I'm flying to Las Vegas tomorrow. Well, that is if Gatwick Airport is open. It was closed yesterday morning because of snow.
Yes, we have had some snow:
This was yesterday. And of course, it being England, everything ground to a halt. I know, I know, what an awfully clichéd statement. But there is some truth in it, mainly because we don't have the experience to deal with heavy snow fall here, and it doesn't happen often enough to warrant a heavy investment (god that also sounds awfully sheep like of me). I have some suspicions that the local roads have not been gritted enough so I have sent a freedom of information request to West Berkshire council to ask for the gritting budgets between 2007 and 2009 and for the miles of road gritted, just to see if they cut the budget this year.
The snow, the bane that it is, is nethertheless cool (pun unintended). I do need to get to Las Vegas however. I am set to be presenting at CCNC 2010, on "The impact of MS velocity on the performance of frequency selective scheduling in IEEE 802.16e Mobile WiMAX". Remember that paper submission I was bitching about a few months back? Well I re-wrote the paper and submitted it elsewhere, it got accepted at CCNC 2010. It may sound stupid, but I never thought I'd actually have to attend. I just thought they'd publish it anyway, but no, it turns out if I don't go and present it, then they can refuse to publish it. How naïve of me to think that, I mean, what did I think the conference was for?
Well anyway, so I'm off to Las Vegas. Incidentally it also happens to be when CES 2010, the biggest electronics show on the planet, is being held, and registration was free. I don't have to present until Sunday and so I was planning to goto CES on Saturday. Unfortunately I somehow lost the pass they sent me. I have searched high and low, mainly low, and cannot find it. I've sent them an email explaining the situation so hopefully I might still be able to get in. I doubt I'll have another practical opportunity to go. That was silly Ashley wasn't it.
Sorry that I haven't posted in ages. Things have been super busy with my EngD, having to finish a deliverable by this Friday.
I'll try and write some posts soon. I went to Auschwitz last weekend. Crazy place, much to be said about that.
Until then, take it easy.
Look at this:
How terrible, you can feel better about yourself knowing that you probably have a better connection than me.
And this travesty costs me £24.99 a month from Sky broadband. This is basically the cheapest deal I can get, and well nobody else would be able to offer a better connection anyway because the line is crap.
Bring on the fibre.
You might have noticed that some content is broken, namely the TeX math markup. I also noticed recently that www.ashleyinjapan.com is also broken in a number of annoying ways. The reason is that my host, dreamhost, messes about with things so often in order to juggle their oversold servers, that things just end up getting broken.
Not to mention that this website is slow, not just for viewing but also for editing this blog and so on, since every refresh takes too long. Alright its not oil-tanker slow, but its slow enough to piss me off. Furthermore, the email that dreamhost provide, sucks. It is super slow, really snail slow, to the point that I dread using it. What kind of a state of affairs is that?
So I decided fuck it, and bought a linode. Linode offer good value virtual private servers: essentially it looks to me, the user, as a normal linux box. In fact a number of different linuces can be installed in a few clicks. Thus I have full control over everything, including the web server settings and everything else, since I have to set that up first. The main benefit however is the dedicated 360MB RAM which I get only for my websites, and this is reserved. Coupled with a very fast bitpipe and I should be able to have a nice fast site and excellent personal email.
So I have the linode, it only took 10 minutes to get the server up and running lighttpd web server. I've got do do some database migration and some file exchange, and some DNS management and then we should be on the new server. I'll let you know when that happens, but I expect you should notice the difference when it does.
I don't want to be too unfair towards Dreamhost. I think, if you are only hosting some lightweight small website or blog, then it is perfect. It's the cheapest you could get really and generally reliable. Their cpanel is excellent and offers many one-click installs of popular software like wordpress etc.
I thought I'd treat myself to 4GB more RAM only to find out that it had more than doubled in price.
The following RAM is identical to the pair of modules which I already have in my computer:
When I bought this in August this year, it cost me £38.62 including VAT at 15%. It now costs £89.99 from the same supplier. It doesn't appear much cheaper elsewhere.
This is a factor of 2.33 increase in price. More than double!
How annoying, had I known I would have bought 16GB outright, at the time.
