Seldo.Weblog: March 2006

Be There Soon

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I am merely offline; I realise it looks like much the same thing from the perspective of you all, dear readers. But my welcome pack has been dispatched, according to the wonderful people at Be Broadband, so inside of the next 5 days I should have wonderful high-speed Internet going on. Woo!

In the meantime, there will be a significant shortage of content, as this particular post is costing me 50p per MB...

I'm BACK, baby

Oh, blessed INTERNET ACCESS is back! How I've missed it. The last 3 weeks worth of photos are back, including the Ultimate 80s flat. Oh, it's so grey and black and shiny! I love it. Here's a sample:

Ultimate 80s living room!

Up

Down

  • 50p a minute tech support (I broke the wireless bit of the router, really fundamentally. But 50p a minute! You bastards!)
  • Showers that are only hot at waist height
  • Being all of 25 minutes away from Popstarz (instead of 10)

ed

07 March 2006
Wow.

That is some hilariously horrendous decor. Ultimate 80s, indeed. Well done!

Dom

07 March 2006
I think your flat looks great!

ig

14 March 2006
IT'S THE FLAT FROM AMERICAN PSYCHO AND I CLAIM MY FIVE POUNDS

Surfacing

Oh. Hello there. Sorry for the absence of posts, but since last week Wednesday I have had the most god-awful flu, and have been totally unable to think clearly or walk reliably across the room.

It seems I'm finally getting over it today, predictably just in time to be well enough to go to work tomorrow :-/

Update, 2006.03.13: Or maybe not. This morning the fever is back. Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.

I went to work today

This was my second achievement for the day, the first one being sitting up in bed without immediately falling over again -- first time in a week I've been able to do it. Yay for not being completely ill!

I still have a cough like a dying goose, but at least I'm mobile. Go me!

Bob

15 March 2006
Bird flu?

Announcing Eat Like A Grown Up month

Okay, people. Being delirious with fever for a week tends to give you a fresh perspective on things and re-examine some of your assumptions. My primary conclusion coming out of last week's frankly awful fever is that eating shit like I do is going to kill me. Instapasta and a stir-in, sans vegetables of any kind, upwards of 3 nights a week, accompanied by large volumes of sweets and frequently skipped meals explains why I have been so ill and so often over the last 6-9 months. Prior to that period I was getting a weekly dose of vegetarianism from M, and it is only now that I've worked out that the transition in my health seems to go back to around then.

So! New flat, new attitude, I'm going to be cooking lots of nice and healthy things to eat, starting with a one-month blitz to get me into the habit of cooking every day.

The problem is that I don't have any time to go grocery shopping every time I want dinner -- in fact, if I manage to get down to the grocery once a fortnight, that's pretty good. So we will be getting our wonderful grocery delivery service to kick in on that one.

What's still missing is inspiration. Food is like French to me: I can read it, but I can't speak it. So if you give me a recipe I can look at it and translate it into food, but I can't just come up with an idea for food from nothing. So this is where you come in: suggest three meals that I can make myself for dinner. Not recipes: I can look them up on the Internet if need be. I just need the ideas for what to eat in the first place, so I know what to buy. Criteria are:

  • Healthy and nutritious: it doesn't have to be low fat, it just has to be reasonably balanced
  • Full meal: instructions like "serve with a salad" or "your choice of veg" make sense only to somebody who is used to eating like a grown-up. That's not me. Specify all parts of the meal.
  • Ingredients: Meat, fish or vegetarian are all okay; my only allergy is to pimento peppers.
  • Durability: ingredients should be able to sit in the fridge for a few days if I don't immediately get around to cooking them
  • Cooking and preparation time: must be under 90 minutes, preferably less than an hour. I work late, and I'm tired. Anything taking over 90 minutes I'll just never do.

You can post your meals in the comments, or to your own blog, or even mail me. An example of a good suggestion I've had so far:

Leafy green salad with olives and cherry tomatoes, with a small piece of grilled fish and some pasta.

