Thursday, April 27, 2006

T-Shirt Hell

No, not a plug for that website, which is very good btw.

I placed an order for 4 t-shirts on this site and the order was despatched very quickly, I definitely couldn't fault the service.

Tonight I come home to find one of the tshirts hanging from a hedge outside the flat. What the hell had happened here? I email the website to find out how they deliver the order if there are more than 1 items in the order, my worry being that the whole order has been sabotaged.

An hour later I go to close the curtains in the living room and spot another t-shirt on another hedge outside, so I recover that one. A quick walk around the neighbourhood and I find the others. I didn't see anybody watching out to see who was salvaging their stuff.

I can only assume that some kids had gotten into the communal entrance to the flat and stolen the package that would have been lying beneath my mailbox (it would be too big to fit in that). It wouldn't have been anyone of age as they'd have kept the t-shirts for themselves; either that or they don't share my sense of humour.

Fortunately I have a good sense of humour and I can laugh about it now but I was a little bit miffed when I came home to what I did. Looks like I'm going to have to send all my large orders to work, where I know it will be safe.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Daytrip to Brussels

I had this wonderful idea to visit a different city each month this year. In January I went to Dublin for the weekend, I failed to go any in February due to work commitments, in March I visited Amsterdam, and this month it was the turn to go to Brussels to see the Atomium building.

It nearly didn't happen at all when I managed to sleep in. I had set the alarm to the right time, just forgot to turn it on. Fortunately I'm a stickler for adding contingency into my trip arrangements and boy did I need it on this occasion. I was out the door within 10 minutes of having realised the time. It did mean however that I didn't have time for a decent shower and I having not shaved was visiting a foreign country looking rough. Ah well!

I was travelling by Eurostar which would get me there in around two and a half hours. For fifty pounds each way I got treated like a first class passenger being offered as much alcohol as I could drink and a very nice 3 course meal. No idea how I did that but I wasn't going to complain and I think it was the first ever champagne breakfast I'd ever had.

This is Gard du Midi station a little South of the main city centre, it's where the Eurostar stops and from here on it's time to travel on foot, and boy was I going to do a lot of walking today. The station also contains plenty of chocolate shops for buying souvenirs to take home.

This is a back street just inside the main city with the Palais de Justice in the background. Brussels has a big history in cartoon art, being the country of origin of popular works such as Tintin. In honour of this the city has a cartoon museum and a cartoon tour around the city with pieces of art painted onto the sides of buildings. It looks like I'd stumbled on one of the pieces here.

Built in the mid-19th century at the request of King Leopold, the Palais de Justice dominates the skyline in the southern half of the capital. For those walking around without a map, like myself, it offers both a great landmark to navigate from and being atop a hill, a perfect opportunity to see over the city. The square that it sits in is called Poelaert Square in honour of the architect that designed it.

Also in the square is this monument to the infantry, which I think was sculpted by Edouard Vereycken. It commemorates the losses of those soliders in both world wars.

A view from the Palais de Justice overlooking the city, which for the most part is pretty flat, the larger buildings stealing the skyline.

I think this is the Royal Music college on the Rue de la Regence, the road that joins the Palais de Justice and the Royal Palace.

This is Lady of Sablon's Church, which considering it was built in the 15th Century is one of the better looking churches around the city. I love gothic architecture and there are some great touches of it here.

Another recently white-washed buildings close to the Royal Palace. I can only guess that this is used for some sort of administration. It certainly looks like a serious building.

I would hazard a guess that this building is the Palace of Congress. Certainly a more modern building but still designed to fit in with the feel of the city. I was impressed with the sculpture outside, that's some balancing feat!

This is the Royal Palace which sits on the Southern Edge of the Royal Park. This is the official residence of the Royal Family but they don't actually live here, choosing to reside in Laeken, a district close by.

The Royal Park is actually quite small, you could easily walk from one side to the other in a few minutes. Like most parks its a great place to relax and there are plenty of trees around to block out the sound of traffic.

On the northern side of the park is the Belgian Parliament building, hidden behind a massive security fence that couldn't be passed. Funny how security is always beefed up around these places.

To the North-West of the Parliament building is the Colonne du Congres, a monument designed by Poelaert to commemorate the wars again. This one houses the eternal flame. This Poelaert really had the monopoly on tributes to the war-dead. It was built in the mid 1850s. The statue at the top is King Leopold.

This was hidden behind the column, and I thought it quite odd that of all the things to choose to decorate the side of a building, a picture of horses on a beach would be chosen.

