Sunday, August 31, 2008

Holiday reading

The City at the End of Time by Greg Bear -- about that city, and stories and cats. Name-drops and apes Clive Barker, William Hope Hodgson and Borges in about that sort of order, reading a bit like Clive Barker dropping some gratuitous SF terminology. Mostly harmless, readable tosh.

The Labyrinth Key by Howard V Hendrix -- Dan Brown does Neal Stephenson with quantum voodoo added. Interesting in juxtaposition with the previous, but an airport novel at best.

Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres -- dreadful hokum, with perhaps an unremarkable Renaissance Italy historical struggling to escape from the Sci-Fi trappings. Unlovely people, unlovely setting, dropped.

Cycling holiday -- day 4

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Wake for no good reason just before 06:00; check the forecast -- showers from 13:00, heavier as the day goes on. As the light picks up, look out the window and see heavy mist -- who ordered that?.

Breakfast at 8, and on the road before 9, following maddeningly incomplete signs to the and along the cycleway 51 -- there's a sign just along the road from the hotel, but that isn't followed up. I have to cast about to find the track behind the shire hall. Over the A14, I manage to lose the cycleway several times, and ending up steered off the route way early. At least there's a separate cyclepath part of the way to Thurston.

Follow the longest possible route, but with a good pace, the flatter terrain allowing me to get into a stride and keep on going, as the mist slowly burns off.

The excursion north carries me across a number of open areas where the harvest has been, that feels like the barren top of the world, before diving back to more familiar territory, apart from the little detour into Stowmarket.


Haughley -- duckpond and painted houses

At base, under a still hazy sky with cloud starting to build by 12:30, and off by 1pm, as the weather gets duller and duller. At least it wasn't the typical beat the weather run like in previous holidays.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 3

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A dull start, much as yesterday. Detour from the designated route to visit my parents at Sudbury, arriving early-ish morning, and staying for an early lunch, before heading out via the cycle track along the disused railway line a bit after 1pm, rejoining the suggested route at Liston.



The cloud had burned off during the morning, and now it was a glorious afternoon, and the dappled shade of the track was pleasant. Out in the sun was a little more hard work, and still sticky. A brief stop at the Crown in Glemsford -- entirely deserted, with the landlord watching the telly -- then on into Bury.

Large town cycling is less fun, weekend late afternoon more so, and on top of it hot and sticky, trying to guide my way by the 1:50000 OS maps and avoid oiks on low-saddled bikes.

I wheeled through the one-way system, dead-reckoning to being in sight of the hotel, where I found I'd been put in a 2-room suite, the ground floor of an old 2-up/2-down. And for the first time, internet (not counting the £6+ charge scam at Milsom's) -- though the signal only worked in the bedroom, rather than the lounge.

Dine at the Brasserie Chez Gérard, on pork terrine, lamb tajine with cous-cous, and the coupe "baie des anges" -- vanilla icecream, strawberries and lemon sorbet. Wander back through the twilight with alarms and sirens going off behind me, to catch up with my on-line life and get a peaceful night for once.

This was the only evening of the summer where I could feel the stonework gently radiating heat in the twilight -- there was a lack of evenings where it was pleasant to sit out this year.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 2

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After an enormous breakfast, heading out through the rather dismal north Essex countryside, under a leaden sky, too warm and humid to want any sleeves, but chill while cycling. An a lot of slopes covered with gravelly alluvium that made more sense to push up.

Things improved a bit north of Hadleigh, as I cycled past vast fields where much-delayed harvesting was going on. Stopped for a pint of Explorer at the Bell in Kersey, then a pint of Sundance at the Lindsey Rose, in Lindsey Tye (where the clientele was women talking about horses and getting trainers and jockeys), and then to the Peacock in Chelsworth, where the barmaid remarked on the cunning map-holder gadget on the bike, and served a pint of Wherry. Made a save against the (seemingly excellent) food while hearing paeans about the chips, and the sausages made to the landlord's recipe (with proper saltpetre cured skins).


Typical Lavenham architecture

Get into the Angel at Lavenham, and a much-needed shower; also munch the rest of yesterday's packed lunch and feel quite full. Wander around to take photos, then dine at about 7:30 -- grilled goat's cheese with mixed leaves and balsamic dressing, and a heroic chunk of steak and ale pie. Admit defeat, and finish with just coffee.

The plumbing here detonates at random intervals all night; and the revellers on the forecourt below the window carry on till nigh midnight.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 1

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A lunchtime start, this time, for a tour of Constable Country and the southern parts of Suffolk where it fades into Essex.

