Archive for the 'ephemera' Category

Yearly roundup and festive charidee

What a year it’s been. My employer, Opera, went from 100 million users to 150 million, released Opera Mini for iPhone, Opera Mobile for Android and we went up to eleven on desktop.

I’ve had a the first HTML5 book published with my marvellous co-author, Remy Sharp, which is now in its third printing. Other personal highlights include an invitation from Martin Kliehm to speak with him at South By South West; our panel was voted joint third best of the whole conference.

I’ve travelled to Sweden, Poland, Japan and Australia and met many fabulous people. Special shout outs go to my fellow HTML5 Doctor Oli Studholme, whom I met for the first time last month and who shares the mantle of Nicest Guy On The Planet with Roger Hudson, who organised and guided Steve Faulkner and me for our Australian tour, and who has a fascinating store of traveller’s tales from his days in the movies; he was a scriptwriter for the legendary Aussie soap The Young Doctors (here’s a photo of one his original scripts) and now works in accessibility. From screenwriters to screenreaders; what a career trajectory!

Personally I’ll be glad to see the end of 2010. My Dad had heart surgery. I got sick. My two much-loved grandmothers died; they were both very old, and died without pain and without lingering which is the way to do it, but it’s odd not buying those Xmas presents this year. Tragically, a friend’s baby daughter died.

Festive charidee

Regular readers might recall that I don’t send Christmas cards: polluting the planet to transport someone else’s pre-prepared greetings to be stuffed in a landfill seems like a bad way to spend my money, so I give donation to a charity instead. This year, that charity is Amnesty International because we need freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom from cruelty.

In the UK our government wishes to censor the Internet. In France, the home of chic, they have laws telling women what they can wear and, flushed with the success of that, the government has taken to rounding up members of an ethnic group for resettlement in the East.

Meanwhile, the junta that illegally controls Burma had a pretend election that – surprise! – they won again. Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, languishes in a Chinese jail as a political prisoner. Mad people in the USA are calling for the extra-judicial murder of Julian Assange over Wikileaks. Iran, jealous over the publicity that Sudan got for its superb theocratic misogyny video, sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death by stoning although she was acquitted of any crimes. In Malawi, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were sentence to 14 years in prison for being gay and showing no remorse about it.

So instead of sending a card to you, I’m sending some cash to Amnesty; please consider doing the same for me.

Have a Happy Consumerfest. Best of luck for 2011.

Big down under

My global tour continues, and I’ve moved from Tokyo to Australia, where I’m touring Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane with organiser and all-round-great-bloke Roger Hudson and The Mighty Steve Faulkner, for the Web Industry Professionals Association. We’re talking HTML5 and WAI-ARIA. (So far, there are a few places left for Perth and Brisbane: book here.)

I’m very much enjoying Aus. It feels like England done right: good weather, laid-back attitude and fabulous hot-pants (not me, obviously). The only downside is the vast pantheon of comically venomous creatures that lurk round every corner. In Canberra I was even warned about evil swooping magpies.

The tour so far has been great; sell-out crowds and really, really clued-up (“cluey”) attendees and great people like Russ Weakley, Ruth Ellison who I’ve long admired but never met.

The flight from Canberra to Melbourne yesterday was somewhat fraught; we took off two hours late due to what was variously reported as “mechanical trouble”, “bad weather in Melbourne” and “a catering mishap that was particularly unpleasant”. (At least it wasn’t exploding engines.) On arrival the doors wouldn’t open and the fuselage rocked as the ground staff attempted to bash the doors open with the airbridge. We arrived at the venue with only minutes to spare.

Now I’m having a weekend (shifted forward by a day as I fly to Perth on Sunday morning) in Melbourne with my old and dear friend Pippa. We’ve already seen a park full of flying foxes and are off to see Kangawallabats at the zoo tomorrow. Tonight I’m cooking us pork stirfry noodles and gyoza and there is a case of beer to drink.

The oil’s sizzling. Gotta go.

5 feet 6 inches is the optimal height for a human

So, Mr Andy “Beanpole” Mabbett called me short. What he, and other lanky bastards don’t understand is that 5’6″ is the optimal height for a human being, and that is a fact proved by scientists.

The physics and biology are simple. If you are taller than the optimal height, not enough gravity reaches the top of the brain. This means that the blood tends to collect there, and not enough goes through the lower parts of the brain such as the hippocampus which controls things like spatial navigation. This is why tall people are often gangly and bump into things.

People shorter than 5’6″ have the opposite problem. Their heads are closer to the centre of the earth (where the gravity particles are formed in the base of volcanoes) so the blood tends to collect at the bottom of the brain and not flow so much at the top. This makes them more likely to commit suicide or suffer from an engorged hippocampus (which also controls long-term memory, which is why very short people like Hitler, Napoleon and Stalin never forgot grudges, for example).

However, at 5’6″, the distribution of gravity in the brain is perfect for optimal blood-flow around all areas, leading to high intelligence, superior wit, peak physical ability and extraordinary virility. Scientific fact.

Co-incidentally, I am five feet and six inches tall.

