Month: <span>May 2005</span>

Parents are coming over tonight, primarily because we are selling our bikes and need to get them to the buyer and (buy-ess?) and I guess, possibly, because it’s my sisters birthday tomorrow. Guess we’d better get her a pressie..

So Thursday is an important day, not only is it the birthday of my little sister but it is the day you wander into the local school/townhall and make a mark on an important piece of paper.

Friday is… hang on, what’s this NO PLANS on Friday! That can’t be right… hmmm guess we’ll have to hit the cinema.

Saturday is my sister-in-laws birthday so we’ll be through in Dumbarton for a few drinks somewhere. Sunday is, as yet, unscheduled.

In the midst of all this I’ve got more deadlines at work this week (hopefully the last for a while), and I need to get the final push on two website designs and that feckin HaloScan Wiki which is beginning to haunt me!

Actually, for those that use HaloScan for their comments, it should be an interesting few months. The service itself has been a bit spotty recently as Jeevan codes in and tests the new features (Comment Moderation is now available for Premium members!), and the site is being redesigned, a development blog added and hopefully the level of information will improve dramatically. It’s not my site of course but I’m hoping that the “information side” of the service will be complete and released by the end of the month. Plenty to do still, and quite tricky to co-ordinate as Jeevan is in a different time zone and I only have access to certain things. He’s a good guy though and how he manages to juggle maintaining and developing HaloScan whilst completing college is both beyond me, and slightly intimidating!

Work

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Cripes I almost forgot to mention the BBQ on Saturday. What to say, what to say.

Well for one the weather did it’s best to help, only a light drizzle later in the afternoon, by which time we were too sozzled to care, the food was fab as ever, I had a lovely big tuna steak, and the beer and cocktails flowed.

Arrived at our hosts at around 3pm and very quickly the conversation descended to it’s usual level, with the colour of lingerie the men preferred and whether their preference influenced the choice of their respective wives being a particular thread that sticks in my mind (alas the ladies weren’t QUITE drunk enough to model any for us). Louise started out on vodka cocktails and got quite drunk, she’s normally reasonable controlled when she drinks, and never SEEMS that drunk but she was really relaxed and enjoying herself. Thankfully she didn’t fall over but did come close a couple of times!

Fleeces were donned as the sun went down (this is part of the tradition now), but we were all nicely toasted and sat out for the rest of the night. Home at about 12.30 after a great day with some good friends that we don’t spend time with often enough (despite the fact most of us work together!).

Of course there are many snippets and stories I could tell, but I’m a gentlemen so I won’t. Yet.

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Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude

I’d wager that the majority of my beloved readership (yup, all three of you) have used this software product at some point. Some may use it every single day and you have my pity as, no doubt, it is STILL invading your work, suggesting improvements, alternatives and generally annoying the crap out of you.

FYI – The latter statement is widely used and accepted by many a usability expert, for example; When the autocorrect feature changes some of your text, how annoying is it on a scale from 1 [not annoying] to 10 [annoys the crap out of you]?

Of course here in blogland we don’t have the benefit of grammar correction, and only have spell checkers if we choose to install and run them. So does that mean that we have better grammar and spelling than most? After all it’s all about the words, right?

How many of you use Word but have turned off the spelling and grammar checker?

In the article, Mr. Krishnamurthy argues that the grammar checker is next to useless as it’s just so bad. Microsoft are quoted as stating :

that its grammar checker is a writing aid, not a catchall. “The Word grammar checker is designed to catch the kinds of errors that ordinary users make in normal writing situations”

And this is why Microsoft gets a bad press. If you are going to release a new feature for a product, and you are offering it as a timesaving, productivity enhancing widget, then it must either work properly, or be damn close. Alas the grammar checker, a good idea in principle, doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for the last couple of versions since it was introduced. Of course Microsoft will improve on it again for the next release, presuming it’s still included, but given the varied and oblique “gotchas” in the English language, is it any wonder it doesn’t work? And anyway, why are they bothering?

I’m not offering them that as an excuse though (but it’s toooo hard!!) instead, if anyone from the Microsoft Office development team is reading, I’d offer this as a suggestion: Wouldn’t it be easier to provide suggestions rather than corrections? Make it a learning tool, rather than a “automated so you don’t HAVE to learn it” tool. It’ll stand both you and your users in much better stead for the future and I’m pretty sure that you already have plenty of information on grammar that you could incorporate into the Office suite of applications. Wouldn’t take much, just remove the options to accept things willy-nilly, and offer good grammar information?

The “widget” approach is all well and good, and is applicable in many places in many applications but there does come a time where you have to presume the user has a certain amount of knowledge and is able to make decisions based on that knowledge. Without that the next set of options are likely to include the ability to write an entire letter or document using a simple wizard. Just input some basic facts make a few choices and SHAZAAM! Your marketing document spews out the other end.

