Back To Aber

Haven’t posted to my weblog in a while, owing to a lack of internet access. Will get things up-to-date soon.

Claire and I are just leaving Preston, heading back to Aber. Hope to see those folks who are there already soon!

Starting To Move

Many boxes are packed. Car is full of stuff. At 9am tomorrow, we start moving things. As stated before, all help is welcome!

This means that our internet connectivity is likely to be shaky for a few days, so, if you need us (or if something goes amiss: e.g. Abnib falls over, Dan & Alex fails to update, etc.), phone me rather than e-mailing or looking for me in the usual chat room. My contact details are on the “Where Is The Sharp?” page, along with our new address and other information.

More Madness From Super Bust-A-Move

I don’t get it. To prove to myself I could complete Super Bust-A-Move in Classic Mode, I did it again, by a slightly different route (you have some degree of choice over the levels you do as you progress through the game). I finished on a different level set, and got this final screen.

Another Super Bust-A-Move winning screen

It’s not as weird as the last one I saw, but I’m still finding these at least a little confusing.

Claire and I are moving tomorrow, so if you can help out, please do! We’ll be kicking off at about 9am at The Flat and going on for most of the day. Drop in to The Flat or The Sharp at any point during the day, or give us a call, and we’ll give you a job to do. Thanks in advance!

Another Super Bust-A-Move winning screen×

Abnib, Version 3.0

Abnib Version 1.0 was a funny little beast. It was built to accomodate for about half a dozen bloggers, but ended up with about nine or ten. It worked, though, and the principle of aggregating the blog entries of our friends and our friends’ friends took off. Abnib 1.0 had a few major flaws: firstly, it only showed a summary of the post. This was partially because all but two of the bloggers thereon were using free LiveJournal accounts, and a limitation of free accounts at that time was that you could only get the first couple of hundred characters of a post at once. Another limitation was that the site design was columnular – each person had a column of their own, which dramatically reduced the space available and made in-post images impossible. Furthermore, Abnib 1.0, which updated itself wholly or partially every time it was visited, was as slow as a dog.

Abnib died when I accidently deleted a few key files for which I didn’t have backups, and that was the end of that. However, with Gareth‘s help, it was reborn in August 2004 as Abnib 2.0. This was powered by Planet, a Python-driven flexible feed aggregator which is used in all kinds of places for just the kinds of purposes we use it for. Jon went a step further and added an interesting new style to it, and we added the Abnib Gallery (Abnib 2.1), a place for all things Abnib to share photos. Abnib became a real “centre” for our fun little crowd, gathering information on Troma Night and the RockMonkey wiki, as well as the usual weblogs. The release of Abnib 2.2 brought extra abilities much-requested by users, such as the ability to “hide” the community feeds. That’s where we are now.

However, all is not well. There are a few key things I’d like to see improved in Abnib:

  • Several LiveJournal users have commented (Paul comments, Matt comments) that sometimes, when they make multiple posts in quick succession, Abnib only picks up on the most recent of them. I’m not sure what’s causing this, so it’s probably Planet.
  • Some people like to make lots of “friends only” posts (a LiveJournal feature whereby you can restrict visability of your posts to specific other LiveJournal users). As more and more people use Abnib as their “quick window” onto Aber blogs, people are finding the need to make superficially-pointless posts (like this one) in order to ensure that people realise that they have made a “friends only” post that might otherwise be overlooked.
  • Abnib 2.2 still isn’t quite doing so much for the community as I’d like it to be; it isn’t as interactive or as inspiring as I feel a weblog aggregation portal should be.

So, in order to fix these problems (among others) and implement some new features, I’ve begun work on Abnib 3.0. This new version of Abnib will:

  • Correctly deal with multiple posts in quick succession from LiveJournal users.
  • Better integrate with Abnib Gallery.
  • If permitted (by individual bloggers – either overall or on a case-by-case basis), advertise when you have made a “friends only” post, and how to go about reading it if you have permission.
  • Load faster by holding content back until requested (for example, only the 20 most recent posts are shown by default, but more can be displayed without a page refresh: up to 80!).
  • Hold meta-information on members such as a short description, which can be updated by that member only.
  • Allow readers to ‘hide’ any or all feeds, in order to focus on the things that matter to them.

