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Interesting Sites

8 December, 2009

BNF available... sort-of

The BNF (British National Formulary) is the UK's national prescribing resource; the definitive handbook of all medications available on the UK National Health Service, including guidance on prescribing, contra-indications and side-effects.

9 November, 2009


The Palace of Westminster clock (wrongly aka 'Big Ben') has a Twitter feed!

25 October, 2009

Colour challenge

How well do you perceive colours?  A firm specialising in colour calibration offers a quick (I was going to say 'simple', but it isn't as easy as that might imply) online version of the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test.

20 October, 2009

Sleeping in public

Installations by Mark Jenkins.  The use of mannequins in incongruous locations & poses is amusing, but the cellophane sculptures are particularly attractive.

28 September, 2009

Gå din egen väg

Erik Johansson's imagination is a strange world, but his ability to realise those images in Photoshop is possibly even more disturbing.

1 June, 2009

More street painting

Interminably circulating e-mails have made the anamorphic street art of Julian Beever world-famous (justifiably), but here's another practitioner, Edgar Müller.

27 February, 2009

Not drowning

Wonderful photos from inside breaking waves.

15 January, 2009

What's the big one called?

Here's a useful site for walkers, discovered via Flickr, offering a large number of computer-generated panoramas depicting points visible from high ground & key landmarks.

10 December, 2008

Survival of the least unfit

This is a really important tool: a demonstration of evolution as an abstract process, independent of real-world examples; without directly challenging anyone's religious beliefs, it simply shows that evolution works, and how it operates.

9 December, 2008

Slightly off

How accurate is your visual judgement (and monitor)?  Can you locate the centre of a circle, bisect an angle and find a point of convergence?

5 December, 2008

Highly platitudinous

For those unable or unwilling to listen to BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme (the smug voice of Little England) each morning, 'Platitude Of The Day' is kind enough to summarise and slightly paraphrase the daily 'Thought For The Day' slot.

4 November, 2008


According to the GenderAnalyzer, the Ministry's primary author is female.  That's news to me.

6 October, 2008

As if ideas are to be 'had'

Here.  Try this 'unashamedly girly', 80-page webcomic by Kieron Gillen and Charity Larrison.  The latter describes Busted Wonder as "a story about what happens when foolish little girls fall in love with the fairy circus", whereas the former highlights such 'fairly hefty themes' as the nature of inspiration.

14 August, 2008

Webcomic of the day

Read the multiple-award-winning Platinum Grit.  At home, though – the latest episode is arguably NSFW.

17 July, 2008

Miniature North West

The Miniature Earth Project is a fairly famous web video (slideshow?) representation of Donella Meadows' 1990 'State of the Village Report', exploring the demographics of a world population normalised to 100 people.  It's interesting, though I'm (perhaps unjustly) irritated by the ethical/environmentalist subtexts of the parameters chosen for comment.

23 June, 2008

See what I mean?

Last October, I mentioned my preference for of the term 'graphic novel' rather than the term favoured by enthusiasts and authors, 'comic', for the fundamental reason that the 'comics' I enjoy most aren't comic.

10 June, 2008

The duck refused medical treatment

Apparently, a regular feature on the US 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' TV, er, show is viewer submissions of bizarre newspaper cuttings.  The first few in this archive of examples from 2006 (I think) were amusing, but by page four or five of the fourteen pages, I was crying with laughter.

20 May, 2008

Tide FAQ

My referrer logs report that people regularly visit the Ministry hoping to ascertain the times of low and high tide at Sunderland*, near Lancaster.

7 May, 2008

Strip stripped

I don't have a particular problem with the revamped, very-Web 2.0 site, and I like the fact that the archive has been expanded to encompass several years of cartoons rather than being limited to only those published within the foregoing month.

22 April, 2008


Pixeloo is engaged in a project to 'untoon' famous cartoon characters: reproducing the original appearences using real-world lighting and textures (skin, hair, etc.).  The results aren't necessarily supposed to look realistic, as the caricatured proportions are retained, but there's certainly something slightly unsettling about the hybrids.

16 April, 2008

Spots of rain

When leaving the house for a bike ride, or even to pop to Sainsbury's, it can be useful to know the location of the nearest rainclouds – not a weather forecast but information of where it's raining at that particular moment.

8 April, 2008


Though I'm glad to say the spurious traffic seems to be tailing off at last, the single most popular entry in the blog deconstructs a Photoshop modification of Keira Knightley, which 'enhances' (I disagree) her anatomy for a film poster.

6 February, 2008

This book made me

One of my favourite childhood books, which still has pride of place on my shelves, has qualified as a virtual museum exhibit: the entire contents have been scanned and are readable online.

17 January, 2008

Don't call me...

Since – well, I don't know, really; some time whilst I was away in late December – my home phone has been receiving more-or-less daily calls, all from the same number, all during office hours (when, by definition, I'm unavailable).  None have bothered to leave a message, so I'm damned if I'm going to ring back.

29 November, 2007

What's it called?

Two useful links from Lifehacker:

20 November, 2007

A gallimaufry of periphrasis

Neil discovered an interesting site, FreeRice: test your knowledge of English vocabulary whilst donating rice to the United Nations World Food Programme.

I may have another try when I have more time, but my initial 'vocab level' was 46/50.

4 November, 2007

What's on the otter channel?

The sea otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium have a webcam.
Just thought you'd like to know.

25 October, 2007

Shape of things to come

Wow.  This is incredible: a sample of how web pages – inasmuch as the concept will still apply – will look in the future, as visualised (how did he do that?) by Dr. David Morgan-Mar, image processing researcher.

Very inspiring.

21 October, 2007

I can REALLY see my house from here

Moorlands, Lancaster, UK.It's not news that Microsoft's equivalent of Google Maps features oblique aerial photography of certain areas in addition to the standard top-down vertical images.  However, I hadn't realised that Lancaster is included in the coverage.

Blackpool is one of the examples used to advertise the facility, but I discovered that the coverage continues up the Fylde coast as far as my home town (and no further, nor further inland).  It may or may not be coincidental that the University has fairly close links to Microsoft.

16 October, 2007


'A Softer World' is sometimes a bit dark, even by my standards, but I love this extension of one of my favourite bad jokes.

8 October, 2007

Entoptic Phenomena

I suspect one might get more out of these photos by William Hundley if one doesn't initially know how they were achieved, so I'm not going to tell you; have a look at the slideshow before visiting the BoingBoing entry.

7 October, 2007

The truth is out there

In't t'Internet brilliant?  Who'd have thought in 1865, when the University of Kentucky was founded, that one day it'd publish a blog exclusively devoted to moustaches of the 19th Century?

14 September, 2007

Wake-up call

This is an incredible image, one of the best I've seen in a long while and begging to be used to raise consciousness about global warming– which is how I found it at BoingBoing.

14 September, 2007


Heh.  'Murklins'.

7 June, 2007

And where have YOU been?

Curious about the daily life of a domestic cat, an 'owner' in Germany mounted a digital camera on his/her cat's collar, which captured images automatically at preset intervals.  The results are better than I'd have expected.

30 March, 2007

Can you see your house?

This won't be of interest to everyone (then again, what is?), but Google Earth has extended high-resolution coverage of certain areas, and not only within the USA.  Greater Manchester and downtown Vancouver are on the list.

17 March, 2007

Get away from it all

In Britain, one is never more than 11 km (7 miles) from a surfaced road, even in the Highlands of Scotland (which is where that greatest distance may be achieved).  Make of that what you will.

2 March, 2007

You're missing out

Apart from 'xkcd' and 'Dilbert', which provide one-off, self-contained jokes, my taste in web comics is for ongoing serials with well-developed stories (and not necessarily any jokes).  Hence, I rarely link to them, as individual episodes wouldn't be meaningful in isolation.  For example, I'd love to say that Katherine's smile in today's 'Wapsi Square' made my morning, but you wouldn't understand why unless you already knew her.

Read it (regularly), damn you!

23 February, 2007


Truly wonderful awful visual puns depicting html tags in real-world settings.

[Via BoingBoing.]

14 February, 2007

Waitin’ For The Bus

A. questioned the accuracy of my statement that (it is at least alleged that) Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top owns a spherical VW camper van (a 'bus ball').
Therefore, I am happy to link to published evidence of the allegation.

13 February, 2007

Time chart

I like this Flash timeline/clock... thing.  Somehow it's a particularly good visualisation of where one is in the day, week, month and year.
The 'minutes' bar is a little unnerving, though – its inexorable creep is too clear a visualisation of passing time.

7 February, 2007

More-ultraviolet-then-purple prose

In case you missed them (I did), the results of the 2006 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are out.

Oh, and the 2006 Lyttle Lyttons.

22 January, 2007

Go outside

Apologies to fans of what The Register habitually calls 'Sadville', but Get A First Life.

29 November, 2006

Fair of face

One of the most consistently popular entries in this site is my deconstruction of the Photoshop modifications made to a studio photograph of actress Keira Knightley for the promo poster of 'King Arthur'Here's another set of examples of such modifications (without annotations).

21 November, 2006

Small but how beautiful?

Not one for dialup, I suspect....

ResizR (I wonder how they came up with that name) does more-or-less what you'd expect: it's a single dual-function image editor allowing one to resize and rotate pictures when one doesn't have, or doesn't have time for, a full-featured editing package.

14 November, 2006

It's better now

Ahh.  All's right with the world now that Microsoft have released MS Firefox 2007.  Download it today.

9 November, 2006


How well do you know the corporate logos of leading websites?

24 October, 2006

Cartographic oddities

The title of this site, 'Strange Maps: Collecting Cartographic Curiosa' is fairly self-explanatory.  It's a blog collating examples of odd maps, whether of 'what-if' geopolitical situations or unusual existing geography.

18 October, 2006

Exploding with colour

Has everyone seen the 'paint fireworks' advert* yet?  The UK TV 'premiere' was last night, but it's been available on the web for a while.  This seems to be the best source of downloads; try the 1280x720px (37 Mb .mov, zipped) version if you're able.

16 October, 2006

Fair hearing

I haven't been a fan of Richard Dawkins' style of – I thought – stridently aggressive atheism, and I'm still not entirely comfortable with his apparent intention to teach others what to think.  Evangelism is evangelism, and to be condemned, even if it's atheist evangelism.

