Saturday, June 28, 2008

Manga — JoJo's Bizarre Adventure : Stardust Crusaders

Weighing in at almost the same length as the previous two volumes combined, the third volume brings us forwards about another 50 years, and another two generations of JoJos -- Joseph (far right above) now accompanies his grandson (to his left) Jotaro and others in an epic trek across Asia to Egypt, where the revived Dio Brando -- his head posing fabulously on the body of Jonathan Joestar (below) -- is causing long-distant harm to Jotaro's mother.

And this time, instead of the ripple powers, all the significant participants have "Stands" -- second magical selves that are the focus of some super powers, second selves that can project at some varying distance from the person; so we work through the Greater Trumps and the Ennead as inspirations for Stands in a running battle from Tokyo to the streets of Cairo (including one bizarre episode where Dio hijacks the car of an American senator, and manages to find a sidewalk to drive along, to bypass a traffic jam).

There is also a bonus "Where's Wally?" (Waldo for the USAns) moment

Overall -- it didn't grab quite like the previous volumes, possibly because of the length before anything was resolved, though it was still fun, with the most bizarre and stylish -- and occasionally disgusting -- fight scenes (in the general sense, when combats included video games and poker).

Cycling holiday -- day 6

After a grey start, it brightened up, but the wind was still strong from the west. I decided to take a route I hadn't done before, looping close to Ipswich, reprising some of the terrain I'd done yesterday, but on new ground until Claydon.

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Having stayed there the first time I did any of these rides, the area is familiar, so to avoid a familiar drag back, I looped off through a number of pleasant little villages, to Barking, where I reprised in reverse the little ride I did last year, before parking the bike at the farm, and going over to the Limes for a light lunch.

They don't know the meaning of light -- the club sandwich was three doorstops of a large loaf, generously filled with plenty of salad, slaw and chips... After that it was just the formalities and the drive home (avoiding the lunatic cyclists who thought the A14-A11-A505 Newmarket to Sawston and back would be a good place for time trials).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 5

The rain that had been promised arrived just after I got back to the hotel last night, after a postprandial stroll to the martello tower and back. The few drops of rainwater remaining on the bag I'd put over the saddle reassured me that that had been a sensible thing to do.

Flax at Snape


So, the way was forced to start, and going into a chill headwind, but soon the cloud that had bubbled up began to clear, leaving just some high-level fluff, and more worrying weather low in the west.

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It would be too early at Orford for lunch so I bypassed it -- I thought about heading to the ferry at Bawdsey and coming up on Woodbridge from the south. The route was clear -- and where there were shady bits, it was clear that there had been a fair amount of rain. That said, it wasn't stopping all the sprinklers that either drifted spray over the roads, or outright covered it in their arcs.

The Tunstall to Butley road looked very minor on the map, but the first thing that greeted me as I turned onto it was a high speed Chelsea tractor coming the other way. And later a convoy of harvesters and tractors with trucks.

On the track past the prison near Hollesley, more irrigation meant streams of runoff, so another spot of barefoot pushing, before the last leg to the coast -- where there seemed to be zero ferry-like activity despite a sign claiming that it was running. So, back up the peninsula, taking the restricted by-way the last leg into Shottisham (very sandy, so nice for more barefoot, apart from the pinecones).

Lunch at the Sorrel Horse, a brie and bacon bap, with a pint of bitter drawn direct from the cask, and then loop around to Woodbridge. The sky had clouded over, and was rather stifling, but it was still early, so I did an extra loop before checking in.

They have the cheek to expect you to pay for wi-fi at the Crown, so more deferred blogging. And Spice, where I'd hoped to eat, is holding a private do. So over to Prezzo for minestrone, crayfish and pea risotto, and apple crumble, and an early night.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 4

Today I planned to lunch at Orford, and the King's Head. It didn't work out like that.

Secret sauce


Starting off, heading to the harbour and along to the footbridge wasn't too bad, though the packed shingle of the harbour road wasn't too nice, especially when I had to under-take vans driving very slowly on the wrong side of the road. So I crossed -- and saw that the cyclable path beyond was closed, with some major work being done to it, so had to take the footpath along the levée to where I could get onto the road again.

