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Days Not born on the 4th of July - DECEMBER14.NET

Days: it's a blog thing

Previous ramblings are stashed away under Replays.

Sunday, October 27, 2002


More archive strangeness. I remarked recently how I ended up with two entries for November 2001 listed in my archives, one of which actually pointed to the December file. Well, not any more. After publishing the last time, I’m back to one entry for November, which of course points to the December archive. I suppose there’s no point in me mentioning that December isn’t listed at all. Ho hum.

Meanwhile, I’ve been tinkering with another little project that will be appearing here soon. It ought to have been a quick and simple thing, but then the browsers bit me. It’s small wonder that most of the table-less, all-CSS layouts around these days are little more than straightforward two- or three-column affairs. Doing anything even slightly more complex tends to throw up the bugs or holes in CSS rendering exhibited by different browsers, which, of course, are different from browser to browser. And version to version. And platform to platform.

Anyway, more of that later. I’m off to Sweden in a few hours, if the gales battering the country at the moment haven’t screwed up flight schedules too much.
12:27 AM | permalink

Friday, October 25, 2002


According to Googlism:

Yeah, I’m red hot on those efulfilment solutions. I score at least 9 on those.

As of this morning, a search for 'keith bell' on Google brings up in slot number three. I am beaten to first place by (which says something about Google’s search algorithms), a site about a Yorkshire musician who must be at least as unknown as I am. Second place went to the world’s first swimming psychologist — perhaps the world’s only swimming psychologist. (Is that a psychologist who swims? Visits to his consulting rooms could be interesting…)
12:19 PM | permalink

Tuesday, October 22, 2002


I see Zeldman is redesigning; I look forward to the results. Succint as ever, he says:

Goals of redesign: simplify. Increase focus, unity, and usability. Remove the extraneous. Be pretty.

Good goals for the design of any site.
9:07 AM | permalink

Monday, October 21, 2002


Isn’t it funny how systems always seem to break down when you need them the most? Yesterday, in the final stages of moving all of the site files to a new server, Blogger would not publish my blog or archive files to the new destination. I spent hours checking, rechecking, and futzing around with my Blogger settings, while deep down I knew I had them right all along. But Blogger would not cooperate. I gave up because I just plain ran out of time.

So today, I’m reading Eric Janssen’s webraw, and I find that yesterday the default Blogger Pro server was knackered and wouldn’t publish anything for anyone. Wish I’d known about the Yahoo Blogger Pro groups yesterday, because wasn’t reporting a problem then.

Moan, moan, moan…

On a lighter note: with so many sites switching to table-free, HTML/CSS compliant layouts, Eric is concerned that the single pixel transparent GIF is an endangered species, and should be saved:

This treasured resource of Web designers everywhere is in danger of vanishing. Action must be taken quickly if the spacer is to be saved from neglect. My proposal is not to abandon efforts to construct compliant sites but to incorporate a transparent one pixel spacer gif somewhere within the site. This is easy, painless and hey, nobody will notice. Best of all the spacer gif will have a home if not a use. Additionally, studies have shown that servers LOVE serving up spacer gifs. It gives them something "solid" to serve up instead of simply markup. Designers of the world unite.

That man Siegel has a lot to answer for. Or at least, he thinks he does.
11:30 PM | permalink


Something bizarre is going on with my archives. After moving everything over to another server, and republishing the archives, there was no entry in the list for December 2001, and the November 2001 link actually pointed to the December archive. Nothing anywhere pointed to the November archive, though the file did exist.

To say I wasted a lot of time on this is to put it mildly. Initially I thought there may be something wrong with the script I had purloined from the most excellent Phil Ringnalda that writes out the dates longhand. But I had been using it for ages, and checking it through, there was clearly nothing wrong with it. Further tests showed it was Blogger itself that was causing the problem: it was feeding 11/01/01 - 11/30/01 as the <$BlogArchiveName$> but with 2001_12_01_index.html as the <$BlogArchiveLink$>. And no <$BlogArchiveName$> at all for December. Yikes!

