Friday, October 31, 2008

If, every now and then, I could ...

... find a few things and write a blog entry like a Cornell box ...

... it really wouldn't matter much. I'd be pleased though.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two more Fredo Viola videos I like.

"Sad Song" seems to involve riding a bicycle through cool forests in upstate New York. Sunny day, dappled light - not completely sad then.

I've no idea what "Puss" is about other than showing off the fact that Viola now has a higher definition camera capable of more than 15 secs video at a time. Oh, and also that there is no better person to sing audio-treacle with than yourself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunrise ... Sunset, Sunrise ... Sunset

More than I could chew

I tried the Marmotte - and after many hours I'm afraid that I bonked.

This is the horrible cyclist's "bonk" - not to be confused with the wider use of the term.

Watch The Trilogy Vol.3 La Marmotte, France in Sports Online  |  View More Free Videos Online at

I will succeed in this matter. (The Marmotte, that is)

Monday, October 27, 2008

A old joke ...

... but I thought a good one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I've finally finished the Internet. The last level was quite hard.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slow, always beautiful, often funny, never tedious.

Être et Avoir. A hard film to sell - except perhaps to teachers, or parents of primary school age children.

A fly on the wall documentary in which the director, Nicolas Philibert, portrays the home and school life of 13 children in a one-room village school in rural Auvergne. We follow the children and their avuncular teacher through the 3 seasons of the school year - we learn, clearly to the children's concern, that it is the autumn of Mr Lopez's career and that he is soon to retire.

So far so dull, huh?

George Lopez has completely mastered his chosen work, utterly utterly brilliant at teaching small children. It's always a pleasure watching something done with effortless perfection, no matter what. Watch him discuss infinity with Jojo, watch him shape mutual respect from mutual contempt after a playground scuffle, watch him talk to a distraught boy about a grave family illness, watch him foil a bank robbery by nudging the fleeing Aston Martin off a cliff with the wing-tip of his biplane. No - not the last one, no car chase.

So hard to describe why this film works, I can't even find a worthy review to link to. It astonished all concerned by taking 2 million euros at the box office, this for a snail's pace documentary. It is quite special. Give it 20 minutes - I bet you finish it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A visitor.

In June we had a striking visitor to our suburban garden.

Perched on the high paling fence was a small bird. He had predominantly grey plumage with a little white and small hints of a peachy pink. From his fierce eyes and hooked beak I was sure he was a raptor - but an extraordinarily tiny one. After some research, and assistance from people who know about such things, I worked out that he was a little Sparrowhawk. This is not my photo, our bird had less peach.

These birds hunt by stealth. With explosive acceleration and an astonishing eye for aerobatics they fly known hunting runs extremely low and fast; To their prey they must appear from nowhere. This is a little clip of one - in the final seconds of the clip you see its size in context because it is standing by a fallen apple.

I was lucky enough to see our Sparrowhawk do some gung-ho flying, in defense as it happened. There is often an inky black rook skulking high in the trees at the very end of the garden - for some reason the Rook took exception to the Sparrowhawk and tried to dive bomb him. Happily the Pitts Special Sparrowhawk saw Stuka Rook coming and launched forward off the fence - fell almost to the ground and then shot off at ground level, in out and around bits of the garden, finally disappearing up and over a tall hedge. I like to think that before the Sparrowhawk flew he gave the approaching Rook an arch "catch me if you can" look, regardless I'm sure both birds knew that the Rook's flying was not in the same league. Sadly the Sparrowhawk has never seen fit to return - perhaps it's for the best as the Rook still waits.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My wind up beetle.

Eons ago - when my now teenage son was an adorable little boy* - I was away on a brief work trip. I promised this appealing little squirt of humanity a present on my return, and said that he could choose what it might be. Fully expecting him to ask for a pet tiger or a helicopter or the like - I was delighted when (in fewer words) he said that the sole thing his heart ached for was "a wind up beetle".

It took a very long march around pretty well every toyshop in a pismire provincial town before I finally found what I thought was perfect: a wee beetle which when wound up scuttled across the floor quite convincingly.

Rather sweetly, on delivery he nearly cried with delight. I'm unsure of exactly what the appeal was, perhaps the unfathomable mechanical intricacy - for such a cheap mass produced thing it did have a certain magic.

