Posted August 9th, 2013 08:11 by Bob
Look what I found round the back of the bins (or their digital equivalent). I take no credit for this, it was made by a friend who will remain nameless for now. These are real quotes from a facebook group. Not a far-right facebook group, just a normal facebook group the purpose of which is nostalgia about a local community. There’s also a version with people’s full names on but since I live near them and they are clearly unbalanced I’m too much of a coward right now to include them.
Posted June 19th, 2013 17:43 by Bob
We actually remembered to harvest some of the edible stuff from the garden. We did pick some herbs last year and froze them but it was at the end of the season and they had mostly died down already. We’ve already left it a bit late this year as the herb garden looks like an explosion and much of it is probably far too mature but hopefully now I’ve hacked it back we’ll get some new growth.
Rather than freezing them this year we’re going to try and dry them. Vaguely following instructions from Grown your own month by month I’ve given them a good wash and left them hanging over the sink to drain a bit before moving them somewhere dry to dry out properly. They are probably tied a little too tightly at the moment but just want to get enough water off them that they don’t drip all over the floor.
The plan is to pick up some large pickling jars to store the results in once they’ve dried out. If nothing else the kitchen smells good and my hands are lovely and minty.
We’ve also picked our second crop of forced rhubarb, mum got us a Rhubarb forcer for Christmas which is working amazingly.
Posted May 22nd, 2013 21:06 by Bob
Once more I am grateful to the NHS in general and the staff at Wexham Park in particular. In a moment of terrifyingly bad parenting, following a long day I decided to have a quick blink at which moment Alexander opted to dive backwards off our garden bench onto the concrete floor. I’m not sure if it was hitting the floor or my sudden scream of “FUCKING HELL” which caused the most distress but we had to drive to A&E.
Everyone was lovely and spent the entire time repeatedly telling us that (a) we had done the right thing by bringing Alexander in, we were not wasting their time; and (b) it happens a lot, really a lot. I still feel intensely guilty for allowing momentary distraction but slightly better. Given he’s spent the evening breakdancing and demanding food I’m hoping all will be fine by the morning.
The biggest upset of the whole event was trying to leave the hospital as Alexander had grown very attached to the toy train in the waiting room and screamed “back back back” all the way to the door where he became instantly distracted by the ambulances and police cars outside.
Lessons learned today: Don’t blink EVER and if you want to get through A&E quickly try being a two year old. On a serious note, we are incredibly lucky to be living in a country with a health service and it should be protected at all costs.
I made some more stupid videos. Here are a couple from this week:
Posted May 12th, 2013 16:18 by Bob
After a near heart attack following working out how much I spend on lunch at work I’ve decided I need to find a better solution.
Work lunchtimes are becoming a bit of a challenge, although Maidenhead has a reasonable selection of places to buy instant edible food from once you factor in cost, general health and then diabetes the selection drops dramatically. I appreciate as a grown up I should be capable of preparing a decent meal to bring in with me but mornings tend to be incredibly hectic with a toddler yelling for his breakfast and a general sense of panic to get to work before the world implodes whereas evenings are work filled until late or I’m just too tired to care.
Buying food in the town centre was fine pre-diagnosis (cost issue aside) but since has been a bit more of a problem. I can eat relatively easily if I go to a restaurant but that’s right out on a regular basis for both time and budgetary reasons. So, I’m stuck with supermarket food or takeaways, both of these suffer from the same problem – they tend to be stacked full of the stuff diabetics should avoid: bread, pasta, potato & rice. A large amount of what’s left is either salad or high in fat. The high in fat has to be avoided both because of general health considerations and because diabetics are prone to heart problems. There’s only so much salad I can face and have you looked at the price of a decent salad recently?
The main frustration is with myself, I’m a competent cook, the majority of what we eat at home is cooked from scratch and we have a varied diet I just have trouble transferring this into food I can take away from the house.
So, I need to find a way to eat at work without spending half our profits and without killing myself, my requirements are:
- Must be easy to prepare in advance, preferably in large batches to be frozen.
- Preparation time on the day of eating (or the night before) should be an absolute minimum. Sticking something in the oven for half an hour is fine, anything more is out.
- It must be financially sensible, ingredients should be those we use anyway or things we can make use of elsewhere. If it’s going to cost the same over time as buying lunch in town there’s no point.
- It must be healthy.
- I need to allow for variety, I can’t face eating the same thing all the time. So ideally things I can cook in large batches which can be frozen for a decent length of time.
- I must want to actually eat it. This sounds obvious but since I was diagnosed I’ve picked up some real food issues. There are some meals now which I cannot face and will make me nauseous to try and eat, it’s entirely psychosomatic but I don’t seem to be able to get past it at the moment.
