green light now begin 30 august 2002
Hmm. Must listen to more Saul Williams. Intense poet gets into hip-hop, has good vocal stylee plus extremely heavy poetic lyrics. His track Twice the first time, on the Ninja Tune tenth anniversary compilation, is astonishing.
Annoying Acrobat features: hey kids, if you're delivering a lot of PDFs to your user base, you can create a cross-PDF index, allowing you to search across the entire documentation set from any document! Isn't that a useful feature? Damn straight. Another useful feature is document security, which allows you to lock your document set so that the buggers in sales can't nick your text and send it to clients. And guess what? At Acrobat 4.0, you could quite happily index across a set of secure PDFs. At 5.x, however, you can't. So if you want to distribute any form of secure documentation, you can kiss goodbye to one of the more useful features of large-scale PDF documentation.
Fortunately, we discovered this before the really huge release, so this was only a major annoyance rather than full-blown panic. There's a workaround: index the PDFs using version 4.0 of Acrobat Catalog rather than 5.0 (the resulting index.pdx file works for 5.0). It's a bit of a pain in the tits, though. And with 6.0 looming on the horizon, we're wondering about this. Surely it's not that unusual to want to distribute a secure set of cross-indexed PDFs?
OK, I'm not sure about the hype, but Emerge is definitely a bloody good track. I doubt that Fischerspooner were really worth 2 million squid as a result, but it's a damn nice groove. Everyone comes home to Kraftwerk sooner or later.
The new Cannondale singlespeed mountain bikes are going by the cunning and subtle codename 1FG. That'd be the classic singlespeed slogan "One Fucking Gear" then, would it? Personally I prefer the slightly more English "More Ears Than Gears".
In the drainage ditch (it's a remnant of a roman ditch, kids!) that runs along the back of Jesus Green, someone's dumped a wheelie bin. One of the big black council ones that students tend to take rides in occasionally. It's a shallow ditch. The bin's lying on its side, and the better part of one side protrudes above the surfact of the water. People tend to dump stuff into this ditch pretty often - it's on the way home from a lot of central city pubs of a Friday night. Usually, the city council is pretty good about skagging stuff that's been dropped in there (typically traffic cones, street signs, bicycles, and other stuff that's easy to grab when you're drunk). The bin's been there for over a month now. And why? Because within two days of it arriving in the ditch, one of the local ducks had built a nest on top of it. The eggs should hatch soon (last batch of the year, I'd say), and then I'd expect the bin to be removed. But it's nice to know that the city council workers have a soft spot.
Repeat after me! you don't need to / emerge from nothing / you don't need to tear away / - bloody hell does that track grow on you. Go go electro minimalism!
big fish little fish cardboard box 29 august 2002
It's Saturday night. We're at home, watching television, because we're old and dull. We have the futon unfolded, and we're lying full length, with our heads propped up on cushions. Heads towards the television. Which is by the door. So, to recap - we're lying down, with our faces about ten inches off the floor, facing towards the (open) door.
Life needs foley. If life had foley effects, the spider would have made a little skidding noise as it came around the corner. I swear to god, we're lying there watching telly, when this gigantic spider dashes around the corner, through the open door, and straight towards our faces. At, I should point out, some speed. Fangs possibly slathering, I couldn't tell - I was too busy being stunned and leaping off the futon.
It reached the foot of the futon and paused for breath. Quite possibly it was trying to work out where we'd gone. Fortunately, we'd had a tipple or two earlier in the evening, and I had a wineglass to hand. While Heather distracted the spider by the cunning strategem of shouting "It's as big as a bloody horse!", I performed the classic pincer movement, came up on it from behind, and trapped it under the wineglass. These wineglasses have quite large rims - about 8cm in diameter. I had to maneuver the glass around to get the full legspan of this spider into the glass. It was, quite literally, the largest spider I've ever seen outside a zoo or pet shop. Impressive.
I released it into the wild with a slight feeling of regret. Mind you, it was starting to chew through the glass, so it had to go somehow.
Saw Last Night a day or two ago. Excellent film, well worth seeing. Those wacky Canadians.
What we're listening to at the moment: er... OK, OK. I've been listening to a couple of tracks by Tenacious D, those wacky Americans. Mainly spurred by being around at a mate's place on Sunday night, with Kerrang TV on in the background, when their song Tribute was played about four times in the evening. It's a good song. So's a lot of their other stuff. Especially the soulful and touching ballad Fuck Her Gently, which is, in actual fact, genuinely quite touching (yet still pretty damn funny).
