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


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).