Monday, March 28, 2005

Frozen Banana

Wow! Great tip here.

Fancy some ice cream? Frightened of the calorific hell and guilt? Well here's my big tip ... (like you've not already seen the title of this entry)

Freeze a banana. Eat it. It's nature's own Ben and Jerry's. Rather delicious and very very similar to ice cream. Sadly it comes in just one flavour.

Tip: don't freeze it in it's skin, unzip it, stick it in a freezer bag or tub ... then come back to it two hours later. Skin doesn't ruin it, it's just you've got to wait for it to thaw out a little (hence allowing your ICB to get warmer) before you can unzip and schnarf.

Oh, ICB = Ice Cream Banana. IB may be better as there's no craem involved here at all.

What an invention!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The City Below ...

Dark tunnels, secret societies, clandestine meetings, railways, war rooms, bomb shelters, political movements, ghost tube stations ... I just love reading stories about what lies beneath cities in the vast underground networks many of them seem to have.

Could it be that the city below the city is more interesting?

When you hear that a secret underground cinema was discovered in Paris last year, then, yes, perhaps what lies beneath is sometimes that bit more fascinating!?

The police, initially wary that it may have been a terrorist squad or dark and perverted cult, gave it the bill of health - though were mystified as to who set it up. A follow-up article in The Guardian revealed that it was an underground art group called La Mexicaine de la Perforation, keen to free-up unused city spaces for free expression. (follow the links, read them, they're fascinating!)

It puts me in mind of London Below in the book Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - the fiefdoms, rat speakers and metaphoric invisible homeless people of the novel that created its own lore based on London landmarks and mythology. The Angel Islington was a chillingly evil serene looking luminescent being. Old Bailey lived atop buildings and, if I remember rightly, cooked Crow Stew. Knight's Bridge was a feared route where the beautifully named character Anaesthesia disappeared assumed dead ... and you found yourself in a real Court held by a Baron, or was it an Earl, moving through the tube system in a capital that has hyperlinked rooms! Amazing stuff. Puts Chislehurst Caves to shame really.

The drugs don't work ...

Do you think that aspirin or paracetamol actually work? Do they kill that headache? I'm not sure that they do. (Paracetamol are Tylanol in other parts of the world)

I think of them in the same way I think of alternative therapy: I'm pleased that I've taken a painkiller, I've done something proactive, but if the pain does go away I never attribute this to the drug. And even if it does work, I wonder what percentage of an average headache it manages to slice away? Do they gather these results? How do they measure them?

Scientist: So, it's been 30 minutes since you took the painkiller. How do you feel?

Patient: Well the headache isn't so bad but that could be because I just had a nice cup of tea and a bit of a relax ...

I'm trying to draw a parallel, in my head, with weather forecasts. I don't take those seriously either. If it does end up being sunny like the forecasters say (though often it's a different prediction on each tv or radio channel) then, again, I never think: "oh well done, you got it right". In fact the weather forecasters don't even get factored in. Likewise paracetamol and over-the-counter painkillers simply don't work.

I've often thought that we should have alternative therapy based nuclear weapons. that way, if we hear there has been a strike on our country we should all just stand in the streets, wait, wait some more, keep on waiting and see which person starts to get affected first. "Ooh, I think I can feel something! Wow these weapons really do work". And then they'll probably get their own cable show for being victims of an aggressive homeopathic attack on their unusually sensitive constitutions.

And what exactly was all that stuff about snow the other week? It didn't snow in London - well barely - but heavy snow was forecast for 2 weeks!

conspiracy theory alert: could it be possible that the small number of TV and radio weathermen and weatherwomen got together and deliberately went overboard on snow predictions so that the councils made an effort to bring their road gritters out in order that the weather people could get in to work for the breakfast shift?

I like the mayor of Moscow's approach: fine weather forecasters if they get it wrong.

But at least weather is tangible, that's not quite the same for everyday pain relief: I'm talking about niggly headaches here not chronic pain.

... I'm boring myself now. What's more I don't really care. And I prefer cold weather to hot mostly anyway. And I hate drugs, I'd much rather there were really good 'alternative' therapies for everything. Hey ho. I blame it on my headache and the fact there are no paracetamol in the house, even though they clearly don't work anyway. Going now.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The American Office

I hear that the US version of hit British comedy The Office [UK] aired last night on NBC. I read some of the reviews yesterday and it seems most of the journalists hated it. It'll be interesting to see what the viewing figures are.

