Time to stop

October 2nd, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Tissot watchDad’s watch stopped again.

It was a bit flaky during Dad’s life. I invested in an overhaul, with a 20year guarantee, from a UK watch specialist. It went back a couple of times while I was in the UK. The watch specialist definitely worked for their guarantee.

Now I’m in the USA and the watch has shifted from ‘flaky’ to dead. It’s stopped. It stopped last night. I was annoyed. It’s Dad’s watch. I love the look and feel of it, I love what it represents. But a watch that doesn’t work is too sad to wear. I wrote mum a short email and sadly said that I was giving up on the watch and that my previous watch hung limply around my wrist, I’ve lost weight since arriving in the USA.

A few hours later my brother contacted me to let me know that Mum’s favourite brother had died that night.

When it’s time to stop. Time stops.



Musical diagnosis

September 10th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

Friend from the 1990’s that I haven’t seen since then: “what sort of music do you listen to?”

Wendy: “All sorts, mainly 80’s

Friend: “You’re romantic!”

Windows 10 on one surface, not the other

September 6th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

I wont be downloading windows 10 on my 2nd surface. I want to savour the excellent tablet oriented design  of Windows 8. Design that didn’t assume that a physical keyboard was attached. That’s how I use my surfaces. I’ll miss Windows 8. It looks like Microsoft has focussed the design of Windows 10 on the assumption of a keyboard attached as the primary use context. Not designed for me, or people that enjoy the tablet form factor (without they keyboard). Ho hum

Here are a few moments I went through with the windows 10 upgrade process, rated on a scale of 0 thru 5 where 0 s atrocious and 5 is excellent, followed by a description of what I’ve rated

5* It downloaded in the background

2* It has completed downloading – now install – message  not displayed on tablet UI, I missed it for a couple of weeks

5* I liked be able to set when to install. I choose midnight, when I’d be asleep

0* It actually start installing until when I wanted to use my computer in the morning, not at midnight. A significant, unexpected, disruption to my planned use time

0* I had to reset my preferred colour scheme and desktop background after installing. Come on! These are personal settings that should be migrated!

2* After install was set-up. Just when you think you’ve finished, you have to do something else

2* Set-up encouraged accepting default options that included sharing information with advertisers to tailor advertising to me. I used the option to review and set all the options rather than accepting defaults to remove this default, and the automated sharing of location information. I was unsure what some of the options really meant, for example the automated connect to networks. It offered to automatically connect to my contacts networks. Interesting, but I opted out of this, I want to know what networks I’m connecting to and approve that connection

2* Very new UI that gives prominence  to the “Desktop” interface, is not immediately intuitive, takes time to learn. M experience of everyday use MAY  be better once I’ve learned it. But the first experience of the new UI is not inspiring or encouraging

1* The “start menu” is back. Undoubtedly a crowd pleaser, but the way they’ve constructed it is to move (downgrade) the tablet selection UI and ‘squeeze’ live-tiles into a space within the start menu space, effectively making what was once  “All programs” into a group, scrollable, tile selection.  Leaving the left hand side of the stat menu a a traditional work list.  it’s a strikingly conservative design.  They’ve got lots of old crowd pleasers in the start menu like “file explorer” the power menu, and settings. And they’ve ‘forced’ a grouping on the live tiles rather than re-using my groupings. They’ve added things tracking the stock market! What does that say about the product development team! Hah.  I’ve been ‘un-pinning’ these personally irrelevant things from the menu and trying to regroup everything and rename it back to my original arrangement. The live tiles have lost a lot of functionality, e.g. for showing summaries of their contents

0* Had to trawl through virtually all the PC settings to find out how to ‘get back’ some of my windows 8 positive experiences. Glad to be able to set the menu as full screen tiles. Disappointed windows didn’t detect my lack of keyboard and set this as default that could be offered for adjustment when a keyboard is first attached

0* Keyboard auto-arrival is SO MUCH WORSE. I have to manually open and close the virtual keyboard

0* inconsistent and rare screen reformatting when virtual keyboard is opened, much worse than windows 8. I’m often unable to see key instructions or entry fields on my screen because they are obscured by the keyboard, previously this was not a problem

