That’s cool…

Just nipped down to Capernwray today for a spot of lunch with Dicko and found that this months Diver (http://www.divernet.co.uk) features a small piece by me! Along with my name and pictures, all from back in summer of last year regarding the drift between Big and Little Brother, as posted here.

Whilst it’s nice that the text in the magazine is nearly word for word what was in the original post, it’s a shame that some parts haven’t been typed up correctly (ie, the use of ‘my’ instead of M/Y as was / should have been in the original, but it works.

Still, kind of cool to have something I wrote actually published in a magazine, even if it is of limited value to the wider world! 🙂

‘The Forgotten Soldier’ by Guy Sajer

First off, took me way too long to actually finish this, although I started well I just didn’t make time to read it when I got back home.
But, that’s not to say it’s a bad read – far from it.

Based on his personal experiences during the Second World War, in which he was recruited into the German army (he has a German mother and French father), Sajer describes his training and experiences of war vividly and clearly with trouble.
Every now and then, he digresses and concentrates on a certain feeling or memory which, rather than disrupting the flow of the book, adds another dimension of reality to it.

All in all a fascinating read, although with finishing it it strikes me as something that really needs to be re-read a few times to really get to grips with it, and I reckon it will be just as gripping and interesting each time.

It feels almost wrong to describe it as entertaining, given the subject matter, but with it being something I can’t really expect to relate to there’s no other real way to sum it up as a read without resorting to fake sympathy and pretending I understand everything that went on.

Read it.

A Plethora of Subjects

Good title, huh? Sometimes I even amaze myself…
Anyway, point is the title is fairly apt for the content – I should have written and posted at least parts of this a fair while ago, but for various reasons never did. So settle down and grab yourself a brew, this could get quite lengthy (if it helps, I’ll include some pictures on the way to wake you back up. Flashing lights and all.

Home

  • Desk Space
    It occurred to me over New Year that my desk is simply too small for what I want it to do. I took a couple of pictures to prove my point, which will hopefully appear here:

    As you can see, even with the chair moved out of the way, the desk space is severely limited, especially when the laptop is out, making simple tasks such as mouse management or keyboard control a bit of a pain in the arse as I find myself with my arms at weird angles or without really being able to have any support or rest to lean on – RSI here I come! Not fun.
    Most probably, getting myself a flat screen would help create a bit more space, but that’s gonna be a while off yet as I’d rather wait until I have enough cash to get a big-ass wide flat-screen, mainly because it has more ‘geek penis extension’ power than two normal sized flat screens running as dual-monitors. So, in the meantime, and for general use anyway, I reckon a large desk is the way to go. Of course, with not being here, it doesn’t make too much sense worrying about it now, but it was one thing that occurred to me.
    On the plus side, I recently brightened up my old 15″ CRT Monitor with the addition of some of my – even older – Corinthian All Stars. For those unaware, these are the little charicature-style football players that were around a few years back. I amassed quite a collection and as I was looking through them the other day I decided to pull a few out and line them up along the top of my monitor. I quite like it and may bring more out in the next few days. For now though, here’s what I have:
  • Drunken Purchase
    I was in Newcastle for a night last week with Mike. Obviously, that night we went out for a few beverages before going back to his.
    Mike’s house has wireless internet access. I was wasted. I had my laptop with me. Between the three of them, they made a bad combination, primarily as I woke up the next morning (ok, afternoon) to see in my inbox that I had confirmation that I was the ‘highest bidder’ on a picture… Not good.
    Fortunately, I had bid on an item that I’d been looking at when it had been posted previously, so at least it was on something that I liked, and it wasn’t too expensive, although it was money I could have spent elsewhere. Here’s what it looks like, seeing as it has since arrived (yes, I ‘won’ the auction) and is hung on the wall:

    Now, whether you like it or not, the saddest part of its erection (easy there, it’s not a penis reference) is that with it going up, Paul Ince had to come down. I am currently working out a suitable new location for the Guvn’r, who was understandably upset to lose a position he has held for at least 10 years. Don’t worry though, he still features in the team’s plans.
  • Weather
    The weather at the minute is, in a word, bollocks. The last couple of days had some nice moments which, due to various prior engagements I didn’t manage to make the most of, but today and last night had horrible weather – lots of wind, near horizontal rain: FUN! 😀

