New Specs

January 31, 2009

511320341.jpg I am dreadfully shortsighted, and am essentially unable to function without glasses. In the past I’ve run into horrible problems with high street chain-type opticians, so for the last 10 years or so I have gone to Ideal Eyes in Oxford. They’re a great example of a small (3 store) chain still very much run hands-on by the owner, and the service is superb. After the unfortunate disintegration of my specs earlier in the week I decided to get my eyes tested as well as ordering some new glasses.

There seems to be a distressing trend towards ‘bling’ in glasses these days. Because my eyes are so bad the lenses are very thick, even with 1.67 lenses which thins them by 50% (I think). As a result I need to have plastic frames to avoid looking like Professor Frink from the Simpsons, with the glass overhanging the frames. Many of the frames seem to have great thick ‘arms’ to them, sometimes spanning the whole height of the side of the frame, often with a ludicrous great logo of Armani, Prada, or whatever, stuck to it. The effect is to make one look like the owner of a pair of designer label safety goggles. Horrible.

I was delighted therefore, to find that Ray-Ban produce a nice range of understated frames. So that is what I have ordered (pictured above). Now I just have to hope the super-glue holds until they arrive!

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Hilarious New Blog

January 29, 2009

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One of the finest political blogs in existence is Politicalbetting.com. It’s addictive (like the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave) and contains countless erudite and brilliant commenters arguing and debating over the superb articles written by the inimitable Mike Smithson, the svelte Morus, and Double Carpet. It’s unusual in that it is genuinely non-partisan and commenters of all parties are present. According to Mike Smithson the ration of the parties shifts according to who is in the lead in the polls at the time, so currently Tory commenters are dominant, but when Labour was riding high in the polls the reverse was true. No one knows, of course, what would happen should the Limp Dems achieve success in the polls.

Among those debating the betting opportunities or debating the political issues of the day there are also some notable eccentrics. Ave It 09 predicts Tory victory regardless of the topic under debate, while Martin Day indulges his hatred of Liberal Democrats (via his two themes of the Yellow Taxi and the alleged similarity of Nick Clegg to Neil Kinnock), and of Gordon Brown. Recently Martin has started a blog, where he displays his unique sense of humour and some superbly funny (if not hugely technically accomplished) photoshop work!

Best of luck with the blog Martin – if I had any feedback it would be to create more pictures of the hybrid of Gordon Brown and a Galapagos Tortoise, which reduces me to helpless giggling whenever I see it. The images are by the mighty Martin Day. Go and visit his blog!

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Spectacular Issue

January 29, 2009

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This hasn’t been the best week so far! I’ve injured my back, and then while writing the previous blog post my glasses fell to bits!

I’m sure it’s all Gordon Brown’s fault somehow.


iLife 09

January 29, 2009

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I bought my new MacBook Pro in the period between Apple announcing the new iLife 09 and the software becoming available for sale. In those situations Apple generally offer an upgrade for a nominal cost, which I have taken advantage of. The DVD turned up yesterday. I actually only really use iPhoto from the suite (the other applications are iMovie (for movie editing) and GarageBand (a music program). There is also iWeb which I use for my family website, which I update roughly every six months (so that doesn’t get much use either).

I am quite impressed with the updated iPhoto 09. I’m a fairly keen photographer and so I appreciate a good photo management tool, which iPhoto is. The key changes are the addition of the tools Places and Faces, and also an integral Facebook, Flikr and MobileMe uploader. I use all three of these online services so that’s a useful development.

Faces is a rather clever face recognition tool. iPhoto took an hour or so to scan the 7000-odd pictures in my library, after which it groups together the faces it thinks are the same person. There is then a manual process of approving it’s decisions. It learns over time, and in the space of an evening I have got to a point where I’ve got the key people categorised properly. It’s a nice feature and helpful particularly when looking for a particular photo.

Places takes advantage of the increasing trend for GPS geo-tagging photos. My Nokia N95, which I use for quick shots of interesting things I see out and about (it has a 5 megapixel camera) is set up to automatically Geo-tag any pictures I take, but my Olympus E400 doesn’t. I’m hoping for a GPS logger for my birthday (hint hint Mrs Fleet) but I until I get that it is possible to manually tag photos or groups of photos, and the application has a sophisticated search tool which enables one to quickly identify the location – even down to individual houses. This is slightly more gimmicky than Faces but is still fun to do, and I like being able to go back to see where my pictures were taken.

I wouldn’t describe iLife 09 as an essential upgrade by any means, but there are some good innovations there, and Faces in particular is great.


Great British Satire – The Daily Mash

January 27, 2009

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It’s only recently that I’ve stumbled across the great satirical news site the Daily Mash, which is very funny and well worth a bookmark. It clearly owes something to the legendary US spoof news site the Onion, but has a uniquely British slant to it. The headline story today, about Gordon Brown and headlined “I warned of crisis ten years ago then did absolutely nothing about it”, is superb, and contains the following lines which made me laugh out loud –

“Now some people are saying that my bank bail outs aren’t working and if I’m not careful I’ll end up destroying our entire financial system and bankrupting the country. Well, Mr Brown added: “I’m not right in the head. I’ve been setting fire to stuff recently. Just small stuff. Books, furniture, cats.

“They keep giving me these little yellow pills, but I don’t think they’re working. If anything they make me even angrier and I just want to start bigger and bigger fires.

“I guess it’s only a matter of days now before I set fire to a car. Then it’ll be a church, a hospital, a row of quaint, terraced cottages. I’m just letting you know.”

Go and have a look – it’s great.


Painting a Jumbo Jet

January 27, 2009

NWA 747 being repainted into Delta colours. Took 12 days to do, but through the miracle of time-lapse photography it’s reduced here to 3 minutes and a bit.


Arghhhh!

January 26, 2009

18102008023.jpg Here you see your humble blogger with my beloved Brompton bike. I greatly enjoy my ride from Paddington to the office each morning and evening, which gives me a chance to watch the goings on of the West End first thing in the morning – this morning a huge row between two lady cyclists, one of whom had jumped a red light and was thereupon abused by the other with a cry of “it’s people like you who make people think we’re all ar*eholes”. *

Unfortunately it all went horribly wrong this morning when my foot slipped off the pedal when passing the American Embassy on Grosvenor Square. I am prone to back injuries (probably something to do with being 6 foot 5 tall) and lo and behold I have twisted my back.

I’ve spent the day popping paracetamol and lurching around the place like Quasimodo, and am sitting here with a heatpad on my back. Hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow, although I suspect I am in for a painful few days, punctuated by anguished cries of “I’m in tremendous pain, Ted”.

(* She’s right – I try to scrupulously obey the rules of the road on the grounds that if cyclists want to be treated with respect and not run over by buses, taxis. members of the Household Cavalry on horses etc, we need to be whiter than white ourselves)