Friday, May 28, 2004

Hurrah, the site is back.

Unfortunately this means I see his latest comment. How the hell do I respond to this?

Other than the obvious, "yes I did, shame some of the other results weren't quite on a par" [admittedly pretty much everyone I know got an A for that as well]. And am I allowed to blame genetics? As anyone on my mother's side of the family is quite capable of carrying on 6 different conversations at once. Unsurprisingly my brother and I tend to get nicknames based on our sheer randomness. I've yet to find any reliable use for this feature though. Not even pub quizzes [I'd forget the Republic of Ireland includes part of Ulster, and fail to remember how to spell Connacht. The others are Munster and Leinster by the way].

I'm all embarrassed now.

And he would bloody well do that right after I've written one of my most self-indulgent and uninteresting posts. Guess I'll have to scratch today's bit about flowering reeds and fish presumed to be roach then.


PS. This isn't fair - now I'm worrying about people actually reading this thing. But don't worry, I'm sure it won't last.
PS2 [not a playstation plug]. "disturbing": I don't think I've ever had that description before. Oh well.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

God knows what's going on. German for beginners [see left] was about to go kaput, then got shunted to blogspot, where it was going to remain until the proper site was sorted. Except now Blogger is denying the blogspot one exists.

All of which carefully distracts from my very eerie episode earlier, when I saw the "last post", um, post. At the top of it is a section of written music. Despite the fact I haven't attempted to read music for, ooh, 8 years, somehow my brain scanned it, and I could hear it playing in my head. At which point I though "oh, that sounds like thingy, um, the one they play at church parade[1], what's it called? Oh yes, the last post. Oh, I get it now". You'd think the frequent reference to the words "last post" might have given me a clue as to what it was, but no, nothing so logical.

[1] Remembrance Sunday, also known as Church Parade: the cold one. Last time I did it was also about 8 years ago (actually make that 6 years).

Speaking of eerie: due to a bizarre sleeping position, I somehow managed to wake up the other day with pins and needles. On my head [neck, scalp, top half of my eyes, and ears]. I never even knew you could get it there. Freaked me out ever so slightly.

And did you know: it takes longer to walk than drive. This stunning insight was brought to you by Anyhoo Associated News Agency. I was going swimming, and decided it was a waste of petrol to drive there. So I walked. Unfortunately the pool is on top of a big hill. A hot half an hour later [not wearing anti-perspirant because I was going swimming, and therefore only going to wash it off: not such a good idea], and I'm getting lost cutting across a private school's grounds [2], having not been round there for ages [3].

[2] Well, this is Surrey, it's all huge houses, which become huge private schools, huge recording studios, huge plant nurseries and the occasional token farms. Though this private school does breed a special form of petty juvenile arrogance. The type of people who try to look down on me, despite being two foot shorter than I am.

[3] The last times were either on scout night-hikes, school carol concerts, or abseiling down the side of it, whilst trying not to put my foot through the chemistry lab window [as yer do].

Eventually get to the pool, go in, change, shower [it's a rule that is usually obeyed with the most scant ritualistic attempts], get in, and it's cold. Try swimming, and discover that walking a couple of miles uphill took more effort than I thought it did [ok, so I'm unfit]. And there's some stupid bloke who's persistently hovering to one side level with my knees, and not giving me enough room (my arms were already passing way under the floating barrier to my left). He does this for a few lengths, the starts doing front crawl. Which means he's going faster, not looking where he's going. It get very annoying to have to, in effect, ship one's oars every time he passes, and continually having to check what he's doing. Eventually I get pissed off, and whilst I'm waiting the side, he's coming straight towards me. I dip down, and push of the side ramming my arms straight out over my head. I shoot directly underneath the guy, which both makes him think "bloody hell" or equivalent, and has the added advantage of slamming my turbulence into him, so suddenly doesn't have any power. Bit cruel? Well, he shouldn't have annoyed me [there was space beyond him, but he never kept in a straight line].

Strangely he left fairly soon after that. Only to be replaced by a woman doing dry hair breaststroke. Who was equally as bad at holding station. Didn't help she kept alternating between breaststroke and backstroke, so going one way I'd be going faster, and then the next she was [yes, I was doing breaststroke, yes, I was pretty tired by this stage]. Eventually the inevitable happened, as she was doing backstroke coming up behind me (doing breaststroke and thus looking the other way). Despite being able to sense from the turbulence she was near, and so nearly grinding myself into the barrier, I still manage to make contact with my foot. And unfortunately I was trying to get away from her, and so pushing hard. I hit what I think was her shoulder from above, and stop pretty much dead in the water, spluttering an instinctive apology. She of course got pushed in and down by my kick. I think she surfaced into the barrier. Oddly, despite her efforts to keep her hair dry, it didn't look too dry after that.

I'm still trying to figure how, if my kick can sink people, it provides so little forward movement.

Eventually, one of the lanes clears, so I skip under the barrier, and practice my backstroke. And by practice I mean trying to see how fast I can go, rather than copying most people in that pool's version, which owes more to tai-chi than swimming. Apparently annoying me slightly works quite well at making me go faster, despite having a foot that hurts. Coincidentally I also managed to make a wake big enough to pass over the barrier and hit the woman head on. By this stage I was ignoring her muttered comments and malevolent stares. Oh well.

Hmm, all this makes me sound rather evil, doesn't it? Well I'm not really, except if you happen to be really stupid, inconsiderate, and annoy me [possibly quite a large percentage of the population fit into that definition at some point]. Though she never apologised, and my foot still hurts.

Speaking of the above description, Israel clearly must think that there are Jihadi kangaroos [the pouch is obviously designed hold explosives. Saves on belts you see].

So far as I've been writing this the radio has played: Ooberman - Shorley wall, Embrace - My Weakness Is None Of Your Business, and something new from Ozomatli. Must be summer. All we need is Ash with Girl from Mars, and the shorts beneath a mac combos can begin. Shame 6 music has such crap presenters though.

A banded demoiselle, or damselfly. Cribbed from the SBSG site, click the pic to find out more. Spot who's blatantly flouting copyright, but hoping there are nice people out there, and so he doesn't get told off for doing so. Besides I have remarkably little money. Anyway, it was the best picture I found [flattery will get the end of the sentence]. And I can't make the current link to the site more prominent, as my HTML isn't good enough to get the border workingActually everywhere does seem fairly firmly ensconced in June, despite it still being May. Walking back along the river yesterday there were masses of gorgeous dark damselflies. The near-black with green and blue iridescence ones used to be incredibly rare round here, but recently they've become much more common than any of the other species of dragon or damselflies.

Honesty the plant. Pic from Dudley Council site, click on picture for linkThough strangely the entire place used to be a mass of different colour blocks of Honesty, but now there's only a few straggly bit left in between the nettles. And it can't be because it's over as there aren't any of the very distinct and rapidly developed seed heads (and because it's only just coming out, whereas the Honesty in the garden has finished). Maybe it's an effect of the attack of the four-leafed clovers [something on radio 4, to the effect that there's been a boom in that morph, but it annoyed me, so I turned over, and so haven't any idea where the research came from].

Whilst searching for a pic of the flower, I discovered that one can now get bottled Honesty. Perhaps [insert least favourite politician here] could do with some.

Except it rather pointless to provide the link, as it appears me clicking round their site used up the remainder of that company's monthly bandwidth. Which for an internet-based business...

Anyhoo, there's stuff I really ought to have done.

PS. Words MS Word doesn’t know: anti-perspirant, abseil, Ozomatli. Ok, so expecting it to know the Aztec god of dance might be a little ambitious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

[Whimpering in a corner].

Viewers of a sensitive disposition look away now. Oh sorry, that was a bit late wasn't it?Blantantly cribbed from Slovak for Beginners [perhaps], is this illustrated article on eyelid piercing. I don't know why, but the eyes are the only bit of the body I'm really squeamish about. It's not the experimental piercing per se that worries me (door/nail incidents not withstanding), but this comment in the conclusion: Even eyeball tattooing ... is considered a “safe” procedure, as is the implantation of metal designs under the white of the eye.

Eyeball tattooing. I can taste a-few-hours-old weetabix. Nice.

