Solar Eclipse

March 20th, 2015

On the one hand it’s just a shadow, the shadow of the moon, so there’s nothing magical about it at all (although some would beg to differ). But on the other hand it is, weather permitting, a momentary breakdown of the illusion that we live on a flat Earth with the heavens simply ‘above’ it. You can get a sense of being in space and of the vastness of things.

It’s a shame astronomy doesn’t get directly in our faces more often, but then I suppose if solar eclipses were common most people would ignore them the same way they ignore the Milky Way at night.

I’m hoping (obviously) for a break in the clouds. Sadly the world sold out of eclipse glasses before I even thought about it, and I’m not resourceful enough to source some dense lighting gels at short notice. Might have to try the pinhole method (meh) or, yeah, the Intertubes.

Took the train anyway

February 6th, 2015

…despite the previous post.


Trains and Cars

February 5th, 2015

Whenever possible I prefer to take the train. When it’s not overcrowded it feels quite civilised. But from where I live (Stamford) it’s almost always considerably cheaper to drive. If I need to get to London in the week for an early meeting it’s the best part of £110 return (or 2 singles) on East Coast unless I choose a specific and inconveniently early or late train, which usually means hanging around for a few hours. And this is with East Coast being state owned. Now that Virgin and Stagecoach are taking it over prices can only go one way.

This weekend I want to visit my brother in Brighton for his birthday, and this is going to cost me £75.80* (advance, off-peak only) and it will take around 3 hours 50 minutes on 3 different trains plus the Victoria Line between King’s Cross to Victoria.

By car – based on my car’s average MPG – the petrol will cost me about £40 for the round trip. And if I avoid the Friday M25 peak traffic it’ll take around 2 hours and 45 minutes.

So not only is it quicker in this case, it’s also cheaper to drive (OK, you have to allow for the fact I bought the car in the first place) even with only me in the car. If I had one or more passengers it would be a no-brainer.

It’s obvious that the government has little interest in infrastructure outside of London getting people our of their cars and onto public transport.

If you live in London it’s a different story of course. I had no need for a car when I lived in the capital. It’s a transport utopia.

Grumble grumble. I might fork out for the train anyway. Quite an expensive way to read a book.

It has been brought to my attention that I omitted one of the key benefits of travel by rail: Train Beers. The freedom to just sit back and tuck into a 4-pack of over-priced Stella trumps all other factors obviously. It should be noted that, by definition, train beers are not Train Beers if bought cheaply from the off license.

(*Yes there are some cheaper tickets on non-express trains, but for me the whole point of traveling by train is speed.)

On encryption

February 3rd, 2015

I should apologise that this blog is not (currently) served over https. It’s on my to-do list, but that list is pretty stupidly long. (As an aside I don’t look forward to the day when I have nothing to do. The idea of just putting my feet up is horrible. It feels like I’ve had at least 50% more things to do than I have time to do since about 2007; but the upshot is that I genuinely don’t think I’ve been bored once in the last 7 years.)

Anyway, recent comments by Phil Zimmermann – the creator of email encryption software PGP – struck me as particularly (if unsurprisingly) smart. The upshot is yet another timely argument against David Cameron’s frankly embarrassing stance on end-to-end encryption: Hackers are always going to be able to get around whatever security you put up, but if your data is properly encrypted it doesn’t matter if they get access to your servers. So those Sony emails and movie scripts, for example, would never have been leaked if they’d been stored encrypted.

This article is worth a read, as is Phil’s original blog post.

In related news, BWM recently patched their ConnectedDrive software after a flaw was identified by a third party. The shocking part of the story is that prior to this patch the software was using unencrypted plain text HTTP to send and receive data! Given that the software operates door locks (among other functions) it is mind-boggling to me that its developers didn’t choose HTTPS in the first place.

A culture of ‘encrypt by default’ needs to be instilled.

First world problems

February 2nd, 2015

It’s cold, unremarkably. Not Sweden cold, just UK cold. Not that the predictability of it being cold in January stops certain newspapers from screaming about ‘Arctic Blasts’ and such on their front pages. If something isn’t soaring it’s plummeting I suppose.

We’re about to have the back of our house lopped off to make way for an extension, so it’s going to get very chilly and probably dusty in here. Where to put stuff is becoming a big problem. To complicate matters the current kitchen is being ripped out, and the garage has to be cleared – after three years of filling it with stuff – so that the builders can drive a digger through it to get to the back garden.

Next time we move house (if ever, please no) I think we should get one that’s big enough to begin with. In our defence, the location was very good.


January 4th, 2015






New tune – Visitor 2010

December 16th, 2014

Here’s a new track that I have produced. It started out in 2010 as a remix of Another Visitor (sticking with the Impossible Mission theme), but then it sat on a hard drive as an unfinished loop for four years. I finally grabbed a day recently to turn it into a more finished tune. I think this is better than the original; I’m much happier with the production but I definitely need some monitor speakers to get more control over the mixdown.