Sunday 28 September 2008

All about Sunday

Another Sunday full of sport. This afternoon was the first ever F1 night race in Singapore. Eagerly anticipated and hugely hyped. Also from the point of view of night-time, very anti-climatic. Apart from the reflections on the body of the cars and shots which showed the night sky you really couldn't tell it was night-time. It was actually rather like a cloudy day.

The race itself was pretty good. A horrible crash by Renault's Piquet (amazingly he wasn't hurt) brought out the first safety car of the afternoon. A happy few drivers had been brought in for pitstops as soon as the crash happened in anticipation of the safety car (Alonso included). An unfortunate couple didn't and then had to stop under the safety car but before the pit lane opened as they were running out of fuel. Oops, that's a rule infraction. Best of all was another Ferrari FUBAR with their ridiculous automated car-release system. Yep, again. Massa was signaled to drive off with the fuel rig still attached to his car, almost into the path of Sutil, whose quick reactions avoided an accident. Realising the fuel rig was trailing from his car Massa stopped at the end of the pit lane whilst the Ferrari crew had to run down and fix it. Dumped him right at the back of the pack.

Worse to come though... Massa (and Ferrari) are given a drive through penalty for unsafe release in the pit lane. He isn't the only one though. Both Kubica and Rosberg are given stop-go penalties (like a drive through, but worse as you have to stop in your pit box for ten seconds). This is for pitting under the safety car before the lane opened. This is where it gets ridiculous. These infactions happened around lap 16/17. The safety car came in on lap 19. The stewards started investigating the incidents on lap 23 (a lap after they looked into Massa even though his incident was after these!). In the intervening four laps since the safety car came in Rosberg, leading the race, has had the chance to build up a nice big lead, so the stop-go doesn't even really hurt him that much! Ridiculous.

There is still to be another safety car in this race... after that though it all calms down a bit - apart from the delightful moment when Kimi put his Ferrari in the wall. I like Kimi but I hate Ferrari, so that amused me. Alonso wins the race, but Lewis takes third, to increase his lead in the Championship again. Ferrari manage a total of no points, oh dear.

All in all I'm not a huge fan of this new track. Not enough chances for overtaking, the walls are a bit tight leading to otherwise avoidable accidents... there really are too many road races now, what with this and Valencia added to Monaco. There should only be one, the original and the best... Monaco.

Currently I'm sitting watching the NFL - which is what we do in this house on Sundays during the season from six o'clock onwards. My Giants have a bye week this week, but my Jaguars have managed a win and it looks like the Jets will too. Triumphant!

Baseball is practically in the post-season now. Unfortunately despite my conviction that the Yankees would make an amazing come back to be the Wild Card team I was wrong and they didn't. Happily my second favourite team the Cubbies will be there, so maybe this is the year for them to break their curse!

Saturday 27 September 2008

Technology failure

So... the new Dell charger for my laptop finally arrived. And guess what. It still didn't work. Bah. So I decided to contact their online 'live chat' (after failing to get any progress on the phone and being held in a queue for five minutes on a not free phone line). Eventually, after about 15 minutes, I managed to get onto the live chat... and after another ten minutes it finally connected. The whole exercise took nearly an hour... and included numerous ridiculous exchanges. I'm quite convinced that the people who man the live chat have no technical expertise whatsoever and are merely following flow-chart diagnostic guides. We eventually agreed that there must be a problem with the motherboard (which my rudimentary internet searches had already suggested). As the computer is two weeks (two weeks!) out of warranty I have to pay for repairs, so the agent arranged for me to be called the next day with a quote. £190 - which is about half the cost of the damn machine in the first place.

I instantly started looking for alternatives. Which, to be fair there are. Not only there are alternatives, but it would seem that the equally likely problem could be that the power jack needs repairing/replacing. A much cheaper operation. Would the Dell technicians have checked this or would they have just changed the motherboard and cost me £190 anyway. Sadly the best option for the repairs is out in Harrow (they were the only people I could find who weren't going to charge me just to open up the laptop and see what the problem is). Sadly because Harrow is a very long way from SE7.