Not really having a clue where I was going I thought using buildings as landmarks might be a good way to get around. Fortunately the city is laid out with large churches at the main intersections, perfect for navigation. In the background is the Church of St. Marie and I'd be heading off this way first.

These are the main botanical gardens. It looked like they were getting ready for some sort of festival so I didn't hang around.

Some more painted buildings. Its also worth mentioning the bottle bank, they seemed to be everywhere and its obvious that there is a major recycling initiative taking place here.

The church of St. Marie. From here I headed North West.

This the monument to Labour, opened to the public in 1950, sits on the side of the River Senne that runs through the city. It was designed by Constantin Meunier.

I loved this painted building, which I passed on the way to the next big church. It's a shame the graffiti was sprayed on here though, it's not even that good.

This is Brussel's Notre-Dame cathedral, burial place to several rulers of the country. This is actually the back-end of the church, the front was covered in scaffolding and safety netting.

Here is the Royal residence. I didn't know what it was until I'd paid my 2 euros and followed the crowd into the grounds. Security was tight here, if you so much as stepped on the grass you'd have men blowing their whistles and running at you.

The Royal Gardens were open today so I took the opportunity to walk around them, well I had paid to do so. This went on longer than I thought, the buildings went on everywhere, and the plants were much the same from one room to the next. This was built in in the late 19th Century, again at the request of King Leopold.

This is the main monument in Laeken built in 1878. Built to honour Belgium's first King, Leopold the 1st who stands in its centre.

In the Laeken grounds is this statue to the victims of the Battle of Britain. I have no idea what its doing in Belgium, but this country does seem to like it's war memorials.

This was where I wanted to end up, the Atomium building which was miles out of the city and much further away than I'd have liked. I could have caught a tram or train but I figured I'd see more of the city on foot so had no regrets.

Built in the 50's as part of the '58 Expo that took place here, the Atomium is now the weirdest looking exhibition centre I'd ever seen. Consisting of 8 spheres a lift takes you to the observation tower in the top most one and you then move from room to room making your way back down.

I'm guessing that is how it operates, after queueing for half an hour I got into the entrance hall to find a queue of at least one hour continuing inside it. Not having that much time left before having to catch my train I gave up and made my way back.

Built in the shadow of the structure is Belle-Vue, a small tourist complex that houses a small water park, miniature world and a themed parade of shops and eating establishments.

I did check to see if Mini-Europe had any coasters, but it did not. If it had it would have been an unplanned surprise. The trip wasn't about riding coasters, just going away for the day.

This is the Heysel stadium, which is unfortunately known for the wrong reasons. Some Liverpool fans were killed in a crush that happened here following a riot that broke out between their fans and those of Juventus. I didn't even know it was in Belgium, shows what I know...

I tried to travel back a slightly different route, heading back across the Senne and then following the train line down towards the station. On the way I passed through what had to be the commercial district.

The Gard du Nord station contains some stunning murals on the walls of the underpass. They were advertising some sort of tolerance campaign.

Another picture taken in the commercial district. Quite a nice sculpture I thought.

And another, this one was just a little bit odd and reminded me of something in a They Might Be Giants Video.

It was obvious that the on the route back I was travelling through busier and more commerical areas than the quieter more touristy bits. This is one of the smaller squares with the museum in the background and some native Belgian Indians playing their flutes outside. I'm sure this is some sort of scam, they seem to be everywhere!

A walk through some shopping streets, and a chance to eat some waffles and I was nearly back at the station.

A quick stock up of some cherry beer, chocolates for the workmates and a sandwich to eat whilst waiting for my train (I got back with about half an hour to spare) and I was soon on my way back home, with more first class pampering on the way home.

So did I enjoy Belgium? Considering it nearly never happened I am glad I made it. The city is very quiet with the crowds pulled towards a couple of main streets. I didn't get to do any exhibitions and I was a bit upset I didn't get up the Atomium, but I still enjoyed the day even if I did walk 15 miles altogether.

Monday, April 17, 2006

MacGyver Survival Hints #3

Being on call over the Easter holidays, I couldn't really go out too far so I decided to attempt to get through as many MacGyver episodes as I could. The plan was to get through series 3 and 4, and leave series 5 for another day, however I failed miserably and only managed to get through series 3.

I thought it might be a good idea to document some of the hints for survival that appear in the show. In hindsight I should have started this at series 1, at least now I have an excuse to revisit the early episodes.

