After extensive scientific research, I can reveal the four tiers of David Bowie.
I realised I own no Bowie except an old 45 rpm single of “Sound and Vision” which I can’t play as I have no record player, went to the web to buy The Platinum Collection and listened to it a few times.
– 20% is awarded for a catchy chorus
– 20% for having a good verse as well (often why some songs are relegated to Tier 2 or below – great choruses but weak verse)
– 20% for weird lyrics, sexual ambivalence
– 10% for singing in a funny voice (machismo of “Boys Keep Swinging”, mockney sneering)
– 10% for odd instrumentation (“Heroes”)
– 10% for a blistering guitar part (whether medlodic like Starman or just nasty like “Boys Keep Swinging”)
– 10% for being seminal (“Ziggy Stardust”)
1 bottle of Toro Loco Tempranillo wine, stereo cranked up so loud your partner wakes up and comes downstairs to give you a bollocking before stomping off to bed and waking early to turn on some bullshit Kerrang radio in revenge.
Tier 1 (80% or more): Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, Heroes, Scary Monsters, Let’s dance, Boys Keep Swinging, All the Young Dudes (but Mott The Hoople’s version is still better at 100%; Bowie’s suffers from too much sax)
Tier 2: (65% – 79%) Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Jean Genie, Space Oddity, Sound and Vision, Diamond Dogs, The Prettiest Star
Tier 3: (50% – 64%) China Girl, Changes (great choruses, weak verse) Rebel Rebel, Oh You Pretty Things
Tier 4: the rest
Tier 67: Laughing Gnome, Tin Machine stuff, execrable covers of Let’s Spend The Night Together, The Alabama Song
Bowie’s best is sublime, and had hardly dated at all. There is a perception of a quality drop-off in the 80s, but some great songs came about during that time, although there was a lot of mediocre funk nonsense too. In a career spanning four decades, there is a good deal of filler but that’s both unsurprising and forgiveable, given the brilliance of his Tiers 1-3 work.
If Bowie came round to my house, I’d share a bottle of red with him and we could have a jam, and I’d even let him use my 12 string elecro-acoustic guitar.
Replacing <h1><a name=" with <h1 id=" to turn old-fashioned named anchors into ids on elements
HTML Tidy didn’t work for me, leaving lots of redundant </a>s lurking around after step 3 above. So, I had a brainwave; I knew the browser’s parsing algorithm would dump those closing tags, so I went to Opera Dragonfly’s JS console, typed in document.documentElement.innerHTML and pasted the returned code into my document. Thanks Mathias!
some tedious replacement of funny characters with their character entities (isn’t there some utility that will do that?) No need to do this if you use UTF-8 and (d’oh) use a font with the right glyphs
Some very light styling
Don’t tell the boss, though; he thinks I’ve been working.
Introducing TAL – TV Application Layer, an open source library for building applications for Connected TV devices, developed internally within the BBC as a way of vastly simplifying TV application development
The Short Cutts – For SEO-minded people, “we’ve done the hard work and watched every Matt Cutts video to pull out simple, concise versions of his answers”. Very useful, serviceable, beneficial, advantageous, helpful, cheap iphone, sex
Is this photo grounds for death? asks Clementine Ford about the Tunisian blogger Amina whose topless protests against Islamism earned her death threats. The article appears in Daily Life, “a proudly female biased website with content tailored to women”, an Australian publication which proudly censors the photo of Amina’s breasts after noting “In a rational society, breasts have no more power to hurt anyone than a gentle breeze can blow down a house made of bricks”. (Ford told me that the censorship is not her choice.)
I’m hopelessly naive about financial systems. (I have a grade C ‘A’-level economics, but that was in 1985, back when people still voted for Mrs Thatcher, so it’s like a degree in physics before relativity was discovered.) So I don’t understand the current lamentation about Cyprus.
Cyprus built up a gargantuan banking sector (835% of annual national income). It was a low-tax regime, in the sun, that encouraged lots of Russians (in particular) to invest their money there.
The significant expansion of the Cypriot banking system in general, and of the big domestically-owned banks in particular, has been part of the broader push to promote the island as an international business centre …
The current size of the Cypriot banking system, and particularly of the two biggest banks, raises the issue of whether growth has unequivocally been a good thing that should continue indefinitely.
In the case of Cyprus, the two big domestically-owned banking groups appear to satisfy the criteria for being systemically important… Their role as intermediaries of foreign financial flows and as providers of domestic financial services means that the collapse of either of them would have significant negative repercussions on the real economy and deleterious reputational effects on Cyprus as an international business centre.
Lots of people invested their money in Cyprus because it had low tax and good returns. They put their money there, rather than somewhere else, because they believed that they would get more money in Cyprus than in their own countries.
Meanwhile, the banks in Cyprus were too big to fail. Those words – “too big to fail” – are to international capitalists what “YOLO!” is to mid-teenage girls as they guzzle five bottles of alcopops, take selfies of themselves doing duckfaces with their bezzies before they snog an ugly stranger, burst into tears and throw up.
In brief: investors got better returns for their money, but took no actual risk because the banks were too big to fail. Until they failed.
The EU decided to bail out Cyprus. If it hadn’t, presumably those banks would have collapsed and depositors lost everything. Because it’s being bailed out (with EU money), depositors with over 100,000 Euros will lose 30% of their deposits, and retain 70% of them. They took a risk in the hope of better-than-average returns, as is their right in a capitalist economy, and lost. But instead of losing everything, they keep most of it.
Meanwhile, I’ve given them some of my money as part of the EU bailout, yet I was never invested in the dodgy Cypriot bank in the first place.
But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information …
Why should they be forced to deal with the news that a male teacher they have always known as Mr Upton will henceforth be a woman called Miss Meadows? Anyway, why not Miss Upton?
The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents.
It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats.
These are primary school children, for heaven’s sake. Most them still believe in Father Christmas. Let them enjoy their childhood. They will lose their innocence soon enough…
But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.
(I don’t know if Mr Littlejohn has any children, but mine and the Primary school children I taught in Turkey and Thailand were certainly far more matter-of-fact about such matters than adults are.)
Sadly, Miss Meadows is dead; it’s presumed she committed suicide. In an email to a friend, she described how she was hounded by the press, noting that many parents had tried to give positive reactions to the press, but those were ignored:
I know the press offered parents money if they could get a picture of me… Many parents have been quite annoyed with the press too, especially those that were trying to give positive comments but were turned away.
Entirely co-incidentally, no doubt, Littlejohn’s column has been removed from the Daily Mail website. The newspaper issued a statement:
It is regrettable that this tragic death should now be the subject of an orchestrated twitterstorm, fanned by individuals… with agendas to pursue. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lucy Meadows.
This enrages me. I’m one of those on Twitter who’ve tweeted about how nastily Littlejohn and The Mail have behaved. As a white heterosexual male in a nuclear family with a professional job, I’m probably one of the army of “normals” that the Mail wishes to mobilise against the freaks, perverts, lefties and other undersirables (just don’t tell them that my family is mixed race).
No-one has “orchestrated” my outrage. But I certainly do have an agenda to pursue. It’s the agenda of fairness, of tolerance, of live-and-let-live. These are qualities that I associated with Britishness, incidentally; “Britain” is a flag that Littlejohn and The Daily Mail like to wrap themselves in, yet they want a society in which people think it’s right to hound, harrass and hate “minorities”. And I won’t have it.
For “minorities”, read “people”.
Miss Meadows caused me no harm. She was obeying the law, involved in her community, hurting no-one and helping many. My agenda is that such people deserve our respect and support. And if you find men transitioning to women makes you queasy, simple: don’t do it. Just quietly go about your business and don’t interfere with how other people live their lives.
So, in the unlikely event that any Daily Mail journalist or reader ever sees this, yes – I do have an agenda: fairness, tolerance, live-and-let-live. What’s your agenda?
When I was a young roister-doister, I lived in a flat with my massive tomcat, Bagpuss. Bagpuss was a bit weird, as he was obsessed with water. Perhaps in a previous feline incarnation he’d been a Van cat. It’s all the more surprising considering that once, when he was a kitten, he’d jumped up onto the toilet seat to peer into the water and fallen in, head first. Luckily I was in the bathroom shaving and was able to pull him out before he drowned.
A common way for me to entertain him would be to turn on the tap just slightly so water would drip out once a second, and he’d sit next to the sink and attempt to bat the falling drips with his paws. This could keep him transfixed for an hour.
Here he is, with one of his lady admirers:
Once, however, his behaviour went from the quirky to the terrifying.
Picture the scene: I was lying in the bath, naked (as one does) when the door opened slightly and in came Bagpuss. He leaped up on to the edge of the bath to get a better view of the water, lost his footing and fell in. If you’ve ever seen a three feet long tomcat, flailing around in a panic with his claws extended fully, you’ll know to get out of the way. Now, imagine one on top of you, while you’re completely nude. It’s utterly terrifying. With one hand protecting the Bruce Juice Introducer™ and its accessories, I picked him up by the scruff of his neck and evicted him from the tub, and then had to spend 15 minutes soothing him before he’d let me turn the hairdryer on him.
Media queries for multichannel audio? – suggestion by Netflix: “This would save network bandwidth as well as providing better quality (if the custom-mixed stereo audio is likely better than the end-device down-mixed version)”
The purpose of DRM by Hixie. Interesting analysis (“The purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations. The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices”) but avoids direct question of why Google supports it.
Hyperbole corner: “websites are dead” says person employed by Asda to do social media rather than its website (which they haven’t taken offline) “while exploring ways to tie-in the mobile and social customer journey to their in-store experiences”
A list of the most interesting things I’ve read this week, as not everyone sees me post them on twitter all day. It should go without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that I don’t endorse or agree with everything here. Stuff in quote marks, by definition, is quotation and therefore not me.
We’re not ‘appy. Not ‘appy at all. – UK government: “Our position is that native apps are rarely justified … Departments should focus on improving the quality of the core web service … When it comes to mobile, we’re backing open web standards (HTML5). We’re confident that for government services, the mobile web is a winner, both from a user and a cost perspective.”
Google called the MPEG-LA’s bluff, and won – “Google received a license for techniques in VP8 that may infringe upon MPEG-LA patents … VP8 is a hell of lot safer and more free from possible legal repercussions than H.264 itself”
Payments Task Force W3C: “The Open Web Platform does not yet offer standard ways to transfer money, demonstrate proof-of-purchase, and meet other payment needs. Without a standard, developers are forced to turn to native platforms, or use solutions that work for one service provider but not another.”
Facebook users unwittingly revealing intimate secrets, study finds – “Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user’s race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views using only a record of the subjects and items they had “liked” on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information.”
A long time ago, “responsive” didn’t mean “resize your browser window repeatedly while fellow designers orgasm until they resemble a moleskine atop a puddle”. It simply meant “Reacting quickly and positively”, meaning that the page loaded fast and you could interact with it immediately.
One way to do this is to reduce the weight of the page by serving images that have a smaller file-size, thereby consuming less bandwidth and taking less time to download a page. In the last year, web pages download approximately the same number of images, but their total size has increased from about 600K to 812K, making images about 60% of the total page size.
One way to reduce this amount is to encode images in a new(ish) format called webP. It’s developed by Google and is basically a still version of their webM video codec. Google says
WebP is a new image format that provides lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs. WebP lossy images are 25-34% smaller in size compared to JPEG images at equivalent SSIM index. WebP supports lossless transparency (also known as alpha channel) with just 22% additional bytes. Transparency is also supported with lossy compression and typically provides 3x smaller file sizes compared to PNG when lossy compression is acceptable for the red/green/blue color channels.
Opera uses it precisely for this compression; it’s used in Opera Turbo, which can be enabled in Opera desktop, Opera Mobile and the Chromium-based Yandex browser. This transcodes images on-the-fly to webP before squirting them down the wire and, on slower connections, it’s still faster.
In tests, Yoav Weiss reported that “Using WebP would increase the savings to 61% of image data”.
However, there’s some handy new CSS coming to the rescue soon (when browser vendors implement it). We’ve long been able to specify CSS background images using background-image: url(foo.png);, but now say hello to CSS Image Values and Replaced Content Module Level 4’s Image Fallbacks, which uses this syntax:
(Note image rather than url before the list of images.)
The spec says “Multiple ‘image -srcs’ can be given separated by commas, in which case the function represents the first image that’s not an invalid image.”
Simply: go through the list of images and grab the first you can use. If it 404s, continue going through the list until you find one you can use. Note that this isn’t supported anywhere yet, but I hope to see it soon.
[Added after a reminder from Yoav Weiss:] It needs finessing too; Jake Archibald points out “If the browser doesn’t support webp it will still download ‘whatever.webp’ and attempt a decode before it’ll fallback to the png” and suggests adding a format() qualifier, from @font-face:
Now all browsers get a background image, and those that are clever enough to understand webP get smaller images. Of course, you have to make a webP version (there are webP conversion tools, including a Photoshop plugin).
It seems to me that the spec is overly restrictive, as it seems to require the browser to use the first image that it can. webP is heavily compressed so requires more CPU to decode than traditional image formats. Therefore, I could imagine a browser that knows it’s on WiFi and using battery (not plugged in) to choose not to use webP and choose a PNG/ JPG etc to save CPU cycles, even though the file-size is likely to be larger.
What about content images?
Of course, not all images on your webpages are CSS background images. Many are content images in <img> elements, which doesn’t allow fallbacks.
There is, however, an HTML5 element that deliberately allows different source files to get over the fact that browsers understand different media formats:
Wouldn’t it be great if we could use this model for a New! Improved! <img> element? We couldn’t call it <image> as that would be too confusing and the HTML5 parser algorithm aliases <image> to <img> (thanks Alcohi). So for the sake of thought experimentation, let’s call it <picture> (or, if we’re bikeshedding, <pic> or —my favourite— <bruce>). Then we could have
<source src=foo.webp type=image/webp>
<source src=foo.png type=image/png>
<img src=foo.png alt="insert alt text here"> <!-- fallback content -->
And everyone gets their images, and some get them much faster.
I was reading a Reddit post on which celebs are “assholes” and which aren’t, and can exclusively reveal that Chris Tarrant is a tosspot, whereas Irish post-punk bands The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers are jolly nice people — Jake Burns wished me happy birthday, and Undertones’ bassist Micky Bradley gave me a can of Stella when I was 14.
However, Tebbit also has a sense of humour. At University, my housemates and I would write letters to TV personalities requesting autographed photos to decorate our rented house on De Grey Street, Hull, AKA “Raunchy Studsville”. (Note, this is before the Web existed to divert students from essays etc).
We wrote to Tebbit at the House of Commons:
Dear Norm, we’ve watched your rise through the Tory party with admiration. Market Forces dictate that you send us a signed photograph. Get Down! The Raunchy Studs.
A week later, an House of Commons envelope addressed to “Raunchy Studsville, 1 De Grey St, Hull” landed on our doormat, containing a hand-written note on headed note paper:
Dear Studs, who am I to argue with Market Forces? Here’s your photo. Get Down!