Friday, February 29, 2008

Going Swimmingly

People who've seen him are forever telling me, unprompted, that my little boy is good at Thai boxing. It happened again this week, and I'm proud that he seems to have some talent for it as opposed to being proud of him for having a talent.

I take him to swimming lessons as well. At the end of last term his friend Jonnie got promoted leaving Ben one class below. He buckled down, asked Ian the teacher what he had to do to catch up, did it, and was promised he could move up after half term.

Yesterday was the first lesson after half term. Mission accomplished, and I want to record that I am proud of him for pulling it off.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Did you know that there is a fine Nepalese restaurant about half way between Tooting Bec and Balham tube stations? Just stop for a minute and think about it. Isn't that great?

I don't know what I was expecting at Gurkhas Diner particularly, but I was surprised and delighted.
The light and spacious room has a parquet floor, This is a restaurant where your napkins comes in a stylish napkin ring. There are also oversized wine glasses and great effort has been made with the presentation of the dishes on the plate.

We had Dayalu, Takeko Farshi, Tarai Chicken, Sunsari Pork, Lukla Simi, and Bhat. You can look at the menu for yourself to see what it all means.

HIghly recommended: Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wake Up Boilers!

Sean's new book, "The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Legacy in Plato and Nietzsche" has finally arrived from Amazon which means I will almost certainly end up reading it over our skiing holiday next week and cementing my deserved reputation as the one of the world's leading poseurs.

It's not the first time his publishing schedule has done this to me. Years ago in Cyprus a girl asked me what the large format paperback I was reading as I sprawled on a recliner next to the swimming pool might be. I took a deep breath and announced that it was "The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida". We never spoke again.

I googled "Sean Burke Plato" looking for reviews and came up with this blog post written by a former student of his. I'm not sure that I recognise the character it portrays, but then again I've known the subject since primary school so we are a long way past shyness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I was fooling around with photomosaics over the weekend for a project that may - or may not - come to fruition and produced the image above.

The photo is John and Dave from last year's Childline Challenge. Click on it, load the full size version and zoom in. You'll find it is made of hundreds of other little photos.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Something Good '08

I propose this as the theme tune and dance for the wave of sporting euphoria sweeping the Principality.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sports Round Up

Wales 47-8 Italy: I'm delighted provide this link that can be used again and again for the next week to watch the game (UK only unfortunately).

Remember that when Italy beat us last year we were languishing at the bottom of the table with four losses from four games; this year we have three wins from three, and masters of all we survey courtesy of England's victory against France.

Moving from Wales versus England to something that is more like a Wales/Italy joint venture, John and I had been toying with the idea of going to Vegas for the Calzaghe/Hopkins fight on April 19th. We've finally agreed that it is not really a practical proposition, what with one thing and another, so this means that I will be definitely be available for the Childline Challenge on Sunday April 20th.

What kind of performance I will put in after staying up to the early hours to watch the boxing live from Nevada I don't know, but at least (as previously agreed), I only have to do the swimming and running as Chris is signed up for the cycling.

If I break my leg skiing next week, I won't have to do either of course.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Alpha Male, Beta Software, Gamma Ray

Completing an unlikely Microsoft trilogy, I present this extraordinary video: Bill Gates Last day at Microsoft:

Why do all the top brass at MSoft talk exactly like Kermit the frog?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Microsoft 2.0

There is much sound and fury in the media today about Microsoft offering APIs and more for interoperability.

I've looked at what they've posted on the web so that you don't have to, and to he honest I managed to tear myeslf away as there was some paint I fancied watching drying.

I had hoped for more from the Ray Ozzie regime.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?

A "stay-at-home" server: you know it's the right thing for your family. But how do you explain this wonderful choice to your children? Finally, there's a book that talks about the home server using small words and fun pictures, perfect for kids. Written by Tom O'Connor and lovingly illustrated by Jill Dublin, this is a book you and your family will want to read over and over again.

Microsoft really is beyond parody sometimes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Half Term

The New Ninja Bomber is attending a football course run by Fulham FC this week.

