Book Notebook

After a fair bit of searching (with some slight reorganising thrown into the mix), I have found my little yellow book, there I keep lists of certain books, to aid me when buying books.

This, and DVDs, are where I start to miss having a PDA or smartphone. If I could find them and the right accessories, I could probably resurrect them, but I don’t think they are trustworthy enough to make it worth the effort. Though, to be fair, pages have started trying to come out of the notebook, so never say never…

Anyway, as the notebook was misplaced for a while, it needed some updating. I’m surprised how few books by David Baldacci I’m now missing (if you don’t count his books for kids, then it’s fewer than the ones I’ve actually read, but shhh, don’t tell anyone).

Some authors are too prolific for me to have in the notebook: Stephen King, PG Wodehouse and Isaac Asimov would take up far far far too many pages. Printed out a list of Stephen King books, copied from Wikipedia, and ticked off from lists, shelves and a box. Surprising how few gaps there still are. Still quite a few I have left to read. While I was at it, I found out about the existence of this

Two new additions to the notebook tonight are series of books, of which I only have one book in each series. One is Louis L’Amour’s Sackett saga, the other is the Hornblower series. Hornblower is kind of a benchmark, which I hear Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series surpasses (I’m not surprised – it’s hard to beat “Jack! You have debauched my sloth!”), but as a benchmark, I probably ought to give it a go.

How to ultimately organise all my books so I can keep track of what I’ve got, and not to accidentally buy any more doubles, could prove to be tricky.

Frakey Friday: Star Trek Insurrection Deleted Scene

Star Trek Insurrection. Not the best movie in the Trek series, and even misses being “one of the best” by a bit, but I think it also manages to miss being in the “one of the worst” category, as well. Though some disagree with me. entertaining, but due to various factors, ultimately mediocre.

Initially intended to be like Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness” (and having read it, I can kinda see that kind of direction surviving), it has been noted (by someone-not-me-I-don’t-remember-who, but I liked it and latched on to it and remembered it) that the movie is less “Insurrection”, and more “Insubordination”. Fun if you get into the story, but lacking some narrative cohesion that made its predecessor, First Contact, so great.

Directed by, and also-starring Jonathan Frakes, this Frakey Friday entry covers a small part of the movie that nearly was better – but then it got reshot, and died bleeding of its wounds in the cinema. I suppose “Theater” would sound better, with the movie theater/operating theater dichotomy being an unspoken pun, but I can’t bring myself to call a cinema a “theater”.

So, rough recap of the movie: The bad guys are after the Poor Innocent Planet, because freak radiation keeps/makes people young there. The bad guys turn out to be some rebellious kids of people on the planet, but the years have made them rather the worse for wear, the word “facelift” taken to new extremes. There’s a ship in the Bad Guy fleet that’s supposed to harvest the radiation, to make it possible for the bad guys to get a strong enough dose.

At the climax of the movie, Picard and the Bad Guy leader, Rufio Ru’afo, are on the collector: Picard to sabotage the mission, Ru’afo to make sure its mission succeeds.

In the movie, Picard sets the thing to blow up, and gets beamed out before he can get too singed, while Ru’afo kind of cringes as the explosions reach him.

Weak sauce. Going out with a whimper does not put you in the Top Ten List Of Star Trek Villains.

On the DVD (2-disc special edition, of course), there are deleted scenes. The best of which is the original version of this scene. Here it is, with a bit of explanation.

Unfinished though the effects are, that sequence of Ru’afo getting younger and younger is really well done. At one point they change the actor, but it’s done so well that it looks like the same guy the whole way through.

That sequence, properly finished, would have been so cool on the big screen. And it’s the kind of scene that really takes advantage of the possibilities of science fiction storytelling, where screaming and cowering just doesn’t.

Shame on you, test audience. And to the director/studio/wherever blame may ultimately lie: that sequence would have been worth sticking to your guns for. There’s some great visuals in the movie but you could have one-upped yourself with this.

Goodbye, Thrift Store

Found out this week that one of the thrift stores in town is closing. Bit of a surprise, as they were hiring new staff just a month or two ago. Seems they’re owned by a larger branch in another town, who didn’t renew the lease on the place, and they don’t seem to be looking for new premises in town. So it seems we’ll go back to the status quo of 4 thrift stores in the town proper, and one on the road out (that we don’t go to often, because it’s a bit too far to walk, really, especially with kids).

When they opened, they had a sealed pack of the initial set of a Star Trek card game I’ve been collecting since 1994 (twas a 1995 starter deck), and actually got a rare I needed (Worf). Since then, I’ve got countless books (some for me, some for kids), some Lego and Duplo and other kids toys, and, of course, the monster TV I picked up last week.

Everything was 50% off when we went in earlier in the week (which was when we found out they were closing), so I spent less than $1.40 on 5 books (the Chronicles of Narnia, less Dawn Treader and Prince Caspian) and 3 videotapes (The Land Before Time before there were gazillions of sequels, a Young Indiana Jones, and The Fox And The Hound, a Disney movie I had a book of part of when I was younger, but have never actually seen).

So, goodbye, Salvation Army thrift store. It was nice having you around. All the best to your soon-to-be-former staff.

Pizza Recipe

This is a recipe that I was rather fond of making, some years ago. It’s somewhat lazy, in that if you had time and ingredients, you could probably make a bunch of the stuff yourself: the ingredients here are more like preassembled pieces. So, here goes.

You need pizza bases. Or, if you’re even lazier than I was, some kind of bready pizza base substitute. Probably not slices of bread, they’d die before ever reaching your plate.

Then you need to make the pizza sauce. Now you could fry a bunch of ingredients, and all that, and you can certainly do that, but add this basic recipe to it and fry your extra ingredients and my main sauce ingredients together.
My pizza sauce has 2 ingredients:
Pasta sauce (my preference is “Extra Onion and Garlic”, and Iceland brand worked out better than Dolmio, and I’m not just saying that because I worked at Iceland). Pasta sauce is far too runny, though, so you need to thicken it up with:
Tomato puree (a jar is a whole lot easier than a tube). Just keep adding puree until you think the pasta sauce is thick enough.

Spread the sauce onto your pizza base.

Cover heavily with prawns (unless you or your guests don’t like prawns).

Cover heavily with cheese. For best results, I liked a mix of:
Extra Mature Cheddar (in England, 5 on the mildness scale).
Red Leicester
Double Gloucester (while I’d rank the strong cheddar as my favourite cheese, Double Gloucester is the easiest cheese to sample, and sample, and sample…)
I’ve found it tricky finding all these easily in America (Iceland brand pasta sauce is likely to be harder to come by, just do what you can).

For easiest putting-cheese-on-pizza, cut the cheese up into small-ish cubes and sprinkle on top, making sure to mix them up. You could grate, it just takes a Long Time.

Cook on an arbitrary high temperature until it’s done (browning on top).

Word of warning: if you’ve put lots and lots of cheese on (I won’t call it “too much” because there’s no such thing), then cheese oil kinda puddles on top. There are two ways I’ve tried to deal with this:
Use kitchen roll to dab it off the top. This is, of course, messy.
Pre-cut the pizza, so the oil runs down the grooves and off the pizza. You need a tray under the pizza (or on the shelf below the pizza) to catch the oil. You’ll need one anyway, if you don’t set the pizza on a baking tray, to catch the cheese that will melt off the sides.

There you go. Easy pizza.

Adventures In Weaving: The Current State Of Things

Most weeks, I take a day to go up to the mountain (my grandmother-in-law’s house) to do weaving. I’ve had fun with the projects I’ve done so far, though of course they can take rather a long time to complete.

Today, I was actually working on an older project, where the shuttle had missed some warp threads and at the time I didn’t bother to fix it. Obviously, that was a big mistake. So, too, was attempting to make tea towels out of a material that won’t handle that sort of material very well. Did I say tea towels? No, they’re some interesting wall hangings. It was an attempt at krokbradt (a quick search yields examples here), and I’m not sure it was entirely successful. Possibly, again, the wrong kind of yarn, but you live and learn.

Anyway, the “fixing the mistakes” project has taken a few months, but I think that I finished the last one today. I tie a thin thread on one of the ends of the yarn, and undo the weft, but the thread is there to keep track of where it goes. When I reach the skip in the weaving, I can undo the knot, fix the mistake with a needle, and then retie the knot and rethread the woven part that I undid.

I had quite a few of these to do, and some were deeper into the pattern than others. Now all(!) that needs doing, is stitching all the weft ends down into the sides.

I actually have a project on the loom, that has been there far too long. There are scarf-y things that are tubular, so that you can wear them as a hood. I think these are usually knitted, but I tried weaving some. The first one or two came off the loom, and they weren’t terrible, but they were too bunchy around the neck. OK, so a little bit terrible. I ran out of the yarn I was using, hence switching to the fixing project (I’ve since bought some more), and I have a plan. After a bunch of experimenting with pattern (I wasn’t happy with the angle of the first stripe), I ended up with a pattern where one colour was used twice as much as the other. I think if I keep the 2:1 on the back, and go to 1:1 on the front, it’ll tend to curve for the hood part, and be less bulky around the front of the neck.

