A lot has happened since I last wrote. I fell in love, I lost my memory, and I represented my country as a cartoonist at the European Parliament. Had quite a nice Christmas too. I really don’t know how I’ll find time to tell all these stories.
For the meantime, here’s a selection of cartoons I assembled for the Cartooning for Human Rights event:
A hot day in Ireland – more special than Christmas. That feast arrives once a year, like it or not. Hot weather is significantly less dependable. If it comes at all, you know not the day nor the hour. Where the wind and the water currents of the Atlantic collide with land, weather is about as predictable as a fruit machine. So hot days are precious.
Which is why I gave up any idea of getting work done and went swimming. I had no choice.
It was lovely at the lake. The water hasn’t got very warm yet, but it was fine for swimming. Mostly young people there, throwing themselves and each other in. Some had brought hurls and sliotars (hurling balls) and were practising in the water. The ball landed near me at one stage and I threw it back – or tried. Ever thrown something while floating in water? It’s weird, and largely unsuccessful. I was throwing myself backwards as much as the ball forwards. Embarrassing.
I was impressed though by this positive attitude. Galway lost the Leinster Championship final yesterday, to underdogs Dublin. (No Galway isn’t in Leinster – it’s a long story.) Some might have wanted to forget about hurling for a while after that, but here these young guys were not just practising, but apparently developing an entirely new tactical approach that involves flooding the pitch to a depth of over two metres.
It may be romantic optimism brought on by the weather, but I see hope for the future in that.
I was doing an electronics job, replacing the LNB on a satellite dish. That’s the receiver bit at the focus there; it’s much more than just an antenna though. Controlled by the set-top box, the LNB is actually re-tuned to the particular frequency you’re looking for. The microwave signals are too tenuous to bring down a wire to a tuner, so it has to be done right here. Which is why you can’t watch one satellite channel while recording another, and have to find something on RTÉ to watch instead.
Before I understood this I’d tried to split the signal from a dish into two boxes, with predictably unpredictable results. What you need is an LNB that has multiple outputs. Here we went with four, so you can record two satellite channels while watching two others. Say.
A word of warning if you’re considering doing this – I got the LNB in Maplin. Don’t do that. Maplin are well known to be on the pricey side for some things, but in the case of the LNB I paid at least double what I could’ve got this for online. They provide a great service and I like to patronise them, but that’s a bit much.
Especially as it wouldn’t fit. The current LNB (pictured) has an integral bracket, The new one doesn’t, so I had to go back for one. Also – now that I’d actually done research – some silicone grease and self-amalgamating tape. The former is a jelly-like waterproofing agent in a tube, the latter a strange sort of rubbery tape that melds with itself to make seals for the cable connections. And if the LNB was overpriced, these accessories were eye-watering. The bracket, a small piece of plastic that bends into shape, fetched €16.49. Here’s the same thing for a fiver. The job could have been done for half nothing with a little planning.
But anyway, armed with all the right bits today I climbed the ladder, undid the cable and pulled off the old LNB, pushed in the new one with its bracket, did up the cable, came inside and turned on the TV. And this is where the weird thing happened.
It worked first time. No hitches, no inexplicable problems, no wasted hours figuring out what I did wrong. Swap the units over… TV pictures. I didn’t have to alter the positioning of the LNB, futz with its polarisation angle, re-scan the channels, nothin’. The job was just done.
Well you know, the exams. And then all the things I had to put off because of the exams. But it came together in the end. To be honest I was so hopped up on exam adrenaline that I got shopping done before I knew it. Oh and there was a side project – of which more anon.
Anyway, this year’s tree ended up being modest but respectable. Though I should point out that the picture shows a miniature pine, not giant presents. We got one in a pot as this is more eco-friendly, and also easier. Assuming it survives it’ll be brought in at Christmas for years to come. Biggest problem will be resisting the temptation to leave the lights on it.
Well I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas – whether you’re actually Christian, or merely see it as an opportunity to give things to people you care about – had a lovely day. I’m going to sleep now.
Oh God, I am now officially exhausted. That iBook proved more recalcitrant than expected. The fragile power connector came away from the logic board – again – requiring me to make a microscopic soldering iron out of the finest screwdriver in my kit. Even then though, the tiny soldered joint didn’t have enough physical strength. In the end nothing would work short of setting it in epoxy. Lots of epoxy.
