Socks of the Cthulhu TWTW # 55

Greetings from a new computer. I bit the bullet this week and ordered the replacement laptop that will hopefully take me through the next few years of work and life related technology.

I’ve still got lots of setup to do with it and files to transfer but I’m in no hurry, I was planning to do most of that in the break between Christmas and New Year, but I’ve done the basics for now, so if there were to be a failure of my old machine I’d have this one ready to go. It does seem that whatever you buy though the newer machines never come with as much “stuff” as the older versions. Less ports, no CD drive, pushing you ever further away from the analogue and more towards the digital. I’m not sure I like that so much. I like having my music collection on a hard copy format, I still have a lot of CDs, audio cassettes and vinyl. My preferences has been the CD for many years now, and I’m not sure that I want to switch to anything else. It’s the same with books. I like my kindle but I like to have anything I want to keep and treasure as a real book; paper, card and ink that I can touch and feel.

Don’t get me wrong I like the form factor of this new machine, it’s small, light and compact, but in many ways I’d settle for a fountain pen and paper any day.


In addition to the new laptop I’ve also been doing a bit of Christmas shopping, about a 50:50 split between online and physically from the shops. I’ve still a bit to do but it’s early yet, I don’t think I’ve been this far advanced ever before, even though I’m not a last minute shopper at this time of year anyway.


Two greats passed away this week, Clive James and Johnathon Miller both lost to horrible illnesses. “Saturday Night Clive” was a bit of a staple of my teenage years, and the stories of his escapades in homemade go-karts from his “Unreliable Memoirs” still remain in my memory today.


Austin Kleon on healthcare


I’ve not been travelling much this week, so my listening time has been more suited to podcasts and other shorter form audio. Next week sees the launch of The Whisperer in Darkness, which is a follow up to The Mysterious Case of Charles Dexter Ward. These are both titles of stories from H P Lovecraft, but have been retold in a modern setting as radio plays written by Julian Simpson and broadcast on the BBC. You can listen to them here. I’ve been re-listening to The Mysterious Case of Charles Dexter Ward this week as The Whisperer in Darkness launches on December 2nd, so it should be available when you read this. I’ve listened to the trailer for The Whisperer and although you can probably listen to it as a standalone, it might be worth listening to Charles Dexter Ward first.


On the subject of radio, it looks as if Neil Gaiman’s Playing In The Dark which was recorded earlier this year will be broadcast just before Christmas on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. It’s scheduled for Radio 3 on December 23rd here, and Radio 4 on Christmas Day (although the latter is an edited version). I haven’t seen or heard any previews but the author has written about it on his blog here.

He has also written about the stage production of his book The Ocean At The End of The Lane here, which is also well worth a read if you haven’t already.


I stopped at the library this week with the intention of checking out some books to read, instead I ended up buying some books from their sale stock – books that have been withdrawn from their lending stock. It struck me that actually there was nothing wrong with the books that I bought and that they were very cheap (£1.60 for these four). As soon as the general election is over there is going to be a consultation on the future of our local libraries, and there is much talk about the savings that the council needs to achieve and that libraries are an obvious target for budget reductions. Not much detail is available yet, but we’ll see what the consultation brings when it’s available. I’m hoping that it doesn’t get buried under the seasonal festivities.


Speaking of H P Lovecraft, from a certain angle my Christmas socks seem to have a rather Cthulhu-esque look to them.

I’m on the road a bit more this week, with some trips to Somerset and other places, so until next week, have a good one.

Making Christmas Puddings (Gluten Free, Virtually Fat Free and No Added Sugar)

It’s that time of the year when baking and making turns to Christmas.

I doubled up the ingredients in the video, but here they are to make a approximate 2.5 pint pudding:

225g whole sultanas (minced)
225g whole sultanas
225g large raisins (minced)
75g large raisins
16 giant prunes (soaked for 48hrs, then stoned and minced)
100g walnuts & almonds finely chopped
250ml prune juice (from soaking prunes)
1tsp ground mixed spice
Zest of half-a-lemon
225g ground almonds or hazlenuts
125ml brandy or whisky
2 egg yolks beaten

The Last Week Of The Year – Quick Links 31st December 2017

This is going to be short. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to exist at all or not.

It’s been a quiet and busy week in equal measure. We had a pleasant Christmas Day and Boxing Day, sharing them with my Mum, and exchanging a few gifts. I’ve got quite a few new books to read over the coming weeks, so that should keep me out of mischief if nothing else does!

The turkey was mysteriously very tough to eat, and not really that nice, which is a shame when you’ve gone to the trouble, but the rest of the meal was more than substantial, although I still didn’t have much of an appetite after being sick last week.

Unfortunately my Mum’s car broke down on Boxing Day – although we didn’t actually realise it at the time – just as she got home. She asked me to look at it the next day and although at first I couldn’t find a problem, when I took it for a drive it was evident that it was undrivable, and had to call the breakdown service. They were able to diagnose the problem but couldn’t fix it roadside, so towed the car to the garage where it stayed until they were able to get the relevant part and return it to us on Friday. No great problem, but a bit of a nuisance and a change in plans for the remainder of the week.

 


Work – I’ve been checking emails, and not doing much else. I still need to finish my 2018 planning and targets, but I wanted to reflect on these over the Christmas break and finish that in January.


Allotment – We’ve had snow, a lot of rain and some high winds this week, so not much  to report from the plot. I am however starting to think about next season, and I really need to look at what seeds & plants I need and get them ordered.


Currently Reading – I started Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” [GoodReads] and enjoying it so far. I suspect that it will see me into the New Year as it’s quite a big book and I seem to be reading quite slowly. Once that’s done I’m not sure what’ll be next as I have quite a few to choose from after Christmas.


That’s it for this week folks, I did say it would be short. There’ll be a Quarter Four review later and possibly something for the New Year on Monday. For now though, I hope you have a great New Years celebration if you do, and service will probably return to normal next Sunday or the Sunday after.

 

Merry Christmas – Quick Links 24th December 2017

Well ’twas the night before Christmas and all that. Whether you read this before, during or after I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Not sure what I’ll be posting next week, as both my Sunday Quick Links and my fourth quarter review are due on the same day. You may get one or both, but hopefully something. I also normally try to post something on New Years Day as well. Not that I am expecting anyone to read it on the day it goes live, as I’m sure you have much better things to do than read my ramblings. Anyway, if you have been reading these posts, thank you.

I was expecting a quiet week this week, and other than an appointment I attended with my Mum I’ve not really been anywhere. This is probably just as well as I’ve not been feeling very well, and think that I managed to catch a stomach bug on one of my rare trips out. I’m recovering now, but did at one point wonder whether it was going to be a pre-Christmas instant diet or something that would drag on over the festive period. Hopefully it’s the former.


Work – I’ve been doing my end of the month admin a little early, so that I can pretty much be work free next week. I’ll be checking my emails, but that will be about it and I’ll pick things up again the following week. I’ve been working on my targets for next year, and things need to get serious to develop at least some income.


Allotment – Not much to report this week, it’s been quite a mild week, and the ground has been a little soggy at times, so I’ve been staying off of the beds now that they’re dug.


Currently Reading – I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” [GoodReads] this week, there’s quite a bit of his life story in there as well as tips and approaches to writing, although I felt that I had read most of it in other places.


Neil Gaiman Reading A Christmas Carol – Audio version of the author reading the classic Dickens Christmas tale. [LINK]


Open Railway Map – Open source map of many of the worlds railways [LINK], pretty cool to look up your local lines.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


Brexit Is Going To Be Titanic – Exactly like the ship


Merry Christmas From The Muppets


Bird Spikes In Trees – Although this only came to light in the last week, it seems that this has been going on for a while – but why? As this other article points out, we are seemingly blind to the damage that we are doing to the planet.


Alarming Customer Service Fail From Amazon when they started sending “coded death threats” to a customer [LINK]. If this had been me I’m not sure I would have noticed, as I do read quite a few crime novels anyway.


