Would Like To Meet

I’d love to meet the designer of the American traffic system. He (I’m guessing it was a He) was a rather odd sort, by all accounts. Back in sensible Britain, when you press the button on the Pelican Crossing (see? We even have a cute name for it), you expect two things to happen. One, cars will honour the red light and stop before they enter the crossing space. Two, you will eventually see the little green man telling you that it’s safe to walk across the road. Obviously, over here, these two events are mutually exclusive. This leaves the pedestrian with a dilemma; should they risk life and limb by crossing whilst the red hand is present, or should they wait for five minutes, give up, and then risk being run over by the typical American’s idea of a family car?

From that, you’d be right to deduce that I did some walking today; in fact I walked to a different city. Sounds impressive, but it’s only a mile away from the centre of Chapel Hill. The temperature dropped to a level at which I felt I could make it there and back without needing to stop and die on the way, and I felt it was probably a good idea to get a feel for the area, considering I have to walk there and back for the upcoming Sleater-Kinney concert. Of course, when I get back to my hall, I remember that I meant to deposit my traveller’s cheques into the bank today, so I’d been walking around with $1,500 all day. I will get rid of them tomorrow, promise…

People asked me questions today. And I could answer them. Which perked me up a bit, as after spending the weekend locked in my room (strangely, I can’t seem to find hermit costume sellers on-line), I was feeling a little down. Being able to do something useful cheers me up somewhat. We still don’t have an office; the people who are there are waiting to move into another room, and the people there are waiting on somebody else, and so on. Strange really; I didn’t think situations like this ever arose outside of bad Frasier episodes.

I’m a bad person; I keep going back to this page, and finding something exciting each time I visit. You can connect one to an ethernet socket and use it as a base station! Give wireless to all your friends! Somebody take it away before I do bad things with my credit cards!

I spent a lot of the weekend trying (and failing) to get TV capturing to work successfully on my shiny new 8500DV (it has already killed Windows; Linux so far is resisiting), so I’ve been watching a little more television. Transformers: Armada premiered on Friday with an hour-and-a-half movie. The most impressive thing about it was just how little happened in that ninety minutes; three kids find some Transformers; other Transformers arrive and try to take them back. We don’t even see any robots until around the twenty-two minute mark, which defeats the point of a show that contains BigGiantDeathRobots. The return to cel-based animation hasn’t brought any big improvements - the drawings are less detailed than the orignal 1984 series, and action scenes are laughable, as they try to create an impression of movement by dragging a background across the screen, just like in Pokemon. The overall impression is of a show that was completed in a hurry, and it suffers greatly. There’s a few interesting ideas (Prime’s rather vague statment about the Autobots’ treatment of the Mini-Cons suggests that there’s more ambiguity here than in the original series, but we’ll have to wait to see if anything is done with this), but it’s not a great start.

Tomorrow - the RIAA, why I like Law & Order, and why you haven’t seen any pictures yet..

currently playing: Carole King - Really Rosie

Fun and Games with the MPAA

If the MPAA/RIAA get the nuclear option that will require every electronic device to have DRM technology built-in, does that mean that these people will not be able to watch any TV or movie? I’d love to see how they’d spin that story…

Operating at 3,000 miles

Obviously, Bonnie’s computer decided join in with my computer’s ritual suicide, so today I’ve been re-installing Bonnie’s laptop by showing her how to do it via MSN and GnomeMeeting. Hopefully, this isn’t going to a recurring problem, as it takes a lot out of Bonnie and myself. At the same time, I managed to come up with an answer for Comp 142’s first homework (and Java’s new regex classes make the solution much easier…). I’ve had a brief look at the BSD sockets; they look quite nice in Python, and unbelievably ugly in C. And guess what language I have to use? That’s one of the nasty problems in teaching CS - most of the time, your students are going to have more problems getting their low-level code working than actually working on the problem you’ve given them. I don’t really want to spend my time trying to hunt down a obscure malloc bug when I could be working on something more interesting…

currently playing: Manic Street Preachers - (4)Motorcycle Emptiness

This is how it is, then?

I see that Google is determined to make sure I don’t forget the entire incident. How very kind of them…

RIP Windows.

I can no longer use Windows. This isn’t a ‘I’m so happy with Linux I’ll never go back’ statement. Windows no longer boots. It gets to the start-up screen, and locks up. I’ve managed to pinpoint the fault down to my new Radeon 8500DV card. If I put my old Radeon card inside the machine, Windows is quite happy to load. This should be aeasy, right? Just select Standard VGA as a Display Card type, shutdown, and swap the cards over.

Uh-huh.

