The Plight of the L-plater

I’ve had my learner’s license for a long time now. Some might say a ludicrously long time. Some heartless people may even laugh if I tell you I’ve had it so long that it’s expired once already and needed to be renewed. But let me assure you, it is not from being unable to achieve the ridiculously high number of recorded hours in NSW. It’s not from any retarded motor skills or eye condition. I have extremely good vision, in fact, and am a pretty skilled driver, if I do say so myself, if a little speedy at times. No, it’s none of these reasons. It’s mostly apathy, actually. I just never really bothered. And now that I have Tim to drive me every which where I can’t get at by public transport, I’ve seen even less reason to upgrade to being able to drive on my own. So, as I watched all my friends, from as early as our senior years in high school, more than 5 years ago, getting their P plates (we have two over here) and having their parents buy for them their first cars, because they’re rich, I’ve only had occasion to drive myself somewhere when it just so happened a parent or other full licensed driver was with me, and purely for my own driving pleasure.

But this extended period, I feel, has put me in a unique position to champion the rights and protest the injustices that are done to these poor L-platers, myself included.

Since we came to Sydney, my parents have given Tim and I use of my Mum’s car, as long as she isn’t working. This is very kind of her! It’s given Tim and I a lot of freedom, such as it is, to be able to get out of the house when we’re developing some nasty cabin fever. Until recently, I was doing all of the driving in these situations, as Tim has his full license, so can be my supervisor, and it was thought that he was unable to drive our tiny car. So, as you can imagine, I’ve had even more time lately to come to realise just what a large percentage of full-licensed, and -gasp!- P-platers hate and overtly look down on these poor people who are, for the most part, teenagers, who are just beginning to learn the ropes of being in a very serious, and sometimes difficult situation.

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A lot of people think they’ve had the worst day, ever. A lot of them will sigh as they sit down exhausted, reaching for the half-empty whiskey bottle on the table, and say to you “Man, what a day. What a fucking day.” Some people may in fact have actually had a somewhat bad day.

Well, these people don’t know shit. Let me tell you a story about yesterday, Thursday 1st October 2009. The 100% official, swear-to-god, worst day, ever.

It all began with the arrival of a package from back home. Jess and I have a wedding to attend here in Sydney, you see, and I cleverly left all of my formal clothes back in Perth. My parents were good enough to attend to my needs and send them over, but in my infinite wisdom I left it until the last minute, and indeed told them to send the wrong trousers.

With the wedding on Saturday, there was no time to get them to send over the correct ones. We decide to quickly run out to Target and get some new trousers, foregoing showers in our rush to do so. It is quickly warming up to be a stinking hot day, and my nose responds appropriately by deciding it is going to drip relentlessly throughout all of it. We are tired, sniffly, unwashed, sweaty, hot, and probably coming down with a cold. And we’re only just getting started.

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How I Mine For Reality

Hello everyone. My name is Tim Colwill, and I have a problem.

Hello, Tim!

Actually, I have a number of problems. For example, my facial muscles tend to operate on a ten-minute time delay, which causes me to sometimes be unable to properly communicate emotions to people important to me. In the same manner one can look up at the sky and see the stars as they were hundreds of years ago, my face is a delightful mirror of the emotions I was feeling ten minutes prior.

Working in combination with my expressionless voice I often, to my great chagrin, give people the impression of being either utterly disinterested, monstrously sarcastic, or having actually passed away several minutes ago and now operating entirely on volatile corpse gas and twitching nerve reflexes. My thanks to all those who have frantically, and mistakenly, dialled for an ambulance. I appreciate it.

But we’re not here to talk about that, are we? Today I would like to talk about my unnerving tendency to not so much blur as demolish the line between the internet and real life. I have, at various times in the past done, and probably will do again in the future, the following things.

  1. Picked up envelopes addressed to me, fresh out of the mailbox, and gleefully exclaimed “Oooh! Email!”
  2. Mused aloud on the possibility of “bookmarking” delightful staff at restaurants so that we could come back to the in the future.
  3. While sketching from a reference book, reached out to flip the pages of the reference book so that it would not go into screensaver.

Yes, I have done all of these things. I am not proud of these things, but they are my things, and I have done them. I will probably do more of them in the future even, until the time comes when I am found curled up in the foetal position on the floor, sucking binaric dregs from a blue CAT-5 cable and cackling quietly to myself.

Still, at least when I am asked in job interviews whether I “eat, sleep and breathe the internet”, I can hold my head high and say proudly: “Yes. Yes I do”. And then I can break down in a series of embarrassed, choking sobs.

I’ll always have that.

Twimage Release

UPDATE: Since Twitter has now ditched RSS feeds as part of their careful plan to make using their service increasingly difficult for anybody that doesn’t want to use their clients, Twimage no longer works. At all. Sorry!

Ever since I joined Twitter, it always bothered me that there was no way to display my tweets in a controlled web environment, one that didn’t allow scripts or embedded Flash content. Twitter offers plenty of badges in Flash and Javascript, but if I wanted to display my latest tweet in, say, my forum signature, I was basically screwed. Most forum software such as phpBB is very restrictive on what users can and cannot put into their signatures, but the one thing they all allow are images. And so Twimage was born.

Twimage is a PHP script I wrote that grabs your Twitter account’s RSS feed, reads it, strips it down, and then prints the latest tweet from it to a 648 x 40 pixel PNG image. You can then display this image anywhere you would normally be able to put a regular PNG image file – including your forum signature! The final result looks a lot like this (resized for width, see full size here):


Because Twitter’s RSS feeds are painfully unstable – often returning HTTP 400 errors for no fucking reason whatsoever – I’ve also included a Twimage Feedchecker. This is nothing more than a simple PHP file which tries to print your RSS feed in plaintext, and will helpfully tell you any errors it encounters so you can accurately troubleshoot. I’ve also included the source file for the background image, if the colours I’ve chosen don’t take your fancy.

I’m not going to lie: this script is basically a complete and total hackjob and is very, very rudimentary in nature. RSS2HTML does most of the heavy lifting, and I just polish it, clean it up and print it into a PNG. It’s nothing that somebody else couldn’t write for themselves in about ten seconds, and indeed if anybody out there wishes to improve on it (which shouldn’t be hard!) I welcome them. I’d love to see what you do with it. Enjoy.