Dec. 20th, 2006
09:41 am - Been a while
Well, I thought I'd better post again, Andrew was threatening to remove his link to my blog. Then again he's not exactly been that frequent with updates, but I guess he's got a better excuse than me (Zoe). Had a nice evening last night, with a bad start. Went to Senfridges to get Neil his combined Christmas/Birthday present and then got on the tube to go home. After about three stops I realised that I'd got on the wrong train and it was northbound instead of southbound. D'oh! That meant I was pretty late out at North Greenwich, so I phoned Miranda and it turned out that she and Neil had already left for the ice skating. I was a bit pissed off that I hadn't been told we were supposed to go straight there, but after a brief flurry of anoyance and a rather unnecessary exchange with Miranda, I called her back and apologised for being a grumpy old git and said I was on my way down there.
It was at the Admiralty, well, that's always what I think of it as. I suppose technically it's just Greenwich University now, but there you go. Took me a while to find my way to the café at the back, but once I was there I found everyone quickly. Nice to see everyone together - Kate was there too, which is always nice and got various nice presents from people: thanks guys! Afterwards we went round to Shelley and Andrews place and I hogged the large arm-chair and had some nice wine and chatted away. In the end Neil gave us a lift home and I barely fit into his car. I wish he had more of a penchant for large cars rather than fast cars - the last car he had that I could comfortably get in an out of was his Vauxhall Astra and that was about ten years ago.
When we got home I started putting this little tartlets in the oven, but realized that I'd eaten too many doughnuts earlier. I was in Selfridges and I couldn't help but get some from Krispy Kreme as I get the opportunity so rarely. So I held off the dinner and fiddled with my laptop (finally I have broadband again, hurray!). Neil had given me a cordless VoIP phone, so I'll have to try that out soon, but couldn't be bothered to set it up last night, so went to bed. The room was so cold Miranda was complaining a lot so I ended up putting the hair dryer on for about 5 minutes to warm the room up. Seemed to work, but the gods of eco-living will not be smiling.
Jul. 5th, 2006
06:50 pm - My holiday weekend
Well, on Saturday we took Melly back to
Brought back a load of technical bits and bobs that Miranda’s dad had collected together for me, so I’ll have fun fiddling with those. We got back in time for 24 on Sunday and got (yet another) Pizza. Fuckers though – all I asked was if they could actually send the food I’d paid for this time (they forgot a Garlic Bread last time) and the person on the phone said I should have phoned to say this had happened, but would I like to speak to the manager to see if I could get a free garlic bread. I didn’t really care, but I said ok and this guy then basically didn’t offer me a free garlic bread. I mean for Christ’s sake. It must cost them about five pence to make one and given the amount of business I put their way it’s in their interests to keep me happy. I suppose they know I’m just a junkie… Anyway, 24 was a bit weird wasn’t it? I mean that stupid bit at the end about Jack being kidnapped by the Chinese. For Pete’s sake. Somehow it just wasn’t a satisfying end. I was expecting something like Prez Palmer to burst forth from his coffin and arrest the President! I still don’t write off a return of Palmer though. They just didn’t show him dead enough, and what was all that unnecessary crap with his brother about? Oh well, another wait.
Took Monday and Tuesday off work which was a blessed relief. I spent most of Monday installing a new super-fast hard disk in my laptop. The old one had some bad sectors and it’d got to the point where playing sound was jerky (I’ll save you the technical explanation, suffice to say it’s not good) and it kept taking forever to restore from hibernation. Oh, and it kept just trashing windows installations. So, anyway, I installed a copy of Windows XP Pro on it and after many hours of fiddling with drivers I was left with a working computer. How. Boring. It always amazes me how boring computers are without all your software and stuff on them. I’ll have to do that later… And even then they’re not that interesting.