More like the above, please. And remember: you're helping me not die!

talia

15 March 2006
Chicken breasts baked with a cheese & leek topping, with new potatoes and a mild side salad

Jon

15 March 2006
Stir-fry really is the perfect thing for the need-good-meal-can't-be-arsed mindset. You really can shove whichever ingredients take your fancy and use things like soy, chilli, garlic, coriander, basil, etc. to adjust flavour.

Just fry off the meat so it's cooked, then add veg. Harder stuff first, but it doesn't really matter. Chopping stuff finer will also make it cook quicker.

But really, 10 minutes chopping, 10-15 minutes frying and then throw in some cooked noodles. Easy.

Roger

15 March 2006
Fun things to try:

prepare a really reduced, thick, tomato sauce with paprika. Flash fry some thinly-sliced chicken livers with garlic. Throw both together with some pasta. Salad optional.

French onion soup. costs nothing, takes no time or effort, and there are thousands of recipes out there.

The other fun, low-effort thing to just tip over pasta whilst not dying as a consequence is a big heap of roast vegetables. Cherry tomatoes in the mix provide moisture and sweetness. Ideally with anchovies and chilli.

Also, get a copy of Silver Spoon, a clear contender for the best ever cookbook.

ed

15 March 2006
The standard around these parts is to grill up some pork chops or sear some tuna. Mmmm... seared tuna. Make sure that the tuna is fresh (though it can live in the fridge for a day or two.) For marinade, I like to use olive oil, garlic, cooking wine, and assorted spices (I've been into nutmeg and cinammon of late.)

Anyway. I usually whip these up with some green beans (which I season with olive oil, pepper, and a little balsamic vinegar) and sweet potato fries, which you can find out how to make on the internet. You could also steam up some broccoli or boil potatoes or something. Brown rice works well with the tuna, I've found.

You'll be eating in 30 minutes or less.

ed

15 March 2006
Also, there are a couple of books with names like '3-ingredient cookbook' or '4-ingredient meals' that are great for coming up with easy meals. Just google (or yahoo! if you will) for 'em.

marc

15 March 2006
I had the same lecture from my nutritionist (well, the University nutritionist, really, but it sounds so much fancier to say 'my nutritionist') about eating more green things and eating healthier in general, so I've been experimenting with new ingredients and recipes myself over the last year. My new favourite thing of all: Extra-virgin Olive Oil, or E.V.O.O., as Rachael Ray says. I've been watching all the Italian chefs cooking with it for years on TV, saying it's a good-for-you fat, but the idea of olives repulsed me until I started using the stuff and loved what it did to the flavours of my cooking. But I digress.

My favourite simple, delicious recipe: a bed of rice, some spinach wilted in EVOO and garlic, and a grilled piece of mahi mahi or salmon with tons of lemon squeezed over it. You can do the two latter things in the time it takes to steam the rice, so dinner's ready in 20 minutes.

Other meal: a vegetable and beef stew, french style, started from a roux--and you could turn it into a wine reduction if you wanted to be fancy, or just add low-fat milk and/or chicken stock if you want to be extra good. Just throw in whatever vegetables in the pantry or crisper.

And a third: Cabbage soup. To die for.

Robert

16 March 2006
or healthy and quick veg, you must learn the way of steaming - potatoes ake about ten minutes if chopped, and it saves quite well on washing up...

grill something (fish, chicken, even sausages) to go with them and you've got a decent meal in about a quarter of an hour...

M

16 March 2006
I knew my influence would rub off eventually!

Salmon (baked or grilled or, if you are feeling adventurous, fried, make sure you use lost of herbs and lemon), with potatoes of some sort (oven chips, mashed, boiled new potatos) and green vegetables (brocolli, green beans, peas, even a bag of salad). Put the potaoes on to cook first, then the salmon, then the veg and it should all be done at about the same time in under 25mins.

Feel free to substitute the salmon for other types of fish or meat, but some sort of variation on that template should provide you with rounded, nutritious meals. Even fajitas come with potato wedges and a bag of salad ;-)

Bob

16 March 2006
The best meal I ever cooked (and I'm rubbish)...

Lightly fry, in butter, a few chicken breasts until they've gone a bit white.

Transfer to saucepan and boil (yes) in just enough water, adding oranges (at least half an orange per breast) and a whole bunch of olives (even if you don't normally eat or like olives).

