Sunday, December 24, 2006

Geek vs. Nerd vs. Dork

We all look down on dorks

Friday, December 22, 2006

My new title

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Exalted Highness Duke Andrew the Sardonic of New Scagglethorpe
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Thursday, December 21, 2006

40 Strangest Board Games Released in 2006

This article lists the 40 Strangest Board Games Released in 2006 with links to BoardGameGeek which has become the authoritative source of information for board games. Some of these may be jokes, like this Disco Inferno game.


When Rocky III came out I went to see the first three Rocky movies in one marathon session. By all accounts the new Rocky is OK. Here, Slate decodes the best part of the Rocky films, the montages.

In the first two Rocky films, the training montage functioned as a plotless, mid-movie pick-me-up. By Rocky III, it's a cinematic Swiss Army knife—a plot accelerator, a moral scorecard, and an infomercial for the Sylvester Stallone full-body workout.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Most played tunes of 2006

Statistics don't lie, and here are my most played new tunes of 2006. Actually this is since February which is bad news for Girls Aloud as I played Chemistry a lot in January.

Rank Title Artist Album
1 Knock 'Em Out Lily Allen Alright, Still
2 Catherine Eddie Van Halen Sacred Sin soundtrack
3 9 Milli Bros. [Feat. Wu-Tang Clan] Ghostface Killah Fishscale
4 LDN Lily Allen Alright, Still
5 Christian Dior Morrissey In the Future When All's Well - EP
6 You Have Killed Me Morrissey Ringleader Of The Tormentors
7 I Just Want to See The Boy Happy Morrissey Ringleader Of The Tormentors
8 Jams Run Free Sonic Youth Rather Ripped
9 Rats Sonic Youth Rather Ripped
10 Pink Steam Sonic Youth Rather Ripped
11 Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
12 Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But... Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
13 From The Ritz To The Rubble Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
14 A Certain Romance Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
15 Reggae Turca Tone Ayhan Sicimoglu Beyond Istanbul: Underground Grooves of Turkey
16 Rise Eddie Van Halen Sacred Sin soundtrack
17 Shakey Dog Ghostface Killah Fishscale
18 The Champ Ghostface Killah Fishscale
19 Beauty Jackson Ghostface Killah Fishscale
20 Columbus Exchange [Skit] / Crack Spot Ghostface Killah Fishscale

Top oldies of the year

Statistics don't lie and the iTunes play counts reveal all sorts of interesting things. Here are the top twenty most played tunes that were not released this year.

Rank Title Artist Album
1 Lewis Boogie Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club - Hamburg
2 Deep Six Big Black Racer-X
3 St. Stephen Grateful Dead Complete Fillmore West 1969
4 Money Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club - Hamburg
5 Starless King Crimson Live in Asbury Park, NJ Jun 28, 1974
6 Theme for Great Cities Simple Minds Sons and Fascination (Includes Sister Feelings Call)
7 Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do) Stevie Wonder Looking Back
8 Tatas-Matoes Art Ensemble Of Chicago 1967 - 68
9 E=MC^2 Big Audio Dynamite Super hits
10 Sweet Leaf Black Sabbath Live At Last
11 Guess I'm Dumb Glen Campbell Pet Projects - The Brian Wilson Productions
12 The Eleven Grateful Dead Complete Fillmore West 1969 
13 Isolation Iggy Pop Blah Blah Blah
14 High School Confidential Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club - Hamburg
15 Dagenham Dave Morrissey Southpaw Grammar
16 All the Way from Memphis Mott the Hoople The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective 
17 Roll Away the Stone Mott the Hoople The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective 
18 Riding To Vanity Fair Paul McCartney Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
19 Something that I said The Ruts The Peel Sessions
20 This Fear Of Gods Simple Minds Empires And Dance

What does it all mean? The Jerry Lee Lewis album is one of the best live albums ever. Simple Minds were good once. The Grateful Dead are great despite their fans. The rest are just great tunes. I have to say though that the King Crimson track is just perfect. It's 15 minutes long so it did very well to get so high in the chart.

MTV pwns Guitar Hero

I'm a bit disappointed to realise that MTV now owns Guitar Hero. They "have all kinds of ideas for expanding the experience into television shows" :-(

The Detroit Tigers got worried about the performance of their star reliever Joel Zumaya during the American League Championship Series when he was afflicted with wrist and forearm inflammation, until they learned it did not come from his pitching motion but from playing too many hours of Guitar Hero.

Guitar Hero 2 Rush YYZ on Expert

Guitar Hero is a game for the PS2 where you get to be a rock star.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reality problems

Go to this BBC story about how many Russian leaders either have been or still are members of the security services. Scroll down to see the picture of Putin touring a new defence intelligence HQ in Moscow, and observe that there is a huge bat logo on the floor.

