Upgraded

I updated my blog to WordPress version 2.5 last night and, as usual, I managed to make a right dog’s mess of the whole thing. I’m not sure how I do it but these things always seem to go wrong.

Most of my problems, this time, seemed to be down to my choice for FTP client. For some reason Cyberduck kept failing to read files from the remote server and failing the uploads. I would retry and it would work for a while, before failing on a different file before making me try the whole lot again. It proved to be very frustrating, so I tried a different client.

I Googled around for OSX-friendly FTP clients and came up with Fetch. This managed to upload all my files all in one go, without failing at all. My site came back up straight away and I was done. I only have 15 days to trial it before having to buy a license but it seems to work quite well and I may well fork out the £13 or so. There’s no point having free software if it doesn’t work properly.

The thing is, I have no idea why Cyberduck failed as it did. It really shouldn’t have and I’m irritated, slightly, by the problems. I quite like the application so it’s a shame that it hasn’t quite worked out – I like the duck!

Anyway, WordPress is now at the latest version and there have been some changes to the admin presentation that are taking some getting used to. It looks a bit nicer but plenty of options have been moved around and things are never quite where you expect them to be. I’m also currently having problems with the visual editor – the “add link” pop-up window is showing up blank for some reason.

I’m sure that it’ll all work out OK though. The new admin design seems a little cleaner and arranged more logically than before. We shall see.

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Save money on Brita filters

Lifehacker have a really interesting article on how you can save money on “disposable” carbon filters for your Brita water dispensers:

…with a bit of time and the right supplies—a sharp utility knife (and/or drill), a cheap polyethylene plug, and an activated carbon mix from an aquarium store—you can refill an old filter over and over again for far less cost.

Lifehacker actually link to an article on Instructables, so you’d be better off heading in that direction to see how to do this, but I find it’s always worth seeing what Lifehacker dig up on the internet. They often have some good time-saving and cost-saving advice.

*edit*

It seems from the comments on the Instructables site that there are some possible complications when replacing the filter with your own carbon. It seems that there are some other active ingredients in these filters that won’t be reactivated by this method:

Please be warned that Carbon ALONE will grow lots of microbes and can make you very SICK!. Brita filter use silver as an antimicrobial agent. You can also add Activated Silver Impregnated Charcoal. Sometimes called Chlorgon, this adds chloramine exclusion and bacteria killing ability to the basic carbon.

The organic compounds that the carbon filter traps (which are held on the vast surface area of the carbon) can, and DO, rot. If you store your filter in the fridge, you should be Okay for a few weeks… however if you store your filter at room tempature (like you can with a Brita) they will start to rot within the week. The resultant water, would not be better than un-filtered.

A Brita brand filter contains Carbon, Ion Exchange Resin (probably a number of types – each have different attractions) and Silver (both impregnated carbon and metalic compounds (you can see the silver if you look closely)…

Virtually all retail available Carbon filters contain silver to guard against organic growth (rot).

Whilst Carbon only is OK. I would not recommend it unless water is stored in fridge. Your filter will start to have an OFF (mouldy) taste when the organics over-run the carbon. Discard at that point. I am not an infectious disease expert, so I don’t know how sick this would make you… (if at all) but please be careful.

So, as with all things found on the internet these days – take it with a pinch of salt. I have no idea of the voracity of these comments but it does seem that it’s not as easy as it looks.

Free Sci-Fi

Now that I’m getting back into reading again I’ve been pleased to see that so many publishers are releasing free copies of some of their books. I think this is a great way to get people to read authors’ works that they perhaps wouldn’t have done normally.

I’ve managed to find a few books here and there and I’ve just found two more. These are two short stories by Greg Egan and Ken Macleod that have been nominated for this years Hugo awards. You can download both stories as free PDFs.

I’ve heard of both authors but never actually read anything by them, so this is a good time to try them out. If I like them then my Amazon wishlist gets updated a little bit more.

Mucking about with templates (again)

You may have noticed that my site looks a little bit different. I just can’t stop myself fart-arsing about with the templates on this site and this isn’t helped by the plethora of interesting designs available for WordPress. In times past I may have made an attempt at designing my own, but those days are gone. I’ve realised that I wasn’t really any good at it and have plumped for using other people’s offerings.

Luckily for me I read Smashing Magazine. They recently ran an article showing 20 More Free First-Class WordPress Themes and I liked a few of these. They had some links to some previous articles along the same vein and I eventually found this theme that you’re seeing now. It’s called Redoable and I rather like it.

I rather liked my previous design, Anvil, but this one just seems more me. It looks a little easier to customise and I love some of the little touches. It’s a lovely, simple design and I think I’m going to keep it (I know I probably said that last time too).

Also, I’ll hopefully be putting up a post about our visit to Edinburgh soon. I’ve been a little tardy with my posts recently – sorry about that.

White Post Farm

Last weekend Jo and I enjoyed the company of a seven year-old girl – the daughter of a friend of ours. We were looking after her while her parents were busy sanding the wooden floors in their house, and no attempts were made to hide her away in a draw under our bed.

Instead, we decided to take her to the see some lambs and ducks at White Post Farm, a child-friendly farm not too far North of Nottingham. We were expecting to spend an hour or so petting the odd goat (not a euphemism) and feeding some aggressive geese but it turned out to be quite a lengthy visit due to the sheer number of things to do.

We bought some feed on the way in. You can either get the duck feed or opt for food for the larger animals. We spurned the noisy, beaky kind and went to feed some lambs. It turned out that there was quite the selection of goats, sheep and llamas, among numerous other four-legged farm animals. We spent quite a while walking around visiting these lovely beasts.

