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So far Spike has created 2998 blog entries.

The use and abuse of household products

Given my age, having one smelly armpit as my only concerning health problem should be something to celebrate; but it did concern my wife. She has a nose like a beagle (ability, not visual appearance) and expects her husband to smell like a summer garden at all times, and not like the compost heap on the other side of the fence.

I shower twice a day, use expensive deodorant, and normally I am like a whiff of something wonderful as I glide around the house. But in the last week my left armpit has become a little stinky, “like a wet dog” according to she who must be obeyed; and any amount of showering failed to remove the odour.

Something had to be done and the wide wide world of web offered a number of solutions; one of which was to apply baking soda after showering. Interesting. It just so happens that we have a stock of baking powder that we use to clean vegetables (a tablespoon in water and a good soak), so I took some into the bathroom and stuffed it up my armpit after showering. Problem solved, although the floor of the bathroom now looks like I have a cocaine habit.

Encouraged, it was back to the web for my other current concern, green nails. Since taking up daily swimming, both my thumbs have taken on a greenish hue, and the toenails look like they might join in soon. This, as all we Google doctors know, is called pseudomonas aeruginosa and can be cured by several months taking pills which will destroy the fungus and may also destroy your liver.

So I sought more home grown remedies and found people that had been helped by smearing Vick on their nails to form a barrier before immersing their hands in water, and also soaking the infected fingers in a solution of apple cider vinegar and Listerine every day for 10 minutes (how do people discover these combinations?). So it was off to Boots for the Vick and Listerine (already had the vinegar) and then gave the nails a good Vick coating before my daily swim. No problem with this except when I got water in my eye and wiped it away with a sticky Vicky finger…

Post swim and I dunked my thumbs in the recommended solution. After ten minutes my thumbs were blue, apparently I should have bought the original Listerine and not the blue variety; but that’s the price you pay when you are existing on the frontiers of medical research.

Next week, how to cure a broken leg with a sweet potato.

July 24th, 2017|5 Comments

Dunkirk

Must have been an interesting pitch to Warner Brothers.

I want to make a World War 2 film.
Great idea! What famous victory by the Americans do you want to film?
I want to film a crushing defeat of the British.
Oh. But presumably an American comes along and saves the day?
No.
But there will be an American hero? Brad Pitt perhaps.
No Americans.
Oh. But you must have a marvellous script?
Almost nothing; I want to capture the experience.
Oh. What’s the budget? I assume we are talking low budget indie figures here.
No. $150 million, And I want $20 million and 20% of the take.
No problem Christopher. Agreed.

Only Christopher Nolan has a track record that could persuade a Hollywood studio to invest an shitload of cash in a movie about a singularly British experience. And as I have been a Nolan fan ever since Memento bent and blew my mind, I had to go and see it. And as he increasingly uses IMAX cameras for his projects, it was off to Bangkok yesterday to sit in an IMAX theatre.

What did Warner Brothers get for their $150 million? Certainly nothing in the way of character development and very little dialogue.

The reality of war is that people didn’t sit around and say stuff like:

“Tell me Archie, what will you do when this is all over?”
“Back to the country to raise turnips with my sweetheart Kate. Here, would you like to see a photo?”
“Of the turnips, or Kate?”

They were scared, confused, sometimes brave and often cowardly (not that I would know, my only experience of war was from what my father told me, and he spent the second world war in a tent in Italy with a Spanish hooker and a horse; at least according to my mother).
So Nolan’s script is sparse and limited to short speeches that serve explain the situation, or panic talk.

What Warner’s did get was 107 minutes of intense action intended to give the experience of what it was like to be stranded on a beach so close to home but likely never to see it again, to dogfight in a Spitfire, or pilot a small boat as part of the rescue fleet.

Where possible, Nolan eschews special effects. So he used real Spitfires, a real destroyer (actually French, but near enough) and many of the original fleet of small boats that were involved in the Dunkirk rescue. Add that to the use of IMAX and you experience something that feels very real. And then augment the visuals with a soundtrack from Hans Zimmer which alone is enough to raise heartbeat and tension; and you have a powerful cinematic experience.

My only issue was Nolan’s favourite trick of playing with time. To tell the story he uses different time periods: a week on the beach, a day on a small boat and an hour in the air. While I can understand the approach, it can get confusing when you meet a character on a boat who then turns up later in a “beach” scene that happened previously, and plane’s fly over something that happened twenty minutes ago on a boat. But Nolan expects his audience to think, so fair enough, but more jarring is being pulled away from a frantic scene in a sinking ship at night to return to a dogfight in the air taking place during daytime. Sometimes a bit too clever.

