The Plan – 3 January 2019

The plan was to get up early and fix the kitchen light. It didn’t work out that way, neither did the kitchen light.

Ok, we did get up fairly early. Before 10am is fairly early these days. Started the fix on the kitchen light, with limited success. That translates as it didn’t work. It looked like the fluorescent tube was a goner. So, it was time to have a coffee, start to solve today’s sudoku and take stock. In the mean time I got a text to say that my pills were ready in Boots. Scamp suggested we go to Tesco (surprise!) where she could get milk and stuff and post the calendars.  At the same time I could go to Boots to get my pills. Then we’d go to B&Q to get a new lamp for the kitchen. On the way we could drop the old HP computer off at the dump. That sounded like a solid Plan B.

Tesco and Boots were no problem, nor was the council dump, it was when we got to B&Q that the problems started. We’d had the old fluorescent light for so long we’d forgotten that they are no longer made or to be more accurate, they’ve been superseded by LED units. The LED lamps seem to have no user replaceable parts in them any more, are simpler to fit and are more expensive, of course. No problem, we got one.

Got home and fitting was simpler than the previous one, once I’d drilled the fitting holes in the right place (second time lucky). Also lucky not to electrocute myself when I accidentally crossed two live wires. Silly bugger. Turn the power off at the box before doing anything with ‘lecky. Those tiny little LEDs don’t half provide a powerful light. Nice white light too. Apparently they have a five year lifespan. We’ll see.

Today’s PoD was taken in the front garden and processed in ON1 2019 where it did a magic trick called Focus Stacking. To prevent your eyes glazing over I’ll leave it at that. If you want to know any more Google it. Green shoots in the first week of January. Maybe Hazy is right and spring is just round the corner. We’ll see.

Lady from the pest control company phoned to say that someone will be here tomorrow to set down some poison outside the house in the hope that the rodents will take it to their nest and kill off the whole lot of them. Now last night the rodents were running around like mad thing right above my head and I was getting a bit upset, so Scamp suggested we email our MSP and see if he could do anything. Suddenly today we get a call from the pest control company suggesting their own Plan B. Coincidence?

It wasn’t the brightest of days today, in fact it was pretty dull all day so we didn’t get very far, but we do have a bright new sun in the kitchen. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get out somewhere nice, after the “Rat Man” has been.

A Toy off the Rack – 18 December 2018

The toy in question was a Raspberry Pi zero W

It arrived by post just around midday on a dull, rainy day. I hoped it would brighten my day as the sun seemed to having a holiday somewhere nice. It was a tiny little thing, as you can see from the PoD which is of the Weemen helping me to build it. Actually it was more that they were there to supervise the soldering of the 40 pins that help the Pi connect to the outside world. I was really pleased with my soldering. I only had to resort to the de-soldering braid twice and didn’t manage to burn myself once which must be a world record for me. I usually manage to pick up the soldering iron at least once by the ‘business end’. This time, ultra-careful I did not need to resort to Elastoplast or buckets of water. I think all the pins are soldered correctly, I’ll give them a test tomorrow once I master the vagaries of the Python language that is used to program the board.

Other than photographing the Weemen and assembling the computer module, it was a dull day. Coffee arrived from Perth right on time too. £3 for the delivery of about 3kg of coffee by DPD rather than about a 100 mile round trip is a bargain in anyone’s money. Keeps a driver in a job and saves me two or three hours. Yes, I know it increases my carbon footprint, but its the footprint of a very small shoe, a baby shoe.

That was the excitement for the day. A tiny little computer and a tiny little baby carbon footprint. A toy off the rack and a few bags of coffee. Now I have to learn to program in Python. I’ve been at it now for an hour and a half and I still can’t get the syntax right. I’ve tried the usual method of swearing at it, restarting the Pi and actually reading the instructions, but nothing seems to work. I’m going to bed now. What use is a toy of the rack if you can’t make it turn cartwheels across the living room floor? I’m told a nine year old can program it. Unfortunately I don’t have a nine year old child handy to get him or her to explain it to me. I’ll leave it until tomorrow. It will be better tomorrow. It will work tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m going to get my feet looked at and prodded by a nice lady podiatrist. I may even ask her what’s going wrong with my left knee. I think knees are just within her jurisdiction. All of that, and dancin’ too, hopefully.

