October 30, 2005

Car boot sale

Posted in: Drivel

Assisted by Eva, today was spent starting to clear my house up. Anyone who's been here or, god forbid, into my bedroom knows of the truly epic task ahead of anyone even merely conceiving of such a project. I shan't bother describing it. It's a lot, and it's all shuffled.

A few things have so far ended up on ebay. This picture I quite liked,

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October 28, 2005

Car passed its MOT!

Posted in: Drivel

Woo hoo, my Rover 216 SLi, which has been sitting around for the last year untaxed, uninsured, and uninspected, passed its MOT today! This basically means I can sell it; apparently without an MOT an older used car is pretty much worthless.

I seem to have a habit for acquiring expensive-to-insure cars: this one'd be £600/year for liability & theft despite my age and having held a license for a long time. Definitely time to sell...

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Posted in: Drivel

Last night I had the, er, experience of being auctioned at my friend Dino's speed dating event. He's in the process of raising £3,000 for charity supporting post-Tsunami reconstrution plus he'll be going to Sri Lanka to actually help the rebuilding itself. How cool is that?

I sold for the princely sum of £25, which, while not a staggering amount, was flattering inasmuch as it was more than anyone else raised (besides funnily enough the quirky Italian girl I am now bound to go on a date with). I promised to take my shirt off if the bidding hit 25 which I suppose helped. Less flattering perhaps is the bidding didn't continue afterwards ;-)

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October 25, 2005

Back from Sweden

Posted in: Travel

Fantastic time in Stockholm. The conference was a great success, I learnt plenty of bits & bobs that'll improve my work. Nothing drastic but a collection of little tweaks. I'll write the conference up from a techie perspective elsewhere (actually I did already and lost an hour's work doing so in a website bug, argh).

Saturday night's party was the social highlight of the trip - Helén, my fabulous host, took me and another Swedish guy to a fetish party. They initially wouldn't let me in owing to my excessively "clubby" pants. Rather than just boot me onto the street one of the guys in the club went off and brought back some PVC he had lying around and made me a sarong out of that and some duct tape. Astonishing. And cool.

Unfortunately I had to work quite a bit so didn't get out in Stockholm that much. Probably as well as with all the walking about my feet were absolutely killing me. Last day I scooted to the Vasamuseet, a museum that's entirely about a 1628 warship that was dredged up between 1957 and 1961. The scale of the operation both in terms of getting the thing out of the sea and then restoring and rebuilding is awesome in every sense. 14,000 loose pieces catalogued and refitted, the entire ship sprayed in preservative continously for days. Well, well worth seeing. Had a hard time leaving resulting in an efficient 15min gap before my plane left...

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October 20, 2005

Arrived in Sweden

Posted in: Travel

So, all safe and sound. After a night of two hours sleep, continued coding in a furious blaze up until the last minute, to the point even I started to consider I might not get the plane. Pulled off a vaguely shippable blob of software at about 10:45. My plane, a good hour away by public transport, was leaving at 14:05, so at 10:50 I figured it probably was a reasonable time to actually get dressed, and throw some clothes in a suitcase... As it happens the wind must've been following the Tube as I got there with about 40mins to spare. As Nik said, that's 40mins wasted...

Sweden's chilly but not snowy, and so far I've only taken a coach ride to central station and then spent a fruitless hour trying to get access to my machine to code a bit more before friends show up.

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New scooter

Posted in: Drivel

Latest addition to the fleet:

New Scooter

Once I'd got it into my head that I could avoid the literal pain of public transport with a scooter I've developed a single-mindedness to not have to take the tube or train again. (Cycling leaves my feet in a bad way, and besides, the weather...)

Watched closing prices on ebay for a while and then approached an unsuccessful seller with an offer. Ended up with this 3year old Piaggio Skipper 125, 7050 miles, for £780. The guy I bought it from only told me the battery was dead after I'd taken the train 25 miles out to his place in Essex. This "oversight" cost him by the sword of my persistent haggling - he had wanted a thousand quid for the bike. In the end, I took a risk of riding it all the way back to SW London without stalling. Truth is, if it'd stalled in East London and I'd had to catch a tube home it wouldn't've been there in the morning...

Suffice to say even on one rainy home journey I'm sure it beats the crap out of public transport ;-) And it definitely does not accelerate as fast as Jessie...

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October 17, 2005

Bali bacteria

Posted in: Drivel

It's not often I get to hear "necrotic flesh" in non-Goth conversation.

A few days into the Bali trip pretty much my entire gum line lit up in moderate pain. I suffered some inflammation, discomfort chewing from the pressure on my teeth, and gum bleeding. About two weeks later it was essentially fine with some residual gobs of blood from time to time, if I sucked on my teeth.

Went to the dentist today, Dr Lu, a particularly geek-tolerant chap who went to some length to explain this all to me, and discovered I had a case of acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). What happens is opportunistic bacteria attack when normal dental hygiene is disrupted (I forgot my tooth brush and for some reason didn't ask the 5-star hotel for one for a few days) and a gum infection occurs. The 'necrotizing' bit is effecting localized tissue death, in this case the tips of the gums between the teeth. Dr Lu was literally picking out bits, albeit really tiny bits, of dead flesh. Funnily enough this disease tends to only affect people with good oral hygiene who lapse.

