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March 31, 2005

Being Dead

Being Dead - Jim Crace


Mortuary textbook, love story?

A pair of young marine bioligists, Celice and Joseph, meet at Baritone Bay on a field trip from university. They are both a bit unconventional, and fall for each other almost immediately. There is a tragedy where one of the members of their trip gets killed, and this probably pushes the couple closer together. Skip to 25 years later, and they are both married with a grown up daughter and working together in academia.

Hearing that their meeting place is about to be redeveloped into luxury residences, they return one last time. As they sit semi-naked amongst the sand dunes, they are brutally murdered, heads smashed with a concrete block, by a nutter who only wants their cash. They lie there decomposing for days before they are missed. Once this happens their estranged daughter comes back home and starts searching the hospitals and morgue. Finally they are found.

This is a short novel, and the events are split up and told both backwards and forwards in time. This device isn't really much help; it 's only purpose seems to be to try and spice up a fairly mundane story. A huge proportion of the writing is about death and the processes of decay, so don't read this if you're a bit on the squeamish side.

It is interesting to see how a writer can take something so simple, and make a novel out of it. It is a diverting read, and the narrative actually starts with the death, so the spoiler warning wasn't really necessary as nearly everything is given away in the first few pages. The search for the bodsies does however have a certain amount of tension.


Posted by se71 at 01:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I've always been very interested in recycling.

As the years go by though, it's taking up more and more of my time, thought processes, and space.

Here's what I mean:


In the old days, you bought a battery, used it, and threw it in the bin when you'd finished. Now you have two options - normal batteries or rechargable.

If you use normal batteries, then when they are finished you should recycle them. I know this is true, because my office in Sweden when I worked there had a battery recycling point. I don't know where you recycle batteries in this country, so I've collected quite a large boxful of old batteries, which are taking up space in my house, and I guess are probably not even that safe.

If you choose rechargeable batteries, then you have the added problem of always having to remember to keep them charged. Many times my portable music player has run out on the way to work, and with no spare that means waiting a whole day before I can listen again. It's a bad idea to recharge batteries before they are completely dead, and spare batteries lose their charge anyway just sitting in your pocket.

And if the battery is inside your mobile phone, or razor or laptop, then it is already rechargeable so you have no option but to keep a charger nearby. The problem with this is that every single device has it's own special charger. I've resorted to buying spare chargers for use at home and office, so that I don't need to carry them all around in a suitcase. A suitcase is exactly what I need for the chargers I have to take on holiday nowadays for my digital camera/camcorder/razor/PDA/laptop/music player.

Even more vexing, is the idea that the rechargeable batteries really aren't that green anyway. They take electric power to charge, which is made from fossil fuels in the main in the UK.

I've used batteries as an example of how complicated I find the decision making, but paper and plastic, old TVs and fridges, even garden waste, are all in the same category. And what about tins of tuna. If your council collect the empty ones, where do you store them before the weekly (or even fortnightly) collection? Not in the house, they'll really smell, even if you wash them. And the boxes supplied probably don't have lids, so leaving them stinking at the side of the house to attract cats/flys etc isn't that nice. So now you're forced to wash your old cans before putting them out.

Recycling is a really sensible idea, but sometimes you just have to say "what the heck" and just chuck the rubbish in the bin if you want to have any chance of getting out of the house.

I even feel bad for taking a 'new' polystyrene cup for my coffee just now. The cup I used this morning had old dried coffee in it, I could have used it again i suppose.

Posted by se71 at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I've joined a thing called Technorati. I'm not even exactly sure what it is, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

It's a way of syndicating my blog so more people read it, without actually ramming it down friend's throats, which is what I'm having to do at the moment.

I have a ranking of 1,103,726 at the moment :-)

Posted by se71 at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005


As usual, public transport, and in fact the public in general, are annoying me again.

I managed to walk from my house to the station, onto the train and a 50 minute journey, then into the tube, and finally a walk 10 minutes up to the office, without coughing even once. What an amazing feat!

It's like a Pavlovian reaction for some people though, they enter a train and immediately their throat starts to tickle, and then they're off. Most of them cannot even be bothered to cover their faces.

I'm training for a triathlon in a few weeks, and the last thing I need right now is to catch a chest cold. So if these people actually are suffering and not just coughing through some kind of mental deficiency, I really wish they'd take the trouble not to direct their germs at me.

(I'm pretty sure I've ranted about this before, sorry if you're bored listening to me :-) )

Posted by se71 at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

Dr Who

Dr Who is back. I'm still confused about the 'Who' bit, as he never introduces himself that way - just "The Doctor".

Anyway - happily, after several months nail-biting anticipation, it's really very good.

Having followed Christopher Ecclestone's career since Shallow Grave, I was worried about his suitability for this role. I've always found him a bit serious and introverted. He seems to have completely changed however, both as an actor and off screen too (The Johathan Ross interview spent quite some time discussing his sticky out ears for example). He is much less serious. There is humour and self deprecation that makes him likeable. And yet, his past roles are helping this one. We can see that he can be hard when he needs to be, is capable of cruelty (he doesn't tell Rose her boyfriend might still be alive). So even when the program veers into slapstick with a disembodied arm trying to strangle the Doctor and Rose, the danger is not diminished completely.

The story this week was pretty weak. It was about an alien race trying to take over the Earth by animating all the plastic (especially showroom dummies for some reason) to kill humanity. Rose is a worthless young woman with a crap job, a useless boyfriend, and no future. She lives with her equally unambitious mother, and no father (of which more in later time-travelling episodes). The Doctor bumps into her a few times in his attempts to save the world, and eventually she shows her only talent (gymnastics) to save him and the world. They head off in the TARDIS time machine for next week's adventure

But the story wasn't important, it was just a vehicle to get the stars together, and most importantly, draw in a new generation of viewers. I am able to report that it worked for my two children, who weren't so scared they had to hide behind a cushion, but did find it exciting and fun. The new Doctor is very different from past incarnations, which is a good thing as he'd become far too much of a dandy. Billy Piper as Rose is actually convincing as his bimbo airhead assistant (who'd have thought it!)

The action gets more serious in later episodes, which is as it should be. The special effects are much better than before - not Hollywood standard, but not embarassing. And there are going to be Daleks!

I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

Posted by se71 at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

What we've given the world lately

We're exporting quite a few TV shows to the US at the moment. Here are a few and some links from the BBC:

The Office
Pop Idol (American Idol)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
The Weakest Link
Strictly Come Dancing

They are all bound to be terrible, even The Office is a remake. What must the Americans be thinking of us.

Posted by se71 at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

Tony Christie

Picture this scene, about two weeks ago say. I get out an old record by 57 year old crooner Tony Christie. I put on the excellent track "Is this the way to Amarillo?" and tell my my 12 year old daughter to have a listen.

She would have been totally non-plussed that I would even imagine her liking it, and would probably think I was teasing her.

I actually am a fan of Mt Christie, and have at home his other classic "I did what I did for Maria", and his more recent "Walk like a Panther" which he recorded with the band The All Seeing Eye.

And yet Northern comedian Peter Kaye took the song, made a comedy video of himself and some other stars miming to it, and here it is at the number one position in the UK charts, outselling the rest of the top 20 combined. And my daughter is asking me to play it repeatedly at home.

This illustrates the important musical phenomenon of style over content. When the song wasn't trendy, young people wouldn't give it the time of day. Now that Comic Relief have taken a hugely popular cult comedy star and made it interesting, the song is back at the top where it belongs.

Boy bands do this all the time too, Boyzone and Westlife particularly have taken tracks by Cat Stevens, Billy Joel and even Barry Maniloe and made them hits again. Rap artists like The Fugees have made Roberts Flack and Enya popular (though not many people humming along to "Ready or Not" probably know that).

