Telsa's diary: Autumn 1998

Warning: These are old. Very old.

December 1
Alan back. Arrives at 7.15am, then sleeps til midday, then does email until 7pm. Can he be on too many mailing lists?
November 27 to December 1st
Mad tidying and throwing out. Fun.
November 26
Alan off to Ireland, sans hobbit but with hobbit-list of duty-free requirements.
November 25
Strange but true: when I answer the door for a parcel, it's for Alan. If I am out shopping and a parcel arrives, Alan doesn't hear the doorbell, the parcel gets left with the neighbours, and it's invariably for me.
November 24
JFYI, the afternoon/evening meal known as tea or dinner (depending) occurs at midnight Cox Mean Time.
November 22
Woken up at 8am by Alan, who had apparently watched five hours of Pink Floyd, Ozzy and so on and decided that this interesting new phenomenon of daylight was worth observing for once. Yeah, he'd stayed up and decided that to get back onto (my idea of) sane hours, he should stay up through the day without sleep. Loud snoring heard around mid-day shows how well that worked, although by 2 he was back at the computer.
November 21
Now this was utterly surreal. Alan was up late, hacked lots (but was persuaded to come shopping), and around midnight came down for something to eat. Said "Ooooh. Lots of good bands on telly tonight. But they're rather weird times.." I got stuck on the crossword. Alan finished it, much to the relief of my mental anguish.
November 20
Hmm. Eyeing the most recent entry, I don't think I'd quite recovered. Alan not in evidence for much of the day, being busy..
November 17-19
Somewhere around here I came down with the return of the lurgy, and I really can't think of anything that's not boring, (hey, I was ill!) or soppy-sweet (Alan was lovely), so bad luck.

I do know that my mind was floating off on either tiredness or being ill at one stage and cleared lots of discspace by muddling up 'ls' and 'rm'. (Easy to do really.) And that later I couldn't find But I don't _think_ there's a connection..

November 16
Alan claims to have been up for hours, but when I answered the door for yet another damn parcel it was 2pm. Apparently the morning email run was more important than breakfast.

Decided to make more windows available in hope that Alan would be inspired again and clean them for me. Found the books in the bathroom have been blocking a lot of light on the windowsill. Wondered at the combination of a life of Feynman, the complete Yes Minister scripts, several Agatha Christies, Ian Botham's diatribe on British cricket, "Time Enough For Love," "Forgotten Beasts of Eld," and Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins nestling together in civilised peace among an assortment of airport novels and trashy sci-fi. You can fit 40 books onto the windowsill, apparently, since that's what I've retrieved. No wonder everyone spends so long in there.

Co-operative house-supplying meant that both of us thought it was our turn to get the Jolt. So now we have lots. Damn. I'd only just put the Penguin mints somewhere safe, too.

November 15
Messed around with 'proper' webpages which Alan set up for me and which I am supposed to be maintaining. Stared in disbelief at his HTML. I was so proud of learning the tags that are used on this page (less than a dozen, unless you count starting and finishing as two separate things) and getting it to pass the 'Bobby' thing. I can see there is more to learn here.

Discovered that Alan hadn't set up rlogin properly here. They said the cobbler's children are left unshod; is there a similar version for hackers? I would have thought it unlikely.

Gardening note: I have been distressed by the lack of earthworms in our garden. Whilst unblocking the outside drain I have discovered some! It must have been the heat of the water draining out nearby, but a whole pile of leaf litter and soil that got blown around (I said we'd had bad weather...) and trapped next to the drain has turned into what looks like rather nice compost. _Not_ planned, but possibly useful now it's on a corner of the garden rather than next to the drain.

I said I'd been throwing stuff out. Alan was inspired to wash the window bay as a result. Good Alan. Nice Alan. Happy Telsa.

November 14
Alan got trapped in Tescos and queues, and - too late - realised why 'leaving the shopping long enough that the wife gets annoyed and does it herself' had been such a good plan for the last year. I was of course deeply sympathetic on hearing this.

I have been a linux trouble-shooter! (ie: I told someone where to find the docs to work it out themselves, since I didn't have a clue :)) I am very happy.

Alan cooked again tonight and it was delicious. He's still not realised that the better his cooking, the more he'll end up doing it.

Removed the final computer detritus from downstairs (where _does_ it all come from? Just when I think it's clear...) to the jun^W computer room. Alan was barricaded in. I assume it's tidied now, since he got out in the end..

November 13
Not very well. Tired. Still had a cold. Drank lots of grapefruit juice and Jolt, convinced myself I was entirely well and then started talking rubbish and falling over. Went to bed. Within 30 minutes, Alan had lots of people round for pizza and Bryce's videos whilst I was asleep. Hmm.

Bryce's videos are the first thing to have worked in our video player for ages. They also seem to have started a trend, as the rest work now, too. I am sure Alan has a technical explanation for this. I just call it weird.

November 12
Developed a cold, which wrecked plans of going out to drink lots with friends. Found the Knockando for medicinal purposes. Really. This and Alan cooking something wonderful (although I fear it's another 'what's in the cupboard? Yeah, I'll chuck that in too' recipe, which means I don't get it again) but fearsomely spicy _should_ have cured it. Alas.
November 11
Alan has returned my Solstice albums and now started sneaking off with any Levellers or New Model Army that I don't hide.

Truly horrifying occasion. Alan said within thirty seconds of the beginning of Scooby Doo (_including_ the titles) "Seen this" and settled down to watch because "it was good". Mentioned this to a friend on the net, complained "All he saw was white panelling and snow!" and received the instant reply from the friend, "Oh, the Snow Monster! Yes, it's good." I find this frightening.

November 10
National Curry Day. We missed a trick there, we might have got a cheap, or cheaper than normal (which is pretty cheap!), curry. And since I still couldn't find my chequebook, Alan would have to pay.

Filled another couple of binbags. Alan found my chequebook. Damn!

November 9
Alan up early, after the call of "Alan! Parcel came for you.."

Creative cooking night. Only Alan could stuff sausages with mustard and chili (different sausages), grill them, and then look perplexed at how he was going to get the undersides done without the gloop spilling all over the grillpan. They tasted good, though.

November 8
As per Alan's comments, I seem to be missing a CD or two...Hmm.

Tonight was also burnt pizza night.

November 7
Gods alone know what time Alan came to bed. But the lack of hacking is not only due to Scooby Doo and a meal out but to not getting up until about 3.30pm.

Lost chequebook. Counted cash, looked at two alternatives, bought ticket for gig that's a month away, got a snack and a French loaf for me (Alan being asleep) and decided food for weekend could wait. Alan later went shopping, returned with his idea of essentials, unpacked, looked at it ...and went out for a meal instead.

November 6
Parcel arrived. Alan got up. I found him trying to open the package (a cardboard box with tape all over it) with a screwdriver. Perhaps the word 'box' just implies to him: "What's inside? Where's the screwdriver?". Even I am beginning to think "large metal case" rather than "what the apples arrive at the greengrocers in" when I hear the word.

We also got around to the final stage of doing the lights. All we needed to do was remove one light fitting and wire another in. Simple, no? No. Showers of plaster, wires, screws (ow) and light fitting cascaded down, and then I was left standing on tip toe, taking the weight while he went for a better screwdriver.. Then a screw wouldn't go into the ceiling. Nor, or course, would it come out. Then the head split. (The screw, not Alan.) And so on. Amazing. I have lost what little interest I had in computer-controlled houses now. This way is much more fun.

This afternoon also featured the amazing freestanding chair. Alan jumped off it, it slowly overbalanced, got halfway through falling over, and -- stopped. Hung there balanced on two legs. Sort of thing you'd have to see to believe. Was fun!

November 5
CDs completely disarranged because Alan decided to buy me more. I suppose I can't complain about that! I would tell you all about how wonderful the Levellers are but I just tried their website. With Lynx. Ahem. So no link for them, then. Yet.

For the past week we've had whizzes and bangs overhead as people get impatient for Guy Fawkes night. Finally, the time to let all the fireworks off came. Friends came, and discovered that Alan had completely missed the conversation on IRC about how we were going out tonight. So I went out, abandoning him to the appalling fate of staring at the monitor and hacking (and stealing chocolate -- see below), and we set off lots of loud things in Dick's back garden, and he missed a great time. Silly hacker.

November 4
Put out about 50 binbags for the binmen. Now I need to get the rest to the recycling. Great. And there is still Alan's den to do, along with the other rooms, which have been pressed into service as "overflow storage". There is no monitor in the bathroom any more, for those who think it's still there. But the bathroom has all the things that would normally be in the bedroom, because the bedroom is full of bits of junk (wire, connectors, dead cards, alive-but-not-in-use cards..)

Couldn't face that, so stuck the CDs into alphabetical order. Sort of.

November 3
All that effort and now no-one knows whether there's a ssh bug or not. Life in computer-land must be hard. It's much easier at home, where it's very easy to tell that the remaining lights still haven't been done. Bah. This could well be because Alan seems to be missing the limited hours of November daylight.

I have hidden the mints, because I still haven't had any of them. I am also hiding the chocolate, because the half-pound bar I bought for making chocolate sauce has unaccountably vanished, in small installments, from the fridge. It must be mice, who come out at exactly the same time that Alan decides it's bedtime and goes looking for supper...

November 2
Repeated calls of "Lights! Morning! Time to do!" had no effect. Only reason Alan out of bed before noon is the application of Jolt, Penguin mints (*my* Penguin mints, I point out), and a cup of tea - and the mention that ssh was still causing problems. How to wake a hacker, take 1.

Eyed garden. Pulled faces at slugs. I am getting so bored of this. I'd be out there with the slug pellets except that the (excellent) Flora For Fauna database at the Natural History Museum tells me that lots of hedgehogs die due to eating pesticide-infested slugs. And I like hedgehogs. The same database also tells me that 35 species of birds have been recorded in my postcode (zip code) area. So why do I only ever see gulls in my garden? I want songbirds back! I think that the booze-traps are going to come into action.

November 1
Discovered floor, desk, kitchen surface, bottom of the dresser and the colour of the carpet today. You *wait* until I get into that computer room...:) Someone invite Alan to a conference, quick, so I can prune the piles of things that I'm sure can't really be important out of the heap of machinery, wiring, hardware, print-outs, CDs (which he denies he has), jolt bottles and small pieces of metal which embed themselves in your feet if you go in there barefoot (unless you're Alan, whose feet seem to be used to this).

The light fittings which have languished unfitted were due to get put up today. Dear gods. Removing the old ones was easy enough (anyone want a stupid brass light fitting which takes three bulbs which will never all remain alight simultaneously and requires contortionist ability to replace the bulbs? Alan lost a lightbulb in it once..). Examining the protruding wires resulted in some falling out. Safe, huh? Leaving us with about a millimetre of wire to use to fix the new ones. I was going "So we need an electrician?" in tones of disbelief and Alan just stood there going "Hmm." and the little wheels in his head churring and producing "Bad design" as his comment. A certain amount of experimentation ensued and one of the new lights is up. Next one due tomorrow, after an extorted promise to get up in the hours of daylight. However...

Round about 10-30pm I was sitting on IRC when a whole load of people suddenly said "shit" and started typing very fast. I'm no coder, but words like "ssh", "root exploit", "source" and "need a patch" are intelligible even to me. Watched in fascination for the next couple of hours as people started slamming into action and ftping different accounts of the problem and versions of fixes around the net (despite LINX choosing to sulk at the best moment possible for .uk types) and producing suggestions, answers, patches, work-arounds and so on. Went to bed around 1. Don't know when Alan got to sleep, but it was after 2am. Somehow I doubt the lights will get finished the next morning..

October 31
Random tidying became full scale excavation and rubbish removal exercise. Alan eventually noticed that Something Was Different - and learned that he was going to give a hand with the lights, since I'm too small to reach even whilst standing on the armchair. Pooh.
October 27-30
More random tidying, sorting into bin piles (all those who commented on the state of the computer room as visible on that telly programme, that was the Oxfam clothes pile, okay? Although I really doubt that Osfam will want any of them. I'm not even sure the cloth recycling bins will want them..)

Dragged Alan to Homebase to buy much household decontam^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H improvement material. Too dark to change the light fittings when get back.

Brief forays onto IRC suggest that Alan Did Not Tell All about ALS. Hmm.

Went to newly-discovered restaurant again with various people. Cunningly arranged seating so that I and other hacker-partner sat next to each other and I *still* got to play with someone's palm pilot. Alas, this time he was prepared and showed me what to do before I could add tetris into his shopping list and rearrange his phone numbers to be sorted by release version whilst simply trying to make the bill add up right.

It's raining here and half the Welsh and central English rivers are on flood alert. We had an excellent hail/thunderstorm, too, which I initially attributed to people setting off fireworks for Bonfire Night, but the lightning gave it away.. Alan didn't even notice.

October 26th
Tidied. Alan returned. Hooray! Went out for meal at newly-sprung up Italian restaurant 2 mins' walk away. There are advantages to living here. Four pubs, two restaurants, supermarket and the bus station within 400 yards - who needs cars? Got a tin of Penguin caffeinated mints, which were apparently all the rage, heard about the Geeks with Guns stuff, got a run-down on America's idea of a 'decent' Indian restaurant, got lots of "So-and-so said hello" messages (hello there, thanks, folks!) and heard about the few talks Alan actually got to. I wish I'd heard the Salus one, but I can live without Nat's "think of it as an n-dimensional space" style of talks, I think.
October 25
Edinburgh much much fun. Better than silly old Atlanta, so there! Return, expecting to find Alan back. Find much evidence of Alan-presence (please tell me that the things soaking in the kitchen sink haven't really been there since he left..?) but no Alan. #linux seems various convinced he's back here, still in Atlanta, or hovering somewhere over Canada. I wonder.

If he doesn't get back soon I shall be forced to tidy up viciously to check he's not under the layers in the computer room. A tidy machine room for his return? What a thought. Won't he be delighted?

October 19
Read Alan's diary on the web; discover he's now unill enough to go out for Chinese food. Uh-huh. Also see that again he's waited until I'm two countries away (okay, I know England, Wales and Scotland fit into your average US state but it's still a long way) before supersoakering the cat again.
October 15
Alan still ill. Doting partner that I am, I sodded off to visit friends in Edinburgh on the basis that even if we can't afford to cart me to Atlanta, we can send me to Scotland whilst he's gone all trans-Atlantic.
October 14
Alan not well. US-time body clock does not sit well with combination of US and UK hours. One or the other, I think.
October 13
Gasman cameth and checked all our boilers and radiators and such excitement. Except for the ones in the computer room. He couldn't get to them cos all the computers were piled in front of them.
September 26 to October 3
Well, the big blue room break was wonderful. Took over a Tudor house for a week with 14 other people, taking turns to cook evening meals with the strangest assortment of dietary requests and requirements you ever saw (tomatoes, for example: one person will eat them raw but not cooked, another cooked but not raw...amazing how many recipes involve tomatoes) and some wonderful results. Three course meals every night, much alcohol, much recipe-collection, and a moderate quantity of alcohol.

Played many games; cards (from patiences to bridge), trading cards (Babylon 5), RPGs, board games (City of Chaos), two live-action ones over three nights - in the fantasy one Alan was the host of a meeting involving representatives of four or five noble houses discussing secession from the empire whilst trying to conclude trade agreements with two strangers from a far culture, and in the scifi one he was a terrorist. No comment.

To my disgust, he actually looked smarter in his costume for that one than he has *ever* looked since I've known him. Yes, I include our wedding.. He also managed to download an appalling variety of special effect noises into his palmtop; thus klaxons, tricorders and.. er.. the muppets were heard augmenting the ambience. It's very hard to imagine that you're on a space station when you're standing by a glowing fire and looking at a heavy oak door with nails driven through it, but I'm not sure the weird bleeps and burbles helped that much. Although the constant yells of 'shut the door; there's a draught' sounded much better when translated to 'get that bulkhead closed; there's a breach in the lower decks!'

