Saturday, 28 February 2009


Friday, 27 February 2009

Swiss Air Unveils New First Class Seats

Great if you can afford it. Unimaginably depressing if you're stuck back in steerage coach.

Skylon is Go II

A few days ago, we talked about the Skylon project. Here it is in action.

Ground Zero

Are you safe from nuclear attack? Check out how you'd do with this handy Ground Zero map generator.

I take great comfort in knowing that even if the nearest small town was insanely targeted by the Red Chinese (the only credible H-bomb threat. Iran et al are all sub-Hiroshima size), Chez Szondy would still be well outside the blast zone.

Coffee...Of The FUTURE!

At last, the final barrier to man's conquest of space has been breached.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


It started out as a track light, but then it got completely out of hand.

Buck Rogers

A little background on the hero turned catchphrase; courtesy of Kelloggs.

Elliot Carver, Call Your Service

I see that the US Navy is trying to find a home for the Sea Shadow.

Is there a megalomaniac's discount?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Digestive Table

A table that incorporates a composter to digest your scraps and an infrared camera/flatscreen so you can watch the decay as it happens.

I think I'll eat out a lot more.

Eye Ball R1

The British Army is buying a spy camera the size and shape of a cricket ball.

In other news, a new spy camera delivered to the British Army was destroyed in a five-a-side match by the Grenadier Guards.

Antarctica's Impossible Peaks

Fools! Beware the Shaggoth!

Doctor Who Anime

This looks much more fun than that tepid soap opera that runs under the title.

If only Pertwee was still with us.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Parliament Parceling

Does a one-legged Asian lesbian count as one MP or three? Or is it four? Cranmer takes on special interest splitting at Parliament under New Labour and discovers maths more complicated than my tax returns.

Why is it that I have the feeling that the end product of all this will be a revamped House of Lords presided over by a bizarre new aristocracy of victimhood?


Ever been dragged to a fringe theatre production and sat there in the middle of the first act's dreary, stilted, repetitious, profanity-ridden dialogue feeling as if all the air was being sucked out of the hall? Fear not, for with the Phantom self-contained breathing unit strapped under your shirt you'll have enough oxygen to get you through the lobby and down the pub and safety.

Kid's Don't Try This At Home.

A beautiful parable of love, forethought, and stun guns.

Don't read this in public or everyone will want to know what the hell you're laughing so hard about.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Dr Palindrome, Call Your Service

Headline from Discover magazine:
Experts Declare War on Space Junk… So What Do We Do Now?
Might we offer a humble suggestion:

Oscar Night

I can't stand the Academy Awards. Maybe it's the horrendous self-congratulation, maybe it's the boring films that are nominated, or maybe it's memories of days back in Britain being forced to stay up until some ludicrous hour just to find out who won "best mustache in a supporting role".

Okay, I'll admit the latter wasn't so bad because odds were that if I was doing that I had a couple of gallons of beer in me and I had a girlfriend at the time, so there was a more promising sequel in the offing. It all balances out.

Left to myself, I'd have skipped the whole dreary mess, but the wife share her sex's inexplicable fascination with celebrities, so we had the show on the telly while I fried up bacon sandwiches. I didn't give a damn and the whole thing went by in a series of aggravating flashes, such as the "best supporting actress award" being conducted by five women delivering fawning praise to the nominees like Greek goddesses giving tributes to the fallen at Troy. It would have been ghastly, except that the five goddesses were all so low-powered talents that it came across as merely pathetic.

Other than that, it was noise, lights, noise, hypocrisy, noise, and a double scoop of noise. When a clip from Harvey Milk came up showing two men kissing and I realised that a) it was 6:45 PM local time, b) my six-year old daughter was in the room and c) I now had some fast talking to do, I couldn't decide whether to be outraged at the producers for not being aware of the time and the presence of children in the audience or thankful that at least there was at least some distraction from the tiresome rituals.

Don't ask me how it all ended, because I don't know. I only lasted a little over an hour and by that point I was in a very bad temper and desperately needed a drink. Luckily, wife and daughter retired to the other room to watch while doing daughter's reading homework while I retreated to my office and sanity in the form of a very large glass of very cheap plonk for which I would like to thank the Academy.

Solar-Powered Batteries

Batteries clad in solar cells so that they're self-charging.

