Saturday, December 29, 2007

Not a Windows Vista Fan?

I've now got 2 computers running Windows Vista Home Premium. As usual, it seems to be fashionable to criticise the latest version of Windows, but having used Windows 3.1, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP, I find the latest incarnation more visually attractive and no more likely to crash or freeze than any of the previous versions. Perhaps I should have higher expectations than this, but having worked with computers for 20 years or so I have learned not to hope for too much!

I'm periodically tempted to defect to a Mac, and their machines certainly look trendy. The user interface looks good too, but at the end of the day most of the software I use runs just as well, I suspect, on pc's as it does on Macs. The rest of the stuff I do is on the Internet, and I doubt if it matters what sort of computer I use to access the Web.

As far as work goes, it seems to me that it tends to get done more often in spite of the computers rather than because of them.

But maybe I'm just an old cynic?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sex Still Sells

Teflon Girl 2
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
A while ago I discussed the history of this fine image and compared its popularity on Flickr with an image accidentally showing this young lady in the background and holidaying Wosog, Gdog and Gsog in the foreground. Surprising as it may seem, this picture appeared to be the more popular of the two. I thought regular readers of the blog would be interested to hear how the two images have fared in terms of popularity in the intervening period of more than two years.

The family picture is my 9th most popular photograph in terms of views with 890. The "lonely girl" photograph is my most popular image with 4072 views.

I wonder why that should be?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

If anybody out there is reading this, I wish them a Merry Christmas. I'm having a great one so far, even though I've not had anything to drink yet.

Speak to you later after several units of alcohol and several kilocalories.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I've been fascinated by robots since I had a teenage interest in science fiction. Isaac Asimov, who wrote "I, Robot" was one of my favourite authors. At the time that I was reading these science fiction books I don't think I considered it likely that many of the things the stories prophesied would come about in my lifetime. I've posted several times on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) about robots, referring directly or indirectly to the amazing progress currently being made in robotics.

One of my other obsessions is the website Wordie, and it was there I first came across the term "robosexuality". There was a link to the Uncyclopedia on the subject from the Wordie page, and the whole thing was treated in a lighthearted manner. Imagine my surprise, however, to read in this article that a Dutch artificial intelligence expert is predicting humans marrying robots by 2050! "At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky" he says. I'm not sure that "geeky" would be the first adjective that would spring to most people's minds. Again according to Levy, "It may sound a little weird, but it isn't. Love and sex with robots are inevitable."

The Dutchman seems extremely sanguine about the prospect of romantic and sexual relations with these machines but I'm not so sure. He sees it as a dream come true for people who for one reason or another have difficulty forming close relationships with other humans. On a more lighthearted note, he sees it as a solution to the "randy husband-wife with headache scenario".

Postscript: For those who want to read more on this subject there is an interview with David Levy here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Killjoys at Christmas

I can't actually find it on the website, but I'm reliably informed that the NHS Information Centre is able to tell us that there were 1,328 admissions to hospital in England in 2006/07 after people fell in slippery conditions. Another 4,235 were admitted after falls involving ice skates, skis, rollerblades or skateboards. The implication seems to be that crossing the threshold of your house is too hazardous to contemplate at this time of year. Indeed, staying indoors may be too dangerous if your lino is on the slippery side!

Other festive potential sources of trauma include contact with plant thorns, spines and sharp leaves (238 admissions) and climbing ladders (6,002 admissions). It's even worth giving mulled wine a body swerve since 1,638 people were admitted after contact with hot drinks.

I say all this with my tongue resolutely pressed against my cheek, but don't you get the feeling in the UK that our 21st Century politicians seem to have an irresistible urge to try and legislate any activity considered remotely risky out of existence?

To me this undoubted trend is a far bigger threat to our civil liberties than any form of terrorism.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Quite simple, really....

I've always wanted to become a famous blogger, sharing the stage with Cory Doctorow and other Internet Luminaries at international conferences in exotic places. It seems the process of becoming a famous blogger is simpler than I thought. This flow chart explains the process in an easily assimilated visual form:

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I'm going to get right onto it, pronto...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wake up Cat

Continuing the cat theme, anyone who has ever had a cat will recognise how accurately the beginning of this little video represents a cat's attempts to wake up a reluctant human.

Hopefully, the latter part will be less familiar....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Now I've Heard Everything....

Wosog and I are both great fans of cats, and we have had a few cats as pets in the past. Unfortunately, Wosog started developing increasing allergic reactions to them, however: initially in the form of conjunctivitis, but later in the form of asthmatic symptoms. We ultimately had to find new homes for the two cat brothers we had at the time.

