Saturday, 25 February 2012

There's always a bigger fish

A silly amount of time spent trying to size three hyperlinked images of the same dimensions into a mosaic collage that would fit the width of a blog post; that's easy for me to say, easy enough until I added in consistent spacing between the images. I cheated; I hard-coded the sizes and the two smaller images were stretched slightly, but I think with a proper use of divs acting as columns, 100% widths and the overflow property, it should be possible to write something slightly more dynamic. Only, not today; I’m chewing up too many evenings working on minor side-projects that can be filed under “how” rather than “where”; not always a bad thing, I’m sure I’ll find a suitable use for “where” at some point.

In the 1,056th redesign of this blog the search box has a (CSS3) transition in width, which looks good where supported (Chrome, Firefox etc) and jerky where not (IE). It’s a bit of a gimmick either way since it requires screen real-estate to expand into; perhaps this is the reason Twitter recently changed their search box to fixed width? On the other hand, the on-focus transition in background colour looks good and has an acceptable degradation on IE. But let’s face it, who uses the search box on a blog? I might occasionally search within a niche blog but mostly I rely on The Google; why restrict myself to one source when I can search them all? And I have no niche, no idea from one week to the next what I might write about, so it’s even more difficult to imagine a reader having read a post on minimum priced alcohol, then wondering what I have to say on that masterpiece of modern cinema, Shoot 'Em Up. I love a good film...

In the Mood for Love
I love a good film... and Shoot 'Em Up isn’t one of them. Yet despite this love of film, I’ve been thinking of cancelling my Lovefilm subscription. I’ve signed up to Netflix, using the free trial to watch season five of The Office, but there’s enough to keep me interested, for a few months at least. The picture quality - through the Wii - is adequate, not as good as that provided by BT Vision; use the iPlayer on both devices and the Wii appears a little fuzzy in comparison. Netflix does however have an easy interface; I’m not keen on the large sideways scrolling tiles, but there are other views and I like features such as automatically lining up the next episode in a series. It’s the convenience of streaming versus the better picture and newer releases afforded by DVD. Only my last three rentals on Lovefilm have been a mixed bag. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was as good as I’d heard but Captain America hugely disappointing, and Bad Teacher so bad I’d almost call it evil; I got what I deserved. Not like In the Mood for Love, my first film on Netflix, moving and understated, it suffered an unscheduled pause an hour into the film and - entirely unrelated - from a cruel suspicion the subtitle font was in Comic Sans; it wasn’t, but it was close. I mean, what kind of person notices things like that?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Notes on a car

Note left on car
Note left on car Note left on car

Monday, 20 February 2012

Meta full circle

Which annoys me most; the hack to get something out there or the tunnel vision developed when I return? I changed the search box on this blog a while back to use an input prompt but - wanting something that would work across the three main browsers, and aware of the need to avoid searching on the prompt text - settled for a short term fix of a background image which I could remove/add with JavaScript when the search box got/lost focus. An age later I got around to using two elements; a prompt label and a text input with transparent background, believing that a correct z-index would ensure the input overlaid the prompt and thus, when the input received/lost focus I could remove/restore the prompt showing underneath. However, whilst this worked for Chrome and Firefox it (almost predictably) didn’t for IE. Even the latest version appears to have issues with z-index, but then a Google search will tell you there’s a problem with everything so I should have known better; time spent trying to bend the stack order to my will might have been more profitably spent simply hiding the prompt when clicked upon.

