Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Christmas is over and now all I have to do is write "Thank you" notes. Lots and lots of "Thank you" notes.

In this cold, dark time of year we get one last shot at celebrations, except that I'm going to be getting an early night instead. Staying up late drinking just isn't on my list of things to do.

My sons are going to be watching DVDs until late with friends so I hope whatever they watch first is something that I'm going to want to see before I sneak off to bed. My husband will be watching Top Gear or dogfights on tv given the chance and I shall definitely be giving those a miss.

I suppose the New Year gives us all the chance to start again if we feel we need to. If your year has been a bad one, I wish you better times in 2009 and if you've had a good year then I wish you more of the same.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Cats

Rufus has been having fun. His help with the present wrapping was beyond belief. Then he decided to investigate all the presents under the tree so I've been wrapping and rewrapping his toys so that he's in a constant frenzy of ripped paper. As long as I spray everything with catnip, he's happy.

His Christmas dinner was gourmet cat food sprinkled with dried fish flakes and I think he rather overdid it, judging by his glassy-eyed appearance when he'd finished.

Bonnie has been behaving like a lady. The only one in this house, I have to say.

Rufus helping with the present wrapping

Bonnie taking her ease

Rufus after Christmas dinner

I think Rufus is asleep in that last photo. He has the disquieting habit of sleeping with his eyes open.

Hope you're all having a wonderful time too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!
Seasons Greetings!
Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all the very best this holiday season, however you celebrate it!

(I tried to get more exclamation marks in but I couldn't manage it.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The result of the Dvorak experiment

It took me six months to get up to 45 wpm with Dvorak which was much slower than I expected.

The layout was better than QWERTY in some ways: the positioning of 't' and 'h' next to each other works well so I never once typed 'teh'. On the other hand, I missed being able to type 'were' and 'are' and 'here' so easily and I hated the strain of having 's' on my right little finger together with 'l' and the shift key for 'I'. Although Dvorak is meant to be better for RSI my finger got quite sore at times. Plus it's a nuisance faffing around changing the keyboard set-up for different users. So I decided that Dvorak is not right for me.

My QWERTY speed had dropped to 15 wpm but now, less than a fortnight later, I'm back up to 48 wpm.

I don't know if Dvorak is inherently hard to learn, or if I'm too wedded to QWERTY. Maybe it's because I get brain fog from my thyroid problem. I don't know.

I'm not sure if I regret the experiment or not. At least this way I won't wonder about it and now neither will you: I did the experiment so you don't need to. No need to thank me!

(For a completely different view of the attractions of Dvorak, see Holly Lisle.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bedtime Story

Sorry this is late. I've had technical problems like you wouldn't believe.

Last time I read I was told my voice was suitable for reading children's stories so I thought it might be fun to read something adult in my children's-story voice. Robin kindly supplied the material. She has links to all the other people who are reading this time and they are unmissable.


This is an adult story about two people making love, in other words a sex scene. I won't be offended if you choose not to listen to it.

I really enjoyed reading that and I felt like I was getting to know the main character. Thank you, Robin!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can you write?

At age five (5) everybody thinks they can draw a cat. At age twenty-five (25) very few still believe.

From: The Great Sea (Look in the comments to find it.) The post is very encouraging for those of us who are not ready for publishing yet.

I think I'm in danger of losing sight of the reason I ever wrote anything in the first place - it was because I wanted to. I used to keep a journal, or "whinge-book" as it mostly was and I've written a couple of stories of which one was finished. I think that I'm putting pressure on myself from hanging around with people who are better writers than I am and there's no need for me to do that. There's room for all of us, whether hobbyists or professionals.

Oh, and I do want to do my reading today for Robin but I'm rather behind as I had to reinstall Windows. Well, when I say I had to, I mean my son did most of it but I keep finding programs that I need to reinstall.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A meme by any other name...

I've been tagged with, sorry Sophie, I mean I've been awarded the honest scrap meme award. I'm invited to "tell you 10 true things about me and then tag 7 folks to do the same thing". I'm currently unavailable for memes but Sophie is a special friend and she did trick me into it ask me nicely.

I'm guessing that "I'm a 54 year old married woman with two grown-up sons" isn't interesting enough but by the time you reach the end of this post (a big assumption there) you may think that is comparatively exciting after all. Here goes.

1. When I was a little girl I was called "Lulu" and as I got older I outgrew that and came to regard it as a shameful secret. My sister calls me "Gee" and my Mum calls me "Ginny Liz" and I'm old enough now not to mind what I'm called.

2. I love science fiction. When I was a kid this too seemed shameful as science fiction wasn't quite respectable and it certainly wasn't written with girls in mind.

3. I used to have a crush on Patrick Stewart or rather on his Jean-Luc Picard persona.

4. I loved climbing trees and even when I was sixteen I could often be found up a tree.

5. I took up springboard diving when I was forty-two. I've always loved the water and when I used to go to the seaside with Nanna she was always scared I'd drown. She was afraid of the sea so she used to support the RNLI and now if I make a donation to them I think of her.

