Blue and yellow

Back to work on Monday after an exhausting IKEA weekend: long trip to the mainland on Saturday, then six hours shuffling round the blue and yellow megabox, sustained only by Swedish meatballs and a family-size bag of Daims; Sunday busy with the allen keys, baffled by pictogram instructions simplified for our 23-language community.

What did we buy? Well, after Mr B decided that we’d made too many hasty decisions (during our six-hour visit), you can already find half of the stuff on marktplaats.nl, the local, most popular equivalent of eBay.

Mr B is right, of course; IKEA specializes in the borderline of the acceptable; the grey zone of style where no one feels exactly at home but is at a loss for anything better, or affordable.

As part of my extensive research for this post, I came across this song by The Used.

[audio: The-Used-Blue-and-Yellow.mp3]

As far as poignant adolescent longing goes, it’s … apparently much appreciated by fans who bicker about whether the lyrics refer to romance, friendship or dope. Of course, it’s none of those things. Check out the lyrics from the chorus:

Should’ve done something but I’ve done it enough,
by the way your hands were shaking,
rather waste some time with you.

The references are so obviously IKEAN: the tension between the desire for Scandinavian design (kräap) and the fear of having “an IKEA house”; the way your hands feel after screwing together several flatpacks of mdf with a 4mm allen key;

… and the realization that time could have been better spent with the ones you love.

Life’s too short to visit IKEA.

Sibling rivalry 2.0

As technology evolves, so do the arguments between siblings. Until recently, we heard outraged voices shrieking

“Mama! She broke my Wookie!”

or

“Don’t touch my My Little Pony stud farm!”

Things grew quieter when they started squatting in front of our laptops and watching Youtube and playing online games (with obligatory headphones).

Two days ago, however, I foolishly told our two oldest kids about using our Wii to surf on our wide screen TV. I have to admit that it slipped out because I was excited about getting something so cool for free. I had previously tried to use the TV as a screen for one of the laptops, but the resolution was too poor, especially now that we get snooty about anything under 1080i these days.

We downloaded the Internet channel for the Wii and sat in hushed awe as we navigated some favourite sites using the wiimotes.

By this morning, however, the thrill was already gone, and from opposing corners of the couch came the old voices:

“How come his Youtube works and my neopets.nl doesn’t. It’s not fair!”

“You’ve had two goes already on “Dressing Up Beverly Hills” while I was peeing! It’s my turn now!”

Plus ça change …

The good news is that today is the last day of the holidays.

Yayyy! (You can almost hear the echoes around the neighbourhood.)

What does not kill me, makes me stronger

After spending a few days in the north of Senegal, I returned to Dakar to find one of my sites had been hacked. Each page of my photoblog, Ria Galleria, had a long list of ads and links above my own photo posts. The ads were all related to travel, which is preferable to zoophilia, although the centred alignment was crime enough, typographically speaking.

After some frantic searching, I learned that I had been hit by a php injection, which is not the latest form of synthetic drug abuse but rather a hack that places a line of malicious code at the top of all the php files on your server. Given that my blogging software, WordPress, is built on php, this was a serious problem.

How did it get there? Probably through some security weakness in my outdated version of WordPress (or possibly an associated plugin). Updating is an obsession at WordPress, annoyingly so at times, but plain stupid to ignore for as long as I have. My excuse was that I could not rely on stable power supply long enough to undertake such a laborious process of synchronizing hundreds of files.

This hack attack was the push I needed to upgrade. I started with Ria Galleria, using a fully automatic update by SimpleScripts. It was simple, but it lost lots of tags and all the links to the photos — a pretty basic flaw for a photoblog. Still, I was happy that I had the basic setup back, and will re-upload the photos as and when.

More daunting was this four-year-old blog. Mon œuvre! ;-)

I decided to do the upgrade manually, and, several hours later, it’s up and running. For you, dear reader, there is very little difference from the previous version. If only you could see behind the screen … gone is the linoleum and the bakelite cabinet; now all is cool whites and a single pulsing red LCD atop a burnished titanium cube.

Actually there are a million tabs, tags, options and other delightful distractions to fiddle with. I won’t have any time left to write anything.