All been very hectic recently. I'm one of two people working on a project at work. I've also been asked to help out on another project as we're shortstaffed. Then my coworker became ill for a very long time. And both projects are coming to a head at precisely the same time. This week, in fact. I'd say that I only see daylight at lunch, but since it's still late summer that's not entirely true. Not much spare time, though, hence lack of meandering updates.
mildly narked since 23 august 2002
The average total cost of driving a mid-size car 15,000 miles per year is approximately $6795.00, including operation and maintenance costs. A SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) would cost approximately $8000 per year.
I figure I've paid about £1000 or so in the last year on bikes & bits. And that includes a new bike, an insurance claim, and some rather pricey waterproofs. And I've got a whacking great big grin too.
Jack's law of mailing lists: any post that appears after a few mildly narked emails and starts out "...as history has repeatedly proven, and as I will prove in the treatise below:" is unlikely to calm debate.
Nice day in Newcastle yesterday. For which, read that it started at 4:30am, we got home at 5pm, and acquired some useful information in the intervening hours. The 7am flight was a bit of a pain, but it meant that we got to the office in Newcastle around 8:30 and thus got the drop on a number of their staff. Much more formal place than ours. Everyone was wandering around in shirts and ties. Including myself, I should point out - I know how to dress when you're offsite, even if it is just to another of our offices. Especially if it's to another one of our offices - we don't want to give the buggers the impression that we're a bit slack. So it's on with the tie and jacket, and off we go to look impressive. So we had a chat, and gleaned much useful information on how life looks in the trenches at a call centre (nasty), and had a rather good lunch, and generally justified spending £250 to save on stuffing around with a teleconference. So there we are.
Wasn't fun being back in a call centre. I could smell the fear as soon as I walked in. The fear hit you like a bad duck. Right in the back of the throat. I've worked in a call centre. Never again. The pleading eyes of the staff, the manic scrabbling at the coffee machine - it was all too horribly familiar. I asked what the turnover was. High. Never again. Never again.
Lovely day though. Newcastle looked beautiful, lots of great old Victorian buildings now occupied by various management firms. Didn't see the harbour and the Millennium Bridge, though I'd have liked to. The castle looked very picturesque as we sped past it in a taxi. And hills. Hills are a good thing in a city. All in all, it was a nice looking town. Except, of course, for the council estate we drove through on the way in, which looked like someone had just had a buy one, get two free sale on metal doors and shutters. Crack chic, ho. We were in the town for about six hours and didn't get glassed - result.
After a very dull wait in the airport, we hopped the plane and flew back to Stansted. Outside the terminal, there's a thin strip of grass separating the pick-up area from the carpark. It's maybe three metres wide by thirty or so long. And it was covered - covered, I say - with people sunbathing. Transit passengers, to be precise. They lay sprawled out on the grass, heads on suitcases, small children propped up on baggage trolleys. Well, it was a lovely day - why sit inside a stuffy airport terminal for longer than you absolutely have to?
Saw a telly program last night on obsession. They had a piece on Cat. No, not that Cat, the bloke in the US who is trying to make himself into a human/cat hybrid. Full body tattooing, nose flattening, facial implants, artificial whiskers, the lot. He was an extremely articulate and coherent person - he knew what he wanted, he knew why he was doing it, and he didn't see why people should have a problem with it. Fair enough too. Also had a rather nice interview with Steve Haworth, who's doing much of the transformative surgery for him. Steve was also a very articulate person and seemed to genuinely care about his patients, which is a good attitude for someone pulling that sort of extreme modification. Steve Haworth also had some very nice facial brands - three parallel lines above his right eye, three below, which I seem to recall being a mark of a member of the Church of Body Modification. Looked great, though. Facial branding - it's the way forward.
another one of those 20 august 2002
A few busy days. I'm off to Newcastle on a work jaunt tomorrow (chat with some people in a call centre we run up there), which sounds like a laugh until you get the flight confirmation which requests you check in at 5:30am. Bloody hell. And I have to wear a bloody tie, too.
Cracked the 300 mile mark on the bike at the weekend. Having put the 'puter on on the 22nd July, I'm quietly chuffed with this. Next goal is to see how fast we can get to 500.
