Harry Law 1930 – 2011

Harry built things.
All four of his sons also learned how to build things, watching and helping him. For some of us this was more theoretical than practical – I do know how to mix cement, and about sharp sand and aggregate, I’ve just never felt the need.
He also mended things. He had a curiosity which meant he found out how things worked, and so how to repair them. With four of us, all taking on his love of driving, it’s hard to count the number of cars which were nursed through MOTs on Mum & Dad’s driveway.
You may know how that curiosity cost him the tip of his finger. As a very young boy he watched a farm hand remove a stone from a straw chopping machine by poking inside it with a finger. When it was unattended later he tried the same trick himself but omitted the crucial step of stopping the machine first. That short finger was useful when he smoked his pipe because he could use it for tamping down the tobacco.
He considered studying Architecture but gave it up to help his Dad on the farm. He didn’t mind, because it meant he could work outside, which he preferred. His drawing was limited to plans and sketches, but it was a skill inherited by Phil & Ian professionally, and passed on to me and Colin as a hobby.
He met Ann, the landlord’s daughter in a pub he visited, and when he asked her to marry him, Mum said it was either her or farming. He chose wisely. He had several jobs before settling at Halsteads and staying there until he retired.
He worked a lot when we were young, doing jobs in the evenings as well as working during the day, but I particularly remember him looking after us on Monday nights when Mum was at night school learning enamelling or cordon bleu cookery. He let me and Phil stay up to watch The High Chaparral.
He didn’t cook much but he did make breakfast. Porridge for all of us in the pressure cooker – just the biggest pan there was. He used a large cast iron frying pan to cook a mean fried breakfast and on Pancake Day in a joint effort with Mum on a production line of frying, sugaring and lemon juicing which could never keep up with four hungry boys.
John Bishop recently said his dad invented the people carrier, but my Dad did that. He put four seats and windows in the back of the transit van. I’ve always enjoyed being driven, especially at night – with Dad driving, and Mum keeping him awake, the back of the van on a Sunday night coming back from Blackpool was always a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Although Ian disagrees – he says he never slept, instead watching the road with one eye and Dad in the mirror with the other.
Harry liked beer and wine. On one visit to Phil & Sue in Germany he took back a crate of empty weissbier bottles from the previous trip, worth just 6 Euros. Phil asked why he had bothered for such small change, but Dad said if he made room in the car to take the empties, there would be room to bring back full bottles.
I cannot ever remember him being angry. During a Saturday morning Sekiden pistol fight, when Mum was working at Preston’s, a favourite tiered glass vase was broken. Instead of shouting at us, Dad cut off the broken tier and ground the edge to produce a shorter tiered even lovelier vase. Which Mum spotted as soon as she got home.
He had a tremendous sense of humour, despite the adversities he suffered from GBS, which robbed him of the last years of retirement he deserved. The photograph album which you can look at later shows how often he laughed, and that he was very photogenic. He could also really carry off wearing a hat.
He was strong – he arm wrestled all of us and won. On a visit to Cambridge, a missed signpost turned a walk in Wandlebury Country Park into a marathon trek and I remember him carrying Robyn for what seemed miles until we got back to the car.
That strength, and visits every day from Ann, helped him survive six weeks in intensive care and a year in hospital. His sense of humour made friends of everyone who met him.
He rarely complained about the change of lifestyle brought on him by GBS. Instead, after years of us trying to get them connected, he finally discovered the computer and developed a new life online. Here was something I could teach him, but he was a great learner and soon had everything organised – bank accounts, bills, photographs, even Facebook. I would see “thumbOK” appear online during the day and we would chat occasionally.
Some things he actually did better. One stereotype he fitted exactly was that of the man who shopped for his wife on Christmas Eve. Many a Christmas Holiday started with us, rushing into town dashing from shop to shop looking for something to go with the tin of Roses. But now, armed only with his typing thumb and Ann’s M&S Credit Card, and instructions to Mum to sign for but not open parcels, everything was organised. He even printed out labels – all we had to do was the wrapping.
After we all left home, a visit from Mum & Dad usually involved a job to be done (too many to list but including house extensions, car ports, internal walls, sheds, ..). This wasn’t entirely selfish as Dad liked to have something to do whilst Mum shopped. Later, we could repay him a little because he always had a list of jobs for us to do when we visited him. He had always thought it through and presented the solution not the problem, along with which tool to use and where to find it in the shed.
Harry built things. I’m proud to say that best of all, together with Ann, he built a family.

Angry and Sick

I’m not angry at the LibDems (well, not all of them). They’ve been played by the conservatives, and played very effectively. Nobody appears to be blaming the Tories for privatising our universities even though they’ve done it. I am angry at the millionaires who had a free university education now stealing that from my grandchildren. The millionaires and their friends who are giving each other tax cuts, taking ridiculous pensions, awarding dividends and bonuses to their wives who live in tax havens, pretending that Cadbury’s is a Swiss company to save £200 million pounds a year, etc, etc.

