Archive: December, 2001


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Sunday, December 30th, 2001

8" Star Trek Plate Wesley Crusher

Come on, admit it: you’d love to find a commemorative plate of yourself on eBay, bid on it and win.

Stranger In A Strange Land

Here is an excellent article by Christopher Hitchens about "The dismay of an honorable man of the left".

He articulates a lot of the frustration I’ve been feeling as someone who considers themselves left-wing but finds themself confronted with the kind of stubborn dogma usually found on the far right.

It seems to me that some people feel that once you choose which side of the fence you’re on, it is somehow "weak" to occasionally find yourself in the middle or sometimes even on the other side.

Personally, I see no contradiction in supporting the US policy in Afghanistan while maintaining that past US policy in Chile was responsible for stupendous suffering. I see no contradiction in believing that George W. Bush has done well in his handling of the Afghan campaign while at the same time, believing that he is a greedy, bumbling idiot when it comes to the economy and the environment.

Perhaps the strength of my convictions might seem diminished by these admissions. That’s okay. I’ve never considered strength of conviction a virtue. All of history’s greatest criminals have had strength of conviction.

Maybe I’m just going through a phase. The "grey phrase" that lies between the strength of conviction of the young and the old:

When you’re young, everything seems clear cut and black and white.

When you’re old, everything seems clear cut and black and white except that was black is now white and what was white is now black.

I hope I’m experiencing clarity of vision and not just some half-time changeover.

Anyway, go read that article by Christopher Hitchens.

Gorey Movie

Here’s something interesting I stumbled upon while browsing through a bunch of "home movies" that people have posted up at

Somebody is making a documentary about Edward Gorey. You can view a snippet of an interview with the man himself, filmed shortly before he died.

Guess who got lots of Edward Gorey gifts this Christmas?

Saturday, December 29th, 2001

Driving through the desert

My brother in law, Jeb, left for Colorado yesterday. We drove up to Tucson and dropped him off at the airport.

He wants to get in a few days skiing before he heads back to Seattle. He will, however, be getting some more skiing done once Jessica and I show up in The Great Northwest.

I’ve never skiied before in my life. Everyone keeps reassuring me that it’s fun and safe. I certainly hope so: I’ve got no medical insurance over here.

In the meantime, I’m soaking up the nice weather down here in The Sunny South and enjoying the landscape as we drive between Sierra Vista and Tucson.


Friday, December 28th, 2001

Sad news from home

I’ve been having a great time here in Arizona, relaxing and enjoying myself.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been such a happy Christmas back home in Ireland.

My mother called the day after Christmas. She sounded upset. My brother, Eoin, had been mountain climbing in county Kerry. One of the other people he was climbing with had an accident. He didn’t survive.

My brother was rescued by helicopter and was on his way back down to Cobh when my mother called.

Of course, there isn’t much I can do from over here except to pass on a few words of comfort and condolence.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2001

Happy Christmas

A very happy Christmas, one and all.

It’s still Christmas day here in Arizona. Back in Blighty, it’s St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day if you prefer).

I’ve spent most of the day unwrapping the avalanche of presents I got from my in-laws. I won’t go into the details of all the things I got but I will share with you the most exciting gift:

Jessica and I are going to Seattle!

From the third to the seventh of January, we’ll be visiting my brother in law, doing all the touristy things and maybe even skiing if Jessica gets her way.

I’m off to the very belly of the beast.

Saturday, December 22nd, 2001

La Casita

One of the best things about Sierra Vista, Arizona is its mexican restaurant, La Casita.

We went there tonight to get completely stuffed and we succeeded. I had the La Casita Special Chimichanga which is basically stuffed full of everything you can imagine served enchilada-style on a huge platter. This was washed down with some margaritas and mexican beer.

What more you could you ask for? How about a Mariachi band?

No problem. And if you’re really lucky, maybe one of the waitresses will sing a song.

Mariachi band

Friday, December 21st, 2001


This is going to be a very quick entry… I have to rush off in a few moments to the Retired Officer’s Club (should be fun).

The flight was long and uneventful with the usual annoyances; the guy in front of me had his seat all the way back for the whole flight.

The drive down to Sierra Vista from Phoenix was quite pleasant and I managed to stay awake the whole time.

When I got to the house, I was greeted by the sight of a beautiful Christmas tree.


Tuesday, December 18th, 2001

Leaving on a jet plane

I’m taking leave of Brighton for a few weeks.

I’m off to spend my Christmas and New Year’s in the town of Sierra Vista, Arizona. I plan to be there for three weeks but the town motto is:

"Where visits last a lifetime".

