December 2004

29 December 2004
More Yahoo confusion

This listing for Get Carter is awfully confused:

Cast: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Ian Hendry, Miranda Richardson, Britt Ekland, John Osborne, Mickey Rourke, Tony Beckley, George Sewell and Johnny Strong
Director: Mike Hodges, Stephen Kay and Stephen T Kay
Production: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distribution: Turner Program Services, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists

It could be the 1971 version they are talking about but the stuff in bold looks suspiciously as if it came from the more recent Hollywood remake.

28 December 2004

Reason has an update on the Free State Project along with a history of other, similar attempts.

The 30-minute Rule

The 30-minute Rule was suggested to me by Brian.  It is that up to 30 minutes after posting something you are allowed to alter it.  Which I think is reasonable.  Certainly, in my case, it is only after I have published something that I start to notice the spelling mistakes, typos, missing words etc.  Often it is only then that you find how it truly looks.  Usually you find that new line breaks have magically appeared and old ones have (equally magically) disappeared.

What I don't think is reasonable is either changing the wording or the meaning - especially the meaning.  If you didn't mean it you have to retract it either through a new posting or an update (which I think is OK).

27 December 2004

Squander Two doesn’t like his brother or public transport.  In fact, it is difficult to tell which he likes least.

Blogging mentioned in the Telegraph.  Is this a first?

Update.  Perhaps he means articles like this one.

What is one to make of this TV listing from our friends at Yahoo:

The Charge of the Light Brigade
BBC 2 Mon Dec 27 2:40 PM
(110 min., 1936, USA, Adventure/Western/War Movies)

Biting satire of the folly of war based on the spectacular defeat of the British army at Balaclava during the Crimean War. As the English upper classes prepare to do battle, the youthful Captain Nolan has a fight on his hands with the brutal Lord Cardigan, commander of the celebrated Light Brigade. Less action and more political comment than the 1936 Hollywood version of the same story.

Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Patric Knowles, Henry Stephenson, Nigel Bruce and David Niven. 
Director: Michael Curtiz. 
Production: Warner Bros. 
Distribution: The Vitaphone Corporation, Warner Bros.

So, Errol Flynn and Michael Curtiz weren’t Hollywood then?  Or perhaps they mean this film?  Who can say?

Search is now up and running (see bottom of sidebar).  The results page could be better but making the necessary adjustments could be quite a lot of work.  So, some other day then.

Eamonn Butler condemns the removal of tolls on the Skye Bridge.

Democracy

Instapundit links to a piece on the Iraq War.  It includes this from Tony Blair:

There surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror

Which, I am sure, is precisely how he and many others see it.  But I don't.  My problem is that I am deeply ambivalent about democracy.

Here are some gripes:

  • It produces a class of people who seek to benefit from the democratic process.  That's not quite right.  We all seek to benefit.  But for most of us there’s a swap involved.  In return for paying our taxes we expect to receive something in return.  In democracies there is a whole bunch of people who don't have to pay anything net.  A whole bunch of people who have little short-term disincentive to voting for higher taxes.

  • It depends on the "collective wisdom of the individually stupid" as Thomas Carlyle put it.

  • As the franchise has expanded so liberty has retreated.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has some more.

However, there is one big, inescapable plus: it wins its wars.  Democracy took on all-comers in the 20th Century and won every single time.

But can we really put that down to democracy?  Brian Micklethwait reckons that one of the West’s great strengths is its ability to debate.  This is never more true than when it comes to warfare.  Commanders argue like crazy about the plan but at least, as Brian says, "everybody knows what the plan is." I think there is another element to it.  Because the debates are so furious there is a tendency to allow people to do their own thing.  Some ideas succeed eg radar; others fail eg the bombing campaign.  But the point is that that process of experimentation is allowed to take place.  A quasi-market in warfare, perhaps?

It is just possible that the two world wars were fought at a time when the major democracies were still largely free and that democracy had not had long enough to really mess things up.

Of course, it also just possible that the rise of statism is an aberration brought about by the industrialisation (and therefore, centralisation) of the means of communication.  In other words the medium really is the message.  In much the same way the new decentralised communication technologies will bring forth a more decentralised and, therefore, freer world. 

We have to hope.

24 December 2004
Should we have a search facility?

Yes.  There will be plenty of occasions when I want to find something I have written before; categories aren’t always that useful; Google would be too clumsy.

Update.  Only it’s proving harder to implement than I thought.

Red used to be Blue - only changing in 1992.  Well, well.

23 December 2004
How to write

I find writing difficult.

It's fine when I know what I think.  That has been one of the delights of doing this blog: I have some very definite ideas about how blogs should be - so, for once, it's reasonably easy for me to sit down and say what I think.

But when it comes to politics I often don't know what I think.  Or more to the point I know what I think but I find it difficult to explain why I think it.  This matters.  I spend a lot of time writing to my 16 or 17-year old self.  He's not going to accept assertions.  He needs reasons.  Supplying them is hard work.  But blogging isn't supposed to be hard work.  The great thing about blogging is that you can just spout away.