The toy remained in his collection of small boy treasures for a long time - inevitably it eventually disappeared - probably into the bowels of a the natural enemy of the wind-up beetle - a vacuum cleaner.

I am unable to find a picture of long lost beetle, but I can find a nerdy video of one of these:

It's a Curta mechanical calculator. So delicate, intricate and complex that they too are magic. My big boy heart aches for one. Easily found on ebay the only problem is that they are insanely expensive for what would really be a desk ornament.

You could be sure that I wouldn't lose it to a vacuum cleaner though.

* I still adore you mate, but if you have a beer in front of the telly then, as repeatedly asked, please do not leave the frigging bottle clattering around the sitting room. Jesus.

Oh - and you might warn me should you take the last one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Big Blue Book

You know how it is - a bicycle is a simple machine - so you should be able to dismantle a bit of it - easily see what is wrong - perhaps buy a new part - and reassemble it. Easy.

Problem is, that halfway through the dismantling - due to a combination of ignorance and a missing, exotic and un-substitutable tool - you will break a teeny and critical piece - usually made of titanium.

Well with this book you can commence your operation well informed and armed with your new, expensive and beautifully made Park Tools. You can confidently break your titanium pieces with a graceful flourish.

Hoot hoot!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where is the Demerara Sugar?

You know what I want from our supermarket chain? Not online shopping - tried that for a while, gave it up in the end. Got sick of substitutions like "12 Kg Caviar" instead of "a dozen free range eggs".

I want a website to do this: I pick my shopping list from a tick-boxey searchey sort of menu - I tell the site which branch of the chain I'm going to - and it prints me a little map of the aisles showing where each available thing is.

Then I can whiz around, going through each aisle once - getting what I want - without spending 20 minutes looking for the last couple of things. Simple.

It will come one day surely.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

B.E.R.T. Ante Up

I like some rap music, but gangsta is horrible hatred flecked filth.

Watch a few seconds of the first for reference ...

... then try to watch all of the second one without smirking. Can't be done.

Friday, October 17, 2008

De Vierde Man

I really like visual puns. Picture this - from early-ish in the film The Fourth Man - seen long ago in the 80's.

A man, who is so plagued by visions that he never quite knows what is truth, is on a train. Opposite him is a woman with a baby. She is cradling the child in one arm while peeling a piece of fruit. She is backlit by sunlight streaming through the carriage window - there are rays of light traced out in the slightly dusty air of the carriage. As the peel coming from the fruit grows in length it arcs up into a loop, forming a halo around the child's head.

Backlit, surrounded by rays of light, halo - surely you can see this. She looks at him as if to say - "you know who I am".

A wonderful piece of screenplay. It turns out that she is who she appears to be - the man is a catholic and is falling toward grave danger, Mary is pursuing him, trying to ward him away from a murderous witch.

The black widow witch has murdered her previous 3 husbands and is looking for the fourth - hence the title of the film. Beautiful in an androgynous way, the witch is toying between our hero (a shabby middle aged bisexual alcoholic writer) and a younger prettier himbo. The tricky thing is that the writer rather likes pretty boy too. It is the best love triangle imaginable.

The film is drenched with visual can't-quite-tell-truth-from-reality-smartypantsness. I absolutely loved it for this. Be warned, it is at times shockingly violent. There also is an unforgivable sequence where a great many of the visual tricks are recapitulated and explained - needlessly patronising - if you didn't get them then you won't be interested in them.

Recommended. (I think)

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Necessity - is a mother.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

pop, wobble, swear a lot

New pair of Bontrager Race Lite X, perhaps 50 miles old.

Big blowout on a descent (dry road). Not recommended.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Love like a Rock

Remember when people first had computers at home? They were expensive, so a letter would have to use as many fonts as possible, resulting in what looked like ransom notes. Oh, my people - one colour, clean surfaces, fewer words - please - less is more.

Similarly Myspace pages are usually a design abomination - invariably smeared with seven types of shopping list graphic design shite. Messy, messy, messy. None the less I was going to point you to Rory McLeod's page as it played his song "Love like a Rock" in the background. V catchy, but the page doesn't seem to do that any more. Never mind, this video has a snippet of the song, in the middle of a few others.

