Wikipedia Fundraiser 2005

Wikipedia has been holding a fundraiser since the middle of December, but for some reason I didn't notice until a few days ago (work evidently kept me busier than I thought!). It finishes in a week or so, and I just threw a bit of cash their way, so ask yourself - is there any reason you shouldn't do the same? ;)

Gross Heater

Gross Heat


From BBC News:

An Asian officer has complained that using the name "Black Museum" for the Metropolitan Police's famous archive of crime artefacts is racist. Pc Zahid Malik, from Nottinghamshire Police, said the use of the word black in an article in the police magazine The Sharp End was questionable.

In his letter, the constable said: "In a piece on the Met's Crime Museum you use the term `Black Museum' for this `notorious police museum' and `the man in black' to accompany a picture of the curator. We live in times where language/images and motives can easily be misinterpreted and misunderstood.

I question the negative use of the word `black' in these contexts." He added: "I feel we all have an important responsibility to ensure that the language and terminology we use is in a sensitive and appropriate manner."

Two things!

Number one: this is the first time I have heard a complaint about the use of the word "black" in this way from an actual person with a face. I always thought it was a modern myth created by people with a racist itch to scratch.

Number two: PC Malik, I understand your point, but the existing social structure is not here to cater to the demands of any particular group of people at the expense of others. Stop perpetuating the endless circle of oversensitivity to variations in culture and skin colour - you're only feeding the disenfranchised racists of this country what they need to cement themselves in modern society*. No one who actually lives on a day to day basis as a Briton logically connects the colour black and it's negative symbolism with the generalised term for a racial group - and you know that, you utter twat. But it's made the news now, so I hope you enjoy your can of worms. Gah!

*NB - racist cunts (like the person behind the first comment below), I was actually referring to yourselves here. You are the scum of the earth, and at no point am I supporting any kind of BS you spew - I actually have an education and a frontal lobe. My vagina has also been soiled by an "ethnic", so I'm evidently a lost cause when it comes to maintaining your White Britain.


The Snow, It Came



My 2005: Me

The first half of this year was pretty much consumed by misery related to being ill (gallbladder disease), having surgery and the end of a long term relationship. But as things usually do when you least expect it, they took a swing upwards at the end of July and I've been gaining lost ground ever since - I've been working a job I don't hate, I have enough money to either save for future travel or to buy the things I want and I have enough time in the day to not be completely stressed out (ie: be really lazy and get nothing done). For now. I'm just about content with that. In reflection, I always end up thinking I could do more - so utilising my free time and being less static a person is something that I want to work on during 2006.

My 2005: Internet

Tagging exploded as an organisation tool - fronted by services like social bookmarking site del.icio.us and Technorati.

Both Google and Yahoo expanded as companies this year: Yahoo acquiring a handful of young and awesome websites - primarily flickr and at the end of the year, del.icio.us itself; Google developing it's brand by releasing everything from Google Maps to Google Video. More telling about Google this year however, was they also managed to fail en mass for the first time - their RSS feed reader, for example, is basically crap.

Firefox stopped escalating as such and became an established brand, product and rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with a little backing from... well, practically everyone - despite the occasional attempts at making it seem unstable in the mainstream media.

Something Awful thumbed their nose at Ebaum's World and unwittingly aided a kid with his killing spree. VOIP began to edge from the geek world to the mainstream after Google launched it's own Instant Messaging service. The Robot Co-op launched 43 People and 43 Places, acquired All Consuming and generally made me happy by providing lots of places to list things on the internet. Tim Berners-Lee started blogging. William Gibson made the odd appearance, but has been working on his new book (whee!). Jason Kottke went professional. And everyone and their mother got a book deal. Gmail is still in beta, but has made some nice leaps and strides since last year, despite the whole trademark fiasco. And Ajax is kind of cool too!


My 2005: Deaths

Pat Morita, the Japanese-American linchpin of the Karate Kid movies (as well as dozens of others), passed away at the end of November, causing bigger shockwaves than anyone could have expected. Hunter S. Thompson shot himself, the curmudgeonly bastard, and his ashes were shot into the sky as fireworks from a cannon. Richard Whiteley, host of infamous Channel 4 gameshow Countdown, died a few days after undergoing heart surgery (after suffering from pneumonia).

My 2005: Articles

My 2005: Moments

Kanye West said what we were all thinking to George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina done fucked NOLA up. Britney Spears gave birth to baby boy. Kate Moss was knocked off her pedestal when the Daily Mirror bought and published pictures of her snorting cocaine. Three London Tube trains (plus one bus) were attacked by suicide bombers, and a second attempt occurred two weeks later, but thankfully failed. Oh, and Michael Jackson was found innocent. Again.

