The more accurate diary. Old stuff.

Warning: These are old.

December 2003

December 31st

Ever since Christmas, Alan has reverted to his old hours. With a vengeance. Up until at least 2am and occasionally past 5am (and he can't deny it: I have the list email as evidence), hacking on some X driver or something. He is still at it. He said something about updating his diary (in English), and something else about getting into university to finish some homework, but neither event has occurred yet.

Discovered I am not the only one to be messing around with the quiz: and we are not the only LUG members to be either. Conferred with another group. They have unsettled me now. There are altogether too many painters sitting outside certain cathedrals. And section 14 admits too many outside possibilities as well.

Alan has now become interested in the quiz and has taken the obvious (to him) approach of downloading every single train, tram and bus timetable available for the Palm (or whatever his PDA-cum-phone actually is) and hunting through them for a location we can't find. We still can't find it, but if ever we are stuck in Zagreb, we shall know what time the train leave. He has also used up all his free queries for the month at some other website typing in various possible alternative spellings for a name in order to find out if there is a different name we should be looking for.

Over to Justin's and Sharon's for the new year. Very damp outside. I normally complain about fireworks, but this is one of two nights in the year I (now) expect them. Certain areas of Swansea appear to have been stockpiling the really loud and bright variety. The occasional faint light appeared through the clouds as a result.

December 30th

For the last few days we have been on silly sleep cycles. Well, I have. I hate being up late at night and consequently up late in the morning. Alan thinks it's normal. And because he is on holiday from university he can indulge himself.

Last night (this morning) he got to bed at 0530. This morning he complained the house was cold at night. Well, yes. I think that's because the heating is off then..

Only three questions left on the King William's College quiz for the year now. Well. Sort of. Some of our answers are a bit tenuous. As ever. As I wrote this originally, it was six, but someone did some inspired clue-chasing. We think one of the remaining is a typo; another of them is a variant spelling; and the third -- well. We're not quite stumped, but if the remaining theory fails, we might be.

December 29th

Extracted one of the Christmas presents from its wrapping and experimented today. We now have a breadmaker. I rather enjoy making bread. The kneading is therapeutic. But it is very difficult in this house. There is no airing cupboard. Most of the house is too cold for the dough to prove and rise. And if I put the bowl on top of the Athlon, it is too hot: or at least it seems to kill the yeast. So a breadmaker, whilst seeming to be an admission that I can't make decent bread on my own any more, is quite handy.

Experimented with another present some more, too. Justin and Sharon gave us a pair of wireless intercoms so that I can harass Alan at a distance. Alan has been trying to tell me that the computers make his half of the thing all static so he can't hear me clearly. So I asked him to write down the morse code for things like food and help! and get down here now and I can't reach the top shelf. He's a radio amateur. He has a certificate that means he passed his morse test. He likes that silly patch to the kernel that makes your keyboard flash I died because.. messages in morse on oopsing. I thought he'd like this. When I asked him, though, he went all quiet and said morse was harder than I thought.

Amazingly, when I used this thing to tell him the bread was ready, he heard it with perfect clarity. I begin to think it's only certain phrases (get down here now, come and take the spider away and so on) which get muffled.

December 28th

Scurried out to grab some bread and milk. All the car parks in town were full. Worried. Turned out that everyone was shopping madly in the sales and that the supermarket was empty. On the gannet counter (which is what I call the counter where they put the food that must be sold by the end of the day at a cheap price. Why? Because people flock around it like gannets) were ridiculous numbers of some chocolate dessert. Came back later and all but one were gone. Realised why when packing the food. Alan had swept all but one of them into the trolley because he had seen the Suitable for freezing label on them. Sigh. Would anyone like a chocolate dessert? We have about twenty.

Another reason why the carpark was so crowded could be the behaviour of certain people in it. There is a pick-up point where we all queue for taxis or people can collect family or friends who have completed their shopping. We could see our taxi coming into the car park. And then a giant four-wheel-drive people mover (what else do cars move? ostriches?) with a personalised numberplate stopped in the middle of the main exit and blocked every car behind it from moving and our taxi from moving into the bay. And it sat there whilst a couple of people brought a couple of bags out, opened the boot, rearranged the contents of the car, stopped for a chat with friends, started to get into the car, decided to get in through a different door, paused to check the aerial, and then slowly began to consider the novel possibility of driving off. A number of people were staring in that stereotypical British disapproving I am far too polite to say anything but not too polite to glare and wait for you to notice fashion. I was just in awe. I have never seen anyone quite so oblivious to the fact they had just stopped an entire car park from moving. I thought it was hilarious, although our taxi driver was of a slightly different opinion.

