Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Interesting fact of the day - Japan and Russia have yet to sign a peace treaty

There is still disagreement over the ownership of four islands (Shikotan, Kunashiri, Etorofu and the Habomai islets) that were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.
When I think of Japan, I don't realise how close it is to its neighbours. Busan (Pusan) on the coast of mainland South Korea is only 130 miles to Fukuoka, which is exactly the same distance as Dublin to Liverpool. Even closer is the very Northern tip of Hokkaido (the large square island of North Japan) to Sakhalin Island (Russia's largest island) - 28 miles coast-to-coast.
The problem area is part of a long chain of islands that stretch down from the massive Kamchatka peninsula to within 5 miles of Japan (in a similar way to how the Aleutian islands stretch from Alaska to Russia). At the end of the war the Russians took all of the 750 mile chain and haven't agreed to give the Japanese end back yet after 60 years. The Japanese stance is "all of the 4 islands or nothing" but the Russians don't see anything in that solution for themselves. As the cold war is over, though, there is little point having a costly Russian military base there so maybe a demilitarised neutral area may be the way forward.
Best of luck to the negotiators, though, if Japan's dealings with its other neighbours is anything to go by.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Winnie the Pooh and friend

Here Samantha performs her world-famous beer impression although Winnie seems a little brassed off by it all.

We learnt that the bear of little brain character, Winnie The Pooh, was based on an encounter by A. A. Milne's sone with a bear at London Zoo many years ago. According to the official Pooh site, the original bear was an orphan brought up by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade but left with the London Zoo in December 1914 as the troops passed through London on their way to war. The bear was left to stay at the zoo when the war ended, having settled in so well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Cars - see it today

Just been to see the Pixar/Disney movie "Cars" and it was excellent. It is really amazing how they can produce films this good - not just from an animation point of view but with such great story-telling. The finale had me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. This is all the more surprising because all along you know what's going to happen, more or less. As soon as arrogant, uncaring Lightning McQueen appears, the movie has to be about turning his personality around and after that there is little deviation. The good win, the bad lose, and we all go home satisfied.

Highlights for me are:

  • The Italians (Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500, and Guido, a Isetta-style forklift - they are a fantastic stereotype that only know about Ferraris.
  • The flies - occasionally there are some bugs flying around which are tiny little VW Beetles, a lovely touch.
  • The Arizona-style scenery is lovely and well created.
  • Right at the end, there is a drive-in-movie scene where they pay homage to other movies - very well observed comedy.

Low points



What's going on?

The Coca-Cola Football League Championship Table
6West Brom4+38

Incredible results - ex-Premiership teams Birmingham and West Brom jostling for promotion with out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new Wolves. No-one can believe the change Merlin the Magician has made to the side - I'm tempted to actually go to a match!

Friday, August 25, 2006


And then there were eight...

Pluto has been relegated as the "Big 8" from a breakaway Premiership league. Pluto may appeal, citing unfavourable voting conditions as most of the attendees at end of the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) 10-day General Assembly in Prague had gone home when the vote was taken.
Pluto (2,360km) is now a "Dwarf Planet" along with Charon (it's moon, 1,200km), Ceres (asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, 1,000km) and UB313 (the so-called "10th planet" - 3000km).
Charon can be a dwarf planet and not just a moon as it is large enough to make Pluto-Charon a binary system. Although the Earth and the Moon could also be a binary system, they are not regarded as such as the point that both orbit about is within the body of the Earth due to the huge size difference. For Pluto and Charon the centre of the orbit is somewhere in space between the two bodies.
There are some other condidates for being dwarf planets with great names, such as Orcus, Easterbunny and Santa. The last two are unfortunately only provisional names, chosen from the time of year the objects were discovered, and they will eventually get permanent creation or underworld deity name.

Thursday, August 24, 2006



Microsoft's internal newsletter, MicroNews, used to carry Dilbert strips every issue but a couple of years ago they gave the spot to Hans Bjordahl's "Bug Bash". Initially I wasn't too happy - everybody loves Dilbert - but Hans' cartoon strip has grown on me. Most of his strips are now available on his website:

Sadly, the ones that give you some insight into the internal workings of Microsoft aren't in the archives but there're still more than enough online to give you a laugh.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Wiki Wiki Wiki

First step on the way to being a Wikipedia contributor - uploading a simple photo of the ruined Royal Garrison Church, Portsmouth that I took yesterday. Next step is to edit the Wikipedia entry for the Church so that the image appears there. Exciting!

I love the content on Wikipedia - the idea's OK (or brilliant, or a disaster, depending on your point of view) but it's great that there is so much content there and it's growing all the time.