Update: added the logo of the GRU.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christian Dior

You can tell when a band or person is in the zone because even their b-sides (OK, extra tracks) are great. Some of Oasis's best songs are b-sides. The new Morrissey single has only one new track, but what a corker! Christian Dior is just a fabulous song.

Christian Dior
You wasted your life
Sensually stroking the weaves of a sleeve.

You could have run wild
On the backstreets of Lyon or Marseille
Reckless and legless and stoned
Impregnating women
Or kissing mad street boys from Napoli
Who couldn't even spell their own name

Friday, December 08, 2006

I was over the Zune

Star Microsoft blogger Micha Kaplan writes about internationalization and localization. His blog has features like unicode character of the day. He is a bit disappointed when he tries to play his songs with non-English titles. Even Microsoft is not a monolithic organization.

I am Death

You are Death

Change, Transformation, Alteration.

People fear this card, but if you want to change your life, this is one of the best indicators for it. Whatever happens, life will be different. Yes, the Death card can signal a death in the right circumstances (a question about a very sick or old relative, for example), but unlike its dramatic presentation in the movies, the Death card is far more likely to signal transformation, passage, change. Scorpio, the sign of this card, has three forms: scorpion, serpent, eagle. The Death card indicates this transition from lower to higher to highest. This is a card of humility, and it may mean you have been brought low, but only so that you can then go higher than ever before. Death "humbles" all, but it also "exults." Always keep in mind that on this card of darkness there is featured a sunrise as well. You could be ready for a change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Scary 'Mary Poppins' Trailer

Mary Poppins recut as a horror movie.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


This is in Manchester but they had similar bollards in Chester. They only open up for buses and other utility vehicles but people think they can just nip through. I think they had to take them down in Chester because people complained when their cars got wrecked.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

HP Lovecraft

For my birthday I got the cool Library of America edition of HP Lovecraft. Nice paper, hard covers, looks classy on the shelf. Now there is news that Philip K Dick will get a Library of America edition next. This is great, but what about the big three science fiction writers, Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Microsoft up to its usual tricks

In the new Office Vista Microsoft has some new UI stuff that looks cool. Office often sets the standard for UI as it is the most used application on Windows (apart perhaps from the browser). Micorosft is offering to license the new interface to you for free unless you compete with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access. Why is this sneaky? If Microsoft had put this UI into Windows then it would be available to anyone. By putting it into Office and restricting its licensing they are able to propagate their ideas while still bashing their competition.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chicken update

growing feathers

The spiky things are separating out into feathers. Now she is starting to look fluffy.

growing feathers

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Moulting Chicken

Moulting Chicken

On of our chickens, Lucy, is moulting. Her white feathers made our yardgarden look like it had been snowing. The spiky bits are new feathers that haven't got feathery yet. She won't let me pick her up right now, it must hurt to have your new feathers compressed. Here (below) she is in a very rare pose, apparently looking straight on at the camera. The other chicken is called Rosy.

Moulting Chicken

Friday, November 10, 2006

Over-Competitive Lance Armstrong Challenges Cancer To Rematch

Go to the Onion to read all about it.

Pet Shop Boys @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 7 Nov 2006

pet shop boys

I love the Pet Shop Boys. The only group whose fan club I've been a member of. The Smiths you can dance to as Neil once said. One of the few extant groups that I would go to a seated concert for.

This was a very theatrical performance, with an interval and ushers. Chris Lowe was on stage the whole time with a keyboard but its not clear he was actually playing anything. Three singers and two dancers, with enough costume changes that they seemed like a whole troupe. Minimal stage set that was continually being reconfigured.

Neil isn't a strong singer, but I preferred it when the backup singers didn't support him. I like to hear his Rex Harrison singing/speaking. So why go to a seated concert which will be the same every night (apart from some heartfelt appreciation for San Francisco, we expect nothing less)? Really it would be better and cheaper to watch a DVD.

But I love them, and "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" from their new CD is another classic.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gap Year emails

A Gap Year means a year out between school and university. Nowadays kids can email home so that parents do not worry about them.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Who are these young men?

That drummer looks familar, but who is that scary singer?

Top 10 Jones

2,000 Joneses are gathering at Cardiff's Wales Millennium Centre aiming to break the record for the largest gathering of people with the same surname. So who are the best Joneses?