Computers

  • Reconfiguring Smoothwall
    One of the tasks I set myself whilst I wasn’t getting any sleep was that of reconfiguring my Smoothwall setup on moenia at home. moenia, as the name suggests, is the firewall box on the home network, also at the minute doubling as the DHCP and DNS server, and a general gateway to the outside world.
    Previously, through lack of a spare network card and time / energy / desire to do it, the [real:ppl] Server has sat behind the firewall on my local network (Green Zone) with the routing simply punched through to it for the required ports through moenia. After researching things a bit more I figured it was time for a change and time to try and secure it a bit more by trying my hand at setting up a DMZ (Orange Network in Smoothwall) for the web server.
    In all honesty I was surprised at how easy it was, although it took a couple of re-reads of the manual and the similar forum posts before I realized quite how I needed to setup the DNS servers on the Server itself to gain it external access. The nice thing now though is that it’s back up and running (as you can see…) and I can actually access it using the external address, which saves a lot of the problems I used to have.
    My only remaining problem is working out the location (physical and virtual) of the local network server (onerus) which I haven’t decided upon yet, so currently that has to stay offline.
  • SATA Blues
    Finally decided to install the new 200Gb Hard Drive that I bought a few months back, mainly because it was cheap, into my main Desktop machine, to give me a bit more space mainly for music and videos as a backup. Problem is, it’s an SATA drive, and my primary one is ATA. Not really being at the forefront of knowing what the compatability would be like and the ease of setup, I just whacked it in and hoped for the best, attaching it to the first SATA connection. Turns out it wouldn’t detect in either WinXp or Ubuntu. So looks like I need to go back to moving that around a bit more and seeing if I can get it working – or I have to leave it until I next build a new PC which is a bit of a bitch…
  • New Website
    Having fixed the gateway / network issues I’ve started to work towards a slight change in the blog by running with a Drupal CMS as the basis to help me tie everything in a little bit nicer. In the meantime though the blog will stay in the same place, and I’ll just double-post everything whilst I transfer the older posts into Drupal.
    The main reason I chose Drupal over Joomla which I was trying previously is that from what I’ve looked at Drupal seems to cater more comfortably to the small, primarily Blog-driven approach that I want to go for with the site, along with fairly easy integration of Gallery2, or a fairly usable Drupal Gallery if all else fails.
    It is fairly different in its setup as a CMS when compared to Joomla, but it seems fairly useful and easy to get to grips with, so far anyway. Tonight’s task is reinstalling the Gallery and trying to get that setup properly. Soon see how that works out though.
  • EvE Online
    This stretch of time at home has seen me play a good amount of Eve Online and actually manage to spend enough time to get some really solid playing done and get my characters to a fairly comfortable level in terms of setting them up for new stuff.
    No doubt many people will wonder what the hell Eve’s all about and the simple truth is if you haven’t tried it I doubt you can appreciate it. To try and explain what it is is difficult, but once you get playing it becomes extremely immersive and addictive and keeps you coming back to it. Lot of fun.
  • Return of th’Ubuntu?
    The last few weeks I’ve been running Debian Etch as my OS of choice on the PowerBook, after going through some difficulties with updates, reinstalls, then re-updates of Kubuntu trying to move from 6.06 to 6.10, the main difficultie being that for some reason 6.10 seemed to struggle with remembering Gamma settings on the monitor, reason unknown. Basically if I went through the display settings when I logged in and tweaked the settings in any minor way, then hit apply, the monitor would go back to showing the actual colours on the pictures, desktop, fonts etc, rather than being all pixely and, well, wrong.
