Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Again, from the beginning

That person's videos are worth subscribing to. Here:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

This sort of thing is very effective

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marketing man

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cookie tin guitar

Tip of the hat to BoingBoing.

Photographic essay

about a pair of coots.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Changing the guard at Buckingham Palace

On 9 Aug 11:00: Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
What can I say? They get away with it. Found this through some person in Japan following them . Not a royal watcher. Someone slightly cool, but sadly for us anti-monarchists the royal family are slightly cool. Not because they are in with the in crowd but because they tweet things like "Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace". Like brogues. Difficult to get rid of.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interesting old OS maps of Scotland

You can get right down to individual buildings:

Monday, July 27, 2009


I have no idea what Comic-Con is and, apart from a brief flirtation with dressing up as Mrs Merton, have never really understood dressing up. This guy made me laugh though. I kind of identified with him and that made me laugh even harder. I think the point of cosplay must be losing your inhibitions and getting all togged out in the most oddball costume you can find, so to turn up as Ninjaman is just very sad indeed. Better to stay home I think.
For a gallery of people who did a lot better: The Comic-Con.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills

It was the background detail on Westpak bank that raises the eyebrows: "the bank ... has been left red-faced over the slip-up that allowed $10 million to be wrongly credited to a Rotorua service station co-owner who had since fled to China."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"A spinster lady can, and very often does, turn into something of a battleaxe with the passing years"

People bemoan our politically correct age because, of course, people spoke such good sense when they were allowed to puke their minds. This example from the Director of the Trade Commission, Australia, 1968. He saves the best for the last line on the page. The second page is in many ways more interesting though less hilarious.

Pictures of Barack Obama

The first 167 days.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How many times are people going to scan "One Hundred Years of Solitude"?

A question: Can I rip my real books into ebook format? I want to because it would free up a whole room and one wall.

Of course, one of the reasons for the massive success of the ipod is the ability for people to rip their existing collections into ipod format. Like chumps, the record companies fought against this, saying that somehow we did not own the records we had bought but actually the de facto ability to do this was a major part in creating a new market for them.

So, how do I rip a book? It is easy to scan/photo pages into a computer but Optical Character Recognition technology has only a 95-99 per cent accuracy rate. That sounds good but it actually means that there is a blunder every two or three sentences. It is therefore impossible to "rip" a novel without spending lots of time correcting it.

However, this would be very easy to do if we had Optical Sentence Recognition rather than Optical Character Recognition software. If I scanned in my book and the software compared the strings of letters in my book to other strings of letters previously scanned in (and possibly corrected) by other users it could get well above 99 per cent accuracy. It would recognise a sentence rather than a letter and use the consensus (or most authoritative, human corrected version) to inform its recognition of my page. Ripping would be a doddle because most books are replicated thousands of times across different personal libraries. How many times are people going to have to scan in and independently correct "One Hundred Years of Solitude"?

Alternatively, a company could just offer to digitise people's book collections, speeding the process up massively by keeping corrected versions of the most popular books on its system.

The key point here is that people own these books and they have the right to digitise them. But I reckon both the solutions above would come across resistance from publishers and distributors like Amazon. I am speculating without any factual basis but think they would say that they own the copyright on those sentences in the Optical Sentence Recognition database, even if people could establish that they privately owned the books that they were digitising.

This would not be an attempt to frustrate piracy, this would be an attempt to restrict readers' rights over their own property on the utterly false premise that significant numbers of people are going to go out and buy digital versions of what they already own.

On a slightly broader less speculative point, the more I get into this ebook thing the more I realise that DRMs (basically systems that restrict the users ability to use the text they buy freely) are being used not to stop piracy but to try to control consumers and the market. These tactics are, in various ways, inhibiting the growth of the ebook/enewspaper market [1,2,3,4,5,6]. This is not in the interests of authors or publishers but it is in the interest of Amazon (or at least in line with a certain very narrow strategy that Amazon seems to be pursuing at the moment).

Saturday, July 04, 2009


And while we are at it, Mitchell and Webb's Nazi sketch:

And Jesus the racist:

Friday, July 03, 2009

Not so bad on climate change policy

I was expecting the UK to be near the bottom.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pretty outrageous

Whatever you think of these people's political views/activism, this is wrong. Police should always be publicly identifiable and it is clear to me that those "stress positions" were being used violently. I get the feeling that this sort of thing is widespread and quite routine, not just peace protesters but all sorts of people who annoy the police.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Saturday, June 20, 2009

The batton has passed

From Tomoji to Henry. Engineering is a good profession.

