Make of this what you will. Some of it is complete; some isn't.


I think http://xkcd.com/2006 should be seen by far more people than it will be.


I'm pretty sure that I have a certain degree of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Personally, I don't consider it to be a disorder, but it's certainly a part of me as a person. Maybe I just have Obsessive-Compulsive Personality.


I seem to have a habit of buying multiples of things; somehow I seem unable to be happy with just one of something.

People's names

Programmers, database creators, and web form designers should all be required to read Patrick McKenzie's excellent article about people's names.

It's pretty interesting even if you don't fall into one of those categories, but for anyone building computerised systems which need to refer to human beings, it should be a required study.


I find it interesting how many types of birds are the basis for common English verbs or expressions.

For example:

  • Duck (as in, "get down, quickly")
  • Goose (as in goosing someone)
  • Swan (as in swanning about)
  • Chicken (as in "are you going to do it, or are you chicken?")
  • Crow (as in boasting or bragging)


I wonder why UTC (the compromise abbreviation for Universal Coordinated Time between French, English and other language speakers) is called "Universal".

After all, it really only applies to Earth, the World, humanity's home planet. It's not "universal" in any way at all. "Worldwide", yes, but not "universal".

UTC follows a 24-hour day, with each hour containing 60 minutes of 59, 60 or 61 seconds each (if the 59 and 61 puzzle you, you should learn about leap seconds), and this really only makes sense for a planet with an approximately 24-hour period of rotation, broken down into humanly-convenient subdivisions (for example, one second is approximately the duration of a resting human's heartbeat).

These things mean absolutely nothing (as far as we know) for the rest of the universe in general, so why is UTC "universal"?

VAT (Making Tax Difficult)

I run a business which is registered for VAT in the UK. Between around 2017 and 2022, the UK Government decided that customers would no longer be allowed to submit VAT returns using the online web interface which they've provided since paper returns were abandoned around 2014.

The new system is called Making Tax Digital and here are some notes of my experience (and others') with the transition.

A little comment about "midnight"

Midnight is not the end of the day. It is the start of the day.

How can you tell? Well, it's simple: midnight in hours, minutes and seconds is 00:00:00.

That fairly obviously is one second before 00:00:01, and the rest of the day simply follows on from there.

The final second of the previous day is 23:59:59, and the changeover to 00:00:00 tells you that this is now a new day, and therefore 00:00:00 is the start of it.

If you're still not convinced, bear in mind that 23:59:59 is the last second of some date such as 2024-05-17, and 00:00:00 is the first second of the following date: 2024-05-18. Therefore midnight is the start of that day.

Brexit / Covid

I am British.

I live part of the time in England and part of the time in Germany (because I have a house in England, and some of my family lives there, and I have a girlfriend, a dog and an apartment in Germany).

I'm self-employed and work for my customers over the Internet, so I can run my business from anywhere with an Internet connection.

On January 31st 2020 I ("Brexit day") I thought Britain leaving the European Union was going to be the biggest challenge I had to deal with in the next few months.

I was wrong.

German efficiency (or not)

There is, as far as I'm aware, a common stereotype of Germans and Germany that:

  • people follow the rules
  • there are rules for everything
  • trains etc are punctual
  • things are done efficiently
  • bureaucracy exists everywhere, but at least it's efficient

Nearly all of the above are completely wrong (except perhaps for the bit about there being rules for everything).

Thanks to Edwin Brady for:

#define SIX 1+5
#define NINE 8+1

int main()
    printf("%d\n", SIX * NINE);


I find many things about words quite fascinating.

Interesting documentation

Technical documentation can occasionally be amusing (it can also occasionally be useful, however neither is guaranteed).

  • Hewlett-Packard Proliant Microserver Remote Access Card removal

The end of a dog

This is the story of the end of a dog's life. I've written it mainly as a cathartic process for myself. Read it at your own emotional risk.


The television series Lost seems to have some inconsistencies. For example, Rose claims that her husband Bernard went to the toilet at the back of the plane just before it exploded and the tail section got separated from the centre of the cabin. So, why was Bernard found sitting in a row of seats which landed in a tree, still with a seatbelt on, in series 2 episode 7 "The other 48 days"? Maybe one of the cabin crew told him the plane was about to explode, and asked him to sit down and put a seat belt on…

Other than that, if I ever find myself with a multitude of hours spare time (not necessarily consecutively), I'm intrigued to see what the Lost series would be like if the whole thing were watched in chronological sequence of when the events happened…

That could be an interesting video-editing activity.

How to ask questions on mailing lists

A lot of people ask questions on mailing lists (or forums) without giving what I think is obviously basic information to help people provide useful answers.

There are many guides on the Internet about how best to ask questions; some of these are quite lengthy and therefore unlikely to be read by newcomers to the situation.

I find I keep on posting my own recommendations as part of the answers I give people, so I decided it was time to summarise them with a URL.

Adventure Games

Here are a few notes on playing some well-known (IMHO) adventure games.

I like using IFM, the Interactive Fiction Mapper, to create maps of games as I play them. The notes above contain source files and output so you can see (some of) what it can do.

Many years ago I wrote a few (very simple, basically just proof-of-concept) adventure games using Advsys. It's a pretty simple language to get started with, but it has the drawback that it requires a special interpreter to play the games.

I've now finally got around to having a go at writing something more meaningful (well, I hope so, anyway) using Inform6, which creates standard Z-code, and the games can therefore be played by any interpreter which can play the Infocom games (such as frotz or gargoyle).

My game is called Hex.


Some of my opinions on a (very) few of the books I've read.


Some of my opinions on a (very) few of the films I've watched.


Some of my opinions on some beers I was given as an advent calendar in 2020.

Quotes and similar epithets

I use several of these as random appendages to my personal emails.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

Perfection in design is achieved not when there is nothing left to add,
but rather when there is nothing left to take away.

Stéphane Bortzmeyer:

Measuring average network latency is about as useful as
measuring the mean temperature of patients in a hospital.


Software development can be quick, high quality, or low cost.

The customer gets to pick any two out of three.

Of course, this applies to plenty of things other than software, too.

It may not seem obvious, but (6 x 5 + 5) x 5 - 55 equals 5!
Having been asked to give a reference for this person,
I can surely state that you will be very lucky indeed
if you can get them to work for you.

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