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Fri, Feb. 8th, 2013, 01:50 pm
Zombies on speed!

As you may have seen on Twitter, I'm intrigued by the idea of zombies on drugs.

I love the idea of combining scenes from Dawn of the Dead, Robocop and Predator II, and throwing a bunch of zombies into a drug lab. Let them get into the speed and PCP, and all hell would break loose. Then you just need to evacuate the civilians as best you can, burn the building down, and keep an eye out for any breakouts of superfast flaming dead people with awesome powers of concentration.

Then again, if a zombie were on PCP, would you notice the difference?

If you could get them stoned on pot, that could be useful. Maybe spray them with a THC solution that gets absorbed through the skin, though I'm sure that if this were possible, somebody would have commercialised it already. In any case, you'd best get 'em while they're too mellow to do anything, because you really don't want to deal with a horde of zombies with the munchies.

Tue, Jan. 22nd, 2013, 12:44 pm
Anorexia is an insidious bitch

Here's a cautionary tale.
Teenage guy dates pretty teenage girl. Guy works out why girl is so thin, and things get less simple.

There's a photo somewhere of me holding that girl in my arms, with her back draped over one arm and her legs over the other; I remember it being taken. I was a touch more powerfully built when I was 19, but she weighed nothing - you could have stacked three of her in my arms without straining me. Being a teenage girl with controlling parents, she found a way to feel like she had her own control over something in her life... you guessed it. Something about that struck a chord in me, too, and over time I learned to enjoy a chronic, nagging sensation of hunger. It was mine and, with just enough distraction and diversion, I could keep it that way.

I realised I had a problem when I looked in the mirror and could count all my ribs without raising my arms. All of them, including the ones that should have been obscured by pectoral muscles.

It was a problem, I knew that. I'd seen what it had done to my now ex-girlfriend - nothing overtly dramatic, but I loved windsurfing and snowboarding, and she couldn't pedal a bicycle quickly for more than a couple of minutes. It wasn't because she got out of breath, mind - her body simply didn't have more than a small burst of energy to deliver, like a battery that can't hold a charge. If I can tune slow reflexes to look like fast ones, an accomplishment I'm proud of, I could do something with this. So I clarified it in my mind as a hatred of excess body-fat, then patiently worked to mellow it out.

A couple of years later, I worked as a motorcycle courier in London during a particularly bad winter. My body responded as bodies will, and put on a winter coat: I was pudgy! It revolted me to realise that, but the fact that I didn't immediately plunge into starvation was a sign of victory over a chronic problem. I'd won!

...then my next relationship slowly broke down and, after I walked out of that, I was told I looked like I was in the last stages of AIDS: 64Kg isn't a good look on a 6-foot frame that naturally hovers in the mid-70s. Oops.

Flash-forward 15 years, three changes of country and a career. I have a stable relationship with a loving partner, a great job with a good employer, we own an apartment in possibly the most stable country in Europe, and I've been doing a reasonable job of getting fit again. The 6Km Mudmasters course was a blast (think mud-spattered obstacle course for sort-of-grown-ups), and I'm registered for the 12Km course in March. My life has never been better, or more under my own control. I didn't even feel too bad about hitting 40 last year, though it helps that I inherited genes which make me look like I'm still in my mid-30s. Can you imagine circumstances less conducive to a relapse?

So imagine my surprise when my partner pointed out that I've lost a scary amount of weight recently. It didn't take long to put the pieces together: I haven't been through a winter this cold in a decade and a half, making a 20-minute bicycle commute pretty expensive in energy, on top of jogging a 5Km course semi-regularly. My job's almost equal parts intensive brainpower and running up and down four flights of stairs. The company provides food in the office kitchen... but it doesn't even begin to replace what I'm burning, even in combination with a protein shake in the morning and a good meal at night. I hadn't noticed it setting in, but that quietly nagging feeling of hunger has become the backdrop to my working day, and damn, but it's comfortingly familiar. I think the body-fat consumption has been augmented by breakdown of muscle tissue, but I'm too scared to check. Oh yeah: I've never stopped body-checking all these years, even though I hold scales in disdain - it's not the number on the dial, it's the composition. I've just realised that I'm sitting here shivering while typing this out, rather than take off my headphones and put on a jumper; guess what effect that has?

