Friday, December 29, 2006

Anime — Maria-sama ga miteru + Mari-mite Spring

Slice of life at a Catholic girl's high-school, centred on the doings of the student council, with the highest drama being about matters of etiquette, in the main — the girl who seems to be dating too many different men (who turn out to be her brothers); or the one who is found to have a set of Buddhist prayer beads, rather than a rosary (like fibbing to get into a church school here). No magic, no martial arts, no fan-service, save the occasional shoulder or ankle, or sisterly hug.

In contrast with the hyper-kinetic action of other titles, this is quite calm, and about the people, and, in the second series, the matters of succession, as the third-years graduate, and everyone else moves up one place in the council hierarchy.

This is definitely a series that deserves its high reputation. It's also one that on the face of it doesn't sound like my sort of thing at all, but just sort of clicked.

Anime — Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito

Finally mopped this one up, after having d/ld it a while back. Having chosen the more active Miyuki fansub, I did have to suffer appalling literal romanization, like "Ririsu" and "Jiru" for Lilith and Jill.

Generally a harmless piece of ecchi, if a little incoherent given the world-book hopping background, but what the hey, it has some bad-ass sword fighting, too. And knowing the dud ending in advance helps it from being too much of a let-down.

Perfectly fine for whiling away a wet winter evening.

Anime — Kemonozume

One of the autumn's titles that didn't get much attention, perhaps because of the unusual animation style, with a lot of rotoscoping for backgrounds, and an almost European feel to the character design, except in occasional bursts of nigh standard anime look in the intro vignettes to most episodes.

The basic premise is that there are man-eating monsters who usually live concealed in human form; and there is a clandestine society of hunters who act to keep society at large free from predation. The heir to the society falls for a girl — but you guessed it, she's a Flesh Eater. Cue, one would think, Romeo and Juliet with martial arts mayhem. But no.

If there is anything that this builds on, it is Nietzsche's line about being wary of fighting monsters, lest one becomes one as well. Factions splinter, divisions blur, and things start falling apart as the intermittently happy couple try to stay ahead of pursuit. And by falling apart, I mean descending into serious madness, of one of the most messed up and depraved villains gets close to succeeding in dragging the whole world down with him.

Definitely 18-rating stuff, but definitely one of the more original titles of 2006. It's not every day your hero fights to freedom while bound naked (but for handy censoring blur) to a chair.

What I did on my holidays

Much like n molesworth, I've been doing a lot of "did 0" and "mucked about". A chance to rest has been good, especially after starting the holidays with a filthy drive in fog to go to pay for the newly installed carpet in my den, and continued discomfort from the tooth that's been playing up these last couple of months. At least that has settled down a bit now, even if it doesn't yet feel ready for prime-time when it comes to chewing.

I now have a nicely fitted out and de-cluttered den, sufficiently de-cluttered that Karen can come in in her wheelchair and watch stuff with me; and we've even managed to clear and sort the spare room enough that that's accessible and the bed could be used. Admittedly there's still stuff to sort, and a lot of jumble waiting a chance to offload, but there is progress.

And all the usual seasonal things happened, the dinner with college friends on Sunday, and this year, none of the trauma we had last year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Hard frost, and lots of it today. Hard work scraping the wind-screen to get a peep-hole, while running the engine; and the edge of the passenger side had only just about defrosted by the time I got to work. This will have put a stop to the still busily flowering fuschias in the font garden.

Plenty of wild-life crossing the road on the way home; a hare on the bridge over the new dualling of the A428, and a muntjac on the descent into Bourne.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The last six weeks have gone roughly : toothache, fever, toothache, cold, tooth with abcess, root canal work part 1 of 3. Not fun. Not much enthusiasm to blog either. Just retardedness on ephemeral chat boards.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Just passed the 16000 mile mark as I parked.

And the first frost of the season — very late.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reasonably Unique

With "Steven" I get this
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Steven Gilham
  • There are 1,172,877 people in the U.S. with the first name Steven.
  • Statistically the 26th most popular first name.
  • 99.74 percent of people with the first name Steven are male.
  • Names similar to Steven:
    • Stephen
    • Steve
  • There are 1,560 people in the U.S. with the last name Gilham.
  • Statistically the 18372nd most popular last name. (tied with 468 other last names)
With Steve, the number drops to 2!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Anime — Planetes (ΠΛΑΝΕΤΕΣ)

Good, but not as good as the manga. Some extraneous comedy and office life stuff was added, and the Dream part of it downplayed.

Anime — Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (ひぐらしのく頃に)

Interesting, occasionally gruesome — and if you don't realise that it was based on a popular game, slightly confusing with the reboots — mystery/horror anime. Very difficult to describe without much spoilerage, beyond the initial premise of the initial lead character being an outsider, new to a remote and insular rural community, where there are a lot of odd goings-on, and creepy little girls.

It had one “hardly bear to watch” sequence involving fingernails.

Anime — Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and ditto. A's

I tried this series out because of the on-going buzz about it on /a/, like —

It is made of high-speed, high-powered aerial combat, a touch of fanservice, massive explosions and major amounts of win. Despite the name, it's only a Magical Girl anime for the first three episodes of the first series. Then it becomes great. Then it becomes awesome at episode 7. Then it becomes legendary from the start of the second season.

and it did not disappoint. And if you need more inducement, there are also delightful magical devices speaking Super Engrish as well.

One of the nicer touches about it is that Nanoha is one of the more sensible, level headed, and yet nice characters around, from business-like talks with her parents when she tells them she has to go away and do her magical girl thing for a while, to the way she seriously befriends people. And by people, I mean Fate-chan, and then the Velka Knights from series two.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nature Notes

Fog again, like yesterday. And, driving into town, just coming into Barton, a fox loping across the road in such broad daylight as there was, stopping to look at me as I went past.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Memetic Hazard

Memetic Hazard
Originally uploaded by Arenamontanus.
Anders of has designed a neat set of forward looking hazmat style signs. This one ought be stamped on pretty much any viral ideology, especially the geopolitically active macho ones.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review catch-up

Book — Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

The novel for which Fast times at Fairmont High was the warm-up; a vision of 20 years from now, with ubiquitous computation and augmented reality just part of the fabric of life. Some of the political background may be a little bit suspect (a US-PRC war, India joining the EU, all quiet on the al-Qaeda front), but definitely the sort of future I'd like to have, if I can't have the one I was promised in Dan Dare.

