Thoughts of a geek

20 May 2013

7/7: The Rainbow Connection

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 1:07 am

(Day 7 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

The Rainbow Connection has been going through my head all day. Humming the tune to myself in time to my steps as I walk down the street.

Went to church in the morning as usual, the 11:30 am service. Matthew was there, with a friend of his who is visiting from NZ for a couple of weeks. The sermon was about spiritual gifts, among other things, from I Corinthians 12:1-11. I disagreed with some of the implications made by Rico Tice; it is a pity that there is never much of an opportunity for discussion. Oh that I could find the perfect church!

Afterwards I walked down Oxford Street and through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to a pub in Kensington for lunch to celebrate Fi‘s birthday. She was a bit late to arrive (for the fairly reasonable excuse that it was her first day getting around without a wheelchair, just crutches), but fortunately I was able to find two of her friends who were there already. In the end 6 of us got there before her, to much amusement. ‘Twas good to catch up a bit, and chat to a few nice people, and the food was good too. I had a tasty beef and bacon burger.

Afterwards I caught a bus down to Clapham Junction to catch the end of an afternoon swing-dancing fundraiser a friend was running for a movie she is going to be involved in making. I got there in time for a bit of dancing, said friend singing a couple of songs (she has a great voice, I had not heard her sing before; she has a number of videos on Youtube though, such as this one), a duo on ukelele and banjo playing a couple of songs for everyone to sing along to, an amusing short act by two Victorian time-travelers, and then a band playing a great set for us to dance to. The band was more rockabilly than swing, but great fun and very energetic. They did throw in one more bluesy tune in the middle which was nice. It has been much to long since I have done any blues dancing, I really need to get back into that! There were some tasty homemade cakes on sale too; I had a bit of ginger cake and a macaroon. It was a good afternoon, but exhausting.

Afterwards I bussed home, had some ryebread with cheese and marmite, did a load of washing, and called my mum to walk her through the process of moving her new harddrive from her computer to my old computer (which is marginally newer and hopefully less noisy, and had been sitting in the basement unused for the past 3 years). The only complication was that apparently for some reason my computer names its Ethernet interface eth1 rather than eth0, so we needed to update a config file accordingly. And GRUB is giving an error message ‘out of disk’ on a cold boot, which goes away after resetting. Rather odd, but at least there is a workaround for now. Has anyone come across anything similar before? This is GRUB 2, and it is booting from a 1 TB SATA drive. What little information I can find online seems to suggest it might be something to do with the BIOS not liking large drives, but that does not explain why it works on the second try.

Watched the final episode of this series of Doctor Who on iPlayer. It was alright. I have not been impressed with this latest series on the whole, especially the second half. Hopefully they will find a new writer to replace Steven Moffat sometime soon. He did start off well, but seems to have run out of good ideas.


19 May 2013

6/7: No tea

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 1:00 am

(Day 6 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

I was going to be making muffins with a friend this morning, but sadly that fell through. I slept instead. Finally got up at about 11:45 am. That is the most I have slept in in a long time. Perhaps needed though, I had not been getting enough sleep lately.

Did not do anything terribly productive. Bought groceries for Tuesday’s dinner-party. Ate the left-over pizza in the fridge from Monday’s dinner which I had forgotten about; it was still mostly edible, if a little stale (or soggy, in one part. That was weird.) Washed some clothes and my towel. Did not quite get around to doing the vacuuming I had planned to do. Made a smoothie, and the blender leaked.

In the evening I went out to a contra up in St. Albans. The caller was excellent, and the band were decent, but it was almost all old people which was a pity. My attempts at getting people from London to come along were not very successful, only Gareth came. Still, mostly enjoyable. The train back stopped at Blackfriars so I Boris-biked from there, and got home some time after midnight.

I wonder when I will watch tonight’s Doctor Who episode. Certainly not tonight, it being 12:55 am, and probably not tomorrow night either. Maybe Monday.

