Thursday, December 30, 2004

Reading list

I have been assigned some improving books as part of my personal development goals for the next half year or so, to wit:

  • The Mythical Man Month
  • Systems Analysis for Engineers and Managers
  • The Innovators Dilemma
  • Crossing the Chasm
  • The One Minute Manager
  • The 59 Second Employee: How to stay one second ahead of your one minute manager
  • The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups
  • The Games People Play
  • Getting to Yes

But haven't been being that sad over the break.

No, rather I've been working through other stuff:

BESM — Revolutionary Girl Utena I & II

Very pretty series guides, but how do you actually manage to make an RPG, even a one-shot - out of this?

BESM — Serial Experiments Lain Ultimate Fan Guide

Unlike the above, this is not new, but like the above, only squared as to how do you make this a game. Industry veteran Bruce Baugh (author) loses a couple of street-cred points in managing to miss the blatant Proust reference during Lain's final conversation with Yasuo (not that I've read À la recherche du temps perdu myself).

Trio for Sliderule and Typewriter — Iceworld, Needle, & Close to Critical

Collection of essential classic SF by Hal Clement, when hard SF was adventures in practical physics and chemistry. The passage of 50 years has worn some stories better than others - Needle only seemed dated in its use of propellor driven planes in its medium term future with abundant cultured biofuels; Close to Critical is offworld, alien environment stuff where the lack of networked information infrastructure can be set to one side. But Iceworld doesn't wear its age well. Star-faring aliens needing to perform a sample return chemistry mission to determine the composition of Earth's atmosphere?

It was thus with a great degree of future shock I then changed gears to read

Singularity Sky, by Charles Stross [Pick of the bunch]

One of the depressingly few big picture edge-of-singularity space operas that have come out since A Fire Upon The Deep; and here we are not protected by any zone boundaries... Read it, enjoy it, and wonder why people still keep churning out standard issue spaceship fiction.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Out in the garden, and around : a miscellany of recollections

Getting home early from work on Friday - getting told to go home about 1pm - the mild dry weather meant that I had an opportunity to give the lawn the final cut that it really needed back in November. It then started to rain - and driving to our annual get together with college friends in the pouring rain, we were most cynical when the Archers concluded with "What a lovely starry night!". But by the time we were returning home, it was indeed clear and brightly lit by the full moon.

We went out to Karen's parents as usual yesterday, and the bright weather and full moonlight made the journeys easier than they might have been - and the Smart cruises quite nicely at 70mph, even it if takes a while to get there.

Then today, in bright frosty weather, it was time to prune the roses, the last few frost-bitten buds and all, and the apple trees, where branches were reaching for the sky.

So between that and all the card and wrapping paper from the last few days, I have a green bin that's 3/4 full (even after shredding the prunings to compact them), and no collection of green waste planned until February. Why? At least the local robin was happy, picking up little things from where I had done the shredding, after having watched me intently throughout.

The sun and the frost were interesting to watch today - the sun was falling on one of the cars, lighting up the frosty windows, until in the space of a minute, about 09:10, threads of dark rapidly spread across the white frosting, and them the whole of the sunny side was running with meltwater. Meanwhile the obliquely lit roof became whiter, as evaporation caused more frost to condense.

The pond was about 1cm thick with ice, except where we had put a seed tray as a roof, which stayed essentially clear - so, good for frogs, less good for wildlife seeking a drink.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The world turned upside-down

The end must be nigh - I find my self agreeing with something that Baroness Thatcher has to say! (About ID cards being a Hunnish concept.)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miscellanea

How times change - I had to explain yesterday to a 7-year-old boy what smoke signals were.

During the last month, I've been doing some recruiting - and it's terrifying how many people out there are trying to earn a living in software engineering without any idea of what polymorphism is about, or the notion of time-complexity of algorithms, let alone design skills that have any nod towards the notion that software objects should have well defined interfaces and responsibilities. And this is not an age related thing, either. Though eventually we did find a couple of suitably qualified candidates, one mid 20s, one early 40s, who are now with us.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Gardening chores

One of the autumn things to do, one of the more disgusting bits of the gardening year, now that most things have stopped growing, slapping the new formula creosote substitute on various bits of wood - shed, fence, and such.

While I was doing the fence, the local cock robin came down to investigate and kept hovering close by, even though I was clearly not disturbing the soil. In fact at one point, when I turned around suddenly, he almost flew into me, he was that close.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Don't try this at home

For work-related reasons, I installed a copy of vanilla ZoneAlarm on my dev box at work (running Win2k3 Advanced Server). I went ahead through the "This is not a supported operating system" warning, and everything went OK, until it came time to restart to activate the firewall.

90 minutes later, I had the login prompt, and 90 minutes later yet, I was logged in. So I uninstalled and rebooted. It was still logging out after being left overnight, so I just pulled the plug.

When it restarted, all was OK, but it was a pretty hairy experience, all in all.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Warm wet westerly winds in winter

= definition of Mediterranean climate. And very much what we're experiencing at the moment.

Which means it's too wet to mow the lawn, but mild enough that it has grown enough over the past month to need it. And now so mild that car tyres pumped up a couple of weeks ago are now over the pressure they were back then in the cold snap.

The only bit of gardening I've managed to do is some arboricide — starting on removing a bird-brought holly from one bed that was now too big to be ornamental. It's now down to the trunk (having filled the green bin with very spiky shreddings), and I've left it cooking with some Root Out, waiting for better weather to remove the stump.

With that gone, it'll free up 3-4m of bed which were strewn with so many spiky leaves as to effectively have been subject to some area-denial ordnance.

Oh, and getting very muddy in the on-going attempt to remove a Japanese anemone, by the expedient of digging the area over, pick up the big roots, wait for more to show by putting up leaves (the mild weather helps), and repeat.

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

Now we're down to 3 cats, there has been a noticeable change in the household dynamics. Rather than being yelled at constantly, and doubly at scheduled meal times for food, we actually have to remember to put the cats some food down, as they aren't being very demanding. And when bagging up the cans for recycling this week, it was noticeable how much fewer (closer to half than 3/4) there were.

LATER: doing the next black-bin rubbish collection, it was also apparent quite how much less cat litter had been consumed, by cats who would prefer to go out (and who were not so copious in their effusions when indoors).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sharpreader vs WordPress

I chose Sharpreader as an aggregator - but there are a number of blogs whose feeds verify but fail to load with a red

The underlying connection was closed: The server committed an HTTP protocol violation.

The problem — WordPress emits a maformed HTTP header "Last Modified:", which should be "Last-Modified:" and the default paranoid setting of .NET rejects this.

The workround — create a sharpreader.exe.config file alongside sharpreader.exe ; this is a plain text file containing:

<configuration>
  <system.net>
    <settings>
      <httpWebRequest useUnsafeHeaderParsing="true" />
    </settings>
  </system.net>
</configuration>

The fix — To fix this problem in Wordpress, search for the following line in your PHP and add the hyphen

@header('Last-Modified: '.$wp_last_modified);.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Milestones

Hit 4000 miles as I turned off the A428 on the way home from work today. After the first gym work-out for too long during the day.

More memes

RPG meme

  1. What is the first RPG you ever played?
    OD&D up to Eldritch wizardry with Pasadena cleric system
  2. What RPG do you currently play most often?
    Burned out years back; last as player was using the WEG Star Wars d6 system; as GM varAD&D2.
  3. What is the best system you've played?
    I was never really a player, much more a GM. In terms of enjoyment hours, the old var-D&D c1978, follwed by Champions (3rd).
  4. What is the best system you've run?
    I would have liked it to have been HeroQuest - but that didn't quite manage to rekindle the embers. In terms of the players having a good time for a reasonable number of sessions - AD&D2+house rules, followed by Champions (3rd).
  5. Would you consider yourself an: Elitist/ Min-Maxer/ Rules Lawyer?
    Uh? You what? I'd consider myself a gamist with simulationist leanings.
  6. If you could recommend a new RPG which would you recommend? Why?
    HeroQuest, even though the 25 year wait was just a bit too long, because I liked the feel as I read it.
  7. How often do you play?
    Not at all for the last 5-6 years. Was monthly before that. GMd weekly for a good bit in the early 90s.
  8. What sort of characters do you play? Leader? Follower? Comic Relief? Roll-Player/ Role-Player?
    If there is a theme, it's characters who walk up to opponents and hit them; and if they do develop as characters to role-play, they are ones who wonder why they're not doing something safe instead.
  9. What is your favorite Genre for RPGs?
    Fantasy, followed by 4-colour superhero. I couldn't get into the dark style of games that seemed to be everywhere in the 90s; and SF games always had "which sub-genre" and "how to justify 1950s technology" issues.
  10. What Genres have you played in?
    Fantasy, superheroes, a little bit of "'60s spy show crossed with Dr. Who", a number of abortive attempts at SF. Once each Paranoia and CoC (and never again).
  11. Do you prefer to play or GM? Do you do both?
    By far the most as GM. Play got less and less comfortable. Before I GMd I wrote SF for my own amusement; and since I stopped GMing, I went back to that. Not that characters are as amenable when they're your own :)
  12. Do you like religion in your games?
    In fantasy games, yes. It's what makes Glorantha such an appealing setting. I could even do the generic-Catholic quasi-mediaeval setting. Other settings stay secular, by tacit consensus.
  13. Do you have taboo subjects in your games or is everything "fair game"?
    The tacit consensus was very much PG-13 style play, staying away from the areas not to be discussed at dinner parties - sex, religion, politics (No sex please, we're British)
  14. Have you developed your own RPG before?
    Yes, back c78, as a codification of the complete rewrite of D&D we'd been playing.
  15. Have you ever been published in the Gaming Industry? If so...what?
    Yes - in WD50 (RQ and some D&D stats for the Citadel WD special figures collection) and 78 (planetary system accretion program based on Stephen Dole's ACRETE); a review in Interactive Fantasy, with credits for assist on a number of Phil Masters' GURPS or Hero publications.