Alan subsequently put all but two desserts in the freezer and ate both of the remaining two. Meanie. What about me?

I had meant to buy a new kettle because our old one has been leaking for some time. I have now forced the issue because I discovered that I put the flour packet down on the surface and the entire surface was swimming in water. So I extracted the fuse and called the kettle dead. (Alan, having spent ludicrous amounts on extra chocolate, now thinks we must save the extra ten pence of a new fuse.)

He calls this recycling, but it would be a lot more productive in this house if someone would invent a green (as in low-power, or won't let you boil it and boil it and boil it, or I dunno, something!) kettle. Because I need a new kettle now.

December 27th

Start of day: deleted over 90 accumulated spams for gnome-list. End of day: deleted another 15. This comes after Spamassassin has thrown away all the certain spams.

I see (and hear) it is firework season again. Wince.

December 26th

Boxing Day, St Stephen's Day, another public holiday here. A day for recovering or for rushing into the shops for the sales. Or, like me, watching the rain drip down whilst tidying up and listening to Alan's snores. And then staring balefully at books whilst trying to finish the King William's quiz. We know what the evil section fourteen is: we figured that out on the second day. It hasn't helped us complete it though.

December 25th

Over to Justin's for his usual attempt to stuff us fuller than the turkey. I don't think I have ever seen so many vegetables at one meal before.

I think Justin and Sharon are going to be eating the remnants into the new year.

December 24th

Finally, the Guardian has published the Evil Quiz we spend our Christmases messing about with. We were a little worried. It has been on the school website since about the 12th and we wondered whether the Guardian had dropped it now the school publishes it. We have been playing about with it since we saw it. Yesterday we said Okay, google time after spending a little over a week in libraries, bookshops, on the phone to family and emailing random acquaintances with You live in this area, what do you know about..?

So that's what the something else from yesterday was. It's alarming how much Google knows. More alarming is that libraries these days seem to be cutting back on reference books because it's all on the web, although not, as one librarian pointed out, checked for accuracy. And when the library computers go down, oh, how I long for card catalogues again, however much it costs to catalogue books.

We do have quite a pile of answers now, but are inevitably not finished. But after the episode where Google found our answers early on and I got various aggravated emails about spoiling people's fun, I am not sure they'll be going anywhere web-related until way nearer the sort of date the official answers tend to come out. This makes it rather harder to swap answers around and hint to people and beg for help, but ah well.

December 23th

Spent most of the day under the impression that it was Christmas Eve and that anything we didn't have already we would do without: Christmas shopping looks painful now. Discovered at the end of the day that it wasn't Christmas Eve at all.

It was also a good opportunity to catch up with something else.

December 22nd

We were planning to go back as far as Cardiff and see Return of the King with a bunch of people from the LUG. But then Alan learned there was a computer fair in Bristol that afternoon. Curses. Abandoned him, and I went to see the film. (Why does horse breath steam and oliphaunt breath not steam, incidentally?) Arrived home and did all the tidying stuff and Alan arrived back later bearing gifts. I forgive him the computer junk because he brought me a glowing pen. Um.

December 21st

In Bristol with Conrad and Diana and Tyler the dog. Long walk with Tyler over a racecourse and barely a soul in sight and then into Bath. Conrad and Alan saw the prices for the Roman baths and lost interest in history. I shall go again with Diana :)

December 20th

Decided to Debian-ise the laptop. Got the base done then realised the wireless card necessary for the rest was not supported by the kernel we'd put on it. Oops. Will try again later, but had to dash to get the train to see friends.

December 19th

Dashed into town and completed Christmas shopping. Much later than I would have liked, but much earlier than I feared. The bookshop is full of people behaving as I must have done in the toy shop: staring blankly round and waiting for something to leap off the shelves saying I am just right for a present..

