Wednesday 31 March 2004

BBC: Poor nutrition in cereals exposed

No surprise is it? 85 out of 100 cereals were considered to have "a lot" of sugar and the worst offenders were all marketed at children. Might as well give them sweets for breakfast. That said, even good ol' toast and jam must have a lot of sugar. And Marmite must have a lot of salt. A healthy breakfast can be hard to find - especially for kids. Luckily our kids quite like old fashioned oats but I confess there are some cereals in the cupboard: Cheerio's and Quaker Oat Crunchies. We do look out for the sugar content of the cereals we buy though.

Tuesday 30 March 2004

Pet Peeve: Inconsistent Wiper and Indicator Controls on Cars

I've got a problem. We have two cars. On one car the wiper control is on the right and the indicator control is on the left. But on the other car, it's reversed. The result is that I frequently use my wipers to indicate that I'm turning (always embarassing). Or I signal a turn when it begins to rain. I'm not stupid and I can't be the only one that drives two cars with these controls in inconsistent places. One car is German while the other car is Japanese. I'm going to embark on a quest to find out where each manufacturer places these controls. Please add a comment for your country and car. Maybe there's a minority of manufacturers that can be petitioned to change!

Monday 29 March 2004

Ad Busters: Real Guide To The Media Landscape

Superb animated web page. Love it.

From the ones listed there, I concur that "The Guardian" is really good. I started reading it about a year ago. Their website is fantastic. I also get all my news from them and the BBC. I often read The Economist for indepth analysis that you can't really beat. I need to check out some of the others in the top left quadrant.

Swindled By My Daughter

R* was in bed. I came into her room after putting K* to bed.

R*: Where is mummy going?
Me: What? She's downstairs.
R*: I don't think so. I bet she isn't.
Me: Ok, bet £10 she is.
R*: Umm. I bet £5
M: All right, £5

She gets up and we go downstairs. Sure enough, Jenny isn't at home and R* is giggling away. She wants her winnings deposited in her account. When Jenny comes home, I learn that R* actually waved good-bye to her as she left. I'm going to stop teaching an eight year old about betting!

Sunday 28 March 2004

Noam Chomsky Is Blogging

Ok. I'm a fan. Looks like he just started a blog called "Turning The Tide". Excellent reading.

Friday 26 March 2004

Currently Migrating Weblog

My Radio Userland license expires in a few days so I'm migrating this website to some new weblog software. Links will probably break and there might be some teething problems. Unfortunately, all the comments over the last year will be lost. In the future, I'll be able to migrate those as well. Hang on!

Wednesday 24 March 2004

Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002)

cover Finally got around to watching this latest Bond film - the twentieth - the other night. It's a typical (yawn!) Bond film that delivers what you expect from a Bond film. I find the formula very tired and with the obvious use of computer graphics, it's lost it's wow factor compared to the early films.

Why would secret agents surf to an enemy beach? Looks good but makes no sense. But Bond films don't really have to make sense do they? My hopes got quite high after they tortured Bond for fourteen months and he started to work outside of MI6. That's different and new. But my hopes for a complex plot and deeper character building were soon dashed. It got back to the formula, shoddy dialogue and cardboard characters pretty quickly.

I'd like to see deeper twisty plots. Like Mission Impossible. Make it darker and build some anticipation and suspense. Grow the characters and have more complex relationships. Cut back on the special effects but keep them genuine. But keep the Bond women of course. Don't lose them! Does the 21st James Bond film really have to be the same old formula? Try something new!

EU vs US over Microsoft

This is going to be interesting. The European Union is one of the few bodies that can go against the steam roller of US trade policies and offer a different interpretation of  WTO rules. The new battleground is the antitrust rulings against Microsoft and at least one senator is upset:

"For some time now, the United States Congress has expressed its frustration over the European Union's intransigence on international trade issues that are vitally important to the U.S. economy," Frist said in a statement. "From over- reaching attempts to regulate e-commerce, to trade barriers against American beef and other agricultural products, the E.U. has relentlessly pursued protectionist policies that disproportionately harm American businesses and workers."

The irony is incredible given how often and how badly, America has engaged in protectionist measures. Steel? Corporate subsidies? Agriculture? And they want to shove GM food down our throat with no choice! But the Microsoft case is not so much about trade but about different legal interpretations and most critically, it's about what Microsoft can and cannot put into it's operating system.

Monday 22 March 2004

Iraq: One Year On

I don't have any unique insights but I just want to state that I still believe it was wrong to go to war against Iraq. I'm glad to see Saddam toppled but the means did not justify the ends. Destroying a country and killing thousands of Iraqi citizens was a crime. The process should have involved the United Nations all along.

There's much I dislike about the United States and have nothing good to say about Mr. Bush. I will be happy to see regime changes in both the US and the UK.

