Monday, February 25, 2008

Urban Legend ER

As much as I don't want to make a habit of posting videos and leeching off the creativity of other people, I thought that this was too good not to share (and it gives me another five-minute of distraction from working on that essay I should have finished hours ago)!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How To Break Your Social Network

It seems that the media have finally gotten around to reporting about the fact that those who sign up for social networking sites are essentially signing away their privacy rights. Of course, this has been met with a collective "Well Durr!" from any discerning users of such sites.

Me? I'm hoping that the media is catching up with the rest of the class just as the momentum of the social networking juggernaut begins to level off. We're all well aware that the seemingly innocuous and mundane personal details that one fills in are being used by big evil corporations to read our mind, but that doesn't really upset anyone. Fewer of us are aware that files uploaded to these sites become the property of the big evil corporation that owns it, and most are now worried that their proclivities for hard partyin' (G left out for emphasis) and hard drinkin' (ditto) will become publically accessible knowledge that will stop them working for some big evil corporation down the line.

Little of this has much to do with what I'm about to talk about though; I just felt like setting the scene.

I'm just sick of the ever-increasing greed these social networks are exhibiting. Third-party applications, in particular are making the utilisation of these sites an absolute chore. Facebook introduced these some time ago, and since then Bebo have jumped on the bandwagon. In theory, these applications generate more features and allow the user a greater degree of customisation, but in practice, they clutter up a profile and grind the user’s patience down to a nub as they try to access the modicum of information they’re actually interested in.

I recently received this invitation for ‘Which 1950’s Pin Up Girl are you?”. Ignoring the flagrant abuse of the once noble apostrophe, I have to ask; could this not be done via a simple link to a quiz on an external, old fashioned webpage, like we did in years gone by? Is it really worth the hassle of signing up for five minutes of inane distraction, agreeing to the Terms of Service that you won’t read and losing legal ownership of your liver over? It could be my fear of commitment speaking, but I’m not very keen to endorse something like that on my profile page for the rest of my facebooking life.

Furthermore, I’m almost entirely sure that this invitation was given to me not because my friend thought it was exactly the kind of thing I’m interested in, but rather because the process of not sending it to me proved unwieldy. Obviously, these products need to be tested, vetted and approved by a governing body before being thrust before 64million users and told to play nice. Have a look at the options I was presented with when offered the app in question:

How dare they exploit my human folly! Of course if I see a button labelled ‘don’t click here’, it’s the first thing my disembodied hand-with-permanently-extended-index-finger is going to want to depress! Of course, for the sake of blog research, I decided to click it, and sure enough, as soon as I committed the deed, four of its friends grabbed me, pulled a bag over my head, and threw me in a van to take me to the sign-up page.

Appalling. If they had included some cute little gimmick for clicking the button, all would be well and good, but to deliberately mislabel something? To lie, on the internet? Heresy!
Another disgusting trend of Bebo and Facebook is that more and more ‘sponsored content’ is appearing, which is fine – us veteran internet users have learnt to ignore advertisements. But sneaking ads into the page where we overview the recent activity of our friends is a bit much.

Julia? Do I know you? What? I’m sorry love, but I couldn’t give a flying fuck about group hugs between people who are being paid to group hug. I also don’t care much for, or their employment policies.

Imaginary friends who appear in your Friend Updates is pretty sinister stuff, but the really irritating stuff is the banner ads at the top of the page, which kills a considerable amount of the joy that the personal skin I made gives me (look at it - it's glorious)! This example serves impinges on all of my complaints before: it’s on Bebo despite obviously being designed to look like it belongs on Facebook, it’s an obnoxious ad that impairs on your enjoyment, it pretends to be your mail system, and as a bonus, it molests the English language in the process (well - cops a pervy feel at least).

Click for a better look - it's worth it, I promise!

The solution is quite unremarkable, particularly with regards to third-party apps; moderation. Draft up a list of rules – restrict ads that masquerade as part of the site; assume that the user doesn’t automatically wish to spam everybody they know with app invites; only green light the apps of merit to keep the lazily constructed vessels for ads out of the picture, and finally; make provision for a greater degree of community policing.

