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Wednesday 28 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to award knighthoods to John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant, in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the great British comic, 2000AD. - Few comics have reached their 10th anniversary, let alone their 30th. 2000AD, and its flagship character Judge Dredd, are just about to pass this milestone. The last mainstream British comic still in circulation, 2000AD has nurtured great British writing and artistic talents now in huge demand worldwide.
We believe that a good way to recognise this achievement would be to reward the founding editor, Pat Mills, and the comic's other two mainstay writers, John Wagner and Alan Grant, by making them knights of the realm.

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Tuesday 27 February, 2007
#Diary dates - Drongos For Europe
Pete Ashton said Yeah, I'm getting the feeling Bearwood is getting pretty hip these days. I mean, it always was but a lot of stuff seems to be going on there right now. [added 27th Feb 2007]
Daz [e] said Just a note guys anybody who's out for good night out has to goto town, and pay town prices...but recently the bear has improved and the music and energy is the same as town...but with local pub prices......would be nice to see a saturday dj too with the same energy......anyway guys and gals have a good one.... [added 8th Jun 2007]

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#[elsewhere] Did I mention I grew up in the country?
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Monday 26 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] 30 years of the future - It was once for children, now it's much loved by adults but the authors of legendary British comic 2000AD are shocked how many of their predictions have come to pass.

   * Darren [e] [w] said Zarjaz! [added 26th Feb 2007]

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#[elsewhere] BBC 1 Inside Out - Moseley Road bath

   * John H [e] said ...and there you are on TV. Still not as impressive as the time you and Nat popped up in my Guardian.

Have you thought about cataloging all of the times you appear in national and local news media? [added 26th Feb 2007]

Have we been in The Guardian, or is that you tell yourself to blot out the memory of reading the Telegraph? :) We were in The Daily Telegraph (the shame of it) because we were, apparently, the only first-time buyers in the country Barclays could offer up who knew what kind of mortgage insurance was. I knew then obviously, but have forgotten now. Some kind of payment protection? You pay it, if you default the mortgage company claims it, then the insurance company pursue you for the shortfall. That one. My jaw still aches at the thought of it. We sat on our sofa and grinned our faces off for an hour and half while their photographer slogged his way through three rolls of film.

I won a Simpson t-shirt from The Independent by answering three easy questions about cartoons when we were in the 2nd year at Hull, so 88-89 time. I was listed as a winner in 6 point type in some tiny fraction of that blank space next to the crossword. Woo!

Nat's been in the local papers here more times than I can count with, doubtless, more to come.

Neither of us have stripped naked and been photographed in public.

There you go. I shan't be adding it to my cv.

[added 26th Feb 2007]

   * smellygit said I just watched the clip. You need a haircut. [added 27th Feb 2007]

And that was two months ago ... [added 28th Feb 2007]

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Saturday 24 February, 2007
#[Arabica]XSLT: Tests

I'm now running the entire OASIS XSLT test suite. The raw numbers are 2742 tests run, 1367 fails, and 277 exceptions.

At first glance those numbers don't look great, I'll grant you, so let me gloss them a bit. Of the 277 exceptions, 93 are due to XSLT functions I haven't implemented yet - format-number(), generate-id(), id(), key() and lang(). I don't think I've ever used those functions in my life, so I'm not losing sleep over those at the moment. That does still leave nearly 200 other exceptions, which clearly I need to look at.

Of the failures, 352 are due to XSLT elements I haven't implemented - xsl:attribute-set, xsl:strip-space, xsl:preserve-space, xsl:key. Again, not overly worried about those yet. (Why are missing functions exceptions and missing elements fails? Implementation detail - I'll sort it out). A whopping 536 failures are because the reference output I'm comparing against isn't XML, it's either plain text or HTML so my simple minded test driver can't currently deal with it.

If we take those numbers out we get 1761 tests run, 479 fails, and 184 exceptions, which looks a bit better. A few of those fails are false negatives due to whitespace differences, attribute order differences, or non-significant differences in namespace declarations. The remaining failures don't all represent unique bugs (ie a mistake I've made) or misfeatures (ie something that, while the code is correct, does the wrong thing), so it doesn't feel overly daunting. Obviously, I'll keep chipping away at them.

Made a two line change, now 2742/1354/276. Yay! [added 26th Feb 2007]
Unimplemented functions now marked as fails not exceptions. Numbers are now 2742/1535/95. [added 26th Feb 2007]
And now 2742/1533/95. Rock. [added 26th Feb 2007]

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#I got on telly before Natalie, ner, ner, ner ...

... for about 2 seconds on tonight's Inside Out. I played the part of "man entering swimming pool", while my colleagues-in-early-morning-exercise talked about why they'd been going to Moseley Road Baths for the last 40 years rather than some other pool. I'd forgotten about it actually, because it was filmed some time back before Christmas I think.

The next segment of the programme was about one of Bean's class mates, and while I spotted lots of the Bean's chums, I didn't see him in it. It's a bit of a shame, because we could have all been on the telly (however briefly in an 8 day period).

Natalie was unimpressed.


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Thursday 22 February, 2007
#

Spring is in the air. Snowdrops. Lighter mornings and evenings. Woodpeckers drumming. Gardeners' World back on the telly.

A week tomorrow, Monty Don's doing a programme about allotments, specifically women who have allotments. You can see where this is going, I hope ...

Even if Natalie doesn't get on, I fully expect to see little clips of dogger and little Hal used as establishing shots. They are the most telegenic members of the family, after all.


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Wednesday 21 February, 2007
#[Arabica]XSLT: Tests

Started working with the OASIS XSLT Conformance test suite, which is a whole pile of XML + XSLT with corresponding reference output. I've hacked up a basic driver (it does the styling ok, but the output comparison is extremely simple), but it's already starting to produce useful results.

At the moment, I'm working on the 130 tests exercising various XPath axes. Started off with 36 fails and 11 errors. A fail means there was some output produced but it didn't match the reference, an error means an exception was thrown. I'm now at 41 fails and 1 error.

That's going in the right direction I think.


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#[linkfarm] Fantastic Four : Rise of the Silver Surfer
Trailer for the 2nd FF film. Looks pretty. Love the Stan Lee-esque title. Not sure about the Surfer. I'm only vaguely familiar with the comics, but I always imagined him having heft and weight and, well, a certain degree of might.
Related: The Most Important Question Facing Cult Movie Fans Today - Andrew Rilstone answers 'Does the Silver Surfer have a willy?'

   * Ken [e] said The Surfer was always supposed to be a bit of a ballet dangler, graceful, lithe and a bit sensitive. Except, of course, that he was first envisaged by Jack Kirby, so he had huge muscles like everyone else.

I wonder if they've got Galactus in the movie (as the Surfer's raison detre is to be his herald), or if they've written him out or into some kind of orbital base. I just can't see the film-makers portraying him as a 100m tall humanoid assembling devilish contraptions atop a New York skyscraper. [added 21st Feb 2007]


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Friday 16 February, 2007
#

This week Thinktank is building a sculpture of a dinosaur out of carrier bags. It's going to be the world's largest apparently. Yesterday, Daniel and Harry contributed 47 bags. I'm not sure whether to be pleased at their recycling efforts, or embarrassed we had that many bags hanging around the place.

wunderwoman said Depends whether they were Waitrose or Asda bags........... [added 16th Feb 2007]
Some Waitrose, some Sainsburys. No Asda, no Tesco, no Somerfield. [added 16th Feb 2007]
Gevs said christ! - I am right in thinking that badge snobbery exists for supermarkets too. what happened to the world. [added 17th Feb 2007]
Gevs said ? [added 17th Feb 2007]

Of course it does. In an ideal world I'd do my shopping on the high street, but unfortunately unless you want to eat a bizarre combination of pot noodles, organic dried fruit, and imported cheese that's not a reality here. Or most other places, due to the largely malign influence of our supermarket chums. Did you know, by the way, the if a supermarket opens in your area only about 10% of people need to start shopping there to make the existing small retailers unviable? As they close, more and more people have to use the supermarket. So much for "enhancing consumer choice".

Anyway, badge snobbery, yes. We don't use Tesco, because they clearly control too much of the nation's spending already. We don't use Asda because of the Wal-mart connection. Somerfield I use for the odd thing (because there's one on the high street - irony!), although the fact that its robot tills are friendlier and more polite that the tills staffed by actual humans is more than slightly disconcerting.

I enjoy going to Waitrose. For a start they actually stock more stuff that I want to buy. They also have a much lower staff turnover than other supermarkets, so you can actually get to know the people there. Bridie, on the cake counter, often stashes away the cookie with the most chocolately bits on for my kids, for instance. Would you recognise the manager of whichever supermarket you use, let alone have him greet you by name?

Very few large organisations are actively "good", but I think Waitrose are relatively benign.

