Saturday, October 27, 2018

Day 300: Update on... Stuff

And so it's already time for the penultimate update on goals for the year. The next, and final, one will be the end-of-year wash up. How are things?

Books: By day 300, I 'should' be at 49.31 books read. I'm pretty much on target, despite "Midnight's Children" taking an age to get through. So that's good.

As noted previously, though, I won't complete my stated goal for the year - the books that remained on that half of The List were just too long for the year.

Blogging: I'm actually ahead on this blog, and caught up on The Imaginarium! I certainly didn't expect the latter, but it's a good place to be.

The To-do List: This is proceeding apace, following the Modified House Move Strategy I mentioned previously. All the tasks in the upstairs of the house are now complete, and the downstairs is underway. There is a big task of actually moving out the various things that we've selected for donation/disposal, but that's not too horrible. Of some more concern is that the remaining tasks are increasingly nasty, and progress has therefore crawled to a halt.

My intent now is to try to make a big push in November and try to get as much done as possible. Once we get into December, and the preparations for Christmas take precedence, I'll ditch whatever remains of the list. Then, come January I'll repeat the exercise of rebuilding it from nothing.

And that's everything, I think.

#49: "Midnight's Children", by Salman Rushdie (a book from The List)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Resolving the Home Cinema Issue

When we moved into the new house, one of the things I stonrly considered doing was upgrading my home cinema system - the existing system is thirteen years old, and although it has done sterling service in that time it is also clearly quite long in the tooth. So I spent some time looking around for a suitable replacement, but never quite found the ideal solution.

Of course, and as I've mentioned elsewhere, there was also the need to get the cables cut to length and fastened down as part of our child-proofing approach - a task that has been getting ever more important as time goes by. (And which still isn't done.)

As of this weekend, I've found the solution to both problems, at least for the near to mid future.

What we've decided to do is to remove the existing home cinema system entirely, and replace it with a serviceable but not top-of-the-range soundbar - something that will give decent playback options without a massive outlay of funds (and, most importantly, something that doesn't have lots of cables snaking everywhere!). That will mean something of a downgrade, since we'll no longer have true surround sound, but should provide good performance for a number of years. (And if it's really not hitting the spot, the soundbar we've chosen allows for the possibility of adding a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers, so if we want we can get true surround sound back.)

The second part of the plan will then come into play in a number of years, once we're past the need for child-proofing. At that time, we'll consider paying out for an upgrade of the whole system - replace the TV with the latest model, get new input devices, and a new surround sound system with all the bells and whistles (and probably get it professionally installed, complete with wall-mounting for all components). But that's all for the future.

Anyway, the soundbar is now on order, and due to arrive at the end of this week. Which means that my big task for the weekend is now decided, but also means that it should be a more enjoyable installation rather than a tedious chore.

Friday, October 19, 2018

About the £50 Note

I see that the Bank of England are gearing up to replace their £50 with a new polymer version, to go with the exciting £5 and £10 notes they've already issued. This has, of course, triggered the inevitable controversy over who should be on it.

In theory, the criteria are fairly simple: it needs to be someone British, relatively famous, and dead. Of course, then there are the other qualifications - we need to ensure we find someone who isn't too divisive, and we ideally want to increase representation of women and people of colour. Which is fine, but I rather wish they'd simply state those other requirements, rather than having a set of invisible rules. It would just make the job easier.

Rather unfortunately, it looks like the front-runner for the job is Margaret Thatcher. And, in most regards she ticks all the boxes, including providing additional representation of women. Plus, she's backed by some very influential people, for obvious reasons. (There's even an argument that she's exactly the person we want on a bank note that will pretty much exist for the benefit of the already rich.)

All that said, I'm hard pressed to think of anyone I'd like to see less, at least without delving into actual criminal behaviour.

I do, however, have an alternative suggestion that I think is a good one. It is contingent on the Bank of England finding a way to fit the portraits of two people into the space, but that shouldn't be beyond the wit of men (especially on the £50 note, which is after all the largest of the English bank notes).

Morcambe and Wise.

Now, granted, that's two more white men, which doesn't exactly strike a blow for equality. On the other hand, they're British, famous, and dead, and shouldn't be a particularly divisive choice. Plus, they'd certainly bring me sunshine, at least.

(One last thing: If the BoE were to decide that they do want to choose a woman for their new note, my nomination would go to Ada Lovelace. Again, British, relatively famous, and dead, and not a particularly divisive choice. Plus, a reflection of the importance of science and engineering in building the modern world and a very visual advertisement of the importance of women in STEM. That's about as solid a set of credentials as you can get. So while I would prefer M&W, and would smile a little every time I saw the note in use, the selection of AL would also make me very happy indeed.)

The System Shatters!

As we know, you've got to have a system. And, per my system, there is a time assigned for switching from my summer jacket to my winter jacket (and vice versa), and it's when the clocks change. (By rights the clocks shouldn't change, and we should be on GMT all year around - British Summer Time is, frankly, an abomination. But since we're collectively determined to have all our clocks actively lie to us for two-thirds of the year, I've decided to get something useful out of it.)

Anyway, with the impending reversion of the clocks to Actual Time, I was rather looking forward to bringing my winter jacket back into use, and retiring my summer jacket.

Alas, with one week to go, one of the zippers on one of the pockets of the summer jacket has broken!

This is, of course, a total disaster. It means that I'll have to bring my winter jacket into operation a week early, which means inflicting on it the indignity of Liar Time until the clocks change next week.

(It also means that the summer jacket will need to be retired permanently. But given that I actually thought I'd done that last year, and so was surprised to find it ready and waiting for me this spring, I'm not too disappointed. But if I find it returned and ready to go again next year, I may not be quite so sanguine.)

Anyway, that's the level of disaster that has dogged this week from start to finish. Truly, it has been a dark time.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Where The To-Do List Failed

As I've mentioned before, after we moved in I constructed a fairly lengthy to-do list. This worked quite well for a while before getting bogged down. The two tasks that really defeated my efforts were clearing the garage and sorting out the home cinema cables - I even managed to get both of these partially done but then ran out of steam and found it really difficult to get motivated to finish them off.

My efforts to clear my revised to-do list have been going quite well, but they've hit a bit of a roadblock - the highest priority task that remains is now sorting out the home theatre cables, and that's just killing my motivation. (And, unfortunately, that's probably also the least horrible of the remaining tasks - the other three big tasks that remain are to clear out the spare room (which has become the dumping ground while dealing with everything else upstairs), sorting the kitchen, and clearing the garage.)

Which means that the revised to-do list has failed in exactly the same place, and for exactly the same reason as the previous list. And that failure is continuing to bug me in exactly the same way. Grr.

That said, there is something that is a bit different this time - a year ago, I wanted to get the home cinema cables sorted out. This year, they desperately need to get sorted out - Funsize has thus far only crawled once and hasn't yet realised the joy of unfastened cables, but both of those things are going to change very fast. So either those cables need tied down urgently, or the whole surround sound system is going to have to go into storage for a few years. (Although, actually, that might not be the worst idea...)

Officially Unpacked

In "The Incredibles", there's a scene where Helen Parr tells Bob that they're now officially moved in - although they've lived in their then-current house for some years, she's only just now unpacked the last box. At the weekend we hit that threshold for our house, after only one year of living there.

The thing is, that last box contained a number of largish miniatures, that had been carefully sealed in bubble wrap to protect them during the move. However, after the move was done and things re-arranged, I found I didn't have a good place to put them. More or less the only available open space was directly in front of some document stores that I would need to periodically (albeit infrequently) need to access. So not exactly the best place to put some fragile items!

And so, they stayed in that box and quietly annoyed me for the past year. But now, having decluttered some of my RPG books, I suddenly found myself with a free shelf - ideal storage for those miniatures. Huzzah!

(There's no greater moral to this story, nor any other significance. I just thought it was worthy of a blog post to note that we've reached another milestone!)

Thursday, October 11, 2018


For the most part, work as a Data Transponster is a fairly cushy number. Sure, there's a fair amount of thinking involved in carving out designs, and then there's some work in turning those designs into actual code, but it's not hard, at least in comparison with many other jobs.

But every so often...

For the past week and a bit, I've been wrestling with a bear of a problem - one of those tiny glitches that are both monsters to find and nigh-impossible to fix. And, worst of all, every time I did an analysis of the system I concluded "it should work like this..." only to find that, of course, it didn't.

And so, every night for the past week and a bit I've gone home stressed and frustrated, and no closer to actually fixing the problem.

(And although physically it's still true to say that my job has been easy, that would be to massively downplay the mental effort involved in all of this. It has been really, really hard going.)

Anyway, I fixed the problem today. And there was much rejoicing!

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


I got home yesterday only to discover that I'd left my lunch box and my book in the office. Fortunately, we had a spare lunchbox in the house, so my sandwiches today remain appropriately boxed. However, the absence of the book did leave me rather discombobulated.

(Plus, it meant that when driving to work I was taking an awful risk - in the event of a breakdown I would find myself sans reading material while I whiled away the time. Fortunately, I got away with it. This time. But it was too close for comfort.)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Experimental Cookery 2018: Carrot, Apple & Chicken Grain Bowls

This is a rather belated Experimental Cookery - we actually had the meal in question last Monday. This one came from the Tesco magazine, though it's quite similar to something Hugh has had me cook before.

This is quick and easy to put together - soak some bulgur wheat and quinoa in boiling water, chop everything else, and make a simple dressing. Then combine.

For all its simplicity, it was a nice tasty meal to start the week - but a rather better lunch the next day. The only thing I'd be inclined to change next time would be to use some flavoured chicken rather than just blank roast chicken breast (or, indeed, cook a roast on the Sunday and then use leftovers for this).

In any case, I have no complaints, and fully expect to make this again.

#48: "Pathfinder: Secrets of Roderic's Cove", by Adam Daigle