Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I just love making lists

OK, so I like making lists ... well don't you?

Lists of foody and household things to buy that day.
Lists of projects to do
Lists of things to pack for a weekend away / a longer holiday
Lists of Xmas pressies we've bought / people we send /sent
Xmas cards to.
Lists of phone numbers for family, friends, businesses &
the educational charity I work for.
Lists of things to do for the latter written in a spiral-
bound notebook
A play-list of songs that I and my mates play guitar & sing
along to.

I'm so well known for writing lists that a relative suggested
that I keep a list of lists. :)

It's not that I'm obsessional about keeping them, it's because
my short term memory has always been patchy. I forgot on one
occasion to let my sister know that the sleeves on a dress,
that Mrs C had made for her, weren't sewn on properly ... the
said sleeves started to come adrift on our wedding day during
the ceremony. Oh dear! :)

It's funny how I have a perfect memory of a lot of the disasters
that happened to me and to others -- all the negative stuff.

I was prompted to write a short post on this theme, after reading
the home page on Blogger. Sasha Cagen has a blog devoted to the
subject -- she points out how revealing peoples' lists can be
about their personal lives, and how marvellous the feeling is
when you/we cross something off the list ... something we've
done or achieved.

One of the ways of motivating yourself to getting things done, is
to create a list of things to do, and then crossing them off when
the tasks are completed ... even if they're simple things like
popping out to buy some milk & bread, or phoning a friend. It's
a well known way of lifting your mood and beating depression.
The sense of achievement is amazing, especially for introverts
like myself. Or to paraphrase that, in case any counsellors are
reading this ... I have to "own this feeling"... I feel great!

Now, where's that list? I'm going out shopping now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are you Mr or Mrs Average?

Mrs C and I watched an interesting documentary on TV a few days
ago .. it was all about looking for the average bloke in the
UK ... finding out from government statistics what was the exact
average for a UK resident and then searching for someone who
fitted those figures the most closely.
And the TV researcher found him ... Mark Williamson, a 42 year old
living with his wife and two children in a 3 bedroomed semi in
Swindon.. his wife nominated him after reading a TV advert, and he
turned out to be a very likeable and happy man.
He said he'd had a lot of sadness in earlier life .. his first wife
died of breast cancer in her early thirties, and his parents had
died fairly young too. However he had an optimistic outlook on life,
and was now blessed with a loving family.
He was happy to be Mr Average.

So I ask myself, am I anyway near Mr Average? And the simple
answer is I'm not.

To look at the Government statistics ...

Bloke age 40 ... no, I'm 60
Married .. yes
Has two children ... no, I've got 4
Lives in a 3 bedroomed semi ... well, our's is an end-terrace.
Drives a Ford Fiesta ... quite close, I drive an old Peugeot 306
Has size 10 feet ...nope, size 9
Weighs 13 stone ... no, I'm underweight at 9 and a half stones (61kg)
Height 5ft 9 and a half ins... I'm one inch taller.
Considers himself working class ... no, I'm middle class.
Has sex eight times a month ... lucky bloke, is all I can say.
Believes in God ... I'm agnostic
Can cook at least four meals, including spaghetti Bolognese ...
... I've become an excellent cook, though Mrs C would like me to
try more recipes for greater variety. We don't eat meat.

Has at least one Harry Potter novel in his house ... one of our
daughters has reclaimed her copy. So we're now Harry
Potterless. I've read the first Harry Potter book to see if
I could write something similar. I thought it was good, but
I didn't feel inspired to read any more (or write something
similar). I'm still waiting for a "JK Rowling" moment, when
I hit upon a brilliant new character and plot for a children's
novel. Mrs C says I'm not working hard enough on that idea.
Well, I've got too many other interests/distractions, like
writing this blog.

Is £3000 in debt ... well when I was 40, I had a huge mortgage
on our house, but now I'm debt free.

Am I happy? ... yes, I am ... I feel very privileged to have what
I've got, and to be in good health.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Catch up on the week plus Desktop montage

Good morning, everyone. How are you?

I've had another busy week, the highlights of which included
visiting Leicester to see family members there, last weekend,
and going to see the Leicester Symphony Orchestra, play three
works ... Holst's The Planets, and Weber's Clarinet Concerto
No. 2, to name two of them. The soloist in the latter was a
rising young star called Sarah Williamson, who was outstanding.
Her phrasing of the music in the last movement was exceptionally
good ... I've never heard it played like that before (and it's
played quite a lot on Classic FM ... though it may be the same
recording being played over and over again.

On a classical music theme, the series Classical Star came to
a nail-biting conclusion last week ... again outstanding
performances from young musicians, the pianist Sophie Cashell
in particular. The BBC will allow you to watch some of the
performances online in the next day or two, if you're quick and
click on the link here.

My brother-in-law, Sam, took us on a guided tour of Leicester's
City Centre, which had a market town atmosphere about it. The
cathedral was like a large parish church, and felt warm and
inviting inside ... they'd just had a wedding there before we
walked in to look around. Adding a bit of excitement to the
afternoon, we saw an undercover police officer chasing and
arresting a possible drug dealer near the main market area.
We've visited the city on numerous occasions in the past to
see our family there, but this was our first walkabout around
the city streets.

We've got our daughter Ludar staying with us as the mo, together
with Little India (while daddykins is working abroad this week),
so I spent a good part of yesterday catering, food shopping and
clearing up. We were joined by Beck and Little Ava in the middle
of the day too, so we had a fun & busy time. The weather's very
grey, cold and wet this week (we had sleet/snow 2 days ago), so
it was too dark to take any good photos of the little ones.

