Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meeting request

There is no more terrifying event in the universe than a meeting request arriving in your work e-mail box. Receiving such a request is guaranteed to bring on a wave of despair and sorrow.

As you may have gathered therefore I am not a fan of meetings and try to avoid them. I am an engineer (well software anyway) and prefer to do stuff rather than talk about it. I also prefer to be told what to do rather than talk about it. So maybe i am a submissive engineer. Or at least one with Asbergers.

Thats not to say that i think meetings have no value, without meetings how would any organisation ever operate. What would all those managers do without meetings to attend? Notepad sales would also plummet. Meetings just arn't for me. My mind wanders after about 15 minutes and i start thinking about Star Trek and then get rudely awaken from my daydream about being Captain Sisko by someone asking me something web related. "Erm... raise shields?"

Maybe i am just going about these things the wrong way and i should embrace the meeting culture instead of trying to shun it. I should relish "touching base" (actually i do but thats not a subject for this kind of blog) and formulating "action points" and facilitating  a "raft of measures" during a "thought shower"?

This would involve far too much normal behaviour and meeting human beings for me though alas.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Extended road-test part 2 : Kindle

The second part of my gadget review. In part 1 i told you how the iPad changed my life and made me more successful with women (well maybe not). In this episode i will look back at the Kindle, a device that can only be described as lovable.

There are two kinds of books i read, scholarly tomes and novels (usually Star Trek and Scandinavian detectives). In the latter category i tend to only read a book once and then it gathers dust on my shelves or in a box so i procured the Kindle to replace these paperbacks. I suspect i will always buy non-fiction books but for paperback novels the Kindle is the way to go.

My initial thought about the Kindle was that the screen was wonderful, clearer than an actual dead tree novel in many cases and as the text could be made larger much easier and less tiring to read. Nothing has changed. I can fly through books much easier on the Kindle than reading a paperback. I usually read in bed and its much more comfortable reading with a Kindle, and you can do it with one hand (no funny remarks please). The battery life is stated as up to a month and i have found this to be true (if you turn wireless off). In fact since i bought the Kindle in January i've only needed to recharge it once so far.

Navigating through a book is fine, when its a novel. It might be more problematical in a text book where you needed to find a specific section. Occaisionally you do accidentally hit the next or previous page buttons while reading though (maybe i am just clumsy?)

Its maybe not perfect though. Although new books can be cheaper electronically there is no second-hand or bargain market like there is with paperbacks. Depending on what you like to read of course there are free options available to read on the Kindle (though i've never been one for "classics").

You can do other things with the Kindle apart from reading though i found the web browser a bit of a pain to use. For reading its unsurpassed and it does that so well you don't really mind not being able to do much else with the Kindle. It does it exactly what it says on the tin, or the box.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Extended road-test part 1 : iPad

At the beginning of this year i got my hands on two hip gadgets : an iPad and a Kindle (one was a present the other i bought myself). Contrary to what people might believe about me i don't tend to buy that many electronic toys and don't have a house full of the latest gadgets (though i do have a lot of junk). So getting two funky gadgets in quick succession was rather novel.

When i got both i blogged and tweeted about them but those was just first impressions, now we are a few months down the line with both devices i thought it would be interesting to write down some further thoughts on how i have found these two devices now the novelty has worn off.

So the iPad, can it change your life? I don't know about you but it has changed my life. Its the first properly "personal computer" i have had (and i date back to the ZX-80 in 1981 in microcomputer terms) indeed since i have got my iPad, which is never far from my side at home, my Macbook has seen a lot less usage. Of course this depends on what you consider a personal computer to be. I consider it to be a computer you can have on or near your person at all times. Otherwise its a microcomputer and i've had plenty of those pal.

A measure of an item's success is that if you didn't have it anymore you would miss it terribly. I feel that way about my head and also about my iPad. So why is it so wonderful. Maybe its because it is just so quick and convenient to use.