Take the entry for the Royal Garrison Church (a.k.a. Domus Dei (Hospital of Saint Nicholas)) - here I learnt that in 1450, the whole town of Portsmouth was excommunicated for 58 years because some sailors murdered the unpopular Bishop of Chichester. Marvellous - you can excommunicate a whole town, kicking all the residents out of the church whether they were involved or not!

Here's the picture hosted on my website:

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Bug's Eye View

So how much do you think this whizzy lens attachment cost? Any guesses?

About 5p - it's kiddie's toy held in front of the camera J


The lengths some people will go to for a decent Freeview reception



The Spinnaker Tower gets everywhere

I quite like the Spinnaker Tower - it looks very impressive and can be seen from miles away but I can see why some of the older members of my family are not so happy. Nobody was consulted as to if they actually wanted such a building and it was completed 5 years too late for the Millenium with a taxpayer bill of £11,000,000 after the councillors originally promised that every penny was to come from lottery funding. According to the BBC last year, "In 2004, council leader Leo Madden resigned over delays and spiralling costs, while a council legal adviser, Barry Smith, retired after being suspended on full pay."

A local person interviewed for the website said that she was "not really into that sort of thing" and would "rather have an Ikea here." So the tower is on the edge of a 500,000 square foot shopping complex and she feels that the continent-sized 8,000 square feet taken up around the tower's base would be better spent on a branch of IKEA. An Ikiosk, morelike.

But I'll conclude with a reference to the title. As my daughter and I were walking along the seafront we took various photos of the Tower but the best one was when we were hurtling around the Skyways at Clarence Pier. Even when we weren't taking photos of the Tower, it still managed to gate-crash the party:


Friday, August 18, 2006


Portsmouth Beer Festival 2006

Another successful attendance at this year's Portsmouth Beer Festival - that's every one since 1983 and no sign of stopping  :-)

Only managed 9 halves - gone are the days of indecipherable beer notes in the programme and avoiding any drink under 4%. Nowadays I seem to be avoiding anything over 4.5% but then I am drinking with my dad.

7:06    Footslogger (4.4%)Arundel

(Arundel, West Sussex)

This was my first half of the night. The programme description said "golden, light and very refreshing beer, using Challenger hops to give a good bitter flavour and hoppy aroma." Definitely refreshing and the sort of pint you'd want after a hard day at work - would look out for it again. 
7:17    Black Cat (3.4%)Moorhouses

(Burnley, Lancashire)

"Dark, refreshing beer with a distinct chocolate malt flavour and a smooth hoppy finish." Not sure about the supposed chocolate flavour unless by that they somehow meant burnt as that was the overriding taste for me.
7:35    Barm Pot Bitter (3.8%)Goose Eye

(Keighley, West Yorkshire)

For some reason the programme had this one as "Barn Pot" - not that the real title "Barm Pot" is in any way more sensible. "A good session bitter with hop and citrus flavour balanced by a malty base with a somewhat dry finish." Could smell the lemon here so have to agree.
7:53    Special (4.5%)Young's

(Wandsworth, London)

I don't normally buy beers at festivals from breweries that I can buy from at the local supermarket but I do like the Young's brand and the ram's head label design. Looks very different, modern and stylish - deceptively pagan, even - so "half a Special, please".
8:14    Powder Monkey (4.4%)Nelson nee Flagship (Chatham, Kent)Too late to make the programme but not the festival. 
8:36    Golden Bine (3.8%)Ballard's

(Rogate, West Sussex)

"Golden in colour, with a light floral flavour and aroma."
8:53    Fruit Bat (4.5%)Banks & Taylor

(Shefford, Bedfordshire)

"Exciting, raspberry flavoured, hoppy cask-conditioned fruit beer." Does what it says on the tin - so much lovely fruity goodness that it must be healthy for you. 
9:17    Explorer (4.3%)Adnams

(Southwold, Suffolk)

"Blond beer suffused with aromas of a grapefruit grove, with New World hops delivering its fruity bitterness." Well, with hops named Chinook and Columbus, definitely not Old World but don't recall any grapefruityness.
9:42    Slater's Top Totty (4.0%)Eccleshall

(Eccleshall, Staffordshire)

From an Inn with its own brewery - sounds like a great place to visit. 

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Wow - it works!

As one of the volunteer gophers on some of the informal social or hobby email aliases at work, I tend to learn lots of weird and wonderful stuff - basically someone asks a question of the alias and answers are forthcoming from those people who either (a) know the answer or (b) are clever enough to use a search engine ("clever" here really means the opposite of lazy).
This week I have mainly been learning about perigee (or perigree, almost dog food, as I started with) and apogee (which always reminds me of Jethro Tull). If you want to take photos of the moon, you're better off waiting for the eliptical path to bring it nearer (perigree) and there's about 11% difference in it's size at that time (and completely unrelated to the existence of optical illusions when the moon is near the horizon). With handy calculators, you can determine when in August the moon is both full and closest - today and tomorrow respectively.
I bemoaned the quality of my camera in taking shots of the moon that didn't look like bright white circles until others in the alias convinced me that I should be able to do something with its manual settings.
Now I have NO idea where the user manual is but - as I mentioned before - I am clever enough to use search engines and a review site spake forth:

"Exposure options include the usual Program "point-n-shoot" mode as well as Shutter and Aperture Priority."

