December 2005 Archives

And ninety nine other thing we didn't know - and perhaps wish we still didn't - this time last year, courtesy of the BBC.

Recursion: see recursion

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Does anyone really follow unpacking instructions? Given that they're usually to be found ensconced within the actual packaging, they've always struck me as somewhat redundant. And as if to confirm it's redundancy my new phone's user manual provided me with some unexpected amusement - a perusal through it revealed the following enlightening instruction for unpacking the phone and confirming the box contents:

Please make sure you have each item:
  • Phone
  • Travel charger
  • Battery
  • User's Manual
I wonder how many people have complained that their user manual is missing?

Maybe none - after all, how would they know...?

New toy

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I finally got around to purchasing a new mobile phone today. It's been on my shopping list for a while, since my old phone is locked to Orange which rather inconveniently doesn't offer a great reception in the area in which I'm living. Getting any sort of signal requires a short stroll up a near by hill. The exercise is good, the inconvenience rather less so.

Choosing a phone is one of those decisions over which I tend to agonise. I'm loath to carry anything more about my person than I absolutely need to. I view even house keys and a wallet as irritating burdens so anything else that is to be carried about on a daily basis deserves due consideration. My requirements are relatively scant however. Size and weight are the prime factors - less is most definitely more. Design also plays a considerable part. I like pretty things and the thought of having to handle something ugly on a daily basis depresses me. Playful appearance a definite plus.

Build quality is also an issue. I detest Nokia's clamshells for example. Their construction feels flimsy in my hands, and the plastic creak emitted when opening and closing doesn't seem to bode well. I also find that their design tends to fluctuate between extremes, from designers flight of fancy to the deathly dull, neither of which appear particularly attractive. Motorola's offerings appear considerably better, particularly the RAZR and it's derivatives, but I dismissed those after some poor ratings from friends and family. Sony do quite well on the style and solidity fronts as well, but their focus seems to be more on their candy bar style phones and their clamshells tend on the bulky side.

Samsung E530

In the end I plumped for Samsung again. An E530 in white and orange plastic shell that looks as though it would sit quite happily beside one of the old tangerine iBooks. My last phone was a E330 which served me well enough despite a few nuisances, the majority of which have been fixed on the E530. The plastic cover for the power connector is now attached to the phone body and so shan't get lost. The phone book now allows you to search for a name directly rather than having to press a button first. The display backlight doesn't remain on when charging. The external display is divided in two now - rather than a single lcd, it features an electo-luminescent display which permanently displays the time and signal strength (rather than having to hold a button for a second or two as on the E530 - a big plus) and beneath that an OLED display to displays the call/message details. Lastly, the keypad features a white backlight rather than blue - it may not sound like much but for some reason I have considerable difficulty focusing on blue lights, which made looking at the keypad an unsettling experience. Anything other than blue is more than welcome.

It's not without it's own niggles however. I've discovered two nuisances already - firstly there's a delay of a fraction of a second between opening the phone and the display appearing. It's the sort of lag you don't expect to see on a phone these days, and though it doesn't have a major impact it is noticeable. Secondly when sending an sms, the editor doesn't recall the text entry mode, forcing you to select T9 each time you send a message. Both of these are quite unexpected and seem to be a big step back from earlier models. The T9 problem in particular will gall active texters. Fortunately I don't send that many sms messages myself so it's not a life or death issue, but it's bizarre oversight nevertheless, especially considering the attention to detail that's gone into the phone elsewhere - my favourite of these is the charger which features a couple of LED's to indicate whether the phone has finished charging or not, a simple yet elegant touch.

On the plus side, it features bluetooth, java, and a megapixel camera with flash. Nothing I expect to get much use out of, really, but nice to have regardless. I do however offer special praise for the quality of the interior lcd. Despite the relatively narrow viewing angle around the vertical, it's amazingly bright and renders colour extremely well. My laptop hangs it's head in shame by comparison. Features that aren't likely to see much use from me include a period predictor, a small application to determine which fragrances best suit you, and a calorie counter - somehow I get the feeling that I'm perhaps not part of the target demographic at which this phone is aimed...

