Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…
Saturday, October 20, 2001 ↓
WELL DONE IRELAND!
Congratulations to the Irish rugby team not only for their win at Lansdowne Road, but also for preventing a Grand Slam by England — as Scotland did last year and Wales the year before. England still wins the Six Nations championship, and that's fair enough because overall, they played better than the rest of us. But they do need defeats like today's to remind them that they're not as bloody wonderful as they think they are. The other five nations would all have to concede that at present, England has the strongest team — but they're so arrogant with it. They can hardly expect to endear themselves to the other nations when they suggest, as they did a little while back, that they should stop playing Northern Hemisphere teams because none of them provide strong enough competition. (Lots of people were angered by that statement; personally, I thought, "Let them go; I'll be delighted to watch them getting thrashed every time they play the Wallabies, the Springboks, the All Blacks... maybe then they'll learn some humility".) And then there was the time when the English RFU wanted a bigger cut of the television rights for the Six Nations contest, because they reckoned they were the biggest attraction...
So, well done Ireland — and (grudging!) congratulations to England for winning the championship.
CLEANER OR CRITIC?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! (Sorry, had to get that out.) Belonging to the school that thinks that the work of Damien Hirst is, as Paul Calf/Steve Coogan might put it, "a bag o' shite", what could I do but laugh like a drain when I heard about this.
Whatever next? Will someone make Tracy Emin's Bed?
Friday, October 19, 2001 ↓
THE SUNDAY PAPERS — ON FRIDAY
I don't buy newspapers any more. With cable TV and access to 24-hour news from the BBC, Sky, CNN, et al and, of course, the Internet, there doesn't seem much point. Granted, newspapers can provide more analysis and comment (I said newspapers, not comics like The Sun) — which is all very well if you have the time to read them.
Which brings me back to "The Sundays".
I used to buy The Sunday Times and The Observer. Back in the days when there was a little newsagent and general store at the end of my street, I would skip along there on Sunday morning, then stagger back home, weighed down by the pile of pulped dead trees, struggling to prevent the various supplements and magazines falling out and flying away in the wind that always blows off the sea. (One of the perils of living right on the waterfront.)
I enjoyed The Sundays for the round-up of the week's news, and the fact that the journos had had a few days to digest and ruminate on events before spouting praise, condemnation, horror or joy. But even back then (and we're talking about a decade ago, already) when I seemed to have more time to sit down and read stuff than I do these days, even then, it was all a bit too much.
There is just so much material in those things. I could waste a couple of hours on Sunday morning poring over them, but that would only scratch the surface. I'd keep returning to them at odd moments throughout the week to pick up a story here, a picture set there. But come the next Sunday, I still wouldn't have read everything (nor even everything that I'd wanted to read) and the cycle would begin again.
I'm sure I wasn't any more unique in this behaviour than I am in any other way. I've often wondered how much of the world's flora are cut down to be transformed into the pages of newspapers and magazines (I won't even begin to talk about my magazine buying habits) that are consigned, largely unread, to the garbage every week. (Respect to those of you who can be bothered to separate out paper stuff and drop it into your local recycling centre/skip/special waste collection.)
Eventually I saw the folly and just stopped buying The Sundays. Of course, I might have been influenced by the closure of the shop at the end of the street, and the need to go into town or to the nearest Safeway to buy them. And anyway, since then we got the Internet.
Ah yes, the Internet. Immediate. Available. Convenient. But would you believe it? Even with The Sundays (and The Dailies, of course) on the Web, I still have the same problem. If anything, it's worse — because now there's so much choice. Example: it's Friday, and I've only just noticed an article in last Sunday's online Observer: what a nasty surprise these guys must have got!
On the subject of things missed, I was too busy yesterday to remark that October 18 saw a couple of anniversaries. First, the anniversary of the death in 1931 of Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb and much else. As a boy, I had a couple of great "engineering heroes". Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one, and Edison the other. I admired Edison not only for his genius, but for his application. Like Brunel, he looked for practical solutions to real problems. He turned invention into a business, and planned for success. He invented the concept of an "invention factory", for that's exactly what his laboratory at West Orange was. Men like him don't come along every day.
The second anniversary was that of the naming of James Watson and Francis Crick (along with Maurice Wilkins, who worked separately from them) as winners of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material." Specifically, for disentangling the structure of DNA and how it operates to convey genetic and hereditary characteristics. Although seen by most people as a "biology" topic, this was really a problem in chemistry, so I can appreciate it all the more readily. Their work led to some of the most significant scientific findings of the 20th century. (It still feels funny talking about the 20th century as being in the past.)
I'm not even going to get into the argument about whether Rosalind Franklin deserved recognition for her part in the drama, and whether she would have shared in the Nobel award had she lived (Nobel prizes are never awarded posthumously).
