Blacknight FTW!

July 9, 2008

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A couple of weeks ago I registered a couple of domains at Blacknight Solutions.  Some of my twitter buddies had talked scathingly about Hosting365 (which was down a lot at the time) and I’d seen various references to Blacknight over the last few weeks so thought I’d give them a go. All I need for now is a personal site, as I already have two business sites — one that’s been up and running for years, and one that’s waiting to be designed.  I should add that I’m a newbie, a total techno-numptie, and my existing site was designed, executed and entirely run by somebody else, so I hadn’t picked up any knowledge from that.

To cut a long story short, with immediate help from the good people at Twitter and Blacknight, I was up and running in no time. I had some initial problems with Blacknight and complained about them on Twitter, but within half an hour the sales manager had called to see how he could help: he had been prodded by a Twitterer who knows someone in Blacknight.  A follow-up phonecall to an indirect, non-phonecall complaint? That IS impressive.

Register365, on the other hand have been slow to resolve issues and some things are still not as I would like. Unfortunately some of my sites haven’t been with them long enough to transfer away, but I will move them when I can. As others have reported, their support system is permanently broken, though they do eventually answer emails.

So then it was time to install WordPress and get it running.  Twitterers were quick to step in with advice. Remember that at this point I’d never even heard of a  root directory so it was uphill all the way, and if there was any eye-rolling on their part they didn’t show it. :)

So thanks to these lovely chap & chapesses at Twitter and Blacknight, the first stages were sorted out very easily. Since Darragh Doyle asked for a low-down on what I did I thought I’d better oblige.

Having used Blacknight’s ‘Installatron’ and had a problem or two (with multiple uninstalls/reinstalls) before discovering that it’s not very popular, I had a go at installing WordPress manually. Since the “famous five minute installation” instructions include things like “create a dabatase” (eh?) there was a LOT of pouring over this:

The Blacknight tutorials were very helpful too, as were the tech gurus, and I figured out the file directory system, MySQL, FTP-ing and so forth. My first ever FTP worked! (FileZilla is great.) Thanks to the gurus I now know what file ownership and file permissions are (and, yes, a databse!). Instead of being exasperated and making me feel stupid, I felt like I’d really achieved something. I still have only a hazy grasp of some of it, but the mist is gradually clearing and I think I’ve moved up a rung on the geek ladder.

Onwards and upwards.

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I called in to la Banca in Lucan, just outside Dublin, this evening for an impromptu meal with a friend. It looked lovely with a great interior that is both chic and inviting.

I order a steak salad and my friend orders pan-fried chicken. Oh, and my friend would like a cappucino before the meal. “Before? That’s coffee you know!”…  well, fancy that!  But they don’t have decaff of any description (I wanted a decaff Americano).

The first thing I try is my chips. Uh oh. They taste like they’re from next door’s takeaway, reheated from yesterday: i.e. soggy with a flavour of stale oil.

Do they *look* like good chips?

Well do they look like good chips?

However, my steak is surprisingly good (well surprising after that first chip), nicely rare as ordered and very succulent, and there’s plenty of it too, but there’s a peculiar drizzle on it. It looks like it ought to be balsamic vinegar, but there’s something distinctly soy-saucish about it. Would you dilute balsamic vineger with soy sauce? Not if it’s a good one, surely, and why bother if it’s a cheap one?  But the rocket is nice, fresh enough, if a bit sparse: it is garnished with a grand total of twelve small rocket leaves. Not much for a salad really, is it?

Steak \

Steak “salad”

I don’t know about you, but when I think of a steak salad I think of something like this:

or this…

My friend’s chicken arrives in a cheese sauce which was not mentioned on the menu. She doesn’t want a cheese sauce, or any kind of sauce for that matter, but she’s hungry so she eats it (like I do with the chips — I did actually eat some most of them). The chicken is gloopy she says. Gloopy? Well soggy then. Hmm. She says ‘and I bet the cheese sauce is made from two Easy Singles’. I bet it isn’t, but if it tastes like it, well…

She orders veg with hers, and these include green beans. Now maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t you meant to string them before cooking?

Stringy bits

Stringy bits

When asked if everything was all right (not, ‘did you enjoy your meal?’) we did, er, give our opinions, or at least the polite versions, but the server could not have been less interested. She was spectacularly uninterested, visibly regretted asking, and offered no comment.  Except to say, when challenged about the cheese sauce, ‘oh well the chef must have just felt like adding it’. Huh? What if you don’t eat dairy? Maybe it had to be used up. Like my chips.

The total bill, for one cappucino and two main courses was €44.  Way too pricey for the quality and I certainly won’t be back there again.