Senior moment

The following meme has been propagating through the blogosphere

  1. Open up the music player on your computer (if you have one -- the music player, I mean. Clearly you have a computer, because otherwise you couldn't read this).
  2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
  3. Hit the "shuffle" command.
  4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That's right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility.

And I'm sufficiently old fashioned that the collection to draw from is old stuff I ripped from vinyl that never made it to CD, a few cheesy J-pop anime OP and EDs ripped from DVD plus whatever's on the CD in the CD-ROM drive at the moment, so forms a highly unrepresentative - if off-beat - sample. Bad experiences with cassette tapes 30-odd years ago has made me generally leery of music in "soft" storage, so I've not really gotten into the whole .mp3 thing.

Later - results:

  1. Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells (boxed edition) side 2 with the drunken Viv Stanshall voiceover on the final hornpipe
  2. In Love With Thrills (DP Flash Mission 2 intro track)
  3. Lynsey dePaul, Surprise, side 1
  4. Summer Time (Original Dirty Pair OAV outro track)
  5. Roky Erikson, I Think of Demons (side 2)
  6. Roky Erikson, I Think of Demons (side 1)
  7. Blve Öyster Cvlt, Dr Music/Flaming Telepaths (Unknown Origin EP side 2)
  8. BOA, Duvet (Serial Experiments Lain intro)
  9. SE Lain Outro
  10. Inner City Unit, The MAXIMUM Effect (side 1)

Fairly representative, really, of the two strands of .mp3s

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A very healthy corpse

A very ironic outcome of recent events — I'd taken Smoke to the vets last Thursday for a routine blood test before a repeat prescription of his thyroid pills. And the test result came through yesterday - we had finally achieved a regimen that had stabilized his condition.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Memories

Smoke - as a kitten with paws five sizes too big for him, the then generation of local kids saying "Oo! Look! A kitten" as he bounced around on the living-room window-sill. Growing into a big tough cat whose paws did fit - and was determined to mark the world (and the house) as his territory, leading to an almost lifetime ban from upstairs. As top predator in the neighbourhood, the cat who slept out in the middle of the lawn in warm weather, while the others sunned themselves in more sheltered spots.

Even just this autumn, in old age, when a strange cat made the mistake of wandering into the garden, all the others stayed about 10 feet away, looking, while he just strolled out, gaunt as he was, not puffing himself up, just keeping on approaching until the intruder started the ultra-slow-motion retreat that cats do when wishing to disengage without being set upon.

LATER: Friends reminded us of their first meeting with Smoke as a new kitten, who went out into the garden and promptly got stuck up a tree. So I had to get a ladder up to try and detach him, all the while being “assisted” by Shen, our then current Burmese, who was climbing up down and around, as if to try to show the n00b how you did trees.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Smoke 1-Mar-89 — 22-Nov-04 RIP

Well, we're now down to three cats. After months of slow decline, getting scrawnier, pickier and hungrier, Smoke pleaded to be let out this afternoon, and then didn't come pleading to be let back in. So, after we got back from dinner, I went out, fearing the worst, to find him curled up under the rhododendron by the conservatory door, cold, but not yet with rigor set in.

So the blood test and pills I paid for on Thursday will all be entirely theoretical.

I guess he knew it was his time.

More about Smoke.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Senior Moments

Friday night, I'd come home and declared my intention to drink too much beer, after a stressy week. As it was, I had a couple of (500ml) bottles, and didn't feel like taking any more fluid. And then settled down to sleep just after 10pm.

Friday, November 19, 2004

What a week

This morning I looked out and there was snow!

Patchy, only on the grass and cars, but snow nonetheless.

That wasn't on the program, at least according to the weather forecast the night before.

So take the long way around to work on main roads that won't be seriously icy (as opposed to the ones where last night's rain would have turned into streams that freeze on the road, to face two interviews (incl. pre- and post- meetings), and another meeting that seemed to be saying that our deadline was now moved up another 2 weeks, so they had two weeks in which to figure out if we'd finished or not.

So, after 4 interviews this week, 4 last, hardly any progress because all the team were tied up in various interview activities, this went down like a lead balloon. I'm having a weekend off this weekend, 'cause I don't think I will have another until 25-Dec.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Saturday, October 30, 2004

You know you've been watching too much anime when...

... you're in Paris, and everyone around you is speaking French, and you still reach for domo arigatou rather than merci beaucoup!

Paris

pret a lancer

Canal side art

Just back from a few days in Paris, where I was able to loaf about enjoying some of the autumn sun.

Tuesday was the journey down; Eurostar, as ever, and after a hair-raising taxi ride from the Gare du Nord to the Novotel Les Halles, I could settle down and start to explore for food. For a change, I wandered up past Les Halles to the Rue Tiquetonne, for the rather excellent Loup Blanc. This serves various marinated and grilled meat and fish, along with some green salad and rice, and a choice of more exotic salad accompaniments, such as various sorts of melon in coconut milk and lime juice.

Wednesday was cool and grey, so time for a yomp up to the Parc de la Villette (head up Sebastopol to the Gare de l'Est, bear right, keep going past Stalingrad), to the Cité des Sciences, and a promenade in the park, before returning along the canal. As it was raining by evening, dinner was in the Creperie St. Eustache, in the Rue Sauval, close to the hotel, an unpretentious, simple creperie, with good cider. Needless to say the weather put me off the idea of watching the lunar eclipse.

Thursday was warm and sunny, a last indian summer, pleasant to sit in shirtsleeves in the Jardin des Plantes after a promenade along the Rive Gauche, and otherwise not do a lot. It was even too warm for a jacket in the evening, when going up to the Bourse for a traditional French meal at the Gallopin. A leisurely meal, then strolling back along the Rue Montmartre in the bright moonlight.

Friday, tried to shop — but the season is wrong for silk shirts, and the dedicated silk and cashmere shop I'd used some years ago now seems to have been replaced by something downmarket. Lunched at the Trappiste — Salade Parmentier, for a change, with a couple of bottles of Rodenbach grand cru, double fermented and aged for two years in oak — before starting the journey back.

Entry composed while eating a couple of quiches from the bakery just by the hotel.

For the less able visitor, I would definitely recommend the guidebook Paris en Fauteuil — and collecting a lot of 10 and 20 centime pieces, as the reasonably accessible automatic toilets take 40 centimes a shot.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Too busy

As usual, so much to do, so little time. Not helped at work by the fact that the code complete date on the project I'm working on has been brought forwards from late Jan to mid Dec; plus one of the team is leaving. Aaargh!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Book — The System of the World

Stephenson concludes the Baroque Cycle with a third tome as weighty as the previous ones, but covering a much shorter window of time, the months surrounding the death of Queen Anne, and the ascent of the House of Hannover, in which the Solomonic Gold thread is also resolved, and certain earlier mysteries revealed. And everyone gets to the nearest they can to a happy ever after.

It's another low-key ending, the sort of thing that has been a trademark since Snow Crash at least.

If you read the previous volumes, you will want to read this.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Web (server) log

More of the weird strings that pull people to my sites.

  • Eden Project cornwall
  • christopher gilham
  • Gilham — twice
  • "steve gilham" — On Google UK for UK sites. I've not pwnZ0rZed that to the same extent as unfettered Google.
  • FRED WALTERS — My distant relative isn't the baseballer
  • len walters
  • crossbar & "her wrists" — Aargh! I'm caught in the middle of a search for John Norman's Gor. Unclean!
  • architechnix — There appears actually to be a real company of this name, but my fictional one (Tuckerising some of my own past) gets the #1 slot
  • cats at home — obligatory cat pix
  • Mangatoetoe — been there
  • Utena + Nerv Fanfiction — one of the strings leading to hits on the same page as the next few strings:
  • neon in its purist state
  • Evangelion "Story Boards"
  • b-spline_eva
  • fan interpretations of The End of Evangelion
  • Rei & Asuka & shoujo-ai
  • shinji and rei ayanami having sex pic — Somebody was disappointed ;)
  • walking holidays in france — I write about mine
  • pinewoods cemetary — yes, I do have a page with both those words on, but very far apart
  • walking tour st. jacques of compostelle — another of the many hits on the same
  • hotel de chanaleilles — and again
  • Le Puy-en-Velay france photo — and again
  • walking holidays france — and again
  • french>church>st.Nectaire — and again
  • "Le Puy" GR65 — and again
  • GUI Toolkit Skinning Win32
  • "Mr Tines"
  • ravnaandtines — from Italy
  • stand alone blowfish

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Autumn Woes

I'm going to be hard put not to turn back into a fat slob this winter. Work has been going barmy (process being substituted for competence in certain quarters), and with the evenings closing in, the need to keep long hours and overlap with colleagues in the States means that even were it not being wet, cycling would be out. Maybe once more this year? I hope. Possibly not at the end of the year, since they're now building around where the cycle way in to Cambourne goes, and it was being muddy enough in recent weeks to clag the bike up.

