• [Lurking Around London]

    OK, so it’s been a little while since I last updated anything here. The problem with being world-famous <shifty eyes> is that you need to be careful about what you say in public. It may come back to bite you in the butt when you least expect it.
    I suppose, however, it would be permissible to give a big update for those who are interested.

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  • [Forks, Fences, Foolish Ads]

    S&M Files, Episode 7: December 30, 1999
    “Painted with Anti Climb Paint”

    A local house is identified by this sign outside. I never had
    the urge until now. I can hardly wait for my rock climbing shoes
    to arrive.

    Fork Up

    In Britain, by law, you must pay more to eat in some place

    A patron at a local Grease & Chips shop had to fork out
    more dough between mouthfuls. He apparently sat in the “nice”
    seats, where he had access to amenities like cutlery, padded
    seats and a table at the right height. If he were clever, he
    would have perched against the wall on the stools up front with
    the rest of the lepers and common scum. I know I would have. Not
    good enough for us lepers, hmm?

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  • [Extremes]

    S&M Files, Episode 6: December 23, 1999
    Extreme Sports

    What a cute notion to fly a kite next to the crashing surf.
    But these were not ordinary kites. The kites themselves were
    little parachutes, and their masters were decked out in extreme
    kite wear. The huge contraptions seemed to take great joy in
    launching their captors high into the air and then dragging them
    across the beach. As I recall, sandpaper is made from sand.

    Fortunately, Brighton does not have sand.

    Brighton has pebbles.

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  • [Food, Furnishing, and Freezing]

    S&M Files, Episode 5: December 12, 1999
    Perish the Thought

    Food must either go bad faster here, or we North Americans are
    used to rancid. The roast chicken is labelled EAT WITHIN 24
    HOURS. It’s good for up to an hour unrefrigerated. My grapes
    almost expired by the time I got home. :)

    On the plus side, food seems to be less Americanized here.
    That is, the ingredient list does not take up two panels of the
    cookie box. There is also a lot more organic and vegetarian food
    readily available. Well, readily if you are readily rich. Grapes
    are $6 a pound. It’s cheaper to fly to Spain for $125 and pick
    your own.

    Our fridge is small. You might know this, but you do not
    understand this. It is SMALL. We have two (2) shelves. Neither is
    big enough to fit a 2- litre carton of milk at any angle. The
    crisper is the size of a very large hamster. I would kill for the
    bar fridge at the office.

    In a way, it’s very much like camping out. You carefully pack
    and unpack your food each time you need some, taking care not to
    create empty pockets. You light your stove with a match. You wear
    multiple layers of clothing. It’s the West Coast Trail X 2.5.

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  • [Terrible Taste and Britain's Best]

    S&M Files, Episode 4: December 6, 1999
    Food and Being English

    Indian Pizza. Not surprisingly, and more to my delight than
    Michelle’s, Indian cuisine is prevalent here. The local Safeway
    has a complete Indian dinner for two next to the frozen pizzas.
    I’m curious to discover what lies in the “ethnic” foods

    Fish and Chips. Still waiting for decent fish and chips. The
    local shop downstairs seems to believe in a long soak in grease
    followed by a gentle warming.

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  • [WoWKindness on the Web]

    I have to confess that I’ve been spending oodles of time finetuning the web site used by my World of Warcraft guild The One. In comparison with some of the web sites for guilds also on the European server Thunderhorn, ours is beautiful to behold and very functional, with a public site and a Wiki/blog portal for the guild to build knowledge.
    To support our efforts, last year I secured a non-profit license for Atlassian’s enterprise-level wiki/blogging software Confluence, and it’s on this end of the guild’s web site that I spend the most time. Over the last year, I’ve added polls, group chat, calendars, dynamic tabbed content, and many other features, plus upgraded the backend database and wiki software more times than I can shake a fist at.

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  • [Fortune's Favours]

    I had a Brainstorms visitor on my blog the other day, who came courtesy of Glen Engel-Cox, another Brainstormer, who writes the blog Immediacy. I was wandering around Immediacy and came across a recent posting about Dead Can Dance, Dead Can Dance at Strathmore Music Center.

    I’m afraid that I also have to confess to Dead Can Dance as being a “guilty pleasure.” In fact, according to LastFm (AudioScrobbler), they’re my 7th most-listened to artist. Lisa Gerrard does have a fanastic voice. She does the vocals in Now We Are Free, that haunting track from the movie Gladiator, which I also love.

    Of the Dead Can Dance tracks I have, the one that sticks in my mind most lately is Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book, from the album Aion. Firstly, because it has a title which is, I think, rather cryptic, causing me to wonder about its origin and meaning. The second thing is the orchestration, so vivid and so sharp, but so unmodern. The lyrics too are unconventionally philosophical, as so many songs sungs by Brendan Perry are, highlighting the capriciousness of life and Murphy’s Law.

    When you expect whistles it’s flutes
    When you expect flutes it’s whistles

  • [Sci-Fi September]

    I’m moving right along! Now that I’m done teaching my “short” (but intensive!) course and the marking is all done for it, I obviously had more time to sit back and read, because I read 13 books in September. That’s more than double August’s total of only 6. Here’s the list:

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  • [Fifty Books Finished in June]

    I finished my 50th book of the year, Moonraker (Ian Fleming), at the beginning of June, part of my Read 50 books in 2005 goal on 43 Things. I never had any doubts that I would be able to do 50 in a year, since I’m a big reader, using spare time in queues or on buses to read. Just in case you’re bored, here’s my list of 50:

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  • [Inbox Insanity]

    Although I’ve bene quite successful for years at keeping my inbox to fewer than 20 messages at any one time, I have to confess I’ve been having a lot of trouble with this, especially in the last few months. Caught up in an endless loop of going from one crisis to another, I just haven’t seemed to have much time to sit down and catch my breath, never mind keep my inbox at a manageagable level and the effects are sadly showing in missed deadlines.
    More than once I’ve had 100+ messages pending in my inbox. Even today, as I type, I have 64 messages waiting for me to do something with them, whether that’s “Junk” it, file it, or deal with it and file it. Why should this be so hard, you ask? I do receive more mail than the average person and definitely more spam than the average person as a result of holding down multiple roles (technical support, domain registrar, Ph.D. student, university lecturer, friend, technology advisor). According to Eudora, I receive 12, 145 messages on average per month, of which about 74% is spam. Of that 74% that’s spam, half of that is tagged as spam automatically by SpamCop and Eudora, but I’m manually junking the other half. Hmmm! That might explain a lot! I’m manually junking just under 4500 messages a month!
    Nevertheless, I still need to reduce the amount of mail sitting in my inbox. Some of it, I notice, is mail I need to habitually do something with, like search report results from Atomz For these, I’m going to write some new Eudora rules to auto-file them. I don’t actually need to read them—I just need to be able to get at the information later, if it’s required. Done. That should make a small dent and I should look for others too. Master the mail!
    See more progress on: keep my inbox to only 20 messages