Friday, November 18th, 2016 07:57 pm
tourmaline: (coffee)
It's a whole month (ish) since I last posted. I have nothing new to add to the fallout from the US Presidential elections except for the fact that when I woke up on the Wednesday morning it was from a dream that Hillary Clinton had won and was giving a press conference, accompanied by Chelsea, from a hotel's rose garden. In the UK us sensible chaps have been cheering on the various legal and parliamentary attempts to prevent the triggering of Article 50.

I had my first mince pie of the season today at work, and am part-way through Christmas shopping. I'm waiting to hear what my sister and her partner would like - Mum reckons they'll ask for giftcards or vouchers. It's four weeks until our Christmas lunch at work, too, which I'm looking forward to but am sad that one workfriend will be unable to join us.

I am continuing my cross-stitching in fits and starts. Wednesday evening's session was the first for a couple of weeks and at one point I used the wrong shade of dark green, but hopefully I've countered that by using another moderately dark green in another place.

Last week my long-anticipated copy of A Month In The Country arrived - I have it on the original issue DVD, but this is a much better quality picture and has audio commentary and a few interviews, including one with Colin Firth, as extras. It's a double-disc set that contains a DVD and a Blu-Ray disc and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Saturday in Town

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 04:44 pm
tourmaline: (home-made bread)
I went into town today, as we have always said. In other words, I went into the city centre to do some Christmas shopping. I went on the bus, having originally planned this so I'd be out of the way while my road is closed for resurfacing. However, that's been delayed until Monday so I'll have to leave early for work.

I managed to get the things I wanted - Christmas cards, an advent calendar, a 2017 diary - plus a few other bargains from Wilko including blueberry shower gel and Vimto lipbalm. I also visited the art gallery for their Brick Wonders exhibition - basically lots of Lego recreations of famous world vistas and other things, such as our local cathedral, the International Space Station, and a massive Lego airport.

Am also wondering if I've got a cold coming or if this is just the effects of the weather getting colder but not cold enough to be into a regular routine with the central heating. I've been putting it on for about an hour most evenings, and I've had the fire on a few times also. It's the beginning of half term week here now and I'm determined that winter cannot be sighted until half term is well and truly behind us.

Also last night saw the first episode of QI's N series, the first edition with Sandi Toksvig in the chair instead of Stephen Fry. I do miss Stephen and I think I always will, but Sandi is awesome.

Not Quite

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 01:06 pm
tourmaline: (christmas)
It's Chrismtas Eve, and while things are generally OK / good / very acceptable, little things continue to bug me. Yesterday I was cleaning the kitchen and while wiping under the edge of the microwave, I cut my finger on something on the corner of the microwave. It was one of those cuts you don't think much of at the time because you don't realise what's happened until ten minutes later you look at your hand and see the blood. Thankfully not much, but it still had to be dealt with. Then I woke up this morning to the sound of the wheelie bin lorry and the realisation that I'd forgotten to put my bins out. They should be OK until next time - the refuse bin only has to go another week (assuming I don't forget again) but the recycling has two weeks to go. I don't think there will be too much wrapping paper here tomorrow so that should be OK, there will just be more empty pop bottles than usual.

Also this morning I discovered a proto-zit while washing my face. Got some TCP on it to stop it developing into a full-blown zit, which I really hate at Christmas, and is really stupid when you're 42. One year in my mid-teens I had a massive zit on the highest point of my right cheekbone for Christmas which was naturally much worse, but this is less understandable. Anyways, if you're travelling through the English Midlands and can smell TCP, it's me trying to nuke this thing on my chin.

Hopefully the crescendo was reached when I came downstairs - first I had a grovelling (but not grovelling enough) letter from my energy company to say they've reopened the complaint I made the first time they were useless. Then I clipped my laptop on the edge of the wall and it made horrible groany clockwork noises which took ages to settle down, but thankfully now they have. All remained functional throughout, I have some images to make for my blog which will appear in the New Year.