Feeding the Llamas (by rutty)

Our young visitor was a little scared by the feeding frenzy but Uncle Davey was more than happy to help out with the pellets. This was a lot of fun, especially to a big kid like myself!

White Post Farm isn’t especially huge but it manages to fit in a lot of fun into its grounds. There are a couple of outdoor play areas and a little racetrack with peddle cars. I’d have had a go but my leg was not in any condition to be peddling away.

Little piggy bottoms (by rutty)

In addition to the outdoor animals there are a few indoor areas to explore too. In the main barn there were chipmunks, ferrets, pigs, lambs, rabbits and no end of cute, little chicks. My favourites were the feeding pigs enjoying a fresh batch of sow milk straight from the teat. These little buggers really know how to tuck into a good meal – you could see the scratch marks all over the underside of the poor mother pig.

I couldn’t help admiring their cuteness, along with the dilemma that these little guys are going to be so delicious in-between a couple of slices of bread, with a little mustard and salad. Yum yum.

We also visited the reptile house. The lizards and snakes were far from delicious-looking but had a certain appeal of their own. There were some huge snakes and a few deadly-looking spiders but I enjoyed the lizards most of all, especially after watching the excellent Life in Cold Blood recently. David Attenborough – you are a GOD among men.

Fancy a hug? (by rutty)

Not content with allowing small children to annoy all their animals the White Post Farm staff decided to get their own back on all the parents by putting on a little Pantomime. I’m sure this was great for the kids but these sort of things get old really fast to an old grump like me. Still, I could quite fancy the Easter Bunny (sorry Jo).

Still, it’s a great place to take your kids and I found it a lot of fun too. Everything is very well organised and the staff are very helpful. There’s lots to do outside but plenty to keep you happy inside too, so you don’t even need to be too concerned about the weather.

I’d even go without taking any kids with me!

Why I really shouldn’t do sports

As expected, but later than I thought, I seem to have temporarily stuffed up one of my limbs playing football. Even during my younger years I seemed prone to hurting myself during various team games, especially ones that required me to run about and kick stuff.

I play football on Wednesdays. We’re just a bunch of guys from work and most of them are my age. It’s not like I’m up against 18 year-olds or anything but every week I get various knocks, scrapes and bruises. This last Wednesday, though, I ended up almost crippling myself. I was getting stuck in, as you do, and tussled with a bigger, stronger player. He used his size advantage to give me a little nudge with his thigh thus knocking my right leg into my left. Somehow my left knee twisted badly – I heard a very loud click and fell over like I’d been shot.

I had to get picked up from the pitch by my girlfriend, who’s thankfully a nurse, and we headed home to sort it out. We didn’t think it was broken but two days later it’s swollen up like a balloon and I can hardly walk. I can’t really straighten it out and I can’t bend it too much either.

So much for getting fit. At least I’ve had a couple of days off work which I’ve spent with my leg rested on cushions while I’ve read a few hundred pages of my current book The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson. I’m very excited about re-visiting The Land and learning what has happened since the previous trilogy. The Thomas Covenant stories are my utter favourite of all.

Let’s hope I can get back to work on Monday though. I normally can’t stand being off sick.

The Portable Door by Tom Holt

I seem to have the habit of buying books when they’re cheap and then storing them, unread, on a shelf gathering dust. One of these books is The Portable Door by Tom Holt.

Tom is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try out for years. I love Terry Pratchett‘s stuff and I figured that Tom Holt would have a similar style. I was wrong about the style, although both write humorous fantasy novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed the novel nonetheless.

The Portable Door introduces us to Holt’s inept hero Paul Carpenter.  Paul isn’t really very good at anything, not even nomination whist. He has few friends and no job and applies for a post at JW Wells where he meets a Thin Girl called Sophie, who has plenty of her own problems. Neither of them know very much about the company and both are surprised to be recruited.

Initially they’re set to work sorting out spreadsheets into date order. Oddly enough this is very similar to my very first proper job. I worked for a credit company called Club 24 and my job was to sort out credit applications into numerical order. It was tedious work and this is how Paul and Sophie find their new job.

The thing is, neither of them have the gumption to ask what these sheets are for, or even ask what JW Wells do. In time Paul finds that he has the knack for finding bauxite deposits in the Australian desert and that he’s fallen hopelessly in love with the sullen, skinny girl he works with.

All sorts of bizarre incidents start happening. Why is there a new receptionist every morning and how did this large piece of sword-embedded stone end up in Paul’s bedsit? What are all these strange items in the store-room and why does the stapler keep appearing in all sorts of strange places?

Tom Holt writes with a very dry wit. I found myself chuckling all the way through the book even though I had know idea where the plot was taking me for at least the first 200 pages but there’s plenty of interest injected into Paul and Sophie’s initially mundane existence. It’s not even remotely Pratchett-esq but it is very funny in parts.

We’re gradually introduced to more and more weird goings-on that reveal the nature of JW Wells business. You’re not really given much idea about what the whole point of the book is until near the end but it’s all held together beautifully and the ending is very satisfactory, with more Paul Carpenter-related books to come.

It didn’t really keep me gripped but it was a very entertaining read. Tom Holt has plenty of ideas and most of them work wonderfully well but you do start to think that the book is meandering around a bit too much in the early stages. However, the constant gags and hilarious similes kept my interest going all the way through the 400 or so pages.

Well worth seeking out, even if you’re not a fantasy reader.