From August 2004

London Report

Thought I might elaborate a little more on my travels around London yesterday. It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, or rather less of a tour and more of an unplanned operation in getting lost! I started off the day getting a train from Bromley-South to Victoria and from there the tube to Tottenham Court Road where I paid a visit to the impressive British Museum.

British Museum

One of my primary reasons for going there was to take a look at the incredible new(ish) glass lattice roof which covers the central courtyard. It really is an amazing feat of engineering and the juxtaposition of old and new architectural styles has worked particularly well.

British Museum

After a brief look around at the various exhibitions I went and had a look in a few shops down Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. One of my favorites was ‘Muji‘ which is a Japanese chain (surprise surprise) store which sells a variety of unique stationary, housewares and clothes with a “unique brand of ‘no brand’ style”. Cool huh?! It’s all pretty good stuff at fairly reasonable prices – I only picked up a simple ring-bound notepad and pen though!

I then traveled down to Piccadilly Circus and had a look in the Japan Centre which is sort of a book shop, travel center and restaurant all in one. Although all the books were a little on the expensive side it was fun to have a look at what they had to offer, not that I actually understood a word of any of it! Obviously I was doing a good job of pretending to look as if I knew what I was looking at because at one point a Japanese person attempted to start a conversation with me. In Japanese. As you can imagine that didn’t get very far and I felt like a bit of an idiot! After making a hasty exit to avoid any more confrontations I walked down to St. Jame’s Park and had lunch sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. One thing that was apparent here were flags for the London 2012 Olympic bid – something that, in my opinion, is a gross misappropriation of taxes.

My next stop took me to Covent Garden where I had a wonder round before heading to Leicester Square. I don’t think I’d ever been there before and was taken back by the shear number of cinema’s in such close proximity, its a shame that they all seemed to be showing the same old Hollywood garbage currently doing the rounds. Around here I stumbled across China town which is a fairly substantial area with many interesting sights and sounds.

China Town

On my way down the main street I noticed one rather shabby-looking shop which I was sure I recognized but couldn’t remember where from. After wracking my brain for a minute or two I realized where from – none other than the fantastic ‘Trigger Happy TV‘! Here, preserved for posterity, is a little comparison:

Trigger Happy
Fighting Dog’s – Trigger Happy TV (Best of Series One).

Trigger Happy
The same site a few years on.

It’s strange how the brain can retain such useless information for long periods of time. I wish the same could be said for the contents of my uni course!

This is the point at which I got a little lost. You would have thought that getting to St. Paul’s would be simple considering there’s a tube station right next to it of the very same name but yours truly decided it would be nice to have a walk along the Thames and take the scenic route. It turns out that working out what direction the Thames is in is a little more tricky when your not familiar with the local geography and have very little in the way of landmarks to go by when your stuck between huge buildings on either side. Obviously I found it in the end but by this time my feet were beginning to get pretty sore and the weight of my rucksack a bit of a burden. I didn’t actually go in St. Paul’s because they charge an extortionate amount to get in (it being a church and all…) so I went straight on, over the millennium bridge, to Tate Modern.

Tate Modern

I won’t bore you with the rest of the rather tedious details but sufficed to say that I made it back to Norwich without much trouble. The Tate was good, but not brilliant – I guess it’s all a matter of what you like. Unfortunately the weather was fairly overcast most the time so I didn’t really get any great pictures but at least I had a good time. If you’ve read this far well done, I think this is probably the longest post I’ve ever written!

Past & Present

Made it back from London in once piece! Had a very nice weekend at my grandparents – my grandfather is an excellent amateur photographer who has won many awards for his photos (one of which you may have seen on posters in the London Underground last year) and he helped me tweak and print off a number of my better shots on his decent printer. It’s amazing how making a few adjustments in Photoshop can dramatically improve a photo and I was pleasantly surprised how some, which I didn’t think much of, came out. As ever my grandmother cooked up some excellent food, proving that she hasn’t lost the touch since my early visits a fair few years ago now!

I spent today wondering around central London, visiting various places and taking lots of pictures. I’ll upload them over the next couple of days as and when I have the time, right now I’m a little too tired to do it!