David Curry`s expenses

An interesting attempt by the Guardian to crowd source expense scrutiny:

Eg. the Skipton MP, David Curry. Apparently, Mr Curry paid for public service broadcasting out of his public service expenses.

I had a correspondence with Mr Curry about all this when MPs, including Mr Curry, were trying to obstruct access to these details.:

Dear David Curry,
I am writing to you from Japan but you would be my local MP in any UK election, via postal ballot. I am writing to ask you to vote against the draft Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 this Thursday and to sign Jo Swinson's Early Day Motion.
I feel strongly that the public money spent on MPs expenses should be subject to the greatest degree of transparency and accountability possible. Democratically elected representatives spending money given to them by the taxpayer should be in a position to share with their constituents precisely how that money is spent. The measure being decided on Thursday would have the opposite effect and the arguments for it are essentially attempts to justify the concealment of expenses that MPs could not justify publicly. If MPs have embarrassing expenses, they should still have the courage to vote against this order because the measure is wrong in principle. I am appealing to you to vote against it.
David Curry:
I am sorry but I believe you are wrong. No-one is trying to conceal expenses. It is a question as to what is a sensible level of detail. As for EDM I cannot see the earthly point of signing an EDM when the issue has to be voted on in the Commons itself. It has the whiff of sanctimoniousness about it. DC
Dear David Curry,
Thank you for replying to my message about the draft Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 this Thursday. I realise you must get hundreds of messages from your constituents every week and I appreciate the time you spent in making your position clear. I have no expectation of a second rebuttal but would like to give one pence extra to my initial tuppence worth. I have no detailed knowledge of Commons procedure and I must accept your point that the Early Day Motion is unnecessary and sanctimonious.
On the substantive point, you seem to be relying on the word "sensible" for the entirety of your positive argument for voting for the concealment from the voters of the precise detail of how their money has been spent. As I understand it, the information has already been collected and will be fairly easy to publish if MPs do not vote to stop it. So, the "sense" you talk of (but do not specify) must not be a claim about what is practicable but rather some sort of privacy claim about MPs' right to blur or generalise the information they give the taxpayer.
I am afraid that many members of the public will take the simple position that democratic representatives using public money should fully account for every jot and tittle that they spend and that they should account for it to their voters rather than in a private auditing process. We hear all sorts of gumph from politicians seeking to be elected. One piece of information that would seem to be relevant to our choice is precisely how they spend our money on their own expenses and how they define what is a claimable expense.
One of the Government ministers supporting the order is quoted in a newspaper as saying: "MPs' expenses should not be an entertainment show for the public." Failing any significant saving of public money or building of openness between representative and voter, I can't see any earthly reason why we should not at least get some entertainment from the money we are paying. I feel many, perhaps most, voters would agree with me, especially in the current economic climate.David Curry:
There is a real issue of cost and it is a recurrent cost because of the neeed to scan every single receipt etc. into the machine. There is a vital word in all legislation which is "reasonable" - what is a reasonable level of disclusure taking into consideration the cost and the benefit.. The costs are, of course, incurred by the taxpayer. I have no great personal isue riding on this- my expenses are a long way below the maxima. DC
So far, I think, more than 400,000 pounds worth of expenses have been repaid.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zionism and the Canadian Government

A Christian fundamentalist minister seems to want this conference stopped. Comparing the conference details and his statements about the conference, I can only conclude that he is trying to suppress free debate of perfectly respectable points of view.

Personally I think that a two state solution is the only way forward, but it is quite obscene how some Jewish groups accuse anybody who believes in a state based around historic borders and allowing everyone equal citizenship of being "antisemitic". In the long run, that sort of talk is not only offensive but dangerous because it is about extremists/propagandists taking factional ownership over the fight against anti-semitism, which requires as broad a spectrum of opinion behind it as possible.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Daniel's daily monster

"1492, all the way. 1776 sucks."

But what about 1206? The comments on this page are more interesting than the article.

I always feel when I see/hear/read these sorts of things how lucky I was to have hit the parental jackpot but...

... now I am a Dad, these sorts of things have more than one resonance. Good short documentary (click the arrows for full screen):

Mee and my Dad from UWE Bristol Media Practice on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

A full screen, high quality version of Obama's Muslim world speech at Cairo University

I wanted to watch a full version of Barack Obama's big speech to the Middle East at Cairo University. Most versions are cut and spliced with journalistic comment but this one seems to be straight. Double click to watch full screen:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

North Korea

The dead land.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"We have a wretched govern­ment here which has completely mucked up the system and caused the resignation of me and many others, because it was this government that introduced the Freedom of Information Act and it is this government that insisted on the things which caught me on the wrong foot, which if I'd been cleverer it wouldn't have done."

Wretched the government may be, in other ways, but isn't Sir Anthony Steen missing the point? He seems to be living in a completely solipsistic world.

"Cameron also forced the former Tory minister Sir Peter Viggers to announce his retirement after Viggers claimed £1,645 for a floating duck island."

These Conservatives really are going to be a hard blast of fresh air when they get into office, aren't they?

PS. Interestingly, that top quote disappeared from the article moments after I linked to it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The iPhone as a book reader

The iPhone is quite revolutionary: not as a phone, not as a podcast or music player, but as a book reader. I am not sure they designed it with that in mind but I think the dam is about to burst and we are about to enter a new age of reading. That sounds like hyperbole but I am convinced it is not.

The portability of the iPhone, its constant presence in ones pocket, combined with a passable screen for reading and eReader apps like Stanza and eReader mean that you can carry around a library in your pocket. That has been theoretically possible for ages but with the iPhone it is actually a library I want to read. Whenever I have a spare moment, I can pull out my iPhone and read a page of a novel. The next time I open the ereader application it will be open on that page. I am casually reading novels in a way that I haven't done for years.

All Apple have to do is to put an ibooks section on their itunes software and they will have instantly grabbed themselves a large slice of the future book market. I bet Amazon, who have put their eggs in the Kindle basket, are worried about that possibility. At the moment, actually buying ebooks is a little bit of a minefield because of competing formats and very difficult for me because I live in Japan. There are all kinds of petty restrictions on international rights. ITunes has the international presence to get round that (as, of course, do Amazon but they seem to be fiddling around with a particular idea about Kindle being their vehicle. I think the iPhone is changing the game and that the pace of the game is speeding up.)

In the meantime, as always happens when rights owner dilly dally, I am discovering the possibilities of free content. The free Project Gutenberg has so many books. I am reading Austen's "Persuasion" at the moment. Finished "Last of the Mohicans". Maybe Jane Eyre next? Or War and Peace. I might put Ulysses on it, so I can gradually read a page at a time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Writing this on my iPhone. The iPhone's book reading capacities have been a revelation. For years I waited for a screen that would simulate book paper. That has now arrived in the form of Kindles and other book readers. But now I begin to question whether that was the block after all. Perhaps we were just waiting for a big enough screen to be in our pockets and memory enough to carry the books. The iPhone is good enough for me to start dreaming of converting all my books to digital and getting a room back. The digital book revolution is underway, I think.

On a related point, since iPhones, Kindles etc. are things on which people do spend money then perhaps the cavalry is on the way for newspapers and other publishers ... But do they understand that they are no longer in the distribution business?

The Songs of IBM

Hail to the IBM

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ads for Scrabble

Expected something a lot more boring:

Monday, April 20, 2009

There is an ad running against same sex marriage in the US:

There has been some fun with the audition tapes of the people who applied to play act fear:

I liked this response:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lovely sound thing

The Tone Matrix.
Also, press the Kiddysynth button on this page.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More games

Proper game criticism.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In some eras, the scum rises to the top...

It takes some time to warm up but this NY Times column is to the point. Excerpt:

In a class apart is the genteel Walter Noel, whose family-staffed Fairfield Greenwich Group fed some $7 billion into Madoff’s maw. The Noels promoted themselves, their business and their countless homes by posing for Town & Country. Their firm took in at least $500 million in fees (since 2003 alone) for delivering sheep to the Madoff slaughterhouse. In exchange, Fairfield Greenwich claimed to apply “due diligence” to every portfolio transaction — though we now know Madoff didn’t actually trade a single stock or bond listed in his statements for at least the past 13 years.

But in the bubble culture, money ennobled absolutely. A former Wall Street executive vouched for his pal Noel to The Times: “He’s a terribly good person, almost in the sense of Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ combined with an overtone of Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ ”

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Those Magnificent Men in their Driving Machines

What I love about this is that the fellow on the left seems to have every intention of carrying through with his swing.

It seems auto polo was a proper sport before WWI.

Here is a NYT report of an event at Madison Square Garden in December 1912 which was watched by all sorts of society notables including Vincent Astor:
"There was one near accident during the game, coming in the third period, when the King-Ferriter machine turned turtle. Both occupants escaped serious injury by jumping, but Ferriter was badly shaken up in the fall and was not able to resume playing for two minutes ..."
In the next game, Mr Ferriter also came a cropper:
"During the first period of this game the two machines met head on in the race to the centre for the ball and the King-Ferriter machine was badly disabled. The wheels, axle and part of the frame were badly bend from the force of the collision and the auto had to be pulled of the playing surface ..."
They found another machine and carried on.

I have no idea whether Mr Ferriter is the flying man in the picture but I can`t help but suspect that it is he.

Via kottke.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The Great Vowel Shift"

Anybody learning English and struggling with our ridiculous spelling/pronunciation can, to some extent, blame "The Great Vowel Shift". Between the 1400s and 1700s, English pronunciation was totally revolutionised. It happened astonishingly quickly and it is not completely clear why:
The upshot has been that the Anglo-Saxons lived (like the Scottish still do) in a 'hoose', and the English live in a 'house'; the Anglo-Saxons (like the Scottish) milked a 'coo', and the English milk a 'cow'; an Anglo-Saxon had a 'gode' day and the English have a 'good' one; an Anglo-Saxon had 'feef' fingers on each hand and the English have 'five'; they wore 'boats' on their 'fate' while the English wear 'boots' on our 'feet'.
Some theories have it that the massive population movements into the South East of England after the Black Death may have led to the shift, with regional accents mixing with and influencing that region's standard pronunciation. There was also great social mobility in and around London following the plague, allowing previously marginalised pronunciations to influence the standard speech of a region that has since huge influence on accepted English. Others argue that the dropping of French by aristocrats in England may have influenced pronunciation. The toffs may either have tried to create their own posh accent more on the French model or, conversely, attempted to speak English in a way they felt was further from French (because France was an enemy).

The shift may be continuing. How do you pronounce "route"? Some Americans can rhyme it with "out". The English are still mired in a distinctly Anglo Saxon "boot". Anyway, all this change is one reason why English spelling is such a nightmare. It was standardised during this shift and therefore has little or no reliable connection to actual pronunciation. For more on that, see "ghoti" and English spelling reform.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The roots of break dancing:

The Charleston to Daft Punk:

And The Charleston to the real stuff by modern chaps:

Tugged forelock to Kottke.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Scrotums - "Small romantic gifts with big sentimental value."

Good idea

Magnetic duct tape.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Art history

A very good online course, with lots of vids.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sampling Obama

How long will it take for these to be sampled.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pop and unpop art

So, these two artists decided to forget all that individual inspiration and creative vision nonsense and just professionally poll the people on what sort of paintings they should paint.

The American public`s choice stipulated a landscape, group of people, historical figure etc.. Many wondered what it said about Americans:

Then they went to 13 other countries and used the same advanced polling techniques. See what they got. Make sure you look at Holland's.

That was all such a success that they moved on to music, with the help of a bloke called Dave Soldier. Among other things, they found out that people prefer 3-10 minute long pieces. You need to check out the 21 minute long Most Unwanted Song, featuring a rapping opera diva and bagpipes! The intro sample on emusic doesn't do it justice. It is a work of genius. The Most Wanted is dire.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our new acquisition

I am quite pleased with our new decanter. Got it from a science supplies shop on the web. No idea who the fellow is in the background.

Monday, January 26, 2009

This has got to be the saddest pastime I have ever seen...

I give you Live Action Role Playing...

I try not to laugh at nerdish behaviours because I am prone to them myself, but these fellows are making that a challenge to say the least.

And just in case you are thinking of joining up...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Turns out those boring people who went on about maintaining our manufacturing base were right after all

or Reports of our death have been greatly understated.

