Month: October 2005

In Memoriam

I stop myself using the phrase “my mother-in-law” because it comes with many negative connotations. You know the jokes, about how awful she is, but in truth I loved my wife’s mother like my own. She accepted me into the heart of her family, and it was a great shock when she left us so swiftly. She lived her life in the manner of her name and we’ll miss her more than I know how to say and more than I realised.

Grace, I’ll do my best to look after your daughter and family. Thank you for everything.

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we still are

Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effect
Without the ghost of a shadow on it

Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolutely unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you at an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner

All is well.

Henry Scott Holland 1847-1918
Canon of St Pauls Cathedral

City of the Dead

Back, bedraggled and very very damp. However us Scots are made of hardier stuff and didn’t let a few gallons of water put us off (not sure about the two Italian tourists though), so after a nice dinner of mince and tatties at Cafe Gandolfi, the McLean family (sadly minus Louise who has hurt her ankle) headed up the hill to the Necropolis.

I should point out that it had been raining lightly all day and about two minutes into the evening it got heavier and stayed like that for the next hour or so. Typical. I’d post some photos but I’ve just found out that my photography skills are somewhat lacking when it comes to taking photos in torrential rain, in fading to pitch black light, and when I’m trying to keep my camera from getting soaked. Oh well.

Ronnie Scott was our tour guide, and considering he’s just handed in a thesis on the place, not to mention written a book about it, it’s simpler to just assume that he knows more about the Necropolis and it’s history than most people have forgotten. Of course knowledge is only part of what’s required to lead a guided walk and I’m happy to report that he’s also a very good speaker with a nice laidback attitude and no end of crap jokes to keep you groaning.

The tour itself took us on a short circuit of some key areas of the Necropolis, it’s far too big to cover in the hour and 15 mins we had, and Ronnie gave us both a historical, sociological and humourous insight into a variety of the tombs, gravestones and markers. As it was part of the architectural festival he concentrated a lot on the physical appearance of the cemetery, the difference between roman and greek obelisks (romans used plinths, greeks come straight up from the ground), the significance of urns and laurel wreaths and so on, but such is his breadth of knowledge you were also given short history lessons on who was, and wasn’t, buried under which plot.

For example, take John Knox. Despite the large memorial statue of him that sits at the peak of the Necropolis (and which faces Ibrox and has it’s back to Celtic Park, coincidence?) is actually buried under what is now a car park in Edinburgh. Never knew that.

I could go on at length, and get many more facts wrong, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting tour, despite the rain. Thankfully the Friends of the Necropolis organise tours throughout the year, so I’ll be keeping my eye on their website for any more. I’m sure it will be a lovely place to explore on a crisp winter’s day, lord knows the photos would be better than this, this, this or this.

If you are ever in Glasgow I’d recommend that you pick up a copy of Ronnie’s book as it will guide you round the best bits of the Necropolis, and even if you don’t fancy the walk, it’s still an excellent read.

Useful Links:
Friends of the Necropolis
Photos of the Necropolis
More photos of the Necropolis
Glasgow Sculpture
Hidden Glasgow

A post about stuff

Last week was a struggle, this week and the blogging vista has opened up before me and lain all and any subject placid at my feet. My gaze falters across the landscape, flickering from topic to topic, each one as intriguing as the next.

Bugger that though, here’s a some quick thoughts on a variety of themes.

Firstly a quick thank you… “Thank you”… to those who have taken the time to offer the world the opening lines of their books. So generous. My favourite, so far, is probably John’s “The last person on earth sat alone in the empty house. Suddenly the doorbell rang … “. Although it does ring slightly Gaiman or Pratchett-esque… I do hope it’s original! 😉

~

Who do you think will win the Booker? And do you care?

~

This evening I’ll be spending some time wandering around a large dark area filled with dead people, namely Glasgow’s Necropolis.

“The Necropolis embodies Glasgow at the height of its power as the Second City of the British Empire. The engineers, iron founders, inventors, ship builders, locomotive makers, scientists, factory owners, business people and overseas agents of Victorian Glasgow are buried here. Their monuments were designed by the architects and sculptors who built the city, such as Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Necropolis was the first ornamental or garden cemetery in Scotland, and among the first in Britain. Its landscape represents a new way of commemorating the dead, which was derived from the famous Père Lachaise in Paris. However, the Necropolis is also home to many thousands of ordinary Glaswegians, who were buried without headstones.”

Should be quite interesting. More on that later.

~

Saturday afternoon found me standing at the kitchen sink with a bowl of soapy water and my iPod Nano in hand. Whilst I was somewhat wary of bringing soapy water and the iPod into close proximity, I managed to fit it with an Invisible Shield. It was pretty simple to install, the instructions on the site are excellent (once you find them!) and they even link to another site showing the process and which has some good photos of the end result.

Final result looks good, feels a little different but works fine. They also do screens for other products and I’d suggest you have a look at their website for the full range. Ohh and the lifetime guarantee and free shipping is pretty nice too!

~

Question: Hands up if you would pay me to re-design your site. Just curious as I’m doing a couple of sites at the moment and wondering if I need to “market” myself a little more… but then would I have the time to do the work? Should I make time to do the work? COULD I do the work full time?? Pondering pondering.

~

Enough of me, how are you? Good weekend?

The Go! Team

The Go! Team

I’m definitely getting old as my ears are still lightly ringing after a fantastic gig last night.

Met up with Sudhesh for a drink beforehand, and Alex joined us in the queue. As we entered the first support act was on, didn’t catch the name. One guy, some samples and beats… he was from Bristol.. er… the rest was kinda forgettable.

The main support act was provided by Lady Sovereign who surprised me and others (I’d imagine) by turning up with a full band and delivery a largely rock-based set – I’d been expecting a grime sound, heavy on the MCs and mixing desks. Alas the sound mix wasn’t too great and you couldn’t really make her out but, on that evidence, I’ll get hold of her album and see if the hype is justified.

And so, after trying to find some other people we were supposed to meet there (it turns out they had been in the upstairs bar all along), the lights dimmed and the assorted members of The Go! Team made their way onstage.

I was really looking forward to the gig as they’ve got a great reputation for their live act and no wonder. Two sets of drums played in turns by three drummers, one bass, two guitars, harmonica, keyboard, xylophone and a few other instruments are all bashed, twanged, blown, and general assaulted by the 6 band members, ohhh and let’s not forget the 4 backing singers. Special mention should go to the lead singer, Ninja, who keeps the crowd going and oozes energy as she pogos and dances round the stage almost constantly.

Musically the best description I’ve heard was that they make “charlie brown music”, except it’s charlie brown with a little bit of attitude. Simply put it’s a cacophony of beats, instruments and samples over some lovely upbeat melodies. This is FUN music, evidence by the fact that, independently of each other, Alex and I both said that we couldn’t remember the last time we’d spent an entire gig grinning from ear to ear (with a little booty-shakin’ as well of course).

Anyway, it was a long time coming since I first mentioned them here, and I can thoroughly recommend you catch them if they are in your area. This band will be the darlings of the festival set next year, guaranteed.

Visit the Super 8 section of their site for a couple of tracks.

UPDATE: Alex posted his review at Diskant.

Once Upon a Time

Apparently anyone can write a book, anyone at all. Even a room full of monkeys. So there’s some hope for the rest of us I guess, I mean if a room full of monkeys can write a book then chances are I should be able to write a page, maybe two.

Me? Well I’ve got an opening sentence:

“Silently she stands there, watching through the fog as the murky ripples lap at the shore and then, without warning, she tips forward and glides into the water.”

Trouble is I can’t make up my mind whether this is headed towards a Mr.Darcy-esque moment (as she clambers out, her sodden basque clinging to her body… oh my..) or something more sinister (a mysterious force has enchanted her and beckoned her to her death?), or perhaps it’s just an early morning dip in the sea?

So, my little monkey friends, what’s the opening line to YOUR book? Don’t worry, you’ve got all weekend to think it up (and probably a fair bit of Monday as well).

Less is not more

I posted the following in response to this thread, it’s primarily “desktop design” focussed but I wanted to post it here. This decision may or may not have something to do with the fact I’m still “stuck” and too busy to come up with anything original. Sorry.

Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. My interpretation of minimalism requires that functionality is not lost and that my desktop works the way I work. To others that may mean a few icons or none, a dock or accessbar, and so on.

Is Firefox popular because – “out of the box”- it’s minimal already, not bloated with lots of features you might not need? How many features of Word do you use everyday, and how many are there you don’t even know about? As Moore’s law pushes us onwards, (some) software companies take advantage of improved performance by offering us more.

Then you look at Web 2.0 apps (37signals stuff for example). Simple, small, function-lite apps that do one thing well. This approach is becoming increasingly popular.

Minimalism shouldn’t compromise functionality, it should enhance it. Instead of 23 icons on my desktop, causing me to pause when looking for one, I have 4, much easier to find. The choice of which 4 icons is part of “design of minimalism” as well, if I choose the wrong 4 icons then my functionality is impacted.

Another way to look at it is this: how often do you “workaround” an issue with your computer. A minor annoyance that you “put up with”. You may spend 2 secs having to open a folder to access a program, rather than getting straight to the program… add that up and you spend a lot of time going around something. Minimalism would suggest you just move the program out of the folder. Not necessarily LESS icons, but certainly faster.

Each to their own of course, what is minimal to me, may be overkill for you.

Additional reading:

Get a grip

“Good grip!”

Isn’t it funny how the mind works, how seemingly trivial everyday comments open a little trapdoor in your brain allowing those little mental connections to trickle out.

Take the title of this post as an example. Ring any bells for anyone? The first line is what my brain conjured up, can you name the film?

The reason I mention this is because, during moments of pause and “blogging malaise”, my brain seems to take some delight in flinging open these trapdoors at all sorts of moments, particularly late at night when I’m trying to sleep. Most bothersome of it, I’m thinking of having it removed.

There I lay, watching the flicker of neon glow mark each passing minute with my brain leaping from trapdoor to trapdoor in an endless succession of self-referential connections that only I and possibly my wife (lying snoring next to me) would understand. Like a dream they float past my memory, tauntingly close but out of reach. Or to put it another way, I can’t remember a single thing that struck me as “bloggable” last night. Typical.

To more mundane matters then.

Louise’s brother and his girlfriend came over for dinner last night and the ever reliable Bombay Cottage did the business once again. Also got to play with Centarsia, a photo mosiac application, with surprisingly good results (some samples here). It’s a bit fiddly to start with but once you get to grips with it, and with a little care and some pre-editing, you can get some nice images… hmmm, there’s a space on the living room wall that might suit…

What else, what else?

This morning I came into work to find my mug was in the “just turned on” dishwasher. Not a happy bunny as I like my routine in the morning (in office before everyone, coffee, email, news… start work at 9). Isn’t it funny how little things like this can affect us.

Finally – anyone else noticed a drop in the number of spam emails? I hardly get any at all now, so either BlueYonder have beefed up their spam filters or spammers are targetting elsewhere… mind you, I don’t get that many real emails.. *sniffs*

Right. Enough. Work to do.

REAL content later, if yer lucky (and if I can decide on a topic – suggestions?).

Wood for trees

Despite having far too many draft posts lying unfinished, and with my focus still elsewhere – finishing a long overdue website, writing up design thoughts for another, battling the demons of IE box model hacks, not to mention that thing that pays the bills – I find myself casting around for something to write about.

Nope.

Still nothing.

Condoms

Imagine if all major retailers started making their own condoms and kept the same tag-line…

  • Sainsbury condoms – Making life taste better.
  • Tesco condoms – Every little helps.
  • Nike condoms – Just do it.
  • Peugeot condoms – The ride of your life.
  • Galaxy condoms – Why have rubber when you can have silk.
  • KFC condoms – Finger licking good.
  • Minstrels condoms – Melt in your mouth, not your hands.
  • Safeway condoms – Lightening the load.
  • Abbey national condoms – Because life is complicated enough.
  • Coca Cola condoms – The real thing.
  • Ever ready condoms – Keeps going and going.
  • Pringles condoms – Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • Burger king condoms – Home of the whopper.
  • Goodyear condoms – For a longer ride go wide.
  • FCUK condoms – No comment required.
  • Muller light condoms – So much pleasure, but where’s the pain.
  • Halfords condoms – We go the extra mile.
  • Royal mail condoms – I saw this and thought of you.
  • Andrex condoms – Soft, strong and very very long.
  • Renault condoms – Size really does matter.
  • Ronseal condoms – Does exactly what it says on the tin.
  • Ronseal quick-drying condoms – Its dry and waterproof in 30 minutes.
  • Domestos condoms – Gets right under the rim (puhleease).
  • Heineken condoms – reaches parts that other condoms just cannot reach.
  • Carlsberg condoms – Probably the best condoms in the world.

A little out of date but raised a smile here (pun intended!).

A subtle hint

A while back I mentioned, in passing, that I’d lost a little weight. Since then things have stalled a little and whilst I’ve not put any back on (my usual habit) I’ve not lost any more, but this week it’s back to the grind, watching the intake and burning some calories off.

Doubly so now.

Yesterday morning, as I got out of the car at the station, the button on my trousers popped off. My belt did it’s job though and thankfully managed to stop my trousers from succumbing to gravity and as it was too late to go back home to change I had little choice but to dash (in a rather awkward fashion) for the train. I even managed to get through the rest of the day with surprisingly little incident.

After work we nipped out to the local Lidl (supermarket) and when we got home, as I started to unload the car, I got another ‘hint’ that I need to step things up on the diet front. My belt broke (the buckle decide to part company with it’s own top bar). Somehow my buttonless, beltless trousers stayed up until I staggered awkwardly into the kitchen, saving the neighbours from a not too pleasant sight, and suffice to say that I’m taking it as a none too subtle sign.

Although a note on the fridge would have worked just as well..

Note: The belt was pretty old and on it’s way out, the leather was beginning to fray badly and I really should have thrown it out sooner. So if nothing else I’ll certainly not be taking any more risks on the belt front in the near future. Let this be a lesson to you all – wear braces!