"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Best of the Fitz 2006

Happy 2007! It was another vintage year for Fitzrovian Tuesday, though going back over the archives for the last twelve months, geo-political and environmental concerns do seem to have dominated much of the chat. Below, in no particular order, is my traditional personal selection of favourite posts/threads of 2006.
1. How to talk to a global warming sceptic
2. Monkeys
3. End of an Era
4. Retro police state
5. Imagine Earth without People

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Beware the christmas party season

Poor old bishop of Southwark - getting hammered at the Irish embassy, then ending up climbing into the back of a parked car and throwing the kids toys he found there out onto the street. It says here that when challenged he shouted, "I'm the Bishop of Southwark! This is what I do!".

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Creationism museum

These people are completely mad - a molecular geneticist who belives in a literal interpretation of genesis, including the 10,000 year timescale.

New thread for the purpose of discussing Scottish Independence

I need to do some reading up on the economic pros and cons, but at an emotional level I'm all for the Union.

I wonder what the Lowland / Highland split is with regard to the issue? Arguably in evidence in Fitzrovian Tuesdays?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Threat Assessment Severe

I think I've discussed my distaste for John Reid before, but this has hardened recently - particularly after watching "V for Vendetta", in which he is basically played by a sinister Tim Piggott-Smith.

His last-but-one announcement at the weekend (just before his 'crack down' online paedophiles) was typical Reid. Other than terrifying the population, I really can't see what point there is in saying that a "Christmas terrorist attack is highly likely". What is anyone actually meant to do with this information?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I've been hacking around with the blog's design

I wanted to get away from the standard blogger template we've been using up to now. It's probably going to be a work in progress over the next few weeks...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Perle's Non-Wisdom

I cannot believe the nerve of Richard Perle, on the radio this morning talking about how the Iraq Study group report is naive. Like, advocating going to war in the first place in the belief that it would bring about a smooth transition to Western-style liberal democracies across the Middle East wasn't naive, then? Total git.

More internet tv stuff

Channel 4 is making its content available for download. Not had a chance to play with this yet but it potentially looks pretty good (if only I had time etc etc).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Totally unimpressed by Brown's efforts today on going green. As if an extra fiver on air fares is going to make any difference at all. He's going to get completely out-flanked on this by the Tories.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wine offer update

If you buy any 6 bottles of wine at Sainsbury's you get 25% off! Given that a lot of Sainsbury's wine is already marked down to the magic £4 a bottle price point this is pretty good. Offer ends Monday tho...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

European Fields: The landscape of lower league football

These are great (another post culled from the wonderful Metafilter).

Playboy townhouse

Not a bad pied à terre...

Thresher web discount

Definitely viral marketing I reckon. The discount isn't particularly amazing given that Threshers have a "buy two get one free" offer permanently in place and their wine is pricey compared to the supermarkets.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I Was Placed On This Earth To Put Off Doing Something Extraordinary

I know how he feels.


I discovered alloftv.net recently. It's really just a directory, linked to video hosted on other sites, so the quality's variable and some of the links have gone dead. But I've watched a few episodes of Mighty Boosh, the Simpsons and American Dad and it worked pretty well. I would much prefer to consume telly on a video-on-demand basis, but it's bound to take broadcasters ages to come up with a cheap enough model for mainstream use. The BBC should make all their shows available on this basis to license payers.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rave videos

From back in the day via Metafilter. I just tried to watch the video to Stakker's Humanoid but couldn't handle the strobing for more than 10 seconds...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Future's bright

