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Friday, March 31, 2006

Getting grouchy

Well my dad had to see the diabetic nurse today for the latest results. Normally this would be of no real concern but they had asked him to have a second blood test so there was some concern.

Anyway apparently everything is fine a few things higher and his potassium a little higher but nothing to worry about apparently. Phew.

I'm in a grouchy mood today. Yes another year-end week-end starts. Probably all next week someone will be asking for some report or other. Sigh. Keep thinking soon be over soon be over.

I've just finished
Arthur C Clarke & Stephen Baxter's - Time's Eye Book 1 of the Time Odyssey Trilogy **
Yes only **. Given that I'm an admirer of Clarke and Baxter has produced some good books I'm disappointed. Its not that its a bad book just that I didn't really care about the characters. A bunch of aliens play about with time and create an Earth with slices of lots of different eras. Hence you get a big set piece battle between Alexander the Great and Genhis Khan in Babylon. And even this all sort of fizzles out. Reminds me a lot of Phillip Jose Farmer's To your Scattered Bodies Go. I'm told book 2 is different but will I bother?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Things

Well we're on strike again 25th April I believe as I'm down South. Bit handy since I'm off that week anyway!! Of course they could cancel my leave for that day but unlikely to happen given its the time they owe for being in to get the bills out! Bit of a result.

When I read the honesty in Nicola's blog I come over all annoyed that I can't be so open. But I can't and won't. My personal personal life is staying out of this blog. Well the past is! I'm keeping schtum about first loves and the like.

I'm now itching to get out with the camera, of course my initial efforts will be awful and I'll be depressed.

Not sure when first efforts will be since I'm working Saturday. If all goes well we'' have finished Saturday so I'll be able to sneak over the Forest Sunday and take a few pics and some more at Rye Meads.

I haven't mentioned that the camera is a Canon Powershot A620. Many thanks to Diane for help and advice. God knows if I made the right choice. I get the feeling that I could have bought a similar model from Nikon, Sony or Casio that would have been just as good. That said it feels nice and the reviews are excellent. Seemed the most practical choice possible to add a teleconverter and has a swivel screen. I decided against something slim and sexy for something bulkier - bit like me really. I must be an optics snob as I never considered Casio! Thought they made calculators and watches! But the reviews for Casio are very good. I suppose its like birders who regard Nikon as somehow inferior to Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski.

The blonde one is not only computerless at home but lost internet at work. Poor Blondie. Still hopefully back online at home tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Where are they? Who are they?

There was a program on Radio 4 yesterday asking what had happened to certain people who at one point had been standard fair on Saturday night TV. The likes of Canon & Ball, Janet Brown and Bernie Clifton. The program was referring to the fact that though they are no longer appear on TV they are still packing 'em in at places like Blackpool. Now I was never a big fan in the first place but I got to thinking that there will be younger folk wondering who the hell they are?

Now then when I was young there was one standby of TV variety shows that used to confuse the hell out of me and that was Kenny Lynch. No variety program seemed complete without the host (invariable Jimmy Tarbuck) saying and now, Kenny Lynch. On came Kenny to large applause. He'd swap the odd bon homie with the host and then the host would ask everyone to put there hands together for Kenny and off he'd go. Occaisionally he would maybe dance with our host but other that I was left wondering..... who the hell was he? I mean he'd turn up on TV get applause and wander off. What on earth had he ever done to get this treatment? What else did he do except celebrity golf days with Tarby and Brucie? And, you know what, I never found out!

Well thanks to the mircales of the internet I can tell you that he has an OBE and is a singer, songwriter, dancer, actor and comedian. Apparently he was big in the 50's and 60's.

But for me he's this bloke who walked on and walked off.

Camera again

Well the camera has come.

Another CD to install and yet more things to read.......

Hopefully though I can get it all set up, and IF year-end goes ok, maybe I can take a few snaps on Sunday over the Forest or at Rye Meads. That way you'll get to see what my local patches are like.

The main use is going to be holidays so I can illustrate this blog with pics of places I've been!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A days birding

I've ordered a digital camera so I should be able to attach pictures soon of the places I go.

Haapy birthday to Diane. Think she was on her way to hit me when I texted ANOTHER camera suggestion. I did quickly text that I had in fact ordered !!

Well will the weather be good? If I am forced to take a days unpaid leave I want some good weather! Opens curtains? Yes!

So do I head for that birding mecca of Peckham to see Yank Robin? LOL no!! So over the forest first.

Well spring is definitely in the air lots of singing but no migrants ! Loads of Tits and Finches. Lots of drumming and I can hear the Green Woodies laughing. There are still Redwings about but I am sure the numbers are down.

As I walk down the path to the lake I see a Marsh Tit, Nuthatches and two Great Spots perch up close and low. So the lake. Its curious how the Mallards congregate at the end where the public can feed them! There are also Greylag with the Canada Geese and some Mute Swan. Cormorants, Gadwall and Teal are about but also Pochard and Tufty. I'm also pleased to see Great pleased to see two Great Crested Grebe looking very handsome.

On the way back I find Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and Green Woodies and a first for me a Stock Dove over the forest! I'm must have seen one before but not noted. At one point there is aIot of activity and I think its a Sparrowhawk at first but a Kestrel pops out. Still nice start.

