Thursday, October 28, 2004

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

In the last two weeks I've spent just a bit too much time in pub quizzes...

Last Monday I was at Key West (a wee pub in Westhill) for a music quiz, which sounds really good, but I'm only useful for songs in the 80's and 90's, leaving the earlier stuff for my parents to argue over.

Then the day after I was at Hog's Head in Aberdeen for their quiz, with Keith, Keven and Peter, where we managed to finish 13/15, though we've never really done that well there. We went back this week with Iain W and Danielle, but the regular quizmaster was away, leaving some joker with extremely difficult questions. So we finished 5th, with a score of 14/40.

Last night was more successful - Slains Castle's Halloween-themed quiz. Myself and 6 guys from my course were there, together with several WAP-enabled phones. It's safe to say we wouldn't have finished second without a little help from Google and IMDB, but considering the guys who came first dropped about 3 points in the whole quiz suggests that cheating was common that night. Still, I'd prefer to just go with what we know and avoid WAP/text aides.

Outside of pubs for a change, I've finally started the assessment for my second module. Basically we have to make a website using XSLT (XML stylesheets), XSP (JSP/ASP/PHP for XML) and ESQL (SQL for XSPs). Sorry for drowning you in acronyms. I've basically sat through many XML/XHTML lectures, waiting for XSP and ESQL to be taught, which it finally has been. I'm sticking with the same site design from my first module, so I can keep the same design and logic, and concentrate on coding.

I'm not sure what's on the cards for this weekend. I know there'll be a Friday night out with the course as always, and there's word of 2 different Halloween gatherings, but I'm not sure what I'll want to do - I'd rather get through a fair chunk of my assessment before spending 3 days in a drunken stupor.

Next weekend I'll be back in Glasgow, to help my sister move flat, to go climbing again hopefully, and to see the kids I left behind once more. So look out!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Discuzzting Language

I've just finished my community-minded stint for the day, sending the following email to the Scuzz TV channel. For those who don't know, Scuzz is a music channel on Sky (pretty much the best one going for its selection - no one else is playing Therapy? or The Ga Ga's, and they even play The Wildhearts).

I have a small concern to air regarding your recent playlist additions. A few days ago I saw "Paranoid" performed live by Ozzy Osbourne on Scuzz, and just now I watched "Anthem" by The Wildhearts (a most welcome sight I must say).

The problem is that both videos contained swearing, and were shown during the afternoon (i.e. before the watershed). Danny says "fucking" in the chorus of "Anthem", and Ozzy kept shouting "fuck" between verses.

Personally, I find listening to censored versions of songs a bit irritating, so certainly prefer the uncensored versions you've been playing. However, I don't think the ITC would hold the same view.

It may be that you have permission to play uncensored lyrics throughout the day, in the same way that Sky Movies can show 15 certificate films from 8pm onwards, though if this is true I'm surprised that there isn't some mention of this to let parents know what channels to let their kids roam free through.

What I think is more likely is that you have added these videos to your playlist and not thought to check their content first ("Paranoid" would certainly pass normally, and I've seen VH1 play a live version recently that was clean, so I'd understand if your version was assumed to be clean).

The point of this email is simply to alert you to the fact that these uncensored videos are being shown during the day, and that you should try to avoid this in the future - it would be a great shame for your channel to be terminated because of angry letters to the ITC from concerned viewers.

Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work.

It might not come across from that very well, but I'm only concerned about the channel potentially being axed, and not about the vile language being aimed at the kids of Britain. Nothing is going to shield kids from bad language, and I don't see any need for keeping it from them. I've just remembered hearing people say that as kids they listened to Guns N' Roses or Cypress Hill because they swore a lot, and you can imagine a lot of today's youth doing the same with Eminem due to the amount of censorship in his videos. That's not the way I've ever chosen a particular band for attention, but I guess whatever makes you happy and all that.


Last night I went to various pubs with Keith, Peter and Pete's sisters Dawn and Claire. Not much to comment on except the bus ride home:

The bus was packed, with far more folk on than normal. Keith was sitting next to me by the window, with Pete and Claire in front of us. We got on at Micky D's, and the bus stopped again at Burger King to get pick up more people. Which is when Keith was sick.

He just angled his head towards the wall and let forth his night's intake. He said that he'd have been fine if the bus hadn't stopped. Anyway, he didn't get much on the wall (and managed to clean it up with a tissue), and no one else seemed to notice, so we just stayed there.

When the bus got to Hazelhead (about 15 minutes later), he threw up again, and again no one noticed.

Thankfully it didn't smell (apart from of Irn Bru), and didn't seem to spread anywhere. I spent a good 5 minutes laughing uncontrollably at Keith, which probably didn't help him much, but it was funny how he got away with it (assuming he did - he got off the bus later than me). If only I'd had a camera with me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Not Climbing Up Those Walls

After a little investigation yesterday I found out that there are 2 wall climbing centres in Aberdeen(shire) - one at the Beach Leisure Centre and one out at Peterhead. The Peterhead one's described online as mainly being used for leading (where you attach your rope harness to the wall every few feet while ascending - quite advanced stuff), but the beach sounded promising.

I went down there this morning to find out more (couldn't seem to find a website for the leisure centre, though it's probably buried in the council's site somewhere), and it turns out that it's basically for bored pros/amateurs - there's no renting of equipment, no training/qualified people to help you out, and the wall seems to just be a big slab that was carved up 20 years ago (so it's not easy to improve it if it turns out the original design is poor).

