listening to:

Saturday, March 31

Another birthday?

Another birthday celebration today: Kate's 21st, a nice black-tie do with food and everything. Pictures, as ever, to be appearing at some point in the future (very probably next week, along with Natalie's).

Orbyn and Wherever you are make it onto the visiting list since, well, I've been visiting them. And they might as well be there. There's a few others that'll be going up there soon.

Wahey. Back to Cambridge tomorrow.

Mental note to self: tonight will be fine.

- posted at 6:09:32 PM :: feedback

You'll be old too, someday...

An email from Ben today (apologies to Ben):

"And I'm not going to be allowed teenage angst any more soon, 'cos I won't be a teenager. So what am I going to do?"

When you turn twenty, you're not allowed teenage angst. No. It's something you have to deal with. That's not such a bad deal, though. You see, once you turn twenty, you're allowed to partake in twentysomething angst, which is much better. You get to do some of the silly things, like worrying about some teenage stuff (oooh, I fancy that girl/boy, do you think he/she fancies me), but you'll end up feeling rather sheepish and embarrased about it. Instead, you get to do the real worrying. Think of it as the next level of angst, oh young one. You get to worry about job interviews. You get to worry about overdrafts and things. You get to worry about rent. Even better than that, though, you get to culture your caffeine addiction and spend far too much time hanging around in places like Starbucks and, if you're in Cambridge, the million and one other coffee shops.

I'm sorry, but I really have to say this: a lot of my recent posts have been complete shit. I seem to be unable to hold together a coherent train of thought, and as a result the writing has been something short of, well, good or even passable. For this I apologise. It's been a while, so I suspect I'll get back into it in a while...

- posted at 12:49:07 AM :: feedback

Friday, March 30

On Bridget

I think that title needs a bit of explanation. When I say "On Bridget", what I really mean is "This is about Bridget", and not, as some might believe "(Being) On (top of) Bridget", which is exactly what I'm sure some of my friends would choose to believe, because, well, it's plain funnier that way. I'd be guilty of that as well. I suppose it's a phase I'll grow out of. For all those grown-ups out there, I apologise. (In fact, not just that. I'm also slightly scared, because it probably won't be that long until I am a grown up. At least four years, right?)

This is about Bridget. It's about Bridget Jones. It's a vague recollection of a conversation I had a few weeks back with a friend at college one Sunday afternoon because, predictably, talking about Bridget Jones and doing the MSN Bridget Jones test--go on, you know you're interested: How Bridget are you?--is far more interesting than, in her case, doing numerical analysis or, in my case, debating the more esoteric points of equity and trusts.

We didn't want Bridget to be played by an American. Not because of some jingoistic pride, but because of the sheer belief that if anyone could play Bridget, if anyone understood Bridget, it'd be an Englishwoman. Bridget doesn't work in the states. She can't do. The British come up with Bridget Jones's diary. The Americans come up with Sex in the City. Those two are very, very different. People over here aren't as empowered. And they like that. I really don't mean it in a derogatory way, but hey, attitudes are different over here. There was probably a better way of phrasing that, but hey.

There was a point to this. Oh yes.

If you have a box full of stuff, and by this, I mean stuff, and you've affectionately termed it Pandora's box and you've gone about a year not looking at it, then here's some advice: don't look at the stuff inside it. That's probably a bad idea. Okay?

A final aside. I find it distressing that I need high-bandwidth to think. I really can't post on a 33.6k connection. This is a very sad reflection on me.

- posted at 11:35:44 PM :: feedback


Or, "I Really Need To Think Of New Post Headers".

I'm going on holiday. Actually, we've just talked about it, which is more than not talking about it, so on that basis it was go-hit-the-bookshops and pick up a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Western Europe, a bit of a hefty tome, but one that looks like it knows what it's on about.

Sorry, let me do this again.


I haven't had a holiday in ages. By that, I mean a proper holiday. One where you actually leave this country, one that you get to go places. Where it's hot. Four friends and me, three weeks, five all-zone interrail tickets, and a whole lotta countries. Can't wait. Course, then I've got to spend the rest of the summer paying for the damn thing, but hey, it's going to be fun. Very, very fun.

