It’s nice to be thought about

Let me clarify that. It’s nice to be thought of, most of the time. It depends on what the thoughts are I guess. For example, if someone is thinking of a way that they could annoy me from afar then I’d rather they thought about somebody else.

Case in point: my friend in Tokyo spotted this note at a temple in Tokyo. I’ve something of a penchant for cryptography so I found this incredibly frustrating. After some (okay, a lot of) research I thought it must be some form of Vigenere encryption and attempted to break it with some frequency analysis. Unfortunately I think that this was always doomed to end in failure as I suspect that the original message isn’t in English. The clue was the Roman numeral used to denote the month in the date which is apparently used in Poland, Serbia and Hungary. All I need to do now is seed the algorithm with letter frequencies from these and other languages.

Oh well, it’s not like I actually need to sleep.

It’s good to be back

I enjoy working with like-minded people: the kind of petty pedant1 that immediately spots the flaws in statements like “only five people died during the construction of the Empire State Building” or spends time debating whether replay television channels should be named +1 or −1. I believe that it’s something inherent to jobs that involve some level of computer programming and the precision required. Computers are still pretty dumb but they make up for this in terms of sheer processing power. If you’re not precise when giving instructions then strange things happen.

It took me longer than I care to admit to remember how to concatenate strings in JavaScript last Monday morning but things started to come back to me pretty quickly and, by mid-afternoon, my muscle memory had kicked in to aid with passwords and the like. I may no longer remember how to work the toaster in the office but my OCD / kitchen Nazism is still as rampant as ever.

My first week back at the coal face was rounded off with a bit of excitement and a surprise visitor on Friday afternoon when a young seagull wandered into reception for a quick look around.

1 These same people will no doubt check my HTML source code to ensure that I’ve used the correct character at the end of this sentence.

Back to normality

It’s Sunday night and I have the mother of all Monday fears. It’ll be my first day back in the office tomorrow after taking three months off. Thanks to keeping this blog updated on my travels, my typing isn’t too bad but I think getting my coding back up to speed may prove to be more of an issue!

I’ve been meaning to sit down and attempt to kick-start my mind a little this weekend but I’ve been otherwise engaged with catch-up drinks, birthday celebrations, leaving parties and soaking up the early Festival atmosphere on the Royal Mile and Spiegeltent. It’s apparent that I have missed the brief respite granted to the denizens of Edinburgh that occurs after most of the students depart and before the tourists arrive en masse.

In between the aforementioned distractions I did manage to get my head around a lookaround-based regular expression that was bugging me before I went on my travels so the weekend wasn’t a complete write-off on the programming front.

Going dark

Now I’m back home I’m going to take a couple of weeks to get used to the idea of actually working again. I can kind of still type thanks to keeping this blog but coding may be something else entirely.

I’ll be using the time to visit relatives and catch up with friends before heading back to Edinburgh so blog posts will be far less frequent than of late. I’ll be back with my thoughts and reminiscings from the last few months soon though!

Downtime

Both for me and my blog. Apologies for hosing things good-and-proper last night while trying to watch 21 Grams on FilmFour and not really concentrating when attempting to change to an SVN based WordPress update system. Some command-line database poking was required in the end. After 10 minutes of swearing and trying to log into Postgres I remembered that WordPress was mySQL based and managed to get everything up-and-running again.

I was also intending to try and get mod_gzip working to compress all of my non-image files. Again, I soon remembered that I was actually serving pages using Apache2 and mod_deflate was the way forward. A short time later and all of the text files used to generate my blog are delivered at a quarter of their actual file size. This saves me bandwidth and you download time.

This year the office is closed between Christmas and New Year for the first time and as I’m spending them both with my mum I won’t be online much as she doesn’t have Internet access just yet. Usually I get a little jittery after a couple of days without Internet access but I’m looking forward to a bit of an extended break over the next couple of weeks.

The only thing I can see stressing me out before January is trying to actually teach my mum about the Internet. I’ve tried on a couple of occasions before without joy. She’s – how can I put this nicely – not exactly au fait with technology but thinks that she should learn.

Wish me luck.