Perhaps the most interesting feature though is the 90Mb of memory coupled with the facility to use mp3's a ringtones. I've no interest in using the phone as a mp3 player but the facility to choose a different mp3 as a ringtone for each person in my phonebook is irresistible. Already I've spent some time scanning my cd and mp3 collection searching for appropriate pieces of music. It almost functions as a barometer of how well I know someone - the longer/better I've known you, the more choices of music there seem to be. It's definitely a fun exercise however, with tremendous potential for mischief - all I'd request is that you don't phone me in my presence. You may of course feel free to offer your own thoughts as to what your ringtone should be, though such suggestions will be taken under advisement (or ignored completely).

Right, it's finished charging, I'm off to play...

Perhaps the most important lesson to take from this is that it's possible to order silly putty en bulk. Hmm...

RIP Vincent Schiavelli

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A remarkable face no more...

In with the new

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As a Christmas present to my big brother I promised him I'd start upon a new website for his business about which he's been pestering me for some time now. I'd put if off for so long largely because I'm the type of person who needs some separation between work and life outside of work - something that's become all the more important to me now that I'm working from home.

That said I agreed to it now because there are some bits of technology that are getting a lot of buzz right now, and it's probably about time I hitched myself to a new bandwagon - the website for my brother is really just a good excuse for me to immerse myself in something new for a bit. Java is all well and good, but it's a big world of tech out there and a bit of polyglottony will do my skill set (and cv) no harm at all. Currently Ruby seems to be the buzzword of the day, along with Rails, the web application framework with which it's closely associated. They've been around for a while now, but their momentum only seems to be increasing and I like what I'm hearing. After spending so many years dealing with languages using C-derived syntax, Ruby comes as something as a shock - What do you mean there's no ternary "for" loop? And where are my variable declarations? Wah! Still, the fact that it's completely object oriented wins big points from me after dealing with Java for so long (primary types - bleh!), and it's handling of collections and iterators is really quite wonderful.

Of course, none of this means anything to my brother, but the beauty of it is that we both get what we want out of it. And isn't that the best sort of Christmas present?

The Madness Hampsters

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File under 'Things every parent should know' ;)

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

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I'd almost forgotten that Saturday Night Live could be funny...

It's Christmas time

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What do you know? It's gone and turned Christmas already when I wasn't looking. Merry Christmas to you one and all if that's your cup of tea, or Happy Holidays if you prefer something a little more non-denominational.

I hope you all get what you want for Christmas this year, tangible or otherwise.

Coming soon... or eventually

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It's almost Christmas eve, and several of you will probably have noticed by now a general absence of Christmas cards from me. There's a reason for that - I haven't sent any yet. That's not to say I shan't be sending any. I've got a small pile of cards ready to go, as well as several presents - they'll all be carted off to the Post Office tomorrow, there to begin winging their late way to their destinations. I apologise for the delay. I'd claim lack of organisation, but it's not that. For some reason I seem to have a chronic inability to send cards on time, or sometimes at all. It's not a trait I'm proud of. On the plus side, at least these shall be sent, rather than being added to my card pile of shame - those cards I bought and never sent. In some cases this includes cards I've written, addressed and stamped.

Hang in there a little longer.

An interesting insight into the cut-throat world of toy development

Was I even away?

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I'm back from my trip southwards to my old haunt of London town. As usual the rational to head down for work related activities was little more than an excuse to catch up with friends I see but too infrequently, attend a couple of Christmas parties, do some shopping, cook for friends, attend the theatre and exchange presents and cards. And in between that I even managed to squeeze in some work.

In the spirit of delayed gratification that so personifies the festive period, let's look at work first and save the fun stuff for later. Well, I say "look" at work, when what I really want to do is rant a little, primarily about our marketing department. They're currently touting our wares to potential clients in the hope of securing the ever desirable new sources of revenue. I've really no problem with them doing that - money coming into the company is good, since it eventually filters down the financial food chain into my pocket. Definitely a good thing. However, I think their methods are slightly suspect. In general they say "yes" a little more than they should. As in "Can we have this extremely complex web site set up by the beginning of January?" "Yes". In case you haven't realised it, at least in this instance, "yes" really wasn't the right answer. In fact, "no" would be been considerably more accurate.

I can understand it if this were to happen once, but it's an all too frequent occurrence. Marketing promise clients the world, sign binding contracts, and then get upset when they're told that there's no way in hell we can actually deliver on their promises. This latest example is really just the perfect example of that. A deadline was promised, to have a website ready for the beginning of January,and as soon as the technical team looked at the specs we knew that this was never going to happen. The first step involves porting the client's data from an absurdly complex mish-mash of sql and xml into our database. During a 5 hour meeting with the client on Tuesday we calculated that importing the data alone is likely to take longer than entire development period estimated by the marketing department. And that doesn't actually include any development. A more realistic estimate will be the middle of February. Why didn't anyone bother to consult the development team before deadlines were set in stone? I've no idea. I'd like to say I don't really care but that's only true to an extent - I don't have to work to impossible deadlines, rather I'll work to a considerably more realistic estimate. No-one will yell at me for it, and the marketing department, or whoever signed this deal will take the heat for over-promising and under delivering. The CEO of the client company has already had several angry conversations about the delay. But the truth is I do care. I care that my company is, in my estimation, lying to clients in order to secure work. It's wrong. I've spoken with my manager about this issue before, but nothing ever seems to come of it. Still, my time with the company is reaching it's twilight one way or the other, so I've accepted that things are unlikely to change and my will to change them is waning..

But enough of work. On the social side of things, my visit was carefully scheduled to coincide with both the company Christmas party, and a smaller gathering for the department. The office Christmas party almost seemed to be a stereotypical example of the breed. Admittedly, it took place at a proper venue outside of the office, thus limiting the potential for photocopier shenanigans, but aside from that you can pretty imagine the scene. Food and drink in copious quantities with night ending with many a person looking much the worse for wear as a result. During dessert it was pointed out that I seem to have rather a high tolerance for rich and sweet food. From my perspective I've never encountered a dessert I've considered to rich or too sweet but this seemed to be the exception at the table, rather than the rule. Most people gave up on the dessert, a passable chocolate, mousse, after a few mouthfuls. I myself stopped after three. Mousses that is. It was worth it for the bemused expression on people's faces. Plus it was chocolate.

The department party was a much more sedate affair by comparison, and all the more enjoyable for me as a result. Just a small group of people enjoying dinner at a small restaurant in Richmond. Good company, thoroughly enjoyable food (I dined in a particularly succulent slab of swordfish, followed up with a chocolate creme brulee which was every bit as good as it sounds), and Des Lynam, who was enjoying a meal at the table next to us and consequently had to put up with people sneaking surreptitious glances and whispering to the person sitting next to us "Is that...?" It was a good reminder of the high cost of fame.

And inbetween parties I also got the chance to watch Patrick Stewart performing his one man rendition of Dicken's Christmas Carol. Absolutely splendid stuff. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket if you have to. On a near empty stage, with only the most minimal of props to work with, Stewart brought the play to life. Every character portrayed perfectly, he told the story faultlessly. It was like the best Jackanory there never was, and the perfect accompaniment to the season. I should say more but I'm really not going to do it justice. Superlatives apply - go see it.

Right, I'm off to bed now, it's been a long few days...

I can see clearly now

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My new spectacles arrived today - hurrah! I've been making do with an eight year old pair over the last few weeks which have been better than nothing, but the difference with the new pair is really quite remarkable. After trying them on I wandered around the streets a while, gazing at the sights with newfound clarity. It made me realise just how great an impact all the minute scratches and smears that inevitably come to infect all spectacle lenses have. I'll try to appreciate the pin sharpness of the world around me before the rot sets in. The next few days should provide ample opportunity for that.

Tomorrow morning I depart for London again. It's a slightly extended visit this time, since my presence was requested for the company Christmas party tomorrow, and the department Christmas party on Monday evening - I arrive back late on Tuesday. I probably shan't be posting much during that time. I've not yet lined anything up for the weekend itself (though I suspect some Christmas shopping may be on the menu), but Friday night shall be take by Patrick Stewart's one man rendition of A Christmas Carol. I've heard good things about it in the past and am rather looking forward to it.

Anyway, I've am early start tomorrow so I'd best be off. Catch up with you soon.