These recent developments in social networking sites has me logging on less and less, which I’m sure hurts their bottom line, since I spent less time looking at their obnoxious ads. During my weekly logins to stalk the few remaining friends I have, it becomes increasingly more tempting to click what should be a very red and very shiny button.

I'm hoping that the recent bad publicity that these sites have been getting, coupled with a disgruntled community that voices their disdain at the way things are going will change matters, but I doubt it. The implications of exiling oneself from a powerful social-tool are far greater than I'm willing to put up with.

When I inevitably make a pariah of myself, it'll be in a much more dramatic fashion, and will possibly involve a public setting, a violent expulsion of bodily effluvia, 16 eunuchs coated in oil-based lubricant, and a mallard... Better make that two mallards.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saints and Shitters, Part II

Some three months ago or so, I posted about a person, possibly a priest, possibly a mere mortal masquerading as one, who took it upon themselves to scrawl Christian-propaganda in male public toilets throughout the country!

Two more sightings have since come in, one from my friend, (proprietor of Ireland's Eoghan), who told me that he found it in the (rather swanky) Café on the Row in Limerick. Apologies for the poor quality of the mobile-phone picture, but one can clearly see that the handwriting is unmistakably similar to the other documented incidents.

Regular readers should be acquainted with Dermot, who snapped this picture "in the men's bathroom in the Shopping Centre in Shannon that's on the outskirts of the town". I'm not familiar with it myself, but I am with the handwriting this fine specimen:

Dermot was amazed at the ballsiness of this scrawl, as it is not on the inside of a private cubicle, but on the door as one exits the bathroom. He speculated that to have such access, the perpetrator would have to be a cleaner - this flies in the face of the fact that our perp is extremely mobile, having left his mark in the counties of Galway, Limerick, and Clare, and I suspect that there are many more that we haven't stumbled across yet!

He proposed I appeal for female readers of this blog to write in (preferably with photo evidence) and let me know if they have encountered any such messages whilst powdering their nose (as we all know that a woman's bathroom consists of nothing more than a large mirror they all fix themselves in front of, as women have no excretory needs whatsoever).

This whole thing is bizarre. I have appointed myself as the authority on the subject, and will be determining which instances of Biblically-driven petty crime are genuine, based on the graphological evidence.

I'm currently of the belief that this is an exclusive fixture of male bathrooms, but why? Why are men privileged with having access to the information that the Bible is in fact, the word of God? Other than the fact that the Bible is a tome of blatant misogyny, of course...

One thing that cannot be disputed is that this person, whether slightly misguided or outright insane (my money is on the latter), is the bane of cleaning ladies throughout the many bathrooms of Ireland. I can picture a dedicated sub-culture of cleaning personnel, who live in fear every day that some incognito clergyman will strike with his enchanted permanent marker that is impervious to any man-made cleaning technology. I can vividly see the ashen faces and hear the tearful conversations between the cleaners at their conventions – “I’ve seen it happen to others, but you never expect it to happen to you!” they weep at one another in quiet corners.

That’s what I’m about dear readers. It’s time to give something back to the community.

Let’s get this bastard, before he gets someone you care about.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

'Little Runt'

As I stride through the kitchen, I pound my feet on the tiled floor to scare the little runt. He lets out a slight gasp of fear that spills in from the utility room.

“I know you’re in there kid, I can smell ya!”

That, and I can see him through the crack in the door. I know he’s carrying a weapon, so to avoid injuring myself in this assassination attempt, I stick my hand around the door, press the gun up against his head and pull the trigger without an instant of hesitation.

My executed target springs from behind the door in disgust.

“Seán! That’s cheating! I can’t shoot you if I can’t see you!”


You’ve already been acquainted with my little brother, so allow me to expound on why he seeks my company in so aggressive a manner by telling you about what we got up to on Thursday while I was babysitting him.

