Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alas poor Pentax H90, I knew you well


This could well be the last photo from my camera, which I managed to lose on a golf course yesterday.

There's a chance the golf course will get back to me with good news but I doubt it - nevertheless, I have definitely already got my money's worth from the magic little light box.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A couple more sunflower pics

freshly taken this morning ... the bees and hoverflies are absolutely loving these plants


Film: Apaloosa


"Appaloosa" is a good old western, staring and directed by Ed Harris and co-starring Viggo Mortensen (aka the man we call when we need someone to ride a horse: the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hidalgo, and now Appaloosa). Instead of offering up anything much new to the genre, Appaloosa is masterfully directed and produced and reminds us why the genre once had such a great appeal.

If you like this type of film, go and see Unforgiven (Eastwood), Open Range (Costner), Tombstone (Kilmer, Russell) and Wyatt Earp (Costner, Quaid).

***

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sunflowers


Coming back from a recent short break, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my sunflowers had hatched.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Artwork from Liu Bolin

Some pictures from artist Liu Bolin:





These pictures have been linked to quite widely on the internet, so this isn't exactly a new finding. Still cool though.

London Blitz in colour


The Daily Mail (no, I don't read it) has some cool colour pictures of the London Blitz.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pentax H90 light effects

The diddy little Pentax H90 produces some fine pics when the sun is poking through from behind the subject. Here are some cool pictures of Pebbles Magoo:

Groupon car service - Saxon Bridge

I just gave my car a full service and interior/exterior clean at Saxon Bridge (Milton Keynes), for a mere £48 using Groupon. I can't see how the vendor will make any money from me with such a low price, so I can offer a bit of PR by saying that their service was way above par and they left my car looking finer than it's looked in a while (see above). Also, it seems to be running quite a bit nicer than it did when I handed it in in the morning, so it's all to the good.

The next challenge is the MoT, which is due imminently. Come on you old horse ... keep on running for me!

Katlama map

On one of more my more popular posts concerning the delicious but scarce katlama, 'Brumtiki' has just commented:

"Shereen Kadah on Moseley Road, Bimingham serves fresh Katlama for breakfast ona Sunday morning, plus Channa & Puri... I am lucky enough to live round the corner.. :-)"

It is alas, too far for me to travel but I spread the word so those better positioned can sample the delights of the great dish. If possible, it would be great to compare it to the katlama's sold at 'Imran's', also found in Birmingham (Ladypool Road).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Films: The Departed & A Single Man


A Single Man is a cracking debut for designer Tom Ford. Stylistically it is beautiful, almost perfect. However, I didn't feel it was self-indulgent in any way. The film is a simple story beautifully told.

Julianne Moore has a star turn alongside Colin Firth, who gives his strongest performance to date.

****



I also watched The Departed for the second time this week. I remember watching the original Korean movie and am pleased to say that Scorcese managed to trump the original, helped by an absolutely stellar cast. Some of the scenes are Scorcese's derivative gangster bread and butter, but the film's plusses easily overcome this one drawback.

**** 1/2






PS - Wonder how I get the time to watch so many movies? Simple, an average movie is less than two hours and most people watch more than two hours of tv a night. I've just switched out the gumpf for more quality. Bye bye to the likes of The Apprentice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Robins


We have a couple of robins nesting in our kitchen extractor fan vent.

I can hear the baby birds chirping away in the kitchen, so have missed the opportunity for robin eggs on toast.

We'll just let these birds grow a little, me thinks, and then whammy, baby robin pie!

Hello to the Canadian contingent

I didn't realise I had a small Canadian contingent reading my Dinky blog. This means I have a non-spam audience reading audience spanning as far and wide as the US, Canada, Hong Kong and Dubai. It's quite amazing how far one's meanderings can travel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The tipping point of the tipping point

Over the past week I have heard people on various programmes talking about how we have 'reached the tipping point'. I take issue with this on two fronts. Front number one: if we have only reached a tipping point then we can always quietly back away from it, and yet people talk about raching the tipping point in a fatalistic tone, as if we are actually 'past the tipping point'. Front number two: the phrase has become an overused cliche (yes, not just a cliche, but an overused cliche!).

Indeed, if you look at the usage of the term 'tipping point' you will see that the current users of said phrase are actually behind the times, and that the term 'tipping point' has actually already passed it's own tipping point. For proof, I have searched the entire corpus of the English language (very easy using Google's nviewer tool) and can present the following chart:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Photos: Marston Vale

Here are a few photos from the Marston Vale Forest Centre, a nature reserve embarrassingly close to Milton Keynes (we've only lived in MK for a few decades!).

Here be some photos from one of the walks:





Vitamin D: keep banging that drum

I have just performed my regular cursory trawl through the news headlines in search of negative effects of vitamin D supplementation. More of the opposite emerges:

Psoriatic Arthritis Suffers Have Vitamin D Insufficiency

The role of vitamin D, estrogen, calcium sensing receptor

Vitamin D deficiency seen by pair as contributing to Mozart's death

I thought I had finally found a meaty negative story but it turns out to be from 1964!