And the car park near my gym has been undergoing a refurb since the start of the year, and that's overrun the schedule - it was original supposed to finish last month, - and with much of it out of action, getting to the gym during the week is out too!

And to add to the fun, it's almost a year, and the still haven't done anything to repair the cycle way into town.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Milestones

Tracking my car mileage.

3001 miles arriving at work yesterday 6th Oct; 2359 on the M11-M25 slip on the August BH Sunday, and 2400 at the A13/North Circular junction on the way back.

And doing on average 260 miles between top-ups (after the middle blob on the fuel guage empties.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

One satisfied customer

I finally decided what I wanted to get myself as a belated birthday present: a TV-free, and computer free multi-region capable DVD solution which could fit into a watch-in-bed scenario.

I could just have bought a DVD-R drive, to replace one of the CD-RWs and have one drive R1 and the other R2, but I really have no need for DVD-R capability yet (maybe when I next need a real hardware upgrade - which may be sooner rather than later as one of the machines has been getting a bit flaky lately); or a cheap external DVD drive, just to make R1.

I would have liked to be able to feed the video output from a normal DVD player box into an existing monitor - but that sort of thing involves a video-in card on the computer, rather than any obviously discoverable black box. The only displays that seem to take the multiplicity of video formats are either small (8" or less) seat-back units or TVs.

The best thing that turned up in terms of display size and other requirements from the wonder that is Google was a 9" player (9" Shinco (aka "Initial" or "Mintek") portable DVD player) from allcam.biz, a Nottingham based mail-order outfit; so that is what I ended up plumping for. I ordered Sunday afternoon, and it arrived Tuesday morning, and I had a bit of a play with it last night. I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the service, and with the initial impressions of the device.

As indicated, it is indeed region free out of the box; the picture and sound quality are entirely satisfactory - and the small inbuilt speakers are capable of being louder than I need. The drive is a little bit noisy when seeking, but that seems an inevitable result of the slim-line case not having room to be sound-proof.

A long time in politics

No sooner does it seem that the Tories are finally sliding into oblivion, but UKIP suddenly slip into the niche they used to occupy, viz. leadership squabbles and alienating their sources of finance, skipping all the bits in the middle. The lunatics really are in charge of the asylum.

Monday, October 04, 2004

X marks the spot

Today, on the 47th anniversary of Sputnik, Spaceship One claimed the X prize, with a turnaround time of just six days. On the seventh, they can rest.

This is starting to be more like space as it ought to have been. And I don't think that there was any coincidence in their choice of the date for their achievement.

Who knows, maybe I will manage to get into orbit some day.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Trawling the blogger-sphere

That little "Next blog" button does exert its influence when you have nothing better to do, and just want to randomly wander links. And it does feel that mouch of human life is here. But here are surprises and annoyances.

It is annoying to hit blogs that obscure the title bar, or stick up Javascript thingies. It is frustrating (on a 1600x1200 display at least) to hit blogs that are in maroon on black in teeny-tiny font size, or hide all the text in a minute 300x300 pixel scrolling area. It is striking when one finds the same site two or even three times (especially when it is one of the annoying ones) without getting led back to one's own. And so many blogs on the trail are at the first post or three stage, and no more than 24-48 hours old (and one of those made featured blog recently for reasons that escape me).

It is surprising that it seems that as many blogs are in Spanish or Portuguese as are in USAn student illiterate semi-English or are compendia of (mainly financial) advertising links (debt relief, pay-day loans, or such) - and that more people blog in Arabic or about details of their sex lives than blog in French or German (on Blogger at least).

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Aftermath of Hartlepool

Oh, dear.

Well, the blue-rinse brigade do seem to have managed to kill off the Tory party.

I'm just surprised that it's only taken such a short time, since they failed to realise that Portillo was about their last chance at electability, to their being kicked around by a new party.

The only trouble with voting “None of the above” — and that's how I feel with all the current lot — is that they never get in. Or, as some wag put it many years ago “No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Rubber Geometry

And I don't mean topology...

O = center of circle; V is the top of the circle, M is a point on OV, and E is a point on the circle at the same level as M

I recently happened across the start of a very detailed commentary on the Evangelion TV series, which brought home to me that not only is the anime physics of necessity rubber, but so is some of the geometry.

The diagram shows a sketch of the NERV geofront, a sphere notionally 89% full according to ep 20 i.e. 11% of it is open as a spherical cap. From the latter page we see that the volume of a spherical cap of height h (VM in the diagram) cut from a sphere radius R (OE or OV) is πh²(3R-h)/3; the volume of the whole sphere is 4πR³/3. If we let x = h/R, then volume of cap/volume of sphere is x²(3-x)/4, = 0.11 in our case.

A little computation shows that x ~ 0.412, so OM = 0.588R, and since OME is a right-angled triangle, (ME/R)² = 1 - (0.588)², so ME is 0.809R.

But it is also claimed that

The Geofront is a sphere with a diameter of 13.75 km). However, 89% of it is buried and only the top part (900 m high and 6 km across) is open.

i.e. R = 6.875 km, 2ME = 6km and h = 0.9km. The drawing is done with R and h in those proportions. There is no way to reconcile these figures, which can be derived with a little high-school geometry.

Taking the R and h values, we have ME² = 6.875² - 5.975² = 11.565, so ME = 3.4km, or about 7km across, which is not too bad, but x = h/R = 0.131, giving a fraction of volume in the cap of about 1.2% of the sphere, about 1/10 of what was stated.

So perhaps it might have been a slipped decimal point, 1.1% recorded as 11%, and the rest is history.

Later -- Of course the 89% figure might be right, if NERV HQ is like an iceberg; nine-tenths hidden. And there are a lot of vast caverns shown in the depths below that might well use up a lot of space.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Web (server) log

Real geeks run web-servers. So with the arrival of broadband, I put Linux and Apache on an old PC, and connected it up, with copies of my externally hosted sites (plus some extra stuff like more photos, and bigger binaries). And after a month I have reached a few conclusions.

There are a *lot* of web crawlers out there; and any server will have intermittent probes to see if it is IIS or an open proxy. But there is legit traffic. A lot comes from people reading pages here or on one of the old external sites with images now hosted on the local box (my father's account of his National Service in the main), a few from an entry on the FOX toolkit wiki, or from my .sigs in old Usenet postings on Google, and one from my alumni.net entry. But most come from search engines. And what a range of queries:

  • how+do+i+get+32+bit+colour+on+my+windows+98+system - picked up my freeware site
  • ravna & tines - ditto
  • tines - ditto
  • NTLM source server - ditto
  • Win32+MD5+16+Bit+Source - ditto
  • Blowfish+block+cypher - java page ditto
  • swing fade effect - ditto
  • java swing fade - ditto
  • fade to black - ditto
  • xhtml+validator+standalone+application - ditto
  • PassiveFTP - windows page ditto (from Japan, no less)
  • Gevaudan - picked up my walking holiday there from '02
  • A cat who walked cross France - picked up the same page
  • jemima cats - picked up the obligatory cat photos page
  • jemima from cats - ditto
  • Ada Walters - a picture of my great-aunt
  • Gilham - twice, one of those from Google Israel
  • Sergeant Major WWII Uniform - a picture of Great Aunt Ada's son, Fred in uniform in the family regiment
  • something unidentifiable that turned up my Eden Project photos page
  • screcrows - picked up the (now fixed) misspelt word on my page of photos from the recent vilage festival
  • chobits lemon fanfic - well, there are some sick puppies out there. Yes, I do have a page with all three words on, but not in that exact sequence.

Traffic Hazards

Cycling to work, I go past the local school as I approach the office. About half the kids seem to be driven there - often from only a few hundred yards away, and the rest are on their own wheels. This makes negotiating the road and cycle path interesting, when there are 5-year-olds peddling madly away, not looking where they are going.

Anime/Film Review — Utena : the Movie

Well, it's different.

The dance in the rose garden/duel arena was beautiful.

Invalid XHTML

And possibly HTML as well - Blogger single item pages have unescaped ampersands in the "leave a comment" code - and if you put any markup in a post title, that ends up in the <title /> tag. *sigh*

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Film — Hero

A 2002-dated film from Yimou Zhang, previously known for more subdued films like Red Sorghum, that seems to have taken off in the States despite subtitling, and now doing the round here.

In terms of what goes on, it's probably safe to say that it's a little bit Rashomon meets Crouching Tiger, and go no more lest spoilers abound. There is plenty of OTT martial arts action, including a duel in an autumn wood, amongst drifts of fallen and falling leaves, where one character manifests a technique that I would label Hurricane Sword and assign as an Orlanthi magical technique for HeroQuest.

The scenery is taken from a range of different parts of China, from western desert to lakes amongst green wooded hills, and the scenes are always wonderfully colour-coordinated, a different colour for each separate layer of narrative. However there were points where I found the visuals just feeling like padding - in particular, there was one "get on with it" bit about halfway through where we had a minute or so of the Qin army riding that added nothing to the film that a brief fade to black would not also have done. And visual to the extent that apart from the very first fight scene, where there is an old man playing a zither, that the background music failed to make a conscious impression on me (I am told that it was Itzak Perlman violin in some places).

