Category Archives: Random

Hm, again!

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Power gone again, preceded by about 10 minutes of highly flaky internet. If I was going to be spending all my time at home for much longer I think I’d be buying myself a UPS this week.

It is seriously annoying to have 10 workspaces of state go up in smoke. At least Firefox comes back up as-things-were these days, as does Opera. I’m back to using good old screen for most off-site sessions now too. Doesn’t help with the local things though. Maybe I should be using the laptop as my primary home-machine.

No power

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Woke up at 06:00, no power. Now 12:30… still no power.

Again! And they’re digging up the new Audi carpark. Again! Co-incidence? No!

Rhythms of the World

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Rhythmical Vibes

The Rhythms of the World is an annual music festival held in Hitchin, our new home town. Traditionally it has been free-for-all and held in the streets of the town centre. This year is was a walled-off experience held at a venue on the edge of the town centre and with a £5 entrance fee.

In a nutshell Rhythms is a huge selection of varied live music (and other performance art) across 6 stages and 11 hours for only £5. That’s our second 5 pound bargain in two weeks!

Beyond the music there was some delicious and inexpensive food around (but also a lot of crap, no surprise.) For the alcoholically inclined there were many bar stalls, but we didn’t bother with them. We did have a few halves of excellent Somerset scrumpy however, available for a reasonable £3 a pint. My favourite food for the day was provided by Spinach & Agushi, a Ghanaian food stall (apparently features on some BBC show.) They were so good I went back for more! A local lot providing some cajun food was also a good treat, how on Earth could I resist Goat Curry! I spoke with the guy here, who runs the Caribbean stall in Hitchin market, and he said the numbers weren’t working out too well for him. “Lucky to break even.” A phrase I’ve heard a few times now.

That aside, the music is the reason for the whole shebang. Man was it good to listen to live music again, it has been far too long. Mostly I collected my musical joy from ska/reggae groups. My list of highlights includes:

  • Kid iD … skankin’ ska (listen to Hassle in the Hessles and Up and Down)
  • No.1 Station … reggae getting back to ska (listen to Airstrip One, Bush War and maybe Friday Night)
  • En Fuego (on fire) … man, those horns!
  • Some old long haired dude who sang about being a rabbit, an LSD victim maybe. Alas, I know not who he was. “Being a rabbit!”

[[Update: It was “The Otters!” He’s strutting his crazy stuff down the road in a couple of weeks, ho ho! “Don’t call me bunny face.” “Being a rabbit, it’s getting to be a habit!” The crazy dude’s song is actually on the site.]]

I must observe that none of the above sound as good recorded as they did live. Kid iD suffers the most, the energy just isn’t there. 🙁 As an aside, lately I’m finding that the normalisation that myspace provides to the music comminity’s collective online presence is really very effective and efficient.

The venue, “The Priory“, seemed to work out rather well for the event. There was plenty of room around, with transit between the stages being clear (maybe a bad thing for the event financially?) We attended on the Saturday, complete with the rain, which seems to be entrenched for the summer here. There were some rather muddy areas around the grounds, but the grass did hold up rather well. If Sunday has been wet too it would have been an utter quagmire, as it turned out the lucky bastards who chose to go on Sunday got nothing but sun. Bah, no Glastonbury-style love for them.

Political Vibes

All on not well in our local World of the Rhythms.

Several locals we know boycotted the event, feeling that their traditional local festival had been turned into a money making scheme. It did feel a bit like this, fed the viewpoints of those who’ve lived with Rhythms over the years. This year you pay to get in and you also pay twice as much (only £2) to get a programme. The clincher is that once you’re in you can’t get out, unless you want to pay the entry fee over again (assuming their headcount quota isn’t exhausted for the day.) You could only take in one bottle of wine per head, or four cans of beer (remember, you’re likely to spend hours at the event.) So it is easy to feel like they’re trying to wring all the money they can from you. This was certainly a strong local current of thought.

Obviously, Kat and I decided to go regardless. And, fact is, it was great fun. We can’t compare and contrast to previous years, so can only weigh it up for how it was in its new incarnation. And that’s what I’ve done above. I can’t say I felt my pocket being rung dry, except by the exorbitant £2.50 charge for using the only on-site cash machine (my fault for forgetting to get a wad of cash before entering.) We heard that the beer was expensive, but didn’t drink beer ourselves.

