tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines


I have a weird drone.

Nothing to do with the Borg, Star Trek fans, and everything to do with an irritating noise coming from above my flat. It's just loud enough to be very annoying, especially at night, and kept me awake until pretty much 5am. Great.

The guy above me in the flats claims it's not coming from him, but he gets a lot of noise from the people above him, who weren't answering their door when I knocked. However, I couldn't hear the hum/noise outside their door, whereas I could outside the guy above me. He's always been a considerate, pretty quiet neighbour so I can believe it's not coming from him, so maybe it's some internal / piping thing that he doesn't know about. Unfortunately the building manager isn't available until Monday. Joy.

I have bought some ear plugs.

Thank Blair advert

I've just noticed my blog seems to have picked up an advert for: 'Say Thanks to Tony Blair. Send a thank you message to Tony Blair for supporting the US in Iraq' which is presumably because of my earlier Saddam Hussein captured post.

Now, I think the reasons for Britain supporting the latest war in Iraq are complicated, and the public doesn't know about many of the negotiations which have gone on behind the scenes, but I was not happy about the way America started the war, or the way our leaders supported it. While Saddam is no longer in power, I think the way it was done could have been much better, even if it had taken slightly more time.

I wonder what keywords are triggering the advert? Presumably 'Blair', with perhaps 'Bush' as well, or 'weapons of mass destruction.' I wonder how many anti-Blair and Bush blogs are now showing the offer to thank a man they fundamentally disagree with. It makes the idea of placing political adverts quite tricky - are you really targeting the group of visitors who are going to want to see your advert? And will they follow it, just to post abuse?


My friend Phil turned 30 on Sunday, and I went over to Portsmouth to celebrate with him. Very enjoyable, met some of his friends and our mutual ones, and his girlfriend Rachel. He seemed to enjoy the pipe and slippers I gave him, though Kochik (no doubt spelt entirely differently) was a true natural with the pipe, to a quite disturbing extent.

Also disturbing, I found half of Phil's friends think I'm called Geoff (he decided with a G rather than a J, which I'd have preferred, but it does bring to mind Jeffery archer, so a G is better.) The reasons behind my Geoff-ness may be university-based, but I'm not sure even Phil is quite sure where it's come from, though he claims it was after my complaint that his dad forgot my name and called me something completely different later in the day. Phil assures me it was 'Geoff', but I think this might be his mind playing tricks on him, or me.

I'd forgotten that when we were in Brazil last year, Phil and I went to (well, sort of gatecrashed) to a ten-pin bowling evening with the people my mate Robert worked with. On the display board that kept track of whose turn it was to bowl and the score Phil filled in my name as Geoff, causing various amounts of confusion with the other bowlers, many of which were thoroughly confused by British humour.

Extra car woes

As well as my Beetle needing part of the underneath welding, while I was driving home the other night the red light, which shows whether the battery is charging or not, wouldn't quite go out. I had a poke about in the wiring, but nothing seemed to be loose. Then I noticed there was a small noise coming from the back, like a shorting connection. It looks like the generator brushes have worn down, and from what I can find from Google about fixing it, then it sounds very fixible, but quite a hassle. All I need to do is find a good guide on how to do it, so it looks like another look through the bible.

While I was poking around in the engine bay I thought I'd check the oil, and I found some white gunk inside the filler cap. This is the dreaded water-getting-in-to-oil scenario, which is annoying as I only did an oil change during the summer and everything's been fine when I've checked it since. So I need to do an oil change, which isn't too tricky (guide here) but I need to find out whether a seal somewhere has gone which is causing the problem, which is a lot harder.

Bah, all the problems with the car seem to be happening at once!


Christmas was good, but involved lots of driving: taking my mum to Muswell Hill to see one set of relatives (including Michael, who has another on-line DJing slot lined up, hopefully not such a wide range of Dutch techno this time ;-) .) Then on to Harlow, to pick up my Dad from seeing his mother, then back down to the south coast to get home. Driving on Christmas day is pretty good because the roads are clear, but I was very knackered on Boxing Day after all the concentration caught up with me. Still, turkey all around again, not bad at all!

Lord of the Rings - Return of the King

The final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a great film. I was chatting to someone about it at my friend Phil's birthday a couple of days ago and they felt it wasn't so good because it was really two big battles, but the way it's inter-cut with the struggles of Sam and Frodo trying to get to their destination breaks it up well.

To me, it didn't feel like a three and a half hour stay in the cinema, though I think I started fidgeting about half way through - I'm not really built for British cinemas - but apart from that the time flew by.

Of Kidneys and dates

I'm not a great one for dates, as anyone who's birthday I'm supposed to remember can attest. 19th December is one I do keep track of, and it's not for a good reason. However, now I have a good reason to remember the date, as it's now when the sister of one of my oldest friends received a kidney from her father. The operation seems to have been a success, though both patients are having regular check-ups.

They were both at home after a few days, which the cynical side of me says is to save NHS beds wherever possible, but the other part of me thinks is quite amazing - removing a bad kidney, sticking in a good one from someone else who's going down to one, and you're up and about in a few days. Bloody amazing.

Great blog catch-up

Hmm, various things happening since my last post. I could use the magic Blogger-date-changer and post-date everything, but I think rather than that I'll just make a load of posts. Here we go then...

Car jazz

When driving around earlier I was listening to some jazz. I think this means I'm officially getting old. Even if it was John Coltrane - Giant Steps.

I may have to redeem myself with some top volume Alabama 3 next time I'm out. Top volume being high enough to hear it over the engine.

