Posted in Blogging, Rants

That Was Unnerving

Should have realized it was just a stupid bot…. panic over!

(After that cryptic remark, Delilah potters off and lies down in a dark room).

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software

Instagram: Tiger by the Tail?

A few days ago I set up an Instagram account for the first time ever. Everybody else seemed to be using it, I thought, so why not me?

I haven’t been happy so far. I’m so focused on settings and problems that I haven’t looked around much to see what other people are posting.

1. There’s no official Instagram app in the iPad App Store. Eventually I discovered they didn’t make one! We can only use the iPhone app with no way of forcing it to work in landscape view. Viewing it in portrait mode is unnatural and uncomfortable, so I don’t spend long doing that.

2. I can use Instagram from the mobile browser, but it’s spartan. There are things I can’t do unless I switch to the uncomfortable sideways app.

3. Nobody seems to like the way the feed works any more. People complain that the same posts they’ve already seen and commented on hang around for days on end. There’s no logic to it and you can’t target your viewing unless you visit each Instagram friend individually.

4. You can’t hide your follower lists from anyone following you.

The real kicker, though — the most mind-bendingly crass thing — is the way it notifies people you know (mainly Facebook friends) that you have just opened an Instagram account. This happens to some degree even if you didn’t use your Facebook sign-in. As soon as I created mine, it suggested I follow various Facebook friends. I’m quite sure they could see me too, even if they happened not to receive a direct notification.

This isn’t what I want. Even if I jump through hoops trying to keep my Instagram account anonymous, I wouldn’t be able to fully trust it, because who really knows how these social media sites work? Are you sure you understand all the ins and outs, who-can-sees, and who-can’ts?

I feel like a fly floating on the surface of a big pond with very little understanding of how things work and almost no say over my visibility. I’m simply not a fan of this idea!

It’s not that I really care if family and acquaintances can see the uninspiring photos and pictures I come up with, but I feel held back. If I was in a mood and ‘liked’ a grumpy quotation, those who have closer ties to me would wonder if I was grumping at them and what the issue was!

Socializing would be a lot less fun if you had to worry all the time about who was privy to what. Your rabid SNP cousin might blow his top if he knew your political views, which is exactly why you don’t talk politics to him but might to someone else.

Or perhaps this is the idea… we all have to have very bland, politically-correct conversations that don’t move too far from the weather?

I made my Instagram account private but am considering closing it altogether because I can’t see myself using it. I felt confused from the start… “what do I post here? Family stuff or arty, self-expressive stuff?” I considered setting up a second, more private account, then realized anonymity isn’t guaranteed anyway.

These big companies may say, even believe, that they have opened up the internet, simplified it, made it easier, automated everything and connected everybody, but in fact they are closing down the ways you can productively, safely, freely and confidently use it. Everything’s so automated and ‘smart’ and omniscent that it’s out of each user’s control exactly who can see what you’ve posted and where, and I’m sure this has already led to problems for many people.

You wonder what’s the point of having these different forums anyway, if they’re all interlinked to the degree that you can follow one person from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest to…? It seems like too much bother; just amalgamate the lot into one single interface! One App to Rule Them All.

Instagram might have been fun on its own. I could have got used to the square format and would enjoy creating the right kind of images. Unfortunately social media communicates *too* much on our behalf, and we no longer know what we’re doing. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Rants

Throwing a Therapy Wobbly

I’m fizzing.

It’s not anger, exactly, and I’m not annoyed with anyone in particular, but I feel as though my fur has been stroked backward.

I completed Session One of the online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course.

Initial obstacles

First I had to sort out incompatibilities.

(1) Adobe Flash Player — had to use Adobe’s uninstaller before I could install the most recent version of Flash Player, which turned out to have been put in by old software. I hesitated because I couldn’t see why it was necessary, and was suspicious.

(2) Safari (probably because of Flash). Needed a different browser.

I tried to install Chrome, but it kept saying ‘thanks for downloading’ though nothing was happening. So I got Firefox, and found myself registering for an account so I could synchronize bookmarks (why?), then downloading Firefox to the iPad so the process could be completed.

I suspect it wasn’t mandatory to have a Firefox account, but by that time I was past trying to figure these things out — I just wanted to do what I was told so I could get on with life. I even made Firefox my default browser (I was that far gone!) but reverted to Safari a few days later.

The two browsers were playing tug of war. Safari used to be a happy ‘only browser’ on my Mac, but now there was another in the roost.

“Do you want to make me your default browser?”


You fire up the first one out of habit, as it was your default browser till very recently.

“Do you want to make me your default browser?”

