Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 18 Oct 2005

P.O.S.H.

At very short notice I had to fly out to Miami again for work. For a change I flew Virgin and was lucky to get upgraded to their Upper Class. This is similar to the BA business class that I have also experienced. Both have similar levels of service and quality of food, but the Virgin planes seem to be better equipped. The seat was very comfortable, but I didn't try the full bed option. It has a huge table and a great entertainment system. You have access to about 30 films and lots of TV shows as well as their radio shows and a choice of CDs. Unlike most systems you have full control so you can watch when you like and pause as necessary. I think there's a few aspects of how the menus work that could be better, but overall I was impressed. As I was stuck there for over 8 hours I watched the following films:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 3/5

I've heard the radio show, read the books, played the games etc so I know the plot pretty well. This version diverges a bit from the others, but it's all supposed to be Douglas Adams' vision. Some scenes were identical to the old ones, but there were significant changes and additions. Martin Freeman was a more assertive Arthur and Mos Def a more panicky Ford. The others were pretty much as before. Obviously the effects are better this time, but I don't know if they need to be that fancy. It was fun, but I was slightly disappointed. Maybe I just have it too fixed in my mind how it should be.

Details on IMDB and you can buy it at Amazon or get the old TV version

Sin City 4/5

I knew this was based on a series of comic books, but I've not read them. It really captures the look and feel of a comic. It's mostly black and white with accents of colour and beautifully put together. It's basically three interlinked film noir type stories about different men fighting injustice in brutal ways. It really is very violent, but not in a totally realistic way. Some characters seem almost indestructable, especially Mickey Rourke's big hunk of muscle. On the whole the men are tough and the women are gorgeous, but also get to fight back. I was impressed.

Details on IMDB and DVD on Amazon.

Unleashed 3/5

This is a mix of violent British gangster film, martial arts extravaganza and touching human drama. Danny, Jet Li, is an incredible fighter who is treated like an attack dog by debt collector Bob Hoskins. Danny is taken in by blind piano tuner Morgan Freeman who teaches him to be human. As you would expect, his past catches up with him and there is the inevitable big fight at the end. Although I watch a fair few violent films I get sickened by those who appear to enjoy inflicting pain on others. There is a lot of that in this film, but this is balanced by the good people. Jet Li is very good at fighting, if not a great actor. He has plenty of the former to keep him busy. Part of one fight takes place in the 'smallest room' of a Glasgow flat. The film was written by Luc Besson whose films I generally enjoy. This is not his best, but good for it's genre in my limited experience.

Details on IMDB. The DVD will be out in time for Xmas.

Buying through the Amazon links will benefit my daughter's school. Alternative suppliers can be found at Buy.at.

[11:51] | [Review] | Comments | G

Fri, 14 Oct 2005

Vanity Surfing

Many years ago when I opened my Yahoo email account I wanted something short as a name that didn't have numbers, e.g. steve19976, so I ended up with steevc. steev was already taken and seems to be widely used these days. I've since used that namein lots of places so that now a Google on steevc returns just about all stuff relating to me on the first five pages. I admit I'm a sucker for registering on various services.

So you can easily find me at:

There's a load of other uses on various forums. As well as Yahoo mail you can reach me on that name at Gmail and on the Jabber messaging network. One day I would like to run my own Jabber server so that I can use my normal email address as an identifier, but for now it's hosted by their server.

I can't guarantee that every steevc out there is me, but it looks like most of them are. Other people have more imaginative on-line names, but I'm happy with this one.

[13:45] | [Internet] | Comments | G

Tue, 11 Oct 2005

Another Book List Site

After I blogged about Reader2 I found another site with similar aims called Library Thing. This has some nice features too. The look-up system for adding books is very good and can use various library catalogues. It also has tags, but so does everyone else these days.

There's a few things I would like to see there. It has an option to produce a box featuring selected books to display on your site, but doesn't have RSS feeds. There's no standard way to indicate books that you are currently reading, but you could use a tag for this. It allows for linking to books with an Amazon associate ID, but I think this is only for the US site.

I noticed today that I had a message in my guest book from the owner of Library Thing, Tim, in response to the previous entry asking if I had seen his site. We exchanged a few emails where I told him what I think. He intends to take some of my suggestions on board. He's charging a small fee for those with large book collections, but will probably not get rich from it. I told him that I really appreciate the efforts of people like him in providing such services. The next time I have some spare cash I intend to make a few donations to the sites whose services and products I regularly use.

[13:25] | [Internet] | Comments | G

Ancient Egypt and African Beats

As Tilly is learning about the ancient Egyptians at school we decided to take a trip to the British Museum on Saturday. It's probably about 25 years since I was last there. From what I could remember it looked like most of the displays had been updated. The biggest change is the rebuilt Great Court with it's amazing glass roof. We had lunch in the lofty restaurant there that had good food, but is not a cheap option, even with the on-line booking discount.

We had a great day. We used a couple of kids' trail books that they were giving away. These encouraged the kids to explore, although Dylan found some of it a bit boring He's just a bit young for this sort of thing. Those of you on my contacts list can see some pictures on Multiply. Of course we had to get a few things from the shop. I couldn't resist a little croaking frog like these to start my percussion collection.

On Sunday I was at the Secret Bass drum circle again. A different selection of people this time. We worked on some of the patterns I tried last week and did some more singing. I really need to get a drum so I can practice. It's a month until the next session, so I will probably forget it all. I did get to play my frog there.

[13:08] | [News] | Comments | G

Thu, 06 Oct 2005

Phone Spam

Just had a call on my mobile from 08004584727. It was someone trying to get me to change contracts. I could barely hear her in the cafe at work. Anyway, I told her I did not buy anything from people who phone me up.