New music! Fopp has just opened in central Cambridge, so I've been unloading a fair whack of cash on their copious stock of back catalog. Lots of stuff that you half-assedly meant to buy when it came out in '99, but didn't quite have the cash for at £14. When it's sitting there at £5, it's much easier to go "ah, there's one track I like on this CD - it's only a fiver...." So I've been cranking up some back catalog by Kid Koala (top piece of turntablism, lots of virtuoso scratching, but very short), Mr Scruff (it's nice to have a copy of Fish), the 2002 Ninja Tune compilation (worthwhile), and a rather odd combination experimental electronica/classic jazz fusion compilation CD which works very well at providing a few inches of insulation at work. Nice the house. That track Verbal by Amon Tobin is pure class. Mind you, I've tried listening to it five times today, and someone comes up and asks me something right in the middle each bloody time. Ah well.
can it be sunshine? 13 august 2002
So I heard on the news this morning that Anne Summers is petitioning to no longer be considered a sex shop. Given that Anne Summers are a chain of shops (and tupperware party style home selling parties) which sell sex toys, lingerie, and various related acoutrements, this is a bit of a reach. Why bother? What's the big deal? Well, the big deal is this. Because of the way the unemployment benefit here works, you have to be actively looking for a job. And if you get offered a job, you have to take it. Regardless of whether you want to work at that place or not. This explains the "interviews on speed" section of Trainspotting for all those of you who'd been mystified by it. Anyway, it is felt that work in a sex shop would be too degrading to force people to do. Hence, sex shops can't list jobs via the employment service.
Which is all well and good, up until the point that the Anne Summers rep pointed out that it's considered perfectly fine to force vegetarians to work in a butchers. You know, god forbid that we should force someone to have to stock shelves full of edible underwear, but it's quite fine to force people to handle slabs of dead meat against their will. Or to make people work at, say, the local sewage farm. Or crematorium. Or to force people to take a variety of jobs that they find humiliating or offensive, so long as the naughty word sex never appears in the description. Feh!
Which is just one reason why I don't like the employment laws over here much.
OK, now no offence here, but politics back home are just getting ridiculous. You'd have thought that it'd be a fairly basic check, wouldn't you - "So, you want to be a Member of Parliament? Well, first off, are you actually a New Zealand citizen?" Tch. United Future in pack of complete muppets shocker.
knee deep in it 12 august 2002
I've been waking up unable to breathe a bit recently. Something to do with the stormy weather we've been having. Thanks, world - not only am I soaking wet, I can't breathe either. Nice. A number of other people have been having similar problems, to the point where the local hospital (Addenbrookes) has had to set aside a ward specifically for asthma problems. So within the last fortnight I've gone from using my inhaler (Pulmicort, ho!) once every three months to twice a day. It's at about this time that I realised that my inhalers are all Best Before 1999 or so. Whoops! A brief interaction with the NHS later, I'm happily being prescribed the generic versions of my favorite "keep Jack breathing" drugs. That wacky cost-cutting NHS! Still, I can breathe once more. For now.
Dear god. I'm on a tech writing mailing list, partially in order to keep up with industry trends but mainly because they tend to talk bollocks a lot. Someone - a professional technical communicator working for a multinational software company - actually just posted asking how many pence there were in an English pound.
Words fail me.
Weekend's cycling: Sunday afternoon, 35 miles, on/off road around Cambridgeshire. Lessons we learned:
I think we won on points, but we did have to wash the bikes (and ourselves) quite thoroughly when we got back. One of the purposes of the trip was to break in Martyn's new forks. At the end of the day, his forks still gleamed a silken white, completely unmarked by any trace of mud. This was the same time that I was brushing most of a small cattle yard off our bikes. I think the secret is to aquaplane through the crap as fast as possible. Hey, even if it doesn't work, it's fun for the rest of us to watch.
Oh, and I found out on Friday night that I can fit an entire case (12 bottles) of wine into my pack. Well, two half-cases of six bottles each. And then bike home through traffic. And pass people.
It's the little things that cheer you up.
Went to see Amadeus on Saturday afternoon, due to a sudden attack of appalling weather. Interesting film. The director's cut, of course - we're cultural snobs, and we thought this would put us streets ahead of the rest of you plebs who've only seen the original. Anyway, not having actually seen the original, I can't comment on the changes, but having read the play I thought it was an excellent adapation (screenplay also by Peter Shaffer). Our enjoyment was slightly marred by 8 of the 10 other people in the theatre either having weak bladders, extremely noisy food, or loud conversations. I'll say this: crowds at the Arts Cinema are noticeably worse behaved than at the Warner Village multiplex.
Interesting account of cycling 3000km along the world's highest road. The main benefit of this being that it's convinced me never to try it.
