50 Pence

I first heard the 50 Pence [update: he has his own entry on wikipedia? weird] tracks mixed up somewhere deep within a DJ Yoda/Greenpeace scratch'n'sniff session, but finally got around to locating the originals with some careful detective work (OK, 30 seconds on google, but you get my point).

Here they are:

In Da Pub


I see Biddies.mp3

Meanwhile, James introduced me to the delights of Badwrong Falsepaul at christmas, and I found a copy shortly after. It's a delightful song explaining the conspiracy theory about the death of Paul McCartney in 1966.

Badwrong Falsepaul

And, carrying on the theme of odd mp3s I have collected, here is "Hold My Hand Very Tightly" from Rick Wilson of Your Sinclair fame... but I don't need to explain it, there's a helpful encyclopedia article or three (one two three)to explain it all.

Hold my hand (very tightly)


Phising for compliments

A large fraction of my incoming spam is phishing attempts. Which is handy, since it makes it much easier to filter: I just have to filter for simple keywords like "ebay", "paypal", "account", "unauthorised" and so on in the subject, and drop it into my spam file. Whenever I remember, I go through it and see if anything has fallen in there by mistake (usually not). This seems to have taken a lot of spam out of my inbox. One day I should get around to using some proper spam filtering software, but since I read my email through pine on a unix box and do most of my filtering using procmail, this might be more difficult. Or at least too much effort for me to bother trying. Incidentally, this is pretty much the same way in which I read email in 1995, which shows how much I am moving with the times...

Follow the leader

Where I lead, boingboing follows, only three months later.

The Flood

The first horrifying pictures are beginning to arrive... people's lives washed away by the terrible flood... children lying in the mud, crying... but, yeah, too obvious... fill in the rest yourself.

Now here's a thing. Brer Tony made a speech today in which he said "Of the top 20 universities in the world today, only two are now in Europe."

Only two are now in Europe? What, some of the others used to be in Europe but have suffered continental drift.

And which two universities could he be referring to? Possibly this is the list he was using, in which case the two in quesion are Oxbridge and Camford... funny that he should use an example that only refers to the UK and not really to the rest of Europe. Go top fifty, and he could have had his pick of Imperial, Zurich, Utrecht, Paris, Munich, Stockholm, and Edinburgh. But he didn't.


Conversations with my USB port

Me: Hello computer, here is my new digital camera.
USB port1: OMFG! WTF? Issa digital camera.
Me: Yes, that's right, it's a digital camera. I just plugged it in.
USB port1: OMFG! ROFL, LOL. I spose you want me 2 install it for you.
Me: If you wouldn't mind.
USB port1: LOL. kthxbye. Can I contact Windows update? Just this once? I promise I won't tell them about the warez and risque wallpaper that you have.
Me: Why not just read the files off this disk?
USB port1: WTF? I am teh l33t connecter. Are you sure? I mean, this disk may contain viruses and shit.
Me: It came with the camera. It's fine.
USB port1: What*ever*... am installing new hardware. Ooh! It looks like a digital camera.
Me: Yes, I just told you that.
USB port1: Gr8! Why don't I install some kickass drivers for it. Meanwhile, look at a cute icon of a camera.
Me: Get on with it.
USB port1: Booyakasha. OK, all done now.
Me: Finally.

Some time later:
Me: Hello again, plugging my camera in again.
USB port2: OMFG! WTF? Is a digital camera!
Me: What? Don't go through this again. You know what this is. We already spent ten minutes installing drivers for this.
USB port2: OMFG! ROFL, LOL. No that was USB port1 you installed it on. I'm USB port2. You know, the USB port right next to port1. I'm going to need to install some drivers. Can I go to windows update? Pretty please? I promise I will only make snide comments about your dubious taste in semi-legal mp3z?
Me: Oh, FFS...

See also the much funnier travails of Lucas Kovar.

Meanwhile, if anyone can tell me why every time you plug the same device in a different USB port the computer reacts like a character in a PKD novel, please let me know...


"We are dead clever and you aren't"

I just noticed that my favourite Enfield-based self-obsessed software company (no, not Ensoft, I mean the other lot) has a slogan, "Doing Difficult Things Well". Which strikes me as an exceptionally bad motto. Perhaps it's that I've always been wary of the adverb 'well'. What does this phrase mean, exactly? What led to this choice of words? The message that they are really trying to communicate is that they are clever. Much cleverer than you, in fact. That's why you need to hire them to solve your problems for you. But they can't say that directly. So instead, they just point out that the stuff that they do -- all of it -- is difficult. Really diffcult. But that's not enough. It's not enough to just do things that are difficult. Any fool can do difficult things. But it takes a special kind of fool to do difficult things well. And that's what they do. They do difficult things. Well. Well, they do difficult things. They do well difficult things.

But why stop there? Why not "Doing Difficult Things So Well we make them look really easy"? Or "Doing Difficult Things Well; While Caring Deeply about the Environment"? Or "Doing Difficult Things Well but Doing Easy Things Really Quite Averagely"? The list is endless. Apart from the fact that this is the end of the list.

It also makes you wonder how "Difficult Things" was arrived at. What other formulations were drawn up at great expense and then dropped? Possibly "Tough Stuff", "Tricky Shit", "Hard Problems", "Clever Gubbins", "Computery Fings" all were proposed before "Difficult Things" was accepted. What thought has gone into this slogan! Or rather, what thought has gone into this slogan? Too much, if you ask me. Oh. You didn't.

Now let's see if my awesome page rank can push this entry up above their home page...


Advance Warning

To all the players in the U of K, I'll be in England between 13 July and 31st, except that I will be in Germany 17--22nd. Provisional plans will put me in Maidstone, London, Oxford and Cambridge at various points along the way. Unless I get too tired, in which case I will sulk and stay at home. So, if you want to meet up for a cup of tea, a drink, or a seminar on the power of sublinear algorithms, let me know and I'll see if I can slot you in. Usually caveats apply: your home may be at risk, and may cause cancer. Take care.


Just back from Baltimore, but worth reporting that these Soviet-style posters are really being shown out there. Not clear whether these are evidence of complete lack of irony, or whether it is subversion by a graphic designer in the metropolitan transit authority.  Posted by Hello


Missing songs found

boingboing and others report on the fact that iTunes has sold an average of 21 songs per iPod. Where do the other songs come from, they ask?

This is the wrong question. One of my friends has an iPod mini. "How many songs do you have on it?" I asked. "Eleven". It was ten, to begin with, but that was just silly.

So there's your answer: the reason that there are on average 21 songs sold per iPod is partly because sometimes, 21 songs is just too many to deal with.

btw, I've been away for a bit. I'm still away. I'll be back in a while. Is that OK?


4. Here's the real giveaway: this is Frist all the way (although, admittedly, this is what I tend to think of as the back entrance). Certainly you can see some goods deliveries going on. There we go, problem solved. Now all that remains is to do something to address Frist and his nooclear option [which hasn't really been resolved yet, just postponed]. Posted by Hello

3. This shot gives more away. The Frist center is most likely the focus of this shot. Although the building in the background (not sure which one though -- any guesses?) looks newish, it wasn't in the previous shot. The tower in the foreground, by the way, is Fine Hall, which houses the mathematics department, and is home to more Fields medals winners than... your house is. Probably. Unless you happen to live in a house with six Fields Medal winners, in which case you are on course for the makings of a short lived and not particularly funny sitcom called "I remember when it was all Fields" or something similar. But I digress. Posted by Hello

2. This opening tracking shot shows large lumps of the princeton campus. Central in the pictures is what I think is the faculty club (the old looking building with two rounded wings sticking out) [it's actually the McCosh Health Center according to a map]. But, given the modern look of the PPTH, this is probably not the intended location. To the left and below are various bits of uninspiring dorms and off picture is the train station (Princeton residents, please correct me). To the upper right is the Frist center, above a large lawn, and then an older looking building (not sure which one [map says it is Guyot Hall]. Incidentally, one of the squat buildings at the forefrong houses Eno Hall where I once had an uninspiring meeting with some ecologists.  Posted by Hello

See, even the New York Times agrees with me: House is quite good. So watch it. Meantime, let's take a closer look at the location of the fictional "princeton-plainsboro teaching hospital". Posted by Hello



I am an addict.

There, that wasn't so difficult, was it?

And what is the nature of my addiction? Why, it is to top new televisual drama series "House".

I ignored this show for most of the year. But I read some mentione of it which gave the crucial fact that the lead character is played by Hugh Laurie [follow the link to the IMDB and dicover that he is "sometimes credited as Stephen Fry"]. Laurie plays Doctor House who is a House Doctor. Do You See What They Have Done There? House is your more or less standard issue drama based around a central character. His flaws are write large: he seems to hate the world, and is only engaged enough to cure mysterious diseases when the challenge of finding out what is wrong with people is sufficiently interesting. Laurie gives excellent characterisation by putting on a fake American accent and a pronounced limp (L-I-M-P, pronounced limp (c) Fry & Laurie about 1992). Sounds awful and forgettable, but somehow it's not. This is due in no small part due to Laurie who plays House as something of an amiable sociopath, with the darkest sense of humour and a talent for making his many caring acts seem like indifference at best. There's also a decent amount of gore from the many strange and exotic diseases suffered by the patients.

Each episode is centred around a single case. The episode begins, "Casualty" style with a before-the-credits view of the poor victim in the moments leading up to their hospitalization. So there's a chance to play "guess who's going to get it" at various points. Thanks to director Bryan Singer (X-Men), we get all kinds of graphic internal CGI showing us muscles fraying and snapping; arteries clogging; hearts stopping; brains hemorraging; and even psychotic hallucinations taking place. You may wonder how you draw out the diagnosis and treatment of a single disease to the standard 40 minutes, given that it's fairly snappily edited and, this being an extremely well-funded US private hospital, there's no waiting around for test results to get back from the lab. Well, of course there are back plots -- maybe another patient with a different problem gives some insight into the main case, or casts light on the character of House and his supporting cast of doctors -- but that's not nearly enough. No, what makes this truly joyful to watch (if somewhat repetitive) is that House and his trinity of junior doctors keep getting the diagnosis wrong. Constantly. Usually about four or five times. In most episodes, the treatment for the misdiagnosed condition causes the patient to take a serious turn for the worse, with more choking, seizing, bleeding or falling into a coma. Still, they usually manage to muddle through and cure the patient. In a few cases, the patient does die in the end, but they were doomed from the start because their disease was incurable, and at least House gets to know what it was.

There are a few more reasons why this show appeals to me. Firstly, it's set in New Jersey, a state which, if not close to my heart, at least contains my body. The hospital is meant to be the Princeton-Plainsboro teaching hospital. [which does not really exist by the way]. However, the show in filmed in LA, so most of the exterior scenes are really not at all convincing. They do however use shots of the delightful Frist center in Princeton to illustrate the hospital. [Named after for the family of Bill Frist I discover to my mild revulsion]. So occasionally there are some New Jersey elements in the plot, such as a patient from Maplewood (which is two stops on the train from where I live).

Secondly, it seems to be a new home for actors from other Fox shows. One episode features "John Doe". It's good to know that, although it was never explained, he finally did recover his memory, leave Seattle, and settled down in suburban New Jersey with a lovely wife who went on to suffer from some mysterious tropical disease. And the last episode I saw featured a resurrected Nina Myers (see, I knew Jack didn't really kill her), who has now moved to New York and become a neurotic CEO of a cosmetics company.

So rush out and see the show! USians, you'll have to wait till later in the year, when Fox has commissioned a second season; until then, your local Fox affiliate is probably showing some selected repeats at some point in the week. Meanwhile, UKadians, watch out! House is coming to Channel Five (sorry, "Five") this week. 9th June at 10pm according to the internet, so rush out and, er, stay in for it. Or something.