I also had a problem with the Krungsi IMAX system which projected a rather jittery image early in the film; either a damaged copy or a faulty equipment, or both; but unacceptable for an IMAX presentation.

Never mind, this gives me a reason to go back to Bangkok to watch it again next week. Nolan’s craft always benefits from a second viewing.

Go see it, if not on IMAX, on the biggest screen you can find.

July 21st, 2017|2 Comments

Up in the air

Have not windsurfed much the past couple of months, because:

1. I have been playing The Witcher 3.
2. There has not been enough wind.
3. There has been too much wind.
4. I have been playing The Witcher 3.
5. The wind has been just right but the tide has been low and I am not carrying all my gear that far.
6. It has been raining and so, reluctantly, I have stayed at home and played The Witcher 3.

The fact is that, as I age, the range of wind in which I am prepared to put my ancient carcass on a windsurfing board becomes increasingly narrow. As they say in Bulgaria, tough shit.

This week saw one of the high wind days, more than twenty five of the thing they call knots, so I took my camera rather than my sailing gear down to the beach to capture someone much younger, fitter and more skilled than I (Craig) doing the jumping up in the air thing.

The problem with catching a jumping board is that you never know exactly when the jump will take place, and once it has started and you press the shutter, you may well miss it. Well, not with Olympus “Pro Capture” you don’t. Half press the shutter and the camera starts buffering images at eighteen frames a second. See the jump, press the shutter, and the camera keeps the fourteen shots prior to the shutter being depressed, plus as many as you want as long as you keep the shutter depressed, again at eighteen shots a second.

Not surprisingly, this results in a shitload of shots, and I came home with 753 images, eight of which I kept. Here are three of them:

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Not the clearest shots, but they were taken at a 420mm effective focal length, in the rain and through a lot of sea spray; so well done E-M1.

July 19th, 2017|0 Comments

Delayed Cosplay

It’s almost three months since I went to Bangkok with Rick@Knees to shoot a Cosplay show. Bored you with some of the shots when we returned; but did not process them all. With The Witcher mainly out of the way, I have finally got round to processing some more.

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Still some left. Later.

July 17th, 2017|1 Comment

The usual Sony shitfest

She who must be obeyed has embarked on yet another quest for fitness. Every day she heads for a gym where she lifts weights, does yoga, spars in the boxing ring, and undertakes other exhausting routines that are way beyond my ability or interest. However, in a show of support, and in recognition of the fact that I need to stay reasonably fit in my declining years, I have a daily dip in the swimming pool where I do 100 laps.

Impressive, eh? Well, not really, the pool is only the tiny one in our garden. But it takes me around 35 minutes and I am buggered at the end of it, so I count it as exercise.

The problem with swimming continuously for 35 minutes, apart from feeling knackered, is keeping the mind from dwelling on the laps completed so far. My watch keeps track of my progress, but every time I glance at it I am disappointed at how little progress I have made and how little time has passed since I last looked at it. I tried sticking my phone next to the pool to play music; but even at full volume I could barely hear it, and there was always the risk that a splash fallout from my less than perfect breast stroke could drown it.

Onto Lazada in search of waterproof earphones and there was a large selection, most of which obviously had a less than robust interpretation of what constitutes “waterproof”. Finally, and in spite of some awful experiences with their products in the past, I chose a Sony offering. It arrived yesterday.

As expected, the packaging was an impenetrable jumble of cardboard and plastic which required scissors and much swearing to breach. Once opened, a flurry of documentation spilled onto the floor. Not content with a single user manual, Sony had gone the multiple leaflet approach, each of which partially described, in few words and many diagrams, how to carry out certain tasks; and together comprehensively failed how to fully operate the little device.

A visit to the wide wide world of web uncovered some very clear instructions on Sony’s own site which described how to use each of the six buttons that festoon the thing, each of which can be pressed quickly or held down for a number of seconds. If only these instructions had been included with the small tree’s worth of paper in the package….

Having worked out how to use it, I had to load my music into the 4gb of onboard memory. Regretfully this required me to download and install some Sony software, never a good idea. It included all manner of obscure Windows software as it installed (C++ for Win95) and then decided to search my computer for every piece of media it could find before smugly telling me that 40+ gigabytes of music and movies it had discovered would not fit on my device. Ignoring its surreal assumption that I might want to watch movies on my headphones, I spent several cursing minutes deselecting everything apart from the one playlist I actually wanted to listen to.

