Labels

Recently, Tom Daley has publicly announced that he’s met someone who makes him feel safe and happy, and that someone is a man Growing trend towards discarding labels altogether – they can help with self-discovery and classification for others, but do they really help? When you find someone, there’s no point in labels. They don’t fit everyone either, some people may feel they don’t fit anywhere, or don’t know where they fit.

Tom has said it’s all very new to him, so he’s not wanting to apply labels to himself yet. Applying labels to people before they have applied then to themselves only complicates matters and is really presumptuous about them.

I know of a couple of people now who don’t want to apply labels to themselves, either because they don’t believe in labels, or they don’t feel that any labels fit anyway. Everyone’s sexuality is their own, and it’s only them who can say anything about it, so please, as a global community, can we PLEASE only use labels to describe someone if they want to use these labels themselves?

Internet censorship doesn’t work. At all.

When David Cameron announced that he was planning to force all the ISPs to implement automatic filtering of porn on the internet, a lot of people said it was a good idea in principal. And a lot of people who know how the internet and/or filtering tech works said it’s never going to work.

Let me clear something up. I don’t think kids should be looking at porn. I also don’t think there’s a damn thing (on a technical level) that can be done to stop them.

Filters generally work with blacklists and whitelists, and heuristic patterns. Basically speaking, some sites may never be blocked, others will always be blocked, and the heuristics will likely work with keyword lists, so if a page contains a word like XXX or a phrase like “hot hard-core action”, the filter will probably block that site.

Enter the problem: now this site contains those phrases and isn’t one of the huge well-known sites, it could be blocked by those heuristics. Other sites like LGBT sites, rape support sites, and even teen puberty help sites could find themselves blocked, and not all porn sites will contain those phrases so some will inevitably slip through. What’s more, ISPs could find themselves breaking the law by following the law. The LibDem LGBT site was one of those caught in the crossfire, and blocking the website of a political party around election time could be seen as something like electoral fraud.

Apparently parents can override these filters, but what’s to say that parents don’t let their more knowledgeable kids manage the net connection? Or maybe don’t want to disable them because they’re oblivious to the issues? Or even worse, what if the kid is trying to get support regarding parental sexual abuse?

There is so much that could go (and has gone wrong already) with this, and there’s so much damage that could be done to vulnerable people who are trying to get support. It’s a real kick in the teeth for charitable organisations who are doing their best to help people, and then the government comes along and pushes this through.

This is one of many examples of why I feel so strongly against Governmental intervention in technical matters such as internet governance. If you don’t understand the technology, don’t try and legislate for it. Learn the technology, how it works on a basic level, for example with filtering learn how filtering works, and what sort of things get filtered, advantages and disadvantages, and problems. Don’t assume the industry will work out the problems Mr Cameron.

An amazing thing

On Tuesday 15th September 2009, I made a decision. That decision was trivial, much along the lines of “do I go to this free event?” The sort of decision that everyone makes every single day. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but that one decision changed my life.

That one decision was a decision to meet up with another new group of people, something I’d been doing a lot of since that was my first week of uni after freshers week. This group of people was different though. I was going to the LGBT group’s first meeting of the year.

My plan was to meet new people, make friends, and generally say hi to other gay students – and if necessary, help out others with my experiences. I’d decided before going to uni that I was gonna be completely out of the closet from the start, having already been through the whole coming out thing a few months earlier.

So I went along, met a few people, made a few new friends, had a drink or two, then met someone else.

That someone was Scott.

I knew pretty quickly that he was a nice guy, someone I could get along with – and pretty damn sexy too! I knew by the end of the night I really really liked him, but me being me, it took until two weeks later for me to actually ask him out. At some point on the night of the 29th of September, I finally asked him out.

That was a year and nine months ago.

Ever since that Tuesday when I met Scott for the first time, he’s been the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s made me laugh when I’ve been down, looked after me when I’ve been ill, been someone to talk to when I’ve needed it. He’s funny, creative, good-looking, caring, considerate, cute,  sexy – I could go on and on. He’s just completely amazing!

For the past ten months, we’ve been living together, and it’s been the best time of my life. Scott has completely turned my world upside-down.

