Smile – not actually the internet back after all

How can Smile call themselves “The Internet Bank” but not provide any facility for downloading electronic copies of your statements?

In fact, even worse, the statements don’t even have a running balance on them, and old statements have a different format from the latest statement!

Yes, I’ve complained about this to them. They said thanks. Bet it doesn’t change by the end of the year…

Gimbo goes walkabout for Easter

Gimboland may be quiet for the next two weeks. I’ll be spending most of this week at BCTCS 2005 in Nottingham (speaking at 2:50pm on Wednesday: wish me luck), then I’m off to China from Saturday to Saturday, persuading people to come do Comp Sci at Swansea ‘cos it’s great. I’ll probably have net access at BCTCS, though not much time; in China I doubt I’ll have enough of either.

Today was nice. We went to Rhossili for a while, confused 5 and 6pm (mistakenly thinking the clocks had gone forward without us noticing), then went and saw Constantine at the flicks. It was jolly good fun, and an absolute delight to see Tilda Swinton looking foxy as ever in another sexually ambiguous role, which was cool, having happened to watch Orlando the night before.

On Friday night, a group of us went to eat at a restaurant called 698, here in Mumbles. The food was good, but with annoyingly trendily small portions, and it was pretty expensive. We could have lived with that but the service was atrocious. I mean, I understand that there is a school of thought which says waiting staff should be low key and not bug you too much, but I think the idea is that they keep an eye on you and you ignore them. Unfortunately at 698, unless you wanted to shout “oy! garcon!” (which I didn’t), it was a case of desperately watching them, trying to catch their eye, while they ignored you with quite admirable resolution, even while walking close by. The no tip numpties.

Amelia is born

More big news from the Gimblett family… Just under a fortnight ago, Amelia Elizabeth landed on planet Earth. Big Bro Col sent some photos through, and it’s high time I uploaded them. Thus, ladies and gentlemen, meet my niece. Now cue the cheerleaders, or to put it another way, congratulations Colin & Caitlin!

Pretty good year

365 days ago today…

Only three more years to go until our first anniversary. ;-) If they’re anything like the last year, well, they’ll be great. Thanks again, Bash – you r0x0r d00d.

Burn the feel

w00t… I’ve been at work solidly for the last 24 hours, and counting. Probably won’t be able to stop until about 5pm, which would make a 32 hour day, bringing my total for the last week to the big ton: a 100 hour working week, ladies and gentlemen.

Shame I don’t get overtime, isn’t it?

XTC Radio kept me going through the night – it rawks, but y’know, in a ravey way.

Feel the burn

Wow. I’ve just worked out that I’ve done an 84 hour week during the last seven days. No wonder I have a cold.

This rolling total may have increased by Wednesday: watch this space!

Not an Ermintrude Inch in sight

Today I managed to use the word “defenestrated” in casual conversation over coffee. Gladly, I was with people who appreciated just what an unusual opportunity this is, and there was much rejoicing.

Fancy Feet

Just so I can throw away the bit of paper with their address on it, which has been hanging around since we saw their stall in Rosebank flea market on our honeymoon… Fancy Feet – South African beaded foot adornments.

Just what Mumbles needs: another cat

As of 2pm today, we are sharing our house with a Small Furry Person. She seems very calm about the whole thing, travelled well in the car, has had her first meal, and has designated “under the bed” as her safe spot, perhaps predictably. No vomit so far. She really likes having her head scratched, and seems to purr and chirrup more than miaow.

More on that story later. In the mean time, Simon need not fear, however, for the camera’s battery packed in just in time, and there are no more photos. Yet…

Introducing Fudge T. Cat

Fudge the cat Fudge the cat

I’ve been putting off doing this until we were sure we were getting her, but we finally got the letter from the landlords and it looks fairly certain we’ll be bringing Fudge home later this week. Thus, pictures – all at the RSPCA shelter so far, of course.

Vote for Pedro

I’m sitting here watching Napoleon Dynamite. It rules. See it. Geektastic and cheesilicious.

A little later… Oh, wow. Don’t miss the bit after the credits. Wow. (And apparently, it cost half of what the rest of the film cost to make…)

Saving Gimboland from the Scourge of Comment Spammers…

The Six Apart Guide to Comment Spam, from the good folks who brought you (and more importantly, me) Movable Type.

Given my limited knowledge of the subject, this seems to be a fairly thoughtful and useful survey, and following its advice I’ve installed a number of anti-spam measures on Gimboland. I won’t go into details, but the upshot is that my loyal readership should now be able to comment freely once again, without having to leap through the Hoop of Moderation or to walk the Hot Coals of Registration. All hail.

Lucky dip

So that’s where all those tissues came from.

Rush thou headlong unto 2005, chickadees!

Yo. It is 2005. Welcome. I trust that you all had a suitably adequate, if not positively acceptable, Christmas break. Ours was excellent – relaxed and peaceful, and the vegetarianism was not an issue, although Mum’s classic meat & potato patties were sorely tempting. In the end I decided, in the spirit of my esteemed friend and teacher Markus, to make a Christmas Eve exception for this one traditional treat.

We returned to Swansea in time for New Year’s Eve, which I usually find singularly disappointing. Lots of build-up and expectation of a good time but in the end, I’ve tended to find myself feeling flat, let down with the whole thing and melancholy at what was missed in the previous year. However, my life has changed a lot of late, and 2004 was, quite frankly, my best year yet. I got married, had a fantastic 30th birthday, found a wonderful yoga teacher, and many other great things happened too, some of which were so long anticipated that it’s fair to say I feel different: reborn. So melancholy was not an issue, and in the end we had a really good night by just chilling out and “being fabulous” with friends. A little make up may have helped too. Photos are here (taken with my shiny new hand-me-down digital camera), with selected highlights below. Since I haven’t sorted out a better gallery system yet, if anyone wants to comment on any of these photos, do so here, I’d say. Ta.

