Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Red Deer - StagWell that was informative.

No, it was (damn my default tone of cynicism and sarcasm). Not as informative as it could have been, but better than nothing. I have of course been trawling round the internet trying to find guides on how to use the focussing bits in my camera. It's a manual focus SLR and I thought it was time [after owning for quite a few years] that I actually tried remembering how it works.

Why do I not already know? Because I've managed to mislay the instruction book. It didn't help that it wasn't the original instruction book, but instead a sheath of white A4 photocopies. Which is the most universally losable format. I'm even able to find envelopes with writing on the back quicker than anything on white A4. So if I should happen to decide I need to go through my notes on sexual selection in red deer, or post-blanching recovery rates in temperate coral, then I might be able to examine the instructions for my camera, but until then I'll have to rely on my memory and Google.

Unfortunately Google hasn't been all that helpful. It doesn't help I'm not all that sure what I'm looking for. Is the focussing microprism, prism, split-screen, split-image, matte, frenzel, rangefinder or ground glass? Er, possibly several of those. It has two concentric circles in the middle of the screen (yes, I know it's not a screen per se, but it's easier than typing "the image given in the view through the viewfinder). The inner one is split in two horizontally. The outer appears to be crossed by a diagonal grid of pyramids.

I used to know how this worked, but then I convinced myself I didn't, as I kept taking out of focus pictures. The mere fact the eye I predominantly used was steadily losing the ability to focus beyond a metre or two over that period is completely unrelated. So having managed to erroneously discard my learning I now need to make it up again.

Hence the searching. Which provide remarkably fruitless for what I was after. I discovered by experimenting with a chestnut tree, a banana plant, and the printing on a Fyffes box [which could contain the instruction book] how the separate sections of the focusing illustrators work.

The central split image one usually has one light and one darkened section of the image. If one manages to get a linear object crossing the split [e.g. a branch], the line breaks. The rest of the image also appears out of focus. Adjusting the focus ring, and the bulk/main feature of the image comes into focus. [And this must be where I've been going wrong]. However the central image is still half dark and half light, with the optical equivalent of the San Andreas Fault down the middle [hold the camera off the horizontal if the only near linear feature is horizontal]. Moving the focus ring slightly, and slowly the two central images converge, as the tonal differences fade. Go a bit further, and the images begin to diverge and the shaded section is now the opposite side of the split. Go back to the point where the image appears most uniform. Rotate the camera slightly around the axis of the lens, and the image should still be uniform. I'm guessing this is the important bit, and is the point where the central feature is most in focus.

Now point the camera elsewhere, be it at a branch on the other side of the tree, or a building down the road, or the frame of the window one is looking out of. Looking at the central circle, is the halved image still even and uniform, or has the jump popped up again, and one side been blacked out? Unless your camera has a very long depth of field it should have done.

So I think I've got the split image use covered. Next is the odd ring surrounding this. I find this section much harder to use, simply because my eye doesn't like it.

And here I'll give up as I wasn't sure what to say about it (and if I would be getting it right), and so sought out the instruction book. Which means I now know that the microprism ring for use on objects where there are no distinct lines or edges, and is focused when the image isn't shattered. I had to dig the instruction book from a box of university stuff, and so am writing this a long while later, having been reading random bits of paper, including one of my brief attempts at keeping a diary [which I had forgotten]. During it I am incensed by one of my flatmates describing me as "a nasty piece of work wrapped up in a wet blanket". Charming girl. Strangely she's the only one who isn't in communication with the rest of us. I wish I could say that I simply haven't the foggiest idea what it was about, but that wouldn't technically be true.

And so moving on to an equally inaccurate description. The class of 2004 claims to be able to predict which form of middle class you are. I am a Loft-Winger apparently. Maybe not methinks.

Having just seen a brief bit of the American Wife Swap, what is it with Americans and seat belts? One couple didn't have them on, and one couple had the upper strap running under their arms.

Running with the theme of Americans and cars, here's something gleaned from a random BE site: Carhenge. Like Stonehenge only with the obvious difference. File under "Only in America"?

Also via BE:
Discovering that the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. Apparently because it's when retailers shift into the black, after the unprofitable period beforehand. Whereas to me Black X-day sounds like it is the day when the stockmarkets go whump, as in Black Monday.

Funky stickers. Equally 1980s. 1, 2, 3, 14 (as someone complained the new U2 runs). Easily amused? Yep.

And back onto the recurring theme. Again, does anyone know quite what is going on in [the] Ukraine? At least it seems to have got past the stage of the pro-EU side taking action which would damage the country's eventual entry into the EU - working on the premise that rejecting the result of an election doesn't really sound a thoroughly democratic thing to do. But that was before the election was shown to be quite so irregular.


PS. This was meant to be a guide round various photography guides, but I'll leave that till tomorrow now.

Monday, November 29, 2004

SolitaireI suppose it is a bit like playing Solitaire. A pointless repetitive activity that seems to achieve nothing.

Oh hang on, I'm supposed to be plugging Blog Explosion to you lot aren't I? Because how else will I start to clamber up the ladder of BE's pyramid scheme? (Although possibly it's more fun than this alternative pryamid scheme which showed up in the referrals list).

It can be quite enlightening to notice trends in what influences one's impressions of a blog. Working from a purely stylistic basis the following ensure GO gets hit as soon as it appears [for those not used to BE, one has to wait 30 seconds on each blog before moving on, in order to gain referrals to one's own blog)]:
- Anything flashing. Graphics which scream "Me, Me, Me" [usually from link site such as BE] are associated [in my mind at least] with the very worst of banner ads and pop-ups, hence I try to block the out, and anything near them is tainted by proxy.
- Pop-ups [occasionally they out fox Firefox].
- Too much advertising. Especially when it isn't positioned as it should be.
- Needlessly large graphics. We may all have broadband now [can you imagine BE from an old modem?], but that still isn't a reason to have many large pictures of random things. Especially when they can't cope with Firefox and the wrong resolution monitor. [And now I'm worrying about this being a pot and kettle situation, not having tested this site recently].
- Layouts which prevent the recent post from showing above the fold/bottom of the screen.
- Intentionally unconventional layout. The reason that top and left dominant pages occur is because that is what we are used to. I know vernacular is boring, but it the reason it is so damn common is that it works. Change it, and most people react with confusion. Which means the site loses mental points for humiliating them.
- Tag boards or open comments. Surely the point of having a personal blog is to enable people to read the author's work? So when the first legible item is a nonsensical string showing the tail end of a conversation between two unknowns, well, it just distracts from the impact of the page.
- Colour schemes and fonts which just aren't easy on the eye. One blog I found has yellow on white as the primary colour scheme. There was supposed to be a background image, which presumably provided a better contrast, but that redexed on me [ok, not not a real red-ex as I'm not using IE, but you get the point].

Looking at many blogs in BE, how come so few authors were paying attention in the module on effective communication? (What do mean they didn't all go to the same university, nor do the same course as I did?). Ok, so maybe I break the rules on narrative length, and paragraph size, and sentence length and convolutedness, and effective application of grammatical rules, but other than that I'm ok, right?

Admittedly I tend to think of my blog as looking like the "create a post" page on Blogger, and often forget that it isn't quite that same.

Anyway, this is all a round-about way of saying that of the BE sites I've blogmarked, they all appear to follow the model of someone from country A writing about being in country B. And two of them could are in the sidebar at GfB, which means I needn't have bothered going through the diverse array that BE provides.

Wow, an entire post about Blog Explosion and not one mention of kittens, or knitting, or Jesus, or Texas.



