Wednesday 27 June 2012

Moving House?

Back a few years, there was a movie called 'Nights in Rodanthe', it starred, according to hollywood, Richard Gere and Diane Lane, but to me the star of the movie was the house itself.  The movie was a bit slow and lacklustre, and with a crummy ending.

Now, the house you see in the movie, is an illusion. Oh yes, it was based on a real house, but a real house heavily modified by the production department, all those blue shutters, the big deck, well, they went on for filming, and promptly came off again. I know this because I happened upon a pic on another blog, of the house standing, bereft, and forlorn, all alone on the sands.
Illusory or not, it's just the sort of house I'd like, all those different levels, high up look-out rooms with a view, deck opening out of the bedroom, external stairs... I'd like this house up on a hill, in a forest....
Or by the sea, but on a nice solid promontory, well above the waves. Quite honestly, the only word I can think of for someone who builds something like this on wooden pilings, in dunes, on a hurricane coast, is 'stupid'.

 Not quite as in the movie, but I thought it looked similar.

Lots of shutters and the deck improve it, I think.

 In movie disguise

And now, the real thing.

Battered by storm, and condemned.

The house, which I though looked rather old and quirky, is certainly quirky, but hardly old. It dates back only as far as 1988. 
Back then it did not have its feet in the ocean. Houses here are coming in for vociferous criticism, as some residents of the Outer Banks believe the houses themselves are contributing to erosion of the coast. This one, 'Serendipity', came in for a big share of that criticism, the owners, it was said, had bulldozed dunes in a futile attempt to save it. They put it up for sale, at a pretty steep price, but, surrounded by storm, its sewage tanks destroyed and water and electricity lines severed, it's hardly surprising that the market was not brisk. Local authorities had given it ten days, before it must be either moved, or demolished. However, a couple who were fans of the movie read of its impending doom. They offered a more realistic price, it's said.
And.... rescued it.

We just don't do this here in Britain, uproot and shift buildings. I've seen it in National Geographic, and in TV documentaries. I'm overawed by the teams in the U.S. who have the skills and patience to jack up a building like this, insert a steel girder raft, and wheels, beneath it, and then haul it with a WWII tank transporter to a new home. Amazing.

It has been moved to a new home, a little under a mile from its first one, and is being refurbished, and will, if the new owners have their way, end up internally and externally, pretty much as it appears in the movie. The real house's interiors actually look nothing like the movie, whose interior shots were all done in the studio.  But they will, soon.
You'll be able to rent it for your holiday, at an eye-watering price.
A couple of years from  now, though, who'll remember a less than stellar movie called 'Nights in Rodanthe'?

Here's some background from the Island Free Press.  And more.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Some recent blogspammers.

This is why I may have to reintroduce verification, captchas, whatever.

"I really love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own personal website and want to learn where you got this from or what the theme is named. Appreciate it!"

"Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am going through difficulties with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!! 

"When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be a means you can remove me from that service? Thank you!"

"Aw, this was a really nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and never manage to get anything done."

"It’s hard to come by experienced people in this particular topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks"
(I really liked this one's placing... it was on a post I'd titled "Everybody Needs a Bosom for a Pillow" Hahahaha... I do know what I'm talking about!)

"Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your site is very useful. Thanks for sharing!"

"As the admin of this web page is working, no uncertainty very rapidly it will be well-known, due to its feature contents"

Okay, spammers,  I hate you all, I report you all, I review and delete you all. You will NEVER get a click-through from my blog.
You're never going to get a comment to stick on my blog, ever, if it contains any sort of link to any sort of commercial site. Powder Coating in Portland? Payday Loans? You must be idiots, as are the people who hire you.
I would never use any company which used spam,  ever.

And I'd like to think most of my readers are savvy enough to never click a spam link either. Let's face it, you spammers are lower than slug-slime.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Space Station Dinnertime

If the Space Station were truly a home-from-home..... Third year animation student, Corentin Charron made this little piece of whimsy.
via: The Presurfer
 The Presurfer is Gerard Vlemmings, from the Netherlands. Worth a daily visit for neat stuff.