It struck me when I was making his packed lunch this morning, that if you are going to be running around outside in shorts for six hours a day in temperatures as cold as London in February what you need is fuel. I wonder if I can get some pemmican a la Scott of the Antarctic. 50% pounded meat and 50% melted fat, the food police would have kittens.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

The World’s Creative Hub

A list of more than 20 schemes, intended to turn Britain into the “world’s creative hub”, has been drawn up by ministers and will be unveiled in a Green Paper this week, putting flesh on the bones - God help us - 0f:

Establishing a five-hour a week “cultural offer” for children and young people
Introducing “creative apprenticeships” for 1,000 young people
Creation of a new college of digital media, and encouraging other similar institutions
Exploring the possibility of creating a academy for the creative arts for 14 to 25-year-olds
Promoting art and design colleges and conservatoires
Using Arts Councils to “promote the objectives of the creative economy programme”
Local network of “beacon agencies” for creative industries
New entreprise fund for creative industries
Fostering greater cooperation in the fashion industry
A £10 million research and development fund Extra start-up cash and training for riskier new film ventures
Skills Department to lead strategic review of the economic and social impact of innovation
Regional creative economy strategy frameworks
A “menu for local infrastructure” to help give creative industries better space and planning guidance
Mixed media centres: nurture digital film talent in six centres nationwide
Protection of live music venues, such as Astoria and Hammersmith Palais
Move to require internet service providers to take action on illegal file sharing
Intellectual property enforcement teams and a forum to bring together stakeholders
Putting intellectual property issues in the curriculum
Making the public aware of intellectual property
Work with partners to develop Davos-style “world creative economy forum”
Creative festivals season including permanent home for London Fashion Week and Southbank film centre
UK Trade International five-year strategy to make Britain more competitive in creative industries.

My particular favourite is "fostering greater cooperation in the fashion industry" (Nipple Clamps for Labour anyone?), but each idea has its own special Orwellian demerits.

Which will be the biggest fiasco do you think?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Come Out Writing


The International Olympic Committee is for the first time permitting athletes to write blogs.

The IOC has set out guidelines for blogging at the Beijing Games to ensure copyright agreements are not infringed.

I'm amazed. Who are they to permit it or not?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

To Say Today

Nearly didn't get to post today. Only three minutes until midnight. Thank goodness that I've nothing to say.

Friday, February 15, 2008

One Act Bladder

'Earnest' was apparently Victorian slang for 'gay'; 'Cecily' was a well-known name for rent boys.

Oh dear. The quote from the programme above and a lukewarm review from The Evening Standard, left me fearing the worst as I settled into my seat at the Vaudeville Theatre for Peter Gill's latest. Then the curtain opened, Algernon and Lane started talking nonsense about piano playing, cucumber sandwiches and champagne and all was well with the world.

The Importance of Being Earnest can be classified with Cyrano de Bergerac. If you are capable of watching a production of either without enjoying it then you are so jaded that you should be forbidden from the theatre.

We were also treated to an interval after each act. Two G&T's and two loo breaks greatly enhance any comedy when you are given to arriving as well refreshed as I tend to.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Am I Blue?

Thump the Clouds have come to mind this morning as I met up with AndyM and a bunch of other folk earlier this week, so for your Valentine's present you can have the lyrics to an eight bar blues of ours from back in the day. It's all very sad, but then it is the blues after all and the last word links to a deliriously romantic story. Cheer up, it might never happen.

I came to the party
I saw you again
It's hard to believe this
But it took me way back when
To when I first met you
The scene of the crime
To once upon a time

Sucking white wine up
From a paper cup
To kid myself that there was
No need for a cover up
I asked you a question
You told me a lie
You didn't see me cry

I woke up on Sunday
I wrote down this song
And started to think that
I had been away too long
I thought of that singer
Of love and of life lived in vain
And headed for the train.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Got the horn?

A duck-billed dinosaur that possessed a built in horn to woo females has been found in Mexico.
Velafrons coahuilensis possessed a built-in horn which it used to woo females
The 25ft creature, a youngster that would have grown up to be around 35 ft, had a fan-shaped bony crest on its skull filled with nasal passages.
The 72 million-year-old dinosaur, named Velafrons coahuilensis, probably performed to attract mates.
Scientists believe the appendage may have been used as a kind of trumpet, with air blown through it to make showy or seductive sounds. read on.
See also "teenage pregnancy common in dinosaurs". I'm starting to toy with a hypothesis that they died out because of binge drinking, loud music and wanton promiscuity. Perhaps I could get the Daily Mail to commission a few hundred words on the subject.

