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Well, the blu-ray player arrived today, so I've spent a reasonable bit of time stripping out the old wires, hoovering up the dust bunnies behind the sofa, running the new wires along the skirting and tacking them neatly into place and then trying to figure out how the whole shebang works. The aerial signal coming into the house seems to be a bit on the weak side and I need to fiddle with everything to see if I can improve it sufficiently to provide a glitch free digital input. I think I might leave it and come back to it tomorrow when I have read the F manuals.

In other news, it's been a gloriously sunny day and perfect for dog walking and a spot of pottering about. I've read a bit more of Stewart Lee's book and it's both interesting as a detailed examination of a comedy routine and laugh out loud funny on most pages too.
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In which our heroes take delivery of a new television and enjoy a sunny day at the zoo.

The day got off to a most excellent start when a delivery van pulled up outside and delivered the tv that I had ordered less than twenty four hours previously. That's what I call darn good service from Amazon.

There was no time to unpack it though, because we had planned a day out at Chester Zoo to take advantage of the late summer fine weather, so we set off cross country with a fine selection of choons on the iPod shuffle to listen to. The journey was trouble free and we arrived just before mid-day.

We bought our tickets at the gate and the very first thing that we saw was worth the price of admission alone, according to my inner cute-o-meter. To whit, a baby heffalump peeking out shyly from between its mama's legs.



From there we made our way through the butterfly house where iridescent beauties the size of my hand fluttered around hither and yon with one even landing on my hat at one point.



Other highlights included baby orans, tanukis taking their ease in the treetops, a lethal looking komodo dragon, rhinos of the black and white varieties and the amazing experience of standing inside a darkened pavilion where fruit bats with a one meter wing span swooped overhead.

I know there are arguments for and against keeping animals in zoos, but if the paying visitors support the conservation work by their donations and seeing the exhibits cultivates a sense of the beauty and fragility of the natural world then it is a good thing on balance. Plus, teh cutez0r!

Home again, with the usual traffic jams around Manchester and then time for a beer and to set the new telly up, and wowzers it is impressive. The HD picture from the xbox seems to pop off the screen and the ability to plug a usb drive in the side and play videos will be very handy.

That's enough for tonight, cos I'm snacked.
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I'd actually decided on the tv and blu-ray player that we wanted last week and had put them in my (I imagine rather big) shopping basket at Amazon but couldn't quite bring myself to check them out. I noticed today that the price had dropped, and it was already by far the cheapest price that I had seen anywhere, so I girded my metaphorical loins and clicked the appropriate buttons to set my purchase into effect.

A short while later I received an email to say that there was a problem with the payment, so I surmised that the credit card company had put a block on due to the amount. My surmise was indeed correct and the phone rang with a nice Indian lady from the fraud department. She asked me a few questions to establish that I was indeed me, and not somebody who had broken into the house to sit by the landline phone waiting for it to ring. The only problem was that I couldn't remember the 'memorable place' question of the security checklist as I hadn't had cause to recall it for several years. I took two stabs at it, and it was only as she transferred me to another department that it actually came back to me. Doh.

Anyhoo, my identity being identified, I was transferred back to the fraud department who went through the transactions to identify the problem. Amusingly enough (for some values of the word amusing) it wasn't the expensive telly that had triggered the alert, nor the slightly less expensive blu-ray player, but it was in fact the single blu-ray disc of 'Watchmen' that I had ordered at the same time. Doh. Again.

Anyhoo again, it was all sorted out and approved and now everything is in transit, so hurrah!
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Well, actually it more like half past five, but the point stands.

There is no ideal time for the neighbor's burglar alarm to go off when they are away, but early on a Sunday morning of a bank holiday weekend after a late night of mojitos and Beatles Rock Band ranks as quite a poor choice. Fortunately it went off after twenty minutes or so, and I had a quick look through the windows but I couldn't see anything amiss so no further action was required.

Today has mostly been taken up with reading Stewart Lee's excellent memoir of his career in stand-up comedy, playing the usual run of games and generally taking it easy. So, apologies for the lack of excitement folks ...
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A minor bit of drama yesterday.

Our house looks down over a wall onto the next street along, affording a view of the goings on down there. There is a block of maisonettes and a couple of council houses and it is generally pretty quiet. Not on this occasion, when I heard shouting and then the unmistakable sound of a police siren. I looked out to see a youngish man in a black t-shirt mouthing off in an incoherent ramble of 'Fooking fookers fookit' or words to that effect.

In short order two police constables were on the scene trying to calm him down making placatory gestures, but he was having none of it, puffing his chest out and squaring up in a classic gorilla-like aggressive stance. We then had a grandstand view of a third copper tackling him from behind and slapping the cuffs on before he knew what was happening.

He continued to struggle for a while before they hauled him up, put on gloves to clean up his bloody nose and then transported him off to the local nick to cool his heels for a while.

