Friday, September 30, 2005

Day 150

First draft done, time to bounce off a few folk.

[A:21532 B:408 C:346 D:9187 Total:31473]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Day 149

[reading: Kazuo Ishiguro, "Never Let Me Go"]

Dismantling my broken épée, I couldn't get any signs of life even with the bare wires and a multimeter, so I see a trip to Leon Paul and a re-wire in my future.

[A:19861 B:408 C:346 D:9187 Total:29802]

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Day 148

[reading: Gary Spencer Millidge, "Strangehaven: Conspiracies"]

Somewhat distressingly, my favourite épée stopped working this evening. I had to resort to one of my older blades—probably over ten years old, looking a big the worse for wear and distinctly banana-shaped (somehow I don't think it would pass the relevant regulation). Changing weapon did make it clear that things have improved over the last ten years, though—the old blade felt much heavier than the newer one.

[A:19861 B:408 C:346 D:9187 Total:29802]

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Day 147

Spent a little time this afternoon trying to persuade my new printer to do manual double-sided printing and booklet printing.

The raw script I found wouldn't let me pause to reverse the order of the paper (and seemed to over-shrink things too), so I found a more idiot-proof GUI application that claimed to do the job. However, $49 seems a bit excessive for a tiny bit of page shuffling, so a little further searching found a free tool that seems to do exactly the same thing—job done. As I've mentioned before, I really don't understand how some folk out there expect to get comparatively large amounts of money for small bits of code.

[A:19861 B:408 C:346 D:9187 Total:29802]

Monday, September 26, 2005

Day 146

A bit more scribbling today; someday soon I might even have a first draft.

[A:18672 B:187 C:3 D:9187 Total:28049]

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Day 145

Things I've Learnt From Shakespeare:

(Continuing the cultural theme for the weekend, we went to see A Winter's Tale at the Globe.)

[A:15321 B:155 C:3 D:9187 Total:24666]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day 144

[reading: Barbara Hambly, "Circle of the Moon"]

Met up with my father and my brother this afternoon, in what turned out to be an almost entirely failed attempt to fit in some Culture.

First, we tried to get into the World's Most Photographed exhibition at the NPG, but were told we could only get tickets for three hours later. Then we went next-door to the National, to maybe take a look at the Stubbs exhibition, but baulked at the price. Finally, we wander'd divers back routes to the British Museum, where we were told that the Persian exhibition was sold out for the day. We did finally get into an exhibition of watercolours by someone I'd never heard of before, though. He had an odd style for watercolours: a sort of stippled, crayon-like effect with very few washes (although those washes were used to great effect, for example on water reflections)

[A:15321 B:155 C:3 D:9187 Total:24666]

Friday, September 23, 2005

Day 143

[reading: Richard Morgan, "Woken Furies"]

Vicarious Moral Turpitude

Mike and I were discussing a bit of a quandary in the pub this evening: how can we figure out whether the most recent Goldfrapp album is any good or not? Obviously, the first album was great, but that was significantly overshadowed by the grim awfulness of the second album. Having been badly burnt by buying the second album, we really don't want to make the same mistake again.

Since we're both annoyingly smug about not having any music that we don't own the CD of, that rules out the obvious solution of checking out the album by downloading some MP3 files from the filthy internet. So we settled on the idea of getting someone else (with greater moral flexibility) to download the album and check it out for us. Possibly even to have them play it sometime when we visit.

[A:15321 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:24663]

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Day 141

[reading: Neil Gaiman, "Anansi Boys"]

I do sometimes wonder how normal people cope with computers.

I shuffled the home network setup this morning. Previously, an old machine with two network cards was acting as a router for the internal network, but I have to turn that machine off whenever there are guests staying in the room—which means no access to the filthy internet the following morning. So I shuffled the wireless router (which was previously just acting as a wireless access point) up to take its place—since it doesn't have a fan, there shouldn't be a problem leaving it on when folk are sleeping in that room—and reconfigured all of the machines on the house LAN.