“Er…. oh, go on then!”

You switch back to the other one, as that’s where the online CBT account is lurking.

“Do you want to…?”


By the time all issues were fixed, it was almost bedtime, so I left ‘Session One’ for another day.

‘Another day’ arrived…

I could think of fun things I would rather be doing this sunny afternoon, such as uploading photographs from my camera and looking to see if they were any good, but I might as well get this CBT thing over with.

Some time ago I put cheap paper in the printer especially for the CBT course, but Mum used it all on a manual for our new dishwasher, so I put in more… and now we were ready to rumble!


Subtitles were turned on so I didn’t need to listen to the course, and automatically put on some soothing music. The subtitles said something about music playing at the start, and I thought to myself, “Well, thanks, but I’ve got my own.”

I don’t know what they were playing, but mine happened to be Just the Way You Are by the Piano Guys.

Session One

Right now, I lack words to describe what I thought about Session One.

I mentioned in my last post (Shrouded in Scottish Gloom) that I’ve done CBT before and didn’t take to it. On the other hand, I thought once I got into this online course, I might enjoy it. I have a tidy mind… I like creating databases, organizing files and photos, and answering questionnaires and quizzes. Why wouldn’t I enjoy this too?

Nevertheless, I began the session feeling irritated, and it only got worse. I didn’t want to answer the questions.

“Did anything happen during the past week to upset or disturb you?”


“Oh dear. What was it?”

I couldn’t believe I had to answer this.

“Well, we had to vote in a general election and then there was all the political fallout with everybody blaming everybody else…”

OK, I didn’t type that, but, honestly! I ended up backtracking and saying, “No. Nothing happened.” and the squiggly figure gave me a squinty-eyed look and said, “Hmmmmm…”

I don’t think it believed me.

It shocked and surprised me how reluctant I was to give any information at all. I just wanted to see what it had to say and have done, but if I had to interact to this degree, I had no wish to complete the course.

I realize this isn’t the point… it’s supposed to be a tool that I use to tighten up screws in my head that might happen to be a bit loose, so if it doesn’t know what screws those are, there isn’t a lot it can do. This reflection didn’t comfort me, and my irritation grew so bad I kept stopping and staring unblinkingly at the screen for long moments.

How many times a week do I get anxious? Once a week? Five times a week?

No, it doesn’t work like that!

Hissy fit

I quit the session altogether, absolutely smouldering, then gave myself a good talking-to. I didn’t want to have to explain to people why I didn’t want to do it… it seemed easier to shut my eyes and get it over with. That way you make fewer waves and it defuses the situation. After all, it’s not a big deal… it’s just an amped-up questionnaire.

I went back in and found I had to sit through the entire thing again, homilies and all, answering questions I’d already answered… but changed a few of my responses this time, taking a more measured attitude to it, so it was all to the good.

At the end, I was asked if any of it helped, and I answered honestly… no it didn’t. If I could have given it a minus score, I would have.

The forum did, though! There were people on it who had almost identical thoughts and emotions about the first session, including “I reallyreallyreally don’t want to do this!!” but in the end rationalizing that it’s not a big deal and just to get on with it.

What gets me is that it’s been a few hours now since I did the session, and I still feel like an electrocuted jellyfish.

One thing worth noting… people on the forum said the first session is notoriously awful, but it gets better, and I might gain some benefit in later sessions. So just hang in there…

…just stay clear of my stingers for a while. 😛

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software


I recently listed a few pestilences of modern life in my diary.

(1) Corporate arrogance and technology in general… lack of customizability and options; the forced pace of progression (whether real or artificial). Products becoming obsolete long before they’ve actually broken down or outlived their usefulness. I can’t afford to keep updating or subscribing to everything. Things aren’t always matching up so that everything works together at the same time… like camera, different kinds of software, the hardware, scanner, printer… there’s always something that’s not able to use something else because it’s too old. Everything and everybody is supposed to be seamlessly connected, but it’s not working out that way. I’m starting to ask myself why I bother — I’d like to dump all of this stuff and just knit, tend my plants, watch a few DVDs and read paperbacks!

(2) Apps (and subscription software). Sometimes a project is interrupted (temporarily or permanently) because the way the app works changed in an update. It’s not progress to have goal posts constantly moved or options taken away.

(3) Keeping everything in the cloud. Huge security risk. And what happens when we lose connection?

(4) An increasing number of ads. It’s reached an impossible level. It doesn’t help when a website doesn’t let you zoom in on the text… their print is too small and my eyesight is not what it was.