The annoying aspect is that this flesh only partly grows back and I'll be missing a small bit of the triangular tip of protective gum on some teeth. This means I'll have to, after 31 years of not doing so, have to floss. Gah!

Ever a lesson in remembering one's toothbrush on holiday...

PS did you really want to read about all that? :-)

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October 15, 2005

Leg over-extension

Posted in: Sport

Maximum Weight Reached

119kg for four reps on the leg extension machine. Hit it today. Wanna max the bench within a month...

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October 14, 2005

Free fix

Posted in: Drivel

Have you ever... had something that doesn't work, taken it apart, gazed into its innards, shrugged, reassembled it... and then found it to mysteriously work again?

Some time back in March I had my digicam seize up after a nasty drop. Sent it to Canon who responded with a £96 fixed price bill. Turns out they have this peculiar gambling game where you can, if you choose, opt for an à la carte repair which upon deeper inspection by one of their nimble fingered repair-peeps may or may not cost more. Whatever the outcome of this investigation, you can't back down to the £96 fixed price. It's a bit weird, but there we go.

Anyway, thinking it's probably just a case of whipping off the case, tweaking a cog, job done I opted for the gamble despite strong warnings from the guy on the phone. Bill came back in due course: £112 or so. A little later that month I burst my heels, spent a month in hospital, etc, etc and forgot about my camera. So it arrived back today with an apology for it not working and reassurance that yes, on the whole Canon cameras are very reliable etc, etc, but sorry we couldn't fix it this time, hope everything works out with your new Panasonic...

Remembering the principle of whipping the hood open and everything mysteriously working, I put the battery back in the camera ... and whaddya know, the lens open and closes perfectly.

Heh! :-)

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October 12, 2005

Loving your work

Posted in: Humor

(Picked this up in my email dragnet... no attribution. Enjoy!)

Type and the truth will be told:

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Nordic Perl Workshop

Posted in: Tech

In a series of moments of randomness, and a desire to not completely neglect my corporate education (e.g. attend at least one Perl event every two years) I'm off to Stockholm, my first time in Sweden, to the Nordic Perl Workshop, a two-day grass-roots conference covering a wide range of the technologies I'm using or am learning to use. Fab!

By a random coincidence it so happens this is on... Heh.

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October 11, 2005

Lift game theory

Posted in: Tech

The natural reaction to seeing a lift (a.k.a. elevator) with its doors open and full of people is to make a bolt for it, squeeze in before the doors close. This to avoid the tedious wait for another lift to chug down and grind its weary cogs open.

Having recently been using some very slick lifts in a busy building it's occurred to me that this behaviour is subject to a subtle assumption about lift dynamics.

What's interesting here is that if some of these variables are changed, this behaviour of running for a soon-to-depart lift actually works against users in the sense of potentially making their journey longer. What's even more interesting is that this situation arises when there is more than one lift and those lifts run faster than your average vertical conveyor. That is, with an apparently better provision of lift service you're better off not running for it.

So how does this peculiar situation occur? Consider two lifts both in the lobby of a hotel. Someone hits the Up button and so one of lift's doors duly opens. A couple of people step in and press for floors 3 and 6. A third person a little way off spies the doors open and makes the customary dash for it, just getting in as the doors close. The new entrant selects floor 2.

You may have spotted where this is going. For the first two people, their journey is now slower having taken a passenger who's stopping before their floors. Conversely, had the third person selected floor 7 her journey would've been slower by having to stop at a couple of floors first.

What's the alternative lift catching strategy? When there is more than one lift waiting at a given floor, a faster strategy for all users is to spread themselves out over the available conveyances. This means simply allowing the first lift to close and get under way before hitting the call button. (In every lift I've ever tried this on pressing the call button is either ignored if the doors of a lift are already open, or, arguably a mis-feature in the lift's programming given this discussion, the doors of a closing lift re-open.)

So with more lifts ready and waiting a better strategy is to let the existing lift set off, and catch another. I asserted earlier that the jump-in-quick behaviour could be wrong if the lifts are fast too - how so? Even if a lift isn't ready and waiting, it may very well be soon in the case of a speedy adjacent lift (this idea does require at least one other working lift: of course it'll be quicker to join a single lift than wait for it to return). For example, a second lift on the third floor being called to the lobby. The wait time for the call may very well be less than the cumulative waiting for the other occupants' stop-off on the ascent. This effect is probably more pronounced for those working on higher floors who have probabilistically more to lose getting into a crowded lift.

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October 1, 2005

Bali bombings

Posted in: Travel

Heard while at a local café. Fuckers. Just as this poor 65% tourist-driven little island has got itself back together (still down pre-2002 bombing though) this happens. It couldn't've happened to nicer people. London bombings I didn't really pay any attention - it would require a massive sustained onslaught to really affect the UK's capital. But a no-industry plot of 3.5m folks are going to suffer, again.

Gah. (I'm in Candidasa, nowhere near the action, unless you count snorkelling around a shipwreck and sipping cocktails as "action".)

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