And after such a gap, you forget quite how good a thriller writer he can be.

The Hugo will be a reflex response.

Anime — The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

It's a high-school drama, about the eponymous Haruhi who feels that life is boring, and wants to find interesting people, like aliens, time-travellers or espers. Since none identify themselves to her, she recruits (drafts) some of her classmates to try and find sources of weirdness. But, little does she know…

Adding to the fun of the revelations, the show is shown out of order, according to the internal chronology, so characters can make tantalising reference to things that have happened, which we are yet to see.

Is this show a cynical confection of everything but the kitchen sink, or just clever fun? Hard to tell, but it was an enjoyable ride.

Anime — Black Lagoon

If Jerry Bruckheimer made anime, he would have made Black Lagoon.

It's about pirates in the South China Sea, and a hapless sarariman who finds liberation from his dead-end job after being taken hostage. Admittedly the pirates are a bunch of Yanks, rather than the usual run of lascars, and Reby, their enforcer, is one helluva woman.

You know how the show is going to be after the helicopter gunship/motor torpedo boat duel in the second episode.

Not deep, but violent fun.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's done

The last bit of trim on the flooring; the last touch-up of paintwork. Perhaps the building work is over. Now comes the fun fun fun of properly moving into the new space, and purging all the accumulated dross of 20 years.

Freecycle and Oxfam are going to be doing very well off us for a while to come.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Zeno's Paradox

The wood block flooring is all done, and the chap came on Friday to finish up the rest. He rehung doors, making them clear of the carpet, and put the matting down in the hall. And then didn't have the right threshold strips. When those are done, and the skirting touched up, it should all be done.

Alas, only half the remaining work seems to get done on each visit.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Longer haul home

Broken sleep, and each time the sky outside is flat orange. Finally give up trying to go back to sleep at 04:40, and watch TV — Excalibur, Nadja Applefields, Reporter Blues — until time for breakfast. There at 07:30 on the dot, but I'm not the first one there. Out before 8, having managed a fair amount of eating, to trudge through the drizzle.

The station is busy, there is even another train at my platform before the one I want, heading to Spain. Mine arrives on time, and it's out into grey misty countryside. There are false starts at brightness, at Carcassonne, half an hour to cover all I'd cycled.

An hour to kill at Toulouse, so I can check where I should have gone to start the tour, then get on to a train that's starting from here; though I have to wait for the soft seat indicators to light up, at which point I find I have a window seat.

There is another cat travelling, who mews a bit to start with, and again as I go past to the loo. The canal is obviously next to the track for about 15 min, and another 5 or so if you know what to look for, as we diverge slowly; most of the way to Montauban.

The freestanding church tower was at Étampes.

Metro cross Paris, then Eurostar that's on time at Waterloo, for once. But the Northern Line makes up for it, I have to do Bakerloo and Picadilly instead. Then onto train at King's X, and home.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Seaside Outing

View To the sea in a larger map

Woke just in time to check my watch and then hear the clock on the Archbishop's palace chime 05:00. Why? At least I can do a dry run for tomorrow.

Once I've cleared the little bit of road and can get on to the canal path, it's cycling into the low sun, dodging joggers and oncoming cyclists. The sign after about 4 miles to Gruissan leads me off the suggested route, but on to a paved and essentially cycle-only road through the vineyards, and then the salt marsh.

The old tower of the castle appears against the bright sky, then as I loop around the bay, into clear view

Chateau at Gruissan


the bay where the flamingoes are feeding.

There is a cyclepath around the edge of the town, but it's being repaired or upgraded, so I'm on the road most of the way, till past the bridge, then it's on to chunky aggregate and then a real path to Gruissan-plage. Here I cycle past the beach houses, up on stilts, only the garages on the ground floor, to the sandy beach. This has been bulldozed clean along the tide line, but is otherwise undisturbed, with bird tracks.

I park the bike, and wander barefoot over the sand, which is just firm and cool enough to be pleasant; the sea water is very chill.

I loop around the island, taking every wrong turn, then rejoin the canal at Mandirac, turning left to Port La Nouvelle. Past that point, the plane trees give way to cypress


Canal path south of Mandirac

this is hard work as it's into sea breeze, and is rough underfoot. The canal or the salt marsh beyond smell sulphurous. There is a picnic place at the St Lucie lock, but it requires getting a drawbridge across the canal operated, so I give it a miss.

P l/N is rather tacky seaside where it isn't working port, but there's a place at the end of the main street where I can park and sit on a bench to have lunch, then start the grind back.

I surprise myself at taking only about 3min to pass one pair of km markers, so ease off; but it is good to get back under the shade of the plane trees.

I spot something weird that has factory like corrugated metal between two old looking stone towers, a mixture of ecclesiastical and industrial, as I return to Narbonne; and closer, can see the canalside parts of town that I missed in the morning in the low sun. The bright weather makes it not too drab, but it's scarcely a pretty town; and I do have to dodge the usual drunks along the path.

Park and hand over bike, then shop for the morning. The hotel cat is lying on the pavement outside like it had melted. I agree, and have another siesta, then decide to do the crêperie again, even though the paid-for place is open (yesterday's still isn't).

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Long haul to Narbonne

View To Narbonne in a larger map

I wake feeling fragile, and as I already have lunch packed, only breakfast lightly. Weather forecast is cool start, hot later, with mistral dying down.

The morning is almost too crisp under the plane trees, so I manage a good pace, about 13 kph over the paths, despite roots like sleeping policemen, or just knots that can catch a pedal, reaching the half-way mark by 11, where I stop for brunch, feeling recovered enough to be hungry. In terms of canal-side scenery, this is the most interesting, with all sorts of furniture - crossing over a river, various drains



and little villages that basked in the sun.

