scribbles tagged ‘reviews’

rough surface

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

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

4 frowns (NO! It’s just wrong) ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ ūüôĀ¬† 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!

rough surface
4 votes rating 3

3 bits of fabulous banter »

The human stain. Phillip Roth

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

ITV online¬†allowed me to watch¬†the¬†film of Phillip Roth’s book.¬†I was initially attracted¬†by the powerful cast including some of my favourites. Anthony Hopkins, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Nicole Kidman.

4 smiles: :)  :)  :)  :)   Ratings explained

This good rating is despite the film failing the Bechtel Test:

(1) are there  at least  2 women in  the film? (yes)

(2) Do two  women talk to each other (No)

(3) the conversational topic is not about a man (Not applicable, see 2)

As¬†society progresses to make good films that include¬†storylines that draw on the richness of life which includes women,¬† I’d like to add that the women in the film¬†with¬† speaking¬†parts¬†have names.

I’ve rated this film so highly¬†despite this prominent failure¬†because the protagonists main storyline revolves around the challenge of living in¬†a discriminatory, prejudiced culture. I recognised his challenges and could empathise with the difficulty and outcomes of the decisions he’d made.

Plot spoiler
The protagonist, Coleman Silk,¬†is the son of African Americans, his skin is pale and he can pass as a white person if he chooses to do so. We see him treated as-if he is white, the position of privilege. To me this is analogous to a woman¬†choosing a route where she¬†highlights the characteristics associated with¬†the male¬†was as a technique¬†to¬†gain the benefits associated with¬†a male privileged world. I wear a suit, I talk with the confidence associated with men. I’m confrontational in my discursive style. I recognise that these are not associated with the traditional female role.

When ¬†Coleman has the choice of mixing in society as ‘black’, going to a college that is recognised as for blacks, joining the army and declaring his ethnicity, he¬†chooses to not declare his status as a member of a disempowered group. At school I was teased for being like a boy, wearing my hair short, wearing trousers and flats shoes. All done for comfort and convenience. The teasing bothered and hurt me. But I chose to go with the values of physical comfort and convenience over conformity to avoid the aggressive, mean, teasing. Coleman doesn’t conform, he side-steps.

The film tracks significant events which lead to¬†Colemans decision, through tragic and painfully ironic¬†outcomes. Eventually,¬†¬†he finds love and acceptance for who he is by closeness with a woman who’s¬†been¬†the victim of¬†a¬†broad range of typical outcomes of being a victim of male power. Unlike him, she never had the option of denying her ‘class’ as woman. In his¬†senior years we see Coleman voluntarily walk into the type of prejudice and unstable life that he chose to avoid, with deception, in his youth.

A beautiful, painfully sad  film.

The human stain. Phillip Roth
5 votes rating 4.2

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The fall. Albert Camus

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Inspired by “The Outsider” I moved onto another Camus book¬†“The fall” knowing that the band “The fall” were named after this book, but not having read any book reviews.

Recommended for people who like deconstructing writers techniques and thinking and philosophy, whether that’s pub or academic philosophy.

3 smiles:  :)  :)  :)   Ratings explained

Two things kept me gripped through-out the book:

  1. It is¬†written as a series of one-sided conversations, where the reader is the other half of the conversation. Listening to the protagonist, rarely questioned by the protagonist. A simple idea, incredibly difficult to write. I’ve never read a book written using this technique.
  2. What is ‘The fall’? Early on the protagonist talks of his fall from being a prestigious and effective Paris lawyer to hanging around in fog-ridden Amsterdam, drinking with strangers in bars. This tracks the distance fallen, but not the actual fall. The book describes the fall, the ideas and insights bring the protagonist to Amsterdam bars.

I’m planning to read the book again because I suspect that I’ve missed many of the subtleties that it contains.¬† At the moment, I preferred¬†“The Outsider“. I suspect “The fall” might turn out to be an acquired taste.¬† I’ll re-read it with the aid of some matured whiskey….

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bargain basement girliness

Monday, January 7th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Living Social local email offersI’ve signed-up to receive offers from Living Social.

At first the offers were on a broad range of topics. The advertising photographs showed a people of different genders and ages demonstrating the product or service use.  Great diversity. I enjoyed looking at the possibilities and even purchased a few mixed gender, mixed ages, activity breaks.

More recently the offers that they send me show bigger discounts, but are on a more restricted range of topics. A lot of offers that are tailored to a stereotypical young female paranoid about how she, and her home, looks Рmake-up, hair, diets, cooking, manicures, vacuum cleaners etc. The pictures of people using the services are females that are almost exclusively young, curvaceous, with long hair, fully made-up, smooth skinned.

I feel hassled and oppressed by the algorithm they are using to select the offers that they email to me.

I’m progressively uninspired by the offers that they send me.

I’ve stopped using the offers – they’ve¬†lost my custom.

I’ve written to Living Social to ask them to change the algorithm they are using to send me offers – to regain my custom.¬†¬†I¬†don’t think Living Social will be able to update their algorithm just for me. Maybe I should re-register with a boys name and see if I can regain the diversity and activity oriented offers that I saw before Living Social decided to push the popular female stereotype at me.

bargain basement girliness
2 votes rating 4

2 bits of fabulous banter »

hold on tight!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Nicholas Ransley & Catrin AurThere was a charmingly shambolic tone to John Pryce-Jones conducting of the tasty Welsh National Opera orchestra for their Christmas Proms at Bristol’s Colston hall.

Rating: :-)  :-)  :-)

Ratings explained

Just John?

