Thursday, February 24, 2005

the official website for the new Wallace and Gromit film, (originally to be titled Curse of the Wererabbit), is now online - Wallace & Gromit
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Some snaps from Meriel's Christening are now online.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Little, Big, by John Crowley, is one of my all-time favourite fantasy books - when I discovered that The 25th Anniversary Edition is being prepared, complete with illustrations, I was tempted to sign up for a copy - even though it will be another 18 months before it is published.
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My old HP scanner did not have any mac drivers on the CD, and there's precious little on either HP's or Apple's websites about how to set up the device (an HP Scanjet 3300c) but I have found this: TWAIN SANE Interface for MacOS X which looks like it might be able to do the job.
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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gene Wolfe is probably best known for his "Book of the New Sun" and connected series, but my favourite book of his is Latro in the Mist, which combines "Soldier in the Mist" and "Soldier of Arete"
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They tell the story of Latro, a roman mercenary fighting on Greece, who has suffered a would in the head. It means he has lost all long-term memory, so he writes everything down in a diary to re-read each day - but it has also given him the ability to see the gods.
Lupine Nuncio is a blog for news about Wolfe - apparently he's working on a third Soldier book, Soldier of Sidon
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Last week I posted a link to the 'Dear Aunty' letter which gave some arguments on why we should not join the Euro. I also passed it on to some friends who have a better understanding of economics for their comments.

Mike said "Basically the problem is one of convergence. If you have one currency to govern all the disparate economies of Europe then you have a problem in that a sluggish economy in need of a boost might want low interest rates to perk it up. A runaway economy might want high interest rates to choke it back and prevent inflation. Therefore you only go for monetary union with similar economies. It is questionable whether the British economy is running at the same speed as the euro economies. Over the last five years that I've been tracking it sterling has ... followed the dollar closer than the euro. Up until now our Beloved Chancellor has been wary of going into the euro until he is convinced it will work....although not a fan of Mr Brown, he is rightly cautious not to hand over his best tool for controlling the UK economy."

Jim said "The argument is sensible, and in fact it is the same line of reasoning you can read in The Economist magazine, whenever they discuss the 'stability pact' (the Maastricht 3% rule and so forth). ... I have learned about a number of accounting tricks played by various EU governments, to circumvent the rule by hiding many billion Euros of borrowing using various 'off-balance-sheet instruments'. The one used by Greece did eventually become common knowledge; some others did not. But in any case, since the EU decided to let France and Germany off scot-free when they broke the 3% rule, we can safely assume that it isn't really a rule any more ... more of a guideline.
There is a respectable literature in the field of economics on the subject of what makes a natural currency union (things like labour mobility, mechanisms for fiscal transfers, etc., as discussed in the 'Aunty' article). It is a point on which 'reasonable people might differ', but on balance I think that most economists would take the EMU-sceptic position - arguing that in the long run, EMU can only work if Europe has (at least from the point of view of setting government policies on tax and spending) a single government. Of course, that would be the view of a Euro-federalist too - and a conspiracy-theorist could suppose that this is why the European Commission (and the more Europhile EU governments) were pushing EMU - since they knew that the ultimate logic of EMU would be to force the EU governments to adopt a single economic government, or else to face economic dislocation and chaos, as/when EMU started to come apart as a result of fiscal divergence between the member states.
By the way, the only part of the Aunty letter that is no longer true is the part about pensions. The other EU states' pension systems are still in a mess, but now the UK's is too. This is the result of Gordon's raid (early in the first Labour government) on the pension funds' finances. At the time, the measure ("the abolition of advance corporation tax") was not as widely reported as it should have been - but the impact was to extract tens of billions per year from the UK pension funds (by arranging that most of their income would be taxed twice). This has meant that most "final salary" pension schemes in the UK no longer have enough money to pay out the pensions that they will, in due course, be obliged to. The other EU states still have a 'pensions black hole', but now we do too."

and Matthew pointed me to This article on Why Britain should join the Euro [PDF] for a reasonably well presented argument for the other side, which also addresses the points raised in the "Aunty" article.
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Timing Expert is an application written by Duncan and Jon - it allows electronics engineers to design and document their systems.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A link to this comic strip, based on the classic Elite, came round at work. The style is a little bit juvenile, but I enjoyed it.
Frontier comics
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Monday, February 14, 2005

Looking for a tool to make it easier to add Technorati Tags to a blogger entry, I have now found this: oddiophile ? Technorati Tags Bookmarklet
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Dear Aunty: an essay on EMU was written back in 1997, but it's one of the best explanations I have seen as to why we should not adopt the Euro. There's also a 2000 Postscript.
(Found via a link on The Daily Grind on How to draw the Union Jack)
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Saturday, February 12, 2005

There's another very good in-depth analysis of the new Cell chip on Real World Technologies - the site was slashdotted for a while, but it seems to have recovered now.
Why is the Cell so interesting? Two main reasons. First, it looks like this may be the next evolution in microprocessor architecture, putting several connected processing units together on a single chip to maximise performance , plus allowing the software to use several of these cell chips in paralle.
Secondly, the next generation Playstation3 is rumoured to have four Cell processors in it.
As I spend much of my time trying to shoehorn a game into the narrow constraints of a Playstation2, this new architecture is a lot more interesting than Sony's PSP, which I find rather underwhelming. It's supposedly got a degree of PS2 compatibility, but they decided to give it just 24Mb of usable ram, rather than the PS2's 32Mb. How much more would it have cost to give it that extra 8Mb?
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The other book I read while I was on holiday a couple of weeks ago was
Malcolm Gladwell's Blink (author's own site)
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The book is about how our subconscious helps us to make decisions - intuition and first impressions. He starts with a story about the Getty museum aquiring what they believed to be an ancient greek 'kouros' sculpture - but many experts who saw it felt that there was something wrong with it, but were unable to say for sure that it was a fake. It took several months research to prove that it was indeed a phoney.
Other parts of the book describe how researchers can observe a couple for an hour, and predict whether they are likely to divorce; the study of facial expressions; the skills of salesmanship; and military tactics.
Review on Slashdot Amazon
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I have uploaded a few more older holiday snaps to my website - see Holiday Snaps

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Some links to info on the new Cell processor:

Pre-announcement:
Blachford's article
The register: part 1; part 2

The day after announcement:
IBM
Electronics Weekly
Slashdot
zdnet

More in-depth tech info:
ArsTechnica
anandtech

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I created this link: delibar.htm to drag to the toolbar as a bookmarklet, to open by recent del.icio.us links in a sidebar.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

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While I was away on holiday, I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods. This is an excellent fantasy, set in modern-day America. Highly recommended.
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