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[livejournal.com profile] nmg
*reads article about the X-37B
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
*looks over shoulder at pictures*
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
That rocket not for people.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
That's right, it's an unmanned spacecraft.
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
That rocket not for people because it not got a toilet.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
o_O
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An account of a conversation while waiting at bus stop with [livejournal.com profile] ias and the [livejournal.com profile] garklet:

[livejournal.com profile] garklet
My1 like coiley-wotey.
[livejournal.com profile] ias
What's coiley-wotey?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
Colley Wotty?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
What sort of a thing is coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
*pause* Coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] ias
He's making this word up.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
Are you making this word up? Is this another silly word?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
No, coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] ias
How big is coiley-wotey?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
*looks confused*
[livejournal.com profile] ias
Is coiley-wotey big or small?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Coiley-wotey!
[livejournal.com profile] ias
He's just saying that! Stop saying that!
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
*has flash of inspiration* What colour is coiley-wotey?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Grey.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
*thinks* What sort of animal is coiley-wotey?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
He a woof, chase roadroader. Roadroader goes beep-beep!
[livejournal.com profile] ias
Aha! He's a wolf! You're talking about Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, aren't you?
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Yes, my like coiley-wotey.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
That's Wile. E. Coyote. Can you say it after me? Wile E.
[livejournal.com profile] garklet
Coiley-wotey.
[livejournal.com profile] nmg
*sighs*

1. This is a persistent verbal tic that he's had for the last six months. My, how we've tried to cure him of it.

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The [livejournal.com profile] garklet (a normal, energetic three year old) fell asleep during it.

I don't know whether to be appalled (he should have been hiding behind a cushion, not sleeping) or impressed with his critical judgement.

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Is it just me, or has Mark Gatiss been channelling Dan O'Bannon?

Temps Perdu

Apr. 8th, 2010 06:23 pm
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Had a sudden realisation in the car on the way to pick the [livejournal.com profile] garklet this evening, as the warm spring sun streamed through the windscreen.

At that moment what I really wanted, more than anything else, was to be five years old again, and to be taken out to a pub by my parents on a warm spring weekday evening. I wanted to have a Pepsi (in a small bottle, scratched with reuse, with two narrow non-bendy straws, one red-and-white, and one blue-and-white) and a bag of KP nuts (not Planters) or possibly a bag of KP crisps (with the frying friars on the bag). I wanted the smell of warm stale beer on a rusty tin bar tray, and to be able to run around the box hedges in the beer garden at the back of the Tower Arms (now sadly lost to a ghastly conservatory).

Sigh. I think that we need to take the [livejournal.com profile] garklet out to the White Swan at the weekend, if the weather is still good.

In other news, back from hols in Malta - more in another post.

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So, decided that I needed another hefty computer science tome, this time Volume B of the Handbook of Theoretical Computer Science. Looked on Amazon.com, and found a copy in Marketplace for the very reasonable price of $35. Ordered, paid, etc.

Got a mail from the seller saying "Amazon-mandated shipping rates too low, shipping will cost more than I get from the sale, looking for cheaper options. I no longer need the book - just want someone else to have it".

Replied, pointing out that USPS Priority International costs less than his cut (the book weighs 2.5kg).

He refunded my money with a rather patronising explanation of the breakdown of his proceeds.

Pointed out that he should consider pricing his books in such a way that he doesn't lose money, and that if he doesn't want to sell internationally, he should make that clear.

He replied, asking "I wonder who you think you are".

Suggested that I was apparently someone who was under the mistaken impression that they'd just entered into a contractual agreement with a good faith seller...

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As [livejournal.com profile] ias mentioned yesterday, we've been told that the University is going to be closed on Monday (the Highways Agency have nabbed our grit, so campus is likely to be pretty treacherous). The mail from the Registrar read as follows:

Please be aware that the University will be closed on Monday 11 January. This decision has been taken, due to safety concerns arising from a depleted supply of grit. [...] Please be assured staff will not lose any pay or leave as a result of this closure day.

