It’s he-eeere

Movable Type 3.0

Mena explains.

And if you look at the trackbacks at the bottom of Mena’s post, it looks like the reception it is getting is terrible. No-one seems to be grumbling about the quality of the software (well, apart from the lack of revolutionary new features); it all seems to be about the pricing structure.

To me, though, it looks perfectly reasonable. Well over a year ago, I mused about how much MT Pro would cost when it was released. Well, MT Pro never really happened. Instead, we’ve got MT 3, and for personal use, my estimate from back then isn’t a million miles off. The big difference is the sheer variety of pricing options Six Apart have come up with.

It’s all good, people. Movable Type is high quality, sophisticated, and powerful software. No-one is forcing you to upgrade from your existing MT 2.x weblogs, and if you don’t want to pay for your using it to run a single, personal weblog, you can use the free version.

But if you want to run multiple blogs with multiple authors, and you want access to the latest features, then cough up already.

Movable Type 3 coming soon to this blog right here.

Strange Attractors in Non-Linear Office Spaces

Chaotic systems are characterised by their sensitivity to initial conditions: tiny variations at the start of apparently identical systems will result in huge discrepancies between those systems further down the line. Attractors, however, are “sinks” of activity: states to which a system finds itself inevitably drawn.

Take, for example, a ball rolling around in a bowl. If you release a ball at a given point on the edge of a bowl, and then repeat this experiment, you will likely find that the rolling path it took to the bottom of the bowl was very different on both occasions. But in both cases, the ball ends up at the bottom of the bowl: this is the system’s attractor.

Lorentz AttractorA Strange Attractor is an attractor that is much more complex than a simple point or oscillation: even a system that never returns to the same state twice can still find itself locked into a family of patterns, an often beautiful wandering trail through the “phase space” of the system’s possible states.

So what does this have to do with office life? Well, I have noticed certain patterns in the way that desks and office stationery interact. In particular, pens.

If you’re sitting at a normal desk, your Pen-to-Desk Ratio (PDR) will remain relatively static. That is, for every pen you lose at a meeting, or to a colleague who picks it up and never brings it back, the you will gain one in a similar subconsciously kleptomanic incident. If you start the month with three pens (PDR=3), you’ll generally come to the end of the month with somewhere between two and four writing instruments.

However, some desks are Pen Sinks. Pen Sinks are regions of dramatic instability in the Pen Dispersal Flux, attractors in the turbulent dynamical flow of consumable office equipment. I first noticed this while I was working at the Royal Bank of Scotland. At my last desk there, pens just accumulated. There was something about the desk that made people just want to leave their pens behind. I don’t think I had to visit the stationery cupboard even once for a fresh pen or a pencil in the entire two years I sat there. When I left for pastures new, I had literally a couple of dozen pencils, disposable ballpoints, marker pens, and highlighters stashed in my top drawer.

At Cedalion I moved desks several times, and the Pen Dispersal Flux was normal at all of them but the last one. It was the opposite of a Pen Sink: a Pen Repulsor. It was impossible to keep pens around. Not a month went by that I didn’t have to take multiple trips to the stationery cupboard to find something to write with.

And now, at my current client, I’m sitting at a Pen Sink again. I’ve been there for three months now, and there are six pens sitting on my desk whose origins are a complete mysery to me. I write with a very nice Cross pencil Abi gave me last year, so I don’t even have a need for cheap office pens.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? Or alternatively, have you ever found yourself located at some other stationery nexus? Are you the one who ends up with all the staplers around the office? (Because they have to go somewhere.) Do you find paperclip fairy rings on your mouse mat when you turn up to work every morning?

Tell me about it. Maybe together we can delve deeper into this hitherto unexplored region of mathematics….

Countdown to holiday

We’re going down to Hexham in Northumberland for five days next week. It’s the end of my first three-month contract (which has been extended until the end of July–yay!), and the last month of Abi’s maternity leave, so we’re taking the opportunity to grab a little time away from home. At five days, it’ll be the longest period we’ll have spent away from home since, I think, May of 2002.

