Collecting or clutter?

DVDs, books and games, post-purge

An article over on Unclutterer caught my eye - Is collecting a form of creative hoarding?

As I type this, virtually all of my worldly possessions are sitting in a storage container, waiting for me to pick them up. This includes my DVD collection. I've always thought of it as a 'DVD collection', never as 'clutter'. H. has always thought the opposite. Now, I'm beginning to wonder - who's right here?

For two months now, I've been getting by with the stuff I brought with me in my suitcases. And the only thing that I miss is my Xbox 360. I really wish I'd brought that instead of my PlayStation 2. I could be playing Forza 2 and boosting my achievement score right now instead of playing through Kingdom Hearts 2 and hanging out with Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Which, let's be honest, is pretty fucking fruity.

I tell you what I don't miss though: my DVDs. I brought a handful in a CD folder -- things like 2001, Idiocracy, Spaced -- things I could watch again and again. And I'd say I would miss those if I hadn't brought them with me, but what about the other 1,175?

Let's pick an extreme example: The Tao of Steve. Will I ever watch it again? I seriously doubt it. It was a bad movie and I didn't enjoy it when I watched it. I think the only reason I hold onto it is because I had myself convinced that my DVD collection was like some shiny communist state and every disc was equal. So I would no sooner get rid of 'The Tao of Steve' than my three-disc Criterion Collection edition of 'Brazil'.

But they're not equal. Not even close.

Filling in the insurance forms for the moving company was also pretty eye-opening. Averaging a value of €10 per disc, the insurance on the DVDs alone came to €12,000. And considering the final value of everything was under €15,000, it got me thinking - is this still a collection? Or did it cease to be a collection the minute I started buying things like The Tao of Steve, or Jack Frost, owning them just to own them?

Of the DVDs I own, I reckon there are about 200 that I love. Really love. And I'd be upset if I didn't have these. That leaves, what... 1,000 DVDs I could afford to let go of?

Anyway, it's left me with this food for thought. Would I rather: **A: ** keep convincing myself that it's worth holding onto films like The Tao of Steve, just in case Donal Logue dies a tragic death and its value suddenly skyrockets and I can retire early. or **B: ** sell the cruft on eBay and use the proceeds to buy myself a Macbook Pro and maybe even a nice new Cinema Display.

So - any offers on 1,000 DVDs?

Manhunt 2 and Censorship

I've been pretty busy for the past few days and I'm still catching up with the stuff that happened last week. Like the Manhunt 2 furore.

For those of you that don't know/care, last week, the Irish Film Censor's Office decided to make a prohibition order against the upcoming game, Manhunt 2, making it the first videogame ever banned in Ireland. A moot point, since over in the US, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board gave Manhunt 2 an Adults Only (AO) rating and the three console manufacturers have said that they will not allow AO-rated games to be released for their systems.

”Civil Liberties”

Anyway, you can can imagine the the reactions the the IFCO's decision. An anonymous commenter on IT Law Ireland:

So lets ban any story, film, news report which contains violence and go about life in ignorance, as they want us to. God help us all, next thing banned will be the great sculpture of David done by Michelangelo because it contains nudity.

. And naturally, boards.ie went into hysterics. My favourite quote from the 7-page long Manhunt 2 thread being:

Personally, I think the idea of completely banning any game from a country is an outrage, and a blatant infringement of civil liberty.

That still makes me giggle.

Strangely, I find myself agreeing with the censor. In their statement regarding the prohibition order, they said

IFCO recognizes that in certain films, DVDs and video games, strong graphic violence may be a justifiable element within the overall context of the work. However, in the case of Manhunt 2, IFCO believes that there is no such context, and the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable.

And you know what? This all sounds perfectly reasonable to me. John Kelleher has proven himself to be an extremely liberal censor, and prohibition orders are typically reserved for the most hardcore porno. Think about it like this - this is the film censor that let Hostel through. This means that Hostel, one of the most brutal exercises in Gorenography I have ever seen, has more of a context for its violence than Manhunt 2. (For reference, here is their ruling - 'strong' across the board.)

I also agree with the censor because I am not convinced that, on its own, classification of movies or games is an effective way of preventing children from being exposed to indecent material - I just don't think it actually works. As someone who was exposed to a ridiculous amount of horror films as a child (thanks, Gar, for letting me watch the Exorcist at age 5), I believe that if you don't want children being exposed to something, you should make it as difficult as possible for them to get their hands on it. In most cases, by banning it.

This goes double for videogames, where lazy parents often dismiss the graphic content of games simply because they are 'games' and will happily buy Grand Theft Auto for their 10-year old just to keep him quiet for a few hours.

Hardware Solution

The big “however” at the end of all this is that all this could be easily avoided if the rating system was used in conjunction with parental controls. These days, most media-playing devices (including modern games consoles) have parental controls built in. If you want to watch a movie or play a game above a certain age-rating, you have to enter a password. But the problem here is that hardly anyone uses these parental controls because hardly anyone knows about them.

