Monday, February 28, 2005

Squashed Philosophers

Squashed Philosophers is a surprising good pocket guide to philosophy ranging from Plato to Sir Karl Popper.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

O tempora, o mores

I went to meet a friend in town for a drink. I was only having one, so I suppose I could have driven, but I went on the bus as I usually do. The bus there was packed and I had to stand, sandwiched between a sweaty fat and some beery lads out to get even more drunk. I had a choice of staying on the bus or getting off at an earlier stop, so I got off eary and caught the tram instead.

I was glad I came out - I hadn't seen my friend for far too long, but he has now finished the training course that he was doing and is back home as a fully fledged copper. We arranged to meet up again soon, but this time preferably not on a busy Saturday night in town.

The journey home was worse than the outbound one.

I got to the bus stop just in time to miss one bus, and had what looked like a fifteen minute wait according the timetable but turned out to be twice that, on a freezing cold night. The bus was practically empty, but it filled up as we passed a fun fair and collected a large group of noisy girls. I'm pretty sure that none of them were older than fourteen or fifteen (and two or three of them were much younger), but they proceeded to discuss the intimate details of their lives loudly enough for everyone on the bus to hear.

I felt very old.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Which dog are you?

Have a look at the 'What Dog are you?' on this promotional site. An excellent bit of design work, but quite what it has to do with the film it is promoting is beyond me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Snow Joke

The cold rumbles on. I woke up this morning at around half past three with my nose streaming, feeling like death warmed up. I went downstairs to get a drink of grapefruit juice and tonic water, and then played Grand Theft Auto on my Gameboy Advance for a while and read some more of the Mary Gentle book that I am working my way through. I dozed off for a while before waking up to the eerie light of a snow day.

Walking in the woods at dawn was magical. Softly drifting snow amongst the trees and a cotton wool crunch underfoot. The dog was wading through snow drifts up to his middle and having a whale of a time in a world that was a blank canvas just waiting to be marked as his territory.

Home, and the news is good for Master and Ms Dogwood. No school today! Mrs Dogwood is not so lucky, so I scraped the snow off her car and sent her off with provisions in case she got stuck. The main roads were clear though, and she arrived at more or less her normal time.

The day started badly for me though - my laptop wasn't booting and need a complete restore. Fortunately I was able to connect to the hard drive via the USB docking cradle to get a backup of my documents, and then it was just a case of letting it get on with things, including reloading SP2, anti-virus and anti-spyware, and firefox. Fun fun fun.

Early morning snow

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Row over Springer opera donation

According to this article the cast of Jerry Springer:The Opera offered to donate their wages from a performance of their show to the cancer charity Maggie's Centres. The Christian Voice group threatened to protest outside the charity's offices until they were forced to turn down the donation. You might care to email them and tell them they are a bunch of small minded, fuck witted bigots who if there is any justice in the world will die from a particularly painful malignant tumour in the near future.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Snow business

Well, as predicted we had a fair covering of snow this morning, and my cold got worse during the night. I woke up several times struggling to breath through a bunged up nose and by six o'clock when the alarm went I was feeling rough. Master Dogwood was off school with the same bug, and so I set off to drop Ms at school. As I opened the car door to get the scraper out, a huge chunk of snow dropped inside on to the passenger seat - hmmm, not good. The traffic was stationary, and the round trip took three times longer than normal. I rang up the office and found that the person I was supposed to meeting today in Birmingham hadn't turned up, so I made an executive decision to stop at home. I'm not sure whether to go to Leeds or not tomorrow - I'll just have to see how I feel in the morning.

Free Mojtaba and Arash

Further details for action here

Monday, February 21, 2005

Since we've no place to go ...

... let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Unfortunately, I've got to go to Brum tomorrow. We've just had a few flurries of snow here today, but this evening has seen a steady and sustained fall starting when I was out at fencing and quickly covering the back roads. The cold that I thought that I had shaken off also seems to be coming back for another go. More Nuclear Strength Lemsips and a glass of beer before bedtime, I think.