Some people are even more fond of cats than we are, and a tiny minority are virtually obsessed with the furry little creatures. On Flickr, these folk's photostreams are riddled with feline portraits. I've not been aware, up till now, of cat obsession in the blogosphere, but I think this blog definitely "takes the biscuit"! Purrcast not only talks about cats in great detail, but features streamed soundclips of purring cats: hence, Purrcast!

I believe there is evidence that having a cat and listening to it purring has beneficial psychological effects. Maybe reading and listening to this blog has similar effects?

Or maybe not...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

No Strings Attached

I've heard the term String Theory for quite a while, but I've never had any idea what it meant. This brief video gives an interesting account of String Theory aimed at the layman:

I've still not got much idea what the theory means, but doesn't the presenter have a great "sexy scientist" voice?

Maybe it's just me?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London

I've always loved Warren Zevon's music. I don't know what made me play "Excitable Boy", the album that this song comes from tonight!

My favourite verse is as follows:
"He's the hairy-handed gent
Who ran amok in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
Hunh, I'd like to meet his tailor."
They just don't make lyrics like that any more!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Birthday?

My previous post about the world's oldest man suggested at 111 he was not too happy. It seems, however, that now he has reached his 112th birthday he wants to live forever.

Mr Tanabe looks and sounds like a bundle of laughs, attributing his longevity to total abstinence from alcohol, drinking milk and reading a newspaper every day.

The question is do any of the rest of us want him to live forever?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kate Nash

I've been thinking of buying Kate Nash's album "Made of Bricks" for some time. I finally saw it for £7.00 in the supermarket, which seemed a pretty good deal.

Her voice has some similarities to that of Lily Allan, who I like too, but I think her lyrics are more interesting and varied. It will be interesting to see how her career develops.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Weird Al Yankovic - Jurassic Park

Thanks to JumpinJack for making me aware of this hilarious video. Like him, I love the bit about the lawyer approximately half way through.

I can't imagine why!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Save the Vale

Public Opinion
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
Today I and over 10,000 others attended a protest regarding the proposal by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde to downgrade severely the services provided at the Vale of Leven Hospital. The hospital has had its services reduced over several years first by Argyll & Clyde Health Board and latterly by NHS GG&C. Many in the local population feel that if further cuts are made this will ultimately lead to the death of the hospital.

The turnout exceeded the expectations of the organisers and gives a clear indication of the local strength of feeling on the subject. An independent review of the proposal is being undertaken at the moment and we can only hope that the new SNP administration in the Scottish Parliament pays more than lip service to listening to the wishes of the people.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Many thanks to Bill Adams in Hawaii for showing me this video---I really needed a laugh.

This yoga business is not as complicated as I thought!

Friday, August 31, 2007

For the Person who has Everything

Some time ago I blogged about a hi-tech toilet seat that I had come across while on holiday in Kefalonia in Greece. The seat in question rotated when you left and cleaned its surface, protecting you from all the hazards of bum-transmitted infections, and the unpleasant "calling cards" of males with aiming problems . I thought this was the ultimate in toilet seats but science never sleeps, and I have just stumbled on a quantum leap in toilet technology: the washlet.

Up till now we have had to be satisfied with toilet paper to do the necessary after we have done the inevitable, but according to the Toto Website, toilet paper merely "moves the problem around". To feel truly happy about your personal hygiene you really need a very sophisticated electronic device to---lets be frank---wipe your bum. The site is very nicely designed with friendly music, and pictures of attractive bottoms and faces. Buttons on the webite direct you to every facet of the washlet you could possibly want to know about. The gadget doesn't just clean the relevant area with scientific precision using water at the prefect temperature, it also dries you at the right temperature, and even controls the rate at which the toilet seat goes down. I think you still do have to remember to put the seat down yourself, though!

I love the bit in the technology section where the guy says that the washlet toilet seat "has more in common with your laptop computer than any toilet seat you've ever come across". When you think about it that's not saying much! The nice folk on the Toto site cover several racial groups and they all seem so happy and secure that their personal hygiene needs are being taken care of.

I really don't know if bog roll is going to be enough for me any more.....

If you think there is something fishy about the washlet, try this!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An Interview With LizardMan

I have never been keen on the idea of tattooing or body piercing. Both Wosog and Gdog have their ears pierced, and I don't really have a problem with that. Two or three years ago Gdog got a tattoo. I still don't think this was a good idea, but clearly an 18 or 19 year-old is entitled to take their own decisions.