If it becomes practical and at least cheap enough to use in emergency bag equipment (where every question of "Where's the radio?" is followed by the answer of "Oh, &^#$", then they might have something there.

A Moral Compass Without a Needle

The British government is issuing a pamphlet encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex, but with this peculiar proviso:
Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.
It's amazing that a government that never passes up a chance to lecture Outer Party members freeborn Englishmen about the right and wrong of race relations, multiculturalism, recycling, self-defence, gender relations, immigration, drinking, smoking, eating, motoring, jet travel, and even what words may or may not be used goes completely mum when the topic is sex. No, that's not exactly true. New Labour very definite views, but they don't dare discuss them openly for fear of causing even an Bangkok brothel creeper to blanch.

Still, the prize must go to Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, who, believe it or not, is defending the government:
We do not know what is right and wrong; right and wrong is relative, although your child does need clear guidelines.
Why this woman is not struck off and forbidden to approach any child of impressionable age remains a mystery.

CCTV Chicago

Mayor Daley of Chicago wants to cover every street corner in the city with CCTV cameras by 2016.

Just in time for the Two Minute Hates.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Death From The Deep

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Third Eye

This video camera looks utterly bizarre, but I can think of a few jobs during my archaeology days where I'd have been happy to strap this to my helmet to keep my hands free.

In one case, I'd have strapped it on backwards to avoid all that tedious looking behind at what was chasing me.

Skylon is Go

I've been following the development of this British answer to the Space Shuttle for some time and if it looks anything in real life like this artist's concept, then we're in for a treat.

During it's rollout, however, the Thunderbirds March must be mandatory.

Though, I will settle for this.

Archaeology Update

White feathered: The archaeologist who refused to dig that year.

One of the results of the credit crunch is that the slump in the construction industry has resulted in layoffs among British archaeologists, who get most of their work these days from watching briefs and rescue excavations in the trail of new buildings. In practical terms that means that the archaeological unemployment rate has skyrocketed from 99.9% to 99.99%.

The truth is, anyone who tries to get a job in archaeology has to have his head examined. Though it's the most fun you can have with your trousers on, it's also the best way to starve or, at best, be trapped indefinitely in a lowly position under those above who regard your every qualification as less of an asset than a threat to their security. That's because during the Great Archaeology Boom of the 1970s, so many would-be Indiana Jones' went into the field that there was an impossible glut for the few paying slots that were available. You could dig if you were willing to roam what was then called The Circuit for sub-subsistence wages, but anything better than that was the stuff of dreams. I recall working for one unit in the '80s where a member of staff died and the day after his obituary hit the papers we were swamped with 3000 applications for his job. If that wasn't enough, there was the famous advice of that time for the best way to get a paying job in archaeology was to wait until 2017 when those with jobs start dying off. And they weren't joking.

That was when things were going good and even then, there were all sorts of closed shops and cliques under what were called the Units that divyed up Great Britain into archaeological fiefdoms never to compete with one another. When the Unit system broke down in the late '80s and the Circuit fell apart it was like the academic version of The Grapes of Wrath as archaeologists scattered far and wide in search of a wage packet.

Small wonder I switched to teaching in the '90s before hanging up my trowel for good in favour of the pen.

I particularly liked the BBC report that included this gem from Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology:
No one becomes an archaeologist because they want to get rich.They become archaeologists because they want to be archaeologists.
The first part is true, if hopelessly ungrammatical; the second is absolute bollocks. People become archaeologists because, like Fringe theatre, it's a great excuse to drink huge amounts of beer and get laid–though the latter was often theoretical due to an ongoing lack of female personnel.

But that's another story.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

redOrbit Hounour

Ephemeral Isle has been selected as the Red hot Blog of the Day by redOrbit.

Hello, redOrbit readers. Pull up a stool and relax a while. We're deeply honoured and promise to use our powers only for good.

Nine times out of ten. If given the opportunity.

Iron Man

An interactive guide to Tony Stark's Sunday best.

Obama's Elf

I guess the honeymoon is over when your elf wants out.

Camel-Powered Ambulance

Or you could just take the money that went into designing this lunacy and buy a secondhand Land Rover. Maybe three.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

CCTV & Tonic, Please.

Fancy going down the pub? I hear there's a special on Victory Gin.