So there we have it. Back to work tomorrow – I still have a shedload of marking to catch up on before the year’s fun begins, but I think I’m recharged and ready. Resolutions: get that MPhil in the bag, keep up the yoga and start doing it at home from time to time, and spend more quality time in the kitchen. In other words, I’m looking for a year of continued growth. What a hippy.

Beyond that, let’s get on with it. As Simon said, and the Maya before him, may your shoes be forever full of maize.

Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo Peek A Boo

Now gracing the bedroom wall at meatspace Gimboland…

'Frau Am Meer' by Karin Volker

A tale of detrimental adaptation to local conditions

Bash logic at work yesterday, after our return to Swansea: Something was needed from the attic room, up two flights of stairs.

Bash: “I can’t go upstairs!”

Me: “Why not?”

Bash: “I’ve been living in a bungalow for a week.”

A Merry IICF to you all!

The ultimate Christmas gift for your local cultist: Cthulu slippers [found].

And with that, I’ll say Merry Christmas to my loyal readership. We’re off to Cornwall for a week tomorrow, to find out how Mum deals with a Vegetarian Couple’s First Christmas – should be fun. I’ll be on the end of a telephone line, so probably not much Gimboland. Back around New Year. Namaste one and all…

Now we’re here, maybe it’s time to move on…

It’s a long long time since I read Slashdot with anything approaching regularity, so I rely on TR to tell me when anything interesting comes along.

This is interesting: Comment Spams Straining Servers Running Movable Type. Typical. Well, nothing here yet. I shall monitor the situation.

When I was in the early stages of migration, I googled for movable.type.sucks which led me to this at kuro5hin, mainly an amusing and venom-fuelled rant (which somehow reminds me of this classic gem) but has some interesting points to make along the way. On the other hand, the “written by designers not computer scientists” argument doesn’t completely hold water when you look at a lot of the crap that’s produced by people who should know better.

Unfortunately, the fix recommended by SixApart, namely “enable dynamic generation”, is no good for me because it seems badly broken. In particular, some plugins I rely on a bit don’t work dynamically – maybe I can work out why but not right now.

Or maybe I should migrate to WordPress. This guy thinks so.

Isn’t it wonderful when…

… you get your heart’s desire, and nobody gets hurt.

Gimboland gets a facelift

I’ve migrated Gimboland to Movable Type.

This has been way overdue for a long time. Since 2001 I’ve maintained this blog using home-grown code called Neomorph (written in Python, naturally), and I just haven’t had time to add any new features to it. Hence, no comments on Gimboland while the rest of the internet gets fully chatted up. Something had to be done, but what? And when?

The last straw came when I discovered mt.el, an emacs module for making and editing MT entries using everyone’s favourite text editor/chainsaw combo (no pansy-assed through-the-web blog editing for me, no sirree!). Finally, a few weeks before Gimboland’s fourth birthday, it was time to Take The Plunge.

So here we have it: the all new Gimboland, with comments, categories, a new look, and much more CSS than before. Please let me know what you think – now that comments are finally here, I’m eager to read them and find out who actually reads this damn thing. Oh yes, and Bash tells me the thing she likes least about the new design is the new font (Georgia) – although apparently it’s OK on the Mac, so maybe I should just ignore her. Is she right, or is she to be ignored?

My next big task will be to update the image gallery to use something similarly marvellous. All suggestions welcomed – at the moment gallery seems to be the main contender.

Making the change has been a fun process. Here’s a small random list of interesting things I’ve found or done along the way:

My archives all had nasty old “Blogger style” filenames (such as 2002_10_01_gimboland_archive.html), whereas MT uses a format like 2002/10/index.html which is, frankly, nicer. I was worried about this change – what about the millions of people who’ve linked to stories in the archive? Obviously I owe it to my public not to break things, so how to solve this? Well, a little reading (here and here, specifically) later, I now have lots of RedirectPermanent directives in my .htaccess file linking the old to the new – problem solved. Aaaah, Apache.

With Neomorph, all my Gimboland posts lived in a big (824Kb at last count) plain text file. In MT, they live in a database, of course. Gladly, MT has the ability to import from plain text. Naturally the MT import format isn’t the same as the Neomorph format, so almost my first task was to write a (python) script to convert one to the other. It being python, this was easy. For posterity, I’ve added it to the Neomorph tarball.

Useful MT plugins: Amputator, ArchiveDateHeader, BlogCopyright, SafeHref, W3CValidator (very nice – only prints badge at bottom of page if page really is valid; wish there was one for CSS as well).

While I was at it, I changed the Gimboland search box (in the sidebar) to use Google instead of the old Atomz thing I’ve had there for years. Surging forward into the twentyfirst century, eh? Dave would probably tell me I’m migrating to Google just as Google’s beginning to get crap, but I’m not ready for such heresy yet, so it’s fingers in ears all the way.

Fudge pickers

So yesterday we visited the Llys Nini RSPCA shelter and introduced ourselves to a few cats to see if any would like to adopt us. I won’t bore you with the details of all the cute ickle fwuffykins we saw, but honourable mention must be made of Cornelius, the doppelganger of Buster, my first cat and The Best Cat Ever – but he probably needs to be homed with his buddy Josephine, and anyway he’d have a lot to live up to, looking like that.

In the end we’ve put our name down next to Fudge, a dainty white & black shorthair with a gammy leg (though she could still do yoga, I was pleased to see). There is a slight medical question which needs to be settled before they can release her, which might delay things a few weeks alas, but for now we’re hoping she’s the one. If she’s not, Chester was pretty cool (and a lot bigger, which my lap prefers). We’ll see. In the mean time, we can visit Fudge any time we like to get to know her better – and that’s exactly what we’re doing in a minute. Then I’m off to work… :)

Oh yes, and I saw What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? for the first time last night. Magic.

