31 January 2012 (Tuesday) - Stuff

I went for a tiddle at 5am this morning and looked out of the window on my way. I always do whenever I get out of my pit – I don’t know what I expect to see in the universe outside my window but I always have a look-see. Overnight we’d had snow. Not much. A mere sprinkling, but snow nonetheless. Bearing in mind that my American readers will fall about laughing at what we call snow, I lay worrying about getting to Canterbury and back again with one millimetre of snow on the ground. England stops when the word “snow” is even mentioned.
Being on a late start meant I had the chance to stay in pit longer that I might usually do, and I took that chance. I actually dozed through till when "er indoors TM" left at 8.30am. I got up, abluted, brekkied and toyed with the idea of downloading some more ebooks, but decided against it. After all between Sunday night and yesterday evening I’ve got myself 113 books that I’ve wanted for some time. I’ve found a site that requires no log-in, no registering, just type in the book you want and down it comes to your PC. I’ve been busy (!)
I suppose it could be seen as taking money out of the pockets of authors. Or could it? The books I’m seeking are all over ten years old: many much older than that. And of these 113 books I’ve got, over 100 of them are books I already have in paper format. I’ve paid for them once already. I’m taking the line that what I have downloaded is a backup (of sorts). I’m sure that there are those who would disagree with my reasoning on this…
So instead of downloading I spent a happy half hour playing “Words with Friends” – Facebook’s version of Scrabble. I started playing this game a couple of weeks ago, and have got quite hooked on it. I’ve been pretty much non-stop scrabbling these last few days, and currently have ten different games on the go. It has the advantage over conventional scrabble that you play when you have chance. So if you and your opponent are both otherwise free, a game can be played out in half an hour. If you have other things to be doing in the meantime, a game can be strung out over a week.

I then had a look on myfitesspal.com. Since I started logging my food and exercise I’ve been joined by a dozen or so on-line myfitnesspal.com friends. Of that dozen, a quarter of them would seem to have given up. Which is a shame. And of the rest, not many have set their account so I can see what they have been eating. Which is a shame because, being nosy I’d like to see what they’ve been scoffing. And (more importantly) because they might be scoffing something that I’d like to scoff too.

I scraped the remnants of snow off of my car and set off to work; did my bit and came home again. Home via Chris's house, where we had the traditional Tuesday gathering. We watched the last episode of the first season of "Being Human" - an excellent show. And then i picked up some brewing bits and bobs that Chris was otherwise going to bin. I might just be producing a bottle conditioned beer over the next few weeks...

30 January 2012 (Monday) - Downloading

Yesterday I mentioned that I was looking for free ebooks. I've found some. Quite a few actually. But, as is always the way in life, getting them isn't as straight-forward as it might be. First off one needs to sign up with the website which supplies the free ebooks. The website in question is.... well, I'm not going to be daft enough to tell the world what the website is. Not that I think it's illegal (it looks legal enough). It just strikes me that if something like this gets too well known it will get shut down. Which is usually what happens to good things (he typed cynically).
And then there's the problem that one is restricted to how many ebooks one can download. It looks to have a limit of forty downloads per day. I suppose in the fullness of time forty a day will be plenty, but for now I wanted to download loads (before the website gets shut down).
But it didn't take long to find another website that did free ebooks too. And this one didn't restrict me to forty books a day. So I got jiggy with the download.

Imagine my frustration when (with over a hundred downloaded ebooks) I found that not one of them worked on my Kindle. It doesn't recognise the .epub format that the books come in. But if you know where to look there are free converters available.

So having spent an hour downloading files I couldn't use, and finding myself with more ebooks than sense, I set the converter running. You can convert files individually, but it's as easy to download your books, set the converter going, and clear off for a shower and a cuppa whilst the computer works it's magic. And then all I had to do was download my newly obtained .mobi files to my Kindle. I still had to do the cataloguing on the Kindle itself, but I now have books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke that I've wanted on my Kindle for ages. Stuff by Fred Pohl and Stephen King. James Bond books and Terry Pratchett books. The Mote in God's Eye, The Death of Grass, loads of stuff.

In the past I've blogged about how free downloads are a bad thing. They probably are but in these days of austerity, principles are not cheap. And, to be honest, something for nothing is never a bad thing when I am the one getting something for nothing.... Sorry...

29 January 2012 (Sunday) - A Walk

it's quite amazing how large a part Facebook plays in my life these days. It's quite a good website: but it could be just that little bit better. This morning over brekkie I noticed that it's got a new feature - it suggests upcoming events that you might like to join in with. Today it suggested that I might like to go along to a teenagers' school party that my nephew is going to. I can just see the teachers loving that (!)

Whilst I was brekkie-ing, "er indoors TM" had her weekly weigh-in: she's dieting as well. But (because she's a lot smaller than me) she's allowed a lot less calories every day, and so her weight loss is slower (or so I am reliably informed!). Apropos of nothing I did some sums - yesterday I mentioned how much weight I'd lost. But another way of looking at it is that since I started up with myfitnesspal.com I’ve lost twenty per cent of my body weight. Not bad going, I suppose.
I then spent a little while trying to find free James Bond books for my Kindle. Trying; not doing. I couldn't find any. I was also looking for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" as a freebie, but didn't have any luck. I'm having a phase of reading "classics" on my Kindle at the moment. "Gulliver's Travels" was good. I'm half way through "Moby Dick", but am finding it hard going. If any of my loyal readers have any suggestions for classic literature that's actually worth reading, I'm all ears.

