Shhh…

(Imagine this entry is whispered…)

You know, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as sitting watching the Channel Four News with your daughter asleep on your chest.

There are more exciting things, more productive things, more rock’n’roll things, yes, I grant you that, but nothing as quietly rewarding as simply sitting on the sofa holding your sleeping baby girl, knowing she’s warm and safe and happy, and hearing her snuffling contentedly every few minutes.

That’s a quiet moment when you think, having kids is great; I may have had my doubts about this occasionally, but a small sleeping child on your chest really sorts out your priorities.

There are some new comedy pictures below. Now, shhh…

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Nope, still don’t like swimming

We took Millie swimming again at the weekend.

She didn’t like it at all.

And this was despite going in the “baby pool” this time, which is warmer and shallower. If anything she was actually worse than last time.

We took her on Sunday morning, about 9.30, and she was in a great mood – babbling and gabbling all the way to the leisure centre – sat bolt upright in her pushchair, watching everything going on around her and telling us all about it, smilling and giggling… until we got to The Bridge in Sydenham, our very nice local swimming pool.

The place was full of other parents with their children. Nobody sane or without children gets up before lunchtime on a Sunday to go swimming – if you’re not a parent or not sane then there”s a whole ecosystem of people you barely, if ever, interact with!

Millie started looking unsure when we were still in the changing rooms; her bottom lip started wobbling when we were stood beside the pool; she moved up a gear to actual crying when we got into the water, and then moved up another gear to full-on wailing when we tried to convince her that she was perfectly safe in the pool.

She then moved up to another gear we didn’t even know she had, after about 10 fruitless minutes in the pool: doing all of the above with an absolutely furious grunting wail.

Every other child in the pool was fine, even some much younger than Millie.

Some other friendly mums and dads took pity on us, coming over to say “hello”, and to try to distract Millie from her watery tantrum, but to no avail. I managed to calm her for a minute by hugging her tightly and shushing gently into her ears, but it didn’t work for long.

Our thanks to a chap there with his very young daughter, who reassured us that sometimes his daughter really really didn’t like swimming either (this said as she repeatedly dived in off the side…)

Well, regardless, we’re going again next weekend. We think – actually, we know – that we don’t go swimming often enough for Millie to feel familiar and at ease with the experience. Hopefully if we go a few weeks on the trot Millie will learn not to be so upset and frightened.

Alternatively, maybe she takes after the Lovely Melanie and just doesn’t like being in water particularly (unless it has lots of bubbles in it, and at least three rubber ducks).

I was also possessed by the spirit of Handy Andy this weekend – that’s the only reason I can think of for the amount of DIY jobs I got done without bodging a single one of them. I cleaned and repaired door locks, replaced door handles, safely removed a door, cleaned out the garden, planted some strawberries, all without a single problem.

That said, I’ll probably get home tonight and find the front door hanging off its hinges, lock dangling, garden on fire and strawberries eaten by lions. 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Piratical Jack!

Do lions eat strawberries?

Finally, the Lovely Melanie was aghast to see I spent the best part of an hour learning to use Photoshop to make people hairy.

Those “hair-ified” so far include Millie, our friends’ little boy Jack, the Lovely Melane’s dad, and myself. 

I’ll get into trouble if I post any examples here, but can’t resist it – sorry, Jack!

If you have Photoshop at home then I highly recommend the tutorial here.

How I remember when the Internet wasn’t the Internet and everything took forever and we didn’t know how slow it was but now we do

Just some thoughts about how the internet has changed my world.

14 years ago, back in the very early ’90s, when I was at university studying for my degree, no-one had ever heard of the internet. I’d heard of cyberspace, thanks to William Gibson, but I’d never seen its closest living relative, the internet. 

This was a time when all of my essays were written out by hand, using a pen, on paper. The only reason the library had computers in it was for us to look up which books were available!

When I was studying for my Masters during 1996-97, I still wrote essays out by hand, but the library at my university did have a few computers to access the web on. Not that anybody really knew what to do with it.

I still recall sitting down at one of these, opening Netscape Navigator (I did at least know that NN was the way to access the web back then), typing “Modernism” into the address bar, and being perplexed when an error came up. Eventually I gave up and went to have a look at some proper paper books. The point is: nobody knew how to use a web browser then, and – importantly – this was less than ten years ago!

