Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forApril, 2006 | back to home

24 April 2006

tea timer
Nathanatos Software has produced the ultimate tea brewing timing software for the Mac. I couldn’t resist downloading it…

20 April 2006
Filed under:Personal,Useful web resources at10:40 pm

It’s like some kind of sadistic exercise in massively multivariate calculus. You need to be able to afford it of course (impossible on the face of it), you need to choose a neighborhood (based on schools? transport? social cachet? shopping areas?) but that’s just the beginning. Do you need a house or do you want a flat? In a block or in a converted house or perhaps in a new development? In good condition or needing work? Can you live with a ‘bedroom’ 2 metres wide? Do you need a garden or will a roof terrace or a balcony do? Do you care if it is leasehold (yours for 99 years – or less) or freehold? Do you want to try to increase the amount of space in your place to be by adding a loft conversion? If so what would that cost and would the neighbors let you? (Actually you will never know until you buy…)

The Internet has helped a lot – | can normally find out floor plans and exact property locations online. I can even look up the quality of the local schools and the social class of the neighbors using upmystreet! But I have found in recent flat visits that rooms that are smaller ‘on plan’ look bigger when you see them, so you can only go so far online. Plus helpfully estate agents calculate the overall size of flats differently – some count bathrooms, some don’t for example. And London houses being what they are you often get irregularly-shaped rooms so the dimensions can be deceptive. One unusual place we have looked at has about 40% ‘marginally useful space’ which makes the place feel better (or helps with storage) but which don’t help in terms of places to put beds, chairs etc…

Still, after about two weeks of intensive searching I think we will have found our new nest soon – just about the time when the child we are buying it for makes an appearance!

Update:  We are buying the ‘quirky’ place above and I am warming to it – particularly given the amount of potential it has for improvement. So it is possible to find a flat in London. You just have to be prepared to spend a fortune and two solid weeks nearly full-time running around looking at a series of more or less unsuitable properties.

As for the school situation – our situation is unusual in that we want to bring up our child in a bilingual school environment which may mean private schooling (much though that goes against my principles). So location doesn’t matter so much (though in fact the nearest primary school is in the top 25% of schools nationally according to the league table so we wouldn’t have to move to get a good school anyway.)

17 April 2006

In theory the backup I made using Synk onto my firewire disk should allow me to plug the external disk into my Mac (or any recent Mac?) and have it boot up off that disk, making my work environment exactly as it was at the moment of the backup. I tried something similar the last time my PC crashed but that never worked properly and I ended up having to copy  things across and re-install applications.

I found a colleague with a Mac today and tried my backup – my heart in my mouth – and it seems to work just as advertised! (At least on the basis of a few minutes clicking around).

So there will be a week of chaos while my machine is being repaired after which I should be able to go back to an almost completely normal life (technologically speaking). Thank you Apple and Synk!

15 April 2006
Filed under:About this blog,Personal at6:16 pm

(Not me but I feel a bit like the above)

1) Our first baby is due in 5 days.

2) My (increasingly distant) hope is to upgrade from MPhil to PhD in two and a half months and to get as much work on the thesis done as possible before the baby disturbs my concentration.

3) We just found, agreed on and put an offer on a new place to live yesterday

4) Last night my wife managed to stab her finger – not seriously but seriously enough to go off to hospital to get it looked at and…

5) my iBook’s hard disk just up and died on me! Fortunately (?) I have some experience with hard disk crashes so when my disk began to show signs of dying (rattling noises etc) I backed it up pronto. But since I don’t now have a working Mac and since my backup is on a Mac-formatted Firewire drive I just realised I can’t access most of those files until I get my Mac back in ten days time. But in ten days time I suspect I may have other things on my mind than my iBook! Fortunately, I also copied a few critical files onto my wife’s PC and hopefully can therefore continue to work. As soon as my teeth stop grinding…

P.S. Don’t be surprised if because of the above – particularly 1) – this blog is not updated for a week or so. I don’t expect I’ll bore you with baby pictures – those will go up on the private blog…

7 April 2006
Filed under:Arts Reviews at12:23 am

Signs poster
I just finished watching Signs which came out on TV a few weeks ago. In my view it is one of the worst films I have seen in years – I was moved to rant about its sheer awfulness on the IMDB but I realised after having written it that there are 2,108 other people who have also written reviews. Boy has the Internet Movie Database grown! I remember it when it started more than 10 years ago as a pet project of a couple of film-mad Brits…

To save you following this link to the site here they are:

Having mostly enjoyed earlier works by M. Night Shyamalan because of their twist endings which put the whole work into a different perspective, I stuck with this right through to the end hoping that the increasingly ludicrous plot would turn out to be explained as some kind of hallucination or something. Imagine my disappointment when the incredibly stupid, unconvincing alien invasion turns out to be just what it seemed to be! Oh, and Mel Gibson’s acting is wooden, and the faith vs reason ‘subplot’ underlying the film has about as deep as a shallow puddle. The film neither scared me nor made me think. I want 106 minutes of my life back.

I’ll never watch another of his films again…

4 April 2006

According to the New York Times, Iraq has as loose a system of gun control as the US – anyone over 25 “of good character” can own a firearm (including AK-47s!) and gun sales are accellerating. The rules date back to the Saddam regime but the US has not tried to change them. How a state can keep the peace without a monopoly on the use of force is beyond me…