A computer trailer is no place for a kitty

w00t! The landlords, in their infinite wisdom, have given permission for us to get a cat, so expect photos of cute ickle kitty doing fluffy/destructive/insane things from now on… And if you can’t wait for that, these should keep you warm.

March against racism, Saturday 9th October

Images (from my phone) from last Saturday’s march against racism here in Swansea:

Marching down St Helen's Road (1) (640 x 480, 29.18 kb) Marching down St Helen's Road (2) (640 x 480, 39.74 kb) Marching down St Helen's Road (3) (480 x 640, 30.96 kb) Cheerful Cheerleader (640 x 480, 28.05 kb) Gathering at Castle Square (640 x 480, 45.20 kb) Observers (640 x 480, 33.28 kb) Swansea says no (640 x 480, 42.57 kb) Rally at Castle Square (640 x 480, 41.16 kb) Swansea Unite (640 x 480, 38.61 kb) PEAC!!! (640 x 480, 25.88 kb)

As ever, Will has got much better pictures, both technically and aesthetically.

I thought the march was a little disappointing – there seemed to be many people when we were strung out along St Helen’s Road, but when we all gathered in Castle Square at the end, it didn’t seem so large. One of my colleagues, Markus Mickelbrink, went further and said the whole thing was a waste of time, because it was a load of rhetoric about “racism isn’t acceptable, Swansea is a good place for refugees, etc.” without any thought about why, then, things like this were happening – clearly some people in Swansea (and the UK in general) are virulently racist, and do blame refugees, asylum seekers, and anyone who looks/acts different for all the ills of the world – and what do we do about that? He had a point, although I disagree with him when he says doing nothing would have been better…

Good thing roundup

Good Things Lately:

I wish I was innumerate rather than illerate, so I had a chance of explaining to you why Jasper Fforde‘s The Eyre Affair is the most refreshing and amusing book I’ve read in a long long time. Set on a slightly alternate Earth in which literature occupies the place popular music does on our Earth, in which England and Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for 130 years, and in which our heroine (the delightful Thursday Next) strives to catch the second most wanted man alive, save her aunt from inside a Wordworth poem, fix the end of Jane Eyre (by journeying into the original manuscript), and remember to look after her pet dodo (an early model). It’s fantastic – if you’re a fan of Pratchett, Tom Holt, Robert Rankin, or hey, why not throw Douglas Adams in here too, I promise you’ll love it. It’s chock full of the kinds of suprising and fantastic twisted ideas that Pratchett used to have, back when he had new ideas. Much fun.

Seriously. Check out the author’s website to get a feel for what I’m on about. Look: toast!,

Also amazing: Solaris. No, not the operating system, no, not the George Clooney film, and no, not even the original film of which that was “merely” a (rather good apparently) remake. I’m talking about the book. It’s mind-blowing. A great example of sci-fi being used merely as a palette with which to paint Crazy Ideas.

And finally, Tim Booth‘s new album, Bone. I’m a big big James fan (Bash introduced me to them in our early days, and <hippy>some of their songs just seem to speak directly to my innermost heart</hippy>, which is kinda nice) so the album was eagerly anticipated, but I must say I really wasn’t sure about it for the first few listens… Musically very interesting (layers, suprises, development, yay), lyrically it sounded OK, but vocally it seemed perhaps a little, I dunno, just weak in comparison with his James work.

Sometimes when you buy a new album you love it immediately, and then it wears off and gets a bit dull after a while (Black Cherry by Goldfrapp springs to mind – I still like it, but I hardly listen to it now). Sometimes you dislike it immediately, and it grows into something you’ll love forever (Morning Light by Locust). Sometimes you dislike it immediately and it turns out you were right (Keep It Unreal by Mr Scruff).

Glad to say, I think Bone fits into the Morning Light category. Or as Dave Wyatt would say, “it’s a grower”. Unfortunately, I’m still illiterate and thus unable to properly articulate why I love it. Attempts: the music’s deep, layered, complex, and progressive, yet has a loose, underproduced feel to it; the lyrics are indeed classic Booth – why are we here, why is love hard, everything’s connected, abandon all hope, don’t abandon all hope, etc; the vocals have grown on me – they are different, and perhaps “thinner” than with James, but this new style fits the music just fine. Plus it’s good cycling music.

Tracks to download if you wanna get a feel: “Monkey God”, “Down To The Sea”, “Be Careful What You Say”.

Interviews: one, two. Sorry for the distraction, Bash…

The Catcher In The Why God Why?

I just finished reading The Catcher In The Rye. Jesus, what a waste of time. What a depressing, annoying, tiring waste of time. I swear to God, that book has dragged me down – I’ve been in a terrible mood for days and I’m sure it’s that jerk Sallinger’s fault. Man, I hate that guy.

Gimboland tidying

I’ve been tidying up. I’ve ditched a lot of the cruft from the sidebars that was no longer really desired, and in so doing consolidated them to one – the dual sidebar look was starting to feel confining. :-)

I’ve also done lots of behind-the-scenes work and – finally, finally, after months and months and months of frustrated desire – fixed the images section. Hurrah. Next thing is to go through and delete old images I don’t want any more (probably quite a few), and upload lots of new ones, so expect more images on the front page from now on too.

Related to that, I really want to integrate the wedding images into the rest of Gimboland, but to do so satisfactorily will require implementing tracks in my own image management code. Shouldn’t be too bad, ho ho ho. Plus I think it’s time I brought the trek images into the fold too, and started decommisioning andys-trek.co.uk (in fact, the images are still broken over there – sigh).

Some pesky student had pointed out that many pages here were no longer compliant HTML, in defiance of the logos in the sidebar – so I’ve fixed that too…

What else to do? Well, I’d still like to generally revamp the overall style of the pages, and comments would still be nice. Anyone know of a nice open source commenting system I can plug in without having to jump through too many hoops?

Captain Corelli’s World O’ Greece

So here I am reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (as I mentioned) when all of a sudden I turn on the TV and it’s all Greece this, Greece that, Greece Greece Greece for some unknown reason – who knew?

