Sunday, January 30, 2011

Magnetic Legend

Now way would I have expected John Legend to lend his vocals to a Magnetic Man track, but there you have it. The video is dark and nasty, but very good:

Simple Sunday luncheon … delish

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Australian tennis - womens vs mens

I watched the tennis over the weekend, and found the women's final slightly more entertaining than the men's (despite Murrary shooting for his first Open title).

What really made it was the acceptance speeches at the end of each final. Murray and Jokovich were quite plain in their speaking, delivering nothing memorable, while runner up in the womens, Li Na, said in her speech that she would love her husband whether he was fat or thin, ugly or beautiful (cue for the camera man to pan across to the good man). Kim Clijsters, meanwhile, thanked her dentist and her uncle (in the crowd) for agreeing to wear his garish but lucky bright green trousers. It's nice to see a bit of cheer and lightness in the game every now and then.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some photos posted using Microsoft’s Live Writer

I’ve just started using Microsoft’s free LiveWriter blogging tool, and it’s a little bit good, especially when it comes to posting pictures. You can drag and drop photo files straight from your photo folder into your draft post, and quickly resize them and add a border. This one I like:

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Note the roundness of the egg in the above pic – that’s the first egg from the new blini pan from Nisbets.

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Morph holds up a book (picture half taken through a bottle of water)

BBC 8 and BBC Radio 8

I do enjoy the BBC 4 stations (tv and radio), as they have allowed me to innocently indulge in the fantasy that I am a great lover of the higher arts, debates, foreign films, and other things high-brow.

Alas, it seems I still have some way to go, for I have just learned of BBC 8 (on tv and digital radio), which can be accessed through of digital jiggery-pokery on the interactive menus of tvs, (note, the BBC Radio 8 channel is broadcast in the early hours on the BBC Radio 4 frequency, twice weekly).

The programmes on the BBC 8 channels seemingly offer twice the intelligent content of the 4s, apparently assuming that you are already versed in the Classics, that you have a thorough understanding of current affairs, and are a speaker of foreign languages (some foreign movies are broadcast without subtitles). The level of debate is rather earnest, and the wit extremely intelligent and challenging. There are no cheap gags, no frills, and definitely no dumbing down for the audience. One quip from a quiz show presenter only sunk in several days later, producing a solitary nod of recognition and understanding.

It feels a bit like being let into a secret club.

Books: The young man's best companion, and book of general knowledge - L. Murray

More from this curiously interesting little book from a few hundred years back.



These days, what else comes by the barrel apart from oil, I wonder.

Boquerones

Just bought some marinaded anchovies from the deli counter at Sainsbury's. The marinated fish is completely in taste different to the strong, pungent (deliciously so) fish that you find in the tins and jars, and at around £1.70 for 100g of the slipperly eels, they're pretty good value as well. I can imagine the little things going down rather well with some roasted red peppers.

Will buy again.

Side note: I actually went to the supermarket to buy some Manchego chees - in honor of the great Manchegan Don Quixote - but alas, it is not suitable for vegetarians. Woe is me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More adventures in old cheese literature

"In making cheese the utmost cleanliness is most carefully observed in all the operations. Whoever is intrusted with this work is required to display the utmost neatness in his whole person as well as in the dairy room ..."
From the ever popular:

Address before the Cheese Makers Association 1865

"There is no reason why American factory cheese may not become as noted in its line as the wines of Johannisberg, the porcelain of Sevres, the sword blades of Damascus, or the shawls of Cashmere."

From the wonders of Google Books.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A quote from my trove

It is difficult to think about thinking because we cannot find an objective position from which we can view our thoughts. If you’re inside a big building it is hard to grasp the dimensions of that building. If you can’t leave the building to see what it looks like from the outside, and if you’ve been in the building for a very long time, you might not be aware that you are enclosed by he building and that everything you do is limited by the way the building is constructed; you many think that you are experiencing the whole world, not just the interior of that building. Something similar can happen with thinking. You think that your thoughts are free to go wherever they wish, and you do not realise that your thoughts are bounded by a framework of meaning which you/your thoughts have constructed early in your life.

