Year: 2005

The Great Blog Hope?

An open letter to SixApart.

Dear TypeKey,

You came promising much, the chance to be able to track myself across the comment boxes of the land, the opportunity to build relations and create networks. A unique insight to my self, my habits and passions. Ohh how you have failed me.

Maybe I expected too much, maybe I didn’t really ‘get’ what you are all about, and if that is the case then accept my apologies and my excuses for my apathy. Mind you, you can’t even be bothered to remember me for longer than two weeks so it’s not like you are trying so hard yourself.

Do you treat others this way? Or have you stopped caring altogether? I once thought of you as a saviour, a guiding light, constant and unwavering, through the maze of commenting systems and blogging platforms. Little did I realise you were just an optical illusion, a dazzling artefact that flattered to deceive.

Don’t worry I’ll keep in touch, I’m not abandoning you, I still care. I just wanted to write to make sure you realised my disappointment.

Yours in apathy,

Gordon McLean

For those who are currently wondering what the chuff I’m waffling on about (and let’s be honest, it’s not the first time):

“TypeKey is a free, open system providing you a central identity for posting comments on weblogs and logging into other websites.”

So, to my mind, what this service could (should) do is, for every website I visit that is TypeKey enabled, allow me to generate a list of all the comments I’ve ever made. Alas that doesn’t seem to be the reasoning.

But why not? It’s the one thing ‘missing’ in most blogging stats, and the hardest one to crack, yet there is an API available so why hasn’t anyone risen to this challenge? Are there pitfalls I can’t see? Why isn’t there a tool to do this? There are a plethora of online tools, with more and more focus on blogs then surely this is a ‘must-have’ item??

I’m confused, let-down and wondering if I should take up the baton myself. Except I’m kinda busy at the moment…

Ohhh and apologies for the title, it’s supposed to be a take on the Great White Hope but not sure it works too well.

Snippets

Mike proves that the easiest way to get comments for your post is to change the design. Why do we find change so hard to take?

~

My downward trend has continued. Whilst only a measly 1lb lighter than last week, I’m quite happy. Especially given that last night I had a big stir fry at my brother-in-laws, and on Wednesday night we visited an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet place before we went to see Lee Evans. Add in a distinct lack of exercise due to time constraints (ok ok due to me being too lazy…) and 1lb is quite an achievement!

~

We popped in to see my parents last night and Mum gave me back some of my old piano books. Full of threats and notes from my piano teacher, it might be just the thing to get me to use the little Yamaha keyboard to play music on instead of a permanent home to various pieces of paperwork.

~

I CBATG so can anyone tell me how Michael Jackson came to own the rights to the Beatles back catalogue?

The Monkey Man

It’s the middle of nowhere and in a seemingly deserted shack a man is tied to a chair. He is convulsing and struggling to breathe, bent double as the pain spreads across his chest and down his sides. In closeup we see the muscles in his face strain and pulse, the dull throb evident after the first 20 minutes but there is no let up, the pace doesn’t slow, no remorse is shown.

The camera pans slowly round the writhing body until a glow, soon to be identified as a television set, enters the frame. Passing round the bobbing head of the man, tears are streaming down his face, his eyes locked on to the images on the screen in front of him. The camera pauses and changes focus, the television screen leaps into clarity and on it a man, in a dark suit, is parading around a stage. He is drenched in sweat, mopping his face and head with a white towel, and frequently emits an embarassed giggle… .

Lee Evans is an evil man. On three separate occasions last night he tried to stop me from performing the most basic function that a body requires, and I had to force myself to sit upright and BREATHE…. ahhhhh….

Relentless, hysterical, hyperactive, engaging, self-effacing, inventive, hilarious and many other words can’t really sum up the Lee Evans live show. From the Baz Luhrmann-esque introduction video, to the closing reprise of his mimed version of Bohemian Rhapsody (the first time thing I ever saw him perform), his energy, enthusiasm and the sheer velocity of jokes saw this two and half hour set zoom by in a blur of guffaws, belly laughs and “please stop for a minute, I CAN’T BREATHE!!” hysterics.

As ever the difference between me telling a joke and a comedian telling a joke is the delivery, and whilst I am going to mention a couple of his observations I’m not listing them here to make you laugh but so I can remember them at a later date.

On his dog:

You know that way dogs scratch their bum across the carpet? Well we had a nylon carpet and by the time he got to the other side of the room he looked like Don King!

On global warming:

Everywhere I go in my house there are pebbles, people are worried that the coastline is disappearing. No it’s not! It’s in my fucking living room! And of course there are all those candles. That’s the real reason the world is getting warmer, all those fucking candles!!

On travel:

And what gate do you get? ‘Gate 54 Sir’. Ohh it’s never Gate 1 is it! Have you EVER been to Gate 1!!! What are they trying to do, save FUCKIN PETROL!

The trick is that they weigh the luggage but they don’t weigh us! Put on ALL your holiday clothes and waddle up to the checkin desk, that’ll teach ’em! ‘Are you checking in any luggage Sir?’ No, I’m wearing it all!

On technology:

His palmpilot does “actual” handwriting recognition so you can “actually” write on it, in your own “actual” writing and it “actually” recognises it! Hold on mate, I’ll just get an “actual” pen and “actually” write this down on an “actual” PIECE OF PAPER!!

Monks were the first photocopiers you know, they’d sit in rooms making copies of the bible. Can you imagine the repairman coming out to fix a broken Monk? “Ohh sorry love, I don’t do Brothers, only Canons…”

And so on and on and on… if you’ve seen Lee Evans perform you’ll can imagine the voices, the indignation, the timing, the shouting, the physical comedy involved with the above.

Anyway, I can safely say that I have NEVER laughed so hard for so long. My face still aches this morning, as do my sides and I keep getting little flashbacks and giggling like an idiot. That got me a few strange looks on the train this morning.

Ohh and a brief word to all those people SOOOOO desperate to leave early. Yes I know he marks the end of his sets with a song, and yes it wasn’t a comedy song (but that’s part of his charm, the bittersweet sendup), but if you’d just waited a little longer you’d have gotten the bonus treat at the end. I’m pretty sure it was staged, even if he did make it seem impromptu – claiming that a bloke he’d bumped into in the street yesterday had said he’d better ” ‘fuckin’ do it, or I’ll kill ye’ and… well… this is Glasgow so I figured he might actually do it!” – it was still an excellent EXCELLENT ending to a wonderful night of entertainment.

Eddie Izzard was “clever funny”, well written, well delivered and made me laugh out loud a lot. Lee Evans is well written (including those ’embarassed giggles’ which he very cleverly uses to sustain the laughter… definitely a stage trick that one) and interweaves a lot of the gags together as well but the key difference is the energy. Lee Evans is a tornado onstage, and his enthusiasm pours out and drags you into his surreal little world.

In closing then, for I’m beginning to waffle, I’ll pick out one line from his show. He delivered it in the midst of a stream of jokes, pausing to look over the audience with a gentle smile on his face. It was said softly, genuinely and with the emotion of a man who loves what he does. Straight after it he launched back into the next joke, almost as if he hadn’t said it, but he did and it summed up the night for me perfectly.

Listen to that laughter, what a great sound

Indeed it is, Mr Evans. Thank you for providing it.

Sweaty Little Man

“I started doing physical comedy, because I was like a moving target. You know what British audiences are like – ‘he’s shit, kill him!’ My upbringing taught me to keep moving”

Lee Evans tonight. Can’t wait. Expecting sore sides tomorrow.

Best of a bad bunch

In the never ending and mind numbingly tedious job that is “adding titles to all my old posts” I’ve been trying to keep a wee log of posts that I think are my best work on this ‘ere blog. Of course this is entirely based on MY preferences and I think it only fair to ask you, dearest reader, for your opinion.

I’ve picked out the following four so far, a couple are quite recent (most of the content from the early years is crap) but I was wondering if you had a favourite post?

I may revisit this post in the future, so I’ll update it with your suggestions.

How now purple cow?

If, like me, you have a USB drive (or two), you’ll no doubt have it filled with wonderful applications, sync’d with a directory or three on your hard drive, you’ll be using it to store some personal details in a nice secure little application, and maybe even booting from it and other fancy schmancy things.

I’m not going to talk about any of that though, instead I’d like to introduce you to Moo.

Say “hello Moo” (she’s the one of the left in the silver/purple getup).

her ladyship

And here is what Moo looks like when I plug her into my PC.

exploring her ladyship

Moo is no ordinary USB drive though, in fact Moo has a couple of special features that give me a lovely warm glow and make her my favourite USB drive… at least until I can a newer model. Yes, as you can see from the above picture, Moo has her own name and her own icon. Cute, right?

I’ll leave the why for another time but, in case you are interested (and if you’re not, why are you still reading?), here’s the how.

Giving Moo her own icon
To get an icon to display when you plugin in your USB drive:

  1. Copy your favourite icon to your USB drive, don’t bother putting it in a folder though.
  2. Create a text file and add the following lines to it:
    [autorun]
    icon=moo.ico
  3. Save the file to your USB drive, and name it AUTORUN.INF.