In the evening we went along to Café Rouge in
Tuesday I decided we should go out, which annoyed Miranda because she was doing housework (?). And then the garden. Miranda wanted to get to the pots and stuff down the side of the house but was concerned about worms and things to I waded in moving stuff. Wow – there were these huge black beetle like things everywhere – looked like black cockroaches too. Just as we were about to go out (finally) the heavens opened and it absolutely wanked it down for about an hour. The thunder was so loud that the cat nearly shat itself and was crawling round on all fours like I haven’t seen it done since Neil was last round. So I tried to comfort it which helped until the next thunder clap. Eventually she disappeared upstairs to hide under the bed. The storm was so big that it set off lots of alarms in the street, one of which went on all night so we had to keep the Windows closed, which was a bit much. Grr. Anyway, eventually we made it up to Blackheath. We parked and went to Café Uno, which I’ve always found rather good (if a bit expensive). I had a Chicken Cesar salad and Miranda had a Tricolore Salad and some Garlic Bread. All was really damn good –even the service. We then (nearly slipped) down the hill and tried to buy some new paper/cartridge for our little dye-sub photo printer but they didn’t sell them (some twat had put their bike across the door so you could hardly get in too). Miranda drifted into some Charity shops so I headed to the kitchen shop where I bought the meat grinder I’ve been trying to get for ages (fresh burger mince… fresh meatballs… mmmm) and also got one of those enamelled frying pans that the French make. Then we went back to the car and headed for Staples in Charlton and tried to buy the printer stuff there – no luck so tried
Jun. 29th, 2006
Last weekend I went to my father's 65th birthday party down at my parents place in
There were some excellent canapés (I particularly liked these little tartlets containing blue cheese, mmmm), and some people I hadn't seen in a loooooong time. Like my old next door neighbours from Catford who I don't think I'd seen in about 15 years. Was really great to catch up with Steph and Larry - my Aunt and soon-to-be Uncle and it's a shame I won't see them again before they go back to
By late afternoon I'd managed to put away quite a bit of grape and grain derived products so I eased off a bit onto the water. At this point Emma (from Printspace, not emmazon) and Katie (who used to work for my mother) turned up and I had a lovely time chatting to them. They then gave me a lift back to
Sunday I just enjoyed lounging around the house and being generally lazy and unproductive. Miranda was up in
The next day Mark and Maddie went home and Miranda took Melly out to
Oh, yeah, Student loans finally caught up with me. Now I'm sure there aren't too many bleeding hearts out there, but the main reason I'd let things go with them is that they are so damn pushing it borders on harassment. When Neil was being chased by them they constantly phoned his work and refused to communicate by post. Frankly I wasn't going to risk that. So anyway, I got a demand for about two grand off them in arrears. Most of that was for periods when I wasn't eligible to pay anyway, but because of their stupid deferral system if you're late with your deferral then you owe the money you would have paid even if you can't afford it and they approve the deferral. That's just a bit dumb. Anyway, when we were round at Lisa and Jonathan's the other day Jonathan persuaded me it would be worth negotiating with them - I could have afforded to pay it, but it would have wiped out my savings completely. So I phoned them up. They wanted me to pay £700/month. I said no - i said that I knew I had to pay it, but that was just daft. They asked for a suggestion so I made them an offer (£200/month + £500 up front). They came back saying if I could make it £300 then we'd have a deal. That was still more than I wanted to pay, but afterwards I worked out that it'd be paid off in about 4 or 5 months.
Then I got a letter from the Inland Revenue saying they were applying to fine by £60 per day for my late tax return. Needless to say I got it done rather quickly after that. I have to say I am surprised at how patient they have been with me. It took about eighteen months of being persistently late with returns before they got the knives out. I don't really have any excuse other than I absolutely hate doing tax returns. There's always some damn bit of paper that I can't find. I'd get an accountant to do it, but the hardest bit is getting the paperwork together which I'd have to do anyway - filling it out is the easy bit. Still, it's quite amusing that they have threatened me to get me to tell them that they owe me money and not the other way around. Don't ya just love the tax system...
Jun. 19th, 2006
08:04 pm - Oh look, I'm posting
It's eight at night, honest. Had a good weekend. Started by going round to Lisa and Jonathan's for dinner on Friday. We had butterflied lamb done on the barbeque with Ratatouille roast potatoes and rather too many bottles of wine! Of course I managed to deliver the first forkful of Ratatouille (which was particularly good despite a topping mishap) onto my shirt which was delightfully easy to remove... At one point I nearly covered my hands in poison trying to work out if there was Borax in the Ant killer that L & J were recommending we use for our new colony (as if it matters if it contains Borax). A bit of hand washing was recommended.
Then after dinner I had a demonstration of Jonathan's new HD Plasma telly. Was pretty damn impressive actually - I've not seen HD before but I have seen LCD TVs and this was definitely the best TV I've ever seen. He showed me a few bits of Star Wars and other film clips on up scaled
Saturday I couldn't really get up the energy to do much, although I did help mow the lawn - luckily the mower that we've left out in the rain on multiple occasions still works after being left to dry out! In the evening we had some people round - Shelley & Andrew, Bianca & Al and Neil. Nice to see everyone, lots of wine got drunk. I retired to bed at about one and Miranda followed at about three. Sunday morning Miranda just didn't want to get up, somewhat understandably given the number of empty glasses around downstairs. When she did I made a Cheese Tart thing. Just Cheddar, Pecorino and some rather dried out Doux de Montagne (which is delicious if you haven't had it), on a bit of frozen and rather badly over-defrosted puff pastry. Bit like what Miranda's mother makes, but without the layers. Anyway, that went down well as cheese based meals always do with Miranda... In fact when I came home on Monday night she'd already polished off the other half... After eating we drove down to
Watched two episodes of 24 back-to-back, which is always fun. At least it's still on - sniff. All the other TV I like is over until next year now. Although we'll probably have some brain-damaged stuff that I watch like Spooks on soon... Actually bought a
Jun. 11th, 2006
07:02 pm - Crisis of faith
I've had a bit of a crisis of faith about blogging. Mainly that it's mostly a load of old crap. However, I wasn't really happy with the content of this blog because it was such a weird mixture of stuff - programming, politics and personal stuff. It basically means that I'd managed to find a combination that no one would find interesting. So instead I'm going to write only about my day to day personal life and leave the politics and computing to some other forum. So expect to hear more about battle star galactica and trips away and less about my views on the environment and why Java is rubbish this week.
