The not-so-fun bit of living near a private school is the swathe of shiny, black, massively sized Tonka cars that I have the joy of having to avoid as they drive like idiots. Today I had another near-miss with one of them as they decided to drive across the road in front of me, not even aware of my existence, my right of way or whether they even possessed a set of indicators or not.

Well, for once, I’m going to say nothing more on the subject. However, I will quote from Marcus Brigstocke, who was talking about 4×4/SUV drivers. I’ll let you decide whether I agree with him or not (bear in mind that I once said that anyone who buys a Subura Imprezza should immediately have their licence revoked because, let’s be honest, you’re going to drive it like a git anyway).

“Screw you, you selfish, ignorant, retarded, gas-guzzling, child-killing, planet-wrecking, status-obsessed, tractor-driving, prick-like, Chris de Burgh-listening, wingy, backward, bull bar-bearing bastard. Shut your petrol-filled mouth, think about someone other than yourself, get a better car, learn to drive and stop being dicks. There we go. Good to get that off my chest.
“I need it for the children” SHUT UP! “It’s the only safe way I can..” no, SHUT UP! “I can drive when I want, this is political correctness gone mad” no, SHUT UP! You’ve not got a leg to stand on, so stay seated and don’t speak.”


Pay to Park at Work

The Workplace Parking Levy has raised its ugly head. This is a plan by Nottingham City Council to charge people for parking at work. It will help congestion by getting people to find alternatives routes to work and they can plough the money back into local transport schemes.

Except… well, where we work is on the outskirts but not in the city. So we won’t see the benefits of any improvements. Plus it won’t stop people coming to work, as most people don’t have an option. It will hit shift workers and anyone else, even if they don’t cause congestion because of the times they travel. Oh, and small businesses are exempted because… their cars don’t cause congestion?? Not sure on that one.

No, it’s badly thought out rubbish that’s just going to hit us in the pocket – £185+VAT a year starting in 2010, going up within 5 years to £350+VAT. To park. At work. Most will pay it, whilst others will find alternative places to park (probably on residential roads).


Grammar Bullies

Good afternoon. Today we will be discussing the thorny issue of grammar and spelling. Or grammer as I prefer to spell it.

As an avid Facebooker (is that the right word?) I’ve become dismayed to find friends joining groups such as ‘If You Can’t Differentiate Between “Your” and “You’re” You Deserve To Die.’ and ‘I judge you when you use poor grammar.’

You see, I wasn’t too bothered about good/bad grammar and spelling until the advent of the Grammar Bully (or Grammar Snob). Or Lynn Truss, as the devil child is known. Her “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” book kicked off the recent trend of looking down on those who use punctuation and grammar incorrectly.

And my response is…. piffle.

As someone on Facebook quite rightly stated, ‘it is an extremely outlandish and bigoted comment… saying something like that to a dyslexic, is like saying to a deaf person, “If You Can’t Hear You Deserve To Die”‘.

And as Bill Bryson wrote about in his excellent book “Mother Tongue”, the English language is constantly evolving. In Shakespeare’s time it was still quite volatile – indeed, on one page alone he spelt one word in about a dozen different ways. Many of the differences between the English and American language is down to the same thing – at the time the US was settled, the “modern” English language was still fluctuating. With a vast difference between the two nations, changes occurred in one language that didn’t therefore happen with the other. Take the word “sidewalk” which we called the pavement. Except we used to call it the sidewalk and changed it. The US stuck with it. But, arrogant as the British are, we often accuse the US of changing just to be awkward.

And if you look at the way we communicate these days – rushed, electronic means – then the need to get punctuation right is surely less of an issue? In fact, there was an excellent discussion about this last week on BBC Breakfast News. A University Professor was tired about the poor punctuation and grammar from his students. However, other than that he hadn’t thought anything through and ended up looking like a buffoon for most of the interview. On the other hand they had a nice lady (who’s name I can’t recall) who believes the English language should be simplified. She’d thought through her arguments and put the Professor to shame.

It takes 3 times longer to teach the English language in Britain than it does to teach the equivalent native language in other European countries. That’s simply because it’s such a tough language – mainly because it follows rules for some of the times and other times doesn’t. So a lot of spelling, for example, has to be learnt on a word-by-word basis.

