Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You just got syndicated

... a good chap by the name of Neo has offered to post some of my bloggingses at a new site called Coconut Lounge. The empire slowly builds. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.

All the best Neo.Link

Remotes

After a modest success selling Logitech internet radios on E-Bay, I thought I'd try my hand with Logitech's Univesal Remote Controls, which I snapped up for less than half price direct from the supplier. This set of trades did not run so smoothly. After repeated auctions, I have managed to clear my inventory with a small profit of a few pounds. Put a price on time wasted and the deal was a total dud. Still, at least I'm not left holding the bag on this one, which is about as much as I could have hoped for.

Ninja Cole, my current wallpaper image

Battle with the Toy Story characters is yet to commence...the time will come. There will be ketchup.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Picturenaut HDR

Here is my first attempt at using Picturenaut, a free application that creates High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.

A common issue when taking pictures is that an exposure may bring out the sky but make the foreground really dark (first pic), or do the opposite with a clear foreground but burnt out skies (second pic). The idea behind HDR is that you take a bracketed exposure (two or three pics at different exposures) and blend them together to make a much clearer image (third pic).


Expendables 2...sad news

It hurts me to say this but the Expendables sequel will not be the blood-spattered gore-fest I was hoping for. Why this? It's Chuck Bleedin' Norris' fault. He said he would only do the film if they cut back on the dirty talking and gory violence and they caved in. In fact, Expendables 2 will be a PG-13! Bah. Double bah! Unless the reviews are good, I think I'll wait for it to pop up on Channel 5.

Markets

European equity indices have fared rather well of late, given that we are on the edge of the abyss. Facts on the ground: 5-year Portuguese debt offers a whopping 21% and German bunds just 1.8%. Uncertainty is everywhere and yet investors seem blind to it. Perhaps they are being intoxicated by the hallucinatory liquidity measures.

My rather complex theory is that people have gotten so used to the deep abyss being at their feet that it's simply become part of their mental furniture. What's that massive monster in the corner of the room, drooling and getting ready to pounce on us. Shouldn't we run for the hills? Oh, don't worry, that's just the monster. It doesn't do anything. Turn your chair so you can't see him. Look out of the window. Isn't it a nice day? I guess so, yes, wonderful.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bridge camera desired no more

After my Pentax H90 broke, I was pretty keen on purchasing a bridge camera. I've now decided against this because I value portability so highly. Also, my little H90 is currently in the intensive care unit (it was covered by  my gadget insurance) and will hopefully come back fighting fit.

I wouldn't mind an eventual upgrade to a higher end point-and-shoot with decent manual controls. However,  the current range of compacts really struggle to match up to the Pentax H90's form factor, a key factor behind my enjoyment of taking photos. After hours of searching I found a Canon S95 which looks okay and takes great photos and a Nikon P300 which is very pleasing to the eye, takes great pics, especially in low-light, costs a lot less (£180) and has a funky, Eastern European utilitarian design. Right now, however, the price points are not there. Also, the optical zooms on these cameras are nothing special. I will hold out for a while longer, me thinks.

The form vs function issue is an interesting one because one the one hand Canon tend to make the best quality compacts but because the Nikon P300 is fun and apparantly very nice to hold, you would get more use out of it, thereby taking photos that you otherwise wouldn't take with the Canon. In this respect you can't always do a like for like photo by photo comparison because there will be instances where you wouldn't have taken a photo with the Canon in the first place!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Film: A Bittersweet Life

A Bittersweet Life is the best Korean film I have seen in a while and is the note perfect way to end my recent DVD watching frenzy. Highly recommended to those with a strong stomach for violence.

**** 1/2

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where did the evening go?

I have lost a great deal of time this evening and little has been achieved. I am neither tired from exercise, although exercise I did, nor am I suitably relaxed, and I have tried to relax. I have cooked too much food and am struggling to eat it all. I have put my cardigan on and taken it off repeated times. Still, I am either too hot or too cold. My socks, let me tell you about my socks. I looked for my thick thermal socks but couldn't find them. I slipped on a random pairing from the shelf, beige in color, not worn in a long time; the socks that time forgot. And for good reason too: the ratio of man-made fibres to cotton was too high, causing excess heat and discomfort. I replaced this pair with another beige set. Fortunately, these were made up of more appropriate ingredients, with a higher cotton portion. Alas, just as the comfort began to filter up - comfort starts from the feet up, as the old adage runs - I stepped in a puddle in the kitchen. This is my evening. I hope yours is going well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple

Pre-market: 449.90 +29.49 (7.01%)

Wow, it's a good thing I exited my small short position a couple of months ago. They've just blown the market away with record profits of around $13bn.

