Saturday, 27 September 2008

Internet Amusement

Sponsored by a burger chain these shorts come from the creator of Family Guy Seth MacFarlane. In this one Super Mario rescues the princess.

This clip features Bob Marley and this one is a promo clip for the series, looks like they should be worth watching.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Return of Rocket Man

Back in June I wrote about the Swiss guy who threw himself out of a plane in a wing suit powered by model aircraft engines, today he was at it again.

Slightly higher today at 8,200 feet but then he was planning to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover a distance of 22 miles. He made it in one piece in less than 10 minutes and landed safely and you can watch an extract here, he is back to the day job next week flying aircraft for Swiss Air.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

News Digest

These Swedish ladies qualify for a Darwin award, though I suspect that a long stay in a psychiatric ward would be more appropriate, have to feel really sorry for the police who had to deal with this insanity and the drivers who were involved.

It turns out that back in the day “big tobacco” were paying Hollywood studios and actors big bucks to promote their brands in films. Part of me wishes that this policy was still being applied to certain “celebrities” in 2008.

Now here is one very very smart 12 year old, he has worked out a way of improving on the design of 3D solar cells, almost gives you hope for an end to energy problems in the future. Thanks to the Dilbert dude Scott Adams for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Ricardo Patrese Scares Wife

Retired Formula One driver takes his wife for a lap of the Jerez racing circuit in a Honda Civic Type-R and she is scared witless. While I do not speak Italian her body language and demeanour leaves little doubt in what she is telling him.

The icing on the cake comes when she realises that there is a camera on the dashboard as they are slowing down entering the pit lane, his calmness while subject to the tirade is also quite impressive.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Billy Connolly

These days people tend to forget that when The Big Yin first started out in showbiz it was as a folk musician, then he became a folk musician who introduced his songs with humorous introductions before becoming a comedian who played the odd song.

I was lucky enough to see him in a small venue before he became famous across the country after his appearance on a tv chat show – very charismatic and more songs than on subsequent appearances. Here is his UK Number One hit from 1975, a spoof on Tammy Wynette's DIVORCE.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Folk music here and in Ireland has a long tradition of the session, where a bunch of musicians would gather in a private house or pub and play together. One musician will start a tune and be joined by those others who know it, those that don't will sit it out and make a start on learning it for a later date.

It is a long established way of preserving (and enhancing) traditional tunes and songs, the informal setting allows less experienced musicians to participate and develop their skills. All of the great Irish folk groups are filled with people who will have started out playing in sessions, and most of them will continue to play in them when they get the chance.

In the late nineties myself and a group of family and friends spent the new year in Westport (County Mayo), a grand wee town and home of the famous Matt Molloy's pub. He is a well known folk flute player and was in The Bothy Band before going on to play with The Chieftains, if at home it is not unusual to find him playing in a session.

We were not lucky enough to witness that, but on the Sunday night we did catch a fine session from some talented musicians, one of the highlights of the trip.

This clip gives you a flavour of what you might be lucky enough to stumble across in an Irish pub, note the careful ingestion of stout by some of the musicians while taking time outs.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Question Answered

Back in April I was wondering why Australian wines purchased in Indonesia had labels warning of “Produced with egg and fish products as a processing aid. Some traces may remain”, and why I had not seen the terms on the same wines purchased in the UK.

The answer is that these allergy warnings were introduced by legislation in 2002 for the Australian/NZ markets, what has been harder to track down is why they are still not being used over here.

My suspicion is that it is down to some EU regulation, after an hour or so of googling I was able to confirm this thought.

This summary opinion (from 2005) appears to suggest that there is no evidence of allergic reactions to these products in wine and that without a scientific study there is no reason to add a warning to labels. The only “allergenic” warning required in the EU is for sulphites or SO2 which is found in most wines.

Still, it does seem strange that they have to put on different labels depending on where the wine is being sold.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Gordon Brown Downfall – The Prequel

Came across this last week (unfortunately I cannot remember where I first saw it) and is ROFL funny, warning the subtitles do contain strong language.

Some background for non UK readers, at a by-election in July of this year the standing Labour candidate managed to turn a 13,000 majority into a 1,000 vote deficit to the SNP candidate, the election was in Glasgow East.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Valentino Rossi

Is a five times winner of the premier motorcycle racing series (known as MotoGP since 2002) and the way that things are going this year it looks like he will make it six. He also has a 125cc and a 250cc World Championship title.

Watched my recording of Sunday's race at a very windy and rainy Indianapolis Speedway the other night where having started from pole he ended the first lap in fourth place. By lap 14 he had taken the lead and when the race got red flagged at lap 20 he was over 5 seconds ahead of the second place man. This was not the most exciting race to watch but under the atrocious weather conditions they were all doing really well just to stay upright let alone do any overtaking.

This win was the 69th of his career taking him past the record of 68 wins previously held by Giacomo Agostini and means that he only has to gain another 13 points from the last 4 races to become champion once more.