Done. Now, when you plug in your USB drive, it’ll show up with the icon of your choice. Ain’t that pretty.

Changing the name of your USB drive is pretty easy. Just open up My Computer, right-click your USB drive and select Rename.

For the more technically minded, you can also set the drive letter permanently.

The really clever bit
There is one other reason I love Moo so dearly and that’s because, unlike other removable media, Moo doesn’t ask me “what do you want to do” when I plugin her in (this is beginning to sound slightly dodgy, like some weird USB porn movie… I digress) … no no, Moo just opens an Explorer window straight away. She’s so considerate. I love you Moo.

So how does Moo achieve this? Simple really.

Open up My Computer, right-click on your USB drive and select Properties. On the Autoplay tab, select the content type (mixed files for most people), and in the Actions list, select to “Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer”. Click Apply, then click OK.

One caveat to this: If the letter assigned to your USB drive changes (which can happen if you plugin another USB device), then the default Autoplay settings will be reset.

And that’s it.

You now have a nice name and a pretty picture (icon) that will be displayed when you plug in your USB drive, and the computer is now smart enough to know that you just want to explore the contents of the drive straight away.

Now, anyone know where I can get some cow-hide fur? I want to make Moo a jacket for the winter.

Additional Info
If you want to create an encrypted USB drive, you can use TrueCrypt and this set of instructions. Personally I just use my Lexar Jumpdrive to hold any information I want to keep secure.

Addendum
Thumb, pen, flash, stick, card and other names are all used to describe these little USB connected memory wotsits. If ever something needed a market leader to set the accepted term it’s the USB drive.

Remember me

Dear people who write software programs,

I’m not an unreasonable man, and I understand that software mirrors life in that there are always restrictions, things you just can’t do. I know that there are other people beside me whose needs you are trying to cater for and that their requirements are as valid as mine. I know that you are doing the best you can and sometimes it can be hard to see the wood for the trees.

Platitudes aside, could you please grow a brain!

Why offer a dialog which says “don’t ask me again” and NOT give me a way to turn that dialog back on and reverse my decision. Where is the middle ground? Why must things be so black and white? Is it ALL 1s and 0s with you?

If you know I’ve asked not to see the dialog, you can store that decision. Store the date I made that decision and a few months later let me know the choice I made and ask if I want to change it. It can’t be THAT hard to do.

And no, I shouldn’t have to remember the decisions I make with every single piece of software I use so please don’t presume I do.

Go on, be nice, do the right thing. Even if you don’t want to remind me of the decision at least give me a way to change my mind. Or do you expect my experience and usage of your software to never change? (and if that’s the case do you really expect me to stick around when a competitor comes along?).

These are fickle times, choice abounds and foolish is the man who ignores the options. Make sure that I only have one option by thinking about ME, complete the story, don’t stop because a decision has been made, ask yourself what it would take to change it at a later date.

Do that and I’ll be loyal. Do that and I’ll sell you to my friends and family. Do that and I’m yours forever. Or until something better comes along…

Your long suffering user,

Ev Ree One.

Weekender

Whoooooosh

There goes the weekend!

Saturday morning and we hit Hamilton town centre early. I headed to the shops, Louise headed to Cafe Crema to meet Louise (who she used to work with and who I use to enjoy flirting with on the phone every lunchtime). Home again by noon for a bite of lunch, then off to Dumbarton. Spent the night at my parents and, for the record, my Dad and I won the first two games of Trivial Pursuit, the third was declared a draw as no-one could keep their eyes open long enough to read the questions – best question was definitely “What habit, according to medical experts, leaves professional golfers feeling under par”. I’ll provide the answer later, feel free to try and guess!

Over dinner my Mum regaled us with witty tales and anecdotes, offering wry observations and biting satire. It was simply marvellous, the kind of dinner conversation you dream of having when Stephen Fry pops over, you know the kind…

OK, that’s not strictly true, in truth my Mum told us about how, that very morning in Glasgow’s Princes Square shopping centre (the posh one), she had managed to enter the wrong toilets.

Admittedly, she wasn’t 100% sure when she walked in, and was even less sure as, whilst ‘tinkling’, she spotted the graffiti on the back of the cubicle door. However, the deciding factor was most definitely the gentleman she met as she made good her escape:

“Ohh I’m sorry” he said as he opened the door and was almost bowled over by my scarlet-faced mother, “I must be in the wrong place”.
“No, it’s me” apologised Mum.

And no, I don’t think she stopped to wash her hands. Honestly, some sons do ‘ave ’em.

