Archive for June, 2015

Futurama is funny…

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 | Video

…until you realise it is actually about Kif being repeatedly raped. Then it’s less funny.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Monday, June 29th, 2015 | Books

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel Margaret Atwood. It describes a near-future dystopian world in which democracy has been replaced by a fundamentalist Christian military government and re-structured society.

In said society women are divided into functions for men. The protagonist, Offred, is a handmaid. She is used for breeding purposes only. Still, better than being a Martha, or shipped off to the colonies…


Breaking Bread

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 | Public Speaking, Video

This is my speech for project 4 of the Toastmasters Storytelling manual.

Forward the Foundation

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 | Books

The final piece of the puzzle of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (a trilogy in seven parts). Forward the Foundation follows Hari Seldon from the time he decides to work on psychohistory (at the end of Prelude to Foundation) and the founding of the First Foundation on Terminus.

Once you have read all the other books, you pretty much know what is going to happen. However, it is still an entertaining read. Everything slots in and completes the story.


Food For Free

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Books, Food

Food For Free is a book by Richard Mabey on foraging. I got the pocket-sized edition which is great for travelling around with.

It contains descriptions of loads of different plants you will find it Britain and each one comes with an illustration and a photo. It describes what it looks like and what you can do with it. All good stuff.

On the negative side, it is very insistent that you use a real identification guide, which it claims this is not. I felt that distracted a lot from the purpose of the book. Why make it pocket-sized for example if you’re not taking it into the field?

It is also arranged alphabetically whereas I felt grouping similar plants together would be more useful. If I see a plant I want to be able to find that section and work out which one it is. That way also has difficulties – how do you find the section you want if you already know what it is, and how do you judge what is similar? However, on balance I think the trade off would have been worth it.

It does however address any concerns you might have that you could accidentally pick something poisonous by telling you it will probably be fine. I feel much better after that…

Food For Free

The Rosie Effect

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Books

I almost gave up on The Rosie Effect. Sure, I enjoyed The Rosie Project. But it did not make me feel like I had to read the sequel. So I mulled over striking it off my reading list. However, just before I did I went back to Bill Gates’ blog to re-read his post about it. It raved about it, so I kept it on the list.

I’m glad I did. As Gates points out, life through the prism of autism provides a surprisingly identifiable view of the human condition.

It picks up a while after The Rosie Project finishes and tells the story of Don and Rosie as they prepare to start a family.

I also found out that “cross-nursing”, the practice of swapping babies to feed, can be beneficial for the immune system of the child. However, a little research suggests there are serious risks and other complications. Anyway, something to discuss with Elina later…

The Rosie Effect


Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 | Books

This book is simply horrible.

I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to read a novel that was essentially a love story between a 12 year old girl and a pedophile, but it was definitely worse than I had anticipated. Though at least the details of their carnal acts were glossed over.

I have sometimes seen Lolita costumes on eBay. Who could possibly think that was a good idea? Only, I vainly hope, someone who had not read the book.


Xenu’s Link Sleuth

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Programming

It is super easy to miss broken links on your website. Even if you test it rigorously, it can be difficult to catch them all. That is where an automated crawler can come in useful. Xenu’s Link Sleuth is one such tool.

It only runs on Windows, so I had to run it in a VM. It is also rather a blunt instrument – it crawls everything even though you can be pretty certain that if you have checked one article ID page, they are all going to work. But those few points aside, it is very useful.

It rapidly spiders all of your pages and reports back on both broken links and redirects. It checks CSS, JavaScript and images resources too, and you have the option to check external URLs as well so you get full coverage. It then spits out a HTML report. It is amazing how many little links you find that need fixing when you run it. Well worth spending a bit of time on.


Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Programming

PHP has a function called nl2br that converts line breaks into <br> tags. This is really useful if you have content in a database and want to ensure the line breaks are in encoded in HTML without actually having to specify them in the content.

It is a bit of a clumsy tool though. It does not take into account that you might want to use paragraphs, or that you do not want br tags adding inside block elements such as pre or hidden elements such as script and style.

The programmers over at WordPress have done a great job of coming up with their own version that resolves all of these issues and many of us already benefit from it on our sites. Matt Mullenweg has written about it.

However, it is buried in the WordPress codebase, so if you want to use it in a non-Wordpress project, you have to mess about pulling it out of the codebase and inserting it into your own. To save myself from having to do this, I’ve created a project on Github that moves it to a standalone library. You can then drop this into your project using Composer and use away.

Prelude to Foundation

Sunday, June 21st, 2015 | Books

What a literary feast of science fiction. Isaac Asimov delivers a superb 6th instalment to his Foundation series.

This article contains spoilers.

Prelude to Foundation follows the adventures of the young Hari Seldon from when he first arrives on Trantor. He soon finds himself exploring the various different cultures and sectors of the planet.

It has a wonderful ending. At the back of my mind, there was something wrong with Chetter Hummin as a character. If he was a mere news reporter, how would he have so much power and influence? How could he go so un-noticed? Then, when he turned out to be Eto Demerzel, it all clicked into place beautifully!

If that wasn’t enough, there is then the whole extra layer of him turning out to be Daneel Olivaw as well, who we learned about in Foundation and Earth! A great ending to a great book.