31.3.05

Just a little trim



The countdown continues until PaD365. However, today I thought that I would spare you the sight of my flabby body (you can really tell that I think hard about working out, can't you). My sedentary lifestyle has always been a bit of a worry to me. Back when I worked for BT, at least I got out on survey once a month - and that usually involved long, long, long walks (e.g. Annan to Dumfries and back; Peebles to Beattock and back; Stranraer to Port Patrick and back, etc.). These were good times - although I don't think I would like to go back to not being my own boss... I am a bit overfond of my month long holidays during the summer, and my regular jaunts to Portugal for that - although at this moment in time I wouldn't say no to a bit of Statutory Sick Pay. Anyways, I can't really complain too much.

So, back to the point of this missive. My flaccid non-muscular frame and my demonstration of how nice a person I really am (I really am!). I will not subject it to you again (or should that be you to it?). Mind you, isn't it ironic that the pictures of me wearing very little other than a wig (in the case of yesterday's picture) and some diffuse glow and gaussian blur (in the case of The Arse picture from way back in November) seem to be incredibly popular. On a normal day, my PaD image pulls in about 90-100 views, yesterday's is already over 300 and counting. So just admit it... you like seeing my semi-naked bits. Just wait until I go on holiday, and you see the pictures of me at the beach!!!! Pbase had better order in the new servers now!

I'm only just learning how to work my D70 (who needs instruction manuals?), and it took me some time to figure out how to set the timer - I should have done that before I took all my clothes off in preparation for the shot! By the time I managed to master it, I was blue with the cold (Linda always switches the central heating off when she leaves the house - and I always forget to switch it back on). It took me many, many attempts to get the shot - not for me those new fangled automatic lenses... no, I was using my brand new (to me anyway) manual focus 50mm lens that had just arrived in the post that morning. So anyway, I've discovered the trick with manual lenses is just to keep taking shots until you get one that works, then save that setting for the real shot. Fifteen minutes later (and still naked), I managed to figure out how to get the camera to focus on something that wasn't yet there (I put the stepladder where I was to be standing, and focused on that). Then the real fun began, and I had to press the shutter release and then move into position in the allocated ten seconds - easier said than done when you have severe sciatic pain like I told the DWP I have.

I phoned Tesco Direct and complained that the tumble dryer hadn't arrived and no-one had phoned to say why or when I ought to expect it. The poor girl at the other end was very sympathetic when I told her that the email I received told me that the dryer would be here 11 days after it was ordered, and that Tesco's arrangements with local delivery firms were no concern of mine, and that 11 days after the 18th is the 29th, and that they had known for some time that it was going to be the Easter weekend (everywhere but Dundee). 'Are you sure it didn't say 11 working days?', she asked ever so politely. 'No', I insisted, 'it said "Delivery will take 11 days*".' Underneath, in the not very small print (it was an email afterall), it said '*exluding weekends and bank holidays'. Ooops! Nevertheless, it worked. The dryer arrived within three hours, and is now happily burning up the earth's natural resources in order to make sure that our clothes are clean, dry, easier to iron and smell nice.

Thought I would give the wig a trim... but it was just too fast for me - like trying to catch a cat. Damned sciatica. I can wait though!

30.3.05

Are you not ready yet!



The end of my Pad is fast approaching - only 12 more days to go before it is all over. Since I just bought a new camera and a whole collection of lenses to go with it, I think that I might continue - although perhaps without the same dedication as before. I must say this about the PaD project: it is addictive, and the need to capture something every day has certainly opened my eyes up to things that before I would have simply not paid any attention to. It is a marvellous gift to receive: to notice the beauty in plain everyday objects, such as a pebble on the beach, a shadow in a puddle, the paint peeling off an old mortice lock and moments with my friends and with my family.

I love it and the way that it has unleashed a creative side that in my everyday life of work and travel I had forgotten I had. I also love the way that it has let me capture moments in my life that otherwise would have been lost. When I look at my old PaD images, and read the often lengthy captions, I am able to remember the day and everything that happened - where I went, what I ate, who I met. It has truly enabled me to capture time.

I am also in awe at many of the wonderful images that you place here, that give me an insight into your lives and worries - that is one of the most wonderful things about Pbase, and which sets it above the other image hosting sites.

This brings me nicely to the people that I have met, both virtually and physically. Pedro welcomed me, a complete stranger, into his home to share moments of his life in his beautiful town with his family and friends. A friendship has been formed that I believe will last the test of time.

Then there is Gavin, who lives less than a mile from my house - and almost practically on the same street! A nicer person you could not hope to meet, a man whose passion for photography is infectious, and whose ability to make Dundee look attractive is astonishing. He really is a fine photographer, generous to a fault and a very good friend.

Zak has been my greatest inspiration, though. Zak lives on the island on which I spent the first 18 years of my life, and where most of my family still live. I met him through an Isle of Bute forum, and he inspired me to upload some pictures that I had taken during a trip to the island. It all kind of took off from there. And how can I not mention Andy, aka Northstar! Andy is one of those rare people that it is impossible to dislike. He is both funny and wise, and his family are a joy to be with. Then there are the blutakbeasts who lurk about, and who are willing to share some of their stories with me at times when I severely lack inspiration.

Virtually, I believe that I have made many, many friends - far too many to name, but you all know who you are. Hopefully one day I will get to meet some of you in person - I'll start with Europe and work my way across to the States and Canada, then to NZ and Oz.

The past few weeks have been very difficult for me, as I have not been able to get around very much. I hope my condition improves before spring really hits us, because I want to be able to show you Scotland at its very best. But you have all been wonderfully patient and kind. So I want to say a big thank you, and welcome you to my boudoir.... So form an orderly queue and no pushing! (PS Now you know what Scotsmen wear under their kilts: great big pink wigs - only just big enough too!)

29.3.05

pretty in pink, or fabulous in fuschia?



I'm an awful worrier, apparently. I was up bright and early today, for a busy morning was on the cards. No sooner had I switched the radio on than the doorbell rang. Who could it be at 7.30am, I wondered! Well, I'll tell you. It was the postman with a recorded delivery for me. My 50mm f/1.8 arrived! However, that was a pleasure that would have to wait, I had other more pressing things to do.

First of all, I managed to get the old tumble dryer out of the porch that has been its home for the past 14 years. I did so by simply opening the porch door, manoeuvring the machine to the top of the stair, and pushing. Boy did it make a noise as it tumbled down the stone steps to land - miraculously in one piece and right side up - on the patio. Next task was perhaps the most important, as it would set me in the right frame of mind for the coming tribulation: breakfast and a double bill of Everybody Loves Raymond.

With the rest of the family gone, I had time to shave, cut my hair, shower, post the Harry Potter book and catch the bus into town for my meeting with Ted Heath. I will say this... he (and his colleagues down at the DWP) were a very pleasant bunch who gave me some excellent news. I am now awaiting a fat government cheque for the time I have been ill - backdated to the beginning of February. I suspected things were going to go well when the assessment officer's first words to me were: 'Hello, Mr. Jones. You are entitled to Incapacity Benefit.' Isn't it great living in a country with a welfare state that works (sometimes)! Not only that, but the piece de resistance is that one week before I am finally well enough to work again (i.e., the week before my last sick line expires), I have to contact the Job Centre and arrange to attend a 'getting back to work after being ill' seminar that lasts two hours. The incentive? Two hundred pounds worth of them!

With all this good news ringing in my ears, I was thinking about giving my new lens an outing - but then remembered the tumble dryer delivery. On arrival home, no sign of said appliance, or of a note saying they had been. What there was, though, was a package containing a strange pink thing that is presently touring Scotland as part of its round the world journey.

