Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympics Opening – After the Dust Settled

Once everyone had had a chance to detach from the immediacy of the Olympics 2012 opening ceremony as it unfolded live, and were able to give it their more objective and analytical appraisal, what has come out has been interesting and is worth spending a few minutes at least flicking through part or all of what has been written on the topic over the past weekend and today.

I have selected a few that I believe will be of interest to at least some (perhaps most) of this 'blog's regular readers in particular, especially the first three (from Iain Martin, Douglas Murray and James Higham) in the following list...

  • Iain Martin (Telegraph) – a game of two halves, Danny Boyle and then it went 'creepy';
  • Douglas Murray (Spectator) – disliking the event does not make someone 'a Nazi';
  • James Higham (Orphans of Liberty) – a sudden huge swing of public opinion; and a reminder that if you have millions to spend of course it will be spectacular;
  • Jason Groves (Mail) – Labour Party's glee at what seemed like a huge advert for their position;
  • Paul Kelso / Patrick Hennessy (Telegraph) – Ministers' suggestions regarding the opening ceremony;
  • Benjamin Harris-Quinney (Commentator) – a comparison with Beijing 2008 and what our opening ceremony really means; and (for completeness...)
  • Yahoo! Sports – viewing statistics

Read and learn, even if you don't always agree with what has been written!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Medway Mile 2012

It is not very well known that I have run, walked or otherwise 'put myself about' (as the saying goes) in events going back to the 'seventies.

This includes several sponsored events for the Merton Talking Newspaper (in which my canine friend, Pip, would accompany me and have her own set of sponsors!) among other such activities including for nearby Sutton Talking News (from which I have only sound recordings, no photos).

Seeing two of the Queen's corgis in the James Bond helicopter sequence at the Olympics opening ceremony last night reminded me of her...

In the photo at right Pip is showing the way to go to (blind) Audrey Button's (sighted) daughter, who in turn is guiding two others (looks like partially-sighted George on the right), in one such event, on Wimbledon Common.

Anyway, last night was also a useful reminder of the Medway Mile run on the same day, an event that is now in its sixth year. At this link is a photo by Joe Armitage that shows councillor Mike O'Brien at the left.

Councillor Chris Irvine has written a few lines and posted a video, with the promise of more to follow.

Now, I was one of the participants in the very first of these events, back on the same day (27 July) in 2007, and I walked part the way, ran the rest, with Mike and also the then Director of Adult Services at Medway Council, Ann Windiate. We made a nice threesome! I perceive some symmetry here...

I certainly recall that occasion very well! It is just a shame that health issues in recent years have meant that I can no longer safely participate in such activities, otherwise I'd have been there yesterday. I thought of being just an observer, but it wouldn't have felt right and I'd have been sad not to be a participant.

Anyway, I gather it went well (as they have every year); and just as proof of my own credentials, below is my t-shirt from that first-ever Medway Mile, and another from a (much earlier – 1978) Sunday Times 'fun run' in London. That one started well enough for me, by the way, but I met up with a couple of dogs (and their owner) at the back of the pack, and stayed with them – so on that occasion I was one of the last to complete the run.

In case you were wondering about that: typically I'm about two-thirds of the way back, mainly to avoid the claustrophobic crowding of the leading chunk of the runners and from those coming up from behind. So, to finish this: here is that photo of two of my t-shirts...

Friday, 27 July 2012

Goodbye Romana 1

Yet another Doctor Who companion actress has now left us, this time Mary Tamm who played the original Romana before Lalla Ward (no relation!) took over the part after a regeneration.

We had already lost Elisabeth Sladen and Caroline John, and now a third has gone.

Mary was just a few months younger than I am, and had been battling the dreaded cancer for a year and a half.

It is such a sad thing that this ghastly affliction is still able to take so many people away from us before one would have thought was their natural time to depart this world.

Okay, Mary's Romana wasn't one of my favourite Who companions, but that doesn't make this loss easy to bear, though I accept it could have been more painful if one of my favourites were to be taken in this way.