The sun was shining outside: it looked like a lovely day so we decided we'd go for a walk. As we stepped out so the sky darkened and the rain started. Only drizzle, but rain nonetheless. We decided to press on regardless, and after a thirty second downpour the rain actually stopped. We took a scenic wander through Clockhouse to Singleton where we stopped for a while at the pond. I felt sorry for the geese - they came up to us obviously expecting to be fed. Next time we'll take them some bread. It was at this point that we realised we should have stopped and picked up Fudge on the way - he would have liked the exercise.
We carried on round the pond, spent five minutes trying to get the gunge of of the lens of "er indoors TM" 's camera, and then made our way back along the river. The river is a lot cleaner than it was when the children were small - the Ashford Green Corridor project has worked quite well.
We stopped off in the park to look at the fountain - it had been cleaned out and was in full flow. it looked quite impressive: a shame it had been painted a horrible orange colour.

Back home for lunch. I say "lunch" - I wasn't especially hungry and so made do with a bag of crisps, and I settled in for the now traditional Sunday afternoon and evening's watching hours of Star Trek: Voyager. With the USS Prometheus captured by Romulans, Hirogen running riot, Borg getting up to mischief, it's good stuff - just a shame there are so many adverts in it...

28 January 2012 (Saturday) - Stuff

At this morning's weigh-in I saw I'd lost another two pounds. That's only a couple of pounds short of four stone lost. Also I've lost another half an inch from around my neck. With a collar size of sixteen and a half inches, all my shirts are now too big.
And, perhaps more importantly, a threshold has been crossed. With a BMI of just under thirty I am now no longer obese. I am merely overweight. I've not been merely overweight for years.

Over brekkie I had a look on the Internet - there was a lot of bad feeling on the astronomy club's Facebook page yesterday and today: the club had been invited up to a Stargazing Live event on the Downs. The organisers (NOT the astro club) had sold out of tickets and the general public weren't happy and felt that the club was in some way responsible. They (mostly) seemed to overlook the fact that they'd been told to book tickets in advance from the organisers. And most (all) of the whingers weren't actually astro club members; just people who'd signed up to the Facebook group. Perhaps we might chuck everyone who's not a paid up member out of the Facebook group ?

Bearing in mind the horrible journey I had coming home last night I thought I'd check the travel websites to see if the A28 was clear this morning. No website mentioned any problems. No website mentioned there had ever been a problem. So I phoned Kent police. I got though to a vague chap who was helpful enough,but had no record of the A28 having been closed. He asked me who told me it had been closed, and was rather surprised when I told him it had been a policeman.
I left home perhaps a little earlier than I might have done (just in case), and got to work early. But an early start made for an early finish. It was good to drive to and from Canterbury in daylight for a change. I came home via Perry Court farm shop, bearing in mind the fruit and veg stall hasn't been in the town centre since Christmas. I got what I needed, and got a bit cross with the normal people there. How can anyone have the ability to drive one's self to and from the shop, but not have the intelligence to pay for your purchases. One chap was so dithery that he just held out a hand full of coins and the girl on the till took what she needed (or wanted). Another pair burst through the doors, flattening people on the other side, then just stopped still. They were completely unaware that they were now blocking the door. When asked to move they were genuinely surprised and shocked to see they were in everyone's way.

Once home, over a spot of lunch, for want of anything else to do, I thought I'd have a clear out of my list of friends on Facebook. After all I had three hundred people on that list. Surely there must be some people that shouldn't be on it? So I went though the list. But between people I know from work, from astro club, from the arky-ologee club, family, friends, kite fliers I only found two people that I didn't actually know who they were. So they've both gone from my list.

It was a shame I'd had to work this morning: I'd had an offer to go for a walk along the beach that I'd had to turn down. But so that the afternoon wasn't entirely wasted we wrapped up and went for a bit of a stroll whilst the washing machine did it's best on my shirts and trousers. Once thoroughly frozen (it was a cold day today)
we came back to find shirts and trousers washed and ready for ironing. Yesterday I said that the laundry would still be there today: and it was. Whilst I ironed we watched Johnny Depp in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on the Turner Classic movies channel. It seemed odd to me that a film that was only seven years old could be a classic, but what do I know?
And then we turned to the Discovery Shed channel for an hour of Bob Ross and his painting. Bob was working wonders with acrylics today. I felt inspired again: a shame I have no acrylic paint. If any of my loyal readers have any brown, crimson or black acrylic laying about that they don't want, spare a thought for me. I only want a few drops, and it's daft to spend out on pots full when I only need a tiddly amount.

And then, seeing how it was Saturday night, we went round to Chris's house for the film night. First we watched "Fever Pitch" - a film I've always liked. And then "The Wedding Date" - a new film to me, but quite watchable. I spent the entire film trying to work out why the lead actress looked so familiar: it turned out that she was Grace in "Will and Grace". And then I slept though the Shrek Halloween special...

