Friday 30 December 2011

Is everything sh*t or is it just me? Oh and H.P.Lovecraft.

From way back in 2007:

I know that the whole H.P.Lovecraft thing is a tad out of the ordinary. Demons from the underworld and all that. My mother for instance may think that “it’s tampering with things man wasn’t supposed to understand...” 

Having said that, the loonies outside my front door have been tampering with things they don’t understand: like the English language, shoe laces, banks, credit cards and VCRs so I guess I’m in good company.

Frankly, after living in London for 6 years, I’m pretty blasĂ© about strange things. Saw ‘em every day. So if a 100 foot monster with tentacles for a mouth rose out of the Thames and menaced the houses of parliament I, for one, wouldn’t bat an eyelid. 

Ok. Ok. Maybe one. And say things like “Welcome over-fiend from your vassals below!”

And given the average Londoners IQ I suspect they wouldn’t either. Witness that loonie David Blaine who hung suspended near tower bridge pretending to be unfed for a few weeks. Apart from the nob-heads who razzed him with comments like this:
“Hey David! David! David! David mate! Mate! David! Oi! David! Oi! David!” 
Until he moved and then added with the alacrity and unassuming nature of Londoners:
“You’re a wanker!”
And went laughing and breaking bottles away, I suggest that the average Londoners response to a demon from the pit of hell would be similar:
“He Ker-Thu-lu! Hey! Hey Mate! Mate! Ker-thu-Wanker! Oi! Oi! Mate! Down ‘ere mate! Me and me mates think you’re a wanker!”
So much for the dark over lord gaining universal acceptance. Unlikely in my opinion. Londoners would get on with the normal things of life amid the ruin and chaos of a “rubbery mass of feelers, scaly skin and prodigious claws” raining death and destruction, such as complaining about the tube fares and the length of queues in front of tellers in Brixton.

Anyway, I’m digressing. Sh*t. There’s a lot of it around. 

If you haven’t heard of Cthulhu, Lovecraft or Gibson just plain Google them. You’ll have ample time. It’s not hard. Do it.

Do it now...

Now. Now. Before the dark overlord (with rubbery feelers) brings chaos to your village... Let’s face it... Laws, morals, all thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and generally reveling (according to HPL) sounds not much different from the binge culture in Newcastle anyway. So at least get a head start. A couple of vodka shooters would do it...

Thursday 29 December 2011

Mansquito O.M.G. Bad Sci-Fi Reaches new Lows

Mansquito (TV 2005) - IMDb

This is a weird ass, massive continuity error riddled, terrible dialogue, B- movie but with good special effects. The synopsis is that a medical research lab is going to use a convict to test a mosquito anti-virus. Apparently a rash of a mosquito borne disease is gripping the city. Sort of like West Nile on steroids. The convict escapes, there’s a shootout in the lab and this dude gets infected with a bunch of nasty mosquito virus stuff. He gets away and then mutates into a giant mosquito and wants a mate. So he picks on the female chief researcher who got mildly infected in the same shoot out. Hospitals blowing up, SWAT teams being ripped to bits, bodies everywhere and all the normal gore blood-fest follows.

Ok. Now the dissection. 

What a load of rubbish. 

First up, why is it that when medical research labs need a convict to test some horrible nasty on, they pick the most psychopathic, most violent, most evil nut-job they can find? Personally I would have yanked some one armed, 70 year old death row inmate in a wheelchair. Not much chance of him shooting his way out and causing mayhem. I mean, can you imagine Stephen Hawking armed with a bazooka? Ok. Yeah you’re right. You can, and so can I, but while it makes for an amusing image it’s not likely to happen is it?

Second, why is that the transport they put these murdering psycho f**kheads in always a bus with a couple of intellectually challenged guards? There was no security. They never checked his cuffs and let him stand right next to them and turn their backs on him with guns holstered while they checked him into the lab via a normal front desk! No security whatsoever. 

Now the shoot out was ordinary. Psycho kills people and gets infected. Yadda yadda. Normal fare. Except for one thing. The lab seems to be holding an inordinate amount of explosives. There’s this massive explosion, chairs flying about and so on. Why the hell would any researcher store explosives in a lab with nasty viruses around? 

So our dude gets splattered with goo and escapes. Struggling out a tunnel he stops for a while in a concrete area and mutates. Say what? This whole mutation business leaves me cold. If humans are so liable to mutate into 8 foot mosquitos after dripping a bit of goo on their arm, then I for one am going onto a distilled water only diet. Because if I drip some wine on me I’ll start sprouting grapes out of my arm and if I eat fish and chips I’ll turn into some cod-potato hybrid. The world would be a very different place. Rugby players turning into mud-skippers and so on. And don’t get me started on cottage pie! I might change into a zombie cow with giant peas for eyes and celery sticks for legs!

I mean, come on! Our genetic code is just not that fragile. 

And where do all the human bits go? How does one small human hand suddenly change into a 4 foot long killing claw? Unless it’s like tissue paper, there’s just not enough meat to make one. 

Furthermore, why didn’t he mutate into a larvae? Those little bad-asses are way worse than any full grown mosquito. Have seen those things up close with a microscope? Gives me the willies just thinking about them. All I can say is thank Wotan that he didn’t turn into a Dragon Fly. Have you seen the mouth parts of those things? A more complicated group of interlocking vicious knives, slicing things and munching menace you’ll ever see.

Anyway, our psycho dude then goes off and sucks the blood out of a bunch of people. Now what’s up with that? He *was* male. Only female mosquitos drink blood AFAIK. So unless our dude has TransGender things going on, he’s now a she. So why on earth would she be interested in the female researcher? 

And speaking of drinking blood, boy oh boy, does he go nuts with that. There’s a trail of dry bodies behind him that even the donut eating lard ass cops they always have in these movies could follow it. And the sheer quantity! In the space of two days he must have ingested hundreds of liters! Where the hell did he put it? His legs are thin, man! No hollowed out wood there. 

Then there’s a shoot out at the hospital. SWAT team sent in. They unload thousands of rounds into our Lady-Boy-Squito and they just bounce off. What the hell? Who knew mosquitos were bullet proof? So psycho-squito rips their arms off and sucks them dry as well. Bodies everywhere as it makes its way to the female researcher. Then the funniest thing in the world happened. The “hero,” a daft cop, leaves his partner behind to guard the researcher. And the hero leaves to do his hero thing the partner says this:
“Don’t worry captain, nothing will get past me!”
Now isn’t that just an “Ensign Ricky” moment right there. 

If I was that captains off sider and just heard myself say that line, I’d be out the door, armed to the teeth, and catching a plane to Cuba because you know, you just KNOW, that you’re going to be monster-munchies before you can say “Ad Break.”

So the hero finds our armored mozzie and runs in and shoots one bullet. One bullet! And hits the armored sucking machine in the eye. Say what? Thousands of rounds didn’t dent a feeler, but our hero... Anyway, he’s also got this M16 with a grenade launcher. Continuity errors abound with our hero I might add. But to continue, he puts one grenade into a pair of oxygen cylinders and boom. Now I don’t know whether you’ve ever watched myth busters. This can’t happen. But I digress. Massive explosion, falling masonry etc ensues. 

And wouldn’t you know it, psycho-sucker survives without a scratch, suddenly grows wings and scoots off. Just what the hell is his exoskeleton made of? Unobtainium? Laced with Utter-Crapoids? And those wings. Flimsy little things. And this is where the special effects which up to this point are quite good suddenly break down. The image of psycho-squito flying away cracked me up. It looked just like a plucked chicken buzzing around.

Anyway, another shoot out in a tunnel and the female researcher zaps pscho-sucker and herself with electricity. Biggest bug zapper in the world. Yadda yadda, tears, narration, a dog barks and everyone laughs.

Sigh. I must be an optimist. I must be. I keep thinking that somewhere there must be a scientifically plausible sci-fi movie being made.

Am I getting old? Eh. So what!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

12 steps for vampires

Anyway, I ask strange questions. Here's one: How would a vampire give up being a vampire? Would he join AA? And if so, how would the 12 steps work for him:

Step 1: We admit we’re powerless over our addiction. 

Ok. Tough one that. And self defeating in my opinion. I mean, if you admit you’re powerless, then you give the addiction (and the group but we don’t say that without raising “issues” over whether 12 steps is a path to success or a path to a different kind of addiction) power over you. “I drink blood. I’m addicted. Totally. In fact if I don’t drink blood I have a tendency to die. So I’m addicted. Totally. Oh and sunlight too. If I go into the sunlight I spontaneously combust in a burst of carbonized bits like in Blade. But not like the disruptors that the dudes with ears like Klingons use... Romulans. That’s it. Not like that. Much more like Blade. But it hurts man. It really hurts like buggery.”

Now I don’t hesitate to suggest that any alcoholic would have a tough time coming up to that standard, I doubt that any drink addict is likely to stand up at an AA meeting and say “Oh by the way, if I don’t have 2 pints of scotch a day I’ll die. No really. I don’t mean metaphorically. I mean really DIE. Furthermore, if I get further than 10 feet from a pub I’ll burst into flame and die a horrible agonizing death. And not with meaning like Buddhist priests in Vietnam. I mean just plain VOOM and I’m on fire. For no reason other than I strayed 10 feet 1 inch from a pub. And there are no Romulans involved.”

So. Seductive and easy to admit, but self defeating.

Step 2: Came to believe that some supreme Dude-Power could restore ourselves to sanity.

Oooookaaayyy... Where do I start? First up, vampires are gunna have to believe in some higher power. In fact they know where he is. They’ve watched Underworld and Shaun of the Dead. He’s a dude that looks remarkably like Bill Nighy and hides in a underground tube in a castle and moonlights as a zombie as a favor to Simon Pegg. 

Now I ask you. Any vampire that seriously wants a dude who looks like Bill Nighy to be their supreme overlord is nuts. Not because the dude is also nuts. He is, without doubt, completely 6 cans short of a six pack. So what are the alternatives. God you say? That hebrew nutter with serious impulse control problems that burns cities to the ground? Or the latter one that recants his earlier madness and sends his only son to be nailed to a bit of wood? I don’t think so. Especially since any vampire coming within touching distance of two bits of wood stuck together at right angles causes them extreme pain. 

So it’s not the hebrew god, and by extension not any prophet of that god which eliminates Allah. So who else? Perhaps Enlil or Enki from the Sumerian civilization? After all, the Sumerians had a rather depressing view on life involving tears, anguish and depression. With “evil fates carrying off their lives.” Ok. Sounds more like it. 

So. It’s likely that vampires have accepted Enlil or Enki into their world view. Now this bit about sanity...

Well frankly after reading about Enlil and Enki one doubts their sanity. But can they restore a vampire to sanity? Well, that pre-supposes that a vampire is insane. 

So perhaps some made up God like Cthulhu perhaps. Yes that’s it. Rubbery feelers, scaly skin and prodigious claws. Calls to us during dreams. That sort of thing. I mean, even Cthulhu uses that weird fishy symbol that Christians use. Go look it up. I mean really. Yes really. 

Step 3: Turn our will and life over to supreme-dude as “we understood him.”

Again. Oooookay... But not the hebrew god as explained previously. So. We admit Cthulhu into our lives. Cool.

So it’s off to the H.P.Lovecraft society to get a stone statue to turn our will over to.

Step 4: Make a fearless moral inventory.

No problem. Had a lifetime of doing that. Not bedtime reading. More of a sitting around a campfire with torches under our chins kind of reading. Then more of a kind of running and screaming into the forest where nameless and unspeakable demons rise up from loathsome depths and drag us down into their pit of despair and eternal torment kind of inventory. That kind of inventory. The kind of inventory of drained bodies that Pol Pot or Stalin reads and decides that they just didn’t cut it in the world of murdering f**kheads kind of inventory.

Step 5: Admit to supreme-dude, ourselves and a human what we did.

Now this one is a bit tricky. Cthulhu is far more likely to send a kind of “pat on the back,” so that doesn’t help. No point in admitting to ourselves, ‘cos let’s face it, we have virgins necks in our faces on a regular basis, so we’re pretty much aware of what’s happening. 

So the main problem is finding a human to admit our wrongs too. My point is this. The longer a vampire lives the longer their catalog of brutal and meaningless but tasty deaths is going to be. I suspect that the average 800 year old vampire has sucked the blood out of 800 by 365, roughly speaking, people. That’s some 300,000 humans. Now given that it takes an hour or so to detail who that person was, what they did and how f**king sorry you are to have drained them of blood, that would take some 36,500 days to achieve given that the average human can only concentrate for around 8 hours a day. That’s 100 years.

So. Any vampire is going to have to wait until the 22nd century when life-spans have reached an average of 110 years, given that the average human takes 10 years before becoming “conscious”, before kidnapping some poor f**ker and keeping them alive for at least 100 years while berating them for 8 hours a day about who they sucked dry before that poor f**ker was born. And since the vampire will have to feed in the intervening 100 years, the poor kidnapped f**ker will likely have to endure a Xeno’s paradox of eternal “just one more dead human I have to explain about..” issue.

Step 6: Be entirely ready to have supreme-dude remove the character defects.

Hmm. Difficult. Unlikely that drinking blood from a dying corpse is unlikely to make Cthulhu strain a blood vessel if he/it even has one. In fact it’s far more likely that the scaly old one is likely to say “Hey. Dude. Good fun eh?”

So not much luck on this front.

Step 7: Humbly ask him to forgive our shortcomings.

Well, that might work. After all, Cthulhu might think that only one virgin per night is a bit on the under committed side of things. So admitting that you drink blood from ONE virgin per night is definitely a short coming. 

Step 8: List all the poor b*stards you hurt and make amends.

Oh f**k. As before, Xeno’s paradox and the intransigence of time make that one somewhat difficult to achieve. Unless you take Elijah Baileys approach and work for millennia to bring humanity to some “perfect point” you’re likely to get a D- for this one.

Step 9: Make direct amends to people you hurt wherever possible except where this would injure them.

Oh f**k again. This is just getting so mind convoluting that even Asimov would have a brain hemorrhage trying to work out the robotic law that fits.

No luck here.

Step 10: Continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit it.

Now anyone who has ever had a job understands the CLM. The “Career Limiting Move.” You know what I mean. If you are a bus driver and admit that you like to crash buses, or are a postman who like to shoot people and so on you’re not likely to blurt it out in the lunch room. Not if you don’t want a SWAT team to turn up and spend the rest of your life admiring the padding in your cell.

Any vampire that drains a person, then runs out into the street and admits to a passer by that they have done so is likely to receive a somewhat stoney response, following by dialing 999 or 911 or whatever.

Step 11: Seek, through prayer, to improve our conscious contact with supreme-dude praying to understand his will and to carry it out.

Oh. Right. Sort of like hearing voices then. So let’s say we pray to Cthulhu to understand his will and carry it out. Ok. So not much change from having fun draining virgins then. Kewl. Ok dude, let’s do it.

Step 12: Having spiritually awakened, transmit the message to others in the same position.

Excellent. Let’s open churches to Cthulhu, plan cruises to the south pacific to find the green goo dripping multi dimensional home of our lord and hasten his awakening from his slumber in R’Lyeh. Infect as many humans as possible (which is self defeating but we won’t go there right now), and let’s go on a rampage of star spawned carnage. 

In fact, while we’re at it, let’s get that fun guy Yoggoth involved. 

By the way, this whole thing also applies to serial killers. mass murderers and true terrorists.

So, in conclusion, I doubt that vampires are likely to be queueing up to join AA. It’s just not practical. And furthermore, if they did, then they’d all start opening florists and start sending flowers to graves worldwide. This would cause a complete failure of the international flower business and the inundation of graveyards with piles of flowers.

Actually now I come to think about it, maybe we should investigate some of the inter-flower, or whatever, named groups as they may have links to vampires making amends.

Now. I’m off to book a cruise to the south pacific.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Thought I'd re-use a VERY old post as it's appropriate to this time of year

Originally wrote this in 2007 when we were in the UK.
Stumbled on it this morning and it seemed appropriate given that Christmas is now over.

Obesity is the key to the survival of man!

Ok. It’s been a while. Mainly because we went down to see my relatives in Crawley and spent the days being plied with food and alcohol. To my not so much surprise, I’ve put on weight. Every-time I go down there, I gain at least 2 kilos from the Sunday lunch alone. Piles of parsnips, barrages of beans, cartloads of carrots, barrels of broccoli, mountains of meat, scads of sprouts, heaps of ham, copious amounts of cauliflower, bounteous bowls brimming with beef and all topped off with massive apple pies, cream, ice cream and far, far too much wine. And they do this every week! If I did that each Sunday I’d make the Pillsbury Doughboy look anorexic! There’d be a news story on the BBC about how K had to be winched out of a house with a crane! I’m not kidding. 

