shinytoaster: A photo of my ugly mug (Alex)
It's grey and slightly drizzly and as I am rather delicate I am not going to bike to work today and will instead take my chances on the bus. Meanwhile, I cannot seem to stay logged into Dreamwidth for any length of time from Safari, even with the remember me button ticked. Is anyone else having MacIssues?

Feh. It's a minor irritation, I am still salivating over the site in general, though I wish my reading roll flowed a bit quicker, but that will come in time, I hope. Is there anyone in our circle I'm not following and should be?

Oh, here's a thingie, I might be heading for Boston at the start of June for a conference and may try and get them to extend my stay by a couple of days to catch up with some of you, so as soon as I know dates and whether or not I can get a journalist visa in time we can (hopefully) talk some more about that.
shinytoaster: (Default)
I'm feeling energised about my blogging here in a way that I never really caught on Blogger, and had been missing for a very long time on LJ. This is a good thing, I feel.

Why so?

I think it's because while Blogger is very good for certain things, I always used to blog because of the community feel that grew up around our corner of LJ, back when it was all Harry Potter all the time, and that community feels like it's being replicated here, maybe not yet to the same degree but I hope that might come in time.

My next mission is to figure out some of the interoperability features with LJ.

What have I been doing this week? Not a great deal, but it has been very relaxing. Lowell has been cooking chilli and cornbread and just did a batch of brownies and I just spent the best part of an hour cleaning the bathroom from top to bottom and plan to spend tomorrow doing the kitchen. I've also been playing a lot of Warcraft, mostly reputation grinding at the Argent Tournament and preparing for some raiding this weekend.

I've also been reading through my old LJ entries and smiling inwardly at how much of an idiot I could be, and at what a good time I was actually having despite effecting an air of depression and misery a lot of the time.

I'd actually love to re-run that period between the start of 2002 and the summer of 2003 again. It was a fantastic time in many ways. Not being constrained by the nine-to-five grind and having a lot of free time it feels like I was more creative, I went out more and got involved in things, I was more politically thoughtful and active.

The fruit of all this was mostly witless juvenilia but, what the hell, it was fun.

Is there much I'd do differently from that time? Maybe I'd try and be a little more self-confident and spend time with my friends at university - so many of them I'm out of touch with, which is a sad thing.

I also blew several potential pre-Lowell boyfriendages out of the water, mostly by being 20 and a fool, and while there isn't anything about this relationship I wouldn't change there's a lot about what went before that I would.

Obviously, everything would still have to lead to Cassie's basement in Brooklyn on a hot July day, but I think that could still be engineered without too much difficulty and, obviously, as I'd be a time traveller I'd have to have some kind of white-haired mentor telling me not to mess with the time-lines or squash any bugs. He would sort out any temporal hiccups and also help me finish my fanfics.

Incidentally I bought this compilation in the spring of 2002 and I have been playing it fairly consistently ever since. Not a dud track among them, I wrote at the time, a sentiment I still stand by.
shinytoaster: A cute little remote controlled BBC logo (BBC 2)
Yesterday evening I went back to my LJ archive and started reading some of the old entries from December 2001 through to the summer of 2002, when I was in my second year at university, still writing in Potter fandom - although by this point I had moved onto writing smut - and mooching around feeling lovesick over a red-headed boy who I never did go out with. It's painful, angst-ridden late-adolescent stuff, man.

I suspect pretty much everybody feels this way when they read back through old diaries from years ago, but really ... someone should have shot me. Or at the very least written me a stern letter.

There was a great piece by Stephen Fry in last week's Guardian, cribbed from the 25th anniversary edition of Gay Times, in which he responded to a letter written by his 16 year-old self to his grown-up self. Paraphrased in nine words, it read 'cheer up you silly sod, it's not that bad.'

Looking back at the three things that exercised me in 2002 - George W Bush, the feeling that everyone else is having a much better time than you, and being single - one of them has fucked off back to Texas, one of them holds true for everyone, and the third is moot, although I am still lacking the designer seafront pad in Brighton and the fast car.

So really? It wasn't that bad, and that's advice I'd love to be able to give my 19 year-old self.
shinytoaster: A cute little remote controlled BBC logo (BBC 2)
First things first, a bit of housekeeping.

For what it's worth I'm not going to be cross-posting to Livejournal from here. I may import one day if I have the inclination but to be completely honest, I'm inclined to leave things as they are.