And the personality test linked from NA's site gave the same result as the last one of those I did. I'm still not convinced this is me (or perhaps a me I'd want to admit to being). Ok, so there is the possibility it might be right, as I just tried lining the top of the picture up with same pixel line as the top of the text [which of course might only work with the font Blogger uses in it's preview window].

Random search of the day: Getting flashed doing 100mph - at that spend you'd hardly have time notice the guy in the mac, let alone see anything to offend you.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Had to blog this [assuming the link works - you might need a free log-on).

Teachers' exam boredom: the ugly truth. Hmm, maybe I went to a boring school, but I don't remember noticing the teachers doing half of this. Admittedly a fair number of invigilators take books or marking in with them - though technically such distractions were not allowed. But it's not like any of us would cheat [much].

They definitely played the paper game though. I think the maths department also came up with a version of battleships. And there was some Fox and Geese or pacman-esque game, whereby the invigilators moved one step at a time round the grid of desks (the catchers had to response to pupils, the target didn't).

Ok, so this sounds like quite a poor exam environment now, but as long as it kept the invigilators from coming up behind you, reading your answers and tutting over your shoulder, it was good. The worst one, was an English teacher who spent the entirety of a 3 hour exam switching lights on and off. I think she was trying to adapt the lighting to cope with the rapidly changing weather and light levels outside. However this noble sentiment goes somewhat awry when the lights in question are aged fluorescent tubes. Turn them on, and they blink, flicker, strobe, hum, plink, buzz, and occasionally go bang. Most of the circuits were in parallel, so one tube flickering caused the others in that circuit to pulse in antiphase[1]. It didn't help the woman couldn't remember which switch controlled which lights. So just as one set had settled she decides she needs to turn on another set, and turns the first off and back on again in the process. Basically, due to the overhead cacophony, and erratic lighting, the exam felt like there was a lightsaber[2] duel going on above us.

[1] Apparently that's not a word. I meant the light's activities were synchronised so that as one dimmed the others brightened, and vice versa [so that's 180o from the original for those used to putting it like that, in which case you'll already have guessed that]. Which when the resistance of, and current flowing through each is erratic leads to massive interference patterns on the other bulbs, resulting in an apparently chaotic lighting of each bulb.

[2] Is that lightsaber or lightsabre? Word claims sabre, I say saber. According to Google, 10 times more references to the –er spelling than –re.

Congratulations by the way, to whoever it was at the Max Planck Society who managed to be the 1,500th hit here. Even if all he wanted was a certain Keane song. And I'm carefully not noticing the stats on various other blogs, though in one case he's probably got his parents to thank for half of them [and he started later than I did, though in fairness, he can write better than I can]. Whereas the only distinctive bit of the name here seems to a Texasism [and only a Texasism. Maybe I should have used my real name, but it's even less distinctive, and my only namesake of which I know is a obscure television presenter].

Looking at the Max Planck site: what's a boson? [particle physics, not the guy in charge of rigging]. But "fermions" sound like it ought to be "we are shutting" in French.

Apparently a boson is a gregarious particle, the particles in question ranging from photons to alpha particles. Am I allowed to admit I'm lost? I know what photons and alpha particles are, and I can cope with the concept of that some particles are more likely to cluster than others. But how do they do it, and to a lesser extent, why do they do it? I don't know, I can't see why, and the press release doesn't enlighten me [and the fact that under certain conditions the states can switch doesn't help].

But then the phrase "...which is a measure of how fast they spin around themselves" makes me think of a dog chasing its own tail, so I'm obviously not on the right wavelength.

So a boson has quantised spin, and groups of otherwise identical bosons have uniform spin at a certain level? Right. Fermions have a spin "equal to an integer plus an extra half". Er...? If it's 0.5 more then surely it's still quantised, and it's just the quanta are on the wrong scale? 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 is no less uniform than 1, 2, 3. Except apparently the plus-a-half ones cannot occupy the same quantum state as otherwise identical fermions [why? remind me to annoy my brother by asking him].

Apparently they managed to make bosons act like fermions in two out of three planes. Which is great, if only I could figure out why they need to [3], and how they did it.

[3] Other than the "because it's there" answer.

Sorry for the crap writing of that bit, but it was me making notes as I try to figure out something I didn't understand, and still don't quite get.

Oh and to the person searching for mispelt versus misspelled - "Misspelled" is the American spelling. "Misspelt" is apparently the correct English spelling. And "mispelt" looks better [languages evolve, so why can't a superfluous "s" be lost along the way? Because MS Word, with UK spelling switched on, only recognises the longest version].

Sorry, I'm a bit distracted at the mo, hence the bittiness, so I'll stop now.


PS. Sheesh, Word is abysmal at scientific words. Most of the time I have to check which variant gives more results in Google [I was sure the word was "quantitised" not "quantised", but with only 17 results versus 14k, I'm obviously wrong (600 to 228k for the respective "z" versions)].

Sunday, May 23, 2004

First things first:

Watching a random programme on ITV. The end of the section comes up, there's corporate plug for another programme, and then onto the adverts proper. The plug was a quick flash of a simple screen bearing the words "Hell's Kitchen". The first advert up was for KFC[1]. 'Nuff said.

[1] That Family Feast one in which the entire family has hair the colour of baked beans and fried batter. Personally I can't see ad exec's reasoning for this monotone bonanza.

Why are Mayflies called Mayflies? Is it because they come out in May, or because they hover over the may (hawthorn blossom)? I really ought to know this, but only get as far as knowing they're Ephemeroptera (because they keel over very quickly and have got wings. Biologists aren't very imaginative when naming things. Hence ubiquitin is pretty much ubiquitous).

Big egg thingOh great, even he's doing it now. I refer of course to the great race for city hall. We have the local news discussing nothing else. People in the streets are talking about it. Somehow this is one election that has actually entered the public consciousness, and people know for whom they want to vote. One slight problem though. We're not in London. We don't get to vote. And if we were on the other side of the hill, our news would be full of Southampton's elections. Oh well, back to voting for a school-friend's mother it is then.

And in a reversal of the situation there's an election for leader of the free world [ok so the candidates are the American ones, but it's what the US presidency pretty much amounts to]. At the moment Nader has 53%, Kerry 42% and Bush is trailing pathetically (at the moment he'd lose his deposit). And the list of countries isn't exactly exhaustive. And to the Americans out there - who the hell is Kucinich?


Saturday, May 22, 2004

15:51 according to the BBC. There'll probably be more later.

Channel 4 haven't got it.

Most recent on Google news is 1 hour old. So another blank.

Lords (the venue) doesn't appear to run to any information on the current match (other than ticket sales).


Breaking News!

Happened to be watching the cricket test match - England vs. New Zealand. Not really paying attention. Someone hits a 4, and the ball trundles towards the boundary. It hits the boundary rope, skips up over the advertising hoardings. The ball is now flying into the spectator seats. Various fans rise to catch it. The people in the first row miss it. A guy in the second row gets his hand to it. But he can't catch it as his other hand is holding his pint of beer. However his hand has taken the power out of the ball, so it starts falling. The man fumbles after it. The ball lands in his glass. The man has a slightly stunned look, then holds the glass of beer and ball aloft to the crowd cheering (and someone behind him telling him to take it out).

The ball is retrieved, returned to umpires who um and ah about using it. One of the players is licking it. The commentators aren't quite sure what to say, as they don't know which rule this falls under. The ball is replaced, play continues, I come to blog.

Now to see if the news agencies have got the story yet. Links coming soon.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Annoyances of the day, number 1: Royal Mail advertising.

Other than the irony of the Royal Mail advertising on Hotmail, it's just downright annoying. They're plugging their Special Delivery Service. They are supposedly showing their ability to get something from A to B better than DHL and alike. But as anyone who has tried using this service will know, that all your £6.95 buys you is a bit of paper. The package sent by Special Delivery may well arrive by 9am the next day, but unfortunately it'll go from A to C, and be found opened and sitting in a puddle.

And as for the slogan "this time it's personal", sorry, "with us it's personal". I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

And of course I can't illustrate this, as the banner ad has moved onto something else, and the Royal Mail's website is very, very dead [Blank screen, refreshing elicits occasional fragments of a page, but the graphics won't load. The entire site is reliant on graphics].

