Son of Blog

Chris Harris's Blog Archive: September 2007

Once again I was out and about a fair bit in September, so the blog content was a bit thin. But hey, pirates, Batman and Judge Dredd!


I was unaccountably disturbed to open the paper this morning to see Mads Mikkelson advertising tank tops in a full page advert for the clothing store H&M. That's him on the website's front page. Oh Le Chiffre, what a comedown.


Thanks to Matt, who sent me a link to a great collection of photos of decaying vehicles yesterday. The idea that the rusting hulks of Russian nuclear submarines are being left to decay in harbours around the world is probably the most terrifying thing I've discovered this year.


Apparently some video game or other finally hit the streets this week and people have gone nuts. The central character we know as Master Chief was out and about, meeting and greeting, in a mammoth effort to promote Microsoft's latest extravaganza. He must be knackered. :-)


Why can't Radio 3 - which is a shadow of its former self - be more like Radio 4? There's an article on the BBC's news website today about the Shipping Forecast where Radio 4's controller, Mark Damazer, talks about its "baffling" appeal. The telling quote is his response when he's asked if the programme has a future: "I still won't take it off because it's a glory of its own." And it has. I just wish more folks at the beeb shared that opinion of their programmes.


A family from Texas set all their pictures on Flickr to use the creative commons licence - and boy, are they regretting it. I've talked about copyright issues with stuff posted to Flickr before, and I make sure that stuff I post to Flickr (and here) is copyright me, all rights reserved. Perhaps you ought to do the same? It's not going to stop the real bastards from ripping you off, but at least it gives you the option to sue 'em afterwards.


Yes, the blog's been a little terse this month. I've been hurtling around the country for the last few weeks, getting up to all sorts of work-related high jinks. I got to stay in hotel rooms which came with bizarre warning messages about opening the windows in case insects got in; I had some very nice meals, including an excellent lamb madras; I even had time to drop in and see some relatives as I was passing through.

I added another three hundred miles on the clock today, but at least this time someone else was doing the driving. Just as well, because I'm shattered - I was woken up at four thirty this morning by a massive rainstorm. You could barely see across the street, and the wind was blowing the rain into the bedroom. I got up to shut the windows, but I'd only just managed to get back to sleep when the alarm clock went off. I hate that. So now it's not even six o'clock in the evening and I'm sitting here yawning. With at least one more meeting lined up this week that will take me away from the office, it's going to be what I get up to in the evenings that will decide whether I make it to the end of the week or not. I think I need to cut down on my surfing and catch up on my sleeping.


The Moon has had an upgrade - well, Google's version of it has, anyway. Google Moon now has a lot more NASA content - they've added panoramas, links to audio and video clips, and much more besides. It says a lot about the way the exploration of space has progressed since Apollo that some of the photos used for Google's map are forty years old and covered in blemishes and artifacts, but they're still the best that's available. Hopefully, that will change in the next few years as new spacecraft such as Japan's Selene mission (which was launched this week) arrive and start taking pictures again. After all, when I was a kid, I expected people to be living on the Moon by now.


From Moon to Moog; tomorrow is Moogfest Day, a musical celebration of the life and work of synthesiser designer Robert Moog, who died last year. This year's main event is held in New York, where a bunch of *very* talented musicians including Thomas Dolby, T Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and Jordan Rudess will be playing.

I might have to get a copy of the DVD of last year's performance, as it featured Jan Hammer and Keith Emerson. Stellar!


Shiver me timbers, it's talk like a pirate day once again.


Nice to see that one of the serious games developed by the company I work for gets a positive mention in The Guardian today.


Your very own personal stealth aircraft suit. The coolest way to attach a wing and the appropriate set of jet engines to your back, and hey presto - you're all set with an outfit that apparently has a 100 kilometre range. It'd make commuting more interesting, that's for sure.


So that's why most pop records these days sound like tuneless mush.

According to recording engineer Alan Douches: "Today, young artists think MP3s are a high-quality medium and the iPod is state-of-the-art sound." Bands check out their latest masterworks by listening to them on their iPods. So a lot of music these days is recorded to sound good once it's compressed rather than as it comes out of the studio, principally by dropping all the high frequencies down until they're inaudible (MP3s don't get on well with high frequency sounds like real cymbals).

As a result, listeners subconsciously perceive compressed music as being harsh and flat. They don't enjoy it as much, according to the article. That wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that a lot of the music's crap, then? The fact that we have produced a generation who believe that MP3 players are state-of-the-art hi-fi systems leaves me with little hope for this planet's future. We're all doomed.


Okay, another one from Boing Boing. Meet Kevin Goldsmith, Judge Dredd fan extraordinaire.


"...we've come a long way from the Prime Minister's exploding cake."

BBC Four are repeating the classic Batman TV series. Absolute magic.


We lost the great Joe Zawinul today. Damn. He was the creative force behind the band Weather Report, but he also worked alongside jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley. I have quite a few of his albums, including the recentdouble CD Brown Street, which is excellent. But for most people, including me, the track that he will always be remembered for is Birdland, off the Weather Report album Heavy Weather.