If i want to check a webpage its so fast to turn it on and load that page. No need for waiting for it to boot up, loading various hidden and mysterious processes into memory and so on. Its great for surfing while watching TV though i have found tweeting on the iPad somewhat poor. The official Twitter client is adequate but others like Tweetdeck which i use on my home and work computers just unusable yet. So i have not live-tweeted Masterchef this year as i have in the past but instead live-Facebooked it. I'm sure my FB friends have been thrilled by that.

So that is what i use the iPad for: surfing, email and the occaisional game of Solitaire the iPad is perfect. I have yet to go out on the road much with it though, mostly because there is no wireless at my office. I did take it to London with me to visit the in-laws a few months ago and it was much more convenient than taking down my laptop. There was no wireless on the train though and i got bored of Solitaire by the time i got to Leamington Spa. So its pretty useless without an internet connection.

Its not perfect for everything so my Macbook can breathe a sigh of relief as it won't be consigned to the Apple museum in my house anytime soon. For instance i wouldn't bother writing a long blog entry like this on the iPad. The virtual keyboard is ok for Facebook statuses and tweets but using it for anything longer than that would drive me to murder. I've bought a few apps but most leave me cold and remain largely unused, the Teletext viewing app was quite cute though.

In summary the iPad is an information appliance and a truly personal computer. Its wonderful and can be life-changing but you still need a microcomputer too. I still don't get why people would queue for hours outside the stores to wait to get version 2 though.

Haircut sir?

I had my haircut yesterday, an event always fraught with nervousness and danger. I am obsessed with my hair you see, its totally unruly and thinning on top though remaining defiantly too thick on the sides. For years i used to cut my own hair as i couldn't get hairdressers to do it how i like into some kind of pseudo 60s indie hipster cut. In hindsight i realise this was unadvised. As was the purple hair dye i tried once. Still when you are young you have to look foolish, though i was 27 at the time.

(I could of course go to a proper salon with a highly trained hair stylist but the thought of spending over 30 quid on a haircut is just so foreign to me, though of course i can happily spend the same amount of CDs and books and frequently do.)

So yes a "bog standard" barbers then but how to pick one. Well i prefer to have women cutting my hair (not for any sordid reason i hasten to add... well not quite anyway) and there is a handy salon on my way home. So thats where i went last night, with tip it came to 10 pounds. Is the cut any good? Well not really but its adequate. It'll grow back. In about 3 weeks my hair will be in that golden zone where its exactly how i want, then a few weeks later it will pass its peak and get steadily worse as it gets longer.

Then in about 3 or 4 months i'll get a cute young girl to butcher it again and the cycle will begin again. Actually no "butcher" is wrong, its fine, more or less. If you at Erdington's eastern edge down Bromford Lane anytime look out for the giant pink scissors sign.

Monday, March 28, 2011

TV Closedown

A piece on the Guardian about the possibility of the BBC stopping transmitting during the night in order to save money has sent me into nostalgic mode and i have been remembering when TV did indeed close down at midnight or sometime shortly after.

When my parents had gone out i always enjoyed the chance to stay up late until they came home. I remember the end of the TV schedule for the day. Usually the last programme was the weather forecast then, if it was ITV, there would be some information about local radio (in my case BRMB) and the actual shutdown itself. I think the national anthem played. Then we had snow.

Sometime in the 1980s Central TV began experimenting with late night broadcasts and that included programming especially bought in. Thats how i got introduced to the joys of the WWF long before Sky was even a glimmer in Rupert's eye. I used to stay up to watch it live even though we had a video recorder. Staying up until 3am sometimes 4am and then going to school the next day. I was as hardcore as Jake The Snake.

I did enjoy TV closing down though. It added to the magic of the night. To me radio is more a medium of the night. TV is an interloper which spoils the darkness. I remember the thrill of being alone in the house for the first time when my parents went on holiday (i was 16 or something we're not talking Home Alone) and staying up until dawn listening to the radio. It didn't matter what was on, just the magical effect or watching the world wake up again while listening to BRMB at 4am. Its stayed with me forever.

Watching TV until dawn would not have given the same effect. For a start i probably would have missed the dawn.

(I won't get into testcards and my collection of testcard music, i don't want you to think i am weird.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pondering my future academic options

In December i completed a BA in History with the Open University as you may or may not know but you should know as i basically have told anyone and everyone. There are Stone Age tribes in the Amazon untouched by the decadence of Western civilisation who know. The graduation ceremony is all booked and set for June, i have the certificate already. It has been framed and is on my wall. But now i need to make a decision about what i am going to do about my studies next.

I am likely to continue with the OU and do their history masters but i have been looking at a number of other universities including Birmingham. Their distance learning MAs though either arn't quite what i want to do or i can't find out enough about them. (I tell you looking at university web sites as a prospective student is a lot different from looking at them for a living...)

The OU course does not begin until October but i think i need to register soon so i can prepare myself, preparatory reading and so on. I have decided to make my final decision on April 1st. No joke!

My only real concern (apart from the fees though i can afford it) is what the step-up is from a BA to an MA. Is there a big leap or should a graduate be ready to progress to the next stage?

Supermarine PB 31E Night Hawk

Lets go back to the First World War and the first aircraft to bear the Supermarine name, the company changed it's name from Pemberton Billing in 1916 (after Mr Pemberton Billing sold his interests to the company's other directors). One of the last aircraft Pemberton Billing had been working on had been the PB 29E, a large quadruplane for anti-airship defence. Unfortunately the sole PB 29E crashed during flight testing but the Admiralty decided to continue pursuing Pemberton Billing's ideas for combating the zeppelin menace so sponsored a further aircraft (Bruce 1969).

Supermarine PB 31E

This was the PB 31E, like the 29E it was a large quadruplane 37ft (11.27m) long and with a wing span of 60ft (18.28m). It was made more sturdy than the 29E with a planned crew of 5 and heavily armed with a 1½-pdr recoiless gun and twin Lewis machine guns. It was intended to be able to stay aloft for up to 18 hours and carried a searchlight that was powered by a separate engine and thus was probably one of the first aircraft to carry an auxiliary power unit (Andrews & Morgan 1981). Because of the long planned duration it was fitted with some basic comforts for the crew including a heated cabin. The aircraft also carried armour in some key areas and the cockpit was bound with fabric to avoid wood splinters in the event of a crash to protect the crew.

The problem with all of these features was weight, the PB 31E weighed over 6100lb (2787kg) when loaded and there simply wasn't the engine technology of the time to properly handle such a plane. Two 100hp Anzani engines powered the PB 31E and was enough to get it airborne but not enough to give it sufficient performance to perform in the anti-zeppelin role. The PB 31E took an hour to climb to 10,000ft which meant that zeppelins could easily escape it by ditching ballast and climbing rapidly. The design speed had been 75mph (120kph) which was considered fast enough to catch zeppelins (though some zeppelins could go faster than that in favourable conditions) but it is reported the PB 31E struggled to pass 60mph (97kph) (Bruce 1969).

Front view showing the search light on the nose

The PB 31E first flew in February 1917 but by then it was apparent there were flaws in the concept, highlighted by the PB 31E's poor performance. Unable to pursue a zeppelin it's only chance of success would have been the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time and firing on the zeppelin before it got out of range (Bruce 1969). It's main armament, a 1½ pounder Davis non-recoil gun, was also rather unwieldy.

The sole PB 31E was scrapped in the Summer of 1917, the second planned example never being built. The PB 31E, which was given the name Night Hawk, was technically innovative and it's concept could maybe have worked with a better performance. It was an early example of what we would call today a "weapons system" (Andrews & Morgan 1981). In the event the zeppelin was near the end of it's time as a military weapon anyway, Supermarine survived the war. You may have heard of one of their later products.

Further reading :

Supermarine Aircraft Since 1914 (Andrews & Morgan, Putnam, 1981)
Warplanes Of The First World War - Volume 3 (Bruce, Macdonald, 1969)

Making a killing

Have you been watching The Killing on BBC4? I have, Euro drama is probably the only TV that gets me excited these days so a 20 part Danish crime drama was Manna from Heaven for me especially when it was as good as The Killing / Forbrydelsen. Last night's conclusion was equally exciting and baffling though it all more or less made sense with plenty of loose ends to ponder, the Guardian have a good review of the last 2 episodes.

