July 2004 Archives
July 29, 2004
I seem to be in Sussex, or wherever the heck this is. Herstmonceux Castle, at any rate, way down on the far side of London and a heck of a long way from Glasgow. However, it's the venue for the annual gathering of the British Interactives Group, which goes at least part-way to explaining my presence.
'Twas a rather nice trip down, actually, watching hot air balloons around Oxford and a parachute drop from a Hercules somewhere vaguely near Lyneham. Herstmonceux Castle itself is an atmospheric place, squatting in the dark behind its moat, guarded by bats. The bats are rather large, actually - too big for pipistrelles?
July 27, 2004
I get about four phone calls a day, (presumably) from direct marketing types - it's not clear exactly who, because they're usually machine-dialled and there's nobody at the other end.
So: Telephone Preference Service. Let's see if it makes a difference. Takes 28 days to propagate, apparently.
[Update: Ironically, the confirmation email sent out by the TPS uses some sort of hash in the 'reply-to' address. As a result, it got caught by my junk email filter. D'oh! Incidentally - there's no check in place (that I can see) to ensure that the numbers I've registered are actually mine. I'm not registering anyone else for 'no junk phone calls' could ever be classed as a malicious act, but it's still a little weird that it'd be so easy, no?]
July 26, 2004
No, actually, scratch that. My favourite film of the week has to be the trailer for Blake's Junction 7, which looks (a.) absolutely ridiculous, (b.) rather funny, and (c.) made with the sort of production values I wish somebody on the Thunderbirds movie had understood. You can view the trailer here, and a few stills here.
Orkut (adj.) An idea that, while initially promising, turns out to be naff or plain broken.
July 25, 2004
...about as duff as I'd feared. Actually, no, it's really really really...
It's like this: the Tracy brothers always were dreadfully two-dimensional characters. Clean-cut Astronaut heroes for a simpler time, perhaps, though one suspects they were flimsy even for the 1960s. No, what was cool about Thunderbirds was - durr - the Thunderbirds. The machines. There's something undeniably category-A cool about blasting halfway across the planet in a nuclear-fuelled green behemoth, and then (da-da-daaa!) Saving Lives! (hurrah!). That's 'Cool' in a small-boy's-dream, most-definitely-capital-C sort of way. Forty years on, the Thunderbirds are, still, amazingly, unbelievably, rip-roaringly cool.
So - picture the scene: you're writing the movie, and that's the legacy on which you're drawing. What do you do? Do you:
- a). Run with it. Rely on the Thunderbirds being the stars, and have them do amazing things.
- b). Re-imagine the Tracy brothers and their story, perhaps concentrating on one or two.
- -- or --
- c). Bring in a bunch of kids to form some sort of 'International Rescue Junior' squad.
Hmm... let me think. No, I don't think I'd pick option (c), personally. And I'd certainly do my best to avoid trowelling on a layer of dialogue cliché so thick that nothing resembling a performance could possibly escape. And I'd ensure we saw the Thunderbirds make more than one bona-fide rescue in the entire film, thank you very much.
Despite it all, the Thunderbirds do still manage to be rip-roaringly cool, Thunderbird 2 in particular being absolutely stunning. But the script and story do nothing to help these real stars gleam. A crushingly missed opportunity. The only other saving grace is Sophia Myles' hilariously saucy Lady Penelope, whose improbable costume changes and artfully-raised eyebrow make the most of it all.
Worth seeing for the action shots - take a nap during the rest. Oh, and tell me - just what is Thunderbird 3 for? It's very very fast, and... orange. Apart from that - what? Beats me, always has done.
...as an Aussie friend of mine was fond of saying. Rather often.
It's now a week since I returned to Glasgow, and I've been... er... what have I been doing? It's really not clear. Lots of good food, a few games of The Settlers of Catan with unsuspecting chums, and... er... not a whole lot else.