I was recently tagged with the "six random things" meme so my other five true things can be seen here.

I'm not tagging anyone else as I think you're probably all memed out but if you fancy doing this one then consider yourself tagged.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A "chest cold" never was so funny

You must visit Mom in Scrubs for a hysterical "what my kid said" story. The funny story is cleverly hidden at the bottom of the post under the heading "And a Plato funny:"

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Inspired by Kevin Musgrove I thought I'd bring you one of my favourite pieces of music. It was the first single I ever bought, back in the days when hardly anyone could afford to buy a whole album.

I'd like to say that my musical taste was always up to this standard. Just imagine it is, OK?

The original video was removed by YouTube for copyright problems. This podbean is based on an mp3 that I bought.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Looking back causes gangrene

I was reading some writing advice from Carol Clarke when the phrase "Looking back causes gangrene" hit me. I wish I could write like that.

She's advising writers to get a first draft down and not expect to get it right the first time. How many times do I need to read that before I do it? Maybe I should go back and read some more before I do any more writing. I'm not procrastinating, honest.

Oh, and to all my buddies in the US: Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It's odd that since I stopped doing Nano I haven't written anything. A whole week of not writing! Natalie should have swapped with me: I could have gone a month without writing and she could have written a novel for me.

I suppose that was the point of Nano for me though: to get me writing again when I've lost the urge. I enjoy producing something that wouldn't have existed otherwise but it's hard to get going.

Maybe I need to try something much smaller for a change. That might be more manageable.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No more Nano

I knew it was going to be tough this year and I didn't think I could make it. Well, I haven't.

I went to see Bill Bailey at the weekend, which was great by the way, but the trouble is that I'm still recovering. I haven't written since Sunday and as I can only manage 2,500 on my best day there's no way I can catch up now.

I have more than half a story written though. I think my best bet is to take what I've got and edit it into a short story. That way I'll have got something tangible out of it. At least I've got plenty to edit and some of it is fun.

Every time I do it I learn more about the way I write. This year I learnt that I can get over writer's block by not being so linear and writing the next bit I know how to do and then going back and filling bits in.

I think my next major learning needs to be how to write a decent plot. It's all good.

Good luck to everyone who's still doing it! And good luck to Geoff while your human is busy writing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Real life gets in the way of writing

I got my hearing aid turned up today, which is good. On the other hand, it's half an hour's drive each way to get it done and that's enough to tire me out these days. So I only wrote 900 words today.

Tomorrow I'm going to see Bill Bailey with my husband, my boys and their other halves. So I won't get much done this weekend but it will be fun.

I managed four 2k+ word days this week so it's not all bad on the writing front.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rate this post

If you want to know about the little tick boxes that have appeared under all my posts then you might like to go and look at Polenth's Quill which is where I found out about them. Polenth's explanation about how to insert them in a Blogger blog is much better than anything I could write.

I'm not sure if I'll keep them. I think it depends on whether anyone uses them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Write or die!

If anyone is struggling to keep going during Nano, you might like to try Write or Die. Using this program* you write for a specified time or number of words and if you stop writing there are consequences, ranging from nagging pop-up boxes to irritating songs or in Kamikaze mode loss of words.

It's a bit of fun but I prefer to keep myself going by updating my progress spreadsheet every 300 words. (Or every 50 words if things are going badly.)

*The funny little semi-transparent window at the top of the Write or Die page is the actual application.

Lying about my age.

I am 29 years old. That's not a lie, it's the truth, but we are talking Martian years here.

I found my age through a now sadly defunct website.

I'm tempted to use it to lie about my age. Except that no one is going to believe me.

Typing Problem

It's very hard to type with a cat resting on your left arm.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's bucketing down.

Both cats are miaowing a lot today and they really do seem to be asking us to make the nasty rain go away.

If only.

I'm falling behind

I am now 5,000 words behind. In the last two Nanos I have only fallen behind once, by 500 words, and that was only for a day.

So I'm facing what I've known from the start: this year I'm not going to make it. It's disappointing but I want to keep going as long as I can because I have over 11,000 words written that I wouldn't have written otherwise and I'd like to finish the story if not the challenge.

Oddly enough, the days I've posted more in here have been the days I've met my target word counts. So I'm hoping the magic will work today.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

In mourning for civil rights

I have always believed that California is the place where hippies and liberals go when we die. Now my dream is shattered.

California has passed Proposition 8, which invalidates gay marriage. This is like taking the vote away from women, or re-instituting slavery, or outlawing racially mixed marriages.

The reasoning behind this Proposition is purely religious. Now, theology has a tendency to change over time to catch up with enlightened thought so there is hope for the future. The problem is that religious change happens on a geological timescale and meanwhile happily married couples are left in limbo with their marriages suddenly invalidated.

