Friday, June 24, 2011

Live vs pre-recorded

Here be an interesting article about the differences between watching a live event on the box and watching something that's been recorded. A couple of snippets:

"This phenomenon is inescapable (I'm sure some might disagree, but not any sports fan I've ever met). It's going to be the principal issue TV audiences have with coverage of the Summer Olympics since live events in London will almost never match up with the prime-time window when NBC will want to show them. For most North Americans with normal jobs, the 2012 Olympics will not be experienced as living history; they will be experienced as recent history. And that will create the same intangible loss."

"When you watch an event in real time, anything is possible. Someone could die. Something that has never before happened could spontaneously happen twice. When there are three seconds on the clock, not one person in the world can precisely predict how those seconds will unspool. But if something happens within those three seconds that is authentically astonishing and truly transcendent — well, I'm sure I'll find out about three minutes after it happens. I'm sure someone will tell me, possibly by accident. You can avoid the news, but you can't avoid The News. Living in a cave isn't enough. We've beaten the caves. The caves have Wi-Fi."

I've noticed another layer of differences that exist between watching scheduled non-live programmes and films, and those that have been pre-recorded: we strange folk appear to be happy to go out of our way to watch programmes and films at slightly inconvenient times in preference to recording them to watch later at our leisure, with the ability to skip through all the advertisements.

You could argue that it is the product of many years of conditioning, of watching tv in such a pre-ordained way, but there is also the idea that the viewer wants to be on the crest of the wave of all things new, so they can partake in tv talk with their colleagues with everyone on the same page. There is also something magnetic about watching it 'now', and there have the idea of a large group of people almost religiously taking part in the same experience at the same time. And then there is the uncertainty hedge: if what you watch is rubbish, at least you won't have watched it alone.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Film: The Losers

This film is all glitz and style over substance. Jason Patric parodies up the role of the villain just fine but the rest of the film seems to be trying to be more than it is, which ironically makes it a lot less than it could have been.

Finished watching it an hour ago and it's fading fast from memory.

Losers were nowhere near loser-ish enough .... loser. **

Game Group

Okay, had my fun now. Let it be known that I have placed a stop buy order at 34p to close out my short position (the current price is around 27p and I shorted at around 53p). I've never had a trade move so fast in my favour. Okay, so it's only a few pounds in the grand scheme of things, but it's certainly nice to have a winner after dipping my toes in the water after such a long time.

PS - The company is still living on borrowed time in my opinion and there is a good chance my stop may not get hit as I've placed it about 30% away. The way I see it, any nearer and I'd be better off closing out the trade right now - this way there is a bit of wiggle room and whatever happens, I am a happy chappy either way.

Bird Hills golf course

This is a kind golf course with many wide open fairways, even if the natural laws of golf continue to apply: Rule #26 - Even if there is one tree on a golf course, you will find your ball either nestled under its branches or sat awkwardly a few yards behind.

On a peformance note, this is the first time ever that I've played a couple of round where I've been on track to break 100 (scoring 49 on the front nine on both occassions, even after including a 10 on one of the holes and several lost balls). There seems to be something in my game play these days which is creating a more consistent game: I reckon I'm not trying as hard as I used to but that could simply be a function of going through years of struggle and developing a semi-reasonable swing (i.e. is it a product of the swing or a cause, or both?). Anyway, better not to question such things too much and just to enjoy them while they last.

Happy golfing.

The best tv lover / critic is back ...all hail Clive James

Clive James has started doing tv reviews again. This guy is good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Really good chutney

I bought this chutney some time back and it sat in the nether regions of my fridge shelf for many weeks, collecting dew and asking 'Why?'. At first I was surprised and a little put off by the taste, but then, once I knew what to expect, I started going back for more. And now I love it. It's a thick and goopy paste that pairs very well with brie as a cold spread. My favourite use however, is to spread it thinly on toast, top with a little cheddar, and grill - super delicious, sweet cheese on toast (sounds nasty, tastes great).

Will buy again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vitamin D continued

Just part of my regular vitamin D news check, looking out for baddies but only finding goodies:

"More Evidence Vitamin D Boosts Immune Response"

...research suggests that vitamin D can help protect the gums from bacterial infections that lead to gingivitis and periodontis.

...Diamond says that after he began conducting research on vitamin D, he began taking it as a supplement. Since then, "I have had only one cold in four years, and that one lasted only three days," he says. "Other people I've met who have done the same have seen similar results. We are trying to figure out how it's working, and what other infectious diseases can be mitigated by it."

Anecdotally, I also noticed a sharp drop in colds when i started taking vitamin D, as did a friend. Also, I haven't had a mouth ulcer in over a year. Coincidence? Perhaps, perhaps not.

