Friday, 20 May 2011

More Epic Videos From The Internet

Or, as an alternative title for this post (and all others like it), "Embedding YouTube videos is way easier than typing actual content".

This first one is not pretty. If you have any respect for Mark Webber, and would like to keep that respect, don't watch it.

If Mark held any sort of dreams of some sort of stage or singing career once he's retired from Formula One, then I think this may have trashed them somewhat.

This next video was posted by Piran on Facebook, and it is #438 on the list of things that Red Bull have sponsored that are absolutely fricking awesome.

In the first thirty seconds of that video, watching people zoom round the tiny tiny velodrome, my thought was "that looks dangerous... don't they fall off?". The answer is yes. Yes they do. It's a cool concept, and looks like it'd be pretty fun to watch or try out. Plus the video has some pretty awesome people like Chris Akrigg and Danny MacAskill in it.

The final vid is something most people will (and should) have seen already, but I've found over the last few months that there are plenty of people who haven't, so I'm posting it as a sort of personal indulgence because it was probably my highlight of YouTube last year.

Last summer there was a video that got fairly viral of a news broadcast reporting an attempted rape, with the seriousness of the report broken somewhat by a rant in the middle by the guy's sister, called Antoine Dodson.

The video itself is fairly funny, but nowhere near as good as a the remix by Auto-Tune the News:

In some ways it's a damning criticism of the entire music industry that a handful of people can take a YouTube video, remix and auto-tune it, and produce a song that's better than the majority of mainstream R&B and rap music out there.

I saw Reel Big Fish at The Junction last term, and they were good, and they had a band called Suburban Legends as one of their many support acts. I'm not particularly a fan of them, because their songs and on-stage routines are a bit too High School Musical for my liking, but they did do a ska-punk cover of the Bed Intruder song and their set was fantastic just for that alone.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

We <3 Teh Interwebs

This post was something of an experiment between myself and Nicola (aka HarmoNicks), to try and see if it was possible to collaboratively create a blog post, using a combination of notepad (because all awesome things are written in notepad) and Dropbox. We probably could have used something far more suited to this, like Google docs or some fancy Office Sharepoint thingummy, but instead we decided that instead it'd be best for this thing to take about two months to collectively write, and for the entire editing and authoring experience to be a total clusterfuck of IRC discussions, constantly deleting and re-writing parts and neither of us really understanding what the hell was going on.

We have learned our lessons. It was a totally stupid idea and we shall not do it again. It's not long enough to justify two people working on it, and either of us could easily have knocked this up on our own in an afternoon (and it would probably be better). It's also a pain in the arse to constantly use "we" when writing a post. It could be more coherent, and it could be better written, but we can't be bothered with it any more, so here it is.

This post is sponsored by our muppet of the week, Darren:

<Daz> i've been thinking
<Daz> they have their own parking spaces right next to the entrance of shops
<Daz> and their own private toilets
<Daz> and they get front row seats at gigs and sports events and stuff
<Daz> and they get to go on planes first
<Daz> aside from the whole not being able to walk aspect
<Daz> disabled people have it pretty fucking good
<HarmoNicks> ..........
<Daz> yeah tbh that seemed to make a lot more sense before I said it

As kids who started to reach their more formative years at the start of the 21st century, and as kids who spent a pretty huge part of their youth growing up with the internet, and on such cesspools of meme generation as SA and 4chan, there is a certain unique position of our lives being somewhat inextricably linked with the world of technology, and the internet. It is something our parents don't fully understand, and something that even our more technophobic peers don't really understand. What's weird is that at the time it felt we were different, yet now it just seems we were a bit ahead of our time.

We spent ages on IRC, IM clients, internet messageboards and forums for online social interaction. Now most people are pretty heavy users of Facebook. We had Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa and ORLY owls, now people have Friday and lolcats. Heck, even the title of this blog is a reference to a meme so old that most of the new generation of internet users won't have a clue what it refers to. And even then, we weren't as old-school as some, merely because we were still born a few years to late for the formational heyday of the internet. 4chan was already getting out of fashion (or more, getting too much into fashion and therefore populated by newfags) before we got to it.

It'll probably be weird for some time to come, but some of our best friends are people who we have met initially or even solely online through various hobbies and common interests. There are a number of people scattered around the world that we are great friends with, and yet without the internet we would almost certainly have never met.

Before things get into a sappy "omg internet friends I <3 you guys", it should be said that this train of thought is actually going somewhere, which is to point out the somewhat underestimated but yet astoundingly profound influence which the internet as a whole has upon our lives. We use the internet for so much social interaction online, but it also gives us so much more than that.

(link to comic if you can't read it properly)

We were just kids before the internet got popular. We have no knowledge whatsoever on how to be adults without the internet to help us, and the prospect of living without it is actually terrifying when you consider the shit you use it for that you might otherwise take for granted.

Say, for example, you need to be somewhere in Guildford for some event. You figure you'll get the train there, so you go on the national rail website, and you can get the info on the trains you need to get. You get the journey times, how much the tickets cost, sometimes even what platforms they'll be departing from. If you decide the trains look a bit crap, you can look up the bus schedule. If it's on some random road away from the town centre, then you go on Google maps and you get a map with precise directions to take yourself from the station to exactly where you need to be. And you can print it off to take it with you. Need to stay overnight? Another Google search and you can find places to stay, read reviews, maybe even book online.

We take this shit entirely for granted. If we didn't have the internet, we would be entirely fricking hopeless because we'd have no idea how to go about getting that information. Some brief brainstorming came to the conclusion that it would probably involve several phone calls and a lot of writing down on paper. And to find out what numbers we'd need to call, the internet would be the first place we'd look (though the yellow pages would be the obvious non-internet choice).

But some things we totally can't figure out. Like how exactly would I find out where a certain street in Guildford was? If it's in London, then sure, you can get an A-Z, but most UK road atlases don't go into that much detail for every single town in the country.

And it's not just important or obviously useful stuff where the internet comes in useful. There are so many times where things like Wikipedia are hugely useful just for keeping us sane. You see a guy in a TV show, and you wonder where else you've seen him from? That's the sort of thing that can drive a person mad for hours, yet a quick search on Wikipedia for the episode, and you've got the actor and a list of stuff he's been in. Sorted. The internet isn't quite as useful for things like songs, but there are so many times where little niggly things could piss you off for ages, but don't, because the internet is there to save you.

Then there's stuff like YouTube.

You have fails.

You have epicly cool stuff.


Where the hell else but the internet would you get stuff like that? There is so much absolutely fantastic stuff on Youtube and the various other video sharing sites around. What the hell did people do with their time when they couldn't spend hours on end watching people injuring themselves, or videos of KITTENS RIDING A ROOMBA

I'm sure the next generation of kids is going to have an awesome time with their flying cars and telepathy and what have you, but for now the internet is a pretty damn awesome thing to settle for. And man would we be totally and utterly screwed without it. Without YouTube, Facebook, endless free porn... what the hell would we do with our time? My guess would be spending ours faffing around to do things which Google, Wikipedia, Bing (LOL JUST KIDDING, IT'S SHIT) enable us to do so much faster and with far less effort.

Middle aged people of today probably don't understand the internet in the same way. They don't quite understand just how intertwined our lives are with the web, and the finer ways that our lives work as a result of that. We (especially us nerdy ones) are the children of the internet, and they don't get that. They don't understand how we live with it so much. But that's fine, because we don't understand how the hell they managed to live without it either.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Bedford Regatta & Mays Speculation

I think it's a standard affair that all sporting events involve a fair amount of faff, especially if you travel as a squad. You travel in together, you hang around while you do your stuff, and everyone else you're with does theirs (because usually you're not all racing/playing/whatever at the same time), and then you come back. Rowing certainly has this, but it also has a great deal of extra faff because you need to take the boats apart, stick them on a trailer, put them back together, race, take them apart again, but them back on the trailer, and then put them together when you get back (I admittedly skipped this last bit at the weekend because I was feeling ill at the time). Racing itself is awesome, but there's inevitably a huge amount of messing about either side of it.

Token lulz image:

Anyway, last Saturday was Bedford regatta. The bus left college at 6:15am, meaning a damn early start, clutching a thermos mug of strong coffee (which I burnt -_-) and trying to rouse myself into full consciousness. We got into Beford and put the boats together, and were done by about 8am, meaning that M2 only had... about four and a half hours until we needed to start getting ready to race.

The full results are on the website, with the executive summary being that W1 won both their events, M1 did fairly well and got to the final of the College VIIIs and did reasonably well in IM2, and M2 just got shafted by the entire damn weekend.

There are two things that are good about Bedford. One is that they have a College category, meaning that there's an extra competition to enter aside from the standard BRA class. The other thing is that most of the competitions have a secondary plate competition, which you're entered in if you lose the first race, meaning that you get at least two races in the day (or four if you're entered in two competitions), and if you get knocked out in the first round you've at least got a chance of getting somewhere in the plate.

The first aspect to screw M2 over was that the Novice category, which we entered, was oversubscribed and our entry was one of the later ones and got binned. This was a real pain, because we really should have done fairly well in the Novice category, and the times from the day suggest we would have done. Instead all we had was the College category, which is filled with various first boats from Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Some crews we could probably give a good run, but not a competition we were likely to get too far in. Still, there's always the plate if we get taken out in the first round, right?

No. Because our first round opponent scratched, so we got a bye into the second round, and missed entry into the plate. If we lost, we lost. And if we won, we would face Downing M1 in the third round. That race would actually have been fairly fun, but as it happens we lost, and basically spent ten hours in Bedford for a single four minute race that we lost. Or longer than ten hours for the people who didn't get the X5 bus home.

I wasn't so much annoyed at how much of a complete waste of the time the entire day was, because despite the fact I did absolutely nothing productive, when I could otherwise have done, the day itself was actually fairly good fun. What annoys me more is that it could have been a lot better if we hadn't just been screwed over by things which weren't even in our control. And that we could probably have done with the race practice. I know I could have done - regattas still scare the crap out of me.

I'm cool with head races, and I pretty much never get nervous for them any more. There's a bit of adrenaline over the start line, but for the most part I can have a solid race plan, which we can stick to, and there's not much that's really going to totally go wrong. I'm collected and focused, and nerves are a fairly minor issue. Bumps still makes me nervous, but I don't think there's anyone in the world doesn't get nervous in the ten seconds before the starting cannon, where the entire river is absolutely fucking deadly silent except for the faint noise of traffic on the A14. That period right before the start gun is something specially nerve-jangling that I think only bumps rowers can properly understand and relate to.

On the other hand, I've not really raced in many regattas. Most of them have been pretty damn difficult from a coxing perspective, because they've been on-Cam and therefore tight and blade-clashy. On the Cam for the most part there's barely enough space for two boats to be side-by-side, and there are no buoys to mark the centre of the river, so a lot of it is guesswork and whatever you can get away with from the marshals. There's also the fact that aside from winning Uni IVs in Michaelmas with W2, most of the on-Cam regattas haven't gone particularly well for my boat, meaning that we've been knocked out early, so I don't have a lot of experience and what I do have isn't that great.

So yeah, Bedford wasn't nearly as good as it could have been from the M2 perspective, but there wasn't much that we could have done about that as a crew (other than be a bit less nervous/scrappy in our race and have actually won it), so it's not too difficult to just put it behind us and write it off as a day not particularly well-spent.

Looking into the future, bumps is four weeks tomorrow, and M2 at least have a fair amount of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I'm fairly confident that if we spend the next four weeks well, we'll manage it. The average 2k time for the boat is pretty damn rapid for a second boat, and the main focus is just to get that speed moving well on the water. We're up near the top of the second division and surrounded by first boats, but the boats in front of us seem to be slower than the boats behind us (with the exception of LMBC II immediately behind us to give us a bit of a buffer on the first day). So the real hope is that if we can get ourselves up to the speed we want then we can move up on the first few days and have a decent shot at perhaps climbing into the second division. It's fairly difficult to gauge simply because there aren't many results from this term to provide a guide, but given the potential of the boat this year compared to last year, things could be pretty good.

M1 have the fairly obvious goal of bumping every day and blading to headship. I'd say that's probably pretty unlikely, but I think a two-year plan to get the Mays headship isn't unreasonable at all, and moving up two or three this year will put us in a really good position to take it next year, because we should still have six guys in that crew around to row next Mays, and as long as we're right up there we'll have a decent chance.

W1 will probably have a pretty big scrap with Pembroke at the top of the division, which at the moment I'd say is likely to go our way going off results so far this term (sorry Anna...). That said, things were looking similar last year and Pembroke still managed to hold us off every day, so I don't think it's particularly certain. Christ's aren't looking slow either, and could shake things up a bit as well.

All things said, this is pretty hand-wavy speculation given how variable bumps racing can be, and how poor head races and regatta results at this point in term are at predicting proper pace in four weeks' time. Still, it's fairly amusing to make predictions, and maybe I can piss off the messageboards again this term.

Looking forward to Champs Head on Sunday (assuming the weather improves a bit). Won't be the proper M2 crew because we'll have a sub, but given that sub is likely to be from M1 it shouldn't slow us down at all. And excluding shoddy marshalling Cambridge head races usually tend to have a pretty good race-to-faff ratio.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Royal Wedding & Birthday

So apparently there was a Royal Wedding last Friday. For the most part it utterly, completely passed me by. Pretty much the entire country had a day off so everyone could watch it. I had an exam, because Cambridge just doesn't give a fuck about bank holidays. If it wasn't for the fact that the shops close early I wouldn't even be aware they existed. Still, I wasn't too annoyed I missed the royal wedding, because despite the razzmatazz and the fancy hats it was still a wedding, and weddings are fucking boring

I would almost go as far to say that weddings are possibly the most dull and unexciting ceremonies I've ever had to go to on a semi-frequent basis. I've had vector calculus lectures that were more enthralling than any wedding I've been to. And if you include the party stuff afterwards they take up pretty much the entire bloody day.

I've probably got somewhat of a skewed view of them, given that I've only really been to weddings of extended family, so for the most part it's a bunch of relatives I see fairly often, a bunch I don't, and then a whole ton of people who I've never met in my life. Usually the only person there who is even remotely my age is my sister, and while I appreciate that being married is a ~big event~ and stuff, it still bores the crap out of me.

Maybe they're awesome when they're your friends and you know most of the people there, but I've yet to experience that yet. And either way that isn't applicable to the Royal Wedding because regardless of who you know, I can't see much aside from the party afterwards being anything but boring as hell.

So yeah, I didn't watch it because of my exam, which was probably a more entertaining way to spend my time than if I had watched it, because the only enjoyment anyone seemed to take out of it, that being the fancy dresses and shoes, doesn't really float my boat. Except for the Queen, but only because it was funny.

It was also my birthday on Thursday, though aside from the dozens of Facebook messages and birthday cards that largely slipped me by. I had an exam in the morning, and I had an exam the next day, so I spent most of it working. Plus most of the presents I got were money, which is cool because I could do with some for stuff, but meant I didn't really get much in the way of objects so it didn't quite hit home the birthday aspect.

Still, exams are over, meaning I no longer have to participate in all of the craziness that is Cambridge during exam term. I just get to relax, cox and work on our project (which, to be fair, is going to be a shitload of work). And wait frigging ages for the exam results to get published.

So yeah, last week has been a bit crap and a bit work-centric, but today was a pretty good day and the rest of the weekend is looking to be fairly nice too.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Random Things Of The Week

None of these are really WTFFTW material, because they're not WTF enough. Most of them also aren't from this week either, and were things I was meant to post a while ago, but didn't get around to because of revision. In my opinion "Random things I've been neglecting to post for a while now because I've been busy and stuff" didn't really have a great ring to it as a title, so instead I've chose to sort of lie and as a result post slightly old things and be behind the times.

Back when I was a kid there used to be a show on TV called Transworld Sport. I didn't particularly care for this show much at the time because I was a small child and this show was basically something that was on when I could have otherwise been watching cartoons. My dad watched it though, and with him being the commandeer of the TV remote that meant that I watched it too. I don't remember a huge amount about it, but they'd usually have sections on random sports from around the world that were generally mental, and had an element of THIS LOOKS AWESOME WHY DO WE NOT HAVE THIS. I don't remember much, but I do, for example, remember a sport that seemed to basically be hockey, with the small difference of the ball being soaked in oil and on fire.

So a week or two ago I got shown a video on Sepak Takraw, a sport that basically seems to be identical to hockey, only instead of touching the ball with your hands, you use your feet. "But then how do they spike the ball?" I hear you cry. The answer is that they use batshit mental overhead kicks and jumps. It is crazy. The height they can jump, the ability to kick like that, and the fact that they usually manage to land on their feet again is just ridiculous.

So on the subject of this video I did a bit of searching on YouTube for actual Transworld Sport clips, and found another crazy sport from Germany, uninventively called "Cycle ball":

Take five-a-side football, reduce the number of players on each team to two, and stick them on bicycles. That's basically what it is. The control and balance these guys have on the bikes is just awesome.

My second item is really old, but I only saw it for the first time a short while ago, so I'm putting it here (given I've been linked to Star Wars kid recently, among other things from yesteryear internet, I feel OK posting this). It's a pretty damn impressive 700x10000 pixel drawing done entirely on MS Paint. I would stick the image in the blog, but it's huge, so I'll link to it instead.

I think it's great for two reasons. The first is just the sheer size of it and level of detail involved. It's been done pixel by pixel for large portions of it, and when you consider that there are a total of seven million pixels there, that's a lot of time and work. It's also not particularly easy to work on a pixel level and make something that looks decent when zoomed out, as I've found many times on the occasions where I've tried to make use of the shite art skills I possess.

The second reason is the fact that it's done on MS Paint with a mouse. I've seen cool stuff done on MS Paint before, but they were all with tablets, and I feel that's a cop-out in comparison to this thing. Drawing with a pencil, or electronic representation of a pencil, is fairly easy. Trying to string together the motor coordination to draw with a mouse is bloody difficult. Trying to write even simple everyday shit like letters with a mouse makes you look like a sodding four-year old trying to write. My handwriting isn't particularly hot with a pen and paper either, but I can at least give some semblance of control to where the hell the lines are going.

The guy has also made a post giving a bit of an explanation on how he did it, which is pretty cool.

The third and final thing for this post comes from the great land of America (and my source for finding this was The Metro), and it is a online mugshot gallery for Maricopa County.

I don't feel like I fully understand what the hell is actually going on with this thing, and how the sheriff's office can apparently just post people's picture on the internet along with their name, DoB and misdemeanour, presumably without their consent. But however it works out, it's still a fairly amusing thing to browse through. You can vote for the mugshot you feel is the best, and the daily top ten gallery is usually pretty good viewing.

I would class them vaguely into three broad categories. There are the ones that look fairly normal. They might appear a tad rough around the edges, but if you met them in the street you mightn't think a huge amount of it. Then there are the ones that just look like you would expect a typical criminal to look. Just take a look - there's plenty of people who just have the "I'm a hardass motherfucker" look.
For example:

Preconceptions are always a bad thing, and they say appearances can be deceptive, but if I was in a jury I'd convict that guy on looks alone.

The third and final class is the class of people who just look plain weird. There are a surprisingly large number of mugshots that fit in this category, and some of them really do make you question how serious this thing is. People pulling odd faces, or with totally daft hair, or just generally looking like their face has been mangled a bit in Photoshop. I'm sure anyone who owns a passport or driving license can agree that generally portrait photos fail to portray you in the most flattering of ways, but some of the images on that site really do push the boundaries of the camera not being kind.

I mean, that woman was supposedly done for prostitution. She was apparently arrested because apparently people were paying money to have sex with her. Either that site is questionable, or some guys in Maricopa County have it seriously bad.

I've got a few more things, but I'll save them for another post this week (plus I've lost the links to a couple, so will have to re-find them). In the mean time, I've got exam stuff to be getting on with.