Saturday, 22 February 2014


1. I suppose it's a badge of honour to work for a place which the Daily Mail hates so much. I like this collection of gifs which tries to give the overall message of the recent Met Office report on this winter's weather, with the proviso that "the global weather system is insanely complex".

2. The NHS is selling off patient records. They'll be anonymous -- of course they'll be anonymous, everything is anonymous these days, and there is no way they could possibly be abused. But in case you still don't like the idea you can opt out. There's a useful Fax Your GP service here. My doctor's practice actually provides a model letter on its website for you to print off and post in, so I've already done that.

3. And if you're wondering about anonymity and uniqueness in another area, this website can tell you how unusual your computer is just by looking at the information that the browser gives it. Mine is unique among the nearly four million tested so far due to its combination of plugins and fonts. It's an EFF site so I sort of trust it not to abuse the information... Is that inconsistent of me? To be honest I don't really think there are many people who want to abuse my information, but there's not many people I trust to be intelligent with it.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Entertainment mostly

1. I was listening to Radio 1 this morning and a song came on which starts out as a setting of D. H. Lawrence's poem about the singing woman and the piano. Nick Mulvey, Cucurucu. I've always found that poem disconcerting; I don't think of D.H. Lawrence weeping like a child for the past. The song is OK.

2. I've been watching lots of The Good Wife -- damn you DVD box sets! -- which I rather like. It's about a woman whose husband is caught using prostitutes and possibly being corrupt in his role as District Attorney of Chicago. She stands by him at humiliating press conferences, he's jailed, and then she has to go back to work as a lawyer to keep the family going. It's pretty watchable and passes the Bechdel test in spades. The main role is played by Julianna Margulies, who has this excellent way of setting her jaw and saying nothing which I puzzled over for ages until I realise it's just like Frances McDormand in Fargo. Legal dramas are always a bit odd because they give the impression that going to court involves a lot of shouting like an argument at primary school, and I have no idea if that's true. The Good Wife makes references to this gap between real life and narrative drive in a way I don't completely get. The firm's partners are accused of taking decisions based on feelings and their drive to win rather than on business logic, which is surely a necessity for a TV drama; one of the main characters gets promoted in a narratively satisfying way, and later it's pointed out that the promotion was rather arbitrary. Maybe like in Sophie's World they will eventually get accused of being fictional characters. Anyway I'm enjoying it quite a lot.

3. The storms here have been pretty grim at times. These last two are apparently of a type that's quite interesting meteorologically -- something to do with how they form, and the way that they don't just go over straightforwardly but have a sort of sting in their tail. I went with my parents on an RSPB bird-watching cruise in the Exe estuary yesterday. We didn't go any closer to the sea than Exmouth and Dawlish Warren, and we went up as near Exeter as Topsham. We saw quite a lot of dunlin (also known as the "sea mouse") and huge flocks of godwits, as well as many other birds such as mergansers, curlews, shags, and a few of the avocets which are the ostensible purpose of the trip. The mud banks were markedly speckly, and apparently this was because so much water has come down the Exe that the top layer of mud has been washed away, exposing stones which are usually more deeply buried. The large flocks of avocets which I saw last year when I did the same trip with a friend were not in evidence. They must have gone somewhere with more food. I hope they'll be back. We went at low tide because it's the best time to see birds, but really far up the Exe you could see wave damage done in the recent storms. We did see a peregrine menacing some godwits, which was a pretty impressive sight.

4. In other news I have to do a Java exam in April. It's not a trivial one -- eight people did it from the office last year and two of them failed. I think I'll probably be OK if I can muster the energy to put the work in. I'm quite keen to get it over and done with. I feel like I've come a long way over the last year and a bit, and that I'm just beginning to know what I'm doing, but there's a lot more to learn.