bellinghman: (Caricature)
I've got a subscription to Bandsintown, which attempts to notify its users when artists on their play lists are giving concerts within their area.

(For area which could do with better tuning options, to be honest. Something in Portsmouth is unlikely to be worth our going. Marina excepted. And OK, we did go to Pompey to see Megson. But anyway ...)

But I will admit to being intrigued when the latest email arrived, with this announcement:


Partnership House - London, United Kingdom
Mon, Jun 13, 2016

OK, so Dido is one of those unfashionable performers, but I've got an album or two of hers, and I do like to listen to them sometimes. What was more interesting was the venue.

Partnership House, London

Really? The only Partnership House that I know of in London is the John Lewis Partnership HQ on Victoria Street, in which I've spent way too many hours. Surely not?

But JLP do like Paloma Faith, so the female singer/songwriter isn't entirely unreasonable ... but no.

I had to go find the details.

MON JUNE 13, 2016 - 6:00 PM
Partnership House
London, United Kingdom
John Lewis Partnership Music Society presents its first opera for 19 years.

Henry Purcell

Dido & Aeneas

Dido with Aeneas? Oh how amusing, it's the Opera Dido and Aeneas, by the JLP Am Music society.

There's going to be a number of disappointed Dido fans. And possibly Aeneas fans, if there is such a band.

(Meanwhile I'm wondering where in those offices one could stage an opera. The canteen may be the best bet.)

ETA: Apparently in the Car Park. It was my impression that that was an underground car park.
bellinghman: (Caricature)
In my last post, I noted that I managed to recover from a jammed mirror on the DSLR.

What I'd not done was to properly try out the lens after the drop. It appeared fine when I was giving it an initial check, so I assumed all was OK. But on Sunday we had family down from York, and it being a nice day we took them out on the Heath.

That is where I discovered that the 18-200 VR lens was refusing to focus properly at infinity when zoomed all the way open. It was fine at shorter ranges, and fine focusing to infinity when at the 18mm end of the range. But attempting to use the zoom to focus on something a good distance away?

Nope. Just a blur, with auto or manual.


This is the most expensive bit of photographic kit I've ever bought, and not being able to use it for longer ranges rather defeats the purpose.

Getting one of these repaired looks like a three figure sum — not as much as it cost, not as much as it would cost to replace, but still a fair sum. But then I discovered something on the 'net. This symptom can be caused by a loose front element. There's a ring that holds the front-most bit of glass in, and if that's loose and the glass has ridden forwards, it can't focus. But if you tighten the ring back in, it may work.

And yes, the front element ring was loose, and yes, I could turn it with my fingernails, and it took about a complete turn.

So I now have a properly-working-at-full-zoom-and-infinity lens again. For what it's worth, I don't think this was actually caused by the drop, as I think it was a bit blurry at full zoom before that, but the extra shake won't have helped.
bellinghman: (Caricature)
Actually, I didn't, but I did consider the option.

On Tuesday, we were on the way to the Distraction Club monthly show in the Phoenix on Cavendish Square. We had arrived at Oxford Circus tube, and were walking along the corridor toward the escalators when I suddenly felt the weight on my shoulder go, and heard a thunk on the ground behind me. I looked round to see my Nikon D5100 DSLR had slipped out of its case and fallen to the tiled floor.

Hoping it was all okay, I picked it up, put it back in the case and zipped the flap properly shut before we proceeded to the pub.

Once at the destination, I could check it over. And that's when I discovered that though all the electronics appeared to work and nothing appeared chipped or cracked, the shutter wouldn't work. And so, swearing silently, the only pictures I took were with my phone.

(The Nexus 6P does remarkably good work in a dimly-lit basement with moving targets, but it doesn't exactly have the same quality of picture)

Taking the lens off (a piece of equipment that had actually cost me more that the camera body when I originally bought it back in Kyoto in 2007), I looked inside the resulting aperture. The mirror wasn't moving properly when I pressed the shutter button. It quivered in place, but that was it.

Hello Google.

Well, it turns out that there are various possibilities, but one seemed to match what I could see. There's a plastic post that's supposed to stop the moving mirror from going too far when it springs forward and then back again, but the mirror had ridden up past it and was jammed on it. I stuck a jeweller's screwdriver in, wiggled a bit, and the mirror came loose. I pressed the shutter button, and everything was back to normal. Hooray and phew!
bellinghman: (Caricature)
Well, that was another BristolCON.

It's not a big convention, but it fits the venue nicely: the rooms are big enough for the panels we were going to. The convention has the advantage of being in the same place it's been since we started going (and we only missed the first), and being run by much the same team since the first. That gives a consistency which somehow helps. This was probably the largest yet - looking at the stats, there were 287 badges pre-printed, and a few dozen walkins, so a bit over 300 people there I guess.

That venue is a central Bristol hotel. It used to be the Ramada, but it was taken over a few years ago and is now a Hilton Doubletree. The building itself is a fairly ugly block, though with an astonishing structure at the back which is a former glass kiln, a semi-conical brick construction which is used as the restaurant. But the advantage of being inside the hotel is you don't see it from outside, and it's a comfortable place to stay. The staff are friendly and the general atmosphere is relaxed.

We travelled down on Friday and back on Sunday, meaning that we stayed two nights in a hotel for a one-day event. (This makes it oddly expensive on a pounds-per-day basis - we could if we really wanted drive down and back the same day which would make it much cheaper, but it would wipe us out and, while we're not rich, we can afford a couple of nights these days.) We went by train, because buying the tickets in advance got us there and back for about £75. That was the idea anyway - in practice we spend another £20+ on taxis on the way back. But that was because we stupidly forgot not to buy any art from Jim Burns, and we ended up hauling three framed pictures by him. No way were we going to haul those around on the Tube from Paddington to KX, or from Royston station home.

The panels we went to worked well, and between them we caught up with friends, including Graham and James Higgins who we'd not seen in way too long. (We're pretty sure James hasn't actually doubled in age since we last saw him, but we can't work out where in the last dozen years we may have seen him.) [ profile] jemck was a comically miffed, on the totally spurious grounds that her badge misspelt her name. We blamed our cats, who we said distracted us. That's obviously because their mother didn't bring them up correctly, so the blame properly belongs to [ profile] major_clangerand Sian (whose LJ handle I've mislaid since I last posted ETA: [ profile] attimes_bracing), as they now have that mother.

And of course we saw lots of other friends. Oops, back to work
bellinghman: (Caricature)
Oh dear. Oh dearie me. Someone's online payment system is incompetent.

An error occurred while trying to report this transaction to the merchant. An e-mail has been sent to the merchant informing them of the error. The following is the result of the attempt to charge your credit card.

This transaction has been approved.

It is advisable for you to contact the merchant to verify that you will receive the product or service.

I suppose it's a bit closer. Shame the 'merchant' doesn't have a suitable contact email.

(Register for the convention? Not that
Volunteer as convention staff (pre-con or at-con). Nope, that's not relevant.
To sign up as a dealer. Not right either.

And on the contact page, that's it!)

I'm very far from impressed by the organisation of this convention.

Oh my

Mar. 27th, 2015 11:02 am
bellinghman: (Caricature)
'perhaps the most prolific poetry plagiarist of all time'

What a damning phrase that is.

I don't normally pay much attention to the world of English-language poetry (even less to foreign language poetry if I'm honest), but it appears that the advent of Google and other search engines has been setting the cats among several flocks of pigeons. The short version is that various published poets are now being discovered to have been engaged in behaviour varying from creating poems from a bricolage of others' words and phrases all the way through to taking existing poems, filing off the serial numbers and entering them in competitions. Some of the articles make it sound as problematic as the cycling world's drug problems, with entries being disqualified only for the runners-up to be disqualified too.

How did I stumble over this though? Well, Google of course. I decided to search to see what my one-time lodger was up to these days, only to discover him embroiled in this scandal, with that opening phrase applied to him.

I have one book by him, but it's a short novel and he maintains those were not copied.
bellinghman: (Default)
This last weekend, while the better half was away on a Worldcon staff weekend, I was off in Tamriel.

To clarify, I was playing Elder Scrolls Online, the MMO game set in the same world as Skyrim.

It's still in beta, not being released for another month, and it's got some glitches, but oh my it's beautiful. There are occasions when, wandering along a bit of sea shore, when I could taste the salt in the air. Or I could feel the welcome coolness in the air as a thunderstorm broke and the rain started to fall. That's immersion, and the sheer quality of the graphics really helps.

more thoughts )
bellinghman: (Default)
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.

I was at the Distraction Club last night, and I had a shot of this, as supplied by Ivan 'mad drummer' Sheppard.

It's a vodka infused with the Ghost Pepper (aka Naga Jolokia) Chilli.

It does produce quite a nice glow, but having it with no run up gave me my instant hiccoughs.

Yes, I have two odd reactions to chilli heat.

The first — as above — happens when I take a good dose all at once, with no lead in. In those cases, I often get instant hiccoughs, after only a handful of seconds. It doesn't last very long, but I do feel a bit silly.

My other reaction is that my scalp sweats.

That second one can happen even when I don't actually have much heat impact. Sometimes it's the only way I know is something is really hot, because the thing about chilli heat is it's something you acclimatise to, and that acclimatisation is something that can occur during the meal itself. If I'm idling over a meal, and the first few bites are relatively mild, I don't get the impact, but my body realises that heat is coming up, and it recalibrates ready. So I can end up eating quite hot curry, and yet the only symptom is my scalp getting moist.

