Feb. 16th, 2010 08:10 am
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I finished Ringworld on the walk home last night. Actually, saying 'I finished' feels like cheating, in that it was an audiobook from Audible, so what I really mean is 'I finished having Ringworld read to me'. Sure, it took 10 hours, and I'm certain I could read it faster than that, but I didn't really have 10 spare hours to sit and read.

On the other hand, though, I do spend between 3 and 4 hours a day walking, so that's a clear 15+ hours Monday-Friday that I can fill with podcasts and/or audio books. The weekends are different, since I'm normally walking the dog with P at those points, and me plugging in would probably not be best received ;-P
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I have been trying to retrain myself to use WINDOWS+E to launch Windows Explorer, rather than Right Clicking on Start, partly because the latter means that Explorer is launched within your profile, rather than at the Computer level, which is usually fractionally closer to where I want to be.

Anyway, by pure accident, this morning I discovered that WINDOWS+R is a shortcut to the Run... dialogue, which is good news, because I use that a lot (it's faster to type 'excel' or 'iexplore' {for those rare occasions where I need IE} than it is to navigate Start/Programs/Microsoft Office/etc...).

Was offline over the weekend - doubly frustrating because I'd arranged to play Forza 3 online against my brother over XBox Live on the Sunday. Alack, alas, not to be. Some other time, then.

On Saturday evening, P and I teamed up with [personal profile] cynthia_black and her family to watch Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief; overall, I don't think it did justice to the books, and was mostly an underwhelming piece of cinema.

Work is busy, and not particularly good right now.
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Well, couldn't bring up the interwebs at Castle Fox this morning, again, after possibly a clear seven or eight days' run with consistent connections. Instead just the red glowing light on the router indicating that attempting to load up some new podcasts to the Shuffle was going to have to wait until later.

So I'm listening to Larry Niven's Ringworld instead; I remember reading this waaaaaaaaaaaay back in the 80s, but don't actually remember that much of the story, so it's nice to get the refresher.

Also, I forgot my wallet today; result is I feel kinda naked.
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Got in from walking Mali just after 8 last night, and was surprised to hear a knock at the door. Answering, I discovered that it was a meter guy for the electricity, so I let him in, and he walks past me into the hall of Castle Fox as I'm closing the door behind him.

"Hang on a sec," quoth I, "I've got a dog..."

Electricity meter guy ignores me (rather rudely, I thought) and opens the door to the Banquet Hall himself and walks straight in.

The. Dog. Goes. Mental...

Now, Mali is, um, kinda 'in your face' when he meets new people. Actually, he's a bit over-boisterous when he meets people he's familiar with. But I have never before let anyone walk into his domain without me leading first, so that I can keep a hold of him

Anyway, he was not happy with this stranger, and hurled himself at him. Electricity Guy beats a hasty retreat back into the hall, trying to close the door behind him as I attempt to get past him in my own house to calm down the dog who's now in full on attack mode, heckles raised and growling.

Pacification took a little while, but was achieved with only mild scratches to myself, at which point I let the Electricity Guy read the meter, and then he went on his way (not unhurriedly).

Perhaps next time someone says 'hang on a sec,' to him, though, he might think that there could be a reason beyond perhaps the house-owner wishing to remove an incriminatingly paused DVD image from the screen...

As for Mali, I'm certainly not complaining about him; Electricity Guy was surprised and caught unawares, but not physically harmed. So I figure Mali did his job there. *proffers biscuit*
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...that we haven't got any heating in the office. Again.

See, since I walk in, the building feels warmer than the outside world, and therefore it doesn't immediately register that it's cold. The drivers who've come aways, though (thus discounting the short-hop folk where the cars don't really warm up) definitely do notice.

The same thing happened yesterday; it's just that yesterday, we didn't have snow settled on the ground.

