Mutt’s nuts

A stroke of genius last night from Andrea Arnold, a British animator, who declared her Oscar to be the Dog’s Bollocks. Until today, I was unaware that this phrase, along with its last word solo, are unheard of Stateside. None of the native Americans in the office had heard the B word. It seems that ABC was flummoxed by the word’s meaning, and as such, it crept through the time-delay that has been imposed on such events since the JJ right-breast incident. I laughed, especially after the concern over Chris Rock’s tongue.

Dental visit four of five this evening went very well. My front teeth had arrived back from the Brooklyn manufacturers. I had a fitting – a dress rehearsal if you like – and it was incredible. They looked so much better than their predecessors. I’ve asked for a small change, which will be made tomorrow when they’re sent back to be glazed. Visit (and payment) five on Thursday evening to get the finished product. Can’t wait! However, speaking with the new teeth was a challenge at first. For the last 31 years, seven months and nine days, when I’ve pronounced the F sound, air has come through the gap between my too front teeth. With the new ones, it didn’t, which was a bit of an issue. Apparently it takes a couple of days to sort this out.

Fame

I just waved from my bedroom window, while a Circle Line boat was ferrying tourists down the Hudson. I wonder whether it will make headline news.

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho is a wonderful addition to the world of English football.  I’m currently listening to the Carling Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea using my dodgy streaming solution.

Last weekend, following defeat by Newcastle, post-match analysis on Five Live reported the following: "Despite Mourinho looking down due to the defeat, at least he can go home knowing he’s the most beautiful man in football."  A comment of genius, one which judging by his arrogance is probably more true than one would like to think.

Then there was the incident at half-time in Wednesday’s Barcelona game which caused controversy.  And now, he has been sent off for inciting the Liverpool fans following Gerard’s own-goal equaliser.  He’s great for English football.

Meanwhile at Lansdowne Road, England has gone 0-3 following a 19-13 defeat at the hands of the Irish.  Is the wooden spoon on its way to the World Champions?

Punctuation

I find America’s obsessive approach to punctuation out of sorts, and something that would on the surface more be suited as a British trait than one of America.

I would have thought that some of the Brits’ characteristics/stereotypes would contribute towards us being a nation obsessed with grammar.  For instance, we’re somewhat set in our ways, and I think we may have a reputation for our pedantry.  Given that punctuation in the UK never used to be considered "optional", I’d have thought that this would have continued through to modern times.

Walk down any high street, and you will notice this not to be the case.  You will see misplaced apostrophes, entirely redundant apostrophes and missing apostrophes (can you see a missing apostrophe?) on temporary sale signs, and to a lesser but far more heinous extent, the wonderfully laminated signs above the shop window.

Meanwhile, our friends in the U.S.A. seem to be obsessive about punctuation.  The one for which they have a particular penchant is using the full-stop (or period) for all abbreviations – as highlighted by my punctuation of U.S.A. above.  This is not considered optional – ever.  In the UK, we’ve relaxed this rule, mainly where acronyms are so commonplace as to be understood without the full-stops – RSPCA, BBC, UK, USA, am, pm, GMT etc.

I like to think of punctuation holding the hand of the reader to get them to the end of the sentence safely.  Over-punctuation will make them stumble along the way.  (Excessive use of the comma is a particularly nasty example of this.  This is why I always try to avoid the Oxford comma, unless I’m separating items that are already "anded" together.)  Under-punctuation will get the reader to the end of the sentence, but they won’t know how they got there, and they’ll be dishevelled as a result.  (Did the ball belong to Peter or Jane?  How many balls are there?)

I will always remember my Dad returning from work one day, seething at a younger colleague who had pointed out that a certain punctuation mark was no longer necessary.  I forget which punctuation mark it was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of those "nice-to-haves".  (I hate it when people write this as "nice-to-have’s", btw.)  Similarly, I remember my friend Mr. Mitchison hypothesising back in 1998 that the apostrophe "will be obsolete within ten years".  Not on my ‘blog it won’t, as this sentence goes to show!

