Monthly Archives: September 2007

When spellcheck attacks

In my experience, surfing jobs sites is, by far, the activity most likely to lead to housework. My brain shuts down, all the buzzwords blur into a 48pt all-caps “SOLUTION” swirling around my head, and suddenly I have a clean bathroom.

Occasionally a job advert stands out for all the wrong reasons, such as the mismatch of skills, responsibilities and salary. Sometimes it’s the language used. This one’s a classic sentence, nestling inside the usual company hype:

My client is pioneering new technology which is being used within mobile internet for searching and already causing more than a few raised high brows.

I just love the way it starts out fine – correctly saying “my client is” rather than the ridiculously common “my client are”, before callously omitting the definite article before “mobile internet” and ending on what must surely be a Microsoft Word spellcheck disaster. I actually, literally, laughed out loud.

Yes, this blog entry is pure procrastination.



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Cider with Herring

Chris and I took the 5.15pm train to King’s Cross on Friday – the Cider Express judging by Chris’s intake – to meet up with Chef for Richard Herring’s show at the Arts Theatre on Great Newport Street. I was also going to squeeze in a drink with someone I’ve been chatting to on and off online.

Chris’s two cans of cider on the train were followed up with two pints in the Duke of York on the platform at King’s Cross – his mum was there waiting for a train back to Hull. Chef joined us here.

Then to the evening’s second duke, the Duke of Wellington in Soho, where I was meeting my friend. Chris and Chef thankfully made themselves scarce for the duration.

At nine we headed to the Arts Theatre and took our seats in row A – the second row, the first row naturally being row BB. Nobody sat in row BB, though, so row A was effectively the first row. This mattered deeply as we expected Richard Herring’s chubby little fingers to point to us during the show, and so it proved (some nonsense about Chef sitting with me and Chris to make himself look good). At least none of us was dragged on stage.

He talked more or less non-stop for over an hour, longer than my Fisher Price bladder could last at any rate. Almost entirely new material, with a recycled Fist of Fun joke clearly identified as such. Good stuff.

Avaragado’s rating: one lollipop

After the show, since Chris and I were staying Chez Chef overnight, we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. We settled on the Alastair Little Restaurant on Frith Street. I think Chef’s paydar must have taken us there, since it wasn’t cheap. I had what I believe was the world’s most expensive lasagne. Very tasty though.

Avaragado’s rating: two wild, absolutely livid mushrooms

We scandalously turned down dessert to avoid missing the last tube back to Chef’s in Kentish Town, where further wine was taken.

Chris and I returned to Cambridge relatively early on Saturday morning, via tube, train and, sigh, replacement bus service from Royston.

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Garbage in, garbage out

For the last several weeks I’ve been doing the quiz at the Fleur. I’ve been a core member (read: turned up all the time) of one particular team, and we’ve won 4.5 times. I can tell as the prize is two bottles of wine per win and I have nine bottles in my flat waiting for a team get-together.

The quiz has varied from ramshackle to pretty good. The very first question on the first week was broken. We had to identify a monarch from a photo, and we put Edward VII – which was correct – only to be told that it was a picture of George V. The questionmaster had a bit of a strop when we all told him he was wrong. Never mind, all a bit of fun, etc.

If you remember, the Railway Vue’s quiz had a jackpot round to encourage people to return: a cash prize that increased every week it wasn’t won. The Fleur has had a similar round: before week 1 the questionmaster chose a secret number between 1 and 1000, and each week each team had one (private) guess, to which the questionmaster or designated holder of the secret (privately) replied ‘higher’ or ‘lower’. At some point a team would binary chop its way to the correct answer and win the sum of all entry fees since the quiz began.

The secret number round survived two changes of questionmaster, and we were assured that all our previous guesses were still valid: the secret number hadn’t changed.

The “last quiz of the season” was held on Wednesday evening. By “of the season” I’m pretty sure they mean “of all time” since they’re more interested in serving food these days. The pub also declared that the secret number prize must be won that night: whoever was nearest with their guess would get the pot.

From the answers given to us over the weeks we had four numbers to choose from: our range was 315-320, exclusive. One other team, who we’ll call team B, we also believed to be very close as they’d turned up every week too.

Our guess was 317.

In the quiz itself, we drew with team B. It was a moral victory for us as we had fewer team members and we’d have won outright if only the team’s scribe, who had been banging on all night about how he thought the answer to one question was Mariah Carey, had actually bothered to write Mariah Carey in the blank space rather than witter on about it.

The questionmaster then declared the results of the secret number round. The winners were, he said, team B. Their guess of 327 was closest to the actual number, 369.

Feathers began to be spat. I objected, pointing out that we’d been told the number was less than 320. The questionmaster was embarrassed. We spoke to team B; they’d had a range 320-330. So they’d been misled too. Luckily for them, they were misled closer to the correct answer than we were.

The pub’s owners were on holiday, and the bar staff hadn’t been involved. The questionmaster hadn’t given out the ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ answers, one of the owners apparently had. Team B were happy to take the prize – which, we barely noted in the kerfuffle, was magically now to be split between the winning team and charity.

We had a moan. I said that I’d kept all our previous guesses (Ha! Hoarding vindicated!) and could prove that we’d been diverted from the correct answer. Brendan behind the bar, bless him, spoke to the owners on holiday and they said that if I brought the proof in we’d receive the equivalent prize, which I’m assuming is the same amount of cash but who knows.

