Sunday 26 April 2009

Mixed fortunes in the fish pond

The bad news is that our beautiful coi-carp Jaws was found dead yesterday evening. He's been buried in the shrubbery with some rocks on his grave to make sure scavengers don't dig him up and eat him. His friendly attendance at feeding time will be missed as will his predatory patrolling of the pond which got him his name.

The good news is that the depletion of our fish population isn't as severe as originally thought, and the heron didn't manage to get them all after all. There would appear to be at least twenty or so left - juding from the boiling water at feeding time tonight!

Saturday 25 April 2009

Websites (and things)

Since 2001 I've had my own website. It started small using GeoCities free hosting service (soon to be no more). As the amount of information grew (and particularly the amount of pictures) it became apparent that the limits of GeoCities had been reached. So I got my own domain name and hosting package. This meant that uploading no longer happened via the 'Quick Upload' facility on Geocities web page but instead meant that I had to reacquaint myself with an FTP client (last used as an anonymous user to download internet data back in the early days!).

The company I bought my hosting from recommended FTP Commander. Free and easy to use. We had a long and happy relationship... until the advent of my laptop which required a new install. I was distraught to find that the free version of FTP Commander no longer existed. Paid for versions only. Well, it is my number one rule of computing that I won't pay for anything if I can find an 'equal and approved' free version. Step up Mozilla and the free and easy to use FileZilla. Installed and ready to go.

Up to the time of the new laptop and the advent of Office 2007 I'd also been using Frontpage as my HTML editor of choice. The demise of Frontpage in 2007 meant that I had to revert to my extremely old (and creaky) version of Dreamweaver (only about 5 or 6 releases out of date). Good enough but a little tempremental (possibly not entirely compatible with Windows Vista?).  Imagine my delight the other week when I discovered that Microsoft were releasing (for free) Sharepoint... which is basically Frontpage reimagined. How happy I was to have the old familiar programme back (although, of course, new and improved).

The best thing was that as this is entirely compatible with Windows Vista (obviously) the whole integrated upload (publish your site) would work... and I wouldn't need my FTP client. The advantage of this way is that the computer will monitor and update only the changed files. One small snag in between me and automated bliss. I had no idea what my FTP password was. FTP Commander had a box you could tick (or an option somewhere) which let you unmask the password. Filezilla had no such option. Then followed an hour or so of fruitless internet search... the only result being programmes that want to charge you between $15 and $20.

Stop right there, put your credit card away. There is an amazingly simple solution. I share this here in hopes that other forgetful types will be saved my frustration. In Filezilla open the site manager. Right click on the site and choose 'export'. Open the resulting XML file. There is your password. So simple. A definite "D'oh" moment!

So, web-master bliss. Easy site updates from here-on in. Do please drop by and enjoy the fruits of my labours.

Friday 24 April 2009

The end of an era?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Yahoo pulls the plug on GeoCities

Once upon a time the internet was a lot smaller. There was a lot less out there and a lot less ways to interact with what there was (if at all).

For most people their first experience of internet interactivity (apart from email and chatrooms) was probably something like Geocities. You could easily make your own fairly simple pages... about whatever interested you. With a little bit of HTML know-how you could get more polished pages with richer content. As dial-up died a death and broadband became prevalent pages stopped worrying about how long they would take to load. Simple HTML died a death and more complicated codes like php, Java and Ajax came along.

Why would you bother to code a page yourself... why would you bother to host a page yourself... why think of content and layout when all you need to do with the likes of Facebook and MySpace, and let's face it - even Blogger is just tick a few boxes and away you go.

My first ever webpages were on Geocities and they served me well. I, for one, shall be sorry to see them go.

Occasional Tourist

New post about Oxleas Woodlands

Marathon approaches

It's that time of year again. Large parts of London are taken over by runners this coming Sunday. For us that means we are marooned in our little bit of London as the runners start over in Blackheath; some come past the top of our street; they head to Woolwich and then go along the 'Low Road'. Thus we are trapped in a little island unable to get anywhere much.

Getting ready to close the road to traffic

Thursday 23 April 2009

Skywatch Friday (9)

Summer is really here... the evenings are lighter (at last) and the sun is setting in an (almost) cloudless sky.

MS Week

MS Week 27 April - 3 May

Monday 20 April 2009

Funny what you find on the net

This afternoon I installed some new security software on my laptop. It's a link checker to make sure that you don't visit any 'poisoned' web pages. Free, so I thought, why not? I then ran a check to make sure it didn't slow the internet at all... Rich suggested a Google search and the first thing that came to mind was "internet".

