Down with the Trees!

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Save the trees? Nice idea, but it could ultimately be a fuck up. We’re still living in the dark ages folks. Unless it’s down in ink on a piece of paper most information about you is about as useful as tits on a bull. Worse yet, that idealistic choice to “save the trees” could end up making your life difficult. Down with the trees I tell you!

UK Visas

When it comes to visas in the UK anything short of marriage virtually non-existent. There is entry of “unmarried
partners
” but they make it hard to access, you need two years of documentation supporting your partnership consisting of multiple documents covering the whole period. Typical combinations being tenancy agreements, utility bills and bank statements. These generally must be addressed to both parties (and who ever thinks of that when they get the phone connected?) or can be to individuals but then you need even more documents.

So if you don’t have that vital stack of paper gathering dust in a filing cabinet then you’re quite stuffed. If you ring the consulate they all but tell you not to bother.

We will have enough documentation in a few months, but what then is the situation for us trying to apply for this when already in the UK? Does it indicate a breaking of the conditions on Kat’s Working Holiday visa? At best it is highly borderline, and not possible until I can switch to a settlement visa anyway (HSMP, about 9 months away). And while under the terms of my current visa I can switch to HSMP I don’t think Kat can switch to a dependant partner visa, her option is basically only HSMP. For HSMP she’d have to earn an income in the space of 12 months which is likely to be unrealistic, 12 months is the most time she can spend working under her visa and she can’t be here for the specific purpose of working (if we stretch things too far it could make the visa people unhappy, and then we’re stuffed no matter what we do). We will be going back to Australia in 10 months, so maybe on we can make new visa applications from Australia then (what on earth will our residency status be at that time?). It does seem that the Working Holiday visa was specifically designed with loopholes, so maybe the approach is less strict than it seems? I have heard otherwise.

Thus my previous musings regarding signing a piece of paper to make us “married” by law, but looking over things I’m not sure that that would make it easier anyway. I’m loath to take such drastic measures, I have no respect for the institutionalised concept of “marriage”; we have laws that make it nothing more than a game and the old religious relevance that it had is quickly fading (and not applicable to myself). I do wonder how long it will be before the dinosaurs that run the world will be dinosaurs who make the necessary changes, unless something drastic happens (religious right stages a successful military takeover of the planet), I think change toward my own way of thinking is inevitable. Of course, by then I’ll be one of the dinosaurs and we’ll collectively not understand why the youths of tomorrow aren’t happy with the new freedoms our generation has given society. What’s this with a gay partnership between a young man and a cerebrally enhanced goat needing to be recognised by the state? You’re absurd, absurd and perverted.

I digress.

UK Banks

This one is a better justified annoyance, you simply cannot open a bank account here until you have utility bills (not mobile phone) that show the UK address of all account holders. So you’ll typically be waiting a couple of weeks before a bank account can be opened. Once we had the right documentation opening an account was plain sailing (HSBC, we used Australian bank statements sent to both our names in the UK, the same for our previous address in Sydney and also Scottish Power bills addressed to both of us plus passports for Id).

UK utility bills, now that leads to another matter…

Utilities

Speaking of Dark Ages, the utilities I’ve dealt with in this country have severely handicapped IT systems. Fancy having a very restrictive limit on the size of the name field in an address! Scottish Power have just this, while our Gas/Elec account is in both our names the correspondence is addressed only to me. When I asked about this they simply said: We just canne do eet captin!. Now if you were married then it’d all be fine, we could fit in “Y & K Seth”. Great, my electricity provider is telling me I should be married; asswipes. Their solution to their IT dilemma is a simple one, two copies of every piece of correspondence is sent to us, both addressed to me but one with content starting “Dear Mr Seth” and the other with appropriate text for Kat, this being the only difference between the two copies.

BT have it worse, they simply don’t support having a line registered in more than one name. My name only, or Kat’s name only and according to their support representative the phone book entry can only match the account holder name, we could get a second phone account though. What? Bloody retarded. I’ve complained about good old Telstra back in Australia before, but I must hand the UK the prize for utility dumbness.

So only one piece of paper from BT and it is not a lot of use for the Kat+Yvan equation and more useful data from Scottish Power, albeit in a retarded form that uses twice as many trees.

Chip and Pin

Here I abort the topic of the sad fact that we must kill more trees to further the machinery of bureaucracy.

Chip and Pin is more common here now, to the point where there are actually retailers who will only accept either it or case and shake their head at your old-skool sign-the-paper credit card. International travelers beware! Luckily supermarkets and servos have not been so stupid, just things like a few phone shops and electronics goods stores. I think it’ll be years before Australia moves onto universal Chip and Pin, and America can hardly be expected to catch up anytime this decade.

Now, in an ideal world they would have created an an interface that lets the shop upload a digital form of your receipt to the card. Why didn’t they do this? 10k of EEPROM should be loads for a typical week and you could have a reader at home to suck the data onto your computer, or freak out all the privacy nuts and have a RFID-style data-suck (encrypted of course, and our credit cards could be an “always on you” private key too!). This all means increasing the number of gates on the card of course and thus the cost to manufacture, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the silicon is already in there. There would also need to be sensibly thought out, in a typical case it’d be some proprietary garbage that will soon have the shit ripped out of it by Schnier and a week later be hacked by a bunch of bored youths.

