Yet more expense.
Updated // 18/04/04 - 18:41
Security // public
I hadn't planned on spending more money this month, other than on the essentials.  But I really couldn't help it.

You see, I was walking around HMV (dangerous at the best of times) and Rat pointed out a CD to me.  I'd already managed to successfully walk past a Counting Crows CD that I don't have, without picking it up.

But yes, Rat pointed out that there was actually a section for Juliet Turner in the Pop/Rock section.  I try not to go on about the little known Irish singer too much, but she is one of my favourite ever singers (and unfortunately one of Rat's least favourites). She has one of those "unique" voices, not to mention unique styles.

I came across the singer because an Irish girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) of one of my best friends had a CD of hers given to her from her dad. She didn't particularly like Juliet Turner and so was happy to give me the CD. The CD I had was called Burn the Black Suit (her second CD, good job HMV didn't have her first one or I'd have spent a fortune) and is, well, awesome. I didn't like it at first, but after listening to it several times I decided I loved it.

This was one of two CDs that was sitting under her name on the shelf before me. The other (as I've already mentioned) wasn't her first album. And since I only knew of two albums it occured to me that this must be a new one (the yellow sticker saying "Chart Album" on the "index card" then confirmed this idea, as did the copyright date of 2004 on the back). The CD was only a tenner, how could I resist? I've been waiting for her to bring out something new for close to four years now.

We actually shopped around first, found it for £12 somewhere else, and so headed back to HMV and bought it.

I've listened to it three and a bit times so far. It's very different to her second album, and yet very the same. The old album has a youthful, crispness to it (I'm crap at describing things, but these words seem right). The new album is more "grown up" and a little old fashioned. There are obvious Jazz and Easy Listening roots to some of the songs. They also have much richer backings to them. But her accent and strange way of singing is (mostly) the same. I haven't yet investigated the words - I haven't had the chance to listen carefully or check the inlay - but they seem a little less weird than the other album. But I guess time will tell on that one.

Well, my conclusion is that it was an excellent buy. Although I'm sure Rat will be sick of it soon. I've been listening to it whilst trying to catch up with my accountancy studies. I figure that each time I sit down to work if I put a CD on that can be my timer, as an hour is a pretty good time to work for solidly, and most albums are around an hour long. Plus I get nice music to listen to rather than sitting in silence.

The other incredibly exciting event of the weekend is that today Rat (with my assistance) is in the process of cooking some more of those muesli bars.

I'm also looking for a recipe for houmous. I have one that asks for a tin of chickpeas, but I only have dried. And I have to use them somehow. Plus it wants me to use tahini which I can't find anywhere (although I have found other recipes that leave out the tahini). If anyone can recommend a decent recipe for houmous that I can do from fresh/dried chickpeas then let me know.

To Python?
Updated // 15/04/04 - 22:22
Security // public
Music // Counting Crows - Omaha
Rat and I were talking this morning. Strange as that might sound. We don't only communicate via IRC and LJ you know.

We were walking to work and discussing programming, mainly because Rat was doing some last night (and again tonight). He decided it was about time he updated the film page of his website as he hadn't all year, and with 41 films seen so far it was getting a bigger and bigger chore by the day. So he's written himself a script to make it easier, for now and the future. But I'll leave the explanation on the whole thing to him, if he ever feels like putting keyboard to client and writing about it.

I don't know how we got around to the idea of me programming, but somehow I was persuaded to not only write my own LJ client, but to write it in Python - a language I've never even used. Good job I've got his expertise.

I do use a Python client some of the time, but I'm going to do it all from scratch, so I'm currently reading throught the LJ docs. I was meant to be doing work - that'll have to be done at the weekend instead.

Things would probably be so much easier if I did the whole thing in Java. Not because Java is necessarily any easier, but because I've already written a Net Nanny in Java, so (if I could find it) already have all the code in place for the http protocol. But my IRC Client that I'm supposed to be doing is in Java, so I guess it would be a good idea to write this in something different. And hey, Rat has already played around with LJ and Python so I can bug him for assistance. Not to mention the fact that my knowledge about Java is probably just as good as myknowledge about Python currently. I might write it in Python, and then write it in Java if it's successful.

But first I want to write down everything I can that I might need with regards to LJ's protocol. And then I have to learn the relevant bits of Python (I have two big books beside me). I like having full notes for reference (I actually have the whole of the IRC protocol printed out, and I'd do the same for LJ if it weren't on separate pages.