Wednesday, October 17, 2001 ↓
The recent brouhaha surrounding the World Wide Web Consortium's proposed policy of allowing patented technologies to be embodied in web standards (and the pathetically vague nature of the RAND terms it describes) seems to have juiced up the interest in patents amongst the blogging community. And it just goes to show you what you can miss if you aren't looking (like BT's claim to the invention of hyperlinks — yeah, right). Dave Winer picked up this one, just awarded yesterday, and it's a beaut.
Granted, so far I've only given it a quick scan (why do the drafters of patent applications make them so long — could it be to discourage people from reading them to discover the horrors they conceal?). But it seems to be saying that IBM is claiming invention of template-based web site creation software, allowing people to build web sites without any knowledge of HTML. Erm... sound familiar? The patent goes a lot further than that, but have a look at a couple of the key objects set out under the Summary of the invention section:
Another object of the invention is to provide a tool for creating a Web site that minimizes or eliminates the need for a Web site creator to know or use HTML or other programming languages to create a Web site.
Another object of the invention is to provide a tool for facilitating the creation of Web sites and pages based on stored templates that enable personalization and customization of the Web site and pages without the need for a user to change or write any software code.
That seems to step on the territory not only of existing online content management systems like Blogger and Manila, but also on WYSIWYG-type HTML editors like Dreamweaver, Net Objects Fusion, and — dare I say it? — FrontPage, complete with all its Wizard thingies.
Do patent office clerks ever read the applications? Has anyone ever heard of prior art? Will IBM try to sue Microsoft for infringement?
Responding to a plea from the French, King David II of Scotland, son of The Bruce (no, not Mel Gibson, that was The Wallace), marched an army into north east England in the autumn of 1346. They met an English army led by the Archbishop of York on this day, October 17, in what came to be called the Battle of Neville's Cross. Unfortunately for David, not quite the man that his father was, his army ended up in a pretty disadvantageous spot to the west of Durham, and despite superior numbers (unusual for a Scotland vs England thrash) the Scottish army got clobbered.
If you want to visit the site of the battle, on Sunday October 21 Durham County Council is organising a guided walk.
Strangely, York History Tours seems to think the battle took place two years later, in 1348. I wonder where they learned their history?
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 ↓
BUMMER — LOOK AT WHAT I MISSED
I spent nearly five days without checking my e-mail (nice little notes from Natalie and Trudi) or browsing the Web, which is pretty much a record. So I spent a wee while in the early hours of this morning looking at what I'd missed. Davezilla always finds great links, and a few days ago he spotted this one.
Now tell me, does that girl's derrière look for one second like it needs the help of a pair of "Wonderbum" tights? I think not. If DuPont really wants to convince us of the efficacy of this new wunderprodukt, shouldn't they get some old gal with a saggy arse to model it? OK, so maybe that's not one of my better ideas...
Monday, October 15, 2001 ↓
I really hate it if, when you come back from a business jaunt, you have to write a trip report for the client. Nowadays I try to do these things as I go along using my nifty little Palm m505, but sometimes the task is just too complicated — like the technical audit I was doing last week. Yesterday I brought back a ton of paper, my own scribbled notes, and what little I'd managed to put into the m505, and I've spent today trying to make sense of it all so that the client company will know what I've been doing for the last few days and what I'm expecting them to pay me for.
But it's so damn tedious.
My brain just seems to take the view that once I'm back home, that should be the end of the job and I should move on to something else. So it stubbornly refuses to cooperate when I try to put it into report-writing mode. I can almost hear the whirring of rusty machinery not quite getting up to working speed. And so it takes me twice as long as it should. And then I look at the result and feel that I can't justify charging the client for the full time it's taken to write, just because my brain is attempting some kind of Neanderthal reversion today. And then I get even more cranky because now I'm doing work on my own time (oooooo, I hate that!) and that makes it even harder for me to think straight...
I look forward to the day when I can plug my head into a Mac Firewire port and the Ultimate Killer App will shlurp up my jumbled thoughts, arrange them into a clear, concise and logical structure, and dump it all straight into a report for me. Until then: tedium.
Sunday, October 14, 2001 ↓
SWEDISH AUTUMN vs SCOTTISH AUTUMN
Edinburgh: Grey, dry, fairly warm for the time of year.
Gothenburg: Pissing down, howling wind, cold.
Gothenburg: Blue sky, sunny, dry and warm.
Gothenburg: Dull, grey, fairly warm; fine drizzle late in the evening (the kind that gets you thoroughly soaked walking from the Auld Dubliner pub back up Södra Vägen to the Gothia Towers hotel).
Gothenburg: Dull grey start; warm and sunny in the afternoon.
Edinburgh: Grey, rainy, but mild.
Conclusion? Not much difference really — you can see all four seasons in less than that number of days in either of the two places.
Older material is stashed away under Replays.