Anyway, there it is, so goodbye to Romanadvoratrelundar (and not forgetting all her other parts in various productions). It is a mark of some significance that so many remember her so well, and obituaries and tributes are already popping up in various places in significant numbers.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Narrated Waybuloo Hits Australia

Oh dear! The narrated (by Dave Lamb) version of Waybuloo may well have been banished from these shores, but it is still alive and well elsewhere. It has now arrived in Australia, immediately prompting these two tweets, first from Stephen Hope of Sydney...
" The BBC have destroyed the temper of Waybuloo by adding a 'Funniest Home Videos' style VO over it. Can ABC air it without VO?"

"VO" stands for Voice-Over. A minute later, Mat Farrington of Canberra had this to say on the matter...

" Cringeworthy narrated Waybuloo episodes need to go. Awful! Bring back original format."
I have no idea what might have possessed the antipodean broadcasters to make them think that they could fare any better with this travesty than the BBC itself did – they were compelled to revert to the original format after just one new-style episode was broadcast – but they will probably now get bombarded.with similar protests to those we had here all those months ago.

There is an old saying about there being two ways to learn a lesson: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way in this instance would have been to have learned from the BBC's experience (easily seen, as there has been no ten-minute Waybuloo slot in any of Auntie's schedules since that initial attempt) rather than having to go through it all themselves.

I have tweeted a response, indicating what worked here and suggesting that they might like to consider mounting a similar kind of campaign where they are. We shall see what transpires!

Neil Innes – Those That Didn't Make It Here

Although they are great, I did not include the following in this series (but provide links for those who feel they are okay with them) for these reasons...
  • City of the Angels – excluded because of (brief) imagery of unclothed females;
  • Humanoid Boogie – I'm not sure if those mannequin torsos are really appropriate for my 'blog; but perhaps I'm simply erring on the side of caution;
  • Amoeba Boogie – videos featuring children in leotards aren't really approved of these days, rightly or wrongly;
  • Front Loader – because of the petite (young-looking but actually but 23-year-old) lady undressing in the launderette. This was controversial at the time, and the story was covered in the national media.
There are lots of others I could include, but I am saving those for another day....

Monday, 23 July 2012

Godfrey Daniel – Neil Innes

How could I have a run of even just some of Neil Innes' numerous memorable themes without including this Elton John pastiche, Godfrey Daniel?

The answer is that I really can't, so here's the Innes Book of Records version, which – especially in the context of that programme – is truly superb, despite this video being a bit low on clarity, for some reason...

Slaves of Freedom – Neil Innes

We are in a funny mood...

Stoned on Rock – Neil Innes

The Alice in Wonderland motif for this works well enough, though the young lady doesn't seem to be wearing an Alice Band, which seems a surprising omission (I learnt about these when the Waybuloo one, featuring De Li, was released).

I do wonder whether the hippie with the 'cello case was the inspiration for how Stargate: SG-1's Dr Daniel Jackson turned out – that character does look very much like him in both the (original) James Spader and (subsequent) Michael G Shanks versions.

My favourite lines from the song are, perhaps predictably (knowing my penchant for word-play)
Though life is hard to take
I shan't quake or shake
I've got the rock to make me bo[u]lder!
Here we go...

Human Race – Neil Innes

This is a quite striking song in its way, aided by one of those superb John Altman orchestrations that were characteristic of The Innes Book of Records...

Rock of Ages – Neil Innes

Innes' hen-pecked travelling salesman – one of his regular characters – here has an unexpected encounter with a mermaid. Well, anything can happen, no matter how surreal, in The Innes Book of Records!

The song itself is delightful, performed by another of Innes' regulars (of the Cabaret / Max Quordlepleen type), and is an obviously Lennon-esque pastiche...

Two Songs – Neil Innes

A double treat this time, again from The Innes Book of Records: first we have Shangri-La, which despite its lighter moments also holds some quite powerful messages in the other passages, so do take notice of the words. You might be surprised and even moved...

