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Spent the afternoon scraping together a bit of cold to solve a fun little maths puzzle, after which I extracted an old tar file in the same directory, relying on the fact that the directory name in the archive was in lower case and the directory name with the puzzle solution was in capitalised. So imagine my surprise when OS X helpfully extracted the old files into the capitalised directory, trashing my code. And imagine my annoyance when I realised that I'd switched off Time Machine to allow me to shuffle around a handful of transient data files and had forgotten to switch it on again afterwards...
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Already my iTunes reorganisation is starting to pay dividends. Having gone back to the check the CD track listing for a set of Schubert lieder, I discovered an entire extra disc containing a recording of Winterreise which I'd completely overlooked when I originally imported the recordings. Wiktory!
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Having prepared the ingredients in advance, all I needed to do post-run was to fill the case of my spinach pie and shove it in the oven for half an hour while I took the trouble to have a shower. And while the filling and showering went well, the cooking went less well.

Emerging from the bathroom, I noticed a definite carbonaceous taint to the air and immediately went to go and check on the cooking. There I discovered that instead of setting the oven to 200 celcius, I had instead switched on the grill. Consequently, my pie was extremely well done on top — it was well and truly charred — while the bottom was somewhat undercooked. But once I'd scrapped off the worst of the charcoal, I was surprised by just how well — OK, how edible — it turned out to be.
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Arriving home, I noticed that a card had come in the post. Odd, I thought, it's not my birthday, it's not a post card and I don't recognise the hardwriting [ in my defence, it was upside down ], so I wonder who it's from.

I turned the card over to discover that it was the recipe for my thesis, which meant that the unknown writing was... my own. And I'd completely failed to identify it.

Not good.
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I've had a distinctly mixed day. After an initial panic triggered by my almost chance discovery that I'd forgotten to send my research diary to my tutor for signing ahead of submitting my thesis, I had to rush down to the Post Office first thing to make sure that the stupid thing went off in time.

Having done that, I rushed to get in to work in time for my morning meeting. Fortunately, I bumped into one of my colleagues on the way and we were able to brain storm some new scheduling ideas on the way in. Our final master plan involved coming up with a way to partition the work up into user-defined priority levels and then to use peer pressure to ensure that people didn't hog the highest priority band.

My meeting, which I managed to make with time to spare, was also unexpected productive. We were got through a whole load of interesting stuff and someone from management passed on Official Thanks for the success of the HPC upgrade project. They noted that ECMWF had yet to complete their upgrade, despite having a year's head start and 5+ years of experience running their production codes on IBM hardware, and there were general feelings of smugness and self-congratulation all round.

After a brief break for coffee, in which Sartre was discussed, I tested out a disc replacement procedure, debugged a network problem, sorted out some festing problems, did some paperwork, caught the bus into town, went for a swim, came home, loaded back up with carbs and listened to Die schöne Müllerin.

On balance, I think the good outweighed the bad.
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This afternoon, I cycled to Hele. The ride wasn't bad, although some of the hills were pretty tough and the weather wasn't particularly pleasant, but I rather enjoyed it. Or at least I did, right up until the last hundred metres.

Having forgotten that the road was wet, I took the last left turn rather too fast, only for the wheels to lose their grip. The bike went into a slide, I connected with the tarmac and ground to a halt. Relatively little damage was done, although my knee and elbow were pretty badly cut up, but on the whole I feel I got off pretty lightly...

ETA: Actually, my arm was bad enough to need bandaging up. Fortunately, I've got enough stuff left over from last time to do the job for now.
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Rather amusingly, my parents' plans seem to have gone awry. They were supposed to be flying back to Greece on Wednesday but, late on Tuesday night, they discovered that my newphew's passport had expired. They've managed to get things sorted — they spent yesterday at the passport office in Peterborough — and they've rescheduled their flight for today, but still, talk about disorganised...
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Having churned out a whole load of data over night on the mac, I wanted to shift the output files over to my NAS, where I've got more free disc space. So, first thing this morning and barely conscious, I threw the following nasty little fragment at the command line to do the heavy lifting:

for i in *.dat; do echo $i; scp $i nas:results/${i%%-run*}.dat; rm $i ; done

And sure enough, the machine started churning away and I went off to do something else. After a few minutes I came back and suddenly realised that I'd forgotten to switch the NAS box on, so all my transfers were timing out and the uncopied data was being trashed. Oops.

