The Blog of Zakspade

July 2017 Archive
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Noise Abatement
Monday 31 July, 2017
In the quest to rid myself of a noisy keyboard, I sought a replacement. The thing clattered and was only attached to my PC because the original had died and what now rattled under my fingers was only intended as an emergency and temporary fix.

While certainly did the job of allowing me to pick away and cause characters to meld together to form coherent strings that could be understood to mean something, the noise that accompanied it was just too much. I needed to obtain a permanent replacement; besides, I was now without a spare should anything now befall the keyboard now in use - such as me throwing it through the window - open or not.

I like to work in a dimly lit study as I find it helps me to avoid distractions, but the downside is that my typing (in)ability requires me to look at the keys from time-to-time when I am unsure where to find a particular letter or punctuation mark. So I figured that a backlit keyboard would be nice, along with a quieter operation.

On Saturday afternoon it arrived. Within five minutes it was out of the box and fitted. I was full of joy; I could type without having to wear earplugs. In addition I had a choice of colours gently illuminating the keys as well as being able to vary their brightness. The function that allowed the colours to cycle and pulsate seemed to be a little too much as it conjured up visions of difficulties typing upon a device covered with vomit.

All was well, until Sunday morning when something happened. Here’s what I Posted to Facebook: Odd. New keyord as just started refusing to allow me to type te letters aitc, oney-making flying ting, or apostropes. A quick ceck of wy efore I consider it faulty and ripe for return... Perhaps I might have been better off calling the missing ‘oney-making flying ting’ letter, the one between ‘g’ and ‘j’ instead.

I was distraught, fearing I would be forced to return to the device now sat lurking and sneering in the corner of my study.

The nature of the failure puzzled me. In order to test it properly, I connected the suspect keyboard to my laptop and was able to note that it was the ‘h’ ‘b’ ‘apostrophe’, and ‘Enter’ (not ‘Return’) keys that were dead. My experience with hardware in the world IT world where I started out, told me that it is an unusual pattern of failures given the way keyboards are made. I ran through some of the propriety keyboard strokes so as to cause it to cycle through various lighting modes and suddenly all the keys were working once more.

It went back to my study and it is now friends once more with my PC. Hopefully it was a one-off glitch, but if it wasn’t, then I may have stumbled upon the thing that rectifies the silliness.

I remember the days when a keyboard failure was because it broke rather than had a tantrum.

I Felt a Big Drip
Sunday 30 July, 2017
Well, the barbeque went well yesterday. It rained a tiny bit as I went through the arduous process getting the charcoal alight, then it ceased falling.

As it looked as if the weather might decide to involve lots of water, the decision had been made to have a sit-down barbeque inside the conservatory with just the hapless barbeque-ist located outside. The idea was that if it all went bad, then we could resort to the oven for cooking.

No, the rain held off and all the food was cooked over charcoal.

In fact, the weather was kind in the end. Not only did it stay away while I endeavoured to cook stuff all the way through without turning the exterior into a hard black shell, but it remained at bay until the barbeque had cooled down so as to allow me to empty the cinders and give it a clean.

Okay, by that time it started to come down gently but I wheeled the unit under the parasol and completed the cleaning task I managed to put the portable barbecue away in the garage before the light drizzle turned into proper rain and the effectiveness of the parasol as a giant umbrella went away.

A good day.

However, that was the end of the benevolence of the weather; it had been kind to us and now it was set upon unleashing the contents of the dark clouds upon everyone and everything on the ground.

My last act before retiring to bed was my usual release of the dogs into the garden so that they might avail themselves of the grass rather than the kitchen floor during the night. It was as I ventured out for a quick sortie that a huge drip fell from the end of one of the ribs of the parasol and struck me on the back. It was cold, wet, and totally unanticipated; leading to my jumping and misstepping into a puddle.

I immediately resolved to lower the parasol that had gamely served me for a short while as an umbrella earlier in the day. The rain had eased and I knew from how it had been falling all evening, the hiatus would likely be short-lived. So I rushed to unravel the pull rope that would allow me to lower it.

Once it was freed, I removed the pin holding the structure up so the canopy was aloft, and then I played out the cord to allow it to lower and fold into the pole.

As I did so in my haste; wearing just a light t-shirt, an event took place that resulted in the utterance in a single expletive in what really should have been a whisper, but wasn’t. If the water that had gone down my neck previously was enough to shock me, imagine the effect of a torrent running off the now partly collapsed parasol.

It felt more than a big drip to me . . .

Birthday BBQ
Saturday 29 July, 2017
This morning I woke up to brilliant sunshine. This is good in that sunshine usually heralds dry weather.

The plan today is for a BBQ as part of the birthday celebrations for a youngster. A check of the weather forecast this morning tells me that rain is expected in these parts by about 3pm. Yesterday, before I went to bed, the same forecast source told me 4pm.