In a similar vein to the New Scientist stuff below, I went to an interesting talk last week about future forecasting. One presentation was by a New York company called Sputnik, whose background seems to have been as one of those specialist marketing companies that interpret street/youth trends for the benefit of global multinational corporations so that they can sell lots of crap to the kids, but who now appear to go around interviewing leading academic scientists about their work, joining the dots, and trying to extrapolate future trends for society, the economy etc. Whatever their motives, their video clips of scientists threw up some interesting ideas, such as:
* GM plants will be the most efficient way of converting solar energy to stored energy - could be 10 times more efficient/productive than now, and will absorb CO2 (Freeman Dyson).
* Make plastics out of cheap, plentiful CO2, thereby removing it from the atmosphere (Janine Benyus).
* Use algae to absorb pollution and greenhouse gases. They tried this on a power plant exhaust, and the algae absorbed 40% of CO2, 86% of Nitrous Oxide, and they were able to convert the bi-products into ethanol (Issac Berzin, MIT rocket scientist).
* 'Sustainability' is a poor goal - that implys maintaining the status quo, when in fact we could do a lot better. (Mitchell Joachim, transology project.)
* Studying 'metabolisms' will become more important that genetics.
* There is a concept of 'urban metabolism' - how do cities/buildings consume?
* There may be 'environmental heresies' (Stewart Brand) that the environmental movement will come to accept around population growth, urbanisation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.
* That DuPont has imposed stringent sustainability goals on itself that it intends to reach by 2015, and which seem genuinely impressive.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Scientist 50th Anniversary

I bought the 50th Anniversary edition of the New Scientist on the way to work this morning, thinking it would provide some light reading for the Tube. Opened it up to be confronted by the following articles: 'What is Reality?', 'Do We Have Free Will?', 'What is Life?', 'Is the Universe Deterministic?', 'What is Consciousness?', 'Will We Ever Have a Theory of Everything?', 'What Happens After You Die?', and 'What Comes After Humans?'. I read Metro instead. Looking forward to tackling the 'the biggest questions ever asked', but need to wait until I'm feeling a bit more alert and a bit less dim!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Today's front pages from 562 newspapers in 54 countries (mostly US). John Lanchester mentioned this in LRB prior to US mid-terms.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006


For the last 4 years I've seen that man on the TV at least twice a week and felt sick with rage and helplessness. And now it's come to an end. For that alone, God Bless America.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Borat = Mahir

Remember Mahir, with the unintentionally comic website - 'I kiss you!' etc. He reckons that Sacha Baron Cohen has ripped him off. He might have a point.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Neo Culpa

Sorry to go back on my word about not posting about Iraq, but this is quite an extraordinary volte face - Richard Perle now publicly saying that Iraq was a terrible idea: vanityfair.com.

And in other news - Bush's favourite Christian evangelical caught buying crystal meth from a gay prostitue! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Brilliant.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Secret Policeman's Ball

Amnesty's Secret Policeman's Ball was on recently. One of the acts was David Armand, doing the Torn mime act that you've no doubt seen on the net. Well worth having a look at this version though: link

Any other acts you know of that were particularly good?

[Fixed the name; the one I got from youtube was wrong. He's actually English.]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Gray - a Fitz thinker?

Read this book of essays the other week. I'd always been suspicious of John Gray, since his philosophy is largely based around attacking liberalism and the enlightenment. It's actually one of the most provocative (in a good way) things I've read for ages. It genuinely troubled me, and one has to acknowledge that his essays from the late 90s have, so far, proved to be far far better predictors of the 21st century than any of the new economy/end of history guff that was so fashionable at the time.

As promised...

A website designed so that you never have to click your mouse: www.dontclick.it.

(Iraq and climate change not mentioned.)


This lot reckon that the CO2 emitted as a result of planting palms and sugar cane to produce bio fuels will exceed that saved by Kyoto.

I promise only to post frivolous and light-hearted stuff from now on!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Least Accountable Regime in the Middle East

I might just have mentioned this before, but Iraq - what a bloody disaster! Just read this piece by Ed Harriman in the LRB - The Least Accountable Regime in the Middle East (login required for full article) - and the sheer incompetence, waste and idiocy of the enterprise is staggering. It's about the cash spent on reconstruction projects and the like. Billions and billions have been spent to achieve the merest fraction of what they were supposed to. Nobody knows where most of it has gone, other than to corrupt Iraqi politicians, western security firms and consultants of various shades. Electricity levels are only just now getting back to Saddam era crapness, and water and sewage not even that. All the cash for hospitals, schools, roads and other infrastructure is gone and they haven't finished anything. Why have the people responsible not been toppled from office and put in jail?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Watchful Eyes

How long has that strapline been there then? I've only just noticed it. And was the original poster genuine or a spoof?

