Saturday, January 21, 2017

TV Series in January 2017

It's been two months since I last wrote about the TV series which I watch; during that time, almost all of the series which I mentioned then have finished, being replaced by a motley selection.

One series, 'Unforgotten', started being broadcast just after that blog entry. This is basically a police procedural, but it's more about the people involved in the crime (the death of a 17 year old boy, 30 years ago) than it is about how the police solve the crime. In other words, it's much more a drama than it is a procedural. In a strange piece of casting, Nicola Walker, otherwise known as Ruth from 'Spooks' plays the senior detective; the initial episodes were broadcast here at the same time as series 3 of 'Scott and Bailey', in which Walker plays a somewhat deranged character. Here, Walker plays a slightly hesitant detective, which seems somewhat unlikely: someone at the rank of DCI would be much more self confident and decisive.

'Madam Secretary', as befits an American series which has about 22 episodes per season, is still being broadcast. Episode 12 of season 3 was shown on Thursday night; this means that we are seeing the episodes only a few days after their broadcast in USA, according to IMDB (this link probably will change in the future). They show episode 12 being broadcast on 15 January and episode 13 on 27 January, although no indication is given as to which country those broadcast dates refer. This programme is consistently good (but not excellent), even though its stories are somewhat facile.

With no advanced warning, I discovered that Sherlock season 4 is being broadcast in Israel! We're about two weeks behind Britain, which is also not bad. The first episode ('The six Thatchers') seems more action and is less cerebral than the earlier episodes; still outstanding, but less groundbreaking. I watched the program yesterday when something strange happened: the transition from one specific scene to another seemed very strange - I thought that this might be some kind of dream sequence, but it still didn't seem right. Fortunately, the episode is broadcast several times during the week, so I recorded it again today and discovered that there was a whole ten minutes missing from the version which I had watched the first time.

Another British series which I'm watching is called 'In the club', which follows the lives of six very pregnant women (one gives birth every week). It's a 'bunker' series: dependable, but too much happens per episode to be realistic. This series dates from 2014 so we most certainly are not watching it concurrently. Hermione Norris (Cold Feet, Spooks) appears in this, as does Sacha Dhawan, who is a new name to me, but coincidentally appears in the above episode of 'Sherlock'. I'm not recording this.

Last night I recorded a new - to me - American series called 'Mind Games'; this too dates from 2014. Although thirteen episodes were recorded, apparently only about six were broadcast before the series was cancelled: it will be interesting to see how many episodes are broadcast here. I didn't see the first episode, so the beginning of the second was quite bewildering. Most of the actors spoke too fast so I had difficulty understanding what was happening. So why did I watch (and record) this? Because the theme of the programme seems to be industrial psychology - a strange basis for prime time television (probably the reason why it had low ratings) but definitely up my street. Starring are Steve Zahn (who always seems to play manic people) as an academic psychologist, and Christian Slater as Zahn's brother, who is more of a 'folk psychologist'. In the episode which I saw, they dramatised a psychological experiment straight out of Dan Ariely (this is a true experiment): sometimes it can be very hard to make a choice between two alternatives (let's call them A and B), but if one adds a third alternative - a demonstrably inferior version of one of the original two alternatives (let's say C is comparable to B, but worse) - then choosing becomes easier: it will be the superior version of the third alternative (ie B). A few other psychological techniques also got some air-time. It will be interesting to see what the following episodes are like: whether it calms down, whether we get more real psychological techniques and whether the back story - one brother (Slater) apparently hires a girl to fall in love with the other brother (Zahn) - makes any real sense.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Priority trick for screen procedures

Whilst checking something buried in a screen procedure within Priority, I came across the following nugget:
SELECT 420, 539 INTO :WRNMSG, :GOTO FROM DUMMY WHERE :RETVAL <= 0;
I wrote a quick procedure which confirmed what I thought this snippet does: if the variable RETVAL is less or equal to zero, then warning message 420 will be displayed and execution will skip to label 539. As it happens, earlier this morning I had written something much less concise than this to achieve the same result, so the find was quite serendipitous.

Here are two more undocumented variables which can be added to one's private toolbox.


Sunday, January 08, 2017

A cold day in London

It's comparatively very cold here, although I know that the temperature is at least 5-10 degrees C higher than Europe. We feel the cold more, though, as the area where I live is open to winds which blow the cold air from the Russian steppes. The wind isn't as strong in cities.

Driving home on the motorbike today, I was reminded of a day 39 years ago (I don't remember the exact date, only that it was in the first week of the spring term of 1978), so it may as well have been exactly 39 years ago. I came out of the university - I think after lunch, as there was plenty of light - and started driving home. I don't remember which route I used to take from the Elephant and Castle/Borough area to Hampstead, although I do remember that I would drive through Camden, Chalk Farm, up Haverstock Hill, onto Hampstead High Street, then skirt around the Heath until I got to the back street which led to where I lived on Finchley Road.

When I left the university, it was cold but dry; some time after Waterloo Bridge, it began to rain. As I drove further north, the rain turned to sleet, and by the time I was nearly home, snow was falling. It's very difficult driving on in a motorbike through snow, and I remember that the final back street was almost virgin - no one had cleared a path. My coat had a layer of ice on it!

Unsurprisingly, I decided to travel to the university the next morning by underground.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

1000 blog entries

I wrote my first blog entry in 2005, after we had come back from a three week tour of America. I remember telling a friend that there were things which I wanted to write about which wouldn't fit particularly well into the format of a letter - thoughts about music, books and programming - but which matched the format of a blog. She was supportive but remarked that I would probably stop writing to her; I said that I would continue, but I was wrong and she was right. I do have a life outside of this blog but I don't write about it to anybody.

So: 1000 blog entries!  I do find this blog useful - I refer to it occasionally in order to read how I solved certain programming problems or to read what I thought about a certain record. It's also been a place to store memories of a life which changed dramatically nearly 40 years ago.

As has been my custom for the past few years, here is the 'top twenty tags' - the subjects which I have written about most in the last 100 blogs (it's actually 21 subjects as there is a tie for position 20).
PositionTagCount
1DBA14
2Priority tips9
3Health8
3=Holiday8
5=Obituary7
5=Sorrento7
7Personal6
8Computer5
8=Cooking5
8=DCI Banks5
8=Grandfather5
8=Musical instruments5
8=Programming5
14=Films4
14=Kindle4
14=Mobile phone4
14=Song writing4
14=TV series4
14=Vinyl log4
20=Dog3
20=Theanine3

Comparing this to the previous 100 blogs, 'DBA' was in third position with 13 entries, 'health' was in 18th position with 3 entries and 'holiday' was second with 14 entries. The statistician in me would say that there isn't enough spread in the results to make any conclusions.

I don't have specific data for all 1000 blogs, but Blogger itself maintains a count, albeit in alphabetical order. Here are the top subjects, as far as I can see

PositionTagCount
1Programming133
2=Holiday95
2=DBA95
4Delphi63
5ERP52
6MBA51
7Personal49
8MIDI44
9Cooking38
10Films31