Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Bailout Priorities

Have the government got their priorities skewed?

Why spend, say, £10,000,000,000 to help out a bank which then gets spent on bonuses and does nothing to help the economy?

Why not, instead, spend £100,000 on each of 100,000 small businesses that will spend the money on wages for the workers, materials from other small businesses and actually help keep a few hundred thousand people off the dole?

No gag here, I'm afraid but this isn't that humorous a subject.

As a small business owner, I'd be happy to help out by taking part in a pilot scheme.

Friday, 13 February 2009


Normal service will be resumed later today.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


So, almost every visit to this blog via Google seems to contain some of the keywords "holst, lisa birgit. reading is believing. pc professional 1993".

Are all these people bothering to research the sources of the Snopes article? If they are, good, that is exactly the spirit.

Let me know what it was you were looking for when you came here.

A critique on the state of the planet.

Shame it was only a shoe.

Monday, 2 February 2009


One of the million and one blog posts with this title.

I joined it a while ago and didn't really understand how, or for what, to use it. It didn't become clearer so I thought I'd jump in and see what I could make of it.

Microblogging seems to be the key, that and stalking celebrities. So I think I'll use it mainly as a journal/diary with no great need to edit or even think about content, it is simply somewhere to keep track of transient thoughts and my comings and goings. The facts of life that I find myself forgetting more and more. Handily, I have a nice little app for the iPod Touch that allows me to keep things updated on it.

And, obviously, I'll be stalking Stephen Fry, just like everyone else.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Opening up

I was considering, as an experiment, trying to see if it is possible to live a modern electronic life powered only by open source or free software.

The biggest obvious problem would be deciding whether proprietary software included as the OS of electronic devices constitutes 'free software'. I'll say, for the sake of experimentation that it does

So, only stuff above the BIOS level of the computer counts, not my iPod, mobile phone or DVD player, for instance. Just the same way as I don't have to shun traffic signals or aircraft. The software used by websites I visit is also exempt, as long as I access it using a free/open browser.

In this age of Linux, Firefox, OpenOffice, and all of Googles many and varied offerings, I am sure it is entirely possible to never pay for legitimately held software. The question remains though, is it possible while still remaining happy with the software you use and able to fully interact with everyone else?

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Why blogs die.

As is obvious to those who can count, I haven't updated this blog in a while now. This is because I am very lazy and that is why blogs die.

Or is it?

Maybe the blog is a tool for kickstarting a bored imagination. It's the easiest way to gain public exposure to your writing and that's a part of why I started it.

Like a lot of people, I am very good at the opening burst of enthusiasmm when an idea comes to me. I'm even pretty good at the research. The first draft is also not that hard but I don't even bother with a second draft sometimes and the labrador puppy of my mind has already wandered off to play somewhere else.

I'm writing this post directly into Blogger's input box and you'll be lucky if I get round to correcting my spelling and grammar, never mind checking for clarity of presentation and scintillating imagery.

There lies the problem. A lot of bloggers don't seem to care about their subject matter and that is about the only thing that they convey with any clarity to the reader. If the blogger doesn't care, why should the reader? They drift away and the blog is unread and uncommented on.

I only posted this because I was replying to the comment someone left on my first post, I probably wouldn't have come back to it otherwise.

So leave me a comment, even if it's only a spam ad for NIKEAIRJORDANS or somesuch, I need the occasional prod from the blogosphere to get my homework in on time.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Olympic dreams

Do you think there will ever come a time when you decide that your dreams are not going to happen? Do your dreams ever recede so far into the realm of unlikelihood that you just have to admit to yourself that they are never going to come true?

I came across this worrying thought recently. I am never going to be a world-class sportsman. Pretty gloomy and pessimistic sort of thought, really. Then I saw that one of the Archery competitors at the Olympics was both older than me and had only taken up the sport a couple of years ago. So that’s all right then, it’s never too late. One day Hollywood may come calling – It did for a lot of actors well into their adult life.

Even aside from becoming a matinee idol (which I am not naturally gifted to be anyway) there is always the chance of whoring myself as a screenwriter and being horribly crushed beneath a bulldozer made of cash. Sounds fine, I feel much better now.

Back, then, to the Olympics. Am I alone in thinking that there are a lot of sports that seem to rely for the medal decision on the opinion of judges? I don’t really class these as sports; they are the equivalent of flower arranging or the Miss World contest.

There is no doubting the fitness, skill and dedication of Gymnasts, Divers, Figure Skaters, Ski Jumpers or Judoka; it’s just that someone who may or may not have the necessary skill to understand what is the best arbitrarily judges them. The judge may even be a former world class contender, for all I know, but they are not the best in the world right now and they shouldn’t get to decide who else is.

Face it, no one doubts who won the men’s 100 metres Gold medal. Usain Bolt absolutely schooled his opponents and the fact he crossed the line first was in no doubt.

Now take a look at the Judo. Several times during the Judo finals, both competitors came up from a throw with their arms in the air celebrating a win, it was then up to the judges do decide who had actually won. It takes away any possibility of a clear victory. Allow Judo to be decided entirely on submissions and remove the clock then all the ref needs to be present for is to spot any rule infractions. Bring back Pankration from the original Greek games and that is largely moot. Give me those rule changes and I’d let Judo back in, Boxing too.