Sunday, November 28, 2004

I've just realised that it's the first Sunday in Advent. Drat, as this means I can't bah-humbug "It's not Christmas yet" at people who insist on being too jovial. As you can tell, I'm one of those people who betinsels and then flambés two bent coat-hangers [a la Blue Peter] at the merest suggestion of too much food. Maybe.

Or perhaps there is nothing like standing in a freezing Homebase, pondering the bewildering array of polyfiller, whilst being subjected to muzaked versions of Christmas carols, themselves being drowned out by a television playing a looped tape of the new JML whatever, to instil a bit of festive cheer. And why are the products in the JML ads always "the new JML..."? Are their products so bad that they can only sell ones that lack the taint of past failure? But at least the television ads bring a touch of unpolished rationality to the broadcasts.

Whilst other regions have news programs leading with stories about cows falling down cliffs, or even their own television channels [that Oxford one is particularly, um, different], we due to some quirk of geography (a big hill to the south) have the joys of BBC London [currently plugging St Dunstans], versus the smug couchedness of Police, Camera, Action-man and generic blonde woman. Both of which piggy-back on the national newsrooms, and so end up being like The Day Today. Which means we hear of anything happening in the West End in full, spinning-graphics Technicolor, and not much beyond that.

If Inspector Sands has thinks Charlton has it bad, he should try living in a place which occasionally is refered to as "the sticks", and that's only on the occasions when it peeks out from behind Peter "The Pantomime Dame" Cockroft's arse (The make-up people at BBC London never get it right on him).

Ok, so perhaps Tweeton isn't all that news worthy, the most recent event which got onto television news being the funeral of someone vaguely famous, but as that was when the children of the middle school weren't allowed outside at lunchtime, lest it should disturb proceedings, and as I was one of the children, it's been a while.

Perhaps the competition aren't much better either though, as I seem to remember South Today always used to object if it had to go anywhere where it couldn't still see the chimneys at Fawley. And Spotlight would only begrudgingly cross the Tamar, and it most certainly wouldn't cross Dartmoor, so while I was at university it was an endless loop of stabbings in Plymouth, problems at Derriford Hospital [Plymouth], and cow related incidents [outskirts of Plymouth, usually].

Although speaking of the lack of news in Tweeton, there is the ongoing saga complete non-event [as the council sees it] of the developers who happen to sponsor the railway station (whonawhatnow?), arranging that the council break their own regulations and guidelines in granting permission for another floor to be added to to a block of flat they are building, in order that the council is able to receive money for providing affordable housing. It's all hideously complicated, I suspect half the council don't understand it, and there already were apparent improprieties before the application for the extra floor.

Why do they need the extra floor? The developers claim that the cost of decontaminating the site was so much more than they had expected that they will need the income from pre-selling the extra floor to avoid bankruptcy, and so leaving the building unfinished, and the borough council unable to claim the money and brownie points they get for providing affordable housing. There are those who wonder just how easy it is to arrange a a display of imminent bankruptcy, and suggest this could be the darkest form of post.

[Apropos of nothing: do blackmailers write in tip-ex?].

Needless to say, the extra floor was approved. The town council has now referred the borough council's dealings to the Audit Commission. It's not the like building actually fitted in well with the council's grand scheme of things anyway, being of a modern design best illustrated by Woking or Reading, and in a brick that matches nothing in the area except some other new homes up the road [and those were approved because that set of developers convinced the council that the yellow brick matched the local building stone. It doesn't remotely]. Ok, so the building on the site before hand was in yellow brick, but that was a council compound built in the 1950s, back when this part of town was the industrial bit few knew about, and not many cared about. Whereas now, thanks to a couple of convenient fires, and the car parks of the superstores built on the sites, this place is highly visible.

It was worrying when coming out of the aforementioned Homebase [bang opposite the flats], I ended up looking at the architecture of the flats, and then scanning up to the next noticeable building on the block [the buildings in between being a dwarfed nursery (the child kind), a useful cheap garage, and a couple of buildings that stood empty for years, before being squatted in by a very good nursery (the plant kind), whereupon the council got cross, evicted the squatters who had vastly improved the area, knocked down the buildings and promptly turned the site into a car-park - for council employees.

So the next building which makes an impact is a 1960's police station, in full modernist mode, and decked out in layered white concrete, with dark brown bricks, which manages to turn the entire thing into a greyer version of an unappealing Black Forest gateaux. I then realised I actually quite like the police station, with its spiralling steps, and bizarre platforms on sillily long stilts. It is an ugly building in completely the wrong context [being penned in by recent faux-vernacular offices and flats, an old stone wall holding back the trees fringing somewhere that sells farming paraphernalia, a red brick 1950's single storey industrial building and walled courtyard, and an odd selection of equipment which controls the town's gas supply]. The place is apparently now redundant and impotent [there are still police inside, as indicated by the smoke coming round the stratified brown stained windows, but they just don't answer the door]. Considering all this, it doesn't say much for the new block of flats.

But then I'm odd, and wonder if one could adapt David Sucher's magic troika to include the proviso that no building should be more than one storey higher than its neighbour. But this might lead to two buildings eloping as it were, and bounding up two storeys at a time, each time overtaking the neighbour. So how could one stop that? By amending the last word to be neighbours? Possibly, although that might create chevrons where someone won't budge. Maybe it could be based on the average for the street, the block or the frontage. Perhaps one person might pay for his neighbour to raise the facade on his building.

But this all blocks the emergence of skyscrapers, and of towers and spires. Perhaps there ought to be exemptions. What would Oxford be like if it was the city of dreaming four storeys buildings and nothing higher? There ought to be simple ways of creating built landscapes that feel right. It seems like the more uniformly designed somewhere is, the less it feels right (I am aware that "feels right" is about as vague and subjective as descriptions come, but I haven't got the time to arrange something more suitable). Having said that, the places I'm thinking of tend to be the functionalist visions of anywhere from the 1940s onwards. Places which were designed to be thoroughly utilitarian, and thus devoid of architectural details [and often integrity]. Such places which were usually designed to exactly match a vision of the needs of users, only the vision was never quite good enough, and needs change.

So one has paths taking one to a place that no-one wants to go to. The route to place one does want to go to has been closed since the IRA started. People are spread out in barricaded towers, and sprawling single-storey barrios, both in the same unbending concrete, and with doors, windows and cladding that have long since begun to degrade and obsolesce. Too often the designers knew what the users want, and so the users must now do that, regardless of whether it is what they now want. One spends one's time battling the assumptions of the designers.

Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood. Based on a recent[ish] visit, here's question for anyone who would care to answer it. Actually make that two questions.

[Using this Map]
What is the best way of getting from the sports hall to the health centre?
And what is the best way of getting [on foot] to the cathedral from the exit of car park 2?
By the way, there are at least two other footpaths leaving the campus to the south which are not shown on the university map. There are bridges between buildings AC and BC, and BB to AA [I think]. The site slopes down towards the north. Anything which isn't marked as a road has steps in.

Perhaps the reason I dislike such uniformly modern places, all part of the same coherent plan, is that although piecemeal building is very limiting, it does limit to size and permanence of mistakes. Who would admit they got a town wrong? Who might happen to knock down and rebuild an extension that wasn't what they wanted? I think there is far too much power bestowed on impressions and reputations.

All of which is a long way from where I meant to go today, not that I can remember what that is by now.

Oh, by the way, how common would you say the phrase "a feather in my cap" is? Reading a rubbishy book [Soho, Keith Waterhouse] and it suddenly hit me. It didn't help that I think he uses "a real feather in my cap". I ought to explain at this point that I am also reading Catch-22 at the moment, in which one of the characters [Cathcart?] looks at everything in terms of them being "a real feather in my cap" and "a real black eye". Hence collapsing into giggles at an undeserving book.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

120 Fleet Street artworkApologies for the lapsed blogging of late, but it's due to working somewhere new, and so not having the time. Judging by when I'm at home, I ought to be commuting to London, and yet work is only few miles away. Having said that I still manage to worry about being late, and then getting stuck in a traffic jam, which appeared somewhere where I've never seen a traffic jam before. Getting to the Park and Ride, and the car park is fairly empty, and the bus which normally is packed was equally as empty.

