17 bars

The first 17 bars of The Las’ There She Goes are great, but then, it’s time to hit the >> button on the iPod.  Just thought I’d share…

By all accounts, Sponge Bob Square Pants (not sure whether there should be any hyphenation here)  effigies are being stolen from across the USA.  This link is to one such incident, but apparently this is one of 64 across about a dozen states.  Another stroke of genius.  His take-over of the US over what seems to be the last few days has been quite phenomenal in advance of the release of his new movie, his highlight being featuring in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Meanwhile, I was shocked to learn that today marked Bush’s first presidential visit to his 51st state of Canada.  On relating this shock to colleagues, they believed my surprise to be at him visiting at all as opposed to this being his first such visit.  I’m glad to see that the Canadians gave him a suitably warm welcome.

Cell phones, Huckabees, a walk in the park and football

Some Americans seem to have trouble with the concept of mobile phones, or should I say cell phones.  I’ve seen quite a few people using them more in the style of walkie-talkies, alternating the positioning of the phone between the talk mode (directly in front of the face, mouthpiece facing the mouth) and the listen mode (a little way from the right (or left) of the face, mouthpiece flailing in mid-air).  It seems that these users haven’t grasped the fact that the phone has been designed to accommodate both modes simultaneously.  Oddly enough, I even saw someone talking into the back of the mouthpiece earlier today, the phone facing away from him.

Saw I [heart] Huckabees yesterday, thanks to a positive review from AMS and a better-than-average review from Mr. Stephenson.  I have to say I was disappointed.  I think the main reason for my disappointment was the huge potential that the film’s name carries.  Huckabees to me sounded like it was akin to an Applebees or maybe an Angus/Aberdeen Steak House (to all those UK readers).  I’m sure a separate film could be written (a good one at that) about someone’s/a family’s obsession with such a local eatery.  This film didn’t really do anything for me – sorry.

I went for a walk in Central Park today, and discovered the Reservoir (renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in 1994).  Let’s stick with Reservoir.  I have to say that during the summer, skating round the outer loop in the Park, although aware of its existence, I had no idea as to its scale.  (BTW, I maintain that Central Park is the only park that commands a capital P when referred to as the Park.)  Its perimeter is 1.57 miles, and it attracts a huge number of runners.  I think the additional foliage associated with the summer was the main reason for my not spotting it, although even now, it’s pretty well hidden from the outer loop, given its elevated water-level.

The situation in the Ukraine seems pretty desperate at the moment, although I have to say that I’ve been somewhat distracted when reading the associated news stories by the spelling of Ukrainian.  I was surprised that it’s not spelt Ukranian.  Maybe I’m missing the bigger picture.

Finally, today saw the second highest-scoring game in NFL history, with Cincinnati beating Cleveland 58-48.  The record is a 72-41 win by the Redskins over the Giants back in 1966.  At the moment, I’m watching the Raiders and Broncos trading punts at a snow-bound Mile High Stadium.  (The name of this new stadium is up for grabs, btw.)  Still 0-0 with 4:30 left in the second quarter.  It’s a fun match though.  Earlier today, New England used their homefield advantage to beat Baltimore in an absolute mud-bath.

 

Thanksgiving

So today is Thanksgiving.  I have to give thanks to those pilgrims and Indians (American ones) who apparently, back in 1621, sat down and ate some (quite a lot of by all accounts) turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings, no doubt all purchased from the Food Emporium.  We’re breaking from tradition (on our first Thanksgiving – start as you mean to go on) by having lamb that I’ve just started marinading in garlic, tabasco, olive oil and S&P.  The above article suggests that venison and wild fowl were on the menu 383 years ago, so I think we’ll be just as close as those sitting down for their turkey.

Not sure what Martha will be doing this time around, but she’s certainly adorning our TVs on this morning dedicated to food.  I was chatting to the barista (are the men called baristos) in Starbucks this morning, who indicated that the Americans starve themselves all year in preparation for the big eat this afternoon.  Based on the evidence I’ve gathered thus far, I beg to differ, unless the word starve is used as a relative term.  Given the size of the standard meal here, the quantity of food eaten today is truly unimaginable.

It’s been raining for the last couple of days, so instead of bracing it this morning, I decided to pop along to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade preparations last night on the way home from work on 77th and 81st streets, either side of the museum of Natural History.  It was kinda cool, with huge effigies of Sponge-Bob (along with his pants that are square), Pikachu, Garfield etc. being blown up.  I’m pretty sure that Thanksgiving is more of a big deal over here than is Christmas: I get two days’ holiday (for which I give thanks) now as opposed to only one at Christmas.  The client we’re working with only takes a floating holiday at Christmas this year due to it falling on a weekend – as such, many people will be in on the Friday and the following Monday.