......... I had that T. Rex in the back of my cab once ...............

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Great Minds

Has any other reader noticed the remarkable resemblance betweeen Doris Lessing, the octogenarian Nobel literature laureate and "epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny," and Bernard "B-Hop" Hopkins who is due to be subjected to Joe Calzaghe's scrutiny with scepticism, fire and power on April 19th?
I wonder if they are, by any chance, related?

Hopkins: "Barack Obama 'will be assassinated within months' if he wins presidency"

Lessing: "They would kill him," the 88-year-old author of novels The Grass Is Singing and The Golden Notebook said in an interview, though she did not specify who she believed would kill Mr Obama.

Prodnose: Well that's something of a hostage to fortune don't you think?
Myself: John 19:22; Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

Monday, February 11, 2008

High Rise

I had to replace my original el grupo book choice a few weeks back because "A Solider's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point" isn't published in the UK yet.

I'm now recommending Suketu Mehta's account of Bombay, "Maximum City". Thanks to the blog I have a record here of what I thought when I read it myself three years ago.

The post also reminds me that in February 2005 the BBC was reporting on Bombay slums being forcefully cleared. In 2008 The Times reports:

A flagrant style of luxury living is springing up above Bombay’s densely populated slums for a select few prosperous enough to spend up to £5 million on a designer apartment.
Bombay is the seventh most expensive place in the world to buy an apartment, according to the Global Property Guide, despite half the 18 million population living in slums without a lavatory or running water.

I propose a new HTML tag to be used a follows:

That's <irony> progress </irony> I suppose.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wrath of the Lich King

The New Ninja Bomber (courtesy of his maternal grandmother) is enhancing his World of Warcraft access with the "Burning Crusade" expansion pack. "Burning Crusade" sold 2.4 million copies on the day it was released in January 2007. No album could post anything like those numbers these days.

According to Amazon, The Wrath of the Lich King - which is the next expansion pack - is due to be released the day before his birthday this year.
The Lich King Arthas has set in motion events that could lead to the extinction of all life on Azeroth. With the armies of the undead and the necromantic power of the plague threatening to sweep across the land, only the mightiest heroes can oppose the Lich King's will and end his reign of terror for all time.

That's a shoe in for a present then, including as it does "new hairstyles and dances".

(I was amazed when the Queen's Christmas broadcast notched up a million or so YouTube viewings, but this video showing the origin of Word of Warcraft dances has been watched nearly seven and a half million times. Include me out!)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Killing the Radio Star

We are up to week four of the "Contender Asia". AVI available here.

I've installed the DiVX Mobile application on my mobile phone, and that seems to play AVI format videos with no problem at all.

The Nokia N95 comes with a TV-Out cable, so I watched the show last night by plugging my mobile phone into the TV.

That seemed truly bizarre.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I Playing

The news had rather passed me by I am afraid, but the BBC's IPlayer has been offering streaming video since December.

It's an intriguing development and means that you can watch Wales beat England again and again here, (well at least for one more day). I imagine that the Wales Scotland game will be up over the weekend.

From what I can gather, flash is the video format used. The BBC doesn't offer a straighforward way of embedding moving pictures in blog posts like this. It shouldn't be beyond the wit of man to hack one though. I may try and have a look at it, time permitting.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


"Girls like literacy, and boys like maths." Thus sprake the New Ninja Bomber this week. I was a little put out by this, demanding as I do, the Trivium and the Quadrivium. How did we ever imagine that artes liberales in primary schools would be safe in the hands of Mr Balls?

Given this, I attended the party to launch the organisation of October's 2008 Wimbldeon Bookfest, in a sombre frame of mind. I expected it to be a small affair, but - lo - it was packed to the gills, there was free booze, and they will be doing more stuff for kids this year.

Books are in the rudest of health in SW19.
Trebles all round!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Boiling Down

Time for a new challenge.

I hereby challenge myself to get down to the 175 pound light heavyweight limit by the time of the Calzaghe Hopkins fight in Las Vegas on April 19th.

John beat me in the our first challenge, but I beat him in the second. Both our weights have been recorded in the training blog this morning.

Whoever loses the most weight between today and then wins.

(There is a hint of Lent and penance about kicking this off on Ash Wednesday, don't you think?)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Slow News Day

The Sun newspaper reports that a satellite orbiting Mars has now spotted what looks suspiciously like a big smiley face drawn crudely onto the surface of the red planet.