Cold Day – Hot Orange – 2 November 2018

Cold start anyway, with zero on the outside thermometer when we woke.

Cold but bright. Sat for an hour or so in the morning soaking up the sunshine coming straight through the front windows. Not so comfortable at the back garden where the birdbath was frozen solid all day.

Spent an hour or so trying and succeeding in cataloguing videos on my NAS drive. Eventually wrote a wee Hazel script to do it much more efficiently and more importantly, automatically.

Finally went out in the afternoon to take Scamp to a Witches Coven in Wetherspoons. Tried to tell her she was a couple of days late, but it didn’t seem to matter. Kneaded some dough to make a pizza for dinner, then while it proved, I spent an hour taking photos for the PoD that I’d half intended doing yesterday before Pierre grabbed the limelight. After that it was another hour on an overheating (artistic license!) computer to merge the two images I liked best. After all that I didn’t like the finished result and changed the background to a better less rubbish one and that became PoD!

That was about it. It’s going to rain all day tomorrow according to the doom merchants at the weather centre, so we will rue our stay-at-home day today. It was all our own fault.

Tomorrow we are going out for lunch apparently, despite the weather! Probably the best thing we could do.

Perf – 30 October 2018

Today we were off to Perf. Gateway to the best coffee beans in Scotland, if not the world.

Drove up to Perf on a beautiful clear morning. That said, it became a bit cloudier as we travelled north. I’d come with gifts for the Perf folk. I donate my two bike carriers to the bike shop across the road from the car park. Neither of them fit either of our cars, and are now superfluous to our needs. They were just cluttering up the house and were going to be dumped, so if someone can get the benefit of them, all the better. I also took a load of computer books to the Oxfam shop in Perf. I’ve read them and used them well, but now I usually consult the InterWeb if I’m in need of information and besides, they were well out of date.

Next we had to decide what we were doing for lunch. Scamp had an Itison voucher for Cafe Tabou which is now under new ownership. We decided to give them a try and see if they’d kept up the excellent standard of the previous owners. For starter, Scamp had Roast Red Pepper Chick Pea Ragout with Tempura of Fish and I had Salad Du Chef.
For main she had Breaded Plaice Fillet with Chips(!) and I had French Black Pudding & Pork Belly. She was perfectly happy with her selection, I felt the main was a bit tasteless, although the caramelised apples and cider sauce was lovely. Worth another Itison voucher some time. When we came out the streets were just drying after a heavy rain shower and you could feel that there was still a bit of rain on the breeze.

After the lunch, we went for walk to get the coffee and tea that I so desperately needed. Then a walk along to the the viewing gallery over the River Tay. Beautiful light on the trees on the far bank and the sun was shining now on the bridge, so that became my PoD after it was de-fished (no fish were injured in the operation) and some work done on the levels. Samyang 7.5 is a really versatile lens.

With the river inspected, we headed back to the car and the drive home through some beautiful light with nowhere to stop and record it. We also passed through some heavy rain showers that had probably created that beautiful light on the hills.

Sat and sketched my teacup and two digestive biscuits for today’s Inktober sketch. Thirty sketches in and only one left to do tomorrow. Tomorrow as I’m sure you know by now is one of those busy days with two dancing classes and the driving to get there, there’s not much time for dawdling, so I already have a plan for tomorrow’s sketch. It will need a bit of preparation, part of which I have already done with the assistance of an Excel spreadsheet. Art and computing are not the easiest bedfellows, but hopefully one will help with the other if I have my way.

Tomorrow is a dancing day. Anything else will just have to fit in with that!

