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2003 (old posts, page 13)

Messaging on the move

The US cell carriers are finally catching up with SMS text messages and people here are gradually picking up the habit. But it's taking time, and still doesn't come cheap ($.25 per international message!).Help is at hand! MSN Messenger makes it really easy to send text messages when people aren't online. Tools/Options/Phone has a Mobile Device' section. Set up yourMobile Settings' with a phone number and back in Messenger 'allow people on your contact list to send messages'.Free stuff rocks.

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Highbrow spam

Through the daily deluge of spam, every now and again there appears a gem. It seems BingXin Gong just can't seem to get his paper published in any reputable journals so has turned to the internet, the solution for everything. I think the problem may lie in the content:

From the above re-analysis , it is realized that the ideal experiment demonstration for the uncertainty principle is untenable. Therefore, the uncertainty principle is untenable.
Marvellous.
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Let's meet in Paddington at 6pm...

Let's meet in Paddington tomorrow at 6pm...And so the adventure began. The previous weekend's unsuccessful attempt to jump country could not be left to stand. A fully overbooked Eurostar made it clear that a weekend trip to Paris really was a drunken pipedream; instead, flying to Amsterdam for a day would have to suffice.Catching a late flight out of Heathrow put us in to delightful Schipol Airport rather late in the evening. A double-decker train into Amsterdam Central and an easy stroll down towards Dam Square ended up in a decidedly spacious suite at the hotel opposite the "de Bijenkorf" department store. In 1200AD some enterprising chaps decided to build a dyke over the Amstel just yards from the window, providing peace of mind for all those in the low-lying south, and inadvertently creating the foundation for the current capital of the Netherlands. It was before midnight on Friday and everywhere seemed very quiet. Odd.Determined to make the most of a single day, an earlyish breakfast was served in Barney's. Morning was even more quiet than the previous night, with just a few of the hardcore rolling joints in the bar next door. Odd.Ambling through the city brought a little shopping here and there and a tour around a diamond factory to see some sparkling marvels. A boat tour is definitely a great way to see the city as the canal network is fairly extensive. The 'homomonument' is a great example of both the city's open attitude and the great flexibility of Dutch in creating single words with delightful meaning.Wine and freshly baked bread (with walnuts and raisins, actually) worked as a late lunch. I wanted to go ice skating in Dam Square, but we couldn't. Coffee before dinner in an Italian restaurant and by eleven, everywhere was once again deserted, really deserted. If I were to investigate the phenomenon, I would probably start with the frequent signs to effect of "DO NOT SMOKE YOUR JOINTS OUTSIDE" surrounding the multitude of coffeeshops.Back to the airport for an early flight the next morning. Airport delays are never fun and thankfully there wasn't one, but if there was, Schipol as a genuinely great airport would be the best place to have it. Transfer in Heathrow and a nine hour slog back to Seattle for work this morning.Recommended. Photos in the gallery.

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Old haunts

Not too much to say about Monday. Ed and I ventured out into Newcastle, searching for fleeting glimpses into the past. We found some of them, discovered that a BMW really is a car and not a cocktail, and gave away just a teaser of the secrets of house parties in years gone by. Oh those crazy kids.I think I won the game of pool too, but that may be a stretch.

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Mountains are only good for one thing

Wednesday brought a challenge in the form of a 3560 ft peak. My parents would show me up, demonstrating the ease with which they could summit Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, while I, mere city dweller, could disappointedly complain about how the experience really didn't measure up to the stairmaster in the gym. Thankfully that didn't happen.Lifted:

Snowdon rates amongst the most beautiful mountains in the world. Whichever direction you approach it from the size and grandeur impresses. Its starfish shape radiates six magnificent ridges each with their own special and individual characters. The deep cwmoedd (glaciated valleys) range from the easily accessible to hanging valleys only reached by complicated scrambling. This mountain has everything from the rarest flowers and insects to ruined mines, from fascinating volcanic rock formations to fossils on the summit. Whether your interest is in challenging ascents, emotive photographs, Arthurian legends, or in studying humanity in every form, the mountain's got something for you!
It took just two hours to the top which was fully enveloped in cloud from just over half way up. We had the whole mountain to ourselves with just a few people at the top where we enjoyed boxed lunches. I'm told the views are terrific on a clear day - I will be back.Photos in the gallery.
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Walking the streets of our national capital

While vacations should be relaxing, I'm not one to simply while away days doing nothing in the sun. Back to London once again last weekend for some adventures. Friday morning became Friday afternoon with the most part of The Catcher in the Rye, Friday afternoon became Friday night with some generous Smirnoff blue-label, and Friday night came to a close with dancing in Pop on Oxford Street, and a well-thought-out-on-the-bus plan to visit Paris the following day.Saturday morning came with a certain force at 5.30, just ninety minutes after retiring and having been told a Passport was needed for EU travel. The Italian Passport Agency wasn't much help in telling me that, but thanks to 118 for their thoughtfulness. The trip up to Stoke just to pick up a Passport before the adventure could begin was tempting, but seemed rather wreckless given the impending darkness of a hangover. Paris another day. Instead, Saturday gave several glorious hours of further sleep, some hectic shopping for Christmas presents (a lacking skill, I suspect) and a trip to see Love Actually at the Empire in Leicester Square. Thoroughly enjoyed.And then Sunday. The idea was sound; visit London in the winter time, go ice skating on the rink at Somerset House and feel infused with that inescapable Christmas spirit. Future visitors will be interested to know that such activities require serious planning as tickets are rare. Skating another day. Instead, we happened upon the changing of the horseguards right after getting off the bus and took a stroll through St James Park. The discovery of pelicans and overly tame squirrels in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace made up for any shortfall of frozen ice activity.All in all, a great weekend.

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Quiet times and memories

The value of doing nothing is always underrated. A week spent doing absolutely nothing productive is great. This kind of break should be mandatory, you can't help but start to relax when there are no cell phones, e-mails or IMs in sight. Time spent reading a good novel can never be thought of as wasted (Catch 22, recommended). Time spent watching a poor part three (The Matrix Revolutions, not recommended) this afternoon with Ed could arguably be considered wasted, but I'm not going to go that far.Meanwhile, my parents' surprise purchase of a DVD recorder has given a timely opportunity to bring the Ed and Werthers collection into the twenty first century. Those recordings are going to be very interesting one day.