3* It hook quite a lot pf use o work out how to move between my Apps an desktops. The new multitasking navigation model. This could be god for on going use. I’m still not confident I fully understand it

3* Resetting passwords for things that Windows didn’t already know my passwords for – it’s gathering knowledge of all my passwords. I’m not overly happy with the forced linking of all that knowledge about me. I can see this is a step towards being able to upgrade without having to reset all the passwords, but its a standard pain in the upgrade process and I wasn’t expecting it this time round

*1 Skype asking me to install an update again, feels like about 4 in the last month, but I may not of completed them to the software’s expectations because the process was so convoluted and unintuitive. Maybe I’ve only done this 2 times. I hope this second time has re-instated the effective use lf my tablet camera. I doubt it given all the other enhancements have been a step backward for tablet users

0* I got so frustrated on the first hour after installing that I rebooted the surface – just out of learning from past experience, mot any help or advice from windows or it’s apps. It installed updates! I guess the settings changes I made required rebooting. They should have advised me. But maybe it was something else… the update was from Microsoft, within an hour of a Microsoft update, so I feel justified in directing my anger and frustration towards them

5* The ability to roll back to windows 8 within 4 weeks. But the fear of facing equal resetting pain after the roll back is a blocker…  not yet sure whether to roll back..

The tall pasty one

August 18th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

Boarding the plane from Mumbai to Bangalore involved riding a bus from the terminal to the plane. A crowded bus of about 60 passengers. I was the only Caucasian person on the bus. Possibly the only person who’s family hadn’t hailed from India within the last century. A sprinkling of clearly American, and English, accents suggest that there are other people raised, or mainly living, outside India on the bus.

I’m tall!


Oh my! There are only about 10 people on this bus who are taller than me (5″6′). Goodness, I had no preconception, prejudice, that put people from India in a ‘short’ category (I do now). I think I need to wear dark sunglasses so that I look like someone famous trying to travel incognito…

Unubiquitous computing

August 15th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Very excited about my first trip to India (Bangalore).  I’ve got a ‘Tripit’ account because it leverages other corporate software systems for travel. Tripit’s got an App on my iPhone (work supplied, OBVIOUSLY!) and my personal windows phone and…..

I made the technology-ignorant assumption that if I could use an App on my Windows phone, there would be an equivalent for my windows surface…. they’re both windows mobile devices….

Silly me

Must remember that technology rarely meets use expectations of the technically naïve

So I’ll be sat at the airport during icky layovers (New Jersey on the way out, Mumbai on the way back) using my surface to read and surf the nets for pleasure but my tripit notifications will be coming through whichever phone I’ve decided to turn on

Party lift

August 11th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

A creature of habit, on Sunday morning I carry my empty bottle and glassware to the recycle bin in the garage. I rarely meet anyone in the lift. This week, the 5 people in the lift chuckled when they  saw my collection of 3 bottles and one commented that my Saturday might looked more fun than his.

this is a week’s worth of bottles… honest…. ……that didn’t sound very convincing did it”

Chorus “No

stairwell only in emergenciesThe stairwell in the lofts is currently out of bounds, except for emergencies. It’s full of paint fumes. People would get high on the stairs if they accidentally used them.

lift out of orderOne of the two elevators is not working, due to be repaired within 2 weeks.

Can you guess what’s happening?

Sociability enhancements! I’m loving it.

Long waits for the elevator to arrive mean people meet each other while waiting. Frequent stops at each floor mean the elevator quickly fills with people, packages and puppies. We talk, smile, laugh.

It’s jolly nice.

I hope the elevator stays broken for more than 3 weeks.

Big white balls on the ceiling

August 9th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Bare bulbs in basic ceiling fixtures provide harsh and inadequate light for the Wendy loft. At the moment.

Lighting6 months after moving in  I’ve gotten around to ordering lighting fixtures from ‘Lightworks‘ an awesome little family company that renovates old fixtures, designs and makes new fixtures and just loves lighting. I’ve spent several visits just sat on a bar stool in the shop talking to Charles and Kathryn while Wes walks through and the new puppy tries to get into the showroom.   They are lovely people.

