Holiday Road Rage

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I was a few minutes into a journey across town when the bus driver began pulling out of a stop only to pull out in front of a Chrysler PT. Which is probably the worst looking car on British roads. The driver understandably honked as he stopped. The bus driver stopped the bus then carried on thinking that was the end of the matter.

The bus pulled in to the next stop. The Chrysler, which followed the bus, decided it was a great idea to stop in front of the bus while passengers got on. I don't think the bus driver took much notice. I'm guessing his attention was on passengers money and tickets.

When all the passengers were on board the bus driver was ready to go. Only to see the fat back end of the Chrysler. He honked. Honked again. The Chrysler driver showed his/her intentions by honking back. It wouldn't move. Some passengers muttered along the lines of 'what's his game?'

What happened next is something I have never witnessed before. Well on a bus anyway. The bus driver opened the bus doors. Stormed out. Walked over to the Chrysler and totally let rip. I cant really write what he said. It is Christmas after all. The passengers fell silent. A lot of them gasped. At first at the language used then at the idiot in the Chrysler. The bus driver marched back on the bus while the Chrysler, watched by disapproved tutting old lady's, set off slowly pulling into another road. Leaving the old lady's asking themselves if the driver was drunk.

The meaning of the story is: chill out its the holidays.
Heres some Christmas stress tip links:

Text to Speech on ubuntu

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A text to speech function can be provided with a program called Festival. Used for development and research it is capable of producing clearly understandable speech from text.
sudo apt-get install festival

Install a voice. You have a choice of some voices on the repositories.
festvox-rablpc8k -British English male 8khz.
festvox-rablpc16k -British English male 16khz.
festvox-don -British English male.
festvox-te-nsk -Telugu male.
festvox-suopuhe-mv -Finnish male
festvox-suopuhe-lj -Finnish female.
festvox-mr-nsk -Marathi male.
festvox-kdlpc8k -American English male 8khz.
festvox-kdlpc16k -American English male 16khz.
festvox-kallpc8k -American English male 8khz.
festvox-kallpc16k -American English male 16khz.
festvox-hi-nsk -Hindi male speaker.

Choose one and install with:
sudo apt-get install chosenpackagefromabove

To make it say something I make a text file with the text I want spoken and run the following (change the file location):
cat file.txt | festival --tts

Or you can run Festival in a terminal and use (SayText "something"). Keep the brackets. For example:
festival> (SayText "Testing Testing")

To use it with pidgin so that IM's are read out aloud install the pidgin-festival package:
sudo apt-get install pidgin-festival

To activate it open Pidgins plug-ins (in tools or Ctrl + U). Find Festival. Tick it and restart.

Click configure to see the options. Select a voice for the plug-in if you have more than one installed. Maximum message lengths is useful. You don't want someone annoying to instant message you a message the size of a book and have it all read out with 5 chats going. Also announcing events its neat if your out the room "Fred is online".

Changing voices can be done by running festival. Type festival in a terminal to start the festival prompt. Use this command (voice_NAMEOFVOICE) changing the voice name to which ever voice you want like festival> (voice_don_diphone). To find voice names of the packages you have installed look in /usr/share/festival/voices/.

If your seriously wanting to use Festival daily you may like to have more realistic voices checkout for instructions. For an online demo, source and other information see

Yet another Photoblog

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For next year I may move away from to a more generalized anything-goes photo blog. So I created It wont have much till next year. If the name sounds strange to you that's because its named after a local wood where iv taken many of my photos. A very airy place. In the mean time I am playing with my own template.

Brewed a Bitter

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...using John Bull best bitter kit. Added some light malt, roasted barley, small amount of northern brewer hops and a can of extract that's been laying around. O.G 1.080. With my favourite dried yeast, Nottingham ale yeast, for obvious reasons. Wrapped up the fermenter in newspaper and placed it in the warmest part of the house just in case the cold causes a stuck fermentation.

Wii error

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My sisters copy of Wii Music updated the Wii. Restarted it. Ran the disc then a error message. Other games work just not this one. I googled the problem and found a load of modders forums. The unit isn't chipped so there's no help but to replace the game disc.