Later that evening, before we commenced the trivial battle, she managed to empty the dishwasher of the DIRTY mugs and plates, although I guess we can forgive her that one as she was a couple of gins to the good. At that point I proffered that this would all be ideal blog material, and whilst I’ve covered some of my mother’s antics before there are many that go unpunished unmentioned to spare her blushes. Or maybe mine.

Today started slightly blurry, but the farmer’s market gave some salvation in the form of honey roasted cashew nuts. Why are the bad things always SO DAMN TASTY!! Add to that a slice of birthday cake to celebrate my Gran reaching 86, and I’ll be on rice and water for the rest of the week.

Louise and I headed home for dinner and on the way I decided to take her round George Square in Glasgow to see the Christmas lights. By chance we managed to get a parking space right on the square and got out for a wee wander. Next thing we know we are watching fireworks going off behind the City
Chambers building
and wondering why.

Of course! It was part of Radiance – Glasgow Festival of Light. We’d both mentioned this to each other and then completely forgotten about it. As it was Sunday the parking was free so we decided to go for a wander. As I was camera-less (although I did take a couple with my phone) I’ll just say that although we didn’t see all of it, there were several lovely displays and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it next year. Here’s some more proof for you.

A bite of dinner in Babbity Bowster; Cullen Skink for Louise, mince and tatties for me and not a musician in sight. We had thought of nipping into Del Monica’s where our friend Alan runs the bar but it was a little early and neither of us fancied walking around for another two hours until it opened. Of course the fact that they were having a Country & Western night had nothing to do with it…

Disappearing

Unbeknownst to you, dearest reader, I’ve lost over a stone in the past couple of months. I started at just over 18stone, and I now tickle the scales at considerably more svelte 16st 10lbs. I’ve been weighing myself regularly and have consistently lost at least 2lbs every week.

But not this week.

The fact that I’ve been doubly carefully – two weeks ago I was amazed to have lost weight after stuffing most of a large chocolate cake into my gullet on the Saturday night – and have exercised more in the last week than at any time previously – including two days where I hit the magical 10,000 steps mark on the pedometer (once it got to 11,562!) – was obviously not enough.

I think my body is conspiring against me. As I sit here watching the snow whirl round the cul-de-sac, I can only presume that my brain has decided I need a nice layer of fat to get me through the coming winter months. Either that or I need a really big dump (I’m normally very regular but my ‘schedule’ has been out for the past week or so due to a distinct inability to get to sleep. Not sure if the two are related though).

Did you know that drinking cold (or ice-cold) water can help you lose weight? The thinking is that the body expounds more energy to counteract the chilling effect of the water. Makes sense to me, although I’m not sure how much water you’d need to drink to actually notice a difference. “As part of a calorie-controlled diet” I bet they’d say.

I will not be deterred and to make sure that I retain my “don’t put that in your mouth for, whilst it will taste delicious and heavenly, you are dieting and you MUST SUFFER!” state of mind, I’ve gone to the trouble of creating an Excel spreadsheet to track my weight loss. For those who know me, and know my loathing of the evil columnular work of the devil that is Excel, you’ll realise what a momentus occasion this is, and just wait until you hear how it works!

Yes, rather than just track my weight in pounds, or kilos (106.24 at the moment if you must know), I’ve got it to display stones and my BMI. My inner stats geek is sated, unlike my belly.

As for this weeks blip I’m hoping that my increased exercise has caused a little muscle gain, for I’m certainly happy enough with my decreasing waistline. I even had to put a new notch on my belt at the weekend lest my trousers slip down to my ankles during the morning commute, which would be troublesome when you have one hand holding your bag, and the other holding onto the overhead railing to stop you falling into someone’s lap.

Slightly downhearted but undeterred. The next time I post about my weight will be a stone from now when I reach the weight I was through most of my young(er) adult years. I’m aiming for sometime in January and ignoring the “elephant in the corner” that is Christmas.

Finished?

There is one simple rule by which I, and you, can live life.

“It’s never finished”.

Now, I could either get all philosophical on you (almost said “on yo ass” there…) or I could just say that I’m still not 100% happy with the banner (the very top bit) of this site. Energy levels dictate that it’ll be the latter. I’ll tackle the former another day.

Which reminds me, I’ve not done a “what’s in draft?” post for a while..

And yes I have plenty of others things to do, most of which are far more important but there is another philosophy to which I adhere and that is, quite simply, that “life is too short”.

In other news, I now have all of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy recorded so I’m looking forward to a quiet Sunday afternoon on the sofa.

And finally, I have to admit that it’s hard to type with tears streaming down your face. Maybe I should change the music to something a little more upbeat than Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around. Yes, it seems like some recent wounds are still a little too raw.