However, on balance, a good film, one I'm glad to have seen, and enough to make me add seeing his next, House of Flying Daggers (which was trailed before the showing), to the things that I can reward myself with for survivng the rest of the year at work with my sanity intact, though not a great one - I would put it a notch behind Warriors of Heaven and Earth in terms of story.

Anime Review — Revolutionary Girl Utena (spoilers)

Earlier in the year, after working my way through Evangelion, and then trying to work my way out again via fan-fic, I started to look for other fan takes on Eva. And encountered Neon Revolution Evangelion aka Shin Kakumei Evangelion. I had previously seen mention of RGU aka Shoujo Kakumei Utena that all tended to put it amongst the most regarded of titles, but NRE gave so much of a teaser (without making it obvious what bits were spoiler and which were original synthesis) that I thought that I'd just have to get around to seeing it; so taking advantage of the weakness of the US$ and Linux libdvdcss enhanced DVD players, I purchased the whole run - 39 episodes, plus the movie (yet to watch) from amazon.com, and watched it 3-4 episodes at a sitting, on a weekly basis over the last few months.

Well, it was weird. Not in the same way as Lain, but weird, nonetheless. A series for which the word "epicene" was invented, with few of the relationships being even close to what one might call "normal" - after all, you start off with one girl stating that she's waiting for her "kareshi" (lit. boy-friend), and said person turns out to be the eponymous Utena (a girl who just dresses in a mannish fashion for most of the series), and then it turns out that if any girl has a brother anywhere on stage, that is where her interests tend to be directed. Even the boy-girl relationships that don't involve siblings have strong degrees of control or other ulterior motive.

The series is clearly aimed at a female audience, especially in the later episodes where there are a lot of episodes involving bishounen displaying their manly pecs, and especially lounging around on cars, in a manner normally associated with bikini-clad "booth babes" at car shows.

If I wanted to be arch about it, I'd say it was merely a slight exaggeration of adolescence, with the need to discover who one really is, cast as a HeroQuest to become the Prince. And it is indeed an undeniable HeroQuest in the last handful of episodes, as the Prince is revealed, and the sacrificial nature of the Rose Bride made manifest.

My feeling on watching the ending was "How very sweet, how very fitting." and I will add my voice to those heartily recommending this series to anyone who can watch it without getting hung up on the appearances and superfices.

Thoughts and reflections

SKU is definitely a series to be watched with sub-titling and a smattering of Japanese : the English language loses a lot of the sub-text that is there in the various forms and degrees of address, or in the use of pronoun-equivalents. Idiomatic English speech can't really mirror, for example, the change between Himemiya's use of "Saionji-sama" when Saionji Kyoichi is the One Engaged, to her almost spiteful dismissal of him as "Saionji-senpai" when he has just lost her in a duel to Utena. Nor is there a simple way of showing that Utena refers to herself as boku (an informal form most often used by males) rather than atashi (a formal, female form, even used by such frail flowers of delicate femininity as Yuumura Kirika and Iwakura Lain). Utena even uses boku to state "Well, I am a girl." when it is suggested to her that she is being particularly feminine, without irony (compare and contrast with a similar remark by Lovely Angel Kei from DPFlash Mission 2 ep 1 using an even more aggressive and unfeminine pronoun form).

It is a series where there are characters about whom one feels strongly, for or against, but is not afraid to twist things so one's perception and feelings about the characters do change. The vulnerable Rose Bride, at times, does have episodes what look very much bouts of sugar-coated passive-aggressive nastiness (as noted above). By contrast, Kiryuu Nanami, who is introduced as haughty, selfish, green-eyed kitten-drowning bitch (and those are her good points), reaches a state where even being predisposed to detest her, I found myself feeling sorry for her plight instead.

And, having reached the end of SKU, I can now say that the bits of NRE where I see characters being most out-of-character are that Kaoru Kozue (even though I do actually have a sneaking fondness for her in retrospect - maybe that's because she's the most overtly sexy of the characters*) and Saionji Kyoichi are more sympathetic than I found their canonical appearances. Plus I would quibble that in NRE, Utena has not been pulled aside from the Prince HeroPath as she is in the later parts of SKU, so should possibly not have followed quite the same path in the Duel named Révolution, would have been more Princely. Other Eva-ish consistency checks - Utena's mother - definitely dead; the Kaoru twins' mother - separated at least, and definitely out of the picture, but still writing letters; Arisugawa Juri's mother - no data.

Annoying dangling loose end related to the above - the Rose Bride as step-mother to the Kaoru twins thread that was introduced in a brief scene and then forgotten.

* — female characters that is. Bishounen don't do anything for me :)

Anime — Serial Experiments Lain (spoilers)

Back in the spring I categorised this as low key cyberpunk weirdness on the strength of the first disk (eps 1-4). The later disks turn the weidness up to 11.

It seemed to me that as the story went on there was a bit of casting around for what the underlying plot might be. After Layer 06 (Kids), I thought I had it figured out - Lain was an aftereffect of the Kensington experiment, coalesced out of that explosive release of psychic energy (This would be true if I ever write Serial Experiments Evangelion, with Sub-Commander Hodgeson up there on the bridge with Gendou). But then a couple of episodes later, we get into more familiar Roswell/MJ-12 territory, coming right up to date by tying IPv7 into the brew, before disappearing into the metaphysics associated with uploads, and ending with more questions than answers.

Despite that, I thought it excellent, thoughtful, and that it came to an end that supplied a fitting closure.

Also, a honourable mention for the real 'C' code in the lesson in the early episodes - even if the coding style is a little bit clumsy. I don't think there are any other titles that go even that far.

Anime — RahXephon (spoilers)

This was a title that a while ago I admitted to getting as it came out. Well, I finally got round to watching the last disk this week.

Possibly watching it with long gaps between each disk - enough to have to think "what happened last time?" - didn't do it full justice, especially as the effect of one of the sequences of revelations depends on remembering which character is related to whom in which degree. Tthe overall effect was that it was something very pretty, but ultimately shallow - I didn't find myself with any great sympathies or antipathies for any of the characters except in the most abstracted form. Also, unless I missed joining clues together, we found out even less about what was actually going on than in Evangelion - who or what the Mulians were and why they started acting up when they did, whenever that was.

And at the end, after Instrumentality has happened, it just sticks in the "alternate universe" equivalent - but a very claustrophobic AU, inside windowless rooms, only the least sense of everyone (or even everyone we know from the series) being there, rather than the tiny number we see. And in the objective world, we see that there is a real need for an Ohtori project - the world now has a literal shell to smash.

But we do find out who the girl in the yellow dress was.

Overall: Mostly Harmless.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

For fox' sake

Well, they actually passed the hunting ban. I never thought they'd actually keep that promise. I guess it's something juicy to be thrown to the Labour back-benchers for them to fall upon with glee. Rather like fox-hounds do to peoples' pets when they go off at a tangent and head through village gardens.

Hounds aside, I don't understand some of the fuss being made. It's not as if they're proposing to make it illegal to go out horse-riding with a bunch of like-minded people on a crisp winter's day, so all the social/horsey-set goings on could carry on without interruption. Just that someone would actually have to plan the route rather than it being made up on the spot.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Schrödinger's Cat-food

Discussing quantum logic with my boss the other day, we came to the conclusion that it was related to run-time (as opposed to classical) refinement. Rather than having "AND" distribute over "OR", so you can satisfy (a AND (b OR c)) by just implementing (a AND b) or just (a AND c), you actually have to do both b and c. The analogy used in the discussion was of quantum cookies with nuts or chocolate chips : each bite would give a possibility of the one or of the other.

Given the way our felines prefer to fall on one flavour of cat-food like it was manna from heaven, and then even with second helpings from the same tin, get picky and want something else, I could see the practical value of a different flavour in every mouthful in that application. And the brand is of course obvious, as noted above.

Autumn

The weather becomes stormy - relics of hurricanes, riding back across the Atlantic, and the evenings close in by 19:30. So only one day cycling this week - and fortunately that wasn't the day when I ended up staying until after dark to get the build fixed for the current project. This was not helped by random failures in code-signing that look like inadvertent input into the passphrase dialog for MS signcode that pops up briefly during the build. By contrast the Mozilla/NSS signtool takes a command line argument and gave no problems.

The change of the seasons has also been reflected in increased pussy-cat appetites. Which means the orange one is in danger of becoming spherical unless coerced out to work off what he eats; and the old grey one is no longer up to helping himself to kibble, and is inordinately picky as well as full-time hungry.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

One step forwards...

With the new navbars, instead of the Google ads, I can finally make my page validate in (X)HTML. Alas, in putting various IE hacks into the CSS, I can't get that to validate. *sigh*

Not just Ambridge...

It's not only the Archers who had a village do with lots of scarecrows (effigies, really) around this weekend. My village did too.

A Flower-pot man, like Bill, or Ben.

This was the first cool and dry weekend for ages, so my first priority was trying to hack the garden back into some semblance of control, so I filled the green bin, hacking back out of control jasmine; and have another amount of lawn rakings, and another of hedge trimmings, plus the 90% of the iris from the pond that was surplus and still it comes. So my only interaction, apart from listening to music wafting from the jazz yesterday evening, was with the various scarecrows around.