Anyway off I go and stop at Walker's snack bar Barton Mills for brunch.

Lackford lakes. I like this reserve despite it being quiet on recent visits.The boating lake looks empty but a quick scan shows .... Sand Martins lots of them. It seems incongruous to see Sand Martins flying over Goldeneye!

The view out from Bill's Hide has ducks(including goldeneye and Pintail), geese, coots and moorhen. Nice to see Lapwings and one Redshank.

Off to the double decker hide for a different view and this time I pick out snipe and Oystercatcher and catch a Kingfisher dart across (the volunteers are pleased to here this). From Besses hide I get both Grebes and a Pochard and amongst the few Sand Martins a white rump of a House! On the way to the far hide I pick up a tit flock, a goldcrest and also hear my first Chiffchaff but can't catch a sight of him. Hope the hide window to see a Weasel! Very few gulls!

Come back via the boating lake as I hear a Swallow was seen yesterday but I can't find it. Catch another weasel and a Muntjac on the way.

Lovely day comprising 58 species and 4 mammals

Everybody out

Well after 24 years I am on strike(hadn't even considered joining a union for the first 20 odd years). It feels odd since it is against my nature. I can understand both sides of the pension debate and would have thought some degree of compromise is possible.

Anyway local government is odd to someone who came from the private sector, although not necessarily as I expected upon joining.

Oh well as I'm faced with an unpaid day off I had better go birding.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I'm in camera mode again

Yes folks once again I'm looking at a camera - lets all raise eyebrows to the sky.

I just cannot make my mind up. I look at them thinking well do I want that ? and why has that got that and that not got that and ......................

still I think I want something to record my memories and to stick something on here. And I'm sure when I go on holiday Nic will be asking for pictures.

So.... I've ruled out DSLR and I guess a quality Digi-cam like the NIkon CP8800

The Nikon S4 looks cool and the 10x zoom looks handy but will I keep it steady for the 10x to be useful? Looks cool though.

Do I want an 8 mega pixel camera? When I guess stuff like the The Sony Cyber-shot P200 or Nikon 7900 which is now discontinued I believe.

Or do I go for an ultra compact like the Sony Cyber-shot T5 or Nikon equivalent that has not been discontinued like the S3.

Or do I snaffle a CP4500 (or other compatible coolpix) and stuff a nikon digiscoping 16x lens on my ED50 and.......

I was sort of kidding about the last bit!

I think I want something compact and that is point and shoot because at heart I'm a birder not a photographer!

But what I want? God only knows.

Update
that nice twitchi-birder suggested the canon a620 and the sd550(digital ixus 750)

i suspect any of them will do what i want.

excuse me whilst i toss a coin.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Quiet

Well didn't make it to the forest today.

Took Mum out shopping - buying her a plant. Then dad and I went for a stroll.

After lunch went to Rye Meads, very quiet. 3 Lapwing, two Redshank and Snipe the highlights.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Pleasant Morning's Birding

What a lovely morning. Sun!!

Decided to head to Fingringhoe Wick an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve on the west shore of the Colne Estuary. Its a nice reserve, I prefer it to the bleakness of nearby Abberton. One of the problems of early morning birding there is the sun but it can also be quiet and as I approached one hide a Chaffinch sat on the bannister and serenaded me.

Lots of waders Curlew, Dunlin, Knot and Redshank. The bushes were alive with Tits and finches but no Warblers.

Nice to see Little Egrets, loads of Brent Geese and 50+ Avocet. In the estuary was a Great Crested Grebe and a nice male Red Breasted Merganser. I tried to string two Dunlin into Little Stint but they weren't. Some Black Tailed Godwit, one coming into breeding plumage .... nice.

Also saw the usual ducks and a Red Legged Partridge.

Little Egret by the side of the A120 on way home.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Harry Potter 4

Well I sat down to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night on DVD.

Now I know some people may regard me as a sad muppet for reading the books and watching the films but JK Rowling has a certain compulsion in her writing. Pages seem to turn at an alarming rate as the reader want to know "what happens next?".

I've enjoyed the first 3 films but there was something "off" about this one. It seemed an excuse to flit between one big set piece scenario and the next . Don't get me wrong these were all done very well but the book is so long there seemed to be little characterization in the film. They had to make cuts so supplementary characters get very short shrift.

So *** it was entertaining but it is not as good as the book.

The one of course all HP fans want is book 7. Will Ron and Hermione become a stable item (it was nice to make this prediction ages ago and have Min poo poo it)? Is Dumbledore really dead? Is Snape really a traitor? The later is a hard one to call, is Snape really bad? or is it all a sham!

And what will happy to Harry? Will he live happily ever after with Ginny Weasley or will Rowling have him sacrifice himself to stop Voldemort?

HP book 6 was a" set up" book. HP7 will have the uneviable task of capping the Potter series. Will it be a triumph or anti-climax?

Mobiles

Until 1998 ish I never owned a mobile phone I went about my life quite happily.

Now if I go out without my mobile phone I'm worried in case someone wants me and can't get me! Take today I've left mine at home and I feel naked without the damn thing! Is that sad or what?

One of the things that do irritate me is people on trains who continually phone people to tell them the most inane things. Bit like Bill Bryson's skit in "Notes from a Small Island" of the bloke phoning his wife to tell her he'll be home at 6:15 "yes same as usual".