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The by-way across the nature reserve had been less than fun, but passable when I came this way four years ago; and I recognised the shallow sandy basins that had been huge puddles that day. And I avoided coming a cropper on slopes that were loose sand. But then a surprise.

Between two barbed-wire fences, deep puddle, very muddy. Not for riding -- it would have to be portage. So barefoot, go across trying to wheel the bike on the rim -- and slip, spinning the front fork 180° and snapping the front brake assembly against a cable bracket for the rear gears. A design fault in that Claude Butler range.

Still, the weather is pleasant, and it's nice terrain to continue going barefoot; at the carpark, I sit, phone for help, and read, munching the occasional digestive biscuit.

That was 10:43. At just before 13:00 the van sails past, but notices as I wave, and backs up. Transfer and carry on to Dunwich. In the Ship Inn, it's not fish-faced web-fingered types I have to worry about -- I just seem to be much the youngest of the patrons. A pint of Reedcutter (from the Humpty Dumpty Brewery), and I'm on my way, as before down and across the heath, skirting Mimsmere, into Leiston and then down to Thorpeness as the clouds gather and the wind picks up -- enough that I push the rest of the way into Aldeburgh. The Scallop, as I pass, is providing a convenient windbreak to a young couple changing their infant's nappy...

The hotel has free wi-fi, but the encryption doesn't seem to be WEP (64 or 128 bit), and the staff are clueless to confirm anything beyond the passcode. Dine at the local Prezzo on mozarella in breadcrumbs and chicken and chorizo pizza. No web = early night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 3

The last time I cycled from Framlingham to Southwold, it was a dash between rain and heavy showers. Last time I stayed in the Swan, it rained until I arrived. Today the cloud was building up during the first part of the morning, so I wondered whether unscheduled rain would arrive.

As it was, it turned out bright after about 11:30, but very windy.

St. Andrew's, Covehithe

Church at Covehithe

I took some diversions from the suggested route -- to start with I wanted to avoid places which were too shady, so I could bask in the warmth, but from Peasenhall on, just kept to the long route, with the diversion to Covehithe to see the bits where I'd walked a few years ago, but in better weather. The suggested detour on the minor roard through Cove Bottom was a useful diversion from the main route, which had just been freshly top-dressed and gravelled -- it emerged just about where the resurfacing had stopped, and was on balance a slightly better surface to cycle.

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Lunch at the Blue Lighthouse Brasserie -- scampi and chips, and a much needed pint (but Greene King IPA, as the Broadside was rather too much for lunchtime quaffing on a thirst). Mooched around, read a bit, checked into the hotel, then after a bath, fell asleep.

A quick wander to resupply for the morning (drink to carry), meant that I spotted the wi-fi notice in the lounge, as there was no open signal in the garden rooms where I was staying. Not much privacy either, with huge windows, but otherwise nice chalet style accommodation.

Dinner was duck breast with shredded celeriac and chorizo morsels, pork and lentil with borcolli, potato cubes and pear and pepper puree, followed by a selection of local cheeses, all washed down with a pint of bitter from the brewery around the back.

A stroll in the twilight, then back to the lounge to blog and stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cycling holiday -- day 2

As the only guest staying that night, I got fussed over this morning at breakfast.

Hitting the road soon after 9, I got as far as Mickfield, and thought "I did this route last September", so rather than heading through Debenham to take the long route via Horham and Stradbroke, I turned left and headed even further from the direct route.

In Blacksmith's Green, I suddenly saw a couple of small animals -- young stoats or weasels, perhaps -- the size and shape of sausages, milk chocolate in colour, scrapping. One body-charged the other out from the verge into the road, then withdrew, leaving the other standing blinking a bare body-length from my front tyre.



There have been a lot of rabbits active on the verges (and quite a few road-kill, along with what may have been a slow worm); and in the fields, poppies in amongst the cereals.

