workmugs — absolute genius of an idea [via emmaljones, bash].

Brains! Brains! Brains! Kids OK.

A couple of interesting brain-related nuggets kicked up by my feed reader this morning: losing sleep undoes the rejuvenating effects new learning has on the brain, and Bayesian reasoning vs frequentism.

It’s also quite popular in South Africa, apparently…

Life’s full of surprises. I pointed out to Bash that my post on “Dinner For One” had been picked up by dev/null (hi Andrew!), and she said “Oh wow, Dinner For One! It’s so great! Have you seen it?”

Once I’d got over my initial huffiness that she clearly doesn’t read my website as often as I read hers, it became clear that Dinner For One enjoys the same status in South Africa as in most of Europe outside Britain (Christmas Eve is the night for it, apparently).

Bash was amazed to learn I’d never seen it, and astonished to hear it’s never even been shown on British TV. To address the situation, and brazenly ignoring that I’ve now read two articles on the subject (as she’d know if she attended properly to her wifely duties and read my blog!), she kindly went on to tell me all about it. I countered with “The same procedure as last year, ma’am?” and lemonade shot out of her nose.

Dinner For One

The Mystery of Dinner for One [link via will]. I particularly liked: Why Germany finds it so funny and the British don’t is, according to Der Spiegel’s Sebastian Knauer, “one of the last unsolved questions of European integration.”

The Guardian’s Christmas TV guide mentioned this (more briefly) in an article about what the rest of the world watches at Christmas. From that article, the one I want to see is France’s Le Père Noël est une ordure:

Set on Christmas Eve in a social service helpline call centre, three workers try with varying degrees of failure to spread festive cheer among the depressed, suicidal homeless, heartbroken and bereaved who turn up looking for salvation. Utterly bleak, totally farcical, and very very funny.

Sounds good to me. :-)


I’ve just stumbled upon the wikipedia entry for the Riverworld series of books which sounds both barmy and intruiging.

… the Riverworld is an Earthlike planet whose surface has been sculpted to consist solely of one staggeringly long river-valley.

The story of Riverworld begins when almost the whole of humanity, from the time of the first homo sapiens through to the early 21st century, is simultaneously resurrected along the banks of the river, an estimated thirty-five to thirty-seven billion people.

There’s more. It is, of course, impossible to tell from the article if they’re well written or a bunch of pants. A lot of sci-fi works enjoy a vociferous and enthusiastic fanbase while still being turgid rubbish… The mention of Esperanto is troubling… Hmmm, well, ultimately I suppose I should just get hold of a copy of the first book and see what I think – unless anyone can advise me otherwise? :-)

Paper chess

Paper chess [robot]. Indeed, a veritable wealth of paper foldy things to make and do on that site. Go Jo!

Vader-San and the girls

Vader-San and the girls [robot]

More Robot Wisdom goodies: Feynman/von Neumann US postage stamps, future windfarms (“twelve [offshore] wind farms of 100 units would meet the UK government’s 10% target for renewable sources” – so let’s build 120?), and finally short excerpts from Rwanda genocide accounts book, eg:

Saving the babies, that was not practical. They were whacked against walls and trees or they were cut right away. They were killed more quickly, because of their small size and because their suffering was of no use. The babies could not understand the why of the suffering; it was not worth lingering over them.

Chilling. We saw Hotel Rwanda last week, and I gotta say, it was one of the hardest films I’ve ever watched – up there with Threads in terms of visceral human horror, made worse by its reality. Highly recommended.

Hardware shouldn’t be this sexy

Oh my yummy yum yum yummy… [bash]

About time somebody did this. I will, of course, wait for the split/ergonomic version, if only because it confuses and annoys people who try to use my computer.

Photoshopped Escheresques

Photoshopped Eschers – superb [robot].

Cultural Creative? Moi?

Via smallcool, What is Your World View?

Cultural Creative

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative 81% · Idealist 69% · Modernist 50% · Existentialist 50% · Postmodernist 44% · Fundamentalist 31% · Materialist 25% · Romanticist 25%


Robot Wisdom Rampage Roundup

Not much time for blogging lately (working til 2am last night!), but here’s a round up of some crunchy bits from Robot Wisdom of late:

Alan Moore distancing himself from Hollywood adaptations of his works (and DC), click here if you want to know who dies in the next Harry Potter, Javascript myth roundup, nifty favicon tool, piracy on the high seas in 2004, and finally, are the US directly responsible for car bombs in Iraq, in classic Brazil style?

Simon‘s also had some good stuff of late, especially point 1 of this post.

Ho hum, back to it, see you in July or something…

The Mentat Wiki

Mentat Wiki – “exploring ways to become a better thinker” [43folders]. Looks like a treasure trove of mental mental stuff.

A Hunter Darkly

Two goodies via popbitch: Hunter S Thompson’s last column, on the joys of “shotgun golf” with Bill Murray, and (don’t miss this) a teaser trailer for A Scanner Darkly.

I read the book for the second time lately and it was every bit as good as I remember – especially the end. Judging by the trailer (which is always a bad idea), they might not have screwed it up too much here… I was dubious when I saw the word “Keanu” (surely Johnny Depp would have been better), but at least he’s genuinely animated in this setting. ;-) And Robert Downey Jr as Barris, Woody Harrelson as Luckman, and (yay) Winona Ryder as Donna – that could work. The scramble suit looks pretty cool, too. So: so far so good. The only thing I didn’t like was that tagline: “In seven years, everything you do will be recorded.” Well, no, see, only if you’re under observation by narcs. Anyway, we’ll see.

Waterstone’s employee sacked for blogging about them

This is worrying: an 11-year employee of Waterstone’s is fired because of blogging about the company [lambda]. Ehud at lambda suggests a boycott.