On a slightly related note, banks still give you cheque books here in the UK and if you want to withdraw more than 300 quid you have to write out a personal cheque to yourself and visit a bank branch. Weird and very interesting how some things are so far ahead of Australia here yet other things are way behind.

Credit Cards

No chance. No credit history, no credit card. From outside the UK? You may as well have been born yesterday. HSBC will likely give us one in three months, Amex require us to wait six months (would have helped to have had an Amex in Australia). For now we’ll have to continue to use our Australian CCs quite a bit, and pay the associated charges. St. George must love us. Does the namesake for the bank have a tomb anywhere? I think I might go and piddle on it, not as something specifically against our bank (I actually like St. George) but more as a gesture toward the inanity of the systems we’ve built around our modern society; ostensibly with the express purpose of making everyday life more difficult and the machinations of evil harder to spot.

Hooray for humanity.

[…and hooray to me who just wasted an hour of his day and thus forced an extra hour in the office on himself, fool.]

Aylesbury Coffee Nut

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

By random chance of web trawling I just found a genuine coffee nut (or should that be “bean”) in Aylesbury, who by chance happens to say good
things about old Toby’s
back in Sydney. I was generically looking for a Toby’s equivalent in the UK, especially around the Ricky/Aylesbury run. What’s more, this guy is a roaster and has a shopfront
in Aylesbury
, of all places! I know where I’m heading for “lunch” today.

Google Calendar

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I’ve just discovered Google Calendar… maybe this will be the answer to all my calendaring dreams. Globally accessible, interoperable and seems to allow things like sharing events and inviting third parties to events. It is very new, but my “first 5 minutes” using it have been promising.

It would be good if Google put together a partner desktop app to go with it for local mirroring/synchronising of calendar data. Maybe one for the Mozilla calendar app?

Asynchronosity

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I find this story about an asynchronous ARM processor very interesting. It immediately reminded me of two things.

The first thing was one of my Elec Eng lectures back in 3rd year for a course taken by one of my favourite professors. Asynchronous circuits were covered as something of academic interest, a method of building digital circuits that has many interesting properties but is ultimately just a curiosity. The problem being that there are too many complexities to make it a practical way to design ICs, designing a large asynchronous circuit is simply too difficult for any team of engineers, even very good engineers. These are the facts as I was taught them, as recently as 2002.

No doubt the content of the course lagged a little behind reality, since there must have already been people working on exactly this task and already building significantly functional asynchronous ICs. And now they’ve implemented an entire asynchronous ARM9 core!

I find this news remarkably exciting. It shows how rapidly technology continues to change and advance, that we’re continually breaking barriers that were so recently considered to be pretty solid. All thanks to the advance of technology driving its self.

And that brings me to the second thing. The theory that there is a phenomenal turning point in history ahead of us. A point that we can’t predict and beyond which we cannot imagine what will happen, I’d say we can’t be certain it will ever happen – we might not last long enough. It may even happen within the span of our very own lifetimes, that would be something worth seeing.

This is the point where our technology can autonomously design the next generation of technology, triggering a world changing chain reaction that the homo sapiens sapiens species as we know it cannot survive. Either in some way or another it’s the end of the line, or (more optimistically) we’re caught up in the process of driven evolution and become something we cannot imagine.

It really is a very exciting concept. It is just another crazy futurist theory of course, one I happen to find particularly attractive.

Big Iron

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Well, I really mean bigER iron – bigger than a VPS at any rate. I’ve had enough of this whole VPS thing, performance is too unreliable (who knows how many VPSs they have on a system?).

So I’m likely to go for getting a dedicated server, since the thing is my primary communications hub (and also for a couple of other people) I think it is time to upgrade for the sake of reliability. I haven’t decided where yet, there’s good old EV1 of course who are fairly solid (though they do have an iffy reputation for getting IP ranges spam blacklisted and they don’t do Debian) but there are many other choices. It’ll either be in the US or UK since prices in these locations are still much better than back home.

It costs a lot more than a VPS of course, so ideally I’d like to share the cost around and form one of these “server collectives”. I have no idea if anyone is likely to be interested in this, but if you are send me an email and if I get any responses we’ll work out what we need and how much it is likely to cost.

The deal would be simple: If the server costs $x then each of ‘n’ users pays $x/n. For your $x/n you get a single shell, root access if you feel you need it (I think I trust almost everyone I know to admin a Linux system without major mishap!) and an equal say in the running of the machine. I’m happy to look after all server administration, my typical setup provides POP3 and IMAP with Courier, Postfix for SMTP, Apache for HTTP, webmail with SquirrelMail and I use ClamAV and SpamAssassin. Debian is the OS, I wont budge on that. And some packages are sourced from backports.org for the sake of keeping up to date (for items like ClamAV and SpamAssassin where being up to date is important).

