james debate
james debate

Friday, 25 April 2008

As soon as I heard this album I knew I was going to have to write about it in my next blog. Released last week, I heard previews of the songs on this album the day before it came out and still couldn't wait the 24 hours to see the full thing for myself.

The Last Shadow Puppets is a band consisting of Alex Turner, frontman of mega record selling band the Arctic Monkeys, and Miles Kane of the Rascals. Their First album 'the Age of Understatement' has been eagerly awaited by many (even though I admittedly only heard of it the day before it came out) and it has not failed to disappoint. Since the day it was released it has been at the top spot of the itunes album downloads, knocking off the kooks (frankly disappointing) new album.

At first listeners might be expecting to go in and just listen to a remixed version of the Arctic Monkeys, and indeed some songs definitely carry that familiar distinctive sound, but to dismiss it as such would be to sorely underappreciate what has been done here. There is enough here to satisfy any fan of any music even vaguely rock-like; faster arctic monkeys-esque indie rock, dark and moody tracks, and slow melodic tunes, all of which are of a consistently good quality. More than that, this is a more consistently listenable affair than either of the Arctic Monkeys albums, both of which sold shedloads, and one can only hope that Alex decides to lend his considerable talent to more melodic songs such as these more often.

Like any album there are one or two great tracks and a bunch of good, but less good songs. So here are the ones you need to go check out.

Must Listen:
Standing Next to Me

Also Worth a Go:
My Mistakes Were Made for You
Meeting Place
The Age of Understatement
The Chamber

Just to clarify: i dont write these 'how to' guides about anything unless I know what I'm talking about, which generally means they are formulated through a healthy mix of common sense, my own experience and a good deal of research. But of course I welcome anyone who wants to ask how I know about such things, and on all occasions am more than happy to answer such queries :)

Now on to today's how to guide. We've all been there where your windows computer (it doesn't happen with macs as far as I've seen, which is one of the many reasons I switched) starts to age badly, take long periods of time to start up when you switch it on, and lets face it, it sucks. Fortunately in most cases this is just one of those stupid things that Windows does, and can be easily fixed with only a few minutes' effort.

The biggest problem is that so often when you install new software, it adds itself to the boot list, that is, programs which load when you start up your computer. To see what is loading now and to pick and choose in Windows XP click on your Start Menu. Go to Run. Type: msconfig. You’ll be presented with tabs. You’re probably operating under Normal Start Up which loads all device drivers and services. Choose Selective Startup instead. Under Selective Startup I’ve checked Process System.INI file, Process Win.INI.file, Load System Services, Load Startup Intems and Use Original Boot.INI. If you are an advanced user and you know what you are doing you can select or deselect these boxes as you choose. If you click everything except Services and then click disable all, followed by OK, you’ll end up booting in Safe Mode. Our goal here is to cut back on the Start Up programs. Click that tab. There you’ll find a long list of applications like ALCMTR and hpsysdrv. I took the time to enter each of them in Google to search for what they did. Sites like processlibrary.com proved useful in determining whether or not I should enable or disable the applications on booting. Right now I’ve only selected about a third of those listed. My machine boots faster and I’ve notice no lack of performance.

While you are in MS Config, look under the "BOOT.INI" tab. You will see a box labeled "Timeout." It is typically set to 30, which adds a half a minute delay. Feel free to change it, but do not set it to less than 3 seconds. Close that tab, Click OK and reboot in order for the changes to take place. The first time you restart you’ll probably have a window pop up saying you’re in selective boot mode. You can disable the window while preserving your changes.

Then make sure that you are not loading Trojans or ad ware when you boot. Not only should you keep your anti virus software like McAffee or Norton up to date, or if you want a free program try AVG, but you should also load and install an adware remover like Lavasoft’s Ad Aware 2007 which is free for private use and is damn good.

Finally, at least once a month, clear out your Internet temp files through your browser, empty your recycle bin, move unneeded files to a back up drive and perform a disc defragmentation. In My Computer, right click on your boot drive. Click on Properties, Go to Tools then defragment. This will take time, so don’t run any applications including screen savers while performing this task. When your files are closer together they’ll load faster. You can also go through your cookies folder, deleting those you don't need.

song of the day: "Hospital Beds" by "Cold War Kids"
thing you're going to do today: get psyched up for the second half of a crucial week in football... then realize that the first half was boring as hell
pic of the day:
HOT:
the Last Shadow Puppets
Hospital Beds
Jose Mourinho

NOT:
the Arctic Monkeys
Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors (relatively)
Avram Grant

Saturday, 19 April 2008

As a new feature I will occasionally be running specific artist spotlights. These are intended to educate and provide basic commentary on the chosen band, and listing their biggest hits, as well as the hidden gems they've recorded.
This week the spotlight is on the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a classic band.



