Everquested

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Mar 282014
 

The first thing that happens, when I start (re-start) playing Everquest, is that I stop writing blog posts (for the most part).  This is probably because most of my blog posts are written while staring at the computer wondering what to do next – and that time is now filled by me staring at Everquest wondering what to do next.

Just, you know, keeping you up-to-date.

Nov 132013
 

I have a number of virtual servers, and they run Logwatch.  They mail the daily Logwatch reports to a local user which forwards them to my gmail account.

Sometimes, Google marks them as spam because sometimes they contain spammy URL’s, source domains, etc.  Recently however, they stopped arriving from one server, and following the rejection note, it appears Google has started blocking spam at source.

host gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[2607:f8b0:400d:c02::1b]    said: 550-5.7.1 [******] Our system has detected that    this 550-5.7.1 message is likely unsolicited mail. To reduce the amount of    spam sent 550-5.7.1 to Gmail, this message has been blocked. Please visit    550-5.7.1 http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=188131    for 550 5.7.1 more information. 7si10895397qeh.110 – gsmtp (in reply to end    of DATA command)

Google isn’t blocking all the mail from my server, and it sends quite a bit to various destinations, so this is just because of the content of the message (which is a standard Logwatch formatted text e-mail).

I guess it was inevitable, and maybe they’ve been doing it for some time, but now you can never be sure that your mail is arriving at Google, and you’re not longer sure you’re seeing everything even if you check your spam folder.

Sep 302013
 

I’ve had my Canon 600D a few weeks now and you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve been taking plenty of photographs of fowl and animals in general.

I’m trying hard to use the two lenses that came with the camera, before even dreaming about buying more.  I want to understand the limitations of the lenses, before I splash out on new ones or I won’t appreciate them.  I want to know where my skill ends and the technology starts in terms of getting a good photo.  Overall, I am pleased with the results so far, despite some of the situations feeling a bit forced.  As I previously posted, I’d gotten used to taking photo’s as memories, and only just started taking them for the sake of it, so taking a lot of them mostly for the sake of it still feels weird.

Anyhoo here’s a few of my favorite shots from the last month or so (after the cut unless you’re already viewing the post direct).

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Sep 162013
 

It’s a month since I passed my driving test.  Four weeks of legally being allowed to drive anywhere I want on my own.  Overall it’s been very successful, including being able to pick Greté up from the railway station after midnight and a long train ride from London.  It might not seem like much, but to me, it’s priceless knowing I could get there and get her home safely.

In general the actual driving is still hit and miss.  Some trips are great, some aren’t so great.  I drove to Twycross Zoo and back on Saturday and the whole journey was brilliant, confident, smooth and safe.  Some mornings the drive to work feels like I’ve only had 1 lesson and driving is some alien skill I’ll never acquire.

Oddly, I seem to drive better in my walking boots, despite having almost no tactile feedback from the pedals because the boots are massive and rigid, than I do in my regular boots in which I can feel the pedals much more closely.  I was sure it would be the other way around, perhaps it’s related to thinking about it all too much.

Sometimes I think the person behind me must be incredulous at the lack of skill I display, and then I try and remember that I hardly ever analyse the skill of the driver in front of me.  With L plates, you just assume the driver behind is cursing the bloody learner, but without the L plates I’m not sure anyone even notices the mistakes.

Eventually, people assure me, it’ll all just fade into the background and driving will be like everything else, just something you do without thinking about too much.

But those folk don’t realise how much I think about everything I do …

Sep 092013
 

I had a camera when I was a kid, or maybe I borrowed my mum’s or sister’s camera, I’m not sure.  I know that it used 110 film though, because that I remember very well.    At some point, we changed to a 35mm instant camera, and I remember finding the film depressingly complex compared to the 110, and blew a few trying to wind it onto the spools and failing (before any of that stuff was automated).

I enjoyed taking photographs, and remember one school trip to Warkworth Castle, or maybe it was somewhere in York, when I took lots of photographs, mainly of ducks.  One teacher had words with me, about wasting film on ducks, but I quite liked the idea of taking some wild life shots.

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Aug 202013
 

I’ve been allowed to drive now, on my own, for 6 and a bit days, and I’ve done plenty of it.  I’ve driven myself to and from work (alone) a few times, driven to Tesco’s to pick up food, and done a lengthy trip back from Tamworth (with Greté in the car).  We also did a short section of M1 on the Tamworth drive on Saturday, and then J25 to J28 on the M1 and back on Sunday going to Alfreton.

Driving on my own wasn’t as weird as I expected it to be, or as scary as other folk suggested it might be.  I didn’t really feel nervous about it because I was already comfortable driving with Greté along (rather than my instructor), and it never felt like she was overseeing or watching my driving (although she was obviously aware of the road conditions).

