uck Wa! [ntk] – also,

uck Wa! [ntk] – also, buy the t-shirt.

Mad… As I sat in

Mad… As I sat in that seminar, I idly wondered what the speaker was using to present his work, ruefully admitting to myself that it was almost certainly PowerPoint, despite the presence of all those lines of lovely LaTeX-looking maths, and I idly wondered what I would use when my turn came, concluding it’d probably be acetate sheets and an overhead projector (the same as in my lectures).

But what’s this? In a remarkable bout of synchronicity, Need To Know tell me about OperaShow – if you hit F11 in Opera it goes full screen and if you build your pages and stylesheets correctly, it’ll even split the page into slides. Horrorshow! Hurrah for Need To Know and purveyors of non-Microsoft software everywhere…

Blimey. I’ve just left a

Blimey. I’ve just left a seminar in which I understood perhaps five of the sentences which were spoken. Still, it’s made me want to refamiliarise myself with the lambda calculus, which I guess isn’t a bad thing. Unless I wish to retain my sanity, that is.

An interview with Steven Wright,

An interview with Steven Wright, who I really haven’t seen enough of for the last few years…

Captain Ribman on the sexual

Captain Ribman on the sexual revolution.

Well, that went reasonably well.

Well, that went reasonably well. 113 students, according to the attendance sheet. The time was gone before I knew it. I felt like I was talking too much, but then had to remind myself that I’m the lecturer so that’s kinda the idea. Weird.

The really weird part was using chalk on a blackboard. I just hadn’t expected that – I assumed it was all whiteboards. There’s just something about chalk and a blackboard that feels, I don’t know, just weird. But in a good way. Right, back to work, I’ve got to get to grips with the notes for tomorrow’s lecture. :-)

Oh my god… Only an

Oh my god… Only an hour and a quarter to go until my first lecture. Aaaaaaargh!

Phil Greenspun hopped in a

Phil Greenspun hopped in a Winnebago and went round America for five months, taking some pretty groovy photographs on the way, as usual [robot]. And, as Jorn says, writing some nice rants. For instance:

It occurred to us that, as a matter of protocol, Queen Victoria would not have dealt directly with the potentate of an insignificant foreign land. It would have diminished the citizens of England to see their leader treating one-on-one with the leader of an inferior nation. A problem like Saddam would have been delegated to a 3rd undersecretary in the Foreign Office. When asked about Iraq, we kept expecting to hear George W. say “I’m not sure. I delegated that problem to Colonel Smith and he is going to report back to me in three months. Can we move on to questions that more directly concern our society?” But of course it never happened.

Unpleasant reading: The Stinkyfeet Project,

Unpleasant reading: The Stinkyfeet Project, The Fat Project, and in case you haven’t seen it before, The Stinkymeat Project [wotever].

Also via wotever, and also unpleasant and disturbing, but in many different ways: Tardblog. I sat on the bus taking me to work this morning, with a styrofoam cup of good, hot, sweet tea in my hand and a great book on my lap, gazing at the gently rolling Welsh countryside as it meandered past, and I pondered how happy I was, and how good life is at the moment: a house in a beautiful place, a woman I love, and a job which is reminding me exactly how fulfilling work can actually be. I thought to myself “what a fantastic planet”. Two hours later I read stuff like this and I’m reminded that for a hell of a lot of people, it’s a shitty, painful, frightening, god-awful planet. Everybody’s got problems, but chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re relatively well placed and should be thanking God or your lucky stars or just something every day for the life you lead.

I know I do.

Jala and I went to

Jala and I went to see Once Upon A Time In The Midlands last night. Not brilliant, but pretty good and with some very funny and/or touching moments. There were about ten of us in the cinema – and until five minutes before it started, just the two of us. Shirley Henderson – mmmm.

Classic Astronomy Picture of the

Classic Astronomy Picture of the Day today – the Horsehead Nebula.

Lots of “quick reference cards”

Lots of “quick reference cards” [gamma] including a handy-looking one for TeX. I put “quick reference cards” in quotes because, for God’s sake, the bash programming one is six pages long!

The Gimboland layout is achieved,

The Gimboland layout is achieved, in time-honoured fashion, using HTML tables. However, these days that’s not seen as A Good Thing, and it’s in fact possible to achieve the same end using Cascading Style Sheets. Here’s a page which shows how it’s done (in particular see this page [gamma].