Things to be done: vacuuming, selecting and cropping a passport photo, working out how tall I am and what my eye colour is called, sleeping, writing a blog post about dwarves, finding a new time for muffin-making, thinking about plays to go to, organising travel plans for the summer. What else have I forgotten?

18 May 2013

5/7: Eurovision is not terribly exciting

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 12:32 am

(Day 5 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Friday! Busy day at work, as it has been since I got back.

This week’s TGIF (our Friday afternoon drinks) were Eurovision themed, which meant various Eurovision songs playing in the background, flags hanging from the ceiling, and food (supposedly) from various different European countries.

I left to have a nap at home before going up, but I only ended up with about 10 minutes to nap in the end. Went to an English ceilidh I sometimes go to, which happens once a month at Cecil Sharp House, the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society up in Camden Town. For some reason there were not many people there this month, only about half to a third of the usual number. And only a couple of people I knew. Still, decent fun. Decent band, good caller, younger than most of the usual ones. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I do tend to prefer the contra a lot more these days.

Bedtime soon, I just need to send a few messages organising next week’s dinner party.

Doctor Who finale tomorrow! And the St. Albans contra, if I go to that. And maybe muffins in the morning.

17 May 2013

4/7: No blues

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 10:18 am

(Day 4 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Nothing terribly exciting. Let’s see.

Oh, the weather was relatively nice today. Still a bit cold, but nice and clear. I think this morning was my first time for the year eating breakfast outside in the sun on the balcony. I ate lunch outside as well. The weather not being so warm did have the advantage that there were still seats available outside.

Food Revolution Week continues at work. This afternoon there was another cooking demo, with four different types of stir fries based on chicken, tofu, beef, and some sort of seafood, with all sorts of vegetables, rice, and various different sorts of noodles. They were all tasty (except for the seafood, which I do not like). A fair bit of work to do.

My bike ride home is quite scenic, if I can take the time to look up from the road. On my 15 minute ride, at around 9:30 pm this evening, I could see the MI6 building, Westminster Palace, the London Eye, the Shard and the Imperial War Museum, all nicely lit up.

No blues dancing this evening sadly, as the night I usually go to was moved to Wednesday this week, so I could not go.

Starting to organise having friends over for dinner next week sometime. And making muffins with other friends. I got some photos for my passport today, so I need to pick one and crop it, then measure my height so I can put in the online application at some point soon. And I still need to sort out my Boris bike account, which for some reason I cannot login online to update my debit card details.

Perhaps I will get to bed before midnight tonight. (Hah.)

16 May 2013

3/7: Rosemary, lemon, and the GRand Unified Bootloader

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 11:21 am

(Day 3 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

There was a cooking demo at work this afternoon as part of Food Revolution Week. Apparently it is only a day in the outside world, but all week at Google. Anyway, some celebrity-ish chef showed us how to cook 5 recipes from her cookbook, and we got to try some of the results. The only one I am likely to make, if I get the details, was a dessert made from double cream, lemon juice, sugar and rosemary, and served in shot glasses with a raspberry on top. A quick search suggests that this is called a posset. The rosemary seemed like a strange addition, but it actually worked really well, adding an interesting flavour. I might have to try it myself sometime.

I watched the first part of the Google I/O keynote at work before heading to Springboard, a course I am doing at church on Wednesday evenings. Biking through Hyde Park in the light is really quite a different experience than when it is dark and rainy. Last week was my first time doing so, not having biked that route in the previous month (since BST started) as I was away in New Zealand. The ride home was a bit slow due to various roadworks, and trucks stopping in bad places.

I spent the rest of the evening in a G+ Hangout with my mum again, this time trying to fix bootloader issues so she could boot of her new hard drive successfully. We got there in the end, but it would have been much quicker if I had been in the same room; remotely diagnosing problems when I cannot very easily see what is happening or type directly is rather fiddly.

And now it is too late again. Goodnight.

15 May 2013

2/7: Serial ATA

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 11:58 am

(Day 2 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Work much the same as yesterday, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Making some progress.