Next time I try this I'm going to: (a) make sure that I use an scp && rm construct; (b) I'm going to make damn sure my destination box is on; and (c) I'm not going to try and do it when I'm both in a hurry and half-asleep...

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Todays act of stupidity: only realising I'd forgotten my goggles and swimming hat after I'd started to get changed. Fortunately, I caught my mistake before I'd removed much more than my boots, so I was able to go back to reception and buy some new bits and pieces to replace the stuff I'd forgotten. I'm just glad I noticed before I changed into my Speedos...
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Last week, I heard a great story about a drug mix up from a medical friend. The problem happened when the doctor concerned picked up a rash. He consulted with his colleagues and they suggested he try chlorphenamine, an antihistamine, so he went to collect some from the drugs cabinet and took himself off sick.

He got home, popped a pill and, after a short while, started to feel very odd indeed. Checking the label on the bottle, he discovered that what he thought was chlorphenamine was actually chlorpromazine, an anti-psychotic, which rather explained his inability to stand-up.

Needless to say, his colleagues found the whole thing hilarious.
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I'm not vastly impressed with the new iPlayer based version of radio player.

The removal of programme listings from the pop-up play, linked to from the station home pages, feels like a seriously retrograde step. It certainly complicates the process of finding recently broadcast shows. And no, the More Like This feature, nice though it may be, doesn't come close to compensating.

All of this wouldn't be quite so much of a problem if the iPlayer radio pages were as reliable as the original Listen Again, but I find that they seem to spend far more time buffering up data then they do actually playing anything. This may, of course, indicate a problem with my setup but given I don't have problems with other streaming sites, I'm inclined to blame the Beeb.

And also, what's with the annoying station identification messages prefixed to the Radio 3 live stream? It feels like yet another example of annoying BBC branding, like the "BBC News for Radio 4" tag appended to the R4 news bulletins last year in a clumsy attempt to strengthen the brand of BBC News.
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Somehow this year, I seem to have been caught unawares by the power of Earth's yellow sun. Normally, I slather myself in sunblock to prevent any hint of UV coming in contact with my perilously pale exterior. But with this summer's terrible weather, I failed to get int in to the habit of applying block and now the damage is done: my arms have gone chronically freckly and it looks as though my feet are starting to go the same way.

If only some megalomaniac would build some kind of, oh, I don't know, giant sun-blocker, to finally realise mankind's oldest dream: to block out the sun...
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Whilst paying for my lunch, I had a sudden realisation: I bought a paper this morning using the self-service till at Tesco and paid with a ten pound note, yet I only collected four pounds and something in change. This was not the fault of Tesco, except in that their self-service tills are of a stupid design — coins come out of a slot next to the recipe printer, but notes are ejected into a cavity below the barcode scanner. Rather, it was my fault for being half-asleep and neglecting to check the note dispenser.

But I've decided to take a stoic view of my stupidity; to consider my error as part of a generalised effort to the redistribution of wealth. Just think how happy the next person to use the till will be when they discover an extra five pound note waiting for them. It'll make their day. Which makes me think it was money well lost...
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This morning, I changed my contact lenses. I fished out some new boxes, found that one was labelled with a big R and shoved the contents into my eyes as directed. I wasn't particularly pleased to find that my sight was noticeably worse than with my last pair, so I compared the numbers.

Sure enough, the new lenses were very slightly different — a half-diopter to the spherical in one eye and, oddly, a ten degree tweak change to one of the cylindricals — so I decided that I'd live with it for now, see if things improved as I got used to the new prescription and, if they didn't, make an appointment with the eye doctor for next week.

After a couple of hours, I finally got fed up with the situation. I rechecked the prescription numbers on the box and noticed that the one with what I now realised was the correction for my left eye was the one helpfully labelled R by the opticians. Oops. So I switched the lenses round and suddenly, miraculously, the whole world was pin-sharp. Sharper than it had been with my old lenses.

