tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

New book review - Fallen Dragon

New book review - Fallen Dragon by Peter F Hamilton. Quick summary: good SF story, action with character development, start could have been better.

Other book news: I picked up Shockwave Rider by John Brunner at Wax Factor in Brighton last weekend, which makes me a happy bunny, as it's a classic in the SF/cyberpunk area which I've never had a chance to get hold of. I've read a few of Brunner's other books and they're generally good and potentially mind-bending, so I'm expecting good things from SR.


Two new bits of hardware make it in to my world...

A D-link router on loan from my friend Paul, so when I nab my PC back from my mother I can plug them both in to my internet connection without having to mess around with cables all the time. The router (a DI-614+) is good and has wireless, should I have anything else to try it with before I give it back. It was a doddle to set up, but only after I let my NTL connection settle down. At first, I used the cable modem to look some stuff up, connected direct to my laptop. Then, when I plugged the router in, I couldn't get it to connect. I did a factory reset (a matter of poking a button with something pointy) and it didn't make any difference. However, trying it again in the morning without first using the connection perked everything up and it's now working fine. I think NTL didn't like me suddenly changing the hardware connecting through their modem, probably because they record the MAC address of the computer on my end, and the router didn't match what they were expecting.

Now, it's all working fine with very little effort, though I've borrowed the network patch leads connecting everything together and have to give them back to another friend tomorrow. Still, I've got a week or two before I have to connect two computers up at once, so I'll be able to get some cables before then.

The other bit of kit is a Bandridge PS/2 to USB convertor which allows me to plug my old PC keyboards in to my Apple iBook. Plugged it in and it worked straight away. I can now use my big Microsoft 'Natural' keyboard if I've got a lot of typing to do. The keyboard on the iBook is fine, but I'm a big chap and I find if I type on it for a long time my upper arms start to twinge. I don't think it's anything to do with the keyboard apart from it's size - 12" is just a bit too small for me.

With the adaptor I can use pretty much any PC keyboard. I've got an older, very 'clicky' one which has an old DIN style-socket (the thing 'IBM-compatible' PCs used before PS/2 became common) so the signal has to go through two adaptors before the signals get to the computer. I didn't think it would work but I'm finishing this post using it and it seems to be fine. Very handy.

Useful ColdFusion snippets

I have some useful ColdFusion code on my website. I also have an idea for another technical article having answered a question on affiliate link tracking on the ColdFusion forums supplied by Macromedia.

That'll have to fit in with the other articles I need to write at the moment though, and the text I'm writing for various websites.


There is an excellent thread on nightmare flatmates from hell happening on b3ta.com. I posted it to the BNM list earlier this week and a friend said he "lost a bloody morning to it."


Went to a good Skillswap yesterday on Information Architecture (IA.)

It turns out I knew more about IA than I thought, as it has large overlaps with the processes you go through creating a website, and a lot in common with usability. I have a first edition of the O'Reilly Information Architecture for the World Wide Web book and the talk has taken my interest enough to stick it at the top of the stack of professional books I'm working through at the moment.

Skillswap is a very useful event. Andy Budd organises a speaker for a small group of interested locals, mainly from the new media industry. There have been talks on Cascading Style Sheets, Search Engine Optimisation, Object Oriented PHP and now IA. It's all free, which is fantastic, and hosted by the BBC CSV Media Clubhouse, just down from Brighton Station. A big cheers to Andy and the people behind the CSV for putting the events on, and if you're interested in doing something similar in your own area, have a look at the Skillswap website and contact Andy about how he does it.

Self Googling Update

Looks like I spoke too soon about the Self Googling, I've dropped back down a couple of rungs. Ho hum, such is the shuffling that goes on as they tweak things. I'm sure I'll be back with a little extra effort.

Self Googling

I'm now second on Google for 'Paul Silver.' Woo! Having some people linking to my site with my name as the text in the link is a great help, but adding a quick page about myself has definitely helped, it's bumped me up higher than one of my compatriots who's in a sailing club that I was below a couple of weeks back.

Normally, I wouldn't care where I am ranked for my name in Google, but as I'm doing more SEO now it is a bit silly not to get a good ranking, as it's the obvious thing people look up about you. I don't think I'll knock the chap at the top off, as he's got the .com domain name of our shared name, and a large number of links to it from relevant places as he has a well established photography business. I think he's a fine PS to be at the top, I just wanted to be a little higher than the Paul Silvers who just happened to be on a page about something they are interested in.
Lewes procession / fireworks 2003

Were excellent as ever. The procession was good, but we seemed to stand where lots of people's torches were running out, and they put them in the gutter when this happens. For a while we had our own little bonfire at the side of the road which started belching acrid smoke once they went from flames to smouldering. All part of the authentic experience!

As usual the fireworks were marvellous. We went to the Waterloo display, which is free but still extraordinary. The only problem with the fireworks displays at Lewes is they spoil all other ones once you've seen them. It's not just that you see one very high quality display, it's that you can see several going on at once around the village.

Two fireworks over Lewes

The only bad part of the day was trying to get out of town. I've had problems getting back on the train in previous years so promised myself I'd go over by car, and gave my mate Robert a lift. We got back to my mate Alex's house and the car at 11.15, drove around the corner, then waiting for another 45 minutes for the roads to be re-opened at midnight. Damn! We watched the end of another display across town while we waited, so it wasn't too bad. The next day I heard people had no problems getting home on the train from the displays that finished early. Arses!

Is happening. Lots of meetings, helping with a project bid, more work from my old company and more quotes for them. Loans of books (thanks Nigel. Ideas for a tool that's turning in to a new site that I'm prototyping the code for.

