Resolution Review

This is the last day of June, six of the twelve months of 2009 have gone. I think I should review progress on my resolution to watch movies from the IMDB top 100. I listed five films that I would certainly watch; so far I have seen just “The Shawshank Redemption” from that list. From the greater list I saw “taxi Driver” last weekend.

I shall need to focus on the list, if I am to get through even the four on that small subset. To that end I shall move Hotel Rwanda to the top of my Netflix queue as soon as my current holiday selection, Disc 2 of the John Adams mini-series is sent.

Published in: on 30 June, 2009 at 6:36  Leave a Comment  

Aliens Are Coming

The National Enquirer is a US magazine with a less than stellar reputation for accurate reporting. It specialises in celebrity focused gossip, stories of alien abductions, and sensational crime stories. The celebrity stories are what dominates the front pages. The magazine is sold at supermarket checkouts and runs headlines about  “Oprah’s Cocaine Collapse”, Bush’s affair with Rice, and endless stories on Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.

Then in January of this year, another speculative piece of nonsense: Michael Jackson is dying – and only has six months to live.  Which means that they scooped the rest of the media by several months. I suppose the laws of probability mean that you must get one story right from time to time. The alternative is that the aliens are really abducting Americans and Jennifer Anniston is both pregnant and adopting a child

Published in: on 30 June, 2009 at 6:23  Leave a Comment  

So Close

On Sunday the FIFA Confederations Cup finished after two weeks. This relatively new tournament features the current holders of each of FIFA’s (The world body for football) regional tournaments (Spain, Brazil, Iraq, Egypt, New Zealand, USA), the hosts (South Africa), and the World Cup Holders (Italy). It is held a year before the world cup in the country that will host the tournament, so it represents a chance for the tournament organizers to practice on a smaller scale.

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The eight teams were split into two groups of four, with each team playing the others in the group and the top two teams proceeding to the semi-finals. Brazil, Italy, Egypt, and USA were in one group. The USA lost the first two games, so that last Sunday they were facing elimination unless they beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil won against Italy by the same score. Amazingly enough, 3-0 was the score in both games. The USA qualified for the semi-finals and a game against Spain.

Spain won all three of their group matches, albeit against weaker opponents, this extended their unbeaten run to 35 games. Going into the tournament they were the number one ranked team in the world. The USA were not expected to do well, but they beat Spain 2-0 to reach their first FIFA final. The following night Brazil joined them.

Brazil have played in every World Cup Finals since the competition’s inception in 1930. Brazil have won the World Cup five times, more than any other country. They were holders of the trophy. USA had beaten Brazil just once in fifteen occasions. The final looked as though it be one-sided; just like the semi-final. After 25 minutes, the USA had a 2-0 lead and another major upset looked possible. The score stayed that way until the first minute of the second-half, when Brazil scored and the nature of the match changed as confidence shifted to Brazil. Two more goals followed and Brazil run out 3-2 winners.

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It will be interesting to see if the USA can take the impressive performances from their last three games to next year’s World Cup. For Brazil this was a good warm-up and they are likely to be favourites for next year’s tournament. No European country has ever won a World Cup held outside Europe and Brazil are the only team to win a competition outside their own continent (twice in 1958 and 2002)

Published in: on 29 June, 2009 at 6:27  Leave a Comment  

Dim Sum

On Saturday we went with some colleagues at work to a Dim Sum restaurant in Richmond. This was my first experience of this form of Chinese cuisine. It involves eating assorted light dishes, in our case  a large number of the dishes. Each dish was little more than a bite, so we had a very wide range of tastes and textures. I have lost count of the number of different things we tried, but it was over a dozen

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We arrived at 1pm, just as the main rush of morning diners were leaving, so we did not have to wait for a table. The servers circulated round the room with trays of delicacies; if we accepted the proffered food they would stamp a receipt on our table. At the end of the meal this was used to calculate the final total which, tip included was just over $16 a head.

200px-Lo_mai_gai_2The restaurant was in an Asian mall, fully of Far Eastern shops and places to eat. The largest store was an Asian grocery store, full of strange foods, an entire aisle of noodles, and a live fish counter. There was a BBQ section that alongside the ribs and other familiar cuts of meats, there were such oddities as duck feet and duck wings. My sole purchase, however, was of something that will sound a lot less exotic to readers in the UK. It was the not very Asian sounding McVities Digestive biscuits; which I have not seen here in the US. The packaging was clearly intended for the Chinese market as it addition to the familiar lettering there were Chinese symbols.