Eating sandwiches while pushing up steep bits, I got to the George at Hintlesham soon after 1pm for a welcome pint; then, because there was a suggested side-track from the main path down to Dedham, I took it, circling to the south of Ipswich to head down the side of Alton Water, seeing many people picking blackberries, and, knowing that I would pass Holbrook Church, I thought I had a waymark in this impressive spire.

Holbrook Royal Hospital School

Holbrook Royal Hospital School

Imagine my surprise when I seemed to be veering away from the waymark, and then passed a small, undistinguished village church, before carrying on to Pin Mill.

Pin Mill

The Butt & Oyster, Pin Mill, where the high tide laps at the pub wall

A second pint there, in the sunshine, now that the heavy cloud had burned off, then off, crossing my path at Amroth House, and then past the Holbrook Royal Hospital School, where the mystery of the spire was explained.

At East Bergholt, it was coming up to 5pm, so rather than braving the paywall, sped past the turn to Flatford, and up to begin the dance around the A12. By now, cloud had rolled over again, sealing a dull and oppressive early evening over what had been a fine afternoon; and despite the forecast, it felt like there could be rain soon.

I sped through the last miles, barely glimpsing Dedham in the gathering gloom, before rolling up at Milsom's for the night. Great food -- scallops with shredded carrot and pesto, king-prawn and Angus beef burger with mango chutney, ginger steeped pineapple lightly fried with black pepper ice-cream. The room had a bath -- much needed on arrival, but the air was oppressive from the day's heat, and the A12 rumbles past all night.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The dying of the light

At 20:13, salmon pink cirrus against dark blue in the west; by 20:32, no colour but darkness.

I loathe this time of year.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anime — Summer Season '08

Most of what I'm watching carries over from last time. Himitsu, Crystal Blaze, and alas, Zettai Karen Children have fallen foul of disintegrating or bored fansub groups; and the rest are being slowed by summer holidays, and second-season effect.

Chi's Sweet Home remains acutely observed, while (clockwise from top-left) Allison and Lillia has passed the baton onto the next generation (with Lillia -- and probably her VA's voice -- being the first anime girl in a while to really make me think "Phwoar!"), The Daughter of Twenty Faces remains excellent pulp adventure, Wagaya no Oinari-sama is being much better, with its take on creatures from folklore operating in modern-day Japan, than it had any right to be. And Real Drive is turning out to be Aria in the Shell.

And though I've not exactly dropped Golgo 13, the fact that every episode is much the same as every other leaves it at the end of the line.

The new season is a mixed bag.

Top left is Strike Witches -- and I can imagine the pitch for this one:

Creative Team Lead: We're thinking of a WWII fighter pilot series, but the aces are all replaced by hot teenage girls, who fly with these magic thigh-boot things like the tails of their respective aircraft. Of course having to be ready to scramble means that they go around without skirts or trousers.

Exec: Interesting concept. Please tell me more.

Creative Team Lead: We'll do meticulous period detail for supporting characters, locations and equipment; but so that we don't end up getting nuked again, we'll have alien invaders arriving in Central Europe, so it's everybody allied against them.

Exec: I meant "Please tell me more about the no skirts or trousers".

Next is Birdy the Mighty : Decode, a remake of an old OVA, involving a superpowered extraterrestrial law enforcer following her quarry to Earth -- and the schoolboy who ends up sharing a body with her. Following on is Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto : Natsu no Sora -- a country witch from Hokkaido goes to Tokyo for the final training for her mage license; pretty near-photorealistic backgrounds, quiet understated magic, and yes, there's a romance brewing. Finally and weakest, Telepathy Girl Ran, where a schoolgirl realises that she has psychic powers -- and so far (3 eps in) has burned through a lot of the possible plot lines, until it seems like it will reduce to just "the power of friendship". We shall see how things go.


Just a few hours after posting this, out came the next episode of Zettai Karen Children, from 2 different groups. Happy!

Friday, August 15, 2008


The Schwalbe Marathon tyre on my back wheel had been slowly cracking -- both last summer and the year before I had to patch the inner tube where it had abraded against the inner surface of the tyre (leading to a very slow leak), and then tape the tyre.

This morning, I pumped up the back tyre, and wondered if this was happening again. A mile from the office, on the off-road stretch, there was a sudden pop and hiss as the back tyre deflated.

Yes, cracked through by a chunk of flint. Wheel to the nearest bit of paved surface, and put a patch on inner tube and a bigger one on the tyre. That held, enough to get to work, get home, head off the to pharmacy in the next village and back. Now to put on the Super Marathon I acquired in anticipation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

IronPython + Silverlight 2β2

This finally bubbled to the top of my "must get around to, some time" stack today…

Recording what I needed to do to get the second Voidspace controls example to work with the later beta:

  1. Remove all the assemblies in the app folder.
  2. Copy in System.Windows.Controls.Extended.dll (only) from the Silverlight beta 2 SDK.
  3. In the web page, set the type to be "application/x-silverlight-2-b2".
  4. In AppManifest.xaml, update RuntimeVersion to "2.0.30523.06".
  5. Add <AssemblyPart Source="Microsoft.Scripting.Core.dll" /> to the manifest.
  6. In the python source, remove the System.Windows.Controls reference, and update System.Windows.Controls.Extended to version
  7. Replace WatermarkTextBox with just plain TextBox.

