I learnt last night that

I learnt last night that one of the departmental secretaries, the marvellous and reputedly omnipotent Jill, is Aphex Twin‘s cousin.

This is, of course, mega, and I threw my arms around her in celebration. I should perhaps point out that this happened not in the office, but in a pub at the tail end of the drinking session following our Christmas lunch, down in the Mumbles. A fine time was had by all and remarkably, I was the last man standing. That sounds better than it is: everybody else didn’t collapse in a drunken heap, they just all drifted home before about nine. There’s an open day today (free buffet lunch – w00t!), and bleary eyes wouldn’t be ideal (which reminds me: time for a coffee). So, at nine last night I was in the White Rose on my own waiting for Julie to pick me up and contemplating the day’s events. I haven’t (as far as I can remember) insulted, propositioned, or poured my heart out to any of my colleagues here, to which I say “score!”.

Julie picked me up at about nine fifteen to drive me home, and got to listen to me drunkenly expounding on various subjects. At one point I was trying to explain some programming concept by asking her to imagine that she could create and destroy instances of the RSPCA’s Swansea Animal Centre at will. No, the analogy didn’t really work last night, either.

I advise my former colleagues at Frontier not to read the next sentence. I arrived at work at 10:15 today, and nobody blinked.

Nothing to do with anything above, but quite interesting/amusing, and mentions Julie’s colleague Elaine: The Urban Cowboys of Swansea. The Urban Cowboys move their herd from the Technology Block to the Main Block in order to prevent theft and for them to be in full view during Home Economics.

I’m learning TeX by reading Knuth. Hardcore.

Damn. I just burnt my tongue on my coffee. I hate that.

Hey’up. Well, here I am


Well, here I am at Swansea University, sitting in the Multimedia & Graphics research lab surrounded by PhD students. Yes, that’s right, I don’t have my own box to work on yet. I will in due course (and it looks hopeful, though not certain, that I’ll be able to install gentoo on it – this is generally a SuSE shop), but since I don’t even have a room yet, a computer’s not at the top of the agenda. I’m currently sharing with Chris Whyley, who’s very nice, but whilst I have a bookshelf I don’t have a desk. Not a big problem, all I’m doing so far is reading and occasionally scribbling down notes.

All in all, it’s “so far, so good”, I’d say. I spent most of yesterday meeting people, getting an account set up, getting my ID card (and library card – alas, I can only take out 30 books at a time), and generally getting acclimatised. People are all (so far) very nice and welcoming. The most exciting part of yesterday was my attendance at a tutorial given by Professor Tucker, the head of the department. This is a group which I’ll be taking over next year, so they were as curious to see me as I was to see them. One of the first things they’ll be doing with me is a short presentation each on some coursework they’ve been doing this term, and the Professor took great pleasure in reading out the titles of their works and exclaiming with mock surprise that that was something I knew all about, to the terror of the author in question. In actual fact, a lot of it was stuff I know all about. I’ll be particularly interested to see the presentation on making music with computers. :-)

Apart from that, I’ve been reading. My main task at the moment is to ready myself for the Operating Systems course I’ll be teaching as of the end of January (lectures at 11:00 on a Thursday, and 14:00 on a Friday, by the looks of things). I’m doing this by going through Professor Chen‘s notes on the subject and expanding on the gruesome details in some of the seven textbooks I now have with the words “Operating Systems” in their titles. I’m currently concentrating on concurrency and mutual exclusion – stuff I already knew enough about to work with when I needed to (possibly with a bit of reading), but which I now need to know inside-out so I can teach it without looking like a blithering idiot (as if). So today it’s been semaphores, Lamport’s Bakery algorithm, Dining Philosopher, etc. Fun stuff. No, really.

It’s all fairly relaxed and flexible – certainly a far cry from Frontier. Suits me. And it’s so nice to have access to a library again. Apart from the directly work-related stuff, I’ve picked up a book on Haskell, volume one of Knuth (only a one-week loan, alas, even for one in such an exalted state as I, but extended over Christmas), and nice little number called Tracking the Automatic Ant. I was reading that last one over lunch, trying to get my head round a proof that the “obvious” way of tying your shoelaces is (in terms of lace length) the unique optimal way of doing it. I’m OK until point 22 of the proof, but then something happens which I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ll keep at it. It’s just so nice to be thinking again.

I’m meeting the Frontier techies for a curry tonight which I’m really looking forward to (although maybe I shouldn’t have had chicken jalfrezi for lunch), and hopefully there’ll also be misc other Frontier people around, seeing Hannah off the premises in time honoured fashion (yes, another person who left Frontier this week, except that in a master stroke of employee morale management, the powers-that-be decided not to tell anyone that she was leaving until two days before it happened – but of course!). With a bit of luck I’ll throw her around the place as I’ve been known to do in the past.

Executive summary: I’m happy.

Righto, so ends another era

Righto, so ends another era in the Gimbo employment tale. Thank you Frontier, and good luck to all your employees. I’ll be back in the Gimboland saddle at some point over the next few days, clart.

You knows it!

Incredible. According to these pages

Incredible. According to these pages about the “Dawn of Man” sequence [consume] in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the best make-up Oscar in 1968 went to Planet of the Apes. Stupidity reigns!

Rayburn update: my earlier post

Rayburn update: my earlier post was inaccurate, due to confusion all round. Apparently it’s not that our particular Rayburn is defunct, it’s that the engineer in question dislikes all Rayburns of its type (ie ones which do the central heating too) as inefficient, and hence doesn’t touch any of them any more. We’ve found a Rayburn-friendly engineer who’s going to come for a look later in the week some time – although he tells me that yes, they are intrinsically inefficient. We’ll probably install a boiler in parallel with it some time, which’ll have the added advantage of being timer-controlled. Anyway, there we are. Vendor not such a fuckwit as earlier expressed.

The Illustrated Beowulf – nice

The Illustrated Beowulf – nice [robot].

The Orbital Recovery Corporation, which

The Orbital Recovery Corporation, which would be a lot better if it had Paul & Phil Hartnoll manning the spaceships [gamma].

