2003 Christmas Imported From Epistula love Personal

Burnt Offerings

I’ve done it.

I have succeeded in the impossible. I have beaten my previous culinary record.

Last night, I managed to burn boiled potatoes.

Okay, I’m being unfair. I’m normally quite a good cook, when I’m paying attention. In this case, however, I bunged the (tinned) pie into the oven, waited a little bit, put the water on to boil, waited a bit, put the potatoes on, and went to my computer to wait a bit.

At this point, I was hit by an epiphany that solved one of the biggest problems I’ve had this week.

What the hell do I buy LoneCat for christmas?

The important thing is to not have a repeat of our first christmas, where we both got each other the same thing, so I’ve made a resolution not to buy the present from Amazon. Actually, I accidently made LC make this resolution, but since I know what I’m getting now, she’s released from it, since mine isn’t.

So, I started the scouring of the internet, which is seperate from both the scouring of the shire and the scouring of the pan I burnt the potatoes in. I discovered that the thing I actually wanted can cost anywhere between 50 pence and 19,000, depending on where you buy it.

The one I’m getting is neither, obviously.

So, I spent a half hour wandering though places looking for this item, instead of – say – draining, assembling and eating dinner. Then I smelt something. ‘Aha’, said my senses, not quick on the uptake, ‘Roast potatoes’, followed somewhat rapidly from a Four-Weddingsesque litany of curses as I dunked the saucepan into cold water, dumped the burnt offerings on the plate, cut off the burnt bits, dumped the burnt pie on the plate – burning my fingers in the process – and sat down to eat.

I only hope I can get hold of the thing in time.

See, darling, the sacrifices I make?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a frowny lightbulb to deal with.

aqcom Christmas Imported From Epistula weblog

Other Half Live

Hmm. You can tell I designed the new AqCom at 1600×1200 by the way the logo looks oversized at 1024×768, let alone anything else. Must fix this.

I’m home. I wandered down though London with no trouble at all, did presenty things (Out of four people I managed to get two gifts that they already had – both of which were half of the total present, which means that I at least got it right) whilst I got a nice new watch, a grill, a marble-run and a new cafeteria. I like spreading the present part of Christmas over two days 🙂

Kind of a busman’s holiday, since I got two computers back working again and helped order broadband in less than 24 hrs of being here, but nothing unexpected. The problems are where nothing has changed (the village in the middle of nowhere, for example) and everything has (one of my brothers – I have two – moving into my room). I come back, and people are talking about writing, or writing about writing in fact, so a couple of cents of data then…

A tendency towards writing is what brought me to blogging in the more general sense. A diary has been on this site since the end of January 2000, and I joined Blogger – and the blogging community – as of about April that year. I was 19. I write because I can’t not write. I write what I am told are entertaining posts on Usenet, I write short stories that make me question my abilities, I write articles to display here and occasionally elsewhere. I’ve been published in electronic form two times and in print once – it was a fanzine. Why do I write this journal?

Our chief weapon is feedback. Feedback and soapboxes. Our two main weapons are feedback and soapboxes. And archiving. Our three main weapons are feedback, soapboxes, archiving and dissemination of information. Four. Our four main wea… I’ll come in again.

I write for feedback.

I live for feedback; I’m a constructive feedback junky. I may not like it, but I still want it. It may stop me writing for a while, it may make me question my entire stance on publishing to the web, but I still want feedback. The worst thing about writing mainly for Usenet is that after a while people start going “Aha, it’s him. He’s funny. Ha. Next post” and all the writer sees is a black hole into which they are posting things. I’m a performer; I came to writing as an actor, I need the audience reaction, so I write so that people will say what they think. Unless it’s destructive, in which case though I need to ignore them, I can’t. But I still live for feedback.


I write for a soapbox to stand on. I don’t have any right to my opinions on most things beyond media – which I am a consumer of – and interfaces to other websites – which I have to be able to program for. But I have this place where I can rant and rave about the state of the transport network, the good things about Christmas, the holes in the education system, Napster, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. *Anything* and people read it, probably because they are expecting examples of #5.


I write so I can read my life in two years time when I have forgotten.

Dissemination of Information.

I write so that people will know where I am. So my parents know I left home at 17:10 and might be here by eight, that I arrived safe home from a convention, so my friends know that I’m still alive, so that the people who give a flying fuck of my whereabouts and wellbeing can do so without having to ask.


And for the real reason I plead the fifth. Entertainment. I write things that might possibly amuse and entertain, though there doesn’t seem to be much of that recently. I write to comment on my technological betters, to demonstrate I’m still alive – if occasionally only just – but mostly because some people find things I write amusing and enjoy reading them.
I still don’t understand why, though.