For some reason, my installation of Windows 2000 does not have the ‘Standard display types’ selection in the Hardware list. So I can’t install a Generic VGA card. Leaving me rather stuck. I really don’t want to have to go through the hassle of re-installing everything again, but it looks as if I have no other option. If anybody has any ideas, I’m open to suggestions…

Hi, Steve. Gee, your house looks nicer than Bill’s.

UPDATE: This gets better. My Windows 2000 install CD does the same thing. So I can’t even re-install. Yay for Microsoft!

currently playing: Doves - Pounding

Scott of the Antarctic

Today’s taste sensation: Mountain Dew: Code Red, or as non-marketing types call it, cherryade. Not a particularly nice one, either. Today’s journey took us along the F Line all the way to University Mall. Well, almost, as I got off with somebody else to prevent getting lost, only to end up that way a few minutes later. The decision to walk in a random direction eventually paid off, and I discovered University Mall. The name is a bit of a delusion - it’s nowhere near the Unviersity, and it falls on the very small side of the mall spectrum. However, it does have a supermarket, and I should be able to walk there once the temperature becomes somewhat sane, so it’s good enough for me. Besides, I can go to the Southpoint Mall if I need to visit the bigger stores.

The weather shows no signs of changing. Last night, I went to the first meeting of The Promethan group (it’s a poetry/arts thing. They mentioned film, okay? It appears that UNC-CH has no film society, so this was as good as I was going to get). We were getting together to watch Donnie Darko, starting at 8:30pm. Like Matt, I don’t really like shorts, so I thought that I’d wear a pair of jeans. After all, the sun has gone down, night is approaching - it has got to get colder, right? I arrvied at Hinton James North, not dripping, but drowning in sweat. It was still warm at 11pm when I went back to Carmichael. They tell me it gets better. Getting below 30oC would be a start.

But what about the film? Well, it was okay. It had a few too many obvious plot-points, overly-arty camera angles and effects, plus it kept telling us that a certain character was incredibly important, but never actually gave us any detail or explanation whatsoever. Mind you, a six-foot demonic rabbit absolves the film of many sins.

Some things have been floating around my mind recently. Anyone who’s been to a multi-level building in America and Britain will know that American floors start at 1, whilst British buildings start with a ground floor. Is there a reason for this? Has this always been the case, or did one country make an explicit change at some point in history? Secondly, when did timezones become important? I’m assuming that due to the scientific knowledge we had amassed before the invention of radio, we knew that the time would be different depending on where you were located on the planet, but when did we start to care? I presume it was soon after radio was first discovered, but it’d be interesting to find out about what changes it made in the Industrial World.

Yes, I probably do need to get out more.

My favourite song so far from the new Sleater-Kinney album:

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - Lions and Tigers

Remember...

If they ask you whether you want chips with your sandwich, it’s not what you think. It’s the equivalent of them opening three packets of Walkers Crisps and throwing them over your plate. This may be the desired effect, but it’s a good thing to remember for future reference. I’m avoiding the sweet tea on principle; where I come from, tea that arrives cold is inherently suspicious and Not To Be Trusted.

Undergraduate days may be coming back quicker than I thought - today I had the familiar experience of turning up to a lecture having done the assignment, only to discover I didn’t need to have done it at all. Still, it was probably a good way of getting me back into the programming mindset.

As I may have mentioned, tomorrow is my exploring day. I was planning on going crazy and heading out over to the Southpoint Mall as well, but I think that I’ll wait until next week unless everything goes really well tomorrow morning. This means that I won’t be able to drool at the iBooks for a week or so. This is probably a good thing, as I have recently come into some tax refund money, and I am Weak. I would dearly love one of these machines (plus an iPod, if anyone’s feeling really generous), but I don’t need it. Sure, I’d love to have a tiny, wireless-enable computer that runs a cool BSD-based OS, plus built in FireWire/USB ports that Just Work, and…and…rushes to get VISA card

Ahem. What I meant to say is that I may get one eventually, but only after I’ve sorted out my major bills of the semester. Like housing. And the plane ticket back home for Christmas. Also, given the release of Jaguar, it may be prudent to wait until Apple release a revision of the iBook that can handle the upgrade…

Scary moment of the day: walking towards Franklin Street, I pass a talking on her mobile phone. She sounds exactly, exactly like Emily Proctor. I’m afraid…and now I’m even more afraid. Her imdb profile says she comes from Raleigh, NC. Oh God. Shoot me now. And she also played Lana Lang in The New Adventures of Superman. That’s quite funny.

currently playing: Various - Sinead O’connor - Ode To Billy

Partial Successes

Well, I don’t think I know much about BSD sockets, but it can’t be that hard, right? Excuse me while I pause for laughter.

I got the compiler stuff working about an hour ago. I plan to keep very quiet tomorrow, as I don’t think that I’m up to the task of explaining how it works (and I’m convinced that any attempt to do so will cause the program to suddenly stop working). But at least I’m not panicked as much as I was yesterday.

