Saturday, December 29, 2007

What I Found on the Train

Look what I found on the train home last night! It's number 8 (or VIII as the by the same author page suggests) in Tom Clancy's Op Center series (mostly written by people who aren't Tom Clancy). Is it any good? Let's take a peak inside at Chapter 1:
..."I just wanted to wish you well. That's a remote, hostile region you're heading into."

That dialogue is a bit clunky, a bit info-dump, and unnecessary info-dump at that as the prologue has explained in detail the dangers and difficulties of the region in question (Kashmir). Still, lets see how Tom Jeff continues:

Rodgers clasped Herbert's hand and grinned. "I know. But I'm a remote, hostile guy. Kashmir and I will get along fine."

Ah. It's the setup line for a joke; it's not a clunky info-dump, it's a clunky introduction to allow one of our characters to (re)introduce themselves! Phew.

As an in-joke to anyone who's read the first couple of chapters, here's a music video (not the version mentioned in the book, which only seems to have left ambiguous traces of it's existence on the internet):

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Collection

Film: Die Hard. If you must have a Christmas film (and you must), make it this one. It really brings out the spirit of Christmas; "Ho Ho Ho, now I have a machine gun". Alternative: White Christmas. It's a bunch of Irving Berlin numbers stitched together by a fairly slight plot! Also they should actually be in drag in this scene. If you can get past that, it's amusing, light and not too demanding, which is what you want to watch at Christmas. For another view of the film, there's Brokeback Christmas.

Song: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Bjorn Again. It's like all our ABBA Christmas fantasies coming true! Assuming you have ABBA Christmas fantasies. Alternative: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, Bing Crosby and David Bowie. The conversation at the start is kind of amusing; the whole pretending they don't know each other shows that Bowie is not a comedian, but Crosby is.

Food: Roast Goose. How do you roast a goose? Dad has boned ours. It should cook quicker and will be a doddle to carve. Do we lose flavour? If so, it's gone into the stock as he's cooked the bones up with the giblets and trimmings, reducing our large stockpot full down to... well down to two jugs that are filling up a large amount of the fridge, and a saucepan that won't go in. Anyway, if you don't do that, don't forget to prick it and turn it over to brown the back and let all the fat drain off. Use the fat for roast potatoes (or not; Heston Blumenthal says that this is fine as long as you want your potatoes to taste of goose. He prefers to use olive oil; also he notes that you can flavour the oil with your potato peelings as most of the flavour of the potato is just under the skin. Blumenthal is clearly both a madman and a genius; potato flavoured oil for roasting potatoes in! Alternative: Pickled Onions. It's too late to pickle your own for Christmas, but the important thing to remember is to soak them in brine twice for 24 hours before cooking up the vinegar and spices; introduce the onions to the vinegar when you take the vinegar off the heat.

Book: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. It's always A Christmas Carol. Alternative: Don't Cry for me Aberystwyth, Malcolm Pryce. Father Christmas is murdered in Aberystwyth; as we know he comes from Greenland, a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark, so the Queen of Denmark hires Louie Knight, Aberystwyth's celebrated private eye, to investigate. It's comedy, although dark and tragic too. Makes more sense if you've read the previous Louie Knight thrillers.

Wild Card: Talking of Trebuchets (as we were) here's the homepage of the Warwick Castle Trebuchet. Alternative: a youtube video of what claims to be a world record trampoline jump. Bonkers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In The Bleak Midwinter

Well back at Hallowe'en I promised to write about midwinter. And here we are! And I've nothing prepared! Despite nearly two months lead time!

Well here's a rotating animation of the earth viewed from the sun at (Northern) Winter Solstice, illustrating the whole long night/short day thing. You can also see what it's like in other parts of the world.

Wikipedia notes that the word solstice comes from latin; sol meaning sun and sistere, to stand still. Thus the solstice is where the suns stands still for a moment in it's North-South movement across the fixed stars.

As might be expected, the solstice was an important time for the later roman cult of Sol Invictus (the undefeated sun). This cult was also associated with the cult of Mithras and celebrated the festival on the Winter Solstice of the Julian calender; 25 December. Converts to early Christianity kept this festival, equating Jesus with Sol and/or Mithras, and holding a mass in his honour. This was condemned by the early Catholic Church for being a pagan practice.

Midwinter is traditionally the start of the deep winter and the famine months of January through March; famine months as no new food was available to pre-modern communities.

Anyway, if you're reading this, you probably want Stonehenge, neopagans singing and Druids. Where are the Druids? I can hear you ask. Henge at Winter Solstice. Druids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Midweek Monkey Business

I drew the above when asked why I want a trebuchet. It is, of course, a non sequitur so don't try and work out why the trebuchet settles the argument.

In other news Bonde do Role, who I previously mentioned and complained they had no video for the song Marina Gasolina, now have one. It is Not Safe For Work. It hasn't quite got over to the Not Safe For Anyone Ever[1] category, but be warned that it is both rude and odd. In amongst the W00T!s and complaints in the comments there's some information about the lyrics and why an Australian underwear company stopped using it for advertising (it's rude).

While I'm embedding things, here's something that's NOT a Christmas song[2].

