One Christmas I’ll never forget

OK, so a lot of people have had one hell of a worse Christmas than me, but still…

The last week or so has been pretty draining for me and that, combined with lack of broadband access has meant I haven’t been particularly active in the blogging world of late.

My mum was admitted into hospital on Christmas morning, having suffered a stroke. It’s by no means as bad as it could be, but she’s still in hospital at the moment and is likely to be for a few more weeks. We’re hopeful that she’ll be well enough to come home after that, but there’s not much any of us can really do except wait to see how much of a recovery she’s able to make.

I’ve been visiting her every day, and I’ve stayed up here over New Year so I can keep on doing that. It’s left me with little or no plans for tonight, but I’m sure I can cope with one New Year without attending any mediocre house parties or being dragged round a bunch of overly-expensive pubs.

I’m missing quite a few people, but hopefully I can do something about that next week. My current plan is to drive down to Leam on Monday for work the next day and then come back up here at the weekend to see how things are going. I feel like a bit of a c**t for buggering of halfway across the country in three days’ time, but talking to Mary last night helped convince myself that I am doing the right thing.

This will probably be the last entry I make before I get back to Civilisation. It’s just one that I wanted to make in the meantime.

Listening to: Q Radio, via Freeview
Eating: Easter eggs
Grateful to: The handful of people who’ve helped me through the last week. You know who you are.


Matt: I respect you a lot for writing this.

I should have some kind of phone contract sorted out within the next week or so, once I’ve got past the Orange vs. 3 dilemma. Perhaps then, I can start keeping in touch with people a bit better myself.

A Cheeky Christmas

One good thing about being home is that the Freeview box I bought a few weeks ago for the house in Leam actually works here (that’s my mother’s Christmas present sorted, then).

This morning I turned it on this morning to find the Cheeky Girls presenting a round-up of their favourite Christmas songs, which naturally finished with their own. The video is about as sinister as you’d expect from the Cheeky Girls, with them sitting together in front of an open fire and chasing each other through the snow. There was a cute blatantly-gay boy who kept popping up in between them, though, so points for that.

Also, the new Band Aid song is officially Pants (hadn’t seen it before), and the Shakin Stevens video involves him staring longingly into the eyes of a small boy. As if the Cheeky Girls weren’t sisnister enough…

My mother wants to use the phone now. Oh the joys of dial-up… 🙂

When your parents suddenly get old

I arrived back home last night to find the house in a bit of a state, with old newspapers piled up on the dinner table and a pile of broken glass sitting at the bottom of the hallway door, which had a big hole in it. Since then I’ve tidied up the mess, taped up a big piece of cardboard over the door and today took all the newspapers down to the recycling point in Amlwch.

There’s still lots of cleaning to do and a Christmas tree to put up, but that can wait until I’ve written a blog entry (now I’ve managed to set up a dial-up connection on the phone line).

Suddenly it seems I’m the one looking after my mother. Not being able to drive the car was the last remaining barrier to that happening and now I’ve got rid of that. Today I drove to the shops and she stayed at home, listening to the radio and reading through the TV guide. There’s loads more things that I need to sort out in the next nine days while I’m here, including some arrangements for what happens when I have to leave again.

I think this Christmas is going to be quite different from previous ones.

Last day at work

I feel like Christmas has come two weeks early. This week I’ve consumed three Christmas dinners and copious amounts of alcohol, as well as attending numerous social gathertings with Nice People.

Today was my last day at work before the New Year, and the day of the ITS Christmas meal and subsequent sitting around drinking and chatting in Radcliffe house for the rest of the afternoon. A bunch of us went back to Bee’s hotel room in Cov afterwards to drink Tesco Bollinger out of Woolworths plastic champagne flutes (nicer that it sounds!), before heading into town for pizza and cocktails.

