Saturday, February 28, 2009

Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen

A lengthier 'teaser' trailer has just been released. Looks like this one is going to be a mite darker than its predecessor.

Friday, February 27, 2009

At Work

The Big Picture reports: [edited]

When the economy makes big news, many photographs of people at work come across the wires, usually to help illustrate a particular story or event.

By collecting these disparate photos over the past few months, I found that a global portrait emerged of we humans producing things. People assembling, generating, and building items small and large, mundane and expensive, trivial and important.

I hope you enjoy this look into some people's work lives around the world.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I hate dirty screens. Since I began using computers, a significant part of my life has involved trying to find ways of keeping the path between my retina and the image I am surveying as pure as possible.

A few years ago, I came across a product called OptiMax. I can't remember how, although I seem to remember it was via a Sigma SD9 user forum. What I do know is that I ordered a shipment of them from Robert Petersen at their website.

Robert claims that...

"Our secret process utilizes seven different industry methodologies in a forty-five step formulation procedure that's accomplished in a class 100 clean room environment.

"Just one mix of OptiMax takes over nine hours from start to finish."

"Our exclusive manufacturing process enables OptiMax to clean below the level of one molecule, thus our cleaner removes all static electricity."

Now, this gives me the shivers, because it sounds more like a homeopathy cure than something I'm going to invest in.

However, I do think this product works. Screens that I apply it to stay cleaner for longer. And marks that refuse to be removed by other products, seem to disappear when I use OptiMax.

Just my 2p'orth.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Safari 4 on PCs

cnet reports: [edited]

Our benchmarks confirm Apple's Safari 4 browser, released in beta, is the fastest browser on the planet. In fact, it beat Google's Chrome, Firefox 3, Opera 9.6 and even Mozilla's developmental Minefield browser.

Visit cnet for the actual figures if you want to see how all seven browsers scored against each other, but for quick reference Safari was a whopping 42 times faster than Internet Explorer 7, just over six times faster than Internet Explorer 8, 3.5 times faster than Firefox 3, and 1.2 times faster than Google Chrome.

Daniel Tammet

The Australian has published an excellent article on British high-functioning autistic savant Daniel Tammet. Excerpts follow:

Daniel Tammet turns 30 today and is quite pleased because he likes that number. Not the age, the number. "Thirty is round but also kind of curvy and shiny and green because three is green so that gives it its colour," he explains in a calm, gentle monotone".

To [Daniel] each number has its own shape, colour and even mood. "I like 30 because it is smack bang in the middle between prime numbers 29 and 31. Prime numbers are fairly rare anyway and numbers that are separated by two are even rarer."

Tammet has Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, and is one of the world's most remarkable savants, or people with developmental disorders and extraordinary mental abilities related to those disorders.

Tammet is one the 25 to 50 people in the world who are considered prodigious savants, meaning their abilities would be exceptional even if they did not have a disorder. The best-known representation of one is Dustin Hoffman's character in the film Rain Man, who struggled to function independently but could perform amazing mathematical stunts.

Tammet's ability to see each number up to 10,000 as a different shape and pattern helps him to do complex calculations in an instant. If he wants to multiply two numbers their images combine in his mind to produce a new shape, which he instantly recognises as the number he is after. He has a similar facility with words and languages: he learned Icelandic in a week and speaks 11 other languages, including one he invented.

But at the same time he struggles to recognise or express his emotions, has the facial recognition skills of a five to eight-year-old, and has trouble telling his left from his right. He cannot drive a car and has had to train himself to make eye contact, have small talk or recognise jokes.

Tammet argues that savant abilities should be seen as an outgrowth of normal brain functioning and "natural, instinctive ways of thinking about numbers and words", which suggests that affected brains might be at least partially retrained and that normal brains might be taught to develop or retain some savant abilities.

"In other people blue is connected with sadness for example, but when you think about it sadness is an abstract concept so why is it blue, why not green or yellow? It makes no more logical sense for sadness to be blue than for four to be blue. So there are certain connections, certain concepts in everyone's brain that are connected that way and mine just takes it to a whole other level."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Safari 4 (beta)

Available for PC & Mac, my first impressions are that it is very fast (especially with Java stuff), and that the 'top sites' and 'cover flow' features are a lot of fun. And from a skim-read of its specifications, this looks like Apple's attempt to start challenging Firefox's position as 'web browser of choice' for the discerning PC user.