I’ve just popped down to the pub to drop off the papers with our previous guesses, “320 – lower” clearly visible. We’ll see what happens next.

And the moral of this story is: there’s no such thing as only a pub quiz.

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The third thing

I think I know what the third thing will be. It’ll be the power cord for my PowerBook. These are notoriously failure-prone, and this evening my cord has suddenly decided to grip much more strongly to the socket at the PowerBook end. I think it knows something’s up.

Or maybe I trod on it. I don’t remember treading on it. But maybe I did.

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Waiting for the third

Things always come in threes: buses, computer problems, and lists of things that come in threes.

At the beginning of the week, oh so long ago now, I decided to modify my email config on the grounds that if it ain’t broke I should tinker with it until it is. I already use my own Linux box as an SMTP server and IMAP server, but the SMTP server isn’t public. I wanted to open it up to authenticated users only (me), so I could use it for sending email while not at home.

Long story short, I broke the cardinal rule and changed too much at once. Net result: incoming email started to disappear into the bit bucket, no idea why (since it had worked for a time). I reverted the changes and on inspecting various log files thought that my libraries might be a bit wonky. Hell, it couldn’t hurt to run revdep-rebuild just to see.

I naturally ran it first with the don’t-actually-do-it option. And it proceeded to not do it quite magnificently – it came to a shuddering halt part-way through the discovery process, while I was writing an email (now that I could do that again). I only noticed the problem when Thunderbird began to whine about its inability to save a draft on the server. It was unable to do so, it transpired, as the server was wedged solid. The console was unresponsive. Caps Lock didn’t.

Oh, I thought, never mind; six months uptime ain’t bad. I powered down and waved the Dyson at it for a few minutes, since the various fans were doubling up as dust factories. Then I powered up.

Well, I pressed the button. Current neglected to flow, and continued to stubbornly resist no matter how many times or how hard I pressed the power button.

Oh, I thought again. I may even have said it out loud.

I checked the things everyone forgets to check: plugged in, switched on, socket working, etc. I wiggled connectors. I banged things. Following a flowchart I found on the innertubes I unplugged disks and cards. Nothing. Knackered power supply or motherboard, the flowchart said – try a replacement power supply first.

Luckily I still have an old server liberated from Tarantella, willing to donate organs for medical purposes. (It’s an old Gateway PC that I think came from the Watford office.) I extracted the PSU and plugged it like an artificial external heart into my sick server, leaving the old PSU where it was (I imagine you’re not supposed to do this, but hey).

It worked! The server came alive, booting as far as it could before it noticed it didn’t have any disks to play with. I powered down again and rejoiced.

Next day I unplugged both temporary and original PSUs. The temporary one had a clunking great fan in just the wrong position for my motherboard – no good as a permanent replacement. I nipped to PC World with the original PSU and found one that would fit, getting a Man to double-check that it would be suitable (what do I know about PSUs?).

Brought it home, plugged it in, turned it on. Brilliant, back to normal.

Half an hour later it wedged again, in the middle of a build. Thankfully cycling the power worked this time but now the CPU fan was in trouble. Hardware guru that I now am, I surmised that if you can see the fan rotating then it may as well not be. Both wedges, it seemed, were caused by a roasty-toasty CPU – the first one pushing the PSU over the edge in a glorious cascade of failure. (This is what you get when you run a six-year-old Evesham desktop PC 24×7 for a year.)

Back to PC World for a new fan which, amusingly to me, screwed right into the heatsink. Yes, that’s better, and quieter too.

I now sit with fingers crossed, waiting for the third thing. I want to do a back-up, but that’ll be it. Maybe I should rebreak my email first.


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Brighton photos

IMG_0321Some photos from Brighton last week.

These are the ones I took after the photoshoot was done, though one of them is poutingly similar.

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Five million for coffee

Whenever I think of unions I think of one particular Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch (1 min 34, just after Rowan Atkinson walks into a tree in a humorous fashion).

That has now changed: I’ve been at the TUC conference in Brighton. You may have seen me on the wireless television. I proposed a motion to Congress calling for the creation of a Union of Web Professionals, with the power to strike whenever some clueless bozo overlord tries to impose a dumb design upon one of their members. Demarcation, brothers, demarcation! Everybody out! Beer and sandwiches! Disastrous comb-overs!

OK, I didn’t do any of that.

But I am currently in Brighton and will remain in that higher state of being until Saturday. I’ve spent the last two days performing impressions of David Bailey, taking over a thousand photos for a new Shazzie project (she’ll whittle them down to the best several hundred). Tomorrow we’ll be pottering about and hopefully playing a round of crazy golf – children and weather permitting.

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New releases from Avaragado Pictures

Tonight was the long-awaited premiere of two, yes two new movies from Avaragado Pictures – Les Arcs 2007 and Rimini 2007. These videos are both now available on YouTube. Or, staggeringly, here.

Les Arcs 2007:

Rimini 2007:

In a surprise development, premiere attendees received Volume 2 of the Avaragado Pictures collection. Covering productions from Agde 2004 through to Rimini 2007, this exquisitely designed and packaged DVD – not available in any shops – is proof that Avaragado Pictures has had a little too much time on its hands recently.


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