Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From Russia with Love

Anna Chapman "appears every inch the part, using her charm, beauty and high-society connections to move with ease through the circles of power and use other people to find out state secrets."

I find it hilarious that a lot of the hack profiling of the "femme fatale" at the centre of the cracked Russian spies network in the US appears to be sourced from her Linkedin and Facebook pages.

They seem to be and Apologies if that is wrong.

Let's just luxuriate in vaguely relevant Bond quotes:

Prodnose: Siamese fighting fish, fascinating creatures. Brave but on the whole stupid. Yes they're stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself, and then like SPECTRE... he strikes!

Myself: I find the parallel... amusing.

Prodnose: Our organization did not arrange for you to come over from the Russians just for amusement, Number 3.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Current Events

In the "War of Currents" era (sometimes, "War of the Currents" or "Battle of
Currents") in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over alternating current (AC) advocated by Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.
Edison opposed capital punishment, but his desire to disparage the system of alternating current led to the invention of the electric chair. Harold P. Brown, who was at this time being secretly paid by Edison, constructed the first electric chair for the state of New York in order to promote the idea that alternating current was deadlier than DC.

When the chair was first use, on August 6, 1890, the technicians on hand misjudged the voltage needed to kill the condemned prisoner, William Kemmler. The first jolt of electricity was not enough to kill Kemmler, and only left him badly injured. The procedure had to be repeated and a reporter on hand described it as "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging." George Westinghouse commented: "They would have done better using an axe."

There is such a thing as bad publicity. There's no such thing as bad electricity.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I say! What a bounder

Obviously this morning I am with the majority who think that it is absurd that Frank Lampard's goal wasn't given and that the introduction of technology to sense if a ball crosses the line in first class matches is a no-brainer.

Will it be infallible though? I remember Boris Onishchenko in the 1976 Olympic Modern Pentathlon?

During Onishchenko's bout with their captain, Jim Fox, the British team protested that Onishchenko's weapon had gone off without actually hitting anything.

In electric épée fencing, a touch is registered on the scoring box when the tip of the weapon is depressed with a force of 750 grams, completing a circuit formed by the weapon, body cord, and box. It was found that his épée had been modified to include a switch that allowed him to close this circuit without actually depressing the tip of his weapon. Unlike foil, there are no off-target hits in épée, so Onishchenko could get away with this form of cheating if it appeared to onlookers that he had struck anything at all.

Newspapers decried him as "Disonischenko" and "Boris the Cheat". Onishchenko earned the enmity of other Soviet Olympic team members: for example, USSR volleyball team members threatened to throw him out of the hotel's window if they met him.

I should really purse my lips, but there is a certain caddish swagger in rigging up a switch that let's you score at will that appeals to something disreputable in me. Not knowing what Onishchenko looks or looked like, I can't help but visualise him as Terry-Thomas.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Here We Come A-wassailing

I drove down to Cardiff yesterday to see Phil before he emigrated, only to find that almost everyone else in Great Britain was on their way there as well for Armed Forces Day and/or the Paul McCartney gig in the Millennium Stadium enormo dome.

I took the flag of St George off the car at the service station before the Severn Bridge as there's no sense in tempting providence. I hope this wasn't some kind of curse as it won't be going back up now that Germany have walloped England four one and they're out of the World Cup.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Evil of Two Lessers

Well folks, here it is the the Rolling Stone article that brought down a general.

Compare and contrast Churchill and Alan Brooke in WWII. That is all I have to say. No links. You do a bit of research if you're interested enough.

Friday, June 25, 2010

a true gent

The two guys in white suits practising ne-waza attacks against their defending partners in the phtoto above are: Ben has got a poster of Inoue in action on his bedroom wall at home, though he didn't recongise him as the face is obscured and he put it up "because it looked cool".

The official opening of the dojo and Clubmark Award was a night to remember.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh, what's occurring?

Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September 1961 in Barry, Wales, United Kingdom) is the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, and is the first woman to hold that office. She was sworn in as Australia's 27th Prime Minister on 24 June 2010.
A Welsh Born Icon previously unknown to me.

Prodnose: Oh, that red head of hers is no lie.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slovenia and success

Winston Gordon (see Icons passim) won a gold medal at judo in Celje, Slovenia last weekend. It only occurred to me last night (very likely because I am as stupid as a goose) that this is the same Slovenia that England are facing in a do-or-die football match this afternoon.

This is how the BJA reported it:

Leading the way was long-time standout Winston Gordon who provided a timely reminder of the talent which saw him compete at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, by surging to gold in the under 90kg weight category.

Gordon, 33, who was returning to the British fold after a nine month absence, showed he was in peak condition as he continued his return from a knee injury.

“It’s a nice feeling to get back in the swing of things,” said Gordon.

“I went out and I enjoyed it, it’s important to make sure I’m ticking all the right boxes and my techniques are looking sharp. Hopefully I can push from here and keep on the mind of the selectors.”

Gordon, who's itching to compete at London 2012, won his five fights in emphatic fashion, four coming by way of ippon.
I see him regularly when I take the Bomber to his judo lessons, so I've watched him go from crutches, to a walking stick, and back to the podium over 2009 and 10.

It is an inspiring example of character. Would that England's football team exhibited similar moxie.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare

Beuys’s first solo exhibition in a private gallery opened on November 26, 1965 with one of the artist’s most famous and compelling performances: How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. The artist could be viewed through the glass of the gallery’s window. His face was covered in honey and gold leaf, an iron slab was attached to his boot. In his arms he cradled a dead hare, into whose ear he mumbled muffled noises as well as explanations of the drawings that lined the walls.
Beuys our troubles are over.

"So no, creativity is not about ‘blue-sky thinking’ but about destruction and loss, transformed into art through the arduous creative process."

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Scottish Play

I went - as a last minute sub - to see Macbeth at the Globe on Saturday night. It's the first time I've ever been and it's great.

It opened in 1997 so I have been "on the brink" of bowling up there for thirteen years. I'll certainly be going again before 2023.

Curiously, I found out yesterday that Ollie and her mum are going there tonight to see Henry VIII. Small world etc.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Après moi le déluge

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of coffee cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives

"I didn't come here to save the day," an emotional Costner told reporters here on Friday, adding: "I have come to participate."

It's still far from a happy ending, but I can't help but be cheered by BP's decision to add Kevin Costner's Ocean Therapy Solutions technology to its arsenal in fighting the oil spill.

Hedy Lamarr's U.S. Patent 2,292,387 serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones.

Imagine reading the National Enquirer if I edited it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Artemis Fowl

Reading this morning in the Grauniard that "the children of Britain have spoken, choosing Eoin Colfer's modern bestseller Artemis Fowl as their favourite Puffin of all time ahead of classic titles including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Stig of the Dump", I've popped the book into my Amazon wishlist as a reminder to pick a copy up for the Bomber.

Amazon sell a downloadable Artemis Fowl (Unabridged) audio edition of the book as well as the text itself so I may invest in that at the same time. I've been working though Stephen Fry's unabridged Harry Potter readings with Ben on our drives to Cardiff etc. and supplementing that with the physical books which seems to be a good way of kick starting a reading habit.

I've thought for a while though that what I would really like to be able to buy is a license for a book that included the book and access to an audio version in a single package. It would work for me as well him. It would be handy to be able to listen from wherever I am up to in the Millennium trilogy next time I have to drive somewhere, grinding as I currently am through three brick size paperbacks.

Any publishers listening?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Golden Eyeful

You know the world is changing when the next Bond movie is on "indefinite hold" but Daniel Craig is in the next Bond video game.

I can remember Raybs playing the original GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. He would often pistol whip his foes on the backside rather than shooting them and roar with laughter. I was never quite sure if that was a good or bad thing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Round and Round

Our Twitter App got caught in the same bind as everyone else yesterday and Tweeted the same message once a minute from quarter past eight in the morning until nine when I got into the office, noticed the problem and shut it down.