However, I have been gradually catching up on net stuff, via renewed acquaintance with the miracle that is broadband. Something like 3000 emails have been dealt with (no, I'm not joking - though most of them were mailing list stuff that I simply 'marked as read,' and today I trawled somewhat over 1000 blog stories in NetNewsWire. So that's that done, though I'm still woefully behind with email anyway, it seems.
Anyway - something the geeks amongst you might find useful: use 5 or 13-character WEP passwords (for 40 and 128-bit encryption respectively), and hardware from any vendor will apparently apply the same hashing. Now they ruddy well tell us! [sigh]. (via Steven Frank, who had much the same response as me. How much time has the world wasted mis-transcribing hex WEP keys?)
July 19, 2004
I slightly overdid the pork chops (marinated in sage, lemon and garlic oil), and put a dash too much cumin in with the carrots (baked with thyme and white wine), but overall... damn, that was a fine meal.
It's very good to be on holiday. Breakfast was croissant, coffee, and the Guardian in the local espresso bar, then I ambled around the neighbourhood investigating greengrocers ('Ooh! Celeriac!'), and then... well, that's been about it, really.
Those of you who've seen the Espionage series proposal will understand why I'm frustrated by Spy. It's heading in a very different direction, but still closes the door for that particular idea, I think. A pity: Espionage was originally drafted four years ago. Time to take that other version of the idea directly to the commissioners, I think.
Er... if you've no idea what I'm talking about: sorry.
July 18, 2004
I'm back in Glasgow.
July 12, 2004
If you're not a Mac user - and likely if you are, and you've retained a sense of perspective - you won't understand:
iTunes Music Store user buys songs, gets phone call from Steve Jobs twenty minutes later. "Kind of a weird night, but I'll take it," he comments, which is the sort of dryly glib statement I wish I could come up with in such circumstances.
'RDF' - 'Reality Distortion Field,' by the way. Jobs allegedly has some sort of personal aura that makes people love what he's saying, even if he's talking rubbish.
A blog written in Klingon, for heaven's sake. I'm delighted to report that my Klingon is nowhere near good enough to tell if it makes any sense, but it looks like Klingon.
[For those wondering - or plain concerned - I once had to learn some Klingon for How2. Enough to write a sketch, basically. It's surprising how it sticks with you, particularly "Hab Quchraj, Taghkek'" ("Your forehead is smooth" - a terrible insult).]
Link from Scott Knaster's 'This is not your practice blog'.
Nah, just the one will do.
Martin - what's the Scottish Green Party's policy on pharming?
I could just check the website, but this approach is lower bandwidth. I could also ask you in email, but again, this approach... er... proves something or other. Not sure what. Doubtless it's terribly insightful and pithy, delivered with a soupçon of wit and levity also. Once I've worked out just what the point might be, of course.
Just in case Dave Green is still reading this page, another 'Today, my cat vomited'-style post, to bait him.
I'm counting the days to the end of this job in Leeds. Though I've had plenty of fun, I've been on the go since something like September last year, and it's completely knackering to carry on like this. But hey, four days left. So, this weekend, I hired a large car and took (most of) my clobber back to Glasgow. Bicycle, DV kit, most of my clothes, books, etc. Actually, most of what I packed seemed to be cables, which likely says more about me than I'd wish.
Now back in Leeds, I find myself sitting in a somewhat starkly minimalist lounge. I can just about stretch to a lamp, but that's it. I rather enjoy the uncluttered feel, to be honest.
And in between, I've had the pleasure of a Vauxhall Vectra, which was quite the most comfortable van I think I've ever driven. It's a pleasure to be wafted along motorways with such little fuss, though as usual I'm left slightly confused by such cars. If one 'presses on', the whole edifice comes crashing down, as the over-assisted steering passes some bizarre point of no return and goes disconcertingly light, leaving one with the distinct impression that the front wheels are sliding all over the place. So, one cruises, which is absolutely fine. Except that the ('sporty'?) 2.2 SRi I had is so genteelly refined there's no discernible difference between, say, 30mph and, say, 50. The dials even seem specifically designed to blur the distinction, which annoyed the hell out of me. Oh, and then there's the agonising cramp.
