Once again, hello.

I think Kona stole most of the newswothy parts of my life in her last letter,
but life is anything but slow in Cambridge, so I am once again sequestered
away in the Pembroke dungeons, pretending to be Kona so I can write some
email - for someone who has "no official status", I do get away with quite a
lot around here.  As with many things in Cambridge, it is who knows you more
than anything else that dictates what you can do.

I think Konz covered pretty much everything.  The drive is quite impressive.
We met some Australians in the youth hostel who proclaimed that the English
would "treat a lump of elephant shit as a roundabout and dutifully drive
around it" - ever so polite, so you can see how Australians earn their
overseas reputation.  We also met a couple from Yorkshire who were there to
escape the water restrictions that are still in place.  Apparently they didn't
have a problem with water in their area until the water board decided to
pump it all elsewhere and can't pump it back now that they are the only part of
the country with water restrictions !

The flat
Last weekend the mess in the flat got beyond a joke and we have renamed the
livingroom "the mess".  We set aside Friday night to deal with it, and instead
ended up going out to a movie (Braveheart - oookie movie).  Saturday's similar
good intentions went other ways and Sunday we discovered a serious mildew
problem in the flat and had to remove all of our clothes from the cupboard
and keep most things back from the wall - ha !  So we now have an even bigger
mess and have spat the proverbial dummy and decided to move - which has
consumed lots of time this week (looking).  For the sake of comparison we
measured our flat and it's official - we are living in a 5 metre x 5.75 m
concrete box which is partitioned into 4 rooms, a hallway, the staircase and
of course we have the hot water service for the flat (you have to get it a long
way into the air to get any pressure :() ).  Things are rather squishy.

The latest email to go around (our old building is falling apart faster than
we can build the new one)

  Some of you will have noticed the lack of power and electricity in the
  badminton hall and in the gym.  The electrical supply has been cut off
  because it is rotten and is in a very dangerous condition. Our trusty
  sparks have come  up with a solution, but this will take a few days to sort
  out. Please be patient ....

The canteen can't cook us hot food because of health restrictions, and yet
we are doing state of the art science all around it - go figure.  I have been
working on an image processing problem known as "gel lane tracking" - quite
tricky and it has given me insight into the way information flows around our
organisation (or doesn't).

Richard:  I'd like you to work on this problem, dave looked at some software
    	  from (our collaborators) and it didn't work

Dave: (two weeks later)  The software actually works really really well but
    	  there is a small technical problem getting the files back onto the

Clive: (After I discover it didn't work too well)  No Friedeman looked at it
       and wasn't very impressed.

Dave:  (When confronted with conflicting opinions)  There's a lot of hysteria
       surrounding this program, but it basically works well.

Simon:  I think dave didn't want to fix it because it's written in 'C' and he
    	prefers to program in perl.

Richard 2: It is supposed to work in 99% of cases (this heard at a conference)

Richard: (To dave once we have gone full circle) But you told me it worked

Dave:  Well it worked well until the last two gels I tried which were bad.

etc etc - am actually testing the alleged software this weekend, but who am
I to let facts get in the way of a good gossip session.  I have spent two
weeks on the problem mind you :(

Cusine update:
Fat, fat and just for a change fat.  There is mandatory potato for every
meal - although they often hide it in fat.  In Scotland they are partial to
deep frying things in batter, so you can get deep fried Pizza in batter, and
their latest contribution to World cusine is the deep fried Mars bar.  Very

Important people
Life is so full nowadays of drinks sessions with important looking people.  It
will sometimes be the professorial staff, sometimes the college fellows, etc.
You wander in, form in circles and they mingle and come along to talk about
their interests in life (they usually have appalling conversation skills :) 
I am usually mistaken for a student, and the rare unfortunate individual has
correctly identified us as a student/spouse combination and asked Kona where
she was working - this can be a very sexist country at times.  The best
experience so far however was had by Kona at a reception for Commonwealth
scholars.  Last year's event was attended by Prince Charles, but I believe this
year he was home watching Di on the T.V.  Anyway, Kona was with a group of
friends from Pembroke when the circle was joined by a distinguished gentleman
who was obviously important.  They strained to read his name label discretely
and it was Lord .. blah blah blah.  He was rather polite and mentioned to Matt,
an international relations student, that they had similar lines of work, so 
Matt in his swanky American accent (never backward about coming forward) says
"So sir - what is your line of work ?"  Lord Callahan replies "Well I used to
run the country" and there was a lull in the conversation as they realise they
have just been chatting with an Ex PM - another coup for American diplomacy :)

Techincal anecdote
(For the unix literate - you know who you are)
We now have 4 people at work in charge of our computers.  Despite this, our
system administrators can still all contrive to be out of the office at the
pub together when there is a disaster.  I approached one of our more
enthusiastic sysadmins the other day and he was helping one of the
informatics team locate 150 meg of swap space and a couple of hundred meg of
ram that had disappeared.  They inspected the output from top and there was
no large processes on the table.  They scratched their heads and I suggested
they look at the output from ps guax   and sure enough there was a bunch of
idle processes that were 40 to 70 meg each sitting near the bottom.  The
sysadmin looked at me and said "where did you learn all of this stuff"  
boom boom.

I am starting to miss little things from home - I would love a gum tree to
hug at this stage.  We have vegemite but there are lots of little things
that just aren't right here.  I saw some email regarding a BBQ the other day
and thought great - turns out it was happening just 12,000 miles from my 
office the following day.  Saw a travel package to sydney for 21 days for
$700 tonight - almost tempting.  We'll survive - at least we have a proper
Autumn here.  Our Danish friends keep on telling us how warm it is.

Thanks once again to all those who have sent us snippets of news from home -
hope you are all well and having a good time,