Me? I was an advisor to one of the houses in the first one, or at least I was supposed to be. Rumours of any connection with any form of assassins' guild, cult, or deranged gods are just that, since my unfortunate demise meant that they couldn't actually *prove* it. Alas that my attempt to fake the suicide as a murder attempt (yes, that way round) by the priest of an annoyingly upright god failed! And in the second one I was a navigator for hire desperately trying to get the engines repaired and my partner out of trouble whilst completely failing to spot the activities of the secret police types, the fact that there was *three* ambassadors and not two, and the alien wanting to get his tentacles on my DNA. Hmm.

What other games? Oh, the really nasty horse racing game, and a rather sweet one called Pile the Penguins or some such. Yet another Ravenburger game. You get lots of little penguins and have to stack them on.. er, a rocking ice floe. Even in a country manor with no phone, no radio and no television, let alone computers, I can't escape penguins! There was also a reading evening, with everything from poetry to excerpts from Bill Bryson's encounter with a bear on the Appalachian Trail (is this man mad? First he decides to hike 2000 miles, then he throws stones at a bear, and then he publishes a book which spends half the time slagging off his walking companion) to Cornish superstitions to short stories about angels.

Spent much time marvelling at the panelled walls, the spiral staircases, found the secret drawer, didn't find the ghost. Went to lots of Cornwall and Devon tourist traps, didn't fall in the sea at St Michael's Mount (alas), saw lots of rocks and standing stones ("Ooh, another rock in a field. Gosh."), visited all sorts, ate far too many clotted cream teas, (in Alan's case, *one* is too many, and yes, Alan, I saw exactly how much clotted cream you ate) and saw a large catlike creature in Bodmin. Really!

For non-UK readers: there is much speculation that at least one 'big cat' lives around the Bodmin Moor area, and is responsible for some of the more peculiar deaths of animals there. The best guesses are a black panther which has somehow ended up wild there. (The UK clamped down on 'exotic pets' laws a good while ago, and it's said that some animals were released by owners unable or unwilling to comply with the new regulations.) The Beast of Bodmin and its suspected cousins in other rural areas of Britain have rather more evidence than the Loch Ness Monster in their favour, but alas, this cat we saw was just a big housecat. We think. Ah well.

Alan transferred back to UK time for the week. I was very impressed, even if he was only up before 10am twice. This is probably because he was plagued by asthma for the entire week, poor man. Much sneezing. He's going right off old houses. Too much sniffing and sniffling, quite apart from the lack of modem ports or convenient power points to overload with wires.

I like old stones - and houses built of them, too! I have to admit, though, wooden floors weren't so good. On the ground floor, looking up to the ceiling produced glimpses of light -- through the floorboards! And they creak. On the plus side, though, a dining table that seats 14 is definitely enhanced by a fire, even if the chimney was dodgy and our bedroom looked as though a real pea-soup fog had somehow manifested inside it the first time the fire was lit. Whoops! Low door lintels were mostly fun, however, since those of us who are a sensible height got to laugh at all those annoyingly tall people ducking their heads all the time. Although I shouldn't laugh, cos Alan nearly laid himself out cold once. And the other residents of the house are extremely possessive. Resident spiders as big as the daddy-long-legses, for a start. But, thank the gods, no woodlice! I suspect the ghost may have eaten them.

Dinner conversation varied from how to dispose of slugs (there's a surprise, eh? A perennial pastime, that one) to sound over IP (I think) - ugh! - to how to top this holiday. I like the 'taking over a small island' idea. I think Alan likes the 'somewhere where I don't sneeze and I can eat maple syrup all day' idea, unfortunately.

Played musical trains on the way back. *Not* impressed. I am travelling to Edinburgh on the cheap this month, and my train seats (which are not negotiable on this trip, because they're the cheap seats) are crazy. I'm convinced I won't make it past the first change without disaster striking. Ah well.

Got back, boggled at email, read it all, and haven't seen Alan since he headed off to check his. That was about five hours ago. I have the feeling that he's going to revert to Marianas Trench time and only come to bed when he's read all of his. Uurgh.

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