Plastic Surgery

I caught an item on the news this evening, in which it was stated that there had been a significant rise in plastic surgery procedures in the UK. I think that is worrying. What is it that is making people so unhappy with how they look? I can only assume it's other people. People in the media, celebrities who are always portrayed in a state of perfection, judgemental people who make themselves feel better by criticising others. Expectations seem to be raised so very high nowadays that few of us can hope to conform. I'm not talking here about people who have a medical or social need/desire for surgery, for reasons of dysphoria or disfigurement - although in some cases that can be brought about by the prejudiced reactions of society.

I think this whole situation is rather sad. I don't wish to pass judgement on people who have surgery; really it's none of my business. I have, though, seen young girls who really, genuinely feel worthless because of some aspect of their appearance. Great that they can change things, but surely not great that they should feel that way in the first place? Lovely, beautiful young women (and men) somehow believing they are ugly, or worthless. Nobody should feel that way, ever.

Hello World

Testing out a new tool, which will be more than just blogging. Eventually I think my old (current) site will come over to here. For now, though, just finding my way around on a typically rainy Sunday in February, with the 6 Nations rugby on in the background.

January books

I decided that a good thread for my blog this year might be to list the books I read, along with my thoughts on them. All good, you might think, so I looked to see which ones I had read in January. I've been quite good this year, I thought, getting back into my reading groove. Or not, as it appears that I have finished precisely one book. In my defence, I started the year reading a long and detailed work of non-fiction ("Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West" by Tom Holland). I took a break from it to read some fiction: I will return to it, but I needed a break from the massive amount of information the book contains.

Somewhat shamefacedly I have to list my single finished book for January 2016:-

A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

I came across this author mentioned in a review for another book on Goodreads. It turned out that the first book in the series was free on Kindle, as was the first of another series by the same author , which I am currently reading.

This novel is set in Alaska and, in my opinion, does a pretty good job of evoking the environment and isolation there. I have never been to Alaska, so in truth, I have no way of knowing how accurate the novel is, but the author is from Alaska, which confers some credibility. This isn't a literary read, but it's a decent thriller, with some entertaining and interesting characters. I haven't decided whether or not I will read more books from the same series yet, but I enjoyed the book.

My criteria for judging books are simple:-

Did I enjoy reading it?

Do I remember anything about the story after some time has passed?

I can't comment on the second yet, in this case, as I only finished the book recently, but, believe me, there are books that I can't recall any detail of shortly after I finish them. Others I can recall years later, which implies the story made some kind of impression on me!

The Daily Sneezing Fit

So is this a thing, the daily sneezing fit? I've just had mine for today.

Yes, I have asked other people and, with my wide sample of three, it seems to be a thing. We all get a daily sneezing fit. Not all at the same time of day as each other, nor at the same time of day every day for each individual. At least that brings some variety to life, I guess. We don't live in the same house, or even the same area of the country, but there it is, the daily sneezing fit.

Perhaps more research is warranted.

2016 Planner Setup

This year's planner setup will continue in the same manner as 2015 finished. I think I have (finally) found what works for me. I use a Traveler's Notebook, even though the spelling bugs me just a teeny bit. As I refer to it as a TN, I can cope.

I use the standard size and this fits in my bag just fine. I made myself a laminated dashboard, but have recently removed that, as I didn't use it.

The basic setup is this:Home-made week to a page diary. This is joined by a connecting band to a standard Midori blank insert. Wrapped around the diary only is a Midori credit card insert.These two inserts are slipped under the band. In the middle of those (the standard three-insert setup) is a Monthly Plan Pack which I settled on midway through last year. Do check it out, it's very useful, particularly for someone who works in an office. Tucked under all three of these inserts are a Midori zip insert and a Midori Kraft folder.

Of course, in addition to this I have several fauxdoris that I have made. One holds some spare A5 booklets, another (wide TN) how some Moleskine Chapters inserts & the third is a Field Notes size & has some pocket Moleskine booklets in.

Those three were just some practice pieces I did. My other cover in daily use is my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. I have an A5 one and I still love it. I would switch from the TN, except that this is too large to take everywhere and the A6 size is too small for me. So, it is my desk book. I have a Leuchtturm book in it that I keep work project notes in, a Rhodia notebook for, well, making rough notes, and a Zentangle booklet I created, which contains a pattern reference. That stays in there and at weekends the work book comes out and a sketch book goes in.

Ideally I would keep my daily journal in the RT, but I haven't been able to find the right one. I use a hardcover page-a-day A5 diary, which doesn't fit.

Social Media

Late this afternoon I received a text from a good friend, asking if I had set up a new Facebook profile, as she had received a friend request from me. I hadn't, of course and it seems someone had cloned my profile details & set up a fake "me". They then sent friend requests to my existing friends. Whilst it was all sorted pretty quickly - I asked another friend to report it, as I was away from my devices (I don't have Facebook on my phone) - I do wonder how it happened.

I know my profile photo and background image are public, so can be re-used, but quite how this account could send friend requests to my friends, I'm not sure. All my settings are "friends only" wherever I can do that, so unless they had logged into my account, they shouldn't have been able to see that information. I have login alerts set up and there were none sent out. In addition I run a VPN, even at home, which I thought provided some additional security. A small amount of time on Google implied that it had to be done by a "friend". A little perturbing, as I don't have friends I don't know. However, it happened and fortunately Facebook closed down the faker within 10 minutes of having it reported.

I can understand why people leave Facebook. I don't post there much, I just check in to see what friends are up to: people I wouldn't otherwise have time to keep in touch with. I don't often post there myself now. I post occasionally on Twitter and I chat on App.net, a place where I feel very much amongst friends. But I'd miss Facebook if I left.

Naturally, my password manager now has an even longer Facebook password than it used to have, though I don't think that was compromised. Although, thinking about it, I really should change passwords more regularly. At least I don't re-use them on different sites!

Pen Addict - me?

I have a confession, one that probably won't surprise anyone who knows me: I have a bit of a thing about fountain pens and stationery.

Yesterday I got into an exchange with a good friend on Facebook, whose addiction is more of the stationery kind than fountain pens. I pointed her towards several blogs I follow, as well as The Pen Addict podcast and Slack group. I don't know if she will listen, but she might. She might find some interesting feeds to follow on Instagram from checking out the people I follow.

On Monday evening I listened live to the podcast for the first time and I realised just how much pleasure I get out of listening, and interacting with fellow pen addicts in the Slack group. As a result, today I signed up for membership of Relay FM. It looks like a good way to support the work they do. I'm lucky though, I'm in a position to be able to do these things, so why shouldn't I?

Absence

I wrote this a while ago and then forgot about it.

Every moment is just that - a moment.
We step from moment, to moment.
Minute to minute, hour to hour,
Onwards and onwards.
Because we can't go back;
We can only go on, until we stop.
And, if I'm honest
Brief snippets of time are enough.
Any more would be too much.
Too much of the picture might be revealed.
A jigsaw with crucial pieces missing,
A photo taken with the wrong filter.
No soft light in the sky,
No whispering breeze wafting the grass.
No smiling sun warming the land.
A watercolour landscape washed with grey.
With absence.

No-one to turn to, no-one to listen.
Not no-one though, just that one,
The one who cared, the one with whom I shared
Achivements, disasters, snippets of my day.
The one who cared, supported and encouraged
And was always there.
The one whose love I always knew, always felt.
The fulcrum of the family,
The central point around which we all revolved,
Whether she realised it or not.
The most unassuming of people,
Who believed she had nothing much to offer.
Yet she leaves behind more than she could ever know.
Every time I cook, I hear her guidance,
It's there in all the crafts I do,
Whenever I play the piano, her influence is there.
Ok, not so much with maths or computing.
And yet… I smile when I recall
Explaining her email to her once more.
So it seems she's in there, too.

Just a memory, though.
A collection of thoughts, photos round the room,
For she is gone.

Garden gate

Progress is slowly being made with reinstating Dad's garden gate. For the last few years it has just been lying across the side path - not exactly providing any security.  The reason for this was that the hinge brackets that came with the gate were not easy to fix to the brick wall. More properly, the spacing of the gate struts meant that the hinges had to be fixed to the very edges of a brick. For some reason the style of the gate was incompatible with the spacing of the bricks. One of the bottom brackets was partly secured by being screwed into the mortar between bricks, never a reliable option.