It’s nothing, really. Just chop it off all ready – I have nine more.

A funny thing happened to me on Tuesday night. Wait. Painful. I mean painful.

My weapon of choice for the evening was a nice wooden breadboard with a sharp triangular edge (i.e. a trapezioid cross-section), which I managed to drop vertically onto my right foot from the worktop (about three feet?) at about 9:30, causing much gnashing and wailing of teeth.

Only when I took my sock off did I realise that it wasn’t just bloody painful, it was also just bloody bloody. Yuck indeed: split nail, split skin, lots of the red stuff, etc. Basically the sharp edge of the breadboard had thundered into my big toe right at the base of the nail, where it could do the maximum damage.

I don’t immediately fall into a swoon at the sight of my own blood, but it was a bit distressing and, as I said, bloody painful, so I sat on the floor and concentrated on Keeping My Shit Together. Fortunately there was a nice young lady on hand to ply me with ice and sugared water, and then drive me to casualty, where we had a nice wait for three and a half hours before the very amiable doctor Laura called my name. She and the nurse generally agreed with my diagnosis of “ooh, that looks nasty”, but displayed their greater medical expertise by not merely looking on, nodding, and chewing their lips thoughtfully, but also suggesting that a) I should get it x-rayed in case it was broken, and b) they should pierce the nail with a needle to let the blood out from underneath.

a) was sensible but annoying because the particular hospital we’d gone do doesn’t have radiology, so this would mean a trip to the one on the other side of town tomorrow, and more waiting around. On the other hand, at least that wouldn’t be late-night waiting around, so hey, small mercies.

b) was exciting and worrying – sounded painful. Off they went in search of the apparently elusive needle necessary for this trick, and when they came back I was suprised to see an implement that looked to my untrained medical eye less like a needle and more like an electric toothbrush. By that I mean it was a hand-held white plastic device of that approximate size and shape – though I should make it clear that there was, at least, a (very small) sharp piece of metal on the end, rather than the less worrying but admittedly less effective (for this purpose) head of bristles one might otherwise expect from my previous sentence.

In the end, it was nothing. Clearly the needle – spring loaded, triggered, and instant in its action – was the result of years of careful observation and design, so suited was it to the task of rapidly piercing the toenail and leaving the piercee feeling pleasantly suprised that the whole experience wasn’t nearly as bad as expected. By way of comparison, I’d say it was marginally less noticeable than that pin-prick they do on your thumb when you go to give blood, so they can test you’re not in fact a gene-stealing alien come to take over the planet. Thus, designers of medical implements, we salute you.

Once it was cleaned up it didn’t look half bad – a bit messy but much more back to normal. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to photograph it between cleaning and dressing, so you’ll have to take my word for it. However, in case anyone’s interested (hi Mum!), here are the photos I took before the whole procedure, while waiting, in glorious Zoom-O-Vision:

Both feet forward

Right foot

Right foot - close up

Right foot - Extreme Close Up!

Good thing: during the time spent waiting I managed to scream through a large chunk of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which I’d just recently started. I’d put this book off for ages, dismissing it as “the book of the film, which I hadn’t seen though was supposed to be quite good, but I don’t know, it looked a bit schmultzy from the trailer”. I was surprised to learn recently that People Who Know thought different and maybe I should read it after all. And it’s fab – nearly finished now. :-)

Bash used the time well too, ever working, ever working:

Ever on the job

To conclude, I went to the other hospital yesterday and ploughed some more through the book, before learning that no the toe wasn’t broken, and I should just be nice to it, basically. They dressed it again, and now I am muchos swaddled in white linen a la:

Very big toe due to enormous bandages

What an exciting life I lead, eh?

Diary update

Um, yeah, so I guess I’ve been chilling out, making a bit of music, enjoying the sun, doing a bit of work, and generally trying to make the most of not feeling like my life was an avalanche about to crest over me as I desperately hurled myself downhill… It’s been nice.

But where, my fan has been writing to me in his drove to ask, are the URLs about “unknown links between Cartesian geometry with imaginary numbers, recursion in Ruby and Banco Di Gaia?”. Well, I dunno, they’ll be back soon. In the meantime, a short precis.

The students have (mostly) gone home and the Computer Science department is a ghost town – lecturers are on holiday, at conferences, or (like me), ahem, working from home. It’s nice – a time to forget about teaching for a while, and get some research done, burying myself in books and papers. Soon enough it’ll be time to think about other people’s education again (resit exams in about three weeks, for instance), so I’ve been making the most of it. Plus the weather’s been really excellent…

My parents came and visited for a few days, which was most pleasant, and the first time they’d seen our house in Mumbles. We had a relaxed time, walking and driving around, eating and drinking, talking and reading, and basically Not Doing Much. They also brought us a television – since we moved here in March this has been a TV-free zone, which has been excellent. However, there were times when we missed it (Bash for the news, me for occasional brainless Sunday mornings) so when the parental units offered us their old one we gratefully brushed the gift horse’s teeth and took it home, there to feed it hay.

Bash and I have been exploring Mumbles a bit more lately, finding some excellent paths, walks, etc. – knowledge which we put to good use on Saturday when a possee (nay, pouch) of eight of us headed up to Mumbles Hill, there to lie in the sun, throw apples around, contemplate navels, and in Jo’s case, commune with nature by destroying then apologising to it. The weather was perfect and the view incredible – you could make out the cliffs on the north coast of Devon to the south, and to the east you could see Wales and England getting closer and closer to each other as the Bristol Channel narrowed to the horizon. It was Wow. Of course, all of this is utterly meaningless to anyone who wasn’t there I guess, so I’ll stop now.

