Monthly Archives: Jun 2017

100 ways in which life is like a box of chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother is quoted as having said that life was like a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re gonna get.” This is demonstrably false. Chocolate boxes typically come with liner notes detailing exactly which chocolates you’ll be getting. And even if you lose that, or it doesn’t come with one, it’s very unlikely you’ll encounter anything wildly different to the kind of chocolates you’d expect to get in a box of chocolates.
But the simile itself is a promising one. “Life is like a box of chocolates…” It’s just let down by the resolution. We can do better. So, here’s one hundred other ways in which life is like a box of chocolates.
  1. It makes a lovely gift.
  2. It may contain nuts.
  3. Not everyone likes the coffee options.
  4. Old people won’t let go of them.
  5. Melts in the sun.
  6. Sometimes there’s another layer underneath the first one.
  7. More expensive after Brexit.
  8. Really tasty.
  9. Too much can make you sick.
  10. Makes you fat.
  11. Comes in all shapes and sizes.
  12. Superficially different, but all the same on the inside.
  13. We’d be better off without it.
  14. Worth a bit less after Easter.
  15. Bad people don’t like the dark ones.
  16. There’s a lot of wasted packaging.
  17. It’ll make your teeth fall out.
  18. Looks nice with a ribbon on.
  19. I’m always happy to have one.
  20. They are both featured in the film Forrest Gump.
  21. They are both associated with Coronation Street.
  22. Both are in the title of this blog.
  23. They are words in the English language.
  24. They contain both vowels and consonants.
  25. I regret attempting to write a list of things that link them.
  26. No refunds.
  27. People come back from holidays with them.
  28. Philosophers debate their meaning.
  29. High sugar and fat content.
  30. I like them.
  31. Enjoyed all across the world.
  32. You shouldn’t let anyone shame you for having one.
  33. At least hundreds of years old.
  34. Excessive amounts are bad for you.
  35. Gives you spots.
  36. Can eventually make you depressed.
  37. Go great with milk.
  38. Best stored in a cool, dark place.
  39. Found in abundance at airports.
  40. You can find the best in Belgium.
  41. Improves with age.
  42. A common craving.
  43. Most people only get one.
  44. This list is about them.
  45. Historically related to the Aztec Empire.
  46. Very romantic.
  47. Poets write about them.
  48. Can’t think of one for this number.
  49. This is number 49 in a list of things relating them.
  50. The film Amelie is kind of about them. I don’t know though, I haven’t seen it.
  51. Precious.
  52. Beautiful.
  53. Makes people happy.
  54. Can make you feel guilty.
  55. The exterior doesn’t always reflect the interior.
  56. Starts off well-ordered, but ends in chaos.
  57. Runs out eventually.
  58. Ultimately just a bundle of chemicals.
  59. Accept no substitute.
  60. Best shared.
  61. You can really overthink them.
  62. Can seem dark sometimes.
  63. Nothing to be afraid of.
  64. Knows no language or borders.
  65. Filled with fudge.
  66. Just a little bit chewy.
  67. You can’t put a bit back after you’ve taken a bite.
  68. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  69. Not to be taken too seriously.
  70. Lots of fun.
  71. Surprisingly expensive.
  72. But don’t worry about the cost.
  73. Sad if empty.
  74. Turn it upside down and everything falls out.
  75. Some are bigger than others.
  76. Don’t compare yours to anyone else’s.
  77. A terrible thing to lose.
  78. It’s never too early in the day to enjoy some.
  79. Pairs well with red wine.
  80. At Easter, the village vicar will attempt to link the two in their sermon.
  81. Money can help you acquire more.
  82. People want to know its meaning.
  83. Can take you by surprise.
  84. My guilty pleasure.
  85. Enjoyed all over the world.
  86. The source of countless arguments.
  87. Worth celebrating.
  88. Non-vegan.
  89. Suitable for vegetarians.
  90. Just really nice.
  91. Some people spend their whole lives looking for one.
  92. Non-Recyclable.
  93. Bad for the environment.
  94. Heavily taxed.
  95. A luxury.
  96. The rich have it better.
  97. Dogs shouldn’t eat them.
  98. All too fleeting.
  99. Unlikely to survive above 100 degrees celsius.
  100. Not waterproof.

Amazing! The council read this man’s comment beneath a news story, and now they’re changing their entire policy!

Yes! It finally happened. After this local resident left a comment underneath a news story, the council have announced that they’re changing their entire policy direction. After years of people saying it couldn’t be done, the critics are now having to rewrite the rulebooks, as this story turns everything we thought we knew on our heads.

When Cambridge City Council introduced plans to introduce an access charge to central roads in the Romsey area in order to help curb congestion at peak times, one man took a stand. Mr John Pevensey was sick of democratically elected officials making decisions on behalf of local people, and he just had to say something.

