Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Blogging Days Are Over.

Right now I've lost all enthusiasm for blogging so will take a break for as long as it takes to come back, if it ever does.

No doubt if something annoys me enough to get me up onto my soapbox, or if I lose the fight to become the new Governor of California, I'll be back.

Bye for now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

ET Phone Home - Your Dinner's In The Oven.

I have to admit I'm a novice at this mobile phone malarky and although I did get one a few years ago, it was just because my US friends were over here and I didn't want to be stuck in the Highlands of Scotland with a flat tyre. S'all very well being in the AA but if you're 50 miles from the nearest croft, then that's not much use.

Of course, knowing little about such things, it never entered my head that signal strength deep in the Highlands of Scotland might be a few bars short of an open prison.

No bars in the Highlands ? Surely not !!

Anyway my mobile was as basic a phone as you could get....a Nokia 1100 on a PAYG plan.

Yes it's a beauty, isn't it ? With phone in hand, I could....ah.....ermm.......make a phone call. Oh and it had a light on the top so it could be used as a torch. Very useful at night when you needed to use it to find a proper phone.

But it was fine for me. I only wanted it for car emergencies or if I had need of a dog whisperer when out walking near the local RSPCA shelter. I put £5 on it when I bought it a few years ago and when I bought a new phone recently, there was still some credit to carry across !

Let's just say I didn't use it much.

Fast forward to the 21st century and a few weeks ago I went from one extreme to another and got a HTC Desire, which many reviews said was better than the iphone.

I blogged about it at the time but now that I've got to 'know it' a bit better, well to call it a phone, even a Smartphone, is doing it a huge disservice.

I may be lucky to have entered this market at a time when these things can do everything except cook me a full English, but the Desire's capability as a phone is its least impressive feature.

It has GPS so although there will probably still not be a signal if my car gets a flat tyre in the Highlands of Scotland. at least I'll know exactly where I am - just next to shit creek according to the detailed and colourful GPS map.

It has a voice activated search application so that I can find the nearest AA centre in the event that my arms have been tied behind my back by woad painted clansmen on a day trip from the city.

It can play mp3s and pick up radio and tv stations so I won't get bored waiting for that little yellow van to appear.

It has a photo scanner application so I can point the phone at any object and it'll give me all the info I need about it. So I can point it at the flat tyre, have the image scanned and it'll tell me.....that it's buggered.

It has a tracking application so anyone following my route live on their computers will see that my car hasn't moved for 10 hrs and they'll know I've broken down....or that my phone has been stolen by a Highland tortoise and it's rushing off to phone a friend.

It has a voice diary application so as the days go by without a sign of the AA van, I can record my dying thoughts and thus inform whoever finds my rotting corpse that I'll be due a refund from Orange for the rest of my calling plan.

It has a 'places directory' application so I can locate the nearest chippy doing a haggis and Scotch egg takeaway service so that I can have a snack while waiting for that bloody AA van.

And according to the user guide, which of course I have to access online, it also works as a phone. How awesome is that ? Hard to believe but by pressing a series of numbers, I can actually talk with someone who also has a phone. I mean I could just PHONE the AA but why do that when I have all those applications at my disposal ??

Oh yes, does it have a torch application ? Well I donno but if nothing else, I could walk along taking flash photos to light my way because, oh yes, it's a freakin' camera too !!

I know. Unbelievable, isn't it ?

I'm still learning stuff and I'm still pretty much a mobile phone novice so I'm going to look through the user manual once again as I'm sure if it can give me a live feed from my friends travelling down I-75 in Michigan, then it can rustle up a decent English for me.

On today of all days, it should 'do it for your daddy' !!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Susan Boyle - I Need Your Help !

With an early morning visit of someone from St. Kitts and Nevis, my blog has had visitors from 99 different countries. Bless you all but now I have a grovelling request to make because as any professional cricketer will tell you, being on 99 is torture. Like them, I want a century...and more. As there are about 195 countries in the world, depending on who you ask, then there are plenty more who could be visiting my blog if only they knew about it !

