Rome, Rome, Rome!

Yaay! We’ve booked our holiday to Rome! We’re leaving on Sunday 28th April, and staying for 7 nights at Hotel Panda. Abi stayed there in 1991, and we stayed there together when we went to Rome in 1999. It’s a small room-only hotel, but it’s right in the heard of the city, just five minutes walk away from the Piazza di Spagna. You wake up in the morning, head out, and you’re immediately surrounded by the hustle and bustle of shops and cafes.

Can’t wait!

Planet of the Jellies

Me, B, and a bunch of jellies (at the Monterey Bay Aquarium).Me, B, and a bunch of jellies.

I haven’t been doing any updates to this web log (or Alex’s) during our holiday. We’ve been having a great time, though, and taking lots of pictures! We’ll get the best ones up soon after we get back home.


Packing again. But this time it’s for a proper, long holiday! I’d hoped to get more actual stuffing of clothes into suitcases done this evening, but I’ve been fighting our CD-writer instead.

Our CD-writer (a Mitsumi CR-4802TE) has now gone from being an internal drive, to an external drive (in a USB enclosure), to an internal drive again. And every time I re-mount it, or re-install Windows on my PC, it’s a struggle to get it working again. The key is usually to disable DMA on the device, and that turned out to work this time, too. The problem was finding where Windows 2000 hides this particular setting. In Win95/98 it’s fairly near the surface, but in Win2K you have to go:

My Computer -> Properties -> Hardware tab -> Device Manager -> IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers -> Secondary IDE Channel -> Properties -> Advanced Settings tab -> Device 1 -> Transfer Mode


At least it’s working now, with Nero 5.5 as the burning software. Although I haven’t been using it for very long, and haven’t sat down to do a thorough side-by-side evaluation of it, it feels a bit nicer than the Adaptec (Roxio) EZ-CD Creator stuff.

The reason I have to get the CD writer up and running now is that we want to take all of our baby photos and movie files across to California with us. And we have taken over 2000 photos since Alex was born. Wow! Because we’ve created mid-sized and thumbnail versions of each photo, this means that we’ve got over 2Gb of data to haul with us–probably spanning 5 CDs. (Yes, we could get it down to fewer disks, but that would mean messing up the simple date-based directory structure we keep the files in. Prefer not to do that.)

All of the photos on Alex’s pages…they’re just the tip of the iceberg! We’ve only got around 175 baby photos up here on the Sunpig web site, so we really are talking about less than 10% of all the pictures we’ve taken since he was born. Wow.

But that does seem about right. The digital camera really encourages you to take lots of photographs. Without the cost of processing, you can just snap away, download, and start again. And the more photos you take, the better chance you have of catching a good one. Just think: we reckon that less than one in ten of our photos are worth showing to the world. That means that on a film camera, we’d only be getting 3, maybe 4 good shots out of a roll of 36 exposures.

The digital camera seemed expensive at the time, but I think it’s probably paid for itself already in saved processing costs.

Oh yeah–I’m going to have to get myself a new hard disk when we get back. I’ve only got 300Mb left to play with. We’ll probably take more photos than that in the first week we’re in California…

Days away

We’re back from a few days away. On Thursday we drove up to Aberdeen to spend some time with Grandma McLean. On Friday we trundled around Deeside, ending up at the Gairnshiel Lodge. The Lodge is located about six miles out of Ballater, just before a humpback bridge. When we drove over that bridge last year, we were met by a horse charging straight at us. Nothing quite so interesting this time, though.

Saturday, we went to Mum & Dad in Murthly, and spent the day there, before driving back late in the evening. We would have stayed the night, if B hadn’t been sleeping so poorly. In Aberdeen and at Gairnshiel he woke up in the middle of the night (2/3 am), wanting to be fed. Strange places, restless bunny. He settled fairly easily in his own cot last night, and didn’t wake up until 06:30 this morning.

He’s been a bit grumpy this afternoon, though. I wonder if he’s missing all the constant social stimulation he’s been having over the last few days?

He’s in the front pouch, screaming his head off as I’m writing this. He’s getting too big and active (not to mention too heavy) to be carrying him around in the pouch all the time, though. So on Thursday, before we headed off for Aberdeen, we stopped by at Mothercare and bought a baby backpack. Big success! B loves it! It puts him up much higher than he is accustomed to being, and as a bonus it allows him to play with our hair.

He’s asleep in the pouch now.

The trip was a nice break, but it was emotionally exhausting. Abi and I were both struggling to deal with the events in the US; not just the attacks themselves, but how people, and especially our so-called leaders are dealing with them.

In the car, with B asleep in the back seat, we talked about a lot of things: our families, our countrymen, war, global capitalism, poverty, human nature and the “selfish gene”. Probably some of the best intellectual discussions we’ve had in a long while. And although we’re still both feeling very depressed, I think we’ve hit bottom and are on our way back up. For now. (Abi’s in the kitchen with the light box. Last year’s winter was a struggle for me too, so I think I might also start taking some light soon.)

Song for today: Zero 7 — Destiny. The chilled out beat fits the slow gloominess of the afternoon. “When I’m weak, I draw strength from you.”

B has gone through several stages on his way to crawling. First, he was just pushing off randomly with his legs. Then he started coordinating the legs, and bringing them up under his hips. His arm strength came later, but he couldn’t work the arms and legs together, and so he ended up moving backwards! All the while, though, most of his progress has been by bursts of frantic leg action. This afternoon, in his lovely and soft new trousers, was was on our shiny wooden floor. His hands could gain purchase, and the rest of his body could slide freely. And for the first time, he pulled himself forward. Cool!

And finally, some thoughts on the current polical situation (turn away now if you’re easily offended):

  • When president Bush talks about a “War on Terrorism,” the terminology and rhetoric sounds sensible because we are used to hearing the phrases “War on crime” and “War on drugs.” But when politicians talk about the war on drugs, they don’t generally mean sending warships, planes and troops to Colombia, and carpet-bombing the coca plantations on another nations soil.

    The “War on social problem X” rhetorical construct is now being used a smokescreen to cover up manoeuvres in preparation for military action. For the US, waging war on terrorism is much more acceptable in the international arena than, for example, declaring war on Afghanistan.

    We need to beware of a “bait and switch” being pulled on us: we (I’m talking Europe, here) cannot allow ourselves to be dragged into a real war, against targets as yet unnamed, under the guise of tracking down and prosecuting specific criminals, who so far remain unidentified.

    Fortunately, European leaders seem to be taking a stance against president Bush labelling this criminal investigation as a “War”.
  • The media are severely distorting reality.

    What we’re seeing on TV is not what is really happening. The news channels have a vested interest in showing forceful and shocking images, and telling dramatic stories. They have to, because otherwise we wouldn’t watch them. They need to make us watch them to ensure their survival, and they make us watch them by appealling to our rubbernecking fascination with tragedies that happen to other people.

    They can claim all they want that they are showing their footage and commentary because of public interest. To a certain extent, this is true. But we must also remember that the news editors report to managers, who report to boards of directors, who report to shareholders. If CNN had not devoted 100% of its coverage to last week’s disaster, people would have lost money, and lost their jobs.

    The media are driven by innate human selfishness.

    The counterweight of human altruism is provided by the rescue workers, and everyone at ground level who has given aid, blood and money. Eventually, the media will cover this as well. It doesn’t make them as much money, though.
  • Abi has pointed out to me that on certain on-line forums, anyone who does not speak out in strong favour of immediate action, or who favours a moderate course in addressing the socio-economic and political causes of terrorism rather than their aftermaths, is being flamed out of the water, labelled as a troll, and called anti-American. Well, guess what? That kind of arrogant, superior and nationalistic attitude is precisely one of the reasons the US is perceived so badly in international politics. Think of Microsoft, and its blatant disregard for honesty, fair competition and legal strictures. Now multiply that up to a global political scale. The US is big and powerful enough that it can generally do as it pleases.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    With great power comes great responsibility.

    How do these two statement tie up? With great difficulty, and much pain. Striking back is quick and easy, and satisfying in the short term. In the long term, it will be disastrous unless the US also shows that it is willing to learn a lessons from this disaster. This will be made all the harder because any steps to take on board any of the terrorists’ grievances will be seen as giving in to them.