Tuesday, 26 May 2015

With a firewall...

It would appear that I am ignorant about matters of the firewall. It makes loud noises and blocks things a lot. Ugh. I hate setting up new computers, as there's alw [at this point, computer makes a loud noise, as programs compete for whatever it is that programs want. Blogger clicks on the button which makes the noise go away, and hopes not to regret this display of ignorance in the future] ays such a long time between new computers that I always forget what I did last time. What I did last time, of course, was leave everything to my then boyfriend, who had an up-to-date grasp of what was going on in the worlds of hardware and software, and probably still does.

Still, it is lovely to have an iddy biddy little laptop with a keyboard, which is pretty new, and should provide a few years of lightweight (physically and metaphorically, predominantly)

I think my firewall just ended my virus protection. This is not what I was aiming for, particularly as it turns out that my virus protection already had a firewall. It was a much quieter firewall. I am thinking of switching to Linux.

To continue from where I was when I last got distracted: I hope to get a few years out of this laptop, and to use it in the ways I haven't been able to use my technology recently.

My technology recently has not been as useful as I wanted it to be. I've had a laptop for a very long time, but about two years ago its hardware started to fail to the extent that it was clear that it wasn't going to last forever. I nearly bought a new one, but the shop got the address wrong, and when I tried to correct it, the whole page stopped responding. I gave up in frustration, aided by the fact that I couldn't really afford a new laptop.

I fell for the tablet thing, though. I thought it would be wonderful to have a device I could use anywhere to browse the Internet, and take pictures and input data for work, not to mention writing stuff on it. Alas, although its Internet browsing is mostly excellent (when the screen isn't too small to allow me to see, say, the box into which I must input the input), the keyboard I finally managed to find for it was initially unreliable and difficult to use, and went downhill from there. The word and spreadsheet programs are more buggy than anything else I can remember using (my memory is unreliable, though), the camera is terrible in a small variety of ways, and I detest using the keyboard on the screen.

As you can see, I've built myself a list of technology-related reasons for not updating my blog. There are other reasons, though. You see, I have been very busy. It would probably have made for great blogging, had I had the time and technology. And skill.

What have I ben up to, then? I bought a house. It's a bit of a wreck, but I'm doing it up. I'm not going to talk about most of that, I'm afraid (it's been a struggle, and it remains a struggle), but I might talk about my garden. And interior decoration. What an interesting blog this will be! If you're really lucky, I might make a nice lampshade.

I'll start with my gardening chronicles, though.

I bought the house with actual tomato plants growing from the ground (supposedly tarmac) by the back door. The back yard had a "decking project" constructed from some stuff laid upon some pallets, which is doing an admirable job of supporting the rubble heap I have been working on for the past few months. In addition to this lovely adornment, there are large grey gravel pieces and paving slabs. The weeds are not ones whose names I know. The back gate has been newly re-hung, and I now have an idea why they gave up last time. The outbuildings are a riot of carpet and brick, with a side order of old kitchen units.

My front garden is a picturesque wasteland of large grey gravel pieces, strewn across a weedproof membrane through which weeds are growing. There are large rockery stones, bricks of dubious origin, and fragments of my actual roof tile collection, from my roof, which set off the polystyrene and I-don't-even-care-to-guess-what, and the large upturned green armchair, upon whose cushion (liberated, upon a wooden pallet) a ginger cat which leaves the garden when I approach likes to sit. The armchair is its original green (standard issue armchair), and has developed a richer, more mossy green upon its loose fabric arm-flaps.

When I bought the house, one of my first acts was to paint the fence as a sign to the village that someone lived there now. The hedge at the front of the property, though was beyond me - taller than I could reach, and stronger than my secateurs wanted to manage. My parents gave the hedge a good seeing-to, and I spent the next few months chopping up hedge debris and putting it in the green bin for disposal by the local council. It is still tall and overgrown, and a bit of the tree we removed is too thick for me to be bothered sawing, so it lies on my side of the hedge. The fence at the base of the hedge (which is not included in my initial fence painting boast because I couldn't reach it on account of hedge) leans a lot, and is not very tall. Its time will come.

A surprise greeted me this spring - bulbs! With the sort of leaves bulbs have. Snowdrops had come and gone, as had crocuses and daffodils, before I realised that these were bluebells. I might let them stay.