My 2005: TV/Film

The first season of Lost came to the UK, and despite the character's unnervingly perfect hair, it's a complete page turner. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation season six hit American TV and then the torrent sites in September. The new series of Doctor Who really surprised me - I watched the first episode out of curiosity and ended up really enjoying the whole thing, as it had the right amount of irony, geekery and humour to keep me watching.

I'm not one of those people that tend to go out to the cinema very often, so most of the films that I caught this year were of my own seeking. I would have to say that some of the best that I saw were Danny the Dog (Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Danny Devito, my own review here), Antitrust (Ryan Phillipe, my own review here) 2046 (Tony Leung, director Wong Kar Wai) and Secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader). Oh, and I finally saw Hero, bully for me. [more]

My 2005: Music

I am actually the world's laziest music listener (I'm beginning to wonder if I actually did anything this year). Nine Inch Nails released a new album, two videos and toured extensively (I saw them a paltry four times) - beginning in clubs, and moving onto arena's in the second half of the year. Goldfrapp released Supernature and Kanye West put out Late Registration - albums that made me want to not only listen but dig around their respective back catalogues. Madonna did not, and thus made me so bitter and twisted that I won't bother linking to that piece of tat. Various remixes of Bloc Party's "Helicopter" were pretty cool (it's a very hyperactive, shouty song), but I have yet to get hold of a copy of their album yet - I would never have known they were a London band if I didn't read a interview or two with them this year. [more]

My 2005: Books

I can't say that I read as many books as I wanted to this year as a lot of my attention seemed to go elsewhere whenever I tried to get words off a page and into my brain. Nevertheless, I absolutely tore into the writing career of Ryu Murakami and read all his books within reach in the space of a few months (my review of Almost Transparent Blue). I found a bashed up copy of Patrick White's The Vivisector in a secondhand book shop, and immediately loved him (who can resist a childhood-to-death portrait of an artist?). Junko Mizuno skidded back into my landscape, and I added Cinderalla and Hell Babies to my collection. And last but not least, I acquired and devoured Art Spiegelman's The Complete Maus, a worthy read if any during a year such as this. [more]





Karate Kid (1984)

Channel 4 just finished it's annual Christmas airing of The Karate Kid, a month to the day after Pat Morita passed away. After choking back the tears at the ending (c'mon, who doesn't love the character of Mr. Miyagi?), it struck me that Ralph Macchio, the kid that played Daniel-san, has evaded my "whatever happened to that dude?" radar. As it turns out, he's still acting, and he's managed to not end up looking like a weirdo. It's hard to believe that I'm as old as that movie, and that it's managed to have such a profound impact on my generation - seems like only yesterday that I was sat on a scratchy living room carpet, watching it for the first time with my dad.

Wax on, wax off.

Link Dump 24/12/05

  • - Cute Overload. Puppies and kittens and bunnies, oh my! The internet counteracts the overwhelming presence of Ogrish (NSFW) with fluff!


defaced (close up)

defaced (close up)



box (large)My lovely new camera was awaiting me when I got home from work today, a little smaller than expected, but this is a good thing, as I have rather small hands. This was the very first picture I took with it. Not very exciting now, but just you wait until I drag the cat out from wherever the hell it's hiding. Then you'll see a true exercise of my basic human right to take thousands of nonsensical pictures and put them on the internet.


No Time for TV

From Why there is still life in the old TV commercial by Patrick Barwise:

"It is all over for television advertising, apparently. Sky+ viewers are spooling through the ads at breakneck speed, advertisers are piling into the internet, and practically all the under-35s are so busy with their Xboxes, PSPs, iPods and blogs, they don't have any time left to watch TV."

Accuracy is delightful, isn't it? I watch precisely 4 hours of television a week, at the most (CSI, Lost and two hours for miscellaneous wind-down TV - and starting next week, one of those hours will be used to watch the new series of Doctor Who). I spend at least 8 hours a day on the internet, 30 minutes listening to music on my Creative Zen Micro and an hour and a half using my Gameboy Advance SP. The current advertising debate I'm interested in, is not product placement related, but how many websites are sacrificing content for advertising, and whether it's "right" to block these images.

TV stopped being relevent as soon as I discovered there was a media-centric world out there that I could contribute and control, and this is exactly how it's going to be for the generations that follow mine. "Interactive" television is a nice try, but rather pisspoor don't you think? At some point, TV is going to have to start pulling it's socks up. By that, I don't mean change it's entire output techniques, just change it's quality. The incessant rotation of predictable drama and reality television wore thin a long time ago.