Back on an even keel – 22 October 2018

Email and printers. The most difficult and flakiest things to set up. Look at them the wrong way and they just refuse to work.

The email account I fixed this morning seems to still be working. Sent my brother an email tonight and it hasn’t bounced yet. I hate setting up email accounts and printers. They are the most hated things to get going right first time. Yes, things are getting better and the wireless printers are a dream to set up now, but even they still have hissy fits sometimes.

Today was Gems day, so after all that technology overload this morning and after getting our flu jags and after buying Tesco I packed my bag and went for a swim. I had thought of going for some exercise first, but instead I sat in the steam room for quarter of an hour, then swam for another twenty minutes. Five minutes is enough for me in the sauna thankfully now with its door back on its hinges. Then a shower and a word with old Bob who probably lives in the changing room. I’ve seen him sitting with his lunch and a flask of tea a couple of times! Still, he’s paying his money the same as us and making the most of it. He tells some tall and wonderful stories at times. David Beckham was his topic today. I get the impression he doesn’t like the man!

Came home and doodled a sketch of a concrete and wood park bench from one of my photos. It took me two tries to get it right and when it was done it looked really smart … if you ignored the ghost bench beside it which was a bit squint and out of proportion. Went out for a walk in St Mo’s to try to catch the last of the light and maybe have a look at that bench again. Never did get a look at it. Instead I found some bright red bramble leaves and disturbed a long legged spider then tried a low shot of some leaves. They’re much thicker on the ground this year, I think. Leaves that is, not spiders. Eventually settled on a ten shot view across the loch with the camera sitting on a (different) bench. The ten shots were the raw material for an idea I had. Wind was strong and gusty and the clouds were scudding across the sky. That was the reason for the 10 shots.

<Technospeak>
Came home and downloaded the images. Cleaned up the ten shots in Lightroom, then exported them to a temporary folder. Imported them from there into a ‘stack’ in Photoshop. A stack is basically one image made up of a number of layers. Ran a script called “Image Averaging Layers” in Photoshop which does a very clever blending of the layers in the stack. With that done I selected the sky and water area with the Colour Range selector tool, Inverted the selection and proceeded to delete all the ground areas except one. That one I duplicated, reset the opacity to 100%, inverted the selection again and deleted the sky from that one. Bingo. My work was done in Photoshop. Saved it off and then flattened the image. Saved it again with a different name and imported that back into Lightroom where I could do all the usual twiddly bits.
</Technospeak>
Now all that previous bit was to remind me how I did the moving sky, but the solid ground and trees. Hopefully I’ll find this some day when I’m stuck.

No dancing tonight because Jamie G is off on his travels again and also we were waiting for a call from Hazy to see how ND was. Turns out he was getting home tonight. Although his ailment was serious enough, it wasn’t as bad as initially feared. Back home in Hazy’s tender care, I’m sure he’ll be on his feet again soon.

Tonight I did another Ink and Watercolour sketch of that park bench. It’s not as good as the first one. A second sketch never is in my opinion, but at least it doesn’t have a ghost bench intruding into its space.

So, basically everything is back on an even keel again, fingers crossed.

Maybe going for a curry tomorrow.

Over to Fife – 6 October 2018

Late to bed last night, so I took a relaxed attitude to rising.

Eventually after some important computer work we set out just after 12 noon. The big question on both our lips was “Do we turn left or right at the roundabout?” Scamp chose Right. That excluded Glasgow and places west, but opened up the opportunities of the mystical East. It could be Stirling, Falkirk or maybe Dunfermline. However it was none of these, although Dunfermline was close. In fact it was Crossford. When we lived near Clydeside, there was a village called Crossford with the emphasis on the first syllable. The Fife Crossford has the emphasis on the second syllable. Who decides these things? I don’t know. We were going to a wee plant nursery with a decent selection of good quality plants and reputedly a tea shop too. As it turned out the plants were in a sorry state and so was the fare in the tea shop. I don’t think we’ll be back.