    So I tried plain Debian. And I have to say I have been very impressed. The updates are daily and work without a charm and everything seems to just work pretty damn well. All that is except the keyboard which, although it types quite well (I’m typing this in it now) it randomly ‘jumps’ to another point in the document / sentence / paragraph apparently at random and with no consistency. This can prove to be very frustrating, and confusing as I never had this issue in any other Distro I’ve used (even going back to Ubuntu 5.04 or YellowDog Linux 3.0). I mean, it’s manageable, but when writing longer pieces like this it gets frustrating having to undo things every time it does it and going back to finding my spot as well as occasionally making instant messaging posts illegible. So it’s basically something I don’t want to have to manage.
    Of course, I could just go back to using Mac OS X, but I really don’t enjoy it as much.
    So I’m thinking of going back. Sat in the CD Drive right now is the freshly burned Ubuntu (no KDE) 6.10 (the Edgy Eft) CD, ready to go if I feel like doing the deed. Problem is, I’m not sure if I really want to or not. Part of me wants to just go abck to using KDE still, which means I will have to use 6.06 and take the not-quite-cutting-edge packages for a while until maybe I try Debian again, or the next release of Ubuntu works properly. Of course, I may end up trying 6.10 with the Gnome desktop environment and find the exact same issues, although my little bit of playing when it last happened suggested it was a KDE error – why, I have no idea.
    I also think it would be quite good to get back to using Gnome again. After all, my main reason for using KDE in the first place – the tighter integration with the Amarok music player – is not so much a big deal since the development of Exaile provides all the same functionality designed for the Gnome desktop. More than anything else I think it’s fairly healthy to swap about every now and then, particularly at my low level of knowledge, to try and get a grip on how the different part works, and where they’re similar. I will miss some of the cool Konqueror features though. But we’ll see, I’ll have to write a decent write up when / if I make the change.
  • New Laptop?
    Yes, I’m toying with getting myself another laptop, namely an IBM, either a T40, T41, or T42, to have as a more durable option than my PowerBook. Because, despite the PowerBook being a beautiful machine, and one that has served well and taken a fair amount of stick over the last two and a bit years that I’ve owned it, it has taken some knocks a little too easily, the biggest one being the ease with which the power port knocked out of shape, rendering it useless and therefore unchargeable. There’s also the obvious extra troubles with trying to get the Apple Hardware working as smoothly as it’s x86 equivalents under Linux that are a factor, as I’m using Linux more and more it would really be able to have a computer where those ‘little annoyances’ are ironed out. Probably if I manage to get myself the IBM I’ll revert the PowerBook back to pure OS X status, just to keep it ‘looking cool’… 🙂
    As to where I’m going to get it from, well, main port of call is eBay. Seeing as I’m after the new machine to be a durable workhorse, I’m not after getting anything new (in which case I’d have to get it through Lenovo now, and the T4x series have, I believe, been discontinued) and shiny, just something that’s hard-wearing and powerful enough for my needs which, looking at the spec I’m probably looking at a 1.5GHz CPU, onboard Intel Wireless Chipset (because it works easily in Linux) and about 512Mb RAM (which is easily upgradable). The biggest drawback is that all the T4x’s seemed to ship with 40Gb hard drives, which I’d have to upgrade so I don’t have to rely on my external drives as much. Having the laptop delivered with XP installed would also be alright, as I could at least then have an Eve Client tucked away inside that and then shrink it down as small as possible… Biggest problem is price, as I’m loathe to spend more than £250 on it. Back to eBay then…

