Dec 31, 2010

My Blackberry is not working!

Are you up for some British humour? I wish I could have access to more of it on a daily basis. This fruity sketch just aired on the BBC program The One Ronnie. Great work by Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield.

Conan O'Brien @ Google

After his visit to the Twitter offices, Conan O'Brien also paid a visit to Google headquearters in Mountain View on May 5, 2010, during his unofficial Silicon Valley tour to promote his other and official tour: the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour. This tour consisted on 30 shows and started in Eugene, Oregon, on April 12. It ended in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 14.

The title of the tour is a reference to the 2010 Tonight Show host and timeslot conflict which resulted in O'Brien resigning from his position as host of The Tonight Show in January 2010. O'Brien's settlement with NBC barred him from appearing on television as the host of a program until September 2010, but it did not bar him from performing before a live audience in a concert setting.

I've just learned about this tour by chance -Conan O'Brien is not that big here in Europe and we don't get much input about what he does if we don't look for it on purpose. But anyway, this show at Google headquerters is fun. Conan shows off his comic and improvisational talents in front of the so-called Googlers, and although I'm not a big fan of O'Brien he made me laugh with this. 

Dec 30, 2010

London sewermen's plea

Thames Water is trying to persuade Londoners not to pour fat down their plugholes. And in their campaign to educate people about sewer abuse they have come up with this original way to send their message. Here, the chaps who have to deal with the "fatbergs" that form as a result of this delinquency deliver their plea in a song.

There is more to it at the Thames Water website.

Dec 28, 2010

Vintage NYC subway ride.

It's about New York City today.
Here’s a video that dates from 1949 of the NYC subway coming from the archives of the New York Transit Museum. It's really interesting to see how the subway was in those years. Enjoy the vintage ride.

Blizzard in NYC: December 27, 2010

Even after watching these spectacular images it's hard to imagine what the New Yorkers are going through at the other side of the Atlantic. That's a lot of snow. And right below, an amazing timelapse of the blizzard with a camera taking a photo once every five minutes during 20 hours:


Dec 26, 2010

An American Civil War message is deciphered 147 years later.


As strange stories go, this is a good historical one, for those of you who are interested in history out there. The BBC has released this piece of news telling how a glass vial from the Civil War has been opened, revealing a coded message to the desperate Confederate commander in Vicksburg on the day the Mississippi city fell to Union forces 147 years ago, and how a former CIA codebreaker has cracked it's meaning. With a bit of extra research, this whole story has unfolded:

The piece of paper with a message for a Confederate leader was rolled up, tied with string and sealed along with a bullet in a glass vial. It remained a mystery for 147 years, until a CIA codebreaker cracked the message after a museum had the vial opened. The dispatch offered no hope to doomed Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, as it basically said: Reinforcements are not on the way. The encrypted, 6-line message was dated July 4, 1863, the date of Pemberton's surrender to Union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Siege of Vicksburg in what historians say was a turning point midway into the Civil War, and it came from a Confederate commander on the west side of the Mississippi River across from Pemberton. 

Lt. General John C. Pemberton,
Confederate Commander of the
Army of Vicksburg.
The bottle, less than 2 inches in length, had sat undisturbed at the museum since 1896. It was a gift from Capt. William A. Smith, of King George County, who served during the Vicksburg siege. A retired CIA code breaker, David Gaddy, was contacted, and he cracked the code in several weeks. The code is called the 'Vigenere cipher,' a centuries-old encryption in which letters of the alphabet are shifted a set number of places so an 'a' would become a 'd' — essentially, creating words with different letter combinations. The code was widely used by Southern forces during the Civil War, according to Civil War Times Illustrated. The source of the message was likely Maj. Gen. John G. Walker, of the Texas Division, who had under his command William Smith, the donor of the bottle. The full text of the message to Pemberton reads:

'Gen'l Pemberton: You can expect no help from this side of the river. Let Gen'l Johnston know, if possible, when you can attack the same point on the enemy's lines. Inform me also and I will endeavor to make a diversion. I have sent some caps (explosive devices). I subjoin a despatch from General Johnston.'