  • If you're ever planning to steal a priceless artifact from a museum, sprinkling scouring powder from a nearby cleaner's cart will show where the infra red laser beams are.
  • If your boss has set the 6 digit combination for the glass case around the same artifact then choose his favourite golfer's birthday as the combination.
  • If the glass case closes around you trapping you inside, breathe on the glass and write the combination so that your accomplice, who you failed to tell the combination to, can enter it and release you.
  • To bypass security at posh parties or event openings hide yourself in the boot or hang from the underside of a vehicle if the boot is full.
  • If you want to break into a vent that is protected by a spring based security system, hold the spring back with a knife blade then place a piece of gaffer tape over it, sliding the blade out as you do so.
  • If you're ever chased by bad guys and you're on foot, find the nearest Chinatown, where there is bound to be a parade, and hide under the dancing dragon costumes in the procession. Pray that the bad guys don't notice one dragon with two extra legs.
  • If the bad guys do catch you up and have you and your female friend handcuffed in the basement, kiss the woman and steal her hairclip, which you can use to pick your restraints and escape. You can then use the open handcuffs to pick the lock of the basement door.
  • If you're chased through a football stadium, block doors with a mop handle taken from a nearby cleaning cart. A closed toilet cubicle door may also buy you some time.
  • If your accomplice is being held at gunpoint with their backs to a steam generator, throwing a nearby harpoon into the generator will pierce it covering the bad guys, and your friend in hot steam. Be sure to shout "duck" as you throw it so that your friend is OK.
  • If you need to get to an abandoned ship and all you can find is half a rowing boat, close up the open end with some tarp. A tent bag slipped over a Y-shaped branch makes a useful paddle to get you there.
  • If Bigfoot subsequently chases you around the ship (I'm not making this up) be sure to block the doors shut with pieces of piping lying conveniently about.
  • If you run out of water in the woods, a tent pole pushed into some wet rock will make a temporary tap from which you can drink.
  • If your fishing trip is interrupted by some oil thieves, have them chase you deep into the woods and wedge your fishing rod into a tree bending it back out of sight. Stretching some of the fishing line at head height will cause the man giving chase to say "ouch" at which point you can release the rod whipping him in the face, giving you plenty of time to attack him.
  • If you wish to break into someone's house and need to get above the ground floor, some garden hose and the end of a rake fastened together make an excellent grappling hook, which you can use to climb up to the first floor.
  • A bar of soap makes a perfect tool to make a mould of a key.
  • Squeezing yourself into a dumb waiter is a good way of getting from one floor to the next.
  • If you are stumped by a 6 button combination lock you can eliminate the number of combinations by gently blowing pencil lead shavings over the buttons. Those buttons that the shavings stick too are the ones that have been used, which should make guessing the combination easier.
  • If you find yourself locked in a bank vault filling with gas from a canister which has had its valve removed, take the valve off the canister beside it and use that to turn the gas off.
  • If you're stuck in the woods at night, pine needles pushed between your clothes makes an excellent insulator. If you're stuck in the woods at night with no shoes you can make some by cutting up your sleeping mat and fastening them to your feet with duct tape.
  • If you're pinned down in the woods by Russian soldiers make a hot air balloon by glueing together some parachutes (you can make the glue by boiling rags). A metal shed can act the base, a welding torch as the heat source and a dismantled flue as the chimney to direct the heat. It also helps if you can be chased by soldiers who can't hit the balloon at close range.
  • If you're being forced to work in a mine by some corrupt law officials looking for buried treasure you can fake a gas explosion by taking the torches from your miner's lamp and adding them to some water held inside your miner's helmet, this will create a chemical explosion. A hammer swinging into the flint rock face will produce the spark to trigger the explosion. In the ensuing confusion you should be able to make your escape. If a recent acquaintance gets himself shot, ignore it or else you'll be recaptured.
  • If you're trapped in a chalet by a maniac with a flamethrower that you thought you'd killed in an earlier episode, a flame retardent mattress acts as a great shield.
  • If you elude the maniac and get into your car only to find out he's rigged a bomb to it and locked the doors, kick out the rear windscreen to escape. Hope that he's sane enough to give you a chance by including a timer on the bomb.
  • Wiring a car battery to a broken car aerial makes an electrical probe which you can use to ignite the flame thrower on the maniac's back, one less thing to worry about.
  • If you wish to climb a telegraph pole, lumberjack style, a belt tied around your ankles and a piece of rope will allow you to get to the top. Tapping SOS on the telephone wire should get a signal to the local shopkeeper so that he can get some backup. It helps if you're friendly with the shopkeeper and know that he can understand morse code.
  • Chalk dust taken from a mountain ledge, when blown into an assailant's eyes can cause him to go blind, giving you plenty of opportunity to fight him back.
  • To seal up leaking superconducter piping, a piece of fresh chewing gum taken from a student's mouth will act as an excellent sealant.
  • To bypass a door locked by a number of bolts, some of which are open and some which are closed, you can identify which bolts to turn by holding up a large magnet against the door and sprinkling iron filings where the bolts should be. If the filings stick then you know the bolt is closed.