15 October, 2006

Results in 20 minutes

I don't actually know anyone attempting to stop smoking at present, but if I did, I'd recommend this list of health benefits, not least because it includes the immediate effects.  Quite a motivator, I suspect.

21 September, 2006

Don't pay to complain

A number of UK companies only publicise non-geographical phone numbers for customer service; 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 are typical.  The problem with such numbers isn't just that some are covertly premium-rate (I believe 0870 is 8p/min via BT and 0871 is up to 10p/min) but that they're excluded from ‘inclusive calls’ billing packages.

12 September, 2006

Might rain; might not

Today's weather in Lancaster, according to the BBC five-day forecast, will be 'light rain' with 'poor' visibility.  However, though the 24 hour forecast warns of 'drizzle' between 13:00 and 16:00, the rest of the day can expect 'sunny intervals' or outright 'sunny' conditions.  Visibility is to be 'moderate' until 13:00 and after 01:00, but 'good' in the intervening period.

4 September, 2006

IQ Test 2

In 2003, the BBC broadcast/published a national IQ test, first as a TV programme then via the web.  It must have been popular, as the format has been repeated for a number of other tests since then, on current events, English language and UK-centric issues.  They returned to the original topic last weekend, and I've just completed the 2006 general IQ test via the website.

19 August, 2006

More name-calling

'The Sweetest Sound' allows one to assess the popularity of one's surname by providing a searchable database of the top 55,000 surnames in the Social Security Index.

17 August, 2006

Well branded

This is a pretty good gallery of UK crop circles (1998-date), worth seeing in it's own right, but I'm mainly linking for the brilliant name:  'Temporary Temples'.

2 August, 2006

Good guys wear black

In the spirit of this being a, y'know, weblog, I'll offer a link to a site I just visited and enjoyed.

21 July, 2006

Can you mail a blank stare?

Xkcd is "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, maths and language" all filtered though the 05:00 nihilism of a physics graduate.

6 June, 2006

Not so bad science

If, like me, you occasionally read Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Science' column for the Guardian, you might like to read the articles at his own site instead.  Goldacre has expressed occasional dissatisfaction about copy being cut*, which can change at least the intended emphasis of articles, so it makes sense to read versions unconstrained by word counts.

3 June, 2006

Eat this

The Register reports that a visiting fellow in evolutionary psychology at Newcastle University had his IT privileges withdrawn for publishing an essay on 'Why vegetarians should be force-fed with lard' (a patently non-literal title) in his personal, Uni-provided web space.

30 May, 2006

The Ministry as a graph

The Ministry as a graphAs Aharef has proved by writing an applet, it's possible to analyse the hierarchical nesting of html tags in a website and visualise that structure as a graph.

Click on the image for a conceptual map of the Ministry (just the blog homepage, not the entire site) and an explanation of the layout.

[Via Siobhan]

28 May, 2006

Chemists have no imagination

What d'you mean, the periodic table isn't literally a table?  Of course it is!

[Via User Friendly.]

19 May, 2006

Open & overexposed to the sun

As BoingBoing reports, has issued a challenge to make the first ever Earth sandwich, to be achieved by simultaneously placing two slices of bread on opposite sides of the planet.

7 May, 2006

Pass the water wings uses a Google Maps 'hack' to display the hypothetical effect of polar icecaps melting and global sea levels rising by up to 14m.

4 May, 2006

Grow Cube

Remember Grow RPG, which I mentioned last August?  There's another one available at the same site: Grow Cube.

20 February, 2006

Happy sad song

Quite a while ago, I, and thousands of other readers of Neil Gaiman's blog, discovered a wonderful, near-wordless song, 'The Sad Song', by Fredo Viola.

15 February, 2006

Modernist trompe l'oeil

I wonder if these are genuine.

10 February, 2006

Concerning torments

For some obscure traditional reason, all official maps of the London Underground display anagrams of the station names.  Understandably, this is rather annoying, and this map displaying the correct names is extremely welcome.

9 February, 2006

Literally literal

'Literally, A Weblog' is a single-issue blog recording inappropriate (and hence frequently amusing) misuses of the word 'literally'.

Literally eye-popping and side-splitting.  Well, not literally.

6 February, 2006

You shouldn't have. No, really.

Be my Anti-ValentineThis year, I remembered to write this entry well in advance, so that those so inclined can follow the link and send anti-valentine e-cards.

Beyond that, I don't think I need to elaborate on my earlier comments.

Nothing says "I love you" quite like saturated fat and slutty lingerie.

18 January, 2006

What's in a surname?

A joint project by three UK universities allows one to examine the geographical distribution of one's surname within the UK, both current and historic.  The aim of the Surname Profiler is to understand patterns of population movement, social mobility, regional economic development and cultural identity, but to lay people, it's just interesting.

13 January, 2006

What's THAT?

Goatse is a web legend: a very graphic photo which unfailingly gets a reaction.
Don't worry, that link was to a Wikipedia entry about the image, not the image itself, but here's a wonderful Flickr pool showing people's immediate reactions on seeing Goatse for the first time.  It's a portrait gallery of emotions infrequently caught on camera.

5 January, 2006

Expensive last chance

The Million Dollar Homepage is almost full.