I found some posts which allow the gate to be hung on them, rather than hinges bolted to the wall. Of course, the posts were a little thicker than the holes in the gate, so today we drilled/filed out the holes a bit and sized the gate up against the wall. The upper support can be screwed securely into a couple of bricks, but the bottom one will be a little closer to the edges of the bricks than I would like. Still, it should be secure enough. It only stabilises the gate, rather than taking any of the weight. Normally both posts would be upright, allowing the gate to be slotted on to them. However, that doesn't work with the brick spacing, so we decided the bottom one would point down. This means it has to be put in place after the gate had been hit on the top bracket. The upside is that no burglar would be able to lift the gate off its support without unscrewing everything either. 

Once the holes are drilled for the top post - something I have left my father with for the week - then we can do the rest next weekend. Once that is done, new holes will have to be drilled to accommodate the new latch position, the gate sanded and repainted. That last bit can wait; as long as the gate is in place I will be reasonably happy.

Edison Collier in antique marble

I bought this pen on impulse, mostly because I was frustrated that the Pelikan M205 Amethyst hadn't come out at the start of August. I rather liked the idea of the silver marble, but for some reason, at the last minute, my eye was drawn to the antique marble. I haven't been disappointed. I ordered a fine nib, a steel one rather than a gold one. A good steel nib is perfectly acceptable nowadays. I do like gold nibs, but I'm not going to get hung up on them.

So I ordered this impulse pen - which at £115 was more expensive than the Pelikan I planned to buy. As I am in the UK I limited my choice to the production range, rather than the custom one from the US, along with the customs charges that would apply.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150919 122647

I find it difficult to express just how delighted I have been with my purchase. This pen is simply gorgeous. It is perfectly weighted, it fits in my hand just so (I don't have small hands, I have piano-playing hands with a pretty decent stretch) and writes beautifully. The body is silky-smooth, with stunning colouration in the marble design. It reminds me of tobacco being rubbed in the pouch (a favourite task of mine as a child was to flake my Dad's pipe tobacco). The nib is smooth, just a small amount of feedback. I bought a fine and it is a very usable line size. To start with I tried a few inks out just by dipping. I do feel that pens each have their happy ink. My gold-nibbed all black Parker 45 CT would be wrong without black ink in it, for example. My clear TWSBI 580 also seems to have settled with black ink. My Violet-capped Faber-Castell Loom fits well with Diamine Imperial Purple. In some pens the end result differs wildly. Both my Kaweco Skyline Sport and my steel-nibbed Parker 45 have Diamine Marine in them, but the result in the page couldn't be more different, as the photo below shows. As the Kaweco is the mint green version I really wanted to fill it with Marine, expecting the colour the Parker produces. I was disappointed, but then I think the Kaweco nib still needs some work on it as it skips rather more than I would like.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150919 122824

I digress - perhaps a topic for another day. Back to the Collier. As a brown-ish pen, it really didn't warrant black ink, but I really have no liking for brown inks, so that left my blues, of which I have four: Diamine Imperial Blue, Diamine Misty Blue, Diamine Blue-black and Cult Pens (also Diamine)   Deep Dark Blue. I opted for the DDB, as I call it. I have since tried the blue-black in the pen, but with the fine nib it looked rather thin and pale, so the DDB went back in. Ironically, I loaded my TWSBI AL with the Imperial Blue, which left me without a pen with blue-black in, so I decided to try that in my Pilot Capless. The TWSBI brought out the teal tones in the ink, in the Collier it appeared lighter than the DDB, but in the Pilot (also a medium nib, as is the TWSBI) the blue-black is very dark indeed. 

So here it is, a pen I am very taken with. It is always in my daily carry pen case now and I don't see it leaving any time soon. I keep my clear TWSBI and my Pilot Capless with my Midori Travelers Notebook and in my Lihit Labs smart fit small pen case I have my Parker 45, my Cult Pens mechanical pencil, my Pelikan M205 Amethyst (it came out, I bought it, but then that was never much in doubt - it's purple), my TWSBI AL (purple) and the Edison Collier. So I guess my handbag contains a fair amount of pen wealth, but I can live with that.