Other than that I haven't really got much to say. Made more phonecalls at work and became a little more comfortable with the whole thing. Pretty much sorted out the budget so we're 99.999% certain I'll have a six month contract if not a 12 month one from the start of May. Booked airplane tickets for the first time ever (unfortunately I won't get to travel using them). And arranged to visit my parents again next month, since hopefully I'll be in Brum on the 18th May with work. So I'll travel up to visit my parents on the Sunday (not having to pay a penny for the train), spend that day with my brother (his birthday is the following Friday), spend Monday with my parents, take the train to Brum on the Monday night and probably have dinner with Carole, stay over in a hotel, get up the next morning and go to the event we're hosting, and then catch the train home. And hopefully after that my brother will be visiting for Whitsun (sp?). At this rate I'll have seen my family more this year than I have since before University!

More reflections from my weekend away.
Updated // 12/04/04 - 21:08
Security // public
I forgot that Star Trek was on, so rather than typing up an entry I've turned to paper. I'm drinking hot banana nesquick (sp?) and am about to eat pizza (once I've put down my pen).

I had several things I wanted to mention about the various train journeys and my thoughts during them over the past few days.

On the way into Birmingham I noticed for the first time the canals that travel along beside the railway line - and more importantly the barges. Such a pretty thing to see as you're on the edge of the nastiest city I've ever been in. rat says he's pointed them out to me before, but I obviously never took them in. I suppose there's a difference between having something pointed out to you and really seeing it for yourself.

I also delighted in seeing the lambs in the fields. My mind wandered to thoughts of blossom-filled trees, and daffodils and crocuses. How I love the spring!

Thoughts on the way home weren't so filled with beautiful things, but were much more practical. On the first train I sat thinking how I wished they had these types of trains here in Cardiff. So much more comfortable!

The second (technically third) train ride was incredibly unpleasant. Firstly I was starving, with no chance of food until I reached home. Then for the first hour I had to sit by someone with my bags on my lap; because of the whole having reserved seats thing. And then things got worse. Some already loud people, returning from a football match, were joined by other friends. Alcohol proceeded to make them much louder. I was forced to listen to conversations I had no interest in hearing. It was almost as bad as being forced to overhear the neighbour's radio.

I think that there were more things but my memory is already failing me.

Today has been the day of rest I'd really wanted yesterday. We watched A Life Less Ordinary, ate pizza, and I felt fairly sick for most of the day. Okay, that last point I wouldn't have wanted yesterday, but then it was much more pleasant than the migraine.

Peter finally emailed me (twice!).

(I've removed certain comments that I'd put in my hand-written entry regarding Star Trek, I didn't think you'd want to see me emoting about dear old Malcolm, or Trip and T'Pol).

A day of rest?
Updated // 11/04/04 - 20:52
Security // public
As I do most every day of the week, I was awake by seven this morning. Sometime between half-past and eight, I was out of bed and switching on the computers. This is normal for me on a weekend, when I find I'm tossing and turning unable to sleep, and don't want to waken Rat. After about an hour or so of checking email and Friends pages, I went back to bed where Rat was lovely and warm, and snuggled up to him.

Usually I'll only stay in bed for a little while, and get up again when Rat gets up, but today I felt so tired, so in need of rest, that I stayed in bed. I stayed in bed after he brought in our single Easter egg (which we quickly devoured). I stayed in bed after he had thrown me a pen to do the wordsearch on the back of the Easter egg box, and after we had done completed the puzzle bar one word which was not even shown on the answers. It wasn't until Rat was pulling the quilt off me and trying to push me out of bed that I finally rose again.

More time in front of the computer, not particularly doing much and desperately trying to upload an image to my image host and not having much luck. And then a lovely "Sunday dinner" consisting of battered chicken, boiled potatoes, boiled onion, cherry tomatoes and some cold sweetcorn. Not exactly within the recommendations of the GI Diet, but tasty and more healthy than some of the things we could have eaten.

I don't know when my head began to hurt, but it had been trying to enclose me in pain ever since I woke up. I think it had arrived before food, and it was certainly there after. I went back to bed until it was time to get ready for church, and then finally took something for the now agonising pain in my head.

The something worked, and the migraine was gone before practice had even begun. I had half considered not going, but since we've been working on the music for today since Christmas, I didn't want to feel I'd wasted all that effort. The practice didn't go too well, and the service went marginally better. To the trained ear at least. I'm sure it sounded lovely - as long as you don't know what the altos and basses are actually meant to be singing.