It’s all powered by a new weblog aggregation engine called Phatnet, which I’ve been building for the last few weeks specifically for this purpose. And it’s pretty damn gorgeous. But that’s not all. Experimental features which might end up part of it now or later include:

  • Tighter integration with RockMonkey – see what pages other people are reading.
  • Ajax-powered “keep me posted” features, such as a checkbox that, when checked, automatically adds new posts to Abnib as they are written – right in front of your eyes.
  • Comment counting: know how many comments have been made on standards-compliant blog posts.
  • A couple of other things I’ve been playing with.

Hopefully, I can get Abnib 3.0 finished and released later in December. If you want to see what’s been done so far and how it all fits together, take a peep at the Abnib 3.0 Preview (it updates every few days, so it’s no good for actually reading blog posts on, but it should give you an idea about some of the features: try clicking the “More Posts…” link at the bottom or on people’s names in the sidebar). It’s ugly as sin, but hey. Feedback appreciated.

Super Bust-A-What-The-Fuck?

Just completed Super Bust-A-Move in Classic Mode. When you win, you’re presented with the following screen (the text slowly fades in a line at a time):

Super Bust-A-Move end screen

What the fuck?

Super Bust-A-Move end screen×

Where Are We Moving?

On Wednesday, 14th December 2005, Claire and I are moving house. For those of you who are allowed to know where we’re going, here’s a map and things [update: link killed late 2006]. You’ll need to answer two to six weighted-value questions of your choice to demonstrate that you actually know us and aren’t just scary stalker types before you get the address, but these have been geared such that most of our friends and family are able to come up with sufficient answers to “get in”. And if not, just get in touch with us and we’ll tell you what you need to know.

Why Liz Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Text

Yesterday, I received the following text message from Liz, out-of-the-blue:

Hey! Hope your[sic] having a great time. Yes i[sic] care. L x

I thought that was a little unusual, but as this is Liz (who once sent me a text to tell me to “stay sexy”), I didn’t think too much of it.

Today, while I was in the RockMonkey chat room, where Liz was logged in as well, I was even more surprised to get a text from her (after all: she could just have typed her message to me). This one read:

Our stats coursework is back. I got 83 per cent. So so amazed. L

She announced this to the chat room at the same time, and so I started to wonder whether she’d meant to send me this message, and, of course, on a similar train of thought, whether she’d meant to send me the previous message.

<Ava_Work> You were so impressed with yourself… you texted me, too [as well as telling me here]! =o)
<LizH> sorry I was trying to text other dan [her boyfriend]. Damn what else have I been texting you. If itas anything naughty im sorry. Im so gonna have to start checkinigwho im txting now

For a moment, I was tempted to write this blogpost and make up that she’d texted me something naughty. Like, “Dan, I want your cock in me right now.” But then, if she’d have been sending me messages like that, I’d have not for a moment thought that it might have been destined for somebody else.

The End Of An Era

Well; yesterday saw the final Troma Night ever to take place in The Flat. Not to worry: there’ll be more at The Sharp, as I’m currently calling Claire and I’s new home, because “it’s like The Flat… only a little bit higher.” Still, it feels odd taking down all the film posters and things and packing all the tech’ into boxes.

It’s amazing quite how much stuff we’ve accumulated. We’re taking the oppertunity to purge some of it. I climbed into the attic here and started emptying it yesterday. This resulted in a find of:

  • Three computers in various states of disrepair
  • Two monitors
  • Two printers
  • Heaps of other stuff, tech’ and non-tech’

Most of this ‘spare’ computer tech is going to CRAFT for recycling, unless any of you want it, in which case come and claim it today and it’s yours. We don’t have an attic where we’re going, and we’d rather not fill up the spare bedroom with stuff just because we never use it – if we never use it, we don’t need to keep it!

Don’t forget, we’re moving Wednesday and all help this week – Wednesday, and Thursday/Friday for packing, moving, and cleaning/unpacking, respectively – is much appreciated. And a huge thanks to Paul already for doing the washing up, which is no mean feat!

Right – Claire’s complaining that I’m not helping her find the TV remote, so I’ll go do that. Jimmy – we’ve acquired a copy of last night’s Space Cadets (which, of course, we missed as a result of an overlap with Troma Night) so if you want to see it, come over sometime during the day.

