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The Purple Penguin

Sunday, June 30, 2002
Went down to Brighton for a hen night last night. Good laugh - a morning in the gym followed by a jacuzzi. Then drinking / eating / clubbing in the evening. Even ended up talking about blogging - I amaze myself with my levels of geekness at times :-) Realised I've known the stag for not much short of 11 years (I know the hen through the stag). How time flies. We all seem to be getting older all of a sudden, which is confusing. It feels like only a couple of years ago that my uni chums were having 21st birthdays, and all of a sudden I'm going to all their 30th's. Very strange. I'm definitely feeling older today though - I'm sure I didn't used to feel this tired after a weekend of partying :-)

This evening I have mostly been messing about with my template and seeing what everybody else has been up to. Today's question - does the constant tweaking of the template decrease over time? Does the constant mucking about and adding new bits on show me up as a relative newbie, or will I still be finding new stuff and playing with colours and fonts in another 6 months? Only time will tell....

This weeks best addition:
Blogrolling. It makes adding new blog links to my blogrolls so much easier. Definitely cuts down on template tweaking :-)

posted at 7:54 PM
Friday, June 28, 2002
Well that's one way for small football clubs to raise a bit of cash - a fan has bought himself a place on the Preston North End squad for the princely sum of 4,300 in an internet auction. For this, he will appear in the team photo, have his own strip and gain access to the training ground. What a neat idea - and not a unreasonable price. You could easily spend that on the holiday of a lifetime which only lasts a few weeks, but he gets a whole year of being in the squad. It just goes to show, you really can buy or sell just about anything on the net!

An interesting debating point here. In Florida a muslim woman has been given the go ahead to persue her case for wearing a veil in her drivers license photo. Apparently, the fact that only her eyes are visible on her ID was never a problem before September 11th, but now she has been asked to provide a new picture which shows her face. She argues that this violates her constitutional right to religious freedom. So the question for today is whether the same rules should be applied to everybody, or do religious beliefs justify special treatment. I'd like to know if muslim women who habitually wear veils in their native country are generally veiled or revealed in their passport photos. And are there any international rules surrounding such circumstances. I have not come across any stories of women being denied entrance to foreign countries on the basis of not having a recognisable photo on their documents. Of course, that may just mean that word of such events does not filter out to the general community. As for my opinion on this one, I think I'm on the side of the authorities. I appreciate that some people believe that women should be covered up when out in public. If this is a valid choice made by individual women, then I feel that there is a fair choice and who am I to argue. On the other hand, a driving license is a legal form of identification, required before you can drive a car. Arguing for being allowed to be completely unrecognisable on your driving license sounds remarkably fishy to me. I do not wish to pass judgement on this particular case - I do not know the people involved and I certainly don't know all the facts. However, if this case is successful, expect others to follow. And there are probably a large number of people out there who will try and bend the rules for a more sinister purpose.

Glastonbury started today. This year I'm not bothered about not going down as there aren't as many bands I've been dying to see as normal. The good news is that the new security fence 'is working'. Hardly anyone is getting in without a ticket, and crime on-site is down by a long way. That is good news for those of us who have been to a few Glasto's - we've all remarked on the increasing amount of crime. If you've been with a group, it's likely that at least one of your friends has been a victim of crime while you were there. And increasingly it has been muggings rather than the traditional stealing stuff out of a tent. I myself woke up one morning during one of the Mud-Fests to find that my wellies had been stolen overnight. This was incredibly tragic at the time - you really couldn't leave your tent without wellies that year and it was almost impossible to buy a pair on-site (hence the large number of welly-related thefts that year!). People would queue for hours on the strength of a rumour that a particular stall was about to get a lorry load of wellies in! It's hardly serious though compared with the unpleasant experiences some of my friends have been through. Using a knife to demand money from random people is not what reasonable people go to Glasto for. A relatively small number of people have been destroying the experience for the rest of us for too long. It appears that said trouble makers are not prepared to pay out for a ticket, so they're not getting in. On the downside, there has been a crime spate just outside the site, with numerous reports of ticket thefts. If the crime rate stays low for the rest of the festival I may even be tempted to go back next year :-)

posted at 7:13 PM
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Time for a bit of a catch up - it's been a busy old week with lots happening and lots to write about, but no time to actually get down to blogging.

First up today, we have
porn for pandas. In an attempt (which so far seems to be working), male pandas entering a Chinese research centre are being shown videos of mating pandas. This seems to increase their libido, to the extent that some are actually being fathers in the way that nature intended.