By A Very Fearful Fellow Who Does Not Have a Clue What he is Talking About

The situation: British people buy a lot of their stuff from abroad. Electronics, toys, food; it feels like most of the things we live on come from abroad. However, most British people do not make anything that foreigners might want to buy. We have been paying for our inflated lifestyles by selling foreigners paper. Let's not get into why they bought it but they did.

The crux: The underlying value of that paper, our money, essentially relies on what things foreigners can buy with it from us. Unfortunately, Pounds Sterling is not worth very much because we do not produce things that foreigners might want to buy. We used to make ships and cars and things but we gave that up a while back. Pity really, because they would be really cheap now that our overweight currency has collapsed. I suppose we still have that financial expertise and cutting edge management advice that we used to sell to people. Enough said. What have we got left? A few Harold Pinter plays? So the Pound is basically worth very little and has been worth very little for a long time.

The revised situation: There are huge piles of Pounds in foreign vaults and those Pounds are worth nowt. The economy is going tits up so the Government is printing more of that paper to try to give it a "kick start". Sadly, there is no engine on the bike apart from debt. The printing of more money is just going to make our money worth even less. Drastically less.

The foreigners who own rooms full of paper are realising it is worth nothing and are selling it for what they can get. The price of our money is going down very quickly and is likely to stay down. The financial sector of our economy, which has warped our public policy for decades and has provided the fig leaf for our national lethargy, is going down with us (or, to be more precise, just slightly ahead of us).

The crisis: The printing of money, the piling of debt upon debt and the inevitable (and partly consequent) fall of the Pound will all result in hyper (or at least super) inflation and further currency collapse.

The resolution: Panic! If you have any money, buy land! I mean land you can grow carrots on.

Or, don't panic. We are not in this alone. The rest of the world is damned too if this system collapses. I would not be surprised if the Dollar does the same sort of thing the Pound is now doing. And that would not be a sideshow, that would be the the Big Top falling over. The producers in the East are going to be just as screwed as we are if the global trading system stops working and we enter the Second World Depression (I suppose, like "The Great War", they will have to change the name of the first depression). So, perhaps, somehow, they will cover over the cracks with all that useless paper and allow us to stagger on a little further as the world economy's necessary fat men.

I still say land where you can grow carrots would be a good idea though. You could always build a mobile phone kiosk or a dodgy mortgage brokerage on it if things don't go so badly.

Disclaimer: I know nothing at all about what I am talking about. My opinions may go up as well as down, on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

A cherished family recipe...

or was it. One man's obsessive search for the source of the Melt-in-the-Mouth Cookie.

This kind of thing gives cheese a bad name...

From Wikipedia: "Casu marzu is a traditional sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. Although outlawed there for health reasons, it is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy on the black market...

"Several food safety issues have been raised in relation to Casu marzu, including anecdotal reports of allergic reactions and the danger of consuming cheese that has advanced to a toxic state. In addition, there is some risk of enteric myaisis, or intestinal larval infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea. Piophila casei larvae are very resistant to human stomach acid and can pass through the stomach alive, taking up residency for some period of time in the intestines and causing stomach lesions and other gastrointestinal problems. The larvae have powerful mouthhooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls as the maggots attempt to bore through internal organs...

"There are several other regional varieties of cheese with fly larvae in Europe. The most similar is found in Piemonte, Italy, where ... goat-milk cheese is left to the open air until Piophila casei larvae are naturally laid in the cheese. Then it is aged in white wine, grapes, and honey, preventing the larvae from emerging, giving the cheese a strong flavor. In addition, other regions in Europe have traditional cheeses that rely on live arthropods for aging and flavoring, such as the German Milbenkäse and French mimolette, both of which rely on cheese mites."

Via Boingboing

It could never happen to us

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


An interesting article on games.

Little did the Chinese know..

... that all that heavy handed one child policy stuff was completely unnecessary. All they needed were Japanese nursery style compulsory two hour daytime naps for children up to six. Very efficient.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Two maps

What strikes me about the second one is what a unproductive country the US is relative to its size, but I suppose that comes from a West European.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


The head count.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Most of the expert commentators seem to agree these massive bailouts are a good idea...

They also keep saying that no one could have foreseen the current problems, by which they mean they didn`t.

Just a thought, but the next thing that might happen with the massive borrowing entailed by these bailouts is the total collapse of the dollar. And then the total collapse of global trade. And then we will really be in Great Depression territory.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Death by blackhole...

... and other ways the universe might kill you.