Gavin nipped up for a coffee and a blether, and to model the infamous wig for my new lens to capture (see picture). He's letting me hold on to the Tokina 28mm f/2.8 in the meantime - but I must say that the 50mm f/1.8 is quite probably about to become my new favourite (although there will always be space in my heart for the 28mm).

I'm still waiting for the tumble dryer, by the way. I suspect that they won't be delivering it today. Otherwise the day was a good one: I'm entitled to get money from the government, I got a new lens, and the wig's here (although it didn't manage to bring any of that San Francisco sunshine with it).

Click here for the Wiggy Stu gallery
Click here to see the Wiggy World Tour

28.3.05

The weight of the world!


I woke up this morning very, very worried. On reflection, I was worrying about something that is not very serious at all, but, nonetheless, I was worried. Ever since I came back from Portugal at the end of January and developed my current ailment, I have been practically housebound. If there is one thing during the past eight weeks that you could bet your mortgage on, it is that I would almost certainly be in the house. Tomorrow we are having our new tumble dryer delivered - and like all things in this modern digital age, the delivery company cannot give us a more specific delivery time than "sometime between 8.30am and 4pm... and we won't leave it with a neighbour, and if there is no-one in when we call, then we will take it back to the warehouse and there will be a missed delivery charge applied". So, on that basis, and under that financial threat, someone has to be in the house all day to await the new domestic appliance (oh... and they won't deliver up stairs either - and nor will they remove the appliance from the packaging) . As I said, normally this wouldn't be a problem, but tomorrow I have to meet with the officials of the Department of Work and Pensions to assess my ability to suffer fools and try to keep a straight face whilst being interviewed by a person by the surname of Heath, the parents of whom had enough of a sense of humour to name their son Ted (I jest not). I don't know what I'll do if he has a big grin and a penchant for sailing blazers - although I am sure that it will result in me being disqualified from any state assistance! So, that's what I was worried about: there being no-one to take delivery of the tumble dryer (and it will be Sod's law - tomorrow they'll come at 9, when they usually come at 4) and meeting someone called Ted Heath. The things that go through my mind at that moment between sleep and consciousness don't bear thinking about. With today being a bank holiday everywhere except Dundee, I was unable to get the delivery date changed - so now I'll be worrying all night again. Then my bleeding email asked me for my password!!! It's never done that before! So I had to phone the ISP and get them to tell me what it was... and you'll never guess... they asked me for my password in order to reset it! Duh! Got that sorted out, just in time to receive an email telling me that a colleague of mine donated money to help get the CPHRC back up and running. By the end of the evening, I went from having no emails to having five (and that's not including my hotmail and yahoo ones) - including one that I didn't know I had. I seem to becoming a bit of a collector.

27.3.05

Not a shameless plug at all!


Happy Easter, everyone! Do you want to know what I've been up to all day? Tough, because I'm going to tell you anyway - so if you have a low boredom threshold I would advise you to walk away now, and go and look at some real photographs instead of this ever so blatant plug. The main reason that I haven't been as particular as usual in doing my rounds and having a look at your pictures recently is all bound up in my decision a few days ago to withdraw my research centre's website from the internet. In what can only be described as a fit of pique, I deleted the whole lot from the server - six years worth of work! Why did I do this, I don't hear you ask? Well, I have been doing it all myself for a long time now, and, to be quite honest, it was getting a bit too much for me. The site was huge - with over 1500 pages, and receiving in excess of 120,000 hits each month. The Portuguese government gave it awards (I even got to meet two Portuguese presidents and a number of government ministers), and it was included in the Ministry of Education's national curriculum as required reading for secondary school students of history and politics. On top of all this, many university professors in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere had put it on their reading lists (can you even imagine the number of emails I get from undergraduate students wanting me to write their term papers for them!). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I just got fed up providing this service for free, and decided to take the whole lot down. Now I am in the middle of rebuilding the site - only this time if people want to get 'value-added' information (i.e. articles and analyses), then they are going to have to pay. I have also taken the opportunity to rationalise the CPHRC 'group' into various 'departments' - each of which offer different services (at a price). As you can see, I have added a photography section through which I will hopefully be able to sell some of my photographs. So, sorry for not commenting as I usually do, and very sorry for not putting up a real photo. I just wanted to give you some explanation (and most certainly not take the opportunity to shamelessly plug my businesses! But if you need my help, my rates are extremely reasonable!!).

26.3.05

Why can't the clocks go forward at 4pm on a Monday?


Ooops! Late again! This is becoming a bit of a habit lately - that and not doing my rounds of all of your work. There are two - perhaps even three - reasons for this malaise, and at least one of them is good (well I think so), while the others I'll leave for you to decide. Firstly, you may or (probably) may not have noticed that I have had to delete my CPHRC website - a labour of love of mine from its inception in September 1998, when I didn't even know how to link one page to another, and when I used all of the free websites to make horrible navigation buttons for me. Way back then, the site was manageable as a hobby - it had about 20-30 pages, and there were people who were quite willing to offer (temporary) hindrance. As the months passed, however, the site grew until it reached over 1500 pages and was receiving over 120,000 hits each month. As well as being much more difficult for me to keep it up to date and answer questions about all manner of things concerning the Portuguese Republic's history, I was also having to try to keep up to date with all the developments in HTML and XML coding. It got to the stage where I really needed to create a MySQL and PHP database just to keep the vast amount of information in easily retrievable format. Then I was getting requests from journalists and media researchers (even film producers and documentary makers) to give them free advice (soon knocked that one on the head). The strangest request I got, which in hindsight I should perhaps have accepted, was to appear on the Fred McAulay BBC Radio Scotland show last July. For those of you who don't know, McAulay's show is not the most serious on the radio and, although I am a fan, I was quite surprised to hear that they wanted me on. Ever the professional (if I say it often enough, some people might actually start to believe me!) I phoned the researcher back and asked her what kind of questions I should expect to be asked (remembering that the Portuguese prime minister had just resigned to accept appointment as EU President). I was flummoxed when she told me that they wanted me to take part in a table tennis match against a Greek person on the roof of the BBC's studios in Glasgow as their way of honouring the Portugal v. Greece European Championships final! I refused to go - not because I think that I am above such trivial pursuits: no, I refused because I can't play table tennis, and didn't want to make an arse of myself on national radio. Anyway, I digress. The reason my photos have been appearing late and without much effort or thought going into them is that after six years of being freely available to all and sundry I have to recreate the CPHRC as a paysite, as well as launch the new CPHRC services (Book Editing, Translating, Publishing, Photography and Research). The other reasons are... I was watching the Italy v. Scotland game (still lost, but at least there are signs of improvement) and... well... errr... That's it really. So, to celebrate St David's day (only 25 days late), here's a daffodil. The first that I have held in my hands this year.

25.3.05

That scary man's back!


