The Blog of Zakspade

August 2017 Archive
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The Fog
Thursday 31 August, 2017
The plan was to attend the Bucks County Show this day. The fact of its 150th anniversary was immaterial - the thing I was keeping an eye on was the weather forecast; not how many times the thing had been run.

Whether it was going to be wet or dry, and to what degree, mattered most. I watched the ever changing claims over when showers might be expected and their possible impact with respect to how much water their appearance would possibly entail.

For days I studied the weather patterns as they shifted and watched how the timing of possible rain or showers seemed to settle towards the afternoon, and as because they were consistent in their assertions that the latter part of the day was the time to be wary, I decided to set out early and make the most of the morning and be prepared to head home when the skies darkened and threatened to unleash their worst.

The alarm went off a little earlier than normal so as to allow me to get the dogs sorted and settled before preparing to head out to the show. It was when I let them out into the back garden that an unexpected aspect of the weather reared up: I could see to the bottom of the garden but not be sure which dog was which. Sure, the light was enough, oh, but the fog...

 
The Rain in Spain
Wednesday 30 August, 2017
Professor Higgins would have been flummoxed, not least because computers didn’t exist during his fictitious lifetime.

Last night I achieved something that both pleased me and took me by surprise. I had secured a copy of an old version of Word for the Mac - 2011 to be exact. It was a version I used some years back and given my comfort with the current PC version I run - 2007 - it seemed a logical decision. What I had not taken into account was that the way I use a word processor has evolved a little since those days, and so a problem cropped up.

The transition from PC to Mac has been one fraught with issues needing to be overcome. Just when something has been sorted, it creates a problem elsewhere. That rain in Spain doesn’t just fall on the plain; no, it pours.

Nowadays I rely on the use of hyperlinks within large documents to facilitate navigation around them. Once I have visited and possibly edited a section, I will need to return to my original point of interest. In Word 2007 this is easy, although the ‘Back’ button had to be dug out and added to a toolbar. In Word 2011 for the Mac it just does not exist.

Henry’s task may well have been a lot simpler had his character been such that he could take the time to better understand Eliza, however he was seemingly devoid of the required empathy needed to better, and more quickly, understand and get to grips with the commission he undertook.

I was more than a little perturbed by the lack of functionality within my chosen writing tool so I set about trying to understand why it was so. It turned out that Microsoft - along with a great many other software developers - in the past built their applications in a manner that suggested they were capable web tools. It was something plainly ridiculous (who on earth wanted to write and publish websites using a word processor?) and by the mid nineties Microsoft had begun to withdraw functionality that hinted at anything that smacked of the previous desire to act like a web browser. That included navigation through documents as if they were webpages.

A detailed search uncovered the fact that although the buttons and menu options had been removed, the actual underlying code had not been stripped from the application as it was developed and progressed through subsequent versions. So I set about revealing them via a custom toolbar. Hallelujah for lazy programmers and software developers!

That worked and I was taken aback when they were simple to transfer to the normal toolbar once visible.

I now have Word 2011 with a ‘back’ button and I can use it as I have become accustomed.

With that obstacle out of the way I can get on with the rest…

 
Darwin and Moving House
Tuesday 29 August, 2017
After yesterday’s example of my cat writing stuff, I thought something written by my dog would be nice. It originally appeared in a monthly magazine back in 2015 - hence the reference to this month’s contribution.

# # #

Let me introduce myself: I am Darwin. I am a beagle.

My owner has been rather busy lately and was unable to sit down to pen this month’s contribution. So I offered to step in and write it for him.

Actually, I sat and looked at him while wiping the floor with my tail, but it pretty well amounts to the same thing.

After figuring out how to switch on his laptop without eating anything, it was all plain sailing - except I didn’t know what to write about.

With nothing coming to my mind, other than treats, I decided to relate what seems to have been happening these last few weeks in the Wilkinson household.

What could be better than revealing why he has been so busy? Nothing - except the whereabouts of the doggie chews, with marrow running down the middle, that Mummy gives me every once in a while.

Did I mention that I am a beagle? Beagles like food very much. But I digress.

Well, I recently heard my owner talking about moving house. In my opinion, I don’t think he is up to it.

Last summer he moved my house from the side of the garden to where it is now sited. As a result, I can choose to sit in or out of the sunshine, while being able to see the whole garden AND have a good view of the kitchen window. That way I can bask in the sun while staying alert to the possibility that food is available.

My house is a child’s wooden playhouse that has been converted to a dog house by making a beagle-sized doorway in the main child-sized door at the front. I remember the day it was moved. It took my owner all day to heave my house off the slabs underneath; transport those slabs one at a time to the new location; then wrestle my one-room domain across the garden and into its new position.

Now, although I trust my owner to provide food for me, I’m not sure I rate his chances of a successful house move; at least, not by himself. No, I figure he would need the help of a couple of much stronger men to haul it to another position in the garden.

If he were to ask me for advice I would say this: get rid of some of the stuff in the living room because that way the house will be lighter and easier to relocate. I wouldn’t be able to help much with that, but I am sure I could assist with making the kitchen lighter by eating some or all of the food within.