There's some odd current fashio, for having a very long clutch pedal, and a brake positioned much closer to the driver than the loud pedal. I can't quite work out the logic here. I'm about as gangly as they come; with my left leg locked straight on the clutch, my right knee, to hit the brake, was up by my chin. But of course then, the steering wheel wants to occupy the same space as the aforementioned right knee.
The only solution I could find was to crank the seat up high (plenty of headroom, not a problem), to pull the wheel very close and high, and to press down at the pedals rather than forward. In short, to rearrange the driving position to resemble a Transit van.
Which is fine, since modern Transits are actually very good on motorways. But still... I can't help but feel I'm missing something. Or perhaps I'm just the wrong shape for normal cars.
But now I'm bored by this crap. Enough.
July 9, 2004
Orange have finally announced their 3G pricing. It's not as severe as I'd feared, but neither is it as cheap as I'd hoped. For light users it's really no cheaper than GPRS. So far as I can tell, it goes (monthly): £10-7Mb-£2/Mb over (not worth piddling around with); £20-65Mb-£1.50 (decent deal - cheaper than GPRS except for the over-bundle charge, which is a nasty sting); £45-400Mb-£1 (rather good if you need it); £75-1Gbish-nada (for the genuinely insane who should just get an office, already).
Back of the envelope, I'd have saved £50 or so going this route over these last six months. But my net access speed would have been dramatically better, which would have been worth a lot. The remaining hassle is that the Ericssony z1010 is, frankly, massive and ugly. What I really want is a small clamshell that does 3G data and standard voice, and pretty much nothing else - certainly, none of that video conference junk. I'll be interested to see what deals are around when my O2 contract is up.
An old friend quoted me this recently, in email:
(2) Where a notice under paragraph (1) specifies emission limit values, the emission limit values required by paragraph (2) of regulation 12 in relation to emissions into water from the installation or mobile plant concerned shall be those specified in that notice or such stricter emission limit values as may be determined by the local authority regulator in accordance with paragraph (6) of that regulation or required by paragraph (7) of that regulation.
Who, exactly, thinks this sort of dreck is a positive contribution to the advancement of mankind?
Sigh. D'you think it's possible to refactor a legal system?
July 7, 2004
Give me another week or so, and I really will start blogging again. Much to catch up with. But in the meantime: today saw the first in the new series of The Big Bang go out on ITV. Huge cheers and hearty claps on backs all round, not to mention plenty of champagne and a few sighs of relief. Only nine more to go.
There are some extremely gratifying comments on the series website. Bless 'em, they seem to like it. :-)
July 2, 2004
No, not TV: the other sort of shooting. With, like, guns, and everything.
A couple of weekends ago, I found myself with a group of gentlemen (perhaps 'Gentlemen'), clay pigeon shooting. Now, I've never held a gun in my life, except possibly a wonky air rifle at Hull Fair when I was about nine. I've certainly never fired a twelve-bore before. So I wasn't exactly expecting to be any good at hitting small, fast-moving targets.
I decimated the first seven clays. Overall, I hit with twenty-two out of twenty-six shots. This is, apparently, rather good going.
Now, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. I have something resembling a healthy loathing for what labours under the doubtless-undeserved blanket term 'gun culture'. Further, I've no desire to be any good at shooting anything: It's not a skill I think I can use on a regular basis. Nor even a sporadic basis. And the process of actually firing a twelve bore is, frankly, dangerous, scary, and painful. I didn't even have the satisfaction of seeing my clays disintegrate, since I had my eyes shut at those moments. Well, the thing you're holding goes "BANG!" right next to your head, it seems reasonable.
However, there must be some vestigial competitive aspect to my nature, since I did actually enjoy trouncing the other shooters. Particularly the cocky Aussie. And it's always a delight to discover novel and unexpected aptitudes, something one assumes occurs less frequently as one ages.
So... clay pigeon shooting? I rock. Apparently.