in one of the basins to build it. In the 2012 view: what happened? Guess it's not the solitary phallus anymore.
Sorry, getting distracted by the architectural floor plans - Go to "Architectural Design" then "Plans". You should get a side on view of the building, divided into zones (they turn red when the mouse is moved over them). Click on the roof section [olive brown, it's the bent one at the top, surprisingly]. Guessing they'd run out of steam by the time they got round to it. Maybe I should just do that instead of typing this. text goes here. text goes here. text goes here. text goes here. Maybe not.
How very odd, they give the heights of the floors in millimetres. So the top is 239,000 mm.
And how did they manage to be taking the pictures for the assorted projections when there was snow lying?
Eeek, they're waiting on Crossrail to confirm its required specifications before the start buying materials. I think someone might have either a very long wait, or a flaming row.

Ok, so when i say I can't find much, I hadn't actually looked at the architect’s website by that point.

The [slightly less tinpot] Newspaper that made me aware of the entire thing in the first place.

So what thoughts have we on the project? At least it's not a box. Ok, so the architects are trying to justify it the shape by claiming it references local nautical themes, hence much talk about sail aerofoils and rigging. Who are they kidding? No-one is going to build an aerofoil shaped building, due to the slight problems that might occur when the wind blows. The green glass cladding in the shape of a very Swallows and Amazonsy sprit rig sail (like a gaff with an attached topsail[1])? Sails have got nothing to do with it. Just like all the bows and prows of the new buildings in Southampton have nothing to do with ships, and wing-like structures appended to buildings near Heathrow and Gatwick. It's not referencing the local area and culture, it's simply architects get bored of building boxes. Curves are funkier than squares, that's all. How else do you explain the stern of a cruise liner sticking out from a hill and overhanging a railway, when the building is in a county without any coasts.

[1] Going "huh?". Modern sails are Bermuda rigs: vaguely triangular with a straight base (along the boom), attached at a right angle [90 degree] to the mast (which is pretty much straight up). The third edge runs from the rear of the boom up to the top of the mast, usually in a straight[ish] line. Before modern materials allowed the mast to be made so long and thin, shorter spars had to be used. So there would be a short mast with the boom in the same position, and the top of the sail held up by another spar attached high up the mast. The shape of the sail would therefore depend on the size and position of this supporting spar.

A spar pivoted round till it is nearly parallel to the mast [think: like a paper fan], creating a triangular sail, is called a gunter rig.

A spar that is raised to around 45 degrees off the vertical of the mast [like the top part of a K], creates a sail where the top-rear corner of the sail is higher than the front corner. This is a gaff rig (the spar supporting the mast is often called the gaff).

Using a longer spar, and attaching it lower down the mast, can allow the sail to be nearly rectangular, the top-front corner being held by the mast alone, and the top-rear by the spar or sprit alone.

Or click here, here or here

Hmm, I appear to have gone slightly off topic. In summary then, Columbus Tower good, except for the running track half way up. That might just be taking the piss.

Anyway I might just get back to being mighty apeeling. How come it's even happening to the bits that aren't even sun-tanned, let alone sunburnt?


PS. Happy Easter peeps.

Right, well first things first: Congratulations You were my 1,000th visitor. And you're from Lebanon - that's cool (in an "always wanted to go there" way). And you like Keane [Sat Jan 10th], which is also cool.

And I'm now trying to work out how I can get as many hits from Lebanon as Belgium. Ok, so it's Belgium, but still one's only just the other side of the channel, and it's bigger than the further one. But the stats are strange, as I've got more hits from Denmark alone than France and Germany combined.

And apparently there's a company called Naively optimistic, or some marketing executive's in-joke? But it's possibly better to say I work for Happybank, than Halliburton (who was searching for “anyhoo”).
Speaking of which: 20% are searching for "anyhoo". But I'm not sure if that's 20% of the total hits, 20% of the searches, or 20% of the search terms.

Big News:
I saw a man from the internet. It's very odd standing next to someone one is sure one recognises, but can't think where. And then it dawned on me - B3ta. It may have been the brown leather kilt that gave it away.

Pictures here (yes officer that's definitely him). His response to B3ta's interest. Newsletter issues 104-105.

Not what one usually finds inspecting the passionfruit plants in a local garden centre on Maundy Thursday.

