Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: February 2006 (page 1 of 2)

Router Selection

Aptness failed to overcome frustration when my attempt to inform my email provider of their spam filter’s recent overzealous attitude towards its job failed because…their spam filter bounced my email. provide a great service in offering Cambridge students more personalised email addresses and this is, admittedly, the first technical trouble I have experienced with them. Nevertheless, although he irony was not lost on me, the unsolvable problem of contacting them is more irritating than intriguing.

Linksys Etherfast BEFSR41We eventually settled on a Linksys Etherfast router for the entry system that will act as a basic DHCP 4-port switch. It’s a cheap but reliable solution from a decent brand and can automatically assign IP addresses to each connected machine. We had previously discounted wireless networking to avoid interruptions caused by poor weather, though this is no longer an issue as we are using a single entrance point for maximum security (believe me, Andy “Alpha Whiskey” is on the warpath — crashers really will not be tolerated). So the fact that the router lacks wireless capability is now almost a feature, actually making it more secure since a physical connection is the only way to access the system.

Now that Apple are providing certain equipment for the Ball, I had to swallow my pride and place a silvery logo on the sponsorship page of the site. Which several of you no doubt found highly amusing. You know who you are. Rather than linking to the main Apple site, it points instead toward the Cambridge Apple Rep Page, run by the “campus rep” I didn’t even know we had. Whilst I’m admittedly not the most impartial when it comes to judging products gaudily branded with the ripened ovary of the Malus domestica, I was perplexed by the inclusion of a small “Made on a Mac” logo at the bottom of every page. That must, I can only assume, be some sort of esoteric Apple-user code for “looks like crap”. Perhaps the maximum screen resolution allowed by the Mac in question was 640×480 so it’s not his fault. Although that renders those 40″ plasma displays a bit redundent, doesn’t it?

And finally the image problems caused by the adoption of permalinks should now have been resolved. It required a modification of the way we access images which involved updating every post with an image, but fortunately the SQL Replace function made it an effortless procedure, running through the whole database and taking care of it in seconds.

Light to Intermittent

I shall endeavour to keep updating you on the details and minutiae of Ball preparation as we work our ways towards Ball week and zero-hour. Things are, as you might expect, rather hectic. Should you find site updates becoming intermittent, don’t worry, regular service should return after the big party.

Checking in several hundred people as they enter the tightly secured Ball compound is no small task, and no one likes queuing outside so if the system is slow I’m responsible. I’ve just finished installing a WAMP server (that’s Windows, Apache, MySQL and PHP) onto my laptop so that I can run an independant snapshot of the online Ball database for ticket entry on the night. I’m currently sourcing a hub/router that will allow another three laptops to be connected to mine, which will act as the central machine serving the database and admin software to each of the others. Provided a midweek test goes smoothly, things should be ready for swift entry on the night.

In the last round of JCR elections, Philly J emerged as the new Griffin editor. Hopefully he will be more dedicated to ensuring regular releases than his predecessor, under whom I worked (producing only one issue). Though her communication was somewhat limited, it’s easy to criticise without having helped. Many were quick to complain about the non-arrival of later issues without even considering writing for the magazine, and while I placed my web skills at the ready, I did not actually produce any articles. Philly J has actually asked me to submit something for the issue due at the end of term, and I’m keen to help him out despite the deadline falling on the same weekend as the Ball. You should all think about contributing too. He seems interested in using one of P-2006’s illustrated poems, so perhaps we’ll be seeing one in print before long, which would be a decidedly odd experience. It also made me realise that it’s been a while since I’ve written anything meaningful, giving me the urge to start again.

The inside of a Catholic church holds a solemn atmosphere that no other denomination has quite managed to replicate. Sure, there’s the indulgent opulence but that’s mirrored in a myriad of aristocratic stately homes and gaudy mansions. I think it’s the guilt. It hangs weightily in the air, not oppressively, but with the scent of communal sorrow and the sense of joint failure. It reminds me of the German war cemeteries I visited as a child, always shocked by the mass graves they were forced to use in the small plots granted them in Allied territory. And I sometimes wonder whether the spiritual decline of the modern world is because man stopped believing in God, or because God no longer believes in man.