It wasn’t an Omnishambles¬†by any stretch of the imagination.¬†A completely retrievable set of miner shamblings by John that in no way seemed to undermined the orchestra’s ability to put on an awesome show. A very polished performance by the orchestra.

Christmas spirit?

The shamblings started when John introduced the 3rd piece in the set – and got it wrong. The Orchestra subtly let him know. John tried again, wrong again. By his fourth attempt he had worked-out what piece he was introducing. The audience giggled affectionately. Even the orchestra seemed amused by his unawareness of the running order. As the evening progressed and John threw in some sexist stereotypes under the guise of witty retorts to introduce each piece¬†– he seemed drunk. His keenness to hold onto the rail around the conductors stand didn’t help make him look sober.

A blacker pot

The most entertaining part of John’s performance was when he shifted from conducting the orchestra to conducting the audience. We definitely needed his help, we didn’t know the tempo, the pitch, and couldn’t even remember the words to ‘Rule, Britannia’. We surely were a bit pathetic. Even our flag waving was decidedly below-par, no wonder are no longer an empire. We were a bit damp squibb-ish.

What was the set list?

My favourite¬†was Grieg’s ‘In the hall of the mountain king’. The ‘Dam Busters March’ seemed like a bit of an outsider It certainly kept me happy and toe-tapping. I found ‘Those Magnificent men in their flying machines’ a tad more befuddling, a bit of befuddlement can be a good thing.

Musical Menu

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The outsider. Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Reading Albert CamusI found Albert Camus’s ‘The outsider” profoundly disturbing. In just under 115 pages it moves the reader from a funeral through a killing to legal conviction and sentencing with straightforward and gripping prose. The protagonist appears to lack pretention. He lives with an uncomplicated world view, within a world that requires he play a role, demostrates conformity to social complexity.

Recommended for people that find human behaviour fascinating at both human and societal levels.

4 smiles:¬† ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā¬† Ratings explained

‘The Outsider’ appears to be one of those books that teenagers are encouraged to study – there are plenty of reviews online. Somehow my teenage self missed this book, making do with¬† ‘The catcher in the rye’, ‘To kill a mockingbird‘ and slighly later with ‘On the road

Someone's notes in the 2nd hand bookI found the book disturbing because it was so easy to identify with the protagonist, to be him.  To feel his pleasure, pain, passage of time and the way others criticise any lack of socially acceptable expression of  strong emotions.

I picked up my copy from Reading town’s Oxfam, this 2nd hand copy came littered with the study notes of someone who read the book in a radically different way from me. I found the notes almost as disturbing as the book itself. The notes accuse the protagonist of being unemotional, unfeeling. Yet I read him as experiencing a wide range of normal feelings described in short sentences, using very physical descriptions.

The outsider. Albert Camus
2 votes rating 5

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Being there: GOLD highlight

Sunday, August 19th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The pinacle gold highlight position for our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking goes to:

Gold winner: being there

TryfanBeing completely there, watching where I place my foot, thinking about my balance, taking a deep breath of damp unpolluted air. My mind so totally wrapped up in the here and now that nothing bursts in. The details of work, home ownership, family membership are temporarily lost behind being on a mountain.

Even when I take a break from walking to soak-up the view I am still totally immersed in being on that mountain. The feeling is exquisit and rare. For me it compares to some unpublishable experiences and:

  • racing a Laser in a force 4 gale
  • climbing the technical move on a severe rated climb (highest grade that I managed).
  • excellent sex

This experience achieved ‘4 Smiles’ ūüôā¬† ūüôā¬† ūüôā¬† ūüôā on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

 

This highlight alone more than cancels out all the nastiness of the 3 winning downsides:

Being there: GOLD highlight
1 vote rating 4

4 bits of fabulous banter »

Full-on weather: SILVER highlight

Friday, August 17th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The much awaited silver position for the penultimate highlight of¬† our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking highlights goes to:
amazing clouds

Silver winner: Full-on weather

We left the Plas Curig Hostel holding a weather forcast of rain, sunshine, thunderstorm and hail.  Hoorah! No half-measures in this August forecast!  A veritable buffet, lots of bite-sized variety chunks.

“Duck for the lightening, avoid the ridge, and for heavens sake¬† don’t stand in the water!”

Watching the lightening strike against the black clouds on nearby peaks was exquisit. Counting the seconds ’til the thunder struck then shaking with its power.

Walking through one of the most dramatic scenes in the world, laid on just for us.  We walked on through the sunshine towards a rainbow. No camera, film crew, special effects designer involved Рjust us directly experiencing the full weather experience Рlive, unmediated. Very sexy.

This experience achieved ‘3 Smiles’ ūüôā¬† ūüôā¬† ūüôā¬† on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

This highlight more than cancels out all the nastiness of the 3 winning downsides:

 

Full-on weather: SILVER highlight
1 vote rating 4

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Good kit: BRONZE highlight

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Yay! The awards for highlights of our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking trip starting in reverse order start with 3rd place:

Bronze winner: Good kit

pathway across the screeThere was good kit all over the place. Good kit made people feel happy, warm, dry, loved and wrapped in just oodles of lusciousness. The key good kit that got hugs galore from me included:

