Monday, February 26, 2007

Desktop of the week

I took this picture last Saturday. It is a view of Arran from the North, across Ostal Bay on the Cowal Peninsula. The mountain just left of centre is 'The Sleeping Warrior', possibly my favourite Scottish mountain (to look at; I have never climbed it) - if you follow the profile of the mountain from left to right it looks like a man lying down. From Lochranza (not so much in this photo) you can clearly see his helmet, his nose, his chin and the three buttons on his jacket. It looks particularly stunning as a windows desktop. If you want a higher resolution version of it for your own desktop (assuming that the 1024 x 768 version isn't big enough for you), just ask.

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Something Fishy going on...

Quick newsflash:
I have just found out that my favourite singer, Fish, is to host his own radio show on Friday nights, from 6-8pm, on Planet Rock radio. Starting this Friday. Show repeated on Sunday evenings if you happen to miss it first time around. Not only will Fish be doing the DJ/presenter thing, but you'll get to hear the development of tracks from his upcoming album over the next few months too...

Listen online at or on a DAB radio. For best effect listen on one of these: Planet Rock Marshall DAB radio!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Quote of the day

"...there are very few movies that wouldn't benefit from losing twenty minutes and the inclusion of an exploding helicopter shot..."
Roger Corman
(thanks to Mark Kermode for quoting that one on BBC Five Live)

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ambiguous wording...

I gave my wife an iPod Nano for her birthday yesterday. These things do not come with a charger, so if you want to charge it up without a computer you need to buy an extra adapter.

So I had a look in Argos. £19 for a charger or £29 for the cheapest charger with external speakers. Given that I wanted to buy a set of external speakers anyway, I opted for the £29 item.

But then I looked at the side of the box, it says:

"... for charging & synchronising via USB..."

The thing plugs in and comes with a power adapter, but that wording makes me wonder, is it:
  • ...for charging & [synchronising via USB]..., or
  • ...for [charging & synchronising] via USB...
If it is the latter variation, then the thing does not do the job I bought it for. Hmmm. I guess I'll find out tonight.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A-Z of forgotten classic songs: A

I love Amanda.

No, I'm not having an illicit affair or anything like that, I'm talking about the song 'Amanda' by Boston. Track one on their fabulous (and frequently overlooked) third album, 'Third Stage' from 1986.

The song sounds like the mother of all 80s AOR soft rock ballads and is the perfect introduction to the album.

Despite being AOR perfection, the song is really quite understated and subdued. It starts with a gently strummed acoustic guitar and builds up by applying layers of vocals, melodic guitars, vocal harmonies and power-ballad hook lines, whilst still keeping its relaxed pace and mellow vibe.

The prejudiced ear will hear a typical AOR ballad with syrupy vocals and cliched lyrics. The open minded listener will discover one of the most beautiful, simple love songs in rock.

Go on, listen without prejudice.

For what its worth, I think the whole album is a masterpiece. In the great tradition of musicals and prog-rock concept albums, variations on the tune of 'Amanda' crop up several times on the album, and every time it is brilliant. Unlike many rock albums, this album really shows restraint - yes it does rock, but it carefully builds up to the big rock songs with several much softer songs first. Rather than thrusting the rock in your face it is held back until track 4, with the first three songs acting like a kind of gentle seduction before the... Erm, I could continue that line of reasoning to describe this album, but I think I'll stop there.

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Pointless rant number 1

The function of a toilet roll holder is to make toilet roll accessible to the toilet user. So why, oh why, oh why, oh why do some folk insist on hanging the roll on the holder with the end of the paper dispensed at the rear (i.e. the wall side) of the holder?

You don't design a fridge with a door which opens towards the wall behind it. You wouldn't use a wastepaper bin with the opening at the bottom. So why do some people hang their toilet roll in the least user friendly manner?

At least the majority opinion seems to be in agreement with me here, but who are these 22% (when I checked) who prefer the user-un-friendly mode of operation?

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Monday, February 12, 2007


Saturday night, family entertainment. BBC struck gold a couple of years ago by bringing back Doctor Who. Then struck something else entirely with Robin Hood last year. Now ITV are trying to muscle in on the action with Primeval.

At face value, it should be a hit. I mean, dinosaurs terrorising 21st century housing estates... what's not to love? But episode one was very... well, it was very ITV, really.

I rarely love TV programmes on ITV, very occasionally they get it right, but more often than not they simply go for what I call 'lowest common denominator TV' - in trying to appeal to everyone, they end up with a fairly bland and predictable product that is watchable, occasionally entertaining, often dumb, but never great.

Oh, and if you're going to bring back animals from the Permian period, don't refer to them as 'dinosaurs'. Dinosaurs were a particular group of reptiles (which came along after the Permian), not a generic name for all pre-historic beasts. The folk who made 'Walking with Dinosaurs' and 'Walking with Monsters' sould know that!

So, it was OK. Passed an hour fairly happily. I'll watch again next week, but won't be gutted if I miss an episode.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


That's not a graphic. That's a real photo of Saturn from the Cassini probe. In this photo, the sun is directly behind the planet. Isn't it amazing?

At higher resolution, you can even see the earth in this picture (just above the left extremity of the densely packed rings, just outside the first faint ring) - earth seen from almost a billion miles away. How cool is that?

If you want to see Saturn for yourself, look into the eastern sky an hour or two after sunset (Feb 10th for the best view, although it should be visible tonight and for another few weeks) and the brightests yellow 'star' you see should be Saturn. A small telescope should be all that is needed to see the rings...


Why are flagpoles white?

On the bus today, passing through Edinburgh city centre, I noticed just what a lot of flagpoles there are there. And they are all white.

Why are flagpoles white? Is there a reason for this convention? Why can't you have a black flagpole? Or a blue one? Why doesn't it match the colours of the flag raised upon it? Somewhere back in the mists of time, there must be a reason for it...