Piglet Jigsaw

12 December, 2010

Click to Mix and Solve

Jigzone is lots of fun. There are all sorts of jigsaws there that can be completed online, and it’s even possible to upload one’s own piccies and convert them into jigaws too. Piglet loves it!

Just click on the piccy to go over to the site and complete the Pigsaw 🙂


Can anyone help? Need suggestions for music system

10 December, 2010

I’d be grateful for any help with this.

My father, who is in a nursing home suffering from vascular dementia, loves listening to music on his radio. Unfortunately, though, as part of his condition he’s developed some paranoia about the person who introduces the next track on Classic FM. He thinks the voice is a wicked man in the corner, and it upsets him to such an extent that we sometimes have to turn the radio off.

My sister and I are trying to work out what’s the best way of getting music into Daddy’s room that doesn’t come with voices. Radio seems to be out (unless anybody knows of a classical music station that has no announcements at all). An ordinary CD player doesn’t seem good either, because Daddy’s not capable of turning it on again when the CD is over, and we wouldn’t wish him to just listen to the one CD all the time. We’ve wondered about perhaps an iPod with a docking station and speakers, because we could load tons of music onto that and it would presumably run for hours and hours (or maybe even days). Things do tend to get lost in nursing homes, though, and we worry that if we put an iPod with docking station in Daddy’s room it might walk.

Can anybody make any suggestions, please? Daddy has very little pleasure in his life ATM, and so this is a real issue for him and for us. Neither my sister nor I has actually got an iPod/docking station/speakers, so we’re not absolutely sure of how it works: would it even do what we’re hoping to achieve? Alternatively, is it likely that we might be able to get a CD player that takes, perhaps, 3 CDs loaded with MP3s? If such a machine would move automatically from CD to CD then presumably we would be able to set something up that would last for several hours at least, and we could attempt to get the staff to be sure to turn it on every morning.

Please help if you can, peeps.

Intriguing account of a strange, unexplained sighting on Everest in 1933

6 December, 2010

Frank Smythe - Mountaineer, photographer, explorer & botanist

I enjoy listening to audiobooks, and one I bought a few years ago is High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2, by Matt Dickinson, Chirs Bonington, David Roberts and others.

When winter arrives, and the weather grows icy, my thoughts always turn to the exciting prospect of getting out into the crispy-cold hills with my tent, and while I’m out there I like to listen to books like this, which tend to put my aches, pains and minor battles with our wintery weather into some kind of perspective.

Anyhoo… the most interesting things in this whole book, for me, are the following two passages by Frank Smythe (1900-1949: a British mountaineer, author, photographer, botanist and Army Colonel) from Camp 6: An Account of the 1933 Mount Everest Expedition.

In the passages transcribed below he describes two odd experiences that he had whilst descending from a failed attempt on the summit. It’s not uncommon, of course, for people climbing and walking in mountains to have strange experiences, but I love to read about them, despite the fact that the memory of them tends to return at dusk when I’m camping, and settling into my tent for the night… *g*

The second of these passages is one of the most interesting accounts of something inexplicable that I’ve ever read (which is saying quite a lot!) If you listen to the book you can find the passages at 3:46:46 and 3:50:48 respectively.

First passage
“And now I must relate the curious incident described in Everest 1933.

After leaving Eric a strange feeling possessed me that I was accompanied by another. I have already mentioned a feeling of detachment, in which it seemed as though I stood aside and watched myself. Once before during a fall in the Dolomites I’d had the same feeling, and it is not an uncommon experience with mountaineers who have a long fall.

It may be that the feeling that I was accompanied was due to this, which, in its turn, was due to lack of oxygen and the mental and physical stress of climbing alone at a great altitude. I do not offer this as an explanation but merely as a suggestion. This ‘presence’ was strong, and friendly. In its company I could not feel lonely; neither could I come to any harm. It was always there to sustain me on my solitary climb up the snow-covered slabs.

Now, as I halted and extracted some mint cake from my pocket, it was so near that instinctively I divided the mint into two halves, and turned round with one half in my hand to offer it to my ‘companion’.”

Second passage
“The climbing was simple enough at first, but presently became more difficult. Instead of the easy slabs that had led us upwards from the camp to the foot of the first step I found myself on a series of narrow, outward sloping ledges separated by abrupt little walls. These ledges were never continuous for long, and it was necessary when one petered out to descend to another. However, I could still afford to lose height without descending below the level of Camp 6.

This route took me across the band some distance below the place where Wyn and Waggers found the ice axe, but I did not see any further traces of Mallory and Irvine. I remember glancing down at a wide, gently sloping expanse of snow, screes and broken rocks below the band and thinking that if the ice axe indeed marked the point where they slipped it was possible that their bodies might have come to rest there.

Some of the ledges were wider than others and I paused to rest at intervals. It was during one of these halts that I was startled to observe an extraordinary phenomenon. Chancing to look over the North East shoulder, now directly in front of me, I saw two dark objects in the sky. In shape they resembled kite balloons, and my first reaction was to wonder what on earth kite balloons could be doing near Everest–a certain proof that lack of oxygen had impaired my mental faculties–but a moment later I recognised this as an absurd thought. At the same time I was very puzzled. The objects were black and silhouetted sharply against the sky, or possibly a background of cloud: my memory is not clear at this point. They were bulbous in shape, and one possessed what looked like squat, under-developed wings whilst the other had a beak-like protuberance like the spout of a tea kettle. But what was most weird about them was that they distinctly pulsated with an in-and-out motion as though they possessed some horrible quality of life. One interesting point is that these pulsations were much slower than my own heart beats. Of this I am certain, and I mention it in view of a suggestion put forward, afterwards, that it was an optical illusion and that the apparent pulsations synchronised with my pulse rate.

