Because I forget stuff. Part of

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July 2004

Posts made in July 2004

Movie Arachnoids

Well, as I mentioned I was going to see it, I suppose I ought to give my impressions of Spider-Man 2. Careful, there will be SPOILERS. It’s OK. That’s about it. It’ll rule this summer’s movie charts mainly due to the lack of competition but as a movie to stand up for years to come, I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong, it is good fun—in the parts where it can be bothered to do anything. At a shade over two hours it is most certainly too long. Yet I couldn’t help leaving the cinema not with the impression of how fun it was but with the sense of just how many faults it has.

First, perhaps I’m biased in that I’ve never really got spiderman. Maybe it’s just I’ve never quite figured out what his superpowers are meant to be (with Superman it’s pretty obvious. Spiderman can, er, catch flies really well). I still think at least some of my points are valid though.

We’ll leave the “science”. This is after all a comic book and we can therefore legitimately ask that we forget what we know about the laws of the universe. Nor should we ask why such an important and well financed experiment is taking place in somebody’s over blown garden shed. You probably don’t become Spider-man if your bitten by a radioactive spider either. One point must be made though, as it shows just how poorly thought out some of this felt. We know Doc Ock’s (ohh, catchy) funny AI arm things are “impervious to magnetism and heat” or something. Which kind of suggests that the ball of sun or whatever it is he’s making is a little on the warm side. Funny that to put it out you just have to drown it then, the water won’t simply boil or anything like that.

The movie starts by try to demonstrate all the problems poor Peter Parker is undergoing thanks to his being Spidey. Unfortunatly it never really managed to illicit much sympathy with me. It wasn’t helped by the birthday scene, where the actors appeared to decide that what was really called for were impressions of mobile wood, aided by some truely awful dialogue. I will mention this scene no more in an attempt to wipe it from my mind.

Having established that Peter is having a hard time and still in love we actually get some half decent action. The mad scientist goes, well, madder. Spiderman’s strongest point is it’s action and it would have been much better if the action to sloppy badly done crap was higher. In passing I’ll mention that the film does share Hollywood’s current obsession with cars flying through the air. It seems you’re not allowed to make an action movie without at least a couple of cars spinning around like confetti. Why this is I have no idea. Interspersed with not enough action we have Spiderman’s fall and rise. This took at least an hour and can be summerised thus: Oh no the conflict I’m feeling means I can’t operate effectivly; I give up; Look, the world (or New York) is now a worse place because I have turned my back on my arachnoid destiny (incidently Spiderman would be much cooler if he really had eight limbs); “There’s a hero in us all”; oh look I’m back. I heard this described as deep. The Atlantic Oceon is deep. This barely quailfies as a paddling pool.

Having come threw all his turmoil, and the girl inevitably having been kidnapped there comes a final confrontation. And in the end Doc Ock prooves to be disappointingly simple to defeat. More peril is posed bby falling masonary than by the actual villan, who at the end reiterates the message of a hero in us all in case we missed it first time.

I’m fairly sure the actual highlight of the movie was the violin plucked rendition of the spiderman song but that had more to do with the girl whom I was sitting next to near the back row with my arm wrapped around her, than anything else.

On the way to such an anticlimatic finish, the third movie (during which it would seem the world and his wife will know Peter is Spidey is Peter) was so blatently set up that I was almost surprised not to find a trailer for it at the end of this one. I’ll probably go and see it. The franchise is fun. But I won’t expect too much, or get caught in the hype.

Thesis Update

Certain people have suggested that I keep them more informed about how my thesis writing is going via this blog. Alright then ;-) At the moment I’m working on the “experimental” chapter. This morning (and some of yesterday) I drew some pretty diagrams—namely a schematic of the MEIS beam line, a schematic of the TEA and a schematic of the priciple of STM. Actually, when I say I drew the TEA picture, that’s half untrue. My artistic talent didn’t stretch to drawing something curvy in the right sort of proportion so I had Rachel draw it for me (she being the talented arty one). Then I traced over it using a graphics tablet to get a digital version. A smoothing out of the lines and the end result wasn’t bad at all.

