Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Last night, I finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a tale of the revival of English magic in the early 1800s. It was good – long and good. I was surprised it didn’t end in quite the way I’d been expecting for about the last 600 pages, but I guess that’s no bad thing… :-) There were lots of footnotes, but they didn’t get tedious and she didn’t fall into the Pratchett trap of recursive footnotes, thankfully. Norrell was mainly annoying and boring, which is how he was meant to be – but by the end he’d redeemed himself, mainly by rediscovering his roots, I guess. Strange is the pivot of the book, and towards the end I realised with pleasure that my mental image of him was Hackworth from The Diamond Age. Strong parallels, for sure. (Bash tells me she pictured Hugh Laurie! Possibly Bertie Wooster, in fact! ;-) )

Anyway: definitely recommended, if you enjoy this sort of thing.

The wacky world of Thorsten Altenkirch

The wacky world of Thorsten Altenkirch [via ping/will]

A blurry Thorsten Altenkirch at BTCTCS 2005

Cheers, Thorsten!

(For balance, here’s the perfectly sensible world of Thorsten Altenkirch.)

Erlang tutorials

Erlang tutorials.

Erlang looks very exciting. I’m still trying to crowbar Haskell into my brain – and reaching the conclusion that my brain needs inflating a little before it will fit. But Erlang is calling.

She says it was accidental…

For the record: Bash put mayo in her coffee on Saturday.

Video eavesdropping demo at CeBIT 2006

Video eavesdropping demo at CeBIT 2006 – 25 metres, no wires: sweet.

Consider the lilies… They’re well chuffed!

Via Bash, it’s The Happy Poster project.

In other Bash news, apparently she read the link to this story as “Police Rescue Mouse Tangled in Swingset” – her first thought was “how did they know it was there?” and then, when she saw the picture, “wow – that’s a really huge mouse”. :-)

Not quite defending Lowri Turner, but…

Further to this post, Sean kindly pointed out a BBC story on the topic. Actually, the story did make me feel a little uneasy – to be honest, I don’t think it’s unacceptable to publish these views, and actually yes, the editor had every right to let it go to press. (Though his assertion that “there was no intention to offend” is fairly laughable – at best naive, and at worst, cynical.)

The point, however, is that we must then respond by all pointing our fingers in derision and horror at Lowri and the Western Mail, and tearing those freely-expressed opinions to pieces.

Moving house, anniversaries, and project management

I just haven’t had time for blogging lately, which means I’ve been busy, which nominally means I’ve got a lot to write about, I guess. So here are the big random snippets from my life of the last three weeks:

Mainly, we moved house, from number 6 in our street to number 1. We’d been at number 6 for two years, and while it was a nice, large house we had compelling reasons to leave. The main reason was the landlords, who fitted the stereotype of wanting your money but not wanting to do anything much in return. Feel free to skip the next paragraph if you’re not interested in me moaning about them…

For most of the two years we spent at number 6, we were unable to use the shower. First, the pipes made this horrible screaming noise every time we tried. That did get sorted, after a number of phone calls, but a few months later we noticed that water was trickling down the kitchen walls and the plaster in the ceiling was rotting – a leaky seal around the bath. More than a year later, we’re moving out and the problem still hasn’t been fixed. Numerous phone calls and letters eventually stirred them into action and they sent a man round to sort it out, who did a botched job – so the problem wasn’t fixed at all. This cycle happened three times (with three different sets of cowboys), and it’s still not fixed. There’s also is a leak in the roof, leading to a similar problem in the bedroom ceiling (and during hard persistent rain, a pleasant drip-drip-drip onto the bedroom carpet). They never really showed any real interest in getting that fixed. In general dealing with them has been unpleasant – they’re a pair of solicitors and when phoning their office one always gets the impression their reception has been instructed to be unpleasant and obstructive to tenants…

Despite these outstanding problems, they were quite happy to raise the rent again, so we decided it was time to get them out of our lives. They seemed quite surprised, for some reason.

The new place belongs to our erstwhile neighbours, a very pleasant couple who’ve headed out to Sri Lanka for eighteen months or so doing NGO work of some sort, I believe. The contrast between old landlords and new could not be greater. Old were motivated by greed, new are motivated by wanting to find someone nice to look after the house and the cat. The place is smaller, but that’s good because we had too much junk lying around and now we’re forced to sort it out. The rent is lower, and the other bills should be too. They’re even paying us some money back for cat food!

The weekend before last we did most of the moving, with a lot of help from our friends. I’ve put some photos here (and oh dear, it looks like I have to fix the stylesheets for those pages – something has gone horribly wrong). Will also took some photos which are in the usual Will style and thus look great but don’t give you much of an impression of what the new place is actually like. :-)

Sophie, the new cat, has welcomed us with open arms. Actually I think she’s mainly welcomed us with an open mouth, and so long as she’s being fed she’s happy. Fudge is having a harder time of it, and isn’t happy having another cat around. There’s been quite a bit of hissing and growling. Some days she’s better than others, however, and we’re still hopeful that they’ll end up being friends…

Sophie on beanbag Fudge shadow

I’m enjoying having a decent garden and – oh yes – a shed. The shed came packed with goodies, including a couple of boogie boards (roll on the summer!) and a workmate, which I put to good use at the weekend, cutting down the legs on a nice glass-topped dining table we don’t have room for, which transformed it into a nice glass-topped coffee table we do have room for. It was fun.

The TV got broken in a stupid fashion during the move, so we’re currently borrowing Jason’s projector, and watching Family Guy on one of the living room walls – which is kinda cool.

Last weekend George and Lidia had a house-warming/pizza-eating/brownie cooking/eating party, which was most pleasant. Being party animals, we spent a good deal of that time watching Black Books and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which I’ve wanted to see for years, since reading the book. Naturally it wasn’t as good, but it wasn’t too bad and Penelope Cruz, pheweeee. Hearing her accent, I did want her to say “we will tape over him with the snooker”, however.

In other news, we watched The Apprentice last night (the Alan Sugar thing). Not my choice, but Bash wanted to check it out. I mostly tried to ignore it, instead playing with some nifty new project management software on my Palm, but I did get sucked in a few times. Yeah, it was quite enjoyable, but afterwards I think I summed it up by saying it’s still rubbishy TV – it’s just Pop Idol for people like us, ie people who, for example, have project management software on their Palms. :-) Instead of cringing, laughing, and screaming at the contestants’ terrible singing, we’re cringing, laughing, and screaming at their terrible thinking, organisation and communication.

Finally, it was our second wedding anniversary two days ago – as close to it as we’ll get this year, anyway. We had a quiet night in and I cooked. Among other successes, I learnt that asparagus tips fried in butter and cashews have a pleasingly high tastiness-to-difficulty ratio. Oh yes, and it snowed that night, just as it did at this time two years ago (though I didn’t get a snowman on the desk in my lecture this year, sadly).