Thursday, 30 August 2007

The results that prove it

Below: The recurrence of the words Sour and Grapes in Twitter over the last seven days. And below that: the recurrence of the same terms over the last 24 hours. Simply because you cannot argue with the facts. Click on the charts to embiggen. Research by Twitterment at the University of Maryland. And I thought Art History was a cushy number.

Good book news

The former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell received an unwelcome literary accolade today.

His memoir, which has sold over 55,000 copies since its publication in June, may be "the most compelling and revealing account of contemporary politics you will ever read" according his publishers, Hutchinson, but it appears not to be compelling enough for readers to want to hang on to it. A new survey compiled by the hotel chain Travelodge has The Blair Years topping the list of literary works most often left behind in hotel rooms.


Say it ain't so

I was just watching a DVD of season four of Six Feet Under, episode five, That's My Dog, in which David picks up this whack-job who kidnaps him and beats him up etc. And I thought to myself, OMG he's waterskiing! And here comes a large fin-bearing fish creature! I'm sitting there, my mouth agape, thinking WTF? Did we just have a Moonlighting in black and white moment? Did the entire cast of Chicago Hope just go into a Bob Fosse-style song'n'dance number, including Hector Elizondo?

I really hated that episode, and I have been enjoying this show. I think it's funny, clever, insightful. Sure, there were times when they went too far. I don't know why Brenda is back when she has nothing to do with the Fishers any more. I don't know who the fuck wrote all the stuff about ART. I hate how Kathy Bates went off on holiday and didn't come back. What was that with Ruth and the guy from the US Office (who was fantastic, BTW, don't get me wrong, but nuzzling like horses??!!1>?!).

So it's had its rough moments. But I'm afraid it just jumped the shark. Tell me I'm wrong, all you who have seen it. I'd like to be prepared.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Guest editor deal

Bono can come and guest-edit my blog the day I get to guest-sing on his next Top Forty hit. You got that, shades-boy? Not a minute before.

Do they even have Top Forty hits any more?

Bono on the wrong side of the velvet rope yesterday

Ron Mueck

Babs Bitchin (who I came to via Paula) blogged about this artist Ron Mueck, and gave a link, which led me to a half-hour video on his work, in particular the creation of one fantastic piece. It's absolutely well worth the time. Mueck is a hyper-realist who came out of the special FX industry. So is it art or is it only modelling? I came away thinking it was definitely art, with more craftsmanship than most.


click image to biggify

From the awesome new Howtoons, a how-to site aimed at kids but containing stuff for parents too, like this handy explanation of the Beaufort Scale. Totally educational -- like this instructable on how to make a fart machine.

I love this site, and I'm not even being paid to say that.

Nice work if you can get it

Two China virtual police to patrol online for porn


Girl, Thirteen has uploaded her first video to YouTube. My little girl is all grown up *snif*.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Underground art

Some great pictures of the sewers. No really. And an interview with an "urban explorer" who hangs out down there. It's slightly eww. Rub some Vick's on your top lip. That's a trick cops use when dealing with dead bodies, according to some TV show or other.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Cool Britannia

Presumably for storing your Eton Trifles.

I do wonder how successful a company called SMEG can hope to be in Britain.

According to the spec, the fridge is hinged to the right. As you might expect.

Enormous boner

Walrus penis sold for fortune.

Amazingly, you have to click on a tiny thumbnail of a guy's face to get to the complete picture. Only in America.

The Fat Lady sings

Tonight they're airing the last episode (ever) of The Sopranos.

I'm taping it, and it should be ending in just a few minutes from me writing this.

I can hardly wait to find out what happens.

UPDATE: Now that I've seen it, I think it's a lot less subtle than I would have expected. It's cut quite unlike that sort of scene should be, far too many reaction-shots paying attention to far too many signals. It's a pretty ham-fisted way of building suspense -- "Look! No look over there! No there!". That sort of montage is allowable only if something is going to happen, and WE KNOW something is going to happen.

But in the last episode, we don't expect something to happen. We know there's been a truce with the Little Guy. We know Phil has been popped (like a watermelon) with their tacit blessing. It doesn't make narrative sense to have Tony whacked at this point. When you put the two things together -- the end of hostilities and the protest-too-much cutting of the Holsten's scene -- it's clear to me that T lives to fight another day. All that frantic cutting is to show us how he lives every day, how he can never afford to relax. Yeah because we never got that throughout the whole six seasons. This guy's mother and his uncle both tried to whack him more than once, have we forgotten that?

How they handled the black-out here was really botched. Often TV shows will cut right off without even showing end-credits, presumably because they think the mothers and aunts of key-grips won't be watching on Flemish TV. All reports on the original broadcast of the last ep said there was a ringing of the door, then a black-out that was held just a little too long, so that people thought there was something wrong with the cable.

Never mind all that. Here, the bell at the door rings, T looks up, black-out and boom, credits come right up. Not a second to wonder. Bad.


The Journal of the Street of Walls has published an article explaining the phenomenon of LOLcats.

So that's all the fun gone out of that forever. Bastards.

I can haz sik-bukkit?


Check this out.

