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Thursday, 20 January 2005
Don’t try this at home


What do you do if you live in the town of Haugesund in Norway, and you want to travel by car to the town of Trondheim, also in Norway?  What you shouldn’t do is consult the latest Microsoft Route Planning technology, unless you fancy a 47 hour journey via Newcastle and London, and wish to take in the sights of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.  For those Norwegians whose E111 forms are not up to date, you might be better off with another routeplanner.

Posted by bigblue on 20/01/2005 at 07:33 PM
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Wednesday, 19 January 2005
This is a warning


This sign (outside a supermarket in Horley) intrigued me.  Without paying heed to the lesson of the cat, I took a trolley and pushed it past the sign. Sure enough the trolley stopped and would not continue beyond the sign. Further investigation revealed devices attached to two wheels of the trolley, which had “clamped” the wheels. I assume that the devices were triggered by a magnetic force. 

This evening a few of us got together after work for a game of poker at Martin’s place.  It was the first time that I have properly played the game, and it was fun.  It was probably fun because we played with plastic chips - it wouldn’t have been fun if I had lost so much real money.  Still I got off to a good start, until the others worked out how to read my face. 

Yesterday I found this site with the rules of poker.  I think it helped me to understand some of the rules, although we played slightly differently.

Posted by bigblue on 19/01/2005 at 11:19 PM
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Tuesday, 18 January 2005
Top psychos


The above photo is also from Horley. It was one of several scenes of degeneration that I witnessed in the area, but these were matched by others of generation.  Horley doesn’t seem such a bad place, except for the obvious drawback.

According to Mind Hacks,

If you suspect your boss is a psychopath, you may be on to something.

The authors of a study [at the University of Surrey] suggest that business managers may be examples of ‘successful psychopaths’ - “people with personality disorder patterns, but without the characteristic history of arrest and incarceration”.

Is this another example of research that merely reveals the blindingly obvious?

Posted by bigblue on 18/01/2005 at 07:36 PM
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Monday, 17 January 2005
Road Runners


Another photo from Horley, near Gatwick Airport. The sign is on the side of the premises of a local taxi company.

Still on the theme of my webstatistics, and how many people found this blog looking for a recipe for Gallette des Rois, there is a tool which can be used to compare result rankings across different search engines.  For example, look at the search for Gallette des Rois here (IE5 is preferred by this site).  If you play with the parameters you will see that Yahoo and MSN give identical results.  This is not very surprising when you consider that the Search Engine Decoder shows that they both get their data feed from the same source, overture, as do AltaVista, Excite and alltheweb.  The Search Engine Decoder can also be used to show you the ownership relationships between the major search engines.

Posted by bigblue on 17/01/2005 at 10:46 PM
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Sunday, 16 January 2005
Car park


I think these cars are in storage before being put on sale. I took this photo next to the Horley railway station, but it doesn’t look like they are parked by commuters.

I found, via BoingBoing, this interesting site which randomly displays a whole stack of Webcams that are available on the Internet. See here for the page of Webcams and here for the blog entry where the author explains how he did it.  There is a belief that many of these cameras are unsecured: they are available on the Internet, but are not supposed to be for public consumption.

Posted by bigblue on 16/01/2005 at 05:11 PM
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Saturday, 15 January 2005


As she walked past, this perfectly well-sighted woman told me that she hoped she hadn’t got in the way of my photograph.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had been waiting for her: I watched her walk down the road, cross to my side of the road, and then come in front of the sign, (click).

I was looking at my webstatistics again yesterday. During the first two weeks of January 2005, I have received 6908 “hits” (requests for data), from 321 unique visitors.  Of the 321 visitors, 115 came to this blog via a search engine, mainly Google (45%) but also Yahoo (21%), MSN (20%), Unknown (5%), and then AltaVista, Tiscali, and various others.  I was surprised by this, because according to my own comparison I am lower ranked by Google than by other search engines. 

Of the people who came via a search engine, 31 visitors were searching for a recipe for Gallette du Rois, the pastry dish that is traditionally eaten in France to celebrate the Epiphany.  I think they may have been satisfied, because I had created a link to a reasonable recipe here

My Google Ranking for Gallette du Rois recipe is 6, so I guess that one’s ranking depends very much on what is being searched for, and the spelling thereof.  Due to increased competition, I might have done much worse if I had consulted my Larousse dictionary and spelled it (correctly) as Galette du Rois.

Posted by bigblue on 15/01/2005 at 05:55 PM
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Friday, 14 January 2005
House of the Rising Sun


I also took the above photo with Martin’s camera last November - at the Tate Modern.

In November 2003 I was shocked to discover that one of my housemates thought that House of the Rising Sun was written by aged French rock persona, Johnny Halliday. Today I found a site where someone has put 250 different cover versions of this iconic song, including five by the French rock geriatric,

Don’t let that put you off, there are 245 others, including ones by Bob Dylan, Muse, Tracey Chapman, Tori Amos, Sinead, Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba.

While on the theme of music, Brighton Football Club Supporters have just scored a top-20 hit with a number called Tom Hark (We Want Falmer).  This song is a fund-raising effort for Brighton and Albion football club, but it turns out that the tune of this song comes from an old Alexander Black Mambazo number.  I heard about this on last night’s Front Row on BBC Radio 4.  It took me a few seconds to work what it was that Kirsty Lang was referring to as Quailer music.  (She was mispronouncing Kwela). 

By the way I believe that the more famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo was named after the Johannesburg band, Alexander Black Mambazo.  And of course: the creators of the song made a pittance and died in poverty even though it was a big (worldwide) hit in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

On the same program there is is an interview with Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of the soon-to-be-released A Very Long Engagement, an item on architect Zaha Hadid finally winning a commission in London, and the review of the final Joan Aitken Wolves of Willoughy Chase book.  It seems that Aitken had a premonition of her death, and made a special effort to complete this book shortly before her death last year.  She fell out of a window trying to rescue a bird on 4 January 2004.

Posted by bigblue on 14/01/2005 at 10:12 AM
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Thursday, 13 January 2005


I was excited when I came across this site purporting to show the world’s first animation: A “goat” depicted on the side of a 5000 year-old Iranian earthenware goblet. However, after reviewing the images (and the AVI), I have to say that I think that there are some 13,000 year-old cave paintings in Southern Africa which have a stronger contention for this title.

Incidentally the photo above is not of a goat, but of a deer in Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent, which I took with my colleague Martin’s camera last November.

Posted by bigblue on 13/01/2005 at 09:20 PM
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