The new Sleater-Kinney album is excellent, by the way.

Still haven’t got my office, but I now have a key that opens the door. Getting there slowly. I’m not sure just what the grading of the undergraduate programs involves yet; there was a mention of an automatic tool, but I suppose I’ll find out more next week.

Lunch today was an introduction to an American BLT. My God. An inch of lettuce, another inch of bacon, almost half a tomato, and what seemed like a full jar of mayonnaise. I may return.

Despite having a long list of comics to buy, I left the comic shop with nothing. Which was a surprise, but I decided that I really didn’t need books like Captain America #4, even if they do have fabulous art by John Cassaday. On the other hand, I may have to return to pick up the Invisibles Guide and the second Animal Man book next week.

Friday is my day for exploring. I shall be getting on various buses, and discovering where they all lead. I just hope I don’t end up in Durham by mistake…

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - Hollywood Ending

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

First, a warning. Today’s entry is likely to be rather long and full of ramblings. As opposed to short and rambling.

Having spent most of my life with only four TV channels (the Government eventually decided we had been good enough to give us another one a few years back. We mostly wish they hadn’t bothered), having 50 all of a sudden comes as a bit of a shock. It also seems that the proability of you finding one channel with something you want to watch rapidly approaches zero, whilst the probability of missing something interesting due to the incessant advert breaks is very close to 1. I’m still laughing at Fox News, by the way…

A problem which has become apparent since my parents left is how am I going to feed myself, without not dying of nutritional deficiency before Christmas? After looking intently into a McDonald’s meal today, and not particularly enjoying it that much (no, I haven’t read Fast Food Nation. Ignorance allows me to continue to eat there), I have come to the decision that my time in America will not be spent by visiting the fast-food restaurants that you can find all over the world. Tomorrow, I find something local. And I will find a bus that goes past a supermarket before the end of next week.

Incidentally, does anybody else have a packet of patroitic M&Ms that seem to be lacking in blue? Red and white are adequately represented, but the shortage of blue worries me. Is this so each pack can be used to build a flag? I don’t know what’s worse, that I thought of the idea, or that I’m considering trying it out…

First day of lectures today. Oh boy. I may have forgotten just about everything I was taught during my undergraduate course. We had to fill out a pre-test for the Graphics course, and it went badly. I managed to get the cube roots of 1 completely wrong (1, -1 and i indeed. So dumb), stumbled my way through a couple of questions, and answered ‘I used to know this’ on everything else. Not a good start. With my confidence shaken, I head towards the Compilers course. If you don’t know anything about Computer Science, then take it from me - Compilers are hard. One of the hardest and most complicated class of computer problems in existence. Not good if you’re already feeling vulnerable. No pre-test, just a Java program to finish by Thursday. And I don’t understand what it’s asking me to do at all, but it’s so basic that I dare not ask anybody about it. I’ve sectioned off tomorrow afternoon/evening/night/Thursday morning to try and get my head around it. On the bright side, there’s no exam for that class. That’s because we have to turn in a working compiler at the end of the semester. ha ha ha ha ha. ha.

The TA meeting was fairly informative, although it strikes me as weird that a lot of lectures have a laptop ban in place, despite the fact that every freshman has to buy a laptop. The perils of wireless connections, I suppose.

I’ve been here a week now. The biggest surprise so far (and this may come as a shock to many people who know me) is just how English I feel. I keep on thinking that I should break out the tweed jacket and head off to the library. The Hugh Grant stutter is in full effect, and I have to change my clothes half-way through the day, as they’re soaked through with sweat. The culture is different in so many subtle ways. A asked me where I was from this morning, and after I told her, she said That’s cool. I was in Madrid during the summer. My first reaction was to look rather puzzled. It’s nice that she went there, but what does it have to do with me? The distance between London and Madrid is 783 miles. To me, that’s quite far, further separated by the different languages in France and Spain (travelling in a straight line). In America, that’s less than the distance from Washington to Miami (924 miles) . Yet I view Spain as a far-off foreign country, when all the time it was on my doorstop. So, a thank-you to the in the lift for the world-change.

Right, I think that’s plenty for today. I will try and get the blog back on a daily schedule again, depending on how nasty/hideous/life-threatening the courses become as the semester rolls on. I’ve got my Sleater-Kinney ticket all booked, so I’ll let you know all about that in October (I haven’t got hold of the new album yet, as I’ve ordered it through KillRockStars, and it hasn’t arrived). Presuming I find a way of getting back without walking…

currently playing: PJ Harvey - Good Fortune

Out of interest...

Is the Fox News Network for real? Back home, we used to laugh at Americans who behaved like that.