Dubai Down

I do a lot of business with clients in Dubai and these sort of stories are way more common than people realise. It would be ironic if one of the consequences of the credit crunch was the world's most expensive ghost town.

But, Ah, The Strawberries!

Personally, I think that The Caine Mutiny has more in common with cataclysmic anthropogenic global warming than even Mr. Tipler realises.

18-Wheeler Alpine Challenge

Lorrying at its finest.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Water On The Brain

In perfect poetic symmetry, Seattle is ordered by the courts to repay hydrant costs wrongly charged against water customers to the tune of $22 million. And how are they going to pay for this? You guessed it: Raise water rates!

This would be funny, but I live within two hour's drive of this asylum and mining the bridges over Lake Washington isn't that easy.


It was President's Day at Chez Szondy; a day that I thought would be signified by nothing more ominous than a lack of postal deliveries and trying to get a day's work done with two dogs and a six-year old in attendance while the wife is off on a business trip to Oregon. What I hadn't reckoned with is that one of the neighbour kids was having a birthday party today. A birthday party an hour's drive away. At a place called Chuck E Cheese's.

If you live somewhere on the outskirts of Ulan Bator and have never heard of Mr Cheese, then you no doubt also are not sharing the feeling of dread that is gripping the hearts of everyone who has. Chuck E Cheese's is, depending on how you look at it, either a child-oriented games arcade that serves hideous food or the nastiest pizzeria on Earth with video games. Either way, walking into one is to be hit in the face with a simultaneous blast of electronic noise and the lingering odour of burned pizza. And, of course, the eating tables, the service areas, and the games are all so crowded together that grown ups spend most of their time trying not to step on a munchkin.

On the upside, the harried mother of the birthday boy gave my daughter a cup full of tokens so she could spend a blissful hour whacking moles, bunching ducks, shooting zombies and never getting a crack at the Mechwarrior console with the combat seat equipped with joystick and throttle–the only halfway interesting game in the place. After that, it was a feast of overdone pizza and cake, though due to her allergies the daughter had to make do with McDonalds and fig newtons. The highlight of the afternoon was when Mr Cheese himself appeared to entertain the party. We were lucky. He was in town appearing at the Tulalip Casino in Marysville. If we'd been in last week, it would have been Michael Crawford doing a few sets.

One thing I have learned though. If The Cheese people really want to clean up, the should get a licence and sell drinks to the adults–especially if the bar didn't open until they'd been in the place for at least an hour.

They'd make a bloody fortune.

Trading Cards... of the FUTURE

A fascinating collection of Space Age trading cards in full, glorious, lurid colour.

Tip o' the hat to Chris Bale


Nighthawkers, metal detector enthusiasts who illegally raid archaeological sites, were a major pain during my excavation days that cost me many a night's sleep standing guard after a major find. Some of them were decent blokes with a genuine interest in history who learned to work with us; others were nasty pieces of work who thought that every field in Britain held another Mildenhall Treasue and that they were entitled to it.

All these years later and we're still in the same spot.

Norway: Home of Giants

Revisiting this classic documentary on Norway is particularly touching for me because, owing to a Norwegian grandmother, I have the subconscious ability to read and speak Norwegian without realising that I'm doing it, which tends to freak me and those around me out at regular intervals.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Sub Crash

According to The Daily Mail, the nuclear ballistic submarines HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant collided in the Atlantic on the night of February 3rd and Vanguard had to be towed back to Faslane.

If Vanguard had gone down, Britain's nuclear deterrent would have been reduced to a farce. As it is, we're going to be in a hell of a spot until Vanguard comes out of dry dock. Now that two bomber boats managed to ram into one another, maybe someone at the Admiralty MOD will wake up and realise that ships do tend to sink from time to time and that's why the Royal Navy needs at least a one-third surplus in every class of the fleet to absorb casualties.

If New Labour feels that this will cost too much, then maybe a few Jihadist clerics can do without their benefit cheques for a few weeks.

It's A Fact... Maybe

Headline from The Times:
We are not alone: 'trillions' of planets could be supporting life
It sounds like a stunning pronouncement until you start to burrow into what Alan Boss, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC is actually saying. All the articles that have reported on this give the impression that the galaxy is so chock full o' life that we'll be tripping over Vulcans in no time. All very exciting, but then it turns out the the number of other "Earths" claimed refer to planet size alone, not temperature, orbit, composition, moons, atmosphere, radiation, age, star type, or other factors involving habitability. Using Mr Boss's criteria, there are at least ten "Earths" in our Solar System alone. A pity only one of them has life on it.

