Born Sleepy

I’ve had all sorts of problems over the years with spam and comments on Drupal, so I’ve decided to look for another solution.

After a recommendation by Matt Gemmell, I’m giving Disqus a go. So far the system seems very easy to set up and configure, but I’ve hit a problem with the the facility to import the old Drupal comments into the new system.

The import seems to have worked, in the sense that Disqus now appears to contain a copy of my old comments. However, they aren’t showing up on the site, so somehow it is failing to connect the comments with the pages that are supposed to contain them.

More info to come if/when I resolve this…

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August 25, 2011

It does seem to me that Apple will struggle to replace Steve Jobs. He has an unusual combination of talents. 

As the near-hysteria surrounding his resignation illustrates, perhaps his greatest talent is that of making other people believe - in him and his plans. 

Not just people too, but smart, creative, difficult people; programmers and artists. If managing programmers is like herding cats, he is a cat whisperer par excellence. 

Allied to that, he obviously has a compelling vision to believe in. 

He’s not perfect - he doesn’t get everything right, and when he chooses to focus his micro-management skills on you, I expect it’s a complete nightmare. He doesn’t strike me as capricious though, and whilst I suspect that a lot of what he does is driven by intuition, his intuition is well tuned and consistent. Under Jobs, Apple has had a clear philosophy, and on the whole the products that it sells fit together, do what they are meant to, and just make sense. 

It’s going to be hard for Apple to replace all of the above. They can find a charismatic leader, a details guy, or a visionary, but all three in one is asking a lot. More to the point - finding one who’s vision is already compatible with Apple’s current position and future heading is going to be very difficult. You’d think that the most likely place to look for someone with a compatible world view would be within Apple, albeit not at the board level. Ask yourself this though - “would Steve be working for Steve?”. Maybe not. 

Whatever happens, I’m sure that Apple have enough inertia to be fine in the short to medium term. Longer than that, and it’s possible that things will drift. That’s natural though, and probably healthy. I suspect that Apple’s position of dominance now would have been anathema to many of the early employees, who were also instrumental in making it what it is today. The new versions of those people shouldn’t be at Apple now - they should be working in the startup that will knock Apple off its perch one day. Overseen and driven on by the next Steve Jobs. Which is entirely as it should be. 

In the meantime, I wish Steve well. He and a handful of other people at Apple, Xerox and Next have changed my life, and I’m grateful to them all for that. 

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It always amazes me that online food shops fail to ask me whether I’m a vegetarian, and then go on to offer me meat products even though I’ve sometimes been shopping with them for years and not bought any meat during the entire time.

I suspect that the reason for this is that many of the products in their catalogues will be suitable for vegetarians but not explicitly labelled as such. For example, who in their right mind would label a vegetable “suitable for vegetarians”?

This means that their dumb computers can’t work out that it’s ok to offer vegetarians apples.

I’ve got a solution for this. Include an option that says:

“Please don’t show me:”

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • dairy products
  • products that aren’t labelled “suitable for vegetarians or vegans”
  • products that aren’t labelled “suitable for vegans”

and so on…

By couching it in terms of “don’t show me”, you can avoid the problem of explicit labelling. Of course you could also extend this to include nut allergies, wheat intolerance, kosher/halal, or anything else.

Come on supermarkets, sort it out.

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May 18, 2011

When I think of Uncle Roy, two things spring immediately to mind - a relaxed smile, and a certain predilection for bad puns.

For most of my life we’ve lived quite a distance apart, so we didn’t meet often, but from childhood onwards I was always pleased when I knew that I was going to see him.

No doubt he had his off days - Deane men have something of a capacity for melancholy, and I expect that Roy was no different - but past the puns, the impression that came through to me was of someone who was interested in the world, and someone who cared - for his family, his friends, and the general state of the planet.

There was one other thing about Roy that made a big impact on me - his love of music. When I say impact, I mean it literally - as he inadvertently had a major influence on my musical taste (and some people might say therefore that he had a lot to answer for).

When my grandparents went to stay in Australia, we inherited their cassette player (stereo - woohoo!!) and Roy started sending Dad tapes that he’d copied. Exactly what came from Roy is a bit blurry now in my mind, but there are some that I remember for sure. Obscured by Clouds, by Pink Floyd and Songs From The Wood, by Jethro Tull, found their way onto our tape player from him, and into my head and heart forever. I’m fairly sure that he introduced me to Talking Heads, Crosby Stills & Nash, Wishbone Ash, Hugh Masekela, Tom Waits, and The Orb, to name but a few. His tastes were eclectic, and I’ve no doubt that they opened my eyes (and ears), which is something for which I’ll forever be grateful.

I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I do believe that people live on in a way, in our memories. Roy liked a beer (another thing that we shared, though I didn’t have nearly enough chances to share one with him). So each time I sit back with a beer, or crank up some Jethro Tull (both regular occurrences), I’ll be thinking of him.

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April 02, 2011

I’m not an apologist for bankers, but whenever I hear people on the radio, or read people in the press, blaming all the world’s woes on them, it really gets on my nerves.

Blaming bankers for making too much money is like blaming lions for killing and eating other animals.

Expressing surprise at such behaviour is naive at best, ignorant at worst. It’s like admitting that you have absolutely no idea how the world works, or that you frankly couldn’t be arsed to pay attention to anything that didn’t directly involve you.

Bankers, particularly investment bankers, are part and parcel of the current economic system. They exist because of it, and insofar as they are regulated at all, they are regulated by it.

Most of us, most of the time, are complicit in keeping that system going because we like the good things it does for us, and conveniently forget about the bad things it does to other people. We are as responsible as anyone for the regulation regime, because we’re not prepared to support the kind of people who want to put a tighter regime in place - or accept whatever consequence might come back to affect us.

I’m not saying that the system is good, but unless you’ve been actively campaigning for a different system, it’s terribly complacent to blame other people for the mess we’re in right now.

If you don’t like it, it’s up to you, as much as anyone else, to do something about it.

I’m not saying that you can take on the banks individually, but when the next election comes round, vote for a party that offers a sensible alternative (for whatever value of “sensible” appeals to you).

In the meantime, if you’re lucky enough to have some, move your money into (slightly more) ethical banks, if you can find them. If you’re lucky enough to have substantial savings, invest them in ethical companies.

We need to take collective responsibility for this stuff, and we need to have a sophisticated understanding of how the world works.

It’s not good enough to just look around for easy scapegoats. That’s lazy, and a dangerously simplistic way of looking at the world - and it’s that sort of thing, as much as the behaviour of bankers, that I think is wrong with it.

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