Because I forget stuff. Part of

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November 2004

Posts made in November 2004

The Scientific Process

Ed talked about the response to a paper recently submitted to a scientific journal (which shall remain nameless). I feel this deserves some response, if for no other reason than my name also appears on the paper he mentions (which given that I don’t agree with some of the tone of his post makes me a little uncomfortable).

First let me say that had Ed not said anything I wouldn’t have, for part of my problem is that I don’t believe the blogsphere is the correct place to discuss such matters – especially before the paper has been published or finally rejected. The peer review process is vital to science for many reasons (which I’m certain Ed is aware). That is not to say it’s perfect, but nobody has produced a better system as yet. That the range and length of the two replies differs so greatly is one of the reasons that there are two to start with. And frankly it is the choice of the referee to comment on what and how they see fit. What one sees as pedantic and trivial points are undoubtedly anothers personal bugbears (I know I have mine). That they may have missed a point or result is part of the whole process, our chance to explain more clearly to them, as they represent the scientific community at large (yes, of course this sort of dialogue with the community may continue after publication but how many times have you directly contacted the author of a paper? Best to have some form of conversation before hand). In the end we address there points as best we can, appeasing some for the sake of the greater peace and answering others in an effort to clarify and convince. For partly what we are about is convincing others. A new publication is, by its nature, new, untested, unseen (at least in the ideal world). That others might question its assurtions is only natural and indeed one of those vital parts, to stop us convincing ourselves of the truths which aren’t. Of course, we hopefully have thought all these questions before and hence can answer them but that’s the point. If the referee were not there to ask what we may consider silly, trivial, misinformed questions, would we ever ask them of ourselves?

Ed—this is not intended as a personal attack. You posted about something with which I am directly involved and my professional ethics demanded that I make clear that your comments did not necessarily represent my views (as, given that it’s clear from previous posts here that I read your blog, silence may have implied). I strongly suspect that I may well have taken the post just a little too seriously but that’s one of the great problems with the written word, it’s very difficult to judge tone. Oh, and be careful, I think someone called Eve is listening in to the referees.


I’m having my arse kicked at Unreal Tournament. Not surprising. Too much of a console fan myself. Still. Och, it hurts to be owned.

Hello There

Eight weeks after she was born I finally got to meet Libby last night, while having a nice pub dinner with Rachel, her parents, sister and others. Libby is of course very cute and even at eight weeks so tiny (thanks to being born a little early). She smiles a lot, when not busy sleeping (or eating). I’m told she’s in the lowest two percentile for her weight at that age (i.e. 98% of eight week old babies are heavier) but is actually very long (tall—can she be tall when she can’t stand up?) for her age. She certainly looks long and thin, so I can believe that. Oh, and did I mention cute?

Some Science

As I said I don’t write enough science I thought I’d mention this wonderful invention. Science coming to the rescue to solve a really annoying problem and save industry some money. In other news, looks like causality is still OK. So we won’t have preplayed transmission of football games any time soon :-)


Show Racism the Red Card

And they had the audacity to advertise in support of their Olympic bid at the game. Not if that’s the sort of crowd you produce.

Kick Racism out of Football

What I Write About

I was thinking recently (as in this morning) about the topics I often make posts on. Given that I’m a physicist there seems to be surprisingly little science and quite a bit web design. At the time of writing this there are 40 posts in the Web category and 31 in the Physics category. But the later probably contains at least ten dealing with writing my thesis. Whilst the former does contain posts about this website I think it probably contains a greater number of different topics. Some of the Physics posts are almost technology more than physics too.

