Thursday, 31 January 2008

German Navy Woes

2007 was not a good year for the German Navy, "navigational errors" caused a ship to crash into a rock near Norway, then another ship got a 76mm shot in it's bows from sailors repairing it's cannon.

A brand new frigate ran into a stone canal bank and another ship "accidentally" fired five shots from it's cannon near the port of Kiel.

In total there were 37 crashes and accidents last year - which was decribed as "average" by a spokesman.

Then we have this clip which shows two of their boats colliding, they must be hoping for better things in 2008.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Valentine’s Gift?

Came across this device while on my blog rounds this morning and thought that it would make the perfect Valentine’s gift for those in need of help in the bedroom seduction department.

All of this for only $30, now I can believe that we are living in the 21st century.

“Soft light, music and scent are excellent for soothing your mood”.

WTF, who let the hippies into the technical design department?

(H/T To The Accordion Guy for drawing this to my attention)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Billy Bragg

Was chatting with a close friend over the weekend and the subject of Billy Bragg came up, I own his first four albums but had not given any of them a spin for some time so I spent a bit of time with them yesterday.

He first came to my attention in ‘83 (that man Peel again) and his style of performing (just his voice and his electric guitar) struck a chord in my ears. He has always been deeply political, very left wing but even his more political songs are lightened by his concern for the plight of the ordinary working man/woman - bit like a kind of post punk Woody Guthrie figure.

The first song is A New England from his first release, apologies for the cheesy eighties video but it was the best sounding version that I found which illustrates his pared down style. Kirsty MccColl had a hit with this one in ‘85 - her version was much poppier but Billy did write an extra verse or two for her.

Next one is The Milkman Of Human Kindness (also taken from his debut release).

Tried to find a clip of A13 (his tribute to Route 66 and other classic American road songs) but the only one I could find was dodgy in sound quality and the visuals were no great shakes.

Also known as the Big Nosed Bard Of Barking for very obvious reasons.

Monday, 28 January 2008

How To Lose £3.7 Billion

More details are emerging on how one “rogue trader” managed to lose the French bank Societe General £3.7 billion. What he was doing was buying up futures in the stock market (effectively betting on which direction the market would go).

These purchases were supposed to be complemented by sales, what he did was to invent fictitious sales which allowed him to carry on undetected.

Now some commentators are suggesting the the massive falls on stock markets at the start of last week were triggered by the bank’s off loading it’s bad bets If true then proof that one man can change change the world.

In a disturbing counterpoint it was announced today that McDonalds will be able to issue educational diplomas to people who pass their basic shifts manager course. I could be wrong but I do not see what that qualifies someone to do other than run shifts in McDonalds - not very life changing.

And Vancouver turns out to be the best city in the world to live in according to a survey by EIU, this news does not surprise me as everyone I know who has visited there has raved about the place. Nor is there much surprise in the world’s worst Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea - an old school friend of mine lived there for a dozen years and he always described it as “like living in the Wild West”.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Omaha Beach

Saw an informative and moving documentary about the US landings here some three weeks ago. Thought that the reconstructions looked pretty good but did not pay that much attention at the time.

Then this week I heard about this 4 minute clip showing how they were made by 3 graphics designers over three days with a lot of running around. It is worth watching to see how it was done but you get the added value of a soundtrack which is Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

The clip has been viewed over 1.2 million times in just over a month and has generated so much interest that the BBC are repeating the documentary tonight at 23:20 on BBC2.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Another Language Dies

Was sad to read this week that the last speaker of the Eyak language died in Alaska this week. Still, I reckon that reaching the age of 89 while being a chain smoker is some achievement, and she helped the local University compile a dictionary of Eyak in the faint hope that it would be resurrected one day.

Read the full story here.

On a personal note one of my Great Grandfathers went out to Hudson Bay for a few years and married an Inuit lady who he took back to the Isle of Lewis on his return, so I feel that I can sympathise with the loss of a Native American language.

Carrying on the smoking theme I also read about a bear that became a member of the Polish army in WW11. They trained it to carry mortar rounds for them and when they had to move from Iran to Italy the only way to take the bear with them was to enlist it.

When not supporting the Allie’s war effort the bear enjoyed a beer and a cigarette or playing tug of ware with his comrades, after the war the bear retired to Scotland where there a plans to raise a memorial to Voytek.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Burns Night

A celebration of the birthday Scotland’s most famous bard Robert Burns, or an excuse for Scots men and women all around the world over to get together, recite poetry, hear the bagpipes, over eat and over drink.

