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19th-Oct-2009 12:39 am - Moved to Dreamwidth
Hello f-list.

I realised I'd forgotten to tell the two people who are not on synergetic that I moved to dreamwidth. I'm sorry about that, and I'm the same username over there as here! Most of my entries are crossposted to synergetic only, and that's mainly to avoid spamming those who are on both. I'm still alive and doing ok and I hope you are too :)

1st-Jun-2009 11:51 pm - Driving Theory Test Pass!
In a complete reversal of fortune from my last post, I passed my driving theory test some three weeks ago. The wait to tell anyone about it is because my parents were doing a mad rush to finish Mayoral duties and then went on holiday. Then I got flu.

It means that I'll soon be booking a practical test and seeing if I can get my driving license!

(The day the test happened on was insane: I cycled to the prospective Mayor's house in Highbury Fields, fixed many computer bugs, went to do the theory test in Southgate, came back to Highbury Fields and finished the work I was doing. I was convinced I'd probably failed. Then I attended the Mayor making ceremony, where the prospective Mayor became the Mayor and dad became the ex-Mayor. What a busy day!)

I learnt (by using the DVD) that a fair chunk of the reason I failed the test was because I was very bad at doing the test. Therefore, if you have any friends etc. taking the test, make them get the DVD.
21st-Apr-2009 04:58 pm - Driving Theory Test Fail
Aaaargh. I failed my driving theory test today by one sodding point!

I did very well on the multiple choice part seeking knowledge of the highway code, passing by 5 points more than I needed. However I failed the hazard perception part of the test by one point, and I don't even know if it was because I'm crap at hazard perception or if it's because I'm crap at hazard perception tests. I prepared for the multiple choice lots but, silly me, thought that driving experience would help me in the hazard perception part of the test, and I believed my mother when she was being complimentary about my hazard perception when driving. So I thought I wouldn't spend any money on (expensive) DVDs teaching me to do the hazard test. Now I'm back from the test centre having nipped into Central London to pay £16 for the official DVD and I'll be paying some £30 to take the test again. Aaaarrgh.
Last weekend, kht came to visit. We walked around London a bit, ate lots of good food (suprising amounts of it Turkish) and went to see Zorro, the Musical.

London is very expensive to go see/do anything. I knew London isn't cheap but I was surprised by how utterly expensive any tourist activity was and how expensive in particular theatre/musicals/shows are. In the end we bit the bullet and went to see a musical we wanted to see rather than one we didn't and got restricted view tickets, which weren't that bad.

Zorro was a lot of fun. It doesn't have many songs for a musical but has a lot of flamenco/gypsy dances, magic tricks and sword fights woven together into a whole. Some of the songs are taken from the Gypsy Kings, so they are very recognisable, but have sections translated into English and are arranged chorally and sound pretty good. I listened to the original of Djobi, Djoba when I got back and it didn't sound half as good as the musical cast made it sound.

I've also discovered that I am now local to midnightmelody, which is both strange and cool. She has moved into my borough. It was strange walking around the area she calls home and is for me filled with many memories mainly centred around attending Polish school and hanging out with pplfichi and, more recently, the Town Hall and dad's politicking. People crossing spheres of my life confuses me, and I feel it shouldn't be allowed. Except it's also very nice because it proves I'm still alive because the world is changing and I change with it.

After seeing an xkcd comic talking about the Simple English Wikipedia, I was overcome with an urge to contribute and started contributing physics articles. I've had fun doing it. I like the Simple English Wikipedia's philosophy and I don't feel so scared or stupid to contribute to it. I can just write without worrying about sounding intelligent or dry.

Unfortunately, I've had a bit of a problem with adding to it because I've gotten confused both about the status of maths and about education content in the Simple English Wikipedia. I started explaining neutron stars and found myself adding A-level content into the thing and I wasn't sure if that was part of the mission of that Wikipedia. I also got attacked by an anti-vandalism bot thinking I was a vandal. So both of those have left me a bit scared to approach it again.
4th-Feb-2009 05:14 pm - Web-based stuff: Cakephp
Ever since scicamp, I've been spending time every once in a while trying to learn how to write web applications, so that were I to go back and do another scicamp, I would have a clue what I was doing.

At scicamp, the main development tool that most people were comfortable with was Ruby on Rails and I resolved to learn something about that.

I tried, shortly afterwards, to firstly install Ruby and Rails and to complete a simple tutorial to create a blog.

Installing ruby was easy as it was packaged into Debian, but installing Rails was the worst pain ever. It used Ruby's gem packaging system which was supplied under Debian. It was quite happy to fetch Rails and all its dependencies, however Rails needed a super new version of gem to run. So new, that it is only in Debian's Experimental repository (the very first repository that packages filter through, before they get to Unstable, then Testing and finally Stable). I was not impressed. Gem offered to update itself for me, and that was fine, except it then broke the system install of gem.

The blog tutorial, however, once I ran it, was exceptionally easy and I was very impressed at how easy it was to get an up and running simple blog. I didn't have to even write any code.

I stopped halfway because I was finding it hard to follow Ruby. It's not a language I know, nor is it written in a way that makes any intuitive sense to me given nor does it make sense to me given any of the languages I know.

One of the people at scicamp mentioned Rails-like frameworks for php, a language I do know and also like very much. He recommended cakephp and also mentioned Synfony (spelt correctly). I thought that it would be a good idea to try and learn one of them before tackling Ruby and finally Rails in the future.

I tried both of them. Synfony sounded cooler than cakephp, but when I tried to dowload that, it failed more dramatically than even gems did. php uses pear as its packaging system and pear decided that the version of php, provided by Debian Stable, was too old for me to install anything. I then tried downloading a sandbox, and that just refused to work outright. The best thing about Synfony however, was its documentation. It explained the MVC concept, which is what Rails/Synfony/Cakephp all use, very well and I understood very clearly what I was trying to do by writing web applications based on an MVC framework. MVC stands for Model - View - Controller. I also discovered that in the first year of my PhD, I had effectively tried writing a Model system for php, so I had a very good grasp of Models painfully gained through experience, and the whole MVC system seems a logical extension of what I was trying to do.

Cakephp I had more luck with. It's really basic: it doesn't have advanced generator scripts like Rails nor does it allow you to try to define database schemas outside the database, which Synfony does, and if I had to be brutal, makes more theoretical sense. However, it's been simple and because it is I seem to grok it. While its annoyed me on occasion, it hasn't yet managed to utterly piss me off that I want to stop using it. Also, it just feels better than either Rails or Synfony.

Anyway, I managed to get, using Cakephp, a user login system set up. I can add users and I can get users to login, and to be fair, I was dreading that aspect, thinking it would be impossibly hard.

I'm not really sure what I want to do now. I know I need a good project to get my teeth into so I can learn it properly, but I'm not really sure what to do.

I have my own domain name with its web-site to write, and I could use Cakephp to do that. I currently have it running under a Content Management System called Mambo, which I liked. However, I tried adding content to my web-page and it failed, so I'm not impressed anymore. Also, I've always had the feeling that a full CMS to run a web-page is a bit... overpowered. I really don't need all the functionality it's offering and sometimes I'd like a little more control over some of the more basic functionality it's not letting me near. The flip side is that I'm not really sure that I could write even a basic CMS as well as they have, and do it within any reasonable timescale. On the other hand, if I'm not too demanding... *shrug*

The other project I'd like to do (and which the user part was half for) would be to implement the we-need.org project in some form or other. It seems like a shame to be involved in planning the project through and then not being able to actually code it. I've said that I think the idea is also good and I'd like to see it succeed. However, the whole thing is not my problem any more and its main use was to be for Local Government Authorities, which it'll never see if I write it. Certainly it'll make a good community site, but it also treads in the same basic area that Facebook occupies, meaning the community part could probably be done as a Facebook app. *shrug*
22nd-Jan-2009 03:20 pm(no subject)
I have to write a biography of my grandmother for use in the funeral service which will be happening Thursday next week. I am writing it because for once the habit of writing blog posts in my head proved useful, and when my parents found out they had to get a biography, I already had the seeds of one in my head.

Every time that I would come and visit over the last few years, grandmother would always tell me something interesting in new about her past, and it proved to be a very interesting one as far as I know. So I thought I would write out the initial part of it here and share it with you.

Grandmother was born near one of two large towns that stopped being part of Poland when it was moved after World War II. I think it was Wilno, now Vilnius in Lithuania, I'll have to check. Her father had been a warrant officer in the Polish army and had been thrown out or left for some reason the grandmother said how to do with the point of honour. He then became a police officer.

She enjoyed sports as a young girl, but had to stop when it turned out she had a lung condition. She was told that she would not live beyond 18 years of age, thanks to the lung condition. Grandma did not take this lying down and instead tried to push herself to the maximum, running up and down the stairs when others thought should be lying in bed.

She was born in 1925, and would have been about 15 when World War II started. Being near the Soviet side of the border, it was Soviet troops that invaded that part of Poland. Along with her family, she was deported with many others to Siberia. One scene she relayed to me was having to leave the house with the dog scratching on the front door as they saw for the last time.

I think her father may have been shot for being an officer, like many other people were at the hands of the Soviets. She and her brother were in Siberia together. Her brother did not survive and Granma once told me that she had only survived along with the other women in her cabin thanks to the young son of a nobleman who knew how to survive.

When the Soviets entered the war on the side of the Allies, the Polish prisoners captured in the first offensive were given the chance to end list in the army of Anderson. Granma falsified her age in order to enlist and to this day her legal birth year is 1924.

The Anderson Corps saw action in north Africa against Rommel. During a routine troop movement, a transport that Granma and some 50 people were travelling in, fell off the road thanks to a drunk driver, killing all but three people.

Granma stayed wit Corps through action in Italy and was at the famous Battle of Monte Cassino.

When World War II finished and the Allies "won", grandmother like many of the other people in the Anderson Corps, felt they had been sold out by their allies and did not want to return home to an unfree Poland. The only concession that was made to those troops who had fought on the side of the Allies but were now behind the Iron Curtain was that they could apply for British citizenship if they so choose.

Granma chose to stay in England and as a result was declared a traitor by the Polish government. She worked in the textiles industry. At some point she married and then divorced, before meeting my grandfather who had also come through Siberia and fought in north Africa and Italy.

Initially, she lived in a house with her mother in the Archway, Islington, the same house that we now live in. It was here that dad was born. Later on, they moved out and away into a council flat off Hazelville Road, still in Islington. Finally, they moved into the flat in Holloway where she lived until her death.

By the time I was born, my grandparents had retired. Because both of my parents had jobs and lived far outside London (although not far enough, for that is where the new London airport was to be built ironically) thanks to purchasing a house during the 1980s housing boom, my grandparents raised me during the weekdays.
4th-Jan-2009 08:47 am - So yeah...
I had one of those "please, I don't want to get out of bed" moments this morning, so I got up very late. Despite this, I still managed to phone up the web hosting company I got my domain from and ask them about IMAP servers to host my parent's email. I also returned a library book. Deadline for both was 5pm. Definite win.

I'm not feeling particularly great. I think I've emotionally overloaded. A great time being me with friends will do that eventually and then adding the shock of coming home doesn't help.

Anyway, I've stayed up all night because I woke up late, but also because going to sleep would mean lying in bed and facing all those horrible overloaded emotions all at once and if I'm going to toss and turn all night, at least I can do something useful and then collapse of exhaustion at the end. Exhaustion doesn't require mental equilibrium for sleep to happen. And maybe it'll spread the emotional load out so I can cope with it.

Anyway, I managed to create a new account for my parents' email and domain with the web hosting company, read up on what I need to do to move the domain and get very confused because the domain is suspended but extant, and I'm not sure our previous hosting company still exists. I hope that the web hosting company will sort the mess out without me having to do anything, but I may have some serious phoning/emailing people to do.

I also played Samba de Amigo for the first time on the Wii. We bought the Wii off Amazon, and they allowed us to get one game free with the Wii, from a certain list. The list, unfortunately, was all the games they couldn't sell and nothing looked particularly inviting on it, so I chose Samba de Amigo being as it is, more or less, DDR for the Wii Remote, and therefore there was a slight probability that it might be a bit fun.

The game is pure neurological RSI on speed, but, oh, so much fun. You shake the Wii Remote to the beat of Samba music, and its the shaking that is very bad for RSI, but the music is so stonking and it's nearly possible to forget that you're playing a game and dance like crazy while waving the Remote around, especially with ace tracks like Samba de Janeiro, Bailamos and a samba'd versions of Tubthumping and Take on Me. I hesitate to think what passers-by made of my capering through the living-room windows, so I closed the blinds.

As far as I can tell, I spent half the night just listening to Viva La Vida by Coldplay over and over again and riding a very strange mood inspired by the music, mainly pacing back and forth in the living room. The mood was something like taking my entire logical/rational mind off-line and existing completely in the now with this amazing sense of calm and well-being. It's certainly a wonderful feeling, but it's also a bit scary, because I feel such a sense of calmness and well-being that even imminent death wouldn't be able to make me feel anxious, and I'm not sure humans are meant to face such danger with that much calm. It's also scary because that part of my brain is responsible for filtering what people tell me and what I sat back to people. Which is why I suppose the middle of the night is a good time to go into it. It is, however, a really good mindstate for sorting out emotional overload and repression, which is why I end up in it.
4th-Jan-2009 07:57 am - Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Far be it from me to jump on popular culture, but the latest Coldplay song has stuck in my head and I've been listening to it on repeat all night.

I suppose for me its the way that one song has managed to capture all the glory and tragedy of human history in its pulse. I can almost see the sweeping armies thunder through the enemy, the new order with its charismatic ruler and all its monuments to its glories and then the slow seeping decay as power corrupts until the ruler loses himself to meglomania and it all turns in on itself and tears itself apart, with the ruler being torn apart by the next strongman.
2nd-Jan-2009 06:19 pm - New Year
I've come back from a very good New Year spent in Oxford. Since getting back I've managed to get my Wii Fit fix. I managed to finish the table-balance game and set a new top score for heading the ball thanks to playing it at awroe's (everything else was less good). My weight fell sharply (even with Pebbles trying to climb up my skirt at the time of measuring) losing 5lbs (Wii errors +/- 3lbs-ish, Pebbles -?lbs), and my balance was atrocious, shifting very much to the left (no cat).

I haven't yet managed to have that shower I was wanting and but I did manage to get out of the annoying jeans (my weight has been steadily falling, yet my stomach is huger than ever. Why, Fates, why do you curse me so?) that have become too small for me and were constricting me, as have most things I own. So I guess I'll be starting this year with some clothes shopping...

The cats have, however, already managed to get food out of me, petting and generally make a nuisance of themselves by climbing all over me to be petted at the most inopportune times, climbing up my skirt and just, well, being very annoying and adorable at the same time.

In Oxford, I enjoyed getting to see various people again: darwinian_woman, midnightmelody, kht, awroe, fu_manchu12, John and Meriel. I got to see some new people, including a Damian and a Rebecca. I missed seeing thalassius.

Generally, the stay involved lots of chatting on the New Year's Eve, lots of gaming (both board games and Wii) on New Year's Day and then getting up late today and heading out for lunch/breakfast/main-meal-of-the-day/whatever at about 2ish at the Mitre after which I headed home.

I particularly enjoyed getting to talk to darwinian_woman, who has really amazing and powerful metaphors,
playing TransEuropa at awroe's, because it is a good but undemanding game and because it was in good company and being able to say things without having to watch what I was saying.

Did not enjoy forgetting my pyjamas, having to endure the constrictingness of the jeans or getting into a pointless fight with midnightmelody just before I left, which left me in a bad mood all the way home. This was the flip side of not watching what I was saying, although I don't think I should really complain much given how nice people were listening to me all over New Year spouting thoughts, which got less and less coherent as the days progressed.
31st-Dec-2008 02:46 am - Burn Notice
My dad got bored with watching CSI for the fifth time (no, really, you have seen all the CSIs dad, accept this) so he put on Burn Notice, a new show that was starting on FX two months past that he'd recorded, just when I came downstairs after getting back from sorting my grandparent's affairs out (it's cold out there, but invigorating, by bike!).

Anyway, I sat there thinking it wouldn't be very good and I'd head off leaving my dad watching it. Instead, from the start, it captivated both of us.

Probably what hooked as at the beginning was the wry narrative by the lead spy, which points out various silly stupidities with quotes like: "the problem with hiding in Nigeria is that you're the only white person in a suit so you're going to stick out" followed by "it's also the gun-running capital of the world, so chasing someone into a market is not a good idea" and later on "to get rid of a drug-dealer, give me a hardware store any day over a gun", plus "drug dealers always have armoured doors, but they forget that walls are just plaster".

What kept me hooked was just how much fun it was. You've got this guy with super spy skills and loads of experience. For some reason he's been kicked out of his job, which he obviously loves, he doesn't know why, he has no money or employment history, he's being tracked by the feds and, worst of all, his mother has his cell number...

As a result, you've got this super-experienced and talented spy going around and doing small odd-jobs for whatever money he can get and the badies never seem to know what hit them. All the while there are these little witty asides on spying and how to do it packed with really good and interesting advice, all of which is much more prosaic and lacking in action than James Bond makes it look but is much more interesting. Then there's the whole thing with the government which, since he's not trying to run away, aren't basically too serious about tailing him, making it all a big game between him and the government. Plus there are all these great little moments like when the spy is confronted with his weeping mother, moral car-theft and using regime change tactics to stop school-yard bullying. Oh yeah, and his mother, who wants favours.

I like the characters too. They're a bit unusual and very human, plus I like the professionalism and practicality of the main spy, and the way he has no clue about how to deal with people (like his mother) unless its tied to his job.
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