Conspiracy or fuckup?

Conspiracy nutters are everywhere these days. George Bush and Dick Cheney ordered the "controlled demolition" of the Twin Towers. The Duke of Edinburgh, a 12th-level Mason, ordered MI6 to kill Di and Dodi, to prevent the British Royal Family including a Muslim. MI5 America faked the moon landing!

The problem with all these conspiracies is they forget how useless we humans are at running large-scale projects without fucking it up. We're just not good enough at enormous projects, particularly when they're supposed to be big secrets.

Charlie Brooker has a good look at them.

It's hard enough to successfully operate a video shop with a staff of three, for Christ's sake, let alone slaughter thousands and convince the world someone else was to blame.

PS: If you read the version in this week's Guardian Weekly, you might want to read this version. The GW version was quite savagely cut down.

Kidneys in sherry and cream

I've got some mates coming around tonight for offal, beer, wine, whisky and poker. A boys' night, with SWMBO banished for the evening. I've just bought some lamb kidneys, sherry and cream, and plan to do some devilled kidneys, kind of like this recipe. Yummy!

Also on the agenda is a leg of roast lamb with the usual roast veg. Dunno what we'll do for dessert. Probably whisky.

All CMSes suck

All CMSes suck slide

I have a slide I use when presenting about content management systems to manglement types. Content management systems suck. They're designed that way. The main idea behind them, in a corporate context, is to allow content to be published quickly by people who don't know (much) HTML so that it fits within the existing structure. The trade-off is that it's a whole lot less flexible. Anything you want to do that doesn't fit into the built-in templates and structure is going to require some development.

The reason I use this slide is to explain that there's a middle ground in there. If you're an enormous publishing organisation with daily deadlines and a team of editors, sub-editors and content approvers, then the top-end systems are necessary. For most corporate web sites though, somewhere in the middle makes more sense.

When you demonstrate the idea of approvers and workflow that's built into most CMSes, manglement types start getting ideas. They love the idea of a defined workflow, with things getting signed off as they go through the workflow. Yet I've never worked in an organisation where the workflow features work. You always end up with one or more approvers who constantly forget their logins, forget what they're supposed to do to approve, or do the wrong thing when they're in there. It always ends up reverting to a paper-based system, printing out the content for approval. In most situations, it's a better approach. The workflow systems in most CMSes get turned off pretty quickly in most implementations.

I'm about to start specifying a new content management platform for my employer, so it's got me thinking about the complexity level we're going for. Parts of our site are quite tricky, technical bits of code and integration with other systems. But most of it is just plain content. Our current CMS is a little too far to the right on the axis I've drawn above, with seemingly-simple changes quite hard to make, involving digging through templates, schema definitions and template elements. I need to find a middle ground for the next crack at it.

Looking around at the free software content management systems, it's pretty difficult to compare them in any meaningful way. And more important to me is the company we end up using to build the thing. I'd really rather not have a PHP/MySQL platform, but two off the seemingly best-supported CMSes (Joomla and Drupal) are just that. I love the look approach taken by the Perl+XUL cyclone3, but the only companies supporting it seem to be in Europe.

So, lazyweb, can you recommend any good CMS development companies who are interested in a pretty big project? I'd like a small, nimble, free software-loving group who are well-versed in Agile development. Sydney ideally, but elsewhere in Australia is okay. Let me know.

Oscillate Wildly review

Oscillate Wildly menu from 18th July 2007

As mentioned yesterday, Holly and I managed to get a booking at Oscillate Wildly for last night, our ten year anniversary. I'd attempted to book back in May, but they were already booked out. Fortunately they put me on the waiting list, and it seems someone pulled out.

So how was it? Spectacular! I'm not one of those bloggers who takes photos of every course—I appreciate those who do, but for me it spoils the experience—so I'll just touch on the highlights.

The tomato snow was delightful. Full tomato flavour, but with a shaved granita texture. Essentially it was frozen gazpacho, so it shouldn't be too hard to replicate, and I might give that a go in the summer.

If you're wondering what Tonka is, don't worry, I had to ask too.

My favourite two dishes were the duck and the lamb. Both were beautifully cooked and had intriguing taste combinations. Sassafras with the duck was interesting. A faint hint of root beer or sarsparilla coming through over the duck and cinnamon. I wouldn't have thought of combining either flavourings with duck, but it worked surprisingly well. And I don't particularly like sarsparilla or root beer.

The lamb was definitely the highlight. A few small slices of the most succulent, slightly bloody lamb served over slices of eggplant. The reduction poured on one side of the plate was just amazing, and I wonder how much effort goes into this element alone. The other side of the plate had roasted pistachios and a sweet quince/port sauce which also went nicely. But the reduction almost had me licking my plate.

At $300 once we'd bought wine (though they allow BYO for $3/person) and left a tip, it's not a cheap meal. But then, we don't celebrate a decade together very often, and we're both foodies who love these kinds of taste sensations. I wouldn't recommend it if you're after a meal rather than an experience. This is playful food, messing with your sensing and toying with accepted ideas of flavour.

Maybe for our 20th anniversary we'll get to El Bulli? If I make a booking now, we might just get in.

Ten years!

Simon and Holly on thrones

Ten years ago I snogged a lovely young woman at The Globe nightclub in Newtown (now a backpackers hostel and pizza joint). Ten years on and we've travelled the world, cycled thousands of kilometres together (including across a country), lived in another country, had the odd argument, moved back to Australia, bought a house and settled into life together. Life is good!

Happy anniversary Holly. Let's make it another 100 years eh?

Police riot in Genoa goes unpunished

Police riot in Genoa

Nick Davies gives an update on the police attack on 93 unarmed demonstrators at the Diaz Pertini school building at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. It seems despite clear evidence that the police indiscriminately bashed the crap out of people, none of them will be going to jail.

This kind of injustice, with violence meted out by jackbooted fascist thugs of the state, isn't uncommon. I've seen police start riots a number of times at otherwise peaceful demonstrations. They get off on it.

I wouldn't be surprised if the injustice here provokes some to take action themselves, given the state has been unable to deliver justice.

New fence

Our
new fence

We've had a shiny new fence installed all around. It's been a few months in the making, getting quotes and agreement from three different sets of neighbours. Finally it's done. We now have a gate on our side passage, and the new fence is quite a bit higher. No more chatting over the fence to the neighbours, unfortunately.

Time to get some passionfruit going. It also means I can get cracking on the rest of the garden beds and plant my apple trees.

World (Catholic) Youth Weirdos

Spotted this morning walking through Sydney Uni, some Catholic pilgrims (the lanyard and pass is a giveaway) taking a photo of... the wall of HK Ward gymnasium. Weird. Maybe they saw Mary?

I'm trying to work out which annoying t-shirt to wear handing out condoms on Saturday, now that we're allowed annoy Catholics.

The options are:
Jesus
Had A Mullet

And

Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

Makes perfect sense.

The former has the advantage that I already own it. The latter I could make pretty easily.