It disappoints me that this kind of recycling is necessary. I have a huge collection of older music, which includes tracks that I know my daughter's generation would really like, but I know they never will unless some marketing trick is played on them to make it acceptable.

Posted by se71 at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

Inexplicably Popular American Bands

There are a few bands that are immensely popular in the USA. They aren't bad bands, their music is...OK, and yet they have a cult following. Other more commercial artists (ones who people can actually name popular songs by), cite these bands as huge influences. And so they go on from year to year, touring and making albums, and getting more and more cultish.

I find this really odd. The reason why I find it odd is that the music really isn't that good. It's perfectly listenable to I suppose, someone has produced and mixed it. There are verses and choruses. Bu the vocalists are quite bad, the lyrics are boring, and sometimes the whole thing does actually veer into amateur land.

I think I know what it is they are doing right though, they are selling a way of life to people. They have a devil-may-care attitude that says "Hey, I'm doing this cause I love it, and I love you guys, and let's all open a keg of beer and have a party". The quality of the music is secondary, the volume is loud, and the whole fun style makes these college kids think they can do it too. Some of them do form their own bands, and become more popular that their unofficial mentors. Then they give the plaudits, and guarantee another tour, and other album, in a self perpetuating cycle.

Oh, I haven't named any bands yet, have I :-)

The Pixies

The Dave Matthews Band

The Grateful Dead, probably (though I have never heard them, so can't really comment yet on the song/vocalist quality)

Posted by se71 at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Daily Telegraph Crossword - Complete

Originally uploaded by se71.
Here's the proof, one completed Daily Telegraph crossword. Yipee.

Posted by se71 at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


After a brief foray into the world of Guardian and Independent crosswords, this week I'm back with the king of cryptic crosswords, The Daily Telegraph.

I think it must be easier, the only other alternative is that my mind is tuned more to their way of thinking.

Last night I was left with only 3 outstanding clues, and today I've only 5 left and the only time spent on it was the train journey before even my first morning coffee.

Posted by se71 at 08:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005


Originally uploaded by se71.
From my desk, I can see sunlight for the first time this afternoon.

Posted by se71 at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Perusing the BBC Weather Five day forecast today for London, I notice that it gives sunrise and sunset times. I'm a bit obsessive about this in a general way, and it's nice to see the specifics.

Today, the times are quite interesting for me.

Sunrise 6.20am (this is when my alarm close goes off)
Sunset 6.01pm (this is when I finish work)

Even more interesting is that on Friday the times have changed to

Sunrise 6.11am
Sunset 6.07pm

That's a full 15 minutes extra daylight in one working week.

Fantastic :-)

Posted by se71 at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005


Read on Dadblog an amusing post which mentions Rush. They're not really a girly group, and I've not met anyone under 30 in the last 10 years who has even heard of them either. It's a great sourch of bewilderment for me.

Interestingly they got a mention in the Guardian today too, and even I think in the Independent last week. Both in articles about Tommy Vance's death and his famous Friday Night Rock Show, which of course heavily (sic) featured Rush.

Posted by se71 at 05:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Blogs

I'm getting addicted to blogs - not blogging, but setting up new blogs.

I've just set up two more.




It's a bit like programming languages, once you know a few, you start to appreciate the subtle differences between them. Hopefully I'll learn enough to actually make sense of which one is 'best'.

Oops, forgot to mention this one too on Bloglines

Posted by se71 at 05:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I got my first comment spam this morning. This means someone put a comment into my blog which was just a spam advertisement. This is not good.

Movable Type is the blogging software I'm using for this site. The people who make it have an initiative called Typekey which allows a degree of authentication for people who want to comment. I set myself up on there and registered this site, so now it's available here.

I'm not requiring people to use it, but if the comment spam gets too bad, I may have to do something. So if you head over to Typekey and set yourself up an account, that would be nice.

I had a bit of trouble actually getting my site set up to accept typekey.

This page gave me the help I needed.

