Archive for 2007

Let’s talk about the restaurant. It looked quite respectable from the outside — down a little lane way, a bit posh but not too garish, expensive-but-reasonable dishes on the small menu card outside. We were early, so went inside and downstairs for a drinks … to a bar with the worst interior I’d ever seen. I mean, seriously: if you had a small cellar-space to turn into a quiet, sophisticated and cosy room for a few quiet drinks before dinner, would you fill it will a circular monstrosity of a bar?
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It started on Thursday night. We had organised Friday and the following Monday off work, so celebrations (read: drinking) started early, and by 10pm I was merry enough to suggest that Dee get her presents early — it was technically her birthday already back home, so why not? I’d already told her about one gift so she didn’t organise anything else: tickets to Chicago (the show, not the city) for Friday afternoon/evening, followed by dinner at a French restaurant.
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As the end of the year draws close so too does a number of “traditional” milestones – namely Christmas and more importantly Dee’s 30th birthday. 30 has always been one of the big ones — the first birthday when you start counting in decades rather than years, something to be dreaded, especially for women. A big one; the last one similar was 9 years previous, then 3 years before that, then 2.
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Two major revelations and one minor one on my walking-meditation yesterday 1M. Non momentary-focused consciousness as a source of dissatisfaction This morning I was very disturbed and dissatisfied, what with not having our bond repaid and such. Largely I am yearning for the time when we are once again fiscally secure (and somewhat independent); being able to imagine/remember this makes me frustrated with the current situation. For various reasons (with the iPod assisting) I brought my focus on to the very-very-now — the instant as it was occuring.
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So quantum reality is one of probabilities; right now, for me, the probability that I can spontaneously develop the ability to fly is quite low. At the moment, I’m occupying several dimensions – including the one (or more) which define all the possible realities, alongside the “normal” three in space and one in time. So I can’t fly because in this reality people don’t fly. However, I can move through space and time (although I seem to be hurtling out of control through time, oh well).
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I was given a copy of R. Buckminster Fuller’s “Critical Path” for my birthday recently (thanks!) and I’ve been reading it again and thinking about the concept of “purpose” as it relates to a human life in an “… eternally regenerative Universe …” which “… does not depend on us, [as we] are not the only experiment.” I absolutely agree with the idea that “… What humans have spontaneously identified as good and bad — or as positive and negative — are evolutionary complementations in need of more accurate identifications.
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This is quite cool: possibly a piece of art from of “Banksy” right around the corner from us. We saw it on the way home last night, and of course this morning there were people standing around getting ready to paint over it. Whether you like Banksy’s work or not, it certainly provokes thought and discussion. Of course, there’s a twist for this piece – he may have been caught on camera.
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The week begins. For me it began with a cup of green tea, rather than a coffee, and I’m feeling somewhat weird so I don’t know whether it’s because of that or just whatever was giving me a headache this morning (which is still around a little bit, despite taking nurofen). I think it’s probably the headache thing. Perhaps the small glass of Russian vodka last night was too much for me?
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It was almost inevitable. My work, originally so laid-back and non-intrusive, has started ramping up and impacting my daily “surf the web, update a wiki or three, post a blog entry, eat lunch, maintain a mailing list, go home” schedule. Ty-pi-cal. You just can’t find a good, no-work job these days. I guess I can call the first couple of weeks a “honeymoon period” and be thankful for it. In other news, I’m about to enter my last year of “twenty-something” (for this lifetime at least).
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We live in a reality that is always under a probabilistic quantum flux, apparently. An electron travelling from A to B actually takes every possible path; the path we observe is an integral across the probability of each of these paths, “collapsing” into the most likely one at the point of observation. What’s true of the very small (or very fast) is true of the very large, and everything in between.
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This weekend was a long weekend, and the (annual?) London FrightFest – lots of new and indy horror movies showing in Leicester Square over four days. It would’ve been fun but as we’re being cheap whilst on a single income we opted to stay home and watch horror movies instead. I thought we could probably download something, so we gave it a go. Unfortunately one of the movies I downloaded – not even a horror, not even likely to be very good – was archived in an encrypted RAR file.
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I watched a documentary on reincarnation last night, which was interesting. They looked at the case of a boy in Glasgow who from a young age spoke of his “other family”. Eventually they visited the place the boy had spoken of, and it was spine-tingling to see both his reaction to the “old house” (a normally vibrant boy, he became subdued and was visibly sad) and the number of “coincidences” between his stories and the history of the place.
