Month: January 2006

What's in a name?

The price of fame, in blogland, appears to be nasty comments. At least that’s what some visitors, the minority it would seem, to Naked Blog take it to be. Peter rightly points out that it is his writing that is the key element of his site, but I’m not sure that the following statement is quite what he means.

“the medium would descend to a money-making racket, then I wouldn’t have championed it so vociferously over the aeons.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to second guess a Bloggies Lifetime Achievement nominee but there seems to be a growing view that you either blog for pleasure, for the aesthetic if you will, or you are a whore to the green mistress that rules us all. The more I think about it, the more I begin to wonder if that isn’t exactly what is going on at the moment.

On one side you have the hobbyist blog. The traditional, grass-roots publishing side of things where, largely (putting small amounts from adverts aside), the key element is the publishing of posts on whatever topic takes the author’s fancy.

Contrasting that you have the “pro” blog. Usually topic-focussed (specialised), and aiming to have a large readership to ensure the revenue generated by adverts is maximised. Includes blogs that rely solely on advertising or sponsorship to survive.

Too simplistic? Well have a look at a blog, any blog you like, and try and apply the ‘rules’ above. I warrant you’ll be able to decide which camp it belongs to pretty easily.

I’m not arguing for/against any blog, what you do with your blog is up to you dearest reader. I just think that, as blogs permeate further into the media and society in general, it’s better for those who blog (that’s us) to take a look at these things and offer some suggestions. What I think we really need is a new word.

I think both ‘sets’ of bloggers would benefit from a new term in the blog lexicon that offers us a way to categorise a blog along the simplistic lines I’ve mentioned above. We already have the term “blog” and I’d suggest that is kept for the hobbyist (although as we are the ones without the money I’m not entirely sure we get to decide!). So we need a new word for the professional blog.

Except we already have one, a quick search for problog brings plenty of results. However I think this is still missing a trick as it doesn’t account for the ‘non-corporate’ professional bloggers (Kottke, Dooce… umm… are there any others??) but I think I can live with that. There are always a few sites that bend the rules.

This site is, and will remain, a blog. A means to publish whatever zips across my radar. A way to keep in touch with a large number of interesting people whom I’ve never met. Something that keeps my interest. A hobby.

UPDATE
Well this has sparked an interesting set of topics, not to mention a couple of very well thought out emails. There are a few other comments over at mike’s place which add to the discussion as well.

To close this out I thought I’d post a copy of the comment I made over there (hey if he can do it..)

Kettle fish etc..

Having re-read my own post a few times, and thought about some comments, and emails as well, I can see why some would think I was saying that X is “more worthy” than Y. That wasn’t the intention.

My background is communications. A key part of that is the seemingly simple matter of using common terminology. GETTING simple terminology out of a complex topic, like blogging, is nigh on impossible.

So, you take the mix of ‘what is a blog’ and distill it down as far as possible. I still think you can categorise ANY blog as either PRO (for money) or PERSONAL (not for money).

You are right that blogs are just “websites with reverse-chronological dated posts”. Couldn’t agree more. So maybe I should have focussed on the author, the motivation behind the blog.

Do I think that one particular type of blog is “more worthy” than another? Define “worthy”. OK, I’m being argumentative… in short, no I don’t.

I read political blogs, web design blogs, blogs about people’s lives, blogs about people’s football teams, blogs about music, movies, books… etc etc.

They are all blogs. The motivation behind them may be different.

I THINK that’s the point I was trying to make (but I’m backtracking a bit).

The next question is WHY categorise at all?

Simple answer? Don’t. There is no need. It was just something I was thinking about (and that I thought might spark a few comments). I certainly wasn’t getting “all het up about it” or anything. Far too unhealthy an attitude if you ask me.

As mike (as usual) succinctly puts it “Live and let live. Peace and love.” Well said, that man, well said.

Patience?

Blimey, it’s almost cold enough to freeze the testicles off a monkey made from a copper and zinc alloy!

Anyway, my fingers are just about warm enough to type so I have a question. How long should I wait for payment before re-listing an item on eBay?

The bidding ended 5 days ago, and I’ve contacted the buyer twice, once to say if they paid immediately they could have the item by the weekend, and again last night to enquire WHEN they would be paying… the second email was mainly to see if I get a response at all!

I didn’t include a ‘must be paid in x days’ note anywhere but in my limited experience with eBay I’ve never had anything take this long. Even cheques have appeared quicker.

What say you, oh wise denizens of the internet, should I re-list the item?

UPDATE: eBay’s Unpaid Item Process is what I’m after!

Weekender

Blimey, it’s almost over ALREADY!

