Mail delays

Blueyonder, our ISP, has been having some mail problems in the last few days:

“The current queue on the secondary MX (Mail eXchanger) for has grown to approximately 1.2 million e-mails that are queued for delivery to the primary server in Knowsley as well as the business domains that this server acts as a backup MX for.

“Of this 1.2 million we have identified that approximately 95% of this is spam due to a sustained attack against the mail platform over the last few days. Therefore this entire queue is going to be placed into quarantine and filtered into the mail platform in a controlled manner.”

I know that some people have seen their mail to me bounce back (including someone looking for more information about the Minidisc player I’m selling on eBay, causing them to retract their bid) so if you’ve sent me something important…you might want to try it again.

Diet: end of week two, end of Atkins

When I stood on the scales this morning they said 71.5kg. Two weeks ago I was up at 77kg. The Atkins diet may have lost me 5.5kg (12lbs) in just two weeks, but it has been really difficult. The bread cravings weren’t quite so bad in the second week. The nausea before mealtimes also mostly disappeared, only to be replaced by a complete lack of appetite. And I still got no joy from any of the food I ate.

I said I would stick with Atkins for the two weeks of the “induction” period, and I have, but that’s quite enough. I’ve switched to a low calorie diet now instead. If previous experience is anything to go by, 1500kCal per day should lose me about 0.5kg per week. I don’t expect to lose much this week, as my body will be adjusting to taking in carbohydrates again. If anything, I’ll probably go up a bit.

My goal is to get to 67kg. I’m pleasantly surprised that Atkins has got me half-way there in just two weeks, but that’s just not sustainable. On a low calorie diet I can eat everything I enjoy most (bread, rice, bread) and still lose weight. It may take longer, but I’d always expected to be in this for the long run.

Being able to have bread at lunch today was a joy beyond words. Forget chocolate. Give me a couple of slices of wholemeal, and I’m a happy man.

Alex’s pages are now locked down

As of earlier this evening, Alex’s web pages are now closed off from public access. We’ve had too many incidents of people grabbing pictures of Alex from the site and using them elsewhere. We were also noticing an increase in the amount of people being sent to Alex’s pages from search engines (Google and Yahoo in particular) based on bizarre and sometimes creepy search queries.

(No, I’m not going to say what the search phrases are, because then my pages will end up indexed under those words instead.)

Rather than hack together a bunch of code to do the password-protection myself, I decided to move Alex’s site out of Movable Type and into phpBB. phpBB is a bulletin board tool rather than a blogging tool. But the purpose of Alex’s pages is to keep our friends and family up to date with what’s going on in his life. A bulletin board allows us to publish stories and pictures just as effectively as a blog does. And by going with phpBB, I didn’t have to spend hours/days implementing a custom user management system.

(Top programming tip: wherever possible, avoid writing your own code.)

Anyway, it’s up and running now at last. The only problem is that our ISP’s mail servers are being overwhelmed by spam attacks (so they say), and all of our incoming mail is being delayed by up to twelve hours. I can see that several people have already registered themselves (including two complete strangers, who came in via AOL and Google), but I haven’t received the activation emails yet. I can approve accounts without the activation emails, but that results in the user in question not getting an email to confirm that they have been activated. So if you’re waiting to get in…sorry! It may take a little while…

Opera 7.10 – gone

Frank tried Opera 7.10 and found it wanting, too. I have now also moved back down to 7.03, and I’m much happier with it.

I’m quite disappointed about that. I started using Opera when it was still at version 5, and every version since then has been a step forward, adding at least some feature or bug fix that improved my browsing experience. I hope that 7.10 is an anomaly, and that 7.11 will patch things up again.

Opera 7.10

I installed Opera 7.10 earlier this evening, and I can’t say that I’m entirely happy with it.

First of all, they’ve gone and changed the default font size. In Opera 6 (and I think in the beta versions of 7) it used to be smaller than the Internet Explorer default font size. Then in the early versions of 7 they set it to be roughly equal to the IE default font size. And now it’s back again to small. Make your mind up, guys.

Secondly, they seem to have changed the point at which a web page’s stylesheet is applied. Now, as I watch a page loading, I get a brief (sub-second) flash of what it looks like without any css formatting. It seems to take just a fraction of a second longer to apply the style sheet in this version, but it is noticeable, and it is annoying.

I suppose it’s possible that this allows people with slow ‘net connections to see at least part of the page’s content before the stylesheet itself is fully downloaded. But on a broadband connection it feels jarringly crude, like a throwback to the last generation of browsers, where page elements would jumble and rearrange themselves madly before landing in their final configuration.


Atkins after the first week

When I stood on the scales this morning it hit 73kg right on the nose. Before I started the diet last week I was at 77. That’s 4kg in one week. Whatever else you can say about Atkins, the only other times I have lost that much weight that quickly are when I’ve been stuck in bed with Scottish Barfing Syndrome (SBS) and unable to eat anything at all.

But not even that kind of weight loss can make up for the fact that this diet is making me utterly miserable. I’ve learned that for me, the pleasure I derive from food resides in carbohydrates. By cutting out the carbs, I’ve cut out my joy.

After a meal I feel full but never satisfied. Before meal times I don’t feel hungry, I feel nauseous. The thought of having to eat meat turns my stomach. Intellectually I know that’s partly a low blood sugar kind of thing. I know that I’ll feel much better after I’ve forced myself to eat something. But at the time I really do have to force myself to cook, or to sit down to eat. For all the enjoyment I get from a nice chunk of beef or a succulent roast chicken, I might as well be scarfing down those multi-coloured protein cubes you got in 70s science fiction films. They’re just about as appetising.

As I was walking by the bakery section in Safeway on Friday, I almost lost it. I had to suppress a hysterical giggle bubbling up inside of me. I had visions of running over to the fresh bread counter, ripping the crust off a large bloomer and burying my face in the soft, warm expanse of white loaf. Then I’d take my clothes off and rub the crust all over my naked body just to see if I could absorb any more carbohydrates through my pores.

To summarise: Atkins is effective for me, and I’ll keep it up for the second week of the “induction phase” (20g carb/day) on the off-chance that my body is just taking a long time to adjust to the new balance of nutrients, but I really don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like a diet, it feels like punishment. On a calorie-controlled diet (1500kCal/day) I do feel hungry, but the hunger feels virtuous. It doesn’t make me miserable. We’ll see how it goes, but a week from now it may be time to switch.