I’m in between houses at the moment and am staying at Bill and Mimi’s empty flat (many thanks again guys). It’s on the market (if any of you are looking for a 2 bedroom flat in Leith, it’s very nice and keenly priced in the current climate.)
So I’ve been without broadband and unable to post as often as I’d like. But I now have a new iPhone and am using the WordPress App to post this.
I’m not sure how to upload an image yet, but at least I can write again.
And, so far, the phone has been excellent. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve worked out how to post an image – get online properly and upload it then. Like this.

Ta da.

Sorry to disappoint you, but eight’s the wrong answer.

It only has six. The other two are legs. The rear pair of ‘arms’ are actually legs, which the octopus uses to move about the seabed and to propel itself when it wants to swim. Read more about the latest discoveries at the Times online.

The Octopus. Your six-armed friend.

The Octopus. Your six-armed friend.

The octopus is an amazing beast. They can be trained to carry out complex tasks, as it mentions in the above article. What they don’t tell you is that they have very poor memories. They have to re-learn each task each day. So although your octopus may have been very skilled at removing jam jar lids, it will have to be taught how to do it again the very next day.
So there.
Also, the plural isn’t octopi, and here’s the proof.
English words of Latin or Greek origin have rather unpredictable plurals, and each one usually depends on how well established that particular word is. It may also depend on whether the Latin or Greek form of the plural is either easily recognisable or pleasant to the speaker of English.
Although it is often supposed that octopi is the ‘correct’ plural of octopus, and it has been in use for longer than the usual Anglicized plural octopuses, it in fact originates as an error. Octopus is not a simple Latin word of the second declension, but a Latinized form of the Greek word oktopous, and its ‘correct’ plural would logically be octopodes.
Other words ending in -us show a very varied pattern. Like octopi, the plural hippopotami is now generally taken to be either funny or absurdly pedantic, and the usual plural is hippopotamuses. Common usage appears to indicate a slight preference for termini rather than terminuses, but syllabuses rather than syllabi. Other usual forms include cacti and gladioli, and our files at the dictionary department show scarcely any examples of nucleuses or funguses. (Omnibi is simply a joke, and quite ungrammatical in Latin!)
Among words ending in -um it seems worth drawing attention to the word curricula, plural of curriculum, and warning against confusion with the adjective curricular (as in extra-curricular).

So you learn something new every day. Especially if you’re an octopus.

I live in Portobello (Edinburgh, not London), and I love it. At the bottom of my street is the beach and the sea, and I can walk my daughter to school along the promenade. The area feels like a village, where people still say hello to each other. Last summer we were treated to an art installation on the beach, called the Three Pyramids. They were by an artist called Hill Jephson Robb. He created these as an installation called ‘Wonder’. They were on the beach for most of the summer, and us locals got to watch him build them and then see them eroded away, much like real sand on a beach.

'Wonder' by Hill Jephson Robb

This year, the organisers have really outdone themselves. They placed art in gardens around Portobello, so that the streets became like an art gallery. And there was some fantastic work being exhibited. This first piece is by an artist called Arran Ross, and I believe the piece is called ‘Astronaut’.

The next pieces are all by an artist called Jessica Harrison. The blurb talks about her exploring a personal obsession with fear… I just think that the installations look great.

There were lots and lots of imaginative pieces. Another couple I liked were these:

So I’d like to say thanks to those people who made it all possible. If you find yourselves reading this, then give yourself a huge pat on the backs. It’s amazing that people will still give their time and effort to create something so beautiful and unexpected in a residential setting. Discover more about what they are trying to achieve by visiting their site at www.bigthingsonthebeach.org.uk

This is brilliant. It’s a well-known person, rendered in Lego. I first spotted it on the BoingBoing website. It’s always worth a look, and has stuff that keeps you smiling (thanks for the heads-up Bill). And this just made me smile. So few pieces of Lego, yet you instantly know who it is.

Turns out that it’s originally from a website called brickshelf.com. It’s full of mad things that people have built from Lego. See the full set of Stephen Hawking here. Or just dive into the site and discover some other gems for yourself.

