Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Late Notes.

My not-so-old computer is due to take early retirement tomorrow and be replaced by a freshly fledged whipper-snapper loaded with Windows 7. If the new guy doesn’t zip along flawlessly like Michael Flatley on an ego trip, I will be more than a little displeased. Since the old machine has to go in to have the files, settings etc transferred, I can’t say when the next post will make an appearance.

*  *  *

When I went to bed last night, I was mindful of the possibility that bats would be active in the loft. As I turned over to go to sleep, I heard vague sounds that could have been scratchings or tappings or something. Oh, no! But then I realised it was only my stomach rumbling. I went to sleep.

*  *  *

My vote for the best named album ever would have to go to Christy Moore’s effort Smoke and Strong Whiskey.

*  *  *

I would like to know somebody called Aisling before I die, but it would have to be a woman.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Quiet Friends.

This evening I talked to an interesting stone I found lying at the side of Church Lane. Its shape suggested it had spent some considerable time in a river during its long history, and I wondered how it had managed to end up in Church Lane. I don’t often talk to stones. When I’m wending my weary way along the lanes and footpaths of the Shire, I mostly have imaginary conversations with the Lady B.

I’ve tried writing her a-mails, you see, and I’ve tried not writing her e-mails. I’ve tried writing little ditties about her and putting them on the blog. Nothing works; I never get any response. It seems the Lady B has become my imaginary friend.

When I was a kid I had an imaginary friend called Michael, to whom I used to talk while sitting in a makeshift tent on the back lawn, playing my dad’s old 78” records on my dad’s old wind-up gramophone. (My dad was very much older than me, you understand.)

And now it seems my little life has come full circle and I have an imaginary friend again. The Lady B is not quite as imaginary as Michael was, but she’s every bit as quiet.

A Bit of Self-Identity.

I was never the biggest fan of managers. I didn’t mind the remote ones so much, the ones who worked in head office and so on. It was (with a single exception) the ones who were trying to manage me that I always had a problem with, and I fell out with them frequently down the years.

People tried to make me a manager a few times, or persuade me to set foot on the management track. They said I would be more prosperous and more fulfilled. They obviously didn’t know me. They didn’t know that one of my favourite jokes is ‘if all else fails, try management,’ or that I frequently saw them as evidence of that favoured maxim ‘every man rises to his own level of incompetence.’ Maybe that was why the only manager I ever really respected was a woman.

I was thinking on my walk tonight that if my core personality is not that of the manager, the teacher, the artisan, the labourer, the academic, the professional or the scientist, what is it? I decided that the closest would probably be the ‘poet-peasant.’ Not that I can write poetry, but I do seem to quite like writing words down in a wholesome, if not always polished, way.

And it was that time of day when I often recall the words of a real poet, even though he was not a peasant but an academic by profession:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

And if Thomas Grey hadn’t written The paths of glory lead but to the grave, I would have done.

On Pendulums and Priorities.

There’s a story in the news today about an incident at the London Olympics.

The company that was commissioned to provide security screwed up badly and failed to recruit enough personnel, so the government had to step in and allocate troops to cover the gaps. Yesterday, one of the soldiers was ‘verbally abused’ by one of the private security guards, and the company is now conducting an investigation. They say the culprit will be disciplined.

Well, I accept that abuse in any form isn’t nice. But this is life, you know? Soldiers are tough people who get verbally abused routinely by NCOs in training because that’s an integral part of military culture. The soldier involved has probably done a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq, or at least been prepared for such an assignment. I somehow can’t imagine that he was quaking in his boots at being ‘verbally abused’ by a civilian security guard at the London Olympics. I’m more inclined to think that the guard was lucky to have escaped without at least a broken nose.

Does a soldier really need a nanny shaking her walking stick at the naughty man who insulted him? Aren’t we becoming just a bit too prissy about this sort of thing these days?

Meanwhile, the government continues to decline a proper, impartial investigation into the highly suspicious deaths at Deepcut Barracks some years ago. That sort of thing gets swept under the carpet.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

More Silly Numbers.

A news report I read recently said that, according to the latest study, one third of Britons don’t get enough exercise, and this results in 5.3 million deaths a year.

OK, some questions:

Who decides what activities constitute ‘exercise?’ It isn’t simply a matter of calorific expenditure.

Who decides what the ‘right’ amount of exercise is for any given individual?

Are we seriously to believe that one in twelve of the UK population dies every year as a result of not getting enough exercise?

Is this another example of academics competing in the increasingly popular Silliness Olympics (remember the one which concluded that people don’t drink the ‘right’ quantity of fluid every day, which means that 85% of the population are dehydrated?)

Is it, instead, yet another example of misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation on the part of the media?

How long will it be before the latest study concludes that aliens really do eat people’s hamsters?

Does anybody actually believe this nonsense?


The man who lives in the cottage further up the lane is an accountant. He has a smart new car. It's grey. Well I never.

Peering Into the Crucible.