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The long loop took me past may pubs, not yet open, but at 12:30, coming through Fressingfield, I spotted that the Swan was open and doing food. So I had a steak tomato and mayo sandwich, with a pint of draught Theakston's Mild, before ambling on. The Crown at Crown Corner was closed in a "not open at lunchtime" sort of way, so no more beer, as the other pubs were closed by the time I passed them.

Getting to the Crown about quarter to three, I had a good soak, and then found some refreshments for afternoon tea. Had a bit of a walk, rested a bit, then out to Off the Square again, which was already quite busy at soon after 7pm.

Starter was toast with tapenade, bruschetta, and feta with shredded cucumber; then for main hazelnut and pistachio terrine with mushroom and spinach, with a glass of rosé, then brownie with peanut butter icecream, and coffee.

Another stroll, and so to bed.

Cycling holiday -- day 1

And suddenly, glorious weather, after last week's wind, cloud and some rain.

Arrived at Needham Market about 2pm, then on the bike for a long loop around Stowmarket, finishing off at the B&B at Bays Farm.

Being Monday, the local wouldn't be doing food, so after a freshen up, back on the bike and back to Needham Market, to do the curry and a pint deal at Bugs Bar at the Limes, before ambling gently back (startling some strollers on one of the narrow and enclosed bits, when calling "Coming through!").

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They have wi-fi here, so I'm sitting in bed, watching ducks and moorhens in the early morning sun, while blogging away. Last night, the sun was shining through onto the far wall, casting shadows from the shelving unit at the foot of the bed, the last glimmer going at about 21:20, a spark dipping below the horizon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Film — The place promised in our early days

It would not be fair to call Makoto Shinkai a one-trick pony. He has two standard tricks. One, relationships that are disconnected, and two, cloud porn -- obsessively detailed depictions of all sorts of sky-scapes.

The place promised is set up to indulge the latter obsession. In a world where -- one presumes -- WWII did not end until after the Soviet Union had overrun Hokkaido, a great tower has been raised on that island, tall enough to be seen from Tokyo on a clear day.

The film is set mainly in and around the town of Aomori, to the north of Honshu (the main island of the archipelago), starting in the summer of 1996 where two friends are building a plane that will take them across that world's DMZ to see the tower close at hand; and with them is a girl, Sayuri, who is more than just a schoolfriend, but not yet quite a girlfriend.

She moves away, and the two graduate and go their own ways, while international tensions build. By the turn of the century, the plane is almost ready to fly, and the cold war about to turn hot -- and the secret of the tower and how it relates to Sayuri's disappearance is about to be revealed.

In this film Shinkai handles the never quite established triangle deftly, without overdoing the motifs of separation -- quite a contrast from it being the central theme of Voices of a Distant Star; and without the glaringly predictable trainwreck of the more recent 5 cm/s (which I could not sit through even half the first of the three parts of). And the central motif of the aeroplane gives full scope for some gorgeous cloudscapes.

For all the obsessive meteorology, there is one problem -- the tower is of inconsistent height. From Tokyo, a back of the envelope calculation suggests that the bottom 25 miles would be below the horizon; the views we see suggest a hundred or more are visible. And yet a jet plane is later able to circle above the top of the tower, a place we had never before been shown.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A week on two wheels

I cycled to work every day this week -- though Wednesday, which opened with wind and light rain, would have broken the run were it not Bike-to-work Day; and the lure of as many bacon and sausage sandwiches as I could eat tipped the balance (enough that I didn't need to have anything for lunch).

Now to do the same sort of thing for next week...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Such irony

On the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Gordon Brown achieves what Bonaparte failed to do, and thereby goes from head of government to merely provincial governor.

Links for 18-Jun

Powershell -- V2 Virtual Lab, PowerShell and WMI, when will V2 ship?

Thread Barrier abstraction for separating GUI and workers.

Natural CLI -- an interesting take on command lines.

Faux-absolute CSS positioning.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back in the EUSSR

If you were in doubt about the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the EU, just look at the last paragraph of this article in New Europe (whose dane-brammaged mark-up means I can't link directly to the header of the offending section, but have to ask you to scroll down…).