The intention is to have the BBQ grill up and running by noon. Naturally I will check the weather forecast when I get the equipment out. I fully expect it to have changed and for rain to be predicted nearer 2pm. If I try to ‘second guess’ events and aim for a slightly earlier BBQ and haul everything out by 11:30am, then no doubt the forecast will remain at 3pm or even revert back to 4pm.

Such is life in Blighty when trying to determine the weather.

When I lived in Poland, if the weather was warm and dry then it remained that way long enough to actually do something with it. When it was cold and snowing, it stayed that way long enough for the kids to get their toboggans out and use them without there being a mad rush in order to beat the thaw.

Not here; as a child I recall seeing snowfall and my eagerness to get out into it. As an adult I realise that the reason for my eagerness was so that I didn’t miss it.

I don’t mind the mucking about getting a BBQ started, and the cooking part is good. Overall it is enjoyable but the clear up is a right royal pain. It is impossible to stop the mess being cleaned off the BBQ equipment from making its way down and onto the patio, and that ends up being bugger to clean.

Today is likely to be worse in that I will probably be forced to leave things until everything has been rained upon. The lot has to cool down before cleaning can take place and the dastardly weather will no doubt set about messing things up by the rain coming before I can get started.

Oh well, we will see how things turn out.

But if there is something about the British BBQ that I really dislike and cannot shrug my shoulders over and move on, it is the use of the term BBQ instead of barbeque.


What Day is it?
Friday 28 July, 2017

I woke up knowing arrangements had been made for ‘things’ today. It was just that exactly what escaped my mind.

As I lay there trying to recall how the coming day was to happen, it struck me: what day is it?

If that were not bad enough, not only was the day of the week a question I was unable to answer, but the period of my life in which I presently reside eluded me as well.

My current employment means that the school summer holidays are rather significant. Being employed at a school has that effect. However, the fact that it was the summer break escaped me as I was under the impression that I was employed elsewhere and knowing the day of the week I had woken up was doubly important in case I was wasting time thinking instead of getting up and ready for my commute into work.

The employment I was thinking of placed me in a different house and a different bed.

The realisation that I appeared to have woken in someone else’s bedroom made me wonder how that had happened. I tried to think but nothing came, then it crossed my mind: who with?

Suddenly it became important not to panic. I had to carefully check who was next to me without disturbing them. If they were not who I expected then I would end up saying and doing something stupid and possibly one of those things only normally seen in lame comedies soaps.

As I gently rose to study the situation I saw things in the bedroom that suggested I was not a visitor: my bathrobe hung up and other knickknacks strew about the place, but each in a place other than the floor - all tidy and organised as if they were at home.

So now my confusion deepened. Now there was an additional question: how come?

Upon spotting my mobile phone beside the bed the thought entered my head that I needed to check the dogs downstairs via the remotely accessible webcam.

Dogs? Remote webcam? Looking at the sleeping figure wrapped up tightly in the duvet precluding any possibility of recognition provided no further clues.

Upon putting on my bathrobe, I then remembered that I needed to do something regarding a blog and that was the reason for the need to quietly check the dogs unobtrusively.

Then everything began to slip back into place and within a few seconds my life skipped forward around twenty years.

Virtual time travel without and fancy gadgets or winking lights.

I checked the dogs before leaving the bedroom to sit down at my PC to write this Blog entry. The day and the plans were all there in my head before my bottom made contact with the seat. The feeling of stupidity for waking as I had done quickly evaporated as I considered the timing of feeding them to better facilitate the intended events this day.


The Cramping Style of Police Helicopters
Thursday 27 July, 2017

If I were a criminal about to indulge in a little housebreaking and I heard the sound of the police helicopter somewhere above my head in the early hours, it would make me hesitate: in street parlance, it would cramp my style.

On the other hand, if I were a law abiding citizen, doing what many law abiding citizens do during the early hours, I would be woken up; possibly from a very pleasant sleep.

Having been the victim of the ‘wee-hours-alarm-clock’ police helicopter when I lived in a town nearby which featured a road system that seemed to attract those who thought they could outrun police vehicles, my reaction to being woken was that I was likely to be kept awake for some time as it hovered in the area.

So I had a little stretch as I lay in bed and wondered whether or not to pick up my Kindle.

Oh boy was that a mistake!

Having been at total rest immediately before my horizontal exertion, and without any form of warming up, both of my legs went into cramp.

You now have to imagine the next few paragraphs of description of the event because I cannot bring myself to write about it due to the memory and the number of expletives I would feel necessary to convey the degree of pain experienced.

Although I believe myself to be an upright and good citizen, I seem to have something in common with the criminal element: cramp.


Wednesday 26 July, 2017

Goodness, I feel rough this morning.

I’ve not been out on the ‘lash’ as might be suggested by some. No, a cold or some sort of infection has been trying to overwhelm me, and I am beginning to think it is succeeding.

