Archive for July, 2005


Well, the PSU’s here, at something akin to long bloody last (long enough, for example, for me to forget how I’d lost no end of my files, including all the damn MP3s. Ah well…)

My current problem runs thusly: the PSU doesn’t fit into the case. Or, rather, it fits into the case fine, but it doesn’t screw into the case, because all the holes are in the wrong place, until you turn the PSU upside-down. I’m assuming it’s upside-down based on the way the “230V” sticker and switch are, and the fact that the fan is jammed up against the motherboard, if it goes in that way.

Anyone got a problem with that? (A technical one, I mean, not one of those “O, byt JTA, God Himself decreed that thou should have no working computer nor flower of the Earth” problems, because I’m fed up with them, just at the moment….) Because if not, I’ll stick it in presently.

O, and how do I login to the Abnib gallery? Only I’ve finally got access to all me Photos (thank God they never got lost, that’s all I can say), so I’ve got a load of things I can upload…


…In future, I think, I shall learn not to drink coffee that’s been standing in the maker for the last five hours. Still, it’s woken me up, and that was something I did need very much.

Currently feeling rather low and feeble, again, mostly because I don’t seem to have anything to do. There’s no end of things I could be doing, of course, and I’m pretty eager to get on with more than a couple of them, but they all seem to be things I can’t do yet. I’d like to start re-building my music collection, for example, but for that I need the PSU (which wasn’t delivered yesterday, because the courier went to the wrong address. Berk.), and I have to wait until that arrives. A lack of creative expression. That’s the problem, really…

And so on. Lazy though I am, I always preffer it if things move when they need to, and forced inactivity drives me nuts, although not quite as well as absinthe does… Frankly, I’m only blogging this for the sake of something to do, and I’ve polished my shoes about eight times today, which included rubbing in a bunch of nikwax which, predictably, temporarily buggered the shine, ’till I repolished them.

Quite why I need highly polished shoes full of holes (1 1/2 on the left one, 2 on the right) I’m not sure, but at least it gives me something to do before Troma.

It’s an especially silly paradox that I should get all keyed up about things I cannot yet do like this, and then lose any inclination to write essays, etc, as soon as I’m told about them. Bloody stupid, if you ask me, but I’ve yet to work out a solution to that. I think however, the difference is that the former is full of things I really want to do, whereas essays are things which I’ve been told to do, without, usually, anyone instilling any special attatchment to them beforehand.

Never mind. All it means in practice is that I’ll start belting along as soon as I can, and then end up with nothing left to do three weeks from now. Providing I don’t fall asleep first.

Only In Aber Moments: Number Seven

OK. Background. We’re walking back from the flat, and I’m damn drunk, and explaining to Ruth how the Miss Marple tapes I’ve got read by Joan Hickson are great (because Paul had played the Miss Marple theme) and from there we get onto the Red Dwarf tapes read by Chris Barrie, and thence to my Allo Allo tapes read by, er, yon bloke who played Rene.

And that’s when things went weird, because a bloke with long brown hair in a sweet full-length greatcoat followed the Aber Principle: “I may butt into this conversation, and nobody will mind,” and he did so thusly:

Bloke: Excuse me – you mentioned Allo Allo?
JTA: Yeah?
Bloke: Well it’s just that the bloke who played, er, Colonel Von Strohm went to my school, just as a random claim to fame, there…
JTA: Cool! Er, where’s that, then?
Bloke: Er, Monmouth.
JTA: Not, er, Habs Monmouth?
Bloke: Yeah, it was.
JTA: With green blazers?
Bloke: No, that was Habs [somewhere]. We had blue blazers, which was pretty cool. Like business suits. How come?
JTA: O, er, I’m from Adams’ Grammar in Shropshire. We’re Habs with maroon blazers, which are naff. And then Blue in the VIth form. And my mate Statto from school is now at Oxford with Chloe Beech from Habs Monmouth.
Bloke: O, right. I used to go out with Chloe.
JTA: ?
Bloke: Er, yeah, I’m Owen.
Ruth: Hah, that’s my brother’s name. I’m Ruth, and this is JTA.
Bloke Who Is Called Owen: [shaking hands] Well that’s a neat co-incidence, isn’t it? And all from random comedy.
JTA: Just a bit!
Owen: Just shows you, really, doesn’t it? Comedy is the key to life!
JTA: Well that’s certainly true!
Owen: Ah, well go carefully! I’ll say hi next time I see you!