The first solution – pasties! Obviously. Bear with me on this. Normal pasties are clearly right out what with the white flour and fat and all but the general concept is a strong one, a fully contained meal which requires no additional preparation and nothing extra to go with it but contains a decent combination of foodstuffs (carbs, protein, fibre, etc). I make quite a lot of diabetic friendly flatbreads/pancakes at home using a mixture of spelt flour, wholegrain flour, oat bran and flax (it is nicer than it sounds) so I’ve modified the recipe to make a basic pastry/bread type case which I can fill with STUFF, more importantly different stuff each time I make them.
I’ve just finished making the first batch with a samosa type filling (less of the potato and the addition of some mixed seeds/green veg to balance up the carbs/fibre). They look edible, which is a start. Will find out tomorrow and hopefully get away from wasting a hell of a lot of cash.
Any suggestions on recipes will be gratefully received.
Posted March 21st, 2013 20:41 by Bob
I’ve been worrying about mental languor. It’s crept up on me slowly like some insidious mind eating creature from a nineteen eighties Doctor Who episode. Cultural and intellectual entropy has taken hold without my realising, leading me into a spiral of apathy and draining what little creativity I had. In short, I’ve stopped trying. I became aware of the problem a couple of weeks back while at work, eating the same lunch I always eat while checking the same website I always check – for the fifth time that day. I’ve allowed myself to get into a routine, something I’ve previously actively avoided.
Routine in some ways is a good helpful framework for existence, there are aspects of life which shouldn’t need constant appraisal: my son’s bedtime, where we buy our milk, how often I clean my teeth. In other areas it can really cause trouble. Without a flow of new ideas, opinions and images I stop coming up with new ideas myself, without new things to feed my mental process my problem solving skills start to wane and to some extent my intellectual processes generally drop.
In honesty I’ve always had trouble challenging myself to read and watch anything outside of my immediate area of interest and comfort (less so with music for no clear reason) and have often felt jealous of those who can just pick up a book on a new subject and dive in – I do have certain mental issues here to do with fear of failure to understand new things but there’s far too much baggage there to go into. Recently I have reached a new low, in my sparse spare time rather than learning something new I’ve been visiting the same very short list of websites none of which have very much in the way of stimulating content. I’ve made no effort to go anywhere new or do anything different outside of my daily routine. It’s killing me (mentally anyway).
Moving forward, I’ve recognised the problem and am making attempts to remedy it. There’s a world out there full of places to go, second hand bookshops, libraries, art galleries, forests, towns, museums and other things. There’s a massive internet of stuff in here, I can learn anything I want to learn and read about any subject imaginable. This is an amazing time to live in, humanity has never had more access to more information and experiences at such short notice, it’s brutally lazy to ignore these opportunities in favour of quick fixes of cheap entertainment and celebrity culture.
(This may have been partially inspired by going to see Robin Ince the other week).
Posted December 9th, 2012 09:31 by Bob
It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’ve already questioned my mortality and made the worst pancakes it is possible to make without actually poisoning my family.
Had a lovely dream in which I was terminally ill, going to die in three days and needed to work out how my family would be provided for, but my clients would not let me have my remaining time off and insisted I work extra hours those last few days to make up for it.
With this cheerful start it seemed only right to make pancakes. Making pancakes is a fucking convoluted challenge in this house with our growing list of food issues. It wasn’t so bad when I could use eggs but they are now verboten following a toddler face swelling horror. Last week I tried just making (wholemeal/spelt flour) pancakes with no egg and no egg replacement. They tasted acceptable but didn’t behave as you would like a pancake to behave.
This week we had a box of American style pancake mix Caitlin had given us. I found some advice that a reasonable egg replacement was apple sauce. That sounds nice doesn’t it? You would assume pancakes with a build in apple-sauceyness would be full of tasty goodness wouldn’t you. Well they probably would be if that’s what I had delivered to the breakfast table (which also doubles as the lunch, dinner and any other arbitrary meal table). What I delivered was a confusing stack of crispy burned items with a near liquid centre. I’ve not been to the states but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the intention. Karen bravely made her way through two, I stupidly attempted three of them because I had to make the damn things and was not going to throw them out unchallenged. As responsible parents we didn’t give any to Alexander in case it constituted child abuse.
Feeling a little funny now, should probably call a doctor but need to get these servers configured first.
Posted September 9th, 2012 19:14 by Bob
On the verge of finally defenestrating my laptop my beautiful friend Tim saved it with the power of SSD.
