A journal of questionable quality

Friday, December 23, 2005

and then 2006..

resolution not to have a resolution
2006. It begins in a bit more than a week of earth time. It makes no difference to me. My age now means that I really don't want to know how fast the years are going by.

I think the resolution should be about having a lighter time. Not making things so hard. Not letting anyone else make things hard.

Cruising.

Ajax can go to hell. Ruby on Rails can go to hell. PHP would want to find itself a reason for continuing to exist on anything other than database sites. There is still nothing wrong with HTML - I don't give a bugger what people say. I'm beginning to think things are greatly complicated for reasons of vanity rather than efficiency.

Outdoors is looking good. My buggy and kites are looking good. The local pool is looking good. The bike is looking good. Some serious clay/trap shooting is looking good if indeed the authorities allow my breach to be an inconsequential one.

Back to basics. Slow down enough to enjoy the view.

Make the view a bit better; Often mentioned here, the yellowarrow project is taking off - turning, predictably, into a global project.
This from a recent email telling me I was lucky enough to have scored another 20 arrows:
The mission is to point out places and things that inspire you for the coming year. Perhaps a personal resolution or plan should connect to a place. Or perhaps a small local detail could hold a big message for the globe this year. Don't let this intimidate. Sometimes the most everyday and simple thoughts begin the most interesting and enlightening stories.
An exciting and worthwhile project for me, a chance to document my experiences in this city which has been my base for 23 years or so now, the longest I have ever lived in one place.

These are the things we should be doing. Documenting our existence. Preferably before the warmonger bastard politicians get our arses blown off the planet.

My contribution, camera in hand, digital or otherwise, find, capture and label the things that exist around us, the things that really do exist.

Send the computer back a bit from it's deific status, back to the workhorse that it should be, the processor of commands, rather than the commander of hapless humans.

Naturally there will always be a fascination with coding, different languages will always be a source of study, but I believe I have waited too long for the next big thing, they seem to all be the next big thing if everything you read can be believed after all.


I suspect the next big thing will be in the form of a nuclear blast, and I intend to have lived just a bit more before that happens.

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Christmas

Two days to go
And the World has practically stopped (well, it has stopped if you're in New York), people are out doing the 'last minute' thing, newspaper hacks are doing the standard 'what we did in 05', we will get a full round up of all the dramas of the year, the Queen will tell us to be good, Bush will tell us he really was right about Iraq, Saddam will insist he was tortured, the CIA will deny and knowledge of 'renditions', even though they invented a word for it, and several people will combust somewhere on the planet with the help of a lot of C4 and brainwashing.

Sort of a boring rerun of a movie isn't it? And we'll get plenty of those too. Charlton Heston will grace a screen somewhere wearing a leather skirt (kind of a bad legacy when you're the Pres. of the National Rifle Association don't ya think?)and looking suitably stern. (I would be too if I was captured in a leather skirt, wielding a balsa wood sword)

He might also be the one that constantly parts the sea - or perhaps he's the one with the tablets of stone and a generally out of sorts manner. No matter, they're all the same, and they're on at the same time every year.

So, that kills television, leaving alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol around Christmas generally causes huge fights. Often between the same people who engaged each other the year before. Alcohol also cause people to imagine they can drive, and they will. Often they kill people on or near roads which means they will get to feel bad for the rest of their lives. It also means they will get insanely drunk on each anniversary of the incident, and, with any luck, get back in a car and do it all again.

Naturally we will all go to the site and attach plastic flowers to a convenient tree or post - a futile display, bordering on embarrassing. If it keeps up there won't be a tree or post without plastic flowers on it. I am well aware I have mentioned the plastic flower thing on many occasions but it's a fashion very dear to my heart. You have to wonder, if Johnny was killed by running into the tree, why you need to put flowers on it. Why not chainsaw the bastard off at the ground, cut it into firewood and use it for next years BBQ? That will be the last time a killer pine gets to perform it's evil deeds. Be a bloody good lesson for other trees with a bad disposition too.