It did feel very strange at work however, knowing that I could leave whenever I wanted without having to either wait for someone else or make someone else late.  That felt pretty damn good.  I’m also now officially a member of the ‘where the hell did I park my car this morning in that massive car park while I was half asleep’ club.

The motorway driving was a mixed bag, I’d already done some stretches of A road with 3 lanes at 70, but 4 lanes on the M1 was a little daunting.  To add to the excitement, while I was travelling at 70mph in the 3rd lane overtaking some stuff, someone undertook me.  Someone else sat on my shoulder while I was approaching a lorry (I was in the 2nd hand lane already), and despite my indication and speed changes they seemed intent on remaining glued to me, so I just had to move over and let them worry about it.  Lastly, we had a car towing a caravan make a very abrupt lane change a few cars ahead of us, and then slowly swerve across several lanes for half a mile while it corrected itself.

The drive back down the M1 was less eventful!

I wouldn’t say I was happy with how I’ve driven short journeys, and I definitely feel longer trips give me a chance to ‘warm up’.  Hopefully as I drive more and more though it’ll get smoother and easier.  I’m still too fast on some roundabouts, too slow starting from stopped, and prone to stalling when under pressure.  I’ll get there.

I wouldn’t say I feel some massive sense of liberation, or some huge feeling of freedom.  I do feel some increase in freedom, and definite feeling of being more liberated in terms of when and where I can go.  For me though, the most obvious sensations are relief, that I can help Greté out with driving duties, and an actual feeling of pleasure when I drive.  I like driving.

Aug 142013
 

IMAG0378I had my first ever driving lesson, and my first go behind the wheel of a car, on May 8th 2013.  Today, August 14th 2013 I passed my practical driving exam (at the age of 42), and am now allowed to drive a car on my own, including on the motorway.

Twenty six hours of formal lessons (mostly 2 hours at a time), over 16 weeks.  Don’t let anyone tell you that getting older means you can’t learn to do something new, or that it’s going to take much longer to learn to do it.

But if you are going to learn to drive, get insured in someone’s car (partner, parents, friends), and get out as much as you can between lessons.  In lessons, you want to be focussing on the high level stuff like handling traffic, manoeuvres, anticipation, planning, etc.  You don’t want to be worrying about what your feet and hands are doing with the actual controls – you want muscle memory doing that as quickly as possible, and that’s what practice outside of lessons will give you.  I drove almost every day between lessons, certainly as often as I could, because I have a patient and understanding wife who gave me all the support I needed.

I won’t insult people and say ‘if I can do it, anyone can’, because I hate that phrase.  But if you’re thinking of learning to drive but you’re worried you’ve left it too late – don’t worry, give it a shot, I’m glad I did.

I drove to work and back today, without L plates, and it felt pretty good.  The drive home was rubbish of course, crunched the gears, stalled it once, and then stalled three times trying to put the car on the drive.  In all the time I’ve been learning, I’ve only stalled once getting the car on the drive.  Typical – but I don’t care, all that matters now is that I remain safe and considerate on the road and that my skill level can only increase going forward.

It’s been fun, terrifying, hard work, I hated the hours before the lessons, enjoyed the lessons for the most part, and then felt like an idiot for the hours after them, but it’s all over, and with luck, I’ll never have to do it again.

If you’re learning, or thinking of learning, good luck, try and enjoy it, and I’ll see you on the roads.

Aug 132013
 

In part 16 I wrote this, “I can drive.  I really can”.  In the lesson after that one, I proved to myself that actually, I couldn’t drive.  It was rubbish again.  I won’t list the full litany of mistakes, but let’s just say that it sucked.  I was over it by the following Thursday morning though, and with my nephew due to visit a few days after the lesson (i.e. for all of last week), I didn’t have time to dwell on it.

At the start of this week I drove to the station to collect my nephew, and drove home with him in the car.  That was freaky, seeing someone in the rear view mirror for the first time – every time I checked all I could see was his head, a fresh and startling reminder of his presence.

Then I had a lesson on the Wednesday, and it went really well overall.  There was a minor incident where I basically went through an amber light, then decided to stop, then decided it was too late, and then pulled away, but hey, who doesn’t do that.

The highlight of the week in terms of the car though, was driving back from Chester zoo (A roads only of course).  It should be a 2 hour drive, but the traffic was heavy for quite some time after leaving the zoo, so it took more like 2 hours 30 minutes.  That’s the longest I’ve driven in one go, even the lessons are only 2 hours, so it was a good test, and other than some roundabouts I probably took too quickly, it was a safe drive all the way.

My nephew managed to sleep for most of it, so it can’t have been that scary.

And so today is Tuesday, and tomorrow is Wednesday the 14th August.  Which means tomorrow is my driving test.

One more hour with the instructor, before the lesson, and then 40 minutes of pure terror, followed by either cheering or sobbing.

Whatever happens, it’s been an interesting journey to get to this point.  I’m sure I’ll post an update to Facebook or Twitter when I find out the result of the test.  See you all on the other side.

Jul 282013
 

We popped to the local garden centre, marking us officially as ‘getting on a bit’, and bought some plants for the pond.  As it turns out, I think we bought marginals which are too big – I suspect the soil is going to wash away and they’ll die.  However, this kind of thing is a learning process, so we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s how it looks with a few pebbles and the new plants.

Close-up of pondPond with plants

Hopefully overnight the soil will settle and we’ll get to see how it looks without the water being a murky brown (moments before it goes murky green and fills with algae).

We also bought some ‘succulents’ for the house, in homage to our parents and grandparents who always seemed to have cacti around the house.

Like a rose Little bubbles Slightly purple Small hedge Like a fern

They look quite nice on the window sill, next to the orchid.

Lined up

Making a pond

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Jul 272013
 

Pond LinerI’ve been thinking about building a pond in our garden for ages.  After cutting the grass this morning, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.  We can’t run electricity to anywhere in the garden, for three reasons.

  1. I don’t have the skill to do that
  2. I can’t afford to pay anyone to do that
  3. I dread the day we ask someone to look at our electrics, because I fear the previous owners’ skills and enthusiasm

As a result, any pond will have to keep itself clean (solar powered pumps just aren’t up to the job, apparently).  We’ve got an algae problem in the water bucket thing I put together earlier in the year, and I’m pretty sure we’ll end up with an algae problem in the pond.  However, I’m not planning on putting fish in it, and if the local wild life don’t use it, then so be it.

I still want to build one!

We decided to start small, and use a pre-formed pond container thing.  We almost bought quite a large one, but decided to start very conservatively initially.  If it works, and it’s fun, we might go bigger.  However, as it turned out I’m glad we started small.  The second choice was where to place it.  We knew we wanted it at the bottom end of the garden, and since you can’t really see that from the house, it didn’t matter if it was the left or right side.

Given that algae issues are worse when ponds are subjected to a lot of continuous direct sunlight, we wanted somewhere with a bit of shade.  It was either left side near the fence, right side in the corner between the fence and the shed, or right side between the shed, Zorblag the troll, and our willow tree.

Left Side Right Corner Zorblag

In the end, we went for the third option.  That area gets the most shade, but still gets plenty of light as well, and we like the idea of Zorblag looking out over a new water vista.

For some reason, I decided doing this on one of the hottest days of the year, after having already been in the garden for a couple of hours cutting the grass would be sensible.  I started digging.  Well, I say digging, but really, it was more a case of excavating.  The turf layer was fine, but immediately below that was rubble.  Big pieces of rubble.

Rubble piling up Rubble with metal Final rubble

Hole in progressIt’s a mixture of reinforced concrete, bricks, and cement blocks from the looks of it.  All of that came out of quite a small hole.  I was going to take lots of pictures of the digging as it progressed, but frankly, it was too much hard work shifting the stuff to think about photographing it.  I started out with a spade, but ended up doing my impression of folk on Time Team and using a hand trowel.  I was literally digging around each piece of rubble to find out how big it was, and then removing it.  The hole ended up being bigger than necessary, because two or three of the biggest pieces were embedded in the side of the hole, which meant I had to dig under the turf layer.

In the photo with my foot, you can see the largest selection of the rubble.  I moved about 8 bags of soil as well as that rubble.  I am very glad we picked the smallest of the pond liners.

The PoolAfter about four hours, I had the hole lined with sand, and the pond inserted.  I filled the sides in as best as I could, and threw down some of the better looking pebbles that had come out of the hole.  Tomorrow I need to buy the plants, and get some proper gravel or pebbles for the edges.  Because the lawn isn’t flat, one edge of the pool is below the grass level, while another edge is at the grass level.  It’ll have to do!

The cats spent most of the day watching me working, and as usual, they refused to do anything useful like move some soil or get me a spirit level.

Bubbles is very interested in the new addition to her garden, and I’m hopeful it’ll be an interesting feature once we get some plants in it.  I really only care about it being useful for the wild life, I’m not too worried if it looks pretty.  Once I get some experience keeping it clean, we might get something bigger to go in the other corner.

Here’s Bubbles, with her first look at the pool.

Bubbles Pond