I’ve finally managed to sort out the google ads.  I say I in the loosest sense, as Rob actually did it for me (thank you).  You will see them across to the right, beautifully blended with the surrounding look and feel.  They’re contextual, so at the moment there are a lot of ads for both traffic lights and Black Eyed Peas-related stuff.  So far, I have earned $0.03 due to a test-click by Rob.  I’d like to figure out a couple of things to evolve this offering: (a) how to make the fonts scale and (b) how to make them launch in a new window.  I’m intrigued to see how the ads will change as my content evolves.

A couple of control tips and grammatical errors

First of all, two tips I found out recently:

– In Excel, if you click CTRL+1, it brings up the Format Cells dialog box (spelling here is fine btw, as it’s a programming term as opposed to an Americanism)
– If a dialog box appears on the screen, CTRL+C will copy the text from the dialog box on to the clipboard for you to paste wherever you want.

The first of these saves inordinate amounts of time when you’re doing similar repetitive formatting.  (On a related point, identical formatting can be repeated using F4.)  The latter is very useful particularly when testing, as error messages can be pasted into the body of the bug instead of having to attach screenshots – wicked.

Secondly, there are two grammatical errors in songs, both of which make me both cringe and laugh (wonder what that looks like to fellow commuters).  One of them I believe is quite famous, the other less so:

– Elvis Costello, Oliver’s Army: Oliver’s Army is here to stay, Oliver’s Army are on their way
– Black Eyed Peas, Where is the Love: Negative images is the main criteria

Both of these suggest that they may know they’re wrong.  Elvis uses the correct verb conjugate first time round, but fails on the second.  It’s not even as if is (and its) would affect the scanning.  With the Black Eyed Peas, maybe they’ve tried to use negative images as some form of group noun (illegally I might add), but then they get on to a mistake that more and more people seem to be making: criteria is plural (should that be are plural?); criterion is singular.  If only Barry Took were still alive to write to at Pebble Mill.

Are there any more musically grammatical pedants out there?  Any more instances to tell us about?  I thought not…

Bring out the Branston Hot

There was a little panic by all account last week due to a fire at the Branston factory.  And rightly so.  You can get Branston pickle over here, although you pay slightly over the odds for it.  Jonathan Ross is an avid fan of the stuff (as am I) and reportedly, on hearing the news, sent his family members out to different outlets to stock up.  Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as supermarket stocks have not yet suffered.

I heard about Google’s AdSense last week: a way of generating revenue through targeted ads on your personal site.  The ads are geared around the words that appear on your site, so no doubt my ads will be for trite sites and trivia that no one is interested in, with the exception of myself.  The revenue will be pretty small (and I mean small), particularly given the low traffic that my site generates (maxing out at around 6,000 hits per month) and the low probability of my avid (if small) fan-base clicking on the associated ads, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.  I’ve registered, and am waiting to be approved by Larry and Sergey personally before I can implement the code.

Despite not being able to implement just yet, I thought it wise to hassle Uncle Rob to find out what I would do once I received the code.  As ever, his response might as well have been in a foreign tongue, although I like to think that I managed better than I have in the past.  The way in which sentences that must make sense in that Rainton head roll off the tongue (or else the keyboard into Yahoo! Messenger) is poetry.  My constant responses of disbelief, most of which feature that wonderful acronym "wtf", usually result in more baffling talk from the fingers of da Rainton.  First of all I was directed to Puttygen and Putty.  (Until now, the only two contexts of the latter that I was aware of were a substance used by glaziers and Elaine’s boyfriend in Seinfeld – a character of genius might I add.)  Putty (the software) was too complicated for me (requiring some Unix and vi skills that I’ve never needed – I’m sure Joost would’ve managed!), so instead, I’ve been directed towards a package called WinSCP which rocks.  It basically allows me to log into my database (how scary is that?) and have a Windows Explorer view of the world, pulling out files to edit and then putting them back when I’m done.

So, hopefully later in the week (when I’m accepted by Google), I’ll be able to edit the appropriate file and you (the audience) will see no downtime.  I’ve even got a testing/staging environment that I can practice in beforehand to make sure I don’t screw things up royally.  I’m sure Mr. Hanley is sweating as we speak at the use of the words practice and staging in the same breath.

Extreme Makeover did itself proud once again tonight.  The budget for the show must be unreal, although most of it is undoubtedly sponsorship from the likes of Sears, Ford, Kenmore etc.

Best starting lyrics to a song ever…

There are three candidates that I am aware of:

Oh, I could hide
‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings
The six o-clock alarm would never ring
But it rings, and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes
My shavin’ razor’s cold, and it stings

Ah! I love the colourful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
Ah! I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air.

Living with you in my life
Is like feeling the whole world’s on my side
Putting a smile in the place
Where a tear used to run down my face
Feeling the sun on my head
Where a cloud used to follow instead
Singing a song in my heart
In a place where all my troubles depart

The songs shouldn’t be difficult to name, but I’d be interested in your votes…

Don’t walk

2,500 of the 3,200 buttons that pedestrians are invited to press to influence the traffic lights before crossing the road in New York are de-activated.  I assume that in the olden days, before the need for vehicle traffic signals that could coordinate more than one intersection at a time (due to the slower nature of the horse than the car), the buttons made sense, and added value.  This was probably also an indication of the more comparable status of the pedestrian and the vehicle.

Nowadays, cars rule.  The beautifully-crafted systems that manage the traffic flows in Manhattan can’t be dealing with the random influence of Joe Public (for that is his name) interrupting the continuous journey from 22nd street to 70th street willy-nilly.  Instead of removing the buttons, they’ve de-activated them (a stroke of genius), still allowing Joe to think he’s in control, but without giving him any actual influence whatsoever.

For those of you who know me, you’ll understand that (but probably not why) this fact is a great source of fun to me.

Cool posters

On the PATH train (I recently learnt that this is the Port Authority Trans-Hudson, btw) between World Trade Center and Exchange Place, they have those cool posters that look like a movie.  Forgotten quite how they do it, but essentially, I think there are a bunch of back-lit posters next to each other, spaced according to the rough speed of the train and the number of frames per second that the human eye can take in (I forget that figure, but I’m sure someone out there will know – whether they’re reading this is a whole different story).  The result is that you appear to be watching a movie, which moves a little to the left or a little to the right, depending on whether the train is travelling at exactly the right speed.  The advert being shown at the moment is for some form of car: maybe a Dodge, I couldn’t be sure.  Oh, the power of advertising.

On a separate, if slightly related note, this reminds me of a fascinating conversation with bro’ Ben while I was back in the UK.  Apparently, DVDs have a different number of frames per second than do films projected at the cinema.  One is 24 (I think DVDs), the other is 25.  Because of this, they have to do something wacky (I’ve forgotten what) to make movies into DVDs, the resulting DVD being 4.17% longer (or 4% shorter; again I forget which) than the original film.

I’d like a written explanation of this please (use the comment feature), both for the record, and to smile internally (and possibly externally) about.

In my business life now, I am forced to write in American English (is this a contradiction?) as my client (and company) is American.  However, I’m committed to keeping it real in my ‘blog world.  It’s amazing however that after three weeks’ work, the words travelling and advertising in the above nugget both had to be retrospectively changed from their American equivalents (traveling and advertizing respectively) due to lapsing into the American mindset.  This scares me somewhat…

Elevating dogs

There are quite a few dogs in our building, and the only means of vertical transport that anyone uses are the two elevators.  Given that all the floors look much of a much-ness (I don’t think that’s a well-known phrase in the US – for all those US reader(s) out there, it means pretty much the same), you’d’ve thought that the dogs would be confused as to which floor to get out on.  But somehow they seem to know.

Maybe they take their prompt from their owners; maybe they count the beeps as the elevator passes the interim floors; maybe they have some form of vertical distance sensor; maybe they read the floor number on the LED display.  Thoughts?

Great TV

Some great TV to report.

First of all, there’s a programme/program called Extreme Makeover on Sunday nights.  Essentially, they take a deserving family – and I mean a deserving family – knock down their house and build a new one with every gadget imaginable within seven days.  Last week, the family’s parents were born deaf, and one of their sons was autistic and blind, which created some phenomenal communication challenges.  Obviously, ABC is playing with our heart-strings here, and playing the emotional card, but it certainly worked with me – I’m hooked.

Also, last night there was a documentary on National Geographic about the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.  Now they were certainly up in my top five buildings worldwide before this aired (Tyne and Sydney Harbour Bridges (in that order), Chrysler, Gherkin, Burj Al Arab, Canary Wharf Jubilee Line Station would all be up there too), but I think they’ve shot to the top.  Some great facts make the building all the more intriguing:

– The towers were built by separate construction companies "to encourage competition in order to speed up the build"
– The elevators are two-storeys high to save on elevator-shaft space (when you’re at the bottom of the building, you choose whether you want to go to an odd or even floor and get an escalator to the second floor to go to evens – genius)
– At 72 storeys, Tower 1 was discovered to be leaning towards Tower 2 (by the width of a thumb), so they corrected it by building the remaining 16 storeys with a 2mm compensation slant
– The towers have the deepest foundations in the world, at 374 feet.

It was a fantastic programme, and I’d encourage anyone who gets the chance to go and visit the building.

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