  1. Marion Jones (my friend, not the druggy runner)
  2. Terry Jones
  3. John Paul Jones (Led Zep)
  4. James Earl Jones
  5. Quincy Jones
  6. George Jones
  7. Indiana Jones
  8. Brian Jones
  9. Davy Jones (of locker fame)
  10. Janie Jones

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Earth, SUNN O))) and Boris


Last year Aquarius Records had an April Fools joke where they listed a CD by EARTH, SUNN O))) and BORIS (respectively the originators, prime exponents and Japanese version of drone/sludge/metal).

a single track, 11 minutes long, one chord, an E to be exact, with each band handling one of the notes in the chord. Sunn 0))) deftly tackle the G, as if it were a blackened, dying sunn. Earth spews forth the B, with as much vitriol as they can muster. And of course Boris offer up a soul crushing E to complete what is quite possibly the heaviest chord ever recorded. EVER!
Now SUNN O))) & BORIS have a joint new CD called Altar, and one track features Dylan Carlson of Earth. So who is the April Fool now? Grace wanted a dollar in change to buy plastic toys so I popped into Aquarius Records while she was at her piano lesson and bought it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It takes software to really screw up


I've been reading about the 1 year delay in the Airbus A380 which has been attributed to wiring problems. I just didn't understand how wiring problems could cause such a large schedule slip. Surely software must have been involved in any modern project failure? Now however I have found out that the problem is software related, and I am happy. Airbus Hamburg and Airbus Toulouse were using different versions of CAD software which had incompatible file formats.

A doctor, an architect, and a computer scientist were arguing about whose profession was the oldest. In the course of their arguments, they got all the way back to the Garden of Eden, whereupon the doctor said, "The medical profession is clearly the oldest, because Eve was made from Adam's rib, as the story goes, and that was a simply incredible surgical feat." The architect did not agree. He said, "But if you look at the Garden itself, in the beginning there was chaos and void, and out of that, the Garden and the world were created. So God must have been an architect." The computer scientist, who had listened to all of this said, "Yes, but where do you think the chaos came from?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kraftwerk doing Autobahn on Tomorrow's World in 1975

The sound they get here is just amazing.

Next year, Kraftwerk hope to eliminate the keyboards altogether, and build jackets with electronic lapels, which can be played by touch.

The Troy Tate Sessions

Go to rbally to get the Troy Tate sessions, the unreleased early version of the first album by The Smiths. It sounds rougher but more muscular.

Monday, October 16, 2006


It must be tough to be the son of a famous father. Goro Miyazaki is the son of Hayao Miyazaki . So he decides to be an animator, isn't that rather inviting comparisons? In the world of rock there are plenty of examples of famous children who are basically not as good as their parents. So next Goro decides to animate the Earthsea novels. These books are total classics which other people have already tried unsuccessfully to film. Next Goro decides he will change the story. Oh dear.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Very Silly Battle of The Bands

Album covers in animated battle. Music by Andrew Sherman and Judson Crane, but, alas it is not me.

How do we judge when to stop eating?

Brian Wansink has a lab where he tests how people decide how much to eat.

Dr. Wansink is particularly proud of his bottomless soup bowl, which he and some undergraduates devised with insulated tubing, plastic dinnerware and a pot of hot tomato soup rigged to keep the bowl about half full. The idea was to test which would make people stop eating: visual cues, or a feeling of fullness.

People using normal soup bowls ate about nine ounces. The typical bottomless soup bowl diner ate 15 ounces. Some of those ate more than a quart, and didn’t stop until the 20-minute experiment was over. When asked to estimate how many calories they had consumed, both groups thought they had eaten about the same amount, and 113 fewer calories on average than they actually had.

Just now I didn't eat a cookie biscuit in the work kitchen because the packet was in a plastic bag. When I moved to the US I was very confused by those offers where you get a quart of coke for only 20 cents more. According to the article a lot of companies are now trying to use Dr. Wansink's ideas for good, not evil (because it's better for them in the long run).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

It is not my birthday

karen o

Thanks to wikipedia I can examine all those people who share my birthday. The one I am most excited to learn is Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, familiar to all dedicated Kingmaker players as Neeeev-illle. He was in fact the Kingmaker (and therefore a treacherous bastard).

Other cool/cute people (and things) who share my birthday are:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Should you get paid more for long service?


The European court of justice ruled that employers cannot lawfully pay some workers much higher salaries than others solely on the ground of long service.

The decision will have a potentially huge impact on public sector employers, including the civil service, where wide differentials based on length of service are more common than in the private sector.

In the US Walmart is trying to avoid having to pay extra to employees with a long service record by converting more of its workers to part-time work.

