Friday, September 30, 2016

A Long Week. A Very Long Week

Well, thank goodness it's Friday!

Last week was a very long one - LC and I had spent the weekend in Nottingham visiting my gran, and so hadn't really rested too much, then things were extremely busy at work, and so I found myself staggering towards the weekend. And then, just as I was about to leave for the weekend, I was called into a meeting to discuss a crisis situation on another project.

The upshot of which was that I ended up working all day Saturday and also Sunday morning.

And so I came into this week with a huge amount to do on my own project, plus needing to provide support on this other project, as well as all the other routine things that make up my working week. It's fair to say it has been a tough one!

Once again, we come to Friday, and things look to have calmed down somewhat. Now, if I can just make it through the next four hours, and then home...

About a Second EU Referendum

It's fair to say I'm not keen on the idea of Brexit, and it's also fair to say that I would support having a second EU referendum if there is a material change in circumstances. 'Cos, you know, I'd rather not go.

However, what I can't support is the lunatic suggestion, put forward by the Lib Dems and now by Labour, that we should have a referendum on the Brexit deal.

The problem with having such a referendum is one of timing: there obviously can't be a deal until we've negotiated, and we can't have formal negotiations until Article 50 has been triggered. The issue with that is that once Article 50 is triggered, there's no mechanism for us to take it back - two years after it's done, the UK will leave the EU.

I think the Lib Dems and Labour envisage the people being given a choice between accepting the (inevitably bad) deal or staying in the EU, and the people therefore rejecting the (inevitably bad) deal and opting to stay. But the choice that will actually be on offer will be between accepting the (inevitably bad) deal or leaving the EU with no deal in place. And faced with that choice, it's likely that the people will opt to reject the (inevitably bad) deal, and so end up with the only thing that is worse.

Great work, you guys!

To be honest, I'm not sure I'm surprised at the level of incompetence being put on show here. After all, it's hardly reasonable to expect senior pro-EU politicians to know how key bits of EU treaties work, is it?

On the other hand, it's rather distressing to think that the Tories are an utter shambles on the topic of Brexit, and about to drive the country off a cliff, and they're still more competent than the alternative.

#51: "Spelljammer: The Maelstrom's Eye", by Roger E. Moore
#52: "Software Systems Architecture", by Nick Rozanski and Eoin Woods
#53: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Update on the TV Situation

Annoyingly, or amusingly, the TV started working again this morning, which meant I was worried that the engineer might arrive, decide nothing was wrong, go again, and then it would fail. Fortunately, this has not been the case - there's definitely a fault, and it's definitely with the dish. Unfortunately (again), the dish is now completely inaccessible, which is a nuisance.


We're going to get a whole new dish installed, in a rather more accessible location. The old dish will remain in place, but be removed from use. This is one of the more expensive options, but still not too bad, and it does mean we'll be back in action today.

Perhaps more to the point, we won't have to explain to potential viewers that while there are satellite connections, they don't actually work. Though I suppose we might have to explain why there are two dishes...

Still, it will be good to have this all sorted out and done, and all in time for the Bake Off. Huzzah!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

And Another One's Gone

Last Monday, the Pipe Major let me know that the band had decided not to take a break after the AGM after all - we'll instead take a, much shorter, break in October. I can't say I was ecstatic at that news, but I said that was okay... but I wouldn't be able to make it to the practice yesterday. Which was fine.

Yesterday, when 7pm rolled around, I looked out the window and saw the members of the band all standing around the hall where we practice. Apparently, the other guy who has a key was also not able to make it and so they were locked out. So I quickly went up there and opened up, then returned home.

But not before talking to one of my learners, who had come to say goodbye. She's moving on to another band, making this two learners I've now lost in the last two weeks.

The reason for this departure is actually nothing to do with the piping side of the band at all. Unfortunately, though, she has a brother who was a learner drummer with the band, except that that was a largely theoretical proposition - apparently there have been difficulties getting someone to actually sit down with him to actually teach him to play. And so they've looked for another band where he can get taught, and that means my learner needs to leave too.