Edit: Was the the disc after all.

Funny Hamster

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A hamster sleeping up on a glass window in a pet store. Had to take a photo of it.

Okocim Beer

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A German styled Pilsener brewed by Okocim Brewery in Brzesko in southeastern Poland.

Pours a very light gold colour. Nice but short lived head. Musty citrus aroma. Not great but I smelt worse beers. Light body maybe a little watery for some. Tastes of sweet light lager malts with balanced spicy bitterness. Quite dry. Clean hoppy finish. A good 5.5% alcohol.

Rating: Okay.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: A decent dry pilsener polish lager.

Joe Strummer...

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'...and the legend of the clash' is a book I found sitting on a shelve in the local library. I was looking for something good to read. Like a Orwell novel. Though, the library has only two copies of Animal farm and one copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I've read both these and didn't favour any other novels.

I nearly left empty handed until I saw "Joe Strummer" in bold capitals. I have liked the band since my teens. Songs like ''White riot' raw punk, 'London calling' reggae bassline and the dub sound of 'Straight to hell'. After reading the first chapters of the book I realised I knew little about them despite knowing their discography.

Written by Kris Needs it offers an inside look into the band. He was a journalist/editor of ZigZag. A music magazine which was devoted mostly to the growing punk movement around 77. Kris became friends with the band and other punk royalty.

The biography of Joe himself is detailed following his early life to busking, art college, his fascination with George Orwell (see what I did there), squatting, joining pub rock band the 101's and the Clash. It's packed with stuff I didn't know. For example he once went by the name of "woody" as in Woody Guthrie. There is also smaller biography's of Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Nicky "Topper" Headon. Most of the book follows the bands progression. Writing songs, tours, recoding albums and the bands relationship.

Famous names pop up like Shane MacGowan, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese. Kris Needs also wrote about the first time he met Sid Vicious learning bass to 'Blitzkrieg bop' overnight.

It's well written with honesty and humour. Plenty of stories and photography by Pennie Smith makes its worth reading if your a punk/clash fan.

Lets all jump aboard

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It seems the media, concerned public and politicians have all jumped on the condemning bandwagon with BBC Radio 2's 'The Russell Brand Show' prank calls involving Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to Andrew Sachs.

I wont comment on the prank call itself. Its the reaction I find amusing. Its a radio broadcast with just 400,000 listeners and a few complaints. Four days later the mail on sunday asked Sachs agent for comment creating a snow ball effect with the media gradually running the story non stop totalling up 1800 complaints.

What makes this more undue is politicians jumping on the bandwagon. First with David Cameron "I don't think it was appropriate. I don't think it was in keeping with broadcasting". Then later that day the Prime Minister calls the incident "clearly inappropriate and unacceptable". Its amazing don't you think? They find the time to talk about a trivial media onslaught on two popular comedians/hosts away from issues such as poverty, Iraq, Afghanistan and the recent failure of what some might call world wide capitalism. Makes you think don't it?

Listing Hardware

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For a full detailed list of hardware on ubuntu try:
sudo lshw

The list hardware tool creates a detailed list of hardware organized by component. For example:

description: Lithium Ion Battery
product: PA3098U
physical id: 1
version: 05/25/2001
serial: 3658Q
slot: 1st Battery
capacity: 3900mWh
configuration: voltage=14.8V

You can output the list to a html document by running:
sudo lshw -html > hardware.html

On other debian based distributions you may find lshw is not installed by default in which case try aptitude install lshw.

Licher Weizen Hefe Hell

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Brewed by Licher Privatbrauerei. Lich, Hessen, Germany. Website can be found at

Commercial Description:
Licher Weizen gets its characteristic aroma and taste from being brewed out of wheat blessed by the sun and finest yeast. It is typically brewed according to the "Deutsches Reinheitsgebot", which is the oldest food law worldwide (dated 1516). Licher Weizen should be served in the typical glasses, so that it looks just like it tastes: perfectly refreshing!

Pours a hazy amber colour. Thick white head. Light sweet hay-like malt aroma. Medium body with smooth mouth feel. Tastes sweeter than other hefeweizen with yeast, wheat, and banana notes. Little bitterness with moderate sweetness. Slight spicy after taste. 5.4% strength.

