Week 22 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 10th August 2008

Above the Law Courts facing the River Liffey there is a statue of a man waving goodbye to Dublin. I know how he feels, the endless rain and the prices! So, we are starting in a relaxed manner to pack our bags and make the weary trip back to the sunshine (all right, intolerable heat) of Gibraltar. This process may take a while as my girlfriend is going off to see here mum for a couple of weeks first and I will await her return before we set off.

Monday 11th August 2008

My Logitech Cordless Mouse (usually very well behaved) has been acting strangely lately. It flashes red lights at me and shows a marked reluctance to get out of bed in the morning and do things. I suspect that it is suffering from flat batteries so I set out on a mission to get new ones. From years of bitter experience I know that this is no trivial task. Everywhere there are siren voices tempting you to buy the wrong ones. The girl in the shop is no siren but even she appears to have an unhealthy obsession with AA batteries rather than AAA but I stick to my guns and virtue is rewarded. Back home the mouse is duly grateful and leaps into dynamic action.

During the day my girlfriend and I have a discussion about the role of "W" and the English language in general. Do two wrongs make a write? Why is "plough" pronounced "plow"? Were they called "sirens" because they had big hooters? Enough, already.

Later we go to see Man on a Wire which my girlfriend says starts at 5.20pm. In fact it starts at 6.20pm so we wander round for a while. The film is truly excellent. Go and see it. Later we discover that her plane left at 00.35am that morning rather than late Monday night as she had imagined. Can you be time dislexic?

Tuesday 12th August 2008

We make another attempt to get my girlfriend onto a plane but Dublin airport is very congested, partly because of building work. Accordingly, I drop her off at Departures and head back to our flat while waiting for the phone call to come back because there is a problem. After the phone call, I return and park in the Short Stay car park and make a note of where I am parked. So far, so good.

I wander around for a while looking for a sign telling me the way to Departures. They have obviously taken the Bible to heart "a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign and there shall no sign be given unto it". Good point, guys, but this is an Airport for Christ's sake - not the Book of the Revelation.

Eventually, I find a sign. Now, "DEPARTURES" I understand and "ALL DEPARTURES" I understand. But what the hell is "ALL OTHER DEPARTURES"? All other departures apart from what? Departures from etiquette? Departures from normal human behaviour? Departures from all common sense and normal use of the English language? Probably.

What is it about the Irish? Everything is baffling - like being in a foreign country "Can you tell me the way to Dublin? Well, if I were you, I wouldn't be starting from here". OK, so it is a foreign country. I give up.

Wednesday 13th August 2008

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This is an Irish traffic light. Looks normal enough, doesn't it? Appearances can be deceptive, however. Not to put too fine a point on it, Irish traffic lights are stupid. Totally thick. Not very bright. Oh, bright enough in terms of lumens but decidedly lacking in brain power. An English traffic light, on the other hand, senses you are coming (not sure about the Welsh ones) and if there is not much traffic about it says to itself, "OK, I'll turn green now and tell my mate down the road to turn green as well". Late at night you can sale through a whole series of green lights and hardly notice them. Not in Ireland you can't - the buggers stay on red for eternity while you can see the next one down on green but guess what, it will turn red just as you get to it.

The result is that Dublin grinds to a total halt even in light traffic. Guys, give
these people a ring and I'm sure they will be able to put your traffic lights on a training course and they will all come back after a year or so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager to please. Meanwhile, nobody will miss them because they are all bloody useless.

Thursday 14th August 2008

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On the plus side, they (the people, not the traffic lights) have shown real intelligence in coping with graffiti artists. They have harnessed their talents to turn something negative into a big plus - like really wicked graffs in de hood (ie nice art in the neighbourhood). Actually, "graffs" is a word I just made up - let's see if it catches on. Remember, you saw it here first.

The street entertainers are usually pretty good too - no tramps with penny whistles and amplifiers (Gibraltar, take note). Actually, the more I look at the golden girl, the more I wonder whether she is perhaps a real faery ... touch my lucky wand? No, maybe not.

Friday 15th August 2008

While my girlfriend is away I am intensely involved in writing a very ambitious computer program that I have been working on for some years. This concerns the field of Genetic Programming - I am creating a digital environment that allows other programs to breed like rabbits and gradually evolve into a super race which will dominate the Universe. You will know that I have succeeded when it appears that somebody or something has taken control of all the world's computer systems. At that point they will control everything and everybody and can start designing and building the devices needed to take control of the universe. Or possibly create another one to their own specification. Maybe one where pi = 3 instead of all those millions of boring digits. Or perhaps one where there are four linear dimensions instead of three so that you can go outside without having to bother to open the door.

Quite how to control them is a tricky problem as they will be able to re-write their own code so built in checks are pointless. Maybe I will just bring them up to respect their parents.

Meanwhile, I have to eat and get some exercise so I go for a long walk round Dublin and end up in the Shopping Centre at the top of Grafton Street. Nice place - very light and airy.

Saturday 16th August 2008

I work from 7.20am right through to about 7.00pm in the evening on my computer program and the time just flies by. I go out for a bite to eat and get back and sit down to read a book for a while when my girlfriend calls me - there is evidently an eclipse of the moon. I rush outside with my camera and tripod, the eclipse is so total that the moon has totally disappeared. Mind you, that could be because it is behind a cloud or a building.

I decide to take a picture of a bridge instead.

In case you wonder what a computer program looks like here is one of the routines I wrote. It takes me about an hour to write and another hour to get working properly. That is totally normal - sometimes they work first time but usually they don't.

It's job is to extract a few bits from a 32 bit word. All computer data is stored in 32 bit words (well, most). Imagine 32 transistors in a row. Some of the tens of millions that are collectively called RAM (Random Access Memory). "0" is off and "1" is on.

"10101010101010101010101010101010" is the binary representation of the number 2,863,311,530. In hexadecimal notation it is AAAAAAAA

Why a grown up with his own teeth would want to do that may be baffling but believe me it is a vital piece in the vast jigsaw that I am putting together. Any decent computer program runs to thousands of lines of code which is translated by the computer itself into electrical impulses that travel round all those trannies telling them what to do.

So now you know.

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