Saturday, March 31, 2007

Something different - me without a mask

Seriously. I actually don't wear a mask in this video . I still think you can't really see my face because of the lighting I used but a few people on YouTube got excited when they saw it. I ought to give the same disclaimer here I did on YouTube:

I HAVEN'T GONE EMO! This is actually a piece I wrote about 20 years ago. It is about death and it is about a true story but I think I've managed to get over the events described in the intervening decades so don't worry about me.

So without further ado, I present me doing a dramatic reading: "The Bonfire".

Friday, March 30, 2007

Homophobia and Homoeroticism

Here's a bit of inside information for those who may not know: when you're a male, you learn from a very early age that terms like fag, poof and homo are insults. These days most people don't see "gay" slurs as particularly strong insults but they remain insults due to homophobia. From my experience, the driver for people's homophobia falls into one of the following camps (or it might cross a few of them):

  1. Religious or cultural indoctrination
  2. Thinking gay sex is gross
  3. A fear that a gay guy is going to come on to them and violate their precious heterosexual butthole (this fear is unique to men and is usually totally unfounded - the men most paranoid about this tend to be completely unattractive to gay men)
  4. A fear (in men again) that they will be seen as gay if they aren't homophobic
  5. Repression of actual gay feelings (seriously, look up the studies - most aggressively homophobic men are closet cases)

Homophobia can have funny effects on men's behaviour. The dominant stereotype is that gay=effeminate so to distance themselves from any potential gayness, many men get obsessive about being "manly". It seems like a good theory but the insistence on surrounding yourself with other many men and performing acts of physical prowess can't help but, well, seem a little gay. I find it funny how often homophobia and homoeroticism cross paths. In Australia particularly this can get extreme. One of my favourite jokes is "An Australian male's definition of a poofter is anyone who likes women more than beer".

I'm continually being called gay on YouTube for example because, by mainstream standards for men, I'm expressive (particularly with my hands) as well as articulate and well-spoken. People (usually males) tend to say it because they think, according to the stereotype, it might be true and/or they think it's an insult. I fail to see how the topic can be of any relevance to anyone, male or female, straight or gay, unless they want to suck my dick. People interested in sucking my dick may feel free to contact me privately.

There are many good jokes about the boundaries between male camaraderie and homosexuality, a favourite of mine can be found online - the trailer for a fictional film that combines sequences from "Back to the Future" with the themes of "Brokeback Mountain". In "Brokeback to the Future" we learn the truth of the relationship between Doc and Marty. It's a beautiful story. What I find really funny is that they could create the gay mood just by using images and dialogue that already existed in the original movie.

More recently, someone tried to do the same thing with the movie "300" with far less success. It fails for two main reasons (1) it simply isn't as well-done as "Brokeback to the Future" (although some of the editing is good) and (2) you're trying to find "hidden" homoerotic subtext in a film about near-nude Spartans? Ummm, guys, how good is your knowledge of history?

What I found far funnier than the video was some of the comments it inspired. 300 has been very popular with young men. And many young men are desperate to assert that they are not gay. Homophobic reasoning often follows this path: "if I like something gay or admire someone who's gay, that might mean I'm gay. Therefore I don't like anyone who's gay and nothing I like is gay." This train of thought came out pretty strongly in some of the comments like:

"show some repect to the spartans you idiot ... the Athenians were into sodomization with their pages, not Spartans ... Too hard to make spartans look gay ... Dumbb video. you CANNOT make 300 seems gay (grammatical errors are in the original) ... actually spartans looked down upon homosexuality ... spartans were straight, athenians were gay ... just doesn't work with this movie ... i dont think that 300 guys that have KIDS and like to kill people are going to be gay."

Boys, boys, boys. I think all homophobia is stupid. If you're going to try and justify your homophobia, you might want to avoid making yourself even more stupid by making idiotic assertions that fly in the face of all current historical that I'm aware of. When you thrash around like this, tying yourself in knots saying "NOTGAYNOTGAYNOTGAYNOTGAY", honestly, it just looks like you're trying to hide something.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

IT Leaders who Inspire

Inspired by Jerome at The Corporate Cynic I have decided to take a break from detailing work issues and people that make me angry and write about qualities in people I have worked for and with who were capable of inspiring the best from people rather than simply demanding it. OK, to provide contrast I'm going to give negative examples as well but this is still more positive than my usual approach.

I'm going with the generic terms of "leaders" because the roles filled by the people who inspired this post have varied over the years. Some have been team leaders, some have been project managers, some have been departmental managers and some have been CIOs. The Corporate Cynic does a good job of covering qualities that are applicable in any industry but for this post I'm going to focus on qualities that are of particular value in IT leaders. Arguably, these traits have value beyond IT environments but they are more integral to an inspiring IT leader.

A passion for technology Great IT leaders don't have to be hardcore geeks but if they aren't passionate about technology, if they aren't excited about the possibilities of the future then they're hardly going to inspire enthusiasm in their staff. IT staff can tell a mile off when a manager is only interested in climbing the corporate ladder and has no passion for the work.

Knowing they aren't the smartest It's actually often a bad idea to promote the best programmer (for example) to management. Good workplaces find ways to reward good IT workers other than pushing them away from what they are good at and into management. Strong IT leaders understand the concepts behind the technology but are happy to acknowledge when superior expertise exists within the team. Bad managers refuse to admit when someone is smarter than them and refuse to take the advice of people who know better than them simply because they happen to be subordinate.

Knowing how to promote IT within the business The best managers I have worked with have gone beyond protecting IT staff from office politics and have actively promoted the benefits of IT at board level. The confidence this gives IT staff helps them deliver better quality results. Bad managers promote themselves at the expense of the IT department. They take credit for success and blame the team for problems.

Provide a vision Doing this right can be a bit of a balancing act. The dynamic nature of IT make providing a compelling vision even more important for inspiring workers. Steve Jobs might not be God but the level of direction he gives Apple is a major factor in the dedication of the staff and the company's success. But there has to be integrity and depth behind any talk of vision - IT staff can smell bullshit in this area a mile off.

These are some qualities that can help a leader inspire IT workers. Of course all the other good stuff covered by the Corporate Cynic should be there too - being honest, respectful, supportive, dependable.

Why is this even important? The number of bad managers who place no importance on inspiring staff provide fuel for a million blogs. The "do what you're paid to and stop complaining" attitude is so common it seems like it must be taught at day on of business school. But I know from experience that, on average, being "inspired" is far more important to IT workers than it is for many other. Most IT people start working in IT because they love the work. They start "working" on IT long before they're employed to do it.

And sadly, truly inspiring IT leaders are few and far between. Most bad managers I have been subjected to seem to take active joy in treating their staff badly. They think giving staff more than the minimum is inefficient and a waste of time and money. But in purely economic terms, giving IT staff inspiration is one of the most valuable things a manager can. Inspired IT workers will willingly work longer, harder and produce higher quality work.

The thing is, leaders capable of inspiring their staff probably don't need any advice from me. And I worry that bad managers will exploit the above tips by using the other lesson they learn on the first day of business school: once you learn to fake sincerity, everything else is easy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Uncle Angry's bedtime story

Here's something a little different after the turmoil I was posting about yesterday. I think we could all benefit from relaxing a bit. And what could be more relaxing than sitting back while your Uncle Angry reads you a bedtime story? So take your shoes off, lean back and let me tell you all about "A Quiet Day In ToyTown..."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's the same old story

I rarely join in on the blag-o-spheroid buzz of the day but I do feel compelled to throw in my 2c on the events that have a massive number of people all a-twitter today. Essentially, a rather high-profile (and rather good) blogger, Kathy Sierra, has been subject to some extremely vile and graphic harassment. She details the events here on her blog (I should throw in the obligatory warning here - I wasn't joking when I said graphic. Consider yourself duly warned before you follow that link.)

