Monthly Archives: November 2009

November 2009 Round-up

And still the purple bird of motivation[1] declines to fly towards me…..


The weight thinginess has been suspended for the time being.


I have been managing to restrict my lunchtime eating most days. In fact, I’ve been quite good. So there.


I actually dragged[2] my exercise bike down from the spare bedroom and even managed a few short sessions on it a couple of weeks ago. I’ll aim to do more of that…


Including this post, the total for November will be 11, which is a new low. That pile of stuff I need to write about is beginning to worry the Tiggers, but I can’t quite get in the frame of mind required to write random stuff.


After a brief flurry of activity at the beginning of the month, I sort of lost it again….

[1] I may have invented that
[2] Literally. It’s a wee bit heavy

Doctor Who – The Waters of Mars

Well, that was interesting. Yes, it was the usual fun and games, lots of running down corridors, a Mysterious Menace, a quick K-9 reference and the rest.

But this was different. The scariest thing in this special wasn’t the menacing force[1], though that was quite nasty. No, the real scare came from the Doctor himself. Having reluctantly decided that he can’t intervene this time, can’t change the dreadful thing that’s going to happen, because it’s one of those Fixed Points in Time, like Pompeii, after a traditional Big Explosion, he changes his mind. He goes back and tries to change things, in full glorious Tenth Doctor saving the day mode. And why has he done this? He decides that as he really is the last of the Time Lords, the old rules don’t necessarily count. In fact

The Laws of Time are mine. And they will obey me!

Which leads to all kinds of trouble, of course. He’s challenged by Captain Adelaide Brooke, who he saved in defiance of that fixed point thingy:

No-one should have that much power


Is there nothing you can’t do?

Not any more!

Adelaide (nicely played by Lindsay Duncan) does what she has to do to ensure that the future doesn’t get too messed up, which makes the Doctor realise he’s gone too far (again). He sees what may be a vision or a projection of an Ood.

And back in the Tardis, the Cloister Bell is ringing. And that generally means something very, very bad is going to happen.

And all that fun was followed by a short teaser for the Christmas two-parter – now known to be called The End of Time[2]. As expected, the Master is back, there seem to be some highly developed Ood around, and no doubt lots more…

[1] I’m omitting details as some people may not have seen it yet
[2] Doctor Who magazine may have inadvertently mentioned that

WordPress 2.8.6 – Security Release

OK, this one is only important if you allow users to upload files to your WordPress site – if your blog is your own personal one with no other users, you can probably bypass this, but for the benefit of anyone running a more public site, there is an update out now that you should probably install before someone breaks your site, your server and your heart:

WordPress 2.8.6 Security Release

You can download it from the usual place, or use the automagic upgrade feature in your dashboard. If it’s not shouting at you already, go to Tools — Upgrade, where you should be offered the chance to get your blog up to date.

Woo! Hoo! Smilies! Really!

Regular[1] readers will recall that I’ve been having a bit of bother with the smilies on the comment form lately. For a while it seemed I had a choice between the nicely interactive comments with threaded replies and having working smilies[2]. Then I found the seriously fancy Ajaxed WordPress plugin, which looked like it might do the job, and actually work with the kind of comment form found with modern WordPress themes. And it did, sort of. You could actually click to insert smilies, but there was a slight problem in that the actual smilies didn’t show up on the form, just their alt text (and I understand, the odd red X for people using bizarre and primitive browsers[3]).

So, this morning, I decided to see if I could fix this. I delved into the plugin’s files, and found that it was so nicely organised into subfolders for its various bits, that finding what I was after was easy. In a file called quicktags.php, I found the bit where it was inserting the path to the smilies. Now it was using some fancy code to try to find the folder where the smilies live, and for reasons beyond my limited code comprehension, this didn’t work. I went for the quick and dirty fix of replacing that code with a single line pointing at the actual location of my smilies. I saved the file and uploaded it.

And it worked! Yay, etc.

Now that bit’s working, I’ll fiddle with some more of the plugin’s options…

[1] And irregular ones[4]
[2] This is because most smiley plugins depend on the text box having a standard name, which it won’t have in a theme that does the whole threaded comments thingy.
[3] Hi AJ :wave:
[4] Hi Twisty :wave:

Eldon Square South – Progress

What with a general lack of tuits and one thing and the other, it’s been ages since I took any pictures of the redevelopment of Eldon Square in Newcastle. And in that time, it’s gone from a shell to something quite close to completion. Here’s the facade of the new Debenhams:

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

The new section of Eldon Square is nearly complete


Another day out

Having survived yesterday’s walking session, I decided to go for a repeat performance today. First I had a wander round Saltwell Park – my first in quite a while. I was aiming to get some autumnal pictures, and when I get them off the camera, I’ll let you know if I succeeded. Then I walked to the Millennium Bridge. When I was there yesterday, I saw that it was supposed to open at 1pm today, and I managed to arrive just in time to not see it open. It would seem that the timetable I saw yesterday referred to some quite different week, and that I’d missed the show. Again. I’ll try to catch it later in the week.

Then I walked up through Newcastle, trying to ignore the Christmas decorations which have appeared. Too early, I tell you, too early!!! My main target for the afternoon was the Great North Museum, the modernised, expanded and generally improved version of the Hancock Museum of fond memory. I’d made one brief visit not long after it opened, but didn’t stay long as it was a bit too loud in there, due to a combination of hammering from a room where something was being set up and the traditional large number of screaming children…

And I have to say I was quite impressed. The collections from the Hancock have been set out in a much more accessible manner, the Hadrian’s Wall stuff from the Newcastle University Museum of Antiquities[1] has been laid out very nicely, expanded and generally made quite lovely.