27 January 2012 (Friday) - Going Home

In theory tonight was supposed to feature a meeting of the astronomy club. But due to a change of the committee that runs the hall we meet in and a complete fiasco with the year's hall bookings we were unable to have the hall for a meeting tonight. Still, we had Stargazing Live last weekend. That'll have to do for one month.

It was just as well the club wasn't meeting tonight as I'd been rota-ed to do a late shift today. The morning's lie-in was good, and I got to catch up with some fiddling about with household paperwork. I got to have a look round the garden pond in daylight - all looks fine to me. I even exchanged insults with "My Boy TM" who happened to be passing. But the best part was that I got to drive to work in daylight. I do find leaving for work in the dark and coming home again in the dark depressing.

Work was work, and then home again. I got to leave a few minutes early and was making plans for the evening. With "er indoors TM" flogging candles I had good intentions of doing the ironing. Usually coming home from Canterbury at 8pm is good: with no traffic on the roads I get a straight run home. But after a couple of miles I got stuck in a traffic jam. After twenty minutes I got as far as a policeman who told me that the A28 was closed because of a fire down the road. He gave me the options I could take to get home; both of which would have added twenty miles to my journey. So I smiled, told the copper I'd take the Stone Street option, drove into Chartham to take a cut through that I knew, and met another copper who also knew the cut through and had closed it. I knew another way home, so I tried that, and after five miles I found myself at the end of a country lane. A cul de sac. Perhaps I didn't know the area as well as I might.
So I activated the sat-nav. It had a go at getting me home, but on finding that two of the roads it wanted to take were closed, and on losing the satellite signal three times I found my patience wearing thin.

I expected to get home in less than half an hour - it actually took just under two hours. Oh I wasn't happy when finally I got home. And to add insult to injury, the official traffic update website knew nothing at all about any problems on the A28. By the time I'd got in and had a bit of tea it was getting on for 10.30pm. I couldn't be bothered to iron: shirts will still be there tomorrow....

26 January 2012 (Thursday) - Stuff

Yesterday I mentioned about looking for a local Art & Craft club. I've found one. Mind you, details on their web site seemed rather lacking. I've emailed them and got a reply. Apparently their meetings are for members or guests of members. Hmmm!
They've given me the option to join. I must admit I'm rather loathe to hand over fifteen quid on the off-chance I might get arty. Added to that, they meet on Saturdays. I'm not keen on that - I have other things going on on Saturdays.
In an attempt to tout paintings I've advertised one for sale on a local Facebook buying and selling group. It might sell there. I hope it does. Failing that I shall have to tap up a local gallery. I wonder if there are any?

Alternatively in an attempt to rake in some cash I could take a leaf out of the book of the reverend doctor canon John Magumba who has married no end of illegal immigrants to eastern Europeans in sham ceremonies up north so's they can get legal residence in the UK. As well as conducting these sham marriages, he made a profit of several thousand pounds. Mind you, he's now got a prison sentence. So I suppose that if I'm going to start marrying people for financial gain, I should be sure I don't get caught.

And that's all I have to say for myself today. Some days are eventful - today was a tad average really. Back in the day, after putting up the day's blog entry I would have then spent some time catching up on other people's blogs.
But in the five years that I've been active in the blogsphere, blogging seems to have lost its popularity. I follow over thirty blogs, of which maybe half a dozen are updated more than once a week. Which is a shame because (being a nosey sort of chap) I like seeing what other people have been getting up to. I wish more people would blog; and blog more often.

25 January 2012 (Wednesday) - Dene Holes

Another day with no more fatalities in the pond. Thank heavens for small mercies. Regular readers might recall that when I first mentioned my problems with my pond I also mentioned a friend's cat who'd had an altercation with a car. The moggie is still under the vet, and the most recent update is hopeful.

Yesterday I was rather disparaging about the entire concept of arky-ologee. Tonight was a meeting of the arky-ologee club. I'd not slept well last night, and so dozing through a dull talk wasn't an appealing option. But (against my better judgement) I went along to the club. It didn't start well. The chair-lady started off her welcoming speech, and (as is her way) she rambled on somewhat. Maybe one person in five in the audience had the good grace to shut up and listen to her: most continued their noisy conversations.
I was about to actually tell people to shut up when the main speaker started. Fortunately people shut up for that. And things picked up. The talk was good. It was ostensibly about dene holes; holes dug around Kent for mining chalk. They were dug all over the place over the last five hundred years, and when they were finished they weren't filled in with much care. And so now they periodically appear when people's back gardens fall into them.
Some dene holes are bigger than others. Some are just a hole; others are networks of caves. I started getting rather excited at the thought of cave networks. Maybe investigating some of these could be a project for over the summer.

Whilst at the arky-ologee club I noticed that the Lenham Arts and Crafts society were exhibiting their members' paintings on the walls of the room we met in. All of the paintings were up for sale; none were up for less than fifty quid, most (in all honesty) weren't as good as the seascape I did on Monday. Perhaps I might find a local Arts and Crafts society and see if I can't tout my paintings through them...

