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Orbits

Jul. 4th, 2008 | 08:07 am

At around about 5:00 this morning the Earth finished another complete orbit around the Sun since I drew my first breath.

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Warning: Spelling Fascism Ahead

Jun. 30th, 2008 | 03:30 pm

Spent a lovely afternoon at the Preston Steam Rally on Sunday.

As ever, I was perturbed by the annually decreasing level of basic literacy skills amongst the sign-writers of the food stalls. It seems that it is now the norm rather than the exception for signs to contain spelling errors. I'm sympathetic towards genuine dyslexics but when someone writes 'DIET COCK' on a sign advertising drink prices and then repeats exactly the same error on another sign in the same venue, I can't see that this could be claimed as a case of dyslexia - it's too systematic. They've just failed (despite, one presumes, repeated visual exposure to its presence on cans of drink they are handling) to learn the correct spelling of the word 'Coke', or the way the 'e' modifies the sound of the preceding vowel.

I just can't understand how on earth, as they traced the word 'COCK' with their marker pen, how on earth it didn't ring any alarm bells?!

(I don't think it was a joke either.)

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OK, since everyone else is doing it....

Jun. 28th, 2008 | 05:33 pm

I was going to rant a bit about how many important, iconic works are missing from this list including a total lack of anything about mathematics, philosophy or the natural sciences and then it occurred to me that actually this is just the contents of someone's bookshelf that they posted.  Also I notice an awful lot of books that have been made into films or tv series' in this list.

OK, here goes:

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible. (not all of it word for word but a fair amount
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (Repeatedly!)
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell
41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker
72.The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Score = 28

Amongst the many omissions I was particularly disappointed that the Kama Sutra and The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred didn't make an appearance.

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General Status Update

Jun. 27th, 2008 | 10:53 pm
music: Donovan - Catch The Wind

No more MSc until September. Completed two courseworks for which I earned 90% in both and an exam in which I scored 96%. So I think that one's going well.

The OU Cert Web Apps continues apace. Got my mark for the first module (Principles of Web Design). 61% - actually not bad considering I handed the ECA (End-of-Course Assignment) in about half-finished due to a schedule clash with the MSc Electromagnetics. I was seriously worried I might have to resit that one, so this has assuaged my fears.

I'm working on the second module (Client-Side App Development) now and it's going well, better I'd say than the first one which was a bit waffly for my liking. It's all about Javascript and the DOM (Document Object Model), with a bit of XP (eXtreme Programming) methodology thrown in. This is all good stuff and doing exactly what I wanted it to do which is plug the gaps in my IT skills set that had arisen from being kept locked in a server room and forced to work on ERP databases for ten years.

Fitness training is also going well. Progress has slowed on the resistance (weights) after rapid improvements in the first couple of months, but I am still gradually building up (I'm pushing about 3x as much weight in most routines as I was when I started). After a slow start my cardiovascular fitness has suddenly surged and I have masses more stamina (relatively speaking) than I had before. I've started jogging on the treadmills instead of restricting myself to powerwalking, and I'm jogging along and reaching my target and thinking 'actually I could easily keep going' (but I stop anyway because I don't want to knacker my ankles which I tend to have trouble with esp. the right one which still hasn't quite recovered from the broken foot escapade last year).

A bit of a milestone in yoga today. Six weeks ago we had a lesson where we concentrated on shoulderstands and headstands and I couldn't manage either without toppling over. Today - oop-la! Got into the shoulderstand. Very satisfying.

So....all is going well.

The 18th was the first anniversary of my mother's death. I meant to post something here but I was so busy last week I never got around to it. We went to her grave and tidied it up and put a new pot plant there. I've been listening to her funeral wake mix on the car hi-fi since then. I don't talk about it much but I think about her every day.

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Attention Span Required

Jun. 17th, 2008 | 01:20 pm

This is the kind of stuff I was brought up on.

From Allegro Non Troppo.

Part one:



Here's part two:

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Result

Jun. 17th, 2008 | 01:08 pm

Got my final result I was waiting for - my Numerical Methods for PDE exam.

96%

I'm a bit worried. It's suddenly occurred to me that maybe this means I'm really, really boring.

I must start spending more time getting smashed.

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Inflation Inflation

Jun. 17th, 2008 | 12:21 pm

I have to larf. During the past 24 hours, the inflation headline on the beeb news has gone from:

'Inflation could top 3%'

to

'Inflation now 3.3%'

to

'Inflation could top 4%'

I'm sure we couldn't have worked this last one out for ourselves.

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Just call me Magneto

Jun. 9th, 2008 | 06:00 pm

My first coursework on PDE solution by Numerical Methods I was pretty confident about, and this was borne out by my 90% result. But I really wasn't sure how well I'd done on the Electromagnetics coursework. It involved rather more physical understanding and creative thinking and the problems were stated in a way that I felt was a bit ambiguous.

Seems I needn't have worried. I just clocked another 90%.

My smugness has non-zero divergence right now.

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Random Burblings

Jun. 7th, 2008 | 10:52 pm

First, some horsey stuff. I got to canter again today. Not on my regular ride Dublin, though - I've taken the bull by the horns and transferred to Nero. This is the horse that I saw go psycho recently so it's with no small amount of trepidation.

I spent months trying to get Dublin to canter with no success. I understand Dublin, he likes to do things at his own pace, he's not the kind of horse that goes out of his way to please people and turns nasty if you try to force him to do something he doesn't feel inclined to do. A bit like me, then. Nero is more inclined to get going than Dublin but once he gets going he's difficult to hold back. Hard to steer as well, and has a bit of a wild streak. Still, if that's what it takes.....I think now might be the time to invest in some body armour.

My laptop has died. Hard disk failed and the OS has corrupted. Massive arse, really. Mostly backed up apart from some more recent stuff which I'm still hopeful of recovering. I'm using Anna's iBook for the occasional interweb fix to tide me over until I get a machine working again. I have various old desktop machines that could be resurrected but they're all buried under a big pile of junk right now. Maybe the universe is telling me that now is the time to get an eepc.

Time lately has mostly been spent decorating and catching up on OU stuff. Waiting for various MSc results.

Watched Mulan 2 with Alice earlier on. This film is so wrong on so many levels that I regretted hiring it really. The very first thing Mulan's father (who seems to speak entirely in aphorisms) utters is wrong. 'Gambling is like playing Mah Jong with blank tiles - nobody wins' he wisely intones. Well for starters Mah Jong was invented in the 19th century not the 5th, and secondly it was invented specifically with gambling in mind. As soon as he said this I realised I was probably about to watch an hour and a quarter of complete bollocks. I wasn't far wrong. The entire film seemed like a thinly veiled critique of asian culture in which the protagonists finally attain happiness by embracing western traditions of selfish individualism. I'm not claiming that cultural traditions should never be questioned or found wanting but Disney's moral certitude and sermonising, patronising approach isn't the way to go about it. I was also horrified when one of the characters sticks a pair of chopsticks up her nostrils as a comic gesture as chopsticks are among the more dangerous eating utensils and if you happen to trip over with a pair shoved in your nose it's Darwin Award time for you. Bearing in mind that this is a kids' film. Oh, and if you're going to give your daughter and her betrothed two halves of a yin-yang amulet, how about getting them the right way round? And why is the comedy sidekick in these and so many other films always, always a black guy (or at least voiced by one)? Doesn't anyone involved feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with this?

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I wonder how long it will be....

May. 22nd, 2008 | 09:40 am

...before the consumer finance sector start pumping this stuff into the air conditioning of their high street outlets?

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