We saw “I, Robot” yesterday. It was quite good, apart from Will Smith, who played his usual arrogant-misbehavin’, sytlish-dressin’, rule-bendin’, fast-machine-ridin’, wise-crackin’ gung-ho screen self. Very annoyin’. The robot/robot fight scenes were good though, and reminded me of “Robot Baby Rampage”, a fictional computer game envisioned by some of my buddies once upon a time.

Random update ends.

None more black

Saw Spinal Tap for the first time in years last night. Oh, so good. It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever…

Birthday shenanigans, and the week from hell

Like Simon, I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in Exam Processing Hell. Part of my duties include collecting module marks from the various lecturers in the department and inserting them into a couple of fairly hairy databases. On the face of it that’s simple enough, but it’s fraught with all sorts of terrors, such as chasing late marks, keeping the vast amount of information thus produced organised, and dealing with all the annoying “edge cases” – that 0.5% of students who are, say, external candidates and for whom the rules are different.

Oh, it’s fun, and last week I basically work and slept, and was working after midnight on three occasions. Anton, my colleague in this venture, got it even worse, and was here all night one night…

So in short, it’s been Real Unpleasant, and I haven’t had much time for updates. However. I must record, as hinted at here, that I turned 30 last Saturday, and barring the obvious and unavoidable existential crisis which must accompany such an event, had a rather good time. I spent the day dressed as Spongebob Squarepants, in the company of two rather foxy mermaids, a couple of pirates, a flamingo, a tree (avec tres amusing monkey), a Pacific savage, a stochastic hammerhead shark, and a few normal people (here gathered). We had a great meal, a very pleasant cruise through the Mile, and a splendid all-night bonfire/barbeque courtesy of SUCS.

Being born in June has two big benefits. The first is that you’re as far from Christmas as you’re gonna get, so there’s a minimal risk of “well, OK, but it’ll have to be your birthday and Christmas present” type deals. This is important. Second, the weather’s often gorgeous, as was indeed the case this year. The sun shone, there was a pleasant breeze, my sponges soaked up the sweat (and, on a couple of occasions, the drink), and all was well. A few of us met up at Chez Bandy then perambulated through Mumbles (enduring or enjoying the stares of passers by) to the beautifully situated restaurant Castellemare, just around the headland with views of the Bristol Channel and the north coast of Devon. There we met the rest of our happy band, and had a rather yummy lunch. (Will, of course, was too immersed in abstract or poetic thoughts, to remember to pay, so we stung him for a round later.)

From my parents, I received a bicycle horn. It is mighty. From many, many, people (including my parents, they didn’t just give me the horn), I received one of these, which is very very nifty indeed. Andrew, of course, gave me a maul.

After lunch, we took a leisurely crawl back through the Mumbles Mile, taking it easy and trying not to get blue on everything. We touched base at Chez Bandy once again after that, before heading off to the beach for the bonfire. There were shenangigans and hijinks.

So, big up thanks to everyone who came and made it possible, apologies to anyone I offended or annoyed, and particular thanks to Andrew and Will for the photos. We’ll do it again next year, and every year after that until I’m 40, when the aim will be a party in space.

Goodbye youth, hello tartan blankets

Today is the last day I will spend in my twenties. Will I spend it squeezing every last drop out of my youth while it remains, by climbing mountains, making music, and imbibing proscribed substances from off the breasts of young ladies? No, I will not: I will spend it marking the CS-238 Networks & Data Communications, and CS-228 Operating Systems exams.

The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Six degrees of Brian Eno

I was overjoyed to discover recently that my wife has met Nelson Mandela.

I wasn’t particularly excited about Nelson Mandela, although I’m sure he’s a nice chap. No, what really got me excited was the realisation that Nelson Mandela is of course a drinking buddy of Bono, and Bono’s spent large amounts of time in the recording studio with one of my heroes, namely Brian Eno.

Hence, here are my Five Degrees Of Brian Eno:

Andy GimblettBasheera KhanNelson MandelaBonoBrian Eno

w00t

Meatspace Gimboland

Oh. My. God.

Bumble!

Bloody hell… A bumble bee has just flown in through the open window (it’s a beautiful day here in Swansea, folks), and proceeded to alight on my mixer, right next to a big red jack that’s stuck in one of the sockets, and now it’s acting as if the things a flower: waggling its bum, brushing its legs down its sides, and generally doing what bees do.

Hmmm, it seems to be lying in just one place waggling its arse gently. I wonder if it’s OK. Maybe I should take a look with a view to rescuing it, should it be in bumbletrouble. Bumble bees have a reputation (in my brain at least) of being among the most chilled out of bees, bumbling around in a friendly manner and never stinging anyone who didn’t deserve it. So my chances are good, I hope. Here goes!

Well, that didn’t happen… Just as I sprang into action, so did el bee, finding his way to the window and grinding against it angrily for a while, looking more and more like a hornet every moment now that I thought about it, until gladly, he got with the program and headed two feet to the left, there to exit whence he came. Another happy ending, as is, indeed, usually the case with bumblebees.

Mumbles tides times

Tide table for Mumbles, where I live.

Georgeous, simply geogeous

I seem to have a mental block against writing the word “gorgeous” right first time. It always comes out as Georgeous. I don’t even know that many Georges – what’s going on in my cerebral cortex?

Orkut rumour mill

Allow me to contribute to the rumour mill. I just received this message:

Word on the street:

[09:19] <@Lonewolf> orkut's had its hardware confiscated by the FBI for peddling child porn

Certainly the website is down. Presumably some bright spark was using one of the communities for this nefarious purpose. Shame, I still hadn’t got a high enough sexy rating to show on my front page…

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. :-)

Later: time to quosh the rumour, apparently they’re just having DNS problems (again). Jolly good.

Minor and major injuries

We spent the weekend down in Cornwall with my folks – very relaxing. Bash and I attempted to recreate a little adventure I went on one perfect summer’s day when I was 11, tramping across some nearby fields (indeed, trespassing) in search of half-remembered landmarks which might not even be there any more. We didn’t find them, but did have a lovely walk nonetheless.