The thing is this: I reckon that my house now occupies the best site in the garden and I am not willing to give up the spot. That means he will have to settle for somewhere over by the roses. He can have that - I’m not keen on roses.

- Darwin Beagle

 
Archie and Mice
Monday 28 August, 2017
Something my cat wrote for a local publication recently. He said I ought to have a rest so he offered to step in and provide today’s Blog contribution.

# # #

I understand that it is not unusual for our two-legged servants to receive ‘gifts’ in the form of dead or dying creatures in the kitchen. Many cats feel a strange need to keep them sweet and happy through the act of presenting trophies that demonstrate their hunting prowess.

Well I have to say it loud and clear: not every one of us engages in the practise. Personally I find it beneath me. I do not need to impress the members in my household. They are already in awe of my intellect, fantastic looks, and adeptness at walking along the tops of garden fences. In short; I have nothing to prove.

Given my stance on the issue I have to say that I feel I was very unfairly treated the other day. The smallest dog in the household managed to obtain the remains of a mouse and gleefully took it inside the house and presented it to a human child who proceeded to be upset in a very loud manner. I was admonished before the small human had been allowed to tell the full story which, it turned out, exonerated me in full.

What greatly annoys and upsets me is the fact that the indications were there right from the start. Ever since he has been mobile he has stalked things as if he were a cat. Granted, being a dog he hasn’t the grace or sleekness that is part of being a superior being like me, but he does a fair imitation.

The question of how a mere dog managed to catch a mouse is something that is beyond my comprehension. You can hear him approaching from miles away: the mouse must have been ill or deaf.

If I were to claim that I have never killed another living creature in my life I would almost be honest. I may have trodden on the odd ant, or two. There could conceivably have been other incidents, but my mind is foggy due to the great indignation I feel right at this moment.

Some of my best friends are mice. They make great playmates, playthings, or whatever, but it was not I who presented the cadaver to the young human the other day.

- Archie Cat

 
That Magic Moment
Sunday 27 August, 2017
I open Word and access the document that contains this copy, which I then add to and update without fuss.

Once I am finished I will switch to my web editor of choice and will transfer my written words to a local copy of a webpage before launching my favoured FTP transfer application to upload the file and manage my Blog.

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t think I was going to be able to do all that as I struggled to ensure my data was all available, come what may, as I tried to set up a new computer. However, when I stopped and gave the whole process some extra thought, I decided to try a different approach to the whole thing and from then on it all went so much better - that is to say: much quicker.

However, it does rather seem a rather Heath Robinson set-up: a pair of virtual PCs running within a Mac host because I don’t have the requisite writing or FTP software running on the Mac.

It was when I started the machines and commenced writing in earnest that I finally realised my late-night efforts had finally paid off. As I write this I am extremely happy.

 
That Moment
Saturday 26 August, 2017
Many years back I used to run a big iMac. It was a beautiful bit of kit and the screen was a delight.

The system board failed and required replacement. After it was fixed, it was sold.

It was not the cost (£600, no matter where I sourced the part) but the fact that I was unable to get to the latest data stored on it to allow me to continue working by utilizing another computer in the house. The thing was sealed up nice and tight and required special tools to open. The hard drive disk was inaccessible to me as a result and I fretted during the time that the Apple Store had the computer in for repair.

Years later another iMac is about to arrive. Being of a PC rather than Mac background, in the past I tended to run a virtual PC within the Mac environment. It was a fine way to work as the iMac had plenty of ‘oomph’ and was easily capable of dealing with the demands placed upon it when used in that manner.

I am looking forward to doing the same this time around, but the question of how to get to my data in the case of failure remains. With any PC I can just remove the hard drive and access the data via any other computer available at the time. There has to be a way to avoid a repeat of my past distress and it struck me that if I stored all my data on a small portable SSD hanging off the back of the iMac then I would be protected.

And so that is what I have done. Over the period of a day I transferred all my data files (writing projects etc.) off my main computer and onto an SSD external drive in readiness for attaching to the back of the iMac and keeping it available to me no matter what happens.

Then I woke this morning and groaned upon a realisation that hit me.

I always work with a file system called NTFS. It gives me a degree of control over permissions and suchlike that suits my mode of working. However Apple cannot write to an NTFS volume. Sure, they can read NTFS file systems but because Microsoft do not licence the technology to anyone, it is proprietary and effectively locked away from third-parties.

So a conversion of the external drive volume file system is required, but now it had become a question of file size limits and a whole host of other stuff. There is also a big question of my existing backups to my external 4GB hard drive.

Having thought I had catered for possible failure I now find I have to engage in a serious techno investigation to establish how best to ensure my own peace of mind.

I guess the average Apple user never worries themselves overly about such things, but with a great many years spent working in IT within a PC environment I see the technical challenges and pitfalls very clearly, at times. If I always spotted potential problems first time around then I wouldn’t have woken this morning to That Moment.

 
The End is Nigh
Friday 25 August, 2017
Civilisation as we know it is surely drawing to a close. Too many things are happening that seem to suggest so.

