Monday, December 7, 2009

My life, the nulliverse and nothing

Well, time for an update from my little corner of the universe. It's a shame there's nothing really happening at the moment. It's been that usual boring period between halloween and christmas where everything has been busy (work and home). Still, everything seems sorted for christmas, and work is looking like I'll be on a new project soon so all good there :)

In other news, my reading of the Road to Reality has kinda petered off again, as I got innundated with a set of books to read for work. I put a quick review of the cream of that crop onto ReflectiveCoder here. The other books (Advanced Rails, RESTFul web services and The Rails Way) have all been reasonable reads, but Enterprise Rails definitely stood out as a must read, both for it's clear, concise and readable style and for the wealth of information contained within it's covers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

So popular!

I feel like I've gone party crazy! I ended up at yet another small party yesterday, this time going next door for their small fireworks display. Two parties in a week is unheard of for Anita and myself!

It was a nice small party, only the neighbours and some of their friends and family and a small bonfire and fireworks. They helpfully burnt an old fence panel of ours that we couldn't get rid of as well, so it was a bonfire + cleanup :)

Other than that, nothing much has happened this week. I think we have a free weekend for once, so I may try and get some work done on a couple of personal projects. If I do, I'll probably end up writing about boring stuff over on Reflective Coder so if you want to read my ramblings on random Ruby on Rails related subjects, keep an eye out ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Post party

The Halloween party turned out to be not too bad. I did end up going as a strange cross-dressing ogre, although for about half the night I was just a cross-dresser as the mask and gloves were extremely hot and uncomfortable :) Anita went for just being a witch as messing around with a wig to go as Susan was just annoying.

Me trying the costume on the night before:

Me on the night:


Sheryl and Rob (The friends we went with):

Images were taken from Anita's gallery here and Sheryl's gallery here

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On life and Halloween

Well, this is the first 'life' update for a while, and as is typical for me I haven't really done much :) I guess the biggest event was a family holiday at Butlins down in Minehead that was fun. Spent time with some members of the family I don't see much (my Dad, my step-mother and my brother, sister, step-brothers and their partners) and had a fun time. One of the more fun things I did was convincing Anita to allow me to spend out for the time on their climbing, hire-wire course thing (I have no idea what to actually call it, so it's a thing :)). Anita took some pictures of me doing this, and probably the best one was:

(hosted on my sisters Picasa gallery)

This was me making my 'leap of faith', where I had absolutely no faith and asked for the trapeze to be moved as close as possible. I didn't realise until I saw this picture just how close that was and how cowardly I was. All I can say is that up on the top of that totem pole, the trapeze seemed completely out of reach and I was worried I'd jump off into nothing!

So, that's my current life covered so onto future events. Anita and myself are going to a halloween party this weekend and have been told that fancy dress is required. We both have our costumes mostly figured out but I'm trying to decide on the last part of mine... what to wear underneath the mask I have (of some hideous ogre). My current consideration is to go as a cross-dressing hideous ogre and borrow a skirt and tight black top from Anita for the occasion :) I'll post pics up of my final outfit (and of Anita's, who is going as either a witch or as Susan D'eath depending on which she feels like explaining through the haze of alcohol) and if I don't chicken out, feel free to poke fun of me wearing women's clothing :P

Back on the road to reality

As happens every few months, I'm attempting to get my head around the content of 'The Road to Reality' again. This time I'm taking the more sedate approach though, reading it on the way to and from work and putting the book down when I find I'm getting distracted and not concentrating on the content. So I'm not reading it when I'm too tired, like when I tried reading it before sleeping at night (which also means I'm not getting odd looks from Anita :) ), and I'm not just looking at the pages without the content making it through to my brain as also frequently happens.

The result? I'm not sure yet. It's certainly taking longer as it can be 2 or 3 days before I get through a chapter, and as such I haven't yet really progressed beyond my normally familiar territory of complex numbers and the real number calculus. I think I have a better grasp of hyperbolic geometry from this re-read, and I also think I've grasped the explanations of power series and the like better.

I guess it'll be a little while before this style of reading pays off, but if it does then I may finally grasp some of the more interesting maths in a much more in-depth fashion. Whether this will be useful, I don't know but at least I'll feel like I finally learnt something more from this great book :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Updates, updates, updates

Well, I forgot to blog at all last week... I think it's understandable though, as I'm still getting used to the commute from the new house, me and Anita were painting over the weekend and I'm working a few days a week now out of an office where I don't have net access (everyone else does, just I haven't been set up on the network yet :( ). That said, a missed week is nothing new in the world of Shared Illusions ;) (neither is a missed month, or possibly even a missed year...)

