Christmas 2011

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Above: Isaac gives a knitted Santa a cuddle a few days before Christmas.

Christmas Eve

“I was very surprised that you agreed to preach at the midnight mass,” said Jane on Christmas Eve, “after you’d said last year that you were going to take a year off this year.”

“Did I say that?” I asked.

Apparently so, but I’m glad that I had forgotten because the midnight service at All Saints’, St Andrews was beautiful. The nave (where the congregation sits) was in darkness, lit by hand-held candles, there was a procession during which the baby Jesus was placed in the crib, which was then blessed. The choir was small but enthusiastic; and daring (In dulce jubilo in German). My sermon was warmly received, with another member of the clergy team saying to me afterwards that he thought that it was “spot on”, which I found encouraging.

I drove back to Anstruther around a quarter past one, glowing and thanking God. While I was waiting for the toast to pop-up at home I tweeted:

Fabulous midnight mass at All Saints, St Andrews. The good news of Jesus preached. Feeling very blessed. Happy Christmas one and all. x

I retired to bed for about four-and-a-half hours.

Christmas Day

The drive to Selkirk wasn’t quite as I had planned; particularly the 30 mph winds. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared while driving. The Forth Road Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles, buses, cars with trailers, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians: pretty much everybody apart from us. I crept across the almost deserted bridge at 30 mph, driving mostly down the line between the lanes.

Just south of Edinburgh, at Newtongrange we discovered that Isaac had a very dodgy tummy. And that we’d forgotten to pack a change of clothes. He turned up to St John’s in Selkirk wearing his pyjamas: a George Pig (Peppa’s brother) fleecy sleep suit. Very sweet.

Jane stayed at my Mum’s to prepare Christmas lunch while the rest of us (minus Reuben, who wanted to stay with Mummy) went to church.

We had Christmas lunch round a wallpaper-pasting table covered in a table cloth, which was a great idea and fit the space perfectly. Jane’s lunch was cooked to perfection—even the parsnips in honey and mustard which always go wrong for us.

Before and after lunch presents were opened, mostly by Reuben and Joshua regardless of whose name was on the label—they were so excited, it was great. And all too soon we were packing up bags and boxes and loading up the car again for the equally-windy drive back to Fife.

Once back home the boys all transferred effortlessly (and for us thankfully) from the car to their beds. We unpacked the car, reheated some Christmas dinner and crashed out in front of the telly to watch the season finalé of Merlin that we’d recorded from the night before.

Then bed.

Boxing Day

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Above: Joshua (left) and Reuben rip open a present on Boxing Day morning.

This was our stay-at-home day, with the majority of Reuben, Joshua and Isaac’s presents still to open. It was nice to stretch out their presents over the last two days rather than overwhelming them with everything all at once.

Jane had picked up a big box of action figures: underwater, mountain, space, etc. which you can see Reuben and Joshua opening in the photograph above. They have loved playing with them all day. At one point they were both lying on top of the dining room table totally engrossed in their play: fabulous!

It was also a tired day, as the busyness of the last few days caught up with us. Jane crashed out on the sofa around mid-day; I went for a sleep mid-afternoon; Reuben fell asleep on the armchair just before dinner.

That said, bedtime still took about three-and-a-half hours. And everybody wanted Mummy to put them to bed.

And to be honest, that’s where I should be now, so I’m going to be uncharacteristically sensible and catch up with as much sleep as I can get. That is, after all, the only thing that I asked for for Christmas: a sleep.

Night, night! And Happy Christmas!

How to make Google search draw a heart

One really useful feature of Google search is its ability to perform calculations, from simple additions and subtractions to conversions and more complex formulae.

Look what happens when you search Google for this formula:

(sqrt(cos(x))*cos(400*x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.4)*(4-x*x)^0.1

google-heart-formula

Now, why didn’t we get to draw that in Sixth Year Studies Maths?

Mastodon—The Hunter: I think one track is in the wrong place

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Mastodon are without a doubt one of my favourite bands—they are #14 in my last.fm chart (artists overall) after all.

Leviathan (2004), Blood Mountain (2006) and Crack the Skye (2009) are amongst my favourite albums of any artist. Until recently Mastodon was one of the few bands whose complete back catalogue I had on my mobile phone (I use it as my mp3 player, ever since my SanDisk mp3 player died… it has about 16GB more space on it too).

You could say that I like Mastodon.

Do you want to know my secrets?

My cousin Alan says about their albums that they don’t reveal all their secrets in the first few listens. That’s my experience too: you have to listen to them again and again, get inside them, live with them for a while.

So it was with some disappointment that I’ve struggled with their latest album The Hunter. I’ve listened to it again and again but there was just something about that collection of songs that didn’t sit with me.