  • Boots – that fit (NO BLISTERS), are waterproof (Goretex), green and by Berghaus in 1995. The hike guides had insightfully bought some compede plasters along to ward off blisters for the few people did suffer.
  • Jacket – early Sprayway goretext (DRY) in a rather fetching royal blue from 1995. Between us we managed a full rainbow of colours
  • Daypack – hung low on my hips carrying lots of yummy food, drink and holding emergency warm gear.¬† On the two times that I fell over I landed on my bum and this 2004 Arcteryx bum bag gave me a wonderfully soft landing.
  • Flapjack – sticky-sweet and freshly made by LargeOutdoors staff Saul and Gareth at the Hostel. Everyone enjoyed the benefit of the flapjack, no hike should leave home without some good home cooking that includes honey!
  • Welsh water – Oh my! The water in wales tastes SO good! I wish the suppliers would do a deal with Thames water.
  • Outstanding guides – the LargeOutdoor guide, Sian, was a local Welsh lass who really knew how to herd a large group of inexperienced hikers through the basics of outdoor health and safety and make sure their spirits are kept high.
  • Excellent company – friendly adults of all ages. I mainly work with people in their 30’s so it was really refreshing to meet some more plucky ladies in thier late 40s. Yoga teachers, Engineers, Working in Child protection services, Project managers…. all sorts…

This experience achieved ‘3 Smiles’ ūüôā¬† ūüôā¬† ūüôā on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

I hope that you’ll agree that this highlight feels all the more fabulous when set against the scurrilous backdrop of the recently winning downsides:

Good kit: BRONZE highlight
1 vote rating 2

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Spongy bog: GOLD downside

Saturday, August 11th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

Tryfan across the bogThe only bog I want to see from now on is white and made of porcelain (anon)

Before karmic predictability brings the awards for the mountain highs I am proud to present the gold winner of our Snowdonia hiking teams’¬† lowest experience:

Gold winner: spongy bog

The bog and lack of opportunites it ironically supplied for private, midgeless, ‘wild wees’ were the lowest point of our Tryfan hike.

The bog on Tryfan is high up, soon after the relief of summiting. It’s relatively flat open land on a gently curving ridge. See how pretty it looks:

It’s like walking on a sodden sponge

schhhhlllllop….. ….schhhhhlllllup…. ….sccchhhhhhhhhhllllllllop

There were times when I wanted to use both of my hands to pull my foot out from its last step. Thank goodness for waterproof, tightly tied-on boots. One walker demonstrated that his 6ft pole was easily swallowed by the bog, just a few feet away from our trail.¬† That depth of water could easily submerge everyone of our party. We cautiously stayed on-trail, behind our guide. Hmmmm….¬†¬† …..nice firm looking bottom ahead…..

All this water and nowhere to pee in privacy, not a pert little boulder or little rise to sneak behind. The sound of schlurping water taunted our middle-aged bladders. 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour on the bog….¬† it just goes on and on and on….

The bog broke our spirits as surely as chinese water torture.

This experience achieved ‘3 Frowns’¬† ūüôĀ¬† ūüôĀ¬† ūüôĀ¬† on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

Spongy bog: GOLD downside
2 votes rating 2

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Swarming midges: SILVER downside

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

Welcome to the 2nd in a mini series of¬† mountainous, yet not Olympian, awards for our teams’ Snowdonia hiking experiences. In the tradition of reverse-order announcements we’re first going through the downsides, then we’ll celebrate the upsides.¬† 2nd place for the downsides goes to…

a break in the bogSilver winner: swarming midges

Single handedly I saved the lives of about 100 midges by providing essential blood supplies from my face, neck and ears. More generous hikers got their arms, cleavages and backsides out for the banquet.

These midges curtailed all of our rest breaks.  Our lunch stop lasted less than 10 minutes.  It takes about 10 minutes for a few stray midges to gather a swarm and target us.  While we kept moving we just walked into stray midges,  lone biters. So generally we just kept moving and I was left popping peanuts to make up my lunch.

How do such large swarms of midges survive on the top of this mountain? Midge food in the form of other hikers and the sheep were both few and far between – so what do they eat when mammals aren’t about?¬† Are they canabalistic?

We saw quite a few happy bog frogs.¬† Frogs eat insects. Midges are insects. Those frogs really do need to up their gameplan, be much more active….

EAT more MIDGES!

¬†This experience achieved ‘2 Frowns’ ¬† ūüôĀ¬† ūüôĀ¬† on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

Swarming midges: SILVER downside
2 votes rating 1.5

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Scree scrambling: BRONZE downside

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

I am honoured to present you with the mountainous, yet not Olympian, awards for our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking downsides. The lows of the experience. These downsides played an essential role in making the highs, the upsides, so much more intense and pleasurable. 3rd place for the downsides goes to….

Up to the saddle

Bronze winner: Scree scrambling

No-one told me we’d be scrambling, we’d have to use our HANDS

The scramble was an unexpected, unpleasant, suprise for those with immaculately mannicured nails.

There were mumbles of being mislead and longing looks back. But no-one mentioned turning back.  Going forward meant that we all had to scramble.

For unmanicured, short-nailed, me – traversing the slippy slate was actually fun. A tad exciting!

Like a prince charming, one young guide took his cheeky disposition downhill to catch any slippers. Some of the girls considered deliberately Miss footing, but no-one was prepared to lose face in order to win a hand up.

 

This experience achieved ‘One Frown’ ūüôĀ¬† on the Wendy House rating scale –¬† Ratings explained

Scree scrambling: BRONZE downside
1 vote rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »

waiting for a train

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

white people #1 white people #2white people #3 Friday 16.36hrs on Sheffield train station waiting for the arrival of the delayed 16.29

It was no accident that Celeste looked up from her cell phone at precisely the moment Tim and Rachel broke their embrace to take a breath. Celeste knows where they’re going.¬† Celeste isn’t impressed by their public displays of affection, Rachel’s unatural haircolour and trashy skirt.¬† Celeste smiles to herself as she anticiaptes the inevitable landslide on the Mumbles.

Susan will not forgive Jem, not this time. It’s once too often. He can get his own ipod if he wants to get his rocks off with Primal Scream.

waiting for a train
3 votes rating 3.33

3 bits of fabulous banter »

Stranger is stranger

Friday, July 6th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

this story written on a napkin in a sushi restaurantI don’t think it was about sex. There wasn’t any sex.

It started when I noticed her in my local pub. She’d turn-up next to me at the bar when I went to buy a round. We’d exchange greetings and niceties. Or, I’d pass her when returning from the toilets and we’d exchange friendly smiles. I don’t know why she picked me.

She became an increasingly familiar stranger. During one conversation at the bar I invited her to join us.  She perched next to me, not mixing with my friends. She focussed on engaging me in conversation. The more I talked with her the further away I seemed to drift from my friends. I could see them floating away in mind and space. Leaving me,  with her, wrapped in an unpleasant isolation.

I stopped going to that pub. I enjoy feeling free. Even if I can’t go places to maintain the illusion of freedom. Then I started seeing her in the shopping centre, when roller-blading along the seafront, and worst of all – when I was walking home from work.¬† I started varying the time I left work and the route I took home. She started waiting outside the one door to the building. I knew I was being stalked. Did she know she was a stalker?

she felt like she was a car accident about to happenA game started when she walked up to me as I left work –¬† I’d ask her where she was going then turn to go the other way, when she changed her mind, I’d change my mind. The ridiculousness of the situation helped me just say

“I don’t want to walk with you or spend any time with you, I’d rather be alone, please leave me alone

what are you scared of?”

I don’t want to walk with you, talk with you or be with you, accept it, goodbye

She walked next to me, talking¬† as if I were a betraying lover that owed her an explanation. I looked straight ahead and walked on, pretending she wasn’t there, living what I wanted as if behaving like she wasn’t there would make her go away. I was extremely scared and equally determined to walk to Darren’s nearby home. She stopped at Darren’s beech hedge. I walked his garden path in the new silence feeling as-if her eyes were pawing my back.¬† Darren welcomed me with a outsized smile and hug, fed me pots of tea, listened to my burbling mess of a story before more delicious hugs and walking me home.

Alas, these things never end quite that easily

Stranger is stranger
4 votes rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

Our GPS doesn’t work down here

Monday, February 6th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Robots on the tubeA weekend trip on the London Underground (Tube) is definitiely a different experience from midweek commuter journeys. Much nicer. The travellers are wearing their weekend clothes, more colourful and varied than the business black and gray

As this circle line (yellow branding) train pulled into Paddington I could see most of the carriages were tightly packed with travellers – except one. I made my way to the half-empty carriage where I met these two Robots. Instant smiles all around. They were discussing how they didn’t know where they were because their GPS wasn’t working…

can I take your photograph?

After I’d photographed them the carriage turned into a paparazzi-style frenzy. It seemed that everyone in the carriage had a camera phone and they all wanted a picture, the best picture. They got out of their seats and vied fopositions to get the best shot. They gave the robots instructions on how to poise

point at the map, up a bit, down a bit, that’s it!”

We helped the robots to read the map so they knew where to get off the train. One man who couldn’t speak English helped the robots keep their arm-protection from falling off.

It was a wonderful experience of strangers laughing and helping each other. I like the tube at the weekend

 

 

Our GPS doesn’t work down here
1 vote rating 5

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keeping a roof on it

Sunday, January 1st, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

I enjoy reflecting on the last year, remembering all the fun things that happened and then weighing those up against the things that have caused pain. So this is an uncharacteristically long scribble. You’ll see from the bullet points below, this year has been a good year ūüôā

Highlights of 2011:

Fun with friends – Including a

  • Porthminster BeachSolstice celebration with some Berkshire locals
  • Barcelona holidaywith friends from University, Seattle, and work
  • Loughborough get together with some Doctors and an Italian from my University days
  • St. Ives meeting with a real lumberjack and an exceptionally engaging blogger
  • Bunch of local Reading town house parties – Reading town people have a wonderful community spirit
  • Wrote, illustrated, got feedback on, revised then submitted a short story to a competition (unplaced). Thoroughly enjpyed my friends generous feedback on their experiences of the story. Listening to their interpretations was fun and inspiring
  • Regular blog readers, some of you have been dropping by for all of the 6 years that I’ve been blogging! You deserve long-term service awards ūüôā thank you for all the encouragement

Fun with family – several family trips including:

  • Christmas pantomime – seeing ‘The Hoff’ play captain Hooke at the Bristol Hippodrome. The man can sing!
  • Birthday outing to see ‘We will rock you’ lots of audience participation!
  • Holiday in Hull uncovering family history from my favourite Aunt then meeting her daughter in Barcelona…
  • Wandering around the ‘See no evil’ graffiti in Bristol with my brother was fascinating – more public art please!