In the UK we got around the religious issue by having "civil partnerships" for gay people which are marriages in all but name. I would like to see this extended to everyone so that it is only religious ceremonies that are "marriages". That way gay partnerships would not be singled out as different from any others and believers could take their stand on the validity of gay marriage without imposing their beliefs on the rest of us.

I hope that this Proposition is overturned soon. Meanwhile, I watch the situation in California with horror.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'm an idiot

There I was, all proud of my geeky skills, and then instead of backing up my existing blog template I saved a new template. I can't get the old one back and I still haven't got the quick edit feature back that was my reason for fiddling.

I have lost* all my widgets.

I'll have to sort it all out when I've written my 2k for today. Bugger.

*Edited to add: not lost, just misplaced. I need more caffeine.

I'm a geek

I'm a geek. Or is it a nerd?

I'm not sure which but I designed the above spreadsheet to keep track of my Nano progress. It shows total words, how far I am from the 1667 a day that will get me through, how far I am from the 2000 a day (but with days-off built in) that will get me an early ending and what my daily word count is. It also has a total word count chart and a daily word count chart.

All you have to do is put in your total word count for the day and it does all the rest for you. I didn't make the spreadsheet this year, I've been using it for a while.

Which is worse: being a nerd or a geek?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why I'm not voting

I'm not voting because we English don't get to vote in American elections.

We follow it closely and the outcome affects us but we don't get to choose. It can be frustrating.

I'm not going to stay up to listen to results. I'll hear enough about it in the morning.

Which author are you like?

Thanks to Writemindset for this little procrastinator from o'faust. You can paste in your writing and find which author you resemble.

It picked up that in my Nano "novel" I'm writing for children so it's not completely wrong.

Nano Progress Meter

I found a progress meter on Writertopia so here it is. You can even change the mood of the little writer guy. Today I'm a mixture of joyful, calm and ready to shoot the cat. She seems to have an upset tummy and cats don't have toilet paper. I've already had to wash her bum twice today and change my fleecy the same number of times. I'm not quite sure which emotion to choose.
What the Writer is Doing/Feeling

Very frustrated
Ready to shoot computer
Shocked at what's written
Watching TV
Logical & Calm
Working at novel

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I've got family visiting and I planned not to do Nano and yet somehow I find myself doing it.

Only 1411 words today but it's a start. I may not be around so much this month or I may be around more, procrastinating.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Six Random Things

I've been tagged by Kevin Musgrove with the six random things meme so here goes:

1. I met Terry Pratchett when he was still becoming famous. Tickets to hear him speak were £2.50 at the local library and I got him to sign two books for me.
2. I've lived in France for two years. I used to dream in French but not any more.
3. I mostly don't drink caffeine or alcohol but I'm not a Mormon. They just don't agree with me.
4. I regularly wander round with a book under one arm like a security blanket and then put it down and forget where I put it and my family hears the plaintive cries of "Where's my book?" They're very sweet and instead of saying: "Oh no, not again!" they say: "What does it look like?"
5. I don't like wearing socks and shoes. I definitely don't like wearing socks without shoes as Rufus attacks them. Ouch!

I can't believe that anyone is interested in any of this but never mind. I'm tagging Freddie, Robin, Whirlochre, Kiersten, writtenwyrd and but only if you want to be tagged.

Tag rules: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write 6 random things about yourself. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rufus plays fetch

One of Rufus's favourite toys is a ball of screwed up paper. He likes us to throw it for him to chase and then he brings it back for us to throw again. I thought it was only dogs that did that.

The kittens were starting to go out through their two little cat flaps: into the garage from the kitchen and then out into the garden. We tend to keep them in at night but the vet said they are in no greater danger at night than in the daytime. It's worrying letting them out at any time of day but they love it.

This last week they've had to stay in as we've had them neutered. I'm not willing to live with a male cat marking his territory and fighting or a female cat in heat and calling. I feel so heartless doing that to my poor babies though.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writing prompt

Dennis Cass has this picture as a writing prompt on his blog. You can see a larger version of it there too.

It reminds me of album covers when I was a kid and the 60s and hippies. I always feel I missed out: I was 6 in 1960, just a bit too small to be part of the scene. I remember England winning the football World Cup and the first men walking on the moon. I was in my early teens when we had "Flower Power" which for me meant sticking stylised flower pictures all over my school briefcase.

I shall stop this self-indulgent foray into the past now or we'll be here all night. I wonder what the picture makes you think of.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Books Week 2008

I've just found out it's Banned Books Week.

I don't much like censorship. I don't like other people telling me what is or isn't fit for me to read. I only have to hear that a book is banned to want to read it.

I remember reading Lady Chatterley's Lover when I was a teenager. Well, when I say I read it, I mean that I skipped through it looking for naughty bits. I suspect it would seem much tamer to me if I reread it now.