Scott, you have been wonderful to me, you are the most amazing boyfriend I could possibly ask for.

Have a great 21st birthday, I love you so much! xxxxxxxxxxxx

Simon

Google Chrome – It Gets Better

Video

Such an amazingly beautiful video for the It Gets Better project, but also it’s sort-of an advert for Google Chrome – I’m actually proud of the Chrome team for making a video like this, just like I’m proud of anyone who makes a video for the It Gets Better project.

Like many gay youth, I suffered homophobic bullying at school, right the way through until I got to sixth form. It was a struggle, it hurt me emotionally (and thankfully only few times physically), but I managed to ignore it, shut it out, and grew stronger as a result.

As soon as the idiots had left school, and only those who actually cared about learning were left, the bullying reduced to the occasional jibe, and after a couple of months, it disappeared altogether.

It wasn’t until I’d actually stopped getting the bullying that I finally managed to accept I was gay, and it wasn’t for over a year that I finally built up the confidence to tell someone – the person I was closest to, and even then I didn’t do it properly. Once I’d actually come out properly, my world changed hugely – it’s not a big deal to come out (it feels like it though!), but it does make a big difference – it got so much better! I was finally able to just be myself, do what I wanted, and be accepted for who I was.

There are many many gay people around the world, you’re not alone – and trust us when we say IT GETS BETTER! Just hang on, try and cope with it, cos there is light at the end of the tunnel.

National Organization for Marriage and some hotlinking

This is just something someone posted in an online chat an hour or two ago, thought I’d write something up about it.

I’ll start off with a bit of background about a couple of things first:

From Wikipedia (link):

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent the legal recognition and acceptance of marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. NOM’s stated mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.”

So, basically, they’re a homophobic group against gay marriage.

The slightly more techy thing is hotlinking – basically it’s including someone else’s image in your own webpage without taking a copy of it first – basically displaying the image of someone else’s server. This is bad for the server the image is stored on, because it’s using bandwidth that’s not helping the server in any way (ie: the site hosted on that server doesn’t get any traffic for the bandwidth because it’s only showing the image for someone else’s site).

Hotlinking is pretty dangerous, as the owner of the site you’re hotlinking from has complete control over the image, so frequently if hotlinking is detected they’ll move the image or something like that so the image isn’t a valid link any more. However, the owner could even replace the image entirely with something completely different.

In this case, the N.O.M. (http://nomblog.com/ – appears down for maintenance at the moment. Coincidence? I think not :D ) hotlinked an image from http://www.smbc-comics.com/ , and unfortunately for them, the owner of the site was a pro-gay anti-hotlinking kinda guy.

http://twitpic.com/3w7b1j/full

I just had to laugh. :D

Red Party

Well, a lot has been a hectic few weeks – I’ve not not really had much chance to update this. Now I’m on the train home for Christmas, I’ve got a bit of a chance :D Ah well, I guess as my last post was about the Red Party, I better start there!

Well, after a hellish setup, the Red Party went down pretty well I reckon. I eventually went with four par bars all with red gel, three attached to the back bar of the stage, one on the rig above the house right speaker stack. Some LED PAR36s on the back bar, a couple of Martin RoboScan Pro 518s, and two PR Pilot 150s on the floor completed the set for the main stage.

The general setup of the stage

A cool idea of mine was to put two more LED parcans (64s) underneath the steel deck that the DJ was going to be on at stage right – a bit of diffusion gel on the parcans, and some blind material that I butchered during freshers week draping off the stage gave a pretty cool effect – the light from them merged together on the blind material. You can see the blind material ready to put up on the floor to the right of the steel deck in the picture above.

It was dubious as to whether or not we could go ahead with the event, especially given that the union closed at midday due to the snow, but we managed to convince the president to run the event. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen the president working behind the bar!

I did a little playing around with a UV light we’ve got – it’s LED based and can be configured into a sound-sensitive mode, as well as being DMXable. However, we’ve never DMXed it before, and given how much other work I had, I didn’t want to try and program it into the desk. I set it up lighting up a white christmas tree on top of the bar though – it looked pretty damn cool!