I've made my first sale on eBay. Well, actually, if I am to be completely honest, I made a sale on Liam's behalf - he managed to sell a Harry Potter book that he never read (he was never into it). I have some stuff up too - mostly unwanted gifts that I have received in the past. It would seem, though, that I am not the only person who doesn't want any of them - there is a whole world of people out there who have no interest in purchasing unused and unwanted Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue or Lisa Stansfield CDs (that's a hint, by the way). I've had a good rummage about the house and the outhouses for things that I could sell. All the time I had it in my head the cliche that one person's rubbish is another person's gold - and a trawl through eBay almost had me convinced of the truth of this. However, all I could find was rubbish that the council would charge me money to take away! I was thinking about selling some of my 1980s 12-inch singles and LPs - you know, the embarassing stuff that you find lurking in the deepest recesses of the hall cupboard. Someone told me that there was a bit of a craze for old Electropop and New Romantic vinyl by club DJs - I'm not so sure about that (although I was somewhat surprised to discover that Depeche Mode had become huge - I have their first LPs and 12" singles!). So anyway, it doesn't look as if I'm about to make my fortune selling on the internet, so I'll just have to resort to the good old fashioned way, by buying lots of lottery tickets. While I'm gone, I'll leave you with this rather awful picture of me on my university ID card. If you save it as a wallpaper, and play classical music, your children will not come within 100 yards of your computer - so my ugly mug at least has some uses!

24.3.05

Ringing in the changes


Would you Adam and Eve it? I've only just gone and won another auction on eBay. At this rate I'll soon become one of the biggest spenders that they have ever seen - or perhaps not. Yet again my purchase was camera lens related. Well, I've had to provide myself with some small consolation now that I have to give Gavin his lens back. I managed to pick up a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 for a pittance (the postage almost cost as much as the lens), and I am hoping that it will sort of make up for losing the 28mm f/2.8. I know that they are not the same - or even remotely similar - lenses, but they are both small. Owning a small lens will be a bit of a new development for me. I wonder how I'll cope? I was going to take today's photo with the borrowed lens - as a kind of farewell - but changed my mind, and decided to use the big macro zoom instead (might as well get some use out of it). There is no particularly great story behind today's image, apart from the fact that I wanted to stand at the other end of the room and take a close up shot of some things sitting on my desk. I think the lens did well given the lighting conditions - I don't like having the ceiling light switched on, and I tend to do all my work under my halogen desk lamp - both my written (paid) work and my indoor photographs. So, given that the subjects were lit only by a single halogen desk lamp, I think I did a not too bad job focusing. Nothing much to report on the domestic front, apart from a lengthy phone call from Lisbon assuring me that I still have a contract at least until 2006 (which is probably the next time they'll get round to paying me no doubt). It's damned hard work speaking Portuguese on the telephone when you're stuffed full of prescribed chemicals - it's damned hard work speaking Portuguese full stop (unless you happen to be Portuguese or Brazilian - then I guess it must be quite easy: easy enough for small children!). Come to think of it. Sometimes it's a struggle speaking English - particularly on the telephone. The only other thing of note that happened today is that my cousin has borrowed my M603 with a view to buying it, and Liam came home looking like he'd lost a tenner and found a penny - but then what's new with that: he's almost a teenager - morose is the the teenage thing, isn't it. As for the photo - I've included the old Kodak film for Ian's sake - adds a bit of colour, and we all know how much you like your splashes of colour, Ian!

23.3.05

High tech... 1950s style


Would you look at the number of days that I have been doing this! 346 - would you believe it! I must have miscounted, because it just doesn't seem that long. Still, when I look at pictures I took of Liam when I started on Pbase, and compare them with ones I have taken recently, I am amazed at the changes that I notice in him (for one thing - his top lip is now covered in bumfluff). He has changed from a boy into a teenager, and while I have noticed the change in his interests and behaviour (yes, he is less interested in going to the 'Den' to dig holes in the ground and pro-wrestling, and much more interested in girls and - believe it or not - politics. Of his own volition, and reading the books that I have in my possession, Liam is becoming a socialist - just like his old dad! Chip off the old block!), the change in appearance has been much more subtle. One thing I have noticed, however, is the increasing amount of grey hairs that are sprouting from my body - mainly in my beard, but also around the temples. I will skip past my steadily expanding waistline, and put that down to my inability to do much in the way of exercise just now (and a liking for chocolate and ice-cream - preferably in the same dish). Linda, on the other hand, has been losing weight - putting me to shame she is. Almost a year under the belt, and during that time I have had (and still have) three cameras - my old and trusty point and shoot M603 (which will soon be going on Ebay, methinks), the superb S7000Z (which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in macro photography, and who can't be bothered humping around huge macro lenses and tripods, or who lack the patience to stick lenses on backwards), and finally, my new friend, the D70, and its colleagues, the Nikkor f/3.5 18-70, Tokina f/3.5 28-200 macro zoom, Tokina f/3.5 28-85 and finally, my borrowed friend, who will soon be making one mile journey back to Gavin's house, my favourite lens of them all, the little Tokina f/2.8 28mm. Time and technology halt for no man. Talking of which, a couple of days ago I told you that my old and fully functioning 300-type bakelite phone was ahead of its time: it had a telephone number storage device. Here's the proof - a drawer on the bottom, with a plastic folder into which a piece of card on which the numbers were written could be stored. Much easier to use than those modern gizmos - well at least for Luddites like me!

22.3.05

Fuzzie Mizzie


Oh the excitement. This morning I received one of the lenses that I bought on Ebay at the weekend, and I have been desperate to give it an outing. Unfortunately, however, the elements conspired against me, what with Dundee being dull, overcast and misty all day. Not to worry, though, the new lens is a macro zoom, so I can take my favourite type of shots without having to actually get up close and personal - at 200mm, that translates to 300mm on the D70 - so I should be able to shoot macros from the comfort of the sofa! As you see, I took some shots of Mizzie - she was in the living room and I was at the Post Office - she wouldn't sit still. She is a cat, afterall, and she has to preen herself for the camera - I just thought that I'd catch her off guard before she assumed cat pose position. Technically quite a poor picture, I know. I should have used a tripod and Mizzie should have posed nicely, but, all these slight niggles aside, I find that I really, really like this picture - she looks like a duster! My good friend Gavin came round to see me, and we sat in the house blethering and looking at various people's photos (oh, Jude... you really shouldn't be swinging heavy cameras about - especially if they are not yours to break! You'll have a big lump there!) and generally blethering about this and that. I think that I may have worn him down about the little Tokina f/2.8 28mm lens that I like so much - he has agreed to let me keep it if I win the Ebay auction for the Tokina 28-55mm lens (I already got one - but I was bidding on another at the same time, and it looks as if I'm going to get it as well). We'll see, we'll see. Oh! Many of you asked the other day if the old phone that Mizzie was sitting beside was a working model. Well, yes it is - it works perfectly, and has a very loud bell. We rarely use it though, because we have one of those wireless ones that work up to 100m from the base station - and the old bakelite handset on the 300-type is very, very heavy. Perhaps tomorrow I will demonstrate one of the 300-type's technological innovations: it could store numbers!