A few beers on Friday night, and after dragging myself away from the pub I came home to find the remnants of a curry Louise had ordered, bonus! Admittedly after a few pints of Guinness and a spot of curry, Saturday was a little… windy.

Thankfully by the time Saturday evening rolled around I was no longer in danger of making the shipping forecast – MALIN. NORTHWEST 4 INCREASING 7 OR GALE 8. SMELLY. – and enjoyed a great evening out to mark the 21st birthday of Louise’s cousin, Sharon (OK, not really. She’s 53… um… 41?… no wait… 36??). It’s always a good night out, as that side of the family are very easy going and always up for a laugh. Dinner at the Princess Rose was good and the food was excellent as usual, if a little slow coming out. Mind you we didn’t really notice that much as they did a grand job plying us with booze and it was easily the busiest I’ve ever seen it. Of course the round of free drinks helped as well!

The entire restaurant joined us as we sang Happy Birthday to Sharon before we headed off and after a brisk walk, it was bloody cold on Saturday night, arrived en masse in the pub. More drinks, daft stories – when told of the price of a round the world air ticket, Sharon’s sister enquired “How much does the return cost?” – and then back to my parents house where we bumped into my Dad as we all returned home around the same time (yes, that’s right, he was on his way back from another Burns Supper).

Today, washed the car, watched a little football, did a little work and sorted out the Lou Lou Creations website. Many thanks to IanD for pointing me in the direction of Lightbox, a site I’ve bookmarked and will be using again! And to Donalda (no website, yet?!!) for pointing out the obvious mistake (I left a deliberate error on one page to test the error handling and forgot to correct it!). Only thing left for the site is to get better photos of the cards but all in good time.

I also finished a little pre-design work for a new project which should be interesting, more on that later. Once I’m allowed to talk about it.

How was your weekend?

iTunes Meme

Meme alert. Yes, always a sure sign that I’m too busy to be bothered actually putting some effort into posting here, it’s meme time. This one was stolen from Neil and has scared me a little, particularly the first set of stats. Who the hell needs that many tracks?*

How many total songs?
11,937 songs, equal to 35.3 days or 59.38 GB. And I’ve still got a few CDs left to rip, need a new hard drive first!

Sort by song title – first and last?
   First: ’39 by Queen (album track from A Night at the Opera) – a lovely banjo lead ditty about space travel.
   Last: Zuton Fever by The Zutons (album track from Who killed the Zutons?) – slightly narcissistic, no?

Sort by time – shortest and longest?
   Shortest: Reprise by Queen at 4 secs. However shortest actually track is probably Passive Manipulation by the White Stripes at 34 secs long (short).
   Longest: Beethoven’s 9th performed by BBC Philharmonic, 1 hr, 7 mins and 24 secs. Bizarrely the longest non-classical track (excluding mixes) is Reprise by Queen which runs to 22 mins and 33 secs. I’m thinking that’l

Sort by Album – first and last?
   First: ’64-’95 by Lemon Jelly
   Last: Zooropa by U2

Sort by Artist – first and last?
   First: !!! – or 10,000 Maniacs if yer fussy about your alphabetised lists
   Last: ZZ Top – of course!!!

Top five played songs?
   1. Future Proof by Massive Attack, from the album 100th Window
   2. She Will Have Her Way by Neil Finn, from the album Try Whistling This
   3. All I Need by Air, from the album Moon Safari
   4. Think Twice by Carl Craig, from the album Detroit Experiment
   5. Train by Goldfrapp, from the album Black Cherry

Find the following words. How many songs show up?
Figures in brackets are song titles only
   Sex: 66 (32)
   Death: 30 (14)
   Love: 657 (512)
   You: 1344 (997)
   Home: 102 (63)
   Boy: 319 (88)
   Girl: 178 (124)

Interesting. And I can highly recommend all the linked albums, blimey I’ve got great taste! Go on, show me yours.

~

* Ok, this has actually made me stop and think. I’ve slowly been ripping all my CDs to the PC, entire CDs, whether I like every track or not they are all there. I don’t delete tracks just because I don’t like them. I wonder, am I thinking of this the wrong way? Surely iTunes should only hold music that I will listen to and not be used to store hundreds of tracks that will never get played? And don’t even get me started on the perplexing issue that is duplicated tracks.

An example: The version of Fat Bottomed Girls on the album Queen Rocks! has been remastered from an old recording and sounds much better than either the original version from the album (Jazz) or the version from the Greatest Hits album. What I SHOULD do, is delete the two other versions I don’t listen to, but then I wouldn’t have the complete albums…

Is it just me? Is it an age thing where an ‘album’ is still a definitive piece of work that should be kept in it’s entirety or should I be switching to a new digital model where I can create my OWN albums, featuring versions of songs I like and ditching the rest? Ohh this could keep me up all night. What do YOU do?

