Monday, February 27, 2006

Almost by Chance in a Dario Fo Play

So, unexpectedly, I'm in a Dario Fo play. Turned up at the wrong audition at South London Theatre, and found myself with the part of Egerton, a spymaster, in "Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman", a foul-mouthed political farce set in the latter days of Elizabeth I.

The good news is I'm one of only six actors, we have a great director, and lots of ambitious plans for props, set and costumes. And it might be funny!

The bad news? Well, I'm feeling a lot more exposed now I'm off the chorus line. The show is on a lot quicker than I thought, so we have five weeks to get it together. It clashes with almost everything else in my life, and the rest of the family are a bit miffed.

Alos, I have to break it to the Sunday School, who said our panto was the best they'd been to, that this swear-fest might not be suitable for them (though I reckon any teenager doing the Tudors should enjoy seeing Elizabeth as a "moody, manipulative, foul-mouthed, incontinent hermaphrodite").

And I have to tell my Morris team that, yet again, I'm going to miss a lot of practice - including tonight!

Friday, February 24, 2006

NetEvents nerds raise cash for cancer

Originally uploaded by judgecorp.
Nan Chen of Strix is holding a cheque for $32,000 raised in a charity auction at NetEvents.

The money is forCancer Research and the Prostate Project. It was raised in an auction of items including six bottles of pink wine, two World Cup tickets (to see France v Togo) and a ride in Manek Dubash's Aston Martin.

Well done everyone!

Another fine mess...?

These NetEvents meetings are not just speed-dating for nerds. Oh dear me no. They are so much more.

In interactive sessions round a table, we get the skinny on top companies' tech strategy, and even help to shape it.

Steve Vogelsang is a VP of the data networking division of ECI Telecom - which was created when ECI bought a company called Laurel Networks.

I was able to suggest a strategy that I believe they will now take forward. They absolutely have to buy Hardy Networks.

Then they can move on and buy Keystone Networks and launch products that implement the COPS protocol.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Municipal wireless is like platform shoes

"Everything goes in buying cycles, because we forget how awful it was the last time around," says Ian Keene, analyst at Gartner, talking at NetEvents. "Like platform shoes.

"Maybe local governments are only building theirown wireless networks, because they've forgotten what a pain it is to own your own network. It's fifteen years since they owned their own cables. All those people have retired by now, so they think 'own our own networks? Great idea.'"

But he admits he might just be being negative. Wireless can be much easier to deploy. And there are some very useful applications, like CCTV (easy to move cameras around), environmental monitoring, and so forth.

But the big headline-grabbing application, Internet access, could be a flash in the pan, he says. Public access and regeneration are political issues, not driven by real user pull, he says: local governments are generally felt to be poor service deliverers, so will people use their metro networks? .

And the technology issues is a surprise too. There's a fixation on Wi-Fi, and Keene is surprised that few - in fact, he says absolutely no - local authorities are planning to use the operators' 3G networks for their own applications.

Single Point of Failure - the power cord

OK, so I should get a newer laptop that can actually live on batteries for an appreciable length of time.

But I never spotted this particular single point of failure. My power lead just started crackling. I've borrowed one, but I'm maybe not going to be online as much as I thought.

Time to put my attention back into the room, I guess...

NetEvents in Germany

I'm blearily listening to a product marketing geezer talking about his network security product. There's snow outside. It must be NetEvents.

I've been coming on these computer-industry speed-dating events for years now. In the next two days, I'll get about 20 hours of product spiel.

The difference is, now we are all on wireless. This means Guy Kewney can post the news, and I can switch off and play around and write this.

The bad side of this is, I'm not sure I have enough attention left in the room to pick up on any interesting debates that might actually happen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Physics through Morris Dancing.

So, tonight. my Morris side is dancing to explain science. We're showing how Rayleigh scattering makes the sky blue. We will have to explain it to weather forecaster Sian Lloyd, so I've done a quick check on the Web to revise how Rayleigh scattering works.

And of course, this being the Internet, there's also a rock band of the same name. They have tracks to download, but unfortunately, their music is the wrong tempo to use as we dance our explanation.

I have a theory that within the next few years, reall information will disappear on the web. Already, you bump into obscure rock band at an out-of-the-way American universities have nearly got it covered. When China really takes off and completely adopts capitalism, the world supply of alienated students will be multiplied by a factor of 100, and all Internet search terms will lead to rock bands.

With this RFID tag, I thee wed

Apparently a couple has exchanged RFID tags in the US. The radio beacons, implanted under their skin, give them access to each other's house, car, computer and so on.

This sounds very modern - they're also modern enough, you'll notice, to be a couple but not to actually be living together - and it certainly could have practical benefits.

Take me, for instance. I'm currently not exactly sure where my wedding ring is. I took it off because it was irritating a cut on my finger, and Alison put it in a drawer to keep it safe. But which drawer?

Now, if we'd had RFID tags implanted instead, there'd be no danger of losing them.

Thank goodness - Civil Partnership is old hat

I went to my first Civil Partnership ceremony on Saturday. That's officialese for Gay Wedding - legal in Britain since December. I like the official phrase because it expresses the ordinariness of the occasion.

