Posts tagged "general"

Bodging

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We've got a whiteboard up in the office with a list on it of all the little jobs we have to do around the house. A day or so ago, one of the items was "Bodge shoe storage". Now, I find that quite impressive: we've only been at this DIY game for a week, and already we've progressed to bodging. Actually, it worked out quite well. We had some drawer units (from Ikea, naturally) that we used to use inside our wardrobes for clothes storage. Continue reading →

The Sixteen - Victoria Requiem

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After months of hard work, I've finally emerged out of one of the tunnels I've been in, and have a few precious days to enjoy the sun and fresh air before plunging headlong into the next tunnel, which is marked with a nice Victorian enamel plate reading "Move House". I'd like to say that the train breaking down was a portent for the way that the pressure on me didn't quite let up, and that obstacles remained, but trains breaking down are a portent only of the terrible state of our rail system, and quite commonplace. Continue reading →

Miracle in Milan

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This neorealist modern fairy tale from the director of 'The Bicycle Thief' is the sweet story of a boy called Totó. Found as a baby in a cabbage patch (the original Cabbage Patch Kid) and taken in by a loving but slightly dotty old woman, Totó ends up in an orphange when the old lady dies. When he leaves the orphanage as a young man, the sweet-natured boy finds himself staying in a shantytown with the homeless of Milan. Continue reading →

Midnight commander

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The Eden Project

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[The Great Escape, day three: written 13th August, 2005] Coming around the rim of the former quarry in which the Eden Project is situated feels like entering the set of a Doctor Who episode. The two enormous Biodomes sit in the bottom of the quarry like giant alien eggs. At any moment, I expected to see Christopher Eccleston striding along in his leather coat. Well, a girl can dream... The exhibits and labels show wit, creativity and scholarship, and include folklore and myths about plants, as well as scientific facts. Continue reading →

Electric sheep

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Thanks to a link on 2lmc spool, I installed the truly wonderful Electric Sheep screensaver. In fact, it's a rather superior species of screen saver, in which your own computer becomes part of a huge network of interconnected machines collaboratively creating and rendering lovely fractal-like, abstract, moving images, which constantly shift and morph into one another. These images are called sheep. What's more, if you like one of the images you see you can vote for it by pressing the up arrow. Continue reading →

Inattention equals mess

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I'm definitely trying to think about too many things at once at the moment. Yesterday, I loaded up my pod coffee machine with water and coffee pods, and then switched it on while I raced to finish an urgent email I was dealing with. A tiny part of my brain commented that the machine seemed to be making an unusual sound, but the rest of my brain told it to shut up and concentrate on the email. Continue reading →

The Emperor

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I was faced with a tricky problem. In a little over a week, I'm going to Brazil (mostly staying in a place a very long way from the nearest city or town) for three weeks. I think that it's extremely unlikely that I'll have any way of connecting my own computer to the internet for most of that time (though I may find the odd cybercafe somewhere), but I still wanted to have a computer with me. Continue reading →

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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[The Great Escape, day two: written 12th August, 2005] There's something romantic about the 'Lost' part isn't there? Even though The Lost Gardens of Heligan have the usual complement of car parks, gift shops and tea rooms, it still has the air of somewhere that might require a machete and a pith helmet to get into. Heligan covers an enormous area (about 200 hectares in total), and there's a surprise around every corner. Continue reading →

Holiday snaps

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I've posted the first batch of photographs from my holiday on flickr, if you're interested.

Time off

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"So, you're a lecturer — you must get nice long holidays!" If you're a lecturer or school teacher, you're probably wearily familiar with that kind of comment. While it's true that the students have very long holidays over the summer, so we're not doing any teaching, the departure of the students is the cue for most of us to roll our sleeves up and actually get our own research done. We do have quite generous leave allocations, but the truth is that most academics never manage to take off all the time that they are entitled to. Continue reading →

Going towards Mevagissey

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[The Great Escape, day one: written 11th August, 2005] I love the sea. Some of my happiest moments have been spent beside it, on it, or in it. For me, there's a special quality of relaxation that comes from sitting or walking by a shore, looking at the waves and breathing in that lovely seaweed smell. So today, as the train rounded a corner at Dawlish to hug the narrow strip of land between the ox blood red cliffs and the petrol blue sea, it was all I could do not to yell out "I can see the sea! Continue reading →

Lettuce graze

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We've just eaten our entire season's crop of lettuce in two very small side salads. I think that we need to rethink our horticultural practices. Lots of stones and soil that looks like dust does not make for happy, abundant lettuces. Furthermore, we're suffering from lettuce-envy, because friends of ours produced a bed full of hedge-sized lettuces in a couple of weeks. Our scrawny little saplings have struggled for months to reach a size that makes it worthwhile washing them and putting them on a plate. Continue reading →

FeedDigest

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I found some time to sign up for the new service today, and I'm really blown away by it. For a start, it's much quicker than it used to be (not that the speed ever bothered me much), and there are loads of new features like combining feeds, slick templating features, and a host of different output formats. The free account gives you up to 5 digests from up to 3 sources, so you can try it out and see if you like it. Continue reading →

Back home

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I'm finally back home again after a very intense week at the conference. It was a fantastic and academically inspiring time in many ways, but now I'm completely exhausted. I've just finished sorting through a load of emails that needed responses and a few other outstanding work matters, and I think that's probably about it for me this weekend as far as intelligent activity goes. It's pretty interesting going to a conference that's outside your area of expertise, as much for the fun of experiencing a different scientific culture as anything else. Continue reading →

Sucker

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There's a noise in the background of 'Rental Car' by Beck (on the album 'Guero') that sounds really like our doorbell. The sad part about this is that I've now been fooled by it twice within a matter of minutes; both times I actually got up to answer the the door. I blame having my head filled to bursting point with unfamiliar, technical, complex and difficult stuff over the past week. Continue reading →

Greetings from Edinburgh

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I had my first morning off since I've been in Edinburgh, so I decided to go for a bit of a wander. Two solid days of sitting down, listening and hard thinking had given me itchy feet. I had a bit of a wild goose chase to a cycle shop that Mr. Bsag was thinking of buying a bike from. I suggested that I could go and check out the bike he was interested in, but it was just my luck that the shop was closed today for stock-taking. Continue reading →

Freak weather

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I don't know why, but the Birmingham area seems to have become the Freak Weather Capital of the UK. First, there was the Dudley earthquake in 2002, and now we've had the Moseley tornado. What's next — typhoons on the lake in the local park?

Going north of the border

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I'm off to not-so-sunny (current temperature 13°C) Edinburgh for a week-long conference, so updates may be sparse unless I manage to blag some free WiFi^1^. Does anyone know of any good, free WiFi hotspots in the city centre? I'm giving two talks, and it's a conference outside my discipline, so it should be... interesting. ^1^ Mr. Bsag calls me 'WiFi' every now and again. I hope he means 802.11g, not 802. Continue reading →

Automated voices

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I've said it many times before, but Radio 4 is really a national treasure. The dramas and comedies are great, but I also love the little factual programmes about obscure but interesting things. Just last week I was sitting on the train at New Street station, listening to the automated announcements and wondering about the poor soul who had to say "I'm sorry for the delay to your journey" a million times until he got the required firm but sympathetic tone. Continue reading →

Fountain pens

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When I was bemoaning the state of my handwriting a while ago and asking for advice on how to go about improving it, several people suggested that a good pen — particularly a fountain pen — helps a lot. While my handwriting has improved a lot as a result of all the good advice I got, I felt that a good fountain pen would probably make it even better — or at least more comfortable. Continue reading →

Setting the screensaver interval

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I have a bit of a cheeky question for all you black belt Applescript coders out there; is there an easy way (or any way at all) to set the interval before the screensaver starts in an Applescript? I've tried searching the web and even browsing the relevant Applescript dictionaries, but I can't seem to find anything relevant. I'd like to know because I've started using Location X — a very useful little application which allows you to construct a group of settings for things like network details, SMTP server, default printers, energy saver preferences and so on, and switch between them easily. Continue reading →

A new directive

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The conductor (or whatever they're called now) made his way up the aisle of each carriage on the train this evening, asking people to identify each of the bags stashed on the overhead racks. Later, he reminded people to keep their bags with them at all times, and said that the 'identifying bags on racks' was a new directive. Mr. Bsag phoned me before I left work and told me about the latest incidents in London (I'd been busy all day, and hadn't heard). Continue reading →