Monday, October 23, 2006

UK 'tops energy wasters league'

UK 'tops energy wasters league'. Great, isn't it? We're also the fattest, worst binge drinkers, have the most anti-social behaviour, most congested roads with longest commuting times, the least job security etc etc. In fact, it's quite interesting to put 'uk worst in europe' and 'uk best in europe' into google and compare the results. We have the best roadworks, apparently!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Breeding for God

This'll cheer you up Tom (!) - an article in Prospect predicting the decline of secularism in Europe and a shift towards a more US-style religious democracy - based partly on the fact that the more devout elements of the population have more kids. Except monks, obviously. Have only skimmed it, so not yet convinced that the theory stands up.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Imagine Earth without people

Quite interesting piece in New Scientist. Think the world would be better off if global warming and the rest get rid of humans altogether!

Friday, October 13, 2006

The numbers do add up

Quite good, informed stuff on the Guardian comment is free site on the methodology and implications of the 655,000 dead study in the Lancet. Whatever the margin of error of the 'point estimate' figure quoted, the study definitely shows that things have gotten a hell of a lot worse since the war. The sample is much bigger than those Mori polls of political support in Britain, and politicians are quite happy to gross those up to represent an entire country - so why dismiss the figures for Iraq?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

Russia's WTO talks stall over allofmp3.com

Russia might be denied membership of WTO unless it does something about allofmp3.com, according to The Times and others. But allofmp3 say they conform to local copyright laws, but users should check their local laws!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Paxo Redux

Don't know if you saw Newsnight tonight, but Paxman demolished some dithering mediocrity of a junior govt minister, with responsibility for climate change. Following a 'package' claiming that we need to spend 1% of global gdp to avert catastrophic climate change, Paxo quizzed our man.
Him: We're spending £500m on renewables.
Pax: Over what period?
Him: er, 5 or 6 years
Pax: So how much have you spent on Iraq?
Him: Well I don't have the exact figures to hand, Jeremy
Pax: Well let me refresh your memory - £4.5bn and counting. Do you think that's proportionate?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Branson Pickle

Further to our earlier discussion, the new scientist blog's got something about Branson's largesse.

Friday, September 22, 2006

War on Bathtubs

Just read this in an old paper from last week - quite a good John Allen Paulos-esque piece by Gavyn Davies on over-reacting to terrorism.

At last, a genuinely useful keyboard

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Economist comes out in favour of action on global warming.

This is a change of direction for them - they used to take a "let the free market sort it out when it happens" line.

The heat is on

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Just finished this excellent book by Richard Layard, a Professor at LSE and expert on the economics of happiness. Interesting findings about how British/US society has got so much richer in the last fifty years but no happier. A lot of this is to do with rising expectations and status anxiety. His social and personal remedies include: less television, better clinical drugs, more taxation, less inequality, less geographic mobility, more membership organisations, restrictions on advertising, meditation...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Life Hacking

The Lifehacker website aims to help us become more productive. Just what I need, so I had a look, and ended up installing a Greasemonkey script on Firefox that blocks access to Fitzrovian, personal webmail etc. during office hours (of course, I did all of this during office hours, too). Trouble is, you can turn off greasemonkey with one click (e.g. at lunchtime, as I write this), but it discourages me from idle surfing. Can anyone tell me how to rewrite the script so that it blocks access all morning, then lets me in over lunch, then blocks again in the afternoon?

Of course, all of this might just be a new form of procrastination. Apparently O'Reilly or someone commissioned them to do a book on life hacking, but then cancelled it because they kept missing their deadlines...

Monday, September 04, 2006

What were the causes of 9/11?