I’m looking forward to the break from routine, and the change of scenery.

House hunting, part 2

After visiting only a handful of places, we have given up hope of finding a new house in Edinburgh. First of all, Edinburgh house prices are silly. The kind of house we were looking for (4 or 5 bedrooms, garden, a decent nursery and school nearby, and within easy reach of a public transport link) was unlikely to cost anything less than £200,000. And with the Scottish “offers over” property auction system, it’s very hard to look at the price of a house, and actually know what you will have to offer to actually win the bid.

So we’re now thinking about building an extension to our current house. We have a garden here, we live on a very pleasant street, with Alex’s nursery and a major bus nexus about 5 minutes’ walk away. Looking at it rationally (i.e., setting aside the lust for something shiny and new), we have a great house, and the only thing we lack is a bit more space.

With this in mind, we have put together some ideas for extending our garage outwards an upwards, making space for a utility room, downstairs toilet, another bedroom, and a new bathroom. A sun room to the rear would be nice, too, but possibly out of our budget range. A variety kitchen, bathroom, and other renovation projetcs might also get folded into the mix.

Last week, we scribbled down some diagrams and floor plans, and contacted three architects whose web sites looked inviting and promising. The results so far have been mixed. The first firm replied with a curt, dismissive email whose message boiled down to “go away and stop bothering us, you silly people.” The second architect was the exact opposite: he gave us a bunch of useful information about initial costs and suggestions about further steps for us to take. The third firm hasn’t even acknowledged our email yet.

I would much rather have had three promising and inviting replies to choose from, but as it stands, the one good reply we’ve got has been from the filrm whose web site gave us the best “vibe” right from the beginning: David Olden.

We’ll let you know how we get on….

Related entries:

Barenaked Gaahghgg

As I was checking my news over breakfast this morning, I noticed a new post on the Barenaked Ladies Blog:

“The tour in the UK was great–it was very nice to be back after over three years to a place we once knew so well.”

Splutter. Diet caffeinated beverage all over the screen. Excuse me? The BNL were over in the UK on tour for the first time in three years AND I MISSED IT?

I use the RSS feed for their blog, but they have been silent since the beginning of April or so. When I last checked in on their message board (some time in March, I think?) to see if there was word of a UK tour, all the UK fans were still gnashing their teeth over the absence of plans. I’m subscribed to their email newsletter list, but I never received any notice of the tour dates. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything from their mailing list, which makes me wonder about their list administration.)

They played Glasgow and Aberdeen last week (both within easy reach for me), and word is that they rocked. So please excuse me a moment while I swear.


Worldcon 2005: Interaction

We’ve just signed up for next year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow. Interaction takes place from 4-8 August 2005, and will be the first Worldcon in Europe since 1995, when Intersection sailed the Clyde.

In August of 1995:

  • I was a new teacher, fresh out of teacher training college.
  • Abi was still an accountant.
  • I was running a Mac Classic, and had yet to build my first PC.
  • I had never touched Windows 95.
  • Internet? I was still running CompuServe 2.x. Forums were cool, Usenet was a pain in the neck. Dial-up at 28.8K was fast.
  • Bob Shaw was still alive.
  • Mobile phones? Nahhhh.
  • Kids? Nahhhh.
  • We were a month into owning our first car: the original Sun Pig!

Lots has changed:

  • After retraining as a programmer, I’m now an IT consultant.
  • After retraining as a programmer, Abi is now an IT consultant.
  • After building and running PCs for a decade, I’m wondering if it’s not time to switch back to using a Mac.
  • I’m very glad to have finished touching Windows 95.
  • 750KBps broadband, our own domain, and our own web site. Usenet is still a pain in the neck.
  • My Bob Shaw collection continues to grow. (100+ books, 50+ magazines and anthologies)
  • Camera phones.
  • Two kids.
  • We are a couple of months into owning our second car. It doesn’t have a name yet, though.

I’m looking forward to Worldcon, and the next ten years. I’m guessing I’ll be a plumber by then.