Brick poetry

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Mr. Bsag and I were in the city centre on Saturday, doing a bit of shopping (a rare occurrence for us, as we hate shopping with a passion equal and opposite to the love most people seem to have for it). I must have walked past the outside of the Bullring shopping centre dozens of times, but this time I noticed some subtle poetry set into the bricks. It fascinated me, and although we were in a hurry, I dashed off a few shots for one of my flickr sets, with the intention of returning later to make a proper sequence. Continue reading →

Lichfield Cathedral concert

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Last Thursday, we went to a concert at Lichfield Cathedral — as part of the Lichfield Festival — which celebrated Arvo Part's 70th birthday. The majority of the concert was choral, with the Hilliard Ensemble and Ex Cathedra joining forces for the evening, but there was also an organ piece by Arvo Part called 'Annum Per Annum'. When the programme notes suggested that the work was "prefaced by a thunderous introduction", they weren't exaggerating; I think everyone jumped a little. Continue reading →

James Apollo - Good Grief

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There are many nice things about writing a blog. For one thing, people reading it regularly get to know something of your tastes and interests, and they are occasionally kind enough to pass on information about something that they think you might like. Usually that takes the form of a favourite album or website, but sometimes people tell you about their own work. I don't think that I've ever had an artist contact me about their own album before, but there's a first time for everything. Continue reading →

Renaming files

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I tried putting together a little Automator workflow to thumbnail some selected images in iPhoto and rename them. It worked well enough, but the thumbnailing component only allowed a suffix to be added to the file, whereas I wanted a prefix. I was able to work around it with another workflow to get selected files, trim the suffix off, then add it to the beginning of the filename. It worked, but it was hardly elegant. Continue reading →

Bike helmets

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Those of you who cycle might be aware of the current debate about the merits of cycle helmets, and about whether they should be made compulsory. A couple of weeks ago, the BMA (British Medical Association) threw more mud in the water by voting — against many of their members' advice — in favour of compulsory helmet wearing by cyclists. I'm in favour of compulsion in safety matters where there is a clear benefit of the safety measure (seatbelts in cars and motorcycle helmets, for example), but the evidence in favour of cycle helmets saving lives seems very contradictory at best. Continue reading →

Nothing to say

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I don't really have anything worthwhile to add to the thousands of words written about the London bombings yesterday. I was working at home yesterday and listening to the radio when the news came in. My first thought was "Oh no, not again." My Dad used to work in London, and throughout the 80s, I used to worry frantically whenever I heard about IRA bombs in London. It's the same old brutality, just carried out more efficiently. Continue reading →

The African Rock ‘n’ Roll Years

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For those of you in the UK with access to Freeview, there's the second part of a fantastic series tonight: The African Rock 'n' Roll Years. Last week, they featured the countries of West Africa, with some great footage and interviews with Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal and Salif Keita among others. There were also loads of wonderful artists that I hadn't come across before. I particularly liked a hip-hop band called Daara J, who had re-appropriated hip-hop and rap from the gangstas in the US, and had given it a great African flavour (or should that be 'flava'), and a very positive attitude. Continue reading →

A bit of the good life

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We went away for the weekend to see some friends and celebrate a 40th birthday (not mine, I'm glad to say). It was a brilliant weekend, and any time in which the six of us weren't eating wonderful food, drinking or laughing (or all three) was spent in our friends' new hot tub. Just before we went out for the best curry I've ever had in my life, we were lounging in the hot tub, drinking champagne. Continue reading →

A new regime

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I have to face facts; when it comes to exercise, I'm fundamentally bone idle. The only reason I got any exercise when I lived in Oxford was that I cycled to work, so I had to pedal. Since I've moved to Birmingham, I can only get public transport to work, so apart from a walk of about 30 minutes back from the station, I get practically no exercise at all. Continue reading →

The end of the beginning

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As I commented here, I was out on Saturday night, and so couldn't watch the last episode of Doctor Who live. I set up the video (obviously), but was paranoid all evening that something would go horribly wrong, and I'd never know who, what or where Bad Wolf was. I watched it on Sunday, but it's taken me a few days to think what I want to say about the ending. Continue reading →

Never mind the carats…

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...feel the amps. Just occasionally you stumble across something that something could have been made with you in mind. What, I ask you, could be more appropriate for a geek girl than jewellery made of electronics components? I love this diode choker. [via Gizmodo]

Fala Português?

