Thursday, 27 October 2005

Depressing thought for the day

by Ted Hoffman

Almost all the people who come to this website, and there are quite a few, have come because they have been searching in Google Images for pictures of the worlds fattest man.

The News

by Ted Hoffman

Circumstances were such that I spent yesterday afternoon in a hotel room, lying in bed, watching 24 hour news. I was flicking around between BBC News 24, Sky and various shows on the terrestrial channels, when I caught a news flash. All they had was 'Train derailed in central Liverpool'. I've watched enough news to have caught a few major events as they happened, and know well the progression from 'Bang heard in Tube' to 'Complete carnage'.

The presenters (on both Sky and News 24, for I caught both flashes) looked somber, and assured us that we would be kept bang up to date with this breaking story.

Having made such a big deal of this incident, they persisted in giving frequent updates over the next hour, even though it quickly transpired that there was no carnage at all, not even a little. One old lady was taken to hospital, and there was disruption to some trains. The BBC had someone there to get on the spot interviews, where they got such non excitement as.

"I didn't see anybody come off their seats but it was jolting about"
Hmmm, I would like to have ended this anecdote with a moral, but I'm pretty sure there isn't one, never mind.

Monday, 24 October 2005

Search History (a quota post)

by Ted Hoffman

The home page of my browser is set to a personalised Google Homepage, which allows me to assemble a variety of portlets around the main search bar. One of these is a search history listing the last 5 things I've used Google to search for. Mine as it stands is : -

training your dog to talk
talking dogs
"Darcus Howe" wikipedia
wikipedia redhat
lyrics pickle song

I have no comment to make about these, this is after all a quota post, though I suspect the apparent eccentricity of my searches is echoed in many personalised Google Homepages.


I found what I was looking for.

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Alien Plants

by Charles Pooter

This made me feel a little bit sick for some reason (safe for work).

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Great free Windows software, part 2

by Charles Pooter

In part 1 I recommended a useful utility that added to the functionality of Windows. Now I will recommend a program that makes up for a deficiency in Windows.

Windows had no built in DVD playback. I'm not sure why this is. It could be that Microsoft would have to pay a gargantuan sum to the DVD consortium or it could be that they were worried that it would give anti-trust regulators another excuse to soak them for cash. Whatever the reason, it is annoying and it means we need to install an extra program to view DVDs. Thankfully a few years ago, a Norwegian named Jon Johansen cracked the CSS encryption used to protect DVDs against playback without a licence. This means with the right software anyone can play a DVD without paying anyone else any cash. Now I'm sure Jon intended this to allow DVD playback on Linux and other open platforms, but he opened the can of worms and he can't stop those worms also helping us evil Windows users.

The best solution for us would be something that made use of the libcss library to play DVDs in Windows Media Player. I have never been able to find such a thing (let me know if you have). So the next best think would be free DVD playing software that runs on Windows. VLC Media Player is just that and more. VLC media player plays DVDs for free, so you don't need to buy WinDVD or PowerDVD or any other software, but it also has the following genuinely useful features:

  1. Free playback of MPEG4 formats such as XviD and DivX (so no need to download other software, which may be nagware or spyware).
  2. Playback of various other "open" formats such as Ogg Vorbis.
  3. Video streaming, which means you can stream video to other PCs on your home network.
It is also stable and relatively easy to use. It is a tad on the ugly side, but compared to a lot of open source software it is a real looker. If you can be bothered, you can add "skins" to tart it up.

Saturday, 15 October 2005


by Ted Hoffman

Yahoo's Ask section poses this question: -

What are some of the most bizarre theories from the past of what the present would be like?
I personally wish that this beast, the gyro-electric destroyer had seen the light of day, with such a contraption many of the problems we see around us in the world would be easily solved.

Not "political correctness gone mad", but "stupid pigs".

by Charles Pooter

I don't like it when victims of official stupidity describe their experiences as "political correctness gone mad", it allows left-leaning pundits to dismiss them and their stories.