By 1pm, the canal path was replaced by road, and in places, was unshaded. Finally it came to a parting of the ways. I had no directions to indicate if the canal path was cyclable to and along the junction canal to the Robine canal in Narbonne, so at the hottest point of the day had to leave the shade completely.

Parting of the ways

The open road

This also took me out into rolling country, rather than the only gradients being up and over bridges I couldn't pass under, which comes as a shock to the system, as does the rather busy road I'm directed onto for a while; so I take a bit of a detour through narrow lanes to rejoin the route at Moussan. The terminal guidance to the hotel is a bit vague; and though I did what it said in terms of left and right, I'm not sure if this was the route I was meant to take. Anyhow, the canal was obvious, and from there the hotel was signed, and it was just a short push.

The guy on reception was surprised that I'd arrived as early as 14:30; but my bag was there, and the room had a much needed air-conditioner. This time the room had hot water, but I didn't feel like fighting a shower curtain, and did a flannel wash and feel much better, and doze for an hour or so to make up for last night.

Going out, the heat is oppressive. I recce the restaurant I'm supposed to be eating at in the Rue Droite (the road helpfully marked on the Google map I'd printed), then to find the station, which is about 10min from the hotel. The other restaurant is in the Place des Jacobins, which isn't on any map, but I find it by random walk; though I'm not impressed when I do. There is a nice looking crêperie close by which I earmark instead, and then go back to the room via Monoprix for lunch tomorrow.

The Jardin de Narbonne in Rue Droite is not functional at 19:45, so I do the crêperie anyway. It was still not functional on the way back to the hotel either, as I amble back via the prettily illuminated streets.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

At Carcassonne

I wake up early, so go for a stroll along the canal, and then take a cruise

LaDouce lock house

Lock house at LaDouce — one of a series

back a couple of locks, rising 2m (LaDouce), then 4m (Herminis) before turning around.

Stroll up to the old town and take more photos


The other end of town

Pick up a light late lunch, and sprawl & read on the grassy bank in front of the hotel

Outside the hotel

Shade and shelter from the mistral

which I do for much of the rest of the p.m.

The whole 50cl bottle of rosé is a bit too much, and having crashed about 10pm, I wake at 1am with a cold sweat, before falling back into broken sleep until about 6.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

To Carcassonne

View Castelnaudary to Carcassone in a larger map

Breakfast is served early, and there's nothing to stay for, so start ambling at about 8. The route is easy and obvious; and the sections that I've been warned are “unmaintained” are not bad - just smooth bare earth. Better than the off-road bits on the cycle to work. However I do meet a post van going the other way, and later get stuck behind a slow moving Rives de France van.

Later the path dwindles to a handspan wide bare trace in the grass, but never as near the water as keeping to the right on some of the maintained bits would have left me. The last stretch in the deep cutting in Carcassonne is push/scramble only, except the last stretch as it reaches the station.


Start scrambling here — or zig-zag over the canal by road

By now the sky has cleared, so as it's not yet noon, I park the bike and do an orientation wander, not very efficiently, find some lunch, and eat it in the breeze and shade near the hotel. Mid afternoon I check in to this rather Edwardian place, to find that the art deco style shower only offers the choice of cold and freezing. Ugh.

Make a quick walk into the old town to scout it out, and generally decide what to do for the stay-over tomorrow.

My God, it's full of tourists!

My God, it's full of tourists!

Monday, August 28, 2006

To Castelnaudary

View Tolouse to Castelnaudary in a larger map

The journey starts with the usual casting around to reconcile two different sets of instructions and reality, to get out of town on the correct side of the canal for a path that wouldn't just end miles from a bridge. Hint:-

Canal Path

Canal path - a GR path on the map

Though the day started bright, but the time I'm leaving Toulouse, about 10am, it's dull, and there is dampness on the wind. The cycling is a grind with what wind there is against me, and the canal path is boring going — even when I can see past the screening bushes, there's a main road, or fields of ripening sunflowers



There is a sprinkle of rain after lunch, but it then gradually becomes brighter, but breezy (and warm and sticky, too).

A welcome bath on arrival at the otherwise undistinguished hotel, then recce for the other hotel where I have a dinner token. In the main square, they are tidying up after the weekend's cassoulet festival (supposedly invented here during the 100 years war, when the beseiged townsfolk put all their remaining food into one big pot).

There are lizards on the steps up to the high point of the town, and the footbridge over the canal; and a flaming rose sky on the way back from dinner.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Train to Toulouse

After taking an early night, I kept waking up in case it was time to get up, and gave up the effort of trying to sleep about 06:40. By a strange coincidence, the highlight of the day was 6h40m of train journey, starting 10:10.

I had finished breakfast and packing by just after 8, and, with not a lot else to do early on a Sunday morning, was at the Gare d'Austerlitz by twenty to 9. Even so, I had pretty much Hobson's choice of where to sit on the benches on the platform if I wanted to watch the board to find out which platform the train would be leaving from. So it was a case of sitting there while the swarthy guys with SMGs patrolled (not completely confidence inspiring).

The train was signalled half an hour before leaving, so it was no rush to get on, and the coach was comparatively empty.

On the journey, there was a church with a free-standing tower; and at Toury, the first of the many wind farms. After 1hour, cross the Loire near Orléans, and it's starting to brighten from a grey start, with flickers of blue sky.

There is a woman with a young black cat, just out of kittenhood, that wants to explore, and prowls a little on its lead, before spending a long time zonked on her lap, or sticking out a curious face into the aisle.

Half way point, Limoges, patchy sun, and we've swung around to east of south. 4h10m in, Brive le Gaillard, 3pm Souillac (where I stopped back in 2000), 3:20 Gourdon. Now definitely out into fair-weather clouds and sun, which is better than the most recent weather forecast. 15:45 Cahors, 16:13 Caussade, 16:28 Montauban. For the final ten minutes of the journey we are alongside the canal, with plenty of cyclists on the path, looking good for the morning.