Was it really a surprise, really?

Frozen wages, falling house prices, rising unemployment, higher energy prices, higher taxes, higher food prices.

And we wonder why the economy tanked in the last quarter of 2010?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lessons in rejection

Get used to it. Don't let rejection surprise you. Expect it.

I recently submitted a piece of work to a journal for publication. It was rejected. Everything is rejected. The journal is the Journal of Universal Rejection, a quartlery publication that has (not) been published from March 2009, with an empty contents.

My submission was a piece of dialogue form the first Terminator movie, which I labelled as contemporary art. The Editor-in-Chief, also Assistant Professor of Maths at Pacific University, rejected it with amused abandon:

Dear Riz,

Given that this work can hardly even be judged to be yours despite your
last-minute trappings regarding "Contemporary Art," you may not be
surprised to learn that we are rejecting your submission.

I enjoyed reading it very much. Thanks for submitting!

Best regards,
Caleb

----

My submission:

Contemporary Art: Passage from the Terminator script:


SARAH - This is a mistake. I haven't done anything.

REESE - No. But you will. It's very important that you live.

SARAH - I can't believe this is happening. How could that man get up after you...

REESE - Not a man. A Terminator. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101.

SARAH - A machine? You mean, like what...a robot?

REESE - Not a robot. Cyborg.Cybernetic Organism.

SARAH - But...he was bleeding.

REESE - Just a second. Keep your head down.

REESE - Alright. Listen. The Terminator's an infiltration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a combat chassis, hyperalloy, fully armored. Very tough...But outside, it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair...blood.Grown for the cyborgs.

SARAH - Look, Reese, I know you want to help, but...

REESE - (cutting her off) Pay attention! The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy.But these are new. They look human. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait 'til he moved on you before I could zero him.

SARAH - Hey, I'm not stupid, y'know. They can't build anything like that yet.

REESE - No. Not yet. Not for about forty years.

---

REESE - (slow, but intense) Listen. Understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with...it doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear...and it absolutely will not stop. Ever.Until you are dead.

SARAH - Can you stop it

REESE - Maybe. With these weapons...I don't know.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Marmalade meme

First my sister T buys me a jar of marmalade for xmas, and nice it is too. Then I read of the decline of the spread in the Telegraph (Paddington has been recruited in an effort to reinvigorate demand). Then I read of it again in the Guardian. Now, I am listening to marmalade talk on BBC Radio 4. No doubt, there will be a documentary about Marmalade later tonight.

Umami paste ... noooo!

I can't remember who I was talking to when I mentioned this idea (probably myself), but a few a weeks back I had the idea for mashing all the ingredients high in umami (tomato paste, cheese, anchovy, worcester sauce, marmite, etc) into a hopefully not so yucky super umami paste that could be used as a flavour enhancer. Lo and behold, the product is in stores already:


Blasted darnations tarnations. Actually, like I was going to make the thing anyway. If Laura (creator of said paste) is listening, an idea for expanding the product range could be a Vegemami paste, basically the same as the Umami paste but with all the animal ingredients stripped out (anchovy, parmesan, etc), and then optimised by changing the ratio of the remaining ingredients, or adding a few new ones.

Cost for the idea: a tub of the new pastes!

Friday, January 21, 2011

IKEA cast iron pan - Bravera

Ooh, just spotted a cast iron pan from IKEA, selling for a mere £7.14. Looks kinda cool.

10 o'clock live on C4

For a live, satirical swiping of news, the new weekly '10 o'clock live' show on Channel 4 is right on the money. Contains very few duffers given the one hour duration.

Catch it if you can.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nisbets ... time to get your cook on


Stock up on your pots and pans - industrial caterer Nisbets is offering free postage through January (next day delivery as well!). VAT is added on top, but then if you use Quidco you get 4% cash back.