In other news, the tangential discussion on this week's Football Weekly was collective astonishment on the panel's part that Jimbo (the host) hadn't seen Pretty in Pink nor The Breakfast Club nor The Goonies (yeah, 'football' weekly :-) Also good for learning how to poach eggs). He had, somewhat redeemingly, seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Lost Boys. For my part, I've not seen Pretty in Pink, nor the Breakfast Club and I'll also volunteer the cultural disadvantage that is not having seen St Elmo's Fire, nor even Heathers.

Any other 80s classics that I should've seen?
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Work is busy, with a deadline looming fast, and a spec that keeps morphing...

Finished Snow Crash, which was enjoyable, but the story seemed to die towards the end; nonetheless, considering when it was written, it's quite visionary in places.
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All the electrical equipment in the office carries safety stickers as a consequence of PAT (Portable Appliance Testing). Said stickers are printed in two flavours: 'warning orange' or 'extreme danger red', and it's the latter that festoons the plug to our wine-bar refugee mood lighter uplighter, which we use to offset the fact that we've disabled 40% of the fluourescent striplights.

When I say 'disabled', what I actually mean is that, having undertaken all appropriate risk assessment measures and the like, Colleague Unnamed balanced on the swivel chair to twist the fluourescent tubes in their holders until they broke contact, and thus switched off. Because there's a ... difference of opinion within these four walls as to exactly how floodlit the illumination has to be to constitute 'sufficient', and yet all ten tubes are controlled by a single switch.

Anyway, since this 40%/60% split in lighting did end up making half of the office look something like an unlit cave (as opposed to the illuminated sort, obviously), we then compensated for the two steps back with a forward pace in the form of an uplighter which, even if it looks as though it was nabbed from some early 90s wine bar in Islington, does declare itself by means of an embossed sticker affixed to its base to be, indeed, the property of our employer.

The PAT sticker on the plug for our North London bistro reject sternly declares to all and sundry:
DO NOT USE AFTER 14/01/10*

It has occurred to me, as I wantonly flick the switch each morning, that in so doing I'm taking my life in my hands, and should the whole thing go up in flames and/or electrocute me, I'll have no comeback, having clearly disregarded (as this post is testament) direct orders to the contrary.

But hey, I'll take the risk.

* note to readers in the Colonies: our date format makes sense.
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I'm enjoying Snow Crash on the Shuffle as Mali and I continue our perambulations around the Avenues. The down side is that my podcasts are queueing up in the background, but this hardly constitutes the end of the world - at the moment, I'm just on the single book per month plan with audible, and re-acquainting myself with just how much iTunes sucks under Windows (srsly, everything grinds to a complete stop when I fire it up), but Ione isn't the most powerful of beasts, so perhaps some of the blame needs to be shared there.

Was insanely jealous to receive a text from [personal profile] carolanne5 informing me that she was in the pub sitting one table down from Peter F Hamilton - actually, having just been over to his site to check the URL, I note that The Evolutionary Void is now semi-complete, with a projected publication date of September this year. That definitely counts as good news :-)
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I picked up some more dogfood for the hound this afternoon, and whilst so doing took the opportunity to pick up a bone for Mali to gnaw on.

Well, I say 'bone', but all evidence would seem to suggest that this is actually the BEST BONE EVAH!!1!!eleven

Mali is currently blissed out, gnawing away, curled around my feet :D
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It's a pretty uninspiring morning here in Hull today - wet and grey on the walk in.

Am very much enjoying Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash at the moment - about 90 minutes in, so far (hard to tell, because the Shuffle's not big on UI), and the recording's a really good reading, too. I like Stephenson anyway (Cryptonomicon is awesome), and the setting appeals, so yes, currently my kind of book. But I've a long way to go (I think it's 16 hours, all told), so it'll be a while before it's finished.

Weekend coming up, which is good and welcome; despite going to bed early these last couple of nights, I'm still tired. Matters weren't helped by Mali having a barking frenzy at 4.30 this morning... why, I know not; normally he's silent overnight, so something triggered him, and maybe he was just doing his job of warding off potential intruders...