Having bought their shares at around $13-$14 and exited for a gain of a few bucks, it pains me to see their roaring success. Still, credit to these guys and especially to the great Steve Jobs, for opening up technology to a much broader audience.



South Carolina primary: 'wow wow wow, it's a southern brawl'
Election coverage on the TV news networks relies on the carefully choreographed pseudo-excitement of such devices"If you thought Iowa and New...



Monday, January 23, 2012

Orange and the highly profitable lazy customer

Regular readers of this blog will know how much pleasure I derive from saving the occassional pound or two, not as a penny-wise pound-foolish Scrooge McDuc, but more as a savvy customer with a keen eye to value. Well, I have a confession to make: it is that I have been on one of Orange's worst contracts for several months, paying £18 a month on average for unlimited texts and just 100 minutes of talk time. Ruinous I say, absolutely ruinous. How did I sleep at night? Not well, not well at all.

After calling Orange, asking for my PAC code and threatening to leave for better deals elsewhere, they kindly offered the following for £15.50 a month:

- A new Orange smart phone called the Monte Carlo
- 600 minutes
- Unlimited texts
- 500MB data
- Continued home broadband.

What makes this a cracking deal is that I am not keen on smart phones as yet, largely due to their weakling battery lives, and so the newly received smart slab that is the Monte Carlo has been sold on E-bay for around £100. This will reduce my effective bill (over it's 24 month life) to £11.33. Then there is the free home broadband legacy deal which is worth a minimum of £6.50 a month, so that really leaves me paying £4.83 a month which is pretty darn good. And so it is that I remain with Orange. It just sucks that you have to threaten to leave on contract expiry to squeeze a decent deal out of them.

The next challenge is on the camera front. I am planning on upgrading to a bridge camera in the near future but I don't want to dent my budget and so am looking to score about £250 from other avenues to pay for this treat! Plans are afoot!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Virginia Water and the last foray for the Pentax H90, my trusty companion : (

The Pentax H90 struggled again in low light, but having read a few photography magazines I don't feel at all guilty about applying some crazy whippy-dee-doo-da effects post production. They are all at it!










Alas, later in the day the Pentax suffered at my slippery hands of incompetence and the lens has truly jammed. The magic light box of joy is dead. I am going to see if I can get it fixed under my insurance but until then the old Kodak DX7440 has come back out to play, an old brick of a digital camera that rocks a mind-blowing 4MP.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Haywire film

Haywire is super stylish as you would expect form Mr Soderbergh, who has given us turkeys such as Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13. Fortunately, Haywire is much better than these style-over-substance earlier films. The action is fantastic and the music is superb, working to tone down the harshness of the fight scenes, which really are something to behold.

Alas, the story is unsatisfying in it's final conclusion and the dialogue a bit cheesy at times. A little more effort could have made this film a must-see. Instead, it's popcorn fun, albeit very stylish popcorn fun.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Runnymede photo session

Woke up pre-sunrise today and headed over to Runnymede with a house-mate for a little early morning photography session. The change of air both numbed the hands and re-invigorated the spirits. My little Pentax H90 was pushing against the limits on the auto-setting although for the most part it managed to capture enough data in the pictures to so they could be carried over to Photoscape for a little editing. Here be a selection:










Like there weren't going to be any lego people! Notice the new Bruce Lee dude. Does he stand ready to fight ninja or is this the start of a beautiful friendship?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pentax H90 triple filtered

This one uses the retro filter, then the toy filter, and then the red tone filter. I'm liking the effect:

This one uses the retro and toy filter and then applies a photographic film filter from Photoscape:

My Pentax H90 is a great little toy but it is quite likely already being surpassed by the high-end camera phones. I have the upper hand with battery life, which is a big plus.

Also, whilst I have an eye to future technologies and the latest compacts, I was also looking at past pics taken by my old Kodak DX-7440 (5MP), which are pretty much on par with the H90, if not better! It didn't have the cool filters though and has an impractical form factor (comfortably chunky for single hand snaps and highly configurable, but not so easily pocketed). I may have to brush the dust of the old brick and do a contast and compare.

Downton Abbey

Watched two episodes but it didn't quite hook me. There were a few great lines but it lacked the sharp-tongued wit that makes some period dramas really shine. It's moves at a fast clip at least and it's all good light fluff for soap fans, but one of them I ain't.
And before you think 'look at him, thinking he's better than the masses' let me tell you the true reason why it didn't pull me in: there was a complete absence of ninjas. I thought I saw one in the corner of a room but it was the dancing shadow of a candle light.

