What Time is It?

I was just doing a backup, and noticed that it seemed to be copying a lot files that hadn't changed -- in fact, pretty much every file.

A short while later, I worked out the problem. Using rsync under Cygwin on windows means that you are stuck with Window's idea of time. And Windows handling of daylight saving time is, well, broken. So, according to the operating system, the two copies of the files were different, since one was modified an hour later than the other.

There's no clean fix for this idiocy, but a simple solution (other than copying everything over again) is to set the rsync modify window to something more than an hour. For this application, the backup only happens once every few months, and so it is unlikely to cause a problem. But I'm glad I figure this out, rather than have to wait all night for the system to carefully change the file time of every file by exactly an hour...

Interesting news from the Observer (bottom left of picture): apparently George Best's condition is improved. That's a matter of opinion, surely. given the main story? Posted by Picasa

House Mouse

No elephants, but we do get to see House play with a mouse. Well, a rat. Don't kill Stuart! I know you're all bitter and twisted since Geena Davis left you to become President of the USA, but that's no reason to tak it out on your adopted son!
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House and Home


In the latest episode of House, we get to see where the medical detective lives. This looks like nowhere I know in New Jersey (not surprising, since most of the filming takes place on the West Coast), although the producers did at least manage to get the car (out of shot) Jersey plates.

The picture shows House and Wilson standing outside House's house. No, I'm not going to mention the elephant...
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Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving, the rather dull American holiday. As usual, I have work to do, and as usual, the rest of the country appears to be asleep. The annoying thing is that there's virtually no activity on the blogosphere, as the authors of the ones I usually read appear to be working off their excessive turkey consumption, so I'm working with almost no distractions. Very unusual.

A new mobo arrived for hughanchor today, but for whatever reason I can't be bothered to operate while he seems to be in reasonable health, and it will probably take a while to carry out the transplant. Still, that'll be something to do on a rainy day when I don't have anything important to be doing. Which might be a long time. It is better than my current motherboard (it has 800FSBs, which must be good) and cost virtually nothing, so it will be worth doing it eventually.

Still, staying in is safer than going out. Find some video of the incident, and see if you can see the strings!


The binbag murders are back on!

After using hughanchor for most of the weekend, I was powering down, when a blue screen popped up with a page_fault stop error. So, it looks like the problem is not yet cured. I've ordered a replacement motherboard, since this is now the only remaining culprit, and I'll swap it over when I get time. May not be for a while, the board is unlikely to show up before the quaint "Thanksgiving" holiday they seem to get so excited about round these parts, so it'll have to wait till later in december.

Separated at birth?


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The person on the left is the Colin Hanks playing mathematician Marshall Penfield in a recent episode of Num3rs. The person on the right is mathematician Emmanual Candes who, according to Suresh is an occasional advisor to the show. I think they look similar. Am I right?

Taking the heat

Top news from my old uni: the union is trying to copyright the concept of heat. For their next trick, they'll patent the idea of a "disc jockey" playing records in a "night-club".


Overread on the train

I was reading someone's newspaper over their should on the train yesterday. Unfortunately, the newspaper was in a language I couldn't read (possibly Cantonese, but I couldn't really say). But at least I could work out what the story was about--- to me, it looked like this:


Another story read


So I suppose it was the business or electronics pages...

Children's songs for the modern age...

"You're a pink toothbrush, I'm a bluetooth brush"

Feel free to add your own...

I Dream of Keira...


I heard the following snippet on the radio yesterday, a piece on mental illness.

"Blacks and latinos get diagnosed with schizophrenia at a higher rate than whites, even though all groups are affected with equal probability."

I still don't understand this statement. Perhaps I'm missing something subtle.


Reproducible results

In this wacky world of academic research, it's quite normal for people to take a paper which has been rejected from a conference, fix it up a bit, and then resubmit it to a different conference. Nothing wrong with that. The reviews from referees often give useful pointers as to how to improve the results, or explain the problem better, and so on.