Why I've been quiet lately

I'm tired and ill and have been for a while and it only gets worse. I've had no joy from the National Health Service (NHS) so I finally found a private doctor, Dr. Peatfield, who has diagnosed thyroid disorder.

Technically Dr. Peatfield is working as a nutritionist because if you treat thyroid disorders in the UK you have to work within General Medical Council guidelines and basically they are wrong. If I lived in the US I would have been on thyroid medication since October.

Anyway, I'm much slowed up in body and mind. I'm hoping that with treatment I'll start to feel better over the coming weeks and months and be able to post and comment a bit more. I might even get back to writing. Now, should I do NaNoWriMo this year or get on with the science fiction novel I've started?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Random post widget

I've just been over to Quirky Jessi and found this great little widget from Inkweaver Review that offers visitors a random post from the archives every time they refresh the page. You can see it at the top of the page. I just thought you might like it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why I didn't write this weekend

Boating at Oxford

I was at a wedding in Oxford this weekend, my fourth this year.

It was a special wedding for a special friend and I met some interesting people and learnt about the English quarter pipes which are played using a bellows rather than by blowing into them. I'd love to learn to play but I'd probably be better off learning the clarinet and I would never be much good, starting at my age.

There's no charge for dreaming though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Freddie commented on her blog:
I'll bet it's especially difficult using Dvorak after a break.

Well, it is and it isn't. I hadn't really got the hang of Dvorak anyway but now I've completely lost all my ability with QWERTY so I'm stuck with it. I can type fairly accurately if I keep my eyes closed but that's not really practical so I'm using the backspace key a lot.

I think I'll get the hang of it eventually but I did think I'd be able to go back at any time. Now I know it's not that simple. I wonder if this was a really bad idea.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home again

From this:

To this:

I've gone from temperatures of 30C to 20C. It's cold and I'm tired.

Nice to see the cats again though.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Weekend of Riotous Pleasure

A Country Affair - picture from official website

A Country Affair - what it really looked like

Near Pyrford Lock on the Wey canal

Over the weekend I got the spare room ready for family to stay, went into London and saw The Lion King, walked for an hour near Pyrford Lock and went to Hampton Court for A Country Affair. It might not sound like much but I have a suspected thyroid problem*, so it's left me knackered.

We go off to Italy on Saturday so I need to get my act together. Needless to say, I'm not getting any writing done. Mind you, it doesn't help that I chose now to learn Dvorak and I'm currently incompetent in both QWERTY which I'm forgetting and Dvorak which I've not quite picked up yet. Silly me.

*When I say "a suspected thyroid problem" I mean that I suspect it. In the UK the doctors will only diagnose a thyroid problem if your blood results are outside a reference range that's more restrictive than the ones used in the US and the rest of Europe. But that's a whole other story.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


An Amazing Mind is always a good read and this week it has an interesting article about giving feedback. The advice being offered is that people learn best when feedback is purely positive and focusses on:
  • what the person got right (two thirds of the feedback)
  • points for improvement (phrased positively)
In a similar way, during my counselling course we were encouraged to give each other a "feedback sandwich" consisting of praise/suggestion/praise.

I was thinking about critiquing people's writing and how whatever you focus on is what you tend to do more of. It's really important to tell each other what we get right and not just to make helpful suggestions. But I think you all know that already.

Speed reading

I was reading the Sheldon blog and found a link to this speed reader.

It's a very strange experience using it and I wonder what it does for comprehension. The Sheldon site post says it is no use for comedy. I wonder if it will catch on for wading through slush piles.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not a blog

You've probably seen this before but it was updated in April: No one belongs here more than you. It's a most unusual website advertising a book. It reminds me of Sylvia's blog, which I read regularly. I love the combination of high and low tech.

It's worth clicking past any apparently blank pages. You know you've reached the end when you are back at the beginning again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kitten is poorly

Rufus had a cut on his neck (probably a bite from his sister) and because he kept scratching it it is now a sore place. We've been to the vets four times now and have an appointment again tomorrow - that cat is costing us a fortune.

I'm back but not for long.

Dvorak is cracked! I'm still making mistakes and I'm still going slower than a worm but all the short, common words are up to reasonable speed now so it's not a wholly painful process to write anything.

I've got until Thursday to post as much as I can because on Thursday the family arrives: my husband's cousin and her husband. I think I might need to be internet-free for five days to be sociable. (Gulp!) They are wonderful people and we've got lots planned so I'm hoping the withdrawal symptoms won't be too painful.

Then on the 30th we go to Italy for two weeks. Yay! A week with my son and his fiancée and a week just husband and me. It's 10 degrees hotter over there than it is here which is great - I hate the cold.

I don't expect to have internet access and I shall miss you all. I hope you all miss me but I will be back.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Something completely different

I was at a country fair today and met one of the inventors of the Ledal, which is the most amazing invention to make cycling safer. I have so often nearly hit invisible cyclists when I'm driving after dark that I got really excited and had to post it here.