During this period our client lost followers after months of steady gains. Admittedly it was only 0.15% of them, but - note to self - there is no reason for them to give a hoot whose fault it was.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Boy with a Chip on his Shoulder

I just finished reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

It was almost entirely devoid of literary merit.

The story would occasionally shudder to a halt so that the author could subject the reader to a "Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" style explicatory rant on misogyny in contemporary Sweden.

I've never read a book in which the characters made so many sandwiches. (It was strangely reminiscent of Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski having a bath every two minutes.)

I read the section in which (plot spoiler ahead) a dungeon in which girls have been degraded and done to death is discovered and described, as I was sitting on a bench in the park half watching my nine year old play with his friends, and felt disgusted.

Yet on completing it, I went out and bought the next two volumes in the trilogy; a page turner indeed.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Four days into the Wold Cup, and my brain is already completely frazzled by the droning of the vuvuzela.

A vuvuzela, sometimes called a "lepatata" (its Setswana name) or a stadium horn, is a blowing horn approximately 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in length. It is commonly blown by fans at football matches in South Africa. The instrument requires some lip and lung strength to blow and emits a loud monotone (B♭). Commentators have described the sound as "annoying" and compared it with "a stampede of noisy elephants," "a deafening swarm of locusts," "a goat on the way to slaughter" and "a giant hive full of very angry bees."

The sound level of the instrument has been measured at 131 dB(A) at the opening of the horn and at 113 dB(A) two metres in front of the opening, both dangerously high levels for unprotected ears.
Perhaps - as the tone it drones is B♭- I could try drowning it out by amping up a guitar through a flanger and jamming on Purple Rain for the entire ninety minutes of any game I watch? A cure can be worse than the disease.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The Bomber won a silver medal yesterday at the British Judo London Area Pro Active Fundamental Event so I am chuffed.

I haven't got any photgraphs though. You were allowed to use cameras as long as you registered at the desk but camera phones were absolutely verboten; some sort of incomprehensible child protection measure I suppose

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Great Spare-Time Revolution

I am posting this link to Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution somewhat ironically as I haven't had time to read it yet, and there is so much we have planned to do today that I am blogging at quarter to seven in the morning in case I don't have time later.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On me 'ead, son!

The World Cup is upon us.

For those of you who remain bewildered by the mysterious global appeal of the world's most popular sport, for example, I can guarantee that this book will bewilder you even more—but in a good way! Attend to the enduring dictum of the working-class Sophocles of England, the legendary former manager of Liverpool Football Club, Bill Shankly. One of the book's essays quotes from his line: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed in that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."

For those worried by dubious behavior on Wall Street, see the splendid essay "How to Appreciate the Fingertip Save," in which Edward Winters quotes the guiding principle of Albert Camus—the existential novelist who played goalkeeper as a young man in Algeria: "All that I know of morality I learnt from football."

Or, for those who believe that the irresistible universality of the game will be breaking through in America any day now, see the essay "The Hand of God and Other Soccer . . . Miracles?" in which Kirk McDermid cites St. Thomas Aquinas' identification of the crucial elements that make an event truly miraculous.

Robert Northcott discusses Kierkegaard's concept of anxiety in relation to penalty shots, but right now the Danish philosopher's thinking is best applied to England's dark, neurotic fear of what would be a thoroughly deserved national disgrace should the United States beat England in the teams' opening World Cup match on Saturday.

Is there, perhaps, one too many high-flown footballing philosophy in the book? There is. (And there isn't.) The claim that Nietzsche would have been an enthusiastic supporter of the London club, Arsenal, is curiously speculative when everyone knows that he would have rooted for the steamrollers of Europe, Inter Milan. Another of the essayists—raving about the artistic skills of one of the greatest footballers of our time, Cristiano Ronaldo—calls on the aesthetics of Plato and Aristotle to ponder: "Is Ronaldo a Modern Picasso?" To which we might be tempted to respond: "Maybe so. But could Picasso bend it like Beckham?"

