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Planet Japan

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I've been listening to the Planet Japan podcast for a while now. It's quite interesting if you try to ignore all the bad jokes and annoying Moooo-ing from the presenters. It's an interesting, informative and entertaining view of Japan by two Americans who have lived and worked there for a number of years.

Racing Frogs

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Thankfully, nothing to do with that annoying frog ringtone, Racing Frogs lets you train amphibians and enter them into races. It gives me something to do at lunchtime.

A few tips:
You'll need to train your frog 3 times each day to increase fitness.
Buy the book - it allows access to the VIP lounge where you can catch dragonflies to improve your frogs performance.

At the station this morning

Story location: Home / Blog /

A lot of the Virgin Trains have been given quite strange names. This morning, the train pulling into New Street alongside mine was called Doctor Who. I've also been on one called the Institution of Civil Engineers. Most of the time I don't notice the names but occasionally one catches my eye. There is more information on the Wikipedia site.

Breakfast Smoothie

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /

We seemed to have built up a supply of fresh fruit which was getting a bit ripe, and quite a lot of tins of fruit. It seemed natural to make a fruit smoothie for breakfast:

  • 1 Tin of mandarin segments (drained)
  • 1 tin of grapefruit (drained)
  • 1 large nectarine
  • ¼ melon, seeds removed and chopped
  • A splash of fruit juice to help it all liquidize

I threw everything into the liquidizer and turned it on. I retained the syrup from the tins, and added some of that, along with some fruit juice, until it reached the right consistency to drink.

Christmas comes early to Warwickshire

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This morning we went to Nuneaton to see what the town was like. I'd never been there and Emma had only been through it on a driving lesson. We were impressed by the size and scope of the town centre market - plenty of well priced veg stalls in addition to the usual clothes and random stuff.

On the way back, we stopped at Bedworth. The town itself is fairly picturesque but any nice first impression was ruined by the hoardes of kids in track-suits cluttering up the town centre. We went into Tesco. A lot of the shops have been re-arranging their stock and getting Christmas stuff on the shelves already - sadly we were tempted and ended up buying a pack of mince pies. The shop obviously expects us to start our Christmas just as ridiculously early as they are - the pies go out of date in mid november.

Best Viewed With...

Story location: Home / computing /

There are few things more pathetic on a website than a Best Viewed With Internet Explorer icon. To me, it suggests that the designer was too lazy to make sure that their site followed the proper HTML specification. Especially when the site is a very simple one and doesn't use any advanced (or IE specific) features. Sites should be viewable with as many different browsers as possible. The WWW existed long before Microsoft woke up and decided to join in, and with the increase in people accessing web pages from mobile devices, it is become more important to make pages viewable in other browsers. These days, it's just plain rude to design a page with only Internet Explorer in mind.

Storyfilter Plugin v0.30

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

I have been steadily working on my two blosxom plugins - this one and storylog. Storyfilter is now up to version 0.31 with the following improvements:

  • Now includes documentation in the file itself, rather than in a seperate readme.
  • Keywords treates as case-insensitive
  • Only matches at the start of a keyword, for example, 'review' will still match 'reviews' but 'work' will no longer match 'network'

Download the current version (version 0.31).

Decaffeinated Coffee

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

Recently, a tub of decaf coffee appeared in the kitchen in work. The following day, someone stuck a huge label on the lid announcing it to be 'DECAF'. I imagine it was to avoid a situation like the one below:


The Ashes

Story location: Home / bits-n-bobs /

England have won the Ashes. The last time this happened, in 1987, Coventry won the FA Cup. The world has changed a lot since then.

Other 1987 trivia:

  • Highest grossing films included: Three Men and a Baby, Fatal Attraction, Good Morning Vietnam
  • Johnny Logan won Eurovision with the song Hold Me Now
  • Best selling single was Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up

Hamster Replacement Therapy

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Yesterday, we went to the pet shop to buy another hamster, so that Ira wouldn't be left on his own. We came away with a tiny Roborovski, which looked about 5 weeks old. We've named her Gelasia. Before going to the shop, we double-checked Ira's gender, and we think he might actually be a she. Roborovski's are very difficult to sex but we now think that both Ira and Gel are actually girls.
Gel and Ira sharing a dog biscuit
Thankfully, they seem to get along well. We started by placing them both in the bath (while it was empty of course) so they could meet each other on neutral territory and so we could easily seperate them if they started to fight. Everything seemed amicable so we moved them to a tub with wood shavings in the bottom.
Gel and Ira in the tubes
Later in the day, we put them both in Ira's cage. There was no fighting, just some gentle sparring while they both established their presence. We were very surprised to find that little Gel sometimes acts dominant over Ira.