This article in Prospect gives the 'top 10 most plausible explanations' for 9/11. It does largely let America off the hook, and the author works for the mainly centre/right New America Foundation think tank, but makes some interesting points all the same.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Good budget RTS that will play on my antiquated home PC

Age of Mythology! What do you think Seumas?

I wasn't that impressed with Empire Earth, I thought it was a bit amateurish (particularly the artwork).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Harsh Times

Another xfm competition, another film preview. This time it was at the Soho Screening Rooms. We walked in and some guy asked "you here for Harsh Times?", a question that should be answered carefully when travelling around Soho but we assumed he meant the film. No names were taken and it did occur to me that we might just have popped in to ask directions and ended up with a couple of free beers and a film. When we wandered through to the screening room there weren't enough seats for everyone, so perhaps some people had done just that.

So, what's Harsh Times about? It's about a war veteran (Christian Bale), and his friends, trying to find gainful employment and his gradual self-destruction.

Well, that wasn't much of a review, now was it? The trouble is that there isn't really a great deal to say about the film itself, without drawing comparisons with films like (inevitably) Taxi Driver. The filming was Ok, the music was Ok, the plot was as described above, the acting was good, with some liberal dashings of rather dark humour, giving the feel of a British film at times. And, well, that's about it.

Harsh Times does keep your attention throughout but at the end I was left with the feeling that it hadn't really delivered anything new: almost a sense I'd seen it before. I don't want to give the impression that it was a bad film, and I certainly don't regret watching it, but then I didn't pay anything and had free beer, so YMMV.

It's out in cinemas on Friday 18th (tomorrow). Worth watching if you're a bit bored and have nothing else on, or if you're a Bale fan. Otherwise, wait till it's on FilmFour I guess.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The retro police state

Someone has sent me a couple of public security posters - one from from Baltimore, another from London. Odd that both have got such a distinctive mid 20th century style to them, immediately suggestive of totalitarianism and Orwell's (as opposed to Channel 4's) Big Brother.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Couple of interesting articles from yesterday's Telegraph

Med 'may get too hot for holidays'

With average temperatures expected to rise by up to six degrees [by 2080], we could be spending our summers in Ireland, northern France, the Baltics and southern Scandinavia, and avoiding Mediterranean beaches except in spring and autumn...

Another approach to Fitzrovian Tuesday's favorite subject - significant global warming is expected, no question, and hey! we might need to change our holiday plans in 74 years.

Over-reacting to terror is no way to defeat it

Excellent op-ed by Sam Leith on last week's shenanigans.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Googling the Google

Just been reading about Google Base and Google Checkout, now launching in US, coming here soon, to take on eBay and Paypal. They really are becoming all-encompassing.

As quoted in Wired:

"A recent post on Slashdot.org puts it neatly: 'In a few years, you'll be driving your Google to the Google to buy some Google for your Google.' "

Lego Robots

Lego robots! Cool. Tom, John - get one for your kids, pretend its for them...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Technology will save us

Those exponents of the Californian Ideology at Wired magazine on the Next Green Revolution, and how technology will save the day. Hope they're right.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Why we must give up flying

Interesting article by Nicholas Crane in today's Torygraph. It should be a no brainer but at the same time I can't think of anyone I know personally who has made a decision not to fly on environmental/moral grounds. We're probably going down to Cornwall later this year and google maps puts the drive time from Edinburgh at around 12 and a half hours - got a feeling we'll be Easyjetting to Bristol or Exeter...

Btw is there a good word to use that means "environmental/moral" in the context of the above para? Can't think of one at the moment (maybe not had enough coffee yet).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

UK 108th in new ‘Happy Planet Index’

A new global measure of progress, the ‘Happy Planet Index’, reveals for the first time that happiness doesn’t have to cost the Earth. It shows that people can live long, happy lives without using more than their fair share of the Earth’s resources. The new international ranking of the environmental impact and well-being reveals a very different picture of the wealth, and poverty, of nations, says the New Economics Foundation.

[Btw, I can no longer post to this blog using the 'blog this' button on Google toolbar, and when I try to add comments they generally don't work either. Any ideas why? I'm using Firefox, but did recently allow a bunch of MS security updates, which might be responsible.]

