Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gardening season begins

With such a warm bright day, it was definitely time to get the lawnmower out and start to tidy up the lawn, and the quondam vegetable beds covered with weeds. Also time to start clear out the worst of last year's dead vegetation, belatedly prune the buddleia, and add some edging as a sill to the new paved path in the front to prevent a repeat of yesterday's incident where Karen put a wheel over the edge while trying to turn around.

Irises by the pond

Irises by the pond

Also, the spring bulbs are suddenly appearing -- as are splashing signs of frogs awakening from sleep.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Latest gas bill - showing we used 10% less gas than the same quarter last year. While that winter wasn't so mild, it was not as cold as this; so the insulation is proving itself already.

Passed the 30303 mile mark just after leaving the car park heading back to the office after gym. [30405 at home Thursday evening.]

While not so keen on it as her brother is, Yoko seems to have mastered the cat flap now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anime — Earl & Fairy

It was the cat what did it -- seeing a promo image with a puss-in-boots with Westminster Palace in the background -- for this one.

It's been a while since I last finished a series, my usual review point -- long enough to concern my fans -- mainly because the latter part of last year was fairly light on series that held my attention. Of 3 series from Q4 which I did take up, the first to get subbed (and after some domestic disruption, watched) is this title, with Nana Mizuki playing another strong willed auburn haired lass -- Lydia, this time, rather than Lillia.

Earl & Fairy is fairly unabashedly shoujo -- manservice ED, bishies on tap -- but once you reset to the genre, it is fun.

The setting is Victorian Britain, in the general high adventure mould, with a dash of Celtic lore made real; the lead character, Miss Lydia Carlton, being a novice in the craft of fairy doctoring -- being an interlocutor between the everyday and the hidden worlds.

Returning to London from her Scottish base, she and her companion cat-fae, Nico, get caught up in the hunt for a desperate wanted man with blonde hair and ash mauve eyes, a murderer, it is claimed -- who turns out to be a claimant to the title of the Blue Knight Earl, whose demesne includes lands in Hy Brasel. Engaged -- with a handsome commission -- as an expert in all matters concerning the Fae, she is caught up in a clandestine struggle between the rakish Edgar, claimant to the title, on the one hand, and the layered entourage of a mysterious figure -- probably a scion of the Jacobite line -- known as the Prince.

As one would expect, the heavily telegraphed relationship between Lydia and Edgar is a stormy one -- he being somewhat caddish and presuming that she would want to be his bride; she having another suitor in the form of a Kelpie -- and a major component of the story. Indeed, when the initial plot line of making good the claim on the title is done, for a while it almost seems like the rest of the story would be plain romance; but then Edgar's past entanglements with the Prince draw everyone into the darkness.

After 12 episodes, we are given a resolution -- but with a very strong undertone of "to be continued". Initial threats have been countered, but the Earl of Hy Brasel has yet to enter upon that part of his demesne, the Prince's lieutenants are still at large -- and, more serious yet, the fated couple have yet even to kiss, let alone walk down the aisle together.

Admittedly fluff, this series did still handle setting and story deftly enough to be enjoyable -- while being girly enough that I'm sure that having this on a list of "what I watched in '08" was what provoked a "Are you a girl?" reaction. If you are secure enough to proudly state, if appropriate, that "Real men watch shoujo!", then it's pleasant viewing.

What a difference a week makes

From the snow and frost of a week before, this Saturday was by contrast almost summery. I did want something with sleeves on when I cycled into town to do shopping and a cap for shade, rather than insulation. By late morning, the sun was warm enough that when I parked the bike in the sun, it was hot to the touch on my return.

The grass was too damp for mowing, but it was pleasant to do a bit of work in the garden tidying up dead growth from last year; and arranging shelving in the new greenhouse.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Signs of spring

Even the last vestiges of snow-men in shady spots are gone now; and it was very warm after the central heating came on this morning -- enough to start me clambering out from under the 7-tog duvet before the alarm went off.

Driving, the roads are covered with gravel washed on by melt water or chewed by frost -- time to spot where pot-holes have been re-opened by the weather, and, worse, new ones gnawed by the freeze-thaw cycles.

Links for 18-Feb

Windows 7 - native VHD support.

More usable thread-safe collections.

Inconsolata -- A free monospace font alternative inspired by Consolas, Avenir, Franklin Gothic and others.

Getting Mono and Visual Studio to play nicely together.

Aero Glass managed UIs - how to.

Spaces in C# identifier names? Interesting hack.

IronScheme beta 2.

Consuming extension methods from IronPython (parts 1,2,3) -- uses dynamic C# compilation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An end of winter

After a couple of weeks with plenty of snow, including heavy falls Thursday night, which made the homeward journey less than fun, Friday dawned grey and slushy, and revealed a newcomer to the neighbourhood, a ginger and white just-past-kitten that took refuge from a passing car by treeing itself in the plum tree, to the disgust of the birds trying to use the feeder.