AotD 2: This. The Porsche Cayenne. A car that is both ugly and ridiculous. If you're going to buy a Porsche, buy one that fits into the concept of a fast sports car. Not a Land Rover-alike, which is aimed solely at "spends the entire time driving round Georgian terraces" market. Can you imagine anyone buying a Porsche with the intention of clambering round muddy lanes, and squeezing the side into hedges to get past tractors? One-upmanship at it's worst. Why settle for that tippy 4X4 Merc, when you can have the Porsche version? If ever there was a car that deserves to have the thermit reaction occurring on it's bonnet, it has to be this.

Even the name is rubbish. Cayenne, one of the most useless spices known to mankind. What does it do? Adds heat to any dish. That's it, no flavour, just pure heat. Machismo in a jar. Suitable only for show-offs who have no concept of taste. So I suppose it's quite apt for this car.

And according to this, it's also suitable for adulterers. A big car for shallow people [but don't worry it has a "philosophy" to make up for it].

But hey, what would I know, I still call it "porsh", to rhyme with that weird beetroot soup.

It's only just occurred to me. Porsche are stilling using the model number 911. Do they use it in America? Just checked, and the first headline on the US site is "The new 911 is coming". And this time they're using Airbus.

Sorry, was that rather poor taste? Ought to get me a Cayenne then.

So when and where is the new 9/11? Or 11/9/01 if you use the sensible system [ninth of November indeed. Tut]. Apparently the Australian government want it in about September and October. Why? Because the current government look like losing if it's fought on domestic issues, whereas if they can ramp up security and paranoia they might just get re-elected [and they have to have an election fairly soon]. And when's the Olympics? August. So one big terror attack, one round of hysteria, one sorted election.

Of course, I'm not supposed to be saying this, as my mole wouldn't like it [No, not the one on my index finger]. Anyway it's merely the current feeling, and due to nature of it, there aren't going to be any press releases.

Should it be worrying if one finds oneself in an email exchange discussing potential terrorist attacks [1]? I'm going for either hacking the signalling system on the railways in Athens [assuming they have them], in which case one could probably get 3 packed trains colliding before the system shuts down, or a bomb in an area of cramped old hotels and B&Bs (they'd all be full to the gunwales, and security would be focussed on the main events and corporate hotels). And whilst the terrorist is doing that, they may as well make sure they release something nasty, so all the emergency services attending what they think is just a train crash, spread it round the emergency infrastructure in the city. Cue the lockdowns, in an effort to contain whatever it is, which wipes out the ability of the city to cope with any further attacks. Get it right, and all the fleeing VIPs will take it with them.

Either that, or go for something symbolic, like taking out the Parthenon: the original model for all the Western neo-classical societies.

[1] Worrying for one's sanity, not in the sense of worrying what MI6 are going to make of it [Hello BTW, I like your pretty green glass, and your Statue of Liberty spiky bit. And all your satellite dishes are dead handy for finding which way is south when there's no sun and no conveniently mossy trees. Strangely they don't have website (that I can find). But TfL will tell you which buses stop outside (Stops A and C)].

Hmm, no wonder on silly internet tests I come out in the category that usually includes those labelled Criminal Masterminds. But don't worry, I have motivational problems. And I can't do the evil laugh. And cats tend to hiss and dig their claws into me, rather than rest beneath my bejewelled stroking fingers.

Now if that hasn't scared off the readers...
Except I'm now worrying about whether that posting will gain me readers. Maybe I oughtn't to let the voices inside my head take control.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

I want one.

It's a yacht, a rather big yacht. The corporate site has a comparison to a J-class, in which it dwarfs the J. J-class yachts are pretty huge. I presume the jacuzzi and swimming pool aren't intended for use when she's under sail.

She's got a full keel draft of 10 metres, retracted of 4. The BBC claims it'll stop her getting in both New York and Sydney, but I'm not sure if they've included the retracting bit, and they don't cite which ports in those cities they are referring to. But then one news story said it was built in Portsmouth, one Southampton. 75m long though - just thinking of the berthing fees.

Shame she's probably going to spend most of her time at anchor off Monaco or somewhere.

I'm also curious: on the corporate website it says there are also the Mirabella and Mirabella III. Other than the oddity of naming successive boats the same thing (people usually wait till the first one's been sunk, scrapped or sold to the Americans), I wonder what happened to the even numbered Mirabellas?


Woo! Blogger launches photoblogging. Shame I've never been able to get graphics of any sort to work on here, and I don't have a digital camera. So slightly less Woo!

Oh look, someone's tried erasing Gordon Brown's face from this picture. I wonder who'd want to get rid of Brown?Speaking of graphics not working: Seen the pic from yesterday's PMQs? I must say it was very cunning of that MP sitting behind Brown to co-ordinate her pashmina with the contents of the missiles. [Yes, I know I'm a bit late on the uptake].

If you go to news story and click the "In pictures" link, the caption of the first photograph is "Tony Blair and Gordon Brown smiling just seconds before the projectile is launched". Chancellors obviously have a different concept of smiling.

Anyhoo, must get back to other stuff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Hip Hip Hooray!

Neil Armstrong at German for Beginners has stuck me on his blogroll. And while milling about on his site, I discovered that he's ranked 964th on blogshares, and I'm 900th. He pays to play, and I don't. He is currently playing (18/05/04), and I gave up ages ago (07/01/04) [1], and my portfolio has been drifting ever since. Though his 12813.29% growth slightly trumps mine at 9.26%. Oh well. Hang on, does this mean that the only reason he linked me is to create a feedback ring to boost his share price? I'm carefully not going to consider that.

[1] Ever since I discovered that I own the address ending .com but not the one ending .com/. And which is the one that gets the links? And does Blogshares "suggest an alternative URL" option work? Kinda takes the fun out of it.

Anyway, back to his blog. It is good, if only because I've got my first ever hit from a Slovenian. Thank you Mr Ipconnect. He also fulfils the vital function of writing about the press that one doesn't bother to read. So whilst the guy at Casino Avenue slams [and thus mentions] the contents of the Sun, Mirror and Evening Standard [ok, and pretty much every other paper out there], Mr Armstrong does the same for the Daily Mail [who think Americans are too German]. Speaking of newspapers one shouldn't admit to reading: The Guardian have a rather indecisive piece on the new stem cell bank. Being the Guardian they work on the principle anything scientific is bad, anything they don't understand is worse, but if it's medicine that might be ok. I think they want to tubthump against it, but aren't sure how many readers they'll lose [2]. Note the curious use of the word "easily" in the following: Scientists acknowledge, however, that the technology used to clone cells for this purpose - so-called therapeutic cloning - could easily be misused to actually clone people. [3].

[2] Apparently the mini-Indy hasn't been good for their sales. Which is odd, as those who buy the Guardian and commute tend to sit reading the tabloid G2 anyway.

[3] Considering it was the first story on the front page of today's paper, that article was incredibly hard to find on their website.

Something else to clutter up my brother's bedroom window (enough though he doesn't leave there anymore): A new tower in Deptford [next to the gaudy new blocks of One SE8, which somehow look like they are refurbished cheap 60s blocks]. From One Man and His Blog [great name] via the Charlton Media Junkie [Cas Av]. 1M+HB also reminded me of the presence of City Comforts, a blog largely about urbanism and architecture [and who is currently covering Prescott's design rules which I mentioned last Wednesday].

And is anyone else discovering that Blogger doesn't work so well in Netscape. IE's keeled over, and everything in Netscape seems to be full of little glitches.

This post reads like I'm putting off doing something else, doesn't it? Oh well.


Monday, May 17, 2004

On Saturday, I was rather cruel about people who misspell summary as summery. Today I take it back, as it means I get completely random people for Arak Uni in Iran (The Islamic Republic of)[1] coming here.

[1] Eurovision link in: can you tell all the announcers across Europe hate Macedonia? Or more precisely, having to read out The Former Yuogslav Republic of Macedonia, and then the long pause whilst the French version is read out [L'ex-République yougoslave de Macédoine]. Though according to the CIA, Greece made them pick a silly name.