Feb. 4th, 2010 07:58 pm
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Work's pretty busy, and looks set to remain so for some time to come. Nothing about the set-up's really working very well at the moment, but here's hoping that we can get our act properly in gear by next week :-/

In other news, I finally succumbed to Leo's wheedling, and have signed up to Audible, picking Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash as my first book. I figured that I listened to a lot of podcasts, so audiobooks shouldn't be that much of a jump (well, that and having listened to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom last week).
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Hull 1 - Chelsea 1. Absolutely awesome game that the crowd was well up for :-)

Chelsea are the league leaders. Hull remain in the bottom three even after this result, but make no mistake, it was epic.

To be honest, I'd had misgivings about dragging P along to this one, on a school night: aside from the 2hr round trip to do the school run (having left work early), since kick off's 7.45, the match doesn't end 'til about 9.30ish, and we weren't back at Castle Fox until 10. The school bus leaves at 7.55 from the Farm, so we had an early start this morning, too (since Mali had to be walked before we left).

All this I was mulling over on the drive back from school yesterday - get home, walk dog, rush food, get to stadium etc etc... but once we were actually there at the game, I knew it was the right decision to have made the effort. Hull were really up for it, and put in a massive effort, and when we went 1-0 up it was gratifying and welcome, but definitely not undeserved.

That they levelled was inevitable, but Hull maintained the pressure in an intense game, and as I said at the top, the crowd was awesome, making a ferocious din half the time that managed to shut up the (surprisingly large) travelling contingent in the North Stand.
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"Once you have elimated the impossible," quoth Holmes, "whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!"

It sounds so simple when he says it. But when faced with my intermittent web drop-outs at Castle Fox, I'm not really sure how to apply it.

First off, I ripped out all of my internal extension wires for the phone, so that the only socket in the house is the KC provided one, over which I have no control. The reasoning behind this was that mebbe some of my wiring had come loose, and was causing interference. Result? No difference.

Next, I swapped the router (I have a spare). Again, no change; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When it's working, I can swap back to the original router, and it'll also work. When it's not working, I can swap routers, and remain subfunctional. So tentatively I draw the conclusion that it's not the router.

I then phoned KC themselves, who assured me that they test all the lines in the exchange on a 24 hour basis, and confirmed that my phone line had no faults. Huh.

Belatedly, I realised that I'd not swapped the ADSL microfilter throughout all the above, and perhaps that was intermittently faulty? Consequently, I swapped in a new microfilter on Friday, and everything was fine until this morning... whence, again, I have no web - PC or XBox.

So. Either both routers are intermittently faulty. Or both microfilters are intermittently faulty. Or both the PC and the two XBoxes are intermittently faulty (network only). Or there's an intermittent line problem that's evading KC's detection.

None of these seem terribly likely, to be honest.
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You'd have thought, perhaps, that when finding it hard work looking at the monitors (both home and work), I might have investigated the brightness settings perhaps a couple of months earlier than, er, today, wouldn't you?

Both screens were set to 100, and so I've toned them right down, which is making things a lot easier on the eye. So yay for that.
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I have now finished all five seasons of The Wire, and all I can really say is that it was brilliant television. It's dramatic, certainly, but in the proper sense of the word - the drama in The Wire builds slowly, and what you think must be cast-iron plot-arcs get undercut brutally with life on the streets' inevitably senseless killings. There were definitely moments in the series where something unexpected happens to a character you really ... are invested in (to say that you 'care' about them might imply an inappropriate idea of fondness), where you go 'Bu.. Wh..?'

Which is good stuff.

But it's really the characters that make this show:

Stringer Bell: second in command of the Barksdale Empire, he's trying to make it as a legit propery developer (the irony seems to escape him), but discovers that trying to escape your past is a tricky thing. And Stringer has a lot of past that wants to catch up with him. There are some glorious moments in S3 between Bell and Avon Barksdale, where it's clear that the two's motivations in life (Avon just lives for the gangster lifestyle) are going to lead to a falling-out.

