Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nothing To Blubber About?


Busy Doing Nothing 2
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
In July the Sog family visited the United States of America. Our first port of call was the lovely city of San Francisco, home of the celebrated Fisherman's Wharf. Fisherman's Wharf has many appealing attractions, not least San Francisco's branch of Hooters (but that's another story). One of it's most memorable features for us, not only from a visual but an olfactory point of view, was the colony of sea lions basking in the sun at Pier 39. These guys have been a tourist attraction for about 20 years, although I'm not sure if the locals loved them quite so much! Imagine my dismay, therefore, to read in this Wired Science Article that Salty and his chums have mysteriously disappeared!

It seems officials at the Marine Mammal Center aren't worried about the animals’ disappearance. They point out that sea lions are migratory animals and they say it’s natural for them to move around. I did hope to visit San Francisco again, and maybe the smelly, noisy but somehow quite loveable old so-and-sos will have returned by then?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Single Ladies - Beyonce


This is an interesting cover version of Beyonce's song "Single Ladies" performed by Indie rockers Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte who form the group Pomplamoose. Not quite as sexy as the original version, but catchy in its own way. If you want to find more from Pomplamoose check out their YouTube Channel.

There's a bit more info about the group here too, and especially here. Apparently, they are in the top 100 most subscribed to musicians on YouTube. Their cover of Beyonce's song above has had over 2.5 million hits, and they have been able to give up their day jobs because they make enough money from their music.

Well I've just come across them, so there!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Credit Crisis Visualised

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.


This brilliant little Vimeo video explains the origins of the credit crisis with great lucidity.

The rest, as they say, is history...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Ascent of Money Part 1


Many thanks for my friend JumpinJack on Flickr for pointing me in the direction of the Channel 4 series The Ascent of Money. This first programme traces the history of money from ancient times to the bond market. It is made more interesting for me because I've visited several of the places in the film including Venice, Florence and the east end of Glasgow. I've not visited sub-prime USA, but maybe that is no great loss!

Well worth setting aside 45 minutes of your time to watch this and start to get some idea how banks have become so powerful: how we have reached the situation where the directors of the Royal Bank of Scotland, into which taxpayers have paid millions, are now trying to blackmail the same taxpayers into allowing them to be paid their obscene bonuses.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fiona Apple - Across The Universe

I always wondered what this Beatles song meant: I suspect they were "chemically altered" when they wrote it! Having watched this little video of Ms Apple's excellent cover version, I am none the wiser, but greatly entertained nevertheless!

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Number 37!

Another YouTube video about the American Healthcare Debate. I suppose the NHS in the UK "could do better", but we do get our system for around half the percentage of GDP that the Americans do.

The French pay 11% of GDP for their highly regarded set-up compared to 8% in Britain.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You Know It Makes Sense

As you know, I don't often find the time to blog these days but the debate about health care reform that rages in the US and simmers in the UK has finally overcome my natural lethargy. This brilliant little animated video spells out in terms that are difficult to argue with why the United States should provide universal health care that is funded by taxation and not by greedy, self-serving insurance companies. When you stand at the top of the Empire State Building in NYC some of the most lavish buildings you can see are owned by insurance companies, which should be telling us something!

These companies and their right-wing supporters have a lot to lose if Obama is successful: hence the vitriol and scare-mongering that is coming forth just now. America makes a big thing of its Christian values, but many US citizens apparently don't see that failing to provide large chunks of the population with health care is inconsistent with this.

On this side of the Atlantic, I am pleased to see that the debate is showing up major fault lines in Cameron's façade of the new "caring, sharing" Conservative Party. The Tories' commitment to the British NHS has been shown to be a total sham, but I don't know if this will be enough, in itself, to lose them the next election, unfortunately! Labour's increasing attempts to part-privatise the NHS in recent years have been shameful, and a genuine commitment to a publicly funded system, free of the need to pander to the demands of shareholders in private companies, might allow voters in the next election to chose a party that appreciates the true values upon which the NHS is based.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.


