August 2003 Archives

Turn your blog into a romatic comedy

Must involve George Clooney.

Found via Andrew Ducker: Turn your website into a screenplay. Results for this blog (before I posted this message) below:


a romantic comedy screenplay by





CATHERINE ZETA-JONES is lovelorn and sad. She is complaining to her best friend ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) about the lovelorn and sad state of her life.


Oh, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS), do you think that I will ever find my true love? I am so lovelorn and sad. Surely, you, as my best friend, have some wisdom to offer


One of those words that is inherently comedic.



Hahahahahaha. How delightfully witty you are, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS)

Suddenly, GEORGE CLOONEY wanders into the cafe. He accidentally spills a drink on CATHERINE ZETA-JONES.


I'm so sorry.


You clumsy jerk, GEORGE CLOONEY! Why don't you look where you're going?

GEORGE CLOONEY apologises again and leaves


(staring after him)

What a creep.


See also Potato, and, of course, everything Weebl has ever done.


Boy you said it, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS). (sighs) I certainly hope I never see him again.




CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) are shopping for new crockery. A message comes over the loudspeakers.


What did that just say?


The interesting thing, to me, is the type of WMD that are claimed here.


Really? This large department store's management decisions are questionable at best.

She looks up to see GEORGE CLOONEY standing there. He is the manager of the department store.


Hello, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES. Perhaps you could offer me advice on how to run my store.


I don't think so, GEORGE CLOONEY. I took an instant dislike to you when we first met.


Via a snarky comment on the Edwards blog, ironically.


Yes, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS), good point. So you see, GEORGE CLOONEY, we can never fall in love.

GEORGE CLOONEY grins rogueishly.



Oh, GEORGE CLOONEY. I've changed my mind. I do love you.



CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) are receiving massages and talking.


GEORGE CLOONEY and I stayed up all night last night just talking. It turns out that we're both enormous fans of Jon Bon Jovi. I feel like I'm in that beautiful Shakespearean love sonnet. You know the one, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS)


Joins hallowed ranks of other Bush lies, deceptions and omissions.


No, not that one. The other one. Oh, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS), GEORGE CLOONEY makes my heart swoon so.

The masseurs start pounding their backs.


Oh. That feels good. (pauses) Gee, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS), I have never felt this way about a man before. Do you have any advice for me?


The whole thing is looking increasingly dodgy.


I hope you're right, ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) I'll keep that in mind.



CATHERINE ZETA-JONES is furiously ranting. ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) is listening intently.


I am so mad at GEORGE CLOONEY. I can't believe he stole all my money and got me kicked out of my apartment and locked in an insane asylum. I thought he loved me.

GEORGE CLOONEY shows up at the table. CATHERINE ZETA-JONES turns away from him. ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) gets up from the table to talk to him.


ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS), this is all a ghastly misunderstanding. I know CATHERINE ZETA-JONES is too mad to talk to me but maybe you can tell me what she's thinking.


The man is a despicable coward, and he deserves to go.


Well, if that's how she feels, I have no choice but to go away forever.



I have a broken heart now. Maybe a fortune cookie will have some advice for me. Please read me a message.

ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) cracks open a fortune cookie.



Stuff I can't be bothered blogging at length, but that you should know anyway.


Hmmmm... that's something to think about.




GEORGE CLOONEY is preparing to leave forever. He is boarding a ship. Suddenly, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) come running up.


GEORGE CLOONEY! Don't go away forever. I understand now that we only broke up because of a ghastly misunderstanding. I love you.




ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS) is making a wedding toast.


I'm not certain that he could be President, but he's too smart to waste.


Hear, hear.


And Atrios reminds us that we should read this Guardian article about Guantanamo bay.

Everybody laughs


Hahahahahaha!!!! Oh ILLUMINATED.CO.UK (BLAH ON STEROIDS). You are one of a kind.



One of those words that is inherently comedic.

It is well known that every good joke goes through three stages:

  1. Premise
  2. Halloween episode
  3. Lord of the Rings rip-off

See also Potato, and, of course, everything Weebl has ever done. Which now, apparently includes adverts (read the comments, not the actual blog entry).