Then we have The Early Morning Train, featuring Innes' regular moustachioed character again, this time as a seemingly somewhat frustrated commuter. If you are quick enough, you might notice as the train pulls away that it was being hauled by a Hymek locomotive, long since gone from our railways though there are a couple (I think) preserved...

Anyway, enjoy the ride...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Plenty of Time – Neil Innes

We've got plenty of time – if you want it!

Concrete Jungle Boy – Neil Innes

This is one I have put on this 'blog before; but its sheer brilliance visually, the clever wording and the top-notch arrangement make it a must-have in this series of items from The Innes Book of Records...

Eurovision Song – Neil Innes

The ultimate in collections of song clichés: Hey Mr Eurovision Song Contest Man just has to be the best in the world, ever! The children and other performers are great here too.

Neil always used talents out and around to add to his work in The Innes Book of Records, and showcased them very well, such as the kazoo band, the brass band and the majorettes here, and many others elsewhere as we shall see...

Kenny and Liza – Neil Innes

That last post reminds me that it's about time we had some more of the brilliant Neil Innes on here, especially the catchier themes (some of his work pursued other, sometimes darker moods), so let's start with Kenny and Liza, running away together and spending the night on the motorway...

Saturday, 21 July 2012


Gosh, Batman! Specially for local political types Vince Maple and Dr Keevil, who have apparently been debating the merits of Adam West's TV Batman from years ago, here's Neil Innes' spoof of that very series, from The Innes Book of Records...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Do I look silly in this?

One of the less publicised aspects of being in politics is the practice of attending functions that can include some at which one is asked to "get into the spirit" of a themed evening, and dress accordingly – such as at Thirties and Forties events. There have also been others with non time-related themes.

Now, this era was entirely before I was born, so I have no personal experience of those decades; but I and a friend did make the effort when required, as the photo at the right shows.

For anyone wondering: this photograph was taken at a social/fund-raising 'Forties' themed event held at Rochester Airport Café in the spring of 2009. It was very successful!

By the way: the 'Thirties' event I attended (in 2004) even had proper wind-up gramophones and 78 rpm records...

Torch on the Medway (and beyond)

There is a ninety-second video of the Olympic torch being carried by rowing boat on the River Medway this morning here, courtesy of ITV News (I cannot embed it here).

It works best in full-screen mode, which can be selected only once it has been started playing – something I have never understood, as a strange restriction to include in this and a number of other video players...

UPDATE @ Noon: The Messenger has now reported on the torch's passage through Chatham and Rochester.

UPDATE @ 1400: Someone apparently "shouting something about Allah" tried to grab the torch in Gravesend. (Now reported in The Mail) There always has to be one, doesn't there...

On a more positive note, here are some photo-galleries of the torch's time in parts of Medway at the ever-excellent Rochester People: Gillingham, and Rochester gallery 1 and gallery 2. Also some truly outstanding images can be found at YourMedway.

Local councillor Chris Irvine has also been active in Rochester, and has already edited and uploaded a three-minute video (and some photos), which is reproduced here (via YouTube) for your convenience...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Playing By The Raules

I have been really quite impressed with CBS Action's* 'inside track' introductions and close-outs by one Raules Davies, a self-styled 'Trekologist'.

He started giving us some insights about the upcoming episode or some bit of trivia related to it for Star Trek: The Next Generation, also the original Star Trek series that was running concurrently, in an adjacent time-slot; and – now that the channel has moved on to Star Trek: Voyager – he is doing the same for the later series.

I think he comes across very well, and his information is, as Spock would say, fascinating!

I am now careful to ensure I have the sound on in time for his pre-programme spot and keep it on instead of muting at the end, when there'd usually be (on any other programme or channel) an annoying announcement about what's coming next and later.

Well done, Raules, you're doing a great job!

