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I have the best gel pen—it writes in green but then gold spreads out from the middle, so you end up with gold letters outlined in green. How christmassy is that? If it works. If it doesn't work properly you just end up with green, and if you close the card too quickly you end up with smeared letters on the other side of the card.

I felt obliged to write apologies for the smeared letters.
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Tomorrow I have to buy books for everyone in my family. I mean presents. Presents are books right? All right, presents can also be alcohol.

Today's depressing comment thread:

Being in poor-quality work which, perhaps, is boring, routine or represents underemployment or a poor match for the employee’s skills is widely regarded as a good way for the unemployed to remain connected to the labor market – and to keep the work habit. But Butterworth’s data contradict this. The HILDA data show unambiguously that the psychosocial quality of bad jobs is worse than unemployment. Butterworth looked at those moving from unemployment into employment and found that:

Those who moved into optimal jobs showed significant improvement in mental health compared to those who remained unemployed. Those respondents who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.



surprising nobody except the shitweasels in the comments section. Oh well.
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I used to be pretty much obsessed with fountain pens and inks. I still do know quite a lot about them - every obsession I have, I learn the details of. Nowadays I appreciate that they are nice to write with but I don't care about owning more than a couple.

I am currently in what I gauge to be the tail end of a camera obsession - I own an awful lot of (film) cameras, and occasionally I buy more. I am starting to appreciate that they are nice to take pictures with but I don't care about owning more than a couple.

In both cases, the "collecting" urge has been the main thing, in retrospect. I'm obsessed with obsessions. I collect collections. And I don't quite know what is next. Can I develop a meta-obsession about meta-obsessions? Will that appropriately fill my life before I die?
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One of the many interesting ideas I picked up from the street photography workshop I went to yesterday was about composition. Or, the non-existence of. "There's no such thing as composition. Pick the three things you want in the picture, make sure they're in the frame, then press the button." By which I understand not that it doesn't matter how things are arranged in the picture, but that, certainly with street photography, it is best to concentrate first on actual elements rather than the overall arrangement of the scene. The positioning of the elements comes naturally once you've decided what they are. Moreover, when you'll only have a fraction of a second for the shot, you'd best not be messing about with the rule of thirds etc if you can't do it instinctively. It's an approach I will be trying, anyway. (The first roll I took on this workshop is in the lab at the moment, and is probably crap, but that's me, not the tutor.)
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  • An Engine Fit For My Proceeding (Drupal) - a long-running Journal but (a) all about Second Life, where I am not present all that much these days, and (b) all “In Character”, which means even longer run-on sentences and even more tortured prose generally. No posts here for a long time now; effectively mothballed. Also it is Drupal 6 and there is no simple path to move it all to 7.

  • @ordinal (Twitter) - a lot of followers, mostly I suspect because I wrote (the first?) Twitter client for Second Life, rather than because people actually like what I tweet. But if there are any better services for dashing off quick thoughts or notifying readers of new content elsewhere, I am not sure what they are. I am very unlikely to abandon Twitter.

  • ordinal (Plurk) - I really don’t use this any more, though there are an awful lot of Second Life folk there and Plurk is actually a decent system.

  • chasing daisies… (Wordpress) - I originally started this as a place to put reviews of iPad apps, and also updates to an Applescript syncing app that I wrote and which doesn’t work any more. I began to post reviews of fountain pens and stationery, and then moved on to camera nonsense, but it is still basically a Reviews Of Stuff Blog, rather than one to which I can post general thoughts. Not read by many people anyway - mostly Googlefodder.

  • Ordinal M (Google+) - I “engage” reasonably with G+ and get into arguments on other people’s comment threads, but am increasingly irritated by G+’s design changes, impermiability to other networks and systems, lack of community features, enforcement of homogeneity and limits on (and de-emphasis of) content, so don’t write very much on it.

  • Ordinal’s Cabinet of Ephemera (Tumblr) - a scrapbook blog, the idea of which I do quite like but which I just haven’t kept up. (Existing entries are also very “ste*mpunk”, and I am very tired of that - well, of what it has come to mean anyway.)

  • ordinal (Dreamwidth) - full posting options, great commenting, communities, proper archiving, an ethical company with an excellent record on free speech, and no past history to stop me using it for whatever content I feel like. This is a system I want to use and promote. But there is nobody here. (Apologies to those of you reading this on DW, but you know it’s true.) I don’t gain much if anything over self-hosting, apart from a certain level of convenience.

At the moment I am thinking of just using Dreamwidth and Twitter to post content, with the occasional entry on chasing daisies perhaps, and using G+ et al only for replying to others. The DW account does at least automatically feed to Twitter, so people who follow me there may see new entries.

I really do need to customise the appearance of it though.

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I have been playing this quite a lot on the iPad recently, and enjoying it - it looks lovely, it has a well-balanced difficulty level (with "normal" meaning "something of a challenge") and the gameplay not too repetitive due to changes in terrain and who you encounter. I sometimes swear at it due to failures in selecting characters vs selecting targets or places to move to, but those are not huge problems and just need UI tweaks to solve. I will be following this dev team to see what else they produce. I particularly like the tactical necessity to have a psychoanalyst on hand, who can carry out some battlefield therapy to stop your characters going insane.

You should be aware, though, that it's not an RPG. There are persistent characters in it, and you get to develop the skills of your team and equip them and so on, but mostly it seems to be a series of skirmish wargame battles tied together by a blasphemous plot that man was not meant to know. I'm quite fond of this format, but if you were imagining something more like the early CoC text adventures, this is not it.
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I have a fairly cheap little stiff-legged one that I got for digitals many years ago, but it doesn't allow much variation in terms of angle, and, well, if you want to put an East German SLR from the 80s on it, you have to balance things very carefully if you don't want it all falling over and breaking your foot.

I remember people going on about the Gorillapod a while ago; is that still good?
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This is an image that I drew in my journal last year, to illustrate part of a dream I had had the night before.

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It really is snowing out there, not just the usual dismal London sprinkle of pre-dirtied grey slush. That means snow photographs! I don’t think I’ve ever actually taken photographs properly in the snow. Also, using black and white all the time will mean missing very little.

Redscale

Feb. 4th, 2012 04:59 pm
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I was thinking of trying out some redscale film - this is where you basically just load film backwards into a cartridge and expose it a stop or two more. (Or, you could pay over the odds for Lomography to do it for you.) I have some cheap colour film for a pound a roll from Poundland, which I am prepared to risk.

What did concern me was that Snappy Snaps might not be confused by this - you have to tape the ends of the film together, which could gum up a machine - but talking to somebody at my local one, he sounded quite interested in the idea, and said it shouldn't be a problem as they could just take it out in the darkroom and load it into a cassette. I suspect they must get quite bored in photo labs these days, what with the shops seeming to be mostly self-service printing booths. I also won't be horribly upset if they mess it up.
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  1. Take the lens cap off.
  2. When the flash advises you to move the aperture down a notch, even though you are used to always having it on the widest aperture, move the aperture down a notch.
  3. Take the lens cap off.
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  • Woke up at an unusually early hour, in a bit of a panic;
  • Decided to get up and take pictures of the clouds and London skyline as the sun was rising;
  • Set up small tripod, took several careful long exposure shots on 100 film;
  • Noticed that still seemed to be able to shoot way after the counter had gone past 36;
  • Realised that film was not winding on at all because I'd loaded it badly;
  • Threw film in bin.
So that's nice.

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As I increase in age / get closer to death1, I find that I take on many more hobbies than I did when I was younger. Partly this is because I don’t actually know what I want to do with my time, partly it is because I actively like to learn new things, and partly it is because I have a job now and can therefore afford to buy the required paraphernalia, but there is another part - that as I get older I am just better at things. It isn’t as if you actually get cleverer as you get older, but you do learn all sorts of little rules and tricks which make it easier to get things right and find where you are making mistakes.

For instance, my latest hobby is black and white photography, which means taking the pictures and also developing the negatives. (I’m not really that interested in making prints - yet.) I took this up a few weeks ago and I have proceeded so much faster than I would have, say, when I was 20.

  • I can afford to buy all of the kit straight off - it isn’t that expensive, but camera, film, development stuff, that works out to a couple of hundred pounds at least, which I would have had to save up for or scrounge before.
  • Similarly, I have my own place and can fill the bathroom with chemicals without anyone else complaining that they need to use the shower right now.
  • I have read so much documentation that I know how to pick out the important parts quickly. I can quickly scan manuals and how-tos and learn the techniques. I was very fluff-minded when I was younger (I still am, but it takes me less time to read things so I don’t get distracted by shiny objects before finishing).
  • I am better at debugging when things go wrong. I now know how to analyse a situation, see what the potential issues are, and make testing plans to isolate which one(s) caused whatever problem it was that occurred. In fact, I can’t help but do this. Proper debugging speeds up the learning process dramatically - learning is all about making mistakes, yes, but you have to know where you made the mistakes and correct them, otherwise all you have done is failed to get something right.

The older I get, the more infuriated I am that learning is assumed to be just something for young people, and in most areas it is assumed that you will learn some stuff up to your early 20s maximum and then stop (probably then having children and taking on assorted debts) and do the same thing indefinitely, perhaps maintaining professional qualifications if you are in that sort of field but that’s it. I can’t imagine being happy with this. Minds are like sharks; they need to keep moving.


  1. I’m not even actually that old, though I refuse to say quite how old. ↩

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Coffee notebook and Hero 616 I mentioned cookery lab notebooks earlier - for the record, this is the Field Notes book that I keep in my kitchen where I write down what I did with my coffee.
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I really need to keep an lab book in my kitchen. I have started to keep one relating to coffee, with grind, brew time, method and so on, but it would do me good to also record, say, things that I did to make decent loaves of bread. Or how much Old Bay one actually needs in a chicken casserole. Or how I ruined the rice. Or when the garlic burns. Cooking is science after all, and mine is somewhat experimental.
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A lot of people that I follow on Dreamwidth - which is not many in the first place - seem to post recipes. Here is a recipe that I have followed, to make some chilli sauce, due to my having purchased far too many chillies.

No, really. Far too many. Take a double handful of evilly strong green chillies and put it in a plastic bag. Then take another double handful and put it in the bag. Then imagine you get a bit bored of putting chillies in a bag, but you might as well put, say, half a dozen more in. That’s about as many as I had.

I put about two thirds of them into a different plastic bag, which I put into another different plastic bag, and put them in the freezer, because I had no idea what to do with all of them and they would go off before I worked it out. Then I put maybe half a dozen into a pasta sauce thing I was cooking with meatballs. However, that left maybe 15-20 of them, so. Ingredients:

  • 15-20 evil green chillies, topped and tailed.
  • About a cup of distilled vinegar. I wouldn’t bother using nice vinegar.
  • A tin of tomatoes - decent quality tinned tomatoes are generally nicer and less watery.
  • Salt. Oh, what, about two or three seconds’ shaking.
  • Sugar, perhaps three or four teaspoons.
  • Four medium cloves of garlic.
  • A chunk of chopped ginger about the size of a ping-pong ball after you’ve removed the skin.
  • A metric glug of olive oil
  • Mint. This is important. Dried is fine. A pinch or so, not too much; better to put less in now and add some later than to use excessive mint.

Put all of the above into a blender, and whizz quite hard until it’s pretty liquid. You can then taste it. It will be really, really strong, so don’t do more than lick a teaspoon. Pour the evil mixture into a saucepan and simmer it for a while, tasting to see whether it needs more seasoning. After that, transfer it into whatever containers are available.

This is “kebab-style” chilli sauce, quite thick and tomato-y, and goes well with eggs or meat. I’m quite fond of it with poached eggs on toast of a morning.

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  • TW - Totally Wicked
  • TECC - The Electronic Cigarette Company
  • (x)mg - nicotine concentration of the fluid

TW Black Label Tobacco, Blended Tobacco and Virginia - 18mg

I could barely tell I was vapourising anything at all with these. Dull tobacco-ish scent, best avoided. I will not be buying any more.

TW Black Label French Pipe - 18mg

A nice, fragrant flavour - light but noticeable, and not too sweet. Actually does taste rather like pipe tobacco. The best of the TW Black Label liquids that I tried, in that it didn’t send me to sleep through boredom.

Dekang Humpback (Camel) - 24mg

A vaguely sweet tobacco-ish thing, not very strongly flavoured. I have heard some people say that this is a liquid they could use indefinitely. I am not one of them. (I never liked Camels anyway, but this doesn’t taste much like Camels at all to me.) Not terrible though.

TECC Titan RY4 - 18mg

Apparently RY4 is a very famous flavour, and there are various versions of it. This one certainly has a very strong taste, of caramel and butterscotch with a few hints of coffee and vanilla. It is intensely sweet, though - despite a pleasantly robust hit, too sweet for me. I suspect that it would go well with actual espresso or black coffee.

TECC Titan Menthol - 18mg

This is like smoking a Fox’s Glacier Mint.

ordinal: (Default)
Here is a piece that I wrote about two fountain pens with very broad nibs - the Platinum #3776 with a music nib, and a Lamy 2000 with a broad nib.
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Completely failed to reach anything near the appropriate NaNoWriMo word count. November is a hard month. But I did come up with a good character with a particularly unusual and agonising personal issue.
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Some sample output from my tests of the Conflict system for the browserish Roguelike MMOish thing that I am writing; at the moment, it is just NPCs challenging each other.

I am a little bored of games where “conflict” simply means repeated murder attempts, so I decided to test with a different model of conflict.

Your technique cannot possible defeat mine! )

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