(Update): Be sure to watch Weebl's take on Japan.

What are the Prince Charles rumours actually about?

And do they have anything to do with Michael Portillo?

There appears to be a fracas over allegations levelled against Prince Charles. Because of legal issues in the UK we don't know what those allegations actually are, but according to "Royal biographer Penny Junor" we hear that:

The allegations are so vile someone should put something in the public arena to counter that.

Serious stuff. But wait; a US-hosted blog says:

Looking over the posts at alt.gossip.celebrities, the rumor is that Prince Charles helped cover up the homosexual rape of a royal staffer by one of his servants, because he was having a sexual affair with him. Rumors have been floating around for years that Charles was not particularly picky when it came to bed partners.

You have to wonder about what Prince Charles is trying to cover up here. I mean, if Prince Edward came out and said he was gay, it would be front-page news for a day, tops. Nobody would be surprised. Similarly, given Prince Charles' previously-reported slightly weird ideas about sex (and who could blame him, given that the Duke of Edinburgh was his father and he was schooled at Gordonstoun?), few people would bat an eyelid if it turned out the heir to the throne had had interesting sexual experiences.

Let me say something about Michael Portillo here. (Background: Portillo decides not to stand at next election, recent commentary.) I've often thought that Portillo was an impressive Tory candidate who could do wonders against Tony Blair, because he has so obviously and impressively recanted; the days of Thatcherite bombast and SAS glorifying are over, at the very least superficially. This is why it's a horrendous setback for the Tory party him to publicly abandon the Tories just as Michael Howard is trying to construct a new Shadow Cabinet.

But I can't fault him on this. He's got a promising media career ahead of him, he's got his directorships, the party isn't poised to welcome him home with open arms and the Monarchy is being even more paleo-moralistic than normal. I am increasingly convinced that, by refusing to cut their losses and retreat to a Scandinavian-style bicycling monarchy, the current UK monarchy will not survive beyond the current Queen. I think the current Queen will live so long, Charles will be so discredited, but yet so determined to get at least a few years with the Crown, and William so bland, that once Elizabeth II finally snuffs it, the eventual successor will be so fragile and illegitimate that nobody will care about their legal successor. It will be so easy at that point to say "Well, we like the Monarchy and everything, but let's leave on a high point, and, you know, let's do a Chris Patten on the whole King thing." Look at the current pope: the Catholic church must be hoping for an early death, because every month that John Paul II clings on to life is a month that says to the world: "To hell with you modernist fools, we've got an almost-dying guy in power, and we think that's a good thing. In fact, we know this, because God told us."

In the mean time, I'm increasingly convinced that I need to pay more attention to the LibDems, given that I score far closer to them than I do Labour or the Tories.

Post-apocalyptic Backstreet Boys slash fiction

"[...] the idea of the Backstreet Boys plooking each other up the butt is just funny. Sorry, I'm not homophobic, but I picture a choreographic anal sex number and I just break up."

Part of a general roundup of slash fiction (the comments have even more ludicrous stuff). Probably safe for work - it's just text, after all - but may cause images in your mind that you didn't ask for. Via Andrew Ducker.

Lost in translation

A fun web toy that takes a phrase of yours and puts it through Babelfish and back - repeatedly.

The fun happy folks at uknot have been having fun with multibabel, so I thought I'd have a go. I started, admittedly, with something that wasn't exactly standard English to begin with, but I didn't expect it to turn out like this:

the UK2 - ferocious PHP/MYSQL/PERL of TODAY and the chemical warfare training AVAILABLE, that one we unloaded of the these our number passed of the employee of table UK2 - USED OF TABLE I GAVE SUPERULTRA - PHP/MYSQL/PERL the opening and it improves its site of the Web in or buys a new field and the shutdowns were closed he arrives of the beginning. PHP - The language of MySQL - more popular worlds puissants/Perl of the bed of iper of written Praeprozessor the text of the data - language of course practices in extration and of report/ratio and all ridiculous situation * L*O*W * to the PRICES like always.

