February Books

Again, not too many books read, although I have caught up a bit - and bought some more to add to my list.

Fire and Ice (Liam Cunningham 1) Dana Stabenow

I enjoyed this more than the Kate Shugak book I read from the same author, as the main character interested me more. I may well read more in the series.
The only thing that jarred was what seemed like a forced attempt to get a reference to the title in, right at the end of the novel. Otherwise, it was a decent enough thriller, set in Alaska.

Fields of Wrath - Mark Wheaton

This was one of the January Kindle first selections and is labelled as the first in the Luis Chavez series, so presumably more to come. Our hero is a priest in the US. I have to say I was suspicious and wondered if I would enjoy the story, but my concerns were unfounded. This is a good read, so much so that it prompted a few early nights so I could curl up under the duvet with my Kindle. It's a thriller, as are most of the books I read. We are introduced to Father Chavez and gain some understanding of his background, but all that fits in with the main plot nicely. I will look out for other books by this author.

Little Sister - Giles O'Bryen

February's Kindle first choice. Wow, the violence depicted was pretty graphic. Made me wince more than once. That aside, the story was good, interesting, topical and I enjoyed it. I wondered at the start if it was going to be a bit patronising in tone, but I think that was scene-setting for international readers.
This, too, could be the first of a series of books about the lead character and I might well read others.

Kaweco Sport Pens

My first Kaweco was a mint-coloured Skyline Sport with a medium nib, purchased out of curiosity and for the colour of the pen. It was inexpensive and I was, to be frank, disappointed. I wanted to use it with Diamine Marine ink, which has a lovely rich tone to it in my Parker 45. In the Kaweco it was pale and thin. The nib was prone to hard starts and had a flatness to it, rather like a small stub might. Previously I had only seen that in my Parker Rialto and I didn't like it there.

After taking advice from fellow Slack-ers in the Pen Addict Slack group I tweaked the nib quite a bit. Eventually it seemed to get the message and now writes well, although still with a discernible width to the stroke.

Undeterred, I decided to shell out for a second Kaweco, this time an orange Ice Sport with a fine nib. Again, largely for the colour, as I wanted to keep it in the pen loop of my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter, which I chose with an orange felt lining.

The Ice Sport arrived and it was lovely. I loaded up a Kaweco pearl black cartridge and all was wonderful in Kaweco-land. Once that ink was exhausted I filled an empty cartridge with Parker Quink black. Oh dear, my little Kaweco didn't like that at all. Hard starts and skips. So the next ink was Diamine Matador - a nice colour for a bright orange pen. Much better, the little Kaweco seemed happy with that, so a red pen it remains.

I was surprised by the difference between the medium and fine nibs. This fine has a definite spring to it and is delightful to write with - as long as a suitable ink is used!

As is always the way with fountain pens, this was good until I decided that these plastic pens felt, well, a little delicate. I know they are supposed to be pretty tough, but I could feel definite movement at the join between section and body. I figured if I stuck one in the pocket of my jeans, or lobbed it into my handbag, I would worry. Of course, I convinced myself I really needed the aluminium version, so one was duly ordered; a nice silver one, again in a fine nib.
Kaweco Pens.jpg

I have to say, it is lovely. I enjoy the way the pen warms up in my hand. I have had it for around a month now and I have used it quite a bit. It does get chucked in my bag, or slipped into a pocket. The fine nib on this one is different from the fine on the Ice Sport - it is more solid, without that slight spring. It writes well, though, with no skipping or hard starts. Of course, the test would come when I refilled the cartridge with Parker Quink, which I did yesterday. It took a little to get going, and on harder paper, does seem to write a little grey, but on more absorbent paper, it looks black enough. That said, it might be time to expand my horizons with regard to black ink. The Kaweco pearl black does seem to have more depth of colour than the Parker ink does - in some pens, at least. My Parker pens stopped working once, when I filled them with Schaeffer black ink, so I stuck with Quink, as black tends to be my favoured ink colour. There are more black inks out there to be tried, though…

Kaweco writing sample.jpg

Reinvigorating old(ish) kit

Spare time this week has been spent on bringing my old PC back to life. Old as in former, as well as in elderly.

My current PC is around three years old, good enough to pay some games on, with an i5 processor, GTX 560 graphics card, plus the usual other bits and bobs. It doesn't have Windows 10 yet and it may never get it; that's something I will have to decide on the coming months.