Drugs, on the other hand, usually produce a coma like state which makes it difficult, but not impossible to start a fight, damn hard to drive a car (if you've picked the right drugs of course), and being unable to drive a car means that you won't manage to kill anyone on the roads. You may however fall asleep in the middle of a road, or, if you're really unlucky, get killed by a drunk driver from the same party you attended. Won't matter too much. If you've consumed enough drug you won't even feel it.

No matter what your poison everyone will feel like shit on the morning of Christmas, and even worse after the obligatory pig out, followed by a vomiting attack of immense power the morning after that.

Internationally we will have the usual plea from World leaders to conduct ourselves with decorum while they order up bombing mission, listen to our phone calls and read our emails. Everyone will 'tut-tut' about the conditions in our prized collection of third world countries, but no one will want to do anything about it. Photo opportunities will abound of course, and we may well make up a song and sing it in the hope that the record sales will not only make the producers of the thing millionaires, but may boost flagging sales of the performers current offerings.

No one will end up giving a fuck about anything remotely connected with the third world, because if they did the problem would have been half solved already.

Stand by for a very average Christmas. But, do try and spare a thought for a few people other than yourselves.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas by stealth

Happens every year
The Christmas thing is well underway. People are starting to act oddly. Everything has to be done before Christmas. It's as if the end of the World is on the same day. Could well be.

Nothing gets done from here on in. Then, on the day - a hot one on this side of the globe - early rising coupled with hangover equates to a less than pleasant experience if children are involved. No amount of early morning coffee will help.

At least it's predictable. Christmas lunch / dinner will be ok until Uncle Bob decides it's time he makes his usual slurred soliloquy, the same as the year before, mentioning people long deceased, alluding to family indiscretions, coming back from several attempts to shout him down, until he gets the shits and gives up. If he's any reasonable Uncle Bob he will probably try and cop a feel of the nearest nubile he can find who hasn't been warned about his groping habits.

Predictable. People will die on the roads. Their demise marked by plastic flowers, tied to a tree / post, bleached and dusty, useless indications of carnage.

I often wonder what they are thinking - it's just one day out of 365 and they have to rush to their deaths. Odd.

Predictably at the pool
We find the place packed. People must be trying to get as many swims in for the year as they can. For this climate I cannot help but notice the pool is incredibly underused - until now, this week, the week before Christmas. The week OF Christmas. Today the place is seething ill mannered children, ill mannered adults and a smattering of complete fools.

But, a bright moment in an otherwise grey day when the woman voted 'most edible swimmer of the year' by me arrives and brightens the place up. I swear the noise died down at the same time. Made occupation of a swimming lane a whole lot more palatable. Underwater eye candy. Above water conversations, innuendo loaded things, punctuated by laps to keep the tally rising - an unfortunate by product of OCD, damn it. Any normal bloke would have abandoned any attempt to keep a lap tally going, but not me, I still have to do the laps.

A better look in deep water anyway
Sporting a body that looks like it's coming apart, layer by layer, peeling all over, as I am.

Not helped by having spent the day prior buggying in perfect conditions again - two in a row now, and this time breaking the record for speed madness having managed to get some form of control of the JoJo RM, the 6mtr speed monster well documented on these very pages.

Fastest damn thing I have ever handled.

The only time it slowed down enough for me to try and assume some form of decorum was simply because, unknown to me, the thing was working directly upwind. A sure sign of a serious kite.

Eventually the wind rose to a point where I had to downsize to stay in the buggy, but at least I got a taste of serious speed.

The parks around the place will be out of bounds for any form of speed for a week while everyone emulates the Aussie Christmas myth - a barbecue, often in one of those parks, my parks, involving a half arsed game of cricket, far too much alcohol, seriously burnt meat, and soggy coleslaw.

That's the way it is at Christmas after all.



Friday, December 16, 2005

It went downhill from last Friday.

Was that a week?
What's going on here? That didn't feel much like a week. Don't tell me my enforced recreational drug free month has altered my perception of time and space. Or was I taken by aliens again?

Maybe it's the school holidays with day care children everywhere, everywhere, noisy, bitching, whining bastards of things they are. I don't know how she puts up with it while groveling to her own two at the same time. Could be why she's forgotten my name. Good of her to do so I thought.

