Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dialog of the deaf

For a long while now we've been on the telemarketer do-not-call list. This does not stop war-dialling spammers with their robots.

When we got back from the theatre, we found that one such had had a very long (and one-sided) conversation with our equally robotic answering machine.

On a lighter note — I spotted a mouse running across Silver Street while driving home.

Play — Dracula, a tale of undying love

I am in the chat room
I am crawling the web, searching for you,
My search engine is tracing you.
Where is your domain?

Thus, the ominous East-European voice of the Count greeted the audience as they took their seats for the World Premiere run of the new adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, by Bryony Lavery.

I confess to having listened to that intro with some qualms — but they proved ill founded. Using e-mail and texts (shown on a large screen built into the imaginative set), it recaptured the epistolatory style of the original in a hip and now setting; and only occasionally veered into ironic self-reference.

It was a very faithful rendition of the text, albeit abridged (cutting out the Count's real-estate deals in London), more so than other more period takes from recent years. I especially enjoyed the updating of the "Bloofer Lady" to the "Buffy Lady" — cute, and not too knowing.

Highly recommended. Catch it at the West End if you can't do it this week!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Nature notes

Looking out of the window this morning, there were starlings gleaning seed scattered from the bird feeder in the plum tree; and the first signs of buds breaking. In the road, two cock-robins faced off against each other, while a wren foraged in the flowerbed, and a hen blackbird scavenged nesting materials.

Out back, the water-lily pot submerged in the pond was heaped deeply with spawn. Maybe, being late, and with recent rain to freshen the pond, some of it might hatch, this year.

Fetching the cats back from their holiday, it was Bleys who sang all the way, just as on the way out. Perhaps he doesn't like riding in the front seat, separated from the others on the parcel shelf.

Easter Hols

Took the Easter week-end as a few days off-net to veg out in Bourton-on-the-Water. The drive down on Friday was smooth, with no sign of any Bank Holiday jams; and Bourton itself is a very pretty - if busy - village.

footbridge over the Windrush, Bourton village green

The weather was warm on Friday, just nice for a little amble around in the afternoon, scoping the place out. The main limitation turned out to be that most places serving food were tea-rooms, and shut sometime not too long after 5pm, so we ended up having a Chinese at the one accessible evening eatery.

Saturday started warm, and we went to Birdland, an aviary penguins standing and swimming, and took pictures until the camera ran out of power. The afternoon was cooler, and with fewer throngs of people, we were able to get in to have high tea at the Croft restaurant, before returning to the hotel to watch the first episode of the new Dr. Who.

That was quite brill — it packed into the double-length episode the content of a traditional 4-parter, Eccleston played the part with the humour he's shown elsewhere (e.g. as Vendici in Revenger's Tragedy), and it was almost enough to say it might be worth getting a TV - if only we hadn't seen the utter tripe that was on beforehand.

Sunday was cold, with a raw wind. I went for a walk, spotting many pressed frogs (like pressed flowers, only less aesthetic) on the road, for about 3 hours, then we took in a late lunch and read books for afternoon and evening.

Monday, back to Birdland again, enjoying another burst of sun, and then more walking around, just enjoying the hints of spring, before driving home today in the cold and dank.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Average human being

Quite a long time ago I did one of these sort-of rigorous web tests about gender and psychology, and scored in mid scale. Today, I did a definitely serious one from the BBC and got the same results — quite neutral.

I scored low on the test of matching a sloped line with its equally sloped twin in a fan of such lines (normally males score high); and high on the test of which of a collection of objects have moved (women score high, and my score was well above the female average).

A simple left-brain/right brain test suggested that I'm left-brained (more verbal and analytical — no surprise there).

On empathy vs systematization, I scored low and high — beyond male averages; yet managed 9/10 in figuring emotional state from eyes — more female than male.

Another extreme male score in having index fingers substantially shorter than ring fingers; and then in 3D shape matching, 11 out of 12

If you scored 10–12: Are you an engineer or do you have a science background?

Guilty as charged...

Then in word association — given one word, how many like it can you think of in a minute, I scored high enough to rate “Most people in this range have a female-type brain.”.

My economically rational responses to a game of money sharing were rated female.

The result I found quite interesting was the rating of attractiveness of female faces —

Your choices suggest you prefer more masculine faces.

which is certainly something I wasn't consciously aware of while selecting — though I suppose I did look for the ones who looked to have some strength of personality and weren't “fluffy”-looking (which probably amounted to the same thing).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Old tricks and new

Yesterday, while waiting for the clouds to break and the promised ~20C temperatures (they didn't — it stayed about 10C) so I could enjoy some gardening that wasn't heavy lifting, I was up in the loft for a while. I came down, and left the ladder in place unattended for a few minutes before shutting the trap door and putting the ladder away.

And then I heard a cat wailing.

It took a while to realise that Penny had, for the very first time, bounded up the ladder and gone into the loft; and she was standing on the hatch, and calling for attention.

Earlier, I was replacing my bike lock - having lost the key to my previous one, I picked up a moderate/high security (level 6) combination lock, with 10^4 combinations. Setting the combination involved removing the shrink wrap, keying the factory set 0000 to open, unlatching the wheels, setting the desired number, and relatching.