- posted at 10:43:13 PM :: feedback

Thursday, March 29

What did you do today?

After what I did today, I feel somewhat inadequate. Meg did something good.

- posted at 7:39:54 PM :: feedback


Adapted from an email to Caroline:

  1. alarm went off at eight in the morning
  2. at 8:00.01, turned alarm off
  3. went back to bed
  4. woke up at about half ten
  5. faffed
  6. got bored, as remembered had perfected faffing in the second year
  7. moved on to fidgeting
  8. v. annoyed, as realised had perfected fidgeting when only six years old
  9. watched tv
  10. faint smugness, as will never be able to perfect watching tv
  11. got bored of watching tv five minutes later
  12. moved books from bag to near computer
  13. turned on computer and logged in
  14. was going to load up microsoft word, got distracted and spent half an hour configuring internet explorer in chinese for parents, on basis that they would have no idea how to do it and now was as good a time as any
  15. forgot what it was i was actually going to do
  16. made coffee
  17. watched mtv, saw end two minutes of samantha mumba "always come back to your love". thought the dance routines were crap in it.
  18. watched three quarters of "ellen" on paramount comedy channel
  19. watched twenty minutes (first and last ten minutes) of "caroline in the city" on paramount comedy channel
  20. thought that the lead of "caroline in the city" should have been more attractive
  21. watched the last three minutes of "you've got mail"
  22. wandered back to computer. gave up. made coffee.
  23. wrote about five hundred words of crap
  24. dispirited. made more coffee.
  25. idly made chickeny things in oven. gave up.
  26. watched video labelled "good er episode", fast forwarded through boring bits. was indeed a good er episode (was the one with the benzene spill in the er, carter was a hero, etc.)
  27. felt guilty as brother went out with friends to go to gym
  28. grandparents asked where brother was.
  29. through intricate use of "yes" and "no" questioning, grandparents worked out that brother had gone out with friends. resolved to learn how to speak cantonese at some point to make this easier.
  30. lambasted by grandmother for not having a girlfriend.
  31. moped for five minutes, then realised that there was actually no need to mope, and that what
  32. i really needed was a coffee
  33. watched last two minutes of "always come back to your love" on mtv again. really wanted to see the beginning, dance routines still crap
  34. finally found out what hear'say / atomic kitten looked like
  35. realised that more adults should watch "newsround", as it actually explains the hard bits, and many adults probably don't understand the hard bits
  36. watched last ten minutes of "grange hill". realised that it has completely changed now. theme tune still the same, though.
  37. went to upstairs computer. not terribly interesting. read emails.
  38. have come to astonishing insight that maybe you can never be too good at faffing
  39. resolve to faff harder tomorrow
  40. friend rang, asked if i wanted to go to pub
  41. ummed and erred. said i might if i felt like not working.
  42. was pressured by friend. being picked up at quarter past eight.
  43. now feel weak for going to pub

- posted at 6:53:10 PM :: feedback


Well, actually the idea was for me to impersonate one of my Sunset Beach loving friends. But I suppose this will have to do...

- posted at 5:38:00 PM :: feedback

The horror, the horror

We got a new computer at home. A nice, slinky black number (okay, that description really fucks with my head). It's a Dell Optiplex GX150. Numbers have ceased doing anything for me. I really don't care. It's a tower. It knows when you've opened its case, because a dialog box opens up when you log in, and it says "Hey, you've opened my case!" or something to that effect. Actually, it doesn't. All it does is fill the event log with DMIEvent messages that actually say "The system detected that the case was opened". And it does it every twenty minutes. I am beginning to suspect that there is something up with the switch that notices whether the case has been opened, because I'm definitely not so bored as to spend my time opening and shutting a case.