Running with the Eurovision theme - Oh dear. Well, after a great start of whirling dervishes getting dizzy and having problems leaving the stage, we are greeted by a woman who has no eyes. But she's made up for this fact by continuously showing all the teeth and gums she can (possibly this might have been causing the no-eyes problems). And to further compensate, she's coloured in everywhere under her eye brows with a nice shiny green, which unfortunatly only makes it more apparent that one of her eyebrows is longer than the other. Overzealous waxing methinks. The whole effect was like a polished hamster. A polished hamster in a Flash Gordon cum drag queen dress.

Then of course there was her curiously undead co-host, who, very disappointingly, didn't turn into a pile of ash at any point during the programme.

Ignoring the music and voting for the time being, did anyone else notice the way the plugs in between the songs where remarkably similar to the Turkish tourism advertising [strange that despite the Cannes hype about Troy the film, no convenient plug for Troy the tourist site crept in]. And you've got to love the address for the first site. Obviously it would be churlish to take turkey to mean the flop sense, not the country sense.

How to win the Eurovision song contest:
- You've got to want to win. This requires a great deal of naivety so you don't realise quite what a poisoned chalice it can be [Hands up if you can find a former-competitor who hasn't sunk rapidly into obscurity. Preferably one from after 1990]. Also the local television company won't thank the competitor for winning [bringing your national broadcaster near to bankruptcy isn't a good idea].
- Be new to the competition, so you don't realise that much of Northern Europe is taking the piss.
- Be less than original, but don't copy outright (ripping of clothing is not big or clever).
- To gain more votes, it helps if you haven't invaded anyone in the past 500 years.
- It also helps if you didn't then colonise the invaded countries [this rule is reversed if you regulary threaten to re-invade. Pioneered by the Danes through Danegeld, extortion is a very useful tool].
- However, neutrality in international conflicts is not a useful feature of a foreign policy designed to increase popularity [See Ireland, Norway and Switzerland].
- Be on the verge of securing deals with your immediate neighbours. There's nothing like a government initiative for spawning bribery.
- To increase the numbers of immediate neighbours who will vote for you, consider breaking your country up into smaller units. This works best if no one part of the country was previously able to dominant the others [for instance, the likelihood of Wales or Scotland ever voting for England would be remote].
- Some suggest that sending a large number of tourists to certain countries will bolster votes from them, although this is an unreliable approach.
- Most votes will always go to the country that is seen obscure, harmless and pretty innane.

So what do we get for all this? A mock-Shakira [does she find people regularly confused bits of her with mountains?] representing a recent splinter from a former fairly isolated country.

Did anyone else find it slightly ridiculous, that whilst watching the voting graphics, we zoom in really, really close for places like Andorra, and then cut to a map of half the world to get Russia to fit in? Which leads to quesitons about the bias of voting, and then trying to think of a better voting structure, and then realising quite why the EU draft constitution is taking so long.
And if Andorra gets voting rights, what about the Vatican City (heck they have a seat at the UN[2,3])

[2] Whilst checking this, I discovered that the search vacility on the UN site looks suspicously like Google, except without one of the telltale "enhanced by Google" tags. Does mean there's some anti-advertising system at the UN, or have the UN merely pirated Google? If it's the latter, I supposed it would be quite hard to be sue the UN.

[3] The Holy See is a Permenant Observer. Which as far as I can work out, means they don't get to vote, but they do get to speak, and lobby. The Catholic Church is the only religious institution given this right.

Reverting back to Eurovision: I know it's normally farcical, but this year was just bizarre. The songs and performances: German jazz-ish = good(ish), despite being the only untamed monobrow present, and needing to realise that long hair doesn't counter growing baldness; Turkish ska = thankfully different, but lacking something; whoever it was who was verging on opera = somewhat worrying; and most of the rest were just dancy europop [which consists of singing so that one can't tell which language it's in, wearing either white suits or scant sparkly clothes. Or duct tape]. But now we know that Austrians can't do boy-bands [why have one shaved chink in your eyebrow when you can fit seven in? Along with many other instances of taking something supposedly cool and somehow making it not].

It's odd, very, very odd. But if you want to know more, there's more coverage over at Fistful of Euros.

Sorry for the late posting, something came up and stole my editing time. Unfortunately it's unlikely to go away for a while, so there might be a lot less less posting for the time being.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

How come, on a nice, hot, sunny afternoon, I'm sitting in a cold room writing on a computer? Answers on the back of a postcard please.

I think I'm doing the traditional waiting for someone to reply to an email thing. Except obviously I wouldn't be that desperate, would I? Well, it is a particularly random and gossipy email...

The entirety of the internet, merely a few keystrokes away, and I can't think of anything to do. Ok, so my random look-up quota for today was largely taken up with finding out the origin of pork-barrelling [apparently gerrymandering relates only to movement of constituency boundaries to ensure support, rather than any improper manipulation of voting. Pork barrelling is pretty much bribing, as the seats belonging to the governmental party gain through one-off projects, which only occur in constituencies electing members of the ruling party. Though quite a few of the papers covering the Dame Shirley Porter case use gerrymandering in the looser sense of any inappropriate activity (selling council houses cheap to Conservative voters in this case)]. Also discovered the derivation of the term "slush fund".

So what's the betting on there being a President Schwarzenegger? Well, if India can elect an Italian...

Running with the theme (ish) - The Indian entry for the Eurovision song contest perhaps? It is on par with most of the entries.

That's on tonight - dare I watch it? Well, I suppose, for research purposes only, you understand. I wonder if the newer EU countries have figured out that much of Northern Europe treats as one huge [albeit very poor taste] joke?

[Playing round with webstats} Wow, I got one from Macao - the Portuguese Hong Kong. Did it get (or will it get) handed to China? Or did the Portuguese have a different lease? According to the CIA, it's back in China. Still got .mo for internet stuff though. Apparently it's also supposed to be Macau, though as the government website switches between the two spellings, I'm not going to worry.
But as the person was searching for Nordic Walking Stripes .Italy, I don't think he wanted me.

I'm a little concerned as to why violent incest pics comes up with this page, as I thought the person seeking "Dar es Salaam porn" was odd enough. And this time it wasn't even a WebTV account.

Is it me, or does anyone else find the concept of someone using an Accenture computer, having to look up ferrero rocher pronunciation, rather amusing? Maybe it's just the concept of any social climber being so desperate to avoid a faux-pas, that they look up the pronunciation of the trashiest "roit klassy" chocolates. It's fur-rare-ro rosh-shay BTW (at least according to the advert). Call them ferry-o rocker if you want, they'll still taste just as bad.

And while I'm doing the laughing at fellow humans thing, I think I should point out the increase in hits I've received, simply for using the word "summery" when talking about the weather. There have been a lot of people running Google with terms like "[classic work of literature]+summery".

And speaking of the weather, well actually more ouside-iness per se, it's currently like living in the sea. There's a constant stream of planktonic motes going past. Surely there can't be that many dandelions already? Nope, just pussy-willow going into overdrive. Tip of the day: don't inhale them, intentionally or otherwise.

And why is the comments feature on Blogger so...not quite as good as it should have been? It has funky feature whereby it tells me if someone lives a comment, only it neglects to mention where the left and what it was about. So someone, somewhere has left a comment, and I have to trawl through my entire blog trying to find it? Ok, so at the moment it's easy, as there aren't that many posts with commenting available, and it is the only comment that isn't me testing the system, but still, the potential for utter confusion remains unbounded.

BTW, Neil of GforB [should you happen to be reading this], ta muchly, any idea who did the research, or where they did it? I'm guessing not, and if so, don't worry about it.

Well, that'll do for this post, have fun peeps,


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I know I shouldn't laugh, but...

One of the groups involved in the aftermath of the Glasgow factory explosion, is called International Rescue. So there's assorted BBC News presenters earnestly discussing the casualty figures, and then they move on to discussing the role of International Rescue, and all I can think about is people called Scott and Virgil[1] wobbling and swaying, and trees made from bits of sponge.

[1] Hands up if you can name the rest of the brothers in the Thunderbirds. Name of their dad? Name of anyone who isn't Lady Penelope, Parker or Brains? Cheating and looking it all up here - no wonder the other sons' names are blanks - would you remember John, Gordon and Alan?

According to the Guardian, it's really the International Rescue Corps. And what is it about Scots titles? What elsewhere would be called Chief Firefighter, Senior Fireman or whatever, is, in Scotland, the Firemaster [twisted firemaster?].

