Let the fur fly

The relative results of grooming my three cats. Sadly the most productive in fur is also the most reluctant to be groomed.

One domestic shorthair, black, very anti-grooming. One Bengal, brown tabby, very pro-grooming. One Oriental-cross, dilute tortie, utterly confused by the whole process.

Also, cat fur felts. Fact.

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Turning Point

It started as an innocuous “what pet would be best for my child?” question. Of course I answered guinea pigs, or rats for older children. No brainer. However it got me thinking. Dingbat was the first to bring GPs into our family, accidentally, as she was supposed to get a tortoise, specifically our grandparents’ tortoise. The tortoise ‘ran away’ a few days before her 6th birthday. In reality this was during the years when it was illegal to import tortoises so I suspect said tort was pilfered, being very valuable at the time. Either way Ding ended up with a too-young-to-leave-her-mum guinea-pig Sophie as a substitute. And an era was born.

Sophie co-existed with Bobby the rabbit for a while (Bobby being my second rabbit). Eventually Bobby went the way of most of our rabbits and died young of colic. I remembered the day clearly – I loved Bobby, but had already realised that I could best serve animal-kind by instantly adopting (buying) a replacement. So I bought Squeaker, a guinea-pig, from Barkingside pet shop, on the day Bobby died. This was the turning point. I believe it was the 6th July, approx 1989, though I can’t be sure.

All was well for some years, until at five years old Squeaker (and his three year old son Rascal) succumbed on the same day to suspected ragwort poisoning. I was a perfectly normal CofE child before that point, happily accepting of all of the Church’s faiths as gospel, but at the sudden death of Squeaker I could not comprehend how any benevolent deity could allow the seemingly senseless death of an innocent creature. I was 12-13yo, and I had rejected Christianity.

And that was that. None of my family went though the same process so I am slightly separate to them in beliefs now. I got over my brief guinea-pig inspired dislike of Christianity many many years ago, but I very definitely still view Protestantism with the same light as any other religion, in that it is something I find intellectually intriguing, but not personally compelling. I adored my visit to the Vatican and want to go again very much, and I loved visiting churches and abbeys in Ireland, but I view them with the same interest I would view visiting a mosque or similar. Great respect, and true enjoyment, but no personal involvement.

I do not dislike religion. I state this, as I feel some of my friends and family suspect I do dislike religion (note: sitting in a Christening thinking about Buddy Christ and giggling with the toddlers about tractors does not equal a dislike of religion, just a dislike of toddler censorship and an inappropriate sense of humour regarding Alan Rickman. LET TODDLERS GIGGLE.) I find the culture of religion fascinating, and I am not non-spiritual myself. I love visiting churches etc., I find it all incredibly fascinating, and I tend to steal saints to incorporate into my own philosophy, but the Christian God I read about in my illustrated bible also took away my guinea pig, and things like that can irrecoverably damage a relationship.

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Operation Christmas!

So I have a week off (ignoring that I’ve been in to work already to sort things out – the perks of being the boss!) and as I’m already behind with Christmas it is time to get in gear and get preserving!

Over the years I have foraged well and froze a lot of bits and bobs. I decided it was time to unearth the contents of the freezer.

Frozen bounty
That’s sloes, a whole kg of rosehips (!) which is astonishing as I even threw some away that looked a little dodge, and plums, some wild, some tame. Missing from there are 850g of crumbled chestnuts. Plus I chucked the elderberries as I’m not keen on the flavour and a handful of blackberries I couldn’t think of a use for.

A trip to Tescos for vast quantities of sugar, booze and nuts, and the marmalade is on the go:
Orange Marmalade

The chestnut jam has been made:
Chestnut jam

And the fruit cakes are in the oven (but I’m not showing you a picture of that as the oven door looks awful).

As an aside I got this lovely bit of furniture from Ikea – I don’t have a lot of kitchen space so this doubles as larder and extra work surface:
Lovely larder
*notices in the picture that she put the cream on a shelf – quietly puts the cream in the fridge*

Also on the to-do list is Christmas pudding flavoured fudge, honeycomb, homemade Irish cream, actual Christmas pudding, plum chutney, rosehip jelly and sloe gin. I also found some frozen bottles of juice but I can’t tell what fruit are in them (probably hedgerow mixtures) which makes turning them into jam a bit tricky… (unknown pectin levels) so I’ll probably not bother with them. Plus I’m running out of jars…

I also made these little cinnamon(ish) salt dough tags for putting on presents:
Salt dough tags

Somehow I have to do most of this before the weekend and some of it before Thursday. Unsurprisingly I have a spreadsheet!

