Friday, 30 September 2011

Guilty feelings.....

How you behave toward cats here below determines your status in Heaven
- The Master

The kittens reached 'that age' this week. If we didn't want our small cat nation state to get a lot bigger, surgical intervention was required.

So off we all went to the vet. Two humans feeling rather guilty for the mutilation to come, and three Maine Coons giving the appearance of being completely nonchalant about the whole affair. They even purred in the waiting room - bless!

Four hours later we picked them up and all was well. The two girls were a tad unsteady on their feet. But no more than I am after the fourth pint. Walter didn't appear to have noticed anything was missing.

They tucked into a hearty supper, having been starved for nearly 24 hours and seemed genuinely unaffected by their ordeal.

So we woke this morning to a glorious sunny day (amazingly warm for September) and the kitties all keen to go and play in the garden.

Here's Hattie, her bald spot looking slightly like the skin of a milk cow (don't tell her I said that).

Walter apparently unaffected by the loss of his boy bits

And Winnie, but here there was a problem....

It's hard to tell from the photo, but we noticed some swelling under her stitches. She didn't seem bothered, and clearly wasn't in pain, but we thought we should get her checked out. The vet said one of her internal stitches must have failed, so she's back under the knife today. Hopefully all will be well, but we won't know until later.

Guilt feelings back up to the max :-(


Update - Winnie is fine! :-)

She had to have the stitches re-done but shows no ill effects, and was straight up the garden and up her favourite tree this morning. I wish I had their powers of recuperation. Also good news, no charge for the re-stitch from the vet, (which makes me wonder if perhaps they felt a little responsible). Anyway all is well, and another sunny day in store. Yesterday was apparently the hottest September 30th in Britain for 100 years! Today is looking good for being the hottest October 1st. Shame it wasn't like this three weeks ago when we were in Bideford. 

Still, mustn't grumble ;-)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

He built a cabin and a winter store, and he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore...

"Its amazing what you can do with an 'E' in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw"
- Damien Hirst

So you see I've always wanted a chainsaw.

Ok before you start edging slowly towards the door, I don't mean in a 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' kind of way. That film BTW gives chainsaws a (VERY) bad name - one which IMHO is completely undeserved.

More people are damaged by hammers and baseball bats every day than by chainsaws, it's just that chainsaw damage is pretty, well, non-trivial. I mean you slip with a hammer, you get a bruised thumb. You slip with a chainsaw and you lose half an arm. So OK, you do have to be careful, but that aside, chainsaws are not inherently evil or dangerous - they're just a tool, like an axe, or a scythe, but with MORE POWER!!!

Anyway apart from the obvious and practical benefit as an aid to post-apocalyptic zombie defence, the other primary use of a chainsaw is to cut up logs, and, having quite a few logs in our garden (following some tree work we've had done recently), I finally decided a chainsaw was a justifiable purchase. I did settle for an electric one, which kind of ruins it as a post apocalyptic anti zombie defence tool, (unless the apocalypse leaves the mains electrical network intact), but having torn every stomach muscle I ever had trying to start my petrol driven strimmer, I thought "bugger that for a game of soldiers, electric will do just fine". It also helps that we have power at the top of the garden, so I don't need to run out half a mile of cable just to use it.

So I got my very first chainsaw last week, courtesy of Amazon - and BTW aren't Amazon just awesome? I never shop anywhere else. I'd buy milk from them if they sold it. I bought an alarm clock from them in April that tells you the temperature outside using a remote sensor, and projects it along with the time, onto the bedroom ceiling - I mean how cool is that? Everyone should have one. It's amazing to wake up at 3am and know that its 8 degrees centigrade out in the garden,  I don't know how I lived 50 years without having this information to hand. Anyway it broke down. It started telling me that it was --.- centigrade which was less than helpful. I emailed Amazon, they sent me a new one - just like that - fecking marvellous service! Anyway, back to the chainsaw.

Having taken delivery (next day, no charge!) of the chainsaw, and spent an hour fitting the chain VERY CAREFULLY (I mean you DON'T want the little sod coming loose now do you?) I spent a few minutes deciding what to saw first. Logs were available but they seemed a bit , well, tame. So I decided to eradicate the yew tree behind the shed.