If you're coming from LJ and you have a different username here can you drop me a comment and let me know who or what you are? I'm trying to be relatively free and easy with the old reading list here, but if we've not really met before or have fallen out of touch then now would be the perfect time to stick your head over the parapet.

Bothersomely, I think I might have gone on holiday without having set up my Out of Office. I've had two PRs attempt to contact me through Twitter today, which doesn't usually irritate me but indicates a couple of things, firstly that people are trying to contact me and are not being fobbed off through the usual channels, and secondly that Lovely-Yet-Slapdash!Editor is shirking his responsibilities again (this is, dear friends, one of the reasons why I want to leave).

I am officially AFK, if you haven't gathered that much yet. It's the first time I've had a chance to stop and wind down since Christmas, and it feels great.

I had an easy weekend; we went to an old colleague's birthday do on Saturday night up in Shoreditch at a succession of achingly trendy hipster bars (one of which did do mojitos). Shoreditch is full of people who are much cooler than me, but the bars were good and the booze was free-flowing. I was a little put off by the boys in black sequinned 'meggings' paired with denim jackets and teddy-boy hairdos, but TheLondonPaper tells me British street style is the envy of the world* and so, if the world wants me to wear lycra in a non-bicycling situation then I probably shouldn't argue with it.

Yesterday to an old haunt, the pub where long-time readers will recall I worked a long, hot summer in 2002. But now dusted off, repainted and renamed the Albany, it's still pulling in the punters, but instead of luring them with beer-slicked tables, badly cooked burgers, Carling Black Label and 'Now That's What I Call 1948' it's luring them with sludge green walls, balsamic aioli, Birra Moretti and uptempo Brazilian lounge. Yes, it's become a Gastropub.

I couldn't complain too much, as in its previous incarnation as The Fox on the River, a senior-citizens concept chain pub (an ill-fated Whitbread idea called Vintage Inns) it had truly been the pits, staffed by clueless students and with two cash-in-hand off-the-books Portuguese guys in the kitchen.

Come 2009, whoever they had in the kitchen could cook a mean ribeye and it was a relief to be rid of Angry George the old Jag-driving Gene Hunt parody of a landlord. The wait staff were still cheerfully incompetent, but this is par for the course in a pub. Also the parents were paying.

Today has been very lazy. Thanks to the Boy I am now the proud owner of a teal Le Creuset baking dish and thanks to my parents, a gorgeous heavy pestle and mortar for grinding things in - the corpses of my enemies, Moroccan spices, you gets the picture - as well as various chocolates and a big bag of Jelly Belly. I've been watching series one of Ab Fab on DVD and had Parma ham, olives, blue cheese and half a bottle of rose, and I sense Japanese food in my near future. That has to be dangerously close to perfection.

As for the rest of the week, I might play some Warcraft, I might go out on the bike (in situationally appropriate attire), I might even rewrite my CV.

*Is it?
shinytoaster: A photo of my ugly mug (Alex)
Why indeed? Good question. Buggered if I know.

I have not been entirely honest in my disclosures up to this point. I have been seeing another; and it's Blogger.

Blogger is fine for what it is. It synchs nicely with my Google ID and so on and so forth, and it's also linked to my Twitter feed, which I use on a professional basis. My blog is The Blether Forecast and like LJ, it has not been used for a very long time. My Twitter is Bletherer and it follows and is tracked by a fair number of you, but also a fair number of people from work.

When I was setting up Dreamwidth this morning I sat in my living room for about an hour trying to decide on a decent username.

I toyed with maintaining the Bletherer theme, but decided I would like to try and keep the two identities separate as much as possible, for now at least. I then thought of going down a similar route, with something like Great Wittering - well I am great and I don't half witter on sometimes. It also sounds like it might be a village in Dorset or somewhere. This was off-putting so I discarded that.

I thought about the sort of identity I wanted to project but I couldn't think of one that I might not want to break with at some point. I am many things; English, middle class, gay, disabled. But I don't always want to abide by those definitions, so Poncycrippledfag was never going to work.

So then I started thinking why not make a bit of a break and go with something that wasn't necessarily surreal, but had a certain nonsensical absurdity to it. I thought shiny new things are good, and toast is also a cornerstone of western liberal democracy, a thing I am in favour of. Shinytoaster seemed a good match.

