Archive: June, 2003


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Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Dateline Dublin

My second day in Dublin was a very relaxing affair.

The day began with a late breakfast and then a wander through the food market at Temple Bar. Diarmaid, Jessica and I sampled just some of the wonderful stuff on offer; sushi and miso soup, oysters and white wine, organic burgers and fruit smoothies.

Suitably satiated, we decided to get some culture and history so we headed to the National Museum. Photography wasn’t allowed inside so you’ll have to take my word for it that the trinkets and artifacts on display, including the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Cross of Cong, were simply breathtaking in their detail.

Suffering from museum fatigue, we refreshed ourselves with some coffee at the cafe in the new wing of the National Gallery.

It was turning into a beautiful day so rather than spend it indoors at any other museums, we decided to wind down the afternoon sitting at a bench at the cricket grounds of Trinity College, sipping some cool drinks and trying to understand the rules of the game that was slowly unfolding on the field in front of us.

We never did figure out the rules of cricket. Leaving the relative tranquility of Trinity behind us, we endured the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street on a Saturday afternoon as we made our way towards Wagamama for our evening vittles.

Cricket and noodles, that’s the new multi-cultural Dublin for you.

Saturday, June 28th, 2003


Having spent the day sampling the culture of Trinity College and the cuisine of The Bad Ass Cafe, Jessica and I spent our first evening in Dublin sweating it up in a loud room full of slam-dancing bodies.

Ministry played at the Temple Bar Music Centre and they rocked.

Preparation for the concert began early that evening. Jessica and I met up with my old friend Diarmaid and after we had dropped off our bags, we convened to a bar and began imbibing pints of Guinness.

The concert itself was great. Ministry churned out one great song after another, "Scarecrow", "Breathe", "Stigmata", "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and most pertinently of all, an extended version of "New World Order".

It’s been a long time since I did anything approaching slam-dancing or moshing but I just couldn’t resist Ministry’s pounding beats and heavy guitars. I figured I was going to get ridiculously hot and sweaty in any case so I thought I might as well enjoy myself.

Moshing is like riding a bike. Actually, it’s nothing like riding a bike but it’s one of those things you never forget how to do.

Of course, today I’m pretty sore but it was worth it. Great gig.


My trip to Dublin has been a blast so far.

The flight over was short and uneventful, just the way I like it. Jessica and I took a bus into the city centre and proceeded to kill some time till my friend Diarmaid got off work.

We had lunch at The Bad Ass Cafe in Temple Bar and then went over to Trinity College which was an oasis of calm in the middle of an otherwise noisy and bustling city.

We went to the old library to see the Book Of Kells, a truly astonishing piece of work. The whole exhibition had a real "Canticle For Leibowitz" feel to it.

I was expecting the Book Of Kells to be wonderful but what came as a surprise was walking into The Long Room of Trinity College library. It’s a tall and, as the name suggests, long room filled with the oldest books in the library and lined with busts.

If you decide to visit The Long Room, you may, like me, be overwhelmed with a strange feeling of familiarity. That’s because the Jedi library in Attack Of The Clones is architecturally identical to The Long Room at Trinity.

a screenshot from Star Wars

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

The ould country

I’m off to Ireland tomorrow. I have duly updated my travel page.

Jessica and I fly into Dublin tomorrow afternoon. That very same evening we’ll be seeing Ministry playing in the heart of the city. Should be fun.

After a weekend in Dublin, we plan to head down to my hometown of Cobh for the week.

I plan to keep updating the site while I’m away but entries may be sporadic. I’ll certainly try to take plenty of pictures.


Such a perfect day

Yesterday really brought home to me just what a nice town Brighton is.

The day started off quite overcast. The completely white sky stretching in all directions looked like somebody gave up trying to fill in the colours in a paint-by-numbers picture of a seaside town.

By noon, this glitch in the matrix had been sorted out and the sky was a rich shade of blue. The sun was shining. The temperature was just right. Jessica and I ventured out into town.