Episode two of Jury Service

Episode two of Jury Service is out.

“I will also nail to the wall the hide of anyone who talks about Exhibit A outside this room, because there are hardware superweapons and there are software superweapons, and we don’t know what Exhibit A is, yet. For all we know it’s a piece of hardware that looks like a portable shower cubicle then turns round and installs antique Microsoft crashware in your thalamus.”

Japan’s ‘curry killer’ sentenced to

Japan’s ‘curry killer’ sentenced to death.

According to the rights group Amnesty International, there are at least 118 people currently on death row in Japan, some 50 of whom have had their sentences upheld and can be executed at any time.

Prisoners are informed they are going to be executed less than two hours before they are hanged, AI says, and family and friends are not told in advance.

Kell Dewclaw. :-)

Kell Dewclaw. :-)

A short Loopback device FAQ,

A short Loopback device FAQ, including instructions on using loopback to mount an ISO image without burning it to a CD-ROM. Also, notes on CD Ripping, Recording, and Audio Mastering.

We had the “Goodbye Andy”

We had the “Goodbye Andy” drinking session last Friday, here in Cardiff. Myself and a hand-picked possee of techies and buddies started out in the bar at Chapter Arts Centre, Canton, which has an excellent selection of European beers including the rather outrageous Trappistes Rochefort. The plan was to have a few there and then head into town, probably to the Toucan club, there to shake our stuff.

A good time was, I think, had by all. Certainly quite a few of the aforementioned Trappistes were bought for me by my soon-to-be-ex-colleagues, and this had the strange effect of making me rather drunk. I had a good time – I know I had a good time, but exactly what I did remains hazy. Some of us made it to the Toucan, but I wasn’t one of them – my inner circle were called home early, to deal with a small stiletto-heeled tornado (but that’s another story).

One thing became clear today. One wonderful thing I’d totally forgotten about, until Krag Wad kindly reminded me.

While we were still at Chapter, Krag happened to spot Mr Lindsay Whittle, leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, and wondered if I might consider, next time I happened to be sauntering past the good councillor, if I’d mind issuing a subliminal suggestion to “Stop the speedbumps in Caerphilly”. I accepted this mission and duly sauntered. As I recall, I managed to get most of the message across, but I started laughing somewhere around “Caer”. This was, however, considered a great success.

But it doesn’t end there. No, just a minute or so later we noticed him heading for the gents’ toilets. This was too good an opportunity to miss. The possibilities were very exciting: if he entered a cubicle, we could stand outside, haranguing him until he relented. If he stood by a urinal, we could canvas him face to face. We followed him in, only to discover – joy! – he was stood at the middle of the three urinals, perfection itself. I took the one on the left, Krag took the one on the right, and very quietly, to the tune of “Deutchshland Uber Alles”, we began to sing “Stop the speedbumps in Caerphilly”.

We didn’t get far. I think we managed to get one line out, maybe two, but before too long I was totally losing it, and ended up lying on my back laughing my head of.

Fortunately the councillor took it in his stride – presumably as a borough councillor he has to deal with lunatics on a regular basis. With a polite “allright, are you boys?”, he left the scene.

I fear my career in Welsh politics has been dereailed before it has begun. Ah well. It should also be noticed that I have no idea where in Caerphilly the speedbumps are, or why they need to be stopped. But spread the word. Stop the speedbumps in Caerphilly.

Today is my penultimate day

Today is my penultimate day at Frontier. I don’t know how much Gimboland acticity there’ll be over the next couple of weeks, as I settle into my new job. Must get PPP working from home…


Top Quality Bodywear for Dogs – what the?

Jury service

I really hope Jury Service is continued next week – ‘cos it’s pretty good so far [null].


“Blrrrt. Greetings, tech-juror Rogers. I am a guidance iffrit from the People’s Magical Libyan Jamahiriya. Show me to representatives of the People’s Revolutionary Command Councils and I am required to intercede for you. Polish me and I will install translation leeches in your Broca’s area, then assist you in memorizing the Qur’an and hadiths. Release me and I will grant your deepest wish.”

Air travel is so slow you’d almost always be faster going by train. But the Gibraltar bridge is down for repair again and last time Huw caught a TGV through the Carpathians he was propositioned incessantly by a feral privatized blood bank that seemed to have a thing for Welsh T- helper lymphocytes.

Bingo bitchslap

Bingo bitchslap.

I used to belong to a group called the Cardiff Arthurians, who were into King Arthur, castles, and all that. We never quite made it to Castle Bingo though. It is a silly place, as the saying goes.

Stallman and Samaritans

Two Linux stories at the BBC: a short look at Richard Stallman and the Samaritans have started using Linux.

Quantum sheep shit

The bullshit that gets talked about quantum mechanics by people who know nothing about it is incredible. Quantum mechanics and chaos theory are spoken of today the same way X-rays and magnetism were in days gone by. Sheesh.

Fuckwit vendor

The bottle of champagne which our house’s previous occupant left for us does not make up for the news I’ve just received, that the last time the Rayburn was serviced, the engineer told said occupant that he would refuse to service it again as it was on its last legs. Since even a second hand Rayburn will cost us several hundred pounds, I’m not particularly happy that we heard this from the engineer, rather than the vendor (say, before we bought the place).

Tokyo by night

Tokyo [rivets] (415Kb jpeg).

Burn, baby, burn.

The chimney sweep came last week, cleared out the chimneys and told us they were OK to use (previous occupant hadn’t done so). So, last night we lit a fire in the library, thus fulfilling a long-term dream of mine. Super. Now all I have to do is arrange a threesome with some horseriding instructors, and do a session on John Peel’s show, and I’ll be ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Country Bumpkin

I no longer live in Cardiff.

On Saturday afternoon we closed the door on the flat one last time, and drove off into the sunset. After ten years living in Cardiff I have left the building and returned to the leafy countryside. Weird.

Leaving the flat was no problem, but saying goodbye to Ed wasn’t fun. We’ve only known him a year, but in that time, with him lodging in the flat he’s become a good friend and it’s going to be weird not having him around. I know we’ll keep in touch and see each other from time to time, and it’s not like we did everything together, but it’s still sad. I mean, I now have friends who’ve moved away from Cardiff that I see maybe two or three times a year. If you think about it, that means I’ll probably see them somewhere between a hundred and two hundred times again before I die, unless things change. That’s weird. And now, I guess, I’ve entered that class of people, by leaving Cardiff myself.

Uh-oh… Also, I accidentally took Julie’s car keys and purse to work this morning. D’oh!

Gimboland really is on the move

The great Gimboland move has begun in earnest – I’ve just started the process of transferring my domain registrations out to a holding space, which shouldn’t cause any disruption. Early next week, when that’s settled, I’ll repoint the name servers to Webquarry, and hopefully that’ll be smooth too. But you never know, so…

Black widows turn up in Tesco grapes

Black widows turn up in Tesco grapes. It seems that a reduction in the use of pesticides is allowing them to slip through the net. This is great: increasing envrionmental friendliness brings back some of the unwanted elements previously eliminated by our environmental unfriendliness. Are we willing to pay the price? The lady with the kiddies and the grapes says no, apparently.

Windows quietly deletes Unix files

Windows quietly deletes Unix files [RISKS].

Vintage Synths

vintagesynth.org [found] – nice.

For the past two years, my synths, sampler, mixer, etc. have languished unused while the studio reverted to its true state of a bedroom. Now that we’re leaving the flat (cleaning this week to be out on Saturday) and moving into the house, I feel the itch returning. I’ve also got a shiny new computer on its way and have discovered that since the last time I looked, Linux audio has come a long way (eg, check out ardour).

The Peon’s Guide To Secure System Development

The Peon’s Guide To Secure System Development [python-url]

Increasingly incompetent developers are creeping their way into important projects. Considering that most good programmers are pretty bad at security, bad programmers with roles in important projects are guaranteed to doom the world to oblivion. The author feels that a step toward washing himself clean of responsibility is by writing this document. Checking your memcpy() and malloc() calls have been lectured to death. It’s not working. The approach used by this document is to instead shame developers into producing better systems.

If something like Windows plays any part at all in your system design, you should probably give up now. Despite being closed source, holes are discovered constantly. The Windows system is also far too massive, complex, and user unfriendly for human beings to have any hope in securing it.

You say you’re a gifted programmer who can handle pointers like an artisan? Great. Tell that to the other 50,000 gifted programmers who write shit. Shit that can endanger businesses, careers, lives, etc. When the revolution comes, your kind will be the first against the wall. Use a high level language.

Guilloche elements

Guilloche elements – security for physical documents [gamma]. Cool.

Here’s a linux tool for creating them – though it doesn’t, admittedly, look particularly sophisticated.

Income tax and all that

I heard on Radio 4 on Saturday that in the UK, 50% of income tax revenue comes from the top 10% of earners, and in fact 20% of it comes from the top 1%, to which, I say, blimey.

I do hope I’ve remembered those figures correctly.

Nobel prize for anal probing

I didn’t realise there was a Nobel Prize for Anal Probing.

The Black Book of Carmarthen

The Black Book of Carmarthen (thanks, Rich!) No, it’s not Jon Stoneman’s little black book from his roustabout days – it’s a medieval manuscript, recently scanned for your viewing pleasure.

Another oil spill, this time off Wales

Another oil spill, this time off Wales – though it doesn’t sound as bad as last week’s, thankfully.

Democrats twice as likely to die in plane crashes

From a historical standpoint Democrats are twice as likely to die in air crashes as Republicans. Frequently, those who have died were known to have been either involved in the investigation of covert operations or to have taken highly controversial positions in opposition to vested government interests. [rotten]

The numbers are small though: 14 vs 8

Monsoon Wedding

We saw Monsoon Wedding last night – most pleasant. The dialogue, a mix of Hindi and English, was incredibly hard to follow for the first five or ten minutes, until you got used to it. The Hindi was fine, because there were subtitles – but I’ve never heard English spoken so quickly! :-)

Reesespotters anonymous

Sweet, especially as I saw an ickle Reese Witherspoon lookalike on her way to college this morning.

Free photos

Lots of good Gimboland-logo raw material at freestockphotos.com [pants].

Business card art

Some pretty nifty business card art at gapingvoid.com [consume].

I particularly liked please.

Bridge basics

Bridge Basics [gamma].

Interesting… I’d always thought of the Second Severn Crossing as just another suspension bridge (like the first one), but it is in fact a “cable-stayed” bridge. I think I always had a dull realisation in my mind that it was unlike other suspension bridges I’d crossed, but in that zen-like state we all drive in, I never really thought hard enough about it. *shrug*

Churchy gets down with DJ Shopmobility and the Chain

Charlotte Church is fully decked out with draw, rizla, fags and a shiny tracksuit to take up her place of honour in the Goldie Lookin’ Chain. Wish it was true, don’t think it is.

2002-11-25: The Chain come clean.

Free audio books

Free audio books – cool [rivets].

Also, the revolutionary AK-mp3 – a portable mp3 player in the clip of an AK-47. “This is our bit for World Peace. Hopefully, from now on many Militants and Terrorists will use their AK47s to listen to music and audio books?They need to chill out and take it easy.”

Which C++ code structure are you?

Which C++ code structure are you? [rivets].

I am a float: Often noted as being a little unpredicatable, Your imagination and flexability are envyed by many. You dislike being asked specific questions and will speak nonsense if confused.

Well, that last bit’s certainly right.

Airline food – it’s never been better!

I’m booking some flights to Amsterdam in the new year for my bud’s stag night, and I’m just really impressed by the range of food options available: Asian Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Diabetic, Kosher, Low Cholesterol/Fat, Low Sodium/No Salt, Oriental, Low Purin, Raw Vegetarian, Seafood, Vegetarian/Milk/Eggs, Vegetarian/Non Dairy.

I went for “Asian Vegetarian”, just to see what happens. Don’t know what “Purin” is? Me neither. Ah, it’s a golden retriever puppy who, apparently, “looks like a cup of delicious pudding”.

Blue Peter Annual, 1982

I’ve got this.

Entrances To Hell

Entrances To Hell – excellent [wotever].

There’s even one in Cardiff called, bizarrely, Slipknot. Before going looking for entrances yourself, be sure to read the safety page.

Keep ‘em peeled out there people…

Only thirteen years to go, then!

Couple resume seven year trek from South Africa to Cape Horn, after a year’s break to recover from injury.

Last May we set off from the Cape of Good Hope, and spent much of the time limping because James injured his ankle early on.

After eight months and 2,000 km on the road, we came back to England to get it checked out, only to find that walking on it had made it worse and worse. So we’ve had to take a year out while he recovers from surgery.

“…only to find that walking on it had made it worse and worse”? No shit, Sherlock. Still, good luck and all that.

Too much software for me to grok

A long list of too much Linux Multimedia software for me to grok any time soon, at debianlinux.net [robot].

Clean sweep

Dick van Dyke is visiting us today, to sweep our chimneys. Joy!

Nibbling at the nubs of nihilism

Quite a good Red Meat today, I think.


GetContentSize – tells you the proportion of “real text” vs. “HTML cruft” at a given URL [gamma]. Gimboland gets 48.93% – not bad, whereas Frontier’s home page has a measley 7.15%. I don’t understand why this should be the case, however.

Wounded Iraqis buried alive during Gulf War I

I’m pretty much lifting this from [rotten]: Wounded Iraqis buried alive during Gulf War I.

Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, some of them alive and firing their weapons from World War I-style trenches, were buried by plows mounted on Abrams main battle tanks. The Abrams flanked the trench lines so that tons of sand from the plow spoil funneled into the trenches. Just behind the tanks, actually straddling the trench line, came M2 Bradleys pumping 7.62mm machine gun bullets into the Iraqi troops.

“I came through right after the lead company,” said Army Col. Anthony Moreno, who commanded the lead brigade during the 1st Mech’s assault. “What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people’s arms and legs sticking out of them. For all I know, we could have killed thousands.”

Go U.S.A.!

Let’s go infra-red!

I’m thinking about infra-red control for my home PC. Specifically, I want the PC in one room, running xmms, and an IR receiver in another room in the house (where the music will actually play). The Linux Infrared Remote Control project tells me I should be able to get this controller to work, which would be neato, ‘cos it’s only about 20 euros.

The other thing that happened last night

The other thing that happened at the climbing wall last night: I saw a girl who looked like Krag Wad. Those of you who don’t know Krag, please look perplexed now.

Gimbo falls

I had my first “proper” fall while lead-climbing last night.

When you’re rock climbing (which, alas, I’ve only done on indoor walls so far – but very good indoor walls at that), there are basically two ways you can fall.

The first way is when you know you can’t hold on any longer and that you’re going to fall, so you warn your belayer and they take up the slack in the rope. I’d call this a controlled fall, and in the best of these, you basically don’t move anywhere – you can just let go of the wall and stay where you are. I’ve had many of these.

The other way is when you’re making a move and you fail – your foot slips, your grip isn’t strong enough, or you just miss the hold. In this case, because you’re moving there’s usually got to be some slack in the rope, and the belayer hasn’t been warned so you end up falling further as the slack is taken up and the rope stretches a bit – you might descend a few feet, and possibly swing across the wall, depending on how far off the centre line you are. I’ve also had quite a few these by now, but only while top-roping.

Now, top-roping is when you have a rope running from you (the climber) up to the top of the wall, through a fixed point, and back down to the belayer, who takes up the slack as you ascend, then lowers you from the top. It’s a good way to start climbing, but “the real deal” is leading, where there’s no rope attached to the wall at the start, and you clip yourself into protection on the way up. Until you’ve got the first clip in, you’re on your own, and if you fall, you’re in free fall – and because you have to climb past your protection, it’s often impossible for the belayer to take up slack in such a way that you could have a controlled fall as described above – at least, not without you climbing back below your protection before letting go.

Anyway, I was leading for maybe the eighth or ninth time in my short climbing career, and I’d just clipped in to the first bolt on the wall, about ten feet up I guess. I was starting to move up to the next one, passing the clip and off to the right, but my left foot wasn’t well placed. I could tell it wasn’t right, but didn’t see where it should have been until I tried again later. I reached up for my next hold, and the foot slipped off the wall. The next thing I knew, I was dangling with my feet about eighteen inches off the ground, having swung across the wall and down, crashing into Malcolm, belaying me, on the way – he’d been pulled into the wall as I fell.

All in all, it was as good a fall as I could have expected. I didn’t hit the ground (thanks Malc!) and apart from a grazed elbow I was unhurt. We both laughed for a bit, mainly in surprise, then Malc lowered me to the ground and I started again. I thought I’d have lost my nerve but it was OK, and I finished the climb.

I’m sure it’ll be the first of many. I just wanted to note its passing here.

Gimboland is on the move

OK, Gimboland is on the move, from Frontier to Webquarry. Any disruption you experience over the next week or so is entirely intentional. See you on the other side!

Porn movies with almost-real titles

Porn movies whose titles are based on real movie titles. Some are ridiculous, some are disarmingly simple. I think my favourite is “Position: Impossible”.

Insane pencil lead sculpture

Insane pencil lead sculpture [rotten].

SUV drivers for Osama

S.U.V. Drivers for Osama – Keeping up with the Joneses while Supporting Global Jihad [rivets].

Of course, in addition to helping Jihad, driving a fashionable Sport Utility Vehicle confers many social advantages upon a Brother, especially in infidel lands where the SUV is widely regarded as an indication of wealth and prestige. Indeed, Allah may well see fit to bless an SUV-driving Brother with supplicating maidens even before his rendezvous with Paradise.

Gamebutton arcade

Gamebutton arcade [ntk].

The Tale of the Chairs

The Tale of the Chairs

And so it was that our brave adventurers, Sir Andy and Lady Jala, once again sallied forth unto the magical land of Ikea, there to seek good cheap furniture, and to do battle with the crushing hordes of others stupid or busy enough to go on a Saturday. Hope and fortitude were plentiful in their hearts, for they knew what they were after, yea, and they had the van with them.

Their first obstacle, they bested easily. They spoke unto the Guardian of the Sofas and arranged that his minions would deliver their chosen items unto The Nut House, our heroes’ dwelling, struggling under their weight in exchange for a princely sum. All had gone well with this deal, and though the crowds of strolling fools were great about them, they sallied forth in the knowledge that their quest must end well, for they had phoned ahead and checked that their remaining quarry was in stock.

They took their time through the remaining glens and valleys of that fair land, content for the moment to drift downstream with the current about them, whilst keeping their eyes open for a nice waste paper bin. In due course they entered the lower Market Realm, and marvelled at the gadgetry about them, and though such gadgetry was not the intent of their quest, they readily picked up a few handy bits. For it is the way with gadgetry, that though you know it not until you see it, you cannot live without it.

At last they came unto the Warehouse, that vast hall wherein may be found gathered together all the truly wondrous Ikean artifacts. They sought Aisle Twentysix, and lo – there it was before them, and there, on Shelf Nineteen, lay The Forsbyan Dining Table of Stoutness. Their glee was great, for at the end of their last quest in these quarters, the table had been sadly lacking from their treasure. Truly they stood in the Aisle of Plenty, and gladness was in their hearts, for only the Sixfold Rebeckan Chairs remained to be found, and having phoned ahead our adventurers were confident that the chairs could not escape them.

Alas! The chairs were nowhere to be seen, when shortly thereafter was found Aisle Twentyeight, Shelf Eight, their appointed place. Our heroes’ consternation was great, for it seemed that all their preparation and endeavour had come to naught, and that they would, after all, have to return to that place next week. Their hearts were heavy at this prospect, for though the land of Ikea is full of wondrous things, it lay far from their come in Carmarthenshire, and they had other stuff they really needed to be getting on with. Lady Jala wailed and gnashed her teeth, and only Sir Andy’s calming words prevented her from smiting down the Guardian of Aisle Twentyeight immediately, though the blame lay not with him.

The heroes conferred as to what should be done next. It seemed they had no option but to return another time and hope for better chance, but then Sir Andy remembered the bargain they had struck with the Guardian of the Sofas. Perhaps a similar bargain might be reached, which would see the Sixfold Rebeckan Chairs delivered unto their own land without further effort upon our adventurers’ parts? Indeed, since the Guardians of the Warehouse and the Dining departments served the same overlord as the Guardian of the Sofas, might not the Chairs be attached to the same order? This plan seemed good, and so Lady Jala stood guard over the treasures already gained, whilst Sir Andy sallied forth to speak with the Guardian of the Warehouse with their hopeful proposition.

Now, Sir Andy was generally, by nature, a gentle and reasonable man, particularly when accompanied by the fiesty Lady Jala, whose anger could be great, and upon whom he oftentimes called himself to act as a calming influence. And so he spoke to the Guardian of the Warehouse full of cheer and good humour, and received the news that no, he would need to speak to the Goblins of Home Delivery about that mate, with calm and hopefulness. Before returning to his companion, he asked the Guardian to check that the Sixfold Chairs were indeed absent, and was surprised to learn that according to the Great Computer, their should be Fourteenfold Rebecka Chairs in that place.

“Is the shelf empty?”, said the Guardian?

“Indeed it is, Sir”, replied our champion.

“Then the shelf is empty.”

With those words ringing in his ears, Sir Andy returned to his Lady – and alas that he did not pursue that point further with the Guardian there and then, for much painful battle might have been averted. But it is the way with such moments, that they pass us by before we realise, and it is only time and reflection which leads us to know their importance at last, too late for any action.

They crossed the barrier of the Tills, fighting their way through the hordes until they reached the quiet haven wherein lay the Home Delivery and its Goblin Horde, where they waited a short time while the Chief Goblin listened to the entreaties of another weary traveller. In time they had their say, and were dismayed to learn that in fact the ones who could help them would be the Priestesses of that most mystical sect, Customer Services, and to see a Priestess they needs must take a ticket and wait their turn.

A ticket they took, and their turn they awaited, and all the while Sir Andy told Lady Jala to remain calm and that surely they would have satisfaction now, for if the Priestesses of Customer Services could not help them, yea, who could? Lady Jala poured not a little scorn upon Sir Andy’s entreaties, as she is wont to do at such times, but Sir Andy knew that this was simply the Cosmic Balance at work, made manifest in that eternal struggle called love, and inwardly he was glad so see her spoiling for a fight, believing as he did that a little “good cop bad cop” might be a fearsome weapon against their adversaries, should the struggle take a turn for the worse.

In due course their number was called, and they approached the Priestess, as she sat at her alter, before the Great Computer. Our heroes were a little dismayed, for they had hoped to meet one of Great Veneration, and yet the first flush of youth was still upon this Priestess’s cheeks. Their fears, alas, were soon realised. Sir Andy explained that they sought the Sixfold Rebecka Chairs, and those items being absent from the Warehouse, they were hopeful that the Chairs might be attached unto their order that Sofas be delivered unto their home. Or, if such an attachment were impossible, perhaps the order for the Sofas might be torn up, and replaced with a new order containing both the Sofas and the Chairs. Surely all comers will agree that such ideas were entirely reasonable, and exactly the kind of thing that a Priestess of Customer Services, with her Great Computer before her, ought to be able to do without a moment’s thought. Alas, the Priestess was ignorant as to the feasability of their request, and sought assistance from others of her house. Sir Andy was dismayed to hear her relay their entreaty less than faithfully, for she made it known that they wished to cancel their order, or failing that, attach the Chairs to it – whereas the opposite was in fact true – but no matter, for in fact, whilst such a thing might indeed be possible, it was not in the power of the Priestess to grant it. Instead our heroes must travel back to the realm of Sofas, there to entreat upon the Guardian to extend the order they had earlier placed in his care.

At this point in our story a subtle shift starts to occur, as Sir Andy’s calm demeanour starts to slip and be replaced by incredulity at the inabilities of the Ikean system. For if it is possible to conjure forth such an end through the Great Computer in the realm of Sofas, then surely the Priestesses of Customer Service, whose task is to maintain Customer Satisfaction in the face of Imperilled Shopping Experience, should have that capability also? After all, are not their Great Computers but windows unto an all-pervading Majestic Computer connecting all the realms of Ikea together? This, mused Sir Andy, is what you get when you use VMS.

The brave and by now weary adventurers left that place of disappointment, and hurried back to the realm of Sofas, pausing only to pick up a Customer Feedback form upon which to vent their anger. At their arrival where earlier they had stood with such hope and energy, they accosted the Guardian and made plain their desires, with such grave expressions as could not fail but to convey the seriousness of this matter. Hope, which springs eternal, sprang forth once again as the Guardian told them that yes, he could indeed do that for them, and would do so immediately. Yet just as hope springs eternal, so too is the way of the adventurer strewn with cowpats from The Devil’s Own Satanic Herd, and it was the Guardian’s unenviable task to relay the sad news that because the Sixfold Chairs of Rebecka are lacking a mystical property known as a lead time, it is impossible to order them to be delivered to your home at a later date. Indeed, he said, the only way to achieve such an end is to actually find them in the Warehouse, take them from the Shelf upon which they lay, and hie them to the Goblins of Home Delivery.

It has already been remarked upon that Sir Andy’s demeanour had begun to slip. At this point, it is fair to say, it lay in shattered pieces at his feet, his face turned red, and nails of iron began to issue from his mouth at the poor Guardian. A rare moment indeed, for it was then Lady Jala’s turn to take Sir Andy by the arm and urge restraint, for once again, the Guardian was not himself at fault. The Guardian gave them one glimmer of hope: travel once again (“Ah! The runaround!”, quoth Sir Andy) to the realm of Dining wherein lay the home of the Sixfold Chairs, and ask the Great Guardian of Dining for assistance, for perhaps in his power he might be able to cause an exception to be made.

With heavy hearts, and wondering whether other chairs might be acceptable to them, our questing heroes made the unwelcome journey to Dining, there to seek such assistance. The Great Guardian was readily identified by his confident and controlling manner, but immediately dashed their hopes of such an arrangement, saying that without a lead time, it would be unutterably impossible, and though Sir Andy might stand there unto his last day lamenting the failings of the situation, it could not change.

However. The Great Guardian took no small interest in their tale of the things that had occurred in the Warehouse, and the fact that the Great Computer said there should be Fourteenfold Rebecka Chairs upon the Shelf. It was, he said, entirely possible that the chairs were present, but not where they should by rights be, and if the weary travellers would but wait one moment, he would take hidden paths to the Warehouse realm, there to seek them out. Three minutes, maximum.

Our heroes waited in that realm for him to return, all the time espying other chairs that might serve to end their quest that day, but pained in their hearts at the prospect, for none seemed so lovely to their eye (or their rear end) as the Rebecka. And here our tale takes its final turn, and a glad one at that, for the Great Guardian returned with the happy news that the Chairs were indeed there, having been mislaid, and that he had set aside a Sixfold bundle for the completion of their quest, which could be collected on Aisle One. And there was much rejoicing.

They ventured once again into the realm of the Warehouse, sought and found their chairs in Aisle One, and finally returned to Aisle Twentyeight, that scence of earlier devestation, there to collect their other treasures. Upon the way, they amused each other with tales of how, in their absence, some rogue had undoubtedly come across their unguarded treasure and taken it for their own, rendering the quest incomplete, and so they were glad indeed to find that this had not taken place, and the treasure was safe.

They took their place at the Till crossing, paid the toll, loaded their treasures unto their mighty steed Astravan, and set forth from that place, vowing not to return any time soon. Little did they realise that once they had assembled that little table lamp picked up as an afterthought, they would desire at least one more, maybe two, and so, as is the way with men who are slaves to their lust, seal their own fates. But that will be another tale, for another day.

Gimbo invents a new word

As a follow-up from this weblog entry, Gimbo invents a new word.

Nuggets of robot wisdom

Three tasty nuggets of robot wisdom: a stonking close-up of a sun-spot, James “Kibo” Parry’s mildly disgusting account of Thai bug essence, and some stuff about microkernels, which introduces to me the exciting concept of exokernels:

In contrast, the exokernel architecture implements nothing in kernel space. The exokernel’s sole purpose is to securely multiplex hardware resources among user-space processes. Device drivers, virtual memory, even cpu multiplexing and process management are implemented in user space. Supervisor-mode hardware events, like timer ticks, page faults, etc., activate stub handlers in the kernel that simply pass the event to a user-level process that implements the relevant facility’s policy.

Goodbye hit counter

The Gimboland hit counter just passed 20,000 hits.

Now, I’m moving the site (and the trek site) to a different hosting service (probably WebQuarry) some time during the next three weeks, at which point the count would have to start from zero again. Furthermore, some people think hit counters are a bad idea anyway, and to be honest I think they have a point (in fact I’d agree with everything on that page, pretty much). It’s been interesting to watch the counter tick up (and accelerate – w00t) over time, but I could get the same information and more accurately by other means.

Thus, I’ve decided to drop the hit counter from this moment on. If you feel a gaping hole in your heart and need to watch something counting, you could do worse than the prime number shitting bear [rivets]. For some reason mine is stuck on 2. Heh – number twos. *snigger*

I am an Evany fanboy

Evany’s apartment building caught fire. Spoiler: she and her cat are both fine. I’m turning into such an Evany fanboy. How embarassing.

Raw photography

Some incredibly powerful photographs by Japanese artist Manabu Yamanaka [buffoonery].

Face Blind

Face Blind – fascinating.

I was born with a condition that makes it difficult for me to recognize faces. There is a small part of the brain that is dedicated to that job, and though it is small, when it comes to recognizing faces, it is very very good. In me, that part doesn’t work, making me blind to all but the most familiar of faces.

The closest I’ll get to space travel

My name is going to Mars, and so is Julie’s. Yours can too [gamma].

Ah, those crazy Irish…


Learn to speak Welsh

Clwb Malu Cachu, including swearing in Welsh [found].


Potted biographies of Bill Gates, John Rockefeller, and Cornelius Venderbilt [via robot].

Dolphin attack!

Another reason to take some time out and replenish North Sea cod stocks: hungry dolphins are attacking humans and porpoises [rotten].

Level five vegan

I wonder what happens at level six.


Pseudodictionary – a dictionary of words that don’t officially exist [rivets].

I have submitted a word for possible inclusion, and shall update the loyal Gimboland readership as to its acceptance or otherwise in due course.

But Grommit – it’s the wrong York!

Man banned from driving after trusting in-car computer [Risks]. Amusing.

Andy dreams of…

I did the googlism thing last week, but Anita suggests looking for dreams.

Andy dreams of

…a Willy Wonkonian world with chocolate rivers, candy flowers, and schnozberry flavored wallpaper.
…the riches to come.
…ripping the whole thing up and using the substantial space to build a snowflex fun park similar to the Sheffield masterpiece he helped create.
…a day when he can surf on the moon.
…a large party with all his friends and a bottomless keg.
…getting out of jail.
…being spanked by Anna Kournikova.

Strange but true.

Waving cat

Fantastic waving cat animated gif [pants].

Anti-telemarketing counterscript

Anti-telemarketing Counterscript [pants].

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

Includes an A4 PDF version of the script. But will I ever have to guts to try it?

Personal Johnny

Johnny Cash covers Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus [null]. I’ve heard it and it’s fantastic. Johnny Cash rules the universe.

That damn ceiling

House news: the living room ceiling is nearly done! I finished sanding it on Sunday, then had to mask off the beams ready for painting. I’m not spending every night at the house yet, so yesterday evening saw me putting the finishing touches to the masking, as Julie got to work with a long-handled paint roller. In no time at all, the first coat was basically complete, except for some “cutting in” with a small brush.

It’s somewhat vexing that I spent so long sanding these boards down only to have Julie come along and just go “lah-de-dah, tum-de-dum, slap-slap-slap, oh look – the ceiling’s painted!”. Of course, it was then Muggins who got to stand on the stepladder, cutting in, which still isn’t quite finished – plus we’ll probably do another coat at the weekend. I figure it will have taken about twenty-four hours of work in total. Crazy. I’m sure someone a little less perfectionist and pernickety could probably have done it in half the time, but hey, that’s the way it goes in Gimboland.

Oh yes – I almost forgot the exciting part. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear goggles while I was painting. Alas for that, because while I was cutting in, I managed to drop a largish blob of white paint into my left eye, to my great surprise and consternation. I managed to get off the stepladder and stumble into the hallway, calling for Julie, who was in the next room sorting out books, as I went. She took my hand and led me up the stairs to the bathroom so I could wash it out with water.

At this point I should probably, like Douglas Adams in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide, assure my audience of the ultimate safety and happiness of our hero. I’m sure you’re all very concerned about my eyesight, but rest easy: the paint was a water-based matt vinyl emulsion and can be – and was – washed out without harm. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Now, the most enjoyable part was certainly just after I’d slapped some water on it a few times. This had had the effect of washing most of the paint away, but when I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw thick streaks of paint down my nose and cheek, and a kind of floating haze of white paint shimmering all over my left eyeball – all seen through a whitish mist, of course. This was the first time Julie had got a good look (my head was bowed as she led me upstairs), and I believe her reaction was something along the lines of “fucking hell”. It really did look rather cool.

I continued to rinse my eye and my face until it was mostly gone, then washed my hands thoroughly and we both had a good look at the eyeball. There were quite a few tiny white stringy speckles to be extracted, but nothing too bad. The only pain I felt was a result of Julie pulling my eyelids around a little overenthusiastically – the paint itself caused no pain or even discomfort, just lots of whiteness.

We consulted the tin, and it said to rinse well with water and seek medical assistance. We considered this last piece of advice gravely. On the one hand, eyesight is not something to be trifled with, and if that’s what it says on the tin, maybe there’s a good reason for them saying that. On the other hand, they probably have to say that to cover themselves, don’t they, and if I go to casualty I’ll probably be sat around waiting for two hours in order for somebody to just wash my eye out with sterile water instead of tap water. Which of the hands was to be believed?

There was only one thing for it: we consulted a higher authority, ie Julie’s Dad, who is wise in the ways of building and decoration (and who, by the by, has been unutterably fantastic in helping us sort out the house in more ways than I can mention here without turning this into Andy’s DIY blog, which it is veering dangerously close to anyway). Gladly, George assured us that he’d done the same thing “hundreds of times” and that as long as we washed it out well and it wasn’t hurting, it should be just fine. If it had been gloss, he said, it would be another matter: for a start it would have been burning with pain and we’d probably have not bothered calling him – straight to casualty – but matt vinyl emulsion is a friendlier beast.

Joy! I got back to it, taking greater care not to place my head directly underneath the roving paintbrush. So far, so good.

Democracy continues to bleed

More worries about electronic voting in America in the latest Risks Digest.

The general consensus among election officials and voters seems to be that the all-electronic machines are a great improvement, relatively easy to use, and inherently able to prevent overvotes. The general consensus among knowledgeable computer security experts seems to be that almost all of the existing all-electronic systems could relatively easily be rigged by internal fraud in the software and external manipulation of the local polling-place configurations and could also be subject to undetected internal errors, because of an almost complete absence of meaningful audit trails and independent verification of the consistency of votes tabulated with votes cast. Just because an all-electronic machine looks like it might be working, how do you *KNOW* it is doing the right thing? From a RISKS perspective, a perceived potential lack of integrity is a serious obstacle to democracy.

Scary Squirrel World

Scary Squirrel World, including three marvellous theories on their origins (I favour the “natural” theory, personally).

(Reached via this exciting news story.)

Big brown beastie, big brown face

I like beer, and I like cheese. I like the smell of a westerly breeze. But what I like more than all of these. Is to be on horseback.


This is a public apology for wishing my brother a happy birthday two days late. At least he got his pressie in time. His birthday and the mothership’s are on adjacent days, and whilst I can remember when hers is, I always get confused if his is the day before or the day after. Ah well, in future years, all I need to do is refer to Gimboland, I guess!

Eroticus librarianus

There’s been lots of hormonally charged discussion amongst the techies in the office today about cute librarians. Alas, a search for cute librarian gallery produced little other than porn. Shame.

By the way, if anyone’s looking for someone to audit their accounts, all the boys in the office recommend Grant Thornton.

I heart evany

I <heart> evany. But I’ve only just noticed that she’s hosted at diaryland, not dairyland, which is, of course, a farm theme-park in Cornwall.

A year ago today…

A year ago today I had the best day of my life. The weather today is exactly the same, and my heart is aching. Boo…

The USA according my racist aunt

A map of “the USA according to my racist aunt” – superb [pants].

Flash your rack

Flash Your Rackhotornot meets, well, nudity. I’m surprised it’s taken so long, to be honest. Not particularly worksafe, obviously. Nice logo, though.

Why paint cats?

Why Paint Cats – “The ethics of feline aesthetics” (and the book’s own website). Looking at some the authors’ other works (Dancing With Cats and Why Cats Paint), it seems that it’s entirely tounge-in-cheek and that nobody actually paints cats. On the other hand, life imitates art, and if this was done in Photoshop, it’s pretty good. [via pants]

And while we’re on the subject of people doing stupid things to humilate their pets, here’s a load of pets dressed up for halloween [also via pants]. My personal favourite.

Another python tutorial

Another (large) python tutuorial in the form of David M. Beazley’s slides from OSCON 2000. The slides are brief but there are many of them (kinda like sushi or maybe sex with Arnold J Rimmer). Here’s an index of the slides.


This looks fun: StarLogo [gamma].

StarLogo is a programmable modeling environment for exploring the workings of decentralized systems — systems that are organized without an organizer, coordinated without a coordinator. With StarLogo, you can model (and gain insights into) many real-life phenomena, such as bird flocks, traffic jams, ant colonies, and market economies.

Definitely something to play with once I start my new job, I think, along with PyKarel (about which here is an article).

Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World

Exteremely interesting/insightful interview with Mark Hertsgaard, author of “The Eagle’s Shadow” [robot], which I’m now going to quote to death:

Right now the emissions of one American are equal to about 19 Indians and about 45 Chinese. [The Chinese] are saying that if you want to talk about this, just realize that we use about 10 percent of the energy you Americans do. That’s where it plays out. It’s not resentment that we have wealth but it’s what we do with our wealth.

Half of humanity lives on less than $2 per day, but this is at a time that because of television, the poor — for the first time in human history — really do understand how well the rich live. They are not going to continue to accept their impoverished status. Somehow over these next 50 to 100 years, those people will rise up. They are going to escape poverty one way or another. The great challenge facing our civilization globally is how we accommodate that.

If we keep going with the American model — and I mean the entire high-consumption model — we’re fried. There’s no way that we can escape severe climate change and all of the disasters that come with that. That’s where the resentment does come from. If we were really serious about being a global leader, that’s where we would be putting our energy.

That’s the fundamental problem — we don’t want to listen. We want to tell. We’re so used to being the big boys. The arrogant person never knows they’re arrogant and that’s the problem with our official stance in the world.

The tea is made

The invention of the teasmade, and indeed lots of teasmade information at – where else – www.teasmade.com [via rivets].

I have fond childhood memories of my parents’ teasmade, which sat on a bedside table on the mothership’s side, and which went from striking me as terribly advanced and technical, to striking me as terribly quaint and whimsical as time passed and I grew older. Such is the way with many “mod cons”, I suppose – which is good for those of us who surf the internet for post-ironic kitsch.

(By thw way, thank you Shauny, for introducing me to the term “mothership” in this context. My Mum hates to be called “mother”, but hopefully Android can get away with calling her the mothership, though I haven’t remembered to do so in person – yet.)

(Also, apologies for using the term “post-ironic”. No, I don’t know what it means either.)


Terrifica – absolutely terrific, naturally. [rotten]

Spammers delight

This really happens.

Timezones in Unix and Windows filesystems

The latest Risks digest has an interesting note on Windows daylight saving and file time-stamps, and the subtle difference between how Unix and Windows handle them.

Stupid lambda tricks

Whilst looking for information on using lambda forms in python, I came across stupid lambda tricks, which has some interesting and nifty things to say, if you’re a python geek.

Also, some nice notes on python’s recently revamped sort() method, with doovy references.

My wall fever is returning

Big-up thanks to Mark Hughes and family for some positive feedback on Gimboland and Andy’s Trek – it’s always nice to be praised. ;-)

Great Wall fans: check out their pictures of the Huanghua section, which are really rather good – as is most of their travelogue, to be honest. This is the section of “wild” (ie reconstructed) wall which we tackled on the third day of our trek (four months after Mark and family). To my shame, I haven’t uploaded my own photos of this section yet – yes, a year later – but these are a lovely reminder. Check out the panorama which Mark took at the point where we turned off to the right and descended through orchards back to the road. The section seen in the panorama was deemed too dangerous for our group – even for the hardcore. That steep downward slope, whose hairiness I could only glimpse from afar can be well appreciated in this superb shot.

I long to go back, and to tackle this section. I long to go back, full stop. Anthony Feasey at the National Star Centre had told me he was running a wild wall trek in 2003 which would take us there, but the website (thegreatwall.co.uk) is “somewhat sparse”. I should drop him an email – except he’s probably in China right now on this year’s trek, the lucky git.

Great caption on this picture.

Dr. Estrella’s Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers

Dr. Estrella’s Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers [rivets]. A handy little quick-reference resource.

Get it while it’s hot

Human flesh “on sale in London” [rotten]

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