Rained again last night – 3 November 2019

And most of today too.

It was one of those days that entice you out with the promise of sunshine and the unwary will venture out and end up soaked. The more circumspect will notice that there is a fine drizzle sparkling through the sunshine and wait for it to clear completely. For most of the day we were in that second group, then we made an excuse, any excuse, went out and got wet. There, that more or less sums up the day.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and then she phoned back to sort out a couple of iPhone problems for me. It’s great to have an expert on hand for just those niggling problems. After a puzzling hour Scamp and I finally managed to get my calendar and hers to speak to each other. You would think that in this day and age of technical wizardry, something as simple as sharing a calendar would be easy peasy, but it’s not. But then it’s associated with emails and it’s well known that emails and printers are the biggest nuisances in computing, other than trying to install Linux in a Linx computer that its, but that’s another story.

Here is that other story. I have a Linx 12×64, 2 in 1 laptop. It works fairly well, but it’s saddled with the despicable Windows 10 OS. It forever wants to “Get me back on track”. I don’t want to get back on track, I just want it to do what it’s told. That’s when I thought it might be a good idea to install Linux. Linux for those of you who have never heard of it is a free (as in free beer and free speech) operating system that runs on a UNIX base, much like a Mac. It’s a bit geeky, Val uses it, so it’s a lot geeky and the two of us are now competing to get it to run on our 12x64s. He’s almost there and I thought I was today until the screen on Elementary OS closed down every 15 seconds, no matter what I did to try to stop it. The challenge still continues and I’ll have another go tonight. I thought I’d broken the Linx last night when it ended up in no man’s land with no OS at all. No Linux and no Windows. Then I crossed my fingers and used Macrium to restore a backup of Windows and it rose from the dead again. I’m trying to keep this light with very little technospeak for JIC’s benefit, so I won’t explain my big mistake that led to that little problem. Suffice to say I won’t do it again … until the next time it sounds like a good idea.

Eventually Scamp harrumphed and said it was time to go out and get wet. We walked down to the new shops in the almost dry, got our messages and came home in the rain, just solid, straight down, rain. We knew we’d get wet and were dressed for it, so that was fine.

PoD tonight was taken, hand held with the pens sitting on a couple of tissues with another couple behind to hide the mess on the coffee table. I quite liked it.

Today’s blog title came from a Tom Paxton song, by the way “The Things I Notice Now”.

Tomorrow it’s Gems and I’m hoping to go out for a while, rain or shine.

Old Bologna – 25 October 2019

Today was dull, really dull, so to brighten our day we went out to Italy.

I started the theme early by flying from Italy to Sicily. It was an uneventful flight until I allowed X-Plane to take control of the aircraft. It was supposed to fly it by AI, but I don’t know what the ‘I’ stood for. It certainly wasn’t Intelligence. It decided to take it away from the flight path and turn off the jet engine. After a bit of a struggle I got everything sorted out an performed a text book landing … at the designated airport, not in somebody’s garden as my brother used to do in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Back in the real world I struggled with getting email to work on the Samsung. Eventually I gave up or we wouldn’t have arrived at the restaurant in time for supper, let alone lunch. It must be at least three years since we’ve been in Vecchia Bologna, but the menu was quite familiar, the prices were a bit higher and the food was just as good as before. Next time, and I’m sure there will be a next time, we’ll book in advance to get a window seat.

Drove from there to Hobbycraft at The Fort to get some material to make a bow tie. I saw it earlier in the week and should have got it then, but the ‘fat quarter pack’ I was looking for was still there. Met Nancy when we left and made arrangements for lunch some time soon. Back via Aldi so that Scamp could test it out. That smell was still there, but again, it could have been because of the clientele although it did seem to be coming from the fruit and veg aisle.

Back home it was too dull to get an outside photo, so today’s PoD is of the last five apples from the James Grieve tree. Best year we’ve had so far.