And it gets better. We then learn that not one other "Earth" has been observed; only Super-Earths that Mr Boss suspects are "but the tip of the iceberg", which is unfortunate, as not even the tip of said iceberg has actually been seen and even if it was there's no proof that it would be an iceberg at all. The bottom line: The whole story hinges on nothing but a guess.

I only bring this whole dreary episode up because a) it shows that so-called "journalism" has virtually no capacity to see utter rubbish even when they fall over it and b) it is a classic example of what Robert Crichton was on about in his classic speech on aliens and global warming.

Game Theory

From Arabian
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on Saturday that the United States should stop "boxing" with Iran and adopt itself to a game of "chess" with the Islamic republic.
I only partly agree. Abandon boxing; yes, but instead of chess, I suggest a quick round of roshambo (not the rock, paper, scissors version) with the United States getting first crack.

Snow Shoes

God, I hope these really work. If I ever glimpse the 9th level of Hell, I'm certain that putting on tyre chains in the snow is going to be featured there.

Munich Moment?

When people ask me what's the worst case scenario for Britain against the Jihadists, my pat answer is "We just surrender". I then go on to describe what I think is a more plausible worst case involving various political, economic, and military factors that lead to bloody street fighting, martial law, war with the EU, and the sort of never good choices one must make when survival is at stake. Really cheery stuff to talk about over tea and biscuits.

Mike McNally over at Pajamas Media, however, claims that the craven barring of Geert Wilders from entering the country actually is the surrender scenario in action. Whether he's wrong or not depends on what happens next.

The Four Yorkshiremen

We had four old blokes who used to do this sketch in the pub with a straight face and freaked out the young people on a regular basis.


Sunday, 15 February 2009

Quatermass OBE

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Okay, not that afraid.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Atomic Submarine

I once thought this the most frightening film ever made.

Mind you, I was five at the time.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Hope & Change: Iranian Division

From The Los Angeles Times:
Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.
But... But... I thought now that The One was president, it was supposed to be all hearts and flowers and coy glances across the conference table!

Ah, well. Maybe Barack Hussein Obama will realise that he's playing with the grown ups now.

We Didn't Listen!

Climate refugees swarming north to escape "heat waves, fires and other calamitous effects of global warming". Migrations "on the scale of the Great Depression". People dying of heat waves. And, wait for it... Ozone pollution. Such Chicken Little "journalism" is almost quaint.

I particularly like Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter Robert McClure's extensive quotes from one J Elizabeth Jackson on the impending doom facing the people of Washington state from heat death. I might even pay more than a nanosecond of attention to it if she were a climatologist or an MD or even a reader of pigeon entrails rather than a sociologist. That being the case, I wouldn't trust her to tell me whether the sun was going to rise in the east.

I'm going to miss the PI when it goes bust in about a month. It opens a door into a new and terrible world.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Snowball Would Be Proud

I'm not an admirer of Geert Wilders and I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I pay attention when he speaks because it always strikes me as something that is dismissed as "fringe" today, yet will be echoed in every pub within five years if the problems of a growing, unassimilated Muslim population that seems comfortable with radical Islam isn't addressed forthrightly and honestly. Unfortunately, that seems highly unlikely when Wilders, a democratically elected Dutch legislator, is denied entry to Britain allegedly because it "would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK" when in reality it stems from official fear of the likes of Lord Ahmed, a Muslim Life Peer, who threatened to bring 10,000 Muslims down on the Palace of Westminster if Parliament viewed Wilder's film Fitna–a threat that at least one commentator has pointed out fits the legal definition of treason.

This sort of cowardice on the part of New Labour makes one almost wish that the ban had been done out of the Brown government's usual prissy moral posturing. At least that had a slight tinge of honesty about it. What we have instead is something that hollows out Britain's ancient liberties a bit more while pouring another can of petrol on an already growing fire.

Update: Wilders arrested trying to enter Britain.

No, Thanks; I'll Walk.