So I tried out my recently acquired (second-hand) digital camera on some of the scarecrows made for the event, just as light was fading on the Sunday. I only had the 10-image card in, so I had to be selective. That meant I mssed the bridal patry, the golliwogs' croquet, any number of legs sticking out of hedges, or from under cars or out of their bonnets, and the builder not quite falling off his ladder. This was my own idiosyncratic sampling.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Peaking early...

I don't know if Andy Warhol had even yet uttered those words about everyone being famous for 15 minutes when I had my slot come up. In 1967, I appeared on the first experimental live intercontental TV broadcast via satellite (Australia to UK). Through the miracles of modern tech, an nth generation print has been captured in digital form. That's me on the right, brother Andy on the left.

This explains everything...

If you've read Illuminatus!, you'll know the real reason for the Pentagon.

Three years ago, a plane crash disrupted the pentagonal geometries. Perhaps Something leaked out, and, floating around, finally found a weak enough intellect that it could control, just a little way down the road.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Roadkill

Earlier in the year, I'd been surprised by quite how few flat rabbits I spotted while cycling to work. Well, they've been making up lost time recently. And today I saw the first muntjac as roadkill. Fortunately it had been removed by the time I was on the homeward leg. A decaying badger was stinky enough to cycle past.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Film — The Motorcycle Diaries

Or “What I did in my gap year, by Che Guevara, age 23¾”

Middle class medical student and biochemist friend a few years older set out on a 20-year-old Norton motorbike from Buenos Aires intending to reach Venezuela via the length of the Andes. Bike breaks down in Chile. Hitching and walking, with a generous side of blagging their way as doctors specializing in leprosy treatment, the rest of the way, they see the poverty of the underclasses, and end up spending a while trying to break down the social apartheid in a church-run leper colony. Finally they reach their goal, months late. And young Ernesto is fired with a vison.

A road movie with lots of spectacular scenery, usually under leaden skies.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Species memory

This is how I've thought of Google in the past. And this evening, I decided to idly ego-google (i.e. give Google my name as a search term).

The unusual surname probably accounted for getting the whole first page to myself - but even there I found things that certainly referred to me, but I didn't recall publishing. There were more than a few incidents of that sort. Then something I did remember, which I co-wrote in the late '70s (well pre-Internet for most practcal purposes), for a small circulation wargaming 'zine, that had managed to make its way on-line.

And a couple of links-to that I'd not noted before, and my old college saying I'd dropped off their radar.

Conclusion: Interesting.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Senior Moments

Well, today is my 47th birthday. And this weekend, I've made two contradictory responses to the passage of time.

One of the things that I'd been looking for, on and off, since my beard turned quite white (see recent au naturel picture) was something to keep it more in step with the mere greying of the hair on my head. And one of the few adverts I spotted on TV while on holiday that weren't for new cars, was one for just such a product (Just For Men - including a beard colourant range). So I ventured into Boots and finally found it in the Men's grooming section - rather than under hair-care. So now I'm coloured rather more like I used to be; though leaving the temples strategically grey, and keeping it short (currently a bit shorter than the profile picture, as I got the boss at the local barber's last time, and he does everything freehand - no number 4 on the side, number 6 on the beard for him. This did mean I only had to mix up a fraction of the expectd amount of colourant, though.

Oh, and as I now can't really accomodate into the 10-15cm range at all comfortably (the face jammed up against something with an awkward line of sight, scredriver against cheek to fix a fiddly screw sort of distance), amongst the eyewashes and similar - not the opticians bit - I found the off-the-peg reading glasses. My prescription from the start of the year was +0.75 (dioptre, presumably), but these only started at +1, so that's what I got - a stylish slim-line rimless pair. Now I wonder how much I'll actually use them.

[Later] - At work, one colleague remarked on how short my hair now was; and another commented that he thought the style made me look younger. So I had to 'fess up that I'd coloured it. Later on, the Site Manager's PA also made favourable and unsolicited comment on the new style.

Guess I should have done it sooner.

Styling the body element in XHTML

Updating this entry.

body {position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 100%;margin:0px;min-height:100%;} does nothing for pages served as HTML. But this style is useful for Firefox and pages served as XHTML, as it makes the body element in XHTML behave just as it does in HTML and fill the entire viewport. Zero margin - to work round any default margins - and at least full viewport height have been added.

Friday, September 03, 2004

WiseDll.dll "Extracting directories..." localization

A Google-bait header for a problem that took me far too long to chase down, and which had no clear data to be found on the web — not even on wise.com's knowledge base.

Scenario — an installer created using Wise for Windows Installer 5.0 — last year's model, I know — with the resulting .msi file being post-processed to extract all the strings from the database, localized, patched and then used to create a transform. All the other strings were being processed; the Template summary and all merge modules were set language neutral (codepage zero); and still, as soon as the installation started, up popped English language strings “Extracting directories…” and “Extracting properties…”.

There was no sign of them in any of the string tables. Flattening the .wsi file to xml failed to show anything. Looking in the actual binary, however, they were there.

Much dissection later, I found that they were present in one of the Binary table entries, which, extracted, turned out to be a .DLL, 21kb, associated with custom calls for startup and cleanup. So not something that could be excised safely. And the strings turn out not to be located as resources, but as hard-coded data.

This really makes all the localization support in the rest of WfWI moot.

So I just patched the .DLL I'd extracted — set the 'E' bytes to NUL in a hex editor — and re-inserted it into the .wsi file using Orca. Problem papered over, if not solved.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Contrarian

I read somewhere a little while ago that people sleep more while on holiday.

Then why is it that I was up bright and ready to face the day before 06:30 while cycling last week, but was hardly awake at all this morning as work recommences?

Perhaps it's that we're now at the stage where the sun rises over the house opposite sometime after 06:30, so as I drink my morning coffee, I watch the shadow move across the bedroom curtains. Dark mornings soon. Ugh!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

More on XP SP2

At home, both machines had the ZoneAlarm Personal Edition firewalls recognised, but not the Norton AntiVirus. And on my dev machine, the 1600x1200x32-bit display was knocked down to 16-bit depth without my say-so. Easily fixed, when spotted, but annoying.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Sick, sick, sick!

After watching the latest disk (episodes 24-26) of Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Karen remarked "Where are the Ministry of Education in all this?" I made the flip reply "They're too busy dealing with Hogwarts" - that being the obvious other odd school around in the media at the moment. I shouldn't've made that juxtaposition. It led to formulating the concept of HP & the Rose Crest Duellists. Something like this:

Harry finds a secret path in the forest behind Hogwarts, that leads him to a hidden arena, where he fights a duel. Now there are people with increasingly strange hair colours challenging him to further duels. Is the new young, pink haired Defense against the Dark Arts teacher involved with any of this? Who is the asian girl who says she is now engaged to him? Is this an arranged marriage sprung upon him by the Dursleys? Find out next time on Shounen Kakumei Harii!

[Later - a bit of morbid curiousity Googling shows that as expected, this is not a new idea, but one that (fortunately) seems never to have been taken anywhere.]

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Holiday - Woodbridge to Needham Market and home.

Only a short run in good weather, so late breakfast, potter about, take detours and still get back to base by 13:00. Fortunately, luggage is there too, so can head straight off. Stop in at my parents in Subdury to unsnarl their network. The "helpful" network setup wizard bridged the firewire and ethernet on one box by default, which squelched TCP/IP; and on the other, the connection sharing didn't proxy DNS, so I had to install Privoxy on the modem machine. But it all seemed to work. Then home to mow the lawn and shred more stuff to finish filling the green bin.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Holiday - Aldeburgh to Woodbridge.

Bright clear start, but again rain promised for later. I'm on the road before 09:00. Just south of Snape I hit a WTF!? moment - with the news full or reports about how the weather has washed out much of the grain harvest, I see someone is irrigating (big industrial sprinkler) a field of carrots. Farmers are never satisfied!

Following the river/coast along, the countryside is pleasant, but there are again sudden curve-and-climbs, and plenty of agricultural vehicles to have to get off and wait to go past. There is a pretty looking thatched church on the headland at Iken, and at Shingle Street, another Martello tower, and a view down the coast of two more. Carry on through Alderton, but skip the detour to the Ramsholt Arms, as there has been the first sprinkle, and the anvils are building up. By Sutton, I need food and drink, so stop at the Plough for a sausage bap and a pint. And the rain arrives, so I have another couple of pints and watch the Women's Triathlon on the pub TV.

Then it's a dash in a brief lull the last few miles, and arrive with the rain just following. Freshen up and wait for it to stop. Then look for somewhere to have supper later, and take in the place. To kill time, I stop at the Red Lion, which is a friendly little pub, and have a pint. Then it comes down in stair-rods, so I nurse another. They're only doing steak and chips that night, so when the rain finally stops, I amble along to Prezzo, a modern Italian pizza/pasta place for deep fried mozzarella and a quattro stagione pizza.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Holiday - Southwold to Aldeburgh

I'm woken early to noises off - but fortunately this is not more weather. My early order of coffee arrives as tea (yuk!), but at least there's the real thing with breakfast. There is plain yoghurt for my muesli and an alternative to the usual fry-up in the form of bacon maple flapjacks.