The most interesting piece of recent times is this review by Cochrane. Here is the plain language summary finding (bold bits brought out by myself):

"This systematic review analysed the influence of different forms of vitamin D on mortality. In the 50 trials that provided data for our analyses a total of 94,148 participants were randomly assigned to either vitamin D or no treatment or a placebo. All trials came from high-income countries. The mean age of participants was 74 years. The mean proportion of women was 79%. The median duration of vitamin D administration was two years. Our analyses suggested that vitamin D3 reduces mortality by about 6%, which corresponds to 200 participants that need to be treated over a median of two years to save one additional life. Another supplemental form of vitamin D, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), as well as the active forms of vitamin D (alfacalcidol and calcitriol) had no significant effect on mortality. We also found evidence of adverse effects including renal stone formation (seen for vitamin D3 combined with calcium) and elevated blood levels of calcium (seen for both alfacalcidol and calcitriol). In conclusion, we found evidence that vitamin D3 decreases mortality in predominantly elderly women who are mainly in institutions and dependent care."


Friday, July 15, 2011

Health stats revisited

I had my key health indicators measured at a 'Wellbeing' day at work recently and my blood pressure came out dangerously high. After an initial panic I dug out my own health diagnostic equipment and took readings every morning and evening for five days:

Results
Average blood pressure: 116/71
Average body fat: 11%
Weight: 9.2 stone
BMI: 19.5
Cholesterol: 3.5%
Resting heart rate: 75 bpm

All is well. Apart from a little increase in weight (purposely increased), my measures are close to where they were when I did my extreme diet over two years ago. Looks like crash diets can work!

PS - I know I need to increase my weight a little more but the cost of having to upgrade my wardrobe is a powerful counterforce, helping to maintain the status quo.

Bird Hills: Cracked 100

A forgotten post from last week:

At long last, I have broken the key 100 level on an 18-hole golf course.

The round was actually pretty poor goings with a couple of 9's, only two pars, and lots of three puts. Nevertheless, it was still a most enjoyable affair with perfectly pleasant weather, a relatively empty course and enough wildlife on the course to play a side game of wild-life bingo. We had the usual plethora of rabbits of course, but these were joined by a large hare, several woodpeckers or king-fishers, some odd looking ducks, and a pheasant who politely popped out on the 5th to wish us good luck. I think I also spotted a bird of prey, which you often see around these parts.

There are clear improvements to be made to the game this season. The first is trying to find the tee-off shot that I started the season with: no pressure, no great distance, but straight as an arrow. Now it's going all over the place. Meditation is the key.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'd rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a can

Just a passing comment made by Gwyneth Paltrow. Of the 30 comments (so far) on NY Mag, there are some real corkers:

"Is crack organic?"

"this b!tch"

"Me, too, Gwyneth. Me, too."

"maybe she just likes crack."

"Ugh this, THIS is what I hate most about her, her flippancy and dismissal of things that ordinary people like or use, her just plain ignorance about common sense things and willful naivete. She could have said something like, "I would never serve my children that," which okay we get, that's understandable and probably most would agree. But no it has to be " I would rather smoke crack." You'd rather smoke crack Gwyneth? Right because it's totally comparable to fast food? One has socio-economically destroyed and decimated the black urban population for decades while the other is cheese in a can. Which suddenly makes it about class and her elitist attitude. Good Lord.

She is like the least self aware person I have ever read about ever"

"But Chris Martin would totally eat cheese out of a can!
I don't understand their relationship."

"I'd have to smoke crack just to get through one of her movies."

Now that's what I call food poisoning

I ate a piece of bad fish last night. Within half an hour I was feeling quite queasy, really tired, unable to concentrate and pretty weak all round. Then I walked over to the bathroom, proceeded to return my dinner to outside environs and went straight to bed expecting to be waking up many times through the night. Instead, I slept like a baby. I still feel a bit soft around the edges so to speak, but this definitely goes down as my best food poisoning to date.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Film: Juan of the Dead

This is on my list of films to keep an eye out for. Story wise, it's all been seen before. The twist is that it's a Cuban comedy horror, and they don't come around all that often. Looks like great entertainment.


Film: 14 Blades

"14 Blades" has some super cool fight scenes and even though it packs in the wire-fu (don't mind so much) and CGI (hate it to bits in almost all cases), it is still a very good film.

I remember seeing wire-fu for the first time when Channel 4 showed Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China some 10+ years ago and being amazed by it. Now, however, it been overkilled by Hollywood who seem to be using it every possible opportunity.

Would really write more but its gone 1am, Caio,

***1/2

Film: Blood Simple


I like the Coen brothers' quirkiness but their films generally don't quite do it for me. The ones that have really worked are The Big Lebowski and Fargo, and now also Blood Simple, a noir crime thriller that keeps you in suspense all the way through. I miss films like this.

