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Flesh is weak

As if finding young me in a box wasn't enough of a memo from Father Time, I've had the "circle of life" message underlined firmly this weekend, by throwing my back out. I mean, properly out, like a sit-com old man, or a Dad from the pages of the Beano. Lifting hurts, walking hurts, sitting mostly hurts, breathing hurts, and bending over is right out. It's one of those marvellous hysterical systems, as the slightest twinge of pain induces all sorts of involuntary tensing in the frantically overcompensating muscle superstructure of my back. The lower nervous system is clear in it's mission. No harm must befall the spine. I strongly suspect that the resultant freezing and spasm makes everything significantly more painful than the original twinge would have managed on it's own, but I am not a doctor. Even though I often assure people that I am, this is actually a well-practiced lie, serving the purposes of antique stock-comedy forms.

The generational aspect of this calamity draws from the fact that I triggered the strain whilst throwing young Ada May ceilingward, in response to her requests to "play flying". Unluckily for me, the initial spasm occurred at the point of release of a throw, meaning that despite my attention being drawn to all sorts of immediate and novel spinal trauma, I still had an falling two year old to catch safely before I could collapse sobbing to the floor with my honour and dignity intact. Two year old children, I must say, are quite a bit heavier than their one year old incarnation.

The thing with back trouble, most sources assure me, is to try and persevere through it. Grit one's teeth, and carry on as much of your normal routine as you can manage. On no account admit defeat and flee to your bed rest. Rest will relax and weaken your back, and exacerbate the problem, or if you're unlucky, invent some new ones. And so I struggle forwards in embittered mimicry of my daily routine, gasping and wheezing and moaning every couple of steps, frozen in place with involuntary grimacing stuck to my face. It has taken me nearly twice as long to get to work as it ordinarily might. Negotiating St. Pancras, I find myself flooded with sympathy for anybody with genuine mobility problems. The place is a nightmare, and it's supposed to be one of London's newest, most accessible hubs. I inch my way towards the office. All my hope is invested in my fancy orthopaedic stool. Please, mighty German engineering, please do your work.

Twenty-five year old me pouts condescendingly from my home page as I update my blog. He's got nothing but contempt for broken backed old men. He's too vain and pre-occupied to worry himself with mundane things like exercise and posture. I'm starting to hate that guy a bit.

posted Monday, October 31, 2011 at 11:37 by cms in Ada, history, uncategorized | Comments Off on Flesh is weak


I was clearing out a box in the office, and a strip of passport-sized photos fell out, with one missing. Here is one of the remaining shots from this strip.


Apparently this is what I looked like, fifteen-plus years ago. I had no idea booth-photos were so indestructable. I think it's because the booth was pre-digital. I subsequently found a few other strips, in the same box which were taken a handful of years later, in a booth that used a digital process; they've blurred, bled, and run quite noticeably

posted Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 20:54 by cms in photos, uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Cat herding

"I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Most often two of these qualities come together. The officers who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Those who are stupid and lazy make up around 90% of every army in the world, and they can be used for routine work. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"

Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, who clearly knew a thing or two about staff management

posted Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 11:20 by cms in uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Flying fish (actually flying squid).

How about some photos of squid flying through the air? I've heard anecdotal reports of this sort of thing happening, which on the face of it sound reasonable, if not a little far fetched. They do possess all the right sort of equipment, and controlled jet propulsion through the air isn't really that far from their usual method of locomotion at speed, which is controlled jet propulsion under the water, after all.

The full writeup in the parent post contains plenty of detail about a recent observation of groups of squid exhibiting fairly controlled, short flight. Not only does the article contain lots of interesting links to scientific write-ups of arial squid observation, but it also contains several high-resolution photo images of the buggers captured in the act.

It would make a lot of sense for them to use as an evasive action. Squid can manage impressive accelerations in their submarine environment, but through the air, they would perform even more rapidly, over short distances. "Short" is of course, relative. One of the write-ups based on observations estimates 20cm squid reaching 10m in a controlled flight. They seem to form their bodies into lifting, braking and stabilising shapes as they go. Squid are ace.

posted Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 11:24 by cms in uncategorized | Comments Off on Flying fish (actually flying squid).

Circle of blog

I'm amused that on porting his blog to wordpress jwz has seemingly reached the same level of disgruntlement with wordpress in about a day that it's taken me twelve months or so to reach.

Don't get me wrong, wordpress certainly gives you all sorts of awesome features OOTB, but at a certain cost of complexity, which makes things tricky to customise. Themes are hard to tweak, and the cost of entry to plugin-writing is large enough to put-off simple customisation in favour of out-sourcing to the lazyweb directory of plugins, which correspondingly increases the complexity of your install.

Most pertinently, there's the security record, a cynic might suggest it's a lack of security record. I'm gradually coming around to the line of thought that the frequency of updates actively contributes to the problem. The continual treadmill of manually updating drives people to investigate the auto-upgrade procedures, which are all built around interfaces that sound to me like designed-in exploit vectors, like having all the .php files in the software tree writeable by the httpd user, or running an FTPd service on the webhost that can chdir to the http script directories. Furthermore, the autoupgrade process is prone to terrifyingly unfriendly fail-states.

I'm not sure if there are any significantly appealing alternatives out there. I think there's probably a circular life cycle to the blog software used by any mildly technical person, that moves serially from 'simplest possible lazyweb solution', through 'this simple thing has been customised past the point of sanity, I'll write my own' all the way through to 'writing blogging software is hard, I'll just use wordpress' and subsequently right back to square one.