The actions of the people involved are utterly reprehensible and inexcusable. And you know what else? This. Is. Normal. This is how people behave online. The only difference I can see in this case is that the perpetrators seem to be connected to some incredibly high-profile people. I imagine those people are in major arse-covering mode right now.

I find the majority of reaction from other bloggers slightly confusing. The outpouring of support for Kathy Sierra is fantastic but the recurring "I can't believe this happened" theme simply boggles my mind. Really? You can't believe people would do this? What fucking internet are you using?

It isn't that I'm not outraged by this - I am. I'm just not surprised. Maybe I've spent too long on YouTube (as xkcd put it so eloquently, the behaviour of YouTube haters is bad even by internet standards.) I've gotten so used to receiving violent, anti-semitic (ironic considering I'm not Jewish) and homophobic (ironic considering I'm not gay) threats that I thought everyone was used to that standard of behaviour. I've also repeatedly seen the most vile, disgusting attacks imaginable levelled at women and children.

Ever wondered why I post anonymously and wear a mask when I make videos? Astute readers will note that I've done that from day one. It wasn't an afterthought. I'm not doing it retrospectively as a results of some vile little troll. I thought it through ahead of time and realised it was going to be very important. Sometimes it pays to have a very low opinion of humanity in general. You're so rarely proven wrong.

So I am having a little trouble understanding why people are so surprised by this. I remember one prominent female YouTuber said she was going to stop making videos unless something was done about the haters. I hope she does the right thing by herself and never goes back to YouTube. Nobody deserves to be treated like that and if you don't have sufficient psychic armour to withstand the assaults then you're far better off staying out of the online fray altogether. It's a sensible response (I'm not sensible).

Kathy Sierra has cancelled a public appearance and is seriously considering not returning to blogging. I can't blame her. I would like to throw a few questions at Robert Scoble, who's taking a week off blogging in support/protest. In his announcement, one of the things he said was "We have to fix this culture. For the next week, let’s discuss how." Fix it? You mean change the behaviour of thousands of (mostly) young (mostly) male fuckwits who get their jollies by launching cowardly, vile attacks against people who don't deserve it? You really think you're going to fix that?

Short of rounding them all up and shooting them (they aren't as anonymous as they think) there is no "fix" for this problem. So far as I can see, there's just dealing with it and not contributing to it. And as for taking a week off, it's a noble show of support for someone who deserves support but don't you realise that these gutless little dweebs would see that as a victory?

This is how the internet works. I thought people realised that.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why IT people hate bad business decisions

I'm going to use an incident from my past to illustrate why bad business decisions drive IT people crazy. And if you work in IT and you don't get involved in business decisions then you should - this example will show you why. This is possibly the single worst business decision I have personally been involved with in my entire IT career.

I've never been involved in some massive multinational company where the decisions involved billions of dollars and affected thousands of people. This story also isn't about the collapse of a company. It might not be as sexy as some stories but it does highlight a typical, fundamental disconnect that occurs all too often between business and IT. Or between business and any sort of rationality and common sense. Some of the identifying elements have been changed to protect the guilty but the core aspects of the decision as I'm going to relate it are true.

I was working in a large logistics company that leased a large range of assets to companies all over the country. Everything from furniture to computers to vehicles were managed via the corporate leasing system. When leases expired on the assets (after 6 months to 3 years) my company took them back and usually sold them via auction (through 3rd party auction houses) to recoup the residual value. Each year, tens of millions of dollars worth of stock was sold this way. Here's a tip: find out how end-of-lease merchandise is sold in your town - you can save a fortune buying this way.

I was the analyst on the development of an IT system to handle these auction transactions. The existing process was paper based - a list of inventory was distributed, auction houses nominated what items they wanted to sell, the items in question were delivered to the auction houses, they were sold at auction, the auction house took a commission and paid my company the remainder of the sale price.

I was given some high-level business requirements (essentially revolving around tracking and reporting on progress of the transactions) and had to develop some detailed specifications that the programmers could use to develop the system. A key part of the development cycle was that a pilot was going to be run with the single biggest auction house. This one outlet handled about 40% of all our inventory and the remainder was split among about 10 other auction houses. If the software worked with the big outlet, it would then be rolled out to the others.

Upon analysing the rather sketchy Business Requirements document (filled mostly with ill-defined jargon and waffling), one half-sentence stood out as essentially being the whole requirement for the project. After transactions were processed "an exception report is required." This made sense - tens of millions of dollars in inventory was going out to external parties every year. It would be nice if you knew the sales they were reporting matched what you had sent them to sell.

I spent some time with the primary business user (who was much more switched on than the bodgy BR document suggested - it turns out he had very little to do with its creation.) He agreed that identifying any discrepancies between the items we sent out and the items reported as sold was the single most important requirement. After some discussion we identified a way to track discrepancies far more accurately than simply "we sent you something to sell and you didn't give us any money for it."

Because my company bought and sold such huge volumes we had a very detailed cost history in a database. We could say quite accurately what something should be worth new, after one year, after two years and so on. The system could be programmed to check sale prices against historical averages and if the deviation was too big (say, more than 20%) you could follow up with the auction house to find out why they'd sold it for such a low price. The whole thing could be managed much more efficiently because instead of having to check every transaction, the business user would only have to check out of the ordinary sales that triggered the exception rule.

So we had an elegant solution that wasn't particularly difficult to implement. I was feeling pretty good. I submitted the specification to my manager for approval. And received a rather unexpected response:

Manager: "We don't need to check the dollar amounts they report."

Me: "Why not?"

Manager: "We trust them to get the numbers right."

Remember, this was for transactions worth tens of millions if not hundreds of millions every year. My manager was suggesting the amount of oversight required for external parties handling these transactions was zero. I was stunned. I thought maybe I hadn't explained the solution clearly.

Me: "We're not talking about manual checking of figures. We already have all the information required to automate this sales audit. We can make the threshold as generous as you like - maybe a 25% deviation. Maybe only apply the check to transactions worth more than $10,000. If they never get the number wrong then nothing will ever happen - we'll only be notified if a transaction looks wrong."

Manager: "We trust them so there's no need to check the figures."

Me: "What exactly do we trust them to do? Do we trust them to never, ever make a mistake when they enter a value? Do we trust them to never dishonestly manipulate the auction and sell our stuff to a friend of theirs for far less than its fair value? Do we trust them to never falsely report a low sales price and pocket the difference?"

Manager: "Of course, that's exactly what we trust them to do."

Me: "That's crazy!" (note to self: stop telling business people their ideas are crazy) "You trust every single person that works for that company? You trust people who might work there in the future, people we've never met? And even if you trust our major partner, this will be rolled out to a dozen other companies. Do you trust everyone who works for them and everyone who will ever work for them?"

Manager: "I've answered your question, stop trying to make things more complicated than they need to be."

Me: "I've already talked to the programmers and this check is relatively trivial to put in place. Maybe two days of programming and testing. It won't affect our overall delivery schedule and it will result in a much better system."

