Memorial Day weekend

The weather over the three-day Memorial Day weekend (May Bank Holiday) was great, allowing for a trip to the Upper West Side and Central Park, some dedicated sitting in the riverside park outside our apartment and a little ‘blading.

Also, Fleet Week (a whole bunch of sailors descend on Manhattan) coinciding with Memorial Day provided some airborne highlights. A couple of Chinook helicopters have been flying up and down the Hudson over the last week in formation. The Fuji blimp has also been floating around the city. Meanwhile, there were a couple of fly-bys (not sure of the plural of this) yesterday morning during the ceremony onboard the Invincible. The first was by a group of four F16s (I think) making a helluva noise; these were followed by five older planes, again in formation.

Down below, a slew of impressive battleships have been doing the rounds on the Hudson, and the great weather also brought out a bunch of impressive yachts and speedboats. One day…

I couldn’t help but notice the article on the BBC’s website about the three sisters from Derby giving birth at 12, 14 and 16. Me and half a million other people by all accounts. Their mother’s berating of sex education seemed at odds with the fact that the 16 year old had preceded her birth with an abortion and two miscarriages, and that the then eleven year old was allowed to have her boyfriend sleep with her.

The three girls have indicated that they do not need the support of the respective fathers, although they’re happy to take home the annual £31,000 in benefits that their offspring afford them. It seems that the root of the problem lies in education, but I feel that in this case, it’s more a failing of Julie Atkins (the girls’ mother) as opposed to their schooling. At the same time, the government needs to reach a balance between over-compensating teenage mothers and leaving them helpless, the latter of which serves to punish the innocent child. At the moment, evidence suggests that they’re leaning towards the former.

Descalators and descenders?

I’ve often had a problem with the fact that the words escalator and elevator only convey half of their function. They don’t refer to the fact that they bring you down as well. Given that downbound (?) escalators are actually different from their upbound cousins (or should I say that they can’t do the same function at the same time), maybe each should get its own name.

When you travel up an escalator, you have two options available to you. You either stand (to the right in New York) or you walk (on the left). (I forget whether the reverse is true in London.) If you walk, let’s assume that you take one step at a time.

If you’re lazy and opt to stand, then you take 0 steps between the bottom and top. If you’re slightly less lazy and amble up the stairs at a leisurely pace, they you’ll take a certain number of steps. If you choose to pelt up the stairs at a rate of knots, then you’ll take more steps. I’m not sure why, but it troubles me slightly that the more effort you put into each step, the more steps you have to make, the limit being the number of steps visible when the escalator is stationary.

I don’t have the time (or the inclination) at the moment, but it would be nice to know the formula for the number of steps you have to make if X is the number of steps you take per minute, Y is the number of steps disappearing per minute and Z is the number of steps visible at any one time. I think those are the only three variables you need.

Back of a fag-packet calculation suggests it’s Z/(X+Y), but it needs checking.

On a separate note, the BBC’s picture diary on the name change from Pretoria to Tschane highlights the continuing racial problems faced by South Africa. Pictures 4 and 7 are particularly troubling.

The Patriot

Great advert outside the Patriot, a bar on Chambers Street: drinkers wanted, no experience necessary, inquire within.

Spam senders

It’s almost worth allowing spam to get into your inbox just because of the names of the ‘people’ who’ve sent them. Recent ones have come from Violin G. Cognitive, Huber K. Loathsome, Hollie Akers, Moreno O. Porringer, Dopes H. Backstretch and Bucksaw A. Schoolmate.

If only we were imaginative in our naming of real people. It’d be great to meet people with such names. It’s also somewhat quaint that they usually have a middle initial – what it stands for is anyone’s guess.

A busy week

It’s been a busy week, both with work and the social scene. Tuesday night I went out with Andy to Sweet and Vicious on Spring Street.

Wednesday I caught up with Mindy for the first time in about six months. We went to a great little place on 16th street called Chat ‘n’ Chew, serving wholesome American grub. I had meatloaf – nice!

Then Thursday, I caught up with Nader who was in town with his new wife. Great to catch up – not seen him for so long.

Tonight (Friday), I’m spending a well-earned night in.

There was the sad news earlier in the week that Kylie has breast cancer. The flood of support and comments from fans and celebs was expected, but some of the comments seem out of place. One of the fans (Emily, Dorset) suggested that Kylie didn’t deserve this. While certainly true, it seemed to indicate that there were other people out there that were more deserving. I remember a similar type of response to the recent attack on Abigail Witchalls. Her being pretty and from a quiet, rural town seemed to imply that she was less ‘deserving’ of the attack.

A note for myself more than anything else – on Tuesday, Andy referred to a great one-liner from Stephen Fry: "New Definition: ‘Countryside: To Murder Piers Morgan.’" Made me laugh for quite a while.

Quite some time ago, Andy mentioned to me the fact that the FedEx logo contains a hidden arrow between the E and the x

FedEx

I’m not sure if it is hidden or whether most people are aware of it – I certainly wasn’t. The trouble is, once you know about it, you can’t focus on anything else when you see the logo. Quite clever really. I still smile whenever I see it.

We also had a couple of interesting discussions about how the human mind works. If I look for, say, the butter in the fridge (or should I say the low-fat spread), I often come back without having found it, even though it’s there. My brain will be looking for a specific image (say a Flora tub), and if we’re currently using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (I’m not brand loyal when it comes to low-fat spreads), I won’t be able to find it – even if the fridge is relatively bare.

On a similar theme, Andy briefly struggled with the notion of two back-to-back FedEx vans having their arrows within pointing the same way as one another, which seemed obvious to me.

Different people’s brains process information and undertake tasks very differently, and it’s fascinating to see this. The well-known suggestion that women are not as competent at reading maps is, in my opinion, true, although I would add that there are women who read maps better than some men.

Apparently there was a programme on TV recently called Brainman. In it, the subject Daniel Tammet talks about seeing numbers as shapes and colours and images, each with a different texture. When doing arithmetic, the shapes merge with one another to come up with the answer. (Primes make him feel great, btw.) Being able to do this must be absolutely wonderful, although I’m sure it has its drawbacks. Again, it’s an example of how different people deal with situations in different ways, although this is an extreme example.

Idol got one step closer this week, although my busy social schedule meant that I missed it. I had to rely on a text message informing me of Vonzell’s much expected departure – thanks, Andrew. Bo and Carrie will go up against each other next week, which should be great!

Pastas

I once claimed that there was only a need for three fonts in life: Tahoma, SAS Monospace and Kristin. I’ve since changed my tune. You only need two – SAS Monospace and Verdana. Kristin is a hand-writing-type font, which I included as I must have been going through a phase. Tahoma was a little too rounded after all, and Verdana is a much more suitable font for documents, emails etc. (For the record, SAS Monospace is by far the nicest fixed-width font I’ve come across, which is even more special as it only comes with SAS, a wonderful piece of statistical analysis software.)

On a similar theme, there’s only a certain number of pastas that you ever need. Again, I think the number is three, but it could be trimmed to two. You need your spaghetti, and some may argue that you need a linguine to go along with it. In addition, you need a smaller pasta of your choosing (bows, spirals, whatever).

The problem with pasta is that each type has a different cooking time. So if you buy different types, when you go from packet to packet, you have a bit of a problem. Even different types of what seems to be the same pasta-style have different cooking times.

Fortunately, Ronzoni (our chosen brand) has a number designated to each pasta type. And I’ve now settled on my three pasta types to avoid the above problem – thin spaghetti, thin linguine and rigatoni, conveniently numbered 9, 18 and 27 respectively. Given this numerical order, I’ll never buy the wrong type of spaghetti again.

Glazer the cocksucker?

Malcolm Glazer’s take-over of Manchester United certainly hit the headlines today. It remains to be seen whether he’ll bring the success that Abramovich has brought to Chelsea, but it’s quite amusing to see the United fans so riled.

It was also very amusing that one fan saw it fit to update Glazer’s Wikipedia entry with the information that Glazer is "the world’s biggest cocksucker" (their words, not mine). Wikipedia is great in that such an entry doesn’t last long before it’s edited out by another user, but it’s also great that you can view the version history.

American Idol is now getting down to the last few, with Anthony Fedorov being booted out last night. It’s a bit of a shame, as I’d have liked Vonzell to be voted off given her dreadful performances on Tuesday, but such is life. It seems academic that Bo and Carrie will be the final two come next week.

The BBC has taken an interesting approach of late. First of all, the editor caused uproar (among a few photographers) at the suggestion that Joe Public emails in photographs for them to use instead of the stock pictures that crop up on a regular basis. The professional photographer was somewhat indignant at the view that Mr. Amateur could do a better job than them.

Now, it has developed some APIs to enable developers to do cool stuff with its content. It seems that it’s outsourcing more and more of its offering, maybe in response to its announcement of significant job cuts. I think it’s a great idea, but I would hope that the licence fee will go down as it becomes an Open Source project!

Some of the examples from Flickr’s similar offering are quite clever, if somewhat useless. Hopefully, the BBC will inspire some more useful offerings.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Interesting article on the BBC site about public sector workers taking 42% more sick days than their private sector equivalents (9.1 days per year compared to 6.4). The incentives simply are not there in the public sector to encourage people to come to work on those days when you might swing either way (as it were). For the record (touch wood) my sickness absence in my 9.5 year career thus far has been 1.5 days – 2.5% of the private sector average.

Taking stuff for granted and new choons

If you walk out to the front of our building, you can see the Statue of Liberty off to the left. If you look to the right from our lounge, you can see (just) the Empire State Building, lit up in green this evening. On occasions, I take them (or at least our proximity to them) for granted, but I shouldn’t.

Yesterday, I redeemed my twelve free iTunes accumulated as a result of the recent Pepsi promotion. Actually, the limit of ten per day meant that I had to redeem two today. Below were my choices:

– There Must Be an Angel, Eurythmics
– Complicated, Avril Lavigne
– Don’t Get Me Wrong, The Pretenders
– Prince Charming, Adam & the Ants
– Sunday Girl, Blondie
– Suicide Blonde, INXS
– December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!), Frankie Valli
– I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin
– Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Elton John & Kiki Dee
– Jump, Van Halen
– I’m Like a Bird, Nelly Furtado
– I Think We’re Alone Now, Tiffany

This may be the post that generates the most comments of all time (at least on this ‘blog). Let me explain the rationale (perhaps the wrong word), which may only make the hole deeper.

Most of these tracks I enjoy hugely, but would fall into the bucket of things I would never buy. I decided that as the tracks were ‘free’ (particularly given the ability to predict whether the Pepsi bottle was a winning one pre-purchase), those redeemed did not fall under the same scrutiny as those purchased from the likes of HMV or Amazon. So I used the opportunity to buy stuff that I liked but would never buy.

There are, as always, some exceptions – I would have no qualms buying INXS (or Inxes as it was once pronounced in a pub quiz in Elland), Blondie, the Pretenders, Franklin. But in the main, the above is made up of tracks that I enjoy in the radio world, but would never buy. I now have them, and they all have been awarded five iPod stars, which makes me happy.

Apologies to Ben for the embarrassment that this post may cause.

Freedom?

As part of today’s commemorations, Bush is quoted as saying "Freedom is the birthright of all mankind", which seems at odds with the situation he has engineered in Guantanamo Bay…

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