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One of the perks of academic life is occasionally getting to go to very cool places in the name of work. One of the downsides of this — particularly if you are going to be forced to rely on your own resources somewhere fairly remote — is that you sometimes have to learn new languages. So, I'm currently trying to learn Portuguese. To be precise, Brazilian Portuguese. I'm not very good at learning languages; or rather, I'm not very good at writing or speaking other languages. Continue reading →

Backups, rsync and rsnapshot

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I've just taken delivery of a spanking new 500GB LaCie Firewire drive for work. I've partitioned it in two, with the bulk of the space allocated for video data, but I've also made a backup partition for my laptop. I've wanted to try using rsync for ages, but I never really had a large enough hard drive spare to try it. The great thing about rsync is that you can do frequent incremental backups (keeping snapshots of the state of your drive at various time intervals), while not using much more space than a single backup, and while allowing you to easily restore a whole directory structure without having to piece together backup sets. Continue reading →

Mail Act-On

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Merlin mentioned a plug-in for Mail called Mail Act-On a couple of days ago, and I just got around to trying it out; it's great. Like many people, I used to use the trick of appending three underscores followed by the name of a key combination to an Applescript's file name to allow me to trigger it with that key combination. So a script called 'Flag items*_*ctl-f.scpt' would get triggered by using the Control-F hot key. Continue reading →

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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I became a big fan of David Mitchell's after reading and thoroughly enjoying number9dream, so I reserved Cloud Atlas at the library. I have to say that I haven't enjoyed a novel this much in a long time. The novel is a concatenation of six stories which span a huge period of time from the 19th century to way in the future. However, each story is a cliff-hanger, ending abruptly before passing on to the next. Continue reading →

Diversity of languages

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Jason Kottke started another music meme: how many languages are in your music collection? I can't resist trying to work that out, so I've spent some time flipping through my CDs, and come up with a total of about 21 (depending on how you count albums by artists who sing in more than one language): UK: English (obviously) Scottish Gaelic Irish Gaelic Scandinavian (or somewhere way up North): Continue reading →

Invisible pets

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Some children have invisible friends; I had invisible pets. I also had real pets, which included everything from hawk moths and stick insects, through a wide swathe of the rodent Order (mice, rats, hamsters — Russian and Syrian — and gerbils), cats, zebra finches, a cockatiel, fish and a number of injured or orphaned wild birds that people brought to us. However, I knew that my folks would put their parental feet down if I were to ask for a tiger or an otter — it was so unfair! Continue reading →

Who is the Big Bad Wolf?

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I can't believe that it's nearly the end of this series of Doctor Who. Bouncing around on the sofa to the theme tune (and then hiding behind it when things get scary) has become a bit of a ritual on Saturday nights that I'm really going to miss. The past few episodes have been fantastic. 'The Empty Child' and 'The Doctor Dances' were wonderful mixtures of funny lines, outrageous three-way flirting between Rose, The Doctor and Captain Jack, and genuinely traumatising scariness. Continue reading →

Japan: Onigiri

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Part 4 of a series (Read Parts 1 and 2 and 3) ::: {.img-shadow} {width="266” height="200”} ::: For me, Japanese food is just about perfect; low fat, with plenty of vegetables and fish, it feels very healthy and there are all kinds of interesting new flavours to enjoy. With the exception of the traditional sweets, which have the consistency of taste of congealed and sugared wallpaper paste, I could quite happily live on Japanese food indefinitely. Continue reading →

Green = Spring

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I've just noticed that there's a very green thing going on in my photographs at the moment (see the thumbnails in the header^1^). It must be Spring or something. ^1^ This will baffle anyone reading this post in a few weeks time when the photos have all changed.

Sony Ericsson P910i

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I mentioned, in an off-hand way, when talking about Backpack a couple of weeks ago that I had got a Sony Ericsson P910i. Those with long memories and high boredom thresholds might remember that I used to have a Treo 600, and might be thinking, "Oh, that Bsag, she's been hankering after new gadgets again". Well, it wasn't quite like that, but it wasn't far off. In our house, the Technology Trickle-Down Process (TTDP) operates. Continue reading →

Alchemists of Sound

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I watched a fantastic documentary called Alchemists of Sound about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I've long admired the Radiophonic Workshop — both for the quality of their output, and because they seemed to embody the same kind of 'high innovation on a shoestring budget' ethos that also typified the British rocket industry of the same period. I'm in awe of the skill and patience required to record and manipulate sounds on to analogue tape, and then cut, splice, speed up, slow down and re-record those loops until you have something that sounds completely unearthly. Continue reading →

