Bought a camera tripod – officially an addict :)

20 September, 2008

After spending some hours kneeling in nettles and thistles on Thursday, and suffering from hand-shake when trying to take close-ups of tiny things next to the path, I bought a tripod yesterday and went back to the woods.

Wow! What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon! I’m totally hooked, and can’t see myself being able to leave the tripod at home when I go backpacking. I’ll have to look around for a nice light one. Any ideas, peeps?

More pics here 🙂

Fascinating Article – The Inverse Power of Praise

20 September, 2008

Here’s a very interesting article, I thought. It discusses the most constructive way to praise children, and suggests that praising a child for being bright, as opposed to for having tried hard/thought things through/something specific, can be damaging even in the very short term, let alone the long term. Fascinating stuff!

Po Bronson – The Inverse Power of Praise

Toadstool piccies

19 September, 2008

I got out into the woods late yesterday afternoon to start putting Andy’s great photography advice into practice. Almost as soon as I started I realised I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but fortunately the camera is so clever that it didn’t prevent me from getting some great (by my standards, which aren’t high) pictures. I’m looking forward to getting back there, maybe later today if it stops raining again… aagh…

If you’d like to see the piccies then click on the toadstool above (and speak nicely to the fly) *g*

I’m currently psyching myself up to get out there and pick some wild mushrooms for eating back here at the sty, and towards that end I’ve recently purchased the most excellent and lovely Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1, by John Wright.

It’s a little disconcerting, though, to have read twice, in the space of the last few weeks, of people over here who’ve had very unfortunate (and in one case terminal) experiences picking and cooking mushrooms from the woods.

Nick Evans, who wrote The Horse Whisperer, his wife and two close relatives were poisoned by the Deadly Webcap, a relative of the Death Cap, and at least two of them have had to undergo dialysis. They picked them up in Scotland on Mr Evans’s brother-in-law’s estate in Moray.

And then, two days ago, I read that a 40 year old woman had died from eating a Death Cap mushroom she picked with a friend at Ventnor Botanical Gardens.

I can’t help wondering whether the recent reawakening of interest in picking and eating mushrooms has been responsible for these incidents. Even though Death Caps are profoundly toxic, I don’t think people often actually eat and die of them over here. Anyway, and as John Wright suggests in his book, if you only ever learn how to recognise one toadstool then let it be the Death Cap.

Beautiful wee tune, and stupid BBC

18 September, 2008

What a performance it is, trying to get even the simplest of information out of the BBC!

I don’t watch a great deal of television these days, and when I do I’m frequently more interested in the music than the action (unless it’s a cookery programme, of course, in which case I sit with my snout pressed to the screen and my right crubeen poised on the Repeat button).

Bored the night before last, though, I took a quick scan at Tess of the D’Urbervilles, partly in a sort of half-hearted homage to A Level English Lit, taken all those thousands of years ago, but mainly because I was trying out the cunning thing the BBC now has which enables us to watch television programmes on our computers. I opened a second window and browsed off somewhere else as it played in the background, but a sublimely beautiful piece of music somehow broke through the various mental barriers I’d erected in order to be able to look at a couple of other web pages whilst half-listening to Tess, and here it is.

*happy sigh*

D’you think the BBC might have any idea of who wrote the music for what’s currently their major costume drama, though? Well, no. Of course they haven’t. Or if they have, they can’t be bothered to make the info available to the people on Customer Services so that they can pass it on to plebeian, licence-paying piglets like me. When I dared to persist beyond the initial “Oh, sorry: I’ve absolutely no idea!” they behaved as though I was some sort of dangerous lunatic who, if provided with the name of the composer and/or producer and/or any person in-any-way-howsoever-peripherally connected with the series and/or even (really pushing the boat out here…) an email address for Customer Support at the BBC, could be expected to jump on the first train to London and hide with a semi-automatic rifle in the bushes outside Television House (or whatever it’s called) in order to execute the musicians! When I explained that I just really loved the tune, and would like to know whether it’s possible to buy a copy, if I could only find out who wrote it, they didn’t seem to be equipped to understand. Maybe Paddy has confused them *g*

This lack of interest in who writes the music, and what it is, seems to me to be very odd, and extremely short-sighted. Try watching any of that sort of stuff with the sound turned down and you’ll soon drop off to sleep. The music is what brings it all to life!

