Monday, 29 August 2011

Smurfing hell

Katy Perry Smurfette
Somehow I contrived to raise my hopes, and suffered the consequences; The Smurfs was terrible. It only took a few comments of 'exceeded low expectations' for me to take leave of my senses; it might prove to be a guilty pleasure or a hidden gem... well maybe not that far, but I'd thought there might be something to enjoy, beyond a flimsy excuse to post a picture of Katy Perry.

And in eye-popping - I mean that literally - 3D too. I have only seen one film done well in 3D, though from a sample of four it’s hardly scientific. Coraline managed to make it part of the story; its use restrained in her ‘normal’ world, it’s only in the ‘other’ world that we get the full effect. In the other three films, which it occurs to me would have been crap in any dimension, it was full-on, all the time. This has two immediate side-effects; the first is the eye-wrenching alluded to earlier; the second is that you notice the limitations. I could distinguish layers, but with the result that each seemed more flat than if I’d been watching something ‘normally’; it reminded me of those cheap cartoons of the past, with a few overlaid backgrounds to give a sense of depth. Perhaps it’s a drawback pertaining to films converted to, rather than made in 3D. Hence I’ve not given up altogether, despite the film industry’s seemingly suicidal tendencies with this technology. I’ll have to be a little more discerning instead; not easy when you have a ten year old.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Once, there used to be a wide old footpath at the top of the embankment running the entire length of that side of town. It was known as the ‘old railway line’. Though the last remnants were removed when I was a child, you could still, walking the length, cross a couple of stone bridges to remind you of the past. The embankment has long since gone, flattened and brought down to our level to accommodate housing, business and a bypass to the small industrial estate. It stays the ‘old railway line’, though all that remains is a thin tarmacked path between old and new.

It’s still used for the walk to the shops, and the bridges are still there, though barely noticeable; where there were fields on one side there are now estates and an office. On one occasion my mother, having noticed the rubbish over several such walks, the small plastic cups and empty sweet wrappers from vending machines, took action with a large bin bag and deposited the results in reception. I used to think that mildly embarrassing, now I cheer; that’s mums for you.

Poor eyesight, not nearly as fast as she used to be - I no longer have to run to keep up – and a catholic; I figure religious enough to make up for those in the family who aren’t. In mass last week she stopped to appreciate a stylish top. At the end of the service, a young member of the congregation sitting behind, put their arms around my mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek before leaving. It was only when my mother stood up that she realised she had a new cardigan draped around her shoulders.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A decade in the life of

On one trip to the Cribbs Causeway cinema, the whole complex - cinema, bowling rink, restaurants and all - suffered a power cut moments before the film was due to start. We were there to watch the Disney/Pixar film Up - which I was looking forward to, and on a subsequent visit I really enjoyed - so we were a little disappointed. If there is any balance in the world I hope for a similar fate tomorrow, when I will be taking Little Miss R to see the new Smurfs film, may God have mercy on my soul. I’ve tried - I’ve really tried - to get out of this one, but I fear there’s to be no escape.

We are celebrating her tenth birthday which falls this week, and hasn’t the time just flown by? Well, no actually, though I typically rue having wasted so much. I can clearly remember, and will never forget, holding her for the first time, the moment when her eyes opened and... maybe she couldn’t see me, but I could see her. Likewise a year later; a visit to Bristol Zoo, or a few weeks ago and her first swim in the sea; I love those moments. One day, if I’ve done a good job, I will need her more than she needs me, and those moments will be all I have. So I shall smile loudly with the time I have left, endeavour to make better use of the next ten years and smile when I fail. There’s the teenager to come, bothersome boys, exams to fret over, university perhaps? To think I worry about enduring a group of small blue fictional creatures - I shall save my wishes for later.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A touch of ordinary

A shop, a walk, exercise (either that or I have to stop eating), two good films later - Il Postino and Garage - and a sudden realisation that I can use Blogger to create a basic “online business card”, as various services such as and are sometimes described, or a home page. Curiosity (vanity?) persuaded me to buy a custom domain when setting up my blog; so I could create another and assign the “www” subdomain, and since it’s Blogger it would also (unlike Google Sites) be able to handle naked domains.