So I’ve been wondering why this is. I think there are actually several reasons. Partly it’s a bit due to the fact that when I was writing the thesis I couldn’t really bring myself to think about more physics outside of that. Then when it was done I spent a couple of weeks just not wanting to see physics again ;-) Partly it’s a sense that where as a new web design tool or technique is going to last a while (and possibly be immediately useful to others) physics moves so quickly its more transitory and more news like. This is evidently not true after a moment’s thought (for instance, the discovery of neutrino mass while news worthy would certainly have also been blog worthy). Partly it’s the fact that pointing to the success of a new test of the equivalence principle just doesn’t seem as cool a thing to do in a blog, but then I don’t really care—it’s still interesting—so I’m not sure that’s it. It think one final part of the problem is that I read a lot more feeds about web design than I do about physics, so I’m immersed more and hence things catch my eye more. Back in the days (those short months ago) when I was doing actual research I’m not sure that was true—at least as far as anything related to rare earth silicides was concerned ;-)—but it certainly seems to be now. So I’m hunting around for some good science (and preferably physics) based feeds. If anyone reads this and knows of one, comment. I may or may not post about those I find.

There Be Dragons

According to the Google Zeitgeist for october searches involving dragons are more popular than those for cats or puppies, but a bit less popular than those for dogs. Dragons!? How strange.

Funny Science

Jus been playing around with (well, still am in another Firefox tab). I happened to click on the “humour” tag from the front page and there in the “related tags” section is Physics. Trying to tell us something?

Sticky Button

Yesterday the right button of my laptop’s touch pad became stuck in the down position. Not convenient as you might imagine. So, screwdrivers in hand, I set out to rectify the problem (not like I have a warranty I’m about to invalidate). After the usual procedure of removing all the screws and then spending ten minutes finding the screws I’ve missed because they’re so well hidden, I had the casing off (oops there, yes, take the hard drive out or it will be in the way). Of course annoyingly the touchpad is, rather sensibly, on top of the laptop which means that from the perspective I was viewing it (i.e. the bottom) it’s underneath circuit boards et al. Fortunately there was enough of a gap to use some tweezers to poke the button back into the correct position :-) I can also tell you from this experience that with the case off there isn’t a great deal holding the DVD drive in place :-S

Closing the whole thing back up I’m only missing one screw, which is currently somewhere on the floor. I’ll replace it when I find it. There seem to be no ill effects as such. However, the sound made when putting the thing into “hibernate”—a sort of electron dhurp sound (I have no idea how else to describe it)—is now something more like an electronic dweep sound. I’m sure that’s fine though ;-)

FoxyBird Versus A Seamonkey

Having said that I won’t be switching to Firefox but sticking with the suite I’ve had a small change of heart. Firefox does seem to be the way my favourite browser is going (and the platform for which the coolest extensions get made), and I think it’s only fair I give it a chance. So I’ve installed Thunderbird 0.9 alongside Firefox 1.0 and Sunbird too (I could have had Calendar as an extension to either of the other two but if we’re going separate apps, what the hell). I’ll try them out for a week and see how far I get with them, if I really can live with different applications like that rather than the integration of the suite.

So, getting set up. Well, Firefox is installed and I was able to use the import feature to get across my bookmarks, passwords and cookies from Mozilla. Also copied across my userContent.css. I’ve installed a lot of extensions, some which I’m used to with the suite, some which add functionality back in that comes as standard with the suite and some new. The whole version number on extensions, while understandable in some ways, is quite annoying when a new release like 1.0 comes out because perfectly good extensions won’t work. Either find a version repackaged to be compatible or bump the maxversion number up yourself. Anyway, the following are installed (list produced by InfoLister):