The birth of my (awesome) son brought many changes to my life, most of them brilliant, some expected and some utterly not so. One change I failed to divine was the effect it would have on my illustration time. I’ve worked from home most of my life and as such have been able to use my work tools (desktop computer) in my own time for my own creative ends. This didn’t work out so well once I had a tiny person depending on me. My option to disappear into another room for a few hours of pixel pushing dissipated somewhat, doubly nixed as I was no longer working from home having moved into an office with the dual purpose of being a bit more professional and converting my home office into a nursery (still work in progress, I am nothing if not inefficient).
The most obvious solution was to get a decent spec laptop so that in the moments my tiny child happened to be sleeping I could pop it open and bugger about with Illustrator to my hearts content. Following a bit of research and advice I went for a Sony Vaio. It’s a nice piece of kit, looks lovely, fairly lightweight but sturdy, has all sorts of slots and ports for all manner of devices, runs like a brick. Right from the start it was a struggle to work with, it took a few minutes to boot, would overheat quickly and crash on a regular basis. If I tried to play games on it I needed to reboot after 45 minutes otherwise they became too sluggish to play. As far as using it for design and illustration went, it would open Illustrator and Photoshop but as soon as I had put together anything of any complexity it would become unbearably slow. I gave up using it for a few months as it was just depressing, it was taking hours to draw something that I could knock out in ten minutes on my desktop at work.
Recently, frustration at lack of opportunity to work on personal projects at work drove me to try it out again, I spent a couple of days desperately trying to make it work by removing anything from it that may be eating resources. I even did away with the desktop background. It made a difference but not enough to render the damned thing actually usable. On the verge of giving a thousand pounds worth of barely used laptop to charity, Tim suggested I try an SSD (Solid State Drive). I was wary, they looked expensive, but he lent me one to try out. It was like a completely different machine, no freezing no overheating, I could open Photoshop and Illustrator at the same time and work on hi-res images. Bit of research later and I picked up an OCZ 480GB Agility3
. Tim kindly fitted it for me and my technical problems have gone, a laptop which used to take a good few minutes to boot is now ready for use in under 15 seconds. The offset is that I have less space to play with but I’m happy to learn to keep my files in order in exchange for a computer that actually works.
All this does beg the question as to why Sony had made the decision to include such a crappy low-spec HD in an otherwise decent quality machine, the SSD is the only hardware change I’ve made but it’s like I’ve bought a completely new laptop. Had I been given the option at purchase to have gone for (and paid for) a decent quality HD, SSD or not I would have done so. Bad call Sony (although your walkman’s still kick arse).
This will not of course stop me procrastinating, I could have been drawing tentacled bunnies instead of writing this whinge, but there’s always tomorrow, plus I appear to have a computer which will run video games now, so might have a bit of a play before I get started.
Yay for SSDs…
Posted January 21st, 2012 12:31 by Bob
As part of my attempt to discover a more pleasant manner of making a living I’ve started trawling through all the design assets I’ve created over the last 15 years, and there’s tons of the stuff.
I’d assumed I’d be able to dig out a handful of textures, patterns and shapes that I may be able to re-use or package up in some manner, I didn’t expect there to be quite so much. It’s all in a terrible mess. I have an awful habit of creating a pattern or template for one job and leaving it in that job’s folder so I’ll never find it again if I need it elsewhere. A couple of times in the past I’ve started trying to categorize items without much success. This time round I’ve created a categorized Dropbox folder to keep everything in (yes, it will be backed up somewhere non-cloud based).
I need to get into the habit of adding any re-usable asset to the library as soon as I’ve created it (rather than assume I’ll get round to it later). The big challenge is going to be going through the 50 Gig of designs I already have and extracting anything of value. To compound the lack of organisation many of the assets only exist within the designs themselves.
It’s quite nostalgic going through old work, especially the bits related to the record label, hopefully I’ll find something of use!
Posted October 9th, 2011 15:36 by Bob
Our garden has an incredible amount of edible stuff in it. There was an apple tree, a pear tree and a rhubarb patch when we moved in and I’ve added to it ever since with assorted fruit vegetables and herbs. Every spring I get incredibly excited about the garden and put in an immense amount of effort which dwindles as the year goes on until we hit autumn by which time work is making me want to kill myself on a daily basis and the idea of putting in a few hours of gardening a weekend makes me want to weep. I’ve been suffering progressively worse feelings of guilt the last couple of weeks as there’s been (without any assistance from myself) a fairly impressive amount of fruit slowly rotting in the garden as I run through on the way to work. I usually manage to combat this by ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
We were supposed to be visiting friends today but Alexander has been a little unwell (he’s actually much better today) and didn’t want to risk making him any worse so we canceled (sorry Max and Fi). My immediate thought was to spend the day writing WordPress plugins but considered that my nearly-wife would probably kill me in the face so opted for the more family friendly option of harvesting some stuff from the garden.