Discovered that everyone who was allegedly going to a Christmas event in the evening had pulled out: ill, vanished (well, from IRC), have to be on the other side of the country tomorrow. Persuaded Dafydd that he wanted to come. Arrived an hour early. Retreated home in chagrin and tried again.

Bob Delyn (the spelling is deliberate: this is the first Welsh joke/pun I have understood so far), the band playing, were described to us as folk music, but they weren't entirely at this gig: or, at least I have never heard Ar Lan y Môr played on saxophone before.

December 17th

Alan still hard at what he is pleased to call work. He was interviewed the other day and I see in the article that he said he was working very hard: 40 hours a week. How shocking. I thought this was the normal sort of thing you had to do.

December 16th

Alan not only got into university early today (the shock!) but returned early. He wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas. I gave him a list for my birthday and he lost it, so I have to remember it all again now. Went into town with him and came across the Welsh food market sitting woebegone-ly (is that a real word?) in solitude. Swansea council apparently decided to have a Victorian market, a French market (well, two), a craft market, a Welsh food market and doubtless other things too. And put three of them on simultaneously. Then pulled all the booths out and left the marquee, and had the food one separately. And all the food sellers arrived to find no-one knew about them and so there was absolutely no-one there to buy from them. We ducked into the marquee, and wondered whether it was open: it was empty of anyone else.

It was, however, full of trays and trays of samples for all those shoppers who hadn't turned out. Which was nice for us, even if it wasn't so great for the vendors.

Alan has now banned me from buying any more cheese for the rest of the year. I have bought loads, and I am in disgrace about it.

December 15th

Library books overdue, but no fine because the computer was down. I wish they still had card catalogues. I can use those quite competently, and I was hunting for references to Hispaniola for reasons which will doubtless become clear shortly. But with the computer down, almost everything seems to be on hold.

Ended up in a large shop looking for a specific thing for a Christmas present. One of these giant giant warehouses of toys and games, larger than a supermarket. Boxes and boxes piled high to the ceiling. Buy me, buy me! Terrifying. There is an entire section of imagination toys. What are all the rest? Even more alarming: what on earth is a Digital Skipping Rope?

(Answer, apparently: it's a skipping rope with huge handles which count how many skips you have done. So now you don't need to chant skipping rhymes or count aloud. How useful!)

December 14th

Mooched around. The nice thing about 24-hour bugs is that they're short. Managed to convince Alan I must be better Because you're being a pest again: this came after I had persuaded him to take a bite of cheese and chocolate in the same mouthful.

I don't know what he was complaining about. With the right cheese, it's really nice. It's not my fault he didn't like it.

December 13th

Last weekend to do all sorts of things, and typically I came down with the lurgy. I thought for a bit it might be 'flu, but since it passed over in a day I think not now. Spent most of the day in bed. Alan did not earn brownie points by going to the chemist for his prescription and failing to fetch me my usual cures-anything solution. (It probably doesn't cure anything, but I think it does, so it works for me.)

December 12th

Woke up to the shocking news that Ettore Perazzoli was dead. Ettore was one of the very very early Gnome hackers and has been on the GNOME ride all the way from then. Often I saw him when he was knackered by travelling to conferences and he was still great fun to be with, however tired he was. I cannot imagine how his friends, family and workmates at Ximian (Novell, properly, but to most of Gnome they're still the Ximian monkeys) are feeling.

December 11th

Ended up in about four conversations on IRC at once. Reminded of piles and piles of things I meant to do. Must do some of them.

Alan returned from university at a reasonable hour, headed out to Welsh lessons, came back, hit the email, and emerged at something like 11pm, hungry. Whilst there is loads of perfectly edible food in the house, it is mostly in needs-construction form: potatoes to bake, soup ingredients to make (really should do that...), things to bang in the oven, and so on. Ended up trooping around Swansea at midnight looking for take-out, because that would be quicker. After the preferred one was shut and we walked to the second and waited, I suspect it would have been a lot faster to cook.

December 10th

Up ridiculously early because I had forgotten the recycling on Monday and now the bins today. Got them out, fortunately.

Alan up less than ridiculously early but he thinks it was early because he was in university in the morning as a result. At eight in the evening, I started to get hungry. Where was he? Eventually he returned at some absolutely ludicrous hour. He has finally found out when the term ends but I don't think it can have taken him twelve hours just to find that out.

In fairness, the problem is that the terms for most of the university turn out not to be the term dates for his course. I remember this from the nursing training: I kept finding the library and refectory were on holiday hours or there was a conference taking over an entire building and so on.

December 9th

Busy busy busy. Didn't even get to LUG. Boo hiss.

December 8th

Stared at three days' worth of email in despair. Either spam has gone through the roof recently or the address at the bottom of this page has been added to more spammer lists. I run Spamassassin on that box, and even after that, I have received something like 80 messages a day of spam. In the last week I think I have had two emails which were not spam to that address. Two out of four hundred is not a good signal:noise ratio.

Last week of term for Welsh lessons. Last real lesson of the week over with. Sniff. The remaining lesson is going to be a party. (In case you were wondering, the Welsh for party is: parti :))

It might be the last week of term for Alan too. Alarmingly for someone on a post-grad course (let alone someone on a business course), he doesn't seem too sure when term finishes.

December 7th

The big event: the Nutcracker was on at the theatre. Sister and I grew up going to ballet as a result of parents who had decided this was a good thing to do to seven-year-olds. (Which it is.) Alan and Dom did not. Consequently, they thought we should go to the ballet and they should go for an Indian meal. They were not impressed to discover we had already bought them tickets.

They managed to endure, though, and agreed they might go again. (Alan has enjoyed both ballets I have got him to, but he still believes that he won't enjoy the next one.)

They set off back home and we were visited again. It has been a very busy weekend. And somewhat alcoholic.

December 6th

Up in the morning (to Alan's horror) and all four of us out to the market before heading to a restaurant for lunch. Booked weeks (month?) ago, and still we could only get a table for lunch time: even the reserve list for the evening was full. (This all sounds terribly posh, but this is somewhere with seats for about thirty people maximum -- thirty very friendly people -- and run by two people. It's also cheap :)) Having a birthday in the run-up to Christmas is so inconvenient. It's not as bad as the friend whose birthday falls between Christmas and New Year. Because she always missed out on a birthday party of her own, we once gave her a surprise party: six months to the day before (after?) her real one. She decided summer birthdays were more fun.

Anyway, stuffed ourselves, wandered down to Joe's Icecream, ate more, and returned with DVDs. Was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons (the film: I know all about the game...) with the caveat Drink whilst you're watching this. You need to. Hilariously bad. There were bright spots: Jeremy Irons overacting from either revenge for ending up in the film or sheer because-I-can cussedness, and Richard O'Brien stealing every scene he was in whilst watching someone work their way through a maze to get at a crystal. (Richard O'Brian spent some years presenting Crystal Maze, which also involves watching people work their ways through mazes to get at crystals.)

Oh yes. The French market was back for the weekend, and the cheese stall stocked Livarot. I really really hope I like it now. It is years since I have had it.

December 5th

Bought some splendid cheeses at the market. I had forgotten what happened last time I got these. They stink. Really. They taste wonderful, but they stink. They were going to be for over Christmas and the New Year, but I am having second thoughts now.

I have put them all down in the cellar and shut the door.

Out at a (hard!) quiz in the evening: before being recalled to house by the arrival of my sister and her boyfriend. They thought that if they were going to drive for four hours to visit, we should probably let them in. I suppose they had a point :)

December 4th

Approached computer gingerly to see what Alan had done to it in the end. Found it with Totem open and the CD in the drive. Oooh! Hit play. It played for four seconds and skipped to the next song. Um. Faffed about with the thing and discovered that it was only my favourite song which it didn't want to play. Quel surprise.

Bumped into a friend whilst shopping. Stood blocking the aisle for about half an hour chatting. After a display of videos mysteriously collapsed in our proximity, we took it as a sign and went for a coffee before anything worse could happen.

Alan fixed the DVD issue in the end. Something to do with dust in the drive. After all that. Curses. Oh well, upgrade done now. And there are compensations. Messages which have the On such-and-such a date, so-and-so wrote sort of quotes in different languages now render perfectly: Cyrillic and Japanese characters for both of those are showing up perfectly in mutt in a gnome-terminal. Alas, I can even see Korean-language spam in all its awful glory too.

December 3rd

I'm not even sure Swansea had a Christmas market twelve years ago. I don't remember one. But now we have one. I don't think it's any attempt to be European. Most of Swansea's commercial decisions seem to be founded on Well, Cardiff does it and a fear that everyone will shop there instead. So anyway, went to it.

The French market which visits had gone, so alas: no smelly cheeses. I'm still looking for somewhere which sells Livarot, but it is never the same on this side of the Channel. But all the rest was there. Cwm Deri wines are still open, so time to stock up for the year with wares from them and the other wine place. Someone is selling bizarre things I shall not describe in case the intended recipients read about them but they are so cute. And the cheese place is selling all its wares and not just the limited stock you can get in the (normal) market.

The topic for discussion in the Welsh class immediately prior to this had been Christmas: has it lost its true spirit? Why? so I was virtuous and did not succumb to consumer frenzy. Anyway, I couldn't carry everything.

Did finally acquire the latest Show of Hands CD which I have waited for all year since I heard the title track, and then not got around to buying when it came out. It had a special bonus video track on it. And thus began my problems.

It wouldn't play on my creaking desktop. It wouldn't play in the DVD player. It might have played on my up-to-date Fedora testbox, but the box itself is too slow. So time to bite the bullet and upgrade. And, whilst at it, drop Totem on there, because I can never understand the Xine UI. (It might look like a video recorder, but I never feel entirely confident of the results when I press the buttons on our video, so.. ) I hate upgrading the main machine. So first: backups! Kicked them off at 1.30pm. Even allowing for the size of the ogg directory these days (they're all legal, I hasten to point out), and that the USB device to which they all go is USB 1, I was sure that it should not take long to rsync changes on top of the old backup.

At around 5.30pm, became even more convinced of this. Started poking at top and blinking at ominous D (uninterruptible sleep) marks in the state column. Wake up, wake up! Tried strace next on the lunatic Perhaps just strace'ing it will wake it up theory. Well. Sort of. It woke up, but mostly because Alan chose that moment to pull the USB cord out and stick it back in. After that had an effect, Yes, your backup is wrecked. Thank you, Alan.

Then I got a message from the kernel on every single window. Oh dear. Alan was confused and then delighted (damn the man). Oooh, you've got an OOPS. Oh, lovely.

For ten years I have thought you only got an oops after the machine crashed, but mine was apparently running. With a mere single flaw: one of the kernel daemons (I forget which. All these k-something-d processes look alike to me) was now sitting in D. It's not going to last very long now observed the tower of reassurance behind me. You might as well reboot now. Under his persuasion, I didn't try to backup anything else and went straight on to upgrade. (He wanted to see the video too.)

I had wanted to do the upgrade in the background as much as possible, to keep mail flowing, and IRC going, and so on. Alan knew how to do this. Install one package (yum) and upgrade four: redhat-release, up2date-* and whatever it was that up2date-* wanted. Stick the rpms on a local box (they were there already), edit the up2date config to know about it, and run up2date.

Sounded easy. I should have known better. Up2date does not like being told to resolve dependencies on that scale. Whilst I was cooking and Alan was (theoretically) revising), he told it to do a certain batch, and then another batch, and then another batch so that I was completely confused. Eventually, I went to bed leaving him to his promises that all would be working in the morning.

I fall for this every time.

December 2nd

Spent part of the day plotting with a friend on IRC and the other part of it reading as much as possible of the Amazon collection from yesterday. Even whilst cooking. What a dilemma: stop the Quorn (pseudo-non-meat) from sticking (which it does without any warning), or just finish that one.. more.. page.. first?

December 1st

Amazon goodies arrived. Ordered some more :)

Alan decided to tell me all about law tonight. I kept coming up with stupid situations to cause trouble, and finding out that in fact the law has already considered far more ridiculous situations. Or possibly Alan is just making it up as he goes along.

I've been asked for a more obvious feedback route. So there you are! But please note: This should be clear from the above, but: I am not a kernel hacker. I am not an anything hacker. "Is this diary true?" will get answered. (It is.) "I have a problem compiling the brainsplat module under the pre-sliced option terminator; I am using the mutability framewedger on the standard infernalisation build" will not. (Well, it might be answered in a similar vein, but for a real answer, look elsewhere. It's much safer.)