In the past when international friction led to conflict, Man never had the capability to wage war in a manner that would lead to the end of this world’s ability to sustain life. However, these days we live under the dark shadow of annihilation.

It isn’t just the weapons we have created that will lead to the eradication of our way of life, or indeed our very existence. No, along with the development of the means to wipe us off the face of this planet, as if a stain on a kitchen worktop, a more arrogant and flippant mentality has become part of Mankind. The very way of life that we lead creates pressures to behave in a particular manner that exacerbates and promotes traits within us that will ultimately lead us into the alley of doom like sheep to slaughter.

Profit, individual wealth, and corporate greed have all conspired to play the role of the Judas goat.

In the quest for an even bigger and better bottom line, Weetabix boxes feature top flaps that have been shortened by some five millimetres. Doing so lessens the overall size of card required to make the same sized carton. Multiplied of the number of units moved by the now Post Holdings owned company, a tidy extra amount of yield has been realised.

The American company bought Weetabix for £1.4 billion in July 2017 and the acquisition appears to have heralded a greater focus upon that requirement for ultimate profit.

The result of that action is to leave the slot and tab for re-closing the packet top incapable of serving their original function because the overlap of the flaps is now insufficient to allow them to remain engaged. Thus the top springs open when one attempts to pick up the box to put it away in a cupboard.

It is an annoyance that is a prophecy of catastrophe and a statement that the end is nigh.

 
Night-time Manoeuvres 2
Thursday 24 August, 2017
I was awoken at 03:28 this morning: those bloody geese from last Monday are obviously operating a nightshift.
 
Home and Away
Wednesday 23 August, 2017
It is pretty basic stuff: when you leave your home for any period; such as holidays away, or visiting relatives etc. overnight; you do not advertise the fact that your house is empty and ripe for plundering.

There are different ways available to you in order that the pretence of occupancy is maintained. You might wish to ensure curtains are not left closed during the day; or leave lights on timers set so they switch on and off in order to suggest someone is home; that sort of thing.

Whatever you might do, it would be a right royal pain if someone were to come along and pin a notice to your front door that reads something like, ‘Gone away and left my house empty - feel free to have a look around.’

Yes, if I had been away on holiday and I came back to such thing then I’d be pretty mad. If I were able to identify the culprit then I think that harsh words would issue forth from me. I have no doubt that stronger words or actions might result in some cases.

So when a distant neighbour returns home soon to such an indicator shortly I will keep my ears open for the shouting and cursing that will result. Everyone in the area is now aware that their house is devoid of occupancy and the spiders inside are probably running riot.

Is it a sign or placard announcing the fact that they are away? No, it is their mains-wired smoke alarm.

Such alarms contain a backup power source in case of a failure of the household supply. That is something especially valuable where I live given that the electricity supply company seem unable to hold things together well enough to ensure an unbroken night’s supply. A fire during an outage would leave householders in the area without anything to warn them of anything amiss during the night.

Well, when that battery runs low, the devices emit a very loud beep every 90 seconds or so. It is how it tells you to replace the battery: merely removing the failing battery results in the continuance of the beeping at an undiminished rate or volume.

And that is how everyone in the area is now aware of the fact that a particular house is empty and the owners have vacated it and it is audible for quite some distance.

Some can be wired into the lighting circuits if they feature a battery supply warranted to be capable of running the device for at least 72 hours. So, merely powering off the household lighting and the consumer unit and removing their batteries before going away might be wise. However, if they have their own power circuit then the whole thing might need to be switched off and that means the main house alarm tripping if its own battery runs low.

Deep joy.

As Charlie Brown might have said: Rats!

 
A Real Killer
Tuesday 22 August, 2017
I liked this as a kid:

What is green and brown, has eight legs, huge teeth, and if it drops out of a tree onto you it will kill you?

A full-size snooker table: I lied about the teeth.

Once you have stopped laughing you can read on.

It was head-height and spotted just after I entered the confines of the en-suite yesterday.

No, not a snooker table; it wouldn’t fit, but it did have eight legs; nor was there a tree. As to the teeth; it had a couple of fangs. It was there by my head on the door I had just shut; hairy, huge, and waiting to drop or pounce on its prey.

I gently opened the door and fetched something to trap the monster. Upon my return it was still there, hanging bravely and defiantly. Without the anticipated battle to the death, it was trapped within a cup and disposed of safely.

Try that with a snooker table but remember it has balls as well.

 
Night-time Manoeuvres
Monday 21 August, 2017
It was 3am. It was dark. I heard a young dog yelping. I was poised to get up, don my bathrobe, and head downstairs to see what was occurring with the youngest dog, Finn Westiepoo.

However, despite it being too dark to see them, I accessed the webcam in the kitchen and used the microphone to hear what was going on.

Nothing.

Then I heard the apparent yelping once more via the open window in the en-suite but nothing from the dogs now I had a microphone to pick up their sounds. The only noise coming from the kitchen was Darwin Beagle snoring - something to which he is wont with great emphasis.

Again came the little-dog-barks but by now I was aware it wasn’t from our kitchen so I listened with more care. Whatever was the cause of the disturbance appeared to be moving and from the fact that it was getting louder as it was repeated, it seemed to be coming closer.