Truly breath-taking. It’s a story of such simplicity and beauty that it is a joy to watch. The new footage and the original footage have been beautifully edited together and the film is 90 minutes that you can’t take your eyes off the screen for. It is the story of a feat that was attempted for the love of the feat, not for notoriety, not for money, not for 15 minutes of fame.


Image courtesy of http://truefalse.org/

It defined the lives of a great number of people. Some of them seem to have coped with it better than others. They obviously were supremely close when they carried out their walk, but the film sees some of them still struggling to cope with the events, and the aftermath, of the events in 1974.
His friend, Jean-Louis, seems like a fantastic bloke to have on your side, but he seems still to be over-awed by the enormity of what they achieved.
It also shows the difference between the times. If anyone attempted anything similar in the current climate of fear and mistrust they would probably end up dead. Certainly you would be jailed if you were fortunate enough to survive. It might seem a simplistic point, but it shows in a snapshot just how much personal freedoms have been eroded in the past 30 years.
The film has been a long time coming. And it’s truly worth the wait.
Go and see it. It will inspire you. It will make you smile. And it will re-affirm that the human race is capable of things of enormous beauty.

No surprise, you might think, that someone from the Land of the Lard is consuming 5 times the recommended daily calorific intake. On this occasion, it’s more than justified.
Because this isn’t one you’d be calling lard-ass. This one is the most successful Olympian ever – having just beaten Mark Spitz’s record of 7 golds at one Olympics which he set in 1972 (Michael Phelps has managed 8 in Beijing), and he now has 14 gold medals in total (plus 2 bronze medals).
The 8th gold medal was won in the 4 x 100m medley relay. With another world record time. I stayed up and watched the race live (@4:08am my time) just to see this amazing man do something no-one has ever done before. And I’m pretty sure it will be a long time before anyone comes close to matching this feat. He is the greatest Olympian who has ever lived.
His diet is amazing. I reckon I’d need to spend all day just trying to eat everything he wolfs down to keep his energy levels up. His breakfast would be enough for someone to comfortably eat three meals a day from. But as he spends 5 hours-a-day burning off what he eats whilst swimming, I reckon he can get away with it. As the 8th gold medal no doubt proves. Read more from the BBC about his staggering diet here.

Man or fish? The greatest Olympian ever.

Man or fish? Michael Phelps. The greatest Olympian ever.

So, chomp away my good man.
Who’s to say that 3 fried eggs as a starter for breakfast can’t be part of a healthy diet?
It’s been an integral part of a truly remarkable feat. And one I doff my cap to.

Oops. Birmingham seems to have moved. Not quite, but this story from the BBC site shows the trouble with people in design/marketing agencies being lazy when it comes to searching for images. I can’t really find anything to say in support of the people who made this mistake (because you can be sure that way more than one person approved this). Other than they didn’t mean it. It’s still pretty stupid, though. If you thinks that’s harsh of me, imagine that a doctor, or an engineer, made a similar mistake. Exactly.
And then, once a citizen who was paying a little more attention pointed out their error, they did the almost unforgivable “We meant to make the mistake. We were just trying to show a generic skyline to give the impression of urban regeneration.”

Birmingham, Alabama. Not near the Bullring.

Birmingham, Alabama. Not near the Bullring.

Oh really. Just so happens that the city that was chosen to represent the regeneration of Birmingham, England was a picture of Birmingham, Alabama.
What’s even more unbelievable is that the man who spotted it just Googled ‘Birmingham’ and then worked out what had happened.
Read the whole story from the BBC here.
And be thankful that the same people aren’t booking your holidays for you.

Not one story this time, but two.
The first story is from Wales. And it’s almost unbelievable. The boys in blue were called by an un-named (I wonder why?) person who reported a “bright stationary object” was hovering above their home. I should point out that this information was released by the police to show people what constitutes a waste of police time. A typical excerpt is as follows:
Control Room: “South Wales Police, what’s your emergency?”
Caller: “It’s not really. I just need to inform you that across the mountain there’s a bright stationary object.”
Control room: “Right.”
Caller: “If you’ve got a couple of minutes perhaps you could find out what it is? It’s been there at least half an hour and it’s still there.”
So the dispatcher sent a couple of the squad’s finest to investigate.
The mystery was solved, as soon as the police arrived.
Here’s a later transcript of the exchange between the controller and an officer at the scene:
Control: “Alpha Zulu 20, this object in the sky, did anyone have a look at it?”
Officer: “Yes, it’s the moon. Over.”

