All entries for February 2007

February 14, 2007

One reason not to get snipped…

Writing about web page http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=healthNews&storyID=2007-02-13T214650Z_01_N13184401_RTRUKOC_0_US-VASECTOMY-DEMENTIA.xml&WTmodLoc=NewsHome-C3-healthNews-3&rpc=92

Thinking of getting a vasectomy? Perhaps thinking of getting one when you're married? Well you might want to think again:

Reuters: Vasectomies lead to increased risk of Dementia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Men who have had a vasectomy may face an increased risk of developing a rare type of dementia marked by a steady loss of language skills, researchers said on Tuesday.

RWRResearchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, writing in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, linked this male sterilization surgery to a neurological condition called primary progressive aphasia, or PPA.

....

It causes people's language capabilities to decline steadily, with symptoms such as faulty recollection of names of people and things, difficulties in speech, reading and writing, and poor comprehension.


February 11, 2007

The Genius of DS9

Writing about web page http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/DS9/

Star Trek CastOK yes it's a Star Trek post. It's not going to turn into one of those Picard vs Kirk posts (Picard by the way). I just had to express how brilliant this series is.

I haven't seen it since I saw the final episode back when it aired on Sky One. If you didn't have Cable or Sky you'd have to rely on terristrial TV... and anyone who spent their youth as a Trek fan yet lacked access to Sky 1 would find themselves relying on BBC2. And the problem with BBC2 was we'd frequently encounter this message:

"We're sorry to all our regular viewers/Star Trek fans, but this week's episode has been cancelled. Now we bring you snooker."

Yes... Snooker. The Non-Spectator Sport. It was the bane of my youth. How happy I was when I had access to cable! The deliciousness of Sky One. All those Trek repeats! Buffy followed by Angel!  New episodes of DS9 and Voyager up the wazoo. Those were good times. Good times.

Anyhow, I haven't watched it in many years and then a post a wrote a post a month ago that rekindled my passion for the show.  I went out to the Silk Market and obtained for a very reasonable price what appear to be all 7 seasons on DVD. I'm now half-way through season five. And I can only say that age has bettered the series.Worfs1

Unlike The Next Generation (henceforth TNG!) and Voyager (VOY) Deep Space Nine (DS9) has aged very well. Look back to the first series of TNG and while the first episode(s) will give you a jolt of nostalgia followed by a Patrick Stewart-induced (what an actor), you'll laugh your head off at the ludicrous eighties make-up and the frequently boring plots (saved by the acting). Voyager has remained the same as it always was, as irrelevent as it always was.

But watching DS9 at the same time as Season 6 of 24, it made me think how wonderfully DS9 addressed both issues of the time and issues of the day in what is often a more tactful, humourous and balanced way than TV shows of today (ie like 24).  Let's see what's covered:

1) Torture - Garak attempts to torture Odo.

2) Occupation and Resistance - Bajor and Cardassians.

3) Complex international politics - The interplay between the Federation, Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans, Romulans and the Dominion.

4) Racism, Race-relations, interracial marriage and friendships - this theme occurs frequently eg Sisko as "Emissary", Jake and Nog, Rom and Leeta, Dax and Worf etc.

5) Creationism vs Science in schools - Vedek Winn vs Keiko O'Brien.

6) Freedom vs Security - When the founders start showing themselves on earth.

7) Paranoia and Betrayal - Ben and Yates, Garak.

8) War and the fine line between necessity and war crimes - Biological warfare committed against the founders.

9) Terrorism vs Freedom Fighting - this theme is often explored in episodes delving into Bajoran/Cardassian relations.

10) Religion vs Scepticism - the whole Prophets arc is beautiful. Aside from the moments in the wormhole where "linear' is used far too many times, I love the way Sisko balances his skepticism with at least partial belief (for example when Sisko has the vision concerning Bajor entering the Federation.

I've gone through some of the general themes and would love to hear more from you guys about which themes you consider particularly relevent in today's world. But since 2001 I think DS9 has become even more modern than it once was. Despite the odd crappy episode ("Filler" nonsense that plagues every series, like the episode on Risa - bleh) we see a strong series of episodes. We see continuinity in nearly every episode and, moreUSS Defiant importantly, we see constant growth.

Growth? In what way? Well like TNG, the first couple of seasons are interesting and exploratory. Like a baby on its first footsteps. The acting is generally good, but sometimes the actors are struggling to find the niche of their character. In the first season Siddig al-Fadil is clearly a bit over-the-top. It fits in well with his character I guess ( a brilliant doctor seeking to impress). But the acting flaws are present in all of the characters. But it makes their growth all the more impressive. By season three they are all truly comfortable with themselves and they compliment one-another. The acting continues to develop along with the make-up, specifial effects, plot and uniforms!

TNG was good. The acting was superb - practically everyone on the bridge except for Marine "Eye-candy" Sirtis was consistently wonderful. DS9 was brilliant and the acting matched the plots (with the exception of late addition Ezri Dax who made me want to punch her every time she spoke). VOY was like a stagnant pond. No real growth. Ensign Kim of season 1 was the same Kim of season 7. The only real change in VOY was the inclusion (and ruination) of the Borg.

DS9 knew what the audience desired and delivered it. We had great acting. Great plots. Consistency (of a kind - DS9idiots like me will notice how Sisko claims his father is dead before his father somehow works its way into the plot). Some fantastic CGI warfare. Lovable characters. Extraordinary scripting.  I don't know if it won any awards but by hell did it deserve to.

