Saturday, 28 March 2009

Picture Tag Revisited

You may remember that back in January I was the recipient of a picture tag. The rules of the picture tag meant that I got to show you one of my Good Photos -- one of those taken before I had a digital camera but that had been scanned at high quality so that they could be printed. As a change from posting about things I've seen or done recently, I thought you might like to see some more of the photos I've taken which I like and have/would frame and display.

This one was taken on New Year's Day 2001 at Newmillerdam Country Park. The sunlight through the trees was spectacular but I had no idea how the photo would turn out until the prints came back a few weeks later. I love the way the light forms a crucifix shape and for once don't mind the weird effects caused by the light interacting with the curved lens of the camera.

I'll post some more of my better photos at some point. Now I don't want to turn this into a picture tag but if you are reading this and have a blog then why not hunt through your photos and treat us to some of your best photos.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Unintentionally Left Blank

I've blogged before about people adding text to a blank page in an effort to show they knew it was being left blank.

Unfortunately I keep making a similar mistake with my blog posts -- I keep forgetting to give them a title. I often write the post separately and then just copy it into the post editor on blogger. I add some labels and then hit post only to then realise I've forgotten to set the title. It's easy enough to edit the post and add a title when I realise this but the URL for the post will never be sensible.

I got so annoyed when I nearly managed to do it again the other day that I decided to hunt down a solution. Being a FireFox user (and if you aren't then why not?) the obvious route seemed to be a Greasemonkey script. Greasemonkey allows you to run small pieces of JavaScript to alter webpages. I've seen all sorts of interesting uses of Greasemonkey but this was my first attempt at writing a script.

So I wrote a script which simply alters the behaviour of the "Publish Post" button so that if there is no post title you get a message box telling you this and the post won't publish. If you already have Greasemonkey installed then simply click here to install the script.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

It's All Greek To Me!

It's all Greek to me! is one of those great phrases that we (certainly I) use all the time without knowing anything about its etymology. We can probably blame Shakespeare for it's modern usage as it appears in the following passage from Act I, Scene II of Julius Caesar: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.

Its origin is, however, likely to date to the Middle Ages when the knowledge of Greek was declining among monks charged with copying manuscripts where it sometimes appears in the margin as Graecum est; non legitur -- it is Greek, [therefore] it cannot be read.

What's interesting is that the same phrase appears in many languages around the world albeit with reference to a different confusing language. For example, the German's say Das kommt mir Spanisch vor and so clearly find Spanish more confusing than Greek. Here is an interesting diagram showing how languages are related via their versions of this phrase.

Interestingly Chinese seems to be the most confusing language there is -- given it's entirely different character set that doesn't really surprise me!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Google Street View Goes Live

You may remember me saying that I'd seen one of the camera cars Google was using for photographing the UK well the photos are now available on Google Street View. You can see the view along Mappin Street from Broad Lane but here is a copy of the image so I can show you me!

I only know that it's me because I know where I was stood when I saw the car and that I was wearing a red t-shirt -- although the resolution is so low that you could easily mistake me for a large red blob!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Batty Bat Joins NASA

It appears that Batty Bat has lived up to his name by joining NASA. Specifically clinging to the outside of the main fuel tank during the recent launch of the shuttle Discovery. You can read the full story about this rather daft bat over on the NASA website.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Not Actually A Greenfinch

A month or so ago we were watching the birds on the feeders in the back garden as part of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

When a green, finch sized bird landed on the feeder we were about to tick of Greenfinch when we both decided that actually it was just too green -- the water between the panes of the double glazed kitchen window didn't help the view.

We quickly realised that we weren't looking at a Greenfinch but rather a Siskin -- not something we have ever seen in the garden before (here or in any of the other houses we have lived in). Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a photo but Siskin went on the birdwatching list for the RSPB.

We have seen both the male and a female a few times since but yesterday was the first time I managed to get a photo (I stood still long enough in the more exposed conservatory with better windows for the male to happily feed). Of course when you can see the bird clearly (rather than through smeary windows) it is obviously not a Greenfinch.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The World's Greatest Car Chase

It is now just a fortnight until the first F1 race of the season. This year in the UK the coverage has switched back to the BBC after 12 years on ITV (I've blogged about this before so I won't repeat myself).