Ah well, it was an awesome night – Gypsy Cream and Twanda were just awesome :D

Red Party 2010!

Well, it’s almost time for the HWUSU LGBT 2nd Annual Red Party in support of World Aids Day.

And it’s gonna be hell for me.

Cos I’m the guy who volunteered to do this, the only guy to volunteer for this (save the soundy who’s got very little to do), I’ve got a ton of work to do. Mostly it’s manual labour moving the lights around etc, but there’s gonna be a hell of a lot of wiring and programming to do. Not to mention setting up the rest of the venue (drapes, safety, etc)

Well, I hope everyone has a good time, cos to be honest, I can’t wait for it to be over. But wait, I’ve got derig to do when this is done… :( But before that, I’ve got to actually rig half the stuff, and run the event.

French Holiday ’09

I spent a week down in France to attend a family wedding of something like my 6th cousins.

Well, we set off from home at around 0615, with me driving the first leg of the journey to Charnock Richards service station on the M6, my dad driving the rest of the way. Arriving early to Dover Ferry Port, we were put on an earlier ferry to the one we were supposed to be catching (and got the unfortunately habitual stop by customs on the way out – I wonder why they think we look suspicious?). 90 minutes later, arriving in Calais, we continued the journey to Guines, which isn’t far from from Calais. After a very nice tea at Cité Europe, a quick explore of the campsite was in order. After finding an area at the back of the campsite where I had a nice view of the surrounding countryside, I moved towards the front, where someone took a picture somewhere with flash enabled. Or so I thought. In actual fact, I was in the middle of a thunderstorm, except without the thunder.

The storm was incredible – it started off as a few weak flashes, but built up very quicky to be a fully-fledged storm, with fork lightning hitting the ground only about a mile away, several times a minute. I’d moved back into the open area at the back of the campsite, a small field surrounded on three sides by trees, and the fourth by a tall metal fence topped by razor wire. I could see a considerable distance, and a considerable amount of ground hits by the lightning. 2 hours later, at about 1am, I decided to call it a night, even though it was one of the most impressive storms I’ve ever been in. Plus, I was beginning to get somewhat worried about my safety, partly because the lightning was hitting the ground pretty much all around. Just as I got back into the tent, the rain started. And it rained. By 4am, the storm had subsided, and we finally got some sleep.

The next day we drove down through France to Orleans, past Paris, going around the Peripherique (aka ring road), moving at about 1 km/h due to the traffic. The only problem was, we came off one exit too early, and got lost in Paris. 3 hours later, we found our way back onto the road to Orleans.

Arriving late to the campsite, we unpacked and had some tea, then I went for a quick explore of the campsite. Camping near the pool were a group of reasonably fit Belgian lads, unfortunately cowardice got the better of me for the first night – there were a reasonably large number of them vs me! The pool looked pretty good, two flumes and two slides, a lazy river, and a deep main pool.

Well, we got up quite late on Saturday, so we skipped breakfast, and went shopping for lunch, before heading out to the wedding at about half one.

Well, we got to the village where everything was going to take place in time for the civil ceremony, which started at 14:30 in the town hall. This was basically a quick and simple affair, read a few things in French which I was struggling to follow, but I think it went along the lines of a quick and jokey biography of the couple, followed by reading of some regulations, then signing the registers. Then, some of the guests performed a musical piece. We then went outside for some photos of the various family groups, and then moved into church.

The catholic ceremony went ahead much like the usual religious weddings we have here in the UK, mixed with a service of Holy Communion – or at least that’s what I think it was, because I was having trouble following this as well, over a tinny sound system which regularly screeched in a feedback loop. The traditional rice (in the UK it’s confetti) was not thrown, but instead bottles of bubble mixture were given out to the kids to blow bubbles at the happy couple.

By about 1700, we’d moved into the Salle des Fetes, (aka the village hall). The typical drinks and nibbles (aperitifs) were available, including some sirop des violets (basically similar to squash in the UK, but in a more syrupy form). I thought I’d stay away from the alcohol – bier brun (ale), bier blonde (lager), cidre (cider), vin rouge (red wine), and vin blanc (white wine) – especially since I had a reasonably empty stomach, and didn’t want to get drunk this early on in the evening. So I decided to stick to the violet syrop.

