Friday, April 27, 2007

International Navigation

1. go to
2. click on "maps"
3. click on "get directions"
4. type " New York " in the first box (the left hand "from" box)
5. type " London " in the second box (the right hand "to" box)
6 . click on "get directions"
7 . scroll down to step #24

Via email (ta, Pa)

Coming of age

Happy birthday Empire magazine!

The populist film title is 18 and in a very tenuous celebration of this fact, the good folk there have done a poll of the best "18" rated scenes in the movies.

Sadly, there is no mention of my favourite in this category: the scene from the Jamaican gangster flick "The Harder They Come" where Jimmy Cliff slashes the face of a policeman, saying "Don't fock wit' me" with each swing of the blade.

Nevertheless, there are some classic moments in the chart, from Linda Blair masturbating with a crucifux in the Exorcist to the decapitation of David Warner in the Omen.

The winner though, perhaps unsurprisingly, is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, for adults only or not. Here, in its unedited glory, is the bit from Alien where the creature bursts forth from John Hurt's chest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Who's the daddy?

Who's the best grasscourt tennis player in the world?

Easy, Roger Federer.

Really, what about on clay?

Aah, well, Federer is still bloody good, but Rafa Nadal might beat him, that's true.

So, if Federer is best on grass...

No disagreement there, with his Wimbledon record.

...and Nadal is the best on clay,

Without a doubt, unbeaten in 60 odd matches on the red stuff at the moment. can we decide who's best overall?

Aha. Now there's a question. We need some sort of a contest.

Good idea. Do you remember Donovan Bailey?

The hundred metres runner with massive thighs? Yep, what's he got to do with this?

Well, after he won the 100m in Atlanta, and Michael Johnson won the 200m, they had a contest to see who was the best sprinter in the world. To make it, er, fair, they raced indoors over 150m - a rarely contested distance.

Who won that then?

Well, Bailey did, but only after his opponent pulled up. Take a look here and see. Rather spoiled the thing as a contest. Circus is actually the word that comes to mind.

OK, but how do we settle the tennis issue?

I don't know if you'll like this, but I think it's got some legs.

Go on.

How about we build a special court which has clay at one end and grass at the other and have a "battle of the surfaces"?

Oh, for God's sake that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, no-one would go for that in a million years...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


By now I'm sure you're all aware that the former Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, has died.

Opinions may differ on how much of a success he was, but my own view was that he did a fairly good job in almost impossible circumstances. Guiding Russia through the post-communist era would have been hard for anyone and I think history will probably look back on him as a success.

Of course, many people have memories of the other side of Boris Yeltsin, the slightly wayward figure, often outrageous in his public appearances. We've all watched the comedy montage on the news, with him conducting the band with Helmut Kohl and making Bill Clinton crack up on the Whitehouse steps. We also remember the hilarious time he hosted Have I Got News For You.

My own favourite of these Yeltsin moments comes from the reality TV show, "Boris and Co", that he made after he went into retirement. Here is our hero, with his sons, after he's been for a little drive:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Here's one I made earlier (after the we lost the Ashes in December, in fact):

if you think this tour has been depressing, just wait for the World Cup

How right I was (for a change).

p.s. if you want to see the official England World Cup team photo again, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crunch time

So, it's come to this simple equation. If England lose today, they will (at long last) be out of the World Cup. If they win, they will put one foot in the semi-finals with just the final group game against the West Indies to come.

(I'm discounting the prospect of a tie, although South Africa have finished both their last two World Cup campaigns with such a result)

On the face of it, the match should be close: two underperforming teams, each mentally shot, lacking the confidence to go out and win matches they shouldn't have lost (England against Sri Lanka, SA against Bangladesh). The latest revelations about South African drinking after their defeat to New Zealand also have strong echoes of, er, pedalogate. Perhaps in the World Cup of boozing, this would be the final.

My prediction for the match is this: a South African will have a big impact on the result. Either one of the Proteas themselves, or England's own South African, Kevin Pietersen, who loves playing against his former countrymen. If he can score big, we might be able to win. Otherwise I think the lads will finally be on the pedalo home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not playing on Virginia Tech Radio

All the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.

No-one does crazed gunpeople quite like the Americans, eh?