That aside, there’s a definite impression that the new format “hurt” businesses in the town. Several had prepped up for whatever the traditional high-density of people was, and business didn’t go so well. I heard that it was a good weekend for some of the town-centre pubs, but nowhere near as good as previous years. (A couple of the pubs had licensed stands at the event so probably did well out of the weekend, but this was just a select few. We heard from one local pub owner that the “open” tender process for licenses was not well advertised.)

There is also a strong anti-festival element in the town. According to some people at the festival the council tried to shut it down, and all of the restrictions and issues this year were a result of that. They had to have it in an enclosed area, step up security, and follow strict licensing rules (thus the no-readmission policy, this, we are told, was council/police-imposed.) We overheard a group of locals in the Sunrunner lamenting the fact that they hadn’t managed to shut it down this year, that the town was full of “undesirables,” and crime for the weekend rife.

I have to say, the town didn’t seem full of undesirables and criminals to us. Sure, I expect there were more than usual of of both, whatever an “undesirable” is. You get that though, and live with it, it’s better to have a bit of interest than live in a sealed box. Surely? I hope the haters are in a minority, though it would certainly be one of those “loud minorities.” Frankly, the situation with large groups of late-night drunken mid-teens seemed little worse than most weekends. The existing local problems would appear to be worse than any briefly imported ones.

I have heard it said that “Rhythms of the World was the world’s biggest free world music festival… now it isn’t.”

P-p-p-powerless Again!

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So, I packed up in the café and headed home earlier, not long after writing about my lack of electrons. As luck would have it the power had been on for 30 minutes when I got here. Excellent. So I start setting up, re-instating all my SSH connections, desktops, et al. I get to it and 30 minutes later flicker pshewwwww

Nearly 3 hours without power! FFS!

Well, I got some cleaning and filing done at least.

It is still raining, hasn’t stopped for a moment all day.

Powerless 2 (or 3)

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There seems to be issues with the stability of the electron supply in our new street. I wrote a little while ago about an episode of daytime power absence. Yesterday morning there was another one. Then last night, at midnight, the electrons stopped again, and they were still making themselves scarce at 07:00. Annoyingly, this seems to be a problem with our particular street. The flow of power looks like it is working fine on nearby streets.

To escalate the joy, today it is grey and rainy. Like most of yesterday, the day before that, … Summer? Bah.

To make my morning worse I just observed a new coffee making abomination. I’m guessing it is part of the official Nero “way it is done.” In the morning new coffee is ground, good so far. But it is ground on top of old ground coffee from yesterday. Then the girl clicked out a bunch of the old coffee grounds into a cup. Good! Uh, wait… Oh no! It gets tipped into the top of the ground coffee holder! So, in a rough kind of way, the first several heads of “fresh ground” coffee for the day contain some of yesterday’s not-so-fresh coffee. The horror.

I should get myself a Rancilio Silvia ndash; but the fact is that these days I mostly go out for coffee just to get out of the house.

Noisy Neighbours? Tough!

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There are days when I want to pick up sticks and move to a shack on top of some remote mountain somewhere. Quite a few of them in fact.

I think the neighbouring family’s parents are on holiday. They’ve left at least one kid at home, who’s probably about 15 – at a guess. So what happens? Night after night of living with a bunch of children smoking, drinking, and making a ruckus in the garden next door (right below our bedroom window.) Twice on weeknights, well after midnight, I’ve had to tell them to shut up. Last night at 1AM. Of course, they just bloody laugh.

What can I do? Stuff all it turns out. If you report this sort of thing to the police here they just record the details, but it isn’t an issue they can look into. They refer you on to the “environment office,” whose purpose is really to handle ongoing noise complaints. Not a week of partying. The problem is too once-off, well, it bloody better be. It took me three nights of sleeplessness to go as far as to try calling the cops, frankly it seems a waste of police time. It was a desperate measure.

So, I seem to be stuck with the situation. I’ve hardly slept in two nights, now I’m in a violently bad mood, depressed, and bloody tired. A great combination. I’ll have a go at the parents when they return, assuming my current level of anger carries through. I’m not a confrontational type of person. Meanwhile, it seems we just have to live with no sleep for a week. Poor Kat has to be out of the house before 7AM, of course, the kids couldn’t give a crap.