The last few weeks have been difficult, composed largely of delays, technological breakdowns,  invasions of my hallowed space, and the apparent fading away or souring of most relationships. All the dependable things seem to be falling over and playing dead or dying.

I always wonder at times like this whether a melting pot is bubbling away and there are new moulds waiting to be filled. Or it could be that everything has got shaken up and will fall back into place again soon. Or it could be that my life is simply falling apart bit by bit. Could the matrix be crumbling, I wonder. Time will tell.

A Conflict of Sensibilities.

There’s evidence that a family of bats has moved into my loft. I haven’t got the ladder out and checked yet, but there isn’t much doubt.

This causes a conflict. On the one hand, I love bats. On the other, I have a pathological dislike of anything invading my living space, however lovable it might be. I’m also none too keen on being woken every morning at 5.30 or thereabouts.

This has joined the growing list of Matters Requiring Attention.

Free Thinking.

Let me say at the outset that I’m not a communist. I’m not an anything-ist. I have no doctrinal affiliations whatsoever. Maybe that’s why I always found it incomprehensible that Americans especially, and Europeans to a lesser extent, allowed themselves to be brainwashed into believing that communism was inherently evil.

There is nothing inherently evil about communism; it’s just a different approach to the business of living together in groups. It harks back to the days when life was simpler – when small communities pulled together in a common cause and shared the bounty. But everything changed when the working classes were enfranchised and capitalism extended its reach beyond the merchants, the mill owners and the landed gentry. Capitalism is about competition; it’s about winners and losers; any nod of the head towards notions like shared effort and shared reward had to be scotched (except when a war came along, of course, and it benefited the system to temporarily encourage such notions.)

And so the brainwashing began. Before long, terms like ‘commie bastard’ and ‘dirty commies’ became common currency; and McCarthy had his day. When the Bishop of London famously said in the 1960s that Christianity was more akin to communism than capitalism, he was howled down. The brainwashing had worked, and it continues to do so.

The term ‘do-gooder’ arrived a few decades ago. ‘One who does good.’ It was coined deliberately to be pejorative, and it still is. The latest casualty is ‘welfare.’ Welfare is now a dirty word, and all to keep the system rewarding the rich and marginalising – if not actually punishing – the poor.

Please understand that this is not a politically-motivated post. I’m not political in the commonly received sense. It’s just a plea for reason and free thinking.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ennui, a Proposition, and the Priestess.

I recently posed a question which might be paraphrased thus:

If you stand in the middle of an empty plain having removed all external reference points – people, objects, work, hobbies, mirrors, everything – and ask the question ‘now who am I?’ what you’re left with are the internal attributes: likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, ideals and sensibilities.

But these things, like money, don’t actually exist. They’re just abstract concepts. They only become meaningful when, like money, they’re used as a mechanism for exchange. So, to put it simply, if we eschew our connection with what we understand to be external reality, we’re effectively nothing.

An interesting proposition, therefore: maybe ennui is fundamentally an identity crisis suffered by those who have the inner means to recognise, albeit vaguely, the illusory aspect of external reality.

That’s basically what the priestess has been telling me for two years, and I’m only just now coming to understand it. I suppose it’s why she’s no longer with me. She’s done her job and can move on.

Tough Walking.

You wouldn’t think that walking in the gently rolling English countryside could be difficult, would you? Well, it can.

Today I tried a public footpath that I haven't used before. (In Britain these are imaginary lines on the ground, dictated by centuries of use; there’s no actual ‘path’ as such.) It’s one that isn’t usually available because the first field it crosses often has a dairy herd in there and a bull running with them. Today it was empty, so off I went.

The first field was easy. The next section through a narrow wood was a bit more difficult because of the untrodden undergrowth, but not enough to break my pace. The real problem came when the path crossed another stile into a wheat field. The path runs along the edge of the field, and being this time of year it was well overgrown with stuff spilling out of the hedgerow – brambles, thorns, belts of sticky goose grass, and so on. Every step had something trying to trip me up, wrap itself around me or scratch my neck or face. It was the sort of stuff that had to be forced through. I even got a thorn deep in my finger that had to be cut out later. And beneath all the overgrowth was unseen and uneven ground on which it would have been easy to turn an ankle. Walking through the wheat wasn’t a responsible option since it would have risked damaging the crop.

Can you believe that it took half an hour to walk about 100yds? That’s far longer than it takes to walk the same distance on the most rugged terrain in hill country.

A Modern Faust.

I just read about a young Scottish man called Cashmore whose personal fortune now stands at £60m. He started writing a blog about technology and social networking sites. The site became popular, the advertisers moved in, and now the blog itself is valued at £200m. CNN wants to buy it, apparently. It’s been described as a ‘must read’ blog. Not to me it isn’t, not if it carries adverts. To somebody like me, putting adverts on a blog is akin to selling your soul to the Devil.