I bought my brother’s bike from him, and had a wonderful ride in to work yesterday, along the sea front from Mumbles, but perhaps I pushed myself a bit hard… I bent over to lock it up, and stood up again too quickly; I got a head rush, said to my friend Alex “I feel unusual”, and fainted, knocking my head on the top of a low wall on the way down. So now here I sit with a nice butterly stitch on my forehead and a couple of grazes on my cheek/temple area. Kewl. Everyone’s been very sympathetic but really it’s nothing.

It’s especially nothing when compared with breaking your leg on the way down Suila Grande in the Andes, being left for dead in a crevasse, and spending the next four days crawling back to Base Camp in excrutiating pain with Boney M rampaging round your head. But that’s exactly what happened to Joe Simpson, as we discovered last night when we watched Touching The Void at Taliesin. Absolutely fantastic, easily the most gripping movie I’ve seen a long long time, and oh so well filmed. Crackin’ stuff and highly recommended, even if you’re not into climbing.

The honeymoon is over

Well, the honeymoon is over, as they say. Fear not, however – it’s not that Bash and I don’t like each other any more, it’s just that, er, we went on honeymoon, and then came back. Ho1 ho1 ho1, had you going for a minute there didn’t I?

The excitement began the day before we left the country; as reported in earlier issues of Gimboland, I’d been to Barcelona just before, and on the way out of the UK the nice lady at the check-in desk pointed out to me that my passport was about to expire (in about a month). This would, she said, present no problem as far as travelling to Spain was concerned, but there was no way they’d let me into South Africa, apparently. Cue one hurried phone call to Bash back at Base Camp, who got online and discovered what I had to do when I got back… We returned from Barcelona the following Tuesday, and on the Wednesday off I tootled to glorious Newport to pay my ninety quid and get an emergency passport from the Passport Office. Now I’m as ready as the next IT professional to pour scorn upon government IT projects, but fair play, the boys and girls in Newport really came through, and three hours, one haircut, some lunch and a trip to the library later, there was my shiny new passport in my grubby mitts, and South Africa lay ahead. By the way, I can report that Newport Library, an oasis of calm and learning in an ocean of concrete depression and shiny leisure suits, has open internet access and, to my great surprise, enough security knowhow (unlike Barcelona university) to install a firewall which prevented me downloading putty and checking my email. I looked for a “java applet putty” or similar but couldn’t find anything which did the trick. Anyone got any tips?

Wednesday being a great success, we packed and segued neatly into Thursday. Small amounts of running around then we finally left the house at 3pm. Taxi to station, train to Reading, bus to Heathrow, plane to Dubai, plane to Johannesburg, meet relatives, collect hire car, drive to brother’s house. Total time spent travelling: about 26 hours. Yick. Still, we nearly bought tickets via Amsterdam and Nairobi, so maybe we got off lightly.

Our arrival at Jo’burg airport set the tone of the rest of the trip: I met some new relatives. There to greet us were Bash’s Mum, one brother (Lee), both sisters-in-law and all her (close) nieces and nephews. I say “close” because unlike us stuffy Brits, they use niece and nephew to refer to childen of their siblings, children of their cousins, children of their second cousins, etc. Also, cousin might mean cousin, or second cousin, or first-cousin-once-removed, or just a buddy. Aunty and Uncle mean Aunty and Uncle but are also respectful terms of affection for unrelated elders. As you can possibly imagine, Bash’s explanation of her family relationships got quite confusing, and I ended up drawing a family tree on the flight from Dubai. It took up about five pages and covered the close relations on her Mum’s side. We’re talking a big family here, people.

Gladly, as I proceeded to meet maybe a third to a half of them (ie about 200 people) over the next two weeks, they all proved to be warm, friendly, hospitable, and just downright nice. One thing her Uncle Yusuf (yes, really an Uncle) said after the wedding (in his “report” to the rest of the family) was that he’d felt that being with my family was “like being with a white version of our family”, and I came to see what he meant. Her close family in particular made me feel very at home, and I’m very pleased to report that I now have two lovely Mums.

By the way, my first Mum is in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, today having a hip replacement. Please send her a prayer/some good wishes/some positive energy/whatever you think appropriate. Thanks!

I won’t go into huge detail of the honeymoon here – I did keep a diary and maybe sometime I’ll write it up and put it on the wedding pages. I also have lots of photos of course, which I developed last weekend, but unfortunately the scans are rather “dusty” so I’ve sent them back to be done again. In a quick summary, though:

  • We arrived on the Friday; on the Saturday night there was a family reception of about 150 people where I shook many hands and really honed my skills at making salaam. Was a nerve-wracking experience but ultimately lots of fun and a good start to the honeymoon.
  • We followed that by going home and watching Devdas – ace!
  • We spent a few days around Johannesburg/Pretoria, meeting people and doing a bit of shopping (especially good: Rosebank Mall and its Rooftop Flea Market)
  • Road trip, baby! To Durban, on the Indian Ocean coast, staying with a cousin in her place right on the sea front – outstanding. I fell a bit in love with Durban, I must say; the sunshine, the heat, the humidity, the rain, the ocean, the people. Maybe I couldn’t stand it in the summer, though… I took some of my best photos on the trip in Durban, of surfers in the Indian Ocean, of Bash in the Botanical Gardens, of the skyline from a pier, … I will return. And again, such amazing hospitality.
  • Back to Jo’burg for the last few days, including a Hivemind meetup (ie lots of SA media and IT types) at a very cool jazz cafe, and staying the night at Bronny’s, who gave us a scare the next morning by pretending to break her leg – again!
  • A great picnic with all the close family at Jo’burg Botanical Gardens on our last full day, the highlight of which was Alicia taking her dog off the lead, saying something about it being “very well trained, will stay close if called”, and then watching (and running after) as it bombed straight into the water and began gleefully chasing ducks.
  • Lots and lots of really great home cooked Indian food. Bash and I relaxed our recently tendency towards vegetarianism for the duration of the trip, and were rewarded with some truly excellent meals. Thanks, everyone!
  • Bash’s cat Sienna approves of the union, and displayed her approval by bringing us a sparrow every morning that we slept at her Mum’s house. We’re looking into the logistics of bringing her to the UK, but it’s likely that the quarantine restrictions will be too onerous.
  • In Dubai airport on the way back, nearly succumbing to the temptation of Micky-D’s, but instead keeping the Adventurous Food flag burning by getting a Lebanese chicken biryani and kiwi juice which were excellent. Take that, Ronald!
  • I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but that’ll have to do for now.