Friday, June 16, 2006

LRB World Cup Blog

John Lanchester's World Cup blog for the London Review of Books. Not quite the Ally McCoist/Ian Wright level of punditry. It's obviously a lot better than that, but I think there is a danger in trying to get too intellectual about football...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Scientist Technology Blog

A few interesting stories on the New Scientist Technology Blog this week. Including: schoolkids who are using high frequency mobile ringtones, because old teachers can't hear them; Google's plans to get your computer to listen to what you're watching on TV (starting to get a bit intrusive, I feel); and online gaming doing a deal with US cable TV so that you can watch people playing Halo on the telly, as a spectator.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Age of Genius

Just watched this - Andrew Marr does the Scottish Enlightenment on BBC4. Totally great. Knew it was on, should have linked to it on here *before* it was actually broadcast (doh) - anyone else catch it?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Hedgestock 2006: A Festival of Networking, a festival for the Hedge Fund industry. With music from The Who. I don't know what to say.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Another idiosyncratic piece of British life falls victim to the corporate machine

Oxford's Castle Mill boatyard is evicted. Bah - something authentic and interesting gets traded in for some more jerry built "luxury" flats. A plague on British Waterways (In this instance anyway - they've made a pretty good job of the Forth and Clyde canal).

Friday, May 26, 2006

London Underground Song

Aware I might be well behind the times with this. Not at all safe for work due to highly amusing profanity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

End of an era

The Coach and Horses is closing. I can't remember if I knew about the Pulp connection before reading the Torygraph piece, it's so bang on the money it's confused me.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nintendo DS launch date 23rd June

Apparently. It will be interesting to see if it does get a 23rd June release. Am quite excited about this (mainly because of the browser software I posted about earlier). (And also because some of the games are quite good).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


That most wonderous of music events is once again upon us (this weekend in fact). Eurovision! Dodgy outfits, crazy music and sarky quips from Wogan. What more could you want from a weekend?

The UK has chosen to present a middle-aged singer prancing about with schoolgirls: a song that would be quite disturbing, was it not so crap you don't bother listening to the whole thing. Judge for yourself.

Ireland has decided it never wants to host the competition again and aims to achieve this by entering songs so cringingly naff that no-one in their right mind could possibly vote for it. Free pint if you manage to listen to the whole thing.

And, of course, there's always Finland. Huh? Well, quite simply, they have produced the best Eurovision entry ever. Seriously. Arockalypse now.

Grid Challenge

DTI competition to come up with a grid computing project.
Strangely wide website (on my browser).

Opera browser for the Nintendo DS

Geeky I know but here are some screenshots of the Opera browser for the Nintendo DS. Am quite taken with this software - turns the DS into an instant, wifi equipped, ultraportable browser device (with dual screen). Some background on it in this slightly aged press release.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Not in my manor

Don't know if anyone saw this in the Observer sport monthly yesterday, but Will Self's views on the Olympics are quite entertaining.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Down the Line

This is quite funny - it's a spot-on pastiche radio phone-in talk show, but broadcast on Radio 4 as though it was genuine. All the reactionary old duffers were up in arms, believing it to be real. They're supposed to be talking about freedom of speech, but it keeps gravitating towards race and parking. You can listen again.

Universe 'child of previous one'

Hey this is good. Much better than the "universe keeps expanding forever gradually growing colder and darker" idea.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner-- President Does Not Seem Amused

This is awesome stuff. Not been out to get the paper yet, wonder if it has made it into the UK Sundays. Metafilter discussion with more links (including to the video) here.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Quite impressive. Takes a while to load.

Cameron's secret shoe chauffeur

In case there was any doubt that Cameron's a cynical charlatan who's using green issues as a cheap publicity exercise, see this.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Six (scientifically proven) ways to woo your lover

Next time I go on a date, I'm going to take her to a rickety bridge, where I'll do a 'gestural dance' while talking through a straw, feeding her chocolate, jogging on the spot, listening to Bonnie Tyler and having a staring contest.

