God’s marine captures Vatican.

After the recent trials and – it’s fair to say – tribulations of the Catholic church with its various scandals (cough – gay sex and blackmail), it’s not a big surprise that we have a new Pope. After all the church is a large multinational, and it’s generally accepted that in any corporation the CEO exits stage left to take the incoming flack of any foul misdeeds.

Admittedly, Popes generally don’t resign. Normally, they shuffle off their mortal coil before there’s a new incumbent, but hey! Let’s be Christian about it. Pope Benedict XVI was looking a tad ragged around the edges, and who can blame him. If I’d been in his shoes I’d have retired before I took the job.

If it’s not obvious I should say I’m not a Catholic or a big church goer. In fact I’m an agnostic leaning toward atheist: you can’t help but give up on a god that lets such misery rain daily on his people. And, I didn’t like Benedict XVI, whose motto ‘Cooperators of the truth’ sounds a bit too much like something a member of the Spanish inquisition might have said. Neither did Benedict strike me as being kind, and kindness is, in my view, a prerequisite for being Pope. Benedict also didn’t advocate the use of condoms – in a world that is overpopulated and suffers the horrors of Aids. And Benedict didn’t, even vaguely, think it reasonable that it is a human right to fall in love with whoever you choose. No, he wasn’t the right man for the job, and I’m glad he retired.

So then conclave! All I really know of conclave is from Ron Howard’s ‘Angels & Demons.‘ All those Cardinals locked into the Sistine chapel until a new Pope is elected. Exciting stuff. The world waits until white smoke is seen from the chapel chimney….

Thusly:

Pope smoke.

Pope smoke.

The excitement – it happened, fortuitously, during the early evening news – was palpable. Immediately, we switched to a BBC2 special. The commentators told us it was only a short wait until we knew the identity of the new Pope. So, along with the vast crowd in St. Peter’s Square we waited… and waited.

When finally the cameras zoomed into the balcony I was sitting on the edge of my chair bellowing at the cats who’d decided it was a good time for a spat. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and the camera zoomed out again to the restless and excited crowd below.

Then the camera zoomed in again, the white curtains parted, and the Cardinal Protodeacon came out and told us who the new Pope was and the papal name he’d decided to take.

The commentators were floored. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and a Jesuit to boot! This was not who they were expecting at all! They were bemused, and you could hear it in their voices, though as all good commentators do, they soon recovered.

The Cardinal Protodeacon went back inside and the curtains closed… and opened again to reveal:

Pope Francis.

Pope Francis.

I don’t know a lot about Jesuits except Jesuits are known colloquially as ‘God’s Marines.’ I immediately liked the look and demeanour of Pope Francis. Yes, at 76 he’s quite old. But he doesn’t look or act old, and above all he looks like a kind man. I hope I’m right.

Maybe there is a god, and maybe he’s (or she’s) managed to pay enough attention to this small blue planet to realise we’re in big trouble and badly need some help. Maybe he thought “Yep, it’s time to send in the Marines!”

Laptop doings

well ... bum.

HP Pavilion DV2. Well… bum.

There’s a sweet old lady I help out with her computer. Just before Christmas she phoned and the problem was thus: her laptop, just two years old, was dead. Dead, in that it did everything it should except display it. The monitor was kaput.

Now I’m not, by any stretch of imagination, a computer tech. I’ve put together towers, but really, that’s more like lego. Laptop’s no, primarily because you need weency fingers and a lot of spare screws. Anyhow, I trundled her laptop up to the local computer shop and almost before I’d opened my mouth they said ‘HP? Pavilion? Oh dear. Hmm, too expensive to fix even if we new what was wrong with it, though it’s probably the GPU (graphics processing unit). The best thing is to bin it.’

Can you say ‘built in obsolescence!’

The result was that, since she didn’t need a laptop as she wrote at home, the sweet old lady bought a new tower and asked me to dispose of the ‘wretched thing.’

Now, I’m not a horder. But I’m keen on ‘projects.’ Besides, it was an immaculate HP Pavilion DV2, and if I could get it going… well, peachy. So off to Google I went.

To cut an inordinately long story short I found out that:

  1. There was a class action suit against HP for the bad design of the Pavilion series.
  2. It was the GPU that had the problem, and that most excitingly:
  3. it was fixable!

Ah ha! I thought. A viable project. All I had to do was take the laptop apart, reflow the GPU, and reassemble it. Easy-peasy, and very Maker-ish.

There are oodles of video’s on YouTube.com showing exactly how you should reflow a GPU on a Pavilion motherboard. The thing is that none of these videos agree on how to do it. The concept is that because the design was flawed, the GPU got very hot. The hotter it got, the hotter all its solder connections became until, eventually, they fail. To reflow means heating up the GPU chip until the solder joints sort themselves out. Well, ish.

There are three methods I came across. The first, which I instantly decided against, was to put the motherboard in the oven on gas mark 6 for 20 minutes – this is not a joke. The second was to buy the pro kit needed to do the job properly. That was out for financial reasons. So I went for the third: using a miniature propane torch to heat the chip. It sounded the least mad and the most affordable. So I dismantled the laptop in preparation….

Two months later I finally got the propane torch and the tube of liquid heat sink required. I dusted off the motherboard, and, with heart in mouth, fired up the torch.

Letting it cool is an anxious time, as is testing it. Nothing.

I tried again. Nothing.

Back to Google where I found a thread that suggested anybody who tries reflowing their GPU is mad, if not carted away in a straight jacket certifiable.

Grumbling and in a last fit of pique, I trotted downstairs, grabbed the big kitchen Crème brûlée blowtorch and had at the motherboard with that. There might have been some  pleading, intermingled with cursing, involved, too. Nothing. Nothing, nada, nowt, dead as a dodo.

So there you have it. Although I’m no better off as far as laptops go, it has been a fun, if fruitless, afternoon. 🙂

 

 

 

Minchin’s ‘Storm’

I have to admit that, to my chagrin, I’ve never seen Tim Minchin live. I’ve found him on the net several times and always meant to get tickets. But he’s either not playing anywhere closer than Sidney, or I wander off elsewhere and the mists of time obscure the desire. You know what it’s like online; you click a link and BANG! the next viscerally exciting new thing appears. You know: shiny things. So, back to Tim Minchin.

“Who?” Some, with a quizzical lift to an eyebrow, might ask.  To them let me say you’re in for a treat. Tim Minchin is an Australian English-born skeptical atheist musical comedian who lives in London, and I think he’s very, very, spot on and funny.

Earlier today I visited Patrick Rothfuss’s site. That’s the Patrick Rothfuss who wrote the utterly stellar fantasy ‘The Name of the Wind’, it’s sequel ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’, and yet hasn’t got around to finishing the damn trilogy. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s a true trilogy with a story arc that won’t be complete until the end of book III. It’s rather like having some yahoo tearing off the last third of the best book you’ve ever started reading and taunting you with it. Anyway, I had a gander at his blog and though there was no news about the book, there, live as any link to YouTube can be, was Minchin’s  ‘Storm.’ As I hadn’t seen it in a while I thought I’d post it here.

So, without further ado, sit back for a few minutes and enjoy.

Apt

Maudlin

I was trudging to the shop a couple of days ago when I espied this street sign – which was odd, as I’ve walked the same way to the shop many times and the sign isn’t new. Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to live in Maudlin Court. A small pied-à-terre in Goldmine Alley would be super, but a gaff in Maudlin Court, no.

Then I thought about other places I wouldn’t desperately like to live. Depression Way in Grayling, Michigan, didn’t sound like a barrel of laughs – even though it’s just down the road from Gaylord. Depression Hollow in Smethport, Pasadena, didn’t float my boat, either….

