Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Not permitted

Good news reaches the Observatory this afternoon: the proposed residents parking scheme has been scrapped in the face of widespread protest from the neighbourhood. I gather over 90% of residents who responded to the proposal consultation were against, and the County Council will not be pursuing the idea.

Excellent. A complex and expensive solution to a non-existent problem will now not be imposed on people who don't want it.

To celebrate, here's a pic of a part of the area you wouldn't park on anyway.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

What is a fair price?

Warning: more nerdish stuff follows...

Further to the previous post, I've spent more time working on this new Mac getting it to the point where I can actually produce some chargeable work on it, as opposed to just having fun in iTunes and Skype. I must admit I'd taken my eye off the ball in terms of developments in Mac hardware and Adobe software, and it's become sadly evident that I can't install my old copies of Photoshop and Acrobat on the new machine. They plain won't run, no matter what. End of.

OK, both are still available on my old Mac and indeed on the old Powerbook. But it's far more convenient to have everything you need on one machine, isn't it? So let's have a look at whether we can have a word with those nice people at Adobe and upgrade the software.

A few hours are now spent browsing the Adobe store website and various user forums.

OK, forget that. Maybe, as far as Acrobat goes, if I can persuade Adobe to allow a cross-platform upgrade. Yuh-huh, like that's going to be so easy. Given that I'm approaching 50, I haven't got the time left to call Adobe and go through the necessary routine to upgrade my PC version of Acro 6 to Acro 9 for Mac. It could take years and cost thousands of lives. No, we are looking at buying the latest versions. Fair enough, let's see what they cost these days.

Baise-moi. Now, I can remember the days when Adobe were every graphics pro's favourite as they were hungry for business, very cost-effective and much more user-friendly than those psychotic bastards at Quark. Those days would appear to have gone. The full version of Photoshop is around the £600 mark and the full Acrobat is over £500. Jeez.

I think I'll muddle along as best I can using my old machines. And investigate alternatives to Adobe software. For example, Photoshop is acknowledged to be the best photo manipulation software, but how about Gimp?

Having tinkered with this for a couple of hours, it would appear to do everything I need except that it doesn't handle CMYK colourspace. Well, that doesn't matter as much as it did a few years ago. In terms of everything else I regularly do in Photoshop, it's got it sorted. And guess how much it costs? Zip. Nada. It's free. Go read about it here if you're interested.

As for Acrobat, well, Quark's pdf export function is much more sophisticated than it used to be, and at first sight the new version I've got appears to be up to what I will need. If I get pdfs in from clients that need some work, I'll tinker with them on the PC - or send them back to the client with a politely rude note - until such time as the open source community sorts that out as well. The days when you had to spend vast sums of money on software may be drawing to a close. For example, instead of Micro$oft Office, why not try OpenOffice? I can thoroughly recommend it. Yes, it takes a little while to get used to, but then so did MS Office the first time you saw it, and OpenOffice is free too. You know it makes sense.

Right, no more techie nerdspeak for a while, I promise. We return you now to the usual mix of facile commentary and sweeping generalisation. It's what I do best.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Now, I've been using technology long enough not to get unduly moist at every new gadget that comes along. I must admit, though, that today's arrival has been very gratifying.

Pretty, isn't she? The new iMac 3.06Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4gig RAM, wireless keyboard and mouse. No tower, everything is packed into the 21.5 inch screen housing. It's all sexy as hell, to be honest. Ooooh, Matron, come and see my new computer...

It was - of course - strictly a business decision. For nigh on seven years I've been meeting clients' needs with a trusty old workhorse of a G4 dual processor, stable as you'd like, never a moment's problem. However, the clients are all starting to get uppity and wanting to upgrade, and if that's the way the business is going, I have to follow. So the new machine was but part of the investment - upgrading of software doesn't come cheap, I can tell you. Fortunately certain monies have been put aside over the years for this moment, so it's been do-able if painful.

I have spent most of the day installing and configuring software, and have several niggles to sort out. And some major bloody aggravations too. Getting Quark and associated graphic and font software up, running and fit for purpose is not the most trivial of tasks. But no matter, doubtless solutions will emerge. Since, however, it's Friday night, I'm not going to do anything further that might be remotely useful, and will goof off by surfing aimlessly and enjoying this ludicrously large screen.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

In the north country

The weekend was taken up by a frustratingly short visit to Mrs QO's esteemed parental units in the high north-west of England. This part of the country is stunningly beautiful, yet rather quiet - so many only make it as far as the Lake District, or stay on the motorway and pass by up into Scotland. The opening up of the Hadrian's Wall walk is bringing a few more people in but thankfully it's not on the mass-tourism trail, and long may that be so.

Some say the north starts at the Trent; some think of the South Yorkshire border as more like it. To my mind - having spent three years up in County Durham and 30 years visiting Cumbria - the north starts at Scotch Corner. Take a left onto the A66 and head up and over the moors...

I've enjoyed driving this road for a quarter-century or so. It's been considerably improved in that time, but not yet completely tamed - they're difficult to see in this pic, but there are still striped poles up by the side of the road to show how deep the snow is. And, of course, where the edge of the road is. This is valuable information, given the rocky drops on either side. This road still bites back in winter.

Having safely reached Penrith, we turn north again on the M6 and half an hour sees us at journey's end. Around here are sights like these.

Thanks to Backpacking in Britain for this one.

Mrs QO's brother and his family live up here. The views more than make up for the lack of mains water, I think. They get red squirrels on the bird-table...

I'm very fond of Nottingham, and we have some quietly beautiful scenery in the county. But if I didn't have to get to London so regularly, I'd really think seriously about being up in the true north for more than a few snatched weekends here and there.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Seasonal adjustment

Well, that's it for the summer's festivals. The camping kit is stacked in the hallway, waiting for a spare day to do the fettling that should be done before it's all carefully stowed away (OK, brutally and carelessly shoved) into the attic. The central heating has been on. Sweaters are being retrieved from drawers and previously undetected moths being sworn at in foul and intemperate terms. The Stoats Brewery is contemplating putting a winter ale on. Conkers are all over the pavements. No more this year shall we enjoy this sight:

I don't indulge myself, you understand, but you have to admire a pastime which combines fine old English tradition, healthy outdoors exercise, and so much beer. Well, OK then, my libertarian streak admits that you don't have to admire it, but I think you should. Just saying.

So we stand at the threshold of autumn. In fact, the chilly nights in the tent last weekend made us feel as if we were well over the threshold, but as I'm fond of saying: 'It'll get a lot colder yet.' (This saying drives Mrs QO up the wall, for some reason, which obviously enhances its worth as far as I'm concerned.) But I like autumn for all sorts of reasons. The Robin Hood beer festival will soon be upon us, for one thing. Last year's was excellent and Super-Disreputable Friend and his appalling wife will be beating our door down again demanding a bed for the night to sleep off the excess. Autumn's months give much better walking weather than sultry high summer, the rowan tree across the road will be a fiery riot of red, copper and bronze before long, and the bloody wasps are turning their little toes up. The child in me looks forward to Christmas; the blogger in me wonders if I can remember where I got the falling snowflake gadget I loaded on last year. Sod the salads, let's get a slow-cooked casserole on. Hearty food that sticks to the ribs is required.

And Strictly's back. Last year we were utterly determined not to get hooked on this trashy, superficial nonsense. What a waste of time and energy, we said, surely there's something better on BBC2, something enriching about Etruscan pottery?

Further this deponent sayeth not. It is for you, members of the jury, to form your own judgement.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Light and shade

Noise and silence. Movement and stillness. Drinking and sleep. We humans need contrast, some measure of daily chiaroscuro, to keep us alive and alert. Knowing this, I don't overly resent having to leave the quiet tranquility of my study to travel down to London from time to time. It can be all bustle and business, scampering to keep to time and being hassled by surly train staff, free newspaper distributors and scallies after some change, but the experienced traveller will so arrange his or her affairs as to leave some interludes during which the spiritual batteries can be recharged.

Exempli gratia, this delightfully peaceful scene was photographed this afternoon, not a minute's walk away from the junction of Euston Road and Tottenham Court Road. Tucked away behind vertiginous glass-walled financiers' offices, one can sit with a good pint of Young's, hear virtually none of the traffic and enjoy the sight of a mature horse chestnut surrounded by rowans. How nice is that? Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's the offices that are vertiginous and glass-walled, not the financiers. Some of them are pretty tall, admittedly. The financiers, some of them are tall. Anyway, moving on.

Meandering back to St Pancras - as a Nottingham Observer must if keen to get home - the ants-nest hecticity of the Euston area can be mitigated by a couple of minutes walk down one of the sidestreets to the Somerstown Coffee House. Now coffee is available here, and good coffee at that, but pour moi the attraction of this place is that it's run by French types. They know about good food and wine, and seem to be pretty well up to speed on English beer, too. Charles Wells Bombardier and Eagle IPA are well kept here.

It's a very pleasant place to pass an hour before the train home. Or two hours, if you've been sensible enough to arrange things that way. The only trouble is that one can get so settled that the train home may not be the one you originally intended.

And once safely back in the old home town, another good way of winding down from the buzz of the capital is to walk along the river and back home across the Hook in the late evening sunshine - although as you can see the shadows are already pretty long at 6.30 at this time of year. I might also point out that the Hook is actually level, but your photographer had perhaps been a little too tranquil in the places of rest mentioned above. You won't be able to see her clearly, but somewhere in the pixellated foliage is Mrs QO, foraging for blackberries and elderberries. She has a cunning plan for the fruits of the field thus garnered, of which more anon, perhaps.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's not often I do this...

'This' being passing on stuff that arrives in my inbox, but my darkly exquisite sister-in-law sent something to me today that - particularly being short of blogspiration at the moment - I thought I'd share with y'all. OK, it's a bit trite, but it appealed to my old-fashioned values. Such as they are...

An Obituary printed in The Times
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair; and
- Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his four stepbrothers:

I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone.