July 14th, 2009, Late Afternoon | permalink

Ever since I got my drivers license three years ago I’ve become very, very lazy, not that I wasn’t lazy before, but I used to walk everywhere and that was a good form of exercise. Back in Scotland I’d walk to the bus stop or train station to get into Glasgow to go to work or whatever, I’d walk to friends houses, I’d walk to my brother’s flat, I even once walked from Ibrox Stadium to Queen Street Station to avoid the inevitable post Rangers game crush on the underground. During my short stint in London I’d walk from the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to Trafalgar Square just because and in Atlanta I walked a few places, like the 5 mile stretch of Shallowford Road in Marietta, from CNN Center to Midtown MARTA and from our condo in Sandy Springs to Perimeter Mall (and beyond) a great many times. I’ve walked nowhere since we moved to Charlotte.

So today I downloaded a free app for the iPhone called RunKeeper after Chris Owens was talking about it on Twitter and gave it a whirl on a little circuit of Cornelius and Davidson just to see…

Plodcast

For the most part it was pretty accurate, I needed to tweak the path out a little once I got home which upped my distance plodded from 3.25 miles to 3.31 miles. Overall a satisfactory experience, now I’m in the mood to beat the 57:10 it took me to complete it, I also need to work on a Plodcast playlist as I was just walking on shuffle, skipping tracks that didn’t get me going. A few surprising choices came up, like Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl has a great walking beat, especially as I was going up a bit of an incline on the Davidson/Cornelius border.

Plodcast

And oh yeah, I did this in 87°F (31°C) heat, so I worked up a crazy sweat, I won’t even tell you what my undershirt was like…

June 21st, 2009, Early Morning | permalink

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Outside of the occasional Flickr picture and even rarer link, it’s been almost 6 months since I blogged properly. Must get back into it…

So what’s happened in those six months? Quite a lot! Last time out, I had a job and loved it, and Robyn was on a little sabbatical and my family were over at Christmas time which was fun all things considered. Then in mid February I was in New York on a little 3 day business trip which was nice, unfortunately the flight back wasn’t the greatest and I’ve vowed never to fly US Airways again if possible…

Then the weird stuff began. I was unceremoniously terminated at my job for, to be brutally honest here, petty bullshit taken completely out of context, which is neither here nor there now. So we sat in our fairly new house, both of us unemployed, shitting the proverbial brick or two. We usually have terrible luck but Robyn managed to bag a sweet contract job at Duke Energy for a month (she’s still there BTW, taking names and kicking ass) that made an obscene amount of money per hour. Then came the few weeks stretch where we got some #snOMG, including a visit from Jim Cantore…

In April we drove back to Atlanta to see old friends and also see Flight of the Conchords, great time. We really need to get back more than once a year. THEN came the bombshell that the USCIS was investigating my immigration petition, holding up the update of my green card, so we had to get a few signed affidavits from some fairly respectable people and sent in a stack of paperwork as thick as a phone book, thankfully everything got sorted and I’m back to being the legal kind of immigrant.

Then to celebrate my 31st and Robyn’s 30th (well, 99% Robyn’s 30th as we had my 31st celebrations at Robyn’s new lake house on the north end of Lake Norman) we went to Disneyland to take advantage of their birthday deals, surprisingly it was a cheap weekend as far as a Disney vacation is concerned. And to round things off, we queued with the nerdcore a couple of days ago for the launch of the iPhone 3G S, which I’m really liking. Robyn also got her old 3G replaced as it’s GPS abilities had died a few months ago, so we both have (more or less) new phones.

In playing with the new capabilities of the 3G S I took this video of Josie playing…

So that’s what’s been going on… Eventful but we’re still surviving and that’s all that matters in the end.

December 31st, 2008, Early Morning | permalink
MMVIII  0

2008 is almost over, strange as it’s been a topsy-turvey year for more reasons than one. Personally I don’t think this year will go in my top 5 of “Best Years Ever!” 6 months of unemployment and a world-wide economic crisis will do that I guess.

Unlike previous years, I’m not going to list my favourite CDs (She & Him’s Volume One (btw)) or movies (Dark Knight), I’m just going to let it slip silently into the night. The only real choice left is do I watch Seacrest and the re-animated corpse of Dick Clark or Carson Daly? At least Cat Deely is off this year…

Hopefully 2009 will get off to a good start, I’m guessing around January 20th, so we can all forget about this annus horribilis

November 30th, 2008, Lunch Time | permalink

I’m a sucker for a good movie trilogy… Star Wars, Godfather, Back to the Future, Pirates of the Carribean, Bourne, The Matrix (well, not so much the last two)… Especially Lord of the Rings. I own them all on DVD (multiple times as I double dipped for the extended versions of Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers before I moved to America) so while I have 3 movies sitting in our vastly reduced DVD library (damn you Netflix and TiVo) I still made a point to watch the HD versions on TNT this weekend. Unfortunately we think out TiVo has a bad cablecard as it keeps resetting it’s self at irregular intervals, so recording a 3¾ hour is a bit like Russian Roulette until we can get it sorted out. Plus you have commercials to fast forward, and TNT’s on-screen graphics overlays… But I digress…

So after dealing with Fellowship, and getting halfway through the Two Towers, I gave up and now I’m starting to rip the extended DVDs of them for viewing soon. Why not just watch them you ask? Glad you asked… They are from the UK, therefore they are DVD Region 2, so no play, and even if they were Region free, the PlayStation3 doesn’t output a PAL signal as I found out with a few region free DVD’s I have. So rip I must or buy new ones (which I’m tempted to do) or wait and see if the mythical Blu Ray versions ever come out.

So for those following at home, here’s the things I do for an “easy” life…

  1. Insert DVD (duh!) also if you have 2 DVD drives in your desktop this helps a lot as you can have one permanently set to Region 2
  2. Use AnyDVD to rip to Hard Drive removing nasty things like region coding and the likes
  3. Use Handbrake to convert .vob to .mp4 or (for the easy life) .avi
  4. Use VirtualDub to join the two .avi files (2 discs you see)
  5. Burn to a data DVD and put that in PS3
  6. Done!

Reasonable simple, but as an XviD avi, you lose the 5.1 surround and alternate commentaries, or at least I’m yet to find a way that works. As an m4v I could use the AC3 direct sound to get surround sound/alternate commentaries, but it takes forever to transcode, especially if you want to upscale it to 720 for faux-HD, plus I’m yet to find a route to join 2 m4v files that works well enough to do this particular task with it…

This is the kind of thought process that takes up my Sundays, but rarely do I get the time to act upon it…

November 23rd, 2008, Late Morning | permalink

Finally, after what seems like a million years, I’ve finally got a job. Well, technically I got a job back in July, but after a mere 8 days it was deemed that it “was not working out” and frankly I wasn’t thrilled about the 40 mile commute and burning through a quarter tank of gas a day at the height of high gas prices… But I digress…

It’s not much, it’s a drop in pay from my old position, but in these times beggars can’t be choosers, but I couldn’t be happier. Mainly as I was feeling very stuck, and probably depressed (though I’d deny it) and cabin fever had set in yet again. Believe it or not, when you have no job to go to, you really don’t have as much freedom as you’d like, many people I spoke to said they’d love to have a 6 month “sabbatical” but really, it’s no fun. Sure you have all day to do whatever, but you can’t go out and have fun as fun costs money, and you don’t have any, and every penny counts, so invariably you hang around the house with a great plan of all the projects you could do, but none get done as you go through the motions of a monotonous schedule of nothing. Once you start talking to the cats, that’s a sure fire sign things are bad.

So hopefully now I can try and get back on track just in time for the holidays. It’s mainly a matter of pride, as men are supposed to be the main breadwinner, and in my 3 years of married life with Robyn, I’ve never been. But to bring in no bread at all (except for unemployment), well, that’s a big blow to one’s ego and self-esteem.

The weird thing was I had been applying for jobs every week, but after an extremely dry period of nothing (which sent me to a therapist to combat my depression) I got a ton of calls, and for a period last week I had 4 interviews in 3 days before a company made an offer Friday lunchtime. Strange how things work out sometimes, especially when North Carolina’s unemployment rate is hovering around 7%, I had all but given up hope.

Now I just need to knuckle down starting next Monday, and not blow this great opportunity.

November 17th, 2008, Early Evening | permalink

Well, the hooplah of the first Charlotte WordCamp is over. I found it to be a very interesting experience, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t really there to learn the basics, I was more interested in networking and things of that nature and all in all I think I succeeded as I managed to put faces to many twitter names.

The camp it’s self was very informative, the Promotion panel with Wayne Sutton, Lisa Hoffmann, Corey Creed and moderated by Donna Maria Coles Johnson was probably my highlight of the event (other than Mark Jaquith’s keynote speech/WordPress 2.7 preview/release of the latest WordPress 2.7 Beta which I missed some of due to ambient distractions (ie. someone turned the lights off and I nodded off for a few minutes)) as they had a lot of great ideas to pass along.

And there was some comedy to be had as one of the attendees got stuck in an elevator, sadly I know that feeling as I was stuck on my way to an interview back in Atlanta many moons ago.