Jimmy McNulty: doesn't play well with others; McNulty is the homicide detective who kicks the whole series off by going behind his bosses' backs to get a friendly judge to demand that the police investigate Barksdale. McNulty's an 'end-justifies-the-means' kinda guy, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Season 5, where you learn just how far he's prepared to go to get what he wants.

Bunk: rarely seen without his pinstripe suit and chomping on a cigar - he looks even sharper with the fedora, Bunk is real Po-lice, and is something of the voice of conscience in the final season. One of the most memorably scenes in S1 is of Bunk and McNulty checking out a murder scene - the dialogue and interplay between the two just speaks of absolute partnership and skill, although the rational mind suspects that the scriptwriters wrote the scene on a bet.

Lester Freamon: when McNulty's machinations result in the department being tasked with setting up a detail to investigate Barksdale, management elect to staff it with the waste of spaces and cast-offs that litter the place. Freamon is one such person, who's spent the last 13 years (and 4 months) placed in the pawn shop department but, it seems, mainly spinning a lucrative sideline by making dolls' house furniture at his desk. However, there's more to Freamon than meets the eye, and as Daniels says in a later season, Freamon is the Major Crimes Unit. Turns out that Freamon is, indeed, real Po-lice, and that the pawn shop placement was vindictive retribution for upsetting his superiors in an earlier case.

William Rawls: speaking of vindictive superiors, Rawls starts off in S1 as the vindictive commander of the Homicide unit, and man is he gloriously, unrepentently, bullyingly nasty! There's a scene after one of McNulty's colleagues has been shot, and McNulty's taken it very much to heart as being his fault: Rawls' consolation scene is sheer genius, and yet at the same time demonstrates integrity... in a sort of twisted way. Watching Rawls mercilessly tear his subordinates to pieces in the COMSTAT meetings in S4 is also a sort of guilty pleasure of the show.

Rhonda Pearlman: it's a cop show, centred mainly around the drug trade in Baltimore, so there aren't that many female characters. Pearlman is the District Attorney who ends up working a lot of the cases that Major Crimes brings to bear - she has a history with McNulty (and is part of the reason for his divorce), but he's not exactly good to her, but that's mostly back story. Pearlman really comes into her own during S5, although she's an ever-present throughout.

Ziggy Sobotka: in S2, we move to the city docks, to investigate potential corruption/smuggling/trafficking there. Ziggy is the union leader's son, and as is mentioned more than once, 'that boy's not right'. Ziggy's an idiot, and yet remarkably human and vulnerable. S2 had a host of interesting and intriguing characters, and was on the whole a pretty bleak storyline, but the whole would be much less without Zig.

Snoop: like I said, there aren't too many female characters in The Wire, but props to the show for making one of them the absolute stand-out most terrifying person I've ever seen on TV. Snoop is one of Marlo's hench-people, and it's not her skill that makes her scary so much as her complete 'other-worldness'. Chris, her partner, is a classic hard, hard guy, but it's Snoop that scared me, in every single scene that she was in.

Proposition Joe: Avon Barksdale ran East Baltimore. Prop Joe had the West Side; an aging drug-lord, running his empire from an appliance repair shop, Joe comes across as almost gentlemanly, until you get an insight into the control he exerts on operations, and how he has no compunctions about double-crossing people, and getting threats eliminated.

Omar: absolutely freakin' rocks.
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Hull hosted Wolves this afternoon, and P and I were there to watch the game under a clear sky, which meant it was pretty darned cold.

The Wolves supporters were quite a vocal lot, but we shut them up early doors with a goal on 11 minutes (or thereabouts). Unfortunately, we then conceded an awful own goal at the start of the second half, and although Hunt (our best player) scored from the spot after Altidore won us a penalty, Wolves levelled the score at 2-2 in a move that just had all of us in the stands expressing dismay before their player had made the shot - the move just had the look of cast iron inevitability stamped all over it.

