Thursday, June 28, 2007

28 June 2007: Bravely

What was that I said in my last blog about Tim Henman?

"My tip? Expect Tim to lose, bravely, later this week."

If you want the rest of the results before they happen, you'll have to pay me. Cheques payable to "The Wise Man In the Ninja E-Defence Grotto" please.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

26 June 2007: Tennis

Bizarre sight here on Level 4 a few minutes ago. I was meandering through the lab and was suddenly faced by a whole slew of people walking out of the coffee room and back to their desks, all smiling.

Turns out they'd had the Wimbledon coverage on in the coffee room and they'd just witnessed Tim Henman winning his first-round match against Carlos Moya, an epic five-set battle eventually won 13-11 by Henman this afternoon after it just got too dark last night to finish the game.

"He won!" exclaimed one happy IAMer.

Of course he did. It's round one. Even though Timmy's powers are definitely waning, he's still a better tennis player than me, you or most of the rest of the world. He's a better player right now, for instance, than Jeremy Bates was at his peak, or Mark Petchey, or any of the other nonentity players we used to cheer wildly for as they bravely lost in the second round or, maybe once in their careers, played with real heart and incredible luck to make it through to the fourth round. And it seems to me that the optimism and excitement shown today much more closely mirrors those good ol' days than the last ten or twelve years when we've had at least one (always male) player with a not-totally-unrealistic shot at actually winning the thing.

My tip? Expect Tim to lose, bravely, later this week.

My reason for meandering through the lab, incidentally, was to do with the still-tight deadline for graduating this year. Despite getting the amended thesis back from the bindery and actually handing it in, the process remains every-so-slightly incomplete as Dr Les, my internal examiner, still hadn't (as of this morning) handed over the necessary paperwork to the admin folks. So a quick chat with Dr Les (during which he assured me - and I repeat this for reasons of public record - that he will get it done before he leaves today) and that was, hopefully, that.

Meaning not only will the visiting relatives from the US be able to see me graduate this year (passports pending...) but I'll also be in the same graduation ceremony as my second bunch of students to whom I had the joy of teaching programming. Their results came out on Friday and showed a slew of 2.1s but just one first-class honours degree being awarded: congratulations to Kerry, and indeed to the rest of them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

25 June 2007: Norwegian Blue

This was the scene from the lakehouse in Hamar over in Norway. Not bad, especially considering the sunset lasts a good three hours at this time of year.

We were there a week ago but today's the first chance I've had to blog about it, what with visiting IBM for three days of ITA stuff, racing to get the thesis signed off and to the bindery in time to graduate this year (it's looking hopeful for Thursday's deadline - Dr Les said 'ok' and the bindery said 'we'll turn it around in two days if you give us lots of money'). Not to mention the laptop dying over the weekend, of which more anon.

Norway first: we went as Gloria's college buddy Kelly met and married this nice (and very tall) gentleman named Vegar, a Tolkein-loving Norwegian. They were married in Texas back in December (and we were there for that ceremony), but decided to wait for the good weather in Norway (about three days of the year, I gather) to hold their 'blessing' ceremony - like a wedding, but with the vows in the past (past-continuous I suppose) tense. So over we went, paying £160 for 2 return train tickets from Southampton to Stansted and £20 for two return flights from Stansted to Norway (there's a time, incidentally, where irony over prices is overtaken by sheer bewilderment at the price differential). Flew into "Oslo (Torp)", which is naturally nowhere near Oslo (it's like having an airport named London (Manchester)), bussed and railed it through the capital and a couple of hours north to Hamar, not far from Lillehammer (of Winter Olympics fame), and stayed with Kelly's family in a gorgeous lakeside cabin affording the almost continuous sunset view above. Celebrations all went well of course, and there are more photos online at: if you'd like to take a look.

Back home, of course, things were a little crazy. The stupidly-large eucalyptus tree is now gone from the garden (due, I'm happy to report, to tree surgery rather than high winds - photos also available at the above link); the car engine no longer smokes; the thesis is signed off and at the bindery and the laptop is, well, currently undergoing a form of therapy known locally as "a complete reinstall of Windows because Microsoft, Intel and Dell can't get their act together".

The reason? Try a Google search on: ialmrnt "infinite loop" and find a nasty problem to do with graphics cards, driver updates and the Blue Screen Of Death, a problem about which Dell support seem (from these sites) to be in continuous denial. All I did was allow Windows Update to perform a driver update for me, which it duly did, and naturally asked to restart the computer. When it did, it started ok, let me log in, but as it was running through its startup script (and before it gave me the chance to open anything), up popped (ever so briefly) the BSOD, and the computer then immediately restarted. Logged in again, waited 10 seconds, there's the flash of Blue Screen and reboot. And again. And again.

Eventually I got the camera out and started trying to snap the message on the blue screen before it vanished. After about eight attempts I got this, and discovered that something nasty was going on with this ialmrnt thing causing an infinite loop. The solution? Roll back the driver! Of course! Except the computer reboots itself before I can do anything, and good ol' Dell/Windows/whomever is responsible for such things have elected not to give me a "start up in safe mode" option (of course, that itself may not have worked either, but it would have been nice to try).

So out came the Windows XP disk, let's try rescuing this Windows installation. Well - it worked, kind of: a whole slew of "missing DLL" error boxes came up in the process, but eventually (and very slowly) it did let me back in to Windows. Of course, the Wireless connection threw lots of errors and Internet Explorer and many other things were totally corrupted; so all there is to do is to back up all the nice photos from Norway on to a safe place (thankfully the CD writer was still operational) and attempt a total format-and-reinstall-and-do-it-again-from-scratch. Currently the format operation is at 23% - maybe it will finish in time for a spot of lunch.

Or dinner, at this rate.

Vegar is right: PC bad, Mac good. Or maybe Macs are just as bad, they just look better when they fail?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

10 June 2007: Doctor

Very little time to blog this morning as we're off to London on the yes-you-can-actually-go-to-London-for-one-pound Megabus. And the eucalyptus tree is to start being chopped down this morning so I need to get some photos of that before it goes to remember just how disproportionally huge it is compared to the garden and house we're currently renting.

But it's probably important to note a milestone event in this AKTing Lark which took place on Friday morning, a 'viva voce' meeting between three professors and myself at which, subject to minor revisions, my thesis was successfully defended (somewhat vigorously at a couple of points) and thus I became Doctor Duncan. Got to turn the whole thing round and get the final hard-bound versions handed in by June 26 in order to graduate this year, but the wonders of email, word-processing and laser printing mean this is actually a relatively simple process, give or take going to London/London/Norway (as is happening this week, and yes London is deliberately mentioned in that list twice).

I'm not totally sure of the implications of this successful outcome for the rest of my life but graduation will take place at a ceremony on 23 July, at which I expect to receive my Tardis.

Happy days!

Postscript: What kind of dictionary does Blogger use such that the spellcheck function doesn't recognise 'Tardis'?