All this stuff about “Weblog writing” smacks to me as navel gazing, though. There is no such thing as a typical weblog. You can’t say weblogs fill a valuable niche in the news world because many weblogs have the literary worth of a life-sized sugar model of Hamlet, and not only couldn’t care less, but are popular because of it. On the other hand, there are many blogs whose owners I would fall at the feet of and worship that are fantastically readable yet have no deep meaningful touch at all, they are just well written.

We are not the cement of the establishment, nor are we the wrecking ball. We will not effect the people, because we a just a small subsection of The People. We are just the division of people who want to write of the division of the people who want to. the first rule we break is to throw out all our assumptions about ‘what is good writing’ said Burningbird, and I strongly disagree. Good writing is still good writing, and nothing weblogging does can change that, Good writing is writing that is readable. There are as many examples of bad writing on the web as there are of bad design, there are millions of angsty poems out there by teenagers convinced that Anne Rice books are deep, edgy and gothic. The fact that there are many of them does not make what they are doing “Good Writing” and neither does weblogging. It’s just a new style and a new forum, and it may change the world – it certainly has changed mine – but it’s still the people who can write writing for the audience who want to read it.

Christmas Imported From Epistula


I like Christmas.

I tend to define Christmas with the traditionals, I love wandering around buying presents, choosing things for people, spending money. I adore suprises, opening presents to see what people have got me, watching them open presents that I got for them. I love – more and more – the differences between families Christmas’. Do you open the presents first thing in the morning? Christmas Eve? after your Christmas meal? When is it? Lunch or Dinner? Do you have any special things about the Christmas breakfast? Then there are the more usual shared traditions, like stiring the Christmas pudding or cake and making a wish, like the walnut in the stocking (ours was always a tangerine).

This was my first christmas away from family, I spent it with ccooke and LoneCat, and part of the fun bit was navigating our way through each of our family traditions to create our own ones, which was nice 🙂

So yesterday, then, we arose late, I did a full cooked breakfast, we opened presents. I got a game and a large wooden snail from ccooke with the legend “We owe you one Sony Clié, The Snails” in beautiful caligraphy, for which I thank Supermouse, a towel and a book from LoneCat, and an inflateable radio from Peter & Julie. Oh, and an illustrated encyclopædia from LoneCat’s parents. Tomorrow I go home to see parents for the first time in six months, and also exchange gifts with them, which will be nice.

Then ccooke ccooked a large full Christmas dinner, which was wonderful, while I coded comments into Epistula. Then we ate, and LoneCat prepared and brought her christmas pudding out, which set light to, as tradition demanded. Then I had mine with Cream, LC had brandy butter, and ccooke had rum sauce, because three people liking the same thing is rare…

Then we did variations on nothing for a while. Christmas day over for another year…

aqcom Christmas Imported From Epistula


Apologies for the lack of insightful comment over the last few days, combined stress of possible employment, christmas shopping, bills, cheques failing to clear, paying for food and general all-inclusive stress have conspired to stop me from doing anything very much outside getting stressed and attempting to destress again. I didn’t even redesign for christmas, which is a first in the 5 years of running this website in it’s various forms. Rest assured that for January 1st –’s third aniversary – something will happen. I may even finish the comments interface 🙂

Eitherway, I wish you a Merry Christmastime whether you celebrate it or not, may you be having a good time. carefully phrased celebrations to you all.

And with any luck, this year I won’t have bought the same thing for my girlfriend as she did for me. Yeah, sickening, isn’t it?

aqcom Christmas Imported From Epistula media

The Name's Mas. Christmas.

So I went Christmas shopping, and got stuff for siblings, parents, girlfriend and housemate. Oh, and me.

It’s terrible. At least this time I spent more on the presents than I did on me, but these are all things I’ve been meaning to buy for ages, but I really should stop it. I keep accidentally buying things people are getting me for Christmas…

Today, to pick a random example, I bought the first four Lemony Snicket books, a new JC Grimwood paperback, the fifth Preacher book, and Catch22, which I’ve been meaning to read forever and was on offer. Then I left Borders. I went into Game and bought Tropico Gold to replace my original CD that got scratched. I walked into HMV and bought Monopoly Tycoon (Which is a CitySim based around the Monopoly world). Yesterday we went to Sainsbury’s and I accidentally bought a couple of James Bond DVDs (Two for the price of one. Evil, I tell you. Old fiery-eye himself could learn). I failed to accidentally buy the Buffy six box set, but on the other hand failed to buy myself some new pillows or – and since this was the other reason for going out I’m quite miffed at this – go in to book an appointment for some new glasses.