Finally, it was time for my swim, and all the previous problems were forgotten; the sound was much better than expected and the 35 minutes passed in the company of some great tracks, with more than seven hours of other music awaiting my splashing pleasure.

Nice product, shame about almost everything about it apart from the end experience.

July 16th, 2017|4 Comments

Two out of three ain’t bad

But one out of four is pretty crap.

Friday mourning and I was all revved up with no place to go, so, like a bat out of hell (Editor: that’s more than enough Meatloaf, thank you) I went to take some photos.

My plan was to photograph four locations. Some broken down boats by the side of the road, a derelict building, an amazing looking dead tree, and some infra red shots of the oft-visited jetty.

The broken down boats had been removed, I forgot where I had seen the building and the tree; so I just went to the jetty.

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Took the shots then hit the highway like a battering ram (Editor: for fuck’s sake…..).

July 15th, 2017|2 Comments

Shapes from Bangkok

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July 14th, 2017|2 Comments

Excessive fllitting

Butterflies, don’t you just hate them? Come around here, stealing nectar and pollinating where they shouldn’t. Worst of all is the constant flitting, why can’t they stay still for a while?

Our garden is full of the damn things at the moment and I decided to try and catch them mid-flit. With the 40-150mm on the camera, I used Pro Capture to shoot bursts as the beasties took off. Got a load of shots (more than 900 in just a few minutes), but none were sharp. Even at F2.8, the resulting shutter speed was not fast enough to capture their crazy take-off speeds, plus of course the depth of field was tiny.

This morning I stuck on the Nocticron and set it a F1.2, giving a much faster shutter speed but a depth of field of around a millimetre. Little chance of success, but out of 100+ shots, I got one.

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Fat chance I will get so lucky again, so that’s my butterfly season photography over for another year.

July 13th, 2017|4 Comments

At the appointed time

We have been in our house for nearly three years, and some of the external paintwork (which has been there longer than we have) has started to drop off. Time for some refurbishment. At least this is what I told she who must be obeyed about a month ago.

“Wait!”, she firmly instructed (she firmly instructs a lot) and scurried off to consult her various oracles of magic. Some time later she returned and stuck a Post-It note on my computer: “Fixing and new painting. Wednesday 12th July 2017, start between 0740-1040.”

What to do? Ignore her little poster and get on with it, or play The Witcher 3 for a month and take my chances in the rainy season. Naturally I complied with instructions.

As fortune would have it, I finished The Witcher 3 main game yesterday. 144 hours of entertainment, epic ending, just play the bloody thing, OK? So I headed off to Thai Watsadu for a fresh supply of brushes and masking tape. The paint section was not surprisingly awash with paint. And thinner, and other fluids, and a shitload of brushes. But no sign of the masking tape; which is not surprising because painters here seem to take a “slap paint everywhere and hope the target area gets most of it” approach to the fine art of decoration. Masking off the area to be painted so that the floor, ceiling and a passing cat doesn’t also get coated doesn’t seem a popular option; so I made a trek to another area of the store, probably called “stuff farangs buy but we don’t know why”, to find some tape.

I bought a stack of brushes because they are dirt cheap and although I rather enjoy painting, I hate brush cleaning. After painting, I stick the brush in a sealed plastic bag where it remains sufficiently supple such that I can use it the next day. Once the project is complete, or the brush becomes too manky, I chuck it out and get a fresh one. This is the plus side of the cheap brushes sold here. The minus side is the 25% of your painting time that you spend extracting brush bristles from your finely painted surface.

So, shortly before 1040 this morning (I rather lingered over coffee) I was out masking, laying down plastic sheet and sanding surfaces; all the apparently unnecessary preludes to painting in the Thai Craftsmen’s Guild Big Book of Painting. Then I slapped on some paint, mostly where it was intended and some over me as is standard practice.

At the end of the day I stored my moulting brush in a plastic bag and did that thing with the paint can where you hammer round the lid and then invert the can to create a paint seal inside. Except I didn’t do the hammering bit first. Luckily the paint deluge occurred on the tiled floor of the store room; but it was still a sticky half hour to clear it up. Unlucky; I am going to get my wife to check her calculations.

July 12th, 2017|0 Comments

I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band

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July 10th, 2017|1 Comment