Time flies when you’re distracted by a tiny wailing potato baby.


Next week, Aoife is going to be one year old.

One year. That has come on much faster than I expected.

So, next weekend we are having a party for her. She’s still a bit small to really grasp the idea of it – she was oblivious to Christmas – but we thought it would be nice to do something, especially when that something gives us an excuse to eat a lot of food. So, there are going to be an infinite number of pancakes, probably some cupcakes and at least one tray bake. There will also be sushi, but as my brother hates fish the majority of it will be vegetarian. Finally, there will also be shabu-shabu. Basically we will spend 99% of the time in the kitchen, eating.

To quote Will Graham, this is my design.

I’ve also been thinking that it’s a good time to stop posting as many pictures of her online. There’s an anonymity to babies, both in their appearance and their awareness, that makes it easy to forget that she has an identity (albeit a newly-developed one) all of her own. As she starts to grow into an individual (again, in terms of her appearance and personality*) we’ve been discussing that it’s probably a good idea to start giving her a bit of privacy. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop talking about her – she’s far more interesting than I am – but we can do our best to give future-Aoife a break by not sending her off into her teens with a decade’s worth of sometimes-embarrassing photos hanging over her. YMMV for that sort of thing, but at least I had the choice of who saw my baby pictures and terrible childhood hairdos, if anyone saw them at all. That, and when it comes to educating her about maintaining her own privacy, she won’t be able to hoist me up as a terrible hypocrite for having catalogued every moment of her life to that point.

That’s not to say she won’t hoist me up as a hypocrite at all. Obviously it is my duty as a father to make her feel that the world is both desperately unfair and that it is all my fault. I’m just saying she doesn’t need any extra ammunition to get the job done.


*being one, her personality dial is currently set to “TYRANT”.

Birthday Haul

So, I turned 31 yesterday. Was it as climactic as you anticipated, as all 31st birthdays should be?, I hear you all ask and in return I answer:

Yes, yes it was.

Lisa bought me a Kindle, one of the 3G-enabled ones that allows you to buy books as long as you have a signal, and before I’d had breakfast I had already spent £15 on books for it.  It’s disgustingly easy to shop with.  Having played with a Sony PRS-505 before, I already know what it’s like reading an e-ink book – the only issue I still have with it is the formatting issues files have – some books are better set on the Kindle than others, and clumsily laid-out text is a big no-no for me.

While we’re on the topic, BIT-101 takes a nice microscopic look at text on the Kindle versus the ipad, versus various types of print.

My brother chipped in on the purchase of a new Xbox 360, one of the 250 Gb models.  It’s exactly what the Xbox 360 should have been on original release: a lot quieter (still noisy compared to my PC and PS3 though), a lot smaller, and generally just more attractive.  It comes with wireless connectivity built in, but for some confusing reason there’s no HDMI cable – and after a trial with the SCART cable out of sheer morbid curiosity I can tell you quite firmly that 480p looks like shit on a 1080p television.

I transferred my HD contents using the needlessly expensive cable I also had to buy (simply because I can’t bear the thought of losing my Mass Effect saves) and started downloading the Shadow Broker content for ME2.  I hooked up with Liara in the first game and stayed true through the second, so I reckoned it worth the 800 MS point purchase to keep that story going.

While unable to play, I bought one of the Mass Effect books to see what it was like, because I thought the fact that the lead writer from the game was also the author was an encouraging fact.

How wrong I was.  It made the HALO books seem refreshing and lively.  someday there’s going to be a post about novelisations of films and why The Abyss is an important exception to the general rule, but I can’t bring myself to read enough dire books to make my point robust enough.

I also picked up a set of Rock Band drums new for £10. Bonus.

Lisa’s parents bought me a lovely t-shirt, which includes both books *and* owls and is therefore perfect for me (the logic is undeniable), and have put aside some money for me to buy a nice watch.  I have a nice watch already (Lisa bought it for me a few years back, and it alternately tells me how fast my heart is beating and exhorts me to exercise more) but it’s not “dressy” and apparently responsible adults need “dressy” watches.

Finally, I got some flowers and chocolates.  well, I was going to get flowers and chocolates but they got delivered to the place that I wasn’t.  Two weeks ago.  Lisa was understandably upset over the cock-up, so the florist gave her a refund, and we got a free bunch of flowers and a box of Terry’s All Gold out of it.  The flowers are a half-dozen red Naomi roses, which are now esconced in our Kosta Boda crystal vase on the living room table.


Birthday Cakes!

It’s Lisa’s birthday today, and in accordance with the traditions of birthday tradition, I spent the morning baking cakes for her.  She wanted me to make cupcakes, but couldn’t decide which types she wanted, so I used my own judgement to decide in the end.