These moves have been unfolding in the year since Wal-Mart’s top human resources official sent the company’s board a confidential memo stating, with evident concern, that experienced employees were paid considerably more than workers with just one year on the job, while being no more productive.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Scissor Sisters @ Warfield 29 Sep 2006

scissor sisters

This was quite a show. They really try hard to entertain. Jake is a real showman. Ana is not a very good singer, though she is pretty funny. They said they liked being in San Francisco and I believed them. The audience liked them, though it may have liked itself even more.

The next day I was thinking about Scissor Sisters when some very average Abba album track came on the iPod. It was a better song than most (but not all) of Scissor Sisters songs. It may seem unfair to compare then with such a classic group, but they are bursting with talent, and do have the potential to rise pretty high.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Katamari in San Francisco

I still haven't played Katamari but here is an advert featuring it in San Francisco. They do jump around the city a bit, but who cares when the result is this good?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Software designers should rule

The world is now so complex that it doesn’t seem safe to let lawyers and politicians run everything. Take voting. People are rushing to install voting machines. The trouble is that they don’t have an audit trail. How could you construct an election so that everyone could see that their vote was counted, and could ensure that many types of election fraud could be detected? And could you do that without using encryption? Ronald L. Rivest, a (famous) professor at MIT has a system that does this, and it is pretty clever. Maybe software designers should run things for a while.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mastodon @ Slims 25 September 2006

a dwarf

I was glad I went to this show, but I'm glad it was at a small venue like Slims (official capacity 470). It was packed for an appearance by up and coming metal band Mastodon. Every time I have been to Slims the floor is sticky and they still don’t seem to have cleaned it. Mastodon is a four piece with twin guitarists. They played very enthusiastically. Their singer looks like he should play a dwarf when Peter Jackson eventually films The Hobbit. I kept being distracted by the merchandise stall: if I was going to wear a band tee-shirt I would choose one like this.

I was near the front and I ended up being on the edge of the mosh pit. It was full of BIG guys who hastened to pick up anyone who fell over. I’ve tried hard to like this band but when I think of modern metal bands I keep comparing them with Opeth who have such a beautiful guitar sound. Mastodon keep things simple: no acoustic guitars here (good), but somehow I wish they had more dynamics. This piece about how modern recording are too compressed mentions Mastodon as offenders. But even live they don't vary things all that much.

Use the Windows Vista tone

Microsoft has a list of Top Rules for the Windows Vista User Experience. The best one is this:

Use the Windows Vista "tone" to inspire confidence by communicating to users on a personal level by being accurate, encouraging, insightful, objective, and user focused. Don't use a distracting, condescending (for example, "Just do this..."), or arrogant tone.
I'm not sure I'm ready for my computer to communicate with me on a personal level.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Talent Spotting

Lily Allen smoking a fag

I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Grace wants to be a teacher. Teaching is an honourable profession. It's low paid so it won't be outsourced to India too soon.

What's it like to be a teacher and have a talented pupil? What would it be like to have Lily Allen in your class? Or to be Dizzee Rascal's music teacher?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Banlieue 13 (District B13)

I liked this lightweight, fun, action movie. There is this guy, David Belle who invented this French 'sport' of jumping around buildings with your shirt off.. In the film he is one of the good guys. There is lots of fighting and jumping around buildings while shirtless. Not since the A-Team have so many machine guns been fired at our heroes with so little effect. It lasts only 85 minutes (this is a good thing). It reminded me a bit of Ong-Bak, (which I also liked), another movie based around the talents of a particular guy. It is possible that action films are better in foreign languages

Quality Value Service

sherman bag

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Starting over with Cat Power

photo by

I was moved by this interview with Cat Power in the NYT. She seems very honest about her problems. I walked out of one of her concerts a few years ago, it wasn't a train wreck, it was just boring. I've had no time for her since then, but maybe now we can try again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The sad tale of the Bhundu boys

The Grauniad has this sad tale of the Bhundu boys. I was at the Madonna stadium gig where they supported her and it was pretty weird. I think I'd seen them already that year, and they weren't a stadium band. Sadly they reflect Zimbabwe's demographics (it has a very high HIV infection rate), and three band members have died from Aids-related diseases. It's all doubly sad because at their height they made such a joyous sound.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How dangerous is terrorism?

Wired analyses the statistics of death rates.

Driving off the road: 254,419
Falling: 146,542
Accidental poisoning: 140,327
Dying from work: 59,730
Walking down the street: 52,000.
Accidentally drowning: 38,302
Killed by the flu: 19,415
Dying from a hernia: 16,742
Accidental firing of a gun: 8,536
Electrocution: 5,171
Being shot by law enforcement: 3,949
Terrorism: 3147
Carbon monoxide in products: 1,554

Friday, September 15, 2006

Please make a backup

It's 2006, can all writers please use a computer?