It seems to me that there are those who go through life trying to decide what’s right and then doing it, and there are those who go through life trying to ‘get on’ – which, roughly translated, means becoming rich, famous or powerful. Since I believe that life is but a game, I have no objection to the latter – except when it involves adversely affecting others by subjecting them to things like crass advertising which drives them up the bloody wall. It’s another example – if such were needed – that ‘getting on’ in life doesn’t come about as a result of doing something worthwhile, but about creating something which becomes popular, however worthless it is in other senses. More fool the human race, I say.

But then, people like me don’t have to read Mr Cashmore’s blog, do we? We get driven up the wall by crass advertising quite enough as it is.

Sheep Behaving Badly.

The big question of the moment is this:

Was my friend Mrs farmer spinning me a yarn recently with her tale of how the sheep couldn’t be moved into the next field because the grass was too long and sheep are ill-equipped to eat long grass?

Well, as I reported last night, the next field has now been mown, the hay made, and the bales removed to the barn ready for winter. This evening I observed that the sheep had been moved onto the freshly mown pasture. So were they grazing the short grass contentedly, possessed of renewed vigour and facing life with a resurgent belief in the best of all possible worlds? No, most of them were lined up at the top edge of the field with heads poked through the wire fence, happily eating the long grass on the strip of adjacent land.

What was really interesting was that several of them broke away from this apparently perverse activity and walked past where I was leaning over the gate. And as each one did, it stopped, turned its head in my direction, and gave me a knowing look.

Friday, 27 July 2012

One Way Connection.

It was a long, cool, silent walk tonight. I found myself standing in a new mown hay meadow some time after sunset, surrounded by roll bales. A bright light appeared in the darkening eastern sky, declaring the approach of an airliner outbound from EMA. I watched it pass overhead and saw the nose light go out, and I continued to follow its flight until it became a dot and then disappeared.

Those few moments engendered a curiously intense sense of loneliness as I realised that they had brought with them a brief connection, but only consciously one way. As the song has it:

Me here at last on the ground, you in mid air.

It reminded me of a story I wrote once, in which the protagonist is taking a train journey and wondering about all the life going on invisibly beneath the green growth in the passing landscape. It contained the phrase ‘a moment of unrequited awareness.’

Continuing Disruption.

Google stats and the Flag Counter indicated three intriguing visits last night, but they don’t generally give enough information to identify individuals. Trusty old Feedjit would probably have enlightened me, but guess what. Trusty old Feedjit has been down for routine maintenance for hours, and now it’s partially back it seems to have missed all the overnight visits. It’s that Mercury guy again with his backward wandering. Has to be. So when is he going to get himself properly oriented so we can all start living normally again?

And I’m about to commit to spending £300 pounds I can ill afford on a new computer.

Still, at least the warm weather has been giving the bats and swallows plenty of food at last, which I suppose is more important.

Bed Time.

I spent the wee small hours with the Mediaeval Babes tonight. Their music is lovely, but I think it a pity that they feel the need to project a sub-Spice Girls image. Still, you can always close your eyes and just listen.

And the moon was golden again.

A Plea to the Lady B.

Dear Sarah D
I’d like to see
If you can still be friends with me

Cos if you are
I’ll hail a star
And hitch a lift to Shangri-la

But if you’re not
I’ll sit and rot
And smoke myself to death on pot

And when I’m dead
And white as bread
I’ll come and stand at your bed head

To shake and moan
And curse and groan
And put a hex upon your phone

And whoop and wave
And rant and rave
And rain down insults from my grave

So tell me right
You pesky sprite
Some time twixt now and Christmas Night

If I’m still in
And free from sin
Or cast in Lady Bella’s bin.

What does a chap have to do to get some honest attention, eh? What?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London 2012.

Scientists are warning that if the heatwave in Britain continues, the Olympic athletes might suffer breathing problems. Pollution levels are well beyond WHO guidelines, apparently.

I always said the whole damn thing should have been held on Svalbard.

Another Farming Note.

Mr and Mrs farmer who keep the sheep up the lane must have baled their hay today, because they were just taking the first load home when I went for a walk this evening. And here’s the thing:

Mr farmer was driving the tractor that was pulling the laden trailer, while Mrs farmer – who seems to like me for some reason – was following in the vehicle with the lifting gear on it. (Modern hay bales are big – too heavy for men [or women] with pitch forks.)

So that’s something else about the old fashioned, small scale farming life – partnership. Proper functional partnership. You don’t get that with the big, profit-oriented agri-businesses.

And Mrs farmer waved to me as they headed homeward. Must ask her what her name is one of these days.

Mixed Fortune with Mixed Up Mercury.

Mercury is retrograde at the moment, so expect delays, difficulties and breakdowns with any technology that’s connected with travel and communication.

So, this morning I got the quote for the new computer deal. It was £60 more than I’d been hoping for, but I suppose I’ll have to pay it if I want peace of mind with my computer. And I do need peace of mind with my computer.

I drove to the station to catch the train to Derby. The first train was cancelled. The second train was delayed...and delayed...and delayed. Eventually it turned up nearly two hours after the first one had been due. Meanwhile, poor Mel was kicking her heels in Derby waiting for me.

Still, what that meant was that I caught a later train back, and there was a teenage girl sitting facing me a couple of seats further along. She showed me yet again (if I needed any more demonstration) that even the plainest face can be transformed into something quite beautiful if the eyes are active and characterful. Eyes take the perception to a deeper level, and the surface appearance simply disappears.

So Mercury in retrograde might not have taught me anything today, but at least he reinforced something I knew already.

Credit Where it's Due.

My Feedjit is playing up. It keeps recording my own site visits, even though it didn’t used to and I’ve told it to stop.

I love my Feedjit, I really do. That’s because it gives the sort of information that enables me to recognise certain callers. So, for example, if I see:

US...Chrome...Mac...Direct...Chicago, Illinois arrived...

I know it’s Zoe (from New York, oddly, but nothing’s perfect) popping her head around the door. What that means is that Feedjit doesn’t just give statistics. Those statistics become familiar in some cases and turn into pictures. And that’s rather good, don’t you think?

So, I sent an enquiry to the Feedjit contact address. Since my Feedjit is one of the freebie ones, I didn’t expect a reply. I mean, you don’t get replies from the likes of Hotmail and Google, do you? At best you’re likely to get referred to a forum where some self-styled expert misunderstands your question or point and answers a different one.

But – surprise, surprise – a little over a day after I’d made the enquiry, I got a reply from a real, human lady called Kerry Boyte (presumably of Seattle, but I can’t know that.) What’s more, dear Kerry was even prepared to engage in an e-mail conversation in an attempt to find a solution.

In a world dominated by corporate greed and obsessed with the pre-eminence of profit, such a human touch is rare and has to be commended. So thank you Feedjit, and thank you Kerry Boyte. You have impressed JJ the Cynic.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Golden Moon.

The moon was dressed all in gold tonight. Is that a good omen, I wonder?

I tried googling it, but found only page after page of entries relating to hotels, apartment blocks and restaurants called ‘Golden Moon.’ I suppose that suggests it’s a good omen in somebody’s culture.

That's the Old Way.

I got talking to one of the old farmers from the village this evening. He was coming across his hay meadow at twilight – the one he mowed on Monday, he told me. And now he’s hoping for at least one more warm, dry day so that he can get the hay bailed and safely into the barn.

I’d say he was in his late sixties, and was obviously one of the old sort. I’ve met quite a few of them in my life; I’ve been into their homes and seen how they live. It’s simple, functional, unprepossessing. They don’t work predominantly for the money as most people do; they live for their work. Their focus is the land and its harvest, not the trappings of lifestyle. They go out in the morning and they come home in the evening, having spent anything up to sixteen hours sowing, or ploughing, or harvesting, or baling, or tending the flock, or mending fences, or trimming the hedges, or clearing the land drains. And if conditions require that they work on into the darkness, that’s what they do. And if conditions require that they work all weekend, that’s what they do. And they don't complain. They do whatever it takes to keep the cycle of supply moving. That’s their work and that’s their life, and if they can make enough to live a simple one, that’s good enough.

Ashbourne Today.

Made two trips to the computer place to talk about getting a new computer. Just waiting for Sam to send me a quote by e-mail, and then...

*  *  *

Had a tray of chips for lunch again and thought of Melanie. This could become a habit, a bad habit. (Having chips for lunch, that is, not thinking of Melanie.)

*  *  *

I usually meet the odd nice dog in Ashbourne, but I didn’t today. There was one curious little creature that was bald everywhere except the head, which had a sort of punk hairstyle. I didn’t like the look of the guy on the other end of the lead, though, so I let them both pass by.

*  *  *

Sainsbury’s do two sizes of quiche – a 170g pack which they call ‘1 person,’ and a 400g pack which they call ‘4 person.’ Wouldn’t you think they’d have a calculator somewhere in the design department?

*  *  *

The roll of film I took in for processing recently wasn’t back, so you’ll have to wait for more pictures.

*  *  *

I do wish the proprietors of the fruit and veg shop would stop having their daughter serving on the till. Heavens to Murgotroyd, as I think somebody once famously said.

Another Plea to Americans.

My internet just dropped out again – more ‘BT routine maintenance between midnight and 6am,’ according to the ISP announcement when I rang them.

I’ve talked to the ISP technicians about this before. Why midnight to 6am, I wanted to know. They tell me it’s because that’s when the internet is least busy, so it inconveniences the fewest people. Well it isn’t when I’m the least busy; it’s when I’m most active. Don’t the idiots at BT realise that midnight UK time is between 4-7pm in America?

So I want all you American chums to complain to your government. Tell them to come down like a ton of bricks on British Telecom. Tell them that if they don’t take JJ’s interests into consideration, you won’t be sending any more nylons, Hershey bars or chewing gum. Do it now.

As it happens, my internet came back prematurely, but that isn’t the point.

Sweet and Low.

I make no apology; sweetness has its place, and if you can make it past the initial stills, the video is pretty damn sweet!

But I’m posting this for the music, which I judge to be melancholy rather than sweet. I became a great admirer of Maire Breatnach when her album ‘Angels Candles’ had me reaching for the keyboard to write When the Waves Call. On the surface she would hardly make the cover of Vogue, but who could say that a person capable of writing and playing music like this isn’t beautiful? I’ve never heard anybody so at one with the viola, the instrument of sunset.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Modern Olympics, Modern Mentality.

Nick Clegg has addressed the assembled GB team prior to the start of the London Olympics. I’m sure that nothing could spur them to greater heights than a pep talk from Nick Clegg... (For those who don’t know, he’s the leader of Britain’s third political party, the survival of which beyond the next election is in doubt following their ill-judged alliance with the Tories.)

I could pick up on several bits of empty rhetoric that made up his speech, but empty rhetoric is about what one expects from politicians, so there’d be nothing new there. The one thing I thought worth mentioning was, as reported by the Press Association:

He told the nation's Olympians they could expect the support of the whole country as they battle to claim a record gold medal haul at the Games in London.

The Olympics didn’t used to be about claiming ‘a record gold medal haul’ for a particular country. They used to be about individual athletes demonstrating their prowess. There’s a difference.

The Moving Moon.

The crescent moon was striking its classic, angled pose in the southern sky this evening. It looked still, as moons always do, but then I noticed something I’ve never noticed before.

If it’s hanging low and close to some static reference point like a tree, you can actually watch it move across the sky. The movement is very slow, but just about discernible. And there’s something unaccountably strange about watching a moon move.

The Presumption of Transience.

The Victorian schoolhouse a little way up the lane has a stone block set into the wall by the door on the north side. On it is carved Boys Entrance.

That’s what the Victorians did. If they erected a building for use by the regional Water Board or some such, they would carve the fact in stone and set it into the front wall. They had a great sense of stability in those days. The occupier of a building, or even the function of a particular door, was expected to last well beyond the horizon of the foreseeable future, and so it was worth paying a craftsman to set its identity in stone.

No work for the stonemasons these days. A joiner gets the job of erecting a wooden frame now, on which can be screwed a plastic sign. Plastic is cheap and lightweight, easily removed to make way for its successor when the building changes hands. We plan for change now, not longevity.

The Gremlins Saga Continued.

I’m aware that most of us find other people’s computer woes pretty boring stuff, but it would be remiss of me, I think, not to offer the latest instalment to anybody who might be interested.

Sam came out today and the computer played up brilliantly for him. It was a right little sod – took four attempts to boot to Windows!  Sam settled himself down, put the computer into DOS mode and checked everything he could think of. Nothing. After half an hour he delivered the verdict:

‘As far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with your computer. It’s been into the workshop twice and never played up there, so I reckon it’s got be something here. (Got to be something here... Sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it?)’

He suggested that one of the peripherals might be interrupting the boot process, but that would be difficult to test for because the problem is intermittent. I said it might be the fairies who hang around this place, but he declined to comment. He called his boss who offered three options:

1) Give me a straight refund of the £150 I spent yesterday and call it quits.

2) Have the computer into the workshop for an extended period and go deeper and deeper into the system.

3) Sell me a new computer, deduct the £150, but charge me a standard fee for transferring all the files, programs, settings etc.

Option 1 wouldn’t be right, since I undertook to have the work done and I don’t hold them responsible for the fact that it didn’t cure the problem. Option 2 would seem like throwing good money after bad. Option 3, however, sounds appealing and very reasonable if only I can bring myself to spend the extra money. Money isn’t something I have a lot of, you see. I live a simple life on a low income. I have until the end of the week to decide...

I have to add this, though. It’s refreshing these days to find a business that doesn’t try to rip you off for every penny they can extract, and fob you off with whatever crap they can get away with. So well done Dove Computer Solutions of Ashbourne. You have earned my respect (for what it’s worth.)

Electronics and Progress.

When I was having trouble with my car – a modern car run by electronics – it went through computer diagnostic check after computer diagnostic check over a twelve month period. I’ve forgotten how many new components they fitted, but the problem was still there. Both mechanics I spoke to said that since the inception of electronic control, cars have become more prone to problems, they’re more difficult to diagnose and more expensive to fix. They said that often it’s a case of finding something that’s apparently malfunctioning, and then replacing a component in the hope that it will cure the condition. To put it simply, electronics have introduced an air of mystery to the business of diagnosis and cure, so it’s often a case of shrugging the shoulders and hoping. The customer, of course, pays for all the failed attempts.

So it seems to be with computers, which have always been electronic by their very nature. My computer has been through expert diagnosis, which found the hard drive to be faulty. So they replaced the hard drive and re-installed everything, but the problem is still there.

Until very recently, technology consisted of physical components run on power generated by physical or electrical means. Everything was traceable and understandable. The process of repair had a simple certainty about it. We didn’t have the facilities we have now, but we didn’t have the dysfunctionality either.

It makes you wonder whether we’re trying to be too clever, overreaching ourselves and creating an infrastructure we don’t fully understand. I suppose that’s progress of a sort.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Computer Problem.

The story so far:

The problem was that the computer needed to make repeated attempts to boot to Windows.

Repair corrupt files on hard drive. Cost £58

New hard drive and complete re-install. Cost £150

Result: The problem is still there.

The engineer assures me that everything was tested in the workshop and was working perfectly, so tomorrow he’s coming to my house to view the problem in situ (free!) To be continued.

A Heads Up.

My dear friend the computer goes in for major surgery tomorrow. If you never hear more of me...

It's the Real Thing.

I was just rummaging through a cupboard and came across a 2xCD set that I’d forgotten I had. It’s called The Definitive Irish Folk Collection. I set the first disc playing while I read through the tracks.

Well now, I’ve been interested in Irish folk music in one form or another since I was a teenager, and I can tell you this. Around half the tracks on this collection would fail the test of ‘Irish folk’ even with the application of a liberal definition, and of the rest, there are few that could be described as ‘definitive.’

This is what the music industry does. It puts out stuff like this to convince those who wouldn’t know Irish folk from a cup of flat Guinness that they’re getting the real McCoy. And I assume they believe they are. Do you know, somebody once said to me ‘I can’t stand Irish music. It’s so miserable.’ God knows what she’d been listening to. A definitive collection, no doubt.

I’ve no idea how I came by this CD set; I certainly wouldn’t have bought it, so I expect somebody gave it to me. No wonder I forgot I had it.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Lamenting the Lost Feedjit.

It seems the Feedjit server is down. No Feedjit. Woe are we who rely on it to tell us when iPhones and BlackBerries visit us from over the pond or across two fields, or present us with tantalizing mysteries, such as

Who is Doncaster?

Who would search Google for jj beazley roston?

How does somebody search nadgy BDSM and land on one of my posts that makes no mention of either?

Get well soon, Feedjit. We miss you.

Insect Mind.

I was just watching the gnats dancing against the twilight sky and wondering how on earth they manage to avoid bumping into each other.

Letting Go.

If you release a bird into the wild, you don’t expect it to fly back and hang around you, and neither should you want it to.

So it has to be with people, except that letting a person go doesn’t mean releasing them, since they were always free to leave anyway. It means coming to accept that you mustn’t call out to them and you mustn’t expect them to come back. You mustn’t even want them to come back, even though you miss them. You may watch them sleeping in your heart, but you mustn’t want to wake them. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

That’s why I eventually decided not to send the e-mail I’ve been itching to send all day.

An Untypical Priority.

I just worked out why things like car and computer problems cause me unduly high levels of stress. I lack the space in my mind to deal with them.

I have the kind of mind (rather pointlessly, you might argue) that needs constantly to explore the unfathomable. I want to know where I came from, what comes next, what ‘I’ means, whether there are other forms of reality and, if so, what place the material one has in the spectrum of realities. And even within the perceived level of mundane reality, I want to know what drives natural forces and the human condition – and that goes beyond just the biological drives.

In order to do that I need a reliable base. I need a comfortable, settled living environment and tools I can trust to work. To offer a simple analogy:

If you’re walking along a road in a mountain range, how do you observe the hills, the woods, the rivers and the wildlife if you’re constantly having to stop to mend the freggin’ road?

Demonstrating the Point.

And just to follow up (and illustrate) the previous post:

Redneck:         Stick with me, doll, ahm better’n him.

English Girl:   I’m sorry. Did you say ‘better’ or ‘badder?’

Redneck:         Same thing, ain’t it?

The Fake American Accent Problem.

The person who uploaded the lyrics of Dreadlock Holiday to YouTube (see earlier post) gives the following line:

I heard a dark voice beside me say
“Would you like something harder?”

When that song was current, I heard the line as ‘...like something hotter,’ because the context suggests the soliciting of a whore. And therein lies an important point.

Rock and pop music was invented in America in the 1950s, and there’s always been a tendency for British singers to effect a vaguely American accent. It seems to go with the territory and people do it unconsciously (just as we British kids effected a poor American accent when we were playing cowboys and Indians.) But English and American speakers pronounce the double ‘t’ in words ending ...tter differently. The Englishman clips it more precisely, so ‘hotter’ and ‘harder’ sound quite different. The American, however – at least to an English ear and especially if the first syllable is vocally extended – hardens the double ‘t’ so it sounds like ‘d.’ ‘Better’ becomes ‘bedder,’ ‘fatter’ becomes ‘fadder,’ and ‘hotter’ becomes ‘harder.’

So which is it, because the choice between ‘harder’ and ‘hotter’ completely changes the meaning of the last verse?

Where I'm Going.

I’ve heard it said that when we die we engage with a different level of reality, one in which we’re more in control of that which appears external to us. Well, this is on my shortlist. C’mon, you can spare 1 minute 36 seconds.

Just Letting Us Know.

Every commercial break in the cricket highlights tonight carried a trailer for the new series of CSI:Miami.  There were cars crashing, cars driving off piers, cars blowing up, people shooting at people, people shouting at people, people giving people of the opposite sex those hilarious ‘do sexy’ looks – all the usual stuff you associate with programmes down at that end of the spectrum and which you’d begun to find tiresome by the age of about twelve. But then something interesting happened...

The screen was filled with two small words, but six big letters:

ONE MAN! it said, obviously introducing the star and hero.

And so he appeared – whatever his name is – in four or five short clips. But in each one he was taking his sunglasses off. Well, if that isn’t a transparently pointed message, I don’t know what is. The makers of the trailer evidently needed to make it clear that:

‘We know this stuff is made for people with no brain cells, but we want you to be in no doubt that we get the joke. OK?’


Saturday, 21 July 2012

'...They come not Single Spies' #4

I went out at ten o’clock this evening to have my usual communion with the bats and trees, only to find the rural evening air being blasted by 50s rock ’n roll music courtesy of some bozo half a mile away on the bottom lane having a freggin’ party. It seems to me there are two sorts of people – those who want to make mindless noise and those who don’t want to hear it. Let’s face it, rock ’n might have been ground-breaking stuff when it was new and had some profound social relevance. But that was then, sixty years ago. Now it’s just mindless crap.

Or maybe it’s just me.

'...They come not Single Spies' #3

I have a garden lounger stored in my shed. It has a plastic frame with a padded, fabric-covered base. I discovered a long gash in the fabric this afternoon, evidently made by a mouse gaining access to the soft stuff inside for the purpose of making a nest.

'...They come not Single Spies' #2

I heard an almighty clatter this morning and discovered that my second, smaller yucca plant which lives on a shelf above the stairs had fallen off – to the bottom of the staircase – that’s an 8ft drop. Needless to say, I was more concerned for the poor plant than I was about the soil all over the stair and living room carpets. She seemed uninjured, although I expect she was in shock, poor thing. She’s now been re-potted in a bigger pot and will have a new location found for her tomorrow.

'...They come not Single Spies' #1

The day appearing to be as fine and pleasant as predicted, I decided when I got up this morning to wash the bed linen. My problem is that I have only one pair of summer weight sheets, so they have to be washed, dried, ironed and put back the same day (unless I happen to be sleeping somewhere else that night, of course, but that hasn’t happened so far this millennium.) The sheets were washed and on the line by midday, and dry by about 4, so I decided to bring them in. One of them had something brown on it, which I assumed was a butterfly until I got closer. Nope – bird shite! Back into the washing machine on a 25 minute rinse cycle, then back onto the line.

I brought the rest of the washing in, but then something occurred to me:

‘If anybody sees just a fitted sheet on the washing line, they’ll think I’ve wet the bed.’

Think again:

‘No, they won’t. Lots of people don’t use top sheets any more, they’ll just think you’re normal.’

Think again:

‘Why the hell should I give a monkey’s toss what people think?’

The sheet was left on the line and was dry enough to iron by 7. JJ’s bed is now made up again and ready for occupation.

Dreadlock Holiday.

For some reason, this reminds me of the only time I ever went to New York (aged seventeen and seven months.) I suppose it recalls that walk back to the docks across the lower west side at midnight. People told me later that I'd been fortunate to get away with it. Luck of the (probable) Irish ancestry, maybe.

YouTube Vet.

I'm getting to be quite a practiced YouTuber these days. I've even discovered the black panel at the bottom where I can store my 'watch later' videos. This is neat.

Next up is Sinead O'Connor singing Roisin Dubh.

Parenting in the Capitalist World.

We gave her everything money could buy
~ from ‘She’s Leaving Home’

I’m utterly convinced that kids have no real use for everything money can buy. Give them that, and the best you can hope for is that they’ll still grow up well balanced in spite of your misguided attempt to turn them into selfish, spoiled, acquisitive adults.

On the other hand, give them love, time, straight talking and a healthy, home-cooked diet, and the chances are they’ll grow into adult humans worthy of the term.

Lamenting the Loss of the Lady.

I haven’t seen you-know-who in ages. Hasn’t anybody noticed that a leading player on the JJ blog stage has been notably absent recently? I think she’s finally, and very sensibly, come to the conclusion that strange male persons are nothing if not expendable.

‘Tis no more the BlackBerry smart phone comes a-knocking at my door
Now the distant Lady Bella doesn’t land here any more

Should I scramble to the ceiling or lie prostrate on the floor?
Since the lovely Lady Bella doesn’t like me any more

Though the world turn topsy turvy and the gods in heaven roar
Should one care when Lady Bella doesn’t want one any more?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Save the Children.

We all know – or should do by now – that the likes of McDonalds and KFC load their products with chemical additives to make them more ‘appealing.’ We know that some of those additives are linked to behavioural problems in children, and can also cause other conditions such as headaches and breathing difficulties in some people. We know that such junk food is high in cholesterol and fosters obesity.

So why, oh why, do we allow the likes of McDonalds and KFC to target their advertising at children? More to the point, why do we allow people under eighteen to even walk through the door of such establishments? Why is our culture becoming so hysterical about hygiene and unnaturally wrapping children in cotton wool – to the point, it seems, of suppressing their natural immune systems – while turning a blind eye to the seventy eight different chemicals that McDonalds use across its range?

It seems we have fools to the left of us and criminally greedy entrepreneurs to the right. And they’re both winning by wooing the gullible.

A Bit of an Anniversary.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, an event that spawned one of the biggest conspiracy theories of the 20th Century.

Well, I generally avoid conspiracy theories because there’s too much speculation and too little provable fact, and so they usually come down to nothing more than a choice of belief. Belief choices, as we all know, are based as much on a person’s state of mind, his inclination or otherwise to be cynical, and sometimes even elements of sub-cultural conditioning, as they are about anything actually knowable. A bit like religion, really, and best avoided I think – on both sides. I don’t know whether American astronauts landed on the moon in 1969 or not. What’s more, I don’t care; I don’t consider it important. We all know that politicians and other Establishment figures lie when it suits them, so what difference would one more make?

I can tell you this, though. I once saw a photograph that was purportedly taken on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission and it most certainly wasn’t, at least not under the conditions claimed by NASA. It had two shadows crossing, you see, and if the only source of illumination was the sun as NASA said, crossing shadows are simply impossible. Lines can appear to converge, but never cross.

And I still don’t care.

Summer Fare.

According to the weather forecasters, summer was supposed to start today. It didn’t – temperature still in the 50s and yet more rain (and last night my feet were so cold in bed that I considered wearing socks!) They’ve revised the forecast, and now we have summer celebrations planned for tomorrow.

I decided to be optimistic and make the first of my traditional summer dishes – rice salad with broad beans, chives and fresh sage out of the garden. Only I didn’t use rice this time, but quinoa because I’d read that it’s supposed to be Extremely Healthy and I haven’t yet stopped believing absolutely everything I read. That’s tonight’s dinner, along with green salad, hot cheese and onion rolls and organic houmous. I should be fit as a flea, really, shouldn’t I?

Sad and Shaken.

I feel shaken this morning by how ready some people are to kill the innocent, whether it be state-sponsored genocide in Syria, a Norwegian who was ‘protecting’ his country from the perceived threat of alien incursion, or two men in Denver who did it for heaven-knows-what reason.

I can’t help taking this personally. I woke up at four o’clock this morning needing the loo, and when I read the news later I realised that there were fourteen people alive then who were dead by the time I woke up again.

I dare say that the high spiritual mind would argue that in the final analysis none of it matters. Well, I’m not up there yet, and so it does to me. Maybe people are still my business after all.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

After Plato.

Did you know that Plato wrote in his Phaedrus that the first prophecies were the words of an oak, and that people living at that time found it rewarding to listen to an oak or a stone as long as it was telling the truth?

So don’t tell me I’m nuts for talking to trees. Plato wasn’t nuts, was he?

O'Malley's Confession.

A rare lavatorial ditty. These computer problems appear to be corrupting my mind. Maybe I need a reinstall.

Forgive me Father, I have sinned,
Being sat at Mass and breaking wind.
Defiling your good sermon, too,
While people looked at me, not you.
And Mrs Kelly sitting near
Was heard to mutter low ‘hear, hear.’
The little Brennan girl as well
Who asked her mother ‘What’s that smell?’
‘Tis only old O’Malley’s buzz.
It’s what he’s known for, what he does.’
‘Well I don’t like him,’ said young Nell.
‘I wish he'd die and fart in hell.’

Update and a Link with a Genius.

The repair of all my corrupt files didn’t work, so it was back to the computer doc this morning. I spoke to Yi, Ashbourne’s Mr Computer, whose manner and expertise meet with my approval. He said:

‘In that case the hard drive is probably corrupted. You need either a new hard drive or a new computer.’

There followed a discussion, the upshot of which was that the dear old thing goes in for major surgery on Monday morning. New hard drive, complete re-install, and my pocket about £150 lighter. But that’s cheaper than a new computer.

So why is any of this of interest to readers of this blog? Because:

1) Most of my contact with the world of mortal man (in the Old English, non gender-specific sense, you understand) goes through the computer.

2) Without a computer, I wouldn’t be writing this blog, would I?

I think maybe I need a hobby.

(I just heard somebody say on the radio that Beethoven loved walking in the countryside, and my wife would occasionally tell me ‘You’re doing your Beethoven look.’ Fortunately, I’m not completely deaf yet, neither have I taken to appearing in public having forgotten to put my trousers on. The things we eccentrics get up to...)