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Green Dog

A boy reads a book, a large leatherbound book. He points with a finger to a picture. "The guy who usually plays him," he says. Frankenstein, the flathead Universal version, comes lumbering out and after the kid. He runs.

He makes it around the corner where he meets an older boy and a girl and a green dog at the end of a very long hall. They look like they came from some old family movie.

At the end of the hallway, a red dragon appears. It has steel animal-trap jaws and googly psychedelic eyes and a body like a diagram of the human arm from an anatomy text book. It slithers in and out of doorways in the very long hall. The children flee.

"Don't Stop Believing" plays, the version from Glee, from an old-fashioned radio. An urgent voice interrupts this broadcast with a special news bulletin. Giant horses are attacking Cardiff. The telly shows images of ordinary-sized horses, but ones that stand on their hind legs and look menacing. People are afraid to walk the streets.

The green dog barks.

The Old Man of the Mountain

"I had a dream about Himmy," says the littlest boy.

"He's a bad guy," says the older boy.

"Well, then a little tree that looked like Himmy."

A man who should be pleasant but appears both angry and urgent shows up and yells, "Do you want a cookie butter?!? Do you want a cookie butter!?!"


I'm standing in a central park. The sky is dirty. Tornadoes appear in the distance, in all directions.

Towering into the clouds, miles away, appear four figures who must be miles high. They have vaguely human shape. I can barely make out the appendages attached to their heads.

We all head for the storm cellar, in the middle of the park, just like the one Dorothy's auntie Em had in The Wizard of Oz.

Silver Mastodon

I'm having dinner with unidentified friends and a Silver Mastodon at Hooters. These aren't Hooter's gals waiting on tables, though, not from what I've heard. They are overdressed in Hawaiian shirts over cotton t shirts. Long trousers.

Cyndi Lauper sings "Time After Time." The drum beats out of time.

Today was an eventful day.

The first trip was to some talks at the University of Cambridge's brilliant Science Week: this is the series of events that the University puts on every years in March for the general public of Cambridge, in order that their general knowledge of how things work may be improved. It really is a wonderful act of charity, and the events are truly fabulous -- though a few too many are aimed at 8 year olds, and I would really prefer some more technical material.

That said, I attended a fascinating talk on machine learning and Artificial Intelligence given by Chris Bishop of Microsoft Research Cambridge, including a demonstration of Dasher -- a program of which I get the impression that programmers worldwide think it's rather neat, as it seems to have rapidly made its way into every GNU/Linux distribution, everywhere -- and a webcam backed by software that enabled it to (almost) correctly identify mugs, model cars and model phones of any shape, size or colour when placed before it.

The next talk was an enlightening romp entitled "Climbing the Tree of Physics", where a triplet of entertaining comedian-Physicists attempt to explain how Physics links various ideas together, all the while playing off each other's various fields (one was a cosmologist, one a particle physicist, and one a biophysicist, and the lack of explanation of various phenomena thereof (e.g. gravity in the standard model of particle physics).

A few other places I dropped into included the Department of Chemistry, where ice-cream was made with liquid nitrogen, polystyrene cups were dissolved dramatically in acetone, and dirty tuppences were cleaned with (dilute!) sulphuric acid.

After this, a rush was in order, to find some practice time at the church, as several hymns had to be learned before Sunday morning. Hymn playing is a curious art, especially for a devout atheist as I am. Hymns originally seem to be each a tricky piece to be learned, several per service, and with a full pedal part for the feet to boot -- but after a couple of years, they seem as easy to sight-read as anything. But there is still plenty of technique involved with breathing spaces, keeping the congregation in time, and sustaining the correct notes between chords.

Straight from church, I cycled over to King's College, to hear two epic pieces of music by Schumann, in their Foundation Concert (having been founded, as all good schoolchildren know, in 1441). Schumann, you may remember, is the one who went mad, and this concert was composed of his well-known Piano Concert, followed by Part III of his entirely obscure Scenes from Faust (often referred to as simply Faust). Each piece is a lavish undertaking with unbelievably rich harmonies -- it is simply unfortunate that the piano sounds like a jangling, dancing skeleton in this chapel.

Goethe's incomprehensible German philosophical ramblings are perfectly complemented by Schumann's bizarre, yet sublime, harmonies, that contemporary critics outright rejected as unacceptably "ugly" -- however, to modern ears they are overwhelming in their complexity and beauty.

Yowza. So, this marks week seven of trying to bludgeon this ship's bletcherous, losing, cretinous, bagbiting network into working something akin to correctly. So far, I've rewired about 60% of the trouble spots, juggled switch hardware, installed enough software patches to make a rock sick and beaten my head against typical Microsoft bogosity. Why is it that on two machines of theoretically identical configuration, both hardware and software, that a given patch will make one lose, while the other has no problem at all? Worse, it's never something obvious like a configuration file. No, it's always that goddamn fucking infernal Windows registry or worse, a corrupt file. Why does file corruption happen so frequently on Windows? I mean, seriously. The more of this I see, the more I think the whole world needs to get onboard with something like ZFS, which has end-to-end checksumming. Versioning filesystems would be awesome too. I mean, VMS has only had one for maybe 30 years, it's not like the rest of the industry is that far behind the eight ball... Ahem.

Anyway, things are improving. I found the manual for these switches and the damn ATM LANE server-cum-router thingies, so I fixed all the problems there. Duplex mismatches? I mean, really? It's bad enough that only some of the switch ports can perform correct autonegotiation (only the 10/100 copper ports), but we can't get it right by hand either? Well, to be fair, the last sysadmin didn't know why it mattered - it was just funny verbiage that he didn't understand. If it wasn't point-and-click, he was lost. Even though changing interface speed/duplex settings is point-and-click on Windows, but that's Another Rant. And on top of that, management in their infinite wisdom didn't let me poke at anything. Not much, anyway. They said, "Well, it's always sucked. That's just how it is."

Color me crazy, but I've never liked that answer. Sometimes it really can't be helped, but usually something's wrong. So, when we had a recent top-to-bottom change of management, I got 'em to take the gloves off. It's been a lot of work, but even though pulling thorns out of my side hurts, it's better once done.

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