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… and none too soon. I was going a little crazy from wwwithdrawal, I think — our access from work is limited (to say the least), and I must have at least 12,000 unread emails in Gmail by now. Not to mention the fact that I have to redesign my websites every month (it’s a sickness) and protect the web from wiki spam wherever possible. So it’s a good thing for me, personally.
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Okay, it’s official — our new flat rocks! Today I walked into work for the second time ever. The first was Monday morning, when I wasn’t entirely sure where the building was — I walked into a gigantic bank building, straight up to reception and asked, “Is this the ${blah} building?”. “Oh no,” replied the young eastern European behind the reception desk, “this is number 12. I don’t know this other building.
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I awake fully clothed, sans shoes, face down on a mattress of calico stuffed with porridge, my drool-patch soaking in nicely to combine with the drool-patches of a thousand backpackers before me. In a foolishly improvident move I attempt to lift my head — the action sends my body back to the porridgy embrace of the well-worn mattress, whilst simultaneously dipping my raw brain into a nearby lava-pool. My own heart-beat, pulsing traitor, ticks out the eternity of my agony in a syncopated thumping in my temples — ba-BUH, ba-BUH, ow-OW, ow-OUCH.
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Boy do I ever not want to go to work today. I’ve been up for a while — around 6:30 — and it’s now after 9am, so it’s not like I couldn’t get in early and catch up on some of the always-present, always-urgent, never-scheduled, always-stupid tasks that seem to get punted down upon us (from manager to manager all the way down to the lowly “plebs”, the betas, the only ones who actually seem to do anything — us, in other words).
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(Did you think from the title that we’d finally — and suddenly! — made the next big move? Not yet, I’m afraid.) Dee’s off to London this weekend for work, and I’m tagging along with her! She leaves tomorrow from Glasgow, whilst I’ll be on late-night flight from Edinburgh after work, and we’ll meet up somewhere near her work-provided hotel. She may also be working on Saturday and Sunday, so I could be out in the city on my own — perhaps I can meet up with some of my friends who seem to be congregating there at the moment?
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I have a theory, admittedly immature, that the human life is punctuated by pivotal events and decisions, nexus points, at approximately prime multiples of years i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 17, 23 and so on up the prime number series. This means you will have life-changing moments at (for the second prime number) age 3, 6, 12 (puberty?), 15, 18, 21 and so on. Similarly, the higher primes correspond to bigger moments — take the fourth prime, for example, and you get ages 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35.
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Dee heard about Singapore! Unfortunately, all she heard was that they’d made an offer to her boss and he rejected it out of hand — crappy pay, no moving expenses, no bonus, who knows? Something about it wasn’t right, and the bossman was obviously convinced that taking that to his team would result in anger, dismay and potentially revolt. So he sent it back up the line, and now we’re waiting another couple of weeks for the next one.
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An update, in case there’s anyone who reads this and wonders what’s been going on — we’ve found a flat in London! The move is actually happening … Okay, so where are we? Dee gave her notice a couple of weeks ago and so has only two weeks left (this one included), and I’ve organised to start at the London office on the 23rd July … so we’re really almost there!
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With Chris Kendrick coming to visit, I went ahead and booked a Haggis Tour: Skye High. This should see us travelling around Scotland and Skye on a bus for a few days, with plenty of opportunities for walking (Chris’s idea) and drinking whiskey (my idea), as well as a chance to meet some new people on the bus itself. We’ll stay in backpacker hostels, nice and cheap for the poor Aussie lad, and should get to see some awesome sights – Skye, Loch Ness, Inverness, Culloden Moor, castles, monsters, Celtic battles ahoy!
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Time is ticking by — it’s time for some reconnaissance! To that end Dee has booked us into a hotel in London for the Easter long weekend (6th – 9th April). We’ll be staying at the Hilton Docklands, which is close to where we might want to live and work and thus will give a good feel for the area: people, places and atmosphere. Possibly we can even check out some flats for rent, to check what kind of standard you get for the money.
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I’m at work early this morning, sitting around waiting for other people to do stuff (I’ve done everything I need to already!) so we can get somebody to sign off the whole morning as a success. Oh the joy of tech! I’m pretty much convinced that we won’t be going to Singapore now. It just seems to me that Dee’s work is stalling, trying to get a little “natural churn” and have people quit (rather than having to find them new work or give them redundancy payouts).
