Sunday, September 30, 2007

Early Halloween decorations

Early Halloween decorations

A house round the corner has Halloween decorations up at the end of September.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go is a manga about a Go player. Because this is a comic things aren't quite that simple and our hero Hikaru (on the right above) is sharing his consciousness with an ancient Go master. I am learning to play Go and so I am perhaps biased, but I find the whole thing very charming. I am not the only one and the success of Hikaru has led to a revival of Go in Japan. Managa is very popular with the kids here in San Francisco and I am hoping for a similar surge in interest here.

Because the stories are written in Japan they read right to left so you read the both the speech balloons and the panels in the revers of the normal direction. That's also what the 'read this way' thing is at the top.

It's also nice that, unlike some manga, these are suitable for all ages.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A nice coffee table book

The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian

I borrowed The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian from the library. It has loads of cool photographs of deep sea creatures. They are alien, strange and very different from us. There are 220 of these. The only trouble with the production of the book is that it has a bit of a chemical smell. Here is the caption for the picture at the top:

Up until 1979, whenever one thought about worms, the image of a colorless earthworm came immediately to mind, but the discovery of the giant, sublimely colored creatures living around hydrothermal vents in the eastern Pacific abruptly changed that view. These astonishing creatures live in symbiosis with the chemosynthetic bacteria that provide the worms with their meals. It took the specialists a while to understand the functioning of the animal, which at first they believed to be a filter feeder. Robert D Ballard remembers their incredulity: "With no eyes, no mouth, or any other obvious organs for ingesting food or secreting waste, and no means of locomotion, it was no worm, snake or eel, but no plant either - the strangest creature we had ever seen".

I am dismayed at the way we seem to be overfishing the oceans. Deep trawling can do lots of damage to the ecosystems that contains these marvels.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Lives of Others

Crowne Plaza hotel in Prague

It is no secret that I like Soviet stuff. When I went to Prague I delighted in staying in the Stalinist Crowne Plaza hotel pictured above. I ignored Prague's pretty European stuff which my fellow travelers from the US were enjoying and went seeking out the brutalist Sov monuments. I also liked that movie Goodbye Lenin. I obviously suffer from some weird form of Ostalgie.

Fortunately there is a cure. The Lives of Others is a superb film about life under the Stasi. I will never be able to be quite so flip about communism again. I unreservedly recommend this movie. You should try and see it before there is a Hollywood remake.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Henry Winter on Jose Mourinho

Although Henry Winter writes for the Torygraph he is a great football journalist. He knows his stuff, has great contacts, and writes beautifully. Here is the start of his opinion on Jose Mourinho's sensational departure.

Jose Mourinho's stay in English football felt like having a truculent but wonderfully talented teenager around the house. Any irritation over occasional spoilt-brat tantrums was offset by Mourinho's immense charm in private, his humour and undoubted brilliance as a football coach. English football is a quieter, more monochrome place without this Portuguese peacock.

I certainly hope Mourinho returns to English football one day. He raised the standard in the Premiership: the top teams have had to make themselves better to compete with Chelsea. I don't think they'll be the same team without him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Onion mocks its own advertisers

American Apparel often advertises on the back page of The Onion. Now the Onion is biting back.

The models, who range in age from 18 to 22 but appear to be 12 to 14, were taken to an emergency safehouse where they were given food, clothing, and access to soap. Officials said they were conducting tests to determine whether the girls were subjected to brainwashing during their captivity.

For a good account of American Apparel's strange business practices read here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Should one read a fantasy series that has not yet been completed?

If you were reading The Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan then you are unlucky as he has just died. Eleven of the twelve books of the series were completed. I read the first volume and judged it not interesting enough to continue but this is a best selling series. In the thrift store on Friday they had many copies of his books, maybe someone had a premonition?

I have read two books of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I like these books, they are complex without being overwhelming. If you think about the plot too much you can guess what will happen, but they are great books for the plane. But the series is not complete. The author is 58 years old (the same age as Jordan). I wish he would just finish those books so I can feel safe reading some more. I get annoyed when I read on his blog about the time he spends not writing and making deals, but then I feel mean when I hear about him missing worldcon so that has can do more writing. Basically I should never have started an unfinished series. Another reason not to do this is that you end up buying hardback copies of the books as they come out.

Obviously Harry Potter was an exception to this rule, but it's finished anyway.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How to build a Cathedral, part 8

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, California, 14 September 2007

This is the framework for the north window which will be called the Omega window. To the right you can see the roof area between the outside glass panels and the wood structure is made of green glass which is similar to that used at the sides, but without ceramic frit.

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, California, 14 September 2007

Two views from the Lake Merritt side.

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, California, 14 September 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A soviet poster a day

A soviet poster a day

Who says the internet is useless? If you are feeling unwell, take a soviet poster a day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You were searched on Rapleaf

Have you got an email with subject line: You were searched on Rapleaf? I just got one.

Thanks to Nicholas Whyte's excellent investigations (main entry here, all articles here) we can see that Rapleaf is a pathetic opportunistic company. They even have the nerve to have a tag on their homepage saying it is more profitable to be ethical. They can surely never recover from this.

Phil Collins

A gorilla drums along with Phil Collins in an ad for Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Football quote of the week

"I think Peter Schmeichel will be a father-figure for Kasper." -- Jamie Redknapp

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Led Zeppelin set to reform

Can it be true? Fortunately it is 5,000 miles away.

Trains and more trains

It’s nearly Labor day and Summer is nearly over. I haven’t done my homework blog report. The subject of my report is trains.


The only trip I took was a long weekend in Portland, Oregon. We went up by Amtrak. We had a small (5'2” x 9'5”) Family Bedroom which spans the entire width of the car and has windows on each side. If you don’t get a cabin it can be a bit cheaper than flying, but it takes a lot longer. You take an Amtrak bus across the bay to Emeryville, and then take the 10pm train. The arrival time is supposed to be 3.40 pm. The evening came and we were still on the train. We were supposed to arrive in the afternoon on Saturday but there were many delays. We got to Portland about 11pm. Amtrak doesn't own the tracks and Union Pacific gives priority to freight trains.

Cleaning our windows

Meal service in a dining car is included in the price (if you have a cabin). There was some sort of vegetarian possibility at each meal. It was fun to sleep on the train in the small bunks. I have now done the whole Amtrak route from San Diego to Portland.

The MAX train

Portland is nice (in the Summer at least). The centre is very compact and the block size is smaller than San Francisco so what looks like a trek on the map is actually a short stroll. In the downtown area all the transit is free. This is Washington Park station. At 260 feet (70 meters) below the surface it is the deepest subway station in North America