After forcing republication of the archives by editing posts in November and December 2001, I managed to get Blogger to send <$BlogArchiveLink$> tags for both November and December — but it has given them both the same <$BlogArchiveName$>. So my archive lists two entries for November 2001, but one of them is actually December. If anyone has any brilliant ideas…
11:14 PM | permalink


This old house has been moved to a new server. There may still be some screwiness with archives for a while. And I haven’t figured out why the December 2001 archive is labelled as November. Or where the link for the November archive has disappeared to. Hmmm. Must check that javascript.
10:13 AM | permalink

Saturday, October 19, 2002


As soon as I’ve finished switching servers around. In the meantime, things may be a little screwy around here.
5:53 PM | permalink


Astronomers at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, have found the best evidence yet that there is a massive black hole at the centre of the Galaxy, as reported in the journal Nature.
5:50 PM | permalink

Friday, October 18, 2002


John Gruber has a detailed write-up at Daring Fireball on the phony Microsoft testimonial I mentioned earlier. His post also points to another MS page in similar vein, which similarly, they had to take down. Caught again.
12:00 PM | permalink


Every now and again, my buddies Kenny, Ronnie and I organise “boys away-days”. One such event is coming up shortly; a weekend that will take in A Day at the Races (not as funny as the Marx Brothers film, because it will undoubtedly involve losing wads of cash), and a visit to the British International Motor Show (not as exciting as the Paris Motor Show, because it’s in Birmingham).

Anyway, the owner of whichever car is used for these excursions typically provides the selection of music to be played during the trip. More often than not, this is Kenny — and he usually ends up taking some stick from Ronnie and me about his musical taste.

Clearly fed up of this treatment, he sought to avoid it this time by sending us a spreadsheet listing of his entire CD collection, telling us that we should choose what we like (though choose what we can suffer might be a better way to put it.) The simple thing to do would be to delete all the dreck and send the sheet back to him…

An extract from Kenny's CD list. Marcella who?

While I was deleting nine (count ’em) albums by the nauseating Celine Dion, I thought: if only it were possible to eliminate her from life as easily as it is from a spreadsheet.
7:52 AM | permalink

Tuesday, October 15, 2002


I know it’s been reported in countless other places, but I couldn’t resist pointing the finger too. It’s bad enough that Microsoft couldn’t come up with anything more original than an inversion of Apple’s “Switch” campaign to attempt to draw Mac users towards Windows — but to get caught in a blatant cheat is plain stupid.

Microsoft put up a page on their web site, supposedly written by a “freelance writer”, extolling the virtues of XP over MacOS and PCs over Macs. Except that the photograph of the “author” was a piece of stock photography from the Getty collection, no less. Presumably the text was no more credible than the photograph, because once they were rumbled, Microsoft pulled the page (it used to be here). As of today, it’s still in the Google cache; but just in case it vanishes, here’s a screen grab.

Note Microsoft’s devious trick of reversing the original image… wooooo, nearly had us fooled, there!
6:46 PM | permalink


Copyright seems to be flavour of the month, what with the Eldred vs Ashcroft hearing in the US Supreme Court last week. Now it seems that the public will get a chance to point out some of the stupidities in the US DMCA:

Federal copyright regulators are opening the door for new exceptions to a controversial copyright law that has landed one publisher in court and a Russian programmer in jail.

Full story by John Borland in ZDNet News.
6:45 PM | permalink


As expected, yesterday the UK government suspended the Northern Ireland Assembly and restored direct rule from Westminster. After indulging in my ramble, I found a pertinent essay written in 1954. It’s interesting to see how much has changed (notably the economy of the Irish Republic) and how much hasn’t (the attitudes of people in general and politicians in particular) in the almost half-century since. While the author was clearly coming from a pro-nationalist, re-unification standpoint, he clearly understood and accepted why the loyalists felt the way they did — and still do.

Talking with my pal Ronnie on Sunday evening, I said I thought that it would take a new generation of politicians from both sides working together in an institution like the Assembly before there would be enough trust and understanding for some kind of permanent settlement to be reached. Similarly, back in 1954, Professor Kelleher thought a new generation would be needed to see real change:

The age of these leaders is what promises a little hope. Another ten years must bring in new men and, though there are few signs of it, perhaps a fresh outlook as well. The generation now in power is the one with whom Partition came into being. Rarely in any country does the generation which discovers a great political problem solve it, perhaps because they always tend to see it as it first existed and not as time and society continually refashion it.