This clip is from Laguna Seca 2008, it shows Rossi duelling with Stoner (last years champion), this sort of overtaking action is what I enjoy about MotoGP. These guys are nutters, exceptionally skillful but nutters nonetheless; shame about the music it would have been better with just the noise of the engines.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


Amid all the global economic crisis stuff there is some more cheering news to be found, check out the new planet found, only 500 light years from here.

Elsewhere, scientists discover that London taxi driver's brains have in-built sat nav.

Bad news for the criminal underclass who eat processed foods, their high in salt sweat can leave recognisable corrosion marks on metal surfaces, high temperatures can enhance the marks on shell casings.

Was sad to read that Richard Wright of Pink Floyd died yesterday of cancer.

From the 1994 Division Bell tour, third and last time I saw them perform live, here is one that Rick wrote The Great Gig In The Sky, seems appropriate.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Queen Medley in Japanese

This is mad, kind of like finding yourself in a Tokyo karaoke bar where the only CD that they have is Queen's greatest hits. The anime that goes with it is pretty cool, but judge for yourselves.

Found at the Accordian Guy's place

Sunday, 14 September 2008

BT Shoots Itself In The Foot

A tale of a giant telecommunications company which is not moving as fast with the times as their advertising would have you believe. A relative of mine orders a broadband package from BT in the middle of August, this duly arrived but her PC (10 years old) lacked a USB port to connect it.

So a visit to the local high street stores produced a shiny new HP desktop with flat screen monitor running Windows, no prizes for guessing which version of Windows, yes it was Vista. First problem is that the ethernet cable supplied with the BT broadband hub was not long enough and would have required a hole to be drilled in a wall to provide a connection.

Relative and lil' bro' (who was visiting at the time) look at literature supplied with the hub where the BT Voyager 1055 Wireless USB Adapter is identified as being the best thing to buy to create a wireless connection. Relative rings them up, tells them that she has just bought a new computer and wants to connect it via wireless, adapter gets purchased and is delivered on Friday of last week.

Now, I had told her that installing this would be very easy and that she could do it herself, but as a non technical person she delayed for a week until her brother could attend to assist. They insert CD and nothing happens apart from an error message, they look at box for adapter where Windows 2000 and XP are mentioned but not Vista and then ring me.

I check out the sales page for the product and there in the small print at the end is OS Required Windows 2000/XP. Hmm, this is over 18 months since Vista escaped/was released into the wild so I click on the Description down arrow and find a link to Click Here For Vista Drivers.

I explain to them where to go to find the file and what to do with it when they get it, this will require her brother to do it from his functioning internet connection. Up the stakes by telling them this must happen all the time and that they will probably ship the drivers on a CD if you ring up customer services – big mistake.

Not only did they guy she was put through to tell her that this product would never work with Vista he also said that because she had not said that her PC was running Vista she was not eligible for a refund. He went on to dispute her claim that any new PC bought this year would come with Vista installed , claiming that Vista was only for high end machines. He may have been operating out of an Indian call centre, it is the only explanation that I can think of to support his claim.

He did supply the number of the product technical support people but they had knocked off for the weekend by this time. He became flummoxed when she told him that it was possible to download the Vista drivers from their web site if you had a working connection.

I explained to her that the adapter was old stock and that what BT should be doing was removing the shrink wrap, throwing in a Vista drivers CD and a small piece of paper telling customers with a Vista PC to use it.

Not rocket science and I would be very surprised if my relative was the first person to fall down this micro black hole in BT's retail sales “plan” for 2008. It will be interesting to hear what sort of response she gets from the product technical support group.


Tech Support sorted her out with no problems, and even as I write a CD with drivers is on it's way in the post.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Beer 115 – Morland Old Crafty Hen

Had this one at Eldest Niece's place on my last visit, cannot remember if this was a one off brew or the first of a batch to be brewed and released on general sale – I blame the beer – she works for the brewers so this particular one might be a a limited run.

That would be a shame as it is a fine drop, pretty dark in colour with a strong malt taste, slipped down a treat, a word of caution though as it is 6.5% abv and it would only take a few of these to turn the brain to mush and the legs to jelly.

I can also recommend Old Speckled Hen from the same brewery and on general sale everywhere.

UPDATE I have been reliably informed that Old Crafty Hen can be purchased at Tesco.

Friday, 12 September 2008

David Bowie

My short lived career as ticket sales agent/bus operator started and ended while I was still at school, it was back in '73 and David Bowie was doing his Ziggie Stardust tour of the UK, we were 80 odd miles west of Aberdeen which was the most northerly stop of the tour.

A few of us were interested in attending and one of us had an uncle who worked for the local bus company, he found out that if we could get 30 bodies on board we could hire a coach to take us there and back for a reasonable price.

I vaguely remember advertising around the school to get the numbers up and that we achieved them with ease, money was collected, tickets purchased and the coach was booked

It was a great night, the music was fantastic and a bunch of under age kids had too much to drink but there were no problems and every one returned home safely – this event kick started my life long affair with major gigs, but I have no idea how we managed it.

“My brain hurt like a warehouse”

Here is the opening track from the album Five Years:

This trip down memory lane ended up with me spending way too much time on YouTube this morning, here is a live performance of Suffragette City from '73.