I have, however, managed to get an internet connection of sorts (in addition to the desktop). I bought a wireless USB device which couldn't be made to work (of course) but a cable out the back of the router has done the trick and the office laptop can just about manage the job. Back on line... and what a backlog. It's been a busy week at work and I haven't had much time to do anything so I've huge amounts of email and blog to catch up with.

So this is democracy...

I get home from work last night to find a brown envelope. Brown envelopes are generally considered ominous. Few people use them... two I can think of are the Hospital (who I can recognise immediately as they put their postcode in their postage franking) and the Tax man (never a good thing). This one however had 'Courts Service' stamped on the front. Immediately I wondered who was suing me. The reality was almost as bad... a summons for jury service. The fact that I might get called for jury service had never even occurred to me, and I can't honestly say that I'm too pleased by this. Yes, democracy in action - there is no way to get out of it. With really good reason you can apply for deferral... and criminals and those lacking mental capacity are exempt... but that is it.

I immediately sent Boss-one a text message to find out if the company still pays me whilst I'm not working. I knew he'd reply straight away as he's surgically attached to his phone. He has no idea, he's considered the possibility about as much as I have.

The shocking thing is that you don't get compensated whilst you are doing jury service for loss of earning. You get paid an absolutely nominal daily amount (about £30) which covers absolutely nothing in this modern world. Clearly the Courts Service need to adjust their allowances for inflation.

Good news is, though, that my random purchase of a EuroMillions ticket yesterday (due to the immense 'must be won' prize fund) netted me £13. Added to the £10 on last week's lottery draw I'm definitely making a profit.

Monday 22 September 2008

Late night NFL

Does it get much better than this? Sky's NFL games tonight started with the Giants hosting Cincinnati. Superb - I was quite convinced that the might of the Giants would overcome the Bengals. Maybe... almost... eventually. What a game. The lead changed hands... well I lost count but maybe six times. The Giants finally won in overtime (always a scary way to win). Even scarier for me as I'd made the mistake of choosing my own team in our weekly NFL pool (everyone chooses a winner, the complication being you can only choose a team once during the regular season). I was on the edge of my seat.

Even worse, the second game was Indianapolis (yeah, one of the will-they-won't-they potential sixteen-and-oh teams from last season)... which we missed the start of due to the Giants going to overtime. I didn't have much faith in the Jags ability to overcome Indianapolis and "Eli's big brother" (yep, only a Giants fan has it that way round!). The game started pretty slow, and I complained that this was going to be a let down after the Giants game. How wrong can a person be. Although the Jags started behind (for a good while) they managed to pull it back thanks to big second and third quarters. Just ahead going into the fourth somehow it all got tied up. Now it has to be said, Garrad (Quarterback) wasn't having much of a game. Certainly not in terms of throwing (some excellent running plays). They managed some amazing running drives and the clock is ticking and ticking and running down. But, Indianapolis do the unthinkable and get a touchdown to tie the game. Happily my boys still have time-outs... and they move down the field to be in field goal range (just about). It's fifty-one yards (four from eight I'm told our kicker for field goals over fifty yards). I'm biting my nails, sitting on the floor (I fell off the edge of the seat)... I've seen to many failed field goals to have any expectation. Wait a moment... he makes it... it is good! Jaguars win!!! Jaguars win!!!

So... this weekend, my teams are two for two (so far). The Jets are playing San Diego tomorrow night as the Monday night game, so they're on TV too. In an ideal world I get home from work on time... eat dinner... get a nap and wake up for the game. We'll see.

The Jags endgame was scarier than the Superbowl. I always had faith that the Giants would win the Superbowl (even though it got scary at the end)... let's face it... I bought champagne to celebrate the day before I was so confident. I know that the Jags was only one game (and so early in the season)... but nobody wants to lose - and lets face it, they haven't been that good so far this season!

NFL - gotta love it! Happy until January now, me!

Sunday 21 September 2008

Tell me why...

... I don't like Sundays.

My laptop is giving me grief. Again. Turned it on this morning to find no AC power (again) running off battery (again). Given that I've not been able to charge the battery since I replaced the AC charger a few weeks ago that wasn't good as the battery power is beginning to run low.

This time the AC adapter appears to be still working (lights are on on the power pack) it is just that the damn computer doesn't admit that the AC power supply exists. Hopefully when the official Dell version arrives later this week that will fix the problem. If not we're pretty much sunk. I've just paid off the Hire Purchase. I own the machine and the warranty has run out. Typical.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Going mobile!

A blog isn't just for sitting at home with your PC (or your laptop) these days the internet is mobile. This means that you can now pick up 'London Calling' when you are out and about (thanks to the good people at Wirenode). To read 'London Calling' from your mobile phone go to this address: 

The Occasional Tourist - Part Six, London Bridge

Yesterday lunchtime I took a short hop on the Jubilee Line from Green Park down to London Bridge. The reason for my journey? World Traders were organising a sheep drive over London Bridge.

Unfortunately my lunch-break happened too late for me to actually witness the sheep crossing the bridge but I did arrive just in time to see the sheep being taken back to their truck for the journey home.

Here's what happened. About 500 Liverymen (and women) from around the City took the opportunity to take turns driving the sheep across the bridge. This is the exercise of an ancient privilege (of hearsay and legend rather than documented evidence) which allowed Freemen to drive sheep across London Bridge (thought to stem from the fact that Freemen of the City were exempt from Bridge tolls/taxes and London Bridge is the oldest and at one time only bridge over the Thames). My parents (both Freemen of the City - as am I) both took part, wearing robes and so I'm told straw boaters (that would be something to see). For more about the Sheep Drive see this report from the Telegraph.

Some of the 15 sheep

London Bridge

Far left - the Corporation of the City of London wash the bridge!

Whilst I was there I took the opportunity to walk across London Bridge to Monument and back. There isn't much to see at Monument right now as the eponymous Monument itself is being cleaned. The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London and if laid down would reach from where it stands to the site of the Bakery in Pudding Lane where the fire started. The Great Fire of London burned for four days and nights and decimated large parts of old London including the original St Paul's Cathedral and Guildhall along with thousands of homes and 87 churches. Only five deaths were documented but hundreds of thousands were left homeless. The fire did effectively wipe out any remainders of the Plague (1665) and also allowed the redesign of some parts of London - including many of the beautiful churches designed by Christopher Wren, the current St Paul's Cathedral and a new Guildhall.


Just after crossing the Thames looking east (or west) will afford views of another London curiosity. Some examples of the elevated walkways that populate the City. Part of a post-war planning initiative these were imposed on many developments through the 60s and 70s. Much was built but little was connected, which means that largely these remain unused.

Elevated walkway

I walked back across the bridge to London Bridge to get the tube back to my office. There are quite good views each way from the Bridge up and down the Thames.

The Thames (looking East)

The Thames, Black Cab included (looking West)

City Dragon

London Bridge must be one of the ugliest main line stations in London - probably matched only by Euston and the new frontage of Kings Cross.

London Bridge (including red buses)
Arriving back at North Greenwich in the evening I took the opportunity to capture Canary Wharf with a lovely sunset and some evening shots of the O2.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Amphibian friends

It's been a while since I posted pictures of my amphibian friends. Not that they haven't been around - they have been visiting the kitchen (and the other night even as far as the lobby) practically every evening. They've become very used to hopping on my hand and taking the taxi back to the Frog Pond! Tonight, however, they all seemed to be in the pond together (I counted six at one point!).

Saturday 13 September 2008


It must have been the nature of the week... the whole chained to the desk, head down, deeply concentrating vibe that inhabited this week; but today I felt remarkably creative. I spent the morning scanning old photos into the computer - mine this time, rather than my parents' to put together online albums.

I had to disturb this pleasant pass-time for a trip to the optician. Happily my eyes are healthy (although I must be getting old as I had to have the puff-off-air test for the first time) but unsurprisingly my prescription had altered as my vision had deteriorated. I had guessed this, as the incidences of managing without my glasses has decreased to pretty much not at all unless I'm watching TV in the living room (our living room is VERY small). I can't even see my work computer or the TV in the bedroom now without my glasses. Ah well. I chose a very nice pair of frames (which were happily remarkably cheap) and then came the lenses. The frames I chose were £89 (which considering they were from a 'designer' range was pretty good) and the lenses came to £150. Ouch! The problem is that I like Reactions lenses which negates the need for me to have sunglasses. That is an extra £60. The cheapest lenses available were £90. Those weren't the first ones offered me... oh no. The first ones were £150 (not even the most expensive) I flatly told the sales assistant that I wasn't paying over £200 just for the lenses!

This afternoon I carried on with my creative vibe and got musical. First a little time with the piano. A bit rusty as I haven't played in a while - so I murdered Mozart for a while before moving onto Lloyd-Webber and the like. I find it very difficult to play and sing unless I know the song really well so I decided that I might go and take my guitar out of mothballs instead. I only play the guitar in the sense that I can strum chords to accompany myself (classical guitar and I parted company when I was around eleven after a short and not very profitable relationship). I was delighted to find that Audacity (which I can't even remember why I installed now) allows me to plug in the microphone and record my singing. It even then exports it to MP3. After rediscovering some old favourites (Danny Boy, Amazing Grace and more) I remembered why it is that one should regularly practice. Not just so that one improves... those who don't play the guitar regularly get soft fingers. Those fingers get sore from fretting the strings... and thumbs get sore from strumming. I am finding it painful to type with my left hand now as the fingers are extremely sore for that couple of hours... hence I shall now stop and go nurse my poor fingers!

Friday 12 September 2008


I seem to spend a lot of my time using email and the internet. Whether at home or at work I seem to be pretty much permanently attached to a computer.

I increasingly find email an irksome way to communicate. Generally speaking the email system is overstretched. Example: at work they email server has a filter attached to it. Every incoming email is scanned and those that are flagged (whether it be for content or sender) are caught in the filter. On an average day between 85-90% of the email received by our company domain is rejected by the filter. Of the fraction of email traffic that anyone actually wants to read you then have all the other things that might go wrong. Often enough it will be wrongly stopped by a spam filter, or the person you are emailing's server is down, or the attachments are too large and it bounces back... and on, and on. It used to be that email was instant (like instant messaging) but it seems more and more frequently to take the same amount of time as posting a letter and having that go on a round trip.

I've increasingly been turning to other mediums to express myself online. First there was MySpace. MySpace and I didn't last. I got fed up of repeated Friend Requests from people I didn't know and from people who certainly would never be my friends if I met them socially. Next  I moved onto Facebook. Facebook and I still get on pretty well. Apart from a handful of people I met on Facebook via an MS group my Facebook rule is 'only people I know'.  I still find it an excellent way to keep up with friends who are spread pretty much globally. I have also tried Bebo (breifly, a long time ago) and Friends Reunited - their limited appeal (especially geogrphically) makes them not very worthwhile for me.

If Facebook is too much (all those irritating applications, and people constantly 'poking' you) then how about Twitter. It's pretty much the 'status' bit of Facebook. It allows you to 'Tweet' short bursts just about as often as you have something to say. You can also link Twitter to your blog so it tells the world you've made a blog post and you can share links that way (if you're using Firefox using a handy add-on).

It doesn't stop there though. There is a whole internet out there, and the best thing is to be able to share what you find and what you're doing with other people. There are lots of ways you can do this... the two that I use are Stumbleupon and Tumblr. Stumbleupon allows you to select interests and rank pages. Once you've installed the toolbar you can press a button and a page that matches your interests will be delivered to your browser.

Tumblr is like a scrapbook. It allows you to collect pretty much anything from pretty much anywhere and put it all together in one place.

This is scratching the surface. There are dozens (and dozens) of other sites. The best ones to use to get the most out fo the experience is to find ones people you know are using or recruit your friends to use them too. The whole community thing really enhances the experience... otherwise you feel like you are sitting talking to yourself!

So now, when I post a blog here on Blogger before you know it Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed all know about it! If I'm talking to myself it sure happens in a lot of places at once.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Strange urban wildlife moments

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my doctor's waiting room. This is a light and airy double height space with some sort of plexi-glass (or equal approved) roof. Suddenly there was a rattling and scratching and general loud noise. I looked up to see what was going on and on the roof I could see the outline of two bird-shaped feet pottering about... with a vaguer fuzzy outline of a bird-shaped body. One of the burgeoning local rook population had stopped to see if there was anything edible for a bird. I'm thinking he was disappointed.

I arrived home from the doctor and parked up in the driveway. As I got out of the car there was a flurry of squirrel tail. A small squirrel was waiting for me to get out of the way so he could rush across the driveway and back to his tree. In his mouth was the most enormous conker... clearly a prize worth having! As I unlocked the front door the squirrel darted across the drive, still clutching his conker-prize (half the size of his head it was, once would have been the apple of a small boy's eye) and shot back up the tree.

My final wildlife moment came in the evening when Rich found Small Toad in the kitchen (he was checking for snails after the recent rainy weather). Small Toad doesn't usually get much farther than a few foot from the door, but this time he'd made it all across the room and was about to hide behind the freezer. Luckily Rich managed to dissuade him just in time and I scooped him up and took him back to the Frog Pond where he joined King Frog for the rest of the evening.

Monday 8 September 2008

Freddie and Fannie - or how the US Government saved the world

Front page news on the free paper this morning (that which is the Metro) was about the $3trn to 'save the world'.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been (in essence) underwritten by the US Government (by means of the tax dollar) to ensure their continued healthy financial operations. The first thing I was pleased to discover was, despite the pictures of a building labelled 'Freddie Mac' both these institutions have proper names - Fannie Mae is short for Federal National Mortgage Association, Freddie Mac short for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. My mental images of two old timers from the Wild West - the finely dressed bar lady with the garter and the old chap smoking his pipe on the porch have now gone up in smoke!

The exact function of these two companies is difficult to understand as there is no direct equivalent here in the UK. Essentially they buy mortgages from approved lenders and sell them on to investors. Between them they apparently guarantee (or own) about half the mortgages in the US. Failure of one (or both) would have brought chaos upon the already unstable global financial markets.

The financial benefit is being seen already as shares in Asia and across Europe rose by up more than 3% already today.

As most people agree that the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US was at least partly (if not wholly) to blame for the start of the credit crunch it is only right that the solution to the problem should start on that side of the pond too. The BBC had this excellent article on who is to blame for the credit crunch.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Sports on Sunday

Having celebrated the excellent end to this afternoon's Grand Prix it turns out that I was somewhat previous in my celebrations. It isn't over until the Fat Lady Sings... or in the case of Forumla One until the official results are published. The stewards decided that Lewis gained an unfair advantage over Kimi in the 'off-track' passing incident (even though he gave the place back) and fined him 25 seconds... which dropped him down to third place. Mclaren will of course appeal this - but it all takes time.

I'm now enjoying the start of the NFL season. Having seen the Giants beat the Redskins in the first game (and thus make an excellent start as reigning Superbowl Champions!) I was eager to see how my other favourite teams were going to fare. The Jets were playing Miami... the Jets with their new quaterback Brett Favre and Miami with their new quarterback Chad Pennington (who used to play for the Jets!). Happily the Jets won (although it got a bit hairy at the end). The Jaguars dissapointingly managed to lose to Tennessee... two out of three isn't bad, I suppose. Everyone in this house is now cheering on Cleveland as they take on Dallas. Sundays as they should be - lots and lots of football.

The Yankees are playing Seattle at the moment... and winning in the second inning. Although they are still way back in the AL East I refuse to accept that they won't be making the post season until I see the letter 'E' in the elimination column. No matter how unlikely I keep the faith until it is mathematically impossible!


This afternoon we were racing at Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. It was appearing to be a fairly unremarkable race until the very end of the race. About half an hour before the end of the race the notice came up on the screen "Weather Forecast - Rain expected in twenty minutes". Oh yes. We do love a nice fall of rain.

We're three laps before the end of the race when the rain starts to fall. Kimi is leading Lewis and both are struggling to keep their cars on the track as the dry tires lose grip on the wet track. Lewis tries to pass Kimi and runs wide. He's sensible enough to give the place he gains off the track back, and then goes for it again. He passes Kimi... but almost immediately lose sthe place back to Kimi. Cars are all over the place, traffic appears. Then Kimi spins his car into the wall! Kimi is out of the race. Several middle placed cars pit and change onto intermediate tires. Lewis and Massa stay out and somehow manage to keep their cars on the track as they finish the final lap. Lewis practically creeps over the line to win the race. What a superlative finish! Lewis is one step closer to taking the Championship this year.

Sunday catch up

It's been another busy week, and another busy weekend. Yesterday I was off down to see my folks - the primary purpose of the visit (apart from catching up of course) was to help them set up their broadband. Mission accomplished, my parents finish their migration to the twenty-first century. We did it online using their dial-up 46kbps connection... it would have been quicker to do it by phone!

Whilst I was there my mother was going through the drawers in the sideboard, looking for more photos for me to scan into the computer. The drawers of the sideboard are an amazing collection of years of collected flotsam and jetsam. There are ashtrays (in a house of non-smokers) assorted old coins, cards from various occasions, and all sorts of other items presumed lost forever; amongst which: a thermometer, a tape splicer for 8-track tapes, a radiator key, a music box and something for drawing curves. Uncluttered is something that is never going to apply to my parents, and with genes like that what hope is there for me?!

Saturday night movies last night were an interesting collection. First up was 'King Solomon's Mines'. Not a new movie, it must be admitted. Chosen by me because I loved the book when I read it as a kid. Deeply (deeply) disappointing film. The script was terrible (laughable sometimes, and not in a good way), the acting was awful - there really was absolutely nothing to recommend it. The poor man's Indiana Jones (and that is a bit insulting to Indy). Do not (on any account) bother with this one. I'm afraid it get's 0 out of 10. Next up was 'Hot Tamale' - pure comedy. I was worried it was perhaps going to be a bit silly - but as it turned out it was just pure fun. Although it was all about a guy who wants to play salsa they didn't go too heavy on the whole salsa bit. 6 out of 10. Here's hoping that movies by post are going to be sending us some of the new releases we are eagerly awaiting soon!

This morning was completely disastrous. I woke up and turned on the rubbish TV, as I usually do on Sunday; made myself breakfast (tea and croissants) again as I usually do on Sunday; and settled down to the Internet, as I usually do on Sunday. The funny thing was that the laptop was in power-saving mode with the screen brightness turned down. Oops, I thought, the power cable must have fallen out. Nope, power connected. Ah well, I thought, the power cable isn't plugged in properly. Checked the socket. Cable plugged in. Then I noticed that the little green light on the power-pack wasn't lit. Uh-oh. Tried another socket. Nothing doing. Tried every socket I could find. The power lead is dead. Quickly turned off the computer to preserve what little battery power was left.

Off I raced to PC World. It's quarter past ten and they don't open until eleven. Then I decide that actually Maplin Electronics might be a better bet anyway. Rich and I ran across it a few weeks ago when we were on the way somewhere, and noted how useful it might be that we had one so close by. Where were we going? Where is Maplin? I get to Maplin just as they open at eleven and explain to the (very young) sales assistant that I need a power adapter for my laptop. He shows me one that has many connectors and will fix into 'any' laptop. I purchase the power cable (for £35 ouch!). I drive all the way back home (two junctions down the A2) and settle down to plug in the computer. Amazingly none of the eight or so connectors fit into the power output on the back of the computer.

Back into the car. Off down the A2 to Maplin. I explain to a different (very young) sales assistant that I want to return the power adapter I just bought as it doesn't fit my computer. This time I have had the foresight to bring my power lead with me. I am given a replacement (which he shows me the output to prove it will fit). Back into the car, back down the A2, back home. Hurrah. The power cable fits! However because it isn't Dell the laptop notes that it isn't the right cable and that the computer may 'work sluggishly' (what even with all the new memory?) but even worse - the battery doesn't charge.

Next I go to eBay and buy a power cable (that will arrive in about a fortnight). Luckily this costs me very little, and even less because I have a free postage voucher. Sorted - just about, although not quite what I had planned for my Sunday morning!

Thursday 4 September 2008

Off on the town...

So, it's time to say goodbye to one of my Saffie colleagues as he heads back to SA. Farewell to Captain Awesome the Human Jukebox; it will certainly be quieter in the office without him!

We're off to have pizza (or something) tonight at our favourite pizza restaurant just off Berkeley Square. We often have difficulty finding anywhere affordable to eat near the office - that's not really Mayfair, is it?! After pizza - who knows? We have various bars and pubs we have frequented, so I daresay we'll go for a drink (or two) somewhere nearby.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Memory boost

Having had my laptop for almost a year I decided this month that it was finally time to treat the machine to a memory update. Groaning away under a mere gigabyte and toiling daily with Vista, Firefox and the rest my increased use for work purposes was pushing the wee machine to its very limits. More than a few programmes open at once and things would move slower and slower - and a certain few memory hogging webpages would bring the entire system to a crashing halt. I ordered the memory at the weekend and two beautiful gigabytes arrived today. Rich kindly fitted the new memory for me (I only do software, not hardware!) - and off we went. Woosh!

