Sunday, November 27, 2005

"...biggest spotty dog you ever did see."

Another Banqueting Club weekend this weekend, cooking for our mates at Grimm Tales.

Just Ellen and me this time. Pig was on his works do, getting off his face in Amsterdam.

Well received as ever, but knackered after this one due to a thick cold, only 2 of us, and a heavy social with Dickie and a bottle of Jameson’s on the Friday night.

Slept in a cold Frankenstein’s laboratory, of Dave Trolls making. Didn’t see much of what was going on plot-wise but there was a lot of scrappin’ outside the kitchen window and our serving girl got eaten.

Best dishes of the weekend? Everyone frothed about the pasties, but I rated the Spotted Dog.

Spotted Dog Recipe

  • 8 oz Self-Raising Flour
  • 1 tspn Salt
  • 4 oz Shredded Suet
  • 1 oz Sugar
  • 8 oz Currants or Raisins
  • 150 ml Cold Water
Stir together the flour, salt, sugar, suet and dried fruit. Mix to a firm dough with water. Form into a cylinder about 8 inches long, and put on a pudding cloth that has been wrung out in boiling water and sprinkled with flour. Roll the pudding in the cloth and tie the ends tightly, but leave room for expansion (alternativly, use a good covered pudding bowl). Put into a pan of boiling water, cover, and boil for 2+ hours, adding more boiling water if necessary to prevent it boiling dry (which it will as soon as your back is turned). Turn the pudding onto a hot dish and serve with shed loads of custard.


Friday, November 25, 2005

DVD Review - Hamlet ('90)

Franco Zeffirelli is a director who has already given the world a pair of excellent Shakespearean dramas, in the form of "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew," back in the late '60s.

Mel Gibson (yes, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Mel ‘William Wallace’ Gibson) takes the lead as The Dane himself and he is good, surprisingly excellent in fact. A fine supporting cast ably backs him in the form of Glenn Close as Gertrude, Alan Bates on fine form as the usurper Claudius, Paul Scofield as the revenge hungry ghost of Hamlet's father, Ian Holm ably rounding out the meddling advisor Polonius and even Helena Bonham-Carter waddles, somewhat underused, through the piece as the ill-fated Ophelia.

This 1990 version strives for a sense
of realism, with both its stunning and remarkably accurate medieval sets and with its thoughtful and truthful costumes. Hamlet intentionally supports itself with very little in the way of a musical score, and this adds to the atmosphere and to the loneliness of the young Prince behind his cloak of self enforced madness.

On it’s release, hackneyed purists quibbled with some of the liberties Zeffirelli had taken. The 80-year-old Italian director had swapped some scenes and lost others, and they objected still loader to the ‘less brooding’ tone of the overall production and to the 'flipancy' of the lead character. But then, if memory serves, there were complaints about his "Romeo and Juliet" and his "Taming of the Shrew", though these are now generally regarded as two of the finest translations to celluloid.

Hamlet deserves a place by their side.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: Alas none available on my VHS review version...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The End of 'Time'.

The new era of 'liberalised drinking' began in England and Wales last night, with more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and shops leaping like salmon at the opportunity to sell alcohol around the clock.

Is it just me, or is this a remarkably retarded move so close to Christmas and New Year? A totally unprepared police force will no doubt have to contend with thousands of bloody students and seasonal revellers, at all hours of the night and day, at their busiest time of year.

It’s not gonna affect us here on the river, but we’re a different kind of drinker, we have ‘lock-in’s’ for such things where a select few have our bar stools mopped around and “sorry I’m late dear, I had to wait to leave ‘till the floor dried”. This is a public service providing essential winter warmth and a bastion of real ale and (god fordid) morris dancing. Not a mobile office party of ratted yule revellers throwing their guts up into city centre doorways at 3am.

Today the drink industry spends more than £800m a year encouraging people, especially young people, to quaff. With the state of our National Health Service, perhaps the government should put effort into abolishing such advertising instead of making addictive and harmful substances available 24 hours, thus encouraging the George Best in all of us.