2 December, 2005

Antisocial software

I'm not really into the collaborative aspect of the web: I publish photos here, not at Flickr, StumbleUpon is kind of annoying, and I don't remotely support bittorrent-like p2p networking.  Likewise, though I like the idea of online bookmarks which I can access from multiple computers, the publicly-shared, social element of doesn't remotely interest me.

4 November, 2005

One more day

J. has directed me to 'The Perry Bible Fellowship' a splendidly dark comic strip, apparently updated weekly.  The site design isn't great, so I would recommend browsing the archive.  The PBF isn't a serial; each is a standalone 3-panel cartoon, so it's easy to dip in and read one at random.

Of course, I've just read the entire archive....

20 October, 2005

Fighting splog

Splogs, or 'sp*m blogs', blogs set up with minimal or stolen content, merely for ad revenue or to generate traffic/pagerank for undesirable sites, have been proliferating rapidly in recent weeks, particularly at free hosts such as Blogger/Blogspot.
'Fighting Splog', a (genuine) blog set up to record one person's attempt to do exactly that, is an interesting insight into the evolution and acceleration of the problem.

26 September, 2005

Are you sitting comfortably?

When I first saw this at Lifehacker, I thought it slightly more useful than it actually is, but I'll mention it anyway.

It's a site offering seat plans for a range of passenger aircraft, including airline-specific configurations.  Thrilling, eh?  Okay, no, but I've often wished for a little advance warning and the ability to avoid being allocated inferior seats at check-in.

19 September, 2005

Pour it through the letterbox

Aardvark has discovered the website of a remarkable (well, I'm remarking, anyway) new business venture: Petrol Direct:

... selling petrol, diesel and other automotive fuels at prices up to 40% lower than high street garages. How? By mail order, sourced from other EU countries.

16 September, 2005

Is 'Areometer' a word?

I can't immediately think of a specific use, but I'm sure the Google Areometer is something worth bookmarking.  Based on Google Maps, it allows one to plot the boundary of a polygon and discover the size of the area enclosed, in a variety of units.

5 September, 2005

Bargins galor

As Lifehacker says, it's possible to save a little money at eBay by hunting for items with misspelled titles and descriptions.  These will be found by fewer bidders, so there'll be less (if any) competition and, probably, lower closing prices.

Fat Fingers assists in that process.  Type in a keyword, and the site searches eBay for varient spellings of it.

23 August, 2005

Painless charity

I find that one of the most off-putting aspects of participating in a sponsored event is actually asking for sponsors and collecting the money afterwards.
Justgiving handles all that hassle, leaving one to run 26 miles in a bath of baked beans, or whatever.  I'm sure there must be a way to outsource that part too.

3 August, 2005

In anticipation, John licked his own lips

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.
But enough about Mr. Blackah.

28 July, 2005

Poke a patient penguin

Go on, he won't mind.

20 July, 2005

It's made of cheese

If anyone's tiring of Google Maps and Google Earth (been there, done that), it's been taken a stage further.  To commemorate today's 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when my namesake (yes, I was named after him) made his giant leap for quoteworthiness, Google Moon has been launched.

I don't know whether it's a permanent feature, so visit it while you can.  Don't forget to zoom in to maximum magnification of the landing sites, for an impressive level of geological detail.

10 June, 2005

Visit Hapland

I like puzzle games.
Released in February, it's not brand new, but I've just discovered 'Hapland'.  The format is a cartoon image (Flash), in which most features are clickable.  The objective is to control the activities of stick men, cannon, bells, windows, etc., in a precise sequence, to eventually open a portal.  I started by clicking on everything to see what it does, (though some elements do nothing unless a precondition has already been fulfilled), but then one has to reset everything and discover the correct sequence.  It's very easy to get a vital lever trapped under a rock, or forget to open a window allowing the person inside to hear a (one-use) bell, or blow up a vital man (oops).

11 May, 2005


This will test how you think; specifically, your ability to question the ground rules.

Try this 'ESP Test'.  You'll be asked to mentally choose a card from six offered, concentrate on it, then click on any of six buttons elsewhere on the page.  That will take you to a page showing five cards.  The one you chose won't be one of them.  Guaranteed.

4 May, 2005

Flash-fried testosterone

This is science for 'real men' (yes, I think it's a uniquely male idea):

Lightning On Demand is a volunteer organization of engineers, artists, scientists and machinists.  Our key objective is to produce a controllable discharge of lightning at the greatest physical scale imaginable using modern technology.

22 April, 2005

The red-headed Beatle of 1,000BC

A few months ago, random browsing discovered '', a gallery of Superman comic covers depicting paradoxical behaviour – mainly Superman torturing or killing his supposed friends.  At the time, there were about a dozen examples, but I've just visited again, as the site is User Friendly's Link Of The Day, and discovered that the gallery contains hundreds of covers.

Some are stunningly bizarre (Lois Lane killing Superman by playing a Kryptonian xylophone, anyone?), but the main impression received from seeing so many in one place is of sheer repetition – Superman must really dislike Lois, Jimmy Olsen, Batman, et al., and how many times has Lois been married?

20 April, 2005

Don't forget your thermals

This is an interesting read, if you have quite a bit of spare time: guidance notes given to those about to work at US research establishments in Antarctica.