That's kind of what this New Scientist article suggests.

Screen that's also a camera

Apple's all-seeing screen.


...comes with quite a good album cover

Scholars Discover 23 Blank Pages That May As Well Be Lost Samuel Beckett Play

This week's Onion posting. Wish I worked there.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


http://www.ernestcline.com/dmd/ Good or a bit trite? I quite liked it. The music that comes in is "Music for a Found Harmonium" by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra btw.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Multiple security holes found in Firefox

Know anything about this, John, Seamus? Multiple security holes found in Firefox. I had an older version, but 'check for updates' from Help menu didn't suggest I download the newer one.

Posting this just to move on from James Hawes

Beaver Overthinking Dam from the Onion. I like the bit about reaching out to the local otter, fish, and waterfowl communities, and incorporating their input into his design. Not great, but thought we needed something new on here...

An Inconvenient Truth

Quicktime trailer. This is probably the kind of thing that is needed to get the message across to globalised joe public.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dead Long Enough - James Hawes

Just finished Dead Long Enough by James Hawes. Bit less of a caper than Rancid Aluminium and White Merc with Fins but still very funny with lots of good stuff about being in your thirties / approaching 40. Definitely one for your reading list, Tom...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Raving Atheist

Pleased that our google ad words are getting more interesting. Check out this one Btw, have we earned enough yet to fund a booze up?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

40,000 ecstasy pills later…

Here you go John, this might remind you of less middle-aged times...

middle age strikes (yet again)

The single off the new Mark Knopfler / Emmylou Harris album is really good.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I need one of these...

It's an alarm clock that runs away and hides after you hit snooze, so that you have to get up and find it next time it goes off. (Of course, Tom and John have something similar - children.) They've also come up with a duvet that starts glowing in the morning to wake you up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Write up of Tom's event

Another blogger has written up Tom's event last week (as posted below), with some good links. Also some stuff on www.ntk.net.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Little Sparta

The poet Ian Hamilton Finlay has died. His garden "takes its place in the great tradition of poet-philosophers' gardens stretching from Epicurus to William Shenstone."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Technology 2.0

I invited Seumas to this event I was helping to run last night in collaboration with NTK. And I'm very glad he came. Not only was it good to see him, but it was Seumas who fixed things during the obligatory technology failures when speakers changed laptops.

I was very pleased with the event itself. Six speakers talking about their latest ideas/products in the technology/audio-visual field. These included: Promise TV, a new TV hard-drive that surpasses Sky Plus+ and will hopefully bring the end of adverts; a well-argued lament around the lack of innovation in the evolution of video games controls; an anthropologist's observations of information flows on the isles of Scilly and how he is turning this into Trampoline, a new knowledge sharing software system; a conceptual art project that attempts to visualize information connections (I didn't really get this one); and an open source approach to geographic mapping, based around Flickr.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Contact request

Seumas do you have Carlos's email address? If so can you email it to me - I just tried the old lgu.ac.uk but it bounced back.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fukuyama - I Was Wrong

Interview: Neocon admits he was talking arrant drivel.

Quite a lot of us could have told him that years ago if he'd asked.

Wiki advice

Can anyone tell me how to go about setting up a wiki - preferably a method for non-technically competent people? Is there something like Blogger for doing wikis, for example? Thanks.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Belfast City Airport to be renamed in honour of George Best

Don't quite know what to make of this, seems a bit odd - I think I like straightforward geographical names for my airports. Belfast City Airport is nice btw - views across to the great Samson and Goliath cranes at Harland and Wolff...

Saturday, March 18, 2006


OK. Seumas. I've got Ubuntu installed on my old (and currently only) laptop. All seems good but wasn't able to log in as root. I've just read somewhere that root log-in on Ubuntu is disabled from the get-go and users therefore use sudo instead. This is where I reveal my lack of linux knowledge (haven't touched it for 12 months or so): what is sudo?? It now occurs to me that I don't think I was asked for a root password during the install process, so this kind of makes sense but I'd appreciate a bit of clarification on this.

