The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have Spreadsheet Will Study

I have been deep in my latest study whim. Aided lately by two things. Firstly, I have picked up a cold (I am blaming Penny for dropping by last week to pass on her bugs). Secondly, my old mouse started to go senile on me and rather than sending off for an identical replacement I decided to save some money and try a different make/model. My old Logitech model was a thumb operated rollerball, and the new Kensington one has the rollerball in the middle. It is absolutely fine for normal use but I am still not mastering it for Bejewelled Blitz - left clicking with thumb does not come naturally after years of doing it differently and I have noticed I have an occasional thumb twitch...

But back to my studying...

I started creating a spreadsheet on the 19th September which was originally just the high scorers (J,Q,X,Z) listing all the base words, up to and including 6 letters, with each of those letters grouped by their position within the words. Another column alongside each column of words to indicate what kind of word it was. Then red text the blockers. And then pink text the non-blockers, no S back hook. And then blue cell fill the verbs that have agent nouns. Then reviewed the word designation columns and standardised on one or two character abbreviations:

n noun
v verb
a comparable adjective
a- non-comparable adjective
av adverb
pl plural
va verb and comparable adjective
na noun and comparable adjective
pp past tense/participle
v* verb that does not behave
n* noun that does not behave
pr pronoun
i interjective
c conjunction
anything else...

and then standardise the column width and cell colour it to make the words clearer...

And then I decided to do K, but only words starting with K and excluding the high scorers...

And then I continued on to the 4 pointers...

And I just kept going, finally finishing with S yesterday afternoon.

73 pages, although quite a lot of white space as I started a new sheet for each letter and quite a few just went a column or two onto a new page. Just need to print it out now.

I have now started on the 7 letter words in decreasing probability order. It will be interesting to see what the list reduces to...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Five Years

It is our fifth anniversary of moving up here.
I can hardly believe it.
They say time goes faster the older you get and it must be true.

Thanks to David Bowie:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Autumn Harvests

So a week has gone by since I took Paul to the airport.

I would like to say we (the dogs and I) have settled into a routine. But between my bridge exploits and Paul's it hasn't quite worked out yet. Unfortunately for Paul his team has now been knocked out of the Rosenblum Cup in Philadelphia but it was exciting while it lasted, and I may get to bed at a reasonable time from now on.

I have managed a sort of morning routine. Let the dogs out the back (luckily it hasn't been raining), coffee, dog walk and then caterpillar control. I think I have got them almost under control now - only 30ish the last couple of days.

With autumn in full swing I am now sorting out the back garden.

Two more rows of potatoes dug up and a sack filled.

Herb patch weeded. A few self-seeded extras found - a lot of baby thymes, chives and even a cabbage has found its way in there!

Major runner bean picking sessions - 3 pounds given to Margaret and slightly more to Penny. Potentially still quite a lot to come but may be a race against time for them before the weather gets worse.

The purple beans are finally coming to an end - another couple of bags in the freezer. Soon be time to pull them out.

The later sown peas although producing a few pods are not producing peas so their time has also come and gone.

The lettuces that had gone to seed have been pulled out.

Pickling onions dug up this morning and laid out on the chicken wire covering the f-t-b-t-b in an optimistic hope of them drying/ripening. I think I probably should have done this last week...

I have at last had to admit defeat on the tomatoes.

Not only are they not ripening but I noticed a few were rotting and maybe the first signs of blight. So I have now picked all that looked okay - five and three quarter pounds of green tomatoes. I need to get the plants out, hopefully tomorrow in one of the promised sunny spells.

I have put a lot of them on a tray on one of the window sills in the sunroom in the hope that they may ripen indoors. The rest were earmarked for green tomato chutney.

Recipe selected.

Ingredients gathered and weighed.

Onions chopped and set simmering in vinegar.

Tomatoes chopped.

Apples chopped.

Spice bag made - chilies, mustard seeds, cardamom seeds and black peppercorns.

All thrown in with a crushed clove of garlic.

Stirred until sugar dissolved and then brought to a simmer.

And simmered. And stirred. And simmered. And stirred.

About an hour and a half.

I find it very hard to know when chutney is ready - no simple test unlike jam.

