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!