In the case of the vodka, my scalp stayed dry, even though my mouth spent a couple of minutes going "Hey, hey, that wasn't fair" before settling down to a warm (and not unwelcome) glow.

On Gravity

Jan. 23rd, 2014 01:14 pm
bellinghman: (Default)
So on Tuesday we finally caught up and went to see the film Gravity. Only about 10 weeks late, but what the heck. The screen was reasonably full, and [ profile] dorispossum/Kate and [ profile] bdikkat/Malcolm came in and sat behind us. (At the time they came in, [ profile] bellinghwoman was out of the room and I was buried in an article on my phone, so I didn't note their arrival. Oops, and sorry!)

The film itself was pretty damned good. We were in the 3D screening, and it's fair to say that if you want to see how well 3D can work, this is the best I've seen: it's stunning. Sound is done well too - the film makers have really thought about the fact that sound doesn't carry through a vacuum, so there are parts where it is totally silent.

(This made the slightly late arrival of one viewer particularly noticeable.)

The music was a bit overloud, but that could be fixed by turning down the volume.

thoughts with spoilers )

And then, because the film was only about 90 minutes long, and 3D showings have fewer ads, we wandered downstairs to Frankie and Benny and had (in my case) coffee and drinks with K&M and chatted for a while.


Jan. 23rd, 2014 12:18 pm
bellinghman: (Default)
It's the 23rd day of January. And for 21 of those days I know it rained.

I don't know that it didn't rain on either of the other two days, I only don't have evidence that it did.

Pretty please, can we stop with all this liquid falling from the skies?
bellinghman: (Default)
We went to a number of shows this year, and I decided to make a list for my future reference

wrapped for length )

That's 53 separate days on which we've gone to see something, and only 6 of those weren't live entertainment of some form. Some performers we saw a lot (Mitch Benn, for example - he was at all but one of those Distraction Club events, and he was also in HHGTTG as well as that solo gig). We also bought quite a number of CDs of music from performers, or after having seen them. A good number were cases where we didn't really know what we were going to see - the Bad Shepherds for example, but also many of the acts at the Distraction Club and of course, we buy the Folk Festival tickets before we know what acts will be on.

(Edited for cut, and to add reflection)
bellinghman: (Default)
It's that time again:

List the places where you spent a night away from home this year, marking places where you spent two or more non-consecutive nights with an asterisk.

Home is Royston, England

Cambridge, England
Strasbourg. Alsace
St Louis, Alsace (actually visiting Basel in Switzerland, but the hotel's a lot cheaper 50 metres over the border)
Bradford, England
Bosham, England
Bristol, England
Nottingham, England
Top deck of G-XLEC
Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Hong Kong
Top deck of G-XLEB
Broughton (Hants), England (anticipated)

This is the first year since 1995 that we've not visited Ireland. We also failed to reach Scotland or Wales. On the other hand, we entered HK (and got the requisite entries in our passports) three times, but since that involved two day trips from HK into other countries (for values of 'other countries' that includes having to pass immigration both ways, and having different currencies), we don't get the asterisk on HK.

We came close to getting the same plane outbound and back, at which point I would have claimed one for that.

Countries entered (asterisk for ones not previously visited, plus sign for multiple entries):

England +
France +
Switzerland +
Germany +
Macao SAR *
China *

Oddly, I strongly suspect that to be the first time that I've failed to sleep in the majority of countries I've visited in a year, for though we do often manage to pass through countries (France, Belgium and Luxembourg) on the way elsewhere, we also tend to stay in more.
bellinghman: (Caricature)
There is a drink. It is made by injecting high pressure steam through finely ground coffee to cause the coffee to be quickly 'squeezed' from the grounds, and it's made on purpose just for you: there's no batch production.

Or, in other words, it is expressly expressed from the grounds, and expressly for you.

What a wonderful collision of three different meanings of a word. It's understandable that the originators decided to call it 'express coffee'. Except that, they being Italian and the letter 'x' not being in the Italian alphabet[1], that became 'espresso'.

So the Italian word for it is 'espresso'.

The French, however, call it 'expresso', since they have the letter 'x' in their alphabet, as do the Spanish (who call it 'expreso' - note the non-doubled 's').

(I have seen someone mocking French company Carte Noire for calling their drink 'expresso'. This is one of those cases where the ignorance is not where the mocker thought it was.)

We English usually borrow culinary words from the French rather than from the Italians, with the honourable exceptions of pizza and pasta where even the French use the Italian words. So we have courgettes rather than zucchinis. And as we have the letter 'x' (and the word 'express'), it makes more sense for us to use the French spelling than the Italian.

I note that Americans have much less of a tendency to use French sources in the kitchen — they have zucchinis and cilantro. So it's not invalid for them to use a different term in this case, one that differs in a single letter.