Recent films


Both films are highly recommended. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is very brutal and graphic and not at all for the feint hearted (and especially not for cat lovers), but it is one of the best detective stories I've seen of late. I haven't read the book and have no great desire to but I am looking forward to more movies with the same key characters.

K-20 (DVD film) is a different fish altogether. It is set in an alternative history when WWII never took place and is very steam-punkish with loads of retro sets, which makes the movie very easy on the eye. Despite being subtitled, this super-hero style actioner is good fun for all the family, expect small children perhaps, as there is some rough language, shootings and a few beatings but the comic book feel about it makes it enjoyable throughout. I'd give both movies a strong four stars.The story revolves around a masked character who steals from the rich and basically wants to keep for himself, and the circus performer who is mistaken for K-20 and arrested. I think I'll be watching this one again before it goes to the charity shop.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Katlama - the source?

The Katlama mystery post has received an interesting comment:

"Shereen Kadah on Moseley Road in Birmingham have the BEST kathlamas in the UK... Second would be Saleems on Ladypool Rd...

Trust me.. I'm 34 years old and have been eating them since the age of 7!

I believe kathlamas were invented in Birmingham and Shereen Kadah & Saleems were the first to make them in the 60's

Regards
Special K"

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol review

Super-cheesey, met low expectations. Tom Cruise struggles to beat up an old man. Apple sponsorship is evident throughout.

In the less interesting segments my thoughts turned to what I was going to eat for dinner. I opted to oven up two battered fish. One was eaten with lemon and tartar sauce and the other with cheese and ketchup squidged between two slices of slightly toasted rye bread, which was chopped into triangles. Delish. With the Vogel original bread increasingly rare these days, rye bread is fast becoming my back-up.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Short Groupon

It's the next Game Group, I tells ya.

Okay, not quite a Game Group disaster but the business is horrendously overvalued. I've been getting Groupon e-mails sent to one of my Hotmail folders for several months and the deals are often overhyped and are repeated way too often. The occassional true deal such as a cheap car service, which I took up, was great value for money but it didn't make me want to use the garage again because the regular price was out of my league. Groupon shares are currently at $17.90.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Kerrygold spreadable butter is back ... yippeee!

Things were not looking good going into 2012. Kerrygold stopped selling their pure unanimously praised spreadable butter, the perfect partner to a slice of hot Vogel toast. The Kerryold eating populous were up in arms, venting their anger at its replacement which is no more than another ten-a-penny butter vegetable oil blend.

For my part, I wrote an frustrated missive to Kerrygold HQ asking why they had done this and if the issue was related to low sales then they should darn well start selling smaller tubs of the stuff, instead of just offering large family sized tubs. They never got back to me. Could this spell the end for the pure butter spreadable?

Well, I discovered that Presidente have a spreadable but it is French and low in salt, the worst of all possible worlds. The French thing is a joke, but I do hear reports that it isn't quite up to the Kerrygold mark. I also managed to find a Marks&Spencer pure spreadable butter but it too is low salt, so expectations are low.

Nevertheless, I thought I was going to have make do.

Until that is, I went to Sainsbury's today and found this beauty on the shelves:


It's the Kerrygold spreadable and it's in a smaller size. The web-site blurb says:

"We are delighted to announce that the 100% pure Kerrygold Softer Butter is back! You will be able to find this product in selected Sainsburys stores from the middle of Jan 2012.

Initially this product will be available in the same packaging as before, but we are working on some brand new packaging, so look out for this soon (don't worry - the product is exactly the same as it always has been).

Thanks to all the people who got in touch with us - you've all helped to get this product back in stores!!

Kerrygold's Softer products combine our natural taste, with the convenience of softer butter - making your day that little bit easier, but without compromising on that pure butter taste.

Most other 'spreadables' are actually blends of butter and vegetable oil. In fact, they can contain up to 33% vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is an inexpensive ingredient by comparison to pure butter fat and the type of vegetable oil added in these products is usually not declared, with the result that consumers do not know the source or origin or the extent of industrial processing to which the product has been subjected. In stark contrast, Kerrygold Softer Butter is exactly that. It is 100% pure tasty Irish butter, made softer without the addition of vegetable oil.