While education in the UK is such that people will continue to have their shops’ signs laminated wrongly (if they didn’t, what would I have to talk about?), I think that our approach to removing the abbreviation full-stops from acronyms is the right way to go, as the reader feels better at the end of the sentence, and they haven’t lost anything along the way.  Hats off though to the Americans, whose die-hard attitude towards those keys at the extremities of our keyboards will help keep the apostrophe and its compadres alive.

On this subject, a nice little story from Joel Spolsky on the often mutual exclusivity of software development and user experience.  All for the sake of a pixel.

Snow joke (sorry)

It seems that the UK weather has come across the Pond and hit the eastern seaboard.  Well, maybe not – this storm has actually been brewing for the last couple of days down in the Carolinas.  I should leave the Brooklyn office pretty soon if I want to guarantee getting home, as it’s coming down in buckets – not literally, although that would certainly help with the ensuing snowman construction.  Also, I’m playing outdoor football tonight 🙂

There’s a funky little tool that comes with macromedia’s free shockwave player called WeatherBug that puts yet another little icon in my system tray in the bottom right hand corner – eventually, I won’t be able to see my application buttons.  This is probably the most useful such icon though, as it shows me the temperature (currently 22°F).  Apparently, there’s a weather reader on the roof of the school opposite our apartment block that tells me the temperature, weather etc.  Kinda cool.

The original reason for downloading Shockwave was to watch the animation of Newcastle’s goal against Chelsea booking them a place in the next round of the FA Cup.  This little feature is phenomenal, allowing you to watch goals from any camera angle or from the perspective of any player (or the ball for that matter).  Also, it’s always up in a matter of minutes after the game has finished.  The way in which the BBC has gone with this embedded application seems like the right way to go.  It looks like the frame of the page is served as usual by the BBC’s CMS, while the main body of the page is syndicated out to be fed by this applet.  It means that the technology behind their delivery application is not pulled left, right and centre by the whims of the moment, and it can focus on what it does best, while offering some wonderfully rich content.

IT Shite

Just how bad IT Safe is the latest offering from the UK Government?  It’s good that the government is taking this seriously, but the web presence is shoddy to say the least.  The information therein isn’t bad, and I quite like the way in which they’ve used the glossary as a driver for its search engine.  But try scaling the fonts, and look how much white space there is on the screen.  This looks like it’s been put together in ten minutes, both from a branding and a technology perspective.

This should be on DotP – the implementation would be a piece of cake – and given that it’s not, it should be way better than it is.  Please try harder…

BBC streaming

It’s always been quite frustrating that quite a few of the streams available on the BBC website are limited to UK-based IP addresses.  So the likes of football commentary on Five Live are only available to people in the UK.  However, I’ve found a workaround.

If I VPN into work’s London office for a minute, load the necessary page to stream the commentary and then disconnect the VPN, the commentary continues.  It appears that it only checks the IP address when it first connects.  The quick switch of IP address back to my US one doesn’t seem to phase it.  The same doesn’t work for streaming video, which stops when you switch.

I’m currently awaiting a more strategic solution.  Hopefully Sean will be sorting out a proxy server for me to connect through in London 🙂  In the meantime, I’ll continue listening to the FA Cup tie between Newcastle and Chelsea.  Chelsea’s three substitutions at half time have been followed almost immediately by an injury to Bridge, so they’re down to ten men.  Sounds good, but always makes me nervous.  Let’s hope we can hold on to the one goal lead…

America, America

A sound article by one of the BBC’s best, Justin Webb.  It highlights the growing divide between America and Europe, and the way in which America is happy to have the nastiness of reality airbrushed away, while Europe confronts the reality of the world.  If walking into Borders, America would be found in the fiction section, and Europe in non-fiction.  (Here is a post about this seemingly random classification.)

A number of the points made ring true.  I love the fact that in the BBC article, Webb doesn’t feel the need to explain the Heathrow/Windsor Castle example further.  (Note to self: must try this one out.)  The point about censorship is a good one, and the furore caused by Janet Jackson’s right breast last February is another great example of this.  As I wrote some time back, the US coverage of the tsunami seemed to miss the point.  (Not sure at what point tsunami earned itself a capital T, btw.)