A (free) program to snip the tourists out of your holiday snaps artistic photo-essays from far-flung destinations.

If only there were some way to airbrush the fuckers out of real life.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Short shameful confession

I just dropped a piece of somosa under my desk, and I bent over to pick it up off the floor and eat it, and I think I got a dead moth instead. Is somosa meant to be kind of dusty and papery?

Okay now I need a purgative.

More mashups

Milan Kundera + Terry Southern + George Eliot =

The Unbearable Lightness of Candy Floss

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Back in time

Proof that the Seventies never really went away.

Dog bites man

Click to biggify

Created with the totally awesome StripGenerator.

Blogger made us all columnists. Now StripGenerator will make us all Charlie Schultz.

UPDATE: See my new stripblog Dog Bites Man. Don't worry, it's supposed to be lame. It's post-lame, if you will.

Paxperson lashes out

Paxperson lashes out at BBC and everyone else in television.

Money quote:

He also said the licence fee was outdated.

"The idea of a tax on the ownership of a television belongs in the 1950s. Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?" he said.

Full text of the speech here.

Dog bites Action man

US probes 'friendly fire' deaths.

The US has begun an investigation into the deaths of three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan by "friendly fire" from US fighter planes.
Gosh I wonder whether they'll find there was no culpability on the part of the US pilots. The suspense is intolerable.

Concentration camp Tarot cards

I've already flagged this in Shared Items, but it's worth another mention here: a set of hand-drawn Tarot cards depicting life in a concentration camp. From the site:

Boris Kobe (1905 - 1981) – Slovenian architect and painter was a political prisoner at the concentration camp of Allach, a sub-camp of Dachau. Reproductions of the cards were provided courtesy of the Slovenian delegation to the Stockholm International Conference in the year 2000 to all educators.

Slovenia’s major contribution at the International Conference was an installation of concentration camp tarot cards of Kobe – which in a unique way, created a special monument to historical memory.

The contextual framework and point of departure of the art project is a deck of tarot cards made in the Allach concentration camp in Germany by Kobe, a Slovene architect and painter. As a whole, this work of art represents a visual summary of life in a concentration camp, the main vehicle of which consists of Kobe's tragic and humiliating sequences spiced with acrid humor. At the same time, this tiny exhibit is a miniature chronicle of the twilight of humanity brought about by Nazism, which regarded a human being, and therefore the artist himself, as a mere number.

The installation has the character of an integral work of art or an ambience that, apart from the visual and spatial elements, is enriched by music. The artistic metamorphosis of the traditional danse macabre theme is the focus of the projection, which emphasizes the phenomenon of violence as the greatest evil of 20th century European history.

Allach, a sub-camp of Dachau, was ten miles from the main camp and was liberated on April 22, 1945 by American forces, 42nd Rainbow Division.

There are no words to convey what these pictures represent.

ETA: Image converted for reasons of speed of loading, at some cost to quality. Visit the link to see them in their full majesty.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Life is a doughnought

The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.


An artist's impression of the shape of the Universe as we now know it, showing nebulae, constellations, photons and planets (not Pluto):

The horror

The tale of a man broken by vicious torture. There is simply no room for this in a civilised world.


“The thing is,” he said, and it was the voice of a man whose soul had died but whose body was condemned to go on, “I miss it.”
I looked at him, too horrified to speak.
“I need them,” he said, and he raised his face to me, a face with empty eyes from which all hope had fled. “Now that I’m out, I don’t know what to do without them. I dream of them. I walk around and see bullets and sub-bullets, headlines and graphical elements, bubble charts and area graphs. And then I wake up, and realize that none of that is available to me now that I’m out. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do.”
I let him go then, and went my way as well. But that face has stayed with me, become, in a way, a burden to me.

God damn the people who do this. And God damn these tears that stain my page George W. Bush.


Nobody knows you're a dog

Unbelievable story in Wired.

Dude of 45 goes online and poses as young Marine, strikes up relationship with 18-year-old hottie. His real wife finds out and busts him. Hottie get it on with genuinely younger guy, making old dude crazy. Old dude kills young dude in jealous rage.

There's another twist to the story you can probably guess. If a TV writer came up with such a plot he'd be laughed off the lot.

But this is real life, folks, where crazy increadible whackjob coincidences are just the starting point.

But don't take my word for it. I may not even be a human.

Things I never knew ...

... about pop music.

Kevin Rowland out of Dexy's Midnight Runners (it says here) played a major part in getting the Proclaimers' careers off the ground, just as his own was about to run into it.

So this guy

is partly responsible for these guys

So he did have one decent idea in his life, then.

World's finest e-cards

Click card for more


SpongeBob bad for kids.

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Roald Dahl + Maurice Sendak = Charles Darwin:

Tales of the Unexpected Where the Wild Things Are

Helth Holtine

Good for brain. Runnign.

Paper say/

Ppaer wrong not not wrong

Grapes plucked

The Daily Grapes has been suspendified. If you click on that link you're an idiot, because I just told you it was suspended.

You clicked on it, didn't you? I know you did, and you know you did.