And off we went…

Pretty much the coolest thing that’s happened to me in years, that was, and all because Aber is sufficiently Bohemian that you can butt in on other people’s conversations to say “That bloke went to my school!”

Beautiful stuff. Feeling incredibly happy, atm, which is probably a deadly mix of amusingly extreme co-incidence and absinthe, but I’m hoping for a cup of tea, soon, and I think I may yet be sobering up…



Paul has jsut told me that blogging when drunk is a bad plan, bvut I blame that on the, er, the absinthe, which I cannot spell, but which is burny and hot and then a soprt of cool happy thing.

And anyway, I havent;’ updated anything for aages,so there we go. I think my typing is buggered just atm, but I’m n ot sure I can be bothed to fix it. Hey ho…

Er. Tiring week, all things considered, but at least it’s looking up right at the moment, and I have drunk geek night, which means I didn’t win at Settlers of CAtan… Which is a pity, but I thought I ourght to update things, which is a pity, but I’ve not blogged for days now, and I’m still here and everythings going OK.

So now you know. Er. Inasmuch as you ever cared…

Ah well. I need to go now, becausde I’m getting tired of fixing up all of the typos what I keepn making for all of this things. aND Presently I need to go and sleep anyway.

Anf I;’m going to regret this anyway, because It’s going to look nasty wtih commas and things out of joint… aCTUALLY maybe aPaul was right. My fingers have wobbled.



There’s never anyone to punch when you need to, is there?


OK… Noticed an Ability Plus 1.0 feature I’d never previously clocked yesterday (hey, I was two when we got Ability… It’s the “communicate” function which “is the Ability function that lets your PC communicate directly with other computers… [because] when you use COMMUNICATE Ability acts like (or emulates) a terminal”

Well, that looked interesting, I thought… Except it’s probably never going to cope with the AberNet Lan and firewall, and I’ve not got the foggiest idea how to even begin to set it up, and we’ve long ago got rid of the manuals.

So I e-mailed and asked if they knew where I could find a manual from 18 years ago. Not surprisingly, they had no idea. What I did get, however, was the manual for Ability Plus 3.0 (last patched 1997, ten years after the original Plus came out) and an e-mail explaining that they doubt it’ll work, but the actual communicate function barely changed between Ability Plus 1 and 3…

Feeling pretty damn impressed by that, all things considered, and I’ve worked out what I could do with my summer… Although it’s changed a bit since

The Original Plan…
Get a job, earn lots of money, buy lots of components and old games, play them next year and worry about the degree result next July.

because now I’ve got

The Revised Plan
Spend the summer pissing off HSBC by running miles and miles over my OD limit, whilst reading WikiPedia entries for old TSR games, playing with a thrown-together DOS box, courtesy of Bryn (the box, the CD drive) and Paul (the random memory-free soundcard, the games) and generally attempting to learn every DOS command anyone could ever have needed before Win98, thus cornering all the kudos of a tech whizz, without any of the troubles (ie, needing to sort out machines) because almost nobody has DOS anymore, and anyone who really needs to get a DOS machine fixed will probably be more than willing to fill me with ale once they’ve found out I’m the only person they’ve met for the last 10 years who’s ever heard of a .xtx, let alone has the software to read it.


Occasionally, when I’ve got bored of wishing I was around for cool decades like the ’20s, I wish I’d been born 10 years earlier, because I’d’ve been able to grow up with the technological surges we’ve seen since then (I’d’ve liked to have been there for Windows 2.0, really…)

Then I stop wishing that, because if I’d been born 10 years earlier I’dve been 30 since spring, and the older you get, the less dinky it is to be stupidly well-versed in an obsolete OS (because if you grew up with it, you’re supposed to be competent…)

Ah well… I have tea, all is good.