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A few weeks ago, I needed a radiator removed from a wall fairly urgently, and considered doing the job myself, on the basis that the instructions I found online made it appear a relatively simple task. I was widely rounded up by virtually everyone I know upon suggesting it. It said quite a lot about how others view my diy skills. Even though I would have acknowledged that you were all probably looking out for my best interests (and that of my flat), I nevertheless felt slightly offended by your lack of faith in me

Today, whilst putting up some shelves in the wardrobe - an even simpler task - I managed to break one of the shelf fittings, and in process of repairing it came closer than is probably wise to supergluing a screwdriver to my hand. As it stands I'm sure the small piece of plastic currently attached will disengage itself in due time.

All comments about my handiness in diy arena in future will be duly noted without offence.

I haven't been able to find a larger image unfortunately, but these satellite photos still give an idea of the sheer size of the blaze.

Season's feelings

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There are times when I'm just not good at wanting things for myself, mostly because it hasn't occurred to me that I should want such a thing. Christmas trees for example. Despite all the brough-ha-hah I've put myself through when it came to decorating the flat, I never once considered decorating it for Christmas. In fact, although I adore the appearance of Christmas decorations, I haven't decorated for Christmas for many a year now, mostly because I've been living in rented accommodation. It's strange I feel like I've just confessed a dark secret by admitting that.

'Tweren't always that way. Once upon a time I took great delight in decorating my bedroom back home with all manner of trinkets and ornaments and twinkling lights. My justification for that, however, was that my bedroom faced the road outside the house and was therefore visible to the world, whereas our living room, resplendently decked out in a bedazzling array of foil decorations and tinsel and the vast number of Christmas cards my mother receives each year, was not. I always felt that passers by should be able to see some sort of seasonal celebration, so I took it upon myself to provide The lesson I can derive from that is that it's often much easier to want things for others.

Recently, I've had numerous people point out to me that I should have a Christmas tree. And you know what? They're right. I do love this time of year, near the turning of the seasons when the winter solstice signals the lengthening of the days. And I love the pomp and pageantry that goes with it. No decoration is too gaudy or tacky, no Christmas jingle too irritating (a contentious point I realise, but I've worked in retail at Christmas on several occasions and got through it without sickening of the endless looping tape of Christmas carols - your mileage may vary of course). That said, I do believe my new tree (freshly purchased this afternoon), despite being as artificial as they come, looks rather tasteful. I'm probably stretching the definition of "tasteful" a bit here, since the tree is composed composed of wire and metal and innumerable small pink lights, but it's only a very small tree and it seems to fit in rather well. It's sitting on my desk by the window just now, gently emitting a rosy glow.

I feel much more seasonal already.


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I had visitors today in my flat today. It's true I've had visitors before, but only family members so far. Today I had friends! Aside from the associated happiness that comes from seeing friends - particularly those I see too rarely - it was also a chance to road test the flat a little, and embrace the whole "visitor experience". It may sound a little strange, but the host ethos is still somewhat unfamiliar to me. For most of my life, excepting a few rare anomalies, I've been the visitor rather than the visited and it's odd finding the scenario reversed. Not unpleasant by any means mind you, but it certainly involves a particular set of skills which I've yet to master. The "cup of tea" ritual, for example, so memorably immortalised in that episode of "The Goodies" I'm sure at least some of you will remember. Despite my having prepared for visitors by purchasing a kettle and other such tea and coffee making paraphernalia such as, erm, tea and coffee, I still struggled a bit when it came to transforming all the bits and pieces into a something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. Fortunately, one of my guests interceded on my behalf - just after I'd started reading the instructions on the side of the box in which the tea bags came - and since no-one complained, and both cups were emptied, I consider the whole thing a remarkable success. Lest my incompetence around hot beverages seem too unlikely too all you seasoned tea and coffee drinkers out there, you have to take into account that, today's efforts included, the number of cups of tea and coffee I've prepared in my lifetime may have finally reached double digits. I should also point out that the tea and coffee I've purchased essentially constitute a lifetime supply for me, so if you're in the mood for some vague approximation of tea or coffee do feel free to drop by. In short: Visitors welcome.