Scamp ordered a chicken burger and I had the hand made quiche. I’m pretty sure my quiche was indeed hand made because it was thick, hot and full of flavour. Scamp’s ‘chicken’ burger was anything but those descriptions. No, that’s not true, it was hot. Thick? I think not, at about 10mm thick at its most portly. Flavour, yes, there was flavour there, but we weren’t sure what it was. In fact, it looked like a flat sausage with those big white pills of gristle that make the Lorne sausage so tasty. But this was supposed to be chicken. It looked as if it had never seen a chicken or any other type of foul. Foul may be too strong a word, but “it wisn’ae nice’. I felt so sorry for her, but there was bacon in my quiche and that wouldn’t have suited the vegetarian in her either.
After our lunch we wandered round the plants and they were not in the best of condition. Yes, I realise this is the end of the growing season, but these plants were very poorly looking. If the RSPCA is against animal cruelty, this plant nursery should be reported to the RSPCP. Fairley’s Garden Centre, do yourself a favour, give it a miss.

On the way home we sat for an hour in blazing sunshine admiring the view from Torryburn across the Forth to Grangemouth. Not the most interesting of views, but the cloudscape and the wide view from the carpark made up for that. Today’s PoD came from there.

Today’s Inktober sketch is based on a still from a TV program about Scotland’s lochs. I think it’s Plockton, but wherever it is, it’s a beautiful place.

Tomorrow we are dancing, ballroom dancing in the afternoon! Not sure I’m looking forward to it, but it’s something we have to do. Dancing among other people! Ooh Scary!

Dug wi’ a burst ba’ – 30 September 2018

Hazy wanted to Skype today. Skype said No!

Scamp got a message today from Hazy asking if we were free to Skype. It seemed a good way to test out Scamp’s new ‘puter’s communication setup. However …

We tried for about half an hour to get Skype to connect, well, that’s not entirely correct. We could see and hear Hazy, but nothing we did would allow her to see or hear us. We tried everything and eventually gave up on the shiny new HP and conducted the conversation on the iMac. After our virtual meeting was over, it was back to troubleshooting the PC version. I checked that the microphone was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was. I checked that the webcam was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was, however when we tried to combine these two successes in Skype it failed. Now who owns Skype? That’s right, Mickysoft. That probably explains why it didn’t work. Scamp told me not to waste the afternoon on it, but this was rapidly becoming a “dug wi’ a burst ba’ “ situation. I wasn’t going to let it go.

Eventually I had to give up. Uninstalled the troublesome Skype then re-installed it. When we got it working, but because Skype is a Mickysoft product, it registered it to Scamp’s login name, not the Skype name she’s had for the last fifty million years. Not only that, it had lost all her contacts. Uninstall and reinstall again and the same thing happened. Only once she’d logged out and logged in again could she change her Skype name. Why does Mickysoft screw up everything it gets its claws into? Finally we could communicate across the living room with a degree of feedback through Skype. I think we’re good to go now Hazy!

Most of the afternoon had gone, but there was some good light left, so I went for a walk around St Mo’s and spotted Mr Grey up a tree. He must have felt safe and secure there because he didn’t fly off even when I walked right to the shore of the pond and stole his soul for PoD. I was glad that I’d got him, because there was little else to photograph today.

Made some bread which we’ll need to have tomorrow because it was too late to have with our dinner. Also, the tomatoes that were roasting for the tomato soup are still in the tray in the oven because Mickysoft couldn’t leave Skype alone (and neither could I). That too will have to wait until tomorrow. However my lamb shoulder shank was very nice if a little fatty. The other one will do for tomorrow’s dinner. Scamp’s stuffed Portobello Mushroom looked dismal, but she declared it delightful.

Swallow Watch:  Almost forgot to mention, this week I did see some swallows flying very high and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? Well, it’s a free day. No Gems. What shall we do with it, I wonder?

Just one of those days – 9 September 2018

Do you ever have one of those days when nothing happens, but then you have difficulty in recalling any of it? No? Must just be me then.

Didn’t get up until late. There seemed no point as the sun seemed to disappear, then reappear again weaker than it was. It would repeat this sequence, then come back strong again before starting again. It was also raining fitfully. Almost as if it couldn’t be bothered becoming full on rain, it just wanted to drizzle all day.

It was Scamp who decided we must get up and go shopping. Not go for messages, go shopping to Morrisons in Falkirk and she was driving. So off we went (we got dressed first 😉 ) We hadn’t gone far before the rain started in earnest and continued all the way to Falkirk. We went to get milk and muesli and came home with a whole lot more. Loads of stuff. Morrisons weren’t doing breakfast, well they were, but it was taking 20 minutes for hot food and we wanted hot food, so we said “no thanks” and came home to make breakfast / lunch. Not brunch, because that’s american (with a small ‘a’) and we’re not the sort of people who do brunch. Whatever it is.

After lunch or breakfast whatever you want to call it, I went out to see if a bloke in Coatbridge would fix the scrape I made in the car last week, but he only fixes bumps and wasn’t interested because the paint was scraped and he didn’t have the tools to do paint jobs. He did however tell me about somebody on the other side of town who could do the job. That’s tomorrow’s visit.

Came home and took today’s PoD from the top of the Whin Edge Brae above Mollinsburn. Faked it back home to produce moving clouds in the sky area but static grass stems in the lower part. Also gave it a warmer light overall. Not great, but at least I took a photo today.

Spent the evening tweaking the email settings on my Linx 12×64 and finally managed to get all my emails working on Windows 10.  We should have been  going  to Mango to dance with The Dark Side, but just before 6pm when we were due to leave, we had to put the house lights on because it was so gloomy and the rain was battering against the window.  We couldn’t really be bothered, so we left it to another day.

Just one of those days.

Tomorrow I am hoping to go to sunny Coatbridge to see a man about paint.

Italian Lunch – 8 September 2018

We decided to go in to Glasgow today. The weather disagreed.

Got the bus in to town. The weather was fine when we left. There is no reason to drive in when we can take the bus. No parking charges, no petrol being used, no limit on the amount of alcohol we get to consume 🙂 What’s not to like?

Took the subway out to the West End. To Kelvinbridge to be more precise and walked along in the direction of Paesano, but we didn’t quite reach it in the rain. We stopped instead at La Lanterna West End. We’d been there before, away back in June. This was it’s first birthday and there were balloons round an archway at the door. We stopped to look at the menu, but I knew by the look on Scamp’s face that “Resistance is Useless” as the Vogon guard said in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We were going to LLWE. Starter for both of us were the same: Fishcakes. But such good fishcake. Probably the best I’ve tasted. Scamp’s Cod with Genovese Potatoes wasn’t such a hit. The cod was dry she said and Scamp is never wrong about fish. My Pasta with Salsiccia was ok, but with far too much creamy Gorgonzola. I know we sound like foodies, but we’re paying for this and we expect it to be cooked properly. For once, we had dessert. Scamp’s was Stewed Apple something and I had Tiramisu. Both were very good, although the tiramisu could have done with just a drop or two of alcohol in it.
Like last time, the restaurant was noisy, but there were only three tables being used. It’s not the people, it’s the hard walls and floor. There’s no soft furnishings to soak up the noise. Nice and airy though, not like La Lanterna in town. Not impressed. We might not be back for a while.

By the time we came out the weather had deteriorated quite a bit and it was truly miserable. We were going to walk up to Byres Road, but we just retraced our steps to Kelvinbridge and got the train back to Glasgow and then the bus home. Strangely, when we got back the sun was shining. Now that must be a first for Cumbersheugh. Actually brighter here than anywhere else!

After an hour long snooze, I decided to go out on Dewdrop for a last bramble hunt and maybe a PoD, because the sun was still shining. I got 400g brambles and the above photo. It didn’t look like much when I downloaded it, but after some judicious application of level adjustment and some colour saturation work it started to shine.