This being a small world, it's not impossible for a reviewer to receive a copy of a paper submitted to a conference that they have read before. Again, this is no bad thing: having already read and understood it once, the reviewer has a better insight into it a second time round, and can (provided they keep careful records) compare the two versions and see how it has been improved.

I've just finished reading a submitted paper that I reviewed much earlier this year. It seemed quite familiar, so I dug out the original copy I reviewed. Then I went through the two of them line by line. The two of them are identical. Almost. A few sentences have been cut from the current version, presumably for space reasons. And the introduction has been rewritten a bit. But that's all. Technically, there is no difference between the two. Which is not good, since the paper sucked the first time I read it, and I sent a careful, detailed review pointing out several things that were unclear, a few mistakes, and some general comments. None of these have been fixed. That's rather sad, to expend this effort in an attempt to help the authors to improve their work, and to be met, not with them weighing your advice carefully, maybe following some of it and turning down the rest, but with them ignoring it completely.

Still, I think I know what I will do: I'll retrieve the original review I wrote and send the whole thing back to the authors unchanged. Let's see how they like a taste of their own medicine.


EULA's rule?

I don't believe it... a conference that I'm submitting to has an EULA. I thought that for once I would read it. It contains such gems as:

I acknowledge I have read the above information and that I am 18 years or older.

I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I can withdraw at any time without explanation or penalty.

... which seems a bit harsh if I was a prodigy trying to submit a paper to the confernce. And if I choose to withdraw I will suffer a penalty: my paper won't get reviewed. It's all very, very silly.

Nanu, nanu

The interesting thing about music is that, to some extent, the audiophiles are right: good speakers do make a difference. I've been carrying my music around in one form or another for years now--- CDs, then MP3s--- but I've only recently started hearing things in songs I've listened to many times over. Maybe it's because I'm using slightly better speakers than the mid-nineties CD "boombox" I first used, or just that I normally listen to stuff on low volume. It was only recently when I was listening to Paranoid Android by Radiohead that I noticed the computerized voice saying "Marvin, the paranoid android" (or whatever) in the background, something that had somehow passed me by until this point. And then today I was listening to Vertigo by U2, and I noticed that halfway through Boneo shouts out "Shazbot!". I thought about carefully verifying this for myself, but then I found out that someone had done it already:

thank you google cache [link may not work, google cache being unreliable sometimes]


Trials and Tribble-ations

Now that my desktop (which, confusingly, lives under the desk) seems to be back to reasonable health, I can catch up with watching too many videos instead of doing any work. I finally managed to finish watching the epic "Trial of a Time Lord" Doctor Who Series.

This was important to me for many reasons. The first Dr Who episode I can remember seeeing was "Warriors From the Deep" in 1984, when I would have been about 6 (actually, checking the chronology, the first I saw was actually The Five Doctors, which is a hell of a confusing way to begin seeing the program). It had a profound influence on me, although I can't work out how. But ToaTL came serveral years later, in 1986, when I would have been a much more mature 9. There had been a long break between this series and the previous one, and in the meantime I had been reading up through the target novelisations (completely out of order, of course, so many of the key long term plot issues were hopelessly confused to me, and still are). One thing that I knew was that I was fascinated by the concept of the timelords, and their culture and technology (I was much more interested in the inside of the tardis than all that messing about that took place outside it). And now came a series long arc in which the Doctor was being tried by a jury of his peers! [*]

[*] This entry contains spoilers, although how a programme that was shown nearly twenty years ago can be "spoiled" is a matter for you to work out. Oh yeah, and it turns out that it's a sledge.

As with all overblown ideas, the thing doesn't really work. It's hard to work out what is the biggest problem: the large number of changes and rewrites that took place between the original idea and getting it onto screen; the lumbering plot that never really makes any sense; or the introduction of Bonnie Langford as a companion. Throughout the prosecution's case, made by the sinister "Valeyard", the doctor constantly objects that the evidence presented by the Timelord's mysterious memory capturing "matrix" (see, that is what "the matrix" really is) has been warped and altered, an accuasation sternly denied by the mum from the Oxo adverts (of course, she later went on to play the second regeneration of a timelord exiled to earth to keep an eye on the doctor while he was masquerading as a vet in the dales [**]).

