Message Of The Day

Fri, 28 Jan 2005

08:59 [zork(~/sam/code)] cat cool-python-idiom.txt

Cool Python Idiom

This is a handy thing if you are playing with big stuff in the python repl.

import os
less = os.popen('less', 'w')
less.write( ... bunch of data written out here ...)

The great thing is also that you can pass less anywhere that you have a filehandle that you're writing to.


What would be really great is if you could make a file object that would invoke less if you have more than $LINES of output in a go. Then you could do:

sys.stdout = less_stdout()

or somesuch.

That would be totally bitchin.

Mon, 24 Jan 2005

02:30 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat Miscellaneous.txt

Old past

I've been sneaking a look at nick's album from his trip to Japan. The snaps of the Tokyo Subway brought back memories of a fun trip I made a couple of years ago, even though I spent most of it on the JR trains. I would never have recognised spicemonkey with the new haircut.

I borrowed the Director's Cut of The Last Emperor from the library as I wanted to see Bertolucci's vision unimpeded. I agree that the rhythm of the film is much better but I don't like the excessive use of colour to depict the emperor's mood. It could have been done more subtlely. I found the scenes of the deserted forbidden city quite moving. Maybe the fillum has stuck in my mind as I almost feel I know the place personally. Reincarnation buffs will be disappointed to know that I am having to work very hard to learn a reasonable number of characters, so unless I was profoundly illiterate in a past life there's not even a vague hint that I have been there before. Besides, the rain-soaked Bradbury Building in Blade Runner is considerably more evocative to me.

I'm glad that, even if nunzilla is quiet at the moment, that sye continues to post thought provoking material.

When I was back in Yoorp for the holidays I was aware that my brother and I are no longer as close as we used to be. We grew up inseperable until I started at secondary school and he didn't join me for a couple of years. We then continued in parallel for another five years. The big break was when I left home for university and although we kept in touch and visited each other there was lot of catching up to do each time. We reunited completely before his first marriage, again after it failed, and again soon after his second marriage. My sister-in-law is very good for him but doesn't like me very much. I think his loyalties have been questioned over the last couple of months and now he has chosen to be a dedicated family man and I am glad for him. But I miss him. I hope that he doesn't get pulled too far away so that we lose contact completely. My sister-in-law has already told me that I am not expected to be there for his big birthday party in June. I think that it is now time for me to be patient but that will be very hard.

Sun, 23 Jan 2005

03:18 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat Snowman.txt

Walking in the air

The wind is blowing the powdery snow into amazing sculpted patterns. I feel like I am destroying art when I walk through it. But then when I come back later I find that the wind has made my footprints part of the art.

I've been out a few times today, just enjoying walking in the snow. There's been a reasonable amount of traffic on the road, but it seems to be of the "I have an SUV and I can go anywhere kind". So it is almost amusing to find them being over-confident and spinning in circles when trying to turn corners. Maybe the drivers will complain to Mercedes Benz or Porsche or whatever that their toy isn't behaving as expected.

I finished Lullaby in two sittings. Excellent stuff! Similar to Fight Club the material is attention-grabbing from the get-go and then just as you are becoming comfortable with one premise he ups the ante and pushes you out even further. This could never be a film unless at least one of the more sensitive issues is removed or toned down, and yet I'd like to see it as a film as his characters are so big. This one reminds me a little of Stephen Wright's work, especially M31 and some of Meditations. Time to go and find some more Palahniuk.

Combing my hair after the shower this morning I realised that my hairline is slowly on the way back. Slicked back it looks a little like Dan Ackroyd's. Is my forehead really that big?

Yesterday, the bossman asked me to come in at 6:30 am for a "management meeting". I can now see the root cause of the problems with our department. They have these regular weekly BS sessions and then don't communicate any of the ideas to the plebs like me, we're just supposed to pick it up by osmosis. I don't know if this has gone too far to be fixed. I declined the offer of being able to attend future meetings until I actually get promoted so that people don't ignore me when I try and fix things. I do hope this left coast opportunity pans out. I need some hope these days. If it works out I'll thank the recruiter and will no longer automatically dislike people from Texarse.

I've alluded to the pull of the west coast at other times. I've rationalised this in many different ways, including things as vague as picking up the vibes from my Dad, and others of his fellow countrymen, that you have to keep moving west. It is also in the works of authors from Steinbeck to Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion. I was also reminded that the theme is there in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That book annoyed me when I first read it as I saw it as a thinly veiled ego-trip. Yet among the many threads there's also the physical movement west from the mid-west to the Pacific coast. Not just the Pacific coast but San Francisco in particular. The metaphor for failure in the book is that the father and the son don't make it, just as they did't make it up the mountain. The author was scared of being in an environment where he couldn't dominate his son and so bad-mouthed an entire time-zone to justify himself before running away. The things that drove him away are the things that are calling me back.

Fri, 21 Jan 2005

04:12 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat ItNeverRains.txt

Life, why do you taunt me so?

Just when things appear to be turning the corner at work I get another call from a recruiter. She has two potential positions, one at a medium-large company in western Connecticut, the other a large company in S.F. Someone up there is laughing at me now. One problem with interviewing at this time of year is that each morning I'll have been digging my car from the snow or waiting a good time for it to climb above the ~0degF temperature. I'm worried that I'm gonna be kinda... vulnerable... Naturally I'll have jinxed my chances by writing about them here but it is good to get that out of the way early.

I should look into how pyBlosxum works as I edited an earlier file containing malformed HTML that screwed up laziness (which seems to be quite sensitive). Unfortunately motd clings to the old version. Okay, cancel that claim. I found that when I touchd the file I accidentally made it younger than the wrong version. All should be okay now.

To stop my descent into only listening to songs from my youth I decided to dig through the library to find tunes I listened to in the last decade. I am currently giving a Fastball compilation a spin. It ain't bad at all, even though I first classified them as a Cake ripoff.

While I was in the library I managed to follow up on my plan to read some more of Chuck Palahniuk's output and grabbed Lullaby.

Thu, 20 Jan 2005

01:19 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat TheAnswer.txt

Life, the universe and everything


Now, what was the question again?

Wed, 19 Jan 2005

06:00 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat update.txt

Where am I now...

Through shear clumsiness I managed to damage my leet stealthmonkey specs so now I am back on the 50's noocleer scientist specials. Some people haven't noticed.

Two strange coincidences. I found that the library has a decent Pratchett collection and decided to fill the gap between the point where I was buying the paperbacks when I was home and when The Brother would buy me the hardbacks as presents. The two books missed in that switch were Carpe Jugulum and Jingo. The former was clearly the set-up for The Fifth Elephant and was okay, but not that strong. I found a belly laugh in the last few pages. Coincidence number 1 was that I took home Jingo at the same time I borrowed the DVD of JFK. By the time I had reached the point where Vimes tells of the theory about "the second bowman" I was grinning. What didn't have me grinning was Ike's speech at the start of the film. The one where he warns about the power of military manufacturers at the end of WW2. Even more poignant was JFK's speech where he says that the world doesn't need a unilaterally imposed pax Americana. Coincidence number 2 involved me borrowing the book Fight Club on the same evening that NPR aired a piece describing how single people tend to shop at IKEA. Eerie huh? I was interested to see how the book would measure up to the fillum. Would it be a weak catalyst for a good movie or was the book even better or were they only distantly related? The answer is that the book is used almost verbatim for the script. There's a little rearrangement and a cleaner ending in the film but otherwise there are no real surprises. The two memorable small chunks from the screen version missing from the book are the aforementioned Gandhi/Lincoln conversation and the short monologue about Marla ("If I did have a tumor, I'd name it Marla. Marla... the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it, but you can't."). Now I have to read some more of Mr. Palahniuk. My favourite non-film piece is;
"..the [after hours dance] club is too loud to talk, so after a couple of drinks, everyone feels like the center of attention but completely cut off from participating with anyone else.
You're the corpse in an English murder mystery."

Current music is mainly T-Rex, Thin Lizzy and ELO in the car. My habit is to switch on the music when the radio begins to annoy me. This doesn't take much lately. Since Our Beloved Leader has decided that a vote for him was an automatic vote for war life has been quite depressing. This was brought home to me listening to the radio tonight when they were talking to a U.S. serviceman who had been pulled from Iraq to help the tsunami victims. His point of view was that now he could REALLY do some good in the world.

I think I had some more to say but I'll close for now.

Tue, 11 Jan 2005

03:39 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat Bonzo.txt

Wrestle poodles, and win!

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the Bonzos. Along with Peter Cook, Viv Stanshall will be sorely missed. While in my car I am listening to the T-Rex compilation during the commute. In this case I had forgotten how prolific Marc Bolan was over a relatively short period of time. Maybe the music when I was growing up didn't suck as much as I remember (Hmmm... Wombles, Rubettes, Bay City Rollers... Yes it DID suck)

I tarred UK television with a fairly broad brush in my last message. Actually it wasn't all bad when I was there. There were some good repeats of classic episodes of Steptoe & Son and Rising Damp, some good documentary overviews of the works of Peter Cook and Eric Morecambe, plus two sitcoms I had missed completely while being over here Black Books (note that the main character has an uncharacteristically cool first name) and Coupling.

