lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

Yesterday was spent shuffling furniture about. From a house that's being cleared came seven dining chairs, a dressing table, a small table and some garden furniture. Out went six not very comfortable dining chairs and a cheap chest of drawers. That was fairly simple, although the existing – borderline unsafe – gardening furniture is still here. Whether it'll end up as a pile of decaying wood in the garden for insects or at the recycling centre, I don't know, but having seen some stag beetles in London, it'd be nice to see some here.

A friend down the road got two disassembled wardrobes and a chest of drawers. That involved moving out a chest of drawers and a sort of coffee table sized chest of drawers from one room, then moving an existing wardrobe and chest of drawers from another room into the first room, and leaving assorted bits to assemble in the second room.

Someone's garage now has the 'out' furniture, plus a couple of other things from the cleared house, including a writing desk and a tall rusty metal storage thing that may end up going to London somehow.

Now 'all' that needed to happen was assembling the wardrobes. These are Stag flat pack designs from the 1960s. It was interesting to see that some basic ideas are still used in IKEA etc stuff today. The person who'd broken them down hadn't taken photos of the process of doing that, but helpfully labelled which bit was from which and suggested that I do the simple one first. That might have been sensible except that they'd broken, either in taking them apart or in transport, one critical bit of the base of the more complicated one. A metal combination screw and 'secure this end' part hadn't been removed from the base where it was supposed to hold the middle vertical 'wall' and had broken the base, fortunately at the underneath side.

Fortunately, again, the two bases were identical – presumably it saved money only having one design – so it was possible to use the simple one with its intact screw holes instead. Having started, it seemed a sensible idea to continue with the more complicated one.

Which went fine up until the back. As with many IKEA ones, this uses some thin hardboard with a wood-coloured veneer on one side as the back. With much flat pack furniture, this can't be one sheet of the correct size or the packing box would be too big. So you get it in two or three pieces and join them together. Tape or nails is the current way, depending on whether there's something to nail it to or not. The sides are typically in groves of the real walls.

But for some reason – part of which only became clear later, instead of doing the sensible thing and having two vertical pieces, each roughly the size of one of the doors, it has four horizontal pieces, one smaller than the other. Attempting to stack them on one another failed, even with some duct tape, but then it was then that the use for some odd bits became clear: four bits of woodish stuff, the length the width of the wardrobe but otherwise quite small. And with a grove in two sides. Ah ha, these go on top of one bit of hardboard and hold it in place while proving the base for the next bit. Ah ha2, they have some thing that can be screwed into the sides, behind the hardboard, to keep it all fairly rigid too.

Which would have been great, except that only one of the two screws on the first of the three bars was anywhere near the right place. The other end was too high. There's a limit to how much you can hammer the side of hardboard to get it to go down (it breaks the hardboard if you're not careful!) and no amount of pushing it would get it to the right position. So of course the next layer starts too high, neither screw fits, and you end up not being able to get the top / roof wall on.

It was at this point that I gave up until the new owner came home.

When she did, we decided to do without all but the first bit of hardboard, but just use their support bars instead. I for one have always said that wardrobes shouldn't have a back.* The metal bits that hold the roof on aren't screwed in, so you have to get them just right for them to drop into the holes in the sides. Which isn't easy, given that the roof is much thicker and is the second heaviest bit of the whole thing. Get it wrong, and they drop to either side and then you've got to lift the whole thing again, usually taking the connectors that did get in their holes out and have to do them again too.

Repeat, several times, possibly breaking the base – the middle wall did bend over more than it should have done at one point, until it works.

The doors were almost simple, but there's a lot of work in the almost. You can see where modern door hanging designs come from, but the subtle changes since the 60s mean they are notably better for rehanging doors. These almost properly fit – but do close! – and it's not clear how you would adjust things so they do fit properly. About the only thing I can think of is start again, making sure that everything that is supposed to be a right angle is exactly 90 degrees.

Having done that one, it was going to be much simpler to do the simple (no middle wall) one. And it was! It did have a fixed top shelf that the first one didn't and this was the reason for having horizontal hardboard bits for the back: instead of having the back 'behind' the shelf, the top shelf has the top and bottom grooves for the hardboard. This probably also explains the asymmetrical sizes of the pieces of the hardboard – because you could choose to have this shelf, the last bit had to be the vertical size of the space left underneath the top shelf because that makes the maker's life easier in terms of stock control. As with the base unit, you then only need to have one sort of back.

This time, the three larger bits of hardboard fit (with a little hammering…) and it's only missing a back on the top shelf – there was no way you want the top to slot into that and have the annoying connectors fit too. If it had been lighter, perhaps, but not this lump.

The result worked perfectly in terms of its doors and is a tribute to the quality of the original design. It looks horrid to my eyes, but its new owner is seriously into retro stuff and loves it.

Except that she wanted it on the other side of the room. Push, shove, push. No, it's too big there (it blocked part of the window). One reason for wanting it there is that she wasn't convinced they'd be enough space to open the doors fully because of the bed. But.. push, shove, push.. yes there was. I thought there would be, just, having had a play with an unattached door earlier.

After that, the chest of drawers was simple…

* How else are you going to get to Narnia if they do?

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

Yesterday, someone found out they'd been playing a favourite board game wrongly / 'not according to the printed rules'. In this case, the missed rule makes a better game and the judgement involved is half the skill in something that has a lot of luck already.

But lots of people ignore rules. Few people play Monopoly without adding some variant or other, usually making it a worse game* by increasing the money supply or reducing limits on houses or.. Even the current rights owners have been guilty of that, including by adding another die to make it easier to land on squares you want to land on / easier to avoid ones you don't.

I've been taught games wrongly – the classic example was the game where the owner had missed that each turn you could do only one of four things and thought you could do all four, every turn. The game didn't last long…

Some people make a fortune out of it: Othello is Reversi with a restriction saying you have to start with one of two opening positions. Somehow, the Japanese patent office granted a patent on it anyway and the 'inventor' cleaned up.

Some games are improved by tweaks. I think one favourite has one mechanism, a favourite of the designer, too many and so do without it.

What's your missed / ignored / improved rule story?

* Feel free to substitute 'an even worse'…

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (Default)
Teletype - when I was one of the small group doing a Computer Science O-level, we had to go to the local FE college who were just starting to teach it. They didn't actually have a computer for us to use, but they did have a Teletype with a connection to the Open University. You wrote your BASIC program on the Teletype, and a leased line to the OU enabled it to run. When, not if, the program didn't work. I can't remember how we edited it (some extremely simple line editor or just over writing lines by entering a new line 100 or whatever?) but you could also get the Teletype to save it onto paper tape for fast - something like ten characters a second! - upload next time.

I don't think I have any of the paper tape, but there's at least one printed program somewhere.

Some dot matrix - after a month or so, the college got the bill for the leased line, went 'HOW MUCH?!?' and decided that getting a Research Machines 380Z would save money, even at over £3k for the version with 8" floppy discs.* Plus at least another thousand for a dot matrix printer, because it wouldn't work with the Teletype properly.

I can't remember what it was, but it could do 132 characters on a line which rules out the next one. I do have a couple of printouts from it though, including a program that simulated radioactive decay by turning a rectangle of asterisks into dots over several passes - my first encounter with e, after I noticed that if my little asterisk's half life wasn't 'one' loop, doing the obvious calculation** didn't work properly - and two games. Doubtless someone somewhere could look at them and go, 'ah, a Centronics..'

Epson FX-80 - I'm quite surprised that WP doesn't have a page on this, even though it gets a mention on the dot matrix printer one, because to those of us of a certain age, it's iconic. I didn't own it - they were about £700 around 1981 - but my university department had several because they were so (relatively) cheap. They also ended up with some MX-80s that could do graphics (not very well, but even so..)

Some line printer - dot matrix printers print a vertical slice of a character at a time, a typewriter prints a character at a time, and a line printer does, gasp, a whole line of text at a time. As this is done by 80 or 132 or more little hammers hitting the paper and something solid at the same time, five or more times a second, they're quite noisy. I SAID THEY'RE QUITE NOISY! Consequently, it was kept in another room under a noise insulating cover, and we only got the results.***

ZX Printer - the first one I bought, £49.95. That was the end of the good news. Narrow and nasty and needing special paper (about a fiver a roll) it worked by having an electrical spark burn off a layer of aluminium from the paper to reveal the black paper underneath.

You tell the young people of today that, and they don't believe you.****

I do have a couple of printouts from it, but the printer and some paper got donated to the computing museum at Bletchley.

Tandy / Radio Shack plotter - in one sense, another bonkers design: a small cartridge held four tiny pen-like ink cartridges. By moving it and the paper in the right way, you drew lines on the 15cm or so wide paper. Draw the right lines and you've got text! I think it was in a sale to the point it was cheaper than an inkjet and did colour that meant I got one.

Some OKI 24-pin dot matrix - not mine, but the person I worked with for many years. They paid £1,500 for it, the same cost as their Zenith 8088 PC clone running at 8MHz, so almost twice as fast as a real IBM PC. The reason for the price tag was that unlike the FX-80 et al which created their characters with a maximum of nine dots per vertical line, this used up to twenty four. Some of the 9-pin printers could bodge this by printing each line three times, moving the paper very slightly each time, and calling the result 'near letter quality' (i.e. as good as a typewriter) but it never was.

Neither was this, but it was over three times faster. The design meant you could also reuse the ribbons quite easily too. I can't remember what eventually failed on it.

Citizen Swift 24 - another 24 pin dot matrix, got largely because of the price (£200ish??) and the way we didn't need the width of the OKI. Only used by me with DOS, Windows XP had printer drivers for it.

Canon BJ-10 - the first inkjet I used. These were neat - a bit shorter than a ream of A4 paper lying down, but otherwise more or less the same size, they were virtually silent and did produce high quality results. As a result, when it died it was replaced by a..

Canon BJ-10e - slightly better version. I think this was the one that had a lovely tall but narrow bold font that was perfect for printing speeches on. It also died after about 18 months.

HP Deskjet 500 - Going back to an older machine! Bought second-hand off cix, this wasn't as neat, but was much more reliable. The quality wasn't great and inkjets are expensive to run, so..