Not a good night calorie-wise all in all, but I figure I get to eat and drink what I want on my last day at work for a couple of weeks, on the day I was told that (subject to references etc.) I got the Tier 2 support job I applied for within ITS. Yay, job security!

Tomorrow I’m off to London for the traditional trip down there before I head back to Wales for Christmas. Quite why I do this every year on the last shopping weekend, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m mad.

Open source and patents

ZDNet have an interesting article about the meeting that took place earlier this week to discuss the proposed changes to European patent law, changes which pose a huge threat to open source software. The meeting appears to have been largely unsuccessful in convincing the UK Patents Office of this, however.

Open-source and free software has a great story to tell, but it needs people who can tell it in the language of the CIOs and the lawmakers. It’s an old lesson, that the most effective revolutionaries are those with radical ideas disguised behind the facade of respectability. Open source must learn to play that game — and owning your own suit may be an advantage.

This is what I want to do, ultimately. Not to just develop OSS but to actively sell its virtues to people in suits. Quite how I get there is another matter, though.

Ice skating and WGA

Had an excellent weekend. I saw lots of cool people that I hadn’t seen for a while. We went Ice skating on the open-air rink at Warwick Castle, did some general wandering around the place, then went out into Warwick for food. After that we headed back to campus for the WGA ball in the Union. I saw even more people that I hadn’t even expected to see – a nice surprise.


There’s photos here, although I should point out that I didn’t take half of the photos in the Union, or at least I don’t remember doing so. I also have some videos of the ice skating here, here and here, which James and Dave shot on my camera.

Virgin Trains

Apparently I can’t book a train ticket to go home on the twentieth yet, because Virgin Trains don’t yet know which trains are going to be running on that day. This was after I spent about five minutes telling a computer my journey requirements (pretty impressive voice recognition, but you feel damn stupid doing it!), confirming the details with an operator, and waiting on hold for another five minutes while the operator checked why there were no trains coming up for that day. Gah!

Anyway, for the first time in a while I’m actually looking forward to going home this Christmas. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing a few people I haven’t seen in a while, and now my mother’s put me down on the insurance for her car I can actually go places without needing to be driven around! It’s also been nearly a year since I left this place for longer than a couple of days, and I think a change of scene will do me a lot of good.

That is of course, if I ever manage to get a train ticket 🙂, but in the future

Came across this from Matt‘s old site, while going a Google search for ‘wabson’. It reminded me what used to be like, before it became, before it lost all the photos and before the hype died out.

The bit that says “1,799,986 comments received for this photo (12 on subject)” made me think of Warwick Blogs, which incidentally Kieran has just published a load of statistics for. I wonder what will become of WB, once all the hype has died down?

Your daily dose of spam (and cynicism)

What better way to start the day* than to spend five minutes deleting the comment spam that got though my filters overnight.

Thankfully, sixteen more comments had been blocked automatically by MT-Blacklist so I didn’t even have to deal with those. Oh, and I added a robots.txt file to, to tell Google and its friends not to index any of the CGI files on the server, which I hope will cut down on the number of spammers that get here by searching the Internet for the Movable Type’s comment scripts.

Although this should help, and although I update the filters with new keywords from any comments that get through, it’s always going to be a cat-and-mouse game between me and the spammers. But I shouldn’t really have to do this, should I?

If every morning you woke up to discover that some evil advertisers had come round the middle of the night and flyposted the front of your house, you’d be fairly annoyed, wouldn’t you? And no doubt someone would stop them, in the end. But because it’s the Internet, I guess it’s different. These people are vandalising my property on a daily basis and getting away with it.

I don’t know the legalities of comment spam, but as our legislators barely have the ability to pass a set of laws to stop the tide of email spam, expecting them to stop people from spamming my blog is perhaps a little too ambitious.

* OK, so technically I started the day by hitting snooze lots of times, getting showered and dressed, running for the bus, reading the Independent, getting into work and fiddling with Java. But this is the first productive thing I’ve done today.