How the Intertubes looked when I were a lad

Ads by Geewwwgle

It was on this page, honest. It may not be when you look, but it was.

Badly placed Ads by Google are going to be a running feature, I think. I'm so happy I now know how to do screen-caps. Don't laugh, I've only been doing this Electronet stuff about a decade.

Cruel cruel joke

You know when you've been talking to your friends, and you step outside, and when you come back in they've all been taken up into the bosom of Jeebus, and now they're all in Heaven and you're like not? And now you're like screwed for Eternity?

I hate it when that happens.


Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Lifehacker suggests making your To Do lists shorter as a means of getting them done.

Okay I think I've got this one sorted. Here's my list for tomorrow:

And for Friday:

That one still needs a bit of work. Maybe I'll schedule that for Saturday.

Psychology Psoundings

There's no such thing as Internet addiction, according to a leading psychologist dude. Here's a post on Mind Hacks. And here's the pdf of his paper. Not to mention an article in the scholary journal OMG It's Like You Could Totally Read My Mind. And over 300 results on a search of Google Search. And a press release.

Whatever gave people such a ridiculous idea in the first place? This breakthrough is great news, and a blow for common sense.

Maybe now they'll let me out of this place.

An anonymous patient having shameful Interweb pathogens drained from my corpuscles yesterday

Thinking inside the box

Meg over at meish dot org (she mapped the best seats on the London Underground, if you recall) has been applying her analytical skills to the consumption of media, in particular TV series.

She decribes my experience exactly. Whereas the experience of viewing movies at home has all but destroyed the cinema experience (too many people think they can behave in public as they do in their own living room, chomping non-stop, talking, making and taking phone calls etc) the availability of boxed sets of DVDs containing an entire series of TV shows has, for me, highlighted the disadvantages of watching a series when it's broadcast.

Watching TV as it happens has two main plus-points:

  • the excitement of spending a whole week on tenterhooks waiting to find out what happened next. This is a powerful motivator, as people knew who followed the serials in the old silent movies, and before them the subscribers to Victorian magazines who often had to wait a month to get the next instalment of their current novel by the likes of Trollope, Dickens or Thackeray;
  • the shared experience, or what's sometimes called "watercooler TV". People watch their favourite show, and the next morning they talk about it in the office, at school or, increasingly, on the discussion forum set up for the purpose.
The second of those is not of much importance when you live in Belgium. It's of less importance still when you work from home, because they people I could chat with are either Americans (who saw the show a year ago) or Brits (who saw it six months ago). While Flemish and Dutch TV (which is carried on our cable together with the BBC) are keen on all things US (and in particular HBO) the chances of an acquaintance having seen the same show as you are slim.

The excitement of suspense cannot be replaced, but it's sublimated by something that's in many ways the opposite. Where the real-time viewer is limited to a minimal weekly dose, we of the asynchronous community are allowed to binge to our hearts' content. You don't have to, of course, but the opportunity is there. I've done it with series like The Wire (3 seasons), The Sopranos (6), Deadwood (2), Boston Legal (1) and Six Feet Under (2 and counting). Two eps back to back is nothing whatever unusual. Three in a day and you start to feel a little overstuffed. The most I managed was five in one day, and that was The Wire, and by that time you're completely zonked out.

What it means, and this comes back to where Meg started, is that I don't have any great wish to watch real-time TV any more. Usually programmes are on at a time when I'm busy with other stuff, but the VCR is fine for time-shifting. What I really want, though, is to get those great big handfuls of my stuff. All for me, and nobody else.

So I've had trouble with the BBC's broadcast of Heroes, the latest part of which is due to start in 10 minutes. You see, you have to watch the clock. You have to remember to set the timer. You can't be busy doing anything else. And even if you get that all right, your reward is a paltry 45 minutes of drama, which means it's all over just as you're getting warmed up. The worst kind of tease.

It won't do any longer. Technology in this as in so many things has freed us to do as we please, and that's the way it's going to go. I'm on board the train to NoLimits. Give me liberty or give me death. The words "TV licence" have taken on a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Culinary Corner

A local restaurant is advertising:

Moules de Zélande [mussels]
69 préparations

I thought to myself, that doesn't sound very tasty.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Outage outrage

Blogger has announced there will be a "scheduled outage" at something called "4PM PDT", whatever the fuck that means.

So if you're reading this and all of a sud

Arms race

According to the Danger Room blog, military researchers are working on "non-lethal" weapons including bean-bag launchers and water-pistols.

"The assessments done have shown the possibility of designing a portable self-contained unit of 1 – 3 Kg [2 to 7 lbs] that will generate a liquid jet with kinetic energy of up to 100 Joules. Such a jet will provide a damage effect at 5m [17 feet] distance."
Coming soon: pointing and laughing at the enemy, calling him names and slagging off his mum. Nightmare scenario: armed forces resort to first use of sticks and stones, resulting in broken bones.

New broom

I've been cleaning house, virtually speaking, and a few things have changed. The one that concerns otter peeps the most is my shared items from Google Reader. Anyone who's been following those, or subscribed to them, will need to tweak their settings. The new public page is now here, and you'll find an orange RSS thingy when you get there.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Poetry Corner

by SG

Twiglets and hummus
Are unexpectedly yummus.
They don't eat it in the Levant
But that doesn't mean you can't.

