So, we say goodbye to summer - and the silly season - and start thinking about putting the heating on, whether we remembered to put the clocks back, and Christmas shopping. But the news media saved perhaps the daftest silly season story 'til last. Yes, I'm talking about the photos of the bear that tried to escape from a zoo on a bicycle.
But the Beeb's desciption of the event ending in a "shoot-out" had me a trifle alarmed: does this mean that zoo animals have easy access to weapons? Why weren't we told? How good a shot is a spectacled bear? What sort of gun was it using? Do bears go in for small arms, or do they prefer automatic weapons? Even for the silly season, this is journalistic laziness of a particularly impressive calibre. I hope the person responsible is muzzled - preferably like a shot.
(Sorry. Couldn't resist.)
I know there have been TV shows described as infotainment for several years now, and most of them are either not entertaining or don't provide any real information (and the really classy ones fail on both counts). All the same, I found the idea of information treated as entertainment in its own right rather attractive. The concept comes no clearer than looking at what everyone else is searching for on various search engine sites: I've linked to this filtered feed at Dogpile because having looked at some of the results shown on the uncensored feeds, there are some very peculiar people using the Internet these days.
Even with the more dubious searches weeded out, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of our connected society. And it's made me realise that the number of "how do I" questions that crop up in Usenet all the time are probably due to the fact that the majority of people using the Internet can't spell words containing more than four letters.
It's the August Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, which means not having to go into work tomorrow. This is probably a good idea, as I went to the Frocester beer festival yesterday and had rather a good time. This year, I sampled:
- Blue Anchor - Spingo Jubilee (4.6%)
- Cottage - Norman's Request (7.0%)
- Eccleshall - Slater's Original (4.0%)
- Glastonbury - Fill My Boots (5.0%)
- Highwood - Tom Wood's Old Timber (4.5%)
- Springhead - The Leveller (4.8%)
- Woodforde's - Wherry Best (3.8%)
- Wye Valley - Butty Bach (4.5%)
And we finished off with a pint of Adnams's Broadside in the Railway Tavern on the way back. A very nice day, and not a trace of a hangover this morning. The standout beer from that lot was the Springhead: very dark and rich with a tang of burnt almonds, a very distinctive bitter.
The silly season continues with today's story about the international Air Guitar championships which are being held at the moment. The nation has a peculiar fascination with the art of pretending to play a guitar that's not really there: a recent television advert for a CD of air guitar classics featured Brian May (rather good at playing a real guitar) and Patrick Moore (better at playing the xylophone). Points are awarded for all sorts of things, including "being taken over by the music." In an era when The Darkness can win a Kerrang award for being the best act in the country, I am no longer surprised by anything...
There's a definite photography theme running through the rest of today's blog. Let's start off with one of the more bizarre sites I've stumbled across recently, Mugshots.com. They have an intriguing selection of celebrity mugshots, some of which look scary, some of which look pathetic and some... Well, see for yourself. You put some people in front of a camera and they'll respond, no matter what.
I watched a lovely little programme on BBC Four last night about the Lomography Society, a collection of people devoted to the idiosyncrasies of a peculiar little Russian camera called the Lomo Compakt that is made in St. Petersburg. It's famous for producing distinctive and occasionally blurry pictures on account of the optics used, which for some reason also produce rich and vibrant colours.
Strangely enough about thirty years ago I used to have one of Lomo's other brands - a twin lens reflex camera called a Lubitel-2. I have absolutely no idea what happened to it...
The programme followed the development of the society from its inception in Austria to its current thriving state (they are now at the stage where they design their own cameras as well as the original Lomo). Should you decide that you want a Lomo, it'll set you back about £180 so they're not cheap. However, the society has ten golden rules for photography which should apply to anyone using a camera, even if it's a cheap disposable number from Boots. Photography should be fun!
I've just passed the 300 work unit mark using Seti@Home, and it's only taken me 5,372 hours of processor time to do it. That averages out at just under 18 hours per unit: in the early days I was using a Pentium 90 that took over 70 hours a unit, so I think I'll be able to get the figure down some more. Sooner or later I suppose I ought to think about migrating to BOINC, but I think I'll wait until things are a little more stable before I do, and before I discuss it here. Stay tuned.
I was sorry to hear today that Al Dvorin was killed in a car crash this week. Not heard of him? Dvorin was the man charged with making the announcement that appeared on countless albums, was parodied by just about everyone from Bill Murray to the KLF, spawned a stage play (and there's a film in pre-production) and left us with the phrase that has passed into entertainment history: Elvis has left the building.