If I had told her how much I spend on mobile calls she would probably have given up. My average bill is probably less than ú2/month. I've been with Virgin for a couple of years and have no real issues with them.

Other people have been annoyed by them too, as I found when I Googled the number.

[13:09] | [News] | Comments | G

Sun, 02 Oct 2005

Secret Drumming

For some time I've been wanting to do something musical. I dabble on the guitar and piano, but lack anyone to collaborate with. Saying that, I have been teaching Tilly the piano and accompanying her when she plays the violin she has just started at school.

Through the Herts Linux User Group I met Malcolm who is involved with Secret Bass drumming group. Today I got around to attending a meeting. This involved finding a small village in darkest Hertfordshire down twisting lanes, but I got there. The venue is a wonderful straw-bale structure in the woods.

There were six of us there with myself as the only complete beginner. I was taught the basic techniques and we worked on a Senegalese tune they had picked up from another group. I was pleased to find I could pick it up quite fast and even keep up with the others. Someone had brought along a small metal drum that he started to demonstrate and a jam ensued, complete with some dancing. Then we did a bit of Swahili singing! I know it all sounds a bit new-age, but I really enjoyed it. I'm sure my hands will be sore tomorrow.

I intend to go along again.

[21:56] | [News] | Comments | G

Fri, 30 Sep 2005

A Radio Highlight

Radio 4 have various 'comedy' programme after the 6pm news during the week. Some of these fail to raise a titter with me, but there are a few exceptions.

I've heard some of Milton's previous work on Radio 4 and this is just as good. It's a silly little comedy show based around Milton living various fantasies. There's a lot of puns and word play, which is right up my street.

It's actually a lot like The Goon Show from the recordings I've heard of that.

Milton Jones in on Thursdays at 6:30pm for the next few weeks or you can listen to it via the BBC site.

[13:00] | [Entertainment] | Comments | G

Wed, 28 Sep 2005

Tracking my reading

I continue to be interested in web sites that allow you to log and track whatever you are into. Amongst the services I use are:

Both of these provide RSS feeds that I can publish on my site. They also support the use of tags to categorise items in different ways, but I've not used that for music yet. Not only is everyone's data public, but it can be used to recommend other things you might like.

The latest variation is Reader2 where you can record books you are reading or have read. It's fairly basic at the moment, but evolving. Some of the feeds do not seem to work properly and recommendations seem to be limited to showing other users who have some of the same books. I'd like to see more options for status. I'd like to be able to specify more clearly how good I think a book is. It doesn't yet allow linking to friends.

Actually I already have something similar available via Amazon. That does a fairly good job of recommending books, music and films based on what I say I own and how I rated it. This is valuable information to them to encourage people to buy more stuff. I just prefer to see more open implementations of the technology.

Ultimately I'd like to write my own tools for all this, but it's just easier to use something other people have done. In the past you might have used software on your PC to log personal collections, but I prefer the on-line options as I can use them from anywhere. The usability of web pages is improving and making software redundant. For me the limitation is how much of my personal information I trust others to look after.

[13:26] | [Internet] | Comments | G

Tue, 27 Sep 2005

Film Review:A Beautiful Mind 4/5

Russell Crowe proves he's not just a hard man in this film based on the real life of mathematician John Forbes Nash.

The film is not really about his mathematical discoveries, but they are mentioned in passing. It shows him lecturing about the Riemann Zeta Function that I read about in Prime Obsession. In fact there is a recommendation from Nash on the cover of the book.

The film is mainly about his problems with schizophrenia. From what I've read these were mainly auditory hallucinations and so not as vivid as portrayed in the film, but it still made him highly paranoid and resulted in him having some fairly nasty treatments that may not have helped much.

Crowe puts in a good performance. It seems to be a cliche that playing someone with a handicap is a good way to get an Oscar, but he didn't quite get there. The rest of the cast are also good and the period detail looks right to me. John Nash was consulted for the film which may be why it does not mention things like his other marriages, but I don't think that makes it a worse film. It shows how hard it can be to deal with mental illness whilst still being an entertaining film.

Details and trivia at IMDB.

[08:24] | [Review] | Comments | G

Thu, 22 Sep 2005

Barcelona

We just came back from a short break in Barcelona. We flew over on Easyjet and stayed at the very modern Hotel Constanza. The attractions we enjoyed included:

Picasso Museum - located in a series of very old houses in the old town this gave me a greater appreciation of his talents. I still don't understand some of it.

Casa Batllˇ - our first Gaudi building. Only saw the outside, but still impressed.

Casa MilÓ - incredible Gaudi appartment building. Well worth a visit to see the original rooms and the amazing roof.

Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's unfinished church. It will look amazing when they finish it in around 20 years. Meanwhile it's a work in progress. You can go in and go up some of the towers. I do wonder about the value of investing so much effort in a religeous building, but still admire the beauty of it

Barcelona Cathedral - a slightly older building (few hundred years) that also impressed. The view from the roof is great.

The rest of the city varies between elegant avenues and the cramped old town, but it's generally unspoilt by ugly, modern developments. They even have something resembling the London Gerkin.

There's plenty of shopping opportunities and the dining is excellent. It just takes a bit of adjustment as many restaurants do not open until 9pm, so you generally have to eat late.

The airport has the largest selection of shops I've seen outside Heathrow, but we only bough ta few gifts.

I would consider going back in the future to see if they have finished all their building. I'd also like to visit the Dali Museum that is a way out of town.

There are a few pictures on my Multiply site, but these are restricted to my contacts there. If you would like access then drop me a line.

[13:19] | [Travel] | Comments | G

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