Short walk to the hotel, cunningly hidden in a courtyard, in hot sun. Bike already there, so do try out. The front suspension is soft, which always feels worrying; and the tyre doesn't pump particularly hard — but it doesn't seem to be leaking.

Smarten up for supper, and wander into town. The low sun across the main square is in my eyes. Many places are closed for August and Sunday, and I start worrying that I'll have to back track to the McDo's; but in the Rue du Taur, I find a creperie, where I can sit out on the pavement, and enjoy a meal (blue cheese galette, crepe tatin, 50cl cider and mint tea).

Weather forecast suggests dull and showery tomorrow, but fine for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Wake up with the sun, but, because I can, take my time getting up. Breakfast, then a long walk out past Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, taking the Champs Elysées for the first time — so I'm surprised at the commercial nature, more like Oxford Street west of Oxford Circus, but much wider. Beyond the Peripherique, it gets quieter and more run down light commercial, then nigh residential,before crossing the Seine.

La Defence

La Défense

I had been dodging scattered sprinklings of rain, and it was still gloomy as I tentatively crossed the deserted retail area at the near edge of the complex, and onto the first of the art installations

Arc de Triomphe

Public art at La Défense

but then it moved from hotels (flats, too? offices?) with more art, then a plaza before the Grand Arch, with more people around


Carousel at La Défense

and finally out onto the jetty to nowhere beyond

Grand Arch

End of the line

Having completed this axis from the Tuileries, I return over the Seine, then turn right down a pretty avenue, then into the Bois de Bologne, to Trocadero, and back in the rain along the Rive Gauche. All this time, Smart fortwos are everywhere, often 3 or 4 in sight at once.

Resupplied for the morning, I then take the obligatory supper at La Trappiste.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Annual French Cycling Holiday

An early start, with just a slice of the first home-grown apple pie of the season for breakfast. Getting to Cambridge station, I just miss a very early train, the next one to King's X is delayed, so catch on for Liverpool St. instead, which gets me in with plenty of time to walk.

At the Eurostar check-in I get the usual "travelling while bearded" hassle, so the equally suspicious looking guy doing the security spends absolutely ages looking at my bike repair bits, camping cutlery set and reading glasses case, and swabbing my bag down for gas chromatography.

By that stage, breakfast is a distant memory, and the packed lunch has repacked to the bottom of the bag — so I go wild at the sandwich bar.

As my coach is all the way at the front of the train, I wear, rather than carry the big rucksack, and just sling it in the rack at the end of the coach, without sipping up the panel that covers all the gear. Mistake - the buckle on the belly-band snap must have caught on the rack, because it was stripped off by the time I tried to sling the pack on on the platform at Gare du Nord, and by the time I managed to scramble back into the coach, there was no sign.

Paris is bright and hot, not cool as per the forecasts I checked, and so by the time I've slogged all the way down St Denis, I'm soaked from the inside. This year I'm in room 34, and once the power is back, the lift working and the fire alarm in the hotel silenced, I can actually have a bath. If I keep one foot pushing the plug down into the hole, that is.

Seine at evening

Seine at evening

I go for a stroll, but I'm not very hungry, so wander through C&A's, finding that where they used to have silk shirts they now do polyester viscose (ugh!), and then pick up some juice at the Franprix next door to the hotel to have with a little bit of the packed lunch.

Charente Waterways

Monday, August 07, 2006


Yes, we now have curtains in the new dining area, and the old kitchen blind has been re-installed for the moment. And tomorrow, we should have flooring in the kitchen and carpet on the stairs and landing!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Getting my head examined

Went to be a subject for some research at the Autism Research Centre, which involved having an EEG done which watching a series of words or images which occasionally had something incongruous in them. Looking at my high ASQ rating, the girl asked had I been diagnosed with anything, like ADHD, to which I had to say that it hadn't been invented when I was a kid. But I wouldn't have been. The test for handedness is pretty ancient though, asking for things like which hand you use to strike matches with, rather than mousing or anything modern.

The actual test went on for a couple of hours, and I started to feel myself drifting, but with the EEG, they should be able to spot sleep patterns, I guess.

The electrode gel is sticky like old fashioned paste glue, and not nice in the hair. It doesn't comb out even when near dry and has to be washed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

ADFS Troubleshooting : Part 1

I've been having to do some work on Web SSO at work, and to start with I wanted to take a simple ADFS set-up (as per the MSFT step-by-step test rig), and put my own certificate infrastructure on — an Enterprise CA for the server identities and a stand-alone CA for the assertion signing, just to make everything as clear and under control as possible. This wasn't too bad to set up, until it came to kick the tyres and do a trial authentication.

UnauthorisedAccessException in the WebSsoAuthenticationModule.OnEnter method. After the authentication had happened and the Federation Server was sending the assertion back to the Web Agent. The error message was all about setting the process to have the appropriate access to “the resource”. What “resource”?

Server Error in '/testcode' Application.

Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.

ASP.NET is not authorized to access the requested resource. Consider granting access rights to the resource to the ASP.NET request identity. ASP.NET has a base process identity (typically {MACHINE}\ASPNET on IIS 5 or Network Service on IIS 6) that is used if the application is not impersonating. If the application is impersonating via <identity impersonate="true"/>, the identity will be the anonymous user (typically IUSR_MACHINENAME) or the authenticated request user.

To grant ASP.NET access to a file, right-click the file in Explorer, choose "Properties" and select the Security tab. Click "Add" to add the appropriate user or group. Highlight the ASP.NET account, and check the boxes for the desired access.

Source Error:

An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.

Stack Trace:

[UnauthorizedAccessException: Attempted to perform an unauthorized operation.]
   System.Web.Security.SingleSignOn.WebSsoAuthenticationModule.OnEnter(Object o, EventArgs args) +3352
   System.Web.SyncEventExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() +92
   System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) +64

Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:2.0.50727.42; ASP.NET Version:2.0.50727.42

Even Google didn't help.