On the other hand, the mail from my Head of School read:

The University is officially closed on Monday [...] the strong advice is to stay away on Monday and work from home.

The usual practice for University closure days, which are typically public holidays but also include the period between Xmas and New Year, is that there is no expectation that staff should be working (at home or otherwise). Why should this be different?

I also overheard some Estates staff talking outside the Nursery when I picked the [livejournal.com profile] garklet up yesterday - apparently, they were sent home on Wednesday. This clearly explains why many of the paths around campus (particularly the steep paths between Physics/Geography and the rest of campus) hadn't been gritted on Thursday morning when I was struggling to get across campus for a 0900 lecture.

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Soon after the [livejournal.com profile] garklet was born, a little over three years ago, [livejournal.com profile] ias sent me out with a shopping list, as follows:

  • Lansinoh
  • Cotton wool

I decided to get these from the big John Lewis in town, on the ostensible grounds that it was marginally closer to the car park than Boots. This also meant that I could browse the AV department. One thing lead to another, and I ended up leaving with the following items:

  • Lansinoh
  • Cotton wool
  • A Humax 9200-T PVR

Apart from making a shopping basket that clearly shouts "new dad" (nipple cream + superfluous technology), the PVR has been a godsend, not least because we've been able to pause live TV when putting the [livejournal.com profile] garklet to bed. The [livejournal.com profile] garklet clearly now assumes that a) you can pause live TV, b) you can rewind live TV, and c) you can watch Chuggington at any time. When he's older, he'll probably disbelieve me when I tell about the days when there were only three channels. Maybe I should hang on to my nan's old channel-preset-less black and white portable?

Unfortunately, it's been starting to look a little tired. We'd missed the over-the-air updates to the PVR's software, so we don't have any nifty features like series link. It's also a royal pain to get data off the PVR; you can plug in a USB cable, but it perversely refuses to mount as a mass storage device, and the necessary client software is Windows-only, and both sluggish and error-prone. Most seriously, it has started to crash every couple of days, so there's no guarantee that recordings will actually happen.

I'd been eyeing up its successor, the 9300-T, on the grounds that a) it had an HDMI output (no more fuzzy SCART on the 1080p flatscreen) and b) it had a larger disc. [livejournal.com profile] ias expressed a few reservations, so I'd also looked at other devices (the Topfield PVR, for example).

[livejournal.com profile] julesfm pointed out that there was a third route, namely a tuner in a desktop computer. After playing with his EyeTV for a bit, I took the plunge with an EyeTV Diversity on a Mac Mini Server (lovely machine - 2.56GHz dual core with 2x500Gb discs and 4Gb RAM). This also has given us a DVD playing solution - something we've been missing since a Certain Toddler lost the remote for our DVD player.

So far, our experience has been pretty good (pattern-matching recording schedules are ace), but there have been a couple of hiccoughs which are probably worth documenting:

  • EyeTV Remote. While EyeTV 3 has a reasonable ten foot interface, it seems a bit overkill to rely on a wireless keyboard and mouse to change channels on the TV. EyeTV comes with a fairly ugly but serviceable remote. What they don't make clear is that this doesn't speak to the Mac Mini, but to the IR receiver on the EyeTV tuner itself. Which is plugged into a USB port on the back of the Mac Mini. While I could stick it on a USB cable and have it draped over the front of the Mac Mini (Jules recommended cable ties), this offended my aesthetic sense.
  • Apple Remote on Snow Leopard. In theory, you can also control EyeTV 3 using the standard Apple Remote (and who doesn't have three or four of these kicking about?) Unfortunately, Apple managed to break the Apple Remote for third party applications under Snow Leopard. There are a couple of workarounds, most notably those produced by IOSpirit: RemoteBuddy and Candelair. I've been using the former, having first tried the latter. Both worked well, but I was persuaded by the extra functionality of RemoteBuddy (namely the iPhone AJAX interface).
  • No MHEG-5 support. This is a bit of a pain. MHEG-5 probably means nothing to most of you, but you've probably all come across the 'red button' services on Freeview; MHEG-5 is the data format that drives these services. Unfortunately, Elgato (the manufacturers of EyeTV) regard this as a legacy format, and have shown little interest in supporting it.
  • No audio over HDMI. Again, this is a bit of a pain. The Mac Mini has both Mini-DVI and Apple Mini Display Port sockets, and you can get dongles for both to convert them to HDMI. Unfortunately, these only convert the picture, and not the sound. We've currently got the Mac Mini hooked up to the hifi on the grounds that I didn't want to run yet another cable to the TV (the Mini has digital optical out, so I could have plugged that directly into the TV had I the right cable, but still - two cables). The Apple Store in town were pretty useless, but I did find that Kanex are selling MDP to HDMI adapters with audio. They're out of stock on the digital optical adapter, but I've ordered the USB audio adapter and should hopefully find out how well it works before Christmas.