As they passed over the house it turned out to be the honking of geese.

At three o’clock in the morning? Obviously hybrid geese crossed with owls. I’d have gone back to sleep were it not for the fact that the idea of geese interbreeding with owls wouldn’t leave my head.

 
Roundabouts
Sunday 20 August, 2017
I wrote the following for a magazine in 2013. As a result of comments on yesterday’s Blog entry, it seemed appropriate to upload something about the roundabouts of Milton Keynes.

---

Those who have been born and bred here may think of Milton Keynes as being the home of the roundabout. Unfortunately that claim to fame really belongs to Letchworth Garden City where the first UK traffic roundabout was built in 1909.

The modern roundabout, with rules as we know them, first came into use in late 1966. That also predates Milton Keynes.

Okay, that’s the history lesson over. Now I want to explore the roundabout in connection with Milton Keynes...

It has often been said that the grid road layout in Milton Keynes is based on an American idea of city design.

And that is a system of grid roads with a roundabout at each point where a grid road intersects another? Really?

Given that the roundabout doesn’t have the ‘popularity’ it does over this side of the Pond that seems to be a rather ridiculous claim. There are approximately 3,000 roundabouts in the whole of the USA. If we include those painted humps in the middle of minor junctions, there are around 300 roundabouts in Milton Keynes (although the Council claim there are only 125, but that number appears to ignore anything without kerbs).

Milton Keynes has about 10% of the total number of roundabouts to be found across the whole of the United States. Guns are far more popular in the USA than roundabouts. I know American 4x4 trucks are also popular, but deer stalkers would rather be armed with a high powered rifle as they are more portable than something road-related, such as a circular road feature.

Therefore the claim that our road system is based on anything remotely American is an inescapable incongruity

Many of the larger roundabouts within Milton Keynes have families of rabbits living on them. It is a little known fact that they have been specially bred and trained by the council so as to be able to carefully maintain landscaped roundabouts. It has been proven that they are 52.3 times better than human contracted labour when it comes to keeping a roundabout in good shape.

The word ‘gullible’ has also been reclassified by the UN as a carrot.

Regardless of the facts, the roundabout has become linked to Milton Keynes. It isn’t unknown to hear it said: Come to Milton Keynes; the home of the concrete cows and roundabouts.

Well, the cows are not concrete. Milton Keynes is not the home of the roundabout. However, at least the roundabouts we have make sense. No ‘magic’ roundabouts, as found in places like Swindon and Hemel Hempstead, exist in Milton Keynes to confound motorists.

No, whether by design or by accident, Milton Keynes has become associated with something which we are truthfully unable to lay a legitimate claim. Try as we might, others foist qualities upon our town which are unwarranted and unjust. We get on with our lives and ignore the ignorant assertions that are aimed at our home.

I suppose, in my roundabout way, I am asking for others to give us a break.

 
Brave New World
Saturday 19 August, 2017
I wrote the following for a magazine early in 2015. I don’t see a smile or anything ‘left field’ (my thanks to my American cousins for that phrase). I wonder what Huxley would have made of that?

---

I wonder what Aldous Huxley would have made of Milton Keynes if he were still alive?

Most people, of a certain age, will know that JFK was assassinated 22 November 1963. Few will associate that day with the death of the author of Brave New World. Therefore, given that Milton Keynes new town wasn’t designated until 1967, he would never have had the opportunity.

Those who lived in the new town in the beginning may have had great expectations. Many original supporters likened it to a utopia springing forth from a collection of small unremarkable towns and villages in north Buckinghamshire.

Although the phrase ‘brave new world’ has become one with the 1932 novel, it was Shakespeare who wrote those words as an utterance of Miranda in The Tempest. She spoke of the brave new world she saw upon the end of her isolation. The words were ironic in that they were spoken in naivety.

Huxley took the words as the title for his novel, and he maintained that irony. What was originally presented as a utopia became, in the eyes of many, to be just another world with faults, problems, unrest, pitfalls, and social pain. Those who lived in it thought it splendid. Those who ran it were aware of its dark aspects. The character, ‘John’, who came from without and passed judgement upon it, questioned and condemned it.

Huxley’s novel was effectively a dig at the utopian worlds created by HG Wells.

Certainly the label ‘brave new world’ has been applied to Milton Keynes from the perspective of something new. But lo, let me continue lest you succumb to such misdirection!

Consider the fact that Huxley based some of his ideas within Brave New World on what he saw as the determination of the standards of US society by corporations. He feared rule over morals by money, material wealth and self interest. It unsettled him enough to set the story in a future dated according to a system prefixed with A.F. (After Ford) as opposed to A.D. (Anno Domini). Henry Ford, (1863-1947), preached and promoted consumerism without limit - morally or spiritually. One cannot help but wonder what Huxley might have thought and wrote about Milton Keynes: a place that launched with such high ideals and a claim to base so much of its infrastructure and communications on what he considered to be the American Model.

Mind you, he may have changed his view had he actually lived in Milton Keynes; had the town then existed. His eventual decision to live in the US from 1937 until his death in 1963 - despite his earlier misgivings - seems to indicate his softening towards what he had originally viewed as offensive weakness full of moral vapidity.

The same may well be true to those who knock Milton Keynes without actually living in or visiting the place. Who knows, perhaps we will become more than a city of roundabouts and concrete cows in the eyes of those who, have as yet, remained unenlightened.

 
Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)
Friday 18 August, 2017
It was the 1971 Christmas Number One. Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday only managed to reach position number four in 1973 - the same year in which Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody made it to the top spot. For some reason I thought all three were from the same year, but I am glad I checked before I foolishly asserted that to be so.

I remember the video that accompanied Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) and I distinctly remember that Ernie’s milk float was a horse-drawn affair. To be fair it was more of a two-wheeled chariot, but it would probably never have made it past 30mph, with 20mph being a more likely speed - especially given that Ernie’s version was drawn by a single horse.

An electric ‘milk float’ came to my house yesterday that could manage 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and a top speed in excess of 140mph with a range of over 300 miles between charges: a visitor turned up in a Tesla Model S and I got to have a proper look rather than just gawp at a static display example.

Were it not for the badge and the eerie way it moves away from its parked position, you would never have thought it was a glorified milk float.

Ernie would have been the fastest anywhere in the world.

 
Fade Away and Radiate
Thursday 17 August, 2017
I used to love that song. When it was current, I thought it was the greatest piece of music I had heard in my life.

That was a few years back. By few I mean, quite a few. Or perhaps a great many. Okay, a good few years ago.

It re-entered my life a few days ago aboard an audio CD and is now firmly embedded in my head to such a degree that I now have it as my very own ear-worm that I can lug about with me.

Thirty-nine years old and not fading away, but certainly radiating.

 
Age
Wednesday 16 August, 2017
My father said two things to me about his getting older: the first was that he seemed to going to a greater number of funerals of people he knew who had died of natural causes rather than the actions of an errant bus, or similar; and the second was that when he visited cemeteries he tended to recognise a frightening number of those interred.

Well I’m not attending that many funerals these days but it is more down to my availability than their frequency, but I will consider that box checked.

Yesterday I had cause to be stood in a local graveyard and I was struck by how many of the occupants were known to me.

Age is a curious thing.

 
Blast from the Past
Tuesday 15 August, 2017
It’s early. I’m in the garden with a small dog that seemed, not two minutes earlier as seen via the webcam I have on him, to want to be there. All is quiet as I watch him wander about in a rather casual and relaxed manner that belies his previous apparent urgency.

There is nothing to do but watch him and listen to the faint sound I can hear in the far distance.

As his little walk to each and every corner of the garden continues, I begin to wonder what the sound coming from far away could be at this time. I suppose that it might not be something only heard in the very early morning and that the only reason I can hear it right now is because of the silence that otherwise exists.

I ask myself where the barely heard sounds of small explosions or gunfire is it coming from, then it hits me: the clue is in the fact that they are to be heard emanating from the direction of the railway lines as they pass through the far side of the town in which I live.

As a kid I recall the safety measures railway workers took to guard against a high speed train sneaking up on them engaged in whatever it is they were doing. Having an extra two people acting as lookouts each way up the line would have been ineffective due to the speed of the trains, so small explosive charges would be placed on the rails that a train running over would detonate. The explosions would alert the men to the approach of a train and if multiple charges were laid then the pattern of the sound would tell them which line it was approaching.

It is not something that can be done these days because of the density of train passage over each line: by the time each warning cap or caps had been placed, another train would have passed over them and set them off; hence the line closures these days to facilitate engineering works.

However, that was what my brain tells me I was hearing.

I suppose the upshot is that I cannot identify what the faint noises far off could be, but they remind me of something from long ago.

 
Oh, No!
Monday 14 August, 2017
The light was fading and I was having difficulty seeing the keyboard on my laptop. I was rushing to finish a piece and I decided to give up and move inside onto my PC to finish what I was partway through.

Despite my recent work to provide decent wifi coverage in the garden, I had taken a memory stick with me to transport the document which I had temporarily copied to my laptop. I saved, closed it then copied it back.

Being the cautious sort I then right-clicked on the memory stick on Windows Explorer to ‘eject’ the drive so as to safely remove it. While I was there I decided to take a look at how much free space was on my C drive. I again right-clicked and selected my option. I watched the screen a moment as a window came up but I must have been tired because it took a few seconds before I realised that it was not a dialogue box telling me the properties of the drive but the formatting progress window.

Gripping the mouse tightly in mild panic I clicked the ‘Cancel’ button and thanked my lucky stars that I had caught things in time. Or had I? There was only one way to tell: reboot my laptop and see what happens.

The manufacturer’s logo came up on the screen and it was followed by the message, Cannot find ntldr. Rats!

It was getting late so I decided to ignore what I had done for the moment and determined to set about reinstalling Windows tomorrow. My background is IT and so it would be a simple task, but I already knew it was going to rob me of writing time, so it would have to be when it was convenient for me.

