Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What a fantastic afternoon - glorious sunshine (although at 19 degrees this would be cold in Tijuana), good friends, a walk in the woods and a spot of swordplay. Fighting with a brace of rapiers is a whole different ballgame, but it epitomises the art of fence encompassing attack and defense in one fluid form. I want an extra rapier now (and a dagger and a buckler and a cloak and and and ...). As Rachel said, it really is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Fantastic!

Rapiers 5
Originally uploaded by neilh.

Rapiers 3
Originally uploaded by neilh.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

You Were Actually Born Under:
Popular and crafty, you are a master at the art of seduction. You are intelligent and intuitive - and make a savvy businessperson. You live life to the fullest, even if it means maxing out your credit cards. Many people are secretly (and hopelessly) in love with you. You are most compatible with a Rooster or Ox.
You Should Have Been Born Under:
No worries, you're not really pig-like in your personality. (Though you have been known to have a healthy appetite!) You are highly intelligent - forever studying and gaining knowledge. You have a heart of gold and you are appreciated by many. You are most compatible with a Rabbit or Goat.
The second sign is particularly appropriate … :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

What age will you die?

You Will Die at Age 88
Congratulations! You take good care of yourself. You're poised to live a long, healthy life.

Big Brother Blog

If you have any interest in discussing this year's Big Brother then Pig Brother is the place to go. See you there!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sense and sensuality

A warm early summer's evening, a glass of crisp white wine, a piquant Spaghetti Puttanesca eaten outside with Pizzicato Five playing in the background and the anticipation of a chiminea moment in a little while ... ahhh.

Guess what? I appear to be a braniac (again) ...

You scored as Modernist. Modernism represents the thought that science and reason are all we need to carry on. Religion is unnecessary and any sort of spirituality halts progress. You believe everything has a rational explanation. 50% of Americans share your world-view.









Cultural Creative








What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I (don't) have the power

There was a power cut this morning. At four o’clock. How do I know? Only because every bloody burglar alarm on the street went off at the same time. I closed the window and tried to get back to sleep, but half an hour later the cats decided that because it was light outside it must be breakfast time and they were going to scratch the side of the bed until I got up to feed them. I booted them off the bed and was nodding off again when I realised that the power to the clock radio had gone off, so I got up again to set the alarm on my palmtop, but in the end it wasn’t needed as I was still awake at a quarter past six.

I went downstairs and reset the trip switch on the fusebox, and then went round resetting all of the clocks that needed resetting and then went to enjoy a few minutes of silent contemplation in the smallest room.

The power then went off again … Tipping sodical.

Your powers are weak old man ... hissss

You scored as Darth Vader.

Darth Vader


Anakin Skywalker


General Grievous


Mace Windu




Obi Wan Kenobi






Clone Trooper


Emperor Palpatine


Padme Amidala




Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

From Billy and Maria

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bits and bobs

I've been forgetting to take my daily cod liver oil tablets recently, but I didn't realise until I heard a worrying series of clicks and crunches coming from my shoulder and elbow when I was running through the moulinet sequence at fencing last night. It was, if anything, even better than usual last night - lots of fun offhand dagger work and jedi mind tricks to play with. I really do want a main gauche, and I want one now ... :-)
After several weeks of trouble free driving to Birmingham the motorway had its revenge this morning - roadworks (with no visible work happening), an overturned lorry at one of the junctions and traffic grinding to a halt for no obvious reason for an extended stretch on the M42 added an hour to my commute. At least I had the 'Hearts in Atlantis' audiobook (an excellent reading by William Hurt) and Satygraya to listen to on the way. Radio 4 was back to its dull and irritating self after the strike yesterday gave us Just a Minute and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue instead of mendacious politicos and hypocritical theologians. I have a news addiction, and I can't resist listening to Today if it is on, although since the election I do find myself more and more tempted to switch off after the news headlines. Who exactly do the politicians think they are fooling when they give waffling evasive replies to straightforward questions? Would it really hurt for once for one of them to say "I'm sorry, I don't know" or "We got that policy wrong" or even "We'll listen to any suggestions that people might have". Ruth Kelly, the education minister, is currently the prime offender and she still seems to be blaming problems in schools on things done by the tories ten years ago.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sith apprentice

Sith apprentice
Originally uploaded by neilh.

