Month: March 2006

Naughty naughty

At the risk of attracting the wrong clientele, or worse, offending the current hangers on… um… devoted readers, I thought I’d tackle a subject close to my groin.. er.. heart. Actually, that’s a lie. Sort of… ohh balls, I knew this would happen. In trying to retain a sense of dignity and political correctness I could spend the next few paragraphs trying not to offend. Arsehats to that then.

Let’s talk about pornography.

Ohh before we do though, I’m “hiding” the rest of this post so if you are easily offended, please stop reading. Mum, Dad, I know you’ll probably keep reading but, for all our sakes, please don’t comment!

Read More

Briefly

Working for 14 hours a day leaves me unable to sleep, so I’m certain that by the time the weekend rolls around I’ll be dead on my feet and happy to have a lie-in on Saturday morning. With that in mind, I’ve got one more post1 coming before I pause for a couple of days. So this post2 is just to let you know that I’ve not disappeared, nor am I hiating, just taking a wee break. Be back sometime next week. Promise. Play nice.

  1. Ohhh it’s a belter as well, be interesting to read your comments on this one!
  2. Actually this post is primarily a diversion to distract my brain XML schemas, parameter gatherer configuration variables and other such things which will make little sense to most.. including me at the moment. Roll on Friday.

Tales of Endurance

Tales of Endurance by Fergus Fleming

To call this book a history of exploration may seem at once both overly optimistic and slightly redundant. It is by no means a complete account of the expeditions it covers, nor is it a history per se, focussing more on the will, desire, and often the tyranny and arrogance of the early explorers. Men who forged their way across uncharted seas, walked across vast continents, and suffered at the hands of nature at every turn. Glorifying these early-day explorers is easy and thankfully something that Fergus Fleming steers clear of, preferring to give an accurate portrayal of their character no matter how loathsome.

For their in lies the fascination, what drives these men?

Each explorer is given a chapter, roughly laid out in chronological order, which takes us from Marco Polo’s wanderings in the Mongol Empire to the conquering of Everest, a journey of some 500 hundred years. Some names leap off the page – Polo, Columbus, Magellan, Barents, Bering, Cook, Livingstone, Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton – and some stories are familiar to many but amongst the familiar lies the true story. Death, squalor, cannibalism, murder, all feature and the fact that these stories are based on the journals of the survivors of these expeditions just makes them all the more gruesome.

What this book does cover, and cover well, is the spirit of exploration that each and every man felt. It neatly charts the fall and rise of empires and the aspirations that each had for ‘owning’ as much of the world as possible, and it covers (somewhat trivially in some cases) the impact and influence of the natives.

In scale and expectation it’s a grand book and, whilst there are certainly omissions, it covers each journey with enough detail and verve to be engrossing. It would be easy to dwell on hyperbole – almost every act in this book is truly heroic, even if the underlying reason for some of the situations is truly idiotic (one of the climbers tackling Everest would ‘forget’ to take his ropes with him) – but thankfully this book resists becoming a glorious recounting of wonderous tales.

As we jet across the globe at hundreds of miles and hour, zoom from city to city in hours, it’s easy to forget that most of the modern world was discovered before the invention of the engine. Whilst you probably wouldn’t invite many of the men featured in this book to dinner, you have to marvel at their achievements.

Firefox Extensions Revisited

Been a while since I waffled on about Firefox, but with 2.0 in Alpha (no I’ve not tried it yet, and I’d suggest you leave it well alone too) I thought it might be a good time to look at the current extensions I’m using. I’ve tried many different extensions but have pared things down to what I actually USE, rather than things that might “just be useful” now and again.

Whilst it’s popularity is probably assured, Firefox is getting a little more heat from the competition these days, namely with the stream of news pouring from Redmond (Microsoft) about the version 7 of Internet Explorer. It looks like we’ll be back to some good old fashioned browser wars soon. Ohh and whilst I remember, and before certain people popup in the comments and remind me, there are other browsers available. Opera seems to have a good following but, for some reason, it’s never really broken through in the same way as Firefox. I’ve tried it a few times but never really felt at home using it.. not sure why, maybe it’s better aimed at the ‘more technical’? Dunno.

Tabbed browsing remains the core reason I stick with Firefox. It’s very easy to get used to, and once you learn some of the basic operations, and have tweaked the way tabs work to your requirements, it can be a real boon. To that end I’ll recommend Tab Mix Plus as my tab extension of choice, it includes a variety of useful options, including a session saver (remembers which sites you had open in which tabs when you close the browser), a loading status bar on the tab, rather than one common bar at the foot of your window (making it easy to see the sites that are taking an age to load), an “unread” indicator and a further swathe of options (you can download and import my options here to get you started – right-click, Save As…).