This was found via Joe Grossberg, who noted that there are two ATMs (cashtills) at McMurdo Station, and seemingly limited spending opportunities, but the vital piece of information I very carefully noted is that:

If you try to manoeuvre a Weddell seal into position for a photograph, you are breaking the law.
Remember that.

1 April, 2005

Quench your thirst for knowledge

In full awareness of the date, have a look at the latest 'release' from Google.
Google Gulp is:

... a line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

23 March, 2005

NRT is having a massage

It says so here, so it must be true.

When NRT returns, would someone care to explain to him er, me, why this little utility has appeared online?

In the interests of research, you may like to have a massage too.  Just edit the subdomain to anything you'd like (e.g.

[Via Neil]

4 March, 2005

The pits

This is a seriously old website, so I suppose that there's a risk that anyone interested will have already seen it.  It was 'Cool Site Of The Day' on 9 January, 1996, so be aware that the standard of web design is correspondingly dated!

It's a 'VR' (yeah, right) tour of a derelict nuclear missile launch site somewhere in the USA.  Kind of interesting.

Via the main home page of the same website, there are two other underground tours, of the Paris catacombs, and of the author's basement.

18 February, 2005

Nosy neighbour tool

As reported by the Guardian, Nethouseprices searches publicly-accessible land registry data to report the selling prices of houses/flats anywhere in England & Wales.  It's a free service which could be useful to potential buyers (and sellers, I suppose) investigating a specific property or neighbourhood, but as the Guardian says, it's also a gift to nosy neighbours.

15 February, 2005

Live pipes

This strangely compulsive 'Grid Game' (Flash) [Updte 16/04/08: dead link removed.] is Link of the Day at User Friendly.
It's not a test of skill; one merely clicks on a circular tile in the grid and watches the result.  The tile rotates.  If either end of the curved line on the tile meets the line on an adjacent tile, that tile rotates too.  The chain reaction proceeds until no lines meet.  The number of interactions is counted; my 'best' was 1625.  Visually, the chain reaction resembles the rules-based computer 'life' simulations of the 1980s, little clusters of activity migrating across the grid like bacteria across a petri dish.

19 January, 2005

Doesn't work for me

These people and dogs are allegedly the winners of an 'I Look Like My Dog' contest.

Am I the only cynic who doubts whether the humans and dogs had even met before the photo session?  There's something too neat about it all, as if human models were chosen to match dog breeds.  Of course, I further wonder whether the dogs and humans really are so similar - Photoshop allows subtle yet powerful changes.

12 January, 2005


Oh, come on.  You can't really expect to see the Ministry in all its glory on a filthy monitor.  Please clean your screen immediately, using this free utility.

7 January, 2005

Place the State

I think I must have learned something subconsciously from the Tull Tour History.  I don't know how else to explain the fact that I can identify the relative locations of the US states with 90% accuracy, with an average error of 21 miles.
I wonder how many US citizens could do the same for the countries of Europe.  I wonder how many Brits could, for that matter....

5 January, 2005


I think it's safe to (regretfully) say that Another Sarah has closed her blog.

If I ever need to close the Ministry (never!), I'll have to remember Sarah's sign-off page.  It took me a moment to get it (say what you see...), then I realised it's perfect.

28 December, 2004

Time code

Minor curiosity: Scott Blake's Barcode Art site includes a barcode clock.

Looking at the javascript and html, it's really straightforward; I wonder why I hadn't thought of that, nor explored what else can be done with it.

Maybe I'll have a play with it... one day.

Scott also offers a braille clock.  Er....

16 December, 2004

Digging to China

Everyone knows that if you dig down vertically from the UK, and somehow avoid the molten rock, you'll pop out in Australia.
You'd better pack your water wings, in fact, as the point directly opposite us is south-south-west of New Zealand, in the Antarctic Indian Ocean.

Wendy Carlos offers a map of local nadirs (antipodes).  It's striking how few places have terrestrial (i.e. on land) antipodes, rather than being opposite patches of seabed.

26 November, 2004

Look at that!

I'm not sure why, but I've always found cutaway drawings fascinating.  It may be inherited from my father.
Hence, I was pleased to discover Kevin Hulsey's website, which not only displays excellent, photorealistic examples from his portfolio, it explains his (very laborious!) working methods (see the ocean liner).

25 November, 2004

Name history

Something I hadn't seen before: type a name into the search box at and see not only how common it is now, but how popular it's been for babies born in each decade of the 20th century.

24 November, 2004

Promote literacy for free

For personal reasons it wouldn't be fair to publicise, I already support The Breast Cancer Site, even though it's USA-specific.  I noticed today that there's an associated scheme, The Literacy Site, which helps to distribute books to children (the site is experiencing server flaws today, so I don't know where the books go).  Just click to send books; visitors aren't asked for direct donations.
[Update 2/12/04: Link removed; see why.]

There are a number of charities I don't support*, but literacy is an issue I personally value, and which can often be overlooked in favour of more fundamental concerns such as food and water.

23 November, 2004


Tokyo is built over a network of rivers and waterways, which causes problems during heavy rain, especially in typhoon season.  Hence, the subterranean G-Cans Project features a network of truly massive conduits designed to collect and dissipate flood waters.  The largest underground waterway in the world has five 32m diameter, 65m deep concrete containment silos linked by 64 km of tunnels, 50m beneath the surface.  Huge 14,000 horsepower turbines can pump water into the outlying Edogawa River at a rate of 200 tonnes/sec.