Tiger tiger burning bright

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Tiger gave me another pleasant surprise today. I've got an external Iomega SuperDrive CD/DVD-RW at work, but due to a slight glitch in communication with the person who bought it for me, I ended up with a USB2 unit rather than a Firewire one. Under Panther, the drive wasn't recognised by the system, so I couldn't use iDVD or the Finder to burn discs. There were ways around it, so I didn't return the drive, but it was irritating. Continue reading →

Bibdesk

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Here's one for the academic geeks... After many years of using Endnote, I've finally switched to using BibDesk to organise my references. This will probably make me sound prehistoric, but when I did my PhD I used 3 x 5 index cards in a box to file my references. This had certain advantages — you could pop down to the library with a stack of blank cards and fill the details in as you did your reading — but they were hell to search. Continue reading →

Getting things moving

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Merlin has — as ever — some great tips for getting those stubborn, been-there-forever tasks off your list. As well as containing the glorious phrase "plane some cringe off of your hated tasks", which would look great on a T-shirt, he suggests identifying the tasks that make you cringe then trying to work out why. I've had an embarrassing number of those kinds of tasks that manage to linger on the list for ages, which was the main motivation for planning a feature in Tracks to flag them up. Continue reading →

Work in progress

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I spent a bit of time at the weekend finishing the main work of updating Tracks to use Ajax to edit, create and delete items. For those of you who don't know what Ajax is, it's basically some clever Javascript that allows you to make changes to the database and show those changes 'live' without having to refresh the whole page. It makes the whole thing much more like a normal application, rather than a web application. Continue reading →

Futurama

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I love Futurama. We got given a box set of Season 3 at Christmas, and we're slowly working our way through the episodes, helpless with laughter. In many ways, I prefer it to The Simpsons. I've just watched A Pharaoh to Remember, in which Bender has a bit of a hissy fit because he thinks no-one will remember him. His friends try to cheer him up by organising a surprise funeral for him, but he criticises all the eulogies from his coffin ("Loud-er and sad-der"), and eventually storms off ("This is the worst funeral ever! Continue reading →

Make Poverty History

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You might have noticed the white band at the top right of the page, linking to Make Poverty History. It's a very worthy cause, so pay them a visit and do what you can.

Musical baton

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It's the craze that's sweeping the planet. Today I've been passed the musical baton by fellow TextDriver Justin French, and by Alnisa Allgood so here goes: Total volume of music files on my computer? PowerBook: 5.5 GB, 1168 songs, 3.4 days of playing time, but that's just for my elderly iPod. The real stuff is on the iMac (15.9 GB). The last CD I bought was? I bought a batch of three last time (whadda ya mean, that's cheating? Continue reading →

Backpack

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Over the past week or so, I've been trying out Backpack. It's rather difficult to describe exactly what it does, and the best way to learn is by trying it yourself (you can sign up for a limited free account). However, by just saying "Go and try it", I feel that I'm failing in my duty to the geek community, and being pretty lazy into the bargain. So here's a slightly more informative discussion. Continue reading →

Sun warming my bones

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I can't tell you what a delight it is to finally have a real garden especially now that summer is on the way. I spent a while today just sitting in the sunshine outside and letting the warmth seep into my bones. One of the things I love about living in a drizzly, temperate country is the sheer joy you experience the first time you feel real warmth and sunlight after the winter. Continue reading →

Promotional pasta

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We got a mysterious cardboard package in the post from The Guardian newspaper today. it looked a bit like an Amazon package, and we were trying to remember if either of us had ordered any books or CDs from the paper. On opening it up, were were amazed and baffled to find — carefully shrouded in bubble wrap — a sheet of lasagne (uncooked) printed with the following text: THE ESSENTIAL ITALIAN INGREDIENT Continue reading →

Spam Karma

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Yesterday night I was making a comment and found that I'd been blacklisted as a spammer — on my own blog! I un-blacklisted myself, but it was clear that Spam Karma (the plugin I use to stem the flow of comment spam) was having some issues. I took a look at the Spam Karma page, and it confirmed that I needed to upgrade to version 2.0, which I've now done. Continue reading →