Heading into Notacity, and the traffic is still odd, and seizes completely just as the bus got to stop where I get off. Walking in and the entire place is solid. I knew something must be wrong when I overtook a second bus with the same number as one I'd already past. Get into work, and I'm one of the few people there. Which is odd, considering quite a few people there live in Notacity, which isn't all that big, and I thought some of the others come in by train.

I found out when I got back here that the bypass round Notacity had been closed, after someone drove the wrong way up a sliproad and into the oncoming traffic. And I thought I had problems navigating, albeit round the pedestrianised parts near work. I am getting better at not getting lost, and can officially confirm that it is impossible to walk diagonally across this estate without either having to go back on oneself, or go up stairs when one is going down.

Moving on to other stuff, one of the problems with commuter hours, is that I arrive home mid-Channel 4 news, which basically means I see nothing of the main news stories. I know there is the internet, or newspapers, but they require being sought out, and full attention, rather than osmotic impact whilst I'm doing something else. All of which is a vague way of saying: does anyone know what's going in Ukraine [and why does it feel as if that should be "the Ukraine"?].

One quick plug. The thing I had to pick up at 4 on Saturday were photographs I'd just had developed. Hence the new batch on Flickr. They are mostly from sailing over the summer, with a couple from London Open House in September. Sorry for the poor quality [according to the guy on photographic shop "horrendously grainy"], but the film apparently was quite old - either that or I'm radioactive and don't know it.

The Open house pics are of the Church-cum-park near the Custom House, and of the interior of the art-deco Daily Express building at 120 Fleet Street [V&A entry]. Whilst trying to research the place before we went all I could was one image of one half of the main mural, by Eric Aumonier. However, now that I've tried to get images of the sculptures, even if a bit unfocused in parts, and without enough resolution, I now find that other people used the same opportunity to do much better. Comme ca.

You how I mentioned that Guardian is on a mission to educate? No? Well, try reading the archives. Words liberated from the first few pages of yesterday's G2: palimpsest, jeremiad, and lapidary. Roughly meaning: overwritten, woeful or doom-mongering, and carved in stone or finely honed, respectively.

Anyway, I think that fulfils the couple of worthwhiles quota for today [and Neil, just be glad I didn't use "quite" or "vaguely"].


Sunday, November 21, 2004

The IncrediblesI rang the friend. Would I like to go to cinema? Would I like to go to see the new Bridget Jones film, with her, one of her younger sisters, and her sister's friends?

Now that's mean, letting me answer yes to the first question, and then sneaking in the second. But hey, at least going out on a Saturday night is slightly more credible than staying in and watching Moulin Rouge, simply because it is the only thing on television.

The only problem is that last weekend I did that, near enough, although it was a different film which I sat and watched on my own whilst nursing hot chocolate. And what was that film? Bridget Jones's Diary, the first time round. What's the point of even attempting credibility with that on my record?

But fortunately the organisational skills of eighteen-year-old girls saved me. In that we only just got to the cinema in time for the 6:30 showing. But the friends hadn't. And then we notice that the film is on every hour. Drat.

But there might be a way out yet, as the friends are wending their ways by all manner of public transport, which round here means at least one will be very late. And of course the modern marvel of mobile technology is doing a great amount to improve the situation, as it allows each friend to and provisos and continuously monitor the status of this grouping and of others. So we end up with people giving demands like "If the film will finish before 9, then I'll come, but only if X isn't there, although if Y is coming then we could do A or B, and then... So if you're buying tickets, then get enough, but I might not come".

Some people just a slap [metaphorically and comedically, lest the newbies get the wrong idea]. In my day it was much easier. Did I just use "in my day"? Golly! Anyway, reverting, it was much easier as either you were there, or you weren't, and only those who are there can come. Admittedly it did mean lots of people missed lots of things, through not being told about the emerging event in the first place, but...maybe it wasn't so great way back when.

So we decide to go into the next screening. And the we notice the A4 sheet behind the head of the guy on the desk, and which is frequently obscured by the queue. Ah, it's sold out, and as the sheet also mentions the 10:15 am showing of another film was sold out, I'm guessing it had been since the day before. Oh well. Back outside to consult the poster displaying the times of various films. I don't know why the Odeon stick the nearest copy of the most informative article in the place outside. But in sleet, it's not really the best way to improve customer satisfaction. Hang on, it's the Odeon, they don't care about such silly things, as they know they've got a monopoly.

Through subtle manipulation, and a freak occurrence of people who have seen the rest of the films on offer, we settle on The Incredibles. Dispatching the sister to buy tickets, complete with the obligatory "How much?" from me. It's now £6.90 for me. I need to become a student again, and even then it's over £5. Which is silly considering in few years that's what it'll cost on DVD.

The friend and I set off to buy over-priced food. Well she does, and I end up carrying. She seems bemused by my inability to get served popcorn. For once it wasn't just them overlooking me, as the guy serving gave a girl a small portion, which the manager then said they couldn't serve. Apparently the smallest of the tubs are only for chips. The mother didn't believe this. Big row. Eventually the mother buys the smallest proper size portion they do, even though by this stage the child is admitting she doesn't really want popcorn. And then it's my turn, and the guy has been dismissed to move boxes. The woman then very nearly tries decanting the popcorn in a chip box into a larger box for me. She must be psychic, as she then decides not to.

One advantage of accompanying a friend, her sister and hangers on, is that the friend then pays for everything. Ok, so if I'd known she was going to do this, then I wouldn't have been so puritanical about bring a bottle of water and some Polos with me. Did I just give away that I come from a long line of misers?

The sister gets back with the tickets. Only they are not together. There are two pairs and one single. So 5 tickets, one big tub of popcorn. Er? The friend and I both have the same cunning plan, and liberate some of the cups for drinks. Decanting begins, and we come to realise just how little there really is in a large. Coincidentally either 18 year old girls are remarkably selfish, or they are hopeless of at evenly dividing anything. Judging by the breast flashes flung in my direction, I think it may have been the former. It's just a shame I'm immune to industrial strength flirting, and that she seemed to have forgotten that thrusting cleavage isn't all that effective when buried under many bulky layers.

Leaving the sister and co outside to await the last member of the coven, the friend and I went. Which is when we noticed that "diagonally next to each other" has a slightly different meaning for some people. The tickets said the same number, only one was row D and one G. Oh well.

So I watched the film sitting next to the father of a family filling the row. Incidentally the children cheered slightly too much whenever anyone died.

As for the film itself, well first there were the adverts. A huge cavalcade of things I haven't heard of. And then they mention a film of the Magic Roundabout, with a ridiculously implausible cast.

Next came the traditional Pixar short, this time called Boundin' and a lot more cheerful than the one with the snowdome. It reminded me curiously of that Honda advert [hate something, change something. Flash version: click see the film], so I wonder what they both draw from. BTW, anyone else also like the Citroen C4 ad? Which is odd, as I never liked Transformers. Although I do expect the car to start shooting and not dancing.

Then the film. Silly, fun, good, but not great. I have a hunch the makers might just have seen a Bond film or two, and the occasional episode of the Thunderbirds.

Post film and after brief journey in a car that was not the amazing steam engine car, but just seemed like it, and we arrive in Tweeton. The friend and her sister [and I apparently] are going the "Cheap and soulless"(TM) Whetherspoons, to meet their brother, who's celebrating some from of anniversary with his girlfriend. Quite why anyone should wish to have siblings and hangers-on appear when they are alone with their girlfriend on their anniversary, er, ay well, it's that family.