LightingI’ve bought some plain pendants with 18 inch hand blown glass globules ‘shades’ that will cover two bulbs. The photograph is of the shop demo with an 8 inch globe. I’ll have bigger balls, in each room.

I’ve also commissioned them to renovate a standard lamp (circa 1920s) that mum and dad bought as a housewarming gift when I moved to Seattle in 2000.

Charles and Kathryn loved this and told me that if it was being sold today they’d expect about to get about $2,500 for it. WOW, that’s added a couple of zero’s onto what mum and dad paid for it!

By November the loft should have adequate lighting…

Friendly distribution

August 5th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |


frequency distribution graphWarnings:

  • All charts are fictional,  not based on any real data
  • All axis show interval data on proportionate scales, even if they don’t look it
  • All typing, grammar and spelling mistakes are  gratuitous
  • All titles and labels are slap-dash
  • Any resemblance of anything or anyone is purely coincidental

Not all of my Facebook friends are alive. I watch my fathers 2 accounts wondering whether Facebook will proactively do anything to remove them through sign-in inactivity. They were a source of comfort soon after he died. Family and friends posted photographs, stories, goodbyes on his timeline and the experience was shared. Because of this we decided not to proactively try and close the account.

Meanwhile several friends have closed their Facebook accounts as a protest against the way the data is used. I miss their presence, can empathise with the reasons for their choice.

The people with over 700 friends intrigue me. They appear to be using Facebook in a qualitatively different way to myself and most of my friends. I suspect these are extreme extroverts and their friends distribution graph will have a centre with people having 500 friends on average…


What’s the home of the Vikings?

August 3rd, 2015 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Rendering of US Bank Stadium (currently under construction)

A new stadium is being built for the Minneapolis Vikings American football team. The stadium will actually be called the “US Bank” stadium. The home of the Vikings is the IS Bank stadium.  I guess both Vikings and Banks have a reputation for collecting money from other people….

The US bank sponsorship team haven’t come up with a stadium name that inspires fun, images of fabulous things, aspirations and warm feelings for the local customers. It’s the name of the bank. No creativity or imagination involved.  To me it says, we’ve got lots of money and we want to you see and say our name every time you’re thinking of the local football team. A succinct message that says a lot about the culture of the IS Bank and the needs of the organisation providing the stadium (Minneapolis city?).

When I lived in Seattle the new Baseball stadium there was named “Safeco field”. Safeco is a huge insurance company in the USA. I understand that these fabulous buildings, cathedrals of our millennium, do need funding and that financial companies have the spare funds and the motivation to get their names known, seen in places associated with positive emotions. The new Baseball stadium in Minneapolis is called the Target field. Target is a large American retail chain. Somehow this name works for me beacuse pitchers target their baseball to be in play, the name is still meaningful if the company ceased to exist…

The trend to name stadiums after local corporations has produced some really poor names. In 2013 daily finance listed unfortunate American stadium names:

  1. Enron field
  2. Northwest Delta Dental Stadium
  3. Save-on-foods memorial Centre
  4. KFC Yum! Centre
  5. Amway Center
  6. Overstock.com coliseum
  7. CITI field
  8. Candlestick/3Com/monsterpark (I don’t understand this, what is the stadium called?)
  9. Whataburger field

‘Field’, ‘Coliseum’, ‘Stadium’ do at least refer to the sports, games, role of the place. This website lists the best NFL stadium names as:

  1. Lambeau Field
  2. Soldier Field.
  3. Arrowhead Stadium
  4. Ralph Wilson Stadium
  5. Paul Brown Stadium.
  6. Ford Field.
  7. Lincoln Financial Field.  Everybody calls it “The Link.”

If these are the best, I’m not impressed.