Fuck. I have to do this all over again, I really don't need this problem, and the scariest thing is how good it feels. First-world problems and all that, but when this condition goes bad, it can go very bad indeed, and I have a lot more life to live.

You know what's really ironic? In the last few years, I've learned to love cooking, and even to enjoy eating. I have a series of blog-posts coming about my adventures with paella, and I'm slowly expanding my repertoire in general. We discovered a great gourmet restaurant recently, and plan to go back regularly. It's not my weight, it's not dislike of food, it's not stress, and it's not even about body-fat levels - this time, it's just the reassuring sensation of being chronically hungry.

At least now I know what it is and what to do about it, and have plenty of extrinsic motivation to work with: I have that mud-race to get through, and am determined to do it in as much style as you can when sliding down a hillside on your lycra-clad arse. I want to complete my first triathlon. We live within reach of the Alps; I want to go snowboarding again. In summer, I want to start cycling to nearby towns, just to take photos and have a picnic, and to get back into rock-climbing. I have too much to do, to let this get in the way. But now I know I have to watch my food intake every bloody day, keep track of my muscle mass somehow, and make sure my bodyfat doesn't drop too low. I may start taking regular photos of myself to track my condition, because I can't trust the mirror any more.

What's my point here? It's not for support for myself; I have that in spades. It's a warning for others, and more reassurance that it can be managed, even if it apparently never leaves you. It's not just for girls, for models, or for teenagers. It doesn't make you look good, or improve anything about your life; it just makes you look like you need to stop starving yourself.

Mon, May. 21st, 2012, 04:42 pm
Still alive

Moved to Amsterdam, and loving it.
Currently on a medium-term lease, to give us time to find a long-term place. Really looking forward to finding that place and moving into it, and to being reunited with the possessions that are coming by sea.

The cats are doing well, modulo the occasional drama and possibly a vet visit for more dental work.

It's odd. Life has been on hold for months while we've waited for this to come through, then it was a whirlwind, and now it's busy but settling into new patterns - and I still can't really think of anything worth posting about. Those who are still actually reading this: is there anything you want to hear about?

Tue, Oct. 25th, 2011, 12:17 pm
RIP John McCarthy

Originally posted by xach at RIP John McCarthy
John McCarthy 1927-2011

Tue, Apr. 19th, 2011, 05:08 pm
So, you tweak the frobnibbitzer, then gently shake the gweeble...

...subtitled, "the trials and tribble-ations of fountain-pen ownership."

We were forced to use these things when I were a lad in school. I remember being mystified at the rate at which they spontaneously failed to work while in my care, and I'm sure my parents were less than pleased at having to maintain a standing order for replacements. But our teachers did induce me to write in a relatively pleasing manner, even if they never actually bothered to tell us that they were teaching us some variation of Copperplate, Georgian or Spencerian.

I've used them periodically over the years, and was finally forced to conclude that my long-serving cheap-ass Osmiroid teach-yourself-calligraphy model was never going to stop leaking ink, no matter how long or sweetly I implored it to restrict its ministrations to whatever paper was in direct contact with its tip. As fond as I am of the venerable dip pen, they're a bit short on practical portability.

So I bought a Summit (c1950) not so long ago, and was pleased. A real lever-filling fountain pen, complete with semi-flexible nib! I was mightily pleased, and began to use it regularly at work. Yes, even as a sysadmin in a determinedly internet-based company I still do an awful lot of handwriting, as well as drawing. But one day at a training course, I dropped it a couple of inches to my desk, and then the problems began. OK, so "problem," but it's turned up in a variety of ways.

In short, my pen keeps refusing to write.

