Sudo pick up your books and put them on the table

In the last few weeks, we’ve started to exploit Bernard’s ability to understand the English language. For some time, he’s been able to respond to instructions such as “Go and get a book and bring it to me” or “Fetch your teddy from the other room.”

But now we’re advancing to the next level. My favourite is “Pick up your books and put them on the table.” Upon issuing this command, Bernard very happily wanders round the living room, picking up any books that are on the floor, and placing them in a relatively neat stack on the coffee table.

Karen’s favourite is “Can you bring me a bib?” Bernard will saunter over to the coffee table, open the drawer that contains bibs, grab one, and bring it over to the dining table.

I’m trying to think of other child-friendly chores that we can start issuing to him. Any ideas?

  • I hate our politicians. They are all a bunch of squabbling, petty, childish, spineless, cheap, deceitful animals. None of the three main parties emerge from this incident with the merest speck of sophistication apparent.

Facing life after losing your son

> How do I feel? It’s like a tsunami of the soul, a huge destructive overwhelming force that leaves nothing good in its wake and whose ripples surge outwards to touch all those who are near you.

As Paul puts it, in the affluent West we consider there to be a natural order of things. People die in the order that they were born. You assume that one day, you will attend your parents’ funerals, if you have not done so already.

> “No man should have to bury his son.” — *Theoden, Lord of the Rings.*

About a year ago, a 17 year old boy was killed in our town. He jumped over the barrier at the railway station because he was afraid of missing his last train home. He didn’t notice the train that was leaving the station, and it hit him at about 30mph. It happened right outside the house where we used to live. And all I could think about was his parents, and all that time and energy and love that they invested in him, only for him to throw it away.

This might sound a little morbid, but I regularly force myself to spend a minute imagining myself in the shoes of a parent who has lost a child. I read the articles that they write, not for pleasure or thrills, but because the danger exists and I do not wish to belittle it.

My mother always thought that my father was emotionally cold because he seemed, to her, so unaffected when his parents died. She would openly criticise him to me, and instruct me not to turn out like him. But as time has gone by, I’ve realised how wrong she was about him. He’s a rational man. He prepares for the worst, and hopes for the best, and if the worst does happen, then he’s the guy who keeps his head so that he can offer support where necessary. I realised that his reaction to his parents dying wasn’t due to emotional detachment, but because he had known that it was going to come, and that it was always a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

It strikes me that he probably also used to spend a minute every day thinking about the possibility that I, or my sister, would not make it to our 18th birthday. I don’t think that this would make him a monster. I think that it would make him a strong man, who isn’t afraid to confront the things that scare him on a daily basis. Like him, I want to be able to stare death in the face and acknowledge its power, and by doing so, also limit its power.

I know that it’s impossible to be prepared for such a tragedy. I don’t think that the human mind can possibly grasp the magnitude of the situation until it is drowning in it. But maybe I can take the edge off, slightly. If I’ve already simulated it in my mind a few thousand times, maybe it will make it easier to accept reality when all hope of return is lost. Or maybe I just do it to remind me to appreciate every day as if it is our last.

Useful Information

How big is a bacterium?

The largest common bacterium are 20 µm in length. This is 0.02mm, or 1/15240th the size of a large pizza. Trying to see a bacterium from a distance of 6 inches is like trying to see a large pizza from a distance of one and a half miles.

And that’s just the big ones.


An irrefutable argument that sarcasm isn’t actually the lowest form of wit

Cockney rhyming slang.

  • Thames Water are have cut the amount of lost water by 20% in the last year. It’s a welcome improvement, but there’s still some way to go.
Displeasure Guidance

How To Leave Pipex: Part 2

If you are lucky, an email from arrives with the subject line “Migration Away Confirmation”. It contains a few paragraphs saying words to the effect of “We’re sorry you’re leaving, are you sure we can’t persuade you to change your mind?” It also contains a delicious MAC code, of the format ABCD0123456/EF78G. The email also contains a reminder that if you are still in the first 12 months of your contract then there will be a cancellation charge to pay. It would be extortion, if it weren’t for the fact that you agreed to it in the contract.

Sign up with your new ISP

This, hopefully, is the last contact that you will ever have with Pipex. All you need to do now is hop over to the website for your new supplier, enter in your details on their signup page, including this MAC code, and then choose a switchover date. It needs to be within the next 30 days, as MAC codes have an expiry date. Don’t worry about downtime – there shouldn’t be more than half an hour between the Pipex service terminating and the new service commencing.

Go to your new supplier’s web page and note down any changes to the settings that you will need for your router. You will also get an email from your new supplier with the new username and password. These will need to be entered into your router when the relevant time comes. You may find that there is an overlap, during which you can use both your old and new ISP, but it’s safest to assume that you won’t, so make sure that you have paper copies of everything that you might need.

Your new ISP should have an “Order Status” page, which you should follow on the changeover date, but the ultimate test will be to enter your new username and password into your router and try to connect.