Only needing an <object> tag with type and data attributes, it works in Firefox 3 -- you just have to explicitly go and install the beta (the fallback link inside the <object> tag didn't show with FF3 and Silverlight 1).

So here it is -- 1k of code along with 1.2M of infrastructure assemblies (which is a megabyte more weight than Jython would need for the equivalent).

Sample removed from here 13-Dec-08 as the beta release is now obsolete.. New sample here.

For comparison

274467 Aug 13 21:47 applet.jar
     1229665 Aug 12 20:22 app.xap
        2260 Aug 12 20:22 index.html
        2071 Aug 13 21:47 jython.html

So, what is that assembly called?

A trivial bit of PoSh that I know I'll end up reusing:

>[system.reflection.assemblyname]::getassemblyname( …path to assembly… ).FullName

gives you the string you need to put into e.g. clr.Addreference().

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Anime — Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou OVAs

A mellow future, in some ways so like Aria's Neo-Venezia, in some ways so very different.

Both titles are quiet tales of enjoying life as it happens -- but whereas Aqua is a young, if historied, place, YKK -- Yokohama shopping expedition log -- is set at the end of the world; things fray slowly, cities are drowning under water or vegetation, and people are slowly dying out (or going away), to be survived by their robots (androids -- or rather, gynoids -- really).

Two two part OVAs (YKK and YKK -- Quiet Country Café) pick what must be a scattering of incidents from the long running manga (which I've not read) to form a quartet of mood pieces, where the mood is one of serenity as night falls.

Anime — Kaiba

In some posthuman future, memories are the stuff of trade, and identities can reside in thumb-drive. And in this future, a man wakes up with a hole through his torso and no memories at all.

This is his story, a pilgrimage from body to body, and world to world, to find who he once was.

For 2/3 of the twelve episodes, this anime built a giddy tower of mystery and deception -- not knowing who was really who or doing what at any time, as minds are forked, replicated, and re-embodied. And then it started to reveal what was really going on, until finally the whole plot turns out to hinge on some comparatively trite childhood trauma (arriving completely from left field), the plot disintegrating as the world around the characters does.

An interesting, if ultimately flawed production, from the same source as Kemonozume.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Anime — Hakaba Kitarou

Graveyard Kitarou, with his Dennis-the-Menace striped output, and a walking eyeball for a father are part of the Japanese popular culture rather like the Addams family in the USAn influenced West. This season from Q1 this year (the only one of that season I followed, and the slowest-subbed one to boot) is but the most recent remake.

Set in c 1960 Japan, it's quirky schlock-horror, slightly reliant on fart-gags whenever the noxious Rat-man is involved (though once to amusing effect when a vampire has sunk its teeth into one scrawny buttock).

The OP pretty much summarises the series, and has damn catchy tune in "Mononoke Dance".

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Anime — Kurenai

A series with interesting art -- the 60's-ish feeling intro and psychedelic outro bracketing nicely rendered animation with only a slight degree of big eyes and small mouths -- and a story that works pretty much despite the level of clichés strung together.

Kurenai Shinkurou is a high-school student by day, dispute mediator (i.e. he gets to beat people up) by night. And he's the stock orphan who grew up in a household that used to be martial arts assassins, and learned their school of fighting -- plus acquired the reverse-Wolverine style of forearm blade. Which being a typical male lead, he angsts about having had installed rather than using it as a tool.

Kuhouin Murasaki is a seven year old girl who is rescued from a fate worse than death in her family's seraglio by Juuka Benika, Shinkurou's employer. Wise beyond her years in many respects, but entirely unaccustomed to life outside the luxury and stifling mediaevalism of the harem, she has to learn to live in a run-down apartment, on a meagre budget, and learn of the world from Shinkurou's eccentric neighbours.

Until the family learn of where she has gone, and send the heavy mob (including the inevitable crazy Chinese kung-fu girl) to get the girl back again.

Does Shinkurou man up and protect the princess, or does he fall into angsting about using the full panoply of options available to him? Does Murasaki escape from her cloistered assigned destiny?

The first of Q2's series to be completely subbed, this was not the most immediate grab (the OP was off-putting, as was the initial synopsis), but it manages to transcend the stereotypes is builds upon.