One of the results caught our eye... and we had to check it out. Eleven pages of humorous observations on the internet. Funny, because some of it is true!

The internet is shit

You can download the new LinkScanner from AVG here.

AVG Antivirus and Security Software - Homepage

Back to nature

Everything always seems much better when the sun is shining. Saturday afternoon I was still feeling the tail end of the side effects from Friday night's injection, and was inclined to lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself. Instead I got up and went to sit in the garden in the sunshine. There is a riot of colour a new life all over the garden, and I was kept company by a variety of wildlife from birds and bees to butterflies and pondlife.

Above is some of the riot of colour and new growth in our shrubberies and flower beds; and yes, I know some of those are weeds, but they are beautiful all the same (and the bees and butterflies like them!).

Our neighbours doves took an interest in the garden proceedings form their usual perch on the roof (I could actually hear them cooing through the roof when I was in the bedroom) and the wood pigeon (distant relation of the dove) is waiting for something to eat (breadcrusts are often scattered on the patio).

The magpie retreated to the tree at the end of the garden after several drinking forays to the pond, I keep an eye on them as I don't want them to fly off in the wrong direction and get stuck in the netting. The squirrel is leaving the garden as none of the food left out for the birds is to his liking!

And here is Jaws, living up to his name! We did see his little friend (briefly) over the weekend, but Rich saw the small fish this morning and it was behaving in the manner that many of tank fish did prior to their demises; swimming around in circles or just floating at the top of the water - since then no sign, so it may be that Jaws really is all alone.

Watching them grow...

...the tadpoles in the pond are getting larger, although they are a long way off being frogs just yet. They all enjoy sunbathing in the folds of the pond liner at the edge of the pond, and looking from the bedroom window the sides of the pond are shimmering with tadpole activity.

A small group

Tadpole nursery

Babysitting the next generation!

After the rain...

The weather in our corner of South East London wasn't up to much last week. It was grey and damp for pretty much the whole week. Bad news for sun-lovers but good news for the garden; the grass and plants have finally taken Spring seriously... the most intriguing aspect was the 'plague' of snails which visited us most evenings after a damp day.

Travelling in convoy

I want to be a frog!

Peace man!

Littlest snail takes a break

Saturday 18 April 2009

Harry is coming...

It has been a long time since Harry Potter fans had much to look forward to. All the way back to the Summer of 2007 in fact when the last book 'Deathly Hallows' was released.

This Summer (four days shy of exactly two years) sees the release of the sixth (and penultimate) film 'Half Blood Prince'. You can see some trailers here.

I'm not sure how much I'm looking forward to this one. The films have been getting progressively darker (both in terms of content and cinematography) and as the books have got longer it has been necessary to discard content and storyline in order to make a movie that doesn't require the audience to sit there for four hours!

I also happen to think that the sixth book was possibly one of the weakest of the series. Although there was some 'action' (especially at the end) the book seemed more like an exposition for the seventh book and an opportunity to tie-up a few loose ends from the previous five books.

When I'm feeling too lazy to undertake the mental stimulation of a new book I often re-read old favourites. I can pick them up, open them at random and read. Harry Potter books esecially, but this one of all of them I have read the least.

I did enjoy one scene from the trailers however; the destruction of London's wobbly Millenium Bridge!

Wrapping up the week

Yesterday was a busy day. I started out at 8am with a trip to the dental hygienist; we'll not go into how much it annoys me to have to pay a premium price for a service that my dentist used to perform as part of my check-up; the whole experience was rather unpleasant given my lack of attention to visiting the dentist over the last decade or so. My teeth are shiny and clean now... and I have helpful tips from a professional for better oral hygiene. If it saves £45 for half an hour I'm doing it!

Next time for a brief trip to the shops down on the rain soaked peninsula before going home to wait for the Avonex nurse. It turned out that I hadn't forgotten much, and the joy of not having to mix the injection almost made up for having to do the injection myself wihtout the benefit of an auto-injector. Good grief, I'd forgotten how big the needle was though, I really had to psych myself up!

Later on I took Rich for his trip to the dentist; which then engendered another trip to the Peninsula to pick up antibiotics. As I'd been mooching around the shops there whilst Rich was at the dentist this was the third trip of the day!

So much time had passed since I took the injection that I thought maybe I was getting away without any side-effects. Not to be. They kicked in with aches and pains and hot and cold, and generally feeling like the beginning of a bout of the flu. Dosed up on paracetemol and took myself to bed with hot water bottles. It was a rather fragmented night as I kept waking up - but I'm almost back to normal this morning, just feeling a bit under the weather still.

I'm glad to see the back of that week. What with losing one of my precious office days to a site visit and trying to get five days work done in two days it has been pretty pressurised (to say the least). Will be taking it easy now until Tuesday.

Friday 17 April 2009

Browser wars

It would appear that Google Chrome is waging a very targeted war. A war to increase their market share. A war that only seems to be targeting one rival. Internet Explorer.

I noticed the other day at work as I walked past a colleague's desk that there Google search page didn't look quite like mine (I have dispensation at work from the IT guy to use Firefox, so I rarely use IE).

Today I decided to check the other browsers (being on the constant search for innovation I have all of the 'big 4' installed. Firefox, Safari, Opera and IE. I went to Google's home page.

Click on the images for a larger view, but the difference is obvious! I think, in the interest of balance I must now download and add Chrome to my browser collection!

Skywatch Friday (8)

Urban cloudscape

A rather sulky sky, a lot of railway and some construction work (for 2012); if you look top and just right of centre you can see the sun shining some optimistic light on the day. Although there is more sky than land the railway and the power lines dominate.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Red Dwarf (again)

Following my weekend post Rich forwarded me this article from io9 which seems to sum it up perfectly for me.

Unseen moments (1)

There are a lot of moments in life when you would have liked to have been able to capture a moment on film (well, digitally) and you just haven't got a camera to hand... I had a few today.

Passing through the countryside of East Anglia I saw a drake mallard duck in flight - looking exactly like those statutes you can buy to put on the wall in your home.

Further on in the countryside of East Anglia I saw a pheasant and (I assume) her chick, chiviying the young one around through the long grasses.

Coming back (still in East Anglia) I saw some swans, not swimming on the water, but a small flock roosting in the marshland in the sunshine.

Waiting in the queue for the 'Quick Ticket' machine in the Underground (the machine that says Cards Only and has a big picture of a credit card for the avoidance of doubt) - watching several people in front of me standing with coins in their hands trying to find a (non-existent) slot in the machine into which to feed the coins.

Back at North Greenwich and the (almost but not quite) infinity pool with fountains on the corner of the Pilot Busway - half-term holiday free kids playing in the fountain (let's hope that the Health and Safety miseries don't catch them at it!).

You can't go further East

I got up at my usual crack-of-dawn go to work time of 6am today. Although I was aiming for the 8am train for Liverpool Street I decided to leave home at 6:30am to give myself plenty of time to make the train. A good thing I did, too! Despite having been closed nearly the entire weekend (except for a brief respite on Saturday night to allow punters to get to the O2) the Jubilee Line was working against me. I decided that the easiest route to Liverpool Street was Jubilee Line to Stratford and Overground to London. Not to be. Signal failure meant that the Jubilee Line was closed between North Greenwich and Stratford. Plan 2: Jubilee Line to London Bridge  walk miles and change to the Misery Line (Northern) one stop to Bank walk miles (and up many many steps) to change to Central Line, one stop arrive Liverpool Street.

Travelling peak hours and on the day ticket buying meant a return fare nearer £100 than £50 which made my eyes water on behalf of petty cash!

My fears that the main line trains would be similarly afflicted as the Jubilee Line following Bank Holiday engineering works proved unfounded. The train left bang on time and even managed to arrive at Norwich 5 minutes early. My fears (based on bad experiences at Cambridge) that I might not be able to find/make my connection also proved unfounded and soon I was on a one coach diesel train to Lowestoft.

Somebody once asked me what Lowestoft was like. Lowestoft is the town furthest East in the UK, you can't go further East without falling into the North Sea. Lowestoft has a beach (which I've yet to visit) and a lot of seagulls (you can't miss them). My answer to what is Lowestoft like was, it is like Woolwich but with seagulls.

The train journey back was almost as painless although I missed one London train due to a late arrival from Lowestoft. I even managed forty (or perhaps it was eighty) winks on the way back... and the train gods were smiling on me. The Jubilee Line was recovered and so I got a train from Liverpool Street to Stratford and then on to North Greenwich, cunningly missing all the rush hour traffic from Central London.

Public art in Lowestoft, see what I mean about seagulls

Monday 13 April 2009

Easter Monday

After a grey and dismal weekend the weather is finally cheering up a bit this afternoon, a weak sunshine is bravely having a look at South London and deciding whether to stay or not.  Not enough sunshine to dry out the dampness where it has been raining all weekend or to warm the air, but it is a start.

I've not been up to much today; pretty much confining myself to bed based activities as I'm storing up my energy for the long trip to Suffolk and back tomorrow (I think it is a three hour train journey each way!). The Amantadine seems to be helping a bit - but I've noticed playing Xbox and typing here has really made my arms ache after not very long. Ah well, I've not much work to do on the train, so apart from conversations with my boss maybe I'll get some sleep travelling tomorrow.

I spent most of the morning (and the afternoon so far) pottering around with Fable II on the Xbox 360. I've finished the main game, and the add-on (Knothole Island)... all that remains are a few outstanding achievements, which seem to be taking as much time and effort as everything else put together. They are all the sort which seem to require co-operation with other online gamers, which I never thought was so much of the point with this particular game. It is the one thing that really annoys me about Xbox 360 games... the achievements, one of which in every game is very hard to do... so I can not say for any of these games that I have finished them, not really.

I took a brief wander in the garden to check on the progress of the tadpoles (still wiggling) and see how the pond is looking (murky, but the plant life finally seems to be sprouting). Whilst I was there watching Jaws very ungratefully not eating the lunch with which Rich had so thoughtfully provided him I noticed a 'splosh'... a frog was my first thought, but no! A mostly brown with some gold large-ish type fish. A survivor from the heron massacre. Here's hoping that there are some more where he came from!

I've been reminded this weekend why we don't much watch UK made TV in this house. On Saturday was one of the 'specials' that comprise the end of the Russel T Davis and David Tennant era of Doctor Who. Now, let it be said - Doctor Who never much impresses me and I'll probably stop watching when Tennant leaves as he is pretty much why I watch. This show was the same old fare through and through - London (always London) threatened by an alien threat... the Doctor (with a little help from U.N.I.T) saves the day. Some more (yes more) new aliens are introduced, some definitely bad maybe some good... doesn't look like any peripheral characters will be sticking around for the next episode "The Waters of Mars" airing later this year.

Also all over the weekend TV Channel 'Dave' (so named because appently everyone knows a bloke called Dave) was screening three new episodes of Red Dwarf... some ten years since the last series ended and some twenty years since it first hit our screens. The cast did well (considering that they are all a fair bit older than when it all started) - however in good Red Dwarf tradition the new shows completely ignore the end of the previous series and pick up where it suits them. Most of the fun comes from the Dwarfers being on Earth and my favourite bit was definitely the Smart car done up to look like Starbug. Red Dwarf itself clearly benefited from the leaps and bounds in production technology - the old spaceship never looked so good! Could the three episodes lead to more? It doesn't seem to have been ruled out, and the ending of this mini-series defnitely wasn't definitive. Let's hope if there is more that it won't be another ten years!

Finally we also watched Sky One's 'Skellig' on Easter Day. Except that we didn't, not really. I wanted to watch it because it was billed using words such as 'fantasy' and 'magical' so I thought it might be my kind of thing... also because Tim Roth (who I quite rate) was starring. We watched about an hour (half the show) during which nothing really happened and so we got bored and swithched off. Things might have picked upafter that, but the thought of what might be missed didn't outweigh the thought of watching another hour of the same.

So, UK TV oh-for-three (that is a strike out!) compared to Lost and the new episode 'Dead is Dead'. Setting aside a few very bad wigs (they dressed up  Michale Emerson in very bad wigs to play a younger version of his character, but got a different actor to play the young Charles Widmore!) this was a superlative episode. Focussing on the 'other half' of the Ajira survivors (that is Sun, Frank, Locke, Ben et al.) it was brilliant to have the verbal sparring between Locke and Ben back. It was also good to get a bit (tiny bit) more history filled in of Ben and Widmore. And of course, Smokey was back; summoned by Ben to 'judge' him - and another dead person when Alex turned up to chastise her father. If UK TV struck out then Lost was an out of the ballpark home run!

Sunday 12 April 2009

Easter weekend

It has to be said that the long Easter weekend isn't that much different from most other weekends, given that I only work Tuesday through Thursday anyway. It feels different though. In a regular week I always feel frustrated on a Monday and a Friday because I should be working and I'm not - but the Easter weekend gives me licence to not worry about it as most other people aren't working either. Not that I've done a great deal. Friday I was absolutely shattered. I first noticed when I was making scrambled eggs for breakfast that my arm really ached after only a few seconds stirring the pan. I spent the most part of the day doing a bit of this and a bit of that, had a bath and then went to bed for a few hours in the late afternoon as I could barely lift my arms or legs, so leaden did they feel.

