Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sinister nursery rhymes

Did you know that the nursery rhyme "Georgie Porgie pudding and pie" refers to a notorious case of wanton sexual indiscretions and harassment in the 17th Century? Or how about "Mary Mary quite contrary" being all about the torture of Protestants in Queen Mary's bloody reign?

These are from another list: The Disturbing Origins of 5 Common Nursery Rhymes.

To me, these explanations seem rather contrived, and I wonder how much the words have been fitted to the history in retrospect.

Or maybe future generations of children will be singing nursery rhymes all about the death of Diana, and the scandal of the valet and the "senior royal"

Photo by Flickr user Jacob Whittaker
Licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.0

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mostly female

Apparently, according to the BBC's sex I.D. quiz, my brain is mostly female.

I was actually surprised to see that I was slightly above average in spacial awareness, and that my memory for objects was good. These are both things that I know I'm not good at. But then that's "above average" compared to people idly playing online of course.

My verbal fluidity was below average though, and I didn't do well at judging emotions from photos of eyes.

It's an interesting test though, well worth a look.

Friday, 29 August 2008

A lifetime lost

Here's a sad story. Paul Mawhinney has the world's largest music collection, more than 3 million records and 300,000 CDs. But all that takes a lot of looking after, and it's not something he can do for much longer.

You would think a collection like that would be in high demand. But sadly there are no buyers. Of course, it's the maintenance that's going to be a problem, not the price. But even so, it's so sad to see that no one can give this unique resource a home.

Anyone out there with a few million and a love of music?

Credit: Avatar

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Where does the day go?

Time. I need more of it.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Facial art

This has got to be the best beard I've even seen.

This is Willi Chevalier, the winner of the "Partial Beard Freestyle" section of the 2007 World Beard & Moustache Championships

There are some great entries for this, although I'm not quite sure what is going on with the winner of the "Full Beard Freestyle" section... is that a bridge?

This is a site I'm keeping in my bookmarks. I'm fascinated to see what they come up with next year!
Credit: ApeOnThursdays on #uncyclopedia
Image: Andy Barker. Used with permission.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Spam, Spam, Spam

Part of my job at Wikia is helping to keep the wikis free of spam. Of course, this is a never-ending task. And as soon as something new is developed to help, the spammers find ways around it.

I knew that spammers used bots, but I didn't really have a clear idea of how this was done. Or, for that matter, how effectively.

So this demonstration of a spam-bot from pandasecurity was fascinating. The bot does so much, even coping with verification emails.

Looks like it's the anti-spammers move in the never-ending chess game.
Image by Flickr user Grumbler %-|
Licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.0

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Pointless harmony

Sometimes, one just has to ask... "why?"

Of course, the answer is always "why not?"

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Embracing the user

One of the challenges of the interactive Internet is how should a company react when content is created using their property? This is a question that's being worked out on sites, and in court rooms, as the changes in how we use the Internet come up against laws written for a simpler time.

One reaction is to take that new content and embrace it. It's not going to work for all situations, but I tend to think this is a healthy way of dealing with the new media - sort of "if you can't beat them, use them for publicity".

EA Sports reaction to a YouTube posting of a "glitch" in the game Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 08 is the perfect example of this. They took a fan made video and turned it into this:

Much better than a court case.
Credit: Aaron

Friday, 22 August 2008

A ruby ruse

When is a hoax not a hoax?

How about when you actually tell people that they are paying $1000 for an iPhone application that does nothing other than add an icon to their screen?

That's what the "I Am Rich"application did. Just add a nice little ruby to your iPhone... a sign of wealth that those of us who can't afford to spend $1000 on something so pointless can only covert.

Come to think of it, that applies to the phone as much as the icon as far as I'm concerned.

And is it a hoax? Not in my book. I have to think those that paid for this were wrong to complain - they got exactly what they paid for.

Credit: Splarka

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Paying attention?

I think this is a video that has to be seen without comment...

I liked the gorilla sitting in the background. That's a reference to another study on perception. For this one, the idea is to count how many times the ball is passed between the team wearing white.

Of course, having just seen the first video you may not see the full effect of the second. But just in case... if you didn't see anything unusual, then try again without the counting.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


I didn't post yesterday, because I was giving my first ever public presentation. It was terrifying, but I think it went well.

The presentation was at a workshop on ""emergent democracy", a complicated concept, and one that Wikipedia totally fails to explain.

Learning about this led me to Minding the Planet, and an idea to use emergent democracy to decide on the actions of a group. Each group member would agree to give 15 minutes of time a week to whatever the group decided that time should be spent on.

I like the idea... but I'm the independent type. What if I didn't want to do what the group thought I should?

But then, I think that's where real emergent democracy comes in. It's not about voting in a group for what we should do, it's about doing it... or not. The decision emerges from the actions we choose to make.

And that's when I can see why I was asked to talk about Wikipedia. I talked mostly about discussions on the site, but really it's the edits that matter.

Monday, 18 August 2008

You have to be joking...

Some days online it's hard to tell the reality from the parody.

That says a lot about the human race, if you still care enough about them to analyse it.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The coveted keyboard

I would never have thought I would be even remotely tempted to pay $1,589.99 for a keyboard. But one with a miniature screen on every key?

The Optimus Maximus keyboard has just that. And each of those OLED screens can be programmed with your choice of font, image, or even animation.

I want.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Statistical errors

Did you know that there is statistical proof that storks deliver babies?

Robert Matthews gathered statistics on stork populations from 17 European counties, and compared them to national birth rates. Analysing the data, he found a significant correlation... and one that was also highly statistically significant.

Of course, the purpose of all this was to demonstrate how statistics can be misleading - especially where the data is badly selected (what about the countries that don't have any storks?)

And of course, it's important to remember that 56% of statistics are made up on the spot.