This morning I am feeling rougher than a politician’s estimate of the true cost of HS2.

Writing this Blog entry is a challenge for two reasons: it’s too early in the morning; I cannot see my computer’s keyboard or screen properly.

Granted, a decent typist ought not to have to rely on seeing the keyboard under their fingers, but I am not a decent typist. However, the real problem was logging in to my computer: ever tried to type a long password without being able to make out the characters on the keys?

However, despite not being able to see the screen properly either, I was aware that I had eventually been successful as the colour changed.

So that was good.

The only way to see what my fingers are doing, and the results of their key-stabbing, is to dab my eyes with a tissue every 16.3 seconds.

Rough doesn’t really describe what is sat typing these words. If you could see me now you would be calling 999 and asking for men in ‘hazmat’ suits to come along and take me away because I must have been infected with something from outer space.

I have not yet found a replacement for my extremely noisy keyboard. This morning it seems louder than ever. It would seem that feeling rough means being unable to see properly but the sense of hearing goes into overdrive.

I feel so rough; I could challenge the financial viability of sandpaper manufacturers.

Bed beckons, but I have dogs to feed, and an early morning trip to the swimming baths to make because I am my daughter’s own personal chauffeur, but I feel sure that I will feel better later - if I live that long . . .


Tuesday 25 July, 2017

Last Saturday a week ago a children’s party was hosted at my house.

Food intended to be hot was shoved into the built-in oven once everyone had arrived and it made all the right noises but stayed cold.

On the Monday following I popped into a local retailer and bought a replacement.

Yesterday it was delivered and fitted.

We celebrated by ordering in a takeaway . . .


Keyboards and Trains
Monday 24 July, 2017

Can anyone think what they might have in common; a link between them?

I am being a little unfair; I ought to really ask if anyone can spot what I am experiencing as a commonality.

More information: I live just on the far edge of town, about as far as is possible from the railway line running through our railway station. That is a clue.

Okay, I grant you it is not that helpful so I will add some more: the last few nights I have been woken by trains.

Any clearer? I suppose it would help if I were to mention the fact that the track is about two miles away.

I guess the wind has been such that it has carried the sound of trains passing over the points located near the railway station all the way over to my side of town. Being a person with sharp ears I have been able to hear the racket they make and have been woken.

Or maybe I am just sleeping lightly and any old faint noise would wake me?

No more trains; now onto the subject of keyboards. To clarify things a little: I am referring to computer keyboards as opposed to those noisy things capable of playing music but which in the wrong hands generate a cacophony.

A short while back, my PC keyboard failed (see Noisy - Wednesday 19 July, 2017) and I dug out my emergency spare. It is no less noisy than when it was first pressed into service. So I really need to seek out a decent replacement, but I am finding that buying one without being able to have a test is proving rather difficult.

My fear is that I will end up obtaining a keyboard that will be no quieter than the monstrosity upon which I am writing this Blog entry this morning.

The result of using what was only ever intended as a temporary spare is that every character comes with a crashing that screams in my ears. I look forward to being able place it on the tracks and watch gleefully as one of those bloody trains runs over the damn thing when I finally find a suitable replacement.

And there you have the connection.


Sunday 23 July, 2017

These last few days I have taken to my laptop to add to my opus. Precisely because I have been using my laptop I have been available to stop midway through stuff and attend to things, thus leading to huge swathes of precious writing time being lost over and above the time out to attend to the distraction.

How come? Well, whenever I close the lid of my laptop to place it in Suspend until I get back, I will most certainly regret having done so without closing whatever I was working on.

Upon opening the lid and bringing my laptop out of Suspend, within a few moments Word stops working, helpfully providing a pop-up to tell me, and no matter what I do it shuts and I lose large chunks of what I have written before the distraction.

Why not just press Ctrl-S and save everything immediately before getting up from the laptop?

Well, oddly enough, I do exactly that. Having spent many years working in IT support I have seen data loss a great many times and had to suffer through rants, tears, recriminations of those who are virtually begging me to recover their lost data from a magic hat. Sometimes it has been impossible due to nothing having ever been saved over hours of typing. I’m thinking in particular of a solicitor who worked all day upon a legal draft without once saving it and who was livid with me when a power cut caused him to lose that day’s work.

However, despite all I do, when I return, I still lose everything; except I know where to recover the data from if I am careful, having set up my laptop so as to place all temporary files where I can easily get to them. These files tend to retain the latest work but need the data extracted and placed back in the parent documents: one-minute door attendances turn into 30-minute data recovery sessions.

Microsoft’s support has a solution: upgrade my copy of Office to the latest version. Smoke is still coming out of my ears many hours after reading that and I will not attempt to convey my feelings upon reading Microsoft’s idea of a solution lest this Blog descend to the gutter in a torrent of expletives.

I took time out to understand why it happens so as to avoid the problem in the future. It turns out that despite instructing Word to Save a parent document, it does not although it reports it has done as instructed.