Light Sabers

Light Sabers
Originally uploaded by neilh.
Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine

A long time ago, in an Odeon far, far away

That very first moment, where the Rebel ship flew overhead pursued by the Imperial Star Destroyer, impossibly huge, impossibly loud, is one that will stay with me forever. I had, quite literally, never seen anything quite like that before, and it changed my life. The Empire Strikes Back was even better – characters that we cared about were caught in the middle of an epic war, and there was every chance that they might not win. The subsequent films had their moments, but they were just marking time. There was just one thing that I really wanted to see.

I think it was in a Star Wars poster magazine, or a comic perhaps, just a throw away line about Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi fighting a duel on the edge of a volcano. For me, this epitomized the magic of the Star Wars universe. Characters had a history, stretching back, outside the glimpses that we saw on the screen. It felt real, in much the same way that Middle Earth feels like a real place to those of us who grew up with Lord of the Rings.

So, we come to the end. The final film. Our last sight of the Star Wars universe.

I am prepared to forgive this film a lot. The wooden acting, the stilted dialogue, and the bombastic spectacle for the sake of it. The opening sequence with hundreds of Star Destroyers just feels empty, whereas that original moment was overwhelming in its scale and simplicity. At one point a character dies, simply because they have lost the will to live – there are points in Revenge of the Sith that come dangerously close to that point.

Still, there is much to appreciate. Light saber duels, Mace Windu filled with righteous anger, Wookies in a humongous battle, Yoda being the most expressive character on the screen.

Oh yes, and that moment. The fight on the volcano. Thrilling and horrifying in equal measure, and a fine postscript to the saga as a whole. The closing moments of the film are simply magnificent – the final transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader, Yoda looking very old, the sight of Death Star, and the twin suns setting over Tatooine. We have come full circle, and this will do.

The most satisfying thing of all was the joy on a small boy’s face as we fought our own light saber duel in the sunshine when we got home. The imagination is the most powerful force of all, and that is where the real magic lies.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

ID Cards

ID cards – we don’t need no steenkin’ ID cards. The whole idea of having large amounts of personal data stored in a hugely complex and fundamentally insecure database is flawed in many ways. It won’t stop terrorism, it will compromise civil liberties, it will be intrusive in normal day to day life, it will be a massive waste of public money and it just won’t work.

Please, if you haven’t already done so, go and sign the No2ID e-petition

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I have the power

The battery on my laptop has been slowly dying for a while now – I finally snapped when it shrunk to less than an hour and went looking for a replacement. I’d asked about the extended life battery when I first got this machine a year ago but the official supplier quoted me a price of £300 – half the cost of the machine itself. I found it online for less than half that, delivered from Seattle in less than a week. I’ve been using it for two and a half hours and I’ve still got four and a half hours showing on the meter – result!


True confessions

That's it. I've sold my soul. It's finally dawned on me exactly how deep the depths are that I've plumbed. I have a confession to make, I must unburden my soul.

I had to run a training session today, an introduction to our accounting systems and associated procedures for some of the new people in the contracts management department. Nothing too exacting - just an overview with some pointers to some of the pitfalls and things to look out for when they interface their invoices. Not a problem, you might think. It's just that, how can I put this? When I was asked to run the session my first thought was .... gulp ... to create some slides in powerpoint.


Time was when I would have printed off some notes and extemporized for a while, but I honestly thought it would look a bit more professional and interesting if I prepared something in advance. What have I done? Have I learnt nothing from all of the times I've sat through endless powerpoint presentations seriously contemplating gnawing off my leg in order to escape the tedium?

Truly I have become Dilbert, destroyer of corporate souls ....