The truth that was out there. And still is.

The truth that was out there. And still is.

And that, sadly, is the sort of idiot that will call the police because they’ve had one or two. Or three, or four (dozen).
So, because of the almost unbridled stupidity of some of the people we share oxygen with the police in Wales now answer their 999 calls by asking: “South Wales Police. What is your emergency?” rather than just asking how they can help you. Read the whole sadly true story here.
Which is something that I doubt would have saved the boys in blue in Scotland much time. They received more than a dozen calls to report UFOs in the sky. It appears that the calls were all made on a Saturday night. Anyone like to guess how many of them had been drinking? The story doesn’t make it clear, but either they were pissed, or they need rounding up and locking up.
The police were quoted as saying: “We’ve had call, after call, after call, saying it’s UFOs.”
Turns out that it was actually people playing some sort of game, who were releasing helium balloons with candles attached to them. Apparently they people were making a wish and releasing the balloons into the sky. I hope that they were wishing: “Please don’t let deluded people think that this is actually a UFO.”

Congratulations. You\'re a muppet.

Congratulations. You're a muppet.

Read more from the BBC about the whole story here.

I know that I’ll probably annoy a few people with this, but do you really think that an alien life form that has the intelligence to travel across hundreds of millions of light-years is going to arrive on our planet and choose Grangemouth in Stirlingshire? On a Saturday night? No, me either.
The trouble is that people want to believe. Try believing in yourself and getting out there and creating your own exciting life. Or, alternatively, scan the skies, just in case. Trust me, if they do turn up, you’ll not miss it. I’ll even promise to let you know here.

Soul legend Isaac Hayes has died. He was 65 years old.
For me, he’ll always be the man who created the super cool soundtrack for Shaft.
The title track is iconic, and is much stolen by rappers and hip hop artists. He was a driving force of black music and politics, and won an Oscar for the Theme From Shaft.
More recently, he won a whole new army of fans with his performances as Chef in Southpark. And then he lost many of these fans by going all religious and, well, a bit bonkers. He’d been quite happily lampooning religions left, right and centre as Chef. Then the script made a few comments about the Scientologists. And boy did he not like that. Which is a shame. You should treat others with the same standards as you yourself expect to be treated. In other words, if you’re going to dish it out, make sure you can take it when it comes your way. Not his finest hour. But ignore the later-day madness, and remember a man who gave us some truly superb music.

He’ll be sadly missed.
Learn more about him, and see a retrospective of his life at the BBC website, here.

In a small village in eastern Japan it seems we can find inspiration for the way we should all treat our planet. Kamikatsu is a small community in the hills who have realised that we have to vastly alter the way we deal with waste in order to live in harmony with our planet.
There are no rubbish collections. Ever. They don’t do throwing away. Instead, everything is sorted into 1 of 34 categories of waste. Kitchen waste has to be composted. All non-food waste is cleaned, then sorted and processed.
They make sure that everything is thought of. There are boxes for recycling plastic bottles, pens, razors and even styrofoam trays that fruit and meat is packaged in.
And not only is it good for the planet, it’s cheaper than landfilling, or incinerating. See how good the scheme is here.

Also, 40% of people didn’t really want the scheme. The mayor of the town pushed the changes through and basically forced those people who were not keen to join in. Which I reckon we need more of. People have become to lazy and regard everything as their right. We need to realise that we can’t keep thinking we’ll do it tomorrow.
I see that the scheme has also inspired an artist called N’Cognita, who was exhibiting at galleryonetwentyeight, New York. Some of her work looks great. Like this fish:

Learn more about her and her project here.

It’s a little effort to make a big difference. Join in the recycling.
Even if it’s just posting a link to this story, let’s make a lot of little differences.