So if anyone has an internet friend who lives on some relatively obscure Pacific Island (Wallis and Futuna would be a good one) or even Iceland (they sent me their ash so it's only right that they should visit my blog) then could they please email them my site and just ask them to stop by.

As the title of this post suggests, I could simply mention Susan Boyle again but based on past posts, that would just get me loads of visitors from America and Japan who seem to have a permanent global search going on for any mention of her name on the internet and anyway, I don't think her cd has made it to Wallis and Futuna. I'm not even sure electricity has made it there but you never know.

So come on, my kind readers. Yes, both of you. Scan your email contact lists and find someone not on this list as you just know I'll be sitting here waiting to get my century.

Put me out of my misery.

(This post has been approved by the tourist board for Wallis and Futuna and the agent for Susan Boyle).

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Horn Of Africa

When I were a lad and still able to take in data and retain it (age 13-16), the horn of Africa meant that part of East Africa made up of Ethopia, Somalia, Eritrea and as we all know, Djibouti.

Who said Djibouti was a song from Family Guy ? Peasants !

Anyway I think some of you might know where I'm going with this. Yes the World Cup !

The South African 'vuvuzela' is a metre long horn which is causing a lot of discussion around the world and somewhat distracting from the event itself. Opinions are as varied as the nations taking part but you either love them or hate them and as someone who is firmly in the later camp, I just want to shove them up.....will somewhere painful anyway.

Those who are in favour of them use words like 'traditional' and 'cultural' to make their case and say that as South Africa 'won' the right to stage the competition, we should respect how their people celebrate it.

Well for one thing, this plastic horn only appeared in 2001 so is hardly traditional. Yes a metal version was mentioned a few times going back a few years earlier but that's's not some tribal instrument used over the centuries.

Then just because a nation gets the right to stage a competition doesn't mean it has a right to annoy visiting nations and those who watch at home. The point is, South Africa DOES have a wonderful tradition of singing, chanting and dancing and no one would mind seeing and hearing some of that. The monotonous vuvuzela is NOT traditional, is very annoying to listen to even via tv and I can't imagine what it must be like sitting or standing in front of someone blowing one for 90 minutes. The spit coming out of it must be a health and safety issue alone, never mind the ear splitting decibels.

Anyway as with a lot of things, those who like them won't be swayed by those who don't and vice versa so I'm trying not to enter into 'discussions' on Twitter or Facebook etc.

I'll just continue to watch the games with the audio muted and Kenny G on the cd player.

Ok not doing my case much good there I guess !

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I've Gone Power Mad

Yesterday I received an energy monitor from my electric company, Npower. I'd ordered it online about 6 weeks ago and had actually forgotten all about it. But it was free so I could hardly complain.

When I checked the cables coming out of my electricity meter, I didn't think I could fit the transmitter unit because nothing is ever standard in this house. The instruction booklet said I should have a meter with 4 or 5 cables going into/out of it....I had 6.....and I needed to connect the transmitter unit to the one going to the fuse box. I had 2 going to my fuse box but then again, my fuse box is like no other fuse box you've ever seen.

The instructions also said, in bold type, that I must not pull on any cable when trying to attach the transmitter and hammering a nail into the cable to hold the transmitter in place was not recommended either. A positive no-no in fact (little electrical joke there).

So with my hammer and drill nowhere to be seen, I made my attempt this morning. I looked at the 6 cables and wondered which to try. Well the two on the far left were taped together and the booklet said to ignore them. Then there was one much thinner cable that ran from one meter to another - why I have the 2nd meter is one of the many mysteries in this house. It's a large black unit and looks like it was installed in Victorian times which is a bit bizarre as this house dates from the 1960's.

That left 3 cables and I decided to just make use of the most helpful bit of info in the booklet - that the cable I wanted should be the one on the far right. With a confidence based only on desperation, I attached the transmitter to this cable and connected it to the battery pack. I went into the kitchen where I'd set up the display unit and was working.

The usage display is designed to resemble a car speedometer and mine was barely moving. As I had only just got up and had little or nothing running, I was happy to see that.

A few entertainment units were on standby and so the speedo WAS moving but not much. I picked up the 3 remotes and went into action. Powering on the cable box wasn't too bad. Barely a movement on the speedo. Then the surround sound amp...a bit more movement. Finally the tv.

Bloody hell.

Speedo wise I'd left a built up area and was now belting along an urban dual carriageway. Time to start up the big guns. I flicked on the coffee maker.


Now I was barely able to stay under the speed limit on a motorway. Time for the final test. Yes the booster on the water heater.


Once I'd entered the cost of a kilowatt of electricity and could then see the pennies flying out of my wallet in real time, I went around the house like a man possessed turning off lights and unplugging devices.

I probably don't need the electric blanket to be ticking over all day. The electric toothbrush doesn't need to be charging all the time. The life sized statue of Billy Bremner in the front garden doesn't need to be lit during the day.

By the way, the speedo went down quite a bit once the coffee had brewed but it went up a little when I altered the tv brightness ! Sadly it has no effect at all if I mute the sound so I'll just have to continue to listen to ITV's coverage of the World Cup. That sucks.

Seriously though, just as the trip computer in my car has changed the way I drive (watching the mpg in real time does this to me), then this energy monitor will certainly affect what units I'm happy to leave on or in standby mode 24/7.

Scrooge as I am, I suspect not many.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tales From A Country Graveyard.

A week ago today, we were on our way to South Wales for a 3 day trip which included a visit to Swansea Theatre to see a friend in the title role of Piaf in a play of the same name.

Once settled in our rooms in the North Gower Hotel in the village of Llanrhidian, Daphne and I went for a short walk before supper and not knowing the local area at all, we just went wherever the road took us. After a walk down the very steep Mill Lane, we came to the wonderfully named St. Rhidian and St. llltyd Church which was founded by St. Rhidian in the 6th century.

So it was pretty old !

Sadly the church was locked and as we didn't then know we could've borrowed the keys from the petrol station at the top of the road, we spent some time walking around the graveyard which had many really old and interesting graves and headstones with several containing several generations of families.

On the side of the church, just to the right of the door porch, we found a few headstones that had presumably been removed from their graves at some point in time and fastened to the outer wall, held in place by suitably rusting hooks. The largest of these headstones was very easy to read, in the sense that the actual words were so clear that they could've been etched within the last few years. For this reason alone I'm not sure how original this stone was and the fact that the wording was a strange mix of modern and peculiar olde English is a puzzle too. Anyway it claimed that the body it represented was one Robert Harry, who died on the 21st of September 1646 at the very old age (for the time) of 65. These details were etched around the sides so you may have to move the photo, or your head, around to read them.

You'll get into the swing of the 'poem' if you work out that it starts lyeth my lifeless corpse relieved of living breath.......and you can take it from there. Click to enlarge.

Ok for those who can't make it out, the wording around the border of the stone reads.....

Here lieth the body of Robert Harry who deceased the xxi day of September aged 65 anno Domini 1646 who maried two wives and had issve by them x children.

......and the rest of the wording is as follows.......

Here lyeth my lifeles corps bereved of liveinge breath
Not slaine by sinne which is the cavse of death
But my decree which God hath said all men shall dy
And come to ivdgement to know how they shall try

And now o heavenly God that liveing breath thov gavest to mee
That mortall life and sovle I yeeld and give againe to thee
My corps to earth for short time I doe give
My sovle vnto my saviovr Christ eternally to live

I'm not sure why it's 'liveinge breath' at the start and then 'liveing breath' further along which only adds to my feeling that this was a relatively modern etching and whoever did it just made a mistake that someone from 1646 would never have made.

Don't you just love a good mystery ?? Verily.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Italy Day 11 - 6th September 2009.

As promised yesterday, I'm going to finally catch up with posts about our Italian trip last year and the Caribbean cruise earlier this year as there are a few UK trips to mention as well and it's all getting a bit silly now. If I don't get a move on, by the time I get them finished, readers will need a degree in archaeology to make sense of them.

Anyway back to Italy and we're on to Day 11 so in the final stretch. That morning we left the stunning scenery of Lake Como and set off on the 200 mile drive across to Venice. The route took us past Milan and on to Brescia, Verona and Vicenza before pulling into Venice just after 1pm.

Well when I say Venice, I really mean Mestre which is where we parked the car and switched to the train that runs out along the causeway to Venice.

We'd been told that Venice might be a bit 'busier' than usual as two important festivals were taking place on that day.....the Venice Film Festival and the Regata Storica. Busier turned out to be a gross understatement.

The main event, as far as visitor numbers was concerned, was the Regata Storica which is a huge parade of boats and boat racing that they claim has gone on for thousands of years but I suspect they mean hundreds.

In any case the place was rocking and not just because Venice is slowly sinking into the water. It was packed.

The crowds meant that my memories of Venice aren't all that positive. It was almost impossible to see much of the Grand Canal and so we took the opportunity to explore the back streets of the city although streets may not be the correct term.

Venice truly is a unique place. Many other cities may claim to have Little Venice areas where modern, expensive boats can cruise along waterways to lakes or even the ocean but Venice is the real deal. For that reason alone it's worth a visit but I wouldn't go much out of my way to return.

These were the first few photos taken after we exited from the railways station and I have to admit that the first view you get from the top of the station steps takes your breath away. It's just SO different from anything you'll have seen before and in our case, it was made even more unreal as a water ambulance went speeding past us with lights flashing and siren blaring. It almost took out a few gondolas with its wake but the gondoliers are nothing if not expert in both keeping their balance and keeping their passengers within the boat. Welcome to Venice !

These next photos show how the crowds along the Grand Canal made sightseeing almost impossible and even trying to get along the canal to find some quieter areas took forever.

Once away from the Grand Canal, things got much better and we could enjoy the narrow streets and other canals. I loved seeing all the shop windows that had masks for sale and they came in all shapes and sizes, colours and styles. There were lots of lovely quiet piazzas and even totally empty areas as, by now, most of the tourists were watching the regatta.

Usually 'streets' had no walkways at all and so boats were the only way to get around and it was cool to see commercial vessels plying their trade alongside the tourist laden gondolas.

Finally we arrived at the crown jewel of Venice, St. Mark's Square and it was strange to be glancing around at buildings so familiar from tv and movies. Again it was relatively quiet here and as the birds outnumbered the tourists, it was like walking onto the set of Hitchcock's The Birds as they were everywhere, looking for handouts, literally.

Views of the square and surrounding area leading to the Grand Canal were slightly disappointing as the buildings were often covered with huge advertising signs. However it was awesome to get to see the Doge's Palace and, of course, St. Mark's imposing bell tower which then led us out to the open area by the canal.

Here is one of those panorama sites which shows St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace better than any photos I took.

After finally being able to take in the views across the Grand Canal, we headed back along the busy waterways and narrow streets towards the railway station for the short train trip to Mestre and the rental car.

We'd only spent about 6 hours in Venice but with the crowds there that day, it was long enough. It had been a long day since leaving Como and we wanted a hotel not far "down the road" and so we stopped at the Hotel DaVito just 10 miles south of the city.

So....Venice; well it was fantastic to see and experience parts of this unique water city. Would I want to go again ? Maybe. But certainly NOT during a festival !

And thanks to Daphne and Stephen for the use of some of their photos.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Taste Of Wales

Daphne and I went to South Wales last week and I'm still sorting through the hundreds of photos from there. Add to that, ones from other trips going back to Italy last summer and often the idea of blogging about them and the trips they came from seems daunting. Remember the cruise a few months ago ?

Yep, still got to finish blogging about that little trip.

Anyway all in good time I guess but that's partly why I've not blogged for a while.

So here is a photo from the Wales trip for now and as Mr. Swartzin......Swartzonigg.....oh sod it, Arnie would say.......I'll be back.

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