Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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Slightly Dugg

You probably know about Digg and the Digg Effect, which is slightly similar to being “slashdotted”.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened to me, but I was brushed by it. Today I read a Digg article about a “hollow screen” image – the trick of putting an image on a screen which makes it appear that the screen is transparent. It’s on flickr, and it’s quite a good picture, and one of the comments on that picture pointed to another image.

I have a “hollow screen” picture, which I made nearly two years ago, and this morning it had 121 views. So I added another comment pointing at my picture, and now – just 8 hours later – it has 1497 views and an extra comment.


Advanced Virgin

Bit of work still needed on the VirginMedia website, judging by this “Advanced” link: (Click on the image to see what it did look like in case they have now fixed it.)

No "War on Terror"

I don’t normally comment on comment – although isn’t that what Blogs are for? Many years ago I used to write a topical “Phrase Of The Day” on the whiteboard at Harlequin and even kept a list of them on one of the first web pages I ever wrote (sadly internal only in those days, and location currently unknown).


The front page of the Guardian yesterday (which I only read today, rural paper delivery having a somewhat random nature) had the most marvellous paragraph, written by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald:

“It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary purposes.”

Read more of this clear thinking here.

Light Bulb

Light Bulb
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

This lightbulb is at least 15 years old – because it moved house with us in October 1991 – and probably a couple of years older than that.

It was one of our first low-energy lightbulbs, it weighs a ton, and says “18W 800 lumen” on the side. Dunno what that is equivalent to in standard watts, which is what they all say now.

We had it on the landing, because we left the light on when the children went to bed and didn’t turn it off until we retired. That used to be later. Nowadays, obviously, we go to bed first – at least when Donna is home.

So why mention it? It has finally died. Pretty good value, even if I have no idea how much it cost. I’ll quite miss it, the way it flickered into life and got gradually brighter as it warmed up. And it helped raise the children.


Blue Mini, white roof, personal number plate.

The number plate was just a coincidence – we saw an advert in the local paper for a mini of the right price and didn’t see the registration until we got there. Perhaps that should have been a warning.. still, I couldn’t resist.

I hadn’t had it long, and was driving home from my summer job in Rochdale when there was a particularly large crack from underneath. The subframe at the back had broken. When we looked closer, it had obviously been cracked already and covered up with filler. With my Dad’s help and a visit to the scrapyard we replaced the subframe. The really fun part was replacing the hydrolastic suspension pipes. Apparently, the method recommended for home repairs is to put some tyres down and tip the car on its side whilst you thread the pipes in. We left them on the outside.

There was always a leak in the coolant system. In fact, it came with a 5 litre water canister in the boot. You could tell it was time to top it up when the heater started blowing cold air.

I think the finest hour was a trip from Leeds to Hull (to see Magazine at Hull College of Further Education, March 1979) with Fat Tim and four other engineering students – two in the front seat, and three in the back!

I did manage some minor repairs – I fixed the gear linkage once – but eventually it all got out of whack at once and was just too short of power.

Vauxhall Viva HA

Christmas 1975, the first after my 17th birthday. I wanted a guitar, not desperately, just a vague notion that it might be a good thing to have. Instead, as a total surprise, I got a car.

It had been bought for £40 and my Dad had been “fixing it up” secretly. It had also been cunningly taken to Blackpool from Bury and put outside my grandparents house on Christmas Eve without my knowledge so that it could be revealed on Christmas morning with a flick of the curtains.

The other part of my present was that it was insured for me to drive, for the princely sum of £60. In my own name, third party only. How times change.

I learnt to drive in it, and failed my first test in it. (I passed on the second attempt after  5 30 minute lessons from the British School of Motoring.) I drove it to school occasionally, and collected Phil and his mates from their school. I even managed to get to Leeds University for an interview in it.

It eventually died of a complete lack of power sometime in early 1977, I think.

One Day in History

History Matters have decided that 17th October 2006 is the day for a

“one off opportunity for you to join in a mass blog for the national record. We want as many people as possible to record a ‘blog’ diary which will be stored by the British Library as a historical record of our national life.”

Here’s my day:

I’m going to work “early” at the moment because one of our sub-contractors is a single parent and has to work around the school day, meaning I have to be at the office in Wilburton for 8:20am. It’s not really a hardship – I only have to leave Willingham at 8 o’clock – but  I used to have half an hour after Wendy left for work to read The Guardian. If I’m lucky it’s today’s paper, but the paperboy has been getting late recently so often enough it is from the day before.

I listen to “Today” on Radio 4 in bed, then Chris Moyles on Radio 1 in the shower and with breakfast (Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, orange juice and coffee). Sadly, Chris Moyles is on holiday for two weeks signing copies of his book, Scott Mills is his unlistenable replacement and I’ve tried Wogan on Radio 2 but the music is just appalling, so it’s a CD for now. Paulo Nutini this morning.

The traffic is normal (last week there were accidents on the A14 and M11 and it took me 45 minutes), so I am first to the office to unlock the building. The travelling sandwich van from the nearby garden centre calls at around 9, and creature of habit that I am, I nearly always have tuna and sweetcorn.

