Monday, October 12, 2015

It's the little things . . .

The incipient cold that is nagging at my nose and throat refuses to be subdued by swimming. One would have thought that energetic exercise would rally the good microbes in one's body to a decisive battle against whatever it is that actually causes colds. My home city of Cardiff has a centre devoted to all things cold-related and has been working steadily (and one fears unsuccessfully) to consign this socially embarrassing aliment to the history books. I am presently adopting the strategy of pretending that I do not have a cold. This is intermittently successful, especially while in the actual act of swimming, where the mechanical processes of keeping afloat, moving and alive are usually enough to restrain any of the more obvious aspects of the illness – and anyway moving water has a certain ability to wash away evidence!

So I am well. And to prove it I am going out to lunch with Irene and talking, much like swimming, has a way of making me forget mere bodily infirmities.

The Open University course is taking we hapless students deep into the (fascinating) world of single point perspective. Something which I have been told about often enough, but something which also does not seem to stick in my brain. There is a great deal of mathematics, or so I believe, in the working out of single point perspective – especially in the depiction of buildings – but I firmly believe that some airy-fairy citing of the theory and practice will suffice for most of the work that we have to do. I particularly like the part in our text books which seems to indicate that the artists of the Northern Renaissance used single point perspective when it suited them and adapted it when the artistic circumstances demanded. If that sort of thing does not give an arts student wriggle room, then I don't know what does!

Tomorrow is my now customary lesson in Padel – that strange mixture of tennis and squash which possibly originated on cruise ships, and British cruise ships at that! I am reluctant to claim this as yet another British sport given to the world as there is convincing evidence to suggest that it is nothing of the sort.

The nice teacher who gently introduced me to the sport has now deserted me and I have a youngster whose teaching style is best described as relentless. It is probably doing me good and is something which I have to get used to – and anyway it takes my mind off the fact that I still do not have any copies of The Book to hand. Or my phone. Or my watch. Nor any thing that I have paid for and which should be with me by now! But I try not to be bitter. Or somewhat worried. And I'm failing in that latter category!

I am working on a new poem the inspiration for which started innocuously enough with one of my staple (some might say hackneyed) provocations to creativity – autumn trees and falling leaves. This has turned into something altogether stranger with my reversing the leaf fall and transferring the shedding to humans. At the moment I think there are about three poems in one and although they are all linked, they are also fragmented. I like the central idea but its working out is much more complicated than I expected it to be. Also, the exposition is proving to be a problem as well – and that is one that I am nowhere near to solving. Still, that is why I enjoy writing, finding what, at least for me, is some sort of solution to a linguistic teaser! It may be that nothing comes of the poem at the end of my efforts, but I hope it does because I have found myself thinking about the subject for a few days now and I really want to know what I have to say!

Toni is deep into his course and is finding it time-greedy and difficult, but I have total belief in his eventual ability to sort things out. Its the duration of eventually that is the wearing part of watching the struggle!

Both of us are trying to get ahead to allow for the delightful distractions that will beset us from the 21st onwards! Bring it on!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

So much bitterness! So little time!

There has been a response from the powers that be about the theft of my money and phone while I was using the local swimming pool that I used to go to before our local pool became an indoor one. And if that is not a clumsy sentence, then I am no stylist!

What that response will actually mean in the fullness of time, I know not, but they did ask for the price of the old phone and the cost of replacing it. There was even vague talk of some sort of municipal insurance cover. Which is encouraging. I am not, however, holding my breath.

My replacement Yotaphone has travelled from Russia originally, then to Slovenia and on to Germany via Austria. And there it stays, mocking the assurances from the company that it would be with me in 1 day or 2. I was sceptical when I read it, so I am not unduly worried about its non appearance.

Just as I was not worried about the non/delivery of my OU books by Correos. It is not the first time that they have lost my educational material, so I was more than prepared to lurch into action to counter the malign indifference of the Spanish Postal Service, and the OU, bless them, did manage to get the books and other material to me in time. You never know, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a parcel arrived out of the blue in March with the books that should have been with me in September!