JK Rowling, returning from a charity book reading in New York just days after the security clampdown, was confronted with a demand that she consign the unfinished manuscript to the hold.

She disclosed that the manuscript was largely handwritten and with no back-up copy.

And don't forget to make a backup.

Another conspiracy

Next year Daylight Savings Time in the US will end on the first Sunday in November. But... but.. that is after Halloween. It will not be as dark. This is terrible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

iTunes 7

iTunes 7 lets you view the CD covers corresponding to your music. It doesn't always find an image (hopefully they can improve this) but it is fun to flick through your virtual albums. It tries to find an image for every song, no matter where you got it.

I see more conspiracies!

Why hasn't Martin Amis's essay on Islamicism been published in a US newspaper? Is it because it criticises religion?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Photography under sodium lights

At the waste water plant I took photos inside the plant. I was running out of battery so I minimized my use of flash. The photos came out very yellow:

muck spreading (sodium)

Fortunately Amy's major in college was photography. She told me that Sodium lights have a very narrow spectrum and that I should try flattening the images to grayscale. So now instead of a bad interior shot I have a cool black and white picture.

muck spreading (b/w)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hotel Bed Jumping

Hotel Bed Jumping

A blog entirely devoted to photos of people jumping on hotel beds.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant

We went on a family outing to the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant in San Francisco. This was great, I felt like I was on vacation. After the water is treated it goes into the Pacific. The egg shaped things in the picture are digesters, where anaerobic bacteria are eating solids from the water. Enough methane is produced by this to power 20% of the plant.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Japanese New Music Festival tour

found on flickr

Last night I went to the Bottom of the Hill to see this show. The venue place is a wonderful 300 capacity dive in a San Francisco neighborhood where it is easy to park. There were three musicians:

  • Kawabata Makoto: guitarist and main man of Japanese psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple
  • Yoshida Tatsuya: drummer and main man of progressive rock duo Ruins
  • Tsuyama Atsushi. player of “monster bass” in the Acid Mothers Temple

These all played in different combinations. Each section was announced carefully in cod Japanese accents: “Wercome to Jarpanese Muzik Frestival”. I laughed a lot during the shows. This is one of the best gigs I have been to in a long time. There were seven combinations:

SEIKAZOKU (Kawabata/Tsuyama/Yoshida). Kawabata played violin and guitar simulteously while Tsuyama played his pink toy guitar.

ZOFFY (Tsuyama/Kawabata) played a drone song (showing off Tsuyama’s throat singing) but mostly played covers of various classics: Smoke on the Water in the style of Captain Beefheart and Bob Dylan. They did three Miles Davis electric numbers where Kawabata played funky guitar for a minute, then Tsuyama (as Miles) plays a single note, and that’s the end. This was the only section I thought went on too long.

RUINS ALONE (Yoshida) was a fantastic experience. Yoshida is such a great drummer, he has the skill of a jazz drummer with the power of a metal drummer. Basically Ruins sounds like all the twiddly bits off every prog rock record ever made, accompanied by live drumming from Yoshida.

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE SWR (Tsuyama/Yoshida/Kawabata). There were no roadies or guitar techs and so equipment problems forced Kawabata to play Tsuyama’s “toy” electric guitar for some of the time. On record I find AMT a bit samey but live they make complete sense.

AKATEN (Tsuyama/Yoshida). These two improvised by manipulating everyday items using some sort of amplification that I couldn’t see. They did a duet with scissors and a piece involving brushing teeth and grating a radish. This sounds silly, and it was, but it was musical too.

ZUBI ZUVA X (Yoshida/Tsuyama/Kawabata) All three playing a cappella, there was a lot of difficulty trying to keep a straight face here.

SHRINP WARK (Kawabata/Yoshida) This actually sounded like Ruins, except with Kawabata provoding the twiddly bits.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Please Don’t Make Me Read Your Blog

My wife's teacher's journal contains this poem. My favourite bit:

To see you smile I’d drink
30-day old egg nog.
But, please,
Don’t make me read your blog.


visions of the future

Promises for the future were made; some sadly broken and some unfortunately honored. While we didn't get household jetpacks and personal serving-drinks-by-the-pool robots, or even our orgasmatrons, we did get things like the super-fantastic building materials of the future-asbestos, lead, and foam.