Friday 13th: 43rd birthday in Jakarta

The miserable bloody English weather has conspired to give me two colds more or less back to back, so it was with only minimal trepidation that I spent 24 hours travelling by plane to Indonesia, to spend my second birthday on the trot jetlagged in Jakarta where I’m embarking on a frenzied schedule of university visits to persuade Indonesian students of the value of Web Standards.

The kindly Indonesians laid on a huge rain storm just as I landed (so the 30 celcius sun they’d been enjoying didn’t make me too culture-shocked). Cue flooding and gridlock. The 30 minute drive from the airport took two and half hours of buttock-clenching frustration—but at least it didn’t end up like that other Friday 13th.

Dear Tracey Emin

The Sunday Times reports that modern British artist Tracey Emin may leave the UK as she doesn’t want to pay the 50% tax that rich people (those who earn £150,000 a year) must pay.

Desperately poor Emin, who ekes out a living making personalised neon signs at £65,000 each, says

The taxes are too high, there aren’t enough incentives to work hard, and our politicians have put me off. We’re paying through the nose for everything.

It’s a shame when someone who has been the beneficiary of so much tax money for education, health care and funding of the galleries that buy her work should now be so churlish about an extra 10% of tax above an already-comfortable level of income.

It smacks of ingratitude and selfishness. But if that’s the way she feels, Britain will just have to soldier on without her contributions to art or the exchequer.

Emin herself once said,

Being an artist isn’t just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it’s some kind of communication, a message.

So I’ve made a neon message for Ms Emin:

piss of to a tax haven with your Tory mates

Have fun with the footballers and investment bankers, won’t you?

Schadenfreude blogs

Sometimes I have a bad day, and on those sort of occasions I like to refresh myself by laughing at people who are stupider, uglier, or otherwise less fortunate than myself.

Here’s my list of schadenfreude blogs.

Got any favourite schadenfreude sites?

HTML 5 at South By South West: vote for me!

I’m doing a panel at SxSW with Steve Faulkner, Remy Sharp and another to be announced.

HTML5: Tales from the Development Trenches

Panel description

HTML5 is coming. Originally called “web applications 1.0”, it brings new semantics, JavaScript APIs for drag and drop, offline storage, generating images, plugin-free video and form validation. It’s upset semantic web advocates, accessibility evangelists and baffled developers. Cut through the crap: learn what it is and what it does.

Questions we’ll discusss

  1. What is HTML5? It’s more than just HTML5, right?
  2. When can I start using HTML5, and what’s available *right* now?
  3. How does accessibility work in HTML5, and what about ARIA?
  4. What about XHTML, XML, XForms, RDFa and all that jazz?
  5. What if the browser doesn’t support HTML5?
  6. Is it gonna make Flash obsolete?
  7. What about Microsoft?
  8. What are the best and worst bits about HTML5?
  9. How does HTML5 affect JavaScript, and it’s interaction with the DOM?
  10. What are the commercial advantages of moving to HTML5 for my business / How do I get my boss to let me start working on HTML5 today?

Please vote for this panel and send a glam Brightonian JavaScripter and two middle-aged accessibilistas on holiday.

Martin Kliehm has a dedicated HTML 5 accessibility panel which looks pretty snazzy too.

.Net magazine awards

.Net magazine has me up for their Standards Champion award. I won’t ask you to vote for me, as my friends and colleagues Patrick Lauke and Molly Holzschlag are up for the same award (as are many other mates).

Good that Opera has three of its Developer Relations team up for this award—more than any other browser. (And I notice that Opera Unite is a nominee in the Innovations category, too.)

Superpowers I wish I had

Car stereo silencing stare

I wish that, with just one withering glance, I could silence the stereos of all the dicks who drive around with crap music thumping and their car windows open so we all have to hear it. (And why do boy racers listen to such bass-heavy tuneless shit?)

Mobile phone remote acid-seepage

Continuing the wanker-behind-the-wheel theme, I would love to be able to flick my fingers and cause people who drive while yapping into their mobiles unimaginable pain by somehow causing Hydrofluoric acid to exude from the ear and mouthpiece. Obviously, not face-melting quantities (I am, after all, a force for good) but enough droplets to teach them a lesson. (And why do so many people hold the phone against the opposite ear from the hand they’re using?)

Being Lord of All Software

97.4% of software is unusable shit, particularly operating systems. After all the excellent karma I’ve accumulated by being a force for good in this life, I hope to be reincarnated as Lord of All Software, able to make it to what I want it to do, when I want it to do it, through my Mighty Will alone—without tweaking arcane config files, delving into obscure menus or memorising keyboard shortcuts that would challenge an octopus.

Automatic bare-chest modesty-iser

When lads wander by shirtless as soon as the winter recedes, I would wiggle my nose B-witched style, and their pasty bare chests would immediately be draped in embarrassing lingerie. Or a burka. It’s a public decency service.

The power not to be incredibly gorgeous and irresistable to ladies

Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a megahot standards-evangelisin’ love-machine. Only sometimes, mind you.

What superpower would you like?