I find it to be a common thing that the basses in a choir are generally the least musically minded (although having two basses in the family, I must admit to knowing at least two basses with skill in music). Tenors so often seem to be semi-professional singers, or at least in amateur choral societies. Altos don't have to worry about being able to read music as they tend to sing only a few notes in every piece, but most of the altos I have met again tend to be good musicians, one way or another (often music teachers in fact). Sopranos have the least need to be skilled in the art of reading and following music, since they so often sing the tune (and have the greater numbers). But the basses always let the choir down, being large in number (compared to tenors and altos), old of age, and poor at articulation when singing. Not to mention following beats. This is something I noticed in my old choir, but Richard, our choir master, was good at drilling in the notes (plus the fact that my dad already knew half the music from when he'd been a young tenor, and an even younger treble, helped I'm sure). In this choir it is even worse. The one bass who I would expect to be able to sing well (being in another choir, and our contact with the RSCM) just cannot get his words out.

So yes, between us, the basses and altos managed to fluff up at least one line per piece, or something thereabouts. It was nothing compared to the beautiful sounds from my old choir on Friday evening (despite the fact that I disliked half the anthems they did).

But it was still a wonderful, enjoyable service. The singing was as fun as ever, and it went down a treat with everyone. I'm just my worst critic, that's all.

My throat hurts now. I'm sitting here waiting for Jake 2.0 or whatever it is called to finish so that Rat and I can start on dinner. My shoulder hurts from carrying bags yesterday. I'm tired and, apparently, seem to be in a complaining mood, although I didn't really know it until I got to this paragraph.

Perhaps I'm just always in a complaining mood. Is there a day I don't have something to moan about? Normally something trivial and meaningless. I wonder, if I had something non-trivial and meaningful to moan about, would I even bother?

I'm waffling on about nothing again, musing about things that really should not have thought wasted on. I should listen to 80s music again, that always cheers me up. Or how about ABBA.

We've got to move these colour TVs.
Updated // 11/04/04 - 12:01
Security // public
Excuse me, but I'm just having a bit of an Eighties session, thanks to dad giving me a load of tapes that I pretty much grew up with (well, after 1985 and 1986 as that's when they were bought). I played the takes so much that it broke in the middle of Ghostbusters. Fortunately dad repaired that break a long time ago, and the join isn't all that noticeable.

Actually, I didn't plan on talking about Eighties music here. Rather, I wanted to discuss the effect that reading I Capture the Castle has had on me. Not the story so much, as the style.

I'm not sure if I said much about the book while I was reading it, other than to say I was enjoying it, but I thought I should explain just in case. You see, it's one of these stories that is written in the form of a journal. Not like Bridget's Diary or anything like that. It's written in exactly the way I'd like to write my online journal. In a way, it's like how I write when I'm on holiday, writing entries on paper before I return home to a computer. The chapters are half in the present and half in the past, and half looking forward to the future. She's careful to put things in order so as not to spoil too much, but hints at the current situation. If it were an online journal and I were reviewing it, it would get full marks!

I suppose it helps that, when writing a novel in journal form, you can assume that the writer can remember every little detail. Occasionally the writer says she's forgetting things, but the things mentioned are in the sort of detail I couldn't remember two seconds after an event, let alone by the time I get to something to write down on.

I want to start writing entries like that. My entries are either "thoughtful" or "musing" posts like this one. Or else they are short, brief descriptions of what I did today. Not even descriptions, lists more like. I'm not the best descriptive writer, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't attempt to actually put some "drama" into what I say. What I mean is rather than saying "today Rat annoyed me by tickling me" I could say "I was sitting on the sofa and Rat came and sat beside me and then started tickling me". Such a subtle difference, but it's a little bit more interesting if I describe how something happened rather than saying that it did happen.

I am also seriously thinking about getting a dictaphone. The number of random thoughts I had on the train, both on my way and on my return journey. Things that I can't remember now. The way I think things are so often more interesting than the way I write them. Of course, speaking into a dictaphone on a packed train needs some nerves - but if I can get one with a fairly decent mike. I could get one with a mike on the earphone lead - like a hands-free kit - and pretend I'm talking down the phone. I could also use it while walking to and from work (although now that I walk with Rat I don't have so many spontaneous thoughts about what to write).

I'm rambling. There are so many things I want to mention, but I don't think I will now. I don't think I'm making much sense right now.

Bargain Hunting
Updated // 03/04/04 - 15:09
Security // public
I've really been spending too much this past week. Haircut, gorgeous meal last night, and now.. well.

I had three reasons to go into town. Firstly, to buy some new trainers. Secondly, to buy DVDs to go with the DVD player I'm buying the parents for their birthdays. And thirdly, to get some kitchen scales.

Duties one and two have been fully accomplished. The kitchen scales will have to wait due to the sheer amount of money I spent today.

The trainers were cheap enough at around £12. I doubt they'll last that long, but I haven't bought them to last, I've bought them to be comfy. I'm currently wearing them and they seem nice enough.

I got a DVD each for my parents, but in the process managed to buy myself a few. Oh dear, specials offers are not my friends. With the one Rat bought me (due to the fact I've just ordered some plants for the garden from The Sunday Times and he's meant to be buying one lot and so owed me money) I've doubled my DVD collection.

Some of you may not remember, and others may not know, but last time I bought my DVD collection I pretty much doubled it. If I keep on with this pattern, things are going to get problematic. I now have fourteen DVDs (a measly number, but Rat has many more).

So what did I get? Two copies of Pirates of the Carribean (two-disk sets, one for my mother) for £18 in total (which is the cheapest by far in the whole of Cardiff). Confessions of a Dangerous Mind for a tenner. And then, in the five for £30 offer at Virgin I got: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (finally), AI (two disk set), Tron (two disk set), Rabbit Proof Fence and The Bourne Identity (for my father). There were so many others I could have bought, given the money. I suppose it's a good thing I get paid weekly, or I might have.

And then Rat bought me Spirited Away!

I also got three Stephen King books for a fiver - one being the short story collection that contains Shawshank and The Body (which is the book Stand By Me was based on).

All in all, a pretty good day shopping, but a bad day for my bank account.

And now I have to pay council tax...

Good things come to those who wait.
Updated // 25/03/04 - 21:49
Security // public

Leave a problem long enough and it will work itself out in the end.

This philosophy is one that my ex-boss (Rat's current boss) has taken to heart. In his case, he was refering to a pile of files that he'd put behind his desk, and which after a few months had been completely filed away from people coming up to it and taking files when they needed them.

For me, the problem solved was with regards to printing. I recently bought a switch so that both Rat and I could use the printer without having to play around with cabling or complicated networking. I installed the printer on my machine and it worked like a dream.

But then I figured I should try and get the scanner working to (it's a printer/scanner/copier). I looked around the web until I found the Linux drivers. Installed them. And found they didn't work. I also discovered that when I tried to print I'd get lines of gobbledygook. And yes, that is a technical term.

I tried uninstalling the stuff I'd downloaded for the scanner. I even uninstalled and then installed the stuff for the printer. But still it wouldn't work.

I remembered that at the weekend I downloaded an update for the printer drivers (along with a bunch of other updates). I didn't think it would have fixed anything, considering reinstalling didn't, but I decided to run a test page. And voila! It printed. Haven't actually tested it on any other documents as yet. I'll try that later. Unfortunately the printer gets plugged in the same place as the transmitter for my headphones. And since I plan to go in the other room and do some studying I'll want to be able to hear music.


So the studying hasn't exactly gone to plan. I think it's a bad sign that, when trying to answer multiple choice questions, you can't work out how to calculate any of the possible options. Perhaps it's because I just haven't done any studying for ages. I think it's more because I don't understand how to do the questions. And once upon a time I used to be a superb mathematician. The silly thing is, I have the answers. But since it's an "assignment" I don't really want to cheat. But at the moment I'm having trouble getting passed a single question.

Somehow, I have to persuade my parents that they want to pay for me to visit them over Easter. Either that or my brother needs to have Maunday Thursday off so he can collect me then, and then drive me back here again on the Saturday. The train ticket would cost almost as much as the DVD player I'm meant to be buying them (as a joint birthday present), and that's without buying and DVDs to match. So if I have to pay to travel, they won't be getting their present. I really want to go home, just to listen to the choir sing on Good Friday (since I won't be singing because my darling brother never told me what music they were doing).

I'm grasping for interesting things to say, since I can't seem to study and I have a little time to burn before bed.

I wanna roleplay. Why can't my roleplaying game be starting this minute. My character is sooooo cool. I wanna get started NOW.

The Dramatic World of the Drac
Updated // 20/03/04 - 10:17
Security // public
Music // The Rocky Horror Show
I came home from work last night (it's so nice to be able to say that again).  I came home from work and was unlocking the door when I must have slightly turned around and noticed that something looked odd.  Then it occured to me that a large chunk of our fir tree was lying right across our garden (and our rosebushes).  It looks just like a big hedge or something.  The trunk of the tree has split where this section has fallen down and the remainder of the tree looks non-too-stable right now.

I called the housing agency last night.  They won't be able to get anyone out until Monday and they have to call the landlord first.  I asked them to find out if there was anything we could do in the meantime.  No phonecall back.

So I've just rang them again.  This time the person was much more responsive and was asking questions to picture how bad it was.  She's also going to get back to me.  Hopefully she won't wait too long to reply.  I need to go shopping this afternoon - whether gale force winds and rain or not.

Firstly I have to get birthday presents for Rachel - it's her birthday on Thursday.  Secondly Rat wants to buy a rucksack and I want to get some kind of leather sachel.  Oh, and I need healgrips.

I've booked myself a haircut.  With a real stylist.  I think I want something fairly short (although I want to be able to grow it out quickly if need be).  I just want something where I won't be tempted to tie my hair up constantly, because my hair looks so much better down.

I'm feeling really tired this morning.  Headachey and sick with it.  I think I got up too early.  I was far too tired to get up.  But at the same time I was far too awake to stay in bed, as I'd have just tossed and turned and kept Rat awake.  I got up for an hour and then went back to bed, but that hasn't particularly helped.

And my knees are really bad.  We were tidying up the office yesterday (we're getting new furniture in on Thursday) and I managed to bugger up my knees.  They haven't been so bad for ages.  They're still not perfect this morning, so no heavy lifting for me today!

Saw two films last week.  The first was Mona Lisa Smile which was good, and fortunately wasn't too "chick flick".  There were a few things that didn't have the closure I'd have liked, and the "love interest" was a particularly odd character.  Odd because some of the aspects of his character were superfluous to the plot and didn't really "fit".

The second film we saw last night and was Open Range.  It too was fairly good.  However it was (almost) worse that The Return Of The King for the far too long ending.  The big gunfight is over, there are a few things to clear up, but over ten minutes of sentimental claptrap really spoilt the movie.  The rest of the story was good, and the characters were cool.  Not quite Dances With Wolves, but it's definitely better than Costner's other outings in the director's chair.

Meme time.
Updated // 16/03/04 - 23:02
Security // public
I intended just to post the one but hey, who's counting?

The first one (and the extra one) was posted by Rat in his Blurty, so I had to do it.  It's not like he does memes every day.  Which famous feline am I? )

And secondly, a meme more in my usual style. It's one of those lists of a hundred films/books/etc that you bold the ones you have seen/read. This one is a films one. The unusual thing about it is that it's not the top 100 grossing films, but actually the top 100 grossing films accounting for inflation, which makes it a little different. There are also a few questions tagged onto the end.  (Italics means probably but so long ago I can't be certain).

From theferrett )

Can I make it a hat trick?
Updated // 16/03/04 - 20:56
Security // public
Music // Angel starting
Two days in a row.

Two nice meals.

Am I on a roll?

Last night I cooked a bolog. Very simple. Turkey mince, a clove of garlic and half a large onion. Fry (in olive oil of course, and not too much) for a little while and add Passatta (sp?). Simmer for fifteen minutes and serve with a small amount of pasta. Salad on the side. Yummy.

Tonight was "curry". The remainder of the turkey mince cooked with two dessert spoons of mild curry powder and a clove of garlic. Add the remainder of the onion from yesterday and a leek. Two "mild" chilli's chopped up and added for a little bit of bite. Add some of the Passatta from yesterday to ensure it's not too dry. Add a little more curry powder (I think it was one and a half spoons) and then mixed it cooked rice. Perhaps a little too hot for me, and a little dry, but still quite nice. And there's a whole load left for Rat to have for lunch tomorrow.

Yesterday Carole (my boss) more than suggested that she should be able to get me a casual contract at the end of March. She's been able to get some more funding to extend the project she's working on. She doubt she'll be able to get a whole year. But it's really good money (better than DEFRA). And, on top of that, I think there are better long term prospects. I keep saying this don't I? Perhaps I'm just trying to convince myself. But I have a gut feeling about this place. I had the gut feeling when I was interviewed for the job a month or so back.

Work is, however, driving me mad right now. It's mainly because I'm not familiar with the work and at the moment only have a limited number of jobs I can do. So I'm often twiddling my thumbs, or doing really annoying jobs. At the end of March Carole and Laura (and Nikki, the girl who I'm covering for) are going to be in Scotland. What will I do for two days on my own? I'm worried it'll drive me mad.

We apparently had a power-cut today. It must have been a long one. We realised about an hour ago that we had no heating, and when I checked the boiler, the timer was over an hour behind. So it's quite cold right now. Brrrr.

Just been listening to the "groundhog day" episode of SG1. I love that episode. Next is Angel, and then Nip/Tuck, which I might have to listen to whilst washing up.

I'm reaching for things to say, and yet life hasn't been dull. Not that I've done much but I've not not done anything, if you know what I mean.

Talking of hat tricks, I have managed to go on IRC for three days running. I'll probably go on later tonight as well, but that will only be for a short amount of time.

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