Another great thing about series like this and other Scandinavian crime fiction like Wallander is that my Mum has got into it too thanks to me and finally we have something to talk about.

Anyway from Denmark to France for next week as Spiral 3 begins, of course i shall be watching. I just re-watched the 2nd series of that on DVD in fact and that is another fantastic drama, hopefully series 3 will be as good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dumb terminoids

I was so glad to find the wonderful VT100 website is still up, though doesn't seem to have been updated for nearly 5 years now. Its a website about dumb terminals, ancient technology to most geeks these days maybe but full of memories for me.

When i started my HND at Birmingham Polytechnic (as it was back then, now BCU of course) in 1990 as well as rooms full of IBM PCs (real ones) there was a Pr1me minicomputer which we logged into for programming class (Pascal) and sending e-mail. We usually logged into it from one of the PCs using Kermit terminal emulation software but there were also a number of real terminals around the polytechnic.

Baker building (B208 i think) had a whole room full of Volker-Craig VC404 terminals, and there were also some in the library as well as some other type of terminal (i think they were Volker-Craigs too) for accessing the library catalogue. Many an hour was spent pounding away on these terminals (and PCs) logged into the Pr1me. Firstly on the XCOM BBS which was installed on the Pr1me but also in a chat program. Later on we were able to venture out onto JANET and FTP files down using the Pr1me/Kermit (we couldn't use the terminals for this alas) and connecting to the Monochrome BBS (which still exists) and talking to students from other universities using Relay.

Social networking and living a life on-line being a new thing? I was doing this in the early 90s (and others were doing it long before me, get off maaa lawn you pesky kids).

I miss the simplicity of using a dumb terminal to access the Pr1me and the internet in general, it was robust, reliable and simple. Just ASCII characters on a screen. I would love to have a terminal now though i have enough computer junk in my house already (a subject for a future blog post no doubt).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

British citizenship

Today my wife reached the end of a long and rather expensive road when she finally became a British citizen. To complete the process she had to attend a citizenship ceremony and swear an oath to Queen and country. This ceremony was held at Birmingham Registry Office, it was rather odd returning to the place we got married a few years before but maybe also somewhat fitting.

The ceremony itself took place with Her Majesty watching on (a painting anyway) flanked by the Union flag and another flag i think was the Birmingham flag, it looked gaudy enough anyway. Before the ceremony each candidate had to be registered, and as there were over 30 candidates this took a while. Our ceremony was the third that day apparently and there were over 100 citizenship candidates attending that day. Not everyone completed the process though, some people had to go home because they had forgotten to bring their letter which clearly stated had to be bought along (it kind of beggars belief someone could forget it to be honest but 2 people did. Apparently 4 people that day had had their citizenship denied to them because they hadn't said the oath properly too).

This all makes the proceedings sound harsh but in fact the ceremony was very light hearted and friendly. Very laid-back and modern. Very Cool Britannia perhaps? After the registration the candidates were split into two groups depending on which version of the oath they were going to say (God included or not). Which added to the air of a game show the proceedings somewhat resembled. Each candidate had to say their name separately then everyone said the rest of the oath together. If you didn't demonstrate to the registrars present that you were saying it properly you had to go home empty handed. Everyone else went through to the star prize.

That star prize was receiving your citizenship certificate and having your photograph taken in front of the Queen. That finally made you a British citizen. Then everyone (guests included) had to sing the national anthem. Like most born British people i had no idea of the words so it was useful the new citizens were there to carry it...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I have today and tomorrow off work, i'm not going anywhere hence "staycation"! I have been fairly busy today though, i've managed to do some DIY and visited the local nature reserve Plantbrook for the first time this year. Of course at the latter i took some photographs.