My first ever political donation

I donated to the campaign of Hydra Mendoza for Board of Education. I met Hydra when she was a parent at Miraloma co-op preschool. After Miraloma she went to Fairmont Elementary School where she had a huge impact. This woman is dynamite. Now she is running for the school board. In recent years the school board has been seen by some political animals (hello Green Party!) as a stepping stone to higher office and a chance to grandstand on issues that don't help kids. Vote for Hydra!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cows vs. Humans

Music magazines are always producing ranks of the best songs and albums, ever. Other magazines like to create tables of how different countries are doing. This Foreign Policy article ranks countries according to their commitment to development. The usual stuff. But this scary table compares how much rich countries subsidize farm animals compared to how much they spend on aid.

Subsidies per Head per Year (in U.S. $)
Country Cattle Chickens Pigs Sheep Aid per poor person in developing world
EU 15 $179.28 $9.24 $28.93 $16.11
Australia $17.12 39¢ $6.49 94¢ 54¢
Canada $68.59 15¢ $18.99 95¢
Japan $163.23 21¢ $3.92 $2.38
New Zealand $2.66 13¢ $2.14 19¢
Norway $965.72 $1.48 $39.98 $94.06 83¢
Switzerland $987.58 $7.63 $139.62 $16.11 61¢
United States $29.06 58¢ $9.03 $4.12 $7.67
All $92.59 38¢ $10.58 $12.85 $29.17

Friday, September 01, 2006


Sometimes a band looks so cool you know they must be good. This is OOIOO

A very rare record

P. Simon Headgear and the Family Slaad

Thursday, August 31, 2006


The Deeside Leisure Center is a sports facility in Queensferry, North Wales. In the early 80's it used to host gigs. For concerts the ice rink was covered with mats; if you stood still too long your feet got cold. As Queensferry is not well known, these concerts were often billed as being in other places. So sometimes you see a weird dislocation, for example Bob Marley once performed in Chester, and when I saw AC/DC there on 6 Nov 1980 it was billed as being in Liverpool. At school the gigs I saw were very heavily influenced by whether someone would take me there in a car. In 1980 I was beginning to be serious about music and was concerned that AC/DC were too much of a spectacle. But the offer of a ride to a concert, any concert, was hard to resist. Of course they were great, having just recorded Back in Black their best record. Now, with the benefit of hindisght, I can see that AC/DC are a classic band. Always, simple, always the same. So the headline Schoolgirl 'stabbed for love of AC/DC' fills me with dismay.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Maths is great

This Guardian article describes how statistics beat out intelligence in WWII. This is one of those stories that seems just too good to be true, and no source is given. However a little searching finds the academic reference: Ruggles, R., and Brodie H. (1947) An empirical approach to economic intelligence in World War 2. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 42:72-91.

Alas the paper is not generally available online, but the abstract is here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Tapes, Receipts and a Diary, Details of the British Terror Case: Martyrdom Motive and 'Bomb Factory' Cited

This sounds like an interesting story. It is from the scanned front cover of the New York Times. But where is the story online? Did they have to pull the story for legal reasons? Or am I just incompetent at searching?

Update: the article is on the web now (it's too new to get a permanent link). So no conspiracy, but the article must have been delayed.

Update: the article is here.

Nice British touch: the bombers were doing chemical experiments with Lucozade.

Update from Cryptome: Publication of this article on has been delayed temporarily on the advice of legal counsel. It is also being omitted from the British circulation of The International Herald Tribune. This arises from British laws that prohibit publication of information that could be deemed prejudicial to defendants charged with a crime.

Update: the New York Times is using technology to block people in Britain reading the article. That'll work I'm sure.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A stressful week

Last year at Grace’s school there was an older teacher who didn’t seem to cut it anymore. Various parents observed him teach and wrote up their rather damning observations and dispatched them into the school district bureaucracy. When finally confronted by a parent the teacher said something like ‘I used to be a good teacher but I’m not now. I’m going to retire’. He then disappeared and a long term sub finished out the year.

This year Grace goes into 5th grade and she was supposed to be getting the wizard math and science teacher. Instead it seemed she was getting the older teacher mentioned above. The wizard teacher is off teaching a 4th/5th split class. No-one exactly knows what is going on. There aren’t many other activist parents with kids in the 5th grade class (often of course this translates to middle class parents) . And the class is very small (20 kids). Are these moves to avoid trouble?

We meet the new principal. He’s supportive, but can’t do anything. He says maybe even his boss can’t do anything. His boss won’t return calls. Eventually we get a meeting downtown with the boss. We get some of the parents who had experienced last years events to come too. The boss is supportive and listens but he is not allowed to say anything about our guy. It’s an HR issue. We can’t talk to HR. We redeliver the notes that last year’s parents wrote. The boss hasn’t seen them. It’s clear that the notes are great. Anything where the teacher might have broken a rule is good (like when he gave candy to the kids), but opinion, (like his quote about not being a good teacher) is useless.