My former PC is based around a Sempron 3000+ processor and it had XP on it, bought in 2006. It had served me well, although before long I had added a hard drive from an even older PC and put Linux (Ubuntu 6.10) on it. That was later replaced with Mint 11. On the oh-so-capacious 30Gb drive, with XP remaining on the main, 80Gb drive. I know, puny amounts of drive space, but enough. Even more so now than when I first had the machine, as I have removable drives many times larger, plus a huge chunk of cloud storage.

A while ago I updated to Mint 15, so it was time to update to Mint 17.3. I opted to go 64-bit and also to try the Cinnamon desktop. That was an error of judgement, as it kept hanging. I should have realised that this machine would be unlikely to cope with one of the fuller GUIs around. Fortunately I was able to download and switch to Mate, my previous desktop. I was also fortunate to have downloaded my copy of Mint the day before the site got hacked and the version I downloaded was redirected to one containing a backdoor. Since then, the Mint website has been offline, changed servers and, hopefully, made themselves less vulnerable to Wordpress hacks. Possibly a lucky escape for me.

I next downloaded a full copy of Ubuntu 14.04, with the Unity desktop. As expected, the aged box wasn't keen on that either, so I eventually overwrote XP with Ubuntu 15.10 Mate. Yet again, Mate to the rescue. I'm not exactly a fan of the very lightweight desktops. I have tried both LXDE and Xfce in the past and they aren't for me.

I was caught out by Ubuntu's decision to allow the user to choose their own software manager, but soon got over that.
So now I have a Windows-free PC. I imagine the sound doesn't work, as Linux has never liked my soundcard, but as I haven't got any speakers to plug into it, that's no big deal.

Thoughts on the process :

Mint seemed easier to install, but that was because I overwrote a previous version of Mint, so there wasn't a lot to consider. Ubuntu needed tweaks to the partition table, to reformat the disk, create a swap area and mount point - all things I haven't actually done for years.

Ubuntu picked up the location of Grub and didn't manage to destroy it, which has happened in the past. Yes, manually editing my Grub file some years ago gave me pause. However, Ubuntu did put its own stamp on my minimalist little Grub menu - a great big Ubuntu-themed stamp on it. Not the end of the world though.

When I installed Ruby on Mint, it picked up version 1.9. Jekyll wanted version 2. Version 2 was acquired, after a little Internet searching on the topic, but something didn't work right at the end of the process. It nearly worked, but not quite! Ruby still insists it is on 1.9, but Jekyll seems happy to work, so clearly it thinks there's enough of 2 for its purposes. I don't understand this and for now I can live with that.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I tried the same on the Ubuntu side of things. That repository happily delivered me a 2+ version of Ruby. Jekyll was happy, although installing something for Github pages failed. By that time it was "details".

All this was prompted by the similar "adventures", albeit in Pi-land of a friend on social media - you know who you are!

Oh and the first thing I installed on both versions was Midnight Commander. Old habits…

Baby Steps

Yesterday I pressed the button on something I have been contemplating for a while - another domain name. So now I am the proud (?) owner of four domains. Not many by a lot of people's standards, admittedly.

Recently I have started using the name of one of my gaming (Guild Wars 2) characters as a username on some social media. I'm "hazardwarning" in a lot of places, but sometimes that name has been taken. So Mydnyght Rose, my cute Necromancer, has morphed into "mydnyghtrose". She has an email account, she has a Twitter account and is my Instagram and Reddit username. Now I have the .com domain name to play with.
I have a couple of domains in my full name, but I wanted one to use, if I felt like it, for testing and learning.

Today I joined Github, also with this username. I figured I would go for some consistency. This is also a tentative step along my "learn web stuff" path. I can play with a Github page; I can follow some Code Academy courses. I feel like I'm making some progress.

Next: download a copy of Linux Mint 17.3, ready to re-purpose my old PC. I do need to check, but I think it will run the 64-bit version. Currently I haven't decided whether to try Cinnamon or stick with Mate, so that decision needs to be made - soon.

New Objectives

have some leave coming up next month, so I intend to update some of my last-century IT skills. This may, or may not, happen. It could just be a diversionary tactic, looking at the list of household jobs I already have lined up for that week.
I am looking at some online courses/tutorials that might help. I hope to press my Raspberry Pi B into use and I might finally sort out my old PC. It's currently sitting idle, but is ripe for updating. I need to reformat the drives, so I can do away with the Windows installation and put a fresh Linux distro on. At the moment I think it's on Mint 15, though it could be 11 - it's a while since I have used it. This should be ok, as I have set up dual-boot machines many times in the past, so going from dual boot to a single OS ought to be within my capabilities.

Aims

  • Reformat/update old PC
  • Learn some basic web skills

Nothing too adventurous.