I also find that when I set finger to keyboard I often come up with lots of ideas all at once.  That part's not too bad.  It's when you order them.  That gets tricky.  And then you have to polish the English (I have to do a lot of that).  That's hard.  Often you find that one idea rests uncomfortably with another.  It's not so much that they contradict one another, more often that they are too similar or that if Idea A is true it is difficult to get it to fall into a logical sequence with Ideas B, C and D.

But the explaining yourself - that's the hardest part.

The strategy I came up with at Transport Blog was to fire off a “shoot first, ask questions later” post as quickly as I could in which I stated what I thought but explained absolutely nothing.  Explanations, reasons and definitions would come later.  Maybe in footnotes, maybe in follow-up posts and (it has to be said) maybe not at all.  Some of the time it worked and some of the time it didn’t.  Some of the time it was great because in the follow-ups you would create posts that could be used time and again.  ”Safety is not the only thing”, ”Safety is dangerous” were two of my standards.  But on other occasions the follow-ups were much more esoteric.  One offs.  The effort didn’t seem so worthwhile.

So, I don’t know.

22 December 2004
20 December 2004
Crime is not historically low

Norman Dennis lays into the Home Office’s latest mantra.

Exhausted mothers

Jackie D has a go at answering the question: why are mothers so knackered these days?  She thinks it because we (generally, not just mothers) are such a bunch of whiners.  We are a bunch of whiners because we have had it so much easier than previous generations.  Maybe. But, if ease of life leads to whining then, surely, the most whining would be heard in the US where life is easiest.  In which case people would be even less keen on having children.  But that's not the case as Mark Steyn never tires of pointing out.  On the contrary, the demographic disaster areas are Western Europe and Japan.

Is it, perhaps, related to holiday time?  Certainly, Europeans take an inordinate amount of time off by American standards.  But the Japanese don't.

Are the US figures buoyed up by immigrants? If so, it does tend to suggest that, at a certain point, wealth is the enemy of procreation - something I really don't want to believe.

Sean Gabb on why drinking and driving should not be a crime.  It’s something of a hardy annual for him.  His basic points are that accidents caused by D&D can easily be dealt with by the existing laws on manslaughter and murder and that "prior restraint" laws have subtle, unintended consequences.

"My colleague appears to be “indisposed"" says Helen of EU Referendum of Richard who has been banged up.  This should be interesting.  Perhaps it'll encourage him to cut down on the inter-necine attacks.

Bomber Crew

image
A US B17.  Oh, the perils of taking photos of the telly
It is difficult for me to be entirely detached when watching Channel 4’s Bomber Crew.  This is the programme that takes five grandchildren of WWII RAF bomber crewmen and trains them to fly an Avro Lancaster.  It is difficult for me to be detached because like them I too am the grandchild of a WWII bomber crewman.

The programme is divided into two sections. Half of it is devoted to the training and half to the history.  The training is the weaker part.  The hope is that the grandchildren will gain some appreciation of what their grandfathers went through. But it doesn’t really work.  There is an essential ingredient missing.  Their grandfathers knew that every day could be their last.  Today’s generation don’t.

The history part is better.  And it doesn’t pull its punches. The losses were appalling.  50,000 died.  Four out of five who took to the air never came back.  By way of comparison in the Great War four out of five who fought did come back.  I have this awful suspicion that you had a better chance of survival as a Kamikaze pilot.

The tale was told of a bunch of freshly-trained crewmen arriving at their new base.  They eagerly asked how long it took to complete their 30-mission quota.  They were given rather vague answers.  No one knew how long it took: no one had ever done it.  At that stage of the war (1941) being in Bomber Command was a death sentence.  That was precisely the same situation my grandfather was in.  He never saw 1942.  Or Germany for that matter: flying bombers was dangerous enough even without people trying to kill you.

A couple of years ago I had a chat with a man who took his basic training alongside my grandfather.  He was posted to the fighters and in the entire course of the war never took part in a single operation. Another aquaintance was even luckier.  Eighteen in 1939 and German it should have been curtains.  But he was living in England.  He was interned straight away and spent most of the war working in a Canadian abbatoir.  Such is life.

Bomber Crew, Channel 4, Mondays, 2100

We now have an e-mail link on the sidebar (labelled "Contact").  Many thanks to Jackie for the encoding.

Isn’t it great when Instapundit finally catches up with you?

19 December 2004

Parenthood is not a bundle of laughs:

Everyone I know who has children and is aged between 30 and 45 is knackered . . . all the time&8230;Not just a bit tired, not merely wanting a little lie down, but comprehensively, totally exhausted.

Says India Knight.

I’m sure our parents’ generation weren’t this exhausted. Certainly, they managed to do things my generation simply hasn’t the strength to do, such as go to the theatre or hold intelligent conversations after 11pm (the only people I know who can talk after 11pm are single, on drugs, or both).

But why?

Quote of the day

Gosh, why don’t we go back to the old system that we know provided it, rather than inventing expensive new ways that may or may not work?

Tim Worstall’s actually talking about education here but he could be talking about any number of other things.