But then I thought the picture of the maltreated Iraqi (the one hooded, on a box and with wires attached to each hand) looked like the all those Catholic models of the Virgin Mary (and so was half expecting some random outcry about that). I obviously handle news differently to everyone else.

Continuing the news theme (ish): Truman Show inspires strict housing design rules. My initial response to this is "eek!". American zoning and codes have always scared me. I can understand the need for safety-derived rules, but so many treat homes as assets to be maximised. They seek to create a homogenous area, where no house damages the price of any other house. There's rules banning hanging washing outside, leaving a boat on the drive or lawn, leaving cars on the drive, using the garage for anything other than parking a car, altering the external appearance of the property in any way, using the property as anything but a residence... It just seems so stifling and restrictive. Presumably it's great if your own shares in self-storage or industrial units, or you have property as a liquid asset. But it's not so great if you actually want to live in such a place.

And so the rant continues, until I bother to read the article. Using the Seaside and Poundbury models to manipulate developers into building varied interesting buildings: fine. Using the rules to restrict the continued development that naturally occurs after occupation by the residents: not so fine. Buildings change, if they can't [either through poor design or restrictive regulations] things start going wrong. People seek out better options, and so the values stagnant, and so does the area. Houses full of people waiting to leave tend not to do well. Maintenance and improvement slumps, the only work done is the minimum possible to increase sale price. So cracks literally get painted over, problems covered up. This leads to a cycle of rapid sales, as people move in, and then quickly out again. Eventually a surveyor does his job properly, and suddenly there are many huge problems that need sorting. This kills off the sale price, so either it doesn't sell, and the owner resents the house forevermore, or it gets sold cheaply and treated as something cheap. Meanwhile the rules are still demanding external finish is maintained, and someone is trying to work out how to enforce those rules in the face of widespread laxity.

Either the area turns increasingly into a fading echo of the intended image, as the live drains from it, or the council give up and let a developer in to revamp whatever they feel like (and suddenly the area is all 5 bedroom executive homes or loft-style apartments), or the council give up completely, the developers are distracted elsewhere, and the area goes through the cycle of utter decline, innovation and then gentrification (property gets very cheap or abandoned to squatters, then the creatives move in: artists, some fringes of students, people who set up semi-legal companies. Money dribbles in. The companies grow and interlink producing spin-offs, some of the artists gets successful, some the students stay after graduation. Money starts coming in quicker, more people move in seeking an area with a creative vibe (but preferably one that's quite safe). The estate agents start trumpeting it as "the new wherever". Bars and cafes and assorted chain-stores spring up. More people come in, children start appearing, A new Sainsburys is built just down the road. Suddenly a suburb is starting to look like a town. A community has sprung from this desolate place. And community is what the planning rules were supposedly about in the first place).

So which scenarios will happen in the trail areas? Will Prescott's new houses end up forming mini-towns, or merely ersatz villages that remain trapped as twee investments [2], a model village right down to the wooden pretence of community?

[2] Because the property market would never let them die enough for rejuvenation to occur. It may be Aldershot [3], but there'll always be someone who'll point out the transport links and the near London buy-to-let potential.

[3] An army town in northeast Hampshire. No-one ever comes from there [at least, no-one ever admits to it]. Driving through usually consists of driving somewhere near the speed limit and never stopping [ok, so that includes the time we managed to drive through the town centre without realising it was the town centre]. Maybe it's the people wandering round with guns visible that does it [and the fact the people with guns are the only people visible, and there's remarkably few cars around too], but there's always some menacing feeling there. There must be a ring of sighs round the outskirts, from the all the relieved people heading back off into the countryside.

So it's not just Casino Avenue doing the lambasting: In this article from the end of April, the chairman of the Town and Country Planning Association doesn't sound too pleased with the Millennium Village in Greenwich. He also isn't too impressed by Will Alsop [um, I must have mentioned the Channel 4 thing a while ago, by him and about building cities along transport corridors. Seems to think car-parks and quirky things are always the answer]. I agree with the TCPA guy, but I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I have a hunch he may be too conservative for me [which is different to preservationist].

I think architecture needs to explore. That isn't to say that all innovative architecture is good, merely that derivative buildings, that verge on plagiarism aren't necessarily good by virtual of similarity. Building replicas, building repetitions, building rehashes: these aren't the way to make a building liked. It may be designed to minimise damage to an area, but damage-limitation is a long way off improvement.

For example, one detail I've seen repeated on many new houses near here, is to build what amounts to a box, and then when doing the roof to put a mini-gable directly over one of the windows at the front (the main gable is on the side wall).

The only examples of this I've seen on non-recent buildings are when the peaks occur over every window, and the front of the building has several windows, and each gable has much wooden ornamentation [think Edwardian railway stations], and on one other building that must have undergone incredible changes to it's structure [I think the mini-gable was once the peak of the main gable, and the roof has grown and rotated]. But the mini-peaks occur once on a house [no pattern to which side], and the houses are in a haphazardly staggered terrace [as they were built on the bit of the land the previous developers thought too precipitous to build on].

All they are a bit of cheap decoration to break up the lines of what is very obviously a cheaply designed and built box. And they're not even substantial enough to do that. Now factor in them being in the middle of a unabashedly 1960s housing estate. They are surrounded by nearly unadorned boxes. Yes, they make passing reference to a feature that occurs elsewhere in the town [but now the instances of reference greatly exceed the original instance, as houses of the same design have appeared in two other locations in the town. They've created a new local vernacular], but apparently none to their neighbours [oh sorry, the mini-gables are clad in the same white wooden panels that run between two windows on the 1960s houses. The originals were used by the developers to save money on bricks. I suspect the modern ones are too, despite saving much less money through this].

But then architecture is treated as a fashion by society, and so it acts like one. Buildings get kitted out in the latest look, or designed to match the look of their peers. Looks change, opinions change. Will the buildings celebrated now be equally as reviled in 30 years time as those of the 1960s and 1970s are now? [And can there ever be a comeback for the buildings of the seventies?].

The subverted Modernist version and the modern version. Sorry for the odd choice, but I was trying to show like-for-like, and avoid famous examples (which are mostly famous for somehow being good). So, they are two buildings, each styled to the modern fashion. One is now deeply unfashionable and the other supposedly much more so [though personally, I'm not sure it quite carries it off]. Is it all just the ravages of time, or is one innately better than the other?


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Not really newsworthy (so why did I write about it?).

BBC covers Blogger relaunch. End with this:

As for the future, Mr Williams said they would be looking at incorporating Google's search technology into Blogger, offering subscribers the ability to search their blog.

Um, thought you already could? You could do it either through the box on the Edit Posts page, or via Google and sticking site: in front of the search term. Or is it just me that thinks like that?


Monday, May 10, 2004

Stuff I played with yesterday:

A guy in Seattle's take on behaviour in congested traffic (and how to manipulate it). Via his links page: this interactive model of various congestion inducing scenarios [some glitches, especially with low traffic influx].

Strangely most of the pages seem to cite the M25's variable speed limits - I had no idea it was considered so experimental. I'd always assumed that reducing the speed limit reduces the average speed of vehicles approaching congestion, or in congestion. You reduce the speed, and thereby reduce the shock. Normally people in one lane are trying to do 95[1], whilst there's people elsewhere on the carriageway trying to overtake others doing 55mph. Someone pulls out, someone else has to stand on the brakes, another car sees the brake lights and brakes themselves. And there's a ripple of braking and panic. The people all driving too close to each other all have to brake harder than the car in front [assuming they are unable to exactly match the braking pattern of the car in front, and therefore stay a uniform distance behind throughout. As they can't do this, in order to avoid trying to drive through the car in front, they overcompensate]. They brake harder or for longer, which means they ditch more speed, and everyone behind them has no choice but to slow down to their level.

[1] Yes that's miles per hour, yes people here speed regularly.

The initial shock waves amplify and consolidate until it becomes a permanent wave (which moves against the flow of traffic). The leading edge of the wave continuously envelopes evermore traffic, as the trailing edge leaves vehicles driving slowly away. The traffic leaving the wave has already dropped speed dramatically, and cannot pick it up again as quickly, so forces the wave bound traffic to fall to at least this speed. The vehicles in traffic jams or slow-downs are bound by the surrounding traffic. They cannot escape by going faster as the car in front isn't going faster.