Of course once the friend and her brother are seated at the same table, and he had been drinking before we arrived, the inevitable unpredictably happened. The play-fighting began, except this family use rhetoric as slaps. I think the brother might have triggered by mentioning the centrality of female genitalia to Alien, and the Oedipus complex to something I didn't hear.

Being that family, both siblings always have to have the last word. So if you happened to be someone on the neighbouring table, wondering why two people [and occasionally me] were arguing about whether the world would be better without humans, then I can only apologise for confusing the hell out you.

It was quite though. Friend and brother batting each other [the sister winning as the brother was stuck in highly subjective terms], the younger sister occasionally complaining she is bored, and the girlfriend trying to be included. The girlfriend might have come of better if she'd kept quiet, or following the younger sister's course, as she kept trying to join in, worried it was a real argument, and making arguments herself which just weren't on the same level. Judging by the siblings' reactions, I think they knew this.

And then back out into the bitter night, but deciding to chance walking home over being given a lift, as the younger sister would be doing the driving. The elder sister's driving has a reputation. So a less experienced version with only a provisional license, and the elder sister to guide her? It's not that cold...


Saturday, November 20, 2004

B of the BangWell that was fun.

I think I'm beginning to prefer Blogger's Next Blog button over Blogexplosion. As at least when I hit a chain of foreign language blogs, I can't understand enough to notice how many times the words "fluffy" and "cute" are used. Although possibly the incessant pink and furball pictures might suggest a certain frequency.

As for the ardently right-wing American blogs, well, some people might take the comments about nuking all the mofos [but being God-fearing Americans, they spell out the words with asterisks over the vowels. God obviously has never been very good at crosswords] to include them, which I guessing they wouldn't be too keen on. Unless they are one of the group who think the Rapture [no, not the Scandirock band] is fun for all the family.

As for people who discuss Christmas shopping in November, now they ought to be nuked (this can be taken as an indication that I haven't started, but I'm one of those odd people for whom Christmas is bounded by Advent and Twelfth Night, and even then it usually only kicks into existence on about the 23rd).

It does not help the woman compounds her heinous crime by using the phrase "Lego's rock" and "Thomas the train". Argh! Lego is Lego. It's like fish, sheep and other such nouns, in that it can be both singular and plural. Although what the hell is a single Lego anyway? A brick, a set, what? There's no need for the "s" and I'm not quite sure what the apostrophe is doing there [I know it's because Legos would seemed odd, but there are other ways round that, should one choose to go round it].

"Thomas the Train"? Heathen. Read the books (you did know there were books, didn't you?). He's Thomas the Tank Engine, with Annie and Clarabel as the carriages. Next you'll be telling me about Thomas and the Magic Railroad. A. It's a railway. B. Magic? Why?

Look, the television series with Ringo Starr is just about on the bounds of acceptability, but "Choo-Choo, Peek-A-boo"? Sodor off.

In the category of "I don't get it". Do you? As far as I'm concerned Johnnie Walker is whisky.

[Much swearing]. Firefox just went crump. Starting it back up, and I've got a box asking me to pick the profile I want to use. There's only the default one, which is the one I was using. I can't use it, as it is in use. Damn, I thought they'd fixed this. I remember when I first got this fault when I originally got Firefox [on a different computer]. However I can't remember how I fixed it that time. Firefox's help is no use, as it doesn't even mention profiles. The online help tells me to open the Profile Manager from the Start menu. I remember this, as the Profile Manager shortcut has never existed in any installation of Firefox which I've known. I can't even find the manager file in program files. But fortunately this time round I deselected the "don't ask on start-up" option, which appears on the initial start up.

I remember there was something about swapping nonsensically named files, but I can't remember which they were. I also have a hunch that that only caused yet more problems. Why didn't I write down what I did?

So what do I do? I can get a functioning browser [having tweaked the settings in the new profile], but all the adaptions I've made are gone, including all the Bookmarks. And will I be able to find them all again? Um, well let's put it like this: who in the days of speed dial [and voice activated dialling] remembers the phone numbers of everyone contact in their phone? I get as far as knowing if it is an 01, 02, or 07 number.

All of which means that this is what is technically known as an arse.

I can't even use my normal cop-out option when something goes wrong and I can't fix it, because that option is to go for a walk, and of course we're currently enjoying that most glorious of weathers: sleet.

I doesn't help I know I've got to pick up something from town at 4, by which time I will have sorted out my washing [or some of it], and I've also just discovered that a friend has left a message on the answer-phone saying "ring me on [local number]". Which means she'll expect me to appear at some point, hang round waiting for god knows what, ferry her and her family about, and there goes the weekend. The weekend in which I was planning on sorting out stuff for next week, as I'm getting shunted off to work somewhere else [with no parking]. But hey, at least her "It's me, ring me" message has a phone number this time, and the phone number suggests she'll be around. Still, I have no idea when she left the message. Still sorting out other stuff, so haven't actually rung back yet.

So I've got to figure out how to get there. Car park A costs X per day, plus walk, but gets full by about 8 am; Car park B costs 1/2 X, bigger, unlikely to fill, but bus [included in price] and longer walk; Bus 1 costs unknown, short walk to, long walk from, not frequent; Bus 1 plus 2, costs more than Bus 1, no idea on frequency or timing; Bus 3, short walk to, shortish walk from, no idea on cost, but there's only one before work, it takes 50 minutes to cover a 20 minute journey, and cuts it a bit fine when it arrives. The buses are cheaper if I buy a season ticket. The season ticket can only be bought from the bus station. The bus station is in the town I'm working in, but not near where I work, and not on the way there. Bus information services are always wrong, and that is when they are not telling you to travel via Birmingham [it cannot find the bus station, but it can find a road with the same name, in Birmingham. I checked the listings for the town, and there is no bus station]. Train, 2 or 3 an hour, it's autumn so the timing is always dire, probably more than bus, long walk to, long walk from.

I think I'm going for the drive, bus, walk option, as it's the cheapest [ignoring the cost of the car, as I already have it, and it needs using]. Also it's the one that gets me closest by my own means, but which doesn't mean I might end up driving round the town trying to find a parking space.

I'm still dreading trying to find my way through the pedestrianised bit round the office. It's on a hill, and everything is built in the same concrete and brick. I tried exploring round there, and it's all right angled paths, masses of steps, and alleys through buildings. Some of the alleys are the main thoroughfares, and some turn out to be fire-escapes and dead ends. It is a stunningly awful combination of the worst of sixties architecture and experimental design in urban planning. It is one of those places that to get to B from A, when standing in front of A and facing B, the proper route is to turn round, walk round the back of C, turn right, enter D, go up the fire stairs, turn left, then right, go into the second corridor, turn right, cross the pedestrian bridge, go up half a flight of stairs, along the corridor, and descend through building E, walk back out into the rain round 3 sides of F, and enter B. I ended up walking round the service road, as it was the only distinguishing feature. I think part of what annoys me about that place is the way all the paths hug the rectangular buildings (the terrain makes off-roading difficult), so everything is an erratic series of straight lines and 90o turns, but without the connected and intuitive benefits that a grid pattern gives. And I don't like grid patterns [Having had a slight issue in one town where the signs at each junction were all on the same pole, only some were perpendicular to the street they referred to, and some weren't. So I could never know if it was pointing down Wherever Street, or if Wherever Street was the road that ran underneath the sign].

But I had better stop worrying about what hasn't happened yet.

Moving onto stuff that might reaffirm my faith in mankind. Ok, my potential faith in mankind.

