Saturday, 21 July 2012

Some interesting things

This review of Fifty Shades of Grey is truly excellent -- great use of .gifs, especially the last one.

This small girl guesses what books are about based on their cover. I particularly like her take on Jane Eyre.

When I was a kid I loved The Secret Life of Machines, and now mental floss has collected some of the episodes together. This sort of thing made me really frustrated about how boring Physics was at school -- it just seemed like there was no need for it not to be interesting. They're really worth revisiting. I love the bit in the fax machine one where they act out the handshake that starts a connection by saying things to each other like "Can you understand me if I speak this fast?" Something like that would actually have been very useful when I was learning about TCP connection for my networks exam. Also, generous cattage.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Programming query

How did anyone program anything ever before the internet? Maybe that's why my childhood programming was so ineffective. But my brother rewrote minesweeper from scratch for me when he was about 14 -- perhaps I should ask him.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


I've been finding all this rain a little tedious and inconvenient for obvious reasons, but I'd forgotten to think of it more broadly until I was talking to a farmer after church today. I wish I could have recorded what he said, Devon accent included. Basically the farmers are at their wits' end. His potatoes are rotting in their banked-up rows, with standing water as high as the base of the mounds -- expect potato prices to rise. And there will be almost no millable British wheat to make bread unless we get some proper sunshine. Every possible shed is full of livestock which should not be indoors at this time of year, and you can't take tractors out because they just sink in the muddy fields, even if you only half-load them, so lots of jobs are having to be done laboriously by hand. No hay can be made, though some people have managed to get some silage done. Today's St Swithun's day so let's hope the old saying doesn't hold this year. Right now it's actually rather pleasant here in Devon.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Some various things

I have a raspberry Pi. And I'm going to try to do this with it!
The raspberry Pi is beautiful.

The problem with London at the moment is that everywhere you go you are constantly bombarded with public service announcements suggesting that you avoid this place in the near future, especially at this particular time of day, and also places near to it or connected to it in any way. It's getting a bit tedious.

Andrew Prescott used to be a BL person and is now head of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at KCL. Here he talks about this sort of thing. I only ever skim-read anything that's to do with the digital humanities because it tends to provoke my unhelpful thinking patterns, but I did notice this true sentence:
We try and suggest that we are collaborating in new ways, but at the end of the day a unit like that at King’s is simply an XML factory for projects led by other researchers.
Though possibly it would be more accurate to say that they are consultants for setting up and helping to run an external XML factory staffed by some poor research associate. Anyway, the situation is not healthy for "digital humanities" and it's not healthy for the humanities who are working with them.

I made my mother a cover for her new little Kindle. I suppose it's the fault of jpeg that in this picture the beautiful soft brown colour has been replaced by splotchy purple and grey-green:

I was oddly alert to gender stereotyping as a child so I'm glad I learnt to sew when I was too young to know that it was seen as a typically female thing to do. I don't sew well, but given that I spend so much of my life not managing to do things it's nice to make something simple from time to time. This is made from alpaca cloth woven out of our herd's fibre, and it's lined with unbleached cotton. The button I got off of etsy, from this bloke.

I'm trying to learn Ruby on Rails. It's making me feel stupid. It's very simple in many ways, but it involves information passing between lots of different files, and that's where I'm having trouble. One vital thing in programming is understanding a program's flow of control, which is simply which bits of code are executed in which order, and therefore understanding what all the variables are at any point in the program. Ruby is a programming language and Rails is a framework which sets up automatic groups of folders and customisable files which work together in a pre-specified manner. The idea is "convention over configuration", e.g. instead of having to tell a file where to find another file it just assumes it's in a particular place unless told otherwise. It makes it very quick to set up fast websites that deal with data. But if I ask it for a particular page via a browser, it looks first at a routes file, then at a controller file, then at a model file, then at a view file, then at a layout file, then at a template file, and then (probably using a stylesheet as well) it makes html out of all these things. I think I am being a bit slow, but it can be very hard to work out just where exactly you are when you work on a particular file, especially given that it might have just one line of code and make no sense out of context. (And also in Ruby you can pass blocks of code around as parameters to methods, and that's just wierd, frankly, though I can see that once I get used to it I'll use it all the time and think it's fantastic.)

Lastly, a friend of mine takes great photos, and I really love this one of part of Mill Road, Cambridge, at 6am.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Brief observation, query

I have been living alone for about eight hours and already I am talking to myself like a loon.

In other news, if anyone has an idea for a reasonably straightforward Android app I could make then I'd be interested to hear it. It doesn't need to be useful for more than 2 or 3 people in the whole world. I used to have a database set up to produce the most efficient route round the UL from a given set of classmarks, so maybe I could try to do that, though it wouldn't be much use to me these days. Or I did wonder about an app for making a brief note whenever I see tube mice. Tube mice make me happy.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Music makes me feel good

K-pop -- is it the new Italodisco? Don't ask me, I'm 36! Anyway here's an excellent Korean pop song:

George Michael is glad to be alive. Good! I too am glad that George Michael is alive.

Little Mix have a great single coming out. It's Beyonceyish in a good way:

Who is Charli XCX? I can't remember. But I like this song:

Benny Benassi is a figure of mixed blessings but I love this rather soulful remix of a song by Temper Trap.

Noisettes have a great song called Winner which I hope will make them lots of London 2012 money. Here it is remixed:

Of course I saw all these things originally on popjustice, I always do. I'm only really putting them here so I can play them all from one tab.

Monday, 2 July 2012


I went to a choral eucharist at Southwark Cathedral yesterday evening. During the consecration a cat appeared and curled itself up luxuriously in the middle of the kneelers in front of the communion rail, having accurately worked out where in the whole of that huge church it could most comfortably get in everyone's way. It was very annoyed when someone moved it and yowled loudly. In honour of this cat I am posting some cat-related links. Because as we all know, the internet is made of cats.

4OD has lots of good stuff on Youtube, including Chris Morris pointing out in Brass Eye that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats because they thought they were funny. (Morris was ahead of his time in this as in many things -- this was about eight years before the invention of YouTube itself and ten before I Can Has Cheezburger, and as I recall back in the 90s cats were not seen as intrinsically amusing.)

Google built a neural network and let it loose on the interweb and it came up with a Platonic ideal of a cat.

Here is an excellent illustration of the Smart poem "For I will consider my cat Jeoffry". And by the same artist an excerpt from Edward Lear's poem "How pleasant to know Mr Lear", featuring Old Foss his cat.

And two quick things not to do with cats but I want to close the tabs: 1) a ten-year-old girl bursts into tears in a room full of Rembrandts; her parents take her to a psychiatrist whom she eventually marries; apparently a true story though it sounds like a novel; 2) two small girls interviewed about a bad haircut.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

June's reading

By far the best thing I read in June was Great Works: 50 Paintings Explored by Tom Lubbock. It was my (requested) birthday present from my brother. It's a series of short newspaper columns by a since-deceased art critic, each on a single painting. The way he discusses pictures is unusual and and interesting -- for example to explain the power of an El Greco of a boy blowing on a candle he makes you visualise three short films. The book is quite well illustrated, though the pictures are constrained by its size. I really enjoyed it and discovered people I hadn't heard of like Peter Doig and Philipp Otto Runge. I wish Tom Lubbock had written more I could read. He was only 53 when he died. His obituary tells me that more may be published -- and also that he was a philosophy student at Corpus Christi, which is interesting. Next time I go back I'll see if any of the older fellows remember him.

Otherwise the things I enjoyed were mostly rereading -- Mason and Dixon, Anathem, Moo -- but I did read an excellent New Zealand book called Uncle Trev and his Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby. This is the sort of book which any age of person could enjoy. It's about a boy in the 1930s who has to spend a long time in bed with some illness. When his mother goes out his bachelor Uncle Trev sneaks in to eat biscuits and tell the boy tall stories about his farm. Very good and unostentatiously charming.