Dull, dull, dull – 20 May 2018

Just in case you didn’t guess, today was a bit dull.

In the morning we drove in to Glasgow because Scamp had an appointment with M&S to spend some money. I was looking for photos. We both got what we intended to get. Scamp completed her swimsuit ensemble and I got a few photos I’d been looking for. My favourite and PoD is above.

<Technospeak>
When we got home I resumed my work on trying to figure out what was wrong with Scamp’s computer which wouldn’t respond properly to Autoplay any more. I eventually found the problem and the solution in an old post on the internet. It involved a complicated bit of deletion using the registry editor Regedit, also known as “The Hand Grenade” (what happens if I pull this little pin out?). Luckily I was very careful which pins I pulled out and nothing went bang afterwards, but what did happen was that Autoplay now plays nice. Not perfect, just nice. Perfectly may mean more work tomorrow or some other day. For now, it nearly works.
</Technospeak>

I made dinner tonight which was the complicated and not very successful Aloo Saag. Not as good as last time. The spinach sauce was too thick and there was a taste in there that just didn’t gel. I might water it down slightly tomorrow for lunch. I also baked another sourdough loaf which was slightly more successful than the first, but not as good as the last one.  Middling.  Still some work to be done on consistency of the dough and baking time.

It being such a dull day, I couldn’t even be bothered going over to St Mo’s to get more photos. I’d got the ones I wanted. This is the photo I went to take. The candelabra its twin are in an alley just off Queen Street and I’ve often wondered why these ornate lights are there in an alley that just hold dustbins. Maybe there’s a story there waiting to be unearthed. It didn’t win PoD because the group discussing The Duke (not to be confused with The Red Juke) was more interesting.

Did a bit of sketching while watching a boring Jools Holland, but I really need to do more, and before Wednesday. That may be the plan for tomorrow. Some decent sketching. Scamp’s going out to meet Isobel in the morning. Busy week this week, something on every day.

Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

<TECHNOSPEAK>
I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

Maybe that was summer – 6 May 2018

It was sunshine and blue skies when we woke today and it more or less stayed that way all day for a change.

Just on the off chance that today WAS summer, we made the most of it. Scamp was doing the most in the garden, of course. Putting up sweet pea netting, although I did the structural part and fixed the high bits. Pruning the blackcurrant bush. Repotting everything she could find. Cutting the front grass and having great fun blowing the cuttings into the trees. Generally being the gardener. Me? Well, apart from being the designer of the sweet pea frame, I wandered round looking at things and taking photos of the tulips, one of which became PoD. Oh yes and I planted the first batch of Charlotte potatoes.

After lunch I took a load of junk and garden waste to the council tip. There were signs on all the skips to the effect that you weren’t allowed to put soil in them. Why not, and if you’re not to put them in a skip in the tip, where are you meant to dump the soil? If you can’t dump it legally then illegally is the only other option. Then they wonder why people are fly-tipping. Joined up thinking is a step too far for NLC. Anyway, I joined everyone else by emptying the contents of my bag in the skip. “Honest mister, it wasn’t soil, it was compost.”

Back home, I roasted my mutton and put it in the slow cooker for it to do its magic for four hours or so. By then the sun had gone behind a cloud and I sat for an hour struggling with Keyboard Maestro, a really clever piece of Mac magic that allows you to create macros to do clever stuff once you’ve written the code. It was the writing of the code, or to be more exact, the syntax of the code that was messing me about. I gave up after a while and joined Scamp with a G ’n’ T and a book in the garden. It was really lovely for a while, although the sun kept disappearing behind the odd cloud. Veg to go with my mutton (or hogget) was carrot and fennel, sliced thin, fried in butter and then put into the slow cooker to stew in the juices from the hogget. (It tasted lovely by the way. Quite like fennel now.

After dinner and a glass of wine I sat down again, determined to work out how to fix the syntax of the code. Finally I cracked it and this is what it does if you hold down Control + Option + Command and press the ‘3’ key:

Y6 – 365/126 – Photo1952

That means that this is the 6th year of my 365s. The picture at the top of the page is the 126th of this year’s 365 and it’s photo 1,952 to be given the title PoD. There, don’t you feel better for knowing that?

Tomorrow looks like it will be much the same as today, if not better, but after that it’s the downward slope into rain and ‘seasonal average’ temperatures. It’s coats-on time again, so we should make the best of it.

What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

A glass of vino in the garden – 21 April 2018

I was up early (for a Saturday), but not to go anywhere, although the sun was shining.

No, today was baking day for my third sourdough loaf. I started it on Thursday evening when I made the Leaven, the preparation of active yeast. Then yesterday was making the dough which had cooled in the fridge and increased its size overnight and today it would be baked in a very hot oven that I put on just before 9.00 this morning. I left it for half an hour with a pizza stone in it, then I carefully slid the oversize dough on to the stone and shut the door. Left it for 30 mins before I had a quick look and it seemed ok. I was in two minds whether to give it the full hour or do what seemed right. I settled on staying with the recipe and gave it the full hour. Then turned the oven down and let it have an extra 15 mins at the lower temp, all as the instructions said. When it came out, it really looked the part and when it was sitting cooling on the wire rack it started crackling which is a sign of a nice crispy crust. Ok, time to have breakfast.

Later in the morning we deemed it to be cool enough and I cut the traditional slice from the fat end, spread it with butter and halved it between us. It was the best so far. Still a bit heavy at the bottom, but a definite improvement on what had gone before.

It had turned into a beautiful day, but neither of us really wanted to go anywhere. The roads would be mobbed on this the first really hot day of the year and we didn’t want to spend it sitting in a traffic jam so Scamp sat and read for a while and I completed two days worth of Sudoku while the sun shone in through the open window. Part of Buddhist meditation is called ‘just sitting’ and that’s what we were doing.

However, things were needing done and Scamp went off to plant out her sweet peas while I fiddled with the computer. Then we decided to go our for a light lunch, so we drove to Robroyston and had reasonable Costa coffee. Better than burnt water, but not as good as mine or Nero’s. Went in to Glasgow and got a bluetooth mouse for the new Linx. Got it home and it kept making the ‘puter crash. It worked on the Mac, but everything does, it was just the Windows 10 PCs that crashed. Gave up and went outside to have a glass of vino with Scamp sitting in the back garden in the sun. That’s where I saw today’s PoD. I can’t remember the name of the plant but it simply takes over the border by the back door. Dies down to nothing in the winter then sprouts up merrily the next spring. My mum called it Spirea, but that’s not its real name. Anyway, a macro shot of one of the sprouting buds made PoD.

Finally found a solution to the bluetooth problem. You just find the bluetooth radio in Device Manager and go to power options and set it to not shut down the radio. Just unticking the box does it. Simple.
<That note was for me for the next time I have the problem. I’ll remember that I wrote it down here … I hope!>

Dinner was a fish supper from the chip shop in Condorrat. Delicious, but I’m suffering for it now.

No Fish Today – 12 April 2018

A drive around Falkirk and Stirling was on the cards today.

<Technospeak>
In the morning, Scamp was having coffee with Isobel. I cleaned out a file on the new Linx. It’s named Windows.old and on the ‘new’ computer, it holds 12.5GB of data. That’s data that I’m not going to use again. That’s data that takes up almost 19% of the 64GB storage on the Linx. I did the sensible thing first, of course. I backed up the whole 64GB earlier in the week. I should say that I tried to just simply delete the folder last night, but I kept on hitting blocks where some files were locked and others needed approval by the ‘administrator’ i.e. me. It wasn’t just the simple fire-and-forget deletion that my Windows Explorer replacement, Directory Opus, can usually be relied upon to supply. However, after a bit of searching on the Interweb, I found an elegant solution that Microsoft actually supply. Admittedly it’s hidden deep in the pages within pages of the ‘system’. It does a good job though. 12GB of useless crap surgically removed. I may say this only once: Thank you Microsoft! Oh yes, and I did today’s Sudoku too.
</Technospeak>

When she got back, Scamp suggested we go to the fish shop in Linlithgow. We’d been planning to go for a couple of weeks now. Seemed like a plan, so off we went. Drove along the traffic jam and assault course that is a Main Street in Linlithgow only for Scamp to cry out that the shop was shut. I couldn’t look myself for the simple reason that I’d have driven into a bus or a tractor coming the other way or run one of the amazing amount of red lights on that street. You really have to have driven there to realise just what I’m talking about. I took her word for it and drove on out the other side. I could have turned at the roundabout at the end of the Main Street, but that would have meant running the gauntlet a second time and I wasn’t up for that. That took us the long road down past Grangemouth and from there along the M9 to Stirling. It gave me the opportunity to stock up on breakfast muesli and beer at Morrisons. Both essentials. It also gave Scamp a chance to buy up their entire stock of ‘cheap wine’ (her words, not mine). We also had a cheap lunch (my words). Bowl of chips (S), Roll ’n’ Sausage (me) and two cups of reasonable coffee for just over £6. That’s a good deal.

On the way home was a plant nursery Isobel had been telling Scamp about. How convenient. She got a Ladybird Poppy there and she’d also got a wee Acer in Morrisons, so she was a happy bunny. When we got home I found a confirmation email from the shop to confirm that just short of £100 would be in our account soon. I was a happy bunny.

Back home I put on my walking trousers. That’s the pair of cords with holes in the pockets and muck splattered all the way up the legs. Went for a walk round St Mo’s. Found two of the Orange 16 Spot Ladybirds I’ve been keeping tabs on since December. One looked as if it was laying eggs, but was in a really awkward place in the moss at the bottom of an ash tree, so it was difficult to be sure. PoD went to the Gorse flower. Lovely and bright.  Notice the yellow theme!

Tomorrow looks like it will be wet. Don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe go for lunch, that would be good. Not going for fish.

Waving goodbye to an old work friend – 10 April 2018

Today was one of those Scottish days. Dull, damp and dreary.

Slow to get started today, but I’d decided to reformat the old school laptop taking with it the last vestiges of me. Full deletion. This took a much shorter time than the last one, only about two hours which is reasonable for a 750GB drive and installation of the abominable Windows 10.

Scamp was out for coffee with a Witch friend, so I found the box for the laptop and took it up to the town centre to see what they’d give me for it. The shop was empty when I went in, but as soon as they sniffed fresh meat being delivered, all the Carbrain dead-heads were circling. Basically I handed over the machine. They confirmed the spec and told me I’d get an offer by phone or email, probably by Friday and gave me a receipt so they could do a ‘Three hour burn in test’. I didn’t want to tell them I’d done at least 30 hours of burn out test in the last week. Anyway, it’s gone and I’ll get something for it. How much I don’t know.

Next, when I came home I loaded more progs into the Linx and successfully secured the serial numbers for two of them. The rest were just Freeware – Real freeware I hasten to add. All legal and above board. Finally tonight I managed to get the email working. That was the worst struggle of all, but now it’s done.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about photos or food, which is unusual for me. I’d made a loaf last night and baked it today. It worked, but only just. It was a bit flat, so I let my sourdough starter go – down the pan. Somewhere the fishes are saying “What the F*** is that?” I’ll start a new batch tomorrow. Different recipe. Scamp made dinner. Mince ’n’ Tatties (with beetroot JIC!). Simply superb!

It wasn’t a day for photos. Today I just wanted to get the laptop off my hands, so today’s PoD is Hi Ho Silver. A funny weeman I treated myself to on Saturday. I quite liked him. Yes, I know the horse should be white and the rider should have a mask, but you get the idea!

Tomorrow is Dancing day. No time for anything else.

Biting the bullet – 6 April 2018

Today wasn’t as bright as yesterday. Maybe that was summer and we’re into autumn?

<Technospeak>
My old, not excessively old, maybe seven years old Toshiba laptop had been backing up my ‘Data’ partition overnight. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but when I woke this morning it was finished. I woke it, ejected the backup drive and, as someone on the net described it, pressed the ‘Kill button’. A couple of hours later the ‘quick reinstall’ had completed. The Data partition had been deleted and probably formatted. The C: drive had also been cleaned out and a new version of Windows had been installed. Everything seemed ok and everything seemed to move with the same sluggishness as before. Welcome to Windows 10 (this may take some time). I think that’s the full name of Windoze 10. I had a friend in Australia who always referred to Windows as Windoze. Then, ten or so years ago we didn’t know how lucky we were. Now we really have a Win Doze. The most sluggish OS in the galaxy.
</Technospeak>

We went out for a late lunch at the Torwood Garden Centre after my technology overload. I think it must have been Greyhairs’ Day today. We may have been the only ones with our own teeth. (Oops, sorry H!). After our repast, we went for a walk through the plants. Scamp bought me an early birthday prezzy of a Buddleia. It’s the plant you see flowering on spare ground and beside rail tracks. Unfortunately it doesn’t flower for me in the garden. I’ve been trying to grow them for years without success. Maybe this time will be different. Scamp also got some plants for herself and a couple of big pots to put them in. Packing them in to the car wasn’t a problem as I’d discovered the versatility of the boot which converts from a flat floor to a deep pit. Very smart. You have to see it, I’m not going to try to explain how it works. Believe me it does.

On the way home I bit the bullet and told Scamp I was going to but a Linx 12×64. I was going to buy it from the bastard Curry’s too, because they were the cheapest. Drove to Coatbridge to do the deed and as usual, went in and recited the name of the tablet. “No, we don’t have any.” was the reply. I told the bloke that they had them last week. He checked the system while telling me that “That was last week. Maybe we’ve sold it since then”, but he did it with a smile and was multitasking, so I knew he was an AI, not a Sales Droid. Turned out they had one and I grabbed it before they could tell me they’d need to set it up for me and that would cost another forty quid, but I’d get a setup USB stick. I also said no to the usual offer of an insurance money pit. To be fare to the Droid who’d taken over the selling of the device, he didn’t push it. Well, it was a Friday afternoon and his sights were on a Buckfast bottle chilling nicely for him in the fridge at home. A fridge not bought from Curry’s I’d guess.

Drove home and went out for a walk round St Mo’s while the laptop was charging up and downloading the 3Gb updates. 3Gb! That’s massive. Anyway, St Mo’s provided today’s PoD which is the pic of the seat with a view over the BMX track. Nice.

Long story short. The Linx 12×64 works well and those nice people at Adobe even allowed me to install Lightroom 6 on it for nothing. Legally too I hasten to add before you say ‘Hmm, all his software costs him nothing’. New leafs people, new leafs! Tomorrow I’ll probably find there’s another 3Gb download waiting for me! For today I’m a happy bunny who’s double formatting his old Tosh data drive one more time for luck. It goes on sale on Monday.

Tomorrow we’re going in to Glasgow not to look at laptops, but hopefully to have lunch in Chaophraya. Going in on the bus too because drink will be taken I think.

Wednesday is Dancing day – 21 March 2018

I struggled with the Toshiba Windows 10 laptop for an hour or so in the morning, by which time it had loaded windows, but not so far that it would actually do anything. The desktop wallpaper had loaded and the ‘quick start’ icons were there, but the trackpad didn’t respond and neither did the keyboard. I eventually gave up and switched on the Mac. Ten seconds later I was in business. Same processor. Same memory. Different planet. I don’t actually use the laptop any more and am beginning to think that I’ll securely wipe the drive, reinstall Win10 and trade it in for a new Linx 12×64 to use as a holiday laptop. Windows 10 is a disaster for me.

After lunch we drove in to town for the first two dance classes. The first one was Waltz and we did quite well at it, which was especially satisfying because we hadn’t practised in the three weeks since our last lesson. Next class was Jive and although we were just reprising the routine we’ve been learning, it began to flow much more smoothly than it had. Heavens, we even managed the Boston Hitch … without a hitch. Cup of coffee and then home, but not before I grabbed my one shot of the day. Except, when I got it home and into the computer, I found that the camera had chosen a shutter speed of 1/8sec when it should really have been about 1/40th. Why it did that, I do not know, but I have now reset the camera to factory settings and then re-programmed all my previous settings. Unfortunately, by the time I did all that, it was dark outside, so I couldn’t test it to see if my drastic measure had cured the problem or not. It’s still under warranty, so worst case, I can send it for repair.

Dinner was the same as yesterday for both of us which was good because it was quick to prepare and of course Rats or Chilli always tastes better on the second day. Salsa was ok, but I could happily do without the Wednesday beginners classes. Yes, we’re helping the beginners, but we get very little out of it. I know Scamp likes to help, so for the time being I’m happy to go along.

Tomorrow I’m planning a sketching day in Glasgow if the rain stays away. If it rains I’ll still go in and hopefully get today’s aborted shot. Today’s PoD is tomatoes on the draining board!

Oh no! More snow – 18 March 2018

Looked out this morning and the snow was still falling.

The snow continued all day, it may still be falling, I haven’t the heart to check. It did put a bit of a dampener on the day. Having said that, it did tail off for a while in the afternoon, and tomorrow is supposed to be a bit warmer.

On Friday night, or to be more exact, Saturday morning when we got back from Larky, the kitchen fluorescent light wouldn’t work, so we suspect it needed a new tube. This morning I got the steps out, took the bulb out, cleaned the contacts and plugged it back in and it worked. Either a dirty contact was the problem or, more likely, the spider who usually maintains the light was dead. Its poor wee desiccated carcass was lying on the diffuser. It had had a hard life, poor thing.

With the light sorted, I started restoring my Linx to a previous incarnation. After a few false starts, I finally got it done and it has screwed up Windows Update, because there’s not enough room on the C:\ drive for it to download the latest update. Two fingers up to you Mr Windows 10! Now I just have to remember the sequence of operations to fool Lightroom into believing that the TZ70 is actually a TZ60. Don’t worry Scamp and JIC, I’m not going into details, it would be gobbledegook to you, and Hazy only speaks IOS now.

After lunch Scamp and I had a discussion and decided to make a final decision about the Sunday Social later in the afternoon. I went out for a walk around St Mo’s to get some last pictures of the snow before it disappears until December (ever hopeful). There weren’t many animal tracks to be seen. I did see some frog spawn in the ponds, but no sign of their creators. I was reading last year’s blog (You can too, there’s a link from this page if you’re reading on a tablet or a computer. Can’t remember how to access it on a phone) and read that the larch trees were pushing out their little ‘shaving brush’ needles, but there were none in evidence today. I won’t be sure that the bad weather is past until I see the larch trees showing some green and the deciduous trees showing some leaf. Trees know more than you think they do. Read ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben if you don’t believe me. This man knows a thing or two about trees.

When I came back, not exactly frozen because I had layer upon layer of clothes on, we made the decision to stay put today and leave the Sunday Social to the warmer weather that’s coming. You could see that neither of us really wanted to cancel, but it was the sensible thing to do and sometimes, just sometimes we are sensible.

Today’s PoD is the Cladonia shot on the right.

Hopefully everything will be better in the morning and the snow will be on its way to some other more deserving recipients. That will mean it will be a normal Monday with all that that entails.