The New Scientist reported another near miss yesterday. Asteroid 2004 FU162 missed Earth by just over 6,000 km, which is just about as close as you want get when you're talking about rocks travelling at several kilometres a second. If it had hit, it was small enough to have burnt up in the Earth's atmosphere, so it posed no danger to us here on the ground.
In fact, calling it an asteroid is being rather flattering to it. The word asteroid tends to conjure up images of Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall heading off in a hastily-constructed spaceship; this one was only 5 to 10 metres across. Moderate-sized rock is probably a more appropriate description.
What's more interesting is that the resulting change to the rock's orbit was huge: 2004 FU162 now has "a nine-month orbit centred closer to Venus than the Earth." If you remember back a few years ago, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had its orbit perturbed by an encounter with Jupiter which resulted in it coming back and crashing in to the planet in July 1994. It'll be interesting to see where this one goes.
There's a rather amusing little snippet at Sean Bonner's blog that I came across thanks to the folks at Linkbunnies. He talks about noticing that his latest purchase of stationery at Staples has packaging which refers to the Brad Pitt character in the very cool, but kinda-uncomfortable-to-watch movie Fight Club. Some space monkey must really enjoy their design job to come up with that one. Weird.
Every now and again you come across something that's so endearingly demented you really, really wish it was true. Today's example is a lovely little piece written for McSweeney's Internet Tendency entitled The A-Team Resolves Lapses In Homeland Security. The images it conjured up have kept me giggling for most of the day. The idea of Mr. T, Face, B.A. and Murdoch fighting Al-Quaeda is just too good to let go. Who wants to help me write the screenplay?
Reading the Linkbunnies archive I came across a mention of a fun site that I first came across years and years ago (well, last century, anyway), and had completely forgotten about. It's nice to see it's still going strong. The concept is simple: you email a guy called Eric with a phrase describing an emotional state. Eric will then convey this state using no more than his supreme talent for hyper-expressive facial expressions. His efforts are photographed, and placed on the website.
Crazy? Yes, but how many humourous websites do you know that are actually used by teachers of children with Aspergers and autism to teach them about the meaning of emotions? If you've never come across the site before, please have a look at the joy, fun and mayhem of Eric Conveys an Emotion. Highly recommended.
I've been a fan of Allan Holdsworth's guitar playing for many years and I'd idly wondered why he named one of his albums The Sixteen Men Of Tain, but today I found out by accident - it refers to the people who act as guardians of the recipe and process for distilling Glenmorangie (you pronounce it to rhyme with "orangey") malt whisky. Shares in the distillery are up for sale at the moment.
And there I was blithely reporting that John Woo was about to make a movie based on the Nintendo game Metroid Prime. Now it appears that the project isn't really a project at all - it's more at the "we're thinking about possibly asking if we can make a movie" stage. Just goes to show that we should all take anything we read on the Internet - including this - with a very large pinch of salt.
OK, it's time for the answer to last week's poser - which film credited the late, great Elmer Bernstein under the byline Scary Music? The answer was, surprisingly enough, John Landis's music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller.
I have a little CD/radio portable that came in very useful when I took it with us on holiday to Centre Parcs. It's the AZ1150 Soundmachine, which is made by Philips, and I bought it because it can play CD-Rs of MP3s. Rather than taking my entire collection of CDs with me, I just needed to burn a few CDs of the stuff we wanted to listen to. It's a great idea, and very practical. I've had it a couple of years, so the technology's hardly new, but I'm still looking for a unit that I can include in my home audio setup that will do the same thing.
Still, after reading on the net about the Neuston MC500 and Netgear's MP101 Wireless Digital Music Player this week I'm wondering whether I should wait until I install my home wireless network and then just run my music directly off my PC instead. It's very tempting.
I keep harking back to my recurring reminders that if you're on the net (and you must be if you're reading this) then you need to make sure your PC is protected. That means running decent anti-virus software, keeping it up to date, and having a firewall. I make no apologies for nagging you this way. There are people out there who will be trying to take over your PC pretty much as soon as you go online. In fact, it now seems that if you connect a PC to the net unprotected, it'll last no more than 20 minutes before it's compromised. After that, your PC will have become one of the zombie units sending out the very spam that you find so irritating. The article assumes you're running Windows XP - if you run Linux, you may find you last considerably longer than 20 minutes, which is a point worth considering.