One taste told me all I needed to know. It was not diluted with water as expected, but instead fortified white wine. That proved to be the fastest I’ve ever become drunk, a flute of that stuff. So, at 1730, I was desperately trying to sober up. Thankfully, the orange and apple juice had no hidden alcohol, and the nibbles were really really nice – to be expected of French cuisine.

There was a reasonably good brass band entertaining the guests, which I was surprised to discover was made up of people who were all guests anyway – including the best man! The band was joined by the groom for a while, first on the trumpet after a little persuasion, then the trombone, and after a lot of persuasion, the tuba. It didn’t take much to persuade him to conduct, and as a professor of music, he took it all in his stride.

His new wife was a different matter altogether. She tried her hand at conducting, but the band took no notice of her frantic waving of hands, but did begin to take a bit of notice when she started dancing. Some of them were finding it somewhat hard not to laugh.

By 2200, we finally made our way inside for starter – Foie Gras, ham, salmon, prawn salad, exotic salad, and a few other things I can’t remember. Of course, french tradition dicates that there should be a different wine with each course. So, I was back on the slippery slope of becoming quite drunk once more.

After starter came some entertainment – every table had to get up and perform a song. I was sat with people roughly my age – one of the musicians from the service was sat next to me, and trying her hardest to help me to understand everything. I owe her a lot actually, a really kind young lady. The other musician proved to be a considerable amount younger than me, even though his handsome looks and really long (halfway down back) light brown/mousey hair caught my eye. At the other end of my table were two other handsome and very attractive guys that caught my eye. :P

Well, about an hour after that, we had a traditional sorbet – a small scoop of home-made pear sorbet to be precise. I didn’t realise the alcohol content of this either – some pear liquor was definitely added generously to the sorbet. By this stage, I was once again tipsy.

Well, we ate our main course at around midnight; trying my hardest all the time to communicate: it’s amazing how hard it’s become after a year or two of not practising French. I’m plain appalling at it. Luckily, the musician’s English has been improving massively.

The conversation seemed to be a lot about me, I guess I had little confidence in my abilities to ask about other people. I just didn’t want to get it wrong, or insult them through a simple mistake. I was finding it easier to get along with them all now, probabally something to do with the majority of people there being my family now, and it was just so damn annoying that some of them were so damn good looking.

I wish I knew them better, knew French opinions on homosexuality, but I had doubts they would actually find out – no idea about their possible reactions. So much for courage!

I spent a lot of time talking to one of the family – someone we’d visited a few years earlier, and his sister’s boyfriend, then the two guys from the table came over, started talking more about me, and they all now know I’m the proud author of Helpmebot! Although I did spend far too long trying to explain what IRC was.

I’ve been eyeing up the guys from the table most of the evening, I think they noticed though, especially when one of them unbuttoned his shirt for 30 secs (no idea why he did btw), I don’t think he missed my look!

Anyway, 2am came and went, and we were still talking. My dad came outside and said the cake was about to be cut, and that I’d missed the cheese course! I was quite annoyed at that actually, because it was the course I was most looking forward to. Anyway, we headed back inside to see the cakeS, thirteen in total, with about six indoor fireworks, which burnt out, and then the usual drink with interlocking arms for the happy couple.

The cakes were amazing – there were thirteen in total. Proper French gateaux, with a traditional wedding cake in the middle. “Traditional” means pretty much profiteroles filled not with cream, but confectioner’s custard, and stuck together with caramel.

Anyway, I sat down and had a chat with the guys from the table, while we ate some cake. They seem to be the “popular risk-taking” type, who tend to be a big hit with the girls. I think they might have realised that I am gay, and was eyeing them up all evening, because one asked the other to dance, with the explaination to me “we are gay”. My hopes rocketed. When they sat down again, they promptly said “we are not gay”. I can’t tell you how high my hopes really jumped at the first statement, but all through their dance I was thinking to myself – “they’re playful and jokey, and are probabally pulling my leg”, so I was prepared for the second statement, but it still crushed me a bit. I tried to hid my feelings, but I’m pretty sure I failed epicly at that. I have a strong suspicion that they know, but I don’t really care, as I did consider telling them that actually, I *am* gay.