Basics 1.0
Adds a new tab button on the tab bar.
Bloglines Toolkit 1.5
Browser utilities for use with Bloglines
BugMeNot 0.6
Bypass compulsory web registration with the context menu via
Checky 2.4
Easy to use interface to many free and commercial online validation and analysis services. Validate and analyse HTML, XHTML, CSS, RDF, RSS, XML, WAI, Section 508, P3P, hyperlinks, metadata and many more. Adds a context and tools menu.
A Simple User Profile File Editor
Customizable Toolbar Buttons 0.1.5
Dedicated To Extension Geeks.
Delicious Delicacies 0.3
Restores our favourite placeholder text.
Download Statusbar 0.9.1
View downloads in an auto-hide statusbar.
Duplicate Tab 0.3.2
Allows you to duplicate a tab, or to merge the windows.
Enhanced History Manager
Flexible History Management
Ext2Abc 0.2
Alphabetizes your extension manager list.
fireFTP 0.85.1
FTP client for Mozilla Firefox.
Flat Bookmark Editing 0.6
Edit bookmarks in the bookmark manager, without opening the properties window.
FoxyTunes 1.0
Control any media player from Firefox and more…
Hide Searchbar 0.2
This extension allows you to hide or show the search bar when Ctrl+Shift+S is pressed.
InfoLister 0.7.2
Lists vital development information about Firefox
JavaScript Console SideBar 2004.09.09
Shows the JavaScript Console in the SideBar.
keyconfig 20040910
Rebind your keys.
Link Toolbar 0.9
A site navigation toolbar
LiveLines 0.3.1
Add RSS feeds to Bloglines or Sage with the RSS icon on the status bar.
MiniT 20040920.3
Adds a few tab related functions
Popup ALT Attribute 1.3.2004102501
Popups alternate texts of images or others like NetscapeCommunicator(Navigator) 4.x.
PrefBar 2.3.1
A toolbar for quickly accessing and changing common preferences, run scripts and many more…
QuickNote 0.6
A note taking extension with advanced features
RadialContext 2004.11.08
Replaces the standard context menu with a radial one.
ScrapBook 0.9.2
This extension helps you to save Web pages and easily manage collections.
SessionSaver 0.2
Magically restores your last browser session
Single Window 1.4
Single window mode for Firefox and Mozilla.
SpellBound 0.6.0
Composer Spell Checker ported to Firefox
Things They Left Out
All the things an Options panel shouldn’t be
undoclosetab 20040617
Adds Undo Close Tab.
User Agent Switcher 0.6
Adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of the browser.
Web Developer 0.8
Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.
ReloadEvery 0.3.2
Reloads webpages every so many seconds or minutes
Tab Clicking Options 0.2.1
Select actions for clicking events on a tab or the tabbar
Text Link 1.1.2004090301
Allows URI texts written in webpages to be loaded by double clicks.
Calculator 0.7
A calculator with advanced features. Installed in the tools menu.
EMbuttons 0.12.6
Buttons to invoke the Extension and Theme Managers.
Outliner 0.2
Adds a sidebar that displays an outline structure of the current document. Open the sidebar from View - Sidebars - Document Outline.
Tabbrowser Preferences 0.9.96
Enhances control over some aspects of tabbed browsing.
Show Failed URL 0.1.4
Displays failed URLs in the Location Bar when XUL error pages are enabled.
Translate web pages and/or selected text to different languages
Translate Page 0.1
Adds a Translate Page option to the Tools menu.
URI id
Allow use of site-specific userContent.css.
JavaScript Debugger 0.9.84
ColorZilla 0.6.5
Advanced Eyedropper, ColorPicker, Page Zoomer and other colorful goodies.
DerBrowserTimer 0.3.2
Timer/Clock/Alarm add-on for Mozilla FireFox.
JabberZilla 0.1-20040713
Jabber IM Client for Mozilla.
OpenBook 1.2.0
Allows for customization of the Add Bookmark dialog
AutoForm 0.5.5
A tool for automatic form filling
Autofill 0.2
Automatically fill out HTML forms
Minimize to Tray
Hides windows into system tray
Filters ads from web-pages
WeatherFox 0.5.1
Get the weather in any toolbar or statusbar!

That’s a lot. I have to admit there are some pretty cool features in there. There are two things I’m really missing though. The first is Gemal’s Blogupdates in my sidebar. I’ve subscribed to MozillaZine’s Feedhouse, so maybe I won’t miss it too much. The other is that I may have to ditch the Tab extensions and just have done and install Tabbed Browser Extensions just to have Tab Grouping back. I think I may have become to used to tabs being grouped together when I’m browsing three subjects at once to do without it. I also miss the @-moz-document CSS rules that were recently introduced to Mozilla. I’ve tried to reproduce them using URIid but it’s hardly as instinctive or neat. And External Application Buttons would be nice, if I could get it to work :-(

There were a couple of tweaks I made to the preferences via about:config too. First browser.throbber.url was set to this blog’s homepage and keyword.url was set to so typing things in the location bar will do a proper Google search rather than just I’m Feeling Lucky. Oh and a final tweak was to add .searchbar-textbox {width:30em !important;} to userChrome.css to increase the size of the search box.