To find out more click here.

Philips releases 21:9 ratio screen

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

The Philips TV is the first to offer a 21:9 aspect ratio. You’ll get a 52in viewing area and Philips’ Ambilight system that projects light onto the wall behind the telly coloured to complement the image on the screen.

Price: £3535.

Monday, February 23, 2009

U2's latest album previewed on Spotify

If you want to (legally) listen to U2's latest album, click here

London at night

The Big Picture reports: [edited]

Jason shot these images with a camera attached to gyro-stabilized mounts from a Eurocopter AS355, hired out at around £1150 per hour, using Nikon gear and a 14-24mm and 70-200mm lens.

Even with that, the low light and heavy vibrations can make things difficult, Jason says "I often shoot tethered to my MacBook Pro to check the sharpness of the images whilst I shoot."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

London-Lincoln-London 22-02-09

London to Lincoln
No More Heroes - Stranglers
Goody two shoes - Adam Ant
Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five
Popular - Nada Surf
Everywhere (Michelle Branch Cover) - Yellowcard
Queen Of The World - Ida Maria
Axel F - Clock
Gobbledigook - Sigur Rós
Oh L'Amour (alt) - Dollar
Cruel To Be Kind - Letter to Cleo
Little Girl - The Banned
Murder on the dance floor - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Spiders And Snakes - Jim Stafford
Hurricane Jane - Black Kids
The Love I Lost (feat. Sybil) - West End
Something Good Can Work (demo) - Two Door Cinema Club
To Be Or Not To Be - B.A. Robertson
Step It Up - Stereo MCs
Danger! High Voltage - Electric Six
You Stole The Sun From My heart - Manic Street Preachers
Cash Machine - Hard-Fi
A Mind Of Its Own - Victoria Beckham
All Night Long - Lionel Richie
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - The Flaming Lips
Baby Baby - Corona
Kiss With A Fist - Florence & The Machine
My Coco - Stellastarr*
War of the Worlds (New Version) - Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly
It Started With A Kiss - Hot Chocolate
Barbara Ann - The Beach Boys
Umbrella (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Radio Edit) - Rihanna
Suzie (original mix) - Boy Kill Boy
Toxic - The BossHoss
American Idiot - Green Day
This Is The World We Live In - Alcazar
I Wish I Could Fly (Orville's Song) - Keith Harris & Orville
Oh Creole - The Rumble Strips
Peggy Sue - Buddy Holly
Speedy Gonzales - Pat Boone
Point Of View - db Boulevard
I Come From Another Planet, Baby - Julian Cope
Wild Thing - The Troggs
Cars (remix) - Gary Numan
Oh My God - Kaiser Chiefs
Hey Jealousy - Gin Blossoms

Lincoln to London
Live In London - Pt 3 (Abridged) - Jackie Mason
Live In London - Pt 4 (Abridged) - Jackie Mason
The Big Bang Theory - Barenaked Ladies
Whole Lotta Rosie - AC/DC
Shine - Jan Krist
The Lamb Is A Lion - Michael Card
Under African Skies - Paul Simon
Learning To Love Him - Mike Scott
Don't Be So Hard - The Wedding Present
Darkness, Darkness - Richie Havens
Get 'Em Up Joe - Paul Young & The Q-Tips
I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair - South Pacific Original Broadway Cast
Family Tree - Loretta Lynn
Take My Time - Terri Clark
It's Not My Birthday - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
The Voice - Ultravox
Wanderlust - Mark Knopfler
Is She Really Going Out With Him? - Joe Jackson
An Cat Dubh - U2
Walk Through The Fire - Mary Gauthier
Duppy Conqueror (Mono) - Bob Marley And The Wailers
Take It Away - Paul McCartney & Wings
Uncle Sam - Madness
Nature's Way - This Mortal Coil
The House That Jack Built - Alan Price
Ladies and Gentlemen - American Music Club
Never Be You - Maria McKee
I'll Be Satisfied - Shakin' Stevens
Gypsy Fire - Dick Dale & His Del-Tones
O Happy Day - Edwin Hawkins Singers