Anyway, to advertise the start of the season and their coverage the BBC have put together this trailer in which they describe F1 as The World's Greatest Car Chase. The trailer is quite clever and does evoke the idea of a movie car chase. It's just a shame they used cars that look nothing like modern F1 cars. You can tell they aren't real F1 cars just by the crystal clear view the drivers get in their wing-mirrors!

Honda TV

I was prompted to scan for new channels by the BT Vision box this morning. Once it had finished I went and browsed through the TV guide to see if it had actually found any new channels. It might have found more than one but Honda TV jumped out at me as being new and rather odd.

It turns out that it isn't actually a TV channel as such, but rather the BT Vision box is pretending a website is a channel, allowing for interaction and streaming video. In fact the screenshot above is from the Honda TV website rather than from the TV (the only visible difference is the TV doesn't show a progress bar under the video). Even stranger for a new feature on the BT Vision box is how out of date the whole thing is. Honda pulled out of Formula 1 back in December yet they still have an F1 section on Honda TV which is showing videos that are at least two years old. All very odd.

In principle I think the idea of using a website as a TV channel could prove useful and interesting but I think BT really missed the mark when they choose Honda TV as the content for this first attempt.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Invalid Jumping Around!

More fun with the website of the Yorkshire Building Society. Apparently I've been jumping around when I shouldn't be.

And to defend myself from this nasty slur, I didn't touch the back button. All I did was press continue. I'm thinking that they may need to revise their error message to match what has actually happened.

Friday, 6 March 2009

DOI 10.1007/s11168-009-9061-2

DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier -- it is kind of like a Dewey decimal system for electronic documents. As far as I know a DOI can be assigned to almost any electronic document but you usually see them on journal articles as a permanent way of referring to the article that won't change even if the web address of the article changes in the future. You can find out more about DOI System at it's offical home page.

So what's so special about the DOI in the title of this post? Well DOI 10.1007/s11168-009-9061-2 uniquely identifies my first journal article. After almost eight years as a researcher I've published lots of conference and workshop papers and one rather weighty thesis, but until Wednesday I'd never had a journal article published.

So here is a direct link to the article which completely breaks the idea of the DOI being separate to the URL at which the document is available. If the link stops work then you should always be able to find the article by resolving the DOI.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Variance is Intolerable

Most evil sci-fi villains have as their main goal the conquering of the known universe. For some reason the part human part machine villains usually have some form of repetitive mantra that they just can't help repeating over and over again. For example, Doctor Who's nemesis the Daleks go around screaming Exterminate, Exterminate while Star Trek's Borg will tell you that Resistance is Futile whilst trying to assimilate you into the collective.

If a group of evil engineers ever decide to try and conquer the known universe then I think they should go with a phrase I saw in an overview video at work the other day (the video isn't public yet so I can't post it) -- Variance is Intolerable. I can just imagine a crazed engineer slashing away at some defenceless human with a protractor and set square yelling Variance is Intolerable over and over again!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Hmm, What Should I Choose?

I was trying to open an account with the Yorkshire Building Society the other day when I came across this section on the application form.

The * denotes a required field so I guess it's a good job that I did want an ATM card.

If this made you chuckle then can I suggest you check out the Daily WTF website (especially the Error'd section) which holds up similar instances of stupidity on forms and adverts, in software and management practices for public ridicule.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Creative Types - That Explains Everything!

You may remember the strange building near Sheffield train station with the rooms that change colour. I didn't have a good explanation as to why the rooms changed colour because I didn't know anything about the building.

It turns out that it is catering for media-related businesses and also sports a helter skelter for those wanting to quickly reach the ground floor.

All very strange if you ask me.

Monday, 2 March 2009


I always thought that the phrase HC SVNT DRACONES (or Here Be Dragons for those of us who don't speak Latin) had traditionally been used on maps to denote the edge of the known world. It turns out that this isn't true. The only historical map to use the phrase is the Lenox Globe which dates to around 1510 and has the phrase inscribed near the eastern coast of Asia.

While lots of old maps did have sea serpents and other mythical creatures around the edge, the use of the phrase Here Be Dragons is quite recent. You can find a long list of modern cultural references on Wikipedia.

Sheffield isn't really the edge of the world (some people may dispute this) but I still think marking the train station with the words HC SVNT DRACONES would be allowed given this stonework above the entrance door.