We spent the afternoon browsing through the second-hand shops in North Laine looking at clothes and books (I picked up a novel by Ian McEwan for a pretty good price).

We stopped only to refresh ourselves with espressos at one of Brighton’s Wireless Hotspots where I availed of the opportunity to check my email and gloat on the Brighton New Media mailing list about not being stuck in an office.

By dinnertime, it was still really sunny and warm so we decided to eat at one of the tables outside Mai Ped Ped Ped, a Thai restaurant we had been meaning to try for quite a while.

The food, in my opinion, was excellent. Two thumbs up.

Before we finished off the day by joining the geeks at the Silicon Beach forum for a heated discussion on Search Engine Optimisation, I snapped a picture of Jessica admiring the biggest glass of white wine in the world.

Sitting outside a Thai restaurant with a glass of wine

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

Safari 1.0

It’s funny, but with all the big announcements from Apple about super-fast computers and nifty video-conferencing cameras, the thing that I’m most excited about is the release of Safari version 1.0.

I feel like popping some champagne corks. True to his word, Dave Hyatt has got "overflow: auto" working flawlessly. Just check out the hi-tech theme to see it in action.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found a little rendering bug with the new version of Safari. On longer pages over at The Session, the background image only tiles as far as the visible window. A bug report is winging its way to the tireless Safari development team.

Still, despite niggling details like this, Safari’s real strength is its standards-compliance.

And speed. Two strengths.

The two strengths of Safari are its standards-compliance, speed and ease of use.

Three! The three strengths… no… amongst the strengths of Safari are such elements as standards compliance, speed…

I’ll come in again.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Proud work

I’ve been updating my portfolio with some sites I’ve worked on recently. All of them are table-free, valid XHTML/CSS pieces of work.

Now, quite often, they don’t necessarily stay valid. As soon as my babies leave my caring hands they are at the mercy of others who may or may not insert some piece of non-validating mark-up.

The site for G2Blue for example, that I made quite a while ago, now contains some <meta> tags that are missing their closing slashes as well as a footer that includes the "target" attribute. These are small parts of the pages but they make all the difference when it comes to validating the site.

The site for Tapestry Holidays that I worked on a while back is about half/half. The validation problems in that case mostly stem from mark-up being held in the database; unencoded quotes and ampersands; stuff like that.

Static brochure sites tend to stand a higher chance of keeping their mark-up in a state of grace. The site for Anikti and the low-fat version of Motionpath’s site are (touch wood) as pure as the day I handed them over.

One of my favourite recent pieces of work is the site for IN Partnership. I’m pleased that it has remained valid even after being released into the wild. I’m also pretty pleased with how the design turned out. Mostly though, I’m pleased that I managed to sneak some of my own photography into the site.

I just couldn’t find enough good stock photography so I started rifling through my iPhoto collection. Hence, this picture of me in suit being used to illustrate a site about Independent Financial Authorities.

Thursday, June 19th, 2003

A source of beauty

Sometimes I come across a website that’s so beautifully designed and elegantly executed that I don’t know whether to be inspired or depressed by it.

The website of Lambertin and Grotegerd is one such site. It’s has a wonderful visual design with a very clever stylesheet holding everything together.

There’s also a great attention to detail. If you view source, you’ll see that the document’s <head> is as long as its <body>. Partly, that’s because of the lean, mean XHTML in the <body> but the <head> is a great example of how to implement Dublin Core and other <meta> tags.

I sent them a short note to tell them how much I like the site. I hope I didn’t embarrass myself with my rusty German.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

Browser gloom and doom

When I wrote earlier this month about Microsoft’s decision to stagnate browser development, I took a fairly pessimistic view of where we developers now stand.

Jeffrey Zeldman, bless him, tried to take a more optimistic view of things:

"If you can’t see the good, here it is: ‘what IE6 is capable of’ makes a far better platform for standards-based design than ‘what Netscape 4 can do,’ which was where many of us were trapped the last time the browser space froze."

