Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Doing It Myself

I love watching home-buying, -building, -design and -renovation shows on TV. My MySky planner is filled with episodes of Property Ladder, Grand Designs, Location Location Location, Relocation Relocation, Design Star, Interior Rivalry, Property Prophets, and Project Restoration. I hardly watch anything else...

So you would think, would you not, that having become an armchair expert on all things DIY, I would have taken note of the fact that just about every project on every show runs over time and blows the budget.

But nooooooooo. I foolishly thought I could redecorate the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, living room and bedroom of my downstairs flat in one four-day push over Easter...

Ha! I think I'd realised by the end of Good Friday that this was not going to be an achievable goal.

For the past four days I have painted non-stop for 10 or 11 hours a day. This evening I left work at just after five, and painted for another 4 hours.

I've completed the top coat in precisely one room so far. In two out of the five spaces I'm having to do three coats because the previous colours were so dark. I find I have bought twice as much paint as I actually need - which is a sh*tload of money wasted. I went back to the paint shop to check, but the guy had definitely done his sums right. Even with three coats in some rooms I've still not finished the first of two 10 litre buckets of paint.

All the ceilings are finished (although I still have half the ceiling paint left) - except for the largest ceiling which is in the living room. I haven't even started that one because I'm waiting to Get A Man In. I need The Man to tidy up the very rough job that was done on fitting a new piece of jib board in place of a damp patch on the ceiling ages ago.

The first Man called on Sunday to ask if he could come round in about half an hour. I said sure. An hour and a half later he called me again to ask if he could round in the evening instead. I said sure. I waited and waited. And waited and waited. No Man. No phone call explaining why no Man. On Monday afternoon he finally turned up - 23 hours after he was supposed to arrive. When I pointed out that he was almost a day late, he laughed and said "tell me about it!" I fired him. Now I have to Get Another Man In.

I also have to Get A Man In to take a look at the sagging ceiling in the kitchen, which apparently has become more and more saggy over the last few months. Wish Mick and Helen had told me that when they were living downstairs! I painted the ceiling anyway, (including the sag) because I think it might be a while till I can afford to get it fixed.

This is because I also need a glazier to come and replace the glass around the cat door, which is cracked. And I just spent a LOT of money on new carpets and lino for the whole flat because I haven't replaced them since I moved in 7 years ago, and they were looking very threadbare. And I still have to Get The Curtain People In to do a measure and quote of all the new curtains I need.

Plus I went to the paint shop on Saturday and bought even more paint because I decided the first colour I had chosen (all 20 unreturnable litres of it!) was too white. I decided on another neutral (of course! don't you KNOW you have to use neutrals these days???) two shades darker than the one I originally had. I asked the guy if the type of paint I already had (which I was now using as an undercoat) was suitable for kitchens and bathrooms, and he said oh well you should use this other one instead - it's a new water-based enamel, and you can use it in all your rooms. Really? I said, even in the living room and bedroom? Oh yes, he said, that will be fine.


I don't know why it didn't completely click that trying to use enamel paint on large areas of walls was really REALLY stoopid idea. I think it's cos it's water-based rather than oil-based, and somehow I vaguely thought this would make a difference - plus the guy said it would be OK and I believed him. The paint got sticky in the time it took to cut in along the top of just one narrow section - which meant that as I rollered over it, the roller pulled the sticky paint down in a kind of a crease along the top of the wall. As I could only do half the height of the wall with one roller-full, and then had to cut in along the skirting board, I ended up with another crease of paint between the two rollered sections, and one along the bottom for good measure. And don't get me started on the join between one section and the next...

I gave up after two walls. Plus it was a bit of a yucky colour too.

I took an hour off work over lunchtime today, got the bus home, loaded the paint into the car and took it back to the shop. The man listened sympathetically to my story, did the sums to check the amount of paint I had originally bought was correct, mumbled something about maybe I didn't cover the walls properly with it, and then told me I had to take the enamel paint home again and he would Get His Own Man In to give me a call and come and inspect my wall to see whether they will take the paint back. Good Lord.

I did have one success at the paint shop, however. It occurred to me sometime last night that I could utilise the unopened spare 10 litres of original paint by getting him to re-colour it to the shade in between the-one-that's-too-white and the bit-of-a-yucky-colour. Which he did. And it's just perfect. Yaay.

The bedroom does look pretty good now that the walls and ceiling are finished. I'm sure the rest of the flat is going to look equally as good. It'll also feel about twice as big as when it was painted in dark colours.

I have to finish all the walls before the weekend, and it's already Wednesday (well, when I wake up it will be, anyway). Chris's going-away party is on Thursday so I'm not going to get much painting done then. No Friday drinks for me after work! The reason why I have to get all the walls done this week is that I have to get ALL the woodwork done over the weekend, because the carpets and lino are being laid on Monday. And you can't paint skirting boards if there's new carpet down.

Aaaarggghhhhh. I may have to just do all the woodwork that actually touches the floor, and leave the window frames, kitchen cupboards, bathroom cabinets etc until after the carpet/lino is down. And use bloody good drop-sheets and be vewwy vewwy careful.

Bugger! Hope I'm not still painting by the time Peti and Tane move in next Friday!

It's very satisfying in a masochistic kind of a way. When I get into The Zone I can paint and paint and the hours literally fly by. But. My neck hurts. My shoulders hurt, my back hurts, my legs hurt, my ankle hurts, my hips hurt, and my arms hurt.

Next time I tell you I'd just love to buy an old house and do it up, remind me of how much work it is, and how stiff I'm feeling right now, will you? :)

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary in Tuzla - why has she told such a big fat lie?

I find it truly amazing that Hillary would exaggerate her experience in Tuzla to such an extent that she's now turned the story into a big fat lie. Really - why would you do that? Why would you lie about something where the real facts are so easily checked, and where it's so simple to prove that you're lying?

Is her sense of entitlement so strong these days that she thinks she can just tell bare-faced lies and get away with it? It's what the Republicans have been doing for years, after all... Or is she getting desperate as one super-delegate after another announces they are going with Obama? Was she so caught up in the "experience" meme that she didn't even realise that her exagerrations had gotten quite out of hand? Is she so intent on winning this particular "competition" with Obama because she knows, deep down, that she has nothing else with which to better him?

Whatever the reason, I find it very strange. I think she may be losing the plot...

The Baltimore Sun calls it a "whopper."

"Four Pinocchios!" says the Washington Post.

"Requires enormous suspension of disbelief" raves the Huffington Post.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barack Obama - A More Perfect Union

It's late and I have to go to bed, but I couldn't rest before putting up a link to Barack Obama's most recent speech - A More Perfect Union.

Quite simply, I think it's a mindblowing speech. You know already that I'm an Obama admirer, and I've explained a few reasons why over the past couple of months.

I think this speech exemplifies just why I find him so inspiring, and why I'm so SO keen to see him win both the Democratic nomination and the Presidential election. I think he'll make a marvellous President, and I can see him helping to re-shape America over the next few years.

What is so stunning about this speech is its honesty.

Politicians don't talk like this! Politicians don't delve into "difficult" issues. They don't discuss things that some people feel uncomfortable about discussing. They stick to soundbites and platitudes. They say whatever it is that their polling numbers say the people want to hear. They don't always tell the truth (or at least they often don't tell the whole truth), and sometimes some of them even lie.

With this speech, Barack Obama is exploring the uncharted territories of truth, honesty, and openness. He's talking about the issue of race in a way that makes sense. He's looking at the issue from all sides. He's looking to understand the differing points of view of both black and white people in America - and he's spelling out not just the differences, but - more importantly - the similarities between us all.

He's been exploring these strange lands of truth, honesty, and openness for a long time now. I think that's who he's always been, and what he's always done. I say "strange" because, for a politician, these are lands rarely visited. I think this is why he's striking such a cord with so many different people - black and white, young and old, men and women, Democrats and Republicans. He tells the truth. He looks into issues that most politicians try to pretend aren't there. He is brave, and courageous.

He continues to embrace the man that is Reverend Wright, while at the same time rejecting the man's divisive words. He knows that the world is a million shades of grey, and he's not afraid to talk about them, explore them, and invite us to join him in thinking about them, and seeing them. This is a rare and precious characteristic, and one which I think would stand him in very good stead in the White House.

He also does something I've never heard a politician do before - he shines a bright light on both the media and politicians in general, by exploring and rejecting the sound bites, and the unimportant media storms in a teacup, and the ruthless exploitation by politicians of simmering inequalities and frustrations within American society. He shines the light, and shows these things for the cheap and shallow tactics that they are.

And then he suggests an alternative way.

The LA Times called it Obama's Lincoln moment:

But instead of offering a simple exercise in damage control, Obama chose to place his discussion of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's incendiary comments in a wider consideration of race in America - and the results were, like those Kennedy achieved in Houston, historic.

The New York Times editorial, Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage, said:
Inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt come to mind, as does John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religion, with its enduring vision of the separation between church and state. Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better.

The editorial in the Washington Post - Moment of Truth - begins:
SEN. BARACK Obama's mission in Philadelphia yesterday was to put the controversy over inflammatory statements made by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his spiritual mentor and pastor for 20 years, behind him. But Mr. Obama (D-Ill.) went deeper than that. He used his address as a teachable moment, one in which he addressed the pain, anger and frustration of generations of blacks and whites head-on -- and offered a vision of how those experiences could be surmounted, if not forgotten. It was a compelling answer both to the challenge presented by his pastor's comments and to the growing role of race in the presidential campaign.

The Boston Globe editorial - Obama's history, and America's - includes the following:
That's why, as Obama said, voters have to choose. They can focus on scandal and spectacle, on who said what outrageous thing. They can focus on the racial dynamics of who votes for whom. But the truer course is to focus on building a better America, one with stronger schools, better health care, reliable voting machines, fairer taxes, strong roads and bridges, and a healthy economy.

Voters have to choose, and in doing so they should seize this chance to forge their self-interests into a new, truly United States of America.

Watch it for yourself and see what you think... I think it's a wonderful speech.

Here's the transcript

...and here's a HUGE collection of links to a whole bunch more articles and editorials about this speech from across the country.

This, to me, is why his campaign has been so powerful, and why I think his Presidency will be so effective. Because this man has a vision of A More Perfect Union, and provides both the inspiration, the will and the ways in which all Americans can achieve it - together.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blogger most popular posts widget - the good and the bad

A week or so ago I added the Spotplex Most Popular Posts widget to my blog - you can see it in the side bar.

I thought I'd do a quick assessment of how it's running - the good and the bad.

First of all, speed. It's speedy. I've noticed no slow-down in loading time of my blog having added the widget. This is a good thing. My last Popular Posts widget (AffiliateBrand) was slowing down my blog so much I had to remove it.

Look and feel - it's OK, although I'd like to change the styling of the number of readers and the links within the widget. As it's generated via a piece of JavaScript embedded in my blog, I'm not able to do this, as the widget has its own styling that I haven't been able to figure out how to override in my own stylesheet. If anyone knows how to do that, I'd love to find out!

Article count - this is not good. For some reason, and I have no idea why, Spotplex thinks I only have 30 posts on my blog, and it's only scoring these 30 posts, rather than the 250 posts I actually have. This is annoying, because I've got a few older posts that continue to be read on a regular basis (my SiteMeter stats tell me so), but these aren't appearing in my most popular list. I'm pretty sure the 30 posts it's counting are the 30 most recent (from the last 6 months or so), and there seems to be no way of getting Spotplex to do a recount and include all my posts in the list.

I've emailed the Spotplex crew, but I've had no reply to my email, which is also annoying. What's the point of having a Most Popular Posts list if it doesn't count all your posts?


Apart from AffiliateBrand, this is the only popular posts widget I've found that works in Blogger, so I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either my blog loads so slowly I lose my visitors before they arrive, or I only have 30 out of 250 posts ranked.

Does anyone know how to get Spotplex to count all my posts, or do you know of any other Blogger most popular posts widgets out there? I'd really like to get one that works properly...

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Friday, March 07, 2008

Clinton vs Obama: head-to-head matchups against McCain

poblano: head-to-head, Obama vs McCain and Clinton vs McCain
I began by being an Edwards supporter. I liked his policies, I liked his left-ness. When he dropped out of the race I had a choice to make, Clinton or Obama?

The first angle I took in my decision-making was purely pragmatic. I figured that you can't put any of your policies in place as President if you don't actually win the presidential election. Therefore my first priority was to compare Clinton and Obama in head-to-head matchups against McCain.

Is Clinton more likely to beat McCain in the largest number of states with the most electoral votes, or is it Obama? Does Clinton look like she'd be able to win any traditionally Republican states, or does Obama? Do the results in primaries held so far indicate that any swing states might move away from McCain and towards Clinton, or are they more likely to move away from McCain if Obama is the nominee?

SurveyUSA: McCain vs Obama
And what about the negatives? How many people say they would vote for Clinton if she were the Democratic nominee, but if Obama were the nominee they'd vote for McCain? And how many say they'd do the opposite - vote for Obama over McCain if he's the nominee, but they'd rather have McCain than Clinton? How many people say they'd never vote for Clinton in a million years? How many say the same for Obama? And how many Republicans reckon they'd come out and specifically vote against Clinton but wouldn't worry about voting Republican if McCain was up against Obama? Or vice versa?

And how many people are identifying as new voters who've voted for Clinton? How many for Obama? How many independents say they've voted or intend to vote for Clinton, and how many for Obama?

SurveyUSA: McCain vs Clinton
These things matter. Winning the Democratic nomination is only half the battle. If you win the nom and then go on to lose the Presidential race against McCain, you've won nothing. Obvious really...

The results of my research convinced me that Obama was the most likely to win against McCain. Everything I've read - post-vote poll results, voting stats, opinion polls - convinces me that Hillary has too many negatives, has inspired fewer new voters to come out and vote, is unable to gather the votes of as many disillusioned Republicans as Barack can, and has not been the one to inspire the majority of independents to vote for her. Barack wins every time.

But you don't need to take it from me.

Survey USA has just come out with a new and comprehensive set of polls, the results of a nationwide survey of 30,000 people. You can see the results here (Obama vs McCain), here (Clinton vs McCain) and most tellingly here (new electoral maps side by side).

And what, to me, is even more interesting, is a mashup of these results with an analysis of the accuracy of all the different pollsters, carried out by poblano at Daily Kos. Go take a look and see what you think. Thanks to SurveyUSA for the maps and to poblano for the awesome graphs I've used here and the great analysis - keep on trucking, dudes!

poblano: Net advantage, Obama vs Clinton
I have a bunch of other reasons for preferring Obama over Clinton, many of which I've already blogged about over the past wee while, but to me, in some ways, this is the clincher. You won't get to answer the phone at 3am, however much experience you say you have, if you can't beat McCain.

Read the full post

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Velvet Underground - Gymnasium

velvet Underground & Nico album coverI remember clearly when I first got into the Velvet Underground. I was 15, and my best friend Donald (who was far cooler than I) gave me The Velvet Underground & Nico for my birthday, followed by Lou Reed's album Berlin. At first I found both albums hard going. They seemed so dark and somewhat depressing, especially Berlin. But I persevered (because I knew he had very good taste), and I soon came to love both albums, and listened to them constantly.

At the time I was majorly getting into the early punk scene in the UK (this was 1977), so a taste of the band considered by many to be the honorary grandfathers of the punk movement fitted in well with all the other stuff I was listening to, like The Jam, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the Stranglers (my favourites), Tom Robinson Band, Stiff Little Fingers and The Boomtown Rats.

VUBOX1 boxed setI soon became a huge Velvet Underground fan, and gradually collected on vinyl everything they'd ever made, including the two rare bootlegs The Velvet Underground - etc and The Velvet Underground (and so on). One of my most prized albums (or should I say, album collections) is still The Velvet Underground boxed set VUBOX1:

1986 UK limited edition 5 x vinyl LP box set, includes the albums The Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground, VU and the previously unreleased Another View. Housed in a 12" x 12" picture box complete with an 8-page booklet.
Although by that time I already had most of those albums, I bought the boxed set anyway - as any good fan would. I think it's quite rare actually.

So it was with great delight that I stumbled upon news of a previously undiscovered live recording of the Velvets at The Gymnasium, New York City in 1967. Woah!

The Velvet Underground
OK so this is old news now (by a couple of weeks!) and I have Russell Brown to thank for the heads-up, but after 40 years, who cares about a couple of weeks? My God... is it really 40 years? Christ!

Tracklisting as follows:

  1. I'm Not A Young Man Anymore (previously unheard VU song)

  2. Guess I'm Falling In Love

  3. I'm Waiting For The Man

  4. Run Run Run

  5. Sister Ray (debut live performance)

You can download all 5 tracks here. Apparently this all started with some guy selling 100 green vinyl copies on ebay a couple of weeks ago. Damn! Wish I'd known!

The new track I'm Not A Young Man Anymore is pretty cool and very Velvets, and the debut version of Sister Ray is awesome, and at almost 19 minutes long, it's not for the fainthearted or impatient :)

Run (run run), don't walk - and download this new bit of Velvets' history. You know you want to.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hillary's war speech vs Barack's anti-war speech

This just about says it all...

This is a video comparison of what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said in the run-up to the war on Iraq.

Here's Hillary channeling George:

And Barack reading the future and channeling, well, me, actually... :)

Supporters from across the country re-create Barack Obama's 2002 speech. You can read the full speech from 2002 and his plan to end the war at

I know who I'd want answering that 3am call...

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Saturday, March 01, 2008

My blog's more popular than John Key's blog...

This cracked me up.

The other day over at Tumeke! they posted the nz blogosphere rankings: January 2008. I've visited Tumeke! before, but didn't know they were doing the rankings - I found them by following a link off my SiteMeter stats.

So of course, as you do, you do a bit of ego-scrolling to find where you are in the NZ rankings.

First comes Kiwiblog (#1) (sigh) followed by Public Address (#2) (yaay!) and frogblog (#3) (yaay!). Then there are a bunch of others including a couple of my favourites like No Right Turn (#6), and Just Left (#15).

Scroll down a bit further and you come to WebWeaver's World (that's me!) at #31 (up from #40 - gawd, it's like when I was watching my favourite single run up the charts when I was a kid!)... and right behind my blog, at #32, is none other than John Key's blog.

*Sniffle snort choke gasp*

I find it absolutely hysterical (and rather amazing) that (in the month of January at least) more people were interested in reading what I ramble on about, than were interested in what the Leader of the Opposition had to say. And I didn't even write much in January - a grand total of 5 posts in fact.

Also not-as-popular as me were The Fundy Post (#33), the Maori Party (#50), the execrable dad4justice (#51), United Future (#56), Bill English (#68), ACT on Campus (#75), and Alliance New Zealand (unrated). Plus a whole lot more.

In case any of you are now certain (as if you weren't already) that I am nothing more than a great big giant ego, let me reassure you that I write this with my tongue firmly in my cheek - while at the same time being quietly amazed (OK, perhaps not so quietly!) that my little old blog is doing so well. It's a million miles away from the number of visitors who spend time at the most popular New Zealand blogs, but still... it makes me happy!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Blogger - a new most popular posts widget

As I mentioned the other day, I finally had to ditch my old AffiliateBrand Most Popular Posts widget, because of the inordinate amount of time it was taking to load.

Today I did bit of googling (because I really liked being able to see at a glance which of my blog posts you were reading) to see if I could find a similar widget, and I found Spotplex: What people most read today.

When you first arrive at the site, it's not immediately obvious what the site can do for you, or how to get your widget, but basically it works via a bit of JavaScript on your blog (same as most widgets) which measures which of your posts are getting the most hits within a given period of time. These results are displayed in the widget itself which you also add to your blog.

In addition to allowing you to measure the most popular posts on your own blog, Spotplex also rates the most popular posts on all the blogs that use the Spotplex widget - and it displays these on its own website.

I found Spotplex via a very good post describing how to install the widget - Assess My Blog: Popular Posts Widget for Blogger, so I would recommend that you go there and follow the very clear instructions.

The Spotplex homepage includes no real instructions on what you're supposed to do, and seeing as you have to click on two separate buttons on the homepage in order to get your widget, and there's nothing there to tell you that this is what you have to do, I found Assess My Blog's instructions very helpful.

A couple of points:

Step 3 in the Spotplex process (once you've registered and provided info about your bog) is to get the JavaScript tracking code to add to your blog. The site provides you with a code number and also the line of JavaScript you'll need. There's a button within the form that reads "Install Spotplex Widget" which automatically adds the JavaScript to your sidebar.

It's a little misleading, IMO, to describe it as "installing the widget", because this doesn't actually install the widget itself, only the JavaScript. Actually adding the widget to your sidebar is the next step in the process. You can choose whether or not to include a Spotplex logo with the JavaScript. Personally I prefer not to - I don't like cluttering up my blog with other people's logos.

Instead of automatically creating a new sidebar element that holds the JavaScript (and logo if you want to include it) you can also choose to simply copy the JavaScript and add it to your Blogger template by hand. This is my preferred option, as I have a range of analytics tools on my blog, all of which use little bits of JavaScript. I paste these into the very end of my template, just before the </body> tag.

If, like me, you forget to make a note of your special Spotplex code number and then you close the Ajax-generated window in which it appeared, you won't be able to use your "back" button to get back to it. You can, however, find your code number by looking at your piece of JavaScript - it's the 6-figure number included in the URL inside the JavaScript.

You get the widget itself by clicking a very small button labelled "get widget" on the Spotplex homepage. This opens a new Ajaxy window where you can make choices about the size of the widget, the duration of time being measured, how many post titles to display - and also whether you want it to display the most popular posts across all blogs, or just within your own blog.

Once you've made your selections you can choose to preview the widget. I would recommend doing this, as the first time I tried it, I got a system error message in the preview box. When I added this code to my blog I got the same error message and no widget. I went through the process again, this time I got a proper preview, and the widget worked fine when I added it to my blog.

It might take some time for the widget to start displaying any results - because people have to be visiting your blog in order to generate hits which can be counted. I happen to be writing this post (having just installed the widget) in the evening in NZ, which means many of my American and European visitors will be tucked up in bed, asleep. Hopefully within a few hours I'll start getting some results.

Although this widget doesn't appear to be customisable in terms of design like the AffiliateBrand one was (with a bit of hackery), it has a nice, generic-looking design anyway, with neutral coloring and Apple-like shading. This means it fits well into most blogs, unlike the very blue-and-purple AffiliateBrand widget.

I've been checking the loading time for my blog now that I've added this widget, and it doesn't seem to have slowed it down, which is good. The very slow loading time of my page with the AffiliateBrand widget was what made me eventually remove it.

The Spotplex website also allows me to log in using either my code number or the URL of my blog, and provides me with a graphical display of my traffic trends, as well as a summary of my latest posts. I'll describe this in a bit more detail once I get some results. :)

It's looking good so far. I'll update this post tomorrow once I've seen it in action for a while...

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post