Of course I appreciate that they are very useful (Car breaks down etc) but this dependency on them is alarming.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Some birds

well my working week is pretty devoid of birds but......

On arriving at work there were Greenfinches and Blue Tits.

walking between offices I spied a Mistle Thrush with nesting material in its beak.

On the ride home I had Moorhens and Mallards - yay

and whilst eating dinner at the folks we had a Sparrowhawk perch up! First for the year in the garden. (I do my BTO count at the folks house)

Where to go?

Well I have a week off towards the end of April. This is a cause for celebration and julbilation but I am at a quandary as to where to go!

Part of me suggests 4 days in North Lincolnshire and 4 days in Norfolk. I could do a lot of birding in both places and North Lincolnshire would enable me to visit a lot of churches on my hit list. Another part of me suggests a visit to Sussex and Kent, lots of good birding spots. Yet another part of me suggests heading off for South Wales and up to Hay-On-Wye - wonderful place about 35 second hand book shops. Oh decisions decisions.

Logically the North Lincolnshire/Norfolk one is the way to go so why am I uming and ahing?

I'll have to spend my lunch hour determining B&B's for North Lincs.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cricket woo hoo!!

Well after confidently predicting a 3-0 thrashing I have to applaud Freddie and the boys. When you consider virtually half of the 1st choice team was missing the win today was a fabulous achievement.

For those who missed the tour they have to look over their shoulders. There are now 8 batsman after 5 places. Oawis Shah and Alastair Cook impressed especially given they had no practice. Can the selectors just recall players and drop people who have stepped into the breech so well? I suspect Collingwood is now ahead of Bell, I have my doubts about Collingwood but his performances deserve him getting the nod. Indeed Bell maybe behind Shah and Cook as well. Pieterson will retain his place but needs a big summer.

Vaughan will certainly get his place back BUT you do have to say he hasn't scored heavily for over two years and Freddie has led the team well in India. Freddies responsibility with the bat has been superb. If Vaughan's form doesn't return and with his habit of getting injured his days as England captain could be numbered. Panesar may not be the finished article but he had a promising tour and Anderson grasped his chance with both hands and took it. Shaun Udal also had a good final test but a 36 year old is not the way to go unless he can really bat well. With Simon Jones also in the mix Harmisson really needs to step up he had a golden period but since the South Africa tour he has looked out of sorts.

All credit to Hoggy who must have sealed his place for the summer. Indeed the ashes party almost writes itself. Gereint Jones need to score runs and he needs consistency in his keeping, his keeping in the third test was the form we need to see. The Read v Jones debate will go for on a while and this summer will be crucial for him.

This summer will be a big one given we have an Ashes tour next winter.

yum

they had slightly tweaked the menu

starter
Confit of Loch Duart Salmon & Seared Scallops

main
Rabbit "Three Ways"

My friend Jan had
Wild Seabass with Crab & Chive Dumplings
Desert
I had cheese - they had some walnut bread with it um nice

Jan had Tahitian Vanilla & Griottine Cherry Creme Brulee
popcorn ice-cream, chocolate biscotti

which she said was 20 out of 10.

Cost? including service and a couple of drinks £115 for two

Obviously not something one does every night but .........

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tuesday again

Well firstly I am looking forward to dinner tonight. After being waited on last night (I had to sneak out to do some of the washing up!!) I am taking Jan to the Starr at Dunmow.

http://www.the-starr.co.uk/menu.php?menuid=8

I think that's todays menu. If it is what am I having um...... review tomorrow. Fancy dinner anyone?

The cricket is interesting India chasing 313 to win are 18 for 1. History shows that India will struggle but I can just see Tendulkar running into form...... still if England do pull it off Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell will have some explaining to do after putting England in.

Tuesday

Well we polished off two bottles of vino last night. Its right nice having someone cook dinner for you (ta Jan).

A couple of downers, West Ham won the football and England despite a first innings lead of 129 are making a hash of the second innings, 90 for 5 as I write.

I am going to have to change oone of my seed feeders. The Sparrows just don't like it and food goes down at a rate of 7 to 1 compared to the other one. Also I am going to have to stick to sunflower hearts. 9 out of 10 Sparrows say they prefer it CHEEP CHEEP.

Upon leaving this morning I spied a Blue Tit nice! And Sunday there was a Dunnock and a couple of Blackbirds visiting.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Me and Science Fiction

For years I was an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, indeed it was all I read.

I mused on this yesterday as I picked up my first pure Science Fiction novel in some time the collaboration between Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter "Time's Eye: A Time Odyssey Book 1".

Why don't I read SF anymore?

I was brought up reading the likes of Asimov and Clarke and the other classics. I got into books by the likes of Orson Scott Card, C J Cherryh and David Brin and thoroughly enjoyed them, so what happened?

Did I "grow up"? Did my tastes change? Or did the new books change? I'm not certain number one is true. I'd still automatically buy a novel by the likes of Connie Willis and Kevin Anderson's romping SF The Saga of Seven Suns. I'd still pick upa Miles Vorkosigan novel so what? I think that really SF has changed. Certainly books are more bloated 500 pages is almost de rigeur now which is kind of sad since Clarke seldom if ever went over 300 pages and nor did Asimov until his return.

I can remember books that I was really looking forward to that I either struggled to finish David Brin's first novel of the second Uplift Trilogy (although 2 & 3 were better) and K'iln People and Peter Hamilton's second Night's Dawn book - I enjoyed book one but gave up on two......

I perhaps ought to go back and reread some stuff to see if I have changed but I'm perhaps a little scared that books I loved will lose there magic. So as it I read very little SF. I do read the odd fantasy novel but even here I stick to old favourites and haven't read any Eddings in ages.

Anyway 10 SF novels I would highly recommend (in nor order)
Connie Willis - Doomsday Book
Isaac Asimov - The Gods Themselves
Stephen Donaldson - Gap Series
Fred Pohl & CM Kornbluth - The Space Merchants
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - The Mote in the God's Eye
Arthur C Clarke - Rendevouz with Rama
Cliiford D Simak - Way Station
John Wyndham - Day of the Triffids
Ursula K Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness
H G Wells - The Time Machine

And for good measure 10 Fantasy novels/series
Raymond Feist - Magician and sequels
Charles De Lint - The Little Country
Stephen R Donaldson - Mordants Need
Anne McCaffrey - The Pern Novels
C J Cherryh - The Chronicles of Morgainne
Terry Brooks - Shannara Novels (ok they are derivative but great fun)
J R R Tolkien - Lord of the Rings
Tad Williams - The Dragonbone Chair
Guy Gavriel Kay - Tigana
Elizabeth Moon - The Deed of Paksennarion

I'd like to recommend Robert Jordan because the series can be so good but boy does it drag on a bit.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Well gotup at 6:30 and headed to the forest. Lots of common woodland birds, nice views of Treecreepers and Green Woodies. Seemed a bit quieter this week. The lake had the usual suspects, seemed to be a nice mix of male and female pochards. I only spotted the two Great Crested Grebes.

Around folks for the morning and a nice Roast Chicken dinner followed by Jam tart and custard.

Spent the afternoon at Rye Meads. Equally quiet, nice views of Snipe though.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Barnes in March

Well the alarm went off at 5:40 and I switched on a mobile to find a text telling me that Dave was on his way.

We were soon on our way and duly arrived at Reading to watch for a Laughing Gull. Virtually a loaf of bread later and nothing!! Well a Red Kite over Reading Stadium was nice as were those over the M4. So at 9:40-45 off we went. We were heading down the M4 when Dave handed me the pager fiddle sticks seen at 9:50.

I sent a text to The Blonde One telling her the sorry story and another to EB telling her to be nice to Dave who was not a happy camper.

Anyway we arrived at Barnes and met up with EB, Malcolm (happy birthday), Tricia and Alan at Dulverton hide and went on to WWF hide. Tufty, Snipe, Ruddy Duck, Lawing and then I spotted a Bittern land in the reeds. He gave some good views and JUST as Tricia bagged her lifer (“you said you would find me one Pete”) I get a text.

“Yes!!! That’s judgement”

Now I am not a vengeful soul but well.

Ring Ring “Hello The Blonde One guess what we’ve got?”

The Blonde One “No”

Pete “Here’s Tricia”

The Blonde One “He’s winding me up?”

Tricia “Sorry The Blonde One right in front of us!!”

The Blonde One “NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

Actually about 20 feet awesome. We watched him for ages.

On two peacock hide. Where we had super views of Little Ring Plover, Snipe and getting better Jack Snipe!! There were lots of Dabchick about.

On the way back we had Green Woodpecker and Ring Necked Parakeet and at the feeding station a Water Rail! Also common birds plus Reed Bunting.

After an enjoyable lunch and a glass of wine we went to admire the collection. Some nice ducks in the wildside Tufty, Pochard, Wigeon and Shoveler. More Dabchicks and a Great Crested Grebe. There were lots of Mallards, Coots and Moorhen. We also had a nice view of a Green Woodpecker plus more Ruddies.

Then back to the centre for a well earned cup of something and a slice of cake.

I think the group totalled 54 birds. The quality of views of that Bittern plus a supporting Jack Snipe was superb!! Very Very enjoyable.

Sorry The Blonde One!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

It has arrived

Gosh my new laptop has arrived!! I was sitting at my desk and security brought it through!!

Well I am impressed. I ordered it Tuesday afternoon and the thing turned up late last night!

Anyway it has been switched on and looks to be fine. I will be installing broadband tonight. I'll also be connecting a mouse. The old PC can't be consigned to the dustbin of history yet as it has the software to connect me to work so I'm waiting for my support laptop.

Two laptops will certainly free up some space in the 4th bedroom/office and also will be handy when I'm on call but not at home.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday

Well what have I done today? Well runaround like a headless chicken again!! Something that I thought had been sorted ages ago hasn't so I have a meeting next week to sort it all out AGAIN. I think though that it is straightforward.

Got home to find the council tax bill on the mat. SSSSSSIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH.

My friend Jan is staying for a few days. So I daresay the odd glass of wine might get drunk - ahem! And I expect a few arguments Monday as Jan cheers on West Ham whilst I naturally cheer on the opponents. And check this blog out Wednesday morning for an update on food eaten at the Starr Tuesday night.

The cricket is not looking good with Harmisson out now. So 5 of the first choice 11 for the ashes will not be playing. Still this winter has seen a few players step up (Collingwood, Panesar, Cook) if others (Strauss) have gone backwards.

I've seen the odd semi-decent bird on the way home this week e.g. Yellowhammer. Today whilst waiting at traffic lights I spied a Wren.

Plans are now a foot for the weekend. Sunday patch birding at Hatfield Forest and Rye Meads BUT Saturday off to Barnes to see a few folk. Lets hour the "slight" detour is successful.

Lets hope the weather is more like yesterday (blue skies and sun) than today (grey and miserable).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Today's rant

Well its mid week already!! Don't know where my life is going. This week is positively flying by - I don't seem to be doing what I planned but things keep happening.

Anyway on the personal front I've bought a new 'puter. The home one is, shall we say, antiquated and i've decided to save space and get a laptop. Hopefully I should see some speed improvements (this one has a gig of memory the old one was 128meg (I think). So in a week to ten days I'll be ranting about setting the thing up. Expect to reading some rant about computers when it arrives .

My broadband connection played up last night. Ring number. Press 453 buttons to be told to ring this number. Ring Number press 436 buttons to be told to ring this number. EVENTUALLY I got through to someone and after 10 minutes he told me they were doing work in my area.

One of the things about call centres is listening to the same voice telling you that "your call is valued" . Yeah, right, like f**k it is. Why can't they just have a message telling you your place in the queue? "You are number 7 in the queue" "You are number 4 in the queue". Much more informative.

I wonder if they record the bit while you are hung on waiting? One of my calls would be entertaining.

Them - You are in a queue, your call will be answered as soon as one operatives becomes available.

Them (15-20 secs later) - we would like to stress that your call is important to us and we will answer as soon as one of our operatives becomes available.

repeat

me - Well if my call is so important why don't you get more staff.
me - stop repeating yourself you bunch of b*st*rds just answer the call.
me - gets fed up, whilst blood pressure rises.

You will appreciate I don't like call centres.

I did like the one once when I was told that I could report a fault on my phone line via the internet - hello my home phone line is dead I'm ringing from a mobile.

I also don't like all this press button stuff. Partly perhaps because my old phone is so out of date that pressing the buttons has no affect. Anyway even when I ring on the mobile I'm reduced to "I want to talk to someone"

God don't I sound a right miserable old git.

I need to bird!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

They must be mad

Its a bit chilly this morning but as I filled up the car with petrol the bloke at the next pump was wearing shorts! Who are these people? There were postman going through the year wearing shorts as a competition. As my dad said "tell them they have to do it and they'd be on strike!"

Speaking of which about a year ago I joined a union. Bit of a shock to the system but was probably the right thing to do. Anyway there was a strike ballot on the mat Saturday. I've gone for the no option but I expect to be out. Lets hope for a nice warm day with some good birds about.

No sign of any spring migrants. I seem to be the only birder who never finds an overwintering Chiffchaff or Blackcap! Normally the Chiffchaffs arrive at Rye Meads the year-end weekend but I presume they've decided it is still a bit parky Oop North and are sunning themselves on the med. Can't blame them.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Not a good sporting weekend

Well we got absolutely tonked in the Rugby. The pride of England was humiliated.

And this morning we lost the cricket. Andrew Strauss is really struggling and the middle order is mis-firing. Oh well. I hold out no hope for next week but does that stop me turning on the radio and getting despair? Of course not!
I'll turn on the radio and my hear will sink.

Books

R D Wingfield - Hard Frost ***
Another entertaining romp. "Fun" if it a bit daft.

James H Schmitz - TNT - Telzey Amberdon & Trigger Agree together **
1960's science fiction short stories from Analog. Its all very nice and readable if not particulary demanding

Steven Saylor - Roman Blood ****
High quality historical fiction set in the time of the Roman republic.

Peter Tremayne - Leper's Bell ***
The latest in Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series. Set in Celtic Ireland in the 7th century. Not the best place to start but an entertaining entry in the ongoing series.

Sometimes my stupidity amazes me

Well only 1 thing could go wrong and that's movements. I shot into the office to put my fix in and found I had lost my migration privileges. ARGH!! Well eventually got that sorted and gave the users the nod to do movements. We even retested them in the user test system no problem.

and then

"Uh Pete I did the same one in production as we tried in test and it hasn't worked!!"

Damn. Presume the program wasn't refreshed. So refresh prog.

"try again"

"No same thing"

At this point I started to lose the will to live. Same programs and same data. Must work!!

Colleague - is there a related program that you have failed to migrate?
ME - no.

THINKS. Ok why is it saying that the movements incomplete? Looks at status monitor processing. RFX60200 controls property charged? I changed that in June it would have been put live then. Hang on did I put it to prod last June? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Migrate program and ...... all is right with the world.

What a twat!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An Early Start

Well I decided that after yesterdays endeavours meant I was stuck in the office all day I would bird so up and early to Hatfield Forest.

A bit chilly but a nice selection of woodland birds (Jay, Bullfinch, Great Spots, Green Woodies, Treecreeper and Nuthatches). Loads of Tits and finches about and surprisingly more REdwing than last time. The lake had 5 Great Crested Grebes the pairing up looks to have happened, good numbers of Pochard and Tufties (the males of the later looking very jaunty!). Pair of Reed Bunting as well.

