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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ringing the changes

I got bored with my iPhone ringtone and got sidetracked into a couple of hours of agonising and experiment. At first, I couldn't decide between music and samples from 2001. The happy coincidence of being called Dave makes Hal saying "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" and so forth an obvious choice. But a bit of investigation revealed that you can only set the ringtone, you can't set other alert or warning sounds, not even incoming message sounds. So it was goodbye to Hal and I decided to go with music.

However, once I'd decided on music then I was a bit stuck. Obviously, a ringtone is going to say something about you, so you have to think about it very carefully. Do I want to appear old-fashioned? Boring? An individual? Quite a quandary. And you need to pick something that you will hear in a crowd and realise that it is yours.

Oh well. I've temporary settled on my modified "Back in Black" by AC/DC. (I modified it by editing out the very beginning couple of seconds, so that it goes straight into the guitar power chords.) But I can't decide whether to stick with it or whether to keep searching for the perfect ringtone. I used to use "London Calling" by The Clash, and this was an excellent choice, but I associate with my old phone and I feel that my iPhone should have its own distinct personality.

I came across an excellent piece of software, by the way. It's iToner from Ambrosia. You can drag any old music or sound file to it, even from inside iTunes, and it will convert it into an iPhone ringtone.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fair trial

One of the strangest aspects of life in the cold, damp lunatic asylum formerly known as the United Kingdom is the "justice" system. Some of the reports of court cases, police actions and government strategies are utterly beyond parody. I imagine life as a satirist must be even more depressing than life as an investment banker at the moment, since it's impossible to make up anything more ridiculous than what is already happening. There was a case recently when a British judge let a defendant off because he (the judge) thought that the fact that the victim had identified the perpetrator in a police line-up would prejudice the jury.

he ruled that her evidence against a lout she picked out in an ID parade was so compelling it would unfairly sway the jury

[From Judge throws out robbery case: Victim is too honest | The Sun |News]

WTF? Why have an ID parade then? In fact, why allow the prosecution to bring any evidence at all, since presumably any evidence connecting the defendant with the crime would prejudice the jury.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who's the genius?

The "genius" function in iTunes is temporarily my favourite thing in the world. The kids defeated me in an Age of Empires mother-of-all-battles epic, so I retreated into iTunes to lick my wounds and clicked around genius to find something new to listen to. It threw up Jo Jo Gunne who, like many people, I know only from the hit "Run Run Run", which I had years ago on a compilation tape. In an experimental mood and opting to try something new for the New Year, I bought "Big Chain" and it's brilliant, I've been listening to it ever since. Well done that computer.

But what was the connection? Jo Jo Gunne -- I subsequently discovered -- were formed out of Spirit. Many years ago, I had a girlfriend who really liked Spirit and I thought they were OK, but not great. But one of their tracks -- I've got a line on you -- was always a favourite. In my iTunes purchased music library, I've got an album by the Jeff Healey Band that includes a cover version of I've got a line on you, and this is in the 'most listened to' playlist.

Wow. Is genius that clever? If so, why aren't they using it to hunt down terrorists or fix the banking crisis?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just the facts

There's a really interesting article about football by Danny Finkelstein in this month's Financial World. His piece, which is about using data and statistics instead of punditry in soccer, contains a number of interesting snippets, but the most interesting part to me was the graph relating wages (as a proxy for total wealth of the soccer club) and the premier league points gained. The curve is clear and asymptotic: money does buy success and, exactly as you would suspect, the more money you spend the lower the marginal return.

Teams above the curve (eg, Portsmouth) have something (generally speaking, a manager) that enables them to outperform the players alone whereas clubs below the curve (eg, Manchester City) will have to spend a huge amount of money to get additional points that the players aren't earning them. Fortunately, Manchester City have absolutely the hugest amount of money imaginable and they apparently bid ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE MILLION POUNDS to bring Kaka to Middle Eastlands (as the City fans were signing earlier in the season, "fill up your car, we're buy Kaka").

As well as a world-record transfer fee, City’s owners are reported to have offered the player a £75 million signing-on fee and wages in the region of £250,000 a week.

[From How can AC Milan spend £100m on Kaka in a recession? - Telegraph]

As a lifelong blue, I have to say that I hope they fail to get him. There is something utterly obscene about spending that much money on a footballer, something just plain wrong.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, January 12, 2009

Carry on generations

I was slouching on the couch, tired and bored, flicking through the TV channels. I came across Carry on Cleo and started watching it. Foreign persons don't understand how the Carry On series both fits into and shapes our national psyche, but for British persons of a certain age (eg, me), they are special and comforting, like a spotted dick (tee hee).

