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Alone

It’s weird, but I expected to be feeling happy. My wife and two children went back to England this morning to visit the grandparents and to let me work solidly for the week and give me a fighting chance of meeting my deadline. I dropped them off at the station this morning and felt the tears begin to well up as I waved goodbye to my 2-year old as she stood by the train doors. She looked so sad.

I came home to an empty house and had actually been quite looking forward to the sense of freedom to do what I want. But, I’m now coming to realise that what I want is to be with my family, so I’m actually free to do anything else besides what I really want. And that’s what’s so weird.

Having children changes one’s life in ways that one can never really comprehend until one has children. Everyone says it’s a life-changing event, and pretty much no one would argue with that, but until it really happens, you just never really know. At least I didn’t.

It’s a right miserable day today, which does nothing to lift my spirits.

They are on a pretty long journey involving a train ride, a bus ride, a flight and then another flight (with baggage collection and check in between the two flights because it’s Ryanair). The second flight is about to leave and she hasn’t called. That just makes me feel more depressed. She forgot her mobile phone in the dash out the door this morning and I guess getting to a payphone with two kids and luggage is too difficult. I’ve already been to the post office to mail the phone and charger to her so that at least she’ll have it for the way back.

So this is only day 1 and I’m feeling dejected already. Maybe it will get easier as I get my head stuck back into my work again, and I’ve got some things lined up for the evenings to keep me from moping at home.

I’m a family man now, and I wouldn’t be anything else. I miss my family and hope that they’re having an okay trip. They were all tired and our 2-year old has a stinker of a cold. When she’s tired, she gets crabit and stops cooperating. And so, back to my work then with the the phone by my side. I guess I won’t hear from them now until they reach grandma’s. Sigh.

Favourite Books from My Childhood

What books did you love as a child?

What a great question! There were many, but the two most favourites and the ones which probably influenced my taste in books the most were The Enchanted Wood and The Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton (and the sequels to each of those). I’m so looking forward to when my kids are old enough for me to read them to them.

Then there was the Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander (and the sequels) which our teacher read to us in Primary 6 (aged 9–10), another influential book, being as it was in the fantasy genre.

The other that stands out was a book about the mysteries of the unknown, about ghosts and UFOs. I was doing some sort of school project when I was in primary school, and this was a book from the school library. I still remember some of the ghost pictures now and it still gives me the shivers!

A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin

I finished the first book of George R. R. Martin‘s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The first is A Game of Thrones and was rather an enjoyable read (or, in this case, listen, since it is the audiobook that I have, unabridged and read by Roy Dotrice – since having a family, my reading for pleasure time has pretty much disappeared and so I do most of my ‘reading’ in the car through audiobooks).

I had actually had this book, and the two following books, on my iPod for some time, in fact about a year I think, as I remember getting a few chapters into the first book around Christmas time last year and finding it too difficult to get into. It’s not an easy read, by which I mean that there are a lot of characters and relationships to deal with from quite early on. When I started listening to it for the second time, I actually took notes of who was who, how old they were, what houses they belonged to, etc. and that really helped to get past the difficult beginning.

The characters are very well developed and Roy Dotrice is very good with the voices for each character. Although one of the characters (Tyrian Lannister, for those who have read it) seemed to develop a Welsh accent as the book went on!

The book switches points of view between the main characters, and usually when that happens, I have favourites and unfavourites, but that wasn’t the case in this book. There was never a moment when I thought – oh no, not this character again.

There are some unexpected moments, but I shan’t spoil the book by revealing any of them here.

As fantasy books go, it was a refreshing change from the “underdog prevails” type of plot, and there was little evidence of a talisman whose power needs to be unlocked.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable read.

QotD: Things I’m Truly Passionate About

What are the things in life that you’re truly passionate about?
Submitted by Jess.

Music in general, acoustic guitar in particular. There is something so organic and intimate about playing music on an acoustic guitar; the combination of wood and steel and the versatility of the instrument, its portability, the wonderful tone that can be teased from the instrument. It’s so cathartic and comforting, and is a loyal partner.

Also, I’m active in many online acoustic guitar forums, including my own, and have travelled far and wide to play with like-minded people. Without exception, acoustic guitar players are wonderful people. Being in a place where the barriers are down and people allow themselves to be vulnerable and open is the most wonderful thing in the world. And when you’re in that open and vulnerable mode, music penetrates right to the soul.