Tomorrow is the one day I don't mind setting an alarm for in the holidays. Hoping all will go well tomorrow and for whatever is planned the following day (ie it will likely be me falling in with other people's plans). Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!
tourmaline: (coffee)
Yesterday at work was relatively quiet so I was able to follow along with the whole of the launch window for Orion EFT1 on NASA TV. Today was one of the busiest I've known and I hardly saw a thing - no launch coverage whatsoever, a couple of news headlines, and a few tweets. It feels as if it didn't really happen today.

I've just seen a 13-minute video of the launch, but nothing of the landing & post-landing coverage yet. And the launch video started at T-10secs, none of the pre-launch stuff at all - I want everything from as far back as the go-no go poll at least. It's possible someone has tweeted about it but even my Essentials Twitter list is ridiculous today, it's impossible to follow.

In happier news, I've got all my Christmas tree decorations. I'm not putting the tree up until next weekend though, as this weekend will be a major laundry weekend and probably another visit to Mum & Dad as they have Jess overnight tomorrow, with a packed programme of activities. Also I need to learn how to use my TiVo or whatever it's called when it's on Virgin cable, as I saw a tweet from BBC1 the other day with a listing of Christmas Day's evening schedule and it looks like I'll need to catch up on Doctor Who at a later date. And I hope the finale of Miranda will be worth it.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
Apparently many people of my acquaintance haven't started their Christmas shopping yet. As per usual, I've got lots of mine done.

More )
I found out very late last night that Dr. John is at my local Arts Centre tomorrow night. They have a few seats left (at the back or extreme sides) but I've no-one to go with. Not sure any of my friends have heard of Dr. John :(
tourmaline: (coffee)
We've had two family gatherings of sorts today.

Furniture and Bonfire Night )

I've got more than half of my Christmas shopping done I reckon, tomorrow will be more shopping at a myriad of places in Birmingham - the Disney Store, the Christian bookshop, WHSmith - I'll probably get some Jellybeans but nothing from Hotel Chocolat - I love their stuff but it's expensive for what you get.

A Christmas Toot

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 06:49 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
As I type, Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins are finishing up on their second EVA to replace a faulty pump unit on the ISS. Despite some drama earlier with a misbehaving connector, it sounds like it's turned out well in the end. I moved away from the coverage for a while earlier towards my recorders again, having gone back to them for the first time in ages last night after watching A Very CraftLass Christmas.

My recorder-playing break was mostly good, the only real problem I have is that my hands are too small for the Tenor. The Alto is just the right size, but there isn't much music written which doesn't dip below F. I know it's possible to transpose, and I did for a few things, but I prefer to play as is written rather than fall back into old habits. The Sopranino feels like a toy recorder (and sounds like one), and the Soprano makes me feel like I'm back at junior school.

To be honest, the feeling of being back at junior school isn't all bad. I enjoyed junior school a lot, and Christmas was the best part. There was a massive Christmas tree in the centre of the school - outside the hall, where the upper corridor met the main corridor. Each year our Christmas festivities would alternate between a Nativity play and a themed Christmas concert. During my third and fourth years, I was part of the recorder ensemble which played at the festivities. I think mostly we played the same songs each year, possibly in the fourth year (a concert on the theme of Christmas around the world) some of the songs were sung by the choir rather than by everyone.

Playing my recorders this evening, there are many Christmas carols and songs from back then that I don't currently have sheet music for. However, I found that I can still remember how to play some from all those years ago. I've also learned a brand new one - It Came Upon The Midnight Clear - which I've always liked, but we never sang it in school or church, and CraftLass sings it in her Christmas show. CraftLass and I had a long Twitter discussion last night about festive songs and religious denominations, and how these were influenced by the respective churches we were raised in as children. Please do listen to her show - it's 86 minutes long but you can listen while doing other stuff as it's all CraftLass playing guitar and singing, plus some talk between songs about the song's history or why they are meaningful.