We’ll see how it goes.

Solidifying A Site Concept

Part of the purpose of this blog was to chronicle progress made in website development, with there being a particular idea I’m working towards, and other concepts that can be spun out from it. The concept going for the initial site has a lot going for it, there being an overwhelming abundance of material, without a great deal of organisation. In short, you know a bunch of work has been done, but finding out who did it, when, how the results were published, where specifically you would find that documentation… it’s a challenge.

Hence the opportunity to impose order.

Frustratingly, many days I don’t make much progress at all on the technical side of things, most of which ultimately end up under “presentation”. A lot of work has been accomplished under “data gathering”, and plans have been laid to establish links with the wider community in that subject area.

Following recent prompting, I think I’ve made progress on one particular question that had been thus far a bit baffling.

If all this information is out there, and is generally hard-to-find-unless-you-know-where-to-look, then to those who don’t know where to look the information is inaccessible. The question is, “Who is the site aimed at?”

To some extant, the site exists (conceptually) to help anyone interested in the subject, and interested more in primary sources than the latest book speculating on any specific aspect (of which there haven’t been a shortage). But that left the information I was presenting in very dry form. “Here’s this. More information at some other place.” I wasn’t very happy with that at all, though it was a problem I was deferring.

The solution, as it came to me, was to aim young for the site. Then it’s accessible to everyone. I can put a short “Cheat Sheet” on each page, with a short (but hopefully engaging) Who/What/Where/When/Why sort of thing, then have a “Further Reading” section for those who want (or need) to go more in-depth. So aim teen, with functionality for older researchers, but hopefully nothing to prevent younger (who can read) from learning something as well.

After spinning my wheels thinking about extending the functionality of a plugin, I realised that extra functionality doesn’t need to be a Day 1 thing: the modification is rather minor at the end of the day (hence my confidence that I could actually do it), but I need a bit more brain space to do it than I’ve been getting. So if that can be backburned, what can be brought forward to move this thing from theory to “released into the wild” more quickly?

The figuring out of the “Cheat sheet” helped with that, and helped with thinking about how to organise the site. I’ve made some notes, but I haven’t implemented any of it in the test site, yet.

Still, nice getting the feeling that I might get somewhere with this after all.

Personality Types

Not being a big fan of forms or tests, personality tests are very Not My Thing. There usually ends up being some stupid question where none of the options are particularly me.

“Which of these two options is more you, Option A which is totally not you, or Option 2 which is totally not you. This will help us determine what kind of personality you have.” Oh, I can tell you – I’m the kind of personality that’s done with these questions.

If you happen to be like me in this regard, then let me help you.

Each personality type is described using four letters, one from each of these sections in order:
I vs E (except after C)
S or N
F or T
J v P

I’ve done the test, but I don’t remember what I got labelled as. So I’m rather fond of four-letter abbreviations for potential use if the question comes up.

I’m into movies, so I might be IMDB.
I’m not into sports, so I’m not ESPN.
IOCC is the charity I chose on Amazon Smile.

If you’re so outside the box that four-letter abbreviations starting with I or E aren’t enough for you, then options widen considerably.

I like FFIX
I’m starting to use HDMI
USPS keep bringing me things (usually after I’ve been busy on Amazon).
I didn’t go to university, but it could very well be that UCLA is a personality type all of its own.
I don’t think these are me, but you might identify with GMTV, CITV or CBBC.
If your into history, SPQR might suit you.

I do have a reputation, however, and perhaps the best four letters for me would be FOOD. I know I’d like some…

Garden Update

As we descend into the end part of the growing season, it seems a good time to make notes on how things have gone this year.

I picked up a pack of strawberry popcorn at a choiry event, and planted some. It has tried to be enthusiastic, but I’m not sure it has had time to grow the actual corn part before the weather gets too cold. Don’t remember when I planted it, but if we grow corn, growing it earlier would seem to be a good policy. Maybe try starting it indoors even earlier, then it might have a chance to get big enough to grow some beans up them, with the squash around them, like the Three Sisters is supposed to be.

The squash around the corn… I know some squashes grew, but I’m not sure if it was as many as we ought to expect. Harvesting hasn’t really been my thing this year.

I heard today of someone’s corn being plagued by earwigs. I know I’ve seen some earwigs this year, don’t know if they’ve touched the corn or not. Should look into what companion plants might repel earwigs, and plant it around the corn.

Tried adding peas in extra places, to help some plants. Seems to have been a good move. The stuff by the house dried up a bit, but the back fence seems to be a good place.