So onto the updates... well, the new house is slowly getting sorted and we have done a chunk of painting (well, Anita did the toilet and bathroom and we both did the kitchen). That's all we have paint for currently though so there's a break coming up.

I'm going to try and take up a martial art again. We've found a school close by, and I have an intro session on Friday. Should be fun, and I'll hopefully start to lose some of this weight I've gained over the last 6 years of uni and work :)

Me and Anita also saw Harry Potter last weekend. I have to say, I'm getting more and more disappointed with the films. This latest one seemed almost unintelligible with the parts cut out, and some strange additions into the film sequence that added nothing and took screen time away from sections that could really have used it for exposition. I'm very tempted once the last film is done (or 2 films as I've heard they are going to split it into two parts) to sit someone who hasn't read the books or seen the films down in front of them, get them to watch all the films and see if they end up with even an inkling of what was meant to have been happening :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Moving, a psudo-final update

We've moved, we have furniture and we have a decent amount unpacked... it's starting to look like a home rather than a slightly (well, very) run down unoccupied house :)

I need a break though, and so does Anita... she is getting fairly ill from doing too much and my legs feel like jelly two days after the majority of the moving... if I ever consider a first story flat again, I'll shoot myself. I went up and down those stairs at least 100 times over 3 days, and there were 17 steps each way!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More moving

Well, the furniture arrived today, and pretty much all the hassle I mentioned earlier has been sorted out :) We have a decent collection there, just need to move some old furniture out the way to get the new stuff sorted.

Then just clean, finish moving all our stuff from our current place over the weekend, clean the old place, hand back keys...

Why is moving such a hassle? :(

Not really got any other news at the moment... work progresses as it normally does, life goes on and so on.

Oh, and our new broadband connection is connected up on Friday, which should mean we don't have a hitch in our connectivity over the move... can't ask for better than that :) We've switched to Virgin for phone and broadband... mainly because we get more bang for our buck (faster broadband and digital tv for the same price as just broadband with BT) and because BT wanted to charge £120 to get an engineer out to move the line, simply because there hadn't been a BT line at our new rental for 2 years. In a glowing recommendation for Virgin's sales team, when I told them that I then got free setup :) I can't guarantee it would work for everyone, but it just goes to show how important good customer service is.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moving time

Well, it's getting close to the time when me and Anita are going to be moving out.

We've gotten the keys for the new place (with a truckload of hassle that's still being sorted), a load of furniture, etc. from Newcastle is arriving on Tuesday to fill the place up and our junk in our current flat is being moved next weekend, ready for us to clear out of here and put this small flat behind us :)

Oh, and in between this, I need to keep up on the work front, keep looking after the hamsters, help anita pack up this place and, somewhere, somehow, find some time to sleep.

Oh, what fun life is...

Friday, June 12, 2009

General updates

I should have posted this a while ago, but then I'm never the fastest at blogging updates in my personal life :)

First: I'm gainfully employed again. I have been since the Monday after I was made redundant, I just haven't updated here. More usefully, I have a pay rise from this new job and more importantly, I feel like I'm actually involved in everything again (which I am... there's only 2 of us and probably enough work to keep 4 people fully employed so I'm involved in book purchases, hardware purchases, I have an interesting and pretty sizable project all to myself and am involved in the management and testing of another one). I've been updating at Reflective Coder on things related to my new job (XML and Python stuff mainly so far. I'm planning a Pylons post soon).

Second: Anita and myself are moving... finally! We've been stuck in our small, 1 bedroom flat for the past 4 years and finally found a new place that's worthwhile - a nice three bed semi-detached house out in Wythenshaw - and within our rent budget.

That's pretty much the important news from the last couple of months. Also of note though, I'll be at the first DrupalCampUK tomorrow, which could be interesting or at the least have some decent loot to bring home :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

As a non-trekkie sci-fi fan, I was initially skeptical of seeing the new Star Trek film. The premise seemed a bit shakey and of all the Star Treks it was TOS that I liked the least.

After watching it today, I admit I was wrong to be doubtful of this film. It was just about the right mix of humor, action and drama for a decent film and it also had a nice bit of 'darker' drama in it that I find missing from most Star Trek branded films and series and is more in line with Farscape or Babylon 5. The humor was mediocre at the start (although some lovely product placement for Nokia there :)) but went up several notches when Simon Pegg (playing Scotty) got introduced about halfway through the film, and I think he was one of the best cast roles in the film.

I was a bit shocked by the ending (I was expecting an almost typical Star Trek ending, with everything being put back to status quo for the film end) but it worked. It also gives them a good branching point for future films and possibly even a new TOS series which may be just what the franchise needs around now.