Good-bye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)

cover A boy's socialist mother falls into a coma. She wakes up after the Berlin Wall has fallen and Germany's reunification. However, to avoid exciting his Mom and giving her another heart attack, the son contrives to hide all that has happened and that nothing has changed in East Germany. There's further subplots with a nurse he falls in love with and the father that abandoned him.

I'd call it a poignant comedy that takes another look at socialism. Eventually you learn more about the son as he rewrites history for his mother. No, it's not a spell-binding great film but it's a good story and it's well told. Worth watching. The dialogue is all in German with English sub-titles.

Legoland's New Roller Coaster

We got a letter from Legoland a couple of weeks ago annoucing their opening and a new ride called the Jungle Roller Coaster.  K* has been talking about it ever since. He couldn't wait to see this new roller coaster.  It opened last Friday but it's was pouring with rain so we didn't go. He was hugely disappointed. So today we went and the only thing on his mind was to see the new Jungle Rollacoaster.

We finally got there but he refused to go on any roller coaster what-so-ever. We finally dragged him onto the smallest one but that was his only concession despite the amount we cajoled him. He wouldn't go on the other small one and there's no way he would have tried the Jungle Roller-Coaster which is much bigger. He's tall enough now but not willing.

It's a bit suprising given that he now likes waterslides and some other fast rides but we've hit his limit. Of course they must look pretty scarey to a five year old.  Maybe he'll warm up to it later this year but it doesn't look like we're ready for Disneyland.

Saturday 20 March 2004

Jurassic Movies

We just finished watching Jurassic Park with the kids. It's great going through all the decades of movies and sharing them with the kids. There's just so many movies to watch! It's quite hard figuring out what the canonical movies are. What's worth watching? What do you consider the seminal movies of our culture? It's the modern version of story-telling and many movies have added certain phrases and images to Western culture. They've captured a time or place or idea. Wizard Of Oz. Gone With The Wind. Casablanca.  2001. Star Wars. etc.

An excellent question R* asked was "Why are there more boys in movies than girls"? Yep, it's true more or less. Especially with action films. The girl is token. The hero is a man. There are exceptions but the fact is that they ARE exceptions. It has got better over the last decade or so. Now I'm looking for great movies with strong female characters.

Aliens? Not yet! Tomb Raider? Not yet either! Mulan was good. Thelma and Louise? I don't think so. It's gonna be a tough search.

BMYT Recital

R* had a recital at the Berkshire Youth's Musicians Trust playing to a small audience of other parents with children in the Kindermusik programme. She did well. Practiced her recorder part all last week and performed it well when the time came. Phew! She's beginning to read music and play in a small ensemble. She hasn't started an instrument beyond recorder but she might be ready now. Hopefully this little success has boosted her interest in sticking with it.

Thursday 18 March 2004

Globalization: A Very Short Introduction

book coverI thought this was a great little book.  In 135 clearly written pages it effectively gives you a good framework for thinking about globalization in all it's many facets. It puts it into a historical context before moving on to four major dimensions of analysis: economic, political, cultural and ideological. It ends with chapers on the challenges of globalism and the future of globalization.

The writing is somewhat academic in nature. Manfred Steger is a Professor at Illinois State University. But it's clear and concise and doesn't ramble. It's a very complex topic and he keeps the narrative succinct. I found his views balanced but his bias seems to be skeptical towards neoliberalism.

I would highly recommend you give it a read. I was inspired enough to post my first review on I consider Globalism to be the most important idealogical debate of our time and this is a gentle way to understand it.

This series of books by Oxford University Press has many excellent topics and I've bought a few others. I find they're perfect for keeping in a jacket pocket and diving into when you're stuck waiting somewhere.

Monday 15 March 2004

Sing A Song Of Opera

Last Sunday we went to Sing A Song Of Opera at the Barbican Hall in London. It was an introduction to opera music featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and the tenor Julian Gavin. The pieces were easily recognisable and the children got to participate through clapping and singing. There were even some singing lessons! It was very well done especially when they had someone to watch on stage rather than just the orchestra. I can't say the kids were overly enthusiastic but they gave it the thumbs up. Actually, it's the first time I've ever heard any opera sung live!

I can't say it's inspired me to dive into opera but I really should go see one of the big productions one day. I'd really like to see Carmen.

Regime Change Through Terrorism

Well it looks like the Madrid bombings were effective in ousting the old government. That's startling if you ask me. Governments like to position acts of terror as mindless and irrational but this shows that they can be an effective political tool. A radical minority effectively ousted a government. The future formula could be to use multiple terror attacks on vunerable targets a week before an election in a country.

How does the population react? It depends on a lot of things of course. If it happened that way in the United States, I suspect Bush would win hands down. If it happened in the UK, Blair would be out. I'm going to be edgy in the run up to the British elections and I'll avoid London commutes that's for sure.

Saturday 13 March 2004

The Hobbit

I've been reading The Hobbit (Tolkien) to R*. We're on Chapter 10. It's considered a children's book but the language and sentence construction makes it pretty hard going when you're reading it aloud. I can get pretty tongue tied and I consider myself pretty good at reading aloud. I've even got a fair repertoire of voices which are fun to invent. I've scared the kids sometimes to the point where they insist that I don't do the voice. Gollum is fun to do.

The Corporation as Pyschopath

Looks like a good documentary making the round in the theatres. Hasn't made it to the UK yet. Hope it does. Check out the blurb on corpwatch and the official website.

An Alternative Analysis of Lord Of The Rings (spoof)

Humour alert. Transcript of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky on a political analysis and deconstruction of Lord Of The Rings.

Friday 12 March 2004

Difficult Questions: Swearing Revisited

Another R* question.

"So why is sh*t a swear word but poo isn't?"


The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)

cover Watched the DVD. Great movie although rather horrific. As described by IMDB:

 A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

And it's amazing that he did as it's based on a true story. Any film about the holocaust is bound to be emotional and invocative but it tells the story of survival in a unpatronising and realistic way. The fact that he's a pianist isn't that central to the film but acts as a theme to hold the story together. Recommended.

Coldplay : A Rush Of Blood To The Head

A Rush Of Blood To The HeadThis is my favourite album over the last few months. I'd describe it as a fairly mainstream rock album (drums and guitar but dashes of orchestral instruments) with sad and reflective lyrics. It flows really well although some might find it monotonous. Not a dance or a summer album. Great to crank up loud on a cold rainy day.

Guardian: Short but not sweet (Malaysian Election)

Succinct article about the upcoming Malaysian election describing the incredible imbalance of it's so-called democracy. It's more like a benign totalitarian state than a democracy. Police are controlled by the executive, the media is tightly censored, patronage is rife and the opposition doesn't have a chance. No wonder the election campaign only has to last eight days.

Sunday 7 March 2004

Crufts 2004

Crufts, the world's biggest dog show, has been broadcast on TV for the last three days. We've been letting R* watch the hour long broadcast each night. She would absolutely *love* a dog and it's reinvigorated her campaign to get one. It all boils down to who is going to look after the dog and take it for walks and it just ain't gonna be me. And it can't be R*. Personally, I'm all for getting a cat!

Friday 5 March 2004

Blogging Changes Afoot

My first blog post was made 17 March 2003 - almost one year ago. I've enjoyed it and concentrated mostly on putting up content and making it a habit. I'm going to carry on blogging but now is a good time to implement a bunch of changes:

  • I've created a new domain to which I'm moving the "Software Adventures" blog. This will become my professional/career site and will be aimed at fellow geeks, technical colleagues, potential employers and customers. I'll annouce the URL once it's all ready.

  • I'm migrating this site to use the .Text blogging software so the look and functions will change quite a lot. It's based on .Net which will allow me to modify the site easier. I'll also be able to blog while I'm travelling.

  • I'll be creating more categories on this site but every entry will be displayed on the frontpage so you won't need to bother clicking on any particular category. Just read the front page and only bother with categories if you want to read certain kinds of past entries.

I plan to make these changes in the next couple of weeks so I don't have to renew my Radio Userland license. If your links or RSS feed breaks, you'll know why.

Caring For Your Introvert

Yes! Someone has finally articulated this really well. I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert and this article so right. There's plenty of quotes I could pick so just go read the article.

"The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves."

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Poker Night II

It's official. I'm now playing Low Limit Texas Hold'em once a month. We played last night and I'm pleased to report I came away with more than I started with. We've modified the house rules so that you just buy £10 worth of chips and at the end of the game, cash your chips in. I made £1.95. Coffee money! Then again, that's a 20% return which is far better than my other investments lately. It certanly helped spending a lttle time studying the strategy and tactics for the game - especially the starting hands.


Useful place to find out what the popular articles on the 'net are based on links from 14,000 or so sites. Dangerous as you can easily kill your morning following links from it!

Monday 1 March 2004

Seperate Rooms

R* and K* have always slept in the same room together all their lives - until tonight. We moved R* into her own room today after talking about for several months. She says it feels very strange and she's not very sure about it. K* seems ok albeit concerned R* might have the better room even though it's half the size. We think it's about the right time as R* needs space she can call her own rather than hiding everything around her bed like a rats nest. Their sleeping patterns are also different. One of the next projects is decorating and furnishing each room for their individual interests. With trepidation, I've agreed to show R* the Ikea catalogue.