September 2003

It was free

Or was it?

Yesterday evening we went to a theatre to see The Italian Job. We arrived at the ticket office a few minutes before the scheduled start time only to find that the ultra-bright display listings of movie times didn't list it. WifeOfVirge assured the rest of us doubters that the time was correct according to the newspaper she read. We joined the line anyway and stepped up to the counter when our turn came.

"Sorry, it's not scheduled to show at that time."

A slightly disgruntled foursome stepped back to look at what alternatives there were. We could wait for a couple of hours to see The Italian Job - ummm, no thanks. DaughterOfVirge was going to see Tomb Raider II today and the rest of us weren't keen anyway. We'd seen Pirates of the Carribean the day before, but I must admit that a second viewing was tempting. Finding Nemo was fun but one viewing was enough. Legally Blonde 2 was on the want-to-see list for KidsOfVirge so I meekly agreed to go along with the family on this alternative strategy.

We approached the counter. The assistant had been very helpful. While we had discussed alternatives she had asked her manager about the showing of The Italian Job advertised in the paper. The theatre had cancelled that session, so she gave us 4 free tickets as compensation. Our evening's entertainment would be free.

I look back now and see that it was anything but free. Legally Blonde 2 stole 95 minutes of my life and filled it with fatuous, glib, proud-to-be-americanned glurge. The ratio of one chuckle to twenty cringes is not what I'd regard as entertainment. The first Legally Blonde movie had a certain flow and logical inevitability to it. It seemed like the perpetrators of this sequel worked with a charter of: "just like the first one only more extra exaggeratedlyness".

Just Deserts

I returned to work today after a week of forgetting about work. Nothing much had changed. I think I was one of the many who'd taken the week off - being school holidays. I know a number of my colleagues had been on leave.

There was only one phone-mail message left for me. Switching the answering message over to "I'm on holidays. Phone someone who cares," obviously worked a charm. (Ok, I lied about the second sentence. My message actually tells the caller how to connect back to the reception desk.)

My unread email total was countable with fingers and toes. This was very helpful, since I can't use head-hair for additional counters. Of course, among the few handfuls (and footfuls) there had to be one that demanded immediate attention - a proposal document. No, not a proposal for marriage. It was a proposal by a group of my engineers for a mathematical correction to fix a hardware problem in one of our instruments.

The proposal acknowledged input from all of our engineering and chemistry disciplines. It then went on to describe a distorted calibration of logarithms, exponentials and fudge factors that maintained or improved instrument performance and made the numbers exactly meet the test specifications. There was only one flaw. How could they have missed it? The effect on linearity would be horrendous. Why didn't they discuss this with me before sending the document out to managers and engineering staff? Didn't they realise how their simplistic error would make the complicated maths look ridiculous? The problem had to be fixed in hardware. Any other approach would just be fudging the numbers. It's like saying "Yes officer, I know I was speeding but if you divide my speed by 2 then I'm just under the speed limit."

I went to speak with one of the engineers involved, knowing that the guy who had sent the proposal was now on leave. I asked if he knew much about the proposal.

He laughed.

Then I realised. Only a couple of hours back at work and I was starting to take things too seriously. The proposal had no actual names in it, only acknowledgement of departments and groups. It addressed all the relevant instrument performance measures except linearity - conspicuous by its absence. I had taken the bait.

Just deserts. I'm still chuckling at how easily I let myself believe it.


Blobbies are little creatures that like to gather in groups of three. They are very childish and difficult folk. It's very important that you help them choose balanced groups of three, otherwise two of the Blobbies will gang up against the third.

I just wrote a game using PHP script. It's based on the game logic of Set, a card game devised by population geneticist Marsha Jean Falco.

Blobbies is ready for public showing. Please feel free to try it, but don't blame me if you get addicted. Feedback on the game would be welcome (either by the email link on the game page or as a comment on this blog entry).


Captain Jack took Virge for an amazing adventure this afternoon.

No, I haven't started experimenting with chemical brain-state modifiers. I just enjoyed the pure escapism of Pirates of the Carribean - The Curse of the Black Pearl. Arrrrr, every day should be talk like a pirate day.

If ever somebody decides to turn the Monkey Island games into a movie, I now know exactly the style I'd like them to use. PotC is cheesy. It's over-the-top on incredibility. It's set in devastatingly beautiful, rugged coasts. It's swash-buckling. It's just cram-packed with piratey goodness. Oh, for a cinematic pirate's life!

Jack Sparrow: [after Will draws his sword] Put it away, son. Its not worth you getting beat again.
Will Turner: You didn't beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you.
Jack Sparrow: That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

Backstage Pass

Someone requested a backstage pass to my mind.

You don't want to go there - it's horrible.

Backstage there is: a comatose diva that has just been stretchered from the orchestra pit; a troop of elephants warming up for their parts in Aida (which wouldn't be so bad except the elephants are nervous - very nervous); a glam metal band still trying to find its way from the changing rooms to the stage door (last seen in 1984); a big fat road manager trying to keep the IRS official away from the comedy group in dressing room #2; a broken 400kg chandelier covering the floor of the loading bay; a stand up fight between a health inspector and the building services manager about the role of rats in a theatre's ecology...

Need I go on? It's not a pretty place.

Txet Mdluedr

I seem to hvae been gnoig trohugh a bit of a geek tirp oevr the lsat week. It's all bceusae I hvae a web sverer taht sortpups sntriipcg. Hvae srticps wlil prrgoam.

Pelase acecpt my aepoilgos if tihs is a ltitle hrad to unsartdend. I tatsraenld it uisng the Txet Mdluedr I wrtoe ydsearety.

(Translation available in the "more" section.)


I thought I was going to be isolated tonight. It looked like a night of solitary confinement. Various family members and their friends were having their "turns" on the computers (not that I begrudge them their processor time). As it was nearing 11pm the gigglefest departed and I encouraged the remaining game-freak to save and exit. I rebooted.

I immediately regretted it. The network refused to connect. I tried all the usual combinations of rebooting the cable modem then the PC - all to no avail. I waited. Is it me? Is my PC causing the problem? The game-freak had just been reinstalling an old game. Had something changed to muck with my network connection?

Midnight was approaching. I resigned myself to having to ring the cable support line. This is always daunting. If my super-efficient (add your own layers of sarcasm here) cable company had noted a big problem then ringing the support line would be fast. I'd get a recorded message before having to wait for a service rep. It's when they don't realise their network is down that you need to pack a cut lunch and a thermos of coffee before you start the phone call.

I was lucky. Well, based on the shortness of the phone call I was lucky. Based on the state of the network I was as lucky as a mangy, blind, three-legged, recently castrated dog. The whole of the state was having problems. The precise female voice said the problem was complex enough that they had no idea when it would be fixed. I resigned myself to having no connection at all tonight.

I tried connecting again at about 12:15 and nearly fainted. The network was back!

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I'm currently listening to: The Juliet Letters. This collaboration between Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet is experimental and invigorating. The range of songs - soulful blues, caustic sarcasm, playful wit - is complemented by the range of string styles - warm tremolos, angry martellatos, sneaky pizzicatos.

Here's another little doodle-ditty collaboration with Sigga.

An interesting thought: Song Fight. Each week a song title is posted. Entrants write and record a song within the week and post it. The winner is determined by popular vote.

Every clod has a silver leaning

Picture, if you will, a musician - unstable at the best of times. I can't say who it was because I don't know. I could ask an eye witness (SonOfVirge) but I'm not sure I want to know.

Now consider that this musician is in his teenage years. This is when various limbs go through spurts of growth and the ones furthest from the brain sometimes have a little trouble keeping up with instructions from mission control. Now picture this teenage musician trying to navigate through a forest of music stands, chairs and expensive instruments. If it was on film you'd expect this scene to come just after the dialog that informs us that the trumpet is uninsured.

Of course in the film we'd delay the climax for as long as possible with some near-miss foreplay. In real life it happens all too quickly: the trip, the staggering step that topples the trumpet from its stand, then the recovery step - when the other foot is brought forward to halt the falling body and plants itself directly onto the prone trumpet. It's done.

I don't think this silver was designed to be a crumple zone. It's not a write-off. SonOfVirge can still play it and the tone is not noticeably marred. It needs fixing. I know car panel beaters are renowned for their ability to charge. I dread to think what their musical counterparts are like.

Gallery is up

The gallery is up. I built myself a photo gallery - partly to organise photos and party to play around with php scripting (coughcoughgeekcough). I'm pretty happy with it so far. It needs a few extra navigation options and needs more of the photos that are scattered around my hard discs. See Virge's Photo Gallery (let me know if there are any problems).