It wasn't perfect by any stretch though, but it was a decent film and the usual Star Trek 'utopia' message was more subdued than usual (which I class as a good thing) making it an enjoyable film and worth watching at least once (even if, like me, you aren't a trekkie but like sci-fi :))

Friday, March 13, 2009


Well, I've mentioned it on twitter and on the forums I frequent, so I guess it's time to blog about my change of situation.

EMCC Software (the company I've worked at for almost 2 years) has unfortunately gone into liquidation, leaving me and everyone else still employed there unfortunately redundant. Given the current state of the job market, this isn't exactly ideal.

Hopefully there is work on the horizon though. I've thankfully already got my CV out to a lot of places and got a fair bit of interest. I was also going through negotiations with a former lecturer who may have a position for me as well. That should hopefully be decided one way or the other by the end of the coming weekend.

Till then though, I have officially become a statistic of the credit crunch. +1 unemployment :(

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reflective Coder

I've just added a second personal blog to my repertoire, over at Reflective Coder. This is to function as a blog purely about coding (and my thoughts on various subjects along those lines). I'll keep shared illusions going as a posting place for all my usual rambling diatribes though. Probably at the same frequency as well (one or two a year if I remember :))

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Animal blogs and other things

Well, it's time for a good old rant I think. The subject is something that got asked on a forum I frequent and is basically 'do you think a Hamster should have their own blog?'

My emphatic answer to this is 'NO'. It is trivial banality at it's worst and lessens any sort of authoritative impact any blog may ever have. Worse, it is an extreme form of anthropomorphism that I regard as frankly unhealthy. It is pure fiction being written by someone who truly believes that what they are typing is what their hamster is thinking... I could probably go on like this for a long time, but that's probably enough for now :)

Now don't get me wrong, I like having pets. I like having hamsters (something that Anita has gotten very into since we moved in together, as some may know :)) and when we have a bigger house want to get more and even get other pets (cat, dog, baby... you get the picture ;)) but a pet peeve of mine is this whole animal empathy movement. I don't quite get how some people can project complex emotions onto an animal that is clearly not capable of feeling it... well, I can get how it happens (basically assume that their feelings on the observation are the animals feelings) but I don't see how so many people manage it to such an extreme extent that is almost beyond the rational.

I guess it is just another case of evolutionary empathy going to the extreme. I don't seem to be afflicted as much because I appear to have less empathy than most (still not sure if this is a good or a bad thing...) but it definitely seems to be the path of the world at the moment. For every person that speaks up in defence of science, rationality and adhering to ideas that as far as we can tell are real, there seem to be a dozen speaking out for some far-fetched belief and asking us to become irrational and take it on faith. It's like people think that rationality has no craziness to it (anyone who has ever looked into quantum mechanics knows otherwise... pure craziness that is experimentally proven) or that there is no beauty to a 'cold, stark, scientific view' (again, I would strongly argue otherwise, and against the 'cold, stark' part, as I have done previously).

Still, I seem to be in the minority nowadays, especially on this subject if I continue to frequent hamster forums :) Just had to rant a bit, hopefully I managed to get some form of point across :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stop Software Patents petition banner
An email regarding this dropped into my inbox again today, prompting me to resign the petition. The problem the petition is for this time is to try and stop patent offices granting patents for software, even though they are technically not allowed. I can see this is definitely required as if the patent is granted then entities (companies/individuals) can threaten law suits with it and probably get out-of-court settlements even if the patent would be thrown out as invalid in a court case. Allowing them to be granted even if they'd be invalid if challenged is as bad as making them legal in many ways.

So, once again: petition banner

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another week

And another lack of real progress. I've gotten started slightly with my redesign, and am doing things 'properly' this time (read: using SVN, spending time thinking about things and looking for decent ways to do what I want rather than hacking it in when I think of it) but my recoding isn't going very well. I've got the weekend coming up, so I may be able to get a decent amount of design and setup done then though.

Other than that, it's been a fairly dull week. Not done much other than work, eat and watch Angel. Considering what phone to upgrade to as I'm due one, but none of the options are particularly appealing. The phone is going to Anita, as last time she upgraded we went for the cash option to pay some bills, but there just doesn't seem to be anything worthwhile :( Was half tempted by an iPhone, but the only way we could afford it is to have a reconditioned one. I'm also now considering getting her onto a Nokia 5800, especially as I've grown fond of S60 v5 over the past couple of months working on it. But that depends on the cost of the phone on a tariff I can afford when it's released in a couple of weeks. I'll also hold off after that to make sure it has decent response time etc.