21.3.05

Passing muster


Boy am I tired. I don't know why it should be the case, but lately I have been waking up at around 5am (must be the early dawns we are starting to get!). I usually get up to let Mizzie out, because as soon as she knows that someone has stirred, she wastes no time in making sure that they don't get any peace. Since I'm downstairs anyway - having let Mizzie out to do whatever cats do at 5am - I make myself a cup of coffee, then go back to bed with a book. The book is chosen carefully because it is better than any sleeping tablets. I won't say who the book is by, because the author is a friend of mine, and he even thanked me in his acknowledgements. Anyway, one page of that is sure to send you back to the land of nod. Nevetheless, come 10pm, I start to flag and my eyelids begin to get heavy. I'm not sure if it is the medication that I am on that is causing this - although I suspect that it may be, since I have been advised that one of the side affects of this medication is drowsyness and an inability to concentrate (at least that's what I tell Linda when she wants me to do something!). I got a phone call from the Benefits Agency this morning - this is my fist ever dealing with the government department that dishes out money to ill people. The woman asked me if I had details of my mortgage - so I rummaged around my extremely untidy desk until I found a letter from the bank containing all the details. She never asked me for any information from this letter at all. She then asked my if I had the sick line from the doctor. I told her that I had somewhere - so I rummaged some more until I eventually found it. Once more, she didn't want any information from the line. Anyway, the upshot is that I have to go down to the office next week with my doctor's line and two forms of identification. Apparently I will have to undergo tests at the DWP offices just to make sure that I am unable to work. How they intend to assess me, I don't know, because it is not as if I am about to be doing anything physically strenuous, and the drugs ensure that my mental abilities are diminished by my almost constant wish to sleep. The upshot of all this, however, has nothing at all to do with sore legs, doctors or the Benefits Agency. Rather, the fact that I had to rummage around for important documents (mortgage agreement and sick line) told me that my desk needed cleared and cleaned. After yesterday's exertions, I remained very sore about the leg, but still managed to tidy up. This is what it looks like now - with the blutakbeast photog snapping away at some Cybermen (for those of you who have never seen Dr Who, then you don't know what you're missing). This is a tribute to the BBC for bringing the world's most famous timelord back to our small screens! (I was scared of the cybermen, because the entrance to their spaceship looked like - and probably was - a toilet seat. I used to hold in all my ablutions on a Saturday night when I was a kid!).

20.3.05

Hanging on the telephone


I had a thrilling time today. Somewhat stung by all the criticisms of the microscopic particles of dust that the halogen lamp and Fulji's supermacro caught on the black lens that Gavin loaned me the other week, I decided to take matters into my own hand and give my workstation a really good clean - and with disinfectant as well!. I started off with all of my camera equipment, which I cleaned thoroughly with soapy water, taking care to clean the D70s CCD with an old toothbrush and some Mr Muscle (okay, I made that bit up). I cleaned as much of the dust off of the cameras and lenses as I could with a size free nylon brush. Once that was done, I set about the monitor, webcam, microphone, router and cable modem. They were all thoroughly cleaned with Dettol. I moved onto the desk, which I also cleaned with Dettol (no chance of catching MRSA at my workstation). I took the ball out of my mouse, gave it a wipe clean then got all the bits of yuck that seems to get stuck to the rollers inside the mouse. I threw the old mousemat out, and invested in a fancy new one that also has a calculator on it, which keeps getting in the way of the mouse. I removed every single button from my keyboard and cleaned them in antiseptic disinfectant, then wiped the pads with cotton-buds soaked in Dettol. Once that was done, I vacuumed the keyboard before replacing all the keys. Finally, I vacuumed the inside of my processor case. Now not only is my workstation clean, but it also smells like a hospital. Next weekend I will make a start on my desk. With all this cleaning going on , I managed to miss the CIS cup final, so I don't know - much less care - who won (although I suspect that it was Rangers). I went out to pick Liam up from his friends, and when I came back home I found Mizzie waiting for a phone call. The quality of this picture, which was taken with the kit lens, perhaps explains why I am so keen to keep the Tokina f2.8 28mm, which I will have to return to its rightful owner later this week. Never mind... I've finally managed to figure out how to win Ebay auctions, so I'll be keeping my eyes open for one coming up.

19.3.05

Loaned lens


All set for a day of sport today. I was toying with the idea of making my way down to Tannadice to watch Celtic regain their rightful position at the top of the league by beating a recently woeful Dundee United. The last time Celtic were at United, Liam and I went along. However, I decided against it for a number of reasons. Firstly, my leg is still sore (although not nearly as sore as it once was). Secondly, I wouldn't want to jinx Celtic. Thirdly, I've just had to shell out on car repairs, a new tumble dryer, a D70 and I just won an Ebay auction for a new lens - so money is in short supply. Fourthly, if I went to the game, I would miss the Wales v. Ireland 6-Nations decider. Finally, I am happy in my role as an armchair supporter, so I just couldn't be arsed. Instead, I sat in front of my computer, watching my Ebay bid (is there some software out there that catches last minute bids without having to watch the screen like a hawk?) whilst listening to Celtic narrowly scrape a win against the bottom placed team in the league (I suppose it's always difficult against a team that has recently lost their manager, as all the players are determined to impress the new boss). From the radio commentary, it seemed clear that our new striker (at least until May) played a blinder, and Chick Young, BBC Sportsound's man with his ear to the ground, told us that the Celtic manager was to make an important announcement at 4pm - the clear implication being that the Celtic board had prised open the infamous biscuit tin, and were prepared to offer Craig Bellamy a permanent deal (following Bellamy's own admission that should Celtic make the right offer, then he would be willing to commit himself to the club on a long term deal). On the basis of this impending announcement, I remained glued to my radio - missing the Wales v. Ireland game in the process. At the appointed hour the much hyped announcement was made: Celtic's manager told us that he would like to be able to sign Bellamy on a longer deal, but that the decision was ultimately up to the board. And I missed the rugby for that! Still, not to worry, we still had the big match coming up at 6pm: the England v. Scotland Calcutta Cup match. Once again Scotland played abysmally during the first half, only to come out in the second with all guns blazing. I was impressed with the second half committment that they showed against the Auld Enemy, as they fought for everything and even managed to score some tries - winning the half by 19 points to 17 (just as we beat Wales in the second half last week). Unfortunately, however, the game lasts 80 minutes, and England went in at half-time leading by 26 to 3. Never mind. The only way is up. BTW: this is a picture of the lens that Gavin loaned me that I like so much. He still won't give me it to keep ;(

18.3.05

Never rains but it pours!


It's just so typical of the luck that we've been having recently! I am usually very careful with money (did I hear someone say tightfisted?), and tend not to spend more than I have. There is a very good reason for this - I am self-employed, and often have to fight tooth and nail to get money out of my clients (many of whom seem to think that I will be able to wait to be paid for work I have done for them - I'd like to see them trying that one on with the checkout assistant at the supermarket, or the garage...) Anyway, the point is that I try not to put money out until I've received money in. This, in large part, explains why I waited so long to get my new camera. I first thought about it back in September, but waited six-months until March - because that is when I got paid five of the six months that I was owed by my 'best' (and I use that word very reluctantly) client. I had sufficient funds to pay for the camera, and still have enough left over to ensure that the wolves wouldn't be scratching at our door. All is well, then sh*t happens. The car broke down, and involved us in a fairly substantial expense that we hadn't budgeted for. Still, we're not exactly poor (yet), so while it was an expense we could do without, it wasn't a complete tragedy. All we need to do to get through to payday is give up our glamourous lifestyle of caviar and champagne and stick instead to plain bread and tap water, then we will manage. I suppose I shouldn't really be bidding for lenses on Ebay (I'll just sell some of Liam's old PS1 games - but don't tell him!). Well, to top it all, today the tumble dryer finally decided that it had had enough of life and refused to work. Personally, I don't know why we need a tumble dryer when it's warm(ish) and sunny(ish) outside, but then I am willing to admit that I am no expert on the intricacies of laundering clothes. If having clean clothes to wear each day is contingent upon having a functioning tumble dryer, then a functioning tumble dryer we must have. Now we are just waiting for it to be delivered. I hope (and expect) that the new one will last as long as the one that just died, which I think is about the same age as me (21)! (BTW, Gavin... I love this lens... are you sure you don't want to just give it to me? - it's nearly Linda's birthday!)

17.3.05

Happy Paddy's Day!


It's Saint Paddy's Day! A time for drinking people the world over to get drunk and generally have a good time lining the pockets of whoever owns Guinness nowadays. Not that I grudge them... not a bit of it. I am partial to the black stuff myself, and even spent one year of my life working in an Irish bar (a proper Irish bar) honing my skills at both pouring and consuming the perfect pint of Guinness. I acquired quite a taste for the stuff... all the more so because it was free (for staff on duty, that is). Since I was given the rather grand, but practically meaningless title of bar manager, I tended to be on duty quite a lot. The owner of the pub - and my employer, a character from Dublin who shall remain nameless (although I am certain that some readers of this page will know who I'm talking about), told me on the day that he employed me that there were few rules that it was my duty to make sure the staff who were, apparently, under my control followed. The first rule was to make sure that there were never any empty glasses on the tables. The waitresses all knew what they had to do, and they were all very good at doing it. The second rule was that only Irish music could be played, and as the night progressed, the music had to be of the type that encouraged the consumption of alcohol. The third rule was that the air conditioning had to be switched off when the place was busy as this would make people hot and more inclined to drink. The fourth rule was that at no time were the staff to be more inebriated than the customers. Needless to say, this was a rule that was rarely kept. The customers seemed to like it, and they came in their droves to enjoy the craic. I worked in the bar during its first year, and it must be now approaching its tenth year. When I worked there, it was always jam packed full on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We did our best to keep the waitress service going, but it always got to the stage when they had to be called behind the bar to help the bar staff. The bar opened just a few days before Paddy's night, and every year since it's opening, the owner has held a birthday party for invited guests only - the party is a free bar. Although I have an open invitation, I have only ever managed to get to one of these parties - the rest of the time I have just not managed to be in Lisbon on the day. As for tonight, I'm sure that there will be a band of itinerent musicians playing, and that the owner will sing his party piece (Whiskey in the Jar) to the gathered drunken throng. I'm sure they'll have a great time. So, I would like to say to all the people I have ever known at the first and best Irish Pub in Lisbon, O'Gillin's in Cais do Sodre, have a great Paddy's night, wherever you may be now.

16.3.05

Hitting the ground running


I've been trying out some demo software for the past couple of days. One that I have been having a play about with is Image Doctor, which I have found to be an excellent tool - although I'm not so sure that it is worth the £90 that they are asking for it. Anyway, I have been using the demo to clean up as many of my old JPEGs as possible before the 30 day trial period is over (you may have noticed that there has been an improvement in the quality of many of the images I have posted here). I still have seven days, and I have reached the middle of September. Since I started shooting RAW at the beginning of December, I should be able to get most of my images cleaned up (does that make me a bad person?). Another demo I have been using recently is Capture One LE, an excellent standalone RAW converter that is produced by Phase One. I cannot praise this piece of software highly enough. The quality of the images it produces knocks CS's Camera Raw right out of the field (although, having said that, if Capture One has a tool for cleaning up chromatic abberations, I have yet to come across it - so I wouldn't dismiss Camera Raw completely). I fully intend to give the demo of Capture One's Pro version a go, if it is possible to do so. However, I think that I will be buying the LE version (which costs $99 as opposed to $499 for the Pro version). If you want to make some comparisons between the two RAW converters that I have, then compare my Pad images from today and yesterday with earlier ones. I know that the differences will be very difficult to notice on the low res JPEGS, but take my word for it, there is a difference (or maybe it is all just in my head). Alternatively, download the fully funcional 15-day demo for yourself (www.phaseone.com). Talking about comparisons between really good and just good, Celtic have managed to put themselves back in pole position in the league again. If we beat Dundee United at the weekend (if!!!!! if!!!!! - they are the bottom placed team, and they have just sacked their manager!!!!), then we move back to our rightful position at the top of the league, two points ahead of Rangers. Now we just need to make sure that we keep winning and that we keep scoring lots and lots of goals, and hope that we don't lose at Ibrox, then Celtic will be crowned Scottish Champions yet again! Oh... we won tonight!

15.3.05

Earning the money to finance my habit


Contrary to expectations, it was quite a nice feeling going back to work yesterday. I am very, very pleased with myself that I actually managed to translate one chapter, proofread and copyedit another, prepare abstracts for six more and make a start on the book's index. Before you think that I'm either a superman, a liar, or the material I am working on very, very short, please let me explain. This is the seventh book that I have worked on with this author. Moreover, this particular author is a very close colleague of mine: we have published a book together and have worked with each other during the past 11 years. It is fair to say, then, that I am very familiar with his work and style of writing, so translating his material is never usually a problem. The chapter was the usual 10,000 words, but over half of it was already in English, and since it was my English from an earlier translation, it only needed minor alterations to make allowance for the context f the newly inserted Portuguese sections. So, to be fair, it wasn't that difficult (although if you are reading this, ACP, it was extremely difficult, and I have been working on it for almost a week now). As for the rest of the material, well, it was relatively straightforward, and there wasn't really too much, apart from the usual missing references, that required attention. The abstracts were a little more difficult, and it was these that took up most of my time. Still, almost everything is now done, and once I receive the two missing chapters I will set about preparing the index and list of abbreviations. Hopefully I will be able to finish most of this within the next couple of days, as that will let me move on to the next project - another book that needs my skills as a translater, proofreader and copyeditor. Six weeks on the sick mean that I have it all to do, so I had better get to it. I see candles being burned at both ends for the next couple of weeks. It must be done though, because if I want to get a couple of new lenses for my camera (and I do), then this is the price that must be paid. Perhaps I'll let the blutak photog use his Stikon to capture Pad images for me. That way you'll all get to assess it's image quality, and I'll be able to concentrate on the ever so serious task of earning money.

14.3.05

Smile. And don't mention the rugby


Damn and blast it. That'll teach me to throw the TV remote away in disgust at half-time. We didn't win (come on, we're Scotland, and sporting prowess is not our forte - we just invent useful things like tarmac, pneumatic tyres, television, telephone, raincoats and the rifled barrel, amongst other things - this last two were probably invented by someone who had just been to see Scotland play football or rugby). You see, I watched the first half of the Scotland v. Wales rugby international the way I used to watch Dr. Who do battle with the Cybermen when I was a child - through my fingers from behind the couch. My spare hand was poised over the remote control, ready to transmit me to the infinitely more interesting world of America's Next Something or Other, or America's Dumbest Criminal, at the slightest hint of a Welsh score. As it transpired, I spent most of the first 40 minutes watching various wannabe catwalk models and soontobe prisoners, rather than endure watching Wales score almost every time they got the ball. What ought to have been the final straw for me was when Scotland were within 10 yards of the Welsh try-line, and the seven points that getting the ball over that line would have meant. Instead of passing to one of the players with the blue top on (i.e., a Scotland player), we decided that the sprinter in red would be a better bet to score - and we were not mistaken for he took off like an express train, running the entire length of the pitch to score Wales's second try while all 15 Scotland players stood scratching their heads as they watched him disappear into the distance. However, I managed to endure the pain for another few minutes, at least until our utterly incompetent defence had let the Welsh through again, and again, before leaving the room. At least I think I have come up with a theory as to why Scotland produces so many medical professionals - we need to be able to heal ourselves from these all too frequent blows to our pride. However, I may have been somewhat hasty in my retreat, because I have just found out that either a different Scotland or a different Wales came out for the second half - a half that Scotland managed to win by 19 points to 8 (it's just a shame that we lost the first half by 38 points to 3!). Although we did manage to lose the game by a fairly substantial margin, we did at least succeed in scoring some tries that were allowed to stand - in all we scored three - which is three more than we have scored in the previous year! Unfortunately, though, Wales scored six. This blutakbeast newspaper photog was at the game. Not wishing to dwell on the rugby, I instead quizzed him about the thorny issue of which is the better make of camera - Nikon or Canon. He confessed that while both manufacturers produced quality machines, they couldn't touch his Stikon.

