<< July 2001 September 2001 >>

Friday 31 August, 2001
# I've just spoken to Emma, my new chum at LWT. We decided that, sadly, I couldn't help her. I confessed to feeling slighty sleazy about the whole business, but she reassured me that this was pretty small beer compared to some of the things that Nightlife covers.

It sounds like I need to get myself a copy of Bizarre too - page 22 has an "advert" for the Trumps.
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# Let's have another dip into The Coffee Grounds mailbag.

Hi Jez,
My name is Emma Shaw and I work for London Weekend Television on a programme called "Nightlife" which takes an in depth look at what's going on in London. On reading your advert in Bizarre magazine I was interested in finding out more about the trading cards game, about what it entails and if you meet up with people. Any information you could send me about it would be great. I'm just researching items like this at the moment, so was basically interested in finding out more to see whether it may be something we would like to feature. You can email me on name.deleted@someisporother.com or give me a call on 0000 000 0000. Thanks in advance for your help and I'll look forward to hearing from you soon.
Best wishes,
Emma Shaw

Hmmm, what to do? The trading cards game is obviously the Trumps, but I do get the feeling she's rather missed that it's a joke, is several years old, that I don't live in London and didn't put an advert in Bizarre. Bizarre are still running it on the front of their website, but that's their doing, not mine.

I did think about offering up Pete as he does live in the Big Smell, but he declined before I even asked.
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Thursday 30 August, 2001
# The Coffee Grounds Canadian correspondent writes

Oh Jez. The world of software development must be an angst filled place. All the frames I catch show you staring soul searchingly into the middle distance.

It is! It is! Observe the full horror for yourself on the Attic Cam
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Wednesday 22 August, 2001
# The new Sky Moviemax Wednesday Action advert shamelessly rips off this little gem.
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# Big bang astronomer dies, Fred Hoyle Dies at 86; Opposed 'Big Bang' but Named It
Fred Hoyle, astrophysics big brain who coined the phrase 'big bang' but doubted it actually happened, promoter of panspermism, has died.
Old Grounds

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Tuesday 21 August, 2001
# Spent last Saturday at Caption 2001, a small-press comics convention. It's kind of informal, in that there are panels and things, but the main activity is in the bar. The main purpose of any convention is, after all, so that people who normally only communicate via letter and email can get to meet each other. Indeed, several years ago I proposed to Caption's then organizers that they should dispense with the panels entirely, and just announce that they would be in a given pub at a given time. Pete had the same idea via a different route, and that eventually saw fruit as the Birmingham pub meet, a monthly get together of people brought together (ahem) by comics.

At some point in the afternoon, Pete, Andrew and myself all managed to be sitting together and concentrating for long enough to have a conversation. Years back (1996?), Pete started publishing a comics review sheet called, imaginatively, TRS - The Review Sheet. As seems to be the way of successful self-published enterprises, it became something of a chimera and he let it go (1998?). Andrew, realising that TRS was important, revived it (renaming it, imaginatively, TRS2) and has been running it for the last couple of years. Once more, however, the burdens have begun to outweigh the pleasures, and he decided he couldn't continue to publish it. Perhaps rashly, I offered to take it on. At Caption on Saturday, we all sat down together and the hand over happened. The new TRS (called, imaginatively, TRS3) is mine until it drives me mad (literally mad on past evidence). Anybody want to volunteer now to take over in 2003?
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Nat: What's this rubbish you're listening to?
Me: Eminem.
Nat: You didn't pay for an Eminem album? (Turns on heel, walks out of room.)
planetcutie said Ha ha. Slim Shady corrupts another innocent mind. [added 22nd Aug 2001]

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Monday 20 August, 2001
# Test Match Special Webcam - Ever wondered what the TMS team do while they watch the cricket? What Aggers does when he's not on air? Or what Blowers looks like while eating cake? If Bill Frindall's beard is really that wonderful?
Check it out now, before an famous England victory ends the coverage!
Although now I look at it, it seems they've neglected to turn it on today. Poo.

[added 20th Aug 2001]

planetcutie said Went out shopping after Ramprakash was out. I didn't think they'd get 26 in half an hour, so I'd be home for the victory. They did. Bastards. Never rely on England - even to be crap. [added 20th Aug 2001]

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# Having lunch in the garden just now, was delighted to see a massive dragonfly cruising round the place. Hopefully, it's taken up residence by the pond and isn't just passing through.
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# Don't feel very motivated for work today. Perhaps I should have gone down to Slough.
angryjohn said damn right you idle slacker ! [added 20th Aug 2001]
angryjohn said i'm obviously working like the proverbial bastard [added 20th Aug 2001]
planetcutie said Bah. It's post Caption and no zine to do. Will listen to the Marshall Mathers LP and play Freecell. [added 20th Aug 2001]

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Sunday 19 August, 2001
# I was trying to write something here, but Daniel'sturned the monitor off and I am now typing blind. Guess I'll have to try again ;ater.
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Friday 17 August, 2001
#[Arabica] Initial LexicalHandler property implementation in SAX2 expat wrapper - it doesn't call startEntity/endEntity but it calls everything else.