Specify the favicon, hide the navbar with a bit of CSS and hack/edit away at the Template HTML to hide almost everything else and I had a blank canvas to work with. The trickiest part was remembering my login credentials for changing the DNS settings - mine were buried away in Google Apps - then undo an existing mapping for “www”, change the CNAME and add some A records. The result is admittedly light on functionality and I only needed to cough up a measly $20 for a whole set of features, but where’s the fun in that?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Concern for the unfortunate

Nonsense - even in politics - can also make you laugh. Take today’s example:
Of course what Tories really think is that there *is* a correlation between poverty and the riots. They think the poor are subhuman scum.
In isolation, your typically silly comment, but when followed up with...
The riots are in large part caused by inequality and poverty. Not because poor are inferior people. becomes unintentionally amusing. But just in case you were unsure, there was this beauty - the unquestioned cornerstone of so many arguments - a few moments later: of Conservatism lie in hating poor.
What a tweet. That a party would be identified as openly antagonistic to a large section of the electorate - whose votes it requires - shall remain one of the great mysteries, and all the more remarkable for being the view of someone with a first-rate (well, far better than mine) education. To believe that good and (for want of a better word) evil, can be so neatly aligned with left and right-wing ideology is astonishingly simple and self-serving. There is, I’m sure, a larger debate around the correlation (or lack of) between education, politics and morality; for now I shall confine myself to wondering how someone so intelligent can say something so foolish, and elude the inconvenient truth of Hubert Humphrey:
Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fix you

So I went on holiday and everyone - a “lost generation” no-less - stared rioting... for four days. Well thank you, but this post isn’t really about me. By the time I returned the “rampage” had stopped and I had to suffer - am still suffering - the various current affair “specials” on why and who’s to blame. Panorama, for example, used some lovely background music.

Some idiot blamed the previous government; more idiots blamed the existing government. Some thought it black culture innit - whatever that is - others, something to do with the poor, or being poor. If I were one of the less fortunate (and who knows, there’s plenty of time) I’d be getting slightly pissed off at the constant suggestions of my inevitable anti-social behaviour. There was a legitimate seed for protest - a Police shooting a few days earlier - but it was quickly consumed by our more thuggish members.

Besides, our moral grounding is hardly a rock in the knowledge there’s more to lose when you step out of line. And therein lies the problem; it’s not so much the violence, more our naive - and potentially dangerous - belief that no matter what, there is a solution to making us all behave better, all the time; and the lengths some will go to achieve this desired result. It’s as if we’ve learnt nothing from the past or even future portrayals of attempts to “fix” the population.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Half way between a giant anteater and a baboon

Lauren and Phil Ruse on Paignton beach
Away for a week, where two really good days sandwiched one really bad day... and the rest were average. I spent a lot of time reading; finishing The Shipping News and the larger part of Kerouac’s On The Road - more on that later.

Little Miss R spent an age on the beach building sand castles - or more accurately demolishing mine - and digging a large hole in the sand which inexplicably she was determined to fill with water; this was - I later found out - her favourite part of the holiday. Later that day she had her first swim in the sea - which was my favourite part of the holiday.

The following day she was sick, so sick; I have never seen so much produced by someone so little, and for so long. Was it the small taste of seawater, the ridiculously large meal or too much time in the sun? It’s to her credit she was uninterested in blame, and it was probably my fault.

If a first swim in the sea was the moment, the best day was a visit to Paignton Zoo. How pedestrian I am, yet it’s never easy finding the balance in our band of three. It’s a big zoo and fills much of the day - perhaps five hours; I am thus satisfied with a long walk whilst Little Miss R - amongst other creatures - is content with a cool Kangaroo. It’ll do.

Friday, 5 August 2011

'Fun' with CSS

For further fun I have been aiming at horizontal (only) scrolling, for the purposes of displaying code samples. Taking a previous post; it overflows correctly in Chrome and Firefox but fails to do so in Internet Explorer 8, and I presume earlier versions. Worse - or to make it more convoluted - I can specify exact width, extract the CSS and the HTML and have it working in IE8, but the same code still fails within the context of Blogger. I’ll trace the cause eventually (and use the <pre> tag rather than a <div>) yet it’s possibly a little obsessive; in all my posts I’ve only displayed code twice, and only once has it required scrolling.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

‘Fun’ with JavaScript

With some on-going tinkering yesterday evening - styling the search widget on my blog - I wasted hours on a difference between how Chrome and Internet Explorer (and later, I discovered Opera) executed some JavaScript compared to Firefox. ‘Hours’ because I managed to side-track myself with the onblur event, and the problem was something far simpler. I put it down to rustiness - an accidental mixing of syntaxes - though the truth may be less kind; never mix alcohol and coding, kids.
<input name="search" type="text" size="10" /><br />
<input name="search" type="text" size="20" /><br />
<input name="search" type="text" size="30" /><br />

<script type="text/javascript">
var x = document.getElementsByName("search");
var i = 0;
for (i=0;i<x.length;i++)
  document.write(x(i).size+' ');

As usual it was a case of reducing the code to something more manageable. On executing the example above, Chrome (my default browser) and Internet Explorer will write out the sizes of the three text boxes, whereas Firefox will not. The reason is all to do with brackets; we use square brackets to access an entry in a nodelist, and parenthesis (rounded brackets) for the optional arguments to a function or method call. Chrome and others are effectively treating item as the default method on a NodeList object - hence the example JavaScript works, whereas FireFox isn’t - and the example JavaScript fails.