All entries for October 2007

October 30, 2007

One of the best adverts this year: Smirnoff Triple Distilled

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JCbeP5Fjyw

Great soundtrack, amazing images, witty plot – an advert one could watch over and over again. It should definitely be nominated for the Cannes Lions Awards.


Women in politics

Since Queen Victoria and Empress Dowager Cixi jointly ruled over 2/3 of the world, female leaders have been emerging and ruling with fluctuating success. But now the world of politics seems to be ready to welcome a new wave of female leaders, some plainly great, some more controversial.

  • Margaret Thatcher, 1978, became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, 1988, formed and became the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma
  • Benazir Bhutto, 1988, elected Prime Minister of Pakistan
  • Mo Mowlam, 1997, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Yulia Timoshenko, 1999, assumed the post of vice-Premier Minister responsible for Ukraine’s fuel and energy issues
  • Condoleezza Rice, 2005, First Female African-American Secretary of State, USA
  • Angela Merkel, 2005, elected Chancellor of Germany
  • Cristina Elisabeth Fernández de Kirchner, 2007, to assume presidency over Argentina in December

Could this surge of female leaders serve as a manifestation of the long overdue elimination of sexism, or does it speak of a weariness of the world with the way men run politics? Almost four decades after the first popular movements to emancipate women from housework and provide equal education and universal suffrage, we may be finally witnessing the results of the seeds planted back in late 60s.


October 28, 2007

Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction

London Victoria: Exit

Exit

London Victoria

London Victoria

October 27, 2007

Capturing YouTube videos

Follow-up to oh the hilarity… from Reverie

YouTube has a rather elaborate website dedicated to downloading the videos you like. It’s called YouTubeX. Paste the link to the video you want into the search bar, click Download, then you’ll be redirected to a sponsor’s website, which you are free to ignore and even close, while the video you need is retrieved from YouTube into YouTubeX webpage. After the clip you want loads up on the YouTubeX page, you’ll be given the option to Download, Record or Stream it. The file would download without file extension, so upon completion, one has to change the file extension to FLV, which is flash video format.

The website also has links to free flash video player and FLV converter programmes.

If the system already has VLC installed, then VLC can play the flash video file perfectly.

Videora is a free software that can capture YouTube videos and convert them for various output devices, such as iPod and PSP.

The converter programme (Replay converter) is free for the demo version, which allows you to convert up to 90 seconds of the file. It can convert into the usual formats: AVI, MPEG-4 (Apple QuickTime file), Mobile 3GP and WMV.


oh the hilarity…

Writing about web page http://www.paganini.net/index.cgi/linux/capturing_flv.html

In an attempt to discover how to capture videos from YouTube and other online sources I naturally googled “capture youtube”. The third popular link looked promising: Capturing Google and Youtube videos with one command, it pledged to teach me how to “capture Youtube and Google videos to your computer, saving them as AVI files encoded in the MPEG4 format, using only one command”. Until this:

All you need is a Linux workstation running any fairly recent Linux distro, and FFMpeg.

Really? All I need is a Linux workstation? As if everyone has one of those lying about like a bar of soap. About three years ago I was running Ubuntu and was pretty happy with it (albeit the graphics never impressed me much). Now I’m moving on to make new friendship with Apple (whose recent launch of its new OS notoriously caused massive queues outside the London Apple store on Regent street). But Linux will always remain a wild field of imagination that I will only dare to conquer when I’ve learnt enough about programming and such.

The search for a way of capturing online videos continues…


The Unbearable Coolness of British Courts

Admission to courts in the UK is free. Any idle (lay) person can walk into a proceeding and observe a hearing, unless otherwise specified.

Last week I made my first visit to a Crown court and came out with a massive rush of blood to the head, feeling slightly tipsy from that peculiar encounter with what seemed like a parallel world. The wigs and the gowns were just the tip of the iceberg.