And now of course, it’s back to reality. I spent last week catching up with everything I should have been catching up with over the Easter break, but there’s still a big marking backlog and loads of other stuff on my to-do list. Bah!

Postcodes online!

Registration-free UK postcodes online – fantastic, and much nicer than the official Royal Mail site, which they’ve managed to completely screw up. Wonder how long before they take it down, though… [ntk]

Wedding bells

OK, so, I’ve left it waaaay too long to write about this, but the more time passes the more things I have to tell about and the more other things I have to do, so I figure I should say something, anything here even if it’s much less than complete.

So anyway, I got married. :-) A month ago!

I’m about half-way through writing properly about it, but it’s not ready for publication and right now I don’t have time, nor will I for a while… I just got back from a conference in Barcelona (where the weather was very Swansea-like, I might add, to my disappointment), and I’m about to depart on my honeymoon to South Africa on Thursday! Honeymoon is belated due to teaching duties immediately after the wedding, alas. It promises to be interesting and possibly overwhelming: the day after arrival, I’ll be meeting about 250 of Bash’s family & extended family for a big party, and will no doubt feel very much under the microscope – but so long as she’s by my side I know I’ll cope… :-)

Anyway – for now, here are some hurried words and a link to the photos, which have actually been online for quite a while. There are loads of them, and they’re not properly sorted out, and there’ll be more to add later, but what the heck. Here they are: Andy & Bash’s wedding photos!

Here’s a quick pick of maybe some of the best of the bunch (if you only look at one, look at the first one, which is Photo Of The Day, without doubt):

Best photo of the day Bash dressing with help of Sabiha Bridal party & close relations Boys from the Dwarf! Henna hands Avec Ickle Adamski Bash looking great the night before

The wedding was, of course, marvellous, thank you – everything I’d ever wished for, absolutely. Bash looked incredible and although there were hiccups with the organisation (mainly the hotel being fsckwits), it went fine, and I don’t think any of the guests noticed, particularly.

It feels great to be married… Weird sometimes – particularly initially, we kept catching ourselves and saying “we’re married” with amazed voices, although really this was just the next stage of saying, for the last few months, “we’re getting married” with amazed voices – but so right. One thing I said in my speech was that people always say “when you know, you know”, and I’d always nodded but not really understood, and that now I understand.

Of course, now the real work begins.

That’s it for now, I think – I’ll say more after we get back (19th April), modulo internet cafes in SA, I suppose! (Heh – you can tell you’ve been hanging around theoretical computer scientists too much when you drop “modulo” into conversation, or refer to getting stuck in a turnstile as a “deadlock situation”)

So… The week or so immediately preceding the wedding was one of the most stressful of my life, I’d say… Looking back now it’s all a big hazy fog, but I think it was a combination of trying to keep up with work (which is a more-than-full time occupation anyway), getting jobs done for the wedding (eg burning CDs of music, printing & cutting placecards for the reception, etc.), buying things like presents for attendants and, oh, how about some shoes for the Bridesmaid, and generally running around like headless chickens.

I have a vast spreadsheet which has already moved into the pages of family folklore, and which I used to keep track of guest list, seating plan, budget, who’d booked rooms for whom, what music we were going to play and, critically in the last few days, a schedule and packing list. The schedule was fun – with just over a week to go before the Big Day I started allocated tasks to particular days, and all of a sudden I could see an unbroken path connecting where we were now with where we would be the day after we were married. The choice was to get very focussed on the task at hand or turn into a dribbling mess. I can’t remember right now which path we took. The packing list has about a hundred items between us – and we still managed to forget part of Bash’s outfit (but I’m getting ahead of myself). Yet another lesson that technology is just a tool, not a solution…

Things really started happening on Thursday 27th February: Bash had the day off in order to meet Bronwen, Bridesmaid coming from SA, but I had lectures to deliver & seminars to attend – boo! We went for a couple of swift drinks at JC’s (student bar) at the end of the day, but then I had to get back to the office printing placecards and burning the music CDs for the wedding. The girls swanned off to my house to have henna put onto their hands and, in Bash’s case, feet. I finished with the CDs at about 11, and popped round to help wrap their appendages in clingfilm to protect the henna overnight, then I tidied up and went to Bash’s house, there to sleep (they all stayed at mine – boo again).

Friday morning, up at 7 and back round to mine to help everyone get ready and packed (and to pack myself!). Barbara (the other Bridesmaid) and I both had lectures to deliver so the plan was to hit the road as soon after 1pm as possible. I guess we managed that, in that about 2:30 turned out to be as soon as possible. :-/ The car was jam-packed with bags, Brides, and Bridesmaids, and off we set.

We got as far as Port Talbot, about half an hour down the line, before I said to Bash, “I know this is a rhetorical question, but you did pick up your blouse from the shoe shop, didn’t you?” The blouse was part of her wedding outfit, and was at the shoe shop as a colour match because they were dyeing her shoes. I knew she’d picked it up, it was clearly a rhetorical question, I just had to ask. So she turns white, puts her head in her hands, swears a bit, and tells me that yes, she did pick it up, and yes, she left it back at the house.

