Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2020

Today is Scamp’s birthday, but because of Covid 19 we stayed at home.

Breakfast in bed for her, and for me. Actually that’s nothing unusual for us. One thing that retirement has taught me is that there’s no need to rush anymore. If it needs done, it will get done. If it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t needing done in the first place. After Scamp opened her parcels and almost choked at the antics of her ‘Dancing Cat’, we both finished the chapters of the books we were reading and got on with the day.

I sewed a torn seam on two of my shirt pockets, caused by stuffing my phone and my glasses in there. After finishing one shirt and starting another I promptly lost the needle and panicked because a lost needle can be a really dangerous thing in a house. You’ve heard the expression “Turned the house upside down” when looking for something? We turned the three seater sofa upside down … and then shook it, but no needle. We hoovered, we tentatively searched between the cushions. Finally, I went upstairs to carefully strip off all the clothes I was wearing to see if the needle had become lodged in them, and that’s when Scamp shouted that she’d found it. It was still tacked into the shirt I had finished repairing. We’d both looked and looked at that shirt without finding it, but there it was. Thank goodness.

By then it was coffee time and after calming down and some discussion we chose to stay at home today. Nobody, but nobody was moving their cars out. Maybe we stayed at home, but that didn’t mean we didn’t go out. Scamp planted out her two boxes of pansies in the front garden. She also did a bit of weeding and some feeding of her plants. She did a bit more pruning of bushes and plants in the back garden too.

<Technospeak>
I must admit I was tempted to go out for a walk, but I thought I’d better obey Boris’s Rules and stay home. So I took the Benbo out to the garden and set up the E-M1 and macro lens on it, turned on ‘focus stacking’ and took some 15 shots of a crocus flower. The focus stacking allows you to take a rapid number of shots, all at slightly incasing focus distances. My aim was to get a set of shots with focus settings from the very front of the nearest petal to the furthest back petal. Eventually I worked out it should be about 9 shots, not 15. Focus stacking works best with a totally still subject, and just as I pressed the shutter button each time, a tiny wee breeze would blow and start to make the crocus nod its head. I finally got the sequence I wanted without the breeze and could pack up and go inside. There I squirted the shots into the piece of software that does the magic and merges the 9 shots into one. The result you see here is what it looks like. It was done using Affinity Photo. Thanks again Hazy!
</Technospeak>

I became so engrossed in this process I forgot that I was making dinner tonight. Carrot & Lentil Curry. A long time favourite of ours. Got it made and left it to keep warm just in time to go and speak to Hazy, Neil-D, JIC, Sim and Vixen. We didn’t actually speak to Tilly and Penny, but we knew they were there too. All through the magic of Zoom™. We were very impressed with the software. Scamp was desperate to show off the Dancing Cat. I think Hazy & Neil-D thought it was funny. JIC & Sim not so much. I could just see JIC mouthing “What the hell is that” or something similar. It didn’t matter, the main thing is Scamp thought it was brilliant!

That was a good day. Curry was good. Flat bread was better and even better still was the orange and rhubarb jelly, which was superb! Best of all was the look on Scamp’s face when the Dancing Cat started his routine this morning!!

Tomorrow? Possibly more of the same, but without Zoom™.

What a dull day for the first day of the decade – 1 January 2020

Dull, but at least it was dry.

As predicted, bedtime was early this morning rather than late last night, and drink was taken. Therefore, it was a late rise this morning. After that a rather lazy start to the day with no attempt to achieve the required 10,000 steps or even the 250 steps per hour. The fact that I was moving at all was an achievement in itself. Scamp, however, was much better today with very little sign of the pains that had been bothering her for the last couple of days.

After a frugal lunch (piece ’n’ bacon for me and a piece ’n’ egg for Scamp), we went for a leisurely walk around ‘easy’ St Mo’s. We stuck to the new path and I took a few photos, but only a few were worth considering as PoD. The best of a bad lot was the swan’s head. Even that was poor. Hopefully there will be better light tomorrow, but I’m not too confident about that.

<Technospeak>
On the computer front, the bastardised macOS Sierra was still working on the old MBP, but it took a terrible time to boot up and I’m still not sure what exactly that patched OS is doing in the background. With that in mind I decided to do a clean install of El Capitan and to remove the ancient hard drive that’s been draining the battery for years. The reset worked well and the boot time to El Capitan is much reduced from that of the slightly illegal Sierra.