So, this new instant fine scheme has a certain merit. I can see a fascinating new revenue stream. The money to be made by busting teenagers in the town centre on a Friday night at £40 a pop, cash, should more than cover the cost of renting a couple of police uniforms for the evening. Strongarm the young and drunk for fun and profit, kids!
we have come to bless this house 7 august 2002
Apparantly the average Briton cycles 77km per annum. Heck, we knocked that off over the weekend. 34 miles on Saturday: did the Wimpole Way bridlepaths to Wimpole hall, then came back through the South Cambridgeshire villages. Made more interesting by my attempts to bike through foot-deep mud in slick tyres (it really doesn't work). Lots of quite reasonable offroading, some random (very) free range chickens, some nice forest bits. Saw a wide variety of roadkill, including a badger (poor thing). Nearly concussed a bunny when tackling a hill - it hopped up on its back legs to see what the noise was just as I passed it, and I narrowly missed braining it with me pedal. Finished off with a couple of pints in the Green Man pub in Grantchester. Very nice, very bucolic. Sunday was also good - a slightly more directed ride, in that we were headed out to Willingham for a barbie with a mate. They've just moved into a farm cottage, which means that they're right next to a huge field of sheep (and just over the fence from about 2000 chooks). Quite bucolic, though the paddock lice are pretty loud. And it pissed down for the barbie. Still, a nice little ride there/back. All in all, we ended up racking up about 56 miles over the weekend, which was good fun.
British media commentators are way too snobbish to even consider comics as anything other than bum-wipe for retarded kids and refuse to accept that the content of some comics may be demonstrably more intelligent and entertaining than the contents of their favourite dreary thirty-something crisis novel, play or motion picture. The American pop mainstream is too fucking brain dead to be proud of one of its three best ever ideas and has instead spent fifty years trying to censor comic book content into oblivion instead of encouraging comics to get weirder, wilder and more relevant to our wild, weird times.
Interesting. The upcoming Vin Diesel action flick XXX stars Paul and Phil Hartnoll as themselves. Better known as Orbital. We'll definitely be seeing that one, then.
I love afternoons like this. We've just had an all-hands meeting where we were told that we're cutting jobs. Fortunately, not in our area of the operation. Still pretty worrying though. Ah, telecoms - cash cow only a few years ago. Net result: I'm still employed.
onwards with technology 2 august 2002
A few comments on using a cycle computer. I've had one on for about a fortnight now, and I'd just like to say that they rock out.
I'd always thought that cycle computers were a pretty stupid-looking piece of kit. The sort of thing that only complete gadget freaks carry. You know, after you've upgraded to titanium wheel skewers, you get a wireless cycle computer so you can tell precisely how long you've been pedalling in your current interval training session. Who needs all those fiddly little buttons? Who needs to know what their current cadence is?
Then we went for a training ride with a bloke who had a cheap Cateye on his bike. Halfway through, we stopped and said "Phew, blimey, lord luv a duck, etc; wonder how far we've gone so far?" "Eight miles" came the chirpy response. "How fast then eh clever bastard?" we cried. "Average speed of twelve MPH" he replied. Fancy some of that action, thought us. And so at the weekend I popped into Ben Hayward Cycles and bought a marked-down Specialized wireless 'puter. A bit of set-up later, and I was happily almost cycling into the back of parked cars.
I should explain that. When you read through the manual for these things, they include a little comment to the effect that you should make sure to actually look at the road occasionally. I read this and chuckled indugently. The first time out, however, I was sufficiently engrossed in the computer's features that I spent about half a mile staring at my handlebars. I stopped this after I nearly hit a parked car (I was travelling at an average speed of 14mph with a cadence of 87 at the time, though).
Once you chill out and learn to only glance occasionally at the display, it's all much better. The psychological benefits are unexpected but welcome. Knowing how far you've gone is pretty cool feeling (and encourages you to go further), ditto how fast you've gone. And the odometer is just rocking. I'm up to 110 miles in the last 10 days, though that does include the London to Cambridge bike ride and a few training runs. Good fun, though.
So: recommended upgrade. Especially since you can get a perfectly good bike computer for £15. Executive summary: having had one on my bike for two days, I went out and bought Heather one.
On the plus side, I've started getting breast enlargement spam at my hotmail account as well as penis enlargement spam. Equity, ho.
The woman across the partition from me is off on maternity leave after today (8 1/2 months preggers). She's just flopped her belly out on her desk to show one of my other coworkers something. My word.
quality words since last century
it's deliberately lo-fi
And she doesn't have an email address.
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