In other news, I am still working on acquiring Dvorak skills and progress is still slow.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

You must read this story

Freedom is not... is a very funny look at where current trends are leading us. It's flash fiction (under 600 words) so it doesn't take long to read.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Speed Trials

Dvorak update: I have reached 18 wpm with only 1.1% errors. Only 22wpm to go and I'll be back where I was.

It is still painfully slow and inaccurate.

Stupid Filter

I've just tried out the Stupid Filter on my LOLcats post and to my suprise it found it
not likely to be stupid

It is my most visited post but only for the cute picture. I'd better put up some more pictures of my little monsters darlings soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not blogging

I've found the solution while I'm learning to type again. The effing librarian put me on to The Lazy Bloggers Post Generator. It produced this:

Good heavens! I just had a cup of tea and realised I have not updated this since people stopped clapping and Tinkerbell died... You would not believe I spend all my time in front of a computer. Apologies to my regular readers! Even the little blue ones!.

I am tied up with discovering time doesn't stand still, spending my husband's money, just generally being a mother to my cats, my day is passing in a blur from dawn to early afternoon. I am not being a whinging Pom or anything. I need a nap.

I will try to remember I promised you I will write something that makes sense soon. Well, I'll try. I mean it!.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Progress report

It's now day 4 of Dvorak. I've read that you can be back up to speed in a month but that seems optimistic at the moment.

I know where all the keys are without looking and if I am willing to type at the rate of 10 words a minute I don't make too many mistakes. I can type "the" quickly and accurately every time.

Everything else is SLOW and I'm grateful for the backspace key. I confuse "n" and "t", and "v" and "w" and I often try to type as if the keyboard was QWERTY. My little finger on my right hand seems to be getting more of a workout than usual and I don't much like that.

Will I persevere? All I can say is that I'm not ready to give up yet.

Friday, July 18, 2008



I am trying out the Dvorak keyboard layout. It's very slow because I'm not used to it yet. Expect fewer posts until I master it or get bored.

I got the idea from Holly Lisle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One little word.

I've been watching a video called God on the Brain* about temporal lobe epilepsy and the experience of God. A scientist has found that he can induce a sense of presence by stimulating people's temporal lobes with magnetic fields and he is surmising that temporal lobe stimulation is at the root of all supernatural experience. The video is in five parts and I recommend it.

What struck me though was the narration.
Controversially, Dr Persinger argues that most if not all spiritual and religious experience can be explained away by the effect of electromagnetic fields on the temporal lobes of the brain.
(Video part 4 of 5, 1:32 mins in, you can see a summary of the programme on the BBC website.)

I was intrigued by the use of the word "away" after "explain". It adds nothing to the facts of the case, which are that Dr Persinger has discovered a mechanism that causes religious experiences. It adds a whole dimension to the emotions involved though and implies that Dr Persing is dismissive of religious experience. Well, maybe he is. I found it interesting how one small everyday word can alter the impact of the narration so much.

*Thanks to Scott from Oregon's post on EE's blog. And thank you Robin for letting me know where I saw this.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Truth and fiction

If you've read or listened to my post Let Me Tell You A Story... then you might think that I had a bad experience with geese in my past. In fact, I haven't. I was going to set the record straight in the comments to that post with a simple: this has never happened to me. Then I remembered that although I'd never run in fear from a goose I had two bad experiences that I must have been drawing on for the story. I have a vague recollection of going for a walk and crossing a field of cows, only to find half-way across the field that a bull was concealed in the middle of them. I ran faster than I thought I could and got over the fence in the shortest possible time. Oddly enough, though, that wasn't the incident that came to mind first. The most terrible, phobia-creating event in my life was when I was locked in the toilet by a crane fly.

I've always been scared of spiders for as long as I can remember and I think my phobia about crane flies started long before the toilet incident but it has stuck in my mind as one of the most terrifying things that has happened to me. I must have been around 12 years old and I was in the loo. I went to unbolt the door and a bloody great flying daddy-long-legs fluttered on to the bolt. I couldn't get out without touching it and there was no way I was going to do that. I was filled with terror and revulsion at the very thought. It floated away from the bolt so I reached out to make my escape but before my fingers reached the lock it was back and I nearly touched it! My heart was racing and I could see no way out. My mind was empty of everything except fear. Every time I reached for the bolt, the insect aimed for it too and I jumped back in terror, my escape blocked. This went on for hours and hours, or more probably a minute or two, before I made my escape.

This incident is was what I was drawing on when I wrote about the geese. I'm not sure what made me choose geese as my phobia and not insects: they're all flying baddies but geese don't cause the skin on the back of my neck to squirm. And perhaps "The day I got locked in the loo" doesn't have quite the impact I was after.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sleep shall be no more.

We've got kittens. (That's for anyone who hasn't been following this blog.) They are cute, adorable and wonderful. Just now, Rufus is prowling around on my desk, trying to eat my webcam after knocking as many things to the floor as possible. Yesterday he was helping me by chasing the cursor around on my screen. Both kittens have had a wonderful time with the net curtains which I've had to knot up out of the way.