It's very definitely the silly season when you get a story on the BBC news website bearing the headline Komodo dragon's love quest plunge even if the actual story is a little more prosaic. Is this really the best we can come up with, folks?
Update (24/8/04): Oh look, they've changed the headline to something a little more sensible. Do you think someone out there actually reads this blog? Nahh...
Oh for goodness' sake: despite the fact that sad gits like me yearn for the days when weather forecasts actually used to tell you what the weather was going to be like, the days when projected wind speed was indicated on the charts and people actually knew what occluded fronts, troughs and isobars were, the BBC has obviously decided that they need to start dicking around with the weather forecast graphics again.
I may be missing the point; I thought weather forecasts were there to give us information on what the weather was going to be like. But what's more important is obviously the fact that, in the near future, when they forecast rain, it'll actually look like rain on the screen! And they must be impressive graphics, folks, because look: they're using video game technology! Isn't that the least convincing argument you've ever heard to justify an "improvement"? I think we're back with Hutber's Law again, aren't we?
Some sad news today: the great film composer Elmer Bernstein has died at the age of 82. Not only did he create two of the most memorable pieces of music ever used in film, the themes for The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven, but he also composed the music for Ghostbusters, The Man With The Golden Arm, Robot Monster, and most of John Landis's early work including Animal House and American Werewolf in London (and here's a poser for you: which film bore a credit Scary Music - Elmer Bernstein?)
It hasn't been a good month for film composers.
The weather's been rather unsettled since we had the barbecue a couple of weeks ago. What with this week's flooding in Boscastle and landslips in Stirling, it's nice to see things looking photogenic for a change: there was a rather nice set of pictures on the BBC Cornwall site this week showing a sun pillar. A case of getting a sun set after the sun has set, and very picturesque it is too.
Well, the results of BT's "extended reach" ADSL trial are out, and after reading BT's latest press release I am really looking forwards to December. The 6 Km limit for basic broadband has been junked, which means I should be able to get broadband. Hoorah!
It's somewhat gratifying to see that the American media also suffer from the summer silly season - although with the campaigning going on for the Presidential election at the moment, as well as the continuing troubles in Iraq you wouldn't think they'd be suffering from a shortage of news stories. But most of the big news carriers today were reporting the story of the black bear that developed a taste for beer.
Unfortunately it seems the poor dear couldn't hold its drink once it abandoned watery American lager for something more upmarket. While it was sleeping off the effects of its first binge, it was reported by some unfeeling soul who obviously didn't recognise a hangover when they saw one. This particular bear with a sore head was trapped by folks who laid out more beer for it, at which point it was unceremoniously bundled off for release somewhere in the wilderness that doesn't have liquor stores within easy reach. How cruel!
Even though I barely touched a computer last week, there were a few stories that I feel are worth mentioning. The first, of course, was that most fiendish of devices, the incendiary attack rabbit that burnt down a cricket club pavilion. Given the weather, I'm amazed it found anything dry enough to combust. Interesting how a police forensics unit were unable to determine whether or not the pesky critter survived or not, though, wasn't it?
Then there was the revelation that the creators of the latest video game epic Doom3 have included a sly dig at Nigerian 419 email scammers. Even in the future, it seems we will not be free of this menace. Of course, as we'll also have demonic cherubs and legions of the undead to contend with, we may have more immediate causes of computer stress.
One of the more interesting announcements was that the folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are planning to design, build and test that staple gadget of science fiction novels, an interplanetary message laser, by 2010. And yes, the testing part will involve flying it to Mars and seeing what data rates they can get back from it. Nice.
While I was researching training material today I came across Hutber's Law, coined by the city editor of the Sunday Telegraph back in the 1970, which states that improvement equals deterioration. In other words, when a company decides to make an existing product better, they usually make it worse.
From the stories on tonight's news about the fact that some software such as Unreal Tournament won't work properly with the newly-released Windows XP SP2, some people might say that this is a given. The Royal Mail here in the UK recently "improved" the service it gives to customers by cutting the number of collections per day from two to one. Postwatch were "concerned that implementation of the 'single delivery' policy by Royal Mail is not going smoothly and is resulting in customer unhappiness." No kidding, judging by some of the comments I found.