Manager: "We don't need to use even those two days because we trust them."

Me: "So you're going to consciously put into place a system that would allow massive errors to pass through undetected. A system that would allow large scale fraud to go undetected. When there's a really simple solution already defined?"

Manager: "Yes. It isn't required because we trust our partners."

I think it would have hurt my head less to bash it against an actual brick wall rather than to continue to butt up against this figurative one. Here's why business decisions like this make IT people so angry: it's illogical, it allows bad data to enter the systems and it's easily solvable. And here's why IT people should care about decisions like this: you just know when the inevitable happens and some huge amount of money goes astray, IT are going to be blamed for building a system that "allowed" it to happen.

So what did I do? I circulated an email to everyone who could possibly be affected that this decision had been made. I made it clear that it was possible to have this check in place but it had been declared unnecessary. I included the same information in the specification. And at the first opportunity I found a job somewhere else because I wasn't going to be subjected to that lunacy if I could avoid it.

Any suggestion that I took a job processing payments at one of the auction houses is unfounded conjecture. The fact that I have an early retirement planned at an offshore tax haven where I have a secret bank account is purely coincidental.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A haircut makes all the difference

I made a few videos recently about my own haircut misadventures. I was lucky, haircuts are important. Think of how defendants at murder trials always look clean cut - even if they're homeless psychopathic serial killers, their defence lawyers want them to look good.

As an example, check how legendary rock producer Phil Spector is wearing his hair at his murder trial:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The history of Blurred Vision

The video I posted last night had its genesis almost 20 years ago. Way back in 1989 I wrote, produced and performed some comedy for a local radio station, JJJ. Among the comedic gems I produced were a couple of spots for "Blurred Vision", born out of annoyance with people who thought if they had a walk around the park on a Sunday afternoon they were saving the world.

I updated the concept for the video I just made to give it a Mr Angry flavour and I may well do a few more Blurred Vision spots as I have a few more of my old scripts. One reason I have a soft spot for these old Blurred Vision scripts is they got me my first complaint. That feels really special. This was back in the day mind you, no speedy one line emails or instant messages back then. This person took the time to type up a letter and fax it in to the radio station.

That really felt like a significant personal achievement. In this video I tell the story of that complaint and read it from the original fax which I have saved since 1989. Seriously, it's that important to me. Then I go off on a bit of a tangent about the level of hate flying around YouTube right now. I get pretty angry. Watch it if you like that sort of thing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

My New Charity - Blurred Vision

I'm branching out. My new money making venture, ummmm, I mean service to humanity is a charity called "Blurred Vision". Watch this video and find out all about it.

Send me money. You'll feel better about yourself.

My One Year Blogiversary

On the 23rd of March, 2006 I posted my first-ever blog post as Mr Angry. A whole year ago. Shit. Maybe it's true what they say - time really does fly when you're having fun. When I started I had the pre-conceived idea of posting at least one new thing every day for a year, hence the name of the blog "Angry 365 Days a Year". That was on my Blogger account, I started publishing on Wordpress as well a week or two later so I'm going to keep up my daily posting at least until I reach my Wordpress-iversary.

At the time I though it was an insane idea. A year seemed impossibly far into the future and maintaining a daily post rate for that time seemed like I was making a rod for my back. Add to that the fact that my intention was to, as much as possible, create original material rather than linking to existing material and even to keep the commentary on current events and other blogs to a minimum. And just to make it even more difficult, I decided to post as a persona, Mr Angry, who (strictly speaking) isn't me. The strongest elements of Mr Angry are doubtless really me but viewed through a distorting lens and amplified through a megaphone.

I don't have a problem with blogs that are all links and commentary, some people do this very well. But that was what essentially drove my thinking: there are enough people doing that already. In my vanity, I wanted to be the original content that other people linked to and commented on. Also, I've always like writing but historically I've been very undisciplined. Writing is a skill like any other, practice and you'll get better. I like to think the self-imposed discipline of regular writing has improved the quality of my writing over the last year.

It's certainly been fun. Being lucky enough to come into contact with an amazing range of people through blogging has definitely been the highlight of the past year. The strength of the conversation through comments and being able to enjoy other people's blogs has been a constant source of inspiration for me. Even though in big picture terms I'm still a nobody, I did not dare hope for this level of success in my first year. I've had a good time and it's given me the courage to keep going and try for greater things.

And for the curious, to save you going back through the links, this is the first thing I posted. Kind of a mini-manifesto:

So to start with: what’s the main thing that makes me angry? (besides people
asking me “Why are you so angry?”) In a word, it’s people. I’d be a hell of a lot less angry if it wasn’t for all the damn people.

Everywhere I go, people! I swear, do you all get together somewhere and formulate ways to make me angry? Because when I look at the average knucklehead making me angry I figure there’s no way they’re smart enough to consistently find new ways to frustrate me the way they do. The only logical explanation is that you’re all involved in a conspiracy against me.

I know, you think it’s all fun and games, but I’ll warn you right now: my time is coming. That’s right, you’ll have to answer for your stupidity one day – everyone who pisses me off goes on THE LIST. And when I’m running things everyone on the list pays! Think about that next time you cut me off as you change lanes without warning.

Don’t think it won’t happen. You’re on notice.

I'll ruminate a bit more on where I think I might go with this runaway train when I reach my Wordpressiversary (which will also be close to my 500th post). One thing's for certain, Mr Angry will be around for a while. There are way too many people in this world who piss me off for me to stop now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The cold water thieves

The whole issue of water is pretty fraught in Australia right now, taking into account the annoying fact that we simply don't have enough of it. But I'm not writing about big water issues today, I'm writing about smaller, more personal water issues.

Namely, the cold water dispenser at work. The kitchenettes where I work all have this thingie (a technical term - I can't help myself, I'm a nerd) that dispenses filtered water. It has two little levers; you press one and you get boiling water (a lawsuit waiting to happen if you ask me), you press the other and you get chilled water.

I like really cold drinks. Eagle-eyed viewer may notice that there is often a drink next to me in my videos. This is a large glass, usually stacked to the top with ice then the gaps are filled with my beverage of choice. There are no freezers at my workplace so I can't have ice (I can tell you're asking yourself, "How does he survive such hardship? Surely he's the reincarnation of Mother Theresa"). So when I get a glass of chilled water I want it to be really chilled.

Not everyone feels this way, for some people the water that comes out of the dispenser is too cold. Boo hoo. Stop complaining about inconsequential things you whiners. The real injustice for me happens when someone gets to the dispenser just before me and they fill up a really large bottle or jug. The dispenser has a reservoir of chilled water and if the person before me takes all the chilled water, my drink isn't as cold as I like it. The injustice!

Someone almost earned a punch in the head today for their water gathering behaviour. My first inward sigh of disappointment came when they started filling up a large container, thus depriving me of the most chilled water. Then, they topped off the container with boiling water because the chilled water was too cold for them!

What the fuck?!?!?!?!

So they took all my fucking chilled water and then wasted it by adding boiling water. And they think that's acceptable behaviour. There ought to be a law against that sort of thing. And when I'm supreme overlord of the Earth, there will be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Return of the toilet vampires

The toilet vampires have been at it again. Those evil incorrect toilet paper handing bastards are trying to mess with me because of the public stand I've taken against them. Like most clandestine organisations, the Society to Hurt Innocent Toilet-Paper (or SHIT) don't take kindly to having their secrets exposed.