So THAT'S what the P, S and A letters on the camera screen meant!

[[Thought bubble appears over my head with work colleague saying "You need a surprisingly fast shutter speed to photograph the moon"...]]

It was all starting to make sense. I read further...

"To get into extended shutter speed mode: While in S-Mode press the SET button and (down) on the 4-way switch - you can now go beyond the normal 2 second maximum shutter speed barrier. Change speeds using the (up) or (down) switch as usual."

1/1000 of a second - THAT should do to start with and so off I trotted into the garden. Chucked in 6x optical/digital zoom with timer to avoid handshake and...

the bloody thing worked!


It's a small world...

At work, everybody can be linked over Microsoft Office Communicator so you can type away in chat sessions instead of phoning them up. The software also shows the person's online status which can be useful if you want to check they are at their desk or not. I just glanced at the list of people on my screen and one who works in Haifa was marked as "Away - under bomb attack"...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Cough, Splutter!

Tonight Wolves won at home to Ipswich through a first-half goal and held out for an hour on ten men after their striker was sent off. If you had told me the outcome this afternoon before the match, there's no way I would have believed you. I had thought that holding out for a point like at Plymouth on Saturday was the expected route for this season but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Ipswich weren't particularly strong last season (we took 4 points off them) and don't seem to have improved this time. Bothroyd (ex-Charlton) scored on his home debut which you can't really top (except with your first home hat trick, I suppose).

Carl Cort was sent off a third of the way through for accidentally hitting an Ipswich player. The ref's name (Trevor Kettle) sounded familiar so I checked on Soccerbase. It seems he has refereed five Wolves matches in his career:

August 8th, 2006Ipswich (H)Red card for Carl Cort
October 22nd, 2005Preston (H)Red card for Ganea (the "excessive celebrating" game)
August 6th, 2005Southampton (A)Red card for opposition
December 7th, 2004Millwall (H) 
October 30th, 2004 (League Cup)Gillingham (A)Red card for opposition

Four cards in five matches!

Before today, Carl had picked up ONE yellow card in his time at Wolves (72 other matches). Bizarre. If I was him, I'd be gutted.



As Sue and I were away for the evening, I needed to let my daughter know that someone was coming round to collect some Freecycle stuff. I asked Sue but she wasn't interested as it was job. So I forgot...
As I was cycling away from work to play D&D, I remembered and nimbly fished my mobile out of my rucksack side pocket. Flat battery...
At Cemetery Junction I stopped at a phone box and tried ringing home. Engaged...
I picked up my fish and chips and tried a phone box further on. Strangely the receiver was left on top but the phone seemed to be worked. Except it ate 10p and wouldn't return it...
So I tried the phonebox next to it and got through (and it's 30p for a call from a pay phone!), only to find that the person had already collected the magazines...
So, 40p spent and a waste of time anyway (except I'm sure Samantha appreciated the call so probably not a waste at all).

Saturday, August 05, 2006


And so it begins...

A point away at Plymouth puts us joint 9th with 4 teams to play on Sunday so we should drop a couple of places to mid-table. Wolves didn't manage to score, taking advantage of a massive deflection off one of their defenders for an own-goal. Matt Murray, goalie in the promotion-to-the-prem season, was MOTM which bodes well. Five players made their debuts in the starting 11 (Breen 45 mins, Henry, Bothroyd 65 mins, Clapham, O'Connor) which is nearly half the team!
Just out of curiosity, I wondered if the age of our team was low because of the summer clearout.

Plymouth – 411 years between the 16 players – average 25.7 years
Wolves – 412 years between the 16 players – average 25.8 years

Weird, huh? One year in it.


Great... I'm a d6

I am a d6

You are a good old-fashioned six-sided cube, otherwise known as a d6. Others know you to be plain, predictable, conservative, average, ordinary, and downright boring. You prefer to describe yourself as dependable, honest, practical and trustworthy. People usually know what to expect from you, since you rarely hold any surprises. You hate to make decisions, and if forced to decide, you'll always fall back on how it was done in the past. You always order the same thing at your favourite restaurant, and your jokes, while funny, are never too offensive. It seems that you are well liked, but maybe that's simply because there's nothing to hate.

Take the quiz at

Friday, August 04, 2006


Out with the old and in with the new

I can't believe that the only Wolves players who have been around for a few years and still keep playing are Naylor and Oakes. Everyone else went on the summer, except Murray.