Maybe it's time they were turned on by default, and bugger the inconvenience?

Italian Music

When I moaned about Italian music before, I admitted I hadn't looked very hard to find something good. And, in my defence, it's easy to be a little dismayed when you're bombarded by Michael fuckin' Buble in all the shops. But things are picking up! Here are two songs I like right now.

Tiziano Ferro - E Raffaella è Mia

This guy seems to be like the Italian Robbie Williams, back before Robbie Williams turned into an enormous, pulsating cock. The song is about Raffaella Carrà, an Italian actress and TV host, and its lyrics are really easy to understand ("And Raffaella sings in my house / And Raffaella dances in my house"), so I like that too.

But I'm actually having trouble with the song. Is it catchy in the CSS kind of way, or is it catchy in the Ketchup Song kind of way? Whatever. I'm not ashamed of what I like.

AntiAnti feat. CapaRezza - Picciotti della Benavita

Caparezza (the dude with the giant 'fro) is an Italian rapper. His solo stuff is kinda like System of a Down, which is no bad thing. We've had a hell of a time trying to buy this album on iTunes (which I'm sure I'll blog about soon). Fuckin' twenty-first century my arse.

Interesting comparison: 'Caparezza' on English Wikipedia (18K) 'Caparezza' on Italian Wikipedia (47K)

I'm sure someone with better language skills than me could easily bump their Wikipedia karma by simply translating the Italian page to English.

Airport Leprechauns

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Just before the real summer hits and people start heading off to somewhere nice for their holidays, I thought I better give a little shout-out to the Airport Leprechauns on Flickr, which cheers me right up every time I look at it. If you want to join, just take a snap of yourself wearing a leprechaun hat or beard the next time you're in the airport and and put it in the group!

all your eggs in one basket

Poor Hosting365.

They suffered a massive power failure today which meant that a large number of their customers' sites were unavailable for around four hours. Right now, their status blog entry detailing this problem (and how the repairs are coming along) has 159 comments.

Most of these comments are of the frustrated-yet-understanding variety. A worrying number of them are terrifyingly puffed-up with their own sense of self-importance. And far too many are threatening to move their operations to another hosting provider.

Having worked as a system/network administrator for a while, I know exactly what Ed and the guys at Hosting365 are going through, so I sympathise completely. I've had those awful days where the worst thing that could possibly happen actually happens and you've got angry customers demanding a full report on how the problem happened, what steps you will be taking to fix the problem and how you will prevent this happening in the future while you're focusing all of your efforts on just restoring a basic level of service. Horrible days, to be sure, but they have their uses.

To those people who are thinking of moving away from Hosting365 I say: stop. If I was using Hosting365, I would not switch to Blacknight now precisely because Blacknight haven't suffered from something like this -- yet. Whereas, I'll bet you €100 that, after today, Hosting365 will be putting all of their attention into their reliability, focusing how to make sure that something like this never happens again.

And to those people that are complaining about their mission-critical services running on Hosting365, I say: well, I don't know what to say without sounding rude. I'll just say that if I was a reseller and it was my ass on the line, I'd make sure that my ass was covered. From a business perspective, a secondary server (from a different hosting company) is cheap as chips and worth its weight in gold when your primary server suffers from extended downtime.

Fire on the metro

You know, it's getting to the stage where I've got half a mind to rename this blog to "lowbrowcultureshocked".

Today, I was up at the Irish College to get a mass card for an aunt who died recently. To get home, I decided to get the Metro at the Colosseum. Now, I should probably explain that there are two metro lines in Rome. Metro A has been recently revamped and now all the trains and most of the stations are pretty. Metro B, on the other hand, is dingy and ugly. All the trains are covered in graffiti outside and covered in piss and various other bodily fluids inside.

Colosseum is Metro B.

I'm in the station waiting for the Metro to arrive. It's around lunchtime, so there's not a lot of tourists leaving yet - they're all inside the Colosseum, baking and sweating and wearing funny hats. The sign says there's a train in three minutes. I drift back off into the dreamworld I go to when I'm wandering around Rome listening to my iPod (travel tip: this is the only way I have found to not constantly lose my shit at the lack of an orderly queuing system in Italy). Gradually, I start to smell smoke. I'm looking around, a couple of other people are sniffing too. But there's no obvious fire, so no major panic yet. Then we get the buildup of wind that precedes a train coming down the line. Suddenly the train screams past as if it's being chased by the devil himself. It's totally dark except for the one carriage that is completely ablaze.

My mouth was still hanging open by the time the next train arrived. All the Italians shrugged as if this was entirely unremarkable and went back to wearing their giant sunglasses and looking like Hugo Boss models.

Failing Now.

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Our Macbook had been crashing frequently over the past week or so. It would hang randomly when doing minor things, like copying a new program into the Applications folder. Sometimes it would take the computer two or three minutes to get itself together. Other times, it wouldn't get itself together at all and a hard reboot was the only option.