It would be nice if the new computer had net access. It would be great. (I'm leaving aside the completely abysmal access we have here as opposed to access at uni. I really don't want to have to compare 10 megabit access to 33.6k modem access. It pains me.) Notice the if in the first sentence, though. At the moment, it's a standalone. It's stand-offish. It's insolent. It's sulking. It's skulking downstairs, in its slinky blackness, and all it can do is just sit there on its own and not do anything. It hates talking with the other kids. I think they resent the newcomer. Adrian's computer talks to the home one fine enough. They used to use wires, but like most kids nowadays, they've got mobile phones and spend all their time on them. Or wireless cards, which I suppose is the equivalent. But this new one, oh no. No. It doesn't have any space for one. Dell have cunningly managed to jam all its two--two!--expansion slots full of useful things like a modem and an insanely over-specced sound card (and it definitely is over-specced when you take into account the fact that this black thing shipped without speakers. Idiots).

I miss the connectivity. I miss having access to all my music. I miss having access to all my documents and all my photographs. Technically, I do have access to a few of those things. I can ftp into my computer in college and download those music files at the blistering speed of about 2kb/sec. I can visit either of my websites and look at my photographs, again, at a rather stupid speed, one that makes the slovenly look positively spritely. I could try to access a Windows share on my college machine, but I'm pretty sure that I firewalled those ports for any range outside a few college machines. I should have put vnc (oooh! a link!) on my machine so I could've logged into it from... anywhere. But hey, what was the point in that?

So instead of whining about all of this, I'm going to go over to one of those bookshelve things that we've got. And I'm going to read something. Of course, once I've done that, I'll be straight back here bemoaning the lack of bookmarks, copy-and-paste functionality, the incomprehensible thining behind leaving out a good hyperlinked index and the apocryphal abuse of contemplating releasing something containing so much information without anything as much as a search facility.

Oh, and "a copy of the Gladiator soundtrack I burnt" really managed to confuse me for a second, because I swear I'm out of matches. Then I thought about it again for a bit.

- posted at 3:09:17 PM :: feedback

I lied

It took longer than fifteen minutes to get started. But I did, in my procrastinating, find a copy of the Gladiator soundtrack that I burnt. That made me feel better.

- posted at 2:53:36 PM :: feedback


Technically, I'm supposed to be getting a bit of work done while I'm at home, but there's stuff like a big television and digital tv here, so that's not working too well. I don't think that having a slow net connection is any excuse (the excuse being that since it takes so long for sites to load up compared to back at uni, then I spend more time just waiting around), but I have read a few books that weren't around the last time I was here.I'm bored. So bored, in fact, that in about fifteen minutes (there's procrastination for you), I'll go downstairs, make my coffee and sit in front of a computer for about two hours trying to write one thousand words of finely crafted, completely incomprehensible bollocks in an attempt to appease the God of Dissertation Writing and finally get a sacrifice out of the way. As it were

I've exhausted everything there is to do. I could wander outside and take some photos, but I don't particularly feel like doing that. I could sit in front of the tv and loll for a few hours, but as everyone knows, daytime tv is shit with five channels, and about sixty channels of daytime tv, well, just multiplies the amount of shit. I feel under no compulsion to voluntarily bury myself under such a large pile of excrement. It's not as if I could idly sit and watch a dvd: our house was broken into over a month ago, and the wonderful burglars made off with the dvd player and our collection of films, minus the ones that my brother and I had cunningly taken to university. What we're left with now is the replacement dvd player, a copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Region 3, in original Mandarin, dubbed Cantonese (good, because I can understand Cantonese), and English (good, because it's hilarious and makes a mockery of the film), which I would watch, but again, I don't feel in the mood. It's a deep, long, film. At the moment, I am feeling neither deep, nor long. Then there's American Beauty, another long film, so scratch that because of the previous reason. Then there's the Toy Story box set, which I might just watch a few seconds of.

But I digress: our house was broken into. They came in through my bedroom window, went through all my stuff. That didn't feel nice, no, definitely not. My room now bristles with an extra switch for a security light and a sensor for the alarm. Not good. Feels different, as you'd expect.

Burglars. Feh.

- posted at 1:19:01 PM :: feedback

Wednesday, March 28

We're all getting old

This last term has been expensive. About seven twenty first birthdays, which has been fun. Well, of course it's been fun. Then I discovered exactly what state my bank balance was in (by checking, of course, and everyone knows that the best way to think that you're doing okay at the bank is by not checking how much money you have).