I don't know about you, but I hate conifers! OK OK , the yew isn't as bad as those fecking huge Leylandii bastards, but it's still coniferous and not, in my opinion, to be trusted.  So brandishing my new saw, with a wild gleam in my eye, I attacked the little bugger with gusto (and the chainsaw).

It was no contest. The phrase 'hot knife through butter' springs to mind. It was all over in 10 minutes. Chainsaw wielding maniacs 1,  Evil evergreens nil! Mwuhahahaha!

Once the red mist had subsided I realised that fun as it was, chopping down trees would have only limited long term prospects as eventually I would be left with a garden full of stumps. So maybe now was the time to turn to the logs. Hmm, problem - Trees, even conifers, stand proud and relatively upright. Logs just lie there on the ground and sulk. To cut them up into little pieces you really need to put them up on a sawhorse, but I didn't have one.

Solution - Make a sawhorse out of some smaller logs using the chainsaw and then use it to cut up some bigger logs - genius! Now I was inspired. I was like primitive man carving out his niche in the wilderness, only with power tools, eye protection and gardening gloves.

So I collected some slimmish branches and cut them to usable lengths. Here they are piled up against a tree stump.:

Actually just cutting them up was quite satisfying, but the fun was just beginning!

Now I cut joints into each one at carefully chosen positions and then assembled them into this:

It only took a couple of hours. In fact it was somewhat easier than assembling Ikea furniture, with less cursing at fiddly little allen keys and stupid bloody incomprehensible pictorial instructions.

BTW the big log on the top is not part of the sawhorse, it is waiting, patiently, to be cut up.

At this point inspiration overwhelmed me. If I was going to cut up logs, I'd need somewhere to store them , somewhere like a LOG STORE!!  There was no stopping me now! I didn't want to just BUY anything, (not even from Amazon!) I was going to make it all using just stuff I had lying around!

I slept well that night, and dreamed of settlers and pioneers, the lyrics of Dire Straits 'Telegraph Road' running through my head.

Next day I assembled an old pallet, a couple of wooden gates, some spare fence posts, and some slates left over from when we had our roof done, and built this:

Fantastic! I'd built my winter log store, I was a true self sufficient man of the wilderness! I could feel my cheeks tanning and legs bowing. Now I just needed to fill it with chopped logs and then, er, oh, erm, Problem.

I hadn't at this point thought beyond chopping up the logs. I didn't actually have a use for them.

Easily solved though, for only about four grand we could rip out  the gas fire in the lounge, tear out the old fireplace, fit a steel liner to the chimney, install a new fireplace, and buy a WOOD BURNING STOVE!! Brilliant! - Problem solved.

And in about 150 years the savings on gas would just about pay for it- Yay!

I wonder if Amazon do wood burning stoves?

Silly question, of course they do :-)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Of Mice and Mousers...

"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. "
- The Master

So, Cats - Love 'em or loathe them? Not really a grumble this, more of an introduction. I love 'em, mostly, although they have their 'moments'.

Our ginger boy Toby, who's getting on a bit, nearly lost all nine lives a couple of years ago when he 'mistook' my PS3 for a litter tray. Strange mistake to make really since the PS3 is black, shiny and humming with electricity, not very similar at all to a grey plastic and definitely non-electrified litter tray.

A PS3:
A litter tray
See what I mean?

The  PS3 turned out not to be 'water' proof, but fortunately the short-circuit and resultant 240 volt spark didn't leap as far as Toby's Tackle. Funnily enough the service technicians said the console was 'not repairable' but I reckon they made that judgement from just the smell.

Toby hid on the garage roof for the rest of the summer. He could tell I wasn't happy.

Despite this unfortunate experience I remain a huge cat fan, in fact I am such a fan of huge cats that we decided to add three Maine Coons to our colony (apparently 5 or more cats constitute a colony, so with 6.5 we now have a small cat-nation state).

When I say 'huge cats' I'm not kidding, Maine Coons grow up to 48" nose to tail and can weigh over 28lbs (that's nearly 13Kgs for anyone who speaks Euro).