When most of the water has boiled off plate the chicken then spoon over some delicious mushy orangey olive sauce stuff that's left in the saucepan.

Serve with potatoes and whatever etc.

Weird and impressive. Honest.

R

16 March 2006
Ooh, I'm doing something a bit like that with a joint of pork tomorrow. Sounds fantastic.

And it just reminded me of the most fantastic thing: Stick a bunch of lamb in a pan with some oil and the juice of a couple of lemons. Put it on the hob, quite high for about 20-30. Then add 2 glasses of wine, green olives, and fresh oregano, and cook on low until mushy and tender. Serve with cous cous and roasted peppers. Lovely.

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House warmed... 80s style!

Saturday night was in fact the second of several house-warming type events, as the flat is really not big enough to hold all our friends at the same time. This one was dominated by the Warwick posse and also by a fabulous 80s theme. I managed not to take a single picture -- or even bother to get out my camera -- for the whole evening, but luckily other people did a very fine job of that.

If you've still not been to our new flat (hello, family!) you will probably get an invitation to a smaller event in the near future :-)

Syriana + Elections

I'm sufficiently recovered to actually have enough energy left in the evening to blog about something -- that's a good sign, right? Even if it is a quite pathetically banal entry about the fact that I had quite a good weekend, and that I saw Syriana this evening. It was a good commentary on our very destructive involvement in the middle east, but with nowhere near the depth or emotive force of Munich, say, or even Crash. No Oscar for j00, and deservedly so.

Also, we are now only 959 days out from the 2008 American election, folks. You think I'm jumping the gun? Just you wait; the first 2008 election special is mere weeks away, I promise. You can already start reading up on prospective candidates (the websites are already getting into the swing), the current frontrunners in the polls indicating that it's shaping up to be a Condoleeza-Hilary race, which is fun in that it'll at least be a female President, even if she will be either stupid and corrupt or smart and evil, depending who wins.

I can't believe the democratic field is so pathetic that the other front runners are still Kerry, Edwards and, for crying out loud, Al Gore. The Republicans have Giuliani and McCain! They sound like they could win tomorrow! Gore and Kerry? It just makes me want to weep.

Tom Williams

21 March 2006
Gore is experienced, talented, and having a recent popularity serge. He's into the sort of issues that are beginning to becoming incredibly important, such as global warming. He'd actually make a damn good president. Giuliani and McCain aren't especially good at all. Guiliani doesn't have any experience at that sort of level, and McCain's a right-wing nutjob.

That said, I want Hillary, with Bill as her running mate. That would be fab.

ed

21 March 2006
Condi is in no way a real frontrunner. Please. Tradesports, which knows all, says that McCain and Allen are the ones to beat. Also, the idea that Guiliani, a divorced Catholic from New York who is pro-choice and bunked with his gay friends when he left his wife, could win the nomination from the batshit crazy GOP is hilarious.

That said, the Dem field is indeed depressing. It looks like our best shot might be Hillary, though Gore is getting some good press these days, and I'm always hoping for a darkhorse Obama. Le sigh.

Ade

21 March 2006
I hate to be pedanti (well, no i dont) but George Clooney DID get an oscar, Best Supporting actor, for Syriana.

And i hope theres a credit to the daily show in that blog ;-)


Chez

21 March 2006
I just don't get how people figure you're right wing.

;)

Laurie

21 March 2006
Gore would be a good President but an awful candidate. He failed to get (convincingly) elected as a sitting Vice President, against an idiot buffoon. Just like Kerry, he's boring enough not to offend anybody too much in the primaries, but too boring to get any votes in the actual election. Gore would be a disaster for the dems.

Robert

22 March 2006
re Chez:

Seldo is right-wing in the UK, and left in the States - lots of people are! Given that Al Gore was offering large tax cuts in 2000 that would place him to the right of the tories here...

Can't see any of the democrat candidates winning though - bland or smug seems to be the choice...

Chez

22 March 2006
Robert: I still wouldn't call Laurie right wing by British standards, either.

But then I wouldn't call the Conservatives right wing at the moment.

Laurie

22 March 2006
That's because you're a crazy right-wing nut-job, Chez. Luckily, I love you anyway.

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V for Vindicated

Spoiler content ahead: general themes and intentions examined, no specific plot elements or character actions discussed.

Probably no single word and all its meanings sums up the movie V for Vendetta. From the definition of vindicated:

  1. To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof
  2. To provide justification or support for: vindicate one's claim.
  3. To justify or prove the worth of, especially in light of later developments.
  4. To defend, maintain, or insist on the recognition of (one's rights, for example).
  5. To exact revenge for; avenge.

The hero of V is a terrorist, and not the freedom-fighter, only-kills-bad-people kind. Despite his appearance as a literal caricature of a terrorist, he is much more believeable than the kind one usually encounters in an action movie: he is motivated, like real terrorists usually are, by very personal grievances that only partially justify all of his actions. The movie is not just his revenge, it is about his attempts to justify that revenge in terms of high principles: freedom, justice and truth, while at the same time aware of his own flawed motivations.

But it is not just V trying to justify what he himself does: so are his enemies, constantly reminding each other of their own validity. And so is the movie itself: trying to justify its own revelling in the horror and injustice of the future dystopia and the gory violence of V's revenge by positioning itself as a moral wake-up call about the direction our society -- and American society in particular -- is taking.

Because make no mistake, this is a very American movie. The settings are English and the accents are (poor) English, but the society pictured -- media-led, personality-focussed, a strong current of Christian fundamentalism -- is much more America's own than Britain's. In fact, it's so close that almost nothing has been added; merely exaggerated.

One might call such exaggeration heavy-handed, but that is to misunderstand the nature of a comic book: like the drawings themselves, it is not meant to be a photo-realistic picture of the world, but instead a stylised representation of the most relevant features. That's something the Wachowski brothers, whatever their other failings, understand.

Because this is also, very obviously, a Wachowski brothers movie. The visuals are simplistic and powerful, the imagery and visual themes strong and skillfully pervasive into every corner of the movie, the scope grand. It's not a movie, it is a live-action comic book, and all the more powerful for being unabashed about this. It makes it an uncompromisingly beautiful movie, with believability freely discarded in favour of the more striking image.

In the end, this movie makes its point clear: while symbology may be powerful, the real solution for achieving freedom and justice lies in the will of the people to reclaim it.

ig

23 March 2006
Hm. A few points.

It's not a Wachowski Brothers film. They produced it, but producers really can't be credited for the creative force behind the film. The director gets that - and whilst they directed the Matrix series, they gave this one to their first assistant director (the man who tells everyone to be quiet on set!) James McTeigue. He chose the shots, the sets, the costumes and told the actors how to perform so he gets the blame here.

Secondly, you'll be unsurprised to hear I thought this film was a piece of shit. But not for the reasons you think. To be honest, I'm surprised you liked it. I thought it looked cheap and chips and the sfx were very ordinary. I couldn't believe how low-grade it all looked.

For a film that had a lot to say about the current situation (how portentous of Moore), it felt shockingly out of date. Perhaps it was the ridiculous cop storyline with clunky Stephen Rea walking into rooms going 'Eureka' like he was in The Professionals. Perhaps the pretentiousness of V works in the comic book but just doesn't translate. His extended diatribes were boring and unrealistic (even for a hyper-real film).

Don't get me started on Stephen Fry's performance. Yikes.

Natalie Portman was pretty bad. I'd like to say it wasn't her fault, but I have to admit to struggling to find a film she actually acts in. You can just see her doing 'the acting' as if there's an autocue in front of her. No spontaneity, no rhythm.

It was also very boring. The police investigation was stupid and the 1984 references hammered home far too bluntly, leaving the audience with little to think about. John Hurt goes from oppressed in 1984 to oppressor here? Yeah, I get it already.

Bring on Sin City 2. Now that's how to do an adaptation of a graphic novel.

ig

23 March 2006
Oh, I forgot the Wachowski brothers wrote it too. I suppose they take a lot more of the blame. Still, it's not really *their* film.

Big Weekend

This is the first weekend that has not been dampened by some external factor like moving or illness or homelessness for a couple of months. Quite a lot of fun was had.