Now, in the event this was a fairly straightforward operation—I just had to reconfigure the static IP setup on all of the machines and clone the MAC address of the previous router—but I wondered how someone who doesn't work with computers would get on. To be honest, I sometimes even feel that I can only cope with this particular sort of stuff because I worked in the same sort of field for a while.

I guess the same sort of thing causes problems with other things too. As far as I can tell, the whole premise of APS film was just to have a new format that was impossible to load into the camera incorrectly; likewise, any number of systems (VCR plus, barcode readers, on-screen menus, ...) got invented to make it easier for users to deal with programming VCRs.


Encountered an awkward etiquette problem at fencing last night. I was chatting to someone that I'd fenced earlier in the evening, and she was bemoaning the fact that she'd been 8-5 up against me, but had then lost 10-9, and that this seemed to happen to her a lot. I had to stop myself from blurting out: "You didn't realise that I gave you the first six points?!". Given that she says this happens a lot, I guess I'm not the only person doing so.

It did get me wondering, though, as to whether I should be giving away points to recent beginners. I just figured there's no fun and little benefit in losing 10-2 to someone in about four minutes; instead, I try to reward decent attacks with points to encourage learning. But maybe that's a bit too condescending; it certainly used to annoy me at my previous club when the better fencers used me as a practice dummy for some particular attack they were working on (it's kind of embarassing when someone does the same thing eight times in a row and hits you seven out of eight).

[A:14298 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:23640]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Day 139

[reading: Michael Flocker, "The Hedonism Handbook"]

Another day closer to the worms. In fact, officially half-way there.

[A:12056 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:21398]

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Day 137

After a quick excursion to get some more frames, so I could mount and frame a few more pictures (although the last pair are going to need a custom sized frame) in time for holding the evening's party.

I also nipped out to get an Eye Toy, which worked very well as a good party ice-breaker. I was much tempted to put a blank video into the VCR and record everyone's antics through the evening, but I didn't quite get around to it in the end. After the Incident With The Coasters, I don't think Mike would ever forgive me if I had.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Day 136

Last little bit of kitchen DIY today—fitting some beading around the fireplace and a partition strip along the edge of the main tiled area. And in theory, that's everything done. For now. Which may be just as well; in the gym afterwards, my knees were aching too much to do a full set of exercises.

Still, on the plus side I discovered that my concern about needing to recalibrate one of the machines was unfounded: the gym has merely managed to set things up so that some of these machines ask for pounds, and some of them ask for kilos, and I was just using a different instance of this machine than I usually do. Sigh.

I also got around to framing up a couple of the pictures from the Thailand trip, which involved digging out my mount cutter. I'd forgotten how useful this thing is, at least in comparison to the hand-held cutter I used to use; zip, zip, zip, zip, one neatly cut mount. I just wish I'd bought the longer version—one of the mounts I was cutting was too long (the picture was by an artist who needed a reasonably sized canvas) and I had to resort to more freestyle cutting.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Day 135

[reading: John M. Ford, "The Last Hot Time"]

Galloping into the home straight now. Grouting the tiles and refitting the kickboards and sealing the worktops and putting up a curtain rail and back to the tile shop to return tiles and get a partition strip.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Day 134

And on to the tiling. Once again, trying to lay a rectangular grid onto anything in this house reveals the curvature: what started as small gaps between tiles ended up as quite large gaps by the time I'd tiled my way out of the back door.

Speaking of which, I thought I'd been quite cunning. I carefully opened up the patio door so that I could lock the back door and re-enter the house via the patio door, without having to cross the still-drying tiles. Turns out, though, that the back door won't lock from outside, so I had to resort to flipping the bolts with a long stick.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Day 133

Had an annoying discovery at the gym today: I finally noticed that when I'm setting up one of the machines, it's asking for my weight in pounds rather than kilos. In contrast to every other type of machine in the gym. It's particularly annoying because this is the machine that made me feel particularly virtuous—I was racking up lots of (putative) calories on it. So I'll have to try again with the correct weight and see what difference recalibration makes.