Yes, Virginia

Dresden DollsI had a chance to hear the forthcoming new offering from the Dresden Dolls (now signed to Roudrunner), titled Yes, Virginia. The name is a reference to the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history, a response to an eight-year-old girl’s inquisitive doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. The kindly editor Francis Pharcellus Church assuaged her fears, assuring her that Santa Claus was quite real. But then again, so’s Cthulu.

I first saw the Dolls when they supported Nine Inch Nails on the With_Teeth pre-release tour. Something about their sound crept under my skin immediately. In some ways their ecclectic stageshow can detract from their music, with their unnecessary penchant for removing their clothes (though fortunately not when I saw them). Visually though, their appearance and act is definitely inventive and drummer Brian is particularly enigmatic.

Dresden DollsThe style, which they classify as Brechtian punk cabaret, shines through on the new album and from the cheerfully tongue-in-cheek opener about sex changes it’s quite clear they’re up to their old tricks. As lyrically and rhythmically creative as their last release with clever wordplay that belies an acute understanding, it shares many of the same flaws too. While its occasional peaks soar, the rest varies from competent to dull — their slower numbers are far less successful than previous examples. When they can actually produce a truly consistent record, they’ll certainly be a force to be reckoned with. For the time being though, Yes, Virginia, while not nearly living up to their self-titled debut, is still worth a spin. Due April 17th.


A lot of work is being done of the back end of the site in order to make it more search engine friendly, including establishing “permalinks”. This means each post now appears to have a unique address rather than merely being called from the database. The most probable fallout from this is that you may find some broken images when viewing the site in certain ways. As usual if you spot any problems let me know.

SWM seeks AliasFor those who have not been following the rapidly expanding thread of comments from a few days ago, Luke is searching for a suitable alias. He has been using the slightly unwieldy yet scientifically preciseLimnanthes douglasii” of late, but I’d like to hear other people’s suggestions for aliases (or, if you will, aliii) too.

Yesterday’s evening’s recital in the Master’s Lodge went well. It was actually the first I have attended, although I felt slightly better when Andy B admitted the only one to which he’s been was his own performance. Lydia played the violin, accompanied by Ben, while the Ball committee was well represented with a piano duet by Phoebe and Ange (another confusingly similar pair of names for you to distinguish — Northern Irish Angie and Bolton Ange). It didn’t take much convincing for Ange to accompany us to dinner at Pizza Express and, beyond her initial confused trepidation at our typically erratically vacillating topics of conversation, she started to come out with some classically quotable lines. Rav proved to be the most destructive of our group as an innocent flower fell foul of his attempted betrayal five. Meanwhile our esteemed Ball President Will managed to disgust everyone present with his inclination towards pure garlic butter.

Eidos have announced a new Lara Croft model, Karima Adebibe, to accompany the newest projects in the Tomb Raider franchise. Despite the fact this role launched careers of the likes of Nell McAndrew, this time around I think you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who actually cares.

Syndrome 300

![Dow]SyndromeMy new hard drive, now named Syndrome, arrived last week and having had a little time to play with it I’m very impressed. At around 3GB to the pound, the bargain iomega drive was a snap to set up and looks exceedingly sleek (sleek enough to name at any rate). Slimmer and longer than I was expecting, it doesn’t take up too much deskspace and is surprisingly quiet, emitting no more than a soft hum, easily drowned out by your PC’s internal fan.

Beyond the novelty of seeing 5% used as opposed to the 95% to which I had become accustomed, having the extra 300GB allows for a little more experimentation with video encoding (I highly recommend Doom9 if you’re interested in that sort of thing) and a lot more photographs in higher quality formats. The bundled software also takes care of instantaneous backups of important files, letting me relax a little when it comes to those vital Ball and Globalist documents. Speaking of which, the third issue of the Globalist is now taking shape with Dexter helming production. Although labelled March, I’m as yet unsure of the final release schedule: it may appear early next term instead. Due to some delays at Yale, the previous issue has yet to appear on the website but I’ll let you know when it does. I think it improved in leaps and bounds over the first issue so I’m really proud of the result.

A bunch of us finally got together in Lyds’ room to watch Seven Years in Tibet as I had been intending. Afterwards, spotting Tremors sitting on her shelf, my eyes lit up at the prospect of B-movie fun with Kevin Bacon, so I’ll have to return to that gem soon.