The DIY was all in the bathroom, i bought a new shower head as the old one seemed to be falling apart and spraying water everywhere. Fitting that was easy, even me with my mediocre DIY skill set could do that. The other task was to replace the toilet seat with one my wife bought which intriguingly looks exactly the same as the old one. That job had to be delayed though as i lacked the right screwdriver. There is always tomorrow.

I also put in some carrot seeds and built a second nursery cage. The radish in the first one are yet to sprout but its the seeding time now so i can't really wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An imagined childhood

A recent discovery of the Rupert the Bear theme on Youtube sparked childhood nostalgia memories in me. However afterwards i wondered if i was actually having real nostalgic memories of my past or whether i was simply imagining a more publicly acceptable constructed childhood past.

The truth is Rupert the Bear did not feature that highly in my real childhood, my Mum bought me the annuals but i preferred the Beano. My memories of watching Rupert on the TV are vague, the only programme i can truly remember watching as a young (pre-school) child is Paint Along With Nancy (who sadly passed away a few days ago, RIP).

However i no doubt did watch a lot more TV, childrens' included though little of it registered with me until later when i did get into Grange Hill. I suppose i should fondly remember Playschool, cartoons and the like but to honest my only vivid TV memory of my days before i went to school was watching an old lady paint with a knife.

It was the first programme showed on ITV (back then TV wasn't on all day, indeed it didn't start until lunchtime and then ran until just after midnight) and i used to watch it with my Nan as she looked after me while my Mum was at work. This is where my true nostalgia lies but of course if i spoke about this in casual conversation i would no doubt get blank looks from people. If instead i mention Playschool and Rupert the Bear then we would all start swapping fake anecdotes like the inane talking heads in cheap Channel 4 clip shows and all would be well.

So i suppose we all construct an imagined childhood because much of what really happened we have either forgotton or doesn't fit into people's expectations, it doesn't fit into the accepted narrative. Why do we do it i wonder? Why do we imagineer this new narrative of our lives? Of course if we have dark childhoods with events we wish to forget then we may wish to imagine something different and better but for most of us we have had perfectly normal average childhoods where we don't really need to imagine something different to the reality but so often we do.

The media plays a role here of course, presenting a view of childhood which may or may not tally with reality. Often these media constructed childhoods are either too idealised or too brutal to reflect most people's experiences but an average, inoffensive and maybe slightly boring childhood does not make for good TV/copy. These imagined media childhoods must have some effect on our own memories though, especially if there are a lot of holes that needed to be filled. I personally think the rash of "I love..." clip shows on TV a few years ago polluted people's true memories by filling holes with a fake narrative.

The BBC series "I love the 1970s" i enjoyed but much of that decade was lost to me so the show filled the gaps in my memories. When the series moved onto the 1980s however i started to notice the mistakes. The show was falsely presenting the past in order to fit into their narrative, no doubt the same happened on the 1970s version of the show but the difference there was i did not know it was taking place. Now i wonder which of my 1970s memories are true and which are as a result of later media conditioning. Luckily i can still remember the reality but shows like Rupert probably have a higher "score" in my memories now because of later media influences.

In the end though it is useful to be more mainstream sometimes, and have some shared memories with people even if they are not strictly true. It helps break the ice at awkward social occaisions.

In summary, no Rupert the Bear meant little to me as a child but i appreciate it nowadays. There is no harm in claiming Rupert as part of an imagined childhood of course but we need to also remember the reality and not be afraid to be different and move away from the group narrative. So Nancy Koninsky >> Rupert the Bear.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sans geese

Most week day lunchtimes i go for a walk along the canal near to where i work. Last week however my usual route was disrupted by the appearance of two geese on the canal.

I do not like geese and they do not seem to like me, 4 of them cornered me along another canal once and i had to flee for my life. They seem to dislike me intensely, maybe i was a goose in a past life and they think i am still a rival.

But maybe things are improving, I did encounter some geese along a canal in Oldbury a few weeks ago and they didn't attack me so maybe my karma is improving. Anyway the following video shall reassure all those who share my fear of these little beaked monsters...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nursery cage

Right lets boot up the 2011 gardening season proper. I am moving away from fencing off the veg plot this year as its all a bit horticulturally-fascist to enclose areas yeah? Anyway the fence didn't really work last year.