My Lightroom 6 is an upgrade version and needs proof of purchase of a previous version to install. That proof is the serial number for the original version, in my case, version 1! Today I found it at the back of a cupboard, so I can have Lightroom on my old MBP and a legal version too, because Adobe are very aggressive in their searches for illegal software. That’s tomorrow’s job, as is what someone once called “the tracery of free and shareware programs that constantly run in the background”.
</Technospeak>

Dinner was a bit of a mishmash. My steak pie was overcooked because I forgot that the Le Creuset pot holds the heat and therefore keeps cooking long after the heat has been turned off. Still it was edible and we had a civilised dinner sitting at the table as befits a New Year’s Day dinner. Scamp’s salmon seemed to fair much better than my stew. We had a bottle of Prosecco courtesy of Clive back in September, and it was one of the best bottles of prosecco I’ve had.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere for a walk or a look in the shops. It all depends on the weather. As usual.

Sunshine! – 30 December 2019

The sky was clearing when we woke, but it took a while for it to clear completely.

Scamp was feeling a lot better today. Good enough to go for the messages. Rather than face the crowds and the traffic jams, we chose to shop locally in Tesco. I think we nearly emptied the place, judging by the amount of stuff in the trolley we wheeled to Scamp’s car. She had decided to give the Juke the day off because it had worked hard these last few weeks.

After lunch I took the ‘old’ E-M1 out for a spin round St Mo’s and got some lovely light because the clouds had all cleared away and the low sun was warming everything up. Not actual temperature ‘warming’, but colour temperature warming. The Mired value, but you don’t need, or want to know that, do you? Let’s just say it was lovely light during what’s know to photogs as the Golden Hour. Today it was macros again and my favourite and therefore the PoD was one of some moss on the limb of a tree.

By the time I was heading home, Scamp was getting ready for a Gems Christmas/New Year party at Carol’s. A good name to have for this time of year. I wasn’t invited, of course as this was a girls only night, but I was the nominated driver for Scamp and Margie. I was even getting the privilege of driving Scamp’s car, probably to extend the Juke’s holiday. Dropped the ladies off and headed home to do battle with the MacBook Pro again.

This time I was ready. I’d read the script and the the different pieces of software. The first attempt didn’t work. Apparently the secret is to change the system date of the MBP to something about two years ago and try again. I did, and it worked. Panicked after that because although the screen looked right, I had no mouse, no keyboard and no way of progressing with the install. Back to the ‘big’ computer and read the ‘Problems’ section. It was a know problem with a solution. I did a reboot and edited one small tick box before I lost control and voila! MacOS Sierra running on a 2009 MBP. You PC owners may be saying “So?”, but this is a big deal. Apple control what can and can’t be installed on their hardware, but one clever bloke has stymied that. Well done to him. Tomorrow I’ll populate it.

Got the message just about 11pm that a taxi was required. Checked the temperature (actual temperature, not Mired!) and it was -1ºc. Had to scrape Scamp’s car, inside and out!!

When we got back, Scamp was feeling sick. I suspected self-inflicted alcohol induced poisoning, but she said that wasn’t the case. She did look a bit under the weather and went to bed just before midnight. Hope she feels better tomorrow.

If Scamp is feeling better I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow to source some ink for the printer, or then again, I may not. It’s that certain.

Lost in Coatbridge – 3 December 2019

Not the place to get lost really.

Jackie left early to go for the bus home from Glasgow. As usual she booked herself a taxi, because she didn’t want to bother us. It was good to see her. We must visit Skye soon.

We set off ourselves a bit later in search of a walk in the fresh air at Drumpellier Park on the edge of Coatbridge. It was a fine day, not sunny, not bitterly cold and dry into the bargain. A comfortable walk around an essentially dull big pond, watching the ducks and swans being ice-breakers and cutting through the thin surface layer of ice. Had a coffee and shared a muffin in the cafe and gazed out over the pond. Great view across the water and although I said it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t too warm either, so a heat in the cafe was ideal.

Drove out of the gates of the park and turned right. After about half a mile I got a bit worried, because I couldn’t remember seeing those buildings when we came in. Turned at a school, I definitely couldn’t remember that. Lost, we switched on the sat nav and asked it to find the Fort. It directed us back the way we’d come. I didn’t think that was right either, but followed its instructions for a while before I went my own way again. Nope, that wasn’t right either. Finally after checking with Google Maps, I agreed that we had to go back the way we’d come and found the proper road. Trick was to turn left on exiting the park THEN turn right. Dumplin’! ( A “dumplin’ “ is like a “numpty”, but not as stupid. )

Found the Fort and got a few things for making parcels for Christmas. Then Scamp suggested we drive in to Glasgow because Santa was going halfers with me on my Christmas Prezzy. It’s (yet) another camera. This one is new. My first new camera for a month and before that? About ten years, maybe more. So, don’t start you pair! You know who you are.

Back home it was soup and Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner. Best I’ve made for ages, although Scamp’s Lentil Soup came a close second.

Testing the camera tonight, I found a big dust bunny on the sensor. This is a new camera and the sensor has dust on it and not just a microscopic particle, this one was bit. I was tempted to take it back, but then I tried my trusty blower on it and that did the trick. It’s a nice bit of kit this. It’s a bit smaller than the rest of my M43 cameras, but has that magic 4K Post Focus trick up its sleeve. Hopefully the best of both worlds. Even better, it came with a 12-32mm lens which I loved until it fell apart on me when we were down in Wales. Hopefully this one will last longer.

PoD was a Convolvulus stem making a neat helix on a cow parsley. Taken at Drumpellier before we got lost in darkest Coatbridge.

Tomorrow, hopefully we’re dancing again and I think I’ve worked out how to do that bloody spin 4 properly.

Coffee – 26 November 2019

Three auld guys moaning.

The three auld guys in question were Fred, Val and myself. It was more of a discussion than a moan today. We hadn’t met for quite some time, so there was a lot to discuss. Books exchanged, new tech demonstrated and coffee drunk. Even made plans for a bite to eat and a possible pint in Glasgow soon. Thankfully no politics muddied the the waters.

Drove home and found that my much needed tea and always needed coffee had been delivered by the DPD man. Such a clever and useful delivery service, flexible too. Worth the three quid I paid for it.

Scamp wasn’t feeling too great but she was still having lunch when I got back. It was too wet to go back out again and I had no notion of what I could photograph in the dull, dark landscape, and anyway it was raining, so I settled for an inside ‘flooer’ photo instead. When Scamp came back she got a phone call from the doc’s to say that there was a prescription for antibiotics waiting for her. I volunteered to go for it as it was getting dark now. I didn’t even bother to take a camera. Flooers it was then.

When I got back from the chemist and after a quick raid of Tesco, I made some soup along the lines of Scamp’s Just Soup and that was dinner with a couple of slices of good bread. Not home made bread, but good all the same.

<Technospeak>
Thought I could do the fancy 4K Post Focus trick with the new camera but then realised if I was going to use room lighting with low ISO it wouldn’t work. The Post Focus trick takes about twenty odd shots in 1-2 seconds. To get them all taken in that short time, it needs to use electronic shutter and the electronic shutter don’t work with exposure times greater than 1/30th of a second. Basically, this is a bright daylight only trick. Bummer.
</Technospeak>

Got the shot done using the E-M1 and it’s a rose from some cut flowers. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it works, and it’s PoD.

I was playing around with a trial version of a new prog called Luminar4. It has the amazing ability to change the sky in a landscape instantly to any one of about 40 different ones. It apparently uses AI to accomplish it. It really is a brilliant trick, but where’s the fun in doing it instantly when you can take an hour or so in Lightroom and ON1 to do it with a lot of swearing? AI? Not for me I prefer LOI. Lack Of Intelligence.  Typical result below.  Original sky on the left.

Tomorrow if we’re fit we’re hoping to go dancing.

The Highs and the Lows – 8 November 2019

Cameras. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Panasonic Lumix TZ70 which is a wonderful pocket camera. Long, Long zoom, shoots in the malleable RAW format, nice comfortable grip and an ideal form factor. Its big drawbacks are the small sensor (the digital “film”) and its habit of sucking in dust to the lens and ultimately to the sensor. A tiny bit of dust on a DSLR sensor is a bit of a pain, as is a tiny hair. On a sensor that’s smaller than your pinkie nail, that tiny bit of dust is a great black blob. My Teazer has a host of those blobs and now has a hair to keep them company. That’s my reasoning for looking for a replacement. Not ‘another’ camera as JIC will have it, but a replacement. One in, one regretfully out.