So, it's been a while since I've posted anything! I've been quite busy - went down to Faversham a couple of weeks ago to see Tom's family before they go over to visit him in
On Sunday we went to
The week just gone was mired by the tragic death of Julian's mother. She had been very ill the previous week when I saw him but on about Tuesday I got a text from Jules saying she'd died and the funeral was on Friday. So on Friday I met up with Joe in Catford and we went along to Jules' place. It was a very nice church service and burial in
Saturday we went over to Joe's for a pleasant afternoon watching the football. The match was a bit lacklustre in my opinion, but the company made up for it. Good food as usual from Malka. Joshua was a bit grumpy though - probably the heat. Joe wouldn't let me see his MacBook Pro - probably as punishment for not showing excitement earlier but there you go.
Sunday we had a very pleasant afternoon at Christine and Matthews place. Christine cooked a delightful lunch and I finally got to give her the frying pan I'd got her for Christmas (cast iron French thing). We sat out on their roof terrace and cooked in the Sun while talking to their very pleasant neighbours. All in all, a marvellous outing, but a rather hot day for me. I was so full from eating at Christine's that I passed on the Pizza and just had Garlic bread. Unfortunately this left some more fuel for the ant invasion currently taking shape in our living room. Need some Borax.
May. 17th, 2006
01:49 pm - BSG Bore and more
Well, the season finale of Battlestar Galactica was last night. It was pretty weird. Not in a bad way, but not quite what I was expecting. The really cool bit I was puzzling over and didn't realize until I was lying in bed later. Perhaps everybody else who watches it got it straight away, but it took me a while. Ok what happens was that bad guy (Baltar) becomes president and decides to make everyone settle on this planet that's hidden from the Cylons. At the same moment, a Cylon agent blows up one of the big ships in the fleet with a nuclear bomb she's been given by Baltar. Then it cuts forward about a year. The fleet is in orbit with a skeleton crew and everyone else is trying to get by on this new planet - conditions are not great and Baltar is increasingly unpopular. Then the Cylons suddenly show up and the fleet basically runs away because they're not ready for it. When the Cylons come down they go to see Baltar and he asks them how they found the planet (it's hidden in a nebula). They say that they were only a light-year away when they detected the radiation from the explosion of the nuclear bomb. I then thought 'so they've known a year, why wait and come now', but the thing I realized later was - of course, if they were one light-year away, it would have taken a year for the radiation from the bomb to reach them. How clever. You sort of get used to Sci-Fi glossing over details like this and it's great to see continuity taken more seriously.
I will now weep until the next series, which presumably starts next year.
On another note, i found the unbelievably cool Google Web Toolkit today that compiles Java code down into
I notice that Tony Blair is being his usual self about the 'Nuclear (non) debate'. How depressingly predictable. I just hope he's so weakened that he can't clobber this one through. It's not that nuclear fission is an inherently bad idea, it's just that renewable are cheaper and more sustainable in the long run. Nuclear will suck up vast amounts of money that could go to offshore windmills and tidal power and so on.
Nuclear lobbyists always go on about there not being wind all the time but they don't say that there doesn't need to be - there just needs to be wind somewhere in the UK all the time. Additionally excess power can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen or store energy by pumping water uphill or whatever to help with shortfalls. Anyway, posted something on the Beeb website which got about 30 (and climbing) recommendations which I was quite chuffed with.
May. 16th, 2006
03:35 pm - stuff
Just a jumble today. Read an interesting article in the FT about Cameron learning lessons from FDR over his musings on how his opponent in the 1936 presidential contest might have actually beaten him (the Republicans were hopeless and seen as self-interested fat cats - no change there then). The gist of the story was that the opponent was running against the New Deal, which was really pretty overwhelmingly popular. He said that instead they should have said that "I am for social security, work relief .. etc", "But the Democrats cannot be entrusted with the administration of these fine ideals.". The more he thought about it,
I've been reading Freakonomics, which is a great read, and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone. Some really interesting stuff about the causes of big drops in crime in
Looking forward to Battlestar Galactica again tonight - according to Andrew this might be the finale tonight. I hope not, but it did seem to be heading that way last episode.