The last line seems to suggest a separate delivery to Pemberton would be the code to break the message, and the date of the message clearly indicates that this person has no idea that the city was about to be surrendered.

Battle of Vicksburg: Assault on Fort Hill.
The Johnston mention in the dispatch is Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, whose 32,000 troops were encamped south of Vicksburg and prevented from assisting Pemberton by Grant's 35,000 Union troops. Pemberton had held out hope that Johnston would eventually come to his aid. The message was dispatched during an especially terrible time in Vicksburg. Grant was unsuccessful in defeating Pemberton's troops on two occasions, so the Union commander instead decided to encircle the city and block the flow of supplies or support. Many in the city resorted to eating cats, dogs and leather. Soup was made from wallpaper paste.
After a six-week siege, Pemberton relented. Vicksburg, so scarred by the experience, refused to celebrate July 4 for the next 80 years.

And what is the significance of the bullet in the bottom of the bottle? Experts think that the messenger was instructed to toss the bottle into the river if Union troops intercepted his passage. The weight of the bullet would have carried the corked bottle to the bottom.

For Pemberton, the bottle is symbolic of his lost cause: the bad news never made it to him. The Confederate messenger probably arrived to the river's edge and saw a U.S. flag flying over the city, figured out what was going on, knew that his mission was pointless and turned back.

For more on the battle of Vicksburg follow this link.

The Business of War.

Insightful video about what war really is about these days: money. Worth taking a look. Maybe someone should start wondering what their government is about too:

Dec 17, 2010

Kevin Smith talks about "Dogma"

Kevin Smith, other than being a good filmmaker, is a funny guy. And not only in his movies but also in those speeches that he sometimes  gives in American universities. I didn't get something like that when I was over there. Just got some football player from the Minnesota Vikings who went there to play the guitar and sing some gospel songs instead of talking about his job or his life or something. 

Anyway, we have seen him before when he talked about his role in the never-made Superman movie which was to be directed by Tim Burton. That was really good. And you can't miss this one either. In this video, one of the students of the campus asks him about what was the effect of Smith's Catholic upbringing on his movies, specially on Dogma. This is what happens:

Great anti-theft signs

Gotta love the English language sometimes.

















Dec 16, 2010

Water drop filmed in 10,000 frames per second

This is really something worth seeing. The Discovery Channel, in its program "Invisible Worlds in the Water", have offered us this little outtake showing the work of the guys at MIT.

What they did was filming something impossible to see in human time: a drop of water falling in a shot taken with a powerful camera at 10,000 frames per second. The human eye and brain can only perceive about 25 frames per second, so that is a lot. 

Well, you haven't probably seen something apparently as simple as this action shot in such a way before, so here it is:

Dec 14, 2010

Snowfall causes Metrodome stadium roof collapse in Minneapolis

A fun fact about Minnesota: It snows. A lot. 

I lived close to the Twin Cities for a while although I never got to see one of the Minnesota Vikings games. I bought some Vikings shot glasses though. And pennants, to give my room a more American college look.
Had I gone to see one of the games, it would have been to this place: the Metrodome stadium. This stadium is located in downtown Minneapolis, and even though it is 100% Minnesotan it has been unable to withstand the latest snowfall that the city had to bear.

I'm not an expert in stadiums' rooftops, but I don't really think that an inflatable Teflon-coated fibreglass roof is the best or the most lasting structure that you could choose, especially with the climate that they have for most of the year. But you know the Americans and how cheap they build..... love you guys :-)
Anyway, this is what the cameras inside the place recorded when the snowfall weighed down the roof, and although initially the snow caused the roof to collapse in on itself, then it tore and the snow flooded into the football pitch. It's quite a view. 

Dec 13, 2010

Top Gear Christmas Special Trailer

It's been a while since I saw the last Top Gear season and I thought I was a little tired of it and that after fifteen of them I probably wouldn't bother to see any other episode of this show... but oh my God!! I just saw this trailer and it all came back. I remember why I couldn't stop laughing and the things they did were never really getting old.