Saturday, February 21, 2009

London-Lincoln-London 21-02-09

London to Lincoln
Live In London - Pt 1 (Abridged) - Jackie Mason
Live In London - Pt 2 (Abridged) - Jackie Mason
Wild Young Hearts (Edit) - Noisettes
Kids In America - Kim Wilde
It's Impossible - Perry Como
Wild Youth - Generation X
You And I, Part II - Fleetwood Mac
Girl Done Gone - Graham Coxon
Down by the Borderline - Tim Buckley
Making Plans For Nigel - XTC
I Believe - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Undertow - Vigilantes of Love
Wonderful Copenhagen - Danny Kaye
I Like You - Morrissey
Worn Me Down - Rachael Yamagata
The End of the Line - The Offspring
My Eyes Adored You - Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons
Matchbox Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
Wade In The Water (ft. Robert Randolph) - The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Hitler In My Heart - Antony and the Johnsons
Southern Kind Of Life - Kasey Chambers
Drop the Pressure - Mylo
Come Together - Annie
Ideal Me - Rosalie Deighton
Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness - Nanci Griffith
Honkytonk Heartache - Leo Stokes
Make It Feel Right - Jessi Alexander
But Not for Long - Vigilantes Of Love
Nothing Like You - Shawn Colvin
Return Of Django - Asian Dub Foundation

Lincoln to London
The Time Is Now - Moloko
Smile Like You Mean It - The Killers
Sweet Caroline - Speedbump
Never Had Nobody Like You - M. Ward
Knock Three Times - Tony Orlando & Dawn
She's Got You High - Mumm-Ra
You're Pitiful - Weird Al Yankovic
Jungle Drum - Emiliana Torrini
Patience - Nerina Pallot
Seven Nation Army - The BossHoss
America, F**k Yeah - Trey Parker - Team America: World Police
Naughty Girl - Holly Valance
Love U More - Sunscreem
(Keep Feeling) Fascination - Human League
Iceblink Luck - Cocteau Twins
Him Or Me - The Banned
If You Belonged To Me - Traveling Wilburys
The Last High - The Dandy Warhols
Good Enough For You - Freefaller
Call on Me (Radio Edit) - Eric Prydz
Right Back - Maxine Nightingale
Nag Nag Nag - Art Brut
Deborah - T.Rex
Rocks And Gems And Minerals - Dorothy Collins
In The Ghetto - Elvis Presley
I Can't Wait - Nu Shooz
Take My Breath Away - Emma Bunton
One Step Closer - S Club Juniors
Eleanor Put Your Boots On (New Recording) - Franz Ferdinand
Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic feat. Felly
Separated By Motorways - The Long Blondes
Starman - David Bowie
I Want That Man - Deborah Harry
National Brotherhood Week - Tom Lehrer
handshake - Eddie Izzard
Pata Pata (Original Version) - Miriam Makeba
Don't You Want Me - The Farm
Wild Thing - The Goodies
What Is Love - Haddaway
When A Woman - Gabrielle
Smarty Pants - First Choice
I Love My Boss - Moxy Fruvous
All Men Are Liars - Nick Lowe
Ring My Bell (remix) - Anita Ward
Crazy Logic (Gnarls Barkley vs. Supertramp vs. Rockwell) - Arty Fufkin
Walking On A Dream - Empire Of The Sun

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ricoh CX1

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Pre-PMA 2009: Ricoh has launched the CX1, a CMOS-based zoom compact camera. The CX1 puts a 9 megapixel CMOS sensor in a R10-like body offering a 28-200mm equivalent zoom range but increasing the screen resolution to 920,000 dots (unusually good for a compact camera).

The new sensor allows high-speed continuous shooting (up to 120 frames per second at 640x480 pixel resolution), and has a series of additional technologies to boost dynamic range. The first is a multiple exposure mode that effectively produces in-camera HDR images, the second is a system that uses red and blue data to calculate a green value when the green channel overexposes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

True Blood

True Blood is a television adaption of the Sookie Stackhouse book series (also known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries) by Charlaine Harris.

Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) has created a dark, yet humourous take on one of postmodernity's most popular myths, the vampire.

Thanks to the invention of synthetic blood (Japanese, natch) vampires are demanding civil rights. Predictably, everyone is taking sides, and the show uses this to explore a wide range of subjects, including racism, civil rights and homophobia, all through the lens of a claustrophibic deep south town called Bon Temps.

