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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in rpc25's LiveJournal:

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Monday, May 4th, 2009
8:16 pm
Monitoring the situation
At home I currently have a computer provided by work. This is a Good Thing, as it allows me to post to livejournal^W^W^W unveil the mysteries of the Universe from home in the evenings. The computer itself is a generic HP/compaq desktop, with an HP L2045w monitor.

A few months ago, the monitor started to play up. Sporadically it would switch on, and then the display would flicker and go black. This problem could be fixed by turning the monitor off and on again, but became progressively worse until it reached the point where I was spending ten minutes turning the monitor off and on again to get any response from it at all. So I took the monitor back into work and the sysadmin swapped it for an identical one.

Monitor number two arrived home, and worked fine for a few weeks. Then, one morning, I switched it on and the screen remained black. Permanently. So back into work it went.

In the meantime, the sysadmin had sent the first monitor back to HP for repair and received a replacement. Monitor number three came home with me, and I unpacked it to find that it was a different model to the one I'd had previously. It was 22" instead of 20", but it didn't have a DVI input and the pixel definition was not quite so good. I mentioned this to the sysadmin, who looked it up on the web and noted that it was a cheaper model than the one that we'd sent back -- which he wasn't very impressed with -- so in to work it went (along with the computer so that it could be upgraded to an Ubuntu release with security support).

Monitor number four arrived home this evening, along with the newly-upgraded computer. I plugged it in and powered it up, then set about re-arranging the desktop settings. I'd just finished enabling gnome shortcut keys and was about to implement meta-sends-escape in xterm, when the monitor started to make a very annoying high-pitched whining noise. It's still doing it now, half an hour later...

The moral of this story is: don't buy a monitor from HP. Particularly not an L2045w...

Current Mood: unimpressed
Saturday, March 14th, 2009
11:51 pm
facebook (again)
And I quote:

> In addition, you agree not to use the Service or the Site to:
> ...
> upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available
> any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful,
> defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar,
> obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights,
> hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;

Erm, how am I supposed to know what you deem any particular piece of content to be?

Also -- if it's not allowed to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, abusive, inflammatory, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy, hateful or otherwise objectionable -- who's going to be interested in it?
Friday, January 30th, 2009
7:00 pm
Air conditioning
It's hot in Melbourne at the moment. Really rather hot. So it's a good thing for the productivity of the maths department here at Monash that we have air conditioning, which was generously fitted by the University in all this building's offices a few years ago.

However, the campus only has a finite power supply available, and when the building starts to use "too much power" it notices and "load sheds", or, in other words, switches the air conditioning back off again. Currently it's working fine, but then there's hardly anybody else in at this time of day. Most of the day it wasn't, and on the other (sunny) side of the building it was really quite unpleasant.

I would complain about how rubbish this is, but it appears to be a scale-invarient problem.
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
9:06 pm
To the best of my knowledge I purchased a total of two items from Woolworths during my 25-odd years living in England:

* A pack of three picture hooks, and
* A plastic lunchbox.

Both were bought from the store on Sidney Street in Cambridge. When that closed to be replaced by a branch of Next, it seemed that one of the more useful shops in Cambridge city centre had been lost.

I think this anecdote may hint at the reason why Woolworths Group is no longer a going concern...
Monday, February 25th, 2008
10:46 pm
Port Phillip Bay
Port Phillip Bay is the bay that Melbourne is built on the very northern tip of. The eastern side is mostly sandy beaches with Melbourne's southern and eastern suburbs built up against it, before turning into the semi-rural Mornington Peninsula. The western side is less built-up until you get to Geelong, Victoria's second city, and the Bellarine Peninsula at the far southern end. The two peninsulae almost meet (there's a gap of a few km, through which all of Port Melbourne's shipping passes) and a ferry operates across between Sorrento and Queenscliff. The beaches are somewhat idylic; the tidal range is rather small and the waves gentle, and the sand a golden brown colour, with relatively little marine litter or seaweed. The majority users seem to be families with young children, 'surf rescue' clubs, whose members appear to outnumber surfers by a considerable margin, and kitesurfers.