It's always impressive when a band comes along who can record songs and maintain popularity over multiple decades. RHCP have been doing so for over 20 years and going strong. What impresses more about the band however is the wild variation in their music. This is a band that has recorded high charting hits which range from heavy metal to soft, almost pop-rock, leaning more towards the latter as the band matures it's sound in recent years.

Of particular note for me is their album By The Way, in my mind one of the best album's made. This album focuses on their more melodic ballad-like side, producing some of their softer songs, which I like very much. It is also their best selling album to date. Literally, the entire first half of that album are all amazing songs, go give it a listen.

And now on to the fun bit, the recommended songs:

Biggest Hits:
Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers
By the Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Can't Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Noteworthy Efforts:
Soul to Squeeze - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Fortune Faded- Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Zephyr Song - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Universally Speaking - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Hidden Gems:
Dosed - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Especially in Michigan- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers

First some basics:

-Cats are carnivores, they do not eat vegetables, grains, fruits or anything like that. They eat meat, that's what they want.
-Kittens need more nutrition than cats as they are developing and growing, so make sure any food you buy for your kitten is specially marked as 'for kittens'
-Wet food > Dry food

Now about that last point. Cheap vets and many amateur pet shops will tell you that dry food is what your cat should be eating. They will say it is 'good for their teeth'. While that may be arguable, the fact is the only real benefit of dry food is for owners, making it much easier for them. It's easier to store, leaves less mess and upsets cat's tummies less. It is, however, completely unnatural. Cat's don't have dry food in the wild, they just eat meat, wet meat.

What you want is a natural canned meat. Look at the ingredients, chicken or fish should be near the top, and the protein percentage must be high. I highly recommend Natures: Menu which has a whopping 70% meat content and Didier loves the taste, laps it up very quickly.

The aim should be to ease your kitty onto wet food, or give a mix of both. What I do is give him dry food during the day, and then a bigger meal of wet meat at night before bed, at least until he's more used to it.

As a final note, avoid cheap 'big' brands like whiskas and felix, the all natural brands are far healthier and tastier.

Well I suppose a lot has happened since the last time I spoke to some of you, so quickly I'll just say all is well; i'm not driving myself insane about work like so many others, i'm continuing my writing, and I had a very enjoyable encounter with a certain someone the other day :)

Best of all, however, is the new addition to the family, Didier. Didier differs from my other family members in that he is a small kitten. He's amazing and adorable and you can't spend 5 minutes with him without falling in love. He also has some pretty sweet football skills, better than half the players on Chelsea right now let me tell you.



In other glorious news, it appears Arrested Development, aka the greatest tv show ever written, is finally achieving some level of deserved appreciation in the general public. I say this based on the fact that it can now be seen on british tv, 3 episodes every night. Indeed this appears to be pretty typical, where great underappreciated tv shows which get cancelled or on the verge of cancellation (see family guy, futurama, scrubs) fail in America, but then achieve some real success in England (clearly we recognise quality tv much better than Americans). In the aforementioned examples, family guy and futurama have since been un-cancelled, and scrubs has suddenly achieved mass recognition and has also been un-cancelled.
The other pleasant sign of appreciation is that this show can now be found on itunes, where it is also on the top downloaded tv shows charts, and rightly so. Looks like it's finally being appreciated.
Also Pushing Daisies is now available in the English itunes store. Go buy it, it's one of the best new tv shows in many many years.

song of the day: "Jenny" by "I'm From Barcelona"
thing you're going to do today: go on itunes and buy the arrested development tv seasons, all of them.
pic of the day:
HOT:
Kittens
Arrested Development
The Ephemeric

NOT:
Other Animals
Other Tv Shows
Other Blogs

Friday, 4 April 2008

This is another one for all you out there trying to get some form of online business going. Last week I posted a guide for ways in which you could find advertising for your site, now on a more practical matter I will tell you how you can go about setting up shopping cart software on your website, as all professional ecommerce websites do.

At the end of the day, when you look around you will find that there is one leading brand that offers the best mix of flexibility and customisation, easy setup, and packed full of features to suit anyone's needs. On top of this it is also veryy affordable when compared to other similar examples of ecommerce software. This is Ashop Commerce, a leading provider of hosted shopping cart software. It offers a complete solution for merchants to sell online. Head on over to their website and take a look at the extensive features list and you will agree that this the solution to all your ecommerce software needs.

This year, as it turns out, I was given a bumper long 6 week Easter holiday. Even though I was supposed to use this time to study hard and cram my head full of as much medical knowledge as possible, I figured I needed a good week completely off to relax and tune out. To that end I took a week of skiing in Switzerland, where I stayed at the Suvretta House resort near St Moritz. It has been a long time coming and a number of you have asked what has been taking me so long (i'm busy and i've been sick so nyah) but without further ado, I present to you the massive write up of a week's stay in snowy paradise.