Most of my gardening so far has been damage control. Apart from the rubble heap. That was just damage. I've sprayed weedkiller, painted wood before it rots, lifted up debris, fitted bolts. On Sunday, though, I did some real gardening. I took my scissors and some seeds, a fork and trowel I had forgotten about, and some gloves, ditto, along with my new kneeler pad, and made a small border among the slugs and snails. Into this border I planted some sweet pea seeds (sowing season - outdoors - April - May), then, as an afterthought, some pink poppies (sow outdoors - as soon as the frosts have finished) and some Nigella (sow outdoors - springish, and a few times after that). Yesterday I bought a blue watering can with such a high opening in the top that I surely cannot spill the water everywhere on my way to the garden (I don't use the front door because there is a fried in front of it), and some blood, fish and bone meal. I might have a narrow line of fragrant beauty later this year. Or some better-fed weeds.

This year, I do plan to empty the gardens of items which are clearly rubbish. Next year, I plan to make the front garden into the beginnings of something productive and beautiful, and the back yard into somewhere clean to dry clothes. Wish me luck!

The front garden

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Windows 10 Firewall Control

Long time, no see! Now is not the time to talk about that, though, other than to say that I've been having problems with my technology, and have just bought myself a new laptop, which has a keyboard - something my tablet has been sorely lacking. As they do. (Don't get me started on touch screens vs keyboards! I definitely prefer keyboards.)

This laptop isn't quite set up yet, and so I've been on the lookout for a suitable firewall. Sphinx Software are giving away a basic version of their Windows 10 Firewall Control to those who will blog about it, and I was recommended this program by a reputable-looking website. Yes, I know. But it seemed legit, as does this.

Apparently, it's about the easiset of the basic free firewalls to customise, which sounds good to me. It is also said to offer good protection for everyday users, such as myself. I don't know that there's anything else I require from a firewall, so let's see how it goes...

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I am still alive

Well, what a year 2013 was! It went something like this:

January: new job, house move (someone's daughter's bedroom: decidedly temporary).
February: can't remember.
March: ditto, then moved out of that room. Went to France for a week.
April: came back from France. Moved house again.
May: enjoyed being in new house.
June: had to leave new house. Moved house again.
July: enjoyed being in new house. Found the weather to be surprisingly warm.
August: ditto, with a festival and a wedding or two.
September: coasted a bit and had fun. Bought some new tools. Started to look for a house of my own.
October: more or less the same.
November: ditto, but with a lot less light. Tried to fix someone else's housing crisis. Wrote a novel (best so far - it had a beginning, a middle, and an end).
December: decided to make Christmas presents for everyone because I have no money. Failed because I also have no time. Had present-wrapping crises. Stayed with the parents for Christmas.

Re-reading my 2011 resolutions, though, I can now say that I lost two of the three stones I was supposed to lose. I'm not sure how I feel about the final one - I think that half of it will certainly be allowed to stay, and won't be too disgruntled if none of it goes.

It's time to come back here. I'm going to buy a house, you see, and I want to talk about it. I had one in mind, actually: a complete wreck of a thing just down the road from here. It was a steal in terms of initial price, but I dread to think how much work it will need to get it into a habitable state. It had ever so much space. It would have had space for me and two whole lodgers, with a bedroom to spare. I would not have been able to get a mortgage on it, apparently. And now it's gone, leaving me with more vague regrets than the sense of relief I should have.

Still, there are always more wrecks, and these might have less interesting stains on the walls. Re-wiring sounds fair enough, but a new roof isn't the easiest start. This is because it is more expensive than some cabling, a wrecking bar and some time, followed by a visit from a qualified inspector. And possibly also a new central heating system. And new redecoration throughout. Although the vital back porch reconstruction might not be all that cheap. And fitting an entire new kitchen (and a huge one at that) would probably be very expensive.

Let's see how this goes. It might be interesting to look back on this in a few years time, and remember when I still had my sanity.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year/New tin of Altoids

Ah, the joy of the new Altoids tin.

Now, I am in a very fortunate situation: despite having worked hard to manoeuvre myself into a position in which I earn very little money, I have friends and family who regularly visit The States. Or something like that, anyway.

I've just finished one tin of Altoids (Cinnamon), and am just in the process of starting another (Cinnnamon; all three are Cinnamon), and have just been struck by the contrast between the old, nearly-empty wrapper within the old tin, all crumpled and filled with dust (of the sweet variety), and the new tin, fat, and bursting with healthy, painful sweets. That is how it should be.

Were I not definitively non-sober, on account of the good evening I have spent with my aunt, uncle, uncle and cousin (and James), I would still not come up with any sort of analogy or lesson. But it is nice to open a new tin of Cinnamon Altoids. Also, Ginger Altoids. They win, except for the part where I fail to stop eating them.

