28.2.10

SPACE, MAN

"The Loft Log. Stardate -312839.55679223756
(28.2.2010). Mr S has been toiling
endlessly for two days...."

It seems my life has been a relentless battle
of trying to outwit our unwanted little
furry visitors for the last
couple of weeks.

The mice migrated up to the loft (they normally
camp out in the basement) when the weather
was cold. The scurrying, scratching, squeaking
and digging noise between the loft floorboards
and my bedroom ceiling was unbearable.
Some nights I had to sleep
in the spare bedroom!

So, up I went armed with a crowbar to get the
floorboards up and launch a counter attack
with the usual ammo: catch and release traps
(unfortunately my somewhat Buddhist
nature does not me allow me to kill the
little bastards as much I'd want to!),
peppermint oil (which they hate)
and a sonic repeller.

Well, forget about the sonic to start with.
The mice simply laugh at it and carry on.
They're like urban foxes: born and bred
with close human contact so nothing
man made scares then!

The oil works somewhat but you've got to keep it
topped up which means going up to the loft every
day. Then I read on the net that someone had
used black pepper. I though "genius!" and dug
out the strongest cooking ingredient we
happen to have, chili powder. When I'm in
Tooting next I'll go to my favourite Indian
supermarket and stock up on the hottest
vindaloo powder they've got!

So far...knock on wood...

While me and Mr S were in Wickes last week
getting something else we noticed that rolls of
loft insulation called
Spaceblanket were
on sale: buy one, get two free!

So we filled the car with them and S has been up in
the loft putting it in place. Might as well since the
floorboards are up. This stuff is made with part
metallised polythene film which makes it
much easier to install than old style "wear
masks, goggles and gloves and still
choke on it" fibreglass.


So, hopefully the chili does the trick and
little scamps bugger off.
Watch this space!


26.2.10

PHOTOSHOPPED
RELATIONSHIP

Sarah and Thad Lawrence from Durham,
North Carolina, use Photoshop to create
a hilarious photo album that records
their relationship in a surreal form.

The couple's light-hearted take on their marriage
includes a shot of Sarah vacuuming her husband
up (below), with the caption: "I told him to
clean up. He never listens to me! Maybe
one day he'll actually learn his lesson!"

Thad said: "We wanted to document all the changes
that may have taken place, whether it be our hair,
clothes, where we lived, where we travel - to be
able to say that we have physical documentation
of a whole year of our lives is amazing. Doing
it together is often what makes it so fun."

"The inspiration behind the photographs come
from everyday occurrences, conversations,
phrases, proverbs, feelings - anything that
happens in life. Usually we have an idea of
what we want to create. We bounce ideas
off of each other, or hear a common
phrase, and it just snowballs
from there."


TITA AND THE
SQUIRREL

Today's aaah!

A baby squirrel has been adopted by a cat
- and become best friends with her kitten.

The unlikely pals cuddle up together
with 'mum' Tita in Envigado,
near Medellin,
Colombia.

The two babies suckle on Tita's milk, scamper
about the house and even share a cuddle from
time to time. The squirrel was rescued by
Ruben Gaviria who found him injured
in a local park.


I FEEL THE NEED. THE
NEED FOR SPEED!

Too busy to watch feature films?
Or just can't be bothered?

Fear not, help is at hand. Empire Magazine's
Done In 60 Seconds competition entries
are just the ticket: whole films
compressed into, yes, a minute.

They've whittled the mini masterpieces, including
classics like
Top Gun and Goodfellas, down
to the final twenty and after a public
vote five of these will to the
final on March 26.


Some of the clips that didn't make it
to the top were
Dirty Dancing,
Pulp Fiction and Heat plus
tons of others.

EDIT: 10.4.2010:

Mark Wong and Chris Slaughter
took the top spot with their
spoof of Top Gun.



19.2.10

LIVE

WARNING: Contains
plot spoilers.

BBC's flagship soap EastEnders celebrates its
25th anniversary with the first ever
live episode tonight.

We will finally discover who murdered Archie Mitchell
but the program's bosses have revealed that not
even the perpetrator has been told of their crime,
with 10 possible endings being written and
rehearsed for the show.

Sean Slater (Rob Kazinsky) is currently the
favourite for the deed with odds of 4/7,
say bookmakers William Hill.


Kazinsky - who had a volatile relationship
with Archie's daughter, Roxy - has not
appeared in the show for
more than a year.


