May 26, 2005

Kings Of Europe

Could you ask for a better game of football? Our emotions played to perfection.

Half time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 0. Almost as low as you can feel. Where are Liverpool going to find three goals? Especially given their performance in the first half.

Things are a little better at the start of the second half. Our midfield are a little more involved in the game. Then, in the 53rd minute, a beautiful header from Stevie G! A goal! Can we... dare we hope?

Barely a minute later, and Smicer's shot sneaks in. A second! It's not over yet!

Then on the hour, Gerrard goes down in the box. A penalty? For a moment or two there's confusion, none of the decisions seem to have gone our way all night - are we to be denied again? No, it is a penalty. Alonso steps up... and it's saved! But he gets the rebound!

What a glorious seven minutes. We're level, and there's still half an hour of normal time to find a winner.

Full time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3. Extra time beckons.

And it's a tense affair. Milan have recovered from shell-shock a little, and only a fantastic double save from Dudek keeps Liverpool in the game.

After extra time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3.

Penalties! Memories return to 1984, when the European Cup final also went to penalties, with the famous image of Grobbelaar's "jelly legs" helping us to our last European Cup victory.

AC go first. Serginho misses! The other room in the pub erupts in celebration a moment before we do - their TV is tuned to ITV rather than Sky, and they seem to be a second or so ahead, making for a very surreal experience watching the penalties. Hamann scores for Liverpool, just the start we want.

Dudek saves from Pirlo! Cisse scores! Liverpool are two-nil up!

Tomasson gets Milan onto the penalty score sheet, and Riise misses for the Reds. We aren't there yet...

Kaka levels the scores, but that's before Smicer puts Liverpool back in front.

Shevchenko has to score to keep Milan in the game. We can't hear the result of this second hand from the other room! We all pile through to find out as soon as possible.

DUDEK SAVES IT! We've won! Liverpool FC have won the Champions League!

What a game! What a night!

AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3 (AET). Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties.

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May 20, 2005

Celebrations

Well, another year older means another excuse for a party. An excellent turn out for a most enjoyable night, although I'm sure the real draw was Rebecca; I suppose given how long I've been single, my acquiring a girlfriend is big news :-) So I apologise to anyone I didn't get chance to introduce her to, it wasn't deliberate.

I think Dinan deserves a mention for the most ambitious choice of song on the karaoke. It isn't captured in any of the photos, but his rendition of James Brown's Sex Machine was unmissable!

And finally, an honourable mention to two non-attendees to the party - Dan and Cheryl spent most of the Sunday at West Suffolk Hospital welcoming their first child into the world, a lovely baby boy. So a suitable excuse for missing my party I guess... Congratulations, he's picked a great day to be born!

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May 18, 2005

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May 17, 2005

Toy Racer

The combination of a mobile phone which takes video and birthday presents of a radio-controlled Gallardo and a smoke machine seem to result in the simulation of tyre-smoking doughnuts...

Real Player and Quicktime both seem to cope with the video okay (it's a .3gp format file)

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May 11, 2005

Star Wars Revelations

Sorry, I can't reveal anything about the forthcoming Episode III, but while you're waiting for its release you should go and download...

STAR WARS REVELATIONS

Forty-odd minutes of superbly done fan fiction. I'm not enough of a Star Wars geek to know if there are any flaws in it, but it really felt like watching a Star Wars film - even down to things like the fades between scenes.

I think I might have to download the DVD versions now...

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May 10, 2005

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May 09, 2005

Less Eye Candy, More Useful Features

Recently, I've installed the latest version of Microsoft's Instant Messenger. The two main additions seem to be "Winks" and "Nudges". "Winks" are little animations you can send, and are quite amusing, although part of me thinks they're just a way of introducing another market to sell low-value baubles for much more than they're worth, like the whole ringtones/emoticons/wallpaper market.

"Nudges" sound a much more promising idea though. My biggest bugbear with instant messaging is that there's no useful way to manage my presence and work state information. There is the "busy" status, but that's far too coarse-grained and has to be set by hand - when I find myself engrossed in some work, I don't want to interrupt myself just to warn others that they shouldn't interrupt me; nor do I want to remember to clear my "busy" status when I decide to have a break for a few minutes and catch up on email and blogs, or whatever.

