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Wednesday 31 October, 2007
#It's not like I planned it or anything, but I accept it for what it is

Read an article in Beano's Hornby Collectors Club magazine yesterday. I'm not really in the demographic, being neither under 10 or over 70, but it was there and was something do to while the kids were eating their tea. The article was, unsurprisingly, a review of a new Hornby train set. Or at least, that's what it purported to be. Half way through it turned into a reminiscence about the APT, the subsequent sale of key bits of technology to Fiat, and the later use of the self-same technology in the current Class 390 electric multiple units. It concluded with the names and running numbers of all 53 units.

Class 390 trains are, of course, Virgin Pendolinos, my favourite train. Going out this morning I travelled on the 390-021 Virgin Dream, and I returned on 390-009 Virgin Queen, discovering in the process that I've turned overnight into a train spotter. A low-grade trains-I-travelled-on Pendolino-only train spotter but, nonetheless, a train spotter.

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Tuesday 30 October, 2007
#[elsewhere] You know what, let's go with Ruby and Objective-C because that's what comes on a Mac

   * smellygit said I used Objective C about 12 years ago. I called it Objectionable C - do you see what I did there.... [added 30th Oct 2007]

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Monday 29 October, 2007
#[Arabica]XSLT: Test case update

A couple of months I published some results running Arabica against part of the OASIS XSLT conformance test suite. I've done a bit of work since then, and so it's time to update the numbers

Run Failures Errors Skips

Since the last published results, I have one more skip and 20 less fails. My little spreadsheet (the first I have ever constructed, career fact fans) says I'm running 1328 tests altogether, with a pass rate of 86.9%.

A failure means the test ran, but did the wrong thing. An error means it threw an exception, didn't compile the XSLT, or something similarly unexpected. A skip means the test deliberately wasn't run because of some known deficency in my code. It might be a feature I haven't implemented, the test is just plain wrong (there are a couple of these), the test is Xalan specific, or some other thing. Skips come in three flavours - don't bother at all, shouldn't compile, or shouldn't run. If a test that's not expected to compile does, or one that shouldn't run suddenly starts working, that's actually flagged as a failure. There aren't any tests doing this in these results.

Not every failure represents a unique bug. Similarly not every skip represents a unique deficiency. The biggest set of failed tests, the 78 output failures, I haven't investigated in depth but I suspect many of those are related to either HTML output (which I don't do) or text output (which the test harness can't currently compare).

These results are from current Subversion head, built on Windows XP using Visual Studio 8 and expat.

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Saturday 27 October, 2007
#[elsewhere] I was so incensed I stabbed it in the speaker with a breadknife.
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Friday 26 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] Hulk Eat!
Sean Phillips pays the bills and has fun doing Marvel Zombies

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Wednesday 24 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] The Dwarfstar Games
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Tuesday 23 October, 2007
#Jez models the Infinite Miles Per Gallon Shirt designed by DocDelete
Jez models the Infinite Miles Per Gallon Shirt designed by DocDelete
DocDelete [e] [w] said You don't look to happy about it though - quality issues or crap design?

I've ordered one on a 'tote' bag (whatever that is)...should be ideal for storing antiseptic cream, bandaids and iodine. [added 23rd Oct 2007]

I'm delighted with it. Natalie likes it too. The disgruntled expression is entirely unrelated. [added 23rd Oct 2007]

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Saturday 20 October, 2007
#A Four Year Old's Nightmare

I had a bad dream last night.

What was that, little Hal?

I had a dream that I wanted Father Christmas to come down the chimney.

And what happened?

He didn't come.

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ITV's commentator on the Rugby World Cup, Miles Harrison, has just, of England following their defeat by South Africa, said "They can hold their hold their heads up". Miles Harrison has, clearly, never played in the losing side of a final. You don't feel like holding your head up. You feel sick and heartsore. Martin Corry is being interviewed as I type and it's quite plain that he just wants to go off and cry, but instead is having to answer damn fool questions from some post-teenage twit who hasn't started shaving yet.