Also: Happy New Year, everyone. I'd totally send out text messages to those of you who know me and don't know this site, but my phone hasn't had any signal this year. It's a bit of a bugger.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Conversations I have at work, mostly inside my head - conversation the first

Wood: But I’m hungry.
Me: You’re wood; of course you’re not hungry. Wood doesn’t get hungry.
W: Just look at me. You know I’m hungry. Don’t try to deny it.
M: OK, perhaps you are hungry.
W: I’m really, really hungry.
M: Yes, I suppose that you are.
W: Please feed me.
M: I haven’t got any food for you here. Anyway, look at all of the other wood. It’s hungry, too. If I feed you, you’ll look out of place. It’s not as though I could feed all of the wood. Anyway, as I’ve already said, I don’t have any food for you.
W: You’ve got a snack.
M: You don’t need a snack: you need food.
W: I’ll take a snack. It would be a start.
M: No. I’ve already said I’m not feeding you. I can’t feed all of the wood.
W: Have you any idea how cruel you are being? Just because you can’t feed all of the wood, it doesn’t stop you from giving one tiny little snack to me; then at least I’d be better. And I am the part that gets used the most. I am the hungriest. And I am closest to you, too. You could give me a nice little snack while you get on with your other work.
M: OK, then. I’ll give you a little snack. And I’m sorry I didn’t bring any food. If I were coming this way again, I’d totally bring food for you.
W: I bet you wouldn’t feed all of the other panels.
M: No, pr- hey! Whose side are you on?
W: I’m hungry. Please feed me.
M: Ooh. Looking all innocent there. Hmm.
*Applies beeswax polish* (a poor second to wood reviver)
W: Oh yeah. Mm. Yeah. Just up a little… There. That’s better.
*Makes other contented noises*
M: That better?
W: A bit, thanks. Any chance of removing the excess? Only it’s all sticky.
M: *removes excess wax* *admires comparatively shiny surface, which doesn’t look as though it wants to suck actual people through its pores any more*
W: See? You feel better now, don’t you.
M: Yes. Yes, I do.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Not my best work?

November was a busy month. As is now my wont, I took part in National Novel Writing Month. Unfortunately, I am not very good at writing 50,000 words, and prefer to write 100,000 words. More unfortunately still, I failed to write 100,000 words, and wrote just over 80,000 words instead. Moreover, I didn’t even finish the story I set out to write – I’d say I am about 1/6 of the way through it. Meh. Oh, and I also did some work. The last three days of November were somewhat hard work. Wednesday started at 7am, and I was at the hotel, having eaten, by 9.30pm; Thursday, I think I didn’t have to be available until 8am, and was probably back in the hotel room by 9.20pm (so it was an easy day); Friday started at 7.30am, and I was back at my actual house before 10pm. I didn’t get any writing done on those days, funnily enough.

You can appreciate, therefore, that I was very pleased to find myself with a quiet weekend. The things I had to achieve were as follows:
1. Have a shower
2. Drink lots of tea
3. Go to Liverpool and drink coffee with some friends
4. Go to Chester and drink alcoholic beverages with some other friends
5. Get home
6. Go to church
7. Eat some food
8. Drink some more tea
9. Pack the clothes out of the washing machine into the suitcase
10. Pack a few books and nice clothes
11. Write two extremely important e-mails which must not be delayed
12. Return Up North
13. Enter the house
14. Go to bed

There’s not really all that much on the list, really, and I was confident that I would be able to manage items 1-5 on Saturday, and the others on Sunday. I foresaw no problems. (I confess that I did also eat food on two separate occasions on Saturday, too. It would have been more, and I would probably have had a decent amount to drink, had I not been feeling a little bit ill.)

Everything was going well until just after item 7, as item 8 was underway, at which point it became apparent that I was developing a migraine.

Migraines are not, for me, as much of a big deal as you might think. Granted, they are very unpleasant: they lead to a sore head, occasional nausea and a feeling of general vagueness which extends to my vision. Also to parties in one or other of my visual fields – Sunday was a bit different, and chose the right visual field.

Like a sensible person, I took some strong painkillers and went to sleep for a while. When I woke up, I felt more human. When I had sent the important correspondence and eaten a bacon butty (disclaimer: gluten-free pitta bread was used. It did not rise. It was more an open sandwich, unfortunately), I was actually feeling more-or-less human; certainly well enough to drive for three hours.

Unfortunately, it was 8pm. More unfortunately still, the husband portion of the people with whom I am staying is in America, and I did not have the phone number of the wife portion. It seemed a bit silly sending a text message to America to tell the North of England I was going to be late.

Can you see where this is going yet? I arrived at 11, which was pretty good going. The house was locked up and the lights were off. It would have been better had the keys not been in the door. Had there been a doorbell, it might have made a difference. Had the letterbox been wider, or had I had my longer poky stick, I might have been able to reach through the letterbox and pull the keys out of the back of the door, so that mine would be able to turn the key. Had she been awake, she might have heard me banging on the door.

Anyway, I drove off and slept in the car. If you are going to try this, I would recommend that you always keep a sleeping bag and some really warm clothes on standby, and that you close your sunroof blind as a first resort and not a second one. Also, it’s good if the sleeping bag has two sets of ties so that you can tighten it round your neck/shoulders and face, and that you have some other layers to put on top of yourself. Finally, I would recommend the Honda Jazz as a good car in which to sleep, and the front seat as superior to the back for an overnight stay, although the back has proved its worth for short naps. (Do I have to say they’ve not given me any freebies for this? Well, they haven’t. And it’s stupid if I have to say. So there.)

I got dressed for work, with my warmest socks and both lots of thermal underwear, before going to bed; I thought more people might see me get changed in the morning, and I did not want this to happen. I then went to sleep, and woke up two hours later feeling really quite cold. Of course, I ran the engine and heaters for a bit (still had half a tank left), and then put on another jumper, some gloves and a scarf, and halfway-arranged my down-stuffed gilet on top of my lower half. This is when I moved into the front and closed the sunroof blind. This is also when I noticed the snow. My second sleep, which was from about 1.50 to 6am was much better, and it was the alarm which woke me up.

The first thing I did was to start the engine – the bits of car which weren’t inside my sleeping bag were quite nippy. Joy of joys, I remembered some cereal bars in the boot, and was able to open up the insides quite nicely to reach them. Poo of poos, another migraine started up. I am happy to report that the visual disturbances are less, well, disturbing at that time of day and year, and that it cleared up quickly enough to leave me feeling well enough to drive, although putting on my make-up was a pain. What was less fun was the excitement of another three migraines starting over the course of the morning, until about 10ish.

I don’t know what these other three thought they were doing, when the first migraine clearly hadn’t finished doing its thing. Presumably it was only actually one migraine, and it wasn’t very good at starting. Or perhaps it was Siamese migraines. Whatever – it did not leaving me feeling good in the head, stomach or seeing departments. I may not have done my best ever work today, although it could be that this wouldn’t be apparent to the casual observer. The good thing, though, was that I was not asked to drive at any point. This is probably because he valued his life.

It was a fun day, though, apart from feeling somewhere between vaguely ill and mildly ill (in three different ways, mostly all at once; not always at the same intensity for each element), I enjoyed it a lot. Until somebody started to play the saxophone. Stone pillars really are a wonderful place to rest one’s head.

I really don’t know what’s come over me. I have had this strange feeling of happiness and wellbeing (except for the bits where I am ill) ever since some time in July; possibly earlier. I can’t really explain it. It’s been amazing, though: long may it continue.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


The wrinkles that I am getting are mostly from smiling, or looking worried. It paints a picture of a fairly benign sort of person. This is because I don't frown: I have a special stony expression I use, which doesn't activate those frown muscles. I have faint frown lines, but clearly I save a full-on frown for special occasions, while radiating an air of disapproval whenever disapproval is needed. This is not a conscious thing, but it is clearly standing me in good stead.

Of course, they are not really wrinkles; not yet. Just lines, and not big ones at that. Well, not very deep. I mean, I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I look really old just yet. In fact, I was id-ed only the other month. No, what makes me look really old is the scarf that I have taken to knitting.

It will be a big scarf: long, and very wide indeed. I have been searching for the perfect scarf for a while (long and wide enough to wear over a sleeveless dress, lightweight enough not to strangle me, soft enough for me to adore it an unreasonably large amount, and black enough to hide the dirt), and have failed in this task. I am therefore knitting an alternative which will be the correct size, more or less, the correct colour, and the correct softness.

This project would be easier if I could really knit. I've done rather a lot of rows of stitches (I'm knitting all the way here, it you're interested: not a purl in sight), but I am somewhat of an amateur. I am aided by this idea I have that I shall Succeed, and my stony look whenever a stitch tries to escape. They try repeatedly, the little buggers, especially the two on the ends. Every. Single. Time.

You'd have thought I'd have grown wise to that by now. I mean, theoretically at least, I am the intelligent one in this situation. I know that it makes little leaps for freedom each time, on account of the reduced friction on the new needle at that point, and I understand that things which happen once will often happen again. There isn't really anything I am lacking to enable me not to drop the knitting (requiring me to reconstruct the stitches to the best of my ability; I'm judging this in 2015, when the scarf has been completed. Did I mention that it will be very big?) except for the co-ordination. Which is strange, as I have recently prevented an awful lot of things from falling to the floor in a timely manner (the preventing is timely, not the falling. That is very rarely timely), which I didn't used to be able to do. I thought I had it down. But no, I do not.

By the end of the scarf, I should have perfected the knit stitch. I'll post photos on this blog when it's done, assuming the Internet still exists then. You can't wait, can you?