Rosh Hashanah

Happy Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) to all who celebrate it. I was thinking about maybe going to Southampton for the celebrations, but after a weekend away i feel i need a night in.

Also, happy new moon, new month to everybody. I have been particularly fascinated with the moon the last couple of months. It’s one good thing about the days getting shorter; i get more interested in the night sky and love to see what i can observe. I recently obtained a pair of binoculars and i can spend ages looking at the moon through them. I would love to get a telescope! :)

In other news, i hear Tom Felton has an album out. It seems Tom is pretty good on the guitar, but unfortunately does not have a singing voice to match …! Here is a little medley of Tom Felton music.


A happy carnival weekend

I had a nice weekend away with my family in Essex. Yesterday some of us went to Burnham on Crouch for the centenary carnival. It was excellent – a really fun afternoon with fine weather, watching a wing walker, admiring the fancy dress, enjoying the atmosphere. My Felix looked amazing, dressed up in a stunning leopard costume with incredible face paint. We saw a beautiful sunset, had a good view of Jupiter and several stars – it was a lovely clear evening – and we enjoyed watching some of the carnival floats in the procession.

It was great to see the people who mean such a lot to me, and i’m glad we’re seeing more of each other now. It’s actually not that hard to get to Essex on a train; it’s quite convenient to go for a weekend, leaving straight from work on a Friday. I really felt i relaxed for the first time in a few weeks.

I got my parents set up with the Skype so we can have free phone calls, and they can call their friends in America. Very good, very good.

LilyPond Love

Tonight i decided to write out “Mamma Mia” for my cousin whom i teach piano. I got out my pad of music lines, but hadn’t even set pen to paper before thinking, “I hate doing this! I wonder if there’s an open-source music notation package …”

One quick search later and i remembered LilyPond! A friend showed me this years ago, and i was really intrigued by it. As a programmer, this is very satisfying to me. You write your music as a kind of code, ‘compile’ it, and it outputs PDF, PS and, if you want it, a MIDI file.

Mamma Mia LilyPond code     Mamma Mia PDF output

We used to do this on Windows, with Cygwin. It is very pleasing to use it on its intended operating system now! :) It was easy to input, and i do love the pure geekiness of the notation! :D

A water-saving tip

I never knew that you could flush the toilet[0] simply by pouring a bucket of water down it. I suppose i imagined there was some trigger when you pressed the flush lever, to make it empty the bowl … but now i think about it, of course there isn’t! All it does is lets more water in, and it’s the weight of the extra water which disturbs the balance, pushing it out through the pipe at the back.

I still didn’t quite believe it until i tried it, but it really works. So when you’ve finished cleaning the bathroom, just empty the bucket of dirty water into the toilet. Rinse out the bucket and pour that into the toilet too. Easy! No water wasted, and you’ve saved a flush too!

[0] Works on my toilet. Other designs of toilet are available. Not guaranteed to work on every toilet. This toilet-related water-saving tip is brought to you by

Winchester Action on Climate Change

Today i went to a training session to become a ‘low carbon champion’ for Winchester Action on Climate Change. It was a good session, there was a lot to take in, but i certainly feel more confident about talking to other people and encourage people to do their bit. I met some nice people, including someone who is eager to work with me in promoting the benefits of low carbon living to our local neighbours. We’ll probably set up some talks in our homes and get some discussion points going.

I have just done the Act on CO2 calculator and it came up with a total of 1.46 tonnes per year of CO2 emmisions for home, appliances and travel. They’re missing something – the copy/paste code to publish into your blog. They should do that.

My personal action points from today are to get a wormery!! I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and i hate the way that food scraps go mouldy in the bin. May as well get some pet worms to enjoy it and make some useful compost for us. I also want to grow some runner beans. We don’t have a garden, but runner beans can be grown on the balcony. Maybe some other things too.

Kate Nash spoof song

I can never quite make up my mind whether i like Kate Nash. I feel as if i shouldn’t but for some reason, the music really appeals to me. However, i found this song very funny too …

If you don’t get it, see this video, of the song that goes: “I use mouthwash. Sometimes i floss. I’ve got a family and i drink cups of tea”. However, the “three chords” and drum beat are taken from Kate Nash’s much more popular song, Foundations.

