Monthly Archives: December 2005

Daniel in space!

Well as near as I’m going to get.

Seven years ago, the Stardust probe was sent to intercept Comet Wild 2, gather dust particles, and return to Earth. Stardust is scheduled to touch down in a Utah desert on January 15 2006.

Stardust was launched on February 7, 1999 carrying two microchips. These microchips were engraved with the names of 1,136,000 or so people who requested this special treat from NASA.

Two copies of each chip were installed on the spacecraft (for a total of four chips). Two of the microchips (#1 & #2) are inside the Sample Return Capsule. The other two chips are on the spacecraft body and will remain in space forever.

So not only have am I now floating in space, I’ve been to a comet and back :) You can see me on the crew roster here.

Thankyou Slashdot for reminding me that I did this nearly 7 years ago, as I had completely forgotten!

If you fancy sending your name to the asteroid belt you can join me in that particular endeavour here. We’ll be flying standard class on the Dawn spacecraft!

Dear Vodafone

Here are a few reasons why I will never leave Orange for you:

1) The song in your Christmas advert is truly terrible.
2) The girl singing in your Christmas advert is miming badly.
3) Your use of CGI in the advert is as convincing as that in Harry Potter films.
4) The song in your Christmas advert is truly terrible.

I had to Google the name of the single so I could make sure I never listened to it by accident. Try and force music even Katie Melua would be embarrassed to be making during an advert break would you? I’d rather listen to her stupid song about bicycles in Beijing than ever listen to that track. Ever again.

Bah Humbug. It’s a sad day when Coca-Cola’s Christmas adverts are no longer the bottom of the pile.

Xmas or Christmas?

So for all those getting all annoyed at the use of Xmas instead of Christmas, may want to consider this nugget from the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

“Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents a Greek chi, the first letter of “Christ.” In this use it is parallel to other forms like Xtian, “Christian.” But people unaware of the Greek origin of this X often mistakenly interpret Xmas as an informal shortening pronounced (ksms). Many therefore frown upon the term Xmas because it seems to them a commercial convenience that omits Christ from Christmas.”

Well you learn something new every day..

Good Eating

Ah so back home in Plymouth. The parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary yesterday, and in the absence of Helen we made our way to Tanners which is ensconced within Prysten House.

A ‘prysten house’ is apparently a priests house, but Prysten House is a gorgeous 15th century building, I don’t believe I’ve ever dined anywhere as old as this. We were seated in the courtyard, which given the time of year was surprisingly well warmed with infra-red heaters and some kind of powerful cylindrical gas burner, which was a little noisy, but no more intrusive than the conversation of some of the other merrier guests.

The Tanner brothers are sometime TV chefs appearing on Ready, Steady, Cook (ahem) and Saturday Kitchen, who apparently have their own show now “The Tanner Brothers” on UK Food. I think I’ve pretty much managed to avoid ‘celebrity’ restaurants despite hearing many good things about Jamie Olivers Fifteen and been planning to go there for a while.

Tanners is a great venue, staff were exceceedingly courteous and friendly, seating us quickly at our table early due to a lack of space on the leather sofas in the foyer. After an aperitif and a chance to study the menu, orders were placed. I ordered a red mullet salad for starters with parmesan slices, Mum ordered the quail whilst Dad selected the smoked salmon. I swapped with Mum in the end as we were both eyeing each others dishes hungrily. The red mullet was delicious, highly recommended – the quail was also good, this was all washed down with a excellent and not so pricy Sauvignon Blanc. The salmon looked particularly good as well – light and creamy and fresh, although I didn’t want to risk Dad’s wrath by spearing some from his plate.

An appropriate pause was left between courses and mains were served. Mum plumped for the Cornish sea bass on a potato terrine, Dad for the honey glazed duck and I, feeling particularly carnivorous, went for a rare chargrilled steak to be washed down with a light but tasty Fleurie.

The mains were superlative – my Devonshire beef was served as I asked – a flame had been licked around the edges and the meat sealed, and that was about it. Served with fine green beans, a selection of wild mushooms and potato in a wonderfully tasty gravy each bite was a little slice of raw meaty heaven, even better than my rare horse steak I was served in Brussels which I raved about for at least a year. This is the one reason I will never be a vegetarian – not because I would miss bacon, or sausages, or chicken or pork or lamb, but never to have a bloody piece of tender beef in my mouth again would simply be a crime against my credo of mild hedonsim.

The bill for 2 courses each, 2 bottles of wine, 3 aperitifs and 3 coffees came to a not unreasonable £130. Well worth a visit, and in my humble opinion a much nicer dining experience than the Horn of Plenty simply because of its more relaxed atmosphere and better location in the heart of Plymouth.

GBA dev goodness

Whilst in the throes of convincing myself that I don’t want an Xbox360 after all (see posts passim) I started to look at getting a little handheld. The PSP is not a handheld in my book, its just a giant ugly black block of crap that I wouldn’t be seen dead clasping in my gnarled hands. The DS is cute, but too big for my liking even so, and I think the second screen is a gimmick. What I really want is a single screen DS.. but there isn’t one. That pretty much leaves me looking at the Gameboy Micro.

Now I have an original, still working 1989 Gameboy. The Micro is just an updated GBA/GBA-SP. Better form factor – the one thing that stopped me getting an SP was I really didn’t like the clam shell design.