The problem lies with embedded documents. It is convenient for me to edit a child document embedded as an object within a parent. Upon exiting the child document I need to perform a Save upon the parent upon its own closure otherwise nothing in the child is saved, even if I have been saving it as I go along.

If Word fails, no temp files for the child document will have been written.

So, even if I keep saving the parent as I work and then Word stops working, I find it will not have saved a thing, and the temp files are not those of the document I was working on but the parent, which then needs to be manually opened and the embedded document accessed in order to extract the work otherwise lost.

Manually opened? Because the temp files in question are part of the Word autorecovery function - which fails as well - they need to be renamed in order for me to get to that data.

Upgrade and pay Microsoft to avoid their cock-up? No thanks, I’ll merely place my laptop in Hibernate instead of Suspend. For short breaks it uses a little more battery power, but is sure saves a huge amount of my time.


Blog Entry
Saturday 22 July, 2017

As I have written in a previous Blog entry; I write this online diatribe as a way of maintaining a steady flow of words from my fingers.

A writer has a few things with which to contend: unwanted noise, interruptions, cats seeking attention and plain old Writer’s Block.

The last one comes along and bludgeons the writer for no apparent reason and is, by far, the most insidiously destructive and disruptive influence upon his or her profession. If anyone were to be able to pin down and identify the exact cause for the refusal of words and ideas to spring forth from an otherwise fruitful and bountiful mind, then they would surely be in a good position to look at coming up with a working solution.

Think of the benefits - more words would be forthcoming; more books written; lower over consumption of alcohol; fewer suicides. Society would be the winner along with those cured.

There are some who appear not to be afflicted by the same sort of affliction - a lack of afflictification, if you like (Shakespeare coined a good few words and phrases in his day so I’m giving it a go). Or at least they appear to be immune to the curse many writers fear.

When I hit a block it usually comes in the middle of a work in progress. I find the best thing for me is to put it down and write something else entirely unconnected. A diversion and my mind will explore other avenues of thought. Alternative writing becomes a sort of literary ‘doodle’ that helps me wile away otherwise dead time, allowing me to maintain my writing output, albeit not the actual thing I originally sat down to produce.

However, once I finish my detour, my mind is fresh and usually itching to restart whatever it was that I originally set out to write.


But it doesn’t always work out that way. Today’s Blog entry, for instance, was missing an idea. There was nothing I could recall from yesterday that seemed to provide an idea or inspiration.

Woe is me, and, what to do?

In time-honoured writers’ fashion I sought something else to do and so I checked my email. I received a communication from a fellow writer about their suffering from the exact same problem. I again considered the fact of my own lack of material for today’s Blog entry.

I thought, ‘Why not write something about not being able to come up with anything for today’s Blog entry?’

Look at the result and the 433 words you have ended up reading!


Friday 21 July, 2017

Did anyone else notice the hurricane that hit Leighton Buzzard yesterday?

The wind was terrible. It was so strong it was capable of ripping trees out of the ground.

I was probably lucky to escape with my life as I made my way home after work.

However, most people I encountered seemed oblivious to the danger and they blithely sauntered about as if they didn’t have a care in the world.

Such people were probably destined to become the victims who would be read about in the papers the following day.

However, one soul had it worked out and was taking very wise precautions to protect against the winds that were whipping about and threatening to take anything that was not securely fastened down. He gamely drove while holding the roof of his Cherokee Jeep down so as it would not be blown away. Such was his determination to protect it that he just missed me as I walked across the pedestrian crossing on Lake Street.

I was so surprised and taken aback by his genius that was unable to take his vehicle registration. If I had done so I would most definitely have reported his fine action to the police so that they might make contact with him and congratulate on maintaining such a fine grip on the roof of his vehicle, but that he should stop in order to avoid striking pedestrians when they are on a clearly marked crossing point.

That’s hurricanes for you.


Thursday 20 July, 2017

I was walking to work.

My walking took me along a footpath.

Partway to my destination my way was blocked by a vehicle parked on that footpath.

The vehicle was signwritten and identified its owner.

It was a motability company.

Along the side of the vehicle parked on the footpath obstructing the way was information about the company’s sale and support of wheelchairs and motability scooters.

Did I mention that the vehicle was parked blocking the footpath?

There were no drop kerbs available to allow a wheeled vehicle to get past.

I note that the word irony begins with the letter ‘i’ as does idiocy and ignorance.


Wednesday 19 July, 2017

My writing PC keyboard failed the other day. One moment characters appeared on the screen as I pressed the keys, the next; nothing.

Dead, deceased, no more; despite all attempts to resurrect it, the thing stayed resolutely dumb. Not a single hint of activity on my screen resulted from whatever stabbing amount of finger stabbing occurred. No, it was very definitely no longer my friend.

It was disconnected and my emergency spare was pressed into service. There was a return to normal service.


The layout of the replacement is not the same. It is close but the <Enter> key is where the <Delete> used to reside, and the <End> is further to the right. It is all very close, but different enough to make typing an act of random character generation at times.

However, I am beginning to get used to it#


However, there is an aspect that I cannot get used to and something that isn’t going to improve as I use it more: the bloody thing is noisy.

When everyone in the house is asleep, the clattering is so incredibly loud. Or it seems that way to me. No one has woken, or complained, yet. But I cannot ignore the fact that it feels like standing in one’s garden at three o’clock in the morning and having a loud mobile phone conversation with someone with a poor reception signal.

‘I agree, yes. Are you there? Hello, hello! Yes, I can hear you. Now carry on. Hello, hello! Are you there? Hello! Yes, go on. HELLO!”

That’s next door and the whole street awake.

And so it seems to me as I write this Blog entry. There might be no reason to read it because I feel sure that everyone in the country can probably hear it being typed and therefore work out what I am writing.

Christ, this thing is noisy!


Tracking Time
Tuesday 18 July, 2017

I frequently tell people that I have no sense of time. I get nods and usually the comment, ‘I know exactly what you mean,’ comes back at me.

But people don’t.

Back around the time when our ancestors crawled out of the sea and onto the land I had an accident involving a motorcycle and a roundabout. During the impromptu liaison between them I banged my head. I have no clear recollection of the event, but that is the thing about bangs on the head.

What it left me with is no sense of time.

It always frustrates me when I say it to people - sometimes as a warning that I will possibly be late - and they all tell me they understand.

They don’t.

For years I haven’t, either. Or rather, I have not really explained properly what it is because I don’t think I have ever explored the problem properly.

It is not the passing of time that I find impossible to gauge. No, it seems to be the concept of time.

Unless I am prompted to do so, I will not look at anything that will tell me the time; a clock, my phone, a watch. Consequently, allied to no sense of passing time, I am likely to be late.

The sounding of reminder alarms on my mobile phone is almost a trademark of mine. Audible prompts allow me to keep track of time.

For instance; walking to work consists of five alarms. The first is for me to me ready to leave the house for a leisurely walk to work. The second tells me that I must be out of the house. The next three are timed such that they act as references. By the time each goes off, I need to be so far along my walk to work or I am behind schedule. As I cannot sense the passing of time, and I won’t check the time, I need to be told how I am progressing.

In the past I used to carry one of those quaint Psion 3 personal organisers around with me. To this day I can hear the piercing reminders alarm going off in my imagination - probably much as those who I worked with at the time probably can whenever they meet me these days.

Why don’t I wear a watch? It is something I am asked frequently. In the past I have, but it is more decoration than anything else because I won’t check it.

These days I understand the condition. Others don’t.


Parasol Duality
Monday 17 July, 2017

I decided to sit in the garden with my laptop to do a little writing. I sat at the table and wrote while the parasol kept the last of the sun off me so I did not have to squint.

While I determined word order, I became aware of a gentle hiss. I looked about the garden. The patio was wet; it was raining.

I always thought a parasol and an umbrella were two different things.


Sunday 16 July, 2017

Back to technology and the sort of stuff that has transformed the world and made it what it is we live in today.

Back in the days before the television, ovens were all about applying heat to things placed inside them so as to do something known as ‘cooking.’ When that was all they had to do, they were fairly good at it.

Yes, back then there were ovens that had timers on them, but they were either glorified egg-timers, or clockwork devices that were barely a step up from placing one’s alarm clock beside the hob.

Nowadays modern ovens come with all manner of gadgets that are part of them. There are oven units apart from the cooker, with a separate hob either above then or positioned elsewhere in the kitchen. They are usually capable of being set to start cooking at preset times and turning off after a predetermined cooking period has elapsed.

It seems like timing has joined the ‘must-have’ that is ‘temperature setting’ and is now something else to set when faced with a built-in clock thing above the oven door. When daylight saving hours kick in, ovens now form part of the list of things that have to be changed before going to bed. Otherwise Sunday roasts will either be too early or too late for the vegetables.

Timing is everything to the modern breed of cookers.

Turning on an oven to preheat it ahead of placing lots of foodstuffs within it to satisfy the hungry attendees of a children’s party is a simple act. Plans for feeding the guests becomes a little more complicated when said oven breaks down right at that moment.

Now that is timing.


Saturday 15 July, 2017

Technology is a wonderful thing when it is not being cursed, thrown, threatened or railed against.

I have a webcam device placed in the kitchen where the dogs sleep. I can connect from anywhere I can get a signal or wifi on my smartphone, and see what they are up to at any given time. It also has a microphone so I can hear what is taking place,


The other day I left my wife having a snooze and I thought I’d check on the dogs when I arrived at work only to discover the puppy was crying.

What usually happens is that he gets louder and louder until he finally makes enough noise and fuss to wake my wife and disturb her sleep; forcing her to come down to him. Not this time, I thought.