Instead i am going to try smaller "cages" to protect seedlings and sown seeds until they are big enough to fend for themselves in the slug infested nightmare that is my garden. I built my prototype nursery cage today, i know you can buy stuff like this from DIY stores but i am an engineer and i prefer to make my own even if it ends up in a horrific disaster. Besides which i was able to reuse my fence mesh from last year and stick it to the man yeah? Tanks into ploughshares and fences into cages.

First seeds sown this year are some radishes which did quite well last year. I even ate some of my crop.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Playing field of dreams

I like to walk, it helps me clear my head. One of the nearby locations in Erdington that i like to walk around sometimes are the Spring Lane playing fields. Its a popular spot for dog walkers too, though i go to walk myself. Its a special place for me as the first school i went to backs onto the playing fields and indeed back in my youth, in the late 1970s and early 1980s the playing fields was where we went and played various kinds of sport and the odd nature trail.
That school in question is St Barnabas Primary School which apparently these days has a good name. I don't really know how good its name was back in the day, i recall my parents forever moaning about it but i don't think i turned out that badly. The school is a typical example of late 60s architecture which i personally like to be honest. The below photo i took in 2008 and apart from a few additions in the play ground the school hasn't changed a great deal. Its probably a lot funkier inside.
I went to the school from the ages of 5 to 11 (there was no nursery class back then though one did form after i started school). The only thing i remember about my first day is that my Mum gave me a banana for lunch. Like most of your memories though they tend to be a blur (as the mundane is easily forgotten). I do remember when Concorde came to Birmingham Airport though, as the approach flightpath went right over our school. We all waited in the play ground and watched it fly over. A truly wonderful sight. Later on the Space Shuttle (atop a 747) made a flyover Birmingham though unfortunately it was a cloudy day and we never got to see anything.

One thing i do remember about school are the various events and shows put on. Often i was in the choir with my angelic voice. I was in the choir in one production of Rumplestiltskin (my Mum kept the programme - my memories of this are vague), one of the older girls was dressed in green including green skin paint. I think that was my first crush. Nicola Carter what are you doing now? Hopefully you are not still green.

I also remember having to sing "The Rainbow Song" on stage at some sort of end of year gala. I was one of a number of classmates who sang the song, each of us represented one colour of the rainbow and had to dress head to toe in that colour. Luckily i was "Blue" which was easy to achieve.

The below photo shows one of the shows my class put on at the school, telling a story by the medium of Chinese dragon dance (or a kind of approximation anyway). The class was split into two groups representing the two factions in the story : a dragon and a panda. I was on Team Panda, i am the one right behind the panda mask carrier in the photo. I've always been tall. I don't actually remember this event apart from a vague memory of creating my mask. A horrible task involving glue and fake fur.
One later event i do remember was ballet dancing in that very hall. Comedy ballet dancing that is. Our ballet costume (for the boys) consisted of our swimming trunks, a vest and a frilly skirt made out of crepe paper. Dressed like this we danced in front of adults. I am sure these days this would be considered child abuse.

But one day it was all over. The below photo was taken on my last day and shows my last form teacher Mr Saunders and the headmaster Mr Bennett. The last year at the school was great. Mr Saunders let us spend most of the year on individual (and barely monitored) projects. One reason for this was that he was rather busy and had many things to do, including planing some new wardrobe doors he had got actually in the classroom in front of us.
Not that i am complaining, this opportunity for personal research i probably found the most valuable of lessons at primary school even if i did spend most of the time filling book after book with pictures of airliners. Most kids completed a book over the course of a year, i filled 17. I have always been prolific. School books then, blogs now.

Even back then i have been nostalgic for the past and melancholic about change. I remember the last Summer at that school very fondly. Often on that playing field, hoping the term would never end and the horrors of big school would never materialise...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nybbles and octal

Lately i have been thinking about nybbles a lot, those nybbles which are half a byte of course. A byte is standardised these days as 8 bits worth of data in computing thus a nybble is 4 bits (the Apple II disk drive controller apparently used 5 and 6 bit nybbles but that just sounds weird).