The forecast is for torrential showers arriving later, so I start early, in the first brief glimpse of sun. It clouds over almost at once, and I can see rain out to sea, and a rainbow inland as I take the path to Walberswick. The track from Walberswick is noted as being soft sand and gravel. Actually it's many puddles across its whole width, and some a foot or more deep. This means lots of portage, and having to wade through nettles while in lycra shorts. Ouch.

The weather continues to threaten, so I speed through Dunwich, down to the Heath - which, despite this summer's weather is plastered with fire risk signs. Plenty of purple heather, and the sky is all heavy dark cloud, with a downpour towards Sizewell. I get onto the bridleway to Minsmere, and after passing through trees, emerge into bright sun - most of the cloud has just vanished! Minsmere is closed for the day, so I only stop there to re-seat and re-grease the chain. By Thorpeness, I see evidence of the weather, but it's brightening up, with only one anvil cloud visible, and that out to sea. Cruise into Aldeburgh, being buzzed by sandmartins. The Britten sculpture on the beach is a rusted (landward side only, shiny on seaward), part splintered scallop shell, maybe 5m tall. I don't see what the fuss was about - the view inland is bleak, and to the north is dominated by Sizewell.

Beanburger and chips for lunch at the Captains's Cabin (chatting with diners at next table, who seem to be local to the region, they don't understand how I manged to avoid the A12 on the journey - I had to tell them about the footbridge across the Blyth to Walberswick), then check in and freshen up. Serious re-hydration now required so I go out to shop. There is a sprinkle of rain, but it brightens, and I sit out in the sun and drink 1.5l of water, before ambling south out to the Martello tower, and then north back up to Thorpeness. Approaching the latter, I hear what I think is distant thunder. Certainly the anvil that was inland has drifted closer; and as I head back, the sky behind me is extremely dark grey. This was probably the cloud that brought a little tornado through to tear down the circus tent I'd passsed that morning at Southwold.

Eat at Benson-Blakes Bistro, spiced beef salad, then spaghetti with crayfish, in garlic and chilli butter. It rains while I'm there.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Holiday - Framlingham to Southwold

I wake to rain, so just sit scribbling in the lounge until it stops around midday. The lounge is also a local coffee bar from breakfast time, so I end up passing the time of day, talking about cycling and holidays, with a woman who is minding her little granddaughter. When the rain stopped at last, and there was even an occasional glimpse of sun, I picked up some fruit and water, and set off on the basic 26 mile route. After the rain it was cool and damp - OK to cycle in, but I wouldn't choose to cycle to work in those sort of conditions. Today there are lots of sudden gradients, roads covered in alluvial deposits, and fords - one even signed as such. I get to the Swan Hotel by just after 15:00. My room is a real single - just the one single bed. It's also part of the fire exit, with a "smash glass to open" on the door. I'm just settled in the bath, and then thunder starts, and the power keeps going up and down, switching the emergency lighting on. The rain is torrential until almost 18:00, when I can finally get out for a stretch of the legs. There are plenty of plucky British holidaymakers in their waterproofs and shorts, and some hardy souls wading knee deep into the angry surf (and even a couple of surfers by the pier who have just enough reach to be able to stand on the board before getting to the shore). Along the dunes, there are rainmarks in the sand.

Dinner booked at the Swan - Anglo-French cooking. I have a bean soup, steak, and cheese. Not terribly exciting, not helped by disliking fish

Roadsign of the day - one sign indicating Brewery, Methodist Church, Wine Cellar.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Holiday - Claydon to Framlingham

Tucked into the standard sort of hotel breakfast, then checked out. Had to point them at the tour organiser for payment. Stopped at the Co-op for lunch stuff, water and biscuits. The selection of fruit was miserable, though.

Weather cool but bright, more April than August. Plenty of fair weather clouds, with the sun warm, and the air cool. The route takes me over lots of single-track roads, most recently gravelled. Having done holiday cycling so much in France, I have actually to remember on these deserted roads to keep to the left. The harvest is being busily gathered in in this brief respite from the rain as I take the long route - 40 miles or so - gently meandering to Framlingham by about 14:00, even with a lunch break and a beer break (the White Hart at Stradbroke - which has three very yappy white scottie dogs).

The Crown Hotel is easy to spot in the market place, and the Midland cash machine just up the road dispenses £5 and £10 notes, not £10 and £20! I have a bright airy room over courtyard. After freshening up, I go for a wander - too hot to sit in the sun, but I find a shady seat in churchyard to blog, then have a long wander around the town before having a curry (Chicken Rizella - a jalfrezi with added keema) at the Prince of India just outside the hotel.

Weirdest sight of the day - a semi-recumbent tandem (recumbent in front, upright rear).

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Holiday — home to Claydon via Needham Market

Driving down, I realise that there is just one problem with a car CD player - it's a lot more fiddly than tape when it comes to changing a disk. So for journeys longer than one CD, best to have one that stands instant repeats.

After finding the Suffolk Cycle Breaks place OK, I start to get acquainted with the new bike. It has Shimano gears, but thumb and forefinger levers, which mean I have to read the labels to figure out which to manipulate to do the shift. And there's a lot of fiddling before I get the saddle to a comfortable height for pedalling (i.e. legs extended on the down-stroke) - even if it is a bit precarious dismounting.

The pretty way to the hotel is only 8 miles. The first bit is supposedly a busy road - which really isn't, this Saturday late afternoon, and even though the supposedly short first hill actually keeps on giving (not helped by this being during the adjust saddle and learn gears phase), it's only 45 minutes to the hotel, so I loop back along the short route to the pub the chap recommended, the Sorrel Horse "a bit of a hike" he said. About a mile, I guess.

The hotel in Claydon is supposedly quieter on a Saturday than the usual one in Needham Market, but they have wedding party. The room is hell hot - it takes several seconds for the cold tap to run cold! After a bath, I stroll over to the Sorrel Horse for supper - steak & ale pud, and a couple of Spitfires. It's now 19:15, so I continue strolling away from the hotel, cross the main road at a footpath, and loop back eventually to Claydon by about 21:00. As I get into the centre, I hear a loud thumping of amplified music. No, neither of the pubs, but the hotel. So have another pint at the pub across the road.

Channel surf to near midnight to cover the noise, and discover that forensics seems to be the new fashion in US imports. Even when the disco dies away, there are motorbikes on the main road just outside, and it's still too hot. Sleep on the bed, not in, and still feel sticky.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Acid flashback, man!

Parking my car this evening, on the way to the cinema, I was startled to noticed, stuck in the rear window of the car parked in front, some hand drawn - in coloured pencil - Donny Osmond paraphernalia, small pictures stuck onto pastel A4 sheets, and large, uneven, hand lettering.

The author is boggled

Film — Memories of Murder

A Korean film, one that I didn't manage to fit in when it showed at the Film Festival this year, based on a true life case of a serial killer, still presumably at large, in provincial South Korea in the late 1980s. The old hand from the local station is happy to have confessions beaten out of the suspects that emerge, but the newcomer from the capital keeps on digging up patterns that lead to further suspects. But each pattern, each lead, dissolves, and the killings come closer to home.

Bleak and poignant.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

It's a jungle out there

The mild wet weather this year has allowed prolific crops of fruit - the cherries are just about done, and the plums coming on stream. But it means that the garden generates a lot of waste. Far more than will fit into the handy green recycling bins for compostables, collected fortnightly, even when shredded to allow it to pack more densely, and dried to further reduce volume. It means that when I've been able to garden, like this evening, I come to a halt with the bin full, and have to let it settle a bit before being able to carry on.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Internet — A global source of practical uses

As Pete Abrams put it on the very first panel of Sluggy Freelance; at least as far as it is a repository of species memory. In these heady days before we regard Google as the new Microsoft, the ability to type in an error message and get a how-to-fix in moments is just amazing.

Like at the weekend, having acquired an old HP workstation with a pre-wiped disk to use as a server, I though I'd be daring and run up Mandrake 10 with a 2.6 kernel. And having installed, got a kernel panic during boot, trying to mount the file system. Yep, known problem, trying to mount a filesystem while the disk drivers are still on the unmounted filesystem. You can fix it with an intermediate RAM-disk stage, but I took the simple route and just backed off to a 2.4 kernel instead.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Smashing!

This is not being a good year for windscreens. Back at the start of June, driving down to Salisbury, just leaving Wing on the way to Aylesbury, there was a loud impact as another car passed, leaving a 2cm or so gouge in the screen, that within 30 seconds had become a 10cm crack; and despite contacting Autoglass straight off, we couldn't get a replacement fitted until after we'd returned home after 3 nights away. Then it happened again on Tuesday, a far less impressive impact that turned into a 25cm crack at once. This time I got an appointment on Thursday, but the guy was off sick, so it wasn't until this morning the repair happened.

In a way, the delay was convenient, as Thursday it rained very hard a lot; today was dry. It's bad enough just leaving a window open a crack or the sunroof ajar when the heavens open. With the whole windscreen missing, it wouldn't have borne thinking about.

Home network

With a bit of sustained wireless use, sitting in the conservatory (roughly diagonally opposite the base-station and through the central chimney stack and rear wall) I did observe a few drop-outs, where I needed to manually force a re-acquisition; and depending how I sat, the bandwidth varied between 1 and 11Mb/s. This is with a Netgear DG834G "everything in a box" as the base station, and a basic Linksys WPC11 PCMCIA wireless card, running 128-bit WEP.

The recent weather has also been affecting the line - the ADSL modem logging at the DG834G showed a number of seamless reconnects of the ADSL circuit.