Was feeling really crappy and unwell at the weekend because I'm so fat, so I'm in super-calorie restriction mode at the moment to try to free up a few inches. I don't have any illusions that it'll last, but I need to get back within the 'habitable zone' to steal a term from astronomy. There seems to be a threshold weight that if I go over, I start to fell really unwell and can't get about and stuff so whenever I hit that I make a special effort for a while to lose ten or twenty kilos (lose change, dear boy!). I reached that at the weekend, so here we go!
I've also written to my surgeon asking to go back on the list for some heavy duty weight loss surgery. I sort of abandoned that when I fell down the stairs on a bus a couple of years ago and it really freaked me out having to have several operations (it's pretty dangerous for someone as heavy as me to have general anaesthetics). However, I've now come to the conclusion that the only way I'll make fifty is to get something drastic done, so fingers crossed (haven't heard anything back yet).
Oh and just to wrap up: I hear it's a girl and she's going to be called Zoe (any umlaut? Does it have to have one? Word seems to think so!). Congratulations guys.
May. 15th, 2006
04:48 pm - Civil Liberties
I'm really cross about this. Tony Blair is starting one of his fabled 'public debates' about Civil Liberties and how all they do is stop the Police sending the guilty to prison. Like his environmental debate about Nuclear Power it's not a debate at all - he's just got a crazy idea in his head and he's going to push it through no matter what. He doesn't seem to realise that yes, reducing civil liberties will increase the conviction rate, but at the cost of putting more innocent people behind bars.
The rights of British Citizen's have been enjoyed for a long time and arrived at through generations of lessons learnt about how not to build a justice system. Now, apparently the government knows better and wants to discard these painful historical lessons and repeat the mistakes of the past. Individual rights are there to protect the innocent and powerless. Tearing down this principle undermines the very fabric of law.
I do understand that to a lot of people it certainly can appear that the rights of accused are counter-productive - until, that is, they are the ones wrongly accused. We need to remember that the accused are not guilty until proven innocent, but the other way around. Why don't more people care about his issue? I suppose it's because the people currently falling foul of it at the moment are the people with little influence like teenagers given ASBOs that restrict their movements with no evidence and young Muslim men stopped and searched by police.
So you want to protest against the establishment about it near parliament? You have to get permission first. How is that justifiable? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer.
I used to think that the main problem would come from a future government who may abuse the excessive powers put in place now, but the current government shows such disdain for the rights of it's citizens, I'm starting to think that the future is now. The problem with getting people to notice this slippery slope we're sliding down is that people don't perceive their rights as important until it's too late. I was gloomily discussing this with somebody who isn't as much of a crazy about civil liberties as me, but they said something that gave me hope:
"If the government doesn't listen, eventually we might just have to take our rights back ourselves."
I sincerely hope so. This government needs to be taught who's the boss.
May. 12th, 2006
Finally, after about two years of battling, I have got permission to release some of the stuff I did at Quickstone as free software. It was free-ish beforehand, but once it got 'commercialised' it was very difficult to undo it.
Anyway thanks to Peter Welch it finally got the go ahead. Now I've got to try to put aside some time to getting it back into action, but that is easier now I can see it being worthwhile. After a bit of a fight I managed to get jcsp.org working - there was a mess up at the domain registrar where their system went down halfway through processing my registration - left everything really messed up but sorted it out with Neil's help (thanks mate!). Once I've got the basics up and running I'll post something to the java-threads and occam-com mailing lists.
May. 11th, 2006
03:03 pm - Nine Years
On Tuesday Miranda and I celebrated our ninth anniversary. My, how time flies. We went out for dinner to 'Tas', which is a great Turkish restaurant in The Cut (near Waterloo Station). The conversation was more of a private nature as you can imagine, so, uncharacteristically, I will talk about the food...
Miranda's Humus was not quite up to it's usual standard, but the rest of the meal was very good, rounded off with a pleasant but not particularly robust Pinot Noir. I resisted getting the Baklava which I slightly regretted as Miranda had it and gave me some and it was divine. My apricots stuffed with cream in pistachio nuts was pretty good, but had a hard time competing.
Of course I managed to spill something on my shirt but actually it turned out it was just water. Nearly had a disaster when I discovered that my Chip & Pin wasn't working properly and couldn't get any money out for the Taxi. Luckily Miranda had some so the driver didn't need to cut my hands off. He did tell me that if he'd known I was a Charlton supporter (you've got to tell these guys something) he would have charged me more. In fact I made this mistake the other week when a taxi driver asked me the same thing. I said I supported Charlton and he started going on about the manager and the players and asking me what I thought and all this. I just had to kind of blank him. It was very embarrassing.
Oh well that'll teach me.
Anyway, all in all a lovely meal with a lovely woman. I hope we are still together and as happy in another nine years.
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