Pics

Should I have pics?  I know I’ve jumped the gun here a bit what with the pic from Andy Wood’s blog only a few postings down but if we imagine that never happened then do I still have them?  The answer is, of course, "yes".  A picture can speak a thousand words.  And they look nice.  What more is to be said?

How to do them?  The null option is to simply bung them up.  The danger is that they may be too wide for the column in which they appear.  So that means either cropping or re-sizing to make them fit.

The next danger is that they will be so big that (for some readers) the page will take an age to load.  Now, for some bloggers like Brian this isn’t a problem (he effectively says: "I don’t care if it takes an age to load, this blog is going to have lots of images.  If you don’t like it don’t read it."), but I don’t think I can. In other words I have to reduce images in size even further.

This is precisely the same situation I found myself in with Transport Blog.  The solution was to thumbnail images (setting the smallest dimension to 120 pixels) while hyperlinking them to the original image.  Most packages will allow you to do this.  To my mind it worked pretty well with Transport Blog and I see no particular reason to change it.

Next question. Where to put the image?  I love it when text flows round images.  It looks wonderfully professional.  Again, I have a pretty good way of doing this.  It’s a refinement of what I (though not Brian) was doing with Transport Blog.  It also allows me to add in captions which I like a lot.  The only drawback is when there isn’t much text. I use tables (I’m not aware of another way of doing this) which leads to the image from one post encroaching upon the text of another.  Not good.  The only solution I can think of is to strip out the tables which is a bit fiddly.  That will give me an image but (as you can see below) a slightly odd one - it’s too near the left-hand side and too close to the text above. If I want to solve these problems I am going to have to rootle around in my style sheet and create a new style.  A bit of a pain but I can’t think of an alternative.

Incidentally, yet another plus point for Expression Engine is that it allows you to set it up so that it automatically surrounds the image with all the tags and parameters it needs to display correctly.

Update.  New style for pics with little text now done (see below)

Update II.  We’ve got the flowing working.  Only problem is that it seems to indent the first line of the accompanying paragraph.  But we can live with that.

Russia is going backwards, says Helen Szamuely (pronounced Sam-you-elly, I understand)

18 December 2004

Magic mushrooms to be banned. Well, thank flip for that.  I’m just going to feel soooo much safer.

Thought provoking piece by Charles Hanson for the ASI:

Democracy assumes that ordinary people are wise enough to elect a government. If so, surely they are more than capable of deciding how best to spend their own money. And yet in the western European democracies people regularly vote for governments that take between 40 and 50 per cent of their incomes in taxation. In so doing they are saying that fallible politicians know better than they do themselves how to provide the health, education and other services that they need.

Are they?  I’m not so sure.

The Copper on violence:

If the local library ring up to report a problem customer returning a library book late, you just know that you’ll be rolling around on the floor somewhere between Late Medieval History and the Large Print section.

16 December 2004

Talking of nice bridges…here’s one of Andy Wood’s favourites

image
Tay Bridge

The Burning Question

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know Blunkett’s gone but the real question is did Andrew win his bet?

15 December 2004

Brian writes about the newly-opened Millau Viaduct.

Announcing the 1952 Committee - for all those who would have voted Tory but for their decision to back ID cards.

For what it's worth I gave up with the Tories shortly after the 1997 General Election.  I realised then that we (libertarians) had so thoroughly lost the battle of ideas that there was no hope for a freedom-loving political party in the medium term.  I’m very glad I did.  Suddenly, I was able to just what I liked. Blogging has only helped this.

Nifty logo.

Update.  It just occurs to me that way back in 1997 one of the attractions of voting Labour was that they were (sort of) against ID cards and the Tories (sort of) in favour.  And who was the Home Secretary at the time?

Update IIGuido is none too pleased either:

Howard gave a speech in the City in February about his “British Dream”, it was trailed as his libertarian vision. When he said “the people should be big and the state should be small.... “ and to follow the British “...dream wherever it takes you.” He apparently meant you had to take your ID card with you.

14 December 2004
Too many blogs?

I saw some chart recently (don’t know where but I think Instapundit linked to it) showing the growth of the Blogosphere.  When I started (March 2002) there were some 200,000 blogs up and running.  Now that figure stands at nearer 5m.

It certainly feels like it.  Every day it Mark Holland (he is particularly good at this) seems to be flagging up yet another excellent blog.  Which is great.  It shows the vitality of the Blogosphere and means that there will always be plenty to read.

The question is: how do I find out about the good stuff?  I do what I can to keep abreast of the blogs I know about via Bloglines.  But the list is starting to get big.  It’s not too bad yet but one feels that at some point things are going to become unmanageable.

I have another fear.  Mark can’t be flagging up every new blog.  There’s bound to be stuff I am missing.  And if I’m missing it so are lots of other people.  Which is a shame.

I suppose what I am hinting at is the idea of a Blog Central - somewhere where all the best postings get flagged up.  I could do that here but there’s only one of me and I can’t read everything and I can’t do it every day (unlike Glenn Reynolds).  No, I’d need other people.  So, it would have to be a group blog.  And that implies all sorts of personnel issues that I would rather not get involved with right now.

