Test of Picasa

There is a new version of Picasa which allows posting direct to Blogger, so I thought I’d better try it out.

Here is a picture of the Maths Building at Manchester University. When I visited there in 1970-mumble, they told me that it was leaning and would one day fall down. (Does every university have a “falling down” building?) Seems like that day is finally here. Posted by Picasa

Loved Ones

I hate that expression. It’s like the cheap sentimentality that you’d find inside a greeting card with a picture of a kitten on the front. It reeks of insincerity. It used to be an American thing, but now it has infiltrated the BBC and it gets my goat.

Where did it come from? As far as I can remember, it used to be used solely by fictional undertakers when referring to the recently deceased. Now it has been extended to include the possibly deceased.

Is it just lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to say “friends and family”? Perhaps there isn’t a single word which encompasses acquaintances, those related by blood, partners both legal and common-law including their blood relations, etc., but as a journalist they should try harder and think up something.

I’ve tried to decide why I hate it so.

I think partly it’s because it is usually associated with the intrusion of reporters on the potentially bereaved, who are awaiting “news of their loved ones”. With a close-up of tears on photogenic faces.

And partly it’s the plain awkwardness of it. “Ones”? Surely there can’t be more than one “one”. Simply saying “loves” should suffice, as in “the loves of your life”, but that makes the hypocrisy a little too visible.

But mostly it is the mawkish implication that you must “love” anybody that you are concerned about. Missing family members might well be unloved and it is entirely possible to empathise with the plight of people who you have never even met. It is the emotional exaggeration for effect which rankles. Everything has to be elevated to a human tragedy.

Don’t get me started on that Lady Diana thing.

Google Earth

I’ve been around this industry for a long time. Such a long time, in fact, that when I was at university the PC hadn’t been invented and the computer which drew pictures needed a separate room all to itself (it was a DEC PDP-11 and it played Lunar Lander with a light pen and Space Wars by toggling switches on the computer box).

So it takes a lot to impress me, yet Google Earth has done just that. It is wrong to give all the kudos to Google, as they bought the existing Keyhole Earth program (and company), but Google did make it a free download. Along with the stunning graphics, and the amazing detail if you are lucky enough to be looking at a high-resolution mapped area, the software is open enough to allow user contributions of locations, live overlays or even detailed 3D buildings. (Loads more at Google Earth Hacks.)

Election Time

What’s the worst that could happen? Obviously, the Tories getting back in. However bad (New) Labour is, and my quick mental list includes things they have done

  • the Iraq war
  • University fees

things they said they’d do but haven’t

  • electoral reform
  • join the Euro

and things they’ve said they will do

  • force us to carry and pay for ID cards
  • incitement to religious hatred bill,

I am neither too young nor too stupid to remember the last time we had a Conservative government. Despite myself, I still quite like Tony Blair. And I still look forward with anticipation to the 5-day street party when Mrs Thatch finally shuffles off.

Michael Howard tells us not to trust Tony Blair because he “lied”, but we don’t trust Michael Howard because he’s a Conservative. He tells us he’ll clean the hospitals, forgetting to mention that the reason they are dirty is because the Conservatives privatised the cleaners.

What’s the best? I can’t see much wrong with the LibDems. They’re untested, but so are all incoming opposition parties. The trouble is they will never win whilst the voting system is based on first-past-the-post fear ballots.

So I’m hoping for a reduced Labour majority. With the LibDems holding the balance of power. That will do.

My vote won’t count – only if all the Labour and LibDem voters join up can we unseat Jim the farmer’s friend Paice – but I’m still going to use it.

Go Faster Strips

The next door village has had some new street furniture.

There’s the faux gates, which are just on the verges but are presumably intended to be a visual cue that you are entering an area where the speed is restricted. (Big round signs with the number “30” on used to be good enough.) These are OK.

There’s the flashing light, telling you the speed if you go too fast. This is a bit dumb, because the reward for going too fast is a pretty light display, but the lights don’t work most of the time anyway.

And then there are the full-road-width orange strips with “rumble” type ridges on the village side of the picturesque gated-village. These are totally counter-productive, and I’ll tell you why.

At 30mph, there is a terrible noise and vibration when you drive over them. At 40mph it is much nicer – less noise and over quicker. At 50mph you can barely tell it is there. Brilliant! It rewards you when you go faster. On the motorway, the rumble strips at the edge of the carriageway make you get off them, back to safety. The best way to get off these speed strips is to minimise the time spent on them.

What is the purpose of these strips? They are inside the restricted section, so they are too late to be reminders. They are on both sides of the road, so they are just as annoying when leaving the village – a reminder to speed up now?

Did anybody think this through?

Pass The Flaming Brands

There was a meeting in the village about the new housing development. It wasn’t very well advertised by the Parish Council but some kind (and anonymous) soul printed and distributed some flyers for it as well. I went along to find out what this new development might be – but I hadn’t realised that it was going to be a mini-protest meeting.

There’s going to be another 70-odd houses on the rest of the plot that is currently being built. I don’t think this is a bad idea, but for clarity it must be mentioned that the new development is nowhere near my house. Personally, I think it better that the village is growing rather than shrinking. I wouldn’t like to lose the Co-op, the Post Office, the Newsagent (will it ever become a Tesco Mini or whatever?) or any more pubs. (There were 5 pubs when we moved here almost exactly 13 years ago, currently there are just 2 although the third might still recover from its temporary lack of a licencee.)

I was going to voice this opinion, but I became more aware of the general feeling behind me in the room – I was sat at the front as usual. Eventually I decided to keep quiet – when they started marching to burn down the village hall (built with money from previous developments), I would be in a better position to raise the alarm if I wasn’t swinging from the rafters of the school extension (also built with money..)

The Parish Council Planning Committee meeting on Friday would pass on a judgement that will, if past experience is anything to go by, be ignored by the County. Should that ever get written up I’ll post an update. I won’t be attending.

ARM ARM and a LEG

I’m working on an intel XScale chip – it’s based on an ARM core (it used to be a StrongARM when DEC developed it) – yet however neat the processor core ARM have developed is, getting any information out of that company is really, really difficult.

I mean, they’re only down the road from here, and I know several people who work there, but even though we have an ARM Development System the only way to find out how the damned MMU works is to buy the ARM Architecture Reference Manual. (“Affectionately called the ARM ARM” – ha ha.)

Unaffectionately called forty-nine bleeding pounds ninety-nine! Jeebus!

Quick survey of Cambridge bookshops:

Borders: would have to order it from USA(?)

Heffers: can order it and have it in 8 days

Waterstones: have 1 on the shelves.

Phew. Job saved.

Bedside Amazon

I noticed a blog with a dinky book image, and I couldn’t resist adding one myself.

I looked into the code, and noticed that the image was leeched from Amazon but as part of the Amazon Associates package. That seemed to be a fair exchange and I signed up.

So, if anybody reads this, if they follow the “Bedside Table” book link to Amazon and if they buy the book – then I get a cut. Probably a very small one.

Titan Arum

It’s the biggest flower in the world, given some technical botanical caveats which I won’t even pretend to understand. The example in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens opened yesterday for the first time and once it starts there is only an 8-hour window to see and smell it before it dies. We had to go.

Unfortunately, especially after being mentioned on Anglia News, everybody else had to go as well. We arrived at 9:05pm and finally saw and sniffed at around 10:50pm. It was worth it, though.

They shut the gates at 11pm, but the people at the back of the queue were going to be there until 1 o’clock in the morning.