And as for my guests, well, I'd say more, but I'm trying to tempt one of them to detail the flat experience more thoroughly by opening up a guest slot on my blog. Given that their own blog has suffered from a severe deficit of posts over the last few years, I'm only mildly hopefully that I can coax him into posting something here. Most likely he'll retreat into the relative safety of my comments again, but I'm sure he wants to give me a hard time about my fireplace, and a proper post is definitely the best place for that. Honest :)

Samarost has a sequel

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The utterly entrancing Samarost has spawned a sequel. I stumbled across the original a couple of years back and was delighted. It hearkens back to some of the classic Lucasarts adventure games from oh so many years ago, but with a style and sense of humour all of it's own. It's whimsical and beautiful, intriguing and baffling and I feel indebted to whomever decided to spend their time developing it.

Go have a play. I'm sure you don't have anything better to do with your time ;)

From the archives

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As I was spreading some hydrogenated vegetable oil on a slice of bread earlier today, my thoughts turned to Jim, someone I worked with briefly several years ago.

The setting was an Italian restaurant just off Trafalgar square, where we'd all decamped to enjoy lunch that afternoon. I don't recall the exact circumstances, save that someone else was paying for lunch, which was reason enough to celebrate. I found myself seated next to Jim. As I buttered a piece of bread, Jim proceeded to tell me about a theory of his, that hydrogenated vegetable oil was part of a government conspiracy to control the UK population. I waited for a punchline that never came. Instead I found myself trapped in one of those "Oh wait, you mean you were serious" moments that seem to stretch on forever.

There's a reason why I only worked with Jim briefly...

What can I say? Intolerant minorities offend me almost as much as it seems Jerry Springer: The Opera does them. It's very funny, btw. If you're not easily offended anyway...

It's no use Nicole...

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Every year it seems the same. Your exhortations and pleas most unbecoming. When did it start, I wonder? Was it after you left Tom, or before? I don't suppose it matters. But very year I reject you - every year you force me to reject you - and yet still you come back. Have I not made myself clear? It was never meant to be, this... whatever it is you imagine exists between us.

And it's always around Christmas it seems. Coincidence, or a display of mere opportunism on your part? Though it must surely speak ill of me I cannot help but believe that latter. Please leave me be. Move on, Nicole, move on. Already it seems that I can scarce turn on my television without witnessing your attempts to sell me perfume. It was amusing once, flattering too, I'll confess, but no longer. Your attentions are overly familar now and unwanted. I beg of you to turn them elsewhere.


Don't believe the hype

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I'm not yet sure what to make of Space Cadets, Channel 4's latest entry in the already overcrowded reality tv arena. I'm sure it will soon be discussed around water coolers in offices around the country, but since that's a luxury I'm presently lacking, I hope you'll allow me to indulge myself.

It's yet more reality tv, so it earns a hearty "meh" from me on that front. On the other hand it is trying to do something different, namely to play a massive practical joke on it's cast. The appeal of that should be obvious - people have been suggesting for years that the producers of Big Brother should simply trap 12 people in the house, and simply not film it for 10 weeks and what a jolly jape that would be. Space Cadets seems to have sprung from similar thinking. Only with, you know, tv cameras.

I watched the first episode, I'll admit. Partly because I've been suckered by the considerable hype, but also because I'm curious about how it will all operate from a technical perspective (which, yes, also means I've been suckered by the hype). In doing so I did learn one piece of information that I was previously unaware of. I'd imagined that the show was going to simulate a sub-orbital flight in the vein of X Prize winner SpaceShipOne, i.e. getting them up and down in relatively short time frame. But no, they're actually going to simulate a 5 day mission. The gravity of the situation should be obvious, even to the contestants.

The obvious question that springs from this is "Just how gullible are these people?" Somewhat amusingly the answer appears to be "very" as the first programme showed the audition process taking care to select potential contestants with the requisite level of "suggestibility" (read gullibility), and being sure to weed out any with any technical knowledge which might lead them to suspect the truth.