Flatmates did not have any of the leftover dessert from last night in the end. Nor did I.

Spent most of the evening in a G+ hangout with my mum back in Wellington walking her through how to install her new SATA hard drive in her computer, copy the data from the old IDE drive across, so that she can then put the new drive into my old desktop (which is slightly better than hers, and hopefully significantly less noisy). Slightly tricky explaining how to do everything without actually being there, but she did well. I am proud of my mum. (-:

Did not get to catch up with Rachel after all, sadly.

Watched last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who. It had some interesting bits, but I am still not very impressed with this season. Oh well. The Doctor Who prom this summer should be fun though! Hopefully I can get a good group of people together with whom to queue. I should see what plays are on at the Globe this summer too, that is always fun.

Setting up a Facebook page to promote the monthly contra dance in London. Not quite ready yet.

I really should be trying to sleep, it is almost 1:00 am.

14 May 2013

1/7: Desserts came very quickly after agriculture

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — Tags: — qwandor @ 11:35 am

(Day 1 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Work was busy in a stop-start way. We have a launch coming up soon of something I have been working on for some time so need to get everything ready, but I am often blocked on other people. This has been more or less my usual state of being for some time though, so nothing is all that new.

I need to get on with applying for a new passport soon, which will require getting a passport photo taken. And measuring my height. I have vague memories of having a tape measure somewhere. I also need to help my mum back up her computer, and copy everything on her old small IDE hard drive to a new bigger SATA hard drive, so she can then migrate to my old desktop (which is at least slightly newer than her current machine, and hopefully noticeably quieter). Attempts to catch up with Rachel in the weekend failed, so need to find a time to see her before she leaves on Wednesday. Hmm, what am I forgetting?

As usual, not much time to think.

Had Aga, Luca and Luca’s flatmate Emily over for dinner this evening, my first London dinner party since before Easter. Aga is a Googler, Luca is a blues dancing friend. There was some confusion about the meaning of the expression “+1”. They all seemed to enjoy trying feijoas. We made a couple of pizzas: one vegetable pizza with capsicum, mushroom and fresh basil, and one with sausages, salami, pineapple and more basil. I had forgotten that salami contains pork, and that they were pork sausages (Luca does not eat pork, sadly). I did not get the ratio quite right for the dough (or something) and the texture was completely wrong at first, but I managed to fix it passably in the end. They were both pretty tasty, especially the basil. Fresh basil always smells amazing too. Oh, and we had smoothies too; banana, peach, strawberry yoghurt and orange juice. Luca decided to compliment me each time she sees me.

Dessert was microwave steamed pudding, now that I can finally make it again over here. My microwave ring pan went missing many months ago and I could not find anywhere to buy a new one over here, but while I was back in NZ my mum found one so I brought it back with me. It still did not work out quite right; despite adding extra flour I still had the problem I always seem to have over here of it not rising enough and not cooking through properly at the bottom (the top when it is tipped out). I am not sure what is to blame — it always used to work very reliably back in NZ. I can only assume the flour is different somehow, but I would have thought adding more to make the batter match in consistency would have fixed that. The golden syrup is different here too. Lighter.

Aga took lots of photos, so I guess they will be up on G+ shortly. Quote of the day was from Luca: “I bet desserts came very quickly after agriculture”. There was much hilarity all round. And some tomato paste. Luca and Emily (mostly Luca) decided they would buy muffins tins and a blender and start making muffins and smoothies. Apparently I am to come over and teach Luca to bake muffins as her parents neglected to show her this vital life skill. Should be fun.

We had some interesting conversations about gender roles, discrimination, hugs, muffins, haptic technology, robot cats, people, and accents.

My attempt at kidnapping was ultimately unsuccessful.

I should be trying to sleep.


Oh, I should see if anyone wants to go up to St. Albans with me for a contra this Saturday.