It's not just me, is it? Everyone in the world has this disgusting December cold, because I can't seem to move two yards without bumping into someone else on my internet travels who is talking/moaning/crying about how awful they feel. At some point, I'm going to develop a logical theory that demonstrates how the internet spreads minor illnesses. For now, I'm just going to chug Beecham's.


Coming Soon

I finally got around to buying myself a decent digital camera last night. Here is everything you need to know about a Nikon Coolpix 5200. I'll be putting my Flickr account to proper use as soon as it arrives.

It really sucks to work in a call center sometimes...

But this is pretty funny. I would have given up at the five minute mark. Pretty funny though - the girl trying to sell the credit card to him is really earning her money.

Just a reminder to everyone using the "Why are you calling me at this time in the evening/on the weekend" line - you might be at home at 8:30pm on a Friday, but the person calling you is stuck in a poorly air-conditioned room, in a bad chair, hoping to make enough commission to pay the rent at the end of the month at the exact same time of day. If you have any semblence of decency, just be nice and say "No Thank You". You'll only get bugged if the company has a poor call management system, and if that happens, yelling at the minimum wager isn't really going to achieve much except maybe make her cry.


Link Dump 14/12/05

  • - Russia Today, the newly launched state funded 24 hour news channel, got hacked (BmN).


My 10 essential Firefox extensions

Spending a lot of time on the internet = spending a lot of time using Firefox = burning through a lot of Firefox extensions in order to find the awesome ones.

As a direct result of all of this I'd like to call this Wired article a wee bit ill-researched. When there are so many extensions out there that are ingenious, and Wired has such a large geeky Firefox using audience, why did that article run so short? I couldn't sum up the wondrous world of Firefox extensions and completely bypass so many of the useful ones. There are exactly ten Firefox extensions I can't live without (and trust me, this was hard to narrow down):

1. Sage just plain saves you time. Bookmark RSS feeds into your specially designated folder, open Sage into a sidebar, refresh the feeds and you're ready to go. They even have some awesome stylesheet options! If you're not using RSS feeds by now, then you're massively behind the times, and this is the best way to dive in.

2. Bugmenot. We all hate site registration. It's basically there to take your details so some marketing geek in a bad tie can collect your gender, age and location and demonstrate to his superiors that they are hitting the right number of visitors. Mostly, it's just a pain in the ass to do when all you want is to read that article about that fire in Paris or those Japanese jeans. Bugmenot is a database that, when you rightclick on the login form, gives you a temporary login/password to access the site with. Sure, you could just use the site, but a right click with autofill is much easier.

3. Tab X is one of those extensions that when I don't have it, I absently click on the corner of tabs and wonder why the hell they aren't closing. This is actually a built-in feature of the Opera browser, so I'm expecting Mozilla to adopt it by Firefox 2.0 at the very least.

4. Download Manager Tweak. Browsers and downloads aren't really the best mix, and when they do move along smoothly, the box is always there, hovering in the background like an expectant bloody dog. DMT allows you to put the window where you want it to be - tab, sidebar or window - as well as customise exactly what you see in the window. A seemingly small function... until it's not there.

5. Adblock is surely the most appreciated extension out there right now because, let's face it, there are things out there on this internet that are designed to purposely cause seizures and then brand their products on the insides of the damaged brains. Adblock, when teamed with an awesome blacklist hides all those bastard banner ads that certain people decide to add to their site when they want to make a little bit of cash on the side. It's caused a large debate about whether or not it's ethical to make money from adverts on the internet, as well as whether it's actually ethical to block them on purpose. I like it because essentially, it feels like someone's whitewashed this place free of moneymaking ugly flashing crap. Be careful what you block though - this extension can cause image loading problems on certain websites.

6. Flashblock means that all those crappy modern "professionally designed" websites don't load unless I allow them to. When used correctly, Flash is a beautiful thing... like a butterfly in a concrete jungle - but there are a hell of a lot of people using it as a design crutch because they don't want to learn standards compliant code. I don't want to spend two minutes of my time staring at a loading page just to see your panties/tampax/hip hop music. It's only useful for two things: cartoons/movies and photography sites. It's not acceptable for anything else. And this rant is why I use Flashblock.

7. Gmail Notifier links up to your Gmail account (everyone and their mother has a Gmail account these days) and notifies you as to when you have mail. Because I've had a Gmail account for well over a year and a half (and I don't like non-web based email), I pretty much rely on this extension.

