Monday, December 19, 2005

The week that was...

... busy!

Wow... Well, that was some week. I spent almost no time at home so Saturday day-time and today has just been catching up on household stuff (you know, boring essentials like washing). Found out my brother's now got ADSL over in Canada this evening so caught up with him. Haven't chatted in quite a while, since they moved out there in fact - a few months ago.

The whole week was full of clubbing, meeting people, and oh yes, two Christmas dinners. I can tell you about the dinners, and I can tell you about the clubs in general, but anything beyond that isn't really safe content for this blog... I need another one to log stuff like that. Say, on a site more dedicated to the topics. Oh! (does a little fake double-take to self)

The first dinner was our annual bellringer's Christmas do for my local tower I ring at, which we had at a good pub in Crondall - The Plume and Feathers. Very nice food indeed, ok service (there was a longer delay between courses than would have been ideal, but it didn't matter much). My duck, cooked like a steak, was amazingly tasty - it's a long time since I've had duck that tasty. A good evening all round.

The second one (the very next day - so I didn't bother to eat much breakfast or lunch) was my work dinner, at Dover St. Restaurant, Mayfair, London. We were fair packed into one end of this jazz themed place on three long tables. The food was quite decent, and they have live jazz music (although some of it varied from pure jazz) playing til 10pm. Then the band packs up and they open the space up as a dance floor. I had good fun, and we ended up having a shot-drinking competition between the tables.

Luckily this challenge didn't outlast everybody's sanity or stomach health. Each table tried to concoct up their next drink and then they'd order a table's worth of it so 15 to 20-odd (rough guess) shots arrived with the poor waiter trying hard not to spill any. They were getting more special or exclusive to try and beat the last one and we ended up with a pear liqueur and something-else (that I completely forget, yes I was getting tipsy by this point) specially made for us by the barman. We also had some colula (spelling?) which I rather liked. I don't think I've tried that before. Very warming, in a nice way. It almost reminded me of goldschager - which is completely evil, by the way and not served at many places. That's the one that contains little shards of gold metal in it to make it sparkle and tend to have a not-entirely-health-giving effect on your throat as you swallow - gets it into the bloodstream quicker, so someone said on my birthday a few years ago.
We didn't win quantity wise (just 2nd), but I thought we were far ahead in originality, which I like to think of as the superior win... Intellectually at least :-)

Just a pity I left before the end of the evening to catch the last train back from Waterloo at 0:05, as it went on til 3am (though I don't know if any stayed that late). I got back at 1.40am. I didn't really want to go, but with the busy days I had planned ahead, I thought I should. Luckily I'd booked Thursday and Friday off work, but Thursday (and part of Friday, with an unplanned stopover) was still taken up meeting a good friend and being introduced to someone else I'd chatted to before but not met. Another very good couple of days, with another nice meal out in the evening (in Arundel, this time)!

I'm glad I had Friday late noon and Saturday daytime free to rest and do stuff at home, 'cos I went out clubbing in London last night and didn't get back home til about 3pm today. I was just leaving home to go out as everyone else was coming back from the pub. I usually leave earlier for my club outings, and I only just caught the last tube trains on my way there from Waterloo. I'm not sure how easy or hard it would have been by night-bus or cab and I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

I did get some sleep early in the morning after dancing and chatting/chilling, but not quite enough - I hope I caught up enough with a nap earlier but I really should be getting to bed now.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Hemel Hempstead Oil/Gas Explosion

I'm sure anyone in the UK has now heard of the explosion that ocurred Sunday morning at just after 6am in Hemel Hempstead in the UK. If you live in the home counties, it's fairly likely you also saw the smoke plume as it drifted across the South-East. I did a google search this morning at work and maybe I didn't use suitable enough terms, but I came up with almost nothing. Just the normal news sites.

There are some pictures on a colleague's brother's fotothing account though. news link
BBC News has more info


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Busy busy busy

I've got a hectic schedule next week so you might not see any posts for a while, although ironically I'll be wanting to post more because of all the stuff I'll be doing.

Two Christmas dinners (Tuesday/Wednesday), a few meet-ups, and going out in London (clubs/a fair) keep me busy from this Sunday for at least a week.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogger Backlinks

Great! Blogger (the people who provide the services for this blog if you didn't know already) finally implemented a trackback-alike service, although they're calling them "backlinks". Having read the documentation they're not quite the same as, and don't support the same interface as, a trackback. That's why they're not called trackbacks. I never got around to quite finishing implementation of haloscan's trackback support, so it's nice that Blogger have added this. It seems that everything haloscan add tools for, blogger eventually add themselves; but you might have to wait a while. Having it all integrated is nice anyway. Is the trackback standard going to be supported anytime soon blogger?

As I use my own custom template, and it's been modified quite a bit, blogger's automatic tool couldn't figure out where to put the code into my template so I'm having to do it myself - although they do supply information on how to do it. I'm doing it my own way of course, taking their tags and putting them where I want with the text I want. So apologies if it's slightly broken in the first few days while I play with the layout.

I ought to get fixing the drop-down on the bottom of the right sidebar too, 'cos that list of archive months is getting a little big. As I said before I'll try to keep it usable for browsers without javascript support (or with it turned off); not that there'll be many (any?) it'll affect. If it does, why don't you add a comment/mail me? If you don't understand you probably don't need to worry.

PS: edited 'cos I originally presumed backlinks were just trackbacks by another name.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Podcast reviews

I've listened to a few podcasts now, so here's my opinion on a few of the techy-oriented ones. Note: most of these can sometimes/often contain language or even songs you might not want your granny to hear (except the Palm ones and ReelReviews, you're pretty safe there).

  • PalmForums - own a handy rss feed, but for the podcast - dull, boring voice. Try the usually bite-sized PalmAddicts instead - at least a bit more interesting.
  • Daily Source Code - he can be an arse, but he is the 'PodFather' and if you want to keep up with what's happening in the podcasting world - especially on how it's meeting the real-world media - it's worth keeping an eye on Adam Curry's 'cast (or at least his rss feed). Hard work to keep up though now it's regularly daily (as I mentioned recently)
  • Dawn and Drew - funny, risque, rude, crass, downright distasteful at times; but more than enjoyable. The best and funniest 'cast about nothing-in-particular that I know of. Now daily.
  • Reel Reviews - the best movie reviews podcast I've come across, particularly for pointing out older classics you might not have seen yet.
  • LUG Radio - the most entertaining Linux podcast around and with enough clout to get interview time with big cheeses of various important sizes from the big companies/organisations in Linux (Novell, KDE, IBM GNU to name a few), they held a Linux Expo earlier this year too. Occasionally silly, a group of four that's sometimes hard to follow if they're all talking at once, but well worth your time.
  • Keith and the Girl - another one with a (New York-based) couple talking about whatever they want, kind of interesting but not strong enough to stay on my subscriptions; I don't quite have the time for anything I'm not going to really look forward to the next episode of.

Mobile Phone Key-clicks

I was on the train back home some weeks ago and may even have been in the "quiet please" carriage that requests you not to use mobile phones so people can get some rest/even to sleep on the way back. Every now and then there was a loud beep, and I suspected it was a mobile phone but I wasn't all that sure. It was starting to really get on my nerves. It wasn't a standard "message-arrived" beep and I can't imagine it was a call coming in, I didn't hear anyone talking on a call after; was it a keypress beep? Unlikely, too few and far between. So what? It got me thinking (rant mode on).

What is it with mobiles that makes people bestow such slavishness to them? Please have some respect. You're not locked away in your own little room the second your mobile (or 'cell' as the Americans call it) starts ringing, other people do exist. Just imagine how you'd react if it wasn't a mobile but another person trying to get your attention when you were busy talking or doing something with someone else. 'Cos that's basically what it is. If it was important enough, wouldn't you apologise to the original person before saying you had to speak to the caller? You certainly wouldn't just ignore the person you were socialising with, even if it's a clerk/assistant at a shop. They're people too you know.

Maybe I should also consider forming The Fellowship Against Awful Ringtones or something? Ok. Rant mode off.



Wow what a bold title for a post. Bet it got your attention pretty quick! Especially considering my straight-laced normal posts! So what can I possibly be wanting to write about this time?

Well, Erotica is a show every year in London (Olympia, part of Earl's Court exhibition centre) with a theme of - you guessed it - erotica. I'd pondered about going to it several years back but hadn't been interested enough or thought the cost was worth it (travel, probably staying up there from where I was living at the time, plus the ticket, then probably walking round on my own and being much less confident than I am now). Now, however, I have the all-important Travelcard so getting up to and about in London costs me nowt; it was just the ticket cost (not that cheap mind - Saturday's was £24.50 being the biggest day) and anything I ended up buying. Which, luckily for my credit card bill this month, wasn't a lot. Give me an unlimited budget I might have spent a fair bit more.