I’m angry at the inequity and hypocrisy of it.

They can do it because the free market in financial services, which they created, screwed us all and whilst they are wringing their hands about how the country can’t sustain the debt they insist that it is perfectly fine for all future students to start life with even greater debts. “Because they pay nothing up front,” says the man who never had to save for anything, as if that makes it OK.

They can do it because the stupid press, instead of reporting the destruction of our future, leads with a story about an aged adulterer on a night out in the town who gets a little paint spilled on his armoured car.

I am old enough to have had a free university education. It benefits me, but it also benefits the country – if I earn more I pay more tax, spend more money, create more jobs. What next in this “learn to earn” mentality? What about those people with A levels? Shouldn’t they pay? What about those people who can read and write? What about those sick people, scrounging off us healthy people?

When I first heard what these bastards were doing to university funding, that the coalition government was going to force it through parliament with 5 hours of debate, I actually physically felt it – a sickening fall in my stomach as this country turned into a nastier place.

Windows Embedded CE 6 and AFXWIN.H error C2039

This has just wasted a day of my time, and apparently nobody else on the internet has had the exact same problem, so I document it here for the good of humanity. 😉

I am migrating an application from Windows CE 5 to Windows Embedded CE 6. Just a little thing with a couple of dialogue boxes to exercise the hardware. At the client’s request, it used MFC. MFC and ATL 4.0 are no longer supported directly but most of the functionality is in the new ATL 8.0.

I included afxwin.h in my program, and added the Visual Studio 2005 directory to the include path:
C:\PROGRA~1\MICROS~3\VC\ce\atlmfc\include\
(There is some primitive parsing going on here which means that the include path can’t have spaces. That should really be:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC\ce\atlmfc\include\)

I attempt to compile my code and get this obscure error:
C:\PROGRA~1\MICROS~3\VC\ce\atlmfc\include\atltime.inl(140) : error C2039: '_time64' : is not a member of '`global namespace''

atlmfc.h is some nested include from afxwin.h and I am obviously not going to be editing that to make this work. What have I missed? I tried various orders of header inclusion, a few random definitions from suggestions on the ‘net, but nothing worked. Somebody suggested including atlosapice.h, but that threw up even more errors and left the C2039 as well. Searching how to fix that led me to a Google Group microsoft.public.vc.language and a comment that changing the order of include directories removed some undefined errors.

Specifically, Paul Heil mentioned that he put some directories after .\ce\include and .\ce\atlmfc\include.

Bing! .\ce\include! I’m not using that at all!

I added it to the top of my include list and VC is now quite happy with “_time64”. I’m not sure what header files it was getting instead of those in “.\ce\include”, but they were certainly not the right ones.

Facebook Prediction

I received an email from Facebook this morning:

Hello, Derek Law,
Your Facebook account was accessed using 'Trillian' (Tomorrow at 00:02).
Was this you? If so, you can disregard the rest of this email.
If this wasn't you, please follow the link below to protect your account:
<link removed>
To learn how login notifications like this one can help you to
protect your account information, visit the Help Centre.
Please note: Facebook will never request your login information through email.
Thanks,
The Facebook Team

I wonder what else they know that I am going to do?

Nearly hit by 2 trucks!

On the way to work this morning I went via Tesco to get milk. I was in the traditional and daily queue of stationary traffic on the inside lane of the A14, actually second from the back, when a great big articulated lorry came by – still shaking and wobbling from massive braking as it swerved into the fortunately empty next lane.

“That was quite close,” I thought, but observed that I had left enough room between me and the car in front to drive into the lay-by at the side – if I’d noticed it in time. Two more cars arrived behind me, and then I noticed in the mirror another big lorry steaming down the road obviously going too fast to stop.

Putting into action the very plan I had just been considering, I started to move into the lay-by. The car two behind had the same idea but with more urgency and was already in the lay-by. This time there was no room in the next lane, so I re-considered when I saw that the truck was also attempting to use the lay-by as an escape route. Sadly for him, the lay-by was also now blocked, so the tanker (I could now see) went by us on the grass and then tipped gently into the ditch. Where it certainly still is now. We got out to see that the driver was OK – he gave us the thumbs up as he was already speaking to someone on his mobile (“Yes, I’m in a ditch. Again.”) and got out of the cab.

It didn’t seem right to take a photograph, so I didn’t. As the truck had actually managed to miss everything, there was no need for witnesses – so we all drove off, once the people in the inside lane let us out.

How was your trip to work?

Google and WiFi Privacy

There are reports of people being outraged that the Google StreetView camera cars accidentally captured snippets of unsecured WiFi traffic as they wandered the land. I don’t really see the point of this – I’m pleased when Google can tell me where I am using this WiFi location information rather than the crappy GPS in my phone.