This one is called Wolfman Jack and he's the uncle of two of ours:

Our latest arrivals started out quite small:



and Walt

However they grow up quite quickly. Here they are at 12 weeks

Hattie and Winnie

And Walt

and at 6 months:



and you know who

I mentioned 6.5 cats, and the numerate among you will have spotted that so far we have only accounted for four. Good spot! Our other two are four year old sisters Tinky and Lol, 


Lol (she's just 'big boned')
Lol has something of a weight problem. We've tried putting her on a diet but it's difficult with 6 of them, she just eats the others' food. We also worried that if we starved her she might eat one of us.

The final .5 of a cat is Herman. He's a feral who visits us most nights, eats whatever he can find and snores on the kitchen chair until morning. He's quite friendly if somewhat 'reserved'. He doesn't hurt the others and they don't seem to mind him. We named him Herman because of his uncanny resemblance to Adolph Hitler, but he shows no interest in invading anywhere but our kitchen.

Biggest problem with having 6 (.5) cats is that they are very fond of catching mice and quite keen to share their catches with us. Waking up to find half a dead mouse on the quilt is not an experience I would recommend to the squeamish. 

The other morning my wife woke to find an apparently dead mouse on the bedspread so she slid quietly out of bed, and rather than disturb me, left me snoring underneath it.  I woke up a bit later to find it had recovered and was running round on my chest.

Oh how we laughed.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The morning after the night before

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors — and miss.
- The Master

Bit of a thick(er than usual) head this morning, can't think why. Possibly related to the five pints of beer I enjoyed at Babelas last night, followed by a large Lamb and Doner* Mixed, washed down by a couple of large whiskey and sodas before bedtime. Or maybe I'm just getting a cold.

Good blogging day yesterday. Thanks to a mention on Laura's site my traffic went up 2700 percent! (that's from 1 view per day to 27! impressive huh?) - maybe I'm 'going viral'?

That could explain the headache.

Actually, a big thanks to all those who popped over from Laura's site and left comments, much appreciated, at least I know someone's out there. Is it too early do you think, to start monetising this site?

Similar thanks, (though less sincere) to the drunken wazzack (AKA The Cardigan Kid) who posted the two ski related comments on the iPhone thread. That should of course have been 'a ROLLING minky gathers no moss' but I suppose even drunken drivel has its place, and if so that place could well be here.

Laura's thinking of starting a new blog 'Sh*t my dad slurs'  - Sounds promishing.


* For our German reader - this has nothing to do with Thunder

Friday, 16 September 2011

Buttons and Domains

America: It's like Britain, only with buttons
- Ringo Starr 

Ok so after only  half a day of footling about with domain names and html, I managed to not only bag the domain (which, I feel, is a pretty cool domain) but more importantly create a button for my blog!

The domain thing was actually pretty easy, I just bought it from Google, biggest surprise was that noone had already bagged it!

The button thing was a LOT harder. Back when I was last writing code, java was an island in Southeast Asia, and the web was that thing stretched across the door of my garden shed.

Fortunately however, in one of my more enlightened moments, sometime back in October 1988, I started a process that resulted in me today having access to my own blogging and html technical support guru. How far sighted of me was that?

So a big thank-you goes out to Laura Jane at Needles Pins and Baking Tins for providing me with the button code (as well as numerous quilts, cushions, mug rugs and delicious and no doubt nourishing puddings). Some investments really do pay off!

Here's a pic.

I think she was just working out where to put the href tags.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Grumbles from the iPhone

Ok if it works from the iPad I guess it has to work from the phone right?

Yep looks like it does.

Ok cancel the moan. Like everything in life these days. There's an app for it :-)

Think I'll just test the image uploader. Can I post a pic taken right now in the phone? That would be moderately cool.

Ok here goes.....

What a great view, although it looks like things could change...
Of course my real view is of the fishpond in the garden..
and yes I can take a pic and post it so pretty cool overall.

Grumbles from the iPad

Thought I'd find out if I can blog from iPad. Seems I can, but only using the iPhone app. Why it doesn't work in safari on iPad beats me. Not really worth a Grumble though. A small moan or minor whinge is probably all it merits.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.  
- One of Murphy's Laws of Technology

Ok a real Grumble now, the first but unlikely to be the last, (the post about Devon weather wasn't a Grumble - just a whinge - important distinction).

