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December 2014

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Image from OpenClipArtFirst things first…

My humble apologies to the reader who is possessed of – and insists upon using – an iImplement of any hue. Any such who endeavoured to look upon the images recently uploaded to this unassuming journal will doubtless have noticed that they have – in terms of orientation and scaling – appeared somewhat out of kilter.

That I had not myself noticed this issue before now is entirely due to the fact that when viewed through a Windows based browser all appears as it should. In any case, the site has now been fixed and should render properly on all platforms.

The problem arose – as is all too often the case these days – because the technologies involved are trying just that little bit too hard to be clever.

I fear that I am not a fan of software that tries to second-guess what I am aiming to accomplish, and even less if it thinks that it can help me to achieve same. It is extremely rare in such circumstances that I end up with that which I actually want – rather than with something that a faceless corporation thinks I should want. As a result, whenever I install a new app or item of software which is endowed with any such smart-arse automation features my first reaction is to seek out the settings menu and to disable the lot of them. Should this not be possible then it is extremely unlikely that the wretched thing will remain long in my possession.

ErrorMsg08I am reminded here of the erstwhile Microsoft Office Assistant – that built-in help system to the Office ‘Desktop Productivity Suite’ (yeuch!) that at one point took the form of an animated cartoon paper-clip (humorously named ‘Clippy’) that would pop up at inopportune moments with ‘helpful’ advice.

This anthropomorphic little gimmick annoyed people to such an extent that it was eventually and unceremoniously killed off, to the cheers of all concerned.

Clippy was also – and not surprisingly – extensively parodied… one of my particular favourite examples being that appended here.

“What the blazes” – I hear you cry – “does this have to do with the photos on your blog?”

Bear with me and I will explain…

Modern digital cameras record – alongside the images themselves – a considerable amount of information pertaining thereto. This information – known as metadata – includes such items as the camera settings, the date and time that the pictures were taken and even, on some cameras, the associated GPS co-ordinates. Much of this data is stored alongside the images themselves in a format called the EXtended Image Format – or EXIF.

One item thus recorded is the orientation of each photograph. The camera has a sensor that tells it which way up it is, and when one rotates it through 90 degrees to get a ‘portrait’ shot rather than the standard ‘landscape’ variant the camera records this.

All well and good thus far. The problems start when the image is transferred to a computer for processing. I always check images on my PC before uploading them to this blog, so that I can adjust light and colour values and do any cropping necessary. Now – much Windows based image handling software completely ignores the EXIF data and, as a result, portrait oriented images are displayed sideways. I can rotate these images manually to get them the right way up, but the fact that I have done so is not recorded by any modification of the orientation data that accompanies the image.

What happens next depends once again on the software concerned. When I upload an image to a WordPress site – such as this blog – the EXIF data goes along with it and is stored – in some form – in the WordPress database. When a picture on the blog is viewed through a browser both the image and the metadata are passed to the viewer.

Windows browsers ignore the EXIF data and render the picture as I wish it to be seen – rotated manually to the correct orientation. IOS on the other hand – on all those iThings – determines from the EXIF orientation data that the picture was originally taken at a 90 degree angle and rotates it once more, making it once again come out sideways.

There appears to be no way of instructing any of the software concerned to modify this behaviour. What makes matters worse is that things are not consistent. As software versions change so also does the the default image handling behaviour. This latest problem appears to have arisen a couple of months ago from a change in the way that WordPress handles image uploads. I can tell this because images uploaded prior to this point still render as expected, but those taken subsequently do not.

The answer that I have adopted – you will not be surprised to hear – is to do the job myself. I use a basic image editor to orient the photo the way that I want it and I now use an EXIF editor to remove the orientation field completely to prevent further manipulation. This is – frankly –  all a total pain and should not be necessary.

As ever the problem really arises because users want one thing and the software and hardware vendors want another. Both are keen on clever gadgets that make life easier, but users would like these to adhere to standards so that everything plays nicely together, whereas the hardware and software manufacturers design their fancy must-have toys so that they are sufficiently different to those from other vendors that – once suckered in – the poor shopper has no choice but to go on spending his or her hard-earned cash on their goodies alone.

We are – it would seem – very well endowed with clever developers and designers who are capable of inventing quite unbelievably smart gizmos. Sadly we are also encumbered by lousy marketing and sales functionaries who can only figure out how to generate a revenue stream therefrom by being a total pain in the arse.

Sadly it was ever thus!


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…a merry little Christmas!

To friends, acquaintances and gentle readers

  the Kickass Canada Girl and the Imperceptible Immigrant

wish – a wonderful holiday!

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Image from PixabayThis will – I promise – be the last of this brief series of posts bemoaning the fact that the year appears to be winding down in an effluvium of enervation.