I have it on reliable sources that the heads of the SHIT conspiracy (known collectively as the SHIT Heads) have launched a vendetta against me. They spy on my toilet habits and try to find ways to fuck with me. At work today they got particularly nasty.

I have of late taken to using the wheelchair-accessible toilet at work, simply because it's private. There aren't actually any wheelchair-bound people at work so I'm not making life hard for any disabled people. The privacy is important to me - I've sounded off frequently in the past about how gross I think communal toilet cubicles are (what's worse that sitting next to someone doing a stinky shit? Sitting in the middle of six people doing stinky shits!)

So the bastards knew which toilet I would be using and they sabotaged the toilet paper. They'd weakened the toilet paper somehow so it tore in vertical strips rather than coming out in sheets. And because the paper is hidden away in a dispenser designed by satan himself, it was a bastard of a job to try and get the strips that hadn't come off and were still attached to the roll. Without evening the roll out like this the problem got progressively worse so I had to spend ages struggling with it.

The end result was basically me being forced to wipe my arse with confetti. It may surprise you to learn that confetti is not the most efficient of arse-wipers. But those SHIT Heads won't get me down! I'll keep fighting the good fight.

And just to show how great my commitment is to toilet issues, here are a few of my video rants on toilet related issues that you may have missed the first time around:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The myth of history

One of my favourite running jokes in the animated series Futurama is their depiction of history. As Futurama is set around the year 3000, our time is history so we get a representation of how these future people imagine our lives. Much like we try to piece together ancient history from fragments, the future people have no reliable record of our era ("The Stupid Ages") because of alien invasion and various other catastrophes.

The reason I like their history jokes is that they are broad and subtle at the same time. Broad because their guesses at our lives are always absurdly wrong. The have one piece of evidence and from this they extrapolate our entire lives, usually with surreal results. "Primitive" car assembly robots are depicted like Flintstone cavemen, complete with leopard print leotards, clubs and saying "ooga-booga."

When an ancient pizza place is uncovered, it is surmised that the scoop used to get pizzas out of the oven was actually for paddling delivery boys. The main character, Fry (who was a pizza delivery boy in the 20th century), corrects the museum and tells them paddling him was only one of the uses it was put to ("It was also used to move pizzas and crush rats").

The jokes are subtle at the same time because they are pointing out that our understanding of ancient history are probably just as screwy. Very little history is based on "fact" - it's nearly all guesswork. Sometimes there is a lot of supporting evidence but there's no getting around the fact that, educated or not, guesswork is the dominant feature of history.

One of my favourite examples of this is the so-called Venus of Willendorf. This paleolithic sculpture of a well-rounded woman has produced many theories, usually geared to fit in with the political agenda of the theory's proponent. The exaggerated sexual characteristics have led many to believe that it is some sort of fertility object or it is evidence of a strong matriarchy existing in a prehistoric culture. Yeah, either that or it was made by a teenage boy with a thing for big titties.

There's also a storm in a teacup being brewed by certain historians over the new film "300". The film is based on the graphic novel (i.e. comic) by Frank Miller, which in turn is inspired by the famous story of the stand taken by 300 Spartans against an advancing Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae. It is by all accounts a visual extravaganza and if you happen to like watching large numbers of semi-naked men with impressive abs get disembowelled, then this is the movie for you.

But a number of historians are up in arms over what they perceive as the gross inaccuracies in the movie (what, you mean there weren't really obese guys with swords for arms working as executioners in ancient Persia?) Their self-righteous prattle is completely pointless for two main reasons:

1. It's entertainment you fucking idiots. For god's sake, it's a movie based on a fucking comic. A classical story is being used as a vehicle to explore themes. It has no pretension of being a history text. And it's hardly the film-makers' fault if anyone takes it such.

2. Your precious "history" is bullshit. What are so-called historical records of the Battle of Thermopylae based on? Third hand accounts, self-serving memoirs and poetry for fuck's sake! There is no evidence whatsoever that any historical version of Thermopylae is any more accurate than the imaginings of people from the year 3000 in Futurama. Opinions are not the same as evidence.

For anyone who feels like getting all huffy about the sanctity of history, think about this: how often have you been to some sort of performance (a concert, a play or maybe a movie) that you absolutely loved then later you heard someone else savaging it, saying it was the biggest load of shit ever? And how many times have you witnessed some significant event then heard someone else report it totally differently?

Maybe their physical location was different to yours and so they literally saw it differently. Maybe their personal or political outlook is different to yours and so they saw it differently metaphorically. Or maybe they're a liar. Or maybe they're just a dick. But when you can't trust someone to accurately report on something you witnessed yourself yesterday, how the fuck can you trust accounts of what may or may not have happened thousands of years ago?

In short, if you feel that it's necessary in your professional role to get worked up over a movie (whether your a historian or maybe a politician) you're not a professional. You're a fucking joke.

Monday, March 19, 2007

An Unwise Decision Part 3 - The Horror Revealed

Well, I think I milked the tension for all it's worth. I might as well show you what my self-inflicted haircut looks like. On the plus side, one of my regular YouTube viewers reminded me that I'd worn a hat once while doing a character called Mac. So I dug the hat out just for this occasion.

Imaging how much I'll milk it if I ever decide to take my mask off.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

An Unwise Decision Part 2

While I was trying to decide what to do about my self-inflicted haircut I decided to post a video I'd made earlier with my kids. Check out how screwy my hairline is and you'll see why I felt compelled to attack it myself.

An Unwise Decision Part 1

I had a fairly stressful week at work. It got to the point where I was blowing little things out of proportion (hard to believe I know). One thing that started to really piss me off was the fact that a hairdresser had fucked up my haircut. I had this weird uneven sticky-up bit that nobody commented on but I thought was really obvious.

In the end, I decided to do something about it. Some people would have gone back to the hairdresser and asked them to fix it. Not me. I decided to fix it myself. This experience has provided three lessons for me:

  1. Don't let work get to you too much
  2. Pay more than $5 for a haircut
  3. Don't cut your own hair
Judge for yourself:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Great Moments in Spam Irony

Akismet continues to hand spammers their arse on a platter, much to my delight. Their approach seems to have changed a while ago, instead of letting me see the hundreds of spam comments it was catching each day, they seem to be blocking them at the server with a few slipping through to be caught and a very small number actually reaching blog posts before I delete them manually.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can imagine dealing with spam without a tool like Akismet. To give you a sense of scale, I reached 1,000 legitimate comments and 1,000 spam comments at about the same time. Currently, I'm at about 4,000 legitimate comments and Akismet is reporting that it's blocked 43,000 spam comments. Based on the rate spam was arriving before they started blocking them at the server, the real number Akismet has blocked would be over 70,000. Forget outnumbering real comments, I thought at one point that spam was going to outstrip actual views.

Every now and then, the comment spam gets put into a moderation queue and today the combination of spam and post in the moderation queue gave me a bit of a laugh. Back when I started getting really assaulted by comment spam, several hundred a day, I decided I wasn't going to always check through the massive list of blocked comments looking for false positives. I announced this in a post titled "I deleted your comment because I hate you."