50 reasons for having sex

Study takes 50 men and 50 women who have had sex (not necessarily with each other) and asks them what their reasons were for doing it.

Here's the PDF of the paper with the full list, which is actually way more than 50 reasons.

Here are a couple of goodies:

The person was too hot to resist
I wanted to say "I've missed you"
The person was intelligent
I was drunk
I wanted to get a job
I wanted to feel closer to God
I wanted to hurt an enemy
I wanted to get rid of a headache
I wanted to end the relationship

Definitely some worth keeping, should you ever require an excuse.

Bad science

The most spectacularly wrong-headed scientific paper you are every likely to read. And it's not a spoof. It's utterly genuine. Extract:

Down persons during waiting periods, when they get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting down, reminding us of the ‘‘squatting’’ position described by medical semeiotic which helps the venous return. They remain in this position for several minutes and only to rest themselves this position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are waiting at a the bus stop, for instance, or while they are chatting.
There is another pose taken by Down subjects while they are sitting on a chair: they sit with their legs crossed while they are eating, writing, watching TV, as the Oriental peoples do.
Mentioned all over the place, but the full-text version comes via Ben Goldacre at Bad Science.

Don't click on this

Grossest. Video. Ever.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Self-portrait as a self-portrait

You can see this going Escher-wards.

Stephen Fried

Some ghastly old woman called Lynn Barber, whose only claim to fame is that she talks to people more famous than she is, and writes it down in a waspish way, for all the world as if she were in fact the subject, has decided she disapproves of the career of Stephen Fry. For those who may not be aware, Fry is the author of books, the presenter of quite the most intelligent game-show on anyone's telly, the star of a major movie, half of a comedy double-act with the bloke out of House, a bipolar and someone who overcame an early admission to Cambridge conviction for shoplifting.

Lynn Barber thinks that's not enough.

Barber? I think not. See my comment near the bottom. Barbee, I rather think. I hope you agree.

That link again.

Blog self-portrait

So farewell then, Bill Deedes

The veteran journalist William 'Bill' Deedes has died aged 94.

Torygraph obit
Appreciation by Charles Moore
Times obit
Times article
Grauniad obit by Richard Ingrams
Graun news story
Appreciation by Roy Hattersley

Stand by for the Sundays.

UPDATE: Here we go, a day late:

Max Hastings tribute in the Sunday Torygraph -- Max's one regret in life is that he was not Bill.
Another Telegraph feature
The Sindie finally gets around to writing something

Another great pic:

Friday, 17 August 2007

The courage to speak out

The perils of solitude

The absence of the rest of the family is a perfect opportunity to feast on those things they can't abide. So this evening I'm enjoying a couscous dish with spicy merguez sausages, neither of which go down well en famille. I've just been dipping yellow peppers into some tarama from the Greek deli. Last night I had lamb-chops, which I can't even cook in this house when anyone else is around because of the pungent smell of the lamb (I buy it from a halal butcher, of which there are many around here). There's some spinach in the couscous (Boy Nine likes spinach, influensked by Popeye) and there'll be more later. Tomorrow I think it's cod and crevettes with leeks in a cream sauce and tagliatelle. Nobody but me likes leeks.

I'm going to cut some white onions into quarters now and put them on the grill-plate to cook slowly in the grease left behind by the merguez. They'll make an excellent side for the pork-chop and spinach, or just to pluck in my fingers and eat cold as I pass through the kitchen.

Later I'll be continuing to work my way through the second series of Six Feet Under on DVD from the public library. Two euros for thirteen eps, and a week to do it in.

Did I say I miss my family dreadfully? Of course I do.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, 16 August 2007


Totally trenchant review of the Facebook phenomenon, from a user.

I signed up for Facebook, but I'm not convinced it's of any use to me. The onus is on them to prove their worth, I suppose. That's as it should be.

UPDATE: According to this story, people who faff about on Facebook while at work are costing capitalism millions if not billions of dollars. OR MORE! You may well want to ask why Facebook is more to blame than any other Intertubes activity carried out at work, but DON'T!

It's the Interweb. It's just bad, okay?

Hanging would have been too good for him

A Wham! fan tortured neighbours by blasting out their hit Last Christmas all night. Brian Turner repeatedly played the song at full volume from 1am until 4am one night in May this year. However, he has now been silenced after becoming the first noise nuisance to be prosecuted by Newcastle city council's night watch team. Magistrates fined Turner, from Newcastle upon Tyne, £200 and ordered him to pay £215 in costs.


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Smelling salts. someone ... STAT!!1!ONE!

29 minutes on the phone to Mum. Here's the score:

Mum 28.30 minutes
Me 00.30 minutes

It won't surprise you to learn that I won't be blogging any more this evening. Cheers, and thanks for your comprehension.

Obscenity? What obscenity?*

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 — Tom Rogers, a retired Indianapolis detective, toils away most days in his suburban home office reviewing sexual Web sites and other Internet traffic to see whether they qualify as obscene material whose purveyors should be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

His work is financed by a Justice Department grant initially provided through a Congressional earmark inserted into a spending bill by Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia.