The shadowy threat I’ve been hinting at for the last week has come and gone, leaving just a dark stain of it’s presence. The company that is retaining the company I’m contracting (horrible word. Verbing wierds language) for decided to stop doing so, thus the project I was to move to got delayed, thus my contract was not going to be renewed when it ends on the 23rd December. This is bad, because I like working where I’m working, and kind of object to being kept hanging – not by the company who hired me, who have been helpful and hopeful throughout – but rather the fact that it had to happen at all. It’s been resolved in a non-optimal but unpessimal way in that my contract will indeed cease on 2002-12-23, but will restart again mid to late January, and I can coast until then. All the above has made my new year’s resolution to pay more attention to my cash-flow so I can survive weeks like this without panic attacks.

Hence the influx of media, BTW. Now I know work will continue at some point, I’ve allowed myself some spending 🙂 Reviews on the above will happen – it’s the promise I made myself when buying them.

Oh, and hello Livejournelers, you are once again back with us after my sabbatical. For those of you unaware of this saga, it goes like this: Livejournal has the ability to add RSS feeds as LiveJournals, so that people who pay money can add them to their Friends List (So it appears on a list of the most recent entries you’re interested in). Somebody (Either Sam or Rho) set up Aquarionics as one. I don’t mind this, really. I wouldn’t publish an RSS feed if I didn’t want people to use it, but my problems with this implementation are threefold. The first is that by default all syndicated journals have LiveJournal’s internal commenting system enabled, so people can make comments on the items in my RSS list. Now, I’d really rather this didn’t happen, since I have my own commenting system (all right, so you can’t post to it currently, but that’s not really the point) and I’d rather not have my comments spread across three or four sites.

Secondly, there is apparently no method of changing an RSS feed’s details. Aquarionics’ feed moved from /rss/all.rss to /meta/all.rss. The original was only linked to for a week, but apparently the address was taken from the announcement post by whoever did it, which should teach me to modify links, so I’ve now hacked Epistula so that /rss is exactly the same as /meta, but it’s a horrible kludge.

Thirdly, LJ’s engine automatically produces RSS feeds of all journals (just add “/rss” to the diary URL). This includes syndicated accounts.

So I raised an Issue on LJ’s support forum. The problem is that because it’s an Open Source venture, we have to wait until some enterprising hacker with some CFT decides to fix it, or until the paid maintainers do. Since it’s not a problem for the people who use LJ, just a problem with the people whose feeds are used by them, I doubt it’ll be fixed anytime soon, so I kludged it, and downloaded the source. Time to brush up on my perl…

Christmas Imported From Epistula weblog

Another Catchup

And so the world keeps turning. My desk is covered in paper, UI documents, flow charts, PDAs and phones (Including mine. The Saga of the Phone has been resolved. As soon as comments and crossreferencing are working, I’ll post it). Not to mention the chargers, USB cables, cradles and manuals for them, Silver CDs glisten like snowdrops in the incandesant lighting, and my laptop purrs softly in the late afternoon silence of an office empty of everyone save me and one other person. And so I sit here, MP3s flooding though my headphones, writing documentation, designing graphics, and drinking tea.

Dull, isn’t it?

Christmas is coming to Blogville (Twinned with Pandamonium, Hell). Stuart is debating christmas cards, as hippo was, though not in the same way. Google Labs has awarded us early, with a couple more toys to play with. I note with interest that the only quote about my site is Nattiedoll’s one of me being a Chevalier of the Order of St. Astrid, and the best and fluffiest adminnish type I have ever encountered. I’ve never been quite sure about that…

Neil Gaiman (Who doesn’t have permalinks) has finished filming and editing his short film, which is good. Ebay is being hit by another bloody front-page shadow, which is bad. Emptybottle is still understandably absent, and missed, but has some links to some really, really pretty pictures. Go see.

And Wil got shafted in a really quite desperatly unpleasant manner. And I found a nice new comic that I like lots, although could be offensive to ultra-religous people.

I should link to Wil more often. But every time I try to type his name, my fingers insist on putting an extra “L” on it, and my whole page looks wrong. Blasted people with their difficult names.

In other news, you can bid to win the chance to delete Tony Blair’s Email. How? It’s a bit complicated, but fun. I got that via Not So Soft, home of the soon-to-be-infamouse Mayfly Project. Can you sum up your year in twenty words? Google has done it in slightly more, but with pretty pictures. Though not as pretty as those mentioned above.

Woo Hoo! Linkfest!

Christmas Imported From Epistula

The Cake Saga

Most of the following is a true story.