As I was hooking my laptop to the plasma screen in the meeting room I saw sense and junked all but twelve of the slides, removed the stupid transition effects and irritating noises from the rest, and spent most of session demonstrating the procedures for real rather than just talking about them, but it was a close call.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Which science fiction writer are you?

I am:
Arthur C. Clarke
Well known for nonfiction science writing and for early promotion of the effort toward space travel, his fiction was often grand and visionary.

Which science fiction writer are you?

From Neil Gaiman

Days like these

Another day of fencing, with only three newbies instead of the larger number that looked like a possibility at one point, but the review material was very useful and we finally got our hands on some daggers for some offhand work. It was only marred by some chav scrote smashing one of the car windows outside the hall just before lunchtime, and they managed to pick the one car that wasn't visible from the cctv cameras in the hall. Grrrr.

Still, I've got home, walked the dog, had a much needed shower and I'm now sat with a cold beer waiting for Doctor Who to come on TV ... life doesn't get much better than this!

Annoying ringtones

From b3ta.com this is the ringtone to end all ringtones. Not safe for work, or anywhere else for that matter ...

Friday, May 13, 2005

What is your world view?

You scored as Modernist. Modernism represents the thought that science and reason are all we need to carry on. Religion is unnecessary and any sort of spirituality halts progress. You believe everything has a rational explanation. 50% of Americans share your world-view.











Cultural Creative






What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

From Maria

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The case of the vanishing silver disks

It was one of our most vexing cases, more baffling by far than the case of the Blue Carbuncle or the mystery of the Beryl Coronet, or any number of locked room murders or dogs that didn't bark in the night. We had been summoned to the north on a private engagement on a matter of some import. Holmes didn't show me the telegram that had arrived with the morning post - he merely commented that this job might relieve the ennui that had fallen over 221B Baker Street in recent times and then used the paper to light his pipe.

"I think that we'll take the train, my dear Watson. Come, the game is afoot!"

We arrived by cab at a respected house in the suburbs, and made our enquiries. Well, I say our enquiries, but as is ever more the case, Holmes left the task of interviewing the relevant parties to me whilst he took off to investigate rumours of an Opium den or somesuch in the vicinity. Some time passed before he returned and invited me to present my findings.

"I'm afraid that I still don't quite follow, Holmes. The whole thing is a complete mystery to me. It seems that the master of the house purchased a number of items recently, including a wax cylinder recording of certain avant garde music and a phantasmagorical adventure story intended as a gift for his eldest daughter. On returning to the house he placed the items for safe keeping on a side table, and yet when he came to look for them at a later date they had vanished utterly!"

"At first he suspected foul play or theft. The side table was next to a waste paper receptacle and there was a possibility that the items had been disposed of, either by accident or by some nefarious purpose. Next, he recalled that the daughter had been examining the cover of the phantasmagorical adventure in a state of some excitement, but that it had been removed from her lest it distract from her academic studies. Finally, it seems that the mistress of the house is renowned for being a tidy minded and practical lady, and while she recalled having seen the wax recording and had remarked that it was an unlikely purchase, she could not find it in any of the usual places that she might expect to put something for safe keeping."

"I have eliminated all possibilities as you always tell me to do, but I'm afraid that there is nothing left, not even an impossibility!"

"Really? Watson, you are an absolute dullard sometimes. One of the items was removed from the daughter in the drawing room, so where would be the logical place for it to be placed?"

"The desk drawer Holmes, but I have already looked in there, and in any case the drawer was nearly full with other items!"

"Watson, the items were placed in the drawer, but the next time the drawer was opened they were forced to the back by the weight of the bric a brac therein and thence fell down behind the lower drawer and were trapped, out of sight and in your case, quite patently, out of mind"

"By Jove Holmes, you are correct! How do you do it?"