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In light of Danielle’s recent EEG, it’s interesting (and a little scary!) to hear that games may one day soon incorporate the same sensor technology to provide a new dimension to our gaming. Interesting, and not too surprising: the equipment is getting cheaper all the time. It’s the right time for the OpenEEG project then, which aims to provide opensource hardware designs and software for building EEGs – for experimentation, mental training and research.
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“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.“ — Albert Einstein “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.
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Okay, so that last entry was kind of short and rushed — it’s because I didn’t want to write about “consciousness as a non-physical, non-temporal phenomena” (although I might manage to write something a little more coherent at a later date). Rather, I wanted to write about something that requires that the consciousness hypothesis be true: one possible model of reality, given a non-physical, non-temporal consciousness. Here’s the thing: if consciousness (or if you like our souls, ka, atta, the ghost in the shell) exists outside of space-time then there is no reason it can’t, through the physical media of the brain and body, interact with itself.
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I’ve been wondering about reality and consciousness. What if our consciousness exists outside of spacetime, “mapping” onto our living, physical brains to allow us to control our bodies and receive physical input? This isn’t too far out an idea — why else do you forget your dreams when you move in bed, but can regain some of the memory if you move back to precisely the same position? The dream-state may exist in a spatial location separate from the brain.
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Every now and then I stumble across something — or something stumbles across me — that makes me believe that life is more than just a sequence of arbitrary occurences imposed upon me from the outside. Indeed, it seems quite the opposite — that certain things are happening for the very specific purpose of improving my existence in some way. Perhaps this actually applies to everything that happens, but I’m not yet able to see it?
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The replacement RAM for my new workstation “curiousity” finally arrived yesterday, stuffed through the letterbox by the friendly neighbourhood courier to fall upon worn rental-property pile like the softest rain on virgin soils. I don’t normally get things delivered to my home address, since I’m always at work and the security entrance usually keeps the best delivery-people stranded beyond the glass; this time I was lucky that our neighbours are gutting their flat, so all the doors were propped open for the tradesmen.
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Not much here: Today I wrote a udev rule which creates a /dev/nokia770 device when the web tablet is plugged in.

On Ubuntu Edgy, create a file named 50-nokia770.rule in /etc/udev/rules.d with the following content:

BUS=="usb",SYSFS{product}=="Nokia 770",KERNEL=="sd?1",NAME="nokia770"
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_A collection of loosely coupled network devices running a variety of collaborative and cooperative services to provide an information grid/mesh within a home environment._ So I’m networking my apartment, drenching it in EM radiation from access-points and wifi devices: workstations, laptops, portable gaming devices, network storage, media centres. The idea is that a bunch of individual services can be molded into a coherent data mesh, transparently offering themselves to each and every device that requires it.
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I asked for an update from my manager regarding relocating to London with the company today. She passed on the request and was told that, “a relocation package may not be available for this type of move”. Whatever that means! I really do feel like I’m being shafted here at the moment — trapped in a dead-end role, given a fairly crappy pay-rise (others got worse, but I don’t see how that is really the point) and blocked at every exit.
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Today Dee updated her CV and applied for eight different roles down in London — and that was just the start of it! Some 700 results on the search page of one job site, advertising salaries that seem a little ridiculous. (Actually, it makes me wonder what “The Bank” think they’re doing, offering such a different range up here in sunny, er, windy Scotland.) The idea, if I haven’t already said it, is that Dee can do contracting and I’ll stay “permy” — no, not my hair (as if I have enough!
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Today I got to do a little Java coding, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I installed all the requisite software — Eclipse, Java, MySQL, Tomcat — and started the “live stats” application. I’m doing it as a Struts application, more to remind myself how Struts hangs together and experiment with it, but I’ve also download the Apache MyFaces framework so I may reimplement it as a Java Server Faces app once I’m done.
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I’ve installed Sun Java 5 and 6 now, and the Eclipse IDE. In theory this means I can actually start doing some coding — and on a Saturday night that means code, sake and Asahi beer! I’ve got a couple of things I can try out too — the Google API’s I mentioned in the last post, for example, and also a “live stats” style display for work that we can strategically face towards the management (when things are going well; when our uptime stats drop I will surreptitiously spin it back ’round the other way).