HP Laserjet 6P - the first laser printer for the office in question. Alas, this was after the marketing people took over HP. The print quality was very good - some very nice brochures for a potential Millennium Commission project were done on it - but who thought it was a good idea to have the paper intake be a dust and crap magnet at the top of the printer? Most of the rest was plastic rather than metal too.

Panasonic KX P4420 - I recognise it, and I wrote a printer driver for my word processor (Borland's Sprint) for it, but I can't remember if it was the replacement for the LJ6P or if it replaced the LJ IIs of the LibDem by-election team.

Minolta SP101 - back to my ones. Many laser printers of the early 90s had 512kiB of RAM. While that was plenty to print text and small images, it wasn't enough to do a whole page image at 300 dots per inch resolution This one did some compression of the image data, so it could. You could also 'easily' fit some more RAM but the Minolta sales person at the show I bought it at gave the wrong info so I ended up buying the wrong chips at first.*****

Even so, this is what the London Bisexual Group newsletters and other stuff were printed on for my years as its Hon Secretary.

HP LaserJet Series II and Series III - I've written about these before. As they went out of fashion, they became dead cheap while staying extraordinarily versatile thanks to an host of companies doing add-on stuff for it.

Dell laser printer - I can't remember which. I can remember getting it from a Freecycle event in Forest Hill c2010 and being pleasantly surprised it worked. When the LJ III stopped picking up paper reliably and the usual cures involving sand paper didn't work, it got replaced by this. The speed - about 16 pages a minute - was nice, but it failed to pick up paper after a couple of years and nothing I did could get it working properly. The first printer I had that used USB rather than a parallel port.

Brother HL-2250DN - the current one, bought for £85 in 2013. Does duplex and has a Ethernet port as well as USB so it's shared with everything here. Replaced in Brother's line by something slightly faster but more expensive, grr, but it's showing no sign of going worng.

* I'm sure I've told the story of breaking it by putting a floppy in the wrong way up. They were very nice about it...

** If the half-life is say three ticks rather than one, then 1/6 - a third of a half - must die each time, yes? No!

*** Several hundred compiler errors ending with 'Missing ; in line 3137' usually, indicating that you'd left one out somewhere in the preceding three thousand or so lines.

**** I've just tried.

***** Every cloud has a silver lining: the 256kiB chips ended up expanding a sound card, the lovely Gravis Ultrasound, the sound card to play DOOM with.

(Hmm, that's interesting - this didn't crosspost from lovingboth.com on the 20th.)
lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

.. in Into The Woods, anyway. I don't know how I missed seeing while booking that JA's and my tickets were on the second row from the front, rather than the back. They must have been returns, and huge thanks to the unknown people who didn't want them.

The show itself was excellent, with only a few problems. With eleven people on stage, including someone mostly there as a pianist, it was slightly undercast in terms of numbers: Cinderella's prince was doubling as one of her stepsisters, for example! There's also no real narrator – that was shared – which leads to a problem avoided by cutting a bit out. But all of them were good, especially the person being a cow, and it was the second best second act of any of the, erm, nine productions I've seen.

Speaking of which, another highlight was that the family to one side of us had only seen the abomination that's the film version, and so were a bit surprised at how many people are killed off in the second half of this one, even if it's lower than it should be.

Sunday was [title of show] which is on until next Sunday. Smaller still, it's the story of the creation of itself… As such, there's an element of wondering how real some bits are. Alas, I didn't have any doubts about the realism of the way the two gay men writing it were noticeably giving themselves much better bits than they give the two women.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

Earlier this week, Amazon finally had a cheap copy of a book I've been after for a while – the Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual for the Panzerkampfwagen VI, otherwise known as the Tiger Tank. It arrived just before I left for the weekend. If you're interested in the subject, it's a fascinating read: I started at about 9pm and went 'Oh..' at after midnight.

As far as the 'owners' bit of the title goes, the equivalent Haynes book on the Spitfire says something like 'forget owning one to fly unless you've a million quid to spare'. This one just says 'forget it': only six of the just over thirteen hundred made survive even vaguely intact.* But it is written by the owners of the only one restored to running order, The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.

Hmm, it's been at least five years since I visited.** Hmm, Tiger Day or Tankfest next year?

Typically, the Daily Fail's article on the book gets lots of things wrong in its historical picture 'German Tiger Tank on road in Normandy in Northern France during the Second World War'. As any fule kno that's the Panzerkampfwagen VII, aka the Tiger II. And there are two of them. And, to me at least, both of them are by the side of the road…

* Not that stops assorted people offering one for sale. One bunch sent photos of a model to prove they had one…

** I spent the first day of the second OpenCon there as it was nearby. I think that was 2011. The previous visit was just after I'd leant to drive, so early 2002. The one before that was as a child, when they still let you clamber all over everything!

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

I did badly at French when I was at school. Last in the class at the end of year one* exam, and it went downhill from there.

On the plus side, it did mean I was put into 'economics / government and politics' from year two rather than Latin (those who did well) or German (those in the middle), so I only ended up failing the one O-level..**

.. so badly, it didn't appear on the certificate as a fail. Result, even if I thought I was going to get at least an 'E'!

Yesterday, we were told that the girl JA stayed with on her German exchange trip earlier this year has failed.. something, possibly just English.. so that her school is keeping her back a year and she's not being allowed to go on the return visit here in a couple of weeks time.