Kitten in a tree

Kitten in a tree

By evening, roads were dry, and although there was some frost on the windscreen when driving home from visiting friends (and being on the road at epoch time 1234567890), the weather was clearly on the turn.

Saturday started cold, but by midday it was bright and sunny enough that I didn't want heavy gloves or my jacket zipped up while cycling. Snow was clearly on the retreat to corners where shade lingered all day.

An end to winter

An end to winter

Taking the car out for shopping and filling up, I could see that just a few miles made quite a difference -- the higher ground south of Royston was still snow covered, even on fields with a slight southern aspect, like the village green at Reed (where the roads were also still thick with slush).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Smooth moves

The first morning this week without Code Orange weather warnings about ice, I leave home after 9am, in the bright sunshine, to take the direct route to work.

There was the expected slush from churned up puddles at the top of the Eversdens, and in the corners at Kingston where the run-off always crosses the road. Two short sections, and no real surprise.

That came in Bourn, which was a total ice-rink. Very cautious on the turn with run-off just before the descent to the valley, a slightly premature sigh of relief at the bottom, to be greeted with very light steering and the automated traction system light flashing past the turn immediately following. Very slow, and lots of slush on the ascent past, around the bus parked with hazard lights in the Caxton turn-off, to meet another reversing slowly away from attempting the descent. Lots more slush from puddles over the road, only getting to a mostly clear state past the village where the sun had been able to fall on the road.

Still, no more than 30 all the way to the old Bedford road. By the time I'm into work, I really feel like something stronger than coffee!

Monday, February 09, 2009


Driving to visit Karen in hospital this evening, went over the 30,000 mile mark just as I was about to turn down the Backs, and parked with 30003 on the clock in Addenbrooke's car park.

On the homeward leg, in the driving sleet, slowing gracefully to a 30 limit, concentration suddenly distracted by flashing in the rear view mirror, as some speeding jerk pulls past -- alas, not managing to auto-Darwinate as would have richly been deserved.

Links for 9-Feb

WPF Application Quality Guide -- advice and how-to.

The basic syntax of F# -- keywords and constructs.

Recreating the button.

Interop between Java and Scala.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Book — The Tyranny of the Night & Lord of the Silent Kingdom by Glen Cook

Normally, I don't get on with fantasy as a genre; but Glen Cook is an exception. His Black Company series was so good that when I picked up the first volume, and started reading it one lunchtime, I quickly stopped and went to pick up the next two (and went on to pick the rest of that sequence up as they came out).

Towards the end of last year, after a nigh-complete drought of fiction, and too many programming books, I happened to spot the second of the above titles on the shelf at Borders, bought it like a shot, and was annoyed to find it was the second in the sequence. So, the first went on the wish-list, and when it didn't arrive in my Yuletide presents, I just had to order it myself.

So, the story. It's clear from early on that this is a rebadged version of Europe in the high Middle Ages, with Cathars, Albigensians, a rather more enduring Avignon Papacy, Constantinople, and all the turmoils of Outremer, plus a layer of generally malign magic and magical entities on top. In the hands of almost any other author in the field, this would be a sign that I'd throw the damn thing across the room before page 76; but Cook's style and delivery delivered an absorbing read.

And now I'm waiting impatiently for the next volume, and rejoicing that his Dread Empire series is coming back into print...

Book — Programming in Scala by Odersky et al.

The Scala language first crossed my consciousness over a year ago, at a stage where I was just starting to get into functional languages. But even with the various quick tour documents on the language web site, it was clear there were a lot more subtleties to this one that were not being explained.

With the stairway book, that gap has been bridged.

The book is aimed at the experienced programmer in 'C' derived imperative languages, with at least some familiarity with the Java™ language, and ideally some notion about functional programming techniques -- it is not by any stretch of the imagination a "my first programming book". For the intended audience, it is an extremely effective step-by-step guide to the features, and the syntax, of the language (this is a great contrast with e.g. Foundations of F#, which expends very little effort towards separating the accidents of the particular example from the generic syntax). While I am by no means yet fluent in the language, I feel that when I'm using it for hobby coding that I'm not just groping in the dark, but instead have a solid guide and reference to lead me.


So, it's being another proper winter. Monday, Thursday and Friday, snow lying -- today even falling -- first thing; but roads essentially beaten clear by late morning, though still wet. Still, it's easier to stay at home and remote into the office when I'm working on stuff that just requires getting into coding haze.

We coped a lot better in the winters 20+ years ago -- like 1986, where I first became aware of the village I now live in, by walking through it in a blizzard and hard sub-zero temperatures, on the 1st of March, as part of the local Oxfam walk that year. Then we drove up from Stevenage for the day, without any trauma to stick in the memory.

This year it's been barely freezing, if at all, with the snow quickly becoming slush -- and yet the roads snarl up.