As mentioned the distro seems pretty good, nice user interface, runs OK on my aged 800Mhz, 128MB laptop (well Firefox does, not really tried doing much else with it). Good that it all comes on one CD too.

Oh No, They Killed Scientology!

Quite enjoying this spat between South Park and Scientology. The episode in question involves one of the kids being mistaken for the new L Ron Hubbard, and revealling all the details of their supposedly secret belief system. It's all about aliens inhabiting human bodies thousands of years ago, and is completely nuts. The episode involves Tom Cruise going off in the huff and hiding in the cupboard, as an excuse for endless jokes about him not coming out of the closet, and R Kelly singing songs about it. You can watch the episode here (scroll down to Nov 16 05).

Did you know that Beck is a Scientologist?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Birthday To ME!!!

Self-promotion is, of course, the new orange, so have a great St Paddy's day and drink lots of ethanoholicy type drinks in order to proclaim my celebrieviation. Cheers!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fun with Nanotech

I don't know if nano technology will save the world or not, but it does look like being quite fun

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Have you seen this del.icio.us site? It seems to be a sort of online bookmarks list which you can store links to all the articles you read and share them with your friends - sort of like a blog without the witty and informative commentary. Then there's a bit of peer-to-peer knowledge exchange on top. Charles Meaden's got a page here (he came to Fitzrovian once). (Thought a bit of internet techno news would counteract the doom and gloom, but I now see that his pages are full of Iraq and climate change stories.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic

Useful link. Not that the sceptics are likely to be terribly concerned with factual refutation of their arguments.

Friday, March 10, 2006

question for seumas

What's a good linux distro for an 800Mhz 512MB laptop. Just want to websurf and wordprocess - can you provide a URL to the ISO files?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Top 10 Dictators

The World's 10 Worst Dictators.

It's a Channel 4, Sunday night list show hosted by Jimmy Carr waiting to happen. I like no. 8 best - I think he's the one who's renamed the days of the week after members of his family.

Seriously, though, it has always amazed me how these people manage to get into those positions in the first place, and that countries are structured in such a way to make it possible.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Environmental Freakout (slight return)

Just been looking at James Lovelock's The Revenge of Gaia on Amazon and getting freaked out. This review in RealClimate seems a bit less doom laden but still not exactly comforting...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Short Sharp Science

The New Scientists has launched a couple of blogs. They look quite good - Short Sharp Science, and Technology Blog.

Monday, February 27, 2006

About Time

Excellent four-part documentary series started last night on BBC4, in which a world-renowned physicist examines the philosophy, history and science of time. Although it didn't mention Seamus's bete noir, the alarm clock, it did cover the tyranny of 'public time' - apparently Henry Ford and WWI are largely to blame.

It also filmed some fascinating experiments about biological body clocks and how we perceive things time differently (rats on cannabis and cocaine were quite amusing). For instance, a man was given a LCD which was flashing too fast to read the number being displayed. He was then dropped from a crane at a height of 12 storeys. As he fell (into a safety net), he stared at the LCD and could read the number. The idea that is in moments of intense panic/stimulation, our brains process information faster - hence the reported sensation of things appearing to slow down when people are involved in car accidents etc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In a completely different vain....

Have a look at www.fluideffect.com. More to the point, go to their portfolio, click agree and then go to the before/after section. You'll find some pictures of celebs (don't worry; safe for work). Now you'll see a link to the left that says "click to see before". What this does is shows you what the picture looked like before they touched it up in photoshop (or whatever). Very interesting. Incredible shrinking women and everything! And now you realise that I did mean "vain"...

Hunger Site

www.thehungersite.com is an interesting idea. Click on the button and the sponsers give money to hunger charities. Simple.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Stop the war! oh

I meant to post this a couple of days ago, on the third anniversary. Fat lot of good it did.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Just finished the latest novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's ambitious, brilliant in parts but only partly successful. It is similar in style and structure to his other book "Everything is Illuminated", in that it is half based around an eccentric, very funny narrator and half around his forebear's various recollections and adventures through global traumas - specifically the bombing of Dresden and 9-11. Anyway, worth a read.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Climate Change Experiment

The BBC and the Met office are doing one of those things where they use the idle power of your computer to run climate models and simulations - BBC Climate Change Experiment.