First of all, I'm not a big fan of these short flights, just over an hour and a half in length. There's nothing to do on them and the food is much cheaper and the whole thing just smacks of lack of effort. Also i really pity the guys who pay an extra couple of thousand for a first class ticket for such a short flight, only to find that it's time to go as soon as they've settled in. None the less it was a good trip in, and after a 3 hour train ride, I got to the town of St Moritz, situated high in the mountains with a view of the Alps to die for. Now this town has become pretty much a playground for public school boys and old people with too much money. It is swarming with old Etonians and Harrovians and people from even my prep school (and it wasnt even too fancy like Eton!). As it so happened I even ran into old friends from the Eton ski team. As such the area now has more of a 'disneyland' kind of feel to it. To match this, the town has transformed in the past 10 years or so, filling up now with designer clothes shops, bars/clubs and expensive chocolate shops, which are awesome. But then, the insult of all insults, the town was covered in advertising for Euro2008, which is being held in Switzerland this summer (for which England have not qualified). For a place so densely populated by English people, Im sure it couldn't have been accidental. There are also plenty of lovely restaurants in St Moritz, but I would have no time to sample them this time around as I will soon explain.

Now onto the Suvretta Resort itself. This place is essentially a utopian paradise, for people generally a hell of a lot richer than I am. But seeing as I may not be back skiing for a good few years thanks to medical school I figure I may as well go all out this time. The building is massive and majestically beautiful, reminiscent of the giant lodge in the film 'the Shining' except far prettier and a lot less haunted (I suppose that depends on what you dislike most between ghosts and dentists, more on that in a minute). The lobby is huge and ornate, with an even bigger lounge full of tables and sofas, all with a view out of the giant floor-to-ceiling windows across the simply spellbinding mountains and forests. Here, one can sit at any point during the day or night, listening to live piano music and being waited on by an extensive staff that surely must equal the guests in size. These members of staff are all charismatic and helpful, from affable old swiss gentlemen who speak little english, to younger Italian trainees who teach me pickup lines in Italian when I'm about to go off and hang out with various other guests I meet. The rooms are huge, well kept and feel expensive and luxurious. The hotel has it's own shops and ski shop. It has a full spa and large indoor swimming pool, as well as an outdoor hot tub (and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you spend an hour sitting in a steamy hot tub in the middle of a snow storm). Indeed this pool area/hot tub is where many of the younger guests migrate during the day after some tiring skiing or snowboarding, so it is a good place to meet people of your age.
I suppose that brings us on to arguably one of the best things about this place, the restaurant. In fact there are two restaurants, one being an ├╝ber fancy 'wear a tie and jacket' affair, and the other being a more smart casual country style restaurant, aptly named the 'Stube' German for 'lounge'. They are both very good, but really, special praise has to be given to this main restaurant. They have a completely different menu each night, consisting of two courses and a soup course, followed by dessert. There are some restaurants which fill their menus with strange, random sounding stuff, chocolate and wasabi mousse, pigeon with cocoa beans, bacon and eggs ice cream, and the mark of a truly genius chef is when you find a place that does these dishes well, somewhere which instils you with the confidence to eat everything they make, no matter how strange it sounds. This is one of those places, and indeed every single dish I had this week was brilliant. And if a different selection of dishes for each course every night was not enough, the chef is also prepared to take requests. You can ask for any dish you like, anything in the world and they will make it for you. They seem to be able to manage it more often than not too, that must be one bloody huge kitchen.

As for the skiing itself. When we got there it was pretty damn windy and foggy and cold and as such the first day or two were approached with a bit of trepidation and daring more than childlike enthusiasm. However this quickly passed and the remaining days of the trip were subject to some of the most blissfully perfect conditions I've seen in many years, perfect soft snow and lovely warm sun in a big clear sky.

But all was not perfect. The tv, for a start was a bit baffling, in that the channels we got seemed to be changing every day, and never agreed with the channel listings provided by the hotel. Fortunately I didn't exactly go there to do a lot of tv watching, the only time I wanted it was to watch the England game, which I then found on French tv anyway. Worse though was how crowded the hotel was. And why was this? Dentists! every year this time of year they have some massive dentist gathering at the hotel and the place is packed full of them and their familes. Bloody dentists. They steal all the good breads from the massive buffet breakfast too.

Things I have Learned from this trip
Bellinis rock
Merlot from the south of Switzerland is very good
Dentists REALLY suck

song of the day: "This River is Wild" by "The Killers"
thing you're going to do today: rick roll someone
pic of the day:
HOT:
Doctors
Good commericals, like the sony tv one with jose gonzalez


NOT:
Dentists
Bad commercials, like the cringeworthy Eastenders 'jackson 5' one. Ugly, talentless, annoying cockney women singing in their cockney accent trying to sound like Michael Jackson. Please don't.

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