It also has the added benefit of not saying much about me, so I can do what I like with it. It's open to interpretation in whatever way you want.

Everyone likes toast. Would you like a piece of toast?
shinytoaster: (Default)
Hello everyone,

I thought - partly because first blog posts are always tricky and embarrassing and I might as well give you something marginally interesting to read, and partly because it's my 27th birthday today and I have a shiny new Internet toy to play with - that I would start my new existence here at Dreamwidth with a little retrospective navel-gazing.

And while we're admiring the shiny, isn't it spacious in here? Don't you love what they did with the light? Views all the way down to the bay and not a dado rail in sight!

I was on Livejournal from December 2001 - and how different a place did the world seem then - that's nearly seven and a half years, or, at the time of writing, over a quarter of my life.

It's hard, of course, to leave behind such a huge chunk of time, even if I hadn't really been using it for some time. I'll probably download it all that content one day when I have the inclination and squirrel it away somewhere as testament to the more perplexing aspects of my mental state.

My LJ blog first saw the light of day, as most of you reading at this juncture will know and appreciate, as a fanboyish expression of appreciation for the Harry Potter books, with name and content reflecting that. This went on for a good while until I hung up my boots in what I now think may well have been a state of depression early in 2004.

At that point I discarded the outer trappings of fandom and went by the handle Titanic Days, after the Kirsty MacColl album, and although things continued much as before, as the decade wore on and I settled slowly down into a (not unsuccessful but neither especially fulfilling) career as a journalist writing about the IT trade, I lost the urge to update. I ran out of things to say. Oh, the Harry Potter obsession was long gone and replaced by others; new TV shows, new interests, my dual life as a gnome mage in World of Warcraft, but nothing to really connect with the friends I had made before.

I think in a way, this sort-of-a-birthday-present is me throwing my hands in the air and saying I dropped the ball and I will try and write and interact with you all in a more meaningful sense.

I hope I can keep it up; I write for a living now and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to come home after a hard day's writing and keep doing it for pleasure, but if I'm ever going to get anywhere with this lark then it's something I need to knuckle down to. I don't particularly want to be an IT trade journalist after all; the people who make computers are interesting and nerdy, but the people who sell them are bleach blond Tory sales boys in Audi TTs and wide pinstripes and they make me shiver. It's not a good environment to be me in and it's one I haven't been me in.

Anyway, I hope we will be seeing some career developments in the right direction soon.

So here we all are, here's to seven more years and you're very welcome to keep reading...
shinytoaster: (Wibble)
At some point on Thursday evening during a not-particularly-heavy Warcraft session (I was in Dalaran picking mushrooms) the MacBook started to make an absolutely horrific something-ain't-right whining noise. It sounded like the fan was throwing its toys out of the pram, and as I was starting to feel that the computer might actually take off I shut down WoW and turned off the computer and that seemed to work. Things carried on as normal for a little while, but then it started up again, so I shut it down and went to bed.

Friday afternoon whilst working from home it started again. This time I did some googling, found a problem that it sounded like it might be and did some kind of reset jobby that involved taking the battery out. The computer seemed to get the message and it worked fine all yesterday evening.

Today, however, it started doing it completely randomly, once or twice when I was in Warcraft, once or twice when I was out of it and doing other things, once when all I was trying to do was stream Radio 4 off iPlayer, once when I was backing up the hard drive and a couple of times when I wasn't actually doing anything at all, and once when I wasn't in the room.

I've been checking the exhaust RPM and various temperatures with a handy little widget, but it doesn't seem to be going crazy with any kind of pattern, everything is "within normal parameters". Right now I have Safari and iTunes open and things are running fine, but five minutes down the line it could well have gone shouty crackers again.

The upshot is I'm pretty sure I have a borked fan. The noise is coming from that general area, and when you put your hand on the underside of the main body the casing is vibrating with a frequency that I would find sexually arousing if this thing hadn't cost me about twice as much as a whore.

It's not that this is going - or has - put me off Apple, quite the opposite, but I'd just like to point out that I took delivery of a Dell Inspiron in September 2000 and it was June 2003 before the screen fell off. I've had the Mac barely 15 months.

