Tag Archives: rant

Oh, hello

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, you can probably guess why. Yes, that whole B thing, quite apart from anything else. Everything is now seen through the prism of Brexit. Everything. It absorbs life and light, just like a black hole.

What was the point of sitting here, keyboard warrior, blethering on about things over which I have absolutely no control whatsoever? So, I didn’t.

At first, it was the world that was broken. Eventually, I thought, it would right itself. Except, instead, it seems to spiral further into complete insanity with every passing day. The world has now broken me. I only need to spend a few minutes looking around, or reading something about it, and I’m lost.

As a child of the Cold War, and having lived through the threat of thermonuclear annihilation during the 1970s and 1980s, I find myself seriously scared about the future. Just what does it have in store? Who knows, but it won’t be much fun from what I can see.

Anyway, aside from western civilisation collapsing and economic and social apocalypse come next April, what’s been going on?

I became overwhelmed with work. I just couldn’t do it. I sat and looked at my piled-up commission work, at what was happening on the bench, and threw my hands up in despair. I needed time off to consider my life, so everything is now way behind schedule. Thankfully, I have supportive and accepting clients. I am slowly trying to rebuild my enthusiasm for getting things done. The order book is closed until at least next year, perhaps longer. It’s a good job I don’t have to rely on my work to pay the bills.

Best Beloved is not well. He’s not really unwell, but he’s not the man he was. I think the global insanity, and my mental ill health, isn’t helping. We bumble on.

Billy-puss is the only real constant in life at present. He’s the rock that helps me keep somewhat grounded in the maelstrom.

We are actively considering a move. Not just to the next street, or town. I’d like to move to another country, but I’m about three decades too late to make that work. I could claim an Irish citizenship, thanks to a maternal grandfather, but I worry about maintaining links for my work and suppliers post that bloody B thing again. We could move to Scotland, before they split from this idiot England at last. Next best thing, I think, will be to move as far north in England as we can, to get away from the armageddon that Brexshit is likely to cause down here in Kent as the ports get clogged and the motorways turn into lorry parks. We currently have sights set on County Durham. It looks like a nice place, and we liked it when we paid a flying visit earlier in the year. A move can’t come soon enough for my liking. There’s nothing down here that inspires me any more.

The broken WordPress installation for this blog is still something I need to sort out. As I haven’t been posting here since the new year, there hasn’t seemed to be any point. There are alternatives, if I feel it’s worth the outlay, but good old inertia has a definite hold on me. I don’t expect I’ll bother sorting it out in the end.

So, there we are. Chaos and calamity reigns supreme, and it’s hard to keep a level head when all around is collapsing so quickly there’s no time to stop and think. I just keep trying to shuffle on regardless, though there seems to be less and less point to it all.

Don’t worry. Utterly depressed though I am, killing myself to end it all isn’t on the cards. That would be utterly pointless, and help no-one—least of all me! Something good will come out of all this, eventually. It has to.

I just want to talk to a human

I received a letter from my bank this morning. They appeared to be under the misapprehension I earn a fair salary, and they wanted to let me know my account would be changing from “current account” to “bank account”.

Yes, you read that correctly. A “bank account”. From a current account. A current account will change to being a bank account. I’m now almost confused as my bank appears to be.

What benefit this change would be to me was not immediately apparent. I would seem to retain the same services I already use, plus access to a high interest savings account, and some app to let me get real time balances and statements on my phone.

Great. That’s impressive.

There’s a phone number I could call to let the bank know I might not want this fantastic upgrade to my account. They called it an upgrade, yet it doesn’t seem to be any different to the account I already own, save they expect me to maintain the supposedly high level of income that prompted the original change. Some chance of that.

I picked up the phone, and immediately hit the problem that I don’t use phone banking and don’t recall the last time I had to set up a security number, or even what that number might have been. Of course, I got through the early bits about sort codes, account numbers and dates of birth, but stalled at the security number. There was no option to bypass the automated system to talk to a human being.

I hung up in disgust. I tried to find out if I could sort this out through my internet banking, but there’s not a clue about the impending upgrade there. Back on the blower.

This time, because I earlier punched incorrect numbers in at the security number stage in a failed attempt to attract the attention of a real human being, I was told the number I can’t remember was locked “for my security”. I was transferred to—a human being!

Why, for the love of Bob, couldn’t I do that from the top of the pyramid?