This weekend I decided to make a Christmas cake. This was partly because I had been playing Warcraft III for a few hours after a few more hours coding E2. The obvious thing to do at that point would be to take a screen break, so I did, and decided to make Christmas Cake. Now you know why, here’s how.

I started in the way all good geeks start a recipe, by going to Google and searching. Having found a recipe, a quest was begun. High was the sun, and great was the joy in our hearts as I carefully turned the recipe into HTML and started on my quest of the kitchen, seeking – in true quest style – a number of objects which – when assembled correctly according to an ancient and mysterious scroll – would provide something of beauty and wonder when cooked for three hours at gas mark two. Within moments the first part of my quest was completed, and the saga was already deepening in traditional style, for though most of the items were within easy reach, several would require a trek though dark and dangerous areas to the mystical land of Sai’Zberries. After a small sub quest to recruit fellow adventurers to my grand romantic cause, we kitted up with the Fleeces of +4 Warmth, and Bags of Carrying before venturing off into the cold, cold lands of Ca’mebrid’e, leaving messages for loved ones should we never return.

Of the journey to the far lands of Sai’Zberries many tales are told, from the wandering monsters with +5 “Sticky Fingers” bonuses against Girlfriends, to the subquests of the Crossing of the Road. Suffice to say that after a long and tiring journey, finally our goal was in sight. But our journey was not over yet, for the entrance to the lands of Sai’Zberries was guarded by an evil spirit dressed in the furs of animals that had never seen this realm and the blood-red livery of all his kind, the demon “Zan’tar” stood bribing young children to his dark religion.

Awaiting a distraction in the form of a large family with many potential prey for his dark quest, we slipped into the store unseen. Perhaps another day we should have saved the children, but today they sacrificed their souls so that my cake could live, and that is enough.

The Level 10 merchant who owns the town of Sai’Zberries was doing good good business this cold winters day, but we shall brush over the quest within the store, tis a tale for another day. Suffice to say that whilst all the components of my quest were to hand, my fellow adventurer would have to seek out another merchant. This quest completed, we left easily – Zan’tar having taken his fill for the day – and trekked home, happy in the knowledge of a subquest completed.

I began the recipe, not totally trusting it. Anything that told me to boil something containing a kg of mixed-fruit deserved to get my distrust, but correct it was, and the recipe went fine. It was taking longer than I expected though, and all was not well in the land of the geekhouse for I did have another quest today, and verily was it a time dependant one, and so I was forced to abandon the cake in favour of the meet, if you see what I mean. A few hours later – about five hours, all told – I returned to the cake to find that the almonds were not as crisp as before, the shine slightly dampened by being dried out on the stove of life, and the cake generally looking very much as if it had been left to stew in it’s juices for a few hours. Nevertheless, truly optimistic to the end, I put it in the oven…

…then took it out again, realising that I’d have to get up at 4am to take it out again, and – more importantly – that I hadn’t finished putting the ingredients. Like the flour. For example. And the spices, for another.

At this point I swore. Lots.

Once more, bright was the morning following. Not that I saw it, after fielding a parental phone call I went back to the comfort of the duvet. Heating in the Geekhouse isn’t working at the moment and so leaving the duvet was a slow process. Slowly and with due care and attention to all recipes and stuff – and gradually coming to the conclusion that this cake was probably beyond being a total success – I added the flour, Mixed spice, Nutmeg, baking powder and everything else and began to stir.

At this point, it is traditional in some families to make a wish. I made a wish. I wished to all goodness that this cake didn’t fail. The gods answered. I carefully lined a cake tin. Again. I carefully placed it in the oven. Again.

I remembered to turn the oven on at this point, which I counted as a personal success.

I waited an hour, and turned down the heat, as prescribed in the Quest Runes.

I waited a further three hours, and removed the cake from the oven. Carefully placed it to cool. Lifted it up…

There is something special about the loose bottomed cake tin. It’s especially designed such that the base of it lifts up, allowing cake to be removed from tin easily, whilst not allowing the chef to pick up the cake in safety. Thus:

Diagram of a loose bottomed cake tin

So imagine my surprise when the cake fell out of the bottom of the cake tin and broke off into many squidgy pieces onto the counter, like the rebirth of an elder being. The gods had indeed answered my wish, They had said “No”.
At this point not only am I running out of swear words, but also patience and time, so I shove the lot back into the tin, and back into the oven. One more hour, Gas Mark one. The cake comes out of the oven. The cake comes out of the cake tin. So far, so good. Now it’s sitting there, glaring at me, and I don’t know if it’s any good.

The decision is made, I shall make another cake next weekend, and in the meantime, I shall stab this elder being of a Christmas cake with knives until it bleeds cherries.

Anyone want a slice?