Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Fri, 30 Sep 2005

A Radio Highlight

Radio 4 have various 'comedy' programme after the 6pm news during the week. Some of these fail to raise a titter with me, but there are a few exceptions.

I've heard some of Milton's previous work on Radio 4 and this is just as good. It's a silly little comedy show based around Milton living various fantasies. There's a lot of puns and word play, which is right up my street.

It's actually a lot like The Goon Show from the recordings I've heard of that.

Milton Jones in on Thursdays at 6:30pm for the next few weeks or you can listen to it via the BBC site.

[13:00] | [/Entertainment] | Comments | G

Wed, 28 Sep 2005

Tracking my reading

I continue to be interested in web sites that allow you to log and track whatever you are into. Amongst the services I use are:

Both of these provide RSS feeds that I can publish on my site. They also support the use of tags to categorise items in different ways, but I've not used that for music yet. Not only is everyone's data public, but it can be used to recommend other things you might like.

The latest variation is Reader2 where you can record books you are reading or have read. It's fairly basic at the moment, but evolving. Some of the feeds do not seem to work properly and recommendations seem to be limited to showing other users who have some of the same books. I'd like to see more options for status. I'd like to be able to specify more clearly how good I think a book is. It doesn't yet allow linking to friends.

Actually I already have something similar available via Amazon. That does a fairly good job of recommending books, music and films based on what I say I own and how I rated it. This is valuable information to them to encourage people to buy more stuff. I just prefer to see more open implementations of the technology.

Ultimately I'd like to write my own tools for all this, but it's just easier to use something other people have done. In the past you might have used software on your PC to log personal collections, but I prefer the on-line options as I can use them from anywhere. The usability of web pages is improving and making software redundant. For me the limitation is how much of my personal information I trust others to look after.

[13:26] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Tue, 27 Sep 2005

Film Review:A Beautiful Mind 4/5

Russell Crowe proves he's not just a hard man in this film based on the real life of mathematician John Forbes Nash.

The film is not really about his mathematical discoveries, but they are mentioned in passing. It shows him lecturing about the Riemann Zeta Function that I read about in Prime Obsession. In fact there is a recommendation from Nash on the cover of the book.

The film is mainly about his problems with schizophrenia. From what I've read these were mainly auditory hallucinations and so not as vivid as portrayed in the film, but it still made him highly paranoid and resulted in him having some fairly nasty treatments that may not have helped much.

Crowe puts in a good performance. It seems to be a cliche that playing someone with a handicap is a good way to get an Oscar, but he didn't quite get there. The rest of the cast are also good and the period detail looks right to me. John Nash was consulted for the film which may be why it does not mention things like his other marriages, but I don't think that makes it a worse film. It shows how hard it can be to deal with mental illness whilst still being an entertaining film.

Details and trivia at IMDB.

[08:24] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Thu, 22 Sep 2005

Barcelona

We just came back from a short break in Barcelona. We flew over on Easyjet and stayed at the very modern Hotel Constanza. The attractions we enjoyed included:

Picasso Museum - located in a series of very old houses in the old town this gave me a greater appreciation of his talents. I still don't understand some of it.

Casa Batllˇ - our first Gaudi building. Only saw the outside, but still impressed.

Casa MilÓ - incredible Gaudi appartment building. Well worth a visit to see the original rooms and the amazing roof.

Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's unfinished church. It will look amazing when they finish it in around 20 years. Meanwhile it's a work in progress. You can go in and go up some of the towers. I do wonder about the value of investing so much effort in a religeous building, but still admire the beauty of it

Barcelona Cathedral - a slightly older building (few hundred years) that also impressed. The view from the roof is great.

The rest of the city varies between elegant avenues and the cramped old town, but it's generally unspoilt by ugly, modern developments. They even have something resembling the London Gerkin.

There's plenty of shopping opportunities and the dining is excellent. It just takes a bit of adjustment as many restaurants do not open until 9pm, so you generally have to eat late.

The airport has the largest selection of shops I've seen outside Heathrow, but we only bough ta few gifts.

I would consider going back in the future to see if they have finished all their building. I'd also like to visit the Dali Museum that is a way out of town.

There are a few pictures on my Multiply site, but these are restricted to my contacts there. If you would like access then drop me a line.

[13:19] | [/Travel] | Comments | G

Wed, 14 Sep 2005

Burn baby, burn

Five years on we have another round of fuel protests in the UK. The current prices may be partly due to Hurricane Katrina, but they were creeping up anyway. So now we see people queing for petrol everywhere. I filled up the Zafira on Monday, but only when I found an Esso with no queue. I should be okay for a week or so now.

You would think with prices nearing ú1/Litre people might slow down a bit to use less, but that does not seem to be the case. I'm trying to reduce my usage a bit by keeping my speed down a little and being more aware of how much pressure I use on the accelerator. We will see if I can improve on my usual figures of around 48mpg. I like the fact that I can easily get over 500 miles on a tank.

I'm still waiting for affordable cars that give much better economy. Maybe the latest hybrid cars like the Prius will get more popular if fuel prices keep rising. I know most of the UK price is tax, but that's unlikely to change much.

My theory about people speeding is that they do it because it is easy and they are unlikely to get caught. Modern cars can cruise at high speed and are so quiet that it doesn't feel that fast. You have to go really fast for it to feel exciting. Don't get me started on those noisy exhausts that seem to get fitted to every 'hot hatch'. I've even seem them on people carriers.

Speed cameras do not make much difference as most people know where they are or they buy gadgets to tell them. I wonder if there will ever be widespread use of technology to check your speed over long distances, e.g. sets of cameras on the motorway that log your registration number and make sure you don't get to the next one too quickly. It's all possible, but there are implications for privacy when everyone's number is logged.

I just find it ironic that a lot of the time speeding makes very little difference to journey time. On my commute I often catch up with drivers who zoomed past me earlier and have hit traffic. I'll keep driving for economy.

[08:35] | [/Motoring] | Comments | G

Sun, 04 Sep 2005

Leonardo da Vinci by Sherwin B. Nuland 3/5

I've been wanting to learn more about Leonardo, not just because of the Da Vinci Code, but mainly as a major character in the history of science. I picked this book up in Miami.

I tells his life story in a fairly brief form with some emphasis on his anatomical studies. It talks about his art to a lesser extent. There's some exploration into the possible causes of his alledged homosexuality.

It was an interesting read, but I could have done with more detail on his inventions and more pictures. When you are reading about such a great artist it's nice to see the works.

I know there are plenty of other Leonardo books. Any recommendations?

[20:29] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Nikita 4/5

I got into the films of Luc Besson via The Fifth Element (one of my favourites) and Leon. There's just something about his style that I like. I've been adding them to my DVD collection gradually, but some were disappointing. The Big Blue is long and slow, The Messenger is a bit messy. Nikita is one of his earlier works when he was still working in French and is about a drug addict criminal who is recruited by a government agent as an assassin. It has a similar feel to Leon and even features Jean Reno in a similar role. Anne Parillaud plays the lead very well. It's a sort of My Fair Lady with more guns and less singing.

I'm not that keen on Eric Serra's music. Part of that may be that the synthesiser sounds are very eighties. I found The Big Blue soundtrack grated similarly.

I bought the DVD ages ago, but it had been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find the time. I started off watching with the English dub, but this was too annoying, so I switched to French dialogue plus English subtitles. My French is very limited.

The film was remade in America as Point of no Return (I think it was The Assassin in the UK), but I've not seen that.

One of these days I'll get Leon on DVD, but I fancy the US version that has extra scenes and have never seen it cheap.

[20:29] | [/Review] | Comments | G

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