I am well aware that there are plenty who are far worse off than I, and that there are many – including some of those whom I love dearly – that have endured considerably more difficult and challenging years than have I. It would be entirely inappropriate under such circumstances for me to continue to wallow in self-pity, and absolutely essential therefore that I rather just get over myself!

Before so doing, however, I do just want to examine one final fatigue related phenomenon – that of cause-less weeping… by which, of course, I mean crying without there being any specific or genuine stimulus. Though such symptoms can result from a number of quite complex causes it is well known that they can also be a side effect of a simple lack of sleep.

I was fortunate as a child not to have been indoctrinated into the then all too common belief that men should not cry – although I am not now entirely clear how this came about. My father was certainly not given to displays of maudlin emotion but – as far as I know – that was because he never experienced any such, rather than that he didn’t believe in letting it show. I am sure that my mother did cry, but it was not her way to let others in on her feelings no matter what they might have been.

Either way – neither of them frowned upon nor admonished me for letting my emotions show. As a result it has always felt quite natural for me to let the tears flow not only at the emotionally charged moments in my life, but also at representations of like events – be they fictional or documentative. Yes – I blub like a baby at films, plays, novels, poetry, TV dramas, music, paintings, documentaries, news items, etc, etc… and sometimes – it would seem – at nothing at all! I am clearly possessed of what the ladies might (hopefully) see as a ‘strong feminine side’ – although it may well also be that I am in truth what ‘real’ men might consider a wuss! Well – you pays yer money…

I am – perhaps inevitably – greatly interested the whole subject – along with the sentimentality with which such lachrymosity oft-times goes hand in hand – to the extent that I am in the process of writing an as yet unfinished play for which this comprises a major theme. Completion thereof may now have to wait until retirement, for there is clearly yet research to be done.

I feel certain that I am not alone in being familiar with that un-anticipated welling up of emotion at an unexpected moment – at the sudden sharp prick of the tears – of the catch in the throat – the shortening of the breath – the wave-break of concern for something apparently trivial…

But consider this… Perhaps it is not so much that sleep deprivation leads us to otherwise gratuitous sensations of emotion. Perhaps it is more that – at such times – our sensitivities are simply ‘turned up to 10’ (if you know what I mean)! Maybe that we respond to things that would normally slip by beneath the radar is actually appropriate – even if the reactions themselves are somewhat exaggerated. Mayhap we should look a little more closely than we are accustomed to do at the things that – at such times – cause our tears to be unleashed.

I am with the romantics. In the world of the senses we would be well advised to pay heed to each such manifestation.

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Image from Wikipedia.orgI came across the D. H. Lawrence poem that I posted the other day when searching the InterWebNet in a desultory fashion for something with which to sum up the mood of these last desperately tired days of the term that has just ended. I think that that pretty much nailed it!

The autumn term at schools such as these is the longest – the hardest – the most intense period of the school year. The aim is to attempt to cover in excess of half of the entire year’s curriculum in thirteen or fourteen intensive weeks. This theoretically leaves the decks clear next term to wrap things up, before then going beyond what is strictly called for with the aim of providing an education to the bright young men whom we serve that they could not get elsewhere. After that all is merely revision and examination.

The effect of this frantic spell on the Common Room is – of course – to leave the members hovering precariously on the brink of exhaustion. As one young pup remarked to me the other day – “We are all running on vapour”! This sensation – of a desperate coughing and hunting for fuel interspersed with random bursts of energy when some residual gas is sucked briefly into the parched carburator – is all too familiar.

I have been quite worried this week. It is bad enough feeling that things are getting away from one at work – that important details are being missed or rapidly forgotten – but it is even worse that the day culminates in my epic drive home in the dark. This has been rendered even more arduous of late by the inevitable decision to commence major roadworks at what seems like the worst possible time of the year.

There were several days at the start of the week when I became aware that I was having to apply massive amounts of concentration so as not to fall asleep at the wheel. My reactions were clearly slowing to the point at which it was almost certainly not safe for me to be in charge of a vehicle.

Fortunately the School is closed for Christmas as of today – and I can concentrate a fair chunk of the days ahead on getting some extended sleep.

There is – of course – one other major consideration. This is the last time that I will have to endure this particular trial. This time next year we will be retired – we will be living in Canada – and we will be preparing for our first truly native Christmas with family and friends there.

It may not feel like it right now – but we are incredibly lucky!

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Afternoon in School – The Last Lesson

When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart
My pack of unruly hounds: I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.
No more can I endure to bear the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks: a full three score
Of several insults of blotted pages and scrawl
Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
I am sick, and tired more than any thrall
Upon the woodstacks working weariedly.