(* CBS Action is on Virgin Media Cable TV channel 192)

Dressing for Dinner

It is becoming very difficult to find decent salad dressings for my dinner these days: most of what is available in the shops is rather yucky, I find.

The really good stuff, such as Cardini's Caesar and Ranch dressings and the late Paul Newman's range, have vanished from the shops during recent years, not even appearing for the summer season let alone all year round.

At least as far as oil-based dressings are concerned, there is Maille's vinaigrette with "a touch of black olives" (as it says on the label), and this I have found to be very good with none of the sickliness of the others on the market – whether a supermarket's own brand, Kraft, Hellman's or any other I have found for sale.

I still miss the Newman's and Cardini dressings, especially the latter as the two I mentioned are creamy dressings which have their particular uses and for which I have no current alternative, but at least I now have something usable.

An excellent creamy dressing that one cannot buy separately is the chive-and-herb dressing that comes with Sainsbury's "classic" tray salad, in a sachet. Now, if only that were available in a bottle...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Stay out of trouble!

That was Robocop's standard advice to the public; and with news of a remake (yes, yet another remake!) currently in the pipeline it could be interesting to take a quick peek at it.

The cast includes big names such as Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson, along with our own 'House' export to Hollywood, Hugh Laurie, while Murphy/Robocop is being played by an unknown to me: Joel Kinnaman.

As usual with these things, I cannot as yet see the point in re-working something that worked so well (if somewhat violently) in its first incarnation – but shall reserve judgement until it's released. Most but not all 're-imaginings' (as they are often termed these days) have been relatively poor, and the originals have usually worked better.

Sometimes the new version stands on its own as merely a different take on the same theme, without either invalidating or being overshadowed by the original work. The newer Battlestar Galactica series, flawed though it was, is one such. The new V series is also very good, despite some variable-quality scripting and acting,  and can co-exist with the original – which has been shown again only this month on one of the Cable/satellite channels.

In the current case, there are several memorable aspects of the original that will no doubt be impossible to substitute, let alone replicate, including the top-notch performances from the likes of Miguel Ferrer and Ronny Cox, and certainly the outstanding performance of Kurtwood Smith as Clive Bonniker. That's out of reach, I'd suggest...

A Thousand Views

This morning, the number of views of my uploaded videos passed the one thousand mark.

This is quite an achievement for me, especially as there is no obvious reason for anyone to stumble across them naturally and I certainly don't actively promote them beyond a mention here and on Twitter when they first go up.

Most haven't been up very long, and none longer than seven months. In other words, my comparatively modest numbers are still quite a lot better than might be expected.

All of this reminds me that I still have several more event videos to prepare and upload; and the main reason that hasn't been done so far is that I am having a certain amount of difficulty concentrating enough to to a proper job of editing my source material. That's the strong medication I am on nowadays, which periodically affects me like this, but it'll pass and then I'll do the necessary.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hacker-space in Medway

Hacker-spaces are physical locations where coders and the like can meet to learn, socialise and collaborate on projects, as the linked page puts it. This is of course the real (and original) meaning of "hacker" in the computer-related world – one who hacks away at programming code to make something work, not someone trying to compromise another's IT/on-line security.

It is pleasing to find a hacker-space at the Medway Innovation Centre, under the name Prototype, at the end of the first linked page's relatively short list of such spaces in the UK.

It's all been going as a concept for some time, and is worldwide, with the UK having been active for at least three years – probably much longer, but the Foundation to which I linked above began in early 2009, so (without some delving) I can't be sure of anything prior to then.

Anyway, it's there, and it's also here just up the road from me – not that I am a coder myself these days, even though I have been wondering whether to get myself a Raspberry-Pi when the new Debian Linux distro comes out (named Raspbian!) and learn Python, among other study. We shall see...

The World's Narrowest Sreet shrinking! Already just 12 feet long (3·6 metres) and one foot wide (approx 30 cm), the record-holding Spreuerhofstrasse in the German city of Reutlingen is narrowing owing to the movement of one of the buildings we see here...