I like my Jameson’s and a decent drop of red as much as the next bloke, but this is surely gonna end in tears.

Late night drink driving anyone?

The Truth!

Last night we finally finished watching ALL the X-Files. That’s 201 episodes and a movie. We set out to do this back in June, ignorant of what this’d involve and wide-eyed to the ways of the worlds most famous FBI agents.

The first 5 seasons, (with but a few exceptions), are superb. The rest is detritus made to line
Fox's pockets (with a few exceptions).

The premise is simple. Fox (the believer) Mulder and Dana (the skeptic) Scully, doggedly investigate Fortean Times plotlines in search of ‘the truth’ while hidden Machiavellian government forces pull their strings and impede their efforts. There are aliens, there is religion, there is mystery, there are grotesquely malformed peanut butter loving rapists obsessed with Cher.

FHM loved Gillian Anderson (and I get it now, especially when she had the bob). Poor Dogget never really got a chance to shine, and Robert Patrick is such a damn good (and alas underrated) actor. Annabeth Gish is flawed and 'librarian' cute. They never truly filled the shoes of Mulder, played by David Duchovny, who was fired with irrepressible zeal for his personal mission and led the narrative to start, but swanned through his final performances without even the pretence of passion nor enthusiasm.

There are some truly fantastic episodes. Let’s dwell on the good stuff and ignore the later detritus. Lets remember the good times, like Tooms, Humbug (with the Jim Rose Circus), the hilarious War of the Coprophages, the surprisingly lyrical Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man, Post-Modern Prometheus and the warming How The Ghosts Stole Christmas. Let us not speak of the disappointing excrement in the last season, leading to the biggest anti-climax of my entire life (the last episode). Let’s just blame Fox and preserve the integrity of Chris Carter and his stalwart crew.

I now see the benefit in carrying a Maglite at all times.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Week @ 'The Plex'

I don't know about you, but I'm loosing track of what's going in Google world of late. Anyone would think they were trying to compete with Microsoft or something.

Google Adwords
  • Now lets you make separate bids for ads that appear on their content network.
  • Allows you target a geographical area using Google maps interface, which might be useful for some of our regional stuff.
  • Now beta testing 'a click-to-call' thingy, which is pointless for us.

Google Sitemaps

  • Now gives more useful info about on how Google "sees" sites, including the top search queries that return pages to a site as well as the top queries that caused users to click on a link.

Google Adsense/Adwords

  • Has a feature inviting advertisers to place ads directly on individual content sites displaying adwords via an 'advertise on this site' link. Sites within Google's content network are automatically opted in to this feature unless you opt out, which is a right royal pain in the butt.

Google Analytics

  • Closed to new accounts, which is just as well as reporting is lagging by at least 24 hours. It may be free, it may (allegedly) be powerful, but right now it's as much use as a fart in a space suit for real-time stats.

Google Base

  • Is looking for data. Kinda like classifieds with poke. Might last. Might not.

…and still no Google browser. It’s getting’ full time keepin’ up with them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Can’t get wood.

We were outbid on our wood, alas.

Unfortunately, with having to pay for a house now, it may not be financially viable for
Jem and me to carry on looking. There’s going to be so much to do at the cottage, and I now have my own dry stone walls to worry about.

Monday, November 14, 2005


We’ve put an offer in on a house and had it accepted.

It’s a 250 year old grade 2 listed two/three bedroom end terraced cottage in Makeney, near Milford, in the Amber Valley.

5 years on
Andromeda has taught us a lot about condensation, weather patterns, mould, 12v electrical systems and how to light a coal fire without wood or firelighters. It’s also taught us when it’s time to move on. We love her, but we’ve outgrown her. We’ll miss her, but a house’ll be a different kind of challenge (especially one that needs as much work as this one) and a challenge is good.

All hands on deck now to get into dry dock before winter for an ultra-sound hull survey on
Andromeda before we sell her.

Crazy. I never thought I’d see the day…

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"What is thy bidding my master?"

In reply to my posting of the dog dressed as Yoda, I was sent this today.