Got a bit pissed off with the poor phone reception near the house. Can’t even get Spotify to play on the dire music system on the Juke. Eventually cooled down and accepted that EE is probably, overall the best of a bad bunch. O2 is better than all of them, but elsewhere its coverage is decidedly patchy. Vodafone is about the same as EE, but they really do make life difficult for you. I spent about an hour filling in the form to unlock my iPhone SE! O2 and EE unlock theirs after 18 months automatically. Three is just a joke – no coverage and a poor record. The moral of the tale is “Live with what you’ve got.”  What I did manage to do with the phone was finally get the email sorted.  It was the simplest thing.  The username was wrong, and that completely borked everything.  That’s not what the Samsung told me was wrong.  It told me that I hadn’t set up the PoP or the IMAP properly.  Misdirection is one of the greatest bugbears of the digital life.

Today’s Inktober topic was A Towel. This is how I spend my Friday nights now. Sitting on the toilet sketching an ink drawing of a pink towel. It’s things like this that give amateur artists a bad name!

Tomorrow we have no firm plans. It all depends on the weather fairies.

Strawbs and rain – 29 July 2019

It was a dry start to the day, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

The clouds descended and the rain began.  It was going to be a dull, wet day.  I’d already timetabled a backup for my Linx laptop for today and it went without a hitch.  That was lucky and it was the last good thing that happened.  After restarting the laptop, the message I’d not seen for ages blocked access to everything else.  Apparently Windows 10 wanted, no, demanded that it be allowed to upgrade the OS.  Oh well, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I let it get on with it.  Two hours later the laptop greeted me with the news that it had been updated to the  ‘New’ April 2018 version.  Was this what had taken two hours?  Apparently it was.  I wasn’t impressed.  I promptly got rid of it and downgraded it to the previous version of the OS, only to find that as well as removing the ‘New’ April 2018 version, it had also removed at least one of my apps.  A Windows app.  One of the few things that Mickysoft make that actually works, the one I use to occasionally post the blog.  Thankfully I’d made that backup this morning.  Twenty minutes later the laptop was returned to the state it was in first thing this morning.  Now I have to find a way to block Mickysoft from reinstalling any ‘New’ version.

The rain persisted all day and I took the opportunity to do a little still life of some strawberries fresh from the fridge.  Not our strawberries from the garden, these three came from Tesco.  They got PoD.

Salsa tonight was interesting and exhausting.  New move from last week was called Sombrero <Something>  I’ll fill in the <Something> when we remember – you can see how memorable a name it was!  So was the move!!  We also covered Archangel, Dame Pa’Fuera, ‘New One’ and ‘Old One’.  He must take ages making up these names 😉  That said, he is coming up with lots of short interesting moves that are easy to join together in different combinations.

When we were driving home from Glasgow about 9.15pm the sky was clearing and there was a lovely sunset.  Then the automatic headlights came on.  Nights are fair drawing in already!

Tomorrow we’re off to Larky to get our eyes tested.

The day that the rains came – 29 May 2019

… and forgot to go away.

It wasn’t the best of days. Like I said at the top, the rains came and forgot to go away. I don’t suppose it mattered really as we weren’t intending to go anywhere except to Glasgow for dancing in the afternoon and then again in the evening. The furthest I was past the door was a quick trot round the block to achieve my 250 steps every hour. It was on one of those circuits I found the little Glass Bead Plant growing on the wall at the back of the house. Of course it was really a moss with raindrops clinging to the fruiting bodies, but some people will be avidly searching Google for Glass Bead Plants as I write this! It got PoD.

Drove in to Glasgow and ticked off another 250 odd steps on our walk down to Blackfriars for Jive, Quickstep and Cha-Cha. We made a few mistakes still, but not as many as last week, thankfully. It was almost a private lesson again as the class started out with three couples, then two were spirited away to learn the stuff that we already knew, that left us to the tender mercies of Michael. Worked on another part of the Over the Rainbow routine and then did some work on our Quickstep and in between we tackled the dreaded ‘off beat’ Cha-Cha. Totally drained, we went for coffee (no cake) and then drove home in the rain.

Scamp drove in to Glasgow tonight and we danced with the intermediate class and the beginners who are getting through the moves at quite a pace now. Thankfully the Tipsy Ladies were not in class tonight, so it was much more bearable than last week.

