Month: April 2007

Whilst I remember…

Did I mention we are off to Spain on Friday morning?

Well, we are, and there are loads things still to do. Not all are related to going on holiday but the holiday has an impact on them all.

1. I’ve not even considered packing but then you do get rather blasé about it when you are returning to the same place, and will be frequenting the same haunts (for new readers; my father-in-law lives in Spain, and has done for a few years now). We don’t even bother with anything ‘smart’ as we eat out at the more local restaurants than anything fancy, and that’s when we eat out at all.

2. Then, of course, the iPod needs to be loaded, books need to be chosen, and I really MUST start using that alarm to make sure I get to bed on time as we need to be at the airport at 4 a.m. on Friday morning… which means leaving the house sometime around 3 a.m. which in turn means that I am seriously considering just staying up.

However, on Thursday, which we both have off, we are heading up to Perth for lunch with a family friend, nipping in to the butcher to buy some rib-eye steak for my father-in-law, and then I’m hooking up with friends in the evening for dinner and some diet cokes, whilst Louise will be acting like a teenager again and going all wobbly for some oik called Justin Timberloch, or something…

3. Of course there are somethings that need done on this site (search not working?), and that’s before I even bother my arse about thinking about email addresses and whatnot – I reckon I’ll stick with my ‘name’ domain for that, and leave the email address for this domain dormant for now.

And yes, I’m still looking into the whole “coloured name” for my mum (which for some reason is harder than it should be!).

4. Ohh my head, too much going on. I have a new guy starting today, and loads of stuff I really need to get done to give me a reasonably clean slate to come back to, although why we continue to do that is beyond me, what difference does going on holiday make, there is ALWAYS stuff to do.

5. I have a package that I’m quite keen to get my hands on which, currently, looks like it will arrive at my office on… ohhh go on, guess which day…

6. I’m also hoping to pre-publish a few posts to carrying things over whilst I’m away, one of which is quite intriguing, if I say so myself, so keep yer peepers peeled people!

7. The great Scottish Blogs cleanup continues and, whilst I’ve had over half the batches back now, I’ve yet to sit and go through the database and start whacking dead sites. It’ll be a long slow job that one, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time until I get back from my holiday. Ohh and the blogmeet is now organised, Edinburgh, 19th May at 2pm in the Jolly Judge. Be there!

8. Last but not least, I can’t for the life of me get some simple CSS floats to work. A sidebar on the right, main content on the left and the sidebar KEEPS DROPPING BELOW THE MAIN CONTENT!! It’s killing me, and no end nor combination of tweaking margins, padding, widths, nor clearing left, right or all, is making the blindest bit of difference. ARGH!

And breeeaaaaaaatthheeeeee…

Finally, before I dash off, some links/apps that I’ve found useful over the past few days.

1. If you are moving your WordPress installation, to a new domain, or just to a new directory, you must must MUST head over to this wonderful site. This is the page I used to move my WordPress domain, and it went without a hitch. All in it took me about an hour to do, tops.

2. That alarm thing I was asking about the other day, well Banshee Screamer Alarm seems to fit the bill. Ignore the fugly look, it meets all my criteria. It has a “start with windows” option (ok, everything has that via the Startup folder but hey, it’s worth mentioning), minimises to the system tray, needs set only once and will repeat on chosen days at the set time, can start an application or open a URL when the alarm time is reached, and can be used silently.

It’s currently running, and will launch a custom HTML page I knocked up which states, in large red (not yet blinking) letters GO TO BED.

Many thanks to B-Rad for suggesting it.

3. Thinking Rock is a GTD style application which I’ve been using for the past few weeks. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s getting a second mention because, frankly, the past couple of weeks have been frantic and without it I’d be lost. Whilst I have been busy over the past couple of weeks, knocking quite a few things off my to do list, the number of items and tasks that I needed to capture grew exponentially and Thinking Rock has helped me keep on top of all that.

Case in point is the site move, with multiple little things to remember, and new items being triggered as I stumbled across something else I hadn’t considered, the ability to quickly dump a one line ‘thought’ into Thinking Rock, processing it later on to add more detail and group it with other similar items, has been a life saver.

Even if you don’t ascribe to the GTD method, it’s worth a look. You WILL need to understand how the app works though as it’s maybe not immediately obvious, but the site has some good info on that front. Think of it as GTD-ish..

Right, that’s enough for now. Things to do, coffee to drink.

Moving…

You SHOULD now be at www.onemanblogs.co.uk.

I’m still working on a few things, namely the redirect stuff (trying to figure out how to get it to forward to a specific post rather than the top level domain, for incoming links).