24 January 2012 (Tuesday) - Northern Lights

After I finished my painting last night I spent the rest of the evening in front of the telly, since "er indoors TM" had gone bowling. I did the same the night before as well.
Thank heavens that I had my laptop with me. The amount of adverts between and during the programs is getting beyond a joke. For all that I like Star Trek, Porridge and Blackadder, I really wish I could fast forward through the adverts. I wouldn't mind so much, but there's only about a dozen adverts and the constant repetition of them gets rather gutty after an hour or so.
One of the programs I watched was "Time Team". As they got to the end of the first day's digging, Tony Robinson held up a manky bit of broken pot. It was about half an inch long, and maybe an inch deep. One of the program's experts nearly tiddled his pants in excitement, announcing that this manky bit of broken pot was the best thing they'd found all day. (Which is why I have absolutely no interest in going digging with the arky-ologee club).

Yesterday I touched on the costs inherent in the hobby of oil painting. And I have identified an economy. But before I make that economy I have a question. What is the difference between "Artist's White Spirit" and "White Spirit". One comes in very small expensive bottles from the art & craft shop. The other comes in large cheap bucketfuls from B&Q. In my naivety it looks to me that the only difference is about five pounds per litre.

Being Tuesday the clans gathered at Chip's house and we watched an episode of Doctor Who. The third one with Christopher Ecclestone which had teh Doctor and Rose meeting Charles Dickens. A good episode, and it was good to meet up with friends.
The plan was to watch the Northern Lights this evening: with the sun going doolally, aurora was apparently visible tonight. Or that it it would have been if there hadn't been 100% cloud cover. Astronomy is a crap hobby; every time there's something worth watching, you can't see it because it will be too cloudy...

23 January 2012 (Monday) - A Seascape

I've taken to watching an episode of "The Joy of Painting" most mornings. Yesterday I commented that I had the urge to paint, but felt rather uninspired. This morning Bob Ross was painting a seascape. That inspired me. It was a shame that I couldn't start painting there and then because I had to go to work, but until such time as Badger Original Landscapes starts raking in hundreds of pounds on a weekly basis I shall have to continue to prostitute myself elsewhere.

I then did exactly that for the day, and came back home again. I checked the pond - bearing in mind the attrition rate I'd had with the Koi over the weekend I was expecting the worst. But fortunately there were none floating today. I shall now worry about what might happen in the pond overnight.
Fortunately there is only so much attachment one can have for a fish. I'd ask my loyal readers to spare a thought for Steve and Sarah tonight - their cat is not well. It would seem he's come off the worst in a squabble with a car, and is currently in cat hospital.

Tonight's painting project needed me to prepare the canvas - the piccie above is "before and after". I got the "before" bit done, and left it to dry. And then the doorbell rang. The Bat had come for tea this evening. He don't like having a fuss made for his birthday, but we had to do something in honour of the event. And as the bowlers went bowling I was able to get my paints out. I'd spent most of the day thinking about the morning's TV show, and I knew exactly what I wanted to paint. What I wanted to paint wasn't exactly what I ended up with, but I'm rather pleased with the finished result. The clouds aren't quite what I was hoping for, and the main wave certainly hasn't come out as good as Bob Ross would have done. But it'll do.
Ideally someone will now give me cash for the painting. Not so much to finance my life, more along the lines of clearing some space so I can paint another scene. And getting a little bit of bung for the painting will help to pay for the next painting. With canvases not cheap, and Bob Ross oil paints costing the best part of twenty quid per tube, I need to cover the cost of painting somehow....

22 January 2012 (Sunday) - At the Seaside

I spent a little while this morning going over the astro club's accounts: last night's Stargazing Live event raked in quite a bit of cash. Without going into details, it's fair to say that we covered our costs.
Something I realised last night whilst setting up was how out of date our posters have become. Many of them were made for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy; and so are three years old (if not more). Bearing in mind the amount of space probes which have been going here, there and thither, a lot has changed over the last three years. I wonder if we might organise a competition for club members to come up with some new posters. Being A4 in size and featuring the club logo, people could design posters on a range of subjects. Planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, meteors, space rock thingies, the sun, stars, galaxies: there's scope for twenty or so new posters. Club members could even laminate the posters themselves. I've posted something along these lines on the club's Facebook page: we'll see how much interest there is.
Something which worked at last night's Stargazing Live was the "Ask an Astronomer" panel. Perhaps we might make this a regular event at club meetings? I'll bring it up at the next committee meeting; with the proviso that it be run on a strictly timed basis. Otherwise it might go on for most of the evening.

Yesterday I mentioned that some Koi had died. Two more died today. I'm rather concerned, but have absolutely no idea what's gone wrong with the pond.
And so to Folkestone. Coffee and then to the harbour for a bit of a walk. Sid (my grand-dog) enjoyed charging around the beach. As did I. A shame it was rather cold, but we had a good wander before making our way back to the Admiralty for another cuppa. There's talk of assembling a work party to fix the flashing and do some painting there. That might have the makings of a future blog entry.
In retrospect I am so glad we went out today - over the last few weeks, Sundays have become so dull. Whilst I enjoy sitting in front of the telly with my laptop for a couple of hours in the evenings, doing it for a whole day can get rather dull. Going out with people is so much better.