4 Things

When in doubt, meme! (or in other words, I’ve been tagged by Ben at Binary Moon).

Four jobs that I’ve had

  • Training Squad – McDonalds
  • Technical Author – Dr.Solomons (McAfee)
  • Documentation Specialist – Tetra (Sage Group)
  • Technical Communications Manager (now Senior Tech Author) – current employer

Four movies I can watch over and over

Four places I have lived

  • Dumbarton
  • Aylesbury
  • Bothwell
  • Hamilton

Four TV shows I like to watch

  • 24 – new series starts on Sky One on Feb 12th!
  • Friends – ohhhh sue me. It’s easy to watch.
  • Frasier
  • [insert successful American show, probably from HBO] – House, Gray’s Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Sopranos etc etc

Four foods that I like

  • Potatos – boiled, mashed, roasted, chipped, steamed, sauteed…. and so on
  • Chicken – nothing beats a succulently grilled chicken breast… ok so it’s usually the accompanying sauce or side dish that makes the dish
  • Ice Cream – vanilla, double cream, Equi’s or Mackies. White not yellow like that Cornish stuff (which is nice too but not AS nice you see…)
  • Guinness – look it IS a food, end of discussion.

Four websites I visit daily

Four things I want to do before I die

  • Retire
  • Write a book
  • Learn to Scuba Dive
  • Run a half marathon (hey, I’m no masochist!)

Four places I would rather be right now

  • On a quiet beach in the sun
  • San Francisco
  • In the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Scotland
  • On a plane… anywhere

Four people I’m tagging

Here's tae Rabbie

    Some hae meat and cannot eat.
    Some cannot eat that want it:
    But we hae meat and we can eat,
    Sae let the Lord be thankit.
    1

Tonight we feasted on haggis, neaps and tatties in homage to the beloved scoundrel of Scotland George Galloway Robert Burns. It’s been a long time since I attend a Burns Supper, with all it’s traditions, songs and laughter they are great fun, so if you ever get an invite to you really should accept. These days they even allow the wummin to attend – previously they were men only affairs – although it’s fair to say that’s nothing to do Rabbie as he loved the ladies, fathering a few illegitimate children in his time, even whilst he was married (told you he was a scoundrel) – in fact his eldest child was greeted with the poem ‘Welcome to a Bastard Wean’.

    “Welcome! lily bonie, sweet, wee dochter,
    Tho’ ye come here a wee unsought for,
    And tho’ your comin’ I hae fought for,
    Baith kirk and queir;
    Yet, by my faith, ye’re no unwrought for
    That I shall swear!…
    Lord grant that thou may ay inherit
    Thy rnither’s person, grace, an’ merit,
    An’ thy poor, worthless daddie’s spirit,
    Without his failins,”
    2

For those of you who’ve never tried haggis, I can confirm that it is delicious. The traditional ingredients are often said to compromise sheeps heart and liver, mixed with oatmeal and spices and cooked in a sheep’s stomach. These days the offal is usually replaced by a combination of lamb, beef and onion, and the casing is similar to that used in everyday sausages. Get one from a local butcher if you can.

    “His knife see rustic Labour dight,
    An cut you up wi ready slight,
    Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
    Like onie ditch;
    And then, O what a glorious sight,
    Warm-reekin, rich!”
    3

If you are Scottish then you’ll know of Robert Burns as he was, at least in my day, part of the national curriculum. Who didn’t study Tam O’Shanter, the poem from which the Cutty Sark takes her name (and which was built and launched in my home town)?

    Her cutty sark, o Paisley harn,
    That while a lassie she had worn,
    In longitude tho sorely scanty,
    It was her best, and she was vauntie…
    Ah! little kend thy reverend grannie,
    That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,
    Wi twa pund Scots (’twas a’ her riches),
    Wad ever grac’d a dance of witches!
    4

My Dad is an active member of the Burns circuit in Scotland – recently retired president of the Dumbarton Burns Club no less – and tonight is attending the Dumfries Society dinner in the wonderfully named Howff Club where, I presume, he’ll be having a gander at the recently acquired second page of Holy Willie’s Prayer. Now I like haggis, but you have to admire my father’s devotion. He’ll be attending around 6 or 7 Burns Suppers over the next two weeks, literally singing for his supper at some of them.

