Month: March 2005

Miscellany

Music is a huge part of my life yet I don’t really write that much about it here. Odd that.

~

I now have three Mozilla applications installed, Firefox, Thunderbird and Sunbird (calendar application). I know have three separate folders in my Start menu, one for each. Why not one top level folder “Mozilla” and then sub-folder per application?

~

I have around £8 in my iTunes Music Store account. Which tracks should I buy?

UPDATE: New NIN track isn’t out yet! Kenny Burell – “Summertime” in the shopping cart so far.
A quick guide to my musical tastes (why didn’t I post that last night?)

~

Gardeners: We have a plant in our garden which I really like, it grows leafs like long very thick grass to about two feet high and then produces orange flowers spread up a central stalk. I’ve been under the, obviously wrong, impression that it’s called “lumbrecia” (my spelling based on my pronunciation), but Google says nothing.

Any suggestions? It’s very common, I’ve seen it loads of places but have obviously been calling it the wrong thing. Numbrecia? Mumbreshia? Neuromancer??

UPDATE: Montbretia, also known as Crocosmia. Thank you, thank you, thank you. P.S. Mum, I meant to ask you about this last night!

Must Read

If the previous post (below) isn’t your thang and believe me, part of my brain wishes it wasn’t my thing either, may I suggest you go and read this post on Naked Blog. Right now.

Why are you still here? I said NOW!!

Ohh you’ve come back? Right. Sorry. What do I think of it? I think it is a wonderful piece of writing, capturing so much of why I love Scotland (ohh I do, I may bitch and moan about the weather but ye cannae knock the natural glories we are blessed with). I don’t “do” religion much here (apart from running it down), but this has definite spiritual undertones for me as I’m sure it did for Peter.

Sticking Point

I’m stuck.

I’ve got two posts in draft that are constantly crossing over into each other’s territory, one of which is threatening to prompt me to start a new category called “Essay”. I’m trying to focus on specific aspects of some things that are currently doing the rounds across the Atlantic, and if possible kick off a UK-centric look at these issues. Trouble is, everytime I head down one path I end up cross-referencing myself into illogical loops in which you, dear reader, would be trapped for some considerable time.

So I’m returning to a tried and trusted method which comes in two parts.

Part 1: Make a list of the topics

  • The lack of women in the blogging hierarchy – from Burningbird
  • The evolution of the blogging hierarchy
  • Pros and cons of blogrolls and Top 100 lists – the popular continue to retain and garner links, which self perpetuates their popularity
  • How much of a reflection on me is my blogroll?
  • The Blog Maturity model – from Anil Dash
  • Seeking diversity in blogs (race, geography, religion, politics) – why should blogging differ from real life? Do we constantly seek out large scale diversity in real life and if so should that have a bearing on our blogging habits?
  • The Bloggies – re-enforcing the A-listers or opening the eyes to the many?
  • Matching blogging maturity to social development – forming true online communities
  • The internet is seen as lawless, is the blogging scene suffering because it’s also seen as morality-less?
  • Is the UK blogging scene behind that in the USA? SXSW suggests it might be, but as that was dominated by white males
  • And loads of other stuff that I can’t keep out of my head…

Part 2: Post it and see what develops.

Intact

Survived. Just. Not sure how well my legs will function in the morning though.

And whilst I’m here I’d like to thank the person that sent me a book from my wishlist (Alasdair Gray – Lanark). I have a few suspicions of WHO sent me it but as you didn’t say who you were when you add a note to the order I can’t thank you by name (hint, hint).

Balls

In an ongoing effort to both lose weight and regain some level of fitness I’ve managed to drag out the elliptical trainer quite often over the past few weeks, and can now manage around 10km/20-odd minutes most nights.

However it’s entirely based on my ability to find something on TV to divert my attention away, something immediate, that doesn’t lag at any point (no adverts!) and can successfully distract me for up to 30 minutes. So far the only thing I’ve found that works is sport specifically football as, unlike my favoured basketball, it doesn’t stop every two or three minutes for adverts. This is why I don’t do well in the gym.

