pm215: (Default)
2017-06-24 04:50 pm

Last of the Scotland photos

I got distracted from sifting through holiday photos, but here finally are the last two albums from my Scotland holiday back in May:

The Orkney set includes photos of the Grain Earth-House, an iron age underground cellar that would have originally had a roundhouse on top of it, and also the Wideford Hill cairn. Both of these are "minor" as Orkney archaeology goes (the Earth-House is actually kept locked up and you have to get the key from a local cafe), which meant I was the only person there.

pm215: (Default)
2017-06-04 09:30 pm

Scotland II

Another batch of holiday photos:

Plockton's a very pretty little harbour town, and the hotel was right on the harbour front. While I was there there was a wedding on, with the ceremony conducted out on a boat -- luckily they had the weather for it. (Apparently the couple had been coming to Plockton for some years for holidays so they decided to have their wedding there too, and I could see why.) There's also a photo in that set of a wind turbine blade being unloaded at Kyle of Lochalsh -- you don't realise how big those things are until you see one up close at ground level.

Moving on to Thurso the weather was a little bit more cloudy. On the coast you can see how the local rock naturally forms slab-like layers which make perfect flagstones.

St Magnus Cathedral has an impressive collection of 'memento mori' tombstones. (There are more photos of other bits of Orkney to come in the next batch.)

pm215: (Default)
2017-06-03 10:27 am

Scotland photos (first batch)

My Scotland holiday last month was great, and I did particularly well with the weather. The trip was what you might call a self-guided tour: the travel agent prebooked all the hotels, train travel, and a few small-group day tours for places like Skye and Orkney. I got to see some of Scotland's more scenic railway routes, on a loop that went up from Glasgow to Fort William, across to Skye, then over to Inverness and up to Thurso, with a few days on Orkney before dropping back down to finish in Edinburgh. All the places I stayed were nice, I ate quite a lot of good food, and the logistics went exactly to plan: I would get off a train at a station and a pre-booked pre-paid taxi would be waiting to take me on to the hotel, every time. I'd happily recommend the travel agent if you want a good well organized tour-of-Scotland holiday where you don't care too much about how much it costs. They say they visit everywhere they send people to personally, and I got the impression that they tend to pick small hotels and day-trip operators and then use them consistently, which means that for instance the taxi firm cares about not letting you down because they're probably getting a job from the travel agent every other day in peak season. And they were happy to customise a 2 week trip into 3 weeks for me.

I've started on the drawn-out process of sifting through the photos I took; here's the first batch:

I think the first part of this trip was in some ways the part I liked best: it started with some really nice places to stay, and the geography of the area is spectacular. Skye has some beautiful scenery but I was surprised by how full of tourists it was. It's still possible to find bits which are empty of other people, though.

pm215: (Default)
2017-04-10 08:38 pm

Moving to Dreamwidth

I was prompted by the recent LiveJournal terms-of-service change (and by the fact that half my friends list seem to also be abandoning that ship) to move my journal to Dreamwidth. You can find me at I'm going to use the cross-posting facility to post my entries in both places at least for a while (though I only made 7 entries last year, so it may be hard to tell the difference).

Let me know if you have a DW journal I should be following, or if there seem to be teething troubles with the switchover...

pm215: (dragon)
2016-12-20 07:30 pm

mobile tedium

It seems that Virgin Mobile have finally decided to kill off the tariff I'd been happily using for the last decade or more, thus forcing me to consider the confusopoly of mobile phone tariff choices :-(

I don't use my mobile much at all (occasional texts and calls; the logs say I last used it back in August), so the old Virgin PAYG-by-direct-debit was perfect: I just paid for what I used, with no monthly charge, and I never had to worry about having to top up the phone or credit that I'd paid for expiring. I'm not sure any of the operators offer a setup like this, and certainly Virgin's current offerings seem to weigh in at 6 quid a month minimum...

Three's PAYG deal looks about the closest (catches being that you have to use the phone at least every six months, and it's not clear whether it can be set to auto-topup). Moving my number to a new provider is faff I didn't really want to have to deal with, though.

Edit: aargh, can't just switch to Three, because they only work with 3G phones and mine doesn't do that (it's a Nokia 2600 classic).

pm215: (dragon)
2016-12-18 10:36 pm

Final batch of holiday photos

Last couple of sets weeded through and uploaded:

You can just about tell that it had snowed in this photo -- it all melted the next day. I'm quite impressed with my camera's ability to automatically take decent photos in the lighting conditions.

pm215: (dragon)
2016-12-04 08:29 pm

Holiday photos, slice two

A few more blocks of photos:

The last of those includes possibly my favourite photo of the trip, bright yellow leaves reflected in a polished wooden floor.

Still to be sorted through: night views of Matsumoto castle, more colourful foliage, several panoramas, a fake statue of liberty and lots of monkeys in hot water.

pm215: (dragon)
2016-11-30 02:53 pm

Holiday photos...

I just got back from a great three week holiday, in Japan (again ;-)). I didn't take my laptop this time round, which was great from a "forget entirely about work" perspective but has left me with hundreds of photos on the camera to sort through and upload.

Here's a first slice:

A couple of particular favourites:

More at the weekend, probably.

pm215: (dragon)
2016-08-24 09:15 pm

passed the JLPT N1!

I took level N1 (the highest) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test last month (mostly as part of setting myself a goal to get back into putting more effort into my studying over the last year or so). The results came out today, and I passed!

  • Vocabulary/grammar: 45/60
  • Reading: 60/60
  • Listening: 56/60
  • Total: 161/180 (which is a solid pass, given the pass/fail border is at 100; less than 19 in any one section is also a fail)

They also provide what they call "reference information" (ie it doesn't affect whether you pass or not) which says that my vocab is a "B" and the grammar an "A".

I think I was lucky to get a perfect score on the reading section: usually there's one question that I find tricky enough that I have to guess it or get it wrong. Vocab's always been my weakest area. Really happy with this overall, anyway.

pm215: (dragon)
2016-03-22 05:30 pm

Now boarding...

I've just had a builder in to partially board my loft and fit a loft ladder so I can get into it. This is something I've been meaning to do for ages, since it's irritating to have a part of my house which I can't access (even if only to check whether the roof is leaking). So now I have boarding on most of the usable part of the loft, and a nice wooden ladder that hinges up into the loft. (The last part of the job is getting the ceilings repainted in the room with the hatch and also in a room which had some lingering water damage visible from a long-since-repaired roof leak; that happens tomorrow.)

A few photos of loft and ladder here.

pm215: (dragon)
2015-11-08 10:15 pm

getting back on the language learning wagon

I decided recently that I ought to start properly studying Japanese again (for some years I've not really made much active effort, though I have continued reading novels). So far I have:

  • Set a goal -- I'm going to take level N1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test next summer. I think this should be doable with some effort to shore up and de-rust the areas I'm weaker in.
  • Ordered some books with mock test papers.
  • Set up my Android tablet and chromecast so that I can listen to podcasts via my TV, and found some Japanese podcasts to use as listening practice. (This is handy for instilling humility about how lousy my listening comprehension is.)
  • Installed the rikaichan for Android Firefox extension so I can tap on words and get a dictionary-lookup popup. (I've had this for ages on my desktop web browser, but these days I do a lot of tablet-based browsing too.)
  • Installed the flashcard app Anki, recovered a few old card decks I had from backups of my old laptop and started reviewing a new JLPT1-vocab deck.
  • Worked through the 'warmup problems' in an old JLPT1 listening practice book I've owned for a decade and never yet used...
The JLPT test format doesn't cover speaking or writing at all; I haven't yet decided what to do about that.

pm215: (dragon)
2015-07-04 11:27 pm


Sigh. This evening I discovered that the bottle of mould spray that had been sat in a carrier bag in a corner of the bathroom had apparently suffered some kind of overpressure event, cracked the lid of the bottle, leaked over that area of the floor and left behind a white crystalline residue of who-knows-what... (photo here) I wonder how much of the liquid needed to evaporate into the air in order to leave that much white stuff behind? (The product in question is this, so basically water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda).)

pm215: (dragon)
2015-05-24 06:02 pm


This weekend's project was putting up bookshelves, something I'd been procrastinating on for the last couple of years. These are modular shelving units which you can put together in a variety of heights, depths and widths, though in this case I'm not really using the flexibility except to have them be shallower than usual so as not to take up too much of the room. Cutting notches out of the uprights so they fit over the skirting board and then screwing them to the walls took most of yesterday.

photos )

This means I've finally unpacked the last three cardboard boxes from moving house two years ago!

pm215: (dragon)
2015-03-15 03:40 pm

holiday notes and photos

I don't go to Japan very often, but when I do I like to make the stay as long as I can get away with -- it's nice to feel able to have few do-nothing days in a holiday without it seeming somehow wasteful that you haven't gone out to Do Something. I just got back from three weeks out there (which burnt almost all my holiday for this year). February isn't the ideal time to visit, as it's still a bit cold and grey, but the timing was fixed because I tacked them onto the end of a work conference that was on that side of the world. As it turned out there were only a few rainy days, and even a fair amount of sun.