I am one of five founders of a Design Services company, essentially a computer hardware and software consultancy, and we currently have 7 sub-contractors working with us. Tomorrow will be our 4th anniversary, and we have just bought our own building which we will be moving into early next month. Some of the day is spent discussing the work we need to do before we move in, and we tell the building contractor to start on extra partitions as soon as possible.

I’m working on a job which involves Windows CE, and a new Board Support Package was issued for the processor module today, so I downloaded that, updated Platform Builder, and re-built the operating system image for the development system and the system board we have developed. That took most of the day.

I did get a new toy in the post, an iCast FM transmitter to get sound from a PMP (iPod) to the car radio. Currently illegal, on the grounds that you might be a very small scale Radio Caroline, but due to be allowed any day now. And the reason I need that is because the new (to me) car I’m collecting on Saturday is too new to have a cassette player, but too old (or too low spec) to have an aux input socket.

Just as I was ready to leave at about 5:20, we had a discussion about a possible product development. It’s a big step for the company, and we talked for a while, so I didn’t get back until Wen had left to work in Willingham library. I stopped there on the way home, because by the time she gets back I’ll be out playing badminton with the village club in the Ploughman Hall.

Home for tea – bread, roast beef, tomato and a little TV – “The Gadget Show” which was recorded last week sometime on Sky+. Then off to play badminton where there was a large turnout so we played short games to 11 points. I won 3 out of 4 matches, so perhaps that length suits me.

After Badminton,  which ends at 10pm, and a shower, channel surfed until I found the shopping scene in “Pretty Woman”. We watched that for a while, before retiring around 11:30.

Cottenham Fire

Cottenham Fire
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

On my way home from work tonight I followed a plume of smoke in the sky down a country lane in Cottenham, and there was a field of wheat ablaze. I wonder if farmers can get insurance for this kind of thing?

The fire brigade arrived to damp it down before it reached the houses on Cottenham High Street.

In a fit of multimedia madness I also put a video on YouTube. The noise you can hear is actually the roaring and crackling of the flames.

Middle East Solution

I have the answer to the Middle East conflict. Move Israel to Texas.

Geographically it works. There’s plenty of room: Israel is about 22000km2, Texas is over 268000km2. They are both deserts. They both have oil nearby.

Politically it works. The USA can demonstrate their implacable support for Israel without having to bother anybody half way around the world. Both countries only observe UN resolutions when it pleases them. If anybody who currently lives in what becomes New Israel doesn’t want to stay, then the Americans have experience of this. The dispossessed can live in “reservations”.

Militarily it works. Texans like guns, Israelis like guns. It will also be much easier to ship Patriot Missiles to New Israel from Alabama.

There would be very little language problem – all the Israeli spokesmen I hear already speak “US lawyer”, so they’d fit right in.

There might be a small setback if New Israel still want to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest, but I’m afraid everybody has to make some sacrifices and I would willingly suffer this as a contribution to world peace.

I think I should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let’s Talk

Hazel Blears, the Labour Party Chair, sent me an email.

This Thursday, the Prime Minister and I are holding an event in Bristol, discussing crime and civil liberties with an audience of party members and people who have experience of crime, anti-social behaviour and representatives of organisations that work in the fields of crime and civil rights law. This is one of the biggest issues facing us today – and I want to hear the views, experiences and ideas of as many people as possible. This discussion is live right now – and I’d like you to be part of it.

There were four questions, and I answered them mostly off the top of my head. I thought I’d put them here as well, in case Labour isn’t really listening.

Question 1: Do you feel the law is on your side?
That depends on whether the law thinks that I should carry an ID card to prove that I am innocent. It depends whether my choice of recreational drug happens to match the current knee-jerk reaction to the latest Daily Mail outrage. It depends on whether I want to protest about the current knee-jerk etc by peacefully protesting in the street. It depends on whether my safety is more important than the perception of some terrorist threat in the mind of an armed policeman. It depends on whether I express my opinion on people driven to violent ends when all else has failed. It depends on whether I am the president of the United States.

Question 2: Does the criminal justice system provide the correct balance between the protection of civil liberties and the rights of the victims of crime?
It used to, but the knee-jerk responses to the latest Daily Mail outrage are in danger of sending us back into the middle ages. I seem to remember that at least part of the slogan was “Tough on the causes of crime”: the poverty, deprivation and school for criminals which our over-crowded and under-resourced prisons have become seem to be causes left untouched.

Question 3: Do the police, courts, probation service and prison service work in favour of the decent law-abiding majority?
What an odd question. The police and courts should not “work in favour” of anyone – they should be impartial and fair. The probation service and prison service should have no contact with law-abiding people, “decent” or indecent.

Question 4: What changes do you think should be made to the criminal justice system to better protect the public?
Bring back the right to silence. Abolish the religious imbalance and de-criminalise blasphemy, so that all myths and beliefs are treated with equal contempt. Stop using the threat of terrorism to take away our freedoms. Stop locking up drug users. In fact, make all drugs legal, instead of just tobacco and alcohol.