Monday, 31 March 2008
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Last night's movie was "3:10 to Yuma". Chosen by Rich, awaited by me only for the lovely Christian Bale. I'm generally not a fan of Westerns. This is an unfair preference on my part as I have watched very few and is based pretty much entirely on the experiences as a child of 'Bonanza' on a Sunday afternoon. I think the only Western type movies I have ever seen were 'Butch and Sundance', which I love and 'The Magnificent Seven' which I did quite enjoy. Anyway, I digress. "3:10 to Yuma" was pretty good. A bit slow to start, but otherwise a pretty good story - and the acting was excellent. Definitely recommended as a way to pass a couple of hours.
Friday, 28 March 2008
On Wednesday it was Kevin Costner in 'Mr Brooks'. I didn't think much to his one, I found the pace extremely slow and the writing unremarkable. Then again, had I known it was Kevin Costner I probably wouldn't have watched it as the last two movies of his I saw (JFK and Dances with Wolves) weren't exactly hits with me.
Last night the movie in question was Oliver Stone's 'World Trade Center'. Again, had I remembered it was Oliver Stone I probably wouldn't have watched it. I've only seen two of his other movies (well, in their entirity anyway) and those were JFK (again) and Born on the Fourth of July, both of which I found interminable. This one didn't buck the trend. Over two hours and really not a lot happened. I was expecting much more rescues from the Towers, or something. Two guys stuck in rubble for the majority of the film, not exactly thrilling cinema. Oh yeah, and it took about 40 minutes to dig them out, in movie terms that is practically real time!
I don't know what Saturday's movie will be, but I'm hoping for something that I enjoy more than those two!
Thursday, 27 March 2008
These hidden processes aren't limited to your desktop environment. They extend into the on-line world too, where the biggest (and probably most controversial) hidden process is cookies. No, not the tasty sort you have with tea. These are small files deposited on your computer by websites. Nearly every website. A lot of them are perfectly harmless and are simply used to track visitors, or to store the information that you fill into form fields. Some however can be viewed as much more sinister, and indeed some people go as far as to claim an invasion of privacy. These are the tracking and data-miner type cookies. Third parties use these to attempt to build a profile of surfing habits and target marketing etc.
My browser of choice is Firefox. These things don't worry me too much. They can target their advertising all they like, but I have Ad-block Plus installed, and haven't seen an advert on the internet in months. Equally I'm not terribly worried about any invasion of privacy, I'm not sure that I mind anyone knowing that I visit Facebook three times a day and blog at least once a day. What I don't like is the underhand and sneaky way in which these things work. Today I looked at my cookie collection. At least a third of the sites listed weren't sites that I had visited. Third parties doing the dirty work. So, I updated my 'exceptions' list and added all these sites. Take that data-miners!
Why this sudden obsession with data collection and targeted marketing? Well, I read an article in Web User today about a new system called Webwise, commonly known as Phorm. This is going to be trialled by BT, TalkTalk and my own ISP Virgin Media. Apparently TalkTalk are going to be using an 'opt-in' basis, and BT and Virgin and 'opt-out' basis. This annoyed me. Even more than the sneaky data collectors. Apparently according to their website they will be writing to me 'nearer the time' to provide further details. We shall see how this is presented. Apart from the bad manners of making it an opt-out service (no service should be opt-out, the choice should always be presented as opt-in) I don't see it impacts me in the slightest. Anyone using Firefox has most of these bases covered with Add-ons.
It doesn't matter anyway. Phorm are already added to my cookie exclusion list!
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
I was delighted to find, after I had seen the nurse, that the blood test department was uncharacteristically completely empty. Usually the need for blood tests engenders about an hour of waiting, today they called my number before the receptionist had finished printing off the labels! Must get a lunchtime appointment more often. It was a good blood test today as well. I've always been scared of needles; to the point that very often the process of a blood test or vaccination would have me on the floor in a faint. I considered sometimes what on earth I would do if I were ever ill and requiring of regular injections. I found out when I started taking DMDs (Disease Modifying Drugs) for my MS and had to inject myself; first on a weekly basis and now every other day. I found it very like sea-sickness; I always get sea-sick, except when I have sailed with friends and been involved in crewing the boat. Injecting myself was surprisingly easy (I would say painless, but it does hurt); the very first time I was a bit nervous, and ever after there's been no problem. I've also got much better at blood tests, unless of course the nurse has trouble finding a vein or whatever, if it goes on too long and my brain has a chance to catch up then I still start to feel faint. Apparently if you have MS you can't give blood, so I don't have to feel guilty about that... I don't think I could pretend that wasn't happening!
This morning my Bluetooth 'dongle' arrived. Given the last time we tried this with a computer (some years ago it is true) the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster and I ended up selling the thing on eBay in a fit of pique... well, let's just say I was prepared for failure. I couldn't have been more surprised (or delighted) when my phone and laptop started 'talking' to each other. Technology works! Just need to convert the rest of my peripherals to wireless or bluetooth now, the whole cable management thing on my little desk is way out of control!
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
No white Easter this year then. I suppose that means that we are back to spring.
It is still pretty cold though. I've had the heating on pretty much all day. This has the unwanted side effect of waking up all the ladybugs. It's not that I mind sharing the bedroom with them, I don't... it is just the noise that they make as they flutter around that gets really irritating after a while!
Monday, 24 March 2008
Bank Holidays generally do quite irritate me. There are constant complaints about how few Public Holidays there are in the UK compared to other countries and various campaigns to have another date declared as a public holiday (with increasingly unlikely proposals). The reason that it irritates me as that everyone seems to think that they are getting a 'free' day off, and very few people seem to realise that there is nothing under statute to declare that you are given time off on a Public Holiday, but that it is merely at the discretion of your employer. Where I work we are given a higher than usual holiday allowance but we are required to take Public Holidays from this allowance. The upside of this is that you can work most Public Holidays (if you want) and use the leave elsewhere. Very satisfactory.
OK, rant over.
I saw several friends for lunch today. Friends and assorted children. I was mortified to notice that my friend with a nine month old baby had a nappy bag roughly the same size as the bag I use for work. Mortified because everyone knows what a lot of things a baby needs, how can a 30-something woman need as much stuff every day?!
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Today started with F1. Not live, as that would have been 7am, but recorded on the V+ box. As Hamilton and Kovalainen had both been given 5 place penalties for infractions during qualifying and lost their second row grid spots the best that Hamilton fans could hope for was some serious weather and several safety cars. Not to be. In addition a pit stop hold up meant that Hamilton didn't even get a podium, although Kovalainen did (now known as the smiling Finn as his demeanour is significantly more cheerful than compatriot Raikkonen). It was a pretty dull race. Although Massa didn't finish the race in the end it wasn't before Raikkonen took the lead from the poll sitter... during a pit stop. No rain, no safety cars, pretty much no overtaking... and definitely no excitement.
This fantastic event was followed by Celtic playing away to Gretna in the SPL. I was vaguely interested as a) the game was being played at Almondvale with is the ground of Livingston the team that I follow and b) I have an unreasonable dislike of Gretna and therefore was quite happy at the prospect of them getting thumped by Celtic. The reason for my dislike of Gretna are legion, and all perfectly sensible (to me). Originally I had no interest in Scottish football (not much interest outside of Charlton if we're honest). However Rich supports Celtic, and many of his friends supported one Scottish team or another, so I decided that I'd better support a Scottish team. I chose Livingston because I liked their style. After only six seasons in existence they made their way from the third division to the Premier League. They managed two seasons in the Premier League before being relegated back to Division One where they now languish. I digress.
Reasons I don't like Gretna. Until 2002 Gretna played football in England. Non-league football. Then they moved to Scottish football and Division Three, this way without merit they climb out of obscurity and reach dizzying heights that they never could have reached in English football, reason number one. They were then promoted up through the leagues. Much quicker than Livingston managed, reason number two. Finally, the club has pretty much bought it's success, reason number three. Bankrolled by a multi-millionaire, after falling ill he withdrew his support and the club went into financial administration. OK, rant over. Celtic beat Gretna 0-3, but it was a pretty dire game, I got so bored that I stopped watching before half time.
The good news is that baseball is back this week. The season starts with Boston playing Oakland in Japan, and everyone else starts playing next weekend. Following the Giants' Superbowl success I am certain that the Yankees must be destined to win the World Series (them or, horrible thought, the Mets).
Last night was movie night in our house (as nearly every Saturday night is). First up was the fantasy movie Stardust. Had we known that Neil Gaiman wrote the book and was a producer we might not have had such enthusiasm as his last movie we watched, Mirrormask, managed about 20 minutes before we got bored and gave up. Back to Stardust. A strange mix of cast with some very well known names (Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole) and some quite unknown names; but a superb story with all the right elements for a good movie. Some of the imagery was very Studio Ghibli, especially the flying pirate ship! Michelle Pfeiffer as an old crone, Robert De Niro as an extremely effeminate pirate captain... worth watching just for that, and De Niro totally stole the show! Ten out of ten, I'd recommend it to anyone.
Movie number two, A Dog's Breakfast. Written and directed by David Hewlett (who plays Rodney McKay in Stargate Atlantis), it stars his real life sister and Paul McGillion (who played Carson Beckett in Atlantis) with appearances by other Atlantis cast members. I found it a bit slow going, but pretty funny - I was rather alarmed to find out that Paul McGillon doesn't really have a Scottish accent (so convincing was he in Atlantis)!
All done with movies for this weekend, back to the hard drive tonight for some more of the British drama we torture ourselves with. Having already managed two episodes of Torchwood we are up for Ashes to Ashes tonight. Why watch them if we don't like them. Well, I always liked Captain Jack in Doctor Who and Life on Mars (the predecessor to Ashes to Ashes) was brilliant. Sadly Ashes to Ashes doesn't live up to that high standard. I keep threatening to stop watching them but never quite do!
I remember when I was younger it quite often snowed at Easter. Several times the local schools were shut because of snow. We'd all tune in to BBC Radio Kent to hear them read out the list of schools that were closed (ah, diligent scholars that we were!). There were occasions that for one reason or another the school didn't close, and we'd try and struggle in. Fond memories of being given hot chocolate in the school hall to warm up, and classes of five or six people as most people didn't bother battling with the elements.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Friday, 21 March 2008
All my life I have lived with dogs. My parents bought their first dog (Lucy, a labrador) when I was a few months old and we grew up together. As Lucy got older we got another labrador, Leo. After Leo my parents lasted a few months with no dog, and then came Dodie (part lurcher part something else) - and a few months after that they decided that Dodie was lonely, enter Joe (part collie part something else). Some years later when I moved back home for a brief spell Joe and Dodie were joined by my dog Jack (part bearded collie part something else). When I moved away again Jack stayed behind with his new friends.
When I moved in with Rich and my nearly-mother-in-law there were no dogs. Only cats. I'd never really know any cats before (unless you count the bad tempered tabby who lived next door to us when I was growing up). I soon discovered that cats are nothing like dogs. Below I found a few quotes which illustrate my point:
- You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals. (George Mikes)
- Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you. (Mary Bly)
- Dogs believe they are human. Cats believe they are God. (Unknown)
- In ancient Egypt cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this. (Unknown)
- Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want. (Joseph Wood Krutch)
This is how Molly is. We humans are there to provide her with what she wants, when she wants. If she doesn't get it she'll sit and glare and attempt (by the use of feline mind control) to change your mind.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Ask anyone, I've never been much of one for exercise. Twice in my life I have joined gyms. The first time ended in bitter dispute after I moved forty-five miles away and the gym refused to see this as a reasonable inconvenience and that I would want to cancel my membership (one year membership, obviously I didn't know I was moving when I took it out). The next time I made sure that there was no minimum term on the membership - the problem this time was finding the time to go. Long hours culture meant that I never had time in the week, and there was always something else needed doing at the weekend.
I have a strange collection of 'home gym' items now; including a pilates ball (very comfortable for sitting on), a skipping rope (which I tend to fall over), a step machine (with no handles so I fall off it as soon as get on it) and various other items all of which have been used a few times and discarded. When my legs/balance are recovered maybe I will try and find a gym near my office - I fear it is the only way it will ever happen!
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
We decided to throw away our not-quite (OK, not at all) imitation Welsh dresser on the basis that all the drawers were falling to bits. When it came down to it very few of the items it housed apart from the bread bin and the coffee maker were of much use to anyone anyway.
So, in a fit of enthusiasm I went through the entire kitchen and managed to dispose of several bags of junk. I found items whose function I wasn't even sure of!!! Having done this I felt incredibly Zen, and proceeded to 'de-clutter' the Pink Room (the Pink Room isn't really pink... it has two pink walls and two blue walls (none of which you can see due to furniture etc.) and a blue carpet... but it has a lot of pink stuff in it!), the Pink Room is my dressing room - so you can imagine the scope for junk there. Threw away another bag of junk and still felt Zen.
The bedroom lets me down. The bedroom has less scope for de-cluttering. Full of books (mostly mine), the contents of my desk (all mine), the Beanie Baby collection (mine) and the console collection (mine). Oh, and there is the junk pile behind the TV set... (not all mine) but hey, out of sight out of mind. I decided that the only bit I could realistically do anything about was the console collection... so I decided to sell three of the five on eBay.
I was a bit annoyed to find that eBay would not let me offer personal cheque as a form of payment only PayPal. Fair enough you think? Buyer and seller protection you think? Maybe, but just remember who owns PayPal! I would have been less annoyed if they were giving the choices of WorldPay (or whatever) but to give only one choice which is effectively their subsidiary, and then they charge fees on the PayPal transaction as well as the eBay fees. Nice little earner.
So, one small corner of the bedroom is a little tidier. I'll worry about the rest another day.
In recent years I've enjoyed his collaborations with British author Stephen Baxter, who is often labelled by critics as the new Arthur C. Clarke (I can why given the visionary and descriptive style of his work).
My favourite Arthur C. Clarke book is actually a book of short stories "Of Time and Stars" which I first read from one of the "left behind" bookshelves when I was on holiday some twenty years ago!
Maybe in tribute I will finally get around to watching the film of Space Odyssey 2001.
Talking of bus stops, despite the email I received from London Buses the Cemetery Lane bus stop has not been put back into service and the Council has not cleared the now dead flowers. Clearly their 'Infrastructure Controller' has not visited the area as promised, or simply does not care.
In our street they have started works on the water mains too, for this to be facilitated, and that our already congested street is not further inconvenienced the powers that be have suspended the parking bays on one side of the road, just past my front drive.
I felt a little frisson of schadenfreude when I left the house to see a traffic warden (yes, really) taking photographs of the number plate of car which was parked in one of the suspended bays, and of the signage suspending the bays.
Seriously though, if you are going to park in a suspended parking bay, would it not be better if you didn't do it directly under the sign that suspends the bay? That might be considered 'asking for it'.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
The fourth plinth refers to an empty plinth in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square. There are four plinths, one at each corner - the other three have statues of George IV (northeast), Henry Havelock (southeast) and Sir Charles James Napier (southwest). With the exception of George IV most people probably have no idea who or what these statues commemorate. Havelock and Napier were officers in the British Army both particularly renowned for campaigns in India. People might not know who Napier and Havelock are, but there was still a huge furore a few years back when Mayor Ken suggest that they be replaced with 'more relevant' figures. I digress. The fourth plinth has, for some years now, been the recipient of various 'temporary' displays of artwork. I use that term loosely. I'm not a fan of 'modern' art. Not generally. I feel that art should inspire. I also feel that art shouldn't be something that anyone could technically throw together. I am not a fan, therefore of most of the next set of proposals for the plinth (although at least the giant pregnant woman is gone).
You can see the shortlist on the Mayor of London's website. I would vote for the one by Shonibare as it is the only one which I think shows any merit as artwork, or any awareness of the historical context of it's location.
The transformation of Trafalgar Square under the World Squares for All project (don't be fooled, this isn't global or even national, but actually just specifically Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Whitehall) was much needed and long overdue. Let's hope that one day the Fourth Plinth will have a monument which is appropriate for this historical location.
Monday, 17 March 2008
I always get a bit annoyed by St Patrick's Day. It is great if you are Irish to have the national day and the party and all. It is quite a good excuse if you are a student for copious amounts of alcohol consumption. If you are English, however (or any other nationality) I see no need for the excessive celebration of another country's patron saint, especially when there is no celebration for you own patron saint.
Every year there is a parade in London for St Patrick's Day (I had wondered why Piccadilly and environs were closed to traffic at the weekend). This year there was a week long programme of events and a festival. This annoys me annually as this is not the patron saint of England! To give Mayor Ken his due (which I do extremely grudgingly) there was a series of events for St George's Day last year. Is it because the English are not so patriotic or that the English heritage doesn't really lend itself much to celebration? there was nowhere near the high profile for St George as St Patrick received. To be fair Clinton Cards will also sell you St George's Day cards as well as St Patrick's Day. I've never know anyone to send or receive a card on April 23rd though!
It's all incidental this year anyway. Today isn't St Patrick's Day. Not according to the Catholic Church anyway. This year Easter falls extremely early (as discussed in a previous post). This means that this week is Holy Week (the last week before Easter after Palm Sunday which was yesterday and before Good Friday). Holy Week is like the Royal Flush of the religious calendar in that it supersedes all other high days and holy days and bumps Saint's days from the calendar. Apparently in Ireland Saturday was officially St Patrick's Day (the last day before Holy Week began).
I won't be wearing a rose for St George, but I didn't wear green today either.
I've been reading the BBC News site today, seeing what has been happening whilst I have been in bed.
Obviously there was the Chancellor Alastair Darling's first budget last week. I didn't find a great deal of interest in the budget (not that I ever do). The usual rises in duty on cigarettes (don't smoke) and alcohol (do drink)... my car not too badly affected (it is old but small). The BBC has a budget calculator where you can see how you will be affected. I'm actually going to be better off in the coming year by £140 (so that is just less than £12 a month, what will I do with those riches?) and that is only because the basic rate of income tax is falling by 2%.
Main stories today, well there is more fall out from the 'global credit crunch' and the 'sub-prime' fiasco (yes, those phrases will be in the dictionary a few years from now). A major Wall Street bank got into trouble over the weekend, and the stock exchanges have had a bad day because of it. Due to the fact that economics and I never got on I can't pretend to fully understand the intricacies of the whole sub-prime crisis, however - suffice to say that it undoubtedly has something to do with the 21st Century need to 'have it all' - for both individuals and corporations.
Also in the news the Mills - McCartney divorce settlement. I was hating myself for even reading the story. Who cares is some C list celebrity is going to get millions of pounds for being married to an A list celebrity for a few years? Is it really relevant how much (how much being fairly obscene I think). And please, somebody tell me, if the nanny and the school fees are being paid for, what on earth does a four year old child need £35,000 a year for. Most people don't earn that for going out to work! Hopefully the irritating Ms Mills will now vanish permanently from the press radar (yes, I know, some hope).
Nearer to home, Thames Water have obviously finished a particular stretch of 'replacing London's Victorian water mains' along the main Woolwich to Blackheath road as they have turned the corner and come down our street. We are waiting for Wednesday when the water will be off all day. Preparation has already begun, however. The security fencing has gone up and the trenches are being dug. The foundations of the house appeared to be shaking today, certainly the vibration could be felt (and unfortunately heard) in the bedroom! I am keeping faith that they will manage not to sever any important cables whilst they are working. Certainly the pavement was absolutely technicolour noting where LV and HV and CATV etc. etc. were running, and one little green line headed straight up our driveway, so fingers crossed we'll not experience any disruptions of service come Wednesday.
I was speaking to my boss earlier, and apparently I missed all the fun and excitement at work today. The building work on the floor above ours continues unabated (still with not restrictions on working hours, I could hear the banging and drilling down the phone) - but seemingly today (for whatever reason) one of the builders was on the fire escape at the back of the building. This fire escape isn't actually used as exit in fire drills is down the main stairs (who knows what happens if there is a fire on the main stairs). I would guess that the builder was probably having a crafty fag. It would seem however that the unmaintained and neglected fire escape wasn't up to the job, as the builder fell through the floor and landed on our landing. The problem arose when he tried to come back into the building at our level. The fire escape door wouldn't open (again, what happens if there is a fire in the main stairwell?!). Ah well, it is an improvement on last time there was refurbishment works in the building. A builder through the fire escape is nothing compared to the burst radiator pipe and Niagara Falls in coming through our Boardroom Ceiling!
Sunday, 16 March 2008
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Not always though. I've had some good customisation experiences in the last couple of days. I've 'tweaked' my Firefox to improve the memory usage and screen layout. Anyone who says that Firefox and Vista don't have memory issues is talking from their behind. I run Firefox at home and in the office, but the office computer uses half as much memory to run Firefox as the laptop. The office computer runs XP and the laptop runs Vista. Anyway this article and this article were invaluable resources for me to make my Firefox and leaner, smoother browsing experience.
Anyone who is familiar with Firefox (and now the latest version of Internet Explorer) will be familiar with the concept of tabbed browsing. Brilliant space saving idea reducing the need for half a dozen open windows in your taskbar. This programme does just this for Windows Explorer... everything you'll ever need on your computer right at your finger tips... check out this article which explains installation and set up (trust me, you won't be able to work it out otherwise!).
The weather has taken a turn for the distinctly un-Springlike, and indeed it has been drizzling quite a bit the last day or so.
The colonisation of the fish pond by the South East London frog population continues. Dozens and dozens of frogs. Some are being extremely clichéd and sitting in the middle of the pond going "gribbit". Talking about clichés - the fish are at it too. It is supposed to be a myth that goldfish have a three second memory. The occupants of the fish pond are doing their best to disprove this, managing to completely forget that the netting has been taken up at the near end of the pond to allow them to feed, and instead swimming around hopelessly under the netting. Stupid fish.
Talking of stupid creatures, despite my efforts yesterday of releasing ladybugs back into the wild (seriously, I must have thrown about 20 out of the window) there don't appear to be any less today. Clearly they are coming in through a hole in the reveal somewhere and through another gap in the frame. Rich suggest leaving them for a few days and seeing if numbers increase to plague levels or whether the population stabilises, thus finding out how many of them there really are and whether or not they are coming back in!
Ladybugs... frogs... fish... I really need to get out more!
Friday, 14 March 2008
(Edited 19:31 - unfortunately I'm having some trouble uploading the video so have temporarily taken the link down).
My first serious musical experiences were at Primary School. There I learnt (like a lot of people, I dare say) the recorder, taught by one of the class teachers in a lunch hour; not, I think, the ideal way to learn. Played nicely on a quality instrument (preferably fashioned from wood) the recorder can be a beautiful instrument. Played badly on a fairly cheap plastic instrument it is torture. I never had much love for the recorder, or much aptitude. My recorder suffered irreparable damage from being thrown at the wall in a fit of temper.
Around the same time I started learning the guitar. Again I didn’t show much natural aptitude; and the classes took place in groups which meant that we all progressed at the pace of the slowest (probably, me).
My next musical endeavour was the piano. When I started secondary school I started the piano (which is very late in life to begin learning an instrument). My piano teacher was a fierce Scottish lady employed at the public school in the town near where I grew up. It was a very old fashioned music school with two doors fixed to every room to provide sound insulation. I can still remember the noises as I walked up and down the corridor of different instruments coming from the practice rooms.
Some time later I started taking my piano lessons from a teacher at the school this having the added advantage that I no longer needed to be fetched and carried from my music lessons as they conveniently took place during the day thus exempting one from class! I stayed with this teacher even after he left the school; taking lessons at his new school and finally at his home. I stopped taking lessons when at the age of 15 I failed my grade 6 exam twice; and my teacher and I decided that I probably wasn’t giving the piano the time that it deserved. A fantastic by-product of years of piano playing is that I found it immensely easy to learn to touch type as my fingers were used to working away whilst my eyes followed something else!
I carried on playing the guitar after my first piano teacher taught me to play chords to accompany myself singing. I showed much more aptitude for this than ‘classical’ guitar playing and it has on occasion, been a useful social skill!
Sometime in secondary school I also started taking singing lessons. My singing teacher was (quite amazingly) at school with my grandmother. Sadly (but not surprisingly) she retired before my singing education was complete. My next teacher was married to a teacher at my brother’s school; which was quite a strange coincidence. Voice lessons were the only thing I continued after I left school, during my yeat spent at university studying music. My singing teacher was a vibrant woman who began every lesson with physical exercise. I’d return from my lesson quite exhausted, much to the amusement of my neighbours in halls! If we’re talking of singing, I really ought mention my choir mistress, who also gave lessons to us choristers to enable us to pass the exams for various awards from the Diocese and the Royal School of Church Music.
Lastly, but definitely by no means least, is my violin teacher. When I was 15 or so my music teacher at school set us a summer assignment which was coincidentally a competition. I completed the questions and entered the competition, and to my surprise, was a winner. The prize was to go to a rehearsal and concert being given by Nigel Kennedy. For some years, I’d been convinced that I wanted to learn the ‘cello; I now decided that I’d much rather learn the fiddle. As violins are smaller and easier to come by, my wish was granted. Fortunately the most amazing lady - an accomplished violinist and pianist; (who also taught me theory of music) lived opposite me when I was growing up; and I'd run across for my lesson in sandals, or sometimes, even, to her horror, barefooted. We'd wait for our lessons whilst the pupil before finished in her conservatory - where grapes were harvested in the autumn.
I still have my guitar which I play infrequently; so infrequently that it usually leads to sore finger tips from fretting the strings and a blister on my thumb from strumming. I also have my violin although the lack of practice over the years means that I’m only allowed to play it when everyone else is out! I also finally have a piano again. My parents sold my childhood piano when they moved house (the living/dining room was too small for a three piece suite, dining table and a piano, the table and sofa were deemed of more use). I bought one a couple of years ago, not an upright, but a modern electric piano which sounds and feels like the real thing.
Much of my leisure time over the years has been devoted to making music, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
Thursday, 13 March 2008
So, lying in bed... feeling sorry for myself... I decide to play some music. At which point I fall out with iTunes (again). For some reason iTunes insists on placing it's Album Artwork on my C:/ drive, despite the fact that the default path for iTunes is my external hard drive and all the music and podcasts and everything else are stored there! Everytime I open iTunes I delete the Artwork folder from my C:/ drive and everytime I open iTunes it puts a copy back there. Megabytes worth. And as my laptop's hard drive isn't huge (only 80GB) I am sensitive about what lives there! It looks like a fight that we are going to keep on having.
The actual music (once we got going) was good though. I finally have managed to get a selection of music into iTunes that covers all eventualities from classic to modern from folk to pop from rap to electric and pretty much anything in between. People who know me will find this amusing as I am not known for my wide ranging musical taste. In fact, until I left school my taste pretty much didn't move beyond 'classical' music. I was given a portable CD player for my 18th birthday, and I think that it was several years before I owned more than half a dozen CDs!
At school I studied music fairly seriously, and indeed I took a year of a music degree before I realised that anything that I would be qualified for upon finishing wasn't actually what I wanted as a career. To the exclusion of pretty much everything else I always chose the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, et al.
Rich has been trying to update my woeful musical knowledge ever since we have known each other (his tastes are wide ranging and varied) but he has many years of neglect to counteract!
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
I got down to the platform to find passengers 8 deep at the doors and 4 minutes until the next train. When it arrived it was predictably packed to the gills. Decided to wait for the next one. Another 4 minutes. Still packed.
In the end I turned round, went to Stratford and caught a train back to London from there... North Greenwich now empty! Go figure.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Firstly, I used to listen to the radio... which of course would give me a news bulletin once an hour. Since the advent of iPod and iTunes and other such things I don't really listen to the radio. Very occasionally if I am in the car I will have the radio on, but as you can get gadgets that let the iPod play through the car stereo I don't even do that much any more.
Secondly, I used to watch the news on TV. We hardly ever watch TV in the evenings (opting instead for DVDs or movies) and if we do it isn't generally a terrestrial channel, so no news bulletins anyway. I also used to watch breakfast news, but now I generally spend that time with my laptop.
Lastly, I used to read the free newspapers that litter the Underground. I do still sometimes pick these up, but I can usually find something else I'd rather do on my tube journey than read the Lite, the Metro or the London Paper.
So, what would I rather spend my time on the Tube doing? What do I do with my laptop when I could be watching breakfast news?
It's that interactive internet again. I subscribe to about a dozen blogs - most of which are updated daily, so I usually read those in the morning. I also subscribe to a fair few podcasts - again most of which are updated daily, so I have to download them... which I then listen to on my journey to and from work. I suppose that I could add a news update podcast?
I work on the basis that if there is anything going on in the world that I really need to know about, somebody will tell me... and otherwise, well most of the so called news is just celebrity watching and the like - and that I can live without!
Monday, 10 March 2008
I do not really think that moving the temporary bus stop to within a few feet of the actual bus stop is returning the bus stop to use. I do not think that moving the (mostly dead) flowers from the immediate vicinity of the seats and piling them next to the shelter (largely blocking the pavement) is cleaning the area. I hope that their infrastructure controller will order the 'out of use' sign to be removed from the stop and the temporary stop taken away. Then all will be in good order.
Shortly after I wrote at lunch I had to pop out to the post office (about a block from my office). At which point it started raining in earnest again, despite having shown no signs of raining whatsoever during lunch up until this point. Having finally dried myself out I was therefore soggy and damp all over again. I suppose I should be grateful that I got from the bus to the house this evening without any serious showers falling on me.
I got to the bus stop to find that the temporary bus stop had been moved back to the regular bus stop, not officially - I think by disgruntled passengers who wanted some shelter. I had to wait a while until a bus arrived. Not so happy as I was soaking wet (managing The Stick and an umbrella in high winds just isn't feasible). I got on the bus only to find that my ticket had expired and my Oyster had no money. So I had to get back off the bus again and walk all the way down to the newsagents to put some money on the card. Then I had to wait another twenty minutes for a North Greenwich bus to turn up (clearly buses don't like it when it rains).
Two hours door to door. Unimpressed.
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Our fish pond is pretty extensive. It is around 5m across and maybe 7m long. It takes two lots of netting to completely cover it. It has to be done though, otherwise the heron that lurks around here thinks we are providing an all you can eat buffet! The upside is that ever since we've had the netting our fish population (and frog population if it comes to that) has blossomed.
You can see our big fish (Jaws) and some of his gold fish friends here. There are about twenty times as many mud coloured brown fish as there are gold fish, you can only see them when the sun falls onto the pond at just the right angle!
We finally managed to get the old netting off the pond. It was a bit of a rigmarole as it was all tangled up in the remains of last year's reeds. We then managed to eventually get the new netting installed. We had to encourage a few pairs of frogs out of the swampy corner where the netting had fallen into the pond and collected leaves.
Here are some of our latest inhabitants. These new frogs are quite camera shy, not like the inhabitants of our smaller 'frog' pond! All set for frog-spawn season now. Let's just hope that the fish don't eat it all!
Whilst out in the sunshine I did a few other bits of tidying up. We're supposed to be getting a really big storm next week, so we moved the potted plants into shelter. I also potted my cherry tree I bought the other week. Very strangely I have a Yucca plant living in my garden. Probably not the usual habitat you might expect. I have had this particular plant for over 10 years! Originally it lived in a (much) smaller pot on my desk in my office. Over the years it followed me around various office moves, until we moved into a tower block with 'serviced' planting, and all the old plants were to be left behind! So, at this point the Yucca came home with me. For a while we tried various locations around the house, and the plant got bigger and bigger... and eventually ended up outside. Its been about 18 months now, and no particular ill-effects have been noted!
I did potter around in the afternoon, to the extent of playing the piano for a while. I murdered some Mozart and bashed up some Beethoven... it had been a while and my fingers were slow and generally a bit rusty.
Saturday night is movie night in our house. Last night we watched "We are Marshall". It tells the tale of a University whose entire football team and nearly entire coaching staff was killed in a plane crash and their subsequent struggle to rebuild the programme. It was a really good film, especially if you like football... but even if you don't. It stars the lovely Matthew McConaughey and the equally lovely Matthew Fox.
Watching a football movie reminded me of course how sad I am because the NFL season is over, although I am still enjoying the glory of the Giants winning the Superbowl. Football is one of my favourite sports to watch - it is one of the few sports I can enjoy as much when I don't really care who wins the game as when I do. Also, as there are (relatively) few games during the season it is really easy to keep up completely with what is going on.
The upside to Spring is that the baseball season is nearly upon us. I love watching baseball, but because there are so many games played all through the week it means that mostly they are on in the middle of the night during the week - getting up and going to work and baseball are usually mutually exclusive to me! However, the advent of the V+ Box and total absence of much to watch on regular TV means that I might even get to see a few more games this year.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
We took ourselves off to a restaurant in Soho. The food was pretty good, although my boss perplexed the waiting staff by enjoying his starter so much that he asked for another helping as desert. It took several attempts before the waitress would believe him!
I found the ladies toilets particularly worthy of comment. The sinks in the toilets were the sort of rectangular free standing ones, and the bases were full of large pebbles. I asked my colleagues if it was the same in the gents... apparently not. Perhaps gentlemen can't be trusted not to break things with the rocks?
Whilst we were at our table what appeared to be a coach party arrived at the restaurant. As we sat and watched a seemingly endless stream of people entered the restaurant and went down the stairs to the basement dining area. It appeared that the basement had some sort of tardis like properties!
Following dinner we decided to go to a bar for cocktails. This was accomplished not on foot, not in a taxi, but by rickshaw! I had always wanted to try one of these - so it was quite fun! There were six of us so we took two with three in each, and there was some what of a race to see which would arrive first! At £3 per person it might have been a bit more expensive than a taxi (we only went from just off Shaftesbury Avenue to just off Piccadilly Circus - which for those not familiar with London is a ten minute walk)... but it was definitely a unique experience, and quite a lot of fun!
Friday, 7 March 2008
Disappointingly the phone has no memory card - but as I have my camera back now I shan't be needing to use it too much to take photos. The screen is also quite small compared to the Nokia 5300, but then - let's face it, so is the phone. I'm a bit worried that I shall never find it in my handbag as it is so compact.
So, I shall spend tomorrow playing with my new toy. How exciting!
Thursday, 6 March 2008
This morning there was a guitarist playing (I think it was the same one who was playing Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring the other morning), totally brilliant. Yesterday evening was a saxophonist, again very excellent. I was particularly taken by his sign which read "Support live music before its too late. I'm not getting any younger". He was a gentleman of mature years, it must be said.
Shortly after this I had one of those 'annoying commuter' experiences. The man on the escalator in front of me (with his large suitcase and laptop bag) decided not to walk down and stopped, fair enough. But on the left hand side of the escalator. Why would you do that? He stood and looked around, and saw me standing behind him and another person in front both standing on right (as is right (pardon the pun) and proper). Yet he remained steadfast and caused all the people walking down to weave around him. What an idiot.
I've figured out the trick to morning commuting. If one arranges to arrive at North Greenwich just around 8am there is a train that arrives at Platform 2 and then turns round and goes back to Central London. Guaranteed seat!
