Mowing blind

Every now and again I do a good turn for someone. At least once a year.

Earlier this week I was out cutting grass for a neighbour, navigating a mower and strimmer around his lovely garden. When I’d finished I looked across the road at our house and I noticed that it seemed a bit blurred around the edges. Turns out that I’d done the entire job wearing my “close up” glasses (the ones that I only ever use with the computer). These turn everything more than two feet away into a mildly pleasing blur.

I’d been replying to an urgent email (yes I still get the occasional urgent email) before I left the house and forgotten to change back to my proper spectacles.

I think I'll leave it a while before I go back and look at the damage….

Surfing memory lane

Making a meme in 2006….

Making a meme in 2006….

Someone is interested in publishing an eBook based on a text that I wrote over twenty years ago. This is scary. Particularly if you’ve lost the original file.

For many years my backup approach was always to copy the files from the old desktop into a folder on the drive of the new one. This worked until I stopped using desktops and started using laptops. Laptop drives are much smaller and so I was forced to suspend this practice.

My backup policy changed to “put an external hard drive in the loft and forget about it”.

This turned out not to be a good ploy. But today, after a couple of hours treading nervously around the loft looking in boxes (we have a lot of boxes) I managed to find a drive that had all my missing files on.

The word documents are there along with lots of other stuff that has completely brought all work to a standstill while I spend some time marvelling at how much better I was at every kind of thing twenty years ago….

Writing about Chatbots


One of the things on my list of things to do is “Write the presentation for the Barclays AI Frenzy event”. Which is tomorrow…..

I reckon that it can take up to a day to write a good one-hour presentation. So it’s a good thing I’m starting now.

I’m talking about chatbots, which I’m quite familiar with. But pesky Microsoft keep making the bot framework different and better. This means that while the fundamentals stay broadly the same, but way you use them is different. Which means that all the slides and demos need to be reworked.

The good news is that I’m becoming rather inspired by just what you can do with this technology now.

Big in Bedfordshire


Continuing on the theme of “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” I’ve noticed a bit of traffic on my blog post from 2013 introducing the coursework that I’d set that year for the first year programming course. When I was teaching I had a strict policy of always creating new software scenarios because of the dangers of recycled solutions.

It seems that the folks at the University of Bedford are a bit less fussy. There are some changes to the original text that I set but apart from that it’s the same. Oh well.

In search of ancient files...


It turns out that my original C programming notes are coming back into fashion. Thanks to the archiving efforts of a site in China (thanks foks) I’ve managed to get hold of the PDF of the notes, but I can’t find the 25 year old original of the document. I’ve spent a big chunk of today turning on ancient laptops and finding that their disks don’t go round any more, including this one above. I think the platter has kind of stuck. Or something. I’m tempted to open it up and give it a tiny twirl. After all, it can’t make things worse……

Good Friday Sounds

Number one son has been buying vinyl. Just like I was doing forty years ago. In celebration we got his B&O system down from the loft and fired it up. It used to be my dad’s pride and joy, and it was wonderful to hear it back in action. The word was that if it didn’t go bang when we powered it up it would probably work fine. And it did. There’s something about proper analogue sound that I really like. Perhaps I’ll get my deck (and all the records) down and have a go some time.


I’m not that keen on gardening. It seems to me that you can spend ages making the garden look nice and then, only a few years later, you have to do it all again.

Sometimes it’s more frequent than that.

The latest re-modelling involves the removal of stuff. I’m quite good at this, although I’m a bit of a blunt instrument and I’ve been known to generate a lot of “collateral damage”. Today I was carefully programmed with the items to destroy and left to it.

Pro tip: If you are removing something substantial from your garden, don’t cut it down to ground level before trying to dig out the roots. Leave a nice long stalk to use as a “handle” to give you some leverage on the stump. I did this, but the person who’d chopped down a whole bunch stuff before me hadn’t. As a result I had a happy five hours digging round the tiny bits left, chopping and sawing roots and using appropriate language.

I’ll tell you one thing though, if you think I’ve had a bad day, the objects of my attention had a much, much, worse one…………

Being polite pays off

I’ve started saying please to my electronic devices. This is not because I’m super-polite (although I like to think I am). My reasoning is that if you put “please” on the end of a request the device can tell that you’ve finished your command, and that it needs to go off and work out what it means and then do it.

From my completely unscientific testing I’ve found that it does slightly improve accuracy and response. Which is nice. I might start saying thank-you next.

Drain Unblocking Etiquette

Truly an amazing device

Truly an amazing device

Arrive home on Valentine’s Day to hear the three little worlds that can change your life: “The toilet’s blocked”. Oh well.

The thing with tools like drain un-blockers is that you can only find them when you don’t need them. And so it was on this occasion. Fortunately we have awesome neighbours who are much better at keeping track of their stuff than we are. They were able to lend me a device like the one above. It really is wonderful. You pump air into the reservoir and then release it into the blocked pipe using the trigger. After a couple of blasts we were good to go. And all in time for tea.

What with me being so flushed with success (as it were) I kind of lost track of the fact that I’d borrowed next-door’s sink un-blocker and stuffed it down our toilet. I’d washed it carefully and all, but still….. So it was on to Amazon to track down a clean replacement. It arrived today and I’ve dropped it round. Now, between us we can just about handle anything.