Catching up – 17 June 2019

I was up about 7.30 this morning firing up the computer and burning my fingers on my bowl of porridge.

And the reason I was up at that ungodly hour was to get the blogs posted and the photos uploaded to Flickr. By about 4pm it was all sorted. Although I must admit I did stop to take some photos and to have lunch. Also managed to get some essentials, milk and bread from Tesco. Other than that, it was computer-catch-up today.  Scamp was out all day enjoying herself while I was busy beavering away. But now we are sorted. The PoDs have been uploaded for the world to gaze at in admiration. The golden words have been pouring from my keyboard and you lucky readers can now follow us on our travels through Wet Wales. I hope you enjoy the stories and pictures.

Went dancing tonight to Jamie Gal’s mad class where we learned a new move from last week called mysteriously “New Move” there was also the “Walking Shoulder” move. That one trips off the tongue, now, doesn’t it? Finally there was a reprise of an older move called Lotus or Lotis, not sure which. Altogether a confusing evening of salsa. Confusing but fun, though as all his classes are.

<Technospeak>
PoD was a focus stacked shot of a Schoolgirl rose that I pruned today. Oh yes, that’s another thing I did today, I dead-headed some of the roses. So focus stacking is where you take a load of shots of an object with the camera on a tripod. After every shot you change the focus very slightly so you get a series of ‘slices’ of the object. When you’ve got enough (seven in this case), you bundle them all into a piece of clever software (ON1 Photo Raw 2019) and it layers them all together and deletes all the out of focus bits to leave a composite image that looks totally sharp from front to back. I don’t know the exact method for the rebuild, but I believe it’s all done by tiny little men (and women) who snip all the sharp bits out and reassemble them like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. The main thing is it works. That’s how I made today’s PoD.
</Technospeak>

No plans for tomorrow, but I’m hoping to get out for a while. Out in the open air and away from the computer.

Flaming June – 1 June 2019

Well, maybe not flaming as such, just not raining.

We were still in two minds whether to got to the Italian festival in Glasgow or just have a day somewhere in the dry, with the outside chance of a bit of sun. If we chose the latter, Scamp suggested Stirling or Hamilton. Both curry capitals of central Scotland. Finally, because there are at least some shops still open in Stirling and very few in Hamilton, we chose Stirling.

We went to the Indian Cottage in Stirling and had our usual: Vegetable Pakora followed by Vegetable Dhansak for Scamp and Chicken Pakora followed by Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna for me. Almost every time we go to this restaurant, that is what we have.

After lunch we went for a walk round the centre of Stirling. I was looking for a cheap, second hand copy of Good Omens, because the copy I’m reading on my Kindle must have been a publishers advanced copy complete with all the typos and bad typesetting. I looked in vain. It seemed that the hype about the new film of the book had led to all the copies being bought up. Scamp wasn’t looking for anything, but came home with a new ‘holiday and maybe for salsa’ dress.

On the way home we were stopping to get some compost and some ‘chuckies’ which for those readers who are from south of the border are small, possibly rounded stones. The chuckies were to provide drainage for the latest of Scamp’s containers. After a bit of an argument about where we should park and whether we should drive in or reverse in, we got a space. Scamp was right, of course, about driving in – easier access to the boot for loading stuff in. She was wrong about the tiny wee space she expected me to get the Juke in. It’s a wider car than her’s. The compost wasn’t too heavy, but those chuckies certainly were. However, we got them in and got home without breaking a spring. Had to barrow them out of the car and through the house. That gave Scamp time to get the container planted with two Gazanias, a Shooting Star (American Cowslip) and a Geum (Cookie). It looks good. That the second mixed planting she’s done recently and both are looking very natural.

A walk in the unexpected sunshine through St Mo’s gave me a chance to test out the ‘new toy’ and it certainly seemed up to the task. Especially impressive was the way the electronic shutter and automatic focus bracketing made short work of a shot of a tiny wee snail on a tree. It may go up on Flickr later. The only problem is the state of the battery. After about 60 shots it appeared to be losing most of its power. Not surprising really when I noted that it was manufactured in 2014. That makes it five years old. That’s a long time for a battery to be working. Luckily Amazon was offering a decent looking replacement pair plus USB charger for £18. It’s being delivered tomorrow. Not an actual Olympus battery. They cost around £70!