You guessed it, today (for the first time as far as I can remember) I deleted a spam comment that landed on the "I deleted your comment because I hate you" post. I know it was sent by a bot but I really was tempted to send a reply saying "Hey fuckwad, in your case, I deleted your comment because I really, really fucking hate you."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Secret Transcripts of YouTube/Viacom Negotiations Leaked

Teh intarwebs are a funny series of tubes. By now, everyone who even remotely cares (and millions who don't) know that Viacom have launched a US$1 billion lawsuit against YouTube. The legal heavy hitting is all handled by Google lawyers who have been preparing for this battle for years – well before they bought YouTube.

It seems that one of Google's lawyers has a bit of a thing for foreskins. And as I’m one of the web’s renowned experts on the subject of foreskins he became a reader of my blog. And now he’s passed me some very interesting information.

"Hey," he emailed me, "you're a heavy YouTube user and you hate the maximalist approach to copyright enforcement, right? Well, you'll be interested in this: we record all our negotiations without the other party knowing. Here's the audio from our final discussion with Viacom before they launched their lawsuit."

And what a revelation that piece of audio was. Because not everyone is able to listen to audio, I'm posting a transcript here. That, and the fact that it's way easier for me to make up a transcript than it would be for me to fake the audio. The transcript starts at a pivotal point of the negotiation, when dollar amounts are being discussed.

- - - - - start transcript - - - - -

Google Lawyer: Look, we still say that your best option is to establish your own channel on YouTube. Promote the clips that you want to promote. Run competitions. We'll work with you to help you reach the community. This is a demographic you're desperate to reach. They're watching TV less and less. This is a golden opportunity for you to regain some relevance and maybe still be around in ten years.

Viacom Lawyer: But you're making money. And we're not getting any of it. You HAVE to give us money.

GL: We don't think that argument holds up legally. Plus, it's really gross the way you drool every time you mention money.

VL: You smug bastards! Do you know how much it pisses people off when you act like you can do whatever you want without asking? Even when you're right? Our legal opinion is that when you make ad revenue from a page that displays our content you owe us money. We think our argument is right because we make more money that way!

GL: Why do you not understand that this grows your audience, it doesn't take away from you? Some of your highest profile creators like the makers of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and South Park are on record as saying more distribution is better for them even when there's no direct remuneration. The bigger their audience, the more opportunities they have.

VL: Creators? Who gives a fuck what they think? We're the owners! Those bitches are bought and paid for. It's just as well they don't want any money from you because we aren't planning on giving them any. This is about VIACOM not those fuckers. They can't afford lawyers.

GL: OK, I'll tell you what we'll do. I'm about to show you a confidential document. We've developed a revenue sharing plan based around how Adsense works. If your content is really as valuable as you think then you'll make a packet from the ads that will feature on the same pages as your content. From our experience, these revenue projections are very accurate.

VL: But we demanded eleventy-squillion dollars! That figure is nowhere near eleventy-squillion.

GL: Well, first, eleventy-squillion isn't a real number. Second, that's our one and only offer. You take that or you take nothing.

VL: You can't talk like that to us! It's your arrogance that pisses us off as much as our content being stolen. That's why we're suing. We're going to prove you make your money by stealing from us.

GL: Sue all you like. Our arrogance is commensurate with our intelligence. Your aggressiveness is commensurate with your greed. We're going to defend ourselves based on law, not a sense of entitlement. Try actually reading the DMCA - we respond to any and all takedown requests and we're protected. It's there in black and white and it's backed up by legal precedents.

VL: You'd have nothing without all the copyrighted material on YouTube!

GL: That's a matter of opinion. Here's a statement of fact: you work with us on our terms or you get nothing.

VL: (walking out the door) We'll see you in court.

GL: Yeah, and we'll see you begging on the street in ten years after your company collapses into ruin because you couldn't adapt. And you know what? I'm going to piss in your begging bowl.

VL: (response not clearly audible - sounds like "you bitch")

GL: (shouting after departing Viacom lawyers) Here's a business plan you can have for free: develop a site more compelling than YouTube and you won't have to worry. Everyone will abandon YouTube and come to you instead. Good luck wrapping your head around that, you chump!

- - - - - end transcript - - - - -

I've always thought lawyers were boring but it seems that sometimes they get to have some real fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Quandary

When I started this whole blogging lark, I didn't know how well it would go or how much I would enjoy it. I'm within a few weeks of my one year anniversary now and I think it's fair to say I've been far more successful than I dared hope and enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.

While this is all well and good, the quandary it places me in is that the more interesting and enjoyable blogging becomes, the more boring work becomes in comparison. This may seem to be neither surprising nor a particularly big problem but to do my job well I need to be quite engaged mentally. I have a recurring problem in meetings or even sitting at my desk where I totally zone out while thinking thoughts along the lines of:

"Wow, this is boring. It would be way more interesting to be blogging or making videos. I wonder what I can write about next. Wait, was he talking to me? He's looking at me like he expects me to say something intelligent. Oh crap."

So I've found something that really engages me and makes me feel rewarded but pays me close enough to nothing (gettin' paid by the Fizz though - woohoo!) Then I have a day job that pays well but hardly inspires me. This wouldn't feel like a quandary if I didn't feel a sense of commitment to the people I work with/for. They treat me quite well and I'd feel pretty bad if I didn't do the right thing by them and, you know, do my job properly.

They want me to stay until the end of the year which could work out quite well. I might have saved enough money to take a few months off work by then or, better still, have lined up some sort of deal where I can make a living doing silly things online. Even a modest living would be fine.

So in the meantime I just have to make sure I don't act too bored at work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Melbourne Comedy Festival preview - Dave Bushell in "Dirt, War...& Why I Don't Eat The Fishies"

For your viewing pleasure I give you another interview with a very funny person. In this video I chat with Dave Bushell who is performing his one-man show "Dirt, War... and Why I Don't Eat The Fishes" at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It's a wide ranging conversation that includes Dave's admission of his personal responsibility for the death of Princess Di and our plan for how to deal with a police siege.

For show details and to find out Dave's favourite colour, check out his MySpace:

When a project goes off the rails

One of the hardest things to do in any IT project (and for that matter, probably any sort of project) is to face up to the fact it's gone off the rails. Things have gone wrong. It's time to stop the madness. There are a range of reasons it can be hard to face up to this: fear of failure, inertia, being so busy with details that you lose sight of the "big picture", corporate pressure to keep going no matter what.

All the reasons and variations for failing to acknowledge that a project is in trouble usually have one thing in common: denial. Many people seem happy pretend that so long as nobody says out loud that the project is in trouble then there isn't actually a problem. Nobody want to burst the illusory bubble for fear of being branded negative or, worse still, being targeted as the source of the problems (some twisted variant of "first who smelt it, dealt it"). The denial of the obvious is so widespread it's a wonder that heads aren't exploding from cognitive dissonance in IT departments all over the world.

I was working at a large construction company recently to help them procure and deploy a project management software tool. The company was rapidly expanding and was managing about $200 million worth of projects each year. The paper based processes that had worked fine when the company was smaller (around $40 million per annum) weren't scaling well and the pressure was starting to tell on everyone involved.

If someone in management asked the type of questions people in management like to ask (pesky things like "Is the project on schedule?" "How much money have we spent?" "How much money is still in the budget?") the short answer was "nobody knows". The longer answer was some poor bastard spent about a week out of every month chasing pieces of paper that were filed god-knows-where and desperately calling around to find someone who might know the answer.

In short, you didn't want to be involved if there was an audit at this company.

