Archive for October, 2007

Blowing a raspberry to Operation Firefox

On powering up Firefox, I noticed that the Firefox-branded Google page had a link inviting me to join Operation Firefox, with a link to a shiny new site.

Operation Firefox invites me to “infiltrate society one sticker at a time”. It’s a viral marketing campaign to encourage people to switch to Firefox.

I’ll not be joining, though. Nor will any blind users, as the homepage is made entirely of images without alternate text (26 October: They’ve added alternate text now). It’s laid out with tables, and uses JavaScript-driven rollovers. A fine demonstration of the web standards that Firefox did such a great job in encouraging, I don’t think.

If you want that image-heavy look, you can do it with CSS and xhtml – see Stuart Robertson’s 2003 article Night of the Image Map. If you want special fonts, then follow those WebKit guys and gals, and add @font-face to the Camino engine that powers Firefox.

In short: Operation Firefox is a good idea. But bollocks execution.

Bajofondo Tango Club

A mate of mine had tickets to see the Bajofondo Tango Club, but couldn’t make it so donated them to me. I was sceptical: “a sort of jazzy tango” was the vague description he’d given me and as I like neither modern jazz nor tango, I wasn’t expecting a good night.

I had a great night. I never expected a band fronted by violin, guitar and an accordiany thing to do the kind of looping riffs with increasing textures that you find with Loop or My Bloody Valentine, but these guys were something else. Some songs were haunting Spanish guitar; others were almost industrial, with the on-stage VJ layering black and white footage of machinery, trains and a military coup while dirty beats and samples intertwined with the real-world instruments. All the while, audience members danced the sleaziest, fucked-up tango that I’ve ever seen.

Listening to the CD subsequently is a pale imitation of the live experience, unfortunately. Highly recommended.

The thinker: Patrick Lauke creating

Many have praised the genius of Patrick “Herb” Lauke, but few have witnessed such a great thinker in the act of creation.

I was fortunate enough to witness such a Rodin moment when we appeared together at a day-long workshop called Real World Accessibility, and I was privileged to be able to photograph it.

(Maybe NSFW if you’re in a really uptight office.)
Continue reading The thinker: Patrick Lauke creating

“Diary of a mother with a paedophile neighbour”

It may not be the most polished-lookling blog, but it’s from heart and it took a lot of courage to write: my friend “Cynj” is the mother of a three year-old girl, and lives next to an alleged paedophile.

She’s found her daughter missing from her garden, to discover her on the neighbour’s bed. She been for a drink with him and “woke in the morning with livid scratches on my inner thighs, bruises up my back and a large lump on the back of my head”. The police have told her that he likes “to masturbate in front of small children and whilst watching them play”. He’s living below her because he was rehoused for his own protection, yet she can’t get rehoused herself.

She’d welcome your thoughts if you have the time.

Ten years and a new business

Some people get all the luck, eh? Nongyow has already been graced with the opportunity to procreate with me—twice!—and also has the luck of living with me for ten years now. That’s over 3500 opportunities to witness how fabulous I look first thing in the morning.

So to celebrate ten years since publicly signing a bit of paper, we went out to a Loch Fyne restaurant and ate our own bodyweight of lobster, clams, mussels and fish.

This month will also see the launch of Nongyow’s business teaching Thai cookery. Here’s a sneak preview (and a bit of spousal link pimping): if you want to learn authentic Thai cooking in your own home give us a call.

As an aside: have you ever tried making a website for your nearest and dearest? It takes much longer than for any client and is an order of magnitude more painful. It’s like teaching your other half to drive, but without all the opportunities to look down on them. This one still looks a bit shite in IE6, but I’ve got a total mental block on the bugs of that legacy browser. And any recommendations for a secure PHP form mailer would be welcome; the one my host recommended needs some tweaking in the accessibility department (legends duplicating labels, for example).

@font-face rules rule!

Richard Rutter neatly summarises the debate over WebKit’s new support for @font-face rules, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

The pros:

  • Accessible headings rather than images of text (yes, I know SIFR is wonderful, but it’s a bit fragile, a bit Heath Robinson, isn’t it?)
  • More choice for designers

The cons:

  • “I’m a terribly precious aesthete and most lesser designers are neanderthals who couldn’t choose typography if their copy of Firebug depended on it. Therefore, they shouldn’t have the opportunity to use any other typefaces”
  • er … that’s it

Well, yes—there are people out there who don’t exhibit the perfect design sensitivities that others have. But they already use colours and (gasp!) images in combinations not approved by the taste police, but they haven’t destroyed the Web yet. In fact, last time I checked, the Web was thriving so much it’s gone up a version.

CSS font “embedding” is another tool. Tools can be used for good or for bad. What’s not to love?

The crappest gig I’ve ever done

We had a gig last Saturday, which already annoyed me as I’d written it in the Friday square of my calendar, so I’d booked tickets for A Midsummer Nights Dream for Saturday. So I had to sell and thereby angering Nongyow, who’d been looking forward to it. So we decided to keep the babysitter and she’d come along to join the adoring music-loving throng.

So, I arrive at the venue at 7pm to help unload the van. There’s a printed sheet of A4 on the door: “Due to police enforcement, we cannot serve alcohol tonight”. WTF??

It’s true. A mistake on a license application had caused the police to prevent them selling alcohol until Monday. There was a Birmingham City match earlier, so everyone had gone somewhere else to watch the match and drink. The pub’s empty.

I’m all for not playing, until our guitarist Lee drops the bombshell that he’s leaving the band and tonight’s his last gig. The barmaid confirms that if we play, we’ll be paid, so we decide to see Lee out with a bang and play highlights of the set to the barmaid and Nongyow.

Just as we finish, we get a call from the babysitter: can we come back early? James has got a nasty cough and has thrown up all over his bed.

Rock’n’roll.