You have to enter in your Typekey profile the root address of your blog, which is http://se71.org, rather than the proper path http://se71.org/blog. That's odd I think, and a bit counter intuitive, but now it's working.

Posted by se71 at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005


I really want an iPod (photo)
I really want an iPod mini
I really want an iPod Shuffle
I really want an iMac mini

I'm not really sure what I would do with them all - I already have about 5 computers (including an iMac) and a 256Mb MP3 player which stores about 4 albums of music and has a radio.

So why on earth do I find myself in John Lewis most weekends admiring the little white boxes, and feeling secretly glad that they never have the iMac mini in stock, as I'm not sure my resolve will hold out if they ever do.

Posted by se71 at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Tommy Vance

Bloody Heck - what is going on. First John Peel, and now Tommy Vance has died.

I have an eclectic taste in music, and have enjoyed output from both these DJs over the years - people who genuinely loved the music they played.


Posted by se71 at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

Ruby On Rails

I've been being bugged to try out the new Framework everyone is talking about - Ruby On Rails. (Excellent Tutorial here )

I have various computers and operating systems, and I'm a bit of a fan of developing on whatever one happens to be turned on at the time. So I went to the installer page and got a windows installer.

Ruby installed fine.

The next step is to use the Gem installer to get Rails installed from the internet.

Gem didn't work.

After a bit of head scratching and a few tries at internet searches for similar problems, I discover that gem, and Rails, will only work properly on Windows from XP/2K onwards. Windows95/98/ME are not supported. It would have been nice to have seen this information somewhere on the installer page.

For those of a curious nature, the reason it didn't work is that the file extension .cmd is not recognised as executable in earlier Windows versions; it's a bit like .bat, and renaming all the .cmd files to .bat helps a bit, but apparently there are some hard coded calls to cmd.exe which used to be command.com. I guess I might be able to hack together a working Ruby On Rails, but I'd then never be really sure when I came across problems whether it was me or the software, and don't really need that pain.

Posted by se71 at 06:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Well, I thought I knew Windows pretty well, but just found a site with a few hints on cleaning it up and discovered a program called msconfig.

Ran it, and yes it exists on my WinME machine.

Used it to remove the annoying scandisk which runs on startup every time my PC crashes, which is a lot. Excellent.

Posted by se71 at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

The Shadow Of The Wind

The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Mystery story set in mid 20th Century Barcelona

This much hyped story doesn't really live up to the buzz surrounding it. Some have even gone so far as to claim the book will change your life - this is complete nonsense.

Daniel is a young boy growing up in Barcelona around the time of the Spanish Civil War. His father runs a bookshop, and when Daniel is 10 years old he takes him to the secret Cemetry of Lost Books. Here Daniel retrieves a novel called The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. The author is from Barcelona, but fled to Paris and is believed to have died there many years before.

Daniel is captivated by the book, and tries to find others by the author. He discovers that there is a shadowy character retrieving all copies of Carax's books and burning them. This man Coubert is hideously disfigured from a fire he got caught in, and only appears at night. Daniel digs deeper into Carax's life, and finds a murky history with a lost love called Penelope, a school friend called Fumero with a murderous past who has now risen to the rank of senior police officer
, and a mysterous woman called Montfort who knows more about Carax's life in Paris than she at first reveals.

Aided by Fermin, a vagrant and a former political prisoner, Daniel gradually discovers the truth. Fermin is being hunted by Fumero, who is also trying to find Carax who he believes is still alive. The two amateur detectives follow the trail around the streets of Barcelona gradually uncovering more of the truth. They narrowly avoid death themselves, and inadvertently lead Fumero to Carax himself for the final showdown.