This ladies argument is that rules should be stuck to rigidly and words simplified where there are multiple meanings. For example, beech and beach. Why two spellings? The context in which you use them gives away which ones you mean. “At the weekend we went to the beach”. “My table is made of beech”. When we speak to someone, we don’t have to spell out these words – the context is assumed. So why do anything different when we write? And the same with punctuation. Taking the previous Facebook group example, if I say “Your leg is on fire” or “You’re leg is on fire” it wouldn’t make a difference. So why is it a murdering offence (apparently) to write it wrong?

There is even a comment on one of these groups from one individual who “hates” when people abbreviate in text messages. Now, hold on… let’s go back to modern communication. You’re restricted to the length of a text message and have to type it using a small number of keys. Why do you think people use abbreviations? When they use it in everyday writing, now that I can understand. But in texts? Get a grip. I think there are far more offensive things in the world to get wound up about.

Another example… quoting from Faceboook….

“there’s a place near my house which sells ‘Kebab’s’ lol. Indicating that the shop is in fact owned by a Kebab.”

Now I could immediately point out starting the sentence without a capital, and their use of “lol” (without punctuation before it), but that would be petty. However, looking at what they’re trying to say, does anybody believe that they saw the word “Kebab’s” out side a Kebab shop and it confused them. Actually, considering the IQ of some of these people who are grammar snobs, then maybe they were. But then I suspect the correct punctuation wouldn’t have helped.

We all know what they mean by that sign, and that’s what’s critical.

It’s all rather eloquently summed up by Marcus Brigstocke’s recent entry on Room 101:

The example he gives is where a sign says “Apple’s 30p”

Grammar Bully: Mmmm, so the 30 pence belongs to the apples does it? No, I don’t think it does at all, no I think you meant 30 pence for the apples…

Marcus Brigstocke: Just buy the fruit and piss off!

God only knows how many mistakes I’ve made in this Blog but… hey… I don’t care. And if you care to judge me, fine. I’m not stupid. I’m not unintelligent. I’m not dyslexic. I’ve just got better things to do with my time than think about punctuation, which I learnt at school about 25 years ago now, and will actually make no difference to what I’m trying to say and generally put over.


Profile Picture

Have you seen my new profile piccy? A moody black & white one – the larger version looks even better. Well, if only to prove how simple things can be, here are details on how it was done (and it means I don’t forget… stupid rubbish memory I have).

There are two versions of this photo, both of which are in various sizes. One has a Polaroid-style background, the other hasn’t.

First of all, here’s what you need (or rather what I needed – feel free to use your own alternatives)… one wife for camera duties, one old-ish Konica 5mp digital camera and an aging (but still perfectly fine) copy of Paintshop Pro 5.
Here’s what I did…

  1. Wearing a tatty old t-shirt, I turned it back-to-front so that the plain back was in view, rather than the crabby picture on the front.
  2. I sit on my landing sideways against the wall, looking side up towards the camera. Sitting because Jen takes the photo stood up (although a little crouched). Looking up means my face relaxes rather than bunches up (and saves you having multiple chins).
  3. Anyway, a number of photos are taken and I chose the best. The first thing I do is port it into PSP5 and chop out the relevant part (head and shoulders). At this point I realise that because of the angle, it wasn’t just wall behind me. Over my left shoulder is a large proportion of door jam, and interior of my bedroom. Arse. So I spent some time lifting sections of wall from elsewhere in the photo to patch over the top. A little bit of the smudging tool and you wouldn’t notice anything amiss. You might also notice some white “sparkles” – the joys of digital photography – so I have to remove those as well.
  4. Now I convert the image to black & white.
  5. Hmm, that nose is mind is looking a little shiny, so using a similar technique to the wall, I remove this by adding in different parts of the image.
  6. My eyes are said to be one of my most attractive facial features, so I decided to take advantage of this and make these colour. Initially, I tried to transfer the eyes from the original colour version of the photo onto this new black and white version. Unfortunately, my eyes also picked out a lot of surround colours, such as some bright blues and flashes of white light (not from the camera – the flash was off that). So plan B was to simply highlight (using the circling tool) the pupil and then colourise it. This worked a treat.
  7. And that’s it for the standard picture. For the Polaroid version, I found a blank Polaroid on the Stock.XCHNG website. This was angled so I first had to straighten it. Then I had to extend it’s length for my picture to fit onto it. Finally, I highlighted the surround of the polaroid before adding a drop shadow for effect.

Voila! How beautiful, eh? Hmm, that’s up for much debate, but it’s a reasonably good picture to use.


Danger, Geek at Work

Now my day-time job is not a particularly geeky one. It’s programming an 80’s Basic language on a text-based DOS system. Never-the-less I’ve realised I’m doing quite well at making it look otherwise.