So, this evening at 5pm I’ll be back playing 5-a-side. Hopefully I can go at least a year without snapping ligaments, breaking bones or generally ending up in casualty. Mind you my aims for this evening are to get through at least 15 minutes before collapsing in a wheezing sweaty puddle. It’s one thing to aimlessly “stroll” along on an elliptical trainer, but once my competitive side is involved I’m like a 10 year old kid, taking on the world as a one man defensive unit and forgetting that I’m an overweight, unfit 31 year old who has played ANY competitive sport for about six months.

Fingers crossed please.

LOVE ME!

Popularity contests, I can’t stand them. All that gushing for verification, all that competition… sorry? I’m 10th??!! …

Popularity contests, I LOVE THEM. Aren’t they great!!!

For those that missed it, there was a mini-furore (a fure?) recently when a new site launched with the aim:

… not so much to create a fuss about viewing figures, because popularity isn’t everything, but to provide a convenient and interesting place where new UK blog readers might start from.

It lasted less than a month. Why? Well because finding a reliable source of statistics is almost impossible, I have access to three sets of stats dedicated to this site. One offered by my hosting company (which I consider the most accurate), SiteMeter (added recently, I’ll explain why in a minute) and ExtremeTracking which I’ve used since April 2002. One thing that came up during the short life of Best British Blogs was the discrepancy between stats, something I can now vouch for as SiteMeter and ExtremeTracking rarely, if ever, agree.

Of course popularity ISN’T everything, in fact I was quite surprised that I only read, passingly at that, two of the first ten sites listed on Best British Blogs. The main problem, of course, that an accurate site title would have to be “Best British Blogs that have publically available stats that are on the radar of the author of the site”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it.

I think it’s fair to say that, when it comes to blogs, ANY site that dares list a Top ANYTHING list is at the whim of the bloggers within the target circle. If you choose not to opt-in then obviously the list won’t be complete and shouldn’t be regarded as such. With that in mind then, I do think that the “Top of the British Blogs” list (which, thankfully, is accurately named) may be a bit more opt-in accurate. As it isn’t relying on external stats packages but collating the figures itself it should be considerably more accurate and, more importantly, consistent than any other method.

And to answer a recent comment which stated: “Since it requires voluntary registration, it can’t really be a good measure of weblog popularity. Or perhaps just a measure of those people who crave popularity.” I point you to the Orwellian post, particularly the first section “Sheer Egoism”.

Of course, all this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m currently 10th in the list. Honest.

Related links
The British Blogs Top 10 (and now Bottom 10 too).
BritBlog Roundup is probably the best of the bunch as it links to the best (in the opinion of the author, obviously)(correction: as nominated by you dear reader) posts from the past week. Great idea and has already uncovered a few gems.
Slightly further afield there is Top European Blogs which grew out of the Best British Blogs and is based on site stats. However a pinch of salt is required as your site must be using SiteMeter and be on the author’s radar. In other words, if you want listed let him know.
And finally I’m adding in a link to You are hurting us and On the Absence of Women (sent on by Adrian) as they touch on the impact “Top 10” lists (and blogrolls) can have and is a fascinating read. More thoughts from me on that, later. below.

Further update
Probably an entire post in itself but let me say this. A Top 10/100 list isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For those NEW to blogging it gives them a frame of reference which they can use to either aim for or rail against. Both are equally required. Equally for those who have been blogging for a while (let’s say 2+ years) they’ll also realise that these lists carry, for them, little meaning or value. Anyway, as I said, this is better suited to it’s own post, more on THAT later.

BANG III

Awful awful news.

Made more awful by the fact that it won’t be the last such occasion, yet they’ve failed to act in the past, twice (at the very very least).

We will hear, yet again, that “guns don’t kill people”. We will hear, yet again, that “it is the right to choose”. We will hear, yet again, that more children have died.

But enough of that for now. Time to grieve and console. My sympathies are with the families.

Oliverian

Jamie Oliver. Love him or loathe him he has to be applauded for his current stance and activity surrounding school dinners.

Firstly I think he is a genuine guy, and even if his “cheeky charm” and “mockney” attributes put you off, if you’ve seen any of his recent series (I only saw a couple of episodes) or his last series where he took some challenging students (for want of a better term) through a chef’s course (which I followed avidly) you can’t argue that he does think he can make a difference and is passionate about what he does. For that I applaud him.

