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Month: December 2008

Gravatars and Identicons

Gravatars and Identicons

One of the only changes you should notice since I upgraded to WordPress 2.7 is the weird icon thingies next to your comments. These are called “Gravatars”, which comes from “Globally Recognised Avatars”. Basically, if you go and register at then whenever you use your email address whilst commenting on a Gravatar-enabled blog then your chosen picture will appear next to your comment. If you don’t register with, then you get a nice interpretation of your email address / IP address in the form of a little pattern (called an “Identicon”) instead.

The important thing to note is that although the image is retrieved (if you’ve signed up) or generated (if you haven’t) based on your email or IP address, those private bits of information don’t appear on this site. The images are retrieved (or generated) based on a one-way hash of your address which, by its nature, is very very difficult to reverse. For example, my gravatar image is requested via the following url:
(note that my email address isn’t in that url)

My Gravatar

The Identicons for non-registered commenters are requested from the same place, but with a different unique identifier, like this :

I hope that clears that up 🙂

Here’s another (somewhat more geeky) explanation.

The Phone People

The Phone People

I always think that if you’re going to make a major change to your life, you might as well make two at the same time. Last year, Mary and I got married in March, and moved into our new house in July. This year, we had our baby in June, and I decided that would be the best time in the world to start a new job which meant quadrupling my journey time. Genius. It does have its upsides – I’m a developer who’s allowed to develop nowadays, and the 90 minutes of uninterrupted train time do have their uses if you’re the kind of person who can sleep on a train, and your nighttimes are being punctuated by nocturnal dummy hunts.

The downsides are plenty though, and I’m not even counting the obvious ones about being away from home, missing the family, etc etc. Let’s start with the biggest problem every commuter encounters: other commuters. I think there’s enough raw material here for a few posts, so for this one I’m just going to concentrate on one small subsection of my fellow commuters: the Phone People.

The Phone People are those people who spend every spare penny of their wage on a top rate mobile phone contract, and feel obliged to use every one of their 4,5001 ‘free’ minutes every month. They’re the ones who board the train with the phone pinned to their ear, and are still there, spouting nothing into it 90 minutes later when I get off. They speak about nothing, to everybody in their phonebook. There’s a girl who gets on my train in the evenings who starts planning what she’s going to wear at the weekend on Tuesday. And when she’s finished telling friend 1 that it’s going to be the sparkly gold top with the big wide belt, we have to listen as she tells friend 2 that it’s going to be the sparkly gold top with the big wide belt. And then friend 3. And then friends 4, 5 and 6. And then her (obviously) long-suffering boyfriend. She probably continues, but by this point in the journey I, along with most of the rest of the carriage, have given up trying to sleep or read and have donned headphones in an attempt to block out her inanity. I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes on to inform the emergency services of her intended wardrobe for the weekend so that they can stock up on the right kind of replacement heels…

I’ve digressed slightly and got a little bit personal. If you recognise yourself from that description, then please, for the love of everything that is good and right, shut up when you’re on the train… Thanks.

Back to the point, the Phone People are just pure irritation. I think the train companies should introduce something like ‘Annoyance Free’ carriages, where carrying a non-silent phone would be grounds for some serious tutting, and speaking into it would get you turfed out at the next station. I really do think that on a 12-carriage train, they’d need about 11 ‘Annoyance Free’ carriages.

Obviously, for this to work, you need someone to judge what is annoying and what isn’t. I’d gladly give up some of my train time to make the world a better, quieter place…

No Mobile Phones

1 4,500 minutes. Strangely enough, 4,500 minutes is about the amount of time I spend travelling home from London in one month. I reckon most Phone People must have contracts that mean that they have to spend at least that long on the phone. I mean, they must also use the phone when I’m not within earshot, right?

Baby News

Baby News

So… since I’m laying the blame for the lack of activity here at his door, let’s kick off the new batch of updates with some news on how the little time-sink himself is doing.

Well, he’s almost seven months old now, and overall I think we’re really quite lucky. He is sleeping through the night (mostly), and gulps down pretty much whatever food we put in front of him. He is, however, showing his dad’s tendency for any cold or sniffle go straight to his chest, so he has his own Ventolin (complete with scary volumiser / gasmask attachment, which used to freak him out, but he’s used to it now). He started to crawl about a week ago and though he’s still pretty flat on his stomach, he can get some speed up when he wants to, which is usually when something potentially deadly is in view.

For the first 6 weeks or so he was quite difficult to settle, and would only sleep if Mary or I were there with him, even if we were just resting a hand on his chest. At about 6 weeks though, something changed and he decided that sleep was a good thing. We moved him into the cot in his own room, and ever since then we have been blessed with a relaxed, happy baby. We chill him out further with a bout of baby massage now and then (he loves his legs being done, not so sure about body and arms).

He melts my heart every time he smiles at me, and I do that new dad thing of gushing about his latest skill to every one who’ll listen (or at least pretend to…). Someone emailed me about being a new dad and ended a sentence with “…but you love him more than you thought possible, right?”. Right.

I’m going to stop now, as I hear murmurings from his room upstairs (that’ll be the ‘mostly’ sleeping through the night, then…). I suspect he just needs someone to find his dummy – he has a habit of launching it into the corner of the room a couple of times each night.

Here he is with my dad. I’ve converted the photo to black and white in an attempt to disguise which football team’s colours he’s in (ner ner :))

Fresh and new

Fresh and new

How disappointing… you wait seven months – SEVEN – for a new post on your favourite blog and it turns out to be nothing more than a bit of housekeeping…

Yes, sorry – this is just a post to say that this blog has finally been upgraded to the new and shiny version of WordPress, which should, hopefully, get rid of that annoying hackiness that’s been going on over the past couple of weeks. (Thanks to Dan and Ant for pointing that out, by the way)

I haven’t been particularly good at the blogging game since the newest time-sink arrived, but I hope to rectify that now. Watch out for new entries coming your way ‘real-soon-now’ 🙂