When I did a lot of graphics work, I stuck with an earlier version of Autodesk Animator because the "new and improved" version no longer let me create the sort of animations that took seconds to make on the previous release. Also at work, security on our email system has been "improved" to the point that any email sent to me in HTML is rendered into an unintelligible pile of junk.
Yet my grumpiness at such things pales into insignificance when compared with that of a true master. Have a look at the Number Watch website (where I first found the reference to Mr. Hutber) and be struck with awe. A curmudgeon of the highest order and at the top of his form, and the site's been reporting on British journalism's silly season for years!
No blog entries over the last week, as I've been in Sherwood Forest with the gang for my first Centre Parcs holiday experience. The idea is simple - you provide a holiday venue with loads of activities and events available, and all (or nearly all) the amenities are provided on site. You pay a basic fee for the accommodation and access to the pool with its water slides, jacuzzis and what have you, then book anything else you want to do for a small fee on top. It's not cheap, but it makes for an amazing holiday. We went swimming, played badminton, went bowling, tried archery and shuffleboard, boated on the lake in a pedalo, and worked out in the gym. Rob got to make a five minute video film and Ruth went abseiling.
In the evenings we went out for a number of very good meals to put back all the calories we'd burnt off - together with a few more for good measure, I'm sure. The food was very good - and if you go there, I can particularly recommend eating at Hugo's for their Tuesday night jazz, which was very entertaining. I have a feeling Ruth rather enjoyed the American cuisine at Huckleberry's which we went to on the Thursday night. She polished off a plate of loaded potato skins, a huge serving of BBQ ribs with french fries and still found room for a scoop of ice cream at the end. The servings were very generous; Rebecca and Rob shared a single serving of nachos that would have been more than enough for the four of us. Goodness knows what the "family size" serving would have been like.
The site was very impressive, even if their car parking arrangements could do with a bit of work. There was a lot of wildlife around, from very tame rabbits, mice, frogs, toads and squirrels to great spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls and large numbers of chaffinches. The only big problem we had was the weather: there were thunderstorms almost every day. Nearby, Newark got 100mm of rain in about 12 hours on the Tuesday and there was flooding in many towns a bit further north. Yet the only real effect we saw on site (apart from getting soaked every time we went out) was that the climbing session we'd booked on the Wednesday was cancelled. As this would have involved standing at the top of an 11-metre steel tower while lightning came down all around, I was pretty glad it was called off.
I enjoyed myself a lot, and thanks to Rebecca, Rob and Ruth for organising the champagne breakfast for my birthday, which was a lovely surprise. After a week which included more exercise than I normally get in a year I'm back home, and getting ready to go back to work tomorrow. It'll be nice to have a bit of a rest!
Ansari X-Prize news: the Da Vinci team say their Wild Fire rocket will make its first flight on Oct 2nd. But look what a mess their web site has become. They are now the "Golden Palace space program" as they appear to have accepted a hefty chunk of sponsorship from a casino - tacky adverts and cheesy animations and all. Pass me the barf bag.
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful - and so are we," Bush Junior told a high-level meeting of Pentagon officials this week. But he followed up that soundbite with this:
"They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people - and neither do we."
This wasn't a one-off: in fact it's got to the point where Dubya comes out with statements like this often enough for people to start websites to record them all.
After a lot of squabbling and bitching (which may of course have just been a publicity stunt - it certainly did the trick, judging by the coverage it got) it looks like the BBC have finally seen sense and agreed terms and conditions with the estate of Terry Nation to allow television's scariest intelligent wheelie bins back on to the small screen. Dust off that space behind the sofa - the Daleks are coming back to Doctor Who.
Yesterday's APOD was an amazing image of a Sun halo, with additional arcs and a "rainbow" all caused by high altitude ice crystals. I once saw an identical sight to this while skiing in Austria on a particularly cold morning. It's an incredible thing to see, and the photo brought back some good memories of snow-covered pines and chairlifts trundling gently up the mountains.
When you outsource your manufacturing to a foreign country, it helps if you make sure they know who you are. South London football team "Chrystal Palace" obviously didn't check when they got their replica kits manufactured. Doh!
So, how's this for a fairly typical silly season story? The BBC have just conducted a poll to promote Peter Snow's new series Battlefield Britain. I'd be interested in seeing the design of the questionnaire they used - after all, remember the article in the Register earlier this month that showed Rush as the most listened-to band amongst workers in the IT industry. In the same way, the results here appear ludicrously skewed: one in twenty 16- to 24-year-olds allegedly think that the person who defeated the Spanish Armada was Gandalf. Gandalf was in fact the wizard from J. R. R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings (as if I needed to tell you lot that).