Anyway, there’s an idea for someone seeking fame if not fortune.

We now have the category or categories at the end of each post

Should I have a counter?

I don’t have to.  Brian, for instance, doesn’t.  He reckons that it would just get him all obsessed by the hit rate rather than the more important business of writing stuff.

As it happens I do have a server-side counter as part of my package with Hosting Matters.  So, debate over?  Not quite.  I find that server-side counters (as opposed to their on-the-page equivalents) tend to measure funny things, like, for instance, control panel log-ins.  It also seems remarkably difficult to get them to tell you things like where people surfed in from.

The other advantage of on-the-page counters is that they are comparable.  If, as I did, you make your stats public then you can see that while you get 200 hits a day, Instapundit gets nearer 200,000.  Of course, the key thing here is that you have the same counter - counters have a sneaky habit of counting different things which can lead to different counters coming up with wildly differing results.

I suppose, in summary, it is just about worth having one.  And if you are going to have one it had better be the same one as everyone else.  And that means Sitemeter.

13 December 2004

In defence of the Austin Allegro. Hmm.  He defends the technology, the ride but not the looks.  Odd, because that is about the only thing about it I would defend.

Via Blognor.

Contact

One of the great pros of blogging is interactivity and in the form of already-enabled comments and trackbacks this blog already has plenty of that, or, at least, the potential for it.

But this is only present for specific posts.  What if someone wants to contact me for some other purpose, like, for instance, inviting me to a party (well, you never know)?  Now, they could hijack an existing post and say: "Very sorry, but had to contact you." which is a bit Heath-Robinson if you ask me.  And there is the element of confidentiality.  What if, for instance, it was to tell me that the test results had come through?  Nope, e-mail is best.

But, in my experience, if you publish your e-mail address anywhere online all you ever get is a torrent of spam.  The way I got round it on Transport Blog (rather late in the day as it happened) was to compose a special page which alluded to my e-mail address and to hope that people were able to read through the lines.  It seemed to work though it was rather clumsy.  Having said that, now that I have moved to Hosting Matters (another decision I haven’t regretted) I seem to have the option to activate a spam filter.  I think I may give this a go and see what happens.

Iain Murray writes about rail infrastructure for the National Review.  Iain has the advantage of having actually been there when the bodies were being buried and, so, is in a good position to claim that BR’s infrastructure was clapped out and that London Underground used infrastructure as a bargaining chip in subsidy negotiations.

Via Cold Spring Shops.

Milton Friedman in the WSJ:

To summarize: After World War II, opinion was socialist while practice was free market; currently, opinion is free market while practice is heavily socialist. We have largely won the battle of ideas (though no such battle is ever won permanently); we have succeeded in stalling the progress of socialism, but we have not succeeded in reversing its course.

Via Peter Gordon

Update.  It occurs to me that socialism is doing so well precisely because we have not won the battle of ideas.  While we may have persuaded people that state ownership of (how shall we put it) commercial industries is a bad thing they are yet to be so convinced about regulation and state ownership of (largely) non-commercial industries such as health and education.

Copper copied

You know when you’ve made it as a Blogger when the national press choose to plagiarise you.  Well done, the Copper!

By the way, I can’t find a link to the original plagiarism.  Maybe it’s not available on line.

Mark Holland explains Britain’s historical success:

One of the reasons to be proud of Britain is because we’ve generally reacted to events as they’ve come along rather than laid out plans to obliterate the old order and create a new one.

12 December 2004
A perma-change

Permalinks are essential but where should they link to?  I always dread a MovableType link because it takes you to a page with just that entry and nothing else.  When you follow a link it’s often the only opportunity you’ll ever get to check out that particular blog.  If it’s not blogrolled right there and then it probably never will be.  What you really want is to see some other posts along with the one you originally wanted to see.  That way you can get a feel for the blog.  But the thing you don’t want to do is to have to do any further clicking plus waiting.  Strangely enough, I think old Blogger got this right first time round.  Their permalinks link you to the monthly or weekly archive and then scroll you down to where the entry is to be found.  That way you can read the post and do some browsing.

Anyway, from now on, that’s going to be the approach I (for the most part) adopt here.

KILLER FACT!
Luxembourg has both the world’s highest alcohol consumption, and the world’s highest GDP per capita.

Harry Hutton

11 December 2004
Blogroll

True to my word here is a list of blogs which I like:

From Bloglines

The roll of shame (blogs without feeds):
Natalie Solent
Michael Jennings
Photon Courier
TOLLROADSnews
Conservative Commentary

Note This is an updatable post

Do I need a blogroll?

I know everyone has one but, as is the spirit of this blog, that is no reason why I should.

The null option is to do nothing ie not have a blogroll at all.  It is not as if I don’t mention all sorts of people as it is.  And I think recommending an individual post is a much better way of giving someone a plug than a mention on a blogroll. However, there are also blogs I read every day which I tend not to link to - on the grounds that they don’t need a little imp like me promoting them ie Instapundit and Samizdata.  I ought to at least give them a nod.

The only other real argument that I can think of is to have a handy list of links for my own benefit.  But I already have that at Bloglines.  You can see my list here.  The drawback is that there is a hard core of RSS refuseniks who I can’t read that way.  No, I have to log onto their sites on the off chance that they’ve published an update.  It is so 2003.  But still, I need the list. But I feel that if I mention them then form demands that I mention everyone else. Now, there is a potential solution here and it relies on a clever piece of code from those nice people at Bloglines.  What it allows me to do is to automatically list all those thoughtful people who have provided a feed and then, at the end, the recusants.

But where should I put this list?  Most people put their blogroll up on the sidebar.  But I think at this rate it is going to get a bit clogged.  What I think I am going to do is to create a separate page - possibly even post and then link to it from the sidebar.

That only leaves one outstanding gripe.  I don’t like bald lists - especially long, bald lists.  They give you very little idea what to read.  My idea was to create a new post for every new blog with a little description and then, by the magic of categorisation, create a blogroll automatically.  Sadly, what with all my existing Bloglines listings this isn’t really feasible - we’d be here until Christmas.  Pity.  Who knows, maybe Bloglines will set that up.  After all, they’ve set up pretty much everything else.

The dangers of being a politico

Boris Johnson:

…I am asked everywhere to comment on my friend and colleague Tim Yeo’s proposal that cyclists should face fines and penalty points for using mobile phones while cycling. Since this is a Tory proposal, and since I am a Tory, I am honour bound to try to see the advantages of this suggestion.

Though I get the impression he didn’t try all that hard.

Bunny Smedley on the BBC

She was actually talking about the Turner Prize but somehow managed to come up with this gem:

… try recalling any documentary made either by Louis Theroux or by any of his many lesser imitators that you’ve ever idly watched while waiting for something else to begin. Or think of The X-Files, or programmes about President Kennedy’s assassination, the pharmaceutical industry, Mark Thatcher’s finances, or more or less anything else you like. It honestly doesn’t matter. So pandemic is this particular, flawlessly-impartial-yet-oh-so-damning tone, that we all know it well, even if by now it has become so familiar we hardly notice it at all. It is, to adopt a register too rarely invoked in the world of television criticism, the sound of the clerisy in full cry. Don’t trust anyone, the voice tells us - except, obviously, the nicely-brought-up, public school-educated, probably Oxbridge-burnished, immaculately liberal intelligence behind the making of every paranoid, definitely ‘edgy’, yet entirely establishment-accredited programme you see, all of which you should trust implicitly.

Quite

10 December 2004
Tackling the BBC

I think the BBC is the worst organisation on the planet.  Trashy, trivial, dull, pompous, ignorant, smug, expensive and, oh yeah, lest we forget, biased.  All of which would be just fine if wasn’t for the fact that it also reaches into millions of people’s living rooms each day.

So, with the net we finally have the chance to have a go at it.  It is not as if we haven’t tried.  Along with a few others I set up Biased BBC.  Now, with over 1,000 hits a day it would be difficult to describe B-BBC as a failure but I feel it is.  It concentrates too much on web-based rather than broadcast content and too much on certain, specific topics ie Iraq and Israel and when it does cover broadcast content it rarely covers anything I have actually watched.

There are two problems.  The first is that with broadcast content there is nothing to link to.  There’s no transcript, or if there is, it’s hard to find or comes out far too late.  The second is that the BBC’s output is vast.  To comprehensively criticise its coverage would probably take an army of 100s, all regularly writing.  In other words far more than a group blog could comfortably manage.

Here’s a possible solution:

  1. New blog
  2. New entry for every BBC programme
  3. New entry for every item on a BBC news programme
  4. Invite readers to comment/send trackbacks
First problem: every programme?  Even Changing Rooms?  Could clog the blog and there’s also the question of keeping it going.  Somehow it has to be cut down.  Just news and current affairs?  What about documentaries?  What about Top Gear?

Every news item?  Even sport?  Well, you just never know where and when the trashiness is going to raise its ugly head.  And here there are even greater problems in keeping it up to date.  It probably requires a team.  For a one man operation it would really restrict you to those programmes you know in advance you are going to watch live.  And then there is the question of keeping readers informed as to what programmes you are going to cover.  But I think I have the answer to that.  EE has the facility to make posts sticky ie they stay at the top of the page.  That could be a good way of advertising things.

It occurs to me that it doesn’t have to be covered live or, rather, in real time.  But if the head blogger is going to write up a list of items then he has to tell people when he’s going to do it.  Obviously, real time is best.

And will people comment and trackback?  Now, there’s a question.  It is essential that they do.  Monitoring even one BBC programme is, I believe, beyond the capabilities of one person.  And there’s no way you can assemble the team in advance - you don’t know what is going to come up.  But getting people to give feedback depends on things like critical mass and persistence.  But nothing ventured nothing gained, as they say.

I’m trying out Verdana as the font.  Arial was getting difficult to read.

