Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It can be cold in Woodley, damn cold.

{Apologies to the Goon Show}.
The boiler failed last night (broken extractor fan) so the house now reminds me of when I was a kid in the 70s. Back then there was only a gas fire in the living room and no radiators throughout the house; frost on the inside of single-pane windows in the bedroom after a really cold night (remember those?); hot water bottles in the beds to make it possible to actually get under the covers.
Modern life is just too cushy.


Microsoft has launched a new operating system, Windows Vista

Do you know what the highlight of the celebrations were for us? Eight foot high inflated letters on the grass outside. Yes, wow.



Monday, January 29, 2007


Posers with Laptops

One ability of the operating system on a laptop is that you can easily close the lid/screen and carry the machine around without worrying about your applications that you left running. The machine should neatly go into a sleep/hibernation mode from which you can usually wake it up by lifting the screen up again.
So I get mildly irritated when I see seemingly intelligent people walking around with the laptop open like a book as if they don't dare close it up.
In the lift this morning were two such people, chatting to each other across the small space. Their colleague, laptopless but with a rucksack on his shoulder, bade farewell on an earlier floor and walked past them through the narrow gap between their laptops, neatly snapping off an exposed USB memory stick on the way.
To have laughed would have been rude and insensitive. Inwardly I cackled all the way to my desk.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Big Garden Birdwatch

As we get so many birds visiting our garden (for its size), we joined in with the RSPB "Big Garden Birdwatch" to help them with trend data.

The birds are artificially drawn to our garden on the whole with peanut and bird seed dispensers - during the summer they tend not to bother at all. The most frequent visitors are Blue and Great Tits that take over the tree/bush/weed at the end of the garden where we hang the food dispensers. The occasional House Sparrow will turn up and wait its turn - the tits are quite territorial and not worried about chasing other birds off.

The birds are very messy when picking out food and many fall seeds to the ground which is where the Wood Pigeons come in (they also hop up onto the garden table where I have spilt peanuts and seeds when filling up the dispensers). A lonely Robin will hop down from the to along the floor too, and a pair of Dunnocks (Hedge Sparrows), especially under the fat balls.

Lastly a pair of blackbirds will root around in the rotten wood and under leaves looking for insects, like bargain hunters at a jumble sale.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Always lock your PC when you go to make a coffee...

This just appeared in my Inbox :-)

From: xxxxxx
Sent: 24 January 2007 15:48
To: Internal Microsoft alias with lots of members
Subject: Help Please!

Hi All,
I am new at Microsoft and am wondering if someone can help.
One of my clients asked about the “Xbox”?
Does anyone know what this is?
Can you sell software assurance with it?
Is it an EA only product?
Many thanks in advance,
Kind regards,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

At last, southern England has had snowfall. In the usual volume, too, so should be gone by this evening.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


We will fix it, we will mend it...

Found a picture of our fences from October 2002. We had been away for the weekend in Disneyland Paris and came back to a clearer view of the house than we expected. According to the BBC archive, the weekend of the 27th "a deep depression moved from SW Ireland to NE England bringing rain and storm force winds, Mumbles near Swansea had a gust of 84 knots. There were some fatalities and widespread damage to trees and power lines bringing disruption to road and rail networks." The weather on the way back from Paris to Calais had been particularly bad and one of the skylights in the coach had been ripped off and hurled down the motorway. We were lucky to get back on the Eurotunnel - first the ferries were in trouble and there were queues of traffic on the roads leading to the port; secondly the storm was affecting the tunnel railway by depositing salt spray on power lines and tracks, clogging them up and causing short circuits. By the next day the Eurotunnel was closed down for half the following week.

Fences lost in October 2002

As you can see, all the fence panels from the brick wall on the left (behind the red flare on the picture) fell down as the bases of the wooden posts had rotted through. We spent many a happy hour, usually in cold rain, replacing them with MetPosts (Ghod's gift to bodgers).

This time all the MetPost-planted posts held firm (as you'd expect as they can't rot anymore) but the remaining rotters went. We found that it wasn't possible to simply replant the broken post as one of the arris rails had broken and this one dated back to an era when fences were supersized. The DIY stores only stoked shorter arris rails so we had to improvise. We already had a spare post from last time so we added that to the broken post (with new Metpost) and effectively converted 2 long panels into 3 small ones. You can also see the ginger planks from 2002 too standing out against their anaemic but younger brethren:

Fences lost in October 2002

Sue the fence fixer 2007
Sue the fence fixer 2007

Chatting to a neighbour we learned that the brick wall in the garden used to blow down without fail until the previous owners added a small buttress to it - I must say I did not look forward to rebuilding that. Bodging wooden fences I can manage as there is a lot of hitting things with hammers but building a brick wall would be definitely something I couldn't get away with.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


An endless wind whips at the headstones of the dead and wails in the trees for all who have and have not sinned.