This fan issue, together with the strange peeling at the bottom corner of the screen, has convinced me it's time to take it into the shop and get it seen to. That'll be seven to ten days without the computer and possibly more as it's a busy time. It's touch and go whether or not I get it back before my two week holiday time starts, or before Christmas. So likely no WoW Christmas achievement for me, and no interwebs and without the TV working 'til Thursday when the nice man is coming to screw in our Freesat dish, no means of intellectual stimulation through the medium of screens.

So unless I blow the Christmas shopping budget on an Asus EEE or something, it's cheerio for now...
shinytoaster: (MySpace Alex)
For just a short while at least. So, I'm obviously using Twitter these days, and some other sites and platforms too, and I've been getting very curious as to how everything Web 2.0-like ties together, how people find things and read things, the connections they make to get places, and what makes them stick around when they do.

Some of you will know that my primary blogging engine these days is Blogger, and if you've not already followed the links from here to there then now's your chance.

I'm doing a sort of mini-project with no real scientific basis or intent or any actual direction over there at the minute, to hopefully try and answer my own questions and maybe generate some more. It really is entirely badly worded and very self-indulgent, but if just a few of you had a look and a think and maybe shared some thoughts it would be very lovely.

Here's the link: ... hope to talk to some of you soon.

shinytoaster: (Channel 4)
The internal TV aerial we'd been using gave up on the last remaining spot where we could still get a signal, so a nice man is coming to install Freesat for us next week. We get two hundred and forty channels and I don't really want any of them but still, it is free, the nice people assured me ... and what kind of incomparable titmonkey markets a flat without a TV aerial? Seriously.

I took a look at a list of the 240 new channels we'll be getting the other day, and among the delights that await are, and I promise I am not making these up;

The Audi Channel - for cocks who drive Audis.
Horse and Country - for cocks who like huntin', shootin' and bangin' the door of one's Audi at 3am.
Ocean Finance - for people who can't afford Audis.

And yes, that would be Ocean Finance as in 'do you need help consolidating your loans into one easy monthly repayment' Ocean Finance.

There's more. There's, which appears to be YouTube for idiots, there's Psychic TV, which is pretty self-explanatory, and there's 'pan-Arabian edutainment' network, the Al Jazeera Children's Channel, which claims to make 40% of its own programming and in a Nancy Reaganesque twist is, according to Wikipedia, the pet project of the 'second' wife of the Emir of Qatar.

Mind you, that's the same Wikipedia that has at various times claimed that Robbie Williams made his millions eating domestic pets, Tony Blair had posters of Hitler on his wall, and David Cameron was "a bit of a bitch".

Back to the goggletube, and something for those people for whom Islam seems a bit too much like hard work, there's also a plethora of Christian networks, among them Daystar, which I'm looking forward very much to watching. A drop down menu on their website, right next to an ad for a Christian golf invitational, invites viewers to variously 'Submit a Prayer' and 'Know Jesus.'

All I wanted was BBCs One through Four, and maybe E4 for the Friends reruns...

I'll let you know how it goes.
shinytoaster: (Jubilee Line)
So, I've been twittering away for a couple of days now and it seems like good fun - a bit of a time-sink in the way that this sort of thing tends to be - but on balance definitely something worth sticking with.

However, I'm really having some pretty severe issues with some aspects of the site's design and wondered if anybody else had been irritated by this as well? There seems to be no feature to actively search for someone by username - the only way to add and start following someone appears to be to trawl through other people's lists until you stumble across someone you're looking for, or to go through your email contact books and spam all your friends and relatives. Neither is really satisfactory.

Say, for example, I want to find my LJ pal Jimmyjoebob, who I also know goes by two other handles on Yahoo (Joebobjimmy) and an old account (Bobjoejimmy). Twitter has no actual little box that I can type his handles into to see if he's there - I either have to forget about the whole thing, or check my friend EmoDracoluvr15, who I know is on Twitter, to see if she's following him.

Another case to prove the point - I know the Questionable Content characters have fictional Twitter streams that I think it might be a laugh to follow ... but even if EmoDracoluvr15 tells me Dora's fake handle, I can't type it in anywhere to bring up her stream, I still have to search through the Twitter streams she's following until I find Dora or whoever.

It seems like a massive game of chance whether or not you find anybody at all, and this strikes me as a severe design flaw that someone would have developed out of existence by now, so, guys, experienced Twitterers, is there a way round this, or do I have to suck it up?

December 2011

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