Thunderbird was a little trickier. On install it helpfully imported the settings and accounts from the suite but didn’t import the local folders, which is a bit of a bugger (and also quite silly as it imported filters, some of which involve moving messages to local folders, which of course were then not there). Also, it doesn’t seem that the import function available from the Tools menu includes an option for the suite. Problem solved by shutting everything down and copying the local folders part of the Mail directory from the seamonkey (suite) profile to the Thunderbird profile. It would also be nice if there were a way to access about:config for Thunderbird. Instead I had to shut Thunderbird down and manually edit prefs.js in the profile directory. That allowed me to set the Get Map of the address book to multimap, add user_pref(“mail.addr_book_mapit_format”, “;&db=GB&client=public&cname=Great+Britain&advanced=true&mapsize=big”);. I also added user_pref(“mailnews.nav_crosses_folders”, 0); to make the next message button jump across folder without asking.

There are a few extensions installed for Thunderbird too. There doesn’t seem to be a version of InfoLister for it though :-(

Sunbird actually went pretty smoothly. All my calendars are hosted at It was simply a matter of subscribing to them and away I went. The one annoyance is that Sunbird doesn’t seem to remember passwords :-(

Edit: Also added the following to Thunderbird’s prefs.js:

user_pref(“mail.quoted_graphical”, false); user_pref(“mailnews.display.disable_format_flowed_support”, true);

and to userContent.css:

blockquote[type=cite] { padding-bottom: 0 ! important; padding-top: 0 ! important; padding-left: 0 ! important; border-left: none ! important; border-right: none ! important; }

The above all goes to get rid of the silly coloured bars when displaying quoted text and use > instead.

There’s Only 1.0 Firefox

It’s here. Firefox 1.0. Take back the web. Or at least, ditch IE. Servers are busy, so be patient. Personally, I’m still with the suite’s integration but can admire the way the Fox is a real choice for the IE using masses. If you’re upgrading I’d still advise creating a new profile, as I had a couple of strange issues. If you’re not upgrading, come on, catch up with the rest of the internet.

Not Playing With Blog

Well, that took a little longer than anticipated and involved a little more than I’d intended but all’s well that ends well. And I don’t think I actually broke comments at any point.

I’ve upgraded the MT installation to v3.121. MT-Blacklist is now installed and guarding my comments. Almost as side effect of all this activity the email subscription to a post’s comments, and indeed to the entire blog, is now fixed so it will actually allow valid emails, rather than rejecting everything. Oh, and I’ve allowed some HTML in the comments, though I think bare URLs should still get automagically linked. Possibly I’ve broken something somewhere. If anyone notices that do let me know :-)

I’m getting very tempted to play with subcategories but I think I’ll try putting that on hold for a little while, maybe until the weekend ;-)

Playing with Blog

It seems quite likely that I’m about to break comments. This is just an entry to keep track if I have or not.

A Window on Christmas Past

I noticed in my home town’s local paper (read online of course) that the famous (at least there) Fenwick’s Christmas windows have been unvieled (basically they dress the store windows with a sequence of scenes backed by a soundtrack to entertain young and old). The paper gave a list of the theme for these windows over the years since the tradition started in 1971:

  1. 1971 Camberwick Green
  2. 1972 Chigley
  3. 1973 Rupert Meets Santa
  4. 1974 Sooty’s Circus
  5. 1975 Aladdin
  6. 1976 Fairytale Christmas with Cinderella
  7. 1977 Treasure Island
  8. 1978 Storybook Christmas
  9. 1979 Wonderful World of Pantomime
  10. 1980 A Christmas Carol
  11. 1981 Alice in Wonderland
  12. 1982 Arabian Nights
  13. 1983 Fly to Fenwick’s for Christmas (based on a Space theme)
  14. 1984 Gulliver
  15. 1985 Fairytale Christmas with Pinocchio
  16. 1986 Christmas Circus
  17. 1987 Magical Winter Wonderland (animals skating and ski-ing)
  18. 1988 Purrfect for Christmas (with cats - and dogs)
  19. 1989 Jungle Fantasy
  20. 1990 Good Old Santa (Santa and the elves prepare for Christmas)
  21. 1991 It’s a White Christmas (with Jack Frost, Snowman, Talking Tree and Santa)
  22. 1992 Santa’s Christmas Party (with panto and nursery rhyme characters)
  23. 1993 Alice in Wonderland
  24. 1994 Christmas Village
  25. 1995 Santa’s New Store
  26. 1996 Fairytale Christmas (with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty)
  27. 1997 Santa’s Christmas Pantomime
  28. 1998 A Christmas Carol
  29. 1999 Peter Pan
  30. 2000 Christmas in Poodle Town
  31. 2001 Santa’s Journey
  32. 2002 Christmas in Another World
  33. 2003 Santa’s Grotto
  34. 2004 The First Christmas

One might think that as I remember going to see the window every year (I was born in 1977) that I’d remember more of these. I do remember an Alice in Wonderland themed version but I have a feeling that this was probably the 1993 edition when I was 16 rather than the 1981 version I would have seen when four. I also think I have vague memories of the 1987 and 1988 windows but hey, basically this thing I did every year I don’t remember (I can’t even recall those of recent years—other than Christmas in Another World which caused some controversy for some reason—despite knowing I looked at them when visiting home. Ah well, nice tradition anyway.

Feeds of the Moment

Mentioning RSS and Atom feeds for the photo sideblog reminded me that the Links of the Moment section also has a separate RSS and Atom feed, so I’ve added links to those.

Fireworks Take 2

I meant to say something in the last post about actual the fireworks, but somehow lost sight of that. So, this is the additional stuff I was going to say, all neatly wrapped in a post of its own. Isn’t that nice?

I should probably explain that all these fireworks are due to a British tradition alternativly known as Bonfire night (because lots of bonfires get lit) or Guy Fawkes night (after the name of the man it commemorates)—or even simply fireworks night. It is a celebration (?) of the failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the houses of parliment with a lot of gunpowder in the early 17th century; what became known as the originally titles gunpowder plot. We celebrate it by blowing lots of things up (never quite understood the logic here) and burning lots of effigies of Mr Fawkes on bonfires (except in York, where I currently live, there’s a bit of a tradition not to burn dolls representing the poor chap as he was born here. The bonfire bit probably originally comes from the All Hallows Eve—or actually Samhain—celebrations). Actually, having realised that I don’t have too much idea why people are making rather large bangs all around me I just found the Wikipedia page quite informative.

Anyway, what was I saying. Oh yes, Fireworks. They’ve been going off for well over a week, slowly building up to the constant barrage which started around 4:30 this evening and has only just eased off. The brief colour splashes and half glimpsed flashes always make me whimsically wonder if some alien battle isn’t being fought in our skies. It also always reminds me of going to the local park with my parents when young. Saltwell Park is quite large and the display the largest organised in the area so it was always quite full of people. Sparklers waving in the night air as the occasional home brough firework was let off by someone before the main show started. They always fired them from across the boating lake, I think, the crowds roped off at a safe distance. We’d oh and ah at the fireworks and for many a year I was a little afraid they’d fall on my head (not the firework in bulk you understand but the twinkling, sparkling flakes of colour. In fact years later, old enough that my parents were replaced with friends, I did see a spark land on the grass nearby, so I suppose I wasn’t completly wrong). My favourite part though was always the “battle”. A wire framed arrangement of some sort which lit up the shape of a tank and a boat (perhaps not always that but that’s what I recall). With a sequence of bangs the lights (I’ve never been certain what was causing the effect) would go as the two battled each other for victory. I think I supported the tank. Then the final crecendo of the display would be followed by a walk home throught the cold air, perhaps with the last sparkler spelling my name. Could always watch the fireworks and bonfires through the wonderful view from my parent’s bathroom window as well. Ah simple pleasures. I would swear they have gotten louder these days though.