I’m not about to implement any big changes just yet – I’m waaay too busy. But maybe sometime… Hmmm, and the text doesn’t seem to wrap nicely if the window’s too small. Wonder if there’s a way to make that work.

man 1 lsd – first

man 1 lsd – first time I’ve seen this. Wonder how I can weave it into the Operating Systems course…

The Magdalene Laundries – more

The Magdalene Laundries – more bonkers stuff brought to you by the Catholic church.

Sixteen years ago today, the

Sixteen years ago today, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after launch. For me, it’s my “Kennedy getting shot” moment – I was playing the space-trading game Elite on my ZX Spectrum when I heard [rotten].

The L-curve [buffoonery].

The L-curve [buffoonery].

It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that this is the person upon whom Leonardo Dicaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can is based. In which case, I particularly like, in his “Experience and qualifications” section:

First-hand personal knowledge and experience in exploring methods for altering documents and overcoming security measures and, subsequently, in evaluating secure document features, techniques, practices and safeguards useful in combatting fraud.


Cor… I’ve just got back

Cor… I’ve just got back from attending my first lecture in about seven years. CS_226, Computability Theory with the very nice Dr Ulrich Berger. What’s particularly nice is that the person who decides which lectures/courses I attend is me – I don’t have to, but if I want to, I can. Kewl.

It was also a good opportunity to take a sneaky peak at the second years, and at the lecture theatre. Watching Dr Berger search for the blackboard lightswitch means I don’t have to, which should save me from a little sniggering on Thursday.

Very pleasing to note the guy falling asleep a few seats to my left. Perhaps not a good idea to sit in the front row next time, mate.

On Start The Week this

On Start The Week this morning (warning: two identical cheese-matic pictures of Andrew Marr on that site), I heard about Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain by Polly Toynbee, which sounds like a jolly good read.

Could you live on the minimum wage? Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee took up the challenge, living in one of the worst council estates in Britain and taking whatever was on offer at the job centre. What she discovered shocked even her. In telesales and cake factories, as a hospital porter or a dinner-lady, she worked at breakneck pace for cut-rate wages, alongside working mothers and struggling retirees. The service sector is now administered by seedy agencies offering no prospects, no screening and no commitment. Most damning of all, Toynbee found that despite the optimism of Tony Blair’s New Deal, the poorly paid effectively earn less than they did thirty years ago. Britain has the lowest social spending and the highest poverty in Europe. As the income gap between top and bottom has widened, so social mobility has shuddered to a halt. The low-paid are caught in an economic double bind that victimises them and shames the rest of us.

I must confess to being a little sceptical about the claim that Britain has the highest poverty in Europe. Perhaps that’s another reason I should read the book…

Booze rules [wotever]. My favourites:

Booze rules [wotever]. My favourites:

2. Always toast before doing a shot.

41. Anyone on stage or behind a bar is fifty percent better looking.

42. You can tell how hard a drinker someone is by how close they keep their drink to their mouth.

52. Your songs will come on as you’re leaving the bar.

82. There’s nothing wrong with drinking before noon. Especially if you’re supposed to be at work.

Fatmouse does not use money.

Fatmouse does not use money. Fatmouse eats money. Fatmouse shreds money for bedding. Fatmouse requires very much bedding. Your money belongs to Fatmouse. [wotever]. Strange. Don’t miss the great picture of General McFlabwobble, getting escorted through Grand Central Station by his honour guard.

The best man will have

The best man will have sparkling cider, thank you – wtf?

Update, 2003-01-29: Keri (whose page I hadn’t looked at yet – she’s totally hot) wrote to me to explain that the best man is indeed the ickle Michael pictured, and as such will have sparkling cider instead of champagne. This confused me at first, because isn’t cider alcoholic also (?), but then I realised that maybe it’s just that ickle Michael doesn’t like champagne. I know I didn’t when I was as ickle as that.

UK wobbles over ID card

UK wobbles over ID card plan.

The UK Government appears to be getting cold feet over its proposals for a nationwide identity card scheme.

Speaking at a conference on the future of ID cards organised by tech industry body Intellect, Home Office Minister Lord Falconer told delegates that the government may change its mind.

It’s amazing what a bit of feedback can do (see ntk 2003-01-10 and ntk 2003-01-17 for context).



Sun Pillar – nice.

Sun Pillar – nice.

Richard Herring, of Fist of

Richard Herring, of Fist of Fun fame (and other, crapper, stuff) has started a weblog (thanks, Si).

