The Blog of Zakspade
February 2016 Archive


Sunday 28 February, 2016

This one is for the techies out there.

Having decided to resurrect an old PC to dedicate to my writing and stuff, I wired it all into place. The trick was to just use the same monitor as another of the PCs in the house.

I fired it up and moved all my data over. So far, so god - was soooo slow!

Why, I wondered, was it running like an asthmatic snail on crutches?

I didn’t have to look far. It turned out that the PC had 1GB of RAM installed. The last time I looked it had 3GB - two slots of 2GB and 1GB. It now had both slots filled with 512MB memory modules.

Now, anyone who is even slightly au fait with things of a computer nature will tell you: If you want to speed up a computer - add memory. Conversely, if you want to slow it to a crawl - take memory away!

The odd thing was that both slots were filled. I suspect that at some time I had removed the 3GB and stuck it elsewhere - probably taking the memory left over from the other machine and dropping it into what was now a seriously sluggish PC.

That is the thing with memory - it has a greater effect that one might imagine upon how things work.

For instance, I really do not recall downgrading this PC at any time in the recent or far past. However, the fact is that it happened, and not only was memory removed, but some smaller modules were put in their place. That takes someone with spare kit lying about to do as it was done. That would be me, then.

But I seriously do not remember doing that. My memory obviously failed me on this occasion...


Friday 26 February, 2016

I had a strange experience on my walk into work today. I’m not one for eavesdropping, but this one was hard to miss.

A chap, possibly in his early to mid twenties - looking for all the world to be the hoodiest Hoodie of the lot - was sat astride a bicycle obviously too small for his 5’ 10” frame and speaking to an older woman. She may have been his mother, or very much older sister. Or a complete stranger, although the nature of what they said suggested otherwise.

Him: Don’t worry, I’ll pop into [local store name] and get some for you.

Her: No, I haven’t given you the money for them!

Him: No worries. I was gonna steal them for you anyway.

Her: What if they see you?

Him: Nah, no chance!

Now throw in a fair few expletives from each of them and an accent from the young man that makes me sound like I’m eating a plum, a silver spoon, and a bag of marbles, then you will get an idea of why the whole thing made its way firmly in through my ears.

I had my mobile phone on me. Were it not for the fact that I was straining to get to work on time, I would have stopped and looked up the phone number of [local store name] and rung and tipped them off that a young miscreant riding a bicycle, freshly stolen or belonging to a younger brother, was on his way to shoplift some items from them.

Later I wondered whether to write about him because if he were to read this he would surely recognise himself. Then I gave it some more thought and it came to me that the guy probably can’t read.

However, if someone reads it to him, then I might have cause to look over my shoulder - except he probably hasn’t the intelligence to read house numbers...


Thursday 25 February, 2016

Walking - it is claimed - can aid fitness and wellbeing.

Nice. I do a fair bit of walking. I can drive, have access to a car, but tend to walk in/out of town to work and rarely get behind the wheel of the car taking root on my drive.

If the experts are correct, then I confidently predict that I will live to over 150 and hereby invite you all to my 150th birthday bash. In advance, you understand - and naturally only those of you who are still alive, come that day: I don’t want any stiffs in the corner to who no one will talk.

However, I spent yesterday driving most of the day. Why? Well, I ended up having to attend a bank appointment with my mum in the morning before work, and then take my wife to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon - and all this required me to cover large distances in as short a time as possible, lest I end up taking the whole day off work.

Consequently I did very little walking during the day.

What little walking I did do has managed to take skin off my left foot. Under the bony bit of the ankle and the top of the heel are now raw. The skin had been threatening to part with the flesh below it for a couple of days before. After having an otherwise restful day, it decided to ‘sling its hook’.

My feet have provided a counterpoint to the suggestion of experts that walking helps overall health. It may well do so, but it is of little consequence if one’s body falls apart while being in excellent health.

A bit like modern cars, I suppose: Despite looking shiny and nice after a good few years, it becomes unfeasibly expensive to get them through the annual MoT due to bits falling off them. They end up going for scrap.

As I drove home after work, my feet and I were glad not to be walking home and the car and I discussed which one of us would be going first. We agreed that neither of were likely to see 150, but nor would either of us compete to outdo the other.


Tuesday 23 February, 2016

As a bloke, I tend to smile wryly whenever I see those ads on the television about moisturising creams and how they are supposed to be so good for one’s skin.

Then I developed dry skin that played havoc with the structural integrity of my fingers.

I managed to find ways to overcome the scourge of the dry skin that had previously led to bleeding fingers, hacks, and a tremendous amount of pain. Application of animal fat was riding high in my estimation, but practicality meant I was forced to fall back on more traditional methods - hand cream.

Then yesterday things at work changed due to an absence and I ended up using a dishcloth. It was soapy water, wiping, wringing, and then more soapy water. It crossed my mind that it would all end in tears, but of course, the bloke thing kicked in and I opted to not apply lots of hand cream afterwards.

This morning I woke and upon hitting the bathroom I felt the fragility of my fingers. Out came the hand cream and I tried my best to beat the promise of intense pain and open wounds. Did that all morning, in fact.

And a fat lot of good that did.

Come lunchtime, I was taking my coat off and a Velcro fastener on a sleeve cuff tore through the side of one of my dry-skinned fingers. So, here I am typing this tonight with two hands full of sore fingers with one that has been wrapped in a plaster because it bled and bled.

On television tonight I watched a commercial for a skin moisturising product. I didn’t smile - wryly or otherwise.


Technical Stuff
Saturday 21 February, 2016

Ah, things to do.

A scanner was attached to a PC running in my garage. I had remote access to the PC so I would pop out and drop whatever I wanted to scan on its bed and then later fiddle with the output from the warmth of the house as I remotely scanned it.

It was win-win situation because I didn’t spend lots of time out in the garage getting cold, and I would be inside with my family - until the PC to which the scanner was attached died.

There was no notice in the local papers, no memorial service, and no tears dropped. However, there were a number of choice words used when I was unable to remote access the PC and further words of a Smurf-hue when I went out there and discovered the reason for the non communication was down to the PC having shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to make its chip maker in the sky.

As computers go, she was an old girl running Windows XP. However, I was fond of her as I had custom built her many moons earlier. I recall spending £400 on the CPU alone as I was aiming at a muscle machine at the time.

The scanner was of a similar age; hence it was attached to something that was capable of running the software required to make it function. The death of that particular PC meant that the only machines available to connect to were running Windows 8.1 - and knowing the preference of manufacturers to sell punters new kit rather than support old stuff, I was looking at throwing what was otherwise a perfectly good piece of equipment.

So it was with a view to a challenge that I took the scanner inside and connected it up to a modern PC. I thought I’d take a look online - just for the look of the thing, you understand. Imagine my surprise to find drivers for it - and 64-bit, to boot!

In the end it was a bit of a letdown as I had steeled myself for a battle before possibly throwing in the towel and leaving it out for the refuse collection; wrapped in plastic as they require.

Now I have a flatbed scanner connected to a decent PC from which I can get quite respectable scans - and it features a negatives scanner as well. Result!


Friday 19 February, 2016

Numbers seem to play a huge part in the lives of many of us.

For some it stops at those that appear on their salary slip. For others it can be the number of Likes or Friends on Facebook, Followers on Twitter, how many entries in an address book, or how many beer vouchers were parted with to buy the extra shiny car now parked on their driveway.

The list of things that people consider important in the world of numbers is very long and those mentioned above are nowhere nearly representative of them all. In fact, that list itself is made up of an enormous number of items. Another number to consider!

Yesterday, numbers came to my mind. Dates of births, weddings, deaths - all are represented through numbers, and I had call to know a great many.

But they were not the numbers that caught in my mind to an almost overwhelming degree. Nor was it the fact that come March, new cars will be identified by the number ‘16’ after the initial two letters. No, the number that nigh on bowled me over was the number of people who attended my father’s funeral yesterday.

Sure, one can read how many people live in a particular area, but it is harder to determine how many persons someone knows - especially if that ‘someone’ isn’t oneself. So the number of mourners was unexpected as I didn’t realise that in this day and age of virtual Friends and whatnot on social media, that someone could actually know so many real people.

Well, that’s numbers I suppose - always capable of surprises, even once one is old enough to count unaided.


Wednesday 17 February, 2016

Being February means that it is a little late in the year for one be thinking about resolutions.

My previous Blog entry mentioned my decision to avoid the question of duration of what is considered to be ‘current’ by not aiming to post something each and every day. To that end, I was going crazy yesterday trying not to write something and post it online.

However, if one checks, it can be seen that I was successful in adhering to the resolution.

It might seem that my mind has been focused squarely upon the avoidance of anything to do with writing - which is almost true as my attention has been on my fingers.

Fingers are great things. They can hold cigars (I don’t smoke, but hey!), manipulate guns; firing them at targets, quarry, or people. Or they can be used to write. Despite their drawbacks, fingers are quite handy (cue the groans).

