Rant


UPDATE to the UPDATE: Blogger folk – here’s what you need to know to set your comments to allow links to blogs on other platforms. First, you need to log into your blog via Blogger in Draft, which is a kind of sandpit or beta Blogger that exists, supposedly, so that you can play with Blogger features before they’re actually released. What the hell is that? They implement a feature (OpenID) blog-wide on the main platform but you can only change it from the beta??? O-k-a-a-a-y… Anyways, once you’re in Blogger in Draft go to Settings->Comments and check ‘Registered Users – Includes OpenID‘

So, after spending ten minutes figuring this out, and with help from someone who was clued-in, I don’t feel quite as bad that I flew off the handle at Blogger. What kind of idiots alter their current release software to take away utility that existed previously and that can only be restored if you happen to be running the beta? And where is the notification on your Blogger Dashboard that says ‘Parts of your blog have been changed, and will not be accesssible to you unless you go and log in to another site entirely’?

I say to you again: WordPress, peeps.

UPDATE: rd5 comments that the reason this happens is due to Blogger implementing OpenID! So all you folks on Blogger, please read the comments on this post to find out how to allow other blog platforms to get active links. And I’ll just go eat a slice of Humble Pie that comes direct from the Oven of Shame set at gas mark ‘Egg on your Face’ ‡

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Once upon a time, so long ago that it seems like just a bad dream, Tetherd Cow Ahead started its life on the Bloggerâ„¢ platform. All went well for a while, and indeed, I am grateful that Bloggerâ„¢ was such an easy way for me to start The Cow rolling.*

But then, not long after Bloggerâ„¢ was acquired by Googleâ„¢, things started going haywire. There was the dreaded ‘smenita’ affair that intermittently took down Bloggerâ„¢ Comments for weeks. After that, there was a several-week-long crapshoot in which nobody (including me) could tell whether or not The Cow was likely to be functioning or commentable. This was made aggravatingly worse by the fact that Bloggerâ„¢ personnel went completely incommunicado, and made no effort whatsoever to let users know what was going on, let alone apologize for the problems. Then there were numerous smaller but infinitely annoying shutdowns and faults that served to make a quick read of The Cow into an interminable chore. Again, with no explanations from Bloggerâ„¢. After weeks of frustration I’d had enough and (with surprisingly little effort) I migrated The Cow over to WordPress where I’ve maintained it with no trouble ever since.

Only now, it seems, I have cause to bitch about Bloggerâ„¢ once again.

I visit many friends who have their digs on Blogger.â„¢ Up until now, whenever I have left a comment, I have been able to enter my name as either a user from a Bloggerâ„¢ account (which I can do, since my old account is still active)†, a name & url combination (which creates a direct link on my name to the url, in most cases TCA) or post anonymously.

My preference is to leave my name linked directly to my (non-Bloggerâ„¢) blog. This means that if you want to visit my blog, you simply click on my name.

Over the last few days though, I have noticed a disturbing difference in the way that Bloggerâ„¢ allows a visitor to comment: now, instead of having the option to link my name to a url, I am only allowed a non-linkable ‘nickname’. Either that or I must have a Bloggerâ„¢ account. In other words, I can no longer leave my name as ‘reverend anaglyph’ and have it link back to Tetherd Cow Ahead.

This is a really shabby and pathetic impediment for Bloggerâ„¢ (and one must therefore assume Googleâ„¢) to have foisted on its users. It effectively says to your commenters: you cannot comment and be linked to your own blog without being a member of the Bloggerâ„¢ club. It is, in fact, antithetical to the very concept of blogging.

If you have been thinking about shifting your blog elsewhere (and I do recommend WordPress supported by your own host if you can afford it) then now is the time to do it, as a protest to this extremely Microsoftian draconian imposition. Either that, or write to Google/Blogger™™™™™ and use strong language on them.

Blogging is about interaction, not about clubs & closed doors. These kinds of ideas will bring the utility of the internet to its knees if they get a grip. Acowlytes! Protest them, and protest them strongly!

ADDENDUM: And here’s a thought: if, in the course of your wonderful philosophizing, you manage to attract new readers to your blog, and they reside on platforms external to Bloggerâ„¢ (and there are now dozens of free blogging sites) you can almost certainly kiss them goodbye as new connections in your blogging circle. Why? Because no-one will be able to follow them back to their own place to engage in the community that is set up by such a practice. Why should they visit you and engage in your show if their is no possibility of reciprocation? My best blogging buddies – indeed, nearly all my current blogging friends – came here via other people’s blogs, often on other platforms.

If you think I’m over-reacting a bit on this, go spend some time trawling around a closed community, like, oh, MySpace let’s say, and see exactly what calibre of intellectual tête-à-tête a whole lot of inbreeding gets you.

For my own part, this very problem has prevented me from engaging in the TypePad and LiveJournal communities – every time I find myself at a TypePad blog and want to strike up some banter with the writer, I am supposed to ‘Join Up’ to do so. Bollocks! They’re gated communities by any other name, desperately trying to keep out the riff-raff.

Viva la revolucion! To the guillotine with the lot of them!

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‡TCA consumes and recommends The It Crowd.

*And as we all know, a rolling cow gathers no moss! (Cow rolling should not be confused with cow tipping which is a different thing altogether)

†On a technical note: I’ve hacked my Blogger site in such a way that if I do leave my Blogger name, you now never see my old blog – instead, you are whisked immediately to the proper home of TCA. I’m lucky – I know how to do these things, but it’s probably outside the capabilities of many less technically inclined bloggers.

Hey CowPokes!! Don’t Forget: the Christmas Competition is still running! Be sure to get yer entry in!

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The Sheep Train

In another first for The Cow, this post comes to you live from the inter-city train that runs between Sydney and Melbourne. Well, not live, as such – there is no actual internet connection on the train, lest you think that Australia might be anywhere near that technologically hip – but I am typing it on my laptop1 as we hurtle2 out of Albury Wodonga towards Melbourne, now about three hours away.

Being something of a fan of rail travel, and heading off to visit Violet Towne for a few days, I thought that instead of taking the usual ho-hum plane flight I might splurge the extra $203 and kick back in the luxury of First Class. Sure, the train takes about 6 times longer, but hey, First Class! You know: Leather seats; red velvet curtains; witty attractive passengers; crisp white linen table cloths and sparkling silver cutlery in the dining car. Orient Expressville baby! Get the picture?

Yep, it’s the wrong picture.

We head out of Sydney Central at 8am, late, but what’s rail travel without delays, right? The First Class carriage is moderately filled, but I have two seats to myself, and there is no-one behind me or across the aisle. Cool. Nice, quiet trip!

10 minutes out: Ergghh. These First Class seats are SO uncomfortable. They must be the only seats I’ve encountered anywhere in the world where reclining them increases their discomfort by a factor proportional to the angle of inclination (that’s not to say that they were comfortable upright either – I’ve sat on more luxurious seats in bus shelters). I marvel that anyone can have, even intentionally, designed something so back-achingly awful. I hope the designer, when he goes to Hell (for he surely will), spends Eternity in one of these seats.

20 minutes out: We stop at Strathfield Station, the last urban stop before we hit the country, and pick up a million extra passengers. Well I do exaggerate. But in a fitting demonstration of CountryLink ineptness, there are, in fact, more passengers boarding the train than there are seats available. Yippee. This causes more delays.

The seats around me fill up. With old ladies. Now I’ve got nothing at all against old ladies, but these are stupid old ladies. Stupid, loud, annoying old ladies. You know the kind of thing – everytime the train goes past a station one of them says “Oooh. Flemington. Oooh. Picton. Ooooh. Moss Vale”. One of them talks endlessly about absolutely nothing. In a very loud voice. For hours. I can’t even drown her out with my iPod turned up loud. I glare at her pointedly and screw my ear-buds in even tighter. She takes this as an invitation to turn her volume up from squawk to shrill. If I ever get that bad, someone shoot me.

The loudspeaker spruiks wares from the Buffet Car. Idiotically, I venture out for a cup of coffee (mostly so I can have some brief respite from the inane prattle which has now turned into a mix of racism and cooking suggestions). I come back with a scalding hot cup of weak instant sludge and a little container of UHT milk. I look at the these things on my cheap cardboard tray. Someone’s meddling with my sanity. First Class? Swill?

I try to console myself with the thought that if this is First Class, things must be truly hideous in Economy. Evidence of this is forthcoming pretty quickly. The First Class carriage is the second car on the train. The first car is a sleeper that has been converted to Economy seating for the daytime trip. This means the First Class carriage is between them and the Buffet Car.

Soon begins the long procession of Economy Class passengers intending to fuel themselves for the gruelling journey. The first thing I notice is most of these people hardly need fueling. In fact, dispensing with the train and jogging to Melbourne might be a good option for many of them.

There is one guy who has the most ENORMOUS belly I have ever seen. He’s not really a big man in other respects, but his belly looks like it composes the better part of his body mass. The most off-putting thing is that he chooses to highlight his asset by wearing tight jeans and an even tighter lycra t-shirt that allows the bottom of his stomach to sag out. The shirt’s slogan says ‘Buff Riders’. At first I thought it read ‘Butt Riders’ but I had ample opportunity to check. I don’t know which is worse when I think about it. He has no front teeth, and makes numerous trips back and forth to top up with Coke so he can remain that way.

Then there is the young, even groovy looking, guy in dark suit and sunglasses, who walks past clutching to his chest something that looks awfully like a carpet bag. Attentive to his threads he may be, attentive to his personal hygiene he definitely is not. A wave of overpowering body odour floods in his wake as he passes through. After his second trip, and the sense of disbelief that anyone could smell that bad has diminished, First Class passengers start to cringe pre-emptively when he enters the door at the far end of the carriage. For inexplicable reasons he makes numerous trips back and forth, always clutching the carpet bag, but never bringing back any food or drink.

From time to time the happy CountryLink staff keep us informed of where we are. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that every time they announce “Our next stop will be Goulburn”, the old ladies go into a flurry of repetition: “Ooooh, Goulburn! Next stop is Goulburn! Oooh…!” (I kid you not). I start dreading the click of the intercom that heralds the announcements.

So. Three hours or so to go and it’s getting dark.

I begin to really really wish this was the Orient Express. Not because I’m pining any longer for the crisp white tablecloths or the mahogany trim or the caviar and champagne, but because this First Class carriage is looking more and more like a very fitting setting for murder.

  1. You may think I’m that technologically hip. []
  2. I use the word with irony. []
  3. That should really have clued me in… a 20 buck difference between Economy and First Class travel… []

A Weasel

Yesterday, when discussing greenhouse gas emissions targets with the State Premiers, [tippy title=”¹”]It is a curious situation here in Australia, that while the Federal Government is Right Wing Conservative, all the States are under Left Wing Progressive governance. Apparently people think it is a good idea to have their immediate situations managed by thoughtful people, but are happy to have the country as a whole run by idiots. Go figure. [/tippy] The Weasel made the following comment to the press:

“Jobs and economic prosperity is more important than ideology and emissions targets”

Leaving the atrocious grammar aside, this statement goes a long way towards illustrating what a short-sighted dullard this man is.

He really thinks that Global Warming is just a question of ideology! Like whether or not you think Australia should be a Republic; a matter of opinion. Translating the above: John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, does not believe the conclusions of the entire scientific community that the world is facing a serious, real climate event of catastrophic proportions.[tippy title=”²”]It is blindingly obvious, therefore, that all his recent new-found ‘concern’ for Green issues is not because he thinks they have merit, but because he is, once again, lying in order to get votes. Why are people so stupid that they can’t see this[/tippy]

My God. His stupidity is breathtaking.

Let me tell you something Prime Minister: all the economic prosperity in the world is going to mean diddly squat when there’s no water left and you’re suffocating in a haze of carbon dioxide.

It doesn’t matter how much I hate him, there seems to be room for even more hate. I strongly condemn him and all he stands for.

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¹It is a curious situation here in Australia, that while the Federal Government is Right Wing Conservative, all the States are under Left Wing Progressive governance. Apparently people think it is a good idea to have their immediate situations managed by thoughtful[tippy title=”³”]Well, relatively speaking. You have no choice but to drop your standards when discussing politicians’ merits.[/tippy] people, but are happy to have the country as a whole run by idiots. Go figure.

²It is blindingly obvious, therefore, that all his recent new-found ‘concern’ for Green issues is not because he thinks they have merit, but because he is, once again, lying in order to get votes. Why are people so stupid that they can’t see this?

³Well, relatively speaking. You have no choice but to drop your standards when discussing politicians’ merits.

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A Weasel

Q: What’s the difference between John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia and a weasel?

A: One is a secretive, sharp-toothed, dimwitted opportunistic scavenger and the other is a small furry mammal.

I hate this man.

There are not many people for whom I reserve that strong a negative feeling. But I hate John Howard.

Why? Because he is (amongst other things) a small minded, short-sighted, stupid, materialistic, sycophantic little bureaucrat who through animal cunning and cynical manipulation has found himself with altogether too much power.

I hate him usually, but this morning I hate him with even more vehemence because yesterday, in a nationally televised interview, he voiced this opinion regarding Barack Obama’s announcement of nomination for the US Presidency:

‘If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.’

It took me a night’s worth of thinking to work out exactly why this distasteful pronouncement galls me more than most things he says. It came to me at about 3am:

I think John Howard really would prefer that fundamentalist radicals caused chaos in the world if a progressive black man takes control of the American Nation. So he could gloat. You can’t read it any other way. That kind of thinking is the thinking of a child, or a sociopath. Perhaps even a psychopath. No balanced, normal individual who really cares about the state of the world would make such a judgmental and odious declaration. That’s a statement that says ‘If I can’t play I hope youse all have a really bad time and lots of rotten things happen and pus comes out your nose and you die and go to hell. Nyah nyah nyah.’

It is the distasteful spluttering of a small person. It is the ungracious and disagreeable whining of a tiny intellect infected with inferior morals.

John Howard, you are a pathetic excuse for a man, let alone the leader of a nation.

Where are all the people of real principle, the visionaries, the courageous thinkers, the Statesmen? Oh how we need you right now.

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UPDATE: To my immense disappointment, Barack Obama responded to John Howard this morning in an equally feeble way:

‘I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is … to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.’

I’ve seen children behave in a more dignified manner. Mr Obama, you should have just ignored the little turd. He’s successfully wrangled you down to his gutter-level world.

That’s what he’s good at.

Leaves

My leafy, tree-lined street is a lovely quiet alcove in the busy inner-city suburb where I live. I remember that, once-upon-a-time, on sleepy mornings, after autumn had shaken a myriad golden leaves from the figs that shade the road, I would sometimes wake to happy tuneful whistling and the swish swish swish of a broom, as my local council cleanup crew swept the leaves up into tidy piles to be scooped into hessian bags for removal. Ah, how peaceful, how efficient, how pleasant on the ears.

That was of course before the introduction of the most heinous contraption ever inflicted on civilization: The Leaf Blower.*

Now Mr Cheerful Whistling Sweeper has been replaced by Mr Evil Scowling Fat Bastard† Noisemaker who tippy-toes down the street, carefully and silently navigating around any crackly dry leaves or brittle twigs that might give advance warning of his approach, to arrive outside my window at 6.59am. There he stands, savouring the oily fumes of his machine, counting to himself the seconds left to the end of the pillowy morning peace. Right on the stroke of 7 he fires his infernal machine into life…

Rrrrzrzrrzrzrrzrrrrzrrgggeeeeererrrzzrzrrzr

Is it possible to imagine a more despicable piece of useless crap than the leaf blower? It is noisy, it uses fossil fuel, makes pollution and it is available to the general public without even the minimal academic requirement of a coupon from a Cornflakes box. And it serves no useful purpose other than to be a substitute for something that is at least as effective, is cheaper, clean, makes an agreeable sound and has stood the test of thousands of years.

I believe that the essence of all evil in the world can be seen distilled in this one abominable invention. That’s what happens when you go against the natural laws of physics and create a device that simultaneously blows and sucks.

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*Although it’s a close contest with the loathsome Jet Ski.

†In my experience, the leaf blower is invariably wielded by someone who looks like they’d get a lot more benefit out of using a broom.

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One of my regular visitors, treespotter, left an observation on my last post that I thought deserved a more in-depth reflection than the Comments box:

treespotter Says:

i’m leaving my gmail inbox full (let them purge the 30 days limit), it says around 1050 mails at any one time, but none as smart as any of yours.

i wonder why.

treespotter: I have to sift through a lot of spam to get anything, er, smart (I would give it a different description, more along the lines of, oh, moronic, maybe). It is true that in recent times the ‘quality’ has dropped off rather severely, and I do a great deal more sifting than I used to. No longer are we seeing the likes of the Shakesperean headiness of Hebdomad, The Victorian romping of The Q Word or the outré faux-historical attempts at credibility of Or Use a Cucumber.

Spam itself has become dull and soporific, a great mush of bland trashiness like the brains of those who purvey it. Now I see endless lists of ‘Hi, It Me, [insert random name]!*’ or (in my ‘Comments’ purge list) endless repetitious futile batterings at the Akismet gate, of mind-fogging screens full of plugs for cheap pharmaceuticals.

Let there be no doubt at all – for all my jolly good humour around the subject I truly hate spammers. I hate them with a passion. I ridicule them at every chance I get because I have a distant fond (and yes, I know, futile) hope that, since nothing else seems to work, maybe I might shame them into silence. In idle moments I fantasize about what I might do to one of these despicable specimens of walking excrement if I ever meet one.

Consider these things: by 2007 estimates say that of about 80 billion emails that will be sent, 70% will be spam. That’s over 50 billion spam emails. According to Spamhaus a mere 200 people are responsible for most of this junk, with as few as ten of these cretins accounting for 40% of it.

These 200 small-minded, greedy, pea-brained simpletons are screwing up one of the best ideas ever created; a way for us to have a global mind. These people represent for me the very worst things about humans. They are the kind of people who piss in your swimming pool, who park in the Disabled Persons spaces, who talk in the cinema. They are the kind of people who throw trash out their car window, who push in in queues, who drive Hummers, who peddle child pornography, who poison trees that obscure their view.

In short, they are the kind of people who think of no-one except themselves, and who have no concerns for anything outside their own petty preoccupations with making money.

We put up with spam. It has become a part of our lives. For most people it is a trivial annoyance, maybe a few emails to delete each morning – eh! No big deal. But it is going to get really bad, take my word for it. I’ve been a netizen for longer than most. I remember the Usenet, the early faltering attempts of AOL and when email was exclusively the privilege of those at a University†. I’ve had a net presence and the same email address for long enough to have been added to pretty much every spam list in existence.

So, give it a year or two kids and you’re going to be getting four or five hundred spam emails a day just like I do.

The majority of mine are intercepted in one way or another. My provider allows me to automatically zap about half of them at server level, and of those that get through, a great percentage I can blitz from my smtp account without reading. Even so, I average about fifty junk mails a day that employ tricks crafty enough to get into my mailbox.‡

And in recent times, not content with just filling up the world’s email inboxes with crud, spammers have pissed all over the Comments pages of blogs, creating another level of annoyance and even further wasted time and bandwidth. The sheer puerile mindlessness of these attacks is staggering. Pages and pages and pages of garbage links to sites that no longer exist**, peddling shonky cheap drugs, shitty replica watches and dodgy finance schemes. My daily Akismet purge is like hosing down the footpath outside a pub after a football broadcast.

And you know what? The worst part is that spam works. Not only are there greedy, brain-dead halfwits sending the stuff, there are scores of intellect-challenged dimwits responding to spam emails and even spending their money. All on glittery trash, tacky smut or half-baked swindles.

Stupid, money-grubbing imbeciles peddling garbage to undiscerning covetous dimwits. If they just did it in some back alley where I had no need to travel I wouldn’t care so much.

But the reason I hate spam with such vehemence is that it I am forced to contemplate these jackasses every day in my own life, and every day it is like wading through the sewage of the human condition. It is a constant reminder of how much of a journey we still have to make if we ever hope to become something more than the product of a mindless evolutionary process.

Here endeth today’s lesson.
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*With the egregious missing ”s’ from the ‘It’s’ that makes it instantly identifiable as a piece of crap, an error of colossal carelessness that makes me hate these people even more. For fuck’s sake, if you’re going to try and con someone with such a trivial amount of subterfuge, at least do it properly.

†I even remember the first appearances of spam in my email account and the soiled feeling it left. Like someone had left a turd on my porch.

‡I don’t want to give you the impression that this is particularly crafty. The main ‘trick’ that is used now is simply to make the email look as much like a personal email as possible, and that’s not too hard. The most conniving part is that the spammers actually use other people’s computers to send these messages, which foils attempts to block suspect IP numbers. If you own a PC, there’s a pretty high probability that a spammer lives in your box somewhere and is using it to escape detection.

**These sites are put up for the express purpose of catching people stupid enough to click on the links, but then pulled down as soon as the spammers have raked in enough money from gullible nitwits. The original emails and spamments, however, continue to circulate ad nauseum.

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