Even I think that's unfair.

* What I'm supposed to call year seven now.

** Which I'm still a bit annoyed about: at the end of year three when it came time to pick options for O-level, the school said we could drop French. Then, when the results were in, said 'Oh, we were lying – we just wanted to see how many people would drop it if they could. Which they can't.'

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

I need to be in London on Saturday evening – someone booked the wrong train there, so I'm giving them a lift. Ok, what's happening in the London fringe theatre then? Slightly annoyingly, the previous best way to find out has had a makeover and it's not as nice to use as before but..

.. Oooh! Menier Chocolate Factory have the last night of a production of Into the Woods! It's probably not worth clicking to check if there are any seats left, but..

.. Oooh! Last one!

So this will be the third professional production of it in ten months: Manchester Exchange (intimate, very good) at the end of December, West Yorkshire Playhouse (bigger, some nice ideas and very well sung, but not quite as good) in June, and now this. Add in another three months, and there was the American school that did it at the Fringe last August, making three and a half productions of all sorts.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

1. Over the past couple of days, I've gotten around to testing the kit I bought from the bunch who were closing. It looks like they sent six 'lots of red LEDs' shields rather than the five red and one (more expensive) white LED version. I'm now pondering whether or not to get a partial refund from PayPal. On the one hand, it's not much money, but on the other, I'm still very annoyed at their taking the documentation for their kit off the web and stopping it being archived by Google / Archive.org.

2. Speaking of bad documentation, the other thing I've been testing is a small touchscreen LCD shield for Arduinos and compatibles. Checking, I bought it from a Chinese website almost exactly a year ago but never got around to playing with it. Problem one is that it came with zero documentation. Problem two is that, although the basic shield is fairly widely available, there are at least half a dozen different controller chips in use generating the displays and which any particular board uses looks to be almost completely random. Even this bunch have used several different ones, and of course, they all need talking to in more or less different ways.

So I attach it and the Arduino UNO clone it came with via USB. Well, the display lights up white. Let's try programming it. A quick look reveals that it should use a Spfd5408 controller, and someone's done a driver library for that, based on the one done by Adafruit.

The test example uploads to the Arduino, says it's working over the serial interface, but doesn't actually do anything on the display. Apart from flicker, once, when the Arduino is reset.

Hmm. A look at the reviews on the page show quite a few people moaning about this sort of thing, but the vendors point to a file somewhere..

.. that no longer exists.

Fortunately, someone mentions the file name and a search reveals a copy in someone's 'Live Drive'. There's quite a bit in it, including a user manual (in Chinese), a PNG image with various dimensions, a 239 page datasheet (in English!), the libraries, and various other stuff mostly in Chinese.

The test example uploads to the Arduino, says it's working over the serial interface, but doesn't actually do anything on the display. Apart from flicker, once, when the Arduino is reset.

Hmm, a look at the code reveals this:

  uint16_t identifier = tft.readID();
identifier=0x9341;
  if(identifier == 0x9325) {
    Serial.println(F("Found ILI9325 LCD driver"));
  } else if(identifier == 0x9328) {
    Serial.println(F("Found ILI9328 LCD driver"));
  } else if(identifier == 0x7575) {
    Serial.println(F("Found HX8347G LCD driver"));
  } else if(identifier == 0x9341) {
    Serial.println(F("Found ILI9341 LCD driver"));
  } else if(identifier == 0x8357) {
    Serial.println(F("Found HX8357D LCD driver"));
  } else {
    Serial.print(F("Unknown LCD driver chip: "));
    Serial.println(identifier, HEX);
 

Or, in English, 'read what chip it says it is, immediately overwrite the result with the value for one of the five chips the library will presumably work with, then work out and announce which chip it is'. Taking out the naughty line reveals that it's reporting as having an identifier of 0xC0C0.

Which it doesn't know about and clearly can't cope with.

Fortunately, another link leads to another bit of code that does work, and the display is now being wiped with red, green and blue in turn in an infinite loop.* Unfortunately, that's all the code does and adapting the considerably more powerful libraries – as you might have guessed from the length of the datasheet, these chips are quite powerful – into using the right registers etc has been left as an exercise for the buyer.

I'd complain, but I see that I paid the equivalent of $5.10 for the display, the Arduino clone, and a USB lead. The clone is worth rather more than that. I couldn't post it all back to China for that much!

3. Rather than typing all this stuff, I was supposed to be taking JA for a guitar lesson near Lincoln with a new-to-us group. Except that when I got in the car, I noticed that the driver's wing mirror was turned in. I'll just push it back out..

.. ow, that's broken glass!

Someone's hit it and smashed it completely.** The passenger side one was broken a couple of years ago, and partly because it wasn't me that broke it while driving along, I've never bothered to replace it. It's not legally necessary and it does still give an indication of what's on that side. Neither of those apply to the driver's side: you have to have one and it is completely shattered.

Fortunately, I can get replacements for the glass and have it in a fixed position. Having proper adjustable replacements would probably cost a large chunk of what the car's worth… ditto putting in a claim on the insurance.

* Reminding me of the beautiful lights of Balham, 'changing all the time: green… amber… red… red and amber… and back to green.'

** Although the impact must have been obvious to whoever did it, there's no note. Sadly, there's no sign that it smashed their wing mirror too.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

So what have I been reading recently?

The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson – the book that was adapted into the recent TV series. That's meant it's now available in the UK, albeit with the title changed to match the series. It largely assumes you know who OJ Simpson was – the very interesting five part series 'OJ Simpson – Made in America' that was apparently shown on BT Sport has much more of the background and the postscript – but if you saw the series, you'll know that almost no-one comes out of it looking good and this has more of the usually horrible why.

Boy Racer – Mark Cavendish on his remarkable 2008 Tour de France interspersed with stories about his career to that point. Obviously, quite a lot has happened since then, but this shows what it's like to be in the middle of a bunch sprint and why he's so good at winning single races: he's got a rare combination of talent, a drive to win and intelligence. (He reminds me of Stephen Hendry in that.) There's no 'with' writer credited, and I can believe that he needed an editor more than a writer, because his ability to remember – and learn from – what happened in any race is remarkable.

Neighbours – not the TV show, but the 'The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland'. This took place in July 1941 (the town had been conquered by the Germans in 1939, handed to the Soviets as part of the pact between them to split up Poland, and just been reconquered by Germans) and is summarised as half the town killed the other, Jewish, half. It looks like this is an overestimate of the deaths, but the investigation it lead to had to avoid overly disturbing the site of the massacre so their figure of the deaths could have been an underestimate. It did confirm that although the Germans were watching and could have stopped it, it was around forty Polish citizens that actually carried out the massacres. Obviously, this was hugely controversial in Poland, not least as an earlier Soviet investigation had used torture to get to the same conclusion.

Analyzing Politics – not so much 'what does an MP do' (not least as it's a US book) but 'why would someone who wants A vote for B?' Because it's better than C or D, usually, and one way or another they know they can't have A. The electoral system may not let them express preferences, or the order of votes may have been arranged by someone who knew what they were doing. (Unsurprisingly, the first edition of this was the basis of several of the games in the Playing Politics book I used for a session on how to win committee meetings at BiCon 2006.)

In the 'to read' pile: David Millar's autobiography, covering his cycling career before, during, and after cheating.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

My reading of fiction in book form fell off a cliff some time ago. I had the last but one Pratchett Discworld novel (Raising Steam) out from the library for months before reading it, and I still haven't looked for the last one. I'd borrowed the first two in the 'The Long Earths' series and returned them unread. I finished the last but two Christopher Brookmyre, Flesh Wounds, recently and will read the other one I've had out for months, Dead Girl Walking.

A few years ago, I'd have finished them on the first day.

In addition to those two, in the past year I have also read a couple of Len Deighton's – two of the first three 'Harry Palmer' books, The IPCRESS File and Billion Dollar Brain, doing them in a Monday morning shift in the bookshop. Annoyingly, someone bought Funeral in Berlin before I did that one.

But I have a horrible feeling that's it. And the Pratchett might have been earlier.

Other past likes have been Philip Reeve's work, particularly the 'Mortal Engines' series (although I don't think any of them have lived up to the first) and the silliness of the 'Larklight' series.

I liked the intelligence of all of them, and the relative shortness of the Deighton's. I can still do 'big books' in non-fiction, but it's been a long while since I've been tempted to put in the commitment needed for a story that takes more than a day to read. Probably the last one was the expanded version of American Gods, which means it was before moving here.

Any recommendations, preferably with what makes them good?

Update: I borrowed the last Pratchett today, along with his 'Poo' book.

The other author I've read almost all of is Christopher Priest, who would be a lot more famous if what he does so well wasn't labelled SF. The Prestige is my favourite and was obviously filmed in a way that lost much of the magic. What caused a pause in reading him is his last but two: The Islanders. It's an unreliable travel guide to a set of imaginary islands.

Apparently, if you can keep in your mind what was said about each where, and notice the inconsistencies, then you realise various things, but - argh - too much hard work without keeping notes. It's ok to use a computer to write a novel, but it's far less ok to have to use one to read it. Annoyingly, his latest is another set in the same islands. I'm going to give the one between those a read before attempting to read Islanders again.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

The worst Prime Minister since…? Chamberlain?

Go back a year, and it must have seemed so different, the first Tory leader to have an absolute majority for 18 years! Since then, his legacy has been defined by failure in the EU referendum and the image of him sticking his dick in a pig's head.

The first was totally unnecessary, a promise he never expected to have to keep. Having made it, and unexpectedly ended up in a position to have to follow through, there were so many things he could have done:

* Ensure that a majority of the countries of the United Kingdom would have to vote against continuing membership before any exit would be considered – two of them have European commitments built into their devolution deals! Having English voters annoyed at voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland is nothing new, and builds support for the 'English votes for English laws' idea*

* Explicitly give the electorate multiple 'leave' options rather than bundle them together in a single campaign: stay a member of the single market regardless of free movement or stop free movement at the cost of being a member of the single market or…

* Tie up his 'friends' into working for 'remain', rather than discovering after he'd called it that several of them were prepared to campaign for 'leave' in order to maximise their chances of replacing him

.. instead, he displayed a level of incompetence in political management so great, it almost makes Corbyn look good.

By resigning as an MP now, he's going to cost Oxfordshire council the money to run the by-election (although doubtless the constituency will get a boost from a small pile of journalists etc coming to cover it) and doubtless cost a bunch of schoolchildren a day of school. I don't know what will happen with the area's constituencies following the forthcoming boundary changes, but it's likely that it will create more problems for the Tories than it would if he were to step down at the next General Election – his replacement will be amongst those trying to ensure they're still an MP.

What a complete Cameron.

* Which is a bad one as proposed for a number of reasons, but it's his policy.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

In the morning, L and I looked around a 'superhome' – one that's been retrofitted with things like external insulation to make it greener.

It was near an open Age Concern shop that had a 'two DVDs for £1' offer (and a lot to chose from) so eight are going to be reused rather than going into land fill.

Then there was a choice: the Nottingham Green Festival in the very green Arboretum Park or the Mela at the (free for the day) Nottingham Castle. We went for the latter, partly because the weather was lovely.

By the time we got there, we were quite hungry. Hmm, that's interesting, there are at least a dozen stalls or stands selling food and they're all 100% vegan. The nearest you could find non-vegan cheese was a note on the organic veg delivery scheme stall that they also did local cheese. Oh and, shhhh, meat. That can't be a coincidence…

… and looking, reveals that, no, it's not. The new bunch that's organising it decided that the event should be '100% Vegan' and so stall holders were told not 'bring items that contain meat, dairy, honey, eggs fish or animal bi-products'. That's actually a tighter definition than the Vegan Society use: as a vegan friend likes to point out, you can have a job experimenting on live rabbits and hunt foxes while wearing leather and still be a member provided you don't eat animal products.*

Hmmm, a group deciding that 'green = vegan' reminds me of the way that lots of city Prides think that 'LGBT = gay, gay, gay, with a small bit of lesbian and trans'.**

As you'd expect from an event that evolved from the Nottingham Peace Festival, there was also an ethical policy: no product from any company that is subject to a consumer boycott for violating human or animal rights was allowed, for example. So what on earth were the rape apologists of the Socialist Workers Party doing with a stall there?*** There's a boycott of them that goes way beyond the usual struggles between different Trot groups. And the pair of them on the stall were ignoring the rule that said they must not 'accost visitors with leaflets' in a stark contrast to all the others.

After this, we did some shopping and went home via a new(ish) ice cream place we'd noticed signs to but never actually been to. Expecting something like the excellent Newfields Dairy parlour, it turned out to be more like a shed on the edge of the farm. We've seen those before – there's one near Honiton that does really good ice cream – but this one turned out to be a self-service ice cream / milk / cake shed! The 'fill your own carton or bottle' milk machine is particularly neat.

I've also given the lawn probably its last mow of the year. All in all, a good day.

* Probably not a very popular one, but…

** Speaking of misleading, I'm currently watching an NFL game on US TV, and a mobile phone company has just promised '20Gb of unlimited data'. Erm…

Another game, another relevant coincidence: Green Day's American Idiot is recalled by having George W Bush help with the coin toss and give a video message.

*** Another thought was that with Labour and about six Trot groups having stalls vs just the Green Party, it was more a Red Festival than a Green one…

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

Looking through some reviews of past Edinburgh Fringe shows, I was sad to see that not being at it in 2012 meant I'd missed Re-Animator: The Musical. I can see that not everyone liked it but I doubt they were its target audience.

A few clicks later, I'm watching a clip of two of the film's leads talking at a convention in 2010, and Jeffrey Combs wonders how many 1985 films still have 'legs', i.e. are still being talked about and worth seeing.

Well, the 'Best Picture' Academy Award for that year's films went to Out of Africa, a two hour forty snoozefest that's one of only five films to have won and have a 'rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes (all but one of the others are from the 1930s). So that's out.

Looking at the WP list of 1985 films and excluding for a minute those that did win something in the Oscars, I will happily see again and talk about:

Brazil – looking more like a documentary every year, it missed winning 'best original screenplay' and 'best art direction'. Had it had a different ending, it would have made much more money but wouldn't have been as great

Crimewave – with a script co-written by the Coen brothers and director Sam Raimi, this is a violent and sick comedy: if that's your thing, this is fab

Day of the Dead – the final film in George Romero's first zombie trilogy, this isn't as good as Dawn.. but it's still better than almost everyone else's zombie films and, as ever with Romero, says more about humanity than Out of Africa et al ever did. Here, the central theme is that one of the zombies is more human than the soldiers who are supposed to be protecting those researching the zombies. Pity it doesn't all live up to the opening 'hello.. hello..' sequence

Jagged Edge – tense courtroom drama about a murder that Jeff Bridges may or may not have committed

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – another third in a trilogy, this is the last Mel Gibson Mad Max film. Not as great as Fury Road, but better than the first and the best car stunt film for at least one decade if not two

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters – Paul Schrader's visually stunning biopic of Japanese author Yokio Mishima, helped by Philip Glass's superb soundtrack and an intelligent script. It's a disgrace that this hasn't had a UK DVD release

Mr. Vampire – Hong Kong supernatural comedy action at its finest

Pee-wee's Big Adventure – probably because star Paul Reubens was later discovered masturbating in a porn cinema, younger readers may never have heard of Pee-wee Herman. Nominally for kids, this is queerer than most 'gay' cinema

Police Story – Jackie Chan showing why he's the greatest action star ever, putting his life on the line to thrill his audience. The outtakes at the end show it wasn't easy

Re-Animator – fabulously over the top splatter comedy horror, it contains one of the best ever exchanges: 'I had to kill him!' 'What? He's dead?' 'nnn-Not any more..'

Seduction: The Cruel Woman – the second queerest film of the year, this was Elfi Mikesch and Monika Treut's reaction to an earlier film about a brothel that had sex workers only as powerless victims. Here, a German dominatrix is neither, including topping the wonderful Udo Kier

Shoah – I've mentioned this before: a nine hour documentary on the Holocaust with no archive footage

Tampopo – Japanese sex and food comedy, with one of the most unforgettable – for a nice reason! – sex scenes ever

To Live and Die in L.A. – William Friedkin cop film that's overshadowed by his The French Connection, but is differently great

A Zed & Two Noughts – probably my favourite Peter Greenaway film, with one of Michael Nyman's best soundtracks, this is an art film about death and decay and obsession

.. and I'm probably missing at least one French film, but I don't recognise any of the names.

Looking at those that got one Academy award, both Prizzi's Honor (Anjelica Huston won best supporting actress) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (William Hurt won best actor) are miles better than the winner.

Ran would have walked 'best foreign film', but wasn't even nominated (apparently Akira Kurosawa didn't show up to his première and this annoyed the Japanese film industry too much!) It did win best art direction and best cinematography.

You might remember

  • Back to the Future
  • A Chorus Line
  • Cocoon
  • The Color Purple
  • Mask
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Witness

.. all of which got at least a nomination and typically won, but I wouldn't want to see any of them again. Back to the Future opened the Edinburgh Film Festival I saw Mishima at, and there's simply no contest in terms of which one is the best.

Update: eek, 1985 is now thirty one years ago. How did that happen?


Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

The electronics firm I mentioned a couple of days ago have now closed.

They've done this by, amongst other things, closing down their wirelessthings.net website.

The one that had the technical details of the stuff they were selling: important information necessary to use it.

They previously had two other sites on ciseco.co.uk and openmicros.org – the former had the shop, the latter had things like the documentation, source code and discussion forum.

Archive.org has a good selection of pages from all three sites, except that it won't show them. Both the older domains redirect to the newer one. Partly because it was built using a completely different content management system (CMS), it has a robots.txt file that says to any vaguely responsible search engine 'don't look here' at exactly the place the CMS on the older sites used to display everything. So archive.org, being vaguely responsible, looks at the page you want (say openmicros.org/index.php/importantstuff), checks openmicros.org/robots.txt, gets redirected to wirelessthings.net/robots.txt, sees that it's not to show anything from /index.php/ and says 'won't'. Google has copies of many pages too and won't show it for the same reason.

I emailed the firm last week saying this was a problem and needed fixing, but it's still happening.

I have copies of the stuff I need, and one critical library is on github, but the irresponsibility of unnecessarily taking your documentation off the web is appalling. I'm glad they've gone.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

One of the advantages of being my age is that I remember the UK TV première of Star Trek and the first R4 run of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Today's Today programme had something on being the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, but a) it'd had been broadcast on the 6th Sept 1966 in Canada* so they're two days late, and b) the UK première wasn't until the 12th July 1969, just over a month after the last original series episode was broadcast in the US.

Why it took so long to get to the UK, I don't know. Perhaps it got cheaper to buy after NBC made the decision to cancel it, or perhaps the imminent moon landings made a space programme more attractive to buy.

In a bit of programming that's either inspired or boringly predictable, it was placed in the Saturday teatime 'Dr Who slot'. I was the only member of the family to watch it – afterwards I remember being asked how much I understood** and saying all of it except the 'star dates'.

I would have missed the next episode – we went to Butlins that summer just before moving house and we were there when the Apollo 11 landing happened – which is slightly annoying, because the BBC had their own ordering of the programmes and, after the Kirk pilot, they put the best ones on first. So The City on the Edge of Forever was 3rd out of 24, rather than 28th out of 29,*** for example.

While I can listen to Hitchhikers (and complain that the mice don't sound right), I'm not tempted to watch all of the Star Treks again. Perhaps one or two…

* Thank you, WP!

** I was seven at the time.

*** The BBC didn't show some of the first season until 1992 because "they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease".

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

My favourite episode of Star Stories is probably the one 'by' Simon Cowell: 'I had invented the TV talent show! .. I had invented the TV talent show AGAIN!!'.

It could quite possibly be Max Temkin's favourite too. Who? He's one of the eight creators of Cards Against Humanity, the game that took the award-winning Apples to Apples, wrote words like 'bottom' and 'willy' on the cards and decided that was a new game.* At least – unlike the 'inventor' of Othello – they had the decency not to attempt to patent it,** and it's available as a free print-and-play version rather than paying them. (Not that that stops people from doing so in large numbers, alas.)

His latest (re)invention with others is a hidden personality game, Secret Hitler that's quite a bit like The Resistance. Nominally set in Weimar Republic Germany, some players are 'liberals' and some 'fascists' with one being Hitler, but most players don't know where the loyalties of the others lie. Each turn, a small elected subset of players does something that will help one side or the other, and depending on which side gets the most of those, one team will win. Gosh, it really is a lot like The Resistance, even if most of one side is given complete info about everyone else's personality and this breaks the game.