I was on a train a few weeks back, which wended its way through small-town New Jersey.  As we pulled into the station of one such small town, I counted twelve tank-esque vehicles in a row on the parallel thoroughfare, all stationary, queuing to get into the town.  This wasn’t a highway – this was a small road linking houses with the town.  I wasn’t close enough to spot whether each SUV was carrying one or more uniform-clad children.

The non-signing of the Kyoto agreement is perhaps the saddest example of America’s unwillingness to confront reality.  I remember Clarkson’s (Jeremy, not Kelly) laughter at the lunacy of the fact that he could get the Hummer he was testing to give a 1 mpg read-out on the dashboard.  America has more cars than people, and given the size of the people, the cars are necessarily big (and inefficient).  Meanwhile, people seem to have no qualms at buildings spewing forth smoke of an unsightly colour.

If none of the above convinces you to read the article, it contains the word smite, which is reason in itself.  Through lack of thinking more than anything, I have always failed to notice the connection between smite and smitten, such is the rarity with which the former is used.

Monday marks Presidents’ Day.  As is the norm with US holidays, every store in the land will be holding a sale in commemoration.  However, this surprisingly grammar-aware nation seems to be in disagreement as to how many presidents we are remembering.  Some are having a President’s Day sale, while others a Presidents’ Day sale.  I prefer the latter, as there is a risk with the former of thinking of George W.  Either way, I will be working.

Caprice

Some time ago, there was a very interesting documentary on the BBC.  Caprice (the supermodel) was made-up to look as though she had a port-wine stain.  She worked closely with a lady who had a severe port-wine stain, and didn’t have the option of removing it at the end of the day.  Essentially, it highlighted two (probably related) elements of the human psyche and behaviour:

– People treat you differently when you are different
– Your confidence takes a beating when you step out of the house with such a feature.

Last night saw another trip to the dentist – this time I was fitted with a crown and the healthy counterpart had its front shaved off ready for the veneer.  Now, in order to centralise the teeth, they’ve temporarily made the gap wider – thanks!  And in order to allow for the veneer (and so as not to weaken the crown), the crown is a millimetre or so longer than its neighbour.  As the dentist said, a millimetre is a mile in dentistry.  Again – thanks, for that!  I feel like Caprice did in the documentary – everyone looking at me oddly (even if they’re not), and all my focus going into covering up.

My confidence has gone out of the window, and will remain there for the next two weeks.  Next Wednesday I have a temporary fitting to finalise their shape, position etc.; then they’re sent off to Brooklyn to be glazed ready for the final product to be fitted the following Wednesday.  While my wife attends photography classes on Wednesday evenings, it seems I have enrolled in the dentistry class – as a subject!  It will all be worth it (I hope) when I get the final product, but in the meantime, confidence is low, paranoia high, and looks are shot to pieces (no wise cracks, please!).

If nothing else, this experience has highlighted the mentality behind going to the dentist.  If you don’t go for a while, then the fear factor increases with time, encouraging you to delay making that appointment further.  However, I’ve had the worst surgery of my life (touch wood), and iPod-equipped, it’s been pretty painless.  So if you’ve not been for a while, go!  Otherwise, your mouth will look like mine does currently, which I don’t recommend.

Gates

After a couple of morning beers watching the demise of England against France in the rugby at the Red Lion, we headed uptown to the Park this morning to see the Gates.  Basically, two artists have put 7,500 orange, giant croquet-hoops along the 23 miles of paths that wend their way through Central Park.  Each has a saffron piece of cloth draped from the cross-bar, hanging just low enough to touch.  Even though it’s taken 25 years’ planning, and cost a cool $20m, they’re only there for about two weeks.

The Gates

Now they’re odd.  The first question is why.  They’re quite impressive, but I think the best view would be from a helicopter high above the park.  The experience was marred slightly by the countless other people who decided to go and visit the attraction today (selfish!), but overall, I think I was left with a positive feeling.  However, I think I’m more in awe of the logistical side of the offering rather than the art itself.  It seems a shame that something so expensive and logistically challenging will be taken down after only two weeks – I wonder if you’ll be able to buy any of the arches on eBay.

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