As for the machine, that would be decided by the people involved. As an example, the cheapest EV1 option is US$99 per month (however EV1 only offer RHEL, so they’re actually an unlikely choice) and this is a 1.3GHz Celeron with 512MB or RAM and 60GB HDD. I’d think that having an IP per user would be sensible plus one for the system (for HTTPS use, system IP is for SquirrelMail), IPs are usually cheap (7 for “free” with EV1 for example). I think the basic HW specs with the EV1 example are fine for a fair number of normal users (assuming you don’t have an insanely popular website).

Now we’d (Kat and I would be 2 users of course) be willing to pay a reasonable amount (if nobody is interested then we’re likely to end up getting a dedicated server anyway), so having a small group of people with up to US$40 a month to spend would get us a decent setup – and the more people the cheaper the price is! Using the EV1 example then two extra people would get us the server for US$25 each.

Some dedicated server setups:

Me buying a server from eBay or something and just paying co-lo is also an option (some good options in the UK for around 50 GBP).

It may also be an option to have a cheaper class of user, for just email, FTP and webspace say – but it’d be easier if everyone was equal. An equal share user can have as many web domains and email addresses as they like of course and can provide simple hosting for others (for example I host a domain for my Mum and handle her website and email) but the only login access she has is for email. So long as the setup of a user does not adversely affect others on the system I’m sure everyone would be happy, so really the only restrictions are that only paying users get a shell and root access.

So send me an email if you’re interested!

Gynecological Sweetbread

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Sorry, I have to share this… I’m generating random domain names for a benchmark/test scenario and the first one my script spat out was:

gynecological-sweetbread.com.au

Heh!

(My /usr/share/dict/linux.words file seems to be a Yank.)

Pink Salmon Cous Cous

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Cous cous is the ultimate low latency feed. This is a “wet” cous cous recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 x 200g tin of pink salmon
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups cous cous
  • good extra virgin olive oil

Put everything except for the cous cous into a saucepan and bring to the boil, let simmer for a couple of minutes. Ensure that the salmon is broken up to the desired degree and that the stock cube is entirely dissolved (if one was better prepared 3 cups of stock rather than water would remove the need for a stock cube).

Turn heat to very low and tip in the cous cous. Stir until cous cous is entirely wet.

Put lid on saucepan and leave to stand for five minutes.

Remove lid and drizzle about 2 tbsp of olive oil over the cous cous then fluff the cous cous with a fork.

Serve drizzled with a little olive oil.

This recipe made me a nice bowl of cous cous for my dinner as well as two packs for lunches.

Dinner and packed lunches in 10 minutes flat!

Cottage Cheese and Avocado Dip

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I just knocked together a dip I’m quite happy with, just using some stuff I had lying around:

  • 1 x Avocado
  • Cottage Cheese (equal volume to avocado flesh)
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seeds (crushed, coarse)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic (well crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
  • grind or two of pepper

Throw it all in a bowl together and crush to desired consistency. I think I’d prefer it with a squeeze of lemon juice, no lemons on hand though.

Goes down well with celery sticks and some wholemeal pocket breads (almost stale in my case) toasted to crispyness and split.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Just down the road from the office in Notting Hill on Westbourne Grove is a place called Gourmet Burger Kitchen (unfortunately the daft fools have their individual location maps only viewable by clicking a javascript link, it’s the Bayswater one), it’s the closest thing I’ve found to Global Burgers back in Sydney. But it isn’t as good. They get points for having a much larger menu than Global Burgers but they loose very important points by comparison on the actual burger engineering. Their burgers just don’t taste as good as Global Burgers burgers, and they’re less structurally sound as well (i.e. very sloppy to eat with your hands – and as far as I’m concerned that’s the only way to eat a burger. When I see some ponce eating their burger with a knife and fork I get a very nearly irresistible urge to grab their fork and stab them in an eyeball with it. This gbk place is full of ponces asking for forked eyeballs! All in all gbk is a pretty decent place for a quick meal and you can get a reasonable feed there for 10 quid (burger and chips).

This evening I had a chicken and camembert with cranberry sauce burger and some chips. Their chips are good, nice and crisp. But they seriously lack the tasty rosemary or Cajun salt that Global Burgers has, and no cholesterol packed aioli either! (actually that’s a lie, I just spotted Garlic Mayo on their menu.)

I recommend the Angus beef with blue cheese burger, very tasty.

Poncey busted eyeball with a tasty vitreous and blood sauce anyone?

Birdflu

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I don’t know if birdflu is as much of a news item back home as it is here in the UK. The UK is in the position of being at the far west of Europe and watching the gradual westward spread of birdflu. Media scaremongering is high.

My observations of the news here leave me with one important point to make: Birds have wings you fucking twats. You know, they’re kind of known for their ability to fly. Never heard the phrase “as free as a bird”?

I don’t know who I’m directing that to, probably some government officials who are feeding a prepared statement to the media when they ask “what are you doing about this?”. Quarantining turkey farms? There are swans flying around with birdflu.

Time for swan-radar and depleted uranium swan eliminating rounds on jets. Surface to swan missiles?

Look, this is just the ecosystem’s way of killing off the weak. Get over it, or die.