Overall it was a great event, a great turnout and it has definitely inspired me to do more, so a big thanks goes out to Jason Keath who organised the whole thing as well as the volunteers who made the day run as smoothly as it did, as well as the Charlotte Observer who provided the location for us “new media” types to mingle.

November 15th, 2008, Late Morning | permalink

I’m sitting at the Charlotte edition of WordCamp, sitting through the technology and design panel hoping this will spur me back into the blogging game, and so far it’s working as I’m here now, but mostly I’m here to network… So far, so good as I’ve met a ton of people I follow on Twitter.

So far it’s as boring as sin, but I consider myself an advanced WordPress user who knows how to bend it to my will. But everyone needs to start somewhere and you can’t please all the people all the time. I’m also surprised at the demographic of the attendees, I was expecting a younger/nerdish group but it’s a broad scale of young and old, and more power to them.

I’m also hopeful that I can network my way into a job, every major Charlotte company is here and I ain’t too proud to beg…

October 28th, 2008, Mid-Morning | permalink

The election is a week away, so with some states still undecided a slew of musicians are hitting the road with Rock The Vote to, ummm, rock the vote, sorry, get out and vote… And, luckily for me, North Carolina is one of these states (along with Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota to name a few) so we were first in line for a night of Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow and Santogold at Amos’ Southend, two of those are worth the price of admission…

As Amos’ doors opened at 6. I started by arriving at Tavern on the Tracks just before 5 and scored a parking space in their lot that would facilitate a quick getaway after wards. After getting some snacky dinner and hanging around for an hour or so I headed over to the show, unfortunately the queue was long outside, and it was freezing, not a good wait. Rock The Vote people were milling around asking if people were registered or if they had voted already, of course I was harassed but they soon learned I was an empty cause, and I also managed to flog my spare ticket for $40, so I was off to a good start already.

Flickr: SantogoldSantogold kicked the evening off and she was ok, not really my kind of thing but entertaining enough for an opening act. As would be the theme of the night, there was a lot of political monologues between songs, but hey, it’s a political event so what do you expect? Another notable thing about Santogold’s set was her backing dancers, 2 women wearing identical clothes and sunglasses who just stood there for a few minutes, offering up an occasional backing vocal before the busted out some crazy syncronised dancing. Very bizarre.

After a little break the Beastie Boys came out to much approval to introduce Sheryl Crow.

Flickr: Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow was good, really good. She came on to do a little solo song before hanging up the guitar to take on the bass and going through a few new songs, her latest CD is actually very good, I recommend it, as well as a few classics like “Can’t Cry Anymore”, “A Change Would Do You Good” and “Everyday Is A Winding Road” (see below for a video of that). I also think the Sheryl was my favourite performer of the night, don’t get me wrong, I like the Beastie Boys, but Sheryl seemed to capture the mood much better with a mostly acoustic set of songs you can chill to.

She was also the easiest to capture in picture as she doesn’t move around the stage much, compare that to the Beastie Boys who were bouncing here, there and everywhere… As a side note, it’s been about 9½ years since I last saw the Beastie Boys live in Glasgow, and they have put out one album in that space of time (four if you include The Sounds Of Science Anthology, Solid Gold Hits (a best of) and last years instrumental effort The Mix Up).

Flickr: Beastie BoysFor three guys who are in their forties, the “Boys” haven’t lost a step in the live performance stakes, they played for over an hour in a set that did NOT include Sabotage, backed by Mix Master Mike, and everyone lapped it up. Non Sabotage aside, it was a very, very good time, live staples like “Root Down”, “Sure Shot”, “So What’cha Want?” and “Intergalactic” made sure everyone went home happy, but there was a weaird thing at the end where they didn’t go off stage to come back for the encore, then said they’d be back with the other artists, but once they went off, the house lights came up and show was over. Anyways, these guys were the hardest to photograph, poor light conditions and fast movement don’t mix, and I was so far back my flash would have been useless.

Overall it was $35 (plus fees) well spent, and I’d give a nice nod of thanks to Amos’ security staff for not turning my camera away at the door, his reasoning of overriding the “no cameras/recording devices” rule due to everyone having a camera phone was much appreciated, not just by me, but by a few people around me who were asking for copies of my pictures. Alas most were missed connections as it’s hard to get an email address while loud music is being played, you have nothing to write on and holding a big camera… I said they’d be on Flickr and as of right now they are still the only images of last night on there… So…

Get Out And Vote Tour ’08 (Set)

Originally uploaded by FLC.