Saddam Hussein may have been captured

Apparently Saddam Hussein might have been arrested in Iraq. At the moment the radio (BBC Radio 5) are not completely confirming as they haven't got a proper report from a verified source.

Let's hope this isn't one of his doubles or something. If it's true, this is going to have a huge affect on both Iraq and Western politics, both Blair and Bush are likely to get big boosts off this, although it won't stop people asking where the weapons of mass destruction we were told about are.

New SEO article

A new article helping with search engines when you move your pages: changing the language of your page without damaging page rank, detailing how to redirect both people and spiders who visit the addresses of your old pages after you've done something like change the language they're written in.

(In other news, what the heck am I doing writing stuff for my website this late on a Friday?)

New section for tpm website on SEO

I've added a search engine optimisation section to my website. At the moment it only has one article - showing you how to use Opera to emulate a text browser to show you how a web spider 'sees' your content.

Now, even though I've written the article about how to do this, I'd still say it only shows you part of the story. The HTML code a spider might have to contend with on the page also has a large effect on how your page will be ranked, but using a text browser is a good way of showing people who are new to SEO what their page looks like when you take all the images, Flash, and Javascript created elements away.


I've started writing what might be an information pack, or might be a book, or indeed both. I enjoy writing (sort of, although it can be a masochistic process) but actually forcing yourself to sit down and focus on writing something can be quite tricky. It's so easy to prevaricate... check BNM, check friend's blogs. I'm currently resisting checking Slashdot, in case I lose an hour or too. Then again I can prevaricate further by posting to my blog.


Beetle garage

My poor, mildly decrepit Beetle has gone in to the garage to have a hole under the battery repaired, which involves replacing several panels around it which are tea-bag like due to rust. This I could have done without paying for, having been made redundant / started freelancing, but I'm looking forward to having it back to fullish health and being able to barrel around country roads again without having to worry about the rust causing problems and something coming apart.

The garage I take it to and get bits for it from, Volkswagen Warehouse (AKA Beetlewerks) in Lancing are very good, being VW specialists, and are unfortunately about to move as the council is going to knock down the light industrial units they use as their warehouse and garage to replace them with low-cost housing. This is a real shame as they have to find new premises, I just hope they're as easy to get to as their current place.

They've been there for as long as I've been able to buy silly-shaped cars, and took my knackered Golf off me years ago, so for me it's a little bit of history disappearing from the village where I did a lot of my growing up. They helped with my Karmann Ghia, and were brutally honest about repair costs when it needed a lot of work (to the benefit of Joe, the chap who bought it off me as I couldn't afford to fix it,) they've done various work on my Beetle and given me other advice and help. I hope it doesn't take them too long to find somewhere else to set up.

Hotmail changes, junk and spam

I've been doing some posting to Usenet newsgroups, announcing a website for a client of one of the companies I'm working for. I don't know if it's that, or one of the large numbers of spam lists I'm on, but someone keeps mailing me copies of a 140k virus. Hotmail shoves these in my Junk folder as I have my account set to only accept messages from people in my address book, but because I do need to check for messages I want to receive, I don't have them to delete immediately. So... it keeps blowing my account limit. I cleared the folder earlier today, and just checked and it was full again, meaning I wouldn't receive any more legitimate messages.

Hotmail have changed their interface a little over the last week and while the new one is slightly prettier, it does have some annoying changes, such as the delete button at the bottom of messages disappearing, which is very irritating as you have to scroll to the top of the message to delete it. And for Safari users, when clicking 'Empty' in the Junk Mail folder rather than a nice message asking if I'm sure I want to delete them, I get a box with "Javascript 150995662" in it. Very handy.

The Register have a news article about spam now being more than 56% of all e-mail. This is frustrating for me, but at least I'm relatively used to dealing with it. I've had e-mail for twelve years now (which surprises me in itself - has it really been that long?) and I remember the time where no-one knew what the heck e-mail was, then the golden time when people did know, and you could give your address out willy-nilly and it wouldn't be a problem, and since then how more and more unsolicited e-mail is coming through. Both my Hotmail address and my old Virgin one have been on newsgroups and various websites, and between them they get about 40 junk messages a day.

Now, this isn't really a problem for me. I have them going in to Hotmail, with the filters set to high so I can just delete the messages when I need to. But, when my mother tries to get her e-mail, and that from my sister's old account, and has to sit at the end of a dial-up connection getting over 100 messages of unwanted crap every week, this is much more annoying. There are plenty of pieces of software, some of them free, which deal with this, but they require you to download the e-mail first. It's the downloading that takes all the time, deleting them yourself takes very little time indeed. So, the answer is to change ISP to one with spam filtering, but that means changing e-mail address as well, which doesn't really fit with trying to filter my sister's e-mail for people who might still be trying to get in contact with her. That's also why I keep my Virgin account going - various people I've lost contact with had that address, and there is an outside chance one of them will use it to try and talk to me at some point.

Hmm... spam. So easy to write software to send it, so difficult to stop it coming in. While I'm happy the UK now has laws to try and stop people sending spam, it's basically not going to work. It's too easy to use a server somewhere else to send it. What's really needed is two things:

1. Stop people having open e-mail relays, so it becomes more expensive to send spam

2. People need to stop clicking on the links in the damned messages and buying stuff.

Suddenly, this will make it not worth sending and we can all enjoy a relief as our mailboxes heave a sigh of relief as the only thing pouring in are messages from friends, newsletters, and a few thousand BNM posts a month.

A man of constant sorrow

I finally saw "O brother, where art thou?" when it was on television at the weekend. Great film, but I now have the song that's used throughout "A man of constant sorrow" going through my head. I'm going to have to get the soundtrack, if just to be able to clear it out from rattling around.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?