Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Sad bunny...

Where, I wonder, is the transition between over-grown adolescent and dirty old man?

After a couple of years where, though I had a DVD drive on my home computer, I didn't actually use it as such, only its CD-R capabilities, this autumn, I've started to spend more time in front of the virtual square-eyed monster - as noted previously, I gave up the TV in the '80s because I resented paying the TV Tax for the rubbish on air, and that was just before video players became mainstream rather than luxury goods, so I never got into the habit of watching movies at home.

In the past, I've often used the 20:00-22:00 slot after supper and before bed as hacking time, working on one freeware project or another, so a movie would overwrite the bulk of that slot; but my home coding usually goes inversely to the amount of coding (as opposed to design) I'm doing at work, and this autumn that rule has meant no drive to cut code after hours. So the evening becomes a bit of mail filtering, any downloads I've identified, and then it's about 9pm, so there's a slot where I can fit in something a bit more bite-sized, like the odd episode of The Water Margin, or yielding to watching girls'n'guns anime.

And it's the latter that prompted the original question. I mean, how sad is it to go trawling for freeware region-free DVD playing programs for Windows just to be able to make use of disks that were only issued in the region 1, some time in the mid-90s, and so I don't have to reboot into Linux to use them. At the moment I'm using the VideoLan client, which may not be the slickest player around, but does have the advantage of playing Region 1 disks while leaving the drive "cherry" (as the Yanks would put it). And all to watch episodes of Original Dirty Pair [who do look better in motion - hair especially - than when still, though I still hew to my original discovery of the two, and consider the early Adam Warren visualization as the best of the canonical-costume versions].

But if that wasn't sad enough, I actually went out trawling fan sites, and stumbled across an on-line translation on line of the first of the Dirty Pair original treeware-published stories - The Great Adventure of.... I don't know how old and what experience the author had when he wrote it, but it reads like my own teenage juvenilia (prior to the stuff I kept and have put on-line) in its simplicity of plot and character motivation - but at the same time shot through with touches of promise - or at least things where from the viewpoint of 20+ years on, one can see hints at the use of tropes that didn't come into the SF genre until much later, for all that it is laced with solidly retro spaceship-fiction tropes too.

Perhaps it has to do with the optimism and vitality of the Japanese economy at the time (when it was going to rule the world) which moved over to the States in the 90's, and fuelled the ever-Higher Beyond feeling that permeates the Adam Warren comics.


From time to time at work I'm called upon to do interviews. And for that reason, I'm entirely unhappy with certain aspects of government policy.

I'm ashamed that a government from a generation of people who benefited from free university education, including a maintenance grant are simultaneously kicking away the ladder that allowed those, like myself, from poorer backgrounds, to get an advantage in life that my parents never had, while diluting the worth of a degree. On the former, I know I'd have been very reluctant to take on the size of debt that a modern student when not in a position of knowing what I'd be doing afterwards that could hope to clear the balance. On the latter, if your aim is to get 50% of the year cohort through higher education, and allowing for the bright entrepreneurial sparks who go and make money instead, that means you're going to be - by definition - opening the doors to people with 2-figure IQs.

To cope with that courses - certainly in the computing arena - seem to be caught by the need not to fail too many of the marginal cases. This leaves us with new graduates - even those with new-minted M.Sc.s by examination on a one year course [sub grumble - my M.Sc. was a cashing in of a Ph.D. thesis that got credited for two years worth of work, since my 2nd year was spent going around in circles beating on an apparently intractable paradox. That's a real degree.] - who really don't have much of a clue.

Oh for the days of 15-20% intake where the students could be stretched, without worrying about how to pay for a second-rate qualification.

Oh, what a beautiful morning...