On second thoughts I think that’s how marketing documents are currently produced…

My point is this, we are dumbing down. Whilst I do think that computers should be making our lives simpler they aren’t, they are making our lives easier and lazier by lowering the standard. Simpler and easier are NOT the same thing. A close to home example is Blogger. You can create a blog without even knowing what HTML is, let alone what it looks like or how it works. Is this really a good thing? Am I being elitist, a snob? Do I care? I’m not asking for everyone to become experts in everything they do just that people take a little time to learn the basics even if it means asking daft questions. If you don’t take a little time to learn the basics and then you’ll excuse me if I’m patronising and off-hand when you ask me for help. If you ain’t willing to learn on your own, why should I fix everything for you? What will you learn from that? Nothing!

Hmm, lost track a little there so let me summarise. Computers are very very powerful things but are, essentially, dumb. They do what you tell them to do, so it might be worth your while to understand HOW they do things before you ask them to do it and then start complaining because they didn’t do it properly. There is a little acronym that sums things up nicely here – PEBCAK – it gets used more often than you might think.

Note: I wrote this post in Microsoft Word and accepted every suggestion it made. I guess I must write “Microsoft friendly” English as it only borked on a few things. See if you can spot them.

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Blimey.

Anyone watch the snooker – what a finish!

Media

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Standing around in the rain isn’t the best way to spend a hungover Sunday morning, but then neither is working on a bank holiday Monday whilst several gallons of phlegm slosh around your head.

Anyway. Series finale of Huff last night, and boy am I glad that a second series has been ordered. Of course I’d have loved to have confirmed this on the show’s official website but alas, as you’ll see if you visit, those “pages are intended for access only from within the United States”.

There is a small bell ringing in my head that I’ve read about this recently on another blog.. nope, can’t remember. Anyone??
UPDATE: Twas the lovely Meg which as David points out I’ve already mentioned. I’m so well organised, aren’t I. Wish I could REMEMBER that I was that well organised. DOH.

So what’s all that about then, why on earth would you limit access to a website for a TV show that is syndicated into Europe (and probably other regions). How long will take for these companies to “get” the web properly? The entire point is that ANYONE ANYWHERE can access the information about that fabuluous TV show you’ve commissioned, they want to see if you have anything else in the pipeline that might be as good. Sheesh.

Anyway, Huff was an intelligently written and superbly acted show and it was nice to see Hank Azaria playing a ‘normal’ character, he’s quite an accomplished actor as well as being the voice of many Simpsons characters, and despite the show revolving around his character you never really felt it was all about him until last nights episode. Cleverly written, brilliantly acted.

Oliver Platt stole most of the scenes he was in, and as the series progressed you go from loathing him to loving him as he slowly reveals the real person behind the drinking, drug taking selfish idiot he starts out as. Paget Brewster (is she a relation of Sean Young?) also grew into the role the further the series developed, and showed that there is more to her than a short spell in Friends (the one where Chandler kisses Joey’s girlfriend, that’s Paget Brewster). Blythe Danner was excellent as Huff’s mother, slowly pickling her liver whilst dishing out backhand insults left right and centre. If it is repeated I’d highly recommended you watch it, I just hope that they trim the opening title sequence for the next series.

So we now have a hole in our viewing, 24 is still going (SHUSH, not watched last nights yet!!), Grand Designs allows us to dream of having enough money to build our own house, but apart from that… well House and Boston Legal are recorded but not watched yet, they come recommended but I’ll hold off judgement, anyone watched them?

One thing I did record last night, with many thanks to the Paramount Comedy Channel, was the TV series of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Real reviews of the movie, as in reviews from people I know or whose blog I read, are trickling in and they’re not too favourable. Of course I’m aware that the books hold a special place in many home libraries and that films rarely stack up against the books they come from – how on earth could they, competing with millions of different imaginations – but I’ll still be going to see it.

Media

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Dragged ourselves out of bed, loaded the car and were at our alloted pitch by 9.05pm.

Home again by 12noon.

Whilst the early morning started grey and patchy, by midday it was chucking it down. Fervent attempts to repack the car, shuffle things on the table and generally getting soaked whilst trying to protect our “goods” were pretty much in vain. The first cars started leaving at about 11am, we stuck it out for another hour then decided that it wasn’t really worth it.

Still we made £35 in two hours. Not to shoddy if I do say so myself. We also learned a lot from the woman in the pitch next to us who was a seasoned pro. And we’ve got plenty of stuff left to sell at the next one.

Was quite fun whilst the rain held off, we had prices in our heads but as we were approaching it as starting from zero anyway then we weren’t too bothered about haggling. It WAS good to get home though.

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It’s 1am. Been drinking since 3pm.

Quite drunk, shouldn’t be posting, don’t care. 50% proof Southern Comfort is lovely but does make the room spin!!

bed now, up at 8.30am.

Hangover city, here we come!!

(Holy crap, I’m not too bad at tpying when I’m drunnk!!)

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