I've just bought a couple of Vogue frying pans, including a teeny blini pan (£2.19). Yes, the time has come to pay respect to the humble egg.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Starbucks Trenta size is a pint and a half of coffee

From the Guardian:

"Given America's love of coffee and super-sized portions, it was inevitable that Starbucks should tie the two together in its latest offering: the massive new "Trenta" cup size, holding 31 US fluid ounces – that's 917ml, or more than one and a half imperial pints – of beverage."

I thought this might be a joke. Apparently not. Fortunately, it is not coming to our shores (yet).

Notes on the big and small screen

Golden Globes

Ricky Gervais presented. Here are some of the best bits.



Arnie - I'll be back

Here's hoping so anyway. Ain't it Cool reports that Arnie is reading three scripts.

Alien - Sidequal?

A new Alien is going to be made. Apparently, it will not be a prequel as many were expecting, or a re-boot, or even a sequel. Instead we hear that the new film will have the DNA of the original, whatever that means.

Smallville

I stopped watching Smallville about half way through the series. The series it was a bit of a gulity pleasure at the old shared house (well, it was for two of us, the third member was understandably less interested in a programme about Superman-as-boy, targetted at a teen audience - if you're reading, you know who you are!).

Since leaving it behind, I've harboured a wanting to book a week off life and immerse myself in the box set for the remaining seasons (there are some five seasons to catch up on). However, I now learn that we left it at the sweet spot and the series has since degenerated rather woefully. On the one hand, it's sad to see such a great series slide like this. On the other hand, I am happy to have left at the peak. Long live the good memories. Salut.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Acer A150 has gone

In the end the netbook went for £124.11 + £8.50 postage, which is very close to what we paid for it. Good goings indeed.

However, as I look into the various fees that I am paying out to the middle men in this deal, I am less happy (still happy mind, just less so). Paypal is free for buyers but for sellers they will be charging the princely sum of 3.4% + 20p. Then we have e-bay, who charge a small listing fee of about £1, but then sting me for 10% of the final auction value. Ouch, these guys have eaten a large piece of my pie and I likes me pie very much. Where's the competition, chief?

The Acer Aspire A150 goes to auction

We purchased this beauty a year and eight months ago and it has served its purpose well.

With technology aging at an ever faster rate, the question is how much money will the little man fetch at auction? I paid £129, and it's currently at £102, with one hour left to run. Let's hope for a last minute bidding frenzy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Film: The King's Speech



The King's Speech is gentle, humourous fare. Okay, it isn't uplifting like Rocky and it could certainly do with more ninja (I didn't spot one), but given that the film is a relatively accurate portrayal of a true story, it is very good indeed. Also nice to see Guy Pierce turning up as King Edward.

****

The original king's speech:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Noooo ... my dear Quixote

..is falling apart at the seams.

Looking for some comfort reading last night, I returned to the Quixote. It is not holding up well. On the one hand, it saddens one to see the book whither with every reading. On the other hand, there is a certain beauty in the evidence of use and the passage of time.

It is interesting to me, that my favourite book and the book I most want to read next (Montaigne's essays) were both published just over four hundred years ago.

Why watch pirate movies?

Explained by way of diagram. Click on the picture to see it embiggened:


They really don't know what they are doing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book: \How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer

The cover of the book is a bit deceptive as it suggests a series of questions are answered through Montaigne's life. Really, this is a bit of a forced idea, although Bakewell manages to get away with it, and I suppose it does provide lend a bit more colour versus a vanilla biography.

In addition to the subject matter, Bakewell has a very clear style of writing and her approach of analysing Montaigne's work over the years provides valuable context and insight.

Having dipped one's beak into the life of Montaigne, I have warmed to the man and his outlook, and am ready for his essays.

****

A single tuna has sold for £250,000

And how best to consume this fish? Me thinks as part of a grilled cheese sandwich, half for me, half for the cat.

Pebbles Magoo Jan 2011


Pebbles Magoo is a naughty magoo but a good magoo.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Does Flikr sharpen/improve photos?



Yes,definitely. I viewed this cat pic on Picasa viewer and the Windows XP viewer (image on the right - click on the image to see it in full) and it wasn't coming up as clear as the one I'd uploaded to Flikr (left). I then searched my files to make sure I was comparing like with like, and I was. I then double checked the theory by uploading a hi-res cat and low-res cat image to Flikr - both were clearer in Flikr.

