Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

Death By Chocolate

April 13, 2008 14:03 by colin

I've been so busy recently that I haven't been thinking about posting here. Well, here's a report from the end of February.

With J and A living in Napa we occasionally hear about food-related things that interest us. This time it was that COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food, and The Arts was holding their annual Wine and Chocolate Tasting, billed as "Death By Chocolate: The Ultimate Chocolate Festival". Naturally, we were interested.

We drove up to Napa with a couple of co-worker/friends from China, thinking they would enjoy the drive (and the chocolate) and possibly get to meet up with J and A who were also planning on being there.

Alas, the weather was grey with odd spots of rain but it was still fun and the chocolate was delicious.

The wine-tasting part was frustrating for a couple of reasons. One was that the various chocolates on offer were overpowering for the most part, that I never felt I was appreciating the full flavor of the wine.

Another was than I'm not used to wine tasting - I know you are supposed to taste and spit and to be honest, there wasn't a lot of spit-receptacles available and this place was crowded. I don't think they were really set up for the formal taste-and-spit process. Best you could do was sip, taste, then spit discreetly back into your glass at which point you had to make your way through the crowd to the nearest "wet trash" bin. So I stopped sampling the wine and focused on the chocolate.

One thing I really wish: 1) that I had discovered the Port Wine vendors upstairs sooner, and 2) that I didn't have to drive us home.

The variety of chocolate goods on display was quite astounding, including icecream and also some gluten-free chocolate souffles which were very delicious and reminded me of my numerous gluten-intolerant relatives (as well as my own history). I meant to take down the details of the vendor but I seem to have misplaced my notes. Darn.

The other product that sticks in my mind are Jade Chocolates. These were quite special.

Categories: Miscellaneous
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Discriminating Taste

March 12, 2008 13:59 by colin

[Ferraro] ignited a flap by telling a California newspaper that "if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

"And if he was a woman he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept," Ferraro said.

Source: Clinton supporter defends Obama race remarks

What a load of bollocks. I think there might be reasons other than being Black in Obama's case. However I think the only reason Clinton is still in the nomination race is because she's a woman.

Categories: Politics
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A Short Interlude

February 22, 2008 23:46 by colin

Scene: Driving to work

Me: So I got a reply from Ed in the CD office. He likes my code, says he is learning something from it.

Her: He's not allowed to fall in love with you. I fell in love with you from reading your code. Anyone would.

Me: I think "anyone" is a little broad...

Her: Are you calling me short?

Me: ...I would use the term "petite".

Categories: Miscellaneous
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Of course I want a woman in the White House

February 3, 2008 18:13 by colin

In the unlikely event that someone is reading this that can vote in the Democratic primary, and hasn't made their mind up yet, please watch this speech, and then decide:

Michelle Obama speaks in Delaware:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

Watching her, I started to feel oddly sorry for her husband's opponent.
- Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun

Categories: Politics
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Two - no, Three Updates

January 27, 2008 04:58 by colin

I've just uploaded fresh MP3's of Playing With The Big BoysFuture Imperfect , and Painting Abstracts to the Prodigal Sounds section of the web site. Both hi-fi and lo-fi versions of the files have been refreshed.

I've been listening to the versions on the web site off and on over the last month, at work, and I finally made some notes about what I didn't like:

Abstracts, it turns out, was an older version. I had completely forgotten that I'd already fixed many of the things I noticed. So the new version hasn't had any recent work, but is a remix that I did a while ago but never refreshed on the web.

Future Imperfect. has been beefed up a little, with one instrument dropping out completely (no more Pipe Organ) and another returning in its place (subtle Melange strings).

Big Boys has has more radical work done: Thanks to a free VST plugin, TickyClav from Big Tick Audio. This great little soft-synth (did I mention it was free?) picks one thing to do, and does it well. After playing around with it, I decided to replace the clav sound in Big Boys, and ended up recording a few new phrases, and removing some existing instrument tracks that were no longer needed. In the process, I also decided to re-balance some sections of the song with an eye to how this would sound if there were only one guitar player. So now, where before there were clean guitar chords backing a lead guitar, the backing track is now being played on TickyClav.

Additionally, I re-recorded the brass section with a different, better sounding patch. And removed a second keyboard sound that was responding to the brass MIDI track. You really couldn't tell it was there but it was muddying things up a little.

Just a quick couple of days work, but the 2008 versions of these two songs are much improved, I think.

Categories: Music Studio Diary
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Thank you Derek Crudginton

January 23, 2008 04:52 by colin

This is exactly what I needed to know:

Installing Oracle 10g r2 on Solaris 5.11 is painless except before you ./runInstaller you have to edit the ./install/oraparam.ini and change line 42 to something like:


Then it will pass the first check and continue with install.