All in all, it seems pretty solid, but the hammering it'll get over Christmas will be the real test.

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Very clear sky tonight, so have actually managed to see the Geminids despite the skyglow and the floodlights in one of our neighbour's gardens. A couple of very bright meteors and about another four or five lesser ones, all in ten minutes or so. If you have a clear sky where you are, now would be a good time to step outside for a quarter of an hour - look to the east.

Briefly contemplated waking the [livejournal.com profile] garklet up to show him the best sky that he's yet had an opportunity to see in Southampton, but thought better of it. I'll just have to point Jupiter out to him on the way home (and try and explain the phases of the moon) as usual.

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p15. That is young [livejournal.com profile] gmh, isn't it?
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Yet another Downfall parody, this time on the travails of academic publishing.

(shamelessly pinched from [livejournal.com profile] lionsphil)

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Young [livejournal.com profile] ias has used up about two minutes of her fifteen minutes of fame, talking about laundry (and being tumble dryer-free) on today's Women's Hour. You can heard her here (for the next seven days). The laundry segment starts at 31:00, and she's on first (and third).

Doctor Who

Nov. 15th, 2009 08:40 pm
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The distinctive "chirp-boing" noise of the proximity sensors on the roof of the module appears to have been lifted from 2001: A Space Odyssey; it's the noise of the proximity radar aboard the EVA pods on Discovery One.

My, I'm a geek.

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Since we had our loft boarded and smartened up a few years back, we've been merrily using it to store away the things that we don't need from day to day, or which don't belong in the library. Unfortunately, it's starting to get a bit full in there (what with [livejournal.com profile] ias's sewing stuff, my tools, Xmas decorations, the [livejournal.com profile] garklet's baby clothes, our suitcases, and so on), so we've been planning on putting some of Mr Kamprad's fine modular shelving solutions up there (specifically the GORM range).

Now, I could just have gone up there with a tape measure and an old envelope to note down how many of each item we needed, but the space is confined enough (and our need for storage great enough) that I am going to have to cut shelves down to fit. Version 1 of the plan was on the back of an envelope, but didn't have accurate measurements. Version 2 was in Illustrator - great for the plan view, not so good for working out whether it will all fit under the roof.

Version 3 is in Google SketchUp, complete with models of the shelves (rather than just bounding boxes). Fortunately, I stopped short of modelling everything in the loft so that I could plan how to fit things on the shelves.

In other news, we took the [livejournal.com profile] garklet to the cinema this morning - Harbour Lights (and some other cinemas in the Picture House chain) are screening episodes of In the Night Garden to get the little ones used to sitting quietly in a darkened room. He liked it greatly, and was so well-behaved that I'm toying with the idea of taking him to see Up.

Finally, I've also managed to get around to reading Brundibar to the lad - a Sendak-illustrated version of the Czech children's opera that was first performed in Theresienstadt in 1943. The story itself is charming, but Sendak's illustrations add another layer on top of this (Brundibar is pictured with a toothbrush moustache and side parting, for example) which make this more than just a children's book. I'm still quite surprised that Portswood library had a copy. Highly recommended.

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...by Nicky Gibbins, aged 36 and 23/24ths.

One kitchen roll tube, some white card, some grey card, some red and orange tissue paper, and an awful lot of glue.

