bookmark_borderNaughty 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!

Continue reading “Naughty naughty”


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.

bookmark_borderTales 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.

bookmark_borderFirefox 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.

bookmark_borderNo 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.


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.