What amazes me is that the entire family are thin as rakes! I look like some bloated overweight basketball rolling in like lead fog compared to them. My family packs away those Sunday lunches and overall weighs narry a featherweight more than when they started! Bugger. 

We did try to walk some of the excess off by going to Sheffield park. It didn’t work. How is it possible to gain weight while spending an hour walking around a beautifully manicured garden? Beats me.

Which leads me to a news story making the rounds in the UK. Apparently various government dudes are now stating that half the population of Britain will be obese by 2025. They’re calling it an issue with the same impact as global warming. Now do these people have their heads screwed on or not? 

I say yes. But only if they think its a good thing.

I believe that the vast proportion of the population (and not just 50%) of Britain SHOULD become obese by 2025. My reasoning? Global warming...

As the sea rises and vast swathes of Britain become submerged, nature needs to find a new balance. So all us “thinnies” will have the dry land and all those obese lot will be naturally selected by fast food to survive the flooding by converting fat into blubber, floating off and gradually turning into human forms of whales. It’s evolution in action, people! 

I can see it now. Small thin and emaciated groups of “thinnies” huddled together for warmth on the islands once known as Wales desperately trying to grow lentils and diet crackers being harassed by vast hordes of “whale-people” swimming in shoals around them. One can imagine the movie “Fatties” being made where a dude has his son taken by a whale-man and getting a wizened old guy to hire a boat to go off and hunt the whale-man that took his son. The climax would be the thin guy hanging on to the remnants of the boat firing a rifle into a gas powered chicken rotisserie just as it was being scoffed by the offending whale-man.

Makes sense to me.

I’m off to bed. The sheer amount of food I’ve consumed in the last few days is causing me to fall asleep on my feet. I promise to never, ever eat again. Oh gawd... I’m so full... Which means, I believe, that I’m destined to be a thinnie and be part of the new society living on dry land, while vast herds of obesa-humani-whales slosh across the drowned corn and wheat fields of this soon to be blue and wet land.

Oh. One more thing. I just went out to the front room and found B using a chefs blowtorch to create glazed chocolate cups. I was stunned. You gotta be kidding me. He’s destined to be one of the vast very much salt washed herd I think.

Movies, movies and more movies

Watched a few movies over the last few days.
Just sharing my thoughts:

The Revenant

Synopsis: American Rom-Zom-Com. Oh sh*t. We're dead. Hey! Let's be heroes. Oh sh*t we can't die. Oh look USAF wants to use us to invade... Spoiler...
Watch again: Yup.
Worst moment: If your head gets crushed to pulp, and you can't die, wait. what?
Rating: 9/10

Conan the Barbarian

Synopsis: Me barbarian kid. Me kill bad guys. Me kill very bad guy. Me win.
Watch again: Definitely. Very good reprise of original movie.
Worst moment: A few minor gripes but nothing serious.
Rating: 9/10

Cowboys and Aliens

Synopsis: Aliens want gold. Aliens steal gold. Aliens capture people for no reason. Cowboys and Indians attack ship. Aliens defend. Cowboys rescue people. Aliens have ship blown up by different alien. Dog barks. Everyone laughs.
Watch again: Maybe.
Worst moment: The attack on the ship. Why would the aliens come out of it? Just blast the dumb humans from the safety of their ship!
Rating: 5/10


Synopsis: None. Just a shark grafted onto an octopus mayhem.
Watch again: GACK! Never. Well... Maybe if I was drunk enough.
Worst moment: Eric Roberts. I WANT MY 90MINS BACK. Eric Roberts.
Rating: -1/10

Why, oh why, do these nutters from research labs clone beasts with more teeth than they have? Let’s see. You start your first day at the lab as a research assistant in some desert location in Nevada and the team leader shows you around:

“And here we have our cloned velociraptor, our cloned 30 foot alligator, our cloned 50 foot python, our cloned 10 foot wide spiders with wings and 2 foot fangs dripping venom that can kill a bull elephant, and in here we test gene therapy to create giant insects as violent homicidal killers... Oh and here is our lab where we keep indescribable amounts of explosives next to the ‘bring it on’ rage virus department.”

Personally, I’d be handing in my lab coat and catching the first plane to Alaska. Mind you, there’s probably some loonie up there digging up bodies with Spanish Flu virus in them. Ok. So let’s move to Antarctica. That’s a quiet spot. Unless some predatory aliens have built an underground pyramid there and are planning to release other fast killer aliens with two sets of jaws and acid for blood just for the sport of it. 

Super 8

Synopsis: Kids making movie, inadvertently film alien leaving train wreck. Best description: Goonies meet ET, Alien, Cloverfield and save the day.
Watch again: Possibly just to get a better view of the alien.
Worst moment: USAF colonel and staff. Yes. All of them.
Rating: 7/10

The Howling Collection

Synopsis: Werewolves. At the time cutting edge graphics.
Watch again: Possibly.
Worst moment: Most of them.
Rating: 4/10

The Sarah Jane Adventures
Synopsis: Dr Who's companion Sarah Jane heads up a kiddie alien investigative team.
Watch again: Yup. Elizabeth Sladen at her best.
Worst moment: none.

Rating: 9/10

Transformers 3
Synopsis: Running, shooting, things exploding, things falling down, more things exploding. Krappy dialogue. More explosions.
Watch again: Not likely.
Worst moment: Leonard Nimoy actually using the line "...The needs of the many..."

Rating: 5/10

Oh. While I think of it. Don’t ever watch a movie called Skinned Deep. If you watch it you’ll go mad. It’s rubbish. Imagine a movie with robot and cybernetic zombie hillbillies and dwarves filmed by a director who should have stuck to just doing special effects. I think the moment I went mad and started dribbling was when I realised that the best acting in this steaming pile was by a “little person” who was throwing sharpened plates at octogenarian bikers. Say what?


Every Year B creates a new Christmas tree 'thing' for me for Christmas morning.
Er... I'll give examples.
One year he made a plushy Christmas tree with decorations out of beads...
Another year he made a marzipan tree...
Another year he made a tree screen saver...
Another year he made a origami tree...
And so on.
This years is going to be his year of the Makerbot, so he made a Christmas tree dalek:

3" high.
Cool huh?

Monday 26 December 2011

Sinatra: Up and running!

What a fantastic Christmas present.
My copy finally arrived Dec 24th.
I read it immediately.
And loved it.
Clear concise examples, with a nice touch of humour.
Having trouble locating the examples online, but that's no real issue.
Had a few 'wait. what?' moments though.
I tend to think that most of those were caused by my lack of deep knowledge of Rack.
You know the feeling where a conversation goes like this:
"So you can see that 2 + 2 = 4, right?"
"So now we show what's going on behind that statement"
"So here we have the Calibi-Yau moduli space and by increasing one dimension we can build a box girder bridge"
"wait. what?"
All in all, I have to patient before I get to examining the details as I primarily concerned with having small Restful APIs running out of an executable war (Jetty8).
I'll get there.

Friday 23 December 2011

"Battle of Los Angeles"

Oh god.
Not the far superior "Battle: Los Angeles".
I had the sense of watching a 14 yr old with a camera trying to be Michael Bay but scarcely reaching Uwe Bolls worst attempt.
(Thinking Bloodrayne here. Cost $25m and made 2.5M)

If I had to write a synopsis, I would write as it seemed to me the director pitched the movie:
"This great spaceship, right. It comes down over LA and then smoke and stuff happens and a couple of F16 pilots try to stop it. Girl pilots! And they fail, and crash. And this guy, right, a general or something is gunna shoot one of his pilots, but then a bunch of alien ships race over and then bang, bang, pew, pew. And, and, this guy lands a WWII plane and gets out and gets helped by the modern soldiers and he's stunned, so they are gunna take him to the UFO people... You know Majestik 12. And they run and they shoot and the spaceships come down and pew, pew. And then a big ship starts chasing them and then this ninja lady jumps down and stabs the ship with her sword. Cool. So she takes them to MJ12 and they see an alien and the WWII guy starts screaming 'cos he talks alien and the alien gets free and they're running and pew, pew and they steal a ship and fly it right through the mothership! And then pew, pew and running and shooting and they kill the bad alien and the mothership crashes and... and... Wait. No. That's it."
It was appalling.
I want that 90mins of my life back.