I did a bit of a Technorati search and discovered a few peple talking about it already. The majority talking about it had already seen the British version, so, in that classic 'it's not as good as the original' way, most were at best ambiguous. But I quite liked this review from fyzixphrog that I found.

In a geek TV kind of way I was interested in what she was saying about never watching a channel below number 60 on the EPG. The UK networks still have some pretty good and much talked about programmes (especially Channel 4) but it's so clear that these channels are moving further and further towards junk, heavily signposted, easy to follow even if you're not listening to the dialogue type shows. Especially ITV and BBC1. But, here I am, eagerly anticipating the new version of Doctor Who about to air on BBC1 ... so it's not always true. The networks, though, seem to have less and less that interests me.

I NEED SKY PLUS! (that's like TiVo if you're not British). Someone bring me Sky Plus! Please won't someone bring me ...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Sci Fi Saturday

I think I over-focus. I'm thinking about Doctor Who night tonight on BBC Two and I don't appear to be able to do anything else. I watched the excellent 'Unification' double episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation earlier so it has become a bit of a sci fi kind of day. Also watched an episode of Voyager and have bought series 6 of The Tomorrow People on DVD from Amazon about 10 minutes ago.

Saturdays are the new Sundays. Lazy slobbing around watching TV days. The first full free day after the working week and to me it's all about resting. In olden days, before the Sunday trading laws were loosened up, we all had to get up on Saturday morning and use Saturday to its fullest, going shopping, getting out, because Sunday was utterly dead. Sundays back then meant that pubs were open for two hours at lunchtime and, well, church and the odd DIY shop were also options.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Orange Sunday

I've got an issue. If I come across a fruit that is spherical, orange in colour, bobbly pitted waxy skin, citrussy smelling and tastes (I think this is the important part) of ORANGE ... well, I call it an orange! Apparently though, I am wrong.

It seems there are ways of distinguishing these things that look exactly the same and taste exactly the same.

Words like: manderin, satsuma, clementine and tangerine are used. But what is the difference between all these? They're orange, they taste of oranges, they have orange style wrappers (do we call it peel?) I don't get it.

I'm told they taste uniquely different but I'm oblivious to it.

On a quick Google search I just did, I came across another orange that is called a Wilkings? I'd never heard of one of these before. Clearly though I am not a fruitologist like everyone else appears to be these days.

mercury rev in Hammersmith, London.

Just a quick one. Went to see Mercury Rev last night at the Hammersmith Apollo. They were fantastic. And as fans always say, yes, like a religious experience in a way. Something about their music makes you feel as if your soul is being probed and lifted as they play. This makes me sound like a sappy freak but trust me I'm one of the world's biggest cynics.

They got right to the end without playing Goddess on a Highway. Happily it was the third of their 4 encore tracks. What a band. What a gig. I have a blindspot for the names of Mercury Rev tracks so I can only say they played that fantastic feelgood etherial awesome track from their last album to end ... and they ended on a massive wall of sound holding the last note for 30 seconds.

In the middle the lead singer, Jonathan Donahue, started preaching to the audience. I can't quite remember what it was about but it had something to do with being happy in life and not bowing to the music industry. The vast majority of the audience were doting on every word but one or two people heckled him. Jonathan retorted by saying "it seems like we've got some people in this evening who are part of the industry". I wouldn't quote me on this but it's approaching what he said ... and the audience were on his side.

great gig ... the supporting band Duke Spirit was rather fabulous too.

China Week

I've been watching bits of the BBC's China Week and generally reading lots about China on their site and around the web. I am really interested in Chinese politics and culture and how that part of the world appears to be growing.

This morning I watched the special edition of Question Time from China. It seems to have been heralded as a major success, the first time that a foregn news organisation has come to the country to talk openly about Chinese politics. As people keep saying, this would never have happened 15 or even perhaps 5 years ago. The show has been broadcast on BBC ONE, the internet and on the global channel BBC World.

