Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now at 100% Audacity

Soooo, what have I been up to the past week or so.
Not much really, as you might expect. Having left work with a not insignificant amount of final pay (all holiday pay plus the pay to the day I left = approx £800) I've been kinda taking the opportunity to put my feet up, and keep them there.
For a while. Or maybe longer.

Admittedly it's getting boring now, which is why I am now working myself back into a "normal" sleep pattern, prior to going back into my old job (pizza delivering scooterboy) for the next three months or so, just for some money for christmas.

Now a couple of people might say "Ahahahha scooterboy", but I look at it this way: When I used to do it, I'd make £10-20 in tips a night. That's equivalent to £200-£400 in gratuities a month! On top of the basic pay which isn't too bad I seem to remember. Then you have the fact that I get to travel - yeah fine I get to travel an area the size of a small town, but it's nice to get around and see what's going on I spose. Then you have the fact I like my own company just as much as I like other people's. And since all people will ever want from me is a hot meal, there's nothing in the way of "conflict resolution", "objection handling" or any of that call center shite. And definitely no scripts or hard selling. And it's only for a few months anyway.

Why? Because for about the 8,902,893rd time this year, I've decided to get my arse in gear and get fit enough for the Army. There's no two ways about it, there are too many arguments for going into the army and not enough against. Aside from the fact that I'm not qualified to do anything, and the people that are, are losing their jobs left and right due to the recession (which is apparently in its opening stages and due to get worse), I'm therefore headed in that direction because of "economic circumstances" (the first of many it seems, as the MOD is expecting improved recruiting. It looks like just back in the good old '50's, for a generation of young men, getting in a uniform looks to be the only sure way of getting a career, a room and a meal) .

But I'd rather be considered a driven and committed recruit-to-be, rather than a victim of circumstance. Why? Because this is my choice, and I feel it's the right one for me. Even looking on the smaller side of the scale, I stand to gain mates, and a social life, and I'll sure be travelling, even if it is sometimes to places no civvy wants to go.
Most importantly though, a career in the army will give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning, something meaningful to put my heart into and build a life around. And that ladies and gentlemen, is something that no shitty "Exceeds Nat Min Wage" job with a title ending in "operative" could ever, ever give me.

But back to the present, what's the title about?
Audacity, while not only being a piece of open source software, is a rather good description of what's been coming out of my stereo since I got it fixed. See, a while ago, I plugged a 5mm headphone jack into the front of my stereo, which then snapped in half when I tried to unplug it, leaving half of it inside my stereo.
What happens when you plug a 5mm jack into your headphone port? The speakers go dead. Why? Because there's no bloody point wearing headphones if they don't. And you might want to listen to music with bad words in. So what happens if you leave half a jack in there? Surprisingly, only one of the speakers goes dead. Okay so I lied about the surprisingly bit.
To get round this (there's no way to remove a snapped jack plug from inside a stereo port - we tried (no user servicable parts inside generally means what it says) I did what will probably make people slap their heads, groan, half-turn away, and do the usual pantomime to show that they can't believe someone would be so stupid, which was to take the wires from the LEFT speaker, twist them around the wires for the RIGHT speaker, and plug them into the RIGHT speaker port.
Did the stereo go bang and teach me a lesson? Er, no, sorry. If you were hoping that it did then please get the paxo* out of the cupboard, and proceed to get stuffed.
However since the wires I now had plugged in only controlled the bass speaker, I was still left with a barely operational left speaker. Until my splitter-cable arrived today, allowing me to plug in the treble speaker which has its own seperate lead. Woo! My stereo now fires on all cylinders and outputs from all speakers, even if I should probably stop calling it a stereo as it's now technically a "mono".

On a sadder note, I was rather dismayed to hear from my mum that my grandad's birthday present (my sis and I split the cost and got him 12 new fish for his tank), while well received, didn't last long. Unbeknownst to me, apparently you have to prepare the tank for new arrivals even if there are ALREADY fish in it. Also unbeknownst to me, my mum was aware of this and advised my sister against getting the fish. Of course, at the time I wasn't aware there was a problem, on account of no bloody sod actually telling me. All the new fish didn't seem to adapt to the tank as well as was expected, and in less than a week, all 12 fish have died. RIP, little tetras, silver sharks, guppies and some other ones I can't remember.
Do I feel guilty? No. Should I? While I am broadly in favour of animals, I know nothing about fish, and therefore made the mistake of assuming there was no problem, as I hadn't (and this is an important point that I keep repeating) been told otherwise. While assumption is a mistake in itself, I feel it's the only one I actually made. Still. Poor fishies.

What else is going on? Well today I've spent four hours behind a bloody carpet cleaning vacuum cleaning water carpet machine thingie, helping to get the house nice and tidy, which will come in useful come christmas.

Ahh I said the C word again didn't I! Oh well, it's no longer something to be escaped it seems, as there are even adverts on the TV about christmas now. All the shopping channels (which my mum is fond of) are now selling christmas themed products, wrapping paper, crackers etc...

So now I'm off to get some dinner, and then later I'm off out for my run :). Have fun.

*Hahahaha I love that, "serving suggestion", yeah that's right, make some stuffing, shove it in a bowl and eat it with a spoon! Nice one! (At least do some gravy to go with it!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The year is winding on...

OFFICIAL WARNING TO ALL FAMILY MEMBERS: From this date until Dec 26th 2008, this blog is officially "out of bounds" for my nephew. I will be doing an amount of christmas organising over the next 12 weeks or so, and a certain amount of that organising will involve my nephew's presents, and the purchasing and discussion thereof. Included in this blog entry is a photo slideshow intended for the benefit of everyone except for the aforementioned little nephew, The slideshow contains images of one of his Xmas presents and is not intended to be viewed or seen by him. PLEASE KEEP ALL NEPHEWS AWAY FROM THIS BLOG UNTIL DECEMBER 26TH.

Right. So what have I been doing for two weeks?
Well, I've been browsing around for a job, visited the job center a couple of times and have asked various companies if they have vacancies, so far, the only promising lead is a job as a bike rider delivering pizzas - It pays okay and it's not a bad job, but I'm not that desperate yet.

I've cleaned my room up loads, I've created loads more space, and I've played a lot of Gran Turismo 2. I've listened to a fair bit of christmas music from our family's favourite christmas tape, as is traditional in this strange family of ours, when we're doing autumn cleaning (It motivates us I suppose). Other than that I've been generally riding my bike around, chilling out with friends, and staying away from the beer more than usual.

One thing I've also been doing, is spending a lot of time at my sister/nephew's house, helping them do various things such as painting (walls and ceiling), wallpapering, and generally getting the house in a nice condition after the decorators half bulldozed the place. We've got the place looking okay now - not too bad at all.

We went with my nephew to Toys'R'Us, the epicentre of all toys in the world everywhere. I used to love going to that place as a kid, just to look at all the cool stuff. One thing I noticed is that not only is the 2 foot long Millenium Falcon back on sale, but so are the proportionately scaled A and B wings, as well as Tie Fighters, Tie Interceptors and loads of other models. Good to have them back after a hiatus of what, 20 years?
My nephew enjoyed hitting me with the new toy lightsabers though, though his mum's adamant he's not getting one, and I can see why.

Now, [and I'm sorry if this seems longwinded - this is the second time I've had to write this, due to computer problems], if you asked my nephew what he wants for christmas, his answer is usually " A playpeople airplane". A couple of years ago my mum bought him a two engine playmobil airplane, and all was well. One day though, he threw it out of the window of his first floor bedroom. Not - as you might think - out of any spite or temper tantrum, but simply childish curiousity - he wanted to see it fly.
Fortunately, while none of the parts of the plane broke upon its crash landing, a few of them DID fly, in the general direction of "away and round the corner" it seems, as they haven't been seen since. And since then, his playmobil airplane has been like a jigsaw with a lot of missing pieces. Eventually it went in the bin, I think.

So I've been chatting with his mother about getting him what he wants for christmas - a new playmobil plane - provided that we can be sure that the same won't happen again. I've found an enormously fantastic jumbo, bigger than his old 2 engined jet, that I want to get him.
Now I figured that it'd be neat to get him a few things to go with it, so while I'm trying to persuade my mum to buy him another of the original 2 engined jets, I'm trying to get his mum to buy him the airport cargo crew to go with the plane. He was particularly taken with the playmobil at Toys'R'Us, so I think he'll enjoy getting some for Xmas.

Earlier in the week, I spent some time with my sis, and we went to somewhere I'd not been for a while, Wentworth Garden Center. We both used to get taken there with our parents as kids, and it has been easily ten years since I last visited the place, so it was with some surprise that I noted that the place has barely changed. The gardens, the pond, and even the secret passage (yes, there's a secret passage) as well as the maze are still there, which is nice to see. Yes, it's a garden center, but they've put a lot of effort into making the place as pleasant to be in as possible, and walking round the grounds with the different trees, the fountains, waterfalls, ponds and fields, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the grounds of the nearby stately home.
One thing they also had was a big stock of playmobil, though they didn't have what I was looking for.
Which was fair enough, as I'd already found what I was looking for, and it was sitting in a Toys'R'Us bag in the back of my sister's car...

So, other than the exclusive expose below, I'm off to go and finish my tea. Then I'm going to phone the guy who's supposed to be buying my bike and find out why he hasn't bought it yet.

The secret identity of the first Christmas Present of the year can be exclusively revealed below: I concealed a camera about my person and joined the Army to repor... oops wrong one, sorry. I sneaked into the attic to capture revealing images of the first present of the year. I suspect more will join it as time goes on.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

The great Christmas cleanup...

...Okay, before you all start emailing me to let me know I've got my seasons mixed up, I know, it's not Christmas.

However, I also know that when it is Christmas, I'll be too busy doing Christmassy things to be bothered with little things like cleaning my room. So I'm doing it now.
I was sat in my bed 2 days ago, wide awake at 5am. My room was a tip, clothes and empty coke bottles everywhere, and without wanting to put too fine a point on it, I was hardly spring fresh myself. Which bothered me, as i'm not exactly a layabout.
Well I am at the moment but not generally.

The problem with living in a room every day for yeras on end is you never really get the opportunity to give it a big cleanout, so starting today that's exactly what I'm gonna be doing.
What inspired this? I dunno, just an irrational bout of christmassy feeling I suppose. We're getting on towards the end of the year, christmas is now close enough for shops to be selling christmas cards, so I decided I might as well do something constructive, in the name of a family occasion.

So right now it's 7:33, and I'm entangled in the process of trying to strip my desk down and rebuild it - which will be really fun considering I need to be able to use it at the same time.

00:05: Well, I ended up stripping out the desk CD rack, cleaning everything up, retightning all the screws and adding a healthy measure of wood glue to help the desk back in its way to being reasonably solid again. I hope someone invents a structural integrity field one day because sooner or later, this desk's gonna need one to hold it together.
I managed to clear out a couple of cupboards that weren't doing anything, and best of all, I've managed to velcro my memory card reader and iPod Shuffle dock to the side of the desk just above my USB Hub. So if you look in there now, it's a mass of blinking lights - looks very cool.

One other thing I've done, is restore my christmas tree.
Eh? Let me explain. A few years, maybe 7 or 8 years back I got a "Magic Christmas Tree" The one I got quoted a working life of approx 5 or 6 days depending on how much you messed about with the tree and how many crystals you knocked off etc. It also came with a little warning that basically said "once crystals have fallen from tree, do not reuse".
This 5-6 day tree was preserved in a cupboard of mine, and five YEARS later still looked like new. I didn't disturb it, I didn't touch it, and it looked like it did the second or third day after it started growing. Eventually though, I did something daft or something and knocked a playstation cd case into it or something. broke the "leaves" all off one side. And for another few years, it stayed like that, until today. Well I did little science at school, I know a little about crystals, crystals in solution, and more importantly, precipitation of crystals (or at least I'd like to think I do, which is not necessarily the same thing). So I scraped the crystals off the shelf and put them back in the tray, added a little water and hoped for the best. I rehung the little baubles and put the star back on top, and back into the cupboard it went.
Three hours later, and the tree's beginning to grow new "leaves" - it's nice to have it back in one piece.

Ahem, got distracted there, sorry. So what else has happened recently? Well, today we had floods, rain, thunder, lightning and more floods. Nothing major but enough to get a couple of mad loonies out of their houses to go paddling - yes, paddling - in one of the (now flooded) local parks.
The whole place was a bit treacherous, the river hasn't been that high for ages.

Wednesday, was my ickle nephew's first day at school. So I got over there to take some nice photos, and my sister and I walked him to his first ever day at school.
Course, there's not much to report because we weren't there most of the day, but when we went to collect him, it was clear that he loved it. My sister and I had come to a little arrangement while he was away, that meant we were able to tell him when we picked him up that we were going somewhere special the following day. So we did just that, picking up the satnav and some food for a little picnic and off we set again, back to Twin Lakes!

We had a good old time there, though I'm sorry to report that the spiderweb of tangly death, that cubic bungee trap, has actually been closed off by the staff. I have a photo of its horizontal equivalent kicking about, so that you can have a look-see. Don't you just hate that figure of speech? Tough, I rather like it.

The only other thing to report then is my "discovery" (for "discovery" read "happening across a band that has released about 7 albums over the past few years") of a "new" band, by the name of Gregorian. A German outfit consisting of a choir, and some backing instruments. A bit like Era, but the lineup and the sound are more consistent. These guys have done some very unlikely covers, covers that given the "Gregorian" treatment sound very different to the original. Songs such as Rammstein's "Engel" (original, cover), REM's "Losing My Religion" (original, cover), Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a place on earth" (original, cover). There are others out there, bout 6 albums worth including "In the air tonight", "ordinary world" etc etc.

But perhaps the best cover I've found this week is by Chris Cornell (you know, the guy from Audioslave/Soundgarden), who has done a VERY different cover of Billie Jean, recording it as a blues/rock song. I liked the original, but I have to admit to being very impressed with the new version. It takes a bit of getting used to if you're used to the original, but just appreciate it for what it is rather than criticize it for what it isn't.

Anyway, I've dug out my playstation during my cleaning up, so now I'm off to play gran turismo 2, and get some food. laters.

Oh, nearly forgot, here's some photos. Second one is the upright version of that spider web trap thingie. :)