Haggis, tatties and neeps form the main course, washed down with lashings of ale or wine and finished off with some fine malt whiskys, have been to one or two in my time and they can be great fun or can end with a wee stramash.

If you want to discover more about this, check out BBC Scotland's web page on the night.

Tonight I will nae be participating in a formal celebration but I will end my evening listening to Eddi Reader (any old excuse to hear her voice) singing some Burns songs while sipping on a great malt.

Slàinte mhath!

Media Stars

Just read that my blogging friend Missy M will be on an Aberdeen radio station between 17:00 and 21:00 on Sunday 27th discussing the soundtracks of Quentin Tarantino's movies - available over the net for those of us not in Aberdeen.

And in a buy one get one free offer her husband's band will also be playing live on the show.

Full details are available here.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Mr Scruff

Time for some jazzy electronica from the DJ known as Mr Scruff, mellow sounds for a Thursday when the sun finally returned to the sky over DBA cottages.

I think that all of the simple line drawings in these clips were done by the man himself. They are all taken from his first major label release Keep It Unreal which came out in 1999.

First up is Get A Move On (which was a hit tune), then Honeydew and finally Spandex Man.

If you like this then you can always check out his MySpace page for more of the same, pie space mix is worth checking out - more hip hoppy.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


The second series of this sci-fi show started last week and it was a real blast, watch this teaser to get a small taste - and yes that is Spike from Buffy getting in on some man on man action.

It is a spin off for the Captain Jack character from the new Doctor Who, the Torchwood institute is based in Cardiff where due to some rift in the space time continuum extraterrestrial things keep happening.

The team’s mission is to investigate these events and handle any fall out from them, frequently saving the planet or just the good people of Cardiff from destruction. As it goes out post watershed (21:00) it is darker than Doctor Who with more swearing and “adult” scenes and I find it to be most entertaining.

And for any US readers with access to BBC America the new series will start on January 26th.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

News Roundup

The moral of this first story is do not mess with women from Merseyside, as this one is jailed for ripping off her ex-boyfriend’s testicle with her bare hands.

The Sun newspaper has posted a video on their web site which (allegedly) shows Amy Winehouse smoking crack in a glass pipe. This had now been uploaded to the UK YouTube - all that I can say about this is Quelle Surprise, rock star does drugs.

Yet more citizen’s data has gone missing after an MOD laptop was stolen last Friday, and in a stable door being bolted after the horses have long disappeared into the sunset moment, the government issue a edict that only encrypted data may now be removed from secure premises.

This is the same government that want to introduce an ID card scheme where they will hold all sorts of information on us in three databases “your details will be safe with us” - I do not think so.

To counteract the doom and gloom of the previous three stories a group in the US has carried out a study of library cafes. The highlight of this report has to be the analysis of how much of the cafes revenues are generated by selling fruit!

Maybe they have been smoking the same stuff as Amy?

Monday, 21 January 2008

Changed Days

A comment left by rt on yesterday’s post got me reminiscing about the changes in computing over the last three decades. When I started work in the mid seventies computers lived in their own air conditioned rooms taking up large amounts of floor space with varying sizes of metal cabinets.

They had their own “handmaidens” (computer operators) whose jobs consisted of feeding them with large decks of punched cards, checking that these jobs got run, putting large magnetic tapes up when requested and keeping the hungry large printers loaded with paper and distributing the print out to collection points.

It was to be two or three years later before we got the first interactive terminals (screen and keyboard), code was written on customised paper pads and then cards were punched. One time we had to send our work on a 200 mile round trip to get it run, this really helped to focus the mind as one missing semi colon could result in a total job failure.

Remember coming across my first PC in 1984 and being unimpressed by everything except the size, bought my own one a couple of years later it came with 2 3.5” floppy disk drives and had a primpitive graphical interface.

Was much more impressed with the interface on the first MACs that I saw in the mid eighties - took Microsoft a fair few years to catch up there with Window 95 being the first usable Windows and Windows 2000 being the first stable version.

The new laptop that I am planning to buy has 2,000 times the amount of memory compared with first mainframe that I worked with and a 160 Gb hard disc in a package that weighs less than 7lbs, at times like this I feel that in some ways the world has changed for the better.