So, after reading all the uptalk about it, I was a bit disappointed to read an entry earlier today from the Berkley China Digital News blog with the headline China censors BBC World, again. Basically it seems that a good few of the China Week programmes are being blocked by the Chinese cable broadcast system. "For example, a report on restive Muslim Uighur ethnic group in China's far west was cut off after just seconds of starting to air. According to international
media reports, the screen went black after a BBC correspondent said, " But the Uighur people have little affection for their Chinese masters.”

Heard a particularly interesting item this morning on Radio 5 Live's Julian Warwicker programme talking about how Chinese people are a hidden minority in Britain which also interested me: lots of Chinese people around but no umbrella force through which to try to make their collective mark on British society like other ethnic minorities. Don't know enough about this but got me thinking because it does seem that this is the case.

There is more on the site: Five Live in China. Also just seen that Julian has his own blog which I'll take a look at in a bit.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It's late

Did I really only just get in from work? Did I then really just call up a chinese takeaway and have them deliver me a mushroom ommlette and chips at 11:30pm? Hey kidz, I'm living the London life.

I was supposed to go out with Sara tonight. She was working in the next door building, doing some training, and met up with me at 5:15. She sat by my desk for about an hour or so but sadly I still had lots to do. So, she offered to go home, I passed up my night in the pub with her and stayed at my desk finishing off loose ends. Shame. Living the London life.

I met up with the daughter of my former English teacher Max Hollis today. I never knew her at the time. Sadly her dad, my former teacher, died a year and a half ago. She now works at the same place as me (everyone ends up there eventually, I swear) and we had a bit of lunch. Revised: we had a coffee and a flapjack which Damon believes is a good part of a balanced diet that will help him lose a bit of weight. It's true, if you eat nothing else, it works.

We had a bit of a chat about jobs, design work, about that school and about web accessibility. She was really nice. Did I say she bought the lunch?

Interesting stuff happened at work today. Bit of a crisis with a project. All happened extremely fast, in an extremely impromptu manner and wiped my whole afternoon away. I'm kind of disappointed about it all but I think we came up with a good solution between us which was positive. Always challenging when you have to think on your feet like that. Had one of those realisation moments afterwards. One that says: hey, actually, your job's quite cool and you get to play with several interests that you've got: writing, disability culture and techie. I'm so lucky really. One of my new year's resolutions was to 'count my blessings' so, here I am, counting them. Can you hear me Pollyanna? (so unlike me, what's happening?)

I keep meaning to talk about oranges. I must talk about oranges soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Media futurology

At the end of our day at work we had a meeting about the future of broadcasting and media. It was really fascinating and delivered by a really interesting bloke called Tom Loosemore. I was actually quite gripped by what he had to say and what interested him personally.

I'm quite tired now so, as per last night's post, I'm just going to jot a few things down and work them up into bigger blog entries some other time. I'm sure I will.

There was a fair bit that I knew about already, technologies I'd already heard about. But I learnt a few buzzphrases that I'd never come across before ... and he had developed a few concepts that I only had half a grasp on.

Let me try and put some brief notes down.

* Network Media -- this was the term he kept using for the new media age we are in. Not a standard broadcast system any longer, not 1-to-1 broadcasting from studio to one person's living room direct. Network media, richer media, media that is contributed to by many. From many to many as opposed to 1-to-1. Multicasting I think is a term that fitted into this model too.

* Collaborative Broadcasting -- also known as social broadcasting. This was interested. The way he explained it all was thru a logical progression that I'm not sure I have the energy to repeat right now (checks time: 10:25pm). He started off by talking about TiVo and Sky Plus. The fact that we timeshift programmes. Storage is much cheaper now and he told us that for 3.5k they had manufactured a TiVo type technology that would be able to record and store 9 days of output from all of the BBC's 8 channels.

Every 18 months, storage media halves in price, I think he said. Hard disks are able to hold more and are much smaller and cost less, essentially. It could well be that soon we will just be able to record absolutely everything ever broadcast and we'd be able to dip into it. But then, the EPG and the way we sort out what we want and what we choose to watch will become all the more complicated.

EPGs will have to change to accomodate this. But how are we going to find stuff we like?

The answer is Collaborative Broadcasting.

it works like this. Lets take an iPod / music model to base the example on: Using iTunes download playlist, or sharing of your Microsoft Media Playlist, the Collaborative Media system would find other peoples playlists that have the same tunes on it. It would then share the other tunes on the new person's playlist with you so that you would find new content via other people who like similar content to you. It would be like a virtual recommendations list, my words not Tom's. So you'd be drawing on like-minded people on the network for further media consumption ideas and content.