I want one.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Thing Of Beauty

Zombie Infection Products

It's Christmas time in New York City. A strange virus has appeared in the city, turning seemingly normal people into insane, violent Infected. Let's rock!

The new PSP title, Infected, has a fun viral online campaign.

As well as the complulsory third-person splatterfest (huragh), Infected lets PSP owners connect wirelessly with other PSP's
(in multiplayer), where they can then "infect" their opponents with their own zombie virus. Tasteful.

Check out these ads. They start off promoting seemingly benign products like Stalker Perfume, Diversion Bras and So So Soda -
but have a click around. A little too short with not enough 'grey-matter consumption', but some nice PhotoShopped catalogued models morphing into undead.

Shambling into stores on the 15th of this month.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Who at Space Centre

"Dr Who's Grotto" is coming to the National Space Centre in Leicester, the weekend of the 10 and 11 December '05.

The advert on the Space Centre Website claims Daleks, and a "space themed Christmas shopping market".

Looks like it's the full exhibition that was on Brighton Pier, so it'll probably be mostly the new stuff. The BBC ran a story on it a while ago.

There's also a Star Wars weekend at the NSC, this weekend coming, with loads of signings and stuff.

After Disney, that'll probably be lame though...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Be Afraid. Very Afraid.

These people are in my head and messing with my brain.

I haven’t felt so psychologically violated since my first marriage.

Go to Magic Tricks and try the Mind Reader..

It will give you the fear.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: PowerPoint 101.

I loathe, with a passion, really bad PowerPoint.

It's right up there with bad clip-art and motivational posters.

I'm either patronised by some speaker who insists on proudly 'reading the slides out load’ to me (often in full sentences instead of bullet points) or dazzled by graphical incompetence when the text is so damn small you have to squint to read the damn thing and through ruinous colour choice (dark blue and fuchsia, I was there, honestly).

Johova spare us from tasteless flying text and moving graphics (this is not soddin’ Quantel and we are not in 1982). Deliver us from bobbo sounds and mingin’ music. Protect us from overly complex diagrams or poorly conceived pie-charts. The list goes on…

I had to do a presentation to our sales and marketing team last week, on SEO and how we go about doing a "Seraphim Proudleduck" on our Northcliffe and commercial sites, and I played and fine tuned my PowerPoint (over a period of days) to make sure I was going to get message across clearly and with the minimum of crud.

On the whole, everyone else presenting had done this too…

Either way, Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic (Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: a lessons in contrasts), on the Presentation Zen blog takes this a step further.

I'd say it offers a vital and essential warning sign to anyone who has ever considered standing up in front of their colleagues and justifying their existence.

Continuing the moan, companies should take measures to train their managers and staff in the use of PowerPoint to present information in meetings. PowerPoint is a valuable tool, it's the use of that tool that's the problem. Too many folk use PowerPoint as a 'substitute for themselves' and seem to think that the slides are the presentation instead of the slides supporting the presentation that they should be delivering.

Audiences should be issued with automatic weapons.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Joey Goes Psyco - Internet to Blame?

I was over at Something Awful today, getting in my usual fix of Photoshop Friday, when Pig pointed me in the direction of: THIS.

Basically, a bunch of Something Awful forumites took the Mickey out of an autistic kid on their guns an’ ammo forum, they told him where to buy some heavy duty buckshot, the kid then buys the buckshot and goes on a psycho crazy killing spree, culminating with him splattering his own head all over a neighbours house.

The guys from the forum must be brickin' it, but come on, it's the web. Nobody beieves anything they read on the web. He told everybody what he was going to do, and he had the rip taken out of him for it (as ya would).

I can't wait to see the repercussions on this one. More 'internet is evil', I'll put cash on it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Paid to Search?

Bill (the) Gates was letting off gas in Computing this week, and he mentioned the subject of people getting gill from using different search aps.

He seems to think (and, annoyingly, he’s probably right) that engi
nes will have to bid for users as programmes and services move more fully online.

Gates ‘respects’ Google, but basically he’s not scared (yeah, right). While Billy acknowledges Google as ‘a fine company, a serious competitor' (hmmm, they're so good cos they've poached all your best staff mate, ask Stevie Ballmer), he is somewhat derisory of any great threat from the king of SEs.