*** 1/2

Friday, July 08, 2011

Good riddance to the end of News of the World


Hopefully the masses will migrate to something a little more nourishing, hopefully.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Film: Synecdoche (5 stars)

Watching Synecdoche the second time in a week is a very fulfilling experience (even better than the first time). Throughout the film, I listened intently, instead of letting the madness just wash over me, and was surprised at how explicit the film is in trying to explain much of what it is about - there are clear universal themes relating to the experience of life that emerge and are built upon, and while there is scope for interpretation, this is not like a piece of modern art where the viewer decides everything for themselves. Here, the writer and director are guiding us into a deeper understanding of philosophical position on the state of being human. I do not necessarily agree with the viewpoints down to a tee, but this doesn't lessen the grandness of this movie as there are so many universal truths concerning human existence, which we should all be able to relate to. I am struggling to explain it well, so I will quote some words from the great movie critic Roger Ebert, who cites Synedoche as one of the best films of the decade. I agree. 5 stars.

*****

" in "Synecdoche" (2008), his first film as a director, he makes it his subject, and what huge ambition that demonstrates. He's like a novelist who wants to get it all into the first book in case he never publishes another. Those who felt the film was disorganized or incoherent might benefit from seeing it again. It isn't about a narrative, although it pretends to be. It's about a method, the method by which we organize our lives and define our realities. "

Ebert

My first time through "Synecdoche" I felt a certain frustration. The plot would not stay still. It kept running off and barking at cats. The second time was more soothing. I knew what was going on. It is what goes on every day of our lives, made visual by the inspired set design, rooms on top of rooms, all containing separate activities, with the protagonist trying to satisfy, or direct, or obey or evade, or learn from, or receive solace from, the people in all of the rooms.

Ebert again

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ah, the Mediterranean diet

I knew pizza was high in calories but this is crazy:

A simple Giardinera pizza from Pizza Express packs 900 calories. But of course, it's always nice to start with a few dough balls (350 calories) and maybe finish with some delicious toffee fudge cake (700 calories). These crazy calorie numbers don't put me off eating this stuff because eating out is a relative rarity and when I do it, I often enjoy piggin' out to the max. However, if you eat this type of stuff on a regular basis it's pretty clear that you either got to run a million miles a day or start shopping for the next size up!

Here are the links to the pdf's showing the calorie content of Pizza Hut and Pizza Express menus:

Pizza Hut
Pizza Express

A dirty bag of fish and chips will yield somewhere between 550-900 calories. A dirty kebab will close in on 1000 kcal.

It's all so tasty though!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Is is safe to eat stale eggs


If you were to make an inventory assessment of my various dry foodstuffs and tinned goods, you would probably think that you had somehow travelled back in time, for most of the 'best before' and 'eat before' dates would be well past.

The one thing I've been really picky about however is eggs, believing that stale eggs increase the risk of salmonella. However, having conducted some further researches, it would appear that eggs with the lion mark come from chickens that have been vaccinated against salmonella.

So, with this horrid risk out of the way, I shall be less averse to the occassional stale egg (happy news for this egg lover). The simple test for freshness is to lower an egg into a glass of cold water. If it floats, the egg is stale and it won't taste nice or cook well (a stale egg will also stink something nasty so be sure not to crack it directly into your cooking if you are unsure). If it stays at the bottom, it is still fresh. If the egg stands at the pointy end on the bottom of the glass, it will be okay for use in cooking so long as the yolk is cooked hard.

I'm off to cook me an egg.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Film: Synecdoche


Really loved this mad mad film, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the best actors out there.

Okay, the burning house I was unsure about, but director Charlie Kauffman explains it well in an interview:

"Kaufman: But other people are really frustrated with it. Even after the movie, when I do Q&As and people ask, "Why the burning house? What is the burning house?", I have to say, "Well, it doesn't speak to you. It speaks to other people. There are other things in the film that maybe, hopefully, will speak to you"; but, I'm trying to let this interaction be personal, in the same way that a dream is personal. A dream is for the dreamer when—as you say—the dreamer wakes up within it. I love that something happened there that clicked for you."

"...she made the choice to live there. In fact, she says in the scene just before she dies that the end is built into the beginning. That's exactly what happens there. She chooses to live in this house. She's afraid it's going to kill her but she stays there and it does. That is the truth about any choice that we make. We make choices that resonate throughout our lives."

Roger Ebert has written a wonderful little post about the film here (or just see below for most of the piece):

"...it's not that you have to return to understand it. It's that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may daunt you. The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it like a talisman."

"Here is how life is supposed to work. We come out of ourselves and unfold into the world. We try to realize our desires. We fold back into ourselves, and then we die. "Synecdoche, New York" follows a life that ages from about 40 to 80 on that scale. Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater director, with all of the hangups and self-pity, all the grandiosity and sniffles, all the arrogance and fear, typical of his job. In other words, he could be me. He could be you. The job, the name, the race, the gender, the environment, all change. The human remains pretty much the same.

Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.

In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again."