That was the week that was

Kidney bean
Kidney beans don’t get high blood pressure.

Bill e Bob left a comment on my last post “PC absolution” saying “Enough of this techno-geekery, where is your devastating review of the rugby? I think in the words of our more aggressive football-supporting brethren, ‘It’s all gone quiet over there'”.

It’s all gone quiet for one special reason: I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve hardly had a moment to sit at my PC and write anything. Which is why I’m now up at 05:30 sitting in front my PC staring at an empty blog post. Honestly, the sacrifices I make for you guys! 😉

So here’s my run-down of the past week:

Sunday – Argentina v Scotland

Having reached the quarter finals in the Rugby World Cup Scotland met Argentina on Sunday. The great thing about being a Scotland rugby fan is that you are always living with a sense of hope. It does wonders for your faith!

The first half wasn’t a particularly pretty game, from a Scotland point-of-view. About an hour into the game (rugby comprises of two halves of 40 minutes each) Argentina were ahead by 19-6.

And then … from somewhere Scotland just shone. They were incredible! I’ve not seen that kind of exciting, dynamic rugby from Scotland for ages — it was a magnificent effort. In places they reminded me of The All Blacks (when they are playing really well, not — guttingly — being knocked out of the RWC). The forwards drove the ball, the backs used the full width of the pitch. I was literally on the edge of my sofa.

And Dan Parks … well, his kicking tactics led to a charge-down and an Argentinian try (which arguably lost Scotland the match), but to give him his dues, during the last 20 minutes of the match I was his biggest fan. I’ve never seen him play so well, he almost couldn’t do anything wrong. He kicked the game of his life in that final quarter: accurately placing the ball exactly where he intended and the team needed him to.

But crucially he didn’t just boot the ball up the park every time he got his hands on it, and that allowed the game to flow and demonstrate what Scotland are capable of.

Frank Hadden (the Scotland coach) is a hero.

Update: Scotland lost, by the way, “Bill e Bob”, 19-13. (See Rugby World Cup website for more details.)

Monday- Working late

This was always going to be a long week. In order to leave work early today (Friday) in order to drive up to Inverness for Mark Strange’s ordination as bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness I knew that I was going to have to put in the ‘overtime’ hours.

Monday I stayed in the office until 19:00. When I got home I got a call from the Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland) asking about the progress on their website.

The answer was, unfortunately: no very much.

Tuesday – IVF clinic

That’s what you need first thing on a Tuesday morning: a drive to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a 09:00 appointment.

Disappointing news as we learn that Jane’s operation still hasn’t been arranged. In fact the doctor hadn’t even notified the department will carry out the procedure. That’s been two weeks. More unsettled waiting ahead. More tears.

On my way home the police had closed off Church Street (my route home). There was a man standing on the roof of Holy Trinity Church, South Street. He was protesting in a Fathers For Justice stylee. All I could read of his banner was “Full custod…”. I assumed that it said “Full custodial sentence for me please”.

Wednesday – Renal clinic

As if one visit to Ninewells wasn’t nearly enough, I had my renal appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

On one hand the doctor was pleased with my weight loss: I’ve lost over 2 stones so far this year, and my waist size has gone down from (an embarrasing) 44″ to 38″. On the other hand, my blood pressure is still too high — it was 141/101 at the clinic.

So, I’m now resigned to have to go onto blood pressure tablets: perindopril — it’s an ACE inhibitor whose side-effects include reduced blood pressure.

I sat there feeling rather dejected and a bit of a failure. I’ve worked hard on my weight-loss and was really hoping that it would also bring my BP under control.

“Now,” said the nice lady doctor, almost as though she could read my mind, “don’t feel as though you’ve failed. You’ve put in some good, hard work on losing weight: well done!”

I returned to St Andrews and worked until 19:15, and let the news sink in. I walked to the biology car park, where I usually park, and then remembered that I hadn’t parked my car there today.

D’oh!

I’d parked in the nearer car park at the Bute Medical School … so that it wouldn’t be quite as long a walk. It turned out to be an even longer one. But at least I could laugh about it: ha-ha ha-ha ha …. ha!

I came home and rewrote someone’s website. It’s a site that’s comprised of 100% images. No text. No alt attributes. Nuffink! So I recreated it in 100% validating XHTML and CSS. I hope they like it. (Even if they don’t it was good practice, great fun to do, and a good stress reliever.)

Thursday – Not going to see Dream Theater

I began the day with Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church, South Street, St Andrews, and caught up with the minister Rory McLeod, with whom I was at St Mary’s College (across the road from Holy Trinity!).

Another productive day at the office. I’m currently working on improving the XHTML/CSS code for the main University website, so that it displays consistently in more browsers (particularly Firefox 1.x, Netscape 7 & 8 and Internet Explorer 5.5).

With my earphones in my head, and my head in some code, I was listening to Dream Theater‘s latest album “Systematic Chaos” when there was a knock on the door.

It was Chris from IT Helpdesk, and his brother, coming to see if I wanted to go see Dream Theater in concert in Glasgow — someone had just pulled out and they were about to leave.

It was a sign!

Actually, it would have been had it been next week. Instead I had to go home and see my parents-in-law, go out for a delicious meal and then come home and fix some code.

I crawled into bed a little after 22:30. That’s the kind of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I lead!

Conclusion

It feels like it’s been such a long week. We’ve had our ups and downs, but on the whole it’s been a really good, productive week.

If it’s in your discipline to pray, please remember

  • my Mum (Rosalie) who is attending an eye clinic in Edinburgh today for the her first (of many) monthly treatment for wet macular degeneration. This involves injecting a new drug directly into her eye.
  • Jane — that she gets the date of her operation soon.
  • Mark Strange — that God will bless him and through him will bless the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

PC absolution

Windows XP Professional

Yesterday, just about lunchtime, I finished writing my sermon for this morning on the theme of “letting go (and letting God)”. About an hour later I found myself letting go of my old, increasingly corrupted installation of Windows XP Professional on my desktop PC.

My PC has now been forgiven, is absolved of all its dodgy registry settings and bloated system files and I feel quite relieved — like a burden has been lifted.

I’d been aware that I was needing to do this for some time, but just didn’t have the time. But yesterday morning my applications were revolting. Outlook crashed about every 5 minutes, Firefox crashed every second page I browsed to. It was time.

Device drivers must be getting better: this was the smoothest, most hassle-free reinstallation of Windows XP that I’ve ever had. I had a bit of bother with my onboard NVidia soundcard, but once I installed the correct drivers it’s been plain sailing ever since.

Ghost

I even managed to create a Norton Ghost 2003 disk image of the Windows XP partition with just Windows, device drivers and Windows Updates installed. Something to roll-back to just in case.

I’ve used Ghost before — it basically takes a snapshot of your hard drive (or partition) so that you can quickly restore it as and when you need to. That way you can return your PC to a predefined state of health. I used it quite a bit when I had Windows 98se. I could restore my PC in a little over 30 minutes, which was much better than taking 2 days out to wrestle with installation CDs and device drivers.

What I’ve learned…

What I’ve learned so far is

  1. It is a good thing to reinstall Windows XP every couple of years to get rid of Windows-bloat and return my PC to its speedy-goodness
  2. I have no idea where my Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI installation CD-ROMs are
  3. Adobe Acrobat 7 requires a reboot after each and every update

Off to watch Scotland v Argentina now, while videoing the new series of Top Gear on BBC 2.

Pig Hunt

Les Claypool dressed as a vicar

Where else would you see Primus bassist/vocalist Les Claypool dressed as a freaky-looking US preacher man (MMFSOG, perhaps?) than on the set of my cousins’ latest film Pig Hunt!

Filmed in Boonville, California — also the name of Robert Mailer Anderson’s first novel (you can buy Boonville on Amazon UK from as little as £0.01) — as the name suggests Pig Hunt is in the “dark comic horror” genre.

“One of the goals of PIG HUNT is to examine death, and why people kill, so there will be a fair amount of gore,” Anderson tells Fango, “but it isn’t ‘torture porn.'”

“PIG HUNT is old-school terror, like DELIVERANCE or STRAW DOGS except, of course,” he notes playfully, “for the ‘Abu Ghraib’ setpiece, and our 3,000-pound wild hog, and the dead emus, and the decapitation, and the gunplay.”

So, I guess we can expect more than a few litres of fake blood and some left-wing politics thrown in for good measure.

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) It looks like this film is scheduled for a 2008 release. Here’s the plot summary:

When John takes his San Francisco friends to his deceased uncle’s remote ranch to hunt wild pigs, it seems like a typical guys weekend with guns – despite the presence of John’s sexy girlfriend Brooks. But as John and his crew trek deeper into the forest, they begin tracking the awful truth about his uncle’s demise and the legend of The Ripper — a murderous three-thousand-pound black boar!

Their pursuit leads them through fields of marijuana and into the muddy landscape of Big Wallow, involving high-powered weaponry, the violent and unpredictable Tibbs Brothers, massacred emus, a machete-toting Hippie Stranger, vengeful rednecks, and throat-slitting Cult Girls who grow dope by day and worship a Giant Killer Pig by night. By the time the pig hunt is done, no one is innocent – or unscathed.

Not for the faint of heart, PIG HUNT is a darkly comic horror film that combines the best of DELIVERANCE, JAWS, and DINER, but remains uniquely Nor-Cal in its tone and scope. It is cinematic punkabilly – fresh, shocking, unforgettable!

Written by Anonymous

You can read about the producers (cousins Robert and Zack — and not ‘Zach’ as 7x7sf.com call him) and see some (gruesome) pictures from the film here:

  • Fangoria – America’s Horror Magazine
  • 7x7sf.com – Fashion + Style

Sorry to hear about Les Claypool breaking a finger, though — I wish him well in his recovery.

I love my American family, you literary (sic) never know what they’ll get up to next. If it’s not writing film scripts about football then its filming horror flicks involving wild boar. Besides, they are some of the loveliest, funniest people you could ever hope to meet.

Lars Ulrich (Metallica) on democracy

This is a refreshing view of Lars Ulrich of Metallica speaking openly and honestly about democracy: Lars Ulrich from Metallica on democracy.

The video was filmed by a group called Why Democracy? who asked the Danish drummer ten questions on his views about God, democracy, and systems of government.

The ten questions asked were:

  1. Who would you vote as President of the World?
  2. Can terrorism destroy democracy?
  3. Who rules the world?
  4. Why bother to vote?
  5. Are women more democratic than men?
  6. Is God democratic?
  7. What would make you start a revolution?
  8. Can democracy solve climate change?
  9. Is democracy good for everyone?
  10. Are dictators ever good?

Just in case you’re worried, his answer to the last question was no.

Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor

Eric Meyer's CSS Sculptor

This is my latest favourite ‘toy’ that I’m playing with just now. Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor is a Dreamweaver Extension (for DW8 or DW CS3) from WebAssist developed in collaboration with the CSS guru himself. It’s not cheap, though: normal price is US $149.99, although I got it on special offer via .net magazine for US $104.99.

This extension allows you to quickly create a standards-compliant, CSS-based layout in minutes, rather than hours, in six simple steps:

  1. Choose one of the 30 built-in layouts (e.g. 1 Column, Fixed, Centered; 2 Column Elastic, Left Sidebar; 3 Column Fixed, Header and Footer, etc.)
  2. Customize widths and heights, margins and padding
  3. Set basic typography (text, h-tags and links)
  4. Style each div with background colours and/or images
  5. Define which layout components to show or hide in a print style sheet
  6. Once you’ve decided on a Doctype and whether to include the CSS in a separate file or within the document head click Finish to allow the extension build the code — it will build with or without explanatory comments, which are really useful for understanding what it’s done and why

Output code supports Internet Explorer 5.5 – 7.x, Firefox 2.x, Safari 2, Opera 9; earlier versions of Netscape and Firefox are notably absent from this list but all code that I’ve created with this extension so far have worked fine in Netscape 7.2 and Firefox 1.x.

Obviously, this isn’t a replacement for knowing CSS inside out — everyone does, right? 😉 — but it’s a great tool to add to the arsenal, and a great way to learn CSS, or simply to knock out a CSS-based design very quickly.

(This post first appeared on the Scottish Web Folk blog.)