Me, I'm going to be perfectly happy to see either 'espresso' or 'expresso'. Both are correct in my eyes.

[1] The 26-letter western alphabet is often termed the 'Roman Alphabet'. The actual alphabet according to Italians is 21 letters: J, K, W, X and Y not being proper members, and the Romans[2] had 23 letters (missing J, U and W).

[2] Well, not all Romans at all periods, since as an example the current Romans are Italians and have 21 as previously stated.
bellinghman: (Caricature)
Further to this post, sister now has a new house. She's had to pay cash because her last relationship left her with a trashed credit rating (as well as a very sour taste in her mouth) as a result of her being injudicious in trusting her fellow financially. However, with her inheritance and with a few thousand loaned to her by [ profile] bellinghwoman and me, she's managed to scrape together enough money and get herself a semi, in Bosham near Chichester.

She's going to be paying us back in what she doesn't have to spend on rent.

We may decide to drop in on her on the 24th. Hey, it's not far from the house-warming we're going to already. Only the next door county, and if we're having to go south of the river anyway ...


Jun. 18th, 2013 11:29 am
bellinghman: (Default)
As [ profile] sesquipedality has mentioned, Costa Coffee have been doing a promotion to their loyalty card customers - a Tassimo T40 coffee machine for £30.

This TAS4000GB is a machine going for £110 - 120 at various sites such as Argos. It's not quite as nice as my T65 which includes the Brita water filter as well, but it's pretty close. And that £30 doesn't account for the £20 off voucher code you get if you register the machine with the Tassimo website.

So, my sister will be getting one of these as a house warming present, together with a bunch of Kenco Crema pods, (and I'll take that code).

Hey, me, cheap?

(She's been lusting over mine for a while now.)

She just needs (a) to get a windfall of quite a lot of money, and (b) find somewhere to buy that's not too extortionate in the Chichester/Bosham area. Part (a) is a week or two away
bellinghman: (Default)
When we don't see one of the cats of the evening, we don't particularly worry. They'll usually be there for breakfast.

Occasionally, they're not there for that either.

The last time we'd actually seen Toro was on Saturday, though I was pretty sure that he'd burrowed under the duvet early Sunday morning. But we didn't see him on Sunday. Or on Monday.

By yesterday (Tuesday) evening, we were round the neighbours asking them to check their sheds for him, but we were definitely worried. I was coming to terms with the likelihood that we'd not see him again.

Four-bloody-a.m. this morning, I hear a demanding yowl. It doesn't sound like Sake who has a slightly different note. I got out of bed in the darkness and headed downstairs to the conservatory where the noise seemed to be coming from. I turned on the light, to see Sake in the doorway. Oh, no, not a false alarm. And then behind the cat tower, there's another cat.

Yes, it is Toro, and he's decided to wander along home to see if there's any food, and if not, why not.

I will admit to the cardinal sin of rousing [ profile] bellinghwoman at 04:00 to show her that he was back. He was dutifully appreciative of the attention and snuggled under the covers for a while before later wandering off downstairs to be fed.

Of course he was gone by the time I roused this morning to the sound of a neighbour knocking on the front door to tell us she'd seen him for the first time in a few days.
bellinghman: (Default)
Happy Birthday to [ profile] simonb. Yeah, just another day, isn't it ...
bellinghman: (Default)
OK, we're now in the season of Spring. So can the bl**dy weather please get with it?

(Not even our daffs have appeared yet, just the cherry blossom and the snowdrops.)
bellinghman: (Default)
Last night, we had an ox-cheek pie (with a herby shortcrust pastry top). I like ox cheek - it's a very cheap cut that cooks up really well given enough hours gentle cooking time.

To drink, we had a bottle of Grant Burge's Filsell Old Vine Shiraz 2000, from the Barossa Valley

Damn, I wish we had a few more bottles of that. I haven't a clue where I got it, but the back label was right is saying that it would benefit from careful cellaring. Online guides indicate it peaked a year or two ago, and that I'd have to pay £30 a bottle to replace it. But I may be tempted to get a newer vintage.
bellinghman: (Default)
It's somewhat ironic.

Saturday saw higher temperatures, with the snow beginning to thaw off. The late evening saw heavy rain, which washed away the last of the snow.

So of course it's on Sunday morning that we got a knock on the door: an elderly man had managed to slip and fall over on the pavement two doors down, and the knock on the door was a passer-by asking for help.

(We were in, whereas the inhabitants of the nearer houses weren't.)

It was an old man from the other end of our street. He was a bit shaken, and bleeding from his forehead. But he was conscious and decently coherent for someone aged 87. Some of his neighbours turned up, and we made him comfortable with blanket and cushion while waiting for an ambulance to come (we wanted him checked out, in case of concussion etc.).

And then we used some of the rest of the tissues to mop up the small red pool on the ground.


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