Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cigar Cool

I received Cigar Cool by Jonathan Futrell & Lisa Linder as a gift this Christmas. It is a book about cigars and cigar smoking. Not a comprehensive tome by any means, this book is more along the lines of an extended glossy magazine article.

The presentation is very well done, very trendy. There are lots of good photographs and some interesting layouts as well.

The typeface used throughout is exclusively courier and it would seem as that the authors have a general dislike of uppercase characters or the shift key was broken, but apart from that the book is a pleasant read.
Cigar Cool
Presentation: 14/20
Layout: 15/20
Content: 38/60
Total: 65/100

The introduction is very self agrandising and should perhaps have been edited out alltogether, but if you make your way past that following chapters takes you on a short journey through the history of smoking from Columbus' discovery of the habit in 1492 through to today. After that there is some interesting information of tobacco and cigar production. This is probably the most interesting part of the book and it covers the history of cigar production along with the methods used to produce cigars from the planting of the seeds to the ligting of the cigar.

Overall it is a pleasant light read for tobacco enthusiasts.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

King Kong

© Someone ElseI'm sure that you have already seen a hundred reviews of this film but I just had to add my thoughts. Peter Jackson has made a brilliant movie - again. His interpretation/copy/remake of the 1933 original is spot on. Andy Serkis does a great job playing Kong and Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody and Thomas Kretschmann all have creditable performances.

Peter Jackson makes long movies, and the benefit of this is that there is time to develop the plot and more importantly the characters. This is crucial to the whole experience as it allows the subtler nuances of the characters' personalities room to breathe, and in doing so allows the viewer to develop emotiona attachments to them. This movie really does really pull the wool over your eyes and as the film progresses you can easily suspend any beliefs about reality, you are sucked right into it.
King Kong (2005)
Plot: 15/20
Acting: 18/20
Production: 19/20
Entertainment: 36/40
Total: 88/100

Yes there are a few areas of the plot where I'd have thought that Jackson would have beefed up the characters' personalities, and there were also a few areas where the plot had to be bent into shape to fit but I would still recommend King Kong to anyone who is a fan of the cinema.

I'm not sure that it will translate quite as well onto DVD. It is definately one of those movies that benefites ffom the huge screen (the bigger the better) and sound of the silver screen. Whilst I usually find it irritating the audience reaction is also a plus when viewing King Kong (, at least it was when I went to see it yesterday evening).


Monday, December 26, 2005

Canon EOS 1D Mark II Fun Time.

I got to play with a Canon 1D mkII for about an hour on Christmas day. The camera had a 24-70 f2.8L lens attached, a ST-E2 wireless transmitter and a couple of 550ex flashguns. First impressions was "Damn this is heavy", second impression was, "wow this is heavy".

Apart from that it was a great deal of fun, the layout is very different from my EOS 33v and took a while to get used to but the wireless flash was fun.

I wish I could say that I had some great photos to show you, but unfortunately whilst I cannot fault the camera, I was, let's say, a bit tipsy (oh c'mon it the season for charity) at the time. Although the photos are all sharp and in focus, the subject matter and composition are, well, of a lower standard than I feel comfortable displaying here.

The upside of my hours playtime is that I know that I like the camera and I know that I like the quality of the results. Roll on lottery win, I'm ready for you now :)


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

On Christmas Eve I went to the cinema to watch the "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe". I was quite surprised by how enjoyable an experience it was. The film adaptation of C.S. Lewis' timeless adventure, was more accurate than I thought it would be and a very good production.

For those of you who aren't aware of the plot, the story follows the magical adventures of four children sent to live in a country house during the Blitz. Whilst playing a game of hide-and-seek in the country home of an elderly professor they accidentally find a magical wardrobe through which they are transported to the land of Narnia. Whilst in Narnia they find themselves cought up in a battle between the forces of evil led by the White Witch and the forces of good which rally around Aslan.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Plot: 16/20
Acting: 16/20
Production: 18/20
Entertainment: 32/40
Total: 82/100

The production is very well executed and the story as ever is quite engaging. It is a great movie for children of all ages but also there is enough humour to amuse accompanying adults as well. Look aout for similarities between this film and The Lord of the Rings, Lewis & Tolkien were friends and there are similarities between certain scenes and plot devices.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas everyone. Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. This is my 100th post and I'd like to thank every one who has taken the time to read my articles, to thank very much those of you who have left comments and thank very, very, very much anyone who has clicked on one of the ads ;).

Have a good one.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Pressure Drop

Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...
Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...
Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...

It is you (oh yeah)
It is you, you (oh yeah)
It is you (oh yeah)

Cause a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah pressure drop a drop on you
I say a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah pressure drop a drop on you

I say when it drops, oh you gonna feel it
Know that you were doing wrong.

Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...
Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...
Hmm hmm hmm, yeah...

I say a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah, pressure drop a drop on you
Oh yeah, pressure drop a drop on you
- Toots And The Maytals
I suggest you get your hands on the GTA: San Andreas version, grab yourself a glass of port, turn the volume right up to eleven and then sit back and listen.

Mark keeps playing this at the office and I can't say I disagree with him doing so!

Toots' aggressive vocals are uniquely soulful, recorded somewhere between 1965 and 1974, it represents everything that was good about Ska music (Ska is a fusion. It combines a distinct Jamaican mento folk rhythm with R&B. Then the drums come in on the second and fourth beats. This is what carries the blues and swing beats of American music. The guitar then emphasizes the up of the second, third and fourth beats.), which was to later give birth to reggae.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005


Boris Johnson is, frankly, the mutt's nads. And anyone of that calibre needs to be watched. -
Thanks to Sam, in a roundabout way I came across Boriswatch and felt I had to share.

Boris Johnson is to be frank the absolute best thing about British politics. Tony Benn is great as well and runs a close second, but my favourite Parliamentarians is Boris. Anyone who thinks politics is boring needs to spend some time with either of these two giants of British politics.

I know that Tony Benn retired from Parliament in 2001 "to devote more time to politics", but his presence is still felt. His son Hilary is currently an MP by the way, making him a 4th generation Benn MP.

Returning to Boris, MP, Journalist, Author and general good egg. If there were a lot more Boris' in Parliament, life would be a lot more fun, and for that he deserves recognition, there just isn't enough fun in modern British politics and Boris is a welcome breath of whoopee cushion air!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Effing Computer

My effing PC is playing Chernobyl again!!!!!!!

Kept overheating and shutting down, for no reason whatsoever! Causing me to loose the last post, which is probably not such a bad thing.

I have now spent the last fifeteen minutes swapping the fans around so that the fan that came with the heatsink is now acting as a case fan and one of the more powerful case fans is now blowing air onto the CPU heatsink. I am hoping that this will alleviate the problem somewhat.

The new combination has brought to light an issue with the motherboards supply of power to the CPU fan. The fan that was happily spinning at 2700rpm is now holding steady at just under 2500rpm, and the fan that was previously cooling the CPU which never managed to get above about 2400rpm is now spinning at over 2500rpm. Go figure.

There was a slight scare with the power supply when I rebooted, it sounded like a washing maching at max spin cycle when you leave a couple of glass marbles in it (don't ask), but a quick kick, literally; soon sorted that out and it is now operating within normal parameters once again.


The Lunar Metonic Cycle - Tonight's Full Moon

Tonight's full moon is no usual full moon, it is the full moon with highest delcination (28.72 degrees north) the moon will make in the northern hemisphere. As we have mostly clear skies tonight, enjoy this rare phenomenon, go outside around midnight tonight and notice how shortthe shadows are. If you are thinking that you will catch the next one, don't hold your breath, it won't happen for another 19 years!

Near its northernmost declination, tonight's Full Moon will be a special one, arcing high in northern hemisphere skies. But a Full Moon won't occur on this calendar date for another 19 years, a period known as the lunar Metonic cycle. September 15th's lunar phase and date were notable too, marking the return of a gibbous Moon rising over the High Sierra mountains. - NASA

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An unusual Friday morning.

On Friday morning a passenger on my train died. Luckily for me he or she wasn't in my carriage, but it sort of made me think about the frailty of life and the rail network.

With regard to the rail network, the resulting chaos caused was quite extensive. The train had to be held at the next station whilst the emergency services were called, followed by tthe police, and then the coroner. This all took in excess of an hour and whilst this was happening a bunch of trains ad to be cancelled and one of the main lines into London was closed. It also made me very late for work.

With regard to the frailty of life, well, that is a bit more serious. There were a large number of people whose first reaction was, "Why my train? Why not the next one?", which was a very natural, if callous reaction. After about fifteen minutes however I stated to think about the unfortunate person, "How old was he or she?", "Did they have a family?", "How would the family be affected?", and so on.

It really must be hard for the family. It cannot have been expected and they were probably just starting to get into the whole pre-Christmas madness with the shopping, wrapping of gifts, planning of meals, decorating, etc. Now they have a funeral to organise as well, or perhaps instead.

I'm glad that it wasn't me ,a member of my family, or a firend, or a member of a friend's family that this has happened to, and I can only hope that the family of the person who did die get a lot of support.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I appear to have become a weekend blogger recently. Although there are lots of things daily about which I have opinions and thoughts, I just don't seem to have the energy to write about them by the time I get home. I'm sure it will be business as usual once the whole pre-Christmas madness subsides.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Anapod Explorer an iTunes Alternative at last?

If you love the sleek, stylish looks and great ergonomics of an iPod, but have been put off buying one due to the awful iTunes software that you are required to use to manage your music, fear no more. Martin has discovered a possible solution to all of your iPod related problems - Anapod Explorer.

I've had a look at the website and a couple of reviews online and it looks like it is a real alternative. Yes you have to pay up to $30.00 depending on the iPod you have, but surely its worth it if it allows you to feel free to own an iPod.

If you anyone has already tried Anapod, let me know what you think, I'd like to hear from you.
Anapod Explorer is an essential tool for power users who crave more sophisticated control over their iPods. - Cnet
Red Chair Anapod Explorer
Anapod Explorer is an essential tool for power users who crave more sophisticated control over their iPods. - ZD Net Australia


Freezer Defrosting - Do's & Dont's

A few useful tips on defrosting a freezer that I thought I'd share from practical experience this weekend. I hope that this help someone somewhere.

  • Do: Make sure that you have a lot of absorbant paper. Newspaper works but kitchen roll works a lot better. You'll need more than you think.

  • Dont: Start at midnight on Friday.

  • Do: Ensure that you have space in your fridge to put your frozen items.

  • Dont: Think that it'll be all over in an hour.

  • Do: Use a hairdryer to speed up the defrosting process.

  • Dont: Pour boiling water into the freezer to help with the defrosting process. It will only make a mess.

  • Do: Use your microwave to heat items to put into the freezer to speed up the defrosting process.

  • Dont: Use containers of boiling water to speed up the process. They tip over and make a mess.

  • Do: Break up and remove as much ice as possible before it melts.

  • Dont: Try to be clever and put newspaper in the freezer to absorb the water as the ice melts. Newspaper print is near impossible to remove from the plastic in the freezer.

  • Do: Make yourself as comfortable as possible.

  • Dont: Leave the freezer and come back in ten minutes, there will be a huge mess when you do.

  • Do: Defrost your freezer as soon as it looks like it needs to be done. It will be quicker to defrost.

  • Dont: Leave it until it gets so bad that you can't close the freezer door and end up starting at midnight on a Friday evening.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Formalwear Emergency

I went to a formal ball last night; I was completely oblivious to that fact that I was attending until two hours beforehand, due to circumstances beyond my control. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'd like to think that the fact that the event was held to raise funds for a secondary school at a school hall caused me to be a non-confromist, anti-establishment rebel and that's the reason I wore a regular dark suit, but sadly that isn't the case. The embarrasing truth of the matter is that I don't own a Dinner Suit.

I usually go to two or three formal occasions a year and always rent a DJ. I have always told myself that the fact that I only attend a couple of these a year and the fact that I can hire different styles each time was a good reason not to buy one. After all, The cost of buying one is about the cost of four rentals, and when you take in account dry cleaning bills etc. I would be a fool to buy one, woudn't I?

Well the combination of this little faux pas and my discovery of the student tailor website has changed all that. The economic argument is no longer as valid. As soon as I can scrape together the required fundage I will be placing an order for a complete formalwear kit. I'm determined that there will be no more formalwear emergencies for me!

The ball was fun, the food was decidely school dinner quality, and the band was definately school disco quality, but the company was good. The fact that all the smokers had to go outside and hide in a corner to puff away was also strangely familiar, as was the fact that the school caretaker came round and bollock'd everyone in said corner for leaving their butts on the floor.

It would appear that, at least for me, the more things change, the more they stay the same; and that in it's was is suprisingly comforting.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Friday evening. I wasn't expecting much after the last installment of the series, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Okay, it wasn't the best movie I've ever seen, or even the best movie I've seen this year, but it wasn't the worst either. Mike Newell seems to have done a reasonable job, much better than Alfonso Cuarón managed. It didn't turn out to be the "Harry Potter and the Giblet of Fowl" that I was expecting.

It was quite hard to set aside the fact that Radcliffe et al. looked a lot older than the characters they play, not as bad as a lot of old westerns where the eighteen year old character was played by a fortysomething year old actor, but still a little hard to ignore.

The movie was as with the others very true to the book, but despite the fact that the movie was 157 minutes long, there seemed to be a
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Plot: 15/20
Acting: 15/20
Production: 15/20
Entertainment: 30/40
Total: 75/100
lot of detail missing. I suppose that squeezing 734 pages of fantasy novel into two and a half hours of movie is a bit difficult, but I have a suspicion that another half hour of cut footage may turn up in the 'Special Edition DVD' when it is released.

If you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise I would recommend you go to see it, but then again, you probably already have. If you are not a fan then I can say that it is not an unpleasant way to spend a few hours.