Wednesday, April 30, 2008

JCVD stars in ... J.C.V.D. (coming soon)

That's right, you show them JC.





RMF Golfing music video - remixed

I wish I could take some credit for this cool video of various muppets playing golf, but it is the effortless product of Animoto.com (if this is where the internet is going, I am a happy man.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Book - The China I Knew by Pearl Buck

‘The China I Knew’ - A Reader’s Digest condensation from ‘My Several Worlds’ by Pearl Buck (1956).

The China I Knew is a warmly written, autobiographical account of Pearl's life in China and her eventual return to America. Published in 1956, the book captures a part of Chinese history that most people of my age will have little understanding of (ie life before communism). It is the story of someone who was raised in China and is fluent with the (old) Chinese customs, and whose life was dramatically buffeted by the political events of the time. All in all, The China I Knew is a great read that provides valuable insight on an interesting life and an interesting way of life.

A selection of quotes:

'I used to wonder why my Chinese friends, whom I knew to be merciful and considerate towards people, could be quite indifferent to suffering animals. The cause, I discovered as I grew older, lay in the permeation of Chinese thought by Buddhist theory. Part of the doctrine of the reincarnation of the human soul is that an evil human being after death becomes an animal in his next incarnation. Therefore, every animal was once a wicked human being. While the average Chinese might deny direct belief in this theory, yet the pervading belief led him to feel contempt for animals.'

'Still, living today with electric household appliances, I find myself nostalgic for a house where the servants are human, the while I know and hate poverty that makes human labour cheap. And yet the servants in our own Chinese home enjoyed their life, and they respected themselves and their work for us. How lonely might I have been in the evening had I not been free to sit in the servants’ court, to play with their babies and listen to the music of a country flute or a two-stringed violin!
Certainly machines are not so companionable. I went not long ago to call upon a young farmer’s wife, a neighbour of mine in Pennsylvania. I entered the kitchen and encircling it I saw monumental machines: washing machine, drier, mangle, two freezers, refrigerator, electric stove, sink. With such help her daily work was soon done, and we went into the neat living-room where there was no book, but where a television set was carrying on. She paid no heed to it and, inviting me to sit down, she took her fat baby, immaculate and well fed, on her knee and we talked until I had to leave. She said, real disappointment in her voice, “Oh, can’t you stay? I though you’d spend the afternoon. I get so bored after dinner – I haven’t a thing to do.”
I thought of Chinese farm wives who take their laundry to the pond and chatter and laugh together while they beat their garments with a wooden paddle upon a flat rock, a long tedious process, except what would they have done of an afternoon without it? And by their talk and merriment they were more amused, I do believe, than was that young neighbour of mine by the television rattling on all day long, with its unknown voices and its pictured faces.
Two worlds, and one cannot be the other, and each has its own ways and blessings, I suppose.'

'Years later, in American theatres, I was uncomfortable not because of what I saw but what I smelled. I had lived so long among the Chinese that like them I abhorred milk and butter and ate little meat. Therefore when I came among my own people I smelled a rank and wild odour, compound of milk and butter and beef. I remembered then how my Chinese friends had complained of the way white folk smelled, and so they did. It was only after a year or so of consuming American food, though still without milk to this day, that I was able to endure an evening among my own kind, and this is because I now smell like them.'

'I had a curious sense of recklessness when I stepped off the ship at Shanghai. There is something to be said for losing one’s possessions, when nothing can be done about it. I had loved my Nanking home and the little treasures it had contained. Well, that was over. Nothing was ever valuable to me again, nothing, that is, in the way of beloved objects, for I knew now that anything material can be destroyed. On the other hand, people were more than ever important and human relationships more valuable.'

Monday, April 28, 2008

The RMF is on a mission to lose a stone (14 lbs) each by September

"I don't like being outdoors Smithers, for one thing, there's too many fat children."

Several years of gorging on doughnuts, puddings, ice-cream, cake, crisps, chocolates, and all things fried, has started to take its toll and the RMF is not the lean mean, fighting machine it once was. Well, it's gotta stop. It's time to take action and reverse the damage. And it will be done.

The plan is to lose 1 stone (14 lb) of weight by the end of September, any which way. No messing. Each man has his own plan: slow and steady, a week of starvation at the end, running marathons, it doesn't matter. Hell, we'll lose body parts if we have to.

My plan of action is to lose as much weight as possible with minimal effort. Here's the plan:

- 1 pound of body fat equates to about 3,500 calories in energy.
- 1 stone is equal to 14 lbs, so that's a total of approx 50,000 calories that I want to lose.
- There are roughly 150 days til the end of September, so I need to lose around 333 calories per day to meet the target.

Theoretically, this is very easy to achieve from diet alone. The average man needs some 2500 calories a day, so I need to eat just over 10% less each day to meet the target.

Out go those 3 egg omelettes for breakfast, the two squares of dark chocolate every day, the cheeky biscuit with the tea, the second dinner (I started eating another half size dinner at 9pm), the daily pint of milk, the coke, the crisps, the junk. I'm going to stop gorging on fruit as well. Measured portions all the way. I'll keep on eating often as this is supposed to remind the dieting body that it doesn't need to horde calories, but I'll just eat less each time. The aim is to lose weight without much effort, and a cheat every now and then is acceptable (after all, man needs doughnut) as I can make amends by eating less later in the day, or making up for it the following day. Then there is the gym: I don't push too hard these days, but the gym will be my valve - to be used to burn off guilty pleasures when they find their way on to my plate.

The 'break glass in case of emergency' scenario: If I ignore everything and continue to gorge on doughnuts until September (a la Homer Simpson), there will be nothing for it but a coffee and apple diet (a la Christian Bale in The Machinist).

Universal Soldier - Van Damme is hungry

Van Damme delivers his best line of all time 2m 20 seconds in to this bar fight. Watch the first minute to understand the context.



Bear Grylls - A real man in the desert

Stuck in the baking desert with no more than a dead camel for company? Worry not, Bear Grylls shows us how to make the most out of this everyday situation:




Bear (a real man name if ever there was one) also has a blog and has tonnes of great photos at his Picasa Web site (my favourite free photo hosting solution ... go Bear!). And if you are wondering whether he comes to harm on his adventures, just take a look at Bear's most recent blog post from the Mexican swamps - he gets bitten by a bee and his face swells up almost beyond recognition. A quote from the same post:
'I was then in the swamps - these are always the toughest shows to do- and I did end up having a pretty full-on encounter with a 6ft alligator. I came out on top, just, skinned it for cordage for my camp to sleep in, rubbed the alligator fat on me for mosquito repellant and then ate it.'
As you do.

Quick Thought: Vietnamese Coffee

Caffeine is stimulation.
Caffeine is energy.
Caffeine is inspiration.

The final cut of the RMF Golf day

Spielberg, eat my shorts:


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dolph Lundgren breaks ice blocks

Universal Soldier aired on Channel 5 earlier this week. I recorded it and am watching it in small chunks to stretch out my enjoyment. It's a highly original plot (before you say it, no, this is not a poor man's Terminator: Terminator was robot versus man, with time travel. Universal Soldier is a battle between two soldiers who have been brought back from the dead. So there).

Second to his role in Rocky 4, this is probably Dolph Lundgren's (he plays a convincing bad UniSol) most prominent role. I just did a search on Youtube and while it didn't throw up any good tributes, I found this kick-ass clip of Dolph breaking ice with his bare hands. People have commented on the video with:

- i'm sure of one thing in my life...HE'S MY HERO!

- if it breaks it breaks

- i must break you.

- I respect Dolph as a karate man, but this is a trick.

- whatever he hits, he destroys

- this man is a machine...the best of the best




from www.youtube.composted with vodpod

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sitting in the Sun

Earlier today, I was sitting in the garden, enjoying uninterrupted bright sunshine. About time too.

Here are a few photos taken from where I was sitting (no way was I gettin' up):

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Steve Carell's Wired article - How to Act Brilliant


Read this article on 'How to Act Brilliant' when you are in need of a laugh. It includes seeds of wisdom such as:

'Match Your Shoes to Your Belt. If you don't look good, you don't think good.'

Mad Men episode 8 quote

"I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent." - Don Draper, Mad Men, Episode 8, Series 1.

Don Draper is the main character in Mad Men, an interesting series centered around the Madison Avenue advertising industry in the 1960s.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bird feeder squirrel problem

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When there are only a few nuts left in your feeder, squirrels may eat a hole around the wire mesh near its base in order to get at the goodies. This renders the feeder useless because the next time you go to fill it up, the nuts will just spill out.

You could buy an expensive squirrel-proof feeder, but this is no good if you like feeding the squirrels. Our solution is to buy another feeder for the birds and to fill the base of the broken feeder with large stones. This stops the nuts from falling through, but they are still easier for the squirrel to get to than with the new feeder.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Portishead then and now

Here is Portishead over ten years ago:


Nice.

And here is Portishead now:


Still nice.

Hoppa, get to da choppa !

In the last of the big culture missions, we hit an excellent photographic display called 'Life Before Death' (at the Wellcome Trust) and an exhibition at the British Museum called the 'American Scene - Hopper to Pollock'.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's a funny old world

Just watched a Newsnight special called 'Unsutainable World', in which they report on severe food shortages around the world, spiralling crop prices, and insatiable global demand. The report then went on to look at massive food wastage in the UK and what can be done to stop this.

Then saw the following advert:


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

The RMF is on a mission to lose a stone each by September

"I don't like being outdoors Smithers, for one thing, there's too many fat children."

Several years of gorging on doughnuts, puddings, ice-cream, cake, crisps, chocolates, and all things fried, has started to take its toll and the RMF is not the lean mean, fighting machine it once was. Well, it's gotta stop. It's time to take action and reverse the damage. And it will be done.

The plan is to lose 1 stone (14 lb) of weight by the end of September, any which way. No messing. Each man has his own plan: slow and steady, a week of starvation at the end, running marathons, it doesn't matter. Hell, we'll lose body parts if we have to.

My plan of action is to lose as much weight as possible with minimal effort. Here's the plan:

- 1 pound of body fat equates to about 3,500 calories in energy.
- 1 stone is equal to 14 lbs, so that's a total of approx 50,000 calories that I want to lose.
- There are roughly 150 days til the end of September, so I need to lose around 333 calories per day to meet the target.

Theoretically, this is very easy to achieve from diet alone. The average man needs some 2500 calories a day, so I need to eat just over 10% less each day to meet the target.

Out go those 3 egg omelettes for breakfast, the two squares of dark chocolate every day, the cheeky biscuit with the tea, the second dinner (I started eating another half size dinner at 9pm), the daily pint of milk, the coke, the crisps, the junk. I'm going to stop gorging on fruit as well. Measured portions all the way. I'll keep on eating often as this is supposed to remind the dieting body that it doesn't need to horde calories, but I'll just eat less each time. The aim is to lose weight without much effort, and a cheat every now and then is acceptable (after all, man needs doughnut) as I can make amends by eating less later in the day, or making up for it the following day. Then there is the gym: I don't push too hard these days, but the gym will be my valve - to be used to burn off guilty pleasures when they find their way on to my plate.

The 'break glass in case of emergency' scenario: If I ignore everything and continue to gorge on doughnuts until September (a la Homer Simpson), there will be nothing for it but a coffee and apple diet (a la Christian Bale in The Machinist).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The RMF visit the Tate Gallery

The RMF isn't all Predator and American Pyscho. Yesterday, we visited the Tate Britain (very enjoyable) and Tate Modern (crappy). We be in it for the culture.

Click on the image to enlarge:


Friday, April 11, 2008

Sopranos ends

A small, but important part of my life has died.








Thursday, April 10, 2008

Photo experiment

I achieved a HDR (high dynamic range) type effect using Paint.net, and made the collage with Photoscape. Both are free.

The full collection of photos and trip notes can be found here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tung wisdom


"The more friends we have, the less enemies we face."
- Tung (our Cu Chi tunnels guide in Vietnam, talking about the Vietnamese relationship with the United States).

Film: 2046


A couple of quotes from the surreal, technicolour dream that is 2046:

Bai Ling: So people are just time fillers to you?
Chow Mo Wan: I wouldn't say that. Other people borrow my time, too.
Bai Ling: And this evening? Are you borrowing me or am I borrowing you?
Chow Mo Wan: No difference. Maybe I borrowed you earlier and now you're borrowing me.

and ...

Bai Ling: Hey, where's your moustache?
Chow Mo Wan: That's your fault too. ... I thought I'd win a few hundred. Instead, I lost my moustache.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tour of 'Nam - comedy version

Back from 'nam

Below is a selection of around 300 pictures from our recent, action packed, RMF trip across the Far East (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Macau). It was an excellent holiday with much comedy and endless quoting of Predator, Rambo, Rocky, There Will Be Blood, and American Psycho (don't ask!).


(Pictures taken by Abs, Mal, and myself.)

Highlights of the trip:

Hong Kong


- Enjoying the visual techni-colour delight of the city at night, hopping across the islands, visiting the markets, local eateries.
- Getting to grips with chopsticks.
- Hiring some bikes and going on a long ride
- Almost missing the flight to Vietnam due to Bernie Mac comedy!
- Watching Rambo on DVD (after the Vietnam trip)
- Trekking across Lantau Island.
- Day trip to Macau.

Vietnam


- Staying in a super cheap hotel (£2.50 per person per night), with breakfast and free internet access included (its called Brother's Hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi).
- Walking around the Old Quarter in Hanoi and watching the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese people.
- Vietnamese coffee - we brought some back with us (yes, it is that good!).
- Overnight boat trip in the magical Halong Bay. We had an excellent guide called 'Dee' who loved to sing - he would roll up his sleeves, reminding us of a 1980's Michael J.Fox. The excursion included a 2.5 hour kayak trip (moments of comedy included Mal heading on a collision course for a massive boat, and me and Abs managing to separate ourselves from the group, and the tour guide squealing 'what do you want to do with me tonight' everytime someone touched his kayak). The kayak mission was rounded off with a nice cup of coffee in a floating village, and a kareoke session back on the boat (thanks to Abs for representing the RM with 'Man in the Mirror'!) We also visited a beautiful cave, and were taught how to play a card game called 'Speed' by an Israeli girl who was on the boat tour with us. This game stayed with us through the holiday - we played it on the boat, every night in the hotels, in the airport lounge, even on the plane.
- Mango milkshakes
- Vietnamese chilli sauce - we all brought some back to the UK with us.
- Travelling from north to south in a sleeper bus, stopping off at Hue (jump on motorbike taxis for a quick visit of the Hue Citadel), Hoi An (hit the beach, Mal and Abs get measured up for some tailor made shorts straight from the Next catalogue!), and Saigon.
- In Saigon, we went on a day trip around the Mekong Delta (think Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Predator). The next day, we visited the Cu Chi tunnels with another excellent guide called Tung, who also loved to sing (he even wrote his own songs in Vietnamese and English). The Cu Chi tunnels were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. They were now widened especially for tourists but we still ended up taking the first possible exit (cough, cough). Tried to make up for this embarrassment by firing some guns at a shooting range. Roaming Saigon at night, and enjoying a famous Vietnamese water puppet show.
- Vietnam gave us a new appreciation for simple, noodle based dishes. Cheap, healthy and delicious. Sluuuurp.

Cambodia

- Headed off to the temple ruins of Angkor Wat early in the morning to catch the sunrise. It clouded over, but we at least enjoyed a different, more atmospheric view off the ruins when it started lashing down with torrential rain. Rain gave way to hot sun, and we travelled from ruin to ruin. The day was finished off with the famous, mind blowing ruins where Tomb Raider was filmed.
- Visited the Killing Fields and a war museum, where we learned about the horrors of war first hand from a guide who fought as a soldier from the age of twelve. He was missing a leg due to a mine blast, had taken several guns shots, suffered burns from the after burn blast of heavy weapons, and had recently lost his wife and daughter to mines. He reminded us that we should not take our relatively untroubled lives for granted.
- Half day trip to a large floating village and crocodile farm.
- Followed a Lonely Planet recommendation and ate at a cheap restaurant in 'The Alley' (in Siem Rep) called Khmer Kitchen. We ordered a vegetable Khmer curry in coconut sauce. It is the best vegetable dish I can remember eating.
- More mango milkshakes

Observations

- Social capital in the Far East is notably higher than in Europe. There is less littering, greater respect for street furniture and public goods, and people are generally kinder to each other. Vietnam was particularly friendly. China, however, does not seem particularly friendly to foreigners, perhaps because of their limited experience with tourists.
- All you need to start a business in Vietnam is a kettle of hot water, some coffee, and a few plastic chairs. There is no such thing as instant coffee. Vietnamese coffee is beautiful, packs a punch, costs pennies, and is best had without milk.
- Prices in Vietnam are absurdly low, with whole day trips costing around $10. Lunch can be had for less than $1. Food is almost always fresh and tasty.
- The sleeper coach is a great way to see Vietnam on the cheap.
- Copyright law does not exist in Vietnam. Even the books are photocopies of the originals.
- People in the Far East are extremely hard working. When we checked into hotels late at night, we would see the same workers first thing in the morning (the coffee must help!).

Modes of transport used

Taxi
Minibus
Coach (AUTO THE DOOR) and Sleeper Coach
Kayak
Small motor boat
Large boat
Tuk Tuk
Normal bike
Motorbike
Airplane

Weapons fired

AK47