A few weeks ago, he came into the possession of a sizable arsenal of Nerf weapons that fire foam darts. Since then, no man (regardless of age) has come into the house without picking one up and enthusing about how cool they are. Last Thursday, I finally got to indulge in an hour-long shootout with these non-lethal hand cannons.

The way it worked for the first half hour involved my little brother running away, me catching up, him jumping out from behind some obvious cover and offloading all his darts at my feet, over my head, or to the left and right of me. Out of ammo, he would then dance on the spot, avoiding my shots with an almost precognition-like efficacy. Eventually though, it became clear that he wasn’t faring too well going toe-to-toe with a creature three times his size in close quarters combat, so he decided to mix it up a bit.

“I’ll go hide, and you come find me and shoot me”, he proposed.

This variant on Hide and Seek with extra violence didn’t really turn out the way he had hoped, owing to his lack of imagination as to where he should hide. I found him behind a door because I could see him through the crack. I found him under a table because his legs were sticking out (as he faced away from the only door I’d enter). I found him behind a curtain that was bulging in a conspicuous manner. After I blindly shot under his bed and heard “ow”, I knew we’d be resetting again. He was 4-0 down, and needed to step up his game.

I went through the rigmarole  of wandering downstairs and counting to twenty while he secured a spot for himself, but I was interrupted after ‘12’ with a triumphant “I’m ready” that unmistakably came from upstairs. Laughing at the manner in which he essentially gave away his position, I trudged up the stairs. From this point on, I cleared all of the rooms in a manner Jack Bauer would, pressing my back against the wall, spinning into the room, and checking the corners with exaggerated sweeping motions. The main bathroom was empty. So was my sister’s room. As was the hot press [pay attention yank readers - it’s a small roomish-type thing in an Irish home where clothes, towels and bed linen are placed for airing, right next to the immersion heater]. I could’ve sworn that his voice came from that corner of the house, but I continued with my search.

The spare bedroom was devoid of any seven-year olds, as was the other. I was puzzled. I wandered into the room that belonged to this elusive genius and saw no trace of him. I stood at the doorway of my father’s room and made the usual racket that would flush him out, but he wasn’t there. Was he up on the third floor? It certainly didn’t sound like it. Regardless, I had a quick check up there, forgetting any Baueresque theatrics. I was thoroughly puzzled.

I began to think it possible that he had moved from one room to the other, and could have snuck downstairs, so I went back to the ground floor, and looked in the usual spots, including the conservatory that would surely scare the bejesus out of a seven-year old in its current state of darkness.

I had failed. I stood at the foot of the stairs and shouted up:

“I can’t find you. I give up. You can come out now.”

“I don’t believe you. You’re trying to trick me”

He was upstairs! Undoubtedly so. I ran up to where the voice came from.

“Hello?” I called out.

“Can you not find me?”

I spun around, completely disoriented. Few things are more unnerving than the disembodied voice of a seven year old who is haunting you. I simply couldn’t fathom where he could be, and desired to end this round as soon as possible.

“I give up. I’m not trying to trick you. You win”

“Okay – you go and hide, and I’ll come and get you when you say ‘ready’”

I still hadn’t a clue where his shrill voice was coming from.

“Just count to twenty and then come find me”

“No. I’ll come when you say ‘ready’”

Not wanting to argue any more with the spirit of my little brother who had seemingly bonded with the house, I complied. I stashed myself in the coat-press under the stairs and bellowed that I was ready.

I heard him scream ‘okay’, but nothing happened for a few moments after. I shouted ‘ready’ again, in case he misheard me, and again only heard ‘okay’. A few more moments passed, and then I heard him shouting at my sister.

“Sarah! Can you come and get me? I’m very high up, and I’m a little afraid of heights.”

Upon hearing these words, (as you’d expect me to) I leapt out of my hidey-hole, and up the stairs to help him out.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you” I called out.

“Don’t shoot me!” he pleaded. I still had no idea where he was.

“I left my gun downstairs”

“Do you promise?” The conversation wasn’t helping me figure out where he needed to be. Was he behind the drywall? In the attic?