15 November, 2004

Principally purple

This is rather interesting, not so much for the fact that it largely debunks the simplistic concept of 'red' and 'blue' US states, but for the mapping techniques used, which rescale the sizes of states according to their populations and recolour them according to percentages of electorates (at the county level) voting each way.  Some of the latter cartograms start to look like psychedelic butterflies.

11 November, 2004

Real E Fun

Following Lynn's recommendation, I've just visited a new (to me) blog, and promptly added it to the blogroll: Real E Fun, "tales from a non-religious funeral celebrant", which is exactly as the subtitle suggests.  A fascinating, frequently touching, view of a world few (choose to) see.

12 October, 2004

Flashy Creep

The acoustic version of Radiohead's 'Creep' accompanied by a stunning Flash movie.  Watch.  Repeatedly.

Via Green Fairy

(The Radiohead website is pretty good, too, if you didn't know)

15 September, 2004

Spelling test

There's a particularly vicious spelling test at the Guardian, containing not obscure words which might stick in the memory because they are odd, but those ubiquitous words I, and presumably most others, struggle with routinely.  No matter how many times I check, I can never remember the correct spelling of 'separately'.  Or is it 'seperately'?  Take the test!

As it happens, I scored 21/23.  Both of my failures were genuinely surprising - I was sure they were spelled differently, so I've learned something today.  I wonder if I'll remember....

7 September, 2004

Blue Room escaped

Anyone who particularly liked the Crimson Room and Viridian Room online puzzles may know this already, but the next one, the Blue Chamber, which has been online for several months for those willing to pay, is now open to all for free.

My review: it's much shorter and easier than the others - if I'd paid, I would have been disappointed.

24 August, 2004

Disturbing Bunnies

Send Cat Grey $35, and she'll send you a bunny, each soft toy uniquely designed for the customer, each uniquely wrapped.  Send $35 per month, and you'll get a bunny every month.

Aww.  Innit cute?

23 August, 2004

Best time to visit

As the name implies, the Google Best Time to Visit script searches Google description tags for "best time to visit" plus whatever the user types in.  Theoretically, this should identify the optimum time to visit a tourist destination, but it's only as good as the websites Google indexes, and can be 'misused'.

21 August, 2004

Ponce de Leon

Wow.  Another great posting discovered via Sal.  As he says, it deserves an audience.

19 August, 2004


I suspect WordCount is already fairly well-known, but just in case anyone's missed it, here's a description from the 'About' page:

WordCount is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently used English words [taken from the British National Corpus], ranked in order of commonality. Each word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is.

12 August, 2004

You are here

Whenever I need a map of somewhere in the UK, or need to plan a route, I tend to visit Multimap, though their 'Directions' facility is poor and I've occasionally experienced problems zooming in or out of maps, so this isn't an unconditional recommendation!

7 August, 2004

Make a typoPoster

The typoGenerator doesn't generate typographic errors, it accepts text submitted by users, performs a search at Google Images for those words, then uses a randomly-selected image from the search results as a background* onto which the original text is overlayed.  Random image effects are added to both the image and text.  The resulting typoPoster isn't necessarily readible, it's 'only' for visual effect.
* if Google finds no results for the search term, there'll be no background image, so don't input huge amounts of text!

7 August, 2004

Early memory tracer

Another from Mindbluff: a technique to assist the extraction of early memories.

For what it's worth, I 'passed'.

5 August, 2004

Impressive alarm system

Look at this image before reading on.

2 August, 2004

Well connected

Writing about motorways has a very limited attraction, but this page was mildly interesting, if only to me.

28 July, 2004

Are YOU prepared?

This week it was announced that the UK government will be spending £8 million on a Home Office awareness campaign featuring a leaflet entitled 'Preparing for Emergencies - What You Need to Know', to be sent to 22 million households, and an associated website.

27 July, 2004

Not speed reading

Test your reading speed at Mindbluff - start a timer, read the provided text, at a natural rate, until told to stop, then click on the final word you reached.

I'm feeling rather tired today, and slightly struggled to absorb the meaning of the text, but my reading speed was still rated as between 400 - 450 words per minute, surprisingly, which is approaching double the average rate (200 - 250 words per minute).
I'll have to try it again at about 11:00 or 21:00, when I tend to be more alert (Be alert!  Your country needs lerts!  Sorry), as I was conscious of reading slower than usual.

23 July, 2004

They can't mean...

I doubt it's ony pedants who'd enjoy Doh, The Humanity!, a spin-off website of the Need To Know e-zine, devoted to its coverage of web pages containing typographical or silly errors.

A little more seriously, the examples of banner ads being oddly relevant to adjacent articles demonstrate why news and adverts don't always mix.

17 July, 2004

That's rich

According to the 'rich-o-meter' at, my salary puts me in the richest 18.09% of the UK population, with 10.4 million people richer than me, 47.3 million poorer.

At 32, my salary is only marginally above the apparent average starting salary of UK graduates (okay, in SE England), so it seems incredible (literally 'not credible') that I could be in the top fifth.
Then again, the statistics are derived from Inland Revenue data, and they should know.