The elephant in the room is the simplest option. Just host your data in an fully managed service like, or tumblr or posterous. Or if you really don't care about handing every last bit of data you can generate about yourself into the possibly malevolent skynet-cum-panopticon Google-monster, you could get all oldskool with blogger As ever, I just can't get with the idea of giving all my content to an at-best disinterested third party. After all, that's where jwz started out, and look where that's got him. Manually migrating to wordpress, and grumbling.

posted Monday, November 22, 2010 at 17:26 by cms in uncategorized | Comments Off on Circle of blog

Posting by email

If you can read this message, it means I have properly configured blog posting by email. Is this useful? Is this a good idea? Time will tell.

posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 23:35 by cms in uncategorized | Comments Off on Posting by email

Is this thing still on ?

It's been a good long while since I've been able to blog anything of substance. Some of that is down to lack of time, I've been frantically busy the last few months, much as you'd expect. There also were some dull technological barriers that were making it awkward to update and maintain this site.

I've moved the hosting to a new location, it's currently residing on a xen virtual server instance provided by linode. While I was migrating things around, I've tried to package it up a little more portably, and in future I ought to be able to move it easily to anywhere I can run a linux host. I also took the opportunity to tidy up the page templates, and cobble together a new theme. I'm still poking that around a little bit, let me know if you find any rough edges.

New job!

Aside from adjusting myself to my wonderful new daughter, I've gone and got myself a new job. I wasn't really aware that I was looking for one, but life can surprise you like that sometimes. I'm now working as a Database Architect at and I couldn't be happier about that. Not only is an awesome site, which has long been one of my favourite things on the web, but the intersection between high volume web services, big databases, and music nerdery is very definitely my kind of niche.

Move to London

One small drawback with this full-time role was that it was based in London. We did weigh up the various commuting options, but after some deliberation, decided to take the plunge, and relocate, at least temporarily to London.

This meant finding somewhere to rent. Somewhere to rent that would take a baby and a dog. A location in the city with suitable dog exercise routes close at hand. Ideally a place from which I could daily commute to Shoreditch without too much trouble. Obviously we'd have to be able to afford it on one salary, whilst still maintaining a mortgage on the house in Bristol in the interim. Rather a tall order.

After balancing up the variables we settled on the Balham/Clapham area. After a few complicated expeditions up to view properties with little success, we managed to secure something with only days to spare, just down the road in Tooting Bec. A rather roomy ground floor flat facing right onto Tooting Bec common. It's just a short walk to the Northern line, which leaves me with a manageable half-hour or so trip to work, door to door.

So the last few months have seen quite a furious pace of changes. Mostly I've been finding it all invigorating, and exciting, rather than incapacitating, but things can seem to be wooshing by, and there definitely aren't as many hours in the day as there used to be. Five years ago I'd have been amazed at what the me of 2010 would be getting up to. Interesting times.

posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 19:38 by cms in uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Keep the home fires burning

We have recently had a wood-burning stove installed. With a baby on the way, I understand it's traditional to frantically embark on home improvement. Our house is old and draughty, as homes built around open fireplaces, one in every room, must be. The current central heating isn't very optimised for heat delivery, especially since we removed a good portion of the internal doors, and have yet to get around to replacing them.

The chimney breast, in what has become the main living room needed some attention, having suffered some water damage long ago, due to leaking. The leaks are gone, but the brickwork and surface plaster were left saturated and continued to deteriorate. Rounding it all off, it was mounted with a bulky, mantelpiece of slate, with ugly pseudo-wood veneer, and filled with garish orange ceramic tiles.

Installing the stove was a way of addressing these issues simultaneously. When fired up, it should produce a generous heat in the centre of the house, well suited to the original building design and airflow. As part of the installation, we've had the chimney lined, the fireplace and hearth reconstructed, and the chimney breast re-surfaced. We ordered the stove from Kindle in Bristol, and they also managed all the installation work, which only took a couple of days.


The stove is a ClearView Pioneer 400. A clean-burn design, and the installation is certified for use in smokeless zones, such as Bristol. It's a multi-fuel configuration, which can be used to burn (smokeless) coal as well as firewood. We've built a small log store in the back yard, and filled it with a metre-cubed of sawn firewood.

Due to the unseasonably hot weather, I've not had too much of a chance to get it up and running, aside from a few test sessions. I'm not yet sure what our practical fuel consumption will resolve to. In my tests, I've so far determined that it is capable of generating a startling amount of heat after just a few hours of operation.

On a less practical note, it is simply enormous fun having a large burning fire you can fiddle about with, sitting within easy reach. It's very easy to get hypnotised by the thing, when it's burning. I find it considerably more interesting to watch than most things that are on the television.

posted Monday, October 5, 2009 at 07:56 by cms in uncategorized | Comments Off on Keep the home fires burning

It's not just the bees we need worry for.

In Britain, butterflies are also on the wane. In the 19th century, they would flock in the wild in quantities sufficient to obscure your view. Now as populations dwindle, they're a rare treat.

I've see a lot of encouraging signs of rehabilitated wildlife, as I wander round the green corridors of Bristol, walking that dog. We don't see many butterflies.

posted Monday, April 27, 2009 at 06:34 by cms in uncategorized | Comments Off on It's not just the bees we need worry for.

"Hello, world!\n"

Strickland 2.0 announced. Late October launch.

posted Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 13:57 by cms in uncategorized | 4 Comments »