Have spent a profitable evening making backups of my old Seagate HDD to the new one Bryn gave me. Mostly, to be honest, it’s old document files from the incarnation of Windows that used to exist on there, and a small cache of Ability files (Ability Plus 1.0, mind you, not this Ability Office 4 stuff…), but there’s a couple of directories of interesting things on there as well…

Hillsfar, for example, which will become playable again once I’ve got the damn copy-protection codewheel, if it still exists, back from home (there’s some seriously tiresome copy-protection on these old games: Death Knights of Krynn asks you for words randomly picked from the Adventurer’s Journal every time you load a game, and from the Rule Book every tenth time you save, which doesn’t half get in the way of re-doing bits you ballsed up before…), and I still hope to get After Dark running again, as soon as I’ve got a copy of Windows 3.11 on there.

So I’ve had a satisfying evening, all things considered, and worked out how to stop idiots getting near computers, in an only slightly fascistic manner: forbid people to run anything other than Linux, Unix or DOS 6.22… If you can manage your regular home computing needs from those for, say, a year, without making a proper mess of it, then you can have something more beefy and more user-friendly.

Thus only those who can cope with writing “copy d:\old folder\oldthin~1.wps c:\backups\seagate” at the command propmt get access to the “highlight – ctrl+c – ctrl+v” method of copying. Likewise, anyone too dense to manage a “deltree c:\dos /Y” command stands a far greater chance of keeping their work than they do if they’re given an OS which lets them go online without a decent firewall and with pants anti-spywave and anti-virus protection.


Frankly, you could achieve much the same thing by giving people DOS and then forbidding the ownership of computers to anyone too dim to either work it out or type “help,” but it wouldn’t be as entertaining as making tech support guys take calls from people wanting to know how to balance cups of coffee on the floppy drive…

O – and on the vague subject of knackered old computers, anyone, nee Dan, know where my bloody PSU is yet?

Dear God…

…Returning from the Flat, past WH Smiths, what did we see but a collection of loons stood in the street (presumably after several hours) waiting to go in and collect a book they’d already reserved

So, predictably, we ended up re-running the old “what needs to happen with Harry Potter, and why is JK Rowling too dim to do it” conversation, which threw up a few new points. Well, I say new, but I imagine anyone who’s previously considered the intrinsic naff-ness of Potter will’ve found them before…


Ideally, at the end of this book, Dumbledore needs to be dead. He can’t die at the end of the next one, because that’s when Harry has to die.

That oughtn’t come as a shock to anyone; it’s how the genre works. Heroic fiction requires the hero and the villain to take one another down in a gigantic stand-off, hence Potter must die at the end of book 7 (because that’s the last book).

Dumbledore needs to die before then because there has to come a point at which everything seems hopeless, and there seems to be no way for the Good Guys to win. (That’s the point, you’ll generally find, when you can’t bear to put the book down or stop reading, because you have to find out what happens next.) This is most noticable in films, and the most famous and obvious example would be the end of ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’

I doubt, however, Rowling will do that, because I’m not entirely convinced she realises she’s writing heroic fiction (although it should be pretty obvious to anyone who thinks about it – clearly defined Bad Guys, a few Nasty People and a Young Hero determined to Overthrow Evil and Save The Day) and, therefore, she won’t see the need for the hero to die in a Last Desperate Attempt to Save The World.

Don’t believe me? Try:
Gandalf Vs. Balrog: Both die.
Elendil Vs. Sauron: Both die.
Vader Vs. Palpatine: Both die.
Asriel/Coulter Vs. the Metatron: Both die.
Neo Vs. Agent Smith (in Revolutions): Both die.
Holmes Vs. Moriarty: Both die.
Rimmer Vs. The Rage (Last Human Both die, and it’s incredibly powerful because Rimmer isn’t heroic, but he’s fulfilling the ideal.)