I've mentioned the Pepys' Diary blog before. It presents the diaries of Samuel Pepys as a blog, complete with hyperlink annotations to background material. At present, the entries have reached 1664 and Pepys is beginning to enjoy life.

Now imagine if Geoffrey Chaucer was somehow transplanted to the present day. If he blogged, he might chronicle the distractions of modern living, just like the rest of us. All the same, there's something delightfully left-field about reading someone's review of his son's video game console when it's written in middle english:

" ‘Unwack yowerself a litel, Dizzad. Ich am playinge Auriole,’ Lowys replyede, and did poynte towardes hys ‘Exboxe CCCLX’. "


"Your face is your fortune," the old saying goes. It turns out that the statement has more than a grain of truth. Scientists have developed a way of diagnosing a number of genetic disorders in children with a high degree of accuracy just by analysing an image of the child's face using computer software. The program could diagnose cases of Williams syndrome with 98% accuracy, and several other disorders with a hit rate of better than 9 out of 10. What other, even more subtle visual markers might our faces contain? And what control might we have over agencies or companies who develop the skills to identify them, given the number of cameras that watch us every day?


Thanks to Matt for this one. Downhill roller skating (prone, and head first) in the Swiss alps. It's the fact that the guy overtakes a couple on a motorcycle at one point that gets me. He's definitely HFO material.


It looks like Guinness really is good for you.


Sod the waiting. Forget the "maybe I should wait a few months."

I want an iPod Touch NOW.

Mine's already on order.


There have been some interesting product announcements this week. I was stunned by Casio's announcement of a new digital camera in their Exilim range. It may only have a six megapixel resolution, but it's what it manages to do with it that really made me sit up and take notice. This camera can take sixty stills a second at its full resolution. Drop the image size down to VGA (which is 640 by 480 pixels) and this camera will take AVI movies at an astonishing 300 frames per second. Expect to see all sorts of craziness appearing on YouTube when this baby comes out.


In terms of pixel size, Casio's camera pales into insignificance next to the University of Hawaii's new PanSTARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) telescopes, which will be fitted with a 1.4 gigapixel sensor. It''ll take pictures that are 38,400 pixels on a side. That's a pretty impressive chunk of data, and it needs to be - it'll be the camera's job to image the whole sky several times a month in support of a program to discover and track Earth-approaching objects such as comets and asteroids.


But the product announcement that really had me drooling is, of course, the new iPod touch. It runs Mac OSX and it's WiFi enabled so it runs Safari (web browsing on the move!) and it uses the same multi-touch interface as the iPhone. The only slight disappointment for me is that the storage capacity tops out at 16Gb, which amounts to less than half of the music I currently have on my PC.

However, given that Apple have now abandoned the lower model iPhone and dropped the price of the higher spec model, maybe I should wait another couple of months before finally taking the plunge - just in case they do the same sort of thing with the Touch...


Poor old Peter Addison. He's made himself famous, and for all the wrong reasons. The 18-year-old burglar from Stockport was tracked down remarkably quickly by the police after he broke into a building on a children's campsite run by Toc H, mainly because he'd scrawled Peter Addison was here on the wall while he was there. What a chump.

He was ordered to pay £725 compensation and £20 costs, although the judge might have been kinder if he'd locked him up for his own safety - he appears to be too dumb to be let out in public by himself.


I was sad to hear that we lost The Beer Hunter on Thursday. He was probably the best known writer about beer in the world, and his TV series about beer was fascinating. He will be greatly missed - his friends are trying to organise a national toast for him on the 30th September to raise funds for the National Parkinson Foundation, so stay tuned.


I have no idea what's going on with my ISP, but Demon's mail system appears to have pretty much gone into meltdown; maybe it's another "improvement" to their system. The last few times I have logged in, I've received the same dozen messages I originally got a couple of days ago.

It's a shame, because I remember the time when Demon was a really good service provider. These days they run a customer service centre out of Bangalore, which is so ineffective it's not even worth the bother of calling them up. I think it's time I started looking elsewhere for my connectivity.


It's been quite a week. I spent the Bank Holiday weekend over at Sallie's, and had a really lovely time: thanks to Sallie and Lily for making me feel very welcome. We went out a lot, took Mabel the retriever for lots of walks, and even found time to visit a pub or two. I took quite a few pictures, which will be appearing on my Flickr stream over the next week or so.

On Tuesday I drove down to London to attend a gathering of people which revolved around William Gibson's new book, Spook Country. At the Science Museum, I met up with quite a few folks from the William Gibson message boards, and they were some of the nicest, most fun people I have ever met. Then Mr Gibson himself very kindly signed my copy of his novel. I can't even begin to describe the event here - you really need to read about it from the beginning. Needless to say I have also put up a set of photos from the day on Flickr.

After four hours' sleep I was back on the road and heading off Up North for work; I only got back yesterday afternoon, so that's why the blog's been a bit quiet. Expect things to be quite a bit busier this month.