All human life is here, or at least in the neighborhood.
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Busy day, checking in code and making sure everything is up to date before my week off. Now it is long overdue time for a mojito!

The bank holiday weekend starts ... NOW!
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Dark and wet outside when I got up this morning and when I opened the door Daisy scooted past me and upstairs carrying a mouse in her mouth. I chased after her and managed to rescue the wee, sleekit, timorous beastie before she could either eat it or let it loose in one of the bedrooms. I let it go outside and distracted the cats with their breakfasts to give it a chance to escape.

Busy day at work, trying to catch up on everything I need to finish up before my week off next week. I could have done without extra stuff being loaded on to the to-do list as well. Hmmm.

Home, and it's chilly and gloomy again. Not a very encouraging portent for the bank holiday weekend.
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Up at the proverbial crack of the proverbial dawn, and there was a definite hint of a suggestion of a touch of a nip in the air. Feels like .... autumn. Say it ain't so! Anyhoo, this is a long winded way of saying I was up early, the car was covered with chilly dew and I was driving north on a fine and mostly sunny day.

For once the installation turned out to be problem free and mostly straightforward, apart from testing the timeout on internet logins which involved a fair bit of sitting around waiting for sessions in various states to timeout (well, duh!) with the correct error message and redirect. It worked, so hurrah, and I treated myself to a bacon stottie from a greasy spoon cafe in the local town centre that was a little bit like stepping into a time warp of thirty years or more into the past. Crappy 80s music, tired looking people, unemployment advice on the mugs of tea - yep, it's like the Thatcher years never went away, eh Dave'n'Nick? (oooh, little bit of politics!).

Back home again at a reasonable hour, and for some strange reason I suddenly felt very tired and very cold at the same time, requiring the swift application of a fluffy jumper and the heating being switched on for a bit.

Yep, definitely a touch of Autumn on the way.
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Weather : the cold, gray light of dawn gave way to a watery sunrise bathing the world in an autumnal air of damp gloom. Ceci n'est pas un Août.

I seem to be getting a good deal for my phone at the moment. I'm on a pay as you go arrangement with O2 whereby I top up by ten pounds a month (soto voce - I paid ten pounds!). For this I get 500Mb of web usage (which I use) and 300 text messages (which I don't). Out of the £10 I pay £7.50 for a Friends and Family package that gives me unlimited calls to Jan (and vice versa), who is the only person I ever call. Therefore I now seem to have fifteen squids worth of credit on there that I can't see a way of spending. I suppose I'll just have to call the Sydney speaking clock until it runs down or something.

In telly news, after a promising start Big Brother is lurching towards the inevitable disappointing dénouement. Can't say I'm overly surprised, really, but no doubt I'll watch the final just to see the lumbering beast being put out of its misery (apart from the unnecessary coda of 'Big Brother Ultimate' where they have assembled all of the most irritating and objectionable housemates of previous series who were either too vain, too venal or too vacuous to turn down the offer of appearing on the telly again). If they revived Big Brother as a format that stuck strictly to its own rules without trying to fiddle things to favour the producers' chosen housemates, it would be worth a watch, otherwise farewell and adieu to ten years of voyeuristic entertainment.

In other telly news, it seems that X-Factor are now auto-tuning the voices of the contestants, which surely takes all of the fun (for some values of the word 'fun') of watching the tuneless honkings of the early rounds of hopelessly deluded wannabes and borderline psychotics of previous series. I'd much rather play 'Rock Band' for an hour or two, to be honest.

Talking of Rock Band, I think that I am going to need to devote some serious time to the practice tutorials if I am ever going to improve my technique. I can't seem to get the hang of hammer-ons and co-ordinating my little finger on the lower fret, which seem to be essential for the more difficult songs like 'Enter the Sandman'. The World Tour mode is rather good fun though, and I now have a rather natty Cowboy hat, leather trousers and Sgt Pepper style jacket combo for my avatar, as well as a tour jet with our band name of 'The Thermal Pigs' emblazoned on the side. Aces.
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A lazy Sunday, apart from a bit of ironing, with the usual round of dog walks, sunshine, games of Carcassonne and Words with Friends (in which I got royally flattened by Becs). The afternoon was mostly taken up with a bit of co-op Red Dead Redemption with Lufferov which was excellent fun, apart from one irritating twat who insisted on trying to set the raft that we were on on fire whilst we were being sniped at by Mexican banditos on either side of the river.

That's about it, folks!
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After my complaint yesterday I was rewarded with a sunny day (mostly) and it was warm enough to require my Panama for the morning walk. Hoorah! I made hay (or at least cut the grass) whilst the sun shone, so the garden was looking tidy too.

A much needed afternoon nap, and a trip out to the retail park to look at tellies - I'm being nagged, er, encouraged to choose a bigger tv and blu-ray player for the lounge and I have to go through my usual umming and ahing routine before committing to any techo-purchase.

Home to Rock Band, and the songs are really starting to get more difficult. The final tune on our set list tonight was the six minute Highway Star with a punishing guitar solo in the middle. Jan was playing drums on hard too, which was a spectacular achievement I think.

Ace fun for a Saturday night with a beer (or two).

Free Bird

Aug. 20th, 2010 07:29 pm
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The weather can be summed up with the concise phrase : same old, same old. I am starting to despair of ever getting a decent run of sunshine this summer.

We had just settled down to watch the telly last night when we heard the unmistakable sounds of one of the cats bringing a bird into the kitchen. Fortunately (for the bird that is) it was Daisy who had done the catching and bringing in, rather than Doris who has the tendency to carry off her prey to a dark place for unspeakable purposes. We shooed the cats out and managed to rescue the bird - a little finch of some sort, I think - and put it in a box to give it a chance to recover. It perked up after an hour or so and managed to fly off, seemingly no worse for wear.

In other bird news, we have had a veritable feeding frenzy of blue tits, coal tits, great tits and even a bullfinch feeding off the seeds on the vine, and the ripening elderberries in the garden. There must have been twenty or more different birds swooping around at lunchtime. Fortunately the cats were all too busy snoozing to take advantage of this aerial bonanza.

Oh, and in corrections news, I have to admit that I was wrong to say that 20% of Americans are fucking idiots. Apparently, it's only 18% but on the other hand 31% of Republicans fall into said category of fucking idiocy. So there.

I hereby declare this Friday night to be well and truly ... open!

515

Aug. 19th, 2010 07:01 pm
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Weather : Sun, tending to grey, tending to chucking it down by the time I got home. Summer time, and the living is chilly and damp ...

Not much to report today really. The stomach cramps of yesterday have faded, thankfully, and I slept a bit better too. The office was reasonably quiet today and hence I had a productive day sorting out the document viewer on the app I installed last week, getting the registration services installed on my test environment and even doing a bit of development work, shock, horror.

In other news, 20% of Americans are fucking idiots, not many boys got their exam results today and schadenfreude can occasionally be very sweet.
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Weather : A bright start followed by a descent into a world of grey around lunchtime before ending up with a bit of sunshine to end the day - seven out of ten on the sun-o-meter, I think.

Yesterday had turned out to be surprisingly tiring, all round, and I finished it off with an hour on Rock Band playing 'Still Alive' (aka the song from off of the end of Portal) on guitar. Quite amusing to see the faux punk lead singer of our band 'The Thermal Pigs' singing along in the voice of the demented computer GladOs.

I had a bit of disturbed night last, after flaking out during Big Brother, and felt rough this morning. I had stomach cramps for most of the day, off and on, necessitating frequent trips to the loo. Not much fun.
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After the pleasant sunshine of the weekend, it was a return to overcast skies and a gloomy air this morning. Just perfect for a Monday morning in the office - happy happy joy joy. To make things even more tickety-boo, the milk for my morning coffee was on the turn after being in the temperamental fridge in our second floor kitchen over the weekend. Ack. To be fair, the sun did show its face by mid-day but I didn't get to see much of it for being stuck in the aforementioned office.

We realised that at least some of the problems from last week were down to the wrong environment being installed by the customer that I was then trying to patch on top of. I need to put a check into the install script to make sure that the code base is what we have asked for, rather than assuming that they will set things up as we have requested. At least it made for a productive end to the day when I got the app to fire up successfully.

In games news, I fired up DJ Hero for a spin (ho, ho, I am satirical) last night and jolly good it was too. I unlocked the Daft Punk set list and ran through eight tracks plus the bonus beat of a Daft Punk mega mix. To finish with I put the system into automatic party play mode so that I could jump around the lounge like a loon to a mix of Tears for Fears vs Erik Prydz. Aces.

In Echo Bazaar news, I am considering giving up on the Knife and Candle part of the game. I looked at some of the twitter accounts of the characters at the top of the leaderboard and there seems to a group of about five or six people running multiple accounts and collaborating on assassinations. I don't know if it is technically breaking any sort of rule of the game, but it's against the spirit of the thing, I think.
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At last, a spot of summer sunshine worthy of breaking out mah favourite hat for the statutory two walks today! I think this is probably the sort of weather that suits me best - sunny and pleasantly warm without being oppressively hot, and with a touch of a breeze too. Smashing. Shame I've got to go back into the office tomorrow, really.

I was up at a civilised hour this morning. Not so early as to precede the lark, but late enough to allow a gradual restoration of the senses from the tangled webs of dream without unseemly haste. I even felt energetic enough to take advantage of the sunshine to cut the grass, although I didn't use the leaf blower today - it always seems to leave me sneezing from the dust kicked up.

A shower, a walk and a cooked brunch, interspersed with a bit of game playing and an afternoon nap as well made for a most enjoyable day all round.

In games news, I signed up for a game of Diplomacy via Facebook. I've not played for years and I'm not entirely sure how it will pan out, but I'm looking forward to it. It strikes me that it would make an excellent game for an iPhone/iPad implementation with a Carcassonne/Words with Friends style of play.

Deep Honey

Aug. 14th, 2010 06:53 pm
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From an initially unpromising start of black skies, driving rain and a temperature of 13 degrees that necessitated putting the central heating on first thing, the day brightened up considerably by the late afternoon. Not bad, all things considered.

Today has pretty much been a games day, with the usual round of Words with Friends and Carcassonne followed by an impulse purchase of a skiing game called Solipskier which is sort of cross between Canabalt and Line Rider, and a perfect fit for the iPhone screen. It started life as a flash game, and I'll link to it tomorrow for thems as is interested. Good fun in small doses.

After a lunch of left over pizza and pancakes cooked by Jamie who had got it into his head that he wanted to cook pancakes, we played another set of Abbey Road songs on Beatles Rock Band with yet more wonderfully psychedelic visuals to enjoy. Aces.

Next on the menu of sofa based entertainment was a rewatch of the first episode of Firefly which still holds up as a well written bit of telly. It's not Buffy, but then again not much is. I'm looking forward to watching the rest of them and then Serenity again.

By this time the sun had his proverbial hat on, so it was out with the dog and then off to Meadowhall for a mooch, a melon smoothie and a music based purchase of the original Rock Band for ten of your Earth pounds for the disk on its own. This may well be getting an airing tonight.
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Weather : more Autumn than August.

Today started with a slightly disconcerting event. I'd put the noms for the cats into their respective bowls and they all started tucking in as usual. I turned to the sink to run some hot water for washing up when there was a veritable feline stampede down the hallway and up the stairs, causing the glass cabinet en route to rattle with the impact. I went to see what they were up to, and all three of them were at the top of the stairs. It didn't take long for noshing to recommence and I never actually found out what they had been chasing.

In other noshing news, I contrived to drop half a bag of grated cheese onto the kitchen floor at lunchtime as I was making my ham, cheese and jalapeno wrap. Fortunately Barney the dog was on hand to hoover it up, although I did have to give the floor a wipe afterwards as well.

The support problem turned out to be an unusual case of somebody on a modest pension switching from a tax code with an allowance to a cumulative basic rate code in the same month as an overpayment was clawed back, leaving them with a negative net pay. The client is not entirely sure what they want the system to do in cases like this, so we are going to talk about it again on Monday.

Anyhoo, I notice from the clock that the big hand is on the seven and the little hand is pointing to the bottle of Pinot Grigio Rose in the fridge, so therefore it must be time for Friday night!

Metal Man

Aug. 12th, 2010 07:01 pm
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Weather, light showers - a weather condition prone to dangerous spoonerism ...

Work was irritating, running a remote install on a customer site that ran into a lot of niggly problems, some of which were down to the correct ports on the firewalls between different bits of the system not being opened properly. On top of that a support problem that I thought had been resolved weeks ago got bounced back to me for another look, so I'll have to have a go with that tomorrow.

I thought that my recent run of decent journeys home was too good to be true, and so it proved when the traffic ground to a halt tonight. There were plenty of flashing blue lights going past on the hard shoulder and there was a fairly comprehensively crunched car when I eventually went past. At least it gave me a good chance to catch up on podcasts whilst sitting still.

Home now, and time to sort out my photo post for today.
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Weather, Brighton breezy as the Mondegreen of the well known weather forecast couplet would put it.

The evenings are starting to noticeably shorten again and I found myself nodding off as the dusk fell last night. I think I'll have to start using my light again to keep my bed time at a reasonable hour. My energy levels and sleeping patterns are not too bad at the moment, but I think I will have to keep a weather eye on them as the year turns.

In games news, I downloaded the DLC episode of Alan Wake and made a start on it last night. Not to spoil over much for anyone who hasn't completed the main story line yet, but it looks to be an entertainingly nightmarish trek through some of the most interesting locations from the game. I particularly like the type-written words floating in the air, being a literal representation of the creative process at work.

I wonder if Alan Wake is the only author who still uses a manual typewriter? I imagine that most writers will use some form of word processor or other, and that a handful will use pen and paper, but a typewriter is a very different kettle of fish. I still have a fondness for the fiendishly complex mechanisms that translate a press of a key into the typeface striking the ribbon via a series of linking rods and joints. I haven't used a manual typewriter for anything serious for twenty five years or so, but I still find myself sometimes bashing computer keyboards with slightly more force than is strictly necessary.

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