Not ordinary, as in dull, disappointing or anything like that. It was, like any wedding, a wonderful occasion. And actually a bit more so because - like a lot of the first Civil Ceremonies - it was between two people who've already been together for years. There were lots of family members and lots of friends, and a certain feeling of "about time too".

Two months on from the start of Civil Ceremonies, there are a lot of ways in which Civil Partnerships are - and should be - old hat. The registrar looked very pleased to be doing the ceremony, but it clearly wasn't her first, and there have been plenty more in Marylebone Registry Office.

That's the mark of a real change: when it's unremarkable.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Worm speed record

Ever noticed how fast worms travel? I was watching a big one in the park, moving across a large tarmac area.

Ten seconds elapsed between the first picture and the second one, and a distance of three or four inches.
I say, well done, worm!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sleeping bunnies - the most useful page on the Web

Our rabbit, Salt, needs medication in a sensitive area. Given how big a rabbit's back legs are and how sharp his claws are (they're made for digging!) this could be a risky business.

But not for us! I happened to stumble on a page where someone called Miriam explains how to put a bunny into a trance. Lay it on its back, and stroke its nose and cheeks.

With Salt, it works without fail, in a few seconds. This is the best "sleeping bunny" pic we have so far. More later.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hacking playground memes

My girls were very keen to teach me the three hand gestures used in the Phones 4 U adverts.

"Hannah taught it to us," they said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's in an ad."

"Yes, but why do you want to do something from an ad?"

Finding that particular advert personally very irritating indeed, was enough to fuel a satisfying rant:

"Girls, have you heard of memes? There's a point of view that our entire purpose on earth is to reproduce our genes. Some people say a chicken is just an egg's way to make another egg, and there's no meaning to our lives. We're just doing what our genes require us to do.

"But luckily, it's not that simple. We're social animals. We have culture, and we pass that on. So now, our entire purpose is to reporoduce these ideas, which people call memes. So now, our lives have no real purpose. We're just doing what these memes need us to do."

"Unless... how about this? Why does it have to be phones? WHy not something else?"

Hopefully, "bogies 4 U" is going round the playground even now...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

IT supplier calls for digital speed bumps?

There can be such a thing as too much technology, too powerful an interaction with our contacts, clients and colleagues. It could be time to put some speed bumps on what we used to call the superhighway.

That's what William Davies is arguing in the February issue of Prospect. I picked up his article from a link at Authority, an intriguingly titled blog filed by Michael Cross, on the web site of public sector IT supplier Civica.

Simplifying and parodying a long essay, Davies seems to be saying that by texting and emailing wherever we are, and doing business online, instead of in queues in the high street, we are dissolving society. We aren't doing do "real" stuff locally, anymore.

I know that's a poor translation, but I think I agree with what he's actually saying. I know I value local things where I meet actual people (the book group, church, the theatre) more than my work areas, where increasingly it feels like I interact with a shadowy bunch of geeks.

I've notice a paradox when those local groups go online, and "real" contacts turn into online ones. My fellow thesps, suffering from panto withdrawal, have been spamming each other with amusing Internet links, but now those who are on work email addresses are starting to drop out, because it's invading a different bit of their lives, and their IT managers and bosses are complaining.

It's interesting to get the "speed bumps" idea via that Authority blog. Davies is suggesting that IT should be limited, and it's passed on by an an IT supplier. Does Civica actually want to limit the IT it supplies to local authorities?

In fact, Davies' essay winds up by pointing out ways in which technology can help to protect and enhance isolation and silence (um, in a good way). I'll be interested to see how that might translate into stuff that a company like Civica might deliver....

To end, I like this quote from Davies:

"Telecommunications technologies have effectively flooded the market for social contact, rendering the market value of that contact worthless, just as would happen to gold should alchemy become possible."

I might spam that round my thesp buddies...

Turkish Delight - the results!

Turkish Delight
Originally uploaded by judgecorp.
Looks good enough to eat? Well do come over and have some, then. It's a bit sickly, dripping in syrup and far too honey-flavoured. Even Kitty says it's too sweet.

So thanks, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall (for it was his River Cottage Family Cookbook that provided the recipe)!

Apparently, since the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe came out, sales of Fry's Turkish Delight have gone up by 200 percent (didn't people notice, it's the Witch - the baddy who gives Edmund the Turkish delight?).

I also found out that I am the only one in my family who hums "Fry's Turkish Delight" to one of the tunes in Lord of the Rings. As far as I can remember, one of the main tunes from the films comes straight from the Turkish Delight adverts. Not the recent ones, but the ones from the 1970s.

I can't find that tune on the Web, but I know it's the same, and I remember the ads. The sweets were Full of Eastern Promise, and the ads were full of slave girls. And a giant eunuch bringing a sword... to slice open a piece of Turkish delight.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Making Turkish delight

Making Turkish delight 2
Originally uploaded by judgecorp.
The girls were desperate to make Turkish Delight. We got a "family cookbook" for Christmas, by Hugh Fearnley Whatisname. It tells you how to mash potatoes and boil eggs, but the Turkish Delight is what interested us.

It involved lots of sugar, cream of tartar, cornflour and rosewater. Also pink food colouring, which the girls discovered is great for fake wounds.