Steve "Bulletholes in the Mailbox", this is one for you!

Sunday 17 June 2012

In Which I Miss the Dalai Lama's Visit

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tensing Gyatzo, visited my home town of Leeds, in the north of England, yesterday. He was addressing a business conference, not at all my field, but I would very much have liked to hear him speak. I've heard him interviewed on the radio, and he seems to be a wonderful person. As spiritual leader of Thibet, in exile, he comes from a country whose sovereignty is disputed. China claims the mountainous nation is merely a province of greater China, but most Thibetans would seem to disagree. 
When I have heard the Dalai Lama speak, I have never heard him attack China, or call for revolution.   
( "I am not seeking separation from China. I am committed to my middle-way approach whereby Tibet remains within the People's Republic of China enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy. I firmly believe that this is of mutual benefit both to the Tibetans as well as to the Chinese. We Tibetans will be able to develop Tibet with China's assistance, while at the same time preserving our own unique culture, including spirituality, and our delicate environment. By amicably resolving the Tibetan issue, China will be able to contribute to her own unity and stability").
Why then does China seem to fear and hate him so much?

The ludicrous antics of the People's Republic in recent days included a threat by China to remove its Olympic team from Leeds, where the team is to train and acclimatise, if Leeds City Council allowed the visit to go ahead. The council replied that the visit was not organised by the council, but by a business association, and that the council had no authority in British law to intefere. Which was a bit of weaselly distancing by our representatives. I'd have liked to see our city council turn out in force to honour him, with the mayor in full regalia.
I'd have liked them to say "Go ahead, then, pull your athletes out, and good luck in trying to find another world class training facility at such a late juncture", and I'd hope other cities would find themselves all fully booked, and unable to help, when the Chinese delegation asked for rooms, tracks, gymnasia, olympic sized swimming pools...

The chinese themselves said, at the time of the Beijing olympics that the olympics should be held separate from politics.

"His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet.  At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.  The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet.  Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity. "

"When a questioner asked how His Holiness himself remains so calm, he replied that even when he receives heart-breaking news from Tibet, he remembers the advice of the 8th century Indian Buddhist master Shantideva. He counselled that in the face of hardship it helps to analyse whether there is anything to be done and if there is, there is no need to worry. Instead, employ your energy in pursuit of the solution. On the other hand, if there is nothing to be done, worrying won’t help." 

I'm not religious, but if I were forced to choose one, it would probably be Buddhism, not that I have the temperament or self discipline to follow the way.
And of all the world leaders and political/religious persons I've ever heard speak, this is the man whose humble nature, and total lack of self aggrandisement I most admire.

The Happy Train

I feel for this child.
Somebody says "Smile!" "You're having a great time!" "Be Happy" "Look, everybody else is having fun!" "Isn't this fun?!"
Let me be the judge of that, get the f***ing camera out of my face.
Sometimes I am this child. For instance, a few weeks ago, I was totally and utterly exhausted, far from home, and, when I should have opted for an early night, I agreed to go out with my cousin and her husband, to a pub where a band he knew was playing. Now, at one end of the pub, far from the music, there were comfortable leather sofas, and dim lights. Oh no. They wanted to be out in front of the band. And dancing.
I do not dance. It's not naturally wired into me, nor did I ever take lessons, so I don't dance. Really. I just don't. Now there's a breed of women out there who seem to think that all men are, in fact, pre-wired for dancing, and just need to let their hair down. 
I had my beer, told the others that I was fine, just needed to sit down, on a hard old church-pew, by a big old table, facing the ear-bleedingly loud speaker-stacks, and snooze.
But Helen's pal seemed to find that an affront, and kept coming over to try get me to dance with her.
I said no thank you, and no offence, but I'm not available, to this woman I'd never met before, and had no interest in knowing better. Pulling at my arm, wheedling, cajoling, hectoring. 
And me refusing. Face set like the child above, some people just don't see the signs. The dog's ears lie down... the hackles rise. The teeth show. Keep petting the nice doggy, tug at it's ears and end up getting reconstructive surgery. 
I think Helen, from a distance, could see the warning signs. The sullen glare, the clenched jaw. She came and pried her friend's fingers off my arm, just in time. I told her I was done, would sleep on the table, amidst the noise, if her friend could just be kept away. 
It was easier, I think, for them to call a taxi for me. Great taxi. The guy had no idea of the address I gave him. Luckily I remembered the name of the park nearby, that I'd walked in that morning. If he got me to the gates, I could backtrack from there. Despite that, I gave him a tip. Appreciated it, the taxi like a lifeboat. Or a rescue helicopter.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Well, Wilbur....