October 20th, 2008, Mid-Morning | permalink

Flickr: JosieWe’ve had Josie for 3 months now, and she’s integrating well with Felix and Sally, and in many ways she’s become the cat we wanted Charlotte to be, but oh well. She’s really a fun little cat, but it’s hard to call her little now as she’s growing at a rate of knots, and we already have a variety of nicknames for her (most of which I’m sure confuse her no end) as she’s now called Josie, Josies, Josington, Josiniho, little girl, tabby tail, tabbington (these are due the the weird fact that she’s a black and white cat with a tabby cat tail, if it wasn’t for it’s growth spurt we’d swear it was a donor tail after some horrible accident) and so on and so on…

Everyone loves her, and she loves everyone. Doesn’t matter where she goes, to the vet or to the “Bed and Biscuit” while we were in Scotland, everyone adores her, everyone wants to take her home, and unlike Charlotte (who was so anti-people, she made an anti-social person seem like the life of the party) she’s not shy to run up on people and basically do that “love me” purr. And boy does she purr, out of control! She purrs so much at night she begins to drool like crazy…

Flickr: KittenAnyways, we’ve adjusted to the feeding frenzy of three cats as well as the inordinate amount of poo that comes from three cats, but as we were in Petsmart in Mooresville last week buying over 100 cans of cat food, someone from the Bed and Biscuit recognised us via Josie and asked if we wanted to help another cat who had been found outside.

And despite our initial refusal, he was brought in and soon enough we swore up and down it’s just a fostering and we’d find him a new home. But the poor little guy (still nameless, not wanting to make an emotional connection) was covered in fleas, as we found of when we tried to clean him and they all went to the higher ground, his face. So a flea treatment and a proper showering yesterday means he’s much cleaner, flea-free and generally looking like a nice little cat. But unfortunately our efforts to find him a home are proving to be a bit fruitless, so should we just become the crazy cat family and get another gaping maw to feed? Another few pounds of poo to clean up? Decisions, decisions…

September 26th, 2008, Late Morning | permalink

So the big $700 billion bail out didn’t work out. Washington Mutual disappeared over night. Our bank, Wachovia, is sliding down fast. Gas is increasingly scare here.

What else could go wrong? Cause each passing day is leading us towards that Mad Max scenario…

It’s becoming more and more clear that President Bush has about as much power over the economy as me, despite all his huffing and puffing, he’s quite clearly a step below the lame-duck status… Not even close to a figurehead. Most powerful man in the World? Give me a break.

As for the gas shortage, Hurricane Ike hit 2 weeks ago, and way below the expectations of what class it was going to be, but still 3 weekends later we’re still running dry. I don’t remember it being anywhere close to this bad after the double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, sure gas prices sky rocketed as price gouging took hold, but 2 weeks of very limited supply?

In fact, let me refresh your memory of those days…

Metro Atlanta drivers are facing the possibility of paying considerably more than $3 a gallon for gas by Labor Day – if they can get it at all.

The metro Atlanta region generally has about a 10-day supply of gasoline in inventory, said BP spokesman Michael Kumpf. The pipelines have been down for two days.

It came close, but never actually ran out, and that’s when the price of gouged gas was lower than our current lowest today (or at least 2 weeks ago). Madness! Utter, utter madness…

August 20th, 2008, Late Morning | permalink

Like others, I’ve spent probably too long recently watching the Olympics, which is strange as before I was quite ambivalent about them. I didn’t watch a single second of the Athens Olympics, for too long the summer games had made a dramatic shift from the greatest spectacle on earth to the biggest fraud in history, at least in my mind. But as news trickled out about the positively mind blowing opening ceremony, I thought I’d give this one a go.

And the opening ceremony was mind blowing, especially in HD… From there it rolled right into Michael Phelps obliterating any fool (except one) who dared challenge him. In fact, even though the Olympics is all about the track and field events, I’ve always been more of a fan of the lesser events that get some time to shine in the opening week, like archery, diving, weightlifting, gymnastics, handball, shooting, beach volleyball, cycling. There’s something strangely appealing about 48kg women hoisting 122kg in a clean and jerk, you watch it for the potential for anything to happen (read: nasty injuries) but it’s more amazement at the ease they do such things. Another event that if you’d never seen before, you’d just sit down and watch it for hours was synchronised diving, yes, really… Especially when they bust out the super slow high speed camera replays.

Anyways, that opening weekend we literally vegetated on the sofa for 48 hours straight, it was kinda awesome.