Onto the list then:

  • Autofill – Automatically fill out HTML forms
  • BugMeNot – Bypass compulsory web registration
  • Copy URL + – Copies to clipboard the document’s URL along with the title or the selected text
  • Download Statusbar – View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar
  • DownThemAll! – The mass downloader for Firefox
  • Enhanced History Manager – Search Google for Enhanced History Manager
  • Ext2Abc – Alphabetizes your extension manager list
  • IE View – Open pages in IE via Firefox menus
  • ListZilla – Outputs an alphabetical list of extensions to a text, vB code, or HTML file (used to produce this list!)
  • Paste and Go – Lets you paste an URL from the clipboard and directly load it
  • Resize Search Box – Allows you to use a resize the search box
  • Sage – A lightweight RSS and Atom feed aggregator
  • Slim Extension List – Makes items in extension list shorter, so you can see more at once. Also, sorts them by name
  • Statusbar Clock – Display the date and time in your browser’s status bar (links to an old extension, but you can find an update one for 1.5… somewhere… maybe
  • Stop-or-Reload Button – Turns the stop and reload buttons into a single button
  • Tab Mix Plus – Tab browsing with an added boost
  • View Rendered Source Chart – Creates a Colorful Chart of a Webpage’s Rendered Source
  • Web Developer – Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools

So, there you have it. I’ve had many MANY more extensions installed, and looking back at my original post I’ve only got seven of that list still running which I’m sure tells you something… or not…

With 2.0 on the horizon I’m wondering if I’ll upgrade. At the moment I can’t think of anything that I’m missing, any one feature that would be a big enough draw. Security wise I’ve not had any problems, but I guess that’s only a matter of time (or usage) before I’m forced into an upgrade. Only time will tell I guess.

No smoking

It’s such an historic occasion that I can’t let it pass quietly…

Scotland is now, legally, a “non-smoking in enclosed areas” country. Uproar and nonsense have been spewed forth on this topic for many months now, and loathed as I am to add to it I feel compelled to put forth a non-smokers view.

First let me explain why I don’t smoke, in fact I’ve only tried it twice and both times I was young enough and drunk enough to think I was impressing my peers, and both times the experience left me with a disgusting taste in my mouth and sick feeling in my stomach. To this day I can’t fathom the appeal (ahh but it’s an addiction now, isn’t it).

My Grandpa used to smoke. I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not entirely sure it was solely to blame for his death but I can easily state that watching someone you love deteriorate through several strokes is a horrible and prolonged experience. To all extents and purposes the last year or two of his life were just that, a long slow progression towards his death. It was, and is, horrible.

I wouldn’t put anyone through that, having seen the toll it takes on a family, and I’ll happily chalk that up as one selfish strike against those of you who smoke. Of course that’s overly harsh to people of my Grandpa’s generation as the negative impact of smoking was well-known, but for those of you reading this now there is no excuse. You know it’s bad for you.

So the question has to be, and I’ve asked most of the smokers I know, if you KNOW it’s bad for you why do you keep doing it? It’s an easy question to ask, of course, but a far harder one to answer. Nicotine is an addictive substance but there are many many people who have successfully stopped smoking so it must be possible. Is it purely a matter of want and will? Or do you need a push?

Obviously the main focus of the smoking ban has the impact on pubs. Several ‘commentators’ have voiced their opinions against the ban, accusing it of removing their right to socialise, and an infringement of civil rights. Which is, of course, complete and utter tosh. It’s a bit like an alcoholic saying that pubs shouldn’t serve alcohol lest they have temptation placed in their path and anyway, as others have said, blowing smoke in all over the place is hardly a ‘social’ act, is it?

And what of class? Dare I bring that into this argument? Is it possible that it plays a role in the position of smoking in society? Well it would be foolish to say that it doesn’t as the evidence is quite to the contrary. The trendy winebars and coffee houses will suffer dips in custom I’m sure but it’s the out of town pubs, where the out of work or retired spend their day supping pints in a haze that will feel the brunt in the longer term (presuming the policing of the ban isn’t seen as an after-thought, a possible side-effect of the promised, initial, softly-softly approach). Or am I stereotyping? And does it matter anyway? It’s not about class after all, as the Scottish Executive keeps telling us, it’s about getting people to stop smoking.

Next up the cry of human rights and the so-called denial of them in the form of ‘basic’, and occasionally ‘god given’, form (whatever that means, I’m not sure God drew up a manifesto of rights when he created man, but I guess he hoped we wouldn’t have fucked things up quite as spectacularly as we seem to be doing). Apparently if someone chooses an activity, and that activity has cause to influence (or waft over) others then it’s the person who chose the activity that gets to make any decisions about it. Of course. How silly of me.