The week wasn't a total failure though..
.. because I managed a trip to buggy park, to find perfect weather conditions - the best this year. A mild Northerly to start the outing with the Ngen in it's usual bitchy mood, while still dragging me about the place.

Throughout the day the breeze just kept increasing and the buggy speed was following, reaching some peak speeds for the year, in a massive figure eight configuration that kept the Ngen screaming. The other screaming was me looking for the harness cutaway and not being able to find it.

Abrupt halt when the local council arrived, tractors at the ready, to mow the place. No need in confronting them for no reason.

..In fact it had rather a high point
A mistake of immense proportions finds me at the local pool at the same time as Yvonne is there with the day care kids and hers. The stuff nightmares are made of.

Hot outside, hotter than hell at home, the pool was still the place to be. Decided on cohabitation, as long as they stayed out of my lane.

Stunning good luck intervenes when the goddess of the entire suburb (hey, I'm allowed to make statements that big) arrives, and settles her silky smooth self into the lane next to me.

You don't get that lucky very often (that's if you take out the embarrassing bit about Yvonne and kids being parked at the pool side as well), so I had to take the risk of drooling, and actually spoke to her.

I figure we have exchanged maybe two sentences in the last year. She's shy. She's pretty. The only other time she ended up in a lane next to me I nearly drowned trying to keep my head underwater so I could check her out. (I can't see a damn thing with my glasses off, unless I'm wearing goggles and underwater - must be something to do with the water)

Laps and laps of eye candy with conversation in between. Rather than deny I ever had anything to do with that woman and all those kids, I had to confess - anything to cover my arse actually.

Confessions all round as she held up her wedding ring.

Didn't feel so bad after all. Arranged to be there today as well but didn't want to push my luck. With her, or with Yvonne.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

School holidays vs Ajax

Ruby and Ajax go on standby
A house full of kids (I work from home) is not conducive to concentrating on the complexities of either of the above. Even though I was looking forward to imposing Ruby on someone and saving Ajax for myself.

I also seem to have the most enormous trouble reading e-books - what is it that causes that? I always get bitchy about not being able to take them outside so I can sit out front, coffee in hand and cruise through a chapter or two.

With these buggers you get to sit in front of the same screen you are in front of everyday (although I did load them onto the old '98 server next to me to see if that made a difference - it didn't), and I notice I drift off every now and then, all too easy to Google my way to a more interesting subject.

Trouble with Ajax on Google is it leads to so many interesting projects you never manage to get anything done anyway.

The one thing I have discovered that is mildly helpful - as long as you don't want any visuals - is to get the ones that are in PDF format read to my courtesy of Adobe, but I maintain even I have a better voice than the one inside this box.

Bugger Ruby, bugger Ajax, get back to me after the school holidays.

I may have to drift back to The Dummies Guide to PHP for some summer screen reading.

Not as 'dark' as James Ellroy, but that's what happens when you try and read the screen.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Of Ajax and PHP and Ruby and things

The great quest to make sense out of Ajax stalled overnight.

We decided that a more complete insight into PHP might be a better way to go after last weeks disaster where the project was completed and went 'to air' at the right time, but will need constant revision as I try and optimize the code from the hacked mess I threw together back into something 'lean and mean'.

Alas, that too got delayed when I ran across a previous link to what was, at the time, a mysterious thing called “Ruby On Rails”, something I had been meaning to have a closer look at.

It's amazing how many things need a closer look when faced with the prospect of rewriting things that you know you could have done better the first time.

At first glance Ruby looks too good to be true; a programming language that is slim, dependable, easy to learn, and in wide use.

The reason we I didn't know much about it before is the original iteration was by a Japanese bloke and there was very little available in English. Usage stats in Japan have it right up there with anything else that's around, including, I am informed, the ubiquitous Python.

The scary bit about Ruby is that you understand it immediately. It has a shockingly logical syntax which makes everything else you have seen look rather glum. True story.

I had been noticing a few places around that have adopted Ruby, including the venerable A List Apart, 37Signals, Basecamp (a 37 Signals project), are a few that spring to mind.