Some notes on design

Surfers have different platforms, different types of screen, different screen resolutions, different browsers with different settings and for all I know different (insert here).  And they all affect the way "Patrick Crozier" is displayed.  Consequently, I have no idea if what I am seeing is what everyone else is seeing.

A good example of this is the sidebar.  If you are browsing in IE6 it should look OK.  If you are browsing in IE5 it’ll look a bit too near the margin and bit too far away from the main text.  (Incidentally, if anyone knows what I have done wrong here please let me know).

These sorts of issues are hard enough for the professionals.  They have to work long and hard to find a reasonable compromise.  I can’t really afford to work long and hard.  I have to find a quick and dirty solution.  That solution is to make sure it looks OK on a PC, with IE6, with a CRT monitor at 800x600.  If you happen to be on an Apple with Solaris, a TFT monitor and some grand resolution and can still read this without getting suffering a bout of epilepsy I think we’re doing well.

Oh, by the way, I design for 800x600 because one of my most important readers uses that resolution.  Me.

09 December 2004

Copper’s Blog on youth:

For the genuinely unemployable there are innumerable schemes or projects that demand attendance a few hours a week. The aim of such schemes is to “…empower young people and give them back their self-esteem…”, in my experience the attendees require less “empowering” and a good deal less “self-esteem”. Young criminals hold such a high opinion of themselves that I for one would like to see them taken down a peg or two.

Johnny Rotten’s stage persona…

…was based on Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III.

Obvious when you think about it.

Biased BBC showcases a quite astonishing example of sloppy BBC fact-checking over Zimbabwe.

Category listing

As you can see I’ve added in a category listing to the sidebar.  A couple of points.  EE allows sub-categories.  Content, Design and Navigation are, in fact, sub-categories of Blogging.  EE does allow you to display them in such a way that these relationships become clear.  Unfortunately, everything on the sidebar is right-aligned and doing it EE’s way would look silly.  Not quite sure how to solve that one.  The other point is that when you navigate to the page for a parent category you will get all the posts for the sub-categories.  This is not a problem just yet but it could easily become one if we end up with one category containing lots of posts.

I’ve just added another link from the sidebar (entitled What’s this?) to my piece explaining feeds.  For a long time I found those buttons rather baffling and wanted an explanation.  And I guess if I did so do a lot of other people.

Feeds

As you can see from the sidebar we now have some feeds.  "But what do they do?" I hear you ask.  Well, what I do with them is to add them to my Bloglines account.  Then, every time I go into my Bloglines account it will tell me which blogs have new stuff and give me a summary of that new stuff.  Much easier than logging onto each of your favourite blogs on the off chance.

Why so many?  What do they do?  To tell you the truth I have no idea and the one time I did try to find out I got very confused indeed.  Apparently RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 have nothing to do with one another (or was it RSS 0.98 and RSS 1.1?).  The only practical difference I can find is that with RSS 2.0 and Atom you get links.  In RSS 1.0 any link in the text disappears.  Oh, and by the way, right now RSS 1.0 isn’t working.  Wonder why I bothered putting it up.

If you click the Subscribe with Bloglines button it’ll (almost) automatically subscribe you to this blog with an RSS 2.0 feed, just so long as you have an account with them.

07 December 2004
Democracy bashing

Hans Hermann-Hoppe, the Austrian-cum-American philosopher is at it again:

…under democratic conditions the popular though immoral and anti-social desire for another man’s property is systematically strengthened. Every demand is legitimate if it is proclaimed publicly under the special protection of “freedom of speech.” Everything can be said and claimed, and everything is up for grabs.

Now, I have a soft spot for Hoppe and even more of a soft spot for his democracy-bashing.  I note that as the franchise has been extended, so liberty has been curtailed.  Being something of a monarchist (uniforms, marching bands, gongs - marvellous), I am naturally attracted to his advocacy of monarchy as a better (or less bad) form of government.

However, I am not unaware of the counter-argument: say what you like about them but democracies win wars.  Now, I can’t say in so many words why I think the ability to win wars is so important but there can be little doubt that at the end of the 20th century, after three world wars and having faced down autocracy, national socialism and international socialism; in this department, at least, democracy had well and truly earnt its spurs.

Why I chose Expression Engine to manage my blog

Well, it certainly wasn’t the name. 

Over the last few months I have been experiencing some uneasiness about MovableType.  It was not to do with their decision to charge - I always thought they would.  It was more that I was finding that there were more and more things I couldn’t do with it.  And re-builds kept on failing.  Now, that’s not necessarily MT’s fault but I knew that identifying the root cause was going to be a pain.

I also couldn’t ignore the fact that some of the more techie bloggers have been moving away.  They usually have a good reason to do so.  So I started looking at the alternatives.

Originally, I had a completely different blog in mind.  It was going to be quite novel so that ruled out the more basic packages like Blogger and Typepad.  I looked at WordPress which is attracting quite a lot of attention but (from what I can remember of it) there seemed to be certain things it just couldn’t do.

I was impressed by EE.  The company seems to have an air of professionalism about it. It had the guts to take a pretty good predecessor (pMachine), throw it away and start from scratch.  I liked that.  And they have never minded charging.  In other words they have always known what they are about.