Home again, where I had a fiddle about with the website of Badger Original Landscapes. The trouble with a website is that, like an astro club poster, it soon becomes out of date. The website had several references to buying early for Christmas. Those references had to go. I've also added another testimonial. There are those of my loyal readers who might like to add a testimonial to that site - please feel free to get in touch to tell me how wonderful you feel the painting on your wall is (!)
I had half a plan to do another painting this evening, but the muse wasn't with me. So I slobbed in front of the telly for a bit. You can't beat back to back episodes of Star Trek...

21 January 2012 (Saturday) - Stargazing Live

By the time we'd tidied up after last night's dinner party it was rather late. Even so, we sat and watched telly for a bit. There was a dodgy moment when I stood up - my knee bent backwards. If I hadn't grabbed the table it might have done some serious damage: as it is, the knee has been quite painful today.
Having had a late night I was hoping for a lie-in this morning: instead I was woken at about 7am by next door shrieking at their dogs. I tried to get back to sleep, but didn't. Instead I dozed fitfully. I really should just get up on these weekend mornings rather than lying there, unable to sleep and bursting for a tiddle. I eventually got up, and had the weekly weigh-in. Another pound gone. I've now lost fifty pounds and am under fifteen stone for the first time in years. In fact, I only have to lose two more pounds and I will no longer be obese, but merely overweight. According to the figures I still have to lose another thirty seven pounds to get into the "healthy" range. I wonder if that will eventually happen?

There was a bit of a disaster in the garden - three of the Koi were dead. I'm putting it down to old age - fish do die from time to time, but three at once is a tad excessive. I'm hoping that there's nothing serious going wrong in the pond. It was my plan to leave the pond alone until it gets a bit warmer; I didn't expect to have to do anything with it until April at least.
And then I popped round to see Brian: he had some masking tape I wanted for artistic purposes.

I came back home to find "My Boy TM" visiting. He had stayed overnight with a friend who had during the course of last night struck up a friendship with a young lady of dubious morals. "My Boy TM" had been unable to sleep because of his friend and the young lady "going at it like a pair of bison". Which was nice for them, but not so good for anyone in the general vicinity who was trying to get some shut-eye.

I set the washing machine loose on my shirts, and then delivered the vacuum cleaner to "Daddies Little Angel TM" who was helping her pal move into the house just round the corner. I came home and ironed the shirts whilst "Daddies Little Angel TM" and her pal used our table to eat their KFC. Apparently the tables at her mate's house house are under several feet of clutter, I wasn't complaining: I got to scoff the left over chicken.

Pausing only briefly to pull another dead fish out of the pond (what's going on !), the Rear Admiral arrived with Stevey, and we set off for the evening's excitement. Earlier in the week I mentioned about the BBC program "Stargazing Live". Whilst I wasn't personally impressed with the TV show, it certainly raised the awareness of astronomy in the minds of the general public.
We were using the scout hunt in Woodchurch, Personally I prefer the Memorial hall, but that wasn't available. We arrived early to set up, but found a hive of activity already going strong. And once we'd set up, the punters arrived. Drew gave an excellent talk involving the audience, and just as he finished speaking we got the message that the sky had clouded up. Which was just what we needed for a stargazing event (!). So we had tea and a chat, and then we used the stellarium software to show people what they would have seen had there been no clouds. And then I wittered on about the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation for fifteen minutes.
Being still unable to see anything through the clouds we rounded the evening off with an "ask an astronomer"
session in which the assembled throng had the opportunity to ask questions of a panel of experts (and me!)

For all that I've been rather unimpressed with the Stargazing Live TV show, the evening went really well. This was the astro club's fourth big event, and again it was done excellently. With seventeen members having volunteered to help the committee this evening, the club is going from strength to strength.

Mind you I must admit that I felt for my father-in-law: on this his first ever visit to the astro club he was dragooned into doing the washing-up. And I feel I need to make it clear that the catering was not done by the club, but was provided by an outside concession. The club makes great show of the fact that we run on a "not for profit" basis - we just cover our costs. So (on that basis) I couldn't believe that burgers were being touted at four quid each. Next time maybe we might do the catering ourselves: I did hear someone volunteer to do just that...

20 January 2012 (Friday) - Dinner Party

Admittedly I did get home late from work yesterday evening. But the work hadn’t been that arduous. So why did I keep nodding off in front of the telly? I wish I could stop doing that. There will be something good on the box, or I will be in the middle of an on-line game, or there will be some valid reason for why I should be paying attention, and all of a sudden I wake up to find it’s half an hour later, the telly program has finished, my laptop’s gone into automatic shut-down, and I’ve woken with a neck-ache. And having had a bit of kip it
somehow stuffs up my getting a proper kip at night. For all that I actually slept through last night, I woke tired, and fell asleep at lunch time. If I don’t nap during the previous evening I’m (usually) good for the next day.

To work – dull. Over a break I went over my presentation for tomorrow’s Stargazing Live event. The latest weather forecast gives it being a cloudy night. Or to be precise, a rainy evening giving way to a cloudy night. That would be a nuisance. Whilst (I have to admit) I am very much an armchair astronomer and have little interest in staring through telescopes, the whole “staring through telescopes” thing does rather feature highly in astronomical activities. Oh well – if it is cloudy I’ll just have a bigger audience for my talk.

Home again - and having got the table organised, people arrived. Having been round to friends for dinner before Christmas, tonight we reciprocated. Eight of us sat down for three courses. Even if I do say so myself, "er indoors TM" does boil up a decent bit of scoff. Two choices of soup, two choices of main course, various puds, home brew, red & white wine, port, Brazilian cocktails. And after we'd scoffed (probably scoffed too much) we had a game or two of "Dirty Minds". Long and thin and full of seamen? HMS Vanguard!!

19 January 2012 (Thursday) - Camping

A late start, so (apropos of nothing) I mucked out the fish tank. It needed doing. And then over brekkie I went through the accumulated post. Other than a bill for the next year’s hall bookings for the astro club there was very little of note. Which was probably for the best. And then I mucked out the fish tank again. Where does all the gunge come from?

In the past I've whinged about the demise of the kite festival at Teston. But I've not just whinged. I've sulked, hinted, smiled sweetly, and threatened to cry. And so, completely unconnected with any of my sulking, "er indoors TM" and The Bat have secured the use of a field in which we can stage "Not Teston Kite Festival". The field is not a million miles from Ashford, and "Not Teston Kite Festival" has been provisionally planned for the second weekend in June.
I'm not sure that the entrance to the field is wide enough to get a caravan into it, and the fishing isn't what it might be. Having said that, I'm sure that those with caravans could secure the use of a tent for the weekend; and there is fishing within five minutes of the field. Other facilities include a tap, a turdis and a poo pit, a pub two miles down the road, and a supermarket some five miles away.
It's not a replacement for the kite festival - it's not even going to be a kite festival; and it certainly isn't going to be open to the general public. It will be just a weekend in a field with like minded friends. But if any of my loyal readers would like to join us at "Not Teston Kite Festival", please drop me a line.

18 January 2012 (Wednesday) - Wikipedia

This morning as I started my car I noticed that the temperature was a full ten degrees warmer than it was yesterday. It was plus five rather than minus five, which makes quite a difference. And that would be thirty degrees warmer that that which some of my loyal readers are currently experiencing. (Waves in the general direction of the Great Lakes and gloats!)

Today the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, is shut down. They have done this in protest against the "Stop Online Piracy Act" - something which is possibly going to enter American law (and probably British law too eventually). Apparently the main thrust of the legislation is that it will put the burden to police user-contributed material on website owners.
On a personal basis I don't think that's unreasonable - I realise that I can't just blag someone else's efforts and blog it as my own. There would arguably be a grey area over some of the pictures I use for blog posts: clip art and stuff I find on-line I usually re-colour so's I've had (at least) some input into the creation of the picture. Very occasionally I might use a photo I find on-line. But if the photo comes with any copyright disclaimers, then I won't touch it.
And the same applies to any of the other websites I run. I am responsible for what I put on the Internet.

And therein lies the problem that Wikipedia faces. It's summed up in the sentence "I am responsible for what I put on the Internet". I don't allow anyone else publishing rights on any webspace that I use. Wikipedia does: by it's very nature absolutely anyone can publish absolutely anything on Wikipedia. And so, for all that the vast majority of Wikipedians contribute properly and sensibly, there is nothing stopping the rogue element publishing foolishly or maliciously. Or from blagging someone else's work (piracy).
At the moment I'm not sure who is responsible for any copyright infringements that appear on Wikipedia. But should the Stop Online Piracy Act become law, then those who own Wikipedia would become responsible for the (possibly) illegal acts of others. Wikipedia have got the hump - they claim that the Stop Online Piracy Act will "fatally damage the free and open Internet". Will it? I don't really know. I suspect the Stop Online Piracy Act was never drawn up with Wikipedia in mind.
One possible answer might be for Wikipedia to reconsider who it allows to edit their articles: after all I am one of the resident experts who contributed to the pages on "Upstairs Downstairs" and "The Treacle People". However for all that this idea might work in principle, in practice the licensing of thousands of Wikipedians would probably prove impractical.

Will Wikipedia survive the legislation? I expect so. After all, it's not Wikipedia that the legislation is supposed to be targeting. And is anyone going to prosecute Wikipedia for any alleged breaches of copyright? I suspect that over the next few weeks a button will appear on every page of Wikipedia allowing people to report supposed infringements of the Stop Online Piracy Act, and an army of Wikipedians will spend their time painstakingly rewording the article generating the complaints. After all, armies of Wikipedians have painstakingly reworded every contribution I've ever made to Wikipedia for no apparent reason. The Stop Online Piracy Act might just give them something to do...

17 January 2012 (Tuesday) - The Musgrove Fox

For all that I wasn't impressed with last night's Stargazing Live, half a dozen people have joined the astro club's Facebook page overnight. And the morning's post had a cheque for a hundred quid for the astro club to go towards the weekend's planned event. So I suppose some good has come of the show. (Grumble, Grumble...)
I saw some of this evening's show. I think I know what I consider to be wrong with it. It's too basic. Bearing on mind it's on BBC2 I'd expect it to be just a little more high-brow.

At the weekend I mentioned that I'd been painting. I posted a photo of what I'd done and it's had encouraging reviews. Ten people have clicked the "like" option, and there are quite a few positive comments. I must paint something else and post it on that website.
Meanwhile on not such a good note my grand-dog can't be allowed in his garden on his own - at the weekend a fox was seen walking about that garden; bold as brass. And shortly after that the remains of a seagull was littering that garden. Bearing in mind that Fudge isn't much bigger than a seagull, I for one am worried about the pup. Apparently the fox spent a whole day sprawled out on the shed roof. It would seem to be fearless. Urban foxes often are. I have suggested that "The Musgrove Fox" have its own Facebook page, but those with more immediate access to the fox wouldn’t seem to be especially bothered about producing one. Given some more photos of the beast, I might do one later.

I was half expecting a visit from the "Folkestone Massive" this evening, but I came home to an empty house. Which was a disappointment. Mind you we had quite a few other friends round for the Tuesday evening bash. Rather than watching "Bleach" we carried on with "Being Human": I like the show - a shame I dozed through large parts of it....

16 January 2012 (Monday) - Stargazing Live

I could have gone to bed slightly earlier than I did last night, but Monty Python and the Holy Grail was on the Sky Arts channel (!). I have seen that film so many times - it was actually the second film we watched on the VHS recorder/player we hired back in 1985. I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen it, but once more couldn't hurt.

And so.... the weekend's gone again. For all that Saturday's films were a tad iffy and that yesterday was rather quiet, the weekend that's just gone wasn't a bad one really.
I liked getting my paints out yesterday: I must do it again. I really would like to find some bigger canvases: if any of my loyal readers know where I can pick up a canvas which is 18 x 24 inches (and cheap!), please let me know. And, whilst I'm asking, if any of my loyal readers know of a supplier of Bob Ross art supplies please let me know as well. My local art shop has stopped supplying the stuff. I *can* order the stuff on-line, but that would necessitate a trip to the post office to pick up the delivery. And getting to Ashford's collection office is a pain in the bum these days.
And if any of my loyal readers would like a "Badger Original" please let me know. And if anyone would like to pass on the word about "Badger Original Landscapes", please feel free. The trouble with painting is that you end up with paintings. Obvious, I know, but I need to shift the existing paintings to clear space for any new ones.

Today was painful - whilst swimming on Saturday I managed to fall over and land on my bum. My chuff still hurts. Also whilst swimming I managed to do something to my left knee which is still sore.
I also have done something to my gob: I think I yawned too hard on Saturday evening, and I've strained something. The bit where the jaw meets the rest of my head feels swollen and my gob doesn't close properly. I expect it will all get better eventually.

This evening saw the launch of the BBC's "Stargazing Live": for all that our astro club ran a very successful event in conjunction with the program last year I didn't watch it at the time. Perhaps I should have. So this year I did. Or that is I watched tonight's program. Or that is I tried to watch tonight's program. After twenty minutes I was rather conscious that for all of the spectacular pictures and amazed noises from the presenters, nothing had actually happened. The interview with Gene Cernan was interesting enough I suppose. But from my perspective, the show was streets behind any meeting of the astro club.
However, it would be, wouldn't it? It was all rather "wow!! space !!! science!!!" The program was clearly made for the general/mass interest. Will I watch the rest of the week's programs? Having fallen asleep after three quarters of an hour, probably not...

15 January 2012 (Sunday) - Doing Little

A bit of a lie-in, but I'd leapt into action before 10am. A quick shave, then I had a go at yesterday's washing up and had some brekkie. Whilst scoffing we turned the telly on and watched "Man vs Food". In today's episode our hero was faced with a pie the size of a dustbin lid, and had an hour in which to devour it. Which he eventually did.
But once that was over I couldn't find a single program worth watching on the telly. So we cleared some more space from the Sky-Plus box by watching some of the stuff that we'd recorded during the week. Now that "Charlie's Angels" has been cancelled I seem to have decided that I like the show.

It would have been good to have done something with the day. But we had no real need to go shopping, and for all that it was a bright day, it was a cold day so going out was a bit of a non-starter. With very little else to do, I got my paints out and got artistic. Today I tried something different. The painting (pictured above) was based on something that I saw on the Bob Ross show last week. I started off by painting the background trees in acrylic and letting them dry before adding the foreground bushes, river and trees. The finished painting is 10 inches by 16 inches and I've managed to sell it for a tenner.
However there's no denying that Badger Original Landscapes hasn't been the money-spinner I was hoping it would turn out to be.

And then, just to be contradictory, we went out. "er indoors TM" had found a bargain from someone who was moving house. A real bargain *if* we could pick it up within the hour. So we popped up to Kennington, collected the bargain, and came home via Lidls (it was Sunday after all). Lidls had quite a bit of art stuff for sale, but nothing from the Bob Ross range (I was sorry to see). Mind you, I wouldn't expect to see Bob Ross stuff in Lidls.
The Great Unwashed wound me up in Lidls. Am I the only member of the human race who actually looks where he's walking? People were blindly blundering about the shop; bouncing off of each other's trollies, the shelves, the freezers. Trying to navigate between their random wanderings was nigh on impossible.

Back home: it's become something of a tradition to switch on the Sky Atlantic channel on a Sunday afternoon and watch back-to-back episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. And that's what I did. And after tea with "er indoors TM" gone bowling I carried on watching Star Trek, and through the wonders of lap-top computers I did some job hunting. I applied for half a dozen repping jobs. Something might come from the applications - one lives in hope...

14 January 2012 (Saturday) - Doing Lots

Yesterday I mentioned about a rumoured explosion in Folkestone. I have since been told that the so-called explosion was actually a solitary firework. Rather a loud firework, but after all was said and done, it was a false alarm. Mind you one has to take rumours from Folkestone seriously -- that place has earthquakes when no-one is expecting them.

I was up relatively early this morning to sort through the astronomy club's account: one of our number has been lecturing to various W,I, branches, and they have been very generous in making donations to the club. Added to that there was the money taken at the last meeting to tot up too. I spend half a frustrated hour trying to account for a missing five pounds. And then the doorbell rang - the astro club's quartermaster had come for some cheques for more astro club purchases. He'd run from his house to mine (about two miles), and was then going to run on to the chairman's house for another signature (about three miles) before running home (another four miles). He must love it.

And then some brekkie. But before I ate I had the weekly weigh-in. I've lost another pound. The rate of weight loss has slowed down - where I was losing four pounds a week, I'm now down to a pound a week. That's either a lot better for me, or a sign that during the week I found a tin of Quality Street left over from Christmas.

We then popped to town: I had astro club money and cheques to pay into the bank. There was uproar in the bank. They had a new system. Rather than queueing up you took a ticket and waited to be called. Personally I liked the idea - you got a ticket depending on what service you wanted - business account, mortgage, personal account, and then you'd get to see the right person. But the Great Unwashed weren't happy. They would all rather have queued, and were very vociferous about the matter.
After waiting for a total of nine minutes I got served, and got out. It was about as long as queueing would have taken, but I couldn't face telling the shrieking harridans that. Finding the fruit and veg stall again not where it usually was we then had a quick look for cheap canvases. I was particularly looking of a 14 x 18 inch one. I eventually found one in Wilkos. But it was part of a set of three for four quid. And bearing in mind I didn't want the other two with it, I gave it all a miss. I'm getting mean in my old age.

And then home. As we walked home, so my piss boiled. I watched some chap finish with his cigarette and he just threw the butt on the floor. he didn't even stub it out. And I saw it bounce along with the other cigarette butts. I've never really noticed it before, but on every step of the walk home there was at least one discarded fag end. Hundreds, if not thousands on the way home. No other litter whatsoever. I really couldn't understand it: why do people not see finished cigarette ends as litter?

Within ten minutes of getting home, "My Boy TM" arrived and drove us all to Tenterden. Today was nephew's birthday, and the family gathered at Tenterden swimming pool for a swim. Fifteen (or so) of us spent a really good couple of hours swimming, splashing and sliding about. We had a great time, but somehow or other I managed to knack my left knee and I fell and hurt my bum too.
All too soon it was time to go, and we came home via Swallow Aquatics (since we were in the area). I couldn't believe the price of the tropical fish: over three pounds for a guppy (!) I shall have to check out other fish shops, but at those prices I shall probably be closing down the tropical fish tank when the current shoal of fish croak.

And so home via Tesco. With littlun fast asleep in the car, I volunteered to wait in the car whilst everyone else got supplies. And I used the opportunity to have a snooze myself. On getting home I watched a couple of episodes of "The Joy of Painting" before scoffing tea. And then we all went round to Chris's house for the now traditional Saturday night film night.
Tonight was a bit of a disappointment. We started off with the latest "Transformers" film. It had pretensions of being an adventure film, but (to my mind) there is a lot more to the concept of an "adventure film" than two and a half hours of things exploding. The second film, "Captain America" might have been good: I don't know - I slept through it. I'd probably overdone it at the swimming pool earlier...

13 January 2012 (Friday) - A Game of Cards

Having had a spate of mild weather, it was cold this morning. In the past I've not really been overly fussed by the dark winter mornings, but this year it seems to be getting to me. So much so that I think I am noticing the small amount by which it gets lighter every morning.

And so to work. A colleague (long since retired) used to take every Friday 13th as holiday just in case the date lived up to its reputation. And today it did for me. All that possibly could go wrong did go wrong. I actually achieved nothing today.

Home again: we had visitors. Terry and Irene were in the area and called in. A shame they live so far away - we don't meet up anywhere near as often as I'd like. And all too soon they had to set off. A shame they couldn't have stayed: with "er indoors TM" flogging candles I had the house, and so had decided to stage a game of cards. Eight of us sat down for an hour or so of Texas Hold 'em. Full houses, four of a kind - a really good game. And after a fag break (for those who like fag breaks) we had another hour or so of Omaha Hold 'em in which I amazed the assembled throng by achieving a straight flush.
All too soon it was time to pack up: and as we packed up, through the wonders of mobile technology we heard mention of rumours of an explosion in Folkestone. Bearing in mind half of our card school was heading back to Folkestone, we couldn't help but wonder what had exploded.

I've been playing poker (on and off) for at least six years, and tonight was the first time that I've actually hosted a game. I really like having a houseful, and a game of cards is a good excuse for having a houseful. I really must organise another game before too much longer...