Tuesday 28 December 2004

Asia-Quake Relief Appeal-UK

I am deeply sad reading and watching all the news about the earth quake and tsunami that hit Asia. I'm not sure that all the extended family we have in Sri Lanka have escaped but I believe they have. It's the last thing that country needed and the death toll is projected to climb to 25,000. Utterly horrendous.

The High Commission of Sri Lanka in London has appealed to expats for aid. They are directing people to this website for instructions on how to donate:


I've donated to Oxfam since they were particularly fast off the mark with aid to Sri Lanka. Detailed news can be found on Sri Lanka's Daily News or the Lanka Page. Reuters AlertNet has a section dedicated to the Sri Lankan tsunami.

The BBC has a good list of how to help.

Sunday 26 December 2004

Seaons Greetings!

Sometimes I'm not too sure what to make of Christmas. I'm a non-practising Catholic meaning once my parents couldn't make me go to church, I stopped going. Actually, I wouldn't even claim to be Christian. I'm fairly cynical about institutional religions of any kind. However, we still celebrate Christmas. It would seem mean not to. We try to make sure the kids understand we're celebrating the birth of Jesus and not the coming of Santa Claus. I might not be very convincing though. We also try to emphasize charity and downplay consumerism but that message also tends to get drowned in the frenzy of figuring out who gets what.

Santa Claus still visits our house. The kids each have a stocking at the end of their bed. In the morning, they open the presents they find in them and then have to wait until Mom and Dad are up before they can open the presents under the Christmas tree. R* was up at 3am and waited until 6am before she woke K*. R* then woke us up at 7am and brought us mugs of tea to induce us to come downstairs where we took turns opening presents in front of a blazing fire.

We hosted Christmas dinner for all our local relatives this year. Jenny and my cousin, Neil, orchestrated an orgy of eating and drinking which I valiantly tried to do justice to until it hurt to swallow any more. We then sat around the dinner table playing Cranium (excellent game). So for us, I'd say Christmas is more of a celebration of family and friends and trying to think of others.

Whatever it means to you, I hope you all enjoyed a Merry Christmas.

Monday 20 December 2004

The Good Gifts Catalogue

Stuck for a gift? Here's a catalogue of very very worthwhile (charitable) gifts. If you want to buy me something, pick from here....  :-)

Friday 17 December 2004

RYA Day Skipper Theory

Yesterday, I had my tenth evening of the RYA Day Skipper Theory course I'm taking at a local college. Half way through; only ten more lessons to go. It's a rather frustrating course. The instructor is a very old but experienced chap who knows his stuff but his teaching is rather unstructured; he doesn't explain things very well and he tends to ramble on. But the worse bit is how slow we cover the material. It reminds me how thoroughly boring high school was, endlessly hearing the same material over and over again.

The material isn't difficult. Boils down to vector math, compass work, lots of common sense and a whole boat load (pun intended) of terminology and conventions.

On the bright side, we've booked overselves onto a one week flotilla sailing holiday next Summer with another couple: James and Karen. Karen has quit her IT job and is currently qualifying to become a Yachtmaster with FlyingFishOnline. You can follow her progress on her blog. It's a really exciting move for her.

So I'm committed to finishing this course and following it with a RYA Day Skipper Practical course before next August. You need to have two qualified people to charter the yacht. That's a pretty easy requirement to meet since only one person needs to be a Day Skipper and the other person just needs to declare competence to a RYA Competent Crew level.

The Fly Who Loved Me (Flash Animation)

A very clever Flash animation in the spirit of the Christmas season worth checking out. Produced for UNICEF with the voice done by none other than Sir Roger Moore.

Wednesday 15 December 2004

Destroying Blunkett's Career

I don't see what all the furor is over these things David Blunkett was accused of. I really don't care if he fast tracked a visa or took a few trivial liberties in his office. If he's really a good politician, it's ridiculous to destroy a career over such minor stuff. What a waste when good politicians are hard to find.

Tuesday 14 December 2004

My First Flash Animation

Last weekend I did a course on using Macromedia Flash MX 2004. It's the tool commonly used to make animations delivered on web pages. For your viewing pleasure, here's my first flash animation. Yes, it's pretty crude but it was fun putting it together and it tries to pull together many Flash techniques covered in the course. It took about four hours to produce. Make sure you turn on your sound. The voice is a recording of R* I made a few years ago. Don't forget to click on the question mark button. It probably needs version 7 of the Flash Player.

I hope to get better and make greater use of Flash on my web pages.

Monday 13 December 2004

Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)

I'm not too sure about this one. I enjoyed the movie but I wouldn't rave about it. Great sets and some good action. Didn't find the narrative and the acting that engaging. After the movie, I read up on Helen of Troy and Achilles and found out just how spartan (pun intended) this version of the story was. All the mythology is striped out and events presented as pseudo real history. Numerous things are left out and the ending is much different than the stories.

A few things I would change:

  • The proper marriage pact of the Greek leaders to Menelaus should be explained.

  • Explain why immortal Achilles is vunerable in his heel.

  • Paris should die.

  • Helen falls for Paris only because of Aphrodite's spell; Helen should return to Menelaus at the end.

  • Tell the story of Polyxena

It's great that film making technology has got to the point where epics can now be produced. I hope some directors will take up the challenge of staying true to the myths.

The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)

Saw the latest and greatest film from Pixar last week. It's a no brainer; you gotta see it. It's hugely enjoyable and it's not just for kids. In fact I'd say it's a given that anything from Pixar is going to be worth watching.

Sunday 5 December 2004


A new word (for me)! Defenestrate means to throw somebody or something out of the window. Turns out to be one of the top 10 words of 2004. That is, Merriam-Webster claims it is the 10th most commonly looked up word (excluding swear words). Amazing given how obscure the word is. The most looked up word is "blog".

Thursday 2 December 2004

Castle Magic

Wow, a company that custom builds real castles! Have to remember it when I want to build my own home. Check out the castle for sale in Idaho.

Kevin Sites Blog

Kevin Sites is a freelance solo journalist in Iraq. He witnessed the recent execution of the wounded Iraqi by Marines and describes exactly what happened in "Open Letter to Devil Dogs of the 3.1". Amazing blog.