Monday, June 26, 2006

DVD encoding 

I have been reading about regional DVD encoding. You know, USA and Canada are Region 1, Europe and Japan are Region 2 and so on. Apparently this is to prevent people seeing the DVD versions of movies before they are released. The more cynical amongst you might think that it is purely for price fixing but I really couldn't comment on that.

Region 1 DVDs have notoriously had more on them and been cheaper than their Region 2 equivalents so people have been buying DVD players that can play DVDs from any region. Hollywood haven't liked this much and have decided to slap something called Enhanced Regional Encoding (RCE) on top.

I can understand this for new movies but according to playusa.com, Soap, a brilliantly funny parody of soap-operas from my formative years that hasn't been released in the UK at all, has been "enhanced". If that is correct and I buy it, I might not be able to watch it. I cannot understand this. What reason could they have to stop people watching Soap? It isn't to make profits because they are not selling it in other regions. It isn't to prevent people seeing the movie because there isn't one. It's a twenty year old sitcom.

It's a mystery.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Air show photos 

I've put a bunch of photos on my website from the air show I saw last week when I visited my family in Broadstairs. If you like planes, have a look. The photos are in the galleries as Broadstairs Airshow.

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Friday, June 23, 2006


I met with my friend Paul last night. He lives in Glasgow so I don't see him often although we communicate fairly regularly. It was good to catch up with the gossip that we don't cover on our blogs and to indulge in our favourite sport of being bitchy about the other patrons of Halfway to Heaven while getting slowly and lightly drunk.

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Headline shock: METRO runs out of news! 

Today's front-page story in the Metro (London's free daily newspaper) was that a study has concluded that it is dangerous to use mobile phones and iPods outdoors during thunderstorms.


No, I don't think that it's amazing that it is dangerous to hold metal things to your ear while lightning is crashing down around you. That should be obvious to anyone. It's a stupid thing to do.

No, I think it's amazing that, firstly, someone actually went to the trouble and expense of researching this and, secondly, it's amazing that the editorial team thought that it was worthy front-page news.

Monday's headline: Breathing is good for you!

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Monday, June 19, 2006

New car 

I picked up the new car on Saturday. Very nice although not having to run around trying to find a post office that was open so that I could sort out the car tax was a pain in the bum.

Other establishments open on Saturdays or even Sundays but the post office has this weird little 1950s thing so that they open until 12.30 on Saturdays. How quaint.

I had an argument with the SatNav as well because it wanted to take me on small side-roads on my journey down to Broadstairs at the weekend. I eventually found the setting that dictated my preferences for motorways and then we were in agreement.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

New headphones 

I lost a bit of my other new headphones so I bought a new pair yesterday, another pair of noise deadening headphones. This time I used the medium size plug rather than the small ones that I was using with the other pair which kept falling out.

The difference is staggering. Nearly all extraneous external noise is stopped and apart from the music, all I can hear is the sound of my feet as I walk along. Thud, thud, thud.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Everyone's a critic 

David and I went to see Showboat at the Royal Albert Hall last night. They have taken advantage of the shape of the Albert Hall to show the production "in the round", i.e. instead of being on the stage, the production is in the central auditorium and the audience are in the seats around the edge.

I enjoyed it and so did most of the audience. The woman behind me was finding the funny parts very funny.

The critics were another story. The one for The Telegraph summed-up the performance accurately but I wonder if some of the others actually saw the same show. A review of the reviews (what a handy idea!) presented an essentially positive view but with some ludicrous shortcomings.

One felt that the large size of the stage meant that he sometimes couldn't see who was speaking. I find that looking to see who's mouth is moving often helps in those situations. Having the show on a regular stage probably wouldn't have helped in a production of this size.

Another thought that the black people were clich├ęd. Hello? This is a revival of a show that was first shown in 1927 and was set at around the beginning of the 20th century. What did the reviewer want? Revolution? Bling? Rap-artists?

A third didn't like the cutesy happy ending. I like happy endings, personally, and don't think there are enough in the world. However, casting aside the final number, where all the actors come on and everyone claps and should never be considered part of the plot in any show, the ending was, I thought, rather ambiguous.

I suppose the critics would not be doing their jobs if they gave positive opinions all the time.

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How rude! 

I haven't had a rant about the train for a week or so. I thought there was little to annoy me now. Oh how wrong.