Stadium names that have impressed me are not listed anywhere, except here:

  1. Stadium of light. Sunderland FC. Wikipedia says the stadium name was chosen as “as an ever-lasting tribute to the region’s mine-workers and proud industrial heritage and in the expectation that the stadium would be a guiding light in the future. The name is very much a symbolic link to the thousands of miners and Sunderland supporters that emerged from the darkness and into the light every day when they returned to the surface after working in the mine.” Compared to the NFL stadiums this is small, but the thought and specialness of this stadium shown in design detail (the Davey lamp at the entrance) is deeply moving.
  2. Pride park. Derby city FC. Officially this is the “iPro stadium”, the sponsored name came after the stadium had developed it’s own name within the community. The sponsored name will not have sufficient ‘appeal’ to replace the commonly used name. The sponsor does get associated with the Park by being the official name.
  3. The Den. Millwall FC. I like this name because of the enthusiasm of a class mate (age 7, in Bristol) who explained to me what “the Den” was, he was so happy, this was clearly a very special place. That Millwall have managed to keep that link with thief original stadium name is impressive.

I have strong affections for the grounds I’ve attended regularly, supporting local teams. The common naming theme here is the location of the stadium. It’s relevant to ‘place’ which makes a lot of seen to me and could outlive any renaming strategy from currently existing stadium:

  1. Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City, my local team as a teenager.
  2. Fratton Park home of “Pompey”, Portsmouth City FC since 1898! The wendy house was located about 1000yrds from the ground 1993-1996, I regularly went to games

I’d like these companies to think about the aspirations and values of the stadium customers, I’d like corporate naming strategists to come up with something attendees can be emotionally attached to, relevant to them in a positive way. Ideally with at least a nodding reference to the name of the main team that is based there. The team name “Vikings” refers to the roots of the European settlers here and evokes images of aggression. The state is informally known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, a strap line placed on most car license plates. The stadium is near the banks of the Mississippi.  There are cultural cues that could be used to generate a name that could be linked with the banks name.

In 2013 Joe Loveland wrote an article exploring the ores and cons of possible names for the Viking’s stadium:

  1. U.S. Bank
  2. Land O Lakes Stadium.
  3. Wheaties Stadium.
  4. 3M Stadium.
  5. Matt’s Bar Stadium.
  6. OmniSynCorp Stadium.
  7. Target Stadium.
  8. People’s Stadium.

Cathedrals are traditionally named after Saints, if stadiums are our new cathedrals, then corporations are our new saints. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I look forward to the day when corporate sponsorship for naming steps out of bland placing of one companies name on the building to inspiring naming strategies. Take a risk.


Puritans and Prisoners

August 1st, 2015 | tags: ,  |

An American calmly announced that if the people who had taken the candy bowls from the meeting room, yesterday, returned them within 24hrs, no more action would be taken.

A moments silence.

Silence broken by an Australian announcing that the dishes went with the one’s he collected last time he visited America.

I giggled.

People left England, for America or Australia, for very different reasons. Those reasons have influenced the nations culture. Beautifully illustrated by this theatre. Like the other Brits and Indians in the room, I said nothing. No haul of candy dishes in my possession. Innocent, of some things. Meanwhile, the Scott passed the Australian some candy…

Later the British contingent admitted they’re going on a shooting trip…


In the midnight hour

July 31st, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

How many days was I resident in the UK during the tax year? My guidance from a Tax services provider for helping to work this out:

Generally, an individual will be treated as being in the UK on any day where he or she is in the UK at the end of that day (i.e., at midnight).

There are two main exceptions to the basic rule on location at midnight:

  1. Where an individual arrives in the UK as a passenger on that day and also leaves the UK by the end of the next day without engaging in any activities that are substantially unrelated to the individual’s passage through the UK, the day of arrival is not counted as a day in the UK.
  2. Where the individual is only present in the UK at the end of the day due to exceptional circumstances (see below), the day is not counted as a day in the UK provided he or she intends to leave the UK as soon as circumstances permit and the limit for such days is not exceeded.

Exceptional circumstances apply when circumstances beyond the individual’s control prevent him or her from leaving the UK. For example, national or local emergencies such as war, civil unrest or natural disaster; or sudden or life-threatening illness or injury for the individual themself or a close family member. The exception is restricted to a maximum of 60 days in any UK tax year (6 April to 5 April).

Summer cabins

July 28th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

DSCF5517Vacation allowances in the USA are not as plentiful as in Europe. One weekend a friend leant me her lakeside cabin.