So I slid the pin in, twirled the wheels, and then dialled back my combination. And it said “shan't”.

I tried all the adjacent combinations. No luck. So then I started from 0000 and started working through. During the first 1000 combinations, I came to a point where the pin felt very loose; so I tried the top-most wheel, still on zero, and within a turn, I had the combination. The number dialled was out by 0 in one digit, 1 in one, 2 in one and five in the other from the one I'd set.

Now, unlike many cypherpunks, I've not really gotten deep into lock-hacking; but I was gratified to discover that something I'd done before as a student to crack crappy 3-digit chains (to move the insecure device from one wheel to the other as a friendly hint to those relying on such) transferred to a much higher spec. of lock.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sunrise alarm

In the first week of March it's still useful.

In the second, it's there to ease the waking before the radio comes on, but isn't really needed for light after that.

In the third, there's no point.


One year, 6591 miles.

And today was the first cycling to work day of the year - mild but a bit blowy. But it still felt great to be back in the saddle.

Just hope I'm as enthusiastic tomorrow!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Mowed the lawn today; it was dry, and the sun warm while it lasted, but the wind was chill, too cold for doing anything that wasn't energetic. Did some hoeing, and washed half a field off the back of my car.

Elsewhere, frogs are emerging, enough to get caught as roadkill.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spring flowers

After a couple of months, the snowdrops are still hanging on. The croci and the irises by the pond came along later, but latter have just about finished. The primulas are going strong, and the first early dwarf tulip is just bursting its bud.

Cycling in to town today, in bright early sun (and chill wind), there were daffs on the verge, and the display of croci and daffs on Parker's Piece was at its height.

It clouded up — I could see the start of fairweather cumulus bubbling up before 10:00; this replaced the early handful of distant stratiforms, one of which was trailing virga behind like a jellyfish. I guess it was snow, as the stream was only about 30 degrees off horizontal.

I had wondered about the cycling, with the toe still in process of recovery, but it was no problem with a foam wedge between the toes just to keep the sock from rubbing. Actually, it's driving, and sitting that are uncomfortable, if I have anything on that foot, so I've taken to wandering around the office in sandals.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Web (server) logs

Image requests are interesting; a lot of requests come into my site for Oscar Wilde's tomb, and Jim Morrison's; as well as tree lined avenues and the Beast of the Gévaudan. I think my Velay walking page is the single most visited non-gallery page — of the galleries, the old family photos seem to be quite the magnet.

Not only do the latter have names, regiments and other organizations as keywords, there is a lot of interest in “Old London Town”, and WWII family or uniform shots, as well. Also commonly requested are falconry mews, hibiscus flowers, and the Monastery at El Deir by Petra.

In other requests, having an NGE based set of pages gets some interesting highlights as to which pairings people are interested in, from the lone Gendou/Misato shipper, to the level pegging of Shinji/Asuka and Rei/Asuka (tie broken if you add in the “Shinji strangles Asuka” search string). And I think I know what is going through peoples' minds when they visit a fanfic page with the chapter title of “Greater Love” — they don't recognise the blatant allusion to John 15:13.

I also keep getting random gerbil related hits on the Ranlyr campaign write-up page.

Nature notes

There were a couple of muntjac wandering at the bottom of the garden this afternoon, obviously having followed a very tortuous path through gaps in fences. The cats' interest in them went roughly inversely as their prowess as hunters. Jemima was terrified, Penny was fascinated, and Bleys seemed more concerned about territorial violations than venison on the hoof.

Burmese cat starting at muntjac (behind cherry tree)

Book — Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

Got this as a holiday present at the end of last year, because I'd enjoyed his Inhibitors books. Started reading it. Put it down. It gathered dust. Picked it up again. Looked at the ending. Read a bit more. Put it down. Decide “I really don't give a damn about these people, or about the puzzle.” — not that his people have ever been at all loveable, even when compared with such unlikely candidates as Soryu-san.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

It's catching

After having introduced some of my American colleagues to the delights of our traditional cuisine (a visit to a curry house), I spotted my first 05 reg car - a silver and blue Smart!

Friday, March 04, 2005

The road less travelled

Snow started as I was getting dressed, and the cold overnight meant that for once it was settling. So I took the long way around on the main roads to work.

It was obvious from the difference between the two lanes on the radial A road quite how much more traffic goes into Cambridge than comes out; the inbound lane was almost dry; the outbound white with tracks, so slow going.

Slower yet when White Van Man arrives behind me and stays about a length away, so I keep my speed down to allow for his stopping distance as well as my own.

Which part of “Keep your <expletive deleted> distance!” don't they get?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Funny old weather

Yesterday was grey and the snow was just drizzly. At one point, I looked out the office window and joked that it was settling on higher ground - there was whiteness on the largish mound of earth that has been built up and grassed over as part of the building works locally. By evening it was just grey, wet and raw, while the news was speaking of emergency weather warnings in the south-east and East Anglia.

This morning, ice where puddles and runoff had frozen, and blazing sunshine, and the barest scattering of snow, rather than frost. No need for lights — shades instead, both going to work and returning home!