The grant, about $150,000 a year, has helped pay for Mr. Rogers and another retired law enforcement officer in Reno, Nev., to harvest and review complaints about obscene matter on the Internet that citizens register on the Justice Department Web site.

In the last few years, 67,000 citizens’ complaints have been deemed legitimate under the program and passed on to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors.

The number of prosecutions resulting from those referrals is zero.

So that's fine then. No obscenity on the Interweb. Move along now folks, break it up there.


*several blatant attempts to drag in search engine traffic have been detected in this poastie.


Art dude by the name of Arne Quinze (I feel like calling him Arne XV) is currently building his massive wooden installation Cityscape on a vacant lot in a Brussels shopping area. It looks fantastic. I must get down there and see it, possibly tomorrow.

Mr. XV is known for his constructions in wood, including stuff at the Burning Man hippie festival thingy in the Nevada desert. Not much danger of this work burning down, though: the howling winds will put out your matches, and the driving rain dilute your lighter-fluid. It is August, after all.

I wanted a nice picture, but also found another thing by XV, which makes me like him all the more.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Mappa Mundi

Another excellent way to surf the world: WikiMapia takes Google Maps and allows you to put your own markings on. But then it goes one further by making your places available for everyone else to see. Readers decide whether your places are worth including, and the decisions can be whimsical to say the least. When I went back to look at where I grew up, all the Catholic churches in the area, about six, were marked out carefully. I thought of marking a few more worldly landmarks, but then I realised I'm not absolutely sure things like the public library and the shopping centre still exist.

I am an exile after all. Perhaps that's why I'm so nuts about maps at the moment.

Anyway I will be doing another map of my childhood surroundings soon, from a historical (no, Timpson, notgeological) perspective. All of the places are still there in my mind.

PS: my house is on the left side of the street, with what appear to be white lines round the roof, and two Velux windows, front and back. No stalkers, please.

Sporting kecks

World championship underpants jumping.

Makes rock-scissors-paper look positively Olympian.

Power games

Slot countries into the map with Statetris. It took me 16 minutes to do Europe, with those damn Moldovas and Croatias and whatnot. See if you can do better.

Blog spam

In the last 30 days, according to my Google Reader Trends, I've read over 3,000 blog posts. In all those blogs (about 80) I've come across maybe three or four who use captchas to guard against comment spam. Of the rest, here is the number of instances of comment spam I've come across:


You wonder what those people are worried about who insist on making their readers jump through that extra hoop. The danger just doesn't seem to exist.

Do they also wear styrofoam helmets about the house, perhaps? People have been known to be struck by falling chandeliers, you know. At least that's what they say.

Can you see what it is yet?

The art of painting Chinese characters on the floor with a huge mop. Another of those things that make you go WTF?

Tempus fugit

Boy Nine is now in a position to correct my grammar -- when I'm speaking Dutch. Yesterday he put me straight when I tried to say, "At five o'clock we have to be home to get changed".

"Om vijf uur moeten wij thuis zijn om ons om te kleden" -- three instances of the word "om" in three different senses: at (a time)/in order (to do something)/around (verb prefix).

I think you'll agree the sentence was pretty tricky, but still, it can only be humiliation from here on.

Scientific proof

Kingdoms are more democratic than republics.

More iPod tricks

Because I've signed up to all these services down the years, using a variety of old and new email addresses on three different clients, it's sometimes a PITA to remember what my login is, or where I might find it. If I could start again I'd have a bit of consistency, but that's the folly of youth innit.

So now I've listed about 45 of them in a .txt file, which I can easily add to if necessary. And I dragged that onto my iPod, which now has disk use enabled. That way I can see what I'm looking for without having to trawl through old Agent or TBird mails.

No passwords, though. I shouldn't think a file like this would mean a thing to anyone who finds or steals my iPod, but still. Besides, I don't need a password reminder, because my password is always JJFLASH, which is what the girls called me in school. Which is odd, because 1) my initials are nothing like JJ and 2) there were no girls at my school.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Big Brother

The shape of things to come.


Little-known chef-based fact

There are 26 people in the US called John Ventimiglia.

But there is only 1 person in the US called Arthur Bucco.


Psycho news

Empathy Causes Facial Similarity Between Couples to Increase Over Time.

(photo credit)

Somewhere else to browse

Pretty funny cartoons, T-shirts, stuff etc.

Things that make you go, "WTF?"

from Wiki:

"According to apocryphal lore[citation needed]".

from Google:

Tip: Try removing quotes from your search to get more results."

Blogwar by other means

For those who find my CyberTwin (see sidebar) a bit vague and possibly arty, here's a chat-bot that'll rip your throat out and spit olive-pits down the hole in political argument terms. Nearly.

It claims to be a blogwar bot, but it wouldn't be much use in the sort of blogwars we're used to seeing around this part of Blogistan, which are composed 100% of emotion, emoting and emotionalism.

This site, the Scarlet A and Lego-man below all come via Pharyngula. I gots to be more rigorous in attributing.