Shame about the creases where he'd sat down.

Hmm, haven't looked at B3ta for months.

Other stuff from this week:
Send stuff to the moon. Why? And surely all that's going to do is clutter up the place and pollute the area. Pointless and irresponsible. So I'll move on before the rant starts.

The Queen speaking French. Suddenly I can understand spoken French. Why can't all French people speak like the Queen?

Yay, it must be summer (or nearly there). Radio stations are playing Girl from Mars by Ash again.

Mandy from BT. Didn't sound like a Mandy. More like a Malati. Did I know the phone bill hadn't been paid. Do I want to pay it now. Er...not sure. Just read my card number out to you. O...kay. Hang on, you rang me up, and you want my bank account details. Hmm, I don't know this person, and I only have their word for it that they are who they say they are. Er, I can't find my wallet right now, do you mind if I ring you back? Ok, bye.
Paranoid? I think she was actually from BT, as it turns out we had forgotten to pay the bill that came before we went away. Oh well.

Adverts that rip off films so obviously, even people who have only seen the trailer know which film it's ripping off, number 1: Lurpack. Chocolat. Any connection? How far apart are tributes and downright plagiarism? And why is there no word similar to either tribute or plagiarism that means the antonym - there is with most other stuff. I've have to invent one now. How about triblen? Meaning a produced object or concept that draws so much inspiration from a predecessor as to be almost a reproduction of the original.
So does this mean the trombone man was cribbed from somewhere else then?

Closing following on from the premise that there is no original thought. Here's a blog entry liberated from Wetware on the learning patterns. Oooh, that was much more apt than I meant it to be.

Also on that page: Guidance notes for bloggers.
Blog readers want to see more:
1 - original research, surveys etc.
2 - original, well-crafted fiction
3 - great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works
4 - news not found anywhere else
5 - category killers: aggregators that capture the best of many blogs/feeds, so they need not be read individually
6 - clever, concise political opinion (most readers prefer these consistent with their own views)
7 - benchmarks, quantitative analysis
8 - personal stories, experiences, lessons learned
9 - first-hand accounts
10 - live reports from events
11 - insight: leading-edge thinking & novel perspectives
12 - short educational pieces
13 - relevant "aha" graphics
14 - great photos
15 - useful tools and checklists
16 - précis, summaries, reviews and other time-savers
17 - fun stuff: quizzes, self-evaluations, other interactive content

So that's an outright fail on most of those.

News: well I'm not CNN, I don't have the resources of CNN, and not terribly much happens here.
Category focus: I'm too distracted by things to write solely on anything. I have a hard enough time staying on topic within a sentence, let alone a posting or entire blog.
Distillation: Why do you want my version of want something says? How do you know I got it right?
Education: There was a reason I didn't become a teacher: according to others, I verge ever-so-slightly on the arrogant, and then veer in patronising when someone wants something explained.
Graphics and photos: No digital camera, and the other would require effort. And my life is not worth illustrating.
Interactive: Do you really want quizzes? On this or the world in general? Ok then.

Occam and Pangloss:
a. Islands in the Dutch Antilles. b. Local law firm. c. Local accountancy firm. d. Guardians of healthy skepticism. e. Hills in the Brecon Beacons.
a. Computer at Luton Uni. b. Yacht in the America's Cup. c. Mr Berlusconi. d. Jeremy Paxman. e. Bush's nickname for Bremner.
a. The 9/11 investigation. b. Flashing untanned buttocks. c. The new name for Tippex. d. Name of South Africa's anti-discrimination laws. e. To stick someone's face in snow.
What is the following about, "If only we could chocolate coat them and send them off somewhere to sell,":
a. Photocopiers. b. Ford's new poor-selling new model. c. The oversupply of grapes in southern France. d. Locusts. e. Conservative politicians.

So I hope you don't mind me being none of the above, but that's the way it is, and that's the way it'll stay (unless I have sufficient motivation to do otherwise).

Anyhoo, I shall close with my new [occasional] feature. Thought for the day (don't worry there's to be no Rabbi Lionel Blue). "It's amazing how having access to information makes you think you need to know it" My brother, trying to coax me off the computer.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Foxtons are evil, and I don't mean because of what they do to Minis. They sent me another letter asking if I'd like to sell the house. Yep, sure, only it's not mine to sell, but nevermind that. Having seen a rash of Foxtons signs popping up round here, I decided to go and be nosy and see what I could find. So a later, and I discover that the house up the road has a "coservatory", which appears to be tacked on the end of the garage. I also find out that said house is decked out in assorted Victorian styles and is full of period features. It was built in the late 1960s.

Though they can't be doing all that well, as the recent letter repeated their introductory offer, which they made a couple of months ago, and which was strictly limited.

Hmm, I think I might have just given up all hope of suggesting I live in some unspecified space in Hampshire (seeing as they don't do Hants yet). Oh well.

But they are still evil, as not only does poking round the website bring up houses that look suspiciously like X's parent's house, but then I notice they also have a US website. For US read New York and suburbs. So which came first London or New York? From the feel of it, I'd say London, as the New York one doesn't feel like they've got the hang of this selling houses lark yet.

For a start they aren't as organised as the UK version, as they don't have half the useful features, and everything seems to be "coming soon". They have an eerie attraction to exclamation marks.

And they sure know how to present and market properties. Such as this example from Staten Island. Bedrooms: 3, Bathrooms: 3...Each apartment has three bedrooms and one full bath. Am I being dim, or does that contradict what they just said? (Nice to know it's an optimistic bath, even if the water will be a little cold by the time the buyer gets in). But at £76,000 what does one expect?

And my god, when the dollar get down to nearly 50p? Looking on Yahoo, it hasn't been like that since the early 1990s. which given what was going on with the economy back then, isn't good.

Which reminds me, how come when the news here discusses the markets, the US one it uses is the Dow Jones, but that never gets mentioned on any US news service? It's all Nasdaq[1] and S&P.

[1] Any relation of Nascar?

Hmm, and what's wrong with Turkey, as it's the only European market to have fallen today? But Japan and Thailand seem to be make the worse progress...what on earth am I talking about? It's only because it's laid out in pretty colours in front of me that I even knew there was a Turkish stock exchange index. did the pound end up being the currency that heads the everyone else? As one Euro or Dollar (US, Canadian, Australian, or East Caribbean, take your pick) is worth zero point something pounds.

So why do the FTSE 100 components, as listed by Yahoo, say "1-50 of 103". That inflation or something?

How did I miss this before? Maroon 5's This Love - hadn't heard it before going to Antigua, and every single time I turned on MTV there [2], it was on, to be closely followed by the same succession of songs. Never had proper MTV before (only the German version), and it's not quite what one expects. It's the same 5 videos, assorted reality shows, and dim presenters going "woo!" because that's what it says on the autocue. Endlessly. Spring Break Woo! Competition Woo! Guest Woo! So like Woo! I can see why they consider shotguns a necessity in America.

[2] I know, but I was trying to avoid getting too sunburnt.

And Beyonce, she who is so talented (according to the Woo!ing presenters), does a cover sorry, tribute and/or homage. Ain'tchu go' no son' yer'on girl? Well at least it's better than that G Unit tripe (warning, that name in capitals, printed on loose t-shirts that form vertical folds, can be comically misread).

Though apparently the US is only up to "Now...that's what I call music" some piddling little number. Think of all those squandered years. But they have only recently discovered dance music, cue compilation adverts whose main star ex-Spice Girl.

Only in America (well on American TV channels), would they show the title sequence of the Simpsons, and then cut straight to adverts.

And my god BBC America is crap. I go several megametres from home (according to our plane 6.7Mm, according to Virgin Atlantic, about 5 thousand kilometres), and still get greeted by Anna Ryder Richardson. One complete scroll through the channels later, and it's switched to Cash in the Attic. It seems bizarre that the Americans have to import cheap daytime television (surely that's what Saved by the Bell is for [and yes that was on one of the channels]).

And has anyone any idea how infuriating it is to only have CNN providing news (it made the photocopied versions of The Times and The Telegraph (what no Guardian, no Indy?), available in the shop, look knowledgeable, comprehensive and unbiased, which considering one is Murdoch, is no mean feat). Ok, so there was erratic NBC and Fox News, but both of them seem to think that wherever they are based is the centre of the know universe, and that Florida hangs over the edge of the world. When they want to do a quirky story about quaint simple folk in the third world, they go to Colorado or Wisconsin. The only foreigner afforded airtime was Jack Straw (and even then they cut him mid-sentence). The only other places out there are Europe [Boo-hiss] and Israel [Woo!]. Both of those only got mentioned because of Israel's stunning lack of foresight (and morals, justice, lawfulness etc.).