There are many problems with this story, which should be in the fantasy section of the bookshop really it is so unbelievable. It is completely obvious that Coubert and Carax are the same person, yet this is a central mystery of the book. This sluggish revelation, and the relealation of the rest of Carax's past, is drawn out over hundreds of pages where much less would have been preferred. The reason is so that the author can flesh out his colourful cast of characters, but even here this is hardly worth it. Fermin, much liked by other critics, is an unreal person. He is constantly optimistic, resourceful, and almost indescructible, so why is he living on the streets as a beggar when Daniel meets him? Daniel pays the detective, but his motive is really very weak. Montfort, who turns out to be Carax/Coubert's lover, in anticipation of her own murder by Fumero writes outher version of what happened in a letter to Daniel, who she hardly knows. This letter forms about 50 pages of the novel, a lot more detail than is believable from a woman in hiding.

Leaving aside the melodramatic search for the truth portion, there is a coming of age story of Daniel falling in love first with a much older woman, and then his best friends sister, which is much more interesing. The parallels drawn between this and Carax's early life are nicely played out. Both young men are obsessive, and yet whether because of the changing Spanish times, or their own characters, the outcomes of their actions are different.

Also, there is much here about life in Spain, about the Civil War and the Second World War, about ordinary people coping with a changing world.

So read this for the history, and the humanity, and the colourful language, and give the author a bit of leeway on the rather fanciful and confusingly drawn-out plot.


Posted by se71 at 09:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

Altering Photos

Originally uploaded by se71.
I took this photo the other morning and was pretty pleased with the way it looked. Then I remembered that I was trying to capture the interesting trails from jets that I'd seen.

So I had a go 'tuning' the image to try and make it more like what I saw. The result is pretty nice too, but the sky really wasn't that orange.

Originally uploaded by se71.

Posted by se71 at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Ringtones in the office are the new Donald Duck ties.

In the 80s, if you worked in an office, you wore a suit and tie. Most people wore a sober colour, and the tie was striped, spotted, paisley, or plain.

Some bright sparks wanted to show their individuality, and especially in the weeks following Christmas there would be many 'amusing' ties with bright Donald Ducks or Mickey Mouses beaming out at you on the morning tube.

Nowadays, this practice has largely disappeared (thank deity), and even the suit is an endangered species (unless you're an estate agent, lawer or other pond scum). So how do people assert their boyish credentials when every other person is also wearing chinos and a polo shirt? Yes, it's the jokey ringtone.

In the beginning, mobile phones just rang, and this was pretty much restricted to a couple of different kinds of beeps. One from Ericsson was so much used it became ridiculed by Dom Joly in his Trigger Happy TV shop - "Hello, yes, I'm on the train, it's rubbish!!"

Now mobile phones don't just ring, they sing too. They'll play anything you like. You can hold them up to a flushing toilet, press record, and have that sound filling your cubicle when your mum calls to tell you you've forgotten your sandwiches.

Today, I've been assaulted by Bob the Builder, The A Team and Thunderbirds. It's just not amusing the first time, never mind the twenty first. And they are called 'mobile' phones, so why don't you take them with you instead of leaving them on your desk when you go to a meeting. And just when you've gotten tired of their phone ringing, you realise that the person probably left a message - and sure enough 60 seconds later the automated answering service calls so you can 'enjoy' the tone all over again. And then, there's more. Your significant other really really wants you not to forget to buy some milk on the way home, so it's time for a text message, and an alternative tone for your abandoned phone to broadcast, accompanied by a loud thumping sound as it vibrates across the desk.

Ringtones aren't amusing, and like Disney themed ties, I really hope they die out soon. If you really were an amusing life and soul of the party type, you wouldn't be sitting in an office staring at a computer for eight hours a day. Turn your phone to silent vibrate, keep it in your pocket, get a life, and get out of mine!

(apologies to John Gaunt off BBC London for that last bit, couldn't resist)

Posted by se71 at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Postcodes in Mozilla

DJ Adams has written a little bookmarklet to easily find postcodes on maps from within Firefox.

Unfortunately, I can't find a postcode on a webpage to quickly test this :)

Go on DJ, stick an example into your blog! Even better, here's one for you - EC2M 7BA

Posted by se71 at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)