Sunday Afternoon Sites

Make your own Lego dude.

AND (because I've been neglecting youse these past few Sundays):
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Scarlet letter

See that scarlet letter off to the side there? Click on it, read the toxic post by the nutcases whose idea it was, then go to your blog and put one up in a post or a page-element if you fit the bill. Let's spread it around. Here's a little bit of code to make it work. I'm using their own blog as the image source, not strictly kosher but who cares. If they don't like it, fuck 'em.

Code to C&P:

#a href="">#img alt="Boris for Mayor" src="" title="Worn with Pride" border="1" #/a>#br>
#i>Click letter to find out#/i>

Replace every # with a caret sign to make it into code (I had to muck about to stop the code rendering as an image). You might want to change the words and the alt tags, I dunno. Need help? Shout.

UPDATE: PZ Myers of Pharyngula has posted a better widget here. And it points away from the nuts, who on examination seem to be spoofers -- but who can tell?

UP-UPDATE: Someone over there -- in another context -- coined the term "athier than thou", which is too good to be left unstolen.

Laughing at toupees

"Please don't ask me not to mock your beliefs. That's like asking me not to laugh at your toupee."
On a recent episode of ER (there I go again, quoting classic literature at you) Kerry Weaver meets her birth mother, who's a raving Christonutter, and who of course deeply disapproves of Kerry being a lezzer (though by far the most chaste lezzer ever seen on the TV). Remarkable (and obviously profoundly accurate) was this full-time washed-in-the-blood hater's whine that, having condemned her daughter's very being, and having consigned her to an eternity of damnation, she ought at least to get some respect for her faith.

It's a refrain you hear often, and I've never been able to understand: why should people's religious beliefs be treated with respect?

The answer is, they shouldn't, don't be silly. But why do people (including many on the faith-free side) think the point even has some validity?

The case is put in this video by Pat Condell, who's a comedian, it says here. I've never heard of him, but no matter. He puts the case for a free market in mockery of religion succinctly and convincingly.


PS: It's not just Christianity. He's an equal-opportunity mocker -- the best sort.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


Thanks to Phydeaux for the Feeling Lucky widget thingy over there. Outstanding source for things and stuff.

Little-known facts

Van Gogh was an expert reader of French novels*, and also a big fan of Charles Dickens.

*What people often forget is that he was Dutch, not French. (birthplace)

Madame Butterfly by Puccini could just as easily have wound up being called Madame Chrysanthème, the title of the novel by Pierre Loti on which it was based. For information on Loti (and a dashing pic) see here.

Towse in the house

Look who's featured over at Lifehacker. None other than our very own Towse.

Congratulations, Sal. Now watch your server come crashing down, L-Out-L.

(SG has added a comment, cuz I'm allowed see, not everyone is.)

The Art Teacher

Just to even the score for Rufus somewhat, here's a little exercise I was toying with, using one of his other lyrics. I suppose this one's a bit silly too. I mean, he's pretending to be a gurl!

But that's not the point. Try it yourself with your favourite lyrics!!ONE1!

"The Art Teacher"
Lyrics by Rufus Wainwright
Hyperlinks by Sour Grapes

There I was in uniform
Looking at the art teacher
I was just a girl then;
Never have I loved since then

He was not that much older than I was
He had taken our class to the Metropolitan Museum
He asked us what our favorite work of art was,
But never could I tell it was him
Oh, I wish I could tell him --
Oh, I wish I could have told him

I looked at the Rubens and Rembrandts
I liked the John Singer Sargents
He told me he liked Turner
Never have I turned since then
No, never have I turned to any other man

All this having been said,
I married an executive company head
All this having been done, a Turner - I own one
Here I am in this uniformish, pant-suit sort of thing,
Thinking of the art teacher
I was just a girl then;
Never have I loved since then
No, never have I loved any other man.

Second Thoughts Songs

An occasional feature from the old Sour Grapes blog (here and here), in which song-writers are forced to face up to the shame of some of their lyrical choices. Today's selection comes from Rufus Wainwright, the song Tiergarten from his new album Release the Stars, and involves the entire song. This is toe-curlingly awful on a level Paul McCartney can only dream of. Enjoy:

Won't you walk me through the Tiergarten?
Won't you walk me through it all, darling?
Doesn't matter if it is raining
Won't you walk me through it all?

Even if the sun, it is blazing
Even if the snow, it is raging
All the elements, we must conquer
To get to the other side of town

I have suffered shipwreck against your dark brown eyes
I have run aground against your broken down smiles
Believe me when I tell you I have no place to go
But to go where the wild flowers grow and the stone gardens bloom.

Won't you walk me through the Tiergarten?
Won't you walk me through it all, darling?
Doesn't matter if it is raining,
We'll get to the other side of town.

Have gun, will travel

When I went on holiday, because I had to work (usually I arrange these things better) I took a USB stick loaded with Portable Apps (Firefox, a word processor, Foxit PDF reader, all in a stripped down version) so I didn't have to screw around with settings on the borrowed laptop -- or the Internet cafe I ended up using.