So, I signed up for a demo and was very impressed.  My ideas on blogging changed but when I came up with the idea for a scratch blog, EE, with its enormous flexibility, seemed the obvious candidate.

I have to say that having made the move I find it difficult to imagine going back.  It may not be the easiest package to learn (it has some fairly tricky-at-first concepts) but it rewards the effort you put in.  The only real problem is that it is so flexible that you usually have two or three different ways of solving any given problem.

A new title

Thought I’d experiment with a few guest titles, just in case "Patrick Crozier" ever gets boring - well, you never know …

Update It occurs to me that this post isn’t going to make much sense in a month’s time.  So, just for the record, today’s guest title is “The Blog’s Dollocks”

Non-trivial Solutions is on a roll.  Here he is on the Home Office’s latest bill:

‘A Home Office spokeswoman defended the bill, insisting it would not interfere with the right to free speech.’

Just as ID cards will not interfere with the right to privacy, jury-less trials will not interfere with the right to trial by jury, and detaining ‘terrorists’ without trial will not interfere with habeas corpus…

And eating my cake will not interefere with my ability to have it.

06 December 2004

My son and I are currently studying a 50-lecture course from The Teaching Company entitled The Great Ideas of Philosophy, with the very excellent Professor Daniel N. Robinson, of Oxford University and Georgetown University…I did not say, “I am teaching my son the great ideas of philosophy.” …In our homeschool we study with our son so that his education will not be restricted or delayed due to our inadequacies…

Linda Schrock Taylor on her family’s approach to home schooling.

And you thought the BBC was bad

This is bias Swedish style:

Recently I initiated a discussion about the strong left-wing bias in Swedish public service media. The discussion really took off when one of the most celebrated radio journalists, Cecilia Uddén, said that she did not think she had to be impartial or present both sides in the American election. I thought that was the start of something. I thought that public service would discuss the problem of having a very homogenous staff with the same kind of worldviews and news evaluations. I thought they would ask themselves if perhaps there is a tiny problem that 70 percent of their journalists vote for the leftists. I thought they would take a moment to think about why some news never make it in Sweden, and why others are blown out of proportions. I was expecting some form of self-criticism, or analysis. Anything…

Nothing. They thought that they’ve done everything right, past, present and future, and there was no need to think about the culture that could produce such a comment from such an experienced journalist. They just said that she had happened to make a stupid remark by mistake, and they stopped her from reporting for two weeks. And then everything was business as usual.

Until yesterday. Because now they have discovered that they have one television journalist who is not a leftist, and who actually supports the war on terrorism and Iraq, Per Gudmundson. And he writes about this on his blog, Gudmundson – which is widely recognised as one of the best, funniest, strangest and most interesting blogs in Sweden, by socialists, libertarians and those in between. Yesterday they gave him the ultimatum: Stop blogging or you’re out of here. After all, we have to be impartial and objective, and your strange views undermine that objectivity. Gudmundson has now been terminated.

From Johann Norberg.

If you can think of a less efficient way of working, let me know

The Blogosphere’s favourite policeman explains the intricacies of investigation procedure.

[T]here are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

Via DHYB

Excellent piece by Sean Gabb on Home Education.  A couple of quibbles.  For starters I thought it was Alistair Campbell who used the phrase “bog standard” before telling us that up North “bog” meant “really good”.  And then there was this:

They are from all social, educational, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

You don’t say.  But, as I said, these are quibbles.  Home education rocks.

On Categories

Should I have categories?  What use would they be?  I could have an About category which I could link to from the side bar.  I could have a Best Of category and then list all its posts in a third bar on the right.  Europhobia does this.  It would be a good way of flagging up my best stuff to first-time readers.  Should I go further and categorize everything?  But what for?  Would it make it more likely that people would delve into the archive?  Possibly.  It would make it slightly easier for me but I have no illusions here.  I had lots of categories on Transport Blog and still had to resort to a search from time to time.  And if I do have categories how many should I have?  And what if a post occupies more than one category?  I ask because when you write a post (I know this from bitter experience) the tendency is to try to put it into an existing category but often you find out later that it really ought to be placed into a new sub-category and then you have neither the time nor the inclination to dig out the old post and re-categorise it - which kind of undermines the completenesss of the new sub-category.  I could try to have as many categories as possible right from the start but by the time you’ve got Franchising, Fragmentation, Network Rail, Subsidy, Punctuality, TOCs all set up, along comes a post which falls into all of them.  Sure, you can categorise it as such but it does make a bit of a mess of the look of the blog (assuming they are displayed on the post in question).  Can I make it so only the first, say, three categories get displayed, I wonder?

And this is assuming that we are categorising by topic.  There is another way (though I’ve never seen this tried): by purpose.  So, State Failure in Health, State Failure on the Railways, State Success in Education (only joking) etc.

I have to make a decision pretty quickly.  If I don’t create some categories pretty soon I know I never will.  If nothing else I should have a Default or Miscellaneous category - uncategorised posts can be very difficult to find.

