Thursday, March 31, 2005

BerthaWindows, lovely Windows, sometimes I think you're a dream, when we work out what you have to do, you can always turn the goods out, always turn the goods out, we can depend upon you.

[With apologies to Bertha. Get the theme tune here].

Oh damn, now I'm too happy to rant about Miserysoft Windows Critical Updates.

[A short while later]

Sodding Windows. Firstly the Windows Update informed me I have umpteen files to download. This being done pre-replacement-router meant that I had to download them individually as the router would conk out too quickly for all of them to get through in one go. Which the website really didn't like doing. In fairness it could have been IE having the fits, but as that's Microsoft as well, it doesn't get them out of the blame. Strangely trying to access the windows update site when using Firefox leads to a distinctly bugger-off-ish message. Why ever could that be?

So I couple of aeons later, and I've got critical updates installed, even if the site got very upset when I repeatedly said I didn't need the fix for Outlook (due to having uninstalled it years ago). The computer runs, but it seems to be having problems loading anything: there's a delay to every command, and the screen gives the impression that the entire system is about to keel over. But it doesn't (mostly).

Concerned about what causes this delay, and random acts of chuntering, I use Alt Control Delete to find out what's running. It's the usual, including the Quicktime lurkers which are always dead on arrival. Plus some odd file called Kb891711. Uh oh. Unknown file with meaningless name, plus odd computer behaviour, plus not quite good enough security which I really ought to do something about, equals awooga! awooga! awooga! Oh bugger. A furtive end task wipes it out with far too much ease. Curious...

So curious in fact that I forget about it for a couple of days. The odd behaviour persists. Maybe I just need to defrag. Which of course means nothing gets done.

So to today. The computer has a minor wobble, Firefox folds. Drat, it's not done that since getting the new version. Oh well. I click the Firefox icon, expecting the Mozilla feedback thing to pop up and merrily entertain itself. But no, instead I get the Blue Screen of Death and a fatal error 6 (since when did it number them?) at lots of noughts-35D. Pressing the Any key (between Page Up and Num Lock) clears it, but there's no Firefox, and no feedback thing. Again I summon Firefox. Again BSOD. Oh dear. I try Thunderbird, and again get the same response. I try Internet Explorer. It loads. Hurrah! It tries to connect to the internet and bluescreens at me. Very not good.

I restart the thing. Firefox works. I look up Kb891711. Apparently it's a Windows Update file, and has been causing all sorts of problems. Firefox vanishes. All replacements bluescreen. Not again. Fortunately I remember part of one of the remedies, and so have to seek out msconfig and deselect Kb891711. Now to find msconfig. As it was quite a techy board, I guess that it'll pop up if I stick it in Run (damn handy contraption that Run, allowing one to access all the old bits of Windows which one is not supposed to touch, but which are the only way of controlling some parts of Windows. Winfile is particularly useful for undoing file-type programme mismatches (you know, those nice things where it opens mp3s with Publisher). But I'm odd, as I expect a file renamed xyz.txt from xyz.htm to become xyz.txt and not, as Windows has it, xyz.txt.htm, even if it refuses to show .htm and merely has that depicted by the icon and file description. Part of me still defaults to 8.3 format file names). Run runs msconfig. The final tab has Kb891711 listed. I untick it, and click apply. Firefox still won't work.

I restart the computer. Firefox runs, Thunderbird runs, heck even IE runs. Alt Ctrl Del shows no sign of Kb891711. Huzzah!

But what was it doing? After all it's got to be in the Critical Updates for a reason, hasn't it? Returning to the website I found the remedy on, I find a lot of conflicting advice, until that is, I find a transcript of someone talking to Microsoft [reply 60]. Apparently Kb891711 is not needed on Windows 98. Yes, this is despite the Updates website insisting it is needed. Right...

So it remains unchecked, but not as yet uninstalled.

So that was fun.

[And I've just noticed the boards are for Windows ME or 95, even though half the discussion is about 98. The people who run the boards must love Google ignoring index pages and just jumping straight in].

Oh dear. What is the etiquette when one runs across one's brother on an internet message board (No, not a Windows one)? Retreat quickly and quietly, and hope he doesn't notice? Or at least that's my plan.

Possibly he's the only person who could get away with "woo etc."

He's written about me! In passing, and in a completely unlikely-to-inspire-further-questioning way.

Oddly he sounds like him and me at the same time.

Hmm, reading his posts without the surrounding messages can prove interesting. I really ought to stop being nosy about what my brother wrote several years ago. But then he just mentioned me again, so perhaps few more.

This really is an oh dear: he's like me but better. I wonder if he has a blog? It'd be very good.

Oh, and (very, very unrelated) did I randomly mention London Dan in the middle of a recent post? I was going to mention him, and stuck his name in as a reminder, and then last night realised I'd forgotten to say anything, and I'm not sure if I deleted the reminder. Hey-ho.

So London Dan: good blog, written by someone who probably isn't speaking to me after I corrected him on something. It was an up-river, down-river thing, about the Thames, and he went up to Greenwich from the Strand. Only I'm slightly sensitive about this, having had a long running argument with an American who had read in a book about someone travelling up from Hampton Court to Westminster. She seemed to think the Thames drains out through the Severn estuary. Look, if I know which way the Hudson flows, why can't she get it right for the Thames? But then I have also read (ok, read the first chapter and a half and then flung it away in disgust because it was so poor on every level) a book where someone travels down the Thames from Greenwich to Southwark. Whilst it was about mediaeval monks solving murders on the southbank (because as we know, that's all mediaeval monks ever did), it was written by someone who was born in Virginia, was currently residing in North Carolina, and had apparently never left the States.

So as a simple guide for all aspiring novelists, and the people who might read them: West up, east down (mostly). I know it's tidal and can appear to be flowing the other way, but on average east is down and out.

Anyway, go and visit Dan. Not least because he links New (sub)Urbanism and Urban Cartography, which therefore makes him interesting in my City-Comforts-reading book (and no, I haven't bought the book yet, and yes I ought to).

He's also reminded I've still got two Easter eggs to get through.



Wednesday, March 30, 2005

CF4 600 - Slide - 31 Guildford Cathedral AisleOne reason why decentralisation is a bad idea: when ringing the Inland Revenue, I spend ages going round in circles as I've no idea what the girl was talking. The conversation ran vaguely thus:
She: So what area is it?
Me: I don't know, I need to sort it out, but I can't find the letter with it all on.
She: Yes but do you know what area?
Me: Um, it doesn't say on this letter, I've had something from the Staffordshire office, but I don't live there.
She: But what area is it? When do you want to know about?
Me: When? But, er, oh year! Um, the letter's for 02-03.

And the award for "Most pathetic inability to cope with a Geordie accent" goes to...

She still didn't help though, having told me I don't actually want to pay, and then given me another number which will tell me how many years I have until I can retire. Which I really want to know this side of 2050. Hang on, make that 2045. God that's depressing. And of course, come that time retirement will be an extinct notion, as will pensions.

Reverting back to the other number. I have to ring it to sort out stuff. I ring it. A voice tells me that I have two options: users without a touch tone telephone should hold for a operator, and users with a touch tone telephone should press 1 now. I press 1. Please hold. [click]. We are sorry. We are unable to connect your call. Please try again later. [line dies]. I ring back and this time don't press 1. I hold. I get through, to a message saying Please hold. [click] We are sor...[clunk].

And by "later" do they mean sometime after the end of the tax year?

Continuing on the trying to sort out things theme, I finally took the router back to the shop. He looked at the box, asked what we wanted, we said a working replacement, and he left to get a new box. We didn't even need a receipt. This is the least misery and quarrelsome I have ever know PCW. As he filled in forms on his computer, he gave us some spiel about how reliable Linksys is, and how they never normally get any returns on them products. Only he said it in such a dispirited voice that I got the impression he'd had it drilled into him and he really didn't believe it.

Hmm, and so far, other that inbuilt software (firmware maybe?) being different and giving me options that never existed before, and a new section which explains what all the terms mean, it seems to be fine. I find it slightly disconcerting that I know all the settings off by heart, even if I have no idea what many of them do, except get changed to 38 and the one ending PoA.

And so far, it's run solidly for two and three quarter hours. The signal's still a bit on the lowcal side, but it's still there (although downstairs for a while it was only coming through in waves). One problem with using Radio 4 to test a connection is that the constant stream of speech makes it very hard to type.

And they give me hope and then cruelly dash it. How so? You know how people only make the lead news story when they die (unless they happen to be PM)? Imagine my response when I heard:
"The headlines again: The TV chef Jamie Oliver..."

But no, the fattongue liveth.

Having tired of people discussing German expressionism, I've now switched to Radio 1. Huh? It's changed. I know it probably changed, ooh, about a year ago, but I haven't bothered listening (anyway, I'm normally out now). The only reason I haven't switched to Xfm is Xfm falls apart after quarter of an hour, and Virgin is a glitchy as hell. And then I try looking up SBN, having rediscovered a link to it in my bookmarks, which I've just rejigged. SBN is no longer. The website is for sale. Damn.

Well, at least living under a rock this big keeps the rain off.

So is inhabiting Ville-sous-rock the reason I haven't heard of Green Day? I refer of course not to the band (they used to be better), but to some event designed to confuse the hell out of me when I hear it trailed on music radio. Green in this context meaning environmentally aware and hopefully sustainable. But Green Day? Too clever for its own good.

And Green Day skilfully brings me to the next topic. Having struggled to stifle my sniggers when someone I know added "Oi! Oi! Oi!" to the end of Basketcase (this guy used to fall asleep in every pub and club), how exactly should one react when told, by the Oier, that one is not so much "Oi! Oi! Oi!" as "Oy, oy, oy!"?

Which, by clumsy stereotypes, brings me to a vandalised sign I saw today. It was one of those God is trendy things, only today it proclaimed "Jesus is risen today!". To which someone had appended "Nah mate, last Sunday innit".

Arse. Exactly 3 hours after I started, the router has gone into tunnel-vision mode. Which means the transfer rate drops below 1 Mbps.

Strangely by the time I finished checking the status downstairs, the router page had loaded up here, and rate was back up to normal. Most odd.

I'll go while the signal lasts.


Woohoo and a half. Well, actually 1.4386 Woohoos.

I came second, yes, that's right, second, in a blog of the month competition. Could be it the mindless rants that did it? Could it be the poor grammar? Could it be I just typed "Good it be the poor grammar", and tend to mix up my and by, and add on extraneous ed's, ing's and ly's? Could it be the utter lack of theme? Could it be the utter lack of content? Could it be I tend to repeat myself? Could it be the long running sentences which usually contain about eight separate clauses plus a few needless brackets which are usually pointless asides, explanatory notes (not that I mean to suggest you are all much too thick to understand anything, although I have yet to have conclusive proof which applies to the lot of you. For a start, whilst I can be fairly sure of the intellectual prowess of the current occupier of In Actual Fact (read: he's bright, often annoyingly so), there are some unknowns out there, such as whoever it is who is somewhere in middle America (is that not Omaha?), and all I know of it is that it's at crossroads of two lines of cities, as depicted by that OU World thing. And you, yes you, can't take offence as that, as you are so busy lurking quietly I obviously have had no chance to notice you exist. Hmm, is being rude to one's readers a good idea? Probably not, and I'm still due a closed bracket, aren't I?), or not-quite-witticisms? Could it be I tend to forget where I'm going with a sentence, paragraph (a what now?) or post?

Or could it be that it was a contest judged by one thoroughly unaccountable person? Which obviously means I'm not good enough at bribery, although it also suggests that corruption wasn't exactly widespread if I could come second. I wish the judge better, and more profitable, luck next time.

Proud(ish) First Runner Up (which suggests a certain degree of first loser). Hang on, scrub that.
Proud First Loser of Whateva Sista's BOTM award.
Now officially not quite good enough.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

German for BeginnersDer Adler ist gelandet.

And he's being mean to me.

Hmm, is the first bit right? I left it up to Babelfish, but I'd expect the ist to be a hast. But to save me from ein Berliner syndrome, I'll leave it alone (and thus be able to blame Babelfish).


Hector the TaxmanHe knows.

Surely he must know.

Either that or my neighbour's complete idiocy is utterly unrelated to me, but nah, that's too improbable.

Those of you who have been paying attention might have noticed I've been just the tiniest bit annoyed recently. So imagine my great delight when, early in the morning, by neighbour decides to start smashing one of his windows. Apparently he'd taken the dog for a walk. And left the door on the latch, and so didn't take his keys with him. Comes back, discovers the door is locked. So what is the natural response (given he apparently is the only person in the street not to partake in the mass spare-key exchange)? Call his son with whom he shares the house? Call his lodger (except he hasn't been seen for a while, so he might not still be around)? Call a locksmith? Leave it till after work? But there's the dog. Take the dog into work? Ask the retired neighbour on the other side to mind he/she/it for the day? Leave it in the back garden for the day?

Oh no, don't be silly. The obvious choice is to pit a large terracotta pot planted with seedlings against the double glazing. The glazing won the first round. Smashing crockery, but deeper than normal, is not a nice sound to wake up to.

He then found a stone (one of the few which hadn't miraculously migrated to the middle of our back lawn: must be the badger), and hammered away until it broke. Plate glass has very special sound as it breaks; horrendously wrong would be a fairly good way of describing it.

A few sickening layers of glass later and all is quiet. Either he's in, or falling shard of glass has neatly liberated his femoral artery. It stays silent for a while, and then the hammering begins. And goes on. It stops, and then starts up again. There's another odd noise, and more hammering. Crashing sounds, smashing sounds, jangling all the way, oh what fun it is to have a neighbour who is batt[a]y.

So that was fun. And by the way, this is same man who spent the entire weekend (when he wasn't mowing the lawn for the third weekend in a row with his wonderful petrol driven mower. From the noise it makes, it should have spun off into many pieces years ago) apparently building an internal wall for the sole purpose adding shelves to it, having run out of vacant wall space elsewhere. Unless he has a very profitable sideline in testing the ease of construction of every flatpack item in the Ikea catalogue, his home must be submerged in self-assembly units stacked four-deep. At least that's what I assume he does, judging from the omnipresent hammering, drilling, sawing and grinding that thrums through the party-wall. Or maybe he's just trying to reinvigorate jazz.

My sheer unrelenting joy was further bolstered by receiving a letter from the Inland Revenue. Except it wasn't actually a letter, merely a form. To be filled in. With lots of details I don't know. Having panicked and scrabbled for any relevant bits of paperwork, I then notice that it's not even for this year. Oh dear. I don't even know whether I can just stick N/A in half the boxes, as I've no idea what the accompanying TLAs mean. And to think I've only just stopped ostriching about the whole National Insurance fiasco.

Oh, to live in a tax haven. I can't even say it would probably be foggier, as today is doing fairly well on the dismal scale. How dare it revert to seasonally average temperatures? Who cares about the norm when we've had a sniff (more like a lung and half-ful) of sun and temperatures well into double figures?

Worryingly, I think the tax form is actually to do with how much rebate I get. Which means I really ought to fill it in, as there's no way they will just work it out for me.

Hang on, it's for year end Apr 04, yet they want to know if I am still to receive income in that year? They really do judge everyone by their own standards, don't they?


PS. Just trying to balance out the unrelenting tone of this post, LondonDan had an interesting site buried away in his archives. Do you know where in London the pictures on this site where taken? I got 1,3,4,5,11,13,17,18,[should have got 19],20,25,26,36,[should have got 48], with a fair degree of ish to some of the answers (and apparently 36 is not the one I was thinking of). Which probably means I've been bored and lonely in London too often.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Hemingway: A Farewell to ArmsEversocunning.

Yesterday, in mid-rant, I mentioned the M&S website's sheer patheticness. Being fairly bored I filled in their feedback form (cunningly they have two: one for shopping, one for the website, but don't mention this when one clicks "Tell us what you think" link). Two points: one, that their main index ignores the food section, for which they currently have an television advertising campaign, and the second, in Firefox (with a screen size of 1152 X 864) their graphics are all over the place, which renders large chunks of their site unusable.

I get back two emails.

The first is an automated thing, which thanks me for my email (um, I didn't email them, but never mind).

The next I reproduce below:
Dear [Name],

Thanks for your email.

I'm sorry to hear you are experiencing problems when using our website. I have passed your comments to our technical team to rectify as soon as they can.

Please click on the link below,

This will enable you to view all our food products as requested. If we can be of any further help, please feel free to email us or call 0845 609 0200.

Kind Regards

[Other Name]
Customer Services
Marks & Spencer
The reply I would never dare send:

Dear [Other name],

Thank you for rectifying my comments.

I did not request a link to your food magazine. I wrote to tell you their was no link to a major part of your site from the front page the company's website. This section of your site is one which you are currently advertising widely. The lack of direct link struck me as rather short sighted, given the amount of money the company is pouring into a national cross-media campaign. But then such an idea fits with the ethos of the company, so it was wrong of me to complain.

The second part of my message mentioned the display faults encountered on the company website, including the food section. I had previously accessed the food magazine, as linked, otherwise I would not have been aware of the problems with it. So while I thank you for sending me a link I did not request, regrettably the page accessed through it is still unusable.

Less than kind regards,

Mr Being Arsey.

PS. This is an email.

And while I have my arse hat on (I may need to rephrase that), what is it with the endless Mcfly searches? I've even had someone searching this site for the dreaded McFly.

Who the hell wants to know vital stats for tom mcfly? BTW, if you really want to know, they are as follows:
Ego: ∞ m3
Facial Radius: 24 cm
Facial Circumference: 151 cm
Airhead Pressure: 32 bar
Density: 19.8x103 kg m-3

It's bad enough having people wanting guitar tabs for their so songs [Click for tabs: 5 colours in her hair, All about you, Obviously].

Drat, and here I realise that by mentioning the McFly [may they go the way of the Delorean] name all I'm doing is increasing the likelihood Google shunts the muppets here. But inventing a code name for them would suggest I care a bit too much. So how a about misspelling. MacFly perhaps, or maybe the preferable McFlay. How about really taking the piss and calling them MC Fly? Well, they're a boyband, so it can't be long before they start on the comedy raps. And they are pretty fly for a white guy x4 (in the real meaning of the Offspring song).
Seriously, if you want McFly, look elsewhere.

Of course, I only do it because, very occasionally I unwittingly hear part of a song of theirs and like it, which of course no self-respecting indie kid should ever do.

But then there's that The Faders thing [overblown glitchy website]. So shouldn't. Except it's still early enough in their careers that they run out of publicist written junk after a minute of speaking, and then suddenly sound much nicer, and start making more sense. I strongly suspect the band member called Toy, and is the token goth one (um, yeah), may well have ditched the "r" from her name (and I'm not implying she's name after a Greek cited, which in turn was named in honour of a film. Think: not Vicky).

And so, in an effort to drag this post out of the cultural hinterland, I'll move on to discussing what it was which kept me from posting earlier in the week: books.

I've recently finished three, and here they are, in order of what I would like to admit to reading (and typed as it appears on the cover):
Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms.
christopher brookmyre - be my enemy.

I think the use of capitals tell us all we need to know about these books. The Hemingway was less readable than To Have and Have Not. The story is odd, and the characters frequently infuriating, with much rapid chatter, which they don't mean, and then do. Imagine a book made from the worst parts of A Brief Encounter, and you'll get the same feeling. First World War Italy is odd too, but I suspect that is part of the point. None of the characters exist outside the war: money comes to the hero from somewhere via his sight drafts, but very little mention is made of why it does, and there is money to come. Thinking of the plot as a whole, things happen, but other than slight injury, the hero is, in some aspects at least, unchanged. The plot may as well never have happened.

It's an odd book; one spends so long not connecting that one almost forgets to when it matters.

Onto Kit B. As always, funny, ruthless, cruel, with equal doses of cynicism and innovative sadism. Acutely observed, wryly written. If only I knew what a bampot was. I know how it's used, I just don't know what it means. Read it, and any others you can find.

And so to The Iron Man, whose title makes me think of petrifying cartoon which was somehow connected to Ted Hughes. It's not though. It's a book about a Russian ship, which was at the apex of a previous generation of naval technology. And somewhere along the way piracy creeps in. Nowhere near as a well written as the other two, the thing visibly rusts in comparison to the Brookmyre. Not as bad as some books, but still not great. It's not helped the author being rather narrow-minded. He writes disparagingly of some naval commander being sexist, and then mentions that female (who I think he describes as attractive) in charge of looking at the radar hasn't got it turned on because she's having lustful thoughts about another member of crew. The other member of crew does not turn up, so we cannot tell if lustful thoughts are as equally distracting to him.

Oh, and guess what, the main plot isn't quite the main plot: there's a twist. The pirates are really after nuclear warheads. There's a murky contact, with a bushy black beard (hey don't forget the camouflage, aviator sunglasses and keffiyeh round the neck), who Allah-akbar's his way through the book (even though insh'Allah might be more appropriate), and who only meets people in dimly lit streets. The man represents a Middle Eastern state. Really? I never would have guessed. I thought the beard was an ironic thing, and the guy can from Hemel Hempstead, and Tariq could be a code name. So who is this man representing? None other than Saddam Hussien. Because as well all know, there has only ever been one baddy.

Having a criminal mastermind wiped out by events after the book was written does is at best inconvenient. It doesn't help that at the time it was set, some of the details the author labours so much were already out of date.

Other than the central plot, which is pretty formulaic if one filters out the clutter. Actually make that including the central plot, the book is horrendously unimaginative, and grinds from stereotype to stereotype. The author has a fetish for war-machines, preferably old-fashioned ones, and the book is written solely to maximise his pleasure. And that's all.

It is probably one of the few books which no one would care enough about to bother burning.

I am having a rather vitriolic couple of days, aren't I? Oh well. Blame it on pent up fury (ok, so it was more fatalist resignation at the time) over getting feet wet. In the sea, in March, in shoes, which weren't designed for it, and are the only pair I have under two hours away. That's what happens when one helps people. The guy was apparently an RYA sailing instructor, who was having problems launching, in rough seas and a force 7 (he should have known better). As I was the only person on the beach, I found myself taking hold of his trolley, as he tried to launch. He, in an effort to push the boat out to sea, into the wind, pushed the trolley hard as well. I was holding the other end. Quite why he decided that he had to keep hold of both I'm not sure, as the trolley is too heavy to drift off, and the boat is being blown onto the beach, so it can't really go anywhere either.

Um, yeah, so bare feet, in March, with a strong wind, and sun disappearing behind a bank of clouds, is less than fun, especially over several hours. My feet had just enough feeling that all I got was pain, interrupted by the pain of winter feet on a beach. Really perversely, the scotch-guarded exterior was fine, it was just the gaps around the tongues which weren't, so the outside was dry whilst inside the shoe had pebbles and bits of seaweed.

And as for the man who went sailing: he capsized onto the old pier, bent his mast, lost bits of kit, snagged the sail on the posts, then got the boat upright, then let himself off the pier, from where he drifted until he hit the newer pier, where he was wedged until a couple of committee members went to rescue him (getting their non-sailing clothes wet as well).

The nice man didn't seem to notice the number of people he had made cold and wet, nor the hinting comments about how fortunate it was that the engine used to rescue him had only just been taken out of winter storage and serviced. The sailing club (unlike many others) has rule which allows people to sail without safety cover at their own risk. It assumes the members are capable of gauging the risk, and acting accordingly (not trying to kill themselves is the general theme, which includes not going out in stupid conditions). I have a hunch that there may be a "quiet word" or two.

So, um, trying think of something positive to say, well, at least I've been in the sea this year, and had a chance to work on my suntan (even if I'm not convinced toes tan all that well).


Friday, March 25, 2005

WeeblAh, so now the people searching of Weebl and Bob make sense. Apparently that nice Mr Jonty Picking has done a little animation of the fabulous duo, which he has named in honour of this blog.

Unfortunately, as is the wont of Google, those paying homage have become more infamous than the honoured. Drat, and I was so enjoying playing second fiddle to Yet Another Search Engine (which does at least have the grace to list me as the first unplanted result. But as the thing doesn't even list the referring site when search for anyhoo, despite the similar name...).

Hmm, I'm now rather dismayed, having realised that I haven't seen an MSN search result in the stats recently. I had assumed that it was because MSN is widely regarded to be dire, and that the revamp only made it worse. I now discover that no variation on the name of this blog brings up anything like this site: the nearest I can get is GfB. Sticking the index address in brings up nothing. Um, yeah, thanks for dropping me.

But at least Yahoo still loves me, even if no-one sane uses it.


This site in no way condones the use of mythical foxes in capturing monkeys.

[Edit: 1/4/05. I exchanged the Linksys WAG54G for new one, which is a Version 2 running Firmware version 1.00.19 (the previous one made no mention of which version it was, hence probably V.1 not V.2, and used different firmware). Other than the still slightly weak signal, I have not yet had any problems with it. If you have problems, take it back: in the EU it comes with a 3-year warranty].

Linksys LogoSo stats times once again.

But only because they are being very entertaining at the moment.
Anyone heard, or even heard of, the greys anatomy theme song? I'm quite surprised this turned up, as I wasn't aware I'd mentioned that book, even though I have an inherited 1901 version. But isn't it Gray? Well, it was for the 15th edition.

Anyone wondering what sort of mind searches for christine hamilton AND pvc?

