Thursday, 26 February 2009

Technology - dontcha just love it?

This may strike a chord.

I switched on the telly last night, to watch some football (I know...), and got a message from Sky which said 'this channel has a technical problem, please try later'. Oh well, I thought, and went over to BBC4, where I watched something much more interesting (about motorways, since you ask). This evening, I switched it on again, and got the same message on EVERY SINGLE channel. Given that I'd intended to watch the 6 o'clock news, 'please try later' wasn't really that helpful, as advice goes.

Well, I dug out the Sky+ manual, as a first step. Naturally, this error message wasn't listed. (Can you smell the residues of boiling blood yet?) Anyway, being the analyst I am, I thought 'is it possible that Sky has totally crashed and no-one else has noticed?' So I phoned my brother-in-law Alan, and asked him, as a fellow Sky victim, to please check his out. Anything to avoid calling the Sky help-desk. They were just off to their first ballroom dancing class (don't ask), but he reported that it seemed fine. Just as were about to ring off, he said 'actually, I remember something similar ages ago. They told me to power it off, take out the card and put it back, power it back on again.'

This took me back to my days in IT, when 'switch it off and on again' (or as one guy, Neil, charmingly used to put it, 'on and off again' - but he was Australian) was a first resort. Of course I tried it, and of course it worked. SO, why, given that the Sky people by their own admission know that this problem exists, and how to fix it, WHY don't they put this in the f******g manual??

Phew! As Auden put it, nothing like a good dump, is there?

Right, going to watch a bit of telly now (if it still works ...)

Saturday, 21 February 2009

First Bee

My patio, 1 p.m. today, temperature 16C.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 20 February 2009

Fractals and Dylan

Have just rewardingly wasted an entire evening googling fractals and spotifying bob dylan. The fractal pictures draw you into themselves, then in, then in again, into infinity - and the amazing thing is that this beauty is built from true, proven mathematics, proven facts about our universe.

Much the same is true of Dylan.


There was a man on the News tonight whose house had been repossessed by his mortgagee because he couldn't keep up the payments. Leave aside the individual circumstances, fair enough, we're all aware of that possibility, but it's always puzzled me why a lender would do this - surely better to hang on, waive or reduce the payment schedule until times get better, rather than be saddled with a hard-to-sell property at the bottom of the market, with absolutely no prospect of an income stream?

My eyes have cleared. This man explained that the lender had auctioned the house. Surprise, it fetched less than the outstanding amount of his mortgage. So, they're going to take him to court for the shortfall.

Words fail me.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A Great British Institution - HP Sauce

A National Treasure, forsooth? The Original.

Invented in 1899 (the height of Empire).
Indispensible with a fry-up or a Cornish pasty.
Additive-free and vegan-friendly.
By Appointment to HM the Queen, 'purveyors of HP sauces(!)'.
The bottle label, virtually unchanged in living memory, still depicts the eponymous Houses of Parliament, Big Ben's hands still stand at nine, in immutable communion with Grantchester ...

Manufactured in The Netherlands by H. J. Heinz Holding B.V.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Guess who I had for dinner?

A Haggis!

Of all the many wonderful things to have come out of Scotland (Rosie are you blushing yet?), the Haggis is the most underrated and maligned by weak-bellied English milk-feeders who wouldn't know one if it jumped into their mouths (not that it would - see below). I spotted one wandering round Waitrose (me, not the haggis, they don't sell them live), and thought yeh, you'll do. Succulently soft yet crunchy, bland yet spicy, juicy yet astringent, fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, great chieftain o' the pudding race ... Sorry, got carried away there. Splendid.

A Scottish friend of mine, Bob, when drunk once instructed me on how to catch one. The Haggis, he explained solemnly, is a timid, retiring little creature that runs around the summits of the Munroes, in a clockwise direction. Because of this, its right leg has evolved to be much shorter than its left. So, you station yourself in its path and wave your arms. It sees you, turns round to run away, and falls over.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Amazing stuff

1. Have you discovered Spotify yet? If so, look away now. If not: it's a free (occasional advert), legal online streaming music service which claims the ambition of supplying all the music that exists, without you having to store any of it on your own computer. In other words, a planet-wide jukebox on free play. I signed up this morning and spent hours trying to catch it out (all right, it doesn't do the dinosaurs like Beatles, Led Zep, Oasis etc yet, and its Little Feat catalogue is less than complete). But, I told my brother about it. He was, I think, slightly sceptical (plus disadvantaged by a very rural broadband connection, to be fair). He told me he'd bought a Count Basie CD compilation, for £10. I Spotified (you read the word here first!) Count Basie and found 2062 tracks - including some wonderful collaborations with Ray Charles, from the 60s, which I'd never have imagined let alone heard. I even listened to a bit of Lily Allen's new one, actually, she's quite good. Spotisurf, there's another new word. Probably, the music industry velociraptors will kill it off, so enjoy while you can.
I'll be coming back to this topic of sustainable internet business models sometime soon, you've been warned.

2. Google Earth 5.0. I've only scratched the surface, but it's a whole new world (gawd, did I write that??)

3. I'm shortly going to post a joky 55 second John Lee Hooker/Jimmy Reed number of mine on Acidplanet, BECAUSE I CAN!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Scientists have now proved that these do NOT cause cholesterol, as long as you don't fry them. A refreshingly frank scientist said something like 'well, we did think that, but when new evidence comes in, we change our minds'.
More importantly, the spokesperson for the British Egg Foundation (or thereabouts) is called Ms Egerton. Sorry, I'm still a schoolboy at heart.

The plumber came to fix my overflow again (a different plumber from the one who fixed it three weeks ago). Without looking at anything, he told me I needed a new hot water cylinder. I suggested he have a look anyway; he went up into the loft and had a look, then came down and told me he'd fixed it, by bending the arm on the ball valve a bit (something I learnt to do when I was about eight).
Never go for a simple solution if a more complicated one is available. He was a nice guy though.

Monday, 9 February 2009

New Red Shoes

Now available on, artist timbobig.

It's been raining for at least 24 hours here. Never mind shoes, I may have to go and get some new red wellies, or a coracle or something. Still, it's washed most of the snow away, just in time for it to freeze as a nice foundation for the next lot. Can I fast forward to May please?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

This and that

Another two inches of snow last night, but it's melting fast. The garden looked lovely first thing, all the weeds and straggly stuff hidden or festooned with white glistening baubles. The lawn looks at its best! I think I'll just keep it this way.

I haven't dared go out in the car for a few days, so am starting to run out of things (shopping list currently says 'snacks' and 'sherry'). So this morning I made a batch of cheese straws, from my mother's recipe. They are highly addictive.
Due to overwhelming popular demand, here's the recipe, annotated:
4 oz plain flour
2 oz Fat [I used butter]
2 oz grated cheese [I used cheddar]
good pinch of cayenne
water to mix as with pastry
Sieve flour with pepper and salt. Rub in fat. Stir in grated cheese. Add water. [Obviously you mix it all till it's actual pastry; I use the Magimix]
Roll out to 1/8th inch thick. Cut into strips and twist.
Bake in medium oven for 20 mins. [on a greased baking sheet!]

I'm about halfway through 'Dreams From My Father'. That man missed his vocation, should've been a novelist ...