On the Culture Show [erratic trundle through anything they feel like. It doesn't help the linking presenter leans towards his autocue, and never quite manages to give the impression that it he isn't reading] of Thursday they had a section on a man who designed a bridge [and a big spiky thing up north]. That man is Thomas Heatherwick, he of the "b of the Bang". The bridge is in Paddington basin. I had heard something about it before, but I hadn't been paying attention, so I don't know what was said other than where it was. I think I should have been playing attention. That's one very funky bridge.

The designer gave the usual spiel about the ugliness of the normal version of whatever [in this case talking about footballers with broken legs], but if one ignores the blurb it was pretty stunning, and really good idea. When the bridge is in the lowered position, it looks fairly nondescript, and a bit like a Bailey bridge. However, at the press of a button, hydraulic cylinders placed like pilasters start to elongate. The bridge is segmented, with the cylinders anchored on the hinges in the floor panels. The hand rail hinges at the other end of the cylinder, but it also is pivoted over the middle of the floor panel. So when the cylinders extend, the handrail concertinas and as it does so, curls the bridge up around it. The end result is an octagon of rolled up bridge, like a wood louse [although the wood louse would be flat on its back when the bridge is down].

It's a stunning idea, and wonderful piece of engineering. My only worry is that it might be too clever for its own good, and might have too many pieces to go wrong. I'm also surprised that it is only over a small dock which appears to have lost all function, except as a space between office buildings. But on the whole, from what I've seen, I think it's brilliant. It was almost worth having Mariella Frostup presenting to see it.

And this is the point where I realise that because Firefox crashing, I've now lost the bookmark for the only interesting blog I found via Blog Explosion.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Thunderbird 4Well done that man.

[Or possibly: well done that Susan].

Neil at GfB posts a collection of links with a couple of worthwhiles. One describes a method for improving poor quality vodka, by using a Brita water filter. I have a couple of minor quibbles: A. Brita water filters are expensive, even the replacement filter sections, thus negating the apparent cost benefits of the process. B. Surely ground charcoal on a bed of cotton wool would work just as well (the cotton wall is there purely to restrain the particles of charcoal). This is because basically Brita filters use adsorption substrates to bind impurities. Charcoal being virtually just carbon does this well, especially when ground down to provide a large surface area. And I think one can re-activate charcoal used for filtering out organic chemicals by heating it. The only difficulty being grinding down the charcoal in the first place. Anyway, it's a idea that probably should have occurred to me (ok, so actually drinking enough vodka that I think about the taste and how to get rid of it might have been a good start).

Another is a blog, which links to [amongst many other things] these cards from the Earth Sciences part of Keele. One carries details of local geographic risks in the UK (the nearest to me appears to be contaminated land. Woohoo!), along with the Beaufort, Torino and European Macroseismic Scales [descriptive scales of wind strength, Earth impact events and earthquakes respectively]. The other is a rough geological map, along with a key to the common fossils in each age of rock.

Mr Armstrong also mentions that he has been playing with Blogexplosion. Working on the premise of "anything you can do ... I might be able to do", I thought I would to. It's nearly as much fun as clicking on Blogger's Next Blog link, although with less chance of hitting Tagalog. It does seem to be worryingly like a pyramid scheme (even the confirmation email was automatically classified as junk), although it appears to cost nothing, so I'll give it a try, linkwhore that I am.

But as the rest of the "click me, click me" traffic generators [sorry, peer-to-peer blogging communities] on the left don't seem to do much (although to be fair, I don't use them much, so by extrapolation...) I don't suppose it matters. The only two that consistently turn up in the referrals are Globe of Blogs, and Britblog, but the latter uses different referrer addresses, so it's harder to keep a tally on.

And so onwards.

What is it about Accenture which means they feel they need to invite me to the their recruitment events [in a Park Lane hotel, near "Green Lane tube". Wo ist das?]? As the accompanying blurb makes it clear I'm not what they want [damn erratic academic record], why do they bother sending me emails? And how did they get my email address? Actually, how did they get 3 separate email address all of which come through to me?

But at least it makes a change from the surprisingly novel spam, which has now started appearing in German. However while paying slightly more attention to said German spam than I should have done, I discovered that "Hi!", when in German, apparently means "Rear one!" [according to Babelfish].

Following the Hi! link, I've just got an email from my brother, in which he forwards an email of one of his friends bemoaning the problems of his social-cum-love life. The friend has apparently hit a hitch. He's currently texting and emailing two girls. Both have just sent emails entitled "Hi!". Both have the same name. Unsurprisingly the friend suspects it will end in tears [and the rest of us laughing].

I don't know what it is with that group of people, but each male seems to invariably only go out with girls with the same Christian names. Three of them each have one name and so every Jo ends up with X, every Helen with Y, and every Hannah with Z. Which leads to each girl having descriptive tags applied to them, which very often are based on the most obvious feature, and so aren't necessarily the kindest nor most flattering descriptions.

And while I'm mentioning brotherly emails, here is the latest forward. It's a Belgian site, which apparently is written in Dutch [Flemish presumably], but I can't figure where the images come from. The scenery looks like Scotland, the writing on the vehicles is in English, the names are English, but the number plates don't look quite the right format [and the rear plates appear to be white] and someone else looking at the pictures says the people look Cornish [er...how?]. So I don't know...unless it's somewhere in Ireland. Which would make sense. A quick Google has a firm called Michael Long in Galway, and Redmond Bros appear to be builders in and around County Wicklow. Which is on the other side of the country. Oh well.

Anyway, it's nearly as good as that tug vs bridge series.

Oooh, I'd forgotten there was an extra track on the Starsailor album. Er, ok, so it isn't actually an extra song, just some ums and a bit of laughter. Which makes waiting until 13:35 on the last track so worth it. Oh well.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

RustSnow lies in Helsinki.
[/Graham Greene park bench in Vienna espionage voice].

No really, it does. See here. Guess who was playing round on Flickr. Guess who ought to be doing something else.

Other worthwhiles:
A woman with a fetish for circles [even if she doesn't always know what they are. Packaging? It's a vegetable steamer, or at least pretending to be]. It turns out she's not the only one. I of course have taken far too long to figure out why the circles are squared.
Someone who I suspect tweaks the saturation levels in his images. Not that that is bad, it's just I wondered how he got pictures like that, and then realised reality might have had some help. The first I saw is almost like a Hopper.
A physicist who likes playing with light.
In part it's the photography and manipulation, and in part it's the subject itself.
And if you thought the others played with their photography, try this one.

I need to get better at photography. I would also like to point out that a heck of a lot of my images on Flickr were taken with a really cheap point-and-click camera. And of course the most recently uploaded set are the worst. I think I assumed that because there was something interesting in the picture that the picture would be. Giraffes in the far-distance do not have quite enough impact for that to be true.

But as I am currently rejigging the sets to reflect the good, the bad, and "what was I thinking?", I'm...where was I going with this sentence? Anyway, I think there are some good images in there, but now I'm feeling guilty about the dross. Although the rejiggeriness might have to wait as Flickr appears to be having problems (well it's liable to be my computer, but it's best not to tempt fate).

Moving on to the invariably amusing or mildly interesting search engine hits. I'll carefully gloss over the numerous people searching for something like "violin insect pawn", as I'd prefer not to know, although quite a few of these search originate from computers in Kentucky.

To whoever was searching for Panhagglety, Google helpfully links to a page where I mention the word in passing, and not to the page with the Panhagglety recipe.

