Month: July 2005

B.P.M.

How to raise your heart rate

Whilst clearing out the garage, including brushing out the corners and ridding the place of cobwebs and numerous spiders, spot a sheet of wood that was once part of what is now your fireplace, grab it from the stack, and spin round, holding it up for your wife to see whilst asking her “can you guess where this came from?”.

When she spots the VERY LARGE SPIDER* on the far side of the wood, the side you’ve just thrust at her in your glee at finding this reminder of your handiwork, she’ll scream. Loudly.

This will prompt you to jump, dropping the piece of wood to the floor, and your heart rate will soar. Simple really.

* You know the type, the ones that don’t run away from you because they reckon, in a tight spot, they could always chew your leg off..

Happy Anniversary

35 years ago my parents stood before friends and family and said “I do”.

35 years on and if you ask either one if they still love each other, they’ll say the same thing.

Now, apparently:

traditional 35th wedding anniversary gifts have a theme of Coral, whereas a contemporary or modern 35th anniversary gift has a theme of Jade. This Wedding Anniversary does not have any Flowers or Gemstones associated with it.
via anniversary.co.uk

So, the reason it’s been so quiet here is because I’ve had to nip off to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to get some coral…

Still, it’s a thought ain’t it. 35 years. I only lasted 20 or so at my parents house, not sure how they’ve put up with each other for that long… guess they must love each other or something… 😉

Extras

Two episodes in and I’m just not convinced. Not sure whether it’s the addition of “stars”, the acting style of Ricky Gervais (although I think calling it acting is stretching things a bit), or some other factor but whilst there are some very funny moments it doesn’t feel complete. Of course that may be by choice, mirroring the bit parts the characters have, but I’m not sure it helps.

Waiting

Like Lyle, I’m working at home, waiting for the presence of a Transco van to make itself known. Yes, the gasman is coming. I’m not holding my breath, which is just as well as it’s now 1.30pm and he’s yet to appear.

Of course the coming of the gasman means one thing, yes that’s right, my brain gets stuck on an endless loop of the “Gasman” sketch in Bottom.

(loudly) “Hello Mr. Gasman!” (Richie)
“Er, yes, hello again. I wonder if I could just read your me–” (Gasman)
“Mr. who?” (Eddie)
(shouting) “GASMAN! GASMAN! GASMAN!” (R)
“Do you have someone who looks after you? Could I see them, because I need
to read your meter!” — Gasman

It’s just me then, right you are…

Update. 5.30pm. Still waiting. Have spent time trying to figure out who Flanders and Swann are (were? is?)..

Impact

There is a call centre near my office and every evening as I walk to the train station I partake in the “I’ll go left” waltz with many of the people heading to the call centre for the back shift. Last night, however, was a little bit different.

As I turned the corner at the top of the road I spotted a young Asian lady walking towards me. She had a lovely embroidered purple headscarf on, which I glanced at as I walked past. In one of those split second things, she looked at me at the exactly same instance, it was then I released that I’d been looking at her for the last few seconds.

I wonder what she was thinking. Was she thinking, typical man ogling a woman, or perhaps leering letch? Had she noticed at all? Or was it something else?

The current news, the horrible events in London and with ongoing investigations bringing Muslims to the forefront of our minds, I wonder if she thought I was judging her, assessing her.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stop people in the street and assure them that you’re not as small minded as that. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to share a differing point of view, and discuss it with another human being.

Yes, pipe dreams I know, but I’m not going to pander to the caresses of maudlin. Just for one day, can’t we assume the BEST of people? Unfortunately not.

Grayscale this

One for the Lazyweb methinks.

Is there an EASY (non-coder) way to make all images that appear in a DIV, grayscale? PHP is the preferred langauge and you can presume access to the GD Library is available on the server.

Note: I’m aware that IE users can utilise CSS for this but that’s not what I’m looking for so please don’t suggest it.

Ethical Animal

I’ve visited a few zoos and safari parks in my time and if I’m honest I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of them. However there is always a pang of guilt associated with these trips, so why do I still do it?

Personally, as I’ve come to learn more about some of the animals kept in zoos and better understand how they live their life in the wild, my repulsion at the containment of these magnificent beasts grows. The old Glasgow Zoo was awful, with the tigers cage being far far too small for an animal that likes to roam and walks miles each day, and don’t even start me on the polar bear enclosure.

Yet despite all that I gladly took my nieces and nephews to Paignton Zoo a couple of weeks ago, making me a very large and unlikeable hypocrite. Firstly it was not without some manner of research, Paignton Zoo has a reasonable policy when it comes to enclosure sizes and conservation, and whilst it’s not on the same scale as a safari park say it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Secondly, the likelihood of any nieces and nephew being able to see many of these animals in the wild (or at all) so from an educational point of view I think it held some benefit, even though they won’t have realised it.

However it does make me uncomfortable but I’m certain that most of you realise, or you should by now, that I fall largely into that category of citizen who does care and consider these things but is willing to sway his principles, well maybe bend is a better word. I’m not sure what type of person that makes me but I’m comfortable(ish) with that.

So, what are your views? Zoos? Good or bad? What about safari parks? Or are they all just bad bad places?

War of the Worlds

Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

SPIELBERG, CRUISE, EPIC MOVIE, INCLUDING MORGAN FREEMAN NARRATING (doesn’t get much more epic than that these days… whatever happened to James Earl Jones?).

Yes, the self-proclaimed “blockbuster of the year” has finally been viewed and it was bloody good. Well it could have been utterly amazing, but Tom Cruise – and this is something my wife was the first to say, and she’s a HUGE Cruise fan – just can’t cut the mustard. He’s fine at wide sweeping and overly dramatic acting but give him something challenging, something that concentrates a lot of the camera time on him and more importantly, on him whilst he’s acting scared and needs to show emotion, and he’s hopelessly out of his depth.