Two odd things happened recently. I think the battery in my analog quartz watch is running down. It still keeps good time but now instead of running TICK - TICK - TICK - TICK it runs TICKTICK - - TICKTICK. Which sounds like a heartbeat and is peculiar to see as the second hand pauses for an inordinate amount of time before hurrying to catch up. The second odd thing refers to my dream landscape. In another online diary I noted that this had changed a few months ago from a selection of scenes which, although bearing no direct resemblance to locations in my own life, at least occurred frequently enough for me to become familiar with all of them. The new ones are vaguely related to places I have been in my past but are still disconcertingly different from the old scenes. Last night I ended up with an actual map of my dream city in my hand. I realised that the general area was an aggregate of two locations, each with a different significance in my life. What was most interesting was how the two diverse cities had been combined. This had been achieved by turning one streetplan by 90 degrees using allowing the overlaying of a feature common to the two. I'll now have to pull out maps to see if it works in real life.

On a more somber note, the UK held a nationwide three minute silence in remembrance of victims of the tsunami. This occurred a few days ago, not long after I had taken my seat for the return flight here. I was listening to channel 9 at the time and at Heathrow airport the volume of radio chatter was, not surprisingly, quite high. I wondered if they could actually do anything to acknowledge the event. In the end I was quite moved to hear the ground controller tell all ground traffic at the airport that they were to hold in place with their engines at idle and to refrain from using the radio unless it was an emergency. There was then three minutes of static, mercifully drowning out most of the continuing nattering of many of the passengers around me. That hit me fairly hard. One of the busiest airports in the world was really making a mark of respect for an event that is so huge it is difficult to grasp.

At work today my boss sent a department-wide message describing the efforts being made to replace some of the people who have left over the last few months. Being in an antsy mood I decided to stir the pot by asking publicly for a chance to apply for one of the positions that is two grades more senior than my current state. This was triggered by apparent inactivity by the same boss after a multiplicity of promises made last year. I wanted to achieve two things; 1) to find out exactly why I would be refused the opportunity (maybe I would actually learn how to improve myself) and 2) to show that it is far easier to get hired than it is to get promoted. The boss screwed up my demonstration by replying (privately) that I was actually already under consideration for the position. Two equally unexpected side effects then became manifest. Firstly I found out that one of my technicians knows me far better than I know myself as Zhiwen was quick to guess that I was disappointed by my boss's "capitulation" ("because now you have no one to fight"). Secondly a large proportion of the department either e-mailed me or stopped at my office to tell me that they supported my application and hoped that I succeeded. Bugger! What's the point in me trying to make a pointless, poorly-conceived, suicidal and heroic gesture if people take me too seriously.

"Five years ago I was a four stone apology. Today I am two separate gorillas."

Sun, 09 Jan 2005

09:04 [zork(~/sam)] cat i-still-hate-php.txt

God Help Us All

January Headline: PHP awarded programming language of 2004

The TIOBE Programming Community index gives an indication of the popularity of programming languages. The index is updated once a month. The ratings are based on the world-wide availability of skilled engineers, courses and third party vendors. The popular search engines Google, MSN, and Yahoo! are used to calculate the ratings. Observe that the TPC index is not about the best programming language or the language in which most lines of code have been written.

Fri, 07 Jan 2005

04:09 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat 2005already.txt

The wanderer returns

I'm back from my trip across the pond, just in time for the snow. There was actually a sprinkle on Christmas Day over there but it didn't hang around for very long. My aunt's funeral was okay. My uncle, who has for years been actively alienating himself from relatives and friends, has pissed off more people than ever. I'm worried that he'll now self-destruct. Christmas was quiet. Mum gave me a rather nice Waterman fountain pen. I now have it filled with undiluted carbon black ink and am gradually becoming comfortable with it. I should try it out for calligraphy as that is the only way I'll learn more characters. The wedding in Sligo was fun, as was the reception in Westport. The weather was as grey, wet and miserable as expected but the various aunts, uncles and cousins were as crazy as ever. Since holiday television was truly terrible (even the Beeb seems to reserve the good stuff for the satellite channels) I read a lot of books instead and walked all over the town. I bought some music in the sales - mostly material unlikely to appear in shops over here. Favourites are a Bonzo Dog Band boxed set, an Ian Dury album and a T Rex compilation. Not much else to report. All the best for 2005 y'all.

Thu, 06 Jan 2005

22:16 [zork(~/sam/lees-deli-blt)] cat 20050106.txt

They ran out of Dutch Crunch

There was no dutch crunch bread. So I had to get a french roll. It was quite tasty. I think I may need to retire the dutch crunch selection for a while.

The french roll interacted well with the swiss cheese. All and all goodness.

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