Yesterday, I'd had a problem where the web agent opened the SSL connection to the FS, and the connection was dropped just as soon as the SSL handshake was complete; but that went away without any of my doing when I tried it this morning. So I wondered if there was anything wrong with the time-zones, which meant it took 8+hours for certificates to become valid?

Well, it turned out that they were all on BST, but the FS and Web Agent were about 10 minutes adrift. So I synched them all up. And suddenly it all worked. And if I set the Web Agent machine's clock slow again (or sufficiently fast), the error re-appears.

If it was the result of having an assertion signed too far in the future, the response of the infrastructure was rather out of order.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Doesn't time fly

Silver wedding anniversary this week, though we had the dinner with friends last Friday. It doesn't really seem that long ago, at the Cambridge Registry Office, with people charging breathlessly up the hill, trying to put on ties, just a few minutes too late.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Went over the 15k mark on the way home from a shopping expedition.

I wish it could be Christmas every day …

We are now actually able to unpack into the kitchen, and have opened the kitchen related presents we got shortly after the building work started. And there is a lot of stuff to dispose of — graded by junk, recycling, jumble and mathoms.

Things are now asymptotically approaching normality, though the flooring is still to do; and that will spread over the coming month. Maybe by the end of the year, things will have all been sorted out and something like a routine re-established.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Last leg

A hazy, almost misty start, that saps the energy; and any offroad bits are likely to be muddy. As it happens the same markings that have in the past meant unmade track today indicate quiet, wider than single-track, metalled road, and a relief to be off the B-road from Fakenham.

I start out on the long route, but the leaden weather encourages me to chamfer off the corners. I'm back at base at just about 12:30, so after a couple of pints of shandy at the Old Bell, I kill time with a quick loop to Threxton and Watton, before getting to the hotel to wait for the bike for luggage swap.

There is a sprinkle of rain while I'm waiting and an almighty thunderclap; but the rain doesn't start in earnest until I'm driving home.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

To the sea! — and back

Head into Fakenham to pick up Sustrans route 1 (Hull to Harwich, via the back of beyond); well signed and good for nothing but holidays like this.

Walsingham is awash with an unusual traffic hazard : groups of pilgrims who think they have the road to themselves.

Offroad through the Holkham estate is borderline cyclable, with loose flints everywhere. Wells next the Sea is heaving, so after threading my way between people, take the sandy path behind the dunes (still Sustrans 1), occasionally playing chicken with flocks of pedestrians. With the choice of back through Holkham, or taking the coast road, I choose the latter to the Burnhams. At Burnham Overy Staithe, a car overtakes, pauses, and looks like it's going to turn right into the pub — then slides left to the kerb. I remonstrated with the driver about the use of indicators, without resorting to invective (I was surprised!).

Took another liquid lunch of Wherry and nuts at the Lord Nelson in Burnham Market, then headed back past the brass plate that marks where Nelson was born (the building was demolished in his lifetime) as the weather was clearly on the turn; cloud was building up and it was all very still.

I secured the bike, covered the saddle and went to my room; and the thunder started as I was running my bath. The rain then just bucketed down for 20 minutes, with a strong wind blowing before easing off to merely heavy rain.

The cellarage here is not up to the heat, and so it's lager with a light supper.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To Sculthorpe Mill

Tuesday dawned grey; by the time I hit the road, the sky was milky blue, and the air was full of the smell of harvest; all signs of where the season mellows from light to heat.

The route to Castle Acre involved a taking a route signed Ford/unsuitable for motors; but fortunately there was a (unmarked, slightly concealed) footbridge at the end.


The bridge at Castle Acre

The route indicated a section of the un-made Peddars Way, which was definitely get off and push terrain, before reaching Great Massingham.

Great Massingham

Pond, Great Massingham

From there I struck off the Great Bircham, took a look at the mill

Great Bircham Mill

Mill, Great Bircham

then stopped at the King's Head for refreshment, finding some well kept Woodfordes' Wherry on tap to wash down the salted nuts. The, rather than backtrack, I struck off on the green lane through Bircham Tofts and Bagthorpe, which was easier going than the Peddars Way.

Reaching East Rudham, the Cat and Fiddle Free House tempted me, and I had a very nice pint of chilled dark mild. Then the last leg wove around a disused railway

Disused Railway

Raynham Park station, as was

before reaching this sign


Guess which way

to this dead end

Half a ford

No through route

where there was access on foot to the Mill Inn.

Tried to phone home and find that my phone won't boot into Windows.

Monday, July 24, 2006

To Swaffham

Breakfast was in solitary splendour.

Reading the paper, it was clear, Lebanon aside, that this was the silly season, including a piece on space tourism that had to explain what was going on with the Japanese guy wanting to cosplay as Char Aznable (“Japan's equivalent of Darth Vader” :lol:).

Traffic problems on the A14 meant the bike didn't arrive until nearly 10, and by the time I'd finished getting the saddle adjusted (a larger frame that I'm used to), it was 10:30 and hot.

I took the long route to Grimes Graves, and took the descent to the excavated shaft

At the flint face

The flint face at Grimes Graves

I was warned that there were adders in the area, but saw nothing except other visitors. The shaft was cool and damp, and climbing up went through a steamy layer before getting out into the slightly drier heat outside.

From there I do a bit of dead-reckoning past the Lynford Arboretum to cut off the right turn at the busy roundabout, and then past the Iceni Brewery (not stopping) — and as it's gone 14:00 when I next pass a pub, it's too late for lunch, even if I were hungry. As I'm carrying plenty to drink, I continue to amble.

By this time it's seriously hot, so it's easier to push when there's any sort of uphill.

The George Hotel in Swaffham is easy to find, and the a la carte menu is tempting enough to make dinner easy. I replenish supplies and get a light lunch from the Co-op, then have devilled kidneys followed by scampi in white wine sauce for lunch. The cellarage is not coping with the heat, so after a disappointing pint I have wine with the main.