It's fair to say I'm a little dismayed at that, not least since this learner had just started to break into the band, having played at the march-past at the last two competitions, and been earmarked to play at the Armistice parade in November (and then every non-competition event thereafter).

It would be nice to think that losing all these people might cause the powers-that-be to consider whether they're maybe not going about things the right way - that's now a piper, two learner pipers, three drummers, and a learner drummer that we've lost in the last two months, so something's obviously not right. And especially when the fix for this issue is both easy to achieve and something we really should be doing anyway - we need to assign a dedicated person as the drumming tutor for our learners, with a named backup for those nights when that person isn't available.

Alas, I no longer believe there's any real hope of that. Introspection is not one of the band's strong suits.


On Sunday, a band of heavy weather crossed Scotland, hitting Falkirk around 8:30pm. At the time, LC and I were travelling home from our weekend away, and so we missed the weather. However, our digibox was busy recording two programmes: the fifth episode of "Victoria" and the second part of Andrew Marr's "Scotland and the Battle for Britain". (The first part of this was quite interesting. The second wasn't worth bothering with. But I digress.)

Anyway, when the weather hit, it must have dislodged or otherwise damaged out satellite dish, because when I switched the TV on on Monday to see what was on, I found there was literally nothing on - every single channel had "Bad or no signal". And the two recorded programmes had both failed after just over half an hour.

All of which is rather annoying. Amongst other things, it's annoying because if it was just us, I would simply abandon the satellite dish entirely, and switch to Freeview - we'd probably want a box that was able to record, but otherwise there's nothing to recommend Freesat over Freeview. But since we're moving home, anyone viewing will probably want the satellite working, and so we probably should get it fixed.

It's all a bit of a nuisance, really.

On the other hand, it's really quite telling just how little there actually is on TV in the first place, especially once you consider the option of just using iPlayer and/or All4 instead.

#50: "Starspawn", by Wendy N. Wagner

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thanks a Bunch

By scheduling the next Celtic/Rangers match for the 31st of December, rather than the far more sensible 2nd of January, the powers-that-be have chosen to sacrifice the New Years' celebrations of a million people in the central belt of Scotland for the convenience of Sky's English subscribers (for whom the 2nd isn't a public holiday; it is up here).

The best case scenario is that everyone stays home, their nights ruined. The worst case scenario resembles a war zone. That 99.9% of fans don't cause any trouble isn't much reassurance when there are tens of thousands of them. (And given the spike in domestic violence at a 'normal' meeting between the two clubs, that 99.9% estimate is hugely optimistic.)

This decision is a disgrace.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Competition Season 2016 Wash-up

Despite my rather downbeat last post, I have mostly enjoyed this competition season. For the most part, the days involved have been fairly enjoyable, with only the first and the last being really problematic.

In terms of results, things have been very mixed but overall quite disappointing: on the one hand, we had our best performance at a Championship for years, coming 7th at Forres. On the other hand, failing to qualify at the British Championships, the Worlds and, especially, at the Scottish Championships was hard to take.

The minors have also been a mixed bag, with a number of prizes won in the middle of the season, but with a poor start and a poor finish.

More than anything, I've felt that this season has just been too long. Normally, we've attended the World Championships and then one more event, and then we're done. (Indeed, in previous years, we've simply stopped after the last Championship.) This year, we've carried on for a full month after the Worlds, attending two competitions (and would have done a third, had it not been cancelled). But the motivation basically disappeared after the Worlds; I would much rather have simply stopped.

What has been more unfortunate, though, is the number of people we've lost over the course of the year: following the first competition we lost one of our more experienced pipers (a shame, but he had to go), then later due to a falling out we lost another piper, and then one of our best drummers. And now two more drummers are leaving. And I think it's likely that more will follow. That kind of slow bleed of talent makes it incredibly hard to actually get anywhere, but I don't really see how we can stop it.

On the other hand, this may well be best filed under "not my problem". Because if we ever get moved, there will be a decision to make about whether to carry on with the band or not, and right now that's looking like a no-brainer. And in either case, I'm very strongly considering opting out of the buses for any competitions next year... in which case, I have to question why I'm paying all that money for buses I don't feel I can use - maybe I should then just opt out of the competitions altogether?


The band has its AGM on Thursday, after which we're taking a full month off. After which I might feel differently, one way or the other.

Innerleithen Highland Games 2016

And so, the competition season ends. Thank goodness for that.

The last competition of the season was largely unremarkable - we went, we played, it was fairly disappointing, we waited, and we came 7th (8th for piping, 3rd for drumming, out of 9). And then we came home.

The voyage home was a fairly unpleasant experience, because quite a few people got very drunk because it was the last competition of the season, and quite a few more got very drunk because Rangers and Celtic were playing. But at least this time it was just noisy, and not actually scary.

And that, I think, is all there is to say about Saturday.

#48: "Pathfinder: In Search of Sanity", by F. Wesley Schneider
#49: "The World According to Garp", by John Irving (a book from The List)

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Day 250: Update on Goals

We've reached day 250, so here's the antepenultimate update on goals for the year:

  • Weight: This one remains something of a disaster area, but has at least moved slightly in the right direction since the last update. Still bad, though.
  • Books: At this point I should be on the verge of finishing up book 41 for the year. I actually passed that threshold back in August - I have completed 47 books. I'm also up-to-date or ahead on all the sub-lists for the year.
  • Games: The "Dust to Dust" campaign continues, despite an earlier wobble. In fact, I came within a heartbeat of giving it up. But the most recent session was a success, and it now appears to be back on track. There are also musings on a second, "open tabletop", game, though my gut feeling is that that won't actually happen (because people saying they're interested doesn't necessarily translate into an actual game). And there's also been another interesting development, though it remains to be seen if that will come to anything.
  • Super Secret Goal #4: This goal suffered an horrible setback at the start of last month. Basically, our plan to move first and then sell or rent the flat turned out to be a non-starter. We've now dropped the price of the flat in the hope that that will spark some interest, but for the moment we're stuck here.
  • Band: The competition season is now all but finished, and it has been okay. The results, especially at the Championships, were not what we would have hoped, but the season was mostly enjoyable for all that - one incident on the bus home from the first competition notwithstanding. There's now a lot of work to be done before next season, though it's doubtful whether I'll still be around by then, to say the least.

There's no getting away from it: this has been a hard, hard year, and a pretty disappointing one in terms of my goals. Fundamentally, our inability to get moved to a new house is just a killer, and it feels that everything else is necessarily on hold until that gets done. Which just sucks.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Peebles Highland Games 2016

After a few weeks away, the band resumed our competition season at our penultimate competition of the year.

Unfortunately, it proved to be another disappointment, and showed exactly the same failing as at the World Championships - our summary sheet could have been two words long: "bottled it".

During preparation, everything was going mostly okay. But, more than that, we also got a chance to hear most of the other bands, and they were very much there for the beating. But we misjudged things just a little, such that many of our drones were getting too wet before we went on. Still, that's no excuse. Sadly, the performance just wasn't good. We should be better than this, but the evidence is sorely lacking.

Anyway, our of ten bands we came eighth, being ninth in piping and third in drumming. A very disappointing result, and a disappointing performance.

On a happier note, Saturday was the first time one of my students got a chance to play with the band. This had the oddity that she was intended to play at the march past, but due to a mix-up we actually missed that entirely (oops!). Fortunately, though, Peebles have a parade through the town after the march-past, so she did get a chance to play, which was good. There's still a lot of work to be done there, but at least she's made a mark.

Anyway, only one more to go, at Innerleithen next week, then the AGM the Thursday after, and then a nice long break. Huzzah!

#47: "Antrax", by Terry Brooks