Hello and welcome
Some introductory text to go here. Probably.
On this day 10 years ago:
The Nationwide Building Society is going to get some much deserved advertising from me here. Now I don't usually advertise* but they are so completely amazing that I feel it's nessesary.
So why are they so good? Well first of there the decendents of the Co-operative which I happen to feel is pretty good anyway (the co-op shop is superb at bringing FairTrade goods to the people which deserves a link too) and so they have it's members at heart. Their interest rates are great for savers (of which I am one) and they have a lovely young peoples Smart account which is great for begginers (like I was). The Flex account gives a debit card (which is again an inherently good idea - cudos to the guy who came up with it) and simply doesn't charge you for using it. I am currently in China, as you are no doubt aware, and I have suffered no transaction charges for withdrawing money at any machine I have visited so far (in Hong Kong too) - despite their warnings of the transaction going through an international ATM network. This is not the case with the HSBC card I tried - instant fee of 1.75 pounds for just withdrawing 100 yuen!! The Nationwide exchangerate appears to be better than that for the HSBC and I of course get the instant exchange rate at the time of withdrawal (which has anoyingly fallen while I've been here :o( ).
The online banking is also top notch and recently improved (cheers chaps!) allowing mini and full statements, searchable statements going back to the beggining of time and full bill paying and transfering abilities. There is a great little messaging service so I can chat to friendly Nationwide people who have helped me out on a number of occasions. Plus the card itself is nice and sparklie :)
So basically I'm saying that The Nationwide Rocks! so go and open an account with them and say Nick Bailey sent you - not that they will know who I am.[2004-09-18]
In China they don't work.
I cant remember so far actually being in a public transport vehicle where the speedo actually worked. This was at first quite alarming - how do they know what speed there going? - but I soon realised that actually none of these vehicles, mainly buses, actually get to drive very fast at all due to the mammoth congestion everywhere and the constant threat of killing a pedestrian or cyclist. So the diverse go around at a speed somewhere between 0 and 'a little too fast' keeping a constant watch for other road users. This allows the role of the speedo to become superfluous to requirement and so they tend to show any speed they think fit.
The boring ones are just plain broken and sit at 0 all day. Some more interesting ones choose a speed depending on air pressure, gravitational variations and the slope angle that the bus is currently going up or down. However the really exciting ones, and I think perhaps most common, are those that fly about all over the place, flicking back and forward, jittering, stopping, zooming over 100 then back - it gives something else to keep you entertained if you get fed up of watching attempted bike/pedestrian suicides out of the windows.[2004-09-18]
I've now headed back into the depths of China after the colourful extravaganza of Hong Kong. First thing I noticed is that hygiene standards have left again, spitting is back in force and people can no longer use escalators (must blog that...) and the police are back in force. I also met a rather nice pick--pocket who tired to steal my camera from the bag around my neck as I walked to the train station after my previous blog in Guangzhou.
I noticed a tug on the case and my camera pop out and dangle by the cord that attaches it to the case. The guy that I suspect did this (for he was standing right behind me) tired to go all dumb on me and, as none of the onlookers were going to give me any assistance (I don't think many people here would help anyone else unless they were paid to do so - sorry China), I had no ability to question this man so let him go.
This guy had tired to unclip my case from its strap as well unzipping and pulling the camera out of its case. Thankfully he was foiled by the strap being slung over my head and arm, and secured under my rucksack; the camera was zipped into the case (though he had unzipped it) and the camera was strapped to the bag by the hand chord. This last measure prevented the camera from being taken away in his hands as I would have had little chance to run after him while fully laden with belongings.
Another experience of pick-pocketing in Shanghai showed that having zip pockets is a great aid to security - I choose Peter Storm trousers which have a zipped pocket behind an open pocket, the open pocket is the easy target but of course I keep nothing in them.[2004-09-18]
The Blog of Life
ScotlandAs the sun sets here in England after a glorious late summer day I'm left wondering what will happen to the country I grew up in tomorrow. I like the UK. I like the fact that we are a union, working together despite our differences. If Scotland leaves then it will be a sad day, the breakup of a part of who I am, or at least a move closer to having to declare my nationality as English rather than British. But perhaps this is all simply my imperialistic tendencies and I should accept the future of independence for all rather than a One World Village utopia. I hope the UK is still together tomorrow. Good night.[2014-09-18]
ennoyanceA new term for the annoyance due specifically to technology. [2014-09-02]
The Blog of Photos - past 30 days
I came across this set of photos I'd taken of a stag beetle years ago (over nine in fact!). They are still quite pleasing and a nice change from flies.
Female stag beetle (I think)
clutching a blade of grass I'd given it (this image has deliberate motion blur)
close up of its leg
I Think I Spotted Jean-Luc Picard Off Duty Last Week...
Jean-Luc Picard off duty on board the ferry from Hvar to Split last week
Astrophotography tip of the dayLast night I think I learnt a valuable lesson when it comes to astrophotography - leave long exposure noise reduction off. Two things this does, firstly it speeds up the whole affair meaning that after a 30 second exposure you don't gave to wait another minute while "job nr" displays before you can see if the image was any good. This also saves a heap on battery life. Instantly you can check if the composition was gold and if you got the white balance anywhere near something sensible. Secondly the image is not devoid of stars. Yes the black of night is not a lush deep smooth black, but then that's pretty much what I'm after - stars, which to a machine look a lot like digital noise. The other win last night was the raw K white balance setting allowing a far greater gamut of colours from 2500K to 10000K. I settled on about 3500 toy give the green of trees and the blue of the night sky. Results to be posted later. [2014-09-01]
New Black Cat
I went to visit our new cat who's presently residing in the local Cat rescue centre. We went last weekend just to have a look and ended up deciding there and then on one. They had quite a lot of black cats (as has been in the news recently), but we felt that actually a black cat will go quite well with our furniture (not to devalue the little critter). She is a 'He' and is currently called Sooty (though he might become a Schubert). This was my third visit and he was definitely much more friendly this time round. So hopefully when we get him home he'll only improve and get more friendly. He does rather enjoy fishing which could be some cause for concern amongst our friendly blackbird community.
turns out they're right, black cats really are hard to photograph
and a little bouncy
a fabulous japanese anemone
More Flys Macros
Sitting on my table in the sun this fly landed and started warming itself up on the ceramic surface. Out again with the camera and macro lens. At the other end of the garden I came across this bluebottle in the gravel. There my friendly neighbourhood Robin kept an interested eye on me from the fence.
bluebottle on takeoff
bluebottle on soil
in a little closer, the detail is glorious
this little chap kept a curious eye on me
Was Jesus Really Perfect?Google is making me question the perfection of Jesus. It's frequently preached that Jesus was (/is) perfect. I've just had a quick check (ironically, using google) and come up with two results:
- Matthew 5:48
- Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21
- For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Why google is giving me reason to question this is that if something is perfect, or perhaps the more perfect something becomes or attempts to become, the less perfect it appears. With Google, it used to just work. They did one little thing really well, not perfect, just better than others. But now they're trying to do everything and seem to be under their own self delusion that they are the best at everything. You could just brush this off under the consideration that they have relinquished their earlier claims and simply become evil. But as a user, the more they have conquered each aspect of life and tried to second guess actions - pre-emptive searches, google now, map routes - all these things are essentially suggesting to us that they've got our back, they're always there with the answer, they're perfect.
But of course they aren't and increasingly little flaws which previously you would overlook on a rough object, become increasingly noticeable and annoying. The way google navigation speaks in an almost but not quite human way, the auto complete which fill out when I didn't want it (& the reverse), chrome spell check's inability to suggest "anti-aliasing" from "antialiassing", the blandness of their search results, the advertising of things I've just purchased. All these little niggles are getting more and more annoying each passing day. There is an analogy with computer generated animation - the closer they get to simulating reality, the more those subtle slight differences like the odd jerk of a limb, appear to break the impression. Whereas with a cartoon, Wile E. Coyote runs out over the ravine, pauses then falls - fine. Even with my blog posts now, I leave one spelling mistake and it breaks the flow, whereas before there were hundreds and all was good (fun at least).
Perhaps It's human nature to seek out flaws in others. Certainly people who give that impression of being perfect (confident, cleaver, happy all the time etc) really tend to grate on me. I fear that if I came across Jesus and he was this perfect individual then either the tiny flaws he did exhibit would stick out like logs in the eyes, or I simply wouldn't like him.[2014-08-20]