In order to prevent the shockwave initially forming, variable speed limits aim to reduce the speed disparity within the traffic. So dropping the speed limit to 50mph or 60mph [from 70mph], should greatly reduce the proportion of drivers trying to do 95. The proportion doing seventy will also plummet. So now the maximum for most people is about 60, so encountering someone doing 50mph [eg a fully laden mini overtaking a lorry] doesn't cause a massive change in speed. 10mph are dropped, instead of 40 odd (plus the overreaction loss), which means a much smaller proportional change in speed. And because it is a small change it can occur over a longer time, and be much more finely judged. This allows a higher starting speed for the recovery, and can be negated a slight adjustment in the spacing between cars [Car A pulls out from behind a lorry doing 50mph. Car B is travelling in this lane at 60mph. Car B may brake, ease-off, ease-off slightly, or continue as normal. The latter two will erode some of the distance between the two cars, but during this time is likely that Car A is accelerating. If Car B had slowed down to Car A's speed, Car B would now be falling behind Car A. Drivers used to this situation tend not to slow down much, and drift closer to Car A until Car A matches Car B's speed. Once Car A's speed...

Warning - do not find you have to stop blogging for some reason, and leave the post in mid-sentence, as when you come back you'll have a very Kubla Khan[2] moment, and struggle to remember what was the point you were trying to make.

[2] Coleridge was enjoying an [probably] opium high when he started writing the poem. Halfway through he was interrupted, and lost the train of thought, and so the rhythm and content of the poem jumps.

Anyway, point I was trying to make: variable speed limits allow adjustment to compensate for higher traffic volume reducing the capacity of the traffic to absorb shocks. Variable speed limits reduce the variation of speeds within the traffic.

Originally found via Pandamonium. It's probably worthwhile exploring his links, and those of the guy in Seattle (if only for the god-like ability to cause gridlock).


According to this end there should be commenting available on this post.

Do we beleive it?

And sorry for the "testing testing, one two, testing" nature of this post.


Edit: they lie. There is no commenting. Yet everything is ticked yes. Hmm. Wo ist de gehelpenpagen?

Edit 2: I think they're working. But now the format's gone odd and I can't see why.

[A post that will probably be identical to that on millions of other blogspot blogs]

Eeek! What have they done?

The internal bits of Blogger are all wrong. And they're beige. It all looks big and chunky (and user-friendly in the way that always annoys the long-term users). And I can't read my old posts whilst typing the new ones. This feature is really going to get annoying.

The layout isn't great though. The graphics seem fragile to say the least - backgrounds that disappear, buttons that vanish, icons in beige that partially overhang the white background, but the background jumps when the mouse moves over them [and reverts a while later].

Ok, so it does have funky new features, such as emailing posts and commenting [1], but as I have no idea how either works they'll have to stay as funky new features, until I try experimenting [which will probably mean large chunks of this blog stop working].

[1] Cue the sound of Haloscan shares crashing.

So what does anyone else make of this new look Blogger?

Excuse me while I go and experiment.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Is it a good sign if one cringes when reading something one has just written?

Sorry about being a not quite so happy bunny.

So in an effort to sound happier, I went off to investigate the multitude of ways people have come here. Random google searches aren't exactly maudlin.

Wow, I'm an "enigmatic guy". Well, the 93rd on the internet, and it runs out of them at 96. But as I wasn't even talking about me, that's quite good going. Ish. Makes one wonder though, who bothers going through all the results of a search? Apparently it's someone at Cambridge. Which makes me think research, which makes me think "pity the poor fool", especially for choosing something that involves trawling the internet extensively. If you're going to do research, you may as well do it on lobsters in Jamaica [I could never figure out why a conservation study involved killing the samples. But then when you remember the samples are edible, taste nice, and are quite expensive, it makes more sense. But that's getting into Japan and Norway's whaling definition of scientific research]. But research at twenty to eleven on a Saturday night? Distinctly less likely. But I guess I'll never know. And so presumably the researcher from Cambridge will remain an enigmatic guy [in fact they're so enigmatic, I don't even know if they are a guy].

watching a guy ejaculate into condom. Why? Obviously they do things differently in Oklahoma [1]. Strange how sex seems to creep in everywhere.

[1] Why is Broken Arrow familiar? Google says it's a rubbishy John Travolta terrorist-plot film. Haven't seen it. Oh well. The city itself...well the first line of the About B.A. section runs: Many of those seeing Broken Arrow for the first time are often surprised and disappointed.... Now that's a really good advert.

Hmm, does anyone else think they may be stretching the term city when what they apply it to, is by their own admittance, a "booming suburb of Tulsa"? And why is it the websites of towns always sound so despairing? Not even half of the land in Broken Arrow has been developed...Churches here are expanding and growing, not dying. But then they do have Rhema Bible College to help with the latter. Do you think it was one of their students who wanted to watch the controlled ejaculation? Well, I suppose if there's latex in-between then you're not technically touching it, and so there's really nothing wrong with it. And if you're just watching, it's not really your fault it happened in front of you. See, absolutely nothing to confess.

The final odd one for now damien hurst butterfly paintings. This one confused me for a while, as I went up to London week before last, and went round various stuff at the Tate, but I haven't written it up yet. So how on earth can they have found me talking about those displays when I haven't yet? Searching through the archives. Oh, spatchcocking [that ought to be a swear word].

BTW, why is Benin .bj? Hands up if you even know where Benin is. Well, I was nearly right when I guessed near Chad. Apparently it's between Nigeria and Togo [yes that's Togo, you know, the one Benin]. As is traditional in places with obscure country codes, the government's website is currently unavailable [though you can find out it costs a pound a minute to call the UK here]. It's rather depressing to have to go to the CIA world fact-book to find out information about a country. It's also slightly strange reading the newspapers of random African countries [2], and still having eBay pop-ups [but they are in French, and there's also Carrefour ads].

[2] Hint: Cour is court not heart. They have a writer called Euloge. And despite the front page giving today's date, the lead story is from 2002. Zut alors.

The Post Office also have a link (directly under the one for News) for Horoscopes (which links to Yahoo). Somehow I can't quite see the Royal Mail or BT doing the same [Royal Mail's horoscope: You will find matter disappears, questions go unanswered and the future will bring financial loss. You feel you are unable to communicate, that your messages go unnoticed].

Oh, and the government's site is not the higher rated, but Brotherhood, Justice, Work. Not quite the same ring to it as the French motto. Under the heading Press, one of the categories is "organisms and medias". I think reading it in my ropey French will be safer.

Still haven't found out why it's .bj though.


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Brownie Points?

You mean they're still legal currency? I thought they'd succumbed to inflationary pressures long ago (either that or been replaced by the Smug, Karmic Unit or possibly the Euro). But apparently they are still in use today, and worth 50 Rupees apiece. Read more at the Delhi-ite's blog (with a curiously high incidence of the number 42).

So what's the conversion rate into other point scoring mechanisms, such as the Taking-out-stupid-people Scale [1], and the And-another-thing Mark [2]?

[1] The system whereby you gain points for theoretically running over a pushchair that a mother has just left (out of sight) behind your car when the engine is running [What did she think the reversing lights meant?]. You also score highly for mortally wounding, with a cucumber, the old couple standing in front of supermarket shelves (and conveniently using their trolleys and assorted wherewithal to block access) bickering over the price of potatoes. Again this is only in your mind, as real application of the ideas will gain you points on a rather different scale.

[2] The defence used in arguments in which, if you are outgunned on one topic (i.e. the car keys were in your pocket the whole time), one brings in other topics to counter this loss. Other topics may include: you are ready consistently ready earlier to go out, you don't waste money buying reduced stuff that isn't needed/buying stuff full-price just before or after a sale [delete as applicable], it would have been quicker to walk anyway, etc. While it is technically possible to become fabulously wealthy in reference to the AATMark, such acquisition often leads to impoverishment in indices of wealth, such as units on the Friendship Exchange.

Hmm, perhaps blood sugar level does influence writing. Can you tell that despite it being ten past four I haven't quite got round to eating breakfast yet. But don't worry, the world's only swaying slightly.