Why have i been thinking about nybbles? Thats unclear to honest. Nybbles tend to not be something i use in everyday work and play though i do like the word and have used it in the comic series i write as the name of a drone spacecraft. I enjoy geek humour such as which created this term from byte.

4-bit computing of course was the dawn of the (single chip) microprocessor age as the first Intel microprocessors like the 4004 were 4-bit or could handle a nybble of data at a time (though oddly enough the term nybble appears to have not been invented until after 4-bit chips were a bit old hat). With my retro-tech obsession thus i really dig computers that can only handle nybbles.

Octal is something else i really like, these are base 8 numerals also used in computing (though the horrendous base 16 hexadecimals are more common and something i do tend to use a lot). I always liked the ease and elegance of converting from octal to binary. 3 binary digits represent one digit of octal so it makes converting them by hand easy.

According to Wikipedia several American Indian and Mesoamerican tribes used base 8. Maybe we should have used base 8 ourselves instead of 10. It would mean, for example, that the current year is 3733. It would also mean i am nearly 50 though instead of 40 so maybe we'll leave things as they are.

Digging for victory

One thing i will move from my music/creativity blog to here is gardening where it seems a better fit. Over the last few years i have been successfully growing my own vegetables. Other aspects of gardening don't interest me that much such as mowing the lawn and stuff but beans and tomatoes, i'm there.

A couple of weeks ago as the Winter seemed to be finally moving away i ventured out into my garden and took down the "walls" of my veg plot, the mesh cage i used never stopped slugs helping themselves and it just made reaching parts of the plot problematic and weeds grew like crazy around the edges.

I am thinking about spreading the veg out in the garden this year to take advantage of natural protections against predators, well we will see. One thing i may try is building smaller cages to protect shootings and seedings.

One thing i have started already is growing cress though as its still pretty cold its taking awhile for my first crop to be ready for my sandwiches.

Kindle sleeve

In January i bought a Kindle e-reader which i truly love, and you can read a post on my other blog about it here. However one thing about the Kindle is that it does feel less robust than some other items such as the iPad so i thought it was time i bought a sleeve or case for the Kindle. After some debate with colleagues via Twitter i decided upon this Timbuk2 sleeve which fits the Kindle perfectly. Its a very nicely made sleeve though rather pricy. You get what you pay for of course and hopefully this will keep my Kindle safe through countless Star Trek novels.

Waitrose bananas

A few weeks ago i switched from Tesco to Waitrose as my main supermarket. I have not suddenly become much more wealthy but my wife is a Waitrose employee (or partner or whatever they call it) and so we both have a discount card. With the discount it works out about the same as Tesco though the quality is better and the choice is so much better.

This is despite the average Waitrose store being a fair bit smaller than the mega-Tesco store i used to do my weekly shop in. The cheese counter i especially love visiting in Waitrose, my wife works at one of these so she advises me as to which cheese to get!

I was really sold on this supermarket when i bought some bananas last week. Now i've become used to bananas being rather bland and tasteless and have continued eating them for the health benefits. When i first tried a Waitrose banana last week however i was surprised, it actually tasted of banana!

Olympic tickets

The website for people to get their tickets for the London 2012 Olympics opened a few days ago. Well when i say "get" what i actually meant was submit an application for tickets. Later in the year people who submit an application for tickets will be informed if their application has been successful as if an event is oversubscribed people go into a ballot.

My tickets are for the badminton on a Tuesday afternoon so i hope there isn't too much competition for my tickets.

Welcome to my new blog

Actually i blog a lot, however what i have never done before is a blog blog. By that i mean a blog that falls into the classical meaning of the word as in a personal journal. Up until now my blogs have always been on a specific topic such as music or warfare but maybe its time to speak about something a bit more personal.

Beyond this this blog will be a mixture of items recounting my activities, thoughts and tangental features. Mix and Match. See what i did there?