[1] As a rule I don't link to sites in that category.
[2] I have nowt against Christmas songs, but you can find them easily enough yourself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Many things on a Monday

I've been failing to keep my own blogging schedule recently. This, of course, just goes to show why this blog is useless and pointless; Technorati give it an "Authority" of 1. But anyway;

Film: The Golden Compass. Well to make it work (with the choice of not gutting it and putting in whatever Hollywood cliches came to hand taken as read) you need to get Lyra right, Pan right and finally IOREK BYRNISON! 15 FEET OF ARMOURED BEAR! right. Lyra is good (although they could probably have found 20 child actors who could do the job if they'd wanted), Pan works, although the constant changing is more distracting on screen than on the page, and Iorek is very good. Ian Mckellen has the right voice, although he has the wrong accent to me; Iorek sounds like he went to an Oxbridge college (which would have made an interesting plot twist if they'd gone for the gutting and clicheing option). Leaving off the end of the book leaves them with some tricky choices for the rest of the trilogy - if it goes ahead.

Book: More Phillip Pullman love as I've just finished The Ruby in the Smoke. It's a kid's book. Although it's a kid's book with opium smoking and child slavery and... well never mind. I'd seen the BBC Adaption[1] with Billie Piper and that, with the change in cover, made me take it more seriously. Good stuff!

Food: Cooking Belly Pork again (as we've been getting techie advice from Stan and I need to make sure I'm up to the task of repayment) - this time based loosely on a Ken Hom recipe. Brown the belly pork, skin side down, then put into a pot of simmering stock, rice wine or sherry, soy sauce, five spice powder and ginger. Leave it to cook for ages (an hour and a half a least). You can reuse the stock for other Chinese dishes; Ken Hom recommends freezing it.

Song: Sweet Talking Woman, ELO. I would have made it the version of "Don't Bring Me Down" on Dr Who (you know, in the episode "Love and Monsters"? With Peter Kay? The one where the Doctor is mostly off-stage and a group of people try to track him down but get distracted into forming an ELO tribute band? No? It has an oral sex joke at the end? Try this from 2:10 onwards) but it's only in the middle of that video I linked to in the parentheses, so I've gone with the more interesting Sweet Talking Woman.

Wild Card: The Young Man has a travel blog. Look on in near real-time as he wanders the Middle East! (And the Far East probably, or I've wasted my time posting his Chinese language books to Ankara).

Bonus: Short again! Well there's this tutorial which explains how to make an 8 page pamphlet or zine out of one sheet of paper. Well I found it interesting.

[1] "Now a major BBC Drama" as it says on the back. They never bother telling you if it's a minor feature film or adaption, do they?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hairy Faces

My beard is coming in handy with the cold weather - if only it covered my nose my face would be pretty warm when I'm outside. Of course, my nose is about the only part of my face it's not covering; it's a bit out of control. So much so that my friends suggest I colour it white, put on a white wig and a red jumper[1] and shout "Ho Ho Ho" on Christmas Eve.

For an alternate view on beards, see Kate Beaton (unless you're Stan or Vas, in which case you want the cartoon before).

[1] Although for some reason they don't think I need to stuff a cushion up the jumper. Hmm.

Monday, December 10, 2007


On the Golden Compass website there's a thingy that creates a daemon for you. Here's mine.


If you agree or disagree you can click on it and fiddle with the answers for the next 12 days. Disagreeing is more interesting as it will change.

Obviously if you haven't seen the Golden Compass or read the His Dark Materials trilogy then 1. you don't know what I'm going on about and 2. You should run to your nearest bookstore and say "Please will you sell me Phillip Pullman's His Dark materials trilogy, in recipt of which I will tender this fistful of legal tender."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Five December Style

Song: Rockstar, Nickelback. Let me tell you what annoys me, the lyric "Gonna join the mile high club/ At thirty-seven thousand feet". That's the six-mile high club. I can't find the song writing credit, so I hold the whole band to blame.

Book: Lion of Macedon, David Gemmel. It's one of the Gemmel books where he avoids his own formula, partly because he has some real history to jam into his fantasy of Parmenion, general to Philip of Macedon. The sequel Dark Prince was recently plagiarised in a complex and unlikely literary scandal; sincerest form of flattery?

Film: Movie Night has been called off, so I'll use the film column to link to this video of a stag weekend my brother went to in Bratislava. What's interesting is not the content, but the fact the final scene is about midnight on 20 August and the video was up the next day. By 0900 in fact. This kind of thing unimaginable a few years ago. Welcome to the 21st Century (again).

Food: Fish Pie! Have I blogged about fish pie before? I can't remember! Mmm. Fish Pie.

Wild Card: My brother writes to note that between his first visit to this blog from Syria and the second, it was blocked (as was facebook). Apparently using a "poxy server" gets around the wailing fire-wall. Once again Strange Maps has the information.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Six in December

Song: The Middle, Jimmy Eat World. The video is a party where everyone is in their underwear! Sometimes I wonder if Jim is a music video director.

Book: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Paul Torday. It starts off looking to be a gentle comedy, a satire of impossible projects and the people who have to complete them, but it turns into something more interesting, deeper, and slightly darker than expected. But funny too.

Film: The Searchers. Probably John Wayne's best film; possibly director John Ford's best film. A Western about perseverance, love and redemption. If you watch closely you can see it's influence on Star Wars. Go on, watch closely. You know you want to.

Food: It's mincemeat time again. Mmm mincemeat.

Wild Card: An interesting article on how on the internet no one knows you're a dog, or a forty year old pervert in your underwear, or, in this case... well that would give a little too much away.

Bonus: Do I have a bonus? And if I don't should I maybe try and blog according to the schedule I've set myself? Well perhaps I do.
cash advance

(It was postgrad when I first checked, dammit. Have I been dumbing down?)