Here are a couple of pics of the sort of machine that I was talking about at the start, if memory serves me correctly that exchangeable disc she is holding was a “massive” 80 Mb.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Elvis Costello

Have enjoyed this fellow’s songs and voice ever since I heard the first album (My Aim Is True) over 30 years ago. He has a fantastic talent for stringing words together that set him apart from most of his contemporaries.

Not only that but as the man who produced the classic Pogues album Rum Sodomy and The Lash he can do little wrong for my ears.

So here are some clips to savour, starting with Watching The Detectives (his first hit single).

Then the hauntingly beautiful Shipbuilding and to finish with a great version of Alison which turns into an interesting cover of Suspicious Minds.

Forgot to mention another reason why I loved him from the start, he escaped a potential life of serfdom in the IT industry for the music business. He had been working a a computer operator = feeding decks of punched cards to the large machines in the corner and then collecting the stacks of paper that they produced some while later.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Cider 103 - Thatcher’s Vintage

Came across this in the supermarket earlier this week and just could not resist it. Produced using a number of different apple types picked in the same year this one dates to 2006.

Very appley tasting with just a hint of sparkle it proved a grand accompaniment to last night’s curry and coming in a 750 ml bottle there was more than enough of it. One last thing, at 7.4% abv this is not a cider to be quaffed swiftly - even though the taste does not reveal the underlying strength.

For dog lovers everywhere I came across this crazy photo at a silly site today, clink on the link underneath it if you want more.

funny dog picture, loldogs, dishes, letric bills, wtf
moar cute puppy pictures

Friday, 18 January 2008

Newton Faulkner

This young man’s album Handbuilt By Robots went platinum over here last year and was the fourth best selling album in the UK. He was nominated in the Best British Male solo artist category for this years Brit awards.

Not only a fine singer and guitarist his live shows are renowned for his between songs banter with the audience and surreal song intros as these two clips demonstrate.

First up is a cover of Teardrop (by Massive Attack) and then we have Feels Like Home (self penned).

Never one to turn down the opportunity to hear Elizabeth Fraser’s voice here is the Massive Attack version.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Television News

Over the New Year break we were sitting in front of the idiot box waiting on the evening meal being ready and we watched the early BBC news report. The most interesting thing was the reaction of everyone in the room from the youngest (Eldest Niece) to the oldest (Big Sister’s husband) to the format and presentation and it was anger.

From the intonation of the reporter’s voices to the endless “and now we go live on scene” where you get a reporter shot live in front of nothing happening in the background, unable to supply any more information than already given it was dreadful.

Tabloid television for the 21st Century, where did it all go wrong? I suspect that the rot set in for the BBC when they launched their 24 hour news channel in ‘97, the requirement to fill the air time dictates a less thoughtful approach to the bulletins.

The pointless stories, OK this one was not on air at the time but I hear reports every day on the radio - latest from the “Diana Death Inquest”. For fecks sake why are we spending 6 months and an estimated £10 million on this - there was a car crash, she was not wearing a seat belt, she died, end of story.

It was over 10 years ago, who apart from the lawyers (big bucks time) and the newspapers (Diana still sells volumes for the tabloids) gives a damn.

I gave up on watching BBC television news over 15 years ago and catching that bulletin over the holidays emphasised just why I had. Nowadays I use the internet, radio or I watch the Channel 4 news bulletin at 19:00 to keep abreast of things.

On Channel 4 they will always lead with the most news worthy items of the day, they have a more global approach to current affairs and their interviews are way more interesting. They do fall into the trap of sending their senior presenters around the globe and then linking to them live, but the end product is usually informative.

Rant over, head here to read about the fossil of the world’s largest rodent - at one tonne you would not want them coming out of your skirting boards.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

£10,000,000 For Your House?

Today I heard an 86 year old man being interviewed on the radio, 35 years ago he bought a 5 bedroom detached house close to the beach in Sandbanks Dorset on the South coast for £60,000.

To put that in perspective the average house price at that time was £3,000 but the man was retiring and the peninsula’s position at the entrance to Poole harbour (second largest natural one in the world after Sydney) offers some stunning views.

Since then it has become the fourth most expensive place to buy property on the planet, a 1/4 acre plot sold recently for £5 million.