Something fascinating which emerged over the weekend was that my grandfather just happened to have a ‘Magic Lantern‘ glass plate slide made in the 1890’s, which he acquired from a second hand shop years ago, of the huge amphitheater at Pompeii that is almost identical to a photo that I took this year on holiday. I’ve arranged them side-by-side below for comparison:

Past & Present
Click for a larger version.

What’s most noticeable between the two images is that the trees have grown a lot over the last 120 years and that whoever did the coloring of the plate (they were individually hand painted as the photo was in B&W) probably hadn’t been there because the color’s aren’t very faithful to reality. It’s weird how these things just turn up at the right moment sometimes!

Backup

I haven’t written a technical article in a long while so I thought I’d change all that and post one today about automating backups using a simple shell script. Backups are something that you can never have enough of as I’ve found to my cost in the past but it doesn’t require anything that difficult to sort out. If you’re interested you can read it here. As ever comments are welcome – if you notice an error or see something that can be improved please let me know!

I’m off to London tomorrow to visit my grandparents for the weekend. I won’t be back until Monday so probably won’t be posting till then. Hopefully when I get back I’ll have a few pictures to share. In the mean time here are another couple I took last weekend which turned out OK:

Thatch
End of a pile of cut reeds used for thatching roofs in the Norfolk Broards.

Green Stream
An algae infested stream camouflages itself with its surroundings!

Blog Tweak

You probably won’t have noticed but I made a few minor changed to the site last night, most notably of all I’ve turned on proper permalinks which make navigation of the archives a lot easier. Added to this it should also allow search engines to index the site properly. I’m planning on tweaking things a bit more over the next few weeks to minimize page loading times and generally spruce things up a bit. Although the blog has only been going properly since last Christmas I’ve been running the randomwire.com domain now for just over a year and overall I’m pretty pleased what I’ve been able to do with it. Although I’ve got a pretty busy academic year up ahead of me (possibly my last ever) I hope to be able to keep up with things and hopefully things will continue to grow.

No Need to Click Here – I’m just claiming my feed at Feedster.

Linkage

I thought today I might bring you some premium linkage which I’ve collected over the last couple of days. As ever so much web, so little time to explore it 🙂

  • Blast Destroys Camera, Flash Card Survives – what happens when you place your camera to close to the demolition of a rather large metal structure. Basically it gets blow to bits but if your lucky you might just capture something!

Explode

  • Tokyo Picturesque – Neat cartographic project which overlays photos taken with a GPS enabled camera phone with a satellite map of Tokyo.

Tokyo Map

  • The Ultimate Weblogging System – Someones opinion (and a good one at that) of what a good blog should and shouldn’t do from a technical viewpoint.
  • Google Hacking Database – Google queries which reveal more than the user probably intended! Frighteningly simple to employ and potentially deadly if abused.
  • An Illustrated Guide to Cryptographic Hashes – If you’ve ever wondered what those long numbers which are sometimes supplied with downloaded files and the like are (e.g. d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e) wonder no more! This guide will explain all and is pretty useful if you’ve ever had to MD5 checksums etc.
  • Lots of Computers – A cool photo from some gaming convention.

I’m to tired to write anything more insightful right now as I’ve just got back from a pretty horrendous car journey (think driving rain) but expect some more good stuff over the next couple of days.

Beyond the Grave

Here’s a news story and a half:

“A man who was shot by police after kidnapping two children and then shipped off to be cremated was found to be alive by funeral workers who heard him groan. Zhang Kailin, 36, was shot at point-blank range and fell to the ground from a five-storey window ledge after a tense two-hour standoff at a school in central Hebei province, the Beijing Daily Messenger said. He had taken two children hostage and demanded ransom before police moved in.”

Cop Shooting Kidnapper
Chinese Cop Shoots Kidnapper

You don’t get pictures like this is the media over hear very often. It makes you wonder to what extent what we see on the news is censored and whether or not this is a good thing always. The translation of the original Chinese article is really something else – they obviously have no qualms about it, and here I was thinking that China was still a communist country! For more info on the story see here.

Wildlife

My aunt & uncle from London came to stay this weekend, we went out for a couple of short walks in nearby countryside and I managed to snap a couple of nice pictures of the local wildlife. Talking of local wildlife, I got bitten to death practically last night by a very bothersome mosquito which took a particular liking to my neck – I just hope it appreciated the fine vintage it was drinking!