After I’d merrily had fun drawing pictures I spent quite some time trying to find the only working photocopier in the library (actually that’s an exaggeration—there are two, but some arts student was using the first one I found). Then I came into the office to collect a lot of papers, books and other miscellaneous junk. I’ve been sorting it out since, but I’m stopping now to write this blog, go out to dinner and watch Spiderman 2.

A Momentous Day

I was going to post this entry on the actual anniversary, but with playing around with my blog and then with proper work, it has become delayed somewhat. In any case, I’m posting it now. Thirty-Five years ago man set foot on only extraterrestial surface he has ever visited. Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and and became one of the most famous men in history. Not long before Armstrong himself had piloted the Eagle lander during its perilous last moments of decent (during which the onboard computer—very primative by todays standards—basically overloaded and started issuing warnings as Armstrong attempted to avoid rocks below). To mark the occassion, the original photographic film has been taken out of deep storage and digitally rescanned. The Project Apollo Archive is available for all to marvel at the wonder that is another world (and doubtless feed the conspiracy theorists more “ammunition”). NASA also have a piece about the anniversary, logically enough.

The saddening thing is that after Armstrong and Aldrin’s triumph only ten other men would follow them to the Moon’s surface. Only those dozen men (and no women) have ever felt earth which isn’t Earth’s beneath their feet. In December 1972 Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt left the Moon behind. Nobody has been back since that Apollo 17 mission. It’s 35 years since we were first there but it’s also 33 1/2 years since we were last there.

I’ve mentioned my support for the idea of going to Mars before. Part of getting there must be a return to the moon. The techniques and skills developed there will undoubtedly help finally free us from the shackles of Earth. I would not be surprised if when we get to Mars, the mission included men and women who had already Moon walked.

So, on this anniversary, let us reflect on the achievments of three and a half decades ago. But let us not be contented with such past glories that many of us never knew. In another three and a half decades we must hope that not only is there really a man on the Moon once again but also one on Mars.

This Blog’s A Movin’

IMS_Blog has a new home! Due to the fact I’m coming to the end of my PhD my university based web space won’t be around for much longer. Therefore, I’ve decided to start moving my personal pages off that space in preparation for that eventuality. The first thing to go, because it’s the most frequently updated and cross referenced, is my blog. So, IMS_Blog now lives at

Please update any links and bookmarks you may have. If you’re using the RSS or Atom feed to follow this blog please be aware that the URL of those is also changing. You probably will want to see these details.

As the blog is moving, so is the blogging system. I’ve out grown Blogger, wonderful as it has been to and for me. The blog is now run with a MovableType installation, which makes for whizzy new features (at some point in the not too distant future I’ll hopefully put up a post detailing the extensions I have installed and what they’re doing, but not right now).

I’ve imported all the posts, categorised them, and imported most of the comments.

The posts at IMS_Blog will be kept in sync for a month or so, if I can manage it, but after that there will be a brief pause before those pages simply redirect you to the new front page.

There’s still a bit to do with the new blog (the about pages need finishing, there’s no feeds for single categories, the markup is horribly unsemantic and the stylesheets bloated), but it should all be basically OK. If you notice anything too out of place, drop a comment into this post.

Odeon Blackout

The Odeon cinemas in the UK have a website which is completly inaccessible unless you run IE. Further, should you have javascript turned off, you still can’t use it (even if you can use it, it’s horrible). It is in contravention of the UK’s Diasbility Discimination Act (try it in a text reader if you dare).
Now I don’t like Odeon cinemas anyway (maybe because I’ve never been in a “modern” one but those I’ve been in have been dingy with the leg room of a coffin). However, for others it may be the only choice. As a service to the public, and those who prefer a more secure browser, Matthew Somerville has run an accessible version which basically took the data from and made it work. Now Odeon have forced him to pull it. They threaten legal action, whilst happily breaking the law themselves. Their points about data privacy are particularly interesting as it was Matthew who pointed out three security bugs to them which were allowing private data to be publically accessible on their site.
Odeon have been promising to fix the problem for years. It’s even been fixed for them and they still can’t get it to work. Whatever “engineers” they keep refering too must be particularly incompetant.

This makes my blood boil.

