Meeting the Local Wildlife…

Posted in London on December 30th, 2006 by Coffee

Today was a trip just down the road to Greenwich so that mum could stand on the date line. Just something that you need to do when you come here. And the walk through the (free) observatory museum is quite informative too.

But the real reason I like going there is that you’re pretty much guarenteed to see one of my favorite animals. Squirrels! Yes, I know that they’re basically a pest, but they are so cute! So we always take a few nuts along to feed them. Not so many out this time of year, but enough to keep us entertained.


But this time, as well as the squirrels, there was a bit of a bonus. A small fox that was so tame that it kept taking bits of food that someone was throwing through the fence. Must have been coming up to about a metre from us standing by the fence. Cool to see.


Oh, and there were hundreds of pigeons too, but as I hate them I didn’t take any photos of the scanky buggers.

Great Dixter Gardens

Posted in Plants and Gardens on December 23rd, 2006 by Coffee

Through a friend of a friend we managed to get a nice day out at Great Dixter gardens. There is a web site that tells you all about it here. A fantastic old house and formal gardens, and as it was closed for the season, there was just us and the gardening crew there.

Winter in gardens is an interesting time. You can see the structure of the garden without being distracted by all the pretty colours around. There was still a bit of colour around to look at too. And some great topriary. Must be quite a job to prune them all.


An unexpected highlight was watching a guy up a tree. That might not sound that exciting, but when they’re chopping down the tree that they happen to be up at the time, it’s more than interesting.

Sitting in front of the roaring fire in the 15th century solar after a nice luch was so cosy and nice. Almost sleep inducing.


Oh! And I have a new found respect for, and perhaps understand attraction to, Dashounds. They’re actually quite cute. And solid bloody dogs too! And I think the thing that surprised me most about them was just how fast they can get up stairs! In fact, I think they moved fastest when climbing them. Somewhat odd!

Now that we’ve seen it in winter, we’re definitelly going to have to go back to see it at it’s best in spring/summer.

And huge thanks to all the guys there for letting us wander around like we owned the place.

Ok, I can admit it…

Posted in Rants And Rambles on December 22nd, 2006 by Coffee

Yes. I know. I am the worst present shopper in the world. Yes. In the world! And I know it.

I just can’t seem to do it. At all, really. I’d like to think it’s because I’m not willing to just get just anything out of desperation for people, and want to get them something that would be really useful, or that they’d really, really like. But I can never seem to think of anything, or just see something and think “that would be good for xxxxx”…

Of course it doesn’t help that I really can’t be bothered to trek around the shops for very long. In fact at the moment, more than half an hour shopping is pushing it as it’s just so horrible trying to get 5 metres down the road, let alone actually getting close enough to see anything. Normally by this time the pressure of the Christmas day deadline has roused me to brave it for just long enough to fnd something for those who are most likely to really sulk without something, but this year it’s just far, far too hard.

Sitting in the pub watching football seems like a far, far more sensible idea.

So if you don’t get a present from me this year (and let’s face it, if you know me well, you shouldn’t actually be that surprised by that anyway), you should at least know that I tried! Sorry! And next time just tell me what to get you! And you might get it about February…

But I guess I’m a horrible person to buy for too. There’s nothing I could even tell you to buy me, as there’s nothing really I need or want at the moment. So I forgive you if you get me a pair of socks. In fact, that could be the most practical thing you could get me!

Bah humbug.

The Tower of London

Posted in London on December 17th, 2006 by Coffee

Today we went to see another London site that we’ve walked past many a time on our weekend walks, or on our way to work, but never been into… The Tower of London.

Not a bad place to visit, with a lot of flashy jewellery that the Queen could rattle quite well at special occasions.  And the biggest gold punch bowl that you could imagine. That must have been some party that needed that!

Also lots of old weapons and stuff, from the time it was an armoury.  including, surprise, surprise, some really, really uncomfortable armour.  How the hell they moved anywhere, let along fought anyone in it, I have no idea.

Reading about how much gunpowder was stored there was a bit of an eye opener. And how close the fire of London got to the stash of barrels. And how much of an extra demolition job on the city would have happened if it got just that little bit further!  There was a lot of gunpowder there, apparently.

It was also really interesting walking around there and relating it to the Neal Stephenson series describing what went on there.  Seeing the “cells” that the prisoners were held in, and the traitors gate etc.

