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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmas Cheer

tmp7C5EHad a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses over during the hols. I heard the knock on the door, opened it and “Hi.. don’t you think it’s terrible that people live their lives without Jesus” was their opening line. “We do” I said politely in my opening shot – at which point Maureen started griping about the cat getting out so I had to closed the door.

They didn’t come back – a shame as it’s been 20 years since they last called and I’ve been building up my response. Ah well.

A very good point was made on Facebook today… somewhere in the USA, 200 million dollars spend on NYE fireworks, millions praying – meanwhile millions starve.. something very wrong with all of this.

Happy New Year everyone from Maureen and I, our two cats and our new trouble-making kitten!

Christmas 2013

Bioshock HazardAnother year draws toward it’s conclusion. We had a nice day today overall, got up late, in my case because I was up until 2.30am last night playing the excellent “Bioshock Ultimate” game on the PC – which I have to say is superb by any standards, action, imagination, imagery. We had some “home made” croissants, that is out of a tin and into the oven– which you’d think would be marginally better that bought in a shop – but no, actually. Still – a nice change.

This afternoon we took some flowers to Joe’s graveside which was a little un-nerving but I guess the right thing to do. We then headed off to Whitley Bay to see my daughter Elizabeth and family – she’s in cloud 9 right now having just passed her driving test. Not sure how long that will last as the crushing costs of running a car become apparent – still – it’s always worked for me (I’m not the world’s greatest lover of public transport) so I wish her well.

As I was sitting, surrounded by Christmas wrapping paper I started twiddling with the mobile phone, testing out a new backup and sync app which I installed last night – and in the process wiped out just under 80GB of data – a process I’m now sitting here near midnight repairing (thank heavens for NAS drive backups). I’m feeling a lot more relaxed now, though the Baileys might have something to do with that. Maureen gave up for the night but I note she’s back up researching summer trips to Spain.

After a somewhat noisy dinner with the grandkids we headed off home and settled down to a little TV. I virtually NEVER watch live TV so when we noticed that Channel 5 were playing the EXCELLENT “Time Machine” 2002 version with Jeremy Irons we put it on record and started part way in to watch so as to excape the ads. This will tell you how long it’s been since I took notice – are you aware you’re looking at 6 minutes of adverts.. we only used to get sessions that long on the hour.  I can’t see TV advertising surviving this generation unless in some radically different form. The only effect ads have on my these days is to bring on homicidal tendencies when I see the leeches that call themselves legal companies offering no-win-no-fee for accidents or the loan sharks who offer interest rates the mafia would be proud of. No, give me recorded on demand video any day.

And so here I am writing this blog, thankful my home office is nice and warm and watching the excellent Windows Security Essentials restore my backups while conveniently cleaning out virii I didn’t even know I had from old files.

Thankfully I’ve a few days break from work and I plan to build another heating controller for the cottage, finish off some work I’ve been doing on lighting and give my office a bit of a winter clean up – meanwhile the cottage has clients arriving at the weekend who’ve returned for their 5th or so break – which is really great so we’ll be giving the place an extra once-over tomorrow to make sure they have a great time. I also plan to grab Crysis 3 while it’s on special offer just in case I end up with any Billy-no-mates evenings in January – I’ve at least one trip to Brussels planned – first time I’ve been there at this time of the year – I hope it’s warmer there than it is here.

Got my pal Jonathan and his wife coming to stay in the gap between new year and work recommencing which is nice.

If you’re reading this before the new year – have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

A Happy New Year to All

Today we spent the day at our holiday cottage – having reserved it for a few days – we often travel abroad but this year we thought it would be nice to stay local. Not ones for organised partying we were at the Cheviot in Bellingham a few weeks ago and made a booking for dinner for tonight on the understanding that normal meals would be running (I have a "christmas food" gene missing)!

Their food is great but I’m not one for Christmas food (or Christmas pricing) so this sounded like a bargain!

This afternoon we had lunch in a train carriage at the Bellingham heritage centre (very civilised) and then after a short break headed off to the Cheviot. When we got there tonight the whole thing almost fell to bits – apparently the chef had changed his mind and they were offering only a special menu – the usual Christmas stuff…  we were in the process of checking the local takeaway when one of the (very helpful) guys behind the bar came over to assure us that normal food would indeed be available.  AT LAST a pub that puts customers first! Well done.

We had a very nice meal and I have to say the house wine is absolutely lovely. Approaching midnight, Maureen has given up  and I’m watching Keith Lemon (who despite at first glance being a little crude is actually quite funny). Despite being only a few miles away from home – it really feels like a mini-holiday break.

Cheviot Hotel in Bellingham

A Happy New Year to everyone – lets hope 2013 takes us a little nearer to the 21st century of yore – and not the unhappy one we’ve seen up to now.  Remember "Blade Runner" and the "off-world colonies" – it was on TV last night – at the start, the opening text says something like "in the early part of the 21st century" – well – we’re there!!!

Mind you – they didn’t have tablets or smartphones in the movie…

Educating Parents

Ok, I’ll grant you it’s a little unseasonable – but then as we’ve had this Christmas stuff shoved down our throats for the last couple of months – mainly thanks to commerce, I found this particularly funny.

Educating parents about Jesus

Upgrading old broken Christmas decorations

It was one of those crappy white plastic window decorations with a dozen or so filament lamps that you could hardly make out what it was…(and which used to pack in frequently)   and so, after getting the Christmas lights out of the loft and doing the usual sift through for duffers, this one ended up sitting by the bin (we don’t have any spares of old fashioned Xmas lights) until this morning until I decided to try to give it a facelift.

Led conversion of an old filament lamp decoration

Thankfully the old light fittings were simply pressed into place and game off with a tug, leaving a more or less flat base on which to work.  cut the red, green and blue LED strip into the minimum lengths (3 LEDs) and simply stuck them on as best I could – then wired up – merely keeping all the + together – and all the – together. I used the thinnest wire I could find and in some cases merely used bare copper wire to join them – simple enough and remember all of this is running at 12v. I found a spare 12v 1amp plug-in-the-wall supply – soldered the lead via a loop to make sure there’s no stress on the joint and….

Actually you could just start with a white plastic board and mark out any Xmassy shape without too many tight corners..

LED version of an old Christmas favourite

The photo does not do this any justice (and I’ve since filled that right corner) – this thing is bright as hell – you’d be able to see it streets away in a straight line – and yet takes less juice than the comparatively boring original.  LED strip is cheap from Ebay (5 metres self-adhesive of any colour is maybe £8 or so – unless you get ripped) and so the total cost of this would be just a few pounds. Better than throwing it in the bin!

The Changing World of the Web

I’ve been doing some research for the FSB and I thought I’d put down some information I’ve picked up – all of this is bang up to date.

Amazing as it seems, up to a third of the world has Internet access. That might not sound a lot but think of the people who will never have access – those parts of the world for example where they’ve gotten themselves into a situation where they are utterly controlled or they don’t even have electricity. If for the sake of discussion we discount those people – it’s fair to say that the majority of people who are going to get access in the near future, already have it.   Even at home in the UK there are those (primarily age-related) who simply don’t see the point and are not interested.

As for who’s using what.. PC sales seem to have levelled off whereas tablet sales are going through the roof right now – no doubt this Christmas will have an affect on that – apparently 47% of American kids want an iPad (I’d imagine a very small percentage will actually GET one). So the big drivers right now are smartphones and tablets and as we know, iPad and Google Nexus are the two big names here right now.

Right now, more broadband is consumed by mobile devices than fixed devices and the theory is that by 2015 (only a couple of year) that’ll be more like 4:1 in favour of mobile!

There are currently 6 bullion mobile phone users, 1 billion of those being users of smartphones but in current SALES, Smartphones are sailing ahead of the older feature phones which are starting to die off. As you’d imagine the whole thing is definitely age-related with the highest users of Smartphone being by younger people with more cash to spend. But of course once hooked as they get older there will be no way they’re going back… China, incidentally has 25% of smartphone sales and that puts them at around twice the size of the US market.

The Internet used to be full of free content – which made it hard to run a business from it but of course that has all changed – iTunes, Netflix (and similar), buying and selling on Ebay all play a major part today in the massive and every-increasing commercialisation of the Internet. Digital advertising has gone from just about zero in 1995 to around 20 billion pounds today.

For American companies at least – and limiting to those in the media and tech areas, around 40% of their income is now digital – i.e. online. For advertising, TV still keeps the lead (42%) – but online advertising is coming closely behind and advertising in print is starting to go very much downhill (9%). Newspaper advertising in particular has dropped through the floor (I don’t know about you but I haven’t bought a newspaper in years).

On the subject of digital photography, we all know that Kodak are stuffed – who would have thought… but today, phone cameras are now giving traditional cameras a run for their money not because they are as good but because they are far more convenient.

As a life-long amateur photographer, I gave up on film as far back as 1997 and only a couple of years ago I gave up on large bulky cameras as being just too much like hard work for hot holidays… the convenience of the phone camera and the ability to send to Facebook etc. straight from the phone was the main driver. Throughout it all however I’ve sorely missed the quality and control that comes with a DSLR. Then out of the blue the traditional cameras are fighting back – I’ve just bought the new Samsung Android camera – a full-blown Android unit with a decent lense – the first of it’s kind. I predict that a variation on this will become the norm (pending people coming out of their comfort zones) and that non-updatable, proprietary camera interfaces will hopefully soon die out. For now I’m ahead of the pack and enjoying every minute – I just wish someone would invent decent batteries!

One wonders what it would be like to to transport 10 years into the future. The changes are likely to be far more dramatic than the changes we’ve seen in the previous 10 years – but making predictions is probably a fool’s game.

A Pleasant Welcome to the New Year

For the first time in living memory, we didn’t overdo things on New Year’s Eve this year, instead we had a quiet night out with friends in a nearby restaurant. The parting came January the first, as is the way in the village of Wark, folks tend to go first-footing and taking a piece of coal with you is an old tradition that many follow! In our case, a couple of bottles of wine went with us and for someone who  never drinks during the day I have to say we had a good time.. of couse there’s a reason why I never drink during the day… by 7pm I was out cold 🙂

Since then I’ve been working – it’s pretty hard to ignore work when there are issues to resolve and people can get hold of you by a variety of electronic methods… but at least we’ve been able to get out and do some shopping and I’ve been hard at work on a new plan I have for the FSB… and working on my pet website at Hollyberry Cottage.

Tomorrow I start in earnest, car has to go in to get the transmission fluid checked and I’m expecting a huge backlog of incoming emails.

Oh, I did get a nice Christmas present this year… an SO32 Metal Series Remote controlled Helicoptor. I definitely recommend this as a stress-buster for anyone with more than 40 sq ft of clear living room space! Wonderful.

Christmas Day with the Grandkids

Here we go – as usual I’m off-camera as I’m the one doing the video!

Christmas with the Grandkids