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June 29, 2005

Things we don't know we know

There are many things our brains do without us even thinking consciously about it. Obviously this includes bodily things like controlling breathing and blinking and balance and stuff that otherwise would cause us great injury or death. But there are other more interesting things we do without thinking that are worth listing.

The first one, and the one that prompted this list, is the ability to know when our coffee is cool enough to drink. I drink black coffee, and when I buy it or pour it from the kettle it is boiling hot. I don't take a stopwatch or thermometer and calculate when I can start drinking, I just set it down beside me, and get on with other activities. A few minutes later, I suddenly remember my coffee and start drinking. Magic!

The second useful thing we manage to do without trying is to remember where our things are around the house. This entry on 43things tells you what I mean. No matter what possession it is, if you think back to where you last saw it, and go there, that's where it nearly always is (unless you have a partner with a untidiness phobia, in which case it's either in the loft, shed, or cupboard under the stairs). You may have casually dropped your half eaten pizza down the back of the sofa last Saturday night without a care, but when you get the munchies the following week, your brain will go 'ping', and delicious sustenance is within reach.

err, I'm sure there are more things our clever heads are keeping track of for us. This blog has a comments section you know...

Of course, in these hi-tech days, we all have mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players and laptop computers. With all these devices we get a black box with a plug on the end so that we can charge it up. Each device will last hours/days or even months, and we keep in our heads a small timer keeping us on track for when the next charge may be due so that we don't get caught out on the train home with no music to listen to. How many of your devices do you think you could give a reasonable estimate of when they'll run out of juice, and all without even trying.

phone: about 2 days
mp3 player: about 1 hour
razor: 2-3 more days
laptop: about 2 hours (fully charged)
toothbush: already dead
camera: only one or two photos
camcorder: 74 minutes (it said that last time I turned it off)

Posted by se71 at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Giving up your seat in rush hour

The thorny issue of giving up your seat on the train or tube has been raised in the London Metro letters section this week. Far from being an arbitrary decision, I think it's an interesting problem that needs careful thought.

Historically, it was very rude for a gentleman to remain seated when a lady was standing. Thankfully those days have gone and the only gender related seat swapping to contemplate now involves pregnant women - more later.

If you are reasonably young and healthy, then the advice to give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you would logically lead to you standing almost all the time. As you've paid the same fare, is this really fair? Of course it isn't. So you have to use your judgement. Commuter trains in the rush hour are notoriously overcrowded. My controversial take on this is that if you cannot stand for your complete journey, then you should wait until rush hour is over. If you see a packed train and you must have a seat, just don't get on. I'm 'lucky' that I live near the start of the line for my train journey - so always get a seat to work. I see people at later stations down the line piling in every day and suffering the nose to armpit degredation. But when I say 'lucky', what I mean is I made a conscious decision to live further out of London. It makes my journeys longer, more expensive, but more comfortable. I don't feel guilty about sitting every day. If the people in Putney have a problem with it then they have a choice don't they? Get a later/earlier train, or move jobs or home.

Pregnant women are a problem though. Whilst it is really their own fault for getting into that condition, we do need to ensure that the human population endures, and so offering them a seat is inevitably something you will be expected to do, and should not shy away from. If they are goig to work like you, they have no choice but to be on that train/bus. The problem is that some fat people look like pregnant ones. The embarassment on both sides of offering a seat to a fat person is appalling. Not only that - imagine how annoying it is for you if they actually accept. The only foolproof method if you are unsure is to keep your head safely hidden in your paper and pretend you haven't seen them - if they really are pregnant, then they shouldn't be afraid to ask. Perhaps 'Baby On Board' badges should be given out at ante natal classes.

I know I'm coming across as a very selfish person, but it's a dog eat dog world out there, and I'm not planning to be the puny pekingese the pack. I'm more than happy to help people who genuinely seem to need it, but they really should consider alternatives if they cannot cope with the daily discomfort that has become city commuting.

So if you are very old, or carrying very young children, try and think if your rush hour journey is really necessary. Someone has spent thousands of pounds on a ticket to get them to work on time, they deserve that seat more than you do, and your trip can probably wait.

Posted by se71 at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2005


Isn't Wimbledon great?

The quality British newspapers obviously think so. Deprived of the chance to put Jordan/Jodie/Abby or similar glamour model on their front pages (because nothing they do is actually news of course) we must usually look at Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Prince Charles.

Now Wimbledon is here, it's a chance for a large colour photo of a young blond woman on the cover. Maria Sharapova, last years women's champion, is said woman. The Daily Telegraph managed another photo on Page 5, and a long interview and second large full colour photo in the sports section.