I spotted a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens on MPB tonight. My old Olympus 9mm fisheye is getting a bit long in the tooth and the focus lever is starting to move of its own volition so I’ve been watching for the Samyang to appear for months now. I snapped it up. It’s due to come on Tuesday.

The other thing we did today was to set up mail on Scamp’s new ‘puter. Windows 10 is a nightmare to set up mail on. However, after only and hour’s swearing it was done. That’s not bad. Then, when I was out cycling, Scamp set up the printer all by her own wee self! Well done you, Scamp.

Tomorrow we may go to Mango to dance in a strange place.

Computing – 7 September 2018

Not so much computing, more looking for computers

We finally gave up on Scamp’s old laptop this morning and decided to cut our losses and go for a new one. Currys in Bishopbriggs was the place to go with a better selection than JL. After much indecision, soul searching and cups of coffee, she eventually settled on an HP 14” laptop, only to find that they didn’t have one in the store, the nearest store that did have one was Braehead, in fact it had eight. Braehead is on the other side of Glasgow.

The Juke’s satnav knew where it was and delivered us to the door. It was like walking into a time machine. This store looked exactly like the one we’d just left twenty minutes before, and I mean exactly! Even down to the displays all being the same with the same machines and in the same places. Weird. That’s the great thing about AutoCad. The architect draws one building and simply adjusts the sizes slightly to suit different ground areas and bang. You have cloned another store. It’s almost like there’s a factory somewhere churning out Currys PC World stores to order.

Anyway, we found the laptop easily because, of course, it was in exactly the same place relative to the front door. That’s where the efficiency ended. Lots of black clad Currys PC World employees looking busy, carrying pieces of paper or clipboards. Nobody ever questions you if you’re carrying a piece of paper. Even less likelihood of an questions being asked if you’ve got a clipboard in your hand. Eventually after about fifteen minutes of standing being ignored by all the sales people, a lady with a clipboard asked if she could help. Scamp said “Yes, I want that one.” The lady said she’d put us in the queue and told us there was one gentleman in the queue before us. She didn’t write our name on the clipboard, which was probably just for show and after another then minutes our assistant arrived. Scamp repeated her “Yes, I want that one” speech and off we went to get the order processed. He gaily typed the details into the computer and told us they only had one, the display model. When he turned the monitor around to prove it, Scamp noticed it was a totally different model. He grumbled something about it being the right model and when he returned, he had a piece of paper and told us that someone (?) had put the wrong model name in front of the computer. Not so, we’d already checked. Half a dozen times. We’d had about 25 minutes to make sure while we waited. The new bit of paper had the correct model number and there were now thirteen models of that type in stock. I think they breed them in that warehouse.

Long story short, we finally got the ‘puter. We didn’t even have to endure the refusal to purchase Mickysoft Office 365 or the insurance package. I think he just wanted us to go. As we left we had to surrender our invoice so the guard at the door could check that we weren’t stealing a laptop, or buying a memory stick and trying to get through the exit carrying a laptop. I’m still not sure what that was all about.

Setup at home was the usual overdone Mickysoft pantomime, but in the end was fairly painless. We even managed to remove the old Micksoft Office Home from my old Tosh and release the license so that it could be installed in the new computer. By the way, it’s a 14″ HP with an i5 processor, 8GB memory and 128GB SSD. Just in case you wanted to know. 128GB isn’t much once you count in the room needed for Windows 10 and all it’s airs and graces. So once I got the hard drive out of the old HP we copied only the necessary files on to the new one.  I am reliably informed that Jigsaw World works perfectly.

After that I went a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD there, before returning to make the best spaghetti I’ve made in years. The secret was some extra special Italian tinned tomatoes. Lovely thick sauce in them. Cirio Pulpa, look for them.

My apologies to JIC for the superexcess of Technospeak in today’s blog.

Tomorrow we’re going out somewhere, anywhere but Currys PC World.