Are there any IT issues we should know about with such things, John and Seamus?

On a related matter, I heard a thing on the radio the other day that I thought was clever. Environmentalists in the US have come up with the phrase 'What would Jesus drive?', therby getting the message through to vast swathes of the population who might not have given it much thought before. Let's face it, it wouldn't be a Hummer, would it?

Finally, saw an article about 'off-grid' living in a copy of The Times I found on the tube yesterday. It included reference to site called www.off-grid.net, and an off-grid holiday cottage you can rent in Argyll.

Dulux are getting in on this North London bohemian racket...

Saturday, February 11, 2006


In case you're curious, these are the cartoons.

They're not very good, but not all that offensive either, from our perspective. Funny old business.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cartoon Time

I think this bloke answers the question he raises: " 'They want to test our feelings,' protester Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra told the BBC.

'They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and to their newspapers,' he said."

The world's gone nuts.

Four killed in cartoon protests

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Participant Productions

Oh well, Google might have fallen from grace slightly, but there's always e-bay founder Jeff Skoll's Participant Productions, dedicated to funding popular movies with a liberal message. (Independent Online Edition >Feature in Independent.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Global Id

Interesting piece about Google in London Review of Books.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Pretty well done I thought, a welcome return. Didn't really engage with the plot but summertime Oxford is extremely easy on the eye at the dog end of January...

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Lethal Standby Button

Sorry to do the first environmental post of the new year - freaking out about this was one of the Fitzroy themes of 2005, and I'm sure it will continue this year. Amongst all the news of shrinking ice-caps etc, this news item made me very depressed about our incapacity to do anything about the environment. If we are struggling to do something about the TV Standby button, what hope have we got?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What's the best day for setting your auction to finish on ebay?

Read this somewhere but have forgotten, does anybody know?

Also - *still* haven't been able to get on that surname distribution site. Tried last night but no dice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I was just telling someone in the office about the German work 'ohrwurm', or earworm, used to describe one of those annoying tunes that gets stuck in your head all day against your wishes. I checked it out on Wikepedia (to find out what the German word was), and discovered Maim That Tune, a service that offers alternative tunes that, whilst annoying in themselves, will drive the original earworm from your head...

Song Search by Tapping

Read about Songtapper in Metro this morning. Apparently, if you tap out the rhythm of a tune on your spacebar it identifies the song. Although in common with all my posts these days, I can't seem to get into the actual application...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Freecycle revisited

Had another look at the local freecycle site. It works via yahoo groups (do they all do this?) which offer a "daily digest" email option so your mailbox doesn't get too bombarded. Quite interesting, though haven't been tempted by anything on offer yet and don't have anything I want to get rid of at the moment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Surname Distribution Profiler

This project by UCL showing geographic distribution of UK surnames looks potentially interesting. Unfortunately, it was on BBC News so is now down due to heavy traffic.

Bicycle refurbishment

There's a bike refurbishment place opened up at Waverley station. I think these schemes are excellent.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Google Analytics

Just found out aboutGoogle Analytics. Temporarily closed to new subscribers, but looks useful - let's find out if anyone else reads Fitzrovian...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Seven Basic Plots

I got this very interesting book for Christmas. A colossal work, which I'm only 100 pages into, but already full of nuggets. The guy has spent the last 30 years consuming the world's literature and films, and distilling ever story from the Odyssey to Star Wars into one a small number of plot structures. I don't buy it all - but some of the links and commonalities he makes are very striking.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ogre to Slay? Outsource It To Chinese

The full article's not available, unfortunately, but the gist of it is that lazy, well-off American kids are paying Chinese kids to play the boring early levels of online games for them until the point where it gets interesting and their character has lots of power/money/rayguns or whatever happens in these things.