Well, Wilbur, after you left the party, things got a bit blurry for me.  I think I drank a little too much...

And I've got such a hangover, I think I've gone blind....

Sunday 10 June 2012

After working sixty hours again for what reason

Bob Hicok

The best job I had was moving a stone
from one side of the road to the other.
This required a permit which required
a bribe. The bribe took all my salary.
Yet because I hadn’t finished the job
I had no salary, and to pay the bribe
I took a job moving the stone
the other way. Because the official
wanted his bribe, he gave me a permit
for the second job. When I pointed out
that the work would be best completed
if I did nothing, he complimented   
my brain and wrote a letter
to my employer suggesting promotion
on stationery bearing the wings
of a raptor spread in flight
over a mountain smaller than the bird.
My boss, fearing my intelligence,
paid me to sleep on the sofa
and take lunch with the official
who required a bribe to keep anything
from being done. When I told my parents,
they wrote my brother to come home
from university to be slapped
on the back of the head. Dutifully,
he arrived and bowed to receive
his instruction, at which point
sense entered his body and he asked
what I could do by way of a job.
I pointed out there were stones
everywhere trying not to move,
all it took was a little gumption
to be the man who didn’t move them.
It was harder to explain the intricacies
of not obtaining a permit to not
do this. Just yesterday he got up
at dawn and shaved, as if the lack
of hair on his face has anything
to do with the appearance of food
on an empty table.

Saturday 9 June 2012

In My Teenage Years

 In my teenage years, I read, and read, and read, I was a  voracious reader, an omnivore of all the printed word, I read things I liked, things I hated, things with which I struggled, easy books, hard books, confusing books.
Back then, I had a rule that if I started a book, I must finish it, no matter what. Oh my, that led me into some strange places. I read the King James Bible, from cover to cover. Bible, Biblos, Book. I'd be the first to admit I did not pay a lot of attention to parts of it, great lumps of it forgotten or misremembered,  well that was my friend Gareth, a committed christian, who told me that reading the bible would change my life. It didn't, noticeably, I was not 'saved', I just became a lot more suspicious of those who claimed to know god's will, based on the same things I'd read, that they seemed to interpret in vastly different ways.
But I still read. Spy stories, detectives, travel books and autobiographies, history and literary criticism, murders and botany. Over the years, fragments of what I read have come in handy. I know a little about a lot of things, and not much about anything.
Still, it's a criterion for my positive assessment of book, movie, radio programme, "Did I learn anything new?"
I like to learn at least one new thing every day. These days, I sometimes fear my head is full, and every new thing pushes an older thing out, off the edge, and to oblivion. 
I grew up in the Brave New World of the 1950s, 60s, 70s.  Following the second world war, there was a sense of the world being rebuilt, an excitement over new discoveries, new invention. I realise, even as I write, that this is nonsense. Every era in history has thought the same. 
But let's pretend it's not nonsense. Back when my grandfather was a lad, Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers who mended bicycles, were playing with flying machines. Now flying machines were nothing new, lots of people had built them, quite a few had flown, balloons were no longer a novelty, but a reality, powered airships existed, but heavier than air machines, so far, had all been gliders. 
Well, even that's not true, Sir Hiram Maxim had already flown a powered aircraft, attached to rails, as a proof-of-concept test.  ("Commencing work in 1889, he built a 145 feet (44 m) long craft that weighed 3.5 tons, with a 110 feet (34 m) wingspan that was powered by two compound 360 horsepower (270 kW) steam engines driving two propellers. In trials at Bexley in 1894 his machine rode on 1,800 feet (550 m) of rails and was prevented from rising by outriggers underneath and wooden safety rails overhead, somewhat in the manner of a roller coaster. His apparent goal in building this machine was not to soar freely, but to test if it would lift off the ground. During its test run all of the outriggers were engaged, showing that it had developed enough lift to take off, but in so doing it damaged the track; the "flight" was aborted in time to prevent disaster. The craft was almost certainly aerodynamically unstable and uncontrollable, which Maxim probably realized, because he subsequently abandoned work on it.)
Clement Ader, in 1897, in France, flew a steam-powered airplane. For only a short time, a small lift, and a crash.
Sir George Cayley, yorkshireman, like me, would undoubtedly have beaten the Wrights to first powered flight, if only, if only... George wrote his treatise on flight "On Aerial Navigation" in 1810, and in 1754, he built a glider that carried a man across a valley at Brompton in North Yorkshire.
He designed steam-propelled dirigibles, but what he lacked was the lightweight power source, invented some years later, the internal combustion engine, suitable for making, for instance, a powered bicycle, a 'motor-cycle'.... Which of course, is where the Wrights found it.