    “O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi Meg –
    Thy pardon I sincerely beg –
    O, may’t ne’er be a livin plague
    To my dishonour!
    An I’ll ne’er lift a lawless leg
    Again upon her.”
    5

So here’s to everyone celebrating tonight, may your past go before you and stand you in good stead. Slainte!

    “And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
    And gie’s a hand o thine,
    And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
    For auld lang syne.”
    6
~

Notes:
With the exception of the extract from ‘Love-begotten Daughter’ the post follows the traditional Burns Supper speechs and songs. No, that was not by accident. For your further consumption:

  1. The Selkirk Grace
  2. Extract from Love-begotten Daughter
  3. Extract from “To a Haggis” (includes translation)
  4. Extract from Tam O’ Shanter (includes translation)
  5. Extract from Holy Willie’s Prayer
  6. Extract from Auld Lang Syne

Miscellany

Is it rude to phone an establishment you’ve emailed and ask them to check their email? What’s the point of having a website and an email address if you don’t check them and respond to potential customers?! Eh!!

A question. Whilst driving to the airport to pick up my sister-in-law today I was bullied out of the outside lane by a very intimidating procession which including 5 police motorbikes, one large black tinted windowed Merc with blue lights flashing behind the grill and two larger black tinted windowed Range Rovers, also flashing flights behind grills and the rear windscreen. Who was it that garnered such obvious protection? Anyone got any ideas? They pulled in to Glasgow Airport somewhere but I lost them.
UPDATE: Could it have been someone travelling to Davos for the World Economic Forum?

If you are walking past someone and you stand on their foot, do you notice? Or do you wait until the person says something? I reckon I’d notice (and have in the past) yet three times this morning, whilst sat on the train, people walked past me, stood on my foot and didn’t even look back or offer any kind of apology. Hell I’d be happy if they just acknowledge the fact. Sheesh!
Update: This morning it was a knee swiftly and deftly applied to my calf. I looked up, the person then sat down opposite me and… nothing! Not even a hint of recognition that he’d just given me a dead leg. So I stood up and kicked him in the balls. (OK, not really)

WordPress. I can’t delete posts because, apparently, I need “sending referrers turned on”. I’ve tried everything suggested but still get the same message. I think it’s also stopping me from commenting on a couple of sites. Driving me potty. Any suggestions?

An answer. The answer to the how many toilets will Wembley have question is 2, 618. Apologies in the delay for telling you (but I guess no-one was that bothered as no-one reminded me).

Public speaking isn’t something I’ve done much of but I’ve been asked to present a seminar at an event in Glasgow. It’s pretty small scale, I think, and I’ve never done anything like it but I’ve already said yes, you have to do really, don’t you. It’s to be based on Scottish Blogs, and the whole ‘community’ aspect of blogging. I’ve put out a few emails already for some advice, and rest assured that I’ll be looking for some help from you lot as well!

Grooming

Recently, Adrian of Sevitz admitted to spending a lot of money getting his hair and nails done and it got me thinking. Now, I’m the type of guy who still visits a barber, refuses to pay more than £10 for a haircut – my last haircut cost £6 instead of £8 because “let’s be honest love, there’s not that much left to cut” – and when my wife points out that my back is getting a little hirsute my only thought is if that is the reason I’m always so warm.

I do ‘groom’ though. I moisturise most days as I’m prone to dry skin and I am regularly attacked by a woman wielding a pair of tweezers determined to make sure my eyebrows don’t go Denis Healey on me. The same woman also takes far too much pleasure plucking hairs from my back and arms whilst muttering at me to “stop being such a wuss” when I moan and scream as the follicles are wrenched from their very comfortable resting place deep under my skin. It’s a wonder I’m not a mass of bleeding red welts once she’s finished. There is a side issue concerning the amount of glee and pleasure my wife takes in inflicting pain on me but I’ll leave that for another time.

Aside from that I don’t really bother that much with my appearance. In days gone by, when the majority of my hair was on my head not growing from increasingly weird places on my body, I took great pride in my appearance spending tens of minutes in front of the mirror each morning to make sure it was all neatly in place. In fact I wonder if it’s due to the incessant attack from a variety of mousses, gels, hairspray and wax that caused the hair on my head to decide to surrender and fall out. Back in the day I used to judge the amount of hairspray I was apply to my ‘spike’ (think ‘hedgehog’) by when it started to drip… ick.

These days it’s much more acceptable for men to partake in all manner of grooming rituals, and of course this is being promoted by most of the big cosmetic companies with new pre-shave, post-shave, and after-shower lotions are seemingly launched everyday.

However there is still a distinct feel that this isn’t wholly accepted yet.

