Jul 092014
 

I’ve taken a lot of photographs, before and after I bought my DSLR, and I think this is probably the one that I’m most pleased with, and which seems to get the best response.

What did the Fox say?

As is often the case, right place, right time.  This little cub ran out of the cover, stood still as it saw me long enough for me to lift the camera and get off 10 shots, 1 of which was miraculously in focus.

May 272014
 

I thought I’d come along and write a witty and insightful post about what it’s been like driving for almost a year now.  But when I got here, to this blank white box I find I don’t have much to say, and what I can think of saying isn’t that funny.

My first driving lesson was on the 8th May 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/05/fear-of-4-wheels-part-1/) and I passed my test on August 14th 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/08/fear-of-4-wheels-part-18-the-end/).  Since passing my test it’s been okay.

I’ve done a lot of driving since then.  I did all the driving over the Christmas period (we travel a long way to see our folks), I’ve driven to work most days, and if myself and Greté are going somewhere, I drive for the most part.  I think she’s probably driven about 10 times since I passed my test if we’re both in the car (obviously, she drives when I’m not in the car).  So in that respect, it’s been very successful, after a long time being the designated and only driver, Greté is getting some time off.

As well as that, I’ve been able to nip out in the car and take photographs, or go shopping, or take stuff to the local recycling centre when in the past it would have meant both of us going, or both of us deciding not to bother, so it’s definitely ‘freeing’ in that sense.

One thing I haven’t done yet is any long trips on my own; no motorway driving on my own either, and the time is fast approaching where that will have to change.  I should imagine it’ll be pretty hairy the first few times, but I’ll get over it.

I don’t feel like life has changed dramatically since I passed my test, but a lot of things are just a bit easier, or a bit more convenient.  I’m just still pleased that I can get Greté where ever she needs to be, whenever she needs to be there.

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.