Sunday 27 June 2004

Clear Sailing

Jenny finished her sailing course this weekend and receive her Level Two RYA Dinghy Sailing certificate. She had a lot of fun with it except for one day when the wind was a bit strong and she capsized a few too many times. One girl in the class even got knocked completely unconscious by a swinging boom. Despite the thrill of the sails catching the wind, Jenny claims that she'll only be a fair weather sailor.

We also celebrated K* winning an art competition at the school fair. He very diligently decorated a plate for days and days. It was great to see the effort recognised. I think he's right pleased.

The Way Home (Jeong-hyang Lee, 2002)

A quiet delightful movie. A harassed desperate modern Korean mother drops her spoiled son to stay with his frail traditional grandmother who lives in a remote village. She's mute, bent over and poor. The rest of the film is a slow character study as old and new ways of life clash but family love prevails. The kid is a right brat and their relationship keeps you interested for the whole movie. Recommended.

Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002)

Finally got around to watching this satire of fame and thought it was brilliant. Very entertaining and at the same time hits on the dark themes of press manipulation and the theatrics and fallibility of the legal system. Particularly impressed with how versatile the cast was, especially Catherine Zeta-Jones. She's fantastic in it.

Thursday 24 June 2004

Thief With Your Car Keys

I have a tracking device in my car. According to the company that installed it, 60% of all cars recovered have been stolen using the owners own keys. Think twice about where you keep those car keys.

Euro 2004: England vs Portugal


What an amazingly tense game.  And what a bummer to lose Rooney. I thought Portugal played really well but England should have won it with Campbells' goal.

Monday 21 June 2004


Yesterday I took the kids to see some local jousting (as you do on a Sunday in England....). First time I had watched jousting. Disappointed that they don't get knocked off the horse; the lance tip just splinters and breaks up. Oh well. Good fun and the kids got to see knights fighting too.

The place we went to even offers courses for adults on how to be a knight. Mmmm.

Saturday 19 June 2004

Dump Sky Movies

We dumped Sky Movies several months ago. Figured that it was £154 a year going down the toilet as we just didn't watch it. They showed lousy movies at the wrong time. We still have Sky but just a basic package. Actually given how little TV we watch, I'm not even sure that's worth it.

But this month I signed up with the MovieTrak DVD rental scheme. It's excellent. For only £8 a month, you create a long list of movies on their website that you want to watch. They send the first DVD to you, you watch it and send it back. They send the next one on your list. Ad infinitum. No penalties or time limits. No contract so quit when you want.

There are many other DVD rental schemes but I just went with MovieTrak since I've used them before for one-off rentals and found them reliable. I've got a long list of movies to catch-up on and MovieTrak will buy the DVD's if they don't have them. Recommended.

Friday 18 June 2004

One Man Film Crew

Spent the last two days working as a one man film crew for a friend shooting a corporate training video. He's trying to make a living out of it. We were doing a comedy spoof of the TV show House Doctor and this was the first time he had hired an actress. Good fun and very interesting to learn more about the trade. I've signed up to Shooting People to learn more about it. Would be pretty cool to do this kind of work part-time.

BrainNoodle. Hey wouldn't it be great to host children's birthday parties where the kid's make a movie using special effects and blue screen overlays? The technology is cheap enough and it would be a real novelty for the kids. They get their own DVD at the end of it. Anyway, I suggested this to my friend if he ever found himself starving.

Wednesday 16 June 2004

R* Chooses An Instrument

cornetR* has decided she wants to learn to play the cornet. We went to an instrument hands-on evening yesterday where she also tried out a flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, french horn, violin, cello, guitar and drums. Before arriving, she was quite set on the violin but I think that's because most of her friends are learning it. She was pretty good at producing a note on anything she tried. She did very well with the flute and particularly liked the oboe.

But when she got to the cornet, her mind was quickly made up despite my attempts to praise the tonal qualities of a cello! The brass teacher was impressed with her enthusiasm and natural abilities. Given the amount of practice, I figure a child really has to like their instrument and was happy for her to make the decision. She wanted a small instrument and I suspect she likes how loud the cornet is.

I'm now partial to the acquisition of a shed to be placed at the bottom of the garden where she could practice. We've signed her up for lessons in September.

Monday 14 June 2004

Uses For Coca Cola

logoList of things that Coca Cola is useful for. Better for cleaning than drinking basically; a cheap source of phosphoric acid. The company's view is here including the point that coke can be part of a healthy diet. At ten spoonfuls of sugar per can, I kind of doubt it (read Save Harry).

As a corporation, it's accused of some dirty practices. Read Killer Coke for it's troubles in Columbia or Toxic Cola in India. To be fair, here's a response from Coca Cola.

Sunday 13 June 2004

Euro 2004: England vs France

I'm not a football fan but I just finished watching this game. I'm still shocked. I can't *believe* England lost this in the last two minutes. Absolutely tragic!

Saturday 12 June 2004

Comic Strips

It's a shame but you don't really get comic strips in the UK newspapers. At least not in the papers I've read. Well, there might be the odd one here and there but in Canada, even a daily paper had almost a full page of comics. As a kid, the highlight of the week was the ritual read of the Sunday newspaper comic supplement - several pages long and in full colour.

Bloom CountyMy all time favourite comic strip was Bloom County. It still rates as the best there ever was. Far behind it, I'd give The Far Side number two spot with Calvin and Hobbes running a close third. Bloom County (and it's short successor Outland) had a superb cast of characters which tackled political and social issues with comical genius. If you've never read it, check out these freebies and then go buy one of the books. Here's an interview with the artist Berkeley Breathed by The Onion back in 2001.

There's probably new comic strips out there I might enjoy but in the UK, it's really hard to discover them. I do subscribe to the Daily Dilbert. Today, it's the best strip going. It's odd that comic strips aren't more prevalent here given the British love of wit and cynacism. Why is that?

Understanding ComicsIf you enjoy comics as a media, I highly recommend reading the book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. The whole book is written as a comic strip and teaches the complex visual design issues that comic's tackle. It's really very clever and you'll look at comic's from a whole new perspective.

Friday 11 June 2004

Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Excellent UK website with some superb publications. Check out all the food fact PDF's you can download about carrots, soya, pears, apples, beer, lettuce, chicken, beef, milk, oranges, sugar, food miles, vegetable oil, etc. Provides lots of dirt on how these items are produced and marketed. Yes, I admit this is a pet topic of mine.

China's Boarding Kindergartens

Sad article on boarding kindergarten's:

"A small but growing number of China's emerging middle class are putting children as young as two in boarding kindergartens. Parents say they are too busy to look after them, or keen for them to get ahead."

Seems to me some parents really need to reconsider their lifestyle or their expectations. You can't substitute parental love and attention with an institution.

Wednesday 9 June 2004

Vote Green On Thursday

The European Elections 2004 are on June 10th. I've just finished looking through the various party manifesto's and have pretty well made up my mind to vote for the Green Party. Check out their manifesto. It makes the most sense to me (I'm not a member). I particularly like their stance to be part of Europe but to reject the single currency. Their policies seem well thought out.

The Lib Dems would be my second choice. Their manifesto is also quite good but a bit softer towards neo-liberalism. I'd probably vote for them in a National election. Can't say I trust the Conservatives or Labour Party any more and I think it's foolish to reject the European Union out right. We need to be at the table shaping the way Europe will work.

Monday 7 June 2004

Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)

cover Battle Royale was our latest selection for our Foreign Film Night. It's based on a series of books by Koushun Takami. I enjoyed the movie but the book sounds even better.

It's a simple plot. In the near future, Japan passes a law to control it's unruly youth requiring that a single class is selected each year to kill each other on a remote uninhabited island. The last survivor gets to go home hence the tagline "can you kill your best friend"? The action starts quickly as 42 Year 9 students soon get to grips with their situation.

Yes, it's a very violent movie. Absolutely gruesome. But it's fascinating as every student makes the choice of whether to run, hide or fight. Some commit suicide, some become ruthless hunters while others work as groups to survive. Past relationships become central as each struggles to decide who they can trust. I gather the book explores these decisions much better than the movie is able to. The premise of the movie is far-fetched but it provides a great platform for an action flick which explores the edges of human behaviour. Recommended.

"No matter how far, run for all you're worth"

Half Term

The kids have been on their half term break this week hence the lack of posts. We didn't go on a holiday but we did get out a bit.

We packed a picnic and spent a day at Wellington Country Park. Nice place with a great playground and a lake where you can hire row boats. Check out the website. Kids really enjoyed it. Another afternoon was spent at the London Science Museum. It's always a favourite. We played about with some of the hands-on demonstrations in the optics department and the flight lab. We listened to a fun interactive kids talk on energy. But as with previous visits, we barely scratched the surface as the place is so big. We finished the visit watching the 3D Bugs movie at the IMAX Theatre.

Finally, we went to Atarah's Beastly Concert by the National Symphony Orchestra. It's part of the Children's Classic Concerts series. This time it was held at the Royal Festival Hall. You have to imagine a huge audience of young children who have all brought instruments as they get to play along with the orchestra. Very fun. They played The Toy Symphony, The Nutcracker Suite, Flight Of The Bumble Bee, Pink Panther, Pop Goes The Weasel and others. The highlight was the story of Peter And The Wolf. It's a great way to introduce kids to classical music.

Sunday 6 June 2004

May Blog Stats

Cool! In May, I had 2020 unique visitors to my website. That's my first time over 2000. The weird thing is that my stats say that 77% of visits are from direct links while only 12% are from search engines. I can't believe I have 1500 people bookmarking this site. No way! Something wrong with the math there I suspect.