(Note that, although some of the Good Guys do survive, they are dead at the end of the story, even if they come back later…)

It’s the way the genre works, simple as that.

Trouble is, Rowling isn’t very good at that, or, indeed, at killing people in general. Sirius, for example, was a stupid person to kill because the only character that affected was Harry. Hagrid would have been a really clever person to kill, because he’s rather more interesting, and there’s lots of characters capable of feeling sorry, guilty or pleased… But no, Sirius fell through the metaphcurtain, and nobody gave a toss. Bad plan.

Bad plan, yes, but also typical of Rowling’s problem: she doesn’t care about any of the characters other than Harry. It’s as if Tolkien had tried to do LoTR and only paid attention to Frodo, mentioning the other characters, but not really exploring them. Doesn’t work. It’s like Blackadder, without the feedback from Baldrick and the others – can you imagine the end of Goes Forth if you’d never got to feel anything from the other characters? Christ, of course you can’t; without George admitting that he’s scared, after all his patriotic fervour, to actually go over the top, it wouldn’t be worth beans…

The best Potter book is Askaban, because it’s a self-contained thing, and that’s what the books ought to be: an ongoing theme, but also self-containing stand-alone tales, not Neon Genesis, not Future Boy Conan but Futurama – there’s an ongoing plot woven through it, and you can gain more from knowing what’s gone before (The scientist in Space Pilot 3000 [“Welcome to the world of tomorrow!”] appears at Fry’s funeral in “The Sting,” and it’s a really nice touch; it’s not essential to have seen the first episode, but if you have, then it’s a really nice touch, especially since Leela was the one who used to work with him…)

But Rowling tries to be both stand-alone and ongoing-or-bust, and it’s not just clunky, but tiresome. (Futurama, after the first episode, doesn’t really bother to explain how Fry got to the year 3000, and when it does, it demonstrates an incredible understanding of what’s going on – right in there in Space Pilot 3000 you can see the shadows under the desk…) So rather than take it as a given that the magical world has Quidditch (a game in which only two players are important: the opposition Seeker and, surprise surprise, Harry) we’re forced through a chapter about it in every book. Likewise we get a section in which we’re shocked to discover that Harry doesn’t like his aunt and uncle, and that Snape doesn’t like Harry very much, and that Draco Malfoy is exactly the same character he was before and he hasn’t developed because he isn’t Harry Potter

And that’s the problem in a nutshell: nothing is examined except in direct relation to Harry, and that’s rarely the mark of a good story. Certainly, it’s not something which will allow Potter to get killed, and without that then it’s not a tale of Good Against Evil, it’s a tale of Something Without Closure Against Evil…

I cried when I read Holmes’ death. I cried at the end of Last Human too, because there was a meaning behind it all, a sense that there was hope from a tragic sacrifice, and Potter readers won’t ever get that because, even if Harry were to die, nobody would be left behind for the readers to give a damn for.

And that would be fine, if the publicity engine hadn’t over-hyped the books to the point where people will queue in the cold just to get a copy they’ve already made sure they’ll get with a deposit. If this book were coming out into the environment of the early years, when Potter was published, and few people knew or cared, that’d be fine. But Rowling has let the publicity run away with her work, and now people pretend she’s a genius, a really original writer, someone who Got Children Reading Again, before selling out to Hollywood so the children can Go Watch the Film.

I have no idea if she’s realised it, but if I were in her shoes tonight, I’d feel terrible. Rich, yes, but incredibly sad with it, because everyone would belive I was something I’m not; believe I was better than I am, and they’re not buying the books because of me, they’re doing it because they’ve been told they’re brilliant books…

And they’re not. Really, they’re not. A world in which magic costs nothing, takes no effort, two words can kill someone forever simply doesn’t work: the wizards wouldn’t have retreated from the muggle world, they’d have overrun it, and the death of Voldemort would never have stopped the Death Eaters, because with that level of power, who needs a leader? Christ; if you can use magic to cook and travel and kill, how come you have to teach people? There’s got to be a spell that gives other people knowledge, because if there isn’t, how can we be expected to believe everything else – no cost, remember, no effort at all, and so there’s no need for schools at all…

Harry Potter is a tale of Good Versus Evil in which the side of Good is ignored in favour of a specky orphaned adolescent, and the side of Evil is bogiemanned into teachers and bullies… And that works fine for a children’s story, just about, but it’s not good enough for a world-wide phenomenon that sees Canadian retailers taking out injunctions on people they’ve sold the book to, and hundreds of people waiting up for something which, despite what they’ve been told, won’t be any better than the last five.


