All entries for December 2006

December 20, 2006

Your session has expired.

Ever had one of those relationships where suddenly the other person stops talking to you and you have no idea why? I have that with Outlook web access. Every so often it boots me out for no reason. I think it’s every time I click on a link in an email. Maybe it’s jealous about me looking at other windows.


December 19, 2006

It's … Chrissmas

Writing about web page http://www.angelfire.com/on2/wayout/chrissmas/index.blog?start=1144204837

Christmas time again … this year it’s been a bit easier – one because I’m single so no anxiety about buying the wrong presents. You’ve seen the ad on the BBC with the guy buying his wife a digital radio and getting the present right, but getting it wrong altogether because he hadn’t spent enough money. That was me, never quite getting my head around what I was supposed to do and getting more and more stressed.

Secondly because of Val, my colleague, who announced that she was donating the money on cards to a charity instead. Brilliant. That let me off the hook with cards at work. I donated a couple of tenners to Childline and then could tell everyone what I’d done rather than sending out the cards. I have to explain that it’s not because I’m sensitive or anything, but just lazy and guilty about looking cheap. Once that’s out of the way, it’s done.

I’ve also luckily got a slipped disc, which is a great excuse not to have to do anything.

It’s not that I hate Christmas, I hate having to do things I don’t want to, just because you’re expected to. I figure holidays should be fun, not work. The one thing I’m going to miss is buying a tree with my partner from her local garden centre. I disapprove of real Christmas trees too (eco reasons) but it was kind of fun, and the garden centre we got it from always had the freakiest Christmas displays. The other tradition was getting the ugliest ornament I could find for my fake tree. Last year it was some sort of squidlike thing from a Christmas village in Tennessee (an entire retail park, dedicated to Christmas, all year round).

It’s mainly the excess, the buying presents that no-one wants, the parties with people you don’t like. There’s good stuff too, Doctor Who, lots of alcohol, a week off work.

But it’s also the way that we’ve lost touch with the real meaning. Part of the problem is with the way it’s associated with Christianity, I guess. Most of the real spiritual stuff for me pre-dates the Christian influence. It’s the whole thing about the renewal of the year, the turning point of the seasons, the promise of the future. If we had more of that and less of these modern trappings of wise men and mangers, and saviours and so on. Calling the festival Christian is like calling a stolen car yours just because the serial numbers have been filed off and it’s had a quick respray. The whole commercialisation of it just finished it off. Death to Santa, bring back Father Christmas.

I always struggle with what to call it too. I tried the Solstice, but that sounds a bit poncy. I’ve just sent out an email wishing people a happy Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Brumalia, Sankranti, Lenaea, since the list included Jewish, Christian and Greek recipients (they still worship Zeus et al there, I learned recently). Lenaea sounds cool, it’s the festival of the Nine Wild Women apparently.

With a bit more research I find out I missed out Alban Arthuan, Inti Raymi, Shab-e Yaldaa, Mi na Nollaig, Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, Jol, Rohatsu and Saturnalia. Although further research might reduce that list (Rohatsu isn’t really connected with the Solstice but with Venus) that’s still a bit of a mouthful.

I’m not going down the Winterval route, because that’s just too PC. Which is why I liked “Chrissmas”. It’s something I came across in a blog discussing the same unease I’m discussing here, so using the same list of solstice celebrations. Like me, the blogger wanted a way to take part in the festival, but do it in his/her own way, and do it without having to get into lots of explanations about the differences. The concept is that if you call it Chrissmas, no-one can actually hear the difference, but you know it’s not Christmas. So Merry Chrissmas everyone.


December 18, 2006

More Moore

Writing about web page http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/binary.html

OK pedantic I know, but I realise I’ve failed to distinguish between two things – bits and bytes and binary prefixes and actual prefixes. These are all very much orders of magnitude here, so who really cares, but just to be accurate – my computer is 70GiB not 70Gib. My brain is 1Gb not 1GB (so that’s even more pathetic than I said in my last entry). Also the computers of the future should really be described with binary prefiixes not standard ones. Pebibytes and exbibytes, for example, but that just sounds daft. Not as bad as yobibytes though. Sounds like some new chav snack food.