And then where would we be? The answer to that is exactly where the authors of "Soccer and Philosophy" want us to be: thinking in fresh and intriguing ways about the Beautiful Game we thought we knew. "The Loneliness of the Referee," Jonathan Crowe's wonderful essay, is particularly appealing to all who, like myself, yell irrational abuse at that ultimate despot and strutting God of the stadium, the ref. But only when his unbelievably blind decisions go against us. The referee, in other words, is to blame for everything.

Mr. Crowe first reminds us that the existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was an avid student of football—see his "Critique of Dialectical Reason," where he remarks with undeniable wisdom: "In a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team."

See Icons passim, as ever.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

"Grand Baseball Matches in Welsh and American Style." Quite so, as the two world centres of baseball are:
  1. the USA
  2. Cardiff

Wikipedia provides the skinny.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In the Wandle

Police are trying to determine if a headless body dragged from the River Wandle by police divers on Monday morning could have originated in Croydon.

Pathologists at St George’s Hospital were conducting a post-mortem on the unidentified man while police kept a 100m section of the river downstream of Plough Lane, Wimbledon, sealed off, at the time of going to press.

Unconfirmed reports suggest divers were back in the river, yards from the former home of Wimbledon FC, searching for a head on Tuesday morning.

Police are unclear if the heavily decomposed body broke up naturally or as a result of criminal behaviour. A homicide investigation is pending results from the post-mortem.

A passer-by walking along the towpath alerted police at 9.30am on Monday after spotting the body floating in the river yards from the new Sanctuary housing development.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

And so it goes

I have been following since Chris blogged about his movie last year.

Yesterday I read:
MERANTAU WARRIOR UK RELEASE TODAY! Available for download on iTunes at

So I bought, downloaded and watched it last night. It is great by the way. Interesting as well that my purchase was entirely sparked and accomplished online; Chris Howells blog begat Gareth Evan's Twitter begat Steve Jobs' ITunes.

I was really only peripherally aware that you could buy and rent movies from ITunes, and must look more deeply into it. Would I be able to carry Merantau round on an IPhone if I had one for example?

Monday, June 07, 2010

In like Flynn

Strasbourg, 04.06.2010 – The handling of the H1N1 pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), EU agencies and national governments led to a “waste of large sums of public money, and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public”, according to a report by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) made public today in Paris.

The report, prepared by Paul Flynn (United Kingdom, SOC) and approved today by the committee ahead of a plenary debate at the end of this month, says there was “overwhelming evidence that the seriousness of the pandemic was vastly overrated by WHO”, resulting in a distortion of public health priorities.

Presenting his report, Mr Flynn told the committee: “this was a pandemic that never really was”, and described the vaccination programme as “placebo medicine on a large scale”.

In its adopted text, the committee identifies what it calls “grave shortcomings” in the transparency of decision-making about the outbreak, generating concerns about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on decisions taken. Plummeting confidence in such advice could prove “disastrous” in the case of a severe future pandemic, it warns.

In particular, the WHO and European health institutions were not willing to publish the names and declarations of interest of the members of the WHO Emergency Committee and relevant European advisory bodies directly involved in recommendations concerning the pandemic, the parliamentarians point out.

However, attending the meeting was Fiona Godlee, the Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal, who told the parliamentarians that, according to an
investigation by her journal, scientists who drew up key WHO guidelines on stockpiling flu vaccines had previously been paid by drug companies which stood
to profit.
Interesting n'est-ce pas? This is damning stuff. Here's a PDF of the provisional report. I will be intrigued to see how much coverage this gets in the UK media up to and after the debate "by parliamentarians from all 47 Council of Europe member states on Thursday 24 June during PACE’s summer session in Strasbourg". Is that the same thing as the European Parliament? I'm ashamed to say I don't know.