…Still, as you see, none of the old posts, but that’s because of no end of hassle at this end (no psu, laptop HDD dead and clicking, running ubuntu live cd, connection to the ‘net is via a USB ethernet card. So can’t upload off the big. rescue CD without either killing the OS [bad plan] or using the external CD/RW, which is a USB connection meaning killing the ‘net [bad plan] or using the PS2/USB adapter plug, killing the mouse [irksome]. O well. Life goes on.

One of the ways it goes on is in the 20Gb HDD Bryn’s just given me for the Pentium 2 I’m reconstructing, which will do fine for running old DOS games and the like, once I’ve got a copy of DOS on it. Dan’s advised me that the best version of DOS is DOS 7, as packaged with Win98.

Er. Anybody got a copy of Win98 I can have a lend of? Ideally on floppies, if it ever came on floppies, to save me having to swap drives about (I’m going to put an old 1x CDRom into it, presently, but that’s at home and I shan’t get to it for aaaages…) and then I can get Win98 onto it, strip Win98 off it, giving me a nice version of DOS v. 7 on it, and if I can be arsed I’ll get Win 3.1 on there too, partly for old time’s sake, and partly so I don’t forget how to use it…

What? I like Win 3.1! It did me perfectly well from 1993 to 2001.

Well I like it, anyway…


…Kudos to Ruth for fixing the stupid SQL issue that had locked me out of the site, under the impression that Admin access was only availiable to Chris Dalby. God alone knows how that one came about…

Bear with me while I try and get this bastard back into something like order, if you will. Yes, that will take a long time. No, I’m not really very hot on this Internet lark.

06:23 pm: Ah…
…With my new PSU still nowhere to be seen (bloody Courier; two weeks and no show? Something big’s gone wrong, there…) and the laptop HDD properly screwed (thank Christ for the Ubuntu live CD…)

I’ve found (technically for the second time) a helpful edition of User Friendly, which saves me the trouble of a proper update by giving a neat summary of my present situation.

Frankly, I identify too much with AJ as it is, but never mind…

O, not *again*…
…Results are out. For the year, therefore, I’ve got

Med+Renaiss Writing 63
Detective+Crime Fict 62

Read Theory/Text 1 58
Restor+18 C.Lit 63
Hieronimo To Hamlet 59

So, again, the two modules I thought I’d do really badly at, mostly because I did hardly any reading, turn out to give me my two top scores…
I wonder sometimes whether I ought to give up on the reading, altogether. Probably not, however, because my mother will sulk if I get a 2:1, on the not-sure-where-that-figure-came-from grounds that “everyone gets 2:1s, these days,” although I’m fairly certain they don’t…

Hey ho.

O, come on, everyone else will be doing one…

In response to Andy (PWL Andy, that is), who asked in a private post if anyone had the same reaction as him, yes, I did. I got a call from Ruth asking me to get a telly on and find out what was happening, and my first responses went something like

“Bloody hell, an actual terrorist attack.”
“Hope Bush keeps his nose out of this, bastard”
“Shit, that was insensitive of me.”
“O, Jesus, Howard’s on the telly. That’ll bugger the asylum applications, then”
“No, still insensitive. Better get onto the ‘Net and try again, then…”

Unfortunately, I’m still not doing very well. Yes, I had a vague resurgence of “bastards, how dare they?!” but that was pretty much neutralised right off on the grounds that nobody seems to know whodunnit… For once, however, I suspect it’s not an Irish thing, because even the Real IRA have been fairly quiet lately. (Partly, of course, that’s because it’s no-longer fashionable for the US to give money to the IRA, for some reason or other)