I paid to get into the temporary exhibition on Lindow Man – one of those remarkably preserved bodies from a bog. I recall seeing a TV documentary about him, so it was interesting to see more. And I went to their quite spiffy new planetarium, where I saw a quite nice, if depth-free, 20 minute show. And I was the only one in for that sitting!

I then wandered about a bit, stopping for an espresso and a sandwich at Caffe Nero. And then I just vaguely wandered until it was time for the highlight of the day, my extra special birthday treat[2]: a lecture from Doctor Bad Science himself, Ben Goldacre at the Centre for Life. I’ve mentioned Ben before, particularly when I talked about his book, and since then I’ve continued to read his site, his column and his tweets. In fact it was from Twitter that I learned he was coming to Newcastle today, and I knew I really should make the effort to go along. And quite remarkably, given my record of tuitlessness, I actually managed to get there, and get there early enough to get a good seat. The room filled up, and the staff had to produce more chairs from wherever extra chairs hide.

Ben in person was as entertaining and informative as his writing. OK, he didn’t say much that wouldn’t be familiar to his readers, but he said it all well, and filled the hour very well indeed. I’d have been happy for him to continue for another hour, but he had some excuse about having to catch a train home.

Oh, and he totally looks like he’s a younger version of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who. Not a bad thing, really…

[1] A lovely little place that I suspect most people never saw
[2] Ever so slightly older again

The playwriting business must be slow

Must be a sign of the times, or something, when one of our leading playwrights has to take up other lines of work. Either that, or it’s a tribute to his enterprising spirit, made even more impressive by the fact that he died in 1950.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

So that's what he's doing these days

Blue Eyes

Sports Day is a large sculpture in Gateshead town centre. When it was new, it was painted in full colour, unless my memory is playing more tricks than normal. But at some point, it was decided to turn it into a monochromatic monster, and it’s been black ever since[1]. Anyway, it seems somebody must have thought it was a little too boring and they’ve made an unofficial improvement:

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

"Sports Day" is one of Gateshead's prominent pieces of public art. When it was new, it was painted in full colour, but at some point, it was redone all in black. It seems someone thinks a touch of colour would improve it.

Shame they didn’t make a tidier job of it, really.

Disclaimer: Neither Losing it[1] nor Les Bessant approve of people vandalising public artworks. Though it could be argued that whoever decided to stop this particular work being a fun-filled colour thingy started it. So there.

[1] Subject to my memory, etc

Getting out and about

What with one thing and another, I’ve been remarkably inactive lately. I haven’t walked to work more than about once a month, and I haven’t done nearly enough photography. And since walking and taking pictures are things that:

  1. I generally like doing
  2. Can be done at the same time[1]

I decided that I needed to persuade myself to get back into it. So today, after an only moderately late breakfast[2], I went out with my little Olympus E-P1. I fitted the 14-42mm zoom lens this time, as I haven’t really used it up till now. Initial impressions are that it’s quite a nice and generally useful lens. Not quite as tasty as the 17mm f/2.8 one, but the flexibility offered by its zoominess[3] is nice to have. Here are some leaves:

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Getting close with the E-P1 and the long end of the 14-42mm lens.

Anyway, apart from taking pictures, my plan for today was to visit some art galleries and possibly a museum. I started with my very local gallery – the Shipley. At present, most of the space is occupied by an exhibition about the Supremes, which was a little unusual. I wasn’t all that interested in the selection of dresses, but the displays on the historical background (civil rights, Martin Luther King, etc) was well worth seeing. From there, I walked past Gateshead Central Library[4], which is being refurbished and improved – after what must be 30 years or so, they’re moving the entrance from the not all that attractive modern extension to the original quite tasteful bit on the front, which has been blocked off for as long as I can remember. Nice.

I then visited the Baltic. This has a reasonably rapidly changing selection of displays, so you never know what you’re going to get. There’s a lot of contemporary art that means absolutely nothing to me[5], and there was one of those there today – Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy. Yeah, it’s a shop with a load of glass cases filled with assorted medicines. Still, at least it wasn’t half a shark….

On the other hand, there was an item I did like – Parrworld. Martin Parr is a well-known photographer, who also collects stuff. One one floor, there’s a really great selection from his collection – photographs, postcards, photo books, odd merchandise – lots to see and enjoy and not a metaphor for the human condition[6] to be found. Lots of photographers work to enjoy there. On another floor is a selection of Parr’s recent work, which is also worth seeing.

After that, I crossed the river and popped in for an espresso and a toasted teacake at the ambitiously named newish cafe called Great Coffee[7]. Well, the toasted teacake was very nice indeed, and the espresso was as good as I’ve had anywhere, and a good deal better than I’ve had in many places – decently hot, rich and strong. Definitely a good place to pop into if you’re on the Quayside.

I then had a general wander up into Newcastle, and went to the Laing Art Gallery – where quite apart from some excellent paintings in their Dance exhibit, I was happy to see a photographic exhibition, No Such Thing As Society, which I’d previously seen in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Some of the pictures in that were also in Parrworld, oddly enough.

And finally, I got round to seeing the completed Newcastle City Library, which is quite stunning – lots of open space, lots of light, lots of places to sit and read, or use computers. Oh, and lots of books, too.

And at that point, I decided it was time to go home. Rather than risk my poor old legs giving out, I got the bus.

More of today’s pictures will appear as soon as I find a suitable tuit.

[1] Well, technically, I tend to stand still to actually take the pictures, but you know what I mean
[2] Scrambled eggs on toast, as it happens. Very tasty.
[3] Note: this may not be a proper word
[4] Which is not all that central, oddly enough
[5] Hint: if it needs a caption telling you what it’s meant to be about, it probably doesn’t interest me…
[6] Or whatever
[7] I’d give them a link, but they don’t seem to have their own site. They can be found on Facebook, though.