In short, I'm not climbing that in a hurry. I'll bet it's alright for people for know what they're doing (as long as they hug the wall - there's a flat wall opposite it about 5 feet away!), but not for me. I'll just have to wait until my next Glasgow visit.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Climbing Up The Walls

My first post in a good few days. Apologies for the absence: I didn't feel like talking for a while. Pain is not for public display. The main topic of the last two posts crashed and burned last Friday, so I am once again looking for the one.

I've just spent the weekend in Glasgow, due to it being Stephen's birthday, and me having just finished my first module on the new course.

SilverStream: For my last assessment I had to build a site with some form of business transaction, for my chosen type of business. To help make things interesting for myself I put a bit of thought into the possible applications I could do, and came up with a movie stream rental service. There's a couple of these around at the moment, but none making much money since connection speeds need to be pretty high to view a stream.

Basically, I thought there was the chance to capitalise on the fact that DVDs come with many sound types (like Dolby Digital and Surround Sound), and audio/subtitled languages and commentaries. But who listens to every track? Anyway, I thought making a site where users could choose the combination of audio, subtitles and sound quality they wanted for a film, then just sit back and watch.

The bad news was that I couldn't put a Shopping Basket in to the system, because it didn't make sense to buy 5 streams at once if a) you can only watch one at a time, b) each stream expires after 48 hours, and c) you have to be connected to the net to watch each one anyway. But I made up for it with a nice advanced search feature, allowing users to search for actors, directors, plot words or film titles, and to limit searches to films offered in particular languages.

Friday: A quick bus journey after my handin and I was in Glasgow. Met my sister in town to get keys for her flat, went back there, had the worst cheeseburger supper of my life in about 5 minutes, then charged out again to meet all the kids in Waxy's.

It was good to catch up with everyone (and to see the faces on those that didn't know I was coming). We drank and talked away for a few hours, and were joined by a man who tried to convince us of his plan to crack the safe in the room next to where we stood (a room I'm almost certain he'd used as a toilet not long before).

For reasons best known to himself, Chris decided not to join in the good times on Friday. If this happens again, it will be treated as dereliction of duty, Mr Miller.

After Waxy's there was a bit of a downturn as people left and we spent a good half hour deciding where to go next. The Shack (of all places) eventually won out so we joined the surprisingly short queue there and entered (Stephen carrying a Bikini Girls calendar and two bottles of ale).

The Shack really isn't my choice of venue for a night out, but I'm happy to go where the party travels. It was quite odd seeing a dance floor with about 200 bodies on it, all essentially standing still for 2 hours. Not so much a cattle market as a butcher's window.

Saturday was a bit quieter. I spent 2 hours looking in clothes shops for a new jacket, which I eventually got as well as a blister from walking so long in new trainers. Shopping at the weekend has recently become necessary since my weekdays are quite busy, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Listening to my iPod is almost enough to make the sloth of the hoarding masses bearable.

It was yet another chance for me to write off a few shops as not being likely to stock anything I'd like in the next few years, and to become annoyed with the amount of clothing on the racks that looks like it's been made by a home economics class. Why is the current fashion to buy clothes that look so completely knackered? Added to the current obbsession with mo-hawks and it could look to the casual observer that early 90's metal and punk was the current style of choice.

Back to Saturday, and I spent the evening having a couple of drinks and watching Shark Tale with Rachel and Craig. Nice company, shame about the film. It was funny in places, but didn't really pull me in at all, and I think most of the jokes would have totally bypassed the bairns in the cinema.

Sunday: And now for something completely different. On Sunday I went wall climbing with Julie, Iain McGinniss, Irene, Iain McNaught and Alisdair. My first time climbing a wall (I've abseiled before, but going up's always easier than going down, or so I thought), and it was great fun. It's a pretty enjoyable thing where there's not really any competition and it's all about what you want to do yourself and how difficult you want to make the climb. My next plan is to find a climbing centre in Aberdeen and go for a training session.

The Day (Monday): Back to uni. Being taught how to write XHTML. Fun.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mars Attacks

The Work: The style of lecturing at Aberdeen so far has been very different to that of Glasgow. For one thing, the lecturer asks questions regularly. And he gets responses! Over the last 4 years, my lectures have been rooms of muted students with the ocassional exceptions who had to bear the brunt of all questions. But not anymore - even I'm offering up answers!

As I've already told many people (my soundbyte for the week), I have a 4500 word essay due on Tuesday, which I'm glad to say is going quite well so far, though I still need to do more research. We have to write critically about an E-Commerce site, and I've chosen CD Wow, a site that I first thought would be well made, but is actually full of holes (not that I'd do much better).

The Play: On Friday I went out with a few old friends, unfortunately requiring that I drop out of a night out with some of the guys on my new course. I thought I'd have a good time, but instead had to sit through drinking games of questionable worth, and sit next to a guy who'd be on my enemy list if I ever had need for one. No need or wish for elaboration, just note that moving back to where you grew up also means moving to where your growth was also stunted.

The Rest: But not all can be bathed in a poor light this week. My hopes from the last post were confirmed, and I met up with the "sweet lass" from Saturday. We had a good time, we will meet again, and I am a happy man. Remember Marty: if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.