Graveyard of the Wasp

Photo of dead wasps lying on my windowsillThe photograph shows my living room windowsill. There are five dead wasps lying there. Now my house may be untidy but this isn’t like a year’s accumulation. These have arrived since I cleared away a bunch of wasp carcasses yesterday. Where are they coming from? Why are they choosing my living room windowsill on which to meet their maker? Those I’ve seen flying around look lackadaisical and on their last wings but that doesn’t explain their origin. I’ve cleared the sill, let’s see how many more turn up.

Cinema Goodness

So, went to see Shrek 2 last night. Pretty funny, there were certainly some parts had me laughing out loud. The show was totally stolen by Puss in Boots (especially for me as a cat person). Forget Shrek 3, let’s have a Puss in Boots movie!

Mozilla Security

Anybody out there using Mozilla, Firefox or Thunderbird on Windows should take notice of this security warning. Basically, you should install one XPI patch to fix a security bug, or download the newly released version of the appropriate browser if you’re for some reason uncomfortable with that. Note that this is really a Windows bug that unfortunatly affects Mozilla. It was patched within 24 hours of being noted.

Picture of the Day

Saturns Rings in UVCassini-Huygens, the space probe orbiting Saturn, has begun to send back some really spectacular images. This one shows a false colour image of an image taken in the ultraviolet of the planet’s famous rings. See here for more information.

More Tantek Hackery

Almost as if it’s a parting calling card from his days at Microsoft, Tantek Çelik has invented the IE5/Mac band pass filter. To understand how it works, read
Doug Bowman’s writeup. Then rejoice in /*\*//*/ @import “ie5mac.css” /**/

Hic-Up Cure

Everyone gets hic-ups from time to time. And everyone knows the traditional cure is a shock, or holding one’s breath. And everyone knows those things don’t tend to work. Well, I have a cure. Drink one tea-spoon full of vinegar. I used to think this worked only on me (and my mother, she was the one who told me it originally. She “read it in a book”. Though she has an email address she doesn’t have a URL, so I can’t link). But it works on Rachel too, so maybe it does work in general. So I thought I’d share it with the world (yeh, like anyone’s reading this obscure blog). Try it next time you have hic-ups..and are near some vinegar of course.

Dashboard on a Safari

Ive never been a Mac man and probably never will be (any OS where there is a tradition that mice only need one button confuses the shit out of me). But as far as next generation CSS3 standards go, then Safari on a Mac is probably the best right now (which is peculiar, given that it probably doesn’t have the best CSS2 support). It’s claims to being the fastest may be open to interpretation but it pretty much kicks arse in CSS3. And now it turns out that the Mac’s next big thing, Dashboard happens to have a lot to do with CSS3, as
revealed by Hyatt. So if dashboard (and I don’t intend to get into the raging debate about what’s ripping what here) uses CSS3 like that, one can expect to next generation of Safari to really kick some butt.

So That’s Who Did It

A bit earlier today, I happened to need a map of Yarm, UK. So, as is the way of it, I clicked the bookmarklet in my personal toolbar in Mozilla that asks for an address to check in When the map all nicely noted up, I noticed the user interface had subtly changed. “Grrr,” I said, “Who changed that. I can’t find anything” before proceding to use said interface and thinking, yeh, that’s a bit better. So, turns out it was Richard Rutter of So there you go. Interesting interview too.

No ExtermiNation

Oh no, it looks like the worries were justified. The Daleks won’t return to the new series of Dr Who. The BBC and Terry Nation’s estate couldn’t reach agreement. No exterminate. Surely we’ll have to have cybermen then?

Using IE Win? Your Money Safe?

If you browse the web using IE on windows (like the vast majority of the population unfortunately do) then you should be very, very careful. The internet technical savvy of you may want to read this report (PDF). For the other, more general consumer I’ll summarise. The linked document describes the process by which a simple, innocuous popup ad installs a nice little program onto your windows machine, without you knowing anything about it. The program then sits there and doesn’t do a lot. Except every time you make (what you think is) a secure connection to a long list of banking websites, it collects your username, password, etc and sends them onwards to people who, I assure you, aren’t connected with the bank. Nice.

This sort of thing is becoming more and more common. People (like me) who mention these exploits aren’t trying to scare you (well, I suppose we are a bit) but educate you. The only reason the above works is because it uses the security nightmare that is Internet Explorer. Don’t use it. Get yourself a better, more secure browser for looking at the internet (try Firefox). And keep your hard earned wealth safe.


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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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