Back to the packing;


Those who found themselves confused by my programming recipe the day before yesterday can now be a little less confused (hopefully): here’s the explanation.

The program is written in an esoteric programming language called Chef, who’s sole purpose is to be able to write computer programs that look like recipes. There are even competitions to write programs in it that can also be cooked as real dishes. It’s a strange world. Each of the ingredients is a primitive kind of variable (for the non-programmers: a named entity [eggs, penne pasta, etc.] that can contain a value). The values that these variables can be instantiated with are numbers, and the numbers are given at the start of the line. Therefore, at the start of the program, eggs=3 and penne pasta=56.

These are “put” into the mixing bowl one at a time. The mixing bowl is a stack – the things put in to it first appear at the bottom, with other things on top of it (for the non-programmers: stacks are immensely useful in almost all programming languages, so programmers tend to have no trouble with being told “the mixing bowl is a stack”). So, when the first item (penne pasta) is put into the mixing bowl, it (and it’s associated value, 76) sits at the bottom of the bowl, ready for other things to be “put” on top of it.

However, we do some more complicated things, such as “adding” a birds-eye chilli. “Adding” is not the same as “putting”. When something is “added” to the mixing bowl, the value of it’s ingredient is added, mathematically, to the value of the thing at the top of the bowl. So, for example, when we add “1” birds-eye chilli to the mixing bowl which contains only “76” grams of penne pasta, we end up with a mixing bowl containing just “77” grams of penne pasta.

“Combining” is another Chef operation. After we’ve put the fresh ginger (17) in, we combine it with the cinammon (5), which results in a multiplication of the top item in the bowl, resulting in 85. “Removing” the birds-eye chilli (1) reduces this number by 1, because the “remove” operation means “reduce the value of the ingredient from the value of the ingredient in the top of the mixing bowl”. Later, we “stir”, the mixture, which moves some of the values in the stack around (read the spec if you care). And eventually, we “liquefy” the contents of the mixing bowl, which turns the numbers into their Unicode equivilent (typically letters): N, A, M, T, A, C, and S.

The baking tray is the output buffer (buffet?) in which things must be placed to be output to the screen, and the “serves” directive indicates which baking tray (we only have one in my recipe, but the language specification allows for multiple bowls, trays, and even delegation of sauces and other side dishes to other chefs – see the recipe for Fibonacci Numbers with Caramel Sauce [and notice the recursion – “caramel sauce should be served with caramel sauce”]) we output to the screen.

Jon earns himself a pint from working through the program, the mad fool that he is. There was a flaw in his logic, though, that made him come up with “NAMTACS” as the answer: he forgot that the baking tray, too, is a stack, and that the order of the ingredients is not changed in the transfer from the mixing bowl to the baking tray (check the spec!)… when popping ingredients out of the baking tray, they come out in reverse order. A pint to Paul for spotting his mistake. The correct output is “SCATMAN”.

Thanks to David Morgan-Mar for this fantastic programming language. He’s also the man behind LenPEG, an image compression algorithm which, for selected images, can achieve lossless compression at a ratio of 6,291,456:1, and HQ9++, an object-oriented language which provides the most code-efficient possible method ever to write test programs such as Hello World, 99 Bottles Of Beer, and the Quine program, although nobody has ever successfully written a Fibonacci generator or a Towers of Hanoi solver in it.

ALP Property Management, Again

Regular readers might remember that a few weeks ago I had dealings with ALP in Aberystwyth, a letting agency. This afternoon I received a phone call from a representative of them.

He seemed to be threatening to take legal action because of “discrepancies in the allegations” I’d made in my weblog post. Of course, I don’t ever want to be responsible for any libel, so I gave him an e-mail address to which he can address his concerns, so that I can deal with them speedily. It’d be particularly troublesome if we couldn’t come to an agreement over the terms used, because it’d be a real bother to have to look into U.S. libel laws (Scatmania is, of course, hosted in the United States of America, which has significantly different laws on things like libel – and, if I remember correctly, any legal case would have to be raised over there).