But when he realised just how long the current state of affairs is going to last, even his generous worldview altered:

"We pointed out that IE/Win is not that bad. But you know what? It’s nowhere near good enough to stay as it is for another two years."

I have a terrible sinking feeling when I think about the damage that Microsoft could potentially wreak.

Previously, they used their Operating System monopoly to illegaly gain an equal monopoly for their web browser. Now they can use that browser monopoly to pressure people into upgrading to a new Operating System.

Not to sound like Dave Winer, but I’ve always had the impression that Microsoft never much cared for the Internet as it exists in its current form; a level playing field built on standardised protocols. Bill Gates always struck me more as a "walled garden" kind of guy.

Microsoft are now in a position to introduce proprietary alternatives to HTML, CSS, heck, even HTTP, and wrap it all up in a layer of Digital Rights Management.

It would certainly be ambitious; to "embrace and extend" the internet itself.

But would they do that? They are, after all, part of the World Wide Web Consortium.

I think that Microsoft’s relationship with the W3C is similar to the United States of America’s relationship with the United Nations; they are members of the organisation and when their agendas coincide, that’s just dandy. But when there’s a difference of opinion, they can behave like the proverbial 800lb gorilla. Then can do whatever they want.

I’m probably being completely paranoid. All the same, the death of Internet Explorer as a standalone application just adds to the feeling of dread I’ve had ever since I first read of the planned horrors of Palladium.

In other news, MIcrosoft have unsurprisingly stopped developing any future versions of Internet Explorer for the Mac.

Let us take a moment to doff our hats in respect to a ground-breaking browser.

When IE5 for the Mac was released, it was quite simply the best browser in the world. It’s been around for a while now so other browsers have had to time to catch up but IE5 for the Mac was the browser that first set any kind of bar for standards support.

I’ll also take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception: just because the brower is designated with the number five, don’t assume that it’s equivalent to IE5 on the PC. In all but number, IE5 on the Mac is the equivalent of IE6 on the PC as far as standards support goes.

When it comes to web browsers, you can’t put much stock in version numbers. Just ask Netscape. Specifically, ask them about Netscape Navigator 5.

Sunday, June 15th, 2003

Food Festival

There’s a Food And Drink Lover’s Festival going on right now in Brighton. As dyed-in-the-wool food lovers, Jessica and I have been doing our food loving duty, checking out all the goodies on offer.

Local sushi restaurant, Moshi Moshi were having an introductory sushi day. For one day, colour coding was thrown to the wind and all plates cost £1.50 each.

When we finished stuffing our faces with raw fish, we headed over to the Pavillion Gardens where there were food stalls selling local and continental (read: French) specialities.

Jessica is a sucker for these kind of things so by the time we left the market, we had accumulated a bottle of locally made Mead and a limited-edition local cheese.

Vive le fromage!

a selection of local cheeses

Friday, June 13th, 2003

Worst domain names ever

I’m sure the people behind "Who Represents" are the same people who decided on the domain name for "Powergen Italia".

Up on the roof

I’m out on the veranda with my neighbours, Chris and Karin, who live at the top of our building. We’re sipping some beers and bidding farewell to the last of the sun’s rays.

I was hoping that my wireless network would extend this far. It does (barely) but what really surprised me was finding another, unencrypted wireless network up here with a stronger signal.

So, to whoever owns the Air321 network; thanks for the bandwidth.

I’d chalk it up but the chalkmark would only be visible to passing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type rooftop assasins.

It's not the winning that counts; it's the prizes

Jessica and I went along to the Virtual Festival Awards last night. I was rooting for Jessica’s site in the "Best Personal Site and Weblogs" category.

She didn’t win so we laid claim to some O’Reilly goodies, two t-shirts and a book, as consolation prizes.

We also got to meet Jo and hang out with Richard and Wendy into the early hours which was very pleasant indeed.