Admittedly she is quite easy on the eye, and though comparisons might be made to Kournakova, the former newspaper's darling won on looks but disappointingly never came close to Sharapova's achievement on court. She is consigned to history, and now we have a new tennis glamour queen. It's also interesting that the top women's player Davenport, and the Williams sisters, didn't even get a look in today, not even one photo in the special Wimbledon supplements. Obviously not quite pretty enough.

I'm not complaining you understand, G8 leaders and Royalty get enough exposure the rest of the year. I'm just amused that both the Times and Telegraph needed to justify their photos with a minor story about a stalker being banned from Wimbledon. I wonder what the justification will be next time.

Posted by se71 at 09:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

DVD Recorder

Yee-haa. I am now the proud owner of a DVD HDD Recorder. It's made by LG and is an RH7500 with an 80b disk drive for recording TV programs and doing that clever tine-slip thing where you can record live TV, and pause it and watch it again and stuff. Exciting. Maybe now I'll also finally get round to putting all my home video on DVD - it should be much simpler than the pain I've had on my PC trying to do it. Will post back my conclusions once my 14 day trial is over and I've decied whether to keep it or take it back to the shop, Richer Sounds.


This DVD recorder definitely goes in my list of best buys ever. It does everything it claimed to do, has recorder faultlessly and played back everything I've thrown at it. It records from Camcorder vie Firewire and I can back this up to DVD. I can record a whole TV series on it's large harddrive.

The ultimate test was this weekend. I downloaded a .AVI file off the internet that I wanted to watch. I even had some problems with my PC and had to download a new CODEC to get Windows to play the file. Then I couldn't make it into a movie DVD because I had no AVI -> MPEG converter, and no time to search for one. So I just copied the file natively to a data DVD-R disk. I'm not even sure why I tried the disk in the LG player, as I was convinced it wouldn't work, and I had left the remote control in another house as an added complication. But it 'just worked'. Excellent player.

Posted by se71 at 04:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Corrupting Our Musical Memories

This week's court case decision on Michael Jackson made me breathe a sigh of relief. I've been a big fan of his music, the whole planet has been, for the last 20 years. If he'd been found guilty of this crime, then could I ever again listen to his songs without feeling guilty by association?

Cast your mind back a few years. What was the biggest live concert draw in Britain around Christmas. Gary Glitter. Everyone loved him and his Glitter Band. "Leader of the Gang" was a national anthem. When did you last hear it? We've had our memories stolen from us. We're not allowed to listen to him any more. When they had a Top 100 hits of the '70s program recently on TV, Gary Glitter obviously had to feature in the listing - but though they showed a still photo of him, they instantly moved on without any video footage or music. I'm sure this is the correct decision - we now know what a thoroughly nasty man he is, but it's all very sad and disappointing all the same.

Likewise, we don't hear any Jonathan King on the radio any more - "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" was one of his, "Una Paloma Blanca", that's another. I quite liked them, but I'm not allowed to now. You won't hear them on the radio, and I doubt they'll have a CD in HMV if you could even bring yourself to take it to the till.

The same thing almost happened to Pete Townshend from The Who last year, Michael Jackson has just narrowly escaped. Who's next?

There are many scandals that our pop stars can recover, even thrive from. Gangsta Rap stars like Snoop Doggy Dog and 50 Cent sell more records if they get shot or sent to prison for violent crimes, and they perform songs glamourising hatred and degradation of women. Harry Connick Junior got into trouble with the police carrying a gun through an airport, and the Rolling Stones and Beatles famously had run-ins with the law over drugs. Luckily these crimes just increase an artist's appeal, and do nothing to harm our enjoyment of the music.

So while like any other sane person I obviously abhor any crime involving children and grown men, I do have a private reason too for hoping that my favourite stars are blameless in this area. If they get convicted, their entire back catalogue will be off the radio, they'll effecively become non-people, and my happy childhood memories of listening to them will be corrupted forever. And that's a crime too.

Posted by se71 at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

Hometime - Alison Moyet

This was a sort of comeback album for Alison Moyet, and it got good reviews. It even did quite well commercially I believe.

It's a professional effort, and feels good. There are some nice tunes, and that distictive vocal is a welcome respite from the mass produced pulp we're getting used to from the blond bimbette brigade.

But, you knew there was a but coming didn't you?

One judgement of an album is how much of it you can remember later. Do you find yourself humming the tunes in your head whilst walking down the street? With repeated listens do you look forward to particular tracks coming up? I'm sorry to say, that even though these songs sound good as you're consuming them, when you've finished they slip away into the ether. I've just finished listening to the whole thing, probably for about something like the 15th time, and I'm struggling to remember even one song.