According to a new research survey, the web is biased against vaccination. As an example, when you type "vaccination" and "mmr" into Google, a lot of the pages that come up are not official medical sources, but more "mmr is bad" type sites. I'm not going to hazard an opinion about mmr here, but I do think the researchers have missed the point somewhat. If you take something like mmr, which is a fairly emotive issue, there are probably only a handful of sites out there sharing the official line. Like the NHS or the drug companies for example. On the other hands, you have hundreds of sites putting out the alternative view. There are numerous anti-mmr campaigns, parents groups etc who between them are setting up more sites then the pro-mmr groups. After all, you generally don't join a campaign group because you're for something like this - you leave that to the "official bods". Most people would never phone a customer services line to say "great job, keep up the good work", but to complain. This doesn't mean Google is biased against mmr (or whatever) - just that a large proportion of the on-line community is!

At G8 this week, Tony and Dubya seem to be having a difference of opinion. Dubya thinks Yasser Arafat should be removed from office to help the Middle East peace process along. Tony kind of agrees, but actually turned around and said that it's not up to the Western World to decide who runs Palestine, but rather than the Palestinians should decide for themselves in a democratic fashion. If you should happen to read this George, democracy is the one where everybody picks who they want, and the person with the most votes wins. This is not to be confused with the process by which everybody votes, and the winner is the guy whose brother decides the outcome. One day I will understand how the US elects its president.

Well, I couldn't let the WorldCom crisis go by unremarked. I'll leave the nitpicking to everybody else, except for speculating on who will be next. Having bombed out big on the office World Cup sweepstake (I drew Italy - should have been easy money!) I think it's time to start an Accountancy Scandal sweepstake. I hope I get ntl::-)

That's enough "politcal" stuff for one day - I'm off to look for some fun stuff :-)




posted at 8:29 PM
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Quick post today - just got home and stopped off at the PC on my way to bed. It's been a busy few days (hence the lack of posting :-)

Spent a fair bit of the weekend looking after my virtual families - I have to confess to being a bit of a
Sims addict. There has to be more to life than aimlessly surfing the web.

On Monday, I went to see minuteman at The Ocean in Hackney. Top gig - I'm looking forwards to getting my hands on the album.

On Tuesday I went to the pub, and had a jolly good time,

Tonight, being one of those rare lovely evenings (particularly strange weather for Wimbledon - not a cloud in the sky), we toddled off for a BBQ. Yum :-)

I seem to be in danger of developing a social life :-)

posted at 10:45 PM
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Get your Hubble wallpaper here! On my desktop at the moment is the Orion nebula, and very pretty it is too.

Today I have mostly been watching footy. Saw most of the S. Korea vs Spain game, and throughly enjoyed it. The penalty shoot-out was very exciting. But then penalty shoot-outs when you don't have a vested interest in the outcome are good - it's only when you care who wins they are terrifying. (Side note on yesterdays game - I'm not sure if I've ever seen England go out of the World Cup in normal time before. It makes a change not having to go through the torture of watching penalties.)

Then did a few chores and settled back down to the Turkey Vs Senegal game. I was really rooting for the Africans as I've been really enjoying watching their games, so I was very disappointed when Turkey scored their Golden Goal.

Only a week to go, and then no more footy for a couple of years (until Euro 2004 in Portugal! One of the nice thing about Euro is that it's always in a more reasonable time zone :-) I see England have drawn Turkey, Slovakia, FYR Macedonia and Liechtenstein for our qualifying group.

I have to admit, I didn't know Liechtenstein had a football team, being about the size of a postage stamp. From The World Factbook on the CIA website of all places, I have learnt that Liechtenstein has just under 33,000 people. That's even smaller than I thought it was. covering an area of about 61 square miles. That's slightly smaller than Washington DC. So now you know.

posted at 4:52 PM
Friday, June 21, 2002
I've done it - I've finally achieved my first Googlewhack. If you want to see my search results they are here! I won't tell you what the words are or it might not work anymore, as I could end up defeating myself by creating a second hit :-)

I also tried the combination of "football" + "disaster" but I just overheated the google engine due to the immense numbers of hits returned. 'Nuff said.

At least it's Friday :-)

posted at 11:10 PM
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Manic has been following the rise of Monday consulting for the last few days. Today he noticed that despite managing to nab monday.com, they haven't got monday.co.uk!

posted at 9:29 PM
Continuing the Space theme, today it was revealed that the Earth had a near miss with an asteroid on the 14th June. It passed within about 75,000 miles of us (the moon is about 240,000 miles away). But it's good to know the Near Earth Object Program is watching the skies to give warning of events like this - they spotted it 3 days after it had passed.