What the Wrights achieved, though, was the first controlled, motor-powered, heavier than air flight. Remarkable and fantastic. Two young men with no great access to money or construction facilities built the thing that lifted the first humans off the planet, heavier than air and under control. No. That's not true either. The 'control' was pretty sketchy, and the reality was that pretty much every attempt they made was a tentative lift-off followed rapidly by a crash.
They were indefatigable experimenters, and eventually learned to control their machine, and in doing so, sparked a zillion other brave, crazy, inventor/aviators.
In just a few years it went from a crazy kite to a more-or-less reliable machine of war.
Only 16 years after the string bamboo contraption clattered across the sand at Kitty Hawk, a flying machine crossed the atlantic ocean from the americas to Ireland.

By the time I was born, man had set his sights upon the planets.
We imagined, in my early years, when kids dreamed of goldfish-bowl helmets and rockets and rayguns, that the evolution of the rocketship would be as rapid as that of the aeroplane.
Every kid thought that by the time he was twenty, he could enrol in the space-force, and pilot rocket-ships to mars and venus. Oh yes, it was the age of imagination. And I was sixteen, when I watched that fuzzy, hard to figure out, live coverage, as, for the first time, men landed on the surface of the moon. " "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

So I was reading Science-Fiction. Imagineation, visionaries. One such was Ray Bradbury, who died last week.

"If only we had taller been"

The fence we walked between the years
Did balance us serene;
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch that lie,
That blue that was not really blue.
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, somehow, never to be dead.
We ached, we almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
So, Thomas, we are doomed to die.
O, Tom, as I have often said,
How sad we’re both so short in bed.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to sleep away and go with them
Who’ve gone before,
A billion give or take a million boys or more
Who, short as we, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching thus to keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.
O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God’s great hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.
Short man, Large dream. I send my rockets forth between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Will is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!
Ray Bradbury.

Ha! In my search for Ray Bradbury quotes I found the following video, which made the rounds a few years ago... I'd forgotten it. Might be classed as nsfw, or for language in front of the kids. 
Well, it is titled "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury".

Friday 8 June 2012

Where Was I?

I've been away. Whilst much of the country was involved in parties and pageants for the Queen's Jubilee, I was just having a dirty weekend at a quiet place in the country.

Each year, all being well, my brother and I go to play with Land Rovers at the national competition. He's been known to break my gearbox, so the last two years, we've both competed in his  1952 toy.

If you were to zoom in, in an attempt to unmask me, you'd probably get him, not me, as I'm the bloke behind the camera in most of these.

 Self evident, really, what's going on.
Isn't it?

It's not a race, it's not timed, more an exercise in choosing the right line, gear, speed,  to keep going over the course, without getting stopped or hitting a marker cane, Object is to end the day with as few penalty points as possible. He beat me. Overall, we were not fiercely competitive against the couple of hundred other entrants, but we were driving something sixty years old.

Sixty years, almost, separates these two vehicles, but it's not hard to see the ancestry of the newer one.
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