This interesting article shows pictures of folk that have altered their bodies in very extreme ways by means not only of piercing, and extensive examples of tattooing, but also subcutaneous inserts, etc. The leopard man, for example, has over 90% of his body surface tattooed and has altered his dentition quite drastically to make him look more like a big cat. If you watch the video about him, however, he seems a very pleasant well balanced individual! The LizardMan featured here again has extreme tattooing and altered teeth, but he also has a split tongue that, frankly, gives me the creeps. The video shows that he is quite an articulate and intelligent individual, however.

The question is "Why do they do it?" Do they alter their bodies simply to "dress themselves up" in a similar way to someone else donning a designer suit or carrying an expensive bag? It seems to me that there must be more to it than that! A Flickr contact from New Jersey with the Flickr name perhapsiam is a tattooist and body piercer. He says:

"I really don't view most types of body modification as anything more extreme than, say, a haircut. It's more about making what you were given into what you feel it should be than anything else. We all do this in some way or another. What these people have done is nothing more extreme than basic corrective or cosmetic surgeries, and with less potential risk in most cases."

You might argue that perhapsiam has a vested interest, but at least he practices what he preaches, having one or two body modifications himself. Perhaps he's right that these people are not really doing anything more abnormal than a woman having breast implants? Perhaps folk like myself, with a fairly conventional view of the World should be less judgemental about people like the LizardMan and celebrate his individuality and creativity?

I'll give this some thought---but I won't be getting any piercings or tattoos done any time soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Amy Winehouse

One of my favourite singers is Amy Winehouse, and I was sorry, but not surprised, to hear that she had been admitted to hospital recently with either "exhaustion" or a drug overdose (depending on who you believe). She has a fantastic voice and, I think, great potential, but I'm not sure she has the temperament to stay the course of a long career.

It would be a shame if she either dropped out of the music scene or, worse still, joined the ranks of those who died tragically young.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Global Worrying

Reasons to be Cheerful
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
I have previously confessed to being a terrible worrier. It should be fairly obvious from my various geeky activities that I am also a great enthusiast about the internet, and other forms of mass communication. Acres of text have been produced in the last year or two about the perils of Global Warming, but I think Global Worrying is an equally disturbing modern trend.

War is awful, and every death in combat is a tragedy for the person involved and their family, but deaths in war are inevitable. Modern mass communications mean that if even one or two British soldiers are killed in Iraq it is splashed across our newspapers and computer screens almost immediately. You could argue that this is a good thing, and makes us constantly aware of the reality of the conflict, but there is no doubt in my mind that it also raises anxiety levels in the countries affected.

Recently, concerns about the American mortgage market led to huge effects on stock markets throughout the Globe within days. Central banks have felt obliged to pump huge amounts of money into the system to stabilise the situation. Opinion is divided on whether this is a temporary blip or represents a fundamental weakness in the US economy. Only time will tell, but the speed and the magnitude of the short-term effects only serve to remind us what a connected World we live in.

Sometimes it's true that "ignorance is bliss".

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pooper Scoopers

Many thanks to behindblueeyes on Flickr for making me aware of this service. I might even go out and buy a pet just so that I can make use of it! I was a bit disappointed that they didn't quote their prices though.

I was intrigued to find that Scoops is a member of aPaws (The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists). However, it seems this profession only exists in the USA and Canada. Apparently, pet owners in the rest of the World have to "do it themselves", so-to-speak. My Flickr friend The Rocketeer lives near Atlanta, Georgia. I must let him know about the aPaws 5th Annual Scooper Convention & Turd-Herding Contest scheduled for next January.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Unsung Heroes

Many folk, myself included, find this little Dilbert clip hilarious. The question is "Why?" I've always been interested in humour and the reasons why certain people find certain things funny. It seems to me that the main reason people find this video humorous relates to the surprisingly low social standing that engineers have compared to other professions.

This chart shows the IQ ranges for a wide variety of occupations. As a medic, I smugly noted that "Medical occupations: MD and equivalent" occupy the top slot, but as you can see engineers of various types are not far behind. I don't have the figures to hand, but I suspect that, on a global basis, engineers are paid significantly less than doctors.

Much of the hi tech world that we take for granted---the machines we use, the roads we drive on, the internet we enjoy---owe their existence to engineers of various sorts. So why do we treat these guys as figures of fun? Why is Dilbert's mum so upset that he is destined to join their ranks? Maybe it is something to do with the name? The term "engineer" conjures up an image of rolled-up sleeves and hairy arms covered with machinery oil.