[Edit 2013-05-14: Added links]

22 July 2012

Busyness and loneliness

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — Tags: , , — qwandor @ 10:37 am

This post has two parts which I mostly wrote at different times and are not very well tied together, but they relate to the same topic so I am posting them together. The first part was written mostly some days ago in the middle of the night on my phone while lying in bed and only slightly edited later; the second was written this afternoon and evening based on various thoughts and conversations over the last several weeks. Perhaps a better editor than I could link them together properly. I will leave you to make of them what you will.

I live a privileged life. I live in one of the great cities of the world. I have a job at a great company where I earn more than the vast majority of people in the world, work with a bunch of really intelligent and interesting people, get free food and various other benefits and am not overly stressed. There are plenty of things going on in London to see and do, places to go, and almost any sort of entertainment available. All of Europe is fairly easily accessible, given the time and motivation to actually organise a trip somewhere. I could go on.

And yet, there is something missing.

And yet, in the times when I do not keep myself busy, in the hours between coming home and getting to restless sleep, when I think a little, perhaps near a contemplative mood, I am frequently lonely and dissatisfied. People talk about the modern curse of busyness, but perhaps sometimes this is what it is an escape from. An attempt to avoid stopping and thinking, and realising how pointless it all is, how alone we are.

A friend of mine (whose blog you should read, he writes interesting stuff) shared a link to this article about busyness a little while ago, which I think makes some good points. The main thrust of the argument is that people make themselves unnecessarily busy, and even get addicted to busyness, and consequently do not have time free to spend with friends, relax, or have the quiet and idleness necessary for much creativity. The author ends with saying “I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.”. I shared it with some other friends on Facebook to see what they thought, and several commented that not having enough to do can also be an unpleasant situation.

So where is the middle ground? Or are these two problems really different faces of the same issue? I think at least part of the problem here comes back to community. At least in my case, the times when I find myself unhappy or unstimulated and not having enough to do (or more commonly, enough motivation to find things to do, or do the things there are to do) often come down to loneliness, not having people around with whom to have stimulating conversations, go and do things, or just hang out in a low-key manner. And so I try to keep myself booked up with things to do, places to go, so as to try to avoid having these empty gaps where I think too much. And so I am Busy. But why do I have this problem in the first place? Well, at least partly because everyone is too busy to just hang out. Too booked out weeks or months in advance with things to go to to have the spare time to spend a lazy afternoon not doing anything in particular, or an evening just cooking together, eating and chatting. And here I am becoming part of the problem. So I can hardly blame anyone else! But I do think I remember this being easier back in Wellington. Or is it just a case of the grass seeming greener on the other side of the fence?

So what is the solution? Is it just a matter of trying harder to organise informal social activities, and keeping myself open to spontaneity? But what do I do in the times when nothing eventuates? Maybe I need to get back into programming and electronics in my spare time, but I have lacked much motivation for quite some time.

While chatting with my friend Jordan in New York a few weeks ago, we noted that we are opposites in a number of ways. She has too many demands on her time from people she cares about and so cannot make time for all of them, while I often wish I had more. She is great at getting inspired about new projects and things to do, but often struggles then to follow through, whereas I tend to be pretty good at following through with things once I get into them (perhaps sometimes to the point of obsession), but frequently lack the initial inspiration; I instead struggle to work out what to do, or to decide between options (particularly when I do not have enough information as to what the consequences of the decision will be). I think the opposites of over-busyness versus not having enough to do (or motivation or people, as discussed above) come in here too.

On a vaguely related note, I have noticed recently that talking to and spending time with people seems to be something that gets easier, and I get better at, after doing it for a while. This seems to be mostly a short-term effect (much like with dancing actually; I find the same thing particularly for blues dancing). After spending just an hour or two talking with people — and I mean properly talking, have a good deep conversation with one or two others where we are all contributing and thinking — I seem to get better at expressing myself, putting my thoughts into words, asking the right questions, and just generally communicating better. But after a few days or perhaps a week I am back to my usual self. Perhaps if I had the opportunity to have this sort of conversation regularly the improvement would last longer term? I am not sure.

Well, after all that, does anyone want to hang out sometime, bake, go for a walk, eat, or just talk?

