Saturday, April 24, 2004

Cherry Blossom Time

The first cherry blossoms emerge
Corn pops, in slow motion
10:28:47 AM    

  Sunday, April 18, 2004


In 1995 we drove across Europe to spend a week in a chalet in Poland. When I was a child, my family lived in the States where Polack jokes were de rigoure amongst my friends. Consequently, I imagined that Poland was a bit 'rustic'. I pictured a nation full of people wearing sackcloth and eating potatoes. The reality was very different.

The Poles we saw in the Zakopane area were immaculately dressed. Their clothes were a bit old fashioned with a touch of the seventies about them, but they were spotless. Their hair was short and tidy, and all the men, it seemed, had the obligatory Eastern European moustache. If you saw someone looking scruffy, you could be sure they were tourists, mostly from the recently re-united Germany.

Their houses were wonderfully big constructions, many new, with steeply pitching roofs clad in distinctive snake-skin tiles designed to throw off the heavy snow they get in the winter. The older houses in the countryside had tin or split pine shingle roofs. We were told that Zakopane was a major ski resort in the winter. Thanks to it's relative cheapness, Western Europeans were flocking there for the slopes in the beautiful Tatri mountains.

We were there in summer and did a lot of walking in the hills, so we got to see something of their agricultural ways. It seemed to me that the houses in the country were still following an old practice of making hay. Every house seemed to have these remarkable haystacks in their garden.

I spent five of my school years growing up on a farm in Scotland. I'm used to working with hay, but these things had me baffled. How did they get the hay piled up so steeply? I found that answer when we walked past an old barn.

Isn't that such a brilliantly simple design? The hayracks are made by hand from local materials. This eco-friendly solution is probably forced on the southern Poles for economic reasons. Nevertheless, the result is that the air in southern Poland is crystal clear.

The hills are full of old, abandoned houses. I think the southern Poles have become a lot more prosperous since the Berlin wall came down. It was beautiful in 1995; I wonder what it's like now.

7:16:01 PM    
My Type

All the following have something in common:

  • Jill Earnshaw
  • Mary Steenburgen
  • Kate Bush
  • Claudia Black

    They are all my 'type'. Tall, slim and pale with black hair. It started when I was young. I remember being mesmerised by Kate Bush when I was at school, while everyone else was stuck in Debbie Harry.

    My first serious girlfriend was a Kate clone, until she stared putting on a whole lot of weight. I don't think it was the weight that did for us, but then again... No, I think it was more to do with being a teenager. All that anger! I needed a stronger, more assertive person to keep me sane.

    My next girlfriend was just that. Trouble was, she grew up faster than I did. After a couple of years we split up amicably. She wasn't my type, but, though I haven't seen her in nearly twenty years, I still hold her dear. She is one of those really nice people that everyone likes. I still get news about her through my family. Apparently, she told my brother that I was the only passionate man she'd ever gone out with. I find that really sad because she deserves better.

    My next one was an unstable nutter from a family of nutters. The less said about them the better. She definitely wasn't my type.

    Then I met Jill. She's tall, slim and pale with dark hair. In every real romance, the woman is the gatekeeper. She's the one who choses her mate (in any civilised society). Jill picked me, so I guess she's not too bright, despite having one degree in Russian and German from Oxford and another in Computing. She's tolerant, of me, and the mother of our two beautiful children. She's the only woman who could ever really matter to me. I don't tell her I love her often enough, but I do.

    She, is my type.
    2:12:32 AM    

  •   Saturday, April 17, 2004

    Sunlight considered dangerous. To your career.

    In a statement to The Scientist, Boni E. Elewski, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, argued that even a few minutes of sunlight exposure can be dangerous[1], and people can get what they need of the vitamin through supplements. "Any group, organization, or individual that disseminates information encouraging exposure to UV radiation, whether natural or artificial, is doing a disservice to the public," Elewski said. story

    This excerpt is from an article about a vitamin-D researcher being sacked for saying a bit of sunlight is good for you. Is Boni E. Elewski an utter moron, or a vampire? Or was this quote taken out of context?

    Since when did exposure to sunlight, especially in winter, become bad for your health? Now we're all supposed to pop a pill instead of having a walk in the park. How did mankind survive the aeons before factor-99 sunblock came to market?

    [1] My emphasis
    3:54:50 PM    

    Zoe, Tabby and Daisy

    Here's another old photo from two years ago.

    12:23:42 AM    

      Thursday, April 15, 2004


    I take photographs every now and then. Here's one of my favourites.

    11:39:24 PM    
    Modern Man

    From A First Zen Reader, compiled and translated by Trevor Legget.

    Recently I heard someone discussing the poetry game played by Japanese people at the New Year, which depends on knowing the poems of the famous Hyakunin Isshu anthology. In these poems, the ancients adored the moon and the flowers and sought to trace the mysteries of nature in blossoms, birds, wind, snow and moon. Of course not a few of the verses also sing of human feelings and of love, but always there is a delicacy and refinement in them. The modern man, wholly sunk in materialism, an expert in giving nothing away, is hardly one to appreciate such poems. Still, he doesn't want to give up the poetry game, so let us perforce add one more line to make the poems more appropriate to him. And that line (the critic said) can be: "But I want some money too!"

    Take the famous poem of Yamabe, the fourth in the anthology:

    I started off along the shore,
    The sea shore a Tago,
    And saw the white and glistening peak
    Of Fuji all aglow
    Through falling flakes of snow.

    We put at the end:

    But I want some money too!

    Let us try another one:

    I hear the stag's pathetic call
    Far up the mountain side,
    While tramping o'er the maple leaves
    Wind-scattered far and wide,
    This sad, sad autumntide.
    But I want some money too!

    Never mind the stag's call and treading on the maple leaves in the deep mountains and feeling sad - if I had some money I could go to a pleasure resort and have an amusing and happy time. But I want some money too! Put that on the end of each of he poems, and it will just suit the humour of the modern man.

    The first time I read that, about fifteen years ago, I laughed myself stupid. Well, you have laugh, don't you. It's that or cry.

    This entry was prepared in LogBook.
    1:58:21 PM    

      Sunday, April 11, 2004

    ...two for Joy

    I just saw a pair of magpies in the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden. They really are, like all the crow family, beautiful birds. I don't understand the deep hatred that many people feel for them.
    7:31:13 PM    

      Saturday, April 10, 2004

    Radio Userland Problems

    Why is Radio Userland so bloody difficult to use?

    That last post took me about eight attempts to get right. I had a couple of typos to fix, but RU kept losing my changes and, once again, the latency drove me to distraction. Getting the lyrics laid out was also a hassle. RU wrapped them over two lines, instead of four. I know, it's an HTML thing, but the editing facilities ought to give me WYSIWYG in this day and age. There's no preview facility either.

    I've prepared this entry in LogBook, because I can trust it not to lose my stuff. I can see that I'm going to have to add blogging and a web preview to it.

    Guys, get the usability problems sorted out, please!

    2:02:22 PM    
    Internet Radio

    Good, god! I've discovered internet radio. Last time I heard it was at my father-in-law's about five years ago. The quality was appalling. David is a radio buff so he was willing to put up with it, indeed, he was inflicting it on the rest of the house at maximum decibels. I dismissed it.

    Today I came across a post on Ongoing recommending Dainbramage, so I gave it a try.

    It was playing REO Speed Wagon when I dropped in, so I quickly moved on, but the sound quality at 128 kbps was marvelous. iTunes is stuffed full of radio channels and I've tried a few of them out. I love Magnatune World Music for its really eclectic mix of world music, and it's right up Jill's street. She's just be clumping around the room to some old English folk tune. You know the sort of thing, to be sung in a nasal tone with a finger in one ear...

    As I was walking down the lane,

    A maiden I did spy,

    She looked me up, and looked me down,

    Then poked me in the eye... was interesting too. I though it would be too harsh to listen to but this wasn't the case. It was pleasant to listen to music with a completely foreign set of instruments. Just now it's playing some euro-style crap with the repeated chorus 'Hello, hello', so I don't think I'll be spending a lot of time there. I think they are at their best when they're true to their heritage.

    One thing to note: if you're listening at 128 kbps, it kills all your other downloads. I need to switch the radio off to get any other throughput.

    1:29:40 PM    

      Monday, April 5, 2004

    TypePad is wonderful

    I've just used TypePad's 'Upload File' facility with my work-related blog and it worked beautifully. Not only does it transfer your image files painlessly, it offers to make a thumbnail for you if the image is too wide for the page! And it gives you the HTML to paste into your page. And categories work. And there're no latency problems.

    Amazing, I love it. Also, you don't need to have access to a machine restricted server to post. Sorry Radio, but unless you get your act together your days are numbered.
    5:57:35 PM