Whatever you do, don't tell Railtrack: Pollen halts Swedish train in tracks. That's all we need - an excuse for why the trains can't run in summer.

GoogleWhack of the day: I found this selection of maths jokes from a search on "hippopatmus" and "disconnect". Honestly. I think the jokes are supposed to be funny :-)

posted at 8:28 PM
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Some time ago, I got into a discussion about whether the solar system was flat. As you do. There may have been alcohol involved in the conversation, which would explain why it didn't occur to me to look it up at the time. Well, today I finally remembered to look it up. And tucked away somewhere on the NASA site I found this Interactive Solar System applet. It's great :-) After a little tour where it explains the orbits and how they work you get a little interactive model of the solar system which you can rotate and zoom in and out of. I've just spent ages playing with it! Oh, and the answer? Most of the solar system orbits the sun on the same plane, except for Pluto which orbits at on an inclined plane. Also I learnt that the elliptical orbits of Pluto and Neptune cross each other, so every once in a while Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune.

That's enough education for one day. Boing said Zebedee.

posted at 10:05 PM
Today I'm going to take a break from the ranting :-) Instead of posting about something that makes me peeved, here are my pick of the The Webby Awards (2002). This year each category has two winners - one voted by the Webby industry panel, and one voted for by the People. The awards tend to be a little US centred, but then there are a lot of surfers in the States!

First up, winner of best practice, in both Webby and Peoples Choice polls: good old Google:-) It also picked up the Peoples Choice award for technical achievement. If you're not using the Google Toolbar yet, I recommend giving it a go. (In fact, I can't download and install stuff at work, and not having the toolbar there drives me nuts!).

Webby award for education goes to The Exploratorium Not one I've come across before, but a quick tour pulled out some interesting articles and pretty pictures. I liked the section on auroras.

Peoples Choice for education goes to eNature. I had a bit of a play with the field guides which were great fun - I've been learning all about seashore creatures! One downside - irritating pop-up ads :-( Great content though. If anybody can recommend a UK based alternative I'd like to know about it!

Peoples Choice award for best government / law site goes to NASA. One I enjoy visiting from time to time just to look at the pretty pictures from the Hubble telescope.

Both awards for humour have been awarded to The Onion. Unfortunately, there was nothing on this weeks front page that grabbed my eye. I personally prefer The Brains Trust, which is kind of a UK equivalent (only funnier :-)

The Webby news award goes to BBC News, which has been my main source of daily news for several years now. In fact I don't buy newspapers at all any more. The non-news articles are rather good too.

The weird Webby award belongs to Devices of Wonder. Which is a kind of interactive tour of weird and wonderful devices. Well worth a play if you five minutes and want to be amused.

There are loads of other sites to play with, but these were the ones I liked the best.

Late update: Everything you ever wanted to know about google from Bloing

posted at 9:04 PM
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
I like to think of myself as an easy-going tolerant person without any prejudices. Wherever possible I like to challenge my own assumptions and question my motives whenever I find myself pre-judging anything without trying to understand the opposing position. I'm all for freedom of speech and the right to post anything you like on the net (within the rules of copyright of course). However this means thay I do come across material which I find offensive and deeply disturbing. Take for example the official website for the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). This following article made me want to hit somebody. Nickelodeon To Run Pro-Homosexual Show Without Corporate Sponsors! What it's all about is that NickNews, a US news program for kids on Nick are going to broadcast a special documentary about children with gay parents. These kids get a really rough time in the playground. I could be making 2+2=5, but I'd like to see the stats on how many of the bullies have parents who subscribe to the views of the TVC. The TVC do not want the documentary to be aired, because they think their kids might think it's OK to be gay. I feel they are missing the point. The aim of the program is to show that it's OK to have gay parents and foster understanding. The TVC are claiming the moral victory because the show will be run without ads as the advertisers don't want to be associated with it. I think this is where they should realise that the plan has backfired. With no ads for the latest cereal or toy the show will probably seem more serious and kids are less likely to turn over during the ad breaks to find something else. However, I suspect that the kids who will get to watch it have tolerant fair-minded parents and so are less likely to be the ones who will learn for it. Further reading: The BBC article I picked this up from. Try as I might, I just can't shake my personal bigotry towards bigots. Then again, I'm not sure I want to.