1 point from a draw leaves us in 19th place, and in deep trouble. To be honest, I can't really see us escaping the drop to Championship football next season - it's going to require a fellow team to do us a favour (like Newcastle last year) to get us out of this fix - we're not strong enough to do it on our own...

Anyway, despite what was a disappointing result, it was still a good occasion; 24,000+ people all invested in the match generates quite an atmosphere, even in the cold.

Bone Idle

Jan. 29th, 2010 08:16 am
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I drove in today - normally, of course, I walk, but I'm still feeling pretty flaky, and I also wanted to take a detour via the Sorting Office to double-check that a missing eBay purchase wasn't languishing in the Royal Mail's dungeons sans Castle Fox notification card.

It wasn't :-/ So I'm chasing up the eBay seller at the moment. Joy.

I finished watching Edge of Darkness last night - good, good stuff from the 80s; quality drama, good storyline, excellent acting, but perhaps a little slow-paced compared to today's fare. On the other hand, I had a great time geeking out over all those 80s cars. The music is an Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen combo, and those two brought in David Sandborn to do the soundtrack to the first of the Lethal Weapons. The wheel turns full circle when you note that Mel Gibson was the star of Lethal Weapon, and he's again the star of the Edge of Darkness remake being released this year.

I've also just finished reading (well, actually, listening) to Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, mainly because that's the current discussion book for the Sword and Laser podcast. It had some nice touches, although I have to confess that I suspected whodunnit rather early on (perhaps as a consequence of the book's rather limited cast). Still, some interesting stuff therein, particularly about the psychology of a post-death society, and in a world of near-infinite resource, how they get around the money problem.
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OK, I'm back again.

No, really; I'm properly better this time.


I lasted approximately half an hour on Monday before I succumbed to the inevitable and headed back to Castle Fox. I had, honestly, felt OK first thing Monday, y'see, but by the time I got home all I could do was go back to bed.

So I took that as a guide for Tuesday, when I woke up feeling groggy, that I shouldn't even try to wend my way here. Yesterday, however, was less clear-cut... I didn't feel great at 6am, but I didn't feel terrible either. But I stayed off, figuring that I didn't want to repeat Monday's charade. As it happens, I felt mostly OK all day - somewhat lethargic, which is to be expected, but it was enough of a cue to ensure that I came in today.

What I came back to was a cardboard replacement of myself occupying my chair - Colleague J's hand was in this, I suspect, given the fez adorning cardboard!me's head, and I was touched by the three post-it notes that denoted the happy, smiling face.

I also came back to a whole stack of email, and five days' backlog of broken promises and other things... I've been spectacularly unproductive during the week's absence. A couple of times I tried sketching out some work stuff, but I couldn't maintain the interest or the enthusiasm (despite the guilt) to do so. So I'm behind, and about to start trying to catch up...
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Back at work, after what turned out to be a pretty mild case of 'flu, if my previous experience is anything to go by. Mostly better now, although I have some freshly brewed lemsip on the desk to try and keep me functional for the rest of the day.

Anyway, thanks to all for the good wishes and stuff - Castle Fox was offline for the duration, which means that this is the first chance I've had to check back in on Dreamwidth. The ISP thing is something I'll have to sort out eventually, but I wasn't really feeling up to it (or anything, really) just then.

Right now I'm slightly perturbed by the fact that Outlook is projecting that it's going to take 13 minutes to update my Inbox with the emails from Thursday. That doesn't bode well.
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Blech. Staying at home today, afflicted by 'flu-like symptoms that came on suddenly Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and got progressively worse throughout yesterday. It ticks all the boxes on the NHS' website concerning Swine Flu, but since I've had 'flu proper, and that was unbelievably awful (I was hallucinating), I hesitate to self-diagnose so.

Anyway, I'm about to crawl back to bed (Mali having had his first walk of the day), and hopefully I'll be feeling somewhat better soon enough.


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