I am still learning the ways of the Satellite and incidentally relearning the use of right and left clicks with the mouse. There are things that go up in Mac that go down in the PC and not everything is where it 'should' be. But time will take care of that. I hope.

Meanwhile no news about The Book or The Watch or anything else of real retail interest.

In Spain, the latest news via a poll about the two largest political parties, PP (the ruling oligarchy of kleptomaniacs) and PSOE (a so-called socialist party with corruption issues as deep and worrying as PP – see above) puts them neck and neck. Neck and neck!

PP has had a build up to the election campaign which has been almost comic in its awfulness. Virtually every treasurer of PP who is still capable of drawing breath has been accused of corruption. The last treasurer has been to prison momentarily (if you're are PP or rich or a singer or banker you do not stay in prison for long) because of the wholesale distribution of sobres (envelopes) stuffed with 'black' money (i.e. illegal) to anyone who was anyone in PP. A whole swathe of the political class have been impugned; and the commercial class; and the banking class; and the union class – anyone with power and influence has been bought and sold. And they all get away with it.

One daily programme has a 'Corruption of the Day' spot to keep up with the accusations! The congregation of one notorious wedding of a daughter of the past president (unfortunately with no resemblance to the Red Wedding of Game of Thrones) seems to have been composed almost entirely of the ethical dregs of Spanish society. It is amusing, in a bitter sweet way, to watch film of that grotesque parade of autocratic contempt and note how many of the faces are also known to the police as miscreants – and many more who should be!

Evidence of the corruption of our politics washes from our TV screens in a never ending wave and EVERYBODY (including the scum who deny it) knows that the guilty are those who 'govern' us. The evidence is overwhelming and conclusive, but PP has a parliamentary majority and, by god, they use it.

An example of that was when PP 'lost' the recent local elections in many of their strongholds where corruption under their astonishing rule had reached totalitarian dimensions. Apart from frantically shredding anything which might be incriminating and prove to be useful to the new incoming administrations their out-and-out shock at being dislodged from their traditional cash cows prompted them to extreme proposals.

One (just one) of their most astonishing proposals was to re-write the meaning of majority. In some of their previous serfdoms they were still the largest single party after the elections, but they lacked the all important overall majority which allowed them to do what they liked. So, their (really quite clever) solution was to propose a new law which stated that if the largest single party's vote was something like 40% they should be allowed to form the government, even if the other parties could unite behind a single candidate for mayor. They began to play around with percentages and the frustrated PP grandee who fully expected to be elected major of Madrid began to talk about democracy! Always a bad sign when a member of PP uses the 'D' word – it usually shows desperation and panic, because any thinking person bursts into uncontrollable laughter when they see anyone from PP talking about a concept in which they obviously have no belief whatsoever!

If you are British and reading this, you have no idea whatsoever about how blatant the corruption is and in what low esteem politicians and bankers are held. Whatever you think about Cameron and his Cronies (and I think very, very little of them) they are paragons of ethical virtue compared to the rubbish that clings on to power in this country. And, as far as I can see, has a very real chance of retaining power after the next general election if the disgraced PP party can link up with the C's (a right-wing party with a young leader whose lust for power is refreshingly obvious) then they could form the next Spanish government. And I will wholeheartedly in favour of Catalan independence.

Just to give Catalans something to think about. Monday is National Show Our Military Might Day when there is a military parade with the salute taken by the tall person who calls himself the king – a person who was put on the throne by the undignified collusion of PP and PSOE with no reference to the people of Spain whatsoever. This unsavoury parade is usually in Madrid, but this year it is taking place in Barcelona.

Perhaps this is the time to mention that some PP defence minister actually raised the possibility of military force to keep the Catalans in line if they took the Independence thing too far. And now we have a vast military parade. This is not going to turn out well. Mark my words. Though the public face of the parade will be photogenic enough with invited guests and invited populations to give the 'right' image for the watching viewers. It will be interesting to see how this 'event' is televised on Spanish television and then compare it with how it is treated on Catalan television.

It is at times like this I regret not having a Republican flag to fly from our window. I am obviously asking in the wrong shops!