Everything is running faster. The default level of RAM use seems to reside below 50% now (previously usually somewhere around 60-70%). Firefox goes faster... Thunderbird goes faster - the graphics card (which shares the RAM) should also now work better. It's all good really!

The thing that they don't tell you when you buy a computer is that although Vista could run with 512 megabytes (technically, apparently) most manufacturers actually recommend 2GB. So why did both the computers we purchased new with Vista installed each only arrive with 1GB? Inexplicable. Now the memory is sorted I think my next aim will be to upgrade my Vista from Home Basic. That's another thing nobody tells you. To fully integrate on a home network requires Premium not Basic. Whilst the PC running Premium can see the laptop the laptop running Basic can't see the PC. Annoying. It also means that the Xbox 360 needs an wireless adaptor as it can't connect to the network via the laptop running Basic! Oh the trials and pitfalls.

Most immediate computer task - connect my parents to Broadband. The poor things currently connect to cyberspace via a dial-up pay-as-you-go connection!

Monday 1 September 2008

A trip to the X-ray Department

The Saturday before last I slipped and fell down the stairs. Bumpity-bump and landed on my bottom. It didn't hurt that much at the time and it didn't really hurt much through the following week. Suddenly over the weekend, for no apparent reason, it suddenly became very painful. It hurt to stand, it hurt to sit and it hurt to lie down... oh yes, and it hurt to move between any one and another. This morning as I struggled to work on the bus I resolved to take myself off to the Doctor (again).

I hate making Doctor's appointments. The surgery has a 'book on the day' policy... which is randomly enforced. Example: if you work in town and aren't around during surgery hours you are supposed to be able to book an appointment the day before to ensure that you don't waste your time. Practicality? Well - the surgery opens its doors at twenty past eight. The phone lines don't open until eight thirty. Smart people visit the surgery in person and all the appointments are gone. Today the best they could do for me was ten to four - not early enough (I was already in work by half eight) and not late enough (around six would be much better). Oh yes, the late appointments seem to only be available by booking (a week in advance the receptionist told me today) or by calling the Duty Doctor at half past four (when you then have to rush to get back in time!).

Off my soap box. The doctor poked and prodded me some (that did the whole pain thing no end of good) and said that I had better go and get an x-ray "just in case". We'll get the results in two weeks she told me, unless it's anything serious. So off I trundled to the hospital (which is fortunately a mere half mile from my house). Although I regularly frequent various outpatients appointments I don't go to the hospital for much else. This was a new experience. Imaging (the x-ray etc. department) was extremely busy. During the time that I was there four trollies came and went and three wheel chairs, plus an assortment of foot traffic. Given that outpatients can't generally keep a schedule when they have one I didn't hold out much hope for a speedy resolution in 'on demand'.

I didn't much envy the trolley patients who were lined up in their nightclothes . I didn't much envy the small boy next to me in a wheelchair (I'm guessing he had a broken leg) whose mother told him to stop complaining as poor children in poorer countries would be grateful for an x-ray when they had a broken leg. I didn't much envy the harassed staff racing around trying to get done and keep everything moving. A stark contrast to the genteel nature of outpatients waiting rooms.

A mere 45 minutes after arriving (I'd guessed it would be two hours) I was asked to put on a baffling hospital gown and remove all items of clothing and jewellery except my underpants. I then had to walk back across the waiting room (oh the indignity) to get the x-ray. The radiographer (?) checked it and told me my doctor would have the results in a fortnight; from this I assume that there is nothing therefore seriously wrong.

This is my favourite bit. The waiting. You'd want to hope there is nothing to tell the time it takes them to find out. My worst ever experience was some years back. I fell ill after a course of steroids and my glands swelled up alarmingly. There were cases of the mumps around at the time and as (apparently) mumps is a notifiable disease the doctors sent me to the hospital for a blood test. A blood test for a contagious disease which took somewhere in the region on two or three months to finally be returned. A good thing it turned out that I didn't have the mumps!