After my first reaction of ‘kite balloons’ my brain seemed to function normally, and so interested was I that, believing them to be fantasies of my imagination, I deliberately put myself to a series of mental tests. First of all I looked away. The objects did not follow my vision, but when my gaze returned to the North East shoulder they were still hovering there. I looked away again and, by way of a more exacting mental test, identified by name a number of peaks, valleys and glaciers. I found no difficulty in X, Y and the Rombuk Glacier [X and Y are things I’ve no idea how to spell], but when I again looked back the objects were in precisely the same position.

“Nothing was to be gained by further examination, and, tired as I was with the apparently endless succession of slabs, I decided to carry on to Camp 6. I was just starting off when a mist, forming suddenly, began to drift across the North East shoulder. Gradually the objects disappeared behind it. Soon they were vague shadows. Then, as the mist thickened, they disappeared altogether. The mist only lasted a few seconds, then melted away. I expected to see the objects again but they were no longer there. They had disappeared as mysteriously as they came.

Was it an optical illusion or a mirage? It may be of interest to state that my height was about 27,600 feet, and that the objects were a few degrees above the North East ridge about half way between the position of the 1924 Camp 6 and the crest of the North East shoulder. This gives their height as about 27,200 feet, and a line connecting me with them would have ended not in a background of sky but of clouds and mountains. It’s possible therefore that imagination magnified some strange effect of mist, mountain and shadow, yet, whatever they were, it was a strange and altogether uncanny experience.”

Interesting stuff, eh? It doesn’t sound to me as though Frank Smythe was either a fantasist or an unreliable reporter. It could be that he wrongly thought he saw something that wasn’t there, but if he did see what he describes then what on earth can it have been? I have no idea, but cue spooky music…. *g*

Aaaaah! Darling wee piglet :)

5 December, 2010

Impressive technical support from startech.com

2 December, 2010

I’ve been having a problem with external hard drives (used by me for storage) dying, with attendant and tragic loss of data, so I had a look into storage and decided to set up what seems to be known as a RAID 1 array.

There are several different kind of RAID setups, but the idea of RAID 1 is to have two identical hard drives, where anything written to the first is immediately and automatically mirrored to the second. This way I hope I will always have a copy of my data, so if one of the drives fails my piccies, videos and other goodies will be safe and I can simply replace the dead drive with a new one, at which point the mirroring will start again.

It’s possible to set this up inside the computer but for a number of reasons (mainly because I didn’t have sufficient internal HD slots) I decided to buy what’s called an external hard drive enclosure for my two new drives, which would be connected to the PC via a USB cable. The user sees one of the drives in Windows Explorer and uses it just as they would any other drive. The enclosure takes care of the mirroring.

Having had a look around I decided to get this one, made by Star Tech, and a couple of these Seagate Barracuda 1Gb hard drives. I bought them all from More Computers, and they arrived yesterday.

It was quite easy to set up the drives in the enclosure, but I always find that doing anything that involves messing with computer innards generates a wee frisson of excitement because there’s always the possibility that I might do it wrong, or accidentally fry something vital by touching it in the wrong place. Basically, it’s simply necessary to mount the drives in the trays that slot into the enclosure, so I got out my cunning computer tool kit, unscrewed some things, removed some bits of plastic, mounted the drives, screwed them into place in the trays and slotted the trays back into the enclosure.

The problem began when I carried my pile of new goodies upstairs to the computer, plugged in the enclosure and connected it to the PC. All the lights came on, followed by a gratifying low grumbling sound which seemed to suggest that something was happening with the new drives. However, I couldn’t see my new drive in Windows Explorer, and the manual wasn’t detailed enough to provide any clues about what to do next.

By this time it was about 9.30pm, and far too late for a telephone call to Star Tech, but I went over to the Star Tech website in the hope of finding a forum where I could get some information. I couldn’t see a forum, but I did find an invitation to have a Live Chat with somebody in technical support. Whoohoo! I clicked the Live Chat button and within less than a minute a really helpful bloke arrived, and over the course of the next 30 minutes or so he got my new toy up and running. (The problem turned out to have been that the new Seagate drives needed to be initialised and formatted before I could see one in Windows Explorer.)

I’ve used this Live Chat thing before on the Novatech website, but having somebody available at Star Tech to sort my problem out at a moment’s notice far exceeded my expectations. It’s a pity the manual isn’t more detailed, but the Live Chat made up for that.

So, many thanks to Star Tech: take a Gold Star 🙂

More Computers — Anyone used them, because…?

1 December, 2010

I’m just wondering whether anybody has any experience of More Computers. I ordered some stuff from them yesterday, and paid almost £10 for next day delivery, but I didn’t receive the promised despatch confirmation email yesterday evening, and there’s still nothing this morning.

I started ringing them just after 9am so that I could be sure whether I have to spend the whole day waiting in for a courier of not, but have now spent two separate periods of 15 minutes on the phone listening to a recorded promise to be put through to an operator soon. The online tracking feature doesn’t work because I haven’t received an order number, not having received a confirmatory email. Despite all this, Paypal confirms that the payment was completed at about 11.30am yesterday morning.

I used them because I see that they won a PC Pro award for good customer service last year, but I’m wondering whether anybody out there actually knows them. I hope I’ve not just wasted my money.

Edited to add: Well, I’ve finally heard from them that my things are en route via City Link for delivery today, so that’s a relief.

Further edited to add: The parcel has arrived, so in the end it was pretty good service. I think the snow in some other parts of the country must simply have taken them by surprise yesterday afternoon. All’s well that ends well, then. Thanks, More Computers 🙂