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Long weeekend

In which FP takes a break


Time to pack up the sleeping bag and go away for the weekend! Hurrah! See you on Monday.

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Over time

In which we consider Ian Huntley


The big news of the day: convicted child-killer Ian Huntley will not get parole until at least 2042. It’s even bigger news here, because it counts as a Local Story. After lunch, it was all anybody in the office could talk about.

“Oooh, they should lock him up for good,” people said, “after what he did.” “Forty years isn’t enough!” said other people. Everyone seemed convinced: there was no way a 40-year-plus sentence was long enough for him. Everybody was very sure of themselves.

I kept quiet at the office, because I’m doomed to never feel sure of myself on issues like this. No doubt all these people talking are far more experienced than the judge, and no doubt they all know far more about Ian Huntley than the judge does too. Unfortunately, I don’t. I have no idea about criminal sentencing, and I’m entirely willing to admit that Mr Justice Moses probably knows much more about it than I do. All I know is that forty years and more is a very, very long time.

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Leviathan

In which we get excited about squid


As you’ve already read elsewhere, the first photos of a live Giant Squid have been released to the world. Unfortunately – even though according to the BBC story, the squid-hunting team took over 550 photos – only a handful have been published; between them the two stories linked here repeat all of the photos in the original research paper. Presumably, the full range of photos goes something like this:

a) Photos of murky blue sea with no squid in sight (107 shots)
b) Look! Squid! (4 shots)
c) Ooh, we’ve captured a tentacle! (2 shots)
d) The crew cooks calamari (143 shots)
e) Blurry pictures of drunk sailors (314 shots)

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Month

In which I talk about the ease (or otherwise) of writing


When I started this site, I had a definite plan in mind. Write one entry per day, every day, even if it ends up being a pointless single-sentence post. Not forever, but just to see how long I could keep it going for. Just to prove to myself that when I say: “oh, I don’t have anything to write about,” it’s not true.*

Well, I’ve kept that going for a month now, and it really hasn’t been too hard. Some days it’s been easy to think of something to say; some days have been harder; but for the past month I’ve written something, on this site, every single day. I didn’t think I’d be able to last this long without skipping a day or two, and I’m still not sure if it will be very long before I do drop to only four or five posts per week; but I’m going to try to keep to one-post-per-day for as long as I can.

To tell the truth, I know it won’t be long before I skip a day or two, because at the end of this week I’m going off for a long weekend. As I’m not confident I know how to do timed posts yet – and if I was, I’d have to come up with three days’ posts in advance – there’s going to be a break at the weekend. Being away from a computer doesn’t really count, though.

* of course, “oh, I don’t have anything interesting to write about” might be more truthful.

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Autumn days when the grass is jewelled

In which I don’t want to get out of bed


You can tell it’s getting closer to winter. This morning was one of those mornings when everything under the duvet was at that perfect cosy sleeping temperature, but you just know that the air outside the bed will have a nasty chill to it.

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Books I Haven’t Read (part two)

In which we discuss An Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin


On Friday, I took the morning off work to take the car for its service. I’d told the garage I’d stop and wait there, in the hope that it would get done a bit quicker. Expecting to be stuck in one place for a couple of hours, I took a book with me in the hope that I’d continue reading it once I was at home. This week’s Book I Haven’t Managed To Finish Reading: Samuel Pepys: An Unequalled Life by Claire Tomalin.

When I was small, I had a children’s biography of Pepys;* second-hand, falling apart, probably from the ’60s and probably about 50 pages long. It was an intriguing introduction to the great journal-writer, but was really just about everyday life; very little of it specifically about the diarist himself. He lived in such interesting times that it didn’t need to be. When PepysDiary.com started serialising the diary in real-time – over two years ago, now – I intended to read it daily, but soon didn’t manage to keep up. It still left me knowing little about him.

An Unequalled Self is a very good book, it has to be said. It’s also a large, complex book; and to do justice to its subject, it has to go into seventeenth-century politics in-depth. That’s vital, because – especially around the start of the Diary – Pepys’ life was affected so much by the changing politics of the period; but it was also my undoing. So many events and figures blur together that I start getting to the bottom of the page without having taken any of it in. That’s always a sign that I’m going to give up reading before long, if only because on picking the book up again I can’t work out where I am.

The common thread here, between this and our last book, is that my downfall is Too Much Information. If it’s something I know about: no problem. If it’s a new subject, and the information is packed too densely: that’s when I stop paying attention.

* Well, I almost certainly still have it somewhere.

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Just another office conversation

In which a colleague scares me


Last Wednesday, in the office kitchen, making a cup of tea. A random colleague with a history of attention-seeking pops her head round the door: “I had a dream about you last night.”

“Oh yes?”

“Yeah.” They looked around quickly, to see if anyone was within earshot. “I was naked, and tied up like this” – they mimed a hands-above-head position – “and you were whipping me!”

“Riiight.” Run away! I was thinking. Run away! “Um, better go and do some work. See you later.”

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Daily Hate

In which I find the site is read by local journalists


Flicking through my logs, I noticed that this site had a visitor from associated.co.uk. My immediate assumption was that they work for Associated Newspapers, publishers of hate-filled rightwing scaremongering tabloids such as the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Grimsby Telegraph** and so on.

Indeed, a quick check showed that they did. More amusingly, though, a second quick check showed that they’re too lazy to point the domain at any useful webspace. They have set up a webserver at that address, but – as you’ll see if you click on the link – all it contains are the words “blah blah blah blah blah”.*

Their main website runs on some complex Perl-based active content system, and its web designers clearly aren’t that stupid, because they’ve managed to set up a favicon for the site. However, for some mysterious and unclear reason, the icon they’ve chosen is the Netscape Navigator logo, circa 1997. Given that AOL-Time Warner probably own the copyright on that, I wonder if we can persuade them to sue?

* “Much like their newspapers,” I could say if I was feeling cruel.

** Technically, the Grimsby Telegraph is probably owned by a different company for complicated tax reasons; it’s all the same group really though.

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Suspicious

In which we discuss how to get arrested


In today’s Guardian, an interesting article with a firsthand experience of being arrested as a terrorist suspect, for trying to catch a tube train whilst carrying a rucksack and wearing a big jacket. And, interestingly, it includes a list of things that the police are looking out for that mark you down as a potential terrorist.

They’re all very mild, innocuous things that anybody might do – looking at other passengers on the platform, not looking at policemen guarding the station, appearing to enter the station with a group of people. What amazed me even more, though, was that suspicious behaviour includes keeping your luggage with you at all times. Given that, if you travel anywhere in Britain by train, you’re constantly being told to do this – because if you don’t, stations get evacuated and trains stopped for hours – it was quite surprising to hear that doing it is a good sign that you might be a terrorist. You have to ask just how many people don’t look like terrorists to your average police observer.

Update, September 24th: more about this story on Going Underground and on Slashdot.

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Sounds desperate

In which I try to meet new people, and find people I already know


A few weeks ago, feeling bored, I signed up with an online dating site.* It’s free, it only takes a few minutes to fill out, it’s just a bit of fun, you never know what might happen, and so on. Scientifically, it promises to find you your very best possible match from the people in your district. Of course, hardly anyone came up from this area, so I went away and forgot about it.

Yesterday, I thought: why don’t I look at it again? Why don’t I look further afield? So, I searched for my best match out of everybody in the country. And found one. My ideal partner, out of every man and woman in the country on this popular dating site, is my friend Kate.** So much for meeting new people!

* but no, I’m not telling you which one, or what my profile name is.

** I recognised her profile immediately, because I was there when her profile photo was taken.

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