So when the old fellow was recently offered £10 million for his house, it might surprise some people that he turned it down without batting an eyelid. He chose to retire there because of the views, he likes living there and his grand children enjoy staying there in the holidays, and as he put it “what would I do with the money”.

So hats off to him, in an age of naked greed for sticking to his principles, it turns out that he was the guy who designed the release mechanism for the Dambusters bombs.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

In Praise of HBO

Most of the truly great dramas that we have imported over here in recent years have been produced by this fine organisation - judged only on the quality of their output.

The first one that I saw was Oz, a very gritty drama set in a maximum security prison.

Then came The Sopranos, I have no idea how close this comes to the reality of “mob” life but the juxtaposition of violence with their obsession over food and family made for compelling viewing.

Then my personal favourite The Wire which I have posted on in the past so we will move on swiftly.

There are many others, Six Feet Under, Deadwood (best Western series ever made?), Band Of Bothers and Rome to name but a few.

It is likely that they have made some stinkers, but if so we have been screened from them over here. What they have not made is a Sci-Fi series of any substance - memo to self, write a series outline for one and email it to them.

Having raised the bar the other networks have been forced to follow, would the likes of House or The Shield have been made if HBO did not exist - I for one do not think so.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Fecking Politicians

It now emerges that our former Prime Minister is to be paid $5 million per year for his part time job with US investment bank JP Morgan. For this price the senior management at the firm will get the chance to meet him around four times a year to listen to his opinions on “world affairs”.

With both parties being coy about the exact amount and what the bank are getting for their money it is pretty hard to be definitive about what is going on.

Since leaving office he has “earned” £500,000 from lectures and a £5 million advance on his memoirs so he is in no way short of a bob or two. But I hear you say, the poor man has a £3.5 million mortgage on his mansion in London and a further £500,000 on two flats in Bristoi, not to mention the wife and kids to support.

All politicians leave me with a bad taste in the mouth, they get elected on promises about only wanting to serve the people but then they start to cash in with lucrative directorships, or consultancy roles either while still in office or after their departure.

What is the world needs is more Anarchism which is defined as “a doctrine urging the abolition of government or governmental restraint as the indispensable condition for full social and political liberty.”

Not convinced that it would work but it has got to be worth a try given what we all have to endure today.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Cider 102 - Thatchers Gold

Tastes better from the bottle than the can but this was the last of the Hogmanay stash and even from the can it tastes a lot better than all of the mass produced ciders.

Gold is what I would call Thacher’s quaffing cider, in bottled form it comes in at 4.8% abv and many a fine warm afternoon has been spent shooting the breeze with family/friends downing a few of these.

Out of the can it is a tad stronger (5.3% abv) but retains the same great taste and as with all of their fine produce contains no artificial flavourings or sweeteners.

As it says on the can it is medium dry and has a good taste of apples as it slides over the palate.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Don't Panic

A giant cloud of hydrogen gas is heading for a collision with the Milky Way! It is moving at a speed of 150 miles per second.

Fear not though, it will not hit us for 20 to 40 million years, phew what a relief. Read the full story here.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary

He died today at the age of 88 and for most people around the world will be remembered as the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest. After scaling the peak, he later told a fellow explorer at base camp: “Well George, we knocked the bastard off.”.

He was also the first man to climb that mountain and reach the South and North Poles.

He formed a life long bond with the people of Nepal and in that country will be remembered for the charity that he established in 1964. It has built more than 30 schools, set up clinics and hospitals, built bridges and airstrips all in a quest to improve the life or Nepalese people.

By all accounts he was a a quiet unassuming man and in a time when the word hero is applied all too casually this individual is one of the few to whom the term can be genuinely applied.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Hüsker Dü

Now it is time for some hardcore from one of my favourite eighties bands, once again I came across them through the late great John Peel and was blown away by their energy and also their lyrics.

They never achieved the success that their consistent body of work deserved but there can be little doubt that they influenced/inspired a number of bands who came after them.

First up is Could You Be The One (from their last release the double album Warehouse Songs and Stories) and that is followed by Makes No Sense At All.

Also own a few Bob Mould solo albums but that will make for another post at some future point.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Shopping Channel

A service provided for those readers interested in the height of fashion culled from today’s paper.

First up is an article on handbags for people with bags more money than sense.