8 July, 2004

'Purrfect' yoga

It's easy to mock the idea of practicing yoga with one's cat, but the videos at Yogakitty (okay, not a name conveying credibility) treat the subject as seriously as it deserves.
The sample videos seem to be in the wrong order; I think the second (5.4Mb .wmv; 4.9Mb Quicktime version available from the site) should be watched first.

28 June, 2004

99 Rooms

The Crimson and Viridian Rooms have been popular online puzzles, but here's another.

99 Rooms isn't quite the same; it's barely a puzzle, for one thing.  It's more of an atmospheric point-and-click Flash tour around the 100 rooms of a spooky derelict industrial building, finding hotspots which open doors, bring graffiti to life, and move objects.  It's about the trip, not the destination, and those treating it as a race or a challenge to reach the end will be missing the point, so slow down, turn up your speakers, and admire the artwork.

25 May, 2004

Not so ghostly town

I'm disappointed to say that this story, about a motorcyclist visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone, has been revealed as a fake.  The circumstances of the trip are not as described, and some of the photos were staged.

19 May, 2004


Can you spot a fake smile?  Take this test at the BBC website.  Note that it involves viewing 20 short video clips, each of which will take ~15 seconds to load via a 56k modem.

I correctly identified 15 of the 20 as genuine or fake smiles.  I judged on instinct rather than knowing to watch for specific visual clues, but as the results page explains, there are observable indications.

The results page also makes a slightly depressing statement:

Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is that it may be easier for people to get along if they don't always know what others are really feeling.

4 May, 2004

Shards O'Glass

Have a look at the website of "the most responsible, effective and respected developer of glass shard consumer products intended for adults.".  Have a look at the whole site, their products, corporate views on the health risks of their products, but before watching the second of their TV commercials, follow the link on their Customer Service page.

Hilarious, eh?

28 April, 2004

Hopeless pursuit

A company offering intensive Spanish language courses in Spain and Mexico is called 'don Quijote' (website optimised for IE; content missing in other browsers.  Great advert, eh?).

Weren't futility and pointless endeavour central themes of Cervantes' novel?

Considering that the fictional character Don Quijote (aka Don Quixote) is likely to be one of the few aspects of Spanish culture already known by potential clients, this seems an odd way to promote an educational business.

21 April, 2004

The Universe Within

This is one of my favourite websites, to which I seem to return every few months even though I don't have it bookmarked.

15 April, 2004

IQ Test

I'm not sure how scientific this really is (hey, it's 'PhD Certified', whatever that means), but I've just taken the 'Classic IQ Test' at

My IQ score is 140:

Your Intellectual Type is Visionary Philosopher. This means you are highly intelligent and have a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a variety of different ways. Like Plato, your exceptional math and verbal skills make you very adept at explaining things to others — and at anticipating and predicting patterns. And that's just some of what we know about you from your IQ results.

I'm certainly intelligent enough to question whether one really can equate a raw IQ score to an 'intellectual type'.  I think three questions tested eloquence, so the praise of my verbal skills seems unjustified.

I suspect the result is a bit flattering anyway.  On the BBC's version, I scored something like 130 last year.
I've just taken it again.  Though it was my second attempt, the first was about a year ago, so I doubt I was at much of an advantage.  My score was 133, broken down as: Language: 11/12; Memory: 12/12; Logic: 21/22; Numbers: 9/12; Perception: 11/12

3 April, 2004

Ghost town

I'm recycling a reference already posted by Neil Gaiman, but I believe that's allowed ;)

This is an important link, which I urge everyone to visit.

Elena, the daughter of a nuclear scientist, lives 130km (216 miles) from Chernobyl, Ukraine.  She has a 1100cc Kawasaki Ninja, and one of her favourite rides is into the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power station which exploded in 1986, killing ~300,000 (official estimate).  Her photos and accompanying comments are haunting - compelling, chilling, and oddly beautiful.

There's nothing visually unpleasant about any of the images, but the juxtaposition of such personal details as abandoned family photographs with the total absence of human occupation since 1986 is unsettling, and the final few pages are genuinely upsetting.

[Update 25/05/04: I'm sorry to say this story has been revealed to be a fake.]

30 March, 2004


In case it's ever needed, there's a mirror of the Google site here.

And I do mean a mirror.

29 March, 2004


As seen at Introvertster, the online anti-social non-networking community that prevents people from ever bothering you while you're online.  One can use it to:

  • Avoid invites to chat, filter out annoying invitations for Meetup, birthday parties, or after-hours get togethers.
  • Packet flood a friend's Internet connection making it impossible for them to send you an instant message.
  • Help your friends get a clue that you really don't like people or care for idle chit-chat.

9 March, 2004

Freak or just independent?

I've just completed the provocatively-named 'Are You A Freak?' Test at, which has a more sober basis in a study allegedly conducted by two psychologists in the 1970s into individuals' 'need for uniqueness'.  As OutOfService stresses, it's a real test, not a typical 'purity'-style web test.

My overall percentile score was rated as 65, indicating higher 'need for uniqueness' than 64 out of 100 people.