Anyone wonder just what the following searcher was looking for? "white band" poverty france. Did they think the white bands were a French thing? Maybe they thought it was to stop poverty in France? Or are they looking for a supplier in France? All of which can probably be answered by suggesting that the searcher goes to the website, and if necessary asks questions there. Actually, does the campaign exist outside this country? If not, why not? (And argh! Tony Blair's been seen wearing one. Well, I suppose if he can't do anything else, he may as well give Oxfam a pound).

Anyone wondering if the following is a request or a metaphysical question? porn need man.

And of course the inevitable plethora of people searching for answers about the Linksys ADSL broadband modem-cum-router, or gateway as they call it, the wireless-G WAG54G.

Now let's look at the evidence. Google claims to find eleven and a half thousand sites which mention both WAG54G and the word "problem". One of the earliest results is a discussion forum with 65 long pages of complaints on the firmware alone (and this claims to be an Australia only site). The Linksys website has a press section apparently for the product. Trying to access it brings up a page labelled "Reviews and awards Australia" and one review in German, of a different product.

If I knew were the Cisco (the owners of Linksys) offices were, they would have been firebombed months ago. Admittedly all I'd need was a bit of petrol and a WAG54G Linksys Wireless-G ADSL Gateway left on long enough that the petrol ignites on contact.

Say it with me...
Linksys: Useless heap of shit. Ok so that Googlebombing campaign hasn't quite worked yet, as there is no sign of Linksys in the Google results, but this site handily comes fourth.

At the moment I'm trying to find a thermometer to see what temperature the thing runs at. The blurb claims it works between 0-40 degrees centigrade. So if the thing bakes itself beyond that... (all day it has been the only thing on in that room, and the central heating is not on, yet it's still very hot).

As for the claim it supports 32 separate wireless computers, I'd assume each takes it in turn to have a connection.

Number of times the router has had to be reset during the creation of this post: 21 (and much typing was done whilst there was no connection, hence it didn't have the option of falling over. I've not even attempted to quantify the time-outs, go-slows and numerous other issues).

And just as little experiment let's see how frequently WAG54G turns up in connection with other terms (all results in ghits, and a dash indicates that the total includes similar terms):
+ Problem: 11,500
+ Issue-: 1,215
+ Fault-: 1,122
+ Error-: 4,844
+ Useless: 854
+ No use: 71
+ Crap: 379
+ Trash: 265
+ Rubbish: 117
+ Garbage: 346
+ Junk: 133
+ Shit: 176
+ Shite: 23
+ Bollocks: 20 (not as in dog's)
+ Bad: 508
+ Poor: 664
+ Dire: 3,460*
+ Fail-: 1,214
+ Failure-: 1,176
+ Dreadful: 10
+ Awful: 99
+ Dismal: 5
+ Abysmal: 9
+ Horrendous: 8
+ Horrible: 133
+ Pathetic: 61
+ Disappoint-: 208
+ Dismay-: 14
+ Shambles: 5
+ Shame-: 192
+ Ashamed: 31
+ Unhappy: 132
+ Sad: 554
+ Upset: 22
+ Miserable: 47
+ Defect-: 219
+ Flaw: 54
+ Trouble-: 1,428

* Many of which are the French word dire meaning to talk, although several of those feature ne, rein or pas.

For comparison (bear in mind sites selling it have to write good things to sell it):
+ Good: 910
+ Happy: 1,410
+ Useful: 6,480
And of the top five for useful, the first features a list of 11 reviews of which two are positive; the second is an inaccessible database, although useful is not featured in the excerpt cited by Google; the third is the 65 pages of Australian complaints; the useful mentioned in the fourth is in "Useful Links"; and the fifth talks of converting the firmware to something more useful. Conclusions?

Happy seems to have similar amounts of negatives or sarcasm.

It sounds like Linksys have managed to unite the world in one common voice with their little blue bundle of joy.


PS. Any suggestions for more negative words to check WAG54G perception?

Simnel CakeAnd what day is it today children?

Hot Cross Buns Day. [Formerly known as Good Friday, but after the 1988 CPS versus Klinkhammer and de Jong trial under the 1968 Trade Descriptions Act, use of the term "good" was found to be unsound].

So how many have I eaten so far? Well, technically one is supposed to break one's fast solely on Hot Cross Buns (don't ask me why, it's just one of those odd tradition things). But as buns don't really register as food unless consumed in industrial quantities, I cheated and had a token hot cross bun supplemented by Weetabix. Now there's a proper religious meal.

But I've never been very good at remembering all the practices one is supposed to adhere to. I've forgotten what it was I gave up for Lent. But as no one got round to telling my family that Sundays didn't count, I've probably saved up enough excess Lenten days to cover it.

I have a vague hunch fish is supposed to make an appearance today, but have no idea why. And does adding Worcester sauce to whatever I cook count? It's made from anchovies isn't it?

And does anyone out there remember where simnel cakes fit in? Presumably they must come at the end of Lent, but I don't know. We made them once at Scouts (don't ask), and there was great confusion over whether there are 12, 12 and a space, or 13 balls of marzipan. The balls apparently represent the disciples, and there's something to do with whether one includes both Jesus and Judas, and it all got a bit muddled (read: the people running it didn't know, and so argued amongst themselves).

Ah, and I probably should have tried doing the research before I started writing, as the first site Google finds claims that simnel cakes are to do with Mothering Sunday, and should have 11 balls. But as our version had a layer of marzipan baked in the middle of the cake, and the recipe doesn't, I guess there's been divergence. Although it probably was Mothering Sunday, not Easter.

Anyway, at least I know when it's safe to start cracking open the Easter Eggs. Drat, I'm now thinking about chocolate, and all I've got in the house are Buttons eggs. Do you think willing the Earth to spin faster, so St Cadbury's Day gets here quicker, would work?

That's an awful lot stuff hung on a few days of religion. I don't quite know why I bother. I'm not religious. I'm not terribly sure there is a god. I don't need the church or religion to justify my existence, much to the chagrin of a CUing friend; it's a bit odd when someone ends a discussion by telling me that they'll pray for me.

But she can't be all that religious, can she? After all she was the one who supplied the body of Christ for the purpose of feeding to the ducks in Regent's Park. Ok, so it was CofE body of Christ, so it's purely symbolic, and had come out of a Tesco Value bag before being diced, unlike Catholic body of Christ, which apparently is the body of Christ, which other than suggesting the son of God was made of wafers (which have kept remarkably well, but being eternal will do that to things), does lead to the curious implication that Catholics are cannibals. But they probably get theirs from M&S. After all, it's not just food.

[M&S's website is crap. It doesn't display well in Firefox. And given that they currently are seducing the nation with advertisements for their food, there is no link to the food section from the index of their website: it has all the other departments, including wine, but no food. And yet they wonder why no-one buys stuff. Update: I must be bored, I just filled in their feedback form. I now await the obligatory "What's Firefox? We haven't heard of it, so it doesn't matter. We suggest using Microsoft for everything". If you think I'm being harsh, you obviously haven't had this from both Weetabix and Sainsbury's (the latter at least fixed the fault)].

Hmm, did I mention that in the stuff I've done which most other people won't have done?

28. Fed the son of God to wildfowl.

I still think it's amusing that the often less than pious members of that congregation willingly consumed matter which in normal circumstances they would not consider fit for human consumption. Admittedly, they have a point. Tesco Value and Sainsbury's Basics (and it was never called Economy, right?) ultra cheap bread does taste like the bakers couldn't even afford the chalk needed to eek out the flour. Maybe all sales of such bread are in fact the result of people going to feed the ducks: at uni, there was always a spare out-of-date loaf lying around with which to bombard the ducks 3 storeys below (and they were the fattest ducks known to mankind, spending all day marauding different windows on campus).

I think the rest of this post will have to be shunted off elsewhere, as I've spent too long on this already.


PS. It took M&S 10 minutes to get the traditional automated response out. Oddly they thank me for my email, despite it all being done on the form on their website. I know it probably arrives at the customer care place as an email, but all the user sees is a form, and no mention of email. Pedantic I know, but given the number of times my mother has called me over some [often similar] computer thing, I tend to be sensitive to anything which is not accurate (my mother assumes computers, and the people controlling them are infallible, and it's my fault if they are not).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cream of Tomato SoupI turn my back for 3 seconds, and look what's happened. BTW, that's a poetic license 3 seconds.

The sexy elfin shorts have been and gone.
Someone in San Diego perfects the Bacardi flambé [1].
The crossed legged carrot put in an appearance.
Cyberabad is chronicled [2].
The RBSI is founded.
From Banksy to Bankside (Neu York style).

[1] Bacardi 151 75% v/v alcohol. It is not available in this country (£70 per litre import). I still haven't figured out how exactly it would work as a marinade. The alcohol might make the meat a bit more tender, but I can't image that there's much room left for flavour if it's three quarters pure ethanol. Mmm, raw alcohol.

[2] Although no mention is made of the local Cybermen. And I only know about them from umpteen "I love the [whenever]s" programmes, an intensely irritating ex-flatmate and someone's photograph I saw recently on Flickr. Having said that, I am intending to watch the new Doctor Who, just to see how bad it is, and because I have nothing better to do on a Saturday night (and it's bound to be more realistic than Casualty). And am I in a position to judge? Well, I grew on Sylvester McCoy's Doctor (and I quite liked Ace), which, other than ageing me, probably doesn't give me a good basis for the inevitable "Not as good as Connery" comparisons. (And no, I don't really care about who is the best Bond either).

Which oddly reminds of (read: the television is on in the background, and it's just been on) that Skoda Fabia advert. How come daleks can't do stairs yet a Corby Trouser Press can? (and to the pedant who starts "actually" and then continues by citing an episode and series number, I can only say that I don't care, and I can trade in common misperceptions if I want to).

Which now means I have Saturn V in my head. Which really does age me. And if you are lost we're at Inspiral Carpets, on the retail estate between Sofa Hell and the giant Linda Barker cut-out.

And while finding suitable links I got all excited when I found that apparently in Germany Cheap-VW™ market the Skoda Firewall. According to Google that is: Die Studie Yeti in Genf, Skoda Firewall: Sicher Surfen. Kostenloser Download ...

I have no idea what that means though.

As I'm running out of time, and the router has switched to "don't want to" mode, I'll stop here.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Monday morning: the time to be easily amused.

At last, a government with a sense of humour. The Bahrain* government brings you the Ministry of Housing and Agriculture.

As I said, low threshold humour.

*Should that be Bahraini or Bahrainian? Admittedly the latter looks a little odd. The CIA informs me that the adjective denoting "well-to-do Bahrain" is Bahraini.


PS. Manama? Can't a certain Central American country frequently associated with a canal, and, er, hats, sue over trademark infringement?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Burnt out bulbAs Blogger seems to have developed the innovative ability to swallow posts whole, here's something to tide you lot over, just until I figure out what Blogger has lost.

[As an aside, is anyone else having problems with any site connected to Blogger? is being erratic at best, and any site hosted on blogspot seems to be using Brownian motion to transfer data. Has Blogger HQ had someone walk off with half their servers, or is it some local network vendetta at this end?].

Anyway, the thing (except there are two). And it's amazing how much work I can do whilst thinking about something else.

The first one:
You have two fuses. Each burns for one hour. They do not burn uniformly. You need to time 15 minutes. How?

The second:
A certain Ms Lopez has, in full diva-ish excess, demanded that the mirror in her dressing room be surrounded by 10,000 lights. Each of these is to have a numbered on-off switch corresponding to one bulb, in order to allow messages from her fans to be spelt out. One night J-Lo [sweet chariot, coming forth...] decides to get her minions to round up 10,000 adorable urchins, and dress them in balletic fairy costumes. Having done this, she then decrees that one should walk along the lines of switches, turning on every switch numbered with a multiple of one. The child turns one every such light, which is all of them. This amuses the dual-cleavaged one, who then sends the next child out to switch all the lights with a number which is a multiple of two (Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Aaa-fleck!). She giggles and claps her hands in style of a performing seal (whatever happened to Mr Solidarity Brother?). She sends the next child out to switch every light whose number is a multiple of three. Her eyes show the unadulterated delight only true simpletons possess. She sends the fourth child out to do the multiples of four. She's boring of this now, even if her face doesn't have enough functioning muscles left to show it. Picking Faceless Minion Number 12 (Official person to receive thrown towel from person towel was thrown at. Job Function: to pass towel to Towel Putter Back) at random, she delegates, and FMN12 then sends out children to work their magic on the switches containing multiples of all the numbers up to and including ten thousand.

Returning from her Hissy Fit Training Course (covering the full cycle of strop, tantrum and sulk), She of the Block (or B-Lo CK) looks at the lightbulbs and wants to know how many are left on. Aware she can't possibly how to count them without getting distracted by her reflection, and that no good flunkey would ever give a quantitative answer, she decides to work it out. Oddly her head starts making mechanical noises like gears grinding together. She hasn't felt this confused since she tried to work out if her arse pulled Jupiter towards it more than Jupiter pulls her arse towards the planet.

Can you be a good little stalker (how did you fit inside the Corby Trouser Press?) and help out your heroine before she Careys? Just how many bulbs are left on?

Answers in the comments section.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

In no particular order:

Cooking whilst watching television (in a different room) is dangerous. Not least because I half heard something and wondered why in seventeen whenever people were rallying against potpourri. I mean I know it's useless and everything, but to have marches against it? Bit harsh. (And what do Catholics have to do with it? Did they smell more? But surely they have all that incense to cover it up. And isn't potpourri for rooms?).

And the award for comic mishearing, and rather worryingly illogical subsequent train of thought, goes to...the winner of the "most unable to spell potpourri" category.

Well, if it's French and faux is pronounced foe...

And wow, isn't photographic paper which is also a postcard the funkiest thing ever? Except if one tries writing on it with a fountain pen. Now let's see. Paper which is resin coated to stop it falling apart in the development tank: check. Pen which uses a suspension of dye particles in water: check. Disastrous - except if intended recipient wanted a full finger, palm, back of hand and sleeve print set of the sender - combination of the two: check.

Um, yeah, it's extra lucky cos it's got artwork on both sides.

Which reminds that I've stuck some more pictures, from the course this time, on Flickr. Either use the utterly gadgetastic (what? I've finished a postcard with the words "A woo, a hoo, and a yay," so don't complain) thumbnails thing in the sidebar, or for a full index of everything that's ever been and ever will (obviously some of the ever-wills might not exist on there yet) allez ici.

The last film on there ain't so good, as I wasn't sure about quite what to do, or how to do it, but there's some better stuff in there.

Which brings me to the apropos of blatantly nicked from Brom-man section. Which is all about stuff I've done which no-one else has. I didn't do it earlier, as I wasn't sure I could fill the quota. Ok, so I'm fairly sure I still can't, but I'm young [ish] still.

1. Managed to back over a pheasant without killing it. Which is slightly annoying as I quite like pheasant, and it would have been karmic completion for the one that flew between hedges either side of a road, and happened to take out the aerial on my car on the process. I know it is a bird, and therefore entitled to be bird-brained, but not getting out of the way when a loud, heavy, unresponsive, brightly coloured thing with pretty lights (and decorative rust) approaches does suggest it is slightly slow on the uptake. And before someone tells me that I parked on its nest, it was in the middle of a well-used car park. Oddly, only once I got my camera out did it decide that it might actually want to pick either fight or flight (or nonchalantly strutting off picking at the leaves). Whereas the next pheasant I meet not only fell for the walk-in-a-spiral trick, it also seemed bemused by the walk-straight-forward-and-nearly-stand-on-thing trick. This is only 1 and only here because it happened at the weekend.

2. Unintentionally used the phrase "running round like headless chickens" about an hour after part of the group I was with decapitated some chickens and confirmed that they do indeed run round, in a slightly baddy-dying-in-children's-film manner.

3. [Does this count as two?] On my eighteenth birthday I was halfway up Kilimanjaro. On my twenty-first birthday I was halfway across the Channel (and not on a plane, ferry or train).

4. I have met people I had various connections to [e.g. friend of a friend], whilst standing halfway up Kilimanjaro.

5. I have met a friend from university whilst waiting for the ferry to Montserrat. Neither of us knew the other was even going on holiday, let alone where they were going. I sat in a plane 20 minutes behind his all the way from Antigua to Gatwick.

6. I have sat on Kriss Akabusi's hand.

7. I have got lost with Helen Sharman.

8. I have talked to Worzel Gummidge whilst he leant on gate.

9. I have swum at 4 am on New Year's Day. To me it was still the night before.
9a. I have cursed the person who gave me "Brian" as in The Life thereof, in that stupid game where one has to guess the famous name stuck on one's forehead, hence being awake all night.

10. I have watched fireworks in the fog. Ok, so I've been cold and heard fireworks in the fog, whilst staring at a point about a metre from my face. The things people did because the years were about to start beginning with 2.

Hmm, I didn't think I'd get up to ten, I haven't even had to reel out the really shaky things which aren't that uncommon*. Ok, so some of the ten are due for replacement.

*If Brom-man can have watching piglets being born, can I claim watching a cow being born? Which was on the same day as we saw snow being blown onto the underside of branches and staying there (and not settling on the top).

Note the we. Therefore not so unique.

11. Had a brother go missing and spark a police search, and all I did was turn over and go back to sleep. Well, it was Scout night hike, and we all had tents and food, and he's my brother, so he's not daft.

12. Been injured by a flying Lego fire engine.

13. Sundry ridiculous biological things. Counting Lemna leaves for example, been kelp skiing, or managing to cumulatively appear in a Bill Oddie wildlife programme [about 4.3 arms, 2 partial torsos, 9.2 feet, 2 separate ears, one eye, and about 3 partial noses].

14. Won a junior prize cup at a sailing club. By default. The weather was vile and got worse before any of us left the beach, so everyone else started pulling out. I didn't cross my name off the list, but the race was not officially cancelled or postponed, so by some slip up of the then current rulebook, I won. No boat was launched that day, not even race control.

15. Caused Humpty Dumpty to have a great fall. HD being a stuffed toy from Playschool. I being stood on a stool, holding a piece of string with my brother on the other end, with him also on a stool. Being my nice older brother, he kept tugging the string (it was in place of a ribbon at the opening or unveiling of something), and eventually I wobbled. In regaining my balance, I knocked Humpty off the table behind me.

16. Been on the front page of the local paper many times. Been on the front page of the Daily Telegraph once.

17. Seen Volvos floating in the sea.

18. Got "French for Beginners" out on my French French teacher's library ticket. The thugs in the rugby team got a selection of Sweet Valley High books on theirs, which were instantly overdue: the names of students with overdue books were read out in assembly, as were the books the owed.

19. Sabotaged a neighbouring scout group's campsite shortly before the district head appeared to inspect it. They started it. And anyway, I only suggested ideas, and it's hardy my fault if Fairy Liquid [detergent] soon found its way into all their water containers (have you ever tried rinsing one of those out? Through the foolishly small hole?), or that their monstrously overblown gateway to their part of the site (I mean, seriously, who goes camping with 4 tonnes of wood purely to build a pointless gate?) soon developed a list before toppling and pulling all the tents and dining shelters with it (Oh dear, now that's just sloppiness that is, using the same peg to hold three different ropes, and tying them all together - the worst part is, we had to make very few modifications, as they'd jury-rigged most of their site), or that their fires suddenly started to billow dense black smoke.

20. Been propositioned in a churchyard. As it was 3 pm on a weekday, I said thanks but no thanks.

21. Had graffiti written about me. It wasn't nice but neither was the person who wrote it. The person who wrote it was 24 at the time.

22. Been stopped by the police for stopping at a red light.

23. Pushed a Morris Minor all the way up the hill on Alderney. I've no idea if the thing ever worked, or if he freewheeled down, and got a push back up.

24. Very nearly broken a church bell.

25. Get 99% in a test, and be asked about the other one percent.

26. Discover during a Bridget Riley exhibition that one eye doesn't focus as well as the other.

27. Been turned down by MI5 for not having enough relevant experience.

Ok, so I'm being to realise that quite a few of my unique things aren't all that unique, but they are rare. But it's late, and there's work tomorrow so good night.


PS. 6, 7 and 8 clarification. 6 = Athlete. 7 = Astronaut. 8 = Television character. All whilst at school. The hand was because it was some youth fitness thing, and everyone had to pose with KA for a photograph, and he left it there.

HS was going to give a talk to science teachers, and somehow my brother and I got roped in. We found HS, and then spent quarter of an hour wandering an empty school trying to find the right room. She's quite nice.

WG wasn't actually WG, but the man who played him. And he had just come out of a funeral. But never mind that.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Oil lampAh tiredness and politics: such a great combination.

Seeing BBC News 24 in passing stimulated two thoughts. Both are linked to the terrorism legislation which is currently bumping around in the Lords. The first was discovering that there is no Somerset clause. Which is just as well, as I wasn't quite sure what it was or who Somerset was and which side he was on [I know that's prejudiced, but Lords, especially ones with inherited titles, tend to be men].

It turns out that the clause provisioning for annual parliamentary renewal of the act is apparently a sunset clause. Um, well, single word names which happen to be the names of counties: it's not that odd for the House of Lords, is it?

The second was due to the wonderful invention which is scrolling text on screen. You know the type of thing which spews inanities endlessly, and very occasionally things on doesn't quite expect to see in front besuited sombre presenters, such as ...acting with Hilary Swank. Eriq La Salle has... ...threatened by the bug. German researchers... ...sent off. Uckfield's latest... OPEC. Until negotiations...
Ok, so I made those up (mostly because I can't remember the real examples), but I have seen similar things on screen. Admittedly if I had to sit writing the goings on of the world in six words or less all day, I think I'd start sticking stuff in just to see if anyone notices.

Anyway, one sentence was scrolling across the screen. I misread it. I've included two versions below. Can you tell which is the BBC version?

Charles Clarke has offended parliament...
Charles Clarke has offered parliament...

But in happier news, it's sunny [or was]. I managed to get home in time to discover the sun is just about getting into my room just before it sets. Hurrah!

My car has also decided it's summer. No misted up windows. No puddle. No [new] mould. No stalling. No struggling both with and without the choke. No whining alternator when I bring the clutch in. No non-functioning items {well, other than the usual).

It started first time. I had to turn the heater down. It became a car one could just pop out in. Which of course now means I'll have to bump-start it in the snow next week.

And as something on news has just reminded me, here's an abysmal joke I heard today [read out from a mobile phone, so with absolutely no sense of timing]:

Michael Jackson is holed up in a hotel room, avoiding the press scrum outside. He is really bored and decides to send one of his security guards down to get a DVD. The guard replies: "What would like? Disney? Bambi's always good, or there's Snow White. What about the Lion King? Or shall I get Aladdin?"
To which Jackson replies: "Better not. I'm in enough trouble already."



Oh well.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

[Yes, I know I still have the drafts to finish].

Mildly amusing, but mean, and cribbed from somewhere in Monday's Guardian, is a short piece about how inspirational the American skier Bode Miller finds the English rugby team. It ends with the [paraphrased by me] quote: "Anyone who can go downhill that fast deserves to have cowbells rung in their honour."

I know, armchair critic and all (although this chair has no arms), but still, quite funny.

[Due to the context, I assume the Miller quote is made up].

Elsewhere Language Log has a post on butt-cum-buck naked. Apparently they've been mulling over the divergence for a while, but I haven't been playing attention. Ok, so read, I haven't looked at their site in months, as there is just too much information, and the longer one leaves it, the worse the build-up gets.

So anyway, boredom and curiosity lead me there once more. Scanning the main page, I found one quote given in the buck/butt post which threw me. The quote ends with the line:
Though it has a different origin, I associate this also with the common "nip it in the butt."
[The quote is Mark Liberman, of LL, quoting Paul Brians].

Nip it in the butt?

But surely it normally is nip is in the bud?
I had always assumed that it came from the idea that it is best to do something early, before the problems build. For example nipping out the buds to stop a plant going to seed or bolting.

So what does Google say?

Popularity in ghits.
Nip it in the bud: 29,600
Nip in the bud: 10,500
Nip it in the butt: 2,010
Nip in the butt: 934

So it's not just me then...


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

[Edit: 1/4/05. I exchanged the Linksys WAG54G for new one, which is a Version 2 running Firmware version 1.00.19 (the previous one made no mention of which version it was, hence probably V.1 not V.2, and used different firmware). Other than the still slightly weak signal, I have not yet had any problems with it. If you have problems, take it back: in the EU it comes with a 3-year warranty].

Linksys WAG54GYay for stressy live.

And sorry about the whole not updating thing. I've done my usual trick of having more than one big and unfinished post on the go at once: sure way to guarantee that neither get finished or published (hmm, I think I have still have drafts which are over a year old).

Right, so what is all the fun craziness which has been happening? Well, there's the plumbing. Before Christmas the central heating at home was [eventually] done. They had the official repeat visit to check how it's all going. During that they tightened up the radiator valve which had been leaking ever since it was installed.

A while later: we notice that valve is still leaking. We ring up. They come. They fix. They leave.

Very recently: we notice that the pump seems to be making a lot of noise and there's still air jungling round the system. I bleed the bathroom radiator (being the tallest one upstairs, it tends to gather the air). Steam hisses out. Steam stops hissing out. And that's it. No water; no spurt to scald me as I scrabble to shut it off. There's just nothing. It's open but nothing is coming out. It has literally run out of steam.

A clamber up into the loft later (did I mention the excellent job they did of fitting a proper loft ladder? One which blocks the loft hatch unless you make a certain series of movements, which always makes me feel like a box somewhere should spring open to offer a reward. One does of course have to be standing on a ladder to be able to manoeuvre the hatch. Even better, the ladder when fully and properly extended - when only partially extended it collapses under the weight and swings worryingly - runs at about 45 degrees through a doorway, where the lintel makes it impossible to climb without being parallel to the ladder: the ladder which is at 45 degrees and bowing under the weight), to read the pressure gauge. Ah, I've obviously forgotten to insert the ignition key as the needle is resting at the base of the scale. Except it's not a petrol tank, and there is no ignition key.

Yes, that's right. There is no pressure in the system. Ok, so I presume it's actually lying and the scale is in excess of atmospheric pressure (unless the hissing noise for the bleeder valve was me breaking the vacuum, although I'm not quite sure how good a vacuum would be for transferring heat), and it just means there is no pressure beyond atmospheric. This is very not good.

So I open up the valve which feeds the system for the mains. And I watch the dial, ready to turn it off at the right pressure. The pipe thrums as water hisses through. The needle slowly rises. It starts to quiver. It stops rising. Water is still going in, but the pressure is constant. I yell down to check no-one else is doing anything with a radiator.

It turns out one of the people I live with heard me fiddling with the pipes, and decided to bleed the bathroom radiator. Which explains the never-ending loss. They then finish. The pressure slowly rises a bit, and then sits unmoving a bit further up the scale. Which means something somewhere is open.

I close off the mains valve, and go on a fountain hunt. I can't see water coming out of the bleeder valve on any radiator. And then I notice. The adjustment valve they fixed. The one they fixed twice. The one with the damp patch of carpet round it.

A j-cloth draining into a casserole later I discover that despite my best efforts, there's scalding water running down the back of the pipe. I belatedly realise turning the valve off might be a good idea. Still there is water pouring out.

Cue one rather annoyed phone call to the plumbers.

We find water coming through the ceiling and light fitting in the hall.

Cue another annoyed phone call to the plumbers.

Two plastic waste-bin-fuls of water later (well, one bin and a shuttle run), and the pressure is once again zero. But still more water is coming out, although my jury-rigged j-cloth seems to the guiding all the water into the casserole.

The plumbers appear.

They "Oooh". They talk about irrelevant things. They take off the valve, and cut off the leaking end of the upright pipe. They add in a new section of pipe and put it all back together. They mention the bill. We mention that they fitted the valve and "fixed" it twice. They go back to the main office to consult. We hear no more [yet].

The cut section of piper has a straight end and slanted end. Yep, that's right, the original plumber worried about the strain the pipe was under cut it on the bias. So when the collar for new valve went round the pipe, there wasn't contact all the way round, due to a distinct lack of pipe. Which as watertight systems go, isn't the greatest innovation.

And the all important irony is provided by the fact that each time the compression collar was tightened, the horizontal ring of contact was edged upwards, thus increasing the size of the hole once the oxidised gunk clears. And our efforts to get the system back up to the correct pressure only helped clear the debris holding the water in.

So, now it seems to be working fine. There is still air trundling round the system, but that will settle, so we can clear it.

But just because it wouldn't be a proper saga without a hint of a sequel: the valve at the other end of the radiator, which is the original valve, and hasn't been touched by the plumbers, has developed a certain dampness.

In other "why me" news: This week I've mostly up to my armpits in errant IP addresses. We have:
- A Linksys WAG54G, which is a router-cum-modem.
- A scavenged Compaq of unknown quality, with Windows 98SE. It connects using an internal network card and a lead running to the router.
- An aged Dell, with Windows 98SE, currently connecting via a Linksys WMP54G wireless network card. When it used to use the standard network card, networking was not its forte.
- A new Dell laptop, with Windows XP, currently connecting via the inbuilt wireless card.

Long running problems:
- The Dell desktop loses the connection to the router. This can only be resolved by resetting the router (in a different room).
- The Dell desktop suffers from decay of data transfer rates. This is not uniform. Sometimes huge amounts of data will shift quickly. Sometimes the first 5% will transfer at the maximum speed, the next 20% at some middling speed, and the rest will trickle on until the operation times out. The only way to regain full speed is to stop and start again. It always has been thus [despite many knowledgeable friends saying it shouldn't be, closely followed by "I don't know"].
- The Dell desktop is currently experiencing this same effect with the router. In this case the problem is only overcome by stopping all data transfer to the Dell, and either reset the router, or remotely access the configuration files and save changes [even if no changes are made].
- There has never been an internal network. Data transfer usually consists of email, or floppy disk. I have no idea why. The relevant help section on the Compaq is missing. I've tried everything Help on the Dell has suggested, at got back to the beginning again. When we had another computer round here briefly, we eventually managed to get the Dell desktop and the visiting laptop to acknowledge the existence of each other, but any attempt at further access caused all manner of problems. The Dell desktop has elsewhere worked within a network. Since getting the new laptop, we have not tried to establish a network.
- The status section of the router has never shown any wireless connection, even when that file is being accessed by a computer connected wirelessly.
- The router also has developed a habit of losing all awareness of the physical DSL connection. Red light for Internet, no light for DSL. Resetting has no effect. Turning it off and restarting it brings both lights back to green.
- Occasional complete loss of settings.

Recent problems:
- IP address conflict. The router is currently uses DHCP to assign IP addresses as and when the computers connect. Recently it has managed to assign the same IP addresses to two computers simultaneously (playing error message tennis is fun). Then it decided to give the same IP address to the laptop as well, just for hell of it. I only managed to sort this out by turning off the two desktops [and don't ya just love it when, mid managed-shut-down, someone decides to turn one back on] and the router, and then turning the router back on, shifting the range of possible IP addresses, and then turning on the computers one by one. I discovered that the Dell desktop still uses a now out of range IP address.
- IP address error. The Dell laptop keeps deciding to use an IP address that in no way resembles anything else in the system. Unsurprisingly this leads to problems.
- The router signal loss continues even with the Dell laptop, regardless of whether the Dell desktop is functioning. The signal does not tail off. The signal strength remains nearly constant, and then the signal will disappear without apparent reason.
- The Dell laptop is also experiences data transfer decay. Everything says it is loading, but it just is doing it as slowly as the connection can.

I think I need to set static IP addresses just to stop the router getting confused, but have no idea how to do that. I'm also wondering how Cisco, who own the Linksys brand, can possibly exist if their products are so shoddy. I initially thought it was my decrepit computer causing the signal loss problems, and I had no way to prove otherwise. So when a new computer using different hardware and software experiences the same problems, it tends to imply that the only common feature is at fault.

So lets recap the main features of the Linksys WAG54G gateway:
- Intermittant signal loss.
- Data transfer rate decay.
- IP address errors.
- Unexpected return to non-functioning factory defaults.
- Wireless router that works best [and often only] when wired.
- A host faults remedied only by physical contact.
Yes, this stunning Linksys WAG54G Wireless-G ADSL Gateway with 4 Port Switch, containing built in modem and router, brought to you by Cisco Systems, can be yours for only somewhere above a hundred pounds.

And why is it that searching for related items seems only bring up people on boards across the web complaining about the problems they have with Linksys products. Perhaps the company ought to copyright for its next trademark "Useless heap of shit", as there does seem to be a widespread use of that phrase when referring to Linksys products especially the WAG54G.

So is there anything else which is annoying me?
Um, well, there is Boots, or more precisely their imprecise photographic printing. I got the latest set of photographs developed, and skim through them. Oh dear. It would appear the viewfinder in my camera has a wider frame than that which the film is exposed to. Given my camera is an SLR, this is very not good. So I have some shots where I could have sworn I got the end of whichever feature I was aiming at in the frame, but the prints so otherwise. Decapitated is not a good look.

So I sit and worry, and try to find ways to check this misalignment. Someone else looks at the pictures, discovers that I thought I had everything in shot, and asks what the negatives show.

I really should have thought of that first, but well, I tend to think something is my fault, however complicated that makes the situation, rather than attribute it to someone else's incompetence.

I check the negatives. Boots are apparently defrauding me of about 10% of the image. So on most shots it doesn't matter much, although possibly throws the framing off. But where one has used the end of the frame, it wrecks the image.

So as developers go, Boots exemplify utter crapness. In recent years, I have not had one film go through them which has not had some fault in the printing. The faults in reverse chronological order:
- images cropped.
- black and white comes out as green and white.
- a big white blur in the same place on every frame of many films. I was told it was a camera fault (more than one camera), then film fault (more than one type of film), then user fault (more than one user), and then, because the image he was looking at showed a palm tree, it was x-ray damage (so how did that happen to the film which has travelled all of 3 miles? And how exactly did wound film get marked in the same part of each frame? And how come there's no sign of this damage on the negatives?).

Hmm, maybe I ought to start one of those GWB-style Googlebombing campaigns. Not that I could remember which phrase was linked to him (so it worked well then?).