That a book company thinks so little of the primacy of freedom of expression is alarming. I pointed out that Waterstone.s has stated publicly several times in the past that as a bookseller they believe in the freedom of expression and not in censorship. In fact a campaign was mounted a few years back which had banners along the lines of “what did Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot have in common? They feared the power of the written word. Celebrate Freedom of expression with us.” Some folks may recall it. I asked if this was actually meant or was it simply cynical marketing? I was not answered.

Lazarus and Dingwall are dead

Green Eggs and Hamlet, featuring “SamIamlet”.

The lost quarto of Hamlet. My scheme blinded them all, as if by fog; But for these medd’ling kids and this their dog.

Hamlet in prose.

All via Ed Friedlander’s “Enjoying Hamlet” page, which also tells us that an anagram of “To be or not to be: that is the question; Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…” is “In one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.”

Why the sudden interest in Hamlet, I hear you ask? Well, I just borrowed Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead from Will and thought I’d like to find out about the background since (tragically) I somehow reached 30 years of age without ever seeing, reading, studying, or having any familiarity at all with it. Now that is moderately fixed, but only moderately.

Barbara: ignore this post until January!!!

Incredibly hard but cool game (Pixelfield).

How to win friends and influence people

Summary of the book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I was talking about biscuits, Bash…

This is a great idea but that shelf should be bigger if you ask me [null]. Cue Bash to look at me sternly and say “three is enough for anyone”. Yes, well. Quite.

Welcome to Boobtown

Bash has just told me that (so they say), Mumbles gets its name from the two rocky outcrops at the headland, pictured ici, via the French word mamelles, meaning breasts. See the resemblance?

I’m so happy.

I have only one thing to say to you all, and that is…


So, there you have it, the whole of Eastern and Western culture summed up in the handshake which reaches out horizontally to greet another, and Namaste which reaches in vertically to acknowledge that, in truth, that there is no other.

Raise your glass to the Prince of Stories

Apparently, March 2002 was Gimboland’s top month, with a bumber crop of 89 posts – wow, I must have been really focussed on my job… Back then I was more indiscriminate about collecting things “for later” which of course I never went back to. For example, this post regarding Screen Dream, a webring for online dream journals.

Now, back in my early internet days, one of the sites which got me hooked was “Brian’s Dream Log” which was here but isn’t any more, alas. It was groovy – well written, funny, interesting, a peek into someone’s mind and (I guess) my first experience of the now ubiquitous phenomenon of self-exposure on the internet. I’ve also always quite fancied the idea of increasing one’s capacity for lucid dreaming, and keeping a dream log is apparently one of the techniques which can help there.

Thus, dream logs, they’re interesting. And, sometimes, funny. Since there are only 13 blogs in Screen Dream right now, I’ve added a link to my sidebar, and might well be visiting (and linking to) some of these a bit more often. I may even join in. You have been warned.

(Note to self: stop starting posts/paragraphs/sentences with “So, “… This post had two before I proofed/edited it.)

Your bread sucks

The bread you buy from the supermarket sucks, but then all my German colleagues have been telling me this for ages, rye-chompers that they are…

At the root of the problem is “loss leading”. It works like this. Everyday groceries, such as bread, butter, milk and sugar, are classified as known-value items (KVIs). These are the key purchases whose price shoppers know and by which they judge which shop offers the best value. Most prices are no longer marked on packets but only appear on the shelves, where we notice them briefly. As a result, most of us have little clue what other items cost.

And, of course, the retailers’ losses on KVIs are made good in higher prices elsewhere – on those items we can’t remember the price of. Healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables and wholemeal bread, tend to have the highest retail margins, whereas loss leaders are often the least healthy purchases – over-refined cereals, highly processed products full of salt, fat and sugar. So loss-leading drives a race to the bottom: it undercuts quality foods and distorts the market in favour of the cheapest and unhealthiest. And it has put most of our traditional bakers out of business.

Ah yes, the joy of free market economies.

Video feedback fractals

Analogue fractals, anyone? Video feedback is the way! Via this page, via gamma.

Bike Frame Size

Some interesting notes, via an old email from Simon, about choosing a frame size for your bike. Somewhat skewed towards road bikes (“racers”, as we used to call ‘em when I were a lad) but worthy of note anyway. Author thinks everyone’s riding bikes too small for them.

Do something well by doing it a lot.

Here’s something for me to think about when I’m setting coursework [gamma]…

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Random Mark Twain Quotes

The Random Mark Twain Quotes Page [gamma].

Scrooge McDagobert, King of France.

I learned today, from my research supervisor, that in Germany Scrooge McDuck is known as Dagobert, who was also a Frankish King, the most powerful of the Merovingians and reputed descendent of Christ, depending on how many socks you’ve been smoking lately. Crazy world.

Tim, do you know where your towel is?

Via Mr Finnis’ excellent weblog, apparently the upcoming Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie will star Martin Freeman (Tim from “The Office”) as Dent Arthur Dent, and the deliciously slippery Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast. Jim doesn’t tell us where he gets this goss from, alas…

And while we’re linking from Found, this was quite amusing too, but not nearly as meaty as this lovely nugget.

They talk by flapping their meat at each other.

The Fluffy Hippy Guide To Deadlines

The Fluffy Hippy Guide To Deadlines, easily identifiable as such by the words “giving a deadline to yourself or to another is like giving a gift”. [via that fluffy hippy I can't stop talking about, probably because I'm marrying her at the end of next month, bash]

This is your art on LSD

This is your art on LSD [milk] – wow. I think my favourite’s definitely the one at 2 hours 45 minutes.

I’m having a little trouble controlling this pencil. It seems to want to keep going.

Norton Defiant On My Chest

Somebody please buy me a Norton Defiant t-shirt or jersey for my birthday…