It all went swimmingly. Now I'll keep the Firefox browser synced with my own using Google Browser Sync, so my history, bookmarks etc are always up to date. And just so I'm prepared at every possible moment, wherever I may be, I've just put the same suite onto my iPod, at a total cost of about 60 MB.

The irony being that I probably won't move out of this chair for the next six months. The more mobile among you might consider doing something similar. Every bit of it, except the memory stick and the iPod, is free.

Technical problem

I'm looking for some mechanism to allow me to moderate my own comments, because the last thing I want is to stir up shit on my own blog.

So far the search is fruitless.

Everything you need to know about blogging

Who the fuck is this aimed at?

How to start a blog in four minutes? Two questions immediately arise:

Why is speed of any importance?
And what the hell took four minutes?

Scariest line: "It all started with a guy named Gutenberg -- Johann, not Steve". That's wrong in every possible way. I bailed at the mention of Anne Frank. That's light-years beyond crass.

Here's a list of the cretins responsible. On the presenter: "Nikki Key began her entertainment career in the third grade landing the role of “Emperor” in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”"

Nothing much changes.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Babies eating lemons

I won't be at all surprised if this item sets off yet another kerfuffle, and I assure you I struggled long and hard with my conscience. In the end I decided to pass it along with a very clear alert in the title, and without embedding for the especially sensitive, simply because the babies are not suffering in the least, and because it's bloody funny to watch.

My own two sucked on lemons from an early age, and still do. On the other hand, they take very little tonic in their gin, so it's all good.

Here's the clip on YouTube.

Shocked, I tell you

An Italian consumer organisation has threatened legal action against businesses in Venice, where it's been revealed (gasp!) that cafes and restaurants maintain a three-faced price list: one price for Italians, one for tourists and one for "rude" tourists. The difference between the lowest and highest price noted is about 100 percent, but I'm sure the cielo is the limito if a tourist should turn out to be particularly rude, by wearing a Union Jack painted across his bare beer-belly, for example. Or by pronouncing the word Eye-talian. I dare say other nationalities could be similarly targeted, but surely not as routinely.

Read orl abaht it here, where you'll also find a handy guide to useful phrases in Venetian dialect. I would give anything, including four quid for a glass of cola, to see Telegraph readers trying those out.

Quite by chance, I also happened today upon this article on Miss Manners, her new Venice book, and rude tourists. However I should warn you that the only interesting thing about it is the coincidence.

Zulu Pad dawn

I'm very excited by my latest acquisition, a free download (of course) called Zulu Pad, which combines a hyper-notebook and a wiki: when you're typing about something you've already typed about, it creates a Wiki-like link to the other notes.

I haven't actually put it to any serious use yet, but the idea of keeping track of notes across several documents like that is a great one. Later in the year I'm planning on getting a bunch of people to help create a wiki for an organisation I'm a member of, so maybe this will help me run myself in. Or maybe not, and my dreams will come crashing down in rubble about me.

Why not grab it, try it out and share your appreciations?

Home again, home again

Anyway, enough about holidays, which have been over for a week. Since I got back I've been:

  1. Working
  2. Catching up with email
  3. Taking care of choir business
  4. Trying to keep two children occupied in the afternoons (tennis in the mornings)
  5. Catching up with my Google Reader load
  6. For some reason, stirring up the whole of Blogovia because of one comment I made to one person, which has had everyone else jumping through their own sphincters, as someone colourful used to say.
As far as Point 5 is concerned, I have of course made a small collection of links that may arouse your interest. Since that's the only likely source of entertainment or enlightenment in the list, let's get on:
  • The Times considers a name made up of the names of the mums of two chav celebs to be "exotic". Read more about crazy celebrity baby names in what used to be Britain's newspaper of record.
  • Hilarious Shopped photos of stars as ordinary people. Love the John Travolta, can't see what they've done to the Ann Coulter.
  • Naked birds frolic in hot GonG action across the Twin Towers as they explode in ejaculatory ecstasy.
  • I thought "Hitachi finger vein money" was either a Japanese T-shirt slogan or a Yakuza debt-collection practice. It turns out to be scarier than both.
  • Someone's not exactly enamoured of the iPhone. The backlash begins.
  • Competitive Rock, Scissors, Paper -- and not a sign of doping.
  • Ape Lad, creator of the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats cartoons, may be the most creative artist in the world at the moment. Hobotopia is yet another of his projects.
  • Duplo toys of the Most Evil Dudes on the Planet.
  • Some Wired dude sings the praises of Twitter.
  • Shoot creationist bullshit down in flames with this handy cribsheet.
  • Jazz up your photos online with free Pikifx, beloved of Towse.
  • GIMP tutorials, free in every way.
  • How to use, which is also free.
  • Generate a fake name, address and details, all authentic but not real. Not to be used by crooks, fraudsters, stalkers etc.
  • iPod good, iTunes ghastly. Here's how to get rid of it.
  • Guy thinks emails are too cumbersome, reckons five sentences is enough. Includes link to in his .sig. You could too. Also available in four, three and two (whose text still has five).
  • Finally, a cat-pic, because it's the done thing. From Shorpy, my favourite photo archive, which now has a comics section that's ball-achingly funny -- i.e. not a bit. Here's Paree the Cat going on a flight from Paris to London in 1910:

Cycle of life

One thing that's special about spending time in the Netherlands is the overwhelming predominance there of the bicycle as a mode of transport. It has its drawbacks in bad weather (we also do an annual autumn break there) but otherwise there's nothing so liberating as swinging up onto your big solid gearless bike to go to the shops, the beach or wherever, taking part in a real communal activity and being as green as can be.