(5) Increasing number of photos, podcasts and embedded videos. When an online news article is packed with them, you have to scroll cautiously to get past these obstacles to the next little dollop of text without losing your place… sometimes needing to scroll slightly back because something on the page changed and pushed all the text away. Some videos I’m able to watch, but a few aren’t captioned, or are captioned poorly. It’s frustrating when everyone’s saying how great a video is, but you don’t know what it’s about.

For poorly captioned videos, I’m thinking mostly of YouTube type captions — automatic? I’d rather have them than nothing, but they are hard to follow because, for instance, ‘Brexit’ becomes ‘breaks it’ or ‘breakfast’, and UKIP becomes ‘you kept’. I can barely remember what was said by the end, whereas I have a clearer grasp of content if I read an article or transcript. I don’t know if others find the same? Possibly too much of my concentration is taken up with decoding the captions — it’s as though there’s a filter between me and the information.

Earlier tonight I found the following two articles, both of which are food for thought. They reminded me of the grumbles listed above. Life doesn’t seem richer or smoother — instead it’s becoming more frustrating and not a little frightening.

The Perils of Globalization: An Interview with Gerry Mander

The New Luddites: Why Former Digital Prophets Are Turning Against Tech

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software

Google Troll

I’ve been not too happy with Google search recently… on fast computers with fast broadband it’s probably pleasant enough to use, but if you have anything less than that, (like I appear to have) it’s annoying wrestling with the ‘instant on’ search. It’s slow and jumpy… and if you switch between on and off, you instantly lose whatever you’ve typed in the search field, and have to type it out again.

I also seem to have more issues than previously with Google assuming I’m looking for X instead of Y, even when it has plenty of sensible results for Y. For instance, I’ve been trying to replace my old ‘cool-bag’ trolley with something sturdy that has good strong wheels (it’s strangely hard to find quality these days). So I called up Google search and typed in ‘picnic trolley’. See picture for the result…

Click image to view more clearly.

(It gave me results for picnic troll, and said I could have results for picnic trolley if I really wanted them, but why would I want those??)

PS Had a horrid migraine today — suspect related to too many peanuts yesterday. I feel it with its teeth in my neck like a vampire, threatening to return, so I wouldn’t be up here at all (would be downstairs half-dozing in front of the TV) if Mum’s cat Meg hadn’t bounced me out of my chair. We nicknamed her the Godfather… you can try to make her leave, but you won’t succeed. She’s too big, old, and determined.

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Rants

Cold and Tired in Scotland

I think it’s going to be a more relaxed Christmas than usual for us, because of the bad weather. I just think “hey ho, if I don’t have all the gifts, they’ll arrive later.” We all have our excuses ready; we keep being told by various sites and couriers that we might not get our presents in Scotland before Christmas Day, but I’m inclined to think a lot of it is bluster…. just like us when on Christmas Day we are telling our loved ones “sorry, you would have had three extra parcels but they’re still stuck on the motorway. Snow and ice, you know. Not my fault.”

But it was dreadful today… I mean the weather wasn’t snowy but it’s very cold.The local temperature stands at -4 degrees C, and might drop to -6. I’m so glad we got that heating fixed (it broke down, and we were three freeeeeezing days and nights without it! Though the heat is on again, I can feel the ice still tiptoeing up my spine and trying to give me a sly hug… the opposite of that warm furry Cup-a-Soup hug that would leap on you from nowhere when you had a mug of Cup-a-Soup (according to the commercials)). Anyway, we got the bus out to town in the morning, and met my sister for coffee, then drifted round the shops, and I felt awful. It seemed to me we were just going to the same shops and fingering the same goods we did for the past couple of days, and I was very bored and ‘down’. All I wanted to do was go home again. I was looking forward to going home before we even left!

It wasn’t till we DID get back home that I remembered I got up early this morning, and had already been up about 5 hours before we took the morning bus to town! I’m still very sleepy. But I felt fed up anyway, as we were spending ages in shops I didn’t want to be in (lots of waiting near the door looking at the same nasty cardigans and overpriced Christmas baubles for the umpteenth time, trying not to fall asleep on my feet), and then I was being rushed impatiently round those shops that I DID want to be in… At least I managed to get a couple of things which went off (“bleep bleep bleep”) when we were leaving the shop, and we had to have their alarms deactivated as they hadn’t been removed at the till. I don’t know why that always happens to me at least once every Christmas…

Then we went home and sat watching the same old programs we’ve seen millions of times before (Antique Roadshow, Eggheads, Pointless etc) and it was made worse by the Antique Roadshow doing “the ten best…” (pot boiler). If I had control of that remote control, the TV would either be off or I’d be watching something with more meat in it, like a film or a drama… or a DVD if I was desperate. I was looking at a family in the Antique Roadshow having a doll or a bear or something valued, and I was wondering how they could stand there looking so bright-eyed and interested. Surely the ennui of everyday life had got to them too? If they felt it, they didn’t show it, though the mother looked a little further along that road than the child.

