Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Big Garden Birdwatch 2006

First of all a happy new year to my Chinese readers.

We just took part in this event for the RSPB. It involved counting the different birds that we saw in our garden during an hour. We spotted 11 different types (blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, collared dove, dunnock, great tit, greenfinch, house sparrow, robin, starling and fieldfare). Not bad, but I might have expected to see a couple more that we regularly get here. There were a few others like gulls and rooks that flew over, but these were not to be counted if they didn't land in the garden.

I enjoy being able to keep an eye on the local wildlife whilst sitting in my study at the computer. Sometimes we get something as exciting as a squirrel or hedgehog. Not exactly the Serengeti, but at least we see some wildlife.

I was out yesterday exploring the 'forest canopy' when I did some major to our apple trees. Anyone want some firewood?

[15:23] | [/News] | Comments | G

Fri, 20 Jan 2006

Thar She Blows!

Amazing news today that a large whale has been spotted swimming up the Thames. Details at the Beeb.

In other news, several officials of the Japanese embassy were arrested on Westminster Bridge where they were found in possesion of a large harpoon gun. They claimed to be conducting scientific experiments and the spontaneous banquest announced at the embassy for tonight was entirely unrelated.

[16:44] | [/News] | Comments | G

Thu, 19 Jan 2006

Best ever blonde joke?

I just got it. Check it out here.
[20:44] | [/Humour] | Comments | G

Sun, 15 Jan 2006

Film:Love Actually 4/5

This Richard Curtis film did quite well on it's release, but as usual we didn't get around to it. We were able to borrow the DVD and watched it last night.

It's a multi-threaded story of various people showing different aspects of love (sounds like a name for a musical!). There are lots of familiar faces there, but no main lead characters. This reminded me a little of Magnolia, including the way that the threads joined up at the end, but this was funnier. It doesn't get too sentimental and manages to stay fairly realistic. Not all the stories have happy endings.

It's a fun film overall. Heart-warming without making you cringe, apart possibly from one 'star' appearance near the end. Curtis seems to have just the right touch for these things.

There's not much to say about the technical quality of the DVD. The picture is good, but you don't expect much in the way of surround sound from this sort of film. There's a commentary and a few extras, but I haven't checked them all out yet.

[12:44] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Thu, 12 Jan 2006

Herts LUG January 2006

A much better meeting than last time. There were nine of us with a selection of laptops running various distros including Slackware and Gentoo (I think). Tony even had his new Nokia 770 that looks interesting and also runs Linux.

Ian did a little demo of his attempts to get a Google Map onto his site. Although I set up a Frappr site for the LUG it would be cooler to have our own one. I have some ideas about doing it with GeoURL technology.

I had a good chat with Dave who shares some interests with me. Maybe he can help me to push GPG in the LUG.

[21:03] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 08 Jan 2006

Film: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 3.5/5

I've read the book, and some of the others in the series, in my youth and more recently with my daughter. I can't remember all the details, so I'm not sure how much this film deviates from the original story. Actually we are currently rereading The Magician's Nephew, so we will be reading this one again soon.

There will be complaints that they have missed out the first book, but film making has different priorities. This film is a pretty good realisation of C.S. Lewis's imaginary world. New Zealand provides the scenery, as it did for Lord of the Rings. It's about four children who find their way into another world via the wardrobe and end up as part of a great battle between good (the lion) and evil (guess who?). The kids do a pretty good job of acting. Tilda Swinton is suitably evil as the witch. Most of the rest of the cast seems to be computer generated to at least some extent. The effects are not quite up to the standard of some other recent films, but good enough to tell the story and keep the kids happy. It gallops along at a good pace. I enjoyed it, but it didn't require too much thought.

There has been a lot of comment about this film having some sort of Christian message. Okay, so there is a sacrifice/resurection element and a few other connections, but I don't think it really matters. I don't know enough of the Bible to comment further, but surely all these mythical creatures fighting for good would not be welcome in your average church. I've just been watching some of the extras on the Two Towers and mention is made of Lewis being an atheist, but other sources say that he converted before he wrote these books.

There's an official site at Disney, but it's not too exciting.

[14:29] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Book: The Emperor's Codes by Michael Smith 3/5

I've previously read his book Station X on Bletchley Park. This one focuses on the efforts to break the Japanese codes in the second world war. It draws on a lot of comments from people who were actually involed, which brings it to life. Smith himself does a pretty good job of detailing all the goings on. It can get a bit confusing with all the people and places involved. There is some detail about how some codes were broken, but I would have liked a bit more detail, perhaps with some examples to get a real idea of what was involved. The story has a local connection as a lot of people were taught Japanese in my home town of Bedford.

Part of the story involves the issues of cooperation, or lack of it, between the British and the Americans. There was even rivalry between the US army and navy. This may have cost many lives when information was not shared. The people were incredibly dedicated. They often knew nothing about how their results were used or what other departments were doing and could receive no public recognition of their work. It's only fairly recently that the public has been aware of it at all.

In all a good read, but be prepared to work at it to keep track of everything.

Maybe this year I will get around to visiting Bletchley Park. It's not as if it's far away.

[14:29] | [/Review] | Comments | G

Fri, 06 Jan 2006

Yet another year

We did Xmas at home with most of the family, then all migrated north to Edinburgh to be with my sister. We went up on the GNER Mallard train, which was pretty good. Comfy seats and a smooth ride. If you need it they have power sockets and wi-fi if you need them, but the internet will cost you a bit. The train ran a bit late due to frozen power lines in the borders, but I guess that's a hazard of the season.

Edinburgh had less snow than home, but still pretty cold. We didn't do the big New Year party, but we did go on the pagan torchlit procession with longboat burning vikings. The fireworks then and for new year were very good.

Edinburgh is a nice city and we hope to go up for the festival one year.

Whilst there I finally purchased myself a djembe from Drum Central. Now I just have to learn to play the thing. I think I have some natural rhythm, but I have to communicate that to my hands. There's another session with Secret Bass on Sunday, so I can try it out then.

I just got a 1GB card for my Palm. It cost half what my 256MB card cost a couple of years back. Now I can carry a bit more music with me on trips. I still don't feel the need for a multi-gigabyte player. I'm never away from a computer for that long and I like to pick and choose my listening. I'm in the process of re-ripping my CDs in Ogg Vorbis. I used to use MP3 at lower bit rates, but I feel the need for better quality and to use a more open standard. Aeroplayer seems to cope well with my needs, but did consistenly crash the Palm on one file recently. My dad just bought the Palm TX. It has more memory, a bigger screen and a faster CPU over my Zire, as well as wi-fi plus Bluetooth for about what mine cost new. That's progress. Mine will do me for now as an organiser that can also play music.

[22:16] | [/News] | Comments | G



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