First up; honey and granola cupcakes, with blueberries!


These are sweet, but have a nice texture from the granola (although I milled it by hand before stirring into the cake mix to reduce the particle size; they would have been horribly lumpy otherwise).

The other cakes I made by taking a basic cupcake mix and tossing in a handful of chopped raspberries and blackberries to flavour the mixture.  Half of them were iced and topped with a blackberry for a basic cupcake.


The other half had a scoop of cake cut from the top which was filled with raspberry conserve, chilled to set it a bit, and then iced.


So, those are the first cupcakes I’ve ever made and iced.  In spite of the repeated warnings throughout the cookbook about how desperately hard it can be to get a cupcake right, I found it pretty easy going, aside from getting the granola ones into their cake moulds.  The very low temperature of the oven meant that cooking them was a zero-stress doddle.  I think we can chalk it up as a success.

Lisa seemed to enjoy them anyway…


Beethoven’s Fifth, the new soundtrack to my life.

One of the birthday cards I got last week is a musical one.  It plays about sixteen or so bars of Beethoven’s fifth, lifted from a 2002 performance by the Royal Philharmonic.  I now use it to add dramatic weight to even the most mundane of sentences.

“Want a cup of tea?” DA DA DA DUUUUUUM!   DA DA DA DUUUUUM!

Brilliant.  I’m certain Lisa isn’t quite so enamoured as she was the first fifteen times I did it.

Right now I’m registering and installing the software that came with my camera.  It’s probably not worth the install but my computer is so application-light that I might as well do it anyway.  it makes me feel as though I’m actually using the system as something other than Firefox-in-a-box through which I get my daily dose of “news”.  Today’s “news”, of course, is that a fuck-and-tell blogger with associated book and t.v. deal has revealed her identity to prevent being outed by the Daily Mail.

It’s a laudable aim, I suppose, but that won’t really stop all the students in her department looking at her funny and swapping comments about being “well-travelled” and/or the possession of physiological features that resemble the top end of a wellington boot.

Next week, I suppose, she’ll be telling the papers about how telling the papers has affected her life or some other shit that supposedly eases her conscience and increases understanding but really just pads out her bank balance a little more and makes everyone around her increasing discomfited.

Back on the software thing, I’ve just clicked on my fourth licence agreement during this install.  That can’t be right, can it?  Four licences for one program…or maybe it’s a bundle of programs.  They’re taking long enough to get on the system.  I should’ve just stuck with MS paint.  That’s about my level.

One save draft and a reboot later, and I’m uploading images to Flickr.  Woo, and indeed, yay.  While that interminable process grinds away, I should probably go over what Alistair got me for my birthday.  First up, a bottle of Glengoyne 10 y.o. single malt, which is nice, although I haven’t tasted it yet.  We had a cocktail and a bottle of wine with dinner at Alistair’s on Saturday night and I’m such a lightweight that I had to stop drinking right after dinner to make sure I’d be fit to drive the next day.  It’s not something to be really proud of, that I just can’t drink beyond a certain point anymore, but it’s better that I’m upfront about it.  Not vomiting for the entire day afterwards is a reward in itself.

He also bought me some books: The Stuff of Thought by Steve Pinker, Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf, The Elements of Style by Strunk Jr. and White, and a digital photography book.  The last one I’m not going to link due to me encountering a vicious dislike of the author on opening the book.  He spends a good five pages right at the start promoting his other books, website, newsletter, promotions, etc, and therefore really doesn’t need any help from this quarter.

Hrm.  65% uploaded.  What else can I talk about?

Doctor Who, oh yes.  Spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading “Beethoven’s Fifth, the new soundtrack to my life.”

30th Birthday; ultimate present bonanza; the long, slow decline!

So, I turned 30 yesterday.  I would say that it’s come on very quickly but in all honesty being 20 seems so far away now it could well have been forever.

Lisa bought me the body for a Sony Alpha 550.  I went out and used my birthday money from the parents to buy a Tamron 28-300 lens for it, and have been happily fiddling away taking pictures with it.

Being over the hill now, it’s a long, slow road down into decrepitude.  I’m going to have to start watching what I eat!

For example, I’m completely unable to enjoy things like this –


Yes, that’s my birthday cake. No, it doesn’t really look like a birthday cake, but then we’re very non-traditional about things like that. Tasty, tasty cake makes up for lack of pink icing and candles. recipe was from one of the Nigel Slater cookbooks in the background.

Next week I’m looking at some houses, because we’ll be moving, and also going for more tests to see if the doctor can decide exactly what’s wrong with me (aside from the obvious). I’ve also pretty much wrapped up draft one of the new story although the ending I had outlined was utter pants so I’ll be going back and re-doing all that.