Personally, I like the improvement, but it must surely make some photos worse, undoing the hard work of many? Also, I could probably create the effect myself if I apply some sharpening skills (although I imagine the image would then be sharpened again in Flikr, which may not be so good).

It works ... nice


p magoo Jan 2011 (3), originally uploaded by Riz RMF.

The good life

Testing a photo post direct from Flikr's blog function


p magoo Jan 2011, originally uploaded by Riz RMF.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Adventures in E-bay

Just missed out on this Japanese retro watch by £1.

Added this poster to my watch list last week. Have decided not to pursue any further.

Food: Welsh Cakes


My local Sainsbury's is stocking these dainty little Welsh cakes. They weren't particularly cheap by any means, but by jove are the little things addictively tasty. The simple cakes are very much like flattened fruit scones, and they toast up something beautiful.

I was supposed to ration them out over the week, but the packet has found itself empty and discarded less that twenty four hours post purchase.

On furniture

I bought three table type pieces of furniture from Age Concern today, for a few bucks a pop. From having no tiny tables, I now have three; one for a tv, one for my alarm clock, and one because it is a magical box on legs, whose siren calls drew me to it at the back nether region of the warehouse where it was sitting. Anyway, the point I want to make here is that all three are made of wood, or psuedo wood (wood effect), and they make my room feel much warmer and homely. This got me thinking about the sterility I feel when I see plastics, and single colour laminated furniture in my surroundings. These manufactured objects lack character and charm. Of course, I like to think that this feeling of satisfying warmness harks back to a long, deep relationship with nature, of having made houses, tools, and furniture from the wood of trees. In a similar way, when I see the clouds in the sky, the rivers, the fields, and the sea, I am drawn to nature's colour palette with a confidence that it cannot and will not be beaten by anything man made.

Then again, there is a part of me that wonders if this attraction is a vestigal construct of the romanticised ideal of living in and around nature. It is naieve to think that one's tastes and preferences for such things are independent of the times we live in.

That said, despite these thoughts and rambings, if I likes it, I likes it.

Cheese on toast

After a full on breakfast and heavy lunch, and lots and lots of snacking, a small dinner was the order of the day.

Solution: fancy cheese on toast.

Grill two slices of Vogel bread. Smear ketchup on the ungrilled side. Add chunks of chopped onion, covering the surface area. Sprinkle cheddar on top. Top with about a teaspoon worth of Danish blue cheese, which provides the 'special sauce' element.

Eat.

How to replace a key on the IBM thinkpad X32 and other Thinkpad

Trusting in the robustness of my IBM Thinkpad, I gave my nephew a little too much free rein on the machine and he managed to prize of the PrtScn key, along with the mechanism that sits under the key cap.

It's turns out that IBM keys contain quite a bit of machinery and are not so easy to get back on. The answer to the problem is to remove the cap from the mechanical deckchair type structure that sits underneath it, carefully fit the deckchair back to the metal clips on the keyboard, and then click the cap on top afterwards.

To put this in pictures, you can prize of the cap of a neighbouring key to see how the mechanical deckchair is held in place.

Time to complete job: 10 minutes (takes a bit of fiddling).

Film: 127 hours


Congratulations to Danny Boyle on another great film. Also, writer, actor, and all round creative talent James Franco is surely destined for great acclaim after his cracking performance.

8 out of 10 (not for the squeamish though, as there will be some squeam.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Film: The Next 3 Days


Despite a run-off-the-mill plot, The Next 3 Days is a satisfying film that is very well put together, and that avoids the cliches and stereotypes that are so common in such films.

As a bonus, I got to see two actors from my top 10 films: Brian Dennehy (the sherriff in the original Rambo) and Daniel Stern (City Slickers).

7/10

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Murders in context

There has been much news coverage of a certain murder victim of late. This got me thinking about murder rates versus suicide rates. Murder, it turns out, is not something to worry about.