Once back inside the house I transferred the document to my PC and wrote a few more paragraphs before I decided that I ought to finish for the night because my mind was now not dedicated to the writing as I was contemplating the fixing of my laptop sometime tomorrow. I again right-clicked on the memory stick to eject it and watched as the same formatting progress window as before came up. I had clearly mistakenly selected the format option that sat adjacent to Eject on the menu.

Again I aborted the operation but I was not too worried as the memory stick was devoid of anything important by this point; except that I noticed as I closed it that I had apparently selected the C drive in error. Had I stuffed my PC as well? There was only one way to tell - reboot it and see.

My heart started to beat rather faster as the words, Cannot find ntldr popped up on my PC’s screen. I resigned myself to a late night as I sought to recover the situation by reinstalling Windows on the PC then I was filled with a feeling of dread. I was obviously more tired than I thought because I had now twice accidently part-formatted my C drive on two different machines in quick succession. What if I managed to destroy the partition where my data and precious writing was stored when I attempted to reinstall the operating system? I needed to go to bed and get some sleep so as to prepare me for the rebuilds tomorrow.

I woke this morning to the alarm and the first thing that went through my head was, ‘Oh, no! I’m not going to be able to write my Blog entry for today.’ It was clearly going to be a long day.

With the intention of starting the process of reinstallation on my PC I sat down and powered it up. Everything was normal. I tried my laptop to see how it fared and it also started normally. Back to my PC and I thought I would have a peek at last night’s writing first to see how I got on before I commenced with my Blog.

Instead of where I thought I’d written swathes of prose were the words, ‘Too tired tonight. Pass. Try again tomorrow. Can’t think.’

As nightmares go, that was a doozy!

 
Spider Hunt
Sunday 13 August, 2017
I have higher hopes for the puppy.

The oldest dog, Darwin Beagle, has proved to be a dog that is always outsmarted by huge spiders. Despite seeing one and following it, he never manages to trap them. He ends up running around the room hoping it will come out from behind wherever it scuttled under.

Last night our second dog, Bonnie Spoodle (Cockapoo), showed an improvement in that she seemed intent on trapping huge spiders, but she lay and watched it too long, thereby giving it too much of a head start, and so it escaped.

Finn Woodle (Westiepoo) has so far proven himself to be very cat-like in his approach to hunting things. The other day he gleefully brought into the house the head and shoulders of a mouse. He stalks our cat. He chases houseflies.

At just under six months old he shows great promise. However his lack of size doesn’t make his victory over a house spider assured . . .

 
No Fun
Saturday 12 August, 2017
As I sit here at the keyboard of my PC, I cannot recall anything of note from yesterday. In fact, I seem to have zero recall of anything from yesterday. All I can say is that the day passed and Thursday became Saturday. I know this because it says so at the bottom of my computer screen.

I also know that an Amazon parcel arrived for me yesterday containing a computer mouse that is to replace the little fella that has recently taken to acts of on-screen carnage through the simple act of throwing in random clicks and stuff regardless of my actual intentions. I’m using it now to accurately place the pointer on the so as to type screen the next word. I watched a film last night, but that appears to be it as far as my memory goes.

Perhaps I skipped yesterday in my suspend-o-matic sleep module that was delivered to me by little green men who landed in my back garden in their flying saucer-shaped delivery lorry sometime back. It usually sits in a corner unused, but maybe I was particularly bored yesterday and decided to enter into a state of suspended animation rather than wile away the time very slowly like every other bored person is wont.

Or maybe it was the huge quantity of beer I drank last night?

One thing is for sure; I do not recall imbibing copious amounts of alcohol yesterday in any form whatsoever. I haven’t even got a cold that required treatment in the form of a cough syrup containing the stuff. However, that said, if I did then surely the memory of doing so would also be a casualty.

No after taste; no empty bottles; nothing broken about the house; head feels fine; tongue not furry - nope, no alcohol was involved in my blankness.

Where’s the fun in forgetting a day if no drink was involved?

 
Interesting Approach
Friday 11 August, 2017
When one is heavily bearded with raggedy, unkempt hair, somewhat inebriated, looking like a bath beckons, and sat on a bench in the middle of town; the word ‘target’ comes to mind.

When a group of school kids wandering through the town centre, bored during the summer break become ultra brave and cheeky, and then taunt such an individual, then entertainment is likely.

The kids ran off and the man followed them at walking pace bellowing very loudly and issuing a mixture of threats and promises peppered with expletives - lots of them. He was the attention of everyone in the high street.

After he made his way back to his bench to keep his place, they returned. Something was said by them which goaded him into action once more and he again ‘chased’ them: they ran and he walked. His booming voice assaulted every ear in the town centre as he shouted after them. His verbal eloquence faltered as he walked after them and he again filled the gaps in between his threats towards them with a concoction of words no one really wants to hear on a sunny day out shopping with their thirteen-year-old daughter.

‘I think he has anger issues,’ said the all-knowing teenager with whom I was shopping.

‘I think he has had too much to drink,’ I replied, and continued with a smile, ‘And you could be the centre of attraction like that if you drop out of school and take up drinking instead of learning.’

‘Without the beard,’ I added in case I was misunderstood and she thought I was suggesting alcohol makes girls grow beards.