Best Tracks - "Mary Don't Keep Me Waiting" is quite haunting. By far the standout track.

worst Tracks - no bad tracks really, but just not memorable enough.

Posted by se71 at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Vapor Trails - Rush

Rush used to be just about the best band on the planet. Intelligent lyrics, great melodies, and such a wealth of variety in pace and style. When they finished the album "Moving Pictures" in 1982 something happened to them, and they have never recovered. Some albums since have had a few redeeming tracks, "Roll the Bones" is a good title track, but with Vapour Trails they have hit rock bottom.

Every single track is bad. Every song is just a blaze of noisy guitars and drums overpowering the vocals so that none of the lyrics really make it through. Where are the melodies? I've really really tried to like this album, I even bought it in Toronto when I was there and listened to it in the car CD player to try and soak up the true essence of Rush. But, unfortunately, I have reached the only possible conclusion: it's pants.

Posted by se71 at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

100th Window - Massive Attack

Massive Attack made a few classic albums, then one day they went in the studio with a very talented bunch of people and came out with a well produced yawn. Sinean O'Connor couldn't even save them. I think the main problem is that a track usually just starts with a small sequence, and just repeats it forever until someone finally got bored and turned off the computer. There is too little variety in tone and volume.

Good Tracks:

"Butterfly Caught" has a pretty good riff, though it is just repeated to death for 7 minutes.

"A Prayer For England" at least has a melody and some nice singing from Ms O'Connor.

Bad Tracks - The rest. All dull dull dull

Posted by se71 at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Dreaming -Kate Bush

Another really rubbish album to avoid. It starts not too badly, with "Sat In your Lap" which was even a hit single.

Then it all goes a bit experimental, with Kate revealing a bad cockney accent on "There Goes a Tenner", some really nasty shouting stuff on "Houdini", aboriginal noises (and another terrible accent, this time Australian, I think) on the title track, and a complete lack of melody throughout really.

Kate never recovered her form after this disaster.

Posted by se71 at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beaucoup Fish - Underworld

First in a series of album reviews to try and reduce the amount of dross I listen to. I have a pile of stuff, and sometimes forget whether I like something or not, so give it a whirl, only to realise that it's not actually very good at all. I really shouldn't put myself through this pain. I should delete the offending work off my MP3 archive. But I know I won't, so maybe if I make a conscious effort to weed out the chaff I'll put down mental paths that make me remember not to click that play button a again.

This was an eagerly awaited album, and first impressions were good, but on repeated listening its has transpired that it's mostly a pile of whiney, repetitive rubbish, with a lead vocalist who has no clue how to sing, but a very large abiliy to drone on endlessly and annoyingly about nothing.

Good tracks - Cups (especially at 9 minutes point ) and some of Kittens.

Bad tracks - everything else, give them a miss.

Posted by se71 at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2005

DeJunk revisited.

Following on from this, I'm making some progress. The completist in me likes to have everything. So if I like Pink Floyd, I have to have every album. If I like Stephen King, I must read every book. If I'm keeping stuff, I need to keep everything. So up until recently, I really did have just about nearly everything I'd ever bought. Exceptions were clothes that actually wore out, err, that's it I think.

But I've thrown out a big pile of corporate T-shirts, and a load of other clothes I'll never wear again. And I've boxed and will defintely discard a pile of old computer stuff. And I've given away a pile of books and videos I'll never read or watch. One good thing about being completist is that when you KNOW something cannot be complete, you can give up on it. So the more you get rid of, the easier it gets.

Posted by se71 at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Live 8

I'm glad to see it isn't just me who thinks this Live 8 concert is not all it's cracked up to be. Damon Albarn from Blur makes some good points here.

Every act on the bill will be getting increased exposure and sales for years. Make them pay a few million for the privilege. And aren't you just sick of Paul McCartney, Bono, Sting and the rest going on about how we should help Africa by giving them our money. Perhaps they should give away 99% of their money, they don't really need it, and try living from month to month on a basic salary. Just shut up and try making a good record, you haven't managed it for decades.

I think the idea of putting Arican acts on the bill is a bit stupid though - how many people can even name one (apart from any band made popular by a collaboration with a non-African artist - Youssou d'Nour only made a name for himself here when he teamed up with Neneh Cherry). Putting unknown bands on the bill is a bit counter-productive.

And I'm very uneasy about the whole making povery history thing too. I live in a rich country, and am priviliged in ways a lot of African people are not, but I just can't believe that their problems come from owing us money. It's a lot more about their culture, politics, and attitudes. Big media stars clicking their fingers at me just leaves me cold. Again, it doesn't do their publicity any harm, does it?

Posted by se71 at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack