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The birthday of Laura H, aged 30

Over the weekend of November 18th 2005, 30 people made the journey to Chelwood House in Somerset to celebrate the 30th birthday of Laura H. A 30th is probably the biggest birthday one will have in ones life. It is in many ways a milestone. Some will dread it, others will embrace it and with much credit to Laura, not only for bringing together 30 close friends, it was embraced in full.

Laura (g/f) and I headed up on my motorbike from London on Friday evening in quite literally sub-zero temperatures. Two and a half chilly hours later we were thawing while relishing an excellent Shepherds Pie, prepared by the birthday girl herself. Saturday we managed a round of golf at a course near Bristol Airport, so near in fact that I had my first experience of putting while an EasyJet landed on an adjacent runway, a true test of one’s putting mettle.

Saturday night came and the scene was set for a proper 30th party. The caterers arrived at 7:30 accompanied by an entire spit roasted lamb. Meanwhile, all partygoers had donned their fancy dress kit for the night, the theme, quite appropriately since the birthday girl had recently acquired here British passport, was “Quintessentially British”. Think “The Queen”, “James Bond”, “Harry Potter”, “Templar Knight” etc. True to form, I had waited way too long to organise my
costume and was most impressed and probably even more relieved to receive it on Saturday morning from,
less than 18 hours after the order was placed. Details from there are a little hazy, but suffice to say, waking at noon the next day left my head feeling like a swarm of locusts of biblical proportions were rushing through my cranium.

Laura and I took a chilled ride home, stopping briefly at Stonehenge and later to relieve our hangover symptoms at a Little Chef somewhere along the M4. Amazing what medicinal qualities ‘frying’ can release in food.

In all, it was one of the finest birthdays I’ve ever been to and a rare opportunity to bring so much familiarity together. Well done Laura and Happy Birthday.

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ASP.NET error when impersonating a user

Lately I have been developing a small application which is essentially the same as Windows Explorer. The idea is that business units within the company I work for, can publish documentation easily by giving a single user access to a given filepath, which I then impersonate when making calls to the file system in my application. Since I started developing the application, I have come up against numerous perplexing problems which have all had something to do with Windows or .NET security in one way or another. The latest one I came up against is as follows:

"Configuration information could not be read from the domain controller, either because the machine is unavailable, or access has been denied."

I blog it here because I was unable to find any useful information on this error anywhere and only managed to solve it by making a lucky (if educated) guess. The solution to this problem was to give the ASPNET account "Impersonate a client after authentication" rights on the machine the application is running on. For some reason, a reboot was not required in this case. You can find this setting by going to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Local Security Policy, then expand Local Policies and select User Rights Assignment. Note that it will probably also be necessary to assign the "Act as part of the operating system" right to the ASPNET account, although you probably would not have gotten to this error before doing that in any case.

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Ann Coulter – Ms. Right [wing nut job]

The statistics prove it, most people simply don’t care about politics. As long as elections are free and fair, the general populace is largely mute and indifferent. I think I fall into this category of person, content to let the politicians squabble it out all they like as long as the boundaries aren’t overstepped. Recently however, I came across somebody so objectionable, it matters not that they reside on the other side of the pond, something must be said. I will not stay mute, the boundaries have been overstepped!

This person is Ann Coulter, a right wing nut job of the most fundamentalist kind, an extremist-conservative of dangerously inflammatory proportions. She is quoted most famously, or perhaps infamously, shortly after 9/11 as saying “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”. The more I think about this, the degree to which I find this objectionable becomes more and more acute. My immediate reaction, apart from that of revulsion, was to ask how somebody with such Christian-centric, American-centric fundamentalist viewpoints can be allowed a forum? But we must respect everybody’s right to free speech, despite our personal viewpoints. It seems, furthermore, that Coulter has a following and quite a large one at that. Her books are best sellers and she even made the cover of Time Magazine (Ms. Right, April 25, 2005). It seems to me, the very fact that somebody like this is embraced, let alone indulged or even tolerated is an indictment on the US conservative right. I am careful to cite ‘conservative’ here; Coulter is despised by the liberal left as a new-age Nazi and we all know from the last elections, the US is split almost evenly in twain, politically speaking. Of course I am also generalising here, Coulter's viewpoints are likely not shared by the majority of conservatives, but it really only takes a few bad apples.

Coulter may be certifiable, but her commentary begs some obvious questions. Could it be that conservative North America actually believes in these viewpoints? If so, is this the national sentiment that fuels US modern imperialism? Might it be this kind of popular opinion we can hold responsible for 9/11 in the first place? Or is it more because the US army goes around writing stuff like “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” on its tank turrets?
Like it or not, for better or worse, we are all affected by US policy, foreign and domestic. We can only hope the hicks and rednecks are outnumbered next time by the other half who did actually finish high school.

A collection of Coulter's more, erm, controversial quotes, can be found here.

Update 12/01/2006: OMG, I think I might just die of laughter, see:

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Happy 1st Birthday

I can scarcely believe it, but it’s true, turned 1 year old today. I originally started this blog with a view to documenting life as it goes by. My memory retention is questionable at the best of times, just ask my girlfriend, and I was never any good at keeping a dear diary, so this blog was born to record all those good days that otherwise would have gone by forgotten. My only regret is that I didn’t start it earlier, but I guess, as the saying goes, better late than never.

During the past year, I have posted fully 75 entries and 12 photo galleries. Upon reflection, I never thought so much could be accomplished in a single year. I’ve travelled to Budapest, Paris, Flims, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Vancouver, Amsterdam and the Lake District, read at least 15 books, seen many movies and plays, ran a marathon, bought two motorbikes (a Vespa and a BMW), taken a lot of pictures, eaten at many of London’s finest restaurants and changed jobs, fortunately only once. Most importantly though, running this blog has ushered in a period of unprecedented personal growth in a way I never expected. Merely having this blog has prompted me increasingly to seek out adventure and new experience so that I may write about it later.

Unlike so many other blogs on the web, this is a ‘lifeblog’. The intention was never to focus on any one thing, but rather to document day-to-day life and provide an outlet for creativity in whatever form it chose to manifest its self. To that end, I think this blog has been a success. During the past year, I’ve also received a lot of good feedback (not just from my mum) and even found old friends again, some who stumbled across this site accidentally; others who arrived by word of mouth, but however they got here, it was good to hear from them again and singularly enough to make this site worthwhile. I look excitedly forward to another year.

Happy Birthday!

Filed under: London Life No Comments

CommunityServer upgrade

For many months, I have been trying to upgrade to CommunityServer, the new .NET based blogging software from Telligent Systems. Each attempt has been met with blinding frustration and dismal failure, but at last, after trying and trying again, I have prevailed and managed a successful upgrade to CommunityServer v1.1 with the aid of two very key pieces of software. I write here as complete a description as possible of the procedure followed, tools used and problems encountered so as to provide assistance to any other would-be CommunityServer migrants. After running the new software for only a week, I can comprehensively say it is a vast improvement on .Text v0.95, although I intend no disrespect whatsoever to the original blog software, which was excellent for its time.

Migrating to CommunityServer is essentially a simple process, consisting of the following steps. Note that you must use CommunityServer v1.1 because the DotText-CS-Converter wizard (mentioned in point 5 below) only works with this version.

  1. Download the CommunityServer software from Telligent and follow the instructions in the README.
  2. Follow the setup instructions. Once complete you should have a functioning blog running in multi-blog (normal) mode.
  3. If you have an old .Text 0.95 blog, use Ken Harder’s DotText-CS-Converter tool to migrate the data. Full instructions on how to do this are included in the README accompanying the tool.
  4. To run your blog in single-blog mode, you need to replace the default SiteUrls.config in your site root, with one generated using Ken Robertson’s Single Blog/Gallery SiteUrls Generator. Note that you need to set the options ‘Single Blog’ and ‘Single Gallery’ to ‘Yes’. Your blog name will probably be 'blog_0'.
  5. You should then be able to open your site as per usual.


If you hit your site after following the above steps and the first page displays fine, but you get a 404 (Page not found) error when clicking any of the links, it’s probably because your site is not correctly configured in IIS to support URL rewriting. If you are hosting your site with a hosting company you may have a problem here. I had initially taken a hosting package with but after much banging of head against the nearest wall, I finally contacted Ken Robertson and pleaded for help. He was gracious enough to advise me that the option “Check that file exists” must be unchecked. This option can be found by going into Internet Services Manager, then by choosing ‘Properties’ on the website, go to the ‘Directory’ tab and click ‘Configuration’, then select ‘.aspx’ from the ‘Application Mappings’ list on the ‘Mappings’ tab and click ‘Edit’. Fasthosts was unwilling to uncheck this box for me, so after a protracted discussion, I ended up getting flatly refused and am now hosting elsewhere.

I encountered one other problem which is worth mentioning. When running the DotText-CS-Converter wizard, I chose the option to migrate trackbacks. My site has been in operation for about a year now and I had close on 1000 trackbacks. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem, but after migrating several hundred of those, I got an error saying the transaction log was full. I guess it’s obvious, but any hosting company will impose a size quote on your database and log to prevent disk space shortages. The number of transaction taking place during the migration quite simply used all that space.

Good luck.

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The Machinist

Ever since I first saw American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000), I have been a devout, card carrying, badge bearing, Christian Bale fan. It was only some time later that I found out he was the kid in the golf shoes in Steven Spielberg’s epic wartime drama, Empire of the Sun (1987). Strangely, J.G. Ballard, the author of the book Empire of the Sun, would later become one of my all time favourite author’s. One can never really be absolutely sure about kid actors, but almost two decades on, there can be no doubt Christian Bale is as prodigious a talent now as he was back then, possibly even more so. He has also not made the mistake of completely selling out and doing big budget Hollywood block busters only. His movie wrap sheet reads like an eclectic schizophrenics DVD collection, at times furrowing the brow slightly to such titles as Reign of Fire and then raising it again in admiration at A Midsummer Night's Dream and Lauren Canyon. More recently he took on the much beleaguered Batman saga and lifted it from the cinematic depths in which it was placed by Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones, to heights previously unknown by the comic-book hero.

Really though, this post is about The Machinist, which I had the pleasure of viewing this past weekend. In short, it may well be Bale’s finest performance ever. He is a true actor with an obvious dedication to the craft. Looking back to Batman and American Psycho, Bale is a man of incredible physical stature. Forget Brad’s abs, Bale’s got it all going on, yet I watched in horror and then admiration as the extent to which Bale had transformed his body for the role became apparent. I had heard he lost a lot of weight for the role, but the extent to which only became apparent a scene or two into the movie when he removes his shirt and all that remains is a grotesque emaciated shadow of a man. He quite literally compares to holocaust concentration camp prisoners. The effect is at once striking and disturbing, to the point that concentrating on the actual story is challenging, yet it is a masterpiece of a story, in a Fight Club kind of way. This for me is Bale’s finest role and a cinematic classic, see it!

Filed under: Watch & Read No Comments