My favourite kitchen appliance rock group

… and now for something completely different: Hurra Torpedo performing Total Eclipse of the Heart.

If you’re not familiar with them Hurra Torpedo are “the world’s leading kitchen appliance rock group”. Those are their words, I’m sure you have your own favourite kitchen appliance rock group so please don’t let their boasting upset you.

My favourite YouTuber comment appeared on another upload of the same video:

That was so great that I can’t even talk about it right now. I feel both reborn and filthy.
digiflapjack

I think digiflapjack speaks for us all.

Keith Allen, a jug of water and Jesus

Water being poured from a jug into a glass.

Catching up with friends’ blogs today I came across Neil’s review of the Channel 4 show “Keith Allen will burn in Hell” the other night, the show where he visited one of America’s most controversial churches, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

I don’t watch very much TV so I missed that this was on, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube I watched it this afternoon: Keith Allen will burn in Hell on YouTube (the show is in five parts on YouTube).

Documentary

Reading Channel 4’s description of this show it’s quite clear that this wasn’t going to be a terribly high-brow documentary:

Programme-makers in America and Britain have repeatedly tried to expose their beliefs as anti-Christian, but these attempts have failed. In Channel 4’s investigation, Keith Allen takes a smarter, more streetwise approach. During three extraordinary days at Westboro, Keith reveals more about the church than other television programmes have unearthed in three months.

By “streetwise” I presume they meant “is willing to dig the dirt” and “will occasionally resort to playground name-calling and swear words”.

On a few occasions I felt that Keith Allen’s actions were cheap and didn’t offer anything constructive to the documentary (his scene in the studio with the naked man, for example).

But his bravery for going into that situation, into their territory, and taking them on (armed only with his wit) has to be applauded. It would be too easy for me to sit comfortably at home, in front of my PC, and criticise — I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do it.

Sad

On the whole the documentary left me feeling quite sad. Sad that these Christians are known more for their hatred of people who are homosexuals, their controversial picketing of dead American soldiers’ funerals, their offensive signs and confrontational attitudes, rather than for their example of living out the person of Jesus in their every day lives. They seemed to demonstrate anger more than compassion, judgement more than love.

  • The WBC’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) is to picket and rant and tell them that God hates them and that they are going to hell.
  • God’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) was to send Jesus to show us just how much he loves us.
  • Jesus’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) was to love them, to heal them and be a living example of God’s love to the point that he forgave them while they were crucifying him.

Desert Fathers

There is a story from the Desert Fathers (the Christians from the 2nd and 3rd centuries) about a brother who had “committed a fault”. So a council was formed to which Abba (Father) Moses was invited. But he declined the invitation and stayed at home.

Eventually the priest sent someone to him saying “Come, for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up, took a leaking jug, filled it with water and took it to them.

The members of the council came out to meet him, and on seeing the leaking jug asked “What is this, Father?”

The old man looked at them and said, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the error of another.”

When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

(Found in The Way of the Heart by Henri J M Nouwen)

WWJD?

I find it hard not to want to judge the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, as witnessed on that documentary. But I know that I shouldn’t.

All I can say is, simply, that I did not recognise the Jesus that I know and love and read about in my New Testament in their actions. The Jesus that I know would be standing at those soldiers’ funerals weeping with their families; or spending his evenings in the gay bars getting to know the clientèle.

Christianity is not about fear, hatred or anger — it’s about our lives being transformed by God through love. And that’s not wishy-washy. It’s a hard, hard thing to sit in honesty with our own weakness, vulnerability, brokenness, nothingness and offer ourselves humbly and completely to God. It’s easier to hide behind a façade, a mask, a compulsion, even a sign that berates others. But it’s not healthier!

I simply know that those moments that I have dared to seek God in silent prayer have revealed to me that … well, Nouwen puts it this way: “[I] realize that nothing human is alien to [me], that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, and envy are deeply anchored in [my] own heart” (Op cit., p.25).

So who am I to judge others? All I can do is start by asking God to change me, and pray that others may see something of God in my transformation.

I just wish there were more TV shows that explored something of that, such as the BBC series The Monastery.

Testing websites in multiple browsers

Browsers

In the words of The Fast Show: This week I are been mostly testing websites in different browsers.

Using Google Analytics

Thanks to our use of the ever-useful Google Analytics I can see that the top five browsers to visit the University website are:

  1. Internet Explorer – 74.01%
  2. Firefox – 17.78%
  3. Safari – 6.65%
  4. Netscape – 0.76%
  5. Opera – 0.44%

Within the Google Analytics stats I can also break down those generalisations and learn, for example, that of those 271,685 visitors who used Internet Explorer to visit the website last month 60% used IE6, 38% used IE7. This gives us an idea of the browsers that we should definitely be supporting.

We made a decision at the start of the coding project to only support IE6/Windows and above, and not to support IE/Mac at all — after all, Microsoft no longer support IE on the Mac so why should we?

The Google Analytics statistics have, thankfully, shown us that we were right not to put a huge amount of time and effort into trying to make sure the CSS code worked perfectly with IE5.5 and below. Of the visitors who use Internet Explorer 99.08% use either IE6 or IE7; 0.92% use older ‘unsupported’ versions of IE.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3 … 18

So, yesterday I created a mindmap showing us what browsers were most used and what outstanding problems were still being experienced by these.