Last night they came onto my bed. (The cats I mean, not the curtains.) There isn't a lot of room in the bed with two adults in it but there is room for one cat, although these two are still so little I'm afraid I'll roll onto them and hurt them. Rufus cuddled up to me and snuggled against my feet. It tickled so I moved my feet. He did it again so this time I moved him. He curled up by my leg. Aw, sweet. He started nibbling my leg and using his claws on it. Not so sweet. I stopped him and he did it again.

Last night Bonnie and Rufus were shut out of my bedroom at 2am. I am a hard, cruel woman.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let me tell you a story...

The phobia

I haven't got a phobia. Well, not as such. A phobia is "an irrational fear or loathing" and my ... aversion ... is not irrational at all. Anyone in their right mind would feel the same way if they knew what I know.

It all started out so innocently. It was me and my boyfriend and my kid brother, all going off to the park together. It wasn't exactly ideal, I really wanted to be on my own with Jeff, but Mum said I had to take Sam with me. I didn't want to argue because it was my birthday the next week and I wanted to keep in Mum's good books for a special present I had in mind.

Anyway, there we were, Jeff, Sam, me and a picnic on our way to the park. The sun was shining as we walked across the grass and through the trees. It's quite a big park, with a pond in the middle of it. There are boats on the water in the summer and ... other things. No, I'm going to be brave. I'm going to write the words. Or maybe Jeff will add them in for me after I've finished. There were ducks on the water. It was the main reason we'd come to the park. We were going to have a little picnic - just sandwiches and fizzy drinks - and then give any leftovers to the ducks.

We hadn't brought a blanket to sit on, we just found a bit of grass near the pond and plonked ourselves down. I got out the sandwiches and it was then that the trouble started.
"Egg!" Sam said. "Mum knows I don't eat egg!"
"Well, have one of the cheese ones." I held out a cheese sandwich but Sam knocked it out of my hand.
Jeff looked at Sam but he didn't say anything.
I did though. "Now look what you've done. We'll have to give that one to the ducks." I put it on the grass to one side. Then I scrabbled in the carrier bag to see if there were any sandwiches that didn't have egg or cheese in them. I was so focussed on the inside of the bag that I didn't see the ducks that had come over looking for food. One of them got near Sam's foot and he kicked it away.

I looked up then, and saw what he was doing. "Don't do that Sam. It only wants some bread."
"I don't like them."
Jeff and I were looking at Sam and the duck when suddenly a pain shot through my hand and I dropped the carrier bag. A large goose had come up behind me and had grabbed the food bag, and my hand with it. Have you seen the size of those things? It was enormous. Its head must have come up to my chest at least. Jeff waved at it to frighten it off and it attacked with beak and wings. Jeff must have looked scary because it wasn't him that it attacked, it was me! It was all snapping beak and flapping wings and huge webbed ... Oh, it was horrible, I get the shivers even thinking about it.

I turned and fled and ran all the way home, leaving Jeff to bring Sam with him. That goose followed me all the way, I swear it did. I could hear its hissing and the clacking of its beak and the wooshing sound of its feathers as it flapped its huge wings. I've never run so fast in my life. I hammered on the front door and Mum let me in and I threw myself into her arms.
"Whatever's up?" she asked.
I was sobbing as I said, "It's the goose, it's after me,"
"What goose?" Mum asked.
"That one!" I turned and pointed.
But by that time the goose had gone. I don't think Mum really believed me, you know. She wouldn't forgive me, either, for rushing off and leaving Sam like that.

The point is, that geese really are dangerous after all and it isn't a phobia to be wary of them. And of course ducks were involved too, so you can't trust them either. Or any bird, for that matter. Never trust anything with feathers.