13.3.05

Hi-key me in front of my PC


I gave up on trying to take pictures of drips... I'm afraid my hand-eye coordination isnit quite up to the job while I'm dosed up with gabapentin, valium and ibuprofen. I discovered that I needed three hands: one to turn the tap on, one to press the shutter release, and a third to hold onto the walking stick. So, several hundred failed attempts later, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and went and sat down to rethink my strategy. It did not take long for me to decide that it just wasn't worth the effort, as I don't seem to have the patience that is obviously required for a spectacular shot of dropping water. That is not to say that I won't give it a go at some date in the future, it's just that I don't think that day will be arriving any time soon. I must concentrate on getting mobile again, because the nice weather is returning and the flowers are starting to make their reappearance (I saw fields of crocuses yesterday). I need to be out and about, taking the kind of pictures that I can send to the stock agencies in the hope that they just might sell. Somehow I don't think Blutakbeasts and all the other bits and bobs that I have shot during the past few weeks will appeal (although if the manufacturers of Blutak ever feel like diversifying and make their product appeal to people who like playing with modelling clay, then I might just be in with a chance). Anyway, in the absence of any more creative thoughts, I leave you with a high-key composite of me sitting in my natural environment, holding my two best (inanimate) friends. This image was much more difficult to achieve than its appearance may suggest. It was basically two self-portraits (in itself not an easy thing to do) taken with two different cameras. A total of 30 shots went into this. Here you see me sitting in front of my PC holding both my Fuji (left) - taken with the D70 - and my D70 (right) taken with my Fuji. The best of the resulting images were fitted together and messed about with in PS until I achieved a reasonable join and hi-key finish. So. There you have it. Just don't expect me to do it again any time soon!

12.3.05

Rays of sunshine


Deke has always looked after our cars, and we have always been delighted to let him, ever since he worked from a shed at the bottom of his garden. He is a fine mechanic, and is always fair and willing to do everything in his power to get the vehicle repaired without unnecessary delay. We used to have an old Peugeot 405. It was a lovely big car, with many years and lots of miles under its belt. With Deke's help, we managed to keep it going strong for over 12 years. When we got our new car, we decided to keep the faith - despite the garage warning us that using our own mechanic could cause problems should we want to sell it. I would rather stick with the hard working self-employed mechanic that I trust to look after my car and not rip me off than hand it over to a franchised garage where I don't know who's working on my car, and all I can guarantee is that I will be hit with a hefty bill at the end of it. Deke does a good job because he relies on word of mouth for business - he doesn't advertise. He now has his own workshop, and employs a couple of people to help him out. He is always busy - so he is obviously doing something right (well, he did drop what he was doing to come and rescue me and Gavin). Last night there was a knock at the door. Linda was in the shower, Liam had his headphones on playing some game on his computer. I struggled out of my chair and shuffled down the stairs, reaching the front door just in time to catch Deke putting the car key through the letterbox. Not only had he fixed the car in one day, but he also dropped it off at the house. When I thanked him for doing this, he just said that he knew that I needed the car quickly because of my present health problems, and that it would be difficult for me to get over to his place to pick it up. What franchise garage offers this level of service? That is why we continue to use Deke - he is a ray of sunshine. It is the same reason we use Dave to fix things about the outside of the house. They are both tradesmen who know how to treat their customers. If only there were more like them.

11.3.05

M-11 + 365


It's hard to believe that a year has now passed since the tragic events in Madrid. I can't admit to being a regular visitor to that particular city, but I have been a few times, and can honestly say that it is one of my favourite places. I think the events of 11 March 2004 hit me quite hard because I have friends who live in the city who regularly commute from their homes to their workplace on the Cercania, and pass through Atocha station at about the time the bombs exploded. For those of you who have never visited Atocha, it is an extremely beautiful station that incorporates a botanic garden as well as several cafes and a shopping centre. If only more train stations could be like that. On the few times I visit Madrid, I make a point of going to Atocha, just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the vegetation. I was last there on 13 February last year, and it was in Atocha that I bought Linda her Valentine's card. I had my breakfast in one of the station's many cafes before heading up to the Retiro for a stroll. I had arrived in the Spanish capital two days earlier, on 11 February - exactly one month prior to the tragic events. I came on the Lusitânia, the overnight train from Lisbon. This train comes into Madrid's Chamartin station, but makes a stop at Atocha. While we were waiting at Atocha, I took the opportunity to stand on the platform and watch the commuters rushing past. We were in the station at 7.50am. Back in Scotland four weeks later, I was watching the BBC Breakfast news when sketchy reports about an explosion in Madrid began to come through. As the extent of the tragedy unfolded, I tuned into TVEi (Spanish TV), and sat watching, hoping against hope that no-one I knew was a victim. I tried phoning the people I knew, but couldn't get through - the Spanish mobile phone network was overloaded. I sent emails to them in the hope that they made it safely to their workplaces and would let me know they were fine. Luckily, not one of my friends or colleagues were hurt, although some of their acquaintances had been injured (thankfully not seriously). So, today I have decided to commemorate M-11 with a collage of photographs I took while I was in Madrid last February. It is my small tribute to the 191 innocent men and women who were killed as they travelled to work, to the 1600 who were injured and to all the Madrileños whose lives have been affected by the bombings.

10.3.05

Two great makes in one place


The man from the bank phoned to let us know that they will let us have the money to pay for the access, driveway and new porch to our house. Hopefully all the work will begin within the month, and be completed very quickly soon thereafter. The new arrangements will require a reshuffling of rooms in the house, with the current back door becoming the main entrance. We'll need to think about what we plan to do... just now it's enough that we are finally going to have vehicular access to the house! The trials and tribulations of being me continue unabated today. Somehow yesterday I managed to pull a muscle in my back, and, combined with my sciatica, I am practically immobile. To top it all, the only useful person in the house thinks she is coming down with the 'flu. The tale of woes continues, with my Pbase site being stalked by someone, allegedly from Leeds and who uses the name Tariq Hussain, who has been leaving abusive, threatening and foul-mouthed messages accusing me of being a 'Nazi racist scumbag' (or four-letter words to that effect). I suspect that the person is not what he claims to be, but is rather someone who wants muslims and Asians to appear in a bad light. Whatever their motive, I have been forced to block anonymous and unregistered comments. It is a shame when idiots like Mr 'Hussain' force people to do this, but I suppose we have to accept that there will always be intolerant bigots in the world, who use anonymity and the internet to foist their own particular narrow-minded prejudices on the rest of us - even on photographic websites. Anyway, since I remain unable to get out and about, I have decided to fall back on my trusty Fuji to take a photograph of two imaging products by two rival companies: my Nikon camera and my Canon scanner. I will apologise to Ian straight away for dumping yet another monochrome image on you all, but the colour function in my shutter release button finger seems to be malfunctioning.