A lot of the pre-movie press talked about “de-Cruising” Tom to give him more appeal as an everyday man on the street. That failed because he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Dakota Fanning, who played his daughter, acts him off the screen, and the minute Tim Robbins appears you suddenly realise just how bad Tom is under this kind of intense scrutiny. Steven Spielberg said the decision to move the action to the basement of a house, focussing the action down there whilst above ground the action goes global, was to increase the tension. Unfortunately he was relying on the silent, “face only” acting of Cruise and is let down.

But I’ll stop going on about the lead actor, as it’s wholly unfair to let one bad egg spoil the entire cake. This movie was great. The effects were excellent, very believable, the tension was slowly ratcheted up very effectively, and in short this was Spielberg at his action movie best. The man knows how to toy with your emotions if you let him have them, he’ll wring you dry given half a chance, but I think he may have overstepped slightly at the end of the movie (I won’t spoil it but it may have been better if someone hadn’t reappeared).

Morgan Freeman opens the movie using the same narration that Richard Burton uses in Jeff Wayne’s classic musical, and the effects are almost the same (Freeman is good but vocally he’s no Burton, but then, who is?) chills slowly creeping up your spine. The storyline is fairly simple, martians take over the world and there’s bugger all we can do to stop them, so the opening scenes are given to creating some attachment to our characters and setting up the additional “failed father” backplot for Mr. Cruise.

But once the action starts it doesn’t stop, a few pauses here and there sure, but mainly it plows on, relentless and for a Spielberg film, remarkably bleakly. There are no grand heroics, no moving speeches, just widespread disbelief and panic. He handles it well, and before you know it the ending is open you, almost too suddenly? Perhaps.

This is one that will be best viewed on the big screen, but I’m curious as to how this will hit the TV screens, it’s hardly ideal fodder for a “family Christmas movie” after all. It’s good to see Spielberg back to the top of his game though, and I just hope that Tom Cruise sticks to making what he’s good (decent) at, simple films where he’s the dashing hero. Tom Cruise is NOT an everyday joe.

Podcasting

Ohh it’s the new blogging, is it?

Could be, everyone’s at it, and it’s guaranteed to be “mainstream” now that iTunes support it but, and please don’t think of me as some neolithic oaf but what IS all the fuss about?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those who are doing podcasts, I’ve heard some very good ones recently and as an extension of a blog they give an extra dimension to the personality behind the microphone of a type you only normally get when you meet some in person (real life, remember that? fresh air, no keyboard and REAL people, what a concept! It’ll never catch on that one…).

However let’s get this straight. A podcast (blogcast, whatever) is, unless I’m hugely mistaken, mainly a recording of someone talking, with the occasional spot of music thrown in. Right? Err… and this is a new idea? Well obviously it’s not (and just in case you miss my point, I’m referring to that old favourite, of the more refined knob twiddlers out there, radio) but I’ll tell you what is.

Focus.

I can tune into hundreds, nay thousands, of radio stations right now and with a bit of searching I’m certain I can find a station that suits my interests. However the limitation of radio is that, because it’s being broadcast, it has to try and appeal to as many people as possible, even if the core subject is fairly specialised. Podcasting doesn’t have that limitation. Because YOU choose to download and listen to it, it can be as specialised and insular as it wants, the only person it has to please is you.

Anyway, if you’ve been on the ice planet Hoth for the past few months, then here are a few links to get you into podcasting. Ohh and ignore the “pod” part of the name, it’s not limited to iPods or MP3 players, you can create and listen to them on your PC.

As for me, well I’m gonna leave this one alone for the meantime preferring to remain elusively enigmatic and mysterious. Or maybe I just can’t be bothered (you can always listen to me on the radio if you’re desperate – 2.7MB MP3).

So, are podcasts the future of blogging? Possibly but I doubt it, at least not for a while. Too much like hard work at the moment, so until it becomes a lot easier to do I think it’ll remain on the outskirts for a while longer. However once it becomes a simple point and click exercise then I think they’ll soon be popping up all over the place. But then I’m sure they said the same about “audio blogging“, but they’ve been wrong before.

The real question is whether anyone can bring something NEW to podcasting. That’s where the challenge will lie, a true blending of the internet and radio is what is required and what has been sorely lacking so far. However cracks that one will leap ahead and we’ll have our first A-list podcaster.

Snippets

Spotted in one of the tabloid Sunday papers. A caption underneath this picture that stated, “Jessica Alba, second from right…”

You don’t say…

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Vague memory of a need for a web app that I thought up on holiday, something to do with accessing something via a mobile phone. Can’t for the life of me remember what it was though. Thinking cap on.

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I’ve been writing up some book reviews (didn’t read much on holiday as it turned out) and I’m wondering if the availability of thousands of reviews and comments on a book – via Amazon, forums, and blogs – means that there are fewer bad books being bought and sold. I can’t think of a book that I’ve read in the last two or three years that I didn’t enjoy to some extent. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t write reviews of the bad ones? Or because I’m easily pleased, or does that just mean I’ve got a broad sense of taste?

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Matt nails the summer “dip” in the blogosphere. I especially liked the quote: “We all go through fallow periods. We must let the soil rest..to prepare for new growth.”

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Thanks for the comments on the photos – what a fantastic bunch of liars you lot are. OK, I’m kidding there are a few there I’m quite happy with, there are also a couple more to be posted but I’m still cropping them. I went with the “shoot often” approach on this holiday, taking 429 photos in total. Of them I reckon about 50 to 60 are usable, the 30 featured below are the cream of the crop (I think).