So the decision was made to go to market and find a solution. All of the big hitters in this market responded to the tender (thankfully we didn't go with the German company whose acronym rhymes with CRAP - I would have quit if they'd won the tender). The early ball-park estimate for defining requirements, sending out a tender and picking a winner was 9 months. It ended up taking 12 months to finalise but that's pretty damn accurate for a ball-park estimate.

The initial estimates for getting the software configured and deployed was eight months. Two months into the design phase the timeline had been pushed out to 12 months but nobody was panicking. At the three month mark I realised that while maybe panic wasn't called for, we needed to stop what we were doing and seriously re-assess our approach.

One of the positives of this job was that I was generally treated very well. By that I mean I was treated like a professional. My experience and expertise were respected. I was actually listened to. Most IT people who have worked in non-IT environments (especially something as nuts-and-bolts as construction) will tell you how rare that is. This had a kind of downside in that I was the "lead analyst" and it was down to me to make hard calls like "we're going off the rails."

Hard as it may be to believe from reading this blog, in a work situation I don't really revel in being the centre of attention. And saying that there are problems with a multi-million dollar project is a great way to REALLY be the centre of attention. From this and other experiences I have learned a few things about how to be the bearer of potentially bad news. So here are Mr Angry's tips for dealing with a project that's running off the rails:

1. Voice your concerns sooner rather than later Trust your instincts - if you think something's wrong, it probably is. Problems rarely fix themselves magically - they usually get worse if left unresolved. While it can be daunting to admit to having problems it is usually far easier to fix them early when they're first making themselves felt rather than later when they've spiralled out of control.

2. Have a plan There's identifying problems and then there's complaining. One platitude I'm a big believer in is "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." If you're going to say there's a problem you should be proposing a solution or at least a strategy for reaching a solution. At the very least identify clearly why you think the project is running off the rails. Don't say "this sucks," say "if we don't address this problem we're going to face nasty outcomes x, y and z."

3. Accept responsibility when appropriate I'm not saying be a sucker or be everyone else's whipping boy. But I am saying it's transparent and bloody annoying when someone sprays blame in every direction while claiming total innocence. If there's something you need to cop to, then cop to it. But this is a situation where you really need a solution ready. Be prepared along the lines of "Look, I didn't catch this earlier so we've actually been developing the project in the wrong direction. But if we do this and this then we can get things back on track."

4. Don't let the problem be ignored In many cases, when you report an issue the response from management can be along the lines of "That isn't your responsibility, just do your job." The following piece of advice is aimed at anyone and everyone who considers themselves an I.T. professional: you're a professional. You have a professional responsibility to not allow important issues to be swept under the carpet. Plus, you need to cover your butt. Don't kick and pout and scream but if you're being told to let something go, DOCUMENT IT. Whether it's the minutes of a meeting or an email to your manager, make sure your concerns as well as the instruction to let it go are clearly documented.

5. Recognise when the problem is institutional There are cases when the problem simply isn't going to go away and isn't going to be dealt with effectively. The workplace is institutionally dysfunctional. If you're stuck somewhere that punishes people who identify problems then you have to accept that reality. I recommend a two-pronged course of action: first, cover you butt (see point 4, above). Second, GET OUT! Seriously, this type of workplace damages your mind and soul.

Making the call that a project has gone off the rails is rarely going to be easy (especially if it carries the connotation of "we're pretty much going to have to abandon the last year's work.") While the Chinese don't really use the same word for "crisis" and "opportunity" (crisitunity!) in a perfect, or even pretty good, world identifying a problem is the first step to solving it. If you or your workplace are to scared to face up to the reality of a project that's run off the rails, all I have to say is enjoy your death march.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Melbourne Comedy Festival preview - Danny McGinlay in "Star Spangled Bender"

Danny McGinlay and I have a wide-ranging chat that covers a range of topics - not least the show he's performing at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival "Star Spangled Bender". Danny has decided to pick fights with Americans by saying he's smarter than them. Good luck with that Danny!

Feel free to take on Danny at his MySpace:

Long Weekend Blues

I've just enjoyed a long weekend courtesy of "Labour Day" here in Victoria. An extra day's recreation is all well and good although it's fair to say it's appreciated less by me than by others - as a contractor public holidays just mean days for which I don't get paid. My other problem with public holidays is not being at work on Monday throws me out of whack for the whole week.

Tuesday feels like Monday and so it continues through the week. I'm very easily confused so today I've already had several conversations along the lines of:

"Have you finished that stuff yet?"

"It isn't due until Tuesday."

"Today is Tuesday."


And as for the stuff that was supposed to be done on Monday... well, as far as I'm concerned, that's all disappeared into an alternative universe and it isn't my problem any more. Mind you, I've had a little trouble convincing others of the validity of this theory. On the plus side, my boss has just given me a lollipop to calm me down (seriously) so I should be on top of things by the end of the day.

The thing is, my work days don't change much from day to day. It's my home life schedule that varies a lot. So essentially I have no fucking idea what I'm doing tonight. My girlfriend is usually far less troubled by these sorts of things so I shall send her a desperate message:

"Help. No idea what I'm supposed to be doing. Please give me some direction so I can give my hopelessly overtaxed and underperforming brain some rest."

Monday, March 12, 2007

An Educational Outing

I went out with my kids today to watch a movie at the IMAX cinema. The kids chose "Night at the Museum" - the recent comedy starring Ben Stiller. I don't know if you've ever been to IMAX but it's essentially a movie projected onto a massive screen, about the size of a two storey house.

And let me tell you, Ben Stiller's massive brow seen on the scale of a McMansion is pretty overpowering. If I was going for a cheap joke I'd say that it was really hard to tell Ben Stiller from the Neanderthals who come to life in the museum. But you all know I don't go for cheap jokes.

The IMAX in Melbourne is actually attached to the Melbourne Museum so we passed a little time looking at exhibits before the movie. We were lucky enough to be there at feeding time for a chameleon they had on display so I shot a video which I'll share with you here. I even did some slow-motion action replays of the chameleon's tongue shooting out and grabbing live crickets.

Fun for all the family.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Melbourne Comedy Festival preview - Richard McKenzie in "Mint Condition"

Here's another of my fireside chats (sans fire) with one of the stars of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Richard McKenzie is presenting his show "Mint Condition" and it's a celebration of all things nerdly - Richards humble attempt to explain to the uninitiated why World of Warcraft" is more important than they think. Add to that he's the only person I've met who's received death threats from 14 year old Insane Clown Posse fans and you're on a winner.

Also, he said my mask reminded him of fat 45 year old men dressing up as Sailor Moon and you've gotta love that.

Find out more about show times for Mint Condition on Richard's MySpace:

Melbourne Comedy Festival preview - Tommy Dassalo in "The Third Guy"

I had some sit down talks with a few of the performers doing shows at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I was going to call them fireside chats because that sounded rather cosy but I did the interview in my friend Adrian's shed and he wouldn't let me set his shed on fire. He's a bastard.

So this chat is with Tommy Dassalo who is performing his show "The Third Guy" both in Adelaide and at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Despite the lies he tells in this interview he is actually performing although his show is more about history's forgotten people. You know the name of the first guy on the moon (Armstrong) and you probably know the name of the second guy on the moon (Aldrin) but who remembers the third guy?