"Elementary, my Dear Watson. Now, if you would so kind as to prepare a seven percent solution for me, we will be on our way"

Monday, May 09, 2005

Monday morning sure looks fine to me

I struggled to get out of bed this morning - a lateish night last night watching Quadrophenia for the umpteenth time (and doesn't Phil Daniels look young in that film) - but I've just driven back from dropping my daughter at school with the windows down to enjoy the cool breeze in the bright spring sunshine and Phillip Glass' Low Symphony turned up to 11 on the cd player, and a mug of coffee brewing at my elbow to look forward to, and the world looks like a good place today.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Which book are you?

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Courtesy of Maria

Friday, May 06, 2005

CNPS Update

Yesterday I saw 90, 91, 92 and 93, just not necessarily in that order.

The capricious nature of the Gods of cnps was proved once again when a potential four plate day was reduced to a two plate day - the 92 on a motorbike passed me less than a minute before I turned a corner to see the 91 on a van parked at the side of the road. I've seen at least five 93s since that time as well.

Still, I shall accept it with the zen calm of the true disciple of the art of cnps.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Users - don't talk to me about users ...

"I need to look at the pricelist database - where is it?"
"It should be copied automatically to your local disk - just have a look in your pricelist folder"
"OK - oh, it's coming up funny"
"What do you mean 'funny'?"
"There aren't any menus"
"OK, it might have lost the switchboard form - just click on the 'forms' button"
"I can't see a forms button"
"OK, let me check the master copy of the database on the server ... hmmm, looks ok to me. Can you download it again please?"
"It's still coming up the same"
"Can you send me a screen shot so I can see what's happening? ... Ah, the problem is that you are trying to open an Access database in Excel. Can you just find the database in explorer and open it like that"
"Oh, it's working now"

~heavy sigh~

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Yesterday was a long day.

I seem to be waking up with the dawn at the moment, and then watching the alarm clock until it's just about to sound at six o'clock. The holiday weekend seemed a long way away in the cold morning light, and even further away when I got onto the motorway to find it crawling for much of the journey to Birmingham. Still, I timed my arrival for the morning coffee run and I got through the work I needed before the web meeting in the afternoon.

The more we see of the American system, the more I like it. Even asking them about a new accounting standard for estimating revenue left on projects didn't faze them and they were able to demonstrate a way of dealing with it, with less than ten minutes of setting up. There are still politics about the in-house system though, which could be awkward.

I didn't leave the office until after five, but the traffic was flowing much more smoothly and the drive in the may sunshine was about as good as it gets. I listened to first episode of the new Hitchhiker's serial on the radio on the way, and it was much more enjoyable than the film promises to be. I'm not sure if we'll even bother with going to the cinema to see it - tickets for four of us, with popcorn and drinks on top, devour the better part of twenty five quid which is probably twice the cost of the dvd when it comes out.

I didn't feel too tired when I was sat on the sofa watching tv, but the next I knew it was after eleven and I had zonked out again, too tired to put the cats out who then went on to wake us up at five o'clock this morning, scratching the carpet for attention. It's a vicious circle ...

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Wow. Gosh. Fabaroonie.

It's seven o'clock on a Saturday night and I'm seven years old again. Even though we'd seen a lot of it before, the first sight of the dalek raised the hairs on the back of my neck. It was a fantastic bit of scripting too - the parallels drawn between the Doctor's ruthlessness and the dalek's single minded urge to exterminate, and the idea of them both being the sole survivors of their species was a neat touch.

Christopher Eccleston was in top form, going from fear and panic, to furious rage and back again. Billie Piper's Rose was even better - she actually managed to make me feel sorry for the poor ickle dalek being chained up and tortured for fifty years, and the final scene where it got to see the sunlight before self destructing was almost a tear jerker.

Lots of iconic moments to remember - the dalek breaking free of it's chains, and it's implacable progress through the base killing everything in it's path. The alien museum with the cyberman head in a glass case. The Doctor scrabbling at the door of the cell trying to escape, before realising that his mortal enemy was impotent and helpless.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff, and notably dark and scary for a Saturday teatime. Torture, death, mayhem and destruction and a suicidal dalek - you've got to love it.