It's just not possible to the same extent here in Brussels, because despite the designation of a great deal of cycle-paths, they're pretty much notional (painted lines on the road surface, rather than the dedicated paths you see in NL) and that, together with the Belgian driver's lack of awareness of cyclists (every Dutch driver is primarily a cyclist, born and bred) makes the practice unsafe. There are many beautiful cycle-routes here, of course. They've taken to rehabilitating disused railway tracks as cycle-routes. But that's recreation, not everyday life.

Despite all that, I was just browsing through the online catalogue of Fietsfabriek (Bike Factory) in Amsterdam, who make some of the most attractive Dutch bikes. If you read the descriptions, you'll understand that this is not cycling for guys in lycra shorts with leg muscles like knotted string. A few excerpts:

This bike can easily carry 2 children and a big bag of groceries: it stays balanced.

If you have pets you can easily carry them in the crate so you can keep an eye on them.

The back rack is strong enough to carry an adult!

This model is also used by carpenters, plummers and builders, for whom we install a box for heavy tools.

A low step is especially comfortable for elderly people because it makes it easier to keep your balance on the bike.

Balloon tires are very thick tires with natural springs. You can easily ride up to curbs without damaging the rims.

Start off browsing with the Pack-Max Duo, suitable for carrying three children. People actually do that sort of thing routinely in Holland.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Stirring porridge

Who says occupational therapy doesn't assist in the rehabilitation of offenders? These inmates of a jail in the Philippines are looking forward to a life in showbiz on release, clearly. What I thought was sweet was the way the lady-boy was allowed to wear her own clothes.

The uploader has other prison spectacles by the Orange Jumpsuit Players, including Radio Gaga.

UPDATE: Story on the video's success here. The uploader is a prison official who introduced the program.

Also from the New Yorker

By uncanny coincidence, this passage from a funny Shouts and Moimers:

The Fox and the Goat

A fox is offered free tickets from Cindy in P.R. She drops them off after lunch, and the fox is dismayed to find that they are for an experimental Swedish dance company called Leøtåård. He takes the tickets to the goat in the next cubicle. “Leøtåård?” says the goat. “I’ve never heard of them.” “I saw them last week,” coos the fox. “The Scandinavian Alvin Ailey. I’ll give them to you for ten bucks.” And so, while the goat spends the evening in a dank underground space off Avenue C, the fox goes to Ollie’s and spends the ten dollars on lo mein. Sure enough, the performance is awful and the goat gets a massive strobe-light headache. Still, inexplicably, he puts his name on the e-mail list.

Moral: Always check the Web site.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Normal service will be resumed as soon as "possibly"

I really hope hard-core Grapes peeps are watching my Shared Items on Google Reader, because that's about all I'm doing at the moment, catching up with what's been going on in my two-week absence with barely a moment to blog about anything. To make matters worse, so many issues have arisen that the sheer size of the To-Do pile is intimidating me into silence.

That's probably for the best, actually. For all our sakes, not least Mrs. Grapeses's.

For Shared Items (which means all the stuff I've seen on other blogs that you'll get a kick out of) see the widebar sigdet. And speaking of bling, I've had a cull, and executed some widgets that were bringing me nothing (Plugoo) or never changing (Plazes) or had outlived their usefulosity (the Grapes bar graph) or were slowing down the loading of the page, whatever that means.

If there's something missing that you used to love, tough shit. Put it on your own blog.

From the pages of the New Yorker

Line of text inserted to create space
Line of text inserted to create space
Line of text inserted to create space
Since we don't have children, my ex turned the goats against me.
Line of text inserted to create space
Line of text inserted to create space

Monday, 6 August 2007

Recovered me-eh-eh-mories

Have you been traumatised by a goat*?

Know someone who has? A friend? Perhaps a loved one?

These people are there to help.

* -- Please note, NOT a goatse. We were all traumatised by that.

Dog bites man

Proof that science fiction fans are total anoraks.

As if proof were needed. I mean really.

Edited to clean up the language for the matinee crowd, and because I felt on reflection the judgement was a little harsh coming from someone who made a Google Map to show where he went on holiday, not very anorakish that, oh no.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

What I did on my holidays

I was going to write an essay, but I made a Google Map instead. Use the satellite view, which zooms in to a remarkable extent in this area, for some reason.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

La bitoune, la between, la bite

250 ways to say penis in French.


And so it goes on

Back from holidays, only to discover that if you have a Google account, Google will give you nifty free webspace for you to put stuff on. This brings Blogger almost right up to WordPress, who allow you Pages on your blog, but integrate the two. Still, who knows when the occasional webpage might not be called for? Check it out at Or read about it here.