First in an occasional series of random links.

I have to reblog this mashup of the last days of Brian Cowan from Damien’s blog yesterday.  It’s absolutely bloody brilliant.

And would you like to live in Shamrock City? If you sign up to Dublin’s Coastal Development Scheme your dreams might come true. It came in the other day from Pat Phelan, and I only got around to seeing it last night. The scary thing is I wouldn’t put it past them.

LMAO at Sales Guy vs Web Dude, the bones of which are, apparantly mostly true. Apols to those of you who work in IT. Quote of the week has to be “I’m sorry, you can’t arrange them by penis”, and even if you can’t make out what’s being said at the beginning do please persevere.

Getting it Dry is one of my favourite photoblogs. Simple and beautiful.

Just in case you get can’t manage the sport of extreme reading, there’s this spot about chairs that can follow you around the library. It’s so exhausting…

And since the weather is just so astoundingly lovely…

(With psalm chants earworms today) Happy Friday. :)

Dx


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*Due to the plethora of search terms used to get to this blog post, I’m experimenting with changing or taking out certain words.

Well of course I have to write about this morning’s experience of getting na_ked with 2500 odd other people in the Dublin rain for the Spencer Tunick installation.

I signed up for the event a while ago, and didn’t really give it much thought until the previous day or two. Then I read Darragh Doyle’s latest blog this morning, and it got me thinking about my own body image, where I am with it now and where it came from. I could very much empathise with some of his experience: at school I was the music geek, eschewing the sports I was so bad at, and of course was overweight and endured the usual name-calling. While the weight is less of a problem these days, I would say that along with every other woman in the country, I suspect, I am acutely aware of my ‘deficiencies’ as vaguely measured against the ubiquitous skinny ideal that’s so hard to ignore.

Well I suprised myself really, and discovered that I finally am becoming happier in my own skin.Woman bathing I think this has been coming on for a while. A couple of years ago I’m sure I would never have contemplated doing something like this, and have often marvelled at the courage of my two friends who go on naturist holidays (not in Ireland I need hardly add). However a couple of years ago I found myself in a spa in Budapest. People there wouldn’t dream of wearing a costume in a spa: nud_ism (single sex) is the way of spa life. Twice I plucked up the courage to ba_re all, and found it very liberating, and now wonder what all the fuss was about.

Last weekend I spent about fourteen hours dancing at a Five Rhythms dance workshop, and while I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good dancer, I’ve always loved it. I found the workshop a liberating and empowering experience, and came away feeling much freer with myself and more confident about dancing and moving my body.

There’s a bit of a contradiction here though. As one of my favourite feminist cartoons (and I’m sorry I can’t remember who wrote it) reads: ‘now that I’m a feminist I feel guilty about feeling guilty about being fat.’ Well exactly: we can’t win, truly. Even the feminist in me can’t make the inner critical voice keep entirely quiet. So with two contradictory ideals going on here—being happy in one’s own skin regardless of size and shape, versus still wanting to fit in, to look normal, sexy and above all slim—I embarked on today’s mass nud_e event.

I had read a couple of the blogs about the Corkonians experience, and knew that it was unlikely that the nu_dity itself would be a big deal once we were all na_ked.  They appeared to enjoy it to a wo/man, some even likening it to a religious or spiritual experince. Hmmm, I thought, interesting!

Arriving at the site at 3am I was amazed at the number of people who arrived in groups, especially mixed sex groups. I was very glad that I had decided to do this solo (my husband wanted no part of it!) and think I would have been very self-conscious had I been with friends. I had read about all the hanging around so was very glad of my layers of thermals — the best from my recent Pennsylvanian winter!

The atmosphere was one of jollity and speculation as we headed from the car park to the bus and then from the bus to the site of the shoot itself. It seemed, as I twittered, that every damn woman there was young and skinny (feeding into those old fears of course) but as I mingled I realised that it was not so. Phew!

The organisation left a fair bit to be desired. It was good until we got to the pier, but then things became quite chaotic. An information leaflet had been produced but it seemed that only around one in ten of us had been given one. As a result, we didn’t know what our positions (sitting, standing, bent over — yes that was a possibility!) were to be. We all sat down as instructed, and I chatted to a couple of groups near me, and it was all very friendly. There was some real eejitery going on though. Several drunks were thrown out, but there were some gobshites left. They talked and shouted every time instructions were given out, so along with the fact that the megaphone wasn’t very mega, we couldn’t really hear what to do. Eventually we cornered somebody who gave us a bit more of a clue.