I think it’s been a pretty good Olympics, I haven’t heard much in the way of failed doping tests, and everyone will be talking about Michael Phelps 8 golds (7 world records) and Usain Bolt shattering the 100m and 200m records on his way to two easy golds for a long time. I’m pretty happy that Britain are 3rd in the medal table with (currently) 16 gold, should make the 2012 games in London that much more appealing for some people. Next up is Vancouver in 2010, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve registered my interest in tickets for that event, they go on sale in October…

August 18th, 2008, Early Evening | permalink

It’s the final countdown to our much delayed, much anticipated and much feared trip to Scotland. Originally we were due to be over there for my birthday, but due to me losing a job and moving house, we delayed it till now. And I’m not looking forward to it for my own reasons.

Firstly I should be thankful that frivolous spending on our Delta AmEx cards has allowed us to fly using our SkyMiles, and after our last flights to Edinburgh from Atlanta, we decided it had to be done right, so we’re doing it right by flying 1st class for 4 out of the 5 flights we’ll be taking to and from.

But the downside of using SkyMiles is you don’t get the flights you really want, and Charlotte’s airport flies nowhere that helps us, so we’re going this route….

Charlotte, NC to Houston, TX to Paris, France to Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh, Scotland to Newark, NJ to Charlotte, NC.

A 10,250 mile round trip that goes from Charlotte, NC to Houston, TX then to Paris, France before ending in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is a 24 hour trip starting lunch time Saturday, we leave Charlotte at 12:30pm and land in Edinburgh on Sunday as 4:30pm. You know that’s going to be fun. At least the way back is a bit more civilised, Edinburgh to Newark, NJ then finally to Charlotte.

As I said, thank goodness it’s mostly first class, the only leg that’s not is Charlotte to Houston. But seeing as I have a fear of take-offs, Saturday/Sunday will be a bad day for me.

Oh, and we’ll be in Edinburgh for the final week of the Festival, how on Earth did I agree to that?

August 7th, 2008, Evening Time | permalink

Before Twitter Spam was relatively harmless, someone (or some automated bot) would follow you in the hopes you’d reciprocate thereby exposing you to their hidden tinyurl links that could be anything. And seeing as I’ve been twittering for nearly 2 years now, I’ve had to block my fair share of these people, but tonight I discovered something rather disturbing that changes the landscape of Twitter Spam.

While going through Twitterrific I found a strange name in my friend updates, someone or something called @manatee (oh the huge manatee joke aside) and upon quick inspection he/she/they/it had 814 followers and only 24 friends, usually spam is the other way around, a refresh later revealed 1,270 followers… And each refresh kept on rising…

1,2701,6842,0742,4902,6763,1383,3354,895… And so on…

This was just in the space of 30 or so minutes… It’s pretty sad that Twitter has succumbed to this kind of spamming technique.

August 7th, 2008, Mid-Afternoon | permalink

Probably unbeknowst to most people, I burned down my village yesterday as I’m not in the mood to renew that domain, so today I rebuilt it on a mostly unused (and much cheaper come renewal time) domain and promptly retired the “Scam City” brand I’ve used for the past 9 years. I’ve also retired the Blossom avatar I’ve used for the past 6 years, my how time flies…

Hopefully the redirects I have in place will move most people along during the transition process, I’m especially curious as to whither the redirects will also push RSS readers over (once once they have moved will they stay moved?), so this is a test of sorts. There will be stuff missing, I’m still working on moving over things like my dump folder, videos, music, music player, older versions and so on… It’s not a priority…

Other than that, not a lot is going on, we have 2 sick cats after Josie brought an upper respiratory infection into the house and infected Sally (we think) and we’re leaving for the UK in just over 2 weeks, so I’m hoping anything will be cleared up by then so we can leave them here alone with some peace of mind.

July 29th, 2008, Evening Time | permalink
Reboot  1

9 years ago I decided to drop out of college and do things my way, at the time it seemed like a good idea but being the shady, secretive person I was I didn’t tell anyone for 6 months… It was a combination of boredom and not wanting to be taught or something like that, but shortly thereafter I began to teach myself the ins and outs of HTML and began my long journey down the web path.

And I learned the old fashioned way, finding pages I liked and hacking away at their source code. Yes, I was one of “those” people…

Not having a college education can sometimes be a hinderance, luckily 9/10 employers here won’t even bother to check into my UK education history and I can usually “blag” my way around most questions. But the lack of that education and my method of only learning what I needed to know just to get by is hurting me now. I basically list myself as a “jack of all trades, master of none” and know enough to be dangerous, and right now most employers are looking for experienced professionals who are skilled in a great many programming languages, some I don’t even know like Ruby On Rails or Python.

So now I’m going to undergo a personal reboot of sorts. A definate change of direction is needed…