Image by Arpingstone of Wikimedia Commons
(Public domain)

Friday, 15 August 2008

OMG COW!!!!11

I use YouTube a lot. That's reflected in this blog of course, there is always something to catch my attention on YouTube.

But one thing that never catches my attention are the comments. I think they must be among the most pointless and puerile on the internet - and that says a lot.

If you've never read them, don't try. Instead, all you need is this description of the classic YouTube debate from Faulty Logic.

Although according to Brad Berens at Mediavorous, the inane comments are the secret of YouTube's sucess.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

ARK de Triumphe

ARKive looks to be a wonderful project. The aim is to gather images, information, and video of all of the worlds creatures - starting with those most endangered.

The images and video come from professional photographers and film makers, and many are truly stunning (if a little over watermarked).

But here is where the wiki-addict in me shows. I have to think that they are making a mistake in creating this as such a closed system. The organisation and the look of the site are great, but are they really doing the right thing with the content?

Maybe they should consider what they might gain by looking at some of the work done by ordinary people contributing their own work to an extraordinary project.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Cuteness conundrum

So why is there no English word for "kraulen"?

Image by Flickr user fraencko
Licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.0

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

An artist's tools

Something I enjoy is playing with Paint Shop Pro to create or (more often) modify images. But I would never claim to be artistic. One thing about a really good graphics program is that it makes it easy to get great effects and good-looking images.

And I'd say that the corollary to that is that a really good artist can make something good with almost any tool. Like... say... Lipstick, or vegimite.

Or harder still, MS Paint!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Aynayda Pizaqvick

Remember the old prank of fooling airport announcers into paging for bogus names? It's even older as a phone prank of course... ask Bart Simpson.

Still, the old jokes are the best, and I enjoyed this site with recordings of announcers falling for the prank.

A little more sophisticated than "Ivor Biggun". Or at least, slightly more subtle.

Credit: Kirkburn

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Base 38 = GN8GS9I

Today I just want to celebrate having the type of friends who would work out what your name would be in base 2 to 61, starting from the assumption that "sannse" is a number in base 62.

Well, OK, maybe just one friend that would do that. But it's still cool.

In another case of that strange synchronicity, he also quoted the old joke about people who know binary, just two days after I explained the same joke to my mother.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Toasters are interesting!

I've just arrived home from a week working in Wikia's Poland office, and am feeling rather smug that I only missed one post while away.

But with today being a day of almost internet-less recovery, I didn't have much of an idea of what to write about.

Luckily, my friends at #uncyclopedia were there to help:
<azzt|cgi> sannse: toasters
<sannse> toasters are not an interesting thing
<azzt|cgi> toasters are quite interesting!
And it seems they are right. What a great collection...

It seems the world of interesting toasters falls roughly into three categories: new designs like the transparent toaster; devices that combine toasting with other actions; and toasters that burn designs into your bread.

Although I'm not quite sure where the "highest popping toaster in the world" fits in.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Paris for president

I can't resist another dose of political humour today.

I've never been a fan of those famous for being famous, and I can't say that I follow the whole celebrity thing enough to know what Paris Hilton actually does. But she's certainly gone up in my estimation with this little gem:

Credit: Artur

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

From the age of innocence

I was tempted today to blog about a school computer club page with a "want to cyber?" animated gif.

But, sadly, I felt compelled to mail them about it and explain a little more about the meaning of the phrase. So I would guess that the image won't last...

So instead, I give you PongOut - the marriage of two classic games, controlled simultaneously with the mouse.

As usual with flash games, I lost pretty fast. But I do like the way two old favourites are given a new twist.

Ah, I pine for my old pong console. From the days when "cyber" really did mean "about computers".

Credit: rwg from #uncyclopedia

Monday, 4 August 2008

Steampunk revisited

Why is it that whenever you hear of a new word or concept for the first time, you start hearing it everywhere?

The first I heard of "steampunk" was the beautiful steampunk laptop. So I looked around to learn more about it, and found it a popular genre that I'd never heard of before.

Then along comes another great steampunk site. Sillof has a wonderful collection of Star Wars characters, redesigned in the steampunk style.

This is beautiful work. The makeover is carefully designed, and meticulously implemented. Each figure keeps its individual character and is fully recognisable, but the style and detail is wonderfully steampunk.

Darth Vader, pictured above is probably my favourite, but I love all of this guy's work.

Other highlights of the site are a set of 1942 Star Wars characters and the Gaslight Justice League.
Credit: #wookieepedia
Image:, used with permission.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Signs of the times

I've looked before at the way carefully placed two-dimensional art can be made to look three-dimensional.

Here's a very impressive example from a car park in Melbourn. In this image, the work looks like a rather abstract design of colours... attractive, but nothing revolutionary...

But as you move into the right position, the abstract reforms into signs that direct you around the car park:

Have a look at Axel Peemoeller's site for the other signs. Clever stuff.

Photos © Axel Peemoeller.
Reproduced with permission.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Demystifying lollipops

I try to keep this blog "work friendly". And, with the amount of time I spend on the Uncyclopedia IRC channel, you can bet that means rejecting a lot of links!

But this is one I couldn't resist. After all, it's all in a good cause...

So, for those with a sweet tooth and a liking for all things female, how about buying yourself a box of vagina pops?

Of course, I understand the rationale of demystifying the vagina as a way to promote women's strength and the validity of their sexuality.

But still... vagina pops... *giggle*
Credit: Mitch on #uncyclopedia

Friday, 1 August 2008

The humour of politics

I can't claim to be that interested in Politics. It may be an influential and essential part of our lives, but it's also.... silly.

So I think The Daily Show is the best way to understand American politics. Here's their take on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the US military.

I wish they wouldn't beep out swear-words though... either say them or don't!