Personally Eastenders is the only soap I follow
(I've never for instance seen an episode of
Coronation Street or Emmerdale) and
I have in fact seen every episode!

My favourite character has always been
Pat Evans,
(above) played by Pam St Clement. Pat is known
for her elaborate earrings and I once read
somewhere that the BBC wardrobe
department gets sent hundreds
of sets a month by viewers
for her to wear!

PS: The killer is Stacey. And her new hubby
(for the second time) Bradley fell off
a roof and died. Oh dear.


CATS AND DOGS
OF THE WEEK V

Again it's 20 weeks since I last made a
montage of all the Cats and Dogs
Of The Week so here they are.

(Please click on the images
to view larger version.)


17.2.10

ARE YOU SURE?

For me one of THE pivotal tracks of the
80's was So "Are You Sure".

Funnily enough the singer/guitarist
Mark Long noticed my audio video
on Youtube and got in touch
just to say hi.

He released a solo album in 2004 and
is currently working under the
name of Brothers Dash.

I particularly like "Why
Does It Always Rain".


MESSY

Oh, I can't get on with the day unless my
bed is made up army style! But it seems
failing to sort out your sleeping area
in the morning may actually help
keep you healthy.

While messy bedrooms and unwashed sheets are
the stuff of nightmares for most parents of
teenagers, research suggests that an unmade
bed is unappealing to house dust mites
thought to cause asthma
and other allergies.

A Kingston University study discovered the
bugs cannot survive in the warm, dry
conditions found in an unmade bed. The
average bed could be home to up to
1.5 million house dust mites.

The bugs, which are less than a millimetre long,
feed on scales of human skin and produce allergens
which are easily inhaled during sleep. The warm,
damp conditions created in an occupied bed
are ideal for the creatures, but they are
less likely to thrive when moisture
is in shorter supply.

The scientists developed a computer model
to track how changes in the home
can reduce numbers of
dust mites in beds.


Researcher Dr Stephen Pretlove said: "We know
that mites can only survive by taking in water
from the atmosphere using small glands on
the outside of their body. Something as
simple as leaving a bed unmade during
the day can remove moisture from the
sheets and mattress so the mites will
dehydrate and eventually die."


In the next stage of their research, the scientists are
putting mite pockets into beds in 36 houses around
the United Kingdom to test their computer
model and will investigate how people's daily
routines affect mite populations. Building
features such as heating, ventilation and
insulation will also be altered to
monitor how the mites cope.


Dr Pretlove said the research had the potential
to reduce the £700m spent treating
mite-induced illnesses
each year in the UK.


BEAUTIFUL
BIRDS

Have a look at these amazing
shots of birds.

The winners of the Birdguides Photo
Of The Year 2009 was chosen from
39387 photos of 1888 species.

The winner is Richard Bedford with a photo
of two fighting pheasants in Norfolk (top)

Staying on the subject of our flying friends it
seems that birds of a feather do not
always stick together.

Experts have told of their surprise after
witnessing a
rare "divorce" between a pair of swans at a
Gloucestershire wildfowl sanctuary.

The Bewick's swans have returned to winter
at the
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre
at Slimbridge - but both have
brought new partners.


It is only the second time in more than
40 years that a "separation" has
been recorded at the centre.


Staff have described the new couplings as "bizarre".
It is not unheard of for the birds, which usually
mate for life, to find a new mate but it
tends to be because one of the pair
has died, they said.


During the past four decades 4,000 pairs of
Bewick's swans have been studied at
Slimbridge, with only one previous
couple moving on to
find new partners.


CLEVER

Cats have long been thought to be cleverer
than dogs - and now it seems the
same is true of their owners.

People with cats are more likely to have university
degrees than those with dogs, according to
a scientific survey of pet ownership.

The study also revealed that the combined
cat and dog population of Britain is more
than 20.8 million - 50 per cent higher
than previously thought.

Researchers at the University of Bristol say
that the superior intelligence of cat owners
is unlikely to be caused by their exposure
to the famously cunning and selfish pets.


Rather, more educated people tend to work longer
hours and choose a pet to fit their lifestyles.
Unlike dogs, cats require no walking and can
manage with little human company.


Dr Jane Murray, Cats Protection Lecturer in
Feline Epidemiology, who led the study, said:
"We don't think it is associated with income
because that was one of the variables we
looked at, and there was little difference.
Cats require less time per day than a dog, so
they are more popular with educated people
who work late and have long commutes."