Disconcertingly reminiscent of the "acid house" faces worn by late-eighties ravers, the vast visage stares out from a crater, beaming a wonky-faced message of goodwill out in to the solar system.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In Bed with Embed

We are three episodes into Contender Asia now. In the course of following it I am becoming more familiar with a video codec called DiVX with which I was previously only peripherally aware.

There seems to be a lot to be said for it. I have embedded the web player below. You will need approve the installation of some code if you want to use it. For some reason it doesn't seem to be working properly in IE. It is fine in Flock though and is perfectly usable full screen. XBOX 360 support should already be in place and PSP is promised.

See also

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Light of My Life, Fire of My Loins

The wonder of woolies:
The Lolita Midsleeper Combi, a whitewashed wooden bed with pull-out desk and cupboard intended for girls aged about 6, was on sale on the Woolworths website for £395.

I'm reading Lolita at the moment, as Chris has assigned it for the next book club meeting,

I generally carry a paperback around with me to help kill quiet moments travelling or waiting.

Lolita is proving quite problematical in this regard. Even I am sensitive enough to realise that its not really being the thing to be seen pulling out while sitting on a park bench watching your seven year old and chums cavorting on the swings, slides and roundabouts.
Whereas many mothers were familiar with Vladimir Nabokov and his famous novel, it seems that the Woolworths staff were not. At first they were baffled by the fuss. A spokesman for the company told The Times: “What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now.”

Quite so.

Also, in "only connect" mode, I see that Mark from my neighbouring Wheelhouse Theatre Company impersonated Humbert Humbert at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006. Perhaps I'll bend his ear about Lolita as well.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


On the eve of taking on Wales at Twickenham on the first weekend of 2008's 6 Nations championship, England's inspirational Johnny Wilkinson has controversially called for tries to be banned from rugby.

"I think it's only fair", said Wilkinson. "You've got to reward the sides that make rugby worth watching, the teams that score mainly drop-goals and penalties and barely pass the ball."

England's captain Phil Vickery backed up his teammate: "Southern hemisphere teams like New Zealand and South Africa are ruining the game with their almost total reliance on tries and running rugby. I don't think British and European fans want to see energetic, free-flowing rugby at the expense of the good old-fashioned, stop-start, kick, lineout, kick, maul, kick, scrum, kick game".

"The current scoring system means less talented teams, like the Welsh 2005 Grand Slam winners, who did practically nothing except run in tries were rewarded with more points than skilful guys who expressed themselves with a whole varied repertoire of kicks. We were kicking to touch, kicking penalities and kicking drop goals yet we still didn't win. It was so frustrating that I felt like kicking myself. Something's got to give, or it'll be the end of rugby as we know it."

Friday, February 01, 2008


A tardy "Eat Your Way Around the World in London" moved its slow thighs across the desert sands to Borough Market on Wednesday night, and thence to Tito's Peruvian Restaurant, 4-6 London Bridge Street SE1 9SG.

Once a bottle of Tacano, from a vineyard established in 1540 (see had been opened and poured, a revelation was at hand.

I started on cod ceviche with sliced sweet potato and fried corn. I first fell in love with ceviche at the Gaucho Grill two years ago.

Wikipedia says:
Ceviche (also spelled as cebiche, seviche or cevice) is a form of citrus marinated seafood salad, popular in many Latin American countries, originating in the Viceroyalty of Peru. One theory suggests that it got its name from the Quechua "siwichi". However, it is likely to be a cognate of another Spanish word, "escabeche" (marinade), derived from the Arabic term "sikbaj". Another theory suggests that its name comes from the word Cebo, name given to the Corvina fish by black Peruvians.
I'm delighted to claim it for Peru.

The main course was Pato en Aji (duck leg in chilli sauce with yellow beans and rice) which is a dish from Huaral, a town in central Peru.

Mmmmm. Beans and rice. From the hoppin' John of the Carolinas, to the feijoada of Brazil. From the vibrantly unPC monicker of Cuba's Moros y Christianos to our very own Garfield's Rice'n Peas. What a story there is to tell.

For your homework (before you follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations) I am setting "Rice and Beans: The Itinerary of a Dish", page 278 to 322 of John and Matt Lewis Thorne's Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots