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Friday 30th January 2009

Great New Videos from Misty's Big Adventure

Mark Locke %EXT% has surpassed himself with two new poignant videos for Misty's Big Adventure. Set at the two ends of the age spectrum, Between Me and You %EXT% stars two kids who fulfil their dream of building a rocket, whereas I Can't Turn the Time Back %EXT% features an old man who still dreams. If you watch carefully, you can see the two cross paths in the middle of the video.

Have a look, they really bring out the depth of the songs and would counter anyone's doubts that Misty's is "just a band with a dancing monster" smile

P.s. If you'd like to see the videos at full size, you can try these links: Between Me and You %EXT%, and I Can't Turn the Time Back %EXT% - if you have problems, you might save and rename the files to end in ".mov" rather than ".flv".

Sunday 18th January 2009

Israeli TV Shows a Father's Grief.

An Israeli TV station has been talking to an Palestinian Doctor (who used to work in an Israeli hospital before Gaza was locked down) every day of the war there. Yesterday, just before they were due to interview him, his house was bombed and his three daughters killed. They broadcast his call live (YouTube). It's quite traumatic.

What Will Obama's Energy Policy Be Like?

Just watched an interesting video of Steven Chu responding to energy policy suggestions on %EXT% (You Tube, 13 mins). He sounds like a real scientist. The plans include:
  • Trying to stop climate change of over 2 degrees C things are likely to get pretty bad above this level. At least 1 degree of warming is already locked into the system due to the CO2 (etc) we've already put out there. He's well aware of tipping points, but he's not sure we've going to be able to do it, but he thinks we should try.
  • Large scale domestic wind / solar renewable energy
  • An accompanying long range energy transmission grid - he even mentions a global one!
  • He quoted Norman Borlaug's revolutionary work on wheat %EXT%, which averted predicted food crises in the 1970's and 80's, as an example of how well applied science can have a big impact on seemingly insoluble problems.

Nice to see a return to "reality based policies" smile and away from this attitude:

The aide [to Bush] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore"

(see also: The Church of Reality %EXT%)

Saturday 17th January 2009


I like Cheese Fondue, but I don't make it so often, so I thought I'd make some Notes on how to make Fondue.

Friday 16th January 2009

Mark Watson

I've heard Mark Watson many times on Radio 4 (home of much good comedy), and saw his Edinburgh preview back in 2005. He started his show at the Town Hall tonight from one of the side doors, rather than the stage, in order to get to know the audience better. After making his way to the centre of the audience, and several discussions with people about where they were from, he finally introduced himself and ran round to appear on stage.

His prepared material was great, but what makes him really stand out as a stand up is the degree of audience interaction. The first 20 minutes of the second half consisted of conversations with the audience and an attempt to get a \xA35 prize he'd given up to someone in the circle. Even he seemed slightly bewildered by the enthusiam of the audience, and I was wondering if he'd actually get on to telling us what he'd planned to. He did, and it went very well. Hurray! smile

Saturday 11th January 2009


After a later afternoon look around Birmingham Museum and Art gallery, I wandered down to Summer Row to Bluu, which has quite a nice looking menu and seems like a fun place to hang out with friends. On Sundays, they only do a fixed menu roast, and some light meals but my fish finger sandwich was nice. Hoping to go back and check out something from their proper menu soon.

I was going to put a link to them here, but unfortunately they've a stupid flash website %EXT% - when will people learn! Problems include:
  • It's slow
  • It doesn't show up on google properly (try Googling for "Bluu Birmingham" %EXT%)
  • Not accessible to people using screenreaders or mobile phones!
  • You can't send links to parts of the website (i.e. "check out the cocktail menu")
  • They've invented their own "hidden navigation system" where you have to hover over random items in a scene (chairs, tables etc) in order to see what links are available. I.e. you have to pass your mouse cursor over the whole scene in order to find out if you've missed the information you want!
  • It's so slow! (did I mention this?) I wait for one flash bit to load, choose Birmingham, wait for it to load, choose "enter", wait for it to load, try find the food menu etc.
I don't normally "name and shame" but the designer's website %EXT% has a front page which tells you it's "Optimized" for viewing at 1024x768 pixels. That's a dead give away that you don't want to use them. Surely a good website should work across browsers, platforms, screensizes etc. It's about communicating information to the customer - "when are you open? what do you do? what does it cost?" - not self indulgent (censored). It is possible to have websites with good design and good graphics. This is pretty but useless.

Phew! that was quite a rant.

Anyway, crap website aside, Bluu have a half price food offer on some weekdays. I can't be bothered trying to navigate their site again to provide you with details, and I can't give you a link to the information, so if you're interested you'll have to find it yourself!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This film's been on my list to see for a while. It's the story of a man who cannot communicate, except by blinking. His nurse comes up with a way for him to communicate and off we go. Can't say too much, but it's a fascinating film.

One thing really did make me feel sorry for him - the system his nurse came up with was lousy! According to the film, it works by her reading out possible letters (in order of frequency, thank god) and him blinking when she gets to the right one. How slow is that! There are a lot of ways to improve the system, some of which would require a computer and some text analysis, but some of which just require a piece of paper. For example, you could organise the letters on a grid, blink 3 times, pause then 4 times to get the letter at position (3,4). Common words could also be included in the scheme. Now presumably his nurse did do a lot of guessing of words which speeds it up, but a simple grid could have made things so much better. I'm not sure when the film (based on a book by the lead character) was set, but surely there was some sort of best practise they could have looked up.

Monday 5th January 2009

BBC Four - Science and Islam

This is a great program, all about medieval Islamic scholars during the European dark ages and how they brought together knowledge from all different cultures and worked together with Christians, Jews, Persians etc.

It features ancient Islamic mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, whose name gave us the term "Algorithm" and who brought us Algebra.

Watch Science and Islam: The Language of Science %EXT% (on iPlayer for the next week) - it's inspiring with some amazing scenery too.

Or if you prefer radio, there's Melvin Bragg's In Our Time on the the Arabic preservation of Greek Knowledge %EXT%

"One night in Baghdad, the 9th century Caliph Al-Mamun was visited by a dream. The philosopher Aristotle appeared to him, saying that the reason of the Greeks and the revelation of Islam were not opposed. On waking, the Caliph demanded that all of Aristotle’s works be translated into Arabic. And they were."

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See Also: Web Changes for other recent updates, All Blog Pages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other Birmingham Bloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley
Topic revision: r8 - 03 Feb 2009, andyp
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