By way of illustration, who amongst us can possibly have forgotten the utterly heart-stopping moment in Pride & Prejudice when Darcy and Elizabeth’s hands finally came together in the dance, to the beautifully haunting strains of the rather uneasily entitled Mr Beveridge’s Maggot? (On reflection, I think perhaps that’s the name of the dance.) Anyway, I’m almost sure I read afterwards that that first touch was immediately followed by a nationwide wave of happy, female squeeee-ing so loud and reverberant that it registered a 5 on the Richter Scale, and caused flood damage all the way up the coast from Bognor Regis to Blackpool!

Hmmm… well, just in case there might be somebody out there who doesn’t remember it, here’s a little reminder. (Please ignore the sub-titles half-way through: written in Piglettish. It’s the beginning that’s likely to knock you off your seat again.)

Darcy & Elizabeth — Netherfield Ball

*pants a bit at Colin Firth*

(Actually–and although this is a side issue–I also particularly enjoy the sight of Jane Bennet in the background, during the introduction, tossing her head around in ethereally slow-motion, like some sort of restive horse.)

Please add me to Paddy’s list of people profoundly dissatisfied with the BBC…

Anyway! Google eventually revealed that somebody called Rob Lane wrote the music for this production of Tess, and I’m still pursuing the beautiful tune. Here it is again, in case you didn’t click first time round. Lovely, lovely, lovely!


David Sedaris. A SheeWee for all y’all blokes!

13 September, 2008

I love David Sedaris, and when I heard this I naturally thought of all you backpacking blokes who’ve been deprived of the fun that comes with owning a SheeWee 🙂

David Sedaris — Stadium Pal

David’s written some v. funny books. I like to listen to them when I’m backpacking. There are several, but I’d recommend Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim, and Me Talk Pretty One Day to start off with.

Don’t read them in public unless you don’t mind crying with laughter in front of total strangers *g*

Life affirming stuff!

12 September, 2008

This sounds like a joke, but I’m happy to say it’s true.

In Massachusetts 3 days ago, New Bedford firefighter Al Machado saved a cat with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after rescuing it from an apartment fire. 2 cats died in the fire, but the firefighters saved a number of other animals.

Little Peewiglet tells a friend about the rescue

Little Peewiglet is going to write to the firefighter to thank him for what he did.

Sloe gin: my sort of recipe!

11 September, 2008

As soon as I track down some sloes I’m going to make sloe gin. In the meantime I’ve been reading up on recipes.

My favourite starts like this.

“Take a litre bottle of gin, and drink half a litre.”

Hic*&^%!*% *g*

Update: Beware Note Tab Pro / Plimus / Fookes Software

10 September, 2008

Unusually, I was irritated enough yesterday morning to post about what happened when I paid Fookes Software via Paypal for a licence to use their product, Note Tab Pro. Instead of receiving an email with a registration code, I instead received an email from Plimus, who (it turned out) handle web-sales for Fookes Software, telling me that there was going to be a delay of up to 12 hours whilst their staff reviewed the order “for quality purposes”.

In fact, the registration code arrived about 20 minutes later, but of course I hadn’t known that it was going to do so, and I was so annoyed by Plimus’s “we’ll take control of your money and just hang onto it while we conduct reviews into our internal operating procedures” practice that I emailed Fookes Software to draw it to their attention.

Later in the day, someone from the Fookes Software Helpdesk wrote back to tell me that the delay had occurred because the email address I used for my order was different from my Paypal email address, as a result of which Plimus had carried out a “manual review”. In fact, I don’t believe the email I supplied via the website did differ from my Paypal email address, but even if it had done I don’t consider it appropriate for a vendor (or its agent) to process a transaction–which has the effect of removing money from a person’s bank account via Paypal–and ‘ask questions’ later. I’ve been using Paypal for many years, and I’ve never had this experience before.