Saturday I decided to take the Amantadine that my Neuro prescribed for fatigue as a precaution, my plans included driving down to Kent to visit with my folks and then have lunch with some school friends and their families. I knew it would be quite a long day, and it turned out to be a good plan. Made it through the day OK - had the most superb time catching up with my friends, their husbands and their kids; I was so impressed how angelically the children all behaved! I stopped off at the shops on the way home, so didn't get in until about half four; and I by five I was in bed for my nap. I wish I could fit more naps in during the week!

The weather is (rather predictably for a Bank Holiday weekend) rather wet and miserable, not that it matters much as the extent of my going out for the rest of the weekend would probably be no more than sitting in the garden. I need to rest up for an extremely long day on Tuesday which involves an early start and several hours on the train to a site meeting in Suffolk. Yes, my special gift; inaccessible jobs. The next to which may (or may not) spring into life are in Sussex and Hertfordshire. No London jobs for me! Still, at least there are jobs... which is something in these hard times.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Just for the workers...

...for the cheerful workers who told me this morning that I should wait until it was finished to take a photo... here is the finished footpath. It looks great, but makes the rest of the untreated street look very shabby indeed!

Skywatch Friday (7)

Industrial and Urban Sunset (or perhaps twilight)

Had to laugh

As I was on my way to work this morning I noticed a line of cones towards the end of the street, blocking off approximately five parking spaces. About two thirds of the cones had been moved onto the pavement (or were they put on the pavement as the cone guys didn't arrive early enough?) - either way, the three cars parked in those bays had no excuse as the writing was on the wall (well on the pavement) in letters half a foot high.

As I stopped to take the photo two workmen drew alongside and asked what I was doing, telling me that I should take the picture after the works had been done. I explained my amusement  that the cars were parked next to the cones and signs asking them not to; the response... a rueful grin and the observation "People are good, aren't they".

Let's just hope that some joined up thinking has been done by the Council as large parts of the street have yellow 'parking bay suspended' notices and there was a leaflet drop recently; they are replacing London's Victorian water mains again. I can only assume that they are going up/down the other side of the street this time as we've already been visited last year... just after they resurfaced  the street. See what I mean, joined up thinking!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Little wigglers!

Our fears that all the frog spawn had been killed by the recent cold snaps have proved unfounded. The edge of the pond is already getting crowded with dozens of tiny tadpoles. There still seems to be a lot of frog spawn floating about; but future amphibian residents of our garden have started their journey as tadpoles.

Halfway to the weekend

It has been a strange sort of week this week. I had been expecting to spend most of the week (all of it except Good Friday) at the Court doing week two of my Jury Duty. I discovered that this would never have been the case as not only do the Courts not work Good Friday or Easter Monday - but they don't work Maundy Thursday either! Even better though, once our trial finished on Monday the Jury Manager released us altogether. They'd just had a new intake of jurors that morning and we were surplus to requirements. I arranged with my boss to take my last two days leave (our leave year finishes at the end of this month) and go into the office on Thursday (to catch up with my rapidly approaching 200 emails).

The car went to have the MOT earlier this week. Several hundred pounds just to keep it on the road - I wasn't too impressed. The only good thing was I'd saved £50 on the original quote as once the exhaust was replaced something else didn't need doing after all. I hate the spring when in short succession I have to insure the car, tax the car and have the MOT done; the car is often more trouble than it is worth!

This is a starling I saw waiting to do his shopping at Asda the other evening (!). There are a whole flock of them which inhabit the car park, feeding on bits of dropped and crushed shopping and hopping in and out of the traffic. Such close proximity to people on a regular basis means that they are extremely fearless.

Despite the fact that it has been over two weeks since I stopped taking the Betaferon I was dissapointed to see that one of the injection sites (which had been very painful) has now succumbed to a 'scabby' reaction. This was Monday so I'll be able to see exactly how long it takes to recover. I'm starting Avonex again next Friday; along with a dental hygeniest appointment - what a super day that is going to be!

Sunday 5 April 2009

Frogs again

It was quite a mild evening last night, so Rich and I went out in the garden to check on the frogs. They were in the Big Pond, in the Frog Pond, in the Toad Tray, on the path, in the flower beds and on the decking. Just about everywhere - croaking, squeaking and generally leading busy frog lives.