Wednesday 29 June 2005

Guardian: Research councils back free online access

It's about time! I would go so far as to propose that any distributable artifact that is paid for with goverment (tax payers) money should be made freely available to the tax payer. If the goverrment funds research, the research must be made available for free or at least for only the cost it takes to distribute it. The cost of those research journals are outrageous! Paper journals are useless anyway; it needs to be all online and easy to search.

All that software developed by the government should be published as unsupported Open Source software too!

Monopoly Live!

Yes, now you can play monopoly with real taxi's whizzing around London. You can even win your mortgage or rent paid for one year. Check out Monopoly Live!

Sunday 26 June 2005

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977-2005)

Over last two weeks we watched the first five Star Wars episodes with the kids and today we took in the early show of "Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith" at the cinema. The kids loved it all and are full of Jedi knights and light sabres. Their favourite part is the Ewoks in Episode 6.

For all the faults you can level at the films(the inconsistencies no less), it's still an outstanding achievement in entertainment. Will anyone else ever get the chance to tell an epic story across six feature films? I'm sure it will be a long wait.

Tuesday 21 June 2005


I've been subscribing to Ethical Consumer for just over a year now. It's a great magazine for uncovering what's really behind the products you buy. They've launched a new subscription-based website called Ethiscore which gives you a quick ethical ranking of what the best buys are in numerous product categories. Check out some of the free reports and, if you live in the UK, consider subscribing  (I did).

It's horrendously difficult to shop with ethical criteria. Just try avoiding companies like Nestle, Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson. It's not easy. These kinds of companies dominate traditional retail channels. Ethiscore is an easy way to create a short list of what to buy and then the problem is just where to buy it.

I'm currently looking at all the personal care products littered around the bathroom trying to figure out healthier and more ethical alternatives. Luckily, these two things tend to correlate.

Friday 17 June 2005

Wildlife films fail to tell the truth

Interesting snippet from Wildlife Film News 65 reproduced here:

In a report just published the Wildscreen Festival has stated that broadcasters need to re-think the ways in which they treat environmental issues following comments from the veteran programme-maker who chaired many of the key debates at last year’s Wildscreen festival.

In her review of the Did You See? discussions and screenings held as part of the international nature film and tv festival, Amanda Theunissen, says there's a danger viewers are being treated like children and consequently, maybe misled"

“The standard of films entered for Wildscreen 2004’s competition was impressively high but mostly they show the natural world as we would like it to be, not as it is, or as it is becoming. In the debates, we heard many worrying reports from different quarters about the threats our planet is facing, but with one or two commendable exceptions, the films that make it to the screen aren’t reporting the bad news, the true news.”

“There was a strong sense in the debates that there are difficult decisions to be made about the world’s future, and that, to make them, the public needs the right information. Equally, there was strong feeling that broadcasters are reluctant to air worrying issues, that they treat viewers like children who can’t cope with strong stories.” Ironically one of the films with the strongest messages was the children's Really Wild Show about farming bears for their gall in China. “It didn’t pull any punches and yet ended with a positive message. The film won the Children’s Choice award after being selected by a group of 8 – 13 year olds which just goes to show that children are far less sentimental than we think”

Thursday 16 June 2005

World Naked Bike Ride

Dang! I missed it. Anyone catch the World Nake Bike Ride last Saturday? I'll have to remember to enter next year...

Tom Dies

R*'s pet gerbil Tom died this morning. He was a good five years old and succumbed to a nasty growth on his tummy. I broke the sad news to R* when I picked her up from school and we went home and buried him in the garden next to his brother Tim. She had a good cry. Now Tim and Tom are just two lollipop crosses in the flower bed.

The gerbils were great as a first pet. Soon she'll want another pet but I'm loath to have something in a cage again. I just don't like seeing an animal living out their short life stuck behind bars.

Tuesday 14 June 2005

Store Wars

Store WarsThose clever people who brought us The Meatrix have produced another fabulous short called Store Wars. It's a parody of Star Wars done with live action food puppets and a few computer-aided special effects. I won't give away any of the jokes so go see it now and "Learn The Ways Of The Farm".



Support Caribbean Bananas

A website explaining the Latin vs Caribbean Banana plight. It's another example of the bad side of globalisation and the race to the bottom through oppressive labour standards.

Friday 10 June 2005

Plymouth-Dakar Rally

You may have heard of the Paris - Dakar Rally. It's parodied by the Plymouth - Dakar Rally which this year is going by the title Plymouth - Banjul Challenge. The goal is to buy a banger for £100 and drive it 3000 miles through France, Spain and along the West Coast of Africa to Senegal. Some teams spend up to £600 on the car and you're only allowed £15 worth of modification. If you make it, the car gets sold at an auction in Banjul and the proceeds given to charity. There's a good write-up in the June/July 2005 issue of Wanderlust of their team's experience and some of the practicalities.

I gotta admit, the challenge and quirkiness has quite a bit of appeal for me. Bottom line is that it takes about £1500 and three weeks in January to pull it off. Anyone what to talk about an automotive adventure? I'm serious!

Ranking Nations

If you sometimes like to see rankings of countries according to some statistic then NationMaster is for you with over 4,000 different stats. Richest? Luxemburg. Longest Lives? Andorra. Most Educated? Norway. Most Trigger Happy? South Africa. Most Car Thefts? United States. Most Murders? India. Most Televisions? Christmas Island. Quite a few surprises.

Wednesday 8 June 2005

Thorpe Park

Took R* to Thorpe Park yesterday - an amusement park where big kids go. It's got two rollercoasters and plenty of rides that attempt to force your stomach to leap out of your mouth or sit at the bottom of your pelvis. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), R* is only 1.3m tall so she didn't meet the minimum height requirement for either rollercoaster and the more "thrilling" rides. I like rollercoasters and would have liked to have gone on them but have no great desire to be shaken, stirred, whipped or dropped in all the other contraptions.


Nevertheless, we did do quite a few rides including getting a bit wet down a log flume. It was a nice hot day. Best of all, it was a school day for most other kids so there were hardly any queues! It made the park so much nicer. We could easily go on rides multiple times.


It's a decent park but you really need to be over 1.4m tall to make the most of it. I don't think it's very good value for money for short people. It was £48 for both of us to get in and then lunch, ice creams and slot machines all pile on to make it a pricey day.

How Exxon influenced Bush on Kyoto stance

Interesting Guardian article based on papers acquired through the Freedom of Information Act that uncover how much influence ExxonMobil had with the stance that the US Administration took over Kyoto. Nasty business. I'll have to make a point of avoiding Esso stations.

Thursday 2 June 2005


Simple idea. Someone hides a box with a logbook and some goodies in it. Then they publish the GPS co-ordinates of it. Everyone else then tries to find the box. Finding the box could be simple or tricky; getting to the box may be quite hard. If they do manage it, they sign the log and exchange goodies leaving the box where they found it.

This geocaching has grown to a bona fida sport with active communities searching for over 171,000 caches hidden in 215 countries! Sound like a brilliant excuse to buy a GPS unit, meet new people and get some exercise (or take the jeep out for a spin). I'm tempted. There's even a UK Geocaching website.