In defence of smokers, I would warrant that many don’t even realise that they have been forcing people to make decisions for a long time now. For example, if I’m sitting in a pub, and the table next to me is suddenly occupied by a couple of smokers I’ll usually CHOOSE to move. After all, I CHOSE to enter that pub, and CHOSE to sit down at that table. Right? Ohhh I’ve just realised that last sentence should’ve been written in the past tense… such subtle joys.

To say the smoking ban forces people to be anti-social may be, in part, true. I can sympathise to an extent with smokers as a lot of them are considerate, smoke only in designated areas and are polite enough to at least pretend they are embarassed when their residue leaves you choking over your dinner (although why they waft their hands about in front of themselves I’ll never understand… it’s the smoke under MY nose that is the problem.. it’s a nice gesture though). To force people outside regardless of the weather seems a little harsh. After all they CHOSE to enter that pub, and they CHOOSE to smoke… ohhh hang on…

And therein lies the flaw in the argument. The smoking ban does not force anyone to CHOOSE to be anti-social. It forces you to CHOOSE to smoke or not. Is THAT a violation of civil rights, an insult to free choice and a threat to democracy? In direct context, yes, but you need to delve a little deeper.

To give an example: I choose to watch my speed when I pass a school for I am aware that my CHOICE may have an impact (pun unintended) on others. Some smokers seem to think that their choice to smoke is theirs alone, a solitary decision, for no-one but them to make.

And if they want it that way then they have made another choice. The choice to turn their back on society, on community, and go it alone. EVERY choice we make has an impact, no matter how indirectly, on others. Everyone has to make those choices, every single day; I choose not to smoke. I choose to go to the pub. Of those two choices, none have any impact on anyone else (except perhaps the pub itself…). Yet if a smoker chooses to go to the pub (and chooses to light up), their choice has a direct impact on everyone else.

Yes, the smoking ban is aimed at getting people to stop smoking. Yes, stopping smoking may be hard. But what I still can’t fathom is why there is such uproar about this. I really, sincerely, hope it’s just the press generating news. Otherwise we have a bigger problem on our hands, namely that the people who smoke aren’t even smart enough to see that the ban is designed to help them live longer.

It may be a generation or two before the real benefits of the smoking ban are felt, but for once it’s good to see politicians taking a bold stand. I can’t wait until Friday night rolls around.

Miscellany

The smoking ban has started in Scotland. From this point onwards my one retort, to anyone wanting to argue the case (a la David Hockney) that this law is impinging their civil rights, will be short and sweet. I don’t care about YOUR civil rights, I care about MINE, and MY civil rights are not to stink of smoke after a night in the pub.

Hey, if they can boil it down to selfish and pointless statements of ‘enjoyment’ and ‘social impact’ then so can I. Pffffttttt..

~

Watched “Mrs. Henderson Presents” on Saturday night, hilarious and well worth watching. Dame Judi on sparking form with some cracking one-liners. Bob Hoskins held his own, and… ohh aye.. Will Young is in it.. briefly. But yes, an excellent look at both the time and the classes involved.

~

So, what were you doing on Sunday morning? Aside from scrambling about because you forgot the clocks had changed, or making your Mother breakfast in bed I mean (neither which I did as my Mum was already up, and had started baking, by the time I got out of bed). We were walking in the pouring rain along a nice wee country path, watching deer bound away across the heather, and trying to remember the name of the island we could just make out through the smirr.

Turns out it was Inchlonaig, also known as “The Island of Yew Trees”, the very type of tree we had dedicated for Louise’s Mum. A lovely coincidence.

You know…

(stolen from the ever lovely Gunnella)

… you are living in 2006 when:

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.

2. You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years.

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.

5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don’t have e-mail addresses.

6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.

7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.

8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn’t have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.

10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.

11. You’re reading this and nodding and laughing.

12. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.

13. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.

14. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn’t a #9 on this list.

AND NOW U R LAUGHING at yourself.

I’m only posting this because I did (14) and I am laughing. For the record, I don’t do 6, but have a wife who does… and 3 should be expand to say that you don’t KNOW the numbers as they are stored under names on your mobile. These are the times.

Enough

Thank you ALL for responding so generously over the past couple of days. It’s been fun for me, and I hope not TOO boring for you.

I’ve got a few ‘action items’ from it, least of all the comment form order thingy, but mostly I’m just happy that YOU seem quite happy coming here. Putting aside the “I do this for me” ethic of blogging there is an amount of satisfaction to be taken from “doing it for others”… and I’ll leave that statement dangling for you to add your own double entendre.