On Defence Secretaries

All the news today (well, some of it) is about Des Browne, the Secretary of State for Defence and whether he will get out of the mess caused by the recent Iranian hostage crisis.

I think a look at the history of the office he holds is likely to provide the answer.

There are basically two types of Defence Secretary: those who use the position as a stepping stone in their cabinet career and go on to much bigger and better things, and those for whom it is the high water mark of their political life and who disappear without trace after they leave the job.

In the first category there have been many luminaries over the years: Denis Healey (1964-70) went on to be Chancellor, Peter Carington (1970-74) became Foreign Secretary and then Secretary-General of NATO, Michael Heseltine (1983-86) was later Deputy Prime Minister, Malcolm Rifkind (1992-95) was another who ended up at the Foreign Office, George Robertson (1997-99) also went off to the top NATO job, and most recently John Reid (2005-6) who has been, er, a big hit as Home Secretary.

One could also mention Michael Portillo, who was Defence Secretary before he lost his seat in 1997 and has since (albeit after a brief return to the Commons) carved out a reasonably successful career in the media.

In contrast, the second type of Defence Secretary is best exemplified by John Nott, who filled the post from 1981-83. Nott famously walked out of a TV interview when Robin Day described him as a "here today and ... gone tomorrow politician". He was "gone" fairly soon afterwards. One could also include the fairly anonymous George Younger (1986-89) or Fred Mulley (1976-79) in the same bracket. Here's Wikipedia on Mulley:

He is best remembered for falling asleep during the Queen's Jubilee Review of the Royal Air Force at RAF Finningley in 1977 when there was considerable noise around him. Having a small sleep during exercise was referred to by members of the RAF as having a "Fred Mulley".
The question we ask when we look back at these politicians is not, "How did well did they do?" but, "How on earth did they ever become cabinet ministers in the first place?"

We will soon find out what type of Defence Secretary Des Browne is, but I suspect most of us already know which category we would put him in.

p.s. Am I the only person who finds the "e" on the end of "Browne" really annoying? I find it very hard to trust people with superfluous vowels on the end of perfectly normal names (e.g. Greene, Clarke, Cooke, Foxe, Younge etc).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kilgore Trout RIP

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. So it goes.

Go and read some of his books and join the granfalloon of Vonnegut fans. You won't regret it.

I'd recommend Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse V as a starter, but Breakfast of Champions and Hocus-Pocus are also rather good.

Here's a quote to get you started:

"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's..."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Yeah, but what colour sauce should we use?

Those clever boffins at Leeds University have been putting their funding to good use by calculating a formula to create the perfect bacon sandwich. So if you're feeling a bit peckish, this is all you need:

...two or three back bacon rashers should be cooked under a preheated oven grill for seven minutes at about 240C (475F).

The bacon should then be placed between two slices of farmhouse bread, 1cm to 2cm thick.
I'd never have thought of doing that. Brilliant, these food scientists.

I certainly couldn't use this to achieve the same result:
N = C + {fb (cm) . fb (tc)} + fb (Ts) + fc . ta, where N=force in Newtons required to break the cooked bacon, fb=function of the bacon type, fc=function of the condiment/filling effect, Ts=serving temperature, tc=cooking time, ta=time or duration of application of condiment/filling, cm=cooking method, C=Newtons required to break uncooked bacon.
I used to have a cooker which featured a Newton scale, but all my ready meals had instructions in Kelvins, so I got rid of it. What a fool, eh?


In the (somewhat forlorn) hope that this bacon breakthrough will prompt further pursuit of culinary perfection I will offer a special prize* to anyone who can come up with a formula or recipe for the following:

  1. a cup of coffee anyone would want to drink (inside the UK)
  2. a cup of tea anyone would want to drink (rest of the world)
It can't be that hard chaps. Jump to it!

*a lock of my hair (from my head, not the plughole, I promise)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New Blogger and the opening spot

Wow, after many moons, I've been transfered to the "new" Blogger.

I doubt this will increase the quality of the posts, but it may improve things in other ways. We'll see.

Anyway, as I listen to England struggling against Australia (again) I can't help thinking how things might be different if this man were in the Caribbean.