What else can I do? I can think of a couple of possibilities. Talk to whoever the appropriate child protection body is, I’m sure kids that age shouldn’t be left on their own at home to drink and smoke all night. I don’t think this is appropriate, it’d be a pretty nasty thing to do, though it’d probably not come to anything. I don’t hate my neighbours, just their children. Alternatively, confront them in person if it happens again this evening and hope that one of the asshats physically assaults me – then the bloody police can get involved. No, neither of these are appropriate options. As for the latter, in a country where kids routinely stab each other to death I’m just keeping the bloody doors locked and 999 on quick-dial.

Frustrated, stressed, and damn tired. I’ll try my best not to stick my gardening fork through any stupid 15 year old heads. Might see about sleeping in a front room instead of the back, will need to put new curtains in today though as there are none and there’s a street-light out front.

If only

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sigh A Grade I listed medieval fortified Manor House.

Nappa Hall

It actually seems cheap at 500k, of course nothing is really cheap at that sort of price, not for us plebs. OK, so it has damp problems, is mostly uninhabitable, in fact, it’s bordering on a ruin. So what, I say. Can’t let that get in the way of the dream.

It’s got looks, land, and history: “Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned in the house.”

I can imagine limiteless potential, alas, from my PoV the price may as well be limitless as well.

I have the netz!

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Finally, I’m ADSL-Internet enabled. Couldn’t have come on a better day, this morning my O2 donglenet refused to connect. O2 had some technical fault I guess (it works now.)

Anyway, this means I can now upload photos painlessly!

Talk Turd

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I get my ‘net and phone from a company here in the UK called “Talk Talk” (which is a subsidiary of another company called Carphone Warehouse.) On moving to a new house the usual thing to do is call your provider and get them to sort out a transfer, so this I did. All the way back in April, on the 30th I think.

I was pleased that the phone line went live in the expected time. Right at the end of the window, but still OK.

Two weeks later I still have no ADSL though. The window was 2 weeks. So I call Talk Talk, get redirected to the same incorrect menu-navigation twice, and finally speak to someone from the correct team. After interminable breaks “on hold” I’m told the broadband will go live on the 22nd of June. The 22nd of June?!! The bloody what?

That’s almost a full two months between putting in the moving-home “order” and having the process completed. Yet, it only took two weeks to get the phone line connection. That’s 2 months without a proper Internet connection!

So, I’ve got to live another month with flaky 15-min-on 15-min-off 3G Internet. At least the 3G connection was enabled within an hour of me signing up at the shop! Maybe it is time I found a power point in the local pub (who have reliable wifi that I can use for free.)

I enjoyed my lunchtime today, how about you?

Powerless in Hitchin

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

We’re still too busy to spend much time on writing and photographing. Well, we’ve taken plenty of photos but the process of getting them from the camera to the web is too time consuming. Just now the power went out (for about three hours in the end), someone dug a hole– bzzt, no power.

I like birds

We’ve been feeding the birds. We put a bird feeder up in the elder tree and have been entertained by Great Tits, Blue Tits, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Blackbirds (they eat snails, yes!), a Collared dove, and a couple of Wood Pigeons. I think the tits, sparrows, and finches are the same breeding pairs returning regularly. The whistles and chirps of these various birds is a constant background all day, rather pleasant really.

One thing we have learnt is that the fancy-pants birdseed mixes are no good for hanging feeders. The Great Tits just sit at the spout and throw everything out (onto the ground below) until they find the bits they want. I spoke to the lady in the Fruit & Veg shop, that also sells bird feeders and feed, about this (they also, unbelievably, sell stamps and coins – as in the collecting variety.) She confirmed my suspicions, basically the fancy-pants mixes are for fools! This is a common occurrence, the mixes can be OK for feeding trays though. The best thing is to have one feeder for peanuts (what the Great Tits go for) and another for seeds. So now we have two feeders in the elder tree.

Harry Tuttle, a man consumed by paperwork

I’ve been working through the condition report. Back in Australia rental condition reports tend to be a single A4 sheet of standard design, containing tick-boxes and a few brief notes. Here in the UK there’s a whole industry for the things, check-in and check-out reports are prepared and conducted by specialist “Independent Inventory Clerk” companies. For our new place we have a 31 page document, it reads like a maintenance nightmare. That’s good for us though, it’d take a lot of neglect to make the place worse by checkout. All in all I expect it’ll be in significantly better condition when we leave.