8. R.I.P.'s motto is thus: IF YOUR SITE IS SHIT, I WILL DELETE THE SHIT UNTIL THERE IS NO MORE SHIT. To begin with, Adblock has a tendency to hide rather than delete banner ads - which often leaves columns of blank space. With RIP, you can delete the blank space (or anything else on a page you find distasteful) with two gestures. A simple right click over the section you dislike brings up a flashing red border (customisable), and if you accidentally delete too much of the site, there's a nifty undo feature. If you want to undo everything you've RIPped, you can just go straight into the options and clear it all in one fell swoop. This extension must be how a good colonic feels.

9. Session Saver. You know when Firefox crashes and you lose absolutely everything you've been doing? Yeh, it happens a lot to me too. Yeh, I let out a low groan of inner pain too. SS saves and restores your last browser activity when you manage to get the browser up and running. Especially helpful when you've gone through profile borking hell.

10. Open Book. One of the problems with the basic bookmarking system of Firefox, is that it doesn't allow you a visible, searchable tree of your bookmark system when you click ctrl+d. It's fiddly, it wastes time, and it annoys the shit out of me. Open Book removes all this, and gives you the option to control exactly what happens when you want to bookmark a link (a la Bookmark Manager).

The key to these extensions being necessary, I think, is that they provide a service that makes internet browsing more convenient and less annoying. Overall, you save time and stress. I do love my Firefox extensions.


Link Dump 10/12/05

  • - The My Space Generation is a pretty accurate portrayal of what's happening in terms of casual users of the internet (by "casual users" I mean people that are using the internet, as opposed to adding content and therefore building it).
  • - The other day I went looking for the age of the ancient mouse I use with my laptop (I really should get around to buying a new one, but I'm planning the purchase of a new desktop computer sometime soon, so there's no real point). A Google search of the serial number turned up this archive page of mice, complete with pictures and historical details. Mine is the IBM "Fat" PS/2 Mouse Uni-color (circa 1992), which has outlasted every other mouse I have encountered in the last four years or so. Neat-O.

On Yahoo!

Not six months ago I was having a discussion with someone that basically amounted to me discarding Yahoo! as a company that I had no interest in because I didn't find any worth in what they had to offer. Now that they've bought up del.icio.us and their possession of Flickr is pretty non-intrusive (as well as a host of my current favorite webloggers being Yahoo! employees), I guess I should revise that statement. They seem like they know what's going on when it comes to internet culture, and you can't really dislike a company that is in touch with/wants to improve the sites that make the people of the internet happy.

The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is the merging of the Yahoo! account with the sites they collect - but that's mostly down to the fact that I have a slightly shitty Yahoo! ID and it's too late to revise it. Not their fault.

So while 2005 undoubtedly belonged to Google, I'm guessing 2006 will be the year of Yahoo! breaking forth as the hip revitalised internet brand.


Death March

On Monday the UK enters the death march to Christmas: the final two working weeks of December that are inevitably filled with blinking neon crap, rain and either over or under-consumption of consumer products. I wouldn't be so cynical this time around if work wasn't absolutely killing me. I'm the kind of person that likes to be busy, so attempting to squeeze blood from a stone for 5 hours a day is pretty painful. The only silver lining in this cloud is that this is a temporary state for us all, and as soon as the New Year rolls around, we're going to be rushed off our feet. Providing I live to see January, that is. Onwards and Upwards Men!


Filmfour on Freeview?




Link Dump 05/12/05

  • - ILOVEFAKE is an awesome little 'zine crossing over the fashion/art/design borders. This month's edition is entirely in black and white.


Link Dump 03/12/05

  • - An interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, the daddy of Nintendo, where he kind of implies an interest in moving gaming away from the TV and onto a custom sized screen.


Impressions of Vienna Update

In case you're new around these parts or you're just not keeping up, I'm continuing with my project of translating my Grandmother's diary, albeit slowly. The most recent piece is entitled Damned Be The Jazz. I'll hopefully get a few more parts online over the weekend. Enjoy!

Which is right next to the "Godzilla attack" buzzer

(00:49:13) Brock: I have a friend that bought the game "Republic: The Revolution," which looks awfully fun in theory.
(00:49:22) Brock: But it might be shit execution. Don't know yet.
(00:50:08) Natali: I would go the Civ 2 route.
(00:50:16) Natali: Republic I think, is bad.
(00:50:28) Brock: Know anyone who's given it a shot?
(00:51:00) Natali: Not that I recall, but it sets off a "cheap clone" warning buzzer in my brain.
(00:51:06) Natali: It's right next to the "fake tits" buzzer.



Ah, it's that time of the year when I can sit in silence at my desk in the middle of the night and hear the rain battering the outside of the house through the walls. It also managed to hail today (for the first time that I can remember this year). This winter is going to be damn crazy.