Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Hawkwind tribute on UK daytime tv

If a 'big act' like Muse or Paul McCartney is playing London then there well may be a reference to the upcoming show on daytime tv. However, the old space-rock bunch, Hawkwind, don't really register on the public or the tv industry radars.

I was in the capital recently, to see Hawkwind, and was pretty surprised to see this on Channel Five.

The Great British Barbershop Boys, doing a brief rendition of an old Bob Calvert song!

Matthew Wright's show is called The Wright Stuff, and so he probably had no problems persuading his producer to allow a snatch of The Right Stuff. Had he wanted Brainstorm, or Sonic Attack, I daresay it would've been a different story! Anyway, Matthew's a big fan of Hawkwind - he even sang on a single they released in 2005 - so it was fun to see him get away with it!

Hawkwind fans were given a heads-up that something Hawk-related would be happening on the show, which is why I tuned in. I usually completely avoid daytime tv.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

My science fiction movie competition! [solved]

No prizes, but can anyone figure what science fiction film this photo refers to?

The photo is carefully arranged to specifically reference one particular film.

Oh, and it's not an obscure one, not some weird B-movie.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Emprex ME1 evaluation diary: Day Three

There's an Emprex help forum but it seems there's no company engineers involved; it's merely a bunch of people who possess the item and who seek to help fellow-sufferers by sharing experiences and advice. A bit like a victim support group, for people who have been beaten up in the street!

Shoddy product?

Reading the forum pleas for assistance make me wonder whether the product is poorly designed and well built, or excellently designed and badly built. Of course, it might be badly designed and badly built, for all I know. I certainly won't buy an Emprex product again, for as long as I live.

Clearly, a good tip before buying a product is to look on the Internet and see what level of support there is. Search for Emprex complaints, or something. Had I done my homework before paying out good money, I wouldn't have gone ahead.

Still no word from Emprex themselves, so I'm now reformatting the hard drive. It's a bit drastic, but sometimes a completely fresh start is the best solution.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Emprex ME1 evaluation diary: Day One

The Emprex ME1 is a digital media player / recorder; in effect, a kind of digital video recorder that "tapes" TV and audio to hard drive.

Got mine today, and plugged it in.

First recording was a 2-minute portion of BBC News 24, via my Sky box. Hit pause, and the unit promptly gave me an I/O Error - that is, an input/output error, and then said loading....

Five minutes later, it was still "loading" (loading what?) and the power button wouldn't let me do a reset, so I pulled the plug for a cold restart. OK, first impression is, reminds me of Windows 95!

Second recording (a 3-min clip of news) went OK, and I then saved it to the FAT32 area of the hard drive. And found I could watch it back on my computer, so that was fine: that's exactly what I wanted.

Third recording lost all colour after a minute. Was the Emprex recording in black-and-white or was this merely a display issue? It turns out the colour loss had actually happened at the time - as playback of the offending item showed the moment it had happened.

I've found the colour loss issue can be reversed by pulling the power lead out, just like the old days of a Windows 95 freeze-up. But naturally, I'd like to avoid this absurdity happening in the future.

Two more tests, and the same thing happened: the display jumps to monochrome (black-and-white).

Consulted Emprex FAQs and the support site, and could find nothing on this problem, so messaged Emprex support through their site. And thus Day One of the trial concludes.

To be continued..........

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Plaster Cast Experiment concludes after 20 weeks

When things around you start crumbling... the plaster cast evaluation experiment of 2010...

At the start of March, a week before Jon and Corinna went to Texas, we decided to check the ability of some builder's plaster to form a cast of impressions in mud, in case Jon wanted to immortalise any tracks while in Texas.

I wetted some sand and then, for testing purposes, pressed a skull into it. Then withdrew it, and poured plaster in.

We weren't very impressed to find that, on the day that Jon and Corinna left the UK, it still wasn't dry. Easter came and went, and then the MayDay holiday... and it was still soggy.

I just left the tray to do its own thing, just to see how long the stuff really did require to dry. In June, it reluctantly summoned up some rigidity, and a couple of days ago I plucked the firmly-set plaster cast from the tray of sand and left it on a nearby bin, to let the July rains wash the sand off.

The next day, I found a crumbly pile of soggy gunk, that looked like a heap of guano.

So, a long-running evaluation of this potential CFZ resource finally came to an end after 20 weeks, and my official verdict on it was not very polite, when I told Jon about it.

Interestingly, Jon suggested we keep the rest of that bag of cement "in case it comes in useful, one day."

Perhaps we can run a CFZ competition one day, and find out the Top Ten best uses for the stuff. In the meantime, it's up in the workshop, if anyone wants to put in a bid for it!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Computers - staying in control

Staying in control, when running an unfamiliar operating system on an unfamiliar machine, can be a bit difficult sometimes.

Recently, I found myself getting increasingly exasperated by Windows 7 on my first laptop, where the touchpad would keep dragging things where I didn't want them to be dragged, or closing a viewing folder when I merely wanted to finger-tip-move to an adjacent folder.

It was like the system was second-guessing me, or making decisions on my behalf. Turned out that, all I needed to do was

disable tap-to-click on laptop touch pad

Now, when I googled the problem, I'd never even heard of tap-to-click, so I googled for "mousepad second-guesses me," or "touchpad anticipates my clicks," or something like that, and found many pages about this damned "tap-to-click" thing.

All that's needed to cure it is START > Control Panel > Mouse > Device Settings > Settings > Tapping > disable tapping.

So it wasn't the laptop being rebellious, or Windows 7 being a pile of rubbish. It was just a default setting that didn't suit me.

It made me wonder, though:

I wonder how many people buy a computer from a shop and then struggle along with a problem, not realising that their life needn't be like that, and that computers are supposed to obey our every whim. We shouldn't have to accomodate ourselves to the computer's whims.

Friday, 18 June 2010

CFZ Grows a Pointy Bit


The CFZ is going in for some of that vertical growth that economists often speak about... but this is structural.

The tent-like shroud is there while I do some roof-patching, and keeps the sun off me while I'm there, and also affords protection from showers, should any come sweeping by.

At the moment, the weather looks set fair... but that's always a dangerous thing to assume, in the UK.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Big Wildlife Garden scheme

A scheme to encourage gardening in a wildlife-friendly manner strikes a chord with me, as the CFZ grounds already have a fair range of wild plants such as brambles and stinging nettles.

This project, organised by Natural England (the government’s conservation advisory body) seeks to increase the diversity of plants and animals in every garden.

"Be a part of England’s newest nature reserve," their website suggests.
"The Big Wildlife Garden can help you turn your garden into an oasis for plants and animals."

Sounds a pretty good move.

There's more on this at the www.bwg.naturalengland.org.uk site.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Is it time to Ban the Vuvuzela?

ban the vuvulela - NO vuvuzelaFor many football (soccer) fans, World Cup 2010 has added a new word to their volcabulary: vuvuzela.

When literally thousands of these plastic trumpets are being blown in unison, the droning blankets all other sounds.

I've seen a few defenses of the vuvuzela, and here's a look at some of them.

It's part of the South African culture...

No, it's not. It's a fad that's been around for ten years or so. Singing and dancing is part of the RSA (Repulbic of South Africa) culture, in the same way as the Brazilians have their samba. Imitating the sound of a million angry hornets is not a widespread African tradition.

It adds richness and atmosphere...

Not at all. It makes every game sound identical, and makes every single minute the same as any other minute of the game. We end up with total uniformity of 'atmosphere' for the whole 90 minutes.

Here, we have 32 diferent nations in one tournament - and we have one single atmosphere!

It's a South African tournament, so they get to set the tone...

No; it's a world event that just happens to be staged in RSA this time around. If it were the RSA Cup Final then yes, of course they can do what they like.
And, in a similar vein:

They're the hosts, so it's their decision what they do...

Etiquette demands that hosts should respect their guests and see to their needs.

Other fans have their own noisy bad habits too...

Yes, but not across all games and not in unrelenting fashion for the whole 90 minutes. Some people find England's raucous brass band annoying, but it doesn't play all the time, and it doesn't drown out everything else. Also, that band doesn't play during games where England aren't taking part!

They damage hearing and spread germs...

'Elf & Safety is a handy stick with which to beat your opponents, but I can't quite stomach a ban on these grounds!


FIFA should never have staged the World Cup there. The ideal arrangement would be, South Africans blast away on their vuvuzelas as much as they want, and the rest of us enjoy the international festival of football in a country where diversity of celebration is tolerated and not smothered.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Lookalike Contest: Biggles as an angle-poise lamp


Biggles is feeling a bit hindered after his operation, so I don't want to poke fun at the poor fellow.

However, I couldn't help being struck by the similarity between his anti-nibbling protection and my bedside lamp.

I first heard of these protectors when I was a child - an Enid Blyton story described how Timmy the dog needed to wear one for a while, and his owner, George, got so upset by people laughing at him that she stormed off in a huff to her island, taking Timmy with her.

Biggles is getting a bit tire
d of this collar, I think. He wants to count his blessings, so to speak... but can't.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Watching the Grass Grow

Further garden improvements here... returfing.

The lawn gets pretty hammered by the Weird Weekend outdoor party, and it hadn't really recovered from the 2008 trampling when along came the 2009 one - in fairly wet weather, too.

And, yes, there's the Biggles Factor as well......

A recent donation to the CFZ coffers enabled our buying rolls of turf, and the weather's nice at present (gasp) so that's enabled the "2010 lawn enhancement project" to get underway.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Survival: no Internet for a week

I'm going to be taking a week off from the CFZ, to attend to some family-related matters... but which does involve my being in a very isolated spot, without any Internet access.

The scenario reminds me of one of these social experiment shows on tv, where we see a group of people suddenly deprived of one or more things that they've hitherto taken for granted, and we watch to see how they cope.

I don't think my situation would make very exciting tv, though: watching a DVD, chatting to people, and, later on, reading a book. Not exactly the 'raw emotion' stuff that is the lifeblood of 'reality tv'...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

You know, I'm not so sure about the title.
Jon and Corinna are away in Texas, so I suppose it's they who are roaming around ranches, not I.

Right, that's got the stereotyping out of the way, and now here's a view of what's going on at CFZ Central.

The latest recruit to the local Neighbourhood Watch anti-crime scheme... Biggles likes that chair near the front window, so's he can bark at anyone walking past!

The real nerve-centre of the CFZ?

This is the CFZ Workshop, from which little hammer-wielding pixies and elves emerge to fix things that are starting to fall apart.

The process of moving tools and DIY-type resources from the CFZ Museum into here is continuing.

This is the plaster cast that I mentioned a week ago.

It's still not dry!

Poured as a test one week before Jon and Corinna shipped out, this particular brand of plaster has not distinguished itself as a potential expedition resource. It's been setting for over three weeks, now!

And finally, a look at the CFZ wheelbarrow... its colour scheme echoes that of Biggles' quite nicely - but structurally, it's not in such good shape. The front stays (white vertical struts) have come adrift and it's going to have to enter the CFZ Vehicle Repair Bay before it's once again "fit for purpose" (as the UK Government would no doubt phrase it).

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Skull impression test is still under way.

A busy day at CFZ Central yesterday.

A short-term objective is to get the CFZ Museum looking decent, before Easter. It's currently looking like a bomb-site, as the entire contents of the adjoining workshop were turned out into the museum, in search of missing CFZ resources and missing tools. I'm currently putting the stuff back, but in rational order, so the job's taking a while.

One item amuses me.

A week before Jon and Corinna went to Texas, we decided to check the ability of some builder's plaster to form a cast of impressions in mud. There was a bag of plaster handy, in the workshop. I wetted some sand and then, for testing purposes, pressed a skull into it. Then withdrew it, and poured plaster in.

Well, over two weeks later, it's still not dry. The way things are looking, it'll still be soggy when the guys return home.

Clearly, the dampness of the sand is hindering the drying process. Cement will chemically set, even in quite wet conditions, but this particular plaster evidently doesn't. It's not fit for purpose, as the UK Government would say.

Anyway, after doing the website updates and then emailing the info out to various newsgroups, I resumed work on the CFZ perimeter, seeking to make it impervious to Biggles the collie. This is a good time of year to do it, as the gaps are visible - not much foliage growth yet - and I regard the weather conditions as tolerable for outdoor working.

Well, just about.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Going through neighbour's rubbish bins


Yes, I'm not in the habit of rootling through other people's garbage cans... but this is a special CFZ project, and so I put my gloves on, and went forth...

Our neighbours don't have large and boisterous dogs, so they put all their garden cuttings into the green wheelie-bins provided for such material. We, on the other hand, use all such stuff for reinforcing the perimeter of the grounds to try and prevent Biggles from escaping, and donations of waste from nearby properties are very useful.

Every little bit helps, as the saying goes.

The end result - mounds (or banks) of stuff - look pretty OK, really.

Of course, any animal container is only escape-proof up to the point where the occupant proves you wrong. Kids keeping white mice and zoos keeping tigers have found this out. So... the ball is now in Biggles' court.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

CFZ ploughed field?

It'll soon be time to start mowing the CFZ lawn... except that parts of it are in a somewhat distressed state. And one doesn't need to look very far for the reason....

Biggles' fun and games with his apples-on-a-rope are good for him, but not quite so good for the poor old lawn.

Here, you can see parts of it resemble a ploughed field!

Anyone have any ideas for some restoration? We tried grass seed last year, but it didn't work. Not sure why: surely grass isn't that difficult to grow? I mean, the prairies of North America managed to grass themselves over, without any help from Mankind at all. So what's going on?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Holding the Fort

A fairly calm day at CFZ Central.

Jon and Corinna should be arriving in America around now, at the start of their hunt for the Blue Dogs, and I spent a chunk of the afternoon re-editing the video footage of their departure from the railway station.

I was unable to upload it to YouTube yesterday, and so I took the opportunity to rework some of the sound transitions.

Movie Magix is a fun program to use; it's the same editing suite that Jon uses for things like the On The Track monthly CFZ round-up.

It's very easy to get absorbed in such work, but Biggles the CFZ Dog pushed my door open from time to time, dropping hints that he wanted to go out... and I've always liked having breaks from work, anyway!

And here's the vid! And yes, I managed to get the thumbnail pic to be Jon in the doorway of the train.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Hawkwind 40th Anniversary

2009 ended with a tour from my favourite band, Hawkwind. I've been a fan of this space rock band all my adult life - and, at 53, that's quite a long time. Saw the Falmouth show, which included the fiddler John Sevink from the band The Levellers.

Here's a clip from the Bristol show two days prior to the Falmouth gig, of them doing their best-known song,
Silver Machine, which was a chart hit way back in 1973.

They may be getting on a bit, but they still kick, don't they?