Dragon Fly

When taking photos like this the most tricky part is being able to do so quick enough before the stupid things fly off. I think I rushed things a bit so a lot turned out to be blurred or out of focus but the beauty of being digital means there was no wastage 🙂

Bee

We were very lucky with the weather, successfully managing to dodge a couple of torrential downpours which seem to have typified the climate of late.

News Roundup

SecurityFocus is running an intriguing story today about possibly the first recorded instance of ‘cyber-terrorism’. Apparently Romanian cyber extortionists cracked the computer network at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station twice last year, stealing valuable data and even allegedly holding them to ransom by threatening to shutdown their life support system! The FBI is being rather coy about the whole affair but independent investigations have revealed worrying picture of lax security – it all sounds like something out of the latest spy movie!

“The hacked computer controlled the life support systems for the South Pole Station that housed 50 scientists wintering over during the South Pole’s most dangerous season.” – Justice Department report.

In other news…

Seiko Epson Corp. (Japan) has unveiled a Bluetooth controlled micro-flyer robot which could be used in surveillance operations or for getting into tiny spaces during disaster rescue situations. It claims it has the smallest and lightest gyro-sensor in the world and also boasts a 32-bit microcontroller, a super-thin motor and even a low-quality digital camera! Currently it can fly for just three minutes at a time and controlling its flight is somewhat of a dark art but the company hopes to have a commercial model on the market some time in the next two or three years. You can see a video of it flying here.

BlueBot

I was unpacking a new Dell pc at work the other day and for some reason the warning logos made me chuckle:

Warning
Fig 1. Avoid strangling yourself.

1984

Although I’m not a big reader generally I do usually try to keep one book on the go at any given time. At the moment I’m reading ‘1984‘ by George Orwell, a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, not only because of its classic status and timeless quality but also because it’s applicability to the current climate where questions of freedom are rife. The book, written in 1948, is set in the (then) future of 1984 when a large chunk of the world (know as Oceania) is ruled by a dictatorship headed up by an illusive ‘Big Brother’ (need I say any more!). To go into any more detail than this would mean a rather lengthy discussion which I don’t have time for right now but you can find some excellent synopses and articles on the web. Needless to say I’d definitely recommend it. If you like it then you might also like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which has a similar feel and shares some of the same themes.

Nuns

Thought I might share this really rather wonderful card I received today – the picture on it of a group of nuns lighting up is priceless – definitely a forbidden sin if you ask me!

Nuns
Published by Icon.

I’ve rather neglected my film reviews of late so heres a few short ones of stuff I’ve seen recently, in chronological order:

I, Robot – 7/10

I, Robot

I, Robot is a film that could have been so much better. It has what could be an excellent story line but suffers from poor direction and mediocre acting. Although the CG is excellent and the action scenes are pretty cool, as you would expect, it can’t make up for the fact that in the end you can’t take Will Smith seriously even though he tries his best! The main idea behind the film is that the 3 laws which robots must obey to provide a perfect “circle of protection” are flawed – I’m sure you can pretty much figure out the rest. Incredibly for once this is not an idea Hollywood has just magicked up but one which is actually grounded in reality and much research, but as you can imagine they don’t go into much detail! Overall it’s a fun film but I wouldn’t worry if you miss it!

Fahrenheit 9/11 – 9/10

Fahrenheit 9/11

There is little that I can say that can do this film/documentary justice – It’s powerful, moving and incredibly scary. Although much of the hype surrounding it has now passed you can’t help but wonder how Bush and his cronies have got away with so much that seems corrupt and downright evil. Michael Moore may be heavily biased and his reputation questionable, but his work is undeniable. This is one you have GOT to see for yourself, in the end its only your own opinion which counts.

Koma (Hong Kong) – 6/10

Koma

Koma is another film from Hong Kong which at first glance looks great. It’s got Angelica Lee in it from ‘The Eye‘ who, again, plays the main role and a host of other well known faces. The story revolves around a maniac who kidnaps people and steals their kidneys to be sold on the black market. The opening scene starts with such an incident and as you can imagine it’s a bit gruesome! Unfortunately from there on in I found it a bit boring and was tempted to turn it off on more than one occasion – the cinematography was very average and nothing really special. This combined with a pretty slow pace doesn’t make for great cinema and it’s not something I’m likely to watch again. This said it does redeem itself slightly with a couple of great plot twists.