So Linksys becomes useless heap of shit, and Boots [Photographic Development] becomes utter crapness.

And the betting Google won't even notice that last paragraph?


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A fiascoCutting glass underwater with scissors

Continuing with Italian for Beginners, today's word is fiasco. In Italian fiasco is the name for rounded bottles which are usually wrapped in straw, and invariably end up as candlesticks in cheap Italian restaurants. In English fiasco means something quite different. The sense of chaos or disaster apparently comes from a French term derived from the French pronunciation of Italian actors [only one of many sources is willing to give a derivation]. So from a bottle wrapped in straw to a fete in a quagmire, language does funny things.

So how did I come discover this other meaning of fiasco? Hemingway, obviously. In A Farewell to Arms, the narrator asks for a fiasco of chianti. But then earlier in the book the narrator also makes some strange comment about cutting glass underwater with a pair of scissors.

According to Spectrum Glass, glass cut in this way is not cut, but grozed, obviously enough. So our second new word for the day is the verb groze. Essentially it appears to mean a process which causes the edge of a solid to be crumbled.

Moving on:
1. Mildly amusing, and interesting photography - The Seven Gummie Sins.
2. People can be so judgemental. Two cars in the snow, open bonnet to open bonnet, with jump-leads running between. One is a C-reg [1986] with decorative rust, the other a clean and shiny S-reg, with intact bodywork. People take one look, and frown at the C-reg. One man points to the C-reg, and asks "Won't start?" For the record people, my car was fine; my rusty C-reg started first time started as normal, but the much newer and better designed car, well, it just didn't like the snow at all. So to all those who pass and frown: stop judging, especially when you get it wrong.
3. Woodpeckers eating peanuts: just wrong. I didn't help that when someone pointed it out, I was looking for a green one, when it was one of the black, white and red versions.
4. Snow can be very pretty. At night, falling through headlights, and crunching underfoot as the jump-leads are passed back and forth. Of course, come the morning there's no sign of any freezing.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ouroboros[Warning: this post is long and rambling, having largely been written when I was tired, and dehydrated in a building with the heating running at full whack, with a headache induced by bloody people who insist on eating pickled herring for lunch. I'm not in good mood, but my eyes ache too much for efficient ranting].

So I've been doing a wee bit of tweaking. Which of course means I am now more aware of the various parts of this blog which don't work as I might wish. I tried setting up the comments to be Haloscan stylee, but no matter how many times I set the pop-up option to "yes", nothing happened. I could of course defect to Haloscan, but each time I've come close to doing that in the past, Haloscan has one of its periodic wobbles.

Basically, there's a few more things in the sidebar, and I've done a bit of shunting. It also means I realise I forgot to add one of those fad de jour white bands for, even though they shouldn't really be a fad. It also means I've finally understood why there is a tatty bit of plastic wrapped round the church spire. Which given I thought it was either a spectacularly ineffective piece of jury-rigged patching up, or a banner on which the top support had come undone, is probably a good thing.

So until I get round to template tweaking again (which given connection problems, is sporadic at best), you'll just have to imagine the diagonal slash on the corner of the page.

Moving on, and this week seems to be about learning new words. Karma, whilst teaching us a different word, introduces us to kundalini, which is apparently a coil near the base of the spine in females. Um, I think I need to clarify that a bit; I mean it is an explosive force which can only be released when the body is in an appropriate state. Look, I can't help it: all the explanations talk about arousal and release.

Over on AFOE (which I haven't been to in a long time, and so was slightly surprised to be ambushed by a long post on fermions), when not casually dropping words like "ouroboros" into posts, recently had a post on second languages and words which simply do not translate. Other than the inevitable spelling and grammatical quirks, together with somewhat over-zealous assumptions*, which magically appear in any post on language, it has some interesting points.

It introduces two phrases which apparently do not translate: volere bene and anzi. The former is apparently brotherly or caring love (and in the preceding sentence the author carefully glosses over the lust/love continuum or dichotomy with amare). Given he stated it did not translate, I think he translated it quite well. I imagine it to be camaraderie, devoted friendship or kinship (possibly the last should read kithship, which would be a word, were it not so unpleasant to say). Hang on, wasn't he complaining words did not neatly translate, but then giving a two-word example. Surely having two words makes the concept much more complex? For example, for red hat not only would one have to understand colour and the notion of red, but also know what a hat is and what it does. And Le Chapeau Rouge takes on a whole different meaning in French (as well as the 3 meanings beyond the standard which I think it has in English).

As for anzi for "on the contrary", it's not so much untranslatable, but merely neater than the most obvious synonym. I assume the word is derived from an- as in anoxic, for example, and something like ci for "this/that". Which means it comes out as "not that", or possibly is shorthand for "that is not true". But other words and phrases work just as well. If objection is the point, No would probably work quite well...what other meaning is there to "on the contrary", other than objection or rejection?

As for his third example of magari for "I/you wish" or "If only", I originally assumed that it was used purely in sarcasm, due to the example given. But trying to take it solely at face value, as the author does, I am not sure I can think of a short universal replacement. Maybe it functions as like "Pour que" [I'm not sure on the spelling, or on the context, except Spanish friends used it as both why and why not, as well as in place of most other verbs]. Or maybe it is the Italian for the Hondaism whatif?

Other untranslatables include sapere for beleive; know, based on current information: valorizzare for increasing value by making it so, by making it appear so, or beleiving it to be so: and truth meaning personal truth (and so may vary).

The comments building from that post end up discussing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (which Language Log have been pummelling for ages), although someone makes the mistake of actually saying what it is, which is [as horrendously paraphrased by me] that culture follows on from language, implying cultural change can only occur when the language is able to convey the change. Because as we all know, the word isotope is found in a book from a 12th century Benedictine chapel, although it remained completely without meaning for several centuries.

Ok, so the S-W Hypothesis is actually more along the lines of:
[Sapir:]"No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality." The theory that people who speak different languages have a different world view is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
But is that a result of the language? Language does pretty much what the users want it to. It changes. Ideas exist before there are easy ways to express them. To some extent it influences how they are expressed, but if the influence is too great, it is broken down as new language evolves. We could have cumbersome Germanic words like interconnectedstandardisedprotocolcomputernetwork, but we find ways round them, by adapting, borrowing or neologising (can I do that to neologism? Well, I just did).

Language is a tool: humans are toolmakers.

*- English is French + German. I'm having problems translating the "right" of "Yeah right" into either language.
- English spelling makes no sense. Which is why you just read that sentence, and this one. You say tom-may-ta, I say tom-mar-tow, and I think you're bloody odd. Of course one could point out that "read" would be easier to read as "red" not "reed", and the spellings should separate, but then red and reed already have meanings for those spellings, which are nothing to with reading. Anyway, this is English, it's always been a fickle language, beyond the control of Academies or Instituts: that's part of the essence of it. Like English culture, it nicks liberates the best parts of other languages or external influences. Don't have a word for an open-walled roofed area that skirts a house (largely because our climate gets in the way)? Then gain veranda from someone else. Not sure what to call a casserole of chicken, onions and mushrooms? Then borrow chasseur. Need a verb for a new action? Use the brand name (and hope you don't get sued). Have poem to write but need some better words? Imagination, you slithy man.
- "Steer meat" - I thought a steer was a young male? English has cattle, cows, bulls, bullocks, heifers, steers, oxen, and a few more [and spot who has never been good on where ox ends and oxen begin]. As for what the meat of a steer is called, well it depends what happens to it. If it is slaughtered early on, then it's veal, later beef, and beyond that can't happen due to anti-BSE regulations. But depending how it is cut the name of the meat changes. For example becoming rump-steak, sirloin, shanks or brisket (I think the last is the neck, but don't quote me on that). And that's just the skeletal muscle (tripe anyone?). And why does English more than just cow-meat? Blame the Normans (who were Vikings who invaded part of France, having laid siege to Paris) and their feudal system. If you rear pigs you call them swine, if you eat them you call it pork (and don't ask where pig comes from).
Basically I think the author at AFOE oversimplifies.

Incidentally ouroboros is something which is infinite, circular or never-ending. It comes from the culturally widespread theme of an animal consuming itself, such as a snake eating its own tail. So presumably "It was a dark and stormy night [insert your family's version here]" is ouroborosic.

And I'm buggered if I can pronounce it.

[As my dictionary lists none of the variations in spelling, here is Google's take in kiloghits. Ouroboros: 158, Ouroborus: 7.58, Oroboros: 7.63, Oroborus: 22.2, Auroboros: 0.152, Auroborus: 0.055. No idea of derivation]
I give up.


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