Diving

  • North West Emergency Recompression Unit, Murrayfield
    Sunday just gone saw me travel down to the North West Emergency Recompression Unit which is based at the BUPA Murrayfield hospital on the Wirral – but is in itself a NHS facility. I was there as a last minute addition to a trip organized and run by Adam Hanlon and Capernwray Diving & Leisure. Basically the chamber there runs ‘day trips’ whereby groups can go down, sit through an interesting (from a dive perspective) lecture, followed by a ‘Dry Dive’ in the Chamber to a depth of 50m, breathing air.
    Obviously, it would be wrong for me to detail what was mentioned in the lecture, as it would potentially ruin any unexpected statements and comments mentioned, but it was well presented, with charisma, although I don’t know if I quite buy all the lines fed. Was certainly interesting though.
    As for the ‘Dry Dive’, that is a definite must for anyone who still believes narcosis is a myth – or worse, that they can ‘handle’ it – and for anyone who just fancies a good laugh. Some very funny moments for both sides.
    So, apologies that isn’t more detailed, but an excellent day out, and thanks to Adam for organising it all, and for ‘changing the route’ so we would get to see the Sub… 🙂
  • Drysuit Since I was going down to the Wirral anyway, it proved a perfect time for me to run my drysuit down to Protec in Wallasey. Really, I should have taken this down ages ago, but it’s a bit of a roundabout route if I’m not going anywhere remotely close… Still, at least it’s there now so I would imagine it’ll be done and ready by the time I get back from Slovakia so if I’m still not working, I can at least try and get a good amount of diving in! As far as what the suit needs (because I know you’re dying to find out), it’s basically in for a zip replacement, as the old zip had started to wear and leak mildly in places, and for seal replacements whilst it’s there. Which is reasonable enough. Most probably I will be leaving this suit home when I next go back out to Egypt as I have the Diving Concepts suit already on the boat, and it’ll be nice to not have to cart the damn drysuit bag with me everytime I head home :-). Obvious downside is that I won’t have my drygloves out in Egypt now, at least not without buying another pair…
  • Diving in General
    Haven’t done enough of it (2 Dives since back).
    Simply not good enough. Must try harder.

Self

  • Not in the Eyes
    I’ve realised in the past few days a major factor I’m lacking in general conversation: I find it difficult to hold a look at other people’s eyes during conversation, even on a topic I’m comfortable with. It seems to happen less with mates and people I know particularly well, but with strangers, and certainly strangers who are a few years older than me, I’ve become extremely aware of it.
    And it bothers me. Because I shouldn’t be like that. There’s no reason for it. No justification. I guess it comes down to nerves or some form of insecurity that I’m unaware of. But it’s annoying. So, please, don’t be alarmed if I appear to be looking extremely intent when I’m next talking to you, it’s more than likely I’m simply trying to concentrate on holding your eye contact (not lens) and to that end I may miss some parts of conversation. My bad.
  • No Sleep ’til Belfast
    The last few weeks my sleep pattern has been, at best, nocturnal. But, I reckon it’s fair to say that the last few days shifted it into the realms of ‘fucked up’.
    Basically, with having no work to do and generally finding myself more active later on at night, I shifted from going to bed at ‘conventional’ times to going to bed in the early hours of the morning and using the rest of the night time to mess with computers, read, and generally be awake. The last few days though knocked all this by things turning up to do in the mornings, leaving me largely without sleep for more than a day. Maybe not a big deal in itself, but with things to do it means I’m now on my third such day this week, leaving very little recuperation time in between. I think I may well go sleep for a little while after I finish writing this. Not yet sure quite how long such a system will continue for… time will tell!
  • Political Compass
    So, I retook the Political Compass Test again today, the first time I’ve taken it in a few years. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what my ‘score’ was last time, but I know it was fairly firmly in the Libetarian Left section of the graph, and things haven’t really changed that much in that time.
    The Compass itself is quite an interesting idea as it attempts to dispell these theories of ‘simple left and right’ by plotting on two axies. I can’t really explain it too well, and won’t try to, have a look at the site and the explanation is a lot clearer. 🙂
    It also features a rough plot as to where various world leaders and figures would lie on the graph, according to answering the questions by what they did / said publicly (I don’t think Gandhi actually took the test…). Back in the good old days I’m sure it used to plot your result on the graph along with the world figures, but now it seems you have to make that mental leap yourself. Times are hard, clearly.
    Anyway, as for how I did, well I scored an Economic Left / Right of -7.25 and a Social Libetarian / Authoritarian of -6.87 which fairly well buries me in the bottom left portion of the graph. It’s actually a tad lower-left than I had expected, but quite interesting to find out. See how you do. Enjoy.

And that’s it! That’s all I had to say. Apologies for my length…

Big Brother Race Row

I want to clarify something before I start – I don’t watch Big Brother. I don’t care to watch Big Brother and personally don’t think it should be classed as entertainment, nevermind be put on TV, but it does seem to serve its purpose well in dumbing down the audience whilst convincing them that it’s actually an ‘intellectual’ show in ‘social study’… load of crap. But that’s just my opinion.

However, whatever my opinions of the ‘show’ may be does not detract from the fact that this whole racism row that’s been flaring away in the tabloids and even made the BBC Website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6277301.stm) is a load of bollocks, and it frustrates me.

It frustrates me because it’s a typical PC response at trying to make a non-issue an issue. Trying to prove a point when all it really achieves is making yourselves look dumb.

The fact is that Big Brother makes its millions on the fact that it’s a ‘reality’ TV show, and a show in which you take x number of people, put them together and isolate them from the outside world (at least, that’s how it was meant to be, of course now people go on knowing that they’re being watched by millions of equally dumb people and play up to the fact). If something happens inside then it is not up to the producers, the presenters, or anybody to get involved, presumably the only exceptions being where the law is clearly broken, which in this case, as I understand it, it isn’t.
Personally, I’d prefer it if there was no external involvement at all until the people leave the house, at which case they can receive whatever punishment, legal or otherwise, that they are due. If the contestants started to actually kick the shit out of each other then I might start to watch.. what can be more entertaining than watching morons beat each other in a controlled environment and then hear their reasons for doing so afterwards.
In fact, fuck it, put swords in there and let’s see them make a proper job of it.

Who really cares if they call each other names? At the end of the day they’re not exactly inciting violence and if one person gets upset they can always choose to leave – who do you think will get the most positive response at the end of the show, the victim or the attacker? Hmmm, I just can’t work it out…
But calling pressures on the show or, even worse, getting politicians involved (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6269953.stm) is not just daft, it’s beyond the pale STUPID. Surely Gordon Brown should have some more important questions to be asked of his time in India than about a pissing TV Show!? How about, for starters, “Mr. Brown, are any talks ongoing to try and step down the buildup of nuclear deterrants..”.
Personally, and granted I’m biased seeing as I have a deep-rooted dislike of the show anyway, I find it humiliating and embarrassing that the goings-of a reality TV show as fundamentally dumb as this apparently affects a perception of the British in foreign countries.

Equally comical was the fact that the Carphone Warehouse is withdrawing it’s sponsorship of the programme on the basis of the recent rows. Clearly, sponsoring a show that encourages people to disgrace themselves and play dumb is fine until it even lightly brushes the racism boundary.
When are people going to learn that people from different backgrounds are allowed to take the piss, call each other names, and *shock, horror!* not like each other without being racist or elitist or whatever term you would like to use? It’s part of life.
By the same vein, maybe this is the prayer I’ve been holding out on and will spell the end
of this Big Brother phenomenon. Although, presumably, if that were to happen it wouldn’t be long until something equally dumb came up to take its place. Oh wait, there already are a bunch of clones out there already… sorry.

To my mind, the biggest irony of all this is that of all the housemates Shilpa Shetty probably has the most legitimate claim to being a celebrity. Not that I’m claiming to have heard of, or seen, any of her work before, but in terms of a fan base I would imagine she is probably more well known than the other ‘celebrities’ who are in the house, one of which (her opponent) is famous for… well, Jade’s famous for being on the show before and being a dumb, gobby bitch whilst she was there.
Harsh? Probably, but I don’t see what else she’s famous for.

Nearly “Normal”

Well, as much as I’ve struggled to work out what normal actually is, and never managed to come up with an answer, here is an ‘official’ verdict.

My guess? It’s uber-scientific.


You Are 45% Normal


While some of your behavior is quite normal…
Other things you do are downright strange
You’ve got a little of your freak going on
But you mostly keep your weirdness to yourself

Iraq PM hits out at hanging critics

Item Source:

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B7063C05-62B2-4332-9A6B-EC0FA6EB1B93.htm

So, it appears that in comments made on Saturday, Nuri al-Maliki, the current Iraqi prime minister, has said that Iraq may well review relations with countries that have recently criticised Iraq’s execution of Saddam Hussein, and the footage that followed.

His comments follow on from recent comments made by various countries, including from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who commented the the execution of Saddam is likely to turn him into a ‘martyr’.

Continue reading “Iraq PM hits out at hanging critics”