Meanwhile I follow the non-progress of my phone as it continues to stay in Germany. Perhaps, now that I think about it, they are trying to find a vehicle which has actually passed legitimate exhaust emission tests before bringing it into Spain!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Confessions of an Unjustified Apple User

“Hello, my name is Stephen and I'm an . . .”

I have no wish to make a joke out of an opening sentence, which for many is a major step forward for addicts to alcohol: the point at which you admit your addiction.

I feel that I have reached this point of confession and I can admit that I have been, if only in my mind, to my own version of AA. Apple Anonymous.

In a strange way I am grateful to Apple because they have provided the impetus to break away from my dangerous addiction. Let us consider the facts.

The first computer that I owned was a Sinclair where the memory was 16k and each button was a command which showed on a LED screen. After wasting time on the only computer that my first school owned (the fabled BBC B) trying to become a programmer when I was and am a mere User.

There followed a series of computers and printers and, of course, trying to get to grips with early versions of Windows before it got a grip on you. I didn't have a Damescene moment, but my hatred fro Windows and the PC grew in inverse proportion to my growing infatuation to the whole glowing gadget thing that the computer represented.

And I switched to Mac. And it was as if I had been welcomed to a new friendly world of technology – an operating system that seemed to be on your side. As I still tell people, my example of the differences between the two systems was changing a file name. On one odd file I had misspelled a word and my efforts to change this irritating reminder of my fallibility resisted all my efforts in Windows 001 or whatever primitive version of a so-called operating system I was using to change it. So when I was presented with a similar spelling error in a file in my new Mac computer my heart sank. But I remembered that the Mac system was supposed to be on my side and so I thought logically and reasoned that to change a name I ought to be able to click on it and change it. And that is exactly what I did.

It was with considerable surprise that months later I saw a two page advert in a quality newspaper for Mac which comprised the full page of instructions for changing a file name in Windows and the simple click and change instructions on the other page – most of which, of course what white blank space. Clever. And a clear example of what I preferred Mac to Windows and the PC.

But Education did not. Schools lived and died by PC, and programs which were supposed to run on both PC and Mac but invariably did not, or did not run in the same way, or ran just enough to get your hopes up and then broke your heart as they failed to work yet again! But sheer perversity, membership of an oppressed minority and a deep feeling that Mac and Truth would win through in the end meant that I stuck with Mac through thick and thin. Even if I once went as far down the way of the apostate to buy one machine which had a PC and a Mac within the same case. In theory they were supposed to switchable with the push of a single key; in practice, it was never that simple. It never was.

But I stuck with Mac, until it was impossible to ignore the sheer amount of information that was being passed by because of Quixotic determination to stay with a system of computing that the mainstream world seemed to have consigned to oblivion.

So I switched to PCs, and hated them with all the old resentement- But Apple were able to draw me in. the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone, the AirMac and the Big Mac. I bought them all. And by the time I bought my AirMac (still the most elegant of really portable computers) I was hooked again. And, I told myself, it didn’t really matter so much any more. The operating system that Apple had stolen that I liked so much had been ripped off it is turn by the competitors, and the machines seemed to speak to each other with an ease that the early days never held.

The came iPhone 6. And my release from the shackles of Apple. The price of the phone, at least in Spain, showed contempt for the buying public. There was nowhere near enough innovation to justify the price, this was a clear and naked scream for cash from addicts. And, behold, I was free!

To an extent. I still have all my iDevices. And use them. But this computer I am using now is a Toshiba. With 2TB of memory and the ability to extend the memory with various ways of doing it. And a slot for an SD card. And so on. My iPhone has been replaced by a Yotaphone. My iPad still has a function and use. And who knows where my selection of iPods are now. And who cares.

So, my new/old/new life of Apple distancing begins.

And finding out just how difficult Apple makes the transfer of information from one type of machine to another is something which is providing hours of innocent fun at the moment. Though I am determined to have ALL of my music on all platforms on this single machine. That is something which is going to keep me occupied for the next few weeks. At least. And there is always some part of my music collection which lurks hidden behind some electrons somewhere in the various machines that contain it all!