The EU has now accumulated significant (bad) experiences with referenda. It was very delicately yet effectively communicated by the Romanian social-democrat MEPs: “The referendum in Ireland has demonstrated that direct democracy (by way of referendum) cannot ensure the progress of the European process. The security, liberty and prosperity of hundreds of millions of European citizens ask for complex leadership actions, which cannot be appreciated by heterogeneous populations, from the point of view of the information level and the education one. European integration is a process that must be conducted politically by the elected representatives of the European citizens.”

By "bad experiences" it means that they have a problem with the idea of being told where to get off.

H/T, the Devil.

I see what you did there…

Whoever is responsible for this ad has a sense of humour.

The show supposedly playing in that protected-from-profanity set top box, white-bread, household, is this one.

I chuckled.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Anime — Starship Troopers

I've not read Heinlein's novel -- it wasn't in print when I was in my teens and could have read it without noticing the politics; but I've read enough about it to realise that anime Juan Rico is rather blue-eyed and blond for a Puerto Rican...

So, I don't know how faithful an adaptation it is of the parts that it keeps -- just up to a first engagement on an alien world -- and have to take it as a rich boy joins up, survives the system and gets the girl story, for which it is competently done.

You can tell from the style that it's 20 years old and rescued from laser-disk.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ooh! Interesting!

Good news, it seems on the fusion front. Between this and cheap solar, things are looking hopeful on the longer term energy front, even if we don't get to tap the vast oil reserves in "no drill" zones in and around the US.

Just a pity that over the coming few years the joke currently applied to Zimbabwe (Q: What did they use at night before candles? A: Electric lighting) will apply to this country.

C# generics — almost useful

This week I have spent an inordinate amount of time doing more C# generics coding than I have before in my life. And there have been very few things in the recent past that has made me feel that I'd rather be coding proper C++, if I couldn't be using Python or Ruby (which would make the task almost trivial).

The problem -- make a set of interfaces to wrap part of the System.DirectoryServices and System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory namespaces, so as to make them mockable.

What seemed an easy job of mocking about half a dozen classes and a few methods on each has turned into a major exercise, because they all return different trivial collection classes (like this one) which don't present any public constructors.

Writing a basic Wrapper<T> to hold a T provided at construction time, subclassing it to do delegation for standard interfaces like IDisposable -- or even ICollection -- no problem, defining interfaces for the parts of the concrete types and writing specific Wrapper subclasses, easy.

The problem comes when wrapping a collection of type T, which contains entities of type U, which have to be exposed as wrapper sub-type V (subclassing Wrapper<U>). Not only do I have to suppress FxCop nagging about 3-way generics, but when I write the this[string index] or the Current property of a custom Wrapper<IEnumerator>, I would like to write

return new V(Wrapped[index]);
or in expanded form with the types made explicit
U internal = Wrapped[index]; //delegate to wrapped object
return new V(internal);

but I can't, because I'm only allowed to get at a public default constructor for V -- unlike the duck-typing in a C++ template, which would allow me to write the desired code. Which means I'm forced to violate the desired immutability and put a setter on the Wrapped property, and allow null internal objects. At least I can put a generic wrapping function V Wrap<U,V>(U input) in the base class which can be the only thing to use it (by making the setter private) -- and then suppress the FxCop nagging on the generic function about having generic types not implied by context.

And talking of FxCop nagging -- on more than one occasion a concrete wrapper named for the wrapped type Win32[NameOfWrappedType], or method in the partial interface, got hauled up on violating naming conventions because the MSFT prototype name did so. *sigh* My code gets more and more impure, all the while as I'm simply writing code and unit tests for that code, which I wouldn't need to have written at all if it weren't for unit testing the code I really want to write.

Dark days...

I don't usually do politics on this blog -- I tend to leave that sort of things to the chaps in the sidebar -- but the disgusting antics in and around Parliament this week deserve remark.

Not just the 42 days ratcheting of the police state, on the back of outright bribes to pro-Cuba lefties and extremist Ulstermen, but the burying of the last stages of debate on the EU takeover bill in the Lords. Their disgraceful behaviour (voting against manifesto policy)in these debates mean that the LibDems have permanently lost my vote, after a temporary withdrawal following their ludicrous peacenik-ery on Iraq (a necessary war of liberation, albeit fought 12 years late and on an ill-advised pretext) -- not that Bob Spink did UKIP any favours as a likely next recipient.