Two days later and we’re invited to help hire a new 5th grade teacher. Phew. But we still don’t know what was going on and we probably never will. After the meeting downtown I looked up the guy’s teaching credentials (you can do this online) and he had let his credentials lapse. So probably he never intended to return and the school district just dropped the ball.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Charter Schools

Sometimes you see someone doing a job and you think ‘I could do that better’. For example I think I would be better at being President of the United states than Mr. Bush. Many people look at the public school system (I am using US terminology here) and they think they could do better. Sometimes they set up a trial school, with brilliant inspirational teachers and the school does well. The next step is to scale up this system. They then start charter schools. These are schools that take resources from the public school system and use them to run schools. The idea is that without the oversight of the bureaucrats things will work better. Unfortunately having brilliant teachers does not scale as there is a limited supply. And now the results are in: Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools.

Cows? In Birmingham?

If you know that the Birmingham ‘Brummie’ accent is the funniest in Britain, and that Cows also 'have regional accents', then what can you deduce?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What do they do in Venezuela with their oil money?

They buy Scotch whiskey...

But Venezuela’s leaders have tried to politicize Scotch, as they have with much else in this polarized country. Benjamín Rausseo, a comedian running for president against Mr. Chávez, has jabbed the government by promising to build a “whiskyducto,” a pipeline to transport the whiskey directly from Scotland. For Mr. Chávez, however, imported whiskey is no joke. He has made it clear that there is little space for Scotch in his “Bolivarian revolution,” once describing oil executives as “living in chalets performing orgies, drinking whiskey.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Advice for reviewers of technical documents

What the fuck do you know?
Just cos you're old you think you're wise,
But who the hell are you though,
I didn't even ask for your advice
You wanna keep your mouth shut,
You wanna take your thoughts elsewhere,
Cos you're doing in my nut,
And do you think I care?

Lily Allen, Friend of Mine

I am boring

How evil are you?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Holiday in Abkhazia, It's tough kid, but it's life

Whan Stalin went to his dacha he went to Abkhazia. Like a few other places in the Caucasus, Abkhazia is a semi-autonomous region.

What exactly are these places? The answers, always passionate, depend on who is asked. Nations? States? Ethnic statelets? Offshore investment regions, away from the eyes and reach of regulators? Lawless zones for black marketeers, fugitives and terrorists?
Some of these places seem like they would be good bases for pirates.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Man Utd 3 West Brom 5 (December 30th 1978)

Not good to see United lose but the bad karma caused by the Old Trafford crowd booing black players allows Laurie Cunningham to run wild. Great to have defenders that can score like Brian Greenhof and Gordon McQueen. It was 3:3 at halftime! Bryan Robson is on the wrong side, Gary Bailey is in good form. And we see Dave Sexton with Ron Atkinson who would eventually replace him as United manager.

I'm proud that Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to play in a competitive England match. He also played for United on loan. He was killed in a crash in Madrid at the age of 33.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Black Metal is the New Black

The transition of ideas from the underground to the mainstream:

The NYT piece bugged me, it seemed more interested in spectacle than music Gratz to Ian for beating out Copey

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

U.S. Dedicates $64 Billion To Undermining Gates Foundation Efforts

The Onion has the news:

"The fight against Gates will not be easy, will not be quick, and will not be without enormous cost," said Director Of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte of the new program, which calls for the creation of a new $20 billion counter-philanthropy unit aimed at punishing those countries that accept or use, directly or indirectly, any financial support from the Gates Foundation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

One hand taketh

On the same day I got my coupon from the Microsoft settlement with California, I got notice of a speeding ticket from our UK vacation. I should have studied more about the Truvelo and Gatso.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Last night I saw a possum (technically an opossum) in our back yard. I tried and failed to take a photo of it, so here is a photo I found on the web. It looked quite like this. Wikipedia describes these as opportunistic omnivores, but fortunately a chicken is too big for them. Amy said it looked like a giant rat, which is a good description.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Barbie Girl

I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube
I must not waste time watching YouTube

I like to hear stories

It is good to hear stories about other people's lives. Here are some recent stories I liked:

Friday, August 04, 2006

James Brown

You know how it’s a waste of time when music magazines sometimes send another famous person to interview a star? You know how Rolling Stone magazine is a waste of good trees? Well sometimes it all works fabulously. Here is a Rolling Stone article by Jonathan Lethem about James Brown.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kid's TV