I've tried:
- staring at it in frustration
- pleading with it, complete with puppy-dog eyes
- insistently and repeatedly dragging the point across the paper in the hope that this will induce ink to find its way down the split in the nib
- shaking it
- soaking the nib in water for a few seconds. This worked... for a while. Then it didn't work any more.
- emptying it of ink, flushing it with water, then re-filling it with ink
- buying a new pen (a Conway Stewart 85L this time), to provoke it to work out of some combination of jealousy and insecurity
- screwing the cap carefully in place, then bouncing it point-down on my desk
- getting it looked at by the denizens of a pen shop, who appear to have gotten as far as using the lever to propel ink from the sac, but not as far as establishing whether that continues to work (hint: I told them that I'd already tried this)
- buying new ink that is actually designated as being intended for use in fountain pens
- emptying it of ink, flushing it with water, drying it out and filling it with said new ink

This latter manoeuvre worked for a while, then once again my words dried up mid-sentence. Mid-word, even.

Heeding advice previously found on one of the surprisingly many pen-fancier websites, I tried storing it in an upright position. This worked just long enough to give me hope, before crushing said hope in a way that only a watery fade-out can do.
In desperation, I tried using gravity, by defying the afore-mentioned advice and setting it upright but point-down.

It works! So far, anyway. It's dumb, and probably wrong, but it's working. It's also propped upright in the cardboard box in which my new ink-bottle was sold, so at least if I come back tomorrow to find it's leaked everywhere, I'll have restricted the definition of "everywhere" to a reasonably small area on top of a much larger, also ink-absorbing cardboard box.

Mon, Apr. 4th, 2011, 10:07 pm
Ah, those hazy days...

For those still actually reading this thing, my photos from Fair Day are here.
If I took a photo of you and it's not here, I apologise for taking a bad photo.

Mon, Feb. 21st, 2011, 10:47 am
Awesome weekend, in point form

- double bass lesson on Saturday. Having a good teacher really does help.
- I appear to have graduated from my P plates with paella
- had a very fun evening with a couple that we don't see nearly often enough
- it was a wonderful feeling, being able to provide mementos of a wedding, doubly so under the circumstances
- my first Fair Day
- bear couples are incredibly sweet
- so many utterly adorable lesbian couples. I don't know why; they just are.
- I keep getting surprised by discovering yet another way of defining family. Vanilla hetero prudes can go hang, they really can.
- my photo workflow needs revamping again
- discovered that I don't want to replace my favourite lens with the f/2.8 version, because I'm just not built to carry one of those things around and shoot with it for hours on end. They're awesome, but heavy.
- I'm not so good with directed event shoots, but man, do I ever have fun just pulling moments out of a crowd!
- still in love with goldfishgeorge. Yeah, I knew that'd come as a shock.

Sat, Feb. 5th, 2011, 05:42 pm
Haba na haba...

There's an old Swahili saying, along the lines of "bit by bit, the basket gets filled."

Some time back, I got annoyed enough to ask, "so just how hard is it to write a wiki, anyway?" I knew it was a dumb question even as I asked it, but there are some architectural ideas that I wanted to explore, and I wanted one that was done right, rather than a bunch of features stuck on with duct-tape.
I'm so very nearly there. The backend is just plain text, but that will be easily replaced with an RDBMS-based one, and there's no reason I couldn't add one for, say, a VCS.

Importantly, though, it now supports both types of markup that interest me: regular wiki-style, and CL-style s-expressions. The wikimarkup is missing a feature or two, like lists, but the important bits like links are there, and there's a mechanism for adding arbitrary bits of markup - the latter of which is how the hyperlinking was implemented.

There's a huge amount of work to be done yet, like logins, permissions and handling of concurrent use by multiple users, but it's now so very close to actually being useful.
So close, in fact, that I'm already using it to document my work on it.

This is probably the point at which I should go through and make sure the code's as clean as I can reasonably get it, document it, and release it for the world to ignore at its leisure.

Sun, Jan. 30th, 2011, 03:30 pm
Oh look, another parameter to check!

Con-men and -women, fraudsters, burglars, thieves... damn, but they make life tedious.

I'm rewriting the payment section of a website, to verify confirmation messages from a payment handler. Actually processing the order is trivial, but I'm spending hours writing code to confirm that the message came from the right site, has the right password, is intended for the right merchant (me), is for a valid order, has the right customer details...
...and if just reading that made your eyes glaze over, imagine how much fun I'm having writing the code because of people with that compulsive need to get one over on somebody else.

Hanging's too good for them: a bit of build-up, a moment of terror, then it's over. Even years of hard labour in a prison gang, as apt as it seems for other crimes, doesn't quite cut it. No, I want them to sit through lecture after lecture about the effects of what they do. I want them to spend week after week in community service, cleaning up the same place again and again like Sisyphus with a broom. I want them to cry with tedium as they hear yet another account of a life that was ruined through some too-good-to-be-true investment con. I want them to turn into good little droogs who choose not to pull another scam because they just can't take another six-hour session of hearing every last little mind-numbing, finger-blunting line of code that somebody had to write when he could have been doing something that actually benefitted people instead of mitigating actions that don't need to be taken.

I've been through a burglary and spent a couple of years learning not to jump at every strange noise, and had to stay home for three days after another attempted one, in case they came back before the door was repaired. I've been through weeks of aftermath from a break-in of my employer's network, and now I'm investing yet more work in security on my own systems.
You know what I resent most, what really pisses me off more than anything else? The amount of time and energy that was wasted because somebody just had to be an asshole, and that I'm not getting back.

Tue, Jan. 25th, 2011, 12:17 pm
Manners, you say? How very old-fashioned!

It seems China is teaching its kids some lessons in manners.
Bravo, I say! Could we please have some of that over here? It'd be wonderful to catch the kids before they're taught that rudeness is a sign of strength and importance, and to give remedial lessons to those who may be somewhat past school age.

Sun, Jan. 16th, 2011, 08:57 pm
It's such a perfect day...

Plans were made, plans were changed, plans got derailed, new plans multiplied the awesome, and previous plans were returned to after a bit of a detour.
Classic wine, perfect steak, things in aquariums, hundreds of photos and wonderful company. It's hard to ask for more, really.

I'm just a bit fond of goldfishgeorge - have I mentioned that recently?

Fri, Jan. 7th, 2011, 02:20 pm
Happy post

Looking back over my recent posts, the overall tone isn't too positive. Let's face it: last year started out badly and went rapidly downhill from there, albeit with a few redeeming diamonds scattered among the rubble.

However, things are definitely on the up at the start of 2011:
- goldfishgeorge still rocks my little socks off
- I'm vaguely fit, and steadily getting my body back into the kind of shape I like it having
- work life continues to rock
- after all these years, I finally have a definite direction in which I'm driving my career
- my employers like that direction
- we're steadily taking care of all those little things around the home that we've been meaning to get around to
- all those side-projects and pursuits are almost spontaneously coming back to life
- every day brings forward progress on at least one important front
- I've learned to identify things that are never actually going to go anywhere, and jettison them
- I've found ways to get each aspect of my life to reinforce at least one of the others
- obstacles are all being either routed around or drilled through, in the spirit of Hannibal

Basically, it's all coming together nicely.

Fri, Jan. 7th, 2011, 01:58 pm
In the round... but where is the round?

I know I loaned my Def Leppard DVD to somebody a while back, but have no recollection of who it was. If you have it, could you please speak up? It'd be nice to get it back in its home collection again.

Tue, Dec. 21st, 2010, 09:35 am
*insert standard expression of disbelief*

If you'd told me a year ago that I would not only choose to jog to work, but actually find it fun... well, the fun part took me by surprise this morning, so nothing's changed there.

Apparently I've found my way onto the upward slope to fitness where, now that I've inserted the thin end of the wedge, it just sort of spirals headlong to the beat of its own drummer. It's great, for sure, but just a little bit disorienting.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2010, 01:16 pm
Yes, and this is its year on the desktop

How to instantly stop me reading your otherwise interesting article comparing Windows and Linux: claim that there are fewer attacks in the wild for Linux because it's not as widely used. I won't even get to the next sentence in which you condescendingly explain that more attacks will be seen when it gets enough market-share to be worthwhile. This is the point at which I know you're talking shit, and that whatever follows isn't worth bothering with.

I've been hearing this BS for over a decade now, and it was as false then as it is now.

First objection: Sutton's Law
When you consider how much money is managed on Unix and Linux systems—Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and, recently, Linux are all favoured by financial institutions—it would only make sense that suitably motivated crackers would be looking for a way in. I used to work for one of the biggest of those institutions, and I can assure you that people are trying it all the time. Since Linux is quite remarkably similar to Unix, any work done towards cracking a Solaris system is a head-start on cracking a Linux one.

This goes even more for mainframes, since that's where the really heavy lifting goes on, and I've never even heard of an exploit in the wild for one of those.

Do you really expect me to believe that profit doesn't motivate at least some of the malware writers out there? Like the ones that have admitted to working for organised crime outfits?

Second objection: actually, there are lots of Linux systems out there.
It's hard to get exact stats, but the desktop and server markets have been financing both Red Hat and Canonical for quite a while now, and Red Hat wasn't founded by a millionaire.
Oh, and then there are all the phones, kiosks and myriad other devices that are running Linux underneath it all. Get over it, Windows fanboys - lots of people actually do use it.

Third objection: reputation gain.
Both Unix and Linux have a reputation for being relatively secure, even if that nice man Mr Gates has personally assured you otherwise. What seems to motivate crackers more than money is kudos. Credits. First-hack bragging rights. That, and the sheer challenge of getting in despite the hard work of people who try to make it as hard as possible.

Who do you admire more? The blokes who first made it to the top of K2, or the hundredth tourist to amble up Observatory Hill this morning? Exactly. Which one attracts the ambitious climber who wants the respect and adulation of his peers? I'll give you a hint: it's not the one in Sydney with a gentle slope and paved footpaths.
If Linux really wasn't that hard to break into despite its reputation, wouldn't that be an easy win?

Fourth objection: Apple.
Mac OS was very popular, and Mac OS X (its Unix-based replacement) is more popular yet. How many exploits are there in the wild for that? Or are you going to tell me that this isn't sufficiently popular or well-known to be attacked either?

Sorry, kid, but Linux actually is that much harder to break into than Windows. Now will everybody please get over it and stop spreading this around?

And no, I didn't bother logging in to leave a comment on the article. I can't be arsed with being forced to create yet another account for a trivial, one-off action.

Fri, Nov. 19th, 2010, 07:11 pm
I did it!

I made it home from work on foot: 6.22Km in just under 37 minutes, which is faster than using the light rail, about the same as taking the bus (assuming I don't have to wait for it to arrive) and not quite twice the time needed by motorbike.

OK, so I did slow down to a walk for many of the uphill sections, but that's just room for improvement. Even so, that's not too bad a commute from the city to the Inner West. It didn't even leave me feeling wrecked, so it should be feasible to do this several times a week, if not daily. The personal training, it worked!

Yes, I'm writing about it in my online journal. Cope :P

Thu, Nov. 18th, 2010, 09:37 am
And so the meme persists

Some people, when confronted with a network problem, think "I know, I'll whack in some static routes". Now they have lots of problems.

One day, somebody here is going to try again to shoehorn static routes back into this network, and they're going to look really surprised when I tear out their liver and stuff it down their throat.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2010, 02:57 pm
Ah, summer. Season of the fridge.

A balloon soars free
Far below in the playground
A child is screaming

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2010, 01:33 pm
...just a bit less equal

This isn't something I do often, but a motion for marriage equality is being considered in the Australian House tonight.

Here's a chance to spam your MP in the hope of helping to push it through at last.

Sat, Nov. 6th, 2010, 08:53 pm
Your credibility and you. A cautionary tale.

...hopefully it doesn't lose too much in the translation.

Last time goldfishgeorge and I ventured overseas to visit her in-laws, we were treated to a display in the departure lounge from a couple of nouveau-riche social-climbers. Tacky, overdone, loud and determined to make a show of being fabulous, they were greeting and schmoozing for all they were worth. You could have heard eyes rolling from Perth, but they seemed to be maintaining appearances well enough.

On arrival at the far end, the show continued in the ramps and hallways from the plane to Customs. The whole thing would have passed with nothing more than strained eyeball muscles had they not insisted on broadcasting a discussion about what to buy in Duty Free.
"What flavour of veesop do your parents drink?"

Fri, Nov. 5th, 2010, 04:04 pm
Paging senior sysadmins

Just in case somebody suitable is reading this:

We need another senior sysadmin in the Sydney office. You'd get to play with Linux, Cisco IOS, lots and lots of Sun JVMs, OpenVZ and whatever else is floating around. Time is divided between tasks, firefighting, opportunistic redesign and dreaming up cool new stuff. The team uniform is jeans and either Think Geek or Top Gear T-shirts, and a sizeable back-catalogue of IT horror-stories and battle-scars is mandatory. We're not on-call as such, but sometimes there's no way around doing stuff in the weekend.

Sun, Oct. 3rd, 2010, 06:27 pm
Stuff happens

Good stuff, even, though I may have taken a while to find the time to actually write a post about it.

The AGNSW had an exhibition called Paths to Abstraction, which sounded quite intriguing, so I wandered along. Hey, they were featuring works from Matisse, Money, Picasso and Kandinsky - who was I to resist?
Holy cow! Suddenly the whole damn thing made sense!

They laid it out perfectly, showing the progression from people realising they didn't have to represent the scene exactly, thanks to Impressionism, through Cubism to fully abstract art. Picasso's Man with a guitar was where the lightbulb went on, and from there, I (think I) actually grokked the abstract stuff. I'm sure it's exactly what people have been trying to explain to me for the last 20 years, but this exhibition laid out the dots in a way that even I couldn't help but connect.

I may have gotten just a bit excited and inspired by this.

Then, last weekend, we went for a walk further down Parramatta Road than we usually travel. Billy Hyde has been taken over by Allan's Music, and were having a sale, so we just had to go in and poke around, even though I insisted that there wasn't anything I actually needed.

Well, no. There wasn't, as such. But there was a Steinberger electric upright bass going for less than half-price, and I've been thinking seriously about going that way for a while. The salesdude was slightly taken aback by goldfishgeorge talking me into it and me trying to be sensible about it, but he recovered a bit when I gave in.

Pics under the cutCollapse )

So, now I have to find a double-bass teacher, because the consensus appears to be that lessons aren't nearly as optional with upright as they are with electric bass. Erm... anybody have any recommendations? I've found two likely-looking candidates, but known-good is always better than "the one what I found via Google."

Tue, Sep. 28th, 2010, 08:17 am
More passive-aggressive ranting about drivers

If you're matching pace with the vehicle in the next lane, and they keep speeding up and slowing down, the chances are good that they're trying to change lanes. Blocking them like this leaves them with two options:
- slam on the brakes to get behind you before you can cut them off again, then change and accelerate furiously to come back up to an appropriate speed
- nail the throttle to get in front of you before you can cut them off again, and quite probably cut you off by accident when switching lanes and hitting the brakes

What is it with pace-matchers? Do their higher brain functions just shut down when they're following a straight(ish) road?

Mon, Sep. 27th, 2010, 10:07 am
Random question to the Sydney crowd

Is it summer when we've found the first redback of the season, or is it not really here yet until the state has been declared to be a tinderbox?

And why has this (cute and hyperactive) tiny spider decided that I'm its new home?

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