So I didn’t get a lot of sleep – and I hadn’t recovered from the night I lost repairing someone’s PC. Or more probably, repairing the repairs somebody else did to someone’s PC. That was a weird one. It’s normally well hidden in Windows, but there’s a system of permissions telling it who can do what with every single file. So there was nothing much wrong with this computer – except for the fact that nobody had permission to do anything to anything. Thus while apparently running perfectly, it was utterly useless. You can guess how long it took to figure out what the hell was causing that.
So that’s two nights’ sleep missed in the last week. Meanwhile I have three cartoon commissions going on at once – about as many as I had in all of last year. The Christmas tree is still indoors. I have to seriously consider rewiring the kitchen. I need a shower badly. I haven’t seen my girlfriend in more than two weeks. Those last two are not connected. I’m not keeping up with this blog, I’ve had to put my play on hold, my website redesign on the hold that comes after hold, the other thing I really need to get done on too-depressing-to-even-clearly-recall.
Well it seems today doesn’t exist. Either that, or I don’t have time to go into my plans for radical calendar reform. I’ll just say this for now: Several readers have pointed out that there are tidier ways to organise a calendar, such as having six five-day weeks to a month, or five 73-day months as the Discordians want, or Azijn’s… interesting two-days-in-one idea. But making the calendar neater was not my objective. Rather, I wanted to make it better.
But more on that anon. Right now, the calendrical reform I most desire is one that would give me fewer hours in the day. I know people are supposed to wish for more, but I figure that’s the last thing I need. My mother is down with a flu so I’m doing all the house stuff, plus keeping two fires on the go so that the place is toasty, plus assembling the media centre PC I bought the parts for this Christmas, plus, you know, my job.
I’m… quite tired. The media centre is coming out good though. That too I’ll have to tell you about some other day. Right now, my sole objective is to stay awake for a few more minutes so I can
Today is our first thoroughly frozen day in Ireland. I had to chip the car out of its cube before going to the shop. At least I was better off than my girlfriend. She takes a train to work.
I have to say for the shop, you’d hardly think it was Christmas there at all. I’ve noticed that in general this year people haven’t been playing up the celebrations excessively. I’ve only heard that damn Slade song twice so far, when in other years it’s seemed like it was on a loop. I guess this is to do with the disaster we politely call the recession. It’s not in good taste to trumpet your wares to the financially bereaved.
But this local shop has taken it to the point of austerity chic. Among the groceries, hardware and sheepdog treats, there is but one aisle-end display of seasonal stuff like Christmas balloons. And even these were red, white and green, which to me is completely wrong. Red and green is Christmas. These I suspect are really just Italian balloons.
But back to the business of the world. It may seem strange that I didn’t mention Iraq this week, but it’s because there’s no positive aspect of the war’s end not immediately trumped by the fact that it can never be quite as good as not having had the war in the first place. They liberated Iraq from Saddam’s dictatorship, but at the cost of probably more than half a million Iraqi lives. They stopped him torturing, but now America tortures. Bush’s war has been appalling not just for Iraq, not just for America’s standing in the world, but also perhaps for all of us. I strongly suspect that much of our current debt crisis can be traced ultimately to the fact that America has spent the last ten years fighting wars it couldn’t afford.
I’m having a reindeer sandwich. This is not some bizarre sexual practice. It’s a sandwich with reindeer in it. Makes a change. It was all I could do not to hum Christmas songs as I buttered the bread.
I’ve wanted to try reindeer since I was in Finland over a year ago, but didn’t know enough Finnish to chance it. Their supermarkets are great, but they stock such a vast range of meat products that you feel they can’t all be the parts of animals we think of as edible. Yesterday though I was in Ikea, where reindeer is helpfully sold in English.
Ikea is weird, isn’t it? A vast warehouse full of what comedian John-Luke Roberts might describe as perfectly adequate furniture. Absolutely nothing was actually ugly, but I hardly saw a single thing I positively liked either. Some of the ceramic sinks were satisfactorily solid. The mattresses seemed excellent value. But I was expecting more somehow. And the Swedish names were nothing like as amusing as people make out.
OK… Except for a set of storage containers labelled Slubb. I enjoyed saying Slubb.
The deli section was rather a letdown too. There just wasn’t that much variety, and I was expecting, well, a smorgasbord. I did get some pickled herring of course, and some fish roe paste in a tube which I dubbed ‘The Antitoothpaste’. And then the reindeer. Smoked reindeer slices, which look rather like brown ham and, disappointingly, taste rather like brown ham.
So much for reindeer then – or ‘pigs with antlers’, as they may or may not be called in Finnish.