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I can has a rationalistic view of the Universe?

“And with this *holds up microchip* capable of keeping a tally on those millions of opinions voiced electronically we might be able to lift the limitations of conforming to any centralised representational form of government, originally invented because there was no way for everybody’s voice to be heard. Your might be able to give everybody unhindered, untested access to knowledge, because a computer would do the day-to-day work for which we once qualified the select few, in an educational system originally designed for a world where only a few could be taught. You might end the regimentation of people living and working in vast, unmanageable cities, uniting them instead in an electronic community where the Himalayas and Manhattan were only a split second apart. You might, with that and much more, break the mold that has held us back since the  beginning, in a future world that we would describe as balanced anarchy, and they would describe as an open society, tolerant of every view and where there is no single privileged way of doing things.” James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, 1985

In part of the soliloquy delivered at the end of a program on how science and also religion have changed and continue to bias our view of the universe, James Burke predicted a future where computers allowed us to establish a vast electronic community, where everyone can air their views. I expect he envisioned fewer cats.

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Welcome Niece!

On Wednesday 3rd Dingbat had a little girl! Nephew is very impressed with his new sister, although less impressed with the concept of changing baby nappies. A mindset I have sympathy with!

Anyway, welcome to the world, Little Lee! Don’t worry, give it time, it’ll grow on you 😉

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One Month On

So, one month ago I kinda bought a house… I am a homeowner. Properly, me, myself, and two furry little people who aren’t on the deeds but appear to own a good number of the rooms nonetheless.

It’s 10 minutes from work at best (and 40 minutes at worst but that’s mostly as a result of being based at two sites), detached, and in a neighbourhood that is blessedly and weirdly silent for 6.5 days of the week (even playing children are quiet!). For the other 0.5 days it is in fact near a stock car racing stadium, but I can more than live with that. Given how much I dislike noisy neighbours, it’s ideal. It also has raised beds already installed, which I have now weeded.

The cats joined me about two weeks ago and I’ve baked bread for two weeks in a row now, the second of which not being soda bread (which I’m not sure counts since if you can fit it in a lunchtime it’s not really a mark of being established), and I think the combination of cats and bread making makes the move official.

I went mad in the first two weeks and painted the bedrooms and the living room; only the kitchen and hall are left to paint though I’m taking a break from painting for a bit. I still need a few more bits of furniture, like somewhere to keep clothes in a more organised fashion than piled inelegantly on the floor of my built in cupboard/wardrobes, but it’s entirely functional. Plus I have internet, hurrah! The neighbours aren’t insane either – one on one side is even in the same profession as me, small world! I’ve been invited to dinner unofficially, an invite which was preceded by the question “are you a vegetarian?” and followed by “do you like game?”, so I think we might be on the same wavelength there… I have frozen pigeons in my freezer.

Work is all up in the air, but house and cats are happy.

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It’s that time again!

Back in May 2009 I wrote a series of posts (parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and this partial article as I built my new PC, my first ever attempt to build a PC. At some point (in the last 24 months) I obtained a spare Titan CPU heatsink and fan as an opportunistic freebie and upgraded the stock fan and sink that came with the original CPU, I changed the motherboard battery, and learned how to let the mobo manage the fans (which rendered my LED fan quieter but unlit), but other than that my build has served me well since 2009. Trigger’s Broom has done very well indeed for a PC – 5 years to the month and it still generally functions. If I didn’t want to push it a bit further with Minecraft rendering it would probably manage ok for another year or so, but I’m fed up of not being able to see far away and occasionally glitching and falling endlessly.

However the hard drive is getting full, the RAM runs at 93%+ when playing Minecraft, and I have to crochet during boot up so that it has time to settle down and become functional. So sadly, it is time to rebuild. This time I hope to engage a little patience and a little more brain and plan ahead better, though I suspect a few mistakes will be expected.

Keeping:

Galaxy (bling bling) case: it’s crass but I like it. It’s an ATX form with reasonable space (aka it’s mahusive), fits my CPU cooler and drives, has unnecessary LED bling and a window so I can admire my generally unremarkable components and watch dust collect at my leisure; why change? However perhaps it is a little boring, so I sought opinions on how to paint it up, and got the best (and most obvious) suggestion from my cat-related Canadian friend. She suggested spray painting it to look like space/nebulae. So I went to Halfords and bought Mercedes Black, VW Tornado Red, Rover Kingfisher Blue and Ford Purple Velvet. Dad says he has some white for stars and clear laquer. Total cost so far, £25.96 (case was initially £30 which included a PSU that won’t be saved). Not painted it yet, the proof will be in the spraying. Also intend to stuff some LED fairy lights inside the case and spray the window too to complete the nebula effect (seriously, window is fairly pointless given my boring components…)

Titan heat sink and fan, forgotten model: It keeps things cool. Coolio. Cost – free initially, free now, did bend the mobo a bit (a lot) when attaching so potentially expensive.

LG DVD RW with Lightscribe (a feature which I have never used, I’m sure it’s lovely). Since building this PC I can probably count the CDs I’ve burnt on one hand. If I want to watch a film, I won’t be doing so at my desk for heavens sake, so I see no need to replace this. Initial cost £20 according to this blog (thank you useful blog).

– Peripherals – keyboard (newish), mouse (newish) and monitors (one bought 2009 running on VGA, one free from work with VGA->DVI converter into the DVI slot of the same graphics card), speakers (can’t even remember, probably date from 2006 Tesco PC purchase) all cheapish – I may upgrade monitors eventually but generally with peripherals I’m all about function over style. It works? Bonus. Carry on.

500GB 7200rpm Western Digital hard drive with Vista Home Premium installed – if I can get the existing HDD running as a dual boot I will be a happy bunny. It won’t, since Vista hates extra RAM, but I only really want it for emergency budget games, since I likely should get Windows 8 for the new harddrive. I don’t bother with Ubuntu any more, sadly. Or perhaps I should get some kind of virtual boot and use that drive for backup. I haven’t planned ahead this far.

– Case fans – they all do ok at the moment, and since being throttled by appropriate fan speed control on the mobo any case fan noise is drowned out by the PSU and CPU fans. I may upgrade them eventually but they are not a priority. I’ll give them a clean anyway!

I think that’s it. The stock card reader that was the only remaining component from the earlier PC of 2006 never actually worked in the 2009 build (didn’t miss it really, I have a USB adaptor for the rare occasions I need to read SD cards), and although installing an ancient 80GB PATA HDD from another culled PC via a PCI card worked initially that too failed at some point, and since I wasn’t actually making any use of it I didn’t even notice…

New Shiny Things!

– PSU – been researching this today. They are rated in the 80+ system which means they achieve 80%+ efficiency at 20%, 50% and 100% load. What it makes no comment on is how it functions below 20%, or other features such as build quality or reliability. For the former, apparently the key is to buy the wattage you need – no sense buying 1000W and then only using 50W as you have no idea how it functions at 5% load. This video article is interesting also, suggesting that my sort of PC (low end of the high market) really doesn’t use that much power. So for me a 500-550W should be plenty. For quality and reliability, brand and reviews are key. My current PSU rattles on booting, it is a generic that came with the case. Point taken, I’ll buy a brand. Then there is wired, modular or semi-modular. Wired is what it says – has all the wires you need or may need, some of which you don’t need. For modular you plug in all wires as needed. Semi is the compromise – it comes with things you will probably need wired in, and then anything extra is modular. Fewer wires means better airflow and better organisation, but higher cost. So I’ve gone for semi-modular (as I have relatively few components) and have decided on a Coolmaster GM550W semi-modular PSU. It has a bronze 80+ rating and a five year warranty, reasonable reviews and appears to be competitively priced at about £45.

– Graphics Card – This area I always have trouble with. Need to do more research. Potentially might be able to keep the existing card too for the second monitor? Not sure how that works…

– CPU – I think Intel over AMD, for no really strong reason, and I have read that the i5 will suit me fine and the i7 is unnecessarily beefy. I have yet to think further.

– Motherboard – My ASUS has served me well. I shall repay this by probably going for whatever accepts the CPU I want and has DDR3. Sorry ASUS, I’m not good at brand loyalty.

– RAM – DDR3 I believe is now normal, and I want to get one stick of 8GB I think. Or two sticks of 4GB. Probably doesn’t matter – technically two sticks is better than one as more channels is generally more efficient that crowding into one, unless you later plan to increase to 16GB. In reality, I am unlikely to notice the difference between 1 and 2 sticks and unlikely to need to upgrade to 16GB while still using the same PC. So I think I should get whatever is more economical, ideally 2 sticks as that’s likely to give me the most benefit longterm.Given that if I were buying a PC (the legit alternative to building one) I would have to pay full price, I’ll consider recycled components free. So cost so far for new build 2014 is £71 (paint and PSU).

– HDD – Looking for a mid-upper range 1TB drive I think. Slightly above average speed, 1TB is more than enough as I only use 265MB now. Could in theory stick with the existing 500MB drive as it’s fine and just install a new OS, but it would cause issues with reinstalling Vista and Office elsewhere as Office was limited installs and I assume installing off the Vista disc again would cause some arguments with keys etc.

– OS – Windows 7 or 8, though as stated am keen to keep Vista available as a dual boot/virtual OS somewhere for very old games. No idea which is best of 7 or 8, will need to research.

Part 2 to come when I have done more research into the remaining components!

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Summer Is Icommen In

Lunch in the park. I’m trying and failing to find geocaches, but in the meantime I am finding nice places to eat lunch.

Peacock butterfly from yesterday’s walk in another park with another failed geocache (although I think that cache is dead).

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All change!

Oh dear! I kept thinking “wait to blog until you have something interesting to say…” – apparently that’s over five months of nothing interesting!

Things have certainly changed since the 13th of December 2013. On the 24th of November I posted a suitably vague post about being stuck at a career roundabout (like a career crossroads, but more confusing). Well, I did eventually go for the scary dark pothole-y turning. I’m not going to follow that with something like “and I’m so glad I did!” or “and it turned out to be just perfect for me!” because that would be a lie. However, I have a job and it’s not terrible; I turn up in the morning, do things, and people give me money. This archaic ritual of exchanging services for financial benefit has meant I have been able to pursue a house. House is currently at bay in a corner – fingers crossed I’ll have it trapped very soon, and then I shall bore you all stupid with plans for my garden. Until it’s trapped I refuse to get too excited – don’t want to get disappointed if it falls through. However I’m clearly getting a leetle more excited as today I planted just a few French beans, sweetcorn, beetroot, tomatoes, courgettes, a squash and a pumpkin… didn’t want to miss the season completely and if I move in time they’ll be just ready to go into the raised beds the garden already has… I’m planning to use the Square Foot Gardening method – I’ll tell you about that another day but I think it’ll suit me well.

Dingbat moved too! The Little Family now have a lovely little place, properly as of yesterday. Day before yesterday technically, since it’s now past midnight. There are nice wall colours (none of which contain even a hint of either pink or lilac) and some smashing curtain rails – it’s all come together very well. I am resisting temptation to fill their garden with edible plants I think they should own. I must not garden by proxy. I must not garden by proxy. I must not garden by proxy.

Nephew (Jingle, although I feel that doesn’t fit so he perhap needs a new blog nick*) now understands a concerning amount of what he hears, which means adults must be VERY CAREFUL around him. I demonstrated briefly (using his toy cars) to him how some lady hit my car recently, and now he informs me regularly that “Ninny car booken”, which I didn’t specifically tell him during said demonstration. O.o clever boy. Although, since “Mummy car booken” recently after Mummy tested her car’s aquatic properties, he is having quite a specific education in the field car insurance, repairs and hire cars…

Ironically one of the Italian phrases I can say is “vorrei noleggiare una macchina” – I would like to hire a car.

*The Mechanic! For he is Tony Stark in minature.

And yes, I am Auntie Ninny, what of it?

EDIT Oh! And belated happy 10th Birthday Blog! You were born 22nd April 2004 and are now 10. Well done.

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I don’t think the dates were optional…

For years now I’ve been making Jamie’s Nan’s Christmas Pudding. I got the recipe from a Jamie Christmas DVD I have, which differs slightly in that there are no nuts, cranberries replace 100g of the mixed fruit, and I’m fairly sure it’s 125g breadcrumbs, not 150g. Every year I make my own little differences too, cointreau instead of brandy (generally because we’ve run out of brandy), using glacé cherries instead of cranberries etc. all with good results.

This year I’ve gone totally off piste. Firstly, I decided to attempt a wrapped pudding instead of using the pudding bowl, and used a cheesecloth bag, which wasn’t so successful as the pudding stuck and the bag has now been thrown away. Secondly I went for wholemeal breadcrumbs instead of white (why? To make it more healthy? It’s going to be covered in custard and/or cream and/or sugar! Not sure what I was thinking there…), I added in apple and dried apricots, I left out dates because I couldn’t be bothered to buy them and cut them up (expensive, and very sticky) and I lost count when adding fruit so may well have ended up about 50-100g more fruit that needed. But that’s ok because I added an obscene amount of ginger and ginger syrup. It tastes more like bread pudding that Christmas pudding… although it could have been any of the additions, I blame the lack of dates. I don’t think the dates were optional…

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