The logs also show that every few hours there are a couple of handle-rattling incidents on ports 139 (Netbios i.e. file shares) and 3127 (officially, according to the IANA, this is the registered port for CTX Bridge Port, but IRL, part of the port range that the MyDoom virus family accepts on) from different IP addresses in the same Class A block, which the firewall component has dropped. I'm still running ZoneAlarm on all the connected machines as well, so in effect treating the internal network infrastructure as DMZ, which it certainly would be if I do the geeky thing of running an externally visible web-server.

WinXP SP2

Applying the 275Mb monster to a couple of machines yesterday, I noted a few quirks. On one, it failed to detect the virus scanner; on the other, with exactly the same one, it found it OK; but failed to detect ZoneAlarm, and put the XP firewall on as well (leading to potential network issues). So in each case I had to shut the security centre up manually. So it's probably good for folks who don't have any security at all up, but is a nuisance in cases where you do.

Apart from that, the main thing that changed was on a Tablet PC, where the on-screen keyboard has changed from the pearlescent XP-silver look to something in a flat, dark blue-grey (both the password entry keyboard and the in-session one). There's also a new letter-cell input for pen input as well as the previous two choices. And it re-set the "do you want a tour of the tablet features" pop-up on each user account.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Blog on the map - ICBM URL

Following the entry on Clagnut, I've now put up a rough map link, containing home and work locations, but vague enough that you'd need a phonebook to home in on me. That's just the most significant half of the post-code (the full one puts a circle within 30 meters of where I'm sitting now). There's nothing given away here that various postings about my journeys will have given away.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Blog al fresco

Well, now I have ADSL - and with a wireless hub, I'm able to sit at the picnic table halfway down the garden, with hands still grubby from doing some weeding, and sip a beer while updating the blog. How decadent. I thought back in the late 90s that putting in Cat-5 wiring about the house was geeky enough - and now it looks so quaint and old-fashioned.

And thinking about relics of earlier years, back in 90 or 91, we had some work done on the eaves - replacing everything exterior with uPVC, and renewing the end-most structural beams. While removing some of the unwanted greenery from the drive - not helped by having the house sharing the driveway occupied by an old lady who's had a stroke, so the place is getting a bit wild - I just found another two roofing nails left over from the renovations.

[Later] Uh - interrupted in mid flow - rain (and then bad light) stops play... That's novel.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Javascript, Konqueror/Safari and Enkoder

I use the old Windows command-line version of the hivelogic.com Enkoder. As it stands, it generates a bunch of document.write() vomit. This of course doesn't work if you want to serve a page as XHTML. You need to use the DOM.

My first take was to replace each string extraction as


which works in IE and Gecko. But that generates a mess in Konqueror. This works well there as well:



Which is odd, since they should be equivalent.

Alas the current Enkoder version is not only not available as a free-standing .exe except on Mac, its output is not at all amenable to rephrasing as DOM manipulation, being a blob that expands (somehow) in situ.

What a difference a year makes

A year back I was at Conjuration, the latest instance of the RPG convention, and the temperatures were just down from their record-breaking levels. There I got inspired by Heroquest - and I would have expected to have been in Leicester this or one of the last couple of weekends for the alternate year biennial, more Glorantha oriented, con; and I'd expected to have been blogging more about it. But as noted earlier, anime has managed to win out.

It also makes a year since the temperatures finally goaded me into getting a cropped haircut, rather than the non-descript, parting on the left, style I'd maintained at various lengths — up off the ears for the previous decade or so; very shaggy while in the 6th form and at university— for as far back as I remember (at least back to '63). And it's so much more comfortable and convenient - it's not really a noticeable loss of insulation in the winter, but it is better when it dries quickly after a shower in cold weather.

It did mean adjusting the fit of my cycle helmet :-)

Friday, August 06, 2004

2002 - a work oddessy

The car went over the 2000 mile mark today, reading 2002 as I parked it.

More on signatures on root…

If you have a file that contains the <?xml> processing instruction, IE is in tag soup quirks mode anyway, so for IE5 and up you lose nothing by hiding the extended DOCTYPE within the appropriate conditional comments. And IE3 people will already be seeing the <?xml>. But there's not a one-size fits-all solution for Firefox with the same data being served as application/xhtml+xml and as text/html, let alone other browsers.

Another nice idea, not quite ready for prime time. *sigh*

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Styling the body element in XHTML

body {position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 100%} does nothing for pages served as HTML. But this style is useful for Firefox and pages served as XHTML, as it makes the body element in XHTML behave just as it does in HTML and fill the entire viewport - no need to use a html-level id attribute to hang a style from on the base site.

Alas, it doesn't fix the doctype closure problem from the previous post.

Signatures on root i.e. <html id="">

They would be a good idea. You do need a tag at this level to apply different styles to the whole viewport if you're using XHTML served properly as application/xhtml+xml from the one style-sheet, and it's a useful way to identify your site for site-based user defined styles. It just isn't valid in XHTML 1.1 - unless you make the legitimate change as per Anne vanKesteren and extend the DTD thus



at which point a page containing

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" id="www-stevegilham-com-grey">

will validate against (at least) my Java based validator using Xerces, and even against the w3c validator!

Alas, in both Firefox 0.9.2 and IE6 (so probably all browsers) it shows up the characters " ] >" at the start of the page - a premature closing of the DOCTYPE - when presented as text/html. It is clean when presented as application/xhtml+xml to Firefox. This makes it more awkward for static pages served from somewhere you don't control. In Firefox, adding margin-top: -1.2em; to the body element pushes it out of the way, but not in IE - there you need to put a non-semantic div inside the body to hold everything it does, and move and style that instead (but only for IE). And you don't want to do either for proper XHTML. *sigh*

The stray characters are affected by some *-level styles (font-size, line-height, display), but those usually nuke the page - and body level styles don't override that.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I love CSS

Having just spotted that my lower left site-map button was adrift, it was just a matter of editing my separately hosted style-sheet, rather than having to republish the blog - and then adding a few extra styles to tart up the archives list to be rollover buttons. Even with a bit of html>body hacking to hide rules from IE.

Film — Last Life in the Universe

One of the films I didn't manage to see at the festival - a suicidal Japanese librarian working in Thailand, on the run from the yakuza, falls in with a "waitress", tidies her house up, escapes violent death due to a convenient attack of diarrhoea, and then somehow ends up in police custody. An odd little piece, with dialogue in Thai, Japanese, and broken English as the common language between the two.

Not more than "mostly harmless", but more off-beat than much of the other festival stuff.

Slow start

Weekend was busy setting up the new home network - a shiny new router/modem/firewall/802.11g access point now that broadband has finally made it to the village. Not that the service will go live until next week...

Meanwhile it's just too darn hot and humid to do anything much, other than in small bursts. Which includes making the excuse that I can stop in the garden when I've filled up the green wheelie-bin with shredded bits of tree pruning.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Culture Vulture

Cycling home one day this week, I spotted a couple with their young lad walking along the side of the road, enjoying the countryside. He was wearing T-short, shorts and sandals, as was the boy, being comfortable wear, in so far as anything was comfortable in the hot humid overcast. Alas, the family being of *ahem* ethnic persuasion, she was top to toe in yards of black.

Now there's the double standard - dress yourself for comfort, and let the chattels suffer.

Drive Time

A while ago, while driving into town for a work-out, I looked at the display in the car and thought “That clock's not quite right” — then realised that what was showing 1135 was the odometer, while the (analogue) clock was showing closer to 11:50. Since then I've kept an eye out to see if the odometer would ever be correct as a clock. And it's never quite managed it, being just a few minutes out, like being at 1935—40 when driving home from a meal out at ten to eight in the evening. I don't think it'll ever do it now.

Meanwhile, this week was five days cycling to work and one cycling into town. Bliss. Even if the weather has generally been very humid.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Don't lose your head - the h-tag debate

Well following the recent ruckus, and true to my comment on CollyLogic, I've reworked the tabular data in the sidebar to be tables, with the caption element used instead of headers. This keeps the validator outline happy, as all the sidebar is, is text between the headline and the first topic (date).

Just a pity that the ads insertion won't validate at either HTML 4.01 or XHTML any.

And I hope the weatherpixie hasn't gone for a complete burton.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Nature Notes

Very quiet on the ride into work this morning - can tell it's the school holidays. After getting past the first batch of villages, the next bit of traffic going the other way was a hare. Who turned and went back the other way on my approach. Then a couple of girls out strolling, though it was still only just after 8am, and finally a horse and buggy.

Meanwhile my colleagues driving to work on the main road are fuming in traffic as there's been a crash or breakdown or something, causing the into-town heavy traffic to impede the out of town flow.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Media mayhem

On the positive front — some time in the last few months, we actually got BBC digital radio locally : rebooting the DAB system I bought last year, to force it to look at all the multiplexes, it actually came up with the Beeb. Which meant we were actually able to listen to hiss-free radio on Saturday night. (Remember when that was what we were promised when we went from AM to FM?).

Of course that doesn't mean a content upgrade, alas. Saturday Review covered a new TV series aimed at the over 50s. While that's not me yet, it's not so many years away now. The program under review was something terribly earnest Play for Today thing about an ageing football hooligan/cabbie and a public school teacher on the verge of retirement. Fortunately one the panel at least had the guts to denounce it as patronising class stereotypes that ought have been called “Mr. Chips gets his nose bobbed”. The sort of thing I'd say to people now, “If you ever find me watching that sort of thing — or agreeing with the Daily Mail — that means it's well past time to put me out of my misery!”.