For fans of old books and pamphlets and such like

"The British Library and Google today announced a partnership to digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the Library’s collections. Opening up access to one of the greatest collections of books in the world, this demonstrates the Library’s commitment, as stated in its 2020 Vision, to increase access to anyone who wants to do research."

More here. Rock on technology, rock on.

Eccles Cakes

Over the weekend, I was in the mood for some junk food so I popped down the local newsagents and picked up a pack of four Eccles Cakes. These little buttery disks are seriously rich, heavy going, each with a calorie punch of just over 210 kcal (it didn't stop me from eating three in one sitting though). The combination of butter and sugar means this cake wouldn't be out of place in an Indian sweet shop.

It turns out that the typical Eccles Cakes (see picture to the left) is made up of a just few simple ingredients (incluidng a large wedge of butter of course) and they are put together by hand...nice, helps ease the guilt a little. Here's a cool video showing how the greasy cakes are put together:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Golf - go get 'em McIlroy

"McIlroy, 22, shot 68 to post the US Open's best ever 54-hole total of 199 and become the first man to reach 14 under in its 111-year history."

He's got a cracking lead going into the final year, finger's crossed and everything.

Film: In the Loop

In the Thick of It Goes to America. Very good.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Smallville - final series

Smallville started off really well, before sliding into overly drawn out drama. It is now in the 10th and final series (I think the final episode has just aired in the US). I'm two episodes in and some of my favourite characters are no longer in the picture (where are the Luthers!!!) ... and Clark still doesn't seem to be flying! He is literally faster than a speeding bullet though, which is pretty cool.

In the UK, 4oD are streaming episodes here.

Seven premonition - cool coincide within a coincidence

So I was discussing the film Se7en yesterday. Later in the day I also talked about a modern art painting that was hung upside down in the Tate for a while, before some folk realised the error.

Well, it turned out that Se7en was indeed on tv this evening, and it too featured a painting that has been hung upside down.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tasty NS&I Inflation Linked Bonds

I can't remember if I've mentioned this deal before, but the government's tax-free inflation linked bonds are back.

The bonds pay RPI+0.5%, which is pretty good. As before, the real attraction with these 5-year bonds is the tax shield saving and that you are only really locked in for a year in terms of early exit penalties.

The chart to the right show the probability fan chart for the Bank of England's expectations for inflation, which I just pulled form the BoE's May Inflation Report. Bear in mind the chart is for the CPI (RPI has historically been a touch higher than the CPI as its composition is slightly different). Forecasting is a tricky game, but consider the bonds a good hedge against inflation...the other traditional hedge would be gold, but I wouldn't be touching the yellow metal at current prices.

Happy weekend.

Groupon dealio

Just ordered a full car service and wash for £48. The catch is that it's Mon-Fri only, wich makes things a bit tricky, but hopefully I'll get a chance to use it. Looks like good value, unlike Groupon itself, which is currently valued at $20bn. Buy the deals, sell the shares.

Did you see The Shadow Line on the Beeb?

I echoe the sentiments of GingerRevenger, a commentor on the Guardian's Radio & TV who says 'Strange as it sounds I truly can't work out whether I loved it or have just been left disappointed.'

And so we move on to Luther, and one brooding detective replaces another.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spilled liquid picker upper thingy ... quite something

Food - Marmite pasta

It's simple and apparently it rocks.

Must try soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Game Group - bad times

"Shares in Game Group fell by as much as 12 per cent after the video game retailer cut its full-year sales forecast, blaming the wider malaise affecting the industry."

Like HMV, we have an old business model trying with a legacy of massive cost overhang, a tough market, and a new world where nimbler players can sweep up the lions share overnight. Hard times for companies, better times for consumers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hayfever - Opticrom for itchy eyes

Every year, my hayfever attack system evolves a little.

Added to the mix this year are Opticrom eye drops for itchy eyes. One-a-day anithistamine tablets are the front line of attack but these little drops are great for mornings and evenings, when the hayfever seems to be at its most potent and my eyes are itching like mad (it's like somebody has thrown invisible sand in them). Anyways, highly recommended to all. The relief is almost instantaneous.

Very good stuff.

Exams are over

Yippee, free for another couple of months before the cycle starts again.

Here's a cool music video to celebrate the day I got my freedom back:

Other good things today:

- Got home just in time to watch Andy Murrary find his feet at Queens, taking the tie-break in the second set and cleaning up in the third. This victory is a good confidence boost going into Wimbledon.

- After many days of rain and gloom, the sun was shining again and the pond frogs were out in full force. I grabbed my diddy camera and snapped a few cool pics:

- Watched Coffee and Cigarettes (streaming on Lovefilm), a great little black and white Jim Jarmusch film

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Super cool film poster for the new Captain America

(nabbed from Ain't It Cool).