Dolphins – Nice piece by author Philip Hoare [LINK]


The Future Worlds of Work – Although I haven’t read the full report yet, I do intend to but these different scenarios [LINK] for what the future of work will look like in 2030 are quite interesting on the surface. I think I far prefer the Green or Yellow versions but I suspect without intervention that the world is heading towards the Blue scenario. I might come back to this again once I’ve had a proper read.


That’s it for this week, catch you all again soon.

Quick Links 17th December 2017

My week started with lots of comments on the weather, particularly the snow, of which we had not a flake. Although when I had to try and take the car to the garage on Monday morning it was sleeting just a little amongst the wet and windyness that was our prevailing weather conditions. The car was returned fixed on Tuesday – turns out the oxygen sensor in the engine had failed and needed to be replaced – so I was able to make the service of remembrance on Tuesday evening.

As I didn’t have the car at the start of the week I had to reorganise a few things, but it wasn’t as bad as it might otherwise have been, and actually ended up with more time than I might otherwise have had.

On Friday I went to see Monty Halls talk at Selborne, it was really a summary of what he’d been up to during 2017, although the focus was on The Freedom Trails which I’ve mentioned here before. He has another different series coming out early next year, which will be completely different but looks like it will be just as good. He also signed both my copy of The Freedom Trails book, and another one of his that I’ve had for a while. If you haven’t watched the TV show then I recommend it (LINK)  – not sure whether this will work worldwide and if you don’t have an account you’ll need to create one – but that’s free.

I haven’t managed to get to the cinema to see The Last Jedi yet, although I might be able to early next week. If not I’ll leave it until the schools go back in January.


Work – Not having a car for the first couple of days this week meant that I had to move a few meetings around, but otherwise I’ve been getting a few things done before the Christmas period. I did hear that a bid I’ve been collaborating in has been unsuccessful which means my first quarter won’t necessarily be as busy as I thought it might be. Shame, but that’s how it goes.


Allotment – The ground has been frozen on the plot most mornings this week. I’ve been tidying up the fruit bed, in particular the loganberries – removing last years dead stems, and tying in the new ones which will bear next years fruit.


Currently Reading – Not much change from last week on this front, although I did finish From Source to Sea [LINK] late last night.

If you’re looking for a Christmas present idea or two, you might want to check out this list of Agatha Christie books that make good presents.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures

I’ve also been enjoying the Comedy Wildlife  Photography Awards


A Couple of Movies That I’m Looking Forward To Next Year – 


I’m Very Cynical of politicians who suddenly start doing something that they haven’t really done before [LINK] and Tory government politicians suddenly growing concern about the environment leaves me a little cold. In fairness I’m willing and hoping that actually this [LINK] is genuine and not like the last time when David “Hug-a-Husky” Cameron declared that they were to be “The Greenest Government Ever” and then promptly forgot all about it once elected and successive “Environment” Secretarys did precious little to protect and promote the environment. So far Michael Gove – despite my ongoing suspicions – seems to be doing a good job, although his wildlife minister Theresa Coffey less so.


I’m planning on a relatively quiet Christmas, but I am planning to post next week, so until then I wish you adieu, and leave you with this snowy video I made back in 2010 – the last time we had any serious snow fall.

Snow – Parallel Highway from tontowilliams on Vimeo.

 

Quick Links 10th December 2017

Ever have the feeling someone is watching your every move?

It’s been a pretty busy week both with work (see below) and other stuff. Next week is looking the same (although less work related busyness and more personal stuff). Unfortunately on Thursday afternoon on the way back from a meeting the dashboard of the car lit up like a Christmas tree. I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong suffice to say it needs a trip to the garage. The earliest they can fit me in is Monday, so it meant our plans for the weekend had to be tweaked (we’ve had a pre-Christmas thing with a part of the family) and I’llbe unable to attend a service of remembrance that I was planning on going to. There is another one on Tuesday, which fingers-crossed and the car gods permitting I will be able to make. I have several other things in my diary for next week too, I can work around most of them apart from the one on Tuesday  and a book reading / signing I have a ticket for on Friday.


Work – I was at another business networking event on Monday evening. I think it went well and it’s the last one for a while. Earlier in the day I had an unexpected phone call about some work. If it happens it will mean that I’ll be pretty busy pretty much all the way the first quarter of next year. I’m not holding my breath, but to be honest I could do with the money so I am hopeful. The rest of the week was mostly spent catching up with myself to ensure that I can take some time off completely from work over the Christmas period.


Allotment – With everything that’s been going on this week, and the family commitments at the weekend there’s not much to report from the allotment. It’s really the dormant season anyway so I’m comfortable with not having time down there this weekend.


Currently Reading

I’ve started listening to the audiobook of “Persephone” by Julian Stockwin [LINK] when I’m in the car. I’m enjoying it so far, although I think I’m just starting the third (of 10) CD so I have a little way to go.

I’ve also been reading “From Source to Sea: Notes from a 215 Mile Walk Along the River Thames” by Tom Chesshyre [GoodReads], it’s a good read so far, not too heavy and would probably act as a pretty good guide for someone thinking of doing the same thing.


Thomas The Tank Engine Does Stunts – 


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – 


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


I’d Like To Visit this bookshop if I get a chance to the next time I’m in London.


My top nine #2017bestnine Instagram photos this year are all allotment related.


 

Quick Links 3rd December 2017 ☃️🎄☃️

Merry Christmas, okay well maybe not just yet. Greetings!

Our Christmas tree went up early (for us), normally we start on putting up the Christmas tree and other decorations on the first weekend of December, but this year because of our family arrangements we need to be a little bit ahead of our normal routine. This means that we’ve pretty much finished our Christmas shopping – with the exception of groceries etc. – and we’re progressing with decorations. I suspect I’ll still be glad when it’s all over.

I also sat and wrote all of our Christmas cards, although I didn’t post them until yesterday  as I felt that just because our Christmas plans were moving like a runaway train maybe the recipients would appreciate a little more hiatus before being bombarded (and then we received our first card in Saturdays mail, so someone is even further ahead than we are).

Other than work (see below) this week has been fairly quiet. I’ve been trying to catch up on a few TV programmes that I’ve recorded over the last few months / year and wondering how so much time has passed so quickly when looking at some of the dates of the recordings!


Work – A bit of an odd week workwise. I had a call on Monday asking if I had some time to help with a particular project, and what I would charge. Although I had reservations about the deadline within which I would have to work, I did have enough time around other things, and gave a price which they seemed to be happy with. As so often happens, things moved on and I didn’t end up doing anything to help, although this might come back again later on. In between that I’ve spent time preparing for another networking event that I am attending on Monday evening, and some thoughts to another workshop that I’m involved in later on in the week.

I also had a follow up email from someone who asked me a while ago if I would be interested in some work, but there were never able to progress it due  to lack of funding. Well it would appear that it might be back on the cards again. They’re going to send through a spec to which I can respond.


Allotment – Still digging and doing winter chores on the allotment. I recorded an update video last weekend, but didn’t include it in last weeks Quick Links, so here it is:


Currently Reading – This has been another week of not really reading anything specific, but I did sit down and look through what I’ve read this year and prepared a post on some of the books that I would recommend as potentially being suitable for Christmas presents.

I also received the CD audiobook of “Persephone” by Julian Stockwin [LINK] in the post. It was a prize for entering Julian’s Lucky Dip competition a few weeks ago on Twitter. A nice surprise to win.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


Rats Of New York  – Are you an uptown rat or a downtown rat? [LINK] What the genetics of the rat population of New York has taught researchers.


Avengers: Infinity War


The Longplayer Conversation – Chris Watson & David Attenborough

Thanks to @Documentally for the link to this one in his newsletter.


That’s it for this week. In case you haven’t had enough Christmas yet, here’s another pic of our preparations.