Looking through the site’s stats I stumbled upon my photo of sleeping Pepper (Jenna’s kitten) being used online. I also recently discovered another good way to toy with telemarketers.

And finally, happy birthday Dad.

Midway Dinner 2006

Unfortunately it seems that the Valentine’s Day post had been obscured from mortal eyes. It should now be fully visible upon the human retina.

Midway Dinner was great success. Kicking off with a champagne reception in the Howard Building, the champagne itself was in somewhat limited supply but the inclusion of plates of fudge was a redeeming masterstroke. The official photographer is one of the usual digi-cam-hating breed, though I think it’s always telling when a professional with thousands of pounds of equipment feels threatened by an amateur taking 3 megapixel snapshots. Luke, photographing friends outside, managed to avoid his wrath.

Into the Hall for dinner, Lydia’s careful rearrangement of the seating plan seemed to work well. I was sat near one end with Dave, Angie and Rav, which also placed me by the next group which included Rowena and Beccy. The food was reasonably good, with a creative wrapped asparagus starter and a less inventive main course. Dessert was particularly good, albeit essentially boiling down to cake an ice cream. The only real downside was that the wine was much less free-flowing than had been advertised.

The awards were a lot more representative than I had expected. Rather than all falling to the popular cliques, they reflected the whole College’s true feeling. I was particularly pleased to see Sparkie and Sonya pick up the “Most likely to grow old together award”, though Sonya was wracked by guilt having not voted for them while Sparkie had. Chima, as I had expected, beat me to the “Most likely to go prison”, earning himself some fetching fluffy ‘cuffs. Philly J seemed particuarly proud of his award for “Most likely to blag their degree”. Meanwhile Beccy and Robin were voted Princess and Prince of Downing respectively.

It’s certainly weird to think of ourselves as halfway through, or as The Master suggested in his speech, halfway to something else. Seeing everyone suitably inebriated, Lyds and Dave slowed down by the end of the meal but were then doing shots in the bar, made it clear that no one had grown up too much. Rumour has it that even Rav may have touched a drop.

Looking back through the booklet in which all our friends were able scribble, perhaps my favourite comment is Jon’s simple, “Thank you for saving my girlfriend from a tramp.” How Downing is that.

Another Planet’s Hell

CUR1350By the end of term I intend to have listened to every Downing-produced CUR1350 radio show at least once. Last night I finally listened to Another Planet’s Hell, which is Alex, Louis and Jamie’s aural offering that managed to elude me all last term. Largely because my memory is shocking. I was impressed, possibly more by the congenial banter between the two (Jamie was away) than the music (which is suitably varied from classic rock to hip hop). Of course, the fact they referred to me as “a legend” live on air may have influenced me somewhat. And they’re also a decent source of information, revealing a little Downing goss: Pete the barman is getting married. Congratulations!

Kirsten and I had dinner at Al Casbah on Mill Road, a great little Algerian restaurant whose Valentine’s day menu consisted of copious amounts of meat. It was absolutely packed but, having booked, we didn’t need to wait long. Working through the entire mixed grill spread before us was virtually impossible, and the price tag even included a rose for her so I didn’t have to! It is, I am told, much cheaper for lunch than dinner, but falls well within the student budget nonetheless. Anna actually recommended the place to me several months ago so remember to thank her if you try it out. I suggest you do.

Tonight is Midway Dinner and since Luke will be bringing his camera along we may have some guest shots from him when I describe the inevitable antics…

V-Day 2006

I Heart YouMany of you were wondering, I’m sure, whether being in a relationship this year would transform me into a submissive paragon of servitude before the altar of commercial amour this February 14th. Yeah right. I’m just lucky to have found someone who shares my loathing of the commercialisation of love, crystalising with the plastic romance of Valentine’s day. That’s not the only reason I’m lucky, I feel compelled to point out before I receive complaints. For us, other than a few small romantic gestures, it’s mostly an excuse to eat good, expensive food. Of course, other people take the whole affair a lot more seriously, while still others remain actively engaged against the idea to such lengths that its continued success is virtually guaranteed. Meanwhile security experts suggest you desist from opening any Valentine’s Day related mail because it could be a virus. I recommend you also avoid opening your door today since there’s a moderate chance of rain.