One of the great things about the availability of so much old TV on DVD at Netflix is that I can make the child watch the same TV that I used to watch. My plans to enforce an artistically enlightening program of BBC classics has however been thwarted by reality. Despite the availability of a Road Runner DVD, Grace has been choosing to watch H.R. Pufnstuf instead. I did watch this a few times as a kid, but now the best thing about this show is the theme song. Everything else is pretty bad. The creators of H.R. Pufnstuf went on to produce The Bugaloos who were the subject of an entertaining feature in this week’s NYT. Phil Collins auditioned to be in the ‘band’, but was sadly rejected. Road Runner on the other hand is even better now. Its timeless classicism and simplicity make it endlessly watchable. The wikipedia entry is just as impressively detailed as one would hope, including a detailed list of all the Mock Latin names given to Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote at the start of every episode.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sonic Youth

I am listening to Rather Ripped. The wonderful picture above is from the inside back cover of the CD. It was taken by Amanda de Cadenet, a onetime UK TV presenter who is now married to a member of The Strokes.

Here are the bands I have seen supporting Sonic Youth:

  • Sun Ra and the Arkestra (in Central Park, New York)
  • fIREHOSE (at the Town and Country Club, London)
  • Nirvana (in Dublin)
Quite a handy list.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau is 64 years old. Since the early 70s he has been writing for the Village Voice. The best thing he does is the Consumer Guide, an authoratative set of pithy capsule reviews of records. He doesn't review a record until he's heard it enough times to know what he thinks of it.

Last month he went out to see gigs for 30 consecutive days. He writes about it in the linked article. When I was in college I once went out for 13 days on the run and that nearly killed me, although going out did often involve a lot of drinking in those days.

Here are some good albums I bought because of Robert Christgau (these are all records he rated A+):
Iris DeMent: My Life
Elmore James: The Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James
Girl Group Greats
Motown: The Classic Years

I hope he lives to be 100.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Double Churned

What would you expect from an ice cream that was double churned? Obviously that would mean taking a protein cloned from the blood of an eel-like Arctic Ocean fish, the ocean pout, and using genetically modified yeast to produce it. These proteins are called ice-structuring proteins.

“Ice-structuring proteins protect the fish, which would otherwise die in freezing temperatures,” said H. Douglas Goff, professor of dairy sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario. “They also make ice cream creamier, by preventing ice crystals from growing.”
UK people don't be smug. It's in Cornetto too.

Why you should learn to like add-on services

How to choose a service wisely? If you are a cheapskate then you should choose the cheapest service with the most add-ons, according to this article. The suckers who fall prey to the add-ons subsidise your use of the service.

This sounds good but I want the opposite: a simple service that does not require me to pay attention to details. I do not want to understand the phone company's calling plans.

One of the economists mentioned in the article is called Xavier Gabaix. I think I need to change my name to something more cool.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Clever or Stupid?

Were US legislators clever or stupid when they made the No Child Left Behind act? Caroline thinks they were clever (i.e. sinister) but are they just stupid? Do they realize the implications of expecting schools to increase performance forever?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Nochnoy Dozor (Night Watch)

Great vampire movie that is the biggest ever Russian movie. Many have complained that the plot is hard to follow, but they just weren't paying enough attention, or perhaps they want to be spoonfed. In the New York Times this week there is a quite interesting article on horror movies which sums up this problem:

When it comes to horror, Danny was saying, Americans crave explanation. “Every detail has to be logical. Why is the ghost flying? Why is the ghost walking? Why does the ghost attack that guy and not the other guy? They keep asking.” He shook his head slightly in frustration. “This is a ghost movie,” Danny said. “Ghosts are already illogical.”

One surprising thing is the low body count. The subtitles are done in a clever way, they move around. Even the cheesy soundtrack works. I was charmed. Much recommended for fans of intelligent action films. And two sequels are on the way.

Radical moments in British history

Why aren't there memorials to the the troublemakers who helped form the nation? When Britain sometimes seems like one big heritage center there are some events that are still so radical that they aren't mentioned.

Blogs are derivative

Malcom Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer with The New Yorker magazine. Now he has a blog. Here he breaks the unwritten rule of blogs and actually says that blogging is not the future of journalism.

But newspapers continue to perform an incredibly important function as informational gatekeepers—a function, as far as I can tell, that grows more important with time, not less. Between them, for instance, the Times and the Post have literally hundreds of trained professionals whose only job it is to sift through the mountains of information that come out of the various levels of government and find what is of value and of importance to the rest of us. Why would we be without them? We’d be lost.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy

Boston molasses disaster

A large molasses (treacle) tank burst and a wave of molasses ran through the streets at an estimated 35 MPH (56 km/h), killing twenty-one and injuring 150 others. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that the area still sometimes smells of molasses.