I am not impressed by American news, I found it gung-ho, patronising and narrow-minded (and possibly ill informed, though that might just be idle or biased editors). No wonder most of the American's I've known react in bewilderment to the UK (and other's) media.

It seems really odd to say this, but we just have better television, we have better news, heck, we even have a better class of advert.

And then of course there is West Indian television, and the joys of the Antigua Labour Party's pirating of CNN.

Anyhoo, that can wait.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

So I finally get around to opening the post that has accrued whilst I've been away. How come that the in the past fortnight I was more popular than I had been in the preceding month? Oh wait, this one begins Dear neighbour (in faux writing-on-a-whiteboard font). DOES 20% EXCITE YOU?. Er...? Scanning it, oh, it's a poorly produced piece of blurb, on behalf of the Lib Dems. They've sent out a mailshot about recycling and waste. I'm guessing they've done that to every registered voter in the borough. So that's how many bits of paper complaining about the lack of recycling?

But, ah, what is this, the Conservatives have also sent out a mailshot, and they even print my name on the letter - wow, now that's impressive. Admittedly it addresses me as Dear [my Christian name], which considering I've never met the guy seems a little odd. But Darling Jeremy is apparently a little odd. For a start, he hoards commas (think of all the ink he saves by not putting one after Dear X or Yours sincerely), and he signs himself s "Jeremy" (it looks more like Jersey). Obviously has delusions of grandeur, though as a saving grace, he at least doesn't sign it "Jeremy R", though you can tell he's tempted. His email is just, so is he really the one and only (or more likely the great I am)? He also sent out the letter before he wrote it (according to the date).

Comparing the two: Why are politicians ugly? We have the gurner and muppet-boy.

Both also send out questionnaires saying "we're listening". Except it's on paper, so that should be reading, but nevermind. The conservative one is sent out by the Conservative Front [sorry Future, "the youth front" 1], and covers national issues. It features such unbiased questioning as Are you concerned about safety on public transport? coming directly after Have you been a victim of crime in the past 5 years? It's quite worrying that on questions where I'd put "yes", I know the Harrumphing brigade would put an ardent "no".

[1] Yes, the ones who thought CFUK was a great name, cos it's like FCUK, and that's cool, because they make trendy clothes, and nearly spell fuck. Except CFUK does spell something that sounds suspiciously like fuck. Well, c-fuk, which is either a variant on "love at first sight", or sounds like there'd be sand in unusual places.

The Lib Dems questionnaire is much more locally orientated, discussing recycling, transport, council tax, and the WMD saga in Iraq. Unfortunately they say "we're listening" (whilst also saying they'd tax earnings over £100k 50p. Possibly you mean 50p in the pound), but before each question they say what they would do if elected. So you're listening to our opinions, but you're not going to act upon any of it then? Which rather begs the question "why bother?".

Though the Lib Dems do run to a Freepost return address - with the proviso: No stamp needed but using one helps save our campaign costs. That's just asking the Tories to send a continuous stream of unstamped junk mail to that address. But then the Tories say on their form "return it to us" (with no address), on the letter they say in the enclosed envelope, only there is no enclosed envelope. And these people think they are ready to try and run the country?

And woohoo! I can sign up to stuff envelopes for the party. Er...well, the last time I did it the going rate was £6 an hour. Somehow I doubt the stamp-counters could run to that.

Hmm, so there'll be quite a lot today on my terribly uninteresting life - may be I should start building TV studios in Baghdad. Or creating merry hell on her messages (see the 40 or so on her last Iraq posting).

Idly reading stuff, I came across the term "suedehead", used to mean hair clippered uniformly short. It struck me as a slightly odd word[2], although I can't think of that many other words to describe the same thing; crewcut, buzz, crop, number/grade whatever, or shaved (even though it obviously isn't). Actually somewhere else I've seen stubblehead and stubblecut, but I can't remember where now. Thinking about it, for something so common, there's very few words associated with it. But terms for male haircuts or hairstyles don't seem to have many nuances, every meaning is broad and highly subjective.