Round the folks for Roast Beef and all the trimmings, followed by homemade Apple Pie and cream - yum!

Spent the afternoon at Rye Meads. At least 6 snipe (5 showing very well) and one surprise for Rye Meads a Redshank.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fussy Sparrows

I usually only ever get Sparrows on my feeders but anyway a while back I put some RSPB feeder mix into my feeders and the little sods did a runner!! Anyway I duly emptied the feeders and put Sunflower Hearts back in and guess what the little blighters are now feeding!!

Fussy so and so's!!

Well part 1 down

so I' m home.

Detour to Tesco to get doughnuts and chocolate oranges for the troops.

Everything seemed to go ok.

The cricket is nicely balanced. Losing 3 wickets in 4 balls put us firmly on the back foot but we've fought back nicely. Draw most likely result but anything could happen.

Oh this is bloody sad

Its 1am in the morning and I wake up! Do I go to the loo and then back to bed?

NO!!!!!!!!

I sign on to the PC and check how year-end is going. Looks ok. I feel relief. I mean how pathetic am I?

Well better get to sleep its going to be a long day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A long day in mid March

It's Friday the weekend looms large but it looks like I'm in all day tomorrow. *SIGH*

Not a particularly bad drive in birdwise for me (well by my usual poor standards!). A couple of Canada Geese as I pulled out of my street, a Jay on a back route avoiding Epping, a hovering Kesrel and a pair of Swans over Dagenham.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Some Books Read

I haven't menioned much on books lately

So some recent reads

John Harvey - Ash & Bone ****
Harvey is best known for his 10 book Resnick sequence set in Nottingham. This is the second of
Harvey's new series featuring ex Nottingham DI Frank Elder. They are sort of a cross between police procedural and private eye novel. Elder has all the usual domestic problems. Divorced, rebellious kid ...... The book is quite dark, well written and zips along and a fair old rate. Recommended.

R D Wingfield - Hard Frost ***
The fourth Jack Frost novel. Jack is a seeming bumbling incomptent who gets the job done. By turns comic and dark. Totally unbelieveable but will pass an entertaining few days.

Colin Dexter - The Dead of Jericho **** Service of all the Dead **** The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn ***
Morse and Lewis do not greatly resemble their TV counterparts. Morse for instance being much coarser than the John Thaw betrayal. The books, both CWA Silver Dagger winners, are above average convoluted police procedurals. You can sit down and spend an enjoyable few hours. The three books make up the first Inspector Morse Omnibus - good value at £8.99. I just wish though I had read them before I had seen the TV programmes.

I can relate to the last bit!

Ah well

The 1st year-end weekend draws ever closer......... 2 days to go . I always feel this impending sense of doom and wish the next 4 weeks of my life away.

I've changed the template of the blog and added a few more links. What do you reckon? Anyone prefer the black?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

There's an annoying trend

I am getting old and reactionary, I know this.

Occasionally you listen to the radio and somebody will be waffling on about how holidaying in the UK is a nightmare. Why is it a nightmare? Because their little darling children are not made welcome in some hotels, pubs or restaurants.

Now please accept I don't have children. These little darlings who yap around your feet hold no place in my affections. Don't me wrong, I don't expect the little angels to be seen and not heard, but when I'm on holiday, I expect to be able to eat my dinner and read my book with out some brat running around all over the place or crying all the time. Is that too much to ask?

It really does wind me up when sitting in a restaurant to have some child running all over the place.

Now I know you will find this hard to believe

I'm sure any of you who know me well will be surprised to learn that there are some people out there who think I am..... a wind-up merchant!

I mean honestly would I sit here and deliberately do something like that? Texting the Blonde One to tell her I'd seen a Bittern feeding with a fish in mouth locally is not a wind-up. I just thought she would be happy for me.

But there you go, some misguided people think I am a GIT!!

Anyway in honour of the blonde one

"A painting contractor was speaking with a woman about her job.

In the first room she said she would like a pale blue. The contractor wrote this down and went to the window, opened it, and yelled out "GREEN SIDE UP!"

In the second room she told the painter she would like it painted in a soft yellow. He wrote this on his pad, walked to the window, opened it, and yelled "GREEN SIDE UP!" The lady was somewhat curious but she said nothing.

In the third room she said she would like it painted a warm rose color. The painter wrote this down, walked to the window, opened it and yelled "GREEN SIDE UP"

The lady then asked him, "Why do you keep yelling 'green side up'?"

"I'm sorry," came the reply. "But I have a crew of blondes laying turf across the street.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I don't like technology

No really I don't!

Let's give you an example. I would like to buy a digital camera. Easy uh? well no. I'd like to take some pictures of birds as well.

This means I have two options. I can either digiscope or I can go the DSLR route. The former is proably the cheapest route, for a start I have a decent scope, but there are times when I don't want to take a scope with me so that would seem to imply the DSLR route. BUT, I am a birder! I don't want to carry lots and lots of gear. I want something reasonably portable as well, I do not want something that weighs 45 kilos! The Nikon D50 looks sort of what I want but then we get into lenses and any lens that meets my weight category, Sigma 28-300, is deemed not adequate and I actually want a 50-500 which is way too heavy (and lets face it too pricey). And then I've to load them on to a PC blah de blah.

