Deprivation

Yesterday we had no internet access.

We arrived home to find that some random contractor had dug metre-deep holes into the grass verge at intervals all the way down our street. For no obvious reason.

We went inside and discovered that we had no internet connection. Also the phones didn’t work, but mainly we had no internet connection. Suspiciously, we went back outside and peered into the hole in front of our house. In the hole were several huge tree roots, a manky looking sewer pipe, and two frayed ends of telephone cable separated by a couple of centimetres.

Hmm.

Our neighbour had already reported the ‘fault’ to BT, so there was nothing more to do except curl up in a ball and wait for morning get on with our busy lives. Janet played Oblivion. I decided to use this opportunity to finally get around to watching my Transformers movie DVD.

During the following two hours and twenty minutes of hokey comedy, moronic plotting, tedious characterisation and gigantic robots repeatedly failing to kill Shia LaBeouf, I silently plotted the death of whoever dug that hole.

Dynomutt

Following on from the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR) (aka Johnny Five) the US military are developing yet another robot to do helpful things on the battlefield like run amok and kill everyone carry the soldiers’ kit. It’s called ‘BigDog’, presumably because ‘K-9’ was already taken.

This video is amazing. The way that it keeps its footing when it’s pushed or when it slips is quite uncanny. It’s also strangely creepy in the alive-but-not-alive signals it sends. The sinister buzzing noise is not helping.

Time for a poll, then.

Kielder Water

We spent a nice day ferrying my brother-in-law up to Kielder Water in Northumberland. He works up there teaching outdoor pursuits, and it very slightly beats-the-hell out of my office as a workplace. Photos on our website here.

Kielder is a large reservoir surrounded by dense forest. Although it’s man-made, you’d be hard-pressed to tell once you get away from the dam itself (and the really quite science-fictional looking observation tower that pokes out of the water nearby). There’s some ongoing erosion around the shoreline as everything naturalises in, but otherwise it would sit comfortably on the outskirts of the Lake District. It’s bloody cold at this time of year, so we didn’t wander around for too long (plenty of frost in the shadows and actual ice along the high water mark) but we’re lucky to have beautiful countryside like this only about 90 minutes away.

Janet actually stood on the floor of what is now the Reservoir, at the foot of the observation tower, when she was a child (thanks to her Dad who was servicing some of the machinery in use on the site). I think that’s pretty cool. Looking at wiki it was finished around 1982.

It was nice to get out. Janet was ill with a nasty cold and cough for the best part of last week, but struggled diligently into work throughout — apart from last Monday when it became clear that even crawling out of bed was beyond her best efforts. I persuaded her to see sense and take the day off sick. As a result we haven’t done a great deal other than sit in the warmth for the last couple of weeks.

I have however purchased a lovely Ipod Classic 80GB in black, and the atrociously-named Jivebox from Logic3, a fine ipod speaker dock with a really solid and satisfying sound. I nearly bought several other ipod speakers from the thousands on offer, but a few good reviews (including a Gadget Show recommendation) convinced me and I’m pleased they did. I’m now um-ing and ah-ing about the in-car listening arrangement. At present I’ve got a lash-up that feeds the ipod headphone socket into the RCA cables at the back of our stereo. This works fine but I could do with a proper dock that holds the ipod in a convenient place and charges the ipod while we listen. This is the front-runner at present (the 2008 version, which may not be available ’til next month).

Things you didn’t know, or didn’t want to know

The Coen brothers are to film Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. It’s a novel I haven’t read (although I plan to) but this strikes me a A Good Thing.

Val Kilmer is to be the voice of KITT in the new Knight Rider pilot movie, replacing Will Arnett who had to pull out. Val, Val, Val. Where is your career going? I want you to think seriously about this.

Thanks to white-hart asking and example22 telling, this incredibly nifty bit of freeware lets you rearrange the programs on your Windows taskbar. How anal awesome is that? Best gizmo ever. Now everything can be in the right order. Yes, there is a right order.

The American Film Institute is to honour the ten best films in ten genres: Animated, Fantasy, Gangster, Sci-Fi, Western, Sports, Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Courtroom Drama and Epic. Interesting set of genres for a start. You have to register (for free) on their website to see the fifty nominees in each genre, but I’m nice so here’s the pdf. They won’t release the results until a US TV special, presumably hosted by Jimmy Carr with a fake american accent.

“AFI defines “science fiction” as a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation” they say, before including Independence Day in their nominations. There’s a good mix of eras, though, and any list that includes The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, A Clockwork Orange, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has to be considered eclectic at the very least. It all means nothing, but it’s interesting.

Just for the sake of argument

So let’s say, hypothetically, that I haven’t treated myself to any gadgetry in ages and I have money burning a hole in my personal account.

Let’s posit, further, that an iPod Nano would be cool for any number of reasons including letting Janet listen to mp3s around the house (using an iPod speaker dock of some sort).

And thirdly, let’s suggest that I’d really like to plug this iPod into a car stereo (either our current one or a new one) in a way that doesn’t involve FM transmitters, gives decent sound quality, and lets me navigate to a required song in less time that it takes to complete my journey.

Any suggestions?

I don’t mind trailing cables, but if I was to plug the thing into the back of a car stereo how would I go about getting the cable through the dashboard? Are there facias? Are cigarette-lighter connections any good? Is it better to get a stereo with a jack on the front? I’ve done some googling but the internet is vast and full of cheap electrical outlets selling a baffling array of poorly explained kits.

In short: help!