Actually the most expensive thing I bought was rather boring - more shoe wax/polish. Yes, see what I mean! Perhaps I shouldn't have admitted to that but left you pondering instead...

So what prompted this? Why did I decide to mention it in my blog rather than let it by without a mention (you'd be surprised how much I've got up to recently that isn't in here...)

I suppose it's that I have explored and got to know myself better over the last year or two, that I've been having fun again after being single for far too long (hmmmmm... wishes he hadn't had such a late start in some areas) - don't worry I'm careful, and have become a lot more confident and open to talk about certain things.

PS I have other draft blogs ready to go once I've finished and edited them down a bit. Expect a few to appear at once when I get round to it (edit: err... about now!). Hopefully I'll remember to do something about their time-indices so they appear in some kind of order.


Improbably good HHGttG DVD extra

As soon as I'd seen Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy at the cinema, I knew I was going to want it on DVD. I own better movies on DVD, but the fondness for the original book/radio won over, there was a bit of the collector in me, and they did quite a good job with most of it anyway. So I ordered it soon after it was out, and it turned up quite a while ago. I only just watched it properly the other night - although I'd had a flip through the menus when I got it. The movie was still too fresh in my mind or I didn't have the time to watch it again. But I stayed up to watch the best bits again and see all the extras; Monday I think it was. In doing so, I discovered quite the most fun and best implemented feature I've come across for a long time on a DVD. Oh, the making-of feature is pretty interesting too (as they go); but the star for me is the "improbability drive". In the series, this is what drives the "Heart of Gold" ship that Arthur and Ford get picked up in (without ruining too much of the storyline for those new to it). They've implemented a way to pick a random special-feature to go to using this as an analogy, and the clip you get to see before it jumps to it is very cool, done in the same way as the movie, and fun.

Well done, Spyglass entertainment (and/or Touchstone pictures).

I have to say again, how well the Trillian character has been cast - although maybe that's just in comparison to the TV series. Zoey's sexy, intelligent, and has the right sort of chemistry with Arthur. I've already reviewed it so I won't repeat myself anymore.


Evangelical trailers

The Americans have started advertising movies, or religious-linkable movies (theoretically, anything with a good-overcomes-bad message??? ie. a large majority of all movies!?) in churches. I've just been watching ABC News (via the odd roundup they show on BBC News 24) and was appalled that they've let commercialism in like that. I know some religious sects over there (and, surely, elsewhere) are rather dodgy and seem like money-making schemes for their leaders; but this immediately made me think of that section in the bible where Jesus goes round overturning the gamblers and traders in the churches where he was growing up. Apparently they want to try and capitalise on the evangelist 'market segment' (ugh, even calling it a market segment seems wrong...)


Monday, November 21, 2005

Podcast Overload

There's just too god damn many of them. Aaaarrghhhhh!

Ok, let me explain. Listening to a show that only comes out once or twice a week isn't too much of a strain to keep up with. Especially when it's a podcast with all the "anywhere, anytime" benefits. If you don't end up having spare time to catch it on one day you've still got time before the next one comes out. But I simply don't have enough podcast-available time in the week (my commute, the odd evening if I'm in the mood and not busy), allowing time for not thinking of it sometimes or having other things I want to do (read, listen to music) to keep up with a daily podcast. At least one longer than 5 or 10 minutes anyway. There are two that I like enough to have tried it for a while (Dawn'n'Drew and Daily Source Code, (link on the sidebar->)), but ever since they've been sticking to the daily schedule it hasn't lasted. Blame it on Sirus (sp?) radio and Podshow.

A voice comment at the end of Dawn-and-Drew #190 pushed me on to post this. I decided to do a 'catch-up' on my podcast client (a self-customised version of bashpodder and a few scripts plus remembering to swap mobile phone MMC memory cards over overnight). So I skipped a fair few shows of the daily 'casts, and I don't care all that much. Maybe I'll read the rss feeds to check I haven't missed anything important. I suspect not though. But I'm happier keeping up with my once/twice-weekly or less-frequent 'casts. It's not a core leisure time interest, although I do really enjoy my favourites - especially the ones that combine humour really well with their subject, no matter how geeky or technical (eg. the Linux user's LUGRadio - prime example).


Wallace & Gromit - Case of the Were-Rabbit

We went to see Wallace and Gromit last Thursday (ooh! change from the normal Wednesday evening :-) and I certainly enjoyed it. It's pretty much up to Nick Park's usual Wallace-and-Gromit standard, perhaps not quite as good some of the earlier ones but very enjoyable none-the-less (although sometimes the jokes are quite bad puns, I still found myself laughing at them). It's better than the last big-screen outing, the chicken one (if I'm correct about that) which was a bit hit and miss for me - still fun but not quite enough there to come away fulfilled. W&G is definitely better. There's one joke that I half-saw coming but still almost made me cringe, one you couldn't have expected them not to make use of, considering the situation. You might guess which one I mean if you've seen it, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone else.

He makes clever use of several other classic (but not necessarily good) monster movies and others throughout for extra laughs, except of course W&G's take on them is oh so surreal if compared out of context. Even more appropriate given that one of them has just suffered (well, we'll see when it comes out over here) a remake.

If you want to read up on it a bit more by all means check out the IMDB details and opinions or wherever you normally go.

Of course it's suitable for the whole family, he's always good at that and you may recognise a few famous voices if you're taking notice: Helena Bonham Carter (is she moving into the voice-over business full-time? this and the new Tim Burton one); Peter Kay; Ralph Fiennes as Victor. Experts may even recognise Baron Greenback of Dangermouse-series fame in there (although I didn't until I saw the imdb entry).

My flatmate Liz just got Descent on DVD recently, I've heard good things about it so I might have to review that when I get round to watching it. Oh, and Sin City too - saw that at the cinema but wouldn't mind seeing it again. For a start Jessica Alba's rather sexy, but I think also a very suitable movie for home DVD watching in bed late at night due to it's bold and film-noir-ish style. Liz didn't get into Sin City so much and I'm not that sure it's her kind of movie; I'm keen to see what Descent is like though.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

1 Year Old!

One Year Old

My blog is one year old! I'm surprised I'm still writing entries actually. I kind of thought this would be something I kept up for a few months then lost interest in. I started a diary (the old-fashioned pen and paper type) when I was about 13 and kept that going regularly til well into university and beyond, although to be honest in later years the entries got more and more sporadic and I was always trying to catch up from previous incomplete entries. I've looked back at them since and realised I was just trying to record events and happenings, whereas the really interesting stuff would have been the thoughts and feelings associated with them.

I dare say my authoring skills have improved since then. My grammar and spelling skills have always been pretty good anyway.

Here's to more years (as long as I can write interesting or worthy posts, anyway!)


Saturday, November 12, 2005

HSBC weekend cashiers

Or rather, the lack of.

Aaargh! Noone told me! I lost my card a little while ago and had to get a new one ordered. So I'm stuck with cashing cheques (I won't use my credit card cos they charge you for it). My local town's bank is shut Saturday afternoon so I make sure to get in there for the morning, and go in to find the clerk positions are all shut! What? I'm not too late, they're not just about to shut!

So I ring for attention, and a lady comes down to explain to me that they started not opening them up on Saturdays. Basts! Apparently it's been like that for a month or two, and I don't remember receiving any mail about it (although I could be wrong). Now, you can tell I don't need the local bank's cashiers often as I hadn't noticed, but there are things that, when you do want them, it matters! I can pay checks in to the machines, I can use the machines to check my account and print a mini-statement; but cashing a cheque via a person or paying something in and getting it stamped would require me be there daytime on a weekday.

So basically I can now never use my 'home' bank's cashiers what with working in London. Ok, I can easily use London branches during the day as long as I can get out at lunchtimes which I usually can enough times in the week; but the weekend loss really sucks. I had a big complaint to them over the phone about it today when I checked whether it was just Farnham or all HSBC branches. My debit card was supposed to arrive by yesterday, and it didn't. Or today. They reckon it might arrive Monday, but basically I'm f$%^ed for cash till it does.

I'm sure if I was desparate I could borrow some from a friend but... It sucks. It really sucks.

What is it with banks these days - reminds me of the er.. Nationwide is it? advert also having a gripe at the other banks shutting branches, moving everything to outsourced call-centers in India/somewhere else half the staff don't quite understand/speak English as clearly as you'd like. I'm so tempted to move my banking to someone else who cares about their customers a bit more. Is there a bank that does? (Nationwide? dunno..)

Ok, rant over.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Skype debian package - libqt3c102-mt

Skype may be a great free Voice-over-IP (VoIP) application for all sorts of operating systems, but they should test their linux installs better. A dependency in the current debian package (and therefore affecting ubuntu, which I run), is rather broken. To the point that it stopped me installing or doing anything else with packages unless I removed the skype package. I could have done that and installed the binary, or converted an rpm package using 'alien'; but I wanted to keep it dpkg'd; and I fancied being able to do future upgrades more easily too (assuming they fix it).

When you try and do stuff it complains about one of the QT libraries - libqt3c102-mt. Ubuntu Breezy Badger and Hoary Hedgehog (version names of Ubuntu releases in case you didn't know) do have a recent enough version of this library, in fact they have a more recent version (3:3.3.3-7ubuntu3 at present) than the required (3: - but as you can see there, the subtle difference (the .2 against the -7) means the dependency-checking will break and it will think it's not new enough.

I hack-fixed mine (not all that great a solution, but I don't know enough about .deb packages yet, maybe I'd issue a better fix or provide a script to fix it for you if I did.

My hacky way (please note, usual kind of disclaimers - I don't KNOW that it won't break other stuff or future upgrades of skype but I reckon you're ok):

  1. edit /var/lib/dpkg/status using vi or gedit or whatever you like as long as it's a plain text editor that won't add extra characters to it (you'll need to use sudo or do it as root, sudo -e is handy as the command instead of your editor).
  2. Do a search for skype.
  3. Below the block of stuff for skype, you'll see a line that lists shared libraries (shlibs?) and version numbers. The bit for libqt3c102-mt needs to have the number in brackets after it changed from 3:

I actually changed mine to the -7ubuntu3 I have but that's probably not the best choice. Try 3:3.3.3-2 ie. take replace the "." in the last ".2" with "-2"). I'm not sure that's good enough, but to my mind (without testing), it's closest to being right. If it doesn't work you're welcome to try others. Save the file and exit the editor, then try rerunning synaptic or your apt-get command or whatever it was you were trying to install.

You're welcome to post comments so other people can see which one(s) work too.

The PROPER fix of course is to extract skype's .deb package, fix the control info in that (yes, I had a little look into it and understood some of it a little already but not really enough or it was going to take too long to make sure I did it right); then rebuild the package and install that instead of the one direct from the skype website. It might just be a similar change, but hey, my fix works for now and stops it complaining anytime you do package stuff.

Hopefully it won't break anything else needing that library. I doubt it will (?) but ...

Usual disclaimers, as I said above - YMMV.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Huh? Sunday evening already?

I just had a really active Saturday night/Sunday. I went clubbing on Saturday night in London, very friendly atmosphere; not very busy according to usual apparently (my first time there), it was a special event and there's another big event next weekend so some people didn't go to this one. Quite an experience. I had a good time - the important bit, and chatted to loads of people (the music wasn't too loud). When the club shut at 4am, I went on to a party after with a couple of other guys and didn't leave til 8.45am. Then I went and did some shopping. Spent wayyyy too much money, flirted with some cute sales assistants, and walked around for hours and hours. I explored a market I hadn't been in before in Camden. I am happy with all my purchases so far.

Due to the total lack of sleep or rest since Friday evening (when I had about 5hrs I think), I'm going to try and get an early night so I'm not writing any more tonight. Sorry.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

One-line thought provokers or boring trivia

A number of short thoughts or just trivia I felt like writing down here...

Be warned - I've been watching Open University (or -alike) programs about things from the macro (SETI, universe scale) to the micro (cells, mitochondria etc)

  • I never realised cells were so complex inside. I mean, I knew they were complex and amazing and that the GCSE biology I knew was almost nothing but scratching at the surface; but wow! Makes you wonder how anything like it ever evolved - and therefore, that maybe it didn't. Proteins, ribo-whatsits.. I'm not arguing that evolution didn't, and doesn't-still happen (could it be any more obvious now we know it?); just pondering on life's starting point.
  • Then you go to the macro scale and again your mind is blown by just how much is out there in the universe, the sheer volume and mass (sorry, "sheer" just doesn't even begin to cover a fraction of one tiny part of it but what can I say? Tens of billions of light years etc..) and you can begin to believe how, given enough attempts over all the star systems and all the galaxies and all the subgroups of galaxies and ... through the entire life of the universe, almost anything can happen at some place and time.
  • This post is ripe for adding to for a while still by the way, sure I had more I wanted to add.

Nature, eh!

More thoughts... With something so unbelievably unlikely by pure chance, and a metaphorical petri-dish for it all to happen in (the universe) so large, the probably tends towards 1 for it actually happening somewhere, some place, some time. But for the thing that it happens to (us say, to pick a good example :-), what must they think (assuming they can, or let's think for them)? If you're the product of something incredibly unlikely, you must think yourself very special. If you can't find or see any other instances of the situation that brought you into existance, you try to hunt for meaning elsewhere.


Flora Pro-Activ

Do I eat more cos it's got stuff that's good for my heart? Or less 'cos it's fatty and, actually, not all that good......

Ok, silly Q - I know I don't want to downing tonnes of it just cos; bit it does seem rather like trying to plug the collapsing dam with one finger when you're consuming something so full of fat anyway.


Office Joke Culture

I was listening to some of the usual banter at work a while ago, and something made me think about the different joke culture you get in different departments. Geeks have their humour, sales have theirs, and I'm sure other departments have their own topics too. It's not just about the in-jokes for each area of expertise, it's to do with the common interests you get with being someone employed in that capacity. So geeks tend to read (or know of) slashdot (glad it's moved to css now by the way, so much easier for user javascript/custom styles <grin>) and keep up with science, technology, and computer-related news; I guess other departments have their own areas. Not that I know what they are - or is it it all filled with gossip?


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


1Mb ADSL - finally!

I knew it was going to happen sometime, but if only I'd known before the event. Rather than, say, get back late (last-train-ish late) one evening last week (Thursday) and turn my desktop+firewall boxes on only to find they're not connecting. I wonder what's up - it never has any problems connecting on a clean boot. I mean never. Has my ISP got connection problems? BT ADSL problems? So I give their status-phoneline a call. Nothing reported.

I'd been doing stuff around the back of my TV what with my tube going and running a 'small' 21inch non-widescreen (you're supposed to feel pity if you hadn't realised :-) as temporary replacement; so I pondered if I'd disconnected it accidentally. But no, after stretching other cables round to plug it directly into my ADSL filter, it still wouldn't sync up. By this time it was way too late (er... yes..... mutters 4am under breath) so I went to bed and decided to worry about it later.

Going away at the weekend for the wedding meant I didn't really get to try it again til late Sunday, but I got back and it just booted up and worked. To be honest I'd wondered if they had been doing the upgrade, so was watching the system logs and was happy to see it connect at 1100kbps downstream (still only 288kbps upload bandwidth - pah!) and finally to have an explanation for the lack of connectivity (and so not being able to transfer any podcasts for listening to on the 5hr car journey on Friday afternoon/evening), but I do wish they'd let me know somehow before the event. What if I was doing something important requiring a connection, like working?


Subject Tags

You'll have noticed the tags I've started displaying at the bottom of my posts. Thanks to technorati, I can categorise my posts and it'll help you find/search my blog for an article or maybe bring in the odd few extra viewers searching at the technorati site.

I may (or not) start adding some to backdated posts but it sounds like too much effort to me. Each tag links to the technorati search topic for that tag, maybe not quite what you might expect (I'd prefer it to display all posts in my blog with that tag with the option then to go wider to all matching technorati-covered blogs), maybe that's do-able but I only just added them in so be patient!


Monday, September 19, 2005

Wedding Weekend

Not mine, as usual! A cousin's this time. We seem to average about one event per year in our family - there are enough of us around that age, or the odd big anniversary like ruby/gold weddings, etc. Apparently there aren't any more for another four years though so it's been made my task to cover next year. Anyone feel like getting married? No, of course I'm joking (you think!) but potential candidates should let themselves be known well in advance :-)

This one was up in Ripon, miles away at the other end of the country. I didn't get through quite as much camera film as I thought I would - about 3 I think, hopefully they all came out well. We'll see in a few days time.

There was a very cute girl on the catering staff there, mediterranean in appearance and happy to smile back at me but it's an awful long way away and I'll never see her again anyway.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Django is a Python (scripting programming language, non-techies) web framework I hadn't heard of until last night but I just happened to be at a pub where Simon Willison, one of the writers of the core system behind it was doing a presentation to a few people. I'd just felt like catching up with my mate who I hadn't seen for a little while so I gave him a call after work and he said come on over to Smithfields (EC1-ish I think) where it was. I don't know if Jon had gone out to have a look at this, I wasn't so interested in the actual presentation (but I have a mate who loves Python).

Another really weird coincidence was bumping into a demo coding acquaintance from years ago (not seen him in 10yrs or so), "Gasman". If he still calls himself that pseudonym. He recognised me somehow either from what I was saying or from seeing me at one or two of the NSSS shows before but I didn't know who he was til he explained. There was a bewildering moment for a second when he knew who I was but he hadn't told me who he was. Anyway, cool to meet him again. Was out til the last train back, way too late but somehow I'm up early and blogging this before I go to work.

What with all this catching up and watching him show off Django, I didn't even really get to chat to my mate much before he left. Bloody good evening though.

Forks on film

We had a very stormy evening on Sunday, so what did I do? Got my camera out and took a few b&w shots out the way, time exposures (varying from a few seconds to about 30seconds). I've never caught any on film before and I really wanted to get some 'forks on film'.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Code hacking again

It's been too long since I had a fun programming project for myself. I haven't had a pet project I've been able to start for quite a while (I had ideas, but none motivating enough).

I'm taking a look at writing a little app (or plugin? feasible?) to synchronise/integrate Opera's RSS feed support with fetching the podcasts I listen to. I also (a separate requirement) want the Opera install on my Linux box at work to synchronise with my one at home so it knows which feed articles I've read and which I haven't.

I found some python source code for exporting the list of feeds already. I'll probably just export it for something like iPodder to use for the first part, but there may be a command-line (very very simple) podcatcher on it's way as part of it.

After that, the next part for my no-hassle automatic daily synchronisation involves using a bluetooth connection from my PC (once I get a USB dongle so my PC can talk BT) to send the latest podcasts I care about and any other mp3s/info for the day to my phone (say, a 'note' with the weather for the day? My todo's?).

I currently copy stuff to my phone using my MMC card but:

  • I tend to forget so it only happens every few days
  • It's hassle to remove the card on the Nokia 6230

Notting Hill 05

I was in two minds about whether to go this year, I've been to one before (about 3/4yrs ago?) but now I work in the city and it doesn't cost me anything extra to go up there with my railcard, I thought it would be a good day out.

It's always on the August bank holiday weekend, and I went on the Monday when it was a little quieter. I spent a few hours just walking around, seeing the floats and just milling in the crowd but I did stop and party at the Good Times set which was pretty good and a great atmosphere (like the whole event). Loads of classic tracks and some good mixes.

I have a picture taken of me (mobile phone only unfortunately as my film camera had just used up a film, spur of the moment and all that) with a girl I chatted to a couple of times who had the most gorgeous bright blue eyes. She had a great dancing style (very confident and lots of fun) - I did ask whether she had those special contact lenses in that colour them, but she said not. Not quite sure I believe her but they looked amazing. Very cute. For sake of privacy I won't put them up here but here's the other phone-photos of the day (film ones yet to be developed):

GoodTimes setThe Good Times set.
The crowdsCrowds and dancers around a float
Rocketship FloatA float with rocket-engine exhaust-shape filled rear

Although the DJs stopped spinning their sound systems at about 7pm, I wandered round the rest of the route with the throng, had some food and drink, and finally left about 9.30pm. I tried catching up with my mate Jon a couple of times as he might have been there somewhere but when there's so much music around you can easily miss a phone ringing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Google Talk

Google recently jumped into the Instant-Messaging fray with their Google-Talk service. It's based on Jabber, an open protocol that's been around for a while and works pretty well (I've been using it for at least a year) that has implementations around for every operating system you can think of (and in plenty of programming languages too so I'm sure you can use it no matter how obscure your requirements). It's also secure (encrypted messages), allows files to be sent to and fro, and planned to be extensible. Google already have their own ways of adding more functionality.

The easiest way for Windows users is to download their google-talk client for it, but anyone with a jabber client and a gmail email address can use it to chat and keep their online status available to friends.

Note: announced a few days ago, I've just been late publishing this.

Browser speed

An interesting (well, ok, for me...), reasonably scientific comparison of browser speed on all the main platforms and for all the main browsers. Opera claims to be the fastest, and, whaddaya know?

Browser Speed Wars

I've always loved Opera ever since I came across it and with v8 it's become even better, and quicker to startup. You do have a while from cold start, but once it's loaded everything runs very nicely, and it's stupidly customisable (I love this) although you do have to be a bit of a techy to mess around in depth. I read all my rss feeds in it now and the only thing left is for it to catch my podcasts too then I'll be sorted. Read the next post.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Renault Clio Cup182

I had a test drive last weekend (20th Aug) in a Renault 182 Cup - the next one on from the 172 of a year or two ago?

Nice effective and gradual brakes but not a lot of feel. Nice steering feedback, quite light too, but I do prefer my Scooby which does have very nice steering.

Seating position isn't that great - it requires a slight reach for the gearstick (and with me being 6' with long arms what about anyone else?); the seat's a fair bit higher than I'm used to, I felt too high but it could just have been my Subaru conditioning. Needs quite a few revs before it feels powerful. I only really experienced the full pull once, accelerating up onto a dual carriageway and it felt like I was pushing it too far as the revs got to 6k rpm. My Scooby's redline is 7k, and the turbo-boost is limited at 6.5 when there's a very noticable and fairly sudden drop in power if you've got your foot down so I always change up before then even if I'm really going for it. But that's what it took for it to feel a fast car. Mind you, the red line is at 7.4k I think. It was quite a gradual step up from feeling like an ordinary capable little supermini to the power surge, which I almost disliked - the turbo kick may have it's downside (ugh.. lag..) but you certainly know when you're on boost! It involves you more as you're thinking about the revs, and just generally, from being pretty manic (scary if you're not used to it) acceleration at full pelt). Is this Clio a VVT-type engine (or Renault's equivalent)?

It was fun anyway, and another car to add to my experience


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Damn puncture. Might have got it pinched against a kerb or something Saturday night when parking up/leaving, but it went flat as a pancake and was instantly noticable as I drove away - but I dropped off the kerb immediately as I moved away so I didn't have any gap between moving or steering and noticing it to be able to say.

Still, I needed the car for Sunday so I couldn't leave it there and come back in the morning (early-ish start) to sort it out at leisure; besides, my mate was going out Sunday too. I'd had a good evening at his just hanging out with a few friends and playing games, so to be changing a tyre for my space-saver spare at 12.30am was not fun. Thankyou very much again for your help though, Jim. Half an hour later I drove home carefully and noticing the difference in grip; lighter steering; and tendency for the ABS to come on without anywhere near the normal amount of provocation. Not going to dare to push it's performance envelope like this.

I made it down to Lewes-way-ish and back again - 5hr drive there and back via picking a friend up without a problem luckily. Not an ideal trip to make on a spare tyre but it had been arranged weeks ago and I didn't want to let everyone down at the last minute. Gotta see if they can repair the tyre now, or if it's another £44 into that bottomless pit they call car maintenance (glad it was a cheap tyre).

PS: more posts coming soon, got a few lined up in draft.

Monday, August 22, 2005


One good thing about IE (yep, I found one!)- it works with pages that need IE. That's usually bad though (doh..) cos it means it's using some kind of insecure scripting or ActiveX (argh help!). Ok, there are exceptions. One other: I suppose that it's the default browser used by an awful lot of people just cos they've never considered there might be another option. No, hang on, that's a bad thing (again) - you need to make sure it looks ok in IE even if your code doesn't look good/right.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Charlie's Chocs

Another film review! God, I'll be turning this site into a movie blog! I did say I had a few to catch up on.

Our usual gang went to go see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Wednesday evening. We were all quite interested to see it, but only one of us had seen the first film version; I went with a clear mind and almost no expectations. Well, ok, I expected Johnny Depp to be at least 'ok' as Willy Wonka. He was. I don't know how much more than that I can posit though.

So what did I think of it? Really, I'm not quite sure. It's been two days and I still don't quite know how much I liked it. I can quantify it by saying it'd score somewhere between 6 and 8 out of 10 (as per IMDB's voting system), but I can't be any more precise than that. Sorry.

Should you go see it? Maybe. It's got the Oompa Loompas, not the same as the first movie at all according to my esteemed mate though. It's got Depp as a little-bit-crazy Willy Wonka who almost breaks into dance with the Oompas (or should I call them Loompas???), then remembers one of his guests has gone and has to look disapproving. It's got lavishly designed and almost Tim-Burton-esque-in-ways sets in the chocolate factory and rather a good effect for the elevator. Very colourful, realistic chocolate rivers and scenery. The other children are indeed despicable and it's easy to hate them and empathise with Charlie (very well cast). And... And... I'm running out of things to say.

I very much enjoyed the two books (choc. factory and great glass elevator) when I was growing up, and I hope Roald Dahl would be happy with this rendering of his story; he wouldn't turn in his grave but I don't know how excited he'd get. If you're keen to see it by all means go, if you've got kids they might enjoy it more than you if they're not looking for anything deeper; but don't put it top of your schedule. That's my opinion anyway.


Batman Begins : Sin City

Ok, no the caped crusader didn't really begin there. But it was a good title for the post; and Frank Miller is involved in some way in the creation of both. So it's appropriate I saw them within a few days of each other. The mainly black-and-white, and heavily film-noir Sin City is based on Frank's (not so comic) comics of a city so twisted, corrupted and lawless that you can get away with anything given the right friends or deals. Now we come onto Batman, who in this movie has to protect a corrupt, twisted.. Gotham from destruction. Coincidental?

It's not Frank's first time with Mr. Wayne as I mentioned earlier - he did a superb job redefining the Batman character in perhaps his most acclaimed work as a dark vigilante-style hero. This was animated, dark, film-noir-like stuff (although a lot more cheerful than Sin City) and brilliantly done. The drawings were spot on, the stories were good if I remember correctly, and I heartily recommend you check it out if you've not come across them before and it's your thing (if you can find it anywhere). One of my favourite cartoons of that style. Although calling it a cartoon doesn't do it justice.

Batman is one of those films you don't want to end when it's building up the tension and action, and the flashbacks to his youth are linked in very well to explain Batman's back-story. Ok, I knew the basics and some of you may have known more detail; but I certainly got a good insight and a real believable link between Bruce as a child and the dual personality of the business-man and the hero now.

They're both very well made, dark, gritty, and entertaining films. I think I liked Batman more; Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are great in their supporting roles (Michael Caine really makes a great butler to Christian Bale's tormented child and later, man-in-kevlar-black avenger).

Oh, and Katie Holmes is gorgeous (as usual); but it says enough about the movie that she wasn't one of the main reasons I went to see it.


Parties and Power Sockets

A party on both of the last 2 weekends left me a bit exhausted and low on motivation to do much when I got back home in the evenings, so I'm glad this weekend's a bit more relaxed. Just two things to do: one involves a regular favour for my mate's mum looking after their house while they're away, the other is more fun - finding out who I'll still recognise at the car meets I used to go to when my Scooby was on the road. I haven't been to one since it's been road-taxed again and I missed the last 2 months events due to being too busy, so I'm looking forward to some fun driving and catching up with the bunch.

The reason I was so busy at the weekends is that I was in Nottingham two weeks ago for a big party, took the train up with my reduced fair on the railcard; the weekend before that I was in London and visited a Health Spa for the first time ever; and the one after it I was catching up on film-watching (which made me really busy :-) and doing some bellringing (for a wedding).

Now, there's not so much I can really tell you (and keep this respectable) about the party in Notts, except that I had a great time, was up til 5am-ish (was all a haze by then, so not sure!) on Saturday night - or Sunday morning to be more accurate, and had 3hrs sleep. Does it seem sad that the 'revelation' I want to blog about more is that the train up from Kings Cross had power sockets by the seats? I've never come across this before. Only intended for mobile phone/laptop chargers but very handy for keeping your device topped up. Particularly if, like me, you use your phone as your iPod-alike mp3 player - the media player does suck up battery life like a hoover. Caught up with a few podcasts on that trip and did some more reading of Douglas Adams' biography (which I've now just finished).

Unfortunately the train coming back sucked - low seat backs, half the number of carriages and from rather old stock (apparently the original one had problems and that was all they could get their hands on for that service).

I've now seen Sin City, Batman Begins (good film, recommended - way better than the last couple of cheesy attempts), and Van Helsing + School of Rock on satellite. Made up for not watching any (well, only one) since I'd started work. Reviews may be forthcoming for the two I saw at the cinema (and both have Frank Miller connections so very appropriate I saw them so conjointly).

School of Rock / Van Helsing aren't worth raving about (although I missed some of the start of V.Helsing), but they're ok films to pass the time with and School of Rock is kinda fun. VH is blah blah with a few nice SFX. I've always liked Jack Black since I saw him in Hi-Fidelity (worth renting) but he was a little too much at times in SoR. Very charismatic, just a little more than I was ready for at times. Not as bad as Jim Carrey in some of his but I hope you get my point.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


So, the new job.

Having allowed myself time after my trip to Barcelona, I was rested for my first day commuting up to London. I needed to be, cos at least an hour and a half each way of travelling (if I walk to the station) can take it out of you, even if you are sitting for most of it. But I'm getting used to it. Actually, it means I now get time to read, listen to podcasts again or my music - which I haven't done much of for quite a while. Particularly reading.

This is a good thing (tm) because while exploring London in the first week I found the official Douglas Adams biography, and being a fan of Hitch-Hikers Guide I had to get it - for the £4 I didn't care if I could have got it cheaper online. It's proving a good insight into the man, and well enough written that I'm getting into it although the flow could have been improved: I think Mark (Webb, the author) has tried to put too much into it as part of the text. Don't get me wrong, some of the snippets are fascinating; but it felt like there were too many or they were more deeply explored sometimes than I cared about. Maybe it depends how big a fan you are for the more trivial items. Good use has been made of footnotes for some of them so it's not as bad as it could be (very occasionally footnotes fill half the page!). I always loved the books and radio series and the TV version was cult sci-fi although nowhere near as well made or as funny. Very much looking forward to movie no.2 though, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe".

So, I'm getting through the book, catching up with Adam Curry / Reel Reviews / others and making use of my Travelcard with free zone 1-6 travel in London (ouch.. £285 a month to commute). The job's going fine, I'm settling in and getting to know the project and the people I'm working with a little better, and looking forward to the increased socialising opportunities. Not quite sure whether anyone from work hangs out with anyone else in the evenings ever, but I did come across a few having a drink in the pub right next door to us last Friday noon. I've been busy every weekend since (parties! - but that's another blog post) so I haven't really considered asking them if they want to go for a drink, but I'm sure I'll get to know them better in due time.

One other sidenote I had to mention was being able to add one more shirt back into my arsenal as a direct result of the new job. I had a light purple one two years ago that I kind of had to retire to the back of the wardrobe purely because it was too like my work uniform at the Post Office. Now I don't work there anymore, I don't feel like I'm at the P.O. everytime I wear it. Hurrah!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Barcelona Blogged

Ok, time to write up my (awesome, by the way) trip to Barcelona before it's too late.

I spent almost 5 whole days there - they were doing a 4-nights-for-the-price-of-3 offer, and it was great. I flew out very early Sunday (10th July) and got back home about 1am Friday morning, and it stayed sunny and lovely and warm (30deg ish) almost the whole time. Of course I got back to find the UK had been having the same - oh well, missed boasting rights on that one.

I'd had several places recommended by mates before I went out there - Montserrat for views and walks, Montjuic for the fountains, and of course all the culture (museums, architecture, Las Ramblas shopping). Picasso lived there for quite a while, as did Gaudi - who could ask for more in modern art?

I visited the Picasso museum; walked round Parc Guell (which Gaudi designed, some great sculptures and decorated/designed buildings); saw the Sagrada Familia (unfinished Gaudi-designed cathedral) with it's very impressive towers and detailing; shopped; had some great views and sunsets from the hills (Guell & Montjuic) and one spectacular and remember-forever dinner on the last evening; practiced some limited Spanish (my pronounciation still sucks but I know how to use it a bit more :-) ); that's not all but I should stop for a moment to catch my breath.

I also burnt through 7 rolls of film, and after looking at the results I'm giving up on my ordinary Kodak print films and sticking with Fuji for trips like this. Reala when appropriate, and Superia 400 the rest of the time. Some really great images, although quite a few more experimental ones that didn't work so well. But good fun, and I haven't used my camera so much in ages (partly due to the d&p cost).
Used up a couple of black and white films that I'd had for a while too, processed through Metro Imaging in London last week when I started commuting up there. Completely forgot I had the last shots from a cousin's wedding on there too, some of which look really great and I'll definitely have to do good size prints of; the holiday b&w's also have a good ratio of nice shots as I took more time with those ones.

I checked out the best patisserie for sweets and pastries too, Escribas on Las Ramblas (#83) have really got it down to a fine art and won awards for it. Absolutely delicious, I only wish I'd kept them longer to show off/allow others a taste. They look great too. Discovered that one from a guide book.

There's still lots more that I didn't have time to do (well, I had relax time as well as sight-see time having not had a proper abroad hols for myself in a long time) - I didn't make it to Montserrat (an hour away), those fountains were only running near weekends and short of knowing that and going up there the Sunday evening after I got there, I couldn't have seen them. I would have liked to check out a club there even if it would have been hard chatting to anyone except other tourists or friendly English-speaking Catalonians, I could have seen more of the Sagrada Familia, I could have spent more time on the beach (did sunbath a bit most mornings on my hotel-room balcony), oh but not to worry of the things I didn't do; remember fondly the things I did.

I might even add more later; it's getting late now, I need sleep so I can get up for the train to London tomorrow (all about this on the next blog entry I suspect).


Friday, July 01, 2005

Time for a break

I did it last time too (well, actually the time before that). Got an exciting new job, go on holiday. New jobs don't usually give you an instant years worth of holiday leave so I thought I'd make something of the 2 weeks I allowed myself in between the Post Office and my new programming job in London. I have been wanting to go to Spain for a while (after my trip to Mexico last year for my brother's wedding, I have to comment yet again on how beautiful it was down on the beach). So I grabbed a load of brochures, scoured the public library for relevant books and did some research. I didn't know all that much about the country, my knowledge went up exponentially overnight.

I decided it was going to be a few days (like my NY trip the last time I did this) rather than a week, still allows me time to get my life in order a bit before the new job and to recover at home before starting. Obviously Spain is wayyyy too big to see all of it in one stay and it wasn't even realistic to explore one area well so I was going for a city-break. Barcelona sounded like a good choice being near the sea and having a lot of culture - a good mix of beach and sightseeing. Madrid was tempting, maybe even Valencia but the Barcelona mix sounded more like what I wanted.

Just booked it today! Can't wait! Got to swot up on what Spanish I've learned, keep the TVEi channel on in the background, my book+tapes to hand, and not forget the dictionary. I've still got about a week after I quit the P.O. before I go so plenty of time to prepare.

There was rather a nice girl in the travel agents too when I booked it - ended up being the best offer, she was the most friendly and most helpful, willing to put the extra effort in to check things for me whereas the other people I spoke to didn't sound like they cared so much.

I'm still a little high actually, maybe I should write more when I've calmed down. Only tomorrow to go at the P.O.! Then a leaving drink or two. Will have to take it easy after that - went out last night for a flatmate's leaving do, he's off to Canada for a long trip and had a few drinks (but luckily not enough to suffer this morning for my last full day), will likely be out the rest of tonight and already had a quick one after work; then out tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure tomorrow will turn into an all-nighter although not everyone'll be there for the duration.

Hope you're all having as good a time as I am :-) Catch you later!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Long Tail

Quote from The Long Tail blog. It's all about using referrer networks and working out good "recommendations" (eg. per Amazon product pages) based on other peoples tastes, p2p networks are related too by their nature. Very thought provoking.

The problem with social software as a recommendation network has its roots in the problem of social software itself. "Friend" is a pretty blunt instrument when it comes to describing relationships, especially in matters of taste. The sad reality is that most of my friends have rotten taste in music (I don't hold it against them), while the music recommendations I actually follow are mostly from people I've never met, be they Rhapsody editors or MP3 blogs. Same for virtually every other narrow category where I need advice; odds are that the real subject matter experts aren't anyone I know. In other words, the assumption that there's a correlation between the people I like and the products I like is a flawed one. To use an analogy, Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, famously uttered this truism (now known as Joy's Law): "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." The same might be said of recommendations. No matter who you are, someone you don't know has found the coolest stuff. Compounding the problem, the people whose recommendations I trust in music are different from those whose recommendations I trust in movies. Gadgets are yet another group of mavens, as are games and books. Indeed, although I have dozens of "trust networks" (usually formed by reputation and experience, not personal relationships), most of them have nothing in common with each other, and almost none of them I consider friends. Some of them aren't even human--they're software. In a sense, you can think of all your filters as being part of orthogonal trust networks, often with the only common member being yourself. They rarely, if ever, overlap. Thus any service that tries to condense all of your different planes of influence into a single dimension is going to fail, at least as far as useful recommendations go. That isn't to say that such services shouldn't offer playlist sharing and Amazon wishlists, only that I'm likely to find better advice elsewhere.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Cars, Parties, Job, Dates

Wow it's been a while since I last wrote.

Done an awful lot - maybe that's why I haven't got round to posting, having been so busy. My life is definitely taking a turn for the better: my car is finally back on the road again (yahoo!) - originally with the intention of selling it, assuming I couldn't get any more computing work, but it's worked out I don't need to now; I've had a date recently with someone I met from a dating website that went well and 2nd date is this weekend (plus lots of fun chatting online in the evenings); the job thing is sorted; and I've been to a great party recently too.

The last two weeks at work have just been really hectic - with end-of-the-month time and a bank holiday weekend to boot. I've done more than the equivalent of a full-time week and all that while trying to arrange car insurance, it's servicing/work on it (ouch... new clutch, flywheel, 4 new tyres, ...), and catch up with other important things.

It's all beginning to look quite rosy in fact. Like it! More details on everything later, as it all progresses if appropriate. I'm too busy to write more now!

Thursday, May 05, 2005


I went to see Hitch-Hikers Guide on Wednesday. Quite enjoyed it, despite the rather-disappointed reviews I heard from other people. Maybe they went with too high expectations but I adjusted mine based on what they'd said and therefore went with the mind that any decent movie would be a step up. I'll try to avoid spoilers in this review but I may mention places from the story so if you want a completely fresh view of the movie, don't read past where I start getting into details (I'll let you know).

I was a big fan of the radio series and the books. I own all of the HHGG series plus the Dirk Gently books, "Last Chance to See" (humourous but serious account of a trip to look at our disappearing species) and even the "Meaning of Liff" alternative place-name meanings dictionary (best way I can describe it). I remember being sat glued to the radio many years ago as a teenager for one of the re-runs after having read the first book (was a present, I think). Brilliant humour, quite slapstick/silly at times and very enjoyable science-fiction.

The TV series was cult-viewing once I finally saw it, and although it wasn't a true classic there are some really impressive aspects like the 'guide' hand-drawn animation special effects that look very computer-generated. Just a pity about Trillian being such an unbelievable bimbo of a character. The movie version of her is a lot, lot, better. Sorry Sandra Dickinson, but you just weren't quite right for the TV part.

I wasn't keen on the introduction to the movie - it doesn't need nearly so much narrative and while Stephen Fry does a good job narrating the whole movie, in a voice not too far removed from the original series' style, it doesn't quite work. It's a bit too theatrical to launch straight into. Maybe "camp" is a better word. Either way you're not prepared for it and the rest of the movie is (luckily) a departure from it. Maybe the producer/screenwriters had an experiment, but it doesn't work well.

The first half of the movie is ok, but it gets a lot better as you get into the later scenes. Of course, knowing the story really well and all the differences between the book/radio/TV, I was thinking ahead as I watched it - wondering how they would do such-and-such, whether certain parts would be in or skipped, would they add anything to cover the narrative elsewhere etc. Sometimes I mentally cried out "noooo!" when they missed out a bit I really enjoyed from another version. Other times I was left surprised but strangely thinking "yes, this could work" when they put more in.

Ok, enough spoiler-free - beware some spoilers (not complete details though) from here on in.

For example, I wasn't expecting any kind of romance - none of the other adaptations have anything of this until much much later on - Arthur has a few thoughts to himself or there might be a little related background-historical narrative but that's it. Movies always tend to play the romance up for commercialism and more rounded characters/ a better emotional ride, so I should have expected something. I won't reveal between who although you can probably guess if you know the books particularly the later ones in the trilogy (of four... or is it five now?).

The parts that I'll remember, and remember laughing out loud for some time at, are in the latter half and are mainly visual gags when they're on Magrathea and with Slartibartfast.. This bit also has the best special effects by far and without a doubt makes it pretty believable. I feel this was a massive benefit of doing the movie now rather than 10 or 20 years ago as the computer graphics enhancement really helped add amazement and awe to the scale of things. There were some scenes here I just found hard to imagine when I read the books. I know of the expression "radio has better pictures" and the same can be said of books, but here's one area where the movie does it really well and doesn't make you regret having a visual image to refer to at all. If I read the book again I'll be picturing the movie at these points, and I won't be regretting it.

Zaphod Beeblebrox's tacky plastic head was one of the tackiest effects from the TV series, and of course the movie-budget allowed for a complete remake of this and proper effects to make it look as real as possible. I thought they'd given up on 2 heads when I first saw him, or that maybe it would come in later on in the story. It'll probably scare you a little and definitely surprise you for how they did it.

Trillian, as I said, although not an amazing part or played beyond reproach, is sooo much better a character in the movie that I really wish she'd been more like that in the TV series. You can believe in her as this really intelligent, slightly mad geeky girl who is more than happy to be whisked away by the over-confident Zaphod (and happy to believe he's from another planet), but yearns for someone who 'gets' her rather than treats her like his model bit-on-the-side who can run his ship for him and look after his life.

Martin Freeman is a good Arthur Dent. I missed Simon Jones when I first started watching it but that was because I associated him with the part so strongly - he did the TV series Arthur as well as the radio show version of him. Once I'd got used to Martin as Arthur, I think he played the part fairly well. He didn't quite make the character his own strongly enough for me to be impressed, but he did a decent job of it. Simon Jones was quite a moany Arthur, but he was good at it. Martin is quite relaxed and chilled by comparison, but he lets things drift by and happen to him more than he takes an active part in events.

Mos Def as Ford Prefect was a total surprise. I'd barely seen him in any promotional material and I hadn't been examining the cast lists. Has he been in any/much else? I don't know. A black Ford Prefect? Ok. I can get used to that. Sorry, not much more to say on him.

There still isn't enough comedy in the movie to be true to Douglas Adams style. Granted, a lot of his humour in the other versions relies on your imagination creating wacky images that just doesn't work in a hollywood-style movie (where imagination workload = almost nil). But they did a good job with the bits they did put in, there just needed to be more, and better spread throughout the movie not concentrated towards the end.

If I start writing much more I'll get too analytical, so I'm just going to conclude with it being a worthwhile watch and good fun, but hoping for improvements for the next one. Oh yep, they just did the first book so far...


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Who am I voting for?

I took a poll at Who Should You Vote For and it came up with the following. I always thought of myself as Lib Dem, maybe Conservative as a backup option; this result shows Lib Dem's only 4 points behind Green for my ideal fit party. I would love to be able to vote Green and for them to be realistic hopes, but I also feel too strongly against their policy on some things so it has to be Lib Dem. Mainly, I was for the war in Iraq - I just hate how we got lied to, and I hate how the aftermath has been dealt with by everyone; plus I'm not 100% against foxhunting - my ploy would be to licence it, and require a fair effort to obtain a one-off licence - get the landowners to sign it off as well as the hunt participants, and place limits on how much/what is caught and maybe what happens to the catch.

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:
Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour -23     
     Conservative 11
     Liberal Democrat 33
     UK Independence Party 6
     Green 37

You should vote: Green

The Green Party, which is of course strong on environmental issues, takes a strong position on welfare issues, but was firmly against the war in Iraq. Other key concerns are cannabis, where the party takes a liberal line, and foxhunting, which unsurprisingly the Greens are firmly against.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Opera (v8)

It might be just coincidence, but I felt like checking the Opera web browser site today - something I do only rarely. By chance, they've just released version 8 of my favourite browser to the world yesterday (Windows and Linux versions, Mac version in beta) so of course I just had to go get it. I've been using it for a year or two (ish) now and although I occasionally switch to Firefox/IE (when in Windows) when I have to, if I could live in Opera I would.

For the majority of people reading this, I suspect you'll be using Internet Explorer, maybe Firefox. If it's IE, where have you been? Do you really like millions of windows open on your desktop, one per page? Everyone else has tabbed browsing. Opera does it well. Your browsing will be more secure with Opera (count the IE hack exploits). It has a relatively small market share but I don't understand why it isn't more popular. Ok, it's advert-supported but you can pay to remove those if they really take up too much screen space (and they don't use much). Firefox might render and work with more pages, but it's just so lacking in customisation and it's not as fast.

For Linux (KDE in particular) users, Konqueror is pretty fast and will render uncomplicated pages fine, but it does fall down on too many sites to become anyone's full-time browser.

Opera is multi-platform, fast, very customisable (find a toolbar button you don't want, or one you want elsewhere? change it. prefer to move back and forwards in your page history with the mouse? you can (guestures). got a key shortcut you want to use for anything? set it up.); and I also rather like their bookmark/history/search/transfers-list (like firefox's download manager) sidebar that you can bring up/shut down with F4 (or any key you change it to), it's search-as-you-type is great.

One of their big features (but not one I care about) is support for different devices - they make a version for your PDA/smart-phone, and for quite a few other types of computer too. It's also really easy to zoom in/out, and it zooms images too. Set up your own stylesheet for it to render pages with and it'll ignore the page's own, or combine them.

In short, it's great. If you've not given it a go before, why not take a look.

Download Opera

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A word in your ear: phone headsets

So how do you save arm effort and/or neck strain while spending an inordinate number of hours talking to your mate on the phone (or listening to mp3s or the radio or whatever) and keeping it private?

Headphones are the answer, but the connection between them and your device is the problem if you involve style, required power, and comfort:

  1. Standard wired head/ear phones - they only stretch so far, with cable that can flap about or get snagged and pull the 'phones from your ears. The cable always gets tangled up taken off unless you pack them away carefully (that must be a universal law, like bread landing buttered side down).
  2. Bluetooth headset - you look like a twat, to be honest. Especially the over-the-ear style all-in-one kits. Fit and comfort are very important here if worn for long periods. The other option involving a separate box of tricks needs wires again, and while reducing the required length and need for wires draped around the body, still kind of negates the point (although looks better)..

Damn we need another option.

Mad Weekend

Last weekend was totally mad:

  • Friday - pub, drink, talk. Drank a little more than intended.
  • Saturday - attend a colleague's 40th birthday party. Also involved drinking.
  • Sunday - back at midnight after evening with a couple of friends playing the Harry Potter board game (based on cluedo). With an early Monday start that wasn't so great for my sleep.

I need another weekend to recover!

An Audience (for moi)

I started writing this blog partly for myself as a diary: I used to keep one regular as clockwork many years (2 decades-ish) ago, and it wasn't just a phase I went through - I've got about 5 notebooks full. But I also did it so family and friends too, if they were interested, could see what I'd been up to recently. I don't always remember everything worth telling on the phone to everybody, and some people I don't call so much have been surprised before when I've referred to things they hadn't a clue I'd done. Oh, and I suppose there's a bit of fame-seeking/wanting to be heard in the mix too (but not too much, I hope). But I really didn't expect to get any kind of readership, of any regularity whatsoever.

But it turns out someone has been quite interested. At least for a little while anyway. I'm sure they'll give up soon (or already have?) but I got a strange mail a while ago from someone that I really wasn't sure was real, but it turns out they were (I'm still hoping :-), and that I had someone who had read and looked at my site/blog over the course of more than one day! Wa-hoo!!!

Mmmm... Most people probably wouldn't bother blogging, or even mentioning, about having an audience (probably temporary)... of 1... (other than the irregular but intended audience).

PS: Hi, if you're still reading... Don't let me get too big-headed! :-)

Change of Name Deed: Archbishop to Pope

I have been watching the news about the new Pope Benedict, and wondering where each pope gets their name from. So in his "previous life" (as I've heard it referred to) as a Cardinal, he was Joseph Ratzinger; now he's Benedict XVI. So how does one become the other? Why is he not Pope Joseph? An item on the news indicated that he chose the name. So they all get to choose? Hypothesise: you become pope. What name do you choose? Could we ever have Pope Fred? Or do they have to be names of biblical figures? Or of a saint? Or does God "tell" him his new name? Can anyone explain how this works?

Did he have to go to a solicitor and get a change of name deed for it? Sorry, enough being silly.


Is that like Orienteering? Both involve wondering around the country trying to get a clue, and there's only one winner.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Astrology - true traits or gobbledygook?

I'm not a believer in using astrology to predict the future, but I do believe in the time of year you were born having an effect on your personality, or at least a tendency to influence. I think it's more likely to do with the seasons or other natural environmental factors than certain stars or planets, or maybe even the mother's pre-natal hormones; but it does seem to match up with character traits more often than chance would allow. Has anyone ever researched this?

It would be interesting to find out how astrology developed and whether there was any logic behind it or not. That might be rather hard to do, as the basic art/science (leave you to argue that one out) has been around for thousands of years - ever since the Greeks I think, maybe earlier.

There's other, personally observed evidence I could cite to corroborate the personality-traits part of this hypothesis. I know two Leo's quite well who show typical Leo-like personalities in many ways. Both come from completely different backgrounds, they know each other well but only in the last 10yrs or so. I can display quite strong Taurus features sometimes, but be non-typical at other times. I am right at one end of the date-range for Taurus though. Obviously if everyone acted exactly how their star-sign said they should everything would be way too boring and predictable, we'd all be using it to our advantage and people would get used/taken-advantage-of because of it. My brother is an Aries and I think that has some matches too... So is it all just fluke/my human brain being particularly good at seeing patterns that aren't there (as we're all wont to do), or is there more... (cue Twilight Zone theme music to fade)

Extensive use made of's Thesaurus earlier! Great tool when you know what you want but can't quite locate the exact word from memory.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

New Scrubs!

Anyone who can get E4 and is a fan of the wacky hospital-based sitcom Scrubs should know that it's just started a new series and is looking like it's going to be just as funny as the last one. I trhink this must be the third series at least now, and it's fairly well known but hasn't creeped into the general population anywhere near as much as say Friends, ER, or more recently Will & Grace.

It's great comedy, a edging towards slapstick in it's humour approach, most of it revolving around the relationships between the main characters and the situation part of it, their jobs. What's more Heather Graham's joined this series as a new doctor and I'm more than happy to watch her. Actually, it didn't have any major eye candy before - except when Tara Reid ran for a while as JD's girlfriend. Elliot's kinda cute but not in the typical hollywood fashion, and that character's a bit messed up psychologically too. Er... well I think most of them are a bit messed up to be honest, makes the humour so much easier; but you can still understand them even when they go past the normal empathy point.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Local libraries on the net

Wow, this is a revelation. Well, maybe that's OTT but I just found out you can renew library books, check any requests, and get notified by email for any overdue renewals on the internet nowadays. Well, at least in Surrey. You need your card (with the number) and a PIN code you can get by request from the site or by popping into your library and asking. If you're in Surrey go to the Surrey County Council's website. Don't know about other counties but it's worth a try - google it or something, it might be www.<countyname>

Sunday, April 03, 2005

5280 Green Feet

I ended up watching The Green Mile (aaahh - get the post title now?) again tonight, as Film Four are having a freeview weekend. Didn't see all that many films on that I haven't seen before and was interested in - Birthday Girl was on while I was eating dinner/chatting with our visitors from Canada (landlord's friends) with Nicole Kidman & Ben Chapman; then somehow, I ended up watching the whole of The Green Mile again. Bloody good film, it's one that if you start watching it for any length of time you're just going to have to watch to the end no matter how much you tell yourself you've seen it before and, you know, it really is bedtime...

It gets very emotional, enough to bring a tear to your eye as you really care about the characters. Frank Darabont (director) has done a great job bringing the gravity of death row to the screen without being overdramatic. There are some quite graphical scenes of the executions in there, not comedic B-movie blood'n'guts but horrific scenes that make you think about this type of punishment and wonder how it was allowed. But the movie wouldn't carry as much weight without the shock factor and these thought-provoking images.It really brings it home.

Tom Hanks is great in it as you'd expect, and there are some good strong supporting roles particularly from Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey, the mysterious condemned man with a touch of magic about him. The story is based on a Stephen King novel which should tell you something of it's quality. That reminds me - must do some more reading. Bought Dreamcatcher today real cheap at a market - I can always BookCross it if I don't like it.

In short, if you're reading this and intrigued by the movie, and haven't seen it, I strongly recommend you go rent or maybe even buy it. Or trade in to get it at Xiddi.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Happy Easter

I know it's late, but I hope you all had a good one. I've been having quite a busy weekend and although I had to work Saturday morning it was still good. I normally visit my parents over Easter, in fact this is the first year I haven't.

My landlord has a couple of old friends from Canada over and it's been fun going out with them. We went for a lovely afternoon drink or two in a couple of pubs towards Winchester, each had a well in the pub and one of them was 300ft deep. You could drop an ice cube down and it took several seconds before you see it hit the water atthe bottom. The other one was used to supply water for the micro-brewery there that has produced consistently prize-winning beer, and I have to say, it was very nice indeed. Strong-ish stuff, but not sweet like they can be sometimes - had a slight sharpness to it that just suited it perfectly.

Now I've got to find some photos for a competition I usually enter, I managed to win a category last time and usually do fairly well so let's hope I can improve again.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 - easier comments

I think blogger must have realised some people hated their old comments system that was just too involved and hard to post to. You had to create a user for yourself, even just for one tiny one-line comment... I guess that might have stopped quite a few people making comments.

So along comes a new, easier to use comments system; and we also get pop-up comments (in my opinion the best way to go). Great. Might have to post an anonymous one here to test it out. Anyone else feel welcome to do likewise.

School dinners

Everyone rips on them and we all know they are bad, but watching Parky tonight with Jamie Oliver (+ Billie Piper, the new Dr. Who 'babe'; and Ewan McGregor - very interesting, cool guy by the way), are the nations children really suffering that badly from lack of proper nutrition?

School children (heck, anyone) should not subsist purely on a diet of junk fast-food like McD's, BK, KFC etc.. Microwave-meals are almost as bad apparently, and I can believe that. I haven't seen the Supersize Me film but obviously that's aiming at the same problem. I find it hard to believe what Jamie was saying about a lot of the kids (and not just the really young ones) not being able to identify 'normal' fresh foods. Like rhubarb. But apparently that's so.

If you read this and have children living without at least a few proper cooked meals per week, made from fresh (or frozen at least) ingredients, I'd love to have a straw poll in my comments. If you're one of the ones who regularly feeds them good food then I also want to hear.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Nintendo DS and midnight shopping

Ever been out at midnight to do some shopping? I don't mean to the 24hr supermarkets or your local 7-11 type place for essential groceries or snack-attack fixes; I mean other goods shopping.

I haven't done anything this crazy in a while, but this Thursday evening me and my mate Jon decided to head off to our nearest big town's Game games/console shop to see if their Nintendo DS offers were worth taking advantage of. Just for the hell of it. The handheld gaming console was released on Friday so they opened up specially for the punters who just had to get one as soon as possible.

It was weird walking down the main streets in darkness with noone else around, and also, you're probably thinking, kinda sad. But it was also cool in a geeky way and neither of us had to get up early on the Friday or had done anything so mad for a while. So it had to be done. It's not even as if you couldn't get a console already, as they had been available on import from the US for ages - but this was the official UK launch.

I ended up buying a couple of games for my PC (damnit, knew it was fatal to go in there) - haven't bought any for a couple of years. My PC's getting a little old now for brand new games but it'll happily play the older ones so I got Homeworld (had been considering this for a while anyway), Worms Armageddon (been a fan since the first sit-around-the-keyboard multiplayer Amiga version my mates had), and Master of Orion 3 on a buy-2-get-1-free offer. So when people ask "So what was the last mad thing you did?", I can now tell them (if I dare admit) it was this year not last (or the year before, as likely).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

IT Safe - Government IT security initiative

The UK government has created a website to help your average 'net and computer user keep up to date with security issues in general - PCs (especially web browsing, viruses), mobile phones, portable computing. You can sign up with your email address to receive notices of major threats and what you can do about it, so it's not a daily thing for minor risks; more of a heads-up when major outbreaks occur (for those of us not already aware)

IT Safe

I also sent some feedback suggesting they create an rss feed as another way of publishing the information.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sennheiser PC150 Stereo Headset

The Sennheiser PC150 Stereo Headset looks great, just heard about it from an AliceandBill review. Partly posted as a note to myself to go check them out properly (somewhere I can try them). They look just like the sort of thing I need as a replacement for my fast-falling-to-pieces Panasonic headphones of a similar style. I use skype a fair bit now, having a long cable is very useful, and if I ever start wanting to record myself (if there's something I feel I can talk about with enough enthusiasm and interest to keep it going) they'd be great. Having to hold my other non-free, nice, microphone (not that light) all the time or lean in to speak to it isn't very convenient. Bluetooth is the other possibility I've been looking forward to, but I think the technology still needs to mature a bit and provide better quality pick-up and better battery life (if possible).

Any other recommendations? These ones are quoted at $40 on the review, and I'm happy to pay £30 odd for just a set of decent 'phones so a good price match too I guess. If I can get them in the UK anywhere (don't fancy paying US postage).

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Linux package managers (& autopackage)

So, you're building a package for some Linux software you've written. Do you create a Debian package (also for Ubuntu), Redhat RPM (and separate Suse RPM if you're keen), Gentoo package (whatever that's in), Source RPM, .tar.gz archive, or all of the above? What a nightmare. Debian's "apt-get" is very nice, RPM's are well supported but not really as well supplied with meta-info. Plain source archives are the lowest common denominator but can be a real pain to get working with dependencies and differing target systems. Help!

Well now there's a possible solution nearing readiness. Autopackage is getting closer to v1.0 (so still in beta really) and hopes to solve all these problems by creating a distributable archive that can work with all the existing packaging systems to check dependencies and install files in the right places without problems. I haven't yet had a real look but it could be the answer to many people's prayers. Just one downloadable to develop, one package manager to understand? Great!

Even MS Windows apps can be confusing sometimes with all the archive formats, Windows Installer technology (often wrapped inside a .exe built from one of the many installation/configuration tools).