Today, I'm giving my last Photoshop talk again .. to go through
how to make photo-montages, and to revise any topic for them.

One of my favourite uses for Photoshop, is to create a Desktop
photo-montage to replace the standard Windows one. Simply to put
up an entire photo as Desktop wallpaper often doesn't work for me
- usually I can't see the icons on my Desktop on the left hand side,
and the image is often distorted by Windows stretching it out
of true.

Anyway, to give you a few ideas on how to make a montage ... find
out the current dimensions of your Desktop by doing a right mouse
click on it > Properties / Personalise (in Vista) ...and then
rummage around to find Diplay Settings.... my screen is 1440 x 900

Next up, find a suitable photo and reduce the image size so that it
will fit comfortably inside your screen dimensions (eg a height of
700 pixels).

Now create a blank canvas in PS, the same size as your Desktop...
press Control + letter "N" to get up a menu, put the sizes into
the menu, and create a white canvas. Splash on some blue colours
with the Gradient tool to create an artificial blue sky & perhaps
add a little "noise" via Filters. Using the Move tool, drag & drop
your favourite photo onto the sky photo ... drag it to a position
you like, and perhaps resize it (Control + T + Shift key, and then
use the Enter key to remove the Free Transform tool). Save your
montage in the usual way.

Finally, go back to your Desktop, do a right mouse click on it >
"Properties/Personalise" ... find something like "Desktop
Appearances", and have a "browse" for your montage photo, and
then "Apply" & "OK" it.

Et voila !

Before I sign off, I spotted a funny notice in the concert hall
cloakroom last Saturday night. It read: "Earplugs ... 50p a pair."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The X Factor

Hi folks -- sorry for my lack of posts lately, but I've been
busy doing other things.
So what have I been up to in the past week or so?
Currently I'm two-thirds of the way through making a Powerpoint
presentation on how to use Dreamweaver ... it's supposed to last
only an hour, and already I've made over 70 slides ... so I've
got a lot of pruning to do. I'm thinking of it as a prelude to
giving a 4 or 5 part series of talks to those in our U3A
Computer Club, who might be interested in joining me in some
simple web design and having a bit of fun.
"A bit of fun???", you might be thinking ... or perhaps "a big
yawn" ... or "Boring!!"?
I've spent a few days sorting through a lot of photos of our two
latest family meet-ups, and making CD-Roms of selections of my
pics to send to people. Following on from our cousins' meet-up
(cousins on Mrs C's side of the family), Mrs C's taken the
initiative and has found us a lovely property for us all near
Symonds Yat, to stay next September. So I've been busy sending
off batches of emails to everyone about that.
I think Mrs C is right to go for a big property like this, where
we can all meet up and relax in (and where tiny tots can be put
to bed early while us oldies eat in, get merry on booze and sit
around and have a good natter. To often we end up after a
restaurant meal out, in some narrow hotel lobby or cheerless bar
area, (with other people there taking up seating space) .. so we
usually end up going off to bed early. The downside of self-
catering of course is the meal preparation and clearing up later,
but then we could get a take-away / ready-to-cook pizzas and salad
to go with it.
Mrs C and I have already started our Xmas shopping, and are about
two-thirds of the way through that ... still got loads of pressie
wrapping and the Xmas cards to do. Last year, I took a Xmassy photo
which I framed and added our Xmas greetings to, in Photoshop, and
emailed that to a lot of our family and friends. How many Xmas cards
end up just being looked at briefly, put up somewhere on display,
and then lobbed in early January? One of our neighbours sends out
120 cards each year to family, friends and former work colleagues ..
he and his wife set up an assembly line for this, with computer-
generated sticky address labels (and only write their names in each
card) ... we have tried sticky address labels ourselves, but I noticed
the last year I did this that the labels started to peel off the
envelopes ... not very good.
Any of you watching The X Factor? Do you like Simon Cowell, the
producer and one of the main judges? Mrs C and I are hooked on
watching the current series, and we just love Simon Cowell, and
his merry banter with his fellow judges. On most occasions we
think he's spot on with his advice, which isn't surprising as
he's made his career and fortune in doing just this ... he can
spot talent when he sees/hears it.
So what do you think of the singers that are still left on the
show? My top favourites are Niki, Beverley and Rhydian, but I doubt
if the public will vote any of them as the overall winner. I think
Rhydian deserved the standing ovation from all the judges after last
Saturday's performance... he's got a fabulous voice and we saw a
more balanced personality -- the real bloke, this time.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Back from London this evening

Mrs C and I have just got back from a long weekend in
London, staying with our daughter there and her fella
(and Little India). India was delightful as usual,
though she wasn't at her best, as she was below par
with a slight headcold.

The weather was fairly mild for the time of year, but
was colder and sunnier today.

It's roughly a 3 and a half hour drive each way, and
the traffic was heavy for the first part of the journey
-- driving round the M25 past Heathrow Airport and up
through the M1 roadworks, which extend as far as the
Luton turn-off ... not very pleasant driving in the
dark on the motorway .. I get a lot of dazzle from other
car headlights (made worse by my astigmatism, I gather),
so both of us felt relieved to get back to the quietness
and comforts of our own home in Nottm, and to see our
two puddy tats again.

Home Sweet Home!