And it's all over for Italy, with Korea scoring a Golden Goal in extra time. So that's another favourite gone. Current favourites are Brazil then England, who play each other on Friday. At this stage, I would hate to have to predict the winner. Who could possibly even guess who will end up in the final?

posted at 2:00 PM
Well blow me backwards - Korea have just equallised at 89 mins!!! Exciting stuff.

posted at 1:17 PM
Today I'm at home sick :-( Been up coughing all night and didn't sleep. What a stupid day to be off - had I remained healthy for another couple of days I could have seen the England game from the comfort of my own bed on Friday :-) Instead I'm watching Korea V. Italy, which isn't the same (although it has been an interesting game so far.) At time of posting, Italy are 1-0 up with 12 minutes left on the clock.

Sad news:
Penguins are dying in the Falklands. And nobody seems to know why. One researcher is convinced that they are simply starving to death. Is this a sign that over-fishing is bad for the global ecosystem? To me it's obvious - if we take all the fish out of the ocean, there will be none left. And we're not the only species that eat fish. The difference between humans and penguins in terms of fish is that humans can eat something else. Other species do not have that luxury.

Yesterday I banged on a bit about global inequalities in data access. Today's rant is about broadband access in the UK. BT have announced that they are going to open a register for people in rural communities who want broadband. If 200 people on one exchange sign up they will ADSL enable the exchange. This is big news for rural net-heads, but seems too little, too late to me. In fact, the Broadband4Britain campaign calculates that broadband is commercially viable if only 50 people on an exchange want it. So why 200 people then? Why not 100 people? That would allow half of the people connected to disconnect without affecting BTs profitability. To me, it sounds like BT are saying 'We'll provide it if people want it, but we don't actually want to roll it out, so we'll set an artificially high barrier.'

I find the way in which broadband has been rolled out across the UK to be pathetic. I've been on broadband for 6 months now, and I couldn't go back to a modem. In the last 6 months the price of broadband has fallen, which is obviously a good thing for consumers. Having signed up for what we considered to be the best package at the time, there are now packages with other ISPs which are significantly cheaper. Due to the daft way in which ADSL is supplied we cannot change to a different ISP, as you have to disconnect, then sign up with the new ISP, then apply for reconnection. So the choice for us, is to lose our broadband for an unspecified period (probably measured in weeks rather than days), or pay 10 a month more than we need to. The whole ADSL market seems geared to protect the interests of the suppliers, rather than the consumers. To me, that is simply wrong. The system as it stands offers no incentive for the ISPs to drop their prices in the face of market competition, as their customers are in effect tied to them once the paperwork has been signed. To be fair to our ISP, we're more than happy with the service we receive, and would only change for pricing reasons.

posted at 1:08 PM
Monday, June 17, 2002
I've been pondering on Netiquette when applied to blogging. For me, part of the fun is reading other people's blogs to see what other people are up to. Some blogs I've really enjoyed, some not. A couple of posts have given me things to think about and some have sent me off to sites I might want to blog about myself. So. To Cite. Or Not To Cite. That is the Question. For now I'll stick to throwing in a link to the original post if I want to revisit the site sometime - to act as my own personal "remember to go back and have another look later". While thinking about all this I came across this post at KaneBlues Journal. I enjoyed the rest of his blog too, so worth investigating if you're looking for a new blog to read.

On the other side of the planet, women in Iran have discovered the joys of blogging. Large numbers of people are turning to blogging as a way to discuss openly all the things that are taboo in public. It's good to see the internet breaking down barriers across different cultures in different countries. What surprised me is that the net is not censored in any way in Iran.

On the flip side, the authorities closed all the cyber cafes in Beijing after a fire in one cafe left 24 dead. The cause of the fire was not reported. Call me cynical, but closing all the cyber cafes sounds like a rather drastic measure. Are they trying to protect the safety of the people who seek out information, or just trying to clamp down on the seeking in the first place?

I have real trouble dealing with this stuff. I take my access to the net for granted. I have become so accustomed to being able to access information from more or less any source I choose, that I cannot imgaine living with out it. In my humble opinion, World Peace would be a lot easier to achieve if we all knew more about each other. The internet gives us a huge opportunity to communicate and share ideas with people from any culture from all the corners of the globe. I believe that all people everywhere should be able share the experience. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and governments should not be threatened by that if they are truly representative.

Phew - that turned into a bit of a rant. I almost got political there for a minute. And now for something completely different :-)

In the news today: a major Australian teleport breakthrough. The clever chaps at the Australian National University have managed to teleport a laser beam from one side of a lab to the other. I thought that sounded rather pathetic, but the possibilities for communications are interesting - particularly in the field of encryption. No doubt governments will be legislating against them doing it again as I type. One small step for man, one giant leap for subatomic particles. Next step apparently is to work up to whole atoms.

posted at 10:15 PM
Sunday, June 16, 2002
Nettle chomping champ keeps crown. Simon Sleigh, from Forkchurch, Dorset, has retained his title by eating 76 feet (yes - feet!) of uncooked nettles - 20 feet more than his nearest rival. One word springs to mind - why?