One of the fun bits about this toy is that it shows you all the stages, so you can work out where the really weird stuff comes from. Sometimes it gets side-tracked right at the start: "the opening" comes from a mistranslation of "login" at the first step. "server" gets translated into "serveur", then back into "waiter", and stays that way until it can't translate "empregado de mesa" back and ends up as "employee of table" / "used of table".

Other words stay unscathed for quite a while. "prepared" is mostly unmolested", until the translation back from Portuguese adds "chemical" by mistake, and the translation back from Spanish turns the same phrase into "chemical warfare training".

If you decide you want to include Chinese, Japanese and Korean as well as European languages, it gets even weirder.

The time they use to us recently of the table of the rows and that the PHP/MYSQL/-UK2 to be affinchè ferocious is possible hour is extensively, we, which it uses the place of branello, of which it gives the form to the prepared UK2 and - this employee of the SUPERULTRA table - to the admission of branello of PHP/MYSQL/ and the HTTP this we regulated fogos,: and of the benefits the category of // of a distance that the inclusion, that is to say, has from the game, that must begin pure for you and this one new improvement. Always Praeprozessor of the original one of MySQL of the PHP- language - filling - done of the world of the language of branello of the base of the data power/the, of that very did not evacuate or that that that is report/ratio and or the letter of the method, * L*O*W * you taken to the prisoner the whole price.

The last bit, "LOW you taken to the prisoner the whole price", is especially good. Here's how the successive English versions go:

  • "LOW prices as always"
  • "as always everything of price"
  • "takes always all prices"
  • "very capture all price"
  • "capture all the price very"
  • "you take prisoner the whole price very much"
  • "you take to prisoner the entire price a lot"
  • "you taken to the prisoner the entire price"

Employer-employee relations

How companies gain from letting their people have lives.

For all that I think Gareth was right about some gender issues, I think he's missed the boat on others. From his recent livejournal post:

Feminism doesn't want to help men to achieve an equality in home life, despite the fact that the only way that women will move farther up the payscale is if men are allowed to take their place at home. There will always be one breadwinner and one who primarily takes time off to look after the kids.

I really dislike this type of zero-sum-game attitude. I also dislike one-size-fits-all policies. Surely, if there's one thing we've learned from Eastern-bloc-style socialism, it's that there are no easy answers, and you can't blindly apply rules to an entire country and hope to get better results than you'd get from any old random rules. (I don't have a link to this, unfortunately, but someone told me that that you can apparently instigate new rules in a company - no matter what the new rules are - and get productivity gains in the short term, perhaps because people work harder at meeting the new objectives or working a different way. In the same way that all diets work in the short term, perhaps.)

Consider this. I work from home, and it's great: I can get up and be at work, without a pesky commute, I can split my day the way I want to - so I can take an hour or two to do stuff that I need to do in town, and then come back to work - and I don't have to start, or stop, at the same time as lights go on and off in the office. Steve in Northern Ireland similarly enjoys this. Stu, on the other hand, didn't take to it, and after a while the company concluded (I think unfairly) that there was no other solution than to fire him. One size does not fit all.

An enlightened company that cares about its current employees and wants to recruit more, should offer a gamut of possible schemes and benefits for its employees to take up, whether it's flexitime, maternal or paternal benefits, working from home, or whatever. If a couple have had a baby, then, goddammit, leave it down to them as to how they cope with it. Maybe the mother spends all her time with the baby, maybe she goes back to work and the father is the prime carer, maybe they split the work between them; maybe whoever is in charge of the kid at the moment is doing it full-time, or maybe they're doing some work from home. The company shouldn't care, other than wanting its employee to do what's best for him or her. The important thing is finding a way for people to juggle work and having a goddamn baby in a way that suits them, and surely the best way for a company to deal with that is to give employees as many sensible options as you can think of and manage, and see what happens?

I have seen a couple of times what happened when a company had a number of talented employees and, through management decisions or indecision, lost them one by one. As Howard Dean would say, we can do better than that.

Minorities vs majorities

Gareth thinks feminists are being unfair. Sounds like an unsettled argument to me.