Published in: on 28 June, 2009 at 8:26  Leave a Comment  

Taking Pills like Candy

Some ideas are so obviously bad ideas that it is hard to imagine anyone who has them speaking of them in public. Putting candy into pill bottles to promote a newly opened pharmacy seems to fall into that category. Giving kids the idea that the contents of these bottles are candy is obviously bad. There is a store in Maryland where this idea was not only thought, but spoken and implemented.

Details at: SbyNews via Consumerist

This makes the edible Lego I blogged about previously seem like a reasonable idea.

Published in: on 24 June, 2009 at 6:08  Leave a Comment  

Sinister Side of University

n the way back from the airport at the weekend, we stopped for lunch in Davis, a college town that is about twenty miles from us. It is full of interesting shops and charming leafy residential streets, but there is a darker side as evidenced by the bins on the pavement.

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This is clearly not a town full of real students, but some sinister institution holding people who have angered the state… although no one had badges with their numbers, so things have obviously changed since the days of Number Six

Published in: on 23 June, 2009 at 5:57  Comments (1)  

Ikea

We needed bookshelves for my office. We had bought some on the previous weekend from Target; the design of these were deeply flawed. The vertical sides were in two pieces, held together by two screws; this did not give the shelves the structural integrity that is needed for them to stand-up, let alone stand-up with books in them.

This weekend we took them back and drove on to Ikea. The Ikea here in California is just like the ones in the UK, so not an ideal topic for my blog. The same layout, that walks you for a couple of miles through the maze like displays even if you know exactly what you want. The signs are just the same, albeit with a dollar sign and not a pound sign. Kids are running wild on the furniture. The only difference is that the checkout line did not take hours. There was one person, who was nearly done on front of us.

I then purchased a collection of marinated herring  and we went across the road to a shopping area for lunch. For the first time in over two years we ate at a California Pizza Kitchen – seller of gourmet pizzas; unfortunately they no longer have their curry pizza, which had always struck me as the perfect “bloke” pizza. I ate a Santa Fe Chicken pizza.

Then it was home and constructing the shelves. This was accomplished and then the boxes of books that I shipped from the UK, nearly three years ago were opened and placed in my new furniture. The next step is to order the books correctly. My Presidential books are already Washington to Clinton, but my Doctor Who books are in random order.

Published in: on 22 June, 2009 at 6:35  Leave a Comment  

Rebranding

Over recent years in the UK, we have seen many sweets have their name changed: Opal Fruits became Starbursts, Marathon bars became Snickers. This latter name change seemed the daftest one of all, change a cool impressive name to a silly sounding one that evokes giggles.

Here in the US, there seems to be a trend to rebrand fast food outlets, taking the notion of speeding things up to the name itself. An ice-cream parlour chain called Dairy Queen rebranded itself as DQ; a shorter name that no longer tells you what the store does. Kentucky Fried Chicken moved to KFC in 1991. Now another chain follows suit with Pizza Hut rebranding as The Hut; once more removing from the name the foodstuff with which they are most closely associated.

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As this story covering the change mentions, any Star Wars geek is going to have an unfortunate association with the new name [Consumerist]

Published in: on 21 June, 2009 at 8:30  Comments (1)  

Craigslist

The one and only Weird Al Yankovic parodies Craigslist, Jim Morrison, and Oliver Stone’s Doors movie all at once

Published in: on 16 June, 2009 at 20:10  Leave a Comment  

Interleague

Baseball is currently in its Interleague portion of the season. Major League Baseball is split into two parts, the American League and the National League. The World Series final is played between the winners of the two leagues. In 1997 regular season games between the two leagues were introduced. The interleague games allow for local teams to play each other, introducing local rivalries familiar to fans of English sport. Over the last few nights the New York Yankees have been playing the New York Mets and the Oakland As have been playing the SF Giants.  The As recent winning form was of no avail as  they lost all three games to the giants and are eight wins behind the division leaders. The As now head to the south of the state to play the LA Dodgers and the San Diego Padres

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One thing that makes interleague games a little more complex, is that the two leagues have slightly different rules. In the National League the team’s pitcher has to bat. In the American League there is a Designated Hitter, a specialist batter who stands in for the pitcher. If a game is played at a National League stadium, the pitcher bats and vice versa. This would seem to put American League teams at a disadvantage in interleague games, as their pitchers do not have the same amount of batting experience. However, as of the end of the 2008 season, American League teams hold a slight advantage (1,387–1,317)

Published in: on 15 June, 2009 at 6:47  Leave a Comment