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
This morning I called the insurance company to make a claim on the insurance. That was the easy part. If I paid the £30 excess they told me they would be able to send me a new phone in the next 2-3 days. Sure, I thought easy. Not so much. They don't have my phone (a rather lovely Nokia 5300). They were however able to offer three alternatives, two Nokias or an Ericsson. I've always like Nokias but the ones that they offered were a bit basic looking, and one of them didn't even have a camera! The other alternative was a Sony Ericsson. Not bad phones - Rich has had several and likes them a lot. I still wanted my phone though - having just bought a new memory card for it (at some expense) - no problem the 'fulfilment department' could source a phone - trouble was that can take up to 10 days!
Further research, however, concluded that the new memory card was a waste of money as it is twice as large as the phone supports (oops). Back to the drawing board. Doesn't really matter which phone it is (it'll only last until the next upgrade anyway)... so I decided to go with the Sony, as Rich pointed out - at least he can help me understand it! So, it should be here in 2-3 days. Hurrah.
Moral of the story, don't let expensive electronic equipment collide with sharp edges. No good will come of it.
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
My mother works in a very modern office building. Glassy and tall with non-opening windows as the whole place is air-conditioned. Even they are not exempt from the scourge of pigeons though!
Recently on the outside of one of the non-opening windows a pigeon decided to set up home. Not just a temporary perch but a precariously constructed nest! Despite the constant occupation of the office on the other side of the glass Mrs Pigeon started to nest and produced two eggs.
However, the constant scrutiny did unsettle the avian mother. Eventually the unlikely nest was deserted. Due to the non-opening nature of the windows the two forlorn abandoned eggs remain in the nest constructed on the perilous ledge as a monument to the uncertainties of modern urban dwelling for pigeons!
Monday, 3 March 2008
As I left the end of the street I managed to miss two 486s and a 422. Not a promising start. I then had to schlep up towards the Cemetery Lane bus stop. The roadworks are still performing their 'rolling roadblock' along Littleheath and have now started down towards the dip before the Barracks crossroad. This means that my normal bus stop (with it's attendant live travel information) has been relocated - presumably to the other side of the roadworks. Far too far. So, up towards the Village then. Problem is that bus stop has also been re-located.
The accident on New Years Day (that's right over two months ago now) for some reason means that the bus stop must remain out of use. Presumably because it has been utilised as one of those roadside shrines. I think that this recent habit of laying floral tributes by the road is generally an eyesore (as in the case of this one the flowers are long since dead and the soft toys bedraggled by the weather) and even worse dangerous. They are distracting to other road users - and the fact that they are marking the site of an accident clearly demonstrates that the stretch of road in question is not safe.
I walked past the shrine to the temporarily re-located bus stop. The annoying thing about all this is that both bus stops have been re-located away fro each other in opposite directions, and there is now no bus stop with anywhere to sit. Not good for me and the Stick. I've written to London Buses to ask when they are going to bring back the Cemetery Lane bus stop!
Eventually a bus going to North Greenwich did arrive; over-subscribed as usual. A charming lady kindly offered me and the Stick her seat. Kind, yet very unusual. Generally people pretend that the stick and I are invisible. The Jubilee Line confounded me by running with no difficulty at all (and again a kind gentleman gave me and the Stick a seat).
I arrived at the office to discover that there are builders working in our building (oh no, not again)! They immediately have a black mark against their name for leaving the front door propped open meaning that anyone can walk in and out without the security code. They continued through the morning to accrue black marks by drilling and hammering and generally making a racket (even though I'm pretty certain there are to be agreements about the hours during which noisy working is allowed).
So halfway through the day... I could do with a little sleep now, I wonder if my boss would consider a sofa bed in the Board Room?!
Sunday, 2 March 2008
A few tweaks here and there - you probably wouldn't notice if I hadn't told you! I think that the overall effect is sharper though.
I've managed to re-do the whole "3 column layout" and fit the header image properly across the page. I've also added a 'favicon' of my own to replace that provided by Blogger.
Many thanks to the invaluable "Tricks for New Bloggers" without whose advice and help I couldn't have managed.
Mothering Sunday is a 'moveable feast' (and that almost deserves a whole post to itself). Moveable feasts are those who dates vary according to Easter. Easter itself is calculated by the rule of Computus which I am not even going to attempt to explain... but if you are really interested you can go read about it on Wikipedia! Anyway... I digress. Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent (three weeks before Easter) - unlike Mother's Day in the US which is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
The 'mother' in Mothering Sunday refers not to a person but to the church. The practice was annually to visit ones 'mother' church and thus families would by virtue of this practice be reunited on this Sunday.
However it came about, Happy Mother's Day to all the Mums!
Saturday, 1 March 2008
I've spent a busy afternoon with the photos on my computer. Vista and it's organisational skills. Can't be beaten. I decided to 'tag' all my photos. Those of you familiar with Facebook will be familiar with 'tagging' (although it is other people on Facebook). It is a superb way to organise photos... especially for the permanently confused who devise complicated filing structures and then can't remember where they left things! Each photo can have as many 'tags' as you need... things like 'family' or 'friends' or whatever. The next time you want to find a photo - simple stuff, just go to the tag lists and there they all are. Next stop, finish transferring all the old non-digital photos onto the computer... my memories will be totally 21st Century!