It's an imperfect and messy show. If you are put off by blood, you'll hate it. And it is ruder than a rude thing from rude-world. But the characters are complex and likeable enough for me to be looking forward to the next series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New 17" MacBook Pro disassembled

What's the first thing you want to do when you receive one of the first deliveries of Apple's latest flagship laptop?

iFixit decided to pull theirs to pieces.

Rejoice! Unibody 17" MacBook Pro is upgradeable

MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2009) How to install a replacement hard drive..

As long as you are happy removing 10 #0 philips screws, it looks like everthing is going to be OK.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HMS Vanguard

The Daily Mail has published an informative and fascinating report on one of the Royal Navy's Trident-equipped nuclear submarines. What follows is an extremely condensed version:

Deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic, HMS Vanguard — one of four identical Royal Navy submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles — is on patrol.

Moving at a fast-walking pace, she is out there right now; undetectable, untouchable and armed with more explosive power than was unleashed by all sides in the duration of World War II.

On board the Vanguard there is a safe attached to the floor of the control room. Inside that, there is an inner safe. And inside that sits a letter. It is addressed to the submarine commander and it is from the Prime Minister.

In that letter, Gordon Brown conveys the most awesome decision of his political career. He made it alone, in the first days of his premiership, and none of us is ever likely to know what he decided.

It is the Prime Minister’s answer to a grim but essential question: in the event of a nuclear attack in which Britain is largely destroyed and he is killed before he has time to react, should Britain fire back?

Vanguard was the first of Britain’s four nuclear-armed submarines to slide silently into the Faslane naval base on the east coast of Scotland when the Trident programme came into commission 14 years ago.

We can’t say where she is right now, because we don’t know. Even the Navy does not know precisely. Nor do most of her 160 or so crew. Once the boat has left base, it is up to the captain alone to decide where to patrol within the vast sector of the ocean to which he has been assigned.

Nothing prepares you for your first encounter with a ballistic submarine. It’s not so much her size — though she’s big, 150metres long — which takes your breath away. It’s the overwhelming menace which drips from her glistening grey casement. She is the most violent thing man has ever created. Yet she’s beautiful, too; a piece of perfect engineering.

Commander Lindsey... knows what his job is: to be Britain’s very last line of defence. And he has no doubt what he would do if he had to go into those safes to retrieve the Prime Minister’s letter.

‘In those circumstances we just go straight into our standard training profile: we will have had access through the outer safe, and I would then go into the inner safe open the letter and carry out those instruction as per that letter.’

Without question?

‘Without question.’

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sign of the times...

Argos are selling the snappily named Toshiba 42inch 42XV553DB 1080P Digital LCD TV for a penny under £500. Please don't ask me how much I paid for my 50" Fujitsu plasma just a few years ago. Come to think of it, I don't think I got much change out of £500 for the stand!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Facebook to market your personal data

Telegraph reports: [edited]

Facebook is planning to exploit the vast amount of personal information it holds on its 150m members by creating one of the world's largest market research databases.
In an attempt to finally monetise the social networking site, once valued at $15bn (£10.4bn), it will soon allow multinational companies to selectively target its members in order to research the appeal of new products.

Companies will be able to pose questions to specially selected members based on such intimate details as whether they are single or married and even whether they are gay or straight.

The power of Facebook, and its members, in driving corporate decisions was illustrated last year, when a campaign on the site led to Cadbury reversing its decision to withdraw the popular Wispa chocolate bar. Cadbury has sold 70m Wispas since it reintroduced the bar in October after the Facebook campaign attracted 40,000 signatories.

Facebook has already sold the new polling system, called engagement ads, to CareerBuilder, a global graduate recruitment company, and AT&T, the US telecoms giant, is trialling the system. A Facebook spokesman said the company's advertising department is marketing the new service to thousands of companies worldwide and it hopes the polls will go live this spring.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Son of Kindle

Amazon's latest incarnation of their electronic book reader is a much better looking than ite 'Fisher-Price' predecessor.

According to Amazon it is slim: 9mm, lightweight: 300g, has 3G wireless, a better display, longer battery life, is faster and a lot more storage capacity.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mr Brooks

Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a successful businessman, devoted husband and father. He is also the 'Fingerprint Killer' named because he leaves behind the bloodstained fingerprints of his victims.