Another Vimeo video: this time with an astronomical theme. The galactic centre of the Milky Way captured with a modified Canon EOS 5D.

Pretty awe-inspiring, huh?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beards on a Boat

This video is from the World Beard and Moustache Championships (I kid you not) which was held at Anchorage, Alaska on May 23rd.

Maybe I should enter for the one in Trondheim, Norway in 2 years time?

Friday, June 12, 2009

DEADLINE post-it stop motion

I love this little stop motion video. If you want to know how it was made, there is a video of that as well.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.


This is an incredible little video from Vimeo of some totally crazy guys wingsuit base jumping in Norway. I couldn't even stand at the edge of these cliffs, far less throw myself off them like these maniacs.

It takes all kinds to make a World, I suppose...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on the Graffiti Theme


Papergirl #3 from Papergirl on Vimeo.
This group, rather than spray painting or puting up posters, chooses to cycle round and give their art work away.

Interesting concept...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

C215

When we were in Venice recently we came across four brilliant pieces of graffiti with a mysterious logo attached to each one. I uploaded the images to Flickr in the following order: 1, 2, 3, 4. Almost as soon as I uploaded the last picture my Flickr contact Simon Crubellier from London recognised the pictures as the work of a stencil graffiti artist called C215. Simon added the tag c215 to the picture and within minutes C215 had asked me to add the pictures to his group on Flicker devoted to his art.

The video shows C215 giving London the same treatment: simply amazing!

Yet another example of how wonderful the Internet can be...


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The First PostSecret Picnic


I first posted about PostSecret almost 4 years ago. It is interesting to see how the concept has not only persisted but developed. The power of the Internet to connect people in various ways fascinates me and gives me far more hope for the future of the human race than I get from listening to the jabbering of most of our politicians.

But then I am on old cynic...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm On A Boat (ft. T-Pain) - Clean

Hilarious take off of certain music videos----you know the sort of thing.

Beautifully done!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It Makes You Think 4

Three quotes relevant to the current economic crisis:

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." Richard Feynman.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." Thomas Jefferson.

"Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt." Herbert Hoover.
It seems history really does repeat itself...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Squirrel Attack!

I find this quite funny, but certain aspects of my sense of humour are quite puerile.

You have been warned...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bathtub IV


Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I periodically post videos hosted on the site Vimeo. Here is another brilliant little film created by a guy called Keith Loutit.

Duplicity

Went with Wosog to see the film "Duplicity" with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. The latter is quite "flavour of the month" just now, and we also recently enjoyed his film "The International". I've always thought Julia Roberts was a pretty good actor with one of those faces that looks beautiful one minute then not so the next.

Generally, with films like this, I have to rely on Wosog to keep me up to speed with the plot, but I think I followed most of it. All in all it was an entertaining little film that is worth a visit.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Taking the Biscuit

The current global financial crisis has thrown up so many examples of how morally bankrupt, if not financially bankrupt, our financial institutions have become. I have referred previously to the outrage in the UK about bailed-out banks continuing to pay staff bonuses and the ongoing "disquiet" about Fred Goodwin's pension. I think in the USA public unhappiness about the bail-outs is all the more palpable because it seems such an "un-American" thing to do.

It is perhaps ironic, then, that probably the worst example of a rescued financial institution, to use the vernacular, "taking the piss" is in the United States. According to this article in the New York Times, the insurance company AIG, which is already under fire from Congress over executive bonuses, is quietly suing the American Government for the return of $306 million in tax payments! This is the same AIG in which the government has an 80 percent stake and into which it has poured nearly $200 billion in an attempt to avert its collapse. Even more incredibly, it appears that AIG is spending taxpayers' money to pursue its case, something it is legally entitled to do!

Words fail me...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weird but Wonderful 2

The second story that caught my eye in the Sunday Times' Weird but wonderful section concerned attempts to breed Cherry, the last remaining female blue duck in Britain, with either Ben or Jerry, the last remaining UK male blue ducks.