The outrage must surely be manufactured, but why? Do they seriously think Google is going to start emptying their bank accounts? Just because the Daily Mail is insanely interested in the intimate details of everybody’s life (particularly if you are a famous everybody), doesn’t mean that Google is going to start publishing the contents of any emails they found.

It was bad enough when the NIMBYs complained about the photographing of the outside of their houses from the street as an invasion of their privacy. To those I say “Either grow a hedge or put your clothes on whilst you are gardening.” And look up “private” sometime.

Now, people who are too lazy or stupid to turn on the security in their WiFi are complaining that small fragments of their communications might have been recorded by a passing camera car. It’s the criminals sat in the small van with a laptop that they ought to be worried about. Or the security forces who’ve just been promised £2 billion to store every web site you visit for your own protection against “terrorism”.

Is it just an anti-Google agenda, or is it a distraction from the Government’s far more serious snooping with intent?

I know who I trust: Google, criminals, government, Daily Mail.

Busy Blogging Elsewhere

I am now a confirmed fan of WordPress. This blog introduced me to it, but I’ve recently been using it to create a new website for the Willingham Photo Club.

I’m currently one of the “gang of four” leadership team (there’s a rotating membership – all very communist) – having volunteered mainly in order to improve the club’s IT for viewing photographs on-screen at the monthly meetings.

It fell on our watch to organise our first exhibition as part of the Willingham Feast. It seemed obvious as part of the planning to have a website to send visitors to, and afterwards to continue the exhibition in the virtual world.

There are so many themes, plugins and widgets available to make a WordPress site look good, even the free ones, that it’s mostly a filtering task to choose what you need.  The results can look professional, and certainly give the impression that much more skill and hard work has been involved than is the case. (Having said that, the list of minor tweaks and edits to get it to look “just right” is getting longer.) I’m basking in that reflected glory, but it is an easy-to-please audience of non-technical people, so far.

I’ll finish by crediting  the Theme: Modularity Lite 1.2, and Plugins: The Events Calendar, NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Public Uploader, which have made it so easy to do. Check them out next time you need to make a website for a photography club.

So that’s where my evenings have gone. I’ll just point out that if anybody mentions “display boards” in my vicinity in the near future, they’d better be on guard.

John Peel Anecdote

@Glinner (Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd) is a relentless twitterer and related this story as told to him by John Peel:

Listening to morning radio DJs and their deathly playlists (6music excepted) reminds me of a story John Peel told about Dave Lee Travis.
Peel was round at DLT’s house for a party, and he idly wondered where all his records were, because he couldn’t see any about.
“Are you kidding?” said DLT. “I don’t have any records. I get enough of that shit at work.”
(Admittedly he cheated and put that in three 140 character tweets, but it’s still a great story.)

Pinched by the Fuzz (except taxis)

Longstanton Road is “access only” for a small stretch where it passes the disused airfield – presumably because it was a military airfield and there were (a) secrets and (b) aeroplanes. That was many years ago.

Some of the former officer accommodation, and some rather big houses, are now privately owned and at least one or two are occupied by Councillors. They have complained to the Police that cars are using the road. The Police have acted (a little reluctantly and apologetically in the case of the nice constable I spoke with) and this morning were dishing out £30 fixed penalties. It’s the way I go to work.

It’s a fair cop. It’s been coming, I suppose, because I’ve seen an increase in traffic using it as the route to Cambridge. I never do that, it spoils it for everyone. I expect the residents of the big houses do go that way to Cambridge, too, but not this week. I’m sure the Councillors go the long, correct way.

However, given that the alternatives are (1) an extra 1½ miles via the A14 (which can take upwards of 20 minutes when there’s a queue of trucks going to Folkstone),  or (2) an extra 2 miles via Cottenham, it’s not a bad toll if it only happens every 4 years. (The nice policeman advised me that they’d be there all week, clearly implying that next week they’d be gone.)

It does gall me that taxis and invalid carriages are allowed to use this route. Taxis also get to travel up Silver Street in Cambridge where other cars must take a 1½ mile diversion through extra traffic. Why? What do they do to earn these short cuts? They are just another vehicle except that for every single journey they carry one extra person.

A Sane Voice

I awoke this morning to hear the most sensible thing I’ve heard on the Today programme for many a decade. The outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Ian Gilmore, has endorsed the argument of Stephen Rolles of Transform that drugs should be decriminalised and regulated.

It’s a shame Sir Ian didn’t feel he could stand up before he was “outgoing”. The government (and this is without political bias, all the parties have knee-jerk drugs responses) has reacted predictably, saying it does “not believe this was the right approach”. I really cannot understand why they persist in thinking that prohibition will work, after decades of proof that it just doesn’t. I blame the Daily Mail.

The BBC have given this more prominence.