January 2003 Archives
January 31, 2003
The people producing Science Shack this year keep asking me what single piece of advice I consider most important for them to bear in mind. It's a terrific question, but I fear I'm letting them down by not having a suitably pithy insight to hand.
Nevertheless, it reminds me that one of my ambitions is to commit a genuinely original mistake. Many people want to construct, invent, or discover something new, but I'm forever finding things I've done that I thought were original, but were in fact done years ago. Frequently by John Tyndall. Far more impressive and perhaps more useful to others would be tracking down a truly innovative mistake.
Then, one could point proudly at said snafu, and proclaim 'try not to do that.' And in the end, the best we can manage is to make different mistakes compared to the last time. If we do that, we've learned, and progressed. To find a genuinely novel way of screwing up would be a quantum leap in goof technology.
January 30, 2003
Oh, how I love the BBC.
Journalist Ben Anderson tried to work out what the six countries in Bush's 'Axis of Evil' have in common - and the only thing he noticed was that you can travel to each of them on just a tourist visa. So he did.
The result is a documentary, to be shown on BBC4, split across Friday and Saturday nights this week. Interview here, news story here. Some lovely observations in those stories; I hope the film is similarly surprising.
January 29, 2003
The firemen are on strike again. Fair enough, their pay is indeed crap. Interestingly, however, public support is far from solidly behind them, partly because their union leader appears to have a bizarre allergy to sitting down and discussing deals. So anyway, as I drive past the local station on my way home from work, the poor blighters are shivering outside.
Quick hint, lads: If you want the passing public's support, it might be a good idea to hide the BMW, Mercedes, and Alfa Romeo behind the station. No, I'm really not kidding. Don't they teach this stuff in Citizenship lessons these days?
January 28, 2003
I had a wonderfully polite email from a fellow Newton user today, looking for a helping hand transferring the thing from Compuserve to AOL. Fine, not a problem, should take a few minutes on the phone to sort out.
The email came from Classic FM. From Simon Bates.
Is that cool? I think that's cool. That's cool, right? Tell me it's cool. Really, it has to be cool, surely?
If anyone reading this happens to be in supermarket stock control, this may save you some time: you'll notice a distinct spike in sales of Pringles in Leeds. If you trace through your records, you'll find it's an annual phenomenon.
It's a kids' make&do TV thing. Richard and Rachel just walked into the office with what appears to be Morrison's entire stock. It's not enough; we'll need more. We're also worried that cardboard drums of Mini Chedders might have been a seasonal line, which would be catastrophic at this stage.
In related news: if you fancy any Pringles, let me know. Especially curry flavour. We don't like the curry flavour ones.
A couple of noteworthy happenings of late:
My mum registered with a local doctor, a simple process. In her case, it involved six stitches to her eyebrow and substantial bruising. She's fine, in a 'you should see the other guy' kind of way, but one has to suspect she got something slightly wrong somewhere. Perhaps stepping on the slithery paving slab was a mistake, do you think?
Meanwhile, my chum Vinay, inexplicably still in the US, is writing a report on sustainable development for the Danish government. Given that he's a web developer and general geekboy, this is mildly surprising. At least, until one remembers that he could turn his mind to pretty much anything that (a.) interests him and (b.) continues to do so for long enough. This used to describe a rather small union on the great Venn diagram of life. However, of late it's been inflating in a manner that's somewhat alarming. Not to mention spikey and blue.
Oh, and now I've just noticed that the BBC's Talking Movies uses the David Holmes-sourced title theme I was dead keen on for proto-project Envelope. Dang.
January 25, 2003
From the BBC, referring to bits of the net gumming up:
The malicious code exploits a vulnerability in database software from Microsoft, called the SQL Server, which was first identified in July 2002.
July 2002. Uh-huh. Funnily enough, the most-used piece of software on my WinXP box is... Windows Update. I'm not kidding. I'm averaging one new security fix or patch per boot. It's simply dull.
Actually Zoe, I'm (technically) (still) writing a novel, and when I'm not at work I quite often go to the cinema on a Monday afternoon. Oh, and pensioners' fish&chip deals are on Mondays because, traditionally, fish is rubbish on a Monday, there not having been a landing over the weekend.
Great column, by the way. I don't miss Mil Millington at all.
January 24, 2003
Gee, that's some puff piece. I bet Damien's really pleased with:
Damien Wasylkiw is 25 and comes from Leeds. He has worked as a journalist for Swapitshop.com and was an unpaid presenter on student station SURE FM. He has a thirst for new and innovative music and loves making compilation tapes for his friends.
Oh, how we love those compilation tapes. [snigger]
I phoned in to the office the other day, and had the following exchange:
Colin: ...oh, and Nikki's very upset, because you haven't seen her zombie skin.
Jonathan: Is that an item, or an ailment?
We get paid to do this. Really.
January 23, 2003
France and Germany might be making softly-softly noises, but reading around the US weblog community, I keep stumbling across posts that are either blatantly belligerent, or implicitly so. I don't know how indicative this is of American public opinion, but the blog world is not known for being dramatically right-wing. Combine that with the impending spring/summer (when weapons designed for the European theatre can reasonably be expected to pack up in the desert), and one suspects the trigger in Bush's finger is of the hair variety. How nice.
One of the things that interests me is just why we Europeans are (a.) more circumspect about the whole affair / (b.) yellow-bellied shirkers (delete depending on your point of view). Perhaps it's because most of our countries have done the imperial thing, we've had our empires rise and fall, and we've seen just how easy it is to utterly screw it all up. Crucially, we've seen the mess that's left behind. Iraq being, of course, a case in point. Former imperial power? Britain. Oops. Sorry about that.