And I must forget the renaissance and The Book and the Day. It is all converging! What fun.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Turning toward the Light!

There is something refreshingly illicit in typing on a computer that is not Apple. As a long time Mac user, I have been faithful to Mac ever since the days when the operating system of Mac was absurdly more friendly than early versions of Window.

But enough is enough. The iPhone 6 was the final fiscal straw which finally convinced me that the only thing that Apple really cares about is the money that the hapless fools who support them have in their pockets.

I have now moved from my iPhone to a Yota phone. I have to admit the Yota phone does seem to be designed with my specifically in mind as it has a double screen with one side of the phone being a sort of low-power using Kindle type screen ideal for reading. I have had to buy another phone as my previous one was stolen (so if you see anyone in Castelldefels who is not me using a double sided phone, then the chances are that they might have a few questions to answer about their ownership!) and we have yet to see another one in our area. With any luck the replacement should arrive tomorrow and I can consign my revived iPhone back to the oblivion it so richly deserves.

I am not stuipd. My Big Mac on which I do most of my work will stay in place. I am used to it and I find it does well, in spite of the fact that such an expensive machine did not have a CD player and writer.

My new machine is a Toshiba Satellite (an early iteration of which I once owned) and has a 2TB memory as I am Old School and like to have my music downloaded from the thousands of CDs that I possess. As you will have worked out, this machine does have a CD player and I will be able to download my eclectic mix of music which ranges from the outré achievements of Pansy Division to the rarefied music of the early Renaissance. I must not forget to upload what has to be the largest collection of music by Carl Nielsen in Castelldefels!

Following Toni's strict instructions I am only uploading 'free' programs, so I now have (and am indeed using) LibreOffice Writer to produce what you are reading. Time will tell if the little refinements that come with Office are things that I might miss. Toni is a harsh observer and will castigate any backsliding into what he perceives as throwing money away into the uncaring hands of commercial software developers!

Meanwhile. The Book continues to dominate my waking thoughts. Not that there is much I can do about it at the moment, as it is out of my hands and at the printers. I am waiting for the finished product to be delivered to me and then I will be able to make its availability on Amazon a reality.

Everyone has a different set of priorities when they come to test out a new computer. Mine rest in the amount and quality of music I get get out of the machine. I have now (somehow) loaded up some of my music via Google Play (if that is what the program is called) though it seems to be (even for my music) a fairly odd selection. So, at the moment I am listening to Finnish Favourites (as you do) and skipping over the obvious Sibelius and going for the more obscure (at least to British ears) composers to keep me happy. And I promise that I will stop using brackets with the reckless abandon that that last section of writing displayed.

At least I have some music to keep me company and I am more than prepared to add music a disc at a time to build up my library. Again. How many times have I loaded discs into various machines! Still, with 2TB this should be the mother of all repositories!

Today we had lunch in the restaurant which is going to be the location of The Celebrations for United Nations Day this year. There seems to be a fairly even split between those people wanting fish and those who want meat. Which I do not find convincing. But, hey, there should be enough for pick and mix, and I can only guess at the chaos that the second course is going to produce. I look forward to it all with ill concealed glee.

The majority of the conversation with the restaurant owner was taken up with how the tables are going to be arranged. I everyone turns up then there should be 24 of us. Which is a healthy number. After the last meal in the cramped circumstances of the upstairs room of the restaurant that used to be Porto's, I have no intention of restricting circulation this time round. It's my birthday and I want to see everyone!

After much scribbling on napkins a plan was devised, though I am not sure that everyone taking part in the discussions was equally aware of the conclusions! Never mind, crisis management is one of the pleasures of indolent planning!

And so, as an insanely happy woodwind section of Finnish music plays through the ear phones of a stolen phone – not stolen by me, you understand, but what I was left by the changing room thieves of Castelldefels, and that only because I had not taken the ear phones with me – I am inclined to stop typing as I feel that I now have a feel for the keyboard of this new machine.

Now for some serious work.

Into the Renaissance I go!