Mr Brooks is a complex being. At the beginning of the movie, he has restrained himself from killing anyone for over two years, attending AA meetings and focusing on his love for his wife and daughter. But, he is buckling again, aided and abetted by the brilliantly creepy Marshall (William Hurt), the 'devil on Brooks' shoulder'.

The cast includes an aspiring killer (Dane Cook), a clever but damaged investigator (Demi Moore) and Brooks' enigmatic daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker).

This is a well-acted and involving film. And for anyone who has enjoyed the Dexter franchise, this will make a very enjoyable 'compare and contrast' watch.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hug Me Pillow

Hot from the 'Checked On Google To Make Sure It Wasn't A Hoax, And I'm Still Not Convinced' (COGTMSIWAHAISNC™) section, are offering the 'Hug Me Pillow', which is (allegedly) 'The perfect snuggling companion', providing 'comfort as well as piece [sic] of mind'.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

London-Lincoln-London 08-02-09

London to Lincoln
Go!! Speed Racer Go!! - Ali Dee
She's Got That Vibe - R. Kelly
Tie Me Up With Jackets - Fight Like Apes
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You - Black Kids
After All - Frank And Walters
Cinnamon - The Long Winters
Rip It Up - Razorlight
True Faith '94 (single) - New Order
Beautiful Life (Single Version) - Ace of Base
I'll Kill Her - Soko
I've Got The Music In Me - Kiki Dee Band
Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass - Cylob
Telegram Sam - T.Rex
Singin' In The Rain (Short Radio Edit) - Mint Royale
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead - XTC
we are your friends - never be alone again - Justice vs simian
Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting - Elton John
Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim
Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus
Tthhee Ppaarrttyy - Justice
Did You Boogie - Flash Cadillac
My Sharona - Polysics
Gasoline - The Airborne Toxic Event
Call Me - Spagna
Straight To Hell - Lily Allen
Somebody's watching me - Rockwell
All I Need's A Smile - Air v. Lily Allen
Make an Ugly Woman Your Wife - Percy Sledge
I See You Baby - Groove Armada (feat. Gram'ma Funk)
Baby Elephant Walk - Bert Kaempfert
Abacab - Genesis
My Doorbell - The White Stripes
Sedated Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne/Ramones (Arty Fufkin)
Touchy! - a-ha
From paris to berlin - Infernal
Doing All Right - Queen
I Don't Want To Miss A Thing - Aerosmith
Infinity 2008 (Klaas Vocal Edit) - Guru Josh Project
Suffragette Suffragette - Everything Everything
Treat Her Like a Lady (Single Version) - The Temptations
No Tomorrow - Orson
Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West ) - Benny Hill
5-6-7-8 - Steps

Lincoln to London
Foolin' Around - Dwight Yoakam
Wishmaster - Nightwish
When You Walk In The Room - The Searchers
Army - Ben Folds Five
Grandad - Jake Thackray
Der Kommissar - After The Fire
Papercut - Linkin Park
Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks
Ribbons - Carina Round
Instinct Blues - The White Stripes
Magnolia - Jon Brion
Follow You Home - Kasey Chambers
Busted Ft. Js -21st - The Isley Brothers
Please - Andy White
Farther On - Russ Taff
Reality Poem (live) - Linton Kwesi Johnson
For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
Let's Go Round There - The Darling Buds
Maginary Girl - Brendan Benson
Whatsername - Green Day
She's An Angel - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
Blasphemous Rumours - Depeche Mode
Power To The People - John Lennon
New Year's Day (alt) - U2
Sundays (Live) - Lucinda Williams
Is That Love - Squeeze
Open Book - Cake
Oh! Darling - The Beatles
Reprehensible - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
Our Lady Of The Shooting Stars - Mary Gauthier
Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) - Johnny Cash
Just A Little Overcome - Saint Etienne (St. Etienne)
When I Was Drinking - Hem
Try To Leave Me If You Can - Bessie Banks
Mr. Wilson - The Jayhawks
Crimes Of Paris (Electric Version) - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Kukuchi - Letta Mbulu
Reflections - Diana Ross & the Supremes
Keep Moving - Madness
I'll Be Waiting - The Offspring
Grown So Ugly - The Black Keys
Be Honest - The Wedding Present
I Believe My Time Ain't Long - Fleetwood Mac
My Heart, My Life - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook
Shooting Star - The Mamas & The Papas
Martin - Tom Robinson
The Kids Don't Like It - Reel Big Fish
The Mule - The Magic Numbers

Friday, February 06, 2009

Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen

If you enjoyed the previous Michael Bay offering, the 'teaser trailer' for the next in the franchise is now available.

Moving Photos 3D

David McNerney has released this freeware screen saver. It arranges any selected folder of images to form 3D constructions, such as a city block with buildings. Requires Mac OS X 10.5 and a decent graphics card. Very fun.

Thanks to Jason for the link

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fujifilm F200EXR

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Fujifilm has unveiled the FinePix F200EXR digital compact, incorporating its new 1/1.6” Super CCD EXR sensor. The camera is the first to use the company's EXR technology that can use the sensor in three different ways to optimize resolution, dynamic range or low-light performance.

The F200EXR has a 3.0" LCD, 5x optical zoom, dual image stabilization and HD (stills) output. An EXR Auto mode lets the camera select which of the three sensor modes is used.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Charlie Wilson's War

Based around the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the film chronicles how Charlie Wilson, a playboy Texan politican, gets involved in covertly increasing the CIA's anti-communism budget from $5 million to over $1 billion.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is the star of the film, playing a savvy, non-pc CIA agent. Tom Hanks is also superb in his role of Charlie Wilson. And the synergy between the two of them is a joy to watch. Some of the best (and funniest) moments in the film are the verbal exchanges between Phil and Tom.

The screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) has done a brilliant job of condensing George Crile's 2003 tome into 90 minutes of entertaining and thought-provoking cinema.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Apple Movies reports: [edited]

From Henry Selick (director of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas') and based on Neil Gaiman’s best-selling book, comes a stop-motion animated adventure (the first to be originally filmed in 3D).

Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is bored in her new home until she finds a secret door and discovers an alternate version of her life on the other side. This parallel reality is similar to her real life and the people in it - only much better.

But when this seemingly perfect world turns dangerous, and her other parents (including her 'Other Mother' voiced by Teri Hatcher) try to trap her forever.

Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination and bravery to escape this increasingly perilous world - and save her family.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Yakutsk, coldest city on the planet

The Independent reports: [edited]

Yakutsk is a remote city in Eastern Siberia (population 200,000) famous for two things: appearing in the classic board game Risk, and the fact that it can convincingly claim to be the coldest city on earth.

Yakutia, the region of which it is the capital, covers more than a million square miles, but it is home to fewer than one million people.

At -20˚C, the moisture in your nostrils freezes, and the cold air starts making it difficult not to cough. At -35˚C, the air will quickly numb exposed skin, making frostbite a constant hazard. And at -45˚C wearing glasses gets tricky, any metal sticks to your cheeks and will tear off chunks of flesh when you decide to remove them.

Locals claim that there are enough lakes and rivers in the region for each inhabitant to have one of each. They are fond of boasting that the region contains every element in the periodic table. According to local legend, the god of creation had been flying around the world to distribute riches and natural resources, but when he got to Yakutia he got so cold that his hands went numb and he dropped everything.

Yakutsk's remoteness is also extraordinary. It is six time zones away from Moscow, and two centuries ago it would have taken more than three months to travel between the two. Now it takes six hours in a Tupolev aeroplane.

Until the Russian Revolution of 1917, Yakutsk remained an insignificant provincial outpost. In the 19th century it was used, like many Siberian towns, as an open prison for political dissidents.

The region is rich in gold and diamonds, which is what lay behind the Soviets' decision to turn Yakutsk into a major regional centre, first using the Gulag labour system, and later with the resettlement of thousands of volunteers seeking adventure, higher salaries and the chance to build socialism on ice. The corporate giant Alrosa, which owns Russia's diamond monopoly, is based in the region and accounts for 20 per cent of the world's supply of rough diamonds.

Workers continue working on building sites up to -50˚C (below this the metal becomes too brittle to work with), and children go to school unless it's below -55˚C (although the kindergarten gets the day off if it hits -50˚C).

The whole region suffers harsh winters. A few hundred miles down the 'Road of Bones' is Oimyakon, known as 'The Pole of Cold'. It was here that the lowest ever temperature in an inhabited place was recorded, -71.2˚C.