That said, this probably isn't the best time to get into discussion of sites such as this - Being Christian and Gay. No, it's not a blog about a married couple living in Wiltshire (both mid-forties, he a landscape gardener, she a music teacher, no children, but assorted nieces and nephews, collie called Hal). No, it's rather more literal than that. It beings with the statement "My Gay Brothers and Lesbian Sisters". Nice inclusive statement that. Apparently gay people are the chosen ones [does that mean Neo's gay?]. Well, it's a very different take on it to the-former-mouse's [though the index is gone, the archives remain, at his old address].

Maybe I should have gone to Brighton after all. Got rung up yesterday and told about a gathering today, except it wasn't by the person whose gathering it is. So I have a few details, an unanswered phone number, and er that's it. And the only person I know is going is the one who tried converting me over pizza. And the trains seem to think it necessary to go via London (what about that line that goes through Gatwick? And we're not even getting into the complications of the return journey), to cost at twice as much as driving, to take over twice as long, except of course, I'm guessing there'll be parking restrictions at the other end, so driving could be just as bad (but of course I've no idea due to not knowing Brighton, and not having contact with the host) . And I haven't gone yet, and it's cold and rainy, and I don't really feel like it.

And I'm making up stupid excuses I know I'll regret later, but I'm just not feeling happy, and being around this group of people [3], and going out drinking, is only going to amplify that.

[3] They're nice (well, the ones who don't hate me outright), but being with them without certain others, just doesn't feel rewarding. It feels cold and stilted, the fun has to be planned, there's no spontaneity, there's just a dull reflection of me, which isn't a comforting impression. It always feels so despairing, as each character lapses into shyness, propriety or defensive arrogance. And I'm like the rest of them, unable to change things.

I know that my inability to act is my fault, based on several long-running problems, but being with them emphasises it. It just feels like a cycle of negativity, so I blame them for it, and stupidly try to avoid them, even though I'm the one doing most of the peddling [thinking back to last time, quite a few of them do it as well].

Hmm, such a joyous post. Except even trying the ultimate distraction (or possibly displacement activity) of blogging only serves to remind me of all the uncompleted posts [for uncompleted read haven't even started yet].

Maybe unintentional fasting isn't a good idea.

As for the other stuff, maybe next time.


PS. Anyone else ever got bored enough to fiddle with MS Word, and finally get round to figuring out how Mail Merge works? Though I'm still not bored enough to figure out why Defrag won't get past 50% (done scandisk, done Alt-Ctrl-Delete everything to death, done emptying out all the temp files, done repeating all this in safe mode, done checking for viruses, done de-Fun Love-ing the computer involving much Dos and boot-disks, when there was no infection to start with, done pretty much anything any support website or group suggests [I had a very fun Friday night, as you can tell], done running out of things to have done).

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Comforting to know [the title of an article on the NASA website]: With Rockets, the Pointy End Usually Goes First ...

This from the country that brought the world al-Hurra television [the flagship station of the al-Gung-ho network [1], and sister channel to the children's entertainment channel, al-hip-hip-hooray]. When I first saw the name I assumed it was derived from some coincidental Arabic word. And then I learn it's a US mouthpiece. They may as well call it al-we-rock.

[1] Or should that be "...of al-Gung-ho...", seeing as "al" is "the".

Oh, according to the website ALHURRA means "the free one". So it's convenient it's comes out sounding good in English (unlike Furkhofstrasse in Munich [blatantly nicked from the astronaut-cum-geneticist]).

Hmm, and so much for doing all the stuff I meant to be adding to this blog. I think I'm going to go and watch Yes Minister (BBC2 about 10 minutes ago).


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

This is evil: Harvard have a set of tests to exam your inner prejudices. My results don't seem to mesh well with my assumed liberal tolerance [1]. So far I am:
  • Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for Young relative to Old. 28% [32%]

  • Your data suggest a slight association between science and Male relative to Female. 18% [47%]

  • Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for White People relative to Black People. 25% [29%]

  • Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for United States relative to United Kingdom. 23% [33%]

  • The results are based on this pattern. Statement. Percentage of population exhibiting similar level of bias [Percentage more biased]. Other than getting annoyed by the grammar [Your data suggests... surely?], I'm not really sure what the stats mean, as who makes up the population is not immediately apparent.

    [1] Ok, I know I'm not really all that tolerant, and can be pretty damn judgmental on occasion, but I try not to be. Anyway I'm not as bad as other people I know (handy get out clause that, except it is pretty meaningless).

    So what do I make of the results?
    Moderate young over old bias: well, I am young.

    Slight science = male bias: Whether this is a reflection of my experience or what I think it ought to be, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing the former. I would have said I always thought the perception of male science versus female arts was junk. Why do science and the arts have to be polar opposites?

    Moderate white over black bias: Um, I didn't mean to be. But the last time I got involved in debating racial prejudice [with one of the most judgmental people I have ever met, who happened to be an ardent Christian], I ended up counting out the non-white families I knew on the fingers (and thumb) of one hand. And that was including the newsagents. I grew up in Surrey, what do you expect? It's not intentional, it's just that there simply hasn't been the exposure required [University in Devon, hmm, that'll be multicultural, 2] to negate the bias.

    [2] Actually it was [ish], but you tend not to think of it like that. Hence me trying to describe a friend and after several minutes of describing his hair, piercings, the clothes he normally wears, what clubs he's in, his social life generally, that fact he's about yeigh-high, and various other details, finally saying, in a surprised tone, "oh yeah, he's from the Philippines". Which you can either take to demonstrate my ability to look beyond race, or more likely, me being bloody dappy.

    Which now sounds like me protesting too much. Oh well, any the tests aren't very good, and it's probably very easy to produce a spurious result (bear in mind, dyslexic with not the greatest left-right perception, and uncoordinated enough to use the wrong hand [3], with it. And you want me to read words rapidly, work out the meaning and sort them, whilst switching to looking at pictures in an unpredictable pattern? Oh good-oh!).

    [3] Putting my shoes on when I've got crossed legs. Now that's fun.

    Speaking of dubious results...
    Moderate US over UK preference. Holy Crap! This can't be right. Just because it's raining here, and I'm cold and worried about things, does not mean I'd prefer the USA. Do they think I'm mad - they have Texas there [4]. I blame the test, as one the icons of the UK was Blair. How on earth can you press "Pleasure - Blair - Joy" when there's words like "agony" floating round? They also had Bush, but when you select "Happy - Bush - Peace" it goes together because it's so blatantly ridiculous.

    [4] Hi BTW, to all the people from Texas who read this blog, especially that little cluster from Plano.

    Anyway, I'd better stop now before I start trying to speak American, which will only be as disastrous as yesterday's attempt at German.


    PS. Anyone got any idea what planet is quite bright in the sky, and has 3 or possibly 4 moons visible with binoculars? It's quite high in the sky, fairly bright (but not the big bright thing lower off to the northeast) and probably about due south at 9pm GMT. Seen with north as up, two of the moons where off to the right, one to the left [I think], and something round catching the sun over the penumbra [line of shadow].

    Monday, May 03, 2004

    Grr. GM stuff. Primarily about transgenic fish being created for sheer novelty value, which is not the greatest idea ever. But the story ends talking about anti-microbial milk:

    "The other thing is of course that if the milk's anti-microbial, and we have it in dairy cows, you could argue that it's going to be healthier for a child to drink that milk."

    Excuse me? Well, you could argue that, but do you think giving people anti-microbial drinks is really a sensible thing to do? What about all the bacteria in our guts that do a fair amount of our digestion for us? You really think wiping those out is wise? I guess, if you have shares in Yakult.

    So is it healthier? Well, presumably people who drink this milk will be less likely to consume damaging levels of microbes. But people tend not to drink lumpy milk that smells of cheese anyway. And if it's pasteurised I doubt there's much improvement on the healthiness of the milk.

    So there's no real gain, and a pretty significant potential loss from drinking this drink. So one whilst one could argue it is healthier, I'm not sure one would want to try.

    All this to stop milk going off for a while longer? Is it really worth it?


    Nothing much ever changes - well, at least in the world of airtime-filling television punditry. BBC Parliament is showing the election night coverage from the general election in 1979 until 11pm tonight. Can it really be 25 years ago that [spoiler alert] Thatcher came to power? Admittedly it was before I was born, and I'm getting much too old, I suppose it must be true.