"Google is great, they are smart people, the press should continue to feed their arrogance as much as possible…" said the arrogant rich tosser...

Billy thinks Google makes round £30 a user per year from the searches they do. Being top dog on the search pile means there's no competition, and Google’s highly relevant results have kept it there. Once competition does really begin, and one has to believe Gates means "once we figure out how to out-Google Google with MSN," (ROTHFL) users will benefit as he said in the interview:

"As search becomes competitive and people realize that other offerings are as good, or are even significantly better, there will be price competition."

"You will get some free content or a check, or some incentive to use a different search engine. Competition for users has not even kicked in. I can assure you it will not stay that way.”

"We are going to run some experiments on that in the next year."

Bill gates may be richer than Captain Kirk’ but shareholders have always wanted the company to give some of the cash back, and Microsoft did finally start doing a bit of this in the last few years.

Microsoft is more than capable of bankrolling the effort to get users to switch search engines. They can afford it. Look what they did with the games market and the X-Box. That said, and mirroring his own words:

"Which Google products are you talking about? Seriously? Other than search, which are you talking about? Google Talk? Wow. A total "me too" product. Even Gmail - what is the unique thing?”

Er, having the best search and most efficient search tool in the world doesn’t count for anything then? Er, Google Earth ring any bells? Wait ‘till they get their own browser smuggo. They don't oftern do it first, that much is true, but they invariably do it better...

Come on Billy Boy, this is nowt new! Hoisted by your own pertard matey. Faithful old Amazon gives a weeny little discount for users of its search engine and toolbar (poor buggers, they deserve it). After a few searches go through A9, you’re eligible for a 1.57 percent discount on your purchases (yipsee).

Admittedly, that could be peanuts compared to what Microsoft can offer, and the Gates does have a way of predicting the market, so who knows. Soon, we could be paid to search.

Potentially, you can get paid for looking for porn.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PSP Review - The Day After Tomorrow

"Irwin Allen, on the little screen"

The Day After Tomorrow sees our unworthy little species pitted against the scariest woman since Baroness Thatcher: Mother Nature.

Producer Roland Emmerich has always fancied himself as the new (70s disaster king) Irwin Allen, and he went all out to bring us an apocalyptic cinema blockbuster that is visually stunning, somewhat hammy, and horrifying in equal measures.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, huge, city-engulfing tidal waves and the onset of the new ice age, all with a human (if a tad shallow and American-centric) story, and all in
124 minutes.

It’s a disaster movie, and disaster movies always work best on the big screen. This film has a level of effects enduced visuals that I was in doubt would translate to the small screen of the PSP. Strangely they do. With the level and quality of the digital effects it appears almost seamless on the LCD screen and, holding it by hand as close as one does, it must have touched some personal chord when I found myself saying “Ohhh”, “Ahhh” and “Unlucky!” out load, to the amusement of my fellow commuters. It is what it is, and it works just great on the PSP.

The plot is simple, as truly this film is about the effects. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), scientist and environmental naysayer, finds the world falling apart around him. Hail stones the size of house bricks smash Japan, typhoons obliterate Los Angeles and a new Ice Age crosses the northern hemisphere. Jack must improbably yomp from Washington to New York, to be with his son and a small group of survivors who desperately try to fend off the cold as our planet flexes its climatic muscles.

In light of the American attitude to the Kyoto Accord and Global Warming, one can’t help but notice the irony, and gaze out of the window where tornados, these days, are even seen in Birmingham.

Is it getting cold? Or is it just me?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5

Unemployed Undead?

Life for monsters after Halloween can be, well, frankly terrifying...

Lucky for them, good old Coors Light is there to bring these poor tortured souls under the company's caring wing, as part of their Monster Outreach Program.

A series of nice little streaming movs give us the tale of Frank, and his shaky transition into the heady world of office drone.

A harmless mini campaign that appeared this morning, being the day after Halloween, courtesy of Coors Light. I do like to see good viral marketing.