2 March, 2004

Jingle, jingle

Ever watched a TV advert and wondered about the music, even wanted to buy it?
Personally, no, but I'm not a fan of mass-media anyway.

Whatever; others might like to bookmark Commercial Breaks and Beats, the UK TV advert music database.  Search by artist, company, or song title.

16 February, 2004

How wide is the world wide web?

I'm glad sites like Galumpia exist, to mediate in such vital conundra.

10 February, 2004

Which counties have you visited?

UK counties visited by NRT.  Basic map: crown copyright 2001Though I immediately felt it necessary to clean up the default image, I've just found a utility which plots those counties one has visited in Scotland, Wales and England.  I've visited those in light green.  These are the counties where I've actually stopped at least long enough to eat, not counting motorway services (which are a kind of no-man's land), nor counties I've merely driven through.

What does your map look like?

10 February, 2004


Today I am 400 days away from being 400 months old.

On 12 March, I will be 17 million minutes old.


8 February, 2004

Fighting Valentine

I wish I'd thought to set up this site: anti-Valentine's online cards, ridiculing the commercialism and empty gestures society expects for 14 Feb.

5 February, 2004

Ecological footprint

There's no way I could be described as a Green Party supporter, but I cycle rather than drive, recycle as much as the council will accept, and minimise my use of resources, so I was interested to find that the rough measure of my ecological footprint (the area of productive land and water required to support what I use and what I discard) is 2.7ha:

2 February, 2004

Political Compass

This might be superior to the usual 'what bra are you?' type of blog 'tests', or it might just be a more elaborate version of the same.  You decide.

The Political Compass test asks whether one agrees/disagrees with a series of propositions about the nation and the world, the economy, personal social values, wider society, religion, and sex.

15 December, 2003

What colour are you?

Okay, it's a 'personality-as-colour' test, the stuff of a thousand blogs, but  this isn't as crude as the majority, using '... a lot more math' to select one of 140 possible outcomes, based on hue (how one thinks), saturation (how much one does about it), and lightness (the effect one thinks it has).  I'm not entirely sure of its (pseudo-)scientific basis; the attribution of hue in particular seems arbitrary, but I was certainly surprised by my result.

13 December, 2003

Getting it on for the good of the planet

I don't know if this was intended as self-deprocating levity, or their usual busybody preaching: Greenpeace have published a guide to environmentally-friendly sex.  I'm about as likely to link to the Greenpeace website as to that of the British Nationalist Party, so I'll have to reproduce (ahem) a few parts of the guide here, to comment on it.

12 December, 2003

The Gender Genie

As reported by Nature, academics have formulated an algorithm which, when applied to a block of text, can distinguish the gender of the author. It seems to be based on a weighted count of keywords in the text; for example, the total number of instances of 'because' is multiplied by 55 and added to an overall 'female' total. The final 'male' total is compared to the 'female' total.

21 November, 2003

Bloginality: the ISTP personality

My Bloginality (Myers-Briggs-Jung Type, derived from a very short test) is ISTP, corresponding to a SP personality, which is part of Jung's Artisans (Sensation Seeking) type; more specifically the Crafters or Mechanics.
Having read a bit more, via the links on the ISTP page, it seems broadly accurate, though not ideal.

28 October, 2003

It was there yesterday...

It's not as romantic as the name suggests, but The Lost London Street Index is essential reading for period/genre authors wishing to locate events in the capital's maze of alleys, squares and streets.

12 October, 2003

Lost in Translation

To the useful interior of you who she you are you translate the line? But it is the independent word, or the expression, gorgeousness with uselessness relative, grammaticale is suitably like result the frank article the length of this fact, that it is manufactured, he, the silk of the foot because totally? The excess to move that the Ing. sfilaccia of Grundnyu the letter in the language of the marcatura comes from the silk of weaveeed one is originally burnings, you, you say it, extended, he examines et/également he? With him it is the equipment in the translation of the line like and for the company of the situation, this is different and this marcatura, of that she is not Ing., who burns of nyu he, is a letter, you he somebody, that is material of the use, that produced whole number the classified zone? The shutdowns with the thing his the Grolls for and the situation of Innerens of the doubts stored with and 5 practitioners, of that 1 Tsugas, where the diverse language, introduce, repeated? It is good, his situation, of that the law that is exact and together, - it stands out of the side of multiBabel, visit that!

6 October, 2003

Degree Confluence Project

The Degree Confluence Project sets out to visit and record every point on the Earth's surface where lines of latitude and longitude intersect. According to the site, there's a confluence point (CP) within 49 miles (79 km) of any place on the planet; discounting confluences in the oceans and some near the poles, there are 13,625 to be found.
Though some seem to take it far too seriously, it's an interesting idea, and the mosaic of digital photos taken at the CPs is impressive, so I can sort of see the attraction. The hunt for the nearest land-based one to me, the last unvisited terrestrial CP in the UK, turned out to be quite a quest - read the story of the three attempts.

3 October, 2003

Link of the Day

It's link of the day at User Friendly (itself highly recommended) really, but it's worth mentioning here too.

Battleground God - 17 questions which help determine whether your view of religion is rationally consistent, irrespective of whether you're a believer or atheist.
I'm not sure I agree with all the questions, particularly their wording and the logical inferences drawn from the answers, but it's interesting.

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