I seem to have started a project to walk round Port Phillip Bay, mostly because it gets me out of the house at the weekends, but also because it would seem to be a shame to waste a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see lots of coastline that nice. In time-honoured tradition I've started with the easy bits, doing Port Melbourne to Parkdale (but not in that order, and in three separate chunks) so far. There are photos at


and Wikipedia will tell you more about the bay.
Sunday, February 17th, 2008
9:31 pm
Today I passed through, amongst others, the following places:

PlacenamesCollapse )
Nothing new under the Sun, eh?
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008
10:28 pm
New things, and a new year
In 2007, I

  • Rented somewhere to live from a Real Person
  • Visited Stockholm
  • Became a doctor
  • Had a paper that I am an author on cited by a paper than I am not an author on
  • Acquired a scar on my right hand
  • Traveled on a National Express coach
  • Fell asleep in a meeting
  • Went on holiday with my partner
  • Was the best man at a wedding
  • Moved out of Europe
  • Paid income tax
  • Visited Canberra
  • Volunteered on a preserved railway
  • Spent Christmas away from my immediate family
  • Bought a hat
  • Saw a koala in the wild

none of which I'd done before and most of which I'm glad to have done at least once. Here's to the novelties that 2008 has in store!
Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
2:59 pm
Melbourne Forecast
Issued at 10:45 am EDT on Saturday 22 December 2007

Warning Summary
A severe weather warning for localised damaging winds is current.
A flood warning summary is current.

Forecast for Saturday
Showers tending to rain at times with the chance of a thunderstorm. Fresh
westerly wind turning colder southwesterly by the afternoon and strengthening. 

I'm glad to see that the Melbourne weather has finally got the hang of what to do at Christmastime. I was worried for a bit that it was going to be sunny...
Sunday, December 16th, 2007
11:45 pm
Amanda works at Mount Stromolo Observatory, just outside Canberra, and invited me to visit for a few days. So off I went, and a few days ended up turning into a week. Some good things (seing as Canberra seems to get a bit of a bad press generally): the countryside round the city is really nice; you wouldn't know that it had mostly been consumed by bush fire a few years ago. There's lots of wildlife; during the week I saw numerous lizards, including Gippsland water dragons and an eastern brown snake (which is apparently deadly when it's in a bad mood) and lots of birds; galahs, cockatoos and numerous crimson rosellas. The Observatory is a really friendly place with very social staff and an excellent coffee machine, and the views from the mountain are superb. Amanda and Robin were very generous and friendly hosts, and they make excellent cocktails; I only aquired two small flesh wounds from the cats. The Australian supercomputer centre is very impressive; lots of big whirring racks and optical fibres. The city itself, though, was a bit of a let-down; the calculated design makes it feel somewhat sterile, and the centre is too spread out for it to feel like a "proper" city. Plus the parliament building is unimpressive from the outside, though it looks good at night. Amanda described it as an easy place to live in and I can see that; the roads are pretty quiet, the centre feels unthreatening at night, there were shops nearby and so forth, but it feels a bit too much as if the position of every tree has been decided by a subcommittee...

Incidentally, the airport is dreadful; there was a small cafe and a newsagent before security and no shops whatsoever after it. On the other hand there was free (though slightly illegitimate) wireless and two people who I'd never met before came up to me and chatted to me; that would never happen in the UK :-)
Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
10:24 pm
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
A couple of weeks ago or so I had a telephone line and cable broadband connection installed. A couple of days later, I got a phone call at work from somebody from the phone company, who asked me a few questions about what I thought of the installer and the job that he'd done. I thought he was fine, so I gave him full marks. What ammused me, though, was the first question, which was "This call may be recorded for quality monitoring purposes. Are you OK with that?".

Computational astrophysics occasionally seems slightly distant from the day-to-day needs of humanity. But I'm sure it's a more useful job than monitoring the quality of the job done by the people that monitor the quality of the job done by the people that install telephone lines!
Thursday, October 25th, 2007
9:17 pm
Those of a numerical bent may wish to consider the following programme:
GrrrCollapse )

Current Mood: Still happy
6:39 pm
The kindness of strangers
I'm now the proud owner of an inflatable double matress. In its "stored" state, it comprises a cylinder, aproximately as long as I am tall, about a foot in diameter and probably 10-15 kilos of mass. In other words, it's a pain to move. It has been sat in my office for a couple of days, and I thought it was probably about time it got taken home.

I'd made it about five minutes walk from the department, and my neck was beginning to ache irritatingly, when a car pulls up by the side of the road a few metres ahead of me and a chap jumps out. "That looks a bit heavy", he says, "would you like a lift?". So we faff about getting it into his car (we needed to put both seats down in the end) and then off we go; he drove round to my house, chatting about cosmology and so forth, and then refused to let me give him anything in return for the favour.

Restores one's faith in humanity, that sort of thing :-)

Current Mood: happy
Monday, October 15th, 2007
9:37 am
One of the things you need in a kitchen is a chopping board, so I bought one from the two-dollar shop. It's made of wood (hopefully not recycled rainforest :-/), and the packing it came in bears the following list of bullet points, reproduced verbatim:

  • Protects All Surfaces
  • Sanitary, Beautiful
  • Easy wash & Dry
  • Neat & Non-toxic
  • Keep away from fire
  • If dirty, Please wash by neutral cleaner.