A useful, but never yet used, function available to me is the ability to chat to whoever the camera is pointed at through a little built-in speaker. I reckoned on talking to the dogs and seeing whether it would comfort and consequently quieten the puppy.

I was aware that this could go either way: the puppy stops whining and returns to his bed, or he goes ape because a voice is speaking above his head up on a high shelf. The former is a decent result whereas the latter merely hastens what is going to happen if I do nothing, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I had a few minutes before starting work and I treated a work colleague to the sight of a grown man talking to his mobile phone in soothing tones mixed with commands to be quiet (‘quiet’ being a single-word command all dog owners ought to teach their dogs!) and she smiled.

However, it worked - the puppy looked directly at the webcam for a short while then he returned to his dog bed and went to sleep.

Meanwhile the next dog along in age decided to have a bit of a whine. So I addressed her directly and she also stopped and put her head down.

I was both surprised and pleased. And my work colleague was left with a huge grin on her face,

I suppose technology isn’t so bad, really.


Friday 14 July, 2017

Add cruel to nasty, vindictive and evil.

The car that stopped for me as I made my way across the same pedestrian crossing as last Tuesday (see Oops, Sorry! - Wednesday 12 July, 2017) stopped again for me at the same place yesterday as I walked to work.

This time he wasn’t on his mobile phone. I guess it might have been away being repaired after he dropped it when he came to a panicked stop that day.

I looked at him as I crossed the road in front of him and smiled as I raised my hand to the side of my head and pretended to be speaking on a mobile phone.

Some people never let things go - unless it is to drop them...


Dog Grooming
Thursday 13 July, 2017

No, not the act of preparing dogs to be taken by offering them treats and saying nice things to them so they willing go away with you.

Think of it as a haircut, for that is about all it is in reality.

While there is nothing to it, what does seem important is to ensure it takes place - especially at this time of year.

While you or I can add or remove layers or items of clothing; dogs are stuck with whatever coat they have on their backs. If it is long, thick and warm then panting will be the order of the day - lots of it. Lots and lots.

Some dog owners seem to think it a small price to pay in order to keep their dogs as furry and as cute as possible, but then earplugs can be wonderful things.

Happy dogs are not always the hairiest dogs.


Oops, Sorry!
Wednesday 12 July, 2017

I am a nasty, vindictive, evil person. There, I’ve said what the world probably already knows.

Walking to work yesterday in the light drizzle forecast by the experts as heavy rain, I approached a pedestrian crossing. As I was in a hurry to get to work and into a dry environment, I ‘claimed’ the crossing by stepping out onto it as a car headed toward it showing no signs of slowing or intending to stop.

My eyes were fixed upon the car and then the driver in order to try and access whether I would need to make sure I got out of their way abruptly should they be so inattentive as to not notice either the crossing or the pedestrian, moi, upon it.

It was clear they had not noticed me as they were holding a mobile phone and looking intently at it - possibly reading a text or checking the weather forecast, or some other important thing.

Just as I prepared to move somewhat quicker to get out of his path he glanced up and saw me.

He stamped on his brakes and dropped his phone. The man did well, though. He stopped in good time without ending up partway on the black and white lines of the crossing.

When I got to the other side and the safety of the pavement, I glanced back at the car. The driver was dipping up and down as he attempted to fish his phone up from the footwell. Upon seeing me looking at him he made a gesture at me indicating that he was rather annoyed at me and angrily shouted something I couldn’t make out because his car windows were closed.

I nearly mouthed, ‘Oops, sorry,’ back at him before my evil heart stopped me on the grounds that I was glad to have been part of his dropping his phone and hopefully breaking it.

Instead I smiled at him, which seemed to make him angrier.

I continued on my way to work and my smile spread to my heart and reinforced its evilness.

Yes, I was a nasty, vindictive, evil person, but it felt so good!


Tuesday 11 July, 2017

I woke to my alarm as planned. On went my dressing gown and then I heard it: the sound of one of my dogs crying.

The first thought to cross my mind was that it was probably the puppy and that I had better hurry so as to avoid a puddle, or worse, on the kitchen floor. However, I resisted the urge to rush downstairs and instead turned on my smartphone so I could access the webcam in the kitchen.

What came up on the screen was an image showing all three dogs seemingly asleep.

Still the crying continued and I was found myself being drawn towards crashing down the stairs in order to attend to whichever dog was whining and very obviously upset and in distress. I looked closely at the video feed and still they seemed to be peacefully asleep.

The thought that there might be something wrong with the camera transmission passed through my mind and I wondered whether I was looking at a still picture from a moment when the dogs were asleep. I checked whether any data was being passed and all seemed well, but still the crying and whining continued and I found myself having to hold fast.

Just as I decided to turn on the sound so as to hear them, one of them lifted a head and looked towards the rear of the house. Then the dog resumed its sleeping posture. Without doubt the video link was up and working, but still the crying continued.

I was thankful not to have been woken by the sound as in the past when I have got up very suddenly and ruined my morning.

The crying is now louder and rather more urgent but still my dogs are stationary and rested. I now finally realise that I can sleep through the mornings without too much fear of there being uproar with my dogs as it is clearly another dog elsewhere.


Monday 10 July, 2017

I checked Facebook this morning: a couple of Posts caught my attention. Both were complaining about the noisy helicopter flying around overhead around 2am.

One was posted by someone in the town where I used to live. The other was posted by someone living nearly 70 miles away from that town.

Given the timing, I think it unlikely that it was the same helicopter because if it were then it would have had to fly at supersonic speed to travel between the two places in order to have made its presence known at the times it was reported. The last time I checked, no one has managed to create a helicopter capable of flying faster than the speed of sound.

However, it seems that the police have managed to obtain helicopters capable of making a lot of sound.


Sunday 9 July, 2017

Patronisation: a word that can mean supporting or sponsoring an organisation, group, or individual.

A positive thing.

Or is can describe my experience at the hands of my internet provider yesterday: Being treated in a condescending manner, often in showing interest or kindness that is insincere.

A negative thing,

I have been suffering ‘drop-outs’ in connectivity that last for 3-5 minutes at a time. In fact, as I tried to confirm a callers’ right regarding whether there can be a demand made to be connected to a UK-based call centre, I was booted off the internet, again...

It has to stop. In fact, it will come to a head quite soon because my provider has managed to sign me up for another 12 month period and I am due a piece of paper to sign - which I will refuse and reject the contract, as is my legal right.

Hopefully that will cause a pause for thought, but I somehow doubt it. A move away from them may be the only way to secure a usable service.

Being put through to a foreign call centre to deal with my technical issue after speaking with a UK billing representative to whom I didn’t have to repeat every word or phrase I said to enable their understanding was maddening. A call back and a demand to speak to a UK-based representative worked but left me with a woman who was patronising.

Having spent a good few years in IT, it looks like I will have to dig around myself and see what might be happening, because it is as plain as plain can be that the people who speak to customers are no help.

No solution will mean moving provider. Oh, and naming of the ‘failed’ internet provider.


Saturday 8 July, 2017

We live on an island.

As far as islands go, it is a pretty big one, but not the biggest out there. One only has to think of Australia - an island big enough to contain the continent of Europe - to realise that there are bigger islands than ours.

Strange as it may seem, it is impossible to be more than about 70 miles from the coastline. That figure varies depending on what source you are looking at. It can be 67 miles or 71 miles. However, it is around that figure.

Why am I so non-specific? Ought I not drill down and determine the exact figure once having decided upon what appears to be the best definition?

Not really; it depends on how you define the furthest point from the sea: habitation; pure co-ordinates; do you include headlands?

Consequently a number of places lay claim to being the furthest point inland from the sea but Coton in the Elms, Derbyshire seems to be the most likely such place at 70 miles. Leighton Buzzard is approximately 64 miles and so pretty much as far from the sea as it is possible to be in this country.

That being the case, why was I woken by the screeching of seagulls at 5am this morning?


A Goodie Happy Birthday!
Friday 7 July, 2017

As I get older, it becomes more apparent to me just how old some of those who formed part of my childhood really are.

For instance, I used to like Arthur Askey. He died in 1982. Or to put it another way: an entertainer I liked died 35 years ago.

Some reading these words will not have reached 35 yet.

Bill Oddie was born this day in 1941 (happy birthday, Bill!) which makes him 75. I first watched him in The Goodies 47 years ago.

Today promises to be another hot and muggy day.

Today is a long time after 7 July, 1941.

Today promises to be one of those days when I feel old.


Happy Birthday, Tenzin Gyatso!
Thursday 6 July, 2017

The title that tops today’s Blog entry is as enigmatic as, Goodbye Mr Chips, but I fear it won’t be as long-lived.

The novel was published in 1934 and after a radio production of the tale in 1936 and a stage play in 1938, a film based on it made and released in 1939. Thirty years on it was made into a film musical. The content was updated by several decades in keeping with the passing of time between the original and the remake.

Then, in 1984, a mini-series in six parts on British TV came along. This was superseded by the 2002 TV film, also for British TV.

Maybe this Blog entry will be read and see itself being used as a basis for productions based in the visual arts as far ahead as 2080? I somehow doubt it, but what was going through the mind of James Hilton when he wrote the thing in 1933?

Mr Chips is the eponymous main protagonist in all the various forms the story appears and anyone even vaguely familiar with the title heading up whatever version of the narrative they are exposed to will know that. However, who an earth is Tenzin Gyatso?

It would probably be fair to say he will not be celebrating his 82nd birthday this day, and that revelation can be seen as a clue to the name/title by which he is more popularly known. Such is his way of life; he will appreciate living that long and teach the value of that appreciation to his followers, but that is not the same as celebrating it, or at least not in a form involving party-poppers, funny hats and lots of cake.

Upon learning that he is the 14th Dalai Lama, it might suddenly become clearer.

Happy Birthday, Tenzin Gyatso!


Wednesday 5 July, 2017

For me, my Blog is a form of practise. It is a way of warming up and always being ready to go. Think of it like a pianist limbering up by doing finger stretches.

I have a number of writing commitments. These give rise to what is known as deadlines; or moments of intense activity coupled to anxiety, frustration, angst and worry - to use a less concise term.

When in between deadlines, the idea is to maintain writing. The plan is that it is but a mere switch between topics rather than having to start an activity and run with it after a period of rest and inactivity.

It works, and if a writer or wannabe writer is reading these words, then they are now aware of an exercise, if you will, whereby ideas can be recorded for later possible use; mistakes can be made; clichés can be exorcised; and a general workout undertaken without anyone setting the pace.

However, when those deadlines loom, then time becomes greatly more valuable because maintaining a Blog as an aid becomes something that robs the writer of that asset he or she cannot control.

For instance, I allowed four writing projects to run right up to their deadlines on the same day.

That day was yesterday.

They all went out finished and on time, and I relish the emails that come back acknowledging the fact of their receipt and suitability: very satisfying.

All well and good. The day went well. Time well spent.

Except that I also walked to work in the afternoon, spent time there, spoke and interacted with colleagues, and did things; and all without retaining a single memory of anything other than the last-minute rush to get everything finished and out in the morning.

Today seems to Recovery Day. I will enjoy it and try not to miss the world around me as it carries on its merry way.


Dependence Day
Tuesday 4 July, 2017

This is the Modern World.

I can’t think of a country not dependent upon others is some way or another. Can you?


The Big Boys Club
Monday 3 July, 2017

After yesterday’s success, our Finn (the 18-week-old, guinea pig look-a-like) was allowed to sleep the night through with the other dogs.

His ‘den’ had been placed in the kitchen, but when I checked via the webcam before I went downstairs, he was doing the same as he ended up doing yesterday when released from sleeping in his crate: he slept on Darwin Beagle’s bed alongside him.

Down I went and into the kitchen. I trod very carefully, convinced that at the very least a puddle would be have been laid to catch the unwary.

No puddles; no piles; no half-chewed furniture - just a little white puppy asleep alongside a much bigger dog on a huge black bed. In fact, in order to make an apparently wise visit to the garden, I had to rouse the Little Fellow; a process that resulted in lots of those squeaks that pass for yawns. But at least they were over before we stepped outside - they always seem to be so loud in the quiet of the early morning garden when the neighbours are doing what they ought to be doing: sleeping.

I sit here writing this after leaving the Little Fellow back in the kitchen. Initially he made his way into his ‘den’ but he came out and returned to his place next to the snoring beagle on the big bed as I made to leave the room. Having written those words, I again checked what was happening via the webcam: all three dogs are asleep and the Little Fellow seems to be settling nicely into his position in the Big Boys Club.


The Big Boys
Sunday 2 July, 2017

The three dogs sleep in the kitchen at night.

The reason is that it keeps them isolated from casual passing noises that might otherwise awaken them and, consequently, me.

However, Mr Puppy resides in a crate there, lest he were to wee, poo and generally cause mayhem to greet me when I enter the kitchen first thing in the morning. The adult dogs are reliable and stay clean overnight without a problem.

To a degree the setup works, but we want to get the Little Fellow out of his crate overnight. The thought of going to bed at night knowing he is wandering the kitchen free to do, chew and poo as he wishes fills me with an inability to sleep. So we have not done so ... up until now.

Due to his not yet reaching 18 weeks, a compromise has been determined. I got up at an un-Godly time on a Sunday morning to place his ‘den’ (a sort of soft kennel, fashioned like a cute monster with a huge maw for a portal to a small dog bed inside) next to his crate which I left open. The plan is for him to experience sleeping outside his crate, albeit not yet for the full length of the night.

As of the time of writing this Blog entry there is no result to report. However, rest assured that the details - however gruesome - will be posted up here, and how he fares sleeping with the Big Boys will be known to all.


64 Enhanced
Saturday 1 July, 2017

Well, the replacement arrived.

Not quite the same, but then that is hardly a surprise given the time elapsed.

It means going from a 64GB USB2.0 memory stick to an almost identical-looking 64GB USB3.0/3.1 device featuring the same hole at the end to enable me to attach it to my belt hook, thereby allowing me to carry my life around with me.

Me being me, I have to make time to trial it properly by loading it with data files and testing the performance is adequate for my needs. Initial testing suggests all is good.

The moral seems to be that it is worthwhile raising the point of a failure in a manner that gives the manufacturer an opportunity to put things right, as opposed to mere ranting.