Long before anyone had head of “MadDonner” Bowie was at the forefront of artists constantly reinventing themselves with every album release.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Big Science

After 20 years of planning and building and at a cost of around £5 Billion the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland gets switched on today. Basically it will send 2 streams of 50 billion protons flying around a 17 mile track at speeds of around 99.999,9991% of the speed of light in the hope that they crash into one another and confirm some theories of particle physics.

The particles will be doing 11,245 circuits of the track every second, eat your heart out F1/NASCAR. The data volumes being collected from the experiment are mind blowing, 15,000 terabytes per year and that is after they have discarded 99% of all observations after automated cursory checks.

It will attempt to confirm the existence of the theoretical Higgs boson particle, search for dark matter, confirm the number of dimensions which exist (10 or 11 according to theory) and a bunch of other stuff that makes my brain ache just trying to think about it.

It is unlikely that it will succeed today in sending around one stream all of the way round and is more likely that it will take a few months to calibrate.

Even if it succeeds in creating micro black holes the planet is not going to be swallowed by them today or at any point in the near future – even higher energy collisions occur in the upper atmosphere every day and the world has yet to end.

It is difficult to predict what good might come from this experiment apart from an increase/decrease in our understanding of particle physics, and some have argued that the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

I have two answers to that, firstly the project has had scientists and engineers from 40 countries working in cooperation for the last 20 years which is a good thing. Secondly and arguably more importantly if the project had never started I would not be writing this and you would not be reading it – Tim Berners-Lee invented the concept of the World Wide Web while working there.

If you are interested then you can read more here.


The first beam made it all the way round in less than an hour from startup which is pretty impressive, they expect to start getting their first collisions within a month or so, micro black holes here we come.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

North Korea Turns 60

Amazed that it has lasted that long but what really surprised me today was learning that up until the mid 70s that the North had a higher GDP per capita than the South! Not only that in 1984 they actually sent food aid to the South – as compared to today when it is reliant on foreign food aid just to feed the population, ironically a large amount of that comes from the US.

So, not really much to celebrate today apart from the usual large parade of military manpower and hardware – oh and the strange absence of the “Dear Leader” from this event, could he be ill?

The video of the parade is worth watching, for the lack of formidable modern weaponry if no other reason.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Firefox 3

Switched to the new version of this Open Source browser last week after my anti virus software released a compatible version for their toolbar addon. So far I have been pretty impressed, it not only runs faster but is less prone to locking up than version 2 – what used to happen was that after a lengthy online session the browser would lock up and Task Manager would have to be used to kill it.

My not very extensive research on the new version has only had a lock up occur once, and it was confined to one tab which was much easier to cure.

There have been some concerns that some of it's malware detection features are not as rigorous as they should be, but that will only impact naïve users.

This is not intended to be an extensive review, there are enough of those around to read, but if you are using an earlier version of Firefox you should upgrade now – it is only a 7 Mb download. Users of Internet Explorer should give it a try, it will import your existing bookmarks and will ask you every time that you start it if you want to make it your default browser.

The only real downside is that under Windows it only supports versions from Windows 2000 onwards.

It can be downloaded from here.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Ry Cooder

One of the finest guitarists to emerge from the USA, I have been a big fan since the early seventies as the vinyl on my shelf confirms. His solo work is pretty impressive but one of his lasting legacies will be the way that he brought musicians from around the world to greater public attention.

Buena Vista Social Club is arguably the best known of these (and one that I enjoy) but my personal favourite is Talking Timbuktu his 1994 collaboration with Ali Farka Touré

All of these clips are from 1973, looks like he only packed the one shirt and bandanna for the trip, starts off with some fine slide playing on Vigilante Man.

Then we get some wizard mandolin playing on Goin' To Brownsville, and we end up with some more guitar on Jesus On The Mainline.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


You are having a stressful day so you decide to take a comfort break in your local “evil empire” coffee shop and exit with your beverage of choice, having forgotten to retrieve your fully loaded firearm. Still, close encounters with Tony Blair are probably inclined to turn your brain to mush.

Meanwhile in China an Asian elephant has been cured of heroin addiction after a year long methadone program. What intrigues me about this tale is how the police officers concluded that it was suffering from heroin withdrawal, do they see a lot of elephant addicts over there?

Another tale of oversized mammals abusing drugs comes in from Japan.

There are some cute photos of frogs in this report, worth watching the sounds made by the smoky jungle frog when it gets picked up.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Hellboy 11 The Golden Army

Review delayed as we did not get to see it on Saturday but I finally managed to catch it yesterday and it did not fail to disappoint. While ostensibly a superhero blockbuster this is so much more than that managing to be intelligent, funny and beautifully shot as well.

For anyone not in the know the lead character is a demon from hell raised from childhood by humans who has renounced his past and now devotes his life to protecting humans from the forces of the dark.

Written and directed by the Mexican Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) it is a visual treat for the eyes while offering a proper grown up story line. Hey, do not take my word for it, here is what the good Doctor Kermode had to say about it.