It seems that Ben and Jerry are much less interested in Cherry than they are in each other! According to Paul Stevens, the warden,

"They stay together all the time, parading up and down their enclosure and whistling to each other as a male might do with a female he wants to mate with."
One wonders if a civil partnership is in the offing?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weird but Wonderful 1

The Sunday Times' "Weird but wonderful" section has again provided me with howls of laughter this week. Their first story concerned a Shetland pony called Mayflower in the Southampton area.

Apparently, ramblers in the area have been putting in repeated calls to the local fire brigade in the mistaken belief that Mayflower has been stuck in the mud on the banks of the River Test. However, as soon as the fire engines and specialist lifting equipment arrives, the pony calmly walks off! What the ramblers don't seem to appreciate is that Mayflower, like other members of her breed, has SHORT LEGS!

The owner has considered putting up a sign to warn the ignorant walkers of their foolishness, but has avoided doing so in case one day Mayflower actually DOES get stuck in the mud.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

George Carlin - Saving the Planet

I really like stand-up comedy. I've already seen Jack Dee and Omid Djalili live. Later this month Wosog and I are going to see Ed Byrne in concert, and later this year the hilarious Eddie Izzard.

We don't tend to see many American stand-up comedians on the TV in the UK, so I'm not so familiar with them. However I have come across numerous quotations from George Carlin, who, sadly, died last year. The video above I think shows Carlin's intelligence and his ability to "cut through the crap" that we encounter in our day to day life and especially in our exposure to the media. You may not like the way George says things, but you will find it hard to argue against him! Unfortunately, as I say, George died in 2008: I would love to have heard his comments on the global financial crisis!

Here are a few more words from the great man:

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'"

"Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they changed it."

"By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth."

Well said, George, well said...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Not Funny

There is generally not a lot of laughter about these days, but according to an article in the Sunday Times today, a motorist has been stopped by the Police for excessive laughing at the wheel of his car! Gary Sanders was chuckling at a joke while talking on a hands-free phone when flagged down in Liverpool. He was then questioned for 35 minutes.

According to the officer involved, "Laughing while driving a car can be an offence." Sanders couldn't believe the situation and reported "The officer accused me of throwing my head back in a dangerous way."

Never mind, if the economy continues to go down the tubes at the current rate the chance of anybody laughing excessively, while driving or doing anything else, will be reduced drastically!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

World Builder


World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Another superb video hosted on Vimeo. A strange man builds a world using holographic tools for the woman he loves. This award winning short was created by film maker Bruce Branit. It was shot in a single day followed by about 2 years of post production. Branit is the owner of Branit VFX based in Kansas City.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Greed is Good?


Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 1980s assured us that "Greed is Good!", but I'm not sure how many victims of the current global financial crisis would agree with him. Personally, I think much of the responsibility for the state of the World lies with each of us individually. The general population, particularly in the US and UK grew addicted over the years to easy credit, and a "buy now pay (maybe) later" mentality. How anyone could have thought that a position where personal debt in the UK exceeded the GDP of the country was sustainable I do not know! The situation where someone in the South East of England could earn more from the rise in the value of their house in a year than they could from their job clearly could not continue for long!

There is no doubt, however, that people in general, and politicians in particular, would like to make out that it was those greedy senior bankers that got us into this mess. The furore over bonus payments, particularly for RBS employees, has been closely followed by equally impotent rage over the pension that Fred Goodwin is apparently going to receive: £693,000 a year!

It is easy to take pleasure in watching Goodwin squirm when quizzed about his pension by the Commons Treasury Select Committee. Many people would like to see him suffer in a much more painful and prolonged way. However, at the end of the day, Goodwin and his cronies were really only doing what their shareholders wanted: trying to make them (even) more money.

As Lao-tzu, the Chinese Philosopher, said:
"There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What Next?

Further to my last post, it seems the Government now feels the need to record on a database every trip that I make! Without any consultation, as far as I am aware, computerised records of all 250 million journeys made by individuals in and out of the UK each year will be kept for up to 10 years!