More information on the dilemma now facing the city can be found here.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Drawing Piplings

I wish I'd had the knowledge imparted in this short (and silent) video when I was in hospital last year. Still, I made a reasonable job of it even so, as I have shown here previously. This, though, is how it should be done...

Are We Too Many?

Population levels have for years been perhaps the most significant factor in humanity's future viability on Planet Earth, as I have mentioned a couple of times on this 'blog, and occasionally elsewhere as well.

The problem is ratios and proportions – which, centuries ago, were not an issue nor seemingly soon to become one. Now, though, we are in an increasingly difficult situation, and if not handled right will play right into the hands of the Bilderbergers, whose aim is (I am informed) to eradicate 95% of the planet's human population at/by some unspecified date, but seemingly in the not-too-distant future.

Before looking at that, though, let us see what happens when proportions go out of kilter, using (of all things) skirt lengths to make a point. Here, the wearer is of fixed size, but a relatively modest change in skirt length has a disproportionately large effect. Here we have a fifty-fifty (percent) ratio of skirted to un-skirted leg length...

Now, see what happens when just ten percent is taken off the skirt length, resulting in a 60%/40% proportion...

Notice that the change in effect is considerably greater than that ten percent figure suggests. In fact, the 60/40 ratio represents a one-and-a-half to one proportion, rather than a one-to-one fraction. That ten percent shift has had a fifty percent change in its effect. Going one stage further, here is a 70%/30% version of the skirt...

Yes, it looks ridiculous, as ultra-short fashions tend to be (which is one reason I have never liked them); but more significantly the additional ten percent moving of the hemline has resulted in the unskirted length now being some 233 percent the skirted length. Again, the effect has been disproportionate – extremely so, in fact.

This realm is where the world has now ended up, owing to the sheer size of the human population at well over six billion, combined with the greatly increased resource demand/need per capita. The planet is the same size as ever, and every additional person adds to the demand/need while simultaneously taking space away from the resource-generating part of the planet – the double-whammy impact. Every new housing (or whatever) build on green land is a reminder of this trend that is long-established but now dangerous.

In case this all sounds like I am about to join Caroline Lucas' Green Party, fear not! The "watermelon" eco-fascists use environmental issues as an excuse to dictate to and steal from the rest of us: if it hadn't been that oh-so-convenient handle on which to hang their Communist-style methodology, they'd have found something else instead.

Indeed, now that it has been revealed (a couple of years ago) that "climate change scientists" were employed and funded only on the proviso that they came up with the "right" conclusions, we know that all this man-made climate change stuff is undependable anyway. That has been permanently discredited, even if there is possibly (for all I know) a grain of truth in it somewhere. Not that such inconvenient facts stop the usual suspects continuing to peddle the line, even today...

Corrupting it thus has killed off the whole research area's credibility – permanently!

So, what's the answer? Where, as a species, do we go now? The problem remains that, in most if not all cultures, there is a strong incentive to breed more and actually increase population. Some of this stems from societies with high child mortality rates, so was effectively self-compensating.

Of course, if and when the underlying mortality issue is overcome, say through modern medicinal remedies, yet the over-breeding practice continues (likely!) then population levels will start shooting up in such places. That will contribute to the overall population problem.

Even here in Britain, though, our society's structure means that we need more people working in order to generate the (tax) income to pay toward the present older generations' (yes, that's a plural nowadays!) pensions, as well as contributing to their own in future decades. We are fundamentally structured in a way that needs ever more working-age offspring in order to sustain us.

Obviously, the only solution would have to change that dynamic hugely, and I don't know how that could be done. The Bilderberg method(s) will apparently be far more drastic than we the people would approve of, which no doubt explains the enormous secrecy of the whole operation. Here I am thinking of the possibility of a 'manufactured' (i.e. excuse devised for) nuclear/chemical/biological World War, which would be horrific beyond imagining if that's what is indeed being mooted. It wouldn't surprise me...

