Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Update

Guess what? It's 22.20 and no trick-or-treaters have been!!!

Goodie bag anyone?

Happy Halloween!

Visiting one of the local supermarkets this weekend, I was amazed by the huge stock of pumpkins that they were carrying. I'm sure that they will never sell all of them! I suspect that the managers, like me, will have done a Google search for pumpkin recipes to try and tempt shoppers over the next week with their unsold pumpkins at knock down prices. If geeky Halloween celebrants discover this site, they'll sell even fewer of the unappetising fruits.

As usual, Wosog has stocked up with cookies, fruit and little bags of sweets to reward our little Halloween visitors for their often, it has to be said, uninspiring performances. There's always the possibility that they won't turn up some year and we'll be left gorging ourselves on fruit, cakes and sweets for the next week.

Anyway, Happy Halloween to all!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Alas Poor George!

It's not been a good week for poor George Bush with his close chums being accused of various dirty tricks: nothing to do with George himself, of course. Then there's the small matter of all those US troops returning from Iraq in body bags.

Like many senior politicians, Bush's ability to be elsewhere when the shit hits the proverbial fan is impressive, but maybe one day he will finally be knocked off his perch (thanks to Octupus Dropkick).

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Glimmer Of Hope

Don't you feel that the news currently is dominated by doom and gloom? We have: the ongoing chaos of the War in Iraq; multiple hurricanes in the United States; scaremongering (probably, maybe not) about avian influenza; predictions about the coldest Winter in the UK for several decades (complete with extrapolations about the dire economic and social consequences); recurrent terrorist attacks, and the new Iranian premier advocating wiping Israel off the face of the planet!

We also have the awful results of the South Asian Earthquake, but here we have the one bit of good news I've heard recently. I was encouraged to read that India has decided to donate $25 million towards the relief effort in Pakistan, and hopefully will also come to an agreement to allow opening of the line of control between the two parts of Kashmir. Considering the appalling relations between the two countries not that long ago, with "sabre rattling" of the most worrying kind going on, this is really a highly significant gesture.

You wonder what sort of catastrophic event it would take to bring the so-called Islamists and the "Infidels" of the West together? I suspect this would be on such a scale that none of us would survive it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

i Don't Believe It!

Continuing with my iPod obsession, I was interested to discover via PlasticBag that some enterprising individual has produced a replacement cap and lanyard for the iPod Shuffle that transforms the little beast into a crucifix.

According to the blurb on the site, this modification is designed to demonstrate membership of the "fastest growing religion in the world" IE iPod owners. In fact, reading the wording carefully, you could be forgiven for thinking that the makers were "taking the Mick".

The new accessory is called the iBelieve, adding to the lengthening list of iProducts. All i can say to this is....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

In The Footsteps Of Hannibal....

I refer, of course, to Hannibal Lecter the medical genius and incredibly dangerous cannibalistic serial killer who was originally featured in the film "Silence of the Lambs". "What is he on about?" you ask. Well, the sequel to Silence of the Lambs, simply called "Hannibal" was set largely in Florence, and one of the things that we did when we got back was watch the DVD again, and spot where the scenes had been filmed. Thomas Harris, the author, probably got the idea of setting the second film in Florence because of a real serial killer who was given the name "The Monster of Florence".

Many of the scenes were filmed in the amazing Palazzo Vecchio, and the corrupt policeman Pazzi, who is supposed to be one of the ancient Pazzi family, comes to a sticky end on the balcony of the Palazzo. At one point in the film Pazzi washes blood off his hands in the Cinghiale Fountain. Many other famous bits of the city are featured, and it's good fun spotting them if you are at all familiar with the place. The film was directed by one of my favourite directors, Ridley Scott, just after he'd finished Gladiator. It's well worth watching, as long as you don't have a weak stomach!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Brief Respite From Florence

The Sunday Times' Talking Heads column is often a rich source of topical quotations, but this week they've really surpassed themselves. Gems include:

"The most terrifying thing I've ever had to do was sit opposite Salman Rushdie at parents' evening and tell him his son was rubbish at English."
The teacher of Rushdie's son, Zafar.

"I'm racist? How can that even be possible? I was a friend of Michael Jackson's back when he was black."
Joan Rivers on Radio 4's Midweek.

"He's a lovely young man. I wouldn't mind if my daughter brought him home."
Ken Livingstone referring to David Cameron (yes, the Tory leadership contender)!
But for me the prize has to go to:
"The point is that young people are the same as they always were: they are just as ignorant."
Prince Phillip.
Why do the words "pot", "kettle" and "black" keep bouncing around my head?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Only Way Is Up

One of the first things we did on our first full day in Florence was to climb up the 414 steps of the 85 m tall Campanile (the bell tower of the cathedral). The cathedral (the Duomo) itself is 6 metres higher, but there was a queue for it! The climb up the Campanile had 2 purposes: firstly to give us an overview of the city, and secondly to burn off enough calories so that we would't feel guilty about eating much more than usual later in the day.

The weather for most of our stay was great, and the climb was well worth the effort. Fortunately, there are "floors" in the building where you can pretend to take in the view while you try to disguise the fact that you're panting like a dog! A grille in the floor even allows you to admire the dandruff of fellow tourists below (if only from a distance). At the top you can step out and take pictures of people panting at the top of the dome of the cathedral.

Inside the top level you can even find proof positive that the Italian art of graffiti was alive and well in 1803 (or is it 1823?). Personally, I think the descendents of Benedetto Buffo should be hunted down and made to pay for the damage! Perhaps these guys could help out?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Reflections On The Arno

Shortly after we arrived in Florence last Sunday we realised that our hotel lay within 5-10 minutes walk of 3 buildings on one bank of the River Arno. The first of these was the headquarters of the Florence Police'’s Antimafia Squad. This building was identified by an appropriate sign, that I decided to photograph, and 5 closed circuit television cameras that made me decide not to take any more photographs!

The second building was the British Consulate. This had an armed policeman on duty 24 hours a day, but that seemed to be the extent of the security measures.

The third building was the US Consulate. This could be approached by road from three directions. The approach from one direction had been permanently blocked off by two enormous flower troughs. The approach from the front was blocked 24 hours a day by a parked police car. I'’m not sure how the third approach was covered, but covered I'’m sure it was. A second police car was also parked permanently next to the building.

I also spotted the Bangladeshi Consulate some distance away. It didn'’t seem to have any particular security coverage.

Presumably this high security surveillance of American Consulates is reflected in major cities all over the world, and isn't just a consequence of the global importance of the US. It seemed to me a highly visual statement of how threatened the USA feels at present.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Leaving On A Jet Plane?

As I mentioned the other day, in my new devil-may-care style of behaviour, Wosog and I are jetting off to Florence early tomorrow morning. I say "jetting", but to be honest I've not read the small print from Ryanair. Maybe the explanation for the cheapness of the flight is that we're going to Italy in a propeller-driven former Second World War fighter plane? Maybe each passenger has a set of pedals and we all have to engage the legendary British fighting spirit to drive the craft to take-off velocity?

To be honest, I couldn't give a hoot as long as the bloody thing gets us to Pisa in one pisa (or whatever the Italian for "piece" is). I'm not too sure how good the weather is going to be, but it would be nice to get a picture of Brunelleschi's dome without the scaffolding!

Anyway, things will be a bit quiet on the blogging front for a few days. I'm hoping to have lots of cultural events to write about when I come back. That's if Gsog doesn't provide me with ranting material by wrecking the house while we're away!

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Flea In Your Artery

It seems that protein resilin that allows fleas to accelerate 50 times faster than the space shuttle may have uses in the treatment of human diseases. The resilin gene from fruit flies has been inserted into bacteria allowing the production of large amounts of the protein with its amazing mechanical properties.

Possible therapeutic applications include use of resilin in the treatment of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and aortic aneurysm (where the wall of the artery is weakened, bulges, and may rupture).

It certainly sounds as if we can expect patients to bounce back to health post-operatively (Ho! Ho!)!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Typing, Not Journalism

I was interested to read today two articles that focussed on the increasing popularity of blogging: not only as a participation sport, but as a source of entertainment. I have read several articles both online and in old fashioned newsprint by professional journalists slagging off blogging and bloggers. The basic thesis appears to be that if you haven’t “learned your trade” in journalism school, and climbed the greasy pole to end up writing a column for “guardians of the truth” like Rupert Murdoch, your opinion just isn’t worth listening to. The CBS News article “Blogging As Typing, Not Journalism” is fairly typical of the genre.

You have to ask yourself why, if professional journalists are so good and bloggers are so bad, the pros feel the need to criticise us. Could it possibly be that they’re feeling a wee bit insecure?

The article “Blogs vie with news for eyeballs” recounts the increasing influence of bloggers in reporting aspects of major stories. Bearing in mind that there are only so many hours in the day, it must be occurring to the media moguls that eventually even bloggers’ coverage of much more minor subjects may take readership away from them.

“Blooker rewards books from blogs” records the creation of a prize for books that have stemmed from successful blogs: yet another outlet for the creative juices of these “citizen journalists”.

The truth of the matter is that there are good and bad journalists, just as there are good and bad bloggers. The insatiable appetite of the population for information and entertainment will provide an audience for all four groups: the question is who will get the biggest market share in the long term?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Third Time Lucky?

It seems that Madonna's latest album "Confessions on a Dance Floor" is jinxed. First a horse riding accident in August caused three cracked ribs, a fractured collar bone, and a hand fracture. The album is due out on 15 November, and it was felt that the injuries might interfere with video shoots or promotional activities.

It now appears that the album has upset Israeli rabbis because of a track called Isaac about a 16th Century mystic called Yitzhak Luria. The rabbis who guard his tomb say it is forbidden to use his name for profit, and that Madonna will receive "punishment from the heavens" if she goes ahead.

Nae luck eh?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Building Jumpers

Gsog showed me this video clip of building jumpers. These guys need their heads, not to mention their knees, their hips and their ankles examined!

Gsog says he does some of these things on skates, but I don't think I want to hear any more....

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I Swear Before Almighty God....

As a cultured man from whose lips profanity never escapes, I was nevertheless fascinated to read this learned treatise on swearing from the BBC's h2g2 website. Practically every swear word I have never come across is mentioned, and the different meaning of naughty words here and in the USA is covered as well.

A solemnly worded warning precedes the article to prevent those with tender sensibilities proceeding further. Those with more open minds who read the whole piece will find a really interesting etymological study: just the ticket to liven things up when the conversation goes a bit quiet at your next dinner party!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

How's that for spontaneous?

My regular reader will have noted my previous post regarding's chillingly accurate assessment of my deeply flawed personality. Part of the account described me as "at times, overly organized, reliable, neat, and hard working at the expense of flexibility, efficiency, spontaneity, and fun."

I've got two weeks holiday to take before the end of the year, and the first of these starts on Saturday 15 October. It must be said that I rarely make decisions about holidays abroad without a great deal of thought, research, soul-searching and agonising about the cost etc. Tonight I booked two return flights to Pisa for Wosog and me on 16 October so that we can stay in a hotel in Florence, coming back on Thursday 20 October. I really feel quite pleased with myself!

So what do you think of that,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Pointless Activity?

I don't know about you, but often I find that when I sit down at my pc and start browsing I basically start clicking at random, and the activity becomes just as mindless and time-wasting as watching television.

Thank goodness there are worthwhile things to do on the Internet like this and this!

PS This is Rather Good too!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Metal Scratches Plastic: Shock Horror!

I've posted about iPods before, partly as a means of bemoaning the fact that I don't own one! We had only just bought Gsog an iPod Mini before the bloody thing was replaced by the iPod Nano. However, this may not be a bad thing in view of the faults experienced by some Nano owners.

The broken screen problem sounds like a genuine design fault, and Apple have basically admitted this. I must confess to being more sceptical about the alleged tendency for Nanos to scratch more easily than their larger forerunners. You really have to wonder what conditions these little devices are being exposed to. The temptation for people to carry something as small as this in the pocket of their jeans, rattling around with spare change etc., may be proving too great for some. Even if this is not the problem, you have to wonder why someone who is worried about scratching their expensive toy doesn't pay an extra few pounds for one of the many protective cases flooding the market.

Having said that, with the case in place the wee thing is that bit bigger: almost the size of an iPod Mini in fact! Now that's progress!

Update 12/10/05:
How about this then?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Foot 'n Mouth

According to the Sunday Times, Cherie Blair was talking to wheelchair-bound comic Laurence Clark at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton.

"Do you do stand up?"
the highly intelligent legal eagle asked him!

She really can't stop herself, can she?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Agar Man Strikes Again

I've never been good at crossword puzzles, but the one sort of clue I often could manage was an anagram. Crossword fans who are web enthusiasts can, if they choose, enlist the aid of the excellent Internet Anagram Server.

It was with the aid of this site that I deduced that anagrams of The Voice of Reason included "evocations thereof" (rather posh); "fiancee overshoot" (worrying to Wosog); and "faience overshoot" (what?). Fortunately, was able to help me with "faience".

Son of Groucho has numerous anagrams including: "cough roofs on" (eh?); "congo of hours" (might help the waistline); "cog of honours" & "cogs of honour" (sound worthy). Then there's the Hugo Group: "croons of Hugo" (tuneful?) and "coons for Hugo" (not very pc). There are many more, but my favourite is either "ouch forgo son" (worrying to Gsog) or "chorus of Goon" (what would Milligan, Sellers and Secombe think?). Personally, I think the last one has it!