Some photos: Gunkanjima, also known as Battleship Island. This desolate lump of rock turned out to have a big seam of coal under it, so it was heavily built up with everything the miners needed to live -- until the mine became uneconomic in the seventies, at which point Mitsubishi shut it down, and everybody left within a couple of months. (Summary of the history for those interested.)

Kitakyuushuu Railway Museum (only a few photos, as it was a small place I stopped off at on my way somewhere else).

Marugame, Matsuyama and Kouchi, a trio of original (ie surviving from the Edo-period) Japanese castles on Shikoku. There are only 12 originals left, so it's easy to get completionist about the remaining ones. Matsuyama in particular is on an impressively huge scale, and I had good weather and the plum blossoms were just coming out...

Konpira-san, a hilltop temple complex which I visited on a day where it was pouring with rain in an atmospheric but not very easily photographed way...

Oigawa Railway, which was probably the best day of the holiday for me -- a scenic steam train ride up into a beautiful steep river valley, and then some light hiking at the top.

Not pictured: Nagasaki (the contrast between the reconstructions of the buildings where the Dutch lived in Dejima in the 18th century and the fine mansions built on the hill by westerners in the second half of the 19th century is a demonstration in architecture of the shift in power in the relationship between Japan and the Western countries who were trading with her). A weekend catching up with a good friend of mine who I hadn't seen for a few years. Yokohama. Akihabara. Large pile of books and manga to add to the to-read pile...

I also impulse-bought a reproduction map, which I'd like to hang up somewhere, but at 175x65cm it's pretty big. Any suggestions for good ways to display it that won't cost vastly more in framing than the 15 quid I paid for the map itself?

pm215: (dragon)
2014-09-13 09:03 pm

(no subject)

So it turns out that the computer conference I'm at overlaps with YaoiCon, and when I arrived to check in the lobby was full of cosplayers ^_^
pm215: (dragon)
2014-04-09 02:57 pm

current account switch dropped a mortgage payment...

So I switched current accounts recently; supposedly this is now a fully automatic process where they transfer all your direct debits and payments across, and for 13 months any payments to the old closed account are forwarded to the new one. Luckily I was cautious enough not to trust this entirely, because it didn't work for my mortgage payment...

What seems to have happened is that Lloyds told YBS about the account change and provided a new set of direct debit information. YBS then said "OK, we'll throw away the old DD info and use this; except we can't take a DD payment from a new setup instruction for 14 days. Whoops, your monthly payment happened to be within 14 days of the changeover? We'll just fail to take that payment, then." I think this is YBS' fault fundamentally -- they need to either be able to handle having two lots of DD info simultaneously, or to be flexible enough to postpone the payment until the 14 day timeout has been reached. YBS however seem to think the banks shouldn't be sending them DD changeovers close to mortgage payment days.

Anyway I've manually made the mortgage payment now; I don't think I have the effort to try to complain about this to either institution. If you're planning a current account switchover you might want to look out for similar pitfalls, though.
pm215: (dragon)
2014-01-05 09:28 pm

(no subject)

Back to work tomorrow. Over the last few days I've reinstated my "bits of card pinned to a corkboard" todo list system, knocked off a bunch of the easier items from it, and confirmed that there isn't anything critical lurking around that I absolutely have to do; so I'm feeling pleasantly accomplished and on top of things.
pm215: (dragon)
2013-12-05 07:36 pm

Tradesperson day success!

First time paying people to do Stuff to the new house today.

The boiler is serviced, the thermostat has been replaced with a programmable timer one, the leaning fencepost in the garden has been reinforced with a concrete post, and the rotten board on the decking replaced. I feel pleasantly accomplished despite not having done any of the work myself.

(I was mildly surprised that they both said they'd invoice me and I should pay by bank transfer then, rather than wanting a cheque on the spot.)