Following on from yesterday's attempt to fix skirting boards, today I attempted to fix skirting boards. My previous attempts fell off as soon as I looked at them, so I tried again; hopefully applying a certain amount of BFMI and a bigger hammer might sort the problem out.

Tearing up the nasty laminate floor was more fun, though. There's always something visceral about snapping and breaking things. After a bit of quick-set cement to level out the worst of the warping on this particular bit of floor, things are ready for some floor tiling.

[A:12056 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:21398]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 132

Today's DIY attempts got me thinking about differential geometry.

One of the things about living in an oldish house is that nothing is quite square or quite straight. As I was trying to fix new skirting boards to the walls in the kitchen, this became increasingly clear. If one end was flush with the corner, the other end was an inch above the floor, and vice versa. Not content with one axis of distortion, the wall is also (of course) not straight, so the skirting board had to bend along its length (which is at least possible— I had to just pick a compromise position for the first axis of distortion).

So I guess something that looks straight to the naive observer but which is actually curved in two different directions would have some number of non-zero components for its Riemann curvature tensor. And to be honest, I'm not sure there wasn't some torsion in there too.

Of course, the actual attachment of the skirting boards was made more difficult by the fact that the masonry nails I was trying to use wouldn't go into the wall. I was hitting them pretty hard with the hammer, but they just stopped after a bit, then gave out sparks and bent rather than sinking deeper into the wall. In the end, I had to just glue the skirting boards to the wall, and use the partially-sunk nails and some jerry-rigged contraptions to press them against the walll while the glue dries.

Tiling the fireplace moved from an affine connection to a metric, with 15x15 cm tiles acting as a suitable coordinate patch. One direction was reasonably flat (thanks to some earlier efforts), but the other two directions only looked rectangular. Still, at least I now have the tool of choice for adjusting the metric, even if non-square cuts have to be done freehand (at risk of dedigitizing). Reg also decided to assist again but since tile glue is less permanent than paint, I just ignored the pawprints.

[A:12056 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:21398]

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day 130

Hopefully the redecoration stuff is heading into its final stretch; another visit to Homebase today, to get the last supplies (skirting board and timber).

We also headed into Wood Green just as the heavens opened with some pretty torrential rain. Sitting in the coffee shop, I noticed that the water wasn't just streaming down the pavement; it was bubbling up from beneath the paving slabs, forming little geysers a few inches high. After a few minutes, I also noticed that the traffic was flowing oddly and stood up to see that the main road through the shopping centre was flooded (to around a foot deep).

Wandering back home, the knock-on effects on the local traffic looked pretty bad. The knock-on effect on the local wildlife was also interesting: we spotted a very large, slightly bedraggled-looking rat scuttling across a playing field, presumably driven out of the sewers by the amount of water. A large crow gliding across the field towards it raised the prospect of seeing nature red in tooth and claw (or should that be beak?), in the, er, flesh—but the rat turned tail and fled before the crow could pin it down.

[A:12056 B:155 C:0 D:9187 Total:21398]

Friday, September 09, 2005

Day 129

[reading: Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat et al, "Analysis, Manifolds and Physics"]

Tried to start on the first little bit of floor tiling today, but when I took a closer look at the fireplace area I was aiming at, it was nowhere near flat and solid enough. So tiling will have to wait for another day, while my repairing and levelling efforts (using some spare cement I had lying around) dry.

[A:12056 B:111 C:0 D:9187 Total:21354]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Day 128

[reading: Lois McMaster Bujold, "Brothers In Arms"]

For some reason, a whole bunch of my clothes seem to be dying all at around the same time. While I was in Thailand, I had to bin around four shirts because of holes and fraying (and ripping), and since then I've thrown away a couple more and also a couple of pairs of trousers.

So this means I had to encounter the horror that is clothes shopping. The key technique is to treat it like a precision military operation: pre-identified objectives, in at speed, locate and deal with the targets, then out at speed. Operation Trousers And Shirts.