Lessons learnt? To ignore any helpful letters added to the box; to check the prescriptions properly beforehand; and to remember that the left lens is the one with the stronger cylindrical correction.
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My sister recently suffered an embarrassment so amusing, I feel compelled to share.

While window shopping for a new party frock, she decided to try on a smart little number in an upmarket boutique. Although the dress was a little on the tight side, she was able to get it on without any problems but, after peering at herself in the mirror and squinting at the price tag, she decided that it wasn't for her. So she took it off. Or tried to.

Having failed to get the dress off unaided, she persuaded the assistants to, well, assist, but they couldn't get it off either. They called the manager, who was also unable to peel the dress of my sister. Eventually, they gave up and decided that the only way they were going to separate my sister from the dress was with a pair of scissors. Yes. That's right. They had to cut it off her. Like in Casualty.

Fortunately, the shop were terribly decent about the whole thing and didn't try and charge my sis for the frock and my sister, suitably chastened, has decided that perhaps she might be a dress size larger than she originally thought...
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Via the Guardian, the wonderfully addictive Photoshop Disasters blog. A glorious tribute to third arms, giant hands and chopped together movie posters.
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Pledging allegiance to the Queen? Puhleeze.

I remember back when I was a stripling going to a joint concert held the the Woodcraft Folk and a local orchestra. The orchestra started off the evening with an anachronism: the national anthem. When the music started, the Woodies half of the audience remained resolutely seated. The rest of the theatre sprang to its feet and then, realising that the hippy crowd hadn't stood, turned its collective baleful gaze on the sedentary republicans, thereby strengthening the resolve of those of us sitting to remain sitting.

So much, then, for the idea of respect for the monarchy fostering a common bond...
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I find myself both amused and appalled that Woolworths, blithely ignorant of the Nabokovian connotations, decided to call a range of girls bedroom furniture Lolita.

I can only suppose that the Woolies A-level doesn't run to 20th century Russian-American literature...
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Today's lesson: don't make groundless assumptions. This morning, I spent the best part of an hour trying to determine why one of my programs was taking 20 seconds longer than expected to spin down once all the worker threads had completed. I initially assumed that, because the delay matched the time-out I'd passed to select(), the problem was due to the threads waiting on output from one of their task, so I instrumented the code in an attempt to prove that some bits of work were taking longer than others.

The profiling information showed the exact opposite of my expectations: the threads were doing exactly the same amount of work and, once their work was done, paused for the time-out period and then barriered with the main program. When I looked closer I noticed that I'd actually used my time-out in two places: once in the select() call and once in the call to Queue.get(), in order to prevent the threads from spin-waiting on locks in the work queue. Suddenly, it all made sense: the threads had exhausted the work in the queue, but were forced to wait for time-out seconds until the queue returned with a Queue.Empty exception, at which point they were able to re-join the main thread.

If only I hadn't assumed that the problem was with select and instead remembered that I'd used the same time-out for the work queue, I'd have saved myself an hour. Still, it was only an hour and what else was I going to do with the time? I'd only have wasted it staring out of the window.
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Appallingly, the government minister responsible for removing funding for second degrees etc — equivalent level qualifications in government argot — has had the breathtaking chutzpah to attempt to defend his decision in a speech at the Open University, the institution that will probably be hit hardest by the cuts.

To prove that the government really doesn't understand the purpose of education, here are some of salient details of the Denham position as given by the Guardian:

Denham expects more employers to co-fund higher education courses, which will be exempt from the changes, alongside degrees in strategic subjects and foundation degrees.

"We believe on evidence of what many universities are already doing and what employers have already said, that there will be employer interest in funding or co-funding higher level courses for people to retrain or re-skill later in life."

He added: "Many of the courses universities run are designed with employers, but they have never engaged employers in paying for them."

Yeah, because we all know that employers are going to be falling over themselves to pay for their employees to study philosophy and art history and astrophysics, don't we? I guess the OU's arts faculty should just close down right now and the sciences should ditch all their useless blue skies courses and instead start supplying BAs in Having A Nice Voice on the Telephone and MAs in Stamp Licking Studies, because these are the sorts of skills that, I sure Denham would have us believe, employers in the Real World really want.


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