Gotta love these crazy brits!!! This special has to do with Christmas I guess, but It's clear that after the Polar Special, the Vietnam, Botswana and US specials, the Winter Olympics and the crossing of the English Channel using home-made amphibious cars, it looks like they've done it again.

After all they are the guys who put a nun into a monster truck, and now they.... well... the Three Wise Men... just take a look at the video and see for yourself. They are back.


UPDATE: After the Christmas Double Bill, Clarkson introduces a little appetizer of Series 16 for us to taste. You don't wanna miss this:

Dec 12, 2010

You know you have lived in Spain when...

It's interesting to see how foreigners see our country (in this case Spain, which is mine) when they visit. On the net there are some sites that have been written by people from other countries who have been living here for a while, and some of the things that call their attention about us are hilarious to read. Especially when we see how we are and what we do from a different perspective. I don't know who was the original author of this specific list because it can be found in a number of places and there is never an original reference to be found. In any case, take a look at these examples and enjoy! And if you think you can add up some other examples just post a comment :-)


You know you’ve lived in spain when….
  1. You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is perfectly acceptable. Especially at lunch time.
  2. You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home - surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out?
  3. You aren’t just surprised that the Spanish plumber / decorator / electrician has turned up on time, you’re surprised he turned up at all.
  4. You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers.
  5. Not giving every new acquaintance dos besos seems so rude.
  6. You’re shocked by people getting their legs out at the first hint of sun - surely they should wait until at least late June?
  7. On msn you sometimes type ‘jajaja’ instead of ‘hahaha’
  8. You’re amazed when Spanish TV ad breaks last less than half an hour, especially right before the end of films.
  9. You’re not surprised that the Spanish TV programme info doesn’t match with what is actually being shown, unless it is “Prensa Rosa”.
  10. You forget to say please when asking for things - you implied it in your tone of voice, right?
  11. You know what a pijo / pija is and how to spot one.
  12. Every sentence you speak contains at least one of these words: ‘bueno,’ ‘coño,’ ‘vale,’ ‘venga,’ ‘pues nada’...
  13. You know how to eat boquerones.
  14. You know the difference between gambas, gambones, cigalas, langostinos, etc.
  15. You know the difference between jamón pata negra and jamón de York, and you prefer the first.
  16. You eat lunch after 2pm and would never even think of having your evening meal before 9.
  17. You know that after 2pm there’s no point in going shopping, you might as well just have a siesta until 5 when the shops re-open.
  18. You know you must take two days off when you have to do any official paperchasing, for cars, residence, etc.
  19. You know that those astronomical prices they’re talking about are actually in pesetas, and what that means in euros.
  20. If anyone insults your mother, they better watch out…
  21. You know how to change a bombona.
  22. It’s not rude to answer the intercom to your flat by asking ‘Quien?’(or maybe that was just my flatmate…)
  23. You don’t accept beer that’s anything less than ice-cold.
  24. You know Bimbo isn’t a slutty woman, it’s a make of ‘pan de molde’ (which, incidentally, isn’t mouldy)
  25. You know the difference between cojones and cajones, tener calor and estar caliente, bacalao and bakalao, pollo and polla, estar hecho polvo and echar un polvo...and maybe you learned the differences the hard way!
  26. On some Sunday mornings you have breakfast before going to bed, not after you get up.
  27. Floors in certain bars are an ideal dumping ground for your colillas, servilletas etc. Why use a bin?!
  28. You know ensaladilla rusa has nothing to do with Russia.
  29. The doctor says you are constipado you don’t go and buy ExLax.
  30. You have friends named Jesus, Jose Maria, Maria José, Angel, maybe even Inmaculada Concepcion…
  31. You know that ‘ahora’ doesn’t really mean now.
  32. When you make arrangements to meet friends at 3, the first person turns up at 3.30…if you’re lucky!
  33. When women think that clear bra straps are in fact invisible.
  34. When it’s totally normal for every kitchen to have a deep-fat fryer but no kettle.
  35. Te cagas en la leche….
  36. To avoid that cheap Eristoff vodka you have to ask for ‘un esmirnoff’.
  37. You think J&B and Ballantines are OK to drink.
  38. When you know what a guiri is and have been called one.
  39. Blonde girls actually start to think their name is ‘rubia’.
  40. If something is great, it’s ‘de puta madre’.
  41. You can eat up to 5 times a day - first breakfast, 2nd breakfast around 11.30, almuerzo, merienda, cena.
  42. You know the jingles for Los Cuarenta Principales, M80, Onda Zero, etc.
  43. If you see someone wearing a T-shirt with something written on it in English, you can almost guarantee it won’t make sense.
  44. When you go into a bank/bakery etc, it’s standard practice to ask ‘Quien es la ultima?’
  45. When you have the habit of answering the above question 'Ahora es Usted'.
  46. Who needs a dryer when you have a washing line outside the window of your apartment?
  47. You are more likely to call your friends tio/a, nena, chaval, machoor even tronco than their real name.
  48. You answer the phone by saying ‘Yes’. Or even ¿Diga?
  49. You prefer UHT milk.
  50. You prefer all the above to the way they do things back home.

