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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New signing for Manchester United

Nelson Mandela will wear the squad number 88.

Muse, San Francisco Design Center Concourse, 18-July-2006

During the boom years in the Bay Area the big software companies competed to see who could have the biggest Christmas Holiday party. Each year the parties got bigger and bigger. The high point was when Sybase hired Chris Isaak to play at their party at the San Francisco Design Center. I was there and it was a lot of fun. So when I noticed that Muse were playing at the San Francisco Design Center I assumed it was going to be a similarly intimate show. Actually the gig was in the Concourse at San Francisco Design Center which is a different area, it is 125,000 square feet of converted railway station. Furthermore it is shaped like a railway station, long and thin.

San Francisco has some fantastic small (Bottom of the Hill, capacity 300) and medium sized venues (Fillmore, capacity 1,200), but it lacks a larger venue. It looks to me as if the Concourse must hold 5,000 or so, standing (it looks as big as Brixton Academy). The sound isn’t great. The long thin shape is not ideal and it makes it harder to get near the front. As a result I was further away from the stage than I like to be. This did however enable me to enjoy the light show.

Yes, Muse are a big band that has a light show. Why is that bad exactly? Well at the very least it usually means that the band is too far away. Unfortunately Muse also seem to use it to tell you when the really exciting guitar solos are so that you know when to jump up and down. At these points blinding lights are turned on the crowd, who oblige by jumping up and down. Some of the audience made devil horns in an apparently unironic way. The audience is young, mostly White or Asian, and they all have nice teeth.

Muse are a strange band. They are a three piece, though they are now joined on stage by a fourth assistant, although he is at the back and wearing black so you can’t see him. However there is something funny about their live sound. It seemed to me that a lot of the synthesizer parts were pre-recorded (or triggered automatically). And the bass parts were either not being played by the bassist (they sounded synthesized) or are just doubled by the bassist.

The star of the show is Matthew Bellamy who plays guitar and keyboards and sings. I think he fancies he is Freddie Mercury (at one point he plays a conspicuous white piano) but his love of Rachmaninoff makes him seem more like Rick Wakeman to me. The band’s CD covers are by Storm Thorgerson but that doesn’t make them Pink Floyd either.

So did I have a miserable time? Really, Muse are not that unpleasant. They do make a great noise. Some of their songs are memorable. And Matthew Bellamy is entertaining to watch.

My general irritation was compounded by my BART trip home which somehow took 55 minutes to go four stops.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bad news for Windows programmers

Microsoft bought Sysinternals. I have used Sysinternals tools over and over again to solve problems. I am sure both Microsoft and the Sysinternals people want to preserve the tools. However it is much harder to do this sort of thing from inside a big tent. Will some tool be delayed or removed becasue it is not I18N ready or accessible? Sorry Sysinternals guys, but this is bad news.

Need to Know

Why do flight attendents need to say stuff like "I need you to go ahead and put your seat backs in the upright position for me."?

Need to does more than merely soften the blow of an order. Its genius, and the true source of its popularity, lies in the way it psychologizes directives.
So now when someone asks "why do you need to blog every day?" you'll know what's going on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thunderbirds are go

The greatest title sequence ever?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I am not a hoopy frood

You thought you were really with it and in with your younger colleagues but they just laugh at you because you can't hear beyond this!

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 14.1kHz
Take the mosquito ringtones hearing test

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

The new Jameel gallery of Islamic art at the V&A

I was in London too late to visit the new Jameel gallery of Islamic art at the V&A. The star attraction is the Ardabil carpet that has hung on the wall since it was bought (at the urging of William Morris) in 1893. And how do you conserve a 16th century Perisan carpet? One thing you do is send it

to Birmingham where it was washed outside on a specially constructed ramp using local water which comes directly from the Welsh mountains and is low in mineral and chlorine content.
You can also read about the Geometry of the Ardabil Carpet.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Suez Crisis

The Suez crisis was 50 years ago. The Guardian has an interesting series of articles. The first article outlines what happened and illustrates how nation states act like squabbling children. The second article is about how some UK newspapers (including the Guardian) were critical of the war. There is an amusing story of how a reporter got proof that the French were colluding with the Isrealis. The next article is about how France, Israel and Britain colluded and tried to keep it a secret. In the fourth article we see how nations behaved like hurt children after the crisis, with the UK turning towards the US and France turning away. Finally the unresolved mess that remains.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

World Cup commentators

This Slate piece defends ABC's lead announcers for the World Cup, Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa, saying they were not that bad. I watched games in the US and the UK and I can confidently say that the UK commentators were far superior. Dave O'Brien waffles about what other people said last week, about what is happening next week, about when the golf will be on. He talks about anything but the game in progress. Marcelo Balboa, is just a thug, forever talking about when a player should commit a professional foul. Maybe ABC should dump the announcers and hire some commentators.

Syd fades away

I’ve been wanting to write about Pink Floyd for ages. I read Nick Mason’s book recently and enjoyed it (despite Nick mason's very British inability to say anything bad). I love the Floyd despite all their faults. They were the first group I both adored (going to see The Wall in at Earls Court, listening endlessly to Dark Side of the Moon) and rejected (in post-punk fervor, poor tormented rock stars). Now Syd Barrett has died. In the rare picture of the five member Floyd you can see that Syd has already started to fade away. Finally he is gone.