HMG 2007 approaches

Here we are in the interim between Christmas and New Year. I would be at work if it wasn’t for the fact that the heating system in our lab has thrown a wobbler and is now heating the room continuously. Last visit it was 35C or a balmy 95F. I am of course at home working on some python code - but this is a minor distraction to catch up with recent news.

Hot Christmas

Heat has been a theme this Christmas, the first spend away from the family home and the first outside of the UK for a long time. We spent Christmas Day cooking the turkey in a kitchen cooled with a fan that we later discovered was hot enough to melt chocolate in the cupboards. Despite this Catherine and I prepared a fairly delicious feast with obligatory Brussels sprouts and greens and more importantly excellent stuffings, roasted parsnips and roast potatoes. Bread sauce sneaked in as a last minute packet job - but other than that everything was ‘quite posh’.

Andy and Eilidh stopped in on their way to NZ but were slightly delayed by fog in LHR. A quick jaunt on Santa Monica beach in the glorious sunshine seemed to revive them and hopefully they enjoyed their stay. Jed and Barry’s apartment provided luxury accommodation so big thanks to them. Our neighbo(u)r Maria also joined us for dinner and there was much discussion of tea and all things British.

Reverse Presents

Catherine and I experimented with reverse presents but also exchanged a couple of normal gifts too. For those not in the know - a reverse present works as follows: I buy myself a highly desired item (preferably one that I would not normally buy out of shame / guilt), I wrap it, pay for it, and place it under the tree without inspecting it or opening it if possible. The other person does the same. On the day of opening you open the other person’s present to satisfy the surprise element - “OMG I’d never have bought you that”. You must also feign pleasure and gratitude to the giver upon opening the gift to emulate the traumatic experience of opening an unwanted normal gift. When both parties can fake smile no further, normally about 90 seconds, gifts are switched to the elation of both parties.


Mary Poppins provided multimedia distraction during the latter stages. It is quite a odd film and not one that I remember much of but it does have moments of genius at the beginning with the father and mother writing an advert for a new Nanny: “Splendid, George! Inspirational. The Times will be so pleased”. It turns out that I must have had a record of the soundtrack as a small boy or something because I seemed to know all the lyrics to the songs. Luckily the songs have just stopped rotating in my head so I won’t (feed the birds…) mention them… (tuppence a bag)… further… (tuppence)… aaahhh


Well it didn’t seem very long before we were headed back to LAX to drop off AandE and now with Christmas gone, and them flat hunting in NZ, it is time to start contemplating our next moves. Our original plan was to go back around the world in the opposite direction to our outward trip and stop off in Japan, China, India, Sri Lanka, and possibly The Maldives before landing gently in beautiful Manchestersheshire. However, this seemed a little ambitious so instead the plan is to go home first, wander around Manc for a week to get a handle on the place, then take off for a sneaky 3 or 4 weeks for the tour of India. On our return a month or two of Giardia should distract us from the weather long enough for us to forget Californian sunshine.

After that we’ll hopefully slide up the M6 exit the (free|motor)way and land in a delightful detached house complete with sunny garden and open real fire (/me lives in a dreamworld). One thing is for sure it will be all change in the coming months. I may not get around to updating this site (for a change) but maybe there will be another flurry of activity this time next year. If I read one of my reverse presents (David Allen’s Getting Things Done) soon then you never know… I’ve already managed to sort out my photo collection with the help of my python todo script already so there is a chance that there might be some activity on here again.

Photo waffle

I’ve taken rather a lot of photos since buying my Canon Digital SLR: 6,781 in total, and 3,365 in 2006. It has therefore been almost impossible to keep up with them. I’ve tried several photo management programs (eg. Picasa, iPhoto, digikam, f-spot, kphotoalbum), I also tried just leaving them in directories and using gqview or preview to look at them - but none of these methods seemed ideal. Also the pain of uploading them to this website and adding comments and categories would double the trauma - especially since I would keep changing programs. In the end I just ignored them and kept taking more! My latest approach is to tag each photo with keywords / tags (eg. macro, flora, huntington gardens) and a comment if worthy. Instead of keeping this info in a database or other random place - these tags / comments can be embedded within the JPEG using IPTC tags. These have been around for a long time but seem underused by most programs - although I think Picasa and iPhoto use them and Vista is going to use them. You can manipulate them using Linux command-line programs (eg. exiv2) but a surprisingly nice, although rough around the edges, little graphical application called jBrout (written in python) works very nicely. Images can be losslessly rotated and exported without losing EXIF / IPTC metadata. It even generates an html gallery that I can use in an iframe within drupal. Which was what I was getting at in the first place… here it is:

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