The generation he spoke of has come and gone, and in between, things got worse. I hope I’m more right than Kelleher was.
6:42 PM | permalink

Monday, October 14, 2002


When talking recently about Mil Millington’s exploits, I forgot to mention his latest creation: Angry Bed Positions.
10:13 AM | permalink


On Saturday, while flying home from Gothenburg, I was reading an essay in The Guardian by Hilary Mantel, in which she discusses why she does not consider herself “an English writer” — perhaps because she was born in the north of England, and into a family descended from Irish immigrants. She muses on the frequent identification (amongst the English) of “Britain” with “England”, as if the other parts didn’t exist:

For generations, our historians had proceeded as if “Britain” and “England” meant the same. Scottish children learnt Scottish history, and English history. But English schoolchildren did not learn Scottish history. They learned English history alone — and they called it British history. Historically, the English have not bothered to define themselves. They just are. It is other people who, in their view, have the problem of definition.

English nationalism is not recognised to exist. The clashes between England and Ireland were not, in the past, seen as a battle between English nationalism and Irish nationalism. They were seen as a result of the Irish nation’s stubborn refusal to recognise that it was, for all practical purposes, English. It would be amusing, if the results had not been so bloody.

While getting ready to leave my hotel room earlier in the morning, I was listening to Jon Snow on CNN’s International Correspondents talking to the London bureau chief for the New York Times, who was spending his weekend in Belfast. The background to the discussion was the fact that the UK government is preparing once again to suspend the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland, and the public cries of “Here we go again” are being echoed in the British and international media. Snow put it to the NYT man that it must be hard for NYT readers to fathom how one country (Ireland) can be embroiled in such difficulties. But that’s just the point. Ireland may be one country, but it is not one nation — and has not been so for a long time.

Even before the partition agreement of some eighty years ago, the seeds of separation were sown long before there was a United Kingdom, when England still sought to dominate the lands around her. Henry VIII was the first English monarch to declare himself King of Ireland in 1514, and it was not long after that the “plantation” of Ireland by English settlers began, providing a loyal (to the English crown), Protestant foothold in a Roman Catholic land. The north of the country became the focus for these plantations, leading ultimately to the present situation where a loyalist, Protestant community — descendants of English, and later, Scots migrants — coexists with a Catholic community whose sympathies lie generally with the nationalist cause.

Although her essay had a different subject, Hilary Mantel’s remarks on English versus Irish nationalism provide an efficient, if not particularly analytical, summary of how these things came to pass. What’s more, I believe her observations about English and Scottish teaching of history bear a comparison in Northern Ireland that at least partially explains the continuing divide between the communities since partition. Northern Ireland, being British, has a British — which is to say, English — education system. (Scotland’s education system is entirely separate and has significant differences from the English model.) From what I gather from people I know who come from Northern Ireland, it seems to me that (in the Protestant schools, at least) children are taught “British” history, but learn little of the history and folklore of the rest of the island on which they live. I remember having to tell a friend from Belfast who Brian Boru was, and coming to realise that even I knew more about Irish history than he did. Not only did his place of birth in The Province bestow British nationality on him, he was educated to see himself as British rather than Irish. In the twenty-odd years he lived in Northern Ireland before moving to Scotland, he only set foot in the Republic of Ireland a handful of times, and has done so no more often in the twenty-odd years since. He never saw any need.

There are two nations on the island of Ireland, and it doesn’t surprise me that many of those born British want to remain British — because that’s the culture they know. They learned about it in school, after all. Cries of “Give Ireland back to the Irish” from factions abroad are facile and uninformed. Regardless of how the situation in Northern Ireland arose, the fact is that today, there are British people living there, who cannot simply be abandoned. Whatever the ultimate solution for Northern Ireland, the end result must be a country where all of its people can live and prosper equally in security and religious freedom.

The loyalists have taken great steps in accepting the Good Friday Agreement and sitting down with the nationalists to share the administration of Northern Ireland, even though they know deep down that this may be, and probably is, just one more step towards unification of Ireland and handing the North over to a Dublin government. The nationalists have similarly made significant strides, effectively renouncing armed struggle and sitting down with the loyalists, whom for centuries they have seen as their oppressors. When two groups with such differences have to deal with each other daily, of course there are going to be hiccups and disputes and finger-pointing along the way. I doubt this will be the last time the Assembly has to be suspended to sort out some problem or other.

The divisions between the loyalist and nationalist communities are more than religious; they are grounded in all of the history before and since partition. It is, as Jon Snow suggested, difficult for people abroad with little knowledge of that history, to see what is so hard about settling divisions in Northern Ireland. In another CNN broadcast earlier in the week, an interviewer put that question to people on the streets of the Northern Ireland capital. A pithy Belfast chap replied, “Because the two sides just don’t like each other!”
9:58 AM | permalink

Wednesday, October 09, 2002


I’ve mentioned before Mil Millington’s wonderful Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. I do so again

The popularity of his site led to him landing the gig of writing columns for the Weekend Guardian (you can get a flavour from a recent issue), as well as a novel based on the things that he and his girlfriend argue about. The latest news is that there’s to be a film of the novel. Not bad for a guy who started as the IT Manager for Wolverhampton University Library who built himself a funny little home page.

And once again, just for the sake of balance, I offer you Deena Stevens’ Things That My Husband Has Done To (Deliberately) Annoy Me.
9:41 AM | permalink

Tuesday, October 08, 2002


It’s quite appropriate after my little bit of theft that Eric Janssen should remind us in his nicely designed webraw blog that tomorrow in the good ol’ US of A, the Eldred vs Ashcroft case goes before the Supreme Court.

Now I’m all in favour of the creator of an original work being given reasonable and fair protection under copyright laws. But it seems to me that extensions to copyright terms that have been introduced over the years in the USA and elsewhere often have more to do with protecting the “rights” of big businesses (or wealthy and powerful individuals) to persist in charging the rest of us exorbitant sums of money for their packaged versions of the creator’s original work. (I couldn’t possibly be thinking of the music industry, for example, could I?)

The situation is made all the more stupid when the copyright owner is unknown or simply doesn’t care, as this page on the Eldred vs Ashcroft web site points out:

But more important than the few valuable copyrights that these extensions protect, this case is about freeing the vast majority of creative work still under copyright that no one seeks to protect — indeed, work which the current copyright owner doesn’t even know he or she owns. Many films from the 1920s and 1930s are decaying in vaults because current copyright holders cannot be identified. Many books and songs published in the early part of the century are unavailable because the cost of finding the copyright owner is just too high. Congress sacrificed all these works, just to protect a few valuable copyrights.

If you’re interested in dedicating your creative works to the public domain or licensing them on terms more generous than copyright, you might be interested in the efforts of Creative Commons, even if, like me, you’re not resident in the USA.
6:25 PM | permalink


“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of , and the home of .”

(Shamelessly stolen from a rather good blog by David Sung Kim. But I think he pinched it from somewhere else anyway, so that makes it all right. Maybe. Or not.)
6:20 PM | permalink

Sunday, October 06, 2002


Bebel GilbertoBebel Gilberto’s Tanto Tempo. This first album is every bit as good as you might hope it would be, coming from the daughter of one of the founders of bossa nova, guitarist and singer João Gilberto. Given that it was released in 2000, I guess you could say it’s taken me tanto tempo to find it — but better late than never.

Tanto Tempo brings a wonderfully accessible, cosmopolitan approach to this lilting music. The self-penned title track on her debut teleports us back to bossa nova’s golden age, while Bebel’s take on Marcos Valle’s “So Nice” makes that classic sound brand new. — New Yorker Magazine

You could buy it and earn the girl a few bucks.

“Makes a change from Van bloody Morrison,” I can hear my friends say.
3:15 PM | permalink


The ever provocative Joe Clark — whose blog postings have become as irregular as my own — remarks in his latest entry that he “cannot think of a single really inventive Weblog”, and wants “to see something new online”.

(Actually, during his discourse he does point to a different kind of blog: different in that it has a specific theme, and the posts are non-linear: This is a nice idea, but you’ll probably get the most out of it if you are rather more familiar with Nabokov’s work than I am.)

I take Joe’s point about the banality of the blog. During a period when my feet don’t seem to be touching the ground, I could (if I had the time) post daily entries along the lines of: Flew to Sweden. Did job for client. Flew back to Scotland. Drove to Cambridge. Spent three days doing jobs for clients. Drove back to Edinburgh. Flew to Sweden… but who wants to read my timesheet? Sometimes along the way I do actually find an interesting link, or there are earth-shattering world events on which I have an opinion — but the time it takes to find, hear or read about them leaves nothing over to blog them.

Anyway, the curmudgeonly Mr. Clark promises in a future episode to show us “some signs of hope” that he has tracked down “in sectors of the online demimonde that are as obscure and ill-viewed now as Weblogs were two years ago”.

I can’t wait. Meantime, his closing paragraph seems to have a certain appropriateness to my own situation:

The NUblog posting schedule may improve marginally. Yet we are not willing to commit to a regular schedule. We never held to one before, but then it was more palatable because we posted so frequently. But the truth was and is that we post only when we have something to say. If it takes longer now, then it takes longer.
We adamantly insist, however, that this Weblog is not f<asterisk><asterisk><asterisk>ed.

3:04 PM | permalink


A few days ago I got a strange e-mail with a stranger attachment from a colleague, sent from a real address but not one that she had ever used to send me e-mail before. Looking into it, it appears to have been the work of the Bugbear virus. The Guardian has a rather Mickey Mouse write-up on this latest nuisance, while Symantec tells you what it is and how to get rid of it.

In my case, the worm seems to have picked up a Subject from another e-mail in my colleague’s outbox to use as the subject line, and sent itself around the various addresses in her contact folder. No harm done to me, because I was immediately suspicious of the double extension .xls.pif borne by the attachment.
2:26 PM | permalink


The revelation in Edwina Currie’s diaries that she had a four-year affair with John Major has led many people to revise their view of the former Prime Minister as the “grey man” of British politics. However, I do wish she hadn’t bothered to tell us. It was all a long time ago, and should have been kept entirely between themselves. For those who want to get all moral on the issue, well, they were both married at the time (not to each other, obviously), and you might reasonably say they were equally responsible for their actions.

Currie’s contention that leaving the matter out of her published diaries would somehow have been dishonest fools nobody. Her motivation for exposing their affair is obvious: she has a new book to sell. On the face of it, the diaries of a minor MP who once held a junior ministerial position in the Department of Agriculture until Margaret Thatcher sacked her does not hold the promise of a fascinating read. But tell the public that it carries stories of three-hour sex romps with The Man Who Would Be Prime Minister, and all of a sudden, you have a much bigger audience for the book. By so doing, she shows herself to be no better than those girls who queue up outside the offices of The Sun or The Daily Star to sell their “I shagged [enter name of your footballer of choice — Dwight Yorke will do]” stories.

Geordie Grieg gives a thoroughly appropriate review of the book in today’s Observer.

Still, for a few days this week, Edwina did manage to distract attention from peer/author/jailbird Jeffrey Archer. Not for long, though. By the end of the week, good old Jeff was back in the headlines with the publication of his new book, a diary of his first weeks in Belmarsh nick. The prison authorities will be scouring the text to see if he has infringed any more rules in its authorship. Kamal Ahmed reports in The Observer.
2:09 PM | permalink


It’s reached that time of year in Gothenburg when all the pubs and restaurants along Kungsportsavenyn dismantle their pavement extensions and awnings, and retreat indoors for autumn and winter. The town becomes much quieter of an evening, and bars that were crowded throughout the summer are suddenly much easier to get served in. One evening last week when I didn’t have the energy to walk from Hedens Hörna down to my usual watering hole, the Dub, I dropped into Jamesons Pub at the south end of the Avenue. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that the bar staff outnumbered the punters, but it was a close run thing.

When I go back to Gothenburg later this week, I expect the transformation of the Avenue will be complete. It’s sad to see the end of summer, particularly this summer, which was the hottest in Sweden since records began. And it’s going to be months before we see all those lovely Swedish girls again, with their skimpy tops and bare midriffs… {sigh}
1:27 AM | permalink

My momma told me there'd be days like this

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