So if you're a Star Trek fan, dust off your old videos or invest in the DVD collection and watch DS9 once again, juxtaposing your nostalgia with moments of "Wow I wish Bush, Blair and the Israelis would watch this!" If you're not a Trek fan then give this a go. It's really worth it. And it reaches its peak when Sisko shaves off the 'fro and dons his magnificent goatee and everyone wears the Dominion War Uniforms. 

Oh and sorry Holly, but Voyager is a bit rubbish :P. 


February 08, 2007

What I'll probably miss most about Beijing: Cheap Taxis

BJ CabI've spent a lengthy period in China now. It's been 7 months now and I'll be heading back home (for a while) towards the end of the eighth month. In fact, I've spent about a year and a half of the past 5 years in China. I've come to think about it as a second home.

And what will I miss most? The cuisine? The 名胜古迹? The people?

No, I will most miss taxis. Call it an indulgence, but taxis are cheap. Public transportation is cheaper by far, of course. In fact they've just reduced the cost of  a standard bus ride on the 东三环 (Third ring road) to less than half a 元 (which is the equivalent to about 3p). You could travel all the way around the road for three pence, a journey of about an hour without traffic. The taxi will cost substantially more. Taxis in Beijing have a standard fare of 10 元 (about 66p) compared with the GBP2.60 as soon as you step into a British cab. 

I used a taxi today for about 2 hours, including 10 minutes waiting time, for a grand total of 170 yuan (including tip): about GBP 11.50. That's less than the cost of taking a cab from Warwick to Coventry City Centre and back. In fact that cab ride would probably cost you about GBP15.00.

Ai, back to the good ol' London Undergroun.


February 05, 2007

Can we finally buy Beatles songs on iTunes?

Writing about web page http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070205/ap_en_ot/apple_beatles

Jobs Apple, Beatles settle trademark suit

CUPERTINO, Calif. - Mac computer and iPod maker Apple said Monday it settled long-simmering trademark issues with The Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. company about the use of the name "Apple" and apple logos.

The new settlement replaces the companies' 1991 agreement, and gives Apple Inc. ownership of all the trademarks related to "Apple." In addition, Apple Inc. will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use.

This settlement ends the ongoing trademark lawsuit between the companies, with each paying its own legal costs, and Apple Inc. will continue using its name and logos on iTunes.

Further terms weren't disclosed.

"We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future."

I remember hearing a while back that Paul McCartney was particularly bitter with regards to the Apple Lawsuit. As anyone who uses iTunes should know by now, nothing from the Beatles' song library was available to purchase on iTunes music store because of the  feud. As an aside, I always found that a bit odd, because I seem to remember Michael Jackson having purchased the rights to a large number, if not all, of the Beatles' songs; an act that led to the end of the friendly relationship between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.

I can't imagine he's too pleased with having to take part in paying all of those legal fees.


Jokers

Writing about web page http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250281,00.html

I can't tell if this is Fox playing a joke, or if the Iranians are actually doing it, but whatever the cause, it's one of those how-can-it-be-true kind of moments.

Report: Iran Set to Unveil Herbal AIDS Cure

ahamdinejad.jpgIran was set to make fantastic claims on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, including finding an herbal cure for AIDS, an Israeli news agency reported Sunday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was set to speak of his nation's "great achievements" on Feb. 11, Ynetnews.com reported Sunday, citing the Iranian news agency Fars as its source.

"The Iranian nation will celebrate stabilization and establishment of its nuclear rights during the Ten-Day Dawn [the anniversary of the revolution]," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

That's got to be Fox taking the piss.


February 04, 2007

My favourite new toy…

I was sitting in Starbucks the other day in Jianwai dajie, when a horde of loud-but-friendly AmericanIt gives me tea. Without leaves clogging up my mouth. Therefore it is good. tourists entered (mostly some very nice and retired old Jewish ladies from Miami and some much younger and quieter but just as friendly southern African-Americans). The staff were having some problems communicating effectively with a couple of the old girls who were looking at the various mugs, beakers and other trinkets. So while I was up getting some tissues, one of the waiters asked for my help in translating 半价 (half-price).

So I very helpfully pointed at the sign which said both 半价 and 50% off in English and told the waiter that the sign had the English translation and then told the ladies what the waiter was trying to say. After the had finished pointing and asking whether certain items were included in the offer, I thought I might as well pick up a half-priced teapot. At about GBP4.50, it was expensive by Chinese standards but it looked nice, simple and sturdy and so I picked it up at a whim. 

Now I can make tea effortlessly and with little cleanup. I never really used to drink tea when I was younger, save the odd cup loaded with milk and sugar and, of course, a rich tea biscuit with half of it ending up at the bottom of the cup.  Having given up Diet Coke for a certain someone special, I drifted more and more towards tea and I find myself enjoying it without sugar, without milk, just black and strong, brewed from Earl Grey leaves. Delicious. 

I'm going to start sampling more Chinese teas now that my taste is a bit more open to different flavours. I've always been a fan of 乌龙茶 and 龙井茶 but now I want to move on to some of the different flavours and mixtures.  


Fantastic He–Man Spoof…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLQBEmr7MDw

Stumbled across this brilliant He-man spoof video a little while ago. The animation is great and it certainly made me chuckle - it's even got He-man's trademark run and some groanilicious puns!


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