Gareth has been talking about feminism recently. He mentions a couple of examples where feminists have claimed that women are a) less likely to be unfaithful, and b) less likely to declare wars. He's not particularly convinced, and anyway:

There is little acceptance that equality seems to mean an equal opportunity to make those stereotypically male mistakes. And given the chance, women do. But rather than trying to sort this, accept this failing, there is such a spirit of denial that men's failings could be replicated that... well, it just annoys me.

Gareth later brings up another gender-related issue, being Oscar awards - why are there separate Actor and Actress awards? He argues that this is just affirmative action, which I think is one of his weakest points: irrespective of pay inequality and power structures, one of the first thing any script writer is going to do is to consider what gender a character is. It's one of the more reliably defining characteristics of any human being - far more than skin colour, ethnicity, nationality or maybe even ideology - and we may not know for sure how much someone's gender influences things, but we're pretty sure that it matters.

I think, perhaps, this is the main issue: gender is still something that we don't fully understand, and, what with equal opportunities, abortion, AIDS and homosexuality having been major political issues in recent years, it's not something that's going to go away. When it comes down to it, he gender debate is still a new and current question. Until we find something that trumps gender, it's not going to go away. Given that gender is a fundamental biological predictor of how our bodies and minds work, that may well be different.

In comparison, it's far easier for race issues to become less important: we always hate the most recent arrivals most. It's no longer a major stigma to be a Polish-, Irish- or Italian-American, or to be Jewish, or, for that matter to be black (quick: count the hostile stories on Latinos in the Californian media, and compare the numbers with those badmouthing African-Americans). The French no longer hate the Portuguese much more than any other close neighbours, and the Vietnamese immigrants after 1954 must have been severely relieved that France then went on to lose a war almost immediately afterwards against the Algerians, who had the triple disadvantage of being a) later, b) closer, and c) not having subsequently given the Americans a bloody nose after the French effectively said "OK, mister wise guy, let's see you have a go".

Frankly, this whole "women are less likely to do blah than men", "not so, women are equally or even more likely than men to do blah" he-said she-said tittle-tattle is a sign of an immature debate, a requirement of more research, and I look forward to finding out for sure, in perhaps twenty years or more, whether I'm more likely to dump or be dumped - at roughly the same time as medical scientists finally tells us whether wine, beer, both or neither makes us healthier.

Having a problem with your iMac? OK, what colour is it?

Apple did a number of things right with the original iMac, which has now been permanently shelved. Weirdly, some of these things it continues to do right with, of all things, iTunes.

There's a new eMac out, and it now means that nobody, not even educational users, can buy an original-style fruit-coloured iMac. The Register reports on the lasting impact of the original iMac; I've got some things to say about this as well.

One of the great things about the iMac was that it got rid of nonsense about model numbers and so forth. Dell offers a number of desktops, and they're all called product name four-digit number. At some point you may have to remember this meaningless number, because some techie is going to ask you when your machine breaks down or wants something new, and you're not going to know. Of course you're not going to remember that. Why should you?

What Apple did with the iMac, which was brilliant, was make the colour of the machine mean something. Just by saying that your machine was Bondi Blue, fruit colour, Ruby, Dalmatian or Snow, you were saying all you needed to say, and if the techie was in any doubt about what type of machine you had, he'd just ask you stuff like whether there was a DVD drive or something.

Now, Apple used to do stuff like this before - the bronze keyboard Powerbook, for instance - and still does - my current machine is a Mirrored Drive Doors G4, for instance. But they excelled themselves with the iMac.

Intriguingly, they're still at it with, of all things, iTunes. Every time you download a new version, its icon changes colour. I believe this is deliberate, so if you have a problem with iTunes, the first thing they ask you is what colour is the icon. Saves trying to get you go to the iTunes menu, then About, and read a version number.

Talking of iTunes: I won't comment on the DRM or Apple iTunes Store, because I live in the UK and can't buy their stuff. But I will say that they've made a vast, significant improvement over Amazon, in the way they handle music samples.

I don't tend to listen to song samples when I go to Amazon, for two reasons. First of all, it has to launch Real Player, which takes time. Secondly, it leaves all sorts of identically-named small files cluttering up my desktop like so many rabbit pellets - small, vaguely functional I suppose, but I don't want to know.

iTunes doesn't do this. I click on a song, and it plays it.