Eventually, I took a look in Disk Utility. The hard drive was listed in red. It told me the disk was dying. I used smartmon to give me more information, and this is where I got the image at the top of this post - my "Reallocated Sector Count" was at 0, and my disk was "FAILING_NOW". I'll spare you the gory details of what this meant, but the shorthand version is "ABANDON SHIP! WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST!"

Necessity: the mother of invention

Fortunately, we had a spare laptop hard drive lying around, so that wasn't a major issue. We also had a spare 400GB desktop hard drive, with a USB adaptor. Unfortunately, we only had two power adaptors. Which meant I couldn't power the macbook, the hard drive to be backed up and the hard drive I was backing up to.

We'd bought a bunch of spare power adaptors in the airport before we came but in our excitement, walked off the plane without them - oops.

So for the past month, we've been carefully swapping power adaptors around as needed. The hairdryer, the iron, our phones, the PlayStation, the computers, the wireless router... it got a little silly, but we managed. When I'd google for a place to buy electrical equipment in rome, I'd found that the main place is called "GPL". And Linux has completely ruined that search term.

So when the hard drive began to die, I ran out and didn't stop using my broken Italian and eleborate hand gestures until I came back with a bunch of power adaptors and two-prong figure-eight plugs.

(PS, for anyone searching google for 'electrical equipment' or 'travel adaptors' in Rome, I found a GPL on the corner of Viale delle Milizie and Via Giordano Bruno.)

Backing it all up

I'd heard a lot about SuperDuper, an application for backing up your Mac. A lot of people have said how it saved their necks, so that was the first thing I tried.

Unfortunately, it's not so good for saving your neck when your hard drive is already on the way out. When it encounters a bad block on the disk (and your disk can't replace the bad block, as mine couldn't), SuperDuper will try a bunch of methods to access the data and then crap out. It throws its hands up in the air, shouts "I can't work with these amateurs" and goes back to its trailer.

Tar wasn't much better. In the end, I created a disk image on the 400GB hard drive and used plain ol' 'cp'. When it came across a bad block, it complained of an I/O error but kept on truckin'.

So now I've got a proper backup, we're working off the spare hard drive (with half the capacity, but it'll do), and I got an RMA from the hard drive manufacturer.

Hopefully things will be back to normal next week.

What the world eats

ecuador.jpg I'm pretty sure this is old news, but Time Magazine is running excerpts of the book "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" on its website.

My favourite is the Ayme family from Ecuador, pictured above. It makes me wonder: are pork pie hats mandatory in Ecuador? If so, I'm booking a flight today.

This is my pork pie hat. There are many like it, but this one is MINE. My pork pie hat is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My pork pie hat without me is useless. Without my pork pie hat, I am useless.

One thing that's concerning me is the lack of processed foods in that picture. Surely they'd have a Subway or a McDonalds or something? Maybe one of those sacks is just full of spice burgers, I dunno.

Quick confession: A few days ago, I actually Googled "KFC Rome Italy". I am weak.

Paris Hilton sent back to jail

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Maybe if the BBC was a bit more creative in their news reporting, I'd give more of a shit about current events. For example, on the Paris Hilton case:

news.bbc.co.uk says

She arrived in handcuffs and cried throughout the court session.

The judge said that she would have to serve her full 45-day sentence.

"It's not right!" she shouted in response, before calling out to her mother, who was at the court.

thesuperficial.com says

Some witnesses say they saw a rainbow above the courtroom. And others say they saw a giant man in the clouds with a white beard nodding his head approvingly. And me? Well I saw Judge Michael Sauer grow to be twelve feet tall, with muscles the size of tree trunks. And when he smiled, little cartoon hearts appeared above my head and there was a strange tingling sensation in my pants.

Therefore, thesuperficial.com > news.bbc.co.uk

QED.

Roman Bread Situation: Update

Roman sandwich bread

Since I last spoke about the Roman bread situation, there have been a couple of interesting developments. First, I have found a bread that is capable of holding a slice of ham, a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato without having everything spilling over the sides.

Hooray!

Roman sandwich bread

Except where's the fucking crust?! Did the bakery not get the note about the crust? I know that there's a lot of people out there who aren't fans of the crust on sandwiches and would probably welcome the pre-packed removal of the crust. To these people I say: sack up and realise that a sandwich without crust is only half a sandwich.

But there's another problem. You probably can't see it from either of my awful, awful pictures, but each of these small packs contains five slices of bread. Five.

This is kinda like the issue of burgers coming in packs of eight and burger buns coming in packs of six, except you can always eat a burger without a bun, and burger buns don't have to be used exclusively for burgers. Actually, it's not like the burger/buns situation at all. It would be more like burgers coming in packs of eight and burger buns coming in packs of three and a half.

Rather than work myself into an early grave giving out about the busted logic behind stuffing five slices of bread into a pack clearly made for sandwiches, I'm off to cry myself to sleep and dream of once again having a loaf of Brennan's bread.