Mother-of-three Mary Magilton had been asked by an officer about the woman who had knocked her over. When she said the driver was "fat" she said she was given a frosty look and told she couldn't say that.
The Manchester Evening News quotes Mrs. Magilton's reaction:
"What's wrong with society when you can't describe someone who is fat as fat? It's political correctness gone mad - it's unbelievable."
Indeed there is a lot wrong with society, but the fault here lies not with society in general, but with the police in particular. The police are institutionally stupid and the higher up the ranks you go, the stupider they get. The officers conducting the interview were stupid for thinking that guidelines that applied to their conduct had any bearing on what a member of the public could say. The chief constable who introduced the "appropriate language" guidelines was a moron for thinking it would have any utility whatsoever.
Found via Kevin McFarlane on the Libertarian Alliance Forum.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Great free Windows software, part 1

by Charles Pooter

An occasional feature where I recommend cool or useful software for Microsoft Windows. To qualify the software can be free as in freedom or just free as in beer (who cares), but must not be trialware or nagware. Don't bother telling me to use Linux or Mac OS X, as I can't be bothered. Send recommendations to:
One minor improvement to Windows XP over Windows 2000 is the inclusion of a shell extension which allows you to create, modify and extract .zip files. This allows even novice users to manipulate compressed files and folders with Windows Explorer in the same way as any other file or folder. Excellent. However there are many other archive and compression formats in use and Windows doesn't deal with these natively. What is a Windows user to do when one of his weirdo Linux friends sends him a .tar.gz file or he downloads a .rar file full of mp3s from bittorrent?

My recommendation: 7-Zip. This is free as in freedom and (more importantly) completely free as in beer. 7-Zip's main feature is its support for a new archive and compression format called 7z, but this can be ignored. More importantly 7-Zip can read most file archives that you are likely to ever encounter, including .tar, .rar, .gz, .bz2 and .arj.

Instructions for installation:
  1. Uninstall all other file compression software (WinZip, WinRAR, etc.)
  2. Install 7-Zip, accepting defaults
  3. Open the "7-Zip File Manager" and click Tools -> Options and associate 7-Zip with all file extensions except .zip and .cab (Windows can handle these fine itself).

BBC Comments

by Ted Hoffman

I highlight this article about an attempt by Lloyds bank to toughen up their Internet banking security, not because it is particularly interesting, though it is reasonably. I do so instead to point out that almost to a man the people who have left comments at the end of the article are petty whinging bastards.

Tuesday, 11 October 2005


by Ted Hoffman

I liked this article on Britain's most shoplifted item.

"The proliferation of blades in shaving systems has been long been fodder for satire on television and in print, but they are in fact amazing feats of technology, incorporating advances in metallurgy, precision molding, micro-design."

Children's book week

by Ted Hoffman

My brother works as a teacher in a local state middle school. Last week was Children's Book Week. After a few days of events, the young tikes were asked to come to school on Friday dressed as one of their favorite literary characters.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has met any of the nation's children, that rather than the school being swamped by Huckleberry Finns and Artful Dodgers, almost all the children came dressed as 'kid with jeans and t-shirt' from a book they couldn't remember when questioned, a couple came as Darth Vader, and one pair came dressed as Ant and Dec.

Monday, 10 October 2005

A Very Social Secretary

by Charles Pooter

The new UK TV channel More 4 launched today. Its first programme was a comedy drama about David Blunkett's affair with the publisher of the conservative weekly, The Spectator. I thought most of the actors did a great job of portraying the various players in the debarcle. Robert Lindsay did a good Blair, although a Blair who bears a remarkable resemblance to the middle class dentist and dad in middle-of-the-road BBC sitcom My Family (a pity Blair didn't want to be a dentist). Doon MacKichan of Brass Eye and Smack the Pony was quite good as Cherie. Even blogger Stephen Pollard gets imitated. However, the stand out acting came from Bernard Hill whose portrayal of Blunkett was hilarious and at times moving. I would go so far as to say it has even humanised the man in my eyes somewhat, even if he is a constitution-shredding, freedom-hating, power-hungry, wannabe tyrant.

Box stupid

by Charles Pooter

Art Review:
Embankment by Rachel Whiteread in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern on the South Bank in London.

Pointless crap

Pitiful. But not as pitiful as this.

Friday, 7 October 2005

Little man, what now? store now open!

by Charles Pooter

Show your love of the world's greatest blog by purchasing an item from our new store. The range of items will grow, but for now you can buy a T-Shirt with a lovingly rendered portrait of your yours truly on the front and the indispensable Little man, what now? thong.


by Ted Hoffman

The European Commission is getting frustrated at the lack of robots in the EU according to this article on the BBC news website.