Best acceptance speech of the evening goes to Jim McNiven of Kerb who is probably waking up with a hangover today and asking "I said *what* about Victoria Real?!".

Tuesday, June 10th, 2003

Cheer up

Feeling down? Depressed? You need to listen to some country songs to cheer you up:

“The Last Word in Lonesome is Me”

“I Want a Beer as Cold as My Ex-Wife’s Heart”

Strangly enough, my own personal favourite is missing:

“I Guess I’ll Be Drinking Christmas Dinner Alone Again This Year”

If you still need cheering up, check out the trailer to the Pixar film, The Incredibles, due out in 2004.

If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, this certainly will: Gollum’s acceptance speech at the MTV awards.

If you don’t have the bandwidth for that, here’s a single-sentence blog entry that made me smile.

Sunday, June 8th, 2003

Keeping music live

I’m just back from a day out in London; Hammersmith, to be precise.

I went to see Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds playing at the Hammersmith Apollo. They were great (as always) but somehow it just wasn’t quite the same without Blixa and his distinctive scream.

It’s been a busy week for gigs. Last Tuesday, I saw Royal City playing together with The Broken Family Band. They were both rather good. I took the opportunity to distrubute some flyers for the Salter Cane concert coming up next week.

On Thursday night, I didn’t actually attend the Tindersticks concert at the end of my street but I did stand outside afterwards distributing more flyers. That was after attending a gig earlier that evening by local outfit, She Said where, naturally, I also distributed some flyers.

If you see me with a stack of little bits of paper in hands, weaving in and out of the cafes and bars of Brighton and Hove over the next few days, you’ll know what I’m up to.

Thursday, June 5th, 2003

Truth! What is it good for?

I found it ironic when James Lileks yesterday referred to a cartoon by saying “when it gets political it’s just embarassing”. This pretty much sums up how I feel about Lileks’ Daily Bleats.

I love reading The Bleat. Lileks is a prolific and witty writer and his descriptive prose, as evidenced by today’s observations, is second to none. But when he gets political, he tends to get a little over-excited causing a subsequent dip in his style of writing and powers of reasoning.

In yesterday’s cartoon-related Bleat, Lileks commented on this cartoon:

“It wasn’t the drawing that impressed me, or the point it made, which was fatuous. It was the way in which a meme takes root and flowers. The BBC Jessica Lynch story + Robert Scheer’s ravings + the stories based on edited excerpts of the Wolfowitz interview = Bush Lied. That’s the New Truth. Bush Lied.”

And here’s how he counters this, in his mind, distorted worldview:

“Good job, editorial pages! Bravo, Auth! But one small point: I read today of another mass grave discovered in Iraq. This one was reserved for children.”

He’s missed the point completely. If mass graves for children and Saddam’s other countless atrocities had been given as the justification for going to war, he wouldn’t have to deal with uncomfortable questions in cartoon form or otherwise.

The very simple point that this cartoon is making is that we were lied to about the reasons why we went to war.

Of course, that prompts the question: is that such a bad thing if the outcome was ultimately positive? Doesn’t the end justify the means? Do the reasons matter?

On balance I believe that yes, they do.

Maciej Ceglowski pretty much sums up how I feel:

“Many people were against the idea of an Iraq invasion on any grounds. But I am especially angry because you could have sold me on this war. I would have supported a war in Iraq on the grounds of deposing a tyrant. The mass graves turning up in Iraq are for real… But the war was sold to us as the response to an immediate and catastrophic threat.”

Tim Bray has also been pondering this retroactive moral conundrum:

“One could construct an argument, based on a larger moral equation, that it’s on balance OK to fib to your population and the world if by so doing you achieve a greater moral good. But I just can’t get comfy with that.

Saddam got the payback he deserved. I’m not wise enough to figure out what payback the fabulists deserve, but I hope they get it.”

For the record… I supported the NATO action in Kosovo. I supported the war in Afghanistan. If the invasion of Iraq had been carried out for the right reasons, it might have had my support.