Oh, and should I move to Sydney? Is it any better there, and is it enough to justify the cost of starting from scratch again?

30 June 2012

Flirting? Or really, relationships and stuff.

Filed under: Christianity, The Blog Roll — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:56 am

Continuing on with this group-blogging thing, people are writing about flirting. This is an interesting topic, and not one I know a whole lot about. The discussion started with reading this article, which some of us found helpful and interesting (at least in parts), and some had a strong negative reaction to.

A related topic which I think is also interesting to discuss is the issue of why people date (or court, or whatever you want to call it. Pursue relationships with the opposite sex of a romantic nature. Or with the same sex for that matter I guess.) What are people’s intentions in pursuing such relationships? What do they expect of the other party? How do they convey those intentions, and how are they interpreted and understood (or often, misinterpreted and misunderstood)? What happens when the intentions and expectations do not match? Do the intentions and expectations of one party bias how they interpret the actions of the other?

Coincidentally I have ended up having some interesting conversations about some of these issues with a number of intelligent, thoughtful and insightful friends lately, which have been enlightening and thought-provoking. For a start, I have been reminded how different different people’s intentions can be. I guess everyone has a complex mix of motivations and intentions, and these can change as they grow older and mature. Even over the course of a particular relationship these change, which introduces further complications.

One motivation, obviously, is sex. Stereotypically this tends to be a stronger motivation for guys than for girls, and I expect that this has some bearing on reality — though no doubt the stereotype is also biased by social expectations, where sexual desire is associated with promiscuity, and promiscuity is more socially acceptable among males than among females. (As a side note, I do not think that it is wise for either. But that is not the main point here.) One friend related her frustrations at a number of guys she dated, while being interesting and good guys, being significantly motivated by sex, while she just was not after that, and had quite different things she wanted to get out of a relationship.

Some people are looking for a life partner. They see dating primarily as a stage along the way to marriage. Quite a few of my friends are Christians (as am I), and many of them (though not all) fall into this category. Plenty of other people do as well, of course. Some would go so far as to say that you should never date someone unless you intend to seriously consider marrying them, and furthermore that a high degree of emotional and physical distance should be maintained, that degree of intimacy and attachement being reserved solely for marriage. Another friend recently posted this article from an American conservative Christian website for young people espousing such a view. Well, perhaps I exaggerate a little. A number of my friends hold to this sort of view. I am not sure how wise or practical it is, and I do not think the majority would hold to that extreme.

Some people see dating, or romantic relationships in general, as an opportunity to experiment, learn more about people, and have fun, without ever intending for it to be a long-term thing. They are happy to date someone for a time while knowing and intending from the start that it will not last, and to break it off when the time comes. I was reminded of this by a couple of different friends recently, and while I struggle to understand their position it does not seem uncommon in the wider world either.

Some people want fun and excitement. They are after new experiences, surprises, someone to laugh with, to inspire them, to show them things they had not thought of before.

Some people want someone to care for them, somebody they can talk to about anything and everything. To check up on them, support them when times are tough, and just be there for each other.

Most people, of course, are after all of these things, and many others, in some complex and changing mix. They are by no means exclusive categories, or even all the same sort of category, but rather some of the many different motivations and intentions that people may have. Perhaps you can think of more to add to the list, so by all means post them below.

Problems, misunderstandings and hurt often happens when people go into a relationship with different intentions and expectations. Properly communicating and interpreting them is a difficult problem.

Well, I have just written quite a lot about a topic I have very little experience in! To continue with that, but perhaps add in a little bit of personal experience, we come back to the actual topic of flirting.

Flirting seems to mean many different things to different people, so we have a problem not just of actual actions but of terminology. Some other people blogging about it in this group have described it as being “pleasant and interested”, some as “appearing interested, appearing interesting, being aware of the other’s [dis]interest”. Some think of it as more of a sort of teasing interaction, hinting at interest but then backing away coyly waiting for a reaction, alternating between pursuing and being pursued. Perhaps this is more the feminine side of it, I daresay it tends not to work symmetrically between both sides. Coquettish is another word that comes to mind for this idea of it. The guide which started this whole discussion distinguishes between “flirting for fun” and “flirting with intent”, which I think is a useful distinction to make.