But Andy is, as usual, right. For September 11th, my first response was “How terrible!” followed presently by “No, hang on, that wasn’t an attack on American democracy, that was an attack on trade. Shit, this is going to get out of hand…”

Now, largely thanks to the stalwart efforts of George W. (and, indeed, everyone else who jumped on the bandwagon) my first response wasn’t “Shit, that’s awful, the poor bastards involved” – that got relegated to third place, mingled with guilt that my first response was surprise that an attack had actually happened, regardless of media hype, and that my second response was that Bush didn’t use it as an excuse for attacking, for example, Iran.

I wait to be proven wrong on the attacking Iran…

I do feel terrible, insofar as I have a right to feel anything at all (as far as I know, I’ve never met anyone involved, so issuing full-blown mourning seems fairly callous), for all those affected, and, naturally, I hope Andy (K) has some decent news asap, but I do think it’s telling that in the time since September 11th 2001 my initial response to terrorist attacks has changed from “fucking Hell, that’s awful” to “O, shit, I really hope the politicians don’t use this for another bollocks war”

Presently, I suspect, I’m going to get savaged for this post, and to all the flamers waiting in the wings, I say this: Fuck You, chummy.

In 2001 it took about a week for the focus to shift from the suffering of the victims to a state of abducting the issue for political gain. Today it doesn’t seem to have taken an hour. That’s bad, my friends, that’s bloody bad. The proper reaction to events such as this is, I cannot help but feel, one of sorrow and quiet reflection. It should not be one of Bush popping up and suggesting a hunt for countries may make tenuous links.

So, no, thank-you, this post is not here to say “hah, I don’t give a shit about people suffering,” it’s here to say that I’m frankly fucking scared, but not because there’s an ever-present threat of a terrorist attack, as there was during the Irish troubles, but because things like this, in the world of today, give politicians too much scope to play silly buggers, only paying token tribute to the victims and their families whilst they pay much more attention to where the Yanks will invade next…

That’s what scares me, really. Terrorists I can cope with, all things considered, because God willing I’ll never be affected by a terrorist attack. Politicians, however, are rather more insidious, and if some dickhead uses this as an excuse to bring in bloody ID cards I shall do my sodding nut.

’nuff said. Even I’m getting far too political for my own good, now…

Ladies and Gentlemen: A damn-near emergency announcement. (LJ only, as will rapidly become clear)

Something I heard last night has put the wind up me strongly; I’ve a foul feeling that my blog is rapidly approaching the “fucked beyond revival” mark, and it’s not entirely certain I’ve got anything left there at all (although if that’s the bloody case I’ll be making enough noise to split Satan’s eardrums before the summer’s out…) I do not, however, believe that the stuff is really gone. You may, therefore, ask questions like “JTA, my friend, why bail out on a decent setup you’ve got going – and not only going, but going with a friend?” That’s what this post is for… I am not a man willing to induce lurches amongst friends, and especially not if they happen to be running something for money. On the other hand, it’s usually idiots saying “I don’t want to make waves amongst friends” that allows life to run itself to tatters before anyone has the guts to stand up and do that, and right now I’m following the advice I’ve just had from Dan. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the official notice that I’m bailing out of the deal. Electric Quaker should be back, in one form or another, fairly soon, and in the meantime I’d ask you to bear with me, because I’ve got a few problems – mostly of the “can’t buy anything online because my cards keep getting rejected” variety – involved in getting a new I announce this here, rather than by directly informing those interested for two reasons: 1. If I’m going to have to reconstruct a heap of blog entires from the sodding Ether, then I’m going to want an at-the-time account of what I managed to do about it, once everything went up the swanee. 2. It’s just about conceivable that someone else may be wondering where the fuck my blog’s gone and look here on the offchance. If anyone involved can come through with a credit card payment in exchange for cash, I’d be very grateful, and ASAP is best because of the deal explained in the e-mail. So, there we go. Sorry, Gareth, I’m with Dan on this one.