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Well it’s nearly the weekend and none of my gear — the RAM replacement, a new HDD to piggyback the NAS, a copy of (ergh!) Vista — has arrived from Ebuyer. So, for this weekend at least, I’m stuck with the laptop. That’s a 1.3GHz Celeron laptop with 256MB of RAM and a dodgy keypad; it’s not the most powerful beast, but hopefully all I’m doing this weekend is web-based. Once I get the new PC installed I’ll probably blow away Ubuntu (on the laptop) and try the low-resource Xubuntu … or roll-my-own, depending on how much time I have to waste.
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I’m currently writing a novel in which all my friends and family play key roles. It was supposed to be my “nanowrimo novel” back in November, but I didn’t complete it then and haven’t got much further now. That said, I really do want to finish it, just so I can say I did (and perhaps get on with the second novel, which wouldn’t be quite so contrived — you try inventing roles and lives for everyone you know!
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I spoke to a company in London today; a kind of “first take” on the whole job-hunting thing, for me and the company both I think. They asked some just-barely technical questions, and whilst I answered most with ease, I was feeling nervous and my mind went blank for others (specifically on JDBC, but if you care about that you should probably be reading the other site instead). At the very least I can call it practice — the person I spoke to was non-technical, so I couldn’t ask about the things that are really important to me: open source, GNU/Linux, vi vs.
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Here’s a thought: how much electricity could you get from a turbine generator placed inside an adapter roof run-off downpipe in a place as consistently rainy as Scotland? Would it be enough to trickle-charge a battery system for running throughout the day? What about if the house was kitted out with low-voltage appliances only? Is it even worth trying? Personally I think there’s a potential for both water- and wind-driven turbines around here — it is so windy and so rainy that it almost seems a shame to waste all that energy!
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Danielle’s probably told enough people by now that I can put it up here and let rest of our dear friends know — the “hospital trip” I alluded to in the last post was because Dee suffered a seizure at work one morning. These can have a lot of different reasons and triggers, we found out — stress (she is), pregnancy (we’re not), diet, alcohol, blood-sugar, epilepsy — but spending much of the morning in hospital discounted some and gave more focus to others.
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I’m really quite a skeptic, but this last week has me wondering whether bad luck is actually some physical phenomena that I just don’t know about. It has certainly seemed so in the last week – we seem to have caught “bad luck” like most people catch colds, and we’re only just starting to shake it off. First, I got an email back from Canonical/Ubuntu telling me that I didn’t even make a first interview for the Web Engineer role I went for – bummer.
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After a bit of bad luck, it turns out that I didn’t actually get the Canonical job – what a pity! I’ve also had a few days off work, so not done any Python coding, but I am playing with Subversion and installing all I need to try some development for the Nokia 770 so it’s not all bad.

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So I’ve applied for a job with Canonical, that wonderful company that (in cooperation with the community of course) brings us Ubuntu. In an effort to brush up my development skills I’ve now installed Bazaar and Python on my (Windows) workstation. In theory, this means I’ll be able to learn something useful during lunchtimes and the inevitable weekend conference calls. I’ve done a little Python before, but it’s been a while and I wasn’t exactly a guru even then.
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Finally started my training for LPIC-1. This is going to be fun! Okay, more information: after a long talk with Dee last week, I decided that I needed to get into a career that was more closely aligned with my passions – namely GNU/Linux, open source software, GNOME, Ubuntu and especially hardware and embedded systems. Now, there’s a few opportunities here in Edinburgh for exactly this kind of thing, but my work history is completely as a Java developer and so convincing people that I “know” Linux is not the easiest thing to do.
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On Friday night I watched a presentation about PulseAudio, an open source and cross-platform sound server which could well finally bring decent desktop audio to GNU/Linux and other open systems. With PulseAudio you get “Compiz for sound” – mixing and redirecting of multiple channels (finally!) with individual (and remembered) volumes, hot-plugging of sound devices and the ability to direct audio streams to different devices, including networked devices. Even better, it provides a number of plugins and compatibility libraries so existing software doesn’t need to be modified and recompiled.
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I have to post about this, if only so I remember they exist in a month or so. The Redwood Virtual Server company provides user-mode Linux accounts for around £6 a month – full root access, fast Internet connection and the freedom to do almost whatever you like. I want one of these so I can: mirror my network-attached storage device; setup an externally accessible SVN repository; tunnel/proxy out through the firewall at work and actually read my email; play with Plone.