Anyway, I was watching it while no.2 son came and slumped on the sofa beside me. He was bored too, waiting to talk to his mother while she was in the middle of an extended phone conversation with one of her friends. So there we were, watching Jim Dale, Warren Mitchell, Kenneth Williams and the rest of the gang. Now, no.2 son is not versed in the history of British light entertainment, the tradition of the double entendre or the Shakespeare tragedy that was the inspiration for the work. More interestingly, he had no idea it was a comedy, and just thought it was a boring and unrealistic (well, compared to Gladiator, his benchmark for films about ancient Rome) film about Julius, Mark and Cleopatra.

So, I observe, that unless you are schooled in a culture that believes Carry On films to be funny, they aren't. One reason may well be that they contain no actual funny jokes (except, in this case, the famous line about infamy, infamy, they've all got it infamy).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You don't have to be mad to live here... but many people clearly are

Normally, when I'm reading other people's newspapers on the train in the morning, because I can't get a seat and do some useful work, I don't reflect on the stories. This is because they are either entirely trivial rubbish about celebrities (some of whom I have even heard of, like Jordan), distressing stories of wars that I can't influence or things that aren't really news. This morning I was shoulder surfing the usual chronicle of Britain's slide from superpower to Zimbabwe-by-Sea...

  • Polish workers leaving in droves now that the pound has the purchasing power they remember for the zloty, but Polish non-workers remaining to claim welfare benefits,
  • Estonian armed robbers hired by English criminals (you just can't get the staff, and the cheap flights make Estonia a good choice for thugs),
  • Woman bank manager who was "bullied" by fellow workers is suing for £16.7 million. By the way, I openly invite you to call me any names you like, for a period of several months, in return for nearly SEVENTEEN MILLION POUNDS. Go ahead, make my decade.

In other words, the usual stuff. And then I came across a story that was so odd that I had to read it half a dozen times to take it in, and then found myself thinking about it all day. The story was about a 74 year old man from Buckinghamshire who died of thirst after getting lost in a labyrinth of tunnels built from rubbish (in his own home).

Police had to call in a specialist diving team because the smell from the house, Broughton, Buckinghamshire, was so overpowering.

[From Man died in network of tunnels he made through house of rubbish - Telegraph]

WTF? I mean, WTF? I thought about it several times during the day. It struck me as being a really bizarre story, something I hadn't seen before and probably would never see again. But the very next day

A spinster who obsessively hoarded clothes died in her home after a mountain of suitcases fell on her, burying her alive.

[From Shopaholic spinster found dead under 3ft of unopened goods | Mail Online]

What on Earth is going on? I'm genuinely bemused.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

96 Virgins (stewardesses)

I saw this advert for Virgin airlines on TV. The essence of it was that their stewardesses are hotter than BA's, so they had a whole bunch of stunning women dressed up in porno versions of stewardess uniforms with red spike heels marching through Gatwick to the soundtrack of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax. It made me want to cut up my BA Executive Club card immediately and sell my possessions to get a Virgin ticket, which was, I imagine, its intended purpose. I'm surprised you're allowed to advertise services on the basis of the hotness of your staff, but fair enough. I've already got some ideas for Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, January 05, 2009

Literary history

The first written reference to Woking occurs in a letter from Pope Constantine, written in about 710. It's a letter to the monastery in what is now Peterborough and it covers two other monasteries, both dedicated to St. Peter, in Bermondsey and in Woking (then known by its Saxon name, Wocchingas). What's more, it still exists!

...his privilege for the monasteries of Bermondsey and Woking (ibid., 276) may be genuine.

[From Pope Constantine - Original Catholic Encyclopedia]

That monastery no longer exists, but it was pretty much where Woking still is now.

The site of the monastery is probably where St. Peter's Old Woking now stands and the original Saxon church is presumed to have been destroyed at the time of the sacking of Chertsey Abbey by the Danes in 871.

[From St Dunstan's - Home]

Still, 710, not bad. A lot of people seem to think that Woking is something of a recent invention, dating back to the arrival of the railway, but it has ancient roots. so there.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Is the end really nigh?

Just when you need cheering up from paying your taxes and then paying your vastly increased train fare, the Glee Club turn up outside Embankment Tube.

End Times

I wasn't sure if they were from the Price Waterhouse offices opposite or were retailers queueing up for Price Waterhouse insolvency practitioners, but either way it wasn't the most cheerful start to the day.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]