So, some way to discreetly enquire whether the other person is there and can be interrupted would be ideal. Which sounds like what a nudge would be - an unobtrusive, easily ignored query to see if someone is available to talk to you.

It's a shame then that the Messenger team chose the name "nudge" because it's snappier sounding than "grab the other person and shake some sense into them!" In Messenger, a nudge is more intrusive than talking to someone! The window pops to the front, shakes from side to side, and makes a noise. Of all the expressions and gestures that are missing from electronic communication, jumping up and down and screaming wouldn't be top of my list of ones to add.

Luckily, I'm not the only person thinking of things like this. Matt Webb has even been experimenting with improvements in his Glancing project. For example, looking to see who is online also causes a "glance" to be sent to all your buddies, which doesn't do anything other than subtly change the icon for their IM client. Whoever notices the glance, and glances back, then becomes available to chat to. Perfect - glancing is a byproduct of using the IM client, and ignoring a glance is the expected result and so doesn't appear rude.

Later on in the presentation I've linked to, after discussing Glancing, Matt touches on a number of other very interesting ideas: why we should improve the visibility to others of what communication is happening; how software should degrade rather than failing; thoughts on cyberethics... All accompanied by pointers to further reading.

I'll have to see if I can find time to dig into some of material he references.

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May 01, 2005

Basic Sponge Recipe

Ingredients

For each pint of liquid that the cake tin will contain, include:

  • 2oz (50g) Soft margarine
  • 2oz (50g) Caster sugar
  • 2oz (50g) Self-raising flour, sieved. (Actually, I always use plain flour and add baking powder to make it into self-raising)
  • 1 Egg
  • A splash of milk

Or, for cake tins I've got:

2x 10" diameter, 1.25" deep round sandwich tins12oz mix (6 eggs)
10"x10", 3" deep square tin14oz mix (7 eggs)

In order to make a chocolate sponge cake (which, of course, is the best kind :) replace some of the flour with sieved cocoa powder - I usually use about an ounce (25g) of cocoa.

Method

  1. Grease and line the cake tin(s) with either greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Then grease the lining paper. I generally don't bother lining the sides of the tin these days - it's easy enough to run a knife round the sides after it's baked and it saves all the messing around lining the sides...
  2. Put the oven on to warm up whilst you're preparing the mixture. Gas mark 3 (170°C / 325°F).
  3. Cream the margarine and sugar together. This is easier if the margarine is at room temperature, rather than straight from the fridge.
  4. Gradually add the flour, cocoa and eggs, making sure that the ingredients are blended to a uniform consistency. Traditionally, this is the stage where you fold the flour and eggs into the mix, and are instructed to ensure you incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture. Although I do use what's largely a folding action, I still use the wooden spoon I used in the previous step (rather than a knife) and find that it's more important to ensure the ingredients are all mixed together well. If you sieve the flour into the mix from a reasonable height, I doubt you'll have any problems with not getting enough air into it.
  5. Add the splash of milk, and mix well. I'm not completely convinced that you need the milk - it may just be a superstition of mine, or merely my own personalization of the recipe - but I like a moist cake, and find that this helps. The amount I add depends on the consistency of the mixture at this point; sometimes it's as little as a teaspoon, and it's never more than a tablespoon or so. I suppose experience has taught me what sort of consistency I'm after, and so I can judge how much to add based on that, but I can't even begin to explain what that desired (by me, after all, your cakes will no doubt by subtly different) consistency is.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin(s) and put into the oven.
  7. Enjoy the remaining cake mixture from the bowl :-) (although you shouldn't if you're in one of the risk groups for eating raw egg! Shame.)

Baking times will vary, depending on how big the cake is. Do not open the oven in the first half hour of baking! An 8" cake will take around 45 minutes, and cakes made in my 10" square cake tin take about 1 hour 15 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer slid into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Once out of the oven, leave the cake in its tin for about five minutes to cool - during this time is will contract from the sides of the tin a little, making it easier to run a knife round the edges and remove from the tin onto a wire rack to cool properly.

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