And shall I take
The last dear fuel and heap it on my soul
Till I rouse my will like a fire to consume
Their dross of indifference, and burn the scroll
Of their insults in punishment? – I will not!
I will not waste myself to embers for them,
Not all for them shall the fires of my life be hot,
For myself a heap of ashes of weariness, till sleep
Shall have raked the embers clear: I will keep
Some of my strength for myself, for if I should sell
It all for them, I should hate them –
– I will sit and wait for the bell.


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Image from Wikimedia CommonsThe hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.

Fred Astaire

WARNING! – Grumpy old git whinge alert…

I am – of course – by no means the first upper-middle aged cosmopolite to cavil at the seemingly neoteric indifference to the desirability – nay, necessity – of good manners… and I am pretty dashed certain that I won’t be the last!

As the strapline above attests – however – I am not one of those who complains of a lack of politeness solely in the younger generation. Indeed I am in accord with the twinkle-toed hoofer in believing that if we want our progeny to behave appropriately we had jolly well better set them a decent example…

…which does seem to be beyond some of our number!

OK – I promise this brief post will not simply comprise an irritable catalog of perceived slights and causeless contumely. That really would take me into Mr Grumpy Pants territory (again)…

Instead, a slightly disconsolate appeal – made more in sadness than in anger – for at least some form of acknowledgement when I – or indeed anyone else – perform some little act of courtesy or politeness. How many times do we step aside for someone – hold a door ajar for someone – let someone out into traffic – smile a greeting at someone… only to be completely blanked in return! It is almost as though the person for whom this tiny act of kindness has been committed so resents the fact that it has been done that they can’t bring themselves even to look us in the face. Perhaps the subtext is that the man (or woman) who does something – anything – for his fellow is in some way demonstrated thereby to be weak… to be a ‘loser’!


I have a distant memory of reading somewhere – many years ago – an article or book concerning the importance of human contact. Sadly I can no longer remember the title or provenance of this goodly tome, but the central tenet was – as I recall – that acknowledging others when we come into contact with them is the equivalent of giving – and getting – ‘strokes’, and that we need this affirmation – this contact – to build our self-esteem and to make us feel good about ourselves. If we acknowledge someone as we pass – even if only by a nod of the head – we give their ego a ‘stroke’… we effectively say “you are important enough in my world that I recognise your presence”.

Of course – if we do this and are blanked in return the opposite message is also heavily reinforced.

Now – it is one thing for our mere presence to go unacknowledged – quite another for any act of generosity – however minor – to be effectively thrown back in our faces.

Extremely unlikely as it may be, should you – dear reader – recognise in yourself even the possibility of being guilty of such behaviour – all I can say is – “get a grip!”.

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At the School the Parents Group have decided that our normal low-key run-up to the end of the autumn term is all a bit too dreary for words, and have thus arranged to provide us with real Christmas trees (to complement our normal lone artifical affair) complete with fairy lights and baubles.

All together now…  Aaaaaahh!!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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SoNot for the first time in my life, yesterday found me (re-)creating my very own ‘déjà vu’ experience.

There – that’s a suitably enigmatic opening!

This is – of course – just another way of reporting that the Kickass Canada Girl and I once again spent a splendid evening in the presence of Mr Peter Gabriel at the Wembley Arena. The ‘remembered event’ sensation comes about because – as I have myself been able to do once before – we saw again essentially the same show as we experienced just over a year ago.

Mr Gabriel – mayhap in the autumn of his career as a performer – prefers his tours to be spread out over a suitably relaxed time period, presumably to ensure that he – along with his increasingly – er – mature ensemble – make it through the rigours thereof intact. He has thus gotten into the habit of starting a tour around these parts – venturing forth into the world (in this case for a little over a year) – before returning to a hero’s welcome to play a few final shows back where the tour started.

Thus is was that for the second time I was able to catch the same show twice – after a gap in each case of about a year…

…and bloomin’ good he was too!

Still – rather than repeat myself (again! – (see what I did there?)) – why not re-read the equivalent post from last year…

You might just experience a similar sensation!


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Retuning home subsequent to my visit to the dentist a short while back I found myself having to dodge an unpleasant accumulation of traffic on the motorway (freeway), which I did by the simple expedient of taking a detour ‘cross country’. Before the Canadians amongst you get too excited about this I am referring here to making my way through the rural lanes and byways, rather than leaving the metal entirely and striking out into the sort of territory reserved for 4WD pickups!

Whilst on this pleasant ramble through rural Berkshire I happened upon a spot that I had not previous discovered – the Aldermaston Wharf on the Kennet and Avon canal. Naturally I had the Fuji x10 with me. Naturally I took a few snaps…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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