Wednesday, November 29, 2006

2005-07-30 006Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Sorry for the low wattage blogging of late, but a fair few things have been happening. First came attempting to become a photographer, then came becoming a used car salesman, then came being a pantechnicon operator, then came acting as a tour guide, then came exhibiting my true self*, and next comes choosing to be a typical tourist (has anyone tried using Brussels's public transport website? I have a hunch I may simply end up deliberately flouting regulations because I'm struggling to make any sense of it, and I suspect it's not all down to the restrictive choice of Flemish or French. Although I have done the classic things of wondering at which junction Rue Royale becomes the Koningstraat (and yes, I did just type that as 'Konningsstrasse'; so going to get lost) and if the Kruidtuin Botanique is the only stop with Botanique in the name because I need the Botanique. I strongly suspect I may end up asking some bewildered local the way back to Oneway Street. But my favourite monolingual name of any stop so far noticed has to be Groot Bijgaarden, which depressingly probably does not actually mean what I think it ought to.

* I still have the bruises to prove it. Unfortunately from a spiral staircase where the stairs slope towards the outside of the stairwell, with a beam two-thirds of the way up which is just right for ramming with one's shoulder as one ascends, having diverged from the central axis to avoid further stumbling on the minimal ledges, and the collision with which is enough to knock one back into vertiginous section and thus collapse onto one's left forearm. But at least everyone who attempted to go to the loo in that restaurant did near enough the same thing, so now I've joined a club with its own secret sign only truly understood by members: a small but conspicuous bruise two inches up from the watch.

So I traded in many years worth of [ungiven] birthday and Christmas presents and got a Nikon D80 (an inherited tendency to be disorganised does have its advantages) with the help of Jessops' discount codes (Google), whereupon I was unable to use it on the first weekend I had it as I found myself in Bristol.

That weekend also included being volunteered to help someone sell a car as they'd put out adverts shortly before going away for the weekend. For future reference, when intending to show a car to potential customers, do not take it for a test drive along narrow, muddy lanes to get used to driving it and to see if the damn thing works. Bouncing round a rough and flooded unpaved carpark does mean you'll have to explain to possible new owners the vast quantities of mud splattered up the passenger side of the car, which you had not seen until then (but then I have been known to drive a car which for weeks carried the Plimsoll line borne of turning round in the middle of a well used dairy farm).

It also gets quite interesting trying to explain why handing over the keys to a car which isn't mine to people I don't know isn't really an option. I was under strict orders not to do anything more than turn the engine on to prove it works. Cue negotiations over test drives and driving the car myself. A bit more mud splattering later, having blamed the dodgy gear changes on the differences with my car, answering every question truthfully but ambiguously and then leaving them to knock themselves out with the service history. Fortunately, the annoyingly unnecessary speed limits round here, and the limiting roads themselves, meant that I never really had to accelerate very hard nor go very fast, and thus never expose the major weak point of the car, which is that it handles like a tank, and possibly like a plumbed in septic tank at that. All of which I admirably covered by dropping in the occasional "sorry, speeding again", while hoping they don't notice that the car's had a long run up and it's downhill.

So having done that and agreed that yes, England can be cold, said the man in thick woollen jumper to the guy freshly arrived from India and wearing only a t-shirt, I headed back indoors as they left to consider (well, actually he told me he liked the car and wanted to know if I thought it was worth negotiating... anyone spotting a conflict of interest here considering I'm in the seller's camp? I think I said "um, it's always worth a try, but I've no idea if you'll get very far". Spot who never has quite understood haggling).

Skipping forward a bit, it turns out that when he said he liked the car he meant he intended to buy it, but he just forget to let me know he was willing to pay the full asking price for it. And because he didn't mention actually buying the thing, I passed on his interest as just that. Hence chaos a couple of days later while stuck between the very nice but pestering buyer and the unthinkingly self-centred vendor who was so busy being 'ill' that he didn't seem to think that getting money for the car why someone is offering it might be a good idea. Being in the middle while legally nothing to do with it is not fun. Eventually I got through to the guy selling that somebody wanted to buy the cursed thing, and suddenly the illness wanes. Yeah, I wouldn't be any good at sales; I care about not upsetting people. So the car got sold at the asking price, on the grounds that the buyer had always wanted a Skoda, which seems to have a magnetic effect on everyone it is mentioned to; well, either their eyebrows shoot up like slicks of iron filings or the fillings in their teeth wrench their jaws open to slack abandon.

But back to after the guided tour of the Skoda Challenger 2, where I milled a bit while waiting for my brother to appear and then drove in convoy to Bristol (in my car and the car I was selling as his MG B isn't designed for moving much beyond beautiful people). Which worked fine, except for losing my brother on the way out of the petrol station within sight of the house, getting irritated by the car behind me with the uneven headlights which was bouncing on every slight hump and thus wanging the full glare into my mirror every few seconds, and of course I couldn't accelerate away from it as I was trying to let my brother catch up. Eventually it turned off and I carried on. It later transpired that the car with the uneven headlights was the Skoda with my brother at the helm, flashing me to try and make me stop; he thought he couldn't get the lights beyond the sidelights when actually one of the bulbs has blown and they're very weak anyway. Can you tell my car tends to mist up quite easily and clearing the rearscreen either involves opening the windows at 60 mph, or using the scraper on the inner surface of the open boot?

So on I slowly drove, working my way to towards our agreed meeting point, the first services on the M4. Only I turn off at the first services I get to, which are listed as such one maps but not others. I ring my brother, but there's no reply so he'll still be driving. In for the loo and then back out to wait, wondering how deep some of the ponds are (it, like all the other services we visit during the weekend is very, very flooded, but then the test drives earlier in the day did have the joy of white water on some of the hills. One services had the exit sign faintly crossed out, which I think we both were uncertain about until we rounded a corner and had to ford Windermere as we came towards joining the M4).

He rings; he's here. Or rather he's at the next services up. Oh. So we arrange to meet at the services before the Bristol turning and carry on. Along the way there's great driving by a blacked-out car with the number plate I9 LAM, which was doing 55 in the middle lane regardless of the other traffic, a position and speed it maintained as the roadworks started and the limit dropped from 70 to 40. I have to admit to occasionally falling into London driving (mirror, signal, manoeuvre, thank the other party for so generously letting you into that tiny space; a style of driving where the signal indicates more than intent) and to getting annoyed by people realising they're being overtaken by a car older than their nose/breasts/penis and so pulling across three lanes of traffic to overtake me in the middle lane, and then dropping back in ahead of me and then slowly back down to their original speed. Just because the bodywork looks like it used to have a piercings fetish and now has a nasty fungal infection does not mean the car designed as a repmobile cannot still go like a repmobile. I have gears and I'm not afraid to use them (even though I think the clutch is on the way out). I still like being able to leave far more expensive cars behind on the exit of roundabouts. Admittedly I have to accelerate hard as I had to dump all the speed to make it round the roundabout, Vauxhall steering being what it is (like me, a firm believer in the ability to go off on tangents).

Anyway, we meet up eventually, discuss the curious feature of the separation between the first two services being around 10 miles and me arriving at the last services about ten minutes after him, and the joy of mutually noticing everyone pile into the roadworks at 50ish despite the 40 limit, hit the Average Speed Check sign and then studiously drive at 35 till the end of the roadworks.

Then onwards to Bristol, which appears to be taking the snow approach to road design, so hewing thoroughfares wherever they happen to form, skimming over parks and building sites and eroding anything left standing (and all this while trying to keep up with my brother yet not do a [name conveniently left out. Several cars full of scouts, being driven by leaders and helpers, two of which were driven by a pair who were cousins, even though neither knew it. The cars were leaving a petrol station in convoy, B behind A, when there was a gap in the traffic and B rushed to slot into the gap behind A; A had waited for a bigger gap]).

Into the realm of hill starts and superb clutch control, and suddenly stopping on double-yellows outside the BGF's flat. It would appear that the reason my brother was driving so sedately is not that he was considerately waiting for me, but that something's gone wrong and he can't get the car into first or second, and thus has been starting in third, which given the tank like nature of the car when working normally...

He sends me off to park, with what turn out to be woefully inadequate instructions as there are no parking spaces down the road on the right (just a DHL van and removals lorry double parked, taxis bombing through and a Merc deciding it has right of way when no one could see it coming; on this on a road where if you were foolish enough to attempt a three point turn the car would roll over at the midpoint). Eventually I find somewhere to park, on yet another hill, but I can't point the wheels into the kerb as that would mean the endless stream of taxis swinging right to turn left would catch them on the back of the farside wheel. One thing about Bristol is that you do have know how big your car is, and if you didn't already know, the other drivers would let you. And then feigning activity till ten, so the parking gets cheaper (it's until midnight), whereupon I discovered I needn't have bothered as it's going to take me that long to discover how to work the machine. I've never had to type part of my number plate in before (and that's mean, not letting people pass on tickets with time remaining).

So to the flat, and the prepared meal, although it turns out that by 'ready' the BGF meant she had the ingredients. And then somehow slumping in front of the television became my brother watching the Ashes, purely to annoy the BGF (she cares about football, worryingly so, whereas no one in our family does, hence my brother pretending to have the same level of enthusiasm for the cricket), coincidentally annoying me because I can't go to bed until everyone else does as they're sitting on it.

Bed turned out to be a bit interesting. Half the bed was the seat of the settee, half the backboard. The seat frame had been broken along the front edge and Sellotaped back together, so if any weight was on it the thing buckled. So I couldn't lie on that half without the bed trying to swallow me. If I lay in the middle it folded in around me as it converted back to a settee. And if I lay on the other side, that was the uphill side so I'd spend the night rolling down the bed to be folded one way or the other. And I couldn't move the bed to adjust the slope as it became very apparent that the jaunty midroom angles of furniture weren't feng-shui'd but simply where they'd come to rest with most points of contact with the floor. So I spent the night early Hollywood style, with one leg slung over the edge, foot on the floor, to prevent any misbehaviour. Of course this just meant that like any anchor, I pivoted about it as I descended into the fold head first.

A fun night, enlivened by waking to full sun the following morning, which gave me plenty of time to lay contemplating the room and noting that despite having seven walls, none of them were parallel or perpendicular to any other, which must have taken some doing.

Morning brought the peculiarities of a fried breakfast (what, no Weetabix?) and of excessively considerate flatmates. And then lugging began, down through the converted house, where the stairwell sprang from the same mind as the previous night's impromptu bedroom. I could detail the many failings of plastic boxes as units ideal for carrying, but I wouldn't want to give the renditioners ideas.

So, with much clutch smoke (my car) and with an interesting open boot, open bonnet combo (boot for loading, bonnet for traffic wardens and trying to sort out the clutch), the cars were loaded, the AA rung, and we headed off, leaving my brother in charge of the flat and a broken carful of stuff.

And do you know how useful soft Scots accents are in a heavily laden and somewhat elderly car making its way along the M4? Especially when the listener has that dyslexic trait of being hopeless at distinguishing speech from any background noise? Fortunately it did mean I didn't have to struggle to think of smalltalk topics, as most of the journey was spent saying things five times, in a constant cloud of whats. And even better, I think I only seriously scared her with my driving about four times (and once I scared myself); I do like people too well brought up to mention it.

So various discussions of seasonal timing and the novel concept of flooding (Scotland does not apparently, or perhaps they just have permanent lochal floods) lead us through increasingly passé autumn and a variety of innovative floods (and I must say, it's great to see all those hefty great 4x4s joining the same queue for the middle of the road as us lesser mortals when confronted with a souped-up puddle).

We arrive at the storage place, shortly followed by my brother (the AA man, who would come before two, came within twenty minutes of being rung, and promptly pulled the clutch pedal back up; I didn't think of it as I assumed my brother would already have tried it, but then the driving instructor had changed cars before I learnt, so perhaps my brother didn't encounter the apparently traditional Fiesta fault which so enlivened about a third of all gear changes; I think I even had to do it in my test).

Unload, discuss various plans, two of three eat scavenged food (guess which two) fully aware of what happens when we run out of energy. The email my brother sent arranging my help contained following:
I expect you are cheaper than hiring a van..., and you're significantly stronger, longer, and probably more robust than [BGF].

Though equally likely to get ratty when your blood sugar drops.

So we stood debating who goes where with what and whom (my brother was trying to avoid a full blown BGF at parents' house thing without letting the BGF know this) when it started to tip, which solved that problem as we scrambled to respective cars, the BGF in mine with all the stuff that we were taking up to my brother's flat. And so to Brixton, another unloading, cursing my... not sister-in-law's, so, er, sister-in-love's bloody wrist-slitting, finger-mangling, nail-splitting plastic boxes.

Then waiting for my brother to appear, whereupon he expressed surprise that we'd unloaded the car without him (hmm), I fell asleep in front of Sunday afternoon television while my brother cooked, I perked up while they fell asleep in front of Ghostbusters (I've yet to see the whole thing) and they decided I was far too tired to drive home, at which juncture I left.

Then home, and some other stuff in a different post. But the writing of this is all so late that most of it was written after the stuff put in storage was retrieved from storage, which included the interesting discovery that three people and a carload into one car does not go, which led to me missing the promised roast lunch and instead having walk home along the towpath (it being the shortest, though most likely to be flooded or at least slow goingly muddy, route back), while pretending that my nose isn't adding to the flooding.

And on that joyous note I'll end it.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Camera SketchDecisions, decisions...

To Nikon D80 with 18-135 mm kit lens for £713 or not to Nikon D80 with 18-135 mm kit lens for £713? That is the question (well, one of them). It's one of those things where the more one thinks the more options become apparent, and yet there are a myriad of little (and therefore weak?) reasons to go with the D80 as is, which go beyond the natural to use and it just being very, very nice.

For the inevitable Googlers, the price is based on Jessops's standard but includes £50 off for finding a code to give me £50 off (more are listed here but, like a puppy, I think they might just be for Christmas given the words used. Rather unfairly the maximum percentage off varies with each step, from ten down to five and back up to eight).

And it's worrying when Jessops become the good guys and the nice little shop suggested I get a mint, reconditioned (what, it's green?) D50 they just happen to have for more than a new one costs.

Hmm, I know it's before Christmas (bad, bad time to buy), it's top of the range in that market, still fairly new technology and that it'll haemorrhage value, plus there's all the extras to sort out, including boosting this computer, but did I mention it's really, really nice, and in playing with it in the shop I didn't have to resort to the using the LCD screen once? And that it feels right? And that I... I can't say that, because I was always taught "'I want' doesn't get", but well, it's somewhere in that milieu.

Completely illogical, arguably unnecessary and yet...
Give me an ess, give me an em, give me an i, give me a tee, give me an e, give me an en and waddaya got?

And I kinda would like a decent camera before Brussels. Oh, remind me to actually mention the Belgian adventure to various people at some point before I go; it's only polite. If only we could kick Belgium out of the EU, I might be able to get away without paying duty or VAT (my family has slight history of, er, avoision. Did you know Gordon's gin bottles fit in binoculars cases? And who's going to notice a captain carrying his binoculars off the ship and then back on and off while he collects some missing paperwork? But then he was an expert in convoluted knots, such as those ideal for attracting bloodyminded customs and excise men; they see something that obviously took time and effort to do up and so demand it be undone, whereupon one end is pulled and the whole thing unravels to reveal the thoroughly mundane and boring contents. The excisemen look foolish and feel annoyed and so usher him out of their sight rapidly, neglecting to look in the loose bag slung over his shoulder. Whereas parts of the other side of the family have houses they can never sell because then the Inland Waterways or whatever they've renamed themselves might notice that somebody actually owns it).

Ok, I kinda would like a working camera of my own, full stop, period or if I'm feeling a bit hyper, bang (and what a daft name for a punctuation mark is that? It's as bad as calling a single straight line a 'pipe', which obviously should be =, O or F depending on meaning).

Anyway, I'm off to dream of bizarrely small response times.

I think it's probably the fact you can ignore that it's digital which hooked me; there's no need to flick between a dim viewfinder and this huge glowing screen to use the thing (which usually sends my eyes in an aching frenzy). So the feel, the fit and the use all seem to mesh with me. Is it wrong to like something because it suits one's body?

Of course, the real reason for procrastinating is that I will no longer be able to fairly blame the camera for all photographic failings.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

LFE - 12 HampsteadUpping the geekiness quotient (beyond the 'caution' thing somewhere in the comments), I saw on the boy Karran's blog a mention of out-of-copyright Ordnance Survey maps collated to reconstruct England and Wales as they were at time of production. It appeals to the same part of me that unintentionally breached copyright to produce these. But not only does it allow you to realise just how many houses had yet to be built, but it encourages you to share the postcodes of them, thereby helping generate and refine a database of postcodes which exists outside the licensing restrictions of the Post Office (or whoever own the database). And I notice someone's already added a marker for a certain recent address - The Slumgeon - although I think it's in the wrong place, but then the roads have moved.

Karran's blog has quite a bit more along similar veins, including several things that make you go 'ooh', so it's worth checking out.

Now to try and work out how many people on my forward list (I don't actually have a preset one, as I've long since ceased to be a social relay station) are adept enough at reading maps to be able to find their house, especially if it isn't built yet and they've messed about with the roads.

And am I supposed to have found the missing prefixes list and targeted those I know (I could look up things from external sources, but I suspect that is not really what they want to happen)? But I've slain a few including the place where my parents had their honeymoon, of which the only clue I'll give you was that it was somewhere which had frost at the end of June.

I've just noticed somewhere appears to have undergone a name change, which is a bit disconcerting as name A, in significant letters, has been reduced to the name of a minor street (and one renamed to avoid confusion after a house burnt down at that), whereas name B, which is where I went to school, isn't even on the map, except as the name of a house a fair distance from the place now called B.

So I'm off to decide who can tell furze/a copse/any-other-suggestion from an oxbow.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

2005-08-31 023No takers? Surely my taste can't be that bad (yes, I know I haven't said what I've got, but I don't want to be deluged by Google and there is such a thing as email). The offer still stands, but then it probably stood for you lot anyway.

But moving on, BBC Four is so very wonderful. Not only are they showing The Day of the Triffids (Monday 8.30 I think) but last night they showed the first two episodes of The Crow Road, which I can remember well enough from the first time it was on (albeit aided by reading the book fairly frequently inbetween). Yes, I have Banksitis badly enough that I laugh when I know what the next line is going to be. Yes, I wanted a Mobius scarf when younger. Yes, some parts of the book embedded themselves (though excised from the adaptation, due to not really being BBC enough, there's one detail to do with being in the backseat of a BMW, but... just read the book). Yes, the actor playing Prentice (Joseph McFadden*) made quite an impression even if it was at that stage a case of misattribution. But then I also fondly remembered the actress playing Ashley, largely because I'd forgotten it wasn't actually Anna from This Life (Daniela Nardini; both dark haired and Scots so near enough). And BBC 2 are currently showing the repeats of This Life after Newsnight, which is both great and very cruel as there's no way I can watch them and be capable of doing anything the next day, and so have to abandon them before Ferdy tries to have a fight or before the exposure to Miles makes one wonder if bogwashing is ever justified.

* Who needs to do more television or film work, or maybe just become my postman.

So BBC 4 are good, even if they do show a man with eyelashes so long they can cause hurricanes in different continents every time he winks. Oh dreary me.

And I know that quote is yet another Scots thing which doesn't follow quite the same vein; strangely for a comedy catchphrase that one was only used very rarely in playground. Can't think why. Did have the best Eurovision song ever. Also I'd forgotten the captain's name.

Sorry, not really sure where this is going, other than the BBC are showing repeats, and for once I don't mind as both series are on my permissable list (meaning if I find myself buying DVDs of either while browned off milling round an HMVirgin sale, I won't get too annoyed with myself. Incidentally, going through old CDs is quite horrific for demonstrating how much prices and perceptions have changed).

But as this post was supposed to be about more photographs on Flickr, which aren't there yet, I'd better stop.


PS. Sort of apt.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

DragonHow to make it all better again: No. 17.

Spend a day trying to backup things and copy other stuff, largely fail, rail against the stupidity and incompetence in the world of computing, give up, flick through television channels in idle desperation, cursing them all for assuming that everyone has a social life and so there's no need to put anything watchable on any of them, eventually stumble across a repeat of The Hundred Greatest Television Compilation Shows Cartoons, watch enough of those ranked in the mid-eighties to be reminded of Noggin the Nog, turn off, go to bed, wake up the next day, continue the frustrating computer things, give up again, search for Noggin the Nog on Youtube, fail to find any, but instead rediscover charmingly onomatopoeic Ivor the Engine with Jones the Steam and Dai Station and a delightful pointlessness which would now have met the axes of Accenture.

It's remarkably odd that I remember it yet failed to notice that by most standards the lives portrayed range from thwarted to futile. It's so ineffably provincial.

I'd also forgotten it spawned children greeting each other with "bore da" in thoroughly un-Home Counties accents. That must have been one of my first [and few] fads.

Wow, I just remembered being very concerned when Idris disappears (partly because the same thing happened again). Always was a sensitive boy.

I really must stop watching it, because I'm suffering from the curse of happiness, thereby irredeemably creasing my cheeks, although unlike Dan I don't have a mirror to petrify me with my own reflection.

He said shortly before grinning like a loon, tsht-com-ing along with Ivor's cotton-wool steam and watching yet more of it.


Saturday, November 11, 2006


That's in response to Blogger perkily telling me that, yay them, the new version of Blogger is ready, so now I get to sign in with my [almost] completely unconnected Gmail account.

It's also in response to Samsung's website, which obviously is using avian TCP (or possibly semaphore) all the way from Korea given the response times, denying all knowledge of them ever producing a DVD drive with the model number SD-608 (it can find a 604 and provide downloads for a 612 but thing sitting in front of me, looking a bit grubby, has never existed anywhere in the world). I tried getting the 612 firmware to see if that would make the drive behave a bit better, but clicking on the .exe file in the download did nothing. The instructions told me what to do once the pop-up window appeared, but not what to do if il n'y a pas une fenêtre.

The Samsung was really incidental; I'd tried copying a data DVD from that to other DVD on my computer, but it's a bit hard when the Samsung denies there is a disk in drive. And why was I trying to copy a DVD? Because my ever wonderful Philips DVD-writer has a tendency to render fully functioning DVDs as interesting coasters or impromptu mirrors. If it's multisession, then it's a gamble as to whether adding more data will result in A+B or an error message forevermore as helpful as Sim, nós não temos nenhuma banana (and this doesn't seem to be brand based as cheap, generic DVDs have the same failure rate as extra-special made for Philips, the Inventor of DVD Technology, by Philips, the Inventor of DVD Technology, blank DVDs, which sort of makes me wonder why they bothered).

Which is really great when the spare space on my hard drive is less than the capacity of a DVD, so either I have a lot where I've used 12% of the space, or I have to try and combine them and hope that Jupiter is in Aries or Sol in Anus, and thus, by some mystical quirk, such an act does not destroy all that has been, all that is and all that will ever be. Perhaps it would help if I turned the whole computer thrice widdershins while it burns (I meant while the drive burns the DVD, but the other option seems appealing, provides entertainment and seems likely to have an equal chance of success).

Now you can see why I tend to put so [too] much on Flickr; it's the most reliable Drive C overspill I have. It's just a shame it doesn't take mp3s. Oh and if anyone should happen to have any music by The Cranberries, Terrorvision or the Stereophonics please can I have a copy? I did have legitimate copies, in the form of CDs, and had copied those to my computer, whereupon a charming ex-flatmate purloined the CDs shortly before vanishing entirely. I now don't have a copy as I put them on a DVD, checked it worked umpteen times, then tried to use it a few days later only to discover one drive cannot find the disc sitting inside it and the other claims it is corrupted. I'm beginning to think DVDs must oxidise, because that's only way something which has moved a grand total of about 34 inches since recording, and sat statically in a sealed container for most of the intervening period, could possibly become irreparably damaged. At least I didn't wipe the other drive C originals which were also on the disk, along with copies of all my CDs between A and C.

And I know someone will suggest making more that one copy, but if the method of production is the same, under the influence of the same arbitrary failures, then what's the increased likelihood of survival?

If anyone should want a copy of anything I have between Coldplay and Placebo email me; I'm sure it's not illegal if you're acting as a file storage device for me, occasionally performing data checks to ensure continued function.

And I've just found a CD with the Cranberries et al on it, so now I'm trying to remember what else I had that has been lost (all mp3s sent to prompt my memory gratefully accepted). Does anyone know how to scavenge data from a DVD when Windows denies there's anything on there yet other programmes will give the size of the data but fail to access it? Why the hell can't Windows XP cope with recording DVDs; was the concept really so leftfield when it was being developed? It's bad enough having to resort to Nero (an apt name; one constantly wrestles with its power, beseeching it to look at the bloody DVD before it imperiously decries there's nothing of any importance on there, all the while suspecting underlying insanity) with Windows handily asking what I'd like it to do with this blank CD; er, well I'd like you not to call it blank and to notice it's a DVD, if that's ok with you.

Sometimes I wonder if all Microsoft can do is re-enjargonise:
Microsoft Windows: Bluescreen thinking.

And yet he who wishes to remain nameless on this blog wrote me an email containing the words "Forget Linux, unless you want to spend your life chasing round trying to get each little component to work."

At least in Linux you know things are changeable and it is relatively easy to change them. And given the tendency of the drives to sulk (Windows has currently mislaid drive E, the Philips DVD recorder), I quite like the idea of only letting the things exist when you want them to. It's a shame I don't have enough spare space on C to add Linux, a situation I cannot resolve until I can clean out the hard-disk, which I'm unwilling to do while any DVDs it gets transferred onto have a tendency to Schroedinger. I could of course buy a new hard-drive if only Dell could make up their minds as to what the maximum size can be before the computer shrugs uncomprehendingly. I could use an external hard drive, if I get round to buying a PCI USB card which will allow me to bypass tediously slow current pair (yes, my computer is that old). I also need to up the RAM as everything which specifies a minimum level somehow manages to know exactly how much I've got in there. And the chip is probably verging on the prehistoric too, but I'm reticent to change it as apparently that causes all sorts of things to get huffy (er, get?) and then I'd have to figure out what to do with a very old and confused hamster. I'm beginning to think the easiest way of upgrading is to loiter hopefully near a skip; well, someone's bound to throw out something that's better than what I've got.

It's not surprising the IT guy tends to be the unhealthy looking one*; one day of futility and I overcame the guilt to sulkily stomp off and demolish half a pack of chocolate digestives quicker than it takes to rip the Greatest Hits of Yazz.

* That's not intended as a slight to Dan; it probably isn't true if the entire company does IT stuff. Anyway, he's more the antithesis of his company's name.

And as the biscuit effect is waning I ought to stop and try to find some more convincing food.


Friday, November 10, 2006

IMG_1194How many bloody CDs have I got?

Nowhere near as many as other people I know, but I'm in the midst of mp3ising them (having first sorted them into alphabetical order - for the first time ever - as the mp3s are going on DVDs so I don't want to have to guess the DVD later) and I'm only up to the Foo Fighters. I'm also cursing any which come up with a data track after the last track as Real Player refuses to copy the final audio track claiming it's unreadable (after it's just claimed to have converted 99% of the track). Is gleaning copies of songs from the internet quite so illegal if one already owns the CD but can't get it to save on a computer? Yes, I know that there's that no reproduction thing but it's not like I'm bunging them on a server or sending copies to my friends [although... purely for sampling purposes, natch].

And remind me to turn the Tube status alarms off at some point; if I'm not still in London do I really need to be informed each someone tries to kill themselves anywhere on the Northern Line? London Bridge seems to be the winner for evening person-unders. Such knowledge is almost as fun as the radio which continues to turn itself on when it feels like it, including repeatedly last night (cue a day of "you look awful"). Sony, I am not impressed.

But in other news... there really isn't much. I've found Brideshead so I don't have to accuse SG of 'borrowing' it again, and that's about it. Oh, and I've discovered that a book on Linux isn't really dippable. Someone left it in the loo, so each time I open it at random and try to decipher the contents. It's actually fairly easy to grasp, and has taught me various things about other computer stuff, but I have a hunch I might take on more if I wasn't quite so obviously multitasking. I suppose it's a mix of avoiding thumb-twiddling, having guilt over how much computing I don't know, and knowing damn well that it isn't actually all that hard. It's equal parts really-ought-to and do-I-have-to.

Anyway, I'm off to wonder why I have a copy of Ocean Drive by the Lighthouse Family (why? Did I think I was going to make smug car adverts? What possible reason for owning it is there?). Any bets on how long it will take me to get to {checks} Wilt (who you, probably rightly, will never have heard of; support act for someone but I can't remember who or when, but it was in the Great Hall because it was signed by two of the three. I know that's a non sequitur, but I remember someone signing a CD in the bit under the Great Hall at Exeter, which must have been them, because I had the CD with me so I'd bought it there and they were hanging around signing stuff so it seemed rude not let them do my copy. If it was in the Great Hall it was probably supporting Reef as the main act, but I'm not sure. You know things which need explaining but are really better before you do? Um… I'll post samples when I get round to ripping it, so sometime in 2007 then)?


PS. Just received under the header "Don't groan too hard":

How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Just the two, but it's a real effort to get them in there in the first place.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

2005-08-17 021One advantage of being idle is discovering things which one otherwise might have missed. I recently uploaded some pictures onto Flickr, but didn't have the time to go through adding comments and tags. A couple of days later, I still haven't. So what does this tell me other than just how lazy I am? It shows the patterns of viewing based on the images and their relative position alone.

While I already knew that the front page gets more views than any subsequent page when viewed as a photostream, and of the tendency for the top of the page images to garner more clicks than anything which needs scrolling, the patterns which have emerged beyond those are interesting. It seems that it doesn't really matter what the image is as long as the majority of it is dark. Those which no one has viewed all make the contents apparent from the thumbnail view (a tree's a tree; it's not going to be much more exciting if seen slightly bigger). But when I lowered exposure compensation, usually to stop the camera fogging and burning the highlights or to lose irritating foreground, textures become more abstracted; contorted skeins of colour conforming to some unseen scheme. Make an image dark and there's curiosity; it's the impact of people wondering what something obscure actually shows.

Anything which needs thinking about gets views, anything which is already comprehensible doesn't. But do the extra views mean an image is better? Or simply needs more work to understand? Because I could make every photograph a few highlights amid pools of black, but I'm not sure that would actually add much.

I know this is a bit of a niche post, but if you haven't twigged I like photography and the vagaries of Flickr intrigue me, then "Hi, you must be new". Hello to Ac-Ac BTW and thank you for the link. Sorry for not noticing it earlier (and the rest of you might notice the updated sidebar; there have been a lot of blogdeaths, so I need more thinking-blogs - any ideas?).

Of course, in adding images in such a way as to allow this analysis, I am being a very bad Flickrite. Not only I have I not added tags, which on Flickr pretty much announces "leave me alone" (even if they don't seem to do much to initial viewing figures, simply add random belated discoveries), but I have not added any descriptive comments (usually a marker for "I haven't finished these yet, come back when they're done") or given the images titles.

I tend to vary a bit on the latter point. Titles say one has thought about the image, yet there's only so many one can do before running short of puns, cultural references and anything which isn't Tree #4 or worse still Untitled #4. Plus keeping the filename in the title slot helps with organisation (especially when random people want to use the images). I prefer titles, but they really work better when the supply of images is more steady and often smaller. Dan's approach of incrementally leaking a image or two is great for boosting exposure and visitors, but the level of filtering he must do requires more decision making than I can easily do. I try to take out the worst of the junk, but even the iffy pictures end up with someone liking them or commenting on them.

As for the trickle approach of adding a little cluster, then another, then another, that assumes one has both the time and patience (and memory) to do that. It doesn't take into account uploading batches of 36 or 50-odd images or having several chunks rapidly scavenged from borrowed cameras and computers.

But as I've just heard a rocket go past the window (which as the place launching them is about a dozen houses away sort of suggests that their milk bottle fell over) drowning out the not quite apt Handel's Water Music (it was the fireworks one earlier), I'd better investigate, or at least go to oh and ah.

One just went off close overhead and I can actually smell the fireworks despite being in a house with every shut; is this good?



2006-11-01 030Cancel the request for Prokofiev's Troika as an mp3, as I've found a site with the entire Lt. Kiye suite. The site is Russian, but that's hardly noticeable as it's just raw directories. It's got quite a lot of other classical stuff (read: I haven't heard of a large chunk of the composers), including a copy of Peter and the Woof. One slight problem though, it's listed as "Peter und der Wolf". Jah, alle Wörter sind auf Deutsch. And the German bloke seems to be trying to act more than I remember his English equivalent doing on the version I'm used to. But as long as I can absent mindedly "do- do- de-do-de-do" along to it, I don't mind.

However, it is quite surprisng just how incomprehensible I find spoken German. It took me far too long to decipher 'dryawns'.

And I never knew it was a model of Stalinist music. Does that make it prolefeed? I'm not sure I approve. It's also odd to think that "As time goes by" is older the Peter and the Wolf, although I always thought the zoo seemed a little incongruous.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

IMGP1875[Yay me! The start of this post is already out of date before I even post it. Huzzah!]

The beginning of an email I've just received:

4th November 2006
Starting at Sunset
4.30 pm to 7.30 pm

You are invited to take part in the largest
demonstration of People Power that London has ever
seen on Saturday 4th November 2006, by turning off
all your lights, and switching off all your
non-essential electrical equipment at Sunset.

A few small problems. Firstly, I am not in the land of EDF. Secondly, the email continues telling people what to do, some of which contradicts itself. Thirdly, it suggests doing things like defrosting freezers (in the dark) to help reduce the electricity load. Quite apart from modern freezers tending to have defrost settings where the systems are designed to heat themselves up to speed the process (which isn't quite the same as unplugging the thing), is anyone thinking what will happen come 7.30? Lights on, heating back up, television on, kettle, toaster, microwave or whatever else on, plus the delight of turning things on purely to allow the owners to set the clocks and timers again. Oh, and the freezer coming back on in rapid freeze mode, which uses far more electricity than just leaving it on for 3 hours would do. It doesn't quite mention what to do with all the food in the freezer, but nevermind that now. But other than that...

It's like those people who said the best way to protest against rising public transport prices was to delay renewing yearly travelcards until the new year (i.e. when the prices will have already gone up); well intentioned but misguided. The demand already fluctuates enough that people can make money out of trading peak supply with greater off-peak use (there are entire mountains devoted to this). Fluctuating demand means that lots of capacity is needed, but little is frequently used. The range of outputs demanded by a single plant is wide: wider than the range of optimum efficiency. So not only do you need more equipment, but for the most part it runs at under the designed efficiency. Hey, that sounds like a great idea.

And anyway, I'll miss, er, whatever's on television then. So, er, Robin Hood? Hands up anyone who has actually been bothering to watch that. Anyone? Oh yes, we have one over there... what? Sorry, you'll... oh, well, can't you wait till break? ... Well, gone on then, but be quick.

Said he who classes Robin Hood as irredeemable rubbish, yet might happen to be shushing people who try talking during Torchwood. It may be awful, but it's awful with aliens, photography that flaps between cloying and hopelessly pointless (just count the 'shoom's or times anyone from Cardiff gets to say "I can see my house"), an blou-di sil-li ak-suns, all done by a man scared everyone will think he can only do Doctor Who or spinoffs; it can only be a matter a minutes before Captain Jack gets a bottle of water and goes all Stuart on us, lest we forget QAF.

And now I've got the Nowt-As (or is it Nowt-So?) theme music stuck in my head, which is odd, as I don't even have copy of the tune. Yet I can still hear the cringeworthy steel drums.

As I've just tried, and failed, to find an mp3 of it, just to prove how irritating it can be, you'll just have to imagine it (as I currently, infuriatingly, am).

But possibly even more irritating, was my attempt to get the last of the shower gel out of the bottle. So I have a shower, a clear bottle with a small amount of green gunk left, and an inability to remember to buy some more before I need it. Cue, squeezing the bottle to draw in a little water, giving it a shake to mix, inverting over my other hand to catch the resultant fluid and giving it a squeeze.

Now comes the audience participation bit. Hold your left hand out in front of you, palm upwards, slightly cupped. Now hold something in your right hand as if it were a bottle you were squeezing fluid out of so the liquid ends up in the palm of your left hand. Make sure you can see the fluid as it comes out so you don't use too much.

Now you see that valley between the muscle of your thumb (I think Ian Fleming refers to it as the Mound of Venus, but that sounds a little to feminine for mine) and the edge of your hand? The one that's pointed straight towards your face? I should mention at this point that the shower gel was Original Source Mint and Tea Tree Oil, which comes with a little valve on the top to stop drips, so only lets the contents out once above a certain pressure. So I have a menthol and detergent mix, diluted to a lower than usual viscosity and then shaken into a foam, in a container which only opens when under pressure, being applied to a surface which is capable of deflecting the flow towards my face...

Owie, owie, owie, stinging burny, owie, ooh cooling menthol, owie burny.

Yep, my eyes ran hot and cold for most of the morning. But they were minty fresh, even if it felt like I was looking through toothpaste.

And in an effortless segue, where the connection is apparently my stupidity, am I the only person to mishear or misremember the lyrics to As Time Goes By? My version:
You must remember this,
A kiss is just a kiss,
A sigh is just a sigh,
The fundamental things of love,
As time goes by.

And when too lovers feud,
They still say 'I love you',
On that you can rely,
No matter what the future brings,
As time goes by.

It's still the same old story,
The fight for love and glory,
The case for you and I,
The world will always welcome lovers,
As time goes by.

So not only does my brain skip half the song* but I managed to get something wrong in each stanza (and that's without singing one line as "it's still the same old story, being read on Jackanory"). The correct versions are:
- The fundamental things apply,
- And when two lovers woo,
- A case of do or die,

* When the song is already abridged. The bit I skip is:
Moonlight and love songs,
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion.
Jealousy and hate,
Are like two brothers,
Who go on a date.
Woman needs man,
And man must have his mate,
That no one can deny.

Ok, so there is a slight Avenue Q reference in there, but it needs something to distract from the "woman needs man/man needs sex" bit. And technically one could argue that moonlight is out of date as we no longer use lunar months.

I've just realised that I had always taken the song to be about the vagaries of love, hence the admonishments to remember "a sigh is just a sigh" and the reminder that "and when two lovers feud, they still say 'I love you'". Basically, it says "of course, he/she/it loves you; stop worrying". Yet the original version references relativity and an analytical future; it seeks to reassure that the idea of love will endure modernity, hence those who woo still saying the same old things. It's not personal love surviving doubts, but the concept resisting progress.

And now I want to watch Casablanca (yet I don't have it on DVD as it's never been cheap enough) or possibly something with Judy Dench and others being pleasant in it. Unfortunately the nearest I've got is Brief Encounter, which is not quite the same thing.

Has anyone got a decent mp3 of the song, by the way? The only copy I have is sung by someone who sounds as though they don't quite understand it.

But then I've been trying to organise my music recently, which included the delight of finding a tape ('Classics for Children' if you must know), wanting to copy one part of it (Prokofiev's Troika because it's winter now, and I've finally figured out why I've had something I knew was called Troika, but thought was by Sibelius, yet have linked in my mind to Box of Delights, stuck in my head for well over a decade. Have you ever tried finding a copy of something when you're looking for the wrong composer? It's a little dispiriting. Still haven't got an mp3 of the Prokofiev version though), nearly considering dragging it into the correct folder onscreen before remembering that it's a tape, and so a real object, at which point I smugly aim it towards the floppy drive before remembering that only my parents' BBC takes tapes.

And somewhere along the line I was supposed to mention watching Taxi Driver. I know I watched in instalments, but it seems to jump quite a bit, and I imagine would be even more disconcerting had I not fragmented it. I think I can understand why other people consider it a good film, although may need to watch it in one sitting when slightly less fractious and inclined to distraction by the repeated appearances of extras; just watch the position of the woman in orange. Orange isn't a very background colour. Got some good music though, if a bit Bergerac.


PS. While doing the quote for the image... what is a Skunk Pussy? A fluffy if smelly hybrid?

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