Anyway whilst idly thinking about this I wondered what the homebrew scene was like for the GBA – and I’ve just been blown away in the last couple of days by how much of a community there is around the tiny device.
I think part of the popularity is ease of development – I was assuming that most people would be coding in assembly – I can’t and quite frankly don’t want to do this, but the GBA has GCC based devkits, and people are happily coding away in C/C++ – some even in something called DragonBASIC!

There’s some amazing resources -the GBAdev site, DrunkenCoders for homebrew console games, the TONC tutorials. All you need to get you started developinng for the GBA, importantly without the need to buy one.

It also appears to be trivial to put your creations on flash cards which plug straight into your GBA – even putting multiple images onto one cartridge. What particularly excited me though was the thought of something like PDroms which houses probably thousands of homebrew console games, apps and demos.

But even better check this Elite on your GBA, with 3D filled vector graphics and everything. Sweet.

I have a sudden urge to learn C++ over Christmas


There’s been a lot of fuss recently about Wikipedia the online reference source, talk of reliability, errors, bizarre libellous entries put up as jokes, but I really think some people are missing the point.

Wikipedia is a Wiki – it is never going to be like a dead wood encyclopedia. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, not just field experts. It can react much fast to stories, it is likely to contain far more technological information than a traditional tome, but it comes with all the problems of a Wiki in general – it’s open to abuse (which is why my Wiki’s don’t get linked from anywhere!).

I don’t see why people are bashing the effort – its an amazing resource put together by thousands of people but it is *not* an encyclopedia! The sooner people realise the real differences between the two resources, the faster these debates will go away.

One of the oft-quoted facts is that Wikipedia must be littered with errors. However according to a study in Nature, where 42 science articles were taken from Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia and analysed by experts for errors, Wikipedia held up very well indeed.

Wikipedia is a great source of information, but it is corruptible. Therefore approach with caution. It can never be assumed to be gospel truth, but why do people expect it to be? You don’t trust any other webpage’s information at face value do you? So why should Wikipedia be the same?

Saying this, Matt apparently fixes ‘an entry a day’, which I find quite noble. After reviewing one of his changes today I noticed a spelling mistake. He invited me to fix this, which I duly did. I guess now I’m a contributor to Wikipedia in a very small way, but at least now it is more accurate than before. With enough people acting in this way you can imagine that the good content far far far outweighs the bad.

Indoctrinating the kids

Just came across this great link from Gamers with Jobs. As I know at least one person who reads this has a gamesplaying son I thought it was worth linking. It’s simply a piece about how one father is engaging with his young son over videogames. The reason I’m linking it is that its just one of the best written pieces I’ve come across in a while.

A couple of choice quotes:

“Truth is, my son is capable of expressing a kind of excitement I haven’t been able to muster since the soul crushing onset of puberty sacrificed my innocence to its demon hell-gods”

“My boy can be sent into fits of unabashed elation, possibly defined as conniptional (not an actual word), at the very suggestion that a trip to Target to buy milk is in the works. Never has a human so thoroughly relished the concept of going upstairs to get a bath, and circuit breakers around our neighborhood trip in rapid succession should anyone mention sugar based pastries as an edible possibility near my son. He is a stellar furnace of energy, able to speak for thirty minutes at a time without apparently taking a breath, a feat made all the more remarkable for his limited vocabulary of what seem to be a few dozen recognizable words.”

I don’t know why I like this piece so much. Maybe getting broody? Ahem.

Hip-hop don’t stop..

It really doesn’t, and the more I listen to it the more I love it. Rob pointed me in the direction of Fort Minor last week. Fronted by Linkin’ Park member Mike Shinoda, they sound like Linkin’ Park without all the rock, which I don’t mind to be honest, despite thinking that Hybrid Theory is still one of the best albums released, I always thought Shinoda was a great MC.

This actually all started off from a conversation I was having with Jamie as we gobbled pizza and were watching Kerrang! and up popped Shinoda with the X-ecutioners (turntablists) this was mentioned to Rob who then pointed me to Fort Minor.

What’s nice about the album (Rising Tide) is that it steers clear of some of the more overtly lyrical and dictionary driven rap and actually heads back to where I imagine the roots of hip-hop are. It’s personal music, you can tell Shinoda has something to say right now (you can’t say the same for Eminem these days). It’s all delivered in a very direct style, reminding me of an angry Fife Dog from A Tribe Called Quest in terms of well-delivered, lyrical simplicity. I guarantee that there’s a load of rap lovers that wont like it for its hefty dose of realism (a hip-hop song that points out that most hip-hop is in fact a fabrication made to sell records because white 20 somethings (hey and 30 somethings too!) like to feel ‘cool’?) but with excellent support from people like Common on the album, it’s been spinning on loop on the iPod for days.

Speaking of Common, I still don’t know what to make of him. ‘Be’ still sounds like what gets played on Radio 1 as ‘rap’ which all too easily crosses over into the soulless wasteland of utter crap that is modern RnB – but despite the fact I can’t always appreciate the RnB underpinnings, there’s no denying that Common is a fantastic lyricist and the jazzier stuff is far more interesting to me on this album. Must try harder with this, however his appearance on Rising Tide is fantastic.

Oh yeah new blog category too. Yay.