Reasons matter. Truth matters.

Veritas vincit.

Wednesday, June 4th, 2003

Wireless Wonderland

Well, my stint as compère at Silicon Beach is over.

The Sumo Bar didn’t have the most condusive atmosphere for public speaking - we didn’t have a PA and there was music thumping from upstairs.

Still, the speakers rose to the challenge. Dave Phelan gave an excellent and inspiring talk about life, the universe and WiFi.

There was wonderful moment when Dave showed a screenshot from NetStumbler of all the networks he found today by taking a bus around Brighton - I spotted my own home network. Cool!

After that, the Loose Connection people talked about what they’re doing and we had a bit of a discussion.

The noise from upstairs was extremely distracting, though, so I suggested we check out this wireless internet access in the flesh, so to speak.

So we had a mass exodus to The Black Lion pub and that’s where I am now, blogging wirelessly at a table full of geeks and their laptops.

The perfect way to end an inspiring evening.

Dave’s slides are online now - recommended reading.

one of Dave's slides: why DIY?


I was just emailing with Dave Phelan about tonight’s Silicon Beach event. I told him I’d probably be able to recognise him from his webcam pic and asked him to give me a wave.

Dave waves

Silicon Beach

Apparently, I’m going to be the compère for tonight’s Silicon Beach event at the Sumo Bar on Middle Street.

I’m not quite sure why I’ve been asked to do this. Peter, who normally hosts these things, always manages to look cool whereas giving me a microphone instantly turns me into a crazed-looking dork.

It should be an interesting evening anyway. The topic is WiFi. Josh and Matt from Loose Connection will be there as will Dave Phelan, representing the collective nodes of Consume-Brighton.


Satire: Keeness and severity of remark; caustic exposure to reprobation; trenchant wit; sarcasm.

Parody: A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.

e.g. Hercubush.

Ah, Venice

Richard’s pictures of Venice are giving me really itchy feet.

Monday, June 2nd, 2003

Browser stagnation

Microsoft have not so much announced, more let slip, that there won’t be any more updates to Internet Explorer.

The next version of the browser will arrive with the next version of the operating system. It will be closely tied to the operating system despite the fact that this is the very behaviour that landed them in an anti-trust case in the first place; an anti-trust case, it must be said, that they managed to lose with impunity (a neat trick if you can pull it off):

"Q: when / will there be the next version of IE?

A: As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation."

Now, to be fair, Internet Explorer 6 is a pretty good browser with pretty good standards support. I can’t agree with this however:

"Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS."

This is just crazy. After all the years of browser wars and standards campaigns we’ve been through, this is a real kick in the teeth. It’s as if we’ve been cheering on somebody running in a marathon only to watch them give up a hundred yards before the finish line saying "there’s always next year".

I wasn’t hoping for any great leaps and bounds in IE’s capabilities. I just wanted to see CSS support for things like "min-width" and "max-width" and psuedo classes like ":before" and ":after".

Looks like I’ll be waiting a long time. So will all the people who signed the petition to get Internet Explorer to support PNG graphics properly.

I’m trying to see the positive side to this but it’s hard. As browsers have increased in standards compliance and users have gradually upgraded, I’ve enjoyed learning and implementing new standards-based development skills. As browsers improved, so did websites. I get the feeling that this exciting period is over and we’re entering the doldrums of browser development.

At least I’ve still got Safari, Camino, etc. to get excited about.

I guess I should be happy that I won’t have to learn any new client-side skills for a while, but I’m not. For a long time I’ve been evangelizing  the use of XHTML and CSS as a way to future-proof websites for forthcoming browser releases. It looks like there won’t be any forthcoming browser releases for the majority of Windows users.

Maybe Microsoft are being remarkably prescient. Maybe they’re saying that desktop browsing is dead and we should be looking towards web services, mobile devices and other ways of accessing the web.

Or maybe they’re just being asshats.