[added 19th Feb 2007]
smellygit said I new massive Tescos being built on oxford road in Reading, despite there being an existing 24hr megastore about 2.5 miles away. Oxford road currently has an eclectic mix of Caribean, Asian and Polish shops, along with other various bric-a-brac type shops. Don't know how many will survive the blue and white stripes. Having said that the grocers and bakery and I used to use a few years ago are now a Tanning shop(!) and coffee house and that's without a maga-mart nearby. [added 19th Feb 2007]
Gevs said I think its one thing to actively decide to use a particular supermarket, based upon your opinion of its merits over other supermarkets, but my point was more related to the fact that you implied embarrasement at owning a plastic bag with one supermarkets name on over another. Which kind of indicates that you nake judgements on others who do sport the odd ASDA bag. To me that just seems a bit judgemental and wierd - I shop at ASDA sometimes becuase I can get a turkey twizzlers for 10p cheaper than the same brand twizzler at Sainsburys, I also grow ALL of my own veg, I recycle my waste paper and I do the majority of my shopping with small independent retailers (some of whom actually re-use old carriers such ASDA / Tesco bags). A carrier bag says nothing more to me that at some point I bought too many things from a shop to hold in my hands. [added 20th Feb 2007]

We all make those kind of judgements all the time, even if perhaps we shouldn't - look at the car he's driving - why do grown men drink Barcadi breezers - that is a stupid hat - and so on.

Do you have an allotment, Garry?

[added 20th Feb 2007]
Gevs said I'm sure you are right about the judgements I make - It just hadn't occurred to me that my carrier bag said that much about me. - and as if to reinforce my hippocracy, i've just been to M & S to buy some microwave pancakes for work and taken a bag (I didn't really need).

I don't have an allotment (unfortunately) its all being done via our garden at the moment - I constructed a load of 6' x 4' raised beds last year - great for lazy (no dig) gardening, but the real estate available means that you have to be fairly picky with the crops. A bit of a rethink going on at the moment as the boss was less than happy with Pepper plants taking over the house last year.

[added 20th Feb 2007]

M&S? Posho!

Are you still in Kensington Road? How many beds have you managed to fit in?

[added 20th Feb 2007]
Gevs said Hehe!

Moved out of Kensington before you did! - beat you by weeks I think. We moved out of Earlsdon just under 3 years ago to Green Ln (Our sons toy collection outgrew the house). I've managed to get 2.5 beds, plus a slice of garden for the veg. Last year was my first go at it, not all experienments were successful - carrots being the biggest failure, Great Courgettes, Greens and Spuds, small but tasty garlic, shallots, Red onions and a half decent salad crop. Not bad for a beginner, but I'll be a tad more selective this year. Are you still at it? [added 20th Feb 2007]


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Thursday 15 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] Nora, The Piano-Playing Cat
It's stuff like this that makes YouTube worth 87 billion quid.

   * Ken [e] said They've overdubbed that! It's a Philip Glass piece... [added 15th Feb 2007]

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Wednesday 14 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] Jesu - Conqueror
Jesu's new album for your streaming enjoyment. Am muchly anticipating forthcoming tour, and hoping it comes through these parts.

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Friday 09 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] ISO C++ 0x: Complete Public Review Draft In October 2007?
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Thursday 08 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] Debut novelist wins Costa award - The book is set in Canada - a country the author has never visited because she had agoraphobia.
Novelist makes up story shock! Every report I've read has made a big deal of Penney not having been to Canada, as if it's amazing that she could write a novel set there. I'm fairly sure that Yann Martel, who is Canadian incidentally, didn't float across the Pacific Ocean in a small boat but that was the setting for Life Of Pi, which won the Booker Prize. Sebastian Faulks didn't fight in the Somme, but nobody remarked on that when Birdsong was garner praise. Strikes me that a lot of the reporting is missing what 'fiction' actually is.

   * smellygit said I don't believe Isaac Asimov went into space either! [added 8th Feb 2007]

   * Ken [e] said Iain (M) Banks has been cited as boasting about how little research he does for a novel. In fact, I think he's gone on account as saying that he does sod all.

Like it or loathe it, I'd hazard that most of his stuff has been successful, and entertaining to boot. He's clearly got a good grip on general knowledge, and can use the internet - basically the only two tools he needs to rip a yarn. He does tend to write in a general way, focusing more on moving the story forward, which suits me to be honest.

Presumably Penney felt obliged to research Canada more than Banks would've - maybe *because* of her agoraphobia? [added 8th Feb 2007]

Perhaps she did, but I was more interested in why it was such a big deal that she hadn't been to Canada. I'm assuming the since most people in the UK haven't, then most (if not all) of the judges and most (if not all) of the reporters haven't been to Canada. Consequently, their in no position to judge if the representation of Canada is accurate or not. Even if they had been to some part of Canada, chances are they're still probably not in a position to make a judgement. Canada's a pretty big place after all.

In the end, what makes a good novel is the story and how well that story's told. Strangely, book awards rarely seem to be reported in those terms, you never see anyone quoted as saying top yarn. That's a shame, I think, because it can lead to sometimes favouring, and I hate to say this, style over solid storytelling substance. I can't claim to have read a great number of Booker or Whitbread/Costa winning books, but the more I do read the more I'm put off (if that makes sense). Life of Pi, to take one example, I thought was bloody awful, and I resent the time I spent reading it. It had this splendid man+tiger-in-boat conceit, which it hammered to death and then, ultimately, copped out on. I found it deeply unsatisfying. I have also reading a number of Nestle Children's Book Prize winners. I've enjoyed all of them. Funny that. [added 8th Feb 2007]

   * allan@allankelly.net said Similarly one does not need to know about autoconf or automake to write a CVu piece about them.

If one actually did know something about these tools then Overload would be the obvious place to write about them.

[added 8th Feb 2007]

Allan, either you're being more obtuse then usual, or I've made some horrendous error which you're laughing to yourself about. I'm telling myself it's the former, but can't help worrying it's the latter. [added 8th Feb 2007]

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Wednesday 07 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] method_missing: best saved for last - Rake assumes that most of your objects are rake task, or somehow deal with tasky stuff. To make your life easier, and boy is it easier to use than Ant, Rake throws a lot of enhancements into the Object class. You can define a task from any object, which means in any context. For good measure, it also lets you use FileUtils methods from any context, er, object.
Neatly summarises some of my uncomfortableness with monkeypatching, something Ruby programmers in particular seem pretty keen on.

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#[linkfarm] Building a better resolver
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Monday 05 February, 2007
#[linkfarm] Testing XSLT - CheckXML
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#[linkfarm] SD Best Practices 2007 Call for Abstracts
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Friday 02 February, 2007
#accu2007: Finding the utility in a java.util.Iterator

Back in October, I pitched a session on Java iterators for this year's ACCU Conference. I've tidied up the synopsys a bit, and here's the revised version.


for(Iterator i = c.iterator(); i.hasNext(); )
{
Thing t = (Thing)t.next();
...
}

Is rolling through a for loop the best a java.util.Iterator can hope for in life? A poster-child of poor design, is running from one end of a container to the other all that Iterators are good for?

The C++ Standard Library also has a thing, lots of things, called iterators. They are part of the glue that combines containers with algorithms. The Library wouldn't be what it is without them.

The Java library gives us any number of containers, but almost nothing in the way of algorithms. Why not? Any why isn't anyone complaining? What impact has it had on the way other libraries for Java are written?

By examining some of the ways iterators and enumerators are used in other languages, we can widen the horizons of a Java Iterator. Using libraries like Jakarta Collections, Mango, and JGA as examples, this session aims to show how Iterators can be taken beyond simple for loops to become a significant and useful part of the Java toolbox.


Best get on and write it, I suppose. I think I have the narrative arc more or less worked out, so I have the shape. It's just the doing it. Or at least the starting, I find that once I've started something I can generally crack on (as an aside, that's what I do like this (10+2)*5).

At last year's conference I was in the first slot of the first day, which I enjoyed because it meant I could do my talk and enjoy the rest of the conference, but it meant I missed a session I would rather have liked to see. I volunteered for a similar early slot this year. I've up first thing after lunch on the first day, which is fine, but there's not just one session I'd like to see, there are three. Curses! Actually, the whole timetable is full of slots where there are two, three or even four sessions I'd like to go see. It's an infuriatingly good schedule.


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#The Coffee Grounds Buckeye Correspondent writes

You will all be pleased to know that neither Punxsutawney Phil (The groundhog in the movie) or Buckeye Chuck (Ohio's cheap knock off) saw their shadows this morning. This means that spring will come early. Hooray. Although not soon enough as the next few days will less than -10 degrees C.

For you European residents today is Candlemas. Not quite as TV friendly as Groundhog Day but still meteorologicaly significant.

"Should Candlemas be fair, there'll be two winters in the year."

Keep your mittens close.

I'll just note for the record that today is a scorcher. [added 2nd Feb 2007]

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