Sunday, May 21, 2006

Trust the Gorton's Fisherman?

Truth in product packaging. And Gorton’s, with your advertising message exhorting me to trust you: I’m looking at you.

The dream:

Box of Gortons Beer Batter fish fillets.
Look at the size of those things!

Don’t they look good? The reality:

Same box, with a real fillet: the real product is half the size of its depiction on the box.
Oh. Look at the size of that thing.

They’re tiny. And what the photo doesn’t show is that the box is a lot bigger as it needs to be: it’s only half-full. This is not unusual for boxed frozen products here.

I don’t remember packaging in the UK being so blatantly misleading. Maybe labelling laws are less stringent here?

(To be fair to the fisherman: his teeny fillets did, however, make a pretty decent fish finger sandwich.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kill Bill: chick flick?

Dave Winer writes:

Last year on this day I wondered why Kill Bill I & II aren’t the ultimate chick revenge movies, like Thelma and Louise. A year later, I still don’t get it.
Yes, I remember that. I remember rolling my eyes then; they’re rolling again now.

I started to draft a response back then but never got around to posting it. It would seem that, like Dave, my opinion hasn’t changed much in the interim; so here it is:

Slightly disturbing: Dave’s repeated suggestion that Kill Bill is a “great chick movie”. *boggle* What sort of “chicks” does he hang out with? Kill Bill’s a violent misanthropic mess which revels in brutalising women.
Glib statements of bodycount rather miss the point: yes, many many men are briskly dispatched, but it is women’s pain and suffering (the heroine is shot, left for dead, and sexually molested while she’s in coma; beaten senseless and buried alive; need I go on?) that Tarantino’s camera lingers on long and lovingly.

Chick flick. Riiiight. Great date movie, too.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Welcome Contra Costa Times readers

Ooh look: I’m in the paper.

Here’s a big list of hiking posts; and here’s a few favourites:

…and here’s a few of the other things mentioned in the article:

And now I feel a little guilty for not having posted on hiking for a while: work and a long commute leave little time for writing here, and I have a bit of a backlog.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Best. Correction. Ever.

From the Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine, March 2006:

In our January issue, in our description of Wolfgang Puck, one of our Top 10 TV Chefs, we said, “For [Home Shopping Network], Wolfgang cooks stuff while you buy his junk.” We meant “junk” in the colloquial sense, as “stuff,” and did not mean to imply that the quality of Puck’s line of kitchenware was anything less than stellar. We apologize for our careless word choice, and we regret the error.
Colloquial, yes, that’s the ticket.

Is it just me, or is there still a subtle but delicious hint of snark in that “anything less than stellar”?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Two monkeys

Surprise: Curious George is a much better monkey movie than King Kong.

George: playful, innocent, sweet, short; full of the joy of life; and unashamedly for kids, with no ironic in-jokes winking and mugging at adults. (There is, however, one “you go, girlfriend” which already feels stale and which won’t age well.)

Kong: overwrought, overblown, overlong; full of the joy of a director with a near-unlimited effects budget and no self-control. A huge technical achievement, no doubt, but why?

Go see George: it’ll make you feel good about life.

(Oh, and Ebert & Roeper: where’s your sense of fun?)

Categories: Movies

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Shell Ridge Loop

No car yesterday; it’s in the shop until Monday. So, a circular hike from the apartment; a shortened, and reversed, version of a loop hike I did last August.

We start at Howe Homestead Park, on the edge of Shell Ridge Open Space. Climbing up on the Kovar Trail, and higher onto the Summit Ridge Trail, the views back over downtown Walnut Creek soon open up.

Narrow dirt trail through brilliant green grass; city buildings in the background.

The trail dips back down along the rim of a disused quarry. Footing is a bit rough here; but it’s a lot easier doing it downhill on a dry day than uphill on a wet and windy day

Rocky trail, falling away on both sides, above green hills dotted with oaks.

Overgrown rocky outcrop.

Rocky outcrop with oak trees.

Field of boulders.

Once we’re down we turn north, first on the Fossil Hill Trail and then on the Briones–Mt. Diablo Trail, which heads out of the Open Space along a short ridge.