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I’ve had such a shitty day at work, nothing to do but have a drink and listen to some tunes, courtesy of Last.fm. Thankfully this means: Beck; Depeche Mode; Yo La Tengo; Bad Religion and more random stuff. It’s not all great, but it’s all good. The wine is a french sauvignon, perfect for the evening meal of trout, steamed vegetables and pan-fried capsicum (red peppers) and spring onion. Oh, and just in case I’m sounding like a complete toss-bag, rest assured that I’m drinking the end of this wine straight from the bottle – no pretensions here, apart from an arguably excessive tendency towards loquacity.
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It’s Friday at last, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, actually I could – I’m technically on “backup” this weekend, so there’s a slim chance that I’ll be called to work. It’s not going to be the easiest thing, since I’m going to Glasgow for a ceilidh (is that how it’s spelt?). Lots of drinking, dancing and kilt-wearing. Even better, it’s for Dee’s work so I don’t care if I make a complete fool of myself!
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I had a completely stupid night last night, followed by an equally ridiculous day. I had to work, for one thing. A 20 minute job, apparently, but I was still there at 3am, 5 hours later — and was called back in when I woke after lunch time today. It’s fixed now, but why must these things be so complicated? It has convinced me that I have to get a new job, however.
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I’ve been using the very good AMSN instant messenger client to chat to my family and friends overseas, mostly because it’s the only open source client I could find that lets me use the webcam sharing features. This seems to work quite well, even on my aging Toshiba laptop and over an 802.11b wifi network — I can both send and receive webcam streams from people using *huck* Microsoft MSN Messenger, although there were some problems with being able to send a video stream from one of the newer messengers (my darling sister couldn’t find the option to switch it on, which makes me wonder why there are so many different “official” versions of MSN Messenger, when none seem to offer anything more than the cross-platform AMSN can.
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I relaunched glennji.com last night, which with Drupal was as easy as changing a setting from “offline” to “online”. Today I’ve tweaked the theme (with the theme_editor module, since I don’t have FTP access from work) to rectify a couple of XHTML validation errors and warnings — and I wouldn’t have noticed them but for the HTML Validator extension in Firefox. There’s still a few funny things about the theme and stylesheet, but I think they’re mostly only in the admin area and thus not visible from the outside.
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I bought a Nokia 770 web-tablet a few months back, and absolutely love it — it’s newspaper, TV-guide, SSH client, instant messenger, VOIP handset, daily planner and notepad. I tend to take it everywhere, but it is probably most useful in the lounge room in that it removes the need for a precariously knee-perched laptop and the mass of cables that goes with it. I’ve got a few themes, but I’ve not yet found one that is based on the lovely Gnome Desktop.
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Yesterday we got a note under our door from the neighbour downstairs. It was typed and inside an unmarked, brown envelope so I didn’t really know what to expect as I opened it. Had we known whom it had come from, of course, we could’ve harried a guess — it was a complaint about our sliding door. For some reason the neighbour downstairs has a real problem with us using the sliding door onto the balcony (although it is clearly not the type of problem he feels he can come and discuss amicably in person, but rather one that requires notes and tantrums).
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My “floating head” hackergotchi (yep, I still haven’t found any real art to upload).

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Now that Java has been properly open-sourced it has become a viable platform for open source development. Any apps or utilities I get around to making will go here. Sure, it’s a bit empty now, I know.

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So it’s a new year, apparently, and like nearly everyone in the “western world” I’ve succumbed to the temptation to evaluate my life, who I am and what I’m doing here, and as usual it’s mostly with a view towards doing things a little better this time around our favourite star. This perhaps could not be described as “noble”, exactly, but it surely does more good than harm. Unless, of course, you kick yourself (metaphorically speaking) when you almost-inevitably fail to live up to your own elevated expectations.
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It’s new, and orange. Glennji.org is the personal site of Glenn J. Mason, where he rants and rambles and slips in and out of third person. At the moment, it’s pretty empty, but I plan to upload my squiggles and cartoons, any random ideas I have for stuff, and just basically vent about work and life. It is the personal news, rather than boring techy stuff that my dear, dear, insane-kitty friend Sheila Sheppard (tee hee!
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