OK, my losing final was over 20 years ago in the 1985 Norfolk U16 Rugby Schools Cup (or something like that). I don't remember who we, Old Buckenham, played. Indeed, I'm not even sure I ever knew. I don't remember the score. But I know we lost, by at least a couple of scores. And I remember the feeling. Even now, after all this time, I remember the feeling.

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#[linkfarm] Ubuntu Open Week, Mon 22nd Oct - Sat 27th Oct @ #ubuntu-classroom on Freenode
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Friday 19 October, 2007

Been on a little code hiatus, by the way, because I've been writing an article about Arabica for Software Developer's Journal. Not sure when it's going to see print, as SDJ is published simultaneously in English and Polish so it needs translating, but it will appear here in a few months once copyright reverts.

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#[Arabica]XPath: Interface changes

Some time ago, it was gently suggested to me that XPathValuePtr and XPathExpressionPtr both exposed an implementation detail, because they derive fromboost::shared_ptr, and provided an interface that was inconsisted with the DOM classes, because you accessed the member functions via -> rather than through the . operator.

At the time, I was just pleased to have got the XPath stuff done and wasn't really fussed, so I left it. Since then though, it's niggled and niggled away at the back of my mind and now I've decided to do something about it.

XPathValuePtr will become XPathValue, with the member functions accessed through the . operator. The XPathValuePtr name and -> member access will be retained for the meantime, so that existing code won't be broken. XPathExpressionPtr will be similarly changed.

First commit went in this evening, now I've satisfied myself that the the changes are pretty easy so long as I pay attention.

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Thursday 18 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] Bill Bailey sings The Hokey Cokey in the style of Kraftwerk
Just to be clear, this is pastiche.

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Wednesday 17 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] The Ubuntu Packaging Guide
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Tuesday 16 October, 2007
The cake is a lie.
Ken [e] said I am functionally incapacitated by watching other people's misery. [added 17th Oct 2007]

I miss my weighted companion cube.

[added 17th Oct 2007]

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#[linkfarm] Many 'cannot get NHS dental care'
Well, perhaps. Our dentist no longer takes NHS patients, and sent out a long letter explaining why it wasn't viable for her to stay within the NHS. She did, however, want to continue to treat children, but was refused a contract to provide children's dental care. These things always seem to work both ways. Anyway, that wasn't why I picked this story up. All the reporting I heard on the radio, and this written report, pulled out the detail about
one patient from Lancashire who said they had removed 14 of their own teeth with pliers.
The new NHS contract has only been in place for a year. If someone feels compelled to pull out half of their teeth, I'd suggest they've been dodging the dentist, and quite possibly a toothbrush, for rather longer than that. It's the kind of detail that tells you absolutely nothing about the actual state of things. Anomolies never do.

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#[linkfarm] De-Baptise Yourself! - Liberate yourself from the Original Mumbo-Jumbo that liberated you from the Original Sin you never had. You can display your Certificate of De-Baptism proudly framed in your hallway (porch, loo, lean-to, etc.) as an outward sign of the inner rationality that inspires your being.
National Secular Society - atheism with a sense of humour

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#[linkfarm] Sir Menzies Campbell has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.
And the question on everybody's lips is "Will John Hemming stand for leader again?"

We knew it would be "yes" - John Hemming: Position Statement for Leadership Election [added 17th Oct 2007]

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#GDFAF: Pram, Modified Toy Orchestra, Shady Bard at The Town Hall

What a super trip out this was. Lovely venue, plenty of chums (shame I missed Russ after I thought I'd seen him arrive though), good sound, top bands.

Both Shady Bard and Modified Toy Orchestra were new to me. I've heard good things from reliable people about them both and can now enhance said people's reliable-ness rating, because I enjoyed them both. Shady Bard, perming six from guitar, piano, cello, another guitar, keyboards, drums, violin, cello, french horn, MacBook, and some other things I missed, to play what my chum Pete might call post-rock-anti-folk, or some such. I can't say I'm whistling any of their tunes right now, but I was very taken with singer's voice. He was quite a skinny chap, but his voice was rich and deep (baritone? somebody with musical training help me here) and he was winningly shy (but professional enough to put over the CDs and t-shirts). He also went bonkers with his guitar a couple of times, which I always like to see. Pleasing.