Which I did; only by this time I was rather taken with CSS3 transitions and of a mind to re-vamp the search box again. And since in addition to the placeholder attribute, transitions are something else that IE still doesn’t support, this was the point at which I bit the bullet. Graceful degradation for the Microsoft browser; it doesn’t need a smooth transition in width, and I reasoned (though I’m not convinced) I could also get away without the prompt, so excised the previous work and saved it for later, when I’ll undoubtedly change my mind. If I can fix the position of the input text on earlier versions - it’s currently aligning along the top - I’ll be happy enough; I’ve learnt to live without rounded corners after all.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Alan Turing doesn’t deserve a pardon

Alan Turing
A lot of concern, some outrage, over the refusal to grant Alan Turing a pardon, yet this seems about right to me; not for the stated concern that he was properly convicted no matter how objectionable the law of the time, it’s more for what a pardon represents. A pardon is, to quote one definition, the “excuse or forgiveness for a fault, offense, or discourtesy”. Turing did nothing that requires forgiveness. I’m aware of the pardon in 2006 for the 306 soldiers shot during the First World War for cowardice, but I’d suggest this is different; we can excuse supposed acts of cowardice through exceptional circumstances or doubt about any guilt, without excusing the act itself. To pardon Alan Turing would amount to forgiving him for being homosexual and, having been treated so brutally, it’s the last thing he deserves.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

I, hypocrite

I don’t know how many times I’ve despaired at the aggression shown on social media, whether via Twitter or blog, only to subsequently post something using less than friendly language; that or I’m too embarrassed to count. Consider this holier-than-thou missive over a year ago:
...who was ever persuaded through being boxed in and called an idiot?
Compared to my post of yesterday: subject to unite the idiot left with the idiot right and all the idiots in-between...
In my defence I will argue that yesterday’s communication was provoked by a number of people of less than average intelligence. Also, it wasn’t directed at anyone specifically, but at you all. Also, I was in a bad mood. I shall then acquit myself in the hope it’s all part of my journey to discover whether I’m nice or nasty, or something like that. Nice, I hope, only I must try to steer clear from politics, as that’s asking for trouble.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Matter meets anti-matter

Cut off nose to spite your face
It’s not a good week to measure the collective common sense. David Cameron has scrambled to match Ed Miliband’s stupidity, though Ed - to be fair - is only catching the public mood. It started with the affair of one man’s windfall; Stephen Hester, the current CEO of RBS, received a bonus in shares worth around £1 million to go with his £1.2 million salary, and if there’s one subject to unite the idiot left with the idiot right and all the idiots in-between - which is a lot - it’s “fat cat” bankers. It’s a lot of money, but insignificant compared to the billions used to prop up the company. The question is whether we intend this change of ownership to be permanent, or one day hope to return RBS to the private sector. The idiot alliance (have I mentioned them?) would like to take the opportunity to rein-in “excessive” salaries - to save a million here and there; I’d rather we concentrated on recouping our £45 billion - and paid the going rate.

So a lynch-mob mentality ensured Hester waived his bonus, and political collusion ensured his predecessor would follow in the news. Fred Goodwin (as we must now call him) was stripped of a knighthood awarded in 2004, for the crash of RBS in 2008, in 2012. What a petty vindictive people we are to strip someone of an honour, not for committing a crime (for there wasn't one) but for making a mistake. A big mistake, but last I checked there was no monetary limit to a liberal outlook; no excess above which decent minded individuals are excused a pitch-fork wielding response. Peter Tatchell was on Channel 4 news last night suggesting key executives be accountable before the law, and was immediately backed up by some idiot (they're everywhere!) of a Tory MP. Yes, that Peter Tatchell.

In addition to being illiberal, he’s irresponsible. I think it’s usually in larger companies; an employee needs for something to happen, so asks a manager, who asks a manager, who asks another and so on. However much we might be tempted to think otherwise, it’s not a case of incompetence but one of managerial survival. It’s a condition that permeates throughout the workforce, who soon realise that whilst making a decision is preferable, making the wrong decision can cost you your career - and Tatchell (amongst others) would add a legal penalty too.

All companies take risks; for example, from what product to invest in to where they should open stores and how many people to employ. It’s all risk, and all risks (by definition) carry the possibility of failure. Some calculate it well, some badly, but one thing is certain, a company that doesn’t take risks - through fear of career or legal consequences - will atrophy. An economy that criminalises failure is itself destined to fail.