I wonder if it has anything todo with the release of Windows 7?
I woke up this morning to the sound of someone ringing the doorbell at my girlfriend Ruby's house. It was Ruby's female housemate Danielle. Danielle goes out with Ruby's brother Trevor. Trevor also lives in the house.
It was strange that anyone might ring our doorbell on a Sunday morning, and stranger still that it was rang by Danielle, since she has her own key. Ruby draped a towel around herself and went to the door. I lay there in the bed listening, wondering what was going on. I heard the door open and Danielle was crying deep sobs. I wondered what on earth had happened, and all kinds of thoughts were going through my head. I could hear a few words; something about the end of the road, but it was hard to make out under the circumstances.
I heard Ruby coming up the stairs and as she came into the room, I saw that she was also crying. "Eddy's dead" she said. I was in shock.
Eddy is, was, one of our cats. I say our cats, as if I am equally in ownership, but really the cats belong to the permanent residents of Ruby's house, and I'm not a permanent resident. But in anycase, I felt sufficiently close to this beast to feel a loss.
I found out among the sombre and awkward atmosphere, that Eddy had been ran over and that Danielle and Trevor had discovered him on the side of the road near our house, just as they were setting off to go out for the day. They had bought him back in and put him in an old box. Incidentally it was a sky plus box, that we had recently been upgraded to, as ludicrous as the poingnacy of that fact seems now. Trevor had placed the box in the back garden, and for now, they had locked the cats in so that none of them could accidently discover him.
I went outside on my own to take a look at the body. I don't really know why I wanted to go and look, all I knew is that it was something that I should do. I felt kind of curious to see if he really had been ran over and that the cause of death wasn't obviously attributable to something else. Whatever the reason, I went out there into that long garden amid the gusts of wind and bent down on the wet grass to the sky plus box. The box had a lid which could fold open and so I folded open the box.
Eddy was there, obviously. Dead. The poor guy was lying on his side, drenched in rain, his fur matted. It was evident that he had suffered some large trauma to the head, as some blood was visible around his face. I couldn't see clearly around his head since he was head was on its side and right up against the box. I thought for a moment about lifting him out to check properly, but decided against it. Rigor mortis had set in, and his outstretched rear legs, solid as they were, made it so that he didn't quite fit in the box properly, and the front of the box was bent out slightly as a conseqeunce. It was sad to look at him. And I ask myself now, What else did I expect? I don't know. I went back inside.
Everyone was pretty upset and Ruby was worried that maybe he'd been out there all night suffering. I said this was unlikely since he was so near the road, and that therefore it was likely he had been killed near-instananeously. At least this was some condolence, as much as condolences help in these circumstances.
Ruby rang the vets and they said we could take him to another vet that was open. I drove the car, with Ruby in the passenger seat, as she held the box.
After first accidently driving into the doctors surgery by mistake, and subsequently having to drive back out and further along the road, we arrived eventually at the vet.
We went into the reception, me carrying the box, Ruby beside me. A male vet, in his mid 50s was coming out of the door at the end of the reception area.
We explained things to the vet and he took us into a small room with the box. I put the box onto one of their examination tables, and he opened it. He took a look, and said that judging how cold the body was and the wetness of the fur, that it was likely that he had been dead for a long while, and that probably it was last night that he had died.
We went back into the reception area. Two other people had appeared, two women, neither very old, perhaps between 20 and 35 each. The vet started talking prices. A stark, but necessary, discussion regarding what we wanted to do with the body. We were told that £38.99 would buy us a group cremation, where Eddy's body would be burned along with a load of other cats, and that for £99.99 we could buy an individual cremation and have the ashes. Yes, the .99 pricing strategy, even applies to cat cremation. Ruby opted for the individual cremation.
Before leaving, I asked the vet about the cause of death. He said it was almost certainly a car, due to the blunt trauma to the head, and that it was most likely that this was very quick; near-instantaneous. This all seems probable in my eyes too since he had been moved to the side of the road by someone, therefore since he was left in the road straight after death, I think it is pretty likely that he died very suddenly in the road. He almost certainly would have been knocked out by the blow and I imagine that his adrenaline would have have masked any pain even if he had been concious. Of course, I'll never know for sure, but it feels better to imagine that this is true. And my genuine best guess is that this is the most likely, given the evidence.
