Breast self-examination http://ehp.niehs.nih.g...
This picture does relate to the events of today, but in no very obvious way.

Wow. Doing an exam is like shoving fistfuls of drugs into your face.

Well, doing an exam after…

  1. Studying frantically in a sort of cold panic for over a week
  2. Waking up at 3am and not getting get back to sleep until an hour before the alarm
  3. Rushing out of the house only to find that the car won’t start

… feels like messing your head up with all sorts o’ bad stuff. Stress, with the stress on stress.

I still don’t know what was up with the car. Yes I had checked it the night before and no, I didn’t leave the electrics on. It was the good new battery that saved me in fact, because as the last desperate throw of the dice I just turned the engine over and kept turning it over until finally, one cylinder at a time, life returned. Perhaps I’d flooded it on the first try.

So now trying to get to my exam through rush hour traffic on very little sleep but oh so much adrenalin. Made it as far as the campus with minutes to spare, knew it would take too long to find a student parking space so threw handfuls of change at a ticket machine. Ran up three flights, downed three cups of water, made it.

This was Java, at once somehow my most feared and enjoyed subject. The course had been challenging – literally half the class had transferred out – but I felt like I was beginning to grasp its rhythms and its symmetries. Some programmers dislike the language; I have little to compare it to but I see a beauty in it.

Java is perhaps the best known example of an “Object Orientatedlanguage. If I dare try to explain that in simple terms, it means that instead of being long impenetrable lists of instructions, OO programs are made up of small units that attempt to model real things. A program with cars in it, say, would contain a subunit (called a “class” in Java) to represent cars. It would have its associated variables – colour perhaps, size, top speed – and “methods”, which represent what a car does: accelerate, brake, etc. They can be as elaborate or as simple as you need, but cars will exist in your program as discrete entities that can interact with other entities like passengers or junctions or other cars.

You can define subclasses that have things in common with some cars but not others, like 4x4s. Or superclasses – for example, one of vehicles – that comprise cars and other objects. In this way you clarify the relationships between things; you also avoid having to write the same code over and over, as subclasses inherit features from their superclasses. “Accelerate” for example need only ever be defined once to be used by every sort of vehicle. All these knit together in careful, logical ways to represent and simulate how things in the real world can interrelate. It’s elegant and subtle.

And elusive at times. So I worried that my understanding of the concepts was still quite tenuous and that an unexpected question might blow a hole right through it. But I think the exam went well. One good thing – I started at full speed, and stayed at full speed for three hours. All right, some of the answers may have been a little “Ooh, here’s another thing I remember!”, but I think I displayed a thorough understanding.

Unless of course I don’t understand, in which case I will have displayed a thorough misapprehension. To find out, we must now wait till autumn.

This is all over by 12:30, but the rest of the day is not without incident. Get some things I needed done done, fetch and carry, all in a strange trance of excess energy. I make it home eventually. The idea is to have an early night but I am as wired as I’m tired. It’s one in the morning before I finally – joyfully – go to my bedroom and reach to turn on the light.

And step in something wet.

That is never good. That is never never never good. It’s not much good in a bathroom or a kitchen. But in a bedroom, stepping in something wet is right out.

There is a puddle forming on the floor. The computer I’m building is sitting there powered up to standby, so it’s just as well I “went to bed” when I did. There is a drip from the ceiling. Deftly turning off all electrics and water with a single move, I fetch a ladder and squirm into the attic.

It’s coming from the complex pipework linking the three tanks of water in the attic space (I do not know why there are three tanks of water in the attic space). It is dropping directly onto a box of my personal memorabilia, and from there through the floor. After cutting away some of the nice new insulation I find a weeping joint. I fetch tools and tighten the fitting, squirm out and turn water back on.

Leak much much worse bugger.

Opening offending joint, I find that yet again a pipe has eroded. Don’t know what’s doing this, but it’s maybe the fourth instance of spontaneous dissolving pipe in the last couple of years. What the hell are we drinking? Spend the next hours crawling around in the dusty, glass-fibery, spidery dark doing work almost utterly unlike the pure cerebration of the morning, so tired now that – mercifully – I can’t even feel how tired I am.

Quite a day.

The End Of Google Freebies

Image representing Google Desktop as depicted ...
Clear Your Desktop

If you use Windows XP, there’s a product you should get while you still can. Google Desktop is a useful way to search all the documents you have on your own computer, instantly. You may be familiar with the search built into XP, and how slow and basic it is. Google’s Desktop brings their Web-search speed to your own computer.

OK, it is getting to be a bit obsolete. More modern operating systems have similar fast searching built in. And there is an alternative from Microsoft called Windows Desktop Search. But I liked the Google product best, and in less than two weeks they’re not going to let us have it any more. Boo.

As the link shows they’ve in fact discontinued the whole Google Pack, of which this was just one part, along with a whole lot of other projects that were far less popular. That’s a shame I think. It was always a good place to point people to get some essential software from a source they could trust. (We still do trust Google, don’t we? Basically I mean.)

Sure the links are still there, but the package had a mechanism to keep them updated for you. It was all very beginner-friendly. (You can still get it from here, but there’s little point if the update system is going to stop.) It was an endearing little feature of Google’s corporate personality, I found it quite useful over the last few years, but now it’s gone.

And no, it never did get out of beta.