Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Disaster


001 (177)
Originally uploaded by jamieimus.

To my shame, it took until today for me finally to donate some money to the Red Cross towards relief of this cataclysmic event.

Listening to the radio driving in to work this morning I heard another report of the mounting death toll. John Bell of the Iona Community did Thought for the Day on Radio 4, and reminded me how driven we are in the West towards acquisition of material possessions when events like this should demonstrate to us what the really important things in life are.

Finally, I saw a patient this morning. He is a nice man with severe arthritis who has just come back from Sri Lanka. He is fortunate to have only minor injuries, but he knows how easily things could have been different for him. He mentioned the fear that everyone there had at the time of a further earthquake, and how kind the locals had been towards the tourists: even locals who had lost family and friends themselves.

I believe people in the UK have so far donated around £25 million to the appeal. This sounds a lot, but it's a tiny fraction of what we all just spent on Christmas.

If a tightfisted, procrastinating cynic like me can be galvanised into activity by this disaster, maybe you should be too?

Links (from Ken Phillips' Blog):

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Dangerous Domestic Appliances

For those of you who yearn for the day when robots will relieve us of every task we find irksome, I would remind you that even current domestic appliances can sometimes "bite the hand that feeds them". The Register article has further links to reports of dangers from machines of various sorts (See: "The Rise of the Machines").

Perhaps after a heavy dinner on New Years Day you should hand dry the dishes. Do you not think that dishwasher is eyeing you up in a strange sort of way?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Monster

Gdog bought me a couple of DVDs for Christmas. One of them was the film Monster starring Charlize Theron. I've just watched it, and I think the performance by Theron was thoroughly deserving of the Best Actress Oscar in 2004. She gained 30 lbs for the role, transforming in the process from this ravishing creature to this slightly less attractive individual.

My brother-in-law has commented that most of the favourite films listed in my Blogger Profile are violent, which is an interesting observation that Gdog can explore further when she gets her psychology degree! Monster is certainly violent, but not, I think, gratuitously so. It is essential to see something of the the brutality to which Aileen Wuornos was exposed if we are to try to understand the reasons why she did what she did. Whether she was justified in behaving as she did is open to question, but the film certainly implies that her options in life were limited.

The physical resemblance between Theron in Monster and the real Aileen Wuornos is quite impressive, but I don't think that alone is enough to explain the success of Charlize's performance. It is the total conviction with which she plays the part from the first frame of this excellent film.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Food For Thought

The Independent on Friday had some fascinating figures related to The Cost of Christmas. Apparently, in the UK alone, we will have spent £30 bn celebrating Christmas this year, including £4.2 bn on cosmetics. The latter figure is slightly higher than the UK's aid budget for the developing world in 2004.

The average of £813 per adult Christmas spending in Britain is approximately 16 times the per capita annual income in Ethiopia.

Every 16 hours the nations of sub-Saharan Africa pay the so-called developed countries £20 m in debt.

The average Briton will have consumed 7000 calories on Christmas Day. A refugee child in Dafur could survive for 7 days on this number of calories.

An excellent post from Monkeyc details how little progress we have made in Feeding the World since Band Aid 20 years ago.

Still feeling smug about those Charity Christmas Cards you bought?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Merry Christmas To Both Our Readers

Dear Sog and Wosog it's such a pleasure to write for such an attractive, cultured and perceptive audience.

I hope you both have the Christmas you deserve!

PS If you run out of things to do try this (click on the presents to score).

Friday, December 24, 2004

You Must Be Getting Old!


Santa Jack asleep
Originally uploaded by dcpiii.

They say it's a sign of getting old when the Policemen, Traffic Wardens, etc., etc., all look like schoolboys. Well if this is what Santa looks like to you, you must be pretty ancient.

But seriously, is this kid from FlickrBlog cute or what?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

He Hates Christmas

This guy has several good reasons for disliking the Festering Season!

Monday, December 20, 2004

He's A Great Guy Isn't He?

I was reminded recently why I don't subscribe to Time magazine when I heard that they had named George W Bush their Person of the Year 2004. This seemed bizarre behaviour until I realised that the winners in 1938 and 1942 were Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin respectively!

Last year's winner was, believe it or not, The American Soldier. Time obviously values GI Joe more highly than Donald Rumsfeld.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Him Robot

It seems that the world portrayed in the film I Robot is not as far away as we imagined. Honda has produced a robot called Asimo that can not only interact with humans and find its way round obstacles, but it can also run. From the style of the running I suspect it's capable of getting constipated too!

Apparently, however, it's not the first robot to run: Sony's quirkily named Qrio beat them to it last year! Who knows, in a few years time we might have the Robot Olympics to bore the pants off us as well as the old fashioned human kind.

The BBC news article also refers to the fact that Asimo attended a state dinner in the Czech Republic in 2003, travelling with the Japanese Prime Minister. It's a pity for the British Conservative Party that the General Election is so close. Otherwise they could have put up a couple of Asimos as Tory electoral candidates! They would certainly be more inspiring than their human counterparts.

I had no idea that Honda was involved in this type for development, but I'd still rather have a Civic Type-R!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Isn't the Internet Great?


Isn't the Internet great? Without it how would eccentrics like Sam Blomberg be able to entertain us with their collection of pictures of mailboxes of the World (example above)?

We'd also never find out that Sam (US Army retired) can fly and is just as barking as these guys.

It's so reassuring to know that however flaky you may be yourself there's always someone madder than you!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

One for the Workaholics

"Hard work never did anyone any harm!" Isn't that what they used to say? Evidence from a recent study suggests, in fact, that working to tight deadlines increases your risk of a heart attack.

So next time your furiously tapping away at your keyboard, combining a rushed takeaway lunch with trying to meet your latest target, consider that the pain in your chest might not just be heartburn!

Parental Controls

Not what you expected. This animation for youngsters (now there's a word I've not used for a while) gives the little blighters advice on keeping their parents off the Net. "Sourced" from bifurcated rivets.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Caption Competition


This is a little experiment that will probably fail miserably. What do you think Blunkett has just said to Prescott? Photograph is from The Scotsman's website. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Time Gentlemen (and Ladies) Please!

The subject of alcohol overconsumption is often treated as a source of humour but the reports of binge drinking among teenagers should be a reason for concern for us all. An interesting aspect of this is the fact that the problem seems to be particularly bad in young women.

Gdog is no angel, but she certainly drinks significantly less than some of her friends. I listened to some of the sixteen year olds interviewed about their alcohol and drug use on the radio yesterday. The striking thing was how unconcerned they all were. They seemed to feel that they could get away with even the most risky behaviour just because they were young.

Apart from the long-term health hazards, alcohol is clearly a factor in the UK's high teenage pregnancy rates.

Alcohol is great if used sensibly, but I already see enough of the effects of alcohol abuse. I don't particularly want to see these appearing in an even younger age group.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Graecophilia Is Good For You


Wosog has been somewhat glum recently. Like most teachers, in my experience, she tends to get a bit morose if she doesn't have at least one holiday to look forward to! With this in mind, we decided to book a holiday in Kefalonia, Greece in July next year. We've been there once before, and it is truly a beautiful island.

The Greeks have really made doing nothing into an art form, and it's hard to know how the Ancient Greeks got around to doing all that Cradle of Civilisation Stuff.

Roll on July!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Attractions of Christianity

As a devout atheist, I have often felt that it must be quite comforting to have a faith of some kind. In times of trouble it probably would be quite handy to have some omnipotent superbeing to step in on your behalf.

I knew that Christianity in general had the attractions of being a well established religion with lots of well qualified and friendly, if somewhat earnest, employees as well as lots of large buildings where one could wile away many a Sunday morning. However I didn't, until recently, know about the even more tangible attractions of the Landover Baptist Church (The Largest, Most Powerful Assembly Of Worthwhile People To Ever Exist. Unsaved Are NOT Welcome). It's a pity Gsog already has a Playstation 2 since he could have accepted Jesus Christ and got one free! Its also a shame to miss out on the customised version of Tony Hawk's Undergound. Anyway, I've more or less decided to buy Wosog a "What Would Jesus Do?" Thong as a "stocking filler" this Christmas.

You know, I'm no expert but I suspect this may not be a genuine Christian site.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Put Your Thinking Cap On!


Some American Boffins have apparently designed a cap with 64 electrodes that allows the wearer to control a computer in a limited way.

Who knows, with advances in this technology Gsog may some day be able to use his Playstation 6 without having to move his arms at all! Unfortunately, that still leaves the problem of getting his Hula Hoops from the bag to his mouth. Thank goodness there are still some mysteries in the Universe! Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 09, 2004

House of the Rising Son

I was interested to discover today that Our Esteemed Leader's early childhood home is up for sale, and for a mere £155,000! Surely it should be bought for the Nation, and kept as a shrine to The Great Man? Future scholars could then visit there, and marvel at the fact that an individual who came from such humble origins could rise so high, mastering the art of lying to the electorate in the process!

I see the house Mr Blair plans to occupy after leaving Number 10 is a somewhat more expensive affair. The cost of the stamp duty on it would almost pay for his childhood home! Who says crime doesn't pay?

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Wonderful BombDog


5000 mph bus
Originally uploaded by BombDog.

One of my favourite photographers on Flickr is a designer from London whose "Flickr Name" is BombDog. This picture is called "5000 mph bus", and is part of a set of photographs called Motionography. His ability to capture movement in still pictures is really impressive.

His other photos are really interesting too.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Friday, December 03, 2004

What's In It For Google?

Have you ever wondered why Google, via Blogger, supplies thousands of people with free web space for their idle rantings? This little video looks forward to 2014 to speculate how Google may ultimately take over the planet and permeate every aspect of our lives, however trivial they may be.

Although one feature is a kick in the teeth for Microsoft, which will please some, the whole thing seems a bit sinister and almost apocalyptic to me!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Now Wash Your Hands

The Register reports a probe into "the nutritional content" of the average computer keyboard. This predictably, perhaps, includes bread crumbs, crisp fragments, meat, sugar, salt and jam. Less savoury contents, however, include toe and fingernail clippings, grit, glue and pubic hair (now how did that get there?).

So put that keyboard DOWN --- you don't know where it's been!