Tuesday, October 31, 2006


[reading: Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams"]

On the plus side, this is an absolutely fascinating advert:

On the minus side, when I emailed* Dove to see if there was a higher-resolution, downloadable copy anywhere (for a teacher friend who wanted to use it as the basis for a school assembly), I got a swift response of:

Due to licensing reasons we are unable to send the Dove Evolution Film to other organizations. We invite you to log on to http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/ to play the film live.

I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a response.

*When I say "email", obviously I mean "fill out a ridiculous web form that requires me to fill in my postal address". And when I say "my postal address", obviously I mean a random invented address because a) I don't want junk mail for the rest of my days and b) the address form doesn't allow non-US addresses.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Top Tip

[reading: Alistair Reynolds, "Pushing Ice"; recently Neal Asher, "The Voyage of the Sable Keech", Steven Brust, "Dzur", John M. Ford, "The Dragon Waiting", Scott McCloud, "Understanding Comics"]

Today is my third attempt to fill the cracks in the grouting around the bathroom tiles. I have high hopes that this iteration might actually work, for I have encountered a Top Tip: fill the bath with water while the grout is drying, so that the gaps are stretched to their biggest during the drying period.

I did wonder why the cracks seemed to appear and disappear at random; I now realize that it depended on whether I was checking on them when I was sitting in the bath, or when I was standing by the bath. Doh.

[A:37385 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:26863 Total:77059]

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mugging Shock

Bit of excitement this evening; I was reading a bit before bed (about instruction pipelining on the PowerPC 970FX, as it happens) when I heard someone shouting for help outside. This was different from the normal young-drunk-giggly-female shouting we sometimes hear (being close to a pub)—this was an older male voice that sounded in genuine trouble.

So I trundled out to discover that it was indeed someone with trouble—a chap who'd just been mugged, around the corner. After I'd retrieved a torch and an ice pack for him from the house, I ended up tagging along with him and a policeman as we wandered down the nearby alleyway looking for the muggers and to see if they'd abandoned his bag (they had).

From his description of events: he was walking down the alleyway towards three youths coming the other way, and he had advance warning that something was up because they didn't move apart to let him pass. They hit him a couple of times, then started demanding his stuff. He handed over his bag (knowing it had nothing of value in it), and his watch when they demanded it, and was in the process of handing over his mobile phone when they started after his wallet. This triggered him to start resisting, and he grabbed back his phone and ended up keeping his wallet—but ended up being hit more (net result: a nasty looking swelling above his right eye, but fortunately no loosened teeth) before they scarpered.

It was interesting to observe someone who presumably had a touch of shock: he was fairly calm and coherent, but he kept talking continuously and repeated almost everything he said several times. He insisted he didn't need anyone to look at his eye, but I wasn't so sure myself (hence the icepack); I guess I was probably overly worried—I got one of the policemen to take a look at it (assuming he's probably got vastly more experience with black eyes than I do) and he didn't seem too concerned.

So overall he didn't come off too badly: he lost his watch, but kept his wallet, phone, briefcase and all of his teeth. Still, a bit disturbing to have a mugging 100 yards from my house….

[A:37385 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:15988 Total:66184]

Friday, October 06, 2006


[reading: Amit Singh, "Mac OS X Internals"]

So I finally gave in and scratched my itch about the 5¼" floppy, by sending it away to a data recovery place. It was a little bit expensive (although still considerably cheaper than calling out a plumber) and time-consuming (two weeks, five phone calls and an email later), but worth it just for the satisfaction of never having to think about it ever again.

Amazingly, my very first TeX files (from 1989) still produce exactly the same page layouts in the TeX system on my 2005 laptop.

Learning TeX was actually driven by embarrassment. When I originally wrote the essay, it was in WordStar. Dealing with accented characters was a bit annoying in WordStar, so I decided to deal with it in batch mode. While I was writing the essay, I used 'Godel' instead of 'Gödel' all the way through. Then, just before submitting it, I ran a search-and-replace to change all instances of 'Godel' to 'Godël'.


So when someone eventually pointed it out to me, I persuaded the college to let me have the submitted hardcopy of the essay back with the excuse that I was going to replace it with a better-typeset version—and hence my introduction to TeX.

[A:37385 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:13011 Total:63207]