Anyway, we began the process of sorting things out. Hang on, I’m to be transferred where to do what? I don’t want a security number. I don’t do phone banking. I began to rant. I just wanted to deal with this impending change, not set up a system I will never use. I do use the internet banking occasionally, but mostly I smile and pass the time of day with real human beings in my local bank branch. I just wanted to talk to someone to stop this account change, please.

On hold—having been warned not to hang up while on hold. Rubbish music. Obviously some discussion was going on wherever on the planet the phone system is currently operated from about this annoyed (and annoying) customer.

The minutes ticked by.  Ice ages came and went. God got older.

Finally, I was passed on to a lovely chirpy Scottish lady, who dealt with my issue in about ten seconds. I’ve been on the bloody phone for nearly ten minutes, for crying out loud! It’s been costing me money!

Anyway, it’s all sorted now. I am writing it up to lower my blood pressure. All this frustration because I choose not to use phone banking, and therefore don’t have some stupid security number. Is it beyond the realms of reality for the system to let a caller choose to speak to a human being from the start? Really?

New Shiny Announced!

World goes bonkers!

Anyone with even just a passing interest in digital photography can’t have failed to spot the rumour mills and industry monitors grinding into life this past few weeks. New DSLRs are very much in the news, if you care about such things.

Canon announced a new professional flagship model, the EOS-1D X, back in October 2011. Aimed at replacing the current top-flight DSLR models they produce, it’s slated for release sometime in 2012. I won’t bore you with the technical details. If they interest you, they’re on the press release and everywhere else!

Nikon, meanwhile, has just unveiled their D3 series replacement, the FX-format D4. I can’t immediately find official release dates, but again, if you are sufficiently interested in the technical stuff, it’s in the press release and everywhere else!

These press releases are timed to hit the CES 2012 shindig in Las Vegas, Nevada, US. The Consumer & Electronics Show is one of the biggest international gadget-fests going, and everyone who is anyone in the technology world will be there. Except Apple, but there you go. That’s an entirely other story.

So why do I bring you this earth-shattering news? Am I being sucked into the technolust vortex? Will Snaptophobic end up as just another technoblog, regurgitating press releases about every new gadget or software without even pausing to breathe?

No. Not a chance.

If I am completely honest I have never been free of the vortex, but I find the effort needed to get incredibly excited about new gear has waned in proportion with my age and bank balance! Yes, I am interested in it, but only in a peripheral kind of way. Being a Canonista, the new EOS-1D X is interesting, but it’s so far beyond my budget that I can effectively ignore it. It’s a camera that may be of interest to me if I were a professional photographer and it was to be my key tool, but as I am not a professional and I already have a camera that’s more than adequate for my needs, I won’t be letting myself be sucked too deeply into the vortex.

With Nikon’s announcement, there will now be an inevitable increase in the Cankon/Niknon fanbois crowing over features that trump their arch nemesis. This is partly why I haven’t bothered you with the technical features of each new camera, because they are really irrelevant to you and me. The kind of people who will find that sort of information at all of real interest are those who are not—in my opinion, I hasten to add—real photographers. 

So, while the baying over megapixel counts, burst frame rates, astronomical ISO levels, focus points and other geeky stuff begins to inexorably grow in volume, remember this: it’s not about the gear.

The camera is just a tool, a means to an end. Some of my best images were taken using a 35mm film camera that cost £20. Learn to use the tool you have, and make great pictures. If you can afford one of the new shinies, or can justify one for your work, go to it with my blessings. If you just want to leave it in idiot mode, slung round your neck as techo-jewellery … words fail me.

No, really, they do. 

Continual Improvement?

Anyone with even a slightest interest in the tech world will have been unable to avoid a couple of big stories over the past few days. RIM, maker of the Blackberry phone ecosystem, has had a major outage of their service, and Apple has released several new updates as well as a new version of the perennially popular iPhone.

I’m not concerned about RIM. I am not particularly concerned with Apple’s new shiny. I am concerned about steadily having my hand forced to upgrade beyond where I am comfortable. I am talking about system requirements for a couple of the new things emanating from Cupertino.

Screen_shot_2011-10-13_at_09

Let me set out my table. I am a “creative”. I use a Mac for business and pleasure. My Mac is not in its first blush of youth, but it is still quite capable. I am reliably informed I can install the latest version of the Mac OS, version 10.7 aka Lion, and get some more miles under the belt before I need to seriously consider scraping together cash for a new machine.