How did we make our Kerrygold Softer Butter even softer?
Kerrygold Softer Butter is a 100% pure & natural dairy product, containing only one non-dairy ingredient; salt to accentuate its inherent flavour. In order to achieve enhanced spreadability, rather than compromising on the purity & naturalness of butter by adding vegetable oil, we sought a little help from Mother Nature. During the summer months the pastures on which the Kerrygold cows graze are at their most rich and lush. As a consequence, the milk they produce is most abundant in naturally softer milkfat. It is this naturally softer milkfat that is the key to the enhanced spreadabilty of "Now Even Softer" Kerrygold Softer Butter. Using a gentle cooling and crystallization process, we have increased the quantity of this softer milkfat in the butter, resulting in a velvety smooth and "Now Even Softer" Kerrygold Softer Butter."

Here is a list if stores selling the little blocks of gold. Good luck.


Alperton, Wembley, HA0 1PF
Alphington Rd, Exeter, EX2 8NH
Archer Rd, Sheffield, S8 0TD
Arnold, Nottingham, NG5 6BN
Badger Farm, Winchester, S022 4QB
Bagshot Rd, Bracknell, RG12 7SS
Bamber Bridge, Preston, PR5 6BJ
Banbury, OX16, 9XA
Barnstaple, EX31 3NH
Barnwood, Gloucester GL4 3RT
Beeston, Nottingham NG9 2LA
Bishops Stortford, CM23 3XG
Blackhall, Edinburgh, EH4 2EB
Blackheath, Rowley Regis, B65 0HG
Bramingham Park, Luton, LU3 4AB
Brentwood, CM14 4WQ
Bridgend, CF32 9ST
Broadcut, Fareham, PO16 8SU
Bromley, BR1 1TP
Burpham, Guildford, GU4 7JU
Burton on Trent, DE14 1AA
Bury St Edmunds, IP32 7EJ
Bybrook, Ashford, TN24 8YN
Calcot, Reading, RG31 7SA
Cameron Toll, Edinburgh EH16 5PB
Canley, Coventry, CV4 9BJ
Cannock, WS11 8XP
Castle Court, Bristol, BS4 3BD
Castle Vale, Birmingham, B35 6HB
Cheadle, SK8 3BB
Chesterfield, S41 0UB
Chichester, PO19 7YR
Chippenham, SN14 0BJ
Christchurch, BH23 4RY
Cobham, KT11 1HW
Colchester Ave, Cardiff, CF23 9XN
Coldhams Lane, Cambridge, CB1 3HP
Court House Grn, Coventry CV6 7NS
Craigavon, BT64 1AA
Crayford, Dartford, DA1 4HW
Crystal Peaks, Sheffield, S20 7PJ
Darlington, DL1 5JG
Darnley, Glasgow G53 7RH
Denton, Manchester, M34 3SJ
Dulwich, London, SE22 8BB
Dundee, DD4 8XD
Durham, DH1 5GD
East Mayne, Basildon SS13 1SA
Edenthorpe, Doncaster DN2 5PS
Ellesmere Port, CH65 9HN
Eltham, SE9 5DL
Emersons Grn, BS16 7AE
Enfield, EN1 1TH
Fairfield Park, Bedford, MK41 7PJ
Farlington, Portsmouth, P06 1RR
Forestside, Belfast, BT86 6FX
Fosse Park, LE19 1NT
Gloucester Quays, GL2 5SA
Godalming, GU7 1LQ
Greenwich, London, SE10 0QJ
Hadleigh Rd, Ipswich, IP2 0BX
Hankridge Farm, Taynton, TA1 2LR
Harlow, CM20 2AG
Harrogate, HG2 8QZ
Hawick, TD9 7AD
Hayes, UB3 3EX
Haywards Heath, RH16 1DG
Heaton, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE7 7JW
Heaton Park, M9 0QS
Hedge End, S030 2UH
Hempstead Valley, ME7 3PB
Hereford, HR4 0AG
Heyford Hill, OX4 4XR
Hoddesdon, EN11 8HF
Horsham, RH12 1SQ
Hull, HU13 9NS
Kempshott, Basingstoke, RG22 4TW
Kidderminster, DY11 6XP
Kidlington, OX5 2PE
Kiln Lane, KT17 1EQ
Kings Lynn, PE30 1DS
Lancaster, LA1 1HH
Larkfield, Ayleford, ME20 7NA
Leamington, Warwick, CV34 6RH
Livingston, EH54 6RQ
Locksbottom, Orpington, BR6 8NZ
London Colney, St Albans, AL2 1AB
Longwater, Norwich, N55 0JS
Loughborough, LE11 5AS
Low Hall, London, E4 8ST
Macclesfield, SK10 1BJ
Maidenhead, SL6 8AG
Marshall Lake, Solihull, B90 4AJ
Mere Grn, Sutton Coldfield B75 5BT
Merry Hill,Brierley Hill, DY5 1QY
Merton, London, SW19 1DD
Monks Cross, York, YO32 9LG
Moortown, Leeds, LS17 5NY
Nantwich, CW5 6PH
Newbury, RG14 5AB
Newbury Park, Ilford, IG2 7SH
Newcastle U Lyme, ST5 2AF
Newport, NP20 5NJ
Nine Elms, London, SW8 2LF
North Cheam, Sutton. Sm3 9AA
North Walsham, NR28 9DS
Oldbury, B69 3DB
Paignton, TQ3 2HW
Pound Lane, Norwich, NR7 0SR
Preston, PR1 6PJ
Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 4XT
Rice Lane, Liverpool, L9 1NL
Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3QP
Rugby, CV22 6HU
Sale, M33 7SA
Sedlescombe Rd, St Leonard's On Sea, TN37 7SQ
Sevenoaks, TN14 5EG
Shorehead, Huddersfield, HD1 6QR
Shrewsbury, SY3 9NB
Sittingbourne, ME10 4DN
Slough Uxbridge Rd, SL1 1SU
Southend, SS1 1PL
Springfield, Chelmsford, CM2 5PA
Sprucefield, BT27 6UQ
St Albans, AL1 2QU
St Clares, Hampton, TW12 1AN
Stanway, Colchester, CO3 9AA
Stratton, Swindon, SN3 4EW
Sunderland, SR3 1PD
Swansea, SA1 8JA
Sydenham, London, SE26 4PU
Talbot Heath, Poole, BH12 4BA
Tamworth, B78 3HD
Team Valley, Gateshead, NE11 0JY
Telford, TF3 4AG
Tewkesbury Rd, Cheltenam, GL51 9RR
Thornhill, Cardiff, CF14 9BB
Torquay, TQ2 7HT
Truro, TR1 3XL
Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5QL
Upton, Wirral, CH49 6QG
Uxbridge, UB8 1QW
Wakefield-Marsh, WF1 1QQ
Wandsworth, London, SW18 4AD
Warren Heath, Ipswich, IP3 87Q
Warrington, WA1 2TN
Washington, NE38 7RU
Water Lane, Farnham GU9 9NJ
Weedon Rd, Northampton, NN5 5DG
West Belfast, BT11 9AE
West Grn, Crawley, RH10 8NF
West Hove, Hove, BN3 7GD
White Rose, Leeds, LS11 8LS
Worle, Weston Super Mare, BS22 6BL
Wrexham, LL11 2BA