I’ve been charting the price fluctuations of a Sony RX100iii for the past few weeks and had a look at the camera in Jessops which was the cheapest of the local shops and Amazon too. Today when I checked, the price had risen by £30 from £449 to £479. The price hike, I presume is so they can ‘reduce’ the price again for Black Friday at the end of the month. It looked like it was out of the question, but I had a second runner in the race and thought I’d have a look at it. Went to JL and they had it in stock it was a Panasonic LX10 (I knew you’d want to know that JIC), but although it had a viewfinder, it didn’t have tilting screen which I now use a lot on my Olys. Bummer! Then I noticed in the reduced section in JL, the Sony I’d been denied by Jessops false price hike. Better than that, it was a kit, complete with a finger grip and a leather case. Best of all, it was about £100 below even the original asking price for the kit in Jessops! I took it. Things were on the up, perhaps. Scamp had got herself ‘another’ pair of jeans in M&S, so she was a happy bunny too.

Came home and went to lunch at Milano Express at Old Inns. Pizzas were a bit of a disappointment, lovely light, well-fired base, but far too heavy on the cheese. Must ask for less cheese next time. Had a relaxing lunch and Scamp was driving on a beautiful sunny day.

By the time we got home there was hardly any time to grab a photo and I did want to unpack this small miracle camera. It was small, it is tiny. Without the finger grip it’s very difficult to hold. Quite slippery. The controls, too are tiny and the menu is a labyrinth of jargon filled abbreviations. You can control the camera using NFC which is great, but the software is a bit clumsy and doesn’t always work. Also, the ‘control’ you have is whether to shoot with a time delay or not. No chance to change aperture or shutter speed. No clue what you’re focusing on. It’s all a bit hit or miss, but mostly miss. Long story short, although the camera is perfect and looks like it’s never been used, I think it may go back on JL’s shelf soon.

Today’s PoD is a slice of pomegranate, but could equally well be a slice through my befuddled brain!

Tomorrow we have no plans.

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.

A rather lazy day – 20 October 2019

I only completed 4 out of 8 of my active hours, but I did complete my 10,000 steps.

Half my order from Amazon dropped through the letterbox in the morning. After a bit of a struggle and a cautious paring away of part of the SD card and SIM carrier, everything fitted and the storage memory was installed in the new Samsung. Then I spent most of the afternoon trying to find out how to download the default ringtones from the iPhone without any success. Finally gave up and went for a walk.

Walked around St Mo’s for an hour to clear my head. Took a few arty shots, but I liked them. Found the chestnut tree had disgorged it’s autumn load of chessies. You may call them Conkers if you’re English, or even Chestnuts if you’re not from the UK, but to me they will always be chessies, because that’s what we called them when I was wee. Playing chessies at school was a great way to keep warm, and to arrive in the classroom with bloody knuckles. The twelve I brought home were destined to be PoD. Later they will overwinter in the little greenhouse and then hopefully be planted in the spring when the world warms up again.

After much soul searching between us, we finally decided to go dancing tonight and although I was brain-dead as far as moves were concerned and I also had a sore back, I did enjoy the exercise. Walking back up Bucky Street my Fitbit buzzed to tell me the 10,000 had been completed. Always makes you feel good, that.

Got home to find another parcel waiting for me. The last two bits of yesterday’s order. The new phone now has a new jacket to keep it warm in the winter. After a late dinner, we spoke to JIC and it was during the phone call that he said when referring to the ringtones, “Somebody must know how to get them.” That set me thinking. Perhaps I’d been tackling this problem the wrong way. What if somebody else had had the same problem, but they had found the solution. And so it was that some smart American in 2010 had not only found the solution to downloading the standard iPhone ringtones, he or she had also gone and Zipped them into a neat little file and posted it on the Internet. Hooray! It was the work of about ten minutes to unzip them, upload the necessary ones to the new SD card in the phone and install them. Brilliant. An afternoon wasted, but a result!! Thank you JIC for the advice.

Today’s topic for sketching was “A Camera”. I think Scamp laughed out loud when I told her. “Which one will you choose” she asked. There’s a famous photogs saying :

The best camera in the world is the one in your pocket

In my case it’s got to be, either the TZ70 or the iPhone. Both immediately accessible but the TZ70 (Codename Teazer) just wins with its super zoom and the ability to shoot in RAW. That’s the sketch done.

Tomorrow is Gems day. Time for a sharp exit for me.

Another wet day – 10 October 2019

Isobel was the visiting garden guru today.

Drove up to see the nurse about my recent blood test. She didn’t seem concerned about my sugar level, in fact she seemed pleased that it had come down and assured me that if I stayed on my regime it would continue to drop. I asked her about a leak I have in my eye after I bumped it with a pen on Tuesday. Yes, really. Clumsy I know. She told me to go to an optician and get it checked. Left with a smile on my face and a sample bottle in my pocket to be filled and returned to the surgery tomorrow.

Back home, Scamp was getting ready to go and get Isobel so she could assess the state of the garden. Basically Scamp’s been overcrowding the pots with too many plants. That and everything needs pruning and shaping. This is worse than Shannon’s styling classes! We had Broccoli soup for lunch and then Scamp showed her some of her holiday photos and that kept them amused for most of the afternoon. All the time the rain had been pelting down.

When Scamp took Isobel back home, I did a bit of armchair flying, then when the driver returned I drove up to the Town Centre to speak to an optician. In Specsavers the manager was very helpful and didn’t laugh too much when I told her what I’d done. The optician had a look and said I’d damaged a bit of the white of my eye, but that it was healing well. She gave me some ointment to put on it at night. I haven’t tried it yet as it seems to make your vision blur, but I’ll do it as soon as I get the blog written. I was relieved that it wasn’t anything worse and pleased that I’d got it seen to (pun not entirely intended).

By the time I was coming home, the automatic headlights came on, so there would be no outdoors photos today. In fact the only thing I could think of photographing was three of the roses that Clive had sent us. With a slow shutter speed to achieve a low ISO, they looked good. I know you really are interested in this JIC, that’s why I’m telling you 😉!

Today’s topic on my Inktober list was “A Radio. This is Scamp’s DAB digital radio. It’s the only discrete radio in the house, that is one that’s not built into something else. It’s so rarely that we use a radio these days. Scamp listens to Money Box on Radio 4 and I rarely listen to anything at all. Radios are and endangered species these days. This one was drawn in pen, then rendered with a water colour marker and a white pen. I also used lots and lots of Post It notes as masks to keep the edges neat. I thought a radio would be an easy topic. It wasn’t. Tomorrow the topic is “A Butterfly”. Not many of them around in October.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. It looks like being wet again.

Rain and battered birds – 22 September 2019

Rain and battered birds.

Maybe it was the heavy rain that caused the pigeon to thump into the kitchen window.

Woke to rain, just drizzle to begin with, but then it got heavier and heavier before it tailed off to drizzle, then began the cycle again. It used this set of options a few times before it finally gave up and turned off the taps around midday.  That was when we heard the thump form the kitchen.  I guessed, right away that it was a bird strike, in fact, a pigeon strike.  They usually make pretty ‘angel patterns’ on the window and often there is a dead bird lying underneath the pattern.  Today there was just a wet mark on the window and a stunned looking pigeon on one of the branches of the tree.  We kept a weather eye on the poor thing and eventually it flew off for further adventures, thankfully unharmed.  Speaking of birds, I just realised yesterday that I hadn’t seen any swallows this week.  Perhaps they’ve flown back down to warmer climes.

<Technospeak>
By then we’d had lunch and I’d been searching for about an hour for Autodesk Mechanical Desktop 2008 to draw my lens hood on the slightly more modern Linx computer. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to happen and I thought I could rely on the old fifteen year old Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 to complete the job. That’s when I found that although the Win 7 laptop said it could see the Epson printer, it was in fact lying. Why oh why do windows computers have such a problem connecting to printers. In the end I downgraded the Autocad file and successfully ported it across to the Linx which couldsee and connect to the printer. Such a faff! Anyway, I finally got the development printed.
</Technospeak>

Welcome back JIC. With the development printed, Scamp said it was time for me to take a walk outside in the rain to get some photos, and more importantly, some fresh air. I agreed. When I came back, the Spatchcock chicken was roasting away nicely in the oven and a glass of sherry was waiting for me.

Watched a boring Singapore GP while we ate our chicken. Looked for Sort-of-cousin Colin in the crown, but didn’t see him! Annoyed by the result, but the person on the top of the podium worked for his money today. I’m not saying who it was, just in case somebody reading this hasn’t seen the results yet.

Spent the rest of the evening flying around Scotland in X-Plane using a new flight plan construction software called Little Navmap which is so much simpler than trying to click on knobs to input waypoints and destinations. Heavens, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. No steampunk junk here thank you very much!

Today’s PoD was a raindrop hanging from a pine needle in St Mo’s. It sort of marked the day.

Tomorrow, Clive arrives, hopefully. Glad he’s not travelling with Thomas Cook who seem to be in serious trouble.