recepticle=Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Tried To Kill Me Today
Every so often, I go out for a walk. I've always loved walking - not over green pastures or along clifftops, spotting chaffinches and dragons, but just walking along the pavement with no particular desination in mind. Walking soothes me, especially after I've spent the first half of the day trying to explain web usability and design aesthetics to people who get confused by 24-hour digital clocks.

I walk fast. Not like that I've-had-a-poo-inside-my-shorts-and-I-need-to-get-home-without-it-slipping-out fast walking; I just walk fast. As such, cursory glances across junctions and judging whether I can cross the road before I get hit by a car as it approaches become the aim of the game.

When I was taught to drive I had one particular maxim drilled into me: once a pedestrian is on the road, they have the right of way. I guess it makes sense; the only way to stop a pedestrian having the right of way in the road would be to destroy them with your automobile. And I'm pretty sure that's frowned on in most countries.

So, on my way back home, 3.5 miles into my 4.5-mile walk, I get to a familar pedestrian crossing. I look to my right to see a car rounding the corner 50 feet away. I look to my left and see the traffic light is already on amber, half a second away from turning red. I casually look to my right once more as I step into the road, confident that the car is slowing to a stop.

Oh, no. The woman decided that, at a pedestrian crossing when the light was on amber and a pedestrian was waiting to cross and - I cannot stress this enough - with her little baby in the passenger seat - she decided to accelerate. She braked sharply, stopping a good 6 inches from my leg, swore loudly, and buried her head in her hands.

Standing a foot-and-a-half in the road, I turn to make sure that - yes, the lights are red. I turn to the car, gesturing with my hands. "Come on! The light's red!". I assumed she would only see my mouth move, but it turns out she had her window rolled down. She poked her head out of the window and said, astonishingly, "Actually, it was on amber.". I started to cross the road, looking over my shoulder as I went. "Well that's perfectly fucking safe, isn't it?"

So, to the young mother who thought that running an amber light at a pedestrian crossing might save her 90 valuable seconds: the government, common sense and safermotoring.co.uk tell us:

"You should stop at the [pedestrian] crossing if the lights are amber, and wait for the lights to turn green before leaving."

Even more interestingly, considering that your baby was in the passenger seat on the left side of your car and, as I was crossing the road on the left side of your car, had you hit me i would have most likely flown over the bonnet, my skull smashing your windscreen. Then one of two things would have happened; in the best-case scenario, your tiny baby would have been showered with shards of broken glass. In one of the not-so-best cases, I would have carried on through your windscreen and smashed your baby's face in with the top of my head - one of the thickest parts of the skull and incredibly resistant to blunt trauma.

Happy motoring!

- posted by lawrie at 4:54 PM ~ comments

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dear LOVEFILM: You Suck Balls.
We used to rent our DVDs from Amazon's rental service. It was awesome. We'd make a huge list of the films we wanted to see, move the ones we were really eager for to the top, and then just sit back and watch the films roll in.

Once we'd watched a film we just popped it in the prepaid envelope and within 24 hours another film would appear in our mailbox to replace it. Fantastical!

Then Amazon handed over its rental service to Lovefilm, and everything went to crap.

For a start, the usual next-day turnaround for DVD deliveries appears to have become an anywhere-from-48-to-96-hour turnaround, meaning that it doesn't really matter when I send off my DVDs, because apparently Lovefilm don't check their post for days on end anyway.

Lovefilm are also now cramming all of the DVDs into one envelope rather than one-film-one-envelope, which means we have to wait until we've seen them all before we can send them back which, when added to the slow turnaround, is a fairly neat way of almost guranteeing that we don't get through our monthly quota.

Lovefilm have also carried over the rental-ranking system we were used to on Amazon: you mark the films you want to see next as High Priority, then Medium and Low Priority for other films you don't mind waiting for.

This is where we come to the biggest issue: since Lovefilm have taken over our DVD rental service, we have not once received a film marked as High Priority in our list. In fact, the next 3 DVDs they're dispatching to us have all been taken from the very bottom of our list.

I can understand that some newly released films may be in high demand, but at least one of our High Priority films came out over three months ago, and all of the films at the top of that list have sat there stoically for almost two months, seemingly never to be dispatched.

I realise that some of this issues may seem trivial, but they all add up to a thoroughly crappy service that replaced one that was truly wonderful.

I guess the thing that galls me the most is that Lovefilm know exactly what they're doing. Their service, while quite poor, isn't so utterly dreadful as to attract undue attention. To paraphrase Peter in Office Space, Lovefilm are working just hard enough to not get fired. You'd have to be fairly petty and anal to complain about deliveries being more than 24 hours late or not getting your most eagerly anticipated film out of a list of 30 others.

Well bad fucking luck, Lovefilm - I am that anal.

- posted by lawrie at 5:12 PM ~ comments

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris For President

Last week, Republican presidential nominee John McCain launched an ad capaign comparing rival Barack Obama to Paris Hilton, suggesting that Obama is merely a celebrity candidate unready to lead the nation.

New independent presidential candidate Paris Hilton has posted a video rebutal to McCain's comparisons. In a swimsuit. And she talks about energy policy.

As much as I hate to say it, it's fucking awesome.

- posted by lawrie at 1:48 PM ~ comments

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo is a 'modern day slave'; embarks on promising career in cotton-picking

I just read this headline on Yahoo news: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has apparently urged football club behemoth Manchester United to stop treating Cristiano Ronaldo like a 'modern-day slave'. This story apparently stems from the fact that Real Madrid has made an offer to sign Ronaldo and he wants to go, but Manchester United are reluctant to lose their record-breaking scorer so soon after signing him to a 5-year contract.

I really could not care any less about football; I mean that sincerely. But what caught my attention about this story was the use of the term 'modern-day slave'. I thought to myself, "That's an interesting phrase. Hey! Let's compare!" So I did some quick digging, and turned up some truly astonishing results.

One of the must famous slaves in history is Dred Scott. I had no idea, but with the innocent marking of an 'X' for his signature on a pro forma freedom suit against the United States territories and the ensuing, astonishing decision by the US supreme court to deny citizenship to black people was the catalyst for the US Civil War.

Dred Scott was born into slavery as the property of someone else. Originally born Sam but adopting the name Dred from his older brother after he died, he was sold from family to family, moving from state to state, even staying in territories where slavery was illegal. Originally suing for his family's freedom in 1850 and then having that freedom repealed by the supreme court in 1852 and returned to his 'masters', it wasn't until 1857, through another failed lawsuit and being given back to his original owners that Dred Scott and his family were finally emancipated. Scott lived as a free man for only nine months before he died of TB.

Cristiano Ronaldo earns 120,000 a week from his contract with Manchester United, and his estimated annual earnings top 9.2 million each year.

Methinks Ronaldo is not so much a slave as he is a whining tool.

- posted by lawrie at 7:02 PM ~ comments

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Is The Loneliest Number
It was my birthday! And as horrifically disappointed as I was that not one of you selfish bastards bought me a present, my glorious girlfriend more than made up for it by buying me a Playstation 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV!

...and, as per usual, fistfuls of those just and noble organisations that don't trust parents to bring up their own children are just chomping at the bit to have it banned.

In this small but wonderfully formed excerpt from his interview, Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star spoke to Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council about the myriad objections to the game.

Usually if I'm going to stumble into an argument all guns blazing, I usually consider it good form to have at least some actual facts in my armoury. Facts are clearly unneccessary when defending children from society:

Isett: I've actually played Grand Theft Auto IV, and it's right in keeping with previous versions. The series continues to lower the bar and this is the first game that has an alcohol content warning. You get points for driving drunk in this game.

Villarreal: You know that's not true, right? The game doesn't have points.

Isett: If nothing else, it's a rewarded activity. Necessary for advancement.

Villarreal: I don't think so.

Isett: But there's an alcohol content warning and a scene of drunk driving, correct?

Villarreal: Yes. Did you play that part?

Isett: No, no. I didn't get that far.

Seriously, all you guys are geniuses.

- posted by lawrie at 12:21 PM ~ comments

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lawrie's Adventures On The Other Side Of Customer Service

It's always fun to read the experiences of overwraught, disgruntled and harangued retail professionals when dealing with moronic, monosyllabic, vegetable-IQ'd consumers and their lack of understanding, empathy, social graces and volum control. In my various former incarnations as a front-line offensive to the everyday consumer, my more-or-less verbatim transcripts have provided literally a whole bunch of people with a handful of hilarity. Today, however, my retail experiences come from the other side of the fence. Rarely have I been in a position as a buyer of goods and on the recieving end of such spectacularly poor service as I was this evening.

The first offender of my consumer sensibilities (and this may seem slightly tenuous, but stick with it), was my TomTom Go 100. In the coming years we will all have robot slaves; this is something I look forward to with great anticipation, and satellite navigation is the first foot in the door. Gone are the days when map-holding girlfriends and wives are required to know the difference between left and right - we now have a little electronic toy to guide us home. As I'm sure you're aware, however, sat nav systems are far from infallible.

I faithfully gave my TomTom my destination postcode and set off. It told me to make a right, but the turn in question was blocked off and being diverted. Fortunately, these systems can quickly and efficiently plan alternate routes, which it did. So I carried on for a bit, becoming accutely aware that I appeared to be overshooting the mark a little bit, when all of a sudden it told me to make a series of sharp turns which appeared to have me pointing in vaguely the right direction. Finally, he proudly announced "You have reached your desination". Unfortunately, this was in the middle of a residential street; I was supposed to be in a large retail park. I turned a couple of corners, then pulled over, re-inputting the destination postcode. It took me round a few more corners, taking me a full three miles from home - over a mile and a half further than my intended destination - onto a completely different street. He then announced, like he was Mapthor, God of the Road and Mini-Roadabouts, "You have reached your desination". "No I fucking haven't!" I screamed back, my window open and two small children standing directly next to the car. "Not even St. Christopher knows where I am, you fucking ZX Spectrum tape-drive fucktard!" Realising that my chances of making it to the store were becoming very slim, I caved in and set the destination for home. Dejected, trundling along at a snail's pace, I looked up to see... *gasp!* the retail park on the other side of the road! I furtively pulled a highly illegal u-turn and swung around in the road, careering into the car park directly in front of my store of choice: HobbyCraft.

If you haven't heard of it before, HobbyCraft is like a tiny little shop in some secluded street, run by two old ladies and sells paper and sewing buttons. The only difference is that HobbyCraft is a megastore and it shits all over the little old ladies two-bit 'buttons-and-crap' operation. This is where the second half of my adventures commence.

I rushed into the store, clambering around to make sure I had money and enough brainpower to propell myself through the store. Almost the instant I was inside, a deadpan pre-recorded monotone booms through the PA: "This store will be closing in ten minutes. Please make your way to the tills to pay for your purchases." Ten minutes? That's a lifetime to an experienced speed-shopper like me. I whisked along the rows to find the inky pads I was after. However, barely two minutes had passed - and I wasn't immune to the visual hate-daggers being thrown at me - when the same recorded voice announced, "This store is now closing. Please make your way to the exit.". Given my Oscarian mood, my witty repost was limited to "Please make your way to fucking off,". Yeah. Good one.


I grabbed an ink pad at random, carefully studying the back to make sure I wasn't buying gloss emulsion or glass paint, and read a note about needing an aerosol sealant for this particular ink. I accosted a shop 'assistant' - you'll notice I enclosed her job title within quotations to give a visual indication of inferred irony - and asked her if she knew how many ink stamps I might exepct to get out of a particular ink pad, to which she responded with a barely perceptible shrug. Pretending not to notice her indifference to the world, I asked the same question again. "Dunno," she managed to mumble. "Thanks. That's very helpful. Now, it said something about maybe needing an aerosol sealant?". Her brow creased and she asked, as if offended, "Where did you read that?". I pointed at the back of the ink pad, then at the sign in the aisle. "It said on there... I read it... look, does it matter? Do I need a sealant or what?". Another shrug. "Dunno, then. Don't fink so." Oh, you don't fink so? Well that's very reassuring, you Fuzzy Felt hippy.

I grabbed my inks and headed for the tills.

- posted by lawrie at 8:12 PM ~ comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winning 'Awards' The Easy Way
I'm no stranger to the headlines. Once, after accidentally recieving a cheque for over a half a million pounds my story made it onto page 3 of The Sun (for all you foreign types, 'Page 3' means "a page in a 'newspaper' with boobs on it") and even got my picture on the front page of the local rag until some selfish bastard crashed his helicopter and died later that afternoon.

So imagine my twinkly joy at discovering that, after working on Elbow's new site, I have inadvertently made it into The Sun again. Note that I've conveniently highlighted the parts I worked on, since they're the most important and nobody should care about anything else.

And finally, after spending a good couple of years trying to destroy independent widget development, Myspace have finally seen the light (in particular, the lamp of foolhardyness illuminating the fact that they're consistently falling behind Facebook in terms of UK traffic) and stolen Facebook's development platform.

- posted by lawrie at 12:36 PM ~ comments

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How To Waste Money And Imbibe People
For those of you just joining us, welcome back to, officially, the most bestest design-having blog. Hooray for me and my mantel of shiny-yet-intangible awards! In addition, I have just set a record for the worst grammatically structured fragment of 2008.

While searching for a frustratingly elusive video of George Carlin performing his version of The Aristocrats (if you don't know the legendary gag, you should check out this trailer and then immediately order the DVD), I stumbled across Otto %26 George's retelling of this comedic classic. Nothing gets me much hotter than a fantastically vulgar puppet.

- posted by lawrie at 5:07 PM ~ comments

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dear Centre Parcs

Dear Centre Parcs,

I recently had a very enjoyable stay at your Elvenden Forest 'parc', although unfortunately I didn't see any elves or, failing that, any wolves eating children. I did see a boy push his sister off her bike and laugh, though it was neither magical nor elvish. I did some swimming, I played some badminton (which, it turns out, I'm not bad at), I shot some pool, I totally kicked ass at go-karting even though everyone claims I cheated; a great time was had by all.

However, I have one issue that came up again and again that almost ruined every day for me. Like an effluent smell that follows you to bed even after you put your shoes in the washing machine, or the constant ringing hum of tinnitus that lets your brain know that your ears are dying from the inside. For the sake of my own health and wellbeing, I must insist on recompense for no less than the cost of a full treatment of laser-eye surgery for both of my eyes. And a really nice pair of sunglasses.

I realise this unpleasantness may well have been avoided if your facility had not completely burnt down a few years ago thanks to the boy wonder who decided to take a blowtorch to a bitumen-coated roof, and for that I am sorry that you have been placed in this unfortunate position. However, I feel I have no recourse but to demand reparation given the nature of the issue that blighted my every waking minute at Centre Parcs in Elvenden Forest, unless you can offer a solid, plausible reason for using COMIC SANS ON EVERY SINGLE FUCKING SIGN YOU HAVE.

It's not even a real typeface, you fontologically challenged pissmidgets. The only possible way you could have made things any worse was by throwing an apostrophe into every plural and hanging a sign in the changing room that said "Be careful with you're belonging's! Their are theives in the area!"

- posted by lawrie at 1:57 PM ~ comments

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Phoenix Dark Wants To Meet YOU
I frequently suffer through phases of insomnia, infecting my brain in same way I imagine hundreds and hundreds of venereal diseases feed happily on Jodie Marsh's pubis; and last night was no different - for my insomnia, or Jodie's vagina, I'd guess.

As I sat in bed watching Mystery Men at 2am this morning, I began to notice a pattern in the far-too-frequent advert breaks marring my enjoyment of this cinematic classic; all of the advert breaks were identical. I don't just mean that there was a commercial for some kind of Ford parambulator and another for one of those generic price comparison websites; oh no, there were eight (I counted. Twice) separate adverts for those mobile-text-flirt services.

You know the ones - some gormless bint with horrifically modified grapefruit-boobs crammed under a thoroughly inadequate bikini top, her skin dyed to the colour of an out-of-season satsuma and wearing more make-up than a member of The Black %26 White Minstrel Show pretends that she's at home alone on a Saturday night having the time of her life (optionally joined by a genetic clone of herself wearing a black wig) texting some sad twat sitting at home on his own in underpants and a vest while he knocks out a five-knuckle shandy to the fake picture of 'herself' that she just sent to him.

Well, I started noticing that while the advertised numbers changed and the girls looked (barely) different with each commercial, the company offering the service listed in teeny-tiny text at the bottom of the screen remained the same. That company is MyTXT, and the plethora of different-but-the-same services they offered piqued my interest enough to take a look at their website.

At first glance it appears that someone got their nephew to put the site together with Microsoft FrontPage (although a quick glance at the page's source code tells me it was done with Pysoft's Actual Drawing 6.0), but with a single click of my mouse, I was taken to the single-most revealing 'Safety Tips' page I have ever read. Let's eat some safety nuggets together!

'We all go on blind dates and an occasional anonymous trick.'

Okay, please please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm certain that the word 'trick', especially in this context, is how a prostitute refers to having sex with a paying client; she 'turns a trick'. And I'm not entirely comfortable with the suggestion that 'we all' do it. Maybe in Australia chum, but I'm British.

'Prior to meeting, be sure to get a photo of your date.... Save the picture in an accessible place on your computer. You can always erase it later if his psycho rating is extremely low.'

This is, disturbingly, the only mention of any kind of 'psycho rating', which leads me to believe that it is less a trustworthy points system offered by the company in the name of safety and more a mental gauge that you should use; unfortunately a gauge many of us lack - my three horrifying dates with Psycho Becki 8 years ago being a case in point.

'Map an Escape Route: In the rare case your date may follow you home or attempt to harm you, take a route different from your routine or meet at a location away from your place of residence.'

Yes, one way to absolutely guarantee your safety is to meet a stranger well away from home. That way, you can be certain that your date-rape will take place in complete privacy, well away from concerned friends and family.

The very fact that they have to offer advice about mapping escape routes in case of imminent danger makes me wonder exactly what's happened before. "Hmm... you know, a lot of our customers are being murdered. Maybe we should offer some advice usually only given to MI5 operatives when planning to meet KGB double-agents."

Is it just me, or does this entire 'txt-2-flrt' system seem utterly anachronistic given the many millions of ways we can use the internet to communicate cheap-as-free? You could either spend 3 sending one message and receiving one in return (Three pounds!), or you could download MSN Messenger for free, sign up to Myspace for free, cut out the middle man and spend all night abusing yourself.

- posted by lawrie at 2:59 PM ~ comments