It pays to be clear about these things.

 
Online is Best
Thursday 10 August, 2017
Without a doubt buying stuff online is cheaper and better than paying a physical store for goods that they are forced to price so as to accommodate their overheads such as premises and staffing costs. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, eh?

The trick is to ‘window shop’ for what you want then go home and look for it from an internet-based retailer who can ship it to you for a fraction of the cost. That way you get to see the goods, touch them, feel them, and ensure they are exactly what you want. Win-win for you, lose-lose for the shop, but who cares in the Modern Age?

Yesterday I had cause to be out and over at a nearby big town that was home to some rather larger superstores. As I drove through the place on my drive home I chanced upon an outlet that specialised in business-related goods and so I stopped off to see what sort of keyboards were available. I wanted to be sure of finding something suitable both from a noise aspect as well as it having a nice ‘feel’ under my fingers.

Imagine my surprise when I found a delightful board that was branded, extremely comfortable, and cost far less than the equivalents I had found thus far on the interweb-thing. I bought a keyboard that felt better and was quieter still than the one I had boxed up and prepared to return after its premature failure, AND it was a good few pounds cheaper.

Okay, so if I had specifically travelled out to look for and buy that one item then after factoring in the cost of the petrol used it would have cost about the same, but I was out there anyway. In any case, it was better than what I had already bought and been if it turned out to be the same cost, it was better value because it was better suited.

Sure, the best thing to do is forgo the high street in favour of the virtual stores, not!

 
The Effect of Poor Noise Abatement on the End Run
Wednesday 9 August, 2017
Ah that backlit keyboard. The ‘fault’ it had demonstrated of particular keys dying but which could be brought back to life with a few strokes of certain keys; the process of which I documented in this Blog just over a week ago  Monday 31 July, didn’t go away upon their application last night.

I was attempting to write the last few hundred words of my missive when it played up but this time no amount of messing about could persuade it to work properly. I was right in the middle of a train of thought when it demanded my complete attention only to ignore me. In the end I switched it out with the noisy and oddly laid-out emergency spare and finished my book.

Afterwards I managed to get the keyboard working once more, only for it to fail for a short spell again, but this time it responded to the ‘fix’ I used in the past.

Never again.

Such was the timing of its little tantrum, I have decided that it is going to be returned and I don’t think a straight replacement is on the cards. I have bodged the placement of my desk lamp so as to provide adequate light upon the top of whatever keyboard I use while not shining in my eyes and all I now need do is address the clattering.

After the fury it provoked in me last night I won’t be sad to see it go . . .

 
Winter Approacheth
Tuesday 8 August, 2017
Getting up this morning and the fact of the shortening days is upon me. My webcam on the dogs is limited in that it doesn’t feature night vision and the kitchen is dark at the time of my normal rising.

The summer Solstice is almost seven weeks passed and day length is diminishing apace: winter is on the horizon, her approacheth is now obvious to mine eyes.

The early darkness, this scourge, this curse of the seasons; it takes pleasure in its unremitting advance towards a totality that it can never realise, but for which it marches in the vain hope of success.

And now, to lighten the mood if not the actual morning in the literal sense and allow me to see the dogs over the webcam, let me ask: did you know?

Did you know that the word ‘approacheth’ only appears once in the King James Bible? The one and only appearance it makes can be found in Luke 12:33 - Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

Well, I know I’d sell everything I have at the moment to be able to see what my dogs are up to without my going downstairs and disturbing them, but I don’t think that is what Luke was driving at.

 
The End Run
Monday 7 August, 2017
Interestingly I have always understood the term, ‘end run’ incorrectly. I have used it in the same way as meaning ‘endgame’ in the sense of something drawing to a close. However, upon checking it turns out I have been using it incorrectly for years.

While I do appear to have ‘endgame’ correct in my mind, the term ‘end run’ refers to a tactic employed in US in gridiron football. An end run is when a player carrying the ball seeks to avoid being tackled by running outside the end of what is known as the ‘offensive line’ (although I would have thought it would be termed ‘defensive line’ but I’m not American and such things are a mystery to me - so I’d be wrong, again).

Now I am in the US football groove-thing, it must be noted that it is distinct from a dive, which is an attempt to run through the middle, or an off-tackle run, which is a run through a gap created by an offensive tackle (which I am supposing isn’t when a player calls their opponent a horrid name as they try to take the ball away).

Colloquially, and in a metaphorical sense it has come to mean; an evasive trick or manoeuvre and can be used thus: to make an end run around regulations/rules/expectations/directives etc.

So it is better for me to refer to entering the endgame with regard to my progress with my book. However, given both the time spent on discovering my misunderstanding of a simple phrase and the fear that many more such mistakes may well exist in the draft nearly finished, I suspect the next two days will not herald the completion but the beginning of a lot more work.

 
You've Got to be Kidding Me
Sunday 6 August, 2017
My laptop has been a pleasure and a pain over the time I have owned it.

The ability to write where I want and when I want is handy. Being of a tech background, naturally I set it up so I can access the internet via my mobile phone.

That is where the easy bit stopped.