Friday started with Yahoo!'s first UK Hack Day. A brilliant concept: get paid to learn new stuff and build a pet project! The hack we decided on was an internal-only map application to find desks and meeting rooms in the byzantine recesses of the London office. As it was the first UK hack day ever, there were some teething troubles -- like not having sorted out development boxes ahead of time -- but in general I met some cool people, and while we didn't finish our hack, we got all the important bits working, and going from nothing through design to implementation in 8 hours despite quite a lot of infrastructure issues is a pretty impressive feat.

I capped out Friday with a return to Popstarz, at 5 weeks the longest gap between visits in ages. The horror that was their Funfair-themed evening had faded, and I had a great time, though I am very out of shape for dancing at the moment -- I am extremely sore today, as one tends to be on the 2nd day after returning to exercise.

Saturday started with brunch at the World Cafe in Crouch End -- originally intended to be at Banner's, organized by O, but he was overwhelmed by his own popularity and too many people turned up, so we overflowed, but hey, I had pancakes with bacon, so I'm not going to complain.

We then made a spontaneous visit to the newly opened Cartoon Museum -- like a gallery, only the paintings make you giggle -- which was very entertaining and well worth the very reasonable £2.50 admission.

Saturday evening was Buttoned Down Disco with MK, MH, Cat Lady K and SS. The music was inspiredly funky with occasional breaks for totally random -- I made quite a lot of use of Shazam but a lot of the tracks were too obscure for it to recognize. The new venue (Purple Turtle at Mornington Crescent) was excellent, even if I did wimp out and head home on the last tube, what with having had 6 hours of sleep and aching muscles from Popstarz. I'm not a teenager any more, folks :-(

Today was a late start, then birthday pub lunch for sister-in-law-to-be E, which was excellent: I can heartily recommend the food at the Blue Pumpkin if you're ever in the Balham/Tooting area.

And now I'm home, and chilling out. A good weekend.

  • Reading: The Algebraist, by Iain M. Banks
  • Listening to: a somewhat eclectic mix of Adam Ant (the 80s live on at Albert Square!) and Panic! at the disco, while desperate for Orson to release an album so I can stop listening to No Tomorrow on repeat.
  • Watching: the dying days of West Wing (season 7 sucks!) and Planet Earth (the BBC earns a whole decade's worth of licence fees, all at once).

marc

26 March 2006
Oh for the days of the black Vera Wang...

Blog Birthday

On this day five years ago, I made my first and extremely modest post to this humble blog. Five years and 945 posts later, it's still going.

Not too shabby.

946 now. Only about 15% of them were as short as this one though.

ed

28 March 2006
Whatever happened to polymer screens? And WHERE is my flying car?! You made promises 5 years ago, Voss, and surely the people will soon hold you to account.

Laurie

29 March 2006
Polymer screens are what power most modern mobile phones. And I said the flying car would fail, and it did.

ed

30 March 2006
When you compared polymer screens to LCDs, I immediately assumed we were referring to TVs. My bad. I don't care much about cellphones (esp. since I live in the mobile tech backwater known as the US.)

They're coming!

Snakes! On! A! Plane!

As mentioned previously in my linklog (what, you mean you don't follow it every day?) and recently picked up by Dom, Samuel L Jackson's latest for-the-money picture is going to be Snakes on a Plane. So self-evidently ridiculous in concept and premise is this film that 5 months before its release it is already a cult hit -- it even has its own wikipedia entry. I have been eagerly anticipating this movie, and at last, the trailer has landed. Mr. Jackson does not disappoint, launching straight into lines like "Enough is enough -- *loads gun* -- I've had it with these snakes." As always, the gun-loading is an integral part of the dialogue there.

Oh, it's going to be great. Just think! Snakes! On a plane!

Update: SoaP has been covered by Real Life. Expect every other webcomic to follow suit.

Stephen

30 March 2006
And it's released on my birthday.
Awesome!

Mikey

30 March 2006
I am sensing this is one of those occasions where "Big Monkey" is a good thing ;)

ed

30 March 2006
That graphic is the best movie graphic of all time. Awesome.