As they say on the site:
Rails is a full-stack, open-source web framework in Ruby for writing real-world applications with joy and less code than most frameworks spend doing XML sit-ups. Rails shuns configuration files and annotations in favor of reflection and run-time extensions.
Which is about how it appears to me too.

So, how fickle I am; rather than spend today cleaning up some so obviously hacked and splattered code, I elected to spend it, squander it indeed, on looking at Ruby a whole lot closer.

My suggestion would be, if you don't believe me (and I see no reason why you should), to pop on over to Ruby On Rails and see what I'm gushing about. I think I have a valid 'gush' here, so much so that we need to find a few more ISPs that support Ruby On Rails, because hopefully we will be able to produce something with it. I know that it would have been faster to implement Ruby on the last project rather than spend days cleaning up after myself.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Firearm blues

you want me to do what....?
The ongoing saga involving keeping a pistol license in this place has just ramped up to another, weirder chapter.

Behold, in the mail arrives a 'show cause' from the Weapons Bureau because they have discovered I have failed to maintain a membership of an approved gun club.

I seem to remember it was us that told them when the club went bust - again - and we needed to comply with the regulations by advising them we were out of a club to belong to.

That phone call obviously went somewhere other than anywhere near my file hence the dreaded show cause.

The laws governing weapons ownership in this country are right up there with hard to get along with thanks to one Martin Bryant, a young man who propelled himself into the history books by shooting 35 people in 1996. The government, fearful of the backlash (what backlash), and mindful of the opportunity, rammed through a whole new set of draconian laws for firearm ownership, including instigating a 'buyback' Australia wide.

Naturally any half sensible criminal had already buried a supply of weapons and ammo in their backyard.

As a result of this they also tightened the concealable firearms laws - another buyback, and I suspect another round of buried firearms.

The new laws insisted that to own a concealable weapon you had to belong to an approved club, pass a safety test and generally be a good boy.

Incensed by the rapid changes to the laws I, like many others, not only applied for the standard license (shotgun, rifle), but because all the paperwork was the same, applied for handgun licenses as well.

I enjoy shooting. I always have. I became quite passionate about indoor handgun stuff too, so it was no pain to belong to a club (We are not always amused by clubs).

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the club went broke, as you do when you don't have enough members, and when you have two suicides committed on your shooting lanes within the period of twelve months. Insurance companies do not like to deal with that sort of thing.

Potential new members were scared off by the onerous task of dealing with the police and paperwork, and even more paperwork, etc.

And that is where we are now - ex members of a non functioning club, looking for somewhere to shoot, and trying to comply with the Bureau's directives.

Salvation this very day in the form of the owner of the previous club. It seems he had the good sense to register yet another club, as an approved club, and we have been thrown a lifeline. Continuity of membership. All we have to do now is to convince the Weapons Bureau that we don't need a conviction for being bad.

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A record at the pool

Start with a record
No sense in starting off the week with something as distracting as another database 'design' - one disaster a week seems to be enough.

The only record keeping that's going to go on here for the next few days is what extremes we have arrived at outdoors. Currently we're running about 38°(almost 100° in normal people's perception of heat.)

In celebration of the thermometer reaching such lofty heights this early in the year Yvonne decided that it would be a good time to do outdoor things like hedge trimming and lawn mowing - the things that any sane person would put of until another day, but in this case that can't happen because I had made a comment about the list of things to do in the yard never getting any shorter, causing a rather large sulk fit, and a shot at martyrdom the day after I made my unfortunate comment.

Lucky for me I have no heart, and a rapidly depleting conscience level - we're used these reactions here - hell we get at least one a week.

So, get out there and get sunburnt - wear it with pride for the rest of the week. Swoon occasionally should you feel the need.

Me, I'm going down to the pool, the sane choice on a hot day.

Found the pool to be well under utilized - free lanes all over the place. Maybe I am the only one who thinks a pool is a good place on a hot day. Don't bother me at all.

Must have fully lost the situation because the record is broken - that would be my record, not the World record - it just feels like a World record.

60 laps today. 3 klm.

Previous was 50 laps - I had been sitting on that for a while. Been meaning to do something about it, but the thing with being a compulsive is that I may have started a reaction that would cause me to have to break the bloody thing every time I turned up at the pool.

