Friday, December 29, 2006

100 things you didn't know last year

OK - so I'm posting this a little bit early, but knowing that quite a few people are off work over the holidays and could do with some diverting reading, this is a great list of new, often trivial but always interesting facts that were learned in 2006 as compiled by the BBC Magazine. For example;

1. In a fight between a Polar Bear and a Lion - the Polar Bear would win
2. Goths are likely to become doctors, lawyers and architects
3. The age limit for marriage in France was 15 for girls, but 18 for boys
4. A domestic cat can frighten a black bear to climb a tree.
5. Forty-one percent of English women have punched their partners
6. Cows can have regional accents
7. One third of all the cod fished in the world is consumed in the UK.
8. The egg came first

The one that particularly caught my eye was "Pele has always hated his nickname", perhaps I like it because of this quote "Being referred to by a single name - even if it is a nickname - sets him apart," he says. "It is a unique, God-like name. It lifts him out of the ordinary and makes him a phenomenon rather than a person." Can't disagree with that :-)

Click Here for the full list of 100 new facts.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fuel for Thought

It doesn't seem that long ago that Petrol (or Gas) was the dominant fuel for motor vehicles whilst Diesel was considered the inferior, dirtier and more importantly cheaper cousin. After all, Diesel is just distilled oil whilst Petrol is a much more complex chemical mix. But when I stopped to fill up the car yesterday I noticed that standard unleaded petrol is romping in at 92.4 pence per litre whilst diesel was 98.4p. What surprised me even more was that the 3rd pump which has traditionally been for Super Unleaded has now changed to Ultimate Diesel. I knew that sales of diesel vehicles has rocketed since changes in the UK Company Car taxation system and environmental concerns kicked in, I have been driving a diesel myself for the last few years and many of the old perceptions (slow, smelly, noisy) simply don't apply any more. So what I don't understand is why this increased popularity has resulted in an increase in price. Surely with a larger set of customers then competitive pressure should "drive" the price down? Can this really just be oil companies fleecing the public again?

Incidentally, any North Americans who are complaining about their gas price being an average of $2.34 per gallon might like to consider that converting 98.4p per litre into the dollar equivalent means we are paying $8.80 per gallon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wii are amused

The first computer game I ever got was an early version of Pong. The version I got on my 14th birthday featured both pong tennis and squash. Squash had smaller bats. I loved that game and me and my Dad whiled many an hour away pretending we were at Wimbledon. Sadly my appreciation of games went down from there. I had an Oric1 and an Oric Atmos but neither machine were particularly good for games. I saw friends get Commodore Amiga, Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Model B computers which were all better at games but I wasn't bothered.

By the time we had serious games for the PC and later the Playstation, Gamecube and Xbox I kind of saw gaming as a busman's holiday since I was sitting in front of a computer all day anyway. Later generations like the PS2, Xbox360 and PS3 have not changed my mind in any way since they just seem to be the same games with better graphics at the expense of involvement and playability. However, I am so tempted by the Nintendo Wii. Despite the well documented problems with the over ambitious use of the controllers I want one so bad. I think it might be because I get to play Tennis indoors again like I did 25 years ago.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

By George, It's the Beatles!

I'm down with the kids. I know what teenage language they use. "Ah rite. Dem is bangin' beats is it.. " etc. Some of the music these little tykes listen to now is pretty sweet. I love Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys. However, every now and then one has to go back to the originals and by that of course I mean The Beatles. A new album has just been released called Love. Initially it could be viewed as the sound track for a new Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, but after a single listen you realise that it is far more than background music for the Canadian Trampoline Monkeys. It is "fifth Beatle" George Martin revisiting some of the fab fours greatest music. Across it's 26 tracks there is the occasional disappointment, why would you take the guitar solo off "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"? but mainly it is a revelation. With his son Giles, Beatles producer Martin using only the original recording has produced an astonishing reinterpretation of the originals. The guitar riff from "Blackbird" gets bolted onto the front of "Yesterday", "Within You Without You" get's mashed up with "Tomorrow Never Knows", "A Day In The Life" gets top and tailed by "I Am The Walrus". And so it goes on. It is stunning how well, after a bit of spit and polish (remastering), the original recording stand up forty years later. Oasis would be proud to release most of these tracks as single tomorrow. But this album also goes to show quite how significant George Martins contribution to The Beatles was. If you enjoy curling up with some croissants, a pot of coffee and the papers on a Sunday morning/afternoon then this is a perfect album to accompany it. And don't worry if some kids shout "take the shame" when you leave the record shop with this fine record/cd/download under your arm. We know that if it weren't for The Beatles the kids would still be listening to Cliff Richard and Buddy Holly.