There is a fan in the room. Collapse in the heat, sleeping on the bed again.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Norfolk cycling : Departure

Uneventful drive to Broom Hall, in the heat, except for being caught at the only level crossing. North of the A11 the route wended through the authentic depths of Airstrip One.

Broom Hall

Broom Hall Hotel, Saham Toney

I parked under a large pine for shade, and checked in to a room that was like an oven. And dinner was a 3 course Sunday roast and all the trimmings!

Collapsed on the bed early and meandered in and out of sleep until 06:30

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Catching up

Woot! I cycled into work every day for the last two weeks, into town both days last weekend, and again today. Which is a first.

It has been hot, though not quite as hot as in the first week of Aug '03, peaking at only about 34C; and for some of the time dry enough that doing the Tuesday lunchtime walk was comfortable.

Ended with film festival by seeing A Scanner Darkly — I never read the book so all I can say was that it was a paranoid junkie fantasy, the rotoscoping made the scramble-suits work (though I don't know if they looked like they were meant to), and that playing a burned out druggie suits Keanu Reeves' acting style.

We almost have a kitchen; last weekend I was able to celebrate with doing the washing up at a sink, rather than in the bath, and the laundry at home for the first time since February. The tiling and touch-up decoration needs to finish, then we can get the floor done. And redecorating the hall and staircase is almost done, so getting those carpeted/wood-blocked can some soon too!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Film — Renaissance

Quasi-cyberpunk 2054 Paris is the home to a major biotech concern, Avalon, whose adverts talk of helth, beauty and longevity. Ilona, one of their scientists goes missing, and a hard-bitten cop is put on the case. We find out that Ilona was working on progeria. And the plot unfolds with tiresome predictability from those givens; and with all the old movie clichés about computer file security.

The film is live action, and, apparently, English dialogue (rather than dub), rotoscoped into hard black and white, no greyscale at all in most scenes, and where it is shown, it is background haziness; and colour is restricted to a handful of seconds. The Paris of 2054 is built on the modern one by just painting it on; remodelling Montmartre, raising extra levels on rivetted steel, and a purely rendered version of La Défense (or equivalent), with a vertigo inducing glass office spanning the arch.

The pacing is superb, with almost no fat — perhaps a little needless lingering on the gang-boss' harem, which one can consider as counterweight for a very minimalist handling of the love interest.

In sum, almost as manly as the other French actioner (Bainlieue 13); wonderfully executed; pity about the story.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Film — 鉄人28号 (Tetsujin 28)

At least it isn't only Hollywood that has hit on the idea of updating a fairly groundbreaking title from years gone by.

Taking it without that context, as a Japanese live action mecha movie, we follow the usual checklist:

  • Actors mugging to the blue screen: check
  • “Never send a man to do a boy's job”: check. 12 year old Kaneda Shotaro has eidetic memory and is a dab hand at flying a radio-controlled plane. All the skills needed, in fact, to pilot a mecha.
  • Issues: check. There is something unresolved in his past, about the last time he saw his father
  • Mecha in the family: check. Kaneda-san was upgrading the WWII era mecha that his own father had worked on at the end of the war when he died
  • Tokyo Tower in peril: check. As soon as the villain-mecha appears, its earnest of intent is to start unscrewing it from its foundations

So, by now you know if you'll like this next generation revival of the classic of 50 years ago for its own sake.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Film — The great Yokai War aka The Great Hobgoblin War et al.

A Japanese live-action fantasy adventure film, so you know you're in for, and it delivers, a lot of rubber suits, heavy make-up, and slightly mannered acting all with a generous helping of cheese — all the sorts of vices that the animated form manages to avoid.

That as a given, this is a take on the “reluctant hero” pattern, as young Tadashi, recently moved from Tokyo to a rural village, gets caught up in a village festival, and is elected the Kirin Rider, a local folk-hero. This of course is his passport into the world of the spirits, just as Lord Kato (the villain, played as if by an understated Jeremy Irons) is invoking the angry spirits of discarded things to attack Tokyo.

Through a combination of grit and slapstick humour, Tadashi and a few fairly incompetent spirits (and an exceptionally kawaii sunekosuri) manage to save the day. And all without a single yell of "Kirin Rider Super Lightning Attack!" or similar invocation to invoke a power up!

Neither great art nor cutting edge cinema — but good solid fun, and, I think, would bear a second viewing.

Film — Angel-a

… or “ZOMG! its Rie!” ;)

A film about honesty and getting in touch with one's feminine side (from a man's PoV, that is).

Told in Besson's usualy quirky style, and shot in black and white, André, a loser, possibly dealing in olive oil, and played by Jamel Debbouze (not a tall guy), is at his wits' end when he gets entangled with a great bean-pole of a girl who claims to be his guardian angel (Rie Rasmussen, her height enhanced with 6" stilettos), and acts like his exact opposite. She takes him on a fairly lawless trip through the underbelly of Paris where he has become mired, into the bright lights, during which time, he self-actualises and grows a spine.

Ultimately a film to watch for pretty much everything but the story.

Film — Silentium

A murder made to look like a suicide, an ex-cop and failed store detective working as a PI, institutional corruption in the Salzburg Festival and Catholic Church — all the ingredients for film noir. Add a scene that can be added to Psycho in a list of reasons not to take a shower, and you have Silentium.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Film — Bainlieue 13

A truly manly film, in the 4chan-/a sense of “manly”. The setting — a walled in ghetto suburb of near-future Paris, where normal life has broken down — serves as an excuse for martial arts, gun-play, and much parkour. The excuse is that one of the big dealers in the ghetto has hijacked a nuke, and the clock is ticking, so an undercover cop and a denizen of the district have to find it and disarm it.

Indeed, so manly a film is it that although there is a named female character, it's the latter character's sister, who is held hostage by the the top bad guy and needs rescue. Yes, amazingly, an entirely slush-free film.

Co-written by Besson, with leads who are stuntmen and parkour exponents, this film is made of great fun and win! Go see it, now!