It was lucky I had other things to do at this point in the inquiry, otherwise I’d need a good few hours with the rather apt blue light.

…and I’m feelin’ bluuuuuue!

Most humans are diurnal (active during the day), except for me. During the winter months I could happily hibernate and sleep for England.

I also (woe, woe, and thrice woe is me) suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Otherwise known as winter blues, it’s rotten, and proof that no matter what we think we are, we are animals like every other creature on the planet. Animals with a body clock – a circadian rhythm – that gets upset during the winter months because of the limited daylight.  It’s our body clock that governs whether or not we’re ‘larks’ (those who get up and go to sleep two hours earlier than average), or ‘owls’ (those who get up and go to bed two hours later than average) and our body clocks (chronotype) are as much outside our control as the colour of our eyes, the colour of our hair, and how tall we are.

Bloody body clock! I can re-set my watch, why not my body clock, too?

Body Clock

Average Body Clock

Not knowing it was a seasonal thing, I went to see el doctore about my winter blue depression (there’s a song or twenty in there – probably with a mournful harmonica somewhere near the end). The doctor handed me a script for an SSRI class anti-depressant. Luckily for me I don’t like pills. Besides, they take several weeks to start working, you can – amongst other wonderful side-effects – become suicidal, and it’s damn near impossible to stop taking them … super! 😉

So I took to the net and found light was the answer: blue light of a specific frequency to be more exact. I bit the bullet and bought one and I can honestly say it works. I could still sleep for England, but now I’m not depressed about it. 🙂

...chasing the blues away

…chasing the blues away

 

Dark and moody Steampunk

steampunk at the Kave

steampunk at the Kave

There is an artist’s gallery on King Street
that exhibits many strange things.
Dark and moody the photographer felt
as he snapped the old Steampunk odd bling.

What manner of science was it meant to employ?
To what realm would it send its maker?
And as its fey blue light began to beat slowly,
fear became the observer’s neighbour.

It is the truth. The very next day it was gone….

Witnessed this day, 26th December in the year of our lord 2012, within the bounds of the asylum in which the photographer lives.

Jesus wept

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012 – Jesus Wept

So here we are. Christmas! 🙂

The St. Leonards’ Christmas decorations: situated on the vacant lot by the station and probably paid for by Colin Booth, the sculptor of ‘Jesus Wept.’

St. Leonards’ used to have proper Christmas street lights. Of course, those were the days when the council could afford them; before we found out that bankers and politicians were infallible humans, too; not to mention crooks. They were the days before ‘austerity measures’ became the new black; when you could put petrol in your car without a mortgage, and buy your weekly groceries from your local grocer.

Christmas 2012!

Sixty years ago, when the general belief was that by now we’d be living in a utopian dream and have colonies on the Moon and be settling Mars (like the wild west), did anyone dream we’d be where we are today? The dystopian fiction I read never went this route. Yes, they’d be a nuclear war followed by a nuclear winter, or, killer robots, or, a pandemic that kills all but a ‘lucky’ few. No one dreamt that the world superpowers would switch; that they’d still be starving children, a vicious re-emergence of AIDS,  ice caps melting, and a slaughter of innocents by deranged gun toting lunes…. No, that wasn’t seen. Not in any stories I read.

The picture above isn’t good quality by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still in colour. Maybe black & white is closer to the truth:

Jesus wept bleakly

Jesus wept, bleakly.

I’d guess you would weep if you were being crucified for humanities sins. After all, it’s not terribly fair, is it?

This photo manipulation is closer to the truth of this Christmas in this place. Bleak. It’s bleak, and no I’m not turning all Dickensian and Baa Humbug. It’s just the truth. And we’ve not got it bad compared to some. I wonder. I wonder if, with the way things are going, Colin Booth might not have been closer to the truth if his neon sign had said ‘Arbeit macht frei.’

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All the above bollocks aside, I hope you have a great holiday, sincerely. 🙂