I’m just writing this because I do a hell of a lot of research at work, and 99.9% of it is now done on the web.

When I started this job, seven years ago, the office had one PC that had a dial-up modem and could be used to access the web to look things up. We didn’t use it very often, partly because it took so bloody long to connect, but also because we had quite a reasonable selection of reference books that could be used to check things out. 

Trust me, subtitlers have to check some pretty weird things out.

What’s my point?

Now we use the internet for almost everything. We all have network access to a super-duper gazillion megabyte broadband connection. If I want to check a spelling, or a fact, or find out what on earth something means, I no longer have to go and look it up in a book; nowadays I can look it up one-handed on the internet in seconds. Copy it from Swift, our special subtitling software, then paste-and-go it into a search window in my browser (Opera – so much better than Internet Explorer).

And that’s it. You can look up anything, find out anything, in seconds with just a few finger movements.

Come on, that’s a genuinely god-like power you’ve got there. Move a finger, find out anything…

When I was younger (note: not “young”, just “younger”) if I was reading this article and, say, I didn’t know who William Gibson was then I’d have to go to a library or a bookshop and find a book about “William Gibson”. I could ask people I knew if they’d heard of him, or I could maybe write a letter to the British Science Fiction Associationand hope they would eventually write back with some information.

Now you want to know who William Gibson is? What he’s written? What he’s writing next? What awards he’s won? Where he lives? What he likes for dinner? Who his wife is? If he has a wife?

Click on his name: William Gibson. Click on some of the links around his name above. That’s all you have to do.

I count myself as being pretty computer-literate and up-to-speed with current technology, but even so, when I think about how easy, how fast it is now to find out something you don’t know, then it’s almost frightening.

Going to a friend’s house, but don’t know the area they live in? Previously, you bought an A To Z and took that with you. Now you look it up on Streetmap.

Want to keep up to date with your favourite band? I’ve got some old copies of Smash Hits from 1986 at home, and the back pages are full of ads for fan clubs.

You’d pay your money (oh, yeah – you had to pay for this privilege) and if you were lucky you’d get a newsletter from them a few times a year.

That’s right: a few times a year.

Want to buy an old out-of-print book? Go to Amazon, or to Abe Books.

When I was researching my Masters thesis on science fiction I had to find some pretty obscure old books, and I found them all (except two) by scouring second-hand shops. Everywhere the Lovely Melanie and I went we’d dive into any old junk shop we found and I’d flick through all the books.

It took a long time.

But then, just as I was coming to the end of writing my thesis, I heard about this “internet book shop” in the US called, weirdly, “Amazon”. You typed in what books you were looking for and they could tell you instantly if they had them. It was absolutely incredible – and they were pretty cheap, too – even with postage from the US!

I was pretty nervous about buying something over the internet – who the hell were these people? Were they for real? Could they be trusted? But in the end I sent them my details and, sure enough, a copy of Blood Music and A Canticle For Leibowitz – hitherto unobtainable – arrived at my door within a week!

Nobody thinks twice about it now, but at the time this was just crazy stuff. Again, move a finger, and stuff from the other side of the planet is sent to you.

So my point is, I think, that Millie’s going to grow up in a world where this is the norm.

She’s never going to type “Modernism” into the address bar. Everything she could ever want to learn is going to be available for her within seconds. She’s never going to wonder “Who/what/where/why/how is X?” and not be able to find out.

She probably won’t use shops (“shops” as in “buildings that contain a limited number of products for sale to physically present customers”) much at all, except local ones that sell milk or Mars bars.

Hell, I almost never go to shops for anything but food or drink, these days.

No, really. I can’t remember the last time I went somewhere to do some “shopping”.

And this is what Millie’s world will be like: very different from the one I grew up in, in a way that mine wasn’t different from my parents.

Is it good? Is it bad? I’m inclined to think it’s more good than bad; but the one thing I am sure of is that I can’t imagine how Millie will shape and use this “god-like” power available to her, never having known anything different.

The Cat in the Hat-field

I’ve been away so long that I rather imagine everyone’s given up reading this site now.

Two weeks – two weeks! – with just one measly “test card” update to say “Nothing has changed here”, except for a paradoxical message saying nothing has changed. That’s where a polytechnic degree in Philosophy will get you, folks.