Rating: Nice.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: A pleasant Hefeweizen.

Writer's World Maker

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I've always wanted writers tools for linux and so has the creator of Writer's World Maker.

"I am a fiction writer, when I converted to Ubuntu from Windows I had problems finding the tools I used to use in Windows. Running them under Wine never worked right for me so I decided to write the software I needed for myself and for the kind Ubuntu /Linux world that gave us such a cool and free OS. "

It allows you to organize chapters and scenes. Characters, places, and notes can all be added. The layout is efficient. It took me 5 minutes of playing around to understand how it works. There's no 'get started guide' but it all makes sense after trying. Select a chapter, then create a scene (right click over the text box and select add new scene), select the scene which shows the text below and write.

If you like to write and use linux you can find a deb and other packages at

Oak Aged Beer

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Brewed by Innis & Gunn. I've never had whiskey oak barrel matured beer before.

Commercial Description:
Using oak to age beer is unheard of. But, the flavours imparted by the oak barrels (previously used to mature bourbon) lend an incredible depth of taste. Think vanilla, toffee and orange aromas, with a malty, lightly oaked palate; soothing and warm in the finish.

Pours a clear dark golden colour with a small smooth white head. Sweet malt, oak hints and toffee all present in the aroma. Medium body. At first the taste is caramel-like dominated before you begin to notice the slight citrus, oak and pleasant whiskey like taste. No notice of hops. Smooth warming alcohol finish. 6.6% strength.

Rating: Nice.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: Different. If you like whiskey and beer; it beats any whiskey malt made beer.

Mad Goose

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Brewed by Purity. Don't know much about them.
Commercial Description:
Brewed with Maris otter, Caragold and Wheat malt with Hallertau bittering hops and Cascade and Willamette aroma hops. Light copper in colour with a great hop character citrus overtones.

Pours a clear copper colour. Little or no head. Generous hops and pine noted aroma. Ordinary light pale ale body with smooth mouth feel. Taste is dominated by hops at first then the pale malts become noticeable. A slightly bitter after taste. 5% strength.

Rating: Nice.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: A great hoppy pale ale.


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These are my nearly ripe Jack O' Lantern variety pumpkins. As you can tell from the name there good for Jack O' Lanterns and also for pies. My football sized squash were totally dwarfed by some I saw this morning growing at the bottom of the allotments. I will take a photo sometime. I remember 2 years ago the same plot had pumpkins the size of large screen televisions. Something tells me they grow for size.

Remember Creatures?

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When I was young I use to run creatures dabbling in genetics and breeding different traits. Friends, who at the time played, lost interest when they realised it wasn't a game but a artificial life program. You oversaw or played god in how these artificial life forms developed. Like an ant farm only more progressive. It was created by a computer scientist called Steve Grand OBE in the early nineties originally for DOS.

I don't quite remember how I came across creatures 1. I think it might been upstairs in whsmiths searching for something to waste pocket money on. I didn't realise the depth of the game. The creatures called norns have digital DNA, biochemistry and neural network brains. They can evolve like real animals through cross-over mutations.

Breeders and, I guess, gene hackers created loads of different breeds. Some of them humorous for example the Essex Norn which is sex mad. Some of the enthusiasts set up runs. Leaving a set of norns alone and letting "nature" take its course. Theory is the weaker ones will die out slowly every generation allowing the stronger norns to become dominant.

Back in 1998 I bred a long living healthy norn in about 7 generations. Selective breeding of course. I probably had some going back 20 generations. I did play creatures 2 as well loosing interest to buy number 3.

I only blogged about this program because I came across a project called openc2e. An open source game engine designed to be compatible with the various engines used in the Creatures series. It's still in development but you can try it out with creatures 1 without norns. It can run under linux too.

Related Websites

Happy birthday to GNU

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I don't want to engage in adding youtube videos any more because over time they always become obsolete which effectively kills the point of the post. However this is a great introduction to free software by Stephen Fry.

Also happy birthday to GNU, which is 25 years old on the 27th of September.

Walden; or, Life in the Woods

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I've been reading this book by Henry David Thoreau with interest. Looking for a simpler life for two years two months and two days he lived in a cabin on the shore of a pond. For his nonconformist self-reliance project he spent a mere $28.12 for food and shelter.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

He spent his time observing nature, writing, reading philosophy, conversation with visitors, and in the summer tending to beans. He regularly visited others and walked in town.

His thoughts on social life and solitude are some of my favourite philosophical observations in the book.

"Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war."

At times when hes not pondering on nature its like reading an old fashioned blog but without dates. It's also written to appear as though he stayed for one year.
If you like a slow read, nature or philosophy its a great read to ponder.

You download the book at

Thoughts on Google's Chrome

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No linux or mac build is out yet. So its off to windows xp *yay*.

On installing it offered to import stuff from firefox, although it didn't happen? It has a cool start page similar to that of opera 9.5. Basically it has your most visited pages and bookmarks. You can also search history from there.

Visually it offers nothing new from other browsers. Under the hood however there's a multi-threaded design offering speed and stability. I think Opera has something like it too. In theory a tab that crashes or stuck on a JavaScript run around wont crash the browser instead you can use its inbuilt task manager to close thread/tab.

Application shortcuts are a great idea. We've all read on Tech blogs and in newspaper columns that applications that solely sit on your hard drive like office or photoshop are going way of the dodo while the industry moves towards web based software. Using google gears you can add a application shortcut you desktop, start menu or launch bar. So you can start webpages like gmail or google spreadsheets easily.

Its great that google has something open source to challenge IE. I'm not hanging up firefox yet. Its long way off from that and too early to even discus.

There's a lot of linux users on the web trying to run chrome with wine with partial or no success. In a few days I bet someone will have a solution.

Yet another Hop update

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One plant, the challenger, is very health looking with several vines and large leaves that have different shades of green.

The other however, as you can see above, is still catching up with one vine. It doesn't have long what with day-light-hours becoming shorter. I'm hopping it develops a little more ready for next year. So as to develop its roots for a kick start next season.

Batemans Summer Swallow

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Yet another batemans beer from the supermarket shelf.

Commercial Description:
A crisp clean beer, sparklingly gold, with a delightfully floral nose and subtle bitter taste.
Colour: EBC 16-20. Bitterness: EBU 20. Hops: Phoenix and Target. Malt: Maris Otter

Pours a clear copper colour. Short lived thin white head. Caramel hints, sweet malt and musty hop aroma. Slightly light soft mouth feel and body for a bitter. Taste is sweet malt, hop and caramel hints. Vanilla noted crisp after taste. No bitterness.

Rating: Okay.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: Boring.

Sundays Rain

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This morning, half a sleep, I walked to my grandparents around 2 miles away. It was so humid and warm. All the more reason to be astonished by the afternoon pour.

Sundays public transport is dire. Rain makes Taxis harder to come by as if they all magically dissolve. While at the bus station you will always find that your destination isn't fully met so you have to settle for a bus that has a stop several blocks away.

Potatoes from a bucket

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Around march time I put 3 seed potatoes in to a 3 gallon bucket complete with home made compost. Placed it in a sunny sheltered place and this is what I got back from just 3 potatoes:

Some are like the size of big roast patatoes. The others could probably be used for mashing or salad. The variety is desiree.

Also I have been busy on the allotment weeding, digging, manuring, harvesting and gerneraly getting ready for next year. I'm thinking of starting an allotment blog for next year.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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Commercial Description:
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a delightful example of the classic pale ale style. It has a deep amber color and a exceptionally full-bodied, complex character. The fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor are the results of the generous use of the best Cascade hops.

Pours a copper colour with a thin white head. Aroma of cascade hops (you never forget that cascade smell once you've brewed with them) and pine notes. Great aroma. Light body. Smooth mouth feel. At first the taste is dominated by the citrus hops then the moderately sweet malt. After taste has a dry mild bitterness. Well balanced. 5.6% strength. Bottle conditioned.

Rating: Nice.
As you can see am a professional at rating beer
Overall: Well balanced and lots of hops.