It's likely I'll be Internetting for some of tomorrow as I don't expect things to properly get going in our house until people arrive in the afternoon. Have a happy Christmas everyone!
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
Today was my last day in work until Monday 6th January, which will be the longest I've had away from work for a very long time. The day started early so I could get to Sainsburys before work. Going round the store wasn't a problem - it was really busy but as expected - it was the car park which was the issue, lots of people driving round looking for a space, or waiting for someone to leave. Eventually I got into work around the same time as usual, having originally left home about 7.45am. There wasn't a lot of work to do - a few tweets, a go at infographics which was only partially successful - basically I was in to drink coffee and eat Christmas sweets. I also bought a secondhand book - we have a bookshelf where we bring in unwanted books and sell them with the money going to a local hospice, and I bought the Cordon Bleu Cookery Book, which I'd had my eye on for some time.

It's been very windy and rainy here today, the worst was during the middle of the day I think - coming home, the weather was probably the nicest it's been all day. It's supposed to be the same again on Friday, but hopefully I won't have to venture out anywhere. I got plenty of veg today and also I have lots of pasta, the plan is to make another lot of pasta bake sometime. After last year, I'll be happy for none of us to fall ill.

My sister and niece are coming round tomorrow I think. Jess has been super-excited about Christmas - she was an angel in the pre-school Nativity, and they also had a carol service and Christmas party at pre-school. There was a raffle for parents & family at the party, and Mum & Dad won a tin of Quality Street, so we've got some of all the main Christmas sweets now - the main feature is Roses, I also bought small boxes of Celebrations and Heroes. They were here on Saturday, Jess was standing on her little step-stool in the middle of the living room, singing Christmas carols at the top of her voice. I showed her coverage of the EVA on my tablet - I pointed Doug Wheelock out to her, and that he knows who she is - this is following a Twitter conversation relating to three years on from his EVA and Jessica's birth, on the same day.

Tonight in celebration of the end of work, I replayed A Very CraftLass Christmas, which resulted in a long Twitter conversation between CraftLass and myself about Christmas carols and church denominations, and when the music ended I fished my tenor recorder out of the cupboard for the first time in a couple of years and tooted through a few Christmas carols. I really like it as an instrument but it was clearly made for people with longer fingers than I have.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
As I had a ton of annual leave to use up before March, I took a day off last Monday to visit Birmingham - specifically to visit the German Market and the Library of Birmingham. It was busy but not ridiculously so, I got a few things from the German Market and a few things elsewhere. I'm still waiting for one present to arrive from the US, but I've got a contingency present if it's not here in time. Everything else is wrapped, I've given out or posted my general Christmas cards and just have the cross-stitched cards for family and close friends left to write. I'll contact my friends next week to arrange to see them. Everything else left to arrange is largely food-related.

I finally got round to visiting the Library of Birmingham on Monday, it's fabulous - the fabric of the building is completely modern but it has a very traditional library feel. There seemed to be lots of space for serious studying, to the extent that some parts feel like a University library (except I didn't see anyone asleep). There were a few school parties there too, including one lot where all the kids were dressed as elves. There's plenty of great views to be had from the secret garden and the terrace, but it would benefit from some of those signs which tell you what you're looking at - I could see old, medium and new buildings, canals, and some hills in the distance (Staffordshire? No idea how far I could see) - they could then integrate it with their local studies collection or whatever they call it there.

I took lots of photos on my phone - here are some )

You can see the full set of photos here. I'd love to go back, armed with more knowledge of what the views are of.
tourmaline: (coffee)
Cut for Norovirus tales including vomiting, arse-rain and assorted horrid smells )

So, happy new year. It's Stargazing Live from tomorrow so am looking forward to that.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)

This is A Very CraftLass Christmas, an online performance I watched live yesterday from CraftLass, a singer-songwriter who is a fellow member of the Space Tweep community. Here she presents a selection of Christmas songs (with religious and secular origins), other festive songs, and some of her own compositions. She has a fabulous voice and plays really awesome acoustic guitar, and this definitely put me in a Christmas mood.

If you enjoy this, you can tweet her at @CraftLass. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

On Christmas Eve

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 03:56 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)

Almost Ready

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 05:43 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
I finished work today, all the presents are wrapped, and I'm almost ready for Christmas. The only things left are the little things to do tomorrow or early Sunday, such as sort out where presents need to go for their recipients, and to make some coleslaw. We have plenty of food in, including lots of buffet food (complete with Tex-Mex dips, yay) and lots of salad stuff. Also lots of cheese - I think we have twelve types of cheese including what's in the net of assorted little cheeses I bought on Monday.

I finished work around quarter past three, and I got home to see Mum & Dad looking out the patio window - with Bean! I've been thinking the past few days how much I'm looking forward to seeing her on Christmas Day, it was a nice surprise to see her today too. Bean's latest trick is to do a high-five, apparently something her Dad taught her to do. My sister had gone to Tescos, she said the queues were big but not horrendously so, and it was OK too in Boots and M&S - we're so lucky to have an M&S so close to us :) The roads going to and from work were OK, made a bit more challenging by the constant rain and greyness. No chance of seeing the ISS pass overhead for a while I think, but it's a nice change from the previous two Decembers and their bitterly cold heavy snowfalls.

Hacked Off

Saturday, December 10th, 2011 01:37 pm
tourmaline: (coffee)
Mother just trimmed my hair, saving me from the nightmare of a visit to the hairdressers'. Actually, she hacked a great huge chunk off, it now has a neat line but it's shorter than I like. I can still tie it back, and it'll be much quicker to wash and dry, but it feels really short cos it just touches my shoulders. I've had it this short before, but it will take some getting used to. It'll be too short for Christmas but hopefully will be back to a more agreeable length for the Olympics.

On a positive side, I've been resurrecting my musical side recently. I now have three recorders, with a fourth on its way as my Christmas present to myself:


Top to bottom: Treble; Sopranino; Descant. I have a Tenor recorder on its way to me. All are mid-range Yamaha recorders, their top range ABS recorders (without paying extra for rosewood-effect finish), however the Sopranino only has this model below expensive wooden and professional grade recorders, so this has a flat windway (like in school recorders) and the others have arched windways, which are the standard on the higher-grade recorders. The descant is nice, I was surprised it needs a bit more finesse to play than my old Dolmetsch from school, but then that's the point of a higher-grade instrument. The sopranino is interesting to play, it was completely new to me, tho I can't practice too late in the evening because it's naturally rather shrill. The treble has a really awesome lightly-mellow tone, I'm trying to play it frequently so I get used to playing a recorder in F for itself, and not as a transposition of recorders in C. Am looking forward to this afternoon's practice.

Christmas Coffee

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 02:09 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 364 One bonus about not being at work is that there's proper coffee available every day, should I want it. And the current coffee is appropriately Christmassy:

Christmas Blend Coffee

It's nice, dense and wintry. Am needing a decent coffee kick right now so it keeps me awake now and will fade during the day, given that I slept roughly 6am-12 noon today. Six hours sleep isn't a problem, but if I can't fall asleep until an hour before I'm due to get up next week, that definitely will be.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 360 Following yesterday's present haul, I'm not short of DVDs to watch:

Something To Watch

Although for now, I'm quite happy enjoying the silence while spending hours at a time on Wikipedia reading about EastEnders characters from the 1980s or whatever. Also my sleep schedule is totally wrecked, because it's so cold at night my sore throat is irritated further and I'm up most of the night coughing, so sleep happens mostly between 5am and 11am, with odd hours before or after if I'm lucky. So long as I can shift this cold I should be fine about getting back on schedule, I'm not in work until 4th January, and I'm past the stage in my cold where I need an extra snooze in the afternoon.

We don't really have any leftovers apart from the turkey and half a jar of good quality cranberry sauce. Because we had Christmas dinner late in the afternoon we didn't have a buffet-type meal during the day, so we never bought the accompaniments usual for this (eg dips, breadsticks, cheese straws, etc) that are so yummy when eaten as leftovers. We do have the stilton of course, plus some strong cheddar, various relishes, and the box of biscuits for cheese, which I made a start on as part of breakfast. I was thinking it was a shame we didn't have the dips, but then they're so predictable, everywhere sells the same quartet, it's no longer a novelty and no-one ever wants much of the thousand island dip. But I still plan to make sushi at some point next week.

Christmas Day

Saturday, December 25th, 2010 07:00 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 359 Christmas Day at our house - with Little Bean, so much fun. Although I think she was rather overwhelmed, all these new toys and all these faces watching her, although she enjoyed her presents and the Christmas lights.

We had Christmas lunch at 5pm, this is our Christmas table:

Christmas Dinner

Delish as always, and followed by peach trifle. No crackers before the meal because the baby was asleep. Thankfully my cold is improving, although I'm still on the paracetamol every four hours.

Everyone liked the presents I bought, especially the calendars. I received lots of DVDs, lots of sweets (we won't run out of chocolate here for a long time) and some Auntie things. But it was so lovely to spend Christmas Day with Bean <3
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 358 Christmas Day preparations are underway:

Stuffing & Preparations Christmas Preparations

Dad has gone to Morrisons because apparently the nuts we have aren't up to the usual standard. He's also said he'll get some more Paracetamol - I am getting better slowly but still getting through the stuff at speed. Meanwhile I am keeping up with NORAD Tracks Santa (as I type he's heading for Shanghai) which I just love so much. afjelkjfjflajflkjfldjfklsj so wonderful, hi-tech meets Santa magic saljfal;fj;dsjf;lsjfl; OMG just wait until Bean is old enough to be introduced to NORAD Tracks Santa dljflajflkdjsflslkl

And last night The Good Life episode "When I'm 65" was on! It normally never gets shown, it was a one-off episode made for the Queen to attend the studio filming. It was shown with the Queen arriving beforehand and meeting the cast and credited crew (ie studio managers, makeup artist) after. The voiceover mentioned how some of the crew had been with the BBC for a while ("He came as a pageboy in 1931" and so on).
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 355 This dangling decoration used to be in my room, but as I don't decorate my room for Christmas any more, it's in with the general household decorations. Here it is at the bottom of the stairs:

Christmas Decoration

It's a bit blurry here but it's difficult to get it to stay still. And I am posting early in the day because I'm working from home (currently taking lunch) as I woke up to a scratchy sore throat and a cough which I didn't want to risk enraging in the arctic weather. Have got lots done, realised the reason I was having problems with a database is because I wasn't looking at it right but it all makes sense now. Also had a panic this morning as my laptop (pretty sure it wasn't me) switched the wireless off and I went round testing the desktop PC downstairs and the web browser on my iPhone, then testing the laptop's connection setup and delving into the help file, which helpfully starts by telling you to make sure the connection is switched on. So I switched it on and it worked fine.

Lovely Stilton

Sunday, December 19th, 2010 06:11 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 353 I tend to be rather wary of starting Christmas food (ie snack food, seasonal variations of the usual stuff) too early, lest it all be gone by the big day. But we had to start on the Stilton because it's too big for the cheese dish, so we have some in the cheese dish and this is the rest:


So the stuff in the cheese dish is less than half of what we bought. And it's highly delicious. I know Stilton is delicious anyway, but this is more sublime than the usual stuff, it doesn't have the standard sharp kick, more of a gentle buzz that increases in intensity when you eat more. Very highly recommended.