Murder: In December 2008, a BBC correspondent reported that 'On an average day in Britain, two or three people will be murdered.'

Suicide: From the Samaritans website: 'On average, there is one death from suicide every 90 minutes across the UK and Ireland.'

I appreciate that the relative scarcity of murder makes it's attraction that much greater, especially when murders come packaged with an element of mystery and often a dose of gruesomeness. Nevertheless, I do feel the reporters are distorting our reality in an unhealthy way. To me, this is worse than purile fictional entertainment, because we are watching the news to be informed, not implicitly misled.

For some broader context, exact figures aside, if we assume 3 deaths a day from murder, that multiplies up to 1095 murders a year. In 2009 there were 491,348 deaths from all causes, which means murders are responsible for just over 0.2% of the total. There are bigger things to worry about.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

VAT rises by 2.5% .. the tax man cometh

Taxes, taxes, everywhere.

Let's say I earn a wage. A quarter of the reward for my toil goes to the government in taxes, straight up. If I work particularly hard and am rewarded accordingly, the tax rate will be painfully higher. Making do with my reduced wage, I head out to do a spot of shopping. The price of the goods in the shop windows and on the shelves is higher than the shop keeper wants to charge due to the new 20% VAT rate. Despite my reduced disposable income and the seller's artificially high prices, the shop owner is a great entrepreneur and he stocks exactly what I want, how I want it. A sale is made against all odds. But the government doesn't miss a trick. They'll be taking a quarter of his profits, thank you very much.

Let's say I decide not to spend my money, but instead to save it for a rainy day. If I make a decent profit on some shares, they'll be coming for me. If I stick in it the bank, the interest is taxed. There are tax breaks, and tax free saving schemes, but this is the general picture. It's a necessary evil, many will say, but from the perspective of incentives, it almost makes you want to give up in despair.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 futurespective



So said Reverand Robert Hall in 'Beauties of Robert Hall' in 1839.

Now, what of my my resolution for 2011?

Learn a language. Abstain from a vice. Get fit. Lose weight. This year, I will be doing none of the above. We make such resolutions year in year out, but for the majority of us we are setting ourselves for disappointment when we fail to achieve. This year I am effectively stepping off the plate and lowering the bar. Yes, my goal in 2011 is a light and simple one:










What the resolution isn't: a pooling of one's debts, resulting into one, easy monthly payment.

What the resolution is: a bringing together of one's knowledge.

Why make such a resolution? I love reading and learning, but forgetting is where I excel. After reading a book, I will forget it almost immediately. Aware of this, for several years I have engaged in the laborious practice of making copious notes from the books I was reading (simply copying out interesting passages word for word). However, I spent too much time adding to the well and not enough time drinking from it. Having a residual stain of a memory is not good enough for the time invested in this pastime, even if it does provide me with the pleasure of re-reading a book every year almost as if it were new to me. So, this year I am going to have a big recap session.

The actions required are simple: do less scouring and reading of contemporary information; skim read books already read; work through my pile of quotes; clear out the back-log of ideas noted in my blog drafts and elsewhere. Bring it all together, taking memories of the past and making them into part of memories present, not just feint echoes. I have cleaned out my material belongings several times. Now it is time to cultivate the garden of the mind.

There will always be some adding to the well. I am reading a book about Montaigne, and may go on to read Montaigne's essays. However, apart from these works, I have no greater aspirations for the year. The back catalog is plenty sufficient.

By keeping it simple, I hope for this to be a pleasurable activity that is easily achievable over the course of the year.

PS - I expect that many of my scribblings from times gone by will be akin to those great ideas that enter our brains in the early hours of the morning when we are in a hazy fog of consciousness, only to be disregarded the following morning as the thoughts and scribblings of a lunatic.

2010 retrospective


Surprise of the year:

- The Audi 80 made it through another year. The car's condition deteriorated apace in the first half of the year, only to stabilise in a condition of ill-health when it was about to consigned to the scrap heap (as if it knew). If I were a rich man, I'd recondition the vehicle and keep it running to the end of time.