In short, it wasn't good. Not good at all. If there'd been a doctor around, he would have led me aside, sat me down in a quiet room somewhere and used a special sotto voce. As it stands, though, Barclays don't particularly give a fuck how much you're overdrawn, and there's no such customer care. Especially at an ATM at around ten at night.Where did all the money go? Easy. Seven twenty first birthdays. A tenner for each present. Another tenner for a meal. That's a hundred and forty quid, which is quite a bit. At least, it's quite a bit that I would have had, had time not insisted on relentlessly impressing its existence on everyone and rather callously aging us.

We're getting old. Cosmo articles say that men peak sexually at around seventeen, so it was with glee that we taunted our twenty two year old friends (that is, friends who have been alive for twenty two years, and not friends who we've known for twenty two years) in the pub that the last time they peaked, it was about five years ago. Half a decade ago. That shut them up. Of course, pointing out that I was merely a year younger did nothing to raise the atmosphere once it had decended into a grumpy silence.

It doesn't help that anyone's talking about marriage (in a jokey, hey, it's fine, it's fifteen years away kind of manner), but it is amusing when people start panicking about what they could possibly do when they're thirty five and still single. Hello? Thirty five is, what, fourteen years away? That's more than half my life so far. Ages. We're going to live forever, see.

All this... and another twenty first birthday to go to on Saturday...

- posted at 9:06:32 PM :: feedback

Tuesday, March 27


My brother doesn't watch television anymore. I hardly blame him. Since not many people have televisions at college we hardly ever seem to watch the stuff. At least, we don't when we can download the latest movies before they come out (What Women Want was judged by all who watched it to be a fun movie, and well worth the not-four-pounds we paid to see it), episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Yes, that episode The Body is actually one hour of the best tv ever), Futurama and Friends. Or when we can watch Cold Feet on DVD (and rent the rest of the stuff). So why would we want to watch TV? BBC World has a nice live MPEG stream if you use Windows Media Player, bung it up to full screen and you've News 24 headlines every hour and half hour.

Nah. The only time we watch tv is when there's some football on. Or the boat race. So that's about it. Real tv is just so boring. We want on-demand!

- posted at 2:43:05 PM :: feedback


I'm at home at the moment. I'm back in Cambridge on Sunday, after taking a week out to either a) rest or b) panic madly and do some work. I guess we'll see how it goes. Sporadic updates until Sunday, then.

- posted at 1:07:54 PM :: feedback

Saturday, March 24

Inspired by New Scientist

MarsTV (via New Scientist) talks about using high-bandwidth in-stellar networks and high-definition cameras to provide an out-of-this-world entertainment experience. Do I get extra points for using long, marketing/bullshit sounding words in that sentence?

So: how exactly do you get a 20 megabit datastream from Mars to Earth? Well, you can forget radio. Low power and the beam will disperse. No, what you need is a laser. Kinda like this: the concept is incredibly cool, and it'll be working soon. Inter-satellite laser based communication. SILEX.

You like steampunk. Get this:

"Fei Tang and his colleagues at Tsinghua University have etched water thrusters from two silicon wafers, each less than a centimetre square. One wafer has a water inlet channel and a vaporisation chamber. The other has an outlet nozzle. The two wafers were then joined together."

You can't really get more steampunk (or more literal steampunk, for that matter) than satellites using water-powered thrusters (via New Scientist.

- posted at 10:59:56 AM :: feedback


Let's get one, just one, thing straight. I hate inaccurate reporting. I hate reporting with a spin. What do I hate more than those two things? Inaccurate reporting told with a spin. So let's get this straight. The 7am News reports in a headline article that "Humans Can Contract Foot And Mouth Virus", with the byline that:

"An epidemic of Foot and Mouth disease is sweeping Britain and parts of Europe, forcing authorities in the USA and other countries to be on high alert. But did you know that it's a disease which can, and does affect humans?"

First issue. Britain is a "part" of Europe. Unless, of course, you're talking about that big landmass that happens to have quite a few European countries on it. But I think we'll let that one pass...

The article acknowledges that humans can contract foot and mouth disease, and adds the proviso "Fortunately such infections are rare and the effects considered mild and not life-threatening but some experts are saying this may not always be the case."

Fair enough. But it goes on:

"They warn that both bacteria and viruses have shown a powerful ability to adapt and mutate so as to evade even our strongest defenses and weapons in the fight against infection."

Some experts have been saying that for quite a while. It's true. Bacteria and virii have shown the ability to adapt and mutate against our antibiotics. Part of this is due to our overreliance upon antibiotics and the fact that we don't finish the courses that we're prescribed. The virus or bacteria is beaten, but not completely. A rather simplistic explanation, I'll admit, but one that tells a bit more of the story.

We get some facts thrown at us.

We're told that a few diseases are developing antibiotic resistance. We're told that if Ebola evolved a longer incubation period, it could cause a major epidemic. Antibiotics are ineffective against prions, and we have few "cures" for viral infections. Researchers have "acknowledged that genetic engineering could be used to create a super-virus with the potential to virtually wipe out all human life on the planet" and also "admit that this could be an accidental byproduct of otherwise beneficial research but claim the risks are low."

Here comes the killer. We're introduced to the two worries: that if foot and mouth disease were fatal to humans--which it's not--the death toll would be massive. That's the first. The second is that "modern air travel means that contagious diseases can spread across the face of the globe in the span of a single day".

Any problems with this?

Just a few. Who are the experts cited in the article? No names? Shame. How about the fact that the "facts" cited are completely unrelated, and that the entire article seems to be a headline grabbing "OH MY GOD, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE COULD KILL US ALL", when it can't and won't? (I acknowledge that I am not providing any sources... though I'm sure a quick search of BBC News or The Times would back me up).

With a url like "", I'd probably expect something like this. And the text on the front page reading "Unlike many other popular sites on the Internet, is not backed by millions of dollars in venture captial and powered by a staff of hundreds. We're just a small group of hard-working writers who are doing our best to earn a crust by bringing you the latest current events in a fresh and interesting way." more or less screams "We're just going to make stuff up! Seriously! Just to grab your attention! In fact, we're going to scaremonger! Wooo!

Sorry. Just had to rant there.

- posted at 1:12:00 AM :: feedback


Salon article asks "--is Bush making things worse?"

Cool online comics - DieselSweeties--the adventures of Clango. Nicely supplementing Userfriendly at the moment (missed far too much of Sluggy Freelance to make any sense of it anymore)

Reality-based animation in a court of law, blatantly dangerous in my opinion. "Juries will think, 'They created a little PBS show for me. I'm going to remember everything now.'" (Wired). I mean, what do you say to the firm whose slogan is "We've mastered the fine art of persuasion"?

Hawking lectures on the open/closed nature of the universe, from Wired.

Matt looks at OS evolution, wants new ways of dealing with and organising data:

"I'd still like to see alternative ways of dealing with my information. I don't believe that the GUI is the be-all of how to store my documents. We can see it's crumbling already: I use my email client to store messages, MP3 software lets me browse my music, I use the www (and not my Finder or file explorer) to hunt for documents. Why shouldn't all these pieces of information be treated in a universal way?"

- posted at 12:32:08 AM :: feedback

Friday, March 23

Lyrics! Lyrics everywhere!

A rather un-copious selection of lyrics.

- posted at 6:18:42 PM :: feedback

UI design

Via my old school, the Interface Hall of Shame. Amazing how fun it is dropping in on CS students conversations when they're talking about "some guy's law, about clicking on stuff", when you've been following UI design through blog mailing lists...

- posted at 4:42:49 PM :: feedback

Shiny, shiny convergence

More convergence: the Kyocera Smartphone is covered by The New York Times, registration required as always. Quote from the article:

"The most popular answer, given by 80 million respondents, would certainly have been, "A cell phone." About 11 million would have replied, "A Palm organizer." But a third group would have answered with an outburst: "A Palm and a phone. And you can also write on your little form that I'm sick and tired of carrying around both I clank like Robocop when I walk. If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they combine a Palm and a phone?""