One minor drama during the writing of this post though. I'd just settled down with my laptop when we heard an almighty crash from the kitchen. One of the cats had managed to knock a plate off the worktop onto the floor, smashing it to smithereens, whilst trying to get some chicken bones wrapped up underneath it. I tidied up the mess, and the cats still had the cheek to start miaowing for food.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Global blogger action day called

BBC NEWS | Technology | Global blogger action day called

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Knights of the Old Republic II

Long standing readers of this blog (who really should pull up a chair and sit down to rest their weary legs) will recall that Knights of the Old Republic was one of my favourite games last year, with intriguing characters and a plotline with one of the best twists ever. The sequel is out, and so me and Master Dogwood are getting stuck in again. My Jedi this time is Qatya Tris - and I may well be tempted to the dark side by some of the new powers available. The start of the game is much the same as the first one - you wake up with no memory of your past and try to piece it together from the clues available - and the progression of your character through the moral choices that you make is the same, but this time your choices affect the other characters as well.

I'm still at the start - an asteroid mining complex overrun with psychotic robots - but it has already dragged me in. The opening credit sequence with the introduction crawling up the screen to the familiar strains of the Star Wars theme still sends a shiver up my spine. I'll probably go and see the final Star Wars film when it comes out, but I think that the real Star Wars experience is now to be found in the Kotor series.

Friday, February 18, 2005

It was sposed to be so easy

Following on from yesterday's rearrangement of all of the audio visual equipment, and my somewhat rash statement that everything was working correctly, the output from the sky digibox started to flicker and then it died completely leaving us with sound but no picture through the scart cable. It's probably a loose pin somewhere, but seeing as it is long out of warrenty it will probably cost some stupid amount of money to fix.

I managed to get the picture coming through on the rf cable instead, but it is not as sharp as the scart lead. We can either put up with it, buy a new digibox or go the whole hog and get sky plus which will cost about £200 plus an extra £10 a month on the sky subscription.

Decisions, decisions ...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Zen and the art of interior design

Mrs Dogwood's campaign to redesign the lounge continues apace. I've got a couple of days off work, so I set to creating some room in the garage by taking a car full of rubbish up to the dump. After some lunch we set off for Rotherham to pick up a new, solid oak tv cabinet. We were originally supposed to be getting one from Argos, but the one they had in stock was damaged and the one that we waited in all day for got 'lost' in transit. The cheeky sods then tried not to refund the delivery charge for the non existant delivery. Anyhoo, they've lost a sale and Furniture Express have gained one.

Being solid oak, the cabinet was rather heavy but it just about fitted into the back of the car and we got it home with no problems. The problems started with unplugging the tv, dvd, vcr, sky and the xbox and then plugging them all back in the right order. The surround sound worked fine, first time, but the next test showed no picture from sky on the tv. I swapped the cables round and changed the setup and it worked. The final test was connecting the xbox up via an rgb scart with an optical cable to the amplifier for 5.1 sound. Success, and it sounds earth shatteringly good on things like Mech Assault now.

Thankyou Mrs Dogwood for creating such a relaxing room!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

CNPS Update

After a week of no hits, today was a three plater. A sixty-eight on the way to get a sandwich at lunchtime, several sixty-nines (ooh, er) as I left work and finally a seventy who came up behind me on the motorway with headlights on full beam. Oh, I also saw a seventy-one out of sequence - just a little reminder not to take the gods for granted.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Random Stupidity

The support call of the day went something like this :

"I've got a problem"
"OK, what's happening?"
"I've been into the system to roll the period forward and it's showing as 2002 period 4 instead of 2004 period 10"
"That's strange - it's showing the correct period for me. Are you logged into the test system instead of the live system?"

Case solved.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Underwater gnome threat 'returns'

This is surely a contender for the most bizarre headline of the year ...

Once, Twice, Three times out of balance

My legs were still stiff today, but the normal Monday night session loosened them up a bit, and we had a very gentle review of some of the material that we had covered on Saturday. We all enjoyed a little bit of schadenfruede at the news that the Professor had pulled a muscle and was suffering somewhat as a result ...

More of a worry was work today, with the sort of call from the boss that you really don't want first thing on a Monday morning - "The accounts system is out of balance - can you take a look at it?". The transactions on the ledger all looked to be ok, and after several hours of detective work in checking that all of the journals were in balance I tracked it down to the balance summary tables being corrupted somehow. In the end I had to recreate them from scratch, and all was well, but I still have no idea how it happened. I'm just glad it was only one of the smaller companies in the group and not the main database which is about fifty times the size of the one I was rebuilding today.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


I ache.