[2] For a start hair that short doesn't feel like suede, it either feels furry, downy, bristly (like a nailbrush) or like sandpaper. Which I'm sure you will all be interested to know. Perhaps. I'm in a hole, aren't I? Fine, I'll just cheat my way out and tell you to go and grope the head of nearest stubbleheaded man. It was either that or launching into a discussion of the respective heights of walls (which I've never tried, but I did start talking about hedges in the same situation. Confused? Go and read the Guide).

Out of curiosity (read: extreme boredom), I stuck it in Google, and promptly discovered that it's the name of a Morrissey song[3]. Oh now I get it, an article in the Guardian Guide about middle aged men clinging to their long forgotten youth, and using references to Morrissey within it. Oh very droll. I bet the sub-editors were chuckling for ages at that.

[3] Itself referencing a book about violent teenagers, suedeheads being skinheads with hair.

Oh, I'd forgotten that. Sorry, hearing a bit of a song that I haven't heard since I went away, that I had stuck in my head during our wonderful wait in Gatwick airport. Lying on a bench in Gatwick, with no hope of anything for the next 6 hours is not the place to get one part of a song stuck in one's head. Especially when all you can remember is "I've been watching, I've been waiting, in the shadows all my, eh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh". Yet another Scandirock band meets The Teletubbies. Apparently it's by The Rasmus (whoever they may be). Oooh, and it's out this week, so go and buy it! Or maybe not.

And the letter I was expecting still hasn't come. I don't know if this is good or bad.

So from suede to Swedes (nearly), with a detour via utter turnips, my, this has been a fun post.

Anyhoo, I've been writing far too long (Blogger linked Trojans, the miracle of Turnpike, and mortally wounded IE notwithstanding), so I'll be going now.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Am I supposed to know who this is? Because obviously he (assuming Terry is a he) expects people to.

So people called Terry in the media...Wogan? Maybe, but the feeding ducks Chelsea buns bit doesn't seem right, and I can't imagine him saying "so anyway...". Struggling to think of others - maybe it's that Northern guy whose name I can't remember [the non-Terry bit, before you start].

And as for feeding ducks Chelsea buns, only someone who's been in London too long would consider that (but hey, at least they weren't Hoxton buns).

It's amazing what people searching for "sodium maltesers" brings up [Hmm, I must have been in there somewhere, but I can't see me now].

Anyway, worth a browse, if only for the in-depth studies of the M4 corridor. And reminding me of the existence of the number plates game, where you have to spot the number 1-999 in consecutive order. Fiendishly annoying, if you have the patience for it. When I tried, it also suggested I should get out more (if only to do endless circuits of the M25).

Damn! Thinking of that game reminded me of the game I was playing with my ex-flatmates, in which the point of the game is not to remember one is playing it. When you do remember, you lose, the last person unaware wins. I'll have to go and annoy them now, by saying "remember that game...".

And to think I only came up to avoid ITV's latest rendition of Murder on the Orient Express. It's a contemporary version with an a less than all-star cast. It feels like Diagnosis Murder, and having already seen 'Allo 'Allo[1] today doesn't help the plausibility of the accents[3]. Half the point of Agatha Christie is the era backdrop, the art deco glamour, and the simple near-naivety of the characters and the plots. Move it to now, with people plodding round in fleeces and jumpers from Gap, and you've ditched the elegance, the plot struggles, and the characters implode. Someone gets murdered on a train, and half the people would be on their mobiles [cell-phones] to the police, family, and probably assorted news agencies. Ok, so they're off in "here be dragons" Eastern Europe, so there's no reception. In which case the driver would use the radio in his cab, there would be some means of contacting the outside world. And if there's a murder nowadays, no-one would dare touch a thing, at least till forensics appears.

While we're at it, who on is this current Earth knows of an infamous international detective? Take the thing out of context, and like a jellyfish in air, the entire thing collapses and loses all structure. It's an amorphous mass that no longer functions, and falls apart under closer investigation.

Just as a modern Titty and Roger would be drowned in horrible jet-ski accident on Windermere, so a 21st century Poirot would get charged with wasting police time (that's if Interpol haven't already noticed his close proximity to a string of murders, and had him arrested as a homicidal maniac).

Strangely the Radiotimes, the Telegraph and the Guardian all thought ITV was showing the infinitely better 70's version. Maybe they just don't do TVMs.