9.3.05

F@*!#?& car


Well then. Today didn't go quite as planned. In fact it was an adventure, a very expensive adventure that I could quite do without. Let me explain as calmly as I possibly can. I met up with Gavin for a coffee. Rather than sit bumping our gums in the comfort of the Tesco cafe, I suggested that we take advantage of the fact that I had the car to go somewhere photogenic. You see, I've had my new camera for a few days now, and I haven't had a chance to give it a good workout. So, full of joy, we squeezed Gavin's bike into the back and set off in the general direction of Auchterhouse. The weather closed in on us, so our photo opportunities were severely restricted. It didn't help matters when we discovered that the main road to Newtyle was closed, forcing us to double back on ourselves and reconsider our options. We decided to head to Blairgowrie, and were moving in that direction when we noticed that there was a great deal of rain and mist ahead of us. We passed Pitcur Castle, when I, as driver, unilaterally decided to turn down towards the Ballo Glack, Abernyte and on towards Inchture in the Carse of Gowrie. The last time I was at the Ballo Glack, the warm sun was shining (well, it was July). This time, it was misty and wet. Still, bad weather doesn't make a place any less interesting - just colder, darker and wetter. It was not the best choice, and, combined with my inability to stand up straight without leaning on a walking stick, I never really gave myself a chance. I hardly took any photos, and of these only one turned out reasonably well. So, wet and dejected, we got back into the car and carried on our way. As we joined the dual carriageway at Inchture, the engine suddenly died. The car coasted to a halt in a bus-stop layby, and refused to restart. Luckily, Gavin had his mobile with him, so I called home and got Linda to call our trusty mechanic, Deke. Despite being busy, Deke eventually rescued us, immediately diagnosed the problem (broken timing belt) and towed us back to his garage (and that was a scary experience that I am in no rush to repeat) before hitting me with the bad news (no car for a week, and big bill at the end of it). Long and short: miserable weather, no nice photos and a broken-down car. I wouldn't blame Gavin for never coming out to take photos with me ever again. Hell, I wouldn't go out with me!

8.3.05

The slates are coming off the academic roof!


When I was young, my Nana used to tell me that if I had nothing nice or constructive to say, then it would be better not to say anything at all. There are times when I've wished, after the fact, that I had heeded this wise counsel. There are other times when I've bit my tongue when perhaps I should have let fly with invective. I must admit that I have never adhered rigidly to this rule, and you would have to ask the people who know me whether I am a better or worse person because of it. I must admit that I have very strong opinions on a whole range of matters (some of which I have actually thought about first), and, just occasionally, I have been known to speak without thinking (would you believe it?), or to spout forth about things that I really know very little about at all (see yesterday's pad). There are times when the red mist descends, and I adopt the attitude that I am the fount of all knowledge on all things, and for fear of being caught out, I am able to assume the appearance of gravitas that seems to undermine the confidence of my interlocutor - even to the extent of convincing them that they are wrong when in fact they are right. I have also been known to convince people that I had been agreeing with them all along, and that the appearance of any initial disagreement was down to their misunderstanding of my position. These are all skills that a career in academe - attending conferences and delivering papers - has given me. The golden rule appears to be (particularly in academe) that if you appear to know what you are talking about, and can waffle with extreme confidence, you can get away with all sorts of nonsense - for the simple reason that your academic peers will, 9 times out of 10, be reluctant to contradict you lest they appear stupid. It is a rule that has served me well these past years. Be confident, talk a good game, don't let on that you are winging it and if that fails, browbeat and confuse. As for today? Well, since I have nothing constructive or nice to say, I think I will follow my Nana's advice.

7.3.05

The narrowness!


Back to the grind, I am. Or at least I will be after lunch. I will do a complete 10-hour shift from 1pm (although I will stop for supper), and get one of the monkeys off my back - all so I can concentrate on the other dozen or so! I am having fun with my new piece of essential business equipment. Learning how to use it and comparing it with my Fuji. All of you who possess the S7000Z will know that it has a superb macro and supermacro function. With the supermacro set, you can focus at distances as small as 10mm, and no matter what aperture setting you use at that distance, you will always get superb depth. I know that, with the correct lens (which would cost in excess of £200), the D70 will be able to get macros that blow the Fuji away. However, I don't have that lens, and I wanted to take some pictures of the bouquet of flowers that Liam gave Linda for Mother's Day (which was yesterday in the UK). This meant getting up close and personal. Obviously the kit lens would be no good for extreme close-ups, so instead I used a Tokina 28mm f/2.8 that Gavin loaned me. This lens can focus up to 9 inches from the subject - so not really a fair match for the Fuji's supermacro. While the D70 and Tokina combo couldn't get as close as the Fuji, they certainly won on the image quality stakes. Anyway, enough camera geek talk for now. Here's a picture of some pencils taken from 23cm at f/2.8. Whoarr! Look at the narrow depth of field on that!


(1) D70/Tokina 28mm f/2.8 versus (2) S7000Z

6.3.05

Two mugs in the garden


Yet another lovely day trapped in the house. This morning I managed to get the next edition of our journal ready: I marked up the PDF proofs and emailed the amended copy back to the publisher, who will make the changes in Quark before sending everything to the printers. There is an editorial meeting in Lisbon on Tuesday (the first in a whole year), which I will not be able to attend. I fail to see the point of these meetings, since I - along with the journal manager at the publisher - practically run the journal: from getting articles and reviews to copyediting, typesetting and proofreading. We have now officially altered the submission process, meaning that the editorial committee have even less to do than they did before - now everything comes to me, and I pass it on to the editor with a note telling him who I have asked to referee the submitted papers! I prefer it this way because, in all my time living amongst and working with the Portuguese, I have found it to be the only way to get things done on time (or even at all). Don't get me wrong: I like Portugal and the Portuguese - but they are not the most effective people at getting things done. They seem to be overly fond of committees and unneccessary bureaucratic procedures, with no-one willing to accept any responsibility. On the other hand, as a presbyterian protestant, I have a work ethic that is very different. My philosophy is this: it doesn't matter how we get it done, as long as it gets done. And if you believe that, you'll believe anything. Anyway, I did get the journal to bed, and will soon be starting on the next issue, as well as copyediting and translating the two books and website that I have to do. Somewhere amongst all this, I have to struggle along with my sciatica, worry about impending surgery and try to get out to use my new camera. I have already had to turn down a trip along the Fife coast with Gavin and a couple of his other photographer friends (no doubt they will be stopping off at such picturesque locations as St Andrews, Crail, Pittenweem and Anstruther). You don't need to feel sorry for me - I am capable of doing that myself. So anyway, I did manage to get out to the junk heap at the back of our garden where I took this picture of my 20 year-old coffee mug and a rusty nail. Enjoy.

5.3.05

And so the learning begins!


This is Linda trying to study (something I should be doing a lot more of). I am playing with my new toy (ahem! I mean to say, tax deductable business expense), and am enjoying every second of it. There are an awful lot of buttons on the camera, and I don't know what 99% of them do - although I did manage to set the machine to shoot in RAW, and now I am trying to find out how to switch off the in-camera sharpening (I know, this information is all in the book - but it is much better fun playing about with it - flying blind, as it were!). I have managed to suss out how to change the aperture and shutter speed while shooting in manual (my prefered mode), and have discovered that shooting in Av and Sv is much, much easier. My first few shots were in auto, and they seem to be quite dark - I don't know if that is me, or if it is the camera. Next thing will be to remember to adjust the ISO settings according to light conditions (something I tended to forget about with the Fuji). I am really looking forward to getting to know this camera! The Fuji - my trusty companion for the past 9 months - is not going into retirement: its macro function is second to none, and, if you know me at all, you will know that I like taking macro shots. So, until I can afford a macro lens for the D70 (and that won't be for some time), the Fuji will remain in service. Besides, it's a damn fine camera in its own right. (PS: I don't know what happened to the EXIF data, since I saved this image in the same way as I save the images from my Fuji. It's all part of the learning curve, I suppose!)