Dust should settle over coming days.

Right – the main redirect is in place. PLEASE update your bookmarks and whatnot as the redirect is NOT permanent. I’ll leave it there for a month or so, I should catch all visitors that way.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the redirect stuff to work when someone links to a post. Any pointers would be appreciated!

eg. Automatically redirect from:
http://www.gordonmclean.co.uk/index.php/archives/2007/04/28/moving-4
to
http://www.onemanblogs.co.uk/index.php/archives/2007/04/28/moving-4

Catch is that I’m not sure mod_rewrite is enabled on 34sp… still checking though!

Now, what have I forgotten??

Good Morning, Mr. Phelps

Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it.

I need an alarm clock. To remind me to go to bed.

No, seriously.

Midnight creeps up on me, sneaks past and drags 1am with it all too often. It must stop.

However, being a … geek/nerd/dork/saddo … I would like a nice solution to this problem. Namely a little software based (Windows) alarm clock that:

  1. Minimises to the system tray – yes I know there are applications that will do this but that means running ANOTHER application just to run an alarm clock!
  2. Displays a custom popup message – if it happens to support different messages per day then fine, but no biggie if it doesn’t.
  3. Does not require a sound file to be played – if I’m working late at night I don’t have speakers or headphones on.
  4. Supports daily alarms, discarding days that have passed – I don’t want multiple alarms popping up because I didn’t turn on the PC for a few days (like Outlook does).
  5. Is free (or v.cheap).

So far I’ve found and discarded:

  • 1Time which fits most of the criteria, except you can’t minimise it to the system tray, and it doesn’t popup a message just re-opens the timer window. Handy for countdowns though, as it displays the remaining time in the system tray.
  • Citrus which minimises to the system tray but doesn’t popup a message (sound only)
  • TClock – which I already use to display the date in the system tray, but which doesn’t popup a message.
  • Windows own Task Scheduler – purely because it’s clunky, and takes too long to get at to change.

I’ve Googled (for “windows ‘silent alarm’ software message popup” and variations thereof), searched LifeHacker, Ask MeFi, and NoNags, yet still cannot find a decent application.

I have found some clunky old Windows 95 era stuff but.. ewwww ughlee…

So, you have your mission, do you choose to accept it?

As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed,, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck…

Moving Identities

Changes are afoot. I wonder why that is, why are they never “ahand” or “aknee”?

Anyway, having received notice that I’m shortly due to renew my hosting account for this site, I’ve decided that now is probably a good a time as any to move my site. I’ve been reasonably pleased with 34sp in the past but having recently used other sites that are running WordPress (PostoftheWeek, One Man Writes), on other hosts I’ve noticed the improvements in speed, and in one case, price.

So, I’ve been quietly preparing to move this blog and implement a few other things whilst I’m at it, but I’m still not 100% sure on how to best implement things and as it’ll impact you, dearest reader, I thought I’d ask for your opinion(s).

Part of this is more to do with sorting out my online identity than about different URLs, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, I guess I just needed the push to do it.
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Weekender

We had few plans for this weekend, which is fairly rare. However Sunday was my late mother-in-law’s birthday so we had already decided to go to Cashel where we have a tree planted in her memory.

But before that we had a free Saturday and, after pottering about in the morning, we headed to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where, for the first time, I managed to fill a 1GB memory card in one afternoon. The worry is that of that lot, I only consider 24 of them to be “good enough for Flickr”, I’ve obviously got a way to go before I full get the hang of this photography lark.

As a child I remember visits (although it may have been just once or twice) to Kelvingrove. It’s a huge old building, and used to be quite dark and slightly spooky inside. Since the cleanup and restoration it has been transformed, and feels, oddly, like a new building. Most impressed.

However, two things to mention; Dali’s Christ of St John Of The Cross has been moved out into a corridor which, whilst I understand why they did it, removes some of the impact of seeing the painting closeup, add to that the lovely Fire Exit sign hanging nearby which casts it’s green neon glow onto the painting and I’m less than impressed with the decision, and special mention to the twat who, when viewing a painting which had had “interactive” thought bubbles placed next to it (to allow people to enter their own interpretation of what the people in the painting were thinking), muttered “pathetic”, not so quietly. I really REALLY wish I’d gone after him and asked for an explanation.

But then I guess Art should be kept for those who truly understand it, not for the peasants and riff-raff, the uneducated masses. Idiot.

After Kelvingrove we headed to the Botanic Gardens (I was well into memory card two by this point) for a wander. It’s not somewhere I’ve ever visited before and .. yeah.. flowers and stuff. Quite nice but a bit lacking in focus. Plenty of photos though, obv.

Sunday saw me struggle through a run in the morning (I just can’t get the hang on Sunday mornings, and neither can most of the other people in the group, so it’s not just me!) and then we headed through to Loch Lomond and Cashel. It was a bit overcast, with a light drizzle floating past but regardless, we headed off up the pathway into the hills.

We reached one of the “viewpoints” and paused to toast Grace with her favourite tipple, a wee measure of Baileys was enjoyed and, with a teary eye, we wished her a Happy Birthday. She, of course, would think we were quite mad but I know she’d be touched. Not too sure she’d be too happy about the paltry measures of Baileys mind you..

Not a bad weekend at all.

How was yours?

Sticky smartness

It’s always the little things that you’ve never seen before that make you sit up and think “hey, that’s smart”. In my case a simple photo, used to provide context, was enough to trigger this, and it’s so simple an idea that I’m surprised that something similar isn’t in wider use. Read on, MacDuff, to find out what the chuff I’m blithering on about this time…

As alluded to a few days ago, I’m currently hunting for THE laptop bag, one that will set me apart from the standard “black briefcase style” masses and move me into the same arena as all those elite, übercool kids, you know, the ones who are probably toting MacBooks. I spent a couple of hours browsing various stores in an effort to find something that suited but soon stumbled across a consistent problem.

Having thought more about what I really need from a bag, I now know that I want something that will hold a laptop, accessories, my usual accumulation of guff and occasionally my camera, all whilst remaining small and reasonably compact. Add in my mantra – Nothing is any good if other people like it – and it gets tricky. My mantra allows me first refusal on many items without any real grounds for rejection, other than pursing my lips and scrunching up my forehead in concentration, then muttering “yeah… but… nah.. I just don’t like it… because… well it’s hard to put my finger on… it’s just NOT RIGHT”.

You can see why my wife HATES shopping with me, and why I do most of my research online.

In saying that, I suspect that she thinks I ‘over-research’ such things as, when a mutual friend of ours recently asked for my advice as to which digital camera she should buy, her opening line was: “you know how you research everything to death… well..”. Alas there was no witty comeback from me. It is true.

When searching for personal accessories, or clothes for that matter, I have three basic criteria. Two of which will negate the other, but the third can never ever be fudged.

  • Price – I work to a budget. That budget depends on various factors, including the type of item I’m looking to purchase, and can sometimes be negated by…
  • Design – I’m very fussy in most things, particularly when it comes to design. If I REALLY like something, I’ll break my budget and buy because I like the design. However, above a certain threshold, design is negated by price.
  • Practicality – This isn’t the be all and end all but depending on the item has relative importance. For example, if I’m buying a shirt, it has to be long-sleeved. Price and design don’t matter in that respect. Similarly if I’m buying a car, if it doesn’t have the features I want, price and design don’t have a look in (honest!).

Nothing earth-shattering there then, I’m sure most of you conduct your shopping in a similar manner. Of course, buying things online adds a level of complexity, particularly when choosing the design – will it really look like it does in the photos? – and the judging the practicality – it says it has four tabs, but are they all the same size? – and as every online store does things differently, well that’s when it gets really interesting… or confusing… or both.
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Fill your ears

I picked up some new albums recently, and I’ll pause here to echo a comment I heard on the radio the other night as I can’t remember what the inside of a record store looks like, especially now I don’t work in the city centre and no longer have the evil geniuses at FOPP fleecing me on a weekly basis. I’m not even sure I’m bothered by this, although there is something satisfying about physically opening a CD, reading the sleevenotes, and extracting the disc from the spindle … but that’s a transistory pleasure at best, after the first few viewings, the cover art and sleeve notes are much of a muchness usually.

For a change, every single album I picked up is pretty damn good and as I’ve not done any review type posts here for AGES (mainly because the competition is of such a high standard) I thought I’d rattle through my thoughts on the following:

  • Amy Winehouse
  • Mark Ronson – Version
  • Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
  • Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
  • Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

And no, I hadn’t planned to list them in order of increasing name and title. These things just happen.
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I'm like a bird

But no, I’m not going to fly away… instead a quick update and a couple of questions.

Current Events
I considered posting more on the “Cho shootings” but really can’t be that bothered. I seem to have fallen into a “you made your bed, lie in it” frame of mind. Which isn’t really a good thing but there’s just too much else going on so I’ll skip it right now. Today’s headline is tomorrow’s … what IS the completion of that sentence? “tomorrow’s budgie cage liner?”

Scottish Blogs
Over on Scottish Blogs I’ve been caught out, big time. I recently asked for some volunteers to help me go through the entire directory and weed out the dead, moved and unwanted sites. I figured I’d get 3 or 4 people and it’d take us a couple of weeks to get through a few batches at a time.

10 people volunteered, and after sending out the first batch of 30 URLs to be checked at the weekend, some are already onto their second batch. I can’t keep up!!

It’s great though, and has the additional bonus of restoring my faith in humanity. The downside is that I’ll need to buy them all a drink at the next blogmeet (most are coming I think) and you know what they say about us Scots. Yup, that’s right, we DO have big hands.

Vrroooommm
The new car, which I’ve not mentioned for.. ohhhh.. DAYS now, is still motoring along very nicely. I’ve finally stopped trying to turn the key to start the ignition, and the automatic windscreen wipers have stopped freaking me out. The only niggles I have include a weird clunking from the rear suspension when I first reverse the car out of the drive (fairly common in most cars apparently but was a first for me) and the fact that the automatic lights go from OFF to DIPPED, rather than staging up from OFF to SIDELIGHTS to DIPPED. All minor annoyances though, I’m still loving the fact that people are looking at the car as it drives by, another unique experience!

The Running Man
Still running, and last night saw, finally, a good run. It wasn’t that fast, or that far, but I felt really good. I’ve not had that feeling for several weeks now so here’s hoping it continues. I’m about to book my place in the Balloch 10K in June so I have a firm goal as well. Onwards and upwards.

The “other” me
Work continues on my other blog and on the re-vamping of my “online presence”. At some point this blog will move to a new host, and possibly a sub-domain, or new domain itself. Yes I’ll lose some visitors, yes it’ll piss people off but I’ve considered all that and can live with the consequences. It’s quite exciting to be starting a new blog as well, especially as I’ve a much better idea of HOW do it this time around.

Questions
Finally, a couple of questions.

1. I’m looking for a bag that will hold a 13″ laptop. Something functional with additional pockets, without being too clunky, and it can’t be a “black laptop bag”. Something with some style, some verve and that won’t break the bank. I’m off to a conference in June and my current option is the bog standard (huge and ugly) DELL laptop briefcase thingy.

2. Anyone got any tips for digging out a bamboo? It’s been in for a couple of years and I cannot even get a spade or fork into the ground near it, completely solid. I’m thinking a heavy dose of water to loosen things and a pickaxe. Alternatives?

Hit me, baby, one more time

Another tragic day in the US, another gun related crime (amongst many).

The same arguments will be wheeled out, debated, and forgotten as we move on with our daily lives, the blessing of the unaffected.

Spare a moment, a thought, for those who won’t be able to move on, who will suffer, who are in pain.

And then pause and wonder when it will change. If it will change. Will it change? Will it? How long must it take? How many dead bodies need to be piled up?

Where There's a Will

After posting about my lack of willpower of the weekend, and receiving some useful and thought provoking comments (thanks!), I think I need to step back and see what else could possibly be the problem.

Or, indeed, if there is a problem at all.

I started jogging last summer, the inspiration for which came about at the end of a 10K race near where I grew up. We happened to turn up at Lomond Shores last June, only to find that it was the finishing line for the Polaroid Balloch 10K which was being marshalled by some local groups, one of which was the Boys Brigade. I bumped into one of the officers that I knew and got chatting in that “haven’t seen you for 10 years” abbreviated kind of way. I asked how long he’d been helping out with the race, and he said he’d been doing it a fair few years now and it was always fun to see ex-members of the Boys Brigade, he then suggested that I should be out there running it but “I guess you’d need to lose that spare tire, eh!”. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment and certainly not meant as an insult.

But boy, did it sting.

Like most fatties, I know that I’m overweight. I know WHY I’m overweight and I really don’t need reminded of it as I’m perfectly aware of the facts. Feeling uncomfortable in clothes, always wondering what other people think of you.. well it’s not the greatest way to live your life. I don’t worry about it all that much, to be honest, but jibes about my weight always hit home hard.

And so, two days later I found myself scanning the local free paper during some.. eh… private time (e.g.), when I stumbled across a small advert. It said that “JogScotland” was starting up soon and was open to everyone, of every level. It made specific mention of the fact that it would help you get from walking to jogging in ten weeks. In a rare act of spontaneity (I DO like to plan things), I phoned up, signed up and two weeks later I was standing about with a bunch of complete strangers. Most of whom were women.

My goal, even then, was simple.

I WILL run that 10K in June 2007.
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