The same goes for Ski Jumping. The majority of points come from style with a small amount from distance. Get rid of style and make distance the only decider. It wouldn’t be pretty but let’s face up to it, unless you are Finnish or Norwegian, you only watch Ski Jumping to see the crashes.

There’s no hope for Gymnastics or Synchronised swimming though. I think we should replace them with Darts or maybe Snooker, give the fatties a chance outside Shooting and Hammer Throwing.

So, that’s a new dream for me, become the next Baron de Coubertain and create a judge free Olympics. That or get really good at Darts; I’m working on the belly and alcohol tolerance right now.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Taximeter in my head

I seem to have developed a taxi meter inside my head over the last month.

It started up when I gave in to nagging from the lovely Mrs Spiders to join her gym. It's one of those nice cardio and tennis kinds of places with a favoured location by the river and a Costa coffee place inside. Not really my kind of place, I'm used to the gyms offshore and they tend to be poky little cupboards full of big piles of weights and a few grunting meatheads. I usually turn round and go and watch TV instead.

The new gym has TVs in the exercise machines and more kinds of different machines than I thought possible. There is a treadmill that is made of stairs (quite what's wrong with, say, STAIRS as a form of exercise, I don't know).

It's all very nice and there is no sense of impending violence like a lot of places I've been in the past. When I was getting a tour round, one of the gym guys pointed at a machine and proudly told me "That's one of the machines that was in Rocky IV" I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was only when Rocky went off to Russia and chopped wood, did sit ups and ran in the snow that he beat the big blond Russian lump of gristle.

So, why do I have a meter doing the fast forward blur of numbers in my head? Well, all the time that I spend sat around, doing what I always used to do (nothing) I have a vision of the monthly fees ticking away and it just doesn't seem to be motivating me the way it really should.

Maybe I need to move to a shack in Russia.

Or get Dolph Lundgren to kill one of my mates.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Why Eight Spiders?

I’m a fairly questioning sort of person. If someone gives me a fact, I like to know that it’s true. When I get those emails that warn of imminent danger from a household device or telling me to email Bill Gates for a rebate of $20 I tend to check them out. The place I use tends to be Snopes which normally comes high up in the Google searches for the text in these emails.

A while ago, I was reading a forum and someone posted the ‘fact’ that humans swallow an average of eight spiders every year. This immediately struck me as a load of tosh and just the type of thing that epitomises the Internet myth. As I normally do in this kind of situation, I toddled off to Snopes and searched the keywords ‘eight spiders’. Up came this entry and I dutifully copied the URL in my reply to the post.

All fairly standard stuff for a smart arse, you might think. I then did something slightly odd and that was to check the sources in the Snopes article. One checked out just fine; the original book by Lucy Clausen exists and has the relevant myth in it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon

The second stage of the search was to find the Article by Lisa Holst from PC Professional magazine. This proved a little trickier.

I first did a Google search for PC Professional Magazine. No such magazine. The only times it crops up on the Internet is in reference to this article.

Google turns up a fair number of hits for Lisa Holst; none of them is a columnist for computer magazines. She does show up in a lot of places that quote the Snopes piece pretty much verbatim.

There is a British magazine called PC Pro. I called them. They’ve never changed their name and they’ve also never heard of Lisa Holst or PC Professional Magazine.

I thought I’d try the last place that I know has read the article, because they cite it in their references: Snopes. A quick email to the contact form on Snopes asking them where they found the magazine and whether they have a copy of it I can have a look at receives an automated response suggesting I use their search function. Not very forthcoming of them.

There is a mention of this myth at dated September 8th 2000 that says he can find no mention of it at Snopes. He doesn’t mention any of the references cited by Snopes despite it being just 3 years after the latest article mentioned by them. This article, “Average Folks Need to Keep Mouths Shut.” By Ellen Domke appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on August 26th 1997. The standard Google search shows Ellen Domke as a writer and photographer for the paper between 1993 and 2004.

The possible text of this article may be reprinted on Adilson de Souza Diaz’s blog after being used by other newspapers.

I’m still left with my desire to read Lisa Holst’s article though and so far, it looks like it doesn’t exist. A call to the Library of Congress confirms that they do not have, in their records, any magazines with the title “PC Professional” They don’t even have anything close. The very helpful lady I spoke to did find a defunct title in Peru called 'Professional Computing' which stopped publishing in the 1980s and that’s as close as I got.

What conclusions am I to draw from this? Did someone at Snopes make up the whole thing because, although they ‘knew’ the myth to be a myth, they just couldn’t be bothered finding the source material? Did they read the article by Ellen Domke and just assume the research had already been done?

I don’t know but I do know that I now check the things I read on Snopes. It’s a great resource and invaluable ammunition against the assault of internet myth but, I now realise, it may not be entirely trustworthy.

If anyone from Snopes reads this, I’d really like to see the Lisa Holst article, if you could photocopy your copy and send it to me, I’d be very grateful.

Holst, Lisa Birgit. "Reading is Believing" PC Professional 7th January 1993 (p71.)

I do still have the utmost faith in Mythbusters though, I'm not a complete cynic.