No it's a daft idea so I'll just stick to my bins thanks very much.

The problem with technology is that it changes the natural order of things. E.g
  • The woman who lost her appeal to use frozen embryos because her ex-partner would not give consent.
  • Anyone donating sperm for embryology today could one day find someone standing on the doorstep saying Daddy.

I don't know about you but it scares the willies out of me! I have this horrible feeling that our technological ability is far outstripping our moral ability to make reasoned decisions on these issues. Although I happen to think the courts got the embryo one right - however sad the case is.

One day, no doubt, we'll be able to grow clones and have our entire memories stored in a new vital young body. Isn't that exciting? Not really sounds deadly dull to me. Society needs new exciting ideas not the same old sterile ideas from the same old people. And anyway could you imagine an eternity writing effing computer programs, doing admin, testing circuit boards or installing traffic calming ideas. No retirement? A life of turning up to the office every day? Shiver.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The licence fee is worth it folks

Anyone who believes that the licence fee should be scrapped and that the BBC should be treated as any other media organisation should have watch Planet Earth last night! From the opening to closing credit it was jaw droppingly awesome.

I remain totally unconvinced that any commercial organisation would have produced a program of such sweep and magnitude. True the BBC can produce its share of celebrity and reality drivel BUT despite the 732 channels we now have only the BBC can raise the bar to that level.

Of course the free marketeers will tell you that the guaranteed income the BBC has is unfair but the BBC has a public service remit and this no do astonishly well.

A big round of applause to the Beeb. And we have 11 more weeks of it!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Fox walks on water!

Well not quite the early start I had planned! Decided against heading for Kent rarity hunting and stayed local.

First thoughts from the forest this morning was how few Redwings were about two weeks ago there were loads of the things today the numbers were much reduced. A sure sign of spring I thought also the 'peckers were banging away, the Nuthatches were active and there was lots of song. The lake though dispelled that as it was mostly ice! The ducks, grebes, Geese and Coots congregating on the small portion not frozen. Sight of the walk was a fox walking on the ice. Heron was keeping an eye on him. Nothing unusual bird wise but a nice stroll.

Then on to Hanningfield Reservoir. A few Goldeneye, Smew, Goosande & Ruddies . At one point 2 dozen pied wagtail, a few Lapwings . Oh and a Ruff. Lots of Robins all over the place. I apparently saw a Caspian Gull and a Yellow-legged, first year birds. I tried VERY hard to hide my excitement. Deciding to admire the Smew instead! I just cannot get excited by Gulls although I will admit that they DID look different from the Herring Gulls more elongated and the Casp had a narrower beak. Oh paler head as well.

On the walk back 5 Snipe in the field. A black swan about as well.

A quick stop to Fisher's Green to the Bittern watchpoint but no Bittern.

A pleasant day.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday

Well firstly Happy Birthday Jan.

Being the dutiful son took the old folks out shopping. Decided to go to Bury St Edmunds. A nice old market town. Bury was famous for its Abbey which got destroyed at the reformation. The Abbey Church was reputedly enormous but little of it remains. That said the size and oppulence of it can be discerned today by the size of a) the gate house and b) the two large parish churhces that were in its precinct (there was once 3). One of these churches was uplifted to cathedral status and as part of its Millenium project now has a spanking new central tower. Very impressive it is too. It may not be the best use of money but it certainly looks the part. Part of the grounds are now a very well maintained garden. There are now signs urging the public not to feed teh wildlife there but to feed it over the bridge. Those pesky Suirrels, Pigeons & Starling no doubt. The usual Mallards by the model of the old Abbey church fighting for bread with the Black Heads.

Anway we then went to Ickworth. A very fine building with a central rotunda. Looks very impressive. We however contented ourselves with walk around the main lake which was mostly frozen. Mallards and Canada Geese finding the small unfrozen bits of water. Bird of the day a Treecreeper spotted whilst I was admiring the Fieldfare.

A very pleasant time had by all. A bit cold but hey the sunshine was glorious lets hope its like that tomorrow.

The cricket looks to be heading for a draw but given the preparation England have done well to be in a position where they have a chance to win. Pity Cook couldn't quite score his ton say 20 minutes earlier since I can't see us bowling them out in a day. Still a temendous effort by him and his application bodes well for the future. Blackwell really needs to bowl and bowl well tomorrow if he doesn't then either they play Udal or Plunkett or play an extra batsman not much point playing him if he isn't going to bowl.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Take me to your leader

Well so there we have it the Lib Dems will be led by Ming the Merciless.

To be fair I actually like Ming he has a certain gravitas. Some say he is too old and would be out of touch with the "yoof". Now I am a little puzzled by this because over the past five years only one event has mobilised the "yoof" and that seems to be opposition to the war in Iraq and which party leader has been consistent in his opposition? The "geriatric" Mr Campbell.

On the subject of "leaders" who will we get to lead "our" footy team? Given that Beckham has peed him off I'm leaning towards Allardyce. What are the chances that Sven will realise that Beckham has done nothing for England since Greece in 2002? Probably not high, Becks was a liability in Japan (not fit) and did nothing in Portugal. Of course the manager doesn't seem to understand that the best team and best players are not the same thing.