No sketches today. I’m having at least a week off, if I don’t go cold turkey. PoD went to a little dowdy looking fly that sat nicely for me in St Mo’s. No fancy focus stacking, just a straight forward shot.

Out to lunch – 13 May 2019

Meeting Shona for lunch today.

First, though I took a trip to Bishopbriggs to get myself the shaver adaptor that caused the bother on Friday and also a card reader that would allow me to import the files from my Nikon CP950. The 950 is an ancient digital camera made in 1999 and is one of the best cameras for recording in infrared without adaptation. All you need to do is stick an R72 filter in front of it and shoot away as if it’s not there. An R72 filter is a very, very dark red. It’s so dark it looks totally opaque to the human eye. What it does is restrict almost all the visible light, only allowing through the light in the 720nm area of the spectrum, in other words, infrared. The great thing about infrared is that living green material is rendered as white and skies are black. Fake green ‘leaves’ like camouflage are rendered as black and it was this ability to differentiate fake from real that made it so important during WW2. I just wanted to do fancy stuff to the shots later in Photoshop, but since the CP950 uses Compact Flash memory cards and hardly anybody uses them now, it’s a bit of a problem getting the images into the computer. However, Currys had a card reader with CF capability, so that’s why I was up and out early to get one.

After that and after I’d salivated over the low resolution, but true infrared images, I went to meet Shona. I’d fitted a couple of locks for her in her flat and she was buying me lunch as a ‘Thank You’. We drove up to the new Milano Cafe where she had Spaghetti Carbonara and I had Spaghetti con Polpette ( meatballs). Her Carbonara looked the part, but the sauce in mine was a bit thin. Having said that, there was plenty on the plate and it was a good fun lunch.

Drove Shona home and then went out to get some photos in St Mo’s. Didn’t stay long as I had to exhibit my EDiM photos to Margie, because Gems were in the house today. Saw another red damselfly, a smaller one than yesterday’s, but it was too fast for me and I didn’t manage to capture it. I did get some IR shots with the CP950 which is held together with a heavy duty rubber band, because of a design flaw in the locking mechanism of the battery compartment. It was one of the IR photos that took PoD.

I’d already started on the sketch of the day whose topic was “Your favourite song”. My favourite song was “Raindogs” by Tom Waits and that’s what you see here. A Raindog.

Salsa tonight was energetic and exhausting. The completely new one was “Lotus”, with a reprise of “Lizzy” and “Stormtrooper”. I got the blame for Stormtrooper because the tee shirt I was wearing had a lego stormtrooper on it. Hazy must shoulder part of the blame for that because she’s the one who bought it for me!

Tomorrow looks like an interesting day with temperatures of 22ºc predicted! We may go out somewhere to celebrate.

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.

A day in the kitchen – 26 April 2019

Started about 9.30am and just kept going.

First thing to do was get the Lamb Tagine on the go. After chopping and frying the onions, then adding all the spices and the lamb it all got bunged into a slow cooker with the dates and apricots. Got it up to temperature and took it up to the back bedroom to do its work. That’s the benefit of a slow cooker, it can be working away anywhere with a mains socket.

<Technospeak>
Time for a bit of relaxation playing with some old photographs I’d backed up yesterday to a new USB-C drive. First time I’d used this supposedly revolutionary system. Allegedly capable of 10Mbps compared with the 5Mbps of USB 3. I can’t say I noticed the difference, but the big benefit is the connector to the computer. It’s reversible, unlike the normal male USB connector that only goes one way round. How long has it taken someone to realise how annoying that has been? Anyway, it was great editing those 10 year old D70 photos in new software. So easy to over-process, though.
</Technospeak>

Back in the kitchen it was the pakora. One lot of cauliflower and one lot of onion and potato. Both both lots fried and then stored to cool with some retained for lunch. They tasted fine, with a nice crunchy batter.

Meanwhile Scamp was beating the living daylights out of some cream for a cake that was baking in the oven while an ice-cream maker was churning away in a corner of the living room. Another time-saving machine that can be plugged in anywhere.

By now it was well into the afternoon an I was just about to go out to get some photos when I remembered the bread. It wasn’t bread yet, it was still flour in the cupboard, yeast in another cupboard, butter in the fridge, salt on the work surface and water in the tap. Soon, however they were all in the bowl of the mixer being battered into a bread dough. I kept the dough in the bowl, parked the bowl next to the slow cooker to keep it warm and finally got out for that walk. Halfway through the walk it started to rain. It’d been predicted all morning, but I’d been too busy. Got very few photos, but the PoD was the little pink flowers. Haven’t found out exactly what they are yet, but hopefully someone on Flickr can ID them.

The visitors arrived about 8pm. The pakora had been heating in a too-warm oven for too long, they were frazzled! Luckily Scamp had made some of her “Just Soup” which she served with some bacon on top and it was much, much better than my pakora. The lamb tagine was excellent, even although I say it myself. Scamp’s signature dish of Pears in a Red Wine Sauce served with Yoghurt Ice-cream was even better. Finally the cake was a moist sponge with lemon curd cream. Didn’t like the cream, but the sponge was lovely.

After a long night and an even longer day we dragged ourselves off to bed just after midnight. It was a good night. Not great, just good.

Tomorrow a relaxing day with minimal cooking.

Reunited with an old friend – 25 April 2019

Start of the prep for tomorrow and the rains came.

Out fairly early this morning, certainly before 10am to get some meat for tomorrow’s Lamb Tagine. Of course, when I was there I also got some sausages and the beef short ribs looked very nice, so I got a couple of them too. The carnivore then drove home.

After that, we got in the Juke and went to Falkirk, stopping on the way to get a couple of bedding plants for Scamp. Not the ones she wanted, but one bee attracter with bright orange flowers and some highly scented sweet peas. Next stop was Falkirk itself and the ring. It had caused the lady some problems soldering in the gold extension piece, and when I tried it on it was just a little bit too big. That didn’t seem to be a problem, because she could take it down just a half size and that fitted perfectly. It was a beautifully shiny, but as Scamp said, I would soon get it looking worn again. It’s already beginning to look better and it doesn’t squeeze my finger like it did before the fall. It became PoD.

Stopped at Morrison’s on the way home for even more food then lunch. Roll ’n’ Sausage for me and a plate of Chips for Scamp. Morrison’s do good cheap no-frills lunches and the coffee is quite drinkable too. When we came out it was raining and it rained on and off all day after that. The garden needs the rain, the first for about three weeks.

Back home I realised I hadn’t picked up my pills, so went for them and also Scamp added more things to the shopping list. I wanted to get another removable hard drive to back up the oldest of my digital photos. These ones date from 2000 up to 2009. In total those nine years of photos take up a measly 160GB. The photos from last year, 2018, used up 226GB! Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around 1970. The simplified version of this law states that overall processing power for computers will double every two years. It looks like the storage for photos follows that same rule. I drove to Currys in Bishopbriggs to get the one I wanted which has a cable to utilise the USB-C port in the back of the iMac.

When I got home from my visit to Currys Technology Toy Shop, I noticed what looked like a flower head on the path. It wasn’t just the head, it was not one, but two tiny little violas growing in the mossy soil round a manhole cover at the front door. I carefully dug them up and we replanted them in a pot and its soaking up some rain on the back step as I write. I presume the plants came from a self seeding viola in the garden.

It appears that my website is stable and working as anticipated. With that in mind, today I took the decisive step of deleting everything on the old server and after that I cancelled my contract with A Small Orange. It was good fun when it started, but after the previous annual increase of 70% in the bill for my webspace, I felt it was time to look for somewhere new. Basically that’s the reason I gave them for moving on. The deed is done. ASO is no more.

While I was out, Scamp was busy with prep for tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s my turn. Lamb Tagine in the morning and pakora in the afternoon with a break somewhere for some foties, hopefully.

Up and Running – 12 April 2019

Well, it wasn’t quite so clever this morning, but by this evening it was indeed Up and Running.

This morning was marred by some swearing because the website still wasn’t behaving properly. Then I got the idea of getting Hazy to check it out from her end. Just before we left to go and see what Leonardo had been up to since he left Mr Belkevitz art class in Cumby High, I got a message from Hazy to say she could access the new website from her end down in Londinium. This was a relief because it meant that I could tick those damned nameservers off as DONE! It was also a pain because it meant the problem was at my end. Never mind, we’d drive in to Kelvingrove, see Dippy the diplodocus and also catch Leonardo’s exhibition of drawings. I didn’t actually expect to see him there, because he’s quite a famous artist now, but it would be good to see what JB had taught him.

When we got there, everyone else in Glasgow and the surroundings was there too. We drove round for a while, but the only place we could find wanted 40p to park for 30 mins. We were so far away it would take us a good 20 mins to reach the Art Galleries. That would leave us in deficit of 10 mins just to get back to the car if we just turned on our heels and walked back. What in the name of the wee man is in the heads of the people who make up these ridiculous parking charges. It’s not as if the parking places were in the middle of shops, just bays at the side of a road through playing fields. “Sorry, it can only be five a side today. That’s five MINUTES a side. Now off you go and play, your time starts now!”

Gave up. Did try to park within the Art Gallery carpark, but judging by the number of people cruising round, there weren’t many places to be had. It looked like musical chairs. When the music stops, try to find an empty chair. Drove home. Stopped at Costa for a coffee and a roll ’n’ sausage or a tuna wrap for Scamp.

When we got home I struggled for another hour or so with words and symbols I’d never seen before while Scamp went to Condorrat, partly to get out of the road, I think. Finally I too had had enough and I walked over to get dinner. Tonight’s dinner would be a large fish supper between us. On the way over I got the picture of the cherry blossom. As I saw it fluttering in the breeze I realised the first time I took a photo of that tree was around the year 2000 when the world was young, Brexit was a word that would be disallowed as not in the dictionary, in Scrabble and a 2 megapixel camera with an f2 lens was the marvel of the age. It was an Olympus DC-2000 Z. A beautiful camera that I sold to a colleague at school and which he still owns I think. Anyway this shot took PoD on a dull day using an Olympus E-PL5 with a 12-32mm lens and a much bigger 16 megapixel sensor. Sorry JIC just a little technospeak.

After the fish ’n’ chips we had a pineapple cake each, which actually had pineapple in it, but I don’t think the ‘cream’ had ever seen a cow. Then we watched another recorded episode of Portrait Artist of the Year, before I opened up my Linx 12 and got the surprise of the day when the website opened up in the new server. I won’t bore you with the details of how and why I knew it was the new server, JIC would just moan about no Technospeak warnings. It was working. Checked on the iMac and, yes, it was actually on the new server settings. In these days of instant results, you have to remember that Virgin Media takes at least 30 hours to realise that some settings have changed and refresh its lists or something. ‘Slow’ and ‘Treacle’ in the same sentence as ‘Virgin Media’ seems to be the name of the game.

Tomorrow, no computers until at least 12 noon. Maybe a trip to the countryside somewhere.

Bike – 11 April 2019

In the morning we went to buy Waitrose.

We didn’t totally buy Waitrose, but we made a valiant stab at it. We also walked into Stirling and had a coffee. A lazy morning.

In the afternoon, Scamp just failed to get the grass cut before the competition, the next door neighbour, got started on her smaller grass patch. While she was doing that, I took the Dewdrop out for a run. Didn’t go far, didn’t want to push things too early. Just went as far as the old dump and got today’s PoD there. I had to crop the bottom off the landscape to remove the unsightly cables for the ‘leccy trains. Still looks an inviting scene in my eyes. On the way back I sat and watched Grebes fishing in Broadwood Loch. They can stay underwater for 20 seconds! Quite amazing. It was a beautiful afternoon. Warm sunshine, but a cooling breeze.

Made some Beef Clives (Olives to you) tonight and am just about to put them in the freezer. Scamp made Chicken Milanese with new potatoes and spiralled veg. Damn spiralizer didn’t work properly. It would appear that the microswitch in the ’safety’ feature isn’t seated properly because it’s very safe. It doesn’t switch on properly. It cost us eight quid too! It’s going back.

Not the busiest of days, but the bike got an airing and Scamp got the front grass cut. I also reset the name servers for my webspace (whatever that means), but I don’t think the changeover is complete yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have that wonderful thing – No Plans.

Moving Day – 10 April 2019

Somewhere in America a big removal van turned up at A Small Orange and the man with the van started loading my website on to it.

At least, that’s how I imagine it worked. I got an email telling me that the migration had started. I hope the man-with-a-van packs everything neatly and doesn’t drop anything valuable. I know I should have insured the contents, but sometimes you have to trust the person doing the removal.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to ballroom dance class. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The two pairs of dancers were starting their usual blame game. This time it was worse than normal and we got hardly anything done, thanks to their childish antics. I really don’t know why they go to the class. They go to twice as many classes as we do, they don’t practise, they seem to retain nothing. All they do is bitch with each other or giggle like schoolgirls. Once upon a time I had a boy in my Tech Studies class who, we swore, had his brain formatted every weekend, because when he turned up on a Monday for class, he had no knowledge of what he’d learned the previous week. This is the same scenario, except these are supposed adults.

After what felt like a lost hour, I got myself a new pair of Chinos from Debenhams. The girl who sold them asked if I wanted a Debenhams card! Eh no, I don’t know what benefits that would bring me.

Drove to Salsa and everyone in the Intermediate class listened to Jamie’s instructions and did exactly what they’d been told. Maybe not the first time, but after a few run throughs, they had it. I bet Michael wishes he had a class like that. Even the Beginners class that came after that had obviously practised and were better than they were last week.

When we got home an email was waiting for me from my new web host to say that the man had delivered the website and had plugged it in. I checked it with the link provided and it looked like it had been last night. It appears I’ve now moved into bigger and cheaper premises. Just a few tweaks and we’re good to go (fingers crossed).

PoD was a wee man standing outside the GOMA.

Tomorrow we’re going to Stirling to buy Waitrose.

Lunch, Linx and Linux – 15 March 2019

We were up and about early this morning to make sure Jackie got her taxi on time to take her in to Glasgow.

<Just_a_little_bit_of_Technospeak>
After our visitor had left I settled down to a relaxing hour of Sudoku wrangling while Scamp played Spider on her tablet. While I was sudoku solving I got the idea that I should maybe try putting Linux into the old Linx tablet. Maybe that would stop the continuous annoying demands that I update Windows 10 on it. I needed to download the Linux file on a PC, which was when I discovered that the modem driver on the Linux was screwed. In fact it was so seriously screwed that Windows couldn’t fix it. What it did tell me was to go online and search for a solution there. That would be difficult with no internet connection because of the fault. Eventually I gave up and just restored the entire OS from a backup. Long story – short, I wasted the entire morning fixing Windows problems and didn’t even get the Linux installed. Maybe tomorrow?!
</Just_a_little_bit_of_Technospeak>

Drove out to The Smiddy for lunch. Mac ’n’ Cheese for Scamp and Chicken, Chorizo, Tomato and Beans for me. Bought a chump chop (lamb) which might possibly be tomorrow’s dinner for me and also a chunk of Blue Murder cheese which is a very nice blue cheese. Didn’t buy the aptly named “Minger” cheese which tasted just as it’s name would suggest. Drove home through the wild winds, driving sleet and blinding sunshine! Welcome to Scotland!

When we got home the rain and sleet halted, but the winds and the sunshine persisted, so I grabbed my boots and went for a walk in St Mo’s looking for a decent picture. I think I got one and that’s it at the top of the page. The tree that was swaying dangerously in the wind the other day was still there, still swaying. Bumped into Susan Greenshields on my way home and she was as grumpy as ever. Nice to see that some things and some people never change.

Made some more pakora in the evening and it tasted quite good again, but still needed something else. Don’t know what. Had another half hearted try at the Linux thing later and eventually found that it can’t be done. Something about a 64 bit processor and a 32bit BIOS that isn’t really a BIOS, but an EFI. It’s an EFFING pain in the arse if you ask me.

Tomorrow snow is forecast, so we won’t be going far.