Today’s sketching topic was A Knife or a Sword. I suppose I could have found a sword somewhere in the town. Some areas of Cumbersheugh are awash with them on a Friday night … allegedly! However, I resisted that temptation and settled on drawing my old Swiss Army knife. It’s been sharpened so many times, the blade is a completely different shape from when it was new. It was my tool of choice for sharpening pencils. So much more efficient than a pencil sharpener. Unfortunately, the world has moved on and it’s now illegal to carry this useful tool.

Tomorrow looks like being much like today, weather wise, so I doubt if we’ll be going far.

A Plan – 27 May 2019

Today’s plan was an attempt at better use of time.

I’m getting fed up with heading for bed after midnight. My aim is to use my time more efficiently. The month of May is a bit of a nightmare of my own making. Not only do I have to get the daily photo taken, processed and uploaded to the sluggish Flickr, and get the blog written and also uploaded. Now I have to devise a sketch, complete it and probably slap some paint on it too. It keeps my mind alert, certainly, but it’s playing merry hell with my sleep pattern. Today I’m trying a different tack.

This morning I planned out today’s sketch and the topic was Books. I drew a stack of books and it looked reasonable until I realised that Escher could have drawn it. However, nobody could have built it. The stack of books needed some helium balloons attached to help them achieve their perilous balancing act. That said, it was only a planning sketch and had pointed out the need to plan more carefully. The next sketch was better and it looked like the books would actually stack like that without falling down. It went on to phase 2 and had some colour added. Yes, with a touch of shadow detail it looked solid. It’s been photographed, processed and uploaded to FB.

After lunch and after solving he difficult weekend Sudoku, admittedly a day late, I went for a walk around St Mo’s to try for more insect (beastie) pictures. Managed to get a bit closer to the flies and am better pleased with the results. Photos are now processed and uploaded to Flickr. The management of Flickr are stating that the site is now stable. If this is stable, I’d hate to see unstable. It’s slow, pictures disappear without warning, comments disappear. The whole structure seems fragile at present and give very little confidence in its use. It may improve. We can but hope.

That was the extent of the day’s work apart from some pruning in the garden. Trying to get rid of aphid damage on the black currant bushes. One of the benefits of having a brown bin is that you can happily dispose of damaged plants in it. I didn’t want to put the damaged leaves in the compost because that would only spread the infection. Our composter doesn’t get hot enough to destroy pests like that.

Tomorrow I go for my annual checkup at the docs. In the afternoon we may take a trip to visit one of Scamp’s Gems in hospital.

That’s the blog completed. I just need to post it and I will be about two hours ahead of my usual time!

Coffee with Fred

Val was off on holiday to Dunoon, (serves him right) and Colin was being “The man who worked in the garden”. So it was just Fred and me.

Read for a while, trying to eke out the last few pages of “The Boy and His Dog at The End of The World” by C. A. Fletcher. (There you go, Hazy. That saves me emailing you). That’s when the aforementioned Hazy phoned and I had to dress and get down stairs to find out about all things London-side.

Out to meet Fred in Costa. Not so much a coffee shop as somewhere to leave the kids while you talk to your mates. That’s how the mothers in Cumbersheugh seem to view it anyway. Today was less screamy than usual with fewer weans trying, unsuccessfully, to jump from the top of the stairs to the land balletically at the bottom. Most of the ‘mummies’ just looked around and said those famous words of Mhairi’s “They bounce!” Our own conversations ranged around his sketches, my sketches, the world in general, how much better it was when we were younger. All true. Well, it was better when we were both younger. The world was a much better and safer place than it is today. After an hour and a half of reminiscing, we both went our separate ways. Me to go home for a late lunch and him to Tesco. We agreed to meet in a few weeks time.

Came home and tried unsuccessfully to coax the Sony TV to play the video that was on the memory stick I’d inserted. I got so fed up with the whole thing I took my Olys for a walk over to St Mo’s to see if there was anything worth photographing. Got the one at the top of the page and nice shot of a dandelion clock, but don’t bother trying to see it online, because somebody’s broken Flickr. It’s called Ongoing Maintenance apparently.

When I came home, I did the unthinkable and read the instruction book for the TV, where I found out that the format for the video was not MP4 using an H.264 profile (no, I don’t know what that is either), but MPEG (no, nor that one either). I tried converting a short video to MPEG and it worked! Hooray. About two and a half hours wasted and all I had to do was RTFM (Read The F*cking Manual).

Today’s topic for sketching is A Well-used Bag: Fred laughed when I told him. Fred has a dirty mind and an even dirtier laugh. The bag I drew was my old camera bag that I’ve recently sewn back to life again. I’d forgotten how useful it was to take only the camera you’re going to use with you and not a bucket full of lenses that you won’t use. Simple.

Made a focaccia again today to go with a lovely salad Scamp made. How on earth did some Italian punter years ago came up with the idea of pouring one and a half times the usual amount of water into a dough and then pouring a jug full of oil in too before he / she attempted to knead the slurry into something resembling a dough? What made them think it would work? The strange thing is, it works really, really well. I’d just like to know how they came up with such a strange recipe.

Tomorrow, we’re going for lunch somewhere, and then it’s going to rain.

Plants and plans – 20 May 2019

We went to visit Torwood Garden Centre today as Scamp had found a small square in the garden that would support one more plant.

A fairly early rise for me to go and post a parcel, then get some blood taken for my annual health check next week. Checked with the hospital about my prostate appointment and found that I’d been mistaken about the time and it was actually well in hand. More bloods needed to be taken for that too! Heavens I’ll be like a pin cushion this month!

After lunch we drove to Falkirk to the garden centre. Actually I wanted some peas for the raised bed as my previous two plantings have been growing downwards instead of up or something, because they weren’t showing their little green heads. Not in the raised bed where two lots were planted and not in the pots in the greenhouse where two lots were planted. Got some today. Not a named variety, just labelled Garden Peas. Scamp bought a big green plant with spotted leaves. Looks the part and will bring some colour to a dull part of the garden that gets little or no sun.

When we came home, she unveiled her plans for a long raised bed to be used as an edge to the front garden. It’s to run from the corner of the house out to the path. That’s a distance of about 4.5m and about “That wide” she indicated with two hands. I’m actually more used to working with numbers. It makes it much easier when you’re buying lengths of timber and also when you’re cutting them to size. I’ve found in the past that “That wide” can vary considerably with the length of a person’s arms. We may do some measuring and some drawing tomorrow.

Today’s PoD was the wee 2cm viola which is flowering in a plant pot. Tiny wee thing.

Today’s sketch took ages and I’m still not happy with it. Topic was Some Sweets and I chose liquorice allsorts. It took about four tries before I got something resembling them. No time left to do anything else, so it had to do. Onward and upward.

Went dancing in the STUC and the new moves for the advanced class were “Spiral” and “Osco”. Both were interesting and both were doable with care. Beginners class were doing La Completa.

It was a day of ticking things off as we got them done. A good day.

Tomorrow we are both hoping to get our plants into the ground.

I like Thursdays – 9 May 2019

Thursdays are generally good. All the time in the world to do things. Why then am I still writing this blog at almost 11pm?

Spent most of the morning clearing up the back bedroom. Now it looks a bit better and the rubbish went into a black bag. Well, most of it anyway. Some was spared for a while, I’ll put it in a six month virtual box. Anything left in that box after six months will go into another black box. After lunch I took the black bag along with a clutter of plastic pots and containers, some paint pots neutralised with soil and compost and took the load to the tip.

Then went for a walk along the Luggie Water. First time I’ve been there for quite some time and with a bit of occasional sunshine, the green leaves down there were gleaming. PoD was a trio of fern croziers starting to unfurl. So many hues and shades of green if you care to look.

The topic for Every Day in May was “The first thing that comes to mind when you wake up”.  I chose Breakfast.
A plate of muesli and a large mug of Assam tea. I foolishly chose to use the Paperchase A5 sketchbook because I’d used one a year ago and it worked well for me. Unfortunately Paperchase have changed their paper and the pages in the new sketchbook are much more absorbent than the previous one’s. That’s why there’s a fair bit of ragged edges to the shadows. The paper isn’t properly sized in my opinion. Such a shame.

Tomorrow we have nothing planned. We’ll just have to see what turns up.