Sounds sinister.

I’ll be bringing my iBook and my digital camera with me so I plan to keep on updating while I’m there.

Expect plenty of posts about food.

I’m excited about going. My next journal entry will probably be a description of the flight from Gatwick to Phoenix. I wonder what movies they’ll have…

I’ve got to go and pack now.

Bye, bye, Brighton. Hello, America.

Contacts -> iPod

This is a really clever piece of freeware.

It allows Mac users to export their address books into iPod. You can then scroll through the address book folder just like any other music folder and view the details of all your contacts.

Genius! It effectively turns the iPod into a portable address book. Who needs palm pilots?

Monday, December 17th, 2001

Monty Python and LEGO

Here’s a LEGO version of the Camelot song from Monty Python And The Holy Grail (from the people who brought you the one minute long version of 2001:A Space Odyssey in LEGO).

I had another chance to see Monty Python And The Holy Grail recently when it was shown as part of a Python evening on BBC.

The evening began with a documentary looking at the career of the Python team which was fairly interesting but the documentary that followed really appealed to my obsessive geek nature.

It featured Michael Palin going back to some of the streets and houses where they filmed some of their most famous sketches. He then goes on to give the present occupiers plaques to hang on their walls with enscriptions like:

"Gas Cooker Sketch Filmed Here".

Apparently, there’s even a japanese guidebook to the Monty Python locations of London.

Anyway, the BBC’s Python evening continued with The Holy Grail and finished up with one of my favourite films of all time: Brazil.

I know it’s not a Monty Python film but the Terry Gilliam connection is good enough for the BBC so it’s good enough for me.

What a great film! It seemed a shame to watch it on the small screen.

I was struck by just how dystopian the film’s vision is. It’s partly acheived by making everything so inconvenient. As well as all the Kafkaesque paperwork, all the gadgets, vehicles and everyday devices are just clumsy and difficult to use - the antithesis of everything good in industrial design.

I earned some extra geek karma points by spotting a walk-on role in the third scene of the film. I recognised the actor’s face and voice but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then it hit me: it was the guy who played Arthur Dent in The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

LEGO, Monty Python, Terry Gilliam, Douglas Adams… it’s all connected.

Saturday, December 15th, 2001


You have to be a real geek to enjoy this kind of thing. Needless to say, I love it.

It’s a little widget for assembling your own web designer. You can create unholy hybrids of Jeffrey Zeldman and Jakob Nielsen.

The horror… the horror…

Friday, December 14th, 2001

The Web Standards Project: Fighting for Standards in our Browsers

The WaSP is bowing out.

They fought the good fight and it looks like they’ve achieved what they set out to do. All the newest browser releases, Internet Explorer, Netscape and Opera are standards compliant.

The battle is won but the war is far from over. Now it’s up to us Web Developers to take the flag from the WaSP.

It’s up to us to use those standards and leave the bad old medieval days of font tags and proprietary markup behind us. By using the standards we’ve fought so hard for, we can code up lean, mean beautiful sites accessable to any web browsing device.

I accept the challenge.


There’s a website where you can type in a URL and see the "pornolized" version of any site.

I know it’s childish, but I found the filthy version of this very page highly amusing.

Thursday, December 13th, 2001

The James Bond Villain Personality Test

Apparently, I’m Francisco Scaramanga.

"You enjoy good food, monopolising the world’s energy supplies, and sex before assassinating people.

You are played by Christopher Lee in The Man with the Golden Gun. "

Which Bond baddie are you?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2001

Birthday girl

Monday was Karin’s birthday. We all went out to a nice Thai restaurant.

Well, actually it was just a Thai restaurant upstairs. Downstairs it was a pub with an Irish session in full swing.

It was great. Eating duck in a coconut and cranberry sauce whilst listening to jigs and reels is a multicultural experience to be recommended.

Before we went out, we polished off a bottle of Sekt and Karin made the most of being the centre of attention.


Monday, December 10th, 2001


Happy Chanukah.

Now if only I could find a Chanukah card to send to my Jewish relatives. I scoured the card shops of Brighton yesterday and came up completely empty handed.

In a bizarre twist, I can send an e-card of one of my relatives:

Happy Chanukah, uncle Alan!

I’ll see if I can find some nice card that doesn’t have the word "Christmas" on it.

Saturday, December 8th, 2001

{fray} - the tree

If, like me, you are subscribed to the {fray} mailing list, you’ll have received an email today pointing to a re-run of an old seasonal story - the tree:

"I couldn’t wait to see them all brown and dry on the sidewalk. I was that way about Christmas."