Anyway, Fookes Software made it clear in email that they didn’t think there was any sort of problem. There was no sort of acknowledgement that any of this might have been the source of legitimate irritation or concern, and despite the fact that my transaction was with them they suggested that I should take the matter up with Plimus if I was dissatisfied.

The tone of the email from Fookes Software simply added fuel to the fire, and so I wrote back to explain the respects in which their response seemed to be inaccurate and/or to miss the point. They didn’t have the courtesy to respond to the points that I’d made, but later in the day simply forwarded to me an email they’d received from Plimus. The Plimus email didn’t address the points either (I don’t know whether Fookes Software had actually forwarded my email to them or not), but it included the following:

“You seem to have already explained Plimus’s manual review process to [my name].There’s not much else to add, other than maybe to reassure her that if anything happened during the review process to NOT approve her order, the money would have been immediately refunded back to the paypal account.”

Is it just me, or does anyone else think this casual manner of dealing with other people’s money is completely inappropriate? When we provide vendors with our bank details (either directly, or via a third party site like Paypal) I think we’re entitled to expect that the vendor will recognise its legal (and moral) obligation to provide what we’ve paid for without delay. If there’s an internal review to be conducted, then I feel I’m entitled to expect it to be conducted on their time, and not mine. When I go shopping for vegetables, I don’t expect to hand over my money at the till only to find the sales assistant slipping my bag of veggies under the desk and telling me to wait while his/her supervisor conducts a review into the way in which he/she dealt with my order. If supermarkets tried that, customers would be calling in the police!

This online practice is exactly the same, except that ISTM that in one respect it’s worse. If I’ve handed over cash I have only that cash to lose, but when I’ve handed over my bank details to strangers over the internet I have absolutely no idea what the person on the receiving end might attempt to do with them next. If we can’t have faith in online retailers to conduct these sorts of transactions scrupulously, and with complete transparency, then the whole system breaks down.

Fookes Software have made it crystal clear that they consider me to be making a fuss about nothing, and it may be that Plimus feel the same. At least Plimus, though, had the courtesy to contact me in email earlier today in order to explain their practice. They did *not* suggest that there was any issue about my email address (and indeed I’ve spoken to Paypal, who have confirmed that no enquiry was made by Plimus of them in relation to the transaction), and so for the second time I’m left wondering why Fookes Software suggested that in the first place. Instead, Plimus simply explained that they subject a number of orders to random, retrospective checks as part of their standard, automated anti-fraud systems. For the reasons set out above I feel they’ve missed the point, but I do appreciate their having had the courtesy to contact me about this.

In the meantime, I won’t be buying any further products from Fookes Software, and nor will I be buying any products online via Plimus.

Shock! Horror! Andy Howell eats *crubeens* in Spain! (The brute…)

10 September, 2008

Andy’s long-awaited and much anticipated write-up of the trip that he and partner Kate took to the high mountains of the Pyrenees is now up, and it includes… (wait for it…)… restaurant reviews 🙂

*trots around, excitedly*

There I was, though, happily grazing through interesting writings about snow, hail, Bushbuddies, thunder and lightning–basically, all the trappings of a typical Pyrenean July–when, before I knew it, I found myself reading a grizzly description of Andy chomping his way through minced piglets (in the form of saucisson) and innocent little pigs’ trotters, and fantasizing about eating a sleeping pig!

A crubeen (*weeps*)

Hard to believe, eh? You’d better go and read it for yourself


Wow… Looking for early ideas for a Christmas present?

9 September, 2008

My head spun when I saw this just now on the Lakeland page. (No… that’s Lakeland as in cooking accessories; not Lakeland as in walking.) I was drooling over jam jars, thermometers and jelly bags, but took a quick break to see what else was available. If I had the spondoolies spare right now, or a partner who needed pampering/placating, I think I’d be on the phone placing an order!

So! Who’d have believed there was such a thing as a robot vacuum cleaner, that would “happily plod from room to room” while you sat with feet up on a kitchen stool, browsing through TGO Magazine and stuffing down home-made bread and jam? I thought it sounded too good to be true, but the reviewers sound very happy.

Click here for passport to relaxation and/or happy partner 🙂