I was hoping to observe a good case since it was a Crown court and I sneaked in on a defence hearing for a rape case. It amazed me how the defence lawyer and the claimant’s lawyer were both so astonishingly polite. There was no mockery in their voices, no sarcasm, not even a pinch of irony (perhaps a rather shocking discovery for me since I prefer Judge Judy to Ugly Betty) There was a distinct lack of judgement on behalf of the lawyers. When the claimant’s lawyer disagreed with the defendant, she would simply say “May I suggest that you followed her and raped her”, which would send the defendant into immediate distress.

The more awkward bit was the actual questioning of the defendant: he was asked to give a full account of what had happened (most of which he claimed he didn’t remember) down to the tiniest details. Under such magnified scrutiny I feared no one would look good. The defendant went on to talk about his night out with colleagues, not sparing the details of him urinating in a dark alley and then having sex with the claimant right there on the curb of the road.

It was difficult to listen to that with a straight face: “I performed oral sex on her, then I kissed her neck and breasts and then we had full on sexual intercourse”. “And did you experience difficulties when having sexual intercourse?” – the defence lawyer would politely enquire. “Yes, she was sitting a bit high, I kept trying to lower her”. “And did she reach orgasm?” – the grey-hair-wigged lawyer would ask, – “I did, I don’t know about her”.
“May I suggest you ripped her top and raped her,” – the prosecution lawyer would say in a calm voice, “How do you explain kissing her breasts if her breasts were covered with her top?”

After about 2 hours of cross-examination and hearing of witnesses there was a distinct feeling that both the defendant and the claimant were telling the truth and lying at the same time. At times like that I find myself thinking what a naive child I am thinking everybody always speaks the truth. But the judge swiftly pinned down the core issue and suddenly everything became clear: “We need to establish the factor of consent.” It is a rape case after all, and consent is the one thing that differentiates sexual intercourse from rape.

It’s a shame I didn’t go there the following day to hear the verdict. I may just become a court junkie and spend all my free time in courts from now on.


October 20, 2007

Coolest pumpkins

pumpkin collection

and the one for the geeks

star wars pumpkin

Get carving!

All images are generated from Google image search, the origins of the images are as follows:
Wolf
Mario
Star wars
Castle


Lu's Guide to Carving a Pumpkin

As you may have heard, pumpkins are in short supply this year due to ‘unforeseeable circumstances’ earlier in the summer. So, instead of buying the usual practice pumpkin and stage pumpkin, you may want to try to get it right the first time. And here’s a guide to getting there.*

  1. Try to stop feeling guilty for using a pumpkin as a toy when millions of people are starving on the other side of the world. No one eats pumpkins anyway
  2. Buy a pumpkin from Tesco’s (They should cost 99p right now and are fairly large, Sainsbury’s offers pumpkins of much smaller size and much bigger price)
  3. Wash it and dry it with kitchen towels
  4. Do your research and find the perfect face for your pumpkin. Keep in mind that a nose makes a pumpkin face look cuter no matter what. So if you want an evil looking pumpkin – concentrate on the eyes and the mouth
  5. Get a 5B or 6B drawing pencil (HB simply won’t draw on a pumpkin without leaving traces) and sketch the face and the top rim of the pumpkin
  6. Gently (not deep) cut along the top lines using a small knife
  7. Insert a large kitchen knife into the preliminary cuts made with the small knife, then do it again but each time the knife goes in try pushing the pumpkin top out a little, eventually separating and lifting off the top lid
  8. Empty the contents of the pumpkin, but remember to keep the pumpkin seeds and send them to me, or give them to any other Chinese person – they’ll know what to do with them
  9. Start carving the face with the most central points of your sketch. Make deep cuts and when the hole is made you can start slicing around the hole to make it gain the shape you’ve designed. It gives greater precision. You could change the shape of the face later on if your initial pumpkin face had a small mouth and small eyes
  10. Wash away the remnants of the sketch you’ve made (washing up liquid should do)
  11. Put the lid back on and there you have a perfectly pretty pumpkin!

Please exercise caution when you light a candle inside a pumpkin and have a happy Halloween!

My first pumpkin

Disclaimer: This is my first pumpkin carving experience. This is not a Pumpkin Bible. You are not entitled to sue me and claim damages should your own carving experience go horribly wrong.


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