Concepts

Certainly, many of the previous albums have concepts that hold them together. Leviathan (2004) is about obsession, based loosely on Herman Melville’s novel of 1851 Moby-Dick. Blood Mountain (2006), according to bassist Troy Sanders, is about “climbing up a mountain and the different things that can happen to you when you’re stranded on a mountain, in the woods, and you’re lost. You’re starving, hallucinating, running into strange creatures. You’re being hunted. It’s about that whole struggle.” Crack the Skye (2009) is about an out-of-body experience, exploring the concepts of astral travel, wormholes.

The Hunter (2011) has no concept, other than the stripped back, less-progressive, riff-oriented approach that the band took when writing the album. I wondered if it was this that was standing in my way to enjoying the album.

Blasteroid into another space

This afternoon I finally figured out what it was about the album that I just wasn’t getting: it’s track #3 ‘Blasteroid’. I think it’s in the wrong place on the album.

To me it doesn’t belong after ‘Curl of the Burl’. ‘Curl…’ has a happy-go-lucky bounce but then ‘Blasteroid’ smacks you in the face, like a lump of concrete. Only then to be followed with the slower-paced, tripped-out ‘Stargasm’. To my ear it significantly interrupts the flow of the album.

I think ‘Blasteroid’ fits far better at the other end of the album, say between ‘Bedazzled Fingernails’ and ‘The Sparrow’. ‘Blasteroid’ kicks off with the energy of ‘Bedazzled…’ and ends with the gentleness of ‘The Sparrow’.

I’m going to create another version of this album on my PC that has that running order and see if I’m right.

What do you think of the new @TweetDeck? My initial impressions…

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A couple of days I excitedly downloaded and installed the latest version of TweetDeck, the social networking application that is now being developed by Twitter themselves.

What a disappointment! What have they done to it?!

Can’t distinguish columns

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had some fairly major niggles with TweetDeck’s usability, particularly if you’re using it to manage multiple accounts. There is no easy, quick, don’t-make-me-think way to distinguish which column is associated with which account.

The addition of a tabs option, or colour-coding columns would go a long way to making the system easier to use. In my humble opinion.

Customisable notifications

But what TweetDeck did excel at, that the likes of Sobees and MetroTwit didn’t was its handling of multiple accounts, and the flexibility in terms of column placement, notifications customisation (what shows, when and where).

That flexibility, particularly in the area of notifications, has now gone in the new instance of TweetDeck. I’m sorry to see it go—it was very useful.

Posting an update

The new TweetDeck also seems to assume that you’ll always be using it in a full-screen (maximized) view. Old TweetDeck worked well in maximized view too, but at least you could still post an update when viewing only one column.

In the old TweetDeck the post-an-update window sits at the top of the column. In the new TweetDeck, however, the post an update window disappears off the edge of the viewport:

tweetdeck-old-postupdatetweetdeck-new-postupdate

The send update keyboard shortcut has also changed, from Enter to Ctrl+Enter (on Windows), which takes a bit getting used to.

Social network(s)

When it launched TweetDeck supported only Twitter, but it soon added Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and Foursquare. I used to use just Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn within TweetDeck.

When I logged into the new TweetDeck I saw only Twitter and Facebook. That said, within the options I can’t actually see how you would add a Facebook account—but maybe it only allows one, which kind of makes sense, and so these settings have been hidden.

I can understand why Twitter might want to limit the number of rival networks it allows you to access using their application. But similarly, I do wonder if this will drive users away to find other clients that do support the wider range of services that they use.

Private messages

One really neat feature that I loved, and didn’t really think about until it was taken away, about the direct (private) messages (DM) column in old TweetDeck was that you could also see the DMs that you sent other people.

Conclusion

In conclusion I have to say that I’m really disappointed with the new TweetDeck. In many ways it has become less useable and less useful. I suspect that over the next few weeks I’ll evaluate the other social media clients and move to one of those.

In the meantime I still have TweetDeck 0.38.2 installed, so I’ll continue to use it.

  • Old TweetDeck — 7/10
  • New TweetDeck — 3/10

Update

There’s an interesting review by David Bayon on the PC Pro blogs entitled New TweetDeck: more mainstream, less flexible which has one paragraph of the positives of the new version and nine paragraphs of the negatives.

His conclusion:

…for me the new client takes away much of what made TweetDeck so useful – namely the flexibility and control – and replaces it with much of what makes the Twitter web client so annoying. I don’t like the Twitter web interface, that’s why I use TweetDeck. Or at least it was until now. The former buying the latter means that distinction is only going to get narrower from here on in.