To the many seeking: venice francesco da mosto soundtrack. Um, the Amazon page for the book is only plugging books on Venice, which suggests there isn't one to buy [yet]. Watch the BBC's site, as no doubt they'll mention if there is to be a soundtrack or DVD, or series of brightly coloured washable toys [36 months and up], or American version, or radio version, or spin-off, or lucrative internet tie-in, or magazine, or holiday package. Well, I suppose they have to have some way of funding the internet streaming broadcasts of Question Time. And now I find there is no BBC site for Venice the series. Oh well.

And what is it about this blog that attracts searchs such as "accidental nudity" [how?] and "cottaging derivation"? By the way, does anyone know where that version of the word came from? I'm taking it to mean engaging in [probably homo]sexual acts [predominantly oral sex] within a public toilet [or a public space]. As you can tell I'm not exactly au fait with it (but as my most informative source on it has been the excellent Monkey Dust... Look, it took me years to realise why the southbound lay-by on the sliproad onto the A3 from the M25 was always so busy. Yes, that many single men can have realised they wanted the junction after junction 10, and there's more light to read maps by in the woods).

Although, where does the term cottaging come from? My hefty Collins is no help sticking with the orthodox view that a cottager is someone who inhabits a cottage. Checking some of the other results [most of which are SEOd junk], and I find one informative page, which clarifies the definition, but still does not help explain what the term is derived from. It also explains about using armpits in achieving male orgasm (sorry for the prudish tone, but would that be sex or masturbation? Presumably it needs more than one person, unless very supple, so it's not the latter; but sex implies penetration rather than envelopment. Or is that just me being too Clintonian? What do you expect from someone who had to have some of the questions in a purity test explained to him?).

Other sources - I am rather surprised to find one of the results is a gov.uk site. Is there something we should know? Ah, it is the rather unfortunate term "tele-cottaging". Which sounds like they've stuck CCTV in the bogs. Presumably the speaker was thinking of something along the lines of weekenders.

All of which doesn't actually answer the question: what is ther derivation of the verb "cottage"? As it seems the original use is related to blowjobs in public lavatories, what is the connection to a small rural house? The only thing I can think of, is that somewhere there are some loos in a building that looks like a cottage. Which given the Victorian penchant for tweeing things up a bit, and so sticking thatched half-timbered huts in assorted squares and parks, I think might be the reason. I'm now trying to remember if there is a building in the middle of Soho Square, and whether or not it has such a public convenience. I think there is some mock-tudor thing, but I've no idea of the use, and I'm not too sure I've got the right square. There's certainly a cottagey building in the place with the bowling green, but I'm fairly sure that's not Soho.

Anyone care to correct me? Incidentally, apparently Americans have Tea Rooms not cottages, hence the dearth of sites mentioning cottaging. Is anyone else suddenly having odd thoughts about the National Trust? Bagsy not the chocolate fudge cake.

And while we're at it: piping hot. Why "piping"? The dictionary doesn't say anything about it, other than noting it is "extremely hot". Most of the entries for piping are about pipes or thin things. One entry mentions piping as a shrill noise, such as whistling. We know that when things are heated, they usually contain hot air or steam, which often whistles or hisses out. So does "piping hot" mean an object which is hot enough to have air or steam noisily escaping?

Or maybe it means the object has jets of steam visibly escaping, as a pressurised visible fluid would do from the end of a pipe?

The two sources that appear via Google both suggest it is food noisy with heat.

And having completely forgotten what it was that I was going to write about, I'll give up.


Monday, November 15, 2004


I was very nearly running with breaking news there [scroll down past the smoking stuff]. Except for the whole "knowing about the story" thing [1, search for Pifflegate]. But I did get the right person. And now that odd message on bj.com about being snowed under makes more sense [the title of the preceding post: Special relationship or one-way street? They knew, right?].

[1] But if it doesn't stop tabloids, why should it stop me?

Confused? Good. By the way, is this just me, or does the notion of Boris Johnson being married seem surprising? Just me then? Oh well.

Casting aside the latest tale in the Land of Hump-a-Tory [like Balamory, only more patriotic]. Onto other stuff.

In the bleak not-yet-even-winter.
Frost is evil. Because I had to bring my banana plant indoors. It has grown a bit since last time. It doesn't fit on the window sill. Well, it does, but it overhangs it a bit too much for comfort (but we're not in an earthquake zone, so it should be fine), and even then some of the leaves are bent against the glass. I'll have to move it, as it takes up most of the window, and these are nineteen sixties, pre-fuel crisis, look-what-we-can-do-with-plate-glass windows. And as they're so big [and single glazed], drawing the curtains matters when it gets really cold, and at the moment, there isn't the option.

Which means I have to find somewhere else for it. The best bet seems to be beneath the window, but that means it will need clearing. I did try, for a bit, after which defragging seemed a more attractive activity, and during which I discovered that something has leaked down there. Something powdery, yet sticky and slightly greasy. So I'm doing what any sensible person would do, and ignoring it until I have to sort it out.

In other plant news. Avocados survive frost. Well, one avocado plant did, though it wasn't much of a frost. I'd forgotten it was out there. Coincidentally, it also survived being left on its side for god know how many months, see the above about forgetting about it.

And why do some of my stick it in soil and see experiments work, and some not? Pineapples are reputedly easy. Not near me, they go brown, or mouldy, then brown. I've even tried the proper way: removing leaves until I find roots growing between the leaves (can't remember the correct term, like precocious, but not. Any ideas?).

Carrots, parsnips: even easier [by the "stick the cut off tops in water or soil, or kitchen towel or..." method]. Or even mouldier in my case. And with parsnips, that's never a good smell. If your wondering why I haven't tried the traditional way with seeds, well I have for carrots, and it was pretty unimpressive. Dismal sprouting, horrendous growth [just about not dieing was the upper limit], minimal crop [Number: 3, plus an odd bit, and a third of one, but we couldn't find the rest of it. Length: the largest was 6 cm long, and that's being generous. Width: Some of the slugs leave trails wider than those carrots. Appearance: Erratic, not even comical. Taste: Like the very top of a large old carrot. They appeared to have not bothered with forming the normally sweeter central core].

Potatoes: 50/50 = crop of many potatoes/horrible smell and giving up.

Onions: It was very sprouting anyway, so I stuck it in a pot. It kept falling over. Then it grew roots, and the pot kept falling over. Which did interesting things to the flower head. Like make it look like the over-reinforced vapour trail of a shuttle. Flower: greenish white. Set seed, but then it got blown over, and the seed got scattered across the patio. Somehow I don't think the gaps in the patio are big enough to support full-grown onions. The patio has for some years had self-renewing wheat and barley, after a birdseed spill ages ago.

Ginger: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't [the smaller it is, the less there is to rot]. Never really get a crop, merely leaves.

Basil: supermarket stuff can live, it just has to look like it's died first. Tends to flower despite my best efforts, but the seed can be used.
Coriander: Spectacular flop, whatever I do.
Mint: It's mint, it survives weedkiller.

Er, where was I? In the middle of distracted way of saying bananas grow big, avocados don't grow so big [yet].

Other stuff.
Don't you just hate it when someone does the same thing you've already done [but does it better]? Ikea as an indicator of over-pricing. Me [scroll down]. He. Yes, I know I don't check his blog much.

Via the referrer log, darkplanet. Presumably one of the blogger toolbar referrals. It's a blog about photography, and links to assorted others. As I'm one of those people with a complex camera they don't quite understand, it's fairly interesting [and quite gratifying to notice flaws which infuriate me when I do them, and which probably do not matter all that much].

He links to various other sites. APUG seems worth exploring, as do some of the other photographic sites.

Um, that better be it for now,


Land of Hump a Tory,
Mother of the three
Chil'n is stoically
Braving the frenzy.
Wider still and wider
Shall the story get
Till next high and mighty
Is in Murdoch's net.
[Original version].