Plastic Surgery

I caught an item on the news this evening, in which it was stated that there had been a significant rise in plastic surgery procedures in the UK. I think that is worrying. What is it that is making people so unhappy with how they look? I can only assume it's other people. People in the media, celebrities who are always portrayed in a state of perfection, judgemental people who make themselves feel better by criticising others. Expectations seem to be raised so very high nowadays that few of us can hope to conform. I'm not talking here about people who have a medical or social need/desire for surgery, for reasons of dysphoria or disfigurement - although in some cases that can be brought about by the prejudiced reactions of society.

I think this whole situation is rather sad. I don't wish to pass judgement on people who have surgery; really it's none of my business. I have, though, seen young girls who really, genuinely feel worthless because of some aspect of their appearance. Great that they can change things, but surely not great that they should feel that way in the first place? Lovely, beautiful young women (and men) somehow believing they are ugly, or worthless. Nobody should feel that way, ever.

Hello World

Testing out a new tool, which will be more than just blogging. Eventually I think my old (current) site will come over to here. For now, though, just finding my way around on a typically rainy Sunday in February, with the 6 Nations rugby on in the background.

January books

I decided that a good thread for my blog this year might be to list the books I read, along with my thoughts on them. All good, you might think, so I looked to see which ones I had read in January. I've been quite good this year, I thought, getting back into my reading groove. Or not, as it appears that I have finished precisely one book. In my defence, I started the year reading a long and detailed work of non-fiction ("Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West" by Tom Holland). I took a break from it to read some fiction: I will return to it, but I needed a break from the massive amount of information the book contains.

Somewhat shamefacedly I have to list my single finished book for January 2016:-

A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

I came across this author mentioned in a review for another book on Goodreads. It turned out that the first book in the series was free on Kindle, as was the first of another series by the same author , which I am currently reading.

This novel is set in Alaska and, in my opinion, does a pretty good job of evoking the environment and isolation there. I have never been to Alaska, so in truth, I have no way of knowing how accurate the novel is, but the author is from Alaska, which confers some credibility. This isn't a literary read, but it's a decent thriller, with some entertaining and interesting characters. I haven't decided whether or not I will read more books from the same series yet, but I enjoyed the book.

My criteria for judging books are simple:-

Did I enjoy reading it?

Do I remember anything about the story after some time has passed?

I can't comment on the second yet, in this case, as I only finished the book recently, but, believe me, there are books that I can't recall any detail of shortly after I finish them. Others I can recall years later, which implies the story made some kind of impression on me!

The Daily Sneezing Fit

So is this a thing, the daily sneezing fit? I've just had mine for today.

Yes, I have asked other people and, with my wide sample of three, it seems to be a thing. We all get a daily sneezing fit. Not all at the same time of day as each other, nor at the same time of day every day for each individual. At least that brings some variety to life, I guess. We don't live in the same house, or even the same area of the country, but there it is, the daily sneezing fit.

Perhaps more research is warranted.

2016 Planner Setup

This year's planner setup will continue in the same manner as 2015 finished. I think I have (finally) found what works for me. I use a Traveler's Notebook, even though the spelling bugs me just a teeny bit. As I refer to it as a TN, I can cope.

I use the standard size and this fits in my bag just fine. I made myself a laminated dashboard, but have recently removed that, as I didn't use it.

The basic setup is this:Home-made week to a page diary. This is joined by a connecting band to a standard Midori blank insert. Wrapped around the diary only is a Midori credit card insert.These two inserts are slipped under the band. In the middle of those (the standard three-insert setup) is a Monthly Plan Pack which I settled on midway through last year. Do check it out, it's very useful, particularly for someone who works in an office. Tucked under all three of these inserts are a Midori zip insert and a Midori Kraft folder.

Of course, in addition to this I have several fauxdoris that I have made. One holds some spare A5 booklets, another (wide TN) how some Moleskine Chapters inserts & the third is a Field Notes size & has some pocket Moleskine booklets in.

Those three were just some practice pieces I did. My other cover in daily use is my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. I have an A5 one and I still love it. I would switch from the TN, except that this is too large to take everywhere and the A6 size is too small for me. So, it is my desk book. I have a Leuchtturm book in it that I keep work project notes in, a Rhodia notebook for, well, making rough notes, and a Zentangle booklet I created, which contains a pattern reference. That stays in there and at weekends the work book comes out and a sketch book goes in.

Ideally I would keep my daily journal in the RT, but I haven't been able to find the right one. I use a hardcover page-a-day A5 diary, which doesn't fit.