1Michael Oakes (G)Nearly 7 years with the club now; last season was 2nd choice behind ex-Aston Villa's Stefan Postma (who left on a free to ADO Den Haag).
20Matt Murray (G)Got Wolves promoted then disappeared to sick bay; would be 1st choice but perpetually injured.
30Carl Ikeme (G)Young back-up goalie with minimal experience
31Wayne Hennessey (G)Youth player (19) was to go on loan to Bristol but was instead recalled, probably due to Murray being injured.
2Mark Clyde (D)24-year-old Irish international who hasn't played for Wolves since February 2005
3Lee Naylor (D)Permanent fixture - now into his 10th season
 Keith Lowe (D)On loan to Brighton
5Gary Breen (D)New free signing from Sunderland in his early 30s; hopefully bring useful experience with him.
6Jody Craddock (D)3 years with the club now after moving from Sunderland; missed half of last season; just turned 31.
12Rob Edwards (D)24-year-old Welsh international who managed to turn out for pretty much all of last season
 Kevin O'ConnorTrainee, new to the team, who spent a little while on loan to Stockport.
25Daniel Jones (D)New blood from the youth academy, still only 19.
26Mark Little (D)Another new youth player, 18 later this month.
24Gabor Gyepes (D)25-year-old Hungarian who managed less than half the matches of his first season (05/06).
4Seyi Olofinjana (M)Been at Molineux for 2 years now and hasn't played since November
7Jackie McNamara (M)Unable to make an impression on his first season (05/06) through injury early on. Hopefully we can begin to see the benefits of his 10 years at Celtic this time.
15Denes Rosa (M)Another Hungarian from the same club as Gabor. Joined in the New Year and only managed less than half then remaining matches.
16Mark Davies (M)New to the first team from the academy but straight into injury for the next 3 months.
22Lewis Gobern (M)Been with Wolves for 2 years but all his experience is from loan periods to lower division clubs where he helped save Blackpool (3rd tier) and Bury (4th tier) from relegation so new to the 1st team - maybe he could be very useful this season...
33Martin Riley (M)No details so I assume an academy player, new to team
19Finkler Guilherme (M) Young new player who came over from Brazil in the summer and impressed enough for a loan signing from Juventude.
28Rohan Ricketts (M)Last season this ex-Spurs player was unable to guarantee his name on the team sheet for half the season.
29Kevin O'Connor (M)20-year-old Irish trainee with a few games under his belt on loan to Stockport but new to the 1st team.
17Leon Clarke (F)Maybe his loan time at Plymouth will come in handy this weekend. Has managed 8 goals in three years from 31 appearances; now 21 years old.
9Carl Cort (F)31 goals from 71 matches isn't too bad at all - hopefully he will settle down and decide to stay after the chaotic summer.
21Tomasz Frankowski (F)Polish international in his early 30s who scored against England this year but didn't get to the World Cup. No goals for Wolves, though, in 12 matches.
37Christopher Cornes (F)New player although trainee for a couple of years; no appearances for the club although very effective on loan to Port Vale.
 10Jay Bothroyd (F) New player this season on a free from Charlton; past history at other clubs seems to be mainly scoring as a sub.
 Craig Davies (F)New loan signing of young Welsh player from Verona. Some Oxford chat-sites suggest an arrogant player (who use to play for Oxford united).
34Stephen Gleeson (F)New youth player to the first team

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


F1 photographers, eat your heart out.

Cycling in to work this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see a steam engine coming the other way - quite a rarity to actually see one in motion. By luck I had my camera in my rucksack and this seemed a good photo opportunity. The engine must have been a good 100, maybe 150, yards away and coming up-hill so I had enough time. I cycled to the middle island of the pedestrian crossing to get a better view, only to then find I was in the way of someone else crossing on their bike. Quickly dragging my bike out of the way, I grabbed my rucksack and opened the pocket. Wrong pocket! Next pocket and the camera is out and warming up {Y2K-technology}. I turn round and frantically activate the zoom-out just as the engine crawls past leaving me with a not-so-romance-of-steam photo of it rolling past me. {Sigh}.


Ripped asunder

Here's a lovely shot of a thin cloud layer at exactly the same height as that taken by the high-altitude passenger jets.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Half full, half empty? Pah!

I get really annoyed with people saying "you mean half-full" when I say "half-empty". No, I'm not being negative - I mean "half-empty". If I have a pint glass of beer - hypothetical example, of course - then it starts full and, over a period of time, tends towards an empty state through the half-empty point. In the process of refilling, it passes through half-full towards being topped up to the brim. Or if I fill a bath-tub it can be half-full but when I pull the plug it can eventually be half-empty.

Stop getting hung-up on this - you'll know when I'm being negative.

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