Thursday 22 December 2011

"The Fabric of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene

I wish I had read this in high school.
Of course, I couldn't because I left school 30 years before it was written.

The book covers space, time, spacetime, non-locality, relativity, unification, the second law and so much more.
The writing is clear, concise, easy to read and has a gusto and enthusiasm that reminded me of Carl Sagan.

Newtons Bucket is analysed in exquisite detail throughout the book as a kind of backdrop to how physics has changed and how the refinements and revolutions have been able to more and more accurately describe how (and why) the water spins and forms a concave surface.
(If you have no idea what I've just said, go read

The author has a mention in wikipedia: and has even had an appearance on "The Big Bang Theory". Cool.

Even though the book is slightly out of date with respect to the LHC and later refinements to String and M-Theory, Loop Quantum Gravity et al, I strongly suggest that anyone who wants a thorough grounding in the current state of physics should go out and buy this modest little Penguin book.

I will be definitely getting his later work "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos" as soon as I can.

"The New Road to Serfdom" Daniel Hannan

"A Letter of Warning to America"
More like
"A Letter of Wingeing to America".
I struggled to finish this book.
Tedious, painful, specious, facile, badly argued rot.
For example on pages 131 and 132.
"I can perhaps summarize what's wrong with European gesture politics by adapting a famous observation by P.J.O'Rourke, who wrote that the only political observation he could confidently make was that God was a Republican and Santa Claus a Democrat. By the same token, then I suspect that God is a Euro-skeptic and Santa Claus a Euro-enthusiast."
Anyway, some more God based rubbish follows for a few paragraphs and then this:
"Santa Claus, in short, is preferable to God in every way. Except one. There's no such thing as Santa Claus."
So there is a God?
And, of course, he's a Republican.
My gasts where completely flabbered at this point and I determined not to read one more line of this complete horse-sh*t.

After calming down and picking the book up from the corner of the room where I'd thrown it in disgust, I forced myself to wade through what in all respects seemed to be a mealy mouthed European Parliamentary Members painful prognostications.
I managed to get through the remainder of this complete crap so I could at least write up this review.

Sunday 4 December 2011

The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton

2nd Chairman of Gallup.
Doing a rant directed at...
Just about everybody I guess.
Basically saying what Kirk said in Wrath of Khan:
"You’ve managed to kill everyone else but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target"
In any case I got half way through and got a strong sense of "AMERICA! F**K YEAH!"
Then my reasonableness got the better of me and I re-read two chapters substituting "Australia" for "America".
Never thought of myself of having any level of anti-americanism in me.
Well a bit.
But having re-read the chapters with the substitution I realised that most of what was being said applied to whatever country you're from.

Anyway, having grown up in a neo-conservative dominated world, it did seem like a call to action that needed to be said.
And, IMHO, needs to be acted upon.
Not just in the US, but everywhere.
And here in Australia too.
Oh wait.
I'm doing the "AUSTRALIA! F**K YEAH!" thing.

But that's not what it's about.
It's about being just plain sensible.
Well, that's my 2c anyway.

Cycles of Time by Roger Penrose

I seriously need to re-learn my maths.
And need to re-read "The Road to Reality".

I found the book surprisingly easy to read - being marginally familiar with such things as Phase Space and what not.
However, I *do* need to go back to my old books and re-learn a lot of stuff before I can do justice to this book.
It's argued convincingly and with passion.
(Concentrating on the 2nd law of course)
And therein lies my problem.
I could have been bamboozled and missed something critical due to my lack of education.

It also has geeky humour that made me laugh out load.
I can't say how because it just wouldn't make sense.
For example:
This would be most remarkable, if so, since the Hawking radiation in our own aeon would normally be regarded as being such an absurdly tiny effect that it would be completely unobservable!
Made me laugh out loud.
Somehow I think that admitting that has tarred me as a "strange person."

I need to go back and get my head around those equations and the new ones.
Symmetry, phase space, pressure-less fluids, FLRW, de Sitter and what not.

Like Roy Batty I yell "Time! I need more time damn you!"

Sinatra up and running

Just got the Amazon message that the book will be arriving shortly!
Bloody brilliant.

Oh and even more absolutely brilliant is that I got a comment from one of the authors telling me that it was now in print.

Thank you very, very much Konstantin (if it's ok to use your first name...).
I really appreciate that you took the time to comment.
I must apologise for my previous comments and hope you didn't take them too personally.

Ah. It feels good to be a dinosaur sometimes...

This weekend we need to do some shopping.
Went to our local shopping centre.
Gathered all the required consumerist items and headed to the checkout.


Massive queues.
Oh well. Might as well join a queue.
Got to the payment part.

Initialise 191.
Initialise 191.
Initialise 191.

All lines down.
So we got taken to the service desk along with tons of other people.
Oh the joy of it when the local manager figured out we had to use the old swipey card things.
Oh, and had to use PAPER!

I soooo remember the first time I did the CLUNK-CLUNK!
Late 70's I think.

He couldn't figure it out.
Completely lost.
And the poor girl behind the counter was completely dumb struck.
Had never seen one of the machines and was completely out of her depth without the computer.
She had that rabbit in the headlights look.
I will remember that look for the rest of my life and thank evolution I have lived from not even having plastic through to the day when a young girl didn't know how to use a machine that was new to me when I had been in the workforce for 10 years!

I showed her in detail how to place my card in the slot and the piece of paper into the machine and how to CLUNK-CLUNK the slider back and forth.
And the queue behind me was getter bigger by the second.
Poor girl.
She looked like she'd just been handed a quill and ink pot.

We're doomed I tell you.

Friday 2 December 2011

Interesting News for Today (by K)

Dell Open-Sources Code for Hadoop Deployment Tool
DataSift Architecture: Realtime Datamining At 120,000 Tweets Per Second
Node.js and MongoDB for Java developers
Log Analysis System Using Hadoop and MongoDB
MongoDB, E-Commerce, and Transactions
Sinatra: Up and Running (New Book from O'Reilly)
Cut and Polish: A Guide to Crafting Gems
Ruby Blocks as Dynamic Callbacks
The State of Ruby ORMs
Xavier Shay's DataMapper Retrospective
Building a Rails Plugin with Tested Assets (Screencast)
Methadone - Build Better Ruby-based CLIs with Logging and Cucumber Support
OS X 10.5 Leopard may lose Firefox in 2012
Apple responds after Siri abortion answers debacle
The 5 Best Spotify Apps (So Far)
End of an Era: Chrome Surpasses Firefox
Aleph One 1.0 Released
Red Hat's Linux Changes Raise New Questions
Ruby Clouds: Engine Yard Vs. Heroku
Samsung's mSATA PM830 is eight grams of pure SSD
Intel Working On Augmented Reality Chip
Tyranny of the Tools
Ivo – a reimagined Unix terminal system
RESTful Web Service Discoverability, part 4

Can the 'badly-designed' euro fail?
New Google shipping service to go after Amazon Prime?
MTV in talks to license Vevo videos
Amazon favors online sales tax--if smaller rivals also have to pay
Apple TV sets will be mighty pricey, analyst says
Mark Zuckerberg passes 10 million subscribers on Facebook
Robin Williams offers Apple advice on how to make Siri even better
Fugazi Launches Massive Archive of Past Shows
Dwolla Drops Fees For Transactions Under $10 In Prelude To Larger Announcement
Khosla, Google Ventures And Hearst Put $4M In Social TV Platform Miso
Businessmen unveil plans for 'Muslim Facebook'

New sanctions on Syria as deaths top 4000
Amnesty International calls for arrest of Bush during Africa trip over rights violations
Palestinians say Israel won’t offer peace proposal
UK embassy attack orchestrated by Iranian authorities: sources

Genetically Engineered Neurons Light Up When Firing
Fundamental constants are not constant—or maybe they are, we don't really know
The future cometh: Science, technology and humanity at Singularity Summit 2011 (Part I)
Measles outbreaks on the rise across Europe
Vegetables, fruits, grains reduce stroke risk in women
NASA satellite confirms sharp decline in pollution from US coal power plants
Japanese researchers turn a crab shell transparent
2012: Magnetic pole reversal happens all the (geologic) time
Affordable solar: It's closer than you think

Spy centre seeking codebreakers
Superman comic sells for $2.16m
Teaching kids to be rich
Beware the vain robot
Bite-size Kilobots robots ready to swarm
Steampunk Contraptions Take Over Tattoo Studio
Fire Burns Differently In Space
30 Years of the BBC Micro
Nissan demonstrates Leaf-powered Smart House, we go hands-on
Geeks lose minds, recreate first level of Super Mario Land with 18 million Minecraft blocks
Voyagers travel far enough to see our own galaxy without the Sun's interference
David Yates on the planned Doctor Who movie, and fan pressure
Hi-res pictures appear for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus
AT-AT Wine Cabinet Defends Your Drinks From Rebel Scum
'Just chill?' Relaxing can make you fatter

Man found dead in sewage tank
Afghan rape victim may marry attacker
Woman watches partner die on Skype
Strikers should be shot: Top Gear's Clarkson
Clarkson sorry for strike shooting remark
Ranting Apple employee 'deserved to be sacked'
ACLU raps Apple over Siri, abortion
Mini-Nukes, Flying 'Terminators' and 8 More Wild Weapons
Feds' Anti-Piracy Vid Is Digital-Age Reefer Madness
Man on vacation confused for a Russian spy, almost restarts cold war
Aliens on Ice

Thursday 1 December 2011

Hosting multiple Jetty instances each with multiple ports!

I had a requirement to fulfill.
On the web tier I needed multiple instances of Jetty.
Each of these must have each webapp running on a different port.
And on the app tier the same.

So for example:
web tier:
    web-app-1 running on port 9101
    web-app-2 running on port 9102
    web-app-3 running on port 9103
    web-app-4 running on port 9201
    web-app-5 running on port 9202
    web-app-6 running on port 9203
app tier:
    web-app-7 running on port 9401
    web-app-8 running on port 9402
    web-app-9 running on port 9403
    web-app-10 running on port 9501
    web-app-11 running on port 9502
    web-app-12 running on port 9503
It's not as fiddly as that in reality, but the reason was to have sets of apps running in the same VM that are 'associated'.

So... How to do it?

I'll use the jetty91xx example for the explanation below.

First go get the latest release of jetty and unpack it into /opt/jetty-latest or whatever.
Then create /opt/jetty91xx and copy the entire contents of /opt/jetty-latest into it effectively creating a clone.
So now we switch the /opt/jetty91xx.
(If you're on Mac OS-X you need to do a "mkdir work" in the folder to avoid OS-X /tmp/nasties)
Edit the etc/jetty.xml.
Part the way down is an <call name="addConnector">...</call>.
Comment this out.
Above it add this:
<set name="connectors">
  <array type="org.eclipse.jetty.server.Connector">
      <new class="org.eclipse.jetty.server.nio.SelectChannelConnector" id="conn9101">
        <set name="port">9101</set>
        <set name="maxIdleTime">30000</set>
        <set name="Acceptors">1</set>
        <set name="name">conn9101</set>
      <new class="org.eclipse.jetty.server.nio.SelectChannelConnector" id="conn9102">
        <set name="port">9102</set>
        <set name="maxIdleTime">30000</set>
        <set name="Acceptors">1</set>
        <set name="name">conn9102</set>
      <new class="org.eclipse.jetty.server.nio.SelectChannelConnector" id="conn9103">
        <set name="port">9103</set>
        <set name="maxIdleTime">30000</set>
        <set name="Acceptors">1</set>
        <set name="name">conn9103</set>
Ok. Your connectors are in and named.
Now go off and prepare your war files.
For simple example purposes I will assume you have port.9100.war, port.9101.war and port.9102.war.
Create contexts/port.9101.xml and put this in it:
<configure class="org.eclipse.jetty.webapp.WebAppContext">
  <set name="contextPath">/port.9101</set>
  <set name="war"><systemproperty default="." name="jetty.home">/webapps/port.9101.war</systemproperty></set>
  <set name="extractWAR">true</set>
  <set name="copyWebDir">false</set>
  <set name="defaultsDescriptor"><systemproperty default="." name="jetty.home">/etc/webdefault.xml</systemproperty></set>
  <set name="connectorNames"><array type="String"><item>conn9101</item></array></set>
Create contexts/port.9102.xml and contexts/port.9103.xml in the same manner changing the contextPath, war name and connectorNames.

Now start the instance:
/usr/bin/java -Djetty.home=/opt/jetty91xx \
  -Xms1024M -Xmx1024M -Xmn640M -Xss128k \
  -XX:ParallelGCThreads=4 -XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC -XX:+UseParNewGC \
  -XX:+CMSIncrementalMode -XX:SurvivorRatio=8 \
  -XX:TargetSurvivorRatio=90 -XX:MaxTenuringThreshold=31 \ \ \ \
  -DOPTIONS=server,security,servlet,xml,webapp,deploy,jmx,requestlog \
  -jar /opt/jetty91xx/start.jar \
  --pre=etc/jetty-logging.xml \
You will need to change -Djetty.home and the '-jar' option for each instance.
Also I've given a full path here with a bunch of options.
Normally you would use /etc/init.d/ start of course.
Tip: While trying this out, leave of the --daemon and you can stop and start jetty by using ^c.

Ok. You should be able to drop the 3 war files into the webapps folder now.
And then...
And they'll all be running in the same VM.

You can then create a new /opt/jetty92xx and start agin.

Monday 21 November 2011

Ethnic groceries on the Gold Coast

Haven't checked all of these yet, but intend to and report back...

The Spice Trail - Corner of Coolibah & Myall St., Southport
Ferry Road Market - Brickworks Centre, 107 Ferry Road, Southport
Russian Delight - Shop 18B, Centro Nerang, 57 Station St., Nerang
Continental Smallgoods & Butchery - 2380 Gold Coast Highway, Cnr Markeri St., Mermaid Beach
Mt Lebanon Deli - 2241 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby Beach
Global Food & Wine - 1/81 Lawrence Drive, Nerang
Sara & Sevda Persian Supermarket - 4/55 Nerang St, Southport
Paradise Point Delicatessan - Shop 2, 34 Esplanade, Paradise Point
Ming Mei Asian Supermarket - Shop G073, Australia Fair Shopping Centre, 42 Marine Parade, Southport

If you live on the Gold Coast and know of any more, comment!

Will report back...

Finished Richard Dawkins "The Magic of Reality"

What a great book.
I recommend anyone with kids to get a copy and read it together with them.
Fantastic introduction to how science works.
Each chapter begins with a bunch of myths around the core question and then shows how science addresses it.

Early Slava!

One of our colleagues is of Serbian descent and invited us around for early "Slava" on Saturday.
For those that don't know, that's the Serbian Orthodox tradition of the ritual celebration and veneration of a family's own patron saint.
(for more detail visit:
Since I am an atheist, I didn't cross myself during the initial ceremony, but nobody seemed to mind.
In any case it was great food and great people.
Here's the menu:

Chicken noodle soup (gf)
Vegetable noodle soup (gf)(vgn)

2nd course:
Meat sarma & punjaje paprika (gf)
Vegetable sarma & punjaje paprika (gf)(vgn)

3rd course:
Pork hock pasulj (gf)
Vegitable pasulj (gf)(vgn)

Fried cevapcice (gf)
Fried Egg plant and Temphe (gf)(vegan)
Roast vegetables (gf)(vegan)

Cheese, spring onion and kale gibanica (vgt)
Cashew, spring onion and kale gibanica (gf?)(vgn)
cakes (gf)(vgn)

(gf) = gluten free
(vgt) = vegetarian
(vgn) = vegan

And he brought in some left-overs for me to take home!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Grails: Why I think "hello world" should be considered evil

I started in IT in April 1977.
I sat in front of a terminal that year and typed "vi helloworld.c".
It as a simple program being just a few lines of old K&R C.
I was entranced.
It worked.
It printed out "Hello World".
(In those days that was real magic)

But I had deep seated anti-patterns flowing through me and I got the hint that something wasn't right.
Yes, the program worked.
Yes, it did what I told it to.

It wasn't "real" in the sense that it didn't model the "real" world.

By 1985/86 I was responsible for a single program with 1 million lines of K&R C.
Excluding comments.
It still didn't model the "real" world but it did a darn good job of making sense of accounting data and was a serious contender for replacing SQL at the time.
It was HUGE and had a unique database model that we had patents on.
It only had one database.
And I saw that as a problem.

Funny thing is...
Years later...
I see fat books touting this framework or that and see people getting all hot and bothered about them.

For all their verbiage and explanations, they are just the same as that first C program I wrote in 1977.
They are the new "hello world" systems.
Acres of code.
Dependency Injection. Woooo!
Dependency management. Woooo!
AOP. Woooo!
Enterprise...  Woooo!
I know I'm a dinosaur, but seriously?
And all of them treat the landscape or scope of their explanation as GREEN FIELD.
So they all describe in glowing terms about ORMs and finders and what not.
And guess what?
They only have one database.
Just like the 80's.

What colour is the sky in their world?
Not blue obviously.
Because you're not even in brown field territory.
Blackened, burnt, filled with the ruined spectres of testers, moaning project managers, nazi network engineers, multiple architectures, servers, clusters, app servers and and and...
If you want to use Grails or Rails or any other damn framework you have to fit into that view of reality.
And that includes that dreaded word...


Why is that word that word?
I hate that word.
The reality is that when you try to use these wunderkind frameworks with existing systems, everything crashes in a heap.
You have to twist and turn and hack and chop and do a whole pile of things which may include bedding down with the Ops manager to get them to work...
And the basis of it all is that so many of these frameworks assume that it's in a void.
One database.
Dependency injection at boot time.
WooHoo... Not.

Apart from taking all the fun out of programming, this isn't how the world works.

I have a situation with multiple database technologies and servers.
I love Grails and Rails and Groovy and Ruby and... well Java not so much.
But the frameworks are sh*t at handling those "legacy" systems.

I don't want DTOs, but the Tech team likes them.
So I have to be able to have these 35 DTOs pointing at that MySQL cluster with multiple databases/tables/read-write/read-only role based access, another 20 DTOs pointing at that MySQL cluster over there in the same manner, and, oh by the way, I have two MongoDB replica sets which need to be included.
And some of the DTOs are the same across the databases, clusters and collections so annotations won't cut it.
Oh, and I need to have DB_dev, DB_test, DB_stage and DB (for production) for each of them.
Oh and the Test Lead wants all the systems to work in the Test and Stage environments before being deployed.
Oh and the Ops Lead demands that all deployed systems use RESTful interfaces to reset and/or reload all database settings at certain times.
Oh and he wants to be able to "push" database changes using a RESTful interface into your app.

Grails in Action and Definitive Guide and... and... Nope.
Dependency Injection my ass.

Grails is a lovely technology.
I like it.
I have to admit I used Rails earlier and loved that, so I'm slightly biased.

But the ORMs out there are rubbish.
Total rubbish.
You have no choice but to define everything up front in a config file, externalise it in excruciating detail, or whatever.
Or, in Grails, bounce repeatedly through Spring hoops to get the scenario to work HOW THEY WANT IT TO WORK.
Total krap.

So you resort to low level API.
Then the real issues come out.
And you then resort to hacking someone else's code.
And you ask yourself: "WTF?"
Hasn't anyone else had these issues?
So you "google" and lo and behold, yup, others have.
And the answers you get are so complex or complicated or distressed or tired or RTFM or JIRA bug it or SUFFER DUDE that you are just left bewildered.

After 2 1/2 days phaffing about trying to get Grails to do what I needed (not wanted) to do, I had a hissy fit.
Hence this post.
So? I'm impatient - (shrugs).

Hello world?
Get off my lawn!

BTW... I'm going to write my own ORM that handles these scenarios.
Dunno when.
It won't happen overnight.
But it will happen.

Nothing in particular. (K)

Gardening done.
Bills paid online. 
Tax basically sorted.
UK GMC registered physician identified.
Bathroom cleaned and scrubbed. 
Sweat from this morning showered off. 
AirCon on and n*ked with a glass of wine. 
Only way to be. 

Max (our robot vacuum cleaner) started off upstairs doing his thing. 
"Thud. Bang. Thud. Bang. DooDoo-DOO-Doo!"
Banging about in the bedroom. 
He'll be in here soon banging about my feet.
But at least the vacuuming is done.

Tried to build a ramp for him so he can get into the bathroom...
Total trailer park epic fail. 
Sigh. I'm krap on the physical side of things.

Once built a rabbit hutch.
Used a manual.
After I finished I looked at it.
And burst into laughter.
I expected a Leporidae Hutch Inspector to turn up at any moment and slapping a "Condemned - Unfit for Rabbitation" sticker on it.
FYI: go here: to find out more about where the word rabbit comes from.
Go figure. Never knew that you'd get your head punched in if you called a cricketer a rabbit. Funny things names eh?

Rant about enterprise framework lunacy formulating in my mind.

Finished the Sam Harris book "The Moral Landscape"

It's kinda difficult to characterise my feelings.
I was 2/3rds the way through the book (page 191 of 295) and had the odd feeling that the author was "wrapping up".
I turned the page and there it was: "Afterword".
What? It's over? That's it? Hey! What about the other hundred pages?
100 pages of notes and references.
Don't get me wrong... The notes were interesting. Very interesting.

Now. I need to get down to it.
I was flummoxed by the 'end' of the book.
It didn't seem like anything had been established and felt like I'd been running and suddenly found myself like a cartoon character flailing madly as I ran off the end of a cliff.
No definitive conclusion.
I read the afterword.
THAT should have been the book.
I looked at the cover again: "How Science Can Determine Human Values"
Er... No...
I agree completely with the author as he seems to be saying "Whoops. Maybe that line was a bad idea."
Mainly because the book didn't seem to say "How Science Can Determine Human Values" but rather:
"Whether it may be possible at some time in the future that science may have some insight into what human values are and whether it may be possible to have something to say about how human brains work."
I sat back after the Afterword and thought for a while.
Or, as the author seems to be saying, "Thoughts had me" about the what I had read.
I concede that the author is very familiar with the subject of neuroscience and provided a lot of study results to back up his argument at any particular point.
There seemed to be a, how shall I put it, somewhat "stream of consciousness" to the progress of the book.
I never got the feeling that any point had been established with any certainty.
I could characterise the entire book as a dinner party where a proclaimed intellectual giant arrives, dominates the group by monologuing for an hour or so, then for no seemingly good reason says:
"Right. That's established. I'm off. Here are my notes."
And leaves with everybody furrowing their brow and wondering whether they learned anything or had any insights.

Then another thought had me.
There seemed to be an unstated assumption that seemed to permeate the text.
It was like the elephant in the room.
Every statement and question seemed to be framed to avoid saying: "WTF! There's a bloody great elephant here!"
And that is that the author seemed to be skirting around saying:
"You are a machine. A complex machine, but a machine nonetheless. A body hanging off a bunch of chemical and electrical effects held in that head thing. You don't have thoughts. They have you. What you call your mind and your choices are simply post facto results of those chemical and electrical effects over which you have no more control than you have over your pancreas."
And for me that's a worry despite the fact that I agree with it with one proviso:
"My mind and personality may be determined by those effects, but I VALUE them independently of those effects."
Because it seems to me that if that is used as a basis for "Determining Human Values" then your "well-being" can simply be controlled by a bunch of medications or medical intervention.
And there are nutters out there who change:
"You are a machine"
"You are JUST a machine"
And who, just who, will decide what levels of serotonin and dopamine or how many hours of exercise or which vegetables and fruit I eat will promote my personal well-being?
And what nanny state nutter will stop there?
Why not determine that having a choice about milk is not good for your well-being after age 5?
Why not determine that "fill in your horror scenario here."
After all, it's "science".

Hello THX-1138.

Then another thought had me.
There is no "soul".
But I consider myself to be a dualist.
No not a body-soul dualist, but more of a brain-mind dualist.
That is, my mind is the emergent behaviour of the fantastically complex chemical and electrical effects in my head.
This can be shown by the "mind" changing as a result of pre-frontal cortex damage as shown by the author.
But I VALUE that emergent behaviour and I won't submit to chemical or societal force just because someone else's emergent behaviours determine that I'm damaging my "well-being".

Just a thought that had me.

On to a Richard Dawkins book.