I thought that was rather lovely. Particularly "Neat and Non-toxic" :-)
9:27 am
Wildlife roundup
So this weekend I saw...

(a) Two possums. One was on a fence, and ran away as it saw me coming (pretty wise really). The other was on the ground; I saw it crossing the road and stopped. Possums are funny; they're a lot like squirrels in terms of how quickly they move and the way that they freeze and then look nervously from side to side. They tend to be somewhat frightened of big animals that move, dingos being the obvious thing they'd need to avoid.

(b) Two fruit bats. At a first glance they look like crows, but they're the wrong shape and crows aren't out at night...

(c) A kookabura (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kookabura), sitting dumpily in a tree and looking just like the photos do. I'd heard them before but never seen one up close...

So pretty good for a weekend! Clayton seems to have more wildlife than you'd imagine.

(Oh, and there were two women with bearded dragons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bearded_dragon) loose on the train on Sunday. I even got to stroke one of them. One of the dragons, that is. :)
Saturday, January 13th, 2007
4:07 pm
Feature request: focus follows eyeballs
An eyetracking device that placed the window focus onto the window that I was looking at would be incredibly useful. You could turn it on and off by blinking, say, and ideally it would use x2x to work seamlessly across multiple desktops. To solve the problem where I look at my desktop's monitor and type on my laptop's keyboard...

Has anybody tried to do anything like this? I seem to remember that when Tim was doing his project N years ago the state of the art in eyetracking wasn't all that great; what does it look like now?
Sunday, December 31st, 2006
6:09 pm

I've been making feeble efforts towards clearing out my room this visit home, and I've found, amongst other things, in the cupboard in my room:

  • A DOS 3.3 system disk
  • A small bottle of propalene glycol
  • A football-sized globe of the moon
  • Two 486 laptops
  • Six Rubik's cubes
  • A 256MB stick of ram (PC3200 CL3 in case anybody wants it)
  • Two Maplin catalogues from the mid-90s
  • Four name cards from formal dinners in College
  • A 1950s (?) valve-based reel-to-reel tape recorder
  • A packet of peppermints, best before 2001

Do other people hoard useless crap in the same way that I apparently do?

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
5:31 pm
Christmas Cultural Experiences
In descending order...

1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, by James Shapiro

My parents got me this for Christmas and I really enjoyed it. Shapiro deals with the lack of historical information about Shakespeare's life by covering just 1599, mostly discussing the plays Shakespeare wrote that year and the events in contemporary politics and the theatre company he was part of that can be seen to have had a significant effect on his writing. There's lots of detail about late Elizabethan foreign politics as well as discussion of the texts of the plays, and it's very well written and enjoyable.

Deja Vu

A cops-and-robbers^Wterrists film with added time travel and a "not bad looking" lead male actor. A few nice big explosions and some quality dangerous driving. "Complete nonsense, but good fun anyway", as one of my friends put it.


I'd not tried any of the Japanese number puzzle things before I came home for Christmas. Probably a good thing; my PhD was close enough to the deadline as it was. For such a mindless activity Kakuro is surprisingly compulsive...

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 15th, 2006
11:20 am
I don't know where the seductive allure of mindless number puzzles comes from, but it's certainly real. As ever I seem to be a couple of years behind the curve...

In other news: Hull is closer to thermal equillibrium than Lund, being colder inside but warmer outside. The Australian attitude to forms is thankfully more laid back than the Swedish one. Mice are pesky little blighters. Parental cooking is good. Being on holdiay (FSVO holiday) is very nice indeed...

(Oh, and in case you hadn't heard I'm now less-proto-doctor Church)
Monday, October 9th, 2006
10:24 pm
Week 1
Having been in Lund a week now, I've realised that the differences from home that I notice the most are the little ones. For example, most light switches here operate the other way round (to turn the light one one presses the top edge). Cars drive on the other side of the road, so it's best to walk on the right-hand side of the shared-use foot/cycle paths (which are most of the city's pavements). Cars cross pedestrian crossings during the green man phase, but stop for you (which, coming from Britain, is very disconcerting).

Lots more witteringsCollapse )
Monday, October 2nd, 2006
9:39 pm
I'm now in Lund University Observatory, where I'm going to be working for the next two months (and quite probably rather longer). If you want to know what the city and department look like then there are some handy photos from last time I was here. This one shows nicely the department building (the big rectangular one that fills the picture) and the place where I'm living (the little cottage in the top right). I may have a shorter commute than some people who work at home...

More stuff about Sweden and Lund and so forth will be written here* as and when I get round to it...

[*] I nearly said "blogged" there. Sombody should probably shoot me. Also, whilst the third person is very nice, I don't really need to use it all the time any longer...
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