Today the train was quite empty and by the time we got to Grove Park, there was only me and another guy in a group of six seats. I was sitting forward near the window and he was sitting face backward near the aisle. There were two seats next to him and two seats next to me.

Two women got on at Grove Park who were talking and sat in the same group of six seats. The sensible thing would have been for them to sit in the middle two seats opposite each other and talked. Or sat in the two seats next to me and talked. Or in the other two seats and talked.

Well, as I said, that would have been sensible. However, one sat next to me and the other opposite me and they talked diagonally across me, which I think is just about the rudest thing.

Surprisingly these were not part of the Grove Park Mother's Mafia or young girls who normally know no better but women of apparent intelligence a little older than myself.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Look into my eyes 

The trip to the 2020 Optical Store was fun. Part of the eye-test involved them taking a picture of my retinas. I thought it looked really pretty, like a nebula, with lots of greens and reds. I was going to post the pictures here but then I thought better of it.

Call me paranoid but retinal scans, like fingerprints, have been touted as a biometric for identification. I'm not sure what anyone could do with a jpeg of my retinas but, just in case, I'd rather not show the WWW and his wife.

Just take my word for it, I have gorgeous retinas.

PS I got a new supply of contact lenses which appear to be so comfortable that I didn't feel them in my eyes.

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Contact lenses 

I used to subscribe to a contact lens delivery scheme where I paid a small fee every month and had a supply delivered every two months. I found, however, that out of apathy, I just wasn't wearing them often enough to justify the cost and abandoned the scheme.

Now, out of a mix of increased irritation with my glasses and a growing sense of vanity, I have been using up my stock of lenses and realise that I need to buy some more.

Just go and get some. Easy?


I used to by my lenses from Dolland and Aichison which were conveniently located in Oxford Street just round the corner from here. They have moved to Regent Street, a bit of a hike from work, and an unreasonable distance if I want to go there, get my eyes tested and get back, within a stretched lunch-hour. Besides they couldn't be bothered to answer the phone to book an appointment.

So I tried Specsavers in Tottenham Court Road. I've never got on that well with Specsavers. Once they tried dodging out of fixing a pair of glasses they had sold me and another time they sold me a pair of prescription sunglasses with one lens polarised in the wrong plane which made things a bit psychadelic when I wore them. However, putting that to one side, I went in to ask about their contact lens schemes. Unfortunately, the girl behind the counter was both inarticulate and inaudible. It doesn't help that I have a hearing problem at the moment due to my recent cold/hayfever.

I asked about contact lenses. She asked (I think) whether I had made an appointment then told me I needed to get the prescription from D&A. I thought that was a bit stupid so I walked out. Later, I thought maybe she was asking if I wanted to make an appointment so I rang up. I spoke to a very polite woman who put me through to the contact lens department. The phone rang and rang. It was answered by someone eventually who explained they were busy and put me on hold. Fine. I waited. The phone was picked up again by someone else. Aha, I thought, and started to ask about contact lenses.

"You want the contact lens department?" she asked, at which point I lost it, told her not to bother and hung up.

Specsavers lost my potential business because they don't employ enough staff and their phone system is a bit rubbish. Both (and their previous track record) indicate to me that the company is cheap and I would do better to get contact lenses elsewhere.

I booked an appointment at the 2020 Optical Store instead, who seem to be fiendishly expensive. I have, however, discovered that I can buy contact lenses on-line and very cheaply from Sainsburys. So, once I have an up-to-date prescription, I'll do that.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

I went shopping 

I bought a car on Saturday. I've been looking at changing my car for a while as it was starting to cost a bit to keep going. The air-conditioning in particular was costing a lot to fix and the exhaust seems to catch on speed-bumps.

I looked at three cars before deciding on my current choice: the Toyota Rav-4, Mercedes A-class and a newer Nissan Primera. I liked the Rav-4 because it was higher up (better for my back and the exhaust) but I decided against it when I sat in one and found I just didn't like it. I liked the Merc but thought it too expensive. The Nissan won because it was cheaper than the Mercedes, was comfortable and had plenty of gadgets. I would like to say that the selection of gadgets (sat-nav, rear-view camera, air-conditioning, automatic gears) had absolutely nothing to do with my selection but I would be lying. The little boy inside me who loves his toys had the last word.

I pick the car up next Saturday.

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