Setting out just after 07:30, the sunrise was a red band in the rear-view mirror; the rest of the sky was grey, textured with fractured cumulostratus. A couple of miles on, and the rear-view was rose, gold and lavender; another mile, and the gravestones in the churchyard ahead were glowing tangerine, while the palest pinks had leapt past overhead, and were now to be seen on all the clouds around. Another couple of miles, and all the rear view was hot gold. Two miles further, and red brick buildingd were glowing in the first horizontal light of the risen sun, and the trees burnished with fiery light.

And then the sun rose past the window beneath the cloud layer, and all the colours faded.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Let it rain...

What a weekend - two solid days of grey and rain, the light going not that long after 15:00. It was nice four weeks back that the drought broke after some months, and the garden - and water table - need a lot of gentle just-more-than-drizzle to replenish over the autumn; but this was a bit much. We'd been spoilt with the previous dry weekends into actually doing some tidying of the garden. Now we have the soggy state that left the compost unused for previous years because the garden wasn't in a state to receive it.

So I spent a lot of time at the computer - extracting user facing strings from FOX 1.1.41, so it can be localized; a topic that no-one on the foxgui mailing list has ever raised - which speaks well for the US idea that international means including Hawaii and Alaska too...

And then doing a lot of fiddling with HeroQuest character sheets, and watching some DVDs.

Wet weather also meant a lot of alternately stir-crazy and soggy moggies. *sigh*

Friday, November 21, 2003


It's the last rag end of autumn fading in dull grey into winter. My mood tells me that I've not been getting enough sunlight these last couple of days, so it's going to have to be SAD-hat time for the next few evenings at least.

Not that the world is helping. Setting aside imbecilities perpetrated by some of my colonial colleagues - not quite as bad as last year where tooth-grinding annoyance led to dental work - there's the whole world. If I put on the radio in the car, I have the choice of popular music stations (which seem to be 60+% motormouth presenters who are too full of themselves and seem to belive that we live for the sound of their voices, 20+% unlistenable music - manufactured pap or shouty stuff - and the rest mostly harmless), news and current affairs (which is either depressing [terrorism], boring [media self consumption - celebrity stuff, however masked as investigative journalism], or both [Westminster politics]), so in increasing Grumpy Old Git-dom, I end up listening to the Third Programme - which is fine when it's plain classical, or world music, but I still really, really, cannot stand opera, lieder and jazz that's sung in that sort of style.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

More politics

A few days ago, I did the Political Compass test. Following that one, I discovered another, which is collecting results as before.

I end up aligned pragmatic-left, which is a surprise, since I find that my views are usually closely allied with the Economist, which is gung-ho free trade.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

All change...

After some thought, Peter and Janet have decided to swap, chop and change characters. Peter is now intending to play the same sort of weakling character, but as a hunter, and initiate to Odayla, while Janet will play the merchant, and initiate to the default-weirdo cult for such things of Issaries. And I'd had such hopes for the original ideas. For one thing they all had mythic antipathies to Darkness. Ho hum.

Keeping a tradition alive

It's always been assumed (at least since campaigns became more than a dungeon which characters appeared in out of a between-time limbo) that in FRPGs, the PCs are misfits and trouble-makers. This was amply proved again the other night when I started character generation for some HeroQuest.

At the moment it's only Karen, Peter and Janet. Young Elizabeth was too busy writing a D&D 3e character generation program in VB4 with all the tables of skills and what-not in Access; and at not yet 11 she was demonstrating hacker persistance in extending and fixing it until, after much convincing, she agreed it was time for bed. [I must say I was impressed - if one ignores the fact that she's used a lurid colour scheme, and assumes a given screen resolution, it's actually a well featured and systematic program.]

I started by running them across a version of the on-line clan generator, stopping before the Lunars come on the scene, as that's when I want to start the campaign. They managed to build a clan that was Balanced when Heort showed the way; it ended up in modern times as a Peace clan, but one whose favourite gods included Urox and Humakt! This game it's not only the PCs who are going to be odd...

At that point we started the first bit of the character descriptions - filling in the blanks in the initial "[Name] is a Heortling [profession]. [Pronoun] is a [relationship] to [deity]."

