Tales from the Cultural Wilderness Weblog
      ( 15:56 )  
Changes are afoot - after yesterday's entry couldn't be uploaded because Blogger was exceedingly busy, I decided enough was enough. Therefore, this afternoon (interspersed with error correction obviously!) I played with Greymatter in an attempt to get it set up. It appears to be working, but I probably won't go live with it until at least the middle of next week (as there are a few more issues to resolve yet). Hopefully not too much disruption will be seen but we shall see...

In other news, I was forced into actually eating at lunch time - we had a pub trip for the team, and everyone else was eating... so I gave in and had toad in the hole and rice... I'm now sated (so eating this evening will be a push), and comfortably sozzled (well, mildly intoxicated - a pint and a half of cheap lager aren't going to push me over the limit...). And now for the weekend - I could certainly do with the rest, I'm falling asleep writing this...

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      ( 15:05 )  
Today was the first snowfall of winter (or at least, the first I've seen - parts of the country have had plenty already). It wasn't much - a few snowflakes intermixed with rain - but it was enough to leave me with a "yay, snow" feeling. I presume this is ingrained from childhood - its not as if snow is inherently exciting - but it has an association with days off school.

For some reason this country (which isn't exactly renowned for its good weather) still grinds to a halt when it snows. An inch of snow and schools close. Two inches and trains stop running. More than that and they'll have to start rationing! Schools, whose maintenance isn't exactly well provided for, tend to have old rickety heating systems, which inevitably break under the strain of cold weather. Teachers, who live more than 10 miles from the school may not be able to get to work as the country roads are blocked by snowdrifts. Kids sit patiently by the radio listening for the announcement that their school too is closed.

Now, I'm not particularly against snow - I like rain quite a lot, and dislike warm sunny weather - and it is quite cool from a scientific point of view (How can all those millions of snowflakes be different? Is someone really checking?). Unfortunately, it's not as much fun as rain - it's cold, wet, and sticks to everything. But the sense of wonder seems to be ingrained in the human psyche.

Of course, with the little we're getting, it won't actually settle... so we'll have to wait a little longer to build a snowman!
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      ( 12:30 )  
Scarily, it looks like the Phone Company are going to require me to actually do some work in the near future (so less of this goofing off reading websites and generally avoiding doing anything productive) - at least I'm getting a week to settle back into it, before the hard graft starts next week - and if you'd seen this code, you'd understand exactly how hard it's going to be!

Last night, I actually bored of watching all these DVDs I'm trying to catch up with (I've got rather a stack to get through, so no buying any more...) - I got halfway through Stargate (the film), and then couldn't be bothered any more. Plus I'd had to switch off the DTS track as it was causing the house to shake - I can get base, but for some reason my computer decides kill the continuity, so you get dropouts every 30 seconds or so. No problem with DD5.1, just DTS...

Presumably tonight or tomorrow will be a somber affair at home, as the parentals are going to a funeral - we lost a great uncle who I'd hardly ever seen. I guess this is going to become a fairly common affair soon - having a large number of grandparent type relatives still alive but in their more fragile years - and so at some point, I'm probably going to have to attend one. This is, in my book, right up there with visiting a dentist (which actually may be more important at present...) - I don't grieve particularly well, and making a day out of it seems like so much fun!

Yes that's right, 24 and never been to a funeral - well, the last ones of any note were father and step-mother's fathers dying within a short space of each other - this would have been 5-ish years ago (although I don't track time all that well, so I'm may be wrong on the date). I'm not sure why I missed both of these. Maybe it was parental protection, maybe I was just busy with something I couldn't get out of - although, thinking about it, I think I just missed the service and was there for the wake afterwards...

And before that? My mother, at age 11. Missing this was definitely parental protection, but it does sort of leave me not knowing what the hell to do at this sort of event. Not having ever really grieved for anyone, I'm not even sure how to work through it (or even if I need to...) - and counselling hasn't really helped (although, maybe those you actually pay for are better than the free university kind, who knows?).

And again, something I don't talk about all that well.
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      ( 13:22 )  
I've been back since Thursday and I'm still tired - I need a holiday to get over the holiday. Spent lots of hours in front of the TV last night vegetating. Caught most of X-Files: Fight The Future, and at least the bit I saw managed to explain some of what was going on later in the series (this is problem of seeing the film after you've already seen two subsequent series of the show).

Anyway, has this film got a stupid tag line? "Fight The Future" - there's an amorphous concept for you - it'd be a bit like having a "war against terrorism." Oh right, we've already got one of those...

Slashdot have got the usual rants about Microsoft - for some reason they're unpleased with the settlement being proposed! It's strange that this is the case considering the US elected a president who didn't want anything to do with punishing big business (I wonder why?!), and then they have the audacity to complain when he caves in and lets the Redmond giant off the hook. Hopefully the EU will be slightly more tough, although they'll probably bow to lobbyist pressure.

Not that I really care all that much - Microsoft the company may be evil, but what's the alternative? Even I struggled with a Linux installation and I'm supposed to be technically savvy - so what's the poor average home user supposed to do? It's Windows or bust. It'd just be nice if it didn't crash every twenty minutes (95 and ME at least) - I'm not upgrading before you ask - ME is just about alive on my machine and I can still force it to run just about anything (although I may have to have a fight with some of the older Dos games I've got kicking around).

Oh, and no, no Italy write-up yet...
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      ( 13:26 )  
The conquering hero returns. Although, really, Italy is still a nation unto itself and I didn't really conquer anything, but, hey, you've got to dream the dream right? Anyway, two weeks away and I'm more tired now than I was when I left... there's something wrong with that. Aren't you supposed to go on holiday to come back feeling refreshed?

Anyway, I've got a complete synopsis of the trip to type up, so I'll keep my comments here short:
If it had been full, a coach trip would have been hell (as we spent so much time on it); fortunately, a large number of Americans had decided now was a bad time to travel (regardless of the fact that plane flights are probably the safest they've been in years) and so didn't attend. Therefore, only 25 of us on a 49 seater coach.

The makeup of the party was mostly American as well - three Canadians, four from Ireland, and me, made up the entire non-US contingent.

Milan was rubbish!

Everyone was very friendly - I'd consider doing this again if some destination leapt out at me as must see, but at the moment it's just Hawaii next year.

Someone forgot to take clock changes into account when setting up the video, so only has 1 weeks worth of programmes rather than 2 (cue Homer). My video recorder allegedly takes its clock value from some broadcast signal; however I've never actually seen this feature work, and instead have to change it manually every time the clocks change.

Digital cameras are very expensive - I got seduced into buying one at the start of this trip - yes, it's a god-send, as I haven't got a bag of film that may or may not produce reasonably pictures (instead I've got 450 vaguely reasonable digital images), but for all that "Ouch!" It does do everything though - black and white, night, zoom, motion video (in short bursts), sound, various other bizarre settings that I don't understand.... you get the idea...
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