Mad pictures abound on the

Mad pictures abound on the internet, and here’s a collection obtained via buffoonery. They’re mainly juvenile or uninteresting, but some are quite funny, eg:

Cat, Bike, Terrorist, Maylok (wtf???), Fridge, Halloween Costume.

Cloning does not lead to

Cloning does not lead to duplication [robot]. Good, glad to hear it.

The Films They Dare Not

The Films They Dare Not Make Today – Dune, Starship Troopers, and Fight Club [rivets].

Some particularly bleak Get Your

Some particularly bleak Get Your War On [robot].

Ender’s Game, a short story

Ender’s Game, a short story by Orson Scott Card. No idea if it’s any good or not, because I haven’t read it yet. :-)

I’ve just (five minutes ago,

I’ve just (five minutes ago, over lunch), finished reading Bill Tilman‘s “The Ascent of Nanda Devi“, his account of the 1936 conquest of that peak which, at that time, was the highest mountain climbed (though people had climbed higher elsewhere without reaching a summit). Anyway, It’s fantastic – I just love his writing style. Very dry and humourous, and very very English indeed. Lots and lots of moments like this:

My suit-case had now arrived, and in it another exciting discovery awaited me in the shape of the havoc wrought by an uncorked bottle of ink.

It is therefore pleasing to record that in clibming Nanda Devi no mechanical aids were used – apart, that is, from the Apricot Brandy.

The Americans and ourselves do not always see eye to eye, but on those rare occasions when we come together to do a job of work, as, for example, in war or in the more serious matter of climbing a mountain, we seem to pull together very well.

I’ve also just started (over the weekend) reading Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods. It’s very Sandman (as you might expect) and seems to be exploring an idea which kept cropping up in that series, about gods being a product of, and consumer of, belief. Odin seems to be a major character in the book (under the name Wednesday – heh), and Ishtar has also appeared, and I expect we’ll see more of her later – both of these feature fairly prominently in Sandman. So far, very good indeed.

Some randomish thoughts and highlights

Some randomish thoughts and highlights from our trip to The ‘Dam:

In the Post Office on Friday morning about 30 minutes before the taxi arrived to take us to the airport: frantic delivery of a crash-course on how to fill in your E111 for the four of us (out of six) who didn’t have one. D’oh!

At Cardiff airport: speculation as to whether it would, these days, be easier to actually steal a plane from the runway than to hijack one in mid-air.

At Schipol airport on the way out: Rich arsing around in an automatically revolving door, putting his arm through the ever-decreasing gap, etc. and then being surprised when it hit him in the face – much to the amusement of Dave, myself, and a random fellow passenger.

At Schipol airport on the way back: Rich stepping into an automatically revolving door and then wondering why it had stopped, before realising it wasn’t actually automatic and you had to push it to make it turn – much to the amusement of Dave, myself, and a random fellow passenger.

Outside the front door of the hostel: two black dogs (poodles, it turned out) came running at us and barking. I stood my ground, but was surprised to receive (as Malcolm put it) “a nip” on my left thigh. Son of a bitch! At first I thought it was nothing, just a pinch, but when we got inside, I discovered that it had drawn blood in three places – not deep (“’tis but a flesh wound”), but vexing nonetheless. I’m up to date on tetanus, and the others promised to monitor my condition, and take me to hospital if I started raving nonsense and foaming at the mouth.

I’d like to stress that this was a “proper” full-size poodle with all its hair, rather than a brainlessly-shorn miniature poodle (see diagram below), and thus my wounding is not utterly without respect. All the same, there is now no doubt as to my Red Indian name, which is “Mauled By Poodles”, and in honour of this discovery, Gimboland has been renamed for a short while.

Poodles - big/black vs. white/stupid

In the Dampkring coffeeshop (our first stop): the most relaxed cat in the Universe. I mean, I’ve seen relaxed cats, but this bad boy took the crown, no doubt about it. At first, Anthony thought it wasn’t real, and if you stroked it it kinda felt like it might not have been, so minimal was the reaction. But the careful observer would occasionally see it sit up and open its eyes for a moment, before stretching a bit and then laying down again. Over time it seemed to get lower and lower, and to spread out across the table top, Dali-like. This got me thinking that Sony had it wrong with Aibo, and that a much cooler robot pet would be a cat which just slept all day, occasionally moving ever so slightly. Over time it could develop further behaviour, such as actually walking around, jumping on your lap, etc. I’d buy one (or I would have until I was in a position to get an actual cat, which I am now). When bored of Dampkring, we found a Rokerij instead – tiny stools!

Our first meal on Friday night was at “The Golden Chopsticks”. We looked at the place next door, “Oriental City”, which looked good but expensive. Then Malc and Anthony noticed this place, and astutely pointed out that not only were the prices cheap, it was also full of Chinese. Surely a good sign? I gotta say, it was one of the best Chinese meals I’ve had, despite the fact that they got part of the order wrong. Malc & I rose to the chopstick challenge (ie, use chopsticks not cutlery) and proved mighty, I reckon. We followed this with a visit to an old favourite of mine, namely Global Chillage, which my guide book describes as “ridiculously cosmic”. Good beats were played through the Alesis Monitor Ones on the wall.

Our second meal on Friday night (feeling strangely hungry) was at an Italian called Crystal. We initially rechristened it “Crystal Meth”, but then realised “Crystal Maze” was much better, and started devising rules: If Rich didn’t complete the task on time, he’d be locked in the toilet and we’d have to sacrifice a pizza to get him out – or we could eat the pizza and leave him there until the end of the meal. We all decided we’d definitely eat the pizza. Can’t remember what the task was – probably going to the toilet, in fact.

On Saturday morning we went to the Van Gogh Museum and had a lovely time drifting around and soaking up the vibe. Museums and galleries are nice, calming, places to be the morning after a heavy night.

After that we went looking for somewhere to eat a light snack, with the plan of heading into the red light district a) to see it and b) to look for a club rejoicing in the name of “Trance Buddha”, then back to the hostel for a shower, then out for an Indonesian and off to the club. We ended up eating our “snack” at Mr. Coco’s (“lousy food and warm beer” – both lies), where the snack idea pretty much went out of the window. Even if you selected the 2-euros-cheaper “not so huge” option on your burger, it was still colossal. Dave didn’t even do that – mighty! Good place, though.

The red light district is my least favourite place of Amsterdam. I just don’t like the vibe, I guess – it’s too agressive, edgy, hard, nasty, and yes, sleazy. I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t suit me, especially if I’ve been chilling out and soaking up the “good vibes” to be had elsewhere. Anyway, in we went. I must say, I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for the bikini-clad UV-lit young ladies of the afternoon, seperated from me only by a sheet of glass and about fifty euros (I’m guessing?). I mean, I knew they were there, but I’d kinda forgotten about them and was taken a bit by surprise. Anyway… We headed into a bar and got some beers, and then Anthony declared we should take Rich to a sex show. Malc was of the opinion that “it had to be done”, and Dave was of the opinion “get Rich”. Rich, of course, had no jurisdiction. Si and I didn’t fancy it but a party of four seemed reasonable so it was agreed that Dave would act as Deputy Best Man and look after Rich while they took him to the show, and Si & I would keep the barstools warm. They returned about half an hour later and agreed it had been “an experience” – four small shows: a girl, a couple, a girl, a couple. It’s a good thing for Rich that I didn’t go, because when the first girl (the “warm-up” act, by the sound of it, as she was the only one to work the crowd, as it were) asked if there were any “stags” in the audience, presumably so she could drag them onto the stage and embarass them with candles and orifices, nobody pointed at him, and I most certainly would have.

Oh yeah, and I was almost bitten by another dog outside the bar. Can they smell my fear, now? Is that it for me and dogs? I sure hope not.

Trance Buddha, alas, had closed a while back – so we looked for “Time” instead. That was gone too. In its place, however, was a club called O2O, and tonight at O2O there was “Underground Sound of Amsterdam”. With no idea what the music would be, we nominated it as our “top spot”. If it was crap, we’d go to Mazzo, which is a longer walk away but would definitely let us in, I reckoned. Jala and I went there two years ago and had an excellent time.

After ablutions at the hostel (much fun caused by the placement of the ensuite shower room’s lightswitch outside the shower room) we hit the town again, checking out another Rockerij (“Rock Ridge, Rock Ridge…“) where, after but a few moments, Malc pulled. Alas, he didn’t properly go in for the kill, and she had tickets for a show elsewhere, so it was not to be.

We lingered later than intended, and left at nearly eleven. We had a disastrous hour looking for somewhere to eat but going the wrong way at every turn. The later it got, the more places were shut. There were places open (indeed, when we walked past the aforementioned Crystal Maze four hours later it was still open), we just didn’t find them. We found Golden Chopsticks but didn’t fancy it. To our shame, we ended up in KFC – a far cry from the Indonesion we’d anticipated. The night was not going as planned.

We headed to the club and very nearly didn’t go in. They appeared to be searching people on the way in, which in our agitated pissed-off state seemed very “bad vibe” and made the place a lot less attractive. We headed round the corner into Abraxas and grabbed a table. Anthony went to get coffees and we discussed what to do. Anthony returned with the news that they were shutting imminently and coffee was no longer being served – another crushing blow to the evening. OK, here’s the plan: we go back to O2O and try to get in. If they don’t like us and send us away, we’ll go to Mazzo. If we can’t get in there, then to hell with Amsterdam.

I took the lead, and a deep breath, and approached an amiable looking guy outside the club. I asked what was actually on, and the good vibes immediately returned as he told me, in that friendly, laid-back Dutch way, that they had an “acid punk” night on, with twelve DJs, some of them from Britain, and that “yeah, it looks like it’s gonna be a good night” (I wish I could do the accent, it’s such a part of what he was saying). Reassured, we headed forwards. The searching was nothing to worry about: they were concerned only about weaponry, and if you got through the metal detector without beeping, you didn’t get searched. Of course, Anthony beeped for some reason, but all was well. In we went, and immediately I knew that Everything Was Going To Be OK. Loud, thumping music, smoke, people, and a generally groovy place. It was just a shame we’d wandered around so much because everyone was pretty knackered. Simon and I danced like lunatics for a goodly chunk of time, Malc did for a bit, and Rich had a quick groove. We stayed until about 2:30. The music, to my mind, was fantastic, and I want to find more.

We crashed. In the middle of the night I got up to go to the toilet. I nearly fell off a chair on the way down from my (top) bunk, thinking the chair was in fact the floor – no injury though, gladly. After I’d paid my respects to the bathroom, I blearily looked at my watch and was astonished to discover that it was 8:50 on Sunday morning, and our alarm clocks would be going off in ten minutes. Bitch!

At breakfast (in the hostel), I helped a blind guy around and sat with him, eating and talking. He seemed young (early twenties?), was called Hendrik, and was from Costa Rica. He’d spent the last month travelling round Europe on his own, and had spent Christmas in Paris. Pretty impressive. We saw him later on, at the railway station, with another temporary helper in tow. Interesting way to travel – you meet a lot of people very briefly, I guess.

We checked out, trammed it to the railway station, and left our luggage in lockers. Then we headed over to the NEMO NewMetropolis centre – a sort of hands-on tech/sci playhouse/museum, along the lines of Techniquest in Cardiff, but much bigger. Like the Van Gogh museum, it was a great place to wander round with a fuzzy head. The demonstration of a chain reaction (a la the old board game Mousetrap) was particularly enjoyable.

We lunched somewhere terrible (a kebab shop, basically – another case of aimless driftage) then headed to Greenhouse Effect for our final cups of coffee. We had loads of time to get to the railway station and airport, and we did so in a relaxed and easy fashion, which was much more enjoyable than the last-minute rush I’d expected. Rich, as has already been mentioned, still can’t work out revolving doors.

That’s basically it. Loads of other little things happened I guess, but that’s the outline sketch of the weekend. All in all it was very civilised – I’m sure plenty of stag parties have a much more debauched time than we did – but that suited us. And we’ve definitely got to go back some time with no aim other than clubbing. :-)

Now if you’ll excuse me I really must be writing my Best Man’s speech…

Off we go to Amsterdam

Off we go to Amsterdam for Rich’s stag night/weekend thang. Oh, the fun to be had… Back Monday.

DailyStrips – “a perl script

DailyStrips – “a perl script to automatically download your favorite online comics from the web”. Works for me.

Su-perb Goats, today.

Catching up on Megatokyo. It’s in general a very pleasant, tremendously well drawn, slow moving, slightly quirky but not too crazy comic, but every now and then, it comes up with a classic like this. Lovely.

How Jeeves met Wooster [robot]

How Jeeves met Wooster [robot] – I must read some Wodehouse soon. Radio 4 has done a couple of series of “Meet Mr Mulliner” which was excellent. So many things to read, though…

Last Living Tamagotchi Dies In

Last Living Tamagotchi Dies In Captivity – nice.

Also via null, an interesting

Also via null, an interesting little story about a skier whose Microsoft-OS phone failed him when he most needed it – although to be fair, I think an equally applicable moral to this story is “don’t rely on a tool you received yesterday and which you don’t know intimately to save your life”.

Shame Christmas has just passed,

Shame Christmas has just passed, here’s the ideal toy for your baby: it plays soothing ocean sounds, and murmurs “I hate you” very quietly [null].

It was Jala’s birthday on

It was Jala’s birthday on Sunday, so we had a few buddies over on Saturday night for a birthday party and a monster curry sesh. It was great: I was in the kitchen from half past three in the afternoon until midnight, the food being served at ten – “good dhal”, apparently. I love my dishwasher. After that, some of us managed to stay up until six in the morning, though alas, it being winter and all, that was still two hours shy of dawn. Shame. We managed to polish off my growing collection of whiskey/port/gin/tequila miniatures quite nicely. At one point, apparently, Rich was gleefully refilling the Jack Daniels miniature bottles from the big bottle of Jack by his side, which to my mind missed the point that we were trying to get rid of the miniatures, but what the heck. You can’t argue with success, and nor can you argue with a drunken Rich with a bottle of Jack and a crazed glint in his eye.

When we cleared up, being dutiful citizens we collected the bottles into bags to take for recycling. We placed the bags in the boot of the car and of course promptly forgot about them. Today I am Gandalf in Calais.

Chesney’s coming to Swansea -

Chesney’s coming to Swansea – God help us.

Stolen airport circles city [ntk].

Stolen airport circles city [ntk].

RIP Oolong [rivets]. [Oolong’s first

RIP Oolong [rivets].

[Oolong's first appearance in Gimboland.]

Might as well make a

Might as well make a small contribution to the meme… The funniest weblog ever!.

I forgot to say… I’ve

I forgot to say… I’ve got a new car! The following level of detail is provided mainly for the benefit of Doofer: It’s a 1994 M-reg Citroen ZX Aura Turbo Diesel 1.9 5-door hatchback in red, with 76,000 miles on the clock and alloy wheels. Its name, for number plate reasons, is “Mooj”.

I knew I wanted to get a diesel because I’ve got a 70 mile round-trip commute now, and the ZX came recommended from a couple of people on that basis. So far, I’m very happy with it. I picked it up on Monday morning, drove to work, and discovered that the right-hand rear door didn’t lock, which was somewhat annoying, but the garage fixed that for me on Tuesday morning so I’m happy. It’s newer and much tidier than the old Astra, and it should be cheaper to run – all good things. It’s also closer to “shit off a shovel” than the old Astra was which, considering what happened there, may not be a good thing. At least I can keep up with Julie now…

Heh. According to The Not

Heh. According to The Not So Short Introduction To LaTeX2e, “The version number of TeX is converging to pi and is now at 3.14159.”. Nice.

Via Neil Gaiman’s weblog (itself

Via Neil Gaiman’s weblog (itself reached via dev/null), Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) getting frisked at an airport and threatening to charge the frisker with assault and battery. Cool. Here’s the follow-up and index of all Penn’s diary entries.

Gravity travels at the speed

Gravity travels at the speed of light [robot].

I’ve said it before, and

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love Unix. Except Mandrake, of course, which sucks. ;-)

I’m doing a lot of TeX and LaTeX work at the moment, getting back into the system and in particular transcribing course notes from a Microsoft Word version into TeX (because I want to be able to change parts of the course, and I’m obviously not going to be doing that in Word, am I kiddies?).

Now, I’ve often found with Unix that the way it works is, you realise you have a need, or a desire – “if only I could do this” – and you start to think about how it might be done, and you do some digging, maybe a bit of googling, and after a while you find that (of course) someone else has hit the same problem before, they’ve solved it, in fact they’ve done an excellent job – much better than you could have hoped for, the solution is freely available, and quite often it happens that you’ve already got it installed.

My recent joyous discoveries have been CTAN – the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (hmmm, I wonder which came first, CTAN or CPAN?), FoilTeXexactly what I want for making overhead slides with LaTeX, psnupexactly what I want for combinging multiple pages onto single sheets of paper, and psselectexactly what I want for turning a subset of pages from a postscript documents into a new postscript document. All free, all extremely scriptable, all fully documented, and all doing exactly what it says on the tin.

Like I said, I love Unix.

The search proxy (right hand

The search proxy (right hand sidebar) should be working again now. Gimboland is almost back at full strength… :-)

More great media from Guy

More great media from Guy Ritchie.

All You Can Eat Popcorn

All You Can Eat Popcorn Jesus [chicken].

In the words of Jim

In the words of Jim Royle, “The Two Towers? My arse!”.

I was really impressed by The Fellowship of the Ring. Sure, it had a couple of horribly cheesy moments (“And you shall be known as… The Fellowship of the Ring!”), but on the whole it was a superb job – a great movie and a great movie of the book. Unfortunately, I just can’t put my hand on my heart and say the same about The Two Towers – it may, from certain points of view, be a great movie (though personally I’m less convinced than with Fellowship), but it’s sure as hell not a great movie of the book, a fact which I found dreadfully disappointing.

Now, I don’t want to be a “nit-picking Tolkienite” – really I don’t, and I have moans beyond divergence from the book. In particular, it seems that one of the main charges levelled at the film from other quarters is that a huge chunk of the book is missing (namely the whole Shelob thing) but I wasn’t too concerned about that, so long as squeezing it into the third movie didn’t mess that up.

What did bother me, however, was the following:

1. Vastly increased density of cheese. How many times do we need a rousing speech about how this will probably be the last time we stand and fight, but stand and fight we must? Throughout the film it wasn’t terribly hard to spot which dialogue was written by Tolkien and which wasn’t, but in these too-frequent and too-heavy moments of cheese the disparity became embarassingly obvious. This is the main reason why I don’t think The Two Towers is a great movie. Waaaay too Bruckheimer, and a real shame.

2. Inversion of the character and motivation of no less than three reasonably major new figures: Theoden, Faramir, and The Ents are all turned from noble groovy dudes who do The Right Thing into fools who make the wrong decision, only for it to somehow turn out OK in the end. What the fuck? Why was that necessary? What, makers of the movie, have you added to the story by making this change? Beyond the cheese, this is the main reason why I don’t think it’s a great movie of the book. There were plenty of others, but I won’t dwell on them because then I am nit-picking.

Having said that…

3. The (entirely “original”) warg attack/Aragorn escape & Arwen dream sequence. I could stand the Aragorn/Arwen love story in the first movie (though it was another low point of the film), and at least they were in the same place as each other. But to have this long sequence shoe-horned in for no other reason than to meet the Hollywood necessity of having some love interest (or so Liv Tyler gets some lines in this film too?), really sucked. And it’s not just a guy thing: Julie thinks so too. :-)

4. Jar-Jar Fucking McGimli. Say no more.

Basically, I came away from the film feeling really disappointed. I’d love to see someone come along and make a great movie of Tolkien’s book “The Lord of the Rings”, and for a while there I thought Peter Jackson was doing so. Now I realise I’m going to have to wait a few years more. Shame.

Well, I’m back. I do

Well, I’m back. I do apologise for the low density of Gimboland content over the last few weeks, but it’s been a pretty hectic time (of which more below) and there were Things That Needed Doing before I could really think about this weblog again.

First and foremost: I crashed and wrecked my car just before Christmas, which has caused no small disruption. It was Wednesday 18th, the same day as my last post to the blog (spot the connection?). That evening, I’d been climbing and was on my way home, on dual carriageway heading north towards Merthyr Tydfill. It’s a long drive, so I was in a hurry and probably going too fast, and it was a bit icy too, though I hadn’t noticed at the time. Anyway, shortly after I overtook two other cars I came to a right-hand bend and as I went round it, I just lost control. I remember, just as I went into the bend, being momentarily distracted by the looming black bulk of a mountain to my left – perhaps that was another factor in what followed.

You know when you’re going round a bend a little too fast and you feel the back coming out and you’re like, whoa, whoa, and you keep it together and make it round OK? Well, it was like that except this time I didn’t keep it together. Details and order is sketchy, but I can tell you the following: I swerved all over the round, and I span round twice, anti-clockwise, I think. I think I swerved then span. I scrunched along the crash barrier on the central reservation, badly denting/scraping the car’s right hand side, and I took down a road sign of some sort, leaving a laaarge dent in the front of the car. I think I hit the barrier at the end of the second spin, and I think I hit the sign shortly thereafter. Best bit: during the second rotation, feeling quite calm now as the situation is clearly beyond my control, I looked out the window on my right, back down the road, to see two pairs of headlights coming towards me fairly rapidly – the cars I’d just overtaken. “That’s not good”, I thought. Fortunately I was far enough past them that they didn’t get involved.