On the flipside, the cynic in me will agree with you if you state that he does get some very good publicity from these ventures (any publicity is good publicity after all) and that it is certainly a factor, but again I think he realises that he can use his celebrity status in a positive way but to do that he needs to remain a celebrity. Mind you, Sir Jamie Oliver? Not quite yet I don’t think.

However there is something that sticks in my throat, particularly concerning his recent series. Namely how out of touch our government appears to be with such simple matters. As I said elsewhere:

So the current fad is for the diet of children, that’s all well and good, but I hope it forces home a stronger point.

Parents are responsible for their children.

Simple really yet so many believe that it’s not their job to educate “that’s why they get sent to school”. Until those types of parents are held accountable for their childrens actions and education the system will continue to fail and we’ll have to rely on ‘celebrities’ to highlight these basic basic things.

Don’t get me wrong I think Mr.Oliver has done a good thing (and look at all that publicity for him as well! /cynic) but it’s a sad state of affairs when it’s NOT at the forefront of the affairs of state to worry about the future of our country.

So, bravo Jamie Oliver for raising the profile of this issue. But I do wonder if it is too late, how many generations ago should this parental malaise have been tackled? Are we into the second or third generation of the uneducated, globalised masses, and can I fit in any more grand generalisations (which apparently is my word of the month)? I don’t think it’s too late just yet, but the longer we leave it the harder it will be.

Addendum
I have to say I’m surprised that this hasn’t been fully latched onto by the political parties. Seeing as how there is an, unconfirmed, election coming soon, this kind of populist topic should be a pretty easy sell, at least I would have thought so.

This then leads me to start pondering on the future of politics and how it won’t be long until the topics of debate are generated from daytime TV (or are they already?), and how you’ll be able to phone-in to win a copy of “The Great Debates: The House of Commons discusses Burberry caps” on DVD by answering the following question:

Is the Prime Minister: A) a human being. B) a lump of coal? Calls cost £5 per second, please ensure you know how to use the phone before picking it up.

Actually, that question might be a bit too hard.

Orwellian

George Orwell, in Why I Write, suggested that there are “four great motives for writing”:

  1. Sheer egoism
  2. Aesthetic enthusiasm
  3. Historical impulse
  4. Political purpose

Obviously there are many other more subtle reasons for wanting to write but on the whole I tend to agree. Obviously Georgie, as I like to call him (he hates it though), was talking about writing professionally and most certainly was not talking about blogging; which is understandable as he’d been dead for almost forty years before it had even been considered.

However I’m quite taken by his reasoning and I think it still holds true today, writing is still writing even if the publishing format has changed very VERY dramatically. So let’s see if we can apply the “Orwellian Writing Reasons” to blogging.
Read More

Robots

Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

Wanting a leisurely evening we decided to forego the darker undertones of Constantine and tossed a coin for either Hitch or Robots. Robots it was (well it was tails as it happens) and we settled into our seats as the only adults no accompanied by a child or three.

Now I think I’ve made no secret of my love of the Pixar movies and this movie by Blue Sky studios (with the backing of 20th Century Fox) has further convinced me that, while the visual side is quickly catching up, the rest of the animation studios have a long way to go before they’ll be able to dethrone the little hopping lamp from it’s position atop the pile.

Don’t get me wrong this wasn’t a bad movie, it maintained a fair level of humour throughout, and had a few “for adults” moments as well – my favourite being the breaking down robot launching into a stilting rendition of “A bicycle made for two”, even if I was sure I felt Stanley Kubrick spinning in his grave at the point – but it failed to engage and just felt rushed throughout. Aside from the main character and his father you never really bought into any of the other characters, especially as the storyline fairly whipped along. Of course I shouldn’t be judging a kids movie with the same criteria I would use for an adult film (not THAT kind of adult!) but, as Pixar have shown, even kids movies can be great.

And a quick suggestion to any other studios wanting to use Robin Williams – yes he is wacky and funny but sometimes the story just doesn’t need another distraction.