Friday, November 12, 2004

Old English SheepdogWhat on earth is going on?

Question Time last night had someone from the SNP. And she was sane. And the token Tory really wasn't [ah, doing a bit of fact checking. The sane woman was Labour. Near enough. Watch the streaming video here, the programme doesn't start till 5 minutes in, but you do get to find out the weather in Sevenoaks. I can't find a transcript though. Watching it back, can I say reasonably sane].

[Paraphrasing wildly] The topic was Scotland's recent ban on smoking in public places. The question asked if it was possible in Scotland, was it possible in England and Wales, if so, should it be done?
SNP woman: Yes
Someone else: Yes
Tory: Well, I grew in with a father who smoked, I know what passive smoking is like, I know the suffering it causes... Therefore it shouldn't be banned in public spaces.
Tory: Because if the fathers do not have anywhere else to smoke, they'll smoke at home, with their children, and think of the damage that will cause.
Question about rights of people not to have to endure passive smoking.
Tory: Everywhere has non-smoking areas. People have a choice to avoid it.
Comment about smoke not being able to read (and so doesn't stay out of the no-smoking area).
Tory: People have a choice not go into such places.

Now I remember why the Tories were never even remotely an option.

Right so let's assess that argument.
1. Parents smoke in front of their children.
2. This is bad.
3. Parents might choose to only smoke in public spaces, such as pubs.
4. Banning smoking in pubs would cause the smokers to smoke at home.
5. This would harm their children.
6. Those who don't wish to smoke can use non-smoking areas.
7. Those who do not find non-smoking areas suitable are free to not visit these areas.

1 is bad, as stated in 2. The children have the right not to endure smoke [unless the parents wish to be sued when the children group up and fall ill]. Parents as individuals have the right to do as they wish, provided it does not impinged on other people's rights to do the same. So if smoking can damage the health of children, then the parents who smoke are restricting the rights of the child. This suggests parents ought not smoke in a manner which might damage the health of the children. Legally this is a near unenforceable quagmire [do parents have a duty to not impinge on the rights of the child to eat a healthy balanced diet?], so protecting the rights of a child relies on society to encourage suitable action by the parents.
2: Not going to quibble on this one.
3: They might. They might not. They might go to work on an egg. They might not. They might try to build a functioning vehicle entirely out of eggs. They might not. Humans have this odd habit of not being precisely identical. Some parents even choose to take the children to the pub with them [landlords permitting].
4: As 3 is not a solid assumption, 4 is even shakier. It assumes that the number of smokers would remain constant. Evidence from areas where public smoking bans exist suggests that the proportion of smokers in society falls. If the parent smoked at the pub to avoid smoking in the home, and thus interfering in the health of the smoker's children, why would the smoker then decide that smoking in front of his or her children is acceptable?
5: Again I'm not going to argue with the suggestion that smoke can harm the health of children.
6: Non-smoking areas often are not, whether through poorly designed airflow, or the disregard for such controls. Non-smokers being exposed to smoky conditions impinges on their right to not be subjected to those conditions. If they choose not to smoke, they are then being forced to disregard their choice.
7: All people are free to not do things. However if somewhere claims to be open to the public, then all the public must be free to use it. In order for them to be free to use it, doing so must not impinge their rights, including the choice to not smoke. Everybody in a public space has the right to do as they choose, provided it does not impinge on the rights of others to do as they choose. If someone chooses to smoke, that complies with the first section, but it does comply with the second section, as those around them may not choose to smoke. Therefore, they should not do it. One way of achieving this is by instituting it in the law [the other ways are less secure].

However, what about the people who work in such places? Are they free to not smoke? One could argue that they free not to work. Except I'm not sure the DFSS would agree with that one. In today's culture one needs money. If someone needs the money, or feels the need it, why should they not be free to work?

The usual argument present as something along the lines of "well, they're free to work anywhere else" just doesn't seem convincing does it? I think we'll accept that one when every bar-worker in the country is given a wide range of alternative jobs, each of which is as least as good, or better, in the view of the bar-worker. And then only those bar-workers who choose bar-work over the other jobs would be allowed to remain. Of course to verify this choice, they should then sign some contract under which they relinquish their right to sue their employers for compensation over health problems arising from their work. Except, sooner or later, one of these bar-workers will argue that the alternative jobs presented to them did not match or exceed in all aspects their current job, and so the choice was not valid. Furthermore, they signed the declaration under duress, as they wanted the job, but could not work without it. And once the first employment tribunal finds in favour of the employee, the entire system collapses.

So we have a future where workers, and probably the locals, of a pub or bar are free to sue the pub or bar, which would mean the bars would face bankruptcy or extortionate insurance premiums. So the entire brewing industry is under pressure and lobbying parliament, and generally being huffy. So if MPs want a future in which they are continually harassed by anyone who has anything to do with a public space, then they should carry on permitting smoking in public places. I'm not even getting into the health costs, and the taxation issues that causes [does tax on tobacco cover the cost to the NHS of treating the smoking induced illnesses of that person, and of all the people that person exposes to smoke? Oh, and illnesses do dreadful things to employment statistics, which impacts the economy, so that is another layer of costs, although the economy gains something from the BATs of this world. But is it enough?].

Right, so, big problems in the future, as opposed to fewer problems now? [The problems now would be losing votes, people complaining about rights, and couple of tabloids mounting some campaign, and BAT stomping off in a huff (how are the Nigerian sales going?)].

As I should have said earlier, I think this Tory should henceforth be known as Muppet O'Hara.

I've just written an awful lot [of not very well argued stuff], considering how little of the programme I watched [I was tired, it was late, and I have I hunch screaming at fools on the television is not healthy].

Having just found the website, said fool was Francis Maude MP. As I said, Muppet O'Hara. Speaking of which, they also had the other Boris Johnson on. You know the one: boyish, oafish, large, mumbles a lot, edits that magazine. Brown hair this time. Peter Oborne, editor of the Spectator.

And is it just me, but does anyone else get confused about which is the Spectator and which is the Statesman? But at least I've found a way to distinguish between the two editors: only one blogs.

Hang on, the bj.com thing claims Boris Johnston is the editor of the Spectator. But, but? Oh, fair Boris is editor, dark Boris is political editor. So who the hell does the Statesman then? There can't be a third Boris can there? Surely that niche is already crowded.

The wikipedia entry for Mr BJ is quite interesting [cool middle name by the way].

On BJ's blog, there's an article about scrapping the regional assembly for southest England. There is one? Gadzooks!

"The present regional chamber for the South East of England is not directly elected but made up of officials, councillors, 'community stakeholders', and numerous committees. It covers an amorphous area from Oxford to Portsmouth to Canterbury and is based in Guildford".
Are you sure? Guildford? That place by the A3? What do they do, meet in basement of Debenhams?

You learn something new every day. Unfortunately I think knowing Boris Johnson's middle name is probably going to be most useful thing I've learnt from this little lot.

Scrolling down BJ.com, and there is mention of his visit to Israel. The other countries the article mentions are Sudan, Zimbabwe and Russia. Ought we to start worrying?

And running with the political theme, Cas-Av has just plugged Honourable Fiend. It's rather amusing, especially the bit labelled McCarthyism of the left, all about how to recognise Refuseniks, Guardianistas and the Miserati. I think someone's been talking to Blunkett (woah, I very nearly made some comment about being in the wrong party, and then remembered Blunkett is reputedly Labour).

And in other random stuff, a blog which appeared in the referrer list for this site. It's got 87 posts, and 87 links all of which end up on the same server [hold the mouse over them]. Could it be a ploy to confuse search engines into rating the target site highly? Does Blogger have any rules about this [if not, why not]? I'm not posting it as a link, as there's no way I want to add any sort of pretence that that site is a normal blog.
Should you be curious: http://jessicacarmel2174.blogspot.com/
I'm still trying to work out why I should be surprised that such search engine spam [sorry, that should read search engine optimisation/SEO] has taken so long to manipulate blogs. Or have I been hiding under a very large rock again?


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Firefox, stuffed[Now that it's safely past 11].

So why the hiatus?

Because I'm me, and so kept meaning to post, but not, and then not feeling like it [Americans living up to their reputation didn't help matters. I mean, how can they elect that son of a Bush? So now all we can hope for is an implosion that doesn't suck us in with it, and the triumphal ascendancy of Clinton part deux].

What have I been up to? Well, there was Didcot. Which has a power station, and a railway station, and did I mention the power station? More details will appear at some point, when I sneakily add in my pre-dated write-up.

I was shunted back to a different job in the place I'm not too keen on. Constant Capital didn't help. If I ever hear "official chocolate partner" or "superstar collaboration" again, then I'll know that one of 3 songs will come on in the next quarter of an hour [Natasha Bedingfield does not have a large enough repertoire to deserve being played every hour on the hour]. Even the adverts have more variation, and that's not by much.

Speaking of ads, is Christmas nearly upon us? Last night, half the ad breaks were filled with advertisements for systems which print photographs. In two, the only other products were whatever that Amelie rip-off thing is advertising (all I know is that it's selling some sort of financial smugness, aimed at people who don't understand money), and a coffee-bag gadget thing, which I believe was the new Hyundai Senseo. Oh hang on, that's a car isn't it? No? But the Senseo must be a car? Is it a Ford then? Seat? Not a Vauxhall?

BTW, according to the ad, it's pronounced Sen-say-oh. Not the more obvious Sen-si-oh, or possibly Sense-oh [the new Electrolux Sense-o-matic?]. Anyway, the new Senseo, for that Hot Beverages Vending Machine taste, only this time, when you press the button, you won't get that odd half Horlicks, half tea mix. Hopefully.

Senseo, as sophisticated as Ferrero Rocher, as revolutionary as Consignia [1. Strangely consignia.com is rapidly diverted to royalmail.com. 2. Trust ebay as advertised on Google "Ferrero Rocher. New & used Ferrero Rocher. aff. Check out the deals now! www.ebay.com". Yep that's right, you too can own used Ferrero Rocher, all thanks to the power that is ebay. And what's up with them advertising themselves on television and radio? They could at least have chosen mildly less annoying adverts].

All of which has distracted me from my rant against Capital Radio. While I was in the place where the radio has no off and no tuning, one of the news stories was about the rail crash near Reading. According to Capital, and, I suspect, only Capital, the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, it was "too soon to jump to conclusions". They didn't have a recording of the statement, and the wording did vary during the day, so I think it might have been someone working on the news at Capital [that's when they're not making the coffee (with the new Senseo, natch)] paraphrasing it poorly. Or am I just being odd in thinking it can never be to soon to jump to conclusions, as the jumping to them is half the point?

[How many commas did I use in that "According to..." sentence? Too many, but each changes the meaning and flow of the sentence, and I couldn't decide how to use fewer].

But hey, I'm odd, and am amused by strange quirks of wording. Such as the writing on the packet of Superdrug brand medication currently sitting on the shelf in the bathroom. This being plebier-than-thou Superdrug, there are no Stalinist "Instructions", or confusing "Directions" ("next right after the florists" she said pointing left), instead the section that says something along the lines of "a couple for most people, with a glug of water, try not to choke" is labelled "How to take it". To which I can only reply [only in my head of course]: Take it like a man.

Pathetic I know, but it amuses me when I have to get up while it's still dark.

What else was there?

Have I done someone's guide to photography? Excuse me while I have to look up whose it is and where I found it. It's not really a guide to photography, more a comparision of digital and film cameras. Which considering I want a digital camera that does everything film does, only this time I might actually know what it's doing, and it would be nice if it didn't shred everything along the way, and...
I don't know why I'm even getting into this - I can't afford a digital camera I'd want.
Discussion on 2Blowhards, via CC.

While I'm looking at City Comforts, David Sucher also links to a University of Michigan hosted site, which provides all sorts of funky maps depicting the US election results. Ok, so the cited image appears to make America into a false colour satellite image of an ice-flow, but still it doesn't make it look too bad [the blue Democrat areas appear to be breaking up in a sea of Republicanism]. Unless you happen to be Republican, which case it's libellous propaganda.

The Guardian are running a series of articles about China, or more specifically Shanghai, this week. I haven't read them all yet, although I found Monday's piece on the physical change of the city interesting.

Hmm, and strangely I have a .wma sitting on my desktop called GWBlues. I know I was downloading it from a blog, but I thought it had failed. Only now I can't remember whose blog it was. But playing it provides the key: Tobias Schwarz. That'll be Casino Avenue then. Or perhaps the FOE (that acronym intentional, if so whose foe?).

I have of course now got that song stuck in my head. But at least it's better than the song which has haunted me all week, which is some dance thing about "I can't wait for the weekend to begin", as played by Capital - We employ Dr Foxwit we do - FM, at about 10 am on a Monday.

And speaking of...I'm not sure which connection to follow here... one of my teachers was on Musicality. Bizarre. But she always was the [melo]dramatic one, who liked to be seen as all-singing and all-dancing. In other words, one of the worst teachers I've ever had, who apparently only got the job by claiming she had many wondrous skills which she then magically failed to use. And that's not even getting into the Cliff Richard tableclothage.

Anyway, in this program, she was one of the unnamed people, who happens to walk across camera, or be sitting in the middle of the background. Being an unnamed non-speaking part, she didn't get through. And rather cruelly, about the only time they showed an image focussed on her, it was spliced with one of the instructors making a comment about OAPs (the mere fact other people realised that she was probably the oldest there would have mortified her).

While researching links, the G has this piece on the launch of Firefox 1.0 [look Ma, no jumble of letters and numbers!]. You know how they were seeking funds for the full-page ad in the NYT? Well I think the Guardian just gave them a hefty chunk for free with an FP-linked article that sounds like an infomercial for Mozilla [and then falls into antiMSism].

I think that better be it for now.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

[This is one of those "it would have been helpful if I had clicked Publish, not Save as draft" posts, as it has now been superseded by events].

Lady Chat's LoverNovember 2nd 2004.

I wonder what I could possibly find to write about today?
It is:
- 3 days away from Bonfire Night (except the town's fireworks were last weekend, and I wasn't here).
- A couple days after Halloween.
- A friend's birthday, hence being away for the weekend.
- All Souls day [being the day after All Saints, or All Hallowed Souls day, which obviously is the day after All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween]
- The birthday of Marie Antoinette [1755].
- The day when Penguin Books was found not guilty of obscenity by publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover [1960]. Ok, so Wikipedia helped on that one.
- The day when [Presidential Candidate Number 1] won the America election, beating [Presidential Candidate Number 2]. Or maybe not, as it's more likely to be the day when the lawyer's fees start, and the feuding begins.

But given all the media coverage there isn't really much to say. I do however find the degree of uniformity in opinions very worrying. Each new set of vox-pop clips brings yet more people speaking of "Kerry is a flip-flopper, he betrayed his fellow veterans, he...". I'm not American, I don't live in America, and yet I know which advertisements and sound-bites they are quoting. Yet the interviewee invariably claims these sentiments as their own individually formed opinions, and defends them as such.

And what the hell is a flip-flopper anyway? It sounds like it ought to be an electrical relay, or possibly an improvised percussion instrument.

[I interrupt this piece, as my monitor is wobbling with the thundering vibration from some set of nearby fireworks, and I can't even see them. No fair].


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