As far as I am concerned, if this is the price we have to pay to try and ensure absolute security, the terrorists have already won the war...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Talk of the Steamie

There is a Glaswegian phrase "Talk of the Steamie": this refers to the chatter that people (almost exclusively women) would have while washing their clothes in a communal wash room. As you may surmise, the expression dates from the time before individual washing machines in the average home were commonplace. I always think that the Web is the ultimate steamie: providing a truly global forum where ideas and opinions can spread with breathtaking rapidity.

One of the things that is the talk of the steamie just now is Google Latitude. I have always admired Google's relentless innovation. I love Google Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Earth. However, I'm not so sure about Google Latitude. People in the UK, it seems to me, are monitored to an increasing and disturbing degree. I believe there is a higher number of CCT cameras in the UK per head of population than practically anywhere else in the World. The so-called War on Terror has led the government to propose that they should be able to read every e-mail and text message that we send, and have access to details of every web page that we visit. Although, I don't feel I've got anything to hide, my instinct is to oppose stubbornly these creeping infringements of our civil liberties. I can't really imagine why anybody would want to allow themselves to be tracked using Google latitude and it seems I am not the only one to have concerns about its privacy implications.

Clearly, use of this application is voluntary, but if it becomes widely used I would be concerned that systems like this could develop into yet another way for Big Brother to watch us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Texting the Obvious?

I was not previously a fan of sending text messages. My old Nokia phone had predictive text, but I could never get the hang of it. As a result, I needed to perform multiple key presses, making sending even the simplest of messages a slow and painful chore. Wosog is quite a dab hand at predictive texting, as are my children. I believe my daughter's friend can even text at amazing speed using predictive text on her phone without looking at it! How the Hell does that work? Anyway, I've now got a BlackBerry Curve smartphone with a separate key for each letter, so texting is a dawdle.

I've heard of text messages being used for a few medical purposes: reminding patients about their clinic/ surgery appointments; reminding asthmatic children to monitor their peak flow measurements etc. This article on the BBC website describes a trial of the use of text messages to warn patients with seasonal affective disorder of impending overcast weather. To quote the article:

"Under the pilot project, alerts are sent to participants before gloomy days warning them to spend 20 minutes in front of their light box, and to read the accompanying advice that day.

This should help them to prepare for the dark weather and know what to expect when they draw the curtains."
Maybe I'm being stupid here, but unless these folk have very thick curtains (which would not seem a good idea in someone who craves light exposure) can't they get a pretty good idea what the light level outside is by examining the light coming through the curtains?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Went with Wosog to see the terrific movie "Revolutionary Road" before finishing the evening with a curry. The film is basically about the dreams that you have as a young adult and whether you should, as most folk do, compromise when you get older or try to stay true to your dreams. This is the second Kate Winslet film we've seen recently (the other one being "The Reader") and her performances were brilliant in both. Leonardo DiCaprio's acting was superb too, although I find it a bit disconcerting that he never seems to get any older!

It's been a long time since we've seen so many films in such a short time, but we've not been disappointed with any of them.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fussy Eaters

One of Wosog's favourite TV programmes is "I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here!". For those not familiar with it, the idea of the programme is that a small number of so-called celebrities are placed in jungle conditions in Australia for around 2 weeks. The objective is to see how they respond to the privations of jungle life, including the consumption of various bizarre foods. These include things like kangaroo testicles as well as live insects and grubs. As you can imagine, many of the people prepared to endure this treatment are not individuals whose careers are heading for the stratosphere. A lot of them are folk who you have almost forgotten about, like ex-stars of soap operas etc. I wouldn't say I am a fussy eater but the texture of certain things definitely "turns my stomach". I can't imagine ever being desperate enough that I would consider consuming a live widgety grub on or off TV!

The video above was found on a site called Uglyfood.com, which, sadly, doesn't seem to have been updated since October last year. Although I've tasted frog's legs---and they do taste like chicken---the idea of eating a still-beating raw frog's heart fills me with revulsion! Without Uglyfood.com I wouldn't know about Vietnamese duck blood soup or boiled duck embryo from Cambodia.