Not only that, but 15 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds thought that when Orangemen march in Northern Ireland on 12 July, they were celebrating the victory at the Battle of Helm's Deep! Still, it makes for an amusing article, allows us to feel superior, and gets the programme some extra publicity. Can't be bad, then.
I've been listening to a very mellow and chilled CD by Brian Eno called I Dormienti (The Sleepers). It's a recording of music made for an installation of sculptures by Mimmo Paladino at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London, in 1999. The elements of the music were recorded on 10 CDs which were played back on 10 separate CD players. What is really interesting about the music is that the CD players were all set to Shuffle mode, and each CD was a different length. Just for good measure, some of the tracks on each CD were silent. As a result, the music washes in and out, gradually changing tones and colours and is, as Eno says, "effectively infinite." It's available from Eno's website, if you want to order a copy.
I've never been one for the splatterfest experience of the modern horror movie. They tend to be a little to visceral for my tastes. But some people really enjoy them. Sky Movies, in a desperate attempt to drum up a few more viewers, asked a team of scientists to come up with a formula to express the perfect horror movie. The result?
EEEEK = (es+u+cs+t) squared +s+ (tl+f)/2 + (a+dr+fs)/n + sin x - 1.
Their findings, which I'd go along with, suggest that the best example of the genre is still Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining.
Do you think I overreacted about yesterday's CD purchase? What I found very amusing after I uploaded yesterday's blog was that I tracked down a copy of the dB Power Amp Music Converter (available for free on your friendly neighbourhood Internet - just click on the link) which had no trouble at all with the copy protection on the Living Loud CD and I was able to rip decent quality MP3s of it in about 15 minutes all told. What a great piece of software!
So the original CD is now on my shelf at home, I'm listening to MP3s of the CD instead, and they're much higher quality than the rubbish I was forced to listen to yesterday. Of course, this behaviour is exactly the sort of thing the copy protection was supposed to prevent. How ironic that it actually encouraged it instead...
From one gesture of defiance to another: a German court has ruled that it's OK for Germans to stick their tongues out in passport photos. Alexander Mechthold claimed he was doing it in tribute to Albert Einstein. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour?
As part of my design work yesterday I came across a very interesting article on consumers, psychology and advertising that suggests consumers have little or no chance to respond to advertising in a rational manner. I've also just got the DVD of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, which shows a vision of advertising in the future that I find horrifying. I really don't want posters shouting "Chris Harris, you could do with a Guinness right now" as I walk down the street. I'm afraid my sympathies with marketing as a profession tend towards those of the late comedian Bill Hicks. Hicks's approach was less than subtle: if you work in advertising, you'd be doing the world a favour by killing yourself. You can read his routine here under the heading "One of my favourite quotes on advertising."
I don't know whether or not I've just been exposed to so much advertising, I've come out the other side and begun to analyse it for what it is, but every now and again I come across something being advertised that is so devastatingly over-hyped, it transcends any credibility at all. For example, take the folks at executive-vocabulary.com who will sell you two and a half thousand words, recorded on CD, for $127. Why such expense? Well, these particular words will help you "sound better-educated, and more sophisticated and intelligent." And don't forget, they've been selected by their special computer algorithm to make sure they really work. Not just any words, then. I'm sure they provide a high-quality product, but it strikes me that you could get a good three hundred and fifty thousand words in a reasonable dictionary for a lot less than that.
Ah, the advertisers have anticipated this objection. "Yes," they say. "But how would you know which ones to pick?" Gee, let me think... The customer endorsements are hilarious, too: "I use Power Words everyday now. They have become so ingrained in my vocabulary that they just roll off my tongue with little thought or effort." Ah, so the ultimate goal of the product is that you will devote little thought or effort to communication? That's an interesting objective, isn't it? And shouldn't "everyday" be two words in that context? I think so. Still, as a colleague of mine commented, "it'll teach you to be an excellent tabloid journalist, anyway."
A couple of folks I know are seriously thinking about making their next TV purchase a big one. With the popularity of plasma screens and projectors increasing every week, it seems that big is beautiful right now. So how about a 140-inch (3.55 metres) screen? It's an amazing piece of kit, and despite it using four projectors, the algorithms for blending the images make the picture look seamless. The only trouble is, how the hell am I going to fit one in my lounge?