[**] No one on earth is going to work out that reference, so I'll explain that Lynda Bellingham was the second actress to play James Herriot's wife in All Creatures Great and Small, which also featured Peter Davison.

The climax of the third adventure, which I remember finding very exciting as a young child, came as the Doctor wrapped his evidence for the defence with an adventure from his future (which doesn't make sense! even with time travel!), where he defeated a mutant race of triffids by throwing weedkiller at them. In the course of this, he managed to wipe out every last one, thus raising the stakes from meddling too much to "genocide"! I'm not sure if this was the first time I'd heard the word, but I definitely found out what it meant pretty soon.

How on earth could the doctor get himself out of his predicament? The answer was to come in a two part story, entitled "The Ultimate Foe" that would close the series and wrap up the story. The situations looks pretty grim, but then the doctor's long-time adversary, the Master, pops up and announces that the Valeyard is actually a rogue fragment of the doctor's personality from his final regeneration. Um, OK. Actually, in an earlier draft the Valeyard was actually the Doctor's final, 12th regeneration, which would have made for some interesting implications. There's also the small matter of how or whether they are going to deal with the imminent using up of all the Doctor's regenerations: he's currently on 10 (or more, since it's always possible that the first doctor that we saw was not his first regeneration. One also wonders how he came to be about 900 years old without using up any of his lives, and then managed to get through the next ten in a space of about 40 years. Seems like he is getting increasingly careless in his old age).

The Valeyard, having been rumbled, then pegs it into the Matrix. The doctor gives chase, and enters a strange, dreamlike world in which nothing is quite real. He goes through a door in search of the Valeyard who is posing as "J.J. Chambers", Victorian factory owner, and finds himself up to his neck in quicksand on a beach and going under fast. Close up on Colin Baker's giant clown face, and roll credits...

So here we are, about to start part two. And this is where things get quite silly. The two part episode was meant to be written by Robert Holmes, a seasoned Doctor Who writer. But, unfortunately he died before the show could be completed. He left the script for part one, and notes for the second part. Writing team Pip and Jane Barker were brought in to finish it off in his stead, but for some complex copyright reason, they were not allowed to see the intended outline, and had to come up with something themselves. The result is a fairly muddled mess, in which the Doctor finally defeats the Valeyard and avoids the master's sinister plan, has the charges against him dropped on the grounds that no one can work out what's going on anymore, and saves the Universe (again).

In short, it makes no sense. Not really the fault of any of the writers, it seems impossible to put a satisfying conclusion to any of this mess, but a let down all the same. I was wondering what all this reminded me of, and then I realized that it is very reminiscent of "Restless", BtVS S4E22 -- the coda episode at the end of season four of Buffy. At the time, the publicity for this indicated that it would be an episode to put into perspective the preceding season that some (not me) had found disappointing when moving from a High School to University setting. Set almost entirely in dreams, there was a strange disconnected feel to the whole episode, and a (to me) mightily unsatisfying resolution. The promise of resolving so many unanswered questions about the characters' relationships was unfulfilled, and instead, just gives a completion to the story that is somewhat unsatisfying, and sets things up for the next season to try again.

Ah well. Somehow I never expected ToaTL to be good (perhaps I remembered this from seeing it the first time around as a child), and so it was more or less in line with my expectations. It does stand up to a contemporary viewing, although you happily do a crossword while it's on and not miss too much. It also impressed on me that many of these "fan produced" films on the internet, creating new adventures in the Star Wars or Star Trek universes are actually made with higher production values than the great BBC scif fi shows of the seventies and eighties. Ah well, just shows what you can dow ith computers these days.

I'll keep watching old episodes of Dr Who. I want to go back to Warriors From the Deep, and rewatch all the episodes from my childhood up to the end of Sly McCoy's stint, to see what is going on. There's a subtext to this, I realize. When I was a child, I loved watching Dr Who, but when I got in trouble, I would not be allowed to watch it as a punishment. And, this was before we got a VCR, before there were repeats, before BBC3 showing the episodes again the next week, or UKGold repeating entire seasons in a day. If you missed an episode, that was it, gone, forever. Not even a TWoP recap to let you know what had happened. It seems almost impossible these days, but that was it. So, now thanks to the wonders of technology and archiving, I can watch these old shows over again, how I want to and when I want to. I feel awfully indulgent in doing so. But I do it anyway.
The response to the music quiz so far has been quite. Let's recap the current state of affairs:

I'll sneak the answers in here since no one seems to care any more

1. Sean Connery
Nick knows the answer, but no one has posted it yet.
Obviously, it's Kids by Robbie Williams. An easy one to begin with.

2. Christina Aguilera
Yes, she is mentioned in an Eminem song, but that's not what I was thinking of. Keep trying.
It's "I'm Afraid of Britney Spears" by Live On Release. Surely everyone knows that?

3. Wincy Willis
John Kettley is a Weatherman by Tribe of Toffs, which also mentions a whole host of others.

4. Juliette Binoche
Come on! The same song also mentions Marcus Garvey and Harvey Keitel in the same breath. No cheating on Google now!
Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh Juliette Binoche. It's First Transmission by Earthling, of course

5. Fred Fellini
A quite easy one, I thought (even easier if you cheat with search engines)
msw got this one, Diminished Clothes by Salad. As pointed out at the time, it should be "Fed Fellini" (short for Federico), not Fred.

6. Lisa from Steps
She's the one with the dark hair. Dreaming of injured Popstars by Chris TT. It's Michael Gambon, it's Michael Gambon, I saw his face!

7. Lucy Liu
I was going to put Louchie Lou (from Louchie Lou and Michie One), but namechecking yourself in your own songs shouldn't count. So yes, Density's Child Independent Women (Part one)

8. Terry Wogan
Franz Ferdinand's Saturday Matinee Refectory Nightime Song. Or whatever it's called.

9. Chris Evans
Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene! Thans, Helen Love

10. Ginger Spice
Can anyone get this one? The same song also mentions Tony Blair, Courtney Cox, Michael Jackson and Jerry Springer. And! It doesn't appear to be indexed by any of the big search engines, so in your face, internet cheaters! For a bonus pound, name the celebrity who starred in the video.
No one seems to remember "I've had enough" by Hillman Minx. From 1998, the video featured Angus Deayton (before he had had enough). The song lyrics are as follows (since I can't find them anywhere else on the net):

Motorcars and politicians
Ginger Spice and Eurostar
Football shirts and Damien Hirst
Empty lager cans and wonderbras
Tony Blair and endless skinny women

I've had enough of them all
I've had enough of them all
I've had enough of them all
I've had enough

Easy listening, Camden Market
Quentin Tarantino, Drum and Bass
Courteney Cox and Versace frocks
Veggie burgers and Jerry Springer's face
Football yobs, Nike trainers, Michael Jackson


Conspiracies, Referees,
phony new-age therapies
Signing on, student loans,
Surf the net and mobile phones

Closing time, losing hope
Antipodean lunch times soaps
Laptops, pagers foreign beers
I've had enough, I'm out of here

Porno mags
Loads of fags
Mountain bikes
Postal strikes
Gay or straight
In love and hate
Well I guess it's tough
But I've had enough

Repeat previous verse and fade

And now you know! Much less later, I expect


Death and Resurrection

This news story has been bothering me for a while:

Woman's body mistaken for Halloween decoration

Not for the story itself, which probably says more about America's bizarre occult obsession with halloween, so much as the attribution of one of the quotes. "Fay Glanden" appears in most versions of the press association story (for some reason, the wire story seems to get very slightly rewritten in different newspapers. So she appears as:

Fay Glanden, wife of Mayor William Glanden -- Fort Worth Star Telegram, TX
Fay Glanden, wife of Frederica Mayor William C. "Chick" Glanden -- The News Journal, DE
Mayor William Glanden's wife, Fay, told a local paper -- theguardian, UK.

But one question: why does it matter who her husband is? I would have thought that theguardian especially would not define people by their spouse.

Meanwhile, hughanchor seems to have taken a turn for the better. I was just about to cart the box off to be looked at by a specialist, when I decided to try a few last tests, by booting a linux distro (mostly just to show that I could) and by re-running some memory tests. The memory tests showed up a huge number of errors in a memory area corresponding to the second of my sticks of DRAMM. So I pulled that one out, rebooted, and haven't had a blue screen since. This is odd, I thought I had checked the memory, but I may have messed up which bits of memory I had in when I ran the tests. Also, this is pretty new memory (from July), so it shouldn't really be dying so fast. My suspicion (given that some of the errors didn't seem very memory related) is that there was a motherboard or other system issue that caused the memory to go wrong. I'm not sure. I'll keep the system up as it is for a while, and if I start to encounter more errors, I might go down the route of replacing the motherboard and other pieces. Since I have duplicates for almost every piece of the computer lying around in one shape or other, I could end up in an interesting philosopher's bicyle situation. But for now, things are more or less back to normal. Until the next crash...


More computer tedium

Just an update for those that are yet to transmute their indifference into actively not reading this stuff. I have provisionally ruled out the power supply. That leaves the remaining possibilities as the motherboard and the processor -- could be a corrupt cache or something similar. Or, there's a chance that it could be the hard drive: it's been getting a lot of errors lately, but quite frankly that is most likely to be due to the constant rebooting in the middle of operations. So I'll try to rule out the hard drive tomorrow, and then take the damn thing to a professional to have it looked at, since I don't have any convenient way to test whether or not the chip or board is the culprit. Meantime, thank goodness for the laptop, which is gradually taking on more responsibilities while hughanchor is out of action.


Pop Quiz

Blogger swallowed version 1, let's try again. Most pop quizes are too easy now that you can just put the lyrics into a search engine and find the song. So here's a quiz designed to defeat that tactic. Listed below are some celebrities, name the song and artist that names them. Some easy, some hard, a lot of British pop from the last ten years or so. I'll start posting clues if some prove too hard, and bonus points (which are exchangeable for pounds sterling) will be available if you find songs other than the ones I was thinking of.

1. Sean Connery

2. Christina Aguilera

3. Wincy Willis

4. Juliette Binoche

5. Fred Fellini

6. Lisa from Steps

7. Lucy Liu

8. Terry Wogan

9. Chris Evans

10. Ginger Spice

Ship shape

I went to Bristol from the weekend. I'm currently exhausted from the return journey, but a few things to note about the travel itself:

* They showed Mr and Mrs Smith on the plane, which is not as good as it could be, and Charlies Angels. The films had been "edited for content". In the case of Charlies Angels, I noticed two obvious edits: the line "and that's kicking your ass" was changed to "and that's kicking you around". There's also a scene where a helicopter is hit by a rocket and blows up. This scene was removed: you see the missile on a surefire collision course for the helicopter, and then it cuts abruptly to the next scene. This is presumably in line with the rumoured rule that you can never show an aircraft disaster as part of an inflight movie. I'm amazed that this is actually true.

* I may in the past (I can't remember) have mistakenly said that the nasty looking room next to immigration where they take you if you don't have the right documents, or they think you look like a terrorist, was labeled as "Room 101". This is completely wrong. It's actually labeled F-U-070. I don't know what the 070 indicates, but the F-U is pretty clear.

* I'm so happy that I have found enough shortcuts and appropriate routes that I can get from the plane to my home in under an hour. If all goes well and I can sprint to immigration before the crowd gets there.

* Earplugs are great. Never travel without them, especially if you are likely to encounter obese Americans or gobby Brits.