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Film — Pirates of the Caribbean 2 : Dead Man's Chest

For starting out the 26th Cambridge Film Festival with an entirely unserious romp, an excellent choice.

Maybe not quite as good as the original, since there we were finding out quite how outrageous the characters were, rather than this time's extending of the absurdities. Not that the absurdities were at all bad — a gratuitous architectural feature of a derelict church could be expected to provide a humorous little incident; this film managed to make it last for several minutes, piling incident upon incident.

Bad points: no mention of the Pirate Code; and maybe a bit too much of pretty boy Bloom (but I'm not in the relevant demographic).

Oh, and the cliffhanger ending is such that I'd be surprised to find that the next one isn't already in production.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Friday, June 30, 2006

About time too…

They resurfaced (i.e. sprayed some tar and about three times as many chippings as would fit) part of the way into work last week, leading to great drifts at the down-hill end, enough that turning onto that piece of road in my car, I could feel an incipient skid. So on my bike, I've been taking longer alternative routes, extended by the fact that the unofficial side way in to Cambourne is blocked while the dualling of the A428 goes on, and so have to loop back to the Monkfield Farm entrance.

But, this lunchtime, returning home to let the flooring people in, it seemed that they were at last starting to hoover the massive gravel surplus. Two cheers.

In other news, the flooring guy due this p.m. called in at 09:15, while I was on my way to work. Still, I can read MSDN just as easily at home as in the office, and have bheer with it too!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Anime roundup

Having succumbed to the fansub/torrent scene, I'm in severe “more stuff than time” state. And with several series on the go in parallel, actually finishing any, especially ones with 2nd series, is rare enough. But there are a couple to catch up on since last time I did this sort of post…

Kasimasi ~ Girl meets Girl

Outline: dejected guy turned down by the girl he's after goes to throw himself off a local beauty spot, but a passing UFO lands on him and gets the repair a bit wrong. It starts off as slightly ecchi comedy of a boy's guide to being a girl, and then slowly mutates into a love triangle, played seriously. Who should s/he turn to — the shy sad girl who he was after at the beginning, or the tomboy who has been a best friend all these years? A sweet bit of fluff, all in all.

Rozen Maiden and RM Träumend

Boy meets doll, and winds up her clockwork. A weird mix of slapstick humour, dollies' tea-parties and superhero battles. Slightly sentimental, and the filler episodes are thin, but overall fun.

On the go…

Actively, Mari-mite Spring, Space Runaway Ideon, Simoun, Black Lagoon, Higurashi, Haruhi, Planetes . On the back burner, Haibane Renmai, Rose of Versailles, Aria the Animation, BurnUp Scramble. Fogbound, Paranoia Agent, GitS:SAC 2nd Gig, Texhnolyze, Saikano.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Film — 36

A French policier, with cops nearly as corrupt as the criminals, as two rivals try to bring in a gang that have been robbing security vans.

The film has a 7-year gap in it as one of the protagonists sits out time for accessory to murder; but the mobile phone tech in the first part is today's; and there's no sense of technology marching on in the interim (unlike, say, in Infernal Affairs

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Catching up

Last Thursday arrived home to find a fire engine parked outside. Fortunately it was only the old codger next door setting fire to his cooker, and damage was restricted to their kitchen.

Yesterday, just for the heck of it, did the lunchtime walk around Cambourne barefoot. A couple of bits were sparsely gravelled so ouchy, but the most of it was really comfortable. Having hardened the feet in sandals for the past year helps.

The downstairs loo was about finished last week. Now waiting for the kitchen fitters and flooring people to arrive.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Red in tooth and claw

Earlier today, Karen called me from downstairs, and on the way down, I spotted a hen blackbird sitting on one step. To my surprise, this turned out not to be what she was calling me about (that was to heave the basket of laundry into the car).

Opening the front door, the bird hopped down to the sill, then after a cautious look around for feline psychopaths, flew off, looking just a bit tatty around the tail.

In the dining room, however, there was a massive explosion of feathers, and more, with blood, behind the sofa. And a stray egg at the bottom of the stairs. The amount of detritus and the apparently intact state of the bird as it flew off were hard to reconcile.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I went on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign leisurely ride out to Cambourne today — and ended up leading much of it, as the only one with on-the-ground knowledge. Then having cycled home->town->Coton->Cambourne->Toft->Barton->back to Parker's Piece, I had to head out to Teversham to help Karen, before heading back home over the Gogs. Tiring, especially in 28C weather, with little in the way of breeze.

Getting back on the bike tomorrow will take some effort, even wearing my padded lycra discreetly under my shorts. It was a refreshingly lycra free outing, and I was clearly toward the top end of the fitness/scope range, not way down like I had expected.

I did see bird perched on a horse near Teversham; and now, Saturn looking very red in the southern sky, with Arcturus high above it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Cycled to work each day this week, which is earlier in the season than previous years; and included twice cycling into town on the way home. No rest over the week-end, too (into town, and maybe joining a cycling jaunt to Cambourne on Sunday).

In other news, had an interview, but decided against (on the same logic that “unsure” => “no hire”), but at least it's all good practice.

And we have a functional downstairs loo! No door yet, and the decorating is incomplete, but the plumbing is done and is usable. Luxury!

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Catching up

I had a much needed break last week — four nights in Salisbury, going to various gigs and concerts around the Arts Festival there in the evenings : Graffiti Classics (string quartet with attitude), Billy Bragg (the usual), Salsa Samba (Indonesian eclectic) and Los de Abajo (Mexican "tropipunk" - punk in the US musical sense).

Salisbury cathedral, across the water meadows

From the Old Mill, Harnham

Thursday was dull, and couldn't make up its mind if it was cool or sultry, but the rest of the time was clear and warm, good weather for strolling around, as well as doing a bit of shopping — a summer-weight smart jacket, a shoulderback for carrying book and camera; and a panama hat for shade.