A mini holiday!

The cabins I’d visited in Scandinavia had no running water, no gas, no electricity. We had to stock up on water, candles, and collect firewood when we arrived. Half way between a holiday home and camping, like staying in a shed. A shed in a fabulous location.

Talking to the locals here, many have family cabins, their family will travel from all over the country for gatherings in the cabin. In my friend’s cabin, I stayed alone, watched the sun rise and set.

I listened to the birds and completely failed to be bitten by any tics or have any wildlife encounters. No bears emerging from hibernation, no swarms of mosquitoes… almost like civilization in the wilderness. Wilderness? There was good cell phone reception but my Satnav didn’t want to play, it announced that it wouldn’t give me turn information them did that passive-aggressive ‘silent’ treatment thing.

This Minnesota cabin was luxury. A fully equipped kitchen, light switches, flushing indoor toilet. Best of all, a fabulous lake view, the sound of children laughing in the distance and the timelessly beautiful ambiance.


Smell the potatoes

July 26th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Farmers MarketDriving back from my weekly shop, I took a new route, ignored the Satnav and explored the back ways. Near home I passed a huge outdoor market. The traffic moved slowly, nowhere obvious to park. I parked at home and walked 10mins to the market. A treasure.

According to the signs its the biggest farmers market in the North Midwest. Size matters. I could smell the potatoes and beans. Everything liked good. From now on I’ll be visiting here for all my grocery needs.

Store holder vans reverse up to covered, raised, walkways. Their stock remains in the van behind them while they arrange a display of goods on the table in front.

At the western side the market changes nature as local artists display their wares, pottery, carving, stonework, garden ornaments made from rusting metal. A huge freeway sign overlooks the whole event. City life.
Farmers Market


July 25th, 2015 | tags:  |

I’m pretty sure I’m not cheating on anyone, but there’s always room for doubt, so I used an online service to check

My spam quotient has quadrupled since I checked up on myself

Being paranoid is a vicious cycle

Grown up

July 16th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

IroningNow that I’m a real grown up I have to look like I know what I’m doing, look like I’m capable, at work. Theoretically I could pay someone to take my nice shirts away and iron them into fancy-flatness for me. But, um, I’d feel guilty doing that and it would take time to arrange.

There’s something very sobering about cleaning my own apartment and ironing my own shirts. It feels like I should do it, to keep my feet on the ground and all things ‘looking after yourself’ in ‘perspective. The only thing I don’t understand is why I have to iron 10 shirts every 7 days. Something is clearly going wrong here. My socks are not vanishing, I don’t wear 2 outfits a day, how come my pile of ironing breeds…..

Nice shirts Wendy? Hell yeah!

I love a good crisp shirt with cufflinks in the morning!

Non refundable deposit

July 14th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

Oh dear.

Apparently, today,  I’ve put a non refundable cash deposit down on a double kennel in British Columbia  and Chuck wants to know if I’ll pay the outstanding balance. What to do…
non refunable deposit

No bins in the cubicles

June 28th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

sanitary system instrictionsIs the sanitary towel disposal system so complex that women are unable to understand what’s expected of them? I don’t think so. Are women using the sanitary towel disposal system as it should be used? No. There’s a significant deviation from the behaviours designed into the system. I know what that is because I’ve seen the angry post-it notes on the inside of the toilet cubicles, describing of the non conformities in graphic ways, with angry words. Then a less emotive sign appeared on the inside of the cubical doors. The sign instructs users how to use the sanitary disposal system, but given knowledge of the system is not the problem this sign will have minimum, if any, impact.

What’s the problem?

A woman has to remove the sanitary towel from her pants before she can pull up her pants.

To pull up her pants she has to put the sanitary towel down (in the flowery paper bag) because pant pulling up requires two hands. The two most obvious places are on the floor or the toilet roll dispenser.

After pulling up my pants I flush the toilet, this is a strong habit ingrained over half a century of using western style toilet.

I suspect this is the break point, because the floor and the toilet roll holder are not in line of sight as a reminder of the package. It’s easy to turn and leave the room without remembering to pick up the frou frou package. picking up a package to carry into the bin under the hand dryer is not part of a normal toilet behaviour. People don’t do it anywhere else, so it’s not habit and there’s no in-situ reminder.