You can see how this might also be adapted to a TV model or other media.

Tom Loosemore also talked about: taking new tv shows off the net using things like Bit Torrent. He said that he used a website called UK Nova (something like that) to watch a TV show. Later he realised that he didn't even know what channel it had come from. It was BBC4 but, despite the Digital Onscreen Graphic branding, in his head he had taken it from UK Nova. He made a great observation when saying "Peple often say they found something on Google. Actually Google doesn't have any content on it." He was talking specifically about the BBC and how, in the future, the licence fee payer could be disconnected from the BBC and their individual financial input (licence fee money) which could cause interesting dilemmas.

He mentioned the Sony Star Wars Galaxy game and the fact that communities have sprung up within this online game. They meet at designated times in one of the Cantina bars and put on shows, dances etc. He showed us a chumbawumba video put together by dancing from this. I'd explain further but I'm loosing consciousness.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Things wot I have done

It's like I've done quite a few things this last week. Last Tuesday I went to the Science Museum's Dana Centre with Sara and listened to a presentation all about Nanotechnology. It was OK but rather waffly and not very enlightening. Someone else was talking about the nanotechnology evening on their blog the other day.

On Saturday I watched Bridget Jones 2: Edge of reason.

On Sunday I went to Fifteen restaurant. You know, the Jamie Oliver one where he took delinquents off the streets and turned them into chefs or something. Tasty food but I came away not all that full ... and a deal poorer in terms of money, that is. Watched The Truman Show on Sunday evening too.

Tonight I saw The Village on DVD. Interesting film by that fellow M Knight Shangalang or however it's spelt. No idea. Audio described movies don't spell out the name of the director ... though I suspect his name looks more Asian than Bay City Rollers.

I'm writing all this down in a hurry in case I don't get an opportunity to write more about what I've done this last week. Though the blog is bound to be full of deep and meaningful insights into my life ... I guess at some stage it might be quite nice to look over it, when I'm older, and remember what I was doing.

I had things to say about oranges too ... but there's no time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Oral sex leads to pregnancy

Well well well ...

You may not be finding the Jackson trial interesting enough, so here's a more intriguing conundrum for you.

Men. If you had oral sex with a woman and she then took the sperm from her mouth and impregnated herself with it. Well. a) How would you feel? and b) Would you consider yourself a willing father to the resultant child and hence liable for 'damages' and child maintenance costs? And that's before we get into the headfuck of emotions you might feel towards a child you have made and who is your flesh and blood.

Is it sperm theft? Fraud? Or is it an understandable and legitimate set of circumstances being as you donated the sperm and didn't ask for it to be returned? A gift that your erstwhile partner could do anything with that she chose?

This has been what a court in Illinois has been deliberating recently in an appeal against an original paternity suit, initiated by the mother, that ruled the father of the baby was liable for an 800 dollar payout every month.

(I hope I'm not sounding like Nick Ferari or a hideous right wing talk show host here cos trust me I'm really very liberal with a small and capital L)

Who needs fiction writers, eh?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Art exhibition for the blind - yawn

I was on BBC3 News last night.

Why was I on? Well I got a call Tuesday to ask whether or not I'd be interested in trotting down to a new exhibition said to be the world's first exhibition totally accessible to visually impaired people, at the Royal College of Arts here in London. It was all put on by BlindArt.

I first tried to give the researcher a bunch of other names who might do it but, after speaking to me and hearing my thoughts and worries about these kinds of exhibitions, she was keen to get me on TV.

So yesterday morning at 10:20 I met James the news reporter and Brett the cameraman. I was feeling quite confident of my ground and position on feeely accessible art but also intrigued to see whether or not the artists could capture my mind through my sense of touch, feel and smell.

James was cool, nice bloke, very friendly. I had previously understood that they were going to balance my views with someone who was an art enthusiast. It turned out that the other contributor had been dropped ... and in fact later that evening when the news was broadcast, I was credited as being the reporter which surprised me not just a contributor as such. Me though, eh, TV reporter?

To cut a long story short I really didn't get the exhibition. I don't understand why prickly things on a board is 'art for the blind'. It's crude, wrong-headed and meaningless as far as I am concerned.