Wow. We got a page view from Ecuador.

We started this blog as a means of getting link information out to internal staff.
I was quickly going through about 2 dozen sites each morning and composing a list of things that would be of interest to people within the company.
This was mainly news that would not hit the mainstream media, or would have been buried in the deluge of junk.
This got tedious using email as the 'to' line was getting very long, so we created the blog as a means of externalising and formalising the process.
We've only had it on line for about 6 weeks and have not advertised it in any way.
To our surprise it seems many people out on the inter-webs find the mix of techie, nerd, geek, business and politics links to be interesting.

For example: We've had 35 page views from Israel (presumably ShinBet because I post links from Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera), 19 from Russia 4 from China and today our first page view from Ecuador.

Hola desde Australia y gracias!



Tuesday 15 November 2011

Friday 11 November 2011

Grails: Adding logging to service classes

I had a need for this and was going nuts trying to get it working.
Then I stumbled on this:
And did my own slightly modified version.
This entire approach is intriguing and I will no doubt be using this approach for other needs.

Works just peachy.

Thanks Hubert!

Monday 7 November 2011

Sinatra up and running - WHY WAS MY ORDER DELAYED?

I'm getting used to that capitalized phrase...
I ordered the book in April.
But I keep getting this sort of thing:


We're writing about the order you placed on April 01 2011 (Order# xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx). Unfortunately, the release date for the item(s) listed below has changed, and we need to provide you with a new delivery estimate based on the new release date:

 Alan Harris "Sinatra: Up and Running"
   Estimated arrival date: December 16 2011 - December 29 2011

We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this delay.

At this rate I won't receive it until April next year.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Yet another example of UK eccentricity

We tended to leave our rear windows open, but we overlook a railway station on that side, so we had to drop off to sleep with the dulcet tones of a railway announcer explaining where the train on platform 2 is off to and how any unattended parcels will be taken away and destroyed.

Since the railway authorities decided to build a bridge between platforms, we also tended to be woken up by the sound of tramping feet and announcements that to leave the station would all passengers use the bridge to platform 3.

We know the routes of the trains off by heart of course, something which we would dearly love to forget.

Early Saturday and Sunday mornings were the worst since hoons from the many nightclubs in the area try to catch trains at 3am.
Now the trains stop running around that time.
So they are told in no uncertain terms by a station dude that there are no more trains.
Evidence from this conversation at 3:30am morning:

Announcer: There are no more trains from this station. Please exit the station via the bridge.
Hoons: [loud shouting, sounds of breaking bottles]
Announcer: There aren’t any more trains. Please leave.
Hoons: F**k you mate! WooHoo! England forever!
Announcer: You’re on CCTV. Please leave.
Hoons: [more shouting sounds of breaking wood]
Announcer: We’ll call the police if you don’t leave.
Hoons: [crashing sounds, laughter and more breaking bottles]
Announcer: You can’t hide behind that billboard. You’re on CCTV. We can see you.
Hoons: England Forever! England Forever!
Announcer: That may be so, but there are no more trains. Please leave.
Hoons: [more breaking wood]
Announcer: That fence is above a 12 foot drop. I wouldn’t use that as an exit.
Hoons: [loud crashing sound in our car park]
Announcer: You’re on CCTV. Don’t try to use that as an exit. Use the station exit.
Hoons: [crash. bang. thud.]
Announcer: That’s it. I’m calling the police.
Hoons: [swearing and moans]

At which point I looked out of our rear window. The lunatics had climbed over a 6 foot fence and crashed down into our car park. Now I need to mention that this 6 foot fence is on top of a 8 foot concrete wall. They had fallen between cars some 14 foot. To my amazement they all got up, linked arms and staggered drunkenly towards the entrance to our flats shouting loudly: "That’ll show ‘em! England Forever!" They did stop at one point to all urinate on a rose bush but disappeared from view shortly thereafter.

Now I need to point out that the entrance to the flats is only a short distance from the entrance to the train station. And they have to pass that entrance to get to a taxi stand which is partially visible from the rear window over the top of the station. So they didn’t achieve much. A few minutes later I did notice some flashing blue back lighting on our roof from that taxi stand.

Another example of UK eccentricity

I went up to the post office to post a book I’ve sold. I was in the line and there was one of those guys with their pants down around their bums in front of me. A window came free and this dude slouched up. Then he looked like he’d been punched, let out a yelp, doubled up and his pants fell around his ankles. He’d been using what looked like his grand fathers braces to hold his 16 sizes too short jeans up and one had snapped. Sprung round and tapped him just a little in the ghoulies. He looked like a pile of dirty laundry on the floor groaning and clutching his “manhood.” Hmm. Seems there is justice in the world I thought...

But then I noticed the lady at the other till. I use the word “lady” in a somewhat loose sense. Tasha Slappas mother is a looker by comparison. Anyway, she was engaged in a dialogue with the post-person behind the counter:

Lady: It’ll fit in the mailbox.
Counter-Lady: Er. I’m sorry? What will.
Lady: The parcel I’m here to post.
Counter-Lady: Your parcel. Can I see it please?
Lady: Yeah. I want £10.
Counter-Lady: I’m sorry? Er. You have to pay us to post the parcel.
Lady: Nah. Nah. I want £10. From the Giro.
Counter-Lady: Oh. Can you put your card in the machine please.
Lady: Oh right. Hate these machines. [cackles]

She then extracted her card and started stabbing at the machine with it. I was cringing as she flailed about with the card scraping on the edges and bending precariously.

Lady: These are tricky buggers aren’t they?

She then took out a rather ratty tissue and rubbed crazily along the card. She then started stabbing at the machine, completely missing the area where the slot was.

Counter-Lady: [looking stunned] No. No. Stop. You have to put the card in the slot!
Lady: Yeah I now that luv.

After a bit more stabbing the card went into the slot. And then... With the flat of her palm she whacked the end so hard that the machine bent backwards, the card actually snapped and a shard went pinging off into a corner of the office. Now normally those cards are pretty tough. They don’t normally snap. So I wondered how often she had bashed the life out of that poor card for it to get plastic fatigue.

Lady: Oh f**k. It’s broken my card again.

Again? It? I stifled a snort of laughter. Again???

Lady: Bugger. I’ll have to go to the bank again to get a new one. [cackles]
Counter-Lady: Yes.
Lady: Bloody cards and machines. They’re bloody useless. Always breaking.
Counter-Lady: Well, you don’t need to use force with the cards.
Lady: Yeah luv, but these machines keep breaking me cards.

Oh the sheer wonderful logic of that statement. I stifled another snort.

Counter-Lady: Ok. Ok. Just leave it. Do you have your savings book?
Lady: Eh what?
Counter-Lady: Your savings book. You can use that.
Lady: Oh right luv.

She then rummaged around in her bag and produced a matted mess of paper with sticky tape holding it together. Oh lordy I thought. She pushed it through to the counter lady who processed it and passed the revolting mess plus a £10 note back to the lady.

Lady: Now. Me parcel. Can’t forget me parcel can I. [cackles]

The counter lady processed the postage, took the £10 note back and returned change. She then pushed those little sticky postage stamp things back through. Tashas mum took it and stuck it to one finger and started moving the parcel, her bag, her paper mess and the sticky thing from hand to hand until in a fit of intelligence realised that she couldn’t juggle that many objects with only two hands. So she pushed the lot to one side, stood aside and:

Lady: Oh what a muddle eh? That’s why I got buckles see.
Counter-Lady: I’m sorry?
Lady: On me shoes. Get muddled with laces and that. [loud laughter]
Counter-Lady: Oh yes.

And then the worst thing in the world happened. She turned to me as I was now in the front of the line and said:

Lady: Oh ‘ere luv. You better come on and do yours!
Me: Oh. Ta.

As I was dealing with counter lady and my parcel...

Lady: ‘Ere. Don’t use that machine right? It f**ks your cards. I gotta go to the bank again. I told ‘em. I told ‘em I did. I said you gotta make better machines and cards ‘cos they keep breaking. I’m not putting money into your bank so you can make these stupid things I said. I told ‘em I did. [shakes head and cackles] Not like the old days eh? I said not like the old days eh? ‘Course you wouldn’t know would you luv? You’re a young-un eh? Got a bike have you?