So, Aperture on the Apple Mac, a fine piece of software, powerful, friendly, great for retouching photos and also for cataloging them, and cheaper than Photoshop (although not much cheaper than Photoshop Elements, but that's another Grumble). Aperture also integrates seamlessly with Flickr making it easy to publish your pix - or does it?

No it fecking doesn't! Whoever designed that 'integration' should be taken out and beaten senseless with a cucumber. It's not just bad, it's abysmal! 

What's wrong you ask? (well you did didn't you?), I'll tell you (you knew I would):

For a start it just doesn't work. Most (but not all) of the time, when you 'share' your latest snaps to Flickr it takes an age, and then duplicates or triplicates most of them. Feck knows what it thinks it's doing, but you end up with three times as many copies as you started with or wanted.

Buts that's not the worst part, oh no!

It doesn't just 'publish' your pix and forget them like a good little uploader, it keeps track of them and maintains a link to the original. Which means that if you change the original it re-publishes it replacing the one you published earlier. Now what wombat thought that was a good idea? If I publish a copy of a pic I don't want some over enthusiastic, interfering little software busybody changing it without my knowledge or permission. I want it to stay how I published it. Even worse if I accidentally delete it from my Aperture album I DON'T want it deleting from Flickr - but that's exactly what happens.

Worst of all, every little change to the pic results in the Flickr copy being 'replaced' with a new copy, at a new Flickr address. A new address that is NOT the same as the one I used when I linked another website (say, this one) to the Flickr pic. So if I tighten the crop on a picture of my cat (in Aperture), after I have published it to Flickr, and linked to it from here, the link will be broken the next time Aperture 'synchs' with Flickr and I can't stop it happening.

Whoever thought this was a good way to manage the 'link' should be disemboweled using the cucumber mentioned above. 

It really is very bad, it's wasted hours of my life and probably pushed my systolic and diastolic through the ceiling.

Fortunately there is an answer, one that doesn't have to involve cucumbers.

A little program called FlickrExport by Connected Flow. It costs all of 14 quid, is only about 1.6Mb to download (remember the days when most apps were smaller than a 1.44Mb floppy?) and it works. 

It does , as they say, what it says on the tin. Once it's installed as an Aperture plug in, it sits quietly under the File->Export menu waiting for your instructions to publish your chosen snaps to Flickr. 

No 'two way integration' Bollux, no 'maintaining an active link' Malarky, just export to Flickr and forget. It will even pre-tag your pix for you and do lots of other houskeepingy things that you would normally not be arsed with. Excellent bit of kit. The developers should be allowed to watch while the  wazzacks from Apple who wrote the Aperture link are ravished with blunt vegetables.

Monday, 12 September 2011

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive..." 
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert had obviously just been to Devon in September.

No,  really, we had a great week (again), but if the phrase 'into every life a little rain must fall' strikes you as a beautiful metaphor perfectly encompassing our  romantic but  'triste' existence, then spend a week in Devon while it's blowing a gale and stair rodding it down. You'll soon discover that there is bugger all romance in being rained on for 7 days solid.

Fortunately, we had books, guitars, games, and a small lake of port to keep us entertained - any port in a storm :-).

We endured, nay, we enjoyed! Although I think my liver may have suffered (yet more) permanent damage.

In fact it didn't rain every day, (just five out of seven) and the tail end of Hurricane Feckin' Irene made for some interesting sunsets.

Here's the slideshow, next year we're going to Feckin' Spain! :-)

Our Shangri-La

Thursday, 1 September 2011

"Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up. "
- Ernest Hemingway

Thursday morning, and a wonderful sunny day in store. It's also pack-up day for our extended family trip to Bideford. 14 of us staying in a big house with pool, A/V room and about 2 dozen bottles of port (plus wine and beer) for a week. We had a great time last year, cycling the Tarka trail, swimming in the sea at Putsborough, and lazing round the house.

It almost doesn't matter what the weather does, although a bit of sun would be nice.

Here's a couple of pix from last September:

Jane slicing onions (under Kathy's supervision), note cunning use of snorkel gear to avoid tears.

Otis looking goooood!

Cycling on the Tarka Trail

Eating - we did a lot of this!

So fingers crossed for another good week!