  • To bypass a door that is being locked by a glass of wine on some weighing scales you can play a tone to the right frequency that will shatter the glass.
  • To bypass a door that is being locked by a clock mechanism set to open hours from now, you can increase the frequency of power entering the clock causing it go to faster so that it opens earlier.
  • You can blind a motion detector by creating a smoke screen made from acetic acid and ammonia.
  • If you don't want lift doors to close on you, wedge them open with a dustpan taken from a nearby cleaning cart.
  • To deactivate a mercury triggered bomb you can attempt to freeze the mercury using liquid nitrogen, if that doesn't work you can heat the mercury with electricity turning it to vapour.
  • If you're shopping in your local supermarket and robbers come into to turn the place over fill a hot water bottle with spices, baking soda and vinegar before sealing it up. The chemical reaction will cause the water bottle to inflate and piercing it with your swiss army knife in the vicinity of the robbers will spray tear gas towards them.
  • If the other robber tries to get away, throw a can of food into the back of their head.
  • If you wish to follow a man from a DIY place, hang a pierced can of paint to the underside of his car and pierce it, which will leave a trail.
  • If you come accidentally step on a pressure plate when investigating a corpse, chances are you've triggered a bomb. Use the weight of the corpse to keep the plate depressed whilst you make your escape. If the corpse decides to slip off the plate (I don't know how) throw yourself into the nearest locker to be protected from the blast.
  • If you're driving a van housing a huge bomb and you don't have enough time to drive it off the pier before it explodes, find the nearest construction site and have the cement mixer truck pour its contents into the body of the van sealing the explosion.
  • If you're ever asked to investigate a crashed satellite and you lose the aerial from your shoulder mounted camera, take the aerial from the satellite and use that as a replacement.
  • If a rogue mutant chemical starts eating through the seal of the laboratory glass use frezon from a nearby tank to reseal it.
  • If you wish to distract guards hiding in a train carriage, spray water from one of those jet spray things through the roof.
  • If a compressor spring breaks, swap it with a spring taken from the end of a battery powered torch.
  • If you're ever tied up with rope and left in a wine cellar to die, turn a wine barrel key with your chin and use the wine to soak your binds allowing you to slip your hands through. You can then escape from the cellar by tying a number of gas canisters to one of the big barrels, ensuring the wheels it moves on are loose. Smash the ends off the canisters and they'll act as rockets propelling the barrel through the wall.
  • If you're ever pursued by a truck, head towards a T-junction and just before you turn off, spray the truck's windscreen with your fire extinguisher, making him crash.
  • Leaking brake fluid can be used to get rid of an assassin by waiting til they're standing in it before dropping jump leads wired to the battery, causing an electrical reaction.
  • To create a diversion when you're trying to break into a build, hook a truck's innertube to a gas canister and leave it expanding in the driver's cabin.
  • Gas bombs can be made by half filling a jam jar with chlorine and adding an unnamed catalyst.
  • If you ever find yourself trapped in a red indian burial chamber, assuming the door you entered through was closed by a hidden piston system, you can lift the piston temporarily by using flashpowder and then wedging it open with a log. It helps if the flashpowder is made from a mixture of zinc and copper.
  • You can trick bad guys by filling a jacket with snow and putting it on the husky cart, making it look like a real person, but made of snow.
  • If you're coming in to land and the hydraulics fail to lower one set of wheels, connect the hydraulics to a gas canister and open them with the gas.
  • If you have difficulty getting a baby to sleep, hide a ticking clock in a teddy bear. A nappy for the baby can be made from a towel fastened with duct tape.
  • A water spray fired towards an air intake on a jet engine creates an excellent storm blinding bad guys on the other side of the engine. You can also distract them by flying a remote controlled aircraft at them, should you happen to have one nearby.
  • If you suspect bad guys are hiding behind a 2 way mirror, turn the lights off on your side of the mirror. If there are lights on on the other side you'll see them.
  • A sofa makes a good shield from a point blank shotgun blast.
  • If you're being chased through the woods attempt to lead the bad guys the wrong way by fastening a bandana to a straight stick and throwing it javelin style to the other side of the river for them to see.
  • Fishing line, a bent stick and a tranquilizer dart makes a great booby trap that should incapacitate one of the people pursuing you.
  • Lead helicopters the right way by making arrow signs from logs. Covering the logs in limealite (dead rock) adds a yellow highlight to the sign, making it more noticeable.
  • Bend a tree branch back and place your jacket over it. A fuse made from a burning match will give you time to go elsewhere. This'll make a good distraction to help you pick out where the bad guys are.
  • A torch barrel with elastic from a jacket stretched down it makes a great tranquiliser dart launcher.
  • If you're ever held captive in the basement of a china town building chances are there will be a hidden tunnel for you to escape through. You can use speakers from a radio as sonar equipment to help identify where the tunnel is.
  • Spraying a light bulb with an aerosol will cause them to blow up, giving you the cover of darkness to aid your escape.
  • You can create a fake rock wall to hide behind by painting taped-up sheets of brown paper in a rock design.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bunny suicides

Looks like someone has put the entire bunny suicide book on the net. Appropriate for Easter perhaps.

Bunny suicides

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tomb Raider Legend



I bought this on Friday
I completed this on Saturday.

Whilst way too short, it does mark a return to form for the character who's last game was pretty poor. Animation is superb and the new magnetic rope puts a fresh spin on the moving block puzzles that feature commonly in these games.

The music is superb, even if not in Dolby, with some sort of Enya spin to the regional themes that accompany the game's levels of Katmandu, Africa, Tokyo, Cornwall and the Himalayas. Yes, I did say Cornwall.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Alien Autopsy



Everyone's favourite Geordie pair, Ant & Dec make their movie debut (ignoring their cameo in "Love Actually") in this HILARIOUS comedy take on the Roswell Alien Spoof in which they play loveable geordies who get into lots of mischief and antics with an alien corpse.

You're probably wondering "what on earth was I doing going to see this"? Well I didn't, and I don't know anyone who is. I just thought I'd take the piss out of it. Earlier in the week the Odeon in Leicester Square (not the big one but the little one opposite) housed the "World Premiere" of this film. The question I have on that is that I doubt Ant & Dec are well known outside the UK so would be surprised to see it released anywhere else. It was really the "UK Premiere" hyped up. I could be wrong, maybe seeing two little slapheads going "wy aye man" is huge in Bolivia; after all Benny Hill was very British but become world famous.

If you do go and see this, please write your thoughts below. I'd be interested to know what medication you're on too.

p.s. For those that don't know Ant & Dec and are looking at the pic wondering if their heads are really that big. They are!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Inside Man



Was going to give this one a miss but was recommended it by a friend and after having an afternoon free from work I decided to see it.

Spike Lee directs this movie, centred around a heist at a New York bank. Clive Owen plays the leader of the gang, believing he has created the perfect robbery. Jodie Foster plays a corporate fix-it (like Jimmy Saville in a suit) sent in by the bank manager to ensure his secrets which lie in the vault don't get out. Denzel Washington is the police negotiator sent in to bring the crime to an end.

The interplay between characters is nicely balanced which each of the three main characters somehow assisting the other two in their demands. The plot isn't too complicated but you do enjoy the ride waiting to see if the heist is successful or not. As it turns out the heist is very clever and quite neat, makes you wonder if the guy who came up with the screenplay comes from a criminal family or not; he definitely has the right imagination for it!

Of the three characters, Jodies is perhaps the weakest. Being the only female you wonder if she's only in there to represent the women. There is no sexual frission between her and anyone else, which makes you wonder if the original character was also male but some executive decided otherwise. The other thing that was bugging me about her character was that it seemed odd for her to have a Southern accent when she's a New Yorker, but then does Ms Foster's accent repertoire consist of anything other than Texan?

Denzel plays his role very easily, and in this is no different from any other "Denzel plays a cop" performance that he does, except for that one where he spends the whole film paraplegic in a hospital bed. Clive Owen does alright, nicely playing the "Brits are baddies in Hollywood" role and you probably have more empathy for his character than any of the others.

There was one literal plot hole that had to be explained to me by others in why the robbers were spending so much time digging into the floor of the bank but it made a lot of sense once I got the answer.

Definitely worth seeing!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How to prevent laptops dropping

This is quite amusing. The safest way yet to protect your laptop from damage. Link at Kontraband

Seeing sound...

An interesting piece on artists hiding images in their music. Anyone who knows how crazy Aphex Twin is won't be surprised that he's done it, but there are other artists too!
Article found on bastwood.com

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Perhaps the best toy ever?

If I was into radio controlled toys then I'd get one of these and crash it in the first week.Fancy Boat