Fun on my own – included

  • Hat #20: English FoxyLong weekend in Dungeness – Derek Jarmans garden, light houses, power stations, bleak beaches and fabulous locals
  • Studying for and getting a PRINCE2 practioners Project Managers qualification
  • The fabulous funky barnet giving me a new Bob which appears to be a crowd pleaser!
  • Writing an article that was selected for publication in an international, professional, magazine
  • Fabulous new Miele washing machine and HTC Desire¬† phone!
  • Successfully completing all last year‚Äôs resolutions! Writing ink-pen letters, completing another painting, producing an illustrated story for a competition, home grown edible crops of¬† raddishes, spring onions and courgettes
  • finding a fabulous foxy hat – for me!
  • A pay rise and a bonus that funded my trip to Barcelona

Lowlights of 2011

  • No new roof – Waiting 7 months and making many phone calls to get the results of a pre-application for planning permission to install solar tiles on the wendy house roof. The pre-application resulted in advice to use different tiles and the builder recommended not bothering to install alternative tiles. A builder turning down work?! I took the builders advice
  • Taking a break from working as a Samaritans in favour of supporting the emotions of people nearer to home

Resolutions for 2012

Healthier lifestyle – including things like

  • Proactively use Reading’s True food co-operative more often
  • Continue using my garden to grow plants that I subsequently eat. Yummy – fresh from the garden
  • Reduce my alcohol consumption and shift to drinking wine rather than ale
  • More regular exercise of some kind built into my daily activities.
  • Get out some more. I’m still a bit of a hermit, enjoying my home and the company of Sampo

Something ‘Housey’ – maybe one of the following…

  • Paint some rooms to change their ‘mood’
  • Replace the bath – its gradually falling apart but works ok
  • Replace the fitted mdf cupboards with fitted tongue and groove cupboards
  • Get a furniture maker to design and build Edwardian style fitted cupboards around the fireplace
  • Replace the ceilings in the bedroom by opening-up the space to see the rafters and adding modern insulation to the roof from the inside

Step back up to make more socially valuable contributions – this could be

  • Re-joining the Samaritans
  • Finding, engaging in, or setting-up, a mentoring scheme for women in the IT industry
  • Investigating ways to encourage the British Psychological Society to systematically contribute to the IT industry
  • Changing the focus, content, of this blog to be more effectively supportive of a wendy-worthy cause

 

I hope your 2011¬† bought you some heart-felt smiles and 2012 will bring you more. I’d love to hear your suggestions for ways I could make this blog more valuable, relevant, to you…

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one magnetic way

Sunday, December 25th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

Labyrinths have a a physical pull, a gravity. They pull you into their pathway. Unlike a maze they provide a single pathway, there are no tyrannous choices. You walk the gentle curves that wind you slowly and steadily towards the centre. If several people walk the labrynth one after another,  they can seem to be walking in opposite dirctions, passing each other several times on their journey towards the centre. This passing prompts smiles, laughter, greetings and an acknowledgement of the shared destiny. The meeting in the middle.

There are 3 modern labrynths on the Ridgeway by Streatley. They are constructed from small trenches and rises in the ground, the rises are marked with sparsely placed local stone, flint.¬† The low hung sunlight of the summer solstice helped to highlight their presence and draw us in…

Walking the Labrynths

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bubbles from a balcony

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Carrer UnioThe little old gentleman in the appartment opposite shuffles out each morning and early evening, He smiles and waves at us, watches the bubbles we are blowing into the gap between our building. The bubbles fall towards the pedestrians below. People see them falling, spin around and laugh contagiously

In the evenings the lady in the apartment next to the old gentleman leans out, looks upward and calls to her friend 2 floors above. We see the lights in the apartment above go out then see the friends together in the apartment opposite

Another young man sits most days in a room full of books with his windows and shutters thrown wide open. Lightly dressed, often barefoot. He rarely looks away from his books. A plump, elderly lady in overalls wipes his windowsills and brushes his floors while he reads and writes. They work alone in the same apartment

We never saw the person who owned the parrot or the person who stored their bike – hanging off the balcony

At night my imagination built stories in dreams about the unseen occupants

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crapper quality criteria

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

shorty by the doorWe’ve already established that I have a healthy interest in the design, reference to, and use of Toilets.

So you can imagine my excitement when¬† Ms. Scarlet recently introduced a series of blog posts called the “Friday Flush. Scarlet will be the ‘mystery shopper’ in loos all over the South West and beyond. Excellent! As part of this¬† investigative journalism Scarlet has invited commenters to suggest assessment criteria for the loos being investigated.¬† I was having so much fun with thinking of criteria I think I’ve probably gone a little over the top, what do you think?

Aroma intensity (none <-> faint-inducing)
Aroma type (pleasant <-> acrid)
Discoverability (hidden with no signs – entrance embarressingly visible)
Drafts (Gale force 9 <-> still)
Drying technology (bring your own  <-> fresh fluffy towels provided)
Functionality (incomplete <-> swish)
Mould factor (none <-> suspicious stuff growing all over the show)
Price (free <-> entry turn style requires exact cash)
Privacy (airtight and sound-proofed  <-> ankles and feet exposed and splashes clearly audible)
Resources (bring your own <->plush)
Space ( breath in <-> synchronised wheel-chair choreography is a realistic possibility)
Sociability (one at a time please <-> sofa’s and social games provided)
Sparkle (matt <-> bum-fluff refelction)
Splash factor (dry <-> soaked)
Style (dead rat <-> yummy)
Temperature (Ice on the water <-> Oven)
Washing (taps/fawcetts  dont work <-> they even have a b-day!)
Wit (no smiles <-> laughed my pants-off)

crapper quality criteria
1 vote rating 1

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play me, I’m yours

Saturday, April 30th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

IY 1Jac Malloy posted this picture in my flickr group ‘Piano’s place in public

This is one of 16 placed around the city of Austin (Texas) as part Luke Jerram’s Street Piano’s project and Austin’s Art Week. The Street piano’s project has placed over 400 pianos with the simple instruction ‚ÄėPlay Me, I‚Äôm Yours‚Äô in cities around the world.

The piano’s are decorated by local artists, anyone can play them for as long as they want. On this blog post a young family plays on a bridge for kayakers and joggers. The pianos in public give people smiles, strangers talk to each other, people dance, people pull-out thier isolating headphones and listen to the people nearby. So very beautiful.

A statesman article reports:

Each piano’s location was strategically chosen, Walker said, so that one piano is often within earshot of another. He said he hopes people playing will be able to respond to one another, a sort of call-and-return musical duet traveling above the hubbub of an increasingly growing city. A professional tuner is assigned to each instrument to make sure all remain in working condition for the duration of the exhibit.

But the exhibit goes further than simply adding a little flavor to downtown street corners. It is mostly designed to change the way people relate to their urban environments and to instigate a sense of ownership within local residents about where they live.

People grow used to how their cities and local environments look and feel, Walker said. ‚ÄúPlay Me, I‚Äôm Yours,‚ÄĚ draws people‚Äôs attention so that they can no longer ignore their surroundings, he said. The point of the exhibit is to disrupt that familiarity with both music and the curious presence of an instrument typically seen in people‚Äôs homes

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One Plucking Thing After Another

Monday, April 4th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

http://www.ukuleleorchestra.com

The People‚Äôs Republic of South Yorkshire brings us 8 players of- Bass, Barritone, Tenor, Soprano and Fridge Magnet Ukeleles. Fresh from New York’s Carniegie Hall with only hand luggage, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain played the New Theatre Oxford to the delight of a mature audience and their teenage offspring.¬†Witty banter inbetween singing, whistling, dancing all accompanied by Ukulele playing.¬† Playing songs from one musical genre in another style, for example, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights re-interpretted in the genre of Swing bands

Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour, love of diverse musical genres or 80’s music, and Yorkshire people.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The set included:

  • Hawkwind’s Silver Machine as an ode to commuters
  • David Bowie’s Life on Mars delivered with duet lyrics from other songs. One person singing I did it my way and so on while the lead vocalist sang the main lyric. It was fascinating, creative and worked extremely well.
  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll as a polite tea party
  • Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights as a Swing band
  • Wheatus‚Äôs Teenage Dirtbag‚ÄĚ as a polite love song
  • Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK as a group campire singalong
  • Recognisable classical stuff that I am sadly ill-equipped to name
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just goes to show

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

In a corner shop, the assistant is out back in the stock room. I stand in line behind an elderly man. He looks at the racks of newspapers. The cover pages of every newspaper show pictures of Sian, a girl who’s body was recently found nearby. He turns around smiles at me

stupid women getting themselves killed

How do you reply to a statement that blames the victim, that blames the victims by virtue of their gender? I paused, thinking that even if this comment¬† was made in jest, I cannot find a way to make light of it’s mean perspective. The man watches me and starts pulling facial expressions that I cannot interpret. Facial expressions that feel agressive. There is nothing I can say to him, honestly, without giving away how mean I feel his statement was. He follows up with a loud, clipped comment

Pardon?

I didn’t say anything

I wish I’d never spoken to you

My silence appears to have redirected his meanness to me specifically, probably fulfilling what I think is a mysogenistic outlook. I wish he hadn’t spoken to me, I resisted the urge to agree with his unnecessarily nasty statement.¬† The shop assistant returned, the man settled up his bill and left. After I’d made my purchase I noticed the man had left his walking stick by the till. I picked it up, ran out of the shop found the man and silently gave him the stick.

thankyou, just goes to show…

Again, I didn’t understand his statement, there was nothing I could find to say. I suspect people with such mean spirits lead very lonely lives where people they talk to feel the need and right to reply to them with equally mean comments.

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Read dating people

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The evening started with a ¬£3 fee, a sticky name-tag, an empty-crib-sheet for notes, two opposing rows of 10 chairs, and a glass of wine. The organiser, Laura, recognised me by my bookMervyn Peake’sLetters from a lost uncle

Soon the evening was buzzing with quick animated talk as we used our 2 minute timed slots to promote our favourite book to each other. 20 people, each with 2 minutes to entice another person to read their favourite book. At the end of the 40 minutes we all voted for the book we liked-best.

A fascinating cross section of books, people and Library staff. All personable, quirky and good natured. And me. Organising this diverse collection of literary enthusiasts is a challenge. The Reading Central library team failed with flare and  improvised with charming grace.

For people that want a novel introduction to a range of books, to meet local people, and have a good swig of wine thrown in, this is an excellent event.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Read Dating crib sheet

Two minute book promotion techniques varied from reading 4 pages of bulleted notes on a book I’d been given as an 18th birthday present, read, and loved (Lynne’s Gormenghast trilogy) to Marie Claire’s brief, almost self-apologetic, statement ‘Its like a soap opera, its about people‘ (Men from the boys by Tony Parsons).

Adam produced a polished, yet souless, advocation of Wuthering Heights. If I hadn’t already read the book his persepctive ofnHeathcliffe as misunderstood by the general reading public would have put me off reading it. Adam had no sense of tailoring his delivery to the audience, to me. His delivery felt cold, dispassionate.

Arathy bought the book that had changed her life ‘The science of self realisation‘ by his divine grace Srila Prabhupada. Ernestly she showed me chapter headings and managed to talk in a way that I found difficult to follow. I tried asking her questions about how it had changed her life but she didn’t manage to give me an insight into her revelations, her life before and her life after the change. I was pleased for her discovery but not persuaded that this book would engage me.

During a mid-session break I uncovered snippits of these people’s lives, an emigrant from Australia, an unemployed teenager from Henley-on-Thames, and a mother who’s children had recently left home learning German to fill the gap. No-one asked about me. Even in the midst of lively conversations my ability to feel invisible seeps in.

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beware the trees

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

trees are evil

with this one comment you intrigued me and raised the possibility that you were ever so slightly on a planet very distant from planet wendy 

How does that work, how are trees evil?

Tree bridges road

With an earnest expression you explained how they obscured street-signs so that you missed your turning or got lost in unfamiliar areas. They dropped leaves on sidewalks making them unclean and more slippy than is acceptable. They harboured birds that could poop on you as you walked underneath.  As you started the litany of tree crimes I had to work to subdue my smiles. As the list grew and your earnestness was maintained I felt the need to defend the behaviours of the trees, but decided not to take a contrary position on a topic that clearly raised strong emotions.

Later that evening you mentioned your allegy to mud, dirt.  In the ensuing conversation I let a giggle slip through. Not good, from then on I became the accomplice of the evil conspiracy. You needed to aggressively eradicate me, like dirt. Luckily, you moved to California before I felt the full force of your hygiene enforcement

beware the trees
1 vote rating 5

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golightly glasses

Sunday, February 6th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Optical Express said they could replace the lenses in my ski-chic wrap-around graduated-grey tint,  reflective Ray Bans for a reasonable price. Hooray. Phew! I was thrilled at being able to get the lenses replaced in my favourite glasses.

That’s the highlight of the story over. It’s downhill from here on in, though luckily no broken bones.

3 frowns: Ratings explained

The following summary actually omits many of the details that added to the paucity of my experience. I made 4 trips to pick up my glasses, each time and transport:

  1. Optical Express explained that their ‘labs’ no longer had the specialist equipment so the glasses had been sent to another lab and I’d have to come back next week
  2. On this visit they made me wait in line, did not know what had happened even after checking their computers to find that my glasses work had been put ‘on hold’. The labs were not answering the phone so they suggested that I come back next week,¬† when they knew more, Sigh
  3. This visit they explained that actually they could not fit new lenses in my current frames, but they could give me 5%  (about £6.00) on a different, new, set of Ray Ban frames. This discount amounted to less than my cumulative busfares for the previous trips to pick up the glasses. I turned down the measley offer, explaining why, and asked for my glasses back saying I would go elsewhere. This prompted them to offer 50% off a new frame (£60) which I rashly accepted, and selected a Holly Golightly pair of Ray Bans
  4. Finally picked up my old glasses, without new lenses, and new glasses with new lenses. New lenses were scratched. How poor is that? I gave-up and walked out

It seems that British optical laboratories provide customers with substantially fewer lens treatment and fitting services than those in the USA (tint colours, coatings). Opticians prefer to sell you a whole new pair of glasses than try and replace lenses in existing frames. Even more sadly, Optical Express lead me to believe they could supply a service that they could not, then compounded this by substandard service. I’ll be going elsewhere to replace the lenses in my other glasses.

Generally rather disappointing

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before the people

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Covent GardenAt 11am on a January morning. Covent Garden wakes late and stays up late. I like the quiet charm before the

shoppers arrive

tourists arrive

theatre, opera and ballet attendees arrive

Covent Garden sparkles in the evening with laughter and smiles, people warmly dressed and chattering, clicking heels and long dresses, Dinner Jackets and cigars. Full of people it is a different place, just as beautiful

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Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Lightening SeedsYour average height, 5″5 ¬ĺ, English gal standing in the stalls at a gig (Pop concert) has to decide whether to crane her neck for a view or

DANCE her socks off

Given the bands were Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds the decsion was easy – I opted for sock abondonment. Whenever I glanced up and between the gently rocking plumpified bodies of the middle-aged couples afront I could see fabulous back-drops and light displays. Displays clearly designed to entertaining the heightedly-average person such as myself. Good show. It was.

During the interval I joined the logistic challenge of ordering beers by acting as part of the chain to pass them from the bar through the 10-person deep seemingly random crowd that was actually multiple orderly queues. I’d forgotten the subtle skills and social coordination necessary to purchase a round of drinks at a sell-out concert in a large venue. It was fun, I got to meet and talk to other people in the Queue about their journey’s to the gig, their past experiences of seeing the bands. It’s a friendly psuedo-muddle.

SqueezeBy lifting my arm into the air I gained a snapshot into what the world looks like for taller people and those average heighties who are prepared to wear ankle-threatening high  heals. With only 6 inches difference in height the world would look so different.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The Lightening Seeds sang the life of Riley

Squeeze sang up the junction

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cartoon noir

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

the girl with the dragon tattoo over 500 pages by Stieg Larsson in his first novel.

A good read for people that enjoy¬†an investigative story with some dramatic twists without details of emotional complexity or strings of fancy adjectives. I¬†finished this with about 6 hours of reading. My interest was held firmly for the first 4/5ths, then I had to work at the last fifth. The last fifth made sense and tied up a lot of ends, but felt a bit too much like being ‘tidy’ in a fairly predictable way.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Surprisingly, most of the online book reviews that I’ve read (The Guardian, The Times online) seem to focus more on telling the storyline and speculating about¬†the late authors¬†likely influences. They didn’t really give me sense of¬†¬†the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Unlike Alfred Knopf’s¬†¬†The New York Observer review. Knopf¬†states the books popularity in¬†Europe¬†then makes an upfront fairly negative evaluative comment for the¬†US audience –¬†‘The book is terrible, but there‚Äôs certainly something to it’.¬†¬†Knopf uses lovely words like ‘preposterous’ and ‘ridiculous’ to describe the¬†incidents and storyline.¬†¬†This wasn’t my experience. The book storyline was nothing more preposterous than a combination of¬†Joseph Fritzls story¬†with¬†Nick¬†Leeson bringing down Barings bank¬†with the connection strategy being a journalist.¬† Believable. But Knopf does have a point. There were times when the storyline or characters shifted from plausible to a comic style, exaggerated characterisation.¬†¬†Both good and bad guys appeared to have super human abilities.¬†For me this was actually a strength, I was rooting for the heroine to pull fabulous, unexpected, stuff and she did not disappoint. I wanted the bad guy to be a cunning, nasty person with no redeeming features. Stieg delivered.

The book’s Swedish title was ‘Men Who Hate Women’ and book sections start with surprisingly low¬†Swedish statistics that describe violence against¬†women and its impact. At first I wondered why, then I realised that the girl is probably supposed to be some incarnation of a feminist hero. To me, she is clearly a male construction of a feminist heroine. Not an everyday hero.¬†She is a¬†difficult to recognise extreme character. It felt like a¬†shallow deptiction. She reminded me of the well meaning outlaws in US westerns, betrayed by the system they operate outside it. Masculinised roles resorting to violence and activities outside of the law to achieve their own ends. The book had an angle that appeared to celebrate the international crisis of violence against women by making it into the core theme for a piece of entertainment.

Knopf’s assessment of Stieg’s writing style ‘To call the dialogue wooden would be an insult to longbows and violins’ suggests to me¬†that Knopf”s not spent much time in the company of Scandinavians. It doesn’t¬†recognise that there are differences in the way they think, see and value things.¬† Steig doesn’t provide long adjective strings and rich emotional descriptions. Steig tells you what is happening and lets you bring your interpretation to the framework he supplies. I found Steig’s writing style engaging, though the last part of the plot¬†lost my interest.

I wont be reading the next 2 books in the series, 500 pages of a shallow cartoonish, masculinised heroine for womanhood was enough for me.

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The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, by Paul Strathern

Monday, September 20th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, by Paul Strathern

Recommended for people who love reading history books or are fascinated by the Medici family.

ūüôā¬† one smile. Ratings explained

On the good side¬†the journey through the family’s history we meet Michelangello, Botticeli, Galileo, lots of Popes¬†and all sorts of kings and queens of France and Spain. Murders, double dealing, cunning plans galore. Lots of fascinating goings-on.

My brother started reading this book and gave up one third of the way through. Mumzie read it and loved it. I was determiend to get to the end, hoping it would get a bit more gripping and less like a History course text book.¬† Though other reviewers cite it’s strength as being the non-academic writting. Academic writing must be deadly tedious.¬†This book was a bit too dry given how fabulous the story actually is. I started reading this 400 page tome¬†in December 2008 and finally finished in August 2010. Way too long.

I have not seen the PBS TV production, I suspect it is probably a much more rewarding experience to watch this series than read the book.

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city of love

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Tour EiffelEarly evening In Paris, in the company of a recently married couple, leaving our hotel in search of the Tour Eiffel. Will we walk? Will we ride bus 63 then 24? Will we take the metro? Do we want to get there quickly or have a beer first?

The map with the metro and bus routes rustles she checks routes and numbers. The map never leaves her hands yet the decision making is clearly mutual. I chip in ‘Hoorah’ when having a beer is thrown into the mix then comment¬†that I don‚Äôt mind how or when we get there.

The discussion takes minutes, it’s like an elegant dance. If alone I would already be sat in that bar drinking a beer, watching the world go by, listening to people and relaxing. In their company I am happiest to be stood on the street corner listening to the uncovering of each others values, finding out what works best for both of them,  together.  It’s sensible, practical, sometimes funny, time consuming. It’s love. I am watching love happen and glad to be temporarily touched by it’s closeness.

My understanding of a couples’ love has been changed by not having lived in it for over a decade.¬† I‚Äôm not speaking of the love of family, friends, my recently departed Matrix or her remaining companion. I‚Äôm speaking of the sharing and merging of selves. In my last decade there was the too-sluggish death of a rejected love, skirmishes into sexual relationships, the love of close friends and cats.¬† My view on the love between a couple is now mainly drawn from strong memories of my 4 very different loves from the last century, watching and listening to others, and the stories told in books, films, blogs and newspapers.

Tour EiffelThe loves that I see shining brightest is in sharing the detail of living. Things like shopping for food, preparing a meal, deciding how to spend the evening. All show love. Maybe those of you who are living in love find this odd when the passion and joy in the laughter, warmth, smiles, praise, sex, and scents can be so wonderfully intense and engulfing.  I can find laughter, warmth, smiles, praise, sex and scents in my life. When I’m with friends and family there is also the mutual knowledge of sharing the detail of life with someone who has gradually built an understanding of what works.  When the passion and the detail meet with another single person, this is the couples love. Not part of my life.

We stopped for some golden beers before taking the Metro to the Tour Eiffel. We danced through the park basking in the glory of the tower’s golden night-time plumage.

This post is dedicated to Paris, the traveler, her first love, her husband, and the memory of Matrix.

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