For the time being I think I’ll do that plus try to categorise the posts I already have.

And then I’ll have to get around to displaying them all.

05 December 2004
We have a sidebar

With Home and About and Archives and Categories (which I haven’t got around to yet) just like everyone else.  So, what’s all this about re-inventing the blog, eh?  Well, just because I am questioning everthing doesn’t mean that from time to time I’m not going to come up with the same answers.  Blogs are the way they are for a reason.

Anyway, just to say as soon as you add in a sidebar you open up a can of formatting and templating worms.  Where should I put it?  What colour?  What fonts?  The real problem is ensuring the sidebar doesn’t overbear the main text and vice versa.  If you think I’ve failed on that one, let me tell you some of the other shots were much worse.

It's grim up north

Wayne loves cars so much that he proposed to Colleen on a petrol station forecourt. On to her trembling finger he slipped a £25,000 diamond and platinum ring, which, when she learned how much time he’d been spending in a Liverpool brothel, she reportedly threw into a squirrel sanctuary.

From the Telegraph.

Did you know that the EU constitution did not exist in one place until this week?  And did you also know that this is no thanks to the massive bureaucracy of the EU but the result of the efforts of a retired Brigadier and his son?  So says Christopher Booker.

Update EU Referendum have also noticed this.

Back in the day when James Callaghan were Prime Minister and I were nowt but a nipper my mum and a few other mums in the village set up a playgroup in the large back room of the Methodist chapel.

What? An unregulated enterprise, unqualified staff, no government support.  Mark Holland details the full horror story.

04 December 2004

Dining cars to go?

"Let people kill burglars" as Sir John Stevens doesn't say.

Lest there be any mistake, this blog is officially against frog bashing.  However some examples are just too good to miss.

We don’t need no legislation

Seeing as no one else has spotted what Brian was really getting at (or, at least, what I think he was getting at) in his piece on Lycos’s spam-busting screen saver, I suppose it falls to me.

What he is actually saying is that not only do we not need the state to enforce the law but we don’t need the law in the first place.

You see cyberspace is a bit like a Hobbesian state of nature.  The forces of law and order are so far behind the game in both the “force” and “law” sense that they might as well not exist.  But is Cyberlife nasty, brutish and short?  Not really.  The only real problem in our Cyberanarchy is the spammers and it looks like Lycos is about to give them a sound kicking.  Problem (possibly) solved.

So, if is true that the virtual world doesn’t need the state why shouldn’t the same be true of the real one?

03 December 2004
A few more changes

I’ve made a few more changes over the last day or so:

  1. Added trackbacks.  What’s a trackback?  It’s essentially a way for one blogger to tell another that he has referred to one of his postings.  They are very like comments except that they are hosted somewhere else.  Because they are like comments I have combined the two (see here).  I have always found separate buttons for comments and trackbacks slightly irritating.  I have also put the trackbacks at the top as I think they are usually better written.
  2. Made a slight alteration to the colour of the banner.  It’s now redder.
  3. Changed the font.  Originally it was MS Sans Serif which I really liked.  Unfortunately, some symbols weren’t displaying and there was a tendency for italicised words to run into their neighbours.  I don’t get this with Arial
  4. Made the column slightly narrower
  5. Increased the line spacing.  These last two changes are a consequence of the move to Arial.  I think it improves the look.

01 December 2004
Comments problem solved

I have finally solved my comments problem.  Boy, that was hard work.

Burgundy for the banner.  See, I’m not entirely against colour.

“Updatable” posts

A few days I sort of indicated that posts were inviolate and could never be interfered with except by the addition of a block of text preceded by the word “Update”.  Well, that’s more or less still true for most things but there are some posts which are constantly being updated that this doesn’t really work for - To Do lists for instance.  So, the To Do list - and any other post labelled “updatable” is going to be exempt.

To Do

In approximate bang for buck order:

  1. Back ups
  2. Decide what I’m going to do with my old blogs
  3. Sort out preview page
  4. Post titles only on Category pages
  5. Re-design
  6. Indents
  7. Ads
  8. Photo Album
  9. Special category?
  10. 404 Page
  11. Search page format
  12. Advanced Search
I should also point out that this is going to be an ”updatable” post.

Done

  1. Colour for the banner
  2. Italics problem
  3. Trackbacks
  4. Archives
  5. Think about categories
  6. Navigation - Home, archives
  7. Why Expression Engine
  8. Sidebar positioning
  9. RSS Feed
  10. Display categories
  11. About
  12. To Do list on sidebar
  13. Writing about the BBC
  14. Blogroll?
  15. Link Permalinks to Archives
  16. Counter
  17. Categories on posts
  18. Work out how to do photos
  19. Contact
  20. Search?
  21. The 30-minute rule
  22. Permalinks
  23. Variable width for Main Col
  24. Add IB links to feed
  25. Permalinks for IB
  26. Boxes and background
  27. Add feedback link to feeds
  28. Category listing on sidebar
  29. Name
  30. Domain name
  31. Instapundit
  32. To write
  33. Best of