All of which is very nice. Lion is available from the App Store for not much more than a round of drinks or a Saturday night takeaway. A couple of clicks and away I go.

The thing is, I still use software that relies on some core technologies of older versions of the Mac OS. Apple were incredibly clever when they transitioned from the PowerPC CPUs to Intel back in the day. They engineered code into the OS so it transparently rewrote the PowerPC code in older applications for Intel chips on the fly. You could continue to use older software until the developer updated for the Intel code. Which was (and is) amazing when you think about it.

In the intervening five or six years, most of the applications I use on a daily basis have been updated, and now run on Intel architecture. All, that is, save one or two. My Canon scanner, for example, will never be updated, and even a third party front end software requires the drivers to be present which—wait for it—are PPC architecture. I can get round this, as I have another scanner now, but I can always run it on an older Mac that is unrepentently a PowerPC powered machine.

The other one, which is a bit bigger in my world, is Macromedia FreeHand. Don’t laugh! I still use it, even though Adobe bought out the company and let FreeHand expire in a dusty corner. I use FreeHand because — oh, let’s not go there. It’s not pertinent to this ranty post anyway.

Okay, the FreeHand thing can also be solved by shifting it to that older PowerPC Mac I’ve already mentioned. That’s not the point, really. My point is Apple have just released updates to Aperture, which I use nearly every day for managing my photo libraries and so on. That’s good, yes?

Yes, if you have updated to the latest version of Lion. Otherwise, you don’t get the update to Aperture. I don’t actually think I need Lion. From what I have seen, it doesn’t offer me anything over what I am running now (OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard). Apple, it seems, are forcing me to upgrade to an OS I don’t really want or need in order to keep up with software I do want and need.

There’s also this thing called iOS5. This is the latest version of the operating system for iPhones, iPods touch and iPads. Lovely shiny things I don’t own. Along with the iOS update is a change from MobileMe, which I use, to a thing called iCloud. Guess what? I can’t migrate to iCloud without running OS X 10.7.2 or iOS5. 

My hand is being forced into making an upgrade to something I don’t really want to upgrade. Yet to maintain levels of software I use, I don’t seem to have much choice in the matter.

Not wishing to speak ill of the dead, but is this the Apple that Steve Jobs always meant it to be?

 

**UPDATE**

19 October 2011—Apple quietly rolled out the Aperture 3.2 update on the App Store. The update was “recommended” for all users. In the system requirements, the magic numbers 10.6.8 appeared. I checked all over the Apple web site to confirm the 3.2 update would work for Snow Leopard, and happily it does. The only requirement for me to sidegrade to Lion now is if I want to keep my @mac.com email address, and I have until the end of June 2012 to sort that out. 

A Pain in the Neck

Cervical and lumbar pain, with a bit of thoracic for good measure. That’s the story of my back. It’s not a pleasant story, but at least I’m not completely debilitated by it. I am also not alone with it, by any means, with back pain being one of the most common medical complaints in the industrialised world.

brokeback.jpg.scaled500

My osteopath tells me that back problems are so common because we humans, clever as we think we are, have simply not evolved properly to walk upright yet. Effectively, we still have a spine that is intended for moving about using both sets of limbs most of the time. Yet, at some point about three or four million years ago, one of our ancestors decided that walking on their hind limbs most of the time was a clever thing to do.

Stupid hominid.

The human spinal column curves in mysterious ways, chiefly in order to facilitate bipedal locomotion. It’s that curious curving just above the pelvis that is the root cause of most back problems. You see, if all we did was mooch about the savannah picking wild fruit and scavenging a bit of meat here and there — oh, and scampering up trees to escape predators — we probably wouldn’t have the problems we have today. Equally, most of us now don’t have physical jobs that keep the muscles in condition, and so it’s painfully easy to do some mischief to our most important collection of bones. Even just getting out of bed can cause damage!