~

A quick word of thanks to Lyle who has, again, helped me with a small coding issue for the new “post of the week” site. I’m hoping to get it finished by the first week in April or so, along with another bit of work for a project that I can’t mention (yet). Hopefully that’ll free me up for a third bit of design work for a certain blogger. We do like to keep busy.

The backdrop for next week is mainly long long hours in the office. It’s the ‘final week’, pressure is on and so we all settle in for the long haul, hoping that getting ‘free’ pizza will be enough to maintain morale. It doesn’t. And it’s not free anyway… stop stop, I don’t blog about work..

~

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and I know my Mum understands that this particular year will be a hard one for Louise and that I’ll need to be there for her. Louise has been up and down in the past few months as we plow through a series of ‘firsts’ — first Xmas and New Year, first time seeing her Dad again, first time back in the flat in Spain, first time Crufts has been on (my in-laws bred Golden Retrievers for a few years) — and there are many more to come. None of them getting any easier.

On Saturday we are going to visit my Mum, give her a great big cuddle and tell her that I love her, and then on Sunday, weather permitting, we will be joining Louise’s brother and sister (and probably a couple of nieces and nephews) for a walk round Cashel Forest where we have a tree dedicated to Grace.

It’s odd. I’ve hardly mentioned Grace’s passing on here, obviously still too raw, or too personal. She is so very sorely missed.

Actually, I know why I’ve not mentioned it. It’s hard to type with tears streaming down your face.

~

Wrote the above late last night, tired, emotional and drained. Wrote the following this morning.

~

Friday at last, a quick week that has left some things unmentioned; Only a few days until the smoking ban kicks in for which I’m mainly glad I won’t stink of smoke after a night out.

Having discussed 4x4s before I’ll just say that the Chancellor isn’t fooling anyone as the people who can afford these big inefficient cars can afford the hike in tax and that I’m not against 4x4s but “gas guzzlers” (but do think some people have 4x4s for the wrong reasons).

And finally, what a refreshing change to hear a politician talk sense. The First Minister (“Big Jack”) was quoted in this mornings Metro as saying that “whilst Flower of Scotland was a good anthem at a rugby match, stirring the fans and inspiring the players… Scotland the Brave is a better choice for things like the Commonwealth Games as it’s largely the tune that is important in those occasions”. Spot on. He also states that we DO need a common national anthem, and I wholeheartedly agree, ohh and, while we’re at it, can we get one to give to England please. They seem to think “God Save ‘Our’ Queen”[sic] belongs to them… quite frankly they can have her if the rest of us can stop singing that drearily awful song.

Answer

Well that was interesting. A few random thoughts about yesterdays… um… experiment. Yes, let’s call it that. Makes it sound a little more like I planned it rather than just fell prey to the insatiable “muse of frequent blogging” (she’s beginning to get on my nerves mind you, I much prefer the caring caress of her sister the “muse of quality over quantity”).

Do you ever sometimes think you should just delete a sentence or, and this is purely for example, the previous set of parenthesis? I digress (quite often).

So many of you were kind enough to take the time to comment yesterday I thought I’d better make some effort to respond. As I said it was purely a post born through time constraints but my, aren’t we an eager lot when asked a simple question!

It seems that, in no particular order:

  • Some people come here mainly because of the content
  • Some people come here through habit
  • Some people feel they “just should” come here
  • Some people enjoy the content but don’t enjoy the diary type stuff
  • Some people take solace that other people think the same way they do
  • Some people prefer the Overflow (miniblog)
  • Some people like that I make them think

All fairly common reasons for visiting any blog I reckon, but it’s good to have a little bit of proof sometimes, no?

As to whether I care about WHY people visit, rather than just that they visit at all, I’ll turn all that stat watching on it’s head and claim that I enjoy writing, I enjoy the discussion, I enjoy the people (that’s you lot).

It does tell me that no-one comes here specifically for the photos and, judging from the tone of most comments and the fact that most people have been visiting for a while, that the archives aren’t hugely important to the large majority (I’m extrapolating slightly though, feel free to contradict me). Neither section is going away mind you as *I* enjoy them.

The real surprise? No-one commented on the fact that the order of the comments box had changed (this is why).

Next question: How often do you visit without leaving a comment?

And yes, I’m aware that some of you wisecrackin’, smartarsin’ jokesters will bend this question to your own nefarious needs, but do try and fight the temptation, for a change… 😉

Question

This is not a plea for re-assurance, nor a cry for help. It IS a quick and easy post for which I make no apology whatsoever.

Look, just humour me, ok? Yes… AGAIN.

Why do you come here?