*Continues here.*

*Part 1 is here.*

About Me Photos Stunt 2007

Stuff on my desk

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

My desk

Here is my desk. It’s an Ikea Jerker that I bought about 14 months ago, when we moved into this house.

My desk (overlay)

(Yes, the PNG is transparent, so you can overlay it on the JPG if you so desire).

1. Three boxes. One contains AC adapters, one contains receipts, and one is labelled “Misc crap” and contains all those little things that you don’t have a real home for. Mounted on the underside of the shelf below these boxes is a little OSRAM LED lamp.
2. Red Dwarf videos. I’m currently going through a bit of a Red Dwarf phase, reliving my teenage years. One, or more, of these VHS tapes may have been acquired at a reduced rate by switching price labels in WHSmiths. Such a rebel, I was.
3. Camera box. Nikon D40. Haven’t quite got round to putting this box in the garage or loft or wherever. On top of it is my camera case.
4. Books. One that I’m reading, one that I’m yet to read, and my 2005-06 and 2006-07 diaries. Older diaries are kept in a storage box in the garage, but I like having my last two to hand, just in case.
5. My pyro box. Lighters, matches, and an ancient pack of Golden Virginia.
6. Audio cassettes. All the live recordings, taped rehearsals, and early albums by my old band. On top of this little box is my bank statement book, and in front of it are my watches.
7. Pile of Terror. One of these boxes is also labelled “Misc crap”. Everything in this pile has no home, but hopefully I will rectify this one day. It’s a low-priority thing, and to be honest, most of this stuff could probably be thrown away, and I would never notice.
8. Postcards that Karen brings me.
9. Keyboard. It’s a Casio CTK-671.
10. Monitor. It’s a Sony. It’s a good monitor, but still… Sony. Ugh. Sorry. Tucked beneath it is a hefty reusable plastic bag. In front, a notepad with a comb on it, and to the right of that is the magnet that opens the drawers down to the side of the desk.
11. Man bag.
12. 8 track. It’s a Yamaha MD-8. I don’t use this much any more, so it now lives under here, and can be slid out if/when I need it.
13. Keyboard. It’s a Microsoft. It’s a good keyboard, but still… Microsoft. Ugh. Sorry. Behind it is a cheap plastic toy that my dad brought back from China. Its purpose is to spin round, light up, and play the Crazy Frog theme. It worked twice, then broke. So sad.
14. Photo of Karen. Whenever Bernard sees this, he points and says “Mama” about thirty times in quick succession.
15. Margarine tub containing a secret project that I’m working on. In front of it are my two coasters, by Marcus Gray.
16. Backup CDs and burned Linux ISOs.
17. A4 paper for the printer. To the left, empty CD spindles.
18. Printer. HP Laserjet 4L.
19. Some old envelopes for the recycling box. I just left them here while I took the photo to make the place look untidy. I am smart like that.
20. Second camera. Pentax Optio S30. Again, it doesn’t normally live here, but it gatecrashed the photo shoot. Behind it, an empty CD spindle. In front of it, the lens cap for my camera.

What else is on the shelf with the monitor?

* Two speakers (Harman Kardon Soundsticks II, the woofer is down there on the floor, glowing blue).
* Letter rack, containing things to file, things to do something about, and envelopes.
* A little pile with some post-it notes and Carmex lip balm on top.
* Pen pots
* Camera manual
* Some more pieces of paper to deal with
* Spindle containing blank CDs.
* Desk lamp.
* On the wall, some photos.

How has my desk changed in the last year?

14 months ago, it looked like this. Those two shelves at the top used to contain a lot of junk, so I moved one of them down to act as a monitor shelf. This gives me more space to work with at keyboard level, and also allows me to raise the speakers by six inches, out of Bernard’s reach (he likes grabbing them and playing with them. I can understand why – they are quite lovely). And the 8-track, as I previously mentioned, is now underneath that shelf.

You can also see that I’ve installed the second side-shelf, and used it to make a nifty little keyboard stand (the other end of the keyboard rests on my bass amp). This has been in place for quite a long time now.

And finally, here’s a photo of my desk at the previous house. It’s only six months older, so much of the hardware is the same.

  • Photos of the MS Explorer leaning at a perilous angle.
  • “In the UK and Ireland, a growing taste for lighter, blander, more refreshing drinks […] have taken their toll on Guinness’s sales.” Bloody heathen shandy drinkers. You’re all idiots. Yes, all of you.
  • This article doesn’t tell you exactly what he said, but I’ve discovered elsewhere that the exact quote was “Make some motherfucking noise, Preston!” Idiot.
  • “The jellyfish, covering an area of around 10 square miles , engulfed the Northern Salmon Company’s cages off the province’s northeastern coast, suffocating 100,000 fish, the firm’s Managing Director, John Russell, told Reuters on Thursday.”