I mentioned that you would not notice anything different after the upgrade; that’s not true. As with my previous upgrade (two years ago, oops), some things don’t make it through to the other side. Last time it was the Ultimate Tag Warrior, a plugin that was as heroic as it sounds; this time it was my AudioScrobbler, which showed you what I’d been listening to. It seems the developer got fed up with working on it.

So now I have to write out what I’m listening to: Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie – Dark Eyes
Now it’s Eddie Palmieri – La Verdad. Next Goldfrapp – Utopia (New Ears Mix) … Phew … there’s got to be another scrobbler out there. [UPDATE: fixed — see sidebar]

On the plus side, the upgrade means I can use some new eye candy, such as this:

[WP-CUMULUS]

So much sexier than the static tag cloud I had before.

Wrap-up at five after midnight: I was hit, knocked down, got back up, dusted myself off, walked away looking better than before … and yet … I have a lingering fear that something is still lurking in a database somewhere, ready to strike again.

Postlapsarian PNP: After the fall from grace

The recent general election in Jamaica was a close run between the People’s National Party, in power for 18 years, and the Jamaica Labour Party. While at least one of the sixty seats remains to be decided by the courts, the JLP still managed to squeeze past the incumbents with a four-seat majority.

Politically motivated violence had been anticipated; in the event it was relatively peaceful, at least in comparison with the 800 deaths attributed to the infamous 1980 elections. One death stuck out, literally, in last month’s election: a JLP supporter stuck his head out of the party bus and was almost decapitated by bamboo growing by the roadside. Stupid behaviour, and worthy of a Darwin Award, but actually not at all surprising if you have ever seen buses carrying party supporters to a rally in Jamaica: there are more people on top of the bus than inside – not to mention those hanging from the outsides of the windows, or those sitting on the bonnet or hanging onto the radiator grill … The bus proceeds at top speed down the centre of the road, swerving violently in time to the beats from the monstrous sound system, which takes up more space inside than the passengers. It is an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word.

My dear friend, the Reverend Dr Philip Phinn (read previously), had predicted a victory for the ruling party. Alas, his divine gift of prophecy failed yet again.

I took a more prosaic approach to predicting the winners and losers by using anagrams of names.

Here are the best results

BRUCE GOLDING (leader of the JLP, now Prime Minister)
Budge con girl – an eminently respectable goal

or

Boring cudgel – True, Bruce is no Portia when it comes to rabble-rousing

or

Glib con urged – a comment on the huge investment in a media blitzkrieg. I particularly liked the ambiguous slogan, “Be apart of the change”, used in one of the many JLP TV ads (watch ad on YouTube).

Adding “MR” to his name gives us the more sensational
Cold, murdering B.G.

From the other side, PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER (now former Prime Minister), gives us
A missioner pimp troll – a savage comment on her getting too cuddly with religious crackpots

or

Interim liar pomp loss – The only Prime Minister never to have been elected. For “Liar”, see YouTube vid link above. And yes, she did enjoy travelling in high style when she went “a farrin” (overseas).

SIMPSON MILLER produces the pithier
No slimmer lips

or

Smell imprison

My favourite anagrams, however, are generated by the now former Minister of Information, Donald Buchanan. He seemed to be the only member of the Government that spoke to the public and the media, relaying matters from other ministries and defending the party from any criticism. Unfortunately, he was also the most antipathetic person you could imagine as the Government mouthpiece: at his daily press conferences, he would slump forward on his desk, wearily reading from a sheaf of papers, occasionally peering up over his glasses to cast a withering glance over his audience – he oozed total disdain and resentment towards his questioners.

Anagrams of MR DONALD BUCHANAN give a possible insight into the man behind the frown:

Dubland anchorman

or

Hardbound clan man

or

Nonhuman bald card

or even

Bad man, unclad horn

Just in case you take my anagrammatical musings too seriously, note that MS RIA BACON is only

A minor scab

Relookage

With odds of 7 to 1, you might be surprised by a minor relookage, as the French say, in the form of a new header image. The odds come from a random image rotator, scripted by PhotoMatt, drawing on seven different header images.

Only thing is … the images seem reluctant to change with each reload. Cache flushing, the Interweb equivalent of colonic irrigation, would produce faster … err throughput, but I can’t expect you to do that more than once a day … or clearing your cache.