Exhibits I saw (groped) included: a square board that felt a bit sandpapery. Also a pile of rubber gloves with fairy liquid inside, a marble statue of a woman lying down on the back of a man with her feet entangled in his ... it looked like (or I'm told it looked like) they were flying through the air. I puzzled over it for ages because I didn't understand what it was.

There was one piece of art that gave me a rather extreme reaction. It was a kind of crude spiky twisty rafia weave that had little jinglye bells and curlers stitched into it. So, lots of lovely nice spiky things for a blind man to touch (bless) and, if you shook it, it jingled a bit. I was angry that people who came to this exhibition might look at it and think "ahh yes, this is obviously a good thing for blind people, there's lots here for them". I believe that on camera I said something like "It looks like something I'd hang over my baby nephew's cot to stimulate his developing senses". And it really did remind me of something like that. A more patronising piece of so-called art I've never seen.

The TV show grabbed me saying this soundbite: "They have spent too much time trying to stimulate my remaining senses, they should have spent more time trying to stimulate my brain".

My mum and sister thought I looked good on the item, Sara liked it I think and I got an email from Liz (one of my writers) saying she thought it was good too. I'm expecting some fallout in my inbox when I get in to work later.

What really bugs me is that the publicity went big on the fact it was a wholly accessible art exhibition. Of course this got the media flocking to the event "something nice for the blind, something nice for the blind". It'll be in The Guardian and all kinds of other press today, I'm sure of it. Seriously though, what I saw of it was pretty bollocks. I like the cherleader pompom exhibit ... though possibly because it just made me think about cheerleaders which you've got to admit isn't appalling.

Why didn't they have some cool sound installations? Touch and feel is so crude and uncomplicated, sound can have depth in the same way that pictures can. Music is known to touch people , for instance. The sound of a crying child is going to evoke emotion. Art should evoke emotion and stir something in my soul. Feeling something prickly, that is prickly for the sake of being prickly, stirs nothing in me. This 'accessible visual art' idea really needs to grow up a little more before it can be thought of seriously. To my mind, a beautifully and amazingly engineered Coca Cola can is quite incredible and evokes all kinds of memories and ideas of taste and smell. Bloody prickly art. I was patronised by an exhibition meant for me yesterday, I think.

I feel a bit bad that some of the artists, and some of the organizers, were visually impaired. I feel I threw a bomb at the brotherhood. But sorry if you're going to choose the blind card in the way they did in their publicity, there has got to be a counter, an alternative slant that doesn't just buy into and perpetuate the stupid blind stereotypes around.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

pasta slugs

I came home, saw myself on TV (more of that later) and then decided to make myself some dinner. I have some of that microwaveable toxic pasta you can get, 90 seconds and it's done. I added a can of tomatoes to it with mushrooms and herbs and a bit of Light Philadelphia cheese. Then I stood on something.

I put my hand down to the floor and picked up a piece of penne pasta, I didn't quite understand how it had got on the floor. Amazing how slimy and horrible pasta can feel sometimes, almost like a slug that had crawled in from the garden.

This piece of pasta, I noticed, wasn't hollowed out like an ordinary piece of penne, curiously it was kind of solid all the way through. Shit, it actually was a slug. What a blindie!

I put it back on the floor, found some kitchen towel and wrapped it up carefully. I then went to the kitchen bin, found the can of tomatoes I'd just used and stuffed the wrapped slug into it putting the lid back on. Truly a prisoner in my house, now.

I went to the bathroom to wash the slime off my hands. Unlike pasta slime, slug slime is rather difficult to remove - I've discovered this before. I washed away with my squirty bathroom soap but after the second wash the slime had become worse and spread! Seriously, don't ever pick up a slug.

Not wishing to stand there washing and washing and washing, I took a decisive measure. Bleach. I'll bleach it off. I went to the kitchen to get my kitchen surface cleaner, brought it into the bathroom and trigger-pumped the detergent all over the affected hand. One good bleachy lathering later and all the goo had gone.

It struck me later that, if I could see, I would have been able to look at the bleach bottle to see whether or not they recommend cleaning yourself with their product. Happily though, it worked, and although my left hand even now smells unpleasantly like a cross between rotting flesh and my linen basket, it was a job well done. There is definitely a serious point in here somewhere about access to information about products but frankly I can't be arsed to find it.