They also appeared to be looking for people who'd be able to take the joke. Regardless of how serious their efforts will prove to be on this front, I'm still wary of this sort of event. Producing a television series who's ultimate aim appears to be to make a laughing stock of it's contestants doesn't sit particularly well with me (my assumption - it could be that they'll be treated with due compassion. Because tv is famous for that). Given that it's being shown on television as events are unfolding, rather than afterwards, by the time the contestants discover what's happening it will be too late for them to do anything about it. It's not a situation I'd like to find myself in, although I'm sure there will be financial recompense to accompany their 15 minutes of fame so perhaps I shouldn't feel too badly for any of them.

It's got my attention for time being, at least, if only because I want to see how the contestants are going to react to being "in space," not to mention exactly how the production team plan on pulling off the launch and subsequent 5 day mission.

Personally, I'm rather hoping that someone twigs along the way...

It seems that Creative have all but given up trying to beat Apple through innovation. I'll confess that as far as iPod clones go, this is a fairly convincing effort, but it still smacks of desperation.

So David Cameron won the Conservative leadership election to the surprise of virtually no-one in the end, despite the lengthy odds against him when he began his campaign. It's remarkable what can be accomplished on a the back of a single speech at a party conference isn't it? I recall several several editorial pieces from the Guardian in recent years, commenting on Cameron and George Osbourne's ascent in the party and considering them as potential leaders. Rather prescient of them as it turns out.

I'm heartened by Cameron's victory purely on the basis that it's a recognition that there's room for "nice" in politics. It's very easy to plot a straight line though past Tory leaders on a graph, from John Major, to William Hague, to Ian Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard. They've all embodied, or eventually came to embody, the stereotypical image of the arch-conservative. And really, since the Conservatives fell from power, that's not been a pretty picture. "Nasty" more than "nice"

Cameron, regardless of his virtues and faults doesn't fit on that line. Much of that is likely down to some very careful image management on his part. Despite several potential wobbles along the way, notably his refusal to reveal whether he'd taken drugs at university, he's managed to stay on message and come across rather well. Even the fact that virtually everyone has taken pains to point out how little message there is didn't perturb him. And through it all he's managed to come across as a thoroughly decent sort of chap. Friendly and personable, he's been presenting himself as a "compassionate Conservative" at virtually every opportunity, and in his case it's quite easy to believe it. Whether or not it's actually true is a different matter, but there's little doubt that in terms of changing the public perception of the Conservative party Cameron's already made a lot of headway.

I'll retain my healthy skepticism for the time being, however, particularly in relation to Cameron's views that he wants to bring about an end to the "Punch and Judy" style politics of Westminster. It's a lovely idea in theory, and it plays well to the news cameras. In fact it played just as well to the cameras on innumerable occasions before that. Tony Blair himself used the similar language upon his succession to the Labour leadership and making comments along those lines seems to be something of right of passage for all party leaders regardless of denomination. Needless to say it's made scant difference so far. And as someone who wants an end to such confrontational politics, Cameron isn't above taking potshots at Gordon Brown. Methinks Punch and Judy are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Still, Cameron has been making noises of which I approve. Admitting that the party in power has made several smart moves and suggesting that these should be built on rather than torn apart when the Conservatives come to power seems like an awfully grown up thing for a politician to say. Again, it may just be careful image management, but I'm all for politics presenting itself as a positive force.

So at this stage there appears to be ground for some optimism. With luck it will last, but I'm sure it won't be too long before cynicism rears it's head again.

It is politics after all

Definition of restraint:

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Feeling an overwhelming urge for chocolate, realising that the flat is almost completely devoid of such treats and nevertheless managing to resist the urge to plunder the following day of the chocolate advent calendar I received as a moving in present from my sister.

Who says I lack willpower, hmm?


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I sometimes wonder if my family is as supportive of one another as we could be. I'm quite certain that we haven't been in the past. I recall too many instances where an attempt at something new was met with mockery rather than encouragement. It's not something I'm terribly proud of.

I wasn't really aware of it growing up until a close friend of my mother began spending a lot of time in the house and engaged in the same behaviour. It may be because I viewed her as an outsider that her comments seemed particularly vicious - or perhaps they just were. Regardless, it seemed there was little encouragement to succeed in my family. We may have been told "try, try and try again" but what we witnessed was "try, fail, and be laughed at"

My youngest brother returned from a short jaunt to Poland yesterday in time for his birthday today. However, his return journey involved a detour via Manchester, rather than the direct flight he'd been expected to take, after he missed his flight due to being thoroughly hungover. Despite having suffered financially as a result (he'd had to pay for the Manchester flight, plus a rental car to make his way back home), he returned to face numerous digs as his expense, and by the end of the evening seemed thoroughly fed up with it all - for which I cannot blame him.