It was when I screamed at the first snowfall last winter because it reminded me of feathers falling out of the sky that Mum said I had to go and see a therapist. But now you've heard my story, you can see I'm telling the truth. It isn't really a phobia, is it?

~~~ END ~~~

Well, that was easy. My computer crashed recently and I've got a new hard drive so I needed to install drivers for my webcam. Of course, the disk has vanished but all I had to do was to google for drivers and download them. Then record a quick video and I'd be done.

Except I found that I can't get a decent sound level unless the camera is so close to my mouth that you're examining my nostrils. Not my best feature, in my opinion. So I used the microphone on the webcam to record audio instead. Sadly, Blogger didn't like the audio file format; it will only accept videos.

No worries, I went to Podbean because that likes audio files. It didn't like mine though, so I downloaded a program called Free Mp3WmaOGG Converter - a really catchy title - and converted the file to mp3. By the way, I recommend that free software; it's very easy to use.

Then I just had to work out how to upload to Podbean, which worked on the second attempt, and change browsers so that I could get hold of the code I needed to embed in this post, because Podbean doesn't like Firefox.

Easy peasy. Well, it will be next time, anyway. I wonder if it was really worth it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Do you wish you could...

From Station V3

I saw this cartoon and thought that there are a few books that I would gladly unread. For a start, I've been reading The Court Of The Air and finding it far too gruesome for me. I haven't finished it and I would happily unread the bit of it that I have read.

I wonder what it would be like to unread a book. Would the curiosity that pushed me towards reading it in the first place cause me to read it again and then have to unread it again? Would this be a repeating pattern? Or would I remember that I had unread it and leave well alone? I shall never know.

Monday, July 07, 2008


I found this Wordle gadget through McKoala's blog. It makes a word cloud of any text you input, or of a web page. The image above is of this blog, if you click on it you can see it at the original size.

It's useful for seeing which words you use most. Do I really write "will" and "just" so often? Oh dear.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Cure for Procrastination

An Amazing Mind has an interesting cure for procrastination: you find something less important but that you really don't want to do and you set that as your task. Then when you're procrastinating about that job and fiddling around finding other stuff to do the main chore that you've been putting off will become something to do instead of the prescribed task. Does that make sense? If not, it's worth giving the article a look.

I'm wondering if it will work, because at the moment I'm putting off writing any more of my story. Instead of writing I've just made a dolly bag for a wedding I'm going to. Next I really need to take in the top of the dress I'll be wearing to make it fit a bit better. After that, I think I've got some mending needs doing. Oh, and I must take some more pictures of the kittens.

Writing is top of my avoiding list. So I wonder what I can try to avoid instead? It used to be housework but now we have a kind lady who comes in and does the bulk of that for me. It had better not be cooking the dinner or my poor long-suffering husband will complain. Any ideas anyone?

New Widget

I'm just trying out a new widget on this blog that will affect most of the links. Snap Shots offers a preview of each link's destination site, or else of a relevant Wikipedia article or the RSS feed or other stuff that I hope will be relevant. I don't get to choose what is displayed: Snap Shots does.

I've set it up so that there's a little icon by the side of a link for you to put your mouse over if you want to see whatever is on offer, rather than have the whole link bring up a preview. You can use the Options icon (top right-hand corner of the preview) to change the views you are getting: you can have larger or smaller previews and choose to view the RSS feed of a site or a preview of it. I rather like the way that it gives the reader so much control over what he or she is viewing. You can also use the Options icon to turn the feature off completely.

I found it is very easy to turn it off but not so easy to get it back. If you turn it off by mistake and want to restore it, you need to delete the cookies from your browser cache then restart your browser.

I'd be interested in any feedback. If this is annoying then I'll just get rid of it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cat librarian

I realise that I'm obsessed with cats at the moment but at least this picture combines a cat with some books, so I've got an excuse.

Kitten pictures as promised

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Picture problems

I've been asked for pictures of our adorable new kittens. Pictures will follow but there are two technical hitches.

Hitch no. 1: My camera is so slow it takes an appreciable time to take a picture. You press a button and then you have time to say "kerpow kerplunk" before the camera takes the picture on the last k of kerplunk. That's a long time for a kitten to move in! My phone camera is better but doesn't have a flash so it can give quite blurry pictures indoors. I'm not sure I've got any good pictures yet, where "good" means that you can see what they are.

Hitch no. 2: my new hard drive arrives tomorrow, and until then I don't have any software for getting pictures from my camera or phone onto the pc, or for resizing them once they are on. So even if any of the photos I've taken are any good I can't do anything with them yet.

The good news is that my son is going to install my hard drive when it arrives tomorrow and I'll have a wonderful fast pc. Yay!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Kittens and exhaustion

We have the kittens. We picked them up yesterday and they cried almost all the way home - an hour's drive or more as it was rush hour.

They're settling in but they are into everything. They run up and down stairs and across the kitchen and hall, chasing each other and play fighting. From time to time they cry out to go home but they will allow us to comfort them. I didn't sleep well and I'm exhausted.

Oh, and my pc hard drive is buggered, so I was without internet for a couple of days. My son has kindly set up one of his pcs for me so at least now I've internet access. He'll recover my data for me once I get a new hard drive. But if you haven't seen me around it's because I wasn't.

I had no computer and I was bored so I wrote some more of my story. Now I know what I can do to make myself write but being cut off from the rest of the world is too high a price to pay.

I'll try and get some pictures up in the next few days, if I can keep my eyes open long enough.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Top 100 Books Meme