Categories: Computers
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Essential Software List 2007

January 20, 2008 19:08 by colin

Time for a round-up of the Free and/or Open Source tools I've been using on my work laptop.

1. Eclipse 3.3 (IDE, Java and generic)

I've been dipping into various versions of Eclipse for Java development for years. Its plugin architecture is brilliant (see below). Out of the box it handles Java development as sweetly as any "Professional" edition out there. It also has a built-in editor for Ant build files (an XML dialect) which I'm finding particularly handy right now. One feature I really appreciate is the ability to create a "generic" project that basically just lists all the files in a directory, regardless of what type of file they are. Very handy for my current work which involves a series of versioned directories containing  various flavors of text files. Which brings me to:

2. Afae Plugin for Eclipse

"Afae" stands for "Another Freebooter's All-purpose Editor". It doesn't appear to be under active development and has stalled at version 0.9, but don't let that stop you from using it. It adds a TextMate-flavored text editor to Eclipse that allows me to edit .sh, .bat, .sql, and other types of files in syntax-colored goodness. It has a bunch of other features that I'm not using (such as a "post to blog" button on the toolbar?) but I've found the text editing to be solid.

3. DiffMerge

I've mentioned this before. Since then it is up to version 3.1 but it is still free, and although other file comparison tools probably have more features, I've grown to like this one.

4. AstroGrep

I have long ago given up on making Windows Search find anything on my file system. How I long for the File Manager applet in FoxPro for DOS 2.0. That thing was fast. AstroGrep is a GREP utility for Windows, with a simple UI on top. It's fast, and I can search the contents of text file with regular expressions. On my latest project I have found it invaluable.

Categories: Computers
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Cloverfield (2008)

January 19, 2008 16:34 by colin

I feel stupid about this because I really wanted to see this film in the theater, with a bunch of people around me. I dragged L along with me. I thought it would be part of the fun to not know anything about the movie going in, but perhaps that was a mistake.


Is it fair to say that the film is "Blair Witch Project vs. Godzilla"? Yeah, it probably is. Except that it's an apt description of the movie I'd wished I'd seen, because it only really describes the first half of "Cloverfield".

Blair Witch succeeded (for those who enjoyed it) because we never really saw anything.

The producers of Cloverfield were not brave enough to maintain this throughout the film, and the second half of the movie is an unlikely sequence of Perils-of-Pauline near-miss encounters as we see more and more of the monster until nothing is a mystery anymore. (Any fan of Doctor Who knows that monsters are scariest when you see only  glimpses of them.)

Actually the only mystery remaining is how the handi-cam's battery powered the thing for 84 minutes.

And of those 84 minutes, the film actually seems 20 minutes too long.

"Cloverfield" succeeds when it is focused on telling a personal story of regular people on the periphery of an extraordinary event. It fails when - like a dinosaur trapped in a tar pit - it is unable to break free of traditional block-buster movie cliches.

Categories: Reviews
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January 14, 2008 14:21 by colin

I found a couple of things on the 'web today that I found disturbing*.

The first is a short, amateur produced documentary on what really happened in Portland, OR, in 2002, when a supposedly peaceful demonstration was broken up by Police. At the time it was reported as "the demonstration turned violent" but somehow the producers of the film got their hands on the authorities' own videotapes of the incident. Narrated by someone who says they were there at the protest.

This is What A Police State Looks Like

The second is the results of the New Hampshire Democratic Primary election. Many people have commented on the variations between exit poll numbers and actual vote counts when comparing manual counting with the results reported from electronic voting machines. The fundimental points are:

  • Why should exit polls be reliable result indicators everywhere except where electronic voting machines are used?

  • Why should the EVM results be biased in favor of any particular candidate?

We ignore questions like this at our peril. It doesn't have to be conspiracy but we'd better know what is really happening. I have no opinion on whether there was any actual vote rigging taking place. I'm not qualified. However it is really encouraging to see people from around the country collaborate online on ad-hoc analysis projects such as this one:

So that was New Hampshire last week or so. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, they can't even get the machines to accept votes:

It is clear to me that electronic voting machines should not be used, ever, because while they are in use we will never be free of this crap.

* Only 2? Clearly I'm not looking hard enough.

Categories: Politics
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Knocked the bastard off

January 10, 2008 15:54 by colin

So long, Sir Ed. A legend in his own lifetime. A hero to young blokes like me, growing up. A Kiwi icon, and international humanitarian. A face on the $5 bill. Not many people get to do that.

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