I know I promised the next thing would be a recoding to semantic markup and cleaning up the stylesheets, but I got carried away. So the front page of my blog now carries a sidebar showing photos I post thanks to

This post is actually also being made from within, blogging that first image to my main blog.

I did come across a small problem with the idea of a sidebar photoblog a in that it’s a bit tricky to get flickr to post to the blog in a nice format. The photoblog actually has its own MovableType blog associated with it (simply because I think this ultimately gives me more control and I like keeping everything in one place). The idea was I’d post photos to this blog and everything would end up in the main blog by some server side include magic (this is basically how the Links of the Moment section works too). The problem is that while flickr allows templates to be designed for posting to the blog, these only work when using the post to blog from within flickr, not when automatically posting emailed photos. In the latter case the post simply consists of a linked thumbnail image. This doesn’t make for pretty sidebar.

The solution to this problem was a little cunning. I already had Brad Choate’s Regular Expressions Plugin installed for various reasons. That mean I could construct a find/replace regular expression to extract the link information from only the post body. Form there on it’s easy to construct what I wanted. The snippet of template code is given below in case anyone wants it (note that regular expressions tend to make my brain go furry so Perl gurus please don’t jump on me).




<$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%d"$> <$MTEntryBody$>[About]

Anyway, it seems to be more or less working. I’ll post photos (hopefully of better quality of than the first which is actually a cropped screenshot of a poor avi) when the mood takes me.

There’s one more problem with the integration of posting photos direct to the main blog like this. That is it there is no support for catergories (though it’s said that their working on this at some point) so I still have to go into MT to fix that, which kind of defeats the point but hey, the photo sidebar isn’t affected so it’s something I can live with (though I suppose it’s also slightly annoying I can’t play around with extended entry and keywords without going to MT as well).
Edit: Oh, the meant to mention that the photo sideblog also has it’s own RSS and Atom feeds. Edit 2: I was obviously half a sleep from a markup point of view when making these changes. Validity now fixed again :-)

Nice Tool

In cool design tool of the week (if I had such a thing) this week comes the mouseover DOM inspector, from Steve Chipman. Inspect information about an element (including the parental hierarchy) just by hovering over it. Hit v to edit the innerHTML of the element. Cool. Check it out now.

Feed Reading

For a while now I’ve been meaning to mention how well I’m getting along with Bloglines. I’d periodically tried the whole RSS thing but could never find a way to read them that I could get along with. I’ve tried stand alone readers and those that integrate to Mozilla (the browser or mail client). Some installed “interesting” default feeds which I gave up on after ten minutes trying to delete those through a clunky interface. Others I just couldn’t see the advantage, somehow it didn’t feel any faster to be clicking through the feeds than it did to be clicking through the web pages. On a dialup connection it’s also pretty annoying to have an aggregator decide to check dozens of feeds for updates. I like the way blog lines allows me to have folders as categories and pulls the feeds together under that folder. I can still deal with feeds individually, but “Science” just says 3 unread items and I don’t have to worry about where from too much. There’s also a nice little extension for Mozilla to inform me when there are unread feeds. And of course all my feeds are available from anywhere with net access, not just a single computer. Oh, and you can set up unique email addresses for mailing lists etc. to act as a “feed”.

I don’t know if this cuts down on the information trawling time. I probably do keep up with various sites better now, but there are simply more of them as well (how easy to click the bookmarklet to add a feed to bloglines). I also sometimes miss seeing the actual design of a site rather than just words that have been blogged, so still find myself occasionally visiting for sentimental reasons if nothing else.