Now there’s a sign on the door, this will work temporarily, but then they will get used to the sign and cease to notice it… I think it’s time for me to talk to the facilities manager and request bins in the cubicles. A more usable system.


Forgetting to remember

June 27th, 2015 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

City HallTo enrol for automatic payment of Wendy loft property taxes, I had to find the right website, print a form, find a pen to write on it, find an envelope to put it in, find a stamp to put on the envelope, then it get it to a snail mail address at the Gotham city style country treasury office

They send an annual invoice with a 2 date payment schedule. The first instalment is due 6 months after the invoice

I forgot to remember to pay my first instalment

The county has a reminder system, but you need to know that you have to sign-up for the reminders. I didn’t sign-up, I assumed I would be reminded

They’re not making it easy for me to give them money on their schedule

Neat endings

June 22nd, 2015 | tags: ,  |

sunset in local-wine glassWhat makes you think that anyone would be interested in what you have to say?”

The evening had dragged on, he had killed all my attempts to make light hearted banter or explore his values. Hard work. Passive-aggressive people are tiresome. With this line he ended what remained of something I’d previously believed was a friendship of equals. Silently, I gathered my jacket, bag, stood up, took a long draw of all the wine remaining in my glass and left.

No need to trouble him with the uninteresting niceties of saying the obvious, that I was leaving.

I accidentally drank 3 bottles of wine (at work before 10am)

June 20th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

Don't drink the wine in the storeThe office door slowly opened, Tina’s face peered into the room she glanced around until her bloodshot eyes met mine and her silent finger drew me into the corridor. I made my excuses, slipping from the hot office to the cool corridor. Tina’s words were fast, agitated and broken by sniffles. I caught the main gist quickly

Brenda’s unconscious in the toilets

Oh my goodness, Have you called an ambulance, what’s happened? As we stride out towards the toilets

No, she wouldn’t want us to call an ambulance. I’m confused, this seems odd to choose not to call an ambulance on request from a currently unconscious person who isn’t a doctor

She can argue with us when, IF, she regains consciousness. Let’s call an ambulance. As we walk briskly Tina seems to be calming down. Maybe it’s my clarity of belief about what to do

She’s an alcoholic, there are 3 empty bottles of wine by her, she’ll probably recover and be really angry with us. Now I begin to understand. Alcoholism has destroyed people I know, suicides, broken families, debt. An alcoholic might not even admit they have an addiction and hiding the symptoms is something they’re extremely good at doing. I’m  angry and more determined to get medical intervention from professionals

Are we able to know that she’s unconscious just because of the alcohol, are we sure she hasn’t had a heart attack or brain haemorrhage? We’re not doctors, we can’t know, she might die for all we know I’ve already  dialled 999 while talking. Tina clearly can’t break a promise to a friend. Tina stopped crying, we walk into the women toilets.

Brenda is on the floor wedged against the door, I take advice from the paramedic. Angela is pacing the toilets, tears streaming down her face, her crying is more like screaming. I want to slap her. I suppress the urge and hug her. Angela and Tina have been trying to sort this out alone for several hours. Trying to talk an alcoholic down to get help, trying to use what they think is a mutual friendship. While we wait for the ambulance Angela and Tina pour out their stories of Benda’s long history of alcoholism. So much pain and they’ve both taken ownership of it, they’re both seemingly paralyzed by their friendship with Brenda and what looks to me like overt Machiavellian manipulation of that privilege by Brenda.

The paramedics arrive and quickly assess the situation, taking Brenda away. I explain to Tina and Angela that I’ll take full responsibility for the decision to call the ambulance, they should point Brenda to me when she comes back. Then I had to deal with my own anger. I hate alcoholism. I have my own addiction (smoking), I have some empathy with addiction but I can’t deal with alcoholism. For me it dehumanisers the addict, they cease to be a person, they become a manipulative being who’s sole aim is to feed their habit and they trample on so many good hearts along the way.

The other side

May 27th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Wendy Will it take about an hour to drive to Duluth?

3Sisters landlady: Depends if you go on our side or the other side

Wendy: the other side?

3Sisters landlady: You can drive in Wisconsin, or the other side  

Wendy: oh, Wisconsin, it’s so pretty here 

And I did, because it was…

SatNav desertion

May 25th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

SR 70 WISt Paul’s, Minneapolis, Duluth, the bigger cities of Minnesota, appear deserted during the spring weekends.

This Memorial holiday weekend I decided to drive ‘Up North’, a local spring tradition, in search of the populous. The Interstate out of Minneapolis was full of pick-up trucks loaded with, or trailing, ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles). The smaller, State Routes, had signs for ATC crossings with mud tracks leading to and from them.

I left Minneapolis after work, with a B&B booked about 2.5 hour’s drive away, according to the land lady and my SatNav. I should get there before sundown. Traffic, and having to slow down to avoid hitting the deer who jump out from the forest to wander across the road meant the journey took longer than planned.  I learned that many ‘Roads’ in the wilds, of Minnesota and Wisconsin, are not ‘paved’, ‘tarmaced’. They’re mud and gravelled. They look like roads on the SatNav, but really they’re ‘tracks’. I guess keeping them in decent condition isn’t worth the expense for the local city. Those ATVs are useful.

As darkness fell my SatNav announced that it would no longer give turn by turn guidance.


It bailed on me, in the dark.

I have no map of the wilds of Wisconsin.  I panic’d, pulled over into a soft verge and reached for my cell phone. No reception. Bugger.

ThreeSisters B&BI grabbed my Surface 1. It still showed the Bing-delivered route directions that I’d checked before leaving. Phew. I worked out where I was, memorised the distances, road names and turns then drove on.

A pleasant surprise to find my pre-SatNav skill of memorising maps and directions was still in good working order. I pulled up at the Three Sisters B&B just before the tavern opposite, Gliders, stopped serving it’s hunger quenching pizza. Just in the nick of time. Pizza to the sounds of ABBA and a host of frisky frogs. Cheerfully surreal.

The landlady joined me for Pizza and told stories of her life, those of her 2 husbands & 4 children. Awesome, such a friendly and open hearted place.

rough surface

May 14th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Since September 2013 I’ve been using a surface pro 1

4 frowns (NO! It’s just wrong) :( :( :( :(  Rating scale explained

In 20yrs of buying computers, this computer ranks as my single worst computer purchase. Expensive and ‘unfinished’.  The Microsoft surface range is already on Version3 and the company no longer manufactures compatible power-cables – that fail within 8 months anyway.  My current power cable has just died. This means I either have to get a new PC or try another power cable made by someone other than Microsoft. The last non-Microsoft produced power cable I tried lasted all of 2 months.

Furious, I was

When I first got the thing the software was all buggy, it took nearly a year of updates to get that working smoothly.

During skype-calls with mum, progressively we encountered problems where she could hear me, I couldn’t hear here her. Rebooting my surface solved the problem. Sigh.

The top volume has always been a bit too quiet for listening to music or watching films. I’ve been using a jambox to get a better volume but the sound keeps cutting-out, even when the Jambox is physically connected to the surface. It gives the impression that the hardware was too poor quality for sound production.

What to do now?

Microsoft will give me (up to) $150 trade-in on my current surface if I can take the risk that they’ve actually acted to change all the problems with the surface 1.  I’ll get a year’s free subscription to office 365 and free upgrade to windows 10 when it’s released.  Windows upgrades are not something that I enjoy spending half my weekend doing… I’m not sure $150 will cover the inconvenience because I have to mail them my old surface for them to assess if I’m entitled.  That means…

  • finding packaging, wrapping it, taking it to the post office, paying for the mailing.
  • Worst of all, that means being without a personal computer for how long? Days? Weeks?
  • I don’t get the advantage of checking the contents of my old computer against the contents of my new one

Oddly, there is still a risk I might buy a surface pro 3. I call this risk ‘optimism’ and a belief that Microsoft learns quickly from it’s mistakes..

Really, I don’t want a sensible plan, I want a new computer NOW!

Spring Garden Lutheran church

May 12th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Spring Garden Lutheran churchWhile wandering around MN, I stopped at the Spring Garden Lutheran Church, founded in 1858. It’s white wooden construction, wrought iron railings, and graveyard intrigued me.

The church itself was locked. Sadly, passing travelers like myself do not feel welcomed.

I wandered through the graveyard and admired the many Scandinavian family names, the old (1870’s) gravestones and the lush grass that gave the church it’s name.

graves, trees and sky

calling a spade a spade

May 10th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Northfield HotelNorthfield, MN.  a city about 40 miles south west of Minneapolis, has maintained much of it’s downtown (1870’s) brick architecture and attracts day tripping tourists from nearby big cities. Like me from Minneapolis.

It’s named after Mr. North who decided to found the town there when the Dakota tribe ‘ceded’ the lands in 1855.  There seems to be a particularly descriptive tone to city naming in MN.  I suspect you can visualize some of the characteristics of these cities:

  • Plain View
  • Still Water
  • Lake city

Feel’s very “Yorkshire” to me. Both influenced by the settling of people from Nordic regions.  The local college is called St. Olaf’s. There are many other names that point directly to their Nordic heritage and Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian flags hang outside the main, division Street, hotel.

Police CarDespite some impressive flour-milling-related achievements the town is best known for a bank robbery by the James-Younger gang, where 2 locals and 2 gang members were killed. The town re-enacts the robbery annually (Sept 7th) to celebrate the courage of the local townspeople.

Thinking about the law, I was fascinated by the opportunity for a close-up look at the city’s police vehicles, major protection for hitting things, cage barriers for the people in the back…


Over dramatic

May 4th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Freak hailstormOne minute everything is sunshine and light, the local dogs on the balcony are checking me out

Within the hour there are swirling winds, rain and dramatic hail.  Beating the coating off my hare and giving my guests cause to whip out their iPhones.

Wisely the guests hold on to their beers to prove my camera isn’t set on monochrome…


Low flying sofas

May 3rd, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

SpringSpring sunshine brings out the flocks of low flying sofas. Bald Eagles, fine arctic white feathers around their shiny white bald crowns and well groomed sofas freshly woken from winter hibernation

Slightly reminiscent of the UK summer flock to Matlock on lighter, faster, bikes

More ceilings

April 30th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

ceiling decorationAs the sun comes out and the youngsters start getting frisky in public places, I find myself receding into the shadier places and looking at the ceilings. I like ceilings, they keep me warm, dry, entertained, protected from sunburn – Happy. This is only my second ceiling post, but there will undoubtedly be more, I felt a fetish coming on…

In this old  (1880s?) brick building the bare bricks support and ornate plasterwork(?) ceiling with directional lighting cunningly worked into the symmetrical ceiling pattern.

Black ductingBelow this modern, uncovered, wooden ceiling the ominous black ducting contrasts with the white glass shades. The fans were silent and motionless. Are they decorative of does it really get that hot, even with big-ass ducting to help out?

Hey! look at ME!

April 27th, 2015 | tags:  |

Flourescent Orange brideThe bride wore fluorescent orange

The groom was engrossed in his cell phone. Their clothes don’t fit. Her dress is too small, his suit trousers too long and jacket shoulders too wide.

I wore sunglasses. My clothes don’t fit, I’ve been steadily loosing weight for a couple of years now.

April in Minnesota is beautiful, wedding season is in full swing here, it’s a youthful, colourful affair. This wedding party acted out poses from “Charles Angels” very cute. Smiles all around. April may have just become my favourite month

Wedding grouphoto

Antiques theme park

April 25th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

You know those permanent, indoor, antiques markets dotted around English cities and towns? They have them in the USA. The riverside city of Stillwater is full of them. It looks like whole families make day trips to Stillwater to browse through the many antiques markets. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the archaeology of different decades. The wood burners and red glassware were particularly beautiful.

Red glassware

Red glassware set and stained glass window


Wood burner, fender, vases and oil lamps


Stuff on shelves


Furniture and paintings

The British version of antiques roadshow is broadcast on the local Public (free) TV