March 20, 2006

Paws For Reflection

This poem was posted by an old family friend regarding the passing of Oscar. It deserves a more promiment position here.


Consider him who’s passed this way.
Though of doubtful pedigree,
In Cameron Street, he held full sway
As one and all agree.

Like Argus, he loyally patrolled
The precincts of One O Four
He greeted all both young and old
With a bark and friendly paw.

Head to one side - mock innocent,
That expression of “pourquoi”?
(“Why-the-hell-not” more his intent),
With that touch of je n’sais quoi.

He now cavorts in Elysian fields,
Not the earthly parks of yore
The stick that his new master wields
He’ll chase for evermore

So mourn you not for him who’s quit us,
But we who are left behind,
To ponder this dog ubiquitous
True wonder of caniskind.

Thanks, Uncle Richard!

Posted by Ben at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

MP3 / ID3 / iTunes tags

Tags are spreading everywhere at the moment. Sites like Flickr, and even Amazon are getting on the bandwagon, allowing one to tag things with arbitrary labels for easy sorting and searching.

It makes sense - a single description is no longer useful for describing something, so just associate something with words and it becomes easy to find matches. A photo taken on a trip to Oslo might be tagged with "oslo, norway, snow, cold, travel, city" and anything else you like. This paradigm has extended to all sorts of things, including bookmark lists, shopping sites, etc.

But there's one essential object that's yet to adopt tagging - music!

Why hasn't it come yet? The ID3 format's the only thing that you can use to describe an mp3, but doesn't yet support tags. Lots of meta-data goes into ID3 tags like album info, artist/composer info and just about anything else you want - even an embedded album cover!

But where can I stick my own tags? The Genre field is pitifully limited, only letting you put one type into it. A song can be marked as "jazz" or "rock" or "classical" or "metal", but that's it. Today's music collections just can't be adequately described with a single genre. Got an acoustic version of a rock track, or a live version of a song? What genre is it? Rock? Acoustic? I want to be able to label tracks with "acoustic, rock" and "live,clapton", then have my player able to generate playlists based on this info, such as matching tags "live" and "metal", and one with "instrumental" and "slow"!

Eventually the ID3 format might be extended with this, but for now it's almost elusive. Almost I say, as there are ways to hack it into existing players. Using the iTunes smart playlist feature, I should be able to comment a track with a tag scheme and have the playlist match on that...just perhaps. I'll give it a go in the next couple of days and see how it goes.

So whilst MP3 tagging is not yet "there", I can see some really useful developments here in this arena, and perhaps my iTunes experiment will bring fruit.

Posted by Ben at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2006

Playing with Lightbox

On one of my photo web sites I have been playing with a cool little bit of Javascript called Lightbox. It basically lets you popup photos directly overlaid on the web page that they're linked from. It's great for linking to photos from pages without having to bring up a popup or load them into an empty page.

I've now implemented it here, and as a demo, to the right is a photo that I took a week ago in Utrecht. Click on the thumbnail to see how it works, then click again to close. Very cool eh?! Like half the internet, I'm going to start using this here whenever it'd be useful.

Posted by Ben at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2006

Oscar Buxton 1995 - 2006

After a brief cancer battle, Oscar Buxton, brown pooch of indeterminate lineage and unfathomable cuteness, was relieved of his suffering on 11 March. For the rest of the family, our pain remains and he will be sorely missed like no other.

From his beginnings as a tiny pup with huge feet, he grew into them and then outgrew them. He was a favourite at all of his haunts around Sydney, getting the attention of everyone he came across and outsizing most other dogs around him.

May he continue to bound around in doggy heaven, chasing bigger sticks than we have here.

Posted by Ben at 09:45 PM | Comments (3)

March 09, 2006


It's a daily part of life in Holland for the pedestrian.

Your walking style changes, you're constantly on the lookout for these unpleasant types and fearful for walking into the wrong place. I think I've gotten a permanent crooked back thanks to them and no longer walk around town in blissful ignorance. They're hiding around corners, lying under seats, leaning against lamp-posts and just generally under foot. They even occasionally menace you in the crowds of a shopping mall - everywhere you go you're potentially under attack. That's right..

Barkers' eggs
Dogs logs
Fido faeces
Dog ordure
Puppy plop

Dog shit.

All over the streets in this country, les turds du chiens are menacing the streets, lying innocently in wait like trapdoor spiders, ready to bite at you as soon as your foot gets too close. It seems when a Dutch dog lays a cable in the footpath, or crimps a length off on the pedestrian crossing, their owner feels that they are no longer obliged to doing anything with it. These canine coprolites become public domain once released, and to disturb a freshly laid cake is the last thing on their mind. I've even spotted several brown hornets in the main walkway of Utrecht's biggest shopping mall!

So as a result, various telltale textures regularly adorn the streets in various vintages, from still-steaming (in this cold, they do steam) to those with a visible inverse-Nike logo stamped upon them. And whenever I see a dog grow another tail, I just know the owner will walk away empty handed.

Nearby there are two large labradors that regularly get walked by their owner. They're usually just coming out for their walk when I see them. Judging by their size and knowing how big apartments are in Utrecht, I figure the dogs have their own apartment. And they're probably very big bombers. But I've never caught them in the act of fertilising the pavement, they were just prime suspects.

But yesterday I saw something amazing. On the way to work I see the old guy coming out of the dogs' apartments for their morning walk, leash in hand. As I'm approaching from a distance, I spot one of them making room for lunch. Er one of the dogs, not the owner... So I'm thinking "Aha! Caught red handed brown arsed!" and prepare some suitable scolding for the owner for giving me a hunch-back. When suddenly...out comes a scooper and the brown bandit is whisked up off the street, before I even have time to scowl! Unbelievable! That's got to be the first time I've ever seen this happen in Holland. I'm very very impressed and I almost thank the guy for thinking of the welfare of my shoes.

The quest for the mysterious culprits of the grunt sculptures goes on though..

Posted by Ben at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)