Hern Clough

Went out on patrol today, and apart from several groups from Derby Mountain Rescue Team who were out on exercise I saw virtually nobody. Visibility was pretty poor for most of the day, and boy did it rain, and boy did the wind blow. The picture above is of Hern Clough, along the bottom of which runs the Pennine Way. What is normally not much more than a trickle was right over the path in many places. Virtually all of the recent snow we've had has melted, adding to the general sogginess. I met up with a guy at Bleaklow Head who was debating on cutting short his walk and going back along the PW due to the conditions. I was making my way over to Bleaklow Stones then back via Grains in the Water to Snake Summit, so he asked if he could tag along with me as that was more-or-less his original route.

Rather than plough through the peaty mire that makes up most of the path between Bleaklow Head and Bleaklow Stones, I cheated and used my GPS, which allowed me to take a more circuitous but drier route through the groughs without worrying too much about having to keep on a compass bearing - isn't technology wonderful ;-) At the top of the Blacks I bumped into Neil, another Ranger who I dropped off at Woodhead earlier in the morning - funny how often that happens when there is so much moor to hide in!

They guy I at met Bleaklow Head had a 10 year old pedigree King Charles Spaniel with him, which was wearing a natty waterproof jacket. Every time we had to climb up the edge of a grough the poor dog looked up as if to say "Do I really have to?" - I felt quite sorry for it, but it kept plugging along very gamely. We lunched at Bleaklow Stones whilst the wind, sleet and rain howled around the rock we were vainly trying to hide behind. After a brief hailstorm swept through, the clag lifted, so whilst we could still see where we were going we made our way via Grains in the Water, up to Alport Low and then back to Snake Summit along the PW.

Sometimes I wonder why I do it :-)

You just can't make this stuff up

The cult TV series The Leauge of Gentlemen (more info here, here and here) was filmed in the (very) small town of Hadfield which ajoins the slightly larger but still small town of Glossop, where I live. Despite the valiant attempts of the writers of the show to visit the outer bounds of freakishness, anyone who lives in the area knows the show is only a feeble imitation of the real-life wierdness of Glossopdale. As an illustration, and with no further comment I offer the following front-page article from this week's Glossop Advertiser.

Was wearing women's clothes

A COUNCILLOR who was wearing women's clothing when arrested by police for being drunk in charge of a vehicle says the incident was sparked by the death of his mother.

Simmondley councillor Peter Urquhart, 59, appeared before Manchester magistrates on Friday charged with being drunk in charge of a vehicle. He was three times over the legal limit.

The father of three was wearing a blonde wig, a low cut top and short skirt at the time.

Arrested last July he had been sitting in a car with a friend outside a pub in Blackley when officers received a tip-off.

Prosecutor Cath Cundy said that when police approached the car they found the engine was running and he was wearing his seat beat.

Councillor Urquhart, whose wife Anne Urquhart is deputy head at Hadfield Infants School, was fined £250 with £350 costs and given a 12-month ban.

Councillor Urquhart, of Marple Road, Charlesworth denied the charge and said he hadn't been intending to drive. During the trial he said he dressed as a woman because it helped him relax.

He told the Advertiser after the case: "Since my mother died I've been through a spiral of decline. And drink was the way I coped with it at the time.

"I was arrested the day after she died. She had suffered with severe heart problems and had been slowly dying before our eyes."

He added: "I'd even been in hospital myself with the stress and in the middle of all that the election was taking place I had the two things to deal with at once."

The retired teacher, who also received a conviction for drink driving in September said he had never been in trouble before this period.

He has been seeing a counsellor and taking medication for depression.

He said he hoped to continue his role as councillor and that his constituents in Simmondley would be sympathetic.

"I will be doing my best to get back on track and I hope people will be supportive if they know some of the background to it" he said.

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CROW act appeals, heather on the move

More ranger-type stuff - I've mentioned the Countryside Rights of Way (CROW) Act elsewhere on this site, and as part of the implementation of the act, landowners can appeal against the inclusion of their land in the new access areas. A database of the appeals decisions can be found on the Planning Inspectorate's website. Also, whilst I was out on patrol today I noticed that many of the heather bales - some of which I helped load - have been airlifted onto Bleaklow, and the remaining bales at Glossop Low have all been bagged up - I feel for whoever had to do it as it's a backbreaking task.

Go set arrives


The Go set I ordered arrived yesterday, not bad considering I only ordered it from Japan last Thursday. I got stung with a £67 charge for customs duty, VAT & customs clearance, but overall the set still worked out much cheaper than buying it here or from the US.

When I tipped the goishi (stones) into the goke (bowls) I was puzzled to see that although there were the same number of black and white stones, the black bowl was considerably fuller than the white one. After some research it appears that the black stones are deliberately made slightly larger than the black ones to compensate for an optical illusion that would otherwise mean that the white ones looked larger. I already knew that the 'squares' on the goban (board) are in fact rectangles so that they look square when viewed from either end of the board, but I didn't know the same attention to detail applied to the stones. And when I took a closer look at the bowls one was ever so slightly taller and broader than the other, and that was the one I has the white stones in. I swapped the stones around, lo and behold they both appeared to be equally full. Trust the Japanese to pay such minute attention to detail!

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Categories : Personal

Go links for beginners

Having been firmly bitten by the Go bug, I've been digging around on the web to try to find information to help me stop getting beaten all the time ;-) If you don't know anything about the game and want an overview I can highly recommend this interactive Go tutorial (Java required), which guides you through the basic principles of the game and then allows you to check your understanding by playing through example positions. Tel's Go Notes is another good starting point if you are new to the game.

One of the best sites I've found is Sensei's Library which is Wiki-based (collaborative) website. As a result it has a wealth of opinions as well as a wide range of factual information. What is particularly neat is that there is a text format for entering board positions which is then rendered into an image, and if you click on the image the board position is downloaded as a SGF file which can be viewed and edited in any of the various Go clients, so you can play out the example positions.

I already have Charles Matthew's "Teach yourself Go" book, and I particularly like his Hanging out at Dan's series of online articles at gobase.org, itself another good resource. The articles go beyond the usual list of standard moves and tries to explain why certain moves are played in a particular situation in terms of their effect on the overall game - as a beginner I would say that it is this aspect of the game which is the most difficult to grasp.

I've also put my hand in my pocket and ordered a Go set from Japan, from Kuroki Goishi Ten. Even paying the fairly horrendous £57 shipping charge, it still worked out to be less than half what I would have to pay for a similar set in the UK or US - A 2cm folding board, slate & shell stones, two wooden bowls came to £94. The stones alone from the US would cost over £200. Hopefully it'll be here later on in the week, and doubtless I'll have more to say about it then. Now all I need to do is to become good enough to justify the set ;-)

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Categories : Personal

Java, Java Webstart and SOCKS

When connected to work via VPN I live behind the corporate firewall. Unfortunately this means that I can't connect to the various Go servers, as the firewall won't allow you to connect to arbitrary port numbers. There is a way through the firewall, using a SOCKS proxy, but most of the various Go server clients are Java Webstart applications, and WebStart applications can't unfortunately talk SOCKS, nor can they be successfully SOCKSified using the normal runsocks wrapper. In fact as far as I can tell, Java apps in general can't talk SOCKS unless they have been specifically written to do so. The consequence of this was that I had to keep dropping the VPN connection every time I wanted to play Go, which was a pain. Never one to let a little adversity to stand in my way, I came up with a solution, which might be of interest to others - if you are such a person, read on.

The obvious solution is to put an intermediate proxy that can talk SOCKS between the Java client and the SOCKS proxy - the Java client talks vanilla TCP/IP to the intermediate proxy, and the intermediate proxy then talks SOCKS to the SOCKS server. I thought it would be a snap to find something out there in OpenSourceLand to do this. I wanted something simple, lightweight and entirely userland, but to my surprise I couldn't seem to find anything. I therefore hacked something together myself.

What I ended up with was a simple userland port forwarder - it listens on a range of given ports, and each time it receives a connection it spawns a thread that connects to a specified destination port and transfers data from/to the two endpoints. An example configuration file is shown below:

# socksy configuration file.
# Edit as appropriate, then run:
#     $ export $(runsocks env | grep SOCKS_SERVER)
#     $ socksy -d socksy.config
# File format is
# : -> : [ , ...]
#  can be "* to wildcard the local interface.

# Internet Go Server.
*:7777 -> igs.joyjoy.net:7777, igs.joyjoy.net:6969

# Kisedo Go Server.
*:2379 -> kgs.kiseido.com:2379

# Perl IRC
*:6667 -> irc.perl.org:6667, grouch.irc.perl.org:6667, london.irc.perl.org:6667

Where more than one destination is specified, each is tried in order until one succeeds. The code works fine as it is, but isn't exactly feature rich - for example UDP isn't supported. There's also no logging, and no client access control. However TCP Out Of Band data is catered for correctly. I'm happy to share the code if anyone wants it, and if someone feels then need extra bells & whistles, contributions are gratefully accepted :-)

The code has only been tested on Solaris, so I haven't put a link to the source as I don't want people downloading it and then complaining it doesn't work on Linux, as I don't have access to a Linux box. If you wan the source and are prepared to make it work on Linux, let me know. In fact I've put this entry here in the hope that if I scatter it with enough keywords, someone will find it with Google and come and talk to me about it;-)

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Categories : Web, Tech

A grave offence

My mum's partner Trevor has been driving for over 50 years with an unblemished record. Recently he unfortunately had to attend the funeral of an acquaintance, and was following the cortège to the cemetery. He got left behind a bit, so he sped up slightly to about 35mph to catch up - straight past a 30mph speed camera. One speeding ticket duly arrived just before Christmas. Only Trevor could have managed to get a speeding ticket as part of a funeral cortège!
Categories : Personal, Family