I found the guitar scene!

I’ve lived in Luxembourg for almost six years now. In the last three years I’ve travelled far and wide to find acoustic guitar players to jam with and have some musical fun, including four trips to the USA.

I’m the webmaster for The Creative Workshop in Luxembourg and I thought I might try using their name to start something up. I was hoping that we would get a bi-weekly song circle or jam going where I could learn and teach and basically have fun. So I put ads up in shops and in the local English language paper, but so far we’ve never had more than four players turn up. But, there are now some regulars and there’s potential for something to come of it.

Through the host of the house concerts, I found out about a speak easy run by two guitar players, Frank and Peter, in a pub in Luxembourg city. The next one coming up was a Beatles night, so I thought I’d go along with my guitar and play a few tunes. I did my old favourite, Rocky Raccoon, as well as Blackbird and I’ve Just Seen a Face. It was a great night and I had a lot of fun.

It turns out that Frank and Peter run the speak easy every couple of weeks on a Wednesday night, as do I with the Creative Workshop sessions, so I can stagger the CW sessions to alternate with the speak easys and make Wednesday night guitar night!

I went to the speak easy last night and the usual suspects were there, Peter and Frank, Philippe (a fellow GAS sufferer with an unhealthy obsession for Gibsons), Chris and Alan, and some new folks I hadn’t met before.

We were playing with amps and mics. I had my Clarksdale Crossroads with me, because, as I discovered at the Beatles night, the pickup in my Heiner Dreizehnter wasn’t working so I took it to get it looked at and had to leave it behind. So I used a John Pearse pickup that sticks to the face of the soundboard and it didn’t sound too bad.

I played four songs, Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt (written by Nine Inch Nails), Bert Jansch’s Strolling Down the Highway and Black Water Side, and A Bang on the Ear by the Waterboys. I messed up Black Water Side pretty badly – for some reason that tune continues to evade me in a performance situation.

I guess I just need to keep getting back on the horse and keep playing it until I nail it.

The other performances were ALL great and I’m so pleased to have found something like this right on my doorstep. Hopefully some of the speak easy regulars will start coming to my Creative Workshop sessions and each one will influence the other.

If I can get my pickup fixed I’ll be stoked – it’s been faulty for a while now, but it never really bothered me as I only really used it once or twice a year. In fact, it was thanks to Philippe that I was able to find a guitar tech within driving distance – that’s been another problem for a while, having nobody I could trust to do setup work for me. It’s a Pick-Up the World Dynamic Trio (two soundboard transducers and an undersaddle transducer); the UST element has been faulty for a while, and the SBT elements give off a horrid hum that disappears when I grab hold of the end jack. I guess it’s a grounding problem.

There were some mighty fine singers in the audience who came up and joined in on some of the songs. Philippe seems to be a bit of a charmer and gets the gals up to sing with him. He’s got great stage presence, a good sense of humour and can knock out a tune or two!

I’m looking forward to the next one already and better get practising Black Water Side so that I can get through it under the stage lights.

Short Hamish Video

I shot this on my Minolta Dimage F100 and realised that the sound isn’t working 🙁

Hamish 7 December 2006

Bookmooch

I heard about Bookmooch on episode 33 of Inside the Net and was intrigued. It’s basically a network of people ‘paying it forward’ with their unwanted books.

I have a load of books that I’ve never read and am not likely to, or have read and am not likely to read again. I did at one time sell such books on eBay, but it was a hassle and I didn’t made much on them. So the idea of ‘mooching’ books seemed to make sense to me. It’s better than giving them to a charity, because only a person who really wants what you have will ask for it.

It works on a points system. You get points (or fractions of points) for listing books that you’re willing to send to other moochers. You get more points for sending books. And then you spend points asking for books. It couldn’t really be more simple. You can set in your profile which region you are willing to ship to. I chose Worldwide – it can be expensive sending books from Europe to the Americas, but I think it’s worth it.

The engine for listing books is really good and well thought out; it basically hooks into Amazon and you can add books simply by entering the ISBN and it grabs the cover art and synopsis from Amazon.

So far I’ve sent out two books – one to Chicago and one to Germany.

I suppose for really expensive books (such as the Archaeology text books I just bought – yikes!) I would probably still use eBay, but for paperback novels, Bookmooch is great! I haven’t yet ‘mooched’ a book, but that’s pretty much because I haven’t the time to read for pleasure these days (sad but true) and most of my book consumption is in the form of audio books in the car.

If you’re interested, listen to the podcast linked above and maybe I’ll see you on Bookmooch.com!

Back from the doctor’s

It turns out that Hamish has got a bronchial infection. He has a baby inhaler (looks like a weapon from Star Wars!), suppositories and syrup, and 8 sessions of physio for clapping, or something like that. It loosens the phlegm apparently by clapping and massaging the chest. He had a session tonight and has another one tomorrow morning.

But what about me? Well, I took my guitar to a guy in France to have the pickup looked at – it’s not working right. He had to keep the guitar, which is fine, but what wasn’t fine is that it took me two hours to drive the 30-minute journey home. In fact, I didn’t even come home in the end as I decided that the traffic was so bad that I might as well just go and wait at the forest creche to pick up Freya. And it’s just as well I did, for if I had have come home, I would have got caught in the traffic taking my secret backroad to Esch – I guess it wasn’t so secret after all. It’s the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, all because they’d shut off a bit of the motorway. For what, I don’t know – most likely nothing at all, judging from past lane closures I’ve encountered. It really is the most frustrating country to drive in that I’ve ever had the misfortune to, well, to drive in. It would make a good topic for a public blog post! Maybe I’ll do just that.

Oh, and I was listening to one of the Song of Ice and Fire books in the car. Awesome!

First day on the Mac, by a Windows user

I got my MacBook and have spent a couple of hours with it. This if the most I’ve typed on it yet. The keyboard is very nice actually, and the whole thing just feels quality. However, I’m finding it rather frustrating to be honest, mainly because of the unfamiliarity. I’m quick on a Windows machine and have the keyboard shortcuts down pretty well – so much so that I don’t use the mouse that much if I can help it.

I get that command Q is the same as Alt F4, but what about Ctrl W? I can delete a word at a time using the alt key with backspace, rather than Ctrl as it is on Windows, but where’s the delete key? And how come Firefox didn’t show up in my regular user account after installing it on the admin account?

Part of the problem is that I don’t get to play on the Mac until the evening when I’m really too tired to be reading how-tos and manuals. I’m sure it will come in time. But, as this is my only Mac in a Windows world, I’m curious as to how frustrating it is going to be switching between them all day long with the keyboard shortcut issue. I haven’t tried doing anything really productive on the Mac; that’s not really what I got it for anyway, but it would be interesting to see how it works for heavy word processing, audio editing, etc. I guess I should start off by finding a site of info for switchers from Windows – anyone recommend anything?

It is a nice machine though. I also got a nice Timbuk2 bag for it.

I’m not sure about the glossy screen. It does reflect the light, but so far it hasn’t really been an issue.  

As I find with my iPod, it’s the little things that make Apple products nice. I went to plug in the magnetic power cord, which is a great thing in itself, but the thing that made me smile was that there was no right way round – downside up or upside down, it fits! And the button the battery that makes the lights come on to show how much charge is left is another example of the Apple goodness.

So, all in all, it’s a nice laptop, but there’s a curve. I’m pleased.

Cough

Hamish has had rather a bad chesty cough for over a week now so we reckon it’s time that we took him to the doctor. He seems perfectly happy, but you hear scare stories about coughs turning into pneumonia and the like, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Of course it means a long wait for Lorraine in the waiting room – it’s bad enough when you have an appointment, never mind when you don’t! And since I have to work, she’ll have to take Freya with her as well. Thankfully there are plenty of toys in the waiting room, but also plenty of infectious diseases too!

Lorraine took some pictures yesterday to use for our Christmas photo cards and we’ve been deliberating over which picture to use. I can’t attach one right now as I have some hard disk diagnostic checks running on the downstairs computer right now and, of course, I hadn’t copied the pictures up to the centre of operations. I’ll post them up later on today and maybe you can help me choose.

Translation wise, I have a mere 500 words to go of chapter 7 to go, and that leaves only chapter 8 and the conclusion, some 9500 words. The end is visible.

Oh, and I got the MacBook yesterday. It’s going to take some getting used to – being partial to keyboard shortcuts, it’s rather frustrating not to have them any more. I’m sure there are some shortcuts to learn, they’re just different.

Back to work then…