I was the picture of calm as we turned around and drove home. :-)

So we got to my parents’ house, had welcomes, spooked the cat, unloaded, got changed and everything, then went into Plymouth for a meal. We were supposed to meet Bash’s uncle Yusuf Vaizie who’d come over from Ireland but somehow that didn’t work out – communication problems – but we had a good meal nonetheless. Considering we had an early start the next day we stayed up fairly late chatting about stuff, checking arrangements, etc. and I took this lovely shot at around 1am, just before going to bed.

In one of those wonderful touches that really make you believe in God, it snowed, and snowed well. Saturday morning, we woke up to see this outside the bedroom window (more here, including obligatory pawprints). It was really great to feel that our wedding weekend had got off to such a special start.

So we headed into Plymouth, ‘cos I, being a Super Uber Bridegroom, had arranged full body massages for the Bride and Bridesmaids (their delight at this offer was matched only by their disappointment that alas, I would be too busy to provide the massage myself). We arrived at the hotel, installed the Bridesmaids at the spa, and were then met by the first “hiccup” of the weekend – the first of many small hiccups, alas. I’d been told, not two days previously, that we would have access to “the Commonwealth Suite”, where our wedding and party were taking place, all day on Saturday, so we’d arranged to decorate it in the morning, and had a couple of people coming along to help. Instead, we found, there was an event going on there until 1pm, so we had no chance to do any decoration before then.

As I say, this was the first of several niggly problems. To be fair, the hotel responded pretty well to this particular problem and were generally helpful, and but generally there were a number of things and generally made promises and reassurances that things would be OK

The Plymouth Hoe Moat House (Moathouse ?) Hotel made some bad mistakes in handling our wedding. No details here, but they seemed inexperienced and really botched several important things (eg opening doors for bride’s entrance, implementing our seating plan properly, actually folding the name-cards we’d prepared telling everyone where to sit, not having food from breakfast on the floor at the wedding dinner, etc. — ask me for more details if you’re interested), and we generally didn’t feel like they were being helpful enough, particularly on the day.

We still haven’t written our thank you cards.

We still haven’t sent the throw-away cameras for development.

I’ve still got two films of XP2 (black & white) to develop.

In other news, the following have been sitting in my browser/inbox over the past couple of weeks:

  • Around Cornwall in a mini – the continuing advertures of Krag Wad, erstwhile colleague at Frontier. (Ack – since I wrote this link, two weeks ago, maybe Krag has stopped paying his bills. Boo to that.
  • Also from Krag, Webjay – “listener created playlists of songs on the web”. I must confess I haven’t actually downloaded anything from here yet, my brain won’t let me, but there you go.
  • Via Simon, a set of spider-drawn world subway maps, all at the same scale – neat. Hey, Barcelona’s there!
  • Driving home from work the other night, Bash was surfing the airwaves and came across some aural madness which we assumed was being projected from John Peel’s brain. How wrong we were – it was, in fact, Late Junction on, horror of horrors, Radio 3 (and of course, since then we’ve been cruising to work in the morning to the relaxing sounds of Grieg and Barber, rather than the grating claxons of John Humphrys and Jim Naughtie), and very eclectic it was too. Anyway,In particular, it introduced me to Moondog (true and improbable cartoon bio here). They played a track from A new sound of an old instrument, which was really great, so that’s on my Amazon wishlist now…
  • Also really enjoying “Lightbulb Sun” by Porcupine Tree, and a mix CD of Ali Akbar Khan which someone put together for us…
  • Exercises In Style – thanks, Rich!

Wedding Weather Watch

I’ll be keeping a real close eye on this page over the next five days… Looking good right now, fingers crossed it stays that way.

We received our first wedding cards/presents today, from our colleagues. Let the booty giving commence!

Shurely shome mishtake

Crazy… Gimboland is the top Google hit for funniest weblog ever – but only because I tried to help get defective yeti into the top spot, here.

Happy Anniversary To Me

It’s a significant, anniversary-laden date for me.

First and foremost, in exactly one month, on February 29th, I’m getting married – nuff said.

Second and foremost, a year ago today I received my first email from the girl I’m gonna marry – the start of something big.

Third and finally, I delivered the first Operating Systems lecture of the year today, the same lecture I delivered a year ago (though not on this exact same date), so I’d like to consider this my one-year anniversary as a lecturer. Since that blog entry, I’d say I’ve become more comfortable with waffling on and on (as if such a thing were possible, I hear the members of my family saying), and a lot better friends with chalk.

Today’s lecture felt a lot better than last year’s… I asked if there was anybody in the room who’d been there last year and there were a couple (slackers!), but they didn’t tell me if I’d improved or not. ;-)

No reason to expect things to get any better, I suppose…

I’ve been so involved with work over the last few months that I’ve kinda stopped paying close attention to what’s happening on the world stage – it’s so depressing anyway that I guess I needed a break. So it’s nice to start the year on an extremely black-humourous and cynical note with Exile Magazine’s Funniest 50 Moments of 2003 [null] (a little Russo-centric in places and very dark throughout).

And another new year begins…

Hola compadres! Well, it’s been all quiet on the Gimboland front for a while, so I thought I’d bring things up to date a little. First up, happy new year!

There hasn’t been much Gimboland activity at all since October or so because I’ve just been so darn busy with work – these damn students just won’t leave me alone. I think I’m being too helpful, and I need to work on being gruff and dismissive. The new term begins next Monday, and there’ll be exams to mark and marks to collate which is a pig of a job but one I’m landed with, so don’t expect great things on this site for the rest of January. In fact, February and March are probably out to, because (hold onto your hats) I’m getting married at the end of February. Woo and indeed hoo. More details later (and the inevitable pictures), but for now suffice to say that as if I didn’t have enough to do with teaching, marking, and research, I also have wedding preparations to think about now too. :-)

Nothing much else is flitting into my mind at the moment, so I think I’ll leave it there. Once again, happy new year everyone – I hope you all had funky Christmases, and all the best for the year ahead.

Sayonara!

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