[1] Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once[2]. A BBC comedy from the 1980's. Set in wartime France, it follows the effects of the Resistance, the German army, the Gestapo, the British (at their RAFing best), the Italians and French provincial life, each acting with great ineptitude upon Rene, the cafe owner. Yes, it plays on cultural stereotypes (hence the Amazon reviewer's obvious disdain), but all suffer equally.

[2] I had to. It was that or "whata mistaka to maka".

[3] And having had Belgian diving instructors, Poirot's Italian accent grates.

And since when has there been a Grand Prix [big car race] in Bahrain? That's the, give me a mo...I'll find it in a minute...well, it's somewhere down there...well vaguely...anyway it's an Arab state, probably a lot of sand.

Hmm, given the widely reported tendency for tanks to conk out in dusty, sandy conditions, is it really I good idea to stick very expensive, very sensitive racing cars in the same environment? I suppose it's one way to try and stop Schumacher winning.

And can I really comment, considering I didn't even have the patience to watch the thing (they just go round and round, and they don't crash anymore. And there's no commentator dooming the leader by counting his chickens[4]). It just isn't the same anymore.

[4] That comment will make no sense to most of the readers here. There used to be a commentator called Murray Walker [go Google], who would get very excited and either make ridiculous statements, or say about the race leader "X is in the lead, he's going to win, he's going to take Y points, to put him at the top of the leader board. He's done it". About 3 seconds later X's car crashes, runs out of petrol, breaks down, bursts into flames or gets hit by a piece of a falling satellite. X does not win the race.

The chickens bit comes from the colloquialism of "counting his chickens before they've hatched" (sometimes given as "counting his eggs..."), meaning to assume certainty before it has become certain. So having 8 eggs does not mean that you'll get 8 chickens. So Murray would jinx the drivers by saying what the future is when it hasn't happened yet (and so cannot be known).

Anyway, as I have wittered on long enough and haven't even got round to mentioning Antiguan stuff, I better go and do something else for a while.


PS. Cas-Av's "wilds of Surrey" turns out to be…Woking. A place that advertises how many trains per hour to London it has (off-peak, and I can't remember, but it's more than ten). Well I suppose that little wooded bit by the canal in Horsell might look pretty wild, but I'm struggling to apply the same to the Toys R Us and Cap Gemini part of town (well there is buddleia on the railway, does that count?). The real wilds of Surrey are places that only get buses 3 times a week (if that), although even in the middle of the countryside near those places, you’re never more than 3 minutes away from a recording studio or tripping the security alarm on someone’s perimeter fence. In London you're never more than 50m from a rat, in Surrey you're never more than 500m from a silver Mercedes.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Well, I'm back.

And it's cold! (though I'd probably class it as warm had I not been away).

And I have no idea what the time is. Fortunately Windows does. There's nothing like leaving under GMT and coming back under BST to really throw any attempt at avoiding jetlag.

Hmm, I've just noticed my watch is still on Antiguan time [GMT -4, BST -5].

So what have I missed in my sailing, volcanoing, diving, electioneering [more on this story later] adventure? Assorted deaths (though I heard about Alistair Cooke through the grapevine), some Labour hoo-ha (anyone care to explain?), terrorism a-go-go, international politics doing the hokey-cokey, Israel being stupid, the boat race (apparently as dignified as ever), and the last ever episode of Sex and the City (I know that was aeons ago in the US, but I already said the UK is in a different timezone, in more ways than one).

So then I get home in time to watch the Grand National [big horse race], and manage to fall asleep, only to wake up to Will Smith and a distinct lack of fences and legs breaking. Oh well. It was my own silly fault for trying to watch Master and Commander on the plane last night/this morning (and no, I don't know which timezone that was in). I still didn't manage to watch the thing.

Anyhoo, I'm not really sure what I'm doing, other than saying "I'm back" and trying to catch up with other people's blogs, which, given the time it took to do Casino Avenue, might take some time. It didn't help that I'm too out of it to notice that March 2003 isn't last month.

Which reminds me that I also missed April Fool's Day (see Cas-Av's post from the 1st). Strangely they don't seem to go in for it on Montserrat. But their world's surreal enough already.

Anyhoo, that's about it for now (at about five and twenty to five pm Antiguan time).

Over-hearing news from another room. Yet more terrorism activity in Spain.

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