December 2001

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS day. I found a reference to Link and Think on Dave Winer’s weblog My experiences with HIV/AIDS have been mainly through working with organizations like London Lighthouse (since absorbed in to the Terrance Higgins Trust) and the Immune Development Trust on behalf of my employer. Well, before that I had bought Strip AIDS (which funded the founding of Lighthouse), and of course I was at university in the late 1980s when discussion of AIDS, safer sex, and celibacy was at its peak. It was partly because of that that I was so pleased that OCC’s membership of the SEAHORSE project gave me a chance to contribute something to HIV/AIDS support, even if (like most European R&D projects) the main result was an obscure web site. I thought I knew a reasonable amount about HIV, but meeting real people and visiting the Lighthouse makes it real in a way book-learning. I was slightly in awe of the guys who had been living with HIV for a decade or more—they don’t get much mention because everyone’s concentrating on supporting the newly diagnosed and educating the uninfected masses, but they do have their own different needs.

Keeping Sunday Special

I took Thursday and Friday off so I could catch up on all those chores I have been neglecting—repairing the puncture that has kept me off my bike for a month or so, starting Christmas shopping, captioning for the Caption 2001 photos, buying train tickets for visiting my mother on Mull, and so on. Instead I wasted Thursday doing the SVG demo (a reaction to frustration at work), and spent Friday lying in bed sick, and wasn’t up to much on Saturday either. So today Jeremy and I finally tackled the garden a bit, finished the repairs to my bike, and then walked to the train station (there being no useful busses on account of an anti-war march), bought the tickets, and continued down Botley Road to Toys ’R’ Us where we tried to find toys to suit our respective nephews (no nieces yet). Since my brother Mike’s son Darren is not quite a year old yet (born 03-02-01), he’s something of a challenge to find suitable toys for. Then on to Habitat to check out this season’s fairy lights and try out sofas we could not house even if we could afford them. On the way home we dropped in at the local Odeon to watch The Others, an excellent ghost story in which Nichole Kidman does very good mad starey eyes.

I want my, I want my SVG

As noted below, I have been experimenting with SVG. So far I have been forced to borrow Jeremy’s NT box because I cannot get any of the Linux-based SVG viewers to work. Mozilla with SVG (Alex Fritze’s build #6, based on Mozilla 0.9.3) cannot run on my RedHat-6.1-based desktop, because I lack some libraries. I have downloaded Mozilla+SVG for Windows NT, which annoyingly does not display (1) the examples in the W3C recommendation for SVG, (2) the SVG test suite, (3) Adobe’s SVG samples, or (4) my hand-written SVG files. I’m not even going to try to install any of the Java-based SVG viewers until I have thoroughly upgraded my Linux box. Sodipodi sounds attractive, but again I need more libraries. (I understand Debian GNU/Linux’s package manager will automatically acquire missing dependencies—is this true?) So for now I will have to do my cross-platform development on a borrowed Windows NT box...

Quiz: How tall are you?

A new on-line quiz for all you people out there: How tall are you? I have added Javascript code to the page so that it works out the answer for you (if you have Javascript disabled in your browser you should still be able to read the page, you just won’t get any help counting your answers). I have also taken the liberty of decorating the page with SVG doodles. This may or may not give your browser conniptions...:-)

SVG notes. I have tested it on Mozilla on Linux sans SVG; the fall-back PNG images display correctly. MSIE 4.0 on Windows NT with Adobe SVG plug-in 3.0 displays the SVG correctly—you can zoom in and view SVG in another window etc. And at work I verified (in MSIE 5½) you can print the page, in which case the pictures are rendered with the printer’s resolution, not the screen’s. Cool! MSIE/Mac 5.0 on my decrepit Performa sort of goes loopy while the SVG files download, then each doodle turns blank when you scroll the page; frobbing the the zoom or quality causes the image to redisplay. Weird.

Christmas visits (1)

We spent Saturday evening and night in an orgy of present-wrapping for our respective extended families. It was also my sister Rachel’s birthday today. Sunday was Jeremy’s sister Ellés Xmas party, so we got to offload the first one-third of the christmas booty (Jeremy’s sisters and nephew Tiimu), leaving me with the sack that goes south to my father’s family and the sack that goes north with us to visit my mother on Mull.

Christmas visits (2)

Today I was visited by my mother and my sister Kate. Since Kate uses a wheelchair I have learned a lot about the kerbs along the length of Cowley Road. Ironically a lot of the obstructions are caused by work on repairing and improving access for wheelchairs: too bad they could not have taken more notice of my family’s itinery and get them done a week earlier...:-) Our back garden sadly looks a little desolate in winter (pretty much bare earth with some sad-looking twigs poking out), but to Kate’s Australia-adapted eye even that looks novel.

SaVaGe Christmas Cards

Here’s a Christmas card in SVG. Don’t worry, though, I have also made a GIF version for those people who cannot view SVG yet. In this particular case, the ‘fancy’ SVG animation is 23 KB (I could have compressed it to make a 2-KB svgz file), whereas the GIF is 76 KB, and is a simpler animation (you get the blinking lights, but the SVG version also has the tree growing out of nothing an a very amusing manner). That said, the SVG animation needs more client-side CPU, and begins to get jerky on a 200-MHz Pentium-compatible NT box, so I have also supplied a simpler version (missing the background picture) in case that helps.

Christmas Visits (3)

I’m now back from a week-long visit to my mother’s in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. (Mull is an island off the west coast of Scotland with a total population of perhaps 3000.) Altogether we had my mum Jenny, her husband Dave, and their dogs Tubbs, Sacha, and Jerome; myself and Jeremy (from Oxford); my siblings Mike (Dundee), Kate (Brisbane in Australia), and Rachel (Guilford); Mike’s baby son Darren; and sometimes Mum’s stray boy Iain and his dog Buster. My reader will doubtless appreciate that even in a relatively large house this constitutes quite a crowd... Still we survived with no casualties, and even got off the island and on the way home before the Great Storms began and the ferries were cancelled.

Darren is 10 months old and cute as a button. He spent a lot of his time on Mull crawling at speed up and down corridors and up and down the various adults who were trying to deflect him from anything heavy or small enough to try to eat or big enough to try to eat him. Actually of my Mum’s dogs, Jerome (the biggest) is no threat; it is Sacha’s misguided attempts to mother him that might have been a problem if we had not kept an eye on him.

Tate Modern: Surrealism

Today Jeremy and I took the coach in to London to visit the Tate Modern. We thought we had already missed the 2001 exhibit Surrealism: Desire Unbound, but no! we were in luck. Some four hours later we tottered out, tired and £8·50 poorer but greatly edified. They had one room which was basically gossip about the Surrealist movement members, illustrated with the books of poetry or collage or photographs that resulted. Considering how chaste the period in question (1930s, 1940s) is usually represented in modern fiction, it’s interesting how many permutations they came up with: many in the Surrealism movement believed in what was then called free love and nowadays sometimes called polyamory. The sections on erotic art and erotic objects was good fun. Those crazy Czechs with their lewd photomontages and unspellable names! Jeremy was annoyed that work by female Surrealists got little mention except in the room about Surrealism’s depiction of women. This despite the women’s work being often being more interesting to the modern eye—the men’s talk of muses and idealized lovers looking more dated today (it was more radical in, say, 1930). Bought a floppy clock (the Tate is taking the opportunity to sell more interesting merchandise) and then tried to figure out from where one was supposed to view the Juan Muñoz installation. First we looked down at it from the highest gallery level, but eventually we worked out you are supposed to look at it from below! By this time the gallery was closing so we staggered home feeling very culturally stimulated.