Congenital Optimist

Compare and contrast. I quite like both of them, for different reasons. The first I like because it’s good to be hopeful, and the second for the same reason that many of the CDs I’m ripping into iTunes (did I mention that I really like iTunes?) are by people like Del Amitri, Alanis Morisette (before she went to India) and The Beautiful South.

Off to the Lake District for a week. Hoping it doesn’t rain too much.

Update: I’d like LiveJournal to be able to categorise postings and have a display which shows only those postings in a particular category. Without messing about with styles, the closest I seem to be able to get is the Memories feature. So there are some new links on the sidebar to the left (in this style) to postings of mine and of others which fall under my favourite topics.

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Highpoint

Dave and Abbie’s wedding was fun. We started in Kew Gardens for the wedding itself, in beautiful surroundings for a charming ceremony. That was the first and only civil wedding in the crop of five (count ’em) weddings this year, and it lacked nothing on the church ceremonies. We then moved on to Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, for the wedding breakfast, and, after some quick furniture removal, for an evening of ballroom dancing.

I took some pictures, as did S. Hers are the well composed portraits, mine are the blurry ones with people half out of shot. You can find them all here. Higher resolution ones are available if anyone wants them.

I’ll run out of superlatives if I try to describe it much further. Suffice to say it was a lovely day.

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Just Testing

A couple of students in Another Place are in trouble for “hacking”. The news papers aren’t particularly specific about what they did, but it sounds like they installed a packet sniffer and listened in on traffic across their network.

Ethernet networks have everyone hanging off the same piece of wire. If you’re on an Ethernet network, your network card has a unique address. As the traffic for everyone on that piece of wire flows by, your computer picks up traffic addressed to it. It doesn’t listen to other people’s traffic because you usually don’t care about it. However, by running your network card in what is delightfully known as promiscuous mode, you can see other people’s traffic. Programs which do this and present the results to you are called packet sniffers. Ethereal is a popular free packet sniffer. Packet sniffers have legitimate uses, like diagnosing network problems or writing and debugging software which uses the network (I installed Ethereal the last time I was having problems with DNS lookups, for example). The remedies for undesired sniffing are encryption and restructuring the network so everyone’s packets don’t share the same piece of wire.

The Oxford students seem to have been disciplined for drawing attention to what they did, but none of what they found is news. A college network probably has everyone hanging off the same wire. There are encrypted versions of telnet, HTTP, IMAP and POP3 but not many people use them. There are a lot of clever people with time on their hands. You work it out.

People who know this have done some sort of risk calculation and come up with a solution that they’re happy with, which balances convenience against privacy. For example, I only permit encrypted logins to my machines and don’t send my password itself when fetching email (although the mail itself comes across the wire as plain text). Now you know what’s possible, you can do that calculation too.

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Long View

I recently finished reading Jill Paton Walsh’s Lapsing. The book follows Tessa, a young Catholic woman, through 50’s Oxford. With a title like that, it’s not much of a spoiler to say that the she loses her faith eventually. What I liked about this book was how well it evoked the strangeness of growing up, and particularly, the dissociation of losing one’s faith.

<lj-cut text=”The colours change”>

Though any photographer knows how the light changes all the live-long day, how various it is under every passing cloud, in every different climate, latitude, season, hour, for most people the medium of seeing is invisible – a constant white. We can hardly believe that the fabric samples, carefully matched under the lamplight, can so treacherously clash by daylight. “The colours change”, we say. Just so, for the most part, we treat our own consciousness, by whose flickering light we view the world, as an invisible medium seeing: its quirks and tints, and shadows, and changes of hue simply projected as changes in the world outside. Eagerly and hungrily viewing the whole world, the young particularly treat themselves as the invisible constant – though retrospective understanding will later illuminate every one of their friends, enemies, companions – it will always be hardest to find for themselves. Whatever thoughts and actions seem most entirely natural will occasion the most astonished incomprehension later; later everyone’s behaviour will seem explicable except one’s own; and thinking back across the years, Tessa will, of course, be able to see clearly everyone in the circle except herself.



The person I was is out there for all to see, but though I know in abstract what drives evangelicals as a group, my own inner life from that time is alien to me. There are occasional echoes brought on by a song or a sunny day, but I don’t know why I thought what I thought or felt what I felt.

The book’s characters are well described, for all the brevity of some of the cameo roles (which perhaps reflects the rush of Oxbridge life and the protagonists’ own self-involvement). The portrayal of religion is realistic and sympathetic, although the feeling of a lapser is well described too. Catholics named Theresa might enjoy the book 🙂

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Just Passing Through

I’m trying out Xjournal, a rather nifty LJ client for Mac OS X. It’s all very pretty. Club 977 is an 80s Internet radio station, by the way. Pure cheese, all day long. Fantastic.

I had a brief stay in Edinburgh, for a wedding, last weekend. I took a few photographs of the place. Edinburgh is full of impressive architecture. Describing it as “pretty” doesn’t really do it justice, as that seems a little twee, which it isn’t.

That was the first of a run of weddings this year. It was a good start, with a ceidlidh afterwards (at which my theory that Karl Sandeman plays all ceidlidhs, ever, was disproved). S asked them to play a slow waltz. We ended up having the floor to ourselves and getting compliments on our dancing. I don’t imagine that’ll happen at the big ballroom dancing wedding in a couple of weeks.

Leonard of Crummy.com, boyfriend to sumanah, has the answer to why prayers sometimes go unanswered. Now you know where you’ve been going wrong.

I recently finished Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, a historical novel set in the late 1600s. It’s a bit of a departure for Stephenson, who usually does cyberpunk, but it’s still got his usual style and frenetic set-piece scenes. The Waterhouse and Shaftoe families, familiar from Cryptonomicon, turn up as a friend to Isaac Newton and as a Vagabond, respectively. I found it hard to keep track of just who was related to whom in the noble families mentioned, before deciding that it was better to just give up and enjoy the ride. The name dropping and anachronisms jar occasionally, but all in all, it’s well worth a read. Stephenson has avoided his usual problem of weak endings by making this the first book of a trilogy, so the ending is not the ending at all.

I’m thinking of getting a new phone, which will of course incorporate Bluetooth technology. Currently it’s a toss-up between the Nokia 6600 and the Sony Ericsson T610. Anyone got any experience of either of those? I’d like one with a decent organiser that I can sync with iCal, as I want something which will go beep at me when I’m about to miss important appointments.

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