Best purchases:

- An old IBM thinkpad X32 (around £120). Still going strong.
- Vogel bread.
- Sriracha hot sauce.
- Little Xtreme mini-speaker to boost the sound output from my laptop (around £10).
- Pentax H90 digital camera (around £90).

Welcome discoveries:

- Best web-site tool: Instapaper.
- The cheese board (never really dug it before).
- Youtube playlists.
- Marmite as a middle layer between beans on toast, cheese on toast, and egg on toast.

Discipline tests:

- Chocolate bar ban: lasted half a year, breached once when a sugary snack was required for the exams.
- Fresh cake ban: broadly held for half a year, breached maybe on three or four occassions.

New bargains:

- Barclays Active Additions joint account: for £15 a month (for two people at the same address) you get: emergency home care, travel insurance, full RAC cover, mobile phone insurance, extended warranties on electrical goods, and a few other bits and pieces.

Expired bargains:

- Pru health insurance deal, with all the amazing perks that went with it (including Virgin gym membership at £9 a pop and Cineworld Unlimited for £25 for the year).

2010 - The Year of Plan B

The guy looks like a thug, plays thugs in movies (he's disgustingly evil in Harry Brown), and raps like a thug, but he also writes and composes his own material, and he plays the guitar, and he kills it when performing live. Oh, and he also sings really well (with a 70s vibe). Ah, and he has directed his own little film. Blast, the guy is a team of people wrapped up into a single individual.

You can pick up the runaway success album 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks' for a fiver on Amazon, which cleverly tells the story of a man wrongly convicted.

Some of my favourite tracks:









Here's the track he wrote for the finishing credits of Harry Brown. Be warned, it's very harsh.

A couple of funny sports videos from 2010

Wouldn't it be cool if every sports man entered on their arena with a dance? Maybe not.



Icelandic goal celebration ... don't think this one will be topped for a while.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Pentax Optio H90 vs Pentax Optio LS1100 ... it's a walk-off!

I've just discovered that Pentax have sneakily introduced a new budget compact into the market. I can see why there wasn't much fanfare: the new LS1100 is an almost identical clone of the Optio H90!

The H90:









The LS1100:








The key differences between the two are:

- The LS1100 offers upto 14MP (although I keep my H90 set at 5MP).
- The LS1100 has a 3 inch screen versus 2.7 inches on the H90 (this I would like). Other than that, the layout of the buttons and the menu are identical.
- The LS1100 only offers 4x optical zoom versus 5x on the H90.
- The LS1100 has no grip on the front (not a biggy from a practical perspective, but I do think the grip has a nice visual appeal).

Elsewhere, the features are almost identical, apart from the price. The new LS1100 is already discounted on Amazon at £60, whereas the H90 continues to trade at around £85-£110 depending on which colour you are after.

I'm not sure what Pentax are playing at, as the new camera must surely cannibalise some of the H90 sales. It offers fantastic value for money, and the sleek black design should appeal to the minimalists and modernists. For me, however, the slight design variation of the H90 make it great fun to use.

Either way, both models are a lot of camera for your money, with the only major downside being the absence of image stabilisation technology.

PS - While the Pentax is the new digital compact of choice, we are holding onto the old Kodak DX7440 digibrick of a camera, which remains rather wonderful given it's age.

Vietnamese coffee in the UK

This Christmas, I received a nice little stockpile of Vietnamese coffee to keep me going through the winter months.

I remember coming back from 'Nam several years ago and scouring independent coffee shops to see if I could my hands on the stuff. While the high street adventure proved futile, I discovered Vietnamese Coffee had come to the UK, courtesy of Dragon Coffee, who I've used as my 'go to' coffee guys ever since.

These days, there are a couple more players in the market place. We have Trung Dong providing head-to-head competition by supplying the Trung Nguyen brand at lower prices, and the award winning Vietnamese street cafe, Cafe ZgoZ, who supply their own brand of Vietnamese coffee (a bit pricey). Good times.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Vietnam caves

Here is a fantastic slideshow of a massive cave exploration in Vietnam. The near perfect lighting makes the pictures looks like something straight out of a Hollywood movie.