My tiredness has turned to headache… I think that means I should have slept but didn’t really. Was dozing off on the sofa then getting up for coffee.

Sorry, I sound very grumbly! I suppose I should try and finish this Christmassy picture… will be back when I have more energy. (Probably 4 a.m. tomorrow morning…)

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software

Arrogant Computers

What I hate about computers is that they are becoming more and more arrogant. They say things like “access denied” while not fully understanding your identity and aims. They do that, for instance, when you are sensibly deleting unwanted system files you have just reluctantly ‘restored’ from an old backup with limited options! Computers should remain accommodating till they know exactly what they are talking about.

What actually provoked this outburst today was a small thing, but it strikes me that it says a lot about the attitudes of computers (or their developers).

I borrowed an old mini camcorder from my sister and discovered the joys of editing home videos in iMovie. I was going to call one project “Where Are They?” But do you know what iMovie said? “You may not use / . * ? : or the return key in names. Please choose another name.”

I was so ruffled I went and did something else for a while. I’m sure there’s a logical reason why we can’t use these characters, but you’ll note that the operative word is ‘can,’ not ‘may’! I would have been less annoyed if the dialogue box had said “certain characters cannot be used.”

Posted in Life and Family, Rants


Lovely. We were watching Miss Marple and I was nearly down to the bottom of my glass of white wine when I noticed something. “Did you put anything in the wine?” I said.

“What?” Mum said, looking as though she was going to burst out laughing. “No!…?”

“Well,” I said, “this is either broken glass, or it’s crystallized sugar.”

The glass wasn’t chipped. Nor was the bottle. Mum had finished all of her wine, and there was just a drip left in the bottle. She decided the glass had been in the wine all along. Where’s Miss Marple when you need her?

“We can’t do anything about it,” said Mum. “I won the wine in a raffle, so there’s no taking it back to the shop.”

Anyway, we finished watching Miss Marple, then I went upstairs and deleted 500 MB of defunct volcano files from the computers. (The ‘in between’ stages and editions that didn’t work). After that, I started on my blog post about Hammy the Squirrel and SlartibartfastStop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie was on iTunes.

There was a terrible thud. I leapt up from my chair and rushed downstairs, and Mum was sitting in the armchair, pointing at the window. “It’s fireworks,” she said.
“FIREworks?? I HEARD that one! I thought something had come down with a thud.”
“Like what? Like me?”
“I thought maybe the broken glass had got to you!”
Mum laughed and clutched her stomach.

It must have been right over the house.”
“The whole house shook,” said Mum.
I stared at the ceiling, and sighed. “It shouldn’t be allowed,” I said, feeling that it wasn’t a strong enough statement in the circumstances. But who’s around to hear me ranting and raving?

Posted in Computer Graphics, Rants, Technology and Software

Forced Reboot

My iMac desktop computer restarted itself in the early hours of this morning. This is the first time I was aware of Windows restarting without permission — and I was surprised. At first I wondered if there had been a power cut during the night. But I knew there hadn’t been, as my Toshiba laptop was still on and logged in.

I normally save my work and turn everything off at night or when going out, but last night I had a Bryce ‘final render’ taking place (probably 12 hours or more).  It’s recommended (by other CGI users) to leave the computer rendering overnight so that you can work during the day. The thing is, there is no autosave of the render, so you have to save it yourself once it’s done.

I got up this morning expecting to see a nice bright picture and a flag saying “this render took 12 hours, 15 minutes and 1 second!” Instead I found myself looking at a desktop with no application open. Furthermore, I wasn’t in Vista any more, I was in Snow Leopard! (I have Bootcamp, so the machine runs both operating systems. A restart in Vista always takes me back to Snow Leopard, unless I’m holding down the Alt key to give me an option).

Talk about confused.

I went back into Vista, and it told me there were Windows updates installing and I was to wait till it was done. Then it let me in, and I found that I’d lost the fine render of overnight… it had reverted back to the rough draft I’d saved earlier. I was absolutely spitting!! I did not realize it could or would reboot without direct permission from me.

I looked online and in fact it seems to be a well-documented issue! It has happened to very many people, some of them losing hours of work. One unfortunate man had his computer shut down in the middle of an important Powerpoint presentation. He said there was a warning notification, but he didn’t see it because he was facing the audience.