The sun started to rise, and it was beautiful. Hey look! we said, it’s going to be gorgeous! Then the time came to get our kit off, and as one we all stripped off. Well, not quite as one actually, the group of women in front of me had more sense. They predicted that we’d be hanging around for a bit longer, and of course they were right. Back on with the fleece. One savvy woman had the sense to tie a red scarf around the railing as a landmark for our bags, and I left my black and white scarf sticking out of the bag to help me find it quickly…

Finally the kit came off, just as the sun disappeared and the wind started up, and we quick-marched for what seemed like miles up to the lighthouse on the Pigeon House and beyond. The granite was cold and rough underfoot, and a bit of careful tiptoeing was called for; this was handy enough as it meant the amount of general looking around was limited, giving us time to get a bit more comfortable with the whole nu_die thing.  Spencer Tunick was up in a cherry picker with a megaphone and, God love him, he tried to get us to do his bidding. ‘Right everybody, face the sun!’ Okay, that we could do, though by that time the sun had deserted us and it was getting distinctly chilly. ‘Heads up to the sky!’ An array of hands lifted to the sun. ‘No! Not hands, HEADS! FACES up to the sky!’

The rowdy gobshite element continued its hilarity with what would normally have been regarded as good Dublin wit, but we were getting colder and colder and just wanted to get on with it. ‘Please!’ pleaded the maestro, ‘Please put your faces up to the sky, no don’t look at me, please, please DON’T look at me, no, no don’t look at me, PLEASE!’—and so on. Two more positions, including lying on our sides in the foetal position (‘Please sir! Please stop kicking the guy behind you, PLEASE!’) and then we were done. By the end of it we really were bloody freezing. We’d been told we’d be na_ked for 30 mins but it was more like 45 plus. While it was partly down to lack of information/organisation and a bad sound system, there’s no doubt that if we’d been quiet (as I read the Corkonians were) it would have been quicker. I’m sure it would have been much less of an ‘oh-for-fuck’s-sake-get-on-with-it experience’ and more of a moving, beautiful one. That was a shame.

In terms of the nake_dness, it really was no big deal, not once we were all nu_de. It was interesting and of course I couldn’t help comparing, as one does (and I did hear that some of the men were relieved at their own comparisons), but it was kinda nice seeing bigger, smaller, more- or less- cellulite, pears, apples, you name it — the whole gamut of human corpulance was there, and I was no better or worse than any of them really. I liked that. I did think I was pinker than many, though by the end most of us were purplish. One thing I did notice was that not everyone was meticulous about their personal hygiene, and that I did NOT like. Ho hummmmm!

Anyway, eventually it was done and back we went to the bags and… panic! ‘OMG help! I can’t find my bag! It’s there I know it’s there, there’s the red scarf that was here… oh fuck, everyone else is dressed and I’m still nak_ed and there’s no bag’… and then one kind girl lent me her towel (I’d forgotten mine and besides it would have been in the bag), and then eventually, finally, ‘oh thank Christ, there it is’. Somebody had moved it but it wasn’t too far away. God, that was a bit of a moment.  Being na_ked with everyone else na_ked was fine, seemed normal even, but being nak_ed with everyone clothèd, well that was a completely different experience, and not one to be repeated. Suddenly I was object, not subject, or so it seemed, and it was extraordinarily uncomfortable.

So, we’re all dressed and I start to warm up when the crew walk past yelling ‘all those for the second shoot go down this way’ — er what? Second shoot? It starts to rain. Am I a quitter? No I am not, so what the hell, I’m in.

We were given half-an-hour to warm up before the next shoot. I line up with the others, chat a bit more, shiver a lot more, until finally it’s time to move. We find out we’re going to be in the sea — yes IN the sea. In the rain. In the cold wind.

Off we go to the site and people are already stripping off, and by now it’s lashing down. Clothes off into the bag, trying not to get them wet in the bag, and, ooh ah fuck it’s cold, as the rain hits our purpling, goosepimpled skin.

Then a surprisingly-exhilarating moment occurs: we race down the sand towards the sea, arms akimbo and yelling and whooping at the top of our voices: ‘Holy fuck! Holy fuck! Jeezus it’s fucking cold!’ and the air turns blue to match our poor shivering limbs but we’re laughing too in amongst the screams and yelling. A superb moment.

Into the sea we go with more holy fucks and jeezuses and eventually we spread out and calm down except for a few feckers who start splashing about: not cool, man, sooo not cool.

And at this point I meet someone I know. She’s standing right beside me, we suddenly see each other: ‘I know you from somewhere’ and look puzzled until the penny drops and we figure it out, and—oh no!—it’s a work thing. We laugh awkwardly, trying to keep our eyes on each others faces (I don’t succeed; I’m just, er, naturally curious), and she disappears as fast as she can after that. Oops.