My sister sent round an email to her acquaintances (and me) this morning as three fence panels blew down last night. I 'replied all' that my fences were still OK since we replaced them after a storm in October 02. Strong winds were howling round the office building as I was writing and brave birds were flying sideways.
5-10 minutes later my phone rings as my wife reported that the fence panels that we DIDN'T replace are starting to blow over... obviously I emailed in haste!

And in Germany some of my colleagues are going to work from home due to a hurricane warning!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007



Do Not Disturb Gnome"So," I said to the player of the character escorting the chambermaid back to his room, "are you getting a 'Do Not Disturb' note for the door?"

"A what? Hell, yeah! I'm all for job creation for minorities."

Admittedly not as amusing as a "what did I just say?" from a game the other night. Three characters are chained together, two of whom are dangling down a pit. The woman playing the samurai (the chained character at the top of the pit stopping us falling to the bottom) said "I am not going down on you two". I must admit that being rescued was uppermost on my mind at the time so I wasn't too disappointed ...

Friday, January 05, 2007


Xbox 360 may have to be repaired

Despite Backward Compatibility, we tend to run Xbox games in the Xbox and Xbox 360 games in the Xbox 360. Until now we haven't really had an Xbox 360 game that we play for hours on end so haven't really noticed how often it crashed. It used to crash before but not often and not too annoyingly. Now, with Viva Piñata it is becoming a nuisance - luckily the game has a regular auto-save as it crashes after an hour or so, and then once or twice an hour after that. Xbox support says that their records show a warranty for my machine up until January 11th so maybe it's time for it to go in for repair. I'm not too happy about that as I'm not sure I'll get a decent machine back - it could be someone else's refurbished machine which hasn't been as well looked after as mine. The crashing is not going to go away, though, so something needs to be done.




I've been tagged by Dr Doug and I need to think of 5 things you probably didn't know about me so ... this one time, at band camp...

  1. I'll start with my criminal record. I have been a really bad boy in my time. In 1984 I was fined for being a "Pedestrian on the Motorway". I had been hitch-hiking from Swansea to Portsmouth and was dropped off with just a mile or two from the end of the M275. Coincidentally, the end of the motorway is yards away from a police station so I was easily spotted by a car returning to base.
  2. I am one of a very select group of people that have attended a full University course and completely failed to get a degree as a result. It was my belief that the 82-85 group of students studying Chemistry at Swansea were in the fortunate position of being so small in number that the department couldn't afford to drop any one (i.e. me). In contrast, the department went through the 83-86 intake with a chainsaw (although, unfortunately in some cases not literally).
  3. I used to publish a fanzine in the mid/late 1980s and early 90s under the title "The Green Goblin", named partly after Games Workshop's glossy magazine "White Dwarf" and partly after the Spiderman villain. Content initially was game-oriented but spread eventually to any old rubbish. I gave it up as filling up a whole fanzine with new writing (and not just plagiarising stuff) was bloody hard.
  4. I play D&D and have done since 1977, apart from a barren stretch in most of the 90s when I settled down and started a family. These days I play twice a week (player and DM) during term time at Reading Uni. Actually, that reminds me - D&D (and Green Goblin) probably directly contributes to "2" above but that would give the false impression that getting a degree was my big ambition and other activities got in the way - quite the reverse, really.
  5. I love butterscotch (but my weird family don't). There is something in that mixture of sugar and butter that really does the trick for me. A bowl of Angel Delight butterscotch is NOT for sharing.

After having bared all, I hereby tag John, Mike, Zoe, Kristine, and Jess.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Secret Santa knows I've been good

Because of people out of the office at inconvenient times over the holidays, we had our Secret Santa present fest in out team meeting today. Being notorious for wanting to buy such things as USB Christmas Trees with the company's hardware budget, Secret Santa thoughtfully bought me a fan for my laptop. Can't wait for the summer! I wonder if this would be more useful plugged into an Xbox 360...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007



What a great quote:

"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."

Gore Vidal b. 1925. In The Sunday Times Magazine 16 September 1973

This came round on the QuotationOfTheDay emailer that I subscribe to
(and have done since 1994 - one short email a day, often educational, sometimes funny. Recommended).

Monday, January 01, 2007


Stick 'Em Up!

We've managed to free up some floor space now by putting the boards up on the wall. Hopefully this will have the added bonus by its visibility of getting me to take my board down the local slope and put in some practice. The setup is very simple - some Stikup "beans" with their plastic straps keeping them in place. I'm sure we'll get the hang of putting the boards up and taking them down again - bit of a bugger trying to do the buckles with a heavy board in your hands at the moment.

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