The complaints aren’t recent; they’ve been going on for years.

I checked my settings, and the update options are:

  1. Install updates automatically (recommended)
  2. Download updates but let me choose whether to install them
  3. Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them
  4. Never check for updates (not recommended)

I was surprised (after this morning’s experience) that they recommend that you do this automatically and they don’t warn you about the forced reboots. The first ‘recommended’ option should come with a data loss warning. The nearest I found to that issue in the help files was:

“Troubleshoot problems with installing updates. ‘I keep getting prompted to restart my computer to finish installing updates.’ Some updates apply to files or services that Windows is using. These types of updates can’t be installed while Windows is running so you should save your work, close any open programs, and then restart your computer to finish the update process.”

It still doesn’t mention that if you happen not to be around TO save your work, it goes out the window anyway when it reboots without your input!

I’m not going to mess around disabling auto reboot (as some of the other sufferers suggest)… hopefully the problem will be solved if I switch to ‘let me choose whether to download and install updates’, though my mouse hovered over ‘NEVER check for updates’ — I was very tempted! You don’t want your renders interrupted by any sort of activity, and I might still plump for the final option… I’m good about checking for updates myself in any case. In Vista (and probably XP) they should have warned inexperienced users about the ‘auto reboot’ part of installing updates.

I was saying to Mum just now that automatic updates are one thing, but rebooting without permission is another. Maybe I’m behind the times and Windows 7 has a better solution for this… I don’t know.

I’ve read comments from people who say when they pick the second option (‘download updates but allow me to choose when to install’), they have had reboots forced on them anyway. They end up disabling automatic updates altogether — which I’m sure Microsoft would consider a step backwards. I wonder if the same happens with the third option, as it’s not allowed to download anything at all? Fingers crossed it will be OK.

It struck me that the reason I haven’t had this problem before is that I was rendering on my laptop, which is generally not connected to the internet. It presumably tried to get updates, but couldn’t get online and had to go back to just rendering. That’s why it successfully completed a render last night while the Bootcamp Vista did not!

Posted in Rants

Coffee Shop Mumble

I’m still away on Planet Zog, but I’m sending a quick postcard.

Since the students came back, we’ve been finding it harder to get ourselves a place in a coffee shop. There’s one place in particular we’ve not been in for a while. Mum is still mumbling that she doesn’t know how students can afford it, as none of us older students never used to! Even in the 90s, there was a student I knew who couldn’t afford instant coffee after the price rose. I suppose a good cup of coffee is now seen as a necessity… and laptops and mobile phones may have changed the student culture altogether.

I’m reading the book Starbucked now that Cleopatra has finally died — she was with me so long in the novel Memoirs of Cleopatra that it was like losing a family member! Starbucked is extremely interesting, particularly in its history of coffee and coffee shops, though I still have a rooted dislike for the corporate world….

Anyhoo, we finally found a couple of seats in a local coffee shop today… Mum went to the counter to order, leaving me to hold the seats. There were dirty plates and cups so the seats looked recently vacated. There was also a newspaper on the seat, and two students sitting opposite us.

I used the newspaper to swat a few crumbs off the couch, and sat down with it, then a woman suddenly turned up with a coffee and said something. I didn’t know if she was saying “do you mind if I sit here?” or if she was saying it was her seat in the first place. I said my mother would be sitting in the other seat, but she didn’t say anything… just took the newspaper from me and plonked her mug down anyway. Well, they say actions are louder than words, and that’s when I knew she wasn’t asking to sit there; she had bagsied that spot beforehand with the newspaper!

If Mum had already bought our coffees, we would have been up Shit Creek without a paddle, as there was nowhere else for both of us to sit down, but fortunately she hadn’t reached the head of the queue yet. I rushed up there and stopped her, and we went somewhere else for coffee.

The next place we went to was Costa’s, where we love the coffee anyway, but it was very crowded there too… so stuffy that my specs were steaming up!! Again we left…

Finally we got a little table in a gift shop. It seems incredible now that one of our coffee shops in this town had to close down during the quiet summer months because nobody was visiting it. We missed it before, but we’re missing it even more now.

Over our coffee in the gift shop, I was talking about how the woman in the other place had bagsied the couch with nothing but a newspaper. We both assumed it was left by whoever had just gone away from the used coffee mugs on the table. Mum said, “we don’t do that in this town. I usually leave a coat and a daughter.”

I couldn’t help thinking “yes, but they didn’t work this time, did they!” 🙂