Defined LexicalHandler and DeclHandler interfaces.

Change ContentHandler::getXXXHandler to return a pointer not a reference.

Jiggled various bits of setProperty and getProperty. It'll no doubt need reworking for a more compliant compiler.
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# The corporate storm clouds have been gathering at work for a while now, and I'm hoping they break in the next few days. It's no secret that the Slough office and the HQ in San Diego don't exactly see eye-to-eye on, well, just about anything really. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on what the company's business is, why it is or isn't doing as well as it might, whether particular bits of software or customers are important or not, whether milk or lemon works best in the tea. In recent weeks events, while not exactly coming to a head, have taken something of a turn for the worst.

As a contractor, I obviously stand to one side of the company toings-and-froings, but I have found trying to work with the US office an annoying experience. While working away at my allotted tasks, I discovered a potentially catastrophic problem with some of the software. The US owned it, so I send them an email explaining what I discovered. In the time it took them to reply "how serious is this anyway?", I'd found the solution too. I told them I had a fix, it needs to go into the base product, and yet 6 weeks later no one has asked me for it. Now I'm not desperately upset that I'm being ignored, but I am disappointed. The software is shipping with a big bug in the middle of it, the fix is just waiting, and the people who can apply the fix don't seem to care.

M'colleagues John and John tell me that this is the way things are. They've been held at something more than arms length by the US for as long as they can remember. Over and over, they're asked the same questions about the work they're doing. Over and over, their attempts to release their software are skuppered. Not unnaturally, they've both become exasperated. Nobody likes to see their work ignored, after all. Recently, in what appeared to be a bridge building effort, they were both flown over to San Diego for a week of meet'n'greets. It didn't work - in the middle of the most important meeting of the week, the Vice-Prez of Marketing walked out because there was a basketball game on the telly that he absolutely had to go and watch.

John and John have both now resigned from Chrystal. The full-time UK development staff numbers are reduced to one, and a vast store of useful knowledge walks out of the company. (And away where I can't get at it. Makes my job harder, damn it!)

So the clouds gather. Maybe the US office doesn't mind that it's driving people away and carry on. Personally, I hope it'll spur some action somewhere. Perhaps I'll finish up with a whole load more work. Maybe, I'll get canned. At least the air will be clearer.
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Monday 13 August, 2001
# Spilling the beans - It is one of Britain's biggest boom industries, with new shops springing up quicker than you can say cappuccino. Clearly, we're becoming a nation of coffee lovers - but is the cup that runneth over about to turn bitter? ... The chains are very faddish and low-quality. We think we ought to drink coffee because it looks cool to walk around with a bucketload of it and a mobile phone, but we don't really enjoy it that much ... In years to come, when the novelty wears off, chain coffee shops will have all the allure of a Bhs cafeteria.
In coffee, as in all things, remember - DON'T BUY SHIT STUFF!
angryjohn said hardly a revolutionary rant that [added 13th Aug 2001]
peteychap said A recent feature on coffee shops in Time Out took an Italian coffee expert around London's chains which he mercilessly destroyed his main criticism being they never clean their glorious machines properly so the coffee tastes nasty. A new Pret opened next to us at work and, sure enough, they currently do the best coffee on the stretch. Give them a month though... [added 13th Aug 2001]
planetcutie said To hell with coffee. Drink bourbon instead. [added 15th Aug 2001]
Even with foamed milk, sugar and chocolate sprinkles I don't think Bourbon will catch on as hip'n'cool daytime drink. [added 17th Aug 2001]
planetcutie said Only because nobody's tried it yet, dear boy. [added 17th Aug 2001]

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# Attempting to type the word 'bye', I typed 'byte'.
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#[Arabica] The SAX code now builds into a library of its own. This means there's one definition of the various static strings, and everything now compiles and links. Bonus!

Fixed a minor namespace handling bug in the SAX2 expat wrapper. Otherwise, it's looking good.
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Friday 10 August, 2001
#Um ...
I'm reading a book, an actual physical book.

I get to the bottom of the page.

I press the down arrow on my keyboard.

smellygit said Surely you should have pressed the PageDown key? [added 13th Aug 2001]

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# Feel a bit giddy - the plumbing's finished.

The guy we got in to fit the boiler and what-not that needing do as part of having the kitchen redone turned out to be a bit of lemon. We had problem after problem, that he "just didn't understand why that should be", the most recent being that the new boiler he'd fitted didn't work.

An engineer arrived on Wednesday to look at it, and immediately announced he couldn't do anything without the plumber. Unable to get hold of him, the engineer left. Nat got pretty cross. Even I got annoyed. Nat gave him an earful when he eventually returned out phone calls on Wednesday night.

And this morning, in something of an anti-climax, it's finished. Another engineer arrived an quarter to eight this morning, and the plumber came round shortly after that. The engineer fixed the boiler in a under an hour, and it was done.

I feel a bit cheated. Everything else had been so fraught with problems, I'd been expecting at least another leak, possibly even a small flooding incident. But amazingly, it all seems to work, and we have hot water again for the first time in two months.
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Thursday 09 August, 2001
#[Arabica] Started a SAX2 wrapper for expat (native not using the SAX->SAX2 ParserAdaptor class). It is my intention to support the optional DeclHandler and LexicalHandler properties in due course.

Corrected throws (throw new is Java *not* C++!)

Everything compiles ok, but doesn't link. I've defined the static in the header files, so get multiple definitions. I knew it was wrong when I wrote it, but I've been doing so much Java recently it just didn't click.

None of this code is available from the website yet, but if you'd like to get hold of it, just email me.
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Monday 06 August, 2001
# This morning's Today programme asked whether computer games should receive the same level of media coverage as films. The computer game industry generates more jobs and money than cinema, so surely it should get the commensurate column inches.

Against the proposition was Brian Appleyard, art critic of the Sunday Times, who seemed wholly unable to frame a convincing argument. He had played Myst for a few minutes, it seemed, but he had swiftly tired of it. Therefore, computer games as whole, he implied, weren't worthy of further consideration.

When the bloke he was debating with (who's name I didn't catch unfortunately) refused to buckle, Appleyard upped the anti with the but it isn't art argument. This is always a tricky line to persue, particularly when you opponent replies But I didn't claim computer games were art. They are, however, a major cultural influence and should, therefore, be covered in the papers.

Clearly tired of this pussyfooting around, Appleyard audibly drew himself up to his full height and delivered a devastating intellectual knock-out blow

When you play one of these games, you're following a story written by a software writer. Software writers arn't artists. There's some doubt as to whether they're human beings.

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Friday 03 August, 2001
# Drove down to wet'n'rainy Slough yesterday. I don't mind being in the office, but I really don't like the drive down because it seems to involve at least one incident where I fear for my life. Perhaps I'm just a bad driver and bring it on myself. More likely it's because I drive a small car at 70mph rather than some fuck-off big exec-mobile at 85+.

Yesterday morning's incident was unusual because it only involved speed and not a sudden lane change as well. It's six in the morning, and the M40 is pretty quiet. I'm in the outside lane overtaking a lorry, which in turn in overtaking another lorry. In the distance I can see a Mercedes S class approaching at some speed. It's pretty clear I won't have passed the lorry by the time it reaches us, but it's not showing any sign of slowing down.

In the end, the smartly suited driver leaves his braking so late I thought he was just going to run into the back of me. He had to brake so hard that his car began to submarine and veer about, one moment threatening to hit the central crash barrier, then next to run into the back end of the lorry. Suddenly, instead of lounging with one hand loosely on the wheel, he's sitting bolt upright grabbing it with both hands.

I tear my eyes away from the rear-view mirror, finish overtaking and pull back in. A few seconds later, the Merc driver emerges past the lorry, lounging again, and glares at me as he accelerates off into the distance. I feel pretty rattled. I've come pretty fucking close to being run off a virtually empty motorway, and there was nothing I could have done about it. The driver of the car who nearly hit me seems unruffled and has just charged off into the distance. The situation shouldn't have arisen and could have been avoided without this tossbag ever dipping below the legal speed limit. Madness.

planetcutie said Could be worse. In 1988, my mother was driving us to Lancaster on a weekday morning. Passing through the M6 near Birmingham, a car swerved, hit the back wheel of a truck, and cartwheeled off the road onto the crash barrier. My mother braked just hard enough to avoid being collected by the flying lump of metal. She stopped just in front of it, and it had landed the right way up, though somewhat damaged. The driver looked ok, if somewhat surprised. [added 4th Aug 2001]
stu said My brother was in a very bad accident caused by a white Merc overtaking a line of lorries down a hill between Reading and Birmingham on his way back from Uni in 1989. The merc driver had to pull in very swiftly in front of the front lorry to avoid a car coming up the hill. Caused the lorry to break suddenly. It jack-knifed across the road, and smashed into three or more other cars including my brother's Fiesta. Needless to say the Merc driver accelerated away and probably never knew what he had caused. [added 23rd Aug 2001]

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Wednesday 01 August, 2001
# The big zine has arrived. Packaged as a PDF, Borderline is a fat 56 pages of comics magazine.
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<< July 2001 September 2001 >>