The study, published in the Veterinary Record
journal, also found that cat owners were more
likely to be older and female. Both cat and
dog owners were more likely than the general
population to live in households
with gardens in rural areas.


As part of the study 2,980 people were interviewed
about their pet ownership, geography and
educational background. Combining the
results with census information produced
new figures for Britain's pet population -
10.3 million cats and 10.5 million dogs.
The numbers do not include strays.


The popular myth of cat intelligence was
dented last year with the publication of a
study showing that they did worse than dogs
at a simple reasoning task. Cats presented
with two pieces of string, only one of which
was attached to a food reward, could not
tell which one to pull for their treat.


A PLACE THAT NOBODY
DARED TO GO

The one song I can't get out of my head at the
moment is Xanadu by Sharleen Spiteri.

I'm not a great fan of covers but this one isn't
bad. Of course the original is still the best!

16.2.10

NOT A FAN
OF SNOW

AMAZING
AURORAS

Check out these amazing shots
of northern lights by
Bjorn Jorgensen.

The phenomenon also known as aurora borealis,
are seen when the solar wind stream hits Earth's
magnetic field, sparking bright ghost like
lights around the Arctic Circle.


THE GOOD
WIFE

There are certain names in the film and TV
world you know are not going to disappoint.

The latest offering from Ridley and Tony Scott,
The Good Wife, definitely falls into that
category. A slick but classy package, strong
performances and a clever script.

This legal drama focuses on Julianna Margulies
as Alicia Florrick. Her husband, played by
Chris
Noth, has been jailed following a very public
sex and corruption scandal. She returns
to her old job as a litigator to rebuild
her reputation and provide for her
two children. Recommended!


AWAKE

When you go to Las Vegas, maybe it's not a
bad idea to wear shades indoors!

Many of the carpets in the hotels and casinos in
are incredibly garish. Spanning hundreds of
thousands of square metres, the designs are
a violent assault on the senses as leisure
moguls pull out all the stops to keep
tourists awake and spending money.


This collection of photographs was pieced together
over four years by Swede Chris Maluszynski, 35,
a Vegas fan who lives in New York. He visits the
desert city several times a year on business
and was so taken with the variety of
colours used in the carpets he started
photographing them as a hobby.

He said: "Vegas is the most surreal place
in the world. In the middle of the desert you
have this huge neon-lit metropolis, which is
bizarre in itself. Everywhere you look when
you are on The Strip or Downtown there are
flashing lights to mesmerise you."

"I found myself trying to give my eyes a rest
from the chaos by looking at the floor, but
there is no respite even there."


"It seems that every inch of everything out there
has been designed to bombard your brain into
staying awake," added Chris. The casinos have
no windows or natural light so you have no
idea what time of day it is. It's all about
keeping you stimulated. Tourists spend
money when they are not asleep."


SONIC

Alton Towers theme park has been forced to
ban a daredevil squirrel from one of its rides
as its antics pose a health and safety risk.

The cheeky rodent has been causing
headaches for operators by getting in
the way of improvement work on
an attraction at the resort.

Workers noticed it was riding the revamped
Sonic Spinball roller coaster as it was tested
in the mornings and joining visitors
who were offered an early go on it
before the official opening.


A spokesman for the Staffordshire theme park
said: "It was getting in the way of builders who
were painting. They couldn't carry on because
they would end up with paw prints in the paint.
And we can't have anything on the track when
the roller coaster is going round."


Alarms were installed that emit a warning
noise inaudible to human ears but
designed to ensure the squirrel,
nicknamed Sonic, avoids
the ride in future.


Morwenna Angove, sales and marketing
director at the Alton Towers resort, said:
"Unfortunately Sonic's behaviour is a danger
both to our guests and himself and so we're
doing all we can to ensure that he stays away
from the ride. Banning a squirrel from a roller
coaster is certainly unusual but I suppose
there's a first time for everything."


GO GIRLS!

I'm not much of a sports fan but it did make me
smile when I noticed Finland's women's icehockey
team, nicknamed The Lionesses (after the
Coat of arms of Finland which is on their
jersey), beat their old adversaries
Russia 5-1 in their debut game
at the Vancouver Winter
Olympics on Sunday.

You go girls!

EDIT 26.2.2010: The Ladies come home with
Bronze medals after
beating Sweden 3-2.
President Tarja Halonen joined the girls
in celebration (below, arrow)