I may still not be quite with it after last week’s illness.

Anyway, break in service due to being, first of all, busy, and second of all, ill.

I had a nasty cold last week which left me off work and in bed. I should point out that it wasn’t “flu”. It wasn’t nasty enough to be flu, so let’s call it a gale-force cold. Fortunately plenty of milky tea and This Morning saw me through it.

We were supposed to be taking Millie to Hatfield to see her grandparents-in-law on Friday, but I wasn’t well enough to go, and had to straggle up there rather belatedly on Saturday, spreading snot and tissues everywhere I went, like some kind of sticky benefactor.

But we had a lovely time once we we were all there. Millie, particularly, spent the whole weekend getting desperately overexcited at the merest glimpse of the cat, Fergus. She’s crawling very well indeed now, up hill and o’er dale, into bins and ovens, off of tables and across sharp, gravelly patches.

And she covered all these different types of terrain to keep up with Fergus. When she caught up with him though – and whilst in pursuit you may as well have stuck a blue light on her head, as she emitted a police siren-like sound the whole time – no “stealth baby” this. 

Anyway, when she caught up with “The Hairy Baby” (as we call all cats now) despite the excitement, trepidation would always set in and Millie would stop about a foot away from him.

You could see the conflict going on in her head: her hand would reach out to touch Fergus…and then snap back. Her eyes would be wide, she’d wail in a mixture of nervousness and wonder, reach out again, nervously pull her hand back, then look at me, look at Fergus and then… GRAB his ear! Or his tail. Or just a handful of fur.

Fortunately, Ferg is a placid old thing, and quite obviously has the patience of a saint, because regardless of the number of decibels Millie emitted and her endless attempts to manhandle him he never showed us his claws, just wandered away to the other side of the garden.

Where he would be followed by a small, screeching child. Poor Ferg.

There are some lovely new pictures below. If I can find time between revising my CV, filling in some badly-thought out application forms and trying to fit a wireless network at home I’ll try and add one or two more.

But I warn you now – don’t hold your breath. The garden is also competing for my attention (ooh, we’ve had some delicious tomatoes from there these past couple of weeks!), as are some book reviews, about seven films I’ve recorded, and five new CDs waiting to be given a listen.

And some DIY, too. I’d rather not talk about that, though. We’ve got this coming weekend “free”, so the Lovely Melanie has pencilled me in for various “jobs” that have been on the “To-Do” list for many months.

So I’d better get on with it, hadn’t I, rather than talking to you.

Millie, by the way, still has no teeth. She, is, however, becoming ever more interactive and social. She knows to say “Ma-ma-ma-ma” when she wants something, and “Da-da-da-da” when she wants to play.

We can put her down on the floor in the living room and she’ll scamper down the hallway to her room (our new laminate flooring in the hallway makes that so much easier now) within about 20-30 seconds, and we’ll hear her getting busy in her room, such that, when we slowcoach grown-ups finally get there, you can see the exact route she’s taken through her room – lights knocked over, blankets pulled off low shelves, cupboards doors opened, books stripped from bookcases… rather like a little tornado has torn through it; and then you’ll come to Millie, probably underneath a table, picking up and eating all the dust balls from underneath a chest of drawers, and humming to herself.

You try and tell people that she was born three months premature – they won’t believe you! 🙂

And finally…
What big, important news stories didn’t you hear about in the past year?
These news stories, that’s which ones..

I don’t expect anyone to read all the way through that page (it’s a pretty exhaustive list) but you might want to have a quick skim through – some of them sound really rather important.

At least the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown “domestic” isn’t on there. But I wouldn’t really call that news, personally.

Definitely finally: do you not think there’s a great English version of new film Crank waiting to be made? In the UK remake Hugh Grant plays an upper-class English hitman who is injected with a poison that will kill him if he is embarrassed by anything.

It’s more of a comedy than a thriller, I suspect.

Slight service interruption. Small apology.

Rubbish at updating this last week, I know. Parties, new floors and applying for jobs are taking up all my time at the moment. Mostly applying for jobs.

Millie’s very well, I’m a bit run down, and there’ll be a proper update, erm…very soon.

Quite soon at the latest.

Now, let me just try and remember: why am I a dynamic, go-getting, self-motivating team-player who has always wanted to work in web content management…??