Frith makes the good point that it is often hard to separate “flirting” from “everyday affectionate interaction”, and I quite agree. Another friend to whom I was talking recently described similar issues, where what she considered just ordinary physical affection between friends was sometimes mistaken as an indication of a romantic interest or attraction that was not there. Such misunderstandings are by no means terrible things, but can still be less than ideal. Said friend does tend to be a fairly physical sort of a person (which is a great thing, she gives excellent hugs), but sometimes this can be misinterpreted. Things like dancing, especially styles with close connection like blues, can further blur the lines here. This same friend described it as (sometimes) being “5 minutes of true love then you each go your separate ways”, which I thought it an interesting description (though I probably misquoted it a little). Not to be confused with 2 minutes in heaven. Flight of the Conchords may not be the best source of relationship advice. Though actually, they are probably not much worse than many other sources… but I digress.

A question for the reader here: do you think men or women are in general better at distinguishing friendly physical affection from flirting? Is there a difference?

So perhaps the bigger question is: how does one know whether somebody else is flirting with them? Or more generally, is ‘interested’ in them? Perhaps flirting is being more friendly towards one person in particular than towards other people in general. But in the case of people one does not know very well, how can one find that baseline to compare to? Careful observation seems necessary here. I have been learning lately that I am not as good an observer of people as I used to think I was. Some people are excellent at it though! It certainly seems like a very useful skill to have. And how can one avoid being misinterpreted, if that is an issue?

Oh, I had a random thought in the middle of the night last night: perhaps the imperfect communication is a little like playing 500, where an important part of the game is to find ways to communicate to your partner what you have in your hand and how you intend to play without actually saying anything? You need to work together to give hints to each other, interpret them correctly, and then use that information to win tricks and score more points than the other team… okay, perhaps this analogy does not go quite so far. (Hey, anyone up for a game of 500?)

At this point I would insert a list of examples and ask for you readers’ opinions on which ones were and were not flirting, but I think that might not be wise in a public forum such as this, so will leave that out from here.

To ramble a little more, I wonder also whether we could talk about such a think as ‘anti-flirting’: things people do to indicate to someone else that they are not interested in them in a romantic way, or things which they may inadvertently do which may be interpreted as such. This could include, for example, being careful to keep plenty of physical distance, telling someone that they smell bad, are badly dressed, are not very good looking, or other such things. What examples do you have, of such anti-flirting signals that you have either given or received?

Well that post grew and changed rather a lot from what it was originally going to be. (It is also not very well organised or edited, sorry.) This was partly due to a number of interesting discussion with a few friends recently, which got me thinking more along some new lines. Thanks, people! And let’s continue this discussion, here and elsewhere. It is both interesting in general, and relevant to my interests.

I guess I should finish with a list of other people’s posts on the topic:

I also had another post related to this topic that I started writing back on 10th June, but I will leave that for another post I think, as I had more ideas last night to add to it. In the meantime, comment away!

12 June 2012


Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — Tags: , — qwandor @ 9:09 am

People are blogging about contentment. (Specifically this person, this person, this person, and this person. Oh, and this person, how could I forget. You should probably read their posts as they have more interesting things to say than I do.)

I do not have terribly much to say on the topic. I am rarely content. Especially not in winter. I tend to criticise myself a fair bit, as it seems like the first step to improvement. I try to avoid criticising others as much as I am inclined to as they tend not to appreciate it.

But perhaps I am discontent for the wrong reasons. Mostly, for fairly selfish reasons: being unsatisfied with various aspects of my life, or the weather, or whatever. Sometimes I get discontent about wider issues like intellectual property law or poverty or stupidity, and occasionally I may even attempt to do something about them. But not very often.

Anyone else have any insights?

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