A very cool site was launched today called MeetUp, which is a service to connect people who want to meet up. A cunning name I feel :-) The basic principle is you sign up to various topics like bloggers or bonsai enthusiasts in your city, and then vote where to meet up from a list of venues (pubs / coffee shops etc). At the appointed time you all turn up and chat about your particular interest. It's early days so far, but if enough people sign up it could be really good. Oh, and it's global so there are cities in loads of countries to choose from (including London).

That's definitely enough for one weekend I feel :-)

posted at 9:20 PM
Just watched Senegal take Sweden out of the World Cup. Only switched it on as I took a look at the news headlines just after Senegal equalised. The first Golden Goal of the competition. It's a funny old game indeed - at the rate it's going none of the favourites will be left by the end. Can Belgium beat Brazil next? We'll find out tomorrow.
The Ireland match next - I'd love to see them get through to the next stage.

This morning, I will mostly be playing with my template :-)

posted at 8:52 AM
Saturday, June 15, 2002
For people with nothing better to do, you could always visit Derek's Big Website of WalMart Purchase Receipts. Derek, for some obscure reason, has kept every WalMart receipt he's got since 1996, and for our general amusement he has scanned them all in and posted them on his website. A whole load of people then wander along and start a discussion on what he's bought.

Just been reading an interesting post about one bloggers experiences with the staff at SWT. A very long story, but a very good example of what is wrong with Society. All respect due to manic for his actions and his write up of a difficult situation. I enjoyed his blog so much, I even followed his link to Interactivism - an alternative to the normal god-based philosophy of religion. Click the link to help him on his quest to be the number one Google return for religion.

Well that's enough surfing for one day. 3 posts is more than enough - I'm off down the pub :-)

posted at 6:50 PM
Big news story I'd easily have missed it being a Saturday: Anderson have been found guilty of shredding Enron evidence. The particularly interesting point in this ruling is that having failed to find sufficient evidence against any individuals, the jury found Anderson as a whole guilty. I don't pretend to understand all the details, but from what I've read the whole Enron going bust affair has had a distinct odour of fish. Could this be the end of Anderson? It's looking very bad for them at the moment, and deservedly so if all that is reported is true.

A useful site I came across this week is Liftshare, which is a national lift sharing service. The idea being to match up people who are driving with spare seats to people who need a lift. Which makes sense - less traffic, less pollution, half the petrol cost. You might even make a new friend on the journey :-) Who can argue with that?

posted at 4:43 PM
Well, what is there to talk about this morning :-) Just watched the most exciting match so far, watching the lads push through to the quarters. 3-0 - need anything more be said?
A fantastic game, and a joy to watch. I guess that means we'll all have to be up at the crack of dawn on Friday for the next game!

In the Big Bro this week, Lee got evicted. I've given up watching out of sheer boredom (although it really does look like it's even more boring on the inside than the outside) . I have, however been reading the gossip on Ananova. On being told by Davina that Jade had nominated him he came out with "She's just dumb. She can't even say Czechoslovakia." Is it just me, or is that the funniest thing he's said so far. Ironic that so far the housemates have been far funnier and more entertaining when they've left the house. I think some of the changes in this series have been a bad move. Every day seems to be exactly the same as the one before. It's dull to watch and it must be worse to live it. That's just my opinion of course, the ratings are being reported as up on last year so someone must be watching it.

Current must watch TV:
The West Wing.Superb scripts and acting - a well executed drama
24. Incredibly tense drama. One of the best series I've ever watched on TV! If you're not watching it, wait until they repeat it (as they surely must at some point). It's one that needs to be watched from the very beginning.

Oh dear - I seem to only be watching American TV again. It's about time we got something new and fresh from the UK TV companies.

posted at 2:52 PM
Thursday, June 13, 2002
So here we go, after much reading of other blogs (like Snowcat and Bloing), I finally decided to take the plunge and join the world of bloggers.

So, another user account, another password. So what happens if I get hit by a bus tomorrow and nobody knows my password? A Norwegian museum had to ask some hackers for help after the only man who knew the password to the archive he'd been working on for years passed away.

It's funny how often you have a conversation over a drink or two one night, and then find a reference that prooves you wrong the very next day. D'oh. Having waffled at length about how irrelevant my deep knowledge of punched cards gained in GCSE Computer Science was, IBM have come up with mini punched cards as the answer to all our data storage problems. I guess that's progress......

posted at 8:46 PM



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