Unfortunately, the guy we visited earlier had left – the one person whom I found it easiest to talk to and got on well with. His father was still going on about Camembert, but that’s a different story about a different wedding.

Well, that’s pretty much the story of the wedding. I had drunk rather a lot – the sirop de violets, 2 glasses of wine, about two shots of pear liquor, 2 pints of lager, and a glass of sweet desert wine – and that mixture was more than enough to make me somewhat drunk. So yes, I was up on the dancefloor, making a fool of myself until we left at around 0315.

So, after sneaking back onto the campsite at 4am, and into bed, the night was over too quickly. Missing breakfast, we went back to Huissau for lunch, effectively finishing off last night’s food.

I managed to get a copy of their side of the family tree (arbre généalogique). There are 88775 people in that database – my grandfather will be overjoyed about that!

The dance I had with the earlier female musician didn’t go unnoticed either – one of the family certainly noticed. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) the two from the table were not there, but the other musician was actually sat next to me, which didn’t help my thoughts. Why do those people whom I can’t have have to be so damn attractive?

Well, the hall had generally been left in the state it was last night, so the disco equipment was still set up. There was a wooden box which looked damn interesting, so I went to take a quick peek.

I was right about the computer power supply unit sticking out the back, but inside was a caseless computer, botched together with copious amounts of duck tape holding the components in place. Two LCD screens had been hacked apart, rotated through 90 degrees, and ducktaped into place inside the lid of the box. Power for the screens was connected through the PSU (also dangerously caseless), held in place with electrical insulation tape.

The USB sound card might go some of the way to explain the quality of the sound, that and the radio microphone aerial being a paperclip. I admire the ingenuity of the system, but can’t help but think that sort of thing wouldn’t be allowed in this country.

We left after helping to clean up a bit, at around 1700, and headed back to the campsite for something to eat for tea.

Well, the Château de Chambord is really beautiful.

The double spiral staircase in the middle of the greek cross of the structure of the keep is incredible. There are two spiral staircases intertwined with each other, with a central ‘hole’ with windows so people can see across from one staircase to the other, but never actually meet them, because they are actually on a different staircase. There is a lantern on the roof, which used to reflect light down this central shaft, providing light to the staircases through the windows. This has, however, been replaced with a modern fluorescent lamp.

The keep was designed as a greek cross, the spiral staircase in the centre, with 4 apartments on each level. The two wings to the keep house a chapel, and the King’s apartment after it was moved out of the keep. The design is based around six standard squares for the outer areas, the keep occupying one. The keep is further divided into a 5×5 grid, with towers on each corner. See the plan below for more info.

The pool at the campsite wasn’t bad, save for the problem that I chose the coldest day of our stay, late in the evening to take a dip. Cowardice again had a part to play in this, but I decided to just go for it and plunge in quickly. The slides were somewhat shit, but the lazy river certainly wasn’t! I could just about stay still, swimming in the opposite direction to the current. Anyway, it was only a quick dip, because it was utterly freezing in the pool, and I’m a bit of a wus when it comes down to it! It got me thinking about pool circulation systems and monitoring systems though, with backup systems in case of failure etc, which might be pushing it a bit far for a simple pool.

And so our brief holiday came to an end. We drove back up though France in another thunderstorm (south of Paris), back to the campsite at Guines, where we had our third thunderstorm. The morning was spent shopping for stuff to take back to the UK, then boarding the ferry. Our impression of P&O ferries has fallen sharply as they gave us (a party of three adults) an out-of-date (by over a year) “kids eat free” voucher. Tom + Jerry was the entertainment for the 95-minute crossing, until disembarkation into England.

A quick stop at Maidstone services proved to be interesting – I started doing a bit of Bluetooth object push to several laptops and phones. This was repeated at Northampton services, where we stopped for tea following a disaster at the previous Welcome Break services, advertising a reasonably large menu, then offering only two items, neither of which were actually on the menu (this was at a peak time, so they should be offering the full menu). Roadchef did a much better job. Sandbach proved to be our last stop before returning home after a quiet trip on the motorway.