The issue with my own fingers has been dry skin on their ends: hard, brittle, breaking up along creases, sometimes leading to bleeding. Bloody painful - make no mistake!

I have been buying and using different creams in an attempt to moisturise them. They all seem to achieve different levels of success with alleviating the condition and the effects of the skin splitting. All make the same claim: They are non-greasy.

By ‘non-greasy’ they are saying they can be applied without leaving one with greasy mitts (or feet?). Given the pain, I really do not care. What I DO care about is the fact that none of them seem able to soften already hardened skin. I now know from bitter experience, it will form the edge of yet another painful split in the skin.

Then, during a bread buttering exercise, I managed to get butter on my fingers. This was due to my being cack-handed because of my trying to avoid further damage from yet more hardened skin.

Interesting, the butter softened that hard skin. Mind you, it left my skin greasy until wiped, but my fingers are thanking me for it. Really, is butter is better than paying loads for creams that make all sorts of claims about combating dry skin?

Methinks I’ll stick to the butter and wipe off the excess. I just hope I don’t absent-mindedly eat one of my hands...


Monday 15 February, 2016

Having decided to make the time to write a Blog, then time I must make. The question became: Just how much time, and when?

The question over time first came to my mind in the form of ‘when.’

Were I to post a Blog at 9 o’clock at night and its replacement at 10 o’clock the next morning; would it be worthy of attracting a date that suggests it was a day’s worth of Blog?

So I figured that maybe I ought to consider a Blog that attracted a post every couple of days so that each entry at least had a chance to shine for a period that at least didn’t cause me to wonder whether I was short changing the reader.

Then at around 8:45am this morning I read an email from an editor that he had penned and sent at 8:31am. A fellow contributor to a column had not been forthcoming and was I in a position to contact them? The editor required their copy by lunchtime in order for it to be included in the Tuesday edition.

It was precisely 9am when my email was sent off through the Internet ether to him to say that I was unable to contact the other contributor any quicker than he could, but I would provide copy for him in its place.

Just before 10am I emailed him the copy.

The rush job took its toll on my morning as I had intended to write a Blog entry. As it was, things took a turn which involved photography and walking into town.

Had I decided to write a Blog every other day then I suppose that I could have missed today and concentrated on Tuesday then Thursday, and every other day thereafter. However, another problem reared its not-so-pretty head: I am attending a funeral this Thursday.

At a guess I would say that taking a laptop to a funeral service is bad form. The clatter of the keyboard during a reading might be viewed dimly by many. My Dad would probably give me a stern look if I were to be buried in composition during a Requiem Mass. However, as he is the one to be interred, I suppose if a forbidding glare was to be forthcoming from him, then the congregation would be less concerned by some guy tapping away on a laptop. 


Tea or Coffee?
Sunday 14 February, 2016

I’m not a great tea or coffee drinker - ask anyone who knows me. So why do I end up making so much of the stuff?

We recently ran out of coffee at home. My wife doesn’t drink it. The reason for its existence was purely for guests. Having bought a fresh jar, no one who has recently crossed the threshold of our front door has wanted coffee. The jar is sitting in a dark cupboard, feeling unloved and unwanted...

Tea, on the other hand, is in demand. For instance, today I have made six cups of tea and drunk none. That is not to say I made them and forgot to drink them. No, I left the forgetting to others.

Not being of the tea/coffee drinkers’ brigade, I don’t get how a hot beverage is in such great demand. Fruit juice, water, cordial, gin and tonic - none seem to have the same degree of appeal as that of a freshly made cup of tea or coffee.

Vodka seems a decent alternative, in my books. However, when looking at the drawbacks in relation to myself, I see the attraction is outweighed by the potential fall. Given my body’s lack of acclimatisation to tea or coffee, drinking has me frequently running to the loo. So vodka is winning thus far. Unfortunately, when looking at the time when I eventually wish to use the loo after drinking vodka, the chances that I could negotiate the stairs to get there are decidedly slim.

Tea or coffee doesn’t make me fall over whereas vodka does.

I suppose where vodka wins is the fact that there s no need to put the kettle on to make it as it comes readymade in a bottle.

Saturday 13 February, 2016
Yesterday I was walking to work along a busy road. Toward me came a van at a speed that I suspect was in excess of 30mph.

The speed was not the point of my interest. No, it would have merely have been one of the many drivers who tear up and down that busy road without any thought of those of us who make our way along the narrow pathways alongside.

It was the roll the driver was eating that really caught my attention. As my wife will testify - I think of eating while driving as a bad mix. And it isn’t just my opinion, no.

Studies from all over all come to the same conclusion: Eating will take away, from the driver, the ability to control the vehicle.

As far as I can see, there isn’t an organisation out there that will put its name to a contrary view. Yes, there are many individuals who will claim otherwise, but they are the people who fall foul of the traffic laws; one particular law being the CD10 conviction: Driving Without Due Care and Attention.

The CD10 can earn the driver three to nine Penalty Points AND a fine. Additionally it will come with higher insurance premiums - as much as 40% higher than normal. Said points can end up tipping the driver over the points limit and result in a driving disqualification. And of course a disqualification can impact upon the driver’s employment.

All in all, one doesn’t want to be caught at the wheel of a moving vehicle by a police officer while eating a roll.

Except if that moving vehicle is a police car.

Seeing a proper police car in these parts nowadays has become a bit of a rarity. It is up there with snowfall on Christmas Day (it happens, but never when one wants or expects it). This one was not only rare, but the driver was wrestling with what may well have been a greasy bacon butty as he was seemingly trying to avoid drips of fat from falling into his lap. Or he might have just been trying to peer up at the roof lining while eating a normal roll...


Friday 12 February, 2016

I was going to write a very lengthy diatribe that would have brought tears to the eyes of you all.

In the end, I spent all the time I should have been writing just trying to sort out the coding behind the Blog. In my university days I had to maintain a website created in a text editor to create raw HTML code.

Nowadays no one in their right mind codes in HTML.

I make no claim to be in my right mind.

All that said, it gives a greater degree of control over the placement of objects. That is especially useful when one knows which object wants to be placed exactly so. Or in my case, any random object popping up wherever it fancies because I didn’t really get to grips with what the code was supposed to be doing in the first place.

My website at university was simple. No bells and whistles. The same nowadays - let the words do the talking.


The Loft
Thursday 11 February, 2016

Finally mounted the heavy picture on the studio wall. A wealth of tools were used (I like to get things right) - including the stepladder.

Ah, the stepladder! Christmas had been a rather busy time, and no less so afterwards as 'things' took place. Consequently, when it came to putting the Christmas decorations back in the loft, a few things were missed. Each time I resolved to head out to the garage to get the stepladder, it was either raining or I was tied up elsewhere.

As time passed, more items turned up that had been missed (life has been hectic of late). But they were all collected together in the spare room ready for the day when the stepladder and I were together available to hoist them into the dark recesses within the loft.

The very heavy picture frame was that moment.

Once the frame was successfully up on the wall, the stepladder was pressed into service accessing the loft. I set it up as its default 'A' to get up and remove the loft door. I then reconfigured it to use as a ladder so I could make it up into the loft. Previously mentioned Christmas stuff went up into the darkness. Once all done I returned it back to its 'A' shape so as to allow me to replace the loft door.

While it might not seem a big deal this all this took place in a bedroom because it was too hard for the builders of the house to think it easier and more practical to place the loft hatch in a better place such as the landing - poor souls!

As I took the stepladder back down the stairs - VERY carefully so as to avoid marking any walls etc. - I spotted a snowman and a little red Santa hat parked on a bookshelf.

Up the stairs (again), messing about with the stepladder (again), cursing the builders for being of such low intelligence in the first place (again).

I am now left hoping not to spot something Christmas related now that the stepladder is back in the garage. Anything that crops up WILL be consigned to the rubbish bin - the loft has seen too much of me this morning!
The Scammer
Wednesday 10 February, 2016

I was sat using my laptop during a break between shifts.

My boss just came into the room and saw me busy on my laptop and asked what I was doing. I explained I had been contacted by a nice God worshipping woman (Mrs. Sandra Phillips, Indonesia) who wished to give me lots of money so as to help the children as she is not long for this world. She told me she got my name from a directory and knew I was a Godly person.

Well, all that was a little while back and I was now in email contact with her solicitor (sorry, attorney) who was endeavouring to wheedle out of me my private and mobile phone numbers. He hasn't apparently yet cottoned onto the fact that the postal address I previously supplied to 'Mrs Philips' isn't likely to be genuine (1 Blobby Street, Texas). Nor has he realised that there cannot be people as stupid as I am appearing who are begging to send him originals of my birth certificate AND driving licence.

My boss shook his head - some of us have hobbies - this is mine: baiting losers who try to take money off the gullible. If I only cost this cretin time and a postage stamp, it will make me happier than if I ignored them in the first place...