Having said that I do believe that this is, for the now (which seems to last a shorter and shorter time) at least this is the way to go. Neatly, thanks to Ben Hammersley I’ve also got a feed which pushes the results of validating the blog through the XHTML validator, which helps keep on top of breaking validity with posts in which I’ve messed up the markup.

All in all I’m getting more and more used to reading things via RSS (though not general news, I like to pick and choose my stories too much for that I think) and do get a bit frustrated if a site turns out not to have a feed. See how it goes in a month, or whenever the next now is.


I haven’t mentioned the USA election, mainly because as a non-yank I’m sick of the saturation coverage (yeh, yeh, I know it’s even more important to the UK perhaps than anywhere else but the USA, but I’m still sick). Watching the first states called in does remind me of last time round though. I won’t make the same mistake I did then, staying up all night with some other first year post grads watching results called in, Florida being called both ways like a yo-yo until some time in the early hours it became clear no one knew the result. I suppose it’s also a sign of something about the USA that I’ve never been tempted to do that for a British election, just not as exciting?

Marking the Alphabet

I found myself thinking recently about how to markup the alphabet. Let me put that in a bit of context. I’m not really talking about doing something strange like I’m thinking more about each individual letter in the sequence. Specifically I was considering something like a glossary, where it is quite common to have each letter of the alphabet as a link to the section of the glossary dealing with words beginning with that letter. Now what you have there, I would think, is a list of links. So, markup as a list. But then it struck me that, at least to me and at least within English (hey, I’m not linguist so I won’t even begin to speculate on other languages—I did try asking Rachel, who has an English degree and is much better qualified to comment than I therefore, but she simply looked at me like I was strange, which is probably true), that the alphabet actually has an order. Certainly if I were to produce a list of links beginning F, P, J, A, I, R,… I’d be accused of confusing the user, and rightly so. It is expected that we see A, B, C, D, E,… there is a definite order there. So, is that an ordered list of links then?

Well, it seems not, though I’m not convinced by the answer from a purely theory point of view. Certainly from a practical point of view it doesn’t make sense to use an ordered list. Indulge me by allowing me to elaborate some more; I have nothing better to do.

First we have the HTML 4.01 spec which says:

An ordered list, created using the OL element, should contain information where order should be emphasized, as in a recipe
CSS2 Spec

Certainly, this suggests that the spec is thinking more in terms of a list of instructions. It notes that the type attribute may be used but also that this is deprecated (as an aside I do wonder if this may just be an exception to the rule that style and content should be separate. The numbering of a list is inherant to that list. The instruction Step A… doesn’t make much sense if the step is labeled as 1.). It’s noted that this allows it to be set to lower alpha (a, b, c, …) or upper alpha (A, B, C, …). The same thing can be achieved throught the use of CSS, which is how one would be looking to do it in practice, through the use of list-style-type:lower-latin and list-style-type:upper-latin (or indeed lower-alpha and upper-alpha may be used). All this tells us that it was noticed that an alphabet could imply a definite order, but it doesn’t seem to have taken into consideration how to markup the ordered order, if you see what I mean.

From a practicle standpoint it doesn’t really matter. It is pretty silly to markup the list of alphabet links as an ordered list with A, B, C, etc. as the markers. For instance, what does one then put within the

  • tags? An how could one link the markers themselves? Furthermore, if the stylesheet isn’t being used (because the user has them turned off, or the browser doesn’t support them) then the ordered list is very likely to be displayed with numbers. So an unordered list it remains.

  • Bloody Cyclists

    Disclaimer: This is going to be something of a rant. I fully accept that I’m actually talking about a (possibly rather large) minority of cyclists who give others a bad name. One tends only to notice the bad ones, almost by definition. Having said that, this is my personal blog and if I feel like a rant I’ll have one.