A lot.

I woke up at half past five this morning, and thanks to some rather hot chilli last night, my legs weren't the only things on fire. The professor was really pushing us yesterday, with lots of tough voiding techniques which are intended to make sure that when somebody tries to hit you you put yourself where their sword isn't. This involved rather a lot of twisting and stretching, and some mind melting geometry to position your sword so you have the shortest straight line from your shoulder to your target.

I had been feeling quite confident after the end of the last session, but I am starting to realise again how much there is that I don't know, and even if I did know it I would find it physically impossible to do just yet. Still, I've now got the manual to study, and if I can demonstrate a theoretical grasp of the techniques and treatises that should give me a reasonable shot at attaining the rank of scholar and earning my first sash.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Shoulder of Orion

The sky was dark, save for a sliver of the moon casting a thin light. Orion was standing proud over the woods, his belt picked out in icy diamond points of star light. I was tired, moving slowly through the mud, watching to see which way the dog would pull me next, wary of slipping. Not just physically tired, but mentally and emotionally drained too from the rapier training this afternoon. A blast of a freezing cold wind accentuated the aches in my muscles and joints - a sharp reminder that the winter is not yet spent. Once round the woods, and home to warmth and rest. Cava and pink grapefruit to drink and a chilli to look forward to in a little while.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Route 66

Well, yesterday was a little stressful. As has previously been mentioned Ms Dogwood is not exactly a morning person and we had a classic example. If we don't get out of the house by eight o'clock then the traffic on the road into Sheffield is murder, so I try to give her plenty of warning with a count down from T-20 (time to clean your teeth), T-15 (get your jumper and socks), T-10 (make sure you've got your bag, phone, purse), T-5 (shoes and coat), T-1 (out of the door). Therefore, you can imagine that I was starting to get a little irate by the time we got to T+5 with sounds of clomping and screeching from upstairs. After a free and frank exchange of views we agreed that she could get the bus if she wasn't ready on time, and that she would have to time her own morning routine.

Still, the gods were smiling, and a 66 and 67 brightened my day a little. (Addendum - a 69 today (fnar, arf) but no 68 yet).

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Walking on the moon

A remarkable series of 360 degree panoramic views from the Apollo missions can be seen here

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

64 - 95

The third album from the masters of blissed out post rave cyberdelic funsters Lemon Jelly arrived on my doormat this morning, and it's a goody. The sticker on the imaculately designed gatefold cd says "This is our new album - it's not like our old album", which is not entirely true. It has a similar feel to "Lost Horizons", but the conceit this time is that each track is based around a sample, riff or vocal hook from a different track spanning the thirty years or so referenced by the album title. Perhaps the most recognizable track is "Stay with you" from the seventies duo Galagher and Lyle, but on first listening the stand out tracks are probably "Slow Train" - a delicious reworking of a barbershop quartet - and the utterly mental "Go" complete with William Shatner vocals and a full on guitar break at the end.

Go and buy it now.

Welcome to Lemon Jelly

Welcome to Lemon Jelly has some rather lovely psychadelic wallpapers

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pancake Day

Well, I'm stouffered.

The drive to Dudley and back today was worth it for the stack of pancakes cooked by Mrs Dogwood that I have just hoovered into my face tonight - three with cheese, mushrooms and bacon, and one with syrup. I was going to have some lemon juice as well until I noticed that the best before date was the 20th of April ... last year.

The best compliment came from Master Dogwood though - "Why can't it be pancake day every Tuesday?" Why not, indeed?

Sunday, February 06, 2005


I know this review is somewhat dated, but my excuse is that I missed it at the cinema and we didn't buy the DVD until Mrs Dogwood saw it going cheap in Asda, and then it sat on the shelf for a while until last night we finally got around to watching it. I had heard mixed reviews, mainly from people who had been expecting a summer blockbuster popcorn superhero movie. To be fair, there are enough popcorn moments to string a decent trailer together but that would be somewhat misleading. Hulk is an excellent movie, but it's strengths lie in some astonishing cinematography and direction rather than the action sequences. Somebody complained that it takes half an hour before you get to see the eponymous hero (although hero is certainly the wrong word to use), but what a mesmerising half hour it is, telling the story in flashbacks and spectacular dissolves and transitions.

