Wednesday, June 27, 2007

iPhone gives nasty shock

The topography of swearing (bad language)

I was reading the iPhone review from Newsweek by the veteran journalist Steven Levy. He wrote:

It took me a couple of days to get used to hitting the right keys using a single finger. Maybe I’m a spaz, but I’m only beginning to get the hang of two-thumb typing.
and I was stopped in my tracks. In UK English spaz is an offensive insult meaning spastic, i.e. someone with cerebral palsy. In US English it is a slightly rude word for a clumsy person. Interestingly the first usage quoted by the OED is in Pauline Kael's 1965 I Lost It at the Movies:
The term that American teen-agers now use as the opposite of ‘tough’ is ‘spaz’. A spaz is a person who is courteous to teachers, plans for a career.. and believes in official values. A spaz is something like what adults still call a square.
This predates the first (written) British use, in Martin Amis's Dead Babies:
I know how long, you little spaz.
So it's clear that the American usage is pretty established. Even so I think Newsweek's subeditors should have caught this and removed it.


I don't have a cell phone, so I am probably not the target for the new iPhone. Now that a few proper reviews of the iPhone have appeared I can see that I do want one. Well I don't want the iPhone but I do want the wonderful iPod that you could make using the same technologies. Apple can keep the phone functionality (and the $60 a month minimum fee). What I really want is the Safari browser, the high resolution display and the roaming wi-fi connection. Even better, the iPhone's version of Safari does not support Flash and so there will be less use of that in the world (yes I do like YouTube). The only feature I need to add to the iPhone is a hard drive, and how hard can that be?

In the second release I'd also like Sonic Screwdriver functionality.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pete Townshend blogs

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend has two blogs (as far as I know). The really good one is where he is publishing pieces of his memoirs. The other one is more of your regular "Mrs. Blogger and all those at Blogger mansions" everyday stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to build a Cathedral, part 5

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA, mid June 2007

This is a view from the opposite side. This will eventually be the main entrance to the cathedral. I work in the building on the left of the picture. When I took this I was standing by Lake Merritt.

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA, mid June 2007

A better view of the structural support for the organ pipes. This part was designed by Studio Under Manufacture of Oakland.

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA, mid June 2007

A view of the ceiling of the cathedral. Eventually the wooden platform will be removed and the ceiling will be an Oculus. Nearly all the 26 curved Douglas fir ribs are now in place.

Marble driven binary adder

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best Premiership vistory

As already discussed by Andy C we must consider which of Manchester United's premiership victories was the best. An interesting article in the Grauniad gives us statistics on how much each club that won the Premiership spent in the preceding Summer. As you can see below, in 95-96 United spent nothing. In fact they sold Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis and still won. This year was a triumph, but that was the most impressive.

Season Champions Spent  Players Bought
1995-96 Manchester United 0
1992-93 Manchester United £1.1m Pat McGibbon, Dion Dublin
1999-2000 Manchester United £1.5m Quinton Fortune
2003-04 Arsenal £2.5m Cesc Fábregas, Phillipe Senderos, Jens Lehmann , Gaël Clichy
1993-94 Manchester United £3.75m Roy Keane
1994-95 Blackburn £5.3m Chris Sutton, Robbie Slater
1996-97 Manchester United £7.5m Raimond van der Gouw, Ronny Johnsen, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Karel Poborsky, Jordi Cruyff
2000-01 Manchester United £7.8m Fabien Barthez
1997-98 Arsenal £14.55m Alex Manninger, Manu Petit, Giles Grimandi, Luis Boa Morte, Alberto Mendez, Marc Overmars, Lee Canoville, Christopher Wreh
2006-07 Manchester United £18.6m Michael Carrick
2001-02 Arsenal £22.25m Francis Jeffers, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Sol Campbell, Richard Wright
1998-99 Manchester United £27.75m Jaap Stam, Jesper Blomqvist, Dwight Yorke
2002-03 Manchester United £30m Rio Ferdinand
2005-06 Chelsea £53.4m Asier del Horno, Scott Sinclair, Lassana Diarra, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Essien
2004-05 Chelsea £89.05m Petr Cech, Arjen Robben, Paulo Ferreira, Mateja Kezman, Didier Drogba, Tiago, Ricardo Carvalho

An arrest

When I came back from my run this morning there were two cop cars at the end of our street. One was from the San Francisco police and the other was the Colma police. There isn’t anything in Colma except shopping malls and graveyards, so I started concocting a theory involving San Francisco zombies going to Colma to go grave robbing.

After my shower it became apparent that the police had moved and were now outside our house. Fortunately the RIAA had not found out about the two Lulu mp3s I downloaded yesterday. Actually they were arresting someone from next door. We tried to see and hear what was going on without being too obvious. Looks like it was a friend of the teenage boy neighbour, whose car was observed at the crime scene. The cops photographed the car. The friend was put in the back of the black and white/panda car. The cops put some boxes of sneakers and some bags of clothing in their trunk and then went through it all, carefully, taking notes. Eventually they took the kid away, but I was late for work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lucy, RIP


Our chicken Lucy seemed unwell today and Amy took her to the vet. She turned out to be quite sick and we had her put to sleep. She was four years old, which is old for a chicken - most chickens are killed when they stop laying prolifically. She was the last of our two original chickens. Lucy is the pale chick in the picture. Natalie, the dark one, got taken at an early age by some unknown predator animal.

Anyone need a job?

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday called for applications for one of the most demanding human experiments in space history: a simulated trip to Mars in which six "astronauts" will spend 17 months in an isolation tank on Earth.

The main selection criteria are as follows:

  • Aged 25-50 years
  • Good health
  • High motivation
  • Height up to 185cm
  • Background and work experience in one of the following fields: medicine, biology, life support systems engineering, computer engineering, electronic engineering, mechanical engineering
  • The working languages during the studies will be English and Russian, therefore fluency in one and working knowledge of the other language is highly desired.
  • Availability for the whole duration of the study
  • Non-smoker, no addictions (alcohol, illicit drugs, etc.)
  • Candidates must be willing to volunteer for medical and psychological investigations.
  • The candidate’s nationality and residence is restricted to ESA member states participating in the ELIPS and/or Aurora core programs (Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom or Canada).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gold farming and avatars in Online RPG games

The NYT has a good article on gold farmers in MMORPG. The pay is $1.25 for 100 gold (in World of Warcraft) which works out to $0.30 an hour. The thing that I was surprised and pleased to learn is that the farmers do enjoy their work, in some way at least:

At the end of almost any working day or night in a Chinese gaming workshop, workers can be found playing the same game they have been playing for the last 12 hours, and to some extent gold-farm operators depend on it. The game is too complex for the bosses to learn it all themselves; they need their workers to be players — to find out all the tricks and shortcuts, to train themselves and to train one another. “When I was a worker,” Fan Yangwen, who is now 21 and in Donghua’s main office providing technical support, told me, “I loved to play because when I was playing, I was learning.” But learning to play or learning to work? I asked. Fan shrugged. “Both.”

Cory Doctorow has a great short story about gold farmers.

Also in the NYT is a picture gallery (link may expire) with pictures from Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators by Robbie Cooper. At the BBC you can see more of the pictures, and learn about the picture at the top of this post:

Choi is a professor of public policy and law. His character Uroo Ahs buys and sells item in the game world, even when he isn't there, running on scripts he writes for her. He makes spreadsheets analysing different variables within the game and believes that using a little girl avatar helps in negotiations. So far he's amassed game items worth 150m Adena, the virtual currency in the game.

More construction photos

Besides the cathedral, there are some other good construction projects in the Bay Area. You can see flickr photo sets of the new section of the Bay Bridge, and the One Rincon Hill skyscraper.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How to Clean Up a Windows Spyware Infestation

One of the best technical blogs is Coding Horror by Jeff Atwood. Here he describes how to Clean Up a Windows Spyware Infestation.

Now we're leaving passivity behind, and unwisely browsing the open internet with the unpatched, six year old original version of Internet Explorer 6.0. Danger, Will Robinson! I left Task Manager running as I browsed to MegaGames, downloaded a no-cd patch, and... nothing. I then visited GameCopyWorld, downloaded a no-cd patch, and... all of a sudden, it's crystal clear who the culprit is. [...] This comes as a shock to me, because GameCopyWorld is recommended often in gaming forums. I consider(ed) it a reputable web site. I've never had a problem with the site before, because I usually surf with the latest updates. But the unpatched browser spyware infestation from visiting GCW-- just from visiting the web pages, even if you don't download a single thing-- is nearly immediate and completely devastating.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Downloading another episode of Doctor Who

I started watching Doctor Who in the Patrick Troughton years. Jamie was my first favourite companion (though now I might prefer Zoe, phwoar). I watched the shows on and off until I left home for university and Peter Davison took over. I did literally hide behind the sofa when it was scary.

It’s Saturday and I’m looking forward to downloading another episode of Doctor Who. The last three episodes ("Human Nature" "The Family of Blood", and "Blink") have been absolute classics (though I note that it is interesting that the doctor was absent in some sense from a large part of all of these).

Last week I also watched Doctor Who Confidential where David Tennant talked to various of the creators of the show about their childhood watching of the show. I realized that it is my contemporaries who are now creating the show. Despite what Jarvis Cocker says it is the good guys who are running the world. I feel connected to the people who make Doctor Who. And in 2007 you can even read them blog about their work and see how deservedly proud they are to be part of Doctor Who. I hope they can maintain the quality through the inevitable backlash that will soon come, perhaps when Russel T. Davies leaves the show.

Would I watch Doctor Who if I hadn’t been watching it since I was seven? Or not British (only a British show would have an alien visitor award Null Points to a monster). Watching Doctor Who does make me feel like a child. The Doctor is the ultimate Dad – jokey but knowledgeable, always there to rescue you. It is Father's Day tomorrow and I'll be watching Doctor Who.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Slay the sacred cow!

A delightful collection of various classic albums being slagged. The only one that really shocked me was The Velvet Underground and Nico, assassinated by Ian Rankin. The one that I was most interested to see was The Neon Bible (Arcade Fire) getting the news from Green Gartside. It got an A+ review from Robert Christgau which is usually enough for me, but I just can't hear it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy after a few drinks at the G8 conference

He'd been meeting with Putin and it looks like they had more than a swift half.

How to display fonts on computer displays

Another beautiful graphic shows how Windows and the Mac differ in their approaches to rendering text. The linked article explains how this difference reflects the different philosophies of Apple and Microsoft.

What tarot card are you?

I am The Lovers

The Lovers often refers to a relationship that is based on deep love - the strongest force of all. The relationship may not be sexual, although it often is or could be. More generally, the Lovers can represent the attractive force that draws any two entities together in a relationship - whether people, ideas, events, movements or groups.

For a full description of your card and other goodies, please visit

What tarot card are you? Enter your birthdate.

Month: Day: Year:

Monday, June 11, 2007


The Independent has become so sensational nowadays. But I have to look at it every day to see the beautiful front page. Today it is all about the coming drought.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Totally unfair cartoon


This cartoon is unfair. It trivializes an important issue. It is however funny.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Swiss army knife with no blade


I had my childhood Swiss army knife confiscated by the airline security people. But now I can get a new one without a blade. But where is the bottle opener? Where is the can opener thingy? Are they banned too?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

How to build a Cathedral, part 4

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA June 2007

The altar of the cathedral will be at the left side (as we look at it). On either side of the Altar will be the pipes of the organ. The pipes will also be visible from the outside, which is why there are no louvers at the bottom of the leftmost curved supports. The organ pipes will rest on platforms that act as sound canopies for the choir. In the picture you can see the beginnings of this platform.

Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, CA late May 2007

Here we can see that there are now three of the straight (tangential) pieces we saw in part 3, and that they are joined together. I think that the rectangular spaces you can see will eventually be filled with glass.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Hold Steady @ Slims, 30 May 2007

I like The Hold Steady. Their new CD, Boys and Girls in America is my favourite of the year (OK it came out in 2006 but I got it this year). This CD couples a beautiful modern rock production with Craig Finn’s intelligent storytelling lyrics (I am assuming the usually but not always true thing that the singer writes the words) . The band sounds like The E Street Band, but that’s not a bad thing. There’s loads of Catholic stuff in the lyrics too and that takes me back as well. I liked them enough that I bought their earlier CD, Separation Sunday and I like that too.

So why did I have such a miserable time seeing The Hold Steady at Slims?

I was tired and didn’t feel like staying up late. But I felt the same going to Patrick Wolf and came out full of joy.

The audience was boring. Yeah some people danced and sang the whoa-o-whoa parts. But there were a lot of people who didn’t seem to be getting into it. Like me.

There’s this thing I don’t want to say. It just doesn’t seem fair. As we’re doing Catholic stuff can I make some other confession instead? I saw New Order eleven times in the 1980s and they were mostly boring. People have a limited amount of control over the way they look. But, OK, I’m going to say it. The Hold Steady look square and Craig Finn is annoying. He expresses every lyric with his hands. He claps in a really irritating way. Every motion is done with pure glee. In the Letterman video above you can see some of this, it becomes more wearing as time goes on. I may be a computer programmer but I want my rock stars to look cool.

I liked the way the band shared a whisky bottle. I liked the way they teased the crowd about the Giant’s blown save the other night. I liked the way the shy guitarist hid at the edge of the stage but threw a few Guitar Hero moves. A drunk girl asked me to explain some of the lyrics to her, a new first for me. Someone asked me not to stand so near their girlfriend, another first.

Make Firefox 2.0 tabs look like Firefox 1.5 tabs

I use about a million tabs. I want them all displayed at the top of my browser. I want the close button at the right of the tab bar, where I can always find it. Isn't this simple UI design? Why should I have to find the current tab to close it? Anyway it's all OK as I can make it how it was before. I can Disable (or modify) tab scrolling and Configure the Close Tab Buttons.

Update: use the classic Firefox 1.5 theme for Firefox 2.0 (I have not tried this yet).