Friday, June 10, 2011

ACCA F9 exam: how did you do?

Me, not so well. At four o'clock on Tuesday, I was in a good place, or so I thought. The exam was on Friday morning, giving me two and a half days to consolidate my knowledge and practice a mock exam. Hunky dory, as they say. Then I looked at my study planner and realised that I'd got my dates mixed up and the exam was actually just a day and a half away. As a last minute crammer, a lot of crucial study time had suddenly disappeared down a deep dark hole that had been dug by own my absent-mindness (good going, eh).

After a couple of minutes of shock and then another couple of minutes of self pity, which involved pacing up and down the garden cying 'Oh, woe is me', my steely resolve returned. I put the hours in in the little time I had, delicately stuffing information and formulae into my grey cells. By the end of a long day, I had a largish body of knowledge precariously balanced in my cranium; a major head tilt in either direction and I'm sure it would have leaked out. The only piece in the puzzle that was missing was the mock exam, and oh how this would come back to haunt me.

In the exam hall, a combination of panic and over-running massively on the first question meant that large chunks of later questions went completely unanswered, with unnecessary ramblings in other quarters. I do think I did enough to pass, but only just. I definitely had the knowledge but that's not enough in and of itself (exams are about doing things fast and I don't like doing things fast, if at all).

Hopefully the next paper will be a bit better, talking of which I guess it's time to get back to the books ... in between the tennis of course!

- Don't leave it all to the last minute - it's a high risk strategy
- Exams are about technique, not knowledge. You need to know the facts, but there is also such a thing as knowing too much (you over run in an effort to spill your brains all over the page).
- If you do the easy questions first, you have to be super strict on timing, because the later questions will be harder and take longer.

I was meant to give you a picture of an exam hall but accidentally selected a picture of Wing Shun Master Ip Man and his student Bruce Lee. Much better.

Recent Films: Black Dynamite / A Prophet / Ip Man

- Black Dynamite is a whole lot of 70s blaxploitation whip-assing, nun-chucking, tom foolery of the highest order. When you watch this film (and you must watch it), be sure to first watch the 'Lighting the Fuse' mini documentary about how the film came together - it will also help you understand the heart of this spoof/satire/homage. I'm watching Black Dynamite again before it goes back.


- A Prophet turned out to be a pretty decent French gangster film, but I'm only giving it three stars because the stars because the story was quite linear and 'seen-it-all-before'. It was realistically shot, and well acted, but the hype behind it is a bit overblown.


- Ip Man
is a very well made Kung-Fu flick based (loosely) on the life of a real life Master whose pupils included Bruce Lee. The wire-fu element of the fighting remind me of great films such as Once Upon a Time in China and Donni Yen is both a great actor and martial artist. The fighting styles, depending on situation are either beautifully balletic (if that's a word) or mind-blowingly full on brutal. I'm loving his 'thousand pummeling punches' technique. Looking forward to Ip Man 2.


If you aren't planing on watching it, here is a key fight scene:

And here is a cool parody of said scene:

HMV - An inefficient market

Above is the share price for HMV, sorry I means 'hmv'.

The share price shot up 50% on news of the company being given a lifeline by its relationship banks (call me a cynic, but I couldn't really see the likes of publicly owned banks RBS and Lloyds saying 'no' and letting the company go bankrupt overnight. No, much better to roll over the debt on tough terms, so when hmv fails and thousands of jobs are lost, it is because they couldn't deliver and the banks are distanced from the fall-out).

Like others, I struggled to see the value of the deal when taking a longer view. Banks being banks, they are interested in getting a lot of return and security for the risk they are taking, which makes it nigh on impossible to see hmv wriggling out of this strained life-extension.

What is strange is that the share price took so long to come back down again, as the strict and justly potentious ruinous terms of the deal were so obvious. Smacks of a pricing inefficiency to me (caveat - my armchair analysis may be overlooking quite a few pieces in the puzzle, but I carry on regardless!).

Alas, I am not short hmv. I did instead short Game Group, which is down a little since I took the position. Of course, having taken this position, you should expect Game Group to make a seamless transition from off-line to on-line, a mother-lode release of block buster, a unheard of turn around in economic growth, and amazing new technologies from Microsoft, Nintendo and others, all of which will push the share price to untold highs...I have a knack for pickin' em you see.

Food: A delicious savoury - anhcovy toast

Grill up a toast and top with a single sliced up achovy fillet (cut into little strips or chunks) and a sprinkling of cheddar. Grill until bubbling.

Add a sprinkle of pepper to taste (not essential).

Decliciously simple. Will definitely be eating again, soon!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Animals have nightmares too

Fear not little one, just a bad dream: