Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Cyclying? Yer what yer what yer what?

Additional thought required - please see also the Updates below in which I do some more thinking about this entry: please don't just read the main bit.

I was surprised by a new poster on the Tube. It is part of a campaign extolling the virtues of green travel, notably cycling and walking, and seems to be promoted by Islington Council (my old employers, aaah love'em), and their arty and environmenty partners. It's all very pretty and artistic. Mostly images, few words.

Among those few words it has "cycling", perhaps rather a key thing for this particular poster you might think, spelt "cyclying".

Sooo ... lets's just do the maths, shall we? It's pretty high-precision work so please bear with me a moment:

Design costs:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think


oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Tube poster sites:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Nice lunches for senior people on the project:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Proofreading (missed opportunity) costs:

ermmm ahem fourteeen pee or thereabouts.

So there we have it. Almost exactly thirty-two million pounds to get up on the wall something which says "we are jolly arty and good at lunching, but also careless and clueless", a highly avoidable state which it would have cost 14p to detect and correct.

At the risk of sounding even older and more curmudgeonly than I actually am (a difficult challenge), this seems to be getting more and more common. Whack the design out, it looks nice, that's fine, approved, gone. No-one with any care for text and its meaning and structure has ever looked at it because the management has ceded all its responsibilities to illiterate design wonks who can't spell and have the uneasy feeling that an apostrophe is some kind of green vegetable they don't like (they tried it at their Nan's once).


Update: 27th May. I'm now a little worried by this entry and I'm not sure whether it's better to take it down or edit heavily (are those revisionist?) or leave it with an additional comment, or what. For the time being, it's the latter, so ... my concern is that I've possibly done them an injustice. I didn't see the same poster again but I did see others in the same campaign, all at Finsbury Park station. At least one of these others had been inaccurately glued up, so that not all its edges were well-aligned. I'm now wondering whether this is what happened to the poster lambasted here, and therefore whether I owe lots of people an apology. I hate to think that in my haste to rant I may have been so unfair. I must say (a) that I'd have hoped I might notice the joins if that were the problem and (b) that I'm not sure how the join problem could have caused that particular spelling, but I really wish I had checked and was now sure. If you try it with paper (I did, believe me) then the closest you can easily get is "cycycling". But then maybe I remembered it wrongly, or some other subtle process (accidental folding perhaps?) had taken place. So, at worst I have lots of egg on my face and at best the doubt that I am currently experiencing is perhaps a salutary reminder to be a bit less mouthy and snotty (can you be both simultaneously? yuk!) when ranting about stuff, or at least to be 100% sure of my facts before indulging in such a rant. I am not sure how to resolve this - you could watch this space, but I'm not sure that you should.

Update the Second: 27th May. Right. I've looked at and thought about it a bit more. I've also edited - for factual accuracy only - the main entry, having found the right websites. I've added a picture too, but only till someone asks me to take it down.

Here are my conclusions:

  1. I shouldn't have been so rude about the spelling error. It's not a fantastically balanced approach. It would have been wiser to look at the whole project and try to understand it more first.
  2. It's a local project using local artists and has produced some beautiful work - if it's still up, visit a preview and see for yourself. The ones you're looking for are labelled "Islington DIY".
  3. The spelling error I mentioned is real (though ironically I misrepresented it - the error! - myself at first) and should not have been allowed to happen. It really is on the poster, and is not a glueing or folding issue.
  4. Several of the other posters have punctuation errors on also. I still feel quite strongly that public bodies should proofread text and correct it before it is displayed like this. Islington runs the borough's schools, for goodness' sake, yet manages to give the impression that it does not know the difference between "its" and "it's". No matter how local and community-ish a project is, you can and should get this stuff right. Otherwise you are offsetting the nice artwork with bad text, and you owe it to people not to do this.
  5. But I shouldn't rant so much, or at least not without knowing my facts a bit better.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Guardian makes pronoun porridge

Oh dear. The usually-literate Grauniad is having pronoun problems. As I write, the home page for the excellent G2 mag section cute half-size pullout thingy (yes I know, but what do you call it?) has a taster (or stinger or peeler or dipper or quango or whatever they call it) for a story, thus:

Mark and me

Last Sunday, children's TV presenter Mark Speight was found dead in Paddington station. Jay Burridge, a friend, describes the joker he knew, the haunted recluse he became - and his reaction to his suicide

- and the story itself has a similar header paragraph thingy:

Here, Jay Burridge, a friend he was due to meet on the day he disappeared, describes the joker he knew, the haunted recluse he became - and his reaction to the terrible news of his suicide

Too many hes and hises. Messy. 4/10 see me.

Trying to leave

The other day in a fit of morbid curiosity I sent test email to the ITG News address and was pleased, surprised, and a few other things, to get a reply from one of my successors rather than have the message show up back here. I hadn't realized that it had been diverted so soon. Obviously this was going to have to happen and obviously my good buddy MA has been efficient in making the change, bless 'im. This is all good, but weird.

I still feel as if I have not left properly. I need to stop thinking about it. I still have one more document I need to write. (Need or want? Hmm, not sure.) I should just stop messing around, get this document done and send it off and walk away and make a big effort to ignore the site for a week or two. Until I do that I don't feel as if I have permission to get on with my Post-Ed-Life™ It's a terrible, smelly, rancid cliche to talk about moving on but, y'know ... Gah!

Honestly. Tsk. A psychiatrist would have a field day. Fortunately I do not know any. I mean apart from the huge building full of them, whose IT guy I am. But it's OK, they don't know I'm patient material. Muahahaha.

PS Kat, please do not hit me or throw anything over me this time. I know I'm being a wuss, OK? See my new self-help guide, Learn To Embrace Your Inner Wuss™ :)

Entering Aargh Mode now

Two of my vast array of daughters are currently unwell and two are approaching work deadlines, a problem of which sadly the whole von Neustadt clan has extensive experience. This is not nice. Feeling parentally impotent is not nice. Poor babies.

Fortunately the drawing of a quick Venn diagram reveals that at least it's not both the same two people with the same two, er, ishoos. That would be even worser. Unfortunately, the said diagram does reveal that there's indeed one person sitting there smack bang right in the middle of the intersection, which is not a nice place to be. Poor poor baby.

Mr Thompson, kindly charge the Positive Energy Array and prepare for multiple firing. Targets three, ranges 3.68km, 213.16km, 260.05km. Bearings 329.5, 268.7, 326.9. Stand by. Steady. Fire. Bzzzzzzzt!

Boo, but yay

Boo because I am missing the Lovely Lutheran Lunchtime at St Ann and St Agnes. I didn't make it on Monday (Manchester visit) and I'm not making it today, and it sounds like a great gig, d*mmit. I need those concerts - they prop up my working week in quite an important way. So boo, and boo I say.

Yay because the reason I can't go is that I am doing something interesting later, but it needs me to leave work early, so I am trying to make sure that I cover my hours (whatever they are), and that means starting early and not going out over lunchtime. (I should add that this is more about my paranoia than it is about actual messages that I get from the management. Plus I have already worked 563 hours or something this week.) I will write about the something interesting when I get a chance - it's quite a large topic and I am Mr Small Topic Blogger just now. But  I am looking forward to this afternoon's trip as an interesting diversion, and then I am driving down to see Dearest Muvver, which will be excellent. So yay, and yay I say.

Creation myths

In Adobe's truly fascinating page "Inserting Flash Video may create a cross-site scripting vulnerability for Dreamweaver or Contribute" we find this gem:

Verify the creatition date of the file. The updated files should have a creatation date of January 15, 2008.

Sadly Adobe does not tell us which of its very fine products was used to, er, creatite this web page, nor whether it boasts a spelling checker.

Amusingly enough they haven't even got the date right - the files you get are actually dated 9th January, so either they are the wrong files or the text needs the tiniest bit of attention.

Naturally I have pointed out both of these problems to Adobe. Naturally I do not expect them to do anything about them. Why would they? No-one cares. The only interesting question here is why I care and why I bother. It's stupid. I would be using my time more profitably staring out of the window, humming nice bits from Ne Irascaris and thinking about Whitby.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

About-to-pack-in-job-a-blog™ (featuring a light dusting of Vogel-in-a-tizz™ and scattered showers from the northeast)

We have been doing lovely things, of which more when I get a moment. However, I leave my trumpet news editing job in about 39 hours at midnight BST tomorrow. I reckon there is at least 39 hours' worth of work I'd like to do on it between then and now and I seem, inconveniently, to have to accommodate things like a full-time job, a need to see my family, to sleep and eat and all that stuff, and I don't quite see how this is going to work.

Gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber.

Thagron, prepare the escape pods and stand by to eject the encryption modules. We may be going in ...

Oopsie-Beebs-a-Blog™ (apostrophe catastrophe) (fixed)

The Shannon Matthews story is taxing the Beeb's resources in spelling and punctuation to an alarming degree. Buried deep in one of the ten million stories on this case we see this gem:

During the search West Yorkshire Police described it as the largest missing person's hunt it had ever conducted.

Erm. Erm. Erm. Excuse me! Oh never mind.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

C4's Nazi film maker? I think not

OK it's rather old but I was amused by this. Channel 4 seem in a headline to be accusing their own film-maker of being a "youth Nazi leader". There's a page about a documentary "Young, Nazi and Proud" which (as of right now) carries the headline:

Six months in the life of youth Nazi leader David Modell

- but then goes on to say: "Dispatches reporter David Modell films a remarkable six months spent in the questionable company of Mark Collett, leader of the youth wing of the British National Party", which sounds a bit more like what they meant.

This is from November 2002. Wouldn't you think someone might have noticed by now?

I should add that I was googling David because (longer story truncated) I taught him the trumpet. He is now a very successful film-maker and photographer. Draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE!!!!! (18th April) Nothing has happened. David is still an alleged Nazi. The C4 person who wrote to me promising action might be incompetent, or a liar. C4 might be rubbish at dealing with comments. Who knows? Who cares?

UPDATE!!!!!!! (2nd May) My dears, I am so excited that I can hardly write. They've fixed it. I did, a few days back, write to them again, suggesting what fun it would be if solicitors got involved, what with one thing and another. Did this wake someone up? Who knows? Who cares?? Onwards and upwards!!!

I suppose it would be churlish of me to add either (a) someone's telling porkies, as it says "last Modified: 07 Nov 2002" on the page; or (b) mmmm full stop on a header ... nice! So I won't.

Oopsie-Beebs-a-Blog™ (formerly/formally) (fixed)

The Beeb had its knickers in a knot yesterday over formally and formerly.

In a trio · of · stories about the Shannon Matthews case they had these versions:

  1. Mr Donovan, who was formerly known as Paul Drake
  2. Mr Donovan, who was formally known as Paul Drake
  3. Mr Donovan, who was formally known as Paul Drake

- and it took two goes to get them to correct both of them. Not earth-shattering but slightly sloppy, and surprising that one email couldn't fix them both. If this isn't in the style guide then maybe it should be on the office wall? It's not rocket science - is it?

I am sorry this blog is so useless at present. Better days ahead, with luck.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Henri Dutilleux

Deb and I were at a fantastic Nash Ensemble concert last night at the Wigmore Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Society (the outfit that commissioned Beethoven 9, no kidding!) gave Henri Dutilleux, who is now 92, its Gold Medal, after a concert of his music (along with works by Ravel, Stravinsky and Debussy). Yan Pascal Tortelier conducted and made a wonderful speech (his dad was some cellist apparently and went to the Paris Conservatoire with HD, along with a few other nonentities like Messaien) and M. Dutilleux gave an understandably quite slow and quiet but very VERY moving response. I felt like I was seeing actual musical history right there in the room in front of us. No trumpets, but I could forgive even this. An incredible and unforgettable evening.

I'll write more about this when (if) I get a moment but I just wanted to post this while the memory was so fresh and I still feel so excited and moved to have been there.

Liberation or depression?

It's 3rd April today and I leave the trumpet news editing job on the 11th April, which sounds to me like somewhere around eight days.

I should have seen this coming but of course I am now finding that aspects of my going are perhaps a little upsetting for me, rather than representing unalloyed joy. Now the fundamental truth is still that it's time to move on, that I've done five years, which is enough, and that something I loved doing was starting to feel like a bit of a struggle, and so on. This is all indisputable. But, surprise surprise, there's also a bit of sadness and I need to address this too.

As noted, it's getting quite close. Things are hotting up and emails about the editor-change are flying thick and fast. I've done some work trying to make it a good handover but I need to do more (ah yes, Dr Guilt, welcome on board, thank you so much) and I really would regard it as a great victory to have passed it on in good shape and with (reasonably) happy successors.

Also, we've now posted (a few days back, in fact) on the news page the stories about the change. This makes it seem much more real although Gary's exceedingly and embarrassingly kind comments about me are clearly the result of some kind of delusion from which he suffers. Or maybe he actually told the truth and said "fat incompetent wino" and then I "accidentally" edited in the nice stuff in an excess of drunken vanity, who knows? But although at first I thought no-one had noticed, I've now started getting emails from people, story submitters, whom I know (not the Board, they've known for months) and they're upsettingly and undeservedly nice, and give me some wobbly moments.

Still, I get a chunk of my life back, and I keep in touch with some very dear friends and keep doing nice Guild stuff, and this is very very positive. I just need to keep my eye on that a little. Onwards and upwards!!

(I do have more stuff to blog about one day but I am struggling to juggle, even very badly, my current commitments. Have you seen me trying to juggle? Not good. So ... watch this space, but please do not hold your breath. And watch out for falling objects.)