Modified Toy Orchestra play toys. Children's toys. What they have modified. Sounds like fodder for a sure fire novelty Christmas number 1. If only they weren't so brilliant at it. They range far and wide over the musical spectrum. One or two of their tracks need nothing more than a guitar going crunch about two-thirds of the way through, and they could be front and centre on a Radiohead album. A couple could pass as late-80s New York No-Wave. I'm doing them a disservice to make these comparisons though, because it takes us back to the novelty act thing. In fact, I'm sorry I even mentioned it. This is not pastiche, even the closing cover of Kraftwerk's Pocket Calculator was not a pastiche. It was great. They were great. The next time I see them, I'm going to make sure it's not a seated gig, because I intend to rock-out as hard and heartily in the audience as they did on the stage.

Pram, I had seen before. I'm not sure I was necessarily looking forward to seeing them again, not with excitement anyway, because while they're certainly the most interesting band on the bill, they were never going to be the most fun. Which not to say they aren't enjoyable, because they are, they're just not fun. In the past I've needled Pete for comparing bands you hadn't heard of to ones you had, but I'm going to do that right now anyway. Pram are like a less accessible Portishead. They have a very cool delivery, unconventional instruments (including trombone, theremin, clarinet, marimba, and (get this!) accordian), menacingly dream-like mood, and a high floating vocal. I actually found it very restful and calming, while simultaneously being quite hard work.

The venue, the Town Hall (is it Town Hall, The Town Hall, the Town Hall? not sure about the capitalisation there) was rather lovely, I thought, but I am going to have to award minus points for the overly utilitarian bar, which lacks any of the pleasing theatre atmosphere you get in the lobby. On the other hand, ice cream! During the changeover between bands, a chap (usher? where is my vocabulary?) with a little thing (see what I mean) of tiny tubs of ice cream toured the auditorium selling his frozen wares. Absolutely fantastic. A round of ice cream between acts, what could be more civilised and yet so decadent?

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Friday 12 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] Archers podcast launched - Archers fans will be able to listen to Radio 4's popular rural soap on the move, now that the BBC has launched a daily podcast of the show
Anybody who really wanted to listen to The Archers on their new-fangled digital walkman-a-like, when they were out running say, would long ago have asked their husband to download it for them, and he would naturally have understood this mean "rip the Real stream, transcode to an mp3, and pop it on my iPod, every week" and being the lazy programmer he is he would have written a script to do most of the work for him.

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Thursday 11 October, 2007
#[linkfarm] BoingBoing.TV: Interview with Paul Allen - Xeni talks to philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen about The Allen Telescope Array, an astronomy project 6 years in the making that expands the search for extra-terrestrial life. Allen joins researchers from the SETI Institute and UC Berkeley today in Hat Creek, California, to announce that the first phase of the ATA is complete -- 42 of an eventual 350 radio dishes are now active and collecting scientific data from the universe.
Absolutely not what I expected from BoingBoing.TV. It appeared to be setting itself up to be sold as a comedy filler item on American network television, but here it is with a dead straight, interesting, interview with Paul Allen, the man who put the money behind SpaceShipOne, about a new and innovative telescope array he's backing.

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Wednesday 10 October, 2007
#GDFAF: Cirque du Soleil Delirium

I made the mistake, earlier this afternoon, of reading a review of the show I was about to go and see. What the hell was I thinking? Worse, it wasn't a good review either. Never read a review of something you are committed to seeing. No good can come of it.

As I left the arena at the end of the evening, I recalled Gordon Ramsay's question after receiving a bad review in the New York Times. "Is he so jaded," wondered Ramsay of the Times' restaurant critic, "that a truffle is ordinary?"

Circus is about the physical. It might have the trappings of theatre, with costumes, make-up, lights, and music, but it's about the physical. You go to the circus to see people do things you haven't seen before, that appear impossible and yet there they are.

Cirque du Soleil has the theatrical trappings, in spades, on a huge, almost overwhelming, scale. There were several occasions where I completely missed some large prop coming onto the stage, because my attention was elsewhere. At one point, after watching a stiltwalker who had just processed through the audience, I turned back to the stage and was startled that it was now filled, as if from nowhere, with people.

All that would have been for nothing though without the acrobatics and gymnastics to go with it, and it surely did. There was some fantastic, really fantastic, balancing, a long sequence of rhythmic gymnastics, and any amount of corde lisse, even a hula-hooper.

If Cirque du Soleil has a failing, it is that it doesn't put these astonishing physical feats front and centre. There is no ringmaster asking the audience for quiet, no drum-roll and tight spotlight, no gentle reminder of the difficulty and danger of what you are about to see. By integrating them into such a huge stage, with dancers, singers, and musicians, with projections either side of the stage and often across the stage itself, I do wonder if it actually sells itself a little short.

And yet there they are.

anonymous said Cirque Delirium at the NIA.

I'd waited 10 years to see a Cirque performance, and BOY was I disappointed.

It didn't help that we'd paid 55 for the best tickets and yet found ourselves seated in 'A' block, which was situated in the forgotten blackhole that was to the extreme left of the very very left edge of the stage. The NIA should not be allowed to overfill the arena to this level, if I'd have been given the tickets free I'd have still expected a better view. We couldn't see a thing but there were people with even worse seats than us!! After 15 minutes we moved seats.

One plus point: The multi-media lightshow was mesmerising - massive & awesome, I'd have preferred to have watched this all evening. It blew me away.

The drumming scenes were incredible, but most of the music was a mix of ear jarring crazy jazzy mash; the vocals were shrill and unclear, making it impossible to follow any hint of a story.

Despite knowing the thread of the story before going, I found the storyline to be muddled & disjointed, like what I imagine an LSD drugged infused nightmare would be like.

There were some daring aerial acrobatics; but mainly the performers gently floated across stage, which (even at 52) I could have coped with.

Costumes: Many were dull and uninspired, and apart from a couple of extra-special ones - none had stage impact.

The stage was massive but apart from the odd piece of scenery - it was quite boring.

Choreography: There must have been some - but most of the performers just ran about the stage doing their own thing, making for ongoing messy and ugly scenes. The scenes where the dancing was supposed to be synchronised, weren't.

Main Points to Note:

If you haven't bought tickets yet - think twice - don't bother.

Can I suggest some reading for all the arty-farty critics out there who jumped on the "this show is fabulous" bandwagon. I suggest they read "The Emperors New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson" ... maybe this sweet little fairy tale would help them see the error of their ways and open their eyes to honesty. [added 24th Mar 2008]

If I'd been in a different frame of mind, I can see that I would have come to the same conclusions. And yes, they did overfill the arena, and I'd have been pretty angry if we'd ended up out in the corner there somewhere.

It is expensive. For me, the gap between buying the tickets and seeing the show was about seven or eight months, so I'd already got over the pain of the price. That probably helped.

But I did enjoy myself. I don't know if I'd go again, but I enjoyed it on the night. Sorry :)

[added 24th Mar 2008]

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Monday 08 October, 2007
#GDFAF: Thomas Dolby at the Academy 2

Glancing at the queue standing outside the Academy as I locked up my bike, it looked rather young and quite hirsute. Inside, for most of the evening Thomas Dolby looked like a disembodied head, floating gently above the audience. Both were optical illusions: the audience was as greying and thinning on top as I'd expected; and (slightly disappointingly) Dolby's head remained firmly attached to his torso, albeit a torso hidden in a black t-shirt.

You might expect a man who's career was built on synths and sequencers to be a rather dry performer. Tweak a knob here. Press a key there. So far, so exciting. However, rather than pluck each song fully formed from the spawning vat, Dolby tended to build and layer the loops so you could feel how the song was constructed. Surprisingly (to me at least, because what turned out to be music stands I'd assumed were some kind of crazy new theramin) the second half was enlivened (enlivened, did I say that?) by a newly drafted horn section (the original horn section having been turned back by immigration officials at Heathrow).

Dolby, it turns out, is quite an engaging chap. Between tracks he talked, rather well, about the music, how the strange experience of being the subject of a newsgroup got him back into touring and recording, the futility of trying to deliver a cease and desist letter to Mr Britney Spears, being labelled steampunk in Wikipedia article and not knowing what it meant, and so on. He has more than a touch of the raconteur about him, that Thomas.

And there we are. He had fun, the horn players had fun, I had fun, everyone else seemed to have fun. It was lovely, really.

[Ken and RussL write]

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Saturday 06 October, 2007

Should be interested on seeing Misty's Big Adventure on their current tour, you find the details here. You might think you'd be able to get the details from their advert in this weekend's papers, but no. Unfortunately whoever booked the ad overlooked the fact that shrinking it down to 2 inches square would leave the dates in tiny text about 1 and half millimetres high in white on black, thus successfully rendering them (dya see what I did there) utterly illegible. Misty's, get new management now!

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Thursday 04 October, 2007

Stopped in at Gosh on my way back to Euston today. It's such a super shop and it's just jammed packed with smashing comicsy goodness. Picked up Nick Abadzis' Laika because, although I've never been as struck with his early work as some, it looks rather lovely. I paired that up with the second Fourth World collection, which is altogether more cosmic.

To be honest, I found the first volume rather hard work. There's so much going on, so much bombastic dialogue, a lot of seemingly long sections of talking heads, which, put together with the multiple plot lines, star-spanning all-around-craziness leaves feeling rather knackered. But I've started, and I'm going to stick with it. I've not read a huge amount of Kirby's work, mainly the comics he produced toward the end of life, and it didn't really do much for me. However, he's such an influential figure in comics that you really can't ignore him. The Fourth World is widely regarded as his best work, so I feel I should give it a fair shake.

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Tuesday 02 October, 2007
#accu2008 - Call for Participation

We interrupt this website for an important announcement.

April 2-5, 2008. Paramount Oxford Hotel, Oxford, UK http://accu.org/conference

We would like to invite you to lead a session at this leading software development conference.

Presenting a session is a highly rewarding experience: the lively and highly engaged atmosphere of the event means that, even as a speaker, you are likely to greatly enhance your understanding of the topic you are exploring.

We have a long tradition of high quality sessions covering many aspects of software development, from programming languages (e.g., C, C++, Java, C#, Ruby, Groovy, Python, etc.), and technologies (libraries, frameworks, databases, etc.) to subjects about the wider development environment such as development process, design, analysis, patterns, project management, and softer aspects such as team building, communication and leadership.

Sessions may be either tutorial-based, presentations of case studies, or take the form of interactive workshops. We are always open to novel formats, so please contact us with your idea. The standard length of a session is 90 minutes, with some exceptions. In order to allow less experienced speakers to speak at the conference without the pressure of filling a full 90 minutes, we reserve a number of shorter 45 minute sessions.

If you would like to run a session please let us know on conference at accu dot org by the 15th of October 2007 at the latest.

Please include the following to support your proposal:

  • Title (a working title if necessary)
  • Duration (45/90 min)
  • Speaker name(s)
  • Speaker biography (max 150 words)
  • Description (approx 250 words)

If you are interested in knowing more about the format and style of the sessions you may like to consult the website for previous years' conferences at http://accu.org/conference for background information.

Speakers running one or more full 90 minute sessions receive a special conference attendance package including free attendance, and assistance with their travel and accommodation costs. Speakers filling a 45 minute slot qualify for free conference attendance on the day of their session.

The conference has always benefited from the strength of it's programme, making it the highlight of the year for many ACCU members and other attendees. Please help us make 2008 another successful event.

Now clearly I'm partial, what with being ACCU Chair and having attended and presented several times, but the ACCU Conference is pretty damned fantastic. You should go, assuming you're any kind of programmer and that you're remotely interested in being a slightly better programmer. Even better, you should think about presenting. You might not think that you've got anything worth saying, but you probably have. It doesn't necessarily have to be new, or world changing, or startling, it just has to be something you know.

Browse around the conference website and have a look at the past programmes to get an idea of what's in play (although you can make a case for more or less anything) and make a pitch. Start with a good title and you'll find a description just rolls out your fingers. You know you're name, so that's not a problem. Don't sweat over the author bio, they're intensely difficult and you can come back to it later anyway. Don't worry about filling the session because you will, it actually takes a conscious effort of will to run short. Just get that title, and then email us.

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#[Arabica]Arabica October 2007 Release

Patch release, fixing a build problem with older versions of GCC.

Source tar.bz2

Source tar.gz

Source zip

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#14 gigs in 14 nights

GDFAF, open this year to the whole worldly world, is almost upon us. The chances of me managing two gigs in two nights are pretty slim, let alone fourteen in a fortnight - too much else going on. Not necessarily my goings on, but with Natalie or the nippers, or some combination thereof. I tell myself that "not being as young as I once was" isn't a factor though, and I think it might actually be true too. Whichever, I'm going for the as near as you can manage version of GDFAF.

I'll be opening on Saturday with an ACCU Committee meeting in Nottingham. I'm not sure if that counts, but I am taking samosas which adds a certain novelty. On Monday, I'll be joining Ken, The Baron, and RussL to see Thomas Dolby. If he manages to balance the new stuff he wants to play with the old stuff we went along to hear to everyone's mutual satisfaction it'll be super. The Academy 2 isn't the world's loveliest venue, but it does allow the audience to chat with the artist between songs. It'll be fun, I'm sure. On Wednesday night, Natalie and I will be out and about to the see Cirque Du Soleil. I suffered the pain of paying for the tickets so long ago that I can now just go and enjoy myself. I've no real idea of what to expect, which I've found almost always leads to having a good time.

Erm, that's it.

So far.

If I don't take the kids camping, I will be at Hare and Hounds to see Jeffrey Lewis. My chum in Boston (that is Mass. not Lincs.) Marc tells me the current Rush tour is jolly good, but they're playing at the NEC Arena which I really don't enjoy going to. The Pram album launch at the Town Hall is pretty certain. I'm rather conflicted about springing for a ticket to one of the WWE wrestling cards at the NIA. They'll probably be fun, but the lack of delay between paying and going means I'll still be a bit fun-for-the-money conscious. Anything else, I'll just have to see how it goes. And chaps, I am open to suggestion and invitation. As I hope you know, my default position is to not to assess but just say yes*

*Subject to availability :)

wunderwoman said Tut tut- could do better - definitely old before your time! Would give it a go myself if I wasn't so busy. Maybe next year - only not in Birmingham - obviously :) [added 2nd Oct 2007]
I see how this works. It's ok for you to be too busy ... [added 2nd Oct 2007]
Russ L said I'd really recommend that you get a ticket for the Pram gig, if you're thinking of going. I understand they're on their way to disappearing.

This is, of course, assuming that you don't know people who'll get you in irrespective of whether or not it's sold out. Knowing you, you probably do. [added 2nd Oct 2007]

I don't know that I know people, but now you've mentioned it I think I might have an angle if I could be bothered to pursue it. But I can't. [added 2nd Oct 2007]
Russ L said A ticket may be for the best, then.

You certainly seem to know everyone. It's the impression I've gathered, anyway. [added 3rd Oct 2007]

I actually know very few people, but it turns out that they know pretty everyone else and if they don't they know someone who does. [added 3rd Oct 2007]
And there I am, all ticketed up. [added 3rd Oct 2007]

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#[code] Arabica patch release, fixing a build problem with older versions of GCC.
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