So after a couple of hours explanations, discussions, and passing books around, we have

  • a merchant, initiated to Desemborth the Sly Breeze - according to Peter's outline of character concept (the words still have to be firmed up) he's an avowed non-fighter, and disappointment to his family. So having lighted on the thief sub-cult of Orlanth as the obvious complement to his profession, but really not wanting all the Combat affinity and expected skills of the usual location as part of the Adventurous aspect, and not being respectable enough for Allfather, will have to reach Orlanth though his Thunderous aspect instead.
  • a hunter, initiated to Gavren the Hunter, the subcult of Yinkin the Cat.
  • a warrior, initated to Vingamakt the Defender (Vinga with sub-cults of Defender Storm and the Orlanth Thunderous sub-cult of Helamakt the Warrior Storm).

This leaves them all with 89 words to use; and I can see the two latter characters picking up alynx followers or sidekicks.

I was intending to start off with some of the material from Barbarian Adventures, modified for a starting date in the 1590s - but with the majority of the players being female, and the PCs being same-gender, the sections that assume the default all male (even in the modern-day when that's only usually the Orlanthi all) party, will be, shall we say, interesting.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Kids these days

Visiting friends with children this weekend, I was astonished as always at how messily kids seem to eat these days. I've seen some who were already at school, but at meal times would be wrapped up in a plastic gown to keep the spillage from their clothes. My earliest recollections of eating properly (i.e. with knife, fork and spoon) were at about age 3, when I know I was scraping dishes clean to get every last scrap. Perhaps kids are being fed too much simply accidentally, so they have no incentive to worry about waste.

Though the particular messy eater in question has other naughty habits. On a previous visit, he started pawing at the pie put out for dessert while dishes were being fetched, and was told off. This time he was doing it again, reaching out with the fork he'd kept from main course (he being the last to finish eating), claiming, when told off that it was because he was still hungry that he was wanting to help himself. I pointed out that if that were true, there was a lot of his dinner still on the table around him for him to eat, and was told "I can't eat that. It might be rotten."

Someone, it seems, is overdoing the food hygiene message, methinks, if a six-year-old is parroting such.


The garden is continuing to subside slowly. The apple trees shed all their leaves, bar those on the newest growth, over the last week, and the California Poppies have at last stopped flowering. The fuschias continue to bloom as are the pelargoniums on the patio, and I needed to do some finger-and-thumb work on some of the rose-buds that are starting to open, to remove the continued aphids.

Clearing the dead parts of the escholzias and some weeds from the front did make room for a thick mulching with the composted elder plus clematis from the pollarding in late May, which means that there's now room in the garage to move even with the two wheelie bins.

Road improvements

I'm getting rather hacked off with Halifax Visa - they used to send my statements out to arrive at the beginning of the month, so I had a couple of weeks to get around to paying. Recently they've started sending them out later (dated the 3rd, arriving on the 11th) with a due date of the 22nd, less the week or so to allow for archaic sloth in the banking clerance system.

This month, the statement didn't arrive until Saturday lunchtime the 15th, so needed paying the same day to allow the recommended delay. Fortunately, it was a nice day, so I took the opportunity to get on my bike and cycle into town to my bank to pay it in.

This being the first time for a few weeks that I'd been on my bike, the first thing I noticed was exactly how quickly one gets out of the habit - a month ago, it would have been just as natural as walking round the corner. This time it felt a bit like work.

Also in the interim, two things had happened along the route. First, the National Hedgelaying Championships had been held next to the cyclepath, so now rather than having a hedge made of wrist-thick trees a couple of man-heights tall, there is chest-high plaited hedge all around a junction where a 'B' road joins the 'A' road that the cyclepath follows, with the left turn being a nigh-on 120 degree angle. Having the visibility on what was a blind corner is great.

Further on, the cyclepath goes by the side of the road over the M11, and where it goes up to the bridge on either side, the soil has been subject to subsidence. The path was just about cyclable for about a handsbreadth from the kerb where it joined the bridge, there otherwise being a serious step; and on the town-ward side, the path is starting to slide down the slope to the left. In the same intervening period, a line of blocks has been placed narrowing the road, so that cyclists could use the meter-strip at the edge of the road instead of the cyclepath. I had fondly assumed that as a couple of weeks had elapsed, the repair work would be well advanced. But no. All that's been done is to put in a dropped kerb at each side of the bridge and a diversion sign. So much for a transport policy to encourage the cyclist.

Please give (blood) generously

Friday night it was time to take Smoke back to the vets for another blood test for hyperthyroid, and a repeat prescription. Last time, the sample was taken from a vein in his throat while he was under for the dental work also being done. This time he was conscious, and is back up to 6kg, filling out from being almost all skin and bone.

So as the vet advances on his right forearm with the scissors to clip back the fur, he starts to retreat. An assistant is called in to hang onto said hind limbs. Smoke starts to howl, with all the resonance of a large chested (ex-)tom, and flail with the other forepaw. So I hang onto that, as the vet tries to get the needle into a vein.

At this point I become very glad that Smoke no longer has his two top canines, as he sinks his teeth into the back of my hand, and keeps them there while the vet has to make a second puncturing of the skin to actually find the vein. At this point, Smoke loses bladder control - and being a big cat, he did not do this by halves (even when just spraying to mark territory, he lets fly with spoonsful) "<Expression of surprise> - he's pissing for England here!" was the vet's reaction.

By now a little blood had accumulated in the sample tube - maybe a quarter of a cc at most - and probably about the same as I'd now leaked, so we called a halt, while I was directed over to the vet's scrubbing sink and heavy duty surgical antiseptic wash. At least that meant that the vet and her assistant were left to mop up.

I then had to go back and wait until the test results came out, since we only had a couple of days worth of pills left, so we could get a proper repeat prescription, and the other folk asked wonderingly what had been going on. Smoke had stopped bleeding long before, but my hand was still oozing slowly.

Upshot was that he was now down to low-normal thyroid levels, so we could back off to one pill a day. Fortunately they are the size and colour of large red lentils, so dosing Smoke isn't too much of a pain, especially now that he associates the ordeal with being fed the extra tasty senior-cat formula food, though if he starts to look scrawny again we'll go back up to two for a while - overdoing the dosage just leads to a fat and lazy hypothyroid cat, rather than anything serious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Martial Arts Carnage

A few days ago, I wrote about having bought the first season's worth of the Water Margin on DVD. The show was shown at least 3 times on TV from the early '70s to the early '80s, and on the last showing, at least, had been cut by at least 5 minutes per episode.

The cuts usually removed bits that might be considered to be a little gory - so when I saw that the package was digitally remastered, and given a 15 certificate, I'd hoped I was getting the complete version.

Alas, no!

Watching disk 2 last night, the flashback start of episode 4 showed Lin Chong's fatally wounded wife stumbling into the river, with the water going red all about her - but the previous episode had been entirely sanitized. Also missing from ep 4 was Hu San Niang's younger sister taking down all but one of the ruffians who accosted her using her blowpipe, leaving the last to cringe; and the confrontation between the sisters ("I am as good as you are, elder sister." "Go home anyway, younger sister." "Let's fight!" dagger parries darts and the elder sister betters the younger) leaving a scene where we see the elder holding a dagger at the younger's throat, and then the younger riding off with a comment of "She'll do what she's told, now." which would be mystifying to anyone who didn't remember 30 years back to the un-cut version.

Admittedly, having watched this sort of thing as a teen, it's possibly not surprising that I didn't find the rather clinical violence in Kill Bill to be particularly gruesome.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Quiz stuff

Trying the test at http://www.mindmedia.com/brainworks/profiler gave me the following, which, in the text form, does seem to fit (at least as well as the average horoscope:) ) :-

Your Brain Usage Profile

Auditory : 38%
Visual : 61%
Left : 75%
Right : 25%

Steve, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times.

An enneagram test tells me I am Type 1w9, Social:

Conscious self
Overall self
Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism |||||||||||||||| 66%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||| 34%
Type 3 Ambition |||||||||||||| 58%
Type 4 Sensitivity |||||||||||||| 54%
Type 5 Detachment |||||||||||||||| 62%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||| 38%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||| 42%
Type 8 Hostility |||||||||||| 42%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||||| 54%
Your Conscious-Surface type is 1w9
Your Unconscious-Overall type is 3w2
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Much ado about nothing

So the tabloids are whipping themselves into a frenzy, while a certain royal servant is keeping his head down. It was the same years back with Camilla vs. that awful selfish manipulative plastic Barbie-doll royal broodmare (of whom, good riddance*). And all this is supposed to be shaking the rotten edifice of the monarchy to its core!

These people have no sense of history. When we have the shining examples of Henry VIII and Edward II to look back on, to name but two, what's going on with Big-Ears is hardly novel. I'm personally more concerned with his talking to trees and general mystic noodling.

While I am, as an Englishman of my generation, loyal to the core to Her Majesty Elizabeth II of England, I really don't feel the same about the available successors. That said, any of them would be better than President Thatcher or Rev. Prez. Tony, which is the sort of thing that we'd be in line for if we got rid of the current rebadged House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

[* - My most ambiguous 40th birthday present - her funeral, which rather disrupted trying to get beer in for the party and surprised me in the creepy mourninger than thou hysteria, when my first reaction to the news on the Sunday evening previous had been "Ding dong, the bitch is dead!". Any other week, and Mother Theresa's** death would have been headlined, not bumped to the end of the news bulletins.]

[** - yes, I know that particular idol also had feet of clay - I'm more trying to look at the normal priority things would have been accorded.]

Remember, Remember

Saturday was the village fireworks and bonfire. This is a good place to get rid of the large bits of burnable waste that build up over the year. This time it was the results of pollarding an elder tree whose outer branches were mainly dead and some rotten. All the stuff <1" in section and the creeper growing up it were shredded and is now composting down in a dozen bin-liners in the garage, but the main branches were left intact - about a dozen or so pieces.

With a small car, this would be awkward to transport, so I usually tie the tow rope to big bits and just drag them the few hundred yards. But this year there were about a dozen such bits. So I sawed up the bits up to about 2" thickness to fit in the green wheelie-bin (which is now full again for the collection on the 21st), and only had half a dozen lumps, which went as one on each end of the rope, and one carried.

Other people were using trailers to bring in smaller amounts of hedge clippings and the like - exactly the sort of stuff I'd shred and compost myself, or, nowadays, put in the green bin.

And as Sunday started fine, it was also time to do something about the compost, as the previous two wet autumns had meant I'd not actually deployed any, and the bins were getting full to bursting - hence the overflow into the garage. The vegetable bed (apart from where the broccoli is growing) is now heavily layered with most of one heap, and the bed under the lilac tree that gets the full summer sun, and is generally parched and poor quality soit the rest, and much of another. Apart from a few feathers, that second pile has done a good job of reducing the carrion from uneaten cat kills (mainly pigeons and squirrels) to useful organic material.

I recall reading some years back a pathologist saying that the average compost heap was better than an acid bath for getting rid of unwanted bodies, and in the limited case at hand, I can say that he was right.

Now we have the green bins, input of prunings and grass clippings will reduce, except as to leaven the wet waste that isn't accepted - things like windfall apples from next-door's tree that always leaves a cider-smelling horizon in the bins - things may get more under control, though there is currently about a bin's worth of rotted material still to deploy, and two bins each about half-full of the un-rotted material from the tops of each heap, as well as the stuff from the garage.

Some of that latter will probably all go in the front garden, where the bed in the centre is almost sandy in texture, once the escholzia's finally stop flowering, and can be pulled up.

Steve talks politics - shock

Reading London Lifer the other day (6-Nov-03) I spotted a reference to the Political Compass test to locate you on a left/right vs authoritarian/libertarian scattergram; and a collection that is plotting such a scattergram for the blogosphere.

I plotted out as just about centre on the left/right axis (+0.38), and weakly libertarian (-2.1). On another such quiz I saw some years back, which cut off the corners of the Political Compass diagram to give a diamond, I came out about 1/4 the way from the libertarian pole towards left. I think it was this one, or something a lot like it.

Participatory democracy for me is a bit of a non-event. Save for the heady years of the mid-80s where I lived in a 3-way marginal constituency in Stevenage, my vote has been in one solid Tory seat after another - the current one is, to first approximation, 50% Tory, 25% Liberal, 25% Labour. Only in local council elections has my vote ever counted towards anything that might be considered as "voting the bastards out".

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Welcome to the future

In the '60s the future was holidays on the moon, space stations and monorails everywhere. By the 1970s, it was doom gloom, resource crises and all the rest of the Club of Rome Limits to Growth scenario.

So it's well past 2001, and I have seen the space station go over, though I can't catch a scheduled PanAm flight up there just at the moment. And it looks like we're more into the 2nd of the Limits to Growth scenarios - take off resource input restraints, and it's pollution that chokes things off. So inter alia our local council is having a go at killing both birds with one stone and imposing a fairly draconian waste policy.

As a consequence, I spent some time this morning sawing up corrugated cardboard boxes to fit into the new green recycling wheelie-bin that we had delivered yesterday, for tomorrow morning's collection. The bins were supposed to be deleivered a couple of weeks before the first collection using them, but that's the way things are, so I had to make use of the only intervening daylight to go through the accumulation of "not recyclable yet" stuff from the garage that now could be put out.

There is a bit of the "living in the future" about going through all the bins and putting plastics, used cat-litter and other insanitary stuff into one pile, paper into another, card another, metals in yet another, and glass in another. Just not the future that I'd been hoping for when small.

The new wheelie-bin scheme will have collections of green waste and other recyclables one week, and the non-recycled the other - which means that if you're away on holiday on a black-bin week, the waste will be 4 weeks old when finally collected. I just hope that the rigorous separation will reduce the amounts above the irreducible non-recyclables so that 3 weeks worth will fit in a bin. The green bins are useful, though, as the garden generates more compostable waste than I can make use of, so having an official way of handing off rose prunings, grass clippings and similar compostables will eventually free up some space in the set of compost heaps behind the garden shed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Eastern delights

One of the good things about DVDs is that I can watch films at home without needing a TV. And not only films. I indulged myself a little at the weekend - going up to London and visiting the Virgin Consumatorium in Oxford Street I picked up the collected boxed set of The Water Margin first season, a bit of nostalgic TV history for me - and, I suppose, many of my generation as teens in the '70s. Watching the first two episodes showed that yes, they are as much fun as I remembered. And this looks not to be the butchered-for-rerun version that removed the slight amounts of gore. [But then I didn't find Kill Bill to be terribly gory, either.]

I also tried another oft recommended martial arts movie (Zu : Warriors of the magic mountain) and decided that even the good ones are rubbish. This makes it 3 strikes and out for this genre as far as I'm concerned, as I do tend to prefer to have some level of narrative flow connecting the scenes (even as perfunctory as Hollywood is at the same, it manages better than this).

And as a sheer bit of silliness, the first two Dirty Pair - Flash disks, which were entirely fun, if not at all serious (the second being an excuse to send the team through a whole set of stock 1990s-setting anime clichés). Having first met the Lovely Angels in the pages of Adam Warren's comics from Dark Horse, I'd always been more of a Yuri fan (even though his new fat-lips version is not the same as the one I lighted on originally); but in DP-Flash, I found I had switched sides. And, I must say, I prefer this of the visualisations I've seen of the pair - the original Warren costumes had at least a pretense of function, and so are still the best of the original concept visualisations, but his recent ones are just superhero spray-ons more extreme than even Emma Frost's outfit. The stills I've seen of the Original videos series show the girls with hairstyles looking more like a Lifeguard's bearskin, which is just plain ugly.


Leaf fall is at its height now, so driving me out every morning in the early light to clear leaves out of the pond. It's really being mild at the moment, sufficiently so that this morning, I startled frogs that had been sitting on the side of the pond, and not hiding in the warmer depths.

The trees on the way to work are half-way bare now, but the ones still in leaf are magnificently golden. Meanwhile the apples are still in full green leaf, and the few leaves on the plums are more green than yellow.

Too few hours

Having spent a week on holiday (so away from the always-on Internet) had the expected effect on the posting frequency, especially when I got engrossed in other things. Passive consumption of old media, or ruminations about what I might do in an HeroQuest game aren't the stuff of great blogs. And then when I got to work, a project I had expected would have been handed over to another team to complete has been bounced back, so I'm neck deep in work.

For anyone who's interested, the old cat is doing well - putting on weight now, and being right spoilt by having the individual servings of Senior cat food (which clearly taste better than the average run of meatblob) - and not too distressed by the twice daily dosing. He's filling out so the ribs don't show, and the spine is a lot less bony when you stroke his back.

Monday, November 03, 2003

That time again

Well, at least the blasted Yankified import of Halloween has been and gone - this year only one little kid in a Scream costume, and accompanying mum, who got the usual couple of apples saved from the home grown crop and a couple of satsumas. Last year there were 3 teens, who got a bit more than that.

I do like giving out fruit. If people are going to join in this custom which has been going on over here for less than a decade (pumped by the greetings-card industry and US TV imports), then the expectations can at least be subverted.

But now it's fireworks fortnight - no longer just the 5th and maybe an adjacent Saturday. The sooner fireworks get restricted to professional displays, the better, if people can't keep them to just the day, and thus cats have to be kept in for the night for days on end.

At least the village bonfire on Saturday will give me the chance to dispose of a lot of garden debris (bits of pollarded elder tree, mainly) that have accumulated over the past year.

A week of autumn

Took last week off to to a lot of boring things, like clearing out old clothes from the wardrobe; but midweek, went over to Stratford-upon-Avon to catch one of the last shows in this season, The Tamer Tamed, by John Fletcher - a contemporary rebuttal and sequel to The Taming of the Shrew. As the play opens, Kate is dead, and Petruchio is remarrying - but this time the tables are turned, and (apart from the moral and another wedding), the play ends with Maria, the second wife, saying "Dare you kiss me?" to Petruchio. A good fun bawdy romp of a play, with much stealing from the Lysistrata.

Also saw Kill Bill - and as a fairly squeamish person, was surprised at how un-squicky it all was. It would make a fine Vingan Red Vows workout video... Eagerly awaiting part II.

At the start of the week, the cherry tree in the lawn was still in full leaf; each day it shed enough to need raking, and now it is almost completely bare. There are a few leaves on the plums, but the apples and elders are all still green. The Japanese maple was a brilliant fiery red display during much of the week, but that has shed most of its leaves by now.

I had hoped to do some more garden clearance, but between the drought breaking, and the weather being mild apart from morning frosts, things are still growing - the escholzias that started flowering in late May are still squeezing out a few flowers even a month after I stopped dead-heading them, which means that the front bed is still cluttered and is not yet ready for a good cover of rotted compost. Meanwhile some new seedlings are growing quite large.

It gets worse

Outside I can't tell if the stars are out, but the sky is pretty much dark, the moon is showing, and the car-park lights are blazing away.