May the Fourth be with you – 4 May 2019

The weather fairies warned us that today would be cold with a wind from the Arctic bringing the possibility of sleet and snow. It did feel cold when we woke and despite the blue sky and sunny spells, the temperature didn’t rise much. Since we had nowhere in particular to go, we just had a day at home. Sometimes it’s better to stay home at weekends and do your travelling on weekdays when other folk are working.

Scamp was about to throw out some tulip flowers when I saw the beautiful texture and colour of their petals glowing in the sunshine. I set a camera on the table and taped a bit of tracing paper behind the flowers to allow light through, but soften the view of the living room. It took a few shots and a lot of changes to settings before I got the shot I wanted.

<Technospeak>
I finally decided that one shot wouldn’t do the job. It needed too much depth of field and the only way I was going to get it was by taking at least five shots of the subject. One at the very front petal, one at the extreme back petal and at least three in between. Actually it took seven shots. The technique is called Focus Stacking and takes ages to post-process. The more shots you take, the more accurate your final shot will be, but the more time you’ll be stuck in the computer deleting bits of the different layers. Luckily ON1 2019 has focus stacking built in and the hard work is done for you. Like all AI things, it does need some human intervention to get it exactly right. That’s what I did … for about two hours, but I think the final image was worth the effort.
</Technospeak>

Scamp made her version of Minestrone soup for dinner and I made a lovely Tear ’n’ Share bread to go with it. It was a bit like a focaccia but with tomatoes in it and less oil. It should have had mozzarella in it too, but we only had green and blue mozzarella with a Use By date of the middle of March, so we decided not to use it. The dough was really sloppy but the bread was lovely and so was the soup.

Today’s challenge on EDiM was Star Wars Day. The closest I could get to it was the heads of four Lego Troopies. Just pen for a change and a challenge.

Tomorrow we may go dancing at the Record Factory.

Going our separate ways – 4 March 2019

I took the chance to slip the leash today, for a little while.

Scamp had the second gig of the year at Stepps and, as she didn’t need a roadie so I set off early to visit a new camera shop in Glasgow. The satnav lady knew where it was and got me there without a problem. They didn’t have the tripod I was looking for, but I didn’t really think they would have. It’s rather a niche model and I’ve read conflicting reports about it. I just wanted to have a look at it first hand before I parted with a hundred smackeroonies. The bloke in the shop couldn’t have been less interested:

“Do you have a Benbo Trekker tripod?”
”No. You have to order them from the website.”
“It’s just that I’d rather see it to make sure it will do what I want before I commit myself to buying it.”
”Yeah.”

Obviously not going for salesman of the month then?

Drove back in the general direction of Home using the satnav again. Because of the one-way system return was not the reverse of going, in this case, but the satnav lady knew this too. Once I was on the M8 heading roughly east I switched the satnav lady off and let her go back to sleep. Drove past Home and onward to Stirling where I turned off and took the back road up and over the Tak Ma Doon road, stopping near Loch Coulter to grab some shots to make a panorama later and also a grab shot of the straight road that looks as if it goes all the way to the Ochil Hills. The panorama became PoD. From there it was a lovely run in the springlike sunshine all the way home. Piece ’n’ flat sausage for my lunch and then after I’d dumped the images on the computer, I started today’s apple picture. It looks reasonable and hopefully you’ll be able to check my progress (or regress) soon on the website when I post the first seven. It’s an enjoyable task the painting and drawing of the apples, or at least it has been so far. May even branch out into ink or acrylic later. For just now it’s basically pencil and watercolour.

When Scamp came home I made a delicious tuna pasta. I say ‘delicious’, because we both agreed it was. Don’t know what I did differently this time, but I think it may have been some posh tomato concentrate. Must look for more of it the next time we’re buying Tesco.

Energetic beginners class in STUC and an advanced class where I couldn’t put a foot right. Every move a disaster. Even worse, I knew most of the moves. Just couldn’t get the moves into my head right. I think I just need to think less and go with the flow some times. Must practise Agamemnon this week to get rid of the rough edges. Still lots of laughs.

Tomorrow we have a free day. I think we may be going plant hunting again, although the weather looks rough. We’ll wait and see.