I found this meme on My Bit About Me by Rachel and I thought it might be fun to do. Please consider yourself "tagged" if you want to do it too!

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

A) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
B) Italicize those you intend to read.
C) Underline the books you LOVE
D) Colour pink if you've seen the movie (you can also bold if you've read the book as well).
E) Colour green if you began reading it but couldn't finish it. If you need to colour pink and green - good luck!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling I enjoyed some of the early ones but got bogged down later. I quite liked the one film I saw, except that it made me want a broomstick. I wonder if they'll bring out jet-powered ones some day.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible All of it. Sorry but it's true. I have an excuse but you probably won't want to hear it. Come to think of it, it's not a very good excuse.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - I may have read this at school but I'm not sure.
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare I read a lot of these for my degree but I haven't read the whole lot!
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - I think I may have read this a long time ago but I can't remember.
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald Read for a course.
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen Can't remember if I finished it or not.
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen I know I've read Northanger Abbey, which I loved. I'm pretty sure I read one other but I don't know if it was this one or not
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - a bit of double counting here, I notice.
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden I say I'm going to read these three but whether I ever will is anyone's guess.
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (but I heard it on the radio)
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - I hadn't even heard of this one.
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro I think that "Never Let Me Go" should be in the list, too.
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton I couldn't get enough of these when I was a kid.
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery in French and in English
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks - but I have read "The Crow Road" and loved it.
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I've read around 35 of them, allowing for faulty memory in both directions. This is a lot fewer than most of the other blogs I checked out as I followed this meme back to its source. I notice I mainly liked anything sci fi, anything for kids, and anything crappy but popular (e.g. The Da Vinci Code). Hey ho, we can't all be the brightest spark in the toolbox.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where do all the good posts go?

I'm walking into town, enjoying the fresh air and the greenery. It's streets all the way but with pretty houses and gardens, and hedges between the pavement and the road. There are two houses joined across the road by an archway. As I walk, I turn over in my mind what to put on this blog next. Ideas swarm into my head and I write two or three killer posts before I get into town.

I have a look round the shops and wander back. I get home. I sit at the pc. My mind is completely empty. Most people have to practice Zen Buddhism for years to get a mind as empty as mine now is.

Where do all the good posts go?

Friday, June 27, 2008

The LOL Meter

I have shamelessly stolen this from Dennis Cass' blog. He proposes a new widget:
LOL Meter
Yes, you LOL'd. But how much did you LOL? And was it is a sad, rueful LOL? Or the innocent, joyous LOL-ing of a young girl? And, while we're at it, are we even LOL-ing for the same reason? Attach a microphone to your computer and it captures, records and sorts all your LOLs. Social network feature allows you to compare and share with friends. You'll never ROTF the same way again.

This is obviously a brilliant and funny idea. I wondered if we could maybe avoid having to embrace the new technology with all its attendant hiccups (do hiccups attend?) by simply inventing a few more LOLs. At the moment we have hehe, LOL, ROTFL and ROTFLMAO. Which additional ones do you think we need? If we all agree on some maybe we can start a new meme out there in blogland and even right across the interwebs as my son tells me it's called.

My suggestions
SS: Snorting Snigger
SCOK: Spews Coffee Onto Keyboard
HHWG: Hits Head While Groaning

I'm sure you have some much better ones.

Oh, and do go and visit Dennis Cass, he's very funny and so is his YouTube video.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I won!

You remember I said that Book Roast was giving out prizes? Well, I entered one of their daily competitions and I've won a copy of the book Head Case by Dennis Cass. I'm so excited: I didn't think I'd be chosen.

The task each day is to read an excerpt from the chosen book and answer three questions. The questions (and my answers) for Head Case were:

1) Describe Dennis' feet in an inspirational haiku.

Dew on rose blossom
Shines, reflecting clear light on
Spider-hairy toes.

2) Continue the internal monologue, beginning with the line, "I'm astounded by how much you suck." Limit, 100 words.

"But hang on, who is this 'I' that is talking to this 'me'? If I'm thinking, who am I thinking to? And if I'm thinking then I must exist. Cogito ergo sum. Who said that? It was Descartes. Hey guys, I've just discovered that I'm Descartes."

3) Are Dennis' wits automatic or manual?


Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you because I'm excited and can hardly wait to read the book.

(By the way, sorry for clicking "enter" before the post was finished.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Visit to the art gallery

I'm sorry I'm not posting much at the moment but I seem to have real life keep happening.

On Monday we went to the National Gallery as planned and it was very swish. We were offered canapés from transparent acrylic frames that looked like mini bookcases, and the soft drink on offer was a mint/peach smoothie. Very odd. My husband had the sparkling wine. There was a live clarinettist there too, playing some very unstructured jazzy music. Not to my taste but it was definitely posh. I don't know if any of you have seen the National Gallery but it's a huge building with high ceilings and enormous rooms. You can see a slide show of it here.

I loved seeing the pictures. It's so different from seeing a reproduction. I remember when I first took my kids to the art gallery and we were all taken with the sheer size of some of the paintings. If you reduce a 6 foot by 8 foot painting to an A4 reproduction, you're bound to lose some of the sense of it.

Later, we walked over the river to Waterloo Station. The South Bank is such fun: there was an interactive display of light columns and we queued for our turn to wander round it. We're so lucky to live near London.

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