Mountain view with cherry tree in foreground.

Branch of cherry blossom.

Single cherry blossom.

We cross Ygnacio Valley Road and head into Heather Farm; two curious ducks waddle out of the creek to check us out.

Two ducks leaving the water.

Two ducks climbing the creek bank.

Two ducks crossing the trail.

Two ducks facing each other.

Mallard in profile.

Two ducks; one pecks at the ground while the other looks on.

From Heather Farm, it’s a quick nip west on the Contra Costa Canal Trail before the final—and rather dull—stretch home on the Iron Horse Trail.

Categories: Hiking


Yes, I know. The images here have been broken for days. Not my fault.

Tips for ISPs: when you migrate to a new webmail system, try to do it without:
  1. Vanishing user’s webspace content without warning
  2. Making users migrate their content by hand from old to new systems
  3. Changing the URLs on the new system so no old links work any more.
I’m looking at you here, Astound Broadband. Poor show.

So, images in old posts will be coming back online gradually, as and when I get around to editing the posts with the new image URLs.

On the upside, though: it was nice to see that things really did degrade gracefully when all the scripts went missing. (For those that are counting, the following are scripted effects: category, citation, and info links; inline comments; linkblog items; reverse-chronological archives; and smart quotes and other typographical niceties in titles, posts, and comments.)

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Photographing the hummingbirds

Through frosty nights, rain, and wind the hummingbirds are still here and still feeding; the Annas are year-round residents.

Last night was stormy so Melinda took the feeder down and left it safely on top of the air conditioner. This morning the hummingbirds noticed the empty hook, found the feeder, and carried on feeding regardless. So, I thought to myself, if they’l feed there: maybe they’ll feed in front of a camera?

And so, after a few blurred and indistinct attempts, evolved the following setup:

Hummingbird feeder on table on balcony. The table and the balcony railings are covered with white paper; the table is viewed over the seat of a folding chair.

The chair provides somewhere to rest the camera; without it, camera shake is unavoidable, particularly as it can be a long wait for a hummingbird to approach. The paper sellotaped to the balcony railings provides a light background; hummingbirds are mostly dark and blend in against dark backgrounds. The same goes for the paper on the table, which also hides the distracting details of the table-top.

Other things you learn you learn when trying to photograph hummingbirds: flash is a must; shutter lag is a bugger; patience pays; but luck is the biggest factor.

Hummingbird approaching the feeder from the left, wings stretched out ahead of it.

Hummingbird sipping nectar on the wing; its wings are stretched out behind it.

Hummingbird drinking from the feeder; wings in mid-stroke, feet tucked up underneath.

Perching hummingbird.

Flying hummingbird from behind: wings stretched wide. The tongue is visible flicking out of the beak.

Hummingbird approaching from the right; its body casts a shadow behind it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving, again

My second Thanksgiving; this year a quieter affair at the in-laws.

But much more than the anniversary, Thanksgiving brings home the fact that I’ve been here a year. Now I’m experiencing things second time around; life is not as new and novel; patterns are settling in, routines becoming established. I’m integrating.

Also in its second year: treelighting. Last year we were in Danville. This year, we went to the Walnut Creek ceremony, which is smaller and quieter. And, surprisingly, has a few proper carols quietly tucked in amongst the non-denominational songbook: a real reminder of home. Although frankly, O Come All Ye Faithful really needs a bigger choir than 10 weedy highschoolers; not to mention a thunderous church organ for the third verse.

I’m beginning to realize that if I want carols at Christmas, I’m going to have to pay for them. Unless the BBC streams the Kings service on Listen Again...

On balance, the Danville treelighting was more fun. While the Walnut Creek ceremony is confined to Civic Park, the Danville ceremony takes over the entire downtown, giving it somewhat of a reclaim-the-streets vibe.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Strangely satisfying

There are few things as satisfying as the first dip of the knife into a nice new jar of Marmite. Particularly when it’s a big jar you brought out with you from the UK, rather than a tiddly jar that costs upwards of $6 locally.