How about the fourth group? The one that says "A palm. A phone. A phone's handsfree kit. A minidisc/mp3 player and headphones." I want more convergence. And I want it now.

I guess we're getting there. It's CEBIT2001 time, and companies are falling over themselves to ply us with new, shiny, brushed metal toys. Or translucent ones (I see that iMac fever hasn't died quite yet). Most lust-worthy so far is the new Nokia 8310 (also at Infosync, which is a great place for all things shiny, mobile and GSM/3G) amongst all of the other models being paraded.

I may just be forced to buy one of these: the Nokia Music Player, 32mb memory card and usb interface.

- posted at 3:33:10 PM :: feedback

Buildings everywhere

It's annoying. You get used to a place, you find out where everything is and you finally feel comfortable. You can wander about and not worry about anything and you can be sure of bumping into someone you know within six minutes. So why do they make you leave after three years?

Cambridge university plans for expansion on the north-west site. Uses for the site may include "one or more new colleges" which sounds fun. Arguments with my dad and brother as to whether the college would have enough endowment (Bill Gates III please step forward), or whether it would look "cool" in a Norman Foster-esque way.

West Cambridge development--I've probably blogged that before, but the site looks absolutely gorgeous.

Oh, sod it. Even more Cambridge building work--Addenbrooke's 2020 reveals plans for the local hospital.

- posted at 3:04:46 PM :: feedback


Okay, some cold hard truths to face up to. If you're using anything older than IE5 or Netscape 6, then this is going to look completely and utterly pants from now on. Tables have gone. Silly pixel-high and pixel-wide table cells have gone. Spacer gifs have gone. It's 2001, for crying out loud, we've just dug up a big fat black thing on the moon. This is the future.

The future means that this site is now rendered using CSS. No silly nesting tables. Just some plain old nice absolutely positioned divs. And Javascript that, for once, should work cross-platform (in that it works on IE5.5 for Windows and Mozilla 0.8 for Windows.

If you're using Netscape Navigator 4.7 or below, please, please, please upgrade. You're really, really not seeing this the way it's supposed to be seen. In the words of Meg this site will look best if you come round to my place, I sit you down in front of my computer and give you some biscuits and a nice cup of tea. Short of that, IE5+ and Netscape 6+ (and preferably Mozilla 0.8+).

So there.

- posted at 2:00:51 PM :: feedback


Why the Newton failed (via Camworld). I don't know. Camworld is getting increasingly hard to read, it seems like every day Cam is becoming more and more zealous in his hate of Microsoft and frankly, it's getting tiring. Doesn't stop him posting good links though. I just end up skipping past the flag waving, that's all.

Email's too hard so let's junk it (via Camworld). Doesn't stop me from stealing as many links from him though, does it? Obviously not. Anyway. Let's take this P2P thing and run with it. Some nifty ideas, though.

More Newton stuff--a gallery. Newtons were neat. I remember playing with one in a shop years and years back and being impressed. Then again, oodles of stuff from ages ago seems neat. Over Christmas when we were doing some clearing out, I had a look at some old NeXT brochures back home, went "gaaaaah" for a while when I realised how old they were, then went "gaaaah" a bit more when I looked at the price tags.

What's the national language of Luxembourg? Hah. It's Luxembourgish (settling a petty argument).

Human evolution in 3d (shockwave req). Interesting after the discovery of that very, very old man. I know, probably a more scientific description in order, but hey.

The Independent runs an article on web usability, amusing section on a woman trying to use the ITN WAP site on a mobile phone.

Jack Dee profile in the Independent, worthy winner of celebrity Big Brother--a given after he tried to "escape" from the house.

Amazoning the news (via Evhead). Counting the days until someone actually does this...

Onion falls for the all your base meme... (Please God, let it stop).

- posted at 1:48:34 PM :: feedback

Blogger's working!

The server that this site lives on, wonderfully provided by Chris has moved ISPs... which means that Blogger now works. Trying this out for a few days, and then may be switching over to Greymatter.

- posted at 1:36:54 PM :: feedback

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