Spencer started giving instructions again and suddenly a roar of ‘Olé olé olé’ went up, and we all joined in and waved at him with both arms in the air, whooping and laughing. I think we all forgot that we were na_ked actually. Except for the freezing cold wind and rain, of course.

At the time it partly felt a bit tedious. It was miserable being that cold, and before the racing-into-the-sea moment the joyousness diminished throughout the first shoot. But as with the aftermath of singing in a concert that goes well, it’s hard work at the time and the high sets in afterwards. All day long I was exhilarated and thrilled that I had done it. I still am, actually, and would I do it again?  Would I heck, but definitely not in Ireland.

Oh, and I’m in that last photo. :)

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Photos of nake_dness taken from this site, and the others were taken with my lowly Nokia 6300.

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Whirligig

June 19, 2008

I love the way this primula head looks like it’s moving through space like some sort of disconnected, floating whirligig.

 

 

 

 

Nine Inch Nails, via Creative Commons, have very generously provided their new album, The Slip, for free download to one and all. It’s a good move to thank their fans, but it’s also a good way to encourage people to get to know them.

As one who is newly exploring what’s out there, and therefore has a great deal of ground to make up, this was very good news. So I downloaded it earlier tonight and am now on my third fourth listen: it’s awesome, and a terrific introduction to this band.

the slip

There is such a lot going on in their music but yet it’s not at all cluttered: there’s a clarity to the sound that lets you hear everything that’s going on.  Contrast between tracks, that range from ambient sounds to upbeat rocker numbers, gives a satisfying impetus to the whole: we are brought on a journey and I certainly didn’t want to stop after any part of it. They’re not afraid to make creative use of inventive instrumentation (including effective use of an out-of-tune piano, something usually guaranteed to set my teeth on edge, but here it works) and there’s superb use of a huge dynamic range especially in the ambient tracks. The vast crescendi threaten to take you over, and you can only wallow in the impact of this delicious soundscape. I love it.

Think I’ll be looking out their back catalogue.

Dx

 

RIP Scamp

May 3, 2008

Well I said this wasn’t going to be a cat blog, and it won’t be, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include this. My beloved Scamp, our boy of seventeen-and-a-half years, died this morning. Not exactly in our arms, but with our hands on him, stroking him as he purred himself into oblivion and we tried not to upset him by sobbing on him before he went.

He had chronic renal failure, diagnosed in Sept 2006, which had progressed slowly over the last year-and-a-half, and he had also developed hyperthyroidism. Thanks to this site, and the yahoo CRF support group, as well as Dr Lisa Pierson and our own wonderful vets in Dublin, we had managed his symptoms very well, and kept him pretty happy. He was more or less symptom-free, and content with a regime of meds that didn’t traumatise him or make him unhappy. But last week he developed an upper respiratory infection and it turned out to be too much for him. Not the cold itself, but to get him over the hump of it we had to give him a feeding tube, and he was so frail he didn’t really recover from the GA. We knew it was a risk, but doing nothing wasn’t an option either: he had wanted to eat, and had perked up enough to make his feelings very well known, but couldn’t smell enough for the food to be tempting (‘no smell, no eat’ is a cat’s mantra) so we had to try to make things better for him. We tried syringe feeding but that obviously wasn’t going to be an option for too long, so the tube was the next best thing, and other than the GA would not have presented any problems. However, the GA left him very weak and feeble, and in the end he decided that enough was enough, and to let go, and all we could do was let go too.

Scamp came into our lives with his brother Pucci, as tiny kittens from Cats’ Aid in October 1990, and what a pair of sweeties they were.

Pucci, who became diabetic but went remission (thanks to Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins), died in February this year from cancer. Scamp was such a diminished boy after that: he seemed like just half a cat somehow. And now that Scamp is gone it suddenly feels more real that Pucci was gone too—now he’s really gone—and it’s a double whammy. It really is the end of an era and I just can’t believe that my gorgeous prima-donna, handsome, cantankerous, thunderface, kitten-still-at-heart, playful, loving, beautiful beast is gone. It’s just not right, just as seeing him in an old, frail body wasn’t right for his young, Scampish spirit. Right up until he got this cold he was Scamp by name and Scamp by nature.

We know that we did the best for him, both in his treatment while alive, and for his death, but it doesn’t take away from the pain which is now red raw, as anyone who’s lost a much-loved pet will know. I wish there was a way to fast forward through the grief and just appreciate the long and happy life he had.

But ah, my boy, you are so much missed. RIP, handsome beast.

Dx