Monthly Archives: February 2011

Robot Wars

Robot Wars

This is worrying. You can now buy an instant army of fake online commenters to sway any public argument your way. Continue reading

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Beware of the goat

I’m all for innovation. Finding ways round problems. Flexibility. Work rounds. Not being defeated by seemingly insurmountable problems. So I should approve of what they’ve done on the island of Fuerteventura. Continue reading

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How many different words for snow, death… and farts?

Eskimos and Inuit are reputed to have many/seven/50/100 different words for snow. Though it may be a tundric myth. (And anyway, don’t we have snow, blizzard, sleet & slush – OK that’s only four, and I’m not sure about the last two.)

But anywhere with an unusually high number of different words detailing aspects of a phenomenon interests me. It evokes poetic lists. Like these from Belfast poet Michael Longley – The Ice-Cream Man.

Rum and raisin, vanilla, butterscotch, walnut, peach:

You would rhyme off the flavours. That was before

They murdered the ice-cream man on the Lisburn Road

And you bought carnations to lay outside his shop.

I named for you all the wild flowers of the Burren

I had seen in one day: thyme, valerian, loosestrife,

Meadowsweet, tway blade, crowfoot, ling, angelica,

Herb robert, marjoram, cow parsley, sundew, vetch,

Mountain avens, wood sage, ragged robin, stitchwort,

Yarrow, lady’s bedstraw, bindweed, bog pimpernel.

You can listen Continue reading

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Worst drink in the world?

Ever tried this? Grass jelly drink.

As you see, it comes in cans. I tried it for the first time in a Malaysian basement canteen. Maybe I should have heeded the handwritten sign on the door which said Only Malaysians Admitted. Once inside though, they were a friendly bunch and the food was good.

But the grass jelly drink… Ugh. Unpleasant slightly disturbing liquid – little taste, just mild anxiety. The diced green  jelly lurks at the bottom of the can like freshwater crocs in a flooded Queensland town. The sensation as they slip down your throat, or more likely get stuck in your teeth, is not nauseating. No, it’s not as bad as that. It couldn’t be a bush tucker challenge on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. But you do wonder as you screw up your face and carry on determinedly, whether it’s worth it?

The answer by the way is – No.

Still, at least it’s not Continue reading

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20 reasons why it’s all kicking off

This is an attempt to find common reasons behind all the upheavals happening in the world at the moment. It’s from the BBC Newsnight‘s economics editor Paul Mason, who’s also on Twitter.

As the cartoon on the left from Buttersafe suggests, having a wee scoot around the web is a way to lose aeons of time, but you sometimes find interesting things like Paul Mason’s take on the global social dynamic.  The short version identifies graduates, often female,  with no future, but access to social media and less tied to old ideologies as drivers of change. See what you think of his longer version:

We’ve had revolution in Tunisia, Egypt’s Mubarak is teetering; in Yemen, Jordan and Syria suddenly protests have appeared. In Ireland young techno-savvy professionals are agitating for a “Second Republic”; in France the youth from banlieues battled police on the streets to defend the retirement rights of 60-year olds; in Greece striking and rioting have become a national pastime. And in Britain we’ve had riots and student occupations that changed the political mood.

What’s going on? What’s the wider social dynamic? Continue reading

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Stop looking for answers in everyone’s eyes…

Trish Keenan died last month. She was the singer from UK electronic band band Broadcast.

My mate Mark introduced me to their music.

Their song Come On Let’s Go offers a wealth of good advice for social occasions:

1. You won’t find it by yourself – you’re gonna need some help.
2. Stop looking for answers in everyone’s face.
3. (At a busy loud party.) What’s the point in wasting time on people that you’ll never know. Come on let’s go.

Just listening again to the lyrics, like many Van Morrison love songs, you could imagine that they’re addressed to God.

And speaking of looking for answers in other people’s faces…

Here’s a face in a million. It’s made from almost 10,000 pieces of toast. A back-breakingly prepared birthday surprise which is apparently recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, (beating the previous record-holding school in the Netherlands).

Laura Hadland from Leicester decided to mark her mother-in-law Sandra Whitfield’s 50th birthday with this toast mosaic.

It took 600 loaves of bread, 50 people, 128.05 square metres, 9,852 slices of toast (dark, medium & light)  and seven hours of toasting and sticking down.

The birthday girl’s verdict? “I love toast, but it was a massive shock seeing my face made out of it.” (You can get the full story Pick Me Up Magazine – essential reading.)

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The era of the heavy schoolbag is almost at an end

The era of the heavy schoolbag is almost at an end. That’s according to one of my neighbourhood primary schools. In a letter home to parents, the headteacher noted that more and more pupils were bringing kindles and other electronic readers into class. Continue reading

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Revealed: The road to economic recovery

I hope the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the IMF and World Bank, and all you other financial institutions around the planet are keeping a sneaky eye on this blog. Because this could be the way out of recession. I should warn you that it involves front fastening magnetic bras. And jugs. But don’t go jumping to conclusions too quickly… Continue reading

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