For what it’s worth, my very favourite Kate Nash song is We Get On. I really like Kate’s voice and the sense of a heart-felt story being told in the song.

Review of Debian Lenny

Somebody asked if i’m going to do a blog post review about Lenny. I wasn’t going to, but then i realised i have a bit more to be said about it than 140 characters, so yes, here goes with a mini review.

I don’t find Lenny particularly exciting. It’s reasonably stable, and it’s great that Flash “just works” without having to go through any convoluted steps. It’s nice to have new versions of Iceweasel, OpenOffice, GnuCash and Evolution. The eye candy is okay … the icons feel a bit softer, and the improved fonts make it feel as if i have a slightly higher resolution. So that’s all good.

There are a few bugs. The keyboard layout resets to Qwerty every time i log on, which is pretty annoying. Dvorak is still sitting there in the list, pretending to be default, but i have to remove it and add it every time to make it take effect. Also i cannot use the very latest Linux kernel (2.6.26) – i have to choose 2.6.24 every time i boot up, otherwise it gets stuck. This evening i logged both of these on the bug reporting tool.

Happily i chose to install the 32-bit version this time. I had been on 64-bit Etch, and it just caused a lot of problems. I am so glad to have Songbird working again – it just did not work with 64-bit, and nobody knew why!

I’d recommend Debian to anybody, but i don’t see anything particularly special about Lenny over Etch. It’s just nice to have an up-to-date system, i guess.

CouchDB on Rails (part 7 of ?)

  1. An introduction to CouchDB
  2. Installing CouchDB
  3. Experimenting with CouchDB’s web interface
  4. Integrating with Rails using ActiveCouch
  5. Integrating with Rails using RelaxDB
  6. Getting to scaffolding using RelaxDB
  7. Installing CouchDB from Subversion source code
  8. Trying out couchrest and topfunky’s basic_model

Yesterday i started using the couchrest plugin, only to run into problems with the spec tests because it is built for latest latest CouchDB. So i had to install from Subversion source, but i got into a terrible mess, and to cut a long story short, i reinstalled the operating system today! I am now on shiny new Debian Lenny, woohoo! :D

So hopefully today i will successfully show you how to install from source!

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Installing Ruby on Rails on Debian Lenny

Last night i severely messed up my computer trying to install the latest version of CouchDB. I ran into dependency troubles, and then i uninstalled some kind of essential packages that ended up removing all sorts of things that i rather wanted! But this is okay because i needed a push to move up to the new Debian. And i’m glad i did … Lenny looks nice so far! :)

So i am currently going through the process of installing Ruby on Rails. I’ve never managed to do this right first time, but i always learn a little bit more every time i try. Let’s see if i can nail it this time.

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A special surprise day out!

For my birthday, my wonderful partner made me a little voucher. It said:


It was all beautifully decorated and everything. So today i redeemed my voucher! :)

We went on the train to Portchester (i somehow had a feeling we’d be going to Portchester because i love castles and i’ve always said i’d like to see Portchester Castle). My partner made a big deal of teasing me, making me think we were getting off at Fareham …! Also, when we got to Portchester, we went entirely the opposite way from the castle, up the hill. It was a fairly steep climb, but it meant we got to see this view of Portsmouth Harbour:

View of Spinnaker Tower from Portchester

Later on we joined a walk organised by the English Heritage – a guided tour of the old buildings in Castle Street leading up to Portchester Castle. There are some really interesting and beautiful cottages:

An old house in Castle Street, Portchester Pretty English cottages

The castle is really lovely, and the grounds are so peaceful inside the castle walls.

Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle Portchester Castle

We also had a tour of St Mary’s Priory, which is situated in the castle grounds and is nearly 900 years old.

St Mary's Priory, Portchester

St Mary's Priory, Portchester St Mary's Priory, Portchester

Here i am, just outside the castle walls, on the shore of Portsmouth Harbour. I’m showing off my new Songbird tshirt! :)

Portchester Castle

Thank you so much to my beloved, for a wonderful mystery experience day out! :D