Still, that's about it for now. Got to get to bed. I'll try and get a more informative and interesting blog post done over the weekend, although it'll most likely be extolling the virtues of Ruby plugins at the moment :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

And its that time again

Time to actually do some of the development I keep on meaning to, namely start work on the complete redesign of my online entry system for hamster shows.

The first version is currently in use, but it's got issues and is already in such a state that I have trouble modifying it. All my own fault I know as I was the only person ever doing stuff on it but then I only really ever intended it to be a prototype proof-of-concept. As is always the case though, I showed it around (mainly to my wife, who was the main person who wanted it :p) who then started using it and asking for new features... and I then never got around to productionising the system and it's now a complete shambles behind the scenes. It works fine as it is, but I've finally gotten around to starting again, and I'm going to take what I learned previously, apply Ruby on Rails best-practice as much as I can and hopefully end up with a code-base that doesn't make me ashamed every time I look at it :) (at least, not for a year or so, when I'll suck less as a programmer and everything I've done will look awful).

I feel I've made a good start though. I spent yesterday getting up to speed with the newer features of Rails (mainly focussing on REST based design) and created a project stub in SVN. I then added the plugins I wanted (restful authentication, acts as state machine and railspdf) and this morning I created the show model and set it up as the state machine I wanted... all good :) Now onto the actual work... after going to work that is :(

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Emperors New Mind review(ish)

Well, I finished reading this about a week ago now and most of the information I'm going to absorb from the first reading has just about sunk in now. So I think it's time for a quick review of what I thought:

Firstly, some background on the book for those who haven't come across it previously. It is a popular science book written by Roger Penrose and details his (fairly speculative) arguments about why a computer can't truly think. Rather than the usual approach of arguing with just prose and hyperbole, Penrose instead gives a brief tour of the maths and physics involved in both computing (including the concepts of Algorithms and Computablity) and of the mind, with brief detours into quantum mechanics and relativity.

With regards to the actual content, Penrose makes very clear that the ideas he is conveying are frequently very speculative and are not in line with the general consensus with the scientific community at large. This doesn't stop his arguments being compelling and interesting,although I don't fully agree with all of the arguments. The main thrust of the argument is that the mind is seemingly capable of doing tasks that as far as can be ascertained are non-algorithmic and thus can't be performed by a computer. He ensures that the reader is fully aware of what is involved in algorithms and computablity, which lends weight to his arguments. He also attempts to explain his view on what is required for being conscious and able to think with a highly speculative detour into the possiblities of a theory of Quantum Gravity (based on the inconsistencies in quantum mechanics) as pertains to the brain.

To wrap up (before I ramble on for hours) the book is informative, entertaining and a good read. For someone with an interest in the issues involved in AI, this is a good start for a more scientific discussion of the topic. If you have a desire to expand your knowledge of general maths and physics then this book is also a good starting point (with a possibility to move onto a book like 'Road to Reality' afterwards, which gives a much more in depth look at the maths and physics of our present understanding of the universe). If you aren't fond of mathematical treatments of topics then this book probably isn't a good choice though. I personally enjoyed reading it a lot and would recommend it. Not bad for a book from the tail end of the 1980's :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New year, resolutions, etc

Well, it's a new year and a new update (I'm getting them done more than once every 6 months... this is almost scary :p). The christmas and new year period have been mostly uneventful thankfully, with the most major issues being that I headbutted a wall (accidentally) and that both me and Anita have been ill with a cold for the entire holiday.

The usual selection of dvds, books, shower stuff, etc for christmas, although some gems were:
  • The Emperors New Mind (Roger penrose book. Very good so far, although I'm still a bit confused on the quantum physics stuff... but who isn't? :p)
  • Guitar Hero World Tour, on the Wii. Pretty good fun, although I'm still busy unlocking songs and getting guitar rank. I'm looking forward to getting a drum kit to try those out and giving the online play more than a quick once over :)
  • Star Wars The Force Unleashed, again pretty good fun. The Wii version isn't as graphically capable, but it's still a star wars game, you get to swing the remote around pretending it's a lightsaber and you force lightening EVERYTHING :D What more could you want?
  • 3d Game Engine Architecture. Hopefully this will get me on the home programming front again. I have some stuff I want to play around with here as well (such as investigating the Hamiltonian framework as the heart of a physics engine)
I'll try and update more frequently this year (although it would be hard to update less). I've got all sorts of crazy science and programming stuff buzzing around my head at the moment, so I'll probably end up doing some more articles on those lines.

That's it for now. To the 2 or 3 people who bother reading this, I hope you had a good christmas season (even if you don't celebrate pagan festivals that have been hijacked by christianity ;)) and a happy new year.