Anyway, in addition to the 31 page document I’ve typed up my own 4 page document. This is mainly 2.5 pages of additional details where issues were not covered in the inventory. Such as the Cooker Hood missing its filters and having a disconnected extractor hose. Also, several internal doors don’t latch, which is annoying at times but OK. The largest concern is security, the ground-floor windows have no locking mechanism and are difficult to close.

I’ve already been busy putting up curtain rails and curtains as well as mucking around in the back yard. We’re getting there. Got a lot of stuff to do still though. After all this I hope we end up staying here for a good two years. Never know what’s going to happen though. Stability? A thing of the past.

The whole condition report thing is whiffy to me, it all stinks of collusion. Another black mark against “agents,” may their lying brains rot and run out their ears. Agents have nice relationships with these inventory companies, and the check-out cleaning companies, who are in with the inventory companies. Back in Ricky they all knew each other very well. The agents recommended a particular cleaner, and make it pretty clear that this is the cleaner to us. The cleaner has an arrangement with the agent such that if there are any issues with cleanliness the cleaner comes back to fix these up at no extra cost. The whole system is highly tuned to extract my money as efficiently as possible. We got the whole bond back, but in reality that’s minus £150 for 30 minutes of the Inventory Clerk’s time and minus £210 for the cleaning… £350! (The cleaning was done very well though, and the price included full and thorough cleaning of the oven. The price may seem high, but there were three people doing the job and it took them the better part of a day.)

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours”

I’ve met one of our neighbours, she was sweeping her front path when I popped out wondering why my electrons had stopped flowing. Her and her husband have been living in their house for 49 years! It was £3500 when they bought it, how’s that for inflation? It isn’t just inflation though, back then most people could afford a house, so long as one of them had some sort of full time employment. Pretty much any sort of employment would be sufficient to afford a place. Times have changed, eh? These days, for the same place in the same location, a couple would have to both have full time work and both have pretty good jobs to boot.

She moved here with her husband from the West Indies. Living in a single-room bedsit to start with, just up the road in Letchworth. They’ve been in the area ever since.

She says she’s never heard of any burglaries on the street, which is reassuring. Apparently many residents are retirees who’re home most of the day, and everyone keeps their eyes on things. She does seem to have a “kids these days” sort of expectation that it’s going to happen eventually though. “It used to be quieter in these parts.”

I’m a lumberjack, and I’m OK, I work all night and I sleep all day

Well, sometimes I wish. It’d be a simpler arrangement. I’ve mentioned the landscape gardening thing before, right? 🙂

Work, my sort at least, is very difficult without a decent ‘net connection. It’s becoming frustrating. A large part of the difficulty is that we, long ago, chose Perforce as an SCM. Perforce is nice, I like it, I’ve become a fan even. That said, there’s many SCMs out there these days and I’ve only tried a small handful of them. By default I still stick to “plain old” SVN.

The problem with Perforce is that it really doesn’t like being offline. It isn’t an SCM for the disconnected café hacker, or otherwise ‘net challenged individual. By default all your files are checked out read-only, to edit one you need to tell the Perforce server – it is the server that tracks these things you see. You can just chmod+w or otherwise force writes, but then you get confused since it’s just your own head trying to track things at that point (I do, I’ve tried.) You can also check out the entire codebase as “open for edit,” however this has its own issues when it comes to committing changes and creating changelist spam. I think I’ll be more sane if I switch to this approach now regardless.

Proper ‘net should be along soon, we do have a phone line now at least. As is usual, for the UK, we’ve been given a phone line that was recently active elsewhere. (With our previous number I answered more calls for “Trout Rise Farm” than I did for us.) Our first call to the new number was a barely intelligible telemarketer, joy, so I immediately added the number to the “do not call” list. Subsequently we’ve received several calls for people I’ve never heard of. So now I don’t answer the phone, in fact I’ve unplugged it. We’re not going to give the number out. In the cases, which crop up now and then, where some braindead company considers a landline number mandatory I guess we’ll give it to them – with the caveat that we will never answer calls to the number.

Baby baby baby, you are my voodoo child“–

Man do I hate gym music. Must dig up the JoS and get some more acceptable, and less repetitious, beats happening.

So, the Letchworth Cannons isn’t really up to scratch in the free-weights department. No squat rack, that’s the main negative – but I was hardly expecting to find one. They have the ubiquitous Smith Machine, which is OK for squats so long as you’re careful. At least, this is my belief based on all the reading I’ve done on the subject. The problem with the Smith Machine is that it causes you to rely on it for stability, thus you do your stability muscles no good. Worse still, using the bar as a stability point can easily cause you to place shearing force on your spinal column – a big no-no. When some gym waif squats a few kg for a handful of reps they’re probably not going to do themselves much damage. But when you want to squat heavy the shear force is going to be higher, thus you must be very very careful with your form (even more so than usual it seems.) Again, I’m no expert but I’ve read a lot of material on this, complete with anatomical force diagrams – they have me convinced.

Some of the more extreme sites I browse are vehemently anti-Smith-Machine, considering a squat machine a far better alternative (since they generally force you to keep better form.) Generally gym equipment is a pretty divisive subject, the flame-wars are much the same as they are in tech-communities. I tend to listen to the side of the argument that comes from the heavy lifters, this group, I think, is in the best position to know what’s safe and sensible. (You don’t get to squatting more than 150kg using unsafe techniques!)

From the PoV of a gym, which is more relevant in this instance, a proper squat rack probably is a safety liability. A clueless person lifting light weights on a Smith Machine is less likely to damage themselves than they are trying to squat light weights with a free bar. Gyms like Cannons are mostly full of clueless people! This flips for the semi-informed and heavier lifters, who’re more likely to damage themselves on the Smith Machine as a result of regular lifting with more subtle flaws to their form. Gyms like Cannons generally don’t have to worry about these sorts of users because they don’t go to gyms like Cannons. Why do I go to Cannons? Because I’m a cheapskate (it’s free with my health insurance if I go often enough) and, when it comes down to it, don’t take it too seriously anyway. That is, I take safety completely seriously – that’s why I read so much about it. What I don’t take seriously is my squatting; no squat rack? OK, no heavy free-bar squats then. I can do heavy dumbbell squats and high-volume bar squats with lighter weights.

Anyway, Cannons makes up for the absence of a squat rack somewhat by having two good cable machines with all the typical attachments and a variety of chin-up and dip handles. They also have the usual huge rack of dumbbells, so no switching plates all the time (the number 1 annoyance with working out at home.)

Consuming Passions


Little luck with coffee in town so far. Nero is the best I’ve found, sadly enough, but is very unstable. The posh deli has some promise though. They list several coffees as fresh roasted and the girl I spoke to claims they’ll do any of them as espresso or filter. This last bit is a little disturbing, seeing only one grinder I assume they mean that they keep the other coffees pre-ground. Ick. Anyway, what it does mean is that their house-blend is probably not too old, a good sign. It tastes OK but there’s a big problem in their default espresso – far far far far too long. One of the worst cases I’ve come across, it’s basically a “Darren Black” (as we call it back in Sydney because Darren likes ’em, a whole cup of coffee put through the grounds.)


We’ve had much better luck with our carnivorous urges. The butcher on the town square, Allingham Bros., is a purveyor of fine quality flesh. It’s a traditional little butcher shop-front, and at the end of they day the meat in the display window is replaced with a little display of historical artefacts. There’s little information about them online, the most interesting fact I can find is that they were trading during WW2. “Ration books came in and Mum would regale us about how she managed to fare in Allingham’s the butcher’s queue – offal and rabbits were not rationed and on such a buy Mum would act as though she had won the pools.

The butcher has direct game sources, it sounds like they have a good relationship with several keepers. They also have a direct rabbit source, and sell only snared and ferreted rabbit. They keep a large stock in the freezer for the off-season too, including pheasants, wild boar, and venison (wild.)

Their more “normal” meats have fuelled my last week of BBQing. I’ve BBQed lamb, beef, pork, and chicken. BBQ! BBQ! Yay! Now I’ve done the “normal” meats it’s time to move on to the wildlife, that wood pigeon that visits our little yard better be aware!

My has meat been getting expensive though, especially beef and lamb.


There’s a lot of choice for vegetables on market day, with at least three stalls available. In general I think we’ll do our veg shopping at the little “stamps and coins” place. I like the feel of it, and they sell bird feeders too, as well as stamps and coins. I got some very fresh asparagus there yesterday, excellent stuff.

That’s a lot of words. Bye.