A couple more Ninja Cole pics


This pic makes good use of a super-strong torch I got at xmas.

Confession

Last week I posted an entry about my longest ever run, which stretched some 8 miles. I came across as a bit of a superman as I commented that I seemed to be suffering little ill effect despite running on concrete and not warming up.

Well, the following day my right knee joint started playing up and has only just healed a week later. It wasn't a bad pain by any means but it was a joint pain and not a muscle pain, which was a bit worrying. Indeed, I went for a short 2m walk today and could still feel it niggling away. Looks like that may well be my run for the year. I may do a few short 1-2m jogs every now and then but for the most part I think I'll stick to pushing a bit of iron about the place every now and then. The mind is young, the body not so much  : (

Chopping food on your plate = blunt knives

Doh, there goes my 'one less thing to wash' approach. Fortunately I have a 'World's Most Amazing Knife Sharpener' to come to the rescue. I have learned that chopping away on ceramic plates is very useful when striving to attain a blunt knife in the shortest space of time possible. Those horrid glass chopping boards are equally useful. Best to stick to good old wood or plastic.

As for whether to go for wood or plsatic, Wikipedia notes that:

"... Wood has some advantages over plastic in that it is somewhat self-healing; shallow cuts in the wood will close up on their own. Wood also has natural anti-septic properties."

"... While plastic is theoretically a more sanitary material than wood for cutting boards, testing has shown this may not be the case. The softer surface of plastic boards is scored by knives, and the resulting grooves and cuts in the surface harbour bacteria even after being well washed. A plastic surface can also ruin the sharp edge of the knife."

Looks like wood is the ultimate winner, although I'm happy continuing with a plastic chopping board for my infrequent use.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Friday, January 06, 2012

Last few pics

 The light really should have been shone a little higher.





Wednesday, January 04, 2012