Have you ever been seized by the desire to find out exactly which domains are sending out the most email at the moment? Ever wanted an idea of where all your junk mail is actually originating? Well, today I came across the SenderBase site, which is just too cool for words. Just go there and have a play. See who's sending the most mail from your ISP. See who sent the largest mail shot on the planet this week. Fun and games for all the family!
I've just got the Living Loud album on import from Australia, courtesy of Amazon. It's a venture by bass player Bob Daisley, who has played for some stellar names in his career including Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Uriah Heep and Steve Vai. For this record, he got some amazing pals to record with him: Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, Uriah Heep's Lee Kerslake, keyboard wizard Don Airey and (the reason I bought the album) the one and only Steve Morse on guitar. It's great stuff - some new material, and some rather amazing versions of Ozzy's greatest hits.
But what really gets my goat is that listening to the album at work on my PC, I was subjected to a decidedly sub-standard listening experience courtesy of the disc's copy protection system. If you listen to the CD on your computer it runs player software that throws a highly compressed sound file at you rather than the original audio. "CD quality"? Not a chance: it's only sampled at 48kbps so high frequencies in general and the cymbals in particular sound like s**t.
The player interface is not only small and badly thought out (the volume and balance controls in particular are incredibly fiddly - jeez, even the controls on the old Windows 95 CD Player were better) but also appears to have been purposely written to be as annoying as possible (you can only minimise it using the button on the player, as the normal Windows shortcuts have been disabled). WebMessenger Inc., shame on you. This is one product that decidedly doesn't do what it says on the tin. I suppose I'm lucky - there's a sticker on the case admitting that on some devices it won't play at all. I can't see how anyone in the record company believes that providing products at this level of quality is acceptable.
This is not the fault of the artists concerned - it's all down to the cluelessness of the company they had the misfortune to get to release their work. The reason I get annoyed about stuff like this is because for the last six months I've been writing a training course on customer service. As I've researched the course, I've been struck by how many analysts are saying the same thing: what will discriminate leading companies in the future is whether or not they provide excellent customer service. Yet some companies are determined to treat their customers (who are, after all, their primary source of income) with nothing short of contempt. This CD is a perfect example. Liberation and Warner Brothers, stand up and take a bow.
No, it's Bob X. Cringely discovering he can get a WiFi link to his home at a distance of 35 miles from his plane with a good enough data rate to support VoIP telephony. It's interesting that you can get folks like Bob happily doing stuff like this yet for most air travellers, using consumer electronics or (God forbid) mobile phones in the air is strictly forbidden. Cringely rather sniffily notes that the only folks who told him he shouldn't do this were non-pilots - and adds that some pilots told him that they regularly made "honey I'll be landing soon" calls on their phones from the cockpit. Presumably none of them read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the effects of cellphones that I blogged last September. After reading Bob's article one thing's for sure: I'm really glad I don't fly as much as I used to. I'm just rather concerned I'm under a major air traffic route.
The latest Macromedia Flash coolness? We suggest indulging in these 30-second versions of famous movies, reenacted by bunnies.
Why is it always bunnies?
You know the silly season has arrived when the BBC runs a story about the commando-style tactics being employed by - of all things - sheep. It appears the woolly denizens of one farm in Yorkshire have taken to scaling fences and rolling over cattle grids to get out and conduct raids on local gardens. No doubt the locals got suspicious when the flock began wearing black balaclavas and popping in to the local pub for a swift pint with the regulars...
I was interested to see that a survey conducted by The Register this week has revealed that the number one band that folks in the IT industry listen to is none other than Canadian power trio Rush. As I've seen them live between twenty five and thirty times, I was pleased, if a little surprised, by their popularity. However, on closer inspection it appears that this is mainly because the folks at el Reg don't know how to design a questionnaire properly. Guys, I'd recommend getting hold of a copy of Questionnaire Design, Interviewing, and Attitude Measurement by A. N. Oppenheim (ISBN 0-8264-5176-4), which is one of the most useful text books I've acquired in the last ten years.
On the way back from the Bristol Harbour Festival last night there was an amazing full moon hanging low over the Cotswolds. It's quite unusual to get two full moons in one month, and such an event has become known as a blue moon. It's interesting to see that the origin of the story is because a journalist goofed in a Sky and Telescope Magazine article back in 1948 and it's been repeated slavishly ever since!