Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Comment Spam!

Some disgusting bastard [robot?] has just visited my blog and left dozens of spam comments. They are links to what I can only presume are equally disgusting websites.

Luckily I've just discovered that they can be deleted, and I'm now going to have to find and remove them all!

As a concequence of this, in a suitably reactionary measure which is in no way proportional to the extent of the infraction a la Israel or America. I have now set the requirements to allow anyone to leave a comment so high that you can give yourself a pat on the back should you manage to do so :)

Bastard Mother F*@ker!


bumbling bee

blackberry flower

yellow flower

Photos taken in Oxford a few weekends ago. Click on the photos for a larger view.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about forking out to go and see this in the cinema. I had read a number of mixed reviews in the press and was weary. It didn't help that as I was standing outside the Odeon a friend who was driving by stopped and asked what I was about to watch. When I replied that I was about to view 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest', all four occupants of the car said in unison "Seen it, it was rubbish", before driving off.

This instalment of the franchise starts off almost immediately where the last left off, Will Turner & Elizabeth Swann are just about to get married when lo and behold there is a hiccup. Without spoiling the story, all I'll say is that Will gets press ganged into finding Jack Sparrow before the wedding can take place and sets off on a not so jolly adventure.

Firstly the bad news. I was hoping that following the success of the previous movie and the near guaranteed success of the sequel, that Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio would have had a little courage and delved deeper into the psyche of the characters they created, but they chose instead to stick to what was a winning formula.

Without the benefit of being a shiny new concept, this doesn't work as well as it did in the previous movie. Apart from the fact that the major characters from the previous movie are all present there are very few new characters, and the writers couldn't be bothered to tell us much about them.

Where they did try to develop some of the characters didn't work particularly well in terms of the flow of the movie, so I suppose it is better that they did limit the character development after all.

Now the good news. The special effects and soundtrack are both excellent. Hans Zimmer dug deep into his Gladiator sound-a-like repository and provided more of the same, with the exception an interesting nod to Puff Daddy's reworking of the Police's song "Every Breath You Take" (which was different).
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Plot: 12/20
Acting: 15/20
Production: 17/20
Entertainment: 32/40
Total: 76/100

Overall the movie was still quite entertaining and I am glad that I didn't wait for the DVD (HD-DVD or Blu Ray) release. Intellectually challenging it isn't, but it isn't meant to be either. It is meant to be fun and light hearted and there was quite a lot of light hearted situational comedy on tap.

I suppose that it is quite rare for a sequel to be better than the original and so as far as sequels go, this movie is par for the course.

Roll on 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'. Having seen the first two, I have to see the final episode! Although it really feels like 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' is half of an episode, and that 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End' will be the conclusion of the second episode.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sick as a dog. The world sucks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More Obadiah Parker

As I enjoyed the rendition of Hey Ya so much I decided to look for more songs by Obadiah Parker. Turns out Obadiah Parker is a band and not an individual (doh), and they have a few more songs available to listen to on MySpace.

The music is a bit varied, more than a bit Christain/Folk/Acoustic Rock a little bit Jazz, with some interesting underlying percussion. The EP cover artwork is sublime, I wouldn't mind hanging a big print of that burning tree on my wall.

If you are lucky enough to live in Scottsdale Arizona or are passing through on Sunday, they will be performing at 'The Old Brickhouse', check out the gig and let me know how it was.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Apium graveolens dulce

Celery (Apium graveolens dulce) © Fir0002or Celery to you and me.

I have, this week, been eating a lot of celery. This is entirely Mark's fault, as on Tuesday he had an attack of healthy eating and amongst the other fruit and vegetables he brought to work there was a bag of Sainsbury's Celery Hearts.

Now I like celery as much as the next man, but it had been quite a few years since I just went all rabbit (not rabid!) and munched on a stick of celery. Well by the end of the day I had consumed a rather lot of celery. As it happens, Quite by chance, I went to Sainsbury's today to purchase lunch and lo and behold I what greeted with an overabundance of Celery in the fresh fruit aisle? Not just any celery mind, Sainsbury's Celery, grown in Norfolk; probably by a chap called 'William Henry'.

Anyway back to the celery. Some less than intensive searching led me to discover the following tit bits of information.
  1. There is a widespread popular etymology that the word celery ("The Fast Vegetable") derives from the Latin word, celer, meaning fast or swift. This is entirely false — there is no connection between them. It actually comes from the Greek selinon, meaning parsley. A reference to selinon is found in Homer's Odyssey. The word celeri is found as early as a 9th century poem proclaiming the merits and medicinal uses of the plant, written in France or Italy.
  2. The wild form of celery is known as smallage.
  3. For something that most people think of as mostly fibre and water, celery has a suproisingly high amount of Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate, Molybdenum & (no surprises here) Dietary Fibre.
  4. Celery contains a number of active compounds that promote health, these include phalides, (reputed to help lower cholesterol), and coumarins, (reputed to help prevent cancer).
  5. There are many specialists that consider celery to be a very important agent in the growth of the sexual potency.
Having now had an opportunity to sample both of Sainsbury's offerings I am in a position to offer a definitive opinion and comparative review.
Sainsbury's Celery Hearts
Presentation: 12/20
Freshness: 16/20
Flavour: 27/30
Texture: 27/30
Total: 82/100

The packaging was adequate, it is a bit plain and I'm sure that Marks and Spencer's would have done a better job at it. Sainsbury's Celery Hearts look like celery should, light green and glaucous. There is a lovely semi-transparency to the celery which makes it very attractive. On opening the bag there was a waft of celery scent which titillated the senses and made consumption an almost primal urge [I was quite hungry at the time]. From the very first bite to the last the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts were a joy to chew, not particularly fibrous, with a propensity to almost dissolve in the mouth. The outer stalks had a higher water content than the inner stalks and there was a gradual increase in flavour as I made my way towards the core which was quite pleasurable. All in all the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts were a pleasure to munch upon.
Sainsbury's Celery
Presentation: 10/20
Freshness: 16/20
Flavour: 14/30
Texture: 12/30
Total: 52/100

Sainsbury's Celery is a little lower on the produce pecking order than the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts. They are a bit cheaper and this is reflected in the packaging. If the Celery Hearts packaging was a bit plain, the Sainsbury's Celery packaging was downright dowdy, although advertising where the product was grown was a nice touch. Visually the standard Sainsbury's Celery looks a bit agricultural. The stalks looked quite green and solid (a bit like Norfolk farmers) and not immediately appealing. On opening the bag there was a mildly acrid odour which was not very appealing. The stalks of celery were also quite dirty and they needed rigorous cleaning to remove the last vestiges of Norfolk soil. The very first bite was like biting into a woven basket. The fibres could easily have been used as an alternative to wicker. Unpleasant does not quite describe the sensation. The acrid smell developed into an acrid taste after a few chews. A bit like the flavour of burned rubber (Please don't ask how I know what burned rubber tastes like - I won't tell!). Moving inwards only accentuated the flavour and I must admit I did not eat much more as I couldn't bear it.

On balance given that the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts only costs a little more than the Sainsbury's Celery; anyone presented with the option should really only purchase the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts. If you have a recipe that requires celery and only the Sainsbury's Celery is available I would recommend shopping somewhere else, or changing the menu. It is edible, and should you find yourself stranded on an island with no other source of sustenance it would do the job, however if you have any respect for your tongue, stomach and intestines then you should really avoid the Sainsbury's Celery, at least the Norfolk variety.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More... Thames Water ...leaks.

I read in a paper today (newspaper, that is, although it was the Metro) that Thames Water has unveiled plans to accelerate its pipe replacement program. They will spend an extra £150M over the next two years two years. This should help with the current leakage problem (the equivalent of the water required to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools a day). However that level of savings wont happen until 2010, by which time RWE will have sold off Thames Water and London will be turned into a brown barren wasteland, just in time for the Olympics.

On the face of it any increase in the rate of repairs will be good for London. That is if you ignore the inevitable road closures, delays & failure to complete sections on time. Never mind that this plan was put in place to avoid a fine from Offwat, and presumably to avoid the risk of future fines.

Considering their £346.5M of pre-tax profit for the pervious financial year, the investment does not seem particularly large. Especially as much of that profit was derived from huge rises to water rates, the permission for which was obtained from Offwat in order to repair the leaky pipe network (they somehow forgot about that at dividend time).

Despite meeting our leakage target outside London, leakage in the capital remains unacceptably high, and we acknowledge that more work needs to be done to continue to reduce it.
- Jeremy Pelczer, Managing Director, Thames Water Utilities

The most effective and sustainable way to bring leakage down in London is to replace the Victorian mains network. This is why we undertook 20 per cent more work putting new pipes in the ground in 2005/6 than was originally planned.
- Jeremy Pelczer, Managing Director, Thames Water Utilities

If Jeremy Pelczer was really committed to repairing the infrastructure, surely Thames Water would spend £180M and complete the work in 1 year! I actually find myself agreeing with the Liberal Democrats on this issue.
Thames Water should be using more of their huge profits to speed up their current pipe replacement programme. Clearly something radical must be done to reinvest some of that money to save London's dwindling water supply.
- Mike Tuffrey - Liberal democrat Environment Spokesman

More Pants propaganda

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Obadiah Parker - "Hey Ya"

"Hey Ya" was in all probability the best single of 2004. Okay, I'll admit that I didn't hear every single released in 2004, but of those I did hear, I think that this was definately the best.

This interpretation could actually be better than the original. I hope that this guy's current recording contract is rock solid, if not he'll be poached by Sony Music before long.


Musings on e-mail

Laurie has added an interesting entry on his blog relating to his strategy for dealing with e-mails.

Whilst I have to say that it makes sense, I have to say that I deal with my mail a little differently. For starters I use MS Outlook and Exchange which makes life a little easier. I can use 'Rules' to filter my messages based upon a number of criteria into 7 main folders (some with many sub-folders). This makes it easy to identify what is important and what isn't. However it doesn't deal with the context switching issue, but that is more a discipline thing. I don't necessarily reply to messages as soon as I have read them, or read them as soon as they arrive, so I don't have the same problem Laurie has.

An ever so slight problem or rather inconvenience is that I have a number of e-mail accounts. This does make categorising my mail a little easier but it does mean that keeping track of messages is more difficult. My work mail goes through an MS Exchange server, I have a few POP accounts and then I also have Hotmail, Yahoo! and GMail accounts. Finding a nice way of aggregating the collection or at least viewing of all of these different accounts in one highly functional e-mail client has proved thus far to be impossible. I use Trillian for messaging and this does have to ability to notify me when there is mail in my Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail account which helps. I haven't been able to get the Jabber connection to work however so GMail notification is out of the question.

A problem I do have, or rather used to have is Spam. I get shed loads of the stuff, over 200 messages a day through work and the POP accounts, and about the same on the three web based mail services. The best solution I have found for this so far for mail collected by Outlook is SpamBayes a probability based mail filter which is surprisingly effective. My only issue with it is that I can only run it on the e-mail client which is a pain because I check my mail from a number of clients and occasionally use Outlooks web access facility. The three web based accounts all have their own filtering and are reasonable effective.

I guess in the end everyone finds a solution that works for them, unfortunately for some people this seems to be not using their e-mail.


Monday, July 10, 2006

More Goodwood Festival of Speed 2006 Photos

Below are a few more photos of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. These were taken by my father on a borrowed Nikon D50. I have to say that it is quite a nice little DSLR, but I'd still prefer a EOS 30D.

If you are wondering why some of the photos are in a strange panoramic format, it is because there were bales of hay in between the cars and the spectators which were perfectly positioned to be in every shot. I've cropped the bottom of the photos to remove the surpuflous hay.

Maranello Magic © Dad

Absolute Stunner © Dad

American Muscle © Dad

Still running after all these years © Dad

All of the photos above were taken using a technique called panning. It is really simple to do, but takes a lot of skill to master. You set the camera to shutter priority or manual mode and select a suitable slow shutter speed, say between 1/60th of a second and 1/125th of a second. Let the camera select a suitable aperture or set one yourself if in manual mode. Then, here comes the tricky bit, you pan the camera following the motion of the subject at the same angular velocity as the subject. This keeps the subject sharply in focus, but the slow shuter speed, allows the movement to be captured as well. Try it yourself!

Still running after all these years © Dad

Not having a DSLR of my own I'll have to wait for my film to be processed before I can upload any of my own photos of the cars on the track. I do hope I managed to get a few good shots. I'll post some more photos of Goodwood then as well.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup 2006

Well Italy won, on penalties, as I sure you are aware.

A few observations:

  1. France were the more attacking team and I would have preferred if they had won.

  2. Zizou will be kicking himself for years. So much for his footballing legacy. He can also forget about all of those lucrative TV Football pundit contracts he was picking between.

  3. Both France and Italy were quite good at the penalties. Considering that Italy have had just as many bad experiences with penalties as England have had over the years, and the fact that it was 'The Final', it does hilight how crap England are at that stage of a match. They just don't have any bottle.

  4. Germany Staged a fantastic World Cup, good on them.

  5. Roll on Euro 2008


I went to Oxford today to see Tugba, a friend I met in Turkey. It was a lot of fun, Oxford is really photogenic and there are so many subjects to choose from that sometimes it is difficult to decide what to shoot. I must say that it would have been a lot easier without so many tourists milling about, there were thousands of them everywhere (including me).

The Radcliffe Camera was closed, which was a real shame because I was looking forward to seeing the inside of it. The market was also closed, which is a real shame. I've been there before and it really is worth a visit.

Most of the college quadrants were off limits to members of the public, but you could see a tiny bit of what you were missing through the entrances. The architecture on the inside is in many respects more interesting and intricate than the architecture facing the roads. We did get to go into Hertford College, which has the most fantastic spiral-esque staircase. It is truly unique.

On a plus note, I did rent a little rowing boat for an hour, which was nice. I can also recommend George & Davis Ice Cream as a definate 'must try', they do some original combinations.

We had a lte lunch at a gastro pub called the Trout Inn. The food was quite good and the setting was fantastic. It is situated just outside of Oxford city centre on the Thames near a weir and a lock. You can sit eating your meal with a view of the Thames whilst the ducks and the peacocks pester you for scraps. Very entertaining. I can definately recommend it as a nice place for a meal.

We had a lovely walk along the Thames after lunch. Taking photos and enjoying the scenery. All in all a good day out.
BMW 2002 WRC Car

Reflections in a car bonnet

Two Photographers and a Triumph Rocket III engine


Saturday, July 08, 2006



I've started a Photoblog! Okay I have added a section to my site which I am hopeing to update regularly with photographs. Close enough I think.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. I'm going to try to add at least one photograph a week. Not having a digital SLR as yet many will be old photos that I will scan, but I'm going to try to use only my best photos.

Truth be told I actually added it many months ago, but never got around to adding any photographs. Hopefully over time if I'm disciplined I will see an improvement in the quality of the photographs I am taking.


Friday, July 07, 2006

I went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed today, got home about an hour or so. It was a long day, and I took lots of photos so some of them will be appearing here at some point in the near future.

It is a great day out and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in motorsport. I'll write more about it when I'm less tired.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Celeb Spotting

On a short return journey to Southfields from Victoria today I managed to spot Michael Fish outside Victoria station (probably waiting for a taxi), Mira Furlan on the westbound District Line (possibly, not 100% sure about this one) & Philip Green outside Southfields station, driving a very nice black Porsche Cayenne S (probably on his way to the Wimbledon Championship).

I also got a free bottle of water, courtesy of Metronet.

The tube is always full of little suprises!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Do you like to do nothing better than lie down in a green field and look at the clouds as they pass by?

Fond of a bit of Cumulus or Nimbostratus? What about Cumulonimbus? I'm partial to a bit of Altocumulus clouds myself, they are great for landscape photography.

If you are a fan of all things cloud related then you might like to visit the Cloud Appreciation Society website.

Thames Water and how the Government screwed us again.

Thames Water currently has a big budget advertising campaign full of wonderfully retouched photos of famous London landmarks filled with wonderfully clean, clear water, informing us how much water their new pipes will save over a given period of time.

Pants propaganda

What they fail do do is to tell us how long it will take to install the pipes that will save us the water! An advertising faux pax perhaps? How long will it take?

Here is what I think:

Thames water have successfully hoodwinked the water regulator into allowing them to increase the residential water rates by 24%, under the aegis of needing the extra money to upgrade the incredibly leaky system that we currently have. At the moment a full third (894 million litres of water every day) of all of the water so expensively processed and so urgently needed is lost through leaks.

What have they done with this urgently required money? They made record profits (a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to £346.5m) which they have then paid to the parent company RWE in a massive dividend.

Okay, its a business and being a child of the 80's I can understand that making profits for its shareholders is what its about, but I've got a barren wasteland that used to be a garden in my backyard and I'm not happy!

So why the costly advertising campaign? Now that they have made a huge profit they are trying to improve the public image of Thames Water. Is it to make angry customers like myself feel more confident that they are doing something about the problem and that there will be a solution to the problem in the near future? No it is so that they can sell it; and hopefully make more profit. At the moment it looks like damaged goods, so RWE can't possible find anyone to buy Thames Water, but they are hoping to raise the profile of the company and counteract some of the bad press.

What about the water regulator OFWAT you ask? Why aren't they doing something about this huge social injustice? [I can't believe I just said that!] Well they are pretty much unable to do anything about it. Well due to the fact that they were neutered at the point of inception, not much really. They set targets which the companies can happily ignore without fear of retribution. Reviews are few and far between, and when they are held, what is the regulator going to do, fine the company? That really won't help the customers. If they could prevent the company from keeping more than 5% of its profit if it didn't reduce leakage to below 5% that would be a start, it would certainly give RWE some incentive to fix the leaks.

I blame the government. I don't care which party is in power now, was in power then, or will be in power next, this is ridiculous. Water customers don't have a choice of providers so by privatising the water industry all they have done (and are maintaining) is a sytem of regional monopolies. Everybody knows that monopolies are bad for the consumer when the product or service is essential for day to day living. So why did they do it? To fudge the public borrowing figures so that they looked like they were doing a good job, that why!

It works like this, the water infrastructure for the country costs money to maintain, this money comes from one of two sources, taxes or public borrowing. At some point in the past the government decided that it couldn't raise the level of taxation, and didn't want to borrow money to maintain the infrastructure so they came up with a brilliant plan. Sell the water infrastructure! This would improve the balance sheet twofold, there would be an auction for the services which would raise money immediately and then the maintenance costs for water provision would disappear from the public budget. Brilliant plan, if it didn't screw the population of Great Britain. What wankers! Probably got them re-elected though.

As a consequence ideas at the time of privatisation like a national water grid, which could be used to move water from plentiful areas (like Wales) to areas affected by drought (like London) will never happen. There is no incentive for the private comapnies to spend any money on the infrastructure required to do this.

So what is the solution? The government could do what it did to RailTrack. Effectively re-nationalise all of the water suppliers by making it impossible for them to turn a profit, driving their shares through the floor and then buying the companies back. The problem with this is that it makes it hard for the government to then privatise anything else, at least without guaranteeing huge publicly funded profits for the private companies with no possible risk to the companies taking over the services (London Underground anyone!).

So what is to be done. I'm thinking about emigrating, seems like the only sensible thing to do.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Do You Remember 1985?

TransformersIf you were, like me, a boy of around 8 to 12 years old in 1985 then my guess is that around December time there was only one thing on the top of you Christmas list. That would have been a hideously expensive Optimus Prime Action Figure. Yes, in the world of children's animated television, Transformers ruled the roost and Optimus Prime was a hero.

For those of you reading this who have absolutely no idea what I'm writing about, The Transformers was an animated television series which began in 1984. It was targeted at children, and was very popular with students, and general weirdos aprt of course from children.

The basic precept was that a race of robotic beings travelled from their metal world of Cybertron to Earth in search of new sources of energy. The robots were split into two warring factions Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (evil baddies), who on their arrival on Earth carry out their war in a clandestine manner, shape shifting or transforming into normal everyday items like vehicles and cassette tapes remember those?, to avoid detection by humans. Over the years the plot took all sorts of twists and turns and there were a number of different incarnations of the series but the original leader of the Autobots was Optimus Prime (known in Japan as Convoy, Italy as Commander, France as Optimus Primo, and Brazil as Líder Optimus) and and the leader of the Decepticons was Megatron.

Strangely enough the TV series and the comic book were developed in 1984 as a method of promoting the toys and not as a concequence of the success of the series, which was, and still is an unusual way of doing things.

Well 22 years later and Steven Spielberg & Michael Bay are hoping that all of those eight to twelve year olds, layabout students and other degenerates will by now have had some kids of their own and be willing to use them as an excuse to pay good money to go to the cinema to see a live action version of the excellent (for a ten year old) Transformers animated series.

Now I know that as an executive producer Steven Spielberg has chalked up some excellent films and television, but with Michael Bay directing, this has the potential to be a huge post 9/11, America is the last bastion of freedom, ride the wave of anti-terror bravado, made in the USA for residents of the USA, blatant propaganda, box office success. Which would be a shame, as whilst the original series was a typical good vs. evil, superheroes vs. supervillans plotline, it was targeting children as a method of selling toys [well it was the '80s!] and as such required the overly simplified plot to provide them with concepts that they could easily understand. I wonder if the movie, due to be released in 2007 will be a little bit more sophisticated than that and try to appeal to adults on one level and children on another. With a writing cast of Alex Kurtzman (writer of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys"), John Rogers ("Catwoman") & Roberto Orci ("Xena: Warrior Princess"), I somehow doubt it.

With a cast without any major celebrity actors (which could be a good thing), the star of the show will certainly be Industrial Light & Magic's special effects, which less face it are usually excellent.

I will in all likelihood see this movie at some point. I may wait for it to be released on HD-DVD, Blu-Ray or whatever is the format of choice in 2008, but then again I may go an view it in the cinema. Who knows, no matter how bad the film is, it may hust help me to remember a little more of those childhood memories. I wonder if they'll keep the jingle "Transformers, more than meets the eye/Transformers, robots in diguise."? Anybody remember the full song that went along with it?

If you want to see the trailers etc. you can visit the official Transfomers movie website.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

It Works

Well my PVR seems to be working, I can record and play recorded programmes. The only thing is that it is ridiculously hot. I am going to have to investigate a better cooling solution. Why can't the manufacturers just make the thing properly in the first place :(