Cardiff and St Illtyd's Paul Flynn is acknowledged as a Welsh Born Icon.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mestre Celso

A mate of Ben's came round for tea on Thursday, so we picked him up from a capoeira lesson as it was just down the road.

The session took place in the park rather than the community centre as it was a beautiful day, and I got to watch the last quarter or hour or so from a bench. It was being taught by an older fellow who a little Internet research as identified as Mastre Celso.

It certainly did my heart good to see a man in his eighth decade doing cartwheels on the grass and smiling as he passed on his skills to a gang of kids. For all that, from what I could see, it wouldn't be that much use in an honest to God tear up, capoeira did look like a healthy lifestyle.

"Smart clothes could soon be helping their wearers cope with the stresses of modern life," says the BBC. Get outside while the sun's shining say I.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The new broom

I realise you don't care about this but I've been looking at Downing Street's announcement of the web traffic for May on the Number10 website.

They report 3,602,030 page views in May, up from 1,142,168 in April which is credible as the election was on May 6th.

They then claim that they have had 14,148,516 page views in 2010 giving a monthly average of 2,829,703. That sounds like bunk. Is it really credible that the web site traffic in April was less than half the monthly average when Gordon Brown went to Buckingham Palace on April 6 to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament?

I submit ladies and gentlemen of the jury that the bean counters at No 10 have taken a twelve month figure for total traffic and divided it by five instead of twelve. One twelfth of 14,148,516 is a much more reasonable 1,179,043.

This is not a very encouraging illustration of the numeracy of our new masters.

"Never Say Never" Again

1. The Problem

2. The Solution

Shaved Bieber is a series of innovative tools to clean up the lower regions of web pages from unwanted Justin Bieber content. Shave away those Bieber mentions on web sites with our bookmarklet, Firefox Add-on, or JavaScript files.

3. The Reaction

If you wish to bask in the full, developing story, Greg is posting the standout gems at For now, we'll play out with our Tween Commenter of the Week, who is 15-year-old Alex from Switzerland. "What you're doing is going back to world war two all over again," Alex explains. "Hitler wanted to erase Jews from society, you want to erase Justin Drew Bieber."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

the charnel grounds

The day after a cab driver went postal in Cumbria killing 12 people and injuring a further eleven, the idea of locking yourself into a mock spaceship to simulate an 18-month mission to Mars has its attractions.

Actually living in a JG Ballard dystopia (Super-Cannes and Thirteen to Centaurus spring to mind in respective reference to the two incidents above) is not necessarily something to relish.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Don't hold your breath

President Barack Obama meets with BP Oil Spill Commission co-chairs, former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, second from left, and former EPA Administrator William Reilly, second from right, in the Oval Office, June 1, 2010. Also attending the meeting are John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, left, and Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change right. June 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
I seem to recall that on January 23rd 2009, President Obama signed an executive order stating that Guantanamo Detention Camp would be closed within the year. It's still open, so I wouldn't put a lot of hope in the "BP Oil Spill Commission " if I was you.

I'm also a touch bemused by what appears to be the complete disengagement of the UK government from the disaster. You'd think that there would be at least sympathetic noises (even if a trifle platitudinous) coming from Whitehall, as it was British Petroleum who pulled the plug and fumbled the finger in the dike.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hail the Judo Taxi

Corgi have unveiled a judo branded taxi in their collection of official London 2012 merchandise – part of Destination London 2012, a range of 40 London 2012 inspired 1:64 taxis.

The exciting new range follows on from the popular London 2012 Olympic handover bus that was released in October 2009. Made by London 2012 licensee, Corgi, a Hornby brand, the models contain official London 2012 livery and branding. Each model also carries a pictogram of a particular sport appearing in the Games along with special ‘did you know’ facts on the featured sport.
Which is already weird enough even before noting that what appears to be delivered in the illustration is an old fashioned kick in the knackers rather than tomoe nage.