We usually make a sort of effort to freeze a bulk of the apples but don’t do that with the pears as they are a pain in the arse to freeze (you need to cook them first), so opted to make pear jam instead. Did two batches based on this Pear and Lemon jam recipe we split it into two batches, one of which we followed the recipe and the other we added some stem ginger in syrup. We thought this would supply us with some gifts for Christmas, I hadn’t realised that 2 kilos of pears makes about 4 medium jars of jam. I managed to burn it (along with my hand) a bit as well so probably best we keep it for ourselves.
It was fairly straight forward, although I fucked up a bit by trying to make jam, freeze herbs, prepare apples and pears for freezing (made the effort to freeze some pears this time) and make pear muffins all at the same time. Nothing went horribly wrong but there were some moments of flailing and disharmony within the kitchen.
Lessons learned today are to do one thing at once, especially if two of the things you are doing you have never done before; wasps like pear trees, they don’t like you being in pear trees; spending the morning in a pear tree makes me itchy; I really shouldn’t have recycled that big bag of jam jars the other week.
We now have a kitchen full of tasty fruity goodness.
Posted September 21st, 2011 20:43 by Bob
I’ve spent years failing to be a musician, and now I’m just about ready, with a bit of hard work to become a failed musician.
Three of the things I most want to do with my life are art, photography and music, not for profit or the adoration of others (although both would be a pleasant bonus) but for my own enjoyment. I have as yet failed to do much of any of these. I had a brief spate of success with photography – success in the sense that I actually did some, rather than I was a successful photographer – which I put down more to the enthusiasm of my good friend Scott (a very talented photographer) with whom I used to make many trips to explore and photograph things. Unfortunately a change my life circumstance have made it increasingly difficult to find time out for such trips and I can’t seem to get up the enthusiasm for the art on my own at home (a poor excuse).
The primary issue I have is that I just don’t know how to write music, I don’t quite get the creative process and as such am afraid of mediocrity and failure, although as with any other art form failure and mediocrity must be part of the process, very few (if any) are able to pick up a skill and be stunning at it straight off, you need to fail to learn and be a bit shit before you can be less shit.
An important part of any creative process (for me) is the social side, having people you can learn with and from. The times I’ve been most active have been when I’ve been spending plenty of time with proper musicians, most notably Nick Reincarnationfish - who introduced me to the software I love (Reason and Ableton Live) and also to an awful lot of the music that has inspired me over the years. Nick has unfortunately and selfishly moved to Leeds which prevents my easily hanging around his flat making unpleasant noises. There are plenty of online locations for the socially impoverished to knock about ideas and techniques, but frankly I’ve always found them to be a bit intimidating and scathing to the uninformed (me).
Recently my relationship with writing music has changed for the better. Some friends had some ideas for a small musical project which I’m helping out with, this has instantly highlighted how fucking awful I am at writing music, but also given me the impetus to start learning properly. In the past I avoided the need to actually learn and understand by insisting on writing impenetrable experimental noise and shitty remixes (which I shall not be posting online), to be fair to myself, I was interested in writing impenetrable experimental noise so it’s not all bad. When sitting down to write something a bit more straight forward – you know, choruses, verses, drums, bass and lead – I have not a clue where to start, but that’s fine I’ll start at zero and work my way up. I’ve shed the fear of mediocrity, I know everything I write initially will be shit, I just won’t play it to anyone.
One of the big setbacks I’ve had to deal with is my workaholism. Having spent years with the mindset that if I’m awake I should be working and if I’m awake and not working I’m worrying that I’m not working has made it difficult to do anything that I cannot tie directly to work. I’m working (haha) on this and intend to be 40% less mental by the end of the year. I’m currently forcing myself to spend an hour a day doing something creative which is not work related. This generally happens about midnight when sleep would be more sensible but it’s a step.
This has all caused me to become stupidly excited about the forthcoming release of the next version of Reason . I absolutely love Reason, and Propellerhead in general, their attitude to their customers has always been fantastic, as displayed in their current Pay What You Want deal. I’ve always had this awful habit with Reason (and Ableton Live) of upgrading to the latest version, playing with it for a few hours and then ignoring it until the next version comes out. I’ve been fighting this with my sudden massive geek love for James Bernard whose blog and tutorials manage to be exciting, interesting and not at all elitist or condescending. I’ve learned more about sound design and production in the last week than in the entire previous 35 years (thanks James).
So, maybe this year I’ll finally write that album I keep promising myself.
(I am aware that this blog is increasingly a blog of excuses for not doing creative things rather than a blog about the creative things I have done. I am very aware of this.)
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