Anyway I decided that was long enough and the jars were filled.

And I can always try again with the rest of the tomatoes if they stubbornly stay green...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The A Team

Not that A Team but Berwick Bridge club A Team pulled off a shock victory against Linlithgow last night.

I cannot envisage Brian and George as all-action heroes but last night they did a stalwart job at the bridge table. Steady performances by the rest of the team gave us the full 3-0 result.

I was playing with Reg at table 4. This was only our second time of playing together other than a couple of practice sessions and a few bidding practice sessions on BBO. This was very brave of Reg, having to learn my system. Not only that but Paul had also amended it over the summer to include transfers, Michael's cue bids and Unusual No Trump so I think we were both a little wary of getting things wrong. As it was little new came up, only one Michael's cue bid from Reg which I remembered to alert.

The next match is in just over a month's time when Jean will be replacing me as Reg's regular partner.

A good start to the season but still a long way to go.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Who's Been Eating My ???

Another year older. And a few days off from dieting.

A box of chocolates from Paul...

Penny brought round a large lemon sponge cake filled with redcurrants and cream to supplement the chocolate brownies from the day before...

And I had made a large bramble and apple crumble...

When Penny told us that the cake should be eaten by the following day we took the uneaten half with us when we called in on her after running some errands in Duns. It was very nice and although I could have I didn't think I should eat the rest of it on my own :)

I have at last sorted out stuff that needed to be done.

After many wasted days on the internet I finally decided on and booked a hotel in Singapore for a few nights before I up sticks to JB for the Causeway challenge. This was a quite difficult task as hotels seem to be either ridiculously expensive or very cheap and basic. Finding something in the middle that meets requirements (free wifi, larger than a shoe box, decent location) proved a challenge. I hope I have succeeded...

And I sorted out this year's ISA. I have given up hoping for the interest rates to improve but the Halifax/BoS one is an okay rate and I have set in motion transferring all my other crap ones into it.

So back on to the internet to sort out my other finances. I had noticed last week that one of my old fixed rate bonds had expired and without alerting me to the fact was now giving a measly 0.25%. I closed it immediately and now was trying to transfer the money from the bank to another savings account. But, for my security and provided for me as a free service I was repeatedly informed, the extra layer of security basically never even got as far as asking me for my password! After several attempts I resorted to the phone help number provided. I was told the problem was their end - a block was in place. After answering a load of security questions I was able to complete the transaction...

Paul is now in the States for a couple of weeks to play bridge. Actually just over two weeks... Actually nearer two and a half weeks when I looked on the calendar... I am feeling less guilty about my extra day in Singapore now as I will only be away for 12 days...

He was catching a flight at 9.30 on Saturday so alarm was set for 5.30 on Friday night. And as a result I don't think either of us slept a wink. I actually got up at 4 a.m. and tried to nap on the sofa but this was also a complete failure.

When I got back from the airport at about 8.30 I let the dogs out the back and did my veggie patch inspection. Disaster...

Half of my curly kale was reduced to lace. Caterpillars all over it. This couldn't wait - I fetched the plastic cup and started picking them off. A good quarter of an inch in the bottom of it by the time I had finished.

The most common by far was a plain green caterpillar which was extremely well camouflaged, almost exactly the same colour as the plants. Investigation shows there are two varieties of cabbage white butterflies, and this is probably the Small Cabbage White. I also had a smaller number of Large Cabbage White, but these were easier to spot - yellow and black. And a few others - possibly same species at different stages???

Back out at lunch time - I couldn't believe how many I had missed. Another quarter of an inch. And again in the afternoon. By this time I had sussed it out - I uncurled the remaining curly leaves and found caterpillar nurseries. I counted as I picked them off or squashed the smaller ones. Another 200 removed - maybe less than the first couple of sessions as the cup did not look as full.

I checked this morning after the dog walk as I was still in my chic wet weather dog walking outfit - Barbour and woolly hat. I think I may have succeeded in my mission and at least rescued the remaining healthy plants from a similar fate.

It is not just caterpillars that have had a free meal from my veggie patch.

I have had about a pound and a quarter of ripe tomatoes from my two plants but was hopeful of another few. Unfortunately something beat me to them.

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