Sunday, November 30, 2008


Accessibility issues

The mum was good enough to entrust the design of her new website to me, so I rolled up my sleeves and got cracking. The fruits of my labour are on display at, all coded by hand, I might add: no fruity Dreamweaver for me.

One of the mum's big things is accessibility: as an authority on special needs, the website has to reflect this. One important area was including alternative tags for all of the pictures, for the sake of blind and partially-sighted people accessing the site through a screen reader.

Joe's suggestion: Go f--- yourself, you blind b*st*rds.

I left that one on the cutting room floor.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008


On the subject of £3 CDs

"This is the price CDs should be. I mean, how much does it cost to make a CD? If you do the maths, it's cheaper to make a CD than it is not to make a CD."


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Deep Blue too

Four years ago, five thousand miles away, I built my own computer and dubbed it "Deep Blue." This endeavour was not without its annoyances, as you can see on the original post, son!

In leaving Japan, I had to abandon my trusty machine. I dumped the monitor and mouse on Eamonn who was making do with WWII surplus in that respect, pocketed the hard drive for a rainy day and said a fond farewell.

Getting home, the mum was all about getting me set up with a new computer.

MUM: Just choose any computer you want, and I'll pay for it.

DAN (dubiously): That's very generous, Mum...

MUM (nettled): Well, the money's no problem- I can get anything at the moment. I mean, even the cats have got new bowls.

She makes a persuasive case, if you're prepared to overlook the terrific disparity in expense between a computer and a couple of plastic bowls from Pet City. I am prepared to concede that the cats do seem very happy with their new bowls.

The point, I make, is this: while I'm very good with other people's computers, I do like to mess around with my own. Open it up, stick some stuff in, take some stuff out, break it, fix it, break it again, spend weeks on end ignoring it, then have a fit of energy and fix it again.

I don't think that my mum's money would be very well spent, in other words.

The mum has a moment of inspiration: she buys herself a new computer: a spanking new Toshiba laptop with Windows Vista and its own air freshener. I get her old laptop (Toshiba, Windows XP.)

Immediately, I determine that Deep Blue 2 will have the Fedora operating system, like its illustrious predecessor.

Advantages of Linux:
OS and software are either cheap or free.
More stable than Windows.
I'm a sucker for gimmicks, basically.

I send off for a Linux manual as fat as Bill Gates's bank book with Fedora installation DVDs thrown in.

They won't install, due to a flaw in the DVD.

I am left with a laptop-sized doorstop, having formatted the hard drive.

I download further installations of Fedora and various other Linux distributions, which simply tell me "no bootable disc present" when I try to boot from them.

Further booting techniques suggest themselves, not least booting the wretched machine into the middle of a busy junction and videoing the consequent mess.

Weeks pass. The mum is not exactly twitchy about letting me on her other computers, but she can't help dropping the occasional weighted comment, which is most unfair. I have, after all, come up with the answers to all of her technical difficulties to date, even when I had no idea what they were.

I speak to a friend, who advises me just to stick XP back on the wretched thing- even lends me a disc. "You'll need a product key- that's printed on a label on the bottom of your laptop."

I try it. Invalid product key states the computer.

I am through rage, out into the strangely calm space of uber-fury. I go back on the internet and try to track down some explanation. Windows service pack 1 product key won't work with SP2 disc.

Renouncing Windows for the nth time in my life, I go back to the "no bootable disc" problem I was experiencing with Linux.

A quick trawl across internet forums alerts me to the fact that, rather than copying downloaded files straight onto CDs, one has to unpack them onto the CDs. Instructions, that even an octogenarian could follow, follow.

I have a go.

The desktop on my laptop

Deep Blue 2 is now a laptop, no longer a doorstop. It's running on Ubuntu 8-point-something.

Meanwhile, the mum swears and tuts frequently at Windows Vista. My efforts are amply repaid.

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Ama earns a parking space

Despite my comparative lack of proximity, I've still been able to keep tabs on the Kyushu basho via the spotty video stream on the Sumo association homepage.

After managing 30 wins over the last three tournaments, I was livid when Ama wasn't bunked up to Ozeki (champion) rank following the autumn tournament. Furthermore, the sumo council asked him to return a tournament record of 11-4 to make the jump up after this tourny.

Starting unspectacularly, Ama went 2-2 over the first four days. However, a run of ten straight wins, including forcing down grand champion Hakuho, has brought Ama to 12-2, the Ozeki promotion is a lock and, goodness me, he could even win the tournament: if he wins tomorrow, he's guaranteed at least a play-off with Hakuho for the title.

I'll be up early, parked in front of my computer and hoping that the web streaming doo-whiz doesn't have one of its moments. Go Ama!



Trawling through the dregs of the past

TIM (lit): Would you rather have continuous diarrhoea, or be vomiting uncontrollably?

Brief pause

DAN: Can I have both?

TIM: You're wrong.


There's often a bit in films where someone says Dark forces are aligning; I knew that was exactly what was happening when I woke up at 6 am. What's worse, it was happening in my midriff.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Greebo didn't improve matters by choosing that moment to jump onto my stomach. Now I was definitely feeling nauseous.

I propped myself up on the end of the bed and tried to calm down. On the landing, I heard footsteps, the distinct sound of a toilet seat being thrown back, followed by the sound of various things being thrown up.

Evidently, whatever my affliction, Joe had copped a dose too.

After several minutes of heated discussion with the goldfishes of christmas past, Joe wandered downstairs. I went down to check up on him and report my own condition; he advised me to jump before I was pushed.

Into the back toilet I went and embarked on the Kate Moss diet.

Stimpy regarded my efforts quizzically from her adjacent litter tray. I apologised as best I could, whilst eating in reverse.

As I wandered out of the toilet, Stimpy threw up enthusiastically next to her litter tray.

Perhaps she thought we were playing a game.


Friday, November 21, 2008


No thanks, in other words

I think I'd rather stay home and play Russian roulette by myself.



Monday, November 17, 2008



Sunlight glaring through the windscreen, the mum rattling on about the traumas of an acquaintance's life in the passenger seat. A lone pigeon on the opposite side of the road stands dejectedly in front of an oncoming vehicle, too jaded to care.

The oncoming car does not simply kill the pigeon: it destroys it. Something like a flurry of snow scatters over the road. Feathers everywhere. Who would have thought the old bird had so many feathers?

I have seen birth, I think, as I swing the car left and head up Spencer Avenue, past number 57, the house where I saw birth; and now I have seen death.

The mother, unaware that a life has winked out of existence within the last few seconds, is still on about what's-her-name.

"Sorry, Mum- you may need to rewind a bit. I was with you up to the point where you said her feller was shoeing her around, then I got distracted by the sunlight."

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Sunday, November 09, 2008


Spoken in jest

I am not feeling my finest. Small matter: coffee covers a multitude of sins. I grind up the beans and put the kettle on to boil.

In walks the mum.

"Did you drink very much last night, Daniel?"

I weigh up the situation. I am well aware that the answer is "yes", but I don't really like to say it and leave myself open for whatever judgmental comment is to follow. On the other hand, I am also well aware that the mum knows the answer to be "yes", otherwise she wouldn't have asked. (I know- ridiculous isn't it.)

Furthermore, she did call me "Daniel." Definitely potential for hot water there.

"Why do you ask?"

"You went to the toilet in the night, then you came into my room."

"I'm terribly sorry about that."

"And I shouted: who's that, and you said: it's me, but I think I'll pass."


If I'd had a mouthful of coffee at this point, it would have come straight out my nose.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The nasal gambit

In the game of chess you can never let your opponent see your pieces.


I saw it through the charity shop window when the charity shop was closed: the glass chess set.

I went back and got it the next day. I'd been idly keeping an eye open for a chess set, and this one had a bit of swagger.

The chess set is nice. It has clear glass pieces and misty ones, corresponding to white and black respectively. This means that, although white has the advantage of first go, black can even things up by breathing on white's pieces while he's distracted and then pretending they're his pieces.

I could see that Dad was itching to have a go on the board. I was tired, so I threw Joe the opportunity to strike a blow for the greater good.

Despite my tiredness, I am unable to maintain my objectivity; Joe is no worse a chess player than myself, but sometimes two heads are better than one:

"Take his knight, Joe. Here's why: it'll get right up his nose."

Dad chuckles: although I'm not as good a player as him, there is no doubt that our basic approach to the game is the same. He can avenge his knight using either a pawn or a queen. He opts to use the queen, offering a queen exchange. He then goes off into the kitchen to peel some spuds while Joe ponders his next move.

I hunker down next to Joe.

"You've got to take the queen: that'll really get up his nose. I mean, that'll get so far up his nose, it'll probably come out of his ears."

Joe is of the same mind.


Why do I always root for Joe when he's locking horns with my dad?

It could be to do with rooting for the underdog; it could be from a spurious notion that Joe is my protege and his achievements reflect well on me.

It's more probably because my dad gets up my nose.

My dad, for his part, would probably say that this was a classic Oedipal situation, knowing full well that such talk really gets up my nose.

He won, in spite of Joe's nasal gambits.


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