Still, one of the benefits of Copious Free Time is that I can do this on a weekday and avoid the worst of the crowds. This also segued nicely in to the latest Slacker's Lunch, although this one was a bit different. Firstly, my fellow slacker appears to have actually done some stuff on his project, which rather seems like cheating. More disturbingly, he's had a gut infection and so was off the beers, which slightly spoiled the point of the whole thing (for him at least; I spurned the temptation to be sympathetically teetotal). Anyway, some interesting discussions and I've recruited him to be a test reader for my random scribblings, to confirm whether they're as dull and anodyne as I suspect.

[A:11488 B:111 C:0 D:9187 Total:20786]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Day 126

[reading: Charles Stross, "Iron Sunrise"]

OK, that's a bit more like it—a bunch of random scribbling about software design today.


This evening we also went along to the local council hearing about the application for extended opening hours for the pub on the corner. The whole thing took about two hours, which was mostly a waste of time as it became clear about halfway through that the council would only be able to reject the application on some specific legal grounds—none of which we had. Of the four specific areas (prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance, protection of children) only 'prevention of public nuisance' was likely to be relevant. Since no-one had ever complained about pub under the current opening hours, there is no evidence of nuisance and so no grounds to refuse the license.

So, license granted. There were a couple of smaller bits of good news, though. Firstly, looking at the minutes from the previous meeting of the council's licensing group, it looks like several pubs in the centre of Wood Green are getting late licenses, which alleviates my worry about drunk people coming out from Wood Green at 11:30 in search of a late pub.

The other piece of good news is that, while they now apparently have to hand out late licenses to anyone who asks for them, they will also apparently take the late license away again if there are problems, more easily than before. If that's true, then it works out to be almost sensible: we all try living with the late license and see if there are any problems, and come back and revisit the issue if there are. (Slightly tedious, though, as we probably now need to keep a log of whenever we get woken up by passing revellers).

[A:10808 B:111 C:0 D:9187 Total:20106]

Monday, September 05, 2005

Day 125

Hmmm. Not the best start for the plan. Still, at least I managed my first gym visit for about six weeks.

[A:7827 B:111 C:0 D:9187 Total:17125]

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Day 124

More DIY looming in the wings, after a visit to the tile shop to buy floor tiles. Still, at least I should now have the right tool for cutting them up.

I also managed to be completely idiotic about rewiring a rotary clothes line; I happily unravelled the new line and just started pulling, only to discover two minutes later that 40 of the 60 metres of line had completely tangled itself up. Much as I was tempted to employ the Alexandrian solution, I resisted and instead spent half an hour untangling everything again.

Also, as of tomorrow the plan is to finally start working on some (non-DIY) projects, rather than flolloping around. We'll have to see how that goes.

[A:7827 B:111 C:0 D:9187 Total:17125]

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Day 123

Finished my old code resurrection, and so for old time's sake I re-ran one of the master scripts: ginger. This does a whole bunch of algorithms and tests over a file of time series data, generating plots and dumps as it goes. It's also reassuring to see that Moore's Law has had its effect over time—back in 1993 it would take hours to run on the fastest SPARC workstation of the era; now, it runs in a minute or two on my current laptop. Even my four-year old Linux laptop copes with 12,000 points of Lorenz data in minutes rather than hours.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Day 122

I started revisiting some code I wrote back in around 1993 this afternoon, to get it back working again. It's interesting to see what my code from back then looks like; pre-ANSI C declarations look particularly odd now. Fortunately, most of the compilation problems seem to be trivial to fix so far: old header files (malloc.h anyone?) and old-style multi-line string continuations.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Day 121

The postman delivered my first set of prints from the better photos I took on the trip. The prints look fairly decent, but a little darker than on screen; I guess I need to do some gamma calibration. I also spent a lot of the morning fighting my new external hard disk.

Just a bit of BIY today: recoating some areas of yesterday's painting, reattaching the extractor fan and reinstalling the shelves in the fireplace.

Back to fighting new computer hardware this afternoon.