My starting 11 for the world cup, presuming everyone nice and fit.

Robinson, Cole (A), Terry, King or Carrager or Woodgate, Neville (G), Cole (J), Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and Owen

Not sure who should be captain ... Fat Frank I guess, seems a decent lad.

The cricket took a slight downward turn but we have a lead of 71 with India having a wicket in hand. If we can snaffle that for a lead of 60 and then bat the day..... still given where we were yesterday morning this is a stunning position and well done the lads for the comeback. Any result is possible

As I suggested there have been a few positive despite all the inuries but perhaps the biggest is not Collingwood and Cook but Monty Panesar. We may have a halfway decent spinner! The problem with that is our preferred pace attack of Jones, Harmy, Hoggy plus Monty would mean a VERY long tail. So unless they go back to Giles short term we may have to play Plunkett and drop one of the quicks. Still we have options and we need a spinner. Monty has also worked hard on his batting by all accounts he may never be any great shakes but I hope he takes a leaf out of Hoggards book and becomes an obdurate git who the batsman can trust. Ok he isn't the finished article but injuries have meant that we have the making of a stronger squad .

What time is it?

I woke this morning at the usual ridiculously earlier time and fumbled for the radio.

it was 136 for 1 overnight I think. So when I heard the commentator mentioned Tendulkar I was pleased we had made a breakthrough, when I heard the name Kaif I almost woke up!! Panesar got his first wickt whilst I was getting dressed and by the time I got in the car Freddie had removed Dhoni so England were, and whisper this, "on top"!! 190-6 at lunch!!

Collingwood is having a super winter. Scored runs in Pakistan and now gets his debut ton here. With young Cook doing well with the bat and Panesar bowling well (Tendulkar as your first wicket!!) and showing a bit of guts with the bat there is now pressure for places. Vaughan, Trescothick, Jones and Giles aren't certainties to get back and Pieterson can't hold his place in the team based on one, admittedly very fine!, innings and some dodgy haircuts. He and Bell will both be desperate for runs to cement there places.

The one thing that really winds me up is the scheduling there are no further warm up games and all there are test matches so how does Owais Shah try and stake a place. Yes I KNOW I've already said that.

Well made the journey to work that much more pleasant.

No birding tomorrow I am taking the "old folks" out shopping. That said I'm sure we'll stop for lunch somewhere I might be able to have a stroll ;)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spring is on the Way

No really! I know that it is brass monkey weather out there but Spring is really on the way. There is one sure fire sign of that. And that is? The birds are singing!! At Titchwell on Saturday the male Chaffinches were perching up in full finery singing there little hearts out. A Song Thrush regaled Dave and I in Tesco's Car Park in Hunstanton as we stopped for breakfast.

Yes folks the weather is still cold but the feathered chaps know Spring that is coming. I believe one brave pair of Blackbirds have already raised one brood! For me though Spring really starts when the first migrants return. Yes I know some over winter but when the first birds turn up from their return migration I know that Spring has come.

I know that every part of the year holds some interest for the birder but for me the best time of the year is when I can walk through a wood and listen to the birds in full voice or on a warm evening throw open the windows and listen to a Blackbird sing.

The long dark drag of the week

As I left for work at 6:30 this morning I noted that it was "light enough to bird". Yippee!

Well the weekend is starting to draw near. My birdless existence will soon be over but it will only be Sunday before I can bird.

The midweek is hopeless. My drive to work is rural so you'd think I'd have a chance of something good but no, its predominantly Magpies, Corvids, Pigeons and Black Headed Gulls. Not even a Kestrel to lighten my mood today. That said I saw 5 Moorhens on my way home last night and a Mallard.

One bird I did see this morning was a Pied Wagtail. I know its wrong to anthopormorphise a bird but they always seem such happy chappies. Its the way they skitter about with that tail bouncing up and down. The simple black & white colour scheme also works so well.

Down sarf its their time. I always see more of them in Winter and this is no exception. There were 12 of them the other night sitting on top of the covered walkways of the local Tesco.

They are also about the office quite a bit nipping in out of the cars and then flying off with there loud call of chiswick.

They look happy and make me smile. What more can you ask?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Linda Smith RIP and some musings

When I get home from work I haver certain "rituals". OK I turn on the oven, TV and change my clothes. Over dinner I'll probably watch whatever is on waiting for the Simpson's and scan Ceefax for the latest news.

So it was with some surprise I saw the headline in Entertainments come up "Linda Smith dead". Sorry what did you say? Yes Linda Smith stalwart of The News Quiz, Just a Minute and Have I Got News for You has died of cancer aged 48. She was a really funny lady and will be missed.

There will be a special tribute edition of the news quiz broadcast Friday 3rd March @ 18:30.

Just how many Bishops are there in the Church of England these days? To my knowledge there are 42 CofE cathedrals. Ranging from the splendour that is say Lincoln to what is a parish church at Chelmsford. So 42 cathedrals ok we have two Archbishops so 40 Bishops uh well apparently not. We now have area bishops so for example we have the Bishop of Lichfield having 3 "area bishops" Shrewsbury, Stafford and Wolverhampton - well you learn something new everyday. Even the CofE is introducing extra management layers. I wonder if the church has many Management Consultants who will suggest a new logo as the answer.