Red China unveils its new Deathmobile: an execution chamber and organ chop shop all in one convenient package.

In related news, Chinese coach ticket sales plummet to an all-time low.

You Are Here

And now, a toroidal model of the super-universe with our universe a mere blemish on its polished service.

It's amazing how some people will expend so much effort to prove themselves utterly insignificant, yet won't take their thinking to it's logical conclusion and lend me £20 until the weekend.

Drowsy Dormouse

And now, your minimum daily requirement of cuteness.

Another Solution

How to worship Blessed Gaia fight Global Warming and Save the PlanetTM? Build gigantic skyscrapers to hold hundreds of trees to cleanse the air.

Away from Planet Zonga we have a similar thing. We call them "parks".

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Future Bath

The ultrasonic bath has long been a feature of our Future House section and now we get to see it in action.

The sounsdtrack is in Japanese, so it's unclear whether they managed to attach shame to it.

Where Do I Sign Up?

One of the Jihadists captured after the Bombay massacre claims that a female FBI agent tortured him with sex.

When the Left say that torture just acts as a recruiting tool for the terrorists, I don't think that this is what they meant

Happy Birthday. God Help Us All

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe is planning to celebrate his 85th birthday in style with this impressive menu:
  • 2,000 bottles of champagne — Mo√ęt & Chandon and ’61 Bollinger
  • 500 bottles of whisky — Johnny Walker Blue Label, 22-year-old Chivas
  • 8,000 lobsters
  • 100kg king prawns
  • 3,000 ducks
  • 4,000 portions of caviar
  • 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher
  • 16,000 eggs
  • 3,000 cakes — chocolate and vanilla
  • 4,000 packs of pork sausages
  • 500kg cheese
  • 4,000 packets of crackers
And why not? It isn't as though his people are starving, cholera-ridden and on the verge of utter ruin, is it?

Blue Peter

Blue Peter, the BBC's flagship children's programme is suffering from record low ratings. I blame myself, as I've never watched an episode in my life when I was sober.

Be that as it may, EI salutes the world of sticky-back tape with this magic moment.

Mad Men

The BBC has an interesting piece on the series Mad Men and how it's sparking a renewed interest in early '60s fashion. Let's hope that this catches on, because one of my pet peeves about modern society is the death of the smart suit and tie. Not that I have any intention of wearing such a get up. In fact, I can't. I'm inherently one of those rumpled professor types who can and has worn bespoke evening dress and instead of having the neat, crisp lines of a would-be James Bond I looked like a retired archaeologist who's more at home in unpressed tweeds and a sweater vest–which I am.

No, what I need is everyone else going around looking like Cary Grant so as to throw my abesent-minded boffin look into sharp contrast.

Bad Timing

If the local paper is going to print a story about birds migrating north because of warmer winters, they might not want to publish it on the day a snow storm hits the region.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

At Least They're Open About It

Now where have I seen this image before?

Oh, right...

Cartoon Internet History

A potted history of the Internet.

Snow Days–Again

I spoke too soon about the five hour chauffeur days being a thing of the past. I was woken at 2 AM this morning by a wet nose in my face that signified that the hairier members of the household had to go potty and when I let them back in I noticed that the dark brown dog and the black and white dog had changed into two white dogs.

Yes, it was snowing, which meant that the Molotov was getting its first test by fire. Or ice in this case. It wasn't a heavy snow and the worst problem was the usual black ice on the steeper bits, but the Molotov came through with flying colours. We were also fortunate that the snow only clung to the high altitudes, so that once we got into the valley it was more or less plain sailing except for the odd idiot in the ditch for whom ice is an abstract concept.

Though it's still an arctic scene outside, it's at least warm enough that the roads cleared and I could get back up the hill relatively easily. The real test will probably come tonight when we're expected to get hit with more snow. In which case, it may be time for some world-class cocking about.

Monday, 9 February 2009

On The Job Training: Afghanistan

President Barack Hussein Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss Afghanistan and displayed a poor grasp of what it means to be Commander in Chief. According to The Telegraph,
The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the US joint chiefs of staff last month in “the tank”, the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: “What’s the endgame?” and did not receive a convincing answer.
I suspect that's because the Chairman of the JCOS's reply was along the lines of : "Um, Mr President, it's your job to tell us that. You give the orders, we carry them out".