The most notable technique is the use of split screen images. The director, Ang Lee, uses these with panache to highlight areas of the screen and contrast different images lending depth to character reactions. Combined with some of the bright, vivid colours it really is the closest cinema equivalent to capturing the feel of a graphic novel.

The storyline follows the traditional origin of the hulk, but with a far darker twist than the comics ever dared attempt. As I intimated earlier, the hulk is not a hero - he is a monster, and a awesome and frightening one at that. I jumped in fright several times, and the portrayal of unstoppable rage is breathtaking at times. The final half hour seems tacked on and superfluous, as if somebody had read the script and demanded that a humungous fight sequence be added at the end for no particular good reason.

On balance, this is highly recommended, particularly if you have a good surround sound system that you can crank up.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The road to (Meadow)hell ...

Following on from my rantette about Ms Dogwood's bank card, we worked out that the only branch that was actually open at a time when we weren't either working or at school (or both in Mrs Dogwood's case) was the branch at Meadowhall, which as it turned out was not so much a branch as three cash machines and a couple of harrassed looking staff in a room smaller than our lounge. We waited for a while behind an irate asian couple complaining about bank charges on their account whilst the manager tried to find a polite way of telling them to like it or lump it, and eventually we were able to fill in a form to change the address on the account and order a new card. The manager tried to sell us a loan as we were leaving ... no thank you. I think that we will be taking Ms Dogwood's business elsewhere.

From there we split up to follow our respective interests - bag hunting for Mrs Dogwood, books and games for the rest of us. After a browse in Waterstones we went to Game to have a look at the new Nintendo DS - a lovely bit of kit and a notable bargain at £99. I had a brief play with Super Mario 64 and was most impressed with the quality of the screen and the smooth and colourful 3D graphics. The control system uses a touch sensitive screen with a mini stylus and is remarkably intuitive. The other game on display was Wario Ware, which actually made me laugh out loud several times. A bizarre collection of mini games, all making innovative use of the touch screen to spin plates, pop balloons, poke kittens, pick noses and unravel toilet rolls. Apparently Animal Crossing is due out on this machine which makes me want one even more.

Food shopping in M&S, followed by a coffee in Costa - no chocolissimos though, as the machine was broken - boo! I was feeling tired by this point, and I missed a 66 on the way home, made even more frustrating by a clear sighting of a 67 a few minutes later. I retired to bed with a bit of a headache, but I feel a lot better now I've had a walk with the dog and a couple of ibuprofens.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Room 101

For Winston Smith in 1984, this room contained his worst fear. For me, it was just the usual collection of hotel furniture.

I'm down in Dudley again, and for a change I'm not in a room in a far flung corner of the building. I'd brought my laptop with me, but I was disappointed not to be able to establish a wi-fi connection. I was tired, but I didn't sleep very well - disturbed dreams of trying to write a 3 part tv comedy drama about a night class - and my shoulder was aching. I'm not sure if it is a muscular ache or something deeper in the joint, but it is worrying me. I really don't want an injury in my fencing arm and I think I am going to have to start doing more left handed practice to balance the strain a little more.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Random Stupidity

Trying to create the expenses invoices out of the timesheets system is turning out to be a very bad idea. Our policy is apparently simple - £90 for travel, £100 for overnight and a flat rate charge. However there are a huge list of sites that have been given special rates, some depending on the mileage travelled, some on the method of travel with different rates for road, rail and air (and even one that involves a ferry journey!), some have different accommodation charges, some have different rates for different project managers or different contracts. Some have wangled no expenses charges at all.

In short there is no way that I am going to slot this information into the three fields that I have spare, which means database changes, which means program changes, which means delay until the programmer acquires the necessary circular tuit.

I also have to find a way to collate this data from half a dozen different spreadsheets and scraps of paper in a form that can be uploaded to the database, and then construct a query that will get it out in a form that can interface to the accounts system.

As the French would say, bolleax ...