No: we have to be smarter and able to suggest – and offer by each of us playing our part – something much better that can more naturally and tolerably re-balance our existence on this planet. Anyone who watched the (admittedly fairly poor) Torchwood: Miracle Day TV series will at least have been alerted to the way officialdom including the military are prepared to behave when the "necessities" of an emergency situation arise. That is perhaps the only value to have come from that programme – but it is something we should never forget.

Therefore we as a people need somehow to ensure that our leaders and those with the guns are never avoidably put in a position anything like as desperate as that, nor are they afforded the excuse to act in such a manner. We have to find a better way. Thinking caps on, everyone!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Parish Notice – Indirect Link to Possible Malware

(Image kindly provided by Chris Irvine)
I am grateful to local bloggers Tristan Osborne and Chris Irvine for informing me that there was a link to a "known malware site" (exact wording is in the graphic at right) somewhere on this 'blog.

I couldn't see this at all, so I methodically worked through any links in all my recent posts, and all the way down my (multi-sectioned) blogroll.

It was a useful exercise, and the latter part is one I do periodically anyway, as linked sites are changing, coming (e.g. re-vamped or change their remit) and going all the time.

Some sites are no longer operating, or have been inactive for a very long time, and those I have now removed. A handful of the now-defunct sites have been replaced by what are known as a 'holding page' (to ensure there is something there when one visits, giving an idea of what has happened and frequently offering the now-available sub-domain to a new taker) and it has to have been one of these that contained a link to the 'dodgy' website identified in the above graphic.

It wouldn't have been in any of my 'blog posts anyway, unless a link therein had subsequently been changed, as I am meticulous at checking thos links before including them. Indeed, over the years, there have been a sprinkling of links I haven't included because they looked like they might not stay intact indefinitely.

Anyway, reports coming in have indicated that the issue has now disappeared, so with apologies to anyone who might have encountered that message or any other worrying indications, I can report that it is no longer an issue here. UPDATE: I have now found out which site on my blogroll it was causing this, and that one is among those that have now been removed. As it turned out, there was nothing dodgy there, but presumably there had been in the (recent?) past.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The World Is Fully ARMed

There are now so many ARM processors in the world that it seems now to have completely overshadowed all other processor types/families/designs.

Now, I'm not one for monopolies in any market; but for years we had precisely  that with the old and creaky Intel x86 type (a close clone of which was and is also made by AMD, and once upon a time a third company did the same of code-compatible chips as well).

I always think of them, and the computers with them inside, as 'HGV machines', as per my years-old saying about being like "taking a lorry out to do the shopping", because of the power, memory and other resources they take just to get going, and the heat and noise they pump out as a consequence..

These days the processor chips have silly names such as Athlon and Celeron (Pentium was a much better name!) but essentially they are somewhat distant (by now) cousins of the ancient 386 and 486 processors.

ARM has its own in-brand names such as Cortex, but at least they sound technical...

Anyway, the two important distinctions to make are (a) that the ARM is a much more elegant design, and (b) that it is made under licence by many companies, not just one or two. Indeed, some of those companies, working with the ARM people, have designed their own ARM-based designs, from Digital's StrongARM of 1996 to a Chinese design for a complete System-on-Chip (SoC) on which work started a year or so ago.

There are now billions of ARM chips on the planet; and with the approach of ARM Holdings' quarter 2 results for 2012, due out in a couple of weeks from now, it is instructive to look back at last year's results for the same quarter. There are several interesting facts and figures in the "points of interest" section on the linked page, but the first one tells the main story: 1·1 billion ARMs shipped during those three months last year.

The second point there reflects something I have mentioned before, which is that forthcoming market-leading Operating Systems will be coded to run on ARM systems. This is what I believe is termed "waking up and smelling the coffee" on the part of the likes of Microsoft and Google. The world has moved on, in a positive direction, and they can't afford to ignore or sideline it any longer.