    This rant stems from the cyclist I encountered a little over an hour ago, whilst driving. I’m on a fairly busy road with quite a busy junction onto it coming up on my left. I clearly have priority and a clear road ahead, no reason anybody should come out of that junction. Indeed a queue of cars, I notice, is patiently waiting. Accept apparently this cyclist thinks none of this applies to him. He decides he wants to turn right and can’t possibly wait, so does it anyway (note, this is the UK, where we drive on the left, so a right turn is across the flow of traffic (me)). He’s come straight out, no signal, from beyond the waiting car. Don’t worry mate, I’ll be the one slamming the brakes on to avoid you. In the glare of my headlights I clearly see the headphones stuck in his ears, so I’m not sure if he hears the horn I’m also now sounding, more in frustration than warning. I also see the bloody unworried look on his face, not comprehending what a fucking idiot he’s just been and how he’s fortunate I’m awake, and paying attention and know what I’m doing.

    This sort of thing is the trouble with the bad cyclists. They think the rules don’t apply. They’ll weave on and off the pavement, so you never know where they are. They’ll come out of junctions as if they always have the right of way. They don’t believe traffic lights mean them, or zebra crossings exist (accept of course when they’re riding across them…). But the worst thing, and if you ever have the cyclist debate with those who blindly defend them (and if you’ve had the debate you know what I’m talking about) is they don’t think common sense applies. Yes, sometimes they are technically correct, but no car driver in their right mind would ever have done what they did, mainly because it’s blatently stupid (I have never seen drivers do such a stupid bunch of things as cyclists, especially given the hugely greater number of cars around—and I’ve seen drivers do some pretty stupid things [and yes, probably done some myself].). I don’t know if the fact you have to take a test to drive helps this, but I can’t help but think it must. At least then you get to know the rules. For instance an incident from a couple of weeks ago. I’m turning out left of a junction, nothing coming towards me at the time. Unfortunatly some clever town planner has put a zebra crossing immediatly around this corner, so I end up stopped sort of quarter way round the bend, a car in front stopped at the zebra. By the time the pedestrians cross (again, a much larger number of those but they don’t do stupid things like cyclists) a car has arrived and has patiently held back so I can get out. Just as I’m pulling away, I notice the cyclist arrive. He’s not taking the common sense approach but instead travels past the waiting car and into the space I’m just about to be in, if I hadn’t been that aware and stopped again. Grrr.

    The clock’s have just gone back to GMT in the UK. That means it is now darker earlier, which means my problems with cyclists will probably just get worse. Because don’t mention those dressed in black without any lights on…

    Rant over, for now. stats

    I’ve been looking through some stats for and this blog. Though probably unrepresentative of web traffic as a whole I thought I’d share anyway. They’re undoubtedly biased towards Gecko based browsers due to the fact most people I actually know use Mozilla or Firefox but one might expect the blog to be more biased as the ratio of readers who know me to those who don’t should be even higher. This is demonstrated by the stats for the blog, based on the last 100 visitors, which have Firefox running at 43%, with Mozilla another 18%, IE running at 33%. That’s 61% to 33% in Gecko’s favour, with others (like Safari and Opera) and unknown making up the minority rest (I’m fairly sure Ed is skewing this to Firefox a bit as he seems to get counted lots more than he should).

    The stats for (not including the blog) show much less of a bias, suggesting that it is found by a more general readership (there are probably more things for a search engine to hit upon). Indeed IE is still out in front, with 68%, Firefox 14%, Mozilla 13% and 35 from netscape 7.x. That’s 68% to 30% in favour of IE, much closer to the real world sadly. I might keep a closer eye on those stats though, to see if the launch of Firefox 1.0 sends its market share upwards.

    Whilst looking through these stats for I also worrying (because of the number of people who seem to search for such things) noticed that one of the top search terms seems to be “football violance” (it’ll probably turn up for the blog too now!). That lands on the football page where I point out I absolutly condemn such hooliganism :-( The other search term which turns up a lot tends to have something to do with MEIS and Igor Pro, whilst the blog tends to get a lot of searches about Mozilla and other web related stuff.


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    This Crazy Fool

    Dr Ian Scott
    Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
    Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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