Just in case any other letting agencies or landlords read this, I’d like to make it clear that I just “say what I see”. And, to demonstrate this, I’d like to say a few words about some of the other property letting agencies in Aberystwyth that we’ve been dealing with in our hunt for a new home. In order that I remembered them:

  • GD Lettings don’t open on Saturdays, which is remarkably inconvenient, but seemed friendly and pleasant.
  • Lloyd, Herbert and Jones are friendly and willing to discuss pretty much any arrangement – RECOMMENDED.
  • Alexanders charge £35 for a credit check before you can let with them, which is a minor concern, but are extremely professional and knowledgeable about what they do.
  • ABA charge £50 “agents fee” before you start letting with them, which seems a little steep, but always seem to have plenty of interesting properties to look at. The staff are laid-back and friendly.
  • I’ve heard mixed things about Phillip Evans, but nothing to cause me excess concern. Sadly, they never seem have any interesting properties available when I’m looking for one, but otherwise they’re good. Plus, their plastic business cards are great for opening locks to which you’ve lost they key.

All in all, the Aberystwyth letting scene is good (if a little expensive, but that’s just the area, I guess). In my mind, it’s only a minority that are disappointing.

A Challenge For My Programmer Friends

So you think you’re a dab hand at learning new and unusual programming languages: even the most bizarre of them. You can get your head around Perl, and you might have even looked at LISP. Well, let’s see who’s first to correctly tell me what the output of the following computer program is. It’s unique (I’ve just written it, and you won’t find it elsewhere on the ‘net), so you’ll have to first work out what the programming language is. At that point, you’ll need to either find a platform on which you can run it, or “whitebox” decipher it by hand.

A pint, and my respect, to the first person to solve it. If nobody solves it, the pint’ll go to whoever seemed to be most on the right track.

Scatman Dans Pasta Bake.

A quick and tasty meal for programmers everywhere: baked pasta with a spicy
kick. Cook and drain the pasta first, and pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celcius
(gas mark 4).

76 g penne pasta
75 g fusilli pasta
65 g grated cheddar cheese
64 ml vegetable stock
21 g courgette
17 g fresh ginger
11 g crushed garlic
8 teaspoons olive oil
7 g parsley
5 level teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
2 sliced new potatoes
1 birds eye chilli
1 pinch hot chilli powder

Cooking time: 30 minutes.

Put penne pasta into the mixing bowl. Add birds eye chilli. Add hot chilli
powder. Put crushed garlic into the mixing bowl. Combine parsley. Put fresh
ginger into the mixing bowl. Combine cinnamon. Remove birds eye chilli. Put eggs
into the mixing bowl. Combine courgette into the mixing bowl. Add sliced new
potatoes. Put vegetable stock into the mixing bowl. Add eggs. Put fusilli pasta
into the mixing bowl. Add olive oil. Put grated cheddar cheese into the mixing
bowl. Stir for 5 minutes. Liquify contents of the mixing bowl. Pour contents of
the mixing bowl into the baking dish.

Serves 1.

Warning: do not try to cook this dish as if it were a genuine recipe!

Driving Theory Test

Took a mock driving theory test provided by Statto today. Think I did quite well.

certified by
The Statto-JTA Mock Driving Theory Test

You’re a

Your passengers think you’re a little crazy.

Every road trip takes in a fantastic landscape of dreamlike imagination as you trip the tarmac fantastic. You’re still convinced that one day you will find the ‘man putting up an umbrella’ those signs keep warning you about.

take the test at

Sorry, Statto – had to make a few tweaks to the code to make it “work” on my blog – negative margins are bad, okay? Floats are the way forwards.

Let’s Get Packing!

A huge thank you to Paul and whoever his four unnamed helpers were who helped to pack up a lot of the stuff in The Flat this weekend into a huge stack of boxes. This is an enormously good start, and really morale-inspiring for Claire and I. Thank you.

Now; we’re not ungrateful or anything, but you lot do know we’re not moving for another week and a half, right? We came back, expecting that Paul would have, as he implied, cleared up the kitchen window ledge… and, in actual fact, this is just about the only part of The Flat that hasn’t been moved, disassembled, or put into a box… eek!

But seriously: Paul, and whoever your four helpers are (and I’d appreciate you naming them) – thank you!


Mr. And Mrs. Melton

Wedding was fun. Rain held off, barely, but it was still bitterly cold – who gets married in December, anyway? Piccies (bigger ones – clickies):

Congratulations, Jon and Pat, and all that.

We’re going to visit a few people while we’re in this part of the country, then head back to Aber this evening. Hope Troma Night went well. See you all soon.

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