Grief is an odd thing. I was struck by grief due to a number of reasons:
First, there is the act of his death itself. That saddened me. I imagined a cat leaping from behind one car and into the path of another. Perhaps a screech of tyres and then a knock. I imagined him lying out on the road, dying alone, as we slept safe in our beds. Its not a nice image. But then I remind myself that he actually died pretty much painlessly and very quickly. And I remind myself that once he was dead, it didn't matter that his body was left in the rain. It was just a pile of Atoms. Eddy was gone in an instant, to leave only inanimate matter. Totally indifferent to the rain and everything else.
Secondly I felt sad because everyone else was sad, and it is unsual to see everyone else sad. One never knows how to act or what to say.
Thirdly, I felt a loss. When we lost Eddy, we lost his future, we lost the opportunity to see him grow old and we lost out on all the joy he would go on to bring us.
And finally, I think I also felt a little bit of anger too, angry that he had got himself killed and upset everyone. Angry that he hadn't been more careful. As ridiculous as that sounds, since he was a cat, the feelings were there if I cared to look.
I never expected to feel such grief for a cat. I even shed a tear or two. It sounds cliche, but walking around the house earlier, I kept seeing his usual haunts, and half expected him to run past me up the stairs or jump up on the table to miaow. I'll miss him dearly, and so will anyone else who ever met him.
With hopefully the sad stuff over, I want to turn the rest of this post into a celebration of Eddy's life.
Let me briefly explain how Eddy came into our possession. And I use the term possession very lightly here as Eddy was one of the most unpossesable beings that there was.
Eddy was a tonkinese-bengal crossbreed. He used to live with a couple in a flat in London and wasn't allowed outside the flat because it wasn't a ground floor flat and there was no real way to give him access. The couple broke up, and he needed rehoming so we took him.
Eddy was a great cat. He was exceptionally intelligent, personable, and independent.
Eddy was clearly his own cat. If he didn't want to be stroked, you could expect a fierce response. This didn't happen often and was easy to recognize even before attempting to, and so I didn't obtain too many wounds in this manner :) I don't begrudge Eddy for this behavior, in fact I respect him, for why should I have the right to stroke him whenever I want? I wouldn't subjugate myself to be stroked at the whim of others, irrespective of my own feelings, and neither did Eddy. His independence, and his fierce protection of it, his unwillingness to be controlled, inspired me. It is something I wish I could be stronger at doing myself. He showed himself to be more than a pet; he was himself.
The funny thing about him was that he also loved human contact. Many times I would arrive at Ruby's house to find myself greeted by Eddy's friendly purr. He would nudge his head into my hand to coax some strokes out of me.
Eddy was very playful. As an example, in Ruby's hall area, when coming in from outside and facing into the house, there is a corridor which leads to the kitchen. Parallel to this corridor, there are the stairs, which descend up. The stairs have a banister and so there are a series of gaps between the wooden poles which hold up the bannister. This gives the perfect spot for cats to hide and spy through. As I was walking past one day, I felt a paw bat me around the back of the head. I turned around to see Eddy mischeviously spying at me through one of the gaps near head height. I went back past out of curiousity, only to receive further taunting punches. His claws were retracted. He wasn't trying to hurt me, he was just trying to play.
I work from home at Ruby's house sometimes. And Eddy would just come in, periodically, to hang out with me. Or perhaps I would be reading a book on the bed at the weekend, and in he would come and sit with me for a while. Until he got bored, and then he'd leave. So he was company for me and I was company for him.
He was a cat that everybody loved to love. We will all miss him.
This is a bit out of place but it just popped itself into my head.
Have you ever seen the film Wanted?
If you answered yes, my condolences, if you answered no, avoid it.
In any case, at the end of the film the main guy says something like this:
"I just assinated a priest, what the fuck did you do today?"
And he says it in an arrogant kind of challenging king of the castle provocative way that is supposed to make him look really cool, and then the credits role with some pumping music to make it all dramatic.
What I want to say to the charater is this: you didn't do any of those things dickhead, you are a character, so you can't chide me for not doing them!
And in anycase, even if you were real and did do the things in the film, they were stupid, you are stupid, and so is your fucking sidekick Angelina Jolie, so fuck off!
It's an absolutely ridiculous concept, just fucking stupid. The director must be an idiot.
There are a huge number of horrific regimes in operation around the world which we, as a nation and military force, turn a blind eye to. Poverty and hardship are widespread in many countries and we do very little to help. During the invasion of Iraq, the media used labels like "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to try and push the idea that the motivation for invading Iraq was due partly to the "benevolent" aims implied by such phrases. This is as transparent as propaganda gets.
The main reason I don't believe compassion had anything to do with the invasion, is because the "Iraqi Freedom" gained per unit of money we spent was incredulously small. If our aims really had been to alleviate suffering and increase freedoms with respect to some group of people in the world (and why choose Iraq if that were the case), then surely we would have got a lot more bang for all those Billions of bucks if they had been spent on traditional humanitarian efforts instead of a literal exchange of bang for buck.
And since when has the military been focusing its training efforts and expenditure on humanitarian relief? It would make more sense to call it something other than the military if its purpose was that far removed from the agency of warfare.
So who are they kidding? Am I supposed to believe that the people who wanted to bring "freedom" to the world were genuinely well motivated, but alas misinformed, and chose Iraq as their most important humanitarian target, and heavy artillery as the means of delivery for their "freedom"? What a tragedy, albeit with good intentions, the biggest inefficiency in humanitarian relief history, yeah right...
To me then, it is absolutely clear that the principle motivations for invading Iraq lay far far away from "bringing democracy". The "Iraqi Freedom" crap was just part of the propaganda. This is as clear as can be. To most people, minus a few million Americans, and stupid Britains, it was quite obvious at the time. Yet we still invaded, despite widespread protesting.
So how about the threat argument? We were told that Saddam was going to destroy us with WMDs. What was that, evidence you say? Haven't you heard? We just attack people now on the basis of extremely weak suspicion. Convincing evidence is for fools. And did Saddam declare war on us? No. Therefore we attacked Iraq without military provocation. We were the agressors and we really did invade.
Still, since we cannot rewind history and try a different tack, we will never know whether Iraq would have grown into a legitimate threat if we had not intervened. Similarly, we cannot really quantify the extent to which invading Iraq has increased or reduced external threats to our security. So I don't really know whether Iraq did any overall good or not, and I'm going to leave it at that.
With regard to Afghanistan, I think our initial strike was legitimate. Al Quaida declared war upon us when they pre-emptively struck the first blow in the U.S with the planes (assuming you don't believe the conspiracy theories), and therefore I think it was justified to go and take them out since they were actively seeking to destroy us and our way of life.
Whether or not the best response was to go over there guns a'blazing and destroy everything in sight is a different question. The real objective of our response was to remove the threat. We should have done this in the way that minimized the loss of life to both sides, and perhaps indeed we did, who can tell.
In addition, at the time, I think a quick military response was the most logical approach to take. Although I haven't seen the gathered intelligence that was used to inform the decisions, I am guessing that it was not clear what kind of means Al Quaida may have had to further attack us in the short term.
But now years have passed, and so the questions which burn in my mind with regard to Afghanistan are:
I think the UK and US governments need to be clear to themselves and their people when answering these questions and I hope that the answers will come and that the governments act in a way which minimizes loss of life and expenditure.
Dear Mr Mills
Unknown to me or my colleagues, the MOT Testing Manuals have been available
free of charge on our website since the beginning part of this year. I
have attached the link below.
This went live on 18th January 2009.
With regards to the further points made in your request, I will not be able
to respond by the date quoted in my letter of 14th October 2009 (4th
November) as I am still awaiting comments from our IT partner following
receipt (today) of advice on this matter.
I love OLEDs. Be aware that OLED technology is not the same as the much hyped LED TVs on sale; the latter is only LED backlit, whereas the former generates the image directly using OLEDs. Here is a cool video describing how OLEDs work, using a pickle, yes, a pickle:
Here is another video, showing a transparent OLED:
Of course, I got this info from http://www.oled-info.com/, my favourite OLED info source. I'm soo excited about this technology, what a geek.