We put them in seperate cages overnight so that there was no danger of them fighting while we couldn't see, but put them back together this morning.

Friends Websites

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Links to a few friends websites:

O Ridley Scott, what were you thinking?

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I had tried to avoid watching G.I Jane because I knew it was supposed to be a bad film. I finally watched it tonight on channel 4 and to be honest, I was right first time.

The film was cliched dull, over-dark (does all their training only ever take place at night?). And what's the deal with Libya having a south coast on the map? I half expected the soldiers to be wearing t-shirts which read 'I wish I was appearing in Full Metal Jacket instead'. Not a good film. The world deserved better from the director of Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise or Gladiator.

R.I.P Uri the Hamster

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Last night, Uri the Hamster died. He was in the hamster ball and managed to get out of the room before we could put the barrier across the door. We found him at the bottom of the stairs with a suspected broken back. We took him to an emergency 24 hour vet - she said it might be broken but she coundn't be sure without an x-ray (which would have been too expensive). She gave him an injection of steroids and painkillers so if his back was injured rather than broken, it would help him recover. We were told to take him to our usual vet in the morning. Sadly, he died shortly after getting him home.

Root Canal Filling

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Last month, I had a check-up at the dentist. I mentioned that I'd had a bit of toothache a few weeks ago, so she took an x-ray. The news was not good - I had an infected root canal. I could either have it filled or have the tooth removed. I chose to have the filling, and went back today to have it done.

The procedure was fairly painless. After a couple of injections to numb my mouth, my old filling was drilled out, the infected mush inside was removed and washed out a couple of times, and the tooth refilled. The only problem was afterwards. Because the left side of my mouth was completely numb, I'm sure I bit my cheek a couple of times before I got home. If I pressed my lips together, the right side of my mouth was ok, but the left side was a funny shape. I couldn't press my lips together firmly enough to inflate my cheeks - I make a funny 'raspberry' sound and looked like I had suffered a small stroke. I was a little worried that if I had had a stroke, it would be hours before I realised.

permanent link

USB Wireless broke my network

Story location: Home / computing /

After claiming that the USB wireless network dongle (a Belkin F5D5070) was working ok on Emma's computer, it started playing up again. It would still lose network connection a few times per day and require re-starting. At least it didn't crash the computer forcing a hard-reset (unlike on my machine). We tried all the different hints and tips off the Internet:

  • Let the manufacturers software handle the network
  • Let Windows handle the network
  • Enable encryption

etc. etc. Nothing helped.
We took it back to the shop today. The person on the service desk was less than helpful. We explained that it seemed to work ok but would lose network connection several times per day while other computers in the same room worked fine. They took it into the back room to test, then came back 2 minutes later claiming it worked ok, completely ignoring our insistance that it only worked intermittantly. They suggested we phoned the manufacturers, and also gave us a number for their support line. I asked how much the call would cost and whether it was premium rate. I was ignored and simply told again that I should phone the number.
Back home, we phoned Belkin. They blamed Compaq and suggested I updated my USB drivers, despite me having a brand new machine, almost certainly having newer drivers than anything Belkin had when they developed the thing. Next, we phoned the support number the shop gave us (we checked first that it wasn't premium rate). The guy at the other end was a lot more helpful. He said that although he can't really offer support because it didn't come pre-installed in the computer, he'd had personal experience of the device and said, off the record, that he thought it was a heap of crap. He gave us a code to quote which meant we were returning it as faulty. We also mentioned that the original salesman told us that opening the case to install a card would invalidate the warranty, and that was the only reason we bought the USB version. He told us that wasn't strictly true and the warranty would only be invalid if we'd damaged the computer in the process.
We drove back to the shop again and spoke to a different service person this time (after waiting in a queue - we must have chosen a busy period for complaints and returns). We explained what had happened over the phone, that we only bought the USB version because we'd been misled about the warranty, and quoted the code we were given. Finally, we had a result: after disappearing for a minute to consult someone else, he returned and said we could exchange it for a proper internal card.

Berry Picking

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

One of the good things about Coventry is that it's a fairly compact city. Even living so close to the city centre, we are only a couple of miles drive from the countryside. This morning we drove out to the Allesley/Coundon Wedge area to look for a suitable spot for gathering blackberries. We seem to have been a bit too late - most seem to have been picked already by the locals, but we did manage to get half a pound of them from the small area we investigated. We did better with elderberries, collecting 2½ pounds of those (which we washed and froze, ready to turn into elderberry wine later on).