We're not horrible to one another all the time, but it does seem that we find it hard to resist when the opportunity presents itself, even now. I'm probably making more of it than the issue really deserves, but I can't help but wish things had been different...

A topical interlude

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So Tony Blair's allowing for the possibility that Britain may have to give up part of it's increasingly anachronistic EU budget rebate and naturally the right wing press has gone into hyperbolic overdrive. Gosh - the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph don't like the idea. Who could have predicted that? Sigh...

I really don't understand the attitude of this country towards Europe, the inherent suspicion towards it held by so many. I suppose I'm being slightly hypocritical - even I've been developing a growing interest in the goings on in my own community, and it's only natural to people to care about events in their direct proximity first. But still, the idea of forging close ties with the rest of the world (ok, the EU, but it's a start). Sounds like a great idea to me - sign me up. Will it bring all sorts of social and economic problems. Quite possibly, but I don't see that as reason enough to dismiss the idea. It smacks of short term thinking for a start. My sense of naive idealism still holds that closer ties will eventually lead to a better world.

As far as the rebate goes, I'm still trying to work out what this means for the soon to be reborn Conservative party (whom I really hope rebrand themselves in the vein of New Labour. Who could resist a party called the Mod-Cons after all?). The issue of Europe seems to have been ball and chain dragging the Conservatives down for years. It's long been the Tory equivalent of a self destruct button - so much as a whisper about Europe would cause the party to implode in a spectacle of squabbling, and it's only now, with the advent of a leader unburdened by any real baggage over Europe (or any other frippery such as party policies - but that's another matter) that the Conservatives have started to emerge from the shadow of the EU. It'll be interesting to watch what happens next and how they deal with the budget rebate. They'll be against it, obviously, but hopefully they'll be able to cope with the issue without fragmenting into feuding factions as is their habit.

Time will tell.

In theory trackback pings are a wonderful idea - a notification that another site has linked to mine. A beacon of light shining through an often murky internet. In practice however, they've been subverted as yet another vehicle for the trafficking of spam. At least that's my assumption - the possibility exists that my site has simply become extremely popular with a certain category of purveyors of content of dubious morality, but I consider that an unlikely outcome. A rare drop of trackback spam turned into a slow but steady trickle. That mere trickle grew to a constant flow and has now finally matured into a veritable torrent. And each ping received has sent a notification mail spinning towards me. The flutter of excitement each new mail brings quickly giving into despondency as it turns out to be just another attempt to lure me into purchasing... well, the less said about those the better. It's true that I could have turned off the notification mechanism, but I simply couldn't bring myself to do it. The possibility that might miss something of consequence as a result - another unlikely outcome I confess - would gnaw at me.

I put up with it longer than I should have, especially when it turns out that there's a relatively straightforward solution. Spamlookup, a plugin which is already included in MT3.2 I believe. It's done the job mighty spiffily indeed. Nary a single ping in the last 24 hours. Of course, it's possible that it's currently blocking real pings too, so if any kind person would care to link back to any entry on my site as a test, I'd be terribly grateful.

I'm running it in conjunction with MTBlacklist, which itself has done a fine job of blocking that other blog curse, comment spam. The one wrinkle I did encounter was that Spamlookup blocked a comment posted by my good self on the grounds that it contained "questionable content" - I should stress in my defence that unless it was criticising my spelling or grammar, the content contained within my comment was wholly innocent. Still, a small adjustment to ensure that Spamlookup only concerns itself with trackback spam solved the problem. That said, if any of you have a problem posting a comment, do let me know.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to attend to the washing machine. I'm down to my last pair of socks and my need for clean underwear has finally trumped my creeping dread that if I try to use the washing machine it's going to flood my lovely new flat. Wish me luck!

On the one hand I'm sure it will be a big audience draw, but on the other I can't help but feel for the woman, and what she'll have gone through after this airs.