There's a history of taking other people's ideas in this genre and slapping a price tag on it: Werewolf has been thoroughly commercialised, for example. They also have a free print-and-play version again. So even though they have a licence that stops anyone else commercialising anything they produce, I'm not so upset by that as by the graphical choice to have the fascists be represented as lizards rather be humans like the liberals.

On the one hand, ho ho ho, it's David Icke time. On the other, the other-ing of fascists ignores the way that they are within us. The game is set in an era where plenty of people were prepared to carry out genocide without being forced to. One of the lessons of the Holocaust isn't how hard it was to make it happen, but how easy: logistics was much more of a problem than finding people to do it. Pretending otherwise, that it wasn't ordinary Germans and others, makes it easier to do again.

Interestingly,*** I wouldn't have complained if they did an updated version with Democrats and Republicans and called it 'Secret Trump'…

* One reason for me thinking of it as 'CAH Cards', or 'Cack'.

** Perhaps the timescale, just over a decade, meant they couldn't get away with it. The 'inventor' of Othello waited until over eighty years after the invention of Reversi before making his one small change.

*** And hypocritically! Perhaps lizarding Trump makes it topical satire.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

Currently, the fourth most read story on the BBC news website is a story about Sainsbury's removing their 'taste the difference' sandwiches from their 'meal deal'. You don't get a fork with the pasta options either, which seems a bit silly unless they're going to be supplied separately, as in M&S.

This is beating stories about the Met Police starting to use 'spit hoods' over the heads of suspects in police stations – doubtless we'll see more ones like this, on police using one on a 12 year old disabled girl – and Keith Vaz resigning as the chair of Parliament's Home Affairs select committee.

There's a fascinating discussion on supermarket sandwiches on Reddit started by someone who claims to work for the company that Sainsbury's have stopped using.. and Boots have started. (Obs warning that people on Reddit may not be who they say they are.)

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

The title is a slight misquote of a famous First World War recruitment poster..
WWI recruitment poster, with a father being asked what he did in the war
.. but it's brought on several thoughts.

In 1915, the poster was intended to emotionally blackmail men who – like the person who commissioned it – didn't want to enlist. Today, another reading is seeing the father as someone who did serve, and who knows that his son's toy war is nothing like the reality…

This aspect was the subject of a programme on three men's family links to the Holocaust. It featured two sons of Nazi war criminals. One's glad his father, Hans Frank, was executed for his role as leader of the 'General Government (the bits of Poland that the Germans didn't annex). The other still thinks of his father, Otto Wächter, as someone who was basically good.*

That survives a visit to the ruins of the synagogue used by the third man's relations, and the field where several thousand Jews were massacred, one by one, and still lie buried today. Otto Wächter was ultimately in charge of the auxiliaries who carried that out.

But his son is not the only one who admires him: one of the other things he did was form an SS unit of Ukrainians, known for Nazi political reasons as a Galician division, and many Ukrainians see the Soviet Union as their main enemy in that era and have a 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' attitude to those years, despite the sort of 'friend' Nazi Germany was. (Of course, in the West, the British and Americans took the same attitude to Stalin, to the point of keeping quiet about Soviet war crimes until after 1945.)

And I suspect that many people who've been in a war have horror stories. I think I've mentioned one uncle who served in submarines and risked his own career to try to have his captain charged with ordering the killing of women and children on one Japanese boat they stopped and searched. Coming back full circle, another relation did not talk about what happened in the trenches, even aged eighty.

Perhaps the other reading is more accurate.

* I wasn't the one to tag the neutrality issues with the WP article, but it's got them…

Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum's Non Commercial Licence – more info about it and the poster at the link.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

A local business – formerly Ciseco, now WirelessThings – is sadly closing down. They've got a 70% off sale for the next couple of days.

Quite a bit is out of stock, but I've got more LED boards for the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, plus their 'Arduino with built-in wireless' board.

(No clickable link, because it'll doubtless end up being squatted, but wirelessthings.net is where to look.)

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

lovingboth: (mini me + poo)

It was at a bisexual activists weekend in Manchester back in April 2005 that someone made a comment about being 'bi-furious' rather than 'bi-curious' and everyone else laughed.

At some point that afternoon, I registered bifurious.co.uk.* (I also got bi-furious.co.uk but that just ends up at the same site.)

And now, a mere eleven and a bit years later, I've finally got around to starting to use it. I nearly started two years ago: a smug comment about it taking less than a decade has been deleted, as has a conceit about having users called '(first name) Stavro Blofeld' – I had a lovely Photoshopped GIMPed picture of me stroking a white cat – and using the lyrics of songs from Paul Williams' Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack.

But it's now up and a place for me to be cross about biphobia, erasure and other such stuff. At some point, I'll do some back posts, particularly around the past behaviour of Stonewall.

If you'd like an account so you can be cross there too, let me know.

* I can remember the where and the when, but I can't remember how – it was about three years before I had an Eee-PC netbook and five years before I had a smartphone. Perhaps the centre we were at had some internet connected PCs available.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.