Rory Mcleod is great to see live (really, he's a better busker than recording musician). The patter can be a bit whiny hippy dish-water-lefty - fine by me, but it can bother some. A "pact with the devil" quality harmonica player, and also able to belt out torrents of flamenco-esque guitar. Clever.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

William Safire's Great Rules of Writing

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kids PC Time Administrator

KPTA ( ) is a piece of software that limits the cumulative time within a day, for which each person can use a particular PC. Obviously it's individually configurable and password protected, all the things you would expect.

Doubtless there will be many similar products around. I mention this one because of two things:

1) It's the one I happened to buy and it seems to work.

2) It pisses my kids off immensely - so clearly it works quite well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Sleazy televangelist + infantile humour + youtube = disaster

History never repeats itself. Sometimes it rhymes.

Ugg, terribly smelly caveman. Syria. ~9000 BC

Paul Klee, terribly earnest expressionist. Germany. 1928 AD

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the lamb make thee?

More wittering about mechanical things - clearly these are of some interest to me.

On hols recently - this soft grey, gentle lamb of an old scooter caught my eye.

Sometime after taking the pic I looked closer, and have realised that the A stamped on the side stands for Agusta.

It's an Agusta!

This will mean nowt to most right minded adults, but to me Agusta says something more like this:

Fabulously stylish, conceived by engineers with little or no input from accountants - naturally the company went bust yonks ago.

The thing with an Agusta is operatic, when the motor is working hard it will snort down buckets of air voraciously and clearly audibly (an English engineer will call this "induction roar", an Italian engineer: "sotto voce"). On top of this as one passes by the exhausts have an almost mournful howl (English policeman: "fucking nuisance", Italian Engineer: "basso profondo"). A motorcyclist friend has said it sounds like the bike is tearing the air in two, oh yes - lovely.

I've never ridden an Agusta, but old Italian motorbikes have a wonderful visual trick too - on engine overrun (when you have rolled off the throttle, slowing for a corner perhaps) if you keep the throttle open jeeeeyust the right amount the exhausts will spit and bang with little pops of flame. If you can contrive to do this as you squeeze past a car coming into a corner it's a good thing. OK - so whooshing by someone's earhole with your exhausts on fire is so stupid and selfish as to be near autistic - but it does look pretty cool. The possible corollary of accidentally running off the road, smacking into a tree and bursting into larger flames is perhaps a little less cool - but sliding backward through the pearly gates followed by the wreckage of an Agusta Burning Bright is quite an entrance. First impressions are the ones that last.

Monday, October 6, 2008


This came in a swag of goodies kindly given to us by a German exchange student.

Scheitwettertee is old German, it loosely translates as "Tea for a rainy day".

More directly, it is Shit Weather Tea.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Silent Night

In Primary school my classmates and I were weekly dragged along to a singing session. With little joy we murdered various songs of dubious merit - including, toward the end of the academic year (which, on the wrong side of the world, was near Christmas) Silent Night

Although I viewed the forthcoming summer holiday with eager anticipation, the change of school year was an upheaval which I didn't care for. So as Silent Night sends me spiralling back to being a slightly confused child, it has a mournful overtone to me.

You will not hear any of this of course - but maybe like me - you will like Fredo Viola's precise falsetto. Or the Hockney-esque collage video. Pause for a minute and watch, I find it hypnotic.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Running away.

A quick google sees this quote attributed to Voltaire, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill.

It seems that at some stage, someone said "Forgive this long letter; I don't have time to write a short one."

Here then is a very short film. 3 characters, barely 4 minutes. Perfect.

And hilarious.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another day, another contract

I am an IT contractor. Today is my last day at my current contract - after a year. It's always a wrench leaving a contract - in this case particularly so as the team I work with is full of great people. Sigh.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Plus ça change:

Remember when Brown was the new Black?

Brown is the new Black. Pah.

Brown is the old colour of poo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SpaceMonger PC drive management tool

SpaceMonger is a tool for keeping track of the free space on your PC. Each file or folder on a given drive is displayed in a box in the main window whose size is a relative comparison to all the other files in your system. So, for example, if the "Windows" box takes up 90% of the screen, the "C:\Windows" folder and all its sub-folders and files are taking up 90% of your "C:" drive. You can zoom in and out - viewing inside a folder in more detail. It works on network drives and is extremely useful for working out what is chewing up drive space.

There is no install required - you just run spacemonger.exe and open a drive with it. Easy.

The old version is free. There is a newer commercial version which is probably better.