Anyway, I came out of the spin and regained control, pointing in the right direction. I hit my hazard lights (ha ha ha), and to my amazement saw a lay-by just ahead. I pulled over, killed the engine, got out, and walked away. I was totally unhurt. It was, basically, an incredibly lucky escape. If the other cars had been closer, if I’d hit a tree instead of a sign, if I’d hit the central reservation differently, etc. etc. it could all have been very different. At the speed I was travelling I could easily have been badly injured, and fairly easily killed. The car took a lot of the impact, and I am now somewhat less enthusiastic about the idea of a motorcycle than once I was. My new year’s resolution is left as an exercise for the reader.

Fallout: one of the cars behind me stopped to check I was OK and had a way to get home. I phoned Julie & told her first that I was OK and then what had happened. I phoned the AA to get a lift home (with the car). I put some warm clothes on and gazed at the stars. A policeman arrived, took my details, breathalysed me (first time I’ve done that – clear of course) and then went off to sweep the road. Breakdown recovery arrived and “whisked” me home. Car is currently sat outside the house in mangled form, a fine display of personal ineptitude for all my new neighbours – hurrah. Mr Scrap is picking it up tomorrow, and when I get the pictures developed I will, of course, post them. :-)

Worst of all, I have to buy a new car, a process which I hate (‘cos I don’t know nuffink about cars, innit?). To be fair, the Astra was on its way out and we’d have been dealing with this anyway some time, I just hates it anyway.

Swansea were characteristically cool about things (it’s Christmas anyway so…). The day after the accident I got the train in, which was highly tedious and inefficient and took ages, but nobody cared. I grabbed some books and paper, told them I wouldn’t be in tomorrow, and went home. I’ll be back in on Monday, hopefully in a new car.

So that’s the big news. In other news, we had Christmas and New Year. Christmas was very nice but very full – we scooted to Cornwall to see my folks around from the 22nd to Christmas Eve, then scooted back up here, to Julies’ folks in Pembrokeshire for Christmas itself. They “do Christmas” the European way – presents on Christmas Eve, which is good fun but slightly weird for me. They also don’t give you any time at all for sitting around doing nothing and/or watching TV: it’s all eating, walking dogs, talking, or playing games. Very familial and really really good but bloody exhausting! :-) Oh yes, and we had them back to our place on Boxing Day for a monster beef joint – our first roast which went brilliantly: nice one Julie! :-)

The only downer on the Christmas period has been that Julie’s grandad (“Opapa”) has been in hospital. Even more annoying, it’s something that could have been sorted out before Christmas but for, as he puts it, “somebody dropped a clanger”. He’s handling it with his characteristic Polish blend of good and bad humour, love him.

New Year’s was pretty chilled out and very pleasant. With the notable exception of 1999-2000, I haven’t enjoyed New Year’s very much at all for the past few years. I always got maudlin and nearly always argued with Julie for stupid reasons. This year I was hoping for something different and gladly, that’s what I got. We stayed at home, and Rich and Em came to visit. The plan was to keep it fairly chilled, possibly checking out some of the local pubs (which we haven’t made it to yet). We were invited next door and spent an interesting hour or so there. This was the first time I’d seen the neighbours when they weren’t hung over: like us, they were pissed. It is as Emma predicted: everybody in this town knows each other. Rich’s hair seemed to cause a sensation. But all very nice, welcoming, friendly, and pleasant.

We didn’t make it to the pubs. Alas, Julie was ill with a cold (my turn had been in Cornwall), and Rich & Em have both had such a hectic couple of months (moving house and preparing their wedding in February), so everyone was happy to just sit around and chat. We had champagne at midnight and then over the next hour or so, one by one, they fell asleep – bless. I was left feeling very “up” and wondering what to do with myself, so I popped next door but the parents weren’t back yet and the teenagers still held sway. I decided not to invade.

Now, I know that doesn’t sound like a mad crazy wild New Year’s, and you’re right, it wasn’t, but it was highly enjoyable and just what the doctor ordered. As Emma said, it was nice to wake up on the 1st of January feeling relaxed and not too hung over, without panic or regrets, refreshed and ready for the year to come. Or as ready as we’ll ever be.

Right. I’m feeling caught up (with the exception of my thoughts on The Two Towers movie, which can come later – executive summary: they blew it) so I’m going to try to get this baby uploaded again now. Belated felicitations of the season upon you all, and all the best for 2003. :)