So call me old-fashioned, but I do think it would be somewhat good form to produce a little actual evidence, before attempting to drive tanks into Baghdad. Whether I trust Bush or not is surprisingly irrelevant - thus far, there are only assertions of guilt, and assertions do not constitute evidence. Is that too much to ask?
Meanwhile, I can only hope that the whole thing is a huge great bluff-call - ship enough materiel and troops out there and the guy has to cave, right? Please?
January 19, 2003
Actually, Sherlock is pretty handy for searching the AppleCare KnowledgeBase, but in the UK that's about it. Until now.
Search a whole raft of UK online suppliers for DVDs. Click this Sherlock link, and subscribe when prompted. Windows users: forget it.
January 18, 2003
Two things have caught my eye today. The first is an article in the Telegraph about a company in Russia selling corporate entertainment packages with a difference (free registration required). The clients are Moscow's super-rich elite, bored of the excess. The packages include a monthly begging trip, complete with radish-stained clothing; another shindig saw the clients playing soldier with army tanks. The latter is more like the sort of thing that goes on in the West, but in a peculiarly Russian twist the day included (a.) live firing, and (b.) caviar for the squaddies, but combat rations for the clients to 'add to the authenticity.'
The second piece is this parent's perspective on anorexia from Salon. A decade ago, I saw freshers torn apart by the pressure and unfamiliarity of Cambridge, unable to cope with (comprehend?) all that goes along with the transition from being the brightest kid in the neighbourhood, to being a below-average student. Chuck in social pressures they've no framework for understanding, and you've a recipe for disaster.
I saw peers reduced to gibbering wrecks, and while I helped when I could, I had no perspective myself that allowed me to judge where the firmer ground was, that I could stand on. One very close friend changed so much, I essentially never saw her again. However, Cambridge's dropout rate is reassuringly low, and indeed most students eventually regain an even keel, chalk one up to experience, and get on with their lives. The article's quoted 15% mortality for anorexia patients is far more terrifying.
I never saw anorexia, but I'm unlikely to have understood it then and am barely more likely to do so now. I hope everything works out for the writer of the Salon piece, and particularly for his daughter. Meanwhile, this is simple but very personal journalism of the highest order, for which I'm eternally grateful.
...to Linux. Why?
Because David Hyatt's weblog has recently confirmed that (a.) they've got XML 'limping along' in Safari, and that (b.) the intention is to eventually wrap WebCore into a WebKit framework that implements another flavour of NSView. This is a problem because it makes the process of building webby XMLish Cocoa apps pretty much drag&drop in Interface Builder.
It's a problem for me because for months I've been toying with the idea of building an integrated TV series production/scripting system, dubbed 'ShowFlow,' since Word is simply the wrong tool for the job. By my reckoning, I'll run out of excuses for not at least lashing together a test mockup around about June.
One of the components I badly needed has recently been done, in the form of BitFlux, an open-source WYSIWYG XML editor. Hopefully it won't work in Safari, otherwise I'm going to have to switch to Mandrake. With a bit of luck they'll go under, leaving me an OS orphan on a platform I'm never going to get my head around programming. Cool.
January 14, 2003
Brian Sewell demonstrates the vapid, unquestioning and utterly selfish Londo-centrism which has, for centuries, maintained the artistic superiority of London through the cultural impoverishment of the provinces.
January 11, 2003
Let me get this right. My Newton is very nearly five years old, which in handheld computing years is beyond merely 'geriatric.' Yet, it currently acts as a webserver over ethernet (lovely example here), and I can still sync it to my Mac. When I get around to it, it should do all this wirelessly using the WaveLAN card I borrowed from my chum Martin. And now there's an XML-RPC thingy and a Blogging app that talks to Moveable Type?
You have to be kidding me. Also, remind me again why I want Apple to make a tablet Mac? And why in tarnation would I want a Palm thingy?
January 10, 2003
Bob Park strikes again. Quoting his regular source who's working on the new 'grandson of Star Wars' Missile Defense (sic) system:
You have to set priorities in this game, the goal is to deploy. Management feels testing threatens to divert us from that goal.
I love this approach! Don't worry whether the damn stuff works or not (hey, if there's a real attack it's highly unlikely to do any good anyway) - just get it out there so the DoD has to finish paying for it.
January 7, 2003
This originally contained in a post to uk.comp.sys.mac, but someone suggested I should archive it.
It's easy to tell the nationality of a touring cyclist from the way they load their bike:
- Front and rear panniers, neatly packed - British.
- Saddlebag and tiny front panniers, ancient bike - hard-core British.
- Huge pile of stuff over back wheel - Dutch.
- Huge pile of stuff over back wheel, plus rucsack - German.
- Glamorous bike, no panniers, luggage in accompanying car - French
- Very glamorous bike, no panniers, luggage in accompanying sports car - Italian.
- All other combinations - New Zealander.
- Sheltering in bus-stop - American.
...to which Sak Wathanasin added:
- Turns up at start in Mercedes with personal mechanic, masseur etc, then goes like the wind - Belgian.
Sak also noted that some Americans really do cycle. Even if it's raining. Fair point - I don't claim to be reasonable or accurate. Especially not reasonable.
Hmm. Something a bit weird happened there with one of the Perl libraries running this website. For about a month. But I'm back now.
So... what's happened in the last month? Christmas at m'darlin sister's with the family including nephew Stanley; we cooked '...and all the trimmings,' since Kate and husband Matt are vegetarians; actually, come to think of it, I've had a turkey-, mince pie- and cake-free Christmas. Cool; New Year with Daniel and Mary was fun; and today mum and dad moved into their new house. And I went back to work, with six weeks to rehearsals. Eek.
Quiet Christmas at home, then.