It's ok when it's broken without premeditation, we can handle that. No need to go back down there tomorrow and try and do it again.

60 laps feel ok - right now. Things will probably be a whole bunch different tomorrow when the full damage report is announced by my body.

I'll worry about that tomorrow. In the meantime congratulate me - I'm a hero. In my mind anyway.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Database blues

nightmares at the keyboard
I am, sadly, not a great fan of any dynamic programming language, including the ubiquitous PHP. However, there comes a time, more often than I care to remember, when the only way around something is to adopt, bitching and scowling, an obvious solution because there is simply no alternative.

And so, the descent into the PHP/SQL blues began afresh this week. I had promised myself, the last time I was forced to adopt a dynamic code, that I would learn ASP, maybe even Cold Fusion. Learn enough to get me through the database query stage and leave it at that. Problem is, whenever a troublesome project is finished, I am so relieved I immediately forget whatever promises I made to myself during the course of the thing.

As you do.

AJAX sparked an interest for a week or two, but I had forgotten that as a solution when forced to sit down and nut this particular job out.

These last few weeks have been a trial of patience (mine) and my inability to get anything right, when it comes to databases anyway, the first time. Older and smarter I sat down and meticulously set out the table structure, built it, populated it, only to find I had fields I didn't want, didn't need, others in the wrong places, some I swear I have never seen before.

Seems between the drawing board and SQLyog I do a fair bit of revision. Rather too much.

We're up and running now - a triumph of man over machine. Everything in the right place, dummy data flushed, new population growing. Now all I need is for the thing to hang together.

This time I am getting a book on CF - I might as well bugger up two languages.

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Swimming helps..

washing the blues away
With school holidays about to start, partner distracted, this time terminally, by her own two kids demands, databases about to implode, local servers falling over, the world about to end, I have come to the conclusion that swimming is indeed back in vogue.

One good thing about it is you can't hear anything when your head is under water.

You never have to put up with whining children's voices for longer than it takes to breath in, get right back in there under the water again, and stay that way as long as possible.

If you swim in the deeper areas children are even further away - a 'wilsonism' should you need to know.

Although not directly credited with the recent minor (very minor) weight loss, there is no doubt that a bit of swimming, especially swimming by someone with a compulsive disorder, helps keep the old body a bit fitter. Swimming also gives plenty of eye candy to keep the interest up. This is good.

When you are swimming you cannot design a database. When you are swimming you cannot delete tables which you really needed. When you are swimming, indoor anyway, you can avoid compounding the incredible sunburn that a day spent buggying down by the bay will cause. No matter how much sunblock you add.

All I have to hope for now is that the pool will not be a popular choice for kids on their holidays - hope that they will prefer to gather at the local shopping center and ooze cool.

It looks like it might be a long school holiday period.



Thursday, December 01, 2005

The drought I suspect, is over

weather returns to normal
All morning building up on the horizon, mid afternoon with huge cloud formations, moving closer, slowly. Around 3.30pm the sky darkens, preparation for the ensuing cloudburst, usually accompanied by massive lightning displays and huge thunder worthy of a movie, water everywhere, gutters overflowing.

15 minutes of all hell and it's all over, sunshine, silence other than the sound of water dripping off everything. Everything washed clean, dust free, again. Daily.

It's been many years, but I am pleased, overjoyed, to see the weather return to something approaching the way it used to be. The way it used to be way back in the dark ages - the dark ages when I first came here and experienced the daily 'wet season' display. Days spent even further North, more tropical, more humidity, more wet.

Associating forever the daily thunderstorm with the daily passion of a wonderful girl, wonderful times in the rain, wonderful times all round, all curiously entwined.

Now, everytime an afternoon storm arrives the memories do too, even after such a considerable time. The power of memories.

Every day this week has been punctuated by massive storms each afternoon, a behavior that has been absent for nearly a decade, now returning with power, with purpose, and importantly, with water, something to fill the dam that supplies Brisbane with it's water, the very same dam that was recently judged to be at such a low level that water restrictions have been in effect.