The European Commission (EC) urged businesses to turn their robotics research into viable products much more quickly than they do now.

The EU spends about 50 million euros (£34.4 million) a year on research projects which produce prototypes.

But these tend not to make it to market as products until 10 to 15 years later.

Ulf Dahlsten, the EU's emerging technologies director in Brussels, said this meant EU businesses lagged behind Japan in terms of pushing robots into new market areas.

I like robots, but I'm not sure I agree that they should be rushed as soon as possible from the research labs into the shops, all kinds of chaos could ensue.

Though it would be nice to keep up with the Japanese at these things; they even have a robot that can ride a little bike, and a proper domestic servant robot, that can apparently look after sick children and watch out for burglars.

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Vulgar Anti-Americanism

by Charles Pooter

More and more I'm finding myself having to bite my tongue when encountering American hating bigots.

I've pretty much decided I'm against both the neo-imperialism of the humanitarian left and the "spreading democracy" advocated by neo-conservative Americans. I think that the USA should defend its borders, keep its nuclear deterent, but keep itself to itself. Failing that I think the UK should remain on friendly terms with the USA but disassociate itself from any American adventurism.

I understand the Brits who dislike American foreign policy and are angry at being associated with it, but I cannot understand the boiling hatred that many Britons have of the American people themselves. I've joined my local branch of NO2ID. At a meeting last night in the pub I happened to buy a bottle of Brooklyn Lager (our local Wetherspoon's has started stocking a very impressive range of imported bottled beers). Within minutes someone was ranting about how stupid Amercians were and how their schools were hotbeds of ignorant creationism and how, basically, he hoped the whole place would just go to hell. This wasn't a comment on the war in Iraq or America's response to 911, but just an ignorant rant against the American people and their way of life. It was akin to the way Victorians claimed that all Africans are stupid savages who live in mudhuts. I feel rather ashamed that I just kept quiet and drank my tasty American beer, but in my defence if I argued against all the anti-USA bigotry I encountered I wouldn't have much time for anything else. Not only that, but I feel unable to argue back in a quiet controlled manner. I feel that if I had said what I thought, it would have ended up with:

  1. Me hitting him
  2. Me not being welcome in the group anymore
If that had happened the fight against ID cards would be one person down.

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

How smart are you at Physics?

by Ted Hoffman

Not very in my case, though my Maths and English aren't so bad.

The Algebraist

by Charles Pooter

Bindiche, the cousin, bore a long-standing familial grudge against Y'sul and so naturally had been only too happy to accept a great deal of kudos from an inwardly mortified, outwardly brave-facing, hail-cuz-bygones-now Y'sul by doing him the enormous, surely never-to-be-forgotten favour of vouching for him and his alien companions to his captain and so securing passage into the war zone, though even that only happened after a quick suborb flight in a nominally freight-only moonshell pulsed from High Tolimundarni to Lopscotte (again covered by cousin Bindiche and his endlessly handy military connections, said vile spawn of a hated uncle amassing anguished Y'sul-donated kudos like the Stormshear's mighty capacitors accumulated charge), scudding over the cloud tops, briefly in space (but no windows, not even any screen to see it), listening to Y'sul complain about the uncannily hang-over-resembling after-effects of the fierce acceleration in the magnetic-pulse tube and the fact that he'd had to leave behind most of his baggage, including all the war-zone presents his friends had given him and the bulk of the new combat attire he'd ordered.
The above is a single sentence from The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks, which is a good example of why I am struggling to complete this latest novel by the Scottish science fiction author, having previously greatly enjoyed this,this,thisand this.

A new nadir?

by Ted Hoffman

In the late 90s Gerri Halliwell released in quick succession the songs 'Mi Chico Latino', 'Bag it up' and 'It's raining men'. Popular consensus at the time was that this was the poorest triumvirate of released singles there had ever been.

Nobody had since got close until 50 cent signaled his attempt to challenge by following up the puerile and tuneless innuendo of 'Candy Shop' with the less subtle and more annoying 'Just a lil bit'. A bit of a pity then that his next effort was the merely ordinary 'Outta Control', looks like Gerri's record will live to see another day.

The truth about He-Man...

by Charles Pooter

...and his "fabulous secret powers" (19.5 MB QuickTime file).