City law firm Dechert have offered me summer work which I’m keen to accept. Upon seeing me return from the interview TomTom inferred that my snazzy shirt and tie combination would guarantee me a place — apparently he was right.

If you are not otherwise engaged in some romantic liaison this evening, don’t forget to check out the continuing adventures of Lej in Beauty and the Geek on E4.

The Silent Garfield

Garfield has been dull for the past several years. The witty comments dried up in the height of its fame, yet strangely its popularity remained while its quality faded. Now it appears that removing Garfield’s dialogue instills the strip with a sense of surrealist pathos. It is, after all, one thing to talk to your sarcastically intelligent pet feline, but quite another to find yourself trying to communicate with a fat, unresponsive, lazy housecat. And suddenly the dismal life of Jon holds a newfound gravitas.

Neil Gaiman‘s site has been redesigned at some point in the recent past — I haven’t been visiting often enough to say exactly when. It’s a stylish result with a much cleaner interface and far easier to read, and yet it seems to have lost the quirky heart that made the old version feel so appropriate. It’s a prime example of how objectively improved site/graphic design is not necessarily an improvement in representing a product or connecting with your target users.

I haven’t mentioned the Oscar nominations, much to many people’s surprise, because frankly they’re not that interesting. I’m not nearly excited enough to watch the show and I doubt I’ll be clamouring to find out the results either. For the big four I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to suggest that Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Reese Witherspoon might be feeling rather smug by the end of the night. I have my reservations about Brokeback actually being “best picture” material, but having not managed to see it, I feel it would be unfair of me to comment in great detail. Suffice to say it appears to be a beautiful, thoughtful and well directed piece, but has attracted such acclaim more for its content than its skill. I would humbly suggest that the other four nominations are more deserving on merit, despite not having made quite such an impact on Hollywood. But then that’s totally missing the point of the Oscars, I suppose.

The War of the Rooms

The Rooms Ballot is not wholly unlike a small scale war. The evidence is there. Territory is marked, threats are made, alliances forged and broken, creative espionage, tears alongside the victory cries, and a little concealed trickery (several rooms disappeared from the ballot during the proceedings). And like anyway war, the best way to survive is just to entrench yourself until the whole thing blows over. In a way I’ve been lucky. Having been so low last year I knew there was no point in trying to predict available rooms and just took what was available. Being conversely high this year (reversing last year’s list) meant that I knew I’d end up with at least a good room if not great. N sadly escaped me, but returning to K surrounded by friends will be great fun. Good luck to anyone who has yet to pick.

Marie AntoinetteI was watching a trailer for Marie Antoinette and noticed that the way in which Kirsten Dunst was being shot bore a striking resemblence to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Which, it turned out, makes rather a lot of sense since it too is directed by Sofia, bringing her recognisable, voluptuously dreamy style to historic drama. It should be an interesting character piece on the naïve young queen.

The jazz band, Square 1, had a recording session today with some serious recording equipment. Sparkie sent a couple of samples my way and they sound great. Very tight performances with Nischa’s beautiful vocals lilting softly over the top. That said, having heard from my room Summertime being rehearsed unceasingly throughout my entire first year, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t set my teeth on edge at first.

House, MDDespite my general hatred for TV of late, I must confess that there are a remarkable number of shows drawing my attention. Aside from the oft-mentioned Beauty and the Geek, on which I can confirm Lej is awesome (“Not meaning to be cruel but she seems like the dippiest girl we’ve had in here”), my latest diversion has been House. I’ve never been a big fan of hospital dramas in which doctors with an encyclopaedic knowledge of medicine reel off convoluted diagnoses of everyone in the room before saving them all with a piece of chewing gum and an unfolded paperclip. Each episode of House unfolds more like a mystery, only with a malady as the villain and a misanthropic cripple as its hero. Dr. House, brilliantly performed by Hugh Laurie, deals with only one patient at a time, and his solutions involve trial and error and research rather than instant fixes. As for his character, imagine me as a doctor and every reason why that could never work — and there you have House, MD.

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"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

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