Archive for August 2007

Making the Connection

August 29, 2007

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Our internet connection has been a trifle temperamental of late. This represents an enormous problem for someone so devoted (?) to the task of regular blogging. Understand: our wireless arrangement has always needed the odd bit of focused persuasion to do its job properly, but would usually only require of a frustrated would-be internet user that they right-click on the little network icon in the bottom right, and left-click on ‘repair’. A panacea for all connectivity complaints.

Things took a turn for the worse recently, and it all started with our CD/DVD drive. One day, it decided that it would point-blank refuse to play (or indeed acknowledge) any DVD that wasn’t either Aliens or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This amusingly selective deficiency did not extend to CDs, on which it seemed to have imposed a blanket refusal policy. And so, I gathered my faculties for an expedition to PC World.

For those who have ever actually asked the immortal question ‘where in the world is PC World?’, you’d have no problem spotting the enormous, lilac aberration that represents the Corstorphine branch. It’s only once you’re inside that the real problems begin. The moment I pass through the entrance turnstile, I am confronted with the vivid reality of my technological ignorance. Most of the things in PC World I simply do not understand. This may come as a surprise to some, particularly those who thought my genius extended even unto the realm of computing. To me, a Quick-Start manual reads like quantum physics.

With an affected air of confidence, I strode (via every possible aisle) to the CD/DVD section. On witnessing the myriad choices available, I realised I would need to obtain assistance from one of the pallid youths that represent the PC World staff. This was quite difficult in itself. My first strategy was to stand still, whilst arranging my face into a suitable ‘help me’ expression. Nothing doing. Next, I decided to amble around in the general direction of the lilac-shirted, but whenever I was in speaking distance they seemed to sense that I was about to make demands of them, and would scurry away. Eventually, I homed in on a small group of employees. They duly dispersed at my approach, but I managed to isolate a slower individual from the rest of the pack, and corner them against the printer cartridges.

I escorted this chap back to the CD/DVD section, as I gave him a rundown of my problem. He agreed with my astute diagnosis (“Yep. Sounds like it’s knackered”) before directing me to the most appropriate (i.e. cheapest) replacement drive. Concerned as to how it might be made to function, I piped up with what I hoped was an endearing innocence:

‘I suppose you just plug it in and away you go?’

‘No, no’, said he. ‘This is an internal one. It goes inside the computer. Do you want one that just sits by the side?’

‘Is that better?’ I asked.

‘Not really. More expensive. But you don’t need to take your computer apart to install it, which some people prefer’. He had me pegged, obviously.

That shan’t be a problem’, I blustered. ‘I suppose it’s, um, easy enough?’

‘Yep, it’s a doddle’.

‘When you say a doddle, would I be able to do it?’ I hoped he would read between the lines.

‘It’s like this,’ he said, clearly tiring of my thinly-disguised ineptitude. ‘There’s two wires to plug in at the back. One’s small. One’s big. If you can’t tell them apart, I’d say that a broken CD/DVD drive’s the least of your worries.’

So that was it. I’d been goaded into purchasing something I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get working. And in order to look at the instructions, I would need to break open the box and thus render the purchase irrevocable.

A note for would-be computer enthusiasts. There is almost certainly a way of opening up your computer without the aid of a screwdriver and splinters of plastic flying in all directions. I was as surprised as you to discover it after an extremely effortful half-hour. Check your manual for details.

Anyway, I got in, and yes, the two wires were in there, and yes, I could readily distinguish them. I swapped the broken drive for the new one, put everything back together, and booted up. Luckily, Windows is usually clever enough to automatically install the software (some call it a ‘driver’) needed to run whatever bit of new kit you’ve just plugged in. What’s less clever is that it seems to assume all your existing bits of kit can be elbowed out of the way to make room for the newcomer. Thus I discovered that the introduction of the new CD/DVD drive had somehow knocked our internet connection for six. Is there no end to it?

Eventually, it was all made to function again, but I had to carry the whole computer upstairs to the access point (where the internet cable comes into the house) and start from scratch with the ol’ wireless. Everything’s working much better now, though.

A more taxing problem turned out to be the issue of removing a forgetten CD from a broken CD/DVD drive, once the drive is out of your computer and sitting on your kitchen table. Try it for yourself, using only kitchen implements. Sounds easy…

Dental Health Act

August 23, 2007

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This week, I had the dubious pleasure of attending the dentist. This appointment had been made on the back of a quick check-up a couple of weeks back, at which it was decided that certain repairs were necessary in order to maintain my hitherto unsullied state of dental excellence.

I don’t dislike the dentist as much as most people, I would imagine. In some ways, I rather like it. I enjoy the (usually metaphorical) pat on the head for my dental successes. I also relish the playful telling-off for the inordinate delays between checkups and my persistent refusal to use flossing tape between the front incisors.

There’s also quite a pleasant smell in the dentist’s, I feel. You notice it as soon as you step in the front door. It’s an evocative blend of rubber gloves and anxiety-induced sweat. If they bottled it, I would probably buy it.

Anyway, I was shortly ushered into the room to commence my business. I sat while the dentist did a preliminary poke about, and wondered whether she enjoyed staring into people’s gobs all day (some of whom would undoubtedly lack my own indisputable grasp of dental hygiene).

She summarised the restorative steps she intended to take, namely that she would drill a hole in the appropriate tooth (for reasons that were never fully explained) before smearing some synthetic goop over it. It seemed reasonable enough. I got a quick injection in the requisite spot, and we were all set. Just before starting with the oral DIY in earnest, she said ‘just raise your hand if there are any problems’.

What sort of thing did she have in mind? Had she not done everything necessary to forestall any potential mishap? As she bored into my upper-left molar, I kept my attention poised for the first signs of searing, indescribable pain. Which, thankfully, never occurred. I did, however, find myself pondering the fact that actual drilling was taking place in my mouth. That activity which one carries out prior to erecting shelves was currently being carried out within the boundaries of my own body. It’s quite a thought. And a first time, for me.

When she’d done the necessary preparation to apply the sealant, a further thought struck me: that I was being given the very first synthetic addition to the biological equipment I’d been born with. For all intents and purposes, I was now a cyborg. Up until now, I’d usually shunned the idea of having synthetic materials in my mouth. Except perhaps Irn-Bru.

So, I’ve been given a clean bill of health, dentally speaking, and have to wait another year to have another stint in the chair. Perhaps I will, in the intervening period, finally make good on my resolution to take care of my teeth properly. I suspect that future visits to the dentist would be rendered decidedly cheaper, but also less eventful.

Swings and roundabouts…

Look Into My Eyes… (2)

August 18, 2007

I hope that all you Edinburgh folk are enjoying the festival. And for you non-Edinburgh folk who have made the trip, but felt the urge to check the ‘Logues from a convenient internet cafe, welcome. And for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, my commiserations.

The Edinburgh festival is simply splendid. Although, having said that, it doesn’t really feel like a festival. It’s really just a three-week period when there is a more-than-average amount on at the theatre. But we love it, and so does everyone else, so there.

I availed myself of some particular delights last night. The first of which was the Robin Ince show Robin Ince Knew This Would Happen. A characteristically bizarre title for a comedy show, I thought. Of course, Robin Ince will be a familiar name to you, after his star turn in the first series of The Office. He played the (some would say pivotal) role of an unsuccessful job applicant. Last night, I thought he was regrettably so-so, but on the up-side, while standing in the queue to get in, I think I spotted Nicholas Parsons.

After the show, we stumbled across the road to the half-price ticket tent at the Princes Mall, and scooped a couple of tickets for Stef’s Sidesplitting Hypnosis.

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 I should explain that I’ve never been to a live hypnosis show before, and that some of the circles in which I move would frown on this sort of thing. In fact, when I was a student at St Andrews university, there was an act at the student union which involved the world’s only dog hypnotist. Which is to say that the dog did the hypnotising, not that some bloke thought it would be fun to hypnotise dogs rather than people. I’m not even sure that a dog could be hypnotised. It wouldn’t make for a good show, in my opinion. I doubt, for example, that a hypnotised canine could be persuaded to speak Chinese or do Michael Jackson moves, although I would pay good money to see it.

Incidently, I came across the Hypnodog again recently, as he was somehow implicated in Danny Wallace‘s rather enjoyable Yes Man

Where was I? Oh yes. This hypnotic dog show came to the student union, and I was interested in attending, but there was a little old lady outside wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with some message to the effect that hypnotism was the work of the devil, and should therefore be avoided at all costs. As it turned out, the same little old lady was possessed of dozens of similar sandwich boards (one for every conceivable occasion) and would always display herself prominently in each and every situation where people looked to be in danger of enjoying themselves. Still, she had our eternal destiny at heart, bless her.

In fear of being branded a minion of dark forces, I gave it a miss. But since then, I’ve realised that there is nothing sinister about hypnosis per se, and was keen to go and see it in action.

A moment’s hesitation denied me the chance of being hynotised personally, as the stage was quickly stormed by eager volunteers. However, the chap in charge held a little impromptu competition amongst audience members, where he gave away a copy of his hypnosis CD for weight loss to the person who could name his website address. In retrospect, it was pretty shameless of him, and I’m embarrassed to have won it. Not to say I won’t try it out though. I’ve got a bit of a paunch on the go at the moment.

I haven’t even got to the show itself yet, so do forgive me. There is more to say, but it will have to be said another day.

The Inconstant Gardener

August 17, 2007

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him (Genesis 41:8)

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I had a strange dream last night.

Before we go much further with it, I should probably point out that I do not usually attach significant import to the feverish nocturnal activities of my brain. This one, however, was a spur to action.

I was in the dining room, with the curtains closed. Evidently, I had been there for some time. I was keeping the curtains shut for a reason, namely that I didn’t want to see what was outside in the garden. But part of me knew that, eventually, I would have to look.

Very gingerly, I nudged a small chink in the curtains, and saw that the garden had become rather overgrown. And not the sort of overgrown that arises from omitting the weekly once-over with the lawnmower. There was a mythical, grotesque abundance of greenery. Now, I usually adore greenery, and have often been known to deliberately cultivate weeds if I find them aesthetically agreeable. There was nothing pleasant about these, though. They were mouldy and fetid, and had grown to the height of the house.

Plant dreams are not a usual component of my somnial repertoire (usually they’re about fish) and as I made my way to work this morning, there could be no doubt of what the dream portended. It made me realise, like a bolt out of the blue, that I had left the Monologues untended for weeks, and that they were in danger of developing into some horrid spammy armpit in my absence. This, I realised, would not do.

Fret not. Your gardener is returned. Think of this post as a necessary lap with a Flymo and a pair of secateurs, and then we’ll be back in business. There is some catching up to do.