Today's the day


This is just a placeholder, as I intend to wow the world later on today with a photograph befitting a new member of the Royal Photographic Society (okay, okay, I know.... anyone can become a member, but doesn't it sound good! Honest, I will be working towards my Licenciate Membership asap). So, I'm meeting up with Gavin in just over 30 minutes, and we are heading off down to the town where I intend to make a major purchase. I wonder what it might be?

4.3.05

One of my favourites


To me, this image is an ideal representation - both literal and metaphorical - for one of my favourite films of recent years. Can you guess what it might be? The protagonist's journey starts at the bottom left, where he is happy and is able to think about his life and death. It is at this stage in the film that he can see clearly what he must do and, most importantly, come to terms with it. As the image progresses towards the top right, it becomes ever more blurred, with the bright white gradually being replaced by ever darker shades of grey. Whilst still resigned to (and at peace with) his fate, the main character demonstrates his resolve and his courage time and again. The cynical superior, who is no coward himself, is full of admiration for his charge, and secretly wishes that he could find the same peace of mind. The story races along to its inevitable dark conclusion, where the grey turns to black ("You will all die too"), and the line is blurred so much that it is difficult to see what is right and what is wrong any more. At this point, the main character forces a reluctant enemy to seal the fate that he knew was his all along: "I don't want to kill you. Don't move." I love everything about the film: the story is gripping and touching, the characters - even the cameos - are fully fleshed out and utterly believable. This is one film that deserved all the awards it received - and more. If only Hollywood could make more like it. Now... that didn't sound too pretentious, did it?

3.3.05

Soon, I hope!


Gavin gave me a call yesterday morning to tell me his brilliant news and to let me know about his amazing find in the local flea market. We chatted away on the phone for a while, then I invited myself up to his house for a coffee, since I had to go to the bank anyway, and his house is on the way. I needed to get out the house anyway, so it was a good excuse. The new camera he got is absolutely fantastic - it's 50 years-old, yet it looks as if it has just come off the assembly line, and it came complete with flash, lens hood, cable release and the original leather carrying case - and everything looked brand new! I won't tell you how much he paid, because I don't want to be responsible for you all falling off your chairs. Let's just say that the stall holder obviously didn't have a clue. His other piece of excellent news was that he has sold a picture that will be used on a music CD cover. Tell you what, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy... I'm really chuffed for him to at last get the reward his dedication to the craft deserves. Let's hope that it is just the first of many sales. (Of course, you can buy my images too!!!) I never managed to get to the bank, and by the time I got home my leg was very, very sore. I thought that I was getting a bit better, but Gavin seems to think that, if anything, I have got worse. I hope he's wrong, but I must admit that last night the pain was getting to me... so much so that I hardly slept a wink. I'm feeling a bit better now, though. Hopefully this is just the nerve's final assault before it relaxes back to normality. Finger's crossed: I still have just over a week for these pills to do what they are supposed to do, and let me get better before I am referred to the neurosurgeons.

2.3.05

As I was saying the other day...


Continuing the anti-scapegoating rant of yesterday. We are all losing our liberties in this populist driven 'War on Terrorism'. Imprisonment without trial, house arrest, identity cards (they really helped in Madrid!) and Government ministers, in the run up to a general election, justifying the scapegoating of an entire community because of their religion (now where and when did that happen before, I wonder?).

'Scapegoating is a hostile social-psychological discrediting routine by which people move blame and responsibility away from themselves and towards a target person or group. It is also a practice by which angry feelings and feelings of hostility may be projected, via inappropriate accusation, towards others. The target feels wrongly persecuted and receives misplaced vilification, blame and criticism; he is likely to suffer rejection from those who the perpetrator seeks to influence. Scapegoating has a wide range of focus: from "approved" enemies of very large groups of people down to the scapegoating of individuals by other individuals. Distortion is always a feature.' (The Scapegoat Society)

'UK Muslims should accept that people of Islamic appearance [sic] are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, a Home Office minister has said. Hazel Blears said innocent Muslims would be targeted because of the search for Islamic extremists. Qualifications for religious leaders to enter the UK could also be made tougher, she told a Commons inquiry... Figures showed that, for 2003/4, Asians were 1.9 times more likely to be stopped and searched, compared with 1.7 times more likely in the previous year. Separate figures on police searches in England and Wales carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000 showed that ethnic minorities were more likely to be targeted. Muslim groups have repeatedly claimed that their communities are being victimised under terror laws. In 2003/4, 12.5 per cent of searches under the laws were on Asian people, even though they make up 4.7 per cent of the population. Last July, the police were accused of Islamophobia by Muslim groups after stop and search figures showed the numbers of Asians targeted had risen by 300 per cent since the introduction of anti-terror laws.' (BBC News)

'Whether we consider questions of general justice or cankers of economic life, symptoms of cultural decline or processes of political degeneration, questions of faulty schooling or the bad influence exerted on grown-ups by the press, etc, everywhere and always it is fundamentally the disregard of the racial needs of our own people or failure to see a foreign racial menace.' Adolf Hitler.

1.3.05

I am not a criminal


March already! Where are all the days going? This morning I thought that I'd pay a tribute to Lisa by imitating her Liverpool scarf image of a couple of days ago. After doing that, I began to think about the Panorama documentary on sectarianism in the west of Scotland that was broadcast on Sunday night. I don't know if it was shown down south, but if it was, it gave a highly sensationalised account of the problem, and seemed to imply that all supporters of Rangers and Celtic are sectarian bigots who are brought up on a diet of anti-Catholicism or anti-Protestantism from birth. You could have been forgiven for thinking that we are all either members of the Ulster Defence Association or the IRA, and that we like nothing better to do than to go about shouting religious slogans into each other's faces - preferably before we smash the bottle into them. As a Celtic supporter, and as someone who was brought up in the Church of Scotland, I resent this. I am not going to deny that there is a problem with a minority of both sets of supporters. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the constant scapegoating of the two clubs and the vast majority of their supporters - who are just ordinary, decent, law-abiding people - will help solve the problem, which is, in the final analysis, a social problem - and not a sporting one. There is only so much the clubs can do, and it is simply unrealistic, not to mention unreasonable, to ban people from the grounds for singing The Fields of Athenry or The Sash My Father Wore - which is basically what is being suggested. It is not helpful interviewing convicted criminals, who just happen to support either Rangers or Celtic, and give the impression that this is what a typical Old Firm supporter is like, and how they think, and then imply that if you scratch the surface of any Old Firm fan, you will find that they have more in common with the convict than they care to admit. There is no conspiracy here. The Old Firm have a problem with some of their supporters, and that problem is sectarian in nature. Chelsea and Millwall have a problem with some of their supporters, and that is racist in nature. Yet, when it comes to the Old Firm, the media wants to have us believe that all the fans are sectarian - not just a small minority. We are all sectarian because we sing songs at the game - and that means that we must be closet thugs. It won't wash, and the BBC should not be allowed to get away with it. Sectarianism may be Scotland's secret shame, but the public shame is that they are labelling us all. To compensate for their inability to resolve the social and economic problems that fuel sectarianism in the west of Scotland (just as they fuel racism in Bradford and Leeds) they are content to try and make us ashamed of supporting either Celtic or Rangers. It's a cop out, and well they know it. I for one will not be criminalised by proxy, and I will not stop supporting Celtic. And no, I don't think all Rangers' fans have two heads either. (Tried to make this look like a photo from a newspaper.)