And now bottler Brown is still pressing ahead with the ratification despite the Irish "No!". May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his armpits. And the same for the traitorous scum supporting it.

There is something worryingly Orwellian (along the lines of "Slavery is Freedom") when the president of the EU parliament calls the Irish vote "a great disappointment for all those who wanted to achieve greater democracy" since if democracy means anything, it means the right to kick the bastards out without having to resort to bloody revolution -- and that's one thing that the EU lacks a mechanism for, even with the self-amending ratchet of the Constitution in place.

No, like the idiot lefties who called Boris' win for London Mayor a bad day for democracy, too many of our political classes and their chatterati hangers on think that democracy means voting the way that they want, in true Soviet style. And, like a serial rapist, the EU has form on taking "No" to mean "Yes, in a little while".

Sunday, June 08, 2008

All Change (3)

Not quite 4 years ago, I picked up a second hand high-end PC, and parked it in my living room to act as a combined web-server and pre-heater for the air coming in through the air brick.

Tonight, all of a sudden, house power went out, and flipping switches in the twilight I finally pinned the problem down to front-of-house sockets. Unplug a shedload of stuff, bring power up, then incrementally add stuff.

When it came the turn of the web server, it just sat there beeping plaintively, so I guess the power-out was correlated with it giving up the ghost. I shall have to examine it by daylight, but unless it's something that clears itself up or can be rectified by putting another HD in, it's for the tip. All that's lost from being on-line should be just a batch of photos, and a smaller amount of miscellaneous images from fanac.

LATER -- Monday, pressing the on-switch caused some activity, but rather than beeping endlessly, it just powered itself down after a few seconds. Saturday, and it booted just fine. So I've reinstated the DNS for it, and in a few hours it should be visible globally again. Weird.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Anime — Spring Season '08 revisited

Two more titles, as a result of filling in wet afternoons. From the top...

Crystal Blaze is set in a sorta-now sorta-generic Left Coast city, where a sorta-noirish dead-beat detective agency, with a case-load that seems to mainly involve seeking out lost pets (but has ridiculously good contacts with the figures who really run the district) gets involved with a case of missing girls, political cover-ups and Science! in the pulp tradition. It took a lot of starting, and was on the "I'm only torrenting this for completeness' sake" list for a while, but the story has finally picked up as the series passes the two-thirds mark.

Kurenai was on my "tried it and dropped it" list for a while. I'd tried the first episode, based on liking the art style I'd seen in stills -- but the OP is majorly off-putting, as was starting off with the h4x-powered kid at the centre of the story (and picture). While he actually turns out to be the generic wussy anime lead (trying to earn Shinji-like levels of disgust), and his eccentric neighbours (left and right) are fuel for a bit of slice-of-life, the real star of the show is Murasaki, the little girl placed in his care after extraction from her old aristocratic family's harem -- and who, for all her naïveté and archaic ways, has ten times the spine of her nominal guardian.


As was inevitable, the tonks have refused to be indoor cats -- it started some weeks ago when Yoko found her way out through the window that was being used for hanging out the tumble-drier vent pipe; and as the warmer weather has encouraged having windows and patio doors open, we bowed to the inevitable.

They have now discovered frogs, as fun squeaky toys.

One got brought in just, and by the time I had managed to get both cats shut upstairs away from it, the stupid thing had vanished. Well, either it made its getaway, or the cats will find it again...

Later -- it emerged from wherever it had concealed itself, hopping a bit askew, but very lively, and is now back in the pond for the moment.

All Change (2)

When we moved in, the neighbours next door (the other side to the drive-ornament) had a mature apple tree (probably pre-dating the house) in the garden, near the border fence, and not all that far from the back of the house -- the windfalls even influenced the design of our extension, to avoid having a trap for falling apples.

Now that's gone in a one day chainsaw blitz (apparently it was badly cankered), and there is suddenly skyline, and a view into the previously hidden unkempt depths.

Thursday, June 05, 2008