Perhaps engineers need to call themselves something else to try and get the respect from us all that they undoubtedly deserve?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Royksopp - Remind Me

This is a clever little video and the song is quite hypnotic, but I'm not sure what the message is.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ballooning in Luxor

Our "Sister Balloon"
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
A while ago I posted extensively about a balloon flight that I did from Perth, Scotland. At that time Wosog declined the offer to join me, but she did take some excellent photographs of the event. At the end of the first week of our holiday in Egypt I had the chance to take a flight in Luxor, and this time the wife decided to join me. I thought there were some interesting differences between the flight in Luxor and the flight in Perth.

The first difference was the fact that the Luxor flight was early in the morning. This had the twin advantages of (a) being cooler, and (b) allowing us to see the sun rising over the River Nile. The second difference was in the number of personnel involved in the process. On the Virgin flight in Scotland (which was much more expensive) the passengers were expected to help the pilot and his assistant inflate the balloon and carefully fold it up after the landing. In Egypt a veritable army of burly wee guys was provided to (a) inflate the balloon, (b) literally lift the female passengers into the basket, and (c) hastily bundle up the balloon after the landing. Virgin would claim that their set-up provides the passengers with a more complete experience of ballooning but I suspect the difference has much more to do with relative labour costs in the two countries!

The balloon in Egypt was much larger and carried almost twice as many passengers as the Virgin one. The crew timed the launch to perfection, and we got a great view of the sunrise. We also had great views of several other balloons flying at the same time. Highlights of the trip included Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple and an amazing overview of Karnak. The views of the river as we crossed the Nile were stunning. The only slightly scary part of the flight was when we came down in a fairly small piece of waste ground next to a road in the middle of a built-up area. This was definitely more worrying than coming down in a field in Scotland. If anyone is interested we have gathered pictures from both of us of both flights in a Flickr Group called "Flights of the Sogs".

All in all, it was a marvellous experience, and one I'd highly recommend!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Chocolate Rain

I'm not sure if I should thank my Flickr friend The Rocketeer for showing me this video. Firstly, it's one of those songs that sticks in your head and drives you mad for days. Secondly, despite the fact that they are enunciated with such sincerity, the words are just just as unfathomable as the average REM lyric. Finally, the little guy that sings it is just plain weird! There is no way that voice should be coming out of his small frame.

The vid has certainly been popular on YouTube, spawning spoof versions featuring luminaries as diverse as Darth Vader and McGruff the Crime Dog.

As a wee experiment, I was thinking of going into work today and saying "Chocolate Rain" before every sentence I speak. It would be interesting to see how long it would take before my colleagues (a) called the Police, (b) summoned The Men in White Coats, or (c) beat me senseless just to make me stop.

Maybe I'll give it a miss.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Traditional Dress

While I was in Egypt on one occasion I wore a galabeya, an example of which is shown here as worn by my friend Clive. My reason for showing you Clive rather than me is (a) to maintain my secret identity, and (b) because I looked like a plonker in mine.

You may think it odd that I should wear a traditional Egyptian costume when I have never yet worn a kilt, but I was on holiday and I couldn't get out of it. I have thought about wearing a kilt in the past, but I'm not sure if I've got the legs for it, and there is the question of what one wears under it. I've been to several weddings where there were multiple kilt-wearers, and a few of my relatives have their own kilts.

Kilts, of course, don't look right without the sporran. I'm not sure what Scots of old kept in these, but in modern times they must provide quite a handy place to keep you keys and your mobile phone etc. I abhor bureaucracy, and I was disturbed recently to discover that new legislation may mean that sporran-wearers will in future require a licence for them!

Maybe I'll just stick to the galabeya-----or maybe not!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Balkan Whitney Houston

Thanks to JumpinJack, my Flickr friend, for pointing me in the direction of this cover version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" by a nice girl called Nevena Coneva. Apparently, she is quite a good singer. She was maybe just having an "off" day.

This performance is so awful that it's brilliant!

Monday, July 30, 2007


Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
One of the less attractive features of Egypt is the tendency for people to come up to you in public places trying to sell you things. At practically all the ancient sites that we visited there seemed to be a collection of tiny shops between the place where you bought your entry tickets and the bus parking area. This would have been OK if you were simply left with the option of going into the shop. Instead, the shopkeeper would assail you on the way back to the bus and try to sell you a shirt, a guide book, etc. After our visit to the Valley of the Queens one guy seemed to lock onto me like a tourist-seeking missile. Despite my persistent attempts to shoo him away, he was determined to sell me a shirt and the price he was asking dropped precipitously. By the time I got to the bus he was almost offering to pay me to take the item!

The most extreme example we saw (see picture) happened when the cruise boat stopped waiting to get through the lock at Esna on the way to Aswan. Several little boats swarmed around our boat and the people on board repeatedly threw goods (mainly galabeyas) up onto the cruise boat in the hope that someone would throw money, rather than the unwanted galabeya, back.