Previously, with having to coordinate with Karen, Salisbury had seemed a food desert, with just the King's Head and Chicago Rock Cafe being sensible accessible. Left to my own devices it was a cornucopia, and I could try out the Lemon Tree, the Marrakech, and Cactus Jack's, as well as returning to the Old Mill, plus explore the more interesting pubs.

All in all, a welcome chunk of R&R, allowing me to de-stress, knowing that all that was happening building-wise was the plaster drying in the new downstairs loo. And now, the building work is getting close to the end — the plumbing is done in the loo, though there is still decorating, tiling, carpentry, and flooring. And the kitchen. But now, after more than six months, it's getting close to being able to reclaim the house.

And with the magic of wi-fi, I can compose this post sitting in the warmth of the evening, at a table on the new patio.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Went into town to get the bike service after 18 months and to get into the gym — something I've been neglecting while the building work has been going on. The usual place in the Kite was too busy to fit me in for the service, so I tired a new little place near the old CUP building, another of these Mon-Fri only places which are so annoying when you don't work in town.

I was rather out of shape in the gym, having to ease back to lighter weights to get a decent set done — but not as out of shape as the bike, which turned out to have a snapped back axle and damaged hub, without me even noticing!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Moving in

This weekend, I was finally able to re-lay the parquet in what used to be the dining area, and we were able to shift the fridge there, and get the armchair that had been stored in the spare room down into the new space, and shift the hi-fi so there were speakers in the new dining area.

It's amazing quite how much more home-like this is making things feel.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


14000 miles on the drive.

And in the on-going saga of the builders, the old front porch has been bricked in.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Exiles return

After 11 weeks the cats are back, Karen having returned on Tuesday after 10 weeks away, to a basic but functional bathroom and lift.

Penny has been clingy, and Jemima a total scaredy-cat. She howled when let out on the drive, having always been a silent cat before.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Nature Notes

Plum blossom at its height on the Czar; cherry just starting to burst its buds. The forsythia is carrying on, and the main tulips are out.

And I mowed the lawn for only the second time this year.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring at last

For the first time in years, the frogspawn has actually developed, and is now starting to hatch!


Forsythia at its height

Easter flowers

The pond and other blooms

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Nature notes

Yesterday, just setting out to work, a sudden explosion of feathers caught my eye. It looked like a sparrowhawk taking a bird, but fumbling, and the two of them zoomed across the road ahead of me, the hawk closing in for a second try, as I went past.

Today, pushing the bike into the wind along the bridleway, there were daisies out.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I am heartily sick of the building works and the time it is taking. And the fact that if I wanted a job done incompetently, I could do it myself.

And the fact that when I went out for a hearty meal to console myself, it became overeating and full-gut ache. Where have life's simple pleasures all gone?

[Later — It turned out to be a stomach upset of some sort, that left me flat on my back for a couple of days, except when having to charge downstairs to the one functioning loo…]

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nature notes

Noticed the dawn chorus this morning, for the first time this year.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Still no spring

The snowdrops are setting seed now, but there is still no sign of activity on the forsythia nor in the pond. Cold raw north-easterly winds under a leaden sky made cycling into town most unpleasant today. Even the brief sun in the early afternoon wasn't enough to make any difference.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

In other news…

I hope bad things do indeed come in threes. We discovered this week that the young guy doing the bricklaying to adjust the old kitchen had managed to

  1. put the frame for the new side door one course of bricks too high
  2. make a portrait format hole for a landscape format window
  3. build a new wall about a foot away from where it should have been (not measuring, and so not noticing that an archway was also being adjusted, and tying it to the old position, not the new.


4 weeks of bedsit life so far, and at least another couple I would expect before we can even have a pro tem kitchen. This is getting very old very fast.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Friday, March 17, 2006


Two years, 12757 miles (6166 this year). And a first puncture. I thought I heard something odd as I parked last night — and in the morning, the right rear tyre was flat as a tack. Mainly because of a discarded nail from the building works. At least the home-start insurance covered the transport to the dealer to get a new tyre.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Where is the spring?

A year ago, I was saying that snowdrops were well past their best. Now they are just starting to decline. The later crocuses are now out, but so far no sign of life from the forsythia, and only one solitary frog seen in the pond.

It didn't actually snow over the weekend here, though it had been forecast, and did happen further north. And snow is being forecast for later this week.

Distributed living

While the building work goes on, and Karen is staying with friends, I'm racking up more mileage. Over 200 miles a week as opposed to around 100.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hints of spring

A bright sunny weekend without quite such a strong wind as last. it was comfortable to walk around town in T-shirt and jeans yesterday, but still cold when out in the fields. Inch thick ice still on ponds around the recreation ground, though bubblewrap has done its job in the garden.

But with the crocuses long out, and the warm sun, spring is clearly waiting just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Senior Moments

Went to discuss details of the new kitchen with the specialist designer. And amongst all the discussion of features of accessible kitchens, a stray mention of a safety feature — I can't remember which — being good for when grand-children were running around.

Aaaauuuugh! I feel ancient!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

With one mighty bound…

Actually Penny was doing things the hard way — I saw this morning leap onto the fence, then climb up the top of the side wall, then leap the last couple of feet up to the windowsill. Only then, with the window obstinately shut, did she leap onto the planks to sit and survey her domain.

[Now playing - Planet Rock]

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Feline Ingenuity

The extension works are close to topping out now, with the two storey part up to the eaves.

I just spotted something moving by the spare-room window; and thought to myself “No — that can't be a cat.” — but it was. The Burmese had climbed up onto the platform under the window and then clambered up onto the sill; probably by taking the ladder, rather than doing a series of Tomb Raider style gymnastics.

So she has figured out how to get around the removal of the conservatory which used to allow her to do the same climb to demand entrance.

Monday, January 09, 2006


After a month in which we progressed only to footings, the walls (outer skin at least) are almost one storey high after a day's work. The disintegrating section of fence between the new wall and the boundary which I'd been intending to remove when waist-high is now inaccessible unless the whole fence comes down. Which it may have to.