I’ve often thought that you can judge the progress of acceptance, of pretty much anything, quite simply (as far as any simplistic scale can be applied to anything of course) as it passes from:

  1. Complete ignorance – doesn’t exist, isn’t discussed and is consider evil
  2. Outright indignance – know to exist but vilified and ridiculed in the harshest terms
  3. Admission of existence – tolerated to a point, stereotyped.
  4. Complete acceptance – it’s the norm, it’s bland

Male grooming, even to just ‘below’ metrosexual standards is probably around the fourth stage. It’s tolerated but with the understanding that there is definitely something not quite right about it, that ‘real men’ wouldn’t really be caught doing it. But then what do ‘real men’ know? Bugger all?

Of course it’s easy to push all this to one-side and peer at the homophobic underbelly but let’s not get too carried away. A few lotions and a little care in your appearance does not a homosexual make. Equally so, that fashionably dressed, coiffed and coutoured to within an inch of his gym-trim waist, man may not actually be gay! Let’s try and look beyond those stereo-types. In both directions.

It’s a bit of an odd one to be honest as, culturally, we seem to be slowly shifting away from the homophobic view of old, but I wonder if it will stall the same way the feminist movement did, leaving us with a nasty aftertaste which you can’t wash away.

Meet the author

(and several other far more interesting people)

February 18th, the Jolly Judge pub in Edinburgh, anytime after 2pm (full details). Just thought I’d mention it here lest anyone miss it, and yes I’ve emailed everyone who has attend previous blogmeets. At least I think I did…

Anyway, be there or be the product of a number multiplied by itself (oh yes, you can imagine the ‘witty’ banter already!!).

Personal Priority Ponderings

Despite the fact I’ve only been away for a week I seem to have lost some of my usual ‘productive’ habits and I’m struggling to get my head around everything I need to get done this week. Typically that means I resort to one thing. A big long list. Trouble is, having started it, I’m struggling to remember what should be on it (in fact I’ve just added two items in the midst of typing that last sentence, funny how the mind works, ain’t it).

It’s not that I feel particularly out of touch as much as that I’ve never really noticed just how busy my average day is and how far behind I fall when I’m out of my routine. Whether at home or at work I’m always juggling several different tasks, and spend most of my days progressing them when I can, and planning the next steps when I’m stuck.

Add in my new venture and it all gets a bit overwhelming. My To-Do lists are threatening to topple over and bury me under my desk… well they would if they weren’t all handled electronically.

Which reminds me of, and allow me to digress for a moment to mention, the cartoon in the Metro today. It featured a businessman daydreaming on his way to work: “World runs out of silicon chips, those with pen and paper skills treble their wages”. And whilst I’m off-topic I’ll also mention the interview I read, in the same paper, with Will Smith (the other Will Smith that is) which features a version of my favourite ever joke:

Two lions are walking down Oxford Street, ones turns to the other and says, “Quiet, isn’t it.”

A digression too far perhaps? Yes. I think so too. Now, where was I?

Whilst we were away in Spain, Louise said she’d write up all the family birthdays and whatnot for her Dad, unfortunately he doesn’t have a calendar app on his PC (not one that will remind him of things at least) so I suggested that I source an online version. Spookily enough I received an email this morning which included a link to Birthday Alarm which is almost ideal (if a little too cluttered and clunky for my liking), I think I prefer something like HipCal (still in BETA) but I’m open to suggestions. As long as it has the ability to send a reminder email for an upcoming appointment (two weeks before it’s due for example) it’ll meet my needs.

Hmmmm, there does seem to be a mood of organisation in the air. And it appears to be catching. Oh dear. Granted it’s not necessarily a bad thing but having looked at GTD methodologies and others and I wonder if they are more effort than they are worth. I’m not the only one. I think I’m more of a LifeHacker than a GTD monkey, preferring to a PocketMod to a Hipster PDA.

All that aside I’m actually hoping that this year I will be able to find a little more time for … umm… let’s call them “personal development activities”. Playing the piano, reading books, going for nice long walks in the countryside. You know the kind of thing. As odd as it may sound, the additional workload that one man designs may bring is actually causing me to focus more on the non-work side of my life. Hopefully that means less time wasted on the PlayStation and PC, less time sat on my arse on the sofa, and more time doing the things I really enjoy yet which always seem to be the first things to be dropped under the false of excuse of being “just too busy”.

I’m determined that 2006 will be the year of proper personal priorities and other potentially possible pastimes. It may also be the year of the alliteration but I’ve not really decided on that yet.

I also reserve the right to completely change my mind on this in a few months time.