I didn’t know whether to be gratified that she thought I looked young, but then I realised that she would only be in her 40’s. I was at least a decade older than her. Hunched off, muttering, cackling to herself. So sad. Anyway, I had just finished my transaction and was desperately seeking an escape route when:

Me: Sorry? What?
Lady: You got a bike? I got a bike. Tied up outside. At least it was when I came in. [more cackling] Dunno these days do you luv? Could be nicked.

I beat a hasty retreat thinking that if she couldn’t tie shoe laces how she could have tied up a bike? After popping across the road to Sainsburys I came back past the post office and she was cackling and muttering and swearing as she struggled with about the at least 20 feet of rope she’d used to tie her bike to a lamp post with. The rope was gordian in size and complexity. She’ll be there for hours undoing it. And don’t get all huffy with me for not helping. The way she was waving that rope violently around and swearing and carrying on, I’d have been risking life and limb coming within 10 feet.

Funny thing people eh?

What I mean by eccentric...

When we were living in the UK some years back, eccentricity was everywhere.
I don't see it much here.
But then... We live on the Gold Coast. Hardly weirdo city.

In just a few months of living in the UK:

1) There was a religious bookshop which we passed each time we did shopping. They sold "The Manga Bible." Wish I'd bought a copy. Unfortunately they didn't have the illustrated Koran, or any version of “Buddha Monopoly,” or even “Risk: The Valhalla Edition.”

2) We saw an ad for a butcher in Truro who sold fried squirrel. Apparently he can’t shoot enough of the little furry fuzz-balls. He spends all weekend taking potshots at squirrels when they stop moving - you know the “moment” when they look like as Eddie Izzard says “Have I left the gas on?” And on Monday morning he takes the lot in and dresses them  (the butchering term, not as in waistcoats - although the thought of purchasing a cute little squirrel in a top hat and tails and roasting it in the oven does have a certain appeal) and sells the lot on the first day.

3) One night I was stuck behind this rather beaten up old transit van emblazoned with the logo for a major company named HazMat... Ah... Now to avoid legal issues, I’ll forgo completing that name because I like my freedom. And speaking of freedom, underneath the logo where the words “Door to Door Service - Hazardous Materials and Explosives.” So I can order dynamite door to door? Yoikes. Freedom is such a wonderful thing.

4) Prince William landed a helicopter in his girlfriends back yard! Kewl! But he’s being criticized for it! What? No! We need more of this, not less. Personally I think I’d like to see more of this kind of stuff. Wouldn’t it make life more interesting if we saw the Queen shooting pheasants in Hyde Park? Or the Duke of Edinburgh driving a tank through the East End? Or even, and don’t think me silly, what about the Prince of Wales doing an organic cooking chat show? Now what’s wrong with that? I’d love it!

5) Apparently there are some 10,000 foxes living in London. That’s 16 foxes per square mile apparently. Well maybe in the centre of London but there’s still a pretty dense population down here. And I’m including the foxes of course. And various methods of controlling them have occurred over the years. The problem is that lethal control is completely ineffective. Most councils have abandoned trapping and shooting them because it just increases the surviving vixens birth rate. I found one interesting piece of news however. Apparently MAFF abandoned the practice of killing foxes in the 1970s because it was concluded that the most effective form of lethal control was the car.

6) I stumbled across an English website dedicated to “Christians against Mental Slavery.” Oooookaaay. Sounds self defeating to me. Apparently they want it to be a crime for anyone to monitor or influence human thought with the use of technology without consent. So, their website itself and of course CCTV in the Holy See is right out, I suppose.

7) A news story I found interesting is one where about the number of “gardening injuries.” 87,000 in the UK in one year apparently. 6,500 people hurt themselves with lawnmowers and 5,300 by flowerpots. Ok. Let’s see... That’s roughly 18 people a day cutting toes off with lawnmowers and 15 a day getting hit with flowerpots. Curious. Roughly one Alan Titchmarsh effect per hour.

8) Some dude at a hotel suddenly decided he was peckish and jumped into an ornamental pond in the lobby and bit the head off a duck. Apparently he said “I was hungry.” Lord knows I get a tad hungry in some hotels, but what must the cuisine be like in their restaurant if the clientele prefer raw duck?

9) Saw a story about a hedgehog that wandered into someone's laundry, took a nap in a basket of clothes and ended up being washed for an hour. It has been named “Persil” and according to a wildlife hospital manager came out squeaky clean and without fleas. B suggested that since he been in a 40C washer for an hour he should really have been named “Asbestos.”

10) We went into Tesco to get the staples of life and I saw some perfect examples of the highest exposition of English culture: “French Red Wine in Cans” and cans with just the words “Strong Lager” on them - with only the tiniest of Tesco branding on it. Perfect. Says it all really.

11) There was a competition for a national motto for England. Mainly because the motto for the British Virgin Islands is “Be Watchful?” For what? And the Isle of Mans’ is “Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand.” Presumably it has a lead weight at its base. And Scotland’s is “No one provokes me with impunity.” Now that one makes sense. Just go and provoke a Scotsman to see what I mean. You’ll get Impugned all right. I can see it now, and you have to do this with a Scottish accent: “Eh. This Sassenach spilt my pint, so I impugned him right enough Jimmy.”

12) I tried to take down some garbage one day. Bad move. Wow what a mess. B came down with me and we noticed that the rats have built tunnels under the main path. So he started whistling the tune from “The Great Escape” and made comments like “Hey ratty, there’s been a cave-in on tunnel 4. We’ll have to open tunnel 3 again” in a squeaky voice. He also started looking for little piles of earth and miniature gymnastics equipment.

Odd thoughts.

On an impulse B and I went to see Stephen Fry and Alan Davies in QI Live at the QPAC in Brisbane last night.
Cost $200 each but they were box seats (last left) and quite close to the stage.
It was very good, but I have some odd thoughts about the experience.
The performance was in two parts 1) Stephen Fry giving a personal talk followed by 2) an episode of QI with some Australian and Kiwi comedians.
It was a very, very enjoyable experience which I will remember for a long time.
I really liked the first part as I got a chance to see Stephen Fry up close and see him talking in the flesh.

The second part was where my odd thoughts came to the fore.

First of all where the guests.
They were all Aussie/Kiwi comedians.
Nothing wrong with that per se and it was a lot of fun.
But it lacked something that is present in the BBC show.
I would propose that there are very few eccentric Aussie/Kiwis comedians while the UK seems to be awash with them.
The BBC show often has (in)famous politicians, scientists etc such as Mark Steel, Sean Lock,  John Sessions, Andy Hamilton, Gyles Brandreth and so on.
They seem to blend comedic incisiveness with genuine eccentricity.
I'm not sure we down under do that very well.
Maybe it's difference in population or just our accent?
So it kinda came across as not so much Quite Interesting but Quite Funny.

Next was the sheer fact that it was an episode of QI but on stage.
The physicality of it made it very memorable but there was nothing in it that was different in any way from watching it on TV.
Albeit that the TV was 60 foot wide and had real people on it.
However, I tend to think that if I was going to enjoy an episode of QI, I would prefer to be cuddled up on the sofa in my fluffies drinking bourbon and soda.
Which makes me think that with the increase in TV sizes and HD/3D and whatever comes next, the scope for this type of performance may be decreasing.
But then, I haven't been to a play for years.
So maybe I'm just old and going to turn into a shut-in.

Monday 31 October 2011

Phew. Finished "How the World Works"

Sort of mirrors my rants after a bottle of Wild Turkey and watching an Adam Curtis documentary.
Except for one minor point.
I don't have any solutions to corporate greed.
At least Noam Chomsky presents some solutions and examples of working solutions.
I know. I know. He's a sophi...
No. I just can't say that with a straight face.
He's not really a Sophist.
Not by todays definition.
But he *is* by the ancient greek definition.
To quote wikipedia:

"In ancient Greece, sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching aretĂȘ — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to young statesmen and nobility"

Yeah. That seems to fit better.
Not that I'm saying I'm young, stately or noble.
I'm exactly none of those things.
But he knows his subject and can navigate through a response to a question in a way that teaches.
Not in a specious way.
Not in a deceptive way.
If you have eyes to see...
Then you can see the Rhetoric and see past it to the underlying truisms.

Anyway, I'm about to start Sam Harris's "The Moral Landscape."
Let's see how that goes.

I will get back to Christopher Hitchens... :-)