I suspect many of these folk are pretty poor, and I'm obviously sympathetic, but I really can't imagine they make much money by using these tactics.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Apology

Sorry I haven't blogged much since returning from holiday. Holidays are wonderful things, but they have two problems associated with them. The first of these is the fact that you have to go back to work after them. The second problem is the fact that the poor buggers that have been snowed under while you have been away often have the audacity to go on holiday themselves when you go back. This unpleasant behaviour often increases the stress levels of vulnerable individuals suffering from post-holiday depression. It's fair to say that I have been pretty busy with "real life" since returning from Egypt.

Another particular problem was the sudden death of my elderly desktop computer shortly after I came home. Although I also have a laptop, all my photoediting software was on the old machine, somewhat interfering with the post-processing of my 400 images from the holiday! Fortunately, after a period in intensive care at the computer hospital, the old boy is back on his feet---in fact I'm typing on him now.

Hopefully, next week will be better!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
On our first day in Luxor we also visited the Luxor Temple. We had already seen evidence of the ego of Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great) at Karnak where the picture attached to the last post shows his inscriptions carved deep into the columns to avoid any chance of obliteration by future rulers.

In front of the Great Pylon of Luxor Temple (shown here) there is a single obelisk that used to be one of a pair. Visitors to Paris may have seen the second obelisk from Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.

Three lines of vertical inscription on every face of the remaining obelisk repeat the names and titles of Ramesses II: Mighty Bull; Exalter of Thebes; Favourite of the Two Goddesses, establishing monuments in Luxor for his father Amun, who placed him upon the throne; Golden Horus, seeking excellent things for him who fashioned him; King of Upper and Lower Egypt. Amazingly, but typical of Ramesses, when the second obelisk was lowered in order to be transported to France, the Pharaoh's name was also found inscribed on the bottom!

This guy had an ego that would make Donald Trump look like a shrinking violet.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Ramesses Makes His Mark
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
I'm not going to bore you all/ both with every detail of our holiday in Egypt, but there were certain highlights that I thought I should record. The first ancient site that we visited while the boat was still moored in Luxor was the Temple Complex at Karnak. Karnak consists of many temples built over 1,300 years and the site occupies 200 acres! Needless to say, we didn't manage to see everything, but highlights included the huge statue of Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), and the Great Hypostyle Hall that was built by his father, Seti I and was completed by Ramesses (shown here).

Other things at Karnak included the tallest obelisk in Egypt erected by the only female Egyptian Pharaoh, Hatshepsut, whose mummy was only very recently identified.

We were fortunate to have a fantastic guide for the trip called Amro Mounir, who also lectured at the Cairo Museum. The visit to Karnak was a superb introduction to Egypt and egyptology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Back in Blighty

Just got home today after a fabulous holiday in Egypt. Still recovering from the shock of going from the 5 star Sheraton Hotel in Soma Bay to the Travelodge at Gatwick Airport. We were so knackered from the journey that the most uncomfortable bed in the known universe didn't seem so bad.

Highlight of our Travelodge visit was the shower that gave you a choice of cold or perishing temperature then refused to shut off afterwards! Wosog thought I was just being useless as usual, but she had no more success with the bloody thing than I did. The maintenance man assured us that replacement of the showers was part of a forthcoming refurbishment program. Call me sceptical if you like...

I still think Travelodges are reasonable value for money and often conveniently located.

I suppose you get (or in this case don't get) what you pay for!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ricky Gervais' Simpsons Episode

Heading off today for London. Flying to Egypt tomorrow. Can't think what to write about, so here's a clip from the episode of The Simpsons written by Ricky Gervais featuring a song that is truly awful---but in a good way.

Back (all too) soon!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh The Irony!

I recently mentioned that Wosog and I were going to Egypt, but I was slightly concerned about the risk of a terrorist attack there. We are due to fly to London tomorrow from Glasgow Airport so we can catch a flight to Luxor from Gatwick the next day. Many of you will already know that on Saturday there was a terrorist attack on the very terminal that we were due to check in at tomorrow. Subsequently, a bomb was found, and destroyed in a controlled explosion, in the car park of the hospital to which a severely burned terrorist from the airport attack had been taken. It seems that Egypt may be a safer place to be than Scotland at present!

I used to work at the hospital mentioned and I can imagine the damage that a bomb exploded by terrorists in the car park might do. Fortunately there were no innocent victims of the outrage at the airport. Personally, I would have great difficulty bringing myself to treat someone who had carried out one of these attacks.