And finally, we have the iTaser - listen while you stun (the Zappa reference in the music list is a caustic comment on his hair). Available in a "tasty" leopardskin print - to go with a matching handbag?

Trojan Box Sets

Think that I may have mentioned my 30+ years of infatuation with reggae/ska/rock steady or Jamaican music in general.

Anyone wanting to explore these amazing genres of music could start in no better place than Trojan’s fine box sets. Each one comes with 3 CDs by various artists and they are amazing value for money at around £10 over here or $22 in the US. Buy a couple and decide for yourself which artists that you like.

Or head on over to their web site here and select Trojan Radio and listen to some tracks for free. If you like dub music I can recommend Tommy McCook Meets The Aggrovator’s King Tubby Dub - a classic.

Tommy was a brilliant saxophone player and a founding member of the Skatalites, never heard of them then check this out. It opens with an interview with the great man himself, then has a ska track, another brief interview and closes with a rock steady number.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Sin City

Caught this movie again on Sunday night and was impressed at how good it looked on the small screen. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado etc etc) and Frank Miller it is based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller and features 3 separate story lines in the dark and looming city of the title.

It is shot mainly in black and white giving it a film noire look, but there are striking uses of colour throughout which beautifully highlight events. The stories are all pretty violent so this is not a movie for the squeamish, however it is well written and the violence is present to support the narrative.

Great central performances from Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen are supplemented by a very strong supporting cast who are too numerous to mention but Elijah Wood’s cannibal portrayal is a real eye opener.

Here is the trailer for it.

The good news is that 2 sequels are currently in production and should appear next year.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Gratuitous Snow Pics

Had a couple of nights where it gone down to -10° C and there were a few instances of -3° C being reported at 4 PM by those of us with outside temperature devices in their cars. However in the main it was overcast and cold in the Easterly winds that seemed to prevail for most of our stay.

That is until we got to Thursday morning when it started to snow and must have dumped around 2 inches until it packed it in sometime in the late afternoon.

These three shots were taken on Friday morning after the others had set off on their journeys South.

Yes those are dog tracks in the snow, Big Sis was accompanied by their 15 year old black labrador who is one chilled out dog - the only time he gave me any trouble was on the two mornings when I had to persuade him that he really needed to move from in front of the log fire to go his bed in the cooler kitchen annex.

What is it with corporations and Easter? Popped into the off sales on Thursday evening and they had Easter eggs for sale on January 4th for fecks sake! When we challenged the sales assistant about this he had the good grace to look sheepish and muttered “nothing to do with us, we never asked for them they just got sent in with this weeks resupply”.

So one season closes and the build up to the next holiday commences, these companies just see these seasons as an opportunity to extract as much cash from consumers as they can before moving on to the next “sales opportunity”.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Back From The Hills

Made it back early yesterday evening after an interesting 10 hour drive, the main road South had been closed due to heavy snow and a white out the afternoon before. Driving in those conditions is very disorientating and not an experience I would care to repeat - I got lucky and temperatures rose overnight so all I had to face was 260 miles of heavy rain and standing water on the roads before I hit dry conditions for the last 300 miles.

A lot less scary than the trip up when I was slowing down for a roundabout at the end of the motorway and at 200 yards hit a mini lake which covered the windscreen with water, total loss of vision and while braking I was trying to remember how far in front the other car had been. Rain finally cleared around Birnam and as I cleared the top of the Drumochter pass the sun came out to welcome me home

Big Sis and husband, Hairy nephew and Irish Lass arrived on Saturday afternoon (West Country dudes bearing copious quantities of Thatchers cider products) to stay with me in our Mother’s house. Eldest Niece, partner and baby Lewis turned up to stay in their rented house at around the same time.

Hogmanay dinner was roast beef (cooked on the bone - no BSE fearing wussies here) and there were nine of us around the table. I laid the table and then Big Sis announced that we had no napkins, use kitchen roll I said so she artistically twisted them into the glasses.

Starting wine bottles are shown below, everyone enjoyed their meal and we were able to face the New Year in an almost sober state. An early morning finish to the celebrations followed but that was the pattern for the week until we hit everyone else’s last night on Thursday.

All in all a really fun week in the hills tempered only by the thought that it would be the last one spent in that house. The estate agent called us on the 31st asking if she could give someone a second viewing on the 2nd - that got kicked into touch due to the amount of debris we had generated coupled with the non existent mornings that some of us were having.