Find out show details and more about Tommy at his MySpace:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Swear Jar

I just got in from seeing a new comedy "Hot Fuzz" at the movies. It's made by the same blokes that did "Shaun of the Dead" if that means anything to anybody. It's good for a laugh and quite well made although the rather manic, almost overpowering way it's shot and edited makes me think the director and editor have watched too many music videos.

I'll spoil one joke because it made me think of of an event at a previous workplace. They have a swear jar - I'm sure you've seen the sort of thing; every time you swear you have to put money in the jar. They even have a scale of penalties for different words and it's written out on a sign with the words censored like this:

P**S - 0.20
S**T - 0.50
F**K - 1.00
CUNT - 2.00

Well, it appealed to my juvenile sense of humour. We had a swear jar in one of my workplaces a long time ago. For some reason, everyone expected me to be paying lots of money into it. I don't know what gave them that idea.

Once the swear jar went in, I stopped swearing altogether. Nary a cent of my money went into it while everyone else was having to pay up on a regular basis. I think they were running a pool on how long I could hold out.

Then came the day when I had to sit through a meetinbg with a real prick of a manager who was being a particular prick that day. Actually, this jerk was the reason I ended up quitting and going into contracting and making lots of money. So I kinda owe him. Anyway, I walked out of that meeting and back to my team area. Someone asked me how the meeting went so I said:

"I'll tell you how," and reached into my pocket, pulled out $5 and put it in the swear jar.

"My god," they said, "you weren't swearing in the meeting were you?"

"No," I replied. "I'm just paying in advance for this explanation: I just wasted two fucking hours listening to the most ignorant fucking cocksucker on the fucking planet talk shit about subjects he has fuck-all knowledge about. And the whole time he has this smarmy shit-eating grin on his ugly fucking face that pissed me off so much I could barely restrain myself from beating the living fucking shit out of him."

"Oh, I see. Is that all?"

"Do I have any swear credits left?"

"I think you're still in credit for two or three swears."

"Good. That fuckwit is lucky I don't go up there and kick him right in the fucking balls."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Melbourne International Comedy Festival feature - Miss Rochelle's School for VERY Naughty Schoolgirls

Here's one that's both informative for people looking for a good show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and somewhat rewarding for the porn hounds who keep stumbling upon my blog. I have the distinct pleasure to present to you Miss Rochelle. Miss Rochelle is the headmistress and chief disciplinarian at McQueen Academy where very naughty young girls receive some VERY strict discpline.

You'll also meet the lovely Benne Harrison, part of the impro comedy group "The Crew" who will be presenting Miss Rochelle's School for Very Naughty Schoolgirls at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

So if you want to know what is taught in schoolgirl Sexology classes, now you know where to go. You can find more details at Benne's MySpace:

An Army of Censors Surrounds YouTube

I can't remember when the last time there were many stories about access to a particular website being blocked as there have been about YouTube in the last week. Never mind that the bans are unlikely to be particularly effective, as pointed out by Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf, putting any sort of a ban on YouTube or any other website is treating a symptom while ignoring the cause of any problem.

Let's start in Australia where YouTube is now officially blocked on all computers in all government schools. The reason behind this is most often given as an attempt to curb "cyber-bullying" with the most notorious case cited being an appalling crime that occurred last year.

In this incident, a group of teenage boys (the creatures facing charges for this abomination are currently 17-18 years old) sexually assaulted a girl, set her hair on fire and urinated on her. The girl in question has been described (depending on the media source) as either having a learning disability or being mildly retarded. In any case, she was more vulnerable than average.

So where does this qualify as cyber-bullying? Well, the little psychopaths in question videoed the attack and uploaded it to YouTube. Think about that for a minute: you'd have to be a sick fuck to perpetrate this sort of degrading sexual attack in any case but what sort of detachment from reality does it take to make you think distributing a video showing your face while doing it is a good idea?

And they didn't stop at uploading it to YouTube - they made DVDs and sold them at school. And the DVDs featured their REAL NAMES in the "credits". So these soulless creatures are not only capable of perpetrating an horrific attack, they think they deserve to profit from it and actively seek recognition for it.

And blocking YouTube will fix this sort of sickness how exactly?

On another front, Turkey has instituted a blanket ban on YouTube because of videos that insulted "Turkishness" in general and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, specifically. National pride is a big issue in this part of the world and tensions between Greece and Turkey in particular run pretty high but this is essentially national governments buying into stupid internet dweebs slinging "fag" insults at each other. If this ban stays in place, my Turkish YouTube pal Conmech/Efe will be really pissed off when he finishes his term of National Service in the Turkish army and can't go back to youTube.

And while this one isn't specifically about YouTube, French authorities are introducing a law that makes it illegal to video violent acts and upload these videos to the internet. Yet again, stupid actions by morons translates into a government putting ridiculous restrictions on everybody. This is supposedly to counter a growing trend of deliberately provoking or instigating violent attacks for the sole purpose of videoing them. Hey, here's a crazy idea - prosecute people for committing the already illegal assaults. Don't introduce fucked up laws to restrict freedom of expression.

And don't even get me started on China. Actually, I might cut loose on the bullshit being spread by Chinese authorities on another day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Expensive Google Schwag

When I was writing my piece on Monday about Googlejuice I stumbled across an advertisement for an AdSense presentation Google were having in Melbourne on Wednesday. As I'd never seen a Google presentation I thought it might be interesting. Besides, Wordpress may not support AdSense on hosted blogs right now but they might in the future and I might be able to make a few bob.

It was an interesting enough presentation, the speaker that interested me the most was the founder of Geekzone, a New Zealand based geek website. He was interesting because he makes enough money from AdSense to quit his fairly lucrative day job and run his site full time. So it can be done.

I had to take the afternoon off work to attend the presentation and, as I'm a contractor, that means I don't get paid for that half of the day. In terms of measurable outcomes I got a Google schwag bag and the only thing I'll be keeping out of that is a Google pen. So that's essentially a $300 pen.

It had better write bloody well.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Stars of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Danny McGinlay

Another special comedy performance for you - this time from Danny McGinlay.

Danny has a pile of performances coming up including his show in the Melbourne Comedy Festival - "Star Spangled Bender". For details see his MySpace:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Stars of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Richard McKenzie

Here's another taste of the comedic hilarity that can be had at this year's Melbourne Comedy Festival - a special performance from Richard McKenzie. Quite a few people who have seen this video think Richard and I are so similar we must be related (we aren't) and/or all angry Australians sound the same (possibly true). Judge for yourself:

Richard's geek tribute show "Mint Condition" can be seen at this years festival and he's appearing at the Guildford Blues & Roots Explosion. Check his MySpace for details:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Stars of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Dave Bushell

Another of the stars of the 2007 Melbourne International Comedy Festival performing live for you: presenting Dave Bushell!

I realise Dave's bit contains a lot of Australian-centric references so I included pictures of the people he's talking about for context. I hope that helps!

This is still a respected foreskin blog. And I have a sexy ass.

I had pretty much decided what I was going to blog about today (broadly, it was Googlejuice) but there was not a lot of anger in my thoughts. Then, right on cue, some utter dickweed happens along and leaves an astonishingly ignorant comment while masquerading as the voice of reason, objectivity and intelligence. Just the sort of bullshit hypocrisy to get my blood boiling.