Interesting pieces of British journalism.

Miracles happen in Norwich.

Careful if you go hot-tubbing in Edimburgh.

Surrey looks like an exciting place to live.

Top Stories on The Telegraph

What's baffling the experts in Streatham?

Place your bets.

If you are in New York this month...

...you might feel transported to the 1930s if you go to the M train platform any Sunday before December ends. 

The reason for that comes from the decision of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) of taking out its vintage steel subway cars along the M line from Manhattan's Second Avenue stop to Queens Plaza. Charles Seton, M.T.A. spokesperson, says the historic eight-car trains, which were made by American Car and Foundry between 1932 and 1940, haven't been run since 1977. "It has wicker seats, ceiling fans, which won't be in use this time of year," says Seton. "And everybody seems to love 'em—the people who remember them and the people who have never seen them before." 

However, the subway trains are not the only vehicles that the M.T.A. is taking out this month. As we can read in their official web site, The Vintage Subway and Bus Fleet, they will also be running old-school diesel buses above ground on weekdays in all five boroughs this month. The buses were made by General Motors and Flexible Corporation in the '50s and '60s. As you can see in the pictures below, those old buses look great and are a nice treat to have these days. It's a different way to cruise the city, feeling oneself back in those years.


I don't know if something like this happens in different places as well (I know that sometimes Metro de Madrid and Cercanías Renfe take out and show their old trains as an exposition but they don't take them into the regular lines) but it's something that most people would find enjoyable for some days, maybe on weekends and different days at times with less traffic. 
Have you heard of a similar initiative happening somewhere else?

Dec 3, 2010

Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

I had heard about this TV show before, but just some mentions about it that didn't really call my attention. As far as I know there is no TV station that broadcasts Gene Simmons Family Jewels over here in Spain so I didn't know much about it. Well, now I know. And it's bad. 

I've never been a Kiss fan anyway. I find their music too soft and my brain isn't ever able to make a connection between their looks (which are awesome) and those girlie ballads. I know that they are really successful but I can't really understand why, they should be playing some real heavy metal in my view. But what the hell, that's my opinion and I respect it if you like them. However, I find their leader and bassist Gene Simmons a peculiar guy, one of those "rock legends" whom true rock legends make fun of (jump to minute 2:45). And he has actually copied a format that Ozzy Osbourne made popular: bring a lot of cameras into a rock/metal star that's famous for being eccentric, follow him and his family everywhere and make a show out of it while embarrasing his family, fans and friends forever. You know man, I can't really picture Steve Harris, John Petrucci or even James Hetfield doing something like this. Although I'm curious as to how the houses of guys like these look like.

Apparently, The Osbournes caught someone's eye and they decided that such a show with Gene Simmons in it would also be a success. Well, it looks that they were right because there are already several seasons of it, and it's selling on DVD as well. This is what this show looks like. Do you already feel embarrased? Because I do:

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