In a statement to cookywook’s blog, Mr Pevensey said: “Look, I’m all for cutting emissions, but I don’t understand why the council think this is a good idea at all. I don’t have access to any of the facts, studies, or expert opinion that the council does – but I do have a car. And I like to drive that car wherever I want, even if I don’t need to. That’s my right, right?”

He continued: “I pay my council tax just like everyone else. That means I’m literally paying the wages of the council. Which means they literally work for me. Which means they’re not allowed to do anything I don’t like. That’s how the system works.”

But what was the comment that changed everything? Underneath the article on the Cambridge News website, Mr Pevensey wrote:

ife had it wiv the concil (more like CLOWNCIL) tellin us how 2 live are lives. they shud NOT bring in this plan. its a bad plann! i h8 it so much.

The quote sent shockwaves through the city council halls. One city councillor is reportedly still off sick after apparently having become violently ill on reading  it. Needless to say, the council is having to rethink its entire strategy.

An inside source told us, “it’s just…. we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s chaos, just pure chaos. How could we carry on after a comment like that? It’s too much.”

The withdrawal of the policy is expected to cost thousands of pounds in fees,  but the good news is that Mr Pevensey is once again free to drive his car down the main road during rush hour. But he’s keen to not let the power go to his head. “I’m no hero,” he said, “I’m just a man with a keyboard who took a stand.”

Mr Pevensey is 40 years old, unmarried, and lives with his mother.

What’s the deal with so-called industry experts?

You’ve seen them at conferences. They’ve tried to add you on LinkedIn. They’ve got a new book out about how digital marketing will change the world. They are: the industry expert thought leader blah blah blah. They are the worst.

The industry expert is a white, bald, middle-aged dude with glasses. There are no exceptions to this rule.

They don’t actually work anywhere themselves, but they somehow know everything about every company in their industry. They obtain all their information via psychic osmosis as they hibernate in their thought-pods.

They are about forty years too old to understand social media, but they’ll tell you how Snapchat is the new big thing. (They’ve been saying this for about five years now). They’ve got about 600 followers on Twitter, but they talk about ‘growth hacks’. And all they ever tweet is boring articles nobody will ever read.

They bounce from marketing conference to marketing conference, presenting the same deck, fielding the same questions, sitting on the same panels. This is their full-time life. Their talk is called something like ‘‘Building a winning Content Strategy – and why it’ll be the most important thing you do this year!’‘ and it’s full of absolute non-insights.

“Listen to your customers!” – wow. Never thought to do that before.
“Your users are on social, so you should be too!” – much wisdom.
“Check out this ad everyone’s already seen a hundred times.”
“Zappos!”

Stop encouraging them. They post absolute garbage and people who don’t know any better just lap it up.

The snake oil salesmen of yore have evolved. They used to sell affliction-curing tonics that didn’t do anything, now they’re getting paid shedloads to tell you how to do something that nobody understands. Don’t attend their workshops. Don’t buy their books. Don’t follow them on social networks. Just don’t engage with them at all.

Follow me instead. I know all the real secrets anyway.

Review: thegrid.io

Making a website is hard. That’s why I use Squarespace for mine. I’ve tried learning how to do it myself before, and the results were…. ugly.

But what if there was another way? Not having to learn to do it yourself, but not sticking to a boring old template either? In this age of AI assistants and machine learning, shouldn’t websites be able to design themselves in interesting and unique ways? Well, that’s exactly what thegrid.io offers.

When I first heard about The Grid, way back in October 2014, I signed up right away. I paid like £50 or something to be a ‘founding member’, which meant having early access to the beta or something. I was never quite sure what I was getting exactly, which didn’t really matter – because it took FOREVER to roll out.

It wasn’t until October 2015 that I actually got my beta access. Yup, a whole twelve months of sitting around and wondering what they were doing with my money. Sure, I get how software development works, and stuff. But maybe they could have waited a bit before starting to take orders for something that didn’t exist? ANYWAY, this all meant that my expectations had substantially waned and I’d just built myself a MVP version of a personal website.

But since I actually had a beta invite to play around with, I thought I’d give it a shot. Aaaand, it didn’t quite live up to even my adjusted expectations.

I mean, there’s a lot to like about it. It does the hard work of things for you. No worrying about building mobile-friendly sites – that’s all handled. You can tell it roughly the kind of font style you want, and it’ll try some things out. Give it a colour scheme you like, and it’ll make it all look very pretty. Play around enough, and you can make something quite beautiful and professional-looking.

It did have a nasty habit of notifying me EVERY time it made a change to my website though. With both a browser AND an app notification. That was pretty annoying. But the real trouble I had with it is that I had no idea what it was for.

Take WordPress for instance, it’s pretty well set up to do a couple of things. You can just straight up build a website with it, if you know what you want. Or you can make yourself a blog, like I did. I’m using more-or-less an out-of-the-box implementation for that here. I’m using a default WordPress theme, and only a couple of plugins that help with out with some stuff. It does the job well.

With Squarespace, and other template-based sites, you’ve again got a decent framework to start off with. Are you trying to show off a portfolio of photography? Great, here’s a preset template. Same with building a website to sell stuff. Templates are unoriginal, but they’re a structure.

With thegrid, you just have to kind of feed it… stuff?

You give it links, files, or text, and it goes into it a weird limbo of draft posts, which you can then publish and they end up somewhere on your site. It’s kind of confusing, and I’m never quite sure what to give it. It seems to be able to handle most things ok, but I’m not sure what I’m trying to do.

Like, I just gave it a few photographs I’d taken recently, and it made them into a carousel. I didn’t ask for that, and it looks reasonably cool. But what if I didn’t want that? What if I preferred a grid? I don’t really get a choice. Same with the layout of the site, I don’t seem to be able to say what goes at the top versus bottom. So, right now the top thing on my site is a link to a Medium post. It doesn’t look great, in my opinion. Plus who has just like links to external blog posts as the top thing on their web page?

So, it doesn’t do the kind of things that I’d expect a website maker to do well. Like, here’s the text editor on the upload function:

It’s very very very simple, nothing more than what you’d get on a forum or something. And what kind of posts would I be writing? Is this for just little text blocks? Or is it meant to handle long-form blog entries? I have no idea.

It’s the things like this that I can’t get my head around. I just don’t know what to do with it. Whereas with my actual website, I own and know the structure. There’s a section for my poetry, a bit for my writing, a list of gaming projects I’ve got. The layout is logical and I can understand it. With my Grid site, I don’t know why things are as they are. And there’s no structure beyond the very superficial. You can make a nice homepage, but I don’t feel it’s the tool for creating your own entire website.

Here’s how my site currently looks:

There’s plenty here I like. The colours are cool, I like the font sizes, and the buttons have a modern look and feel. I didn’t pick any of this, it kind of just decided for me. Of all the images I’ve uploaded, it’s also gone with monkey-in-a-cage as the header. I mean, sure, Mr AI Assistant, if you think that’s a good call then I’m with you. But I dunno if I would have picked it. Or maybe I can change that, and I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m never quite sure when it’s updating or when it’s decided it likes the current layout.

So yeah, I have mixed feelings towards The Grid. I like the concept, and it’s fun to play around with. But I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone who’s serious about making a website. At least, not if they want to fully control and understand their site.

As a last note, I’m totally unclear on the pricing. I’m not quite sure if I’m still paying for it or not. My ‘founding member’ payment must have gone towards something, but I’ve also received lots of emails offering me ‘lifetime membership’ if I pay them such-and-such now. I haven’t done that, and nothing seems to have happened with my site. So yeah, I can’t really speak to how much it even costs – if anything. So watch out for that!

If you give it a go, lemme know. I’m still interested to see what people make with it. I might just occasionally chuck on things I’m proud of. If only to see what it does to them.

Behold, the desolation of man!

1. And lo, the devil did weep. For the halls of hell ran empty. And he was alone. The evil from below overran the ground above and was free. 2. And Man himself could not weep. They writhed as animals in the mud and fields. 3. God had forsaken the Lands. His all-seeing eye did blind itself with scorn, and gazed upon the Lands no more. 4. Strange voices were heard in every corner, but They could not see whom was speaking. The women and children gave themselves up to darkness when they no longer had the strength to carry on. 5. Soon, the Men too had lost their wills. Each took his turn to fill the grave. 6. The last Man said a prayer to the Heavens: “Lord, forgive us. We knew not what we were doing. We sought but merriment, and did not mean for damnation.” He shed a tear, and leapt into the Depths. 7. The World was dead.

What’s the deal with…. Rasta Imposta fancy dress costumes?

I hate fancy dress.

Well, I like ‘fancy’ dress. I like black tie. I love cummberbunds, academic bands, braces, gowns, and all that. But I hate fancy dress. Stuff like this –

That is apparently a ‘Rasta Banana’. Yes, a banana that is also a Rastafarian… somehow. Obviously, this particular fancy dress costume is especially problematic. It features cultural appropriation of Rastafarianism for a start, tying it into an offensive stereotype with the dreadlocks, insinuating that the banana is ‘high’ (because Rastas are always high right), and there’s some weird link going on between Jamaica and the banana trade. It’s also horribly garish.

It looks like it’d be the most impractical outfit in the entire world too. There’s no pockets, I’m not sure how you see out of it, and you couldn’t really wear any other clothes with it. The fellow donning it here has gone barefoot, for instance.

Imagine going to a party wearing this. The hour or so you spend getting ready, before finally climbing into this thing. Then having to get to the party, which means wearing this thing OUTSIDE, exposed to the general public on a bus or train. And then at the party, having to mingle with everyone else, who have all just gone for some stick-on ears or a wacky t-shirt. You’re somehow both the centre of attention, and also the one person people least want to interact with. It taking forever to go to the toilet, unable to eat or drink anything for the entire time. Then a few hours later you leave, the excitement of the evening long behind you, repeating the whole thing in reverse – before finally ‘peeling’ yourself out of the costume, at which point the irony of that moment will be lost on you.

It costs £32 and has been described in one 3-star Amazon review as “Expensive for what it is… not very practical as a fancy dress costume“.

And this is just the start of a whole unbearable world of fancy dress. And it seems to mostly come from one specific supplier: Rasta Imposta. I don’t know much about the company or anything. But the name suggests that they started off making exclusively Rastafarian-themed items, such as this very sad looking Rasta dog –

On their website, they have all kinds of horrible costumes, like this one –

– but it’s their presence on Amazon that amazes me the most. They basically own fancy dress online. If you’ve ever looked for some fancy dress (why? who are you? what are you doing reading my blog?) you’ve probably come across them. They have over 1,000 products on Amazon UK right now.

SO LET’S LOOK AT SOME OF THEM.

We begin with the Rasta Imposta Lava Lamp costume. WOW-EE. From what I can tell, you’re basically just wearing a big, uncomfortable plastic facade of a lava lamp, but I’ll be if it doesn’t look realistic! You’re sure to be the life and soul of any lava lamp themed party! At least for the first 15 seconds before everyone immediately hates you.

Also, the feature list on this item is pretty funny:

Yeah, the seller has used bullet points instead of writing a normal sentence for some reason. One of the bullet points is just a random number that means nothing to anyone. And they’ve also misspelt lava lamp as “lave lamp.” WOW-EE. Next!

Unlike the lava lamp one, this Tetris Game Tunic claims to actually be interactive. Which is great, because it’s £13 cheaper. Reading the reviews, it seems it’s not actually an electronic wearable version of Tetris, but rather a set of Tetris pieces that stick to the tunic with velcro. Which is great for parties of course, as it means that anything you walk past will end up sticking to you as well. Oh, and we’ve just got to look at the feature list again for this one:

I am so reassured that “It is Brand new.” I wouldn’t want to be buying a used one of these things. Oh, and it’s 4666. THANK GOD.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m going through these sorted by the lowest customer review score.

If you ever needed a perfect example of cultural appropriation I think ‘white dude wearing the Mexican flag as a party costume’ would be it. Just what the hell.

Oh, I think this is an actual album and not a costume. Hard to tell though.

SO NO-ONE TOLD YOU LIFE WAS GONNA BE THIS WAY
YOUR JOB’S A JOKE YOU’RE BROKE YOUR LOVE LIFE’S DOA

The ones that are just a hat are very interesting to me. Look at how huge and annoying this would be. No way would that fit through any normal size door. You’d have to be constantly taking it off and on all night. Also, I guess the rest of your clothes would be normal. So what’s the outfit theme exactly? “Man with enormous chilli pepper on his head”? Yeah, that party classic.

I know saying ‘you were dressed provocatively so it’s your own fault’ is victim-blaming, BUT if you wear this thing, you deserve to be beaten up.

One from the ‘I voted Leave’ starter kit.

HAHA WHAT. How is this a costume. How would you even get the second glove on once you’ve got the first one on? How would you even be able to do anything that requires the use of digital manipulation (such as all things), with your damn bastard massive Mickey Mouse hands??? WHAT IS THIS.

I sorted by price to find this one. It’s the most expensive on Amazon atm. And I think it speaks for itself.

“Sorry kids, I know you wanted an Xbox for Christmas. Please, Sally, stop crying. I know all the other kids got the new Peppa Pig DVD, but your mommy and daddy had to cut back costs this year. We spent all our money on a Christmas Tree costume. Yes, we only wore it once and we’ve already thrown it away, but we got some really good selfies at the Christmas party. Actually, we think you’re being a bit selfish about this. It’s not all about you, you know.”

Ok, I think this is my limit. Dressing up as the BREAST CANCER PINK RIBBON is a little more than I can handle. I mean, if the proceeds were going to charity, that’d actually be pretty cool. But from what I can tell, Mr Imposta is just pocketing all the money for himself. So yeah, co-opting the imagery of a charitable cause tips this company from poor taste to outright immorality.

And yeah, I’m deliberately finding ridiculous examples to prove my point about how all fancy dress costumes are bad. And sure, my hatred of costumes stems mostly from my own social anxiety and inability to lose myself in the spirit of a party.

But what do we really get out of tacky dress-up? A few lols? I think we’re better than that.

Also, Rasta Imposta don’t even do a Shrek costume so how am I supposed to support them in any way?