To do this I got to install quite a few of these browsers onto my work PC. I now have no fewer than 18:

  1. Firefox 1.0.8
  2. Firefox 1.5.0.10
  3. Firefox 2.0.0.4
  4. Internet Explorer 3.0
  5. Internet Explorer 4.01
  6. Internet Explorer 5.01
  7. Internet Explorer 5.55
  8. Internet Explorer 6.0
  9. Internet Explorer 7.0
  10. Netscape 4.8
  11. Netscape 7.1
  12. Netscape 7.2
  13. Netscape 8.1.3
  14. Netscape 9.0b1
  15. Opera 7.11
  16. Opera 8.5
  17. Opera 9.21
  18. Safari 3.1

This has been incredibly valuable. And I’ve now got the go-ahead to get our hands on a Mac and a Linux box so that we can test their browsers natively.

Firefox

Whenever I’ve tried to install more than one version of Mozilla Firefox I’ve run into troubles; or if I’ve installed the latest release of Firefox 3.

So here’s what I do: I head over to PortableApps.com who offer stand-alone versions of a lot of software, including Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition.

These are primarily designed to install onto and run from portable flash drives, but they can also be installed to particular folders on your PC, with the reassurance that they will not interfere with your default installation of Firefox.

Specific legacy versions of Firefox can also be found on the Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition Sourceforge page.

Internet Explorer

Since Internet Explorer is so embedded into your operating system (I’m speaking to Windows-users here) you can’t simply install more than one version of IE quite as easily as you might hope.

However, aware of this the kind people at TredoSoft have created an application that will install five standalone versions of IE: 3.0, 4.01, 5.01, 5.55 and 6.0.

Check out Multiple IE.

Netscape and Opera

With both Netscape and Opera you can install as many versions as you wish — assuming that you remember when installing to give them unique installation locations. Otherwise you can, as I did yesterday, install one version over the top of another.

A great place to download older versions of these, and other browsers is the Browser Archive at evolt.org.

Safari

And last, but not least, Apple Safari 3, which has only been available for Windows’ users for a couple of weeks. It’s most certainly a welcome addition to my installed browser arsenal.

… and lastly

For all you metalheads, why not install the SlipKnot browser from 1999? Not because it’ll help you with your web development, but simply so that you can say that you have a browser installed with the same name as a nine-piece metal band from Des Moines, Iowa! |m|

Men in uniform

Gareth in an Air Training Corps uniform

They say that every woman loves a man in uniform. To be honest, I’m not sure you can be entirely accurate with such a sweeping statement!

That’s a photograph of me proudly standing in the garden in my Air Training Corps uniform; I must have been aged about 15, I reckon.

And that’s a little orange wheelbarrow to the right of me, in case you were wondering. It wasn’t standard issue. Sometimes in the thick of pseudo-military situations you just have to improvise.

Which service do you want?

I really wanted to join the Royal Navy Training Corps (if ever there was such a thing), as my grandfather was an engineer in the Royal Navy, but given that Selkirk is about 33 miles from the sea and they couldn’t get a battleship up the River Ettrick (not that I suppose they ever even tried … lazy lot!) I had to make do with either the Air Training Corps (ATC) or Army Cadet Force (affectionately called “Pongos” by the ATC!).

My uncle had been in the ATC; he could fly a plane. That was cool. So I joined the Air Training Corps.

I thought it was classier too. Too many Saturday matinee films on BBC2, I reckon, watching Ginger and Blasher fighting it out amongst the clouds.

The closest I got to flying with the ATC, however, was sweeping out a hanger because our gliding appointment was cancelled due to high winds. We spent the afternoon instead wandering around the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street in Edinburgh with members of the public mistaking us for curators.

Favourite things

I had three favourite things in the ATC, apart from dressing up in the uniform, and marching around the local car park:

  1. The uniforms
    Well, alright, the first thing was dressing up in the uniform. But it was more so dressing up in DPM and hiding under bushes in our local woods. An excuse to play Hide and Seek with some vague militaristic theme.

  2. Shooting guns
    I wasn’t very good at it, to be honest, and I never wanted to shoot a human, but shooting real, live rifles was great fun none-the-less: lying prone with an SLR nestled into your shoulder firing off a magazine of .22 rounds into a small cardboard target at the end of basement room in Galashiels.

    We never got to combine hiding in woods with firing guns at targets … odd that.

  3. A sense of belonging
    Much of my childhood was characterised by my feeling that somehow I didn’t belong (I’m an Enneagram FOUR) so this was brilliant. It was like the Boy Scouts but without the bullying, with more discipline, and you got to run about in DPM, hiding in woods and shooting at targets in basement rooms in Galashiels!

    It was like Junior National ServiceTM, but more fun. I think everyone should have to do Junior National Service. It didn’t do me any harm … if you need me I’ll be the one hiding in the woods with a gun! With my gang. Dressed in camouflage.

What more could a teenage boy want?! A girlfriend, I guess … but that’s another story.

I’m going to IWMW2007 in York

York skyline, showing York Minster
York skyline, showing York Minster. (Photo from York Musical Society.)

Well, it’s all booked up now and confirmed: next month (16-18 July) my Web colleague (not Spiderman, the other one) and I are off to York for the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2007, which this year has the theme of “Next Steps for the Web Management Community”.

Last year’s workshop in Bath was great fun, not least because I had only been in the job for a little under two months and I was already heading off to my second conference; my first being the WWW2006 conference in Edinburgh.

This year I’m a little more clued up on the issues that face Higher Education Institution web teams, having been in the job now for nearly 14 months. Plus I’ve now met more of the Scottish Web Folk, so won’t quite feel such a ‘Billy No Mates’ at it.

I’m looking forward to hearing and meeting one of the speakers, Paul Boag who is also one of my favourite podcasters. Check out his Web-related podcast at Boagworld.

This year too I’ll have my laptop with me, and digital camera, so expect a few blog posts, some pics on my Flickr account.

If you’re going too, feel free to contact me beforehand; by whichever method you like (although email or Messenger are probably the most surefire way of getting me).