“I promise, just tell me where you are!” I shouted towards where I thought his voice was coming from.

“I’m in the hot press”

Son of a bitch! I did a quick 180 and poked my head into the seemingly empty hot press, looked up, and sure enough, there he was! Before I actually helped him, I laughed hysterically (out of relief that the house hadn't in fact eaten him) and took a photo.


“Get me down! I’m sweaty!”

He wasn’t lying. He almost slipped out of my hands as I lowered him from the shelf that was almost seven-feet from the floor. He stood on the ground for a few minutes panting, his glowing red face an indication that he wasn’t exaggerating how uncomfortable it was up there.

I only wish this was the first time I had been outsmarted by a seven year old.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kindred Spirit

Friends, I'd like to introduce you to Fin... Or more specifically, Fin's Blog.
For months now, I've been reading Fin's blog, all the while feeling a little guilty about not giving him the linkage he so thoroughly deserves, since the subjects we deal with are largely incompatible.

That said, I've always been a believer in the adage (that I think I coined myself), 'hate brings people together', and it is for this reason I realise Fin's blog and mine aren't so different after all.

Here's an excerpt from his site, posted just yesterday:

How does someone even misspell "Evening?"

If you've been keeping up with this very blog over the past few days, this entry should be eerily familiar. It gives me a sense of solace that I'm not the only one who is lamenting the University's lenience towards those who wish to sodomise the English language. Of course, Fin has a different style of discussing calamitous oversights in signmaking that is slightly more to the point than my own!

On a separate note, Fin's blog often represents what this blog could easily have been; an unabashed tribute to nerd/gamer/computer-geek culture, as well as the multitudes of various other interests of mine that I fear are too esoteric to share on my personal blog.

Fin's blog can be found here, and if you'd like to thank me for suppressing my-inner nerd in the way Finlay hasn't, you can do so here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Big Brother Blues

I think I've established myself as a pretty harsh character by this stage; an openly nitpicky, disillusioned, pedantic, petty, vindictive, aggressive, narcissistic, cynical, handsome son of a bitch, who will gleefully launch an all-out attack on whatever minor infraction of rationality that comes his way.

It's possible that this blog hasn't quite exposed me as being all these things, but those who know me best assure me that the majority of the above paragraph is true. Believe it or not, despite my hardassedness, (a reference to my disposition, not buttocks), there do exist people who are willing to spend time with me. Voluntarily! Some clamour for my time and attention.

Like my little brother, for example. Don't believe me? This is a voicemail I got one day when I broke a promise I didn't remember making.

Chilling, no? At only 7 years old, he has not only mastered the use of mobile telecommunications devices, but also the life-skill of exploiting human folly, brute-forcing guilt upon his target with a combination of strong rhetoric and sheer adorability.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The University of Limerick "Our Frugality is your Frustration!"

One thing that has become abundantly clear from all my dealings with my beloved University is this: they go out of their way to hire the stupidest people on the earth to handle any task that doesn't involve academia. If you want a laugh, go through all the wrongs I have endured at the University of Limerick (there are some unadulterated joys in there, also) by clicking the 'University of Limerick' label at the bottom of this post. 

But let's not dwell in the past eh? The reason you're reading this is because I have a new reason for ridiculing the University, trivial as it may be. I present to you, a dire warning designed to fend off the boldest of parkers, located in a picturesque laneway not far from the main hub of campus activity.

I know, I know. I'm really dealing with minutiae at this stage, but I'm holding the University to standards! Basic English language standards! Let's look at the tally: in the past few months alone there's been a leak in the library; the timetables weren't available at the start of the last semester; I 'failed' out of college because they lost track of where I was; the exam results weren't available intermittently for a few days after their advertised release... Oh well, maybe I'm just bitter because they sent me to Belgium for a five-month shit scrubbing marathon!

Maybe all of this is a good thing. Perhaps the money the administrative staff save in letting their drooling dyslexic daughters make signs (among other duties) frees up cash that can be used to woo the greatest educators in the world to our humble university...

Or perhaps not.