There is no "cause", no grievance so great, that it justifies detonating a bomb next to innocent men, women and children.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

If a thing ain't broke...

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front for the last few days, mainly because British Telecom has been doing its best to screw up my internet connection. I have been quite happy with the service that they have provided up till now, but for months they have been badgering me to get something called a BT Home Hub. This is a trendy white box that doesn't just act as a router-modem, it also has an internet phone attached and gives you access to lots of other wonderful "services" (or so they say). I had resisted their approaches because I thought there was a potential for creating problems where none currently existed. Last week I finally gave in and agreed to "upgrade" my system.

The trendy white box with its dinky white internet phone arrived on Thursday. The documentation was comprehensive, but I phoned up to check that I didn't need to uninstall my existing hardware before connecting up my wonderful new hub. I was told by a nice lady that this was not necessary. I unplugged a perfectly functioning old system and plugged in the new system to find that it detected no broadband service at all. Despite, literally, hours on the phone to the helpline, and numerous bizarre manoeuvres the f---ing device is still not working. We even had it sitting between 6 pm last night and 6 am today supposedly updating itself. This involved all of the lights on the front of the thing flashing in an extremely irritating way. At 6.05 am I finally pulled the plug on the annoying little piece of junk, reconnected my low tech old broadband router modem and, fortunately, resumed flawless surfing.

The extremely polite, pathologically cheerful BT technician is due to phone me (from India, I suspect) at 4.30 pm today to see how things have gone.

In my extremely impolite, pathologically morose way, I'll be telling him, in fairly detailed anatomical terms, where he can stuff his BT Home Hub.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Joys of the British Housing Market

The housing market in the UK is barking mad. I am so glad I am not a first time buyer these days. With talk of pig sties in the Cotswolds selling for ridiculous fees, I thought the worst excesses of the market were restricted to England.

Prices in St Andrews in Scotland have been rising fairly steeply in the last few years, but this article about the sale of public toilets there shows that things are getting distinctly out of hand. The guide price was £50,000, but the "property" actually sold for almost £200,000! It apparently has three doors onto the street and was described by the sellers as "being in need of extensive renovation.".

You don't say....

Monday, June 25, 2007

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing!

I've got a confession to make: I have absolutely no natural rhythm. I can never decide if I don't like dancing because I'm crap at it, or if I'm crap at dancing because I don't like it. At school we had ballroom dancing lessons given by the physical education (PE) department. I used to hate PE, so dancing seemed a slightly more pleasant alternative. I still had horrendous difficulty remembering the steps, and always ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, sometimes dancing with the wrong partner.

Nowadays the only dancing I ever seem to be called to do is disco dancing, or at least my version of disco dancing. This consists of frantic shuffling from one foot to another. I do try and do it in time with the music, but sometimes it doesn't seem to work out that way. Occasionally, seemingly at random, I do a little 360 degree twirl to add a bit of variety. At the end of the day, I've got, to coin a phrase, "two left feet".

This is all the more embarrassing when you notice the dancing prowess of the guy in the video who has, you will notice, no left foot.

I'm not that bothered though, and I certainly won't be having an amputation to see if it improves my technique!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Impressive, but mercifully short...

I've posted before about my lack of enthusiasm for the accordion as a musical instrument. However, even I have to admit that this guy is good.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Minor Disappointment....

Wosog and I are shortly going on holiday to Egypt. My dear wife has been interested in the history of ancient Egypt for many years, and we both look forward to the photographic opportunities it presents. I must confess I do have two concerns about visiting the country: firstly, the unlikely, but distinctly life-threatening, risk of terrorist attack, and secondly the much more likely, but slightly less life-threatening, risk of gastroenteritis. A worryingly large proportion of the people I know who have been to Egypt seem to mention diarrhoea as a feature of their holiday, and I have been given extensive advice on steps to take to avoid "the runs". Anyway, hopefully nobody will decide to shoot at us, and we won't have to spend too much time inspecting the local plumbing system. I suppose if we are stricken, it might be a good way of losing a bit of weight!

The first week of our holiday involves a cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. The Smart Alec in me was looking forward to being able to say that I had cruised down the longest river in the World (though admittedly not its full length). Imagine my disappointment, therefore, to find that a group of meddlesome geographers in South America claim to have proven recently that the Amazon is, in fact, longer than the Nile? According to these killjoys, the Amazon is 6,800km (4,250 miles) long, while the Nile is a mere 6,695km.

I'm not sure if it's my feeling of minor disappointment that makes me ask the question "Who funds an expedition to provide information as pointless as this?".

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Wordie!

