Monthly Archives: January 2004


I must have slept through February, as it’s March outside. All the snow and ice has gone, and there’s a warm gusty wind (no surprises after visits to the Wrestlers, the Beer Festival and Cafe Naz yesterday).

Avaragado hereby declares the new British season of Sprinter, replacing the archaic seasons of Winter and Spring which no longer exist due to cutbacks.


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DVD writer

Finally bought a DVD writer yesterday (Freecom). It burns regexp(“DVD[+-]RW?”), which now just punts my personal format war onto the media rather than the drive. I bought a pack of ten blank DVD+RWs to start with. Filled up one with photo and movie backups already.

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Brains, brains

Last night I dreamed about zombies. Twice.

First time was a traditional chase dream: lots of us running away from something, lots of stairwell descents (a standard Avaragado dream feature: I usually jump down entire flights). It was very televisual; there was a “time passes” segment, where a serene image of a village with hills in the background faded into a flooded disaster area, with oddly lowered hills (zombie strip mining?). I only saw a zombie in a sort of coda to the dream; I think I woke up, thought “zombies” and went back to sleep again, at which point a zombie attacked me and I sliced him into several pieces with an axe.

Second time was more like comedy zombies. Imagine a zombie making a guest appearance in Coronation Street. A bit of verbal conflict, some comic zombie stupidity, and northern accents. There was a very good special effect, though: someone’s face morphed strangely into someone else’s upon zombification. I don’t think it ended on a soap-style cliffhanger.

Whatever can it all mean?


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Hutton whitewash

Hutton has cleared the Government and blamed the BBC for everything. I imagine that heads will roll at the BBC.

The PM is now pontificating and gloating in the House of Commons. A House of Commons, incidentally, that’s whooping and hollering and jeering, full of fake outrage and indignation that shows it at its absolute worst.

It is shameful that the only inquiry about the Iraq war has been about a dodgy early-morning radio report that led to a single unfortunate death.

About the non-existent reasons for going to war, nothing.

About the plagiarised dossier, nothing.

About the failure to properly protect the troops, nothing.

About the use of cluster bombs, nothing.

About the failure to follow the Geneva Conventions, nothing.

About the blatant sell-off of Iraqi assets to US companies, nothing.


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More form fun

OK, this is very nerdish. But here’s another one! I’m filling in a stupid form for Chris, with freeform text boxes. The instructions for these state:

Please limit each comment field to 2500 characters or less. Text should be typed in a continuous line, without using carriage returns.

Did someone uninvent input handling while I wasn’t looking?


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Today it is winter

It snowed overnight. Later I shall frolic upon it. Had I a sledge, and had Cambridge a hill, I would be very surprised. I’ll have to make do watching kids throw themselves off Castle Mound on tea-trays.

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The Joy of Tax

Five days before the deadline, I finally got round to filling in my tax return today. I did so online, and it was painless. For a web application, it’s a pretty good one. I noticed only one absurdity: there’s a box you can fill in “to enter any additional information you feel is needed to support your entries on the Employment form” (box 1.40, tax fans). A note above a big fat text box says:

You should only enter alpha, numeric and the following special characters ()*,-/. You cannot enter more than 2200 characters (including spaces) here.

The £ sign and the Enter or Return key located on your keyboard are not accepted.

Leaving aside the dodgy oh-so-programmerese text, I can’t use a pound sign? OK, it’s only an “additional information” box, but it’s a tax return! I guess this was justified to a PHB using some fluff about character encodings, but it smacks of laziness to me.

And of course I also can’t use plus and equals signs if I want to include some maths, or use a dollar sign if US currency is involved, or quote anything, or use those wacky colons and semi-colons for punctuation, or use multiple paragraphs (erk!), or even use an apostrophe (hey, I know how), an exclamation mark or question mark. I guess I could use txtspk, if only to annoy the Inland Revenue (probably not a good idea).

I didn’t try using the forbidden characters (I didn’t have anything to put in that box). In any case I imagine there’s an amendment to the Criminal Justice bill going through Parliament that makes doing so an offence punishable by five years in prison or something.

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News for parrots, stuff that matters

Parrot’s oratory stuns scientists

The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.

The bird, a captive African grey called N’kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.

He uses words in context, with past, present and future tenses, and is often inventive.

One N’kisi-ism was “flied” for “flew”, and another “pretty smell medicine” to describe the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, an artist based in New York.

When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N’kisi said: “Got a chimp?”

Daughter scotches Churchill parrot claim

The daughter of Winston Churchill has dismissed claims her father was the owner of a 104-year-old parrot which shouts anti-Nazi abuse.

He supposedly entertains customers at the garden centre by squawking anti-Nazi abuse which [current owner] Mr Oram claims it picked up from Churchill.

But [Churchill’s daughter] Lady Soames said: “My father never owned a macaw or anything remotely resembling it.

“Before the war we did have an African Grey for about three years, but that’s quite, quite different from a macaw – it is smaller, or more compact, with a sort of red face.”

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Final check-up

Just returned from seeing my surgeon for the last time. He’s happy with my progress, doesn’t want to see me again, and will send an invoice…

As expected I’m not allowed to do badminton for another three months, or to lift heavy weights ever again. I’m also excused digging and any repetitive lifting. There goes my career as a builder. I could still be a foreman though…

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More Verbier photos…

…are at Chris and Melanie’s web site.

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