It’s a good story. It had been a while since I had spent much time at the site so I set aside some time to read through the stories people had posted as a response. I was kind of wondering if {fray} was really as good as I remembered it being.

Reading those stories reaffirmed what I’ve thought ever since I first started surfing the web - {fray} is quite simply the best website ever. I certainly can’t think of any website that can elicit such strong emotional reactions from me.

I think it was this one that really did it for me:

"My mother walked across the parking lot with my mittened hand clenched tightly in hers, using her other hand to push the store door open.

Christmas music played over the store’s sound system. A not-too-great rendition of Jingle Bells.

I walked through the store with my mother in search of those little adhesive bows.. We found a bag of multi colored ones, and bought them.

As we were leaving, I heard Jingle Bells end, and some other song I didn’t know begin.

I still don’t know what that other song was- but it was the last Christmas song I ever heard playing. I lost my hearing the following Easter.

In a way, I guess that’s good- cuz I never got to the point where I hated Christmas music."

Season's Greetings 2001

Lance Arthur has his virtual Christmas card up already.

Friday, December 7th, 2001

New iMacs in January?

The rumour mill is churning.

First of all, Morgan Stanley issued a report indicating that Apple would announce flat panel iMacs in January.

Now it appears that Apple has ordered a million LCD displays from Quanta… and they’re not for laptops.

So what’s this new iMac going to be like?

The general concensus is that the specifications are going to be pretty similar to the iBook (which is no bad thing). I’m betting that CD burning will be standard on all the new models to push the whole iPod digital hub thing.

Maybe it will look something like this.

Thursday, December 6th, 2001

Silicon Beach

I’ve just come back from an interesting evening in The Sanctuary which is a cosy little cafe not 30 seconds from where I live.

The evening’s events were organised by Silicon Beach, who basically get all the geeks of Brighton and Hove gathered together in one place to talk about "noo meeja" stuff.

The evening began with a discussion of open source software. The speaker was Tristan Roddis who did a great job of extoling the virtues of Linux, Apache, Perl, PHP and all the other wonderful open source software that make life bearable.

After that, John Worth of WorthMedia shared his experiences of the new media business before the discussion turned to the more technical matters of ISPs and SDSN and other such acronyms.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening and a nice chance for me to meet some like-minded fellow web folk.

John Worth

Wednesday, December 5th, 2001


I thought I was being a smartypants by posting the Perl source code for decrypting DVDs but this is really clever:

"For those of you who are both math nuts and fans of free speech, here’s something that will make you think."

Tuesday, December 4th, 2001


I’m linking to because I can.

It’s a crappy website which is maybe why they don’t want anybody linking to it:

"KPMG is obligated to protect its reputation and trademarks and KPMG reserves the right to request removal of any link to our website."

They particularly don’t like "Hyperlinks that bypass the homepage" like I’ve just done.

Oooh… I’m scared. Maybe they’ll send me a cease and desist letter.

Webloggers, you know what you have to do.

"Goner" Worm

Here’s a fairly neutral report on a new worm that’s doing some damage.

Here’s another report on the same worm but with a more understandably exasperated tone.

And still some people refuse to educate themselves.

A web of visions

I was just over at the BBC website reading this article about Joshua Davis and his inclusion in the current exhibition at the Design Museum.

As the page was loading, I glanced at the link list with the yellow background on the right hand side of the page. Before the arrow images had loaded I didn’t realise it was a link list. I started reading it sequentially and it came out like some angst-ridden modernist poetry:

"A web of visions

Pop go the adverts

Is broadband working?

Seeing future in the web’s past

Online CVs on the rocks?

Share my hi-tech car

Urban elephant hunters

Turn on to interaction

Gadgets get fruity"

There’s a couple of good haikus in there, for sure.

Monday, December 3rd, 2001

One of us

Andrew Sullivan has seen the light and I’m not talking about politics.

"It" is here

Here’s what all that fuss was about. "It" has been revealed. "It" is a scooter.

We are the knights who say "It".

Sunday, December 2nd, 2001

Moby Tour Diary

I just found out recently (thanks to Prentiss Riddle) that Moby keeps an online journal.

The man gives new meaning to the word "nice". He is also very funny, as this Furby anecdote demonstrates.

Saturday, December 1st, 2001

The Science Museum

As of today, there is no admission price for the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.

This is great. I can go to London and see the Difference Engine and dinosaur bones for free.

For such an expensive city, there’s a lot of amazing things to do and see that don’t cost a penny:

The National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the British Museum and now the Science Museum and Natural History Museum.

Are you listening, Paris?