But, then again, maybe I'd be better off not knowing!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eminemmy Hill



According to CollegeHumor.com, "Statistically speaking, there's at least one person on Earth who's a fan of Eminem and Benny Hill and Doctor Who. This video is for that freak."

Surely, I can't be the only one?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Like A Virgin

I'm not a great fan of flying, but I do love to travel. If I could be beamed from place to place, as in Star Trek, it would suit me just fine.

One of the things I hate about flying is hanging around airports for hours on end. The current obsession with security seems to give the airports carte blanche to insist on you turning up ridiculously early. I suspect this has less to do with the War on Terror than it has to do with giving you the opportunity to buy more gadgets you never realised you needed in Duty Free Dixons and yet another overpriced greasy bacon roll at one of the airport eateries.

We never fly anything other than tourist class, so the second thing I hate about flying is spending interminable hours with my knees millimetres from the back of the seat in front, and my nose inches from the head rest of the selfish sod in front who has decided that he really needs to recline his chair to the max.

The third thing I hate about flying is what the airlines laughingly call "food". Banging elbows against those of the folk on either side, you wrestle to get into the little plastic bags of unidentified nutrients, or prize the lid off a rectangular tray of indeterminate sludge which you are told was carefully crafted by some overpaid celebrity chef. I've had a few pretty awful airline meals in my time but none quite as bad as the one described by this Virgin Airline passenger.

Maybe I need to complain more?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Milk of Human Kindness

Went with Wosog and Gdog to see the brilliant film "Milk" yesterday. Sean Penn's performance was breathtaking as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to achieve public office in the US. Harvey Milk has a pretty large Wikipedia entry even though I, and I suspect most Brits, had never heard of him before now. Scanning through it, it seems the film was a pretty accurate portrayal of his life, though I believe he had a reputation for being bad tempered that was not reflected in the screenplay. Acceptance of gay people has come a long way since then, in the UK and the US, but the Internet Move Database Entry on the film still recounts someone's experience of watching the film in a cinema where the audience cheered when Milk was shot and booed the film at the end. I suspect ignorance and bigotry will, sadly, always be with us.

The dramatisation of Milk's success gives the achievement of relatively minor public office almost the feeling of a presidential race. Barack Obama's success in actually gaining the presidency is several orders of magnitude more impressive. It carries at least as great a significance for the non-whites of America as Milk's accomplishment did for his gay constituents. It is important to remember that, although Obama achieved 365 electoral votes versus McCain's 173, only 53% of the electorate voted for him. Some members of that 53% are even less happy about having a black man in the White House than that cinema audience were about Milk's lifestyle.

America has a sad history of assassinations, and I fervently hope that Barack Obama survives to enjoy the fruits of his success....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's not been a good week...


I have been fortunate, up till now, to have had very good health. I've had very little time off work. This week one of my partners is on holiday, so being ill was a particularly bad idea. There have been a lot of nasty viral illnesses around this Winter and I was congratulating myself on avoiding them all when, at the weekend, I had a slightly runny nose and a mild sore throat. On Monday morning I felt pretty normal. "Clever old me" I thought, "to shrug that little sucker off so easily!"

By mid-afternoon on Monday I had virtually no voice. I've never had significant hoarseness before, and I didn't realise how tiring it is to try and conduct a consultation when you are having to make a supreme effort to squeeze the words out. I was mildly amused to note, as I have observed before, that the patients I saw either didn't notice I was unwell or were too polite to comment on it! I decided to take Tuesday off so that I could make a concerted effort to fight off the virus.

I struggled through yesterday at work, but last night felt my left eye was a bit uncomfortable. This morning I awake with pretty florid acute conjunctivitis---something else I've never had before!

I have always felt that doctors empathise much better with patients if they have experienced the patient's symptoms themselves, but, if anyone's listening up there, I've had enough for one week thanks!