    But watching the coverage is quite amusing, as the presenters are incredibly young [Angela Rippon did news? David Dimbleby being a confident young man], yet they are still making the same comments today. It is a little confusing having a swingometre without Peter Snow attached. The 1979 production team also did a retrospective of the 1954 election, which showed how little the coverage had changed. It also showed the BBC's pride and joy - an electronic computer which was to be used to analyse the results, except the computer was a wall to the studio.

    It is almost eerie how little has changed - the graphics are obviously state of the art, but have always been more for the sake of having swish graphics than for actually doing anything. It's like watching Doctor Who. The constant cutting between different locations, different interviews, different angles is as dominant as it is today. And so is the need to fill airtime when there is remarkably little content, and so people suggest, repeat and correct things, volunteer anecdotes that do not have a resolution. And the media still belittle people tremendously, such as the "old biddys" of Guildford.

    The only major change that has occurred since then is that the television stations no longer acknowledge the existence of the competition. In the 1979 footage is a long pan round the street outside the Mrs Thatcher's house, ending on the reporter standing by the gate. Except most of the pan was filled with the side of the ITN camera and reporter. Nowadays, both will fiercely pretend the other does not exist - and so situations occur in which two people doing pieces live to camera are both audible on both channels, and the directors enter into a game of chicken, eking out the interview to see who will yield first.

    So as with most live reporting, the output of 1979's election coverage does seem to be a triumph of style over content. But then they hadn't yet had the lingering awareness that they were getting into "The Day Today" territory.


    PS. BBC1 is showing Pearl Harbour tonight. Big film, network premiere, and yet very little publicity for it. I wonder why? Could it be that they realise it got panned[1], and so, having found they have somehow bought the rights, they are desperately trying to pretend they're not really showing it. Stick it on, but do that annoying news in the middle thing to discourage people, and hope that ITV is showing a decent Bond film. But no such luck - Bond is on during the afternoon, and ITV are doing Coronation Street and a sequel. Channel 4 appear to be ignoring the bank holiday, and BBC2 is doing snooker. Looks like BBC Parliament might be the most interesting choice. This is worrying.

    [1] Put it like this: the Radio Times gives it 2 stars. It gives Days of Thunder 3.

    Sunday, May 02, 2004

    Bloom + book[Assuming I can get this to work on blogger, but if it goes all redex on me, click on it and the link should work]
    Legoland commands you to read!

    Um, right. I don't know, but this just seems rather odd. But I can't figure out why it should be. It's probably because it's someone from the film of the book, where the filmed version is much more prevalent than the book. And the film is only one version, one interpretation, which is likely to have overridden any personal and subjective interpretations that the intended audience of this campaign can make. If this is what Legolas has been shown to be, how can he be anything else?

    Not that it's bad to encourage people to read, it just the advert seems strange. But adverts for unspecified books, for the concept of books, have always seemed slightly archaic. Libraries are institutions, on about a par with churches. Rather outmoded, occasionally striving to be cool, trying to appeal to "the young people"[1], invariably failing with comedic effect, they are yet another facet of life that is largely ignored except by a devote core. Their omnipresence and permanent lag behind other factions of society, mean that whilst being derided for their irrelevance, they are perpertual havens. The hushed half-abandonment, seen as their greatest weakness, is the appeal of them. It fits the traditional clichéd pattern of only being missed when it's gone (but why did that become a cliché?).

    [1] If you wish to appeal to "the young people", don't call them that.

    And carefully segueing along the theme of reading, Andrew Black at Southern Cross posts a list of books which one is supposed to have read [and then promptly ravages the biased nature of the list]. Um, I don't appear to be doing to well.

    Listed books I have read:
    Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre3
    Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights3
    Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby1
    Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World1
    Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird1, 3
    Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago1
    Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet1, 3
    Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels2
    Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace1, 2
    Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn1
    Voltaire - Candide2,4
    Walker, Alice - The Color Purple3
    1. Worth reading. 2. Gets repetitive after a bit. Author bangs home the same idea a lot. 3. Eng. Lit. GCSE course texts. Only very good books survive and remain liked, the rest are loathed. 4. Read purely so I could know what the "Panglossian paradigm" was about (and no, I didn't read it in French).

    Listed books I have started, and have yet to finish:
    Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales 5
    Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
    Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans5
    Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles5
    Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
    5. Copy of the book disappeared before I finished. But Hardy might not have been completed anyway, as I found the Mayor of Casterbridge such slow going I didn't finish it [continually having to look up words in the back doesn't help].

    Listed books I am reading, and intend to finish:
    Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
    Melville writes sentences which are even more complicated than most of mine. Which, coupled with the theatrical tone, can in places render the characters and plot in a slightly obtuse manner.

    Listed books I have a copy of somewhere and intend to read:
    Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
    Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
    Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
    Orwell, George - Animal Farm
    Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
    Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath

    Listed books of which I've seen the play, the film or the adaptation:
    Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
    Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
    Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
    I am aware some will class this as cheating, but given two of them were written as plays, it'll do for the time being.

    Things I've learnt from reading these books. Modern authors are less likely to mention the book as a narrative during story than those from past centuries. They are also less inclined to stick philosophical debates into the book, whether through the characters or simply as a statement of the author's opinions.

    Books that should be on the list:
    Seth, Vikram - A Suitable Boy. Any book which can make me think of the characters in the book whilst going round Montserrat, must be quite good [there was a mango connection].
    Banks, Iain [possibly M]. Not sure which book, but a very good story teller, and incredibly imaginative.
    Tolkien, JRR [or whatever his initials are] - The Lord of the Rings. It may be a rehash of assorted Norse myths, but it is quite well done.
    There ought to be others, but as I tend to hover around the level of Terry Pratchett and Dick Francis (or if regressing Arthur Ransome), perhaps I shouldn't continue.

    Scanning the list - there seem to be quite few books I haven't read, but by authors I have [Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, Hemingway, Steinbeck]. How do I manage to pick the non-essential ones? Admittedly there are several books and authors of whom I have never heard.

    But fortunately I needn't worry, as AB's complaint undermines the importance of the list. It is so nice to realise that even people who do English degrees aren't too keen on The Colour Purple Woman - I just assumed I had simply not got something on a major level, hence thinking it was a dire book (admittedly I probably didn't get something important).

    Giving up the books theme, I've happened across yet another blog, only this one's actually worth reading. A biochemist in Stuttgart [2] writing about a variety of topics. He also claims he's not the astronaut. Go read (before I try writing in German, which as I always get stuck on the "einen - delete as applicable" bit, is probably not a good idea. Anyway all I can talk about is hospitals and budgerigars [3]).

    [2] Which reminds me: I must find out how the biochemist I know is doing in Frankfurt. Must also get round to looking up which one is Frankfurt.
    [3] And the betting MS Word corrects my attempt to spell that: 1/1. The betting the suggested word is burger-bars: 4-1, bugbears: 7-1, budget-cars: 15-2, buggeration: DNQ, budgerigars: 100-1.

    Bloom, books, biochem and budgies, oh, maybe this post isn't the miscellany it appears.
    PS. Wow, the spell checker actually worked, and the only word it offered was the birds. By the way, did you know that the concept of a budgie does not exist in the German psyche - but there is a German word for it. It’s just that no German I’ve met has a clue what it means, even when explained [but why have you small yellow birds in the house?]. Wellensittich, das ist sehr nützlich, jah?

    PS. Checking the spelling of the budgie word [I missed a t], and discovering that maybe the only Germans I've quizzed on the matter aren't very knowledgeable, as Google can find 83,000 results for it. Aber hey...Ich habe kein restlich Deutsches. Wo ist das Krankenhaus? Ich bin getrunken, naturlich. Alles ist wunderbar!
    [Can you tell I only did a year, and the two bits I remember most were "du fickst kinder und essen irhen schiesse", though apparently fickst is not a real word, but I've no idea how to spell it - but you can guess what it means (babelfish puts it as "bumsen", which does not translate back). The other bit is "maidensaft", though I'm not sure of the spelling. Again guessable And both of these were in the textbook, albeit written in biro]. Hmm, I think I ought to stop now.

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