Battery life was dire. The standard battery only guaranteed me about an hour off the mains. The 15 minutes either way basically meant that my mind was most distracted when it was supposed to be focussed upon whatever I was working on at the time.

Hunting down a larger, more capacious battery was harder than it ought to have been. The manufacturer is known for their business laptops. However, they also produce a ‘home’ flavour as well, and buying the more affordable household product was a mistake.

As time has passed I have come to realise that their way to distinguish the two lines is to hamstring the home device at every turn.

While they offered bigger capacity batteries for their business oriented machines, did they heck as like for the home variants. One of the things I tried, in order to address power consumption of the meagre battery, was to run with a low power consuming SSD hard drive only to find that on their domestic kit they didn’t implement the SATA standard the same as everyone else. I managed to find a workaround, but the solution comes awfully close to the word ‘bodge’ in my books.

The pile of differences between business and home has mounted over many months and I thought I had finally settled things by getting it to run the way I wanted it. Sure, it would have been hugely easier to have plumped for a corporate version that looked the same, but the extra cost would have made me wince and caused me to look elsewhere.

And that is an indication of the success of the tactic. They made a sale to someone who would have otherwise bought a competitor’s product had they not relied upon their reputation; and they avoided selling themselves cheap in the process.

I feel like I have been duped. However, I suppose it is my own fault for not digging deep enough during the buying process, and so why bother worrying over it?

Until yesterday.

For various reason I was looking at switching my home wifi network over to 5GHz from 2.4GHz. The router made it available and the wifi chipset in my laptop was one that I know to be 5GHz-capable, except it isn’t.

While the particular specified wifi transponder chipset does handle 5GHz, in my domestic product is doesn’t while in the business kit is does.

That’s when the image of John McEnroe entered my head.

 
Noisy Rats
Saturday 5 August, 2017
I once listened to Bill Oddie, TV personality and ornithologist, describe pigeons as ‘flying rats’ - describing them as nothing more than vermin and a blot on Nature.

Bill didn’t rate pigeons highly.

He forgot to mention how noisy they are first thing in the morning.

 
Stand Off
Friday 4 August, 2017
Making my way out of a car park I was forced to stop by the car in front that had, in turn, been stopped by a car coming in to the car park and cutting a corner to do so.

Things immediately became interesting when the corner-cutter found his way into the car park blocked by the car he had cut across. It became entertaining when neither car driver seemed all that interested in reversing in order to allow passage.

It may have been something to do with the guy who cut the corner having been on his mobile phone at the time. The passenger got out from the car that had been forced to stop by the mobile-phone wielding driver - who still had it pressed against his ear and very obviously was still talking to someone.

I wound my window down to listen as this looked like it might become interesting.

He approached the phone user who wound his down his own window, and the passenger told him that if he didn’t get off his phone and reverse out of the way in the next five seconds, that he was absolutely certain that he would end up eating his mobile phone.

The five seconds passed, the huge mountain of a man grabbed the mobile phone away from the driver, spoke into it apologising that the previous speaker was about to be taken ill, then dropped it to the ground and stamped on it.

I missed the next bit, but it sounded awfully like, ‘Now it is in pieces it should be easier for you to swallow.’

The ex-mobile phone using driver reversed sharply and hit a post.

There was a very polite, thank you, from the passenger who returned to the car previously baulked by the car now parked out of the way against a pillar.

On the way out of the car park I smiled at hapless driver who was now devoid of his precious mobile phone. I pulled up alongside the left of the car with the traffic managing passenger as he prepared to turn right and me the other way and I smiled at him as well, and gave a thumb up sign. He returned an appreciative nod and we both left the car park.

No officer, I didn’t see that. No, officer, I didn’t get the registration. No officer, all I saw was some chap dropping his phone as he got out of his car after clumsily hitting a post. No officer.

 
Gone Bad
Thursday 3 August, 2017
It is love-hate. I love my webcam. I hate that it is offline right now and need to go downstairs to manually restart it but I can’t because my daughter has friends sleeping over.

Now I’ve no idea what the dogs are doing - and need to go downstairs to see, but I can’t because . . .

 
Better Late than Never
Wednesday 2 August, 2017
My apologies for being a little tardy with this but I’ve had a lot happening these last few days.

On Monday 31 July - that’s two days ago - I was strolling around the local garden centre and I spotted something in a section selling children’s toys: Santa’s Express by Hornby. The box reads, ‘The ultimate Christmas decoration. Track fits under your tree!’

That was Monday 31 July. I took a photo on my mobile camera.

Sorry for being a bit slow; reporting what I witnessed after a two-day delay, but I suppose it is better to be late than never.

 

It’s That Time Again
Tuesday 1 August, 2017

It happens around twelve times a year yet it is always something that I keep forgetting. However, this month I am determined not to get caught out.

Last month - for various reasons - we both missed the moment, so I adjusted it.

‘Pinch, punch for the second of the month!’

There were protests, but I won - that time.

This morning I reckon on getting both the moment absolutely correct and delivering the ‘pinch’ and ‘punch’ before my thirteen-year-old daughter realises that she has been out-pinch, punched this month.

We dads have a duty to keep winning . . .