Not enough sleep.
Film update...

Kill Bill (vol 1) - thumbs up. Bit slow at the start, but a good action film overall. The Watchowski Brothers, makers of the Matrix films, should really watch this, then work out how the fight scenes in Kill Bill give suspense and a feeling of drama, whereas the ones in Matrix Reloaded tend to be flat and boring. Both are very stylised and choreographed, both quite ludicrous in an action-film-over-the-top way, but the ones in Kill Bill work. I think it might be that you feel the characters in KB are more vulnerable than the ones in Reloaded, but then given KB's trademark Quentin Tarantino timeline-fiddling you should know someone is going to be OK when you're sitting there, rooting for her to survive a massive fight.

Matrix Revolutions is a thumb-waggling-in-the-air-then-drifting-slowly-downwards. It's fine. It's better than Reloaded, less full of very iffy philosophical hand-waving. It still suffers from some of the problems Reloaded had, e.g. only two characters in a room talking to each other rather than more than two and severely stunted acting. the fight scenes looked slightly better, perhaps because the only big Neo fight was with Smith and was completely mad, rather than trying to look in any way realistic. The point of the film where I realised lots of people weren't finding it very involving was when one of the characters dies, pinned by wreckage in to the seat of her craft in front of her lover. This should have been a very sad, emotional scene, but as the camera pulled back to reveal her damaged body a small giggle ran around parts of the cinema. It was just so obvious and handled in such a ham-fisted way, you just knew she was going to be pinned there, but that he'd have to struggle on to save the world.

I was never really taken by The Matrix as much as some people seemed to be. It was a fine action film for it's time, it bought us the now much abused 'bullet time' and a new sense of style for films involving lots of guns. But the whole 'we're living in a virtual reality' has always seemed a bit of a naff story-line in films, maybe because I read too many short stories about it when I was young which handled it in a much better, more thoughtful way. But still, it's finished, at least for the moment, and there's plenty of inconsistencies and unresolved parts to give the fans material to chew over for years, which is always good.

Belleville Rendez-vous still has no serious contender for best film of the year.
OK, lots of catch-up posts to make...

Firstly, I've come across a few things about the brain / consciousness recently. First there was the Channel 4 documentary 'Soul Searchers', then two articles by Bill Softky in The Register about Software Engineers being brain scientists. I found Bill's article interesting as he sets out the difficulties in understanding the brain, which is often ignored by the programming side of the field of studying the mind. The second part is out but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

'Soul Searchers' was quite an interesting show, but annoyed me as it concentrated a lot on the idea of the left brain and right brain being very separate things, with innovation coming from the right side, with the left side handling language and scientific thought. It went through a tour of current scientific theories about the brain, including Roger Penrose's theory about quantum effects being part of the way the brain works, then concluded with looking at eastern religions and how they look at the brain, being much more right-brain centered.

Now, firstly, this annoyed me because although various parts of the brain have some distinct functions, they have the corpus callosum, a very thick band of neural connections, between them sending a huge amount of information back and forth all of the time. Now, people who have had had this connection severed for some reason (generally cancer or extremely severe epilepsy) could be said to have two separate brains, but there are other, smaller connections between the two hemispheres that have been shown to transfer various information of a more specialised nature. This connection makes the two hemispheres one.

There was various comments saying that the western world has been dominated by left-brain thinking, i.e. scientific thinking rather than more 'creative' right-brain thinking. This I also think is incorrect, as making the kind of scientific leaps that started the industrial revolution and have kept it going ever since takes creativity, it's just of a different kind than they were referring to. Engineering can be true art, but it has function as well. I think the large scientific advances in the west pretty much started because of our environment. If you lived on a small, cold, wet island, you'd be looking at ways of making your life more comfortable by using tools and materials, rather than seeking direct inner-thought fulfilment. We still seem to be surfing the wave of the industrial revolution, though most of us are now comfortable enough to be thinking about inner harmony, not destroying more of the environment (still working on that one) and various other philosophical things.

While Roger Penrose has the kind of intelligence that knocks mine in to a cocked hat, I can't agree with his theories about quantum effects being behind creativity in the brain. I think this is for two reasons:

1. I think the brain is so complicated, we're only on the fringes of getting a proper handle on what it's about, and it's going to be a lot of work to get anywhere in our understanding of how the brain physically works;

2. A long while ago, I did various reading around the 'mind-body problem' - whether the mind exists in the physical brain, or whether there is a spiritual element. During this I read about the idea that the consciousness can be shown to be a side-effect of other things happening in the brain. On various scans, the thoughts you have, the 'inner voice' inside your head that is 'you', actually happens slightly after the thoughts you think you're having with yourself.

A side-effect of this is the idea that creativity can happen outside of your actual consciousness. I 'file' problems or concepts off to let my sub-conscious work on them if I really can't think my way out of a problem, and find a full or partial solution to them 'pops' in to my head hours or days later. Having thought around this for a while, I don't really have a problem with the idea that bits of my brain I don't have 'control' over via my inner voice can be working on stuff that I don't realise they are working on consciously. It might be suggested that the practisers of eastern religions such as Buddhism featured in 'Soul Searchers' are investigating these unconscious parts of their own minds, or indeed they just might be quieting down their inner voice to nothing and gaining insight in to something else entirely.

Anyone interested in this kind of stuff might want to read The Myth of Irrationality by John McCrone, though I'd also suggest looking around for a better deal than the Amazon page the title is linked to as £30 is a bit much.

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