Tuesday, 31 December 2013


This has been a year with a number of changes, both personal and technical, so I thought it may be interesting to write a bit about some of them here.

1) Shift Changes
In September my team at work, which had been running on shifts of four days on/four days off/four nights on/four days off switched to a trial of two days on/two nights on/four days off. I had really become accustomed to that pattern, I felt it really suited me, and I especially loved the night before my first nightshift. That was a time that I could catch up on my Sky+ recordings, play some games and generally have a little me time.

Now I don't have that. I tried staying up late after my second dayshift, but it didn't work. Lots of experimenting saw that the only way I can really work with this is to go to bed at a normal time after my second dayshift, and then get a sleep in the afternoon before my first nightshift. It's had a bit of a negative impact upon my personal life, but I've been able to get through work without feeling too tired.

2) No More Google Reader
For a number of years I had become somewhat of a Google Reader addict. For me it was the easiest way to keep in touch with my RSS feeds, especially the Lifehacker feed which frequently published over 20 items a day.

I held out until the end, hoping that Google would change their mind and continue to support Reader. However they proceeded with the shutdown as planned on July 1st, and I had to switch. I tried Digg Reader, but for some reason I didn't like it as much.

Additionally just after Google Reader died a digital death Lifehacker carried out what felt like their umpteenth instance of needless tinkering with their RSS feed, again changing their RSS feed so that only part of an article was shown. Their intention was clearly to drive more traffic to the site itself, but by doing this again at a time when I was considering the usefulness of RSS readers they managed to change my behaviour entirely. I unsubscribed from the RSS feed and began to follow them on Twitter instead.

So I'm no longer an RSS junkie. I was a Twitter junkie already, so that behaviour is unchanged, but Lifehacker are seeing much less traffic from me (N.B. I retweet them frequently, as I think their writers are usually fantastic). I keep a few low volume feeds in Digg Reader, but to be honest I can't remember the last time I even logged into it.

3) Farewell ESPN America
Although I had already unsubscribed, I was still disappointed when ESPN America went off the air on August 1st as part of the reshuffle of sports channels that saw the start of the BT Sport service. The disappearance of the only sports channel specifically for North American sport was disappointing, and forced me into a position where I could only keep up with my favourite shows by podcast (Pardon the Interruption, Highly Questionable) or in some cases not at all (yep, I've really missed College Gameday this season).

While I'm not party to the ESPN decision making process I wonder if part of the reason for the channel's ultimate demise was the restrictive nature of the highlights they were able to show, and the ultimate effect it had upon many of their programmes, including the flagship SportsCenter franchise.

In addition to being reduced to being a podcast listener, I've also come to find meagre highlights and features on various YouTube channels. To find other highlights and clips I've had to become somewhat of a YouTube ninja, and while this has been bearable (along with my reduced quantity of TV watching), I do still miss it somewhat.

Ultimately I look forward (hopefully) to a time where media rights can be eliminated, and programmes like Pardon the Interruption can be shown globally in their intended format. Until then I'll just have to get by in the way I do at the moment. It may sound naïve, but with torrenting and streaming still prevalent I think major channels like ESPN and Sky will look to find a way to monetise their broadcasts globally rather than losing out on additional income.

Monday, 23 December 2013

JFK: Random Thoughts 50 Years On

Firstly, sorry that this is a bit later than planned. I ended up having a pretty busy November, and didn't get time to complete this by the end of the month.

Perhaps though that's an indication of where I've personally reached with the most famous assassination of the 20th century. In 1993 for the 30th anniversary I watched and read as much as I possibly could in regard to it, taking on conspiracy theories, retrospectives and critical examinations of JFK's presidency itself. Now I'm a bit older, and in amid everything else that makes up daily life it doesn't seem so important anymore. With the responsibilities I have myself, I have less time to involve myself with things like this that do not directly affect me.

Additionally I've noticed a shift in attitudes in regard to the assassination. In the vast majority of the shows that I've watched or listened to, there seems to be much more acceptance of Lee Harvey Oswald having carried out at least a part in the assassination.  This certainly wasn't the case 20 years ago, and while it strikes me as being a bit too convenient perhaps there are bigger conspiracy theories to mull over that have taken place since then.

I wonder as well if the questions, suggestions and in some cases outright accusations of 9/11 conspiracy theorists have played a part in the reduction of conspiracy theories in regard to JFK's assassination. Personally I look at these and think that a lot of these diminish everything from the credibility of architects (buildings are meant to survive fully loaded jetliners flying into them, really?) to the bravery of victims (sure, United 93 was shot down and the actions of passengers were nothing to do with preventing the flight from reaching Washington). When I think about these theories and then wonder about the JFK conspiracies I do find myself considering whether or not it was similar people who promoted such theories in the last 50 years.

In saying that though, JFK presents the perfect storm for conspiracy theorists. The Russians, Cubans, the Mafia, the CIA, Communists and those who hated Communists. I don't think the soap opera bearing the name of the city JFK was killed in had such a wide range of suspects when JR was shot.

On a praiseworthy note, it was nice to see some new media that I had not seen before that managed to stay within the realms of taste and decency. National Geographic's investigation in to JFK's last days, and his influence upon ordinary members of the public who he met in Texas prior to the assassination was poignant. A short BBC clip on the part that the Blackwatch played at JFK's funeral was new to me. The George Clooney-narrated documentary on the media's coverage of the assassination was compelling, and while arguably trivial, a long-form article on what exactly happened to the original casket which took JFK from Dallas back to Washington was far more interesting than it should have been.

Of course not all media chose to go down that route. JFK: The Lost Bullet was in my opinion an attempt to justify repeated showings of the Zapruder film, in HD no less (as they also told us repeatedly). It became so bloodthirsty I couldn’t justify watching it to what I understand was a ludicrous finish.

I found myself wondering if the horror suffered by the Kennedy family was forgotten somewhat. I know the most significant living member of JFK's family today is his daughter Caroline, who recently began a post as US ambassador to Japan. While looking to balance historical perspective with a gaudy sense of intrusion, I do wonder just how much the horrific and public loss of his father had upon John F. Kennedy, Jr. Everyone remembers his farewell salute to his father, but how many people remember that was on his 3rd birthday? My eldest remembers things from a frightfully early age, so I do wonder what if anything he remembered, or if indeed that played any part in his fatal plane crash that he was at the controls for.

And then of course there is Jackie Kennedy. So much of an influence over so many people I have known over the years, especially my Mum. I pondered if there was a post-assassination bump in her popularity, similar to those I've witnessed to the likes of Freddie Mercury and Kurt Cobain after their deaths. Clearly Jackie's dignity and strength immediately following the murder of her husband is awe-inspiring, and I can see why people like my Mum would appreciate her style and grace. Did history treat her kindly? Yes, as I'd like to think a widow should be treated. Did history fully record her abilities in supporting her husband on the campaign trail, and later in life as a business woman and matriarch? I would suggest not. Through no fault of her own, too much is made of a blood-stained pink outfit and not enough of the woman who wore it.

Will we ever consider the assassination in such a way again? I expect we won't. Personally I don't class 60 years as a big anniversary, and by the time the 75th anniversary comes round there will be even less living witnesses to the horror of that day, and also unfortunately there will probably be another horrific world event that will be a new generation's "Where were you when…" moment. For a subject matter that fascinated me and a time in history that still interests me, I'd like to visit the Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza as a whole, to put myself in that area and to picture that time, just to help me understand it better. I'm not sure all the big questions are fully answered, but I don't think they will be definitively during my lifetime, and it is debatable at this point whether it really matters anymore.