Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Excuse me, do you know if this is Farfrompoopen Road?

Well, according to the SFgate.com voting has just finished in the weirdest and wackiest street name in America poll, sponsored by the U.S. Mitsubishi Motors website, and I have to say that those Americans can sure name a street. Of the many nominations the top ten (all verified as real existing roads and streets) are as follows:

10. Tater Peeler Road in Lebanon, Texas

9. The intersection of Count and Basie in Richmond, Va.

8. Shades of Death Road in Warren County, N.J.

7. Unexpected Road in Buena, N.J.

6. Bucket of Blood Street in Holbrook, Ariz.

5. The intersection of Clinton and Fidelity in Houston

4. The intersection of Lonesome and Hardup in Albany, Ga.

3. Farfrompoopen Road in Tennessee (the only road up to Constipation Ridge)

2. Divorce Court in Heather Highlands, Pa.

1. Psycho Path in Traverse City, Mich.

I really don't think any more need be said...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Checked Your Attic Lately...?

Being a 'New Australian' (if you can call someone who has been in the country nearly twelve years 'new') I am still often amazed by the quirkiness of Australian popular culture. Luckily having watched the Aussie TV show 'Neighbours' for a number of years in England prior to my arrival upon antipodean shores, the shock was not as bad as it might have been. Having said that, I still live with the mental scars from my first encounter with a show called 'Hey Hey It's Saturday' only days after I stepped from the arrivals hall at Melbourne airport...

But then I come across stories like this in Britain's The Guardian newspaper:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1703094,00.html about a man who recently found a preserved alien in a jar in his attic, and somehow I don't find Australia as odd a place as I once thought it to be...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Addiction is a sad thing...

I have a confession to make, I have an addiction. I would normally remain quiet about this sort of personal shortcoming, but things have reached crisis point and I feel compelled drag my secret out into the cold and sobering light of day.

What is this awful thing to which I am addicted?

OK, here it is; I am addicted to RSS news feeds. Or Really Simple Syndication as it is known by it’s full name.

In fact it’s worse than just RSS, it’s XML, RSS 2, all flavours of ATOM and of course +My Yahoo.

It’s a disease, a fever that takes over my very being to the point of obsession. Some people collect stamps, some collect comics, some sad people even collect beer mats (I actually used to do the latter) but I am addicted to collecting news RSS feeds. I look for the little orange button on every web site I visit with a view to adding it to my burgeoning aggregator list.

For those still unaware of RSS, come out from beneath your rock and listen; it basically allows you to check all your favourite news websites (that support RSS, XML etc) from a single program on your computer. All you need to do is paste the feed URL into this aggregator program and it will check for updates as often as you like. The vast majority of serious news sites support these feeds, all you need to do is check for the orange button (or sometimes just a text link). Once it’s added to your news aggregator program you can see the whole web page in the frame within the program interface. My favourite aggregator program currently is Awasu. It’s well designed, easy to use and FREE!

This technology is of course designed to save the news junky time and effort, in practice however (for me at least) it means that I spend the majority of my time catching up on world events that, frankly, I really don’t need to know about. I greedily grab feed details from almost every site that supports feeds I happen to come across. I am bitterly disappointed if the latest online newspaper I have found is not quite advanced (or important) enough to have the little orange RSS/XML button on it’s front page. My computer is constantly beeping and demanding my attention so I can read the latest headlines from San Jose to South-End-Sea, to peruse the editorials from such worthy web publications as The Argos News from Brighton and Hove, The Star Press from Muncie Indiana or The Bangkok Post. I feel I must digest the latest political commentary from The New York Times online, know who won the 3.30 at Newmarket and keep abreast of the weather in Wichita.

There are more specialist website feeds: automotive feeds, space exploration feeds, blog feeds, weather feeds, financial feeds, science feeds (essential if you want to be the first in your office/workplace/classroom to know about the latest advances in nano-technology or superconductivity), then there are the plethora of gadget and computer news feeds for keeping up to date with this week’s new iPod colour or the latest release date for Windows new Vista operating system.

A myriad of papers and news sources vie for the reader’s attention with seductive headlines. Well, not always seductive, in fact more often than not the headlines are rather mundane; reports on the latest union machinations in Glasgow or perhaps the sad tale of a kitten stuck up a tree in Des Moines, Iowa. But that’s not the point. The point is you are plugged into the real world, whatever happens wherever on the planet, you will be the first to read about it on your computer screen, heralded by a little announcement sound of your very own choosing. You feel in complete control with your virtual news studio – you will umm and arrr over the morning press release from the Prime Minister’s office at number 10 Downing Street, and never will any story of a kitten stuck in a tree, somewhere in the news obsessed world, escape your notice again.