All quite impresive, and another place we can (finally) tick off the list of London sites that we’ve been to.  After how long here!?


A new ingredient…

Posted in Food and Drink on December 16th, 2006 by Coffee

Sometimes wandering around the supermarket there are some things you just want to try because they look so interesting. The other day’s find was baby Romanesco cauliflowers. They loook so amazing! A bit like a pine cone covered in big fractal patterns all over. There is a lot of information about them here.


And they were quite yummy! We’d have them again.

Shellfish Caress…

Posted in London on December 13th, 2006 by Coffee

It’s really interesting to have a visitor that is not so used to things that we hear and see everyday who can point out to us see just how odd some of those regular things are when you have no idea of any context.

“If you don’t touch your oyster on the way in and out of the tube, you’ll be charged the maximum cash fare”, bleats the loudspeaker at the tube station… Often.

When it’s pointed out, you can start to see the confusion that might arise for someone with no idea what’s going on!

I wanna wanna wanna wanna Hamster!

Posted in Rants And Rambles on December 9th, 2006 by Coffee

A couple of weeks ago we bought a cheap paper shredder to finally stop having to rip all the printed name and address bits off all the mail that we get sent, whether we want it or not. A shredder seems like it’s just about a compulsory piece of equipment in London now, to stop, or lower any chance of “identity theft”.

All the paper strips are just dying out for a hamster to use for a bit of nice bedding! I’m sure it would love snuggling up in visa card application forms, or suggestions on how we might like to sell a house we don’t have…. Or maybe it would enjoy peeing on them even more. I know I would!

But we can’t really even commit to a hamster as a pet at the moment. The responsibilty is just a bit much! How would we be able to go on holiday!?

But they are so cute!


More Search Madness!

Posted in Computers and the Web on December 6th, 2006 by Coffee

Once again someone has randomly stumbled upon this site. This time they were searching for “planting chilli plants” and on a very well known search engine this site came up 15th of 7,943. If you plug that in with the tick box for search NZ sites only, I’m top of the search!

Well how about that! Firms pay good money to try to get that to happen!

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…

Posted in Geeky Tech Stuff on December 4th, 2006 by Coffee

I’m having a real problem with time at the moment. Playing around learning to programme PIC microcontrollers to do really interesting things like flash little lights has made me have to think about time in a different way, and it’s one that my brain is struggling with a bit!

These little chips chug along at about 1 million operations a second (can be a lot more or less, but that’s what I’m using at the moment), and the programs you write are made up of an instruction generally taking just one of those operating cycles. And you have to program to account for each individual cycle. A bit different to the normal PC coding I do!

The trouble comes from trying to deal with just how many things that the chips can and do do in the time that it takes for anything to be useful in the human world, like flashing a light at a speed that we can see, and what to do with that extra chip time.

So a lot of time is spent just doing nothing, at least when trying to work in human reference time frames. Seems like a real waste of time, but just a reminder how our view of the world is based on our perception of time.

Champagne and Christmas Trees….

Posted in London on December 2nd, 2006 by Coffee

It had to happen some time. The christmas tree is going up today, and apparently to properly decorate a tree you have to be driinking champagne. Not quite sure how that works, but I was easily convinced, and it does seem to be a tradition of ours now.

I’m sure that we don’t have enough lights, but I suspect that I’ll be told off if I get too many more for it… Though I might still see what I can sneak on there a bit later. But once the lights were on, that’s about the end of my job.

I was allowed to help with putting on the rest of the decorations, but only if I strictly followed instructions, so I thought it best for domestic harmony if I just left Bec to it. So my job is now to say “yes” whenever asked if things look good. Which I do damn well, if I do say so myself!

But we have so many decorations that Bec’s getting quite confused and upset about what to put on the tree, and what has to stay in boxes for the year. We inherited all of Megan and Michael’s decorations when they left (and it’s their tree too actually – our old one was a bit shorter by about 2 feet), so we’ve really got two full sets for one tree. Actually, I think we might even have enough for three trees. Four at a push. “When you don’t have enough decorations it’s a lot easier” Bec’s just whined, flapping her arms.

The trick is knowing when to stop, I think. But she seems quite happy organising all of the leftovers into piles based on colour and size anyway… Oh, and shape too, apparently!

So now it’s up for another year. Not quite the same as having a real “live” pine tree, with the traditional christmas pine smell, but good enough, and a lot less mess! And probably a lot easier than trying to get a tree home on the tube!