My Wordie!
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
One of my Internet Obsessions is the website Wordie. I've been interested in the English language since I was at primary school, and Wordie, as the name suggests, is a site for word enthusiasts, or possibly more accurately "word collectors". Wordie describes itself as "Like Flickr, but without the photos." Unfortunately for its creator and owner, I don't think it's going to be the money spinner that Flickr turned out to be for its creators, but the site is gaining more users and more words: it had around 1,700 users when I joined and as of today it has 4,336. My collection of words on the site has just passed 2,500.

The idea of Wordie is that you collect words that, presumably, have some significance for you. These might be words that you love, words that you hate, words that you like the sound of, etc., etc. The beauty of the site is that the user makes the rules. Wordie allows you to mark favourite words, and favourite lists from other people's words. You can also comment on words and lists. It has built in links to dictionary sites, and it's a great way of learning new words. I can't help feeling that more could be done to make the site more interactive, but I suspect the lack of financial success of Wordie limits the amount of time the owner can devote to developing it further. Maybe the sponsorship from the makers of Scrabble will come through one of these days!

"What's the point?" some might ask, but I would argue that collecting words on Wordie is more worthwhile than, for example, the online gaming that others spend hours playing.

We're all different and, fortunately, the Web has a place for every foible!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Teenage affluenza

This is a clever video that gently makes its point.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is That The Time?

Part of my work is being the medical officer for a rehabilitation ward for the elderly. I've been doing the work for around 12 years, and even over that relatively short space of time there has been a noticeable increase in the average age of the patients admitted. Some of these older patients are remarkably fit: in fact a 91 year old patient that I admitted the other day could easily have passed for 71 years. However, many of them are very unfit, significantly demented, and appear to have a very poor quality of life by most people's standards.

This article about the oldest man in the world, a 111 year old Japanese guy, states that he joked that he is sorry to have lived this long. Maybe he was really kidding, but I'm a great believer in the saying "Many a true word spoken in jest". I've certainly met several very elderly frail patients who have calmly expressed the wish that tomorrow would never come.

With improved social conditions, nutrition and medical care in the developed world increasing longevity is not difficult. The trick is producing a life that is not only longer but also worth living.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The End Is Nigh

I've never been in the habit of buying a newspaper on a regular basis. They seem to me rather doom-laden publications that presumably service the insatiable appetite for schadenfreude. I'd far rather get my news from a combination of radio, television and, of course, the Internet. However, it seems from this article that the prophets of doom have been at work again and they are forecasting the collapse of the Internet.

In the olden days, IE in the early 90s, Internet users were quite happy to exchange a few e-mails. Less than 10 years later picture-rich sites and the arrival of the mp3 file led to increased strain on the Net's infrastructure. Fast forward to the era of YouTube with streaming videos, and some are suggesting that collapse of the whole edifice looms.

As you can see from the article, threats to the system include not only increased use and the resultant increased strain on routers and the parts of the network made from old-fashioned copper. We also should be losing sleep over the possibilities of terrorism and natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Jings, and I thought global warming, mortgage interest rates and bird flu were all I had to keep me awake!

Monday, June 18, 2007

It Shouldn't Happen To A Stick Figure

It's amazing the variety of misfortunes that befall the poor little stick figures in this.

It's one of a series if you're interested.

Maybe not....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tampering With Nature

This picture from my good friend The Rocketeer on Flickr illustrates one of my pet hates. I'm not a vegetarian, although I do like some vegetarian dishes. I'm really a bit of a hypocrite, because if I had to kill the animal myself in order to eat it I probably couldn't bring myself to do it. When the meat comes to me nicely packaged on my supermarket shelf I don't have the same problem.

I don't mind other people being vegetarian, but what I do object to are vegetarian dishes that should really be meat dishes, but the meat has been substituted. Quorn sausages and "vegetarian chilli con carne" (sic) fall into this category, but I only found out today that one of Scotland's national dishes has been "vegefied". Vegetarian haggis: what is that all about? If these people really want meat, why don't they have the guts (if you pardon the expression) to admit it?

There! I feel so much better for having got that off my chest!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Still A Political Football

Patricia Hewitt is an idiot in so many ways. My spirits picked up a little when I heard last year that Gordon Brown was said to favour handing over day-to-day control of the NHS to an independent board - in the same way he gave up control of interest rates to the Bank of England in 1997. At last, I thought, I might work for an organisation that is run by people who have some idea what they are talking about instead of suffering the consequences of being run by feeble-minded politicians who have no experience of the NHS, either as managers or, in many cases, as consumers. In my experience, politicians often have poorly thought-through ideas that seem to be based on gaining short-term popularity through headlines in the tabloid press.

According to this article, however, that plan has fallen out of favour. I note Hewitt's comments about the putative benefits of "competitive pressure" within the NHS, but I would like to see the evidence for such benefits especially outwith major cities, IE in places where the local hospital has no effective competitor.

Hewitt is said to
back an NHS constitution, which could cover behaviour expected of NHS patients and people's personal responsibility for their own health. This is another area where political rule falls down. It's not exactly a vote-winner to tell people that they should be more responsible in the use of the service.

It seems Hewitt is likely to go when Brown takes over the helm, but it appears that the poor staff of the NHS will continue to work for a "polical football".

Friday, June 15, 2007

What's In A Name?

I was fascinated today to read that has appointed a new executive director who goes by the name of, would you believe, Dr Brilliant! I hadn't previously heard of Larry Brilliant but, as befits his name, dear Larry is a veritable polymath: "a medical doctor, epidemiologist, technologist, author and philanthropist" according to his Wikipedia entry. I'm not sure I would have wanted to go through life called Mr (or Dr) Brilliant. The name would certainly create certain expectations among one's contemporaries that might prove difficult to meet. However, maybe having a name like that gives one a certain self-confidence that others find elusive?

One of the "chosen ones" in the new UK government under Gordon Brown rejoices in the name Ed Balls. I can't imagine growing up in the West of Scotland with a name like that. I suspect it would have been a pretty painful experience. Having a somewhat provocative name does not seem to have hampered Ed's progress though life. He's certainly a rising star just now. Here we see the nice Mr Balls talking about his efforts to help disabled children.

Sometimes tell-tale names can be a bit more subtle, though. It took us years to notice that Blair was an anagram of "B liar", for example....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stephen Fry On The Internet

VideoJug: The Internet

This is quite an interesting collection of short video clips giving Stephen Fry's views on the Internet. He certainly seems like an enthusiast. I'm not sure how he comes to be regarded as an expert on the subject, though!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gordon Ramsay, Superstar

For those unfamiliar with Gordon Ramsay, he is what has come to be known as a "celebrity chef". His gimmick is that he swears a lot (supposedly), and this has produced the title of his television programme "The F Word", which I watched last night. I actually find watching the programme quite stressful because the way it is produced makes cooking in a restaurant look so frenzied that it reminds me of how I imagine warfare to be. Having said that, Ramsay is certainly more entertaining than most of the celebrity chefs, and I suspect, at the end of the day, he is probably quite a good cook.

One of Gordon's endearing features is that he always seems prepared to "have a go" at anything from diving for scallops, shearing sheep, to milking a buffalo----while not quite avoiding a torrent of urine and crap. The buffalo incident occurred in Scotland where Gordon decided to make Scotland's first buffalo mozzarella. I was going to post about the incident that happened on that trip but wasn't televised: namely a collision between Mr Ramsay's four-wheel-drive and that driven by the farmer. However, I then noticed another article.

Apparently, a recent pole in Esquire Magazine voted Gordon Ramsay as the most admired man. Bizarrely, he beat Professor Stephen Hawking into second place! I know Esquire readers are not necessarily representative of the British Public as a whole, but can they really not find someone better to vote for than a cook with a giant ego and a penchant for expletives?

I really worry about where our society is going sometimes....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bear Necessities

No, it is not April Fool's Day. It's actually true that the US military is developing a robot with a teddy bear-style head to help carry injured soldiers away from the battlefield. Its even got a snappy acronym: Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot IE BEAR (geddit?).

the "friendly appearance" of the robot is designed to put the wounded at ease.

I'm sure having these gangly machines wandering about the battlefields of the world will make them altogether much cuddlier places to be!

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Love Paris

I was pleased to hear that Paris Hilton has decided to accept her prison sentence, and is not going to appeal against it again. She is said to "learning and growing" from her ordeal.

Paris says that
"Being in jail is by far the hardest thing I have ever done." but that's not saying much is it?

No doubt she's already toting up in her evil little brain how much she can sell the story for.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Threat We Must Ignore

I note that Abdalla El-Badri, who is the secretary-general of Opec (the oil cartel), has stated that investment in biofuels could push oil prices "through the roof". If that isn't a threat, I don't know what is.

Opec members control about 40% of the world's oil production, and El-Badri warns that moves to use biofuels would make his members consider cutting investment in new oil production.

This sort of rhetoric demonstrates the ridiculous position we have got ourself into with our worrying dependence on fossil fuels. The only way out of this, in the long term, is to expand the use of alternative fuel sources.

We cannot afford to be bullied by international gangsters like this.