So after that we went and watched half a dozen episodes of Shoujo Kakumei Utena, purchased from amazon.com to take advantage of the current weakness of the US dollar. As part of the official Peter Pan generation, I expect to be more in sympathy with stuff aimed at Japanese high-school girls than focus group designed 50+ fare for many years to come.

Summertime Blues

Well, Friday and Saturday actually provided some fine, crisp, sunny weather in amongst all the cool cloudy and humid standard fare. A preview of post-warming climate, perhaps?

Still, it was pleasant enough to get out and do some destructive stuff in the garden, clearing off the canopy that had stealthily grown over the last decade or so to overhang the vegetable plots at the end of the garden. Which revealed that the last major encroachment was due to the recent windy weather having snapped the main trunk of one of the elder trees, causing it to lean over, as far as the other branches and the climbing rose permitted.

So now I have a green wheelie bin full of shreddings, and that's only shifted about 1/3 of the debris. *sigh*

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hiding HTML from IE with Conditional Comments

After having failed to find the incantation before, a slightly different bit of Googling turned up this trick, that saves the needless <span> in IE that I had in the previous entry :



where I've folded this at necessary whitespace. The <acronym/> is IE only, the <abbr/> is non-IE (or back version IE, which won't know what to do with it...).

Road Rage

Sometimes I just wish other cyclists would stop trying to be “helpful”. Yesterday, and not for the first time, I received unsolicited advice to change down gear, this time when just cresting a hump-back bridge over the disused railway line. At that point, I'd spent nearly all the kinetic energy I'd started the ascent with, and was working slowly to manage the final inches. Under these circumstances, where the chain is under tension and needs to remain thus to maintain forward way, a deraillier (or Shimano) gear will not operate in any useful fashion to effect a gearshift!

I'm a low-gear sort of person, with a normal beat of about 50rpm, which is a walking sort of pace, where I can make best use of major muscles in aerobic mode to convert most energy into forward motion. I don't do the supposedly standard the 100rpm jog, as at that sort of pace I find most of the effort goes into moving my knees up and down. If the lowish top gear on my current bike doesn't work, it's far less effort, and just as fast, to just get off and push. The only times I don't are when it's not practical to get off (e.g on the Pont de Ré), and there it is just a matter of having to grind away in a manner that tires the muscles far more than pushing does for no significant gain (if any) in forward velocity.

If nothing else, the grey hair and beard should tell them that I'm old enough to have some idea of what I'm doing and that it works for me. So, next time you're tempted to advise, stop, think, and shut up.

Solving my IE issues

Goal — fix things so I have a validating page for compliant browsers, where I can use <abbr> and max-width; where I can print in a stripped down style; and I can feed IE with condtional code to make it play as best it can.

In the <head>



For an <abbr> — fortunately infrequent —



where "not" is a class that translates to display:none. This may not be as light-weight as putting a <span class="abbr"> with an IE-only style inside the abbr, but does make the bits where I'm pandering to IE obvious in the code, so that better browsers only get what they need.

The iescreen.css stylesheet is



using the expression hack for IE. The main style sheet sets the content div to 670px max width, but it is offset with an em-based left margin. Alas, the expression hack appears only to work off the whole-body width, so I have to factor that in to the expression with a multiple of the current font-size.

The amazing thing is that it actually seems to work reasonably fluidly without too many jumps at the margin when the transition happens.

Monday, July 19, 2004

IE7 print media gotcha

http://dean.edwards.name/IE7/caveats/ states (of version 0.6.1) "IE7 does not currently support print media"

That led me to expect that IE7 would simply be a no-op when it came to printing a page (that nothing drawn from the IE7 extensions would appear). It isn't. The correct form of words, deduced by experiment, is

"IE7 will currently completely discard any print media style-sheets"

which is somewhat stronger. So it's all OK unless you have a site that's also geared as much to printing as to on-line browsing.

So for the moment I'm addressing my “I can't stand IE any longer” issues — lack of proper <abbr/> and CSS max-width — by hacks that are guarded by IE conditional comments.

Alluvial deposits

I took the weatherman at his word today, and cycled in for the first time in almost a week. To find that the rain over the weekend had converted one of the newly resurfaced bits of road into a stream-bed, with soil and gravel washed down from the banks several inches deep in places, and the start of a new set of pot-holes already being scoured. Not fun cycling terrain!

The sticky and/or wet weather also means that I only managed to get less than half the tree surgery - opening up the canopy that has stealthily extended itself over the back vegetable plot in the last few years, and feeding the remains to the shredder, to increase the effective carrying capacity of the green wheelie-bin - done that I'd wanted to. Hence the web-site fiddling alluded to in the previous post.

IE7 .PNG background-image

Having finally gotten fed up enough of having to mis-use <acronym> where the semantics strictly demand <abbr>, so that the majority browser will actually recognise a similar tag to the one intended, I installed IE7 on my main site (uploads of affected pages to happen in due course).

The one thing I discovered that was not obvious from the docs was that if you use a .png as background imagery, it will be stretched to fit the containing block, regardless of repeat setting. This turns out to be a consequence of the repackaging as an IE filter (so as to handle alpha transparency), which appears to lose any information about the underlying image.

The work-round is to look in the samples sub-directory at how to set up the xml config file to change the the file ending needed to trigger the png-to-filter transform from ".png" to e.g. "-alpha.png"; in this way:

  1. in the /IE7/ie7-html.htc, add the line <xml id="settings" src="/IE7/modules/ie7-config.xml"></xml> (I'm not sure how position dependent the file is - I added it immediately before the ie7-debug.js line)
  2. take the /IE7/samples/ie7-config.xml, and edit the value=".png" to taste, e.g. value="-alpha.png"
  3. install the ie7-config.xml file to /IE7/modules/ie7-config.xml
  4. Enjoy!

.PNG files that use simple binary transparency e.g. the ones you converted from transparent .gifs before the Unisys patent finally expired world-wide a couple of weeks ago, will display with that transparency just as they did in IE anyway. And for alpha blended .PNGs, ensure that they are contained within something that fits exactly.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

End of Festival

Well, that just about wraps up the Film Festival for the year. Today we went to see the last film we'd booked - the digitally restored print of Chaplin's Modern Times. Well, we did have to go to one of the "worthy" films, and this was less heavy-weight than any of the deMille's or The Big Red One.

All in all, not as good as last year's - only six films against 10 plus a short.

Too many worthy films, including documentaries that have been hyped so much that there's no longer any need to see them, a secondary track of horror films that didn't even sound like amusing schlock; and definitely not enough quirky ones like last year's.

Friday, July 16, 2004

XHTML and IE — so close

I prefer to code against XHTML 1.1, primarily because it is quite spartan in its overlap with HTML 4.01, so pushes me to think about fancy effects. And yes, it really should be served as application/xhtml+xml. But that makes IE choke.

Now Dean Edwards has shown that you can persuade IE to take XHTML 1.0 served as application/xml, if you feed it an XSLT stylesheet (with perhaps a questionable MIME type).

My experiments have shown that

  • IE can handle either flavour (strict or transitional) of XHTML 1.0 this way, but not XHTML 1.1
  • IE always tries to find the DTD from the DOCTYPE, so you can't test your pages off-line with the www.w3.org DTD
  • If you make the DOCTYPE URL relative, IE will look at it, but not look for entity definitions - so &nbsp; has to be replaced by &#160; &c.
  • You need to add a body {margin : 0;} rule to your CSS
  • While IE conditional comments can hide a local URL DOCTYPE from other browsers, it doesn't work in reverse; IE's downlevel conditional comments don't work in e.g. Firefox, and are invalid code in any case
  • and even if you live with a local DTD, and any nagging validation doubts for doing so, if your web server doesn't serve up an .xsl file with a suitable MIME-type, Firefox gives you the yellow screen of disdain.

Conclusion: it's a neat idea, but not yet ready for prime-time. If you are always on-line and control your own web server to get the right MIME-types, maybe you might make your pages as .xml files. And we still can't get XHTML 1.1 shown properly on the majority browser. *sigh*

Film — Infernal Affairs II

I liked the original when it came around a few months ago, and all very contemporary HK actioner. This is actually the prequel (#0 rather then #2). Consequently, there are a lot of characters with plot immunity, while at the same time there is a feeling that this isn't quite the same past as was in the "what went before" section of the earlier film. And inevitably, it can't resolve the issues of tangled loyaly that suffuse the first, sticking with a intro and outro about the ?Bhuddist? Continuous Hell, which is psychologically, roughly where the characters remain throughout.

Watching it this way around, one defiitely notices the comparative low-tech of the early-mid '90s (the film ends at the handover of Hong Kong); the iconic use of mobile phones in the first film makes one very conscious of the clunky period handsets in this one.

Maybe not quite worth staying up past 01:00 to see, but not bad for all that.

Also seen : Film review — The General

Prefaced with a short piece about the digital restoration, and sub-titled in French, this crisply restored version of the Keaton classic now only shows its age in the style of cinematography. Switch off from the cynicism of the modern world, and enjoy this work from a bygone age on its merits.