Mint is doing very well around the fruit trees. Might need to make a note of what we’ve got where, and move the mint we like eating least, to around the trees at the front, and extend the others to various places at the back. Fill in the holes, as it were.

Tomatoes seem to have done very well this year. The seed ones better than the already-started ones. Whatever we did this year, we should do again next year.

One of the three Arctic Kiwi plants has survived – we need to weed around it now. And try to find a bunch of females to plant around the male we have, for next year.

The new raised beds have done very well, probably want to add some more soil to them next year, and the second year should be more productive than the first. The one that ended up being more my thing turned insanely productive: the marshmallow grew above the washing line, a couple of the squashes turned giant, and a load of beans grew. Spotted a couple of echinacea flowers.

Some of the new trees we’ve planted have done better than others. Some died, some seemed to die then tried growing new trunks from lower down. Looking forward to the apple and pear trees that we planted last year, to grow to the point of producing fruit. Hope the new peach trees get enough life in them to grow a bunch of branches, and start producing. Hope the old peach tree hangs on long enough for some overlap.

After a worrying start, the grape plants have taken off. Hope they fill in a bunch of fence, and of course we’re looking forward to them producing, too.

The blackberry plant that we planted where the compost pile used to be, has taken off. We planted it a bit away from the fence, but it grew right to the fence. It has wanted to just continue its limbs through the fence along the ground, we’ve tried to encourage it to row up the fence. Hopefully we’ll get more of an edge in that battle next year. I haven’t spotted any fruit on it yet, not sure if that’s not a first-year thing, or what.

Three of the four raspberry plants that we transplanted from the mountain, have survived. Hopefully they’ll send up new stems next year, as they’re supposed to. Only got a few raspberries off them this year, possibly because of when we transplanted them.

The raised beds we but soil from our garden in, got rather weedy. The ones we just put soil-from-bags in, have done better in that regard.

We put a bed in the front, and planted a whole load of seeds, I don’t think we got much in the way of grown-on-purpose stuff in there at all. There’s one plant I’m pretty sure is comfrey, but that’s about it.

The mushrooms haven’t produced as much volume-wise as I hoped, and I’m just starting to get some mushrooms from a second tub (out of the seven that are out there). Still, to have gotten anything is pretty promising, hopefully can start figuring out some tricks to increase output there.

In summary, I think we’ve had a lot of production this year, which is encouraging, and we have lots of potential for more production in the future, with the perennials and other recurring plants.

We’ve had a lot of drinks with mint or lemon balm from the garden. More herbs will be a good way to go, lots of peas round things was a great move. Something viny and fast-growing up the side of the house, after mulching down there, will be a great step (especially towards keeping the house cool in summer – it hasn’t seemed too hot this year, thankfully). Hops have been suggested, and that’s not a bad idea.

A lot of work done, a lot more to do, but it all seems promising.

Review: Pie In The Sky – Season 1

Pie In The Sky is an odd kind of cop show: Henry Crabbe is trying to retire, to fulfill a long-held dream of running a restaurant. The operation he was working on, goes a bit wrong, and the bad guy escapes.

Watching it now, I recognise that bad guy as Foyle from Foyle’s War

Crabbe’s boss, Fisher, lets Crabbe go and open his restaurant, but keeps his talons in, as now Crabbe is on call to help the police whenever Fisher so desires. Which happens to be nearly every episode, but that’s the format.

I know that I watched it first time round (1994-97, and probably with my parents), and I had fond enough memories of it to get the DVDs, but that was a while ago, and who knows if I’d still like it?

The show has a good setup. It seems to catch humanity well: the accountant wife who tries to keep Henry down to earth when it comes to his business, who is the complete opposite to Henry when it comes to caring about food, but the relationship is respected by the writers, and so are the characters individually: it would be easy to make Margaret some kind of punchline, but she holds her own as equal, though different, to her husband, throughout.

Fisher is probably out of his depth, though trying hard to not be, and if departmental politics is a spider web, half the time is the spider and the other half is the fly.

The staff at the restaurant, who are gathered over a couple of episodes, are varied. Different backgrounds, different styles, they don’t always get on, but you like them. Police aren’t always good, or always bad.

Cambridge, the constable who is assigned to work with Crabbe, is professional, and very competent at her job. Crabbe, with more experience, doesn’t always do what she says, she being a little more by-the-book, and Fisher doesn’t seem to appreciate how good she really is, is sometimes dismissive of her input.

The show is a bit slow to start, but likeable characters help you stick with it. The first season has 10 episodes: in episode 6 they introduce B-plots (more for the restaurant staff to do). And the show does keep picking up. When Season 2 kicks off, it seems much more coherent as an ensemble show.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

Also, sometimes people pop up who you recognise. Andy Serkis and Pete Postlethwaite among them. And, of course, the main actor has been in a few things himself.

Season 1 is still an enjoyable show 21 years later. Season 2 (ok, we’ve only watched one episode) looks even more promising so far.

Thrift Score

A day or two ago, I took Oldest and Middlest with me to the library, as I had to pick up a book that had come in for me.

On the way home, we stopped in at a couple of thrift stores, as is fairly common for us to do. We got Oldest a couple of books, and Middlest picked herself up some little Nerf contraption (she’s figured out how to ask for a toy from the Free Toys bin before she can be stopped). I considered getting her a stick horse-giraffe, before deciding it would be best to consult with Those At Home about it, first.

There was also a Rather Large Telly, which I described to Those At Home as having a screen size rivalling the size of picture we’re getting from our projector downstairs. The TV was on hold til Thursday morning.

So, this morning, I headed back over there. A bit later than I meant to, getting closer to 11 when they opened at 9.30, but still morning.

Both TV and horse were still there, and the TV still had the “on hold til Thursday morning” note stuck to it. I asked a lady who worked there about the TV, at what point in the morning it would stop being on hold. The person who had holded it had apparently called, and sounded like she’d cancelled the hold, but the message was a bit unclear, so they were contacted just to make sure. They didn’t want it after all.

So the next question is, “How much is it?” When I’d mentioned it at home, the instructions were “If it’s still there, I’d pay $30-$40 for it”. I figured if I’d needed to, I might be able to squeeze a bit extra out of my own reserves.

What I was told next, wasn’t the price, however. The person who’d donated it said there was a problem with it, that often after a time of working (which could be from 5 minutes to 2 hours), it would go dark and unresponsive, and you’d have to unplug it from the wall and plug it back in, to get it working again.

Could be tolerable, could be the other thing. All of a sudden, $30-$40 was sounding a bit much on a gamble.

“Well, I don’t want to spend too much on it, if it’s going to have problems like that”, I said. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d charged $15-$20 for it. I’m glad I kept my trap shut, she offered it to me for $5. If it cut out a couple of times during a movie, it’d probably still be worth that. “I’ll take it for that”, I said.

Apparently they’d sold a working one for $100.

I was told that if it didn’t work for us, to not bring it back, but to bring the receipt for a refund. Well now there’s absolutely no risk. Plus it had remote and manuals.

While she was running the till for the TV transaction, I went and got the horse. Said $1.50 on it. I’d fished out $1 from the quarters bag, and was reaching in to fish for the other .50. “Just a dollar”, she said. Can’t argue with that. Welcome to New-Favourite-Person-ville.

Getting the TV into the car was tricky. Another person who was helping in the shop, helped me out to the car with it. We tried a bunch of things to try and get it in the car. Eventually I had to let the back seats down, which gave just enough extra space to stand it up diagonally in the back (it didn’t need to overlap the back seat much). From the driver’s seat, I could only see slivers of the back window. Fortunately, it wasn’t very far to get home.

We stood the TV up on the dining room table (on a towel, to protect the table), thinking we might need to set the TV face-down on the tables, to get the back open. The TV was slightly wider than the table (inspection of the manual revealed it to be 55 inches). It ran fine all afternoon without going dark and unresponsive. My uncle-in-law researched the problem, and a few people have had it, with a lot of speculation about what the cause of the problem might be. Overheating is a likely suspect, with someone solving their problem by rigging up a computer fan to the back of their TV.

We turned it on, it worked, hooked up a laptop and the kids watched a whole film, then my wife and I fiddled with document layout for service books (well, she did all the work, I answered a couple of questions and helped look through it). We set up a “Welcome Home” screensaver for when my mother-in-law returned home. We eventually had to take the thing off the table, so we could eat the evening meal at the table. The only problems we’d encountered were the colour being set to a weird setting, and some background bits of DVD looking pixelly.

This evening, I tried hooking up the Blu-Ray player to it, mainly to see what resolution it could handle. We’d hooked up the player to a High-Def TV that was only capable of 720p (watching a 1080p signal sent to it was quite interesting). Initially, I forgot to change teh settings, but The Lego Movie Blu-Ray definitely worked. It actually resumed from where I’d stopped it a few days ago, after I’d tested the sound-without-picture. I switched the player settings to 1080p. And the TV handled it just fine. Tried a little more of The Lego Movie, then some of Star Trek Into Darkness. Looking good!

So, $5 for a working 55-inch TV, and we can finally watch Blu-Rays at home. I call that a win.

The challenge now, is to find a place to put it.