The doofus in question was compelled to take me to task over a post from May last year: "Not without my foreskin". Nothing inherently wrong with taking me to task - it clearly should happen more often. It's just that this dick (pun intended) didn't merely miss the mark, he couldn't hit the mark with a laser guided missile. It starts with his primary problem of being seemingly unable to understand that IT'S A FUCKING JOKE! It then continues with him sanctimoniously taking the moral high ground (a sure-fire way to piss me off), mixing in stupid new-age crap (ditto) and trying to connect completely unrelated issues.

My first point to this dickhead would be: Don't try to equivocate on the validity of anger with someone who bases his whole persona on the expression of anger. No fucking headway to be made there. Second, trying to equate female genital mutilation with male circumcision is both inaccurate and offensive. Female genital mutilation (removal of the clitoris), when it is practiced, is specifically about the idea of repressing sexuality. Male circumcision has no such associated intent (not since Dr Kellogg, anyway). And stating that is was common for American doctors to perform this procedure (EVER, let alone "not so many years ago") is a complete fucking lie.

In short, a dickhead made a stupid comment. But this fits in with my original idea for a blog post in that the reason said dickhead found me was my Googlejuice. Google still tends to rank me as one of the top two foreskin blogs. I could retire tomorrow and be proud of that accomplishment.

Another unexpected (to me) statistic is that I'm now getting hundreds of search engine referrals a day for porn related terms. This is because of my utterly gratuitous use of sexual terms in post topics, notably: anal sex, virginity and "sexy ass". Since posting that joke video of my sexy ass on YouTube I have been showing up on the first page of search results for the rather broad term "sexy ass" (even without putting quotes around the words).

So there you go. According to Google I have one of the sexiest asses in the world. And we all know Google is never wrong.

Occasionally, I use this great power for good rather than evil. True, this is rare but I do it every now and then. One instance of this is the series of posts I'm doing on the 2007 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I was surprised to notice that I was showing up on the first page of results for "Melbourne Comedy Festival" on the strength of some posts I wrote about last year's festival. I knew my friend Adrian Calear was directing some shows in this year's festival so I thought I'd write about them and see how far I could push the Googlejuice. I'm doing this for three reasons:

  1. I think the material will be entertaining for readers
  2. Helping a brother out. If the foolishness that is my blog can help out a friend and some up-and-coming talent then that's a good thing.
  3. I want to see how much I can improve my search engine ranking when I try.

"Melbourne Comedy Festival" seems like valuable keywords to me given that the festival is a commercial venture. It's easy to get high search engine rankings for obscure terms like "moroccan chocolate" but when it's for terms that are actually valuable to people the fight gets a bit tougher. This could be a pivotal case study in my quest to actually make money from blogging. If I can feature prominently when people search for information on a major international festival that's gotta be worth something.

Plus, if Wordpress ever allow AdSense then I'll make a fortune from porn referrals.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stars of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Tommy Dassalo

Here's one of the young stars of Australian comedy, Tommy Dassalo, being fun in a special set recorded just for you. No expense was spared in the production of this video - we went to all the trouble of hanging a sheet against the back wall of Adrian's shed.

Tommy is performing his show "The Third Guy" in Adelaide this week as well as at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in April. Check his MySpace page for all the details.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival teaser video

Here's a taste of both the upcoming Melbourne Comedy Festival and what I was up to on Friday night. As I've mentioned before, my old college friend Adrian Calear is directing eight shows during the festival (I know the guy's an underachiever - only eight shows, what a pussy!) We got together with five of the performers on Friday night to shoot some videos to promote their shows.

Each person did one "performance" piece (not material from their Comedy Festival shows) and one sit down chat to talk about their shows. Well, the idea was to talk about their shows but we ended up talking about all manner of bizarre things. Pretty entertaining stuff all in all. I'll be posting them over the coming week and maybe doing some follow-ups as well but here's a taste of what's to come:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Why does anybody belive anything?

Barely a day goes by when I don't marvel at the media's ability to tell deliberate and calculated lies and the general public's ability to swallow these same lies hook, line and sinker. The lies are about little things and about big things. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme nor reason to it. One person or outlet concocts a lie to serve their own purposes then other media outlets pick up the story and regurgitate it verbatim without providing any critical thought.

And we get told we should trust them and swallow this crap they're serving up to us. I'm alternately amused and horrified by how many people do just this. This past week has thrown up stellar examples from both the stupid/meaningless end of the spectrum and the serious end of the spectrum. I did a post about a week ago on how a local commercial channel ran a fabricated story on their tabloid "current affairs" program about a granny being chained up in a nursing home.

They simply made it up. There was no basis in truth at all. Think about that for a minute: someone who pitches themselves to you as a source of news, reliable purveyors of the truth, just sat and said "I'm gonna make some shit up." They didn't make a mistake. They didn't get some details wrong. They didn't fail to thoroughly check a story. They didn't exaggerate. They made a conscious decision to fabricate a story out of whole cloth. That's plain stupid.

Then there were the lies spread about Al Gore's electricity bill. A right wing front group pulls a figure for his energy bill that is supposedly (depending on who is parroting the story) somewhere between four and ten times the average. This group, by the way is NOT non-partisan despite what they say. In fact, the moment you hear ANYONE say they are non-partisan, no matter what views they present, it's safe to assume the are the most rabidly partisan people around. This particularly group do not receive SOME funding from oil companies, THEY ARE NOTHING BUT A FRONT FOR OIL COMPANIES.

This energy use, they say, is hypocrisy. Well, Al Gore sure aint living the life of a monk. That's one big-arse mansion he lives in. Of course the non-partisan report fails to mention that both Gore and his wife work out of the house and there are special security arrangements and the energy is bought from green/renewable sources which makes it more expensive. So maybe anyone who wanted to be fair would compare the cost of an average home and two small businesses as well as taking into account the green vs. non-green energy sources.

But this isn't non-partisan reporting. This is a lie. This is a straight up fucking smear job. Gore's opponents are losing the argument so they attack Gore rather than the arguments he puts forward. I'm no huge Gore supporter (if he wanted to get serious he really would live in a smaller house) and I haven't seen "An Inconvenient Truth" but I know when, in football terms, someone's playing the man and not the ball.

And I'm fucking sick of it. I don't automatically believe what I read in blogs. I try to apply some critical thought to things I read. But I almost cough up a lung laughing when I hear or read a "journalist" saying blogs are unreliable. Give me a fucking break. It's an oldie but it's true:

Q: How do you know when a journalist/politician/lobbyist is lying?

A: Their lips are moving.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Make me unstoppable

I can't get the (kinda) new Bloc Party track "The Prayer" out of my head. Those guys write some damn catchy songs. I have no idea if they are really religious or if they are just invoking the lord for effect. Either way, I'm finding a lot of the lyrics to this track inspirational from the point of view of gearing up to do some performance.

My previous motivation song for getting started was "Ramrod" by Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel (best summed up by the line Say what you mean and say it mean!) In case you can't guess, you really don't want to follow the link to unless you have a strong constitution and/or aren't easily offended. The Bloc party are comparatively tame but I still really like their stuff. The chorus of "The Prayer" goes:

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm
I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit

I have no idea what the "slice" bit means but the rest really gets me amped up. Plus, another recurring line:

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?

Seems to sum up my obsession with getting some attention. I'm gettin' me some o' these lyrics on a t-shirt!

What is faster than the speed of light?

Me. When someone says "Can we cancel that meeting we had scheduled for tomorrow?" It was gone from my calendar so quickly it was like it never existed. I'm so into this theme of "meetings suck" at the moment that I also did a video version of yesterday's post: