random thoughts to oil the mind

Category: Pet Hates Page 1 of 2

[:en]Rants which make sense – at least to the author![:de]Kurze Tiraden, die dem Autor zumindest vernünftig erscheinen

Captchivating, or Why I’m Doubting My Humanity

Yesterday, I failed a human test. Quarter of an hour clicking on random pictures trying to prove I’m flesh and blood to a machine. But the sad thing is: a machine would’ve done a better job.

Captcha Issue

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I don’t know how many attempts it took me until I stumbled across the combination they were looking for. The challenges were straightforward enough; something any human could do, surely? Except when you’ve failed for the third time, you start to wonder just how distinct the answer really is. Like identifying store fronts. For one thing, that’s a shop for me. It’d be helpful if the Yankee-Doodle-McNumpties could localise their bloody products! For another, what really constitutes a shop front? That colourfully pixelated image could be a market stall, an advertising banner or indeed a flower shop for all I can tell. And where does one draw the line? Does the hairdresser’s count as a shop? How about a funeral director’s?

And then there are the street signs. What exactly is one of those? For me, a street sign is one with a named road on it; anything else would be a road sign. Logically. Ignoring those doesn’t work, so maybe they should be included. But how far do you go? Do those pixels in the next box count? Does the edge of the sign? Does the post? What about that sign in Japanese? It could be an advert for free beeswax for all know. And that grey triangle is clearly the back of a road sign. Include it or no?

Even something as mundane as identifying roads left me scratching my head. I clicked whenever I saw tarmac, but apparently there’s more to roads than just the road itself. But then including every picture with a road sign didn’t seem to help either, and if we’re going to that extent, virtually all the horizontal landscape shots they show will probably have some kind of road component to it.

After a tiring quarter of an hour clicking through picture after picture, I finally lucked out and was verified as a human being (with some severe cyborg tendencies, it would appear). If I hadn’t been trying to donate, I’d probably have given up much sooner. Life’s too short for jumping through electronic hoops. Now where can I find an automated captcha script?

[Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash]

Ten Things I Hate About Me

Partly inspired by Linden‘s little snapshot of her life, and obviously a rip off of the film title, this is simply a mini-list of truths about myself that grate.

I write better when it’s dark

Not in the dark but when it’s dark. Whether it’s because that’s when I’m at my most lucid, or perhaps because the tiredness helps me overcome my inhibitions, the small hours have often been when I’m at my most productive. In fact, the idea for this very post was sketched at 5am one very idle night, when the neural aurorae kept me from dropping off. The ideas hop and flow and melt into one another like chocolate on a hot stove—and there’s never a pen around when you need it.

I wish so much to be creative

Not in any specific fashion either. Regardless of method, there’s always been something itching inside, scratching the back of my retina, urging me to put the effort and dedication into creating something I can be proud of, whether it be with the pen or the paintbrush, the camera or the chisel. Sadly, there’s a rather stunting lack of any raw talent, which leaves for disappointment every which way I turn. And more pertinently, I’m too much of a lazy sod to ever practice enough at anything to actually hone those blunt and crooked tools in my head to produce something worth being proud of.

I put it all off for later

As the proverb has it:

“Ther is an old proverbe,” quod she, “seith that ‘the goodnesse that thou mayst do this day, do it, and abide nat ne delaye it nat til tomorwe.‘ And therfore I conseille that ye sende youre messages, swiche as been discrete and wise, unto youre adversaries, tellynge hem on youre bihalve that if they wole trete of pees and of accord, that they shape hem withouten delay or tariyng to comen unto us.”

The Tale of Melibee, Geoffrey Chaucer

Sadly, however old this proverb may be, it’s still one to have had the meagrest effect on my genes. Putting it all off for ‘when I have more time’ has virtually become my sport of profession. This very post is testament to the fact, which according to WordPress was started back in September of the last year. There are always more hours in a day, more days in the week, more weeks in the year, more years in a lifetime, in that concave vortex of my temporal perception.

I never finish what I start

My life and living spaces are littered with the unfinished. Books half-read, films half-watched, stories half-written, designs half-cooked. 1Sometimes even dinners half-cooked. What starts with good intentions soon ends up unloved, disregarded, unashamedly shunned for something else; if in fact it should ever get started in the first place. It is probably telling that for every book I read, there are two on the shelf; for every moment spent on writing, there are a thousand spent on the waiting-to-be-draughted.

I have a passion for procrastination

When time eventually does land in my lap, like a giant rainbow trout fresh out of water, I find myself less inclined to take the beast by the shanks, to scale it, bone it, fillet it, eat it, nor even to take pity on it, to rescue it, cover it, take it back to water. Instead I watch it flap about and squirm and shake, with gaping mouth and aching gills, its precious moments dying fast, its glassy eyes bright to the last. Don’t ask me where that came from. I’m just wasting time when I should best be getting on with some work.

I put effort in where it is wasted

Perhaps this is entirely linked to procrastinating, however much I don’t like to acknowledge it. Putting effort in to wasted time means that no one can judge you for not trying–and since it is wasted nor will they judge what your efforts produce. All of which doesn’t detract from the fact that all my efforts lie in the wrong place. I write on forums no one visits. I author blog posts no one reads. I soliloquise at length as though there were a fourth wall on my life. 2But even were I a Shakespearean character, I’d be a Dogberry. Those portions of my life wreak of effort, which remain unseen, unheard, unused, unwanted. And to the detriment of that public face, which has a degree in every volume of inadequacy.

I was born in the wrong century

Perhaps not technically something I hate about myself, this probably has more to do with my believing the grass is greener on the other side. But looking at my recent forebears, I nevertheless feel I’d have been more at peace with life wielding a pick in my hands as a coal miner, or with a mattock slung over my shoulder as a navvy, than I am in this fast-paced world of gadgets and gizmos. Not that I look back on history through rose-tinted spectacles, but knowing my place in the gutter I abhor the society that doesn’t agree that I belong there.

I have a superficial interest in the world

Just a quick glance at my bookshelf is enough to testify to how scatterbrained I really am. There’s no direction, no taste, no depth, no concentration. Just an eclectic mix of all kinds. Perhaps that’s a good thing, having a desire to sample all of life’s waters. On the other hand it shows how utterly superficial my interest in the world is, and that surface-skating translates itself nattily into real life. No real wonder I never finish what I start, when I barely get started on anything.

I eat too much

Difficult to believe for those who know me, easier to believe for those who know me well, I don’t just restrict myself to food in saying I eat too much. My life sometimes feels like an exercise in waste, a product of the consumer society, for all that I wish it would be otherwise. Food, electricity; water, most especially water. It’s probably already too late to make up for the squandery with an early adieu, but if anything here could or should change, this is the one to work on.

I’m merely waiting for the end

There was sadly no choice about being born, or if there was, I’m sure I ticked the other box. Were we assigned to lead our lives on the basis of previous errors? If so, as in the real world, I must have discarded the manual in favour of just getting to grips with the controls. Yet however much fun that experience can be, I still firmly believe that had I been given a conscious choice, I’d have declined this mortal coil. Whatever impression I give others, I really just spend my days wandering through life, looking for the exit.

I know all this and do nothing

For all those keeping track, yes this is the eleventh sin, but it’s easy to think up more once you start to enumerate them all. 3I only hope I shan’t make the same mistake as Charles Freck on my taking leave. Perhaps this isn’t really such a thing I hate, as much as an acknowledgement of reality. I can’t change. I won’t change. These flaws and failures are simply part of who I am. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. But that has meant I’ve learned to live with it.

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1. Sometimes even dinners half-cooked.
2. But even were I a Shakespearean character, I’d be a Dogberry.
3. I only hope I shan’t make the same mistake as Charles Freck on my taking leave.

To tat, or not tattoo

Tattoos are a fashion. Whilst I’m sure many may feel personally insulted by that statement, it would take a blind man not to see that it is true. But allow me to qualify that statement. The act of tattooing itself is nothing new, and as Ötzi recently proved, is probably an older custom than we once assumed. People have been doing it for millennia, and will continue to do so into the future, but there will always be a significant social layer to its existence. The social dimension of tattoos is an important factor in their prevalence and popularity, as a result they become a part of what we can call ‘fashion’. Which is no bad thing—social customs, styles, modes of intercourse, even our language evolves—and the rise of tattoos to their level of prominence today is merely a reflection of a society in natural motion. There may be clashes between old and young generations, between those who dominate society and those who will inherit it, over the acceptability of tattoos, but every generation must go through that process, and in turn the wheel may eventually turn full circle. Tattoos today can make employment in certain instances more difficult, for example, and can bring condescension from that generation which associates inking with particular classes or groups (e.g. the stereotypical trio of bikers, convicts and sailors). But in time those particular stereotypes will fade, those social values will die out, and today’s crop of fashionable, tattoo-sporting youngsters will inherit their place and complain about the next generation’s taste in bad music and disgraceful fashions.

So what exactly do I dislike in this state of affairs?

Dealing with Spam

If there’s one jargon term that every user new to the Internet soon becomes acquainted with, spam must near the top of the list. Its prevalence and virtual ubiquity through many forms of online communication have generated miniature industries devoted to dealing with it, and the science of spam detection, prevention and treatment almost resembles the tactical skirmishes of biological immune systems.

Spam exists in many forms, from bogus guestbook entries to elaborate instant messaging robots, but the variety which prompted this post was that classic form – unsolicited email. The level of penetration of spam illustrates itself in the number of systems put in place to combat it as standard on the vast majority of websites, including of course authentication emails and the ever evolving captcha. I use a small combination of plugins on this blog to block out most of the spam, and given the extreme sparcity of genuine comments, the potential for inconvenient ‘false positives’ is rather slim. Nevertheless, even the cursory inspection I tend to make over Akismet’s latest haul becomes tiresome for all the size of this blog – spam comments to date outnumber genuine ones by a factor of almost 500 (and that only counts those caught and tallied by Akismet). Quite how larger, more popular blogs deal with searching for false positives, I don’t know, but the task must be fairly time-consuming.

Finding Space for the Public in Transport

This is one of those posts which makes it to the draught stage and never any further, but as I was tidying up my WordPress install, I decided with a bit of reworking it’s something I still feel strongly about. The original title had referred to British public transport in particular, but in truth there is very little specific to the British experience.

Virgin Trains

Before I start my rant, let me plainly state that I am great supporter of the principles of public transport. That is not to say that I don’t see the use or take advantage of private transport, merely that I feel the balance in society is generally wrong, particularly in the first world, or whatever the preferred term is these days. These societies should be perfectly capable of providing for the vast majority of man’s annual miles, with our regular combinations of buses, trams, trains etc. and private transport being available to fill in the gaps where required. Being able to pack your bags, grab the kids and hit the road for a weekend away seems like a reasonable thing to do, but where is the logic of moving a ton of metal to work and back five days a week?

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