My problems are manifold. I’m quite tall for my generation and gender, so I tend to stoop. When I was at school I never found it easy to perform a forward roll in gym class, and it seems this may be due to my thoracic vertebrae being very reluctant to move. In fact, they’re almost flat — which would account for my gymnastic incapabilities! Stooping has been exacerbated by my professional life being spent either hunched over a drawing board, or more recently a keyboard. This has led to all kinds of muscular issues, with extra “scaffolding” being generated in my neck and shoulder muscles in order to hold my odd angle of posture. I’m also suffering from early onset osteoporosis…

About six weeks ago, I made the error of making a lengthy road trip on a hot day with the car window just open a crack. That draught across my neck set off a chain of muscular pain and anguish that is still with me now. It’s a proper pain in the neck, in every sense. The worst thing is I knew it was likely to occur, but I still kept the window open. The pain is disrupting my sleep pattern, there’s discomfort when I sit and watch TV, or just sit here at my desk trying to do something constructive. No amount of stretching exercises seems to alleviate it, and I fear it may be a sign of something worse. It nags and mithers at me, and sometimes gives me cause to wish I’d bothered to keep myself fitter when I was younger.

Not that I have suffered in silence. I’ve been attending an osteopath for some years now, though I’m told my patient file is not one of the largest in the establishment. Initially it was because I did something very silly to my lumbar spine. Now that’s been mostly mended, it seems it may have been triggered by the aforementioned scaffolding and stooping, transferring the required mobility to the lower back. So the treatment has moved slowly up my spine to where it’s now concentrating on the neck and shoulders. Physically, I’m a mess.

Still, visiting the osteopath for a monthly session of muscular manipulation helps enormously. I do recommend it for anyone, but I also recommend discussing it with your doctor to ensure it’s the right course of treatment. I am only a satisfied patient, and not a qualified health professional.

No news is, um, news.

It may have escaped your attention, but Blighty had a general election last week. We managed to somehow not elect a majority party to govern us, and talks have been under way in order to work out whether the third party will support one or other of the bigger parties in some form of power-sharing deal.

It’s all very interesting, if you’re into your politics. Let’s say it’s been dragging on now since Friday. There’s plenty of stuff happening, but it’s all behind closed doors, and those involved are being very tight-lipped about it.

Which isn’t helping the 24-hour news vultures, who have been thrown into a complete loop by the lack of information. They’ve resorted to political correspondents interviewing political reporters, who can only to report nothing new has happened, and it’s likely nothing new will happen for some time, and some people have arrived and/or departed from a meeting without saying anything concrete to anyone, but this is probably what they might have said, according to “a source”.

Effectively, the media has resorted to reporting on the reporting of the non-news, simply because they think they need to be first to break news if anything actually does happen. Which they don’t.

I mean, Europe’s in financial meltdown, a man has a bullet lodged in his head, some volcano is still erupting, BA is set for more strikes, we may see new Ladas arriving in Britain, over 60 people have died in violence in Iraq, decreasing biodiversity will damage economies, oil is still spewing in the Gulf of Mexico… Yet, we’re expected to believe that it’s more important to hear from a reporter who was nearby when someone went through a door but wouldn’t answer a shouted question.

Why don’t they just drop the farce and report on proper news until something actually happens? They’re making themselves into even more of a parody than they were to begin with! What makes it worse is they “break” the story in some weird game with the other news vultures where they try to be the first with the latest breaking news. Why not just let the story happen, find out what happened, check it actually happened, and then tell us about it?

Why do we need 24-hour rolling news anyway?

Struggling

I’ve been venting on my Facebook page for some time, but as I’ve now decided to give the Posterous thing a go, let’s see how it works.

Life has been hard at Snaptophobic Towers. My freelance work fell off a cliff during last year, thanks to those greedy bankers. I’ve been in and out of “proper work” since February, and I’ve picked up a bit of freelance design stuff again.

Only, I can’t do the design stuff any more.

In the olden days, a client would give me a brief, we’d chat around what they were after, and ideas would begin to form in my head. Very quickly, I’d have the kernel of some designs laid out and presented.

Now, since everyone with a PC and Microsoft Word is a designer (so they think), the joy has fled from my allotted task. I’m embroiled in a simple brochure web site and presentation folder design for a new client. I’ve known my contact for some years, and worked with her before. This should be a breeze.

Only it’s not.

I’m not enjoying this. It should be simple. I should be able to translate the simple ideas in my head into the digital forms needed, but they won’t make that transition.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this mental block. Worrying about worrying only makes things worse. Sadly, I find it too easy to be distracted at the moment—a sure sign things are not going swimmingly. See? I’m even finding it a distraction enough to blog about it.

It’s no good. I have to concentrate on getting this done. I need to break the log jam, and I need to make it work. What else can I do with my life otherwise?