Moore's law

Writing about web page http://www.merkle.com/humanMemory.html

Just a thought …

Moore’s law is basically that available computing power doubles every 18 months. So if a typical computer from, say, late 2003 has 70 Gbytes, a typical one bought now would have 280 Gbytes. Man, I need to upgrade.

Extending this, it means that computing power goes up by a factor of 1000 every 15 years. So my first computer (30 years ago) would have only been of the order of a few kbytes. Sounds about right.

So my last computer, assuming I have a normal lifespan, (which will mean cutting down on the fatty foods, I guess) will have a capacity measured in petabytes, or even (if I do more exercise) exabytes! OMG.

Imagine what I could do with that!

At this point I was going to look up the memory capacity of the human brain and work out if this curve was going to exceed the memory capacity of the human brain within my lifetime. Shock horror – it’s already there. The memory capacity of my brain is less than that of my three-year-old PC (by a factor of about 100). That explains a lot.

What this does mean though is that by the end of the century we’ll have run out of prefixes. The 2080s will see the introduction of desktop PCs composed of yottabytes of memory. I don’t think there’s a prefix for 10-to-the-27. I suggest lotta, ‘cause 10-to-the-27 bytes is a lottabytes .


December 12, 2006

Mark's back

I’ve been away from the Internet for just over two weeks with a prolapsed disc (according to my physio – but that’s the same as a slipped disc, just a bit more accurate description) but am now able to blog again. So this entry is about my return, but also about the problems with my lumbar region – hence “Mark’s back” (see what I’ve done there?)

The main thing I’d want to say is my apologies to anyone I know who’ve had a back problem and I’ve not been sympathetic enough. This year that’s two colleagues in CAPD and my brother. I’ve had back ache off and on, but a brief visit to the chiropracter and it’s sorted. I didn’t expect this level of pain was even possible from a back. As long as I was absolutely still, and horizontal I was fine, but even rolling over was a concentrated effort in working out which leg to move and how far because any slight twist to the spine and it felt like I was being stabbed. And then you’re half way through the roll and you hit the wall and have to work out how to move laterally when you can’t actually lift yourself up. Unless you’re on a frictionless surface it’s impossible.

Going to the loo is a major undertaking, crawling isn’t too bad one you’re up on all fours (I haven’t had carpet burns like this though since … well that’s not something I can go into) it just takes a long time, but how to actually get on the loo once you’re there is a major dilemma. Getting dressed when you can’t reach your feet is also impossible. I spent the first two nights at my parents’ place sleeping on the bathroom floor. I had to ring them to take me there to look after me, since although Sina’s fairly good at climbing curtains and ripping up lampshades, she’s pretty hopeless at stuff like fetching me food and drink. And the first week or so there, I was in their living room the whole time, since I couldn’t make it upstairs into the spare bedroom.

None of this is recounted for sympathy – that’s not really something I feel comfortable with. It’s mainly because it was such a revelation to me how absolutely helpless you are without all those little bits of cartilage in the right place in your spine it seemed worth reporting. I’m amazed at how much I took for granted with having mobility, walking and so on, and how frustrating everything is without it.

My mate Rachel, bless her, looked it up on the Internet and informed me it’s age-related, although apparently over 50s are less prone to it than people in their 40s, so in some ways it’s a sign that I’m not that old yet. Straw. Grasp. My mate Jill told me her husband had a burst one, which sounds far worse. Well is far worse. At least I can now sit in a chair and work for about an hour at a time, and that’s less than three weeks after the injury.

And all I did was lift a 10 kg bag of cat litter and fill up Sina’s litter tray. I just did it at an angle. So here’s the moral. If you’re between 30 and 50, lift with the knees, and do it straight up and down, no turning while you do it. Either that or keep a phone at floor level so you can ring for help. Well, specifically, mine was plugged in to a socket at floor level to recharge it, so I could pull on the cord to reach it – but the principle’s the same.


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