(and that's the only opportunity I'll get to play with it, since the [livejournal.com profile] garklet is most clear that it is now "my rocket")

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I wonder whose idea it was to get together a bunch of undergraduate friends and brand each other with a branding iron fashioned from a coat-hanger. A branding iron, moreover, with the initials of their hall of residence.

I know that I got up to some damnfool stuff as an undergraduate, but this is really quite special. There's more at the BBC and in the Exeter student rag [PDF].

"Rootez C Block 4 Life"

(and yes, I know I owe a few posts - one on my trip to California over the summer, a Pete Fenelon Memorial Top Five, and this season's "dear undergraduates" missive)

Lawn Order

Oct. 18th, 2009 09:49 am
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Had a good night out last night - [livejournal.com profile] ias and I went to see The Proclaimers at the Guildhall (while lovely auntie [livejournal.com profile] gnommi stayed in to make sure that the [livejournal.com profile] garklet wasn't going to trash the house).

On the drive back, we were just past the Shooting Star on Bevois Valley when a rather-the-worse-for-wear bloke started to amble into the road in front of us. I sounded the horn and braked. He, on the other hand, stood in the middle of the road with his arms spread to block our passage. Fine. I braked to a halt and beeped him again. He dropped his trousers, mooned us, then started flapping his knob at us.

At which point the two cycle-mounted police on the other side of the street (that I'd failed to notice) rode across and manhandled him out of the road without even dismounting. Priceless. It's good to see that our council tax is well-spent.

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So this is how it goes.

We live in a 1930s mid-terrace built by the Swaythling Housing Society to a Herbert Collins design. This is not a "Collins House" - it was built as social housing, and was subsidised with the profits from Collins' more up-market developments. It is clearly of a lower build quality (the cement render hides some rough cinderblock brickwork) and smaller dimensions than the posh houses on Orchards Way (as [livejournal.com profile] surliminal will attest), but the design is good, and some aspects of the build are remarkably good.

One of the good points is the downstairs floor. The house is built on a concrete slab, and the floor in the living/dining room consists of pine tongue-and-groove floorboards bedded into a layer of bitumen on the slab. No electrician has ever hamfistedly hacked them around for the simple reason that there's no space under them to run cables (on the downside, the floors upstairs have been comprehensively butchered, particularly in the hallway).

We decided to get the living/dining room floor sanded. Unfortunately, our initial investigations under the carpet failed to reveal that the gas fitter who installed the living room gas fire had run a gas pipe under the floor in the dining room. He'd lifted - and discarded - a 15' floorboard running across the house, chased a channel for the gaspipe into the concrete slab, then filled up the floorboard-sized gap with concrete. The floorer has sanded and varnished the living room, but held off on the dining room until the concrete was removed.

I've now spent a solid day and a half laboriously chipping this concrete fill out with a lump hammer and cold chisel (after getting the gas pipe disconnected) so that the floorer can lay a replacement floorboard and finish off the job that he started a few weeks ago. I have blisters on my right hand, bruises on the knuckles of my left hand, and an incredibly sore right forearm. The living room looks gorgeous, and I've every reason to believe that the dining room will look just as good.

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The [livejournal.com profile] garklet is generally a good lad, but he often gets a little excited or frustrated, and when he does he has a regrettable tendency to hit people. We've just been moving some of his toys back into the living room, into the wheeled boxes that I'd built with a little bit of IKEA bricolage, and he ended up running around with one of his old toy